Multiculturalism in Japan

by Yukari Deguchi

About two decades ago, the majority of immigrants in Japan were Korean whose purpose was to get right of permanent residence after WWⅡ. But today, immigrants’ home countries, their purpose, and occupations become more various. It’s not unusual to see immigrant students at even public elementary and junior high school.

Along with this change in Japan, in 2006, the Fundamental Law of Education was amended to push ahead with education of multi- cultural society (多文化共生社会). Its principle is to understand and love each student’s own culture at first and then, realize the differences in other culture. It seems to deal with the trend of globalization, but it also gives us a question—is it able to achieve multicultural coexistence (共存)? Isn’t it side-by-side existence (並存)?

The first notable point is to understand and love each student’s culture “at first”. This patriotism-like expression has already been controversial topic among teachers, policy makers, scholars, and activists. Patriotism is not bad thing, but they concerned about connection with imperial system from historical view.

The other point is to realize the differences in other culture. I particularly would like to mention about “realize differences”. I think it may draw a firm line between “my” culture and “your” culture. Without any doubt, it’s not a problem about the matter of personal preference, like preferring bread or rice. However, are there also no problems when it comes to issues that are related with us, like whether our country should make war or not? Can Japanese accept the foreigners’ opinion that Japan should do war just because they have other cultural idea? I think the answer is no. Many Japanese might deny the opinion. Multi-cultural society is epoch-making idea though, by these examples, I’d like to say that if we misunderstand it, it becomes rejection of other culture or indifference to other culture like “I don’t care, just as you like”.

These attitudes effects some immigrants issues in Japan, such as weather immigrants can have dual citizenship or not, and how should we assure the right of illegal immigrants. These issues get little attention from society and are lack of discussion. Not for politicians, but for citizens, the reason is because they are not interested in it so much, or they don’t want to be involved in the issues that have negative effect to their living. We have to change this situation to real multi-cultural society, which is coexistence of multi culture. Otherwise, there are more and more legal and illegal immigrants who are exploited and live in poverty hidden from public view.


Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology「改正前後の教育基本法の比較(Contrast Between Before and After the amending of the Fundamental Law of Education)」 Accessed 2012, 11, Nov.

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