I remember seeing that the most twitters in the world seem to be coming out of Japan so I found a Japanese made twitter search engine. In this case I used http://twitter.1×1.jp and I searched for the word “gaijin” in Japanese.
Gaijin is the less nice way to say foreigner. The not so bad way is gaikokujin. If you want to know, however, my personal thought is that this type of word is used way too much in any form. Most of the time there’s no real need to separate out Japanese people from non-Japanese people, but I digress. In the case of twitter, I really like the idea of a flow of ideas in lots of languages and some peace and love and all that to boot. I like that someone studying Japanese in the US would be able to follow a Japanese person and use twitter as a learning tool, or that a person in any country could find someone who twits about a topic they’re interested in and follows that person to learn related vocab.
So what do I get when I search for gaijin in twitter? All of the twits I mention below were sent today, July 10th, 2008 Japan time. (Keep in mind I just did this on the fly and it’s not a scientific study, and the countless people who never mention “gaijin” in the first place are probably fine with anybody who follows them.)
Most of the messages I’ve found have negative connotations. A lot of people seem to be unhappy when a “gaijin” decides to follow them.
- One person wrote that he wishes someone would make a “gaijin blocker tool” so he could block hundreds of gaijins at once.
- One person wrote a short twit saying “exterminate all gaijin”.
- The same person that wrote the above also wrote “don’t follow me you kuso-gaijin-yarou” that last part throws some really ugly racist feeling into the term gaijin.
- Another writes, “What could be fun for a gaijin about following me, I only write in Japanese!” He doesn’t seem to realize that that could be exactly what’s fun about following him especially for a college student studying Japanese somewhere.
One of the major themes in the comments using the term gaijin was a disdain for what they kept referring to as gaijin spam but could more correctly be referred to as spam in English.
Next I did a search of the less severe term “gaikokujin”. This is a word you can actually use on tv. (TV shows avoid the term gaijin and if it is ever spoken live and there happen to be “teroppu”, the subtitles many tv shows use for effect, the teroppu would come out as gaikokujin.)
- One person directly writes that he is blocking all gaikokujin and people who don’t post.
With this search I also found the kind of people that twitter is all about, and thankfully I did this search last because it restored at least some of my faith in people in Japan.
- A person says, I’m going to start posting in easier Japanese so that gaikokujin who are learning Japanese can understand better.
- Another person said that they feel bad if they are blocking foreigners who are legitimately following them, but that the English spam is just too much to take.
- A lot of Japanese news sites also came up because as I mentioned above the term gaijin isn’t used in proper media, but gaikokujin is. Some of the discussions also mention new foreign baseball players coming to Japan.
Lastly, for kicks, I took a look at “amerikajin” meaning American… because I’m American. Many talked about the ubiquitous English language spam on Twitter Japan, some talked about Americans they’d seen or talked to. One person however had this bit of wisdom:
- “My image of Americans are that they put anything that stinks into containers, but the containers directly into the trash and then it blows up.”
That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone mention that particular image of Americans… how did they know about that salmon I left in the tupperware in the back of the fridge?
Anyway, to sum up,basically if you’re following a Japanese person and they refer to non-Japanese people as “gaijin”, you’re probably not following a very nice person. If they refer to “gaikokujin” then there’s no problem with that unless they have some kind of complex about it and talk about making you extinct for following them, or if every other thing they say is something weird about foreigners. Lastly, if the person your following talks about Amerikajin, well, their probably talking about Americans… or the recent explosions behind the rotten egg factory.
For follow up studies, I think I’d like to throw in some other keywords with “gaijin” to see how bad it all gets, and look at a longer range of time. For now, I guess if you find yourself getting blocked by Japanese people you follow, don’t worry too much about it, they’re probably not people you want to follow in the first place.