What do ordinary Japanese people think of a viral video which depicts a situation wherein a Japanese person is unable to process foreigners’ fluent Japanese?

A while back, we featured a viral video by David Ury’s Japanese alter-ego Ken Tanaka exploring an awkward situation often experienced by foreigners in Japan who speak Japanese fluently. In the video, a Japanese waitress flat-out ignores a group of fluent-Japanese-speaking non-Asian customers, instead insisting on interacting only with the sole Asian-American member of the group, who does not, in fact, speak Japanese.

The video prompted a lot of discussion online, with responses mostly falling into two categories: those who didn’t believe that such a situation would actually occur in real life, and those who’ve actually experienced this phenomenon themselves, sometimes many times over.

Let’s quickly recap by watching the original video one more time:

Japan is a country that is 98.5 percent ethnically Japanese. Japan does not have the right of jus soli, meaning that being born and raised in Japan does not legally make you Japanese unless you have at least one Japanese parent. In general, Non-Asian people in Japan cannot avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, and will have preconceptions heaped upon them at first sight, such as: this person probably speaks English, this person must be a tourist, and: this person must not understand the Japanese language and customs. These preconceptions can be so strongly held that even when addressed by a foreigner with fluent Japanese (one of the actors in David Ury’s video even states that he was born in Japan), a mental discord can occur which blocks people from processing the actual state of affairs, resulting in the situation as shown in the video.

YouTuber That Japanese Man Yuta recently released a video showing the reactions of Japanese people on the street to this exact situation. First, he showed them the Ury’s popular video, then he asked them several questions designed to gauge their reaction. The results were… honestly, a little shocking. If you’ve got any doubts as to the validity of the original video, then you’re in for a serious wake-up call.

Most of the street interviewees simply didn’t understand the source video at all. In response to the question “What was the video about?” One respondee answered: “The beauty of the Japanese language from foreigners’ perspective.” In response to the question “Why do foreigners find this video funny?” another respondee replied with: “Because someone was speaking with a Kansai accent.” Another still said that the waitress in the video “Could have used gestures to make them understand”… (*face palm*).

Thankfully, some of those who were shown Ury’s video did seem to understand, and at the end, all of them confessed that they had never met a foreigner on the street who had competent Japanese, encountering only those who spoke broken Japanese or English, which made them feel they had to respond in English.

Perhaps we’re still a long way from breaking down the stereotype that foreigners in Japan can’t speak Japanese. What did you think of the reaction video?

Source: YouTube – That Japanese Man Yuta
Images: Screenshot from That Japanese Man Yuta