Jun 25, 2016

Brexpat! British Expat in Japan, Reacting To Brexit

Brexpat! British Expat in Japan, Reacting To Brexit photo

(Image right: Damon Bay Flickr / Image left: pittaya Flickr)

I’m not sure I’ve ever made it clear in this blog where I’m from. Anyway, England. I would have said the U.K., but maybe I’d better get used to just England from now.

As will become abundantly clear in this post, I didn’t want separation from the EU, but democracy has revealed its largest fault, that even the daft idiots get chance to vote. It turns out there’s more of them in England than people thought. So we’ve left. Or will have, after about two years of paperwork.

Seeing this shambles unfurl from afar is a mixed bag for this expat. I thought I’d try and pen down some of my observations from here in Japan … as a Brexpat.

Japan and the UK have something in common; two former, bumbling capital city mayors

It’s ultimately been quite painful to watch former Tokyo mayor Yoichi Masuzoe fumble for answers during day after day of televised press conferences and inquiries. It’s also been painful to watch former London mayor Boris Johnson bluster (His is like fumbling but with bravado.) on about Britain being better off without any friends. But this is where the similarity ends. Where Masuzoe left office with little fanfare and headed off into political exile, Boris Johnson looks to be a frontrunner for Downing Street. Yes, a little bit hilarious, but ultimately terrifying.

Aso-san isn’t the only one who can say bewilderingly stupid sh#@t

To be fair, Finance Minister (and dapper hat wearer) Taro Aso’s back catalogue of inappropriate slurs might take some beating. Still, dangerous pint-swilling, man of the ignorant Nigel Farage did his best to get up to speed. In his unnerving victory gloat he declared his side had won without a bullet being fired. He must have had a few too many pints, forgetting that pro-EU, Labor Party M.P., Jo Cox had, just a few days earlier, been gunned down on the street by a man shouting ‘Britain first’.

Will Brexit cause an increase in Brexpats?

Ha! Well, not in Europe it won’t! But how about Japan? Now that Britain’s best and brightest are to be denied access to 27 countries, perhaps Japan will offer greater appeal than before. And we all know this country could do with a few more youngsters. Christ knows how the exchange rate will play out for them. Maybe they won’t be able to afford to get over here. Maybe it’ll be Brits on boats making a treacherous journey to a better land.  


I’ve never been so popular

Every cloud, eh? Japanese colleagues went mental on Friday. Eyes were glued to smartphones (yes, more than usual), and mouths gasped at out of control currency values and exchange rates. Answers were needed. A voice of reason to explain the confusion, in demand. ‘Well, Hello! I’m from England, don’t you know?!’. I was Mr. Popular at the coffee machine, and even had the ear of people who would normally never lend me an ear. As a mate from back home texted, Demand a pay raise!. I would, but nobody seems to know what value their money has at the moment. Maybe I should apologise instead.

I’m stuck in political limbo

I know which side of the fence I sit. The problem is, I’ve been an expat in Japan for some time now. Given this, I feel like I have less right to wade in on debates about how things should be done back home.

‘Stay in the EU!’. ‘Why?’. ‘Err, cuz I live in Japan, and … well, I’m probably not going to leave. But stay in the EU!'.

It seems to carry less weight. On the other hand, I have almost no say at all on what goes on politically in Japan. Sometimes the lack of responsibility is nice, but ultimately, I feel like bit of a spare part when it comes to effecting politics. Anyone else?

It looks absurd from afar

Viewing all this from the context of Japan, really brings out the Brexit cast. Compared to the staid, buttoned up Japanese politician (Aso-san aside), the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Nigel Farage look ever the more like grotesque pantomime villains. Their supporting cast of greying, wrinkled, small-town folk, almost alien after so long away. From my back row seat here in Japan, it’s been a little unreal. In fact, the campaigning for this thing showed about as much class and sophistication as a pantomime. We even had an intermission. Why Mr. Farage? Well, because someone got shot, knifed, and killed near the final act. Remember?

Anyway, that’s just how I’ve seen it from the safety of Japan. It’s still depressing, though. I feel more embarrassed about being English right now than I did when Japan put in a better showing than us in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It was painful then to deal with colleagues who kept repeating that they thought England were supposed to be good at football. Still, now that foreigners are set to get a frostier welcome back home, maybe English players will have a better chance to make their team’s starting eleven. You see! Every cloud!

As an afterthought, perhaps this will all calm down and it’ll just go back to business as usual. I would like hear what other Brexpats in Japan are thinking right now though.



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.