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Henna Gaijin

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Henna Gaijin is Japanese for "strange foreigner". The paradoxical part is that the meaning is the exact opposite of what you'd think! The Japanese expect foreigners to be weird, so going around speaking English, shaking hands, not knowing how to use chopsticks and so on is not considered strange: quite the contrary, it's only to be expected, and the Japanese are usually extremely accommodating and more than glad to offer a friendly lecture on how we Japanese do things.

But the henna gaijin do not fit the mold -- they creep out the Japanese by acting too Japanese, even though they blatantly look like foreigners. Henna gaijin can speak Japanese, use chopsticks, eat natto with relish, know more about Buddhism and garden landscaping than most Japanese people, and even use the elevators correctly. They blur the distinction between gaijin and nihonjin, raising all sorts of the disquieting questions about what it really means to be Japanese. Surely it cannot be merely a question of physical appearance, now can it?

And the sad part is that someone who looks like a foreigner can never, ever become more than a henna gaijin...

This definition is from www.everything2.com Please type henna gaijin in the search box at the top of the page, and take off from there.

Send us your definition of and we will post it here.

Wild and Crazy foreigner!
Jo M.   Seattle, WA

It’s a weird white person who wants to learn about swords and stuff.”
Mark B.   St. Louis, Mo

...”any foreigner who stays in Japan longer than 3 weeks and doesn't have a job teaching English”
CeceF.   Kobe, Japan



YOU KNOW YOU'VE BEEN IN JAPAN A LONG TIME WHEN..... you PUT YOUR SLIPPERS ON TO GO THREE STEPS to the tatami room on the other side of the hallway.


....you know which side of the car to get into.

... breakfast is incomplete without NATTO !

....(in the Snow Country winter) grownups in bright colored RUBBER BOOTS NO LONGER LOOK SILLY, but sensible.


Okay, HennaGaijin-sama - we all know these - let's add more! Send yours to and we'll publish it.


Your site is hilarious!!

It reminded me of the summer of 1994.

I took my product group in the U.S. to Japan that summer, for both business and fun. My boss was a funny guy and he wanted to make T-shirt that said "Crazy Foreigners" in Japanese and wear it there. We told him "Crazy Foreigners" would be a little too harsh and I recommended "Henna Gaijin".

We made about 20 T-shirts that had "Henna Gaijin" (in Japanese) in very big letters in the front. Some people chickened out but my boss bravely wore it when we went to Akihabara in Tokyo. I had great time watching people walk by, looking at my boss's T-shirt and giggling. He had a great time having people's attention.

He was, in fact, a strange foreigner. :)
-Katsuhiro Alex Namba

Henna Gaijin
words and music by Dan Strack
(c)2000 Shr Ping Music

Visit Dan's Site for more funny songs like this.

I arrived in Japan, without a clue, I could never figure out just what to do
The culture was strange to my innocent eyes, around every corner was some awkward surprise
I was telling myself everyday that I’d try, to be very, very careful and somehow I’d get by
But no matter my efforts, somehow in the end, I’d cause all the locals to start shaking their heads

Saying…henna gaijin…he doesn’t know the rules here
Henna gaijin…we’ll have to give him a break
Cause he’s a henna gaijin…doesn’t quite fit in here
Just a henna gaijin…he’s bound to make some mistakes

Well, I did my best to try to fit in but somehow my blunders always happened again
So I asked a friend to teach me Japanese views, he said he would coach me, tell me what I should do

I followed his words and tried out all his advice, he showed my just how to bow and to appreciate rice
He taught me how to use chopsticks and polite Japanese
I studied intensely ‘cause I didn’t want to be another

Henna Gaijin…who doesn’t know the rules here
A henna gaijin…no I didn’t want to be…just another
Henna gaijin…who doesn’t quite fit in here…I won’t be a…
Henna gaijin…just you wait and see

Well, in a few years, I could fold paper cranes, I was an expert at chopsticks and I slept on the trains
I could pass for a native when I talked on the phone
I took a bath every night and made my office my home
I was excited to show that I’d adapted so well
That I was not from their country, surely noone would tell
People marvelled at me, at all my Japanese ways
They were so much impressed that they offered this praise

They called me henna gaijin…he knows all the rules here
Yes, he’s a henna gaijin…Isn’t it strange? He knows what to do!
Quite a henna gaijin…why is he pretending he’s Japanese?
He’s a henna gaijin…just what is he trying to prove?

So now I’ve lived here for quite a long time, I’ve come full circle in these habits of mine

I pour the sauce on my rice and wear sweats to the store
I never bother sending New Years cards, and I’ll tell you what’s more
When I think of all the things I tried to do to fit in, I’m not sure if I’d ever want to try them again
Yeah, you can suffer through natto till you’re blue in the face
But when it’s all said and done, and even if you like the taste

You’re still a henna gaijin…I know all the rules here
But I’m still a henna gaijin…I’m gonna break them anyway
Yeah, I’m a henna gaijin…so just what do you plan to do about it?
Just call me… henna gaijin…go ahead and make my day

by Mickey Molnaire

(C) Mickey Molnaire, 1997, Bainbridge Island, WA, USA; (206) 842-4916

(Sung to the tune of CHATANOOGA CHOO-CHOO)

Pardon me, sir, is this the teriyaki take-out?
Please, step in line. We'd like to save you some time.

Well, it's not gonna be just another fast-food flake-out--
Some sushi with rice. It oughta taste pretty nice.

They bring dashi-no-moto and udon to a boil,
Put in some tamari and some sesame oil.
Well, it's really sure a
Super lunch if you're a
Fan of vegetables, they've gotta great tempura!

Bring a tomodachi 'cause it's not very far.
Stand up at the counter, eating eight to the bar.
If you're in a hurry,
You don't have to worry,
Have some shabu-shabu -- or a chicken curry!

There's gonna be
A certain something waiting for me.
Lift up the lid.
There's octopus and fried squid.

Maybe for me
Onigiri with toasted nori.
Grab your hashi or fork
Have some donburi with pork.

Sashimi made of salmon and a gyoza or three,
Add a bowl of miso for my baby and me.
Say "gochiso sama."
Eat your bowl of Ramen.
It will make you feel like you're a Yokohaman!

Gobble up your bento luncheon,
but in your haste,
Don't forget the ginger
and thewasabi paste.
Sit on the tatami
With your dad and mommy.
Take it home and eat it in your own pajamies.

I'd like to try a teriyaki takeout for my own!
Oh, teriyaki take-out,
I want to carry you home!
Teriyaki. Teriyaki.
And some rice...
Teriyaki. Terayaki.
Would be nice.
Teriyaki. Terayaki.
Oh, teriyaki take-out,
I want to carry you hoooooome!



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