Nagasaki, Okinawa, Fukushima, Yasukuni Shrine and Hiroshima: Reflections

Disclaimer: I’m going to try and be as sensitive as possible in this entry…because the topics discussed could be a bit sensitive. This time, I’ll be talking about the March 11 disaster in Fukushima and also about WWII. As much as possible, I hope to keep this post/discussion non-agressive even as I share my opinions (and these are mine alone).
Still, if I step on any toes, I ask for forgiveness and I’m more than happy to engage in respectful debates/discussions.

As a student, learning about Singapore’s history in class, one of the things we learn is how Japan invaded Singapore and how the British surrendered us to the Japanese. The years that followed under Japanese rule, weren’t pleasant according to the books.

This ended when Fat Boy and Little Man were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This led to the end of the war in Asia and this was one of the factors that led to Singapore’s eventual independence. So the bombs were good in my young mind’s eye. I really didn’t think of them as any more than bombs that were “bigger than usual”. Good bombs that helped end the war.

I thought nothing more about this topic and to this day, I don’t hold any major grudge against modern day Japan. Over the years, I read news about the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan’s tensions with China and Korea and a little more about the Atomic Bombs.

Then just before my final year in college, when my college and I were in talks about allowing me to go on an exchange cum “internship” at Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music, March 11th happened. March 11th 2011 was the date of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Soon after, the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power plants had meltdowns. Many lost their lives or were reported missing. Others had to be evacuated.

That was probably when I first started reading articles condemning the usage of nuclear power. Some of these articles described how it was absurd that Japan used nuclear power when it was the first and only country to experience the horrors of it being used in war. It made me stop…and maybe realize that the bomb could have been a sad thing. I read things online. Somewhere in my mind, I might have realized “Ah, how sad…” but that was it.

Then I went to Tokyo for my exchange between June and July 2011.

I remember watching a protest march against nuclear power plants. There was also a curious incident when I was walking back to my place from Shinjuku station when a lady sitting under a flight of stairs, called out to me. She asked me to fold paper cranes with her, telling me she was from a group that was from Hiroshima. She told me that, she too, like many people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were against the Nuclear Power Stations and that she was folding paper cranes in protest. She told me that the group believed that all victims of the atomic bombs had become cranes and even invited me to a gathering.

At that time, I was more scared of what she said to me…but her words stuck in my mind. Prior to this, I never even thought much of nuclear power or weapons. Singapore has none of that, so I never had reason to think about it or care about it. Now, I started to have some form of an opinion…still nothing solid took form; just the idea that nuclear power must be scary. I also slowly developed a vague idea that the dropping of the atom bombs had caused a great deal of devastation by reading articles and watching shows about it. It shocked me a little.

Coming back to Japan on JET, I flippantly thought of visiting the historical landmarks from World War II and Fukushima. I wanted to see things with my own eyes. I really didn’t expect what ended up actually seeing.

The first place I visited was Nagasaki. The silver week break was upon us, and the weather was projected to be fantastic. One of the ALTs wanted to visit, and I grabbed at the opportunity. “Great, the first one off my check list”, I thought to myself. Nagasaki shocked me in a way that I’d never been shocked before. I’d never seen that extent of damage and destruction anywhere. I walked through the Peace museum, my heart getting heavier by the second. Things affected by the blast, bottles melted and molded into something alien and grotesque, personal artifacts burnt beyond recognition, descriptions of the after effects of the blast that carried on far beyond the war itself. Learning about victims suffering days, months and years later, learning about children being born with defects or deformities as a result of the bomb, all this was completely beyond me. It was beyond what I had expected.

I visited the Urakami Cathedral. It had been incredibly close to the epicenter and since Mother Mary’s birthday was around the corner, the mass that morning had been in full attendance. Everybody died and of the few things that survived the blast was the head of a Mother Mary statue with its eyes hallowed out by the blast. Visiting the Cathedral, I was shown into a small room where the original head was kept. I’m not Catholic or even very religious, but that moment of being alone in the room with the blank eyes of Mother Mary on me gave me the chills. I couldn’t stay in the room for long and felt I didn’t deserve to be in her presence. I later read an article of how the atomic bombs and their crew had actually been blessed by a priest prior to their launch. It’s a shock to the senses.

Nagasaki 2

Nagasaki had had the largest Christian population in Asia at that time and many of these Christians had survived incredible amounts of persecution over the years when Christianity had been considered illegal in Japan. The atom bomb did something in a moment that even Japan hadn’t managed over hundreds of years. Those implications were completely and totally horrifying. Walking through Nagasaki seeing areas affected by the war, was a punch in the gut. Still a part of me felt, “But they did something to deserve this. They attacked countries, killed people. A part of this is on them.” I want to be clear that this was something that I THOUGHT at that time and not my current opinion. However, I want to try as much as possible to document my thought process through this.

It was around that time that I also started talking to an artist friend of mine. She’d been doing some works about Hiroshima and Fukushima. Originating from Niigata prefecture, her family home is incredibly close to the Kashiwazaki Nuclear Power Plant. She told me about her experiences in interviewing Hibakusha (atomic bomb victims) and her anti-nuclear power stance which she decried as nonsensical. She related to me the political motivations behind building the power plants in Japan and showed me pictures and articles that detailed accidents and fatalities caused by nuclear power plants even before the infamous meltdown at Fukushima. She showed me a photo book the documented cases of nuclear power plant worker who had developed various lethal diseases like cancer as a result of mistakes made at the nuclear power plants. She questioned at the manner in which the nation was remembering the atomic bombs and Fukushima.

At the same time, a colleague at work mentioned the Himeyuri Peace Museaum when I mentioned wanted to visit Okinawa. She told me how Okinawa had been one of the few parts of Japan that had engaged in land battle and that the Himeyuri Peace Museum would surely interest me if I wanted to learn about the war history.

So in the January of 2016, when I went on a trip to Okinawa, I decided to visit the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum and the Himeyuri Museum. Both museums were located quite out of the way and I needed a cab to reach there. The experience I had there was yet again, completely devastating. Okinawa is a lot more vocal about the war that most other prefectures, they were a lot more open about admitting Japan’s participation in the war and were also very descriptive about the atrocities commited by and against them.

I visited the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum first. Something that surprised me was a display of history textbooks teaching the pacific theatre section of WWII. Singapore’s textbook was there too. I’d never seen anything like it and for the first time, I physically saw how the same story could be told from multiple perspectives. Something in me clicked.

Later I went to the Himeyuri Museum. The Himeyuri Museum is dedicated mainly to the female students of the girl schools who had to become nurses when Okinawa was under attack. The museum itself is built over one of the Gamas or caves that wounded soldiers and the student nurses often hid in to stay safe. These girls were mostly high school students, who were one day told that they had to pause to education to serve the country. The girls believed they would be “helping” for a couple of weeks before the country won and they would return to their normal lives. That’s what they were taught to believe.

Most of them died. Due to enemy fire, due to diseases, due to starvation…due to multiple reasons, many of these girls died.


For me, that was unbelievable. I teach high schoolers. I was a high schooler myself, not too long ago. It’s impossible to imagine my girls doing anything described in the museum. I cannot imagine something like that becoming my reality and although I’ve said this multiple times now, it made me feel sick.

Why didn’t I know of this? Why had I only known about the a-bombs that “saved” Singapore? Why had I been so happy for it to have happened? These thoughts ran through my mind.

In the summer of 2016, another friend told me she wanted to visit Fukushima and so, naturally, I had to go with her. When she asked me what I wanted to see there, I really had nothing in mind other than wanting to understand more about the March 11th Earthquake/Tsunami and the nuclear disaster that happened after.

I was on the internet reading for a long time. I wasn’t interested to be a tourist or visit places that I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t interested in disrespecting the lives of people who had been affected. But, how do you get any information online without searching incredibly invasive sounding search phrases like “How to go into Fukushima danger zone”?

We were already in Fukushima, and I still hadn’t gotten any information and I found a keyword that people use here to describe visiting places struck by disaster/war/death. They call it “Black Tourism” (terrible term). There are licensed companies that organize tours into the exclusion zone to educate people…I honestly don’t know what or how to think about this. In any case, I discovered that another option was to just take the regular train out to Tatsuta station (the last stop before the exclusion zone) and then take a bus through to Haranomachi. There are only 2 buses that run to Haranomachi from Tatsuta and 2 that go back every day.

So I did that. Reaching Tatsuta, the sky was grey. The station had device to display the radiation levels in the area. Nobody was really there. The Tatsuta neighborhood looked deserted. Suddenly, the radio calisthenics music began playing on the speakers. The cheerful music clashed with the lack of people around. I had no idea what was going on.

Fukushima 5

On the way to Tatsuta, I’d seen the ocean. This side of Japan faced the Pacific Ocean. Toyama faces the Sea of Japan which is a MUCH smaller body of water. The Pacific Ocean, on this cloudy day, looked kind of angry. I walked around Tatsuta for about an hour.

Then the bus arrived. Reading things on the newspaper and going through the place yourself is always different. Passing through the exclusion zone reminded me of disaster/end of the world/zombie movie sets. Except it was real. Everywhere, there were rice fields over grown with weeds. Homes, 100 yen shops, pachinko parlors, eateries, all kind of fenced off. I saw a boat in the middle of an over grown field. It looked like a dime a dozen neighborhood in rural Japan, except things had gone so very wrong. It scared me because, that’s the kind of neighborhood I live in in Toyama.

Fukushima 3

Fukushima 4


It shocked me at how close the nuclear plants were to the people’s homes. It hit me that more than 5 years had passed since then…and life was still not “back to normal”. Some people would never regain their “normal” back.

Fukushima 2

As I sat in a library in Haranomachi, reading about the disaster, the thought that ran through my mind in the moment was how fragile “normal” was and how quickly it could be destroyed. I was confused at this horribly ironic situation that Japan was in and its confusing relationship to nuclear power. I left with no answers and just more questions and thoughts and maybe a strong dislike for nuclear power plants.

Shortly after my trip to Fukushima, I joined my school on its school trip to Tokyo. We had a lot of fun, but on one of the days when I had time to myself, I visited the Yasukuni Shrine and Museum. As mentioned before, history has many points of view. I’d heard of the numerous controversies surrounding this building and decided to go take a look for myself. I’d heard that Class A War criminals had been enshrined and the Abe and many other former prime ministers had visited this shrine. It’s also incredibly close to the Imperial Palace, although the imperial family has stopped supporting it. I had a feeling of dread. I was worried because, I didn’t know what to expect but surely it couldn’t be THAT bad or it would be censored/disallowed.


The shrine itself was less offensive to me in comparison to the museum. And while I couldn’t bring myself to bow down before the main shrine, it really wasn’t all that bad in comparison to the museum.

The museum made statements about its attack on Asia like it was attempting to save us from our colonial masters. The military strength of the war-time military is presented as awe inspiring and powerful. China is insulted. I couldn’t stomach the museum.  I literally got a headache about half-way though because I honestly couldn’t believe people bought into this. Again, these are my opinions and if people want to disagree or if you have different views on this, I’m happy to engange with you.

Yasukuni 3

The worst part was watching a teacher bring a group of students through the exhibitions of planes while talking about the strength of Japan and then walking to the final segment where the guest books are. A man had written in it that he’d served Hitler and that he regretted nothing and that this museum was a great example for people to follow. It made me sick.

Yasukuni 2

I walked out with a massive headache and a craving for something sweet and some therapeutic rides at Disney Sea.

My trips to these spots stopped for a while until spring 2017. I finally got a chance to visit Hiroshima, my last stop. I was already exhausted by this point. Obviously, I’ve never experienced this level of violence or death in my life, but going to these places left me feeling very drained. So, by the time I reached Hiroshima, I really wasn’t all that shocked anymore. I’d seen similar things in Nagasaki. Hiroshima seemed louder about its opinions of the war though. There was evidence everywhere of the blast. And people were not happy at all about the nuclear power plants.


It was a vocal city, a contrast to the quiet tranquility that I experienced in Nagasaki.  I visited the bomb dome…and walked along the river through memorial after memorial till I reached the one where Obama had given his iconic speech of “71 years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed…” Again, I’d really run out of things to FEEL at this point. I was just walking around, kind of on auto-piolet.

I walked through the peace museum. There’s a big exhibit on JHS students who’d perished because of the work they had to do outside on that day. There are left over finger nails and skin. A young boy’s tricycle. Hair. The paper cranes folded by Sadako, the girl who developed cancer well after the bomb had been dropped. Shadows of people left over on stone steps as a result of the radiation. A lunchbox with its charred, uneaten contents.  “What’s there to say anymore?”, I thought as I snapped pictures. It was really crowded and I had to stand in line to see each exhibit. What’s there to think anymore? Hiroshima was stark. Ugly.

Hiroshima 2

I talked to some people at a mini lecture and it was then I came to a sort of answer for my conflict. Yes, what Japan had done to SO many countries, was very very wrong. There’s no excuse for the lives that had been lost. But that didn’t mean the country deserved the a-bombs. That was not the answer.

This still happens. Syria is being bombed for ISIS. People, who once had their normal, don’t have it anymore. It happens in a flash. I obviously don’t have any peace-keeping solutions or suggestions on me or I’d be working for UN, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, feel that the a-bombs were justified after all that.

The other question that ran through my mind was what I thought of nuclear power and it being harnessed as a form of clean energy. I’m still in conflict. On one hand, I wonder if things would have worked out better without human error. On the other hand, human error will never truly cease to exist. I remembered passing the Kashiwazaki power plant, the closest one to Toyama. People played on the beach nearby. I recalled hearing the words of Oppenheimer in a play I’d worked on as a subtitle operator a few years back. It too had been about the war. Oppenheimer had said, after the bombs had been dropped:

I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

I leave you with that thought.




Diversity: 心の扉をひらきましょう!


Singapore does not equal Merlion. A stereotype I shall fight to death.


So on June 17th, I was given the honour of giving an hour-long speech to the students on the school’s library board. They told me I could make the speech in English or Japanese on pretty much any topic I wanted.

Given my experiences within the past few years and the chain of incidents that have been happening in recent times, I decided to speak about diversity and the importance of accepting and appreciating it.

Over a couple of months, I crafted this baby with the help of my amazing Japanese tutor, my super lovely teachers at my school and friends. They dedicated a lot of time and energy to help me and for that I’m so very grateful.

I was dead nervous and I still think it was far from perfect, but I truly learnt a lot through this challenging experience. Now, I have an hour-long Japanese speech/lecture under my belt! Yus!

One thing I feared was that I’d come across as an outsider criticizing Japan, which isn’t the aim of this speech at all. However, reading through the feedback slips the students wrote, that doesn’t seem be be a problem and they got the main message I was trying to communicate to them.

In fact, it seems I had quite the positive impact and several of them have said they would rethink their view of the world. Can’t express how happy this makes me, because I honestly expected some kind of angry response to my speech.

Here’s the script I crafted (with all the help). I used this structure to help me in case I got lost in my speech or forgot what I was talking about. Enjoy.



Hi Everyone! Today, before I start my lecture, there’s something I want you all to do. On the sheet of paper I’ve given you all, I’ve written down the name of some countries.

今日のレクチャーを始める前に、ちょっとやってもらいたいことがあります。 みなさんにくばってある紙にいろんな国の名前が書いてあります。


South Africa








I want you to write down the stereotypes you have of all of them. What comes to your mind when you see the names of these countries?

この国々のこと、皆さんが持っているステレオタイプ(こていかんねん)をかみに書いてほしいです。この国々の名前を見る時、パッと出てくるイメージはなんですか? それを、書いてください。

Ok thank you!! I’ll come back to this at the end of this lecture.

はい、ありがとうございます! このレクチャーの終わりごろまたこのステリオタイプを見ましょう。

So I’m sure all of you are wondering what today’s lecture is about.
The topic I shall touch on is “Tayousei”
Eh, what’s “Tayousei”?
“Tayousei” is Diversity.
Let me explain

多様性is Diversity.

As humans, no two of us are the same. We’re all different. And by different, I don’t just mean our faces and our skin tones. We also differ in the way we think and talk. So, no two of us can be absolute carbon copies of each other. Not  even twins.


That is “Diversity”.
So, if you really think about it, everyone is diverse.
However, people who stand out aren’t really liked.
As a result, things like bullying or suicides happen on an everyday basis.

That is Diversity.
だから、よく考えたら、everyone is diverse.

Whether it be a child who’s big sized,
Whether it be a child whose skin tone differs from the rest,
Whether it be that child with a slightly louder voice ,
Or the child whose way of thinking is different from the rest…


Aren’t they quickly labelled as the “weirdo”?
Therein lies the problem.
The line, “That person is weird!” is used so easily on a daily basis…
But I think those words posses a meaning that isn’t so light.
* The Japanese word “Kawatteiru” literally means “different from others” but in my translation, I’ve used “weird” as the casually used equivalent.


To explain why these words aren’t as light as we imagine them to be, I’ve got 3 videos for you to watch.


(Play Astalift White CM)

So recently, I’ve been seeing this Astalift White CM on Youtube a lot.
What do you all think?
I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen commercials like this right?


(Show video of Trump talking)
All of you might probably know who this person is.
He’s the man running to be the president of the United States of America. Trump.


(Show video of Hitler talking)
And, this person too, you know him right?
It’s Hitler.


I’m sure you’d all be a bit taken aback if I were to compare Trump and Hitler’s videos to the skin whitening commercial. Let me explain more.


If you listen to Hitler and Trump’s speeches, you’ll realise that they’re doing the same thing. One talks about Jewish people stealing the jobs of German people. The other talks of Mexicans being murderers. In both cases, you have 2 individuals who’re rejecting groups of people who are different to them. This way of talking is extremely dangerous.


This is why I don’t take too kindly to the Astalift commercial (skin whitening commercial).  Sunburns are never pleasant. They hurt and aren’t really good for your dermatological health.


However, the message that you get from commercials like Astalift is not one about skin health or anything of that sort. It basically says “You’re gonna turn black”. White skin is good. Black/Dark skin is bad. When darker skin is portrayed in a negative light in commercials like this, how do you think people like me or sporty high schooler feel?

黒色の肌にたいして悪いイメージがあるのではないですか? そういうメッセージをCMの中に入れる時、私やスポーツをよくやる高校生のような肌が白くない人がどう感じると思いますか?

How do you think the Jewish people in Germany felt about Hitler’s speeches?


How do you think Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in America, feel about Trump’s speeches?


Alriiiight, break time! Turn to the person beside you and discuss the opinions you have regarding white skin and darker skin tones.

はい!じゃーきゅうけいTIME! となりに座っている人と、白肌、黒い肌にたいして持っている意見を話してみてください。


So, what exactly does it mean to be a “Japanese person”?


Diversity within Japan Even within Japan, there is a lot of diversity. The Ainu, the Ryuukyu, the Chinese and Koreans…but I always hear a lot of you say “Japanese culture this, or Japanese culture that.” What is this generalized “Japanese Culture”?

実は、日本にも多様性があります。 アイヌ、琉球、中国系、韓国系、ハーフの人。。。などが住んでいます。 しかし、日本に来てよく聞くのは「これはJapanese Culture, それはJapanese Culture」。このJapanese Cultureはいったい何ですか?

The truth is, even Toyama has it’s own culture. It’s so different compared to Tokyo or Kyoto and I love it.


What defines a Japanese person?
What is Japanese culture?
What is Japan?


On one hand, you have a Yamato Nadeshiko, good wife and mother, type of person. On the other hand, you have a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu type of person. You have men who look like they work at host clubs. And then, you have men who’re total geeks.

Of course you have your office workers.

They’re all Japanese people!




Even if I were to talk about Japan, on one hand, you have high end, fast fashion Tokyo.
On the other you have gorgeously, traditional Kyoto.
And you still have Osaka, Okinawa …
If we went on about how each and every prefecture is different, this conversation wouldn’t end.


If all of Japan were the SAME, I don’t think I’d have travelled to all the places. But, wherever I went in Japan, I felt like I was in a different world. It’s immensely touching. Talking to different people, living in different prefecture, you get to see so many different Japanese faces. It’s AMAZING.

日本全国全く同じだったら、私は今までこんなにいっぱいトラベルしてないと思います。どこいっても、別世界みたい。すごくすごく感動するんですよ。いろんな場所に住んでいるいろんな人に話しかけたら、日本のいちめんを見ることができます。It’s AMAZING.

My question to all of you is, why not embrace it and celebrate these differences?


“I wanna live in Toyama all my life,
I don’t really want to go anywhere else.
I don’t want to get out of Toyama.
I’m scared of going overseas, it’s dangerous.”

I hear these lines SO many times.



To tell you the truth, with that thinking, you can’t go anywhere. You can sit in your house and be a hikikomori…but even then, you can’t be 100% safe. I mean, Japan’s literally on the fault line …so IF something happened…there really is nothing much you could do.

そういう考えを持っていては、本当にどこでもいけないですよ。家の中に座っていて、ひきこもっても。。。 そうしても、100%安全と言えないでしょう? だって、日本全体は完全にプレートの上に乗っているでしょう? This is 地震国でしょう? だから、本当に何かあったら、どうしようもないでしょう?

It’s not just you.


I really want you to understand that I’m not blaming you or telling you that you’re horrible people. In fact, this way of talking or thinking is not unique to Japan. I know many Singaporeans who think like that. They hate foreigners. We call this Xenophobia. A fear of foreigners.

わかってもらいたいのは、今私はみんなをこうげきして、あなたたちはひどい人と言っているわけではないんです。実は、これは日本だけに当てはまる話ではありません。私は外国人がきらいというシンガポール人を何人か知っています。こういう人のことを、Xenophobia と呼びます。外国人きょうふしょう

So a little bit about Singapore, we are TINY. We’re just 1/2 the size of Toyama prefecture. Imagine that! SO small.


On this tiny island, we have about 6million people.


74.1% are Chinese.
13.4% are Malay.
9.2% are Indian.
3.3% are “Others”.
*I have issues with the use of “Others” in Singapore but in the Japanese translation, it translated pretty well into “People of other racial groups”.


So I don’t look like most other people in Singapore


I’m a minority.
To put it nicely, I’m a rare species.
*Wanted to say Unicorn, but whatever.


There is so much inter-race unity and I have learnt SO much about other races and cultures and languages just by being Singaporean. Singapore is just so multi-cultural and multi-ethnic and multi-lingual that until very recently, I took this for granted. My friends are so different from each other. I eat different foods from across the world, and hear a multitude of languages on daily basis. Muslim Mosques and Indian Temples stand side by side.

This is the beauty of my country.

I couldn’t explain this to you in just one lecture.




Yet, there is ugliness too.


From my Primary school days, I’ve faced racism. There have been cases when I’ve gotten into a taxi and the taxi driver asks “Oi, where are you from? Are you from India?” When I reply that I’m Singaporean, some people ask “You were born in Singapore or you just come here and get passport?” Then they say horrible things about India and Indian people to me.

小学校の時から私は人種差別を何回か受けたことがあります。 「おい、お前、どこから?インド?」とシンガポールのタクシー運転手さんに聞かれたことがあります。私はシンガポール人ですと答えても、「ここで生まれたシンガポール人か、ここに入ってきてパスポートをもらった人ですか?」と聞かれたことがあります。インド人の悪口を言います。

Let me tell you this.
My Mother is Indian.
My ancestors are Indian.
How am I to respond to harsh words like these?


Being asked where I’m from, in my own country is very sad for me.
Why must people ask me such a question?
If I am a good person, does it matter where I’m from?
Even if I’m a BAD person, does it matter where I come from?
One person does NOT equal an entire nation.


Alriiiight, break time! Living in Japan, have you witnessed any discrimination? Have you faced discrimination? Have you discriminated? You don’t have to just talk about racial discrimination. It can be any form of discrimination. Talk with your partner!



One Person does NOT equal an entire nation.
Huh? What does that mean?
(Take a deep breath)
The issue I want to talk about from now…is a little difficult.
But, I’d like for all of you to keep an open mind/heart and listen.




(Show picture of Chinese tourists climbing Sakura tree)
For example, the Chinese tourists who travel to Japan are often highlighted for their bad manners and it’s a small problem here isn’t it? As a result, hasn’t it become a sort of bad image for them that Chinese tourists as a whole have bad manners? Not to worry, even in Singapore and pretty much all over the world, many people have such an image of Chinese tourists. So I’m not just talking about you.

例えば、中国からの観光客のマナーの悪さが日本でたびたび問題になっていますね? そのせいで、中国人はみんなマナーが悪いというイメージになっていませんか?心配しないでください、シンガポールや、世界中でも、同じようなイメージがあります。

The difficult part starts here. I want to say that these Chinese tourists don’t represent ALL Chinese people.

難しい部分はここから始まります。 この中国人の観光客イコール中国の国民みんなにはならないのです。


Let me explain. Firstly, the entire Chinese population is about 1.375 BILLION. Number 1 in the entire world. And what percentage of this 1.375 BILLION people, do you think are coming to Japan to travel? According to the Foreign Ministry, it gave about 3.78 million visas to Chinese tourists (coming to Japan) in 2015. It’s a REALLY small percent. About 0.274%!!!


And even within that percentage you’re seeing only a certain group of people act that way. If you think about it, to go on holidays or trips you need money and time. Even if you aren’t filthy rich, you probably aren’t struggling to make ends meet if you are able to travel. I would go so far as to say that we are looking at all the bad habits of small, highly mediatized group of people who belong to a much huger community.

Please don’t stigmatize an entire population of a country based on the actions of a few.



Even as I say that, I want to point out that it’s not like I’m perfect. I’m not always so kind with my feelings and way of thinking. Last year when I went to the Tateyama snow walls, I encountered some Chinese tourists who spoke with loud voices and were quite a nuisance to the people around them.


At that time, I got really irritated and annoyed and would even tut at them. I’d get angry, thinking “What the hell, annoying Chinese!” This has happened several times. But, when I cool down, I always feel like I can’t group them all into one lump. Because, if I were to start thinking like that, how then am I any different from Hitler or Trump? That thought is scarier than anything else.

『なんじゃそりゃ、迷惑な中国人だ』とおこっていました。このようなことは、何回もありました。 でも、そのあと、れいせいになった時、いつも思うのは、その人たちイコール中国人と思ってはいけいけない。もし、そんな風に思ってしまったら、私とヒトラーや、トランプと同じになってしまうでしょう?前、私を差別した人と同じになってしまうでしょう?その考えは何よりも怖いです。

OKAAAAAY, break time again! I’d like for you to discuss with your partner, what do you think about Chinese people? What image do you have of them and why?

はい!またきゅうけい! 皆さんは、中国人のこと、どう思いますか?なんのイメージを持ていますか?なんで、そういうイメージを持っていますか?となりの人に話しかけてください!


The next thing I want to talk about is ROMNATICISM. It’s sort of the opposite of what we just talked about. Previously, we talked about the dangers of stereotyping an entire race of people based on the wrong doings of ONE. Next, I would like to talk about how even the “positive” stereotypes are bad.


“Half-babies are SO cute!!”
“I want to marry a GAIJIN!”
“Foreign men are such gentlemen!”
“Foreign women are super pretty!!”
“Singapore is SUPER rich isn’t it? Yagnya, are you rich??”
Nope. I’m broke.


違います。I am ビンボーです。

(Show photo of Angelina and Brad Pitt)
When you think of a foreigner, I know many people who think of someone like this! HOWEVER!
(Show my face)
A person like THIS is ALSO a foreigner.
Not every foreigner is a small faced, high-nosed, long legged white person.


(Show picture of Arianna Miyamoto)

When you say the mixed-race children are cute, what SORT of mixed-race kids are you talking about? Even though Arianna Miyamoto became Miss Universe Japan last year, many people don’t accept her as a Japanese person. As a young girl too, she was never seen as a “Cute mixed-race kid.”

ハーフの子供は可愛いというけど、どのようなハーフの子をみんな思っていますか?アリアナ宮本は去年のMiss Universe Japanになったんだけど、彼女を日本人と認めてない人は多い。若い頃も「可愛いハーフの子」と呼ばれなかった。

Overseas, there are people who see Japan as the land for Geisha, Ninjas and Samurais. “Asians are obedient and quiet”
“Oriental people are so exotic!”
“I LOVE the Japanese Geisha costume! I’m gonna be a sexy Geisha for Halloween”
There really are sexy geisha costumes like this.

海外では、日本イコールGeisha, Ninja and Samurai と思う人もいます!

It’s really strange and weird right?
I mean, you guys aren’t Geishas and Samurais who walk around in Kimonos eating Sushi all day right?


These are shallow statements that people sometimes make when they don’t understand the world deeply enough. And, inadvertently, what may seem like praise, may come across as an insult.


Alright! Discussion time! What kind of Romanticized images have you had of foreign countries?

OK, 話しましょう!今まで、海外のこと、どういうロマンチックなイメージを持っていたことがあるんですか?


So what CAN we do?

I don’t look like you. This is a fact.

No matter how much I play the Koto, or dance Nihon Buyo or do Tea Ceremony, I’m not going to become a Japanese citizen unless I get a passport change. Even then, my experiences and culture will be different to yours.



As humans, we all look different and behave different  I would never want these differences to be ignored.  Instead I wish to propose that we acknowledge and appreciate differences.


Before we start deciding that overseas in “this” kind of place or “that” kind of place, I really suggest you step outside with an open mind and heart. And, when you DO step out, the great thing is you don’t just learn about the outside world. You start learning more and more about your own identity too!


When I talk to you about Vegetarianism, when I talk to you about my culture and my country, don’t say things like “I’m so happy I’m Japanese!” When you say this to me, I feel hurt.


Just like all of you, I like my own country and I love my culture. I also like your country and your culture. However, when you say things like that, you make it sound like Japan is the best country in the world, and other countries are bad. Instead, why not open your hearts?

みんなと一緒で、私は自分の国と自分の文化も大好きです。もちろん、このすてきな日本と日本の文化も大好きです。じゃないと、たぶん2年間もここで住んでないと思うんです! でも、日本だけすごいみたいな話をすると。。。あー残念だな。。。と私が思う。 そうではなくて、みんなが、自分の心を開きませんか?

Ask questions. Ask me questions like “What kind of culture my country has or what fashion trends are like or what Japan-Singapore relations are like or what Singapore law is like.”

I’d be the happiest person to answer those questions.



Read as much as you can about the world!


Look at the paper I gave you at the start of this lecture. Look at the stereotypes that you’ve listed. I would like us all to think again about these stereotypes we have of the world around us. It’s just so easy to put things into labeled boxes.

Female. Male. Black person. White person. Asian. European. Gay. Teacher. Muslim.

But, a human being is so much more than a label.




There’s a huge danger in putting people in boxes and labeling them. I was actually writing my speech when a horrible thing happened in Orlando, America on Saturday night. A man walked into a gay club and shot about 50 people dead. He said he was an ISIS supporter. People like Trump are saying this is the reason why Muslims should not enter America.


This is exactly what happens when you reject diversity.


Many people, like the man who shot the people, cannot accept LGBT people.
They want to take away these people’s rights. People like Trump cannot accept religious diversity.
They don’t understand that Islam and religious extremists are two very different things. The world isn’t as simple as that.

しゅうきょうかげきはのひとは全然違うとわかってない。 この世界はそんなに簡単じゃないんです。

Appreciate differences and diversity.

The world is so big and colourful, don’t you think you make your lives boring by rejecting differences?



Thank you. 🙂