Japanese as Identity

We have to think that there is the possibility that encouraging people to use English may destroy Japanese identity. I am Japanese. One of my identities as Japanese is that I speak Japanese. The nature of this language, I think, is related to Japanese traditional feature. Japanese people beat around the bush by using various Japanese expressions, which can be connected with the fact that they are very sensitive to the situation. I feel, although this kind of Japanese national character is often criticized by foreigners and even Japanese, this is good character of Japanese, and the language, Japanese, plays a important role in protecting Japanese cultures.

On the other hand, as internationalization, English is in the important position all over the world. Of course, in Japanese Society, the ability to speak English is significant. In fact, Japanese school gives high priority to English education and many companies like Rakuten encourage workers to speak English.

Taking account of the above, I would like to consider the relationship between English and Japanese in Japanese Society. Yukio Tsuda, the professor in Tsukuba University, will insist that Japanese government should enact the legislation of protecting Japanese at work. By making English the common language in workplace, he points out, some problems are caused. These are the lack of right to use Japanese and the social disparity by the ability to use English. Some people speak English well and can apply themselves to this environment, and other people strongly refuse English and cannot do this. He implies that it is strange that those who are lack of English ability can mean people who cannot keep up with the globalization or internationalization. He also thinks that protecting Japanese means growing up our patriotism. For many people his suggestion may be extreme example. But it is certain that the increase in the opportunity of using English causes something we have to deal with.

I like English and speaking English is vital in various environments. However, I think the time is coming when we think carefully about our languages in Japanese society. Working environment has influence on daily life like home. In the future, that the conversation at home by Japanese family is filled with English can be not rare. Moreover, talking in English may be more normal than that in Japanese in the long run. Will it be natural? What do you think about the position of English and Japanese in our society? Japanese people who will speak Japanese in Japanese society are originally not minority, but international society could make them minority in the future.

by Shinya Shimatani

Minorities and the Constitution

It has seemed that most ideas of minority were created arbitrarily. For example, Sugihara struggled with the bad images of “Zainichi” in “Go”.  I can agree that these do not apply to almost all of the “Zainichi” and we may try to see as what we think they are, which means that we should not put any bad meanings to the minority. Then, we need to think carefully about how to treat minority groups in reality. Can we deny the concept of minority? Is it possible to take the legal framework of minority away from one country?

What I want to say in this post is not that “Ainu” or “Okinawan” people are struggling with their identities because they are in a minority group even though they have a Japanese nationality, and what the Japanese identity is, but that it is inevitable to create “minority” unless you believe that we, all people who live in this earth, are totally equal, sharing same value, culture, and denying the coexistence of  nations.

Then, I want to focus on how the Japanese constitution treats minorities, or foreigners. Since  it is only applicable to Japanese people, people who have a Japanese nationality, it is not supposed to guarantee the rights of non-Japanese. This is a intentional, but unmalicious creation of minority. Even if you say that human rights are natural, and inalienable rights, it is almost impossible to undermine the principle of popular sovereignty. For example, foreign residents are not allowed to have a suffrage by its nature. However, considering article 98, many people believe in theory that since some foreigners are domiciled in Japan and their lives can get directly effected by their local government , local suffrage should be allowed to them. Actually, the Constitution does just mention that “ The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them.” in article 15, and does not ban giving the voting right by law.

Then, what can they do? How about the degree of  their freedom in Japan? There are still lots of limitation of rights. Freedom of entry, re-entry, and stay are not guaranteed. The reason is that every state have its sovereignty and right to protect its  security from others, or foreigners. Even if you get permitted to enter one country, it does not mean that you can stay there, and (even if) you are free to leave, it does not mean that you are free to come back to the country.

Regardless of a matter of good or bad, creation of minority is unavoidable. As Sugihara said in the movie that the word of “Zainichi” implies that they are supposed to return to their country, this is totally true. However, the point of this problem is not the word itself, but the false interpretation of the significance. This would be the most difficult and perpetual problem.

※ Article 15 :  The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them.All public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof. Universal adult suffrage is guaranteed with regard to the election of public officials.

In all elections, secrecy of the ballot shall not be violated. A voter shall not be answerable, publicly or privately, for the choice he has made.

※ Article 98 : This Constitution shall be the supreme law of the nation and no law, ordinance, imperial rescript or other act of government, or part thereof, contrary to the provisions hereof, shall have legal force or validity.The treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed.

by Kudo

Illegal Immigrants in Japan and the world today

There are many illegal immigrants in Japan today, and also illegal immigrants with fake official documents. I want to see how nations should try to treat immigrants and their own citizens, and think about how the world can change its policy towards non-nationals.

To draw a line between Japanese and non-Japanese people, there is one big question. What makes a person Japanese? Japanese government takes Jus sanguinis, that is, right of blood. Therefore, to become a national in Japan on the official document, you have to have a Japanese national in your family. Then how close does that family member have to be? You have to have Japanese person among one of your grandparents or parents on the official document. However, it is possible, for example, that a person in Peru “happens to have Japanese grandfather” and buy or make fake document so that they can work officially and get the equal rights in Japan. That crime was popular at the beginning of 1990 when the Japanese Government accepted Nikkei Peruvians.

It is a cunning idea, but they want to make their life better if there is a chance. But why does a state limit their citizens? It is because the government want to put people under their control and do not want any social or economic problems. For example, tax, crimes, unemployment, etc. Now, Jus sanguinis or Jus soli (right of land) are the only ways that the government can control people in this world where nation-states are the mainstreaming concept. However, world is becoming much smaller in internationalization. And people have to pursue their economic gain because they will lose if they do not earn enough in capitalism. I am not saying that all the immigrants should be accepted in Japan whether they are legal or illegal. But I do not think an immigrant has to be treated as second citizen when they pay full tax, either.

Therefore I think it would be great if states can see people of their own record, not by their blood or historical heritage. Then it may make people’s lives better. I know it is too ideal, but then blood won’t be an obstacle in life.

by Kumi Nakamura

Blinded by Education

Education is a powerful tool that could impact our philosophy. Education is often argued to be the cornerstone of a society; and indicator that determines the future of that country. I used to think that education could opens up our eyes to the truth, but I found out that it could also blind us.

I once got into an argument with a friend who is a Zainichi Korean. We met during a study abroad program in our freshman year and got along just fine. I often asked him about his childhood because I never had an opportunity to meet someone who went to Chosen school. It was fascinating to hear how things were taught, and how students mix a Japanese word with a Korean sound, and create a new word. Then, I asked him how he saw the current situation in North Korea. He replied that North Korea is on its way, and that all the stories about the hardship people in North Korea is forced to live under, are lies.

At first, I thought he was joking. There are researches and interviews with North Korean escapees that strongly suggest that North Korea is far from being well off. But he wasn’t. He continued that even though it seems hopeless now, North Korean policies are aiming for an enriched development in the long run (like 100 years). He argued that most of the education around the world is lead by the U.S., and the U.S. is trying to make North Korea appear evil—and that, I, as a Japanese, never questioned if there is truth in the education. After a while, we concluded that if, as he argued, I am skewed in my perception on North Korea, then I could claim vice versa and say that his perception is just as skewed as mine. It was not the best agreement, but we could not find any alternative.

He also mentioned that his children would go to Chosen school to learn the history of Chosen and Zainichi, because pretending to be something else would cause more pain for them, and that the memory of Zainichi suffering in Japan should not be forgotten.

This was in our freshman year, so things may be different now. But I think that there are as many Zainichi Koreans who would agree with my friend as who would disagree. I do not necessarily think that children need to go to Chosen school in order to remember the Zainichi history, and that children should be given the choice to choose what education they want to receive. But I could see how his parents, who suffered from discrimination far more visibly than today, would have wanted him to avoid such hardship.

I believe that education is a form of perspective, and we must be cautious of how our education makes us think. Easy as it sounds, I cannot be certain that I could ever think in the same manner as my friend about North Korea. But at least we should try to accept various ways of thinking before reacting to them—who knows where the truth lies.


Changing our thinking about identity

Zainichi Koreans had been discriminated against. The first or second generations of them really know the hardness of living as Zainich in Japan. On the other hand, the third and fourth generation of them have grown in Japan same as other Japanese. They also have been suffered from discrimination, but their problems are related to identity rather than discrimination. They would think and think again about their identity: “Am not I Japanese? Am I Korean?” I think there are some hints in plural society, the US.

“Cultural Pluralism” is one of the thought that deal with plural society. It said that ethnicities are always being re-made. Ethnicities are not fixed, but they keep changing. Glazer and Moynihan said in ‘Beyond the Melting Pot’, that Ethnicities “are continually recreated by new experiences in America”. They meant Irish American are not same as Irish in Ireland. In the light of these, I would say Zainichi Koreans are neither Japanese nor Korean; they are “Zainichi Koreans”. They are different from Korean in Korea because they did not grow up in Korea with Korean culture. They grew up in Japan same as Japanese, but they are quite different from other Japanese because their background is in Korea. If they really want to be Japanese and cannot, it would be bad for them and really unfair. However, at the same time, they do not have to be Japanese. They can be different and claim their right and identity. Who have to change their way to think is rest of Japanese. They need to accept diversity in Japan.

by Nana Uno

Prejudice towards White Hāfus and Non-white Hāfus

Minami Hosokawa

Japan has always been thought as a nation of mono-ethnic, though there are numerous minority groups within Japan, making it a quite diverse society in reality. People of ha-fu, who are born from a parent of Japanese and a parent of another nationality, are included in one of these minority groups. I would like to discuss how Japanese people treat and feel about the hāfus, especially putting my focus on the differences of their treatment and attitude depending on the types of the hāfus.

Japanese people tend to indicate people who are half Japanese and half white as “hāfu” for the most part. On the other hand, the Japanese sometimes do not consider those of half Japanese and half black or latino as “hāfu” but “gaijin”. This is an awkward situation since they are all same “hāfus” according to the definition. Furthermore, Japanese people have fairly positive and favorable images towards people whom they call the “hāfu”, while there are times when they have negative images towards those who are the “hāfu” of blacks or latinos. (Let me make my point clear that this situation does not fit into every occasion).

For example, I saw a difference in treatment the doctor had made towards two hāfu children at my workplace, an orthodontic dentist. There are couple patients who are hāfu at the dentist I work, mostly children under 15. I would like to give an example of Katie, a mix of Japanese and French, and Tiffany, a mix of Japanese and Brazilian (both pseudonyms). The doctor likes Katie very much and treats her with goodwill saying “you are such a sweet girl”. On the other hand, he treats Tiffany quite differently. Although he does not show his attitude too openly in front of Tiffany, when she is gone from the clinic, he complains how she is loud or how she is uneducated.

I believe the media has a lot to do with making this situation of prejudice and image gap against ha-fus. As is obvious, there are many namely hāfu models, commentators or singers showing up on Japanese media, especially on TV. The point I want to make here is that Japanese media only puts spot-lights on to white hāfus only such as Becky, Laura, and Rosa Kato. They are popular among Japanese people and are being called by adjectives like “kawaii!” or “beautiful!”. On the other hand, hāfus of blacks or latinos rarely show up on TV shows. Thus, in order to eradicate the image gap towards hāfu within Japanese people, changing the policy of media would be the prior settlement.