The theme of my recent trip to Japan has been “The Hunger Games”.

ANA was kind enough to show it to me on the flight in. I had meant to see it since it came out in 2012.

In a lot of ways, the movie is allegory for everyday expat life in Japan. As I see it, the foreigners are put in competition with each other, and the Japanese runners of things just sit back and watches who survives. Whenever Katniss Eberdeen got some advantage in a situation, they would just change the rules.

It’s this line, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor,” that requires a lot of introspection.

Compared to other countries, Japan makes it very hard to “win” any sort of permanence here. And so you will find yourself to be constantly having to play a new set of odds. Foreigners are shunted into term-limited employment, so, you see, your odds keep shifting for each and every employment relationship. It’s not “one door closes, another one opens”. It’s more like: you’re the next “fallen tribute”.

It would be interesting to have some figures on the exact amount of foreigners who cycled in and out of Japan. The Japanese government must have those numbers, but surely do not share them. We get to see population counts, which are just a snapshot. Even then, by the way, the population of Americans here has been slightly down since 2008. We don’t know if it’s the same people as 2008, only that the proportion of us here versus Japanese in our country continues to be something like six to one, moving to seven to one.

I am sure Japanese cycle in and out of American residence like what happens here. But it’s probably much rarer. After all, usually in three to five years someone in a Western country can get permanent residence. There aren’t all these hoops and hurdles to deal with, or being a kind of gigolo looking to get married to stay. In the West, we approach immigration issues of these kind with a certain amount of dignity. Here, the odds are stacked against you.

But “may they ever be in your favor!”

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