Structural Denial of Ethnic Diversity in Japan

by Sten Alvarsson

Japan’s ethnic diversity is continuing to be denied at the expense of a more equal and inclusive society. Ironically, equality and inclusivity are both at the heart of mainstream Japan’s perceived identity. This could be described as “ethnicity blindness” and is best described by Professor Kondo (2013) who states that, “Japan is still the only developed industrialised democracy that does not have an anti-discrimination law” (para. 6). This can be seen as a result from the belief that racism and discrimination do not exist in Japan so, therefore, there is no need to have laws targeting such behavior. On the whole, however, ethnicity blindness is not the most accurate depiction of the situation regarding ethnic minorities in Japan. Instead, the inequality and exclusivity regarding the country’s ethnic diversity is what I would describe as being “ethnic denial”.

While Japan’s ethnic diversity is fully comprehended by the country’s ethnic minorities, amongst the Yamato majority, however, the belief in a monolithic and homogeneous national identity persists. This belief is structurally enforced which was highlighted by the country’s 2010 census which failed to provide a measure for ethnicity (Japan Times, 2010). Instead, only nationality was measured without the acknowledgment of the ethnic diversity that exists under the umbrella of Japanese citizenship. This structural denial of the ethnic diversity of minority groups includes the Ainu, Koreans, Ryukyuans, Chinese, naturalized citizens and children from mixed marriages. Ethnic minorities are ignored despite the fact that minority groups such as these make up around 10 percent of the local population in areas such as the Kinki region of central Western Japan (Sugimoto, 2010). This structural denial is one of the keystones in maintaining the myth of a national identity that is both monolithic and homogeneous.

Japan’s structural denial of ethnic diversity within the country in order to enforce the myth of a monolithic and homogeneous national identity is not only a domestic issue but is also of international consequence and concern. Japan uses its perceived ethnic and cultural purity to ignore its international obligations as a signature member of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Instead, Japan maintains a policy of neglecting asylum seekers and rejects the overwhelming majority of their claims (Dean & Nagashima, 2007). In fact, from 1981 to 2007 Japan only accepted 451 refugees (Sugimoto, 2010). Sadako Ogata, a Japanese national who served as the former High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991 – 2001 stated that one of the fundamental reasons for Japan’s exclusion of asylum seekers is due to, “prejudice and discrimination against foreigners which is based upon the mono-ethnic myth” (as cited in Dean & Nagashima, 2007, p. 497). It must be remembered that this mono-ethnic myth has no historical routes and was brought into popular consciousness after the Second World War.

Ethnic diversity in Japan needs to be acknowledged and accepted. Unlike the country’s last census in 2010, Japan’s next census in 2015 should strive to measure its ethnic diversity. In order to achieve this, such questions as, “Where were you born?”, “Where were your parents born?” and, “What national origin or ethnicity do you consider yourself to be?” should be included in the census. As a multicultural country, Australia recognises 275 different cultural and ethnic groups in its census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). For Japan, there is no excuse not to also measure the diversity that exists amongst its citizens.

The structural denial of ethnic diversity in Japan needs to end in order to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society for all its members. After all, in Japan there are over 100 different varieties of the chrysanthemum flower (kiku 菊) with a myriad of different colors, scents, sizes, textures, patterns and durations. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Japan only recognised a single variety of chrysanthemum and denied the existence of the rest?

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/1249.0main+features22011

Dean, M., & Nagashima, M. (2007). Sharing the Burden: The Role of Government and NGOs in Protecting and Providing for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Japan. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(3), 481-508.

Japan Times. (2010, October 5). Census blind to Japan’s true diversity. Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2010/10/05/issues/census-blind-to-japans-true-diversity/#.Umt_AflmhcZ

Kondo, A. (2013, May 6). Can Japan turn to foreign workers. Retrieved from http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/05/06/can-japan-turn-to-foreign-workers/

Sugimoto, Y. (2010). An Introduction to Japanese Society (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Multicultural Society and Multiculturalism in Europe

Anonymous student post

David Cameron criticized ‘state multiculturalism’ at a security conference in Munich, on February 5, 2011. In particular, he emphasized that it failed to promote a common identity based on certain values such as democracy, the rule of law and equal rights. Therefore, he claimed a stronger national identity was required to prevent violent extremism. Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former president Nicolas Sarkozy of France identified with Mr. Cameron’s criticism of multiculturalism. Nowadays, Europe appears to be backing away from multiculturalism, particularly after the September 11 attacks.

With a growing influx of immigrants, multiculturalism was considered as a key to solve problems caused by policies based on assimilation and as a way to promote a harmonious relationship between host culture and immigrant culture. Many European countries conducted their immigration policy using multiculturalism as a way of new social integration. However, the trend of social ostracism against Islam and Muslim has developed connected to national security following a series of several terror attacks in 21C. Their culture and religion are not understood in a multiculturalist way, rather, people think they are at risk because of them. Also, some controversial issues have been brought up constantly since multiculturalism was introduced; whether young Arab women should be allowed to wear hijab in public school, how the honor killing or early marriage of some specific immigrant groups should be dealt with in host societies, and so on.

The question of how to integrate immigrants into a host country has always been a big issue. Neither assimilation nor multiculturalism provides a perfect answer. If assimilation is reinforced, isolation and dissatisfaction of immigrants who are not assimilated will become a social problem. European leaders who have declared multiculturalism will no longer support or focus on shared values and identities not their own cultural traits. However, it seems like they force such integration values from above. In this process, immigrants may experience frustration and exclusion from mainstream culture. On the other hand, if multiculturalism is too emphasized, people like Mr. Cameron think that it is divisive rather than unifying. Also, they argue that multiculturalism intrudes on the national identities of their countries. Therefore, it is important to harmonize the national policies of assimilation and multiculturalism.

What is the best way to integrate immigrants into host countries is the question for European society that needs to be sought constantly. The coexistence of cultures does not mean understanding each other’s culture unconditionally. Of course well-balanced immigration policy can promote coexistence, but social atmosphere that is respecting and compromising towards other cultures is also necessary. The beliefs of each culture should be respected as much as possible, and society needs to reach an agreement by communication and compromise whenever some parts are in conflicts with host culture.

Reference:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994

The Death of Language

by Bun Kin

Today, half of the six thousand or so languages are spoken by fewer than ten thousand people. On the other hand, only a small number are spoken by hundreds of millions of people. Researchers believe that no language can survive unless one hundred thousand people speak it.

However, actually the death of languages is not a new thing. Since languages diversified, at least thirteen thousand of them were born and disappeared without leaving any sign. What is new is the speed at which they are dying out. For example, over the last three hundred years, Europe has lost about twelve languages, Australia has only twenty left of 215 languages, and Brazil has lost 500, three-fourths of total languages. This was brought by colonial conquests, whose territorial unity was linked to their linguistic homogeneity.

The effects of the death of languages are serious for several reasons. First, as each languages dies, a part of human history comes to an end. Because we can’t completely understand the origins of human language or solve the mystery of the first language.

Second, the destruction of multilingualism will lead to the loss of multiculturalism. Because a language is not only the main instrument of human communication, it also expresses the world view of those who speak it, their imagination and their ways of using knowledge. And last, the threat to multilingualism is similar to the threat to biodiversity, because many of the worlds endangered plant and animal species today are known only to certain peoples whose languages are dying out. As those people die, they take with them all the traditional knowledge about the environment.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit made a specific plan to protect biodiversity. Therefore the need to protect languages began to be appreciated in the middle of the twentieth century, when language rights were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, a number of methods have been adopted and projects have been launched to safeguard what is now thought to be a heritage of humanity. These plans and initiatives may not prevent languages from dying out, but at least they will slow down the process and encourage multilingualism.

The language is not just the main instrument of human communication, it is also the world view, the imagination and the ways of using knowledge of human. We can’t prevent the death of languages, however it belongs to one of very meaningful and important thing for human to heighten conscience about language.

The solution to immigration through failure

by Alexander Austad

Immigrants in Norway make up for about 13% of the population in Norway, and it is estimated that this number will be nearly doubled by 2050.

Since the 1980’s, like many other countries, Norway has seen a huge increase in immigration, meaning that the issues that we are seeing with immigration are still very new. There are questions being asked left and right about how societies are supposed to deal with this, and these questions are naturally often related to jobs, cultural adaption, education and accommodation. Now, we need to figure this out, but it is not at all strange that we haven’t solved everything yet. In fact, it would be strange if we already had everything under control.

It’s amazing what has happened even just the last few years, as everything is changing all the time. It’s hard to keep up with everything, and we are always looking for answers to it all, and we want them as soon as possible, or now, preferably. This thirst (and need) for solutions mixed with something as delicate as immigration creates the part of politics that will leave you with the biggest headache, and as the problem of increasing immigrants is like a ticking clock, it breeds an infinite amount of different opinions. But we need solutions, right?

I’m not saying that we should just drop everything and take a break, but I find that some people’s attitude towards this issue imply that we should already have the answers, and hence that we are failing. We are indeed failing, but not because we should already have the answers. Have we, as mankind, gotten where we are today by intuitively making the right decisions on new issues from day one? No, we have been failing over and over again, and this issue of increasing immigration is no exception.

I just say we keep at it, and as a reply to the German chancellors uttering about German multiculturalism having utterly failed, I say great! Then we can rule out an option that didn’t work and work towards a new idea. This is awfully optimistic, but if you think that this issue should be solved by now, well, that’s just not realistic.

Since the world is so well connected now, we are able to learn from each other’s failure and success, and we see increasing trends in using models from other countries. I am sure we will see working models for immigration, multiculturalism and what have you, but we might have to keep on failing for a few more decades.

Is multiculturalism really a “failure” in Germany?

by Michelle L.

In our class we came upon the quote of the German chancellor Angela Merkel: “multiculturalism has utterly failed”

Unfortunately we did not discuss about the backgrounds and the deeper meaning of this quote. In this post I would like to take a closer look on this topic.

Germany‘s migration image has been changing tremendously since the end of the second world war. As of 2011, 19.5% of the German population had some sort of immigration background, meaning either being born in a foreign country as a non-German citizen or born to a foreign-born parent in German with or without German citizenship. Nowadays, the largest share belongs to the Turkish community (18.5%), followed by Polish (9.2%).

After the second world war, Germany was in need of labour to rebuild the country. People were encouraged to come to Germany and work there. This applies mostly to Turkish immigrants to former West Germany and Vietnamese immigrants to the former GDR, as for being a fellow communist nation. The government did not invest in language training or did not provide any service to make it easier to adopt for the migrant workers, since they were only seen as temporary cheap labour or so-called Gastarbeiter. Gastarbeiter is a German term for immigrant workers who came to Germany between the end of the war and the 1970s. Literally meaning “guest worker”, it refers to the temporary contracts after which the immigrant workers were supposed to return. In recent times this word got quite a negative connotation.

However, many people stayed and brought their family to Germany or married a German spouse. The government was not prepared for this. Since there literally was no effort in integrating the immigrants, those people were tolerated but not integrated in society. This continued for quite some time and the government somehow missed the turning point of Germany becoming a migration country.

Whereas other cities have a “China Town”, parts of Berlin seem like a Turkish parallel world. Even though some families are staying in Germany for the 3rd or 4th generation, many of them keep close ties to their home country and mixed slangs developed.

However, I do not think that multiculturalism has failed – it is the government who failed in creating opportunities to integrate immigrants into German society. It was only in 2005 that Germany introduced compulsory German language courses to immigrants, in case that the do not have sufficient knowledge of German to work. Moreover bilingual primary education only focusses on languages like French, Spanish and English. Most immigrant children therefore attend a regular school, where teachers are not prepared for them. This creates an environment where it is difficult for them to adopt. Since some districts in Berlin have a very dense immigrant population, people are more likely to stay in there national group.

I see Germany, my home country, as a multicultural society. Growing up in Berlin, I shared my class room with people from many different backgrounds. 24% of Berlin’s residents have a migration background and events in Berlin like “Carneval of Cultures” attract thousands of peoples. This percentage is still quite small compared to cities like Frankfurt (am Main), the heart of Germany’s financial sector and the most important international airport in Germany. The city is home to 42% of residents with immigration background.

Nevertheless, many “native” Germans are hostile towards immigrants. As of 2008, a survey found out that 53% think that “Germany has too many immigrants” and 50% think that immigrants like to stay along their fellows. In recent years, attacks on refugee homes increased and the National Democratic Party of Germany (a far-right German nationalist party) still manages to get many votes by promoting to “send all foreigners home”. Even though they were not able take part in any federal government, they are still active on a local level.

Recently, realizing the problem of demographic change (aging society) and the lack of high-skilled workers marked a shift in Germany’s immigration policies. However, it seems like the government is always only approving of immigration if it is in need. I hope that this attitude will change and Germany’s growing multicultural society will be seen as a benefit of our country.

References:
1) BBC News. “Merkel says German multicultural society has failed”. 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11559451
2) Abalı, Oya. “German Public Opinion on Immigration and Integration”. 2009. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/tcm-germanpublicopinion.pdf
3) Statistisches Bundesamt. “Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus”. 2011. https://www.destatis.de/DE/Publikationen/Thematisch/Bevoelkerung/MigrationIntegration/Migrationshintergrund.html

French citizenship or the anti-communitarianism

by Marin Enault

By studying immigration in the United States, I noticed how much the vision of the migrants was different compared with France’s vision. The history of both countries being completely different, it seems that it influences the conception of the immigration. It seems interesting to compare sociologically these two ideologies as well as their result.

Countries as the United States, Australia or New Zealand built themselves thanks to the colonizing immigrants. This special past is important in the idea which these countries have of immigration: Immigration is always massive, wished, checked and presented as a strength. The multicultural society of the United States is described as a wealth, responding to a logic of market.

The public policies that control the immigration’s flow according to certain criteria: countries, languages, professional qualifications… This “chosen” immigration policy entails the creation of ethnic communities, sharing the same characteristics. In the US we can speak about South American, Asian or Black communities, which are themselves divided into an infinity of national or cultural communities. It is a large-scale communitarianism: the immigrants live parallel existences while sharing the same nationality.

European countries, in particular France, have a different immigration culture. Even if the number of immigrants is important (nearly 160,000/year), France sees the communitarianism as something bad, as a failure of the integration. Partially because this country is the heir of a long republican tradition, France pursues the dream of “republican messianism”: the French nation is one and indivisible: the origin, the color and the culture of an emigrant disappear since he becomes French. So the French state refuses to see ethnic communities on its territory, simply French citizens, without any other criterion of distinction.

To describe this ideal, Ernest Renan spoke about a “national project”, a nation based on the “will to live together”. However, today this myth seems unrealistic : it seems that the French nation, in spite of its historic will, does not integrate any more her immigrants as well as the native-born French people. Although the theory of the communitarianism is always refused by the political elite, ethnic groupings nevertheless built up themselves. The migrants, due to the lack of economic integration, live in the same poor suburbs areas. The myth of a “French-style” citizenship collapsed: the secularism loses its sense when the school holidays are based on the Christian calendar while in certain high schools the majority of the students are Muslim.

France always ideologically refused the creation of subgroups within the French citizenship, however it turns out that the economic reality does not allow any more the same integration for all.

To convince itself, it is enough to look at the exam’s results of the Parisians elite’s high schools compares to the very close high schools, considered as difficult, where the students are mainly sons of immigrants. Not recognizing communitarianism doesn’t makes it disappear, quite the contrary.

References

Costa-Lascoux, Jacqueline : « L’intégration « à la française » : une philosophie à l’épreuve des réalités »

Renan, Ernest. « What is a Nation? »

Are foreign languages a threat to the host country culture and language?

by Glenn Soenvisen

In the mid-90’s a new term, “Kebab-Norwegian,” was coined in Norway; it meant the dialect of the Norwegian language which contained relatively many loanwords from non-western immigrants. This term was soon picked up and used vigorously by the media, where it sometimes was stated as a reason for the deterioration of the “real” Norwegian language. In some extreme cases it was even stated that the verb was put in the wrong place when speaking “Kebab-Norwegian” and female and neuter gender nouns became male. Some even said that it brought unwanted culture into the country, stating that degrading non-western words for “females” were used to refer to females in general. In short, some people perceived “Kebab-Norwegian” as a threat to the “real” Norwegian culture and language. Therefore, we needed assimilation of the users in order to retain our national identity and values.

What I find funny about this, though, is how little basis there are for these utterances. For one thing, “Kebab-Norwegian” is only used in the eastern parts of the Norwegian capital Oslo by immigrant youth and their possible native Norwegian friends; it’s an ethnolect rather than a dialect, and there has been no proof of it spreading to other parts of the country, as is only logical since ethnolects are associated with specific ethnic or cultural subgroups. You could say it is an in-group way of speaking.

And that brings me to another thing worth pointing out: the ethnolect in question is spoken, not written. Sure, users may write it when chatting online through facebook and the like, but those services are closed networks and not available to everyone. Furthermore, even Norwegians may write in their own dialects in such contexts, but it doesn’t seem to affect their ability to write correctly written Norwegian when needed.

Moreover, considering that “Kebab-Norwegian” is almost exclusively used by youths, the users of it are most likely bilingual, or even trilingual, having learned “real” Norwegian from a very young age, as well as English which are being taught from early elementary school level. Keeping this in mind we can take a look at what Alejandro Portes writes in his feature article “English-only triumphs, but the costs are high:” bilinguals outperform their monolingual counterparts in almost all cognitive tests.

In short, immigrants speaking “Kebab-Norwegian” should have no more difficulty in using suitable language to suitable situations on the same level as native Norwegians do. That learning two or more languages at the same time makes for underdeveloped ability in both/all is a thought for the 1930’s.

Besides, even Norwegians themselves mess with the genders of the nouns. I myself use all three genders (male, female, neuter), but in some parts of Norway the female one doesn’t exist. There’s also often the case that nouns can be used as both male and female. What’s more, the new rages in the language debate is that native Norwegian children are more and more using the sound sh [ ʃ ] where kj [ ç ] should be used and, to a lesser degree, using the word hvem (who) where hvilken (which) should be used.

Lastly, it’s not like degrading words for females in general is exclusive to non-western languages. I dare say that bitch is, unfortunately, used extensively in informal spoken English and Norwegian both.

Of course, foreign languages may have influence on the national language and culture, but only in minor ways, such as adding words which we don’t have any words for in our own language, replacing interjections, or introducing new foods. However, this cannot be considered a threat at all. Rather than threatening, the influences enrich and enhance, like an add-on to your browser. If “Kebab-Norwegian” really was a threat, one can wonder why the English influence, which is much bigger, hasn’t made us all speak “Norwish” yet. There is no need for complete assimilation.

Should Japanese schools teach multiculturalism?

by Masataka Yamamoto

Recently, the world internationalizes in everywhere and a lot of people’s exchange is going on in society. To understand the people who came from different places requires some knowledge of different cultures. Japan is one of the developed countries in the world so we have to know other cultures to play a role in international society as Japan.

I don’t think any Japanese schools teach multiculturalism so far. The word multiculturalism describes that the education of human race, ethnicity, gender, economic hierarchy, handicap problem, and sexual orientation. It is necessary to support students to realize who they are in many groups so they can understand what really they are. However, many old people try to protect Japanese culture itself from other cultures’ intervention. Also Japanese geographical features are island so it has fewer relations with other cultures, compared to countries which are located on the continent. Japan has fewer chances to touch with other cultures so Japan should more freely to know other cultures.

In my opinion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism in every school. It is because I have an experience of living in countryside of the United States and there were many black people and fewer Asian people. White people and black people were friendly to each other, but not to Asians. They called us like narrow eyes, kamikaze, yellow monkey, whatever that describes Asian or Japanese people badly. I felt very uncomfortable by being called such discriminatory words, so I thought it needs to disappear. This happened in the U.S., and Japan has fewer chances to get with other cultures than the U.S. If many foreigners go to Japanese elementary school or junior high and Japanese students don’t have multicultural education, what will happen? I think students will have discrimination against different cultures. To prevent this from happening, every Japanese school should teach multiculturalism for understanding of other cultures. Also knowing other cultures have merits when people going to other countries. For example, people in U.S. are mixed together as German, Russian, African, Chinese, etc. so to know other cultures is important in international society.

In conclusion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism to understand other cultures and learning multiculturalism will need when people go to another places. People are exchanging everywhere in this International society so learning of multiculturalism will be main tool to have a communication with people from different places.

How can people become Japanese?

by Tatsuya Haishi

Through the discussion in our class, I realized that there are many ways to become Japanese; however, it is a very difficult attempt to succeed. If I must choose one way to become Japanese, I would mention Japanese language. We cannot judge people’s nationality by their appearance like skin, hair and eyes in the age of globalization. We feel comfortable when we can communicate well with other people, yet if we feel that we cannot communicate well with them, maybe we begin thinking about a disparity between us and them. The most effective way to communicate well is the language. When I hit it off with a foreigner who really wants to be a Japanese citizen, it is difficult for me to recognize him as Japanese although I would like to.  He would be one of my foreign friends. However, if he can speak Japanese and communicate with me in Japanese, I will regard him as Japanese with no doubts. Accordingly, I think hafu people who grew up in Japan and can speak Japanese well are perfect Japanese.

I think that to be Japanese is still harder than to be other country’s citizen. Although I have no idea about the exact reason of that, in my experience, many Japanese people have the feeling that our society is a homogeneous community. Of course we learn and know Japan is not a racially homogeneous nation, but we have such sense unconsciously. I think that’s because we have few opportunities to meet foreigners in Japan. I also had never talked with foreigners until I entered the university.

Now, for most of Japanese people, to be Japanese means to be “Japanese-Japanese”, not “Korean-Japanese” or “British-Japanese”, but this situation may change in the near future. Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate and is facing a decrease of the work force. It will be necessary to accept immigrants from other countries to hire them. When they adapt themselves to Japanese society and have their kids, some of them come to feel that they are Japanese. I take it for granted that there are many kinds of races living together in London. Today, it is a quite natural scene that various different ethnic people are living together in the U.K. On the contrary, I would feel strange if there is a TV drama or a movie that a foreigner acts as Japanese. However, Japan may be a multiethnic nation like U.K. in future. If it becomes real, it will be easy to become Japanese.

The notion of citizenship in Japan

by Kentaro Sakamoto

Citizenship is a proof to show a person’s belonging to a certain community. Usually the community is a nation, or at least some sort of political community formed in a certain location. Dictonary.com (n.d.) defines citizenship as “the character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen” (“Citizenship”). This definition makes us believe that one is accepted as a member of the society as long as he/she holds a citizenship of that community. However, the reality is different in many countries including Japan. Even if you have a Japanese citizenship, people often regard you as a foreigner as long as your appearance is different from an ‘average’ Japanese person or if you do not follow an ‘average’ Japanese cultural lifestyle. This is making harder for those who look ‘non-Japanese’ to incorporate into the society even when they have the citizenship of Japan. To know why this happens, understanding the modern history of Japan is important.

Since the Meiji Restoration, when Japan tore down the Samurai regime and started modernizing the society under a strong central government, the government worked hard to create an ethnic-based nation state by spreading the myth of ‘Japan as a mono-cultural, mono-ethnic society’ (Oguma, 1995). By giving people a common understanding of Japanese history and teaching them to speak the ‘common Japanese language’ which was created based on the Yamanote dialect, the central government succeeded to make the majority of Japanese people believe that Japan has been a homogenous country throughout the history (Ibid). The diversity represented by Ainu People and Okinawan people was denied, and they were force to assimilate into the Japanese society. Even when Japan started expanding its territory to overseas, it tried to assimilate people from its colonies in various ways. One example is claiming Japanese and Koreans have the same origin, implying Koreans to follow the Japanese way as ‘Japanese people’ (Kim, n.d.). After World War 2, this idea of homogenous Japanese society was even strengthened as Japan lost its territory overseas which resulted in having less diversity. Historically, having the citizenship of Japan did not merely meant having a legal contract with the Japanese government, but it also meant integrating to the Japanese society culturally.

However, Japan is becoming diverse. The number of international marriages is increasing which is making the so-called ‘hafu’ (a term described to use a person born between a Japanese parent and a foreign parent) people more and more visible to the society (Yamashita, 2013). Having Japanese citizenship does not automatically mean you look Japanese, speak Japanese, and follow Japanese lifestyle anymore. However, the myth of homogenous society is still dominating Japan so strongly that it seems like it will take more than decades for Japan to become a multicultural society where people do not automatically assume someone as a foreigner just because of the way he/she looks, or how he/she acts. While there are movements trying to create a multicultural society to accept hafus and other minorities, people from younger generations are tilting to the right influenced by the media, especially internet websites stirring up ill feelings against minority and foreign people. They often believe that Japan should be a nation only for Japanese, but their notion of ‘Japanese’ usually do not include those who do not look Japanese and do not follow the typical Japanese lifestyle, regardless of the possession of Japanese citizenship. What makes it harder for them to accept multiculturalism is news from European countries telling the ‘fail of multiculturalism’, represented by the 2011 England riots.

Then, what is the solution? How can Japan become a more open society? How can it change the notion of citizenship? It is very difficult to find the answer, but one way is to wipe away the negative images towards multiculturalism. What is not introduced about multiculturalism in Japan is how it has contributed to the economy of countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Australia. By giving immigrants citizenship, the government can collect more taxes which can become a solution for the collapsing national pension system due to the rapid growth of the population of old people. It can solve depopulation in rural areas. It can increase workers in farming and fishing industries which are facing serious problems because of the lack of young labors. Many of these difficult issues that appear to be insoluble can be solve by giving immigrants Japanese citizenships, changing the notion of citizenship to a thing that is given to everyone who helps forming the community in Japan, and creating a diverse society accepting different people.

References

Citizenship. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/citizenship

Kim, M. S. (n.d.). Koukoku shikan to kouminka seisaku [Emperor-centered historiography and Japanization]. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from http://www.han.org/a/koukoku.html

Oguma, E. (1995). Tannitsu minzoku shinwa no kigen: Nihonjin no jigazou no keihu [The origin of mono-ethnic myth in Japan: The history of a Japanese self-portrait]. Tokyo: Shinyosha

Yamashita, M. (2013, April 11). 30 nin ni hitori ga hafu no jidai: Tachihadakaru bunka no kabe wo dou norikoeruka [An age that one in 30 children are hafu: How to overcome cultural barriers]. Wedge Infinity. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from http://wedge.ismedia.jp/articles/-/2702