You know you have adjusted to being in Japan when you get totally annoyed by the behaviour of visiting Chinese tourists. This is the latest incarnation of the phenomenon of the 1950s “Ugly American” and the bubble era “Ugly Japanese”. The nouveau riche Chinese are now spreading around the globe, busily devouring the sights, sounds and tastes of different worlds.
In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculated there to be 157mn middle class Chinese. They predict this number will grow to over one billion over the next 15 years. Multiply the number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan by at least a factor of six and we will “live in interesting times”.
Shop entry points are favourite gathering spots for multitudes of wheeled luggage-bearing continental tourists, especially when it is raining. On nicer days, they sprawl out on the pavement in front of gorgeous Ginza boutiques—it may seem natural when you are so tired from all that vigorous shopping.
Get used to your calm conversation with the shop clerk being overridden by calls of “34, 34, 34” as a determined shopper yells out the size they want in the item they are brandishing in front of your face. Speaking of yelling, get used to lots and lots of yelling.
Japan went through the same tourism growth spurt as well thanks to the 1985 Plaza Accord driving the yen to stratospheric strength, meaning the rest of the world was one big tourist bargain. The difference this time is probably the sheer number of people coming from China.
Last winter, I was amazed to see so many Chinese tourists enjoying the deep snow at UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go, way up in the remote part of Gifu Prefecture. Any place you care to name, with the exception of the Senkaku Islands, is on the tourist trail now and we can expect to be bumping into this tourist horde more often.
You will most likely get annoyed, because like me, you are used to dealing with considerate, reserved, polite, quietly spoken Japanese who are refinement personified. But is the tourist tsunami situation going to change anytime soon? No. Money talks and Chinese tourists really spend—and in big amounts. They will keep coming in waves, as more of the wealthy get out and see the world.
So, we had better change our mindset. Here is your handy stress management guide to dealing with visitors from the Middle Kingdom in your backyard.
Cooperate with the inevitable
The Chinese government are educating their tourists to behave better. This will take decades though, so simply observe the phenomenon and don’t expect any relief any time soon.
Decide how much anxiety something deserves and refuse to give it more
Yes, there will be regular annoyances, but don’t let them pile up and keep bugging you. Give yourself a time limit on how long you are going to allow these tourists to upset you and then mentally move on.
Assume that the product of such dense urban living, in recently rediscovering capitalism, will be a bit flummoxed by universal values. The moral compass is now missing for many in modern China, so our own assumptions about how things are supposed to work have to go out the window. The language factor will reduce subtleties to the most basic, which by the way, won’t include “please”, “after you” “thank you” or “I am sorry”—in any language.
Count your blessings—not your troubles
Yes, rude tourist behaviour is annoying, but remember, we have so much going for us in living in Japan. The focus should be on enjoying those great things and dealing with the few moments when we meet the upwardly mobile proletarian masses face to face.
Dale Carnegie’s classic text How To Stop Worrying and Start Living is probably more useful in these situations than a Mandarin phrase book, so look for more stress management principles in there if it all gets too much. Good luck!