Multiculturalism or Anti-Multiculturalism in Japan

English: Ainus wearing their traditional cloth...

English: Ainu wearing their traditional clothes, Ainu Museum, City of Shiraoi, Hokkaido, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Naresh Kumar

The Japanese version of multiculturalism is anti-multiculturalism. Every action or support, provided by the government and people of Japan is not for cultural minorities but for the social and cultural majorities. When we read the literature it provides us with skepticism. I believe that the job of the literature is not to tell us whether it is right or wrong, but it needs to urge readers to think critically before they decide what is right or wrong. There is a need to accept people for who they are, rather than trying making them into who we are. We all are different but isn’t that a good thing. Japan is the last developed country to move towards minorities’ rights. A tradition which was important to Ainu’s ancestors has become to modern Ainu, a matter of cultural survival. It is hard to find someone in the current generation who speaks Ainu fluently, and it is because of the oppression by the Japanese government from the past century.

The Ainu minority in Japan is struggling to keep up their identity and culture. The oppression from the government is not anymore but it has driven Ainu minorities towards extinction. After Japan started its internationalization, the slogans like international exchange, cultural exchange, etc., are heard very often. Commentators say that Japan is on the route of becoming a multicultural country. The notion of Japanese multiculturalism is embedded in Japan’s culture, education and society and this excludes minority groups of Japan.

In Hokkaido, Ainu museums and cultural centers can be found, but is it to distinguish themselves as different people or to provide a picture of Ainu culture for Japan? It is hard to figure out whether Japan is preserving history or ignorance. Many see Ainu people as part of Japanese people. However, it is hard to distinguish whether government policies are to include or exclude the Ainu people. Behind different policies promoting Ainu culture, there is a continuing story of Ainu discrimination.

The consensus by the government shows that there are around 30,000 Ainu people left (Onishi, 2008). However, the exact number of Ainu population in Japan in unknown as Ainu people are excluded from the census. Many argue that this is the result of an exclusion policy by the government. The Ainu language is passed through parents to children without any proper written forms (Aljazeera, 2010). 1974’s Ainu welfare program was introduced to raise the living standards of Ainu, but the Ainu’s living standards have lagged behind those of other Japanese (ibid). Many Ainu people hide their identity because they fear discrimination. Japan is the last developed country which is working towards equality but the process is really slow. I fear that if such cases of discrimination, exclusion from social welfare, etc. carry on, then Ainu population might extinct from Japan.

References

Aljazeera, (2010, February 4). Japan improves relations with Ainu. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2010/02/20102465020204126.html

Onishi, N. (2008, July 3). Japan Recognizes Ainu as an Indigenous People, but what comes next? Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/asia/03ainu.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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