Cultural Citizenship: ‘Jun Japa’ at Japanese Universities

by Rena Shoji

What makes a “pure Japanese”? Is it Japanese lineage or nationality? I will examine the term Jun Japa, which is frequently used in Japanese universities. It often draws a border between those with/without experiences abroad within the Japanese community. Specifically, returnees who have Japanese parents and hold Japanese nationality will be analyzed. Citizenship includes both legal and extra-legal terms. Through looking at the case of the world “Jun Japa”, I found notions of inclusion and exclusion in the Japanese society.

The term is frequently used in international environments at Japanese universities. Jun Japa is a word created by the campus culture of those universities to describe Japanese students with no experience abroad. Those who are categorized as Jun Japa are often put in the bottom of the student stratification system on campus because their language skills (mostly English skills) are often lower than those of returnees, mixed-race Japanese, immigrants, international students, and native English speakers. As myself being a Jun Japa in a university with many international students, I could understand, to some extent, what my friends in other universities tell me about, such as how hard to participate in class discussions and fit in the multi-national community.

On the one hand, the word describes inferiority of Japanese students to those who have backgrounds abroad in terms of language ability. On the other hand, however, it entails an exclusionary aspect of Japaneseness. The word Jun (純) means “pure” in Japanese, and Japa is a contracted form of “Japanese”. So Jun Japa can be translated into “pure Japanese”. As a Japanese grown up in the society, I have noticed the Japanese society is, in many ways, exclusive to foreigners and mixed-race Japanese and that “pure Japanese lineage” is likely to be a measurement of inclusion or “full membership” to the Japanese society. However, returnees—even if they are Japanese and their parents hold Japanese nationality—are excluded from the meaning of this buzzword just because of their background in other countries.

In “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Challenges to the Nation-State” (2008), Irene Bloemraad and her co-authors argue that one can look at citizenship from four dimensions: legal status, rights, participation, and sense of belonging. Even in the face of globalization, nation-states still holds power “to shape the institutions that provide differentiated access to participation and belonging” (Bloemraad et al. 2008:154). A short/mid-term experience abroad can affect those “pure” Japanese’s behavior of othering, which influences returnees’ sense of belonging, and vice versa. Japanese society has diversified as globalization has continued, and the image towards those whose origin/background are from out of Japan seems to have improved. Their language abilities and experiences abroad are often seen an advantage on campus in Japan. However, the sense of otherness still exists.

What makes a “pure Japanese”? I found that this returnees’ case of exclusion in the Japanese society could be related to what Renato Rosaldo (1997) calls “Cultural Citizenship”. Citizenship includes legal terms, such as nationality, but he argues cultural background that is different from the mainstream of the country also can evoke marginalization and exclusion from the society. This concept was proposed in the process of Latino/na population increase in the United States. Rosaldo claims that Latinos/as’ bilingual ability and dual cultural background can arise marginalization and exclusion because of difference from the mainstream (living in the U.S. only, English only and Anglo heritage etc).

Not only legal terms, extra-legal terms can be applied to the notion of citizenship in the society. Even though returnees enjoy full legal membership in Japanese society, their bilingual abilities and multicultural experiences affect their evaluation from the mainstream. Thus, the term Jun Japa demonstrates the idea of exclusion in the social community in Japan, even though it is used to illustrate the sense of inferiority and envy to those who have a different cultural background.

References

Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. 2008. Citizenship and immigration: Multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the nation-state. Annual Review of Sociology. 34. 153-179.

Rosaldo, R. 1997. Cultural citizenship, inequality, and multiculturalism. In Flores W. F., & Benmayor, R. (Eds). Latino cultural citizenships. (pp. 27-38). Boston: Beacon Press.

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Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.