Aya Moorehead’s latest video capturing the beauty of Kyoto in the springtime.
by Robert Moorehead
In all social processes, you have to have the word ‘inclusion’. … without that word, I’m not going to change the world, and they’re not going to change me, because they’re going to have that culture of defense [from me]. Not resentment, but defense.
Lately I’ve been working on a paper for a conference, and I’ve been fixated on an interview with an immigrant father. Juan (a pseudonym) is a Peruvian of Japanese descent who migrated from Peru to Japan more than 20 years ago. Juan expresses his frustration over what he sees as the lack of inclusion of Peruvians and other migrants from developing countries in Japan, in contrast to the greater openness to foreigners from the United States or Europe.
I don’t have a voice (in Japan), and I never will have it, because they (the Japanese) will never know what I think. But, in this case, if an American or someone who speaks English and who has been to school … they’d say ‘Ah, he’s American,’ but in our case, Japanese descendants, all we have the surname and the face. That’s all I have in this society.
Sociologist Tanya Golash-Boza (2006) notes that we learn our place in society through social interaction, including whether to expect inclusion or exclusion. Based on his interactions, a married Japanese man in Japan may expect that his voice will be listened to, and that his relationship with his romantic partner will be valued. In contrast, a member of a subordinate group, such a racial, ethnic, or sexual minority, may learn instead to expect to be ignored, denigrated, or otherwise marginalized. In Juan’s case, he’s learned to expect to be excluded from decision-making at work, to be asked when he’s leaving the country, to have weak relations with his Japanese neighbors, and to be treated as if all Peruvians were alike.
Precisely what are we Peruvians missing in Japan? (Respect, I reply.) Exactly. Because we don’t have it. … We all have different amounts of education, and other experiences, but the Japanese don’t see us that way. They see us all the same. …
Thus, even as many Peruvians in Juan’s housing complex diligently follow the local housing rules and keep quiet to avoid bothering the neighbors, they still risk being blamed when problems occur. As Karen Tei Yamashita writes in her brilliant novel Circle K Cycles:
A tour of Homi Danchi [housing complex] … gives you a sense of an oppressive quiet—the sound of sleeping people who work the night shift, the sound of a silent majority who want very badly to be accepted, the sound of people trying very hard to be quiet. Even the children seem to play quietly. This is as quiet as Brazilians can possibly be. This is probably as ruly as it gets.
And yet, loud music blaring from an apartment will bring suspicions that the offending party is Peruvian or Brazilian. If the guilty party is found to be a Japanese teen, the prior suspicions will still be justified, as one time, years earlier, it really was a foreigner.
For example, what I see in the factory, the highest position you could get is leader. Leader of who? The Japanese? No. Leader of the foreigners, foreigners like Brazilians, Paraguayans, and others. But here I can’t achieve more, I’m never going to achieve more. I’m never going to be a permanent [employee]. So that whole situation, it’s not resentment toward the Japanese, because my father and mother were Japanese, if they weren’t I wouldn’t be here. But it’s not a feeling of resentment, it’s more that the Japanese need to be more open toward foreigners ….
In a situation like this, how do subordinates respond? How can they respond? Openly complaining about poor treatment risks further marginalization, including having your complaints seen as proof that foreigners are incapable of integrating into social life in Japan—a logical fallacy that confuses cause and consequence and blames foreigners for their own marginalization.
Subordinates can, and often do, resist in many ways, as James Scott notes in Weapons of the Weak. Juan describes avoiding integrating further into Japanese society, saying “they’re not going to change me” and that he has only “semi-adapted.”
What we do is, we haven’t gotten used to it, we’ve semi-adapted. Semi. … I am more included, semi-included, in Japanese society than others. Why? Because of my physical features and my last name (which are Japanese).
This pattern of only “semi-adapting” means that Juan is done trying to fit in. It’s less a sign of resistance than of self-protection. If Japan includes him as a member of Japanese society, and not as a ‘foreign guest,’ then he’s happy to participate. But “you have to have the word ‘inclusion.’”
Whether the second generation will follow this pattern is unclear. Juan’s children are fluent Japanese speakers and envision their future lives as adults in Japan. As Juan notes, such an approach is essential for their future employment prospects in Japan. However, they may still face the stigma of their foreign ancestry.
Here in Japan, I’ve always thought that if you’re thinking of living here in Japan, in my children’s case, with semi-liberty practically (laughs). But they’re going to live here, so they’re going to have to study more, to be able to compete in whatever profession as foreigners with Japanese, because they’re fighting against one thing, that they’re not Japanese.
I’m hoping to decipher the contours of this pattern of ‘semi-adapting’ in a journal article. In the meantime, these blog posts will hopefully stimulate the analytical process, keeping things moving. What other examples are there of this approach? How can we better understand the experiences of assimilation/integration/incorporation of first-generation immigrants?
- Golash-Boza, Tanya. 2006. “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation.” Social Forces 85(1):27-55.
- Scott, James C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Yamashita, Karen Tei. 2001. Circle K Cycles. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press.
Here is a year-end video that my daughter Aya filmed to share with family and friends.
My daughter Aya filmed this during Kyoto’s biggest snowfall of the year (4 cm, or less than 2 inches).
Photographer Scott Gold filmed this beautiful video during a January trip to Japan.
Props to Ritsumeikan University student Yusuke Oike and his colleagues for showing overseas the same spirit of volunteerism they showed in Japan they showed in Japan.
Originally posted on RocketNews24:
On 11 March, 2011 Hiroki Takai was studying at a university in Vancouver. Instead of feeling helpless at the steadily flowing images of destruction in the media following the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami, he quickly took action and gathered other Japanese students to raise money for their homeland. Thanks to the students’ efforts and the generosity of the people of Vancouver the “Japan Love Project” managed to raise CAN$320,000 (US$288,000) in aid.
Now, with the 3-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake approaching, Takai wanted to pay the kindness of the Canadians back. As a part of the International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) he asked for a team to travel to the West coast of Canada to help clean up the still-increasing driftage that is washing up on its shores. Headed by fourth-year Ritsumeikan University student Yusuke Oike, a crew of 70 students answered the call.
View original 410 more words
Early press reports had people blaming the vandalism on foreigners, saying Japanese could never commit such a crime. While we wait for the guilty parties to be named, the response from within Japan and overseas has been encouraging, as volunteered copies of the books have arrived.
Originally posted on World:
So far, more than 300 copies of The Diary of a Young Girl and other books related to Frank have been found with pages torn out or slashed at public libraries throughout Tokyo. Although no one has claimed responsibility, suspicion has fallen on conservative or rightist elements that have been pushing a revisionist view of Japan’s wartime and colonial history.
Officials in southern Japan were heavily criticized overseas this month for submitting farewell letters and other documents from World War II kamikaze pilots for inclusion in the UNESCO register of world cultural heritage.
The Frank diary, which chronicles the life of a young Jewish girl as she and her family hid from the Nazis, was added to the…
View original 401 more words
A new twist to Orientalist critiques of Japan from the West, Japanese men are still not ‘masculine’ enough. When Japanese men aren’t depicted as nerdy otaku or work-obsessed salarymen (with hidden perverted tendencies), now they’re herbivorous men. What about the idea that Japanese men perform masculinity in a variety of ways? Would that be so wrong?
Originally posted on Discover Japan:
The media overseas has been reporting a shocking recent phenomena in Japan for some time. According to their report, soshokukei danshi (草食系男子) -herbivorous boy – refers to men who are not interested in dating, sex, or marriage. These men have decided to live a life without a partner or even a romantic relationship as a way of turning their back on “macho ways.” They find it safer both emotionally and financially to stay single and celibate. This is a serious matter, they say, because it’s contributing to the rapidly declining birth rates in the nation.
One article cites that 60 percent of Japanese men aged between 20 and 34…
View original 456 more words
Folks in the Kansai region who missed seeing the Hafu film during its run in Kobe are in luck. The film is showing at Osaka’s Nanagei Cinema, within walking distance of Juso station, until February 21. The film plays once a day, at 6:45pm until February 14, and at 8:35pm from February 15 to 21.
This blog has discussed the film and related issues regarding hafu (people of mixed Japanese ancestry) many times, and the fine folks at the Hafu Project have graced our classrooms on several occasions. This film is an important step in a movement toward a more inclusive notion of Japanese identity. Come be a part of the conversation, and see the film in Osaka before it closes on February 21.