Gaijin (外人, [ɡai(d)ʑiɴ]; "outsider", "alien") is a Japanese word for foreigners and non-Japanese citizens in Japan, specifically being applied to foreigners of non-Japanese ethnicity and those from the Japanese diaspora who are not Japanese citizens.[1] The word is composed of two kanji: gai (, "outside") and jin (, "person"). Similarly composed words that refer to foreign things include gaikoku (外国, "foreign country") and gaisha (外車, "foreign car"). Though the term can be applied to all foreigners of non-Japanese citizenship and ethnicity, some non-Japanese East Asians may have specific terminology used instead.[2][3][4][5][6][1]

Some feel the word has come to have a negative or pejorative connotation,[7][8][9][10][11][12] while other observers maintain it is neutral.[13] 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, and kokujin (黒人, "black person") would be the black equivalent.

Etymology and history


The word gaijin can be traced in writing to the 13th-century Heike Monogatari:

Assembling arms where there are no gaijin[note 1]

Here, gaijin refers to outsiders[15][16] and potential enemies.[17] 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.[17] The Noh play, Kurama tengu[18] 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.[19]

The Portuguese in the 16th century were the first Europeans to visit Japan; they were called nanbanjin ("southern barbarians"),[20] 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"),[21] 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").[22]

The word gaikokujin (外国人) is composed of gaikoku (foreign country) and jin (person). Early citations exist from c. 1235,[23] but it was largely non-extant until reappearing in 1838.[24] 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 ("within-country people") came to refer to nationals of other imperial territories.[citation needed] 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.[25]


Foreigners in Japan in 2000 by citizenship[26]

While all forms of the word mean "foreigner" or "outsider", in practice gaijin and gaikokujin are commonly used to refer to foreigners of non-East Asian ethnicities.[2][3][4][5][6][1] For example, other East Asians such as ethnic Chinese and Koreans residing in Japan are not referred to as gaijin, but by their nationality directly.[citation needed] Special permanent residents with ancestry from Japan's wartime colonies, mostly Koreans, are known as zainichi (在日), while for ethnic Chinese specifically kakyō (華僑) is also used.[27][28][29]

The term may also sometimes be applied to Wajin born and raised in other countries.[30][31] 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.[citation needed]

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.[31][32][33] This interpretation of the term as neutral in tone continues for some.[9][13][34][35] However, though the term may be used without negative intent by many Japanese speakers,[7] it is seen as derogatory by some[10][11][12] and reflective of exclusionary attitudes.[7][8][25][36][34][37]

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)[9]

In light of these connotations, the more neutral and formal gaikokujin is often used as an alternative term to refer to non-Japanese people.[36][38] 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.[25]

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


See also



  1. ^ 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.


  1. ^ a b c Suzuki, David (1990). Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life. Toronto: Stoddart. pp. 282-283&#91, dead link&#93, . 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!'
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ a b 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
  5. ^ a b Satoshi, Ishii (2001). "The Japanese Welcome-Nonwelcome Ambivalence Syndrome toward "Marebito/Ijin/Gaijin" Strangers: Its Implications for Intercultural Communication Research". Vol. 13. Japan Review. pp. 145–170. whites and blacks are socially categorized as gaijin
  6. ^ a b 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
  7. ^ a b c Wetherall, William (1983). "Foreigners in Japan". Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Vol. 2. Tokyo: Kodansha. pp. 313–4. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b Buckley, Sandra (2002). "Gaijin". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture. Taylor and Francis. pp. 161–2. ISBN 0-415-14344-6. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  9. ^ a b c Itoh, Mayumi (Summer 1996). "Japan's abiding sakoku mentality - seclusion from other countries - Economic Myths Explained". Orbis. 40 (3). Foreign Policy Research Institute / JAI Press Inc. doi:10.1016/S0030-4387(96)90062-9. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  10. ^ a b De Mente, Boye Lafayette (1994). Japanese Etiquette & Ethics In Business. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 159. ISBN 0-8442-8530-7. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  11. ^ a b Hsu, Robert (1993). The MIT Encyclopedia of the Japanese Economy. MIT Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-8442-8530-7. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  12. ^ a b Wetherall, William; de Vos, George A (1976). "Ethnic Minorities in Japan". In Veenhoven, Willem Adriaan; Crum Ewing, Winifred (eds.). Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A World Survey. Stichting Plurale. p. 384. ISBN 90-247-1779-5. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  13. ^ a b Koshiro, Yukiko (1999). Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan. Columbia University Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-231-11348-X. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  14. ^ 高木, 市之助; 小沢正夫; 渥美かをる; 金田一春彦 (1959). 日本古典文学大系: 平家物語 (in Japanese). 岩波書店. p. 123. ISBN 4-00-060032-X.
  15. ^ A. Matsumura (ed.), Daijirin (大辞林), (p. 397, 9th ed., vol. 1). (1989). Tokyo: Sanseido. "がいじん【外人】② そのことに関係のない人。第三者。「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ/平家一」"
  16. ^ A. Matsumura (ed.), Daijisen (大辞泉), (p. 437, 1st ed., vol. 1). (1998). Tokyo: Shogakukan. "がいじん。【外人】② 仲間以外の人。他人。「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ」〈平家・一〉"
  17. ^ a b "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」
  18. ^ (in Japanese) 鞍馬天狗 Archived 2008-02-08 at the Wayback Machine, Ohtsuki Noh Theatre.
  19. ^ M. Yamaguchi et al. (eds.), Shinkango jiten (新漢語辞典), (p. 282, 2nd ed., vol. 1). (2000). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten Publishing. "【外人】② 局外者。他人。「源平両家の童形たちのおのおのござ候ふに、かやうの外人は然るべからず候」"
  20. ^ Curvelo, Alexandra (2012). "The Disruptive Presence of the Namban-jin in Early Modern Japan". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 55 (2–3): 581–602. doi:10.1163/15685209-12341246.
  21. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  22. ^ Matsui, Yoko (2018). "Japanese-Dutch Relations in the Tokugawa Period". Transactions of the Japan Academy. 72: 139–154. doi:10.2183/tja.72.Special_Issue_139. S2CID 188721665.
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ a b c 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 [変な] 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."
  26. ^ "Results of Special Tabulation on Foreigners". [Japan Statistics Bureau]. Archived from the original on December 25, 2007.
  27. ^ Lie, John. "Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): Diasporic Nationalism and Postcolonial Identity" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  28. ^ Moritz, Charlie (2018-01-11). "Is The Word Gaijin Actually Racist? | Live Work Play Japan". Archived from the original on 2020-08-14. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  29. ^ "Yakuza 3 reviewed by Yakuza". Boing Boing. 2010-08-10. Archived from the original on 2020-08-13. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  30. ^ Koshiro, Yukiko (1999). Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan. Columbia University Press. p. 254. ISBN 0-231-11348-X.
  31. ^ a b Tsuda, Takeyuki (2003). Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12838-X.
  32. ^ Lie, John (2000). "The Discourse of Japaneseness". In Douglass, Mike; Roberts, Glenda Susan (eds.). Japan and Global Migration: Foreign Workers and the Advent of a Multicultural Society. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 0-415-19110-6. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  33. ^ Suzuki, Jiro; Sakamoto, Mickey (1976). "Discrimination against foreigners of Japanese descent in Japan". In Veenhoven, Willem Adriaan; Crum Ewing, Winifred (eds.). Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A World Survey. Stichting Plurale. p. 274. ISBN 90-247-1779-5. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  34. ^ a b Thomas Dillon, "Born and raised a 'gaijin' Archived 2008-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, Japan Times, December 24, 2005
  35. ^ Wada, Minoru (20 June 1994). "Education behind the scenes". The Daily Yomiuri: 9.
  36. ^ a b Lie, John (1999). Multiethnic Japan. Harvard University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-674-01358-1. Archived from the original on 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  37. ^ Sugihara, Kaoru; Allan, John Anthony (1993). Japan in the Contemporary Middle East. Routledge. p. 150. ISBN 0-415-07521-1. Gaijin Xenophobia.
  38. ^ Whiting, Robert (2004). The Meaning of Ichiro. Warner Books. pp. 152. ISBN 0-446-53192-8. gaijin second world war.