Ariana Miyamoto’s victory in the Miss Universe Japan contest has raised debates about race, representation, gender, and identity. While hāfu women are very visible in fashion and mass media in Japan, these women are rarely Blackanese. Recent events, like a blackface performance by Momoiro Clover Z and a call for apartheid, in Japan have reminded us that Japanese society has a long way to go in acknowledging and accepting the diversity of its population. Thus Ms Miyamoto’s victory gives hope that maybe, just maybe, things are changing in Japan. Mitzi Uehara Carter’s blogpost shares some important insights on these issues.
by Curran Cunningham
Following on from my previous blog, which showed the importance of migrant remittances, I now turn my attention to the role of education in assimilating second generation international migrant families into Japanese society.
Yasuko Kanno’s paper ‘Sending Mixed Messages: Language Minority Education at a Japanese Public Elementary School’ focuses on that very subject. This blog will look at her interpretation—and criticism—of the Japanese education system at an elementary schooling level in this area.
Until the 1990s, it was considered a must that all courses and classes in Japan should be taught in Japanese. The purpose was to encourage integration among non-Japanese residents into Japanese society (Kanno, 2004). Yet the method of teaching Japanese to non-native elementary students has thus far been ineffective. It has neglected the linguistic, thus academic, needs (due to the exclusively Japanese taught curriculum), of immigrant children. It has left migrants lagging behind, condemning them to become academic underachievers and marginalized as immigrants.
The system needs fixing. It cannot be disputed that a high proficiency in local language aids the understanding and even adoption of local culture. So it follows that Japanese language proficiency would allow second generation migrants to ascend the social hierarchy more easily. Without language proficiency, many migrants find their occupational choices narrowed to work not requiring Japanese fluency—work that is normally menial or at least low paying. And limited income affects educational opportunities, leaving no choice bur for parents to enroll their children into public schools instead of private schools, which must adhere to the Japanese Board Education’s defined curriculum, funding, and programs—notably lacking in L2 language support. This creates a self-perpetuating vicious circle, as generation after generation would be forced into a public school system which does not prioritise their needs.
Kanno underlines the importance of the role of teachers in the process of helping the next migrant generation assimilate into the host society. Teachers individually voice and project their messages, their beliefs and ideas onto the student, whether through simple language learning, cultural awareness-raising or even showing how to participate in a democratic society (Vaipae, 2001).
Teachers who educate migrants do not tend to be professionally trained and can communicate very little in the migrant’s first language (Kanno, 2004). Though the idea of diversity and ‘being proud of your origin’ is promoted in Japanese schools, little is done in keeping the migrant’s mother tongue alive (Kanno, 2004). Students may not develop knowledge of their first language much when learning their host country’s language, mastering neither properly in the end. Also there is a disconnect between Japanese and migrant students as they are taught in separate parts of the school. This obviously hinders communication between students, and stops Japanese student in turn taking advantage of migrant student presence to learn about the outside world.
Kanno wholeheartedly supports Cummins’s theory that “orienteers of culture and linguistic diversity are reflected in the policies and practices of school” (2000a, 2000b). Yet teachers in this respect engage in the ‘coercive relations of power’, as they do not question the social inequality found in Japan and reaffirm the status quo for minorities (Cummins, 2000a). The education system is based around suppressing minority students’ linguistic and cultural identity as well as accepting the rules and values imposed by the dominant group as ‘natural, normal, universal…’ (Heller & Martin-Jones, 2001). With this, Kanno believes that not only teaching skills in general need improvement, but one must study the ins and outs of a society to create understanding.
Since the beginning, classes taught to migrants are academically lagging behind Japanese students of their age group. This gap widens as time goes on. Eventually they may find themselves in dire need of help and unable to compete in the job market. Interviews of teachers by Kanno at this particular Japanese elementary school showed that their lack of work ethic was in fact their parents’ responsibility. Teachers do not look at themselves as a potential reason for the problem and hence no changes are likely to happen in the near future unless there is a shake-up and reform of the Japanese schooling system.
Cummins, J. (2000a) Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Cummins, J. (2000b) Negotiating intercultural identities in the multilingual classroom. The CATESOL Journal 12 (1), 163-178.
Heller, M. and Martin-Jones, M. (2001) Introduction: Symbolic domination, education and linguistic difference. In M. Heller and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference (pp. 1-28). Westport, CT: Ablex.
Kanno, Y. (2004). Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school. In A. Pavlenko (eds) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Vaipae, S. (2001) Language minority students in Japanese public schools. In M. Noguchi and S. Fotos (eds) Studies in Japanese bilingualism (pp. 184–233).
Anonymous student post
Large numbers of Singapore’s population are immigrants. Since the country got its independence in 1965, there have always been new immigrants coming in from all over the world who become members of the community. As a result, it has become very ethnically and culturally diverse. Just looking at its population, according to CIA World Factbook, there are 74.2% Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.2% Indian, 3.3% other (2012 est.) Some scholars believe that this cultural diversity brought by immigrants is what has made Singapore so economically successful. (Yin, 2013)
Adjusting to this type of diverse environment, Singapore sets four different languages for its official use. So when I was there, I could see many public signs, written in those four when I was there. It was certainly a surprising experience for someone who has been lived in Japan, which only has Japanese as its official language.
Following this astonishment, a new question came up to my mind as a student who was studying in a university in Singapore; that is, how do the educational institutions deal with this diversity?
In this blog post, I would like to see the current language education system in Singapore and observe the outcomes.
Firstly, the Singaporean government heavily focuses on education as it contributes to economic development and unification of the people. They decided to offer basic education in two languages, one is English, other is their ethnic mother tongue languages from where their roots are from, such as Chinese, Malay or Tamil. The reason is that government believes educating people in English will be useful in the process of future economic development foreseeing the globalization; and other languages to preserve their cultural identities. (Nakamura, 2009)
This has worked out successfully for the first aspect. English has contributed Singapore becoming the hub of Southeast Asia. It also has become the symbol of nationwide unity that connects people with different cultures and enabled them to communicate with each other. Now they even created so-called “Singlish” (Singapore-English; mixture of English and languages of different ethnic groups exist in Singapore), which could also be considered as part of their national identity.
However, for the second aspect of preserving diverse cultures through learning non-English languages, is not functioning as it was expected. As a matter of fact, less people are using their ethnic mother tongues in Singapore as they no longer use them outside their communities. Because cultures could not be transmitted onto next generation without the languages, it has become a problem. This is also leading to the changes in individual’s identities. As their language ability for non-English languages declines, their identity as a member of each community declines, too. Thus, this is now seen as a challenge how to keep their languages and cultural diversity in this country (Nakamura, 2009).
In addition, there is an issue that social mobility in the society is somewhat depending on their English ability. I will further discuss this point in the later blog post.
In conclusion, through this outcome of bi(multi-)lingual language education in Singapore, we could observe the difficulty of uniting people with different cultural backgrounds under one national identity whilst preserving the cultural diversity. This type of phenomenon is what many nation states would be expecting to see in their countries as more and more international migration occurs in the world. How to protect the cultures and languages while adjusting to the flow of globalization is a difficult question to find a solution.
Nakamura, M. (2009). Shingaporu ni okeru kokumin togo. Kyoto: Horitsubunkasha.
Singapore. (2014, May 1). Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html
Yin, D. (2013, June 6). Singapore Needs Immigrants, Says Jim Rogers. Forbes. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidyin/2013/06/06/singapore-needs-immigrants-says-jim-rogers
by Marin Enault
Every 3 hours a new McDonald’s restaurant opens in the world. This simple figure allows us to glimpse the power of the fast food chains, a pure product of the globalization. To study the influence and the development of these restaurants allows us to see most clearly the face of globalization. If we understand this concept as “the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries”, it is interesting to notice that at the same time as they ignore national barriers, these multinationals also adapt themselves to countries’ specificities. It then seemed interesting to me to study these restaurants. First of all I shall concentrate on the creation of the fast food as a consequence of globalization. Then, the opposite viewpoint will be examined, that is how fast food owes or wishes to adapt itself to local frames.
Globalization in the culinary domain is the export of a food and its specialities towards foreign countries. More particularly, in the field of the fast food it is necessary to notice the major origin of this export: the United States. In the post Second World War Era, the United States has exported its culture massively, in particular its culinary culture. So the first one McDonald’s outside the United States opened in 1967 in Canada, before arriving in 1971 in Europe (the Netherlands). Since then, the burger has continued to see growth in popularity.
Nowadays the chain McDonald’s possesses more 31,000 restaurants in 120 different countries. This increase in importance comes along with a standardization of the tastes. The plurality of the tastes is questioned by these multinationals, creating a unique taste, intended for mass production. Acculturation for some, the superior power of the industry of the fast food exports its idea of food. So, the “Big Mac” is known all over the world and acts like an ambassador of American cooking, to the detriment of the rich local cooking, passed from generation to generation. Through the globalization, fast food proposes a standardization of the cooking and export the same culinary standards everywhere around the world.
Nevertheless, if the fast food is well and truly a product of globalization, it remains dependent on the host country’s culture. If globalization allows a distribution without barrier, it is left by standards which do not fade. To conquer new markets, restaurant chains have to adapt their product. The unique taste does not any more succeed in seducing only by its exotic image. The first adaptation that fast food have to make concern the product in itself, that is its taste. McDonald’s very early understood this necessity, so the examples of “glocalization” are not lacking. This neologism born in Japan proposes a new definition of the globalization. It is a concept allying the global trends to the local realities: think global but act locally.
So, to seduce the French consumers, fervent followers of their national food, McDonald’s proposed burgers with real French bread (McBaguette) and with real cheese, benefiting from a label checking their French origin (AOC: controlled designation of origin). Outside Europe, this strategy has a lot of success, particulary in Asia. So, Indonesia possesses a burger with rice (McRice) whereas Japan possesses its own teriyaki burger. This glocalisation of products is a new fact entering in a global protest movement of the permanent Americanization of fast food. Firms are no more content with exporting the same product but begin to analyze the real demands of countries, in particular to mitigate a lack of novelty.
The second adaptation also establishes itself on a deeper request of the consumers but in another domain: religion. So, Indian McDonald’s burgers do not possess pork but chicken, to not hurt the faith over this animal. Globalization also pulls a plurality of the religions mixed within the same country. North Africa mmigrants’ strong presence in France, often of Muslim faith, brought the chain of fast food Quick to propose burgers with hallal meat. This adaptation made for the various religions proves well that globalization creates its own limits. A unique product is not exportable any more in the same way everywhere around the world.
Globalization thus allowed the fast food industry to develop. Nevertheless, if during numerous years, fast food meant Americanization of the tastes, things changed. It is necessary to see from now on this phenomenon between globalization and glocalization: export while adapting itself to the local cultures. This movement was impulsed by the customers, not being satisfied with an unwavering uniqueness of products.
What is interesting with the study of the fast food in touch with the globalization is that it does not concern only the food, but much more the culture. The phenomenon of globalization cannot break all the barriers to create a homogeneous international culture. To convince yourself, you just have to eat sushi outside Japan. If the taste is different from the original one, it remains that we eat them with chopsticks. So the export of the cultural codes is often easier than that of the tastes, that what explains the new importance given to the glocalization in fast food restaurants.
by Sten Alvarsson
Japan’s ethnic diversity is continuing to be denied at the expense of a more equal and inclusive society. Ironically, equality and inclusivity are both at the heart of mainstream Japan’s perceived identity. This could be described as “ethnicity blindness” and is best described by Professor Kondo (2013) who states that, “Japan is still the only developed industrialised democracy that does not have an anti-discrimination law” (para. 6). This can be seen as a result from the belief that racism and discrimination do not exist in Japan so, therefore, there is no need to have laws targeting such behavior. On the whole, however, ethnicity blindness is not the most accurate depiction of the situation regarding ethnic minorities in Japan. Instead, the inequality and exclusivity regarding the country’s ethnic diversity is what I would describe as being “ethnic denial”.
While Japan’s ethnic diversity is fully comprehended by the country’s ethnic minorities, amongst the Yamato majority, however, the belief in a monolithic and homogeneous national identity persists. This belief is structurally enforced which was highlighted by the country’s 2010 census which failed to provide a measure for ethnicity (Japan Times, 2010). Instead, only nationality was measured without the acknowledgment of the ethnic diversity that exists under the umbrella of Japanese citizenship. This structural denial of the ethnic diversity of minority groups includes the Ainu, Koreans, Ryukyuans, Chinese, naturalized citizens and children from mixed marriages. Ethnic minorities are ignored despite the fact that minority groups such as these make up around 10 percent of the local population in areas such as the Kinki region of central Western Japan (Sugimoto, 2010). This structural denial is one of the keystones in maintaining the myth of a national identity that is both monolithic and homogeneous.
Japan’s structural denial of ethnic diversity within the country in order to enforce the myth of a monolithic and homogeneous national identity is not only a domestic issue but is also of international consequence and concern. Japan uses its perceived ethnic and cultural purity to ignore its international obligations as a signature member of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Instead, Japan maintains a policy of neglecting asylum seekers and rejects the overwhelming majority of their claims (Dean & Nagashima, 2007). In fact, from 1981 to 2007 Japan only accepted 451 refugees (Sugimoto, 2010). Sadako Ogata, a Japanese national who served as the former High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991 – 2001 stated that one of the fundamental reasons for Japan’s exclusion of asylum seekers is due to, “prejudice and discrimination against foreigners which is based upon the mono-ethnic myth” (as cited in Dean & Nagashima, 2007, p. 497). It must be remembered that this mono-ethnic myth has no historical routes and was brought into popular consciousness after the Second World War.
Ethnic diversity in Japan needs to be acknowledged and accepted. Unlike the country’s last census in 2010, Japan’s next census in 2015 should strive to measure its ethnic diversity. In order to achieve this, such questions as, “Where were you born?”, “Where were your parents born?” and, “What national origin or ethnicity do you consider yourself to be?” should be included in the census. As a multicultural country, Australia recognises 275 different cultural and ethnic groups in its census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). For Japan, there is no excuse not to also measure the diversity that exists amongst its citizens.
The structural denial of ethnic diversity in Japan needs to end in order to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society for all its members. After all, in Japan there are over 100 different varieties of the chrysanthemum flower (kiku 菊) with a myriad of different colors, scents, sizes, textures, patterns and durations. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Japan only recognised a single variety of chrysanthemum and denied the existence of the rest?
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/1249.0main+features22011
Dean, M., & Nagashima, M. (2007). Sharing the Burden: The Role of Government and NGOs in Protecting and Providing for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Japan. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(3), 481-508.
Japan Times. (2010, October 5). Census blind to Japan’s true diversity. Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2010/10/05/issues/census-blind-to-japans-true-diversity/#.Umt_AflmhcZ
Kondo, A. (2013, May 6). Can Japan turn to foreign workers. Retrieved from http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/05/06/can-japan-turn-to-foreign-workers/
Sugimoto, Y. (2010). An Introduction to Japanese Society (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
by Robert Moorehead
With the spring semester now over, I’ve been thinking about the challenges of getting students to think differently about incorporating non-Japanese into Japanese society. The arguments students make and the ones sociologists usually cite in the research literature are like two roads that never meet.
As I’ve written before, students’ view of Japanese history seems to skip the roughly 100-year period between the Meiji Restoration and the Tokyo Olympics—nothing important happened in Japan between the 1860s and the 1960s, did it? Based on this, students often claim that Japanese people have little to no experience interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds. Plus, Japan is an island and thus was inaccessible to other groups. The invention of boats around the world apparently didn’t impact Japan … but I digress.
Students also state that Japan, unlike other countries, is a “high-context culture,” meaning that much communication in Japan is unspoken. Meanings are implied, and understanding those meanings requires reading between the lines and reading the context of the situation. Those who can’t “read the air” (空気を読む or “KY”) are treated as socially inept and may struggle in their social interactions.
This is a fair point, as communication in Japanese proceeds somewhat differently compared to communication in English, Spanish, or other languages. But, can’t people learn to “read the air”? Is Japanese culture so byzantine, so complex and inscrutable that non-Japanese can’t simply figure out how to talk to people?
Students also claim that because Japanese are not used to interacting with “KY” people, they can only accept people who are just like them. Interacting with non-native Japanese speakers and people who can’t “read the air” is too much work, so non-Japanese are just out of luck.
This inherently conservative argument could be extended to justify excluding pretty much anyone. Japanese women want a right to equal opportunities for employment? Too bad. They could never really understand men’s particular communication style, and their presence might make men uncomfortable—no more sex jokes in the workplace—so women will just have to settle for serving tea and lower pay. The disabled want to work? Sorry, accommodating their needs could be inconvenient, so they’ll just have to stay home. Okinawans and the Ainu want to express their cultural and linguistic distinctiveness in mainland Japan? Sorry.
This approach dismisses the rights of the individual in support of the rights of the majority. That is, the majority only has to respect the individual rights that are convenient. This approach fits with the LDP’s planned revisions to the Japanese Constitution. As Lawrence Repeta notes, these revisions would subordinate individual rights, such as free speech and free assembly, to the demands of public interest and public order.
On the one hand, I should be thanking students for their honesty. But do researchers cite any of these ideas when analyzing immigrant incorporation? I just finished teaching a course on international migration, and we spent the semester reviewing the sociological literature, including the main schools of thought, and issues of gender, education, transnationalism, citizenship, among others.
And not once in that literature did anyone talk about “high-context cultures,” or the whether interacting with cultural others might be too inconvenient.
So, have sociologists missed the boat? Are we just talking in circles, clueless as to the real issues?
Or is communicating across cultural and linguistic lines simply a fact of life for many people on the planet? Don’t we have to make all sorts of adjustments every day, even if we don’t have any foreigners in our midst? We communicate across lines of class, gender, age, and sexuality all the time, so why should we treat communicating across cultural lines as some special case?
As famed anthropologist Harumi Befu (2001) has noted, the United States is often held up as the main contrast to Japanese society. The US is multicultural and a nation of immigrants, while Japan is neither of those things. In the US, people complain about the challenges of diversity, like struggling to pronounce new names, understanding various accents, and talking with people who are still learning English. But … so what?
Seriously, so what? Is learning new names and using a modicum of patience to interact with non-Japanese really that difficult? Is “reading the air” really that complicated? Are foreigners really that inept at communicating in Japan?
Is it more difficult than figuring out how to pay for health care and pensions for Japan’s elderly, when Japan’s population is dropping and postwar boomers are retiring?
Since Commodore Perry’s black ships forced open Japan to international trade, Japan has gone through the Meiji Restoration, imperial expansion across much of East Asia and the Pacific, multiple wars, fire bombing, nuclear attacks, defeat, occupation, democratization, reconstruction, development into a global economic power, bubble economies, inflation, deflation, stagnation, population booms and declines, earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear disasters.
Change is the constant. In light of all that, talking to foreigners seems like it should be the least of their worries.
Befu, Harumi. 2001. Hegemony and Homogeneity: An Anthropological Analysis of Nihonjinron. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.
by Robert Moorehead
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Audre Lorde
Repeatedly in the past few weeks, some of the worst parts of 20th-century Japanese history have been in the news. Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto has repeated comments he’s made over the years, including denying that women were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese state during the war. Just yesterday, Lower House representative Nariaki Nakayama joined the party by saying “We need to raise our voices and tell the world that (females) were not forcibly taken away.”
These comments have been widely criticized for their fictional view of Japanese history, but how well do people in Japan understand that history? If there’s hope for the future, then present-day university students would show a deeper, more accurate grasp, right?
One of my classes has been discussing the experiences of refugees, including whether Japan should accept more of them. In recent years, Japan has granted refugee status to only about 0.05% of applicants, for a total of about 10-30 people per year. In contrast, other developed countries have accepted tens of thousand of refugees per year. Japan has ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, and as one of the wealthiest and most populous nations in the world, Japan could be a stronger member of the international community by lending aid to more of the world’s most needy.
However, many students disagreed, and their disagreements show a clear pattern in describing Japan as a special, unique place that cannot be compared with anywhere else. In this version of Japan, there are no foreigners, only Japanese—and all Japanese share the same ethnicity and language. (Well, some say that there are Ainu, but their existence does not refute the dominant narrative.)
How could Japan sustain this monoracial, monoethnic, homogeneous space? Geography. As a series of islands, Japan was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Precisely how the inhabitants of the Japanese islands got here is unclear, because if they used boats, then couldn’t other people have also used boats to travel here? Was there an ancient land bridge that later collapsed, standing the islands in the middle of the ocean? Were the original inhabitants amazing swimmers who made the journey from the Korean peninsula?
The Japanese people have been united through a shared “island mentality” (shimaguni konjō) that instructed them to love each other and to love being Japanese. This mentality prevents Japanese from accepting others into their club. Also, the fact that Japan has always been so homogeneous means that Japanese have no experience living near non-Japanese, and are not familiar with dealing with such people.
I’ve tried to remind my students that in the first half of the 20th century, Japan was the head of a colonial empire that spanned much of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Millions of people from throughout the empire lived on the Japanese mainland, held Japanese citizenship, and voted in Japanese elections. One student later acknowledged that his grandmother told him that as a child many of her friends were Korean.
Notions of Japanese identity in this era justified Japan’s dominance by emphasizing ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors. One government propaganda slogan professed Japanese unity with its Asian brothers and sisters as “do-so, do-shu” (Same origin, same race). The idea of Japan as a homogeneous nation is a postwar idea to reunite a defeated nation after the collapse of its empire.
These facts of Japanese history are absent from students’ narratives. Instead, they act as if nothing happened in Japan between the Meiji Restoration in the 1860s and the Tokyo Olympics in 1964—100 years of solitude on Fantasy Island. It’s as if Gabriel García Márquez and Mr. Roarke were both Japanese and had 127 million love children.
But somehow their fantastical islands have a few million non-fantastical people, and there are other people whose islands became part of the fantasy more recently—and many of whom are unhappy about this. And many people who pass as fantasy people are, in fact, of non-fantastical ancestry. And let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of fantastical return migrants, who also brought their slightly less fantastical Latin American family members.
Students express concerns over the challenges of integrating immigrants, refugees, and other foreigners into Japanese society. Those are valid concerns, but their solution is to close the door and to isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Is that a solution? Japan does have a neighbor that is much more isolated and that is largely closed to foreigners—North Korea. But is that the model they want to follow?
In an attempt to get students to rethink the issues, I read Dr. Seuss’s classic story Green Eggs and Ham, which challenges readers to get past their dislike of the unfamiliar. Green eggs and ham are delicious, after all.
Japan’s economic success has come from being embedded in the global economy, and continued success in the 21st century requires accepting not only people’s money, but the people themselves. We’re not scary. We’re green eggs and ham. Try us, you might like us.
by Tomoya Yamaguchi
Recently, in Japan there are a lot of “hafu” who is one parent is a foreigner who is white people. Their faces are different from so-called “Japanese” and they are often thought as a foreigner in Japan, because consciousness of Japanese people is “Japanese is Japanese”. This means that people think Japanese has a similar face as Asian ethnicity, so they are thought as a foreigner. Another reason why people think they are foreigner is also that Japan is said to be a mono-racial country. Hafu is rare to ordinary Japanese. These facts result in that situation in Japan.
Hafu has a Japanese citizenship, and they have lived in Japan since they were born. Some of the hafu has an identity as a Japanese citizen. However Japanese people have a consciousness as mono-racial country. This is a serious problem to hafu. In order for them to be accustomed to Japanese society comfortably, Japanese government should create a class about multiculturalism or different culture from the elementary school. By taking a class in the early period of children, they can understand or learn hafu or another culture and foreigner. International school is a good example. In our class, we watched a movie about discrimination and the identity of hafu. In the movie, one hafu said that his company forced him to use his French name because he could be forgiven by customer when he mistook. This is a terrible discrimination. I think that the boss of him who forced him to use the name hasn’t touched another culture or foreigner in his childhood and he doesn’t understand the feeling of them. If he understood the feelings, he would not say such a terrible thing. In Japan, a lot of people don’t have an opportunity to contact with foreigners who have different culture and racial background. This contributes to that discrimination indirectly, so it is important for children to take the class.
I think that it is difficult for us to change this situation because Japan is said to be a mono-racial country and people don’t have a consideration as to foreigner or hafu even today when globalization has progressed. Besides, Japan doesn’t have a lot of immigrants and the policy toward foreigner is also hard or rigid. I don’t intend to say that Japan should take an action drastically to multiculturalism because the measures about it are not prepared for. However Japanese education should be changed to multiculturalism because globalization is progressing now and from now, more people will come to Japan from foreign countries. In addition to it, the number of the hafu will increase more and more. According to it, for children to take the class must be so valuable and to be a person who can understand foreign stuff is important.
by Naoko Yoshida
In 2007, Taro Aso, the then Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, made a statement that Japan was the only racially, linguistically, and culturally homogeneous nation. Throughout the history, many politicians and celebrities have said that Japan is a mono-ethnic and mono-cultural country, and those statements have caused a lot of disputes. Although there have been some other races and cultures besides Japanese ones, why so many people consider that Japan is mono-cultural or mono-ethnic nation? I believe this fact shows that Japanese society tacitly has not accepted multi-culture and multi-ethnicity.
There are several minority races in Japan, two of them are Koreans with permanent residence of Japan, who are called Zainichi Koreans, and the Ryukyu race in Okinawa, who are also called Okinawans.
Zainichi Koreans are people who moved to Japan in search of work and as forced labor before and during World War II, and the offspring of those people. Although their nationalities and races are Korean, many of them have Japanese family names. That is because they can adapt to Japanese society more easily with Japanese family names. For example, one of my friends has her Japanese family name “Nakamura” as well as her Korean name “Kim.” She almost always uses her Japanese surname except when she is abroad. In addition, Koreans in Japan usually speak Japanese instead of their mother language, Korean. Those facts show that although they are proud of their own culture, they should follow Japanese customs not to stand out in Japan.
Also, Ryukyu race is a minority in Japanese society. Although Okinawa is one of the prefectures in Japan, it is seen as unique in Japanese society. That is because they show off their indigenous culture. Here, we can say they have strong pride for their culture. And, indeed, Okinawan society is sometimes considered to be separate from Japanese society. That is also shown throughout the history. Japanese government offered Okinawa as a hostage to the US soon after World War Two.
In summary, Zainichi Koreans had tried to be inconspicuous in Japanese society with using Japanese family name and speaking Japanese, and Okinawans had hard time probably because of their too strong pride of their own culture. By considering those facts, multi-culture and multi-ethnicity are not accepted in Japanese society. Since we are in the world of globalization, Japanese people should be more acceptable for other races and cultures.
Tai, E. (2004/9). Korean japanese. Asian Studies 36 (3), 355-382. doi: 10.1080/1467271042000241586
Hoffman, M. (2012/6). Okinawa: a long history of hardship. The Japan Times, 14.
麻生総務相「一民族の国はほかにない」九博開館式で発言. (2005/10/16). asahi.com. http://web.archive.org/web/20051018033046/http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/1016/001.html
by Ayaka Nakamura
When I asked foreign friends a question, “what is Japanese culture?” many said, samurai and kimono that are related to traditional Japanese stereotype, and Japanese people also often say Japan is a mono-cultural traditional country. Yet, I think Japanese culture contains many foreign origin customs and is ever-changing. However, although it is difficult to differentiate a multicultural country from a global country, Japan is not enough globalized to be capable to accept people who have different cultures.
One of the most frequent answers to the question, what is Japanese culture, might be kimono. There is no doubt the traditional clothes is a part of Japanese culture, and many Japanese wear them for festivals and various ceremonies. Yet, kimono is not Japanese original or only-Japanese culture. Similar style wears were used over Asia, and Japanese people actually imported pre-kimono clothes from China and Korea. Then, how about Zen culture? Japan has five famous Zen temples where sophisticated monks created poetry and paintings, and the word, Zen, is widely known as a Japanese culture in the world. Yet, Zen was happened in India and was brought to Japan much later. Although both kimono and Zen are not originally from Japan, they are part of Japanese culture.
In addition to these pan-Asian cultures, Japanese culture contains Western cultures, too. One will hear the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by a European composer, Beethoven, on the last day of every year in Japan. Playing and singing the Symphony No. 9 altogether is a Japanese ending year custom, and people eat soba noodles listening to it. Moreover, how about shaking hands? Is it not a Japanese culture? Although touching someone’s body part would not fit into Japanese polite manners, shaking hands became a common way of a greeting especially in business, and most of all Japanese know what shaking hands means. From ancient time, Japan integrated many foreign cultures into its own culture, and people are not aware of their non-Japaneseness as cultures are invisible.
However, instead of accepting foreign cultures, Japan is not capable of having people who have different cultures yet. If accepting people is about globalization, then Japan has not globalized enough. Although many companies expresses they need “global” people to work with, they would not hire a Muslim man who can do a great work but who needs to have praying time five times a day. It would still take time for Japan to stand at the global stage. Yet, I believe it is not impossible, and Japan can be a more multicultural and global country. For the change, Japan definitely has to deal with some overdue customs, such as treating women as tea servers and recruiting only Junior students, that would cause a delay in the global business race.