Stop Looking At Me!

Physical insecurities are something that most of us have dealt with at one point or another in our lives (glasses and braces in junior high school, anyone?). However, these insecurities are sometimes exacerbated in Japan due to the fact that we look completely different from everyone around us, not to mention we’re stared at all the time!

I asked some foreigners about thoughts they’ve had regarding their physical appearance since living in Japan. Here are some of the things they had to say:

“It’s ridiculously frustrating to go shopping! Sometimes I’m afraid to try things on, even though I start with the largest size because I don’t want to be disappointed.”

“I feel like Pam Anderson because I have a bust!”

“Big nose. Big ears. No hair. I’ve been told that I look older than people ten years older than me.”

“I’m forever bumping my head because I’m too tall!”

“Jeans here aren’t created for girls with hips or butts.”

“I think I look better after a little sun, but everyone always comments in an almost horrified way about how I willingly allow my skin to get darker. It makes me feel really self-conscious about my skin.”

Many of us have learned to grin and bear it when we are shopping or hear strange remarks about our physique. However if you find it still gets to you, my advice is to relax and just roll with it. More often than not those comments are meant to be compliments, not meant to single you out for looking different. You can even use the blunt honesty to your benefit! Says one respondent, “If they say something like, “Hmm…look’s like you’ve put on a little weight there, haven’t you?” I think, “It’s time to hit the gym again,” and not, “How rude! That’s a personal assault!” Treating physical appearance like public domain can be healthier in a way sometimes.”

You can also use the comments as an opportunity to enlighten curious minds. Says another respondent, “My students always comment on my nose, which amuses me. I show them pictures of my friends to illustrate how other foreigners can have small noses too, so they don’t build stereotypes.”

There’s no way we’ll be able to avoid those unexpected remarks. You many even get caught off guard on a day when you’re feeling particularly homesick. Just take a deep breath and try to remember that it’s not always so bad. I’m sure you’ve encountered numerous people who have been absolutely mesmerized with something on you, whether it be your “tall nose,” “small face,” “big eyes,” eye color, eyelashes, or naturally curly hair.

Enjoy the attention while you can! Where else will you encounter a tiny child who will look up at you and exclaim that you’re “CUTE-O!”, or a store clerk who will tell you out of the blue that you look like a man who “gets a lot of action”? And where else will you be able to elicit a wild chorus of “kawaaaiiiii!!!” or “kakoooiiiii!!!” from a group or random strangers you pass on the street? That’s right, only here.

Admit it. You know you love Japan!

-Mutia Adisoma

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