Unfair Advantages for Non-Japanese?

Tokyo-based game developer James Kay

by Robert Moorehead

A headline in today’s Japan Times boldly claims that “expat game developers have an unfair advantage in Japan.” The writer, Brian Ashcraft, interviews expats who develop apps for the iPhone, and notes their optimism for the potential riches available in this industry. So where’s the unfair advantage for expats, and the implied discrimination against the Japanese?

Submitting apps for the iPhone requires navigating the site iTunes Connect, which is in English. This is more difficult for developers who have a limited English skills. And that’s unfair? Is Apple discriminating against non-English speakers? Are Japanese developers languishing due to their limited English skills? Are English-speaking expats unfairly stealing work from Japanese developers?

We’ll never know, as the article isn’t even about this. Rather, it’s a puff piece about a few expat app developers who live and work in Japan. I used to write similar “life of a foreigner” articles for the Chubu Weekly back in the mid-1990s. Since such articles are rather boring (my own articles included), the Japan Times editors spiced it up with a sensationalist headline claiming unfair advantages for expats.

But why print such a headline? The Japan Times publishes in English, thus its readership is heavily skewed toward the expat communities. But are these readers looking for signs of their superiority, or to have their pillows fluffed by the local English rag? What other unfair advantages do expats have? Perhaps this could be part of a series of articles, each with a sensationalist headline, on the unfair glories that expats reap in Japan and around the globe. Next up, Peruvians have an unfair advantage over Japanese when it comes to reading and writing in Spanish.

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The new generation of Japanese nationalism: Kubozuka Yosuke (GO) and Takaoka (Pacchigi)

by Yuki Sugiyama

In  class, we watched two movies concerning Zainichi Koreans, namely “GO” and “Pacchigi!”. The two depict two different viewpoints of Zainichi Koreans in Japan, which try to tell us various messages and teaches us lessons. That is not the central concern of this article. Rather, what I want to observe are the personal psychological changes occurred to the actors who played the main roles of the two films.

Kubozuka Yosuke

Playing the role of Sugihara, a Young Zainichi Korean struggling with his identity in Japansese society, Kubozuka paradoxically leaned to nationalism. He says:

“I had been somehow irritated. Probably I couldn’t see the whole picture of the society. I realized that I am living in the society. where I live in is Japan and I am Japanese. In GO, Korean Japanese Sugihara’s identity was born because of the system of the society. Since I was born in Japan and I have been taking it for granted, I didn’t think about it. ”

Before playing Sugihara in Go, he was surrounded by the environment where everyone is Japanese and everyone take that for granted. But after knowing the other in his own society by playing Sugihara, he internalized the nationalistic sentiments as a Japanese. Having discovered himself as nationalist, Kubozuka tried to rebel against what he sees as “uncool Japan” that doesn’t have its own pride at all. In 2002, he produced a movie named “Kyouki no Sakura” (cherry blossom of madness) in which he acted a role of young nationalistic neo-Nazi in Tokyo.

From around that time, his remarks and actions started to be regarded as weird (He even jumped off from 9th floor in his apartment) and he left the mainstream show-biz industry. He is now actor and a reggae artist. We can show his nationalistic perspective.

Takaoka Sosuke

By playing the role of Ang-song in Pacchigi!, he became one of the well-known young actors in Japan. He appeared in a number of tv dramas and movies and he married a famous actress. Everything seemed to be perfect for him until the incident occurred. In 2011, his controversial remarks in his twitter got spotlighted at first by Internet users and later by powerful mass media. His remarks, for example, is as follows: ,

“I used to be indebted to Fuji TV in the past, but now I’m suspicious that they may actually be a Korean network”  “It troubles me because I feel like I am being brainwashed”, 

 “Since we’re in Japan, I would like to see Japanese programs. I get scared every time I hear the word, ‘Korean wave”

His proposition, in short, is anti-Korean and importance of nationalistic unity of the Japanese. Those lurid words caused controversy and troubled him a lot. He resigned from his production and got divorced.

(Takaoka in Kinkakuji, Play of Mishima Yukio’s novel)

In Conclusion, I don’t think those two are the coincidence. There are differences between the two. Some may find this argument too simplistic, but the cases definitely tell as that there is nationalistic tendency among young generation Japanese and those actors embodies that attitude. Having been educated in Japan, I can guess that they hadn’t really been aware of “the other” in their society. The imagined image of homogenous Japanese society collapsed once they discover “the other” in their own society and start to internalize the strong Japanese-ness within themselves.

What do you think?

What does it mean to be Japanese? The cases of nikkeijin

There is a widespread view that Japan is a homogeneous society. Japan was once considered or, to some extent, is still being considered as a society of harmony, consensus, and absence of conflict, classlessness, and homogeneity.

A number of book focused on the issues regarding Japanese cultural or social identity have been published for decades, and those literatures mostly deal with topics such as ‘What are the Japanese’, ‘What is Japan’, ’What is Japanese style’ and so on. Those types of academic works can be categorised into a genre called ’Nihonjinron’ which literally means ‘theory of Japanese, or Japanese people’, and it ranges over diverse fields including sociology, anthropology, psychology, and so forth. In general, ‘Nihonjinron’ literatures seem to put emphasis on uniqueness and homogeneity of Japanese shared blood, culture and language. These theories can be recognised as one of the various reasons why the Japanese identity and nationalisms have been constructed. (Sugimoto 1997 p2-4) Also, the Nihonjinron writings are under criticisms by both domestic and foreign academics for mystifying Japan and agitating nationalism. (Yoshino 1992) The important thing to recognise here, in short, is that Japan is far from closed or homogeneous society on historical grounds. (Goodman, Peach, Takenaka, and White 2003 p5)

The myth of homogeneity is becoming more and more unreliable source as globalization moves forward, which is epitomized by the influx of foreign migrant workers from 1970s. Japan has accepted or, more accurately, could not help having accepted large number of migrant workers from various regions ranging from neighbouring Korea and China, South East Asia, Middle East, Africa, to South America. There is one migrant group who is fundamentally different from the rest, in terms of their visa preference and the way they are treated by the society at large. The group is, namely, Nikkeijin (in translation; Japanese descendants) migrants mostly from South America. Nikkeijin can be defined as follows.

‘We defined “Nikkei” as a person or persons of Japanese descent, and their descendants, who emigrated from Japan and who created unique communities and lifestyles within the societies in which they now live’   ( R Hirobayashi, Kimura-Yano, A, Hirabayashi, 2002 p19)

In 1990, the Japanese government passed new immigration and Refugee Control Act which prescribed the privilege to Nikkeijin in overseas, on the ground of jus sanguinis or bloodline. What is special about Nikkeijin migrant workers is that, up to the third generation, they had exceptional privilege of being allowed to reside and engage in work without any restrictions. The way they are treated and perceived is also different from the other migrants because they are ethnically Japanese but culturally Latin Americans.

The case of Nikkeijin migrant workers in Japan can tell us the fact that Japanese identity is largely influenced by the ideology of homogeneity which is constructed by putting emphasis of Japanese shared bloodline, language, and culture. By observing how Nikkeijin migrant workers are treated or perceived in the Japanese society, one can tell that the criteria to be ‘Japanese’ can only be fulfilled by someone who has Japanese shared bloodline, culture and language. If one lacks only one of the three elements, he or she will not totally be recognized as‘Japanese’.

Sources:
Goodman, R, Peach, C, Takenaka, A, White, P, 2003, ‘Nikkei Communities in Japan’ in Global Japan : the experience of Japan’s new immigrant and overseas communities’ RoutledgeCurzon, New York.

Hirabayashi, Lane Ryo ,Kikumura-Yano, Akemi, Hirabayashi, James A., 2002, ‘New worlds, new lives : globalization and people of Japanese descent in the Americas and from Latin America in Japan’, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Sugimoto, Yoshio 1997, ‘An introduction to Japanese society’ Cambridge University press, Hong Kong.

by Yuki Sugiyama

What should we give weight to, concerning foreign labor?

Cabinet Survey. ”Opinion poll concerning international flow of labors”(‘10/Sep/13)

With declining birthrate and growing proportion of elderly people, Japan is in need of careworkers overseas. Under such circumstance, Japan and South East Asian countries have concluded an agreement (EPA/) in 2008 that Japan would accept careworkers from such countries as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. For those who have come to Japan to work, the salary that they earn in Japan is unbelievably high compare to that in their home countries. The agreement seems right to the point. However, things are not as easy as they look.

There is a requirement for them to meet in order to continue working in Japan; they may not ‘officially’ work as careworkers unless they pass a national exam. If they do not pass it, they have to go back to their home countries in a couple years no matter what. And the thing is, the national exam, which is conducted in Japanese, is so difficult for those whose mother tongue is not Japanese that none of them passed the exam in the first year of the agreement, and even in the next year, only three workers passed it.

The survey above shows that, concerning international flow of labor, approximately 90 percent of Japanese people give weight to the understanding of Japanese language (94%), custom (88.8%), and culture (85.5%), more than to specialistic ability and skill (74.3%). Here is shown Japan’s conservative attitude to foreign labores not only as Japan’s national systems but also as the public views. Japan and the other Asian countries can help each other; the supply and demand are perfectly matched. But still, Japan seems not want them to stay permanently in Japan. It seems because people in Japan think that too much flow of foreign labores can ruin Japanese culture and custom, and it is more important than the big demand from healthcare agencies.

Also, on the agreement, Japan has guaranteed to burden all the cost for training and langage lesson for foreign workers, which for now has reached more than 100 million yen. Language skill to be actually needed for careworking can be learned after working of half an year, says Maria Sagawa, who is from the Philippines and has been working as a careworker in Japan for 26 years now. Does Japan have to spend another 100 million yen in a couple of years again, which is not needed to if Japan allow the workers to continue working for another couple of years without the exam? It is such a waste of money, isn’t it?

by Koji Arai

How much do we know about Okinawa?

Have you ever heard of an ‘Amerasian?’ An Amerasian is a person born in Asia, to a U.S. father and an Asian mother. Several countries have significant populations of Amerasians, including the islands in Pacific Ocean such as Japan (Okinawa), Thailand, South Korea, and most notably, the Philippines, where the largest U.S. air and naval bases outside the U.S. mainland used to be situated (Since the U.S. bases situated in the Philippines were evacuated in 1992, the one in Japan has been the largest U.S. military base in Asia).

In the case of the Philippines, after the evacuation of the U.S. military, the Amerasians and their mothers left behind had suffered from discrimination and poverty without financial support from the government or the U.S. military. As for Japan, before the census registration law changed in 1984, they were treated even as nonnationals (Japanese nationality used to be assigned only based on the father’s lineage), and thus, they could not get support from the Japanese government that general Japanese could get. Now that the law has changed, but still, some other problems have remained. For example, some Amerasians are educated in-base when the both parents are fine in Japan, but when the father and the mother break apart, for example by divorce or when the father’s military survice is accomplished, the Amerasian children sometimes have to be educated out-base. For children who are educated in-base, living life out-base is so difficult because of the language difference and sometimes they get bullied by the other children. For children facing such problems, Amerasians School In Okinawa (AASO) was established in 1998. However, the problem here is that they do not get educational support from the Japanese government, and because of that, they are in short of educational materials.

In Okinawa, several problematic things that most Japanese do not even know are happening; Amerasians example that I just mentioned above can be one of them. Can we be so selfish as enforcing Okinawa to take the majority of all risks that Japan has to take for its national defense, ignoring the problems that Okinawa has because of that? If we settle down on the present solution that we place the U.S. military base in Okinawa, we should at least fully understand what are going on in Okinawa.

by Koji Arai

Did You Know the Philippines Has Got the U.S. Military out of Their Lands?

When the security treaty between Japan and the U.S. was about to expire in 2010, Japan, after a big controversy, has agreed to renew the treaty for the next 10 years. One of the main reasoning that Hatoyama, the Prime Minister at that time, made is Japan’s lack of the ability to defend itself without the help from the U.S. Majority of people would have been expected that they were going to agree on that except for Okinawan people. Was it really the best solution just because it had got agreements from the majority?  What was really needed for us to seek for Japan’s future is the attitude to learn from what have happened in the history, not just taking a nod without really considering about it, was’n it? We all should consider them as they are, and also in the context of our country as well.The case in the Philippins is undeniably one of them.

What do you think are going to happen if Japan lose the help from the U.S. military? In fact, soon after the Philippines evacuated the U.S. military, China invaded islands of Mischief Reef which the Philippines insist are the territories of theirs. In 2008, also, China established a military airport in an island of Spratly. Is China going to invade Japan as well then? I think it is not very likely. Considering of Japan’s strong economy, it is not good idea for China to invade any parts of Japan at the great cost of ruining all the relationship it has established with Japan. Also, we should have learned how the Philippines had been developing their economy by utilizing the land of the former U.S. marin base. It is very regrettable that people in Japan had not discussed the future vision very much at the time of expiration of the treaty, even though we had very good source to think about it, the Philippines’ experience.

Also, we should reconsider, “is it really safe for Japan to maintain the U.S. military?” Those who say yes must not see Okinawa as a part of Japan, since Okinawa is exposed to the danger because of the very existence of the U.S. military on a daily basis as well as in potential conflicts with foreign countries. If a conflict had broke out, Okinawa would be the one of the first regions to be bombed. Now, majority of people in Japan do not even discuss the issue related to the national defense of Japan. In the mean time, Okinawan people have been complaining the U.S. base to stay in Okinawa even after the renewal of the treaty.

by Koji Arai

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.

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

by Shiomi Maeda

Is Japanese the Most Difficult Language?

Some Japanese, like my sister, believe that Japanese is the most difficult language for foreigners to learn in the world. They say “You need to learn Hiragana, Katakana, and a lot of  Kanjis. There are so many words that mean “I” such as “watashi”, “ore”, “Boku”, “watakushi”, “Sessya”, and etc. And learners would be confused by particles and “Keigo”.”  Yes, exactly Japanese seems difficult for foreigners to learn.

However, I know many foreigners to speak Japanese fluently. Exchange students, professors, and TV talents. Are they extremely smart? I don’t think so. Of course, they’re smart to some extent but I don’t think they have special brains that master the most difficult language with ease. So, I strongly doubt that Japanese is “the most difficult” language in the world.

Then, how about Korean people who learn Japanese? Korean has a similar grammatical construction and similar words to Japanese. Korean has some words that express the speaker’s respect(=Keigo). Thus, generally speaking, it’s not so difficult for Koreans to speak Japanese only if they master Kanjis. Anyway, I want to emphasize that no one can objectively tell which language is the most difficult because its difficulty depends on their mother tongue.

Then, why do some people believe the myth that Japanese is the most difficult language in the world? In my opinion, it is because they want to regard themselves as “special” or “superior” to others. Since the beginning of 20th Century, many people discussed Japan and Japanese people. Why did they defeat Russia and China? Why did they reconstruct so quickly after the WW2? As you know, there’re best-seller books written by foreigners such as “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword(Kiku to Katana)” by Ruth Benedict, “Japan as no.1” by Ezra Feivel Vogel. When foreigners discuss how Japan is strange, we Japanese feel kind of good. In addition, Japanese always look at Western countries like United States, Germany, France, Great Britain and etc. Compared to these countries, you can say Japan is totally different from these countries. Language, customs, figures, locations, history, and almost everything seems different. But if they look at neighboring countries in Asia, like China, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, they find that Japan is not so strange as they imagine. Asian countries have a lot in common. They will find similar cuisine, similar festival, similar faces, and finally they conclude that Japan is no strange, no unique country. Japan is strange to European countries but really similar to Asian countries.

In conclusion, you can’t tell Japanese is the most difficult language because the difficulty of learning foreign language simply depends on the learner’s mother tongue. However, not a few people believe Japanese is the most difficult language because they want to think they are smart and special.

by Anonymous

Zainichi Koreans Today

I had 2 great experiences and these experiences made me think that Zainichi Koreans or any other Koreans are the same as we(Japanese) are. However, as we watched movies (Pacchigi and Go), there are still people who discriminate Zainichi Koreans in Japan. But, in this cultural activity(below) we did in a school, Japanese can make friends with them and we can have better understand about them so I hope that many schools do some kinds of activity.

First, I went to an elementary school that is next to “Kongougakuenn”. “kongougakuen” is a school that only Zainichi Koreans and other Korean go to and we had many chances to talk to them and do a lot of activity. We did Korean culture together such as ”Kyusyougatu”(Korean New Year). In Korea, there are another new year celebration time. Like this, Japanese and Koreans go together and hang out.

Second, in a junior high school, some friends belonged to a club that people talk about their mothers or fathers and do Korean culture. They don’t keep secrets. Also, in a school, Japanese didn’t discriminate those Korean people and Koreans are very proud of their father and mother. In the movie, Japanese hate and discriminate them. However, in my school, it doesn’t happen. I know that some people still hate Korean or Chinese people in Japan, but there are many human and we shouldn’t decide where they are born.

Finally, When people discriminate or speak ill of them, they just don’t have better understanding about others. Therefore, as I experienced above, we need to communicate and hang out together at the early stage of your life. Sometimes people say that learning culture or languages and hang out them is not really important, but doing these things in your elementary school or junior high school gives a lot of effect in your life especially when they are young. If you have those friends (even if they are not Zainichi Koreans such as dark-skinned people or other), you cannot do stupid things.
Japanese who don’ t well understand foreigners hurt them badly as we see the lecture slides. For example, they don’t throw ocha or natto away. I really hope that Japanese don’ t do things like that in the future.

 

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