Prejudice and Multiculturalism in Japan

by Ayaka Nishizaki

In this time, I would like to bring the topic about prejudice and multiculturalism in Japan. One month ago, I saw a shocking situation that one couple of an American boy and a Japanese girl were insulted by one Japanese stranger. I was sad there is still some situations that ‘being different from others’ is not enough accepted in Japanese society. Therefore, I start to think how that situation occurs and about multiculturalism.

One big problem is that the Japanese idea of ‘egalitarianism’ sometimes causes prejudice. I learned the word ‘egalitarianism’ during class and I agreed that Japanese school and society focus on equality for everyone. Japanese school gives students the idea that we have to give same opportunity for everyone so that prejudice will not occur. However, I wondered ‘this egalitarianism is the exactly same meaning as treating people equally?’ In my opinion, Japanese school teaches how important they have to give same opportunities and rights for everyone, but they don’t teach ‘how important we accept something being different from others’. I felt strange when during discussion class, some Japanese students mentioned same opinion that I had heard before and many students agreed on. Japanese prefer ‘safety’ in society, so they unconsciously chose opinions they may feel comfortable with. I know not all of Japanese are like that and that is just one of examples, but my point is that Japanese society focus on being equal so much that it sometimes makes difficult to express ourselves and try to become similar to others in terms of fashion, hair style, even our different idea or thoughts.

‘Multiculturalism’, which is one I learned, will be very important in Japan. It is commonly said that many Japanese can’t think say their different opinion. On the other hand, American society gives people the basic idea that everyone is originally different. I don’t mean that American education is better: I think at least Japanese egalitarianism leads to some prejudice for foreigners. Therefore, Japanese needs to respect something being different, but how can Japanese society teach multiculturalism and make Japanese multiculturalism? I think it needs long time because Japan has one ethnic and they already have similar background, so students have difficulty in imaging what does being different mean. It is not easy to bring multiculturalism to Japan because of fixed environment. However, I can suggest that changing Japanese education system is one of the ways. After I came back to Japan from my studying in the U.S, I felt how few there are opportunities to share my opinion in Japan. Making more opportunities for students to discuss and share their opinion could be one step to multiculturalism in Japan.

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