What does it mean to be Japanese?

by Daiki Nishiyama

What does it mean to be Japanese? I cannot answer the question clearly even now. I cannot define what Japanese is. When I am said, “Are you Japanese? If so, show me something to prove you are Japanese”, I have no idea what I should show. Passport? Student ID? Japanese name? Speaking Japanese fluently? In the class, most of us were not able to answer the question. I am going to write what I think about Japanese.

In fact, what does it mean to be Japanese? What is the difference between Japanese people and “hafu”? I guess because Japan is said to be a homogeneous nation, the others, “hafu” and foreigner, are not comfortable to live in Japan. Japanese people tend to exclude something or someone different. I think this characteristic is based on the education system in Japan. I learned in a class that the aim of the education system in Japan was that children assimilated the other children to make devoted soldiers and workers. And Japan has continued this education style so far. As a result, Japanese people are very likely to exclude and avoid something or someone different. Because “hafu” people and foreigners look different from Japanese people, they have many disadvantages in Japan.

Here is an example. I have a Korean friend, who can speak Japanese as fluently as Japanese people. Recently, she applied for some part-time jobs. She was always thought to be Japanese because her Japanese is great. However, as soon as she said she is Korean, she was rejected because she is not Japanese. I was really shocked to hear the story and I did not know why she was rejected just because she is not Japanese but Korean. Her Japanese is really like Japanese. As this situation shows, Japanese people like to be similar to others. We are relieved because we are the same.

I think Japan needs to change this situation. We, Japanese people, should be more independent to live in the globalized society now. It is ironic that the education in Japan makes children like behaving as others doing, on the other hand, society now needs independent people. Japan should change the aim of the education system to make children become independent people. If so, Japanese people would accept difference and Japan would be the comfortable country for “hafu” people and foreigner to live in.

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One thought on “What does it mean to be Japanese?

  1. I am an American and have always been. We are a diverse nation with many immigrants. Yet, there are very good things about being Japanese. A more homogenous culture means that road signs and books can be in Japanese and be understood by nearly everyone. Your crime rate is far lower than ours. The homogenous Japanese society is famous for the high quality of manufactured products. We visited Japan many years ago and admired what the Japanese have done to make their nation beautiful and clean.

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