Cultural Citizenship: ‘Jun Japa’ at Japanese Universities

by Rena Shoji

What makes a “pure Japanese”? Is it Japanese lineage or nationality? I will examine the term Jun Japa, which is frequently used in Japanese universities. It often draws a border between those with/without experiences abroad within the Japanese community. Specifically, returnees who have Japanese parents and hold Japanese nationality will be analyzed. Citizenship includes both legal and extra-legal terms. Through looking at the case of the world “Jun Japa”, I found notions of inclusion and exclusion in the Japanese society.

The term is frequently used in international environments at Japanese universities. Jun Japa is a word created by the campus culture of those universities to describe Japanese students with no experience abroad. Those who are categorized as Jun Japa are often put in the bottom of the student stratification system on campus because their language skills (mostly English skills) are often lower than those of returnees, mixed-race Japanese, immigrants, international students, and native English speakers. As myself being a Jun Japa in a university with many international students, I could understand, to some extent, what my friends in other universities tell me about, such as how hard to participate in class discussions and fit in the multi-national community.

On the one hand, the word describes inferiority of Japanese students to those who have backgrounds abroad in terms of language ability. On the other hand, however, it entails an exclusionary aspect of Japaneseness. The word Jun (純) means “pure” in Japanese, and Japa is a contracted form of “Japanese”. So Jun Japa can be translated into “pure Japanese”. As a Japanese grown up in the society, I have noticed the Japanese society is, in many ways, exclusive to foreigners and mixed-race Japanese and that “pure Japanese lineage” is likely to be a measurement of inclusion or “full membership” to the Japanese society. However, returnees—even if they are Japanese and their parents hold Japanese nationality—are excluded from the meaning of this buzzword just because of their background in other countries.

In “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Challenges to the Nation-State” (2008), Irene Bloemraad and her co-authors argue that one can look at citizenship from four dimensions: legal status, rights, participation, and sense of belonging. Even in the face of globalization, nation-states still holds power “to shape the institutions that provide differentiated access to participation and belonging” (Bloemraad et al. 2008:154). A short/mid-term experience abroad can affect those “pure” Japanese’s behavior of othering, which influences returnees’ sense of belonging, and vice versa. Japanese society has diversified as globalization has continued, and the image towards those whose origin/background are from out of Japan seems to have improved. Their language abilities and experiences abroad are often seen an advantage on campus in Japan. However, the sense of otherness still exists.

What makes a “pure Japanese”? I found that this returnees’ case of exclusion in the Japanese society could be related to what Renato Rosaldo (1997) calls “Cultural Citizenship”. Citizenship includes legal terms, such as nationality, but he argues cultural background that is different from the mainstream of the country also can evoke marginalization and exclusion from the society. This concept was proposed in the process of Latino/na population increase in the United States. Rosaldo claims that Latinos/as’ bilingual ability and dual cultural background can arise marginalization and exclusion because of difference from the mainstream (living in the U.S. only, English only and Anglo heritage etc).

Not only legal terms, extra-legal terms can be applied to the notion of citizenship in the society. Even though returnees enjoy full legal membership in Japanese society, their bilingual abilities and multicultural experiences affect their evaluation from the mainstream. Thus, the term Jun Japa demonstrates the idea of exclusion in the social community in Japan, even though it is used to illustrate the sense of inferiority and envy to those who have a different cultural background.


Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. 2008. Citizenship and immigration: Multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the nation-state. Annual Review of Sociology. 34. 153-179.

Rosaldo, R. 1997. Cultural citizenship, inequality, and multiculturalism. In Flores W. F., & Benmayor, R. (Eds). Latino cultural citizenships. (pp. 27-38). Boston: Beacon Press.

Can Undocumented Immigrants Become Naturalized Japanese Citizens?

SurajAnonymous student post

In March of 2010, a Ghanaian national, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, died as he was being escorted by immigration officials to a private jet at Narita airport for deportation; he had asphyxiated due to the immigration officials’ negligence. The Japanese immigration officials had tied his arms and legs, and stuffed a towel in his mouth, thus suffocating him (The Economist 2010).

Suraj had been detained in 2006 after he was discovered by the Japanese police for overstaying his tourist visa. At the time of arrest, Abubakar had lived in Japan for about twenty-one years, had a Japanese partner he subsequently married while in immigration detention, fluently spoke the Japanese language, and had a sustainable income from working at a metal plating factory, recycling and clothing sector, as well as painting for a magazine, illustrating posters and CD jackets. (Jacqueline Andall 2014). Why wasn’t Suraj considered for naturalization, or at the very least, a special residency Permit (SRP), which is granted arbitrarily to immigrants under such circumstances? According to article 5 of the Nationality Law by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, an alien is eligible for naturalization if:

suraj2…he or she has domiciled in Japan for five years or more consecutively;…he or she is twenty years of age or more and of full capacity to act according to the law of his or her home country;…he or she is of upright conduct;…he or she is able to secure a livelihood by one’s own property or ability, or those of one’s spouse or other relatives with whom one lives on common living expenses;… he or she has no nationality, or the acquisition of Japanese nationality will result in the loss of foreign nationality;…he or she has never plotted or advocated, or formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which has plotted or advocated the overthrow of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder, since the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan. (Ministry of Justice, no date)

Basing on Article 5 of Japan’s Nationality Law, Suraj was a perfect candidate for naturalization, even though he was an undocumented immigrant. The only clause that might have deterred his claim to naturalization is that an applicant has to be of upright conduct, and undocumented immigrants are often perceived as dishonest and problematic. Ultimately, the final verdict on who qualifies as a naturalization applicant is always left to the Minister of Justice, and it is likely that illegal immigrants might not be considered.

Many cases involving undocumented immigrants in Japan have arisen in previous years that have attracted the attention of the international community and shed light on Japan’s problematic immigration policies. For example: the case of Fida Khan, a teenager born in Japan but facing deportation together with his Pakistani father and Filipino mother who entered the country without proper visas; and Noriko Calderon, a girl born in Japan to undocumented immigrants from the Philippines who were apprehended by immigration authorities after having lived in Japan for 16 years.

It is my humble view that Japan needs to amend its immigration policies so as to clearly state under which circumstances undocumented immigrants qualify for naturalization or permanent residency. I also think that Japan needs to open up its borders and promote migration into the country in order to solve the labor shortage problem that is arising due to low birthrates and an aging population. It is clear that Japan needs foreign assistance in terms of migrant workers if it is to compete favorably with other developed countries to maintain its economic growth and development.


Andall J. (2014). Deported from Japan: until death do us part.

Ministry of Justice. (n.d.). The Nationality Law.

The Economist. (2010). A nation’s bouncers: A suspicious death in police custody.

Reconsidering Assimilation Theories: The Case of China

by Yuan Mingyang

Although the new assimilation theory supported by Alba and Nee (1997) and the segmented assimilation theory in Portes and Rumbaut (2001) to some extent explain the experience of immigrants and their descendants in the United States, some flaws can be found in the basic conceptions in both theories. For example, Jung (2009) pointed out that the notion of race has been largely overlooked and misinterpreted in both the new assimilation theory and the segmented assimilation theory. These flaws might become more obvious in the context of countries other than the U.S. since both researches are largely based on the U.S., and therefore in the following paragraphs I will examine some key concepts in the assimilation theories in the situation context of China. The aim is not to criticize these theories but to reconsider whether it is appropriate to take these concepts for granted in the assimilation theories.

The first problematic concept is “culture”, which is also mentioned in Jung (2009). Segmented assimilation theory has been criticized to blame everything to “culture”, which tends to essentialize social groups into certain good or bad social images (Jung, 2009). The segmented assimilation theory also uses the term “culture” without making a clear definition of it. Without a clear definition, culture can literally mean everything in human society, and as a result, the argument of the segmented assimilation theory that some groups successfully assimilated in the U.S. due to their culture becomes hollow.

The notion of culture in both theories also fails to analyze the interaction between the groups that are sometimes considered as sharing similar cultures. Lin (2012) made a research about how Taiwanese assimilate in the mainland society. Lin found that the key for Taiwanese to assimilate in the mainland is a Weberian social stratification, instead of a vague notion of culture. Lin argued that it is possible for Taiwanese to assimilate in the mainland society, but only into the group of people with similar socio-economic status and taste, since a large number Taiwanese in the mainland settle in large cities and are businessmen of higher socio-economic status. The segmented assimilation theory would not be able to provide an answer for this kind of cases. Indeed, the segmented assimilation theory might not even notice this kind of cases if it kept overemphasizing the effect of a blurred notion of “culture”.

The term “assimilation” is also hard to be defined in the assimilation theories. Culture is not a good criterion for defining assimilation as discussed above. Although both theories more or less use socio-economic status as a criterion for assimilation, these two theories seldom mention the situation where a group of higher socio-economic status are trying to assimilate in the host society, for instance, Taiwanese in mainland China discussed in Lin (2012). It is also hard to determine whether Taiwanese in China, most of who are businessmen with high socio-economic status, have assimilated in the mainland society, and therefore socio-economic status might not be able to measure assimilation.

National policy, which is part of context in the theory of Portes and Rumbaut (2001), might be another way to examine whether a group is accepted as a member of the country, but usually policy is different from reality. For example, although pluralism is prevailing in the national discourse in China, and many national policies preferred minority ethnic groups over the Han majority, minority ethnic groups usually live in specific areas and are of relatively low economic and education standards (Myers et al., 2013). Although multiculturalism is written in the Constitution, the government focuses more on unity and has a strong control on the autonomous regions of minority ethnic groups (Ibid).

The final point comes to the definition of migration itself. If we define migration only as people moving from one country to another country, we might be blind to the things happening inside the borderline. Both theories are restricted by the international system composed of sovereign states since they only focus on people across the border. The groups that are inside the border from the beginning will not be considered in the theories even if they do not share similar social norms and economic standards with other members in the same country. The neglect of race (Jung, 2009) might also be a result of this kind of theoretical assumption which only focuses on people moving across the border. In the case of China, since Korean, Russian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Uzbek, and many other minority ethnic groups are living inside China (see Myers et al., 2013 for details), their live and the interactions among minority ethnic groups and the majority Han will never be covered by assimilation theories. It is necessary to reconsider from the beginning what we should really focus on and what do all these conceptions really mean when we are studying migration.


Alba, R., & Nee, V. (1997). Rethinking assimilation theory for a new era of immigration. International Migration Review, 31(4), 826-874.

Jung, M. (2009). The racial unconscious of assimilation theory. Du Bois Review, 6(2), 375-395. doi: 10.1017/S1742058X09990245

Lin, R. (2012). Birds of a feather flock together: Social class and social assimilation of the Taiwanese in mainland China. Soochow Journal of Political Science, 30(2), 127-167. (Original text in Chinese)

Myers, S. L., Gao, X., & Cruz, B. C. (2013). Ethnic minorities, race, and inequality in China: A new perspective on racial dynamics. The Review of Black Political Economy, 40(3), 231-244. doi: 10.1007/s12114-013-9165-7

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation. Berkley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Assimilating into stereotypes: exchange students and 2nd-generation immigrants

Anonymous student post

When I read the articles about assimilation and learned about assimilation in the class, I was recalling my experience in high school in the U.S. as a one-year exchange student, and try to consider assimilation issues based on that. However, as I try to compare a situation of second-generation immigrants and my case, I began to think my experience was totally different from that of second-generation immigrants.

In the U.S., I was called an “Asian” instead of Japanese, and Asian usually refers to East Asia. It did not take long for me to notice or feel what kind of stereotypes American people have for Asians. In general, Asian students in the U.S. were considered as studious, serious, geeks, etc. To be straightforward, as far as I felt, they found Asian students “boring” in general. Due to such stereotypes, they did not really expect me to say jokes or be athletic. When I said some jokes (even not really funny ones) or played sports better than normal students in the U.S., they were surprised and impressed, and gave me compliments. I assumed that this happened because they had a low expectation for Asian students in terms of humor or sports. I found it lucky to have sort of negative racial stereotypes because I can get attention and positive impressions just with little efforts. This actually motivated me to make efforts to be funny or popular in school.

I was then wondering if negative stereotypes could work positively for a certain race or ethnic of second-generation immigrants with negative impressions, and motivate them to succeed socioeconomically in a host county. However, while I was discussing this with professor Moorehead, I realized that negative stereotypes would work differently for second-generation immigrants from people who stay in a host country for a short period of time, like me.

It was completely a new experience for me to see people’s reactions when I did not meet their expectation of Asians. Thus, I was able to enjoy it. On the contrary, for second-generation immigrants, they have been dealing with such stereotypes repeatedly for their entire life. If they repeatedly felt that others are having a low expectation for them, they would be more likely to feel offended than be motivated.

In addition, I consider that these negative racial stereotypes would affect their performance more negatively if they felt they were “American”. In my case, I was nationally Japanese and considered myself Japanese, so did not really feel being offended being labeled as Asian, even when it was linked to some negative stereotypes. For those second-generation immigrants who considered themselves American, it would probably be more difficult to accept such stereotypes and fight them because they feel they identified less as Asians. Therefore, in my assumption, second-generation immigrants with a strong American identity would face more difficulty to fight their negative racial stereotypes and overcome them.

Mixed Race Assimilation in Japan

Anonymous student post

According to most assimilation theories, the highest indicator of assimilation is intermarriage. In her 2010 article “What happens after segmented assimilation? An exploration of intermarriage and ‘mixed race’ young people in Britain”, Miri Song explores the identification of mixed race people. The subjects of her study were those who had a single British parent and one immigrant parent, and had grown up in Britain. When asked what group they identify with, many chose the category ‘British’ – claiming that culturally they were British. I believe such findings may be applicable in other settings, not just Britain.

Japan is infamous for not being open to migration. There are only a small percentage of immigrants, especially compared to many other “developed” nations. However, this does not mean there are no intermarriages. In fact, intermarriages have been rapidly increasing recently and Hafu (the term used to call half Japanese, literally meaning ‘half’), have become less of a rare sight. Flick through a few television channels or pages in a magazine and with a high possibility, you will find a Hafu model or celebrity. Recently, Hafu are not only constrained to modeling because of their foreign looks, but also other roles in entertainment.

Comedy duo “Denisu”Here, I would like to bring up the case of Yukio Ueno, a member of the comedy duo ‘denisu’, who is half Japanese and half Brazilian. His character and portrayal in media is a great example of the position of Hafu in Japanese society.

The audience will roar in laughter as he introduces his extremely Japanese name, and mentions that he grew up in Suita city of Osaka. He talks of how he is usually assumed to be a foreigner and treated differently from his Japanese peers. What makes Yukio Ueno funny for the Japanese audience is the fact that he is culturally Japanese but looks foreign.

Yukio Ueno and other similar Hafus symbolize the Japanese attitudes towards at the moment. You can have a Japanese parent, have Japanese nationality, speak Japanese, have a Japanese name, be born and raised in Japan – yet not be treated as Japanese due to features you adopt from your non-Japanese parent. It becomes important for Japanese born and raised Hafus to assert their Japanese-ness, as can be seen in the case of Ariana Miyamoto. Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan contest for 2015, but being half African-American, has been receiving internet abuse for being unfit to represent Japan.

Japan is still less accepting of foreign looks for sure compared to Britain. However, I do believe the Hafu that are born/raised in Japan do identify as culturally Japanese – just as most of the subjects in Song’s study (2010) claims.

However, not all of Song’s subjects (2010) chose the British category. Half-black people chose to identify as the minority category. We see the race of the non-immigrant parent plays a large role in the identification and assimilation of a ‘mixed race’. Race does matter in Japan too. The treatment of a ‘Hafu’ is effected by the race of their immigrant parent. Being half white is usually an advantage over other races. This is perhaps due to the adoration of Caucasian features as aesthetic.

As people continue to move over borders and mixed race people increase, how will concepts of assimilation change??

Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.


Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.

The 1.5 Generation: Succeeding for the Family

by Tomoka Adachi

Among international immigrants, there are issues from family as well society, and those factors impact the 1.5 generation. Various external elements pressure each individual immigrant and help to develop the social life of immigrants in relation to the society, whether in the native country or the receiving countries.

Mostly, the social status in the home country is less significant when people migrate overseas. Social ties and qualified careers become less useful and less important in terms of the immigrant life in the host countries. There is a status shift for immigrants, especially the first generation, resulting in various forms which heavily affect the performance of the 1.5 generation. As a consequence, 1.5 generation children are under family pressure in terms of the parents’ expectations to have better performance and social success compared to native speakers.

I would like to take a personal experience to illustrate this problem. I am a 1.5 generation migrant to Japan. I migrated with my family right after I finished primary school. Even though my mother worked as a high school teacher for 15 years in the home country, she was working in the restaurant, shops and so on service-related sectors for part-time work, which are considered as lower-class jobs in Japan. Thus, I tend to push myself and want to improve Japanese language ability as soon as possible to cope with the school curricula.

There are mainly three reasons that drive me to think that way. The first reason is an acknowledgement of the sacrifice of my family members to fulfill my education and expenses in Japan. My parents are not only giving up their stable careers but also social status in the home country to migrate to Japan. This is an invisible and indirect pressure that has influenced me to take the responsibility to work harder on my school studies and activities outside of school to financially support the family.

The potential disadvantage as a foreigner in Japan is the second reason. Scholars have argued about the notion of ‘immigrant optimism’, in that Immigrant parents tend to have expectations about their children’s advance that are significantly higher than those of natives, or the working-class (Alba & Waters 2011). Although in Japan there are privileges as a foreigner, the 1.5 generation is not able to benefit from them. Sometimes they may even have a negative influence. Compared to my classmates, our starting line is different. I am disadvantaged in various means, such as a lack of language capability, social participation, access to the job market, and the possibility to enter university. Under this circumstance, I have been forced to take more effort to compete as a 1.5 generation migrant.

The limited education support and assistance in school is the third account I took. While I was in junior high school, it was tough for me to catch up with my academic studies because there were fewer learning directions and treatment by teachers to me as an international student. Thus, Japanese public schools, like their counterparts in other countries, continue to face the responsibility of preparing immigrant children for their futures in Japan (Moorehead 2013).

Overall struggles within the 1.5 immigrant generation are likely to be ignored, based on what is appeared on the surface.


Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Moorehead, R. (2013) “Separate and Unequal: The remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3.

Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

International Migrant Integration through Education in Japan

by Curran Cunningham

Following on from my previous blog, which showed the importance of migrant remittances, I now turn my attention to the role of education in assimilating second generation international migrant families into Japanese society.

Yasuko Kanno’s paper ‘Sending Mixed Messages: Language Minority Education at a Japanese Public Elementary School’ focuses on that very subject. This blog will look at her interpretation—and criticism—of the Japanese education system at an elementary schooling level in this area.

Until the 1990s, it was considered a must that all courses and classes in Japan should be taught in Japanese. The purpose was to encourage integration among non-Japanese residents into Japanese society (Kanno, 2004).  Yet the method of teaching Japanese to non-native elementary students has thus far been ineffective. It has neglected the linguistic, thus academic, needs (due to the exclusively Japanese taught curriculum), of immigrant children. It has left migrants lagging behind, condemning them to become academic underachievers and marginalized as immigrants.

The system needs fixing. It cannot be disputed that a high proficiency in local language aids the understanding and even adoption of local culture. So it follows that Japanese language proficiency would allow second generation migrants to ascend the social hierarchy more easily. Without language proficiency, many migrants find their occupational choices narrowed to work not requiring Japanese fluency—work that is normally menial or at least low paying. And limited income affects educational opportunities, leaving no choice bur for parents to enroll their children into public schools instead of private schools, which must adhere to the Japanese Board Education’s defined curriculum, funding, and programs—notably lacking in L2 language support. This creates a self-perpetuating vicious circle, as generation after generation would be forced into a public school system which does not prioritise their needs.

Kanno underlines the importance of the role of teachers in the process of helping the next migrant generation assimilate into the host society. Teachers individually voice and project their messages, their beliefs and ideas onto the student, whether through simple language learning, cultural awareness-raising or even showing how to participate in a democratic society (Vaipae, 2001).

Teachers who educate migrants do not tend to be professionally trained and can communicate very little in the migrant’s first language (Kanno, 2004). Though the idea of diversity and ‘being proud of your origin’ is promoted in Japanese schools, little is done in keeping the migrant’s mother tongue alive (Kanno, 2004). Students may not develop knowledge of their first language much when learning their host country’s language, mastering neither properly in the end. Also there is a disconnect between Japanese and migrant students as they are taught in separate parts of the school. This obviously hinders communication between students, and stops Japanese student in turn taking advantage of migrant student presence to learn about the outside world.

Kanno wholeheartedly supports Cummins’s theory that “orienteers of culture and linguistic diversity are reflected in the policies and practices of school” (2000a, 2000b). Yet teachers in this respect engage in the ‘coercive relations of power’, as they do not question the social inequality found in Japan and reaffirm the status quo for minorities (Cummins, 2000a).  The education system is based around suppressing minority students’ linguistic and cultural identity as well as accepting the rules and values imposed by the dominant group as ‘natural, normal, universal…’ (Heller & Martin-Jones, 2001). With this, Kanno believes that not only teaching skills in general need improvement, but one must study the ins and outs of a society to create understanding.

Since the beginning, classes taught to migrants are academically lagging behind Japanese students of their age group. This gap widens as time goes on. Eventually they may find themselves in dire need of help and unable to compete in the job market. Interviews of teachers by Kanno at this particular Japanese elementary school showed that their lack of work ethic was in fact their parents’ responsibility. Teachers do not look at themselves as a potential reason for the problem and hence no changes are likely to happen in the near future unless there is a shake-up and reform of the Japanese schooling system.


Cummins, J. (2000a) Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2000b) Negotiating intercultural identities in the multilingual classroom. The CATESOL Journal 12 (1), 163-178.

Heller, M. and Martin-Jones, M. (2001) Introduction: Symbolic domination, education and linguistic difference. In M. Heller and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference (pp. 1-28). Westport, CT: Ablex.

Kanno, Y. (2004). Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school. In A. Pavlenko (eds) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Vaipae, S. (2001) Language minority students in Japanese public schools. In M. Noguchi and S. Fotos (eds) Studies in Japanese bilingualism (pp. 184–233).

Floating Children Are Struggling To Adapt Education in Cities

dream2by Dream Guo

With the rapid development of the urban economy in China, a lot of laborers migrate to urban areas to seek employment. However, due to the deep-rooted influence from the rural-urban dual social structure, the rural population is restricted by various factors such as the social system, and social concepts. And as a result, it is impossible for the migrant workers as well as their children to become urban residents within a short period. Therefore, some of the children are left behind and the others become the floating children in cities. Nevertheless, the living environment, psychological performance, as well as their social adaptability in the cities will influence their growth and development to a great extent. Especially since the rural education and urban education has a huge gap, the imperfect institution brings difficulties to floating children’s curriculum life.

As a result of the limited financial capital investment of China in compulsory education, and the unreasonable distribution structure, the configuration of urban and rural educational resources is seriously unbalanced. There is a shortage of teachers in rural schools, the majority of teachers in rural areas is not of high quality, and teachers have multiple roles. All these seriously affect the quality of teaching. Children in rural areas also cannot buy regular books and learning materials, they are given pirated textbooks and dictionaries that have many mistakes in the contents.

In addition, the degrees of education of parents in rural area and of parents in urban area differ greatly, leading to different family educations. According to several news sources, some migrant workers choose to play cards rather than accompany their children when they come back home. To a large extent, it reflects the behaviors of children, thus, in the later research by China Youth Daily (2013), the passing rate of “preschool learning ability” is only 29% for rural children and the excellence rate is even only 0.75%. However, the data of the same test conducted to urban children show a passing rate of 98.8% and an excellence rate of 69.7% in “preschool learning ability”. As a result, although rural children possess certain “desire to learn”, their marks in the overall appraisal are less than half of that of urban children, which indicates that rural children lost at the starting line.

The huge gap among with urban children is already a disadvantage for rural children, what is more is when they float to the city, the difference of education level, system and environment will give more pressure to rural children.

Firstly, many incentives can only be enjoyed by children in urban, rural children going to the cities for studying is often discriminated. Even if they could be educated in cities, they would also be discriminated against and can only return to their domicile to enter a higher school. For instance, floating children respond that their tuitions are higher than that of urban children. Secondly, since the migrant workers seldom attend the parents’ meeting and the proportion for family visit is low, however, the major approaches for the teachers to communicate with the parents are family visits and parents’ meetings. As a result, teachers may not know the family situation of floating children, and hence simply neglect them. Thirdly, innovative curriculum and extra-curricular activities require children’s comprehensive quality. Nevertheless, floating children are not available to develop their specialty because of poor family condition. As a consequence, they may feel themselves inferior.

In sum, floating children’s school performance in some ways reflects their adaption to education in cities. It is found in the investigation that children obtain a strong subjective initiative in study. Though facing many difficulties, they would like to study willingly instead of being compelled. Most of them have definite learning goals, hoping to change their own fates through education and improve their living condition.


China Youth Daily, 2013. Survey Stated Some Left-behind Children Could Not Distinguish Colors or Watch Traffic Light. from