Ethnic and Civic Nationalism in Japan

by Sakiko Maruyama

In the class, we learned there are two nationalisms; one is the ethnic nationalism and another is the civic nationalism.  While the ethnic one pays attention to the roots or ethnicity, the civic one emphasizes the attitude to obey the law. Then, we link the ethnic one with intolerance, while the civic one with tolerance for immigrants. In this way, both nationalisms seem to be opposite, but in fact, they can be seen in the same nation; there are some nations which their nationalisms change depending on the conditions, even if they have strong biases to one side. Japan is one of those countries which close to ethnic nationalism. We tend to regard the Japanese government as intolerance for immigrants and think the citizen is tolerant. But this matter is more complex than we think. We sometimes take more ethnic attitude than the government. I want to describe this situation by comparing the position of us and the government about two problems surrounding Korean school in Japan.

The first problem is about the compulsory education. Korean school isn’t authorized as the school participates in the system of compulsory education. Even though children graduate from Korean school, that doesn’t mean they meet compulsory education. On the other hand, many Japanese universities accept their applications because they have scholastic ability which is worth to take the entrance examination. In this problem, the government seems to be more ethnic and universities take more civic position.

The second one is the discussion about the free tuition of Korean school in Japan. Comparing to the first problem, we can find the government has different opinion about this discussion. The government seems to think seriously about the adoption of free tuition of Korean school, while some local governments obviously against it. The local governments independently focus on the question whether they give a subsidy to Korean school or not, and the local government which decides to cut it off is caused by ethnic reasons. For example, Osaka prefectural government cut it off because Korean school hold portrait of Kim Jong Il. Most of citizens agree with this policy, and free tuition may be out of the question for them. Therefore, in this case, the citizens support ethnic citizenship and the government sees the matter from the civic perspective.

In conclusion, we citizens sometimes take firm ethnic stance. We generally see the policy of the government as important to solve the question of immigrant. But seeing the above two discussion, I think the later problem is more serious. This is because we citizens seem to have a greater influence in this problem.


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