Rethinking about Multiculturalism

As the globalization goes on, “multiculturalism” or “multi-ethnic society” gets more and more attention all over the world since the 1970s. Multiculturalism is the political ideology in which every each of ethnic group or culture is expected to have the right recognition and dignity from the others with different cultural backgrounds by mutually being allowed to maintain and promote their own way of living, tradition, custom, language, or a sense of value. When it comes to issues of multiculturalism, Charles Taylor introduced in his work the idea of politics of recognition which he states is vital need for people. According to him, identity is partly shaped through the recognition by other democratic citizens in the modern age and, everybody should be equalized with dignity, based on the respect for the universality and equality. Multiculturalism was first born in the United States in the history of increasing number of coming migration back then.  Gradually, the idea has spread to the other countries like Canada, Australia, Sweden, United Kingdom, and so force. However, I am personally a bit skeptical about this idea. This is because multiculturalism that Taylor says is double-bladed device. We should notice that there are both positive and negative sides in the concept of multiculturalism.

Let us focus on the Japanese case of construction of multi-cultural society to discuss my skepticism about multiculturalism more deeply. In Japan, “multi-cultural society ” (多文化共生) was firstly introduced in the 1970s in the relation to the expanding world trend and remaining problem of Zainichi people. It may supposedly sound like a good idea that the aim to the multicultural society enables minority people to have more political rights or entitlements, accordingly, that discrimination against Zainichi people is supposed to be weakened. Moreover, Zainichi people themselves have long been fighting against and criticizing the harsh discrimination by Japanese people who put a great emphasis on the theory of Japanese ethnically-homogeneous society to exclude outsiders, which here means, Zainichi people. Yet, I just wonder if it is really favorable to pursue multiculturalism for these two reasons.

First politics based on the multiculturalism perhaps has potentially the exclusive force which may divide the different ethnic groups by drawing an unnecessarily strict line between “us” and “them”. In other words, there exists an idea of cultural essentialism in its basic concept which makes people believe that culture or ethnicity is basically built-in and unchangeable, though it actually is not. For example, there is a contradiction that Zainichi people tend to regard their culture as pure, though they, on the other hand, criticize discrimination based on the fixed idea of Japanese homogeneity.   In that sense, we can see that the myth of purity of ethnic group remains even in the resisting movements by Zainichi people.

Second, a seek for the multiculturalism has the possible danger that it enforces people to have a certain identity based on one specific category. For example, Appiah criticizes Taylor’s multiculturalism by arguing that Taylor is too interested in collective identity and identity politics could become a new kind of oppression. To put it differently, multiculturalism is somehow blind to individual identity and diversity in one collective group. When I watched the movie GO, it reminded me of this argument. The same goes in this movie. The main character had great difficulty to know who he was and decide which identity he had to choose, Japanese or Korean. To my eyes, he was struggling to make a choice under the pressure of strictly designed collective identities. Accordingly, in the age of multiculturalism, it might be hard for us to say that “I don’t want to be categorized into one specific cultural group!”

Therefore, I think we should not be too optimistic about multiculturalism. The idea includes downsides too; do we really have to have one specific, pure, solid collective identity? Perhaps, the true freedom is to be free from an enforcement to have “the identity”.


Charles Taylor(1994), Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition,  Princeton Univ Pr

by Wakana Dohtan

“Education for International Understanding” in Japan

The world is getting more and more globalized. In order to communicate with foreigners, it is inevitable to understand the different values of other cultures so that we may avoid the conflict between us. Education is one of the most important methods of enhancing the understanding of different values of other cultures. I would like to think about the current condition and effectiveness of “Education for International Understanding” in Japan.
This concept “Education for International Understanding” is firstly advocated by UNESCO in 1974. It includes the concept of peace education, understanding of each country, human-rights education, and understanding of UN. Its purpose is not only about the education of understanding of other countries and its culture but also to broaden people’s international scope and cultivate their sense of unity as global citizen, world interdependency, and awareness toward peace/human-rights/environment.

In Japan, this concept is gradually advocated from end of 1980s and started to introduce it in several classes such as integrated study period (総合的な学習の時間), moral study, and society study. According to Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (文部科学省), they create a consultative body on education for international understanding every year so that they can talk about that issue deeply. Moreover, for example, they choose a core school and implement the development of classes and workshops for promoting the International education by cooperating with NPO. They are also increasing the opportunity to communicate with foreigners or implementing the study abroad program for students so that they can really have opportunities to communicate with people who have different background.

These are the brief definition and actual condition of education for international understanding. Now, I would like to give my opinion toward this issue. I do also think that this education would be really important to avoid the collision of different cultures. In my opinion, “actual communication” is a crucial point from my experience. Many Japanese people tend to hesitate to communicate with foreigners because they may have totally different way of thinking or maybe Japanese students have no confidence of speaking English. However, it is not good to have a stereotype about them because you do not even communicate with them. Also, language is important method but having motivation and curiosity may be more important in communication. In my view, Japan is accepting this kind of education more than before but still there are less opportunities of “actual communication” for students. Students should think and learn by themselves by having more curiosity and schools should give more opportunities and environments to them so it would be easier for students to achieve it. Therefore, increasing opportunity of “actual communication” with people who have different culture should be enhanced more and more in Japanese education.

by  Mao Shukunobe

Increasing international marriage in Japan

The number of international marriages in Japan continues to grow in recent years. Most of the cases are Japanese men marry South East Asian women particularly Chinese and Filipinas. Women of these two countries are thought most suitable to marry with for they are caring, friendly and hard working.

A characteristic of their marriage is that middle-aged Japanese men marry to Chinese or Filipinas in their 2os or 30s. These women are eager to marry Japanese men because they think Japanese are economically rich. Japanese men marry to them because they are worried about their old age having nobody to take care of them or, Japanese agricultural areas are now decreasing in population, so they cannot find their spouse in their local areas. Both sides are hoping to have a better life by marrying to each other.

However, their marriage usually ends with divorce. The first biggest cause is the lack of communication between husband and wife. Since foreign wife usually cannot speak good Japanese, couples cannot understand each other. Foreign wife gradually start to feel isolated both at home and outside home, so they wind up escaping from Japan to go back to their country.

Another cause is money trouble. Foreign wife come to Japan in search for a better wealthy life but after they got married, what they have found was Japanese husband were not rich enough to support them and actually they are having a hard time making ends meet. Even though they try to find jobs to make up for the deficits in their living expenses, it is still difficult for them to adapt themselves to work as institutions don’t provide proper job training for them.

Like this, foreign wives in Japan are under severe condition. As Japan is facing decreasing birthrate and aging population, international marriage will be inseparably related to the future of Japanese society. But still, Japanese systems for immigrants including marriage immigrants are very exclusive and not friendly. Japan should build up systems to support them by providing, for example, job training or language training to make it easy for them to adapt to Japanese society. Thinking of the future, immigrants will contribute a lot to Japanese economy in terms of their productivity and labor force, so fixing up immigrants friendly system will surely bring benefit to Japan in the long run.

by Eri Kobayashi

Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians

There are lots of Nikkei people and also there are many problem related to them in Japanese society. I do clearly remember a certain sentence written by a girl whose parents are Nikkei 2nd or 3rd generation. Judging from her sentence, most of children like her feel that they are “nationless” people. In other words, they have mental conflict in finding their identity.

Through imaging and thinking and know their feeling and problems they are facing now, I found one of the essence of these problem. This is my opinion, but it might be fact that they cannot take “Japan” as a place which is comfortable for them to live and there are social structures which make them live with uncomfortable in Japanese society.

I want to mention that there is definitely non-decent society for them to live in japan.

I encountered a documentary video which described about the absurd situation happened among the Nikkei people and their children. In 2009, economy crisis emerged remarkably and huge number of Nikkei people who had worked as non-regular worker hired. Of course, that has not been happened within Nikkei people, but it is obvious that the first target to be fired were almost Nikkei people.

And what I saw on the video was that enormous children whose parents were fired could not go to school because their parents cannot pay for school expenses.

There are just one of the problem but I want to argue the essence of this problem had been rooted in Japanese society, and moreover there was already problem when Japanese government decided 入管法改正 in 1990. After this amendment, Japan accepted many Nikkei people from Brazil and Peru, and there was government’s intention in order to get a lot of labor to supplement the shortage of labor in Japan at that time.

However, it seems that Japanese government has treated them as mere “labor”. Japan didn’t prepare that how we Japan accept Nikkei people and their children to Japanese society. For example, most of their children cannot speak Japanese at first, so they go to Brazilian or Peruvian school. However, this kind of school is not admitted as public school, so these schools cannot get grants. Needless to say, it is quite hard for them to manage and maintain school and the school expense naturally goes expensive.

There are many reasons of problem Nikkei people face right now. The reality that I said above through seeing the video is also  it is true that Japanese society has neglecting its duty to think and face sincerely these issues, as a result of it, there is a non-decent society for Nikkei People and their children.

This is what I think through this issue.

By Misa Kono

Korean Japanese after a Korean drama pop boom

As a popular boom in Korean drama has been spreading over Japan, did our view toward Korean Japanese meet any changes?

Korean Japanese are everywhere in Japan and it is not rare that you get to know them or friends of yours are Korean Japanese. General images about Korean Japanese are just like in the movies, “パッチギ” and “Go”, we tend to think Korean Japanese are liable to discrimination and they are hostile to Japanese society considering the facts happened in the past history. Some Koreans Japanese I knew before, they seemed they didn’t want to announce to the society that they were actually Korean Japanese, and rather than doing that, they liked to merge with Japanese society as Japanese.

But after the Korean Drama boom arrived in Japan, I feel people started to look at matters of Korea in a different way. More and more Japanese has come to want to know about Korean people and its culture. Many of those Korean Drama fans study Korean language, travel to Korea, or some even want to live in Korea for some time. Like this, the booming in Korean drama became a bridge to connect Japanese and Korean in a better way.

Reflecting the changes I said the above, I came across with the funny scene at a fast food shop, a person who sat next to my table was talking about her child, she said to her friend that “ I am wondering if I should talk with my son in Japanese or in Korean, my husband wouldn’t understand Korean so it should be better I talk with him in Japanese..” and her friend said, “that’s so cool. I wish I could speak Korean just like in the that I could make my kids a bilingual..”  Then, I thought Korean Japanese today are more open to their identity. They don’t dislike the fact they are Korean Japanese, but they live with that. And Japanese people accept them as Korean Japanese.

Korean drama boom obviously kept the distance between Japanese and Korean Japanese closer. I think the boom gave Japanese people an impression to feel Korean Japanese familiar to them. This is a good thing, but the pop culture boom always make people blind that they can only see good aspects of both sides. We still have to remember what Korean Japanese really overcame in Japanese society, their struggles. We cannot ignore the controversial issues over Korean Japanese and I believe the boom is a good start for Japanese society as a whole to welcome and accept Korean Japanese.

by Eri Kobayashi

My Memory of Filipino People and Social ‘Labels’

As a child I had more opportunities to be exposed to foreigners, because I took English lessons from a young age and had ability to talk to them. But there is one certain group I never got close. It is Filipino people and now I want to think back why it was so.

I spent my childhood in a small city called Maizuru, in Kyoto. It is a small port town, the only attraction being fishery. The population consists of mostly elderly people, but also men in national defence force. Many young people do not find it exciting to live there and there are not too many job opportunities. So, there are many ‘snack bars’ for men and many Philippine girls working there. Japanese people living in Maizuru quickly assumed that she works for a snack bar when they see a Philippine girl. Also, the town did not get many foreigners from other nationalities, so the society was rather conservative. The reason that those women chose to come to Maizuru is no doubt that they found a job opportunity—demand, and also existing Filipino society that they can fall back on. I feel really bad that the demand is created because of the public service job.

When I think back, I never had or tried to have contact with Filipino people when I lived there. There was one ‘hafu’ Filipino girl in my school, but I never talked to her or felt curious about her background, probably because I heard that her mother worked at a snack bar. However, I was eager to talk to Brazilian girls and Swiss girls at school.

I guess we see people of their social status, their job and those types of ‘labels’ rather than what they are or what they think. I was aware of those labels as a child already. Still today, we label people quickly when we see them in Japan, even if their home country doesn’t mean what they are. Now that I am older and wiser, I know not to see people from a biased view point.

By Kumi Nakamura

“Sabetsu to Nihonjin”

Shiomi Maeda

Today I would like to introduce a book titled “Sabetsu to Nihonjin” – Discrimination and Japanese people” in English – published by Kakugawa, written by Hiromu Nonaka and Shin Sugok.

Mr. Nonaka was born and grew up as a Buraku child, while Ms. Shin, as you can guess by her name, is Zainichi Korean. Despite of their different status in society, there is something they share – the experience of unfair treatment due to what they were born with.

This book is very easy to read. 80% of the book is written in conversational style based on their experience of discrimination, with 20% of explanation to make it easier for readers to understand the background and history.

Among all the stories they tell, there is one story that shocked me the most. It is a story about 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and discrimination associated with it.

In the panic of the quake, there were many Koreans who were killed not by the quake, but by Japanese people.

In that time period, there were so many cases of thefts – there was a huge shortage of food and goods; people were struggling to survive after their properties were all broke down or lost; some people had stolen things from broken houses. (Maybe some had no choice but to do so against their will?) Japanese made all of these cases Zainichi’s fault. Japanese said “it’s no one but Zainichi who do such things.” And in the end, those who believe the story DID kill innocent Zainichi Koreans.

This story is not well-known particularly among the younger generation of Japan. But I believe this is the story we should tell from generation to generation.

This year, we had 311 – the Great East Japan earthquake. I haven’t heard any sad stories like the one above. But there might have been victims of discrimination even if no one was killed – we don’t know yet.

Earthquake is a tragedy – it can kill many people. Why do we make it more tragic by killing innocent people who survived the quake? We have to look back at the reality and rethink about it.

This untold tragedy of Great Kanto earthquake is just one of the stories discussed in the book. I really recommend this book since it provides many opportunities to reconsider the issue of discrimination against social minorities. If any of you would like to read further, you can buy the book online or at most of bookstores.

Nonaka, Hiromu, and Shin Sugok. Sabetsu to Nihonjin. Tokyo: Kakugawa Group Publishing, 2009. Print.

Why we do not learn much about Zainichi Koreans at school?

Sae Tamagawa

Japan annexed and colonized Korea in 1910. After that, a lot of Korean people were forcefully brought to Japan as labors from the Korean Peninsula. Japan made Korean people change their nationality to Japanese one, and they were even forced to change their name.

Japan made use of Korean people during the war; however, on losing the war, Japan took their Japanese nationality and forced them to go back to their country. What is worse, their country also tended not to accept them, so they confused where to go. I do not know whether Japanese government regarded as they are disposable, but they are not a robot, they are human like us. Nevertheless Japan changed Zainichi Korean’s life completely, and hurt them, Japan force them to go back after the thing went. Moreover, Zainichi Korean were ousted their franchise. As for franchise, there is no progress until now and not only Zainichi but also foreigner living in Japan do not have right to vote in Japan. Japan ignored Korean people’s human right completely, but Zainichi Korean did not just passively observe.

In April 1948, Monbu-sho decided to close school for North-Korean, and Zainichi Korean resisted fiercely against it. A lot of Zainichi Korean who participated to the resistance were arrested, and surprisingly, 16-year-old boy was killed in Osaka. This incident is called “Hanshin Kyoiku Tousou”.

Furthermore, Zainichi Korean resisted to a lot of unfair system that Japanese government forced them to obey, and insisted their right. As a result, the situation became better and better step by step. For example, All the Zainichi Krean people had to register their finger print despite they do not commit a crime. In the late 1980’s, anti- fingerprint movement became hot, and it came up as a diplomatic problem. Zainichi Korean did not give up, and registration of finger-print was amended finally. They were struggling in order to survive in Japan.

As I wrote above, what Japan has done to Zainichi Korean was unbelievably irrational. However we did not learn much about them in school as if the government hides the fact. If I did not learn about them voluntarily, I might not know exactly who they are. I said the situation is getting better now, but still, there is discrimination against them. It might be difficult to teach it at school, but it has to be taught. Otherwise, young generation will not have proper knowledge, and they may just discriminate Zainichi Korean because other people do so.

Multicultural country: Japan?!

Shiori Miyake

Even today, some people think Japan is as a homogenous ethnic country but in reality, is it? We have the Okinawans, Ainus, Buraku, Zainichi and others as we learnt in class, and also many immigrants from foreign countries willing to move into Japan. Putting aside the argument of either a multicultural society is good or bad, as international population migration becomes more active and as the problems of ethnic minorities stand out, Japan may not keep its status quo. It is time for Japan to accept a diversity of ethnic groups inside and also coming from abroad.

First of all, what is a multicultural society? A multicultural society is said to be a society based on a multiculturalism principles, meaning a country consisting of multiple ethnic groups having their own culture and nationality valued, and coexistence is done. Now, I would like to look at the countries that are said to be a successful example and a model of a multicultural society; Canada and Australia.

Canada in its history, was a country consist of habitan (French immigrants) and Britain immigrants. Difference in language, culture and lifestyle has provoked a split in the country, so in order to maintain Canada; there was the need to unify the two big groups together and Canada installed multicultural policies.

ForAustralia, it is similar but they wanted to break away with the strong white supremacy they had and accepted Asian immigrants inside for integration with Asia. As a result, Australia had to assimilate the Asian immigrants they had accepted, and seek for multicultural measures. For both examples, the care for other ethnic minorities was only a by-product.

I only explained briefly, but Canada and Australia have accepted a diversity of ethnic groups inside their countries, partly concluding in their policies. However, to the question, “can Japan be like these two countries?”, the answer would be “no.” The circumstances for enact of policies and state configuration is different. There are points that could be helpful, but unlike Japan, both countries had multicultural policy clearly stated and developed by the government leading. Japanese government has long time not been able to dispel the homogenous principle attitude, and hasn’t established any measures even it has been over thirty years since massive influx of foreign people.

What I wanted to say in this blog post, is a simple thing; this is only one way of thinking, but Japan has to create its own model and method of a multicultural society. There are still prejudice and discrimination against non-Japanese ethnic groups inJapan, since it has been a closed community for a long time. However, there are already ethnic minorities, and also immigrants coming from abroad. Japan is in need to transfer from the state of ethnic groups “living in divided areas” to “coexistence,” and it is important for us Japanese to think of a way to create a better society for us all.

Thinking about the US Military Bases problem in Okinawa

Miyake Shiori

As we know, there are US Armed Forces stationed in Okinawa, which refers to 75% of US military in Japan. Five years ago, in summer, I went to Okinawa with my friends for the school’s field trip, and had a chance to participate in a backstage tour of the Kadena Air Base, which was held about twice a month. This summer, I again went to Okinawa but the tour was not done anymore. So, I would like to show how it was, and hope this blog post can be a helpful piece of information to think about the base problem!

Kadena Air Base has two runways and said to possess more than two-hundred battle planes. Inside the military area was like a small town and people can live staying inside the base. The spaces are separated into military area and residence area, and I heard that there are approximately 20,000 people living. In the residence area, there are fast food chain stores, shopping malls, clubs and also universities.

In some parts of the area, the currency was in dollars and we were to communicate in English, so it was just like a town in America. As we entered a restaurant and there were many navy crews eating lunch. Just for sure, the food was “American size” and was definitely impossible to eat all. In the tour, we moved by car and the guide explained us about the facilities. The tour ended by going out the base, entering the museum of Okinawa postwar.

Seeing the news broadcasts, citizens of Okinawa are against the US military bases. This is because of the problems or negative effects caused by the existence of military bases; such as environmental concerns including water and air pollution, accidents and crimes caused by the soldiers, noise problem and so on. In the past,US military helicopter crashed at Okinawa International University, and many incidents such as rape and robbery, car accidents has occurred. However, because of the treaty between Japan and the United States, these incidents have not brought to any conclusion, or the criminal escaped from Japan and haven’t been punished. To say with the noise problem, I actually heard the noises made by the aircrafts during the tour and it was extreme; if I were to live close to the base, I can’t bear to stay.

It is unfair for only the people in Okinawa to bear a heavy burden and be the hosts to the US military forces. However, there is the fact that the US military base is creating economic effects, and I saw a community developed inside the base, having many people living their ordinary lives. There isn’t a effective or practical solution but the only thing that is clear, is that there needs to be a movement in this problem.

For additional information about the base,