I've been checking out some Japanese music videos lately and stumbled upon some videos of Miyavi, a Japanese guitarist. In all his videos he seems to receive quite a lot of criticism in the comments, most likely because he was featured in a movie directed by Angelina Jolie not so long ago, in which he played a sadistic Japanese general during World War two.

Anyway, a particular expression is systematically used to qualify him : 「在日」。

For example in the sentences :


プレイヤーが在日だろうがテロリストだろうかレイプ魔だろうがその曲がカッコよかったらヘビロテっすよヘビロテ。 (source)

I looked for the word in the dictionary and found two definitions likely to be appropriate : "Korean living in Japan" and "Foreign living in Japan". I assume the first definition is the right one, even though the fact that he sings in English could motivate an ironic use of the second definition, but my question is as follows :

Is this word originally neutral, but is, in the context, derived as an insult, or is it by nature an insult?


在日 itself is not an insult. And the word per se means adjectivally "living in Japan" usually modifying (any) foreigners of the kind but it's often used as an abbreviation of 在日 Korean.


If you break down the characters, 在日 literally means 日本に在する (to be in Japan). For example, 在日米軍 refers to the United States Armed Forces in Japan, so 在日 can be used in many different context.

However, if you use 在日 alone, it is slang for 在日韓国{ざいにちかんこく}・朝鮮人{ちょうせんじん}. There is a long history of people from the Korean peninsula immigrating to Japan. I am not going to repeat all the history here, Wikipedia has a lot of the information.

Now, I should point out that the word itself is not an insult. However, discrimination of Koreans has been a long term problem in Japan for a long time and other foreigners in Japan do not have a special name given to them, so in that sense you could see it as having a negative meaning.

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