I didn’t know there was a name for these people until fairly recently. I’ve been encountering them for quite some time. College was practically a minefield of Wapanese. Their existence personally offends me.
Their offensiveness comes from the fact that they feel they have a special right to Japanese culture. I’m half-Japanese myself. I’ve lived in Japan and attended school there once. I have a complicated relationship with Japan, but I don’t feel I have a special right or claim to Japanese culture, and I don’t call myself Japanese. If I were to move to Japan, speak Japanese and commit myself to contributing to that culture, no matter what the obstacles, then I would claim that right. But that’s not my decision, so I don’t claim it.
I do feel a very strong sense of identity as part of the Japanese diaspora. I am a Japanese-American and one of the nikkeijin. I have a kinship to Japanese-Hawaiians, Japanese-Brazilians, Japanese-Peruvians. We have a tragic and powerful history.
Wapanese don’t care about any of that. They look at any Asian person and want to know 1) Will they discuss obscure anime with me so that I can brag about my privileged access to my Wapanese friends? 2) Will they have sex with me?
Here’s a typical conversation.
- Where are you from?
- No where are you REALLY from. Are you Japanese?
- Not really. My father’s Japanese.
- Do you speak Japanese?
- What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you care about your culture. I can speak Japanese (insert mangled Japanese words). Have you heard of (insert obscure anime title)?
Here’s a typical conversation with other kinds of Asian-Americans. We’ll skip ahead to after the “where are you REALLY from” part.
- Are you Japanese?
- No, I’m Chinese-American.
- Oh. Too bad.
Unlike people with a healthy interest in Japanese culture, Wapanese are arrogant, insecure fetishists. To them, Japan represents a way of propping up their ego by claiming a kind of elite insider status. They are very dangerous for Asian-Americans who have a weak sense of identity due to internalized racism. This kind of Asian-American finds social acceptance among Wapanese, but at the price of being their pet monkey. They are still extremely irritating to other Asian-Americans who are required to be around them due to work or school, and also when they have to go out of their way to avoid contact with Wapanese.
Wapanese are overwhelmingly white. It’s quite possible for them to be people of color, but only if they’re especially arrogant and ignorant individuals. For example, the average African-American with a strong interest in Japanese culture will tend to be more pragmatic and much less prone to cultural appropriation. After all, they don’t necessarily like it when white people do it to them.
Wapanese are often hated by other whites. The most popular definition of “Wapanese” on UrbanDictionary.com is very nasty and homophobic but it gives you a good idea of how they are often viewed:
�Wapanese� are decidedly caucasian individuals who, by means of thoroughly warped postmodern acculturation processes, have come to the decision that it is in their best interest to act as if they were denizens of the nation of Japan. The term �wapanese� can be accurately though of as an analog to wigger. A whitey can be classified as a �Wapanese� if they are in possession of two or more of the following defining traits:
1. Has an unhealthy obsession with shallow, saccharine and intellectually insulting animation shows (also refered to as anime by the nerd elite) originally tailored for young Japanese children
2. Operates under the erroneous belief that every aspect of American culture is vastly inferior to that of Japan�s � even though 99.9% of Wapanese have never had firsthand experience of any sort with their preferred culture (in other words, they�ve never set so much as one foot upon the island(s) of Japan)
3. Halfheartedly studies Japanese language and/or is a part-time practitioner of martial arts
4. Has a sword (samurai swords only, of course) collection
5. Is a Virgin
6. May be afflicted with a terminal case of yellow fever; however, they constantly fail in their quest for Japanese pootytang
7. Extreme cases may traipse around whilst wearing a �costume� that makes them resemble their favorite anime characters (this practice is reffered to as cosplay; cross-dressing and raging homosexuality is not an uncommon component of cosplay.
Interestingly, Wapanese are generally though of as �failures� and rejects within their own culture. Social scientists such as myself speculate that it was their failure to gain acceptance within their own culture than has lead many a white geek to seek out Japan�s culture as a surrogate; however, they�d be shattered to know that the insular and somewhat racist Japanese society would be even less accepting of them than the people of their true and native culture.
Here are some Wapanese in their own words. This sad image is from a livejournal community called “Fandom secret”. Based on the Post Secret model, the community puts up anonymous “postcard” confessions.
Unfortunately, Wapanese infest online forums and make it hard for Asian-Americans to talk to each other about serious issues. Here’s a post on japanforum.com responding to the question, “Are you Wapanese?”
well, after viewing that, i’m still kinda saying yes. but i so totally understand the wigger comparison. but i don’t try to be Japanese. i understand that i am white (french, british, and lebanese, to be exact). i am just a big fan of the japanese culture. and kids at my school who are Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, or any other Asian ethnicity, they dont’ really embrace their culture. and i’ve never understood that. ever since i can remember, since i was like 4, i’ve been obsessed with Japanese culture. but i guess they’re just like me…only opposite.
Ah, the offensiveness. She believes Asian-Americans can’t really be “American”, they can only ape white culture. They should stick to just being Asians… but hey, white people can be even better Asians than Asians are.
I consider myself 100% American. In fact, I have ancestors who were here 400 years ago, which gives me a claim just as good as any non-Native American. But if they were only here 40 years ago, I would still be 100% American.
The Wapanese model of ethnic identity places white American people at the center of the universe (of course). All culture is theirs to sample. The Japanese culture is an especially tasty morsel.
I’ve successfully avoided most contact with Wapanese, but I had to pay a price for that. In college, I stayed away from any kind of Asian student union or Japanese club. If I was a stronger person I could have done it, but I felt like I just couldn’t stand to be insulted by the people I would inevitably run into there.
When I learned Spanish and became a student of Mexican culture, my experiences with Wapanese made me overly cautious about falling into a pattern of acting like an appropriator. In the U.S., I never speak Spanish in front of a Latino just in case I make them feel bad if I happen to know more Spanish than they do. They have to totally initiate it first, or else I’m just too nervous.
And even now, I occasionally run into Wapanese who think my interest in Mexican culture is bizarre and deeply inauthentic to my truest, noblest Japanese-ness, which they want to inspire me to recover. Argh!
(p.s. luckyfatima’s comment earlier today touched on some of these issues)