Oldness is goodness: Is it truly a tradition?

by Sheena Sasaki

What is Japanese traditional food? What is Japanese worldwide known food? I am sure some people would tell me the answer sushi. However, sushi (vinegar rice topped with piece of raw fish), famous Japanese food, began to be eaten since Edo Period. Compared to relatively new nations such as the United States, 400 years of history for food may be long “tradition.” However, compared to Japanese history, which lasts since era of B.C., it is not significantly long. More important, sushi had been eaten only in limited areas of Japan since it uses fresh fish. Referring to Japanese geography as a mountainous land, it is impossible for some parts of Japan to come up with food such as raw fish. However, as the nationalization and globalization have taken place in Japan, sushi has become domestically and internationally known as a ‘traditional’ food of Japan. Thus, nationalization and internationalization have played a significant role in the invention of tradition in Japan.

This invention of tradition is becoming an issue in Japan today. In September 2013, the Japanese Supreme Court finally accepted that the law that limited  children born outside of marriage to inheriting only half the amount of “legitimate” children, as discrimination and a violation of Japan’s Constitution. Japanese denial and rejection of “illegitimate” children, adopted children, divorce, and married couples having different surnames is quite strong even now. It is not surprising to hear that children born outside of marriage were bullied in the school they attended during their youth. Also, some parents tell their children not to play with such children just because they lack real parents or their parents use different surnames.

Why do Japanese citizens strongly oppose different styles of family? Many people answer: “Because we do not want to destroy the traditional family system of Japan.” This traditional system of family is based on “ie (家)” and “koseki (戸籍)” which respectively mean house and family legislation. Thus, many Japanese citizens resist changing what is written on their koseki, with the exception of when a woman is married. However, the history of koseki is not so long as to be called traditional.

Influenced by Germany, Japan created the koseki system during the Meiji Period, the era of Japanese nationalization. The system was to support one royal family, imperial family of Japan. The imperial family is unchangeable, meaning one single bloodline is considered to be imperial. Thus, for this family to hold stronger and more important meaning, member of one koseki was also to pass down one blood. The Meiji-era civil code also stated that an ie must consist of single surname, single koseki, and single bloodline. Here, we see the family system putting an emphasis on one bloodline, which is considered as tradition today. In opposition to the word “tradition,” before the Meiji Period and the creation of koseki system, it was common to see adopted children reign as the head of the household. Compared to the ie system today, the family system used to emphasize more the surname of the household rather than bloodlines. Therefore, what is said to be the traditional family system in Japan has existed for only 100 years.

There is Japanese phrase “furuki yoki (古き良き)” which means that “old is good.” However, the invented tradition of the Japanese ie system does not seem to bring good anymore. Year by year, there is an increase of divorce, child adoption, and single parenting. These shapes of family are not considered proper families, and are targets of discrimination. Although the Japanese government has admitted that the law discriminates against certain children, the law itself has still not changed. The curse of “furuki yoki” still dominates the sense of discrimination.

Some links to news reporting issues of rights for illegitimate children

“家族とは?親子とは?揺らぐ法制度” http://www9.nhk.or.jp/gendai/kiroku/detail_3408.html

“婚外子差別の撤廃へ 民法改正案を閣議決定、戸籍法の改正は見送り” http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2013/11/12/kongaishi-minpo-_n_4258246.html

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Skin-Lightening Products in China

by Yuan Mingyang

Rondilla (2009) analyzed the influence of the advertisements of multinational cosmetics companies on the colorism in the Philippines. The company that Rondilla examined, L’Oreal, also has its market in mainland China. Therefore, this paper aims to do a similar study on the cosmetic advertisements of the multinational companies in mainland China, and to analyze whether these advertisements in China have a similar influence on the racial discourse in China as they have on the Filipinos according to Rondilla.

The method of this post is to analyze the websites and the advertisements on the websites of According to Dalal (2002), early definition and classification of race usually include the concept of skin color, and what’s more, “colour becomes synonymous with the notion of race” (p. 18). Rondilla (2009) also discussed about the colorism in the Philippines by analyzing the skin-lightening advertisements, but the cause of colorism is a little bit different from what Dalal discussed. The preference for light skin tone also has a long history in China. According to Leong (2006), there are many kinds of folk remedies to lighten one’s skin color in China, for example, drinking a small amount of pearl powder with water everyday (p. 167). Light skin tone shows “elegance and nobility” in China (Ibid, p. 167).

The desire for light skin tone still prevails in China, as well as many other Asian countries, while a favor of tanned skin appears in the West (Leong, 2006). It might be hard to argue that the contemporary desire for light skin color in China is a legacy from the past or a result of colonialism. Two factors may have great influence on the skin-lightening ideology in contemporary China. The first factor that should be noticed is the role of the Communist Party on skin-lightening before the economic reform in the 1980s. According to Hopkins (2007), the Communist Party at that time “rejected displays of difference of any kind, including gender” (p. 289). The uses of almost all kinds of cosmetic products are prohibited (Ibid). Therefore, skin-lightening products should also have been prohibited during this period, for decades. As a result, the recent desire for light skin might be a new one which emerged after the economic reform in the 1980s.

The second factor is the economic reform in the 1980s. According to Hopkins (2007), the cosmetic industry thrived after the economic reform, especially after China became a member of the WTO, which allowed more multinational cosmetics companies to invest in mainland China. Appearance became more and more important for women, and the cosmetic products started to entail new symbolic values (Ibid). Women use these products in order to “look modern and worldly” (Ibid, p. 302), which shows that the desire for light skin tone in contemporary China is representing some new values coming after the reform, which may be probably influenced by foreign countries and globalization.

Therefore, it is reasonable to discuss about the role of racism, as a result of foreign influences after the 1980s, on the skin-lightening fashion in China. Rondilla (2009) pointed out an ideal model of beauty to be Asian and global in the same time. Hopkins (2007) argued Chinese women use cosmetics to be global. This paper aims to prove the statements made by Rondilla and Hopkins in the context of China, with the concern of a potential racial discourse in China. In the first part, the advertisements of three multinational cosmetics companies on their websites in mainland China and the websites themselves will be examined with some of the criteria used by Barnes et al. (2004) in their research on cosmetics advertising in China. The three companies, Shiseido from Japan, L’Oreal from France, and Estee Lauder from the US, are from different parts of the worlds. Therefore, if they are using similar strategies to attract the costumers in China, a general identity of the dominant social values and criteria of beauty believed by most of the Chinese people can be drawn from these advertisements and websites.

In the second part, the findings in the first part will be compared to the similar researches on foreign advertisements in Hong Kong by Leong (2006), and in the Philippines by Rondilla (2009). The second part aims to detect the racial discourse in the advertisements in China by referring to similar researches in other Asian countries. The second part will also give a general image of the role that the multinational cosmetic companies plays in the ideology of light skin tone in China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Advertisements of Multinational Companies in China

At first glance, one could see from the layout of the websites of the three companies, Shiseido, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, that the main targets of these companies are women. Most of the products are for women, and if a product is for men, it will be put under a special genre. Products for men usually have the word “men” noted in the title, while there is usually no “women” in the title of the products for women. Also, the advertisements for skin-lightening products prevail in the section of skin protection. On the contrary, there seems to be no product for tanning in these websites. As for the best sellers of these websites, the products for skin-lightening have a place in the lists of both Shiseido and Estee Lauder, while L’Oreal does not have a ranking list. Therefore, the assumption of the multinational cosmetics companies in China, when they are making the advertisements and the websites, may be that women are more willing to buy their products, and almost all of them want light skin color.

As for the models in the cosmetic advertisements, Rondilla (2009) stated that using models “racially ambiguous” is very usual in Asia, since they “have global appeal” (p. 71). In the same time, mix-raced models can also fulfill the need to look Asian (Ibid). A similar phenomenon may be found in the websites of foreign companies in China. Estee Lauder seems to prefer to use western models in its website, which can be considered to be a sign of modernity and globality, which proved the statement made by Hopkins (2007) that women purchase cosmetics to look global and modern. On the other hand, that L’Oreal tend to use both Chinese and Western models, which reflects the statement made by Rondilla, shows that the advertisements are stressing both an Asian face and global feature of the products. The study of Barnes et al. (2004) also showed the similar result that the ethnicity of the models usually does not matter, but Asian models are slightly more preferred by Chinese than Western models are. Therefore, most of the Chinese people may accept both Chinese and global faces, but a little bit more prefer their own identities.

Perception of Skin Tone in China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines

This section aims to analyze the racial discourse in China by comparing it to that in Hong Kong and the Philippines. The reason these two countries are chosen is that China has posed some influences on the criteria of beauty in Hong Kong (Leong, 2006) and the Philippines (Rondilla, 2009). For the Filipinos, they use skin-lightening products not to look like westerners but to look like East Asians (Rondilla, 2009, p. 63), in spite of the fact that the image is influenced by Westerners. Rondilla also mentioned a rise of Chinese in the Philippines, which may further reinforce the notion that light skin tone is better and represents higher status. As for Hong Kong, Leong described it as a place where both Chinese and Western values exists.

The colorism in the Philippines that Rondilla (2009) analyzed may have been influenced by other Asian countries, but in the same time it may also influenced these nations in reverse, but as role of the discriminated ones. Leong (2006) noticed the “scale of whiteness” (p. 172) in Hong Kong. In this scale, the skin tone of Japanese and Chinese women are on the top, and the skin tone of Filipinos and people from some of other Asian countries is considered to be dark and is often described as “coarse” (Ibid, p. 172). Leong (2006) pointed out that “social groups such as the Filipinos and Indonesians were the target for much of the participants’ biases throughout their discussions of whiteness and skin tones” (p. 174). The skin tone of Caucasians is also not preferred by Chinese people in Hong Kong (Ibid). Similar phenomenon may also exist in mainland China, since Leong claimed the Chinese values in Hong Kong. With the findings of Barnes et al. (2004) that mainland Chinese people prefer Chinese models in cosmetics advertisements, one can draw a conclusion that in East Asia and Southeast Asia where China has a strong influence, Chinese or Japanese like skin tone rather than Caucasian like skin tone is on the top of the hierarchy, and people from Philippine might be the ones who are discriminated in the skin tone hierarchy in Asia.

As for the logic under the advertisements of the foreign companies and their role in the racial hierarchy, which is close to what Leong (2006) defined as the “scale of whiteness” (p. 172), Leong argued that they are creating “the myth of whiteness”, which emphasizes “purification” and “whiteness” (p. 171). Hopkins (2007) suggested the advertisements seek help from a pre-existing notion that whiteness means less working under the sun in China, which means high social status, in order to make a preferred model and let costumers believe the importance of their products (p. 302). Rondilla (2009) stressed a racial discourse which comes from the colonial period promoted by the advertisements of multinational companies. The existing racial discourse is merged with and reinforced by the colonial racial discourse promoted by multinational companies. The pre-existing preference for light skin tone, the skin tone hierarchy resulted from the interaction between different Asian countries, and the role of the cosmetics companies in spreading a colonial ideology may all have contributed to the construction of the racial discourse in contemporary China, which turns out to be a preference for light skin tone on the surface. The multinational companies are expected to stabilize, reinforce, and promote this racial discourse, when they “attempt to cater to specific markets” (Rondilla, 2009, p. 80), and “promote an ideal” (Hopkins, 2007, p. 302).

This paper aims to analyze the racial discourse in China influenced by the multinational cosmetic companies. The first section analyzed the advertisements on the websites of three multinational cosmetics companies, Shiseido, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, in mainland China. The result proved the statement of Hopkins (2007) that Chinese women use cosmetics to be modern and global. The result also contains a racial discourse that white skin tone is considered better by Chinese people. The second section stressed the role of multinational companies in reinforcing an existing skin color discourse as well as creating a new racial discourse as in China. Other factors are also discussed about in this section, while we can still see that the multinational cosmetic companies contribute much to the colorism in contemporary China.

References

  1. Barnes, B. R., Kitchen, P. J., Spickett-Jones, G, & Yu, Q. (2004). Investigating the impact of international cosmetics advertising in China. International Journal of Advertising, 23(3), 361-387.
  2. Dalal, F. (2002). Race, colour and the process of racialization: New perspectives from group analysis, psychoanalysis and sociology. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
  3. Hopkins, B. E. (2007). Western cosmetics in the gendered development of consumer culture in China. Feminist Economics, 13(3-4), 287-306. doi: 10.1080/13545700701439416
  4. Leong, S. (2006). Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin-whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong. Asian Ethnicity, 7(2), 167-181. doi: 10.1080/14631360600736215
  5. Rondilla, J. L. (2009). Filipinos and the color complex: Ideal Asian beauty. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 63-80). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Names in a globalized world

by Fei Long Yu

During the latest weeks, we spoke about globalization in class and about how some people taking on a new name during their life. This is a really interesting topic for me and I would want to give you readers my view point on this topic.

A given name is something that your parents usually give you and call you by; it’s rarely changed during the life time. Instead, many people can take on other names, such as nicknames or pseudonyms in their daily life when they communicate with other people or friends. The question that rises is; why is that? Why do some people (e.g. Asians) take on nicknames and not use their given names? I have noticed that many people with Asian parents often take on two names; one from their own language (e.g. Chinese name) and one English sounding name. In some cases, if the child doesn’t “receive” a second name (English one) they may very much either choose one later on during their life or receive one from friends or teacher. Why does this happen? Why do some children receive an English sounding name when they enter school or mingling with new people?

The reason behind this can be many; one reason can that the child doesn’t want to be bullied in school because of their not-English-sounding name. Another reason can be that the name is too hard to pronounce and therefore receive an English-sounding name. Another reason, which can be considered as a big main reason to why many Asian people take on English sounding name, is because English is the most spoken language around the world.  Asian people may want to be more integrated in the world of business and therefore take an English-sounding name. E.g. can the name decide if you’re called to an interview or not, and the chances is better if you have an English name (see for example what names is most frequent at the higher positions within the companies).

But, one thing I have noticed is that Asian children outside Asia are more likely to be given two names: one Asian name and one English name (or names that are common the host country, like in my family). The Asian name is often reserved to the family and relatives, which means it’s only used by the family when they speak to the children, while the English name is used by friends and colleagues. This may, as argued earlier, be because it’s usually much easier to pronounce English sounding names than Asian name. Or that the parents feels like the child should inherit two names, one from their home country and one from the country they’re living in.

The name can also be used to describe the identity, which also means that if one person has English name can be considered as more international person than a person with Asian name. For example, it’s easier to introduce yourself with an English name, since the listener may have it much more easily to pronounce the name than an Asian sounding name.

Another interesting thought is that this mainly applies to Asian people. While most foreigners use their given name, Asian people do the opposite when they enter a new country. This is also very visible in school or among new friends that doesn’t speak an Asian language.

The question is if this is a sign that the world is getting more international? Well, the world language is English, it’s the most widespread and spoken language around the world. And therefore many people have it easier to pronounce an English sounding name. But what would happen (or when it happens) if another language would surpass English? For example, Chinese, would the names in Europe and America be changed to the Chinese language when they’re studying or working abroad?

Globalization of Names

by Aki Yamada

Have you ever heard English names for non-English speakers? Or, have you ever introduced your friends like “Here are my friends, Christine, John, Sophia and Mason. They are all from China!!” Actually, this was my experience when I studied abroad in America and I wanted to introduce my friends to other friends. I did not feel strange about their names at that time, however, now I think it was greatly impacted by globalization. Globalization is the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries. As one of its influences, globalization has made huge impacts in cultural areas in countries, such as music, movies, radio, books, and also people’s and companies’ names. Therefore, I want to discuss why people (especially Chinese) can change their names to English names, and to compare to the Japanese case.

Firstly, in Japan, it is quite rare for Japanese people to change their names by themselves because Japanese names are so simple and easy to remember for English speakers. Thus, they do not feel necessity to change their names. In addition, if you want to change your name, it is possible, but you need to go to a domestic court to get permission for that. However, usually it is difficult to go through these processes because you need a clear reason to change your name. As another reason why Japanese keep their name is that they have own pride and honor of their names. We think this name was given from my parents so we should keep our name carefully.

On the other hand, in China, there are some reasons that why it is easy to change their names into English names. First, for English speaker, it is really tough to read and pronounce Chinese names such as Yeo Wern Xin and Yanxiao. Second, changing their names is a right and duty of Chinese people, which is defined by the Chinese constitution, article 99. They only require doing some paper work to change their name. So, I can say it is much easier and carefree things to change their names. Third, people change their names for their job hunting, which is deeply related to the tough pronunciation of their names. Above, those reasons, compared to Japanese, it is quite common to change their name in global society. And, possibly, it is good way to change their name to get used to global (English speaking) society sometimes. However, as Japanese, to know real name is most important thing to communicate other culture in global world.

Globalization in Japan

by Kaho Nagao

Since our generation has been in school, teachers, the media and so on often say that “Globalism is important and you guys might to be an global person.” On the other hand, the definition of globalism and globalization are very vague and huge. Actually I still do not know what globalization is. In addition, Japan often said that we are not globalized and we need to be hurry and adapt globalization. However, accepting globalization is really important and do we need to be so?

The specific example is mobile phone. For a long time, in Japan many people use normal mobile phone. Main work for them is calling and sending text in special way, which using e-mail address. On the other hand, the other countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Korea, sending text through the telephone numbers was most popular. The introduction of smart phone was delayed both spreading and developing even though Japan was one of the most famous countries for these technologies. Some people said that Japan need to catch up and develop more and more.

In here, the problem is that is it important to catch up to other country or not. Of course, we sometimes need to understand what is happened on the earth and think about problems. However, in Japan, even though some says that some realize and move towards, most people are not move and do not understand the importance of that. Changing people is very difficult about knowing importance is more difficult.

Globalization is recently speed up and some are confusing about that fact, however, cherishing and knowing our own culture and learning about different way of thinking and view will be help understand one of the best way to what is globalization and how to survive international society.

“Gaijin” to Japanese: What Japanese Often Expect from Foreigners

by Satona Kato

comediansTerry Kawashima argues that people have a consciousness about race, and this consciousness depends on their background. We can see this by comparing various ways of thinking about shojo manga characters by Western people and Japanese people.

In Japan, many people put the people who are not Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, South East Asian) into one category called “gaijin”. Many Japanese people do not think about the country where the “gaijin” were born. Furthermore, they tend to stereotype that sort of people have specific skills. In Japan, some of the people who are unilaterally labeled as “gaijin” have experiences that they are wounded or feel alienated, especially the people who are multiracial or who were born and grown up in Japan.

As you know, in Japan, multiracial models on TV have been popular. Recently, multiracial comedians become popular as well. They do not act like fashion models. They make people laugh by talking the story about the incident happened around them only because they are multiracial. First, Japanese are surprised that they can speak fluent Japanese and cannot speak English or another foreign language. Japanese also laugh at the characteristics the multiracial comedians share with other Japanese.

They had had many troubles and unique experiences which happened just because they are “hafu.” If we listen to their stories, we can know how hafu people are treated by Japanese. For example, Anthony, he is one of the ‘hafu comedians’. He is American and Japanese. People laugh at the fact that his hometown is Tokyo and his father managed a Sushi shop. He has knowledge about sushi because his home is sushi shop, but when he goes to a sushi shop, the master of sushi shop offered him ‘California roll’ and he was surprised. He has had other interesting experiences. He is bad at English, and when he was an elementary school student, he decided to go to English conversation school. On his first day of English conversation school, when he entered the classroom, other students misinterpreted him as an English teacher and they said “Hello, how are you?” to him.

I want to tell you about one more ‘half comedian’, Ueno Yukio. He was laughed at because of his obvious Japanese name. He is Brazilian and Japanese. When he plays soccer, the opposing team judged Yukio was a good soccer player by his appearance and many defenseman surrounded him. The opportunities to watch TV programs in which many ‘half comedians’ gather and talk about the things often happen around them are increasing. According to them, following things often happen: 

  • are judged to be foreign people
  • are often stopped by the police 
  • are asked by Japanese to sing foreign songs 
  • are laughed at by Japanese when they sing Japanese songs
  • are often expected to have high athletic ability
  • have difficulty getting a part time job
  • are invited to BBQ parties or Halloween parties
  • are called ‘Bob’ or ‘Michel’ 
  • are treated as tourists everywhere

Of course their nationality is Japanese and most of their hometown is Japan. Why they are laughed? Why do Japanese people stereotype their abilities? When Japanese look at people who look like “gaijin’’, Japanese often expect some specific skills because they have some assumptions. They think that people who have white, black, or other foreign appearance have foreign names and can speak foreign languages, and cannot speak Japanese at all.

It is true that hafu people are not a majority in Japan and many Japanese have little familiarity with thinking about race. That’s why people have expectations about the skills hafu people have. If hafu do not have these skills, Japanese laugh at them and hafu are unilaterally discouraged. 

Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.

The problems of Asian female migrant care workers in Japan

by Megumi Takase

In recent years, Japan has accepted female migrants from Asian countries to work as care workers. They are expected to support Japan’s aging society. By the way, in “International Sociology” classes, we learned the bad situations of female migrants from the Philippines in Japan. In this paper, I will consider what problems female migrants from Asian countries will have by working as care workers and what the Japanese government should do for them.

First, I will discuss the working conditions. The wages of care workers are low in Japan. The research of Nippon Careservice Craft Union shows that care workers who earn from one hundred and fifty thousand yen to one hundred and seventeen thousand yen account for the most percentage of all care workers. Moreover, if they don’t get nursing certifications, they earn only half of the regular pay. Without serious efforts to save their money, most of their income would go to their cost of living in Japan and they wouldn’t be able to send money to their family in their home countries. In addition, according to Nippon Careservice Craft Union, it tends to be difficult for care workers to take a paid vacation. It will be hard for care workers from Asian countries to go back to their home. It will make both them and their family feel lonely.

Second, there is the problem of language. Most migrants from Asian countries who work as care workers come to Japan for the first time. Thus, they should study Japanese while working, but it will be hard because working as a care worker is also hard. They will have difficulty in getting their nursing certifications in Japan because the test for it is held in Japanese. The Japanese law provides that if care workers from Asian countries can’t pass the test within four years from the day when they came to Japan, they should go back to their home countries even though they have been trained in Japan for more than three years.

Why do female migrants from Asian countries who work as care workers receive such bad treatment? I think it is because of the view that nursing is a part of domestic work of a housewife in Japan, and the indifference of the Japanese government toward human rights of immigrants. In Japan, it is common for housewives to take care of their old parents. Housewives are supposed to do it without being paid because they love their parents. Because nursing is still regarded as “labor of love” which housewives should do, I think that care workers are suffering the bad working conditions.

Furthermore, because of the bad working conditions, more and more Japanese care workers quit the job. Thus, I think that the Japanese government decided to accept Asian people merely because it was fascinated with their cheap wages. It seems to me that the Japanese government takes advantage of immigrants as much as it can. The Japanese government should change its mind toward nursing and improve the working conditions of care workers. In addition, it should respect immigrants’ human rights and make migrants friendly working environments.

References

“Nikkei Business online,” http://business.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/topics/20100326/213634/?P=1 (viewed: 2013/11/15)

Shimada, M.(2009). Problems Related to Incoming Nurses and Care Workers from Indonesia : Focusing on the Workers. Ryukoku Journal of Economic Studies 49(1), 255-264.

“NHK news commentators bureau,” http://www.nhk.or.jp/kaisetsu-blog/100/115321.html (viewed: 2013/11/15)

Yasukuni Shrine and Nationalism

A gateway to a Shinto shrine. In Yasukuni Shrine.

A gateway to a Shinto shrine. In Yasukuni Shrine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

Some people criticize nationalism because it is connected with racism and a sense of “us & them.” Benedict Anderson, however, believes we should remember that nations also inspire love and self-sacrifice. I want to explore how Yasukuni Shrine is seen by some as a symbol of love and self-sacrifice.

When thinking about Yasukuni Shrine, it is very easy to see the negative side of nationalism and patriotism. Twelve class A war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. (In fact, the government pressured the shrine to include the war criminals in 1978.) The museum at the shrine, the Yushukan, fails to portray the atrocities that the Japanese army brought on its neighbors in Asia, controlling the way history is remembered. The shrine symbolizes the beliefs of ultra-nationalist right-wing groups today. Japanese government officials insult Asian neighbors when they insist on visiting the shrine. Finally, while there is supposed to be a separation of religion and state, Yasukuni Shrine seems like a very political place, which does indeed portray a nationalism based in “us vs. them.”

How do some people see Yasukuni as a symbol of love and self-sacrifice? Anderson points out that a love of nation is often expressed in its literature. Emperor Hirohito paid a visit to the shrine and wrote a poem that said, “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.”  Because of this, soldiers who went to war would say, “Let’s meet at Yasukuni.” These words signified loyalty to the emperor, to the nation, and to the Shinto religion. In this way, it was and remains a symbol of love and self-sacrifice.

People who believe it is the right or duty of Japanese, even government officials, to pray at Yasukuni argue that it is a spiritual place. To worship at Yasukuni is an act of love and gratitude to those who fought and died for Japan. Kevin Doak expresses this view: …

To die for the protection of one’s family, friends, or fellow countrymen is the most sacred of acts…The paying of respect is an act of mourning their death and praying for their souls. Can the Chinese leaders and those who argue that Class A war criminals should be removed from Yasukuni really be so arrogant as to believe that they themselves are perfect human beings? Will they themselves not need our prayers some day? (p. 55-56)

Many Japanese also believe it is the right of the people of a nation to worship whoever and however they chose to worship.

Clearly, Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of patriotic love and self-sacrifice. It depends on your political beliefs as to whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing. I believe the people were used and sent to war by the Meiji oligarchs in their official nationalism, and they need to be prayed for. I believe, however, that we should pray for them in a place that is not so political and insensitive to the Koreans, Chinese, and others.

Reference

Breen, John, ed. 2007. Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past. New York: Columbia University Press.

Explorations into being Hafu: Megumi Nishikura at TEDxKyoto 2013

by Robert Moorehead

In September, filmmaker Megumi Nishikura gave a powerful, moving, and extremely personal presentation at TEDxKyoto. Her film, Hafu, is showing in theaters around the world, and offers an insightful look into the experiences of five hafu in Japan. The film opens in Kobe on November 23, and I can’t wait to see it.