Wearing a beard in Japan is not without trouble. Beards have a strange influence on the Japanese. Yesterday, in the cram school I work for, a colleague or two asked me why I began to wear a beard. "In order to spend less time in shaving," I answered. They went on to say that I looked like an Arab and that if I kept on growing the facial hair, I would look like a Jew, as if it were something ridiculous, something to jeer at. "You want to shave it off. You will look younger, and your pronunciation of English will be better." This is the last remark. Of course, they were laughing as one of them said it.
I think it is a case of latent racism in two respects. First, looking like an Arab or a Jew is not in the least anything to jeer at. If there had been an Arab or a Jew at the spot, they would have been puzzled as to why they were laughing. Though the ridicule was not directed to them, it represented a racism toward them. Second, if a race, as OALD defines it, is a group of human beings according to physical differences, those with a beard can be considered as one. Therefore, telling one of them to shave the beard off is no less an act of racism than telling a white man to turn his skin yellow. It appalled me that this kind of racism exists in the company I work for. To make matters worse, one of the mockers is an English teacher, who should be more careful about such a delicate matter.