Even though I was an iranian living in Japan I never gave it much thought but after browsing through reddit a common question that keeps popping up is “how is life in Japan for nationality/race X?”.  Since I belonged to one of the more rare nationalities in Japan I thought I would give my two cents on the matter.

Basically, japanese people will for the most part just treat you like all other foreigners. Japanese people have a tendency to group people into two categories, Japanese and Gaijins(non-japanese). So basically, I don’t think me being iranian actually had any notable effect on how people treated me and in fact unless people specifically asked for my nationality I doubt most japanese would have any idea where I was from.

The one topic that kept being brought up when people found I was persian/iranian was that Yu Darvish the famous baseball player is half iranian. Lots of japanese people felt need to point that out for some reason. I think Yu Darvish and Iran is some random country in middle east is about the extent of knowledge about Iran for the typical japanese. Who can blame them, I don’t know shit about cambodia, nepal or some random country 30,000 miles from me. In fact, I don’t even know what religion they follow or what language they speak in Nepal. What am I trying to get at… there isn’t much racism in japan toward specific nationalities, there’s apathy. They just don’t know and probably don’t care. There are stereotypes about the more well known countries, like UK, US, China, Korea etc, but as a minority from Iran you will stick out since 99,99% japanese people have never encountered an Iranian.

Basically, the persian/iranian diaspora in Japan is more or less non existant in Japan. There were actually a quite sizeable iranian minority when visa regulations were lax back in the 80s and early 90s but a long time has passed since and most iranians from that era have returned or married japanese women(it was mostly male work migrants). In fact, I didn’t even know there were are an iranian community in Japan until I googled it since I saw exactly 1 iranian during my whole stay in the international mega city Tokyo. The few iranians that remain are mostly older, 50+ years old. Very few in my generation(I’m 28).

And allow me to make some generalizations: japanese people are horrible at figuring out where someone is based on their looks. I got repeatedly mistaked for spanish, italian, turkish, arabic, basically any country under the sun. So in conclusion, being iranian in japan had barely any effect at all on japanese treated/perceived me.