Hideo Asano

I’m completely behind on writing and tending to this blog, but I’ll take five minutes today to talk about Hideo Asano, a Korean-Japanese English language writer living in Shin-Imamiya, Osaka, Japan. I was sitting in Nara beside a pond, when a homeless looking man drinking a beer approached me speaking flawless English, though in an accent atypical of Japanese speakers. People like this are not uncommon in Japan. I have been approached more than a few times by English speaking Japanese men who either travelled the world in their youth, or Okinawans who took advantage of migrant farm work when Okinawa was a protectorate of the United States. Asano is the former.

He immediately started asking me about literature, a subject on which I am woefully deficient, asking me what my favorite Hemingway book was. I told him that I had only read one, “The Old Man and the Sea” but it had been more than 30 years since I’d read it. Unfortunately, I was unable to provide him with the conversation he sought, though searching through my mental files, I realized that I have read four Hemingway books in my lifetime, but none in the past decade. From what I remember, I am not a fan of Hemingway, a fact irrelevant to this post.

I had to leave when Mr. Asano started a racist rant on international marriages, though I bought one of his small photocopied books of poems. Our meeting however, prompted me to do some searching. It turns out that Mr. Asano is Korean, possibly explaining his views on Japanese-Gaijin pairings. He writes exclusively in English, having studied at the College of the Desert in Southern California. He has written several novels and multitudes of short stories and poems, in English, French and Japanese. Most notable is a book on the Mujahideen of Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion that I have yet to read.

Asano is living the true writer’s life, travelling from place to place in Japan with no real home and apparently hitting foreigners up for conversation and book sales. I did some searching through Japanese sites, and could find no mention of the man. He is completely unknown in his own country.

To be honest, he pissed me off. I have little tolerance for racist speech in any country. Other foreigners inexplicably apologize for racist attitudes within Japan, but I cannot. I hesitate to call Mr. Asano a flat out racist, but I do regret not giving him a little more of my time. He has much more to offer than initially meets the eye and I regret falling victim to my own prejudices and not finding out more about this facinating individual and his work. To that end, I recommend that you visit his website, and check out his work in Afghanistan.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

15 responses to “Hideo Asano”

  1. Rob says :

    Hi Pete,

    I just googled his name to find out if he’s still alive since I haven’t heard from him for quite some time (I used to e-mail with him once in a while). I met him in Ueno park in Tokyo about 2 years ago. I had a three hour long conversation with him about the Japanese society system and how he hated it.

    He’s not a bad guy, but he’s frustrated with life and the system he needs to adapt to. He really did some interesting stuff during his lifetime as you will have read on the internet. We actually had really conversations as well like how to hook up with women and stuff.

    I hope to meet him again sometime. I’ll try to contact him next time I’m in Japan.

  2. Nelson says :

    Hi Pete,

    I just met this rather interesting guy today in a cafe in Singapore and this meetup had also prompt me to some searching on google. I was pretty amazed by his real life experiences, and he is had some extreme views on certain issue. He started comparing how asian women dating white guys are like elephants and monkeys together. And went on how the western culture is so different from Asian(I was like isnt it obvious, I am a Chinese myself), and how the young generation had been influenced by the western media who are losing their traditional values. The latter part i somewhat agree on. But i left when he kept saying why we should keep our racial and enthicity group pure by avoiding interrcial marriage. Well, i respect every man ideas and view on things. But i must say that some of his poems are quite meaningful.

  3. Neill Bradley says :

    Met him today in Nara at pond alive and well and I also kicking myself I was initially rather dismissive. Have emailed him expressing my new found interest I his work

  4. Pete Larson says :

    Yeah, that’s where he seem to hang out.

    Like I said, his blatantly racist attitude pissed me off pretty badly. I would have given him more time had he not come out with it so early in our conversation.

    That being said, it would have been interesting to probe him some more.

  5. Neill Bradley says :

    It would seem others have posted similar things regarding his views in that respect however our conversation today centered around the titanic as I am from ireland and at no time did he mention any racial topics. I however was a bit dismissive and i kicked myself after because my girlfriend was who actually got his poem book and I read it on the train to Kyoto and got interested more and did some googling which lead me here 😉 some speculate that it could be a performance piece regarding these views he has voices in the past, regardless an interesting chap and I intend to read his work on the Russian Afghan war, a subject I am very interested in. Nice to meet in btw… 😉

  6. Pete Larson says :

    If you’re girlfriend wasn’t Asian, he might not have had a reason to bring it up.

    It could be a performance, though, as you say. It’s an interesting thought.


  7. Neill Bradley says :

    Sorry if some of post not make sense, new nexus tablet which my pie fingers not used to lol. Was too lazy to proof read..

  8. Neill Bradley says :

    Yeah she is German so he talked to her about his time there. Right time for bed. Goodnight from ryokan ma in Kyoto. I’ll let u know if he makes contact.

  9. Pete Larson says :

    I hope you have a good time in Japan. I hope you get to make it to Osaka!

  10. In jae Lee says :

    Appreciate for your concernig.
    I’m a Korean. Now I’m a agent of asano.
    He is in Korea now. I help him to publish in Korean version.
    If u want to help him, please email him or to me.
    He need to help. I am selling book in Korea on the street to raise money.
    Good luck^^.

  11. In jae Lee says :

    In jae Lee :Hello^^Appreciate for your concernig.I’m a Korean. Now I’m a agent of asano.He is in Korea now. I help him to publish in Korean version.If u want to help him, please email him or to me.He needs to help. I am selling books in Korea on the street to raise money.Good luck^^.

  12. Deanna says :

    I’m was googling Asano just now, because I met him in Nara about 3 weeks ago, and he struck me immediately as a very interesting/unusual character to be found in a country like Japan.
    He approached me as I was passing by in a park full of deers, on my way to see the Todaji Temple and its “big Buddha”.

    I was traveling alone, my first visit ever to Japan (my 28th country to visit) and did not have a real conversation with any person fluent in English for many days, so having a chat with another human about anything Japanese was alleviating slightly my lone traveler predicament.

    I am a talkative person in general, a secret introvert hiding under the extrovert persona, it’s a good shield from where one can observe the World in intricate detail, so I don’t mind sharing my thoughts and impressions with friends, strangers or foe.
    To me, it’s part of the deal. If I was any different, I would live on the top of a mountain as a hermit and would avoid the city at all costs, but I don’t hate people and I like to discover the unusual in the middle of crowds. One cannot make real friends any other way.
    The pub is not the real solution to me. 🙂

    I landed Asano a sympathetic ear for 4 reasons:

    I was tired of walking (had quite few blisters on my feet) and needed a bit of a respite in the shade;
    he was not alone but with a woman, (his Japanese younger wife, an artist herself – I am a professional visual artist myself – making pencil drawings on a sketchpad) having lunch on a bench, not looking dangerous at all;
    we were both baby-boomers; and ultimately
    I was keen on listening to anyone who was not from USA, Canada, France or Germany, talk with me about Japan, the Japanese or whatever Asian subject they might find.

    I love learning. 🙂 Every new encounter should be part of a new lesson in life, and the only way to pass judgement and weigh others is to listen to them. One has to compare, understand and try to walk in their shoes at least few meters…it’s a way to kill selfishness. If one needs a mile for that, then one must be very young and inexperienced. Yet.

    To me, Asano was a rebel without a notable cause, but challenging; some kind of a revolutionary, definitely an artist, (because he was different, nonconformist, educated and revolted) and I asked him bluntly if he was a Marxist/communist.
    He was in denial he was one – in my view – but he must be. I told him I was born in a communist country in Eastern Europe and defected many years ago, when I moved to Australia out of dissent, and he never told me he was not born in Japan (as I gather from reading other people’s stories).
    That makes me speculate that he is not a defector from North Korea at all, (he could not sell me such story because I would have asked uncomfortable questions eventually) but he might be a Korean, even born in Japan to Korean parents and totally disgruntled by the way they are treated there by the locals. I haven’t found yet a country on earth which doesn’t discriminate against emigrants, with or without reason, therefore I can understand if that would be the case here.
    I’m not certain about this, but it’s as good a supposition as any other.

    I did not spot racism in what he said, he told me the Japanese were a nation of ‘zombies’ submitting willingly to control and dictatorship, being herded like cattle by a controlling, censoring police-state. The Russians and the Americans and about everybody else I ever met in my travels told me exactly the same in slightly different words – so I see nothing unusual/wrong there.
    He also said he was a republican and saw no need for an emperor. So did some Brits when talking about their royal family.

    He told me that Japanese girls were after western men out of material interest and not at all for love, because no Japanese woman can love anything really in a westerner, except money or variety in sexual habits.
    Lots of Chinese and Philippine people here in Australia told me similar things about their compatriot ladies, so I heard that one before too…:)
    Asano said that western men were silly enough not to spot that, because the Japanese women know well how to play shy and hide everything under that well trained shyness when in fact they despise deeply their western habits and western approaches to life.

    He added that he hated Nara and its deer because they stank the place like a flock of stupid sheep, and the monks turned the temples into a bigger business than the West at Christmas, just for the money. I could not disagree with that much.

    He also told me his typical story about I being Minnie Mouse to the Japanese, (squeezing compliments about my looks along the way – I found that rather hilarious but hidden it from him) therefore no wonder they helped me and were so nice to me, because I was as ‘exotic’ to them as they were probably to me and if I worked there instead of traveling, they would have shown me their true colors.
    Even if I don’t agree with him on that the same way, it makes sense. If I lived in Japan for few years, maybe I would have concluded similarly, who knows?

    Long story short, he wanted to sell me a booklet with his poems and I declined politely, because I was a poor traveler with not much money, as artists usually are. I broke away from poetry a while ago…He was understanding, but explained apologetically that he was trying to raise money to return to Tokyo with his wife. Then when he mentioned prose later, I offered willingly in a whim a small donation for a copy of “Black Stories”, thinking it would make a more interesting read on the flight back home, than a silly glossy magazine or some political rag.
    Disappointing enough, his written English seems less fluent than his spoken one, even to me, a non-native speaker for whom English is the third language.

    All in one, the encounter put more local color into my day over there in Nara and I’m glad I gave him 30 minutes of my precious ‘sight-seeing time’ that day. I’ll try to contact him electronically and see if I can meet him again when I’ll visit Japan next time.
    He’s worth a longer chat than 30 minutes. 🙂

  13. Alli says :

    I met Asano today by Osaka Castle. He was an interesting character to talk with and in the beginning I sympathized with him as my dream is to be a writer. He spoke English really really well and also talked about a lot of issues going on in the US right now, which made me realize he wasn’t the usual bum. Unfortunately, I was put off after forty minutes of conversation by his racism and his intolerance for anything non-Christian. All in all, I think, as someone already said, he is just frustrated with many things like trying to get out of Japan. I recommend talking with him more if you get another opportunity.

  14. kate says :

    He’s still hanging around Ueno park, met him there January 2016 at the start of my month in Japan! I thought he was very insightful, although i didn’t agree with everything he said it was a breath of fresh air!

  15. Kian Peng says :

    I met Asano almost 20 years ago in Singapore. Admire him for his quest to pursue his life mission. I connected with him once again through Facebook. Anyone still looking to meet him again, can search his profile, and add him on FB.

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