Earning the title of “Japanese”

About a month ago, one big sports news hit the front page of the newspapers. The news was about Yu Darvish who is one of the greatest baseball players in Japan, and probably in the world too. The news said he would go and challenge his ability in Major League Baseball in the States. In those news, most media mentioned him as “Nihon no e-su (Japanese Ace)” meaning that he is a young talented pitcher who represents Japanese pro-baseball league. But I felt somewhat awkward with the use of “Japanese.” As everyone knows, he is half-Japanese half-Iranian. How could people call him “Japanese” without any questions?

What I mean here is not that I want to differentiate him from other Japanese because of his ethnic background. The question is that why he is Japanese when other hafu people are often said they are not. What let him deserve that title which many hafu people have to live without?

I think the answer is very simple: we want anything favorable to us. Darvish is a distinguished pitcher who received offers from several famous Major League teams. His ability is good enough for giving him the status as a member of Japanese society. As long as the person shares any Japanese blood (even if not “fully” Japanese) AND has a special ability that we Japanese are proud of, then he deserves the title of “Japanese.” Because, everyone wants heroes from their own community.

But, think about it for a second. Was he Japanese before he became famous? In his mind, yes – but not by people around him. He had a hard time being called “different.” Hafu are often not given the title of “Japanese.” They have to make an all-out effort to earn the title which full-Japanese people are born with, even if they were born and have grown up in Japan.

Isn’t it ridiculous? Whether hafu or fully-Japanese, we share the country we were born and have grown up in. Why do only fully-Japanese have a right to push the other out, based on their blood? Are we entitled to any authority to decide to let not-fully-Japanese people in, as soon as s/he becomes a hero? The answer is, of course, “No.” None of us has such thing. We, fully-Japanese, have to realize the fact that we are so selfish and have misunderstood that it is us who determine whether to let the person with unique blood (in addition to Japanese) in or out. We now should open up that heavy door to enter the Japanese society to anyone who is willing to come in. Difference is nothing to be afraid of, rather, is a spice to add excitement and fun in life.

by Shiomi Maeda

Reference: http://www.news-postseven.com/archives/20111231_78286.html

Positive Aspect of the Story of Little Black Sambo

In Japan, people have a lot of different images of black people. Many people, especially the older generation, have the images of them as the slave, the savage, the buffoon, and the GI as John Russell claims in his book “日本人の黒人観(Japanese People’s Images of Black People)”. And some people in the younger generation think black people are cool. They listen to Hip-hop, R&B, and Reggae, and watch many black celebrities and athletes on TV.

I went to New York during the winter vacation, and that was the very first time for me to get to know black people personally. Although I went to high school in the US as an exchange student, I had never had any black friends because where I was living was a pretty much white community and I went to a private Catholic high school in which I don’t think there were any black students. Before going to New York, I had the both images of black people as scary and cool. I don’t remember why, but my friends and I decided to stay at a hostel in Brooklyn. On the first day, we got scared as hell because more than 80% of people we saw there were black. But as time went by, we realized black people were nice. Whenever we asked them for help, they helped us. And the guy who was staying at the same hostel with us was super nice. So now my negative images of black people are totally gone.

But how can we, Japanese people, get rid of negative stereotypes against black people? To me, it was to have a talk with them and get to know them personally. I was lucky to have the opportunity to go to New York, and to be able to speak English. However, not so many people have that opportunity and not all Japanese people speak English. Furthermore, there are not that many black people in Japan, so people don’t have many opportunities to get to know them here either. Japanese people tend to create negative images against things they don’t know very much. I think “ちびくろサンボ(The Story of Little Black Sambo)” is a good way to introduce black people to the Japanese society. When we watched a video of Little Black Sambo in class, I didn’t feel it was offensive or gives children negative images of black people. What you see when you are a child has huge impact on your life. Although I have heard that even a three-year-old child notices differences of skin tones, I don’t think children will have prejudice or feel barriers against people of different skin tones if they grow up having positive images of them. When it comes to racism, people usually don’t really know about people who they hate. Getting to know people of different races will increase understanding among races. And I think The Story of Little Black Sambo is a good beginning of knowing black people.

by Haruka Kono

Nationality as Protection

One of my high school friends is Zainichi Korean, and she is now studying in Canada. While I was in New York for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day, she was also staying there, so we went out for dinner together. At the dinner, I told her I had been studying about Zainichi Korean people, and asked for her opinions.

She said she used to want to get naturalized as Japanese because that makes it easier to live in Japan. She has seen in reality some discrimination against Zainichi Korean people. For example, her brother when he was in high school got fired from his part time job just because he was Zainichi Korean. However, now she doesn’t want to be naturalized in Japan, and wants to keep Korean nationality because that’s her identity and that is where her family is from. Even though she knows almost nothing about Korea and speaks Korean very little, she is 100% Korean. I totally understand.

Although I had focused on the feeling of Zainichi Korean people as above, she told me her biggest worry is who is going to protect her if something happens to her while she is in Canada or somewhere else besides Japan and South Korea. I was kind of surprised because I had never even thought about that. I had taken for granted the Japanese government would protect and take care of me even outside of Japan. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea says in Article 2 “It shall be the duty of the state to protect citizens residing abroad as prescribed by Act.” Since she has a South Korean passport, the South Korean government is responsible for her safety. However, I have heard a story about a Zainichi Korean girl who lost her passport while she was in Paris, France. Because she did not speak Korean, French, or English, it took a very long process until the Korean Embassy in Paris issued a new passport to her.

I think that will increase legal protection for Zainichi Korean people if they get Japanese nationality. Professor Moorehead was saying in our class, because the US has “-“ culture, you can also have your identity as something else besides American, like Japanese-American, Italian-American, and Indian-American, but in Japan on the other hand, if you are Japanese, you’re just Japanese. If you are Zainichi Korean and get Japanese nationality, you can’t identify yourself as Korean any more. Although I thought that was right when I heard that, now I don’t think that’s true. Even Japanese-American, Italian-American, or Indian-American has only one nationality of American. I don’t think Zainichi Korean people have to throw away their identities as Korean just because they get Japanese nationality. In this world today, states are responsible for their own citizens. Nationality shows the state is responsible for you. So I think people should have nationality from countries they were born and raised in, they feel most comfortable to live in, and they can rely on. I’m sure it is much more complicated, but to me, nationality is legal protection, and identity is who you think you are.

by Haruka Kono

Contradiction of Japanese Society Regarding Zainichi Koreans

Kyoto is one of the prefectures which hold some areas where Zainichi Koreans live densely such as Yamashina area and Utoro area in Uji City. In this post, I would like to make the definition of “Zainichi Korean” clear and introduce the situations of Zainichi Koreans in Kyoto. As a conclusion I would like to discuss about the contradiction within Japanese society towards Zainichi Koreans.

The narrowest definition of “Zainichi Korean” is “Koreans remained in Japan with Korean nationality after WWII, including their descendants”. When complied with this definition, the population of Zainichi Korean in Japan overall reached 650,000 (excluding those became naturalized as Japanese citizen). If those who naturalized were included, the population could be predicted to be over 2,000,000.

As a situation of Zainichi Korean in Kyoto, let me pay my attention to the problem that Zainichi Koreans face in applying to university. There are 150 ethnic schools in Japan, including some in Kyoto just like the one showed up in the film “Pacchigi!”. If a Zainichi Korean wanted to apply to Kyoto University for example, he/she would have a difficult time in order to do so. Because the Ministry of Education excludes Zainichi Koreans from the qualification of examination, Zainichi Koreans must take extra work, such as going to correspondence school and writing numerous essays just to be allowed to apply to Japanese university. Moreover, since ethnic schools are not approved by the government as a legitimate school, they must pay extra fees compared to regular Japanese students.

Don’t you see a contradiction of this situation with another stream within Japanese society, “Hanryu Boom”? On one side Japanese prefer Korean culture while they try to exclude Zainichi Koreans out of the society at the same time. In my opinion, this contradictory situation indicates the gap of consciousness between the Japanese and the Japanese government. Therefore, Japanese government is trying to exclude and foreclose Zainichi Korean, or even any other foreigners, while Japanese people are accepting the situation.

by Minami Hosokawa 

Hashimoto’s suggestions – Tuition fees of Chousen-schools should be free?

     Since April 2010, tuition fees of high schools in Japan have started to be assisted by the government, in order to help those who want to learn. For public high school students, all of tuition fees are paid by government thus they don’t have to pay at all. For private high school students, about 120,000 yen is paid for schools by government, and they pay rest of it. Students in severe economic hardship can be provided maximum 240,000 yen for private high schools. This is a great decision. My sister has high school education for free, it’s absolutely nice.

     However there is an exception. Chousen-schools are excluded from this decision because Chousen-schools are not “normal” high school that the ministry of education defines (Ichijoukou). Chousen-schools, they don’t adopt the national curriculum of Japan and they have different package of education. The problem is that they are suspected to tell children how Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are great, Juche-sasang (an ideology of DPRK), and some distorted information. In fact, you can find the portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in the classroom and their textbooks are totally different from the ones that Japanese have. Some people regard connection with Chousen-Souren as a problem because Chousen-Souren is suspected to have something to do with kidnapping, illegal remittance (sending money illegally), spying, and other illegal activities. In addition, DPRK attacked South Korea in November 2010. Democratic Party of Japan, the party in power, was confused by this incident and yet reach conclusion; assist Chousen-school students or not.

     For all these reasons, there are number of people who are against assistance for Chousen-schools. Tooru Hashimoto, the Governor of Osaka prefecture made these following four suggestions to Chousen-schools if they want to be subsidized; 1)adopt Japanese curriculum, 2)enhance transparency in financial affair, 3)keep away from Chousen-Souren, 4)take away the portraits of Kim family. In other words he showed them two choices like freedom of ideology or money, and he told them they couldn’t have both of them.

     In my opinion, his argument is clear and I agree with him. If Chousen-schools want to keep their own education, they should do it all by themselves. If they adopt Japanese curriculum, they should be funded as other schools. Some people criticize him like education should be free from all political affairs, just support who wants to learn. But, budget is limited. Japanese government cannot spend on what doesn’t benefit Japanese people. What do you think about this issue? Is Hashimoto discriminating Chousen-schools? Let me hear your opinion.

p.s. I wonder how to call the chousen-koukyuu-gakkou. When I googled how they are called generally, I found these following names like North Korea funded school, pro-Pyongyang high school, and something. But finally I decided simply call them “Chousen-schools”

by Anonymous


Today, I want to write about “meaning and recognition of being Japanese” thinking with education in Japanese elementary school.

First of all, I am Japanese. My mother and father are Japanese, I born in Japan and grow up in Japan. But I lived in England for 4 years in total when I was in elementary school. I spend half of the time in Japanese school and the half in local school. In a way, it was the most shocking experience in my whole life and also later day life after I came back in Japan.

I came back in Japan when I was third grade in elementary. It was private elementary school in Nara and there were about 80 children in each grade and I was the only transfer student in my school. Also I was the only student who can speak with ES teacher. At first day in my elementary, I was called “gaijin” just because I came back from England and can speak English. The word was enough for me to addle my identity.

Why I am “gaijin”? What is the difference between me and other children?

From 2011 in Japan, every elementary school required English class for children to acquire basis of communication. The numbers of foreigners in Japan are increasing and it is not rare to see “Hafu” child in Japanese elementary school. I think this is good mood for Japanese education but still there are many things to think about. Japanese are ethnic group of accommodativeness which means they don’t like the “difference” especially when they are child. We have to think and teach about how children deal when they met with “difference” and how to understand it not just thinking about “communication skill”.

by Anonymous

Protecting Ainu Culture and Language

Do you know Shigeru Kayano? He is a man who made an effort to protect Ainu culture and language, and he is Ainu himself. He was born in 1926, Nibutani, Hokkaido. He was brought up by his grandmother, who spoke only Ainu language. So he became to be able to speak two languages: Japanese and Ainu. He talked with his grandmother in Ainu when they go to get wild plants. Then he grew up, when he was young, he didn’t feel good about being Ainu, and he was thinking that he wanted to escape from being Ainu.

However when collectors and scholars started to collect the tool of Ainu for agriculture, his heart was injured. Then he started to collect them by himself. This is the start of his life to protect Ainu culture and language. After that, he made a lot of efforts to protect Ainu culture and language. He recorded Ainu language, wrote dictionary of Ainu language and published it. He made a wedding of Ainu style again, and he made houses of Ainu style. He made a museum to preserve his collection of the tools of Ainu. He made a preparatory school to learn Ainu language; this is to maintain Ainu language.

Moreover he became the first Ainu member of the Diet. He made a question in Ainu language to know everyone there is another ethnic group except Yamato race. This is the first time to be used other language except Japanese language. During his term of a member of Diet, the act to promote Ainu culture was established. This is very important point about protection of Ainu culture and language.

Now, various events to show Ainu culture are held. For example, the Ainu traditional dance performance is performed by young people whose ancestors are Ainu. The recognition that there were Ainu people on Hokkaido except Yamato race is becoming spread. Long time ago, the homeland of Ainu people was taken by Yamato race. Ainu culture and language was received lots of pressure.

This is the event in very old time, but the problems about Ainu culture and language still exist. We cannot miss this truth. We must know the existence of Ainu people, culture, language and unfair treatment for Ainu people. To say that Japan is a mono ethnic nation has a lot of misunderstanding.

by Ayako Miyamae

The Differences between Japanese Society and American Society

There are a lot of Japanese Americans called “Nikkei” in the United States. I’ve home stayed in Nikkei’s family and they told me that situation during the WW2 was hard time for them. They were discriminated and sent to the camp for few years because the United States was fighting against japan during that time. After coming back from the camp, they stopped using Japanese in public and started to stay with other Americans. Especially for the second generation and third generation, most of them married non-Japanese American.

Therefore, Nikkei people adapted their self to American society. Also, it was not too difficult for them to be the same like other Americans because there are so many different nationalities in American society and Nikkei is not only one who looks different. For example, there are Chinese American and Korean American living in the same area so it’s difficult to distinguish them. Besides, there are Indian American and Italian American so they all look different.

But the situation is not so easy in Japanese society. I think there are two reasons to make them hard to live without discrimination in Japan. The first reason is because there aren’t so many Nikkei people in Japan. Nikkei people in Japan who came from South America look different from Japanese people. When we see them, we can see that they are different. The situation might be changed if the numbers of foreigners increase so much in Japan in the future.

The second reason is that in Japanese school they make us look the same. We need to wear uniforms and our hairs need to be black all the time. This circumstance also makes us to distinguish Nikkei people that they are different. Japanese people should get used to live with the people who don’t look the same. But for now, I guess it’s uncomfortable for Nikkei people to live in Japanese society.

by Misaki Fukada

Nikkei Brazilian Students

 I strongly remember that there were a lot of Nikkei students in my elementary school in Mie. The number of the Nikkei students was over 30 at that time. It means that four to five students were Nikkei students in each class. Most of them were from Brazil and their grandfathers were Japanese so they had a Japanese last name. The reason why there were so many Nikkei people in my hometown was because there are a lot of factories near my hometown like Honda or Sharp. And the second reason was the prefectural housing, which they could live in a low price and they are located in my hometown.

The teachers of my school liked to teach us cross-cultural understandings, so we often learned about the culture in Brazil. Sometimes the class was held in Portuguese and I remember that I didn’t understand anything. Because of those lectures, all of the Japanese students in my school thought Nikkei students were Brazilian and different from Japanese. And also the Nikkei students understood that they were Nikkei but different from Japanese. So Nikkei students didn’t play with the Japanese students and they played with Nikkei students and spoke Portuguese. The situation was not so bad until they enter the middle school. In that elementary school, there was special Japanese class for Nikkei students so they can learn Japanese. But there weren’t in the middle school, and also the classes became difficult than in elementary school so they couldn’t catch up. As a result, many of them dropped out from school and became delinquents. I don’t know what they are doing now, but I really think it is a sad situation. I know some of the Nikkei students studied hard and entered high school or even university but they are minority.

The prefectures that have high population of Nikkei people have to think about the education for them. Before taking this Japanese Society class, I thought that it was good thing that the teachers taught us about the culture of Brazil or Portuguese to know their culture, but after the class of Ha-Fu and Nikkei things, I felt it made them feel different from us. But on the other side, they were born in Brazil and they should keep their culture and we need to know about it. Well… was it right or wrong?

by Misaki Fukada

The Way to Learn about Zainichi Koreans

In the previous blog, I wrote about education of Dowa Problem and suggested that we should hide that so as not to remember; namely, 寝た子を起こすな論. In my view, the theory does work in the case of Dowa Problem; however, as described in Pacchigi!, lack of correct understanding of certain kind of problems such as about Zainichi Koreans may cause troubles. In the movie, when Kosuke (main character) attempted to pray in his Zainichi friend’s funeral, he was refused by the friend’s families due to lack of understanding of Zainichi’s history. That is, unlike Dowa Problem, the problem of Zainichi Korean requires another way to learn; thus the following will discuss the way to learn about Zainichi Koreans, comparing with the case of Dowa Problem.

The first difference between burakumins and Zainichi Koreans is their identities. The former has identities as Japanese and the latter has those as, more or less, Koreans. Unlike burakumins who are completely Japanese, Zainichi Koreans are different from Japanese. The second difference is in their demands; i.e. the former requires assimilation into other Japanese majority because they have a historical background that they were outcasted in Edo Era, while the latter keep on having their own culture including, as described in the movie, makkori and Choko (high schools for Zainichi Koreans). In other words, Zainichi Koreans requires diversity unlike burakumins who are seeking to assimilation.

In the case of burakumins, 寝た子を起こすな論 works because they have Japanese identities and require assimilation; while in the case of Zainichi Koreans, the theory does not work because they do not completely have Japanese identities and require diversity; thus, we need to have correct historical understanding of Zainichi Koreans actively. In the movie, Kosuke was refused by his friend’s families and the sole reason was his nationality: Japanese. Zainichi Koreans have a historical background that they came to Japan through the colonialism of Japan and they perhaps do not have good image to Japan. The movie described Kosuke as naïve and ignorant; while at present, Japanese youth are unconcerned about such problems; in other words, they tend not try to know. The historical backgrounds are different between 1970s (in the movie) and 21st century; but both are common in a sense that both Kosuke and Japanese youth do not have knowledge about Zainichi Koreans; thus, the lesson of having historical understanding can be applied not only to Kosuke but also to us.

by Kosuke Matsuura