Understanding about another: The most important thing to understand foreigner or “hafu”

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.

Special Recognition of Third Culture Kids in Japan

The number of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) has increased its number due to globalization. TCKs are children who have lived in more than two countries other than their parents’ countries until they turn eighteen. In 1998, it was  estimated that there may be over four million TCKs globally. Considering that this estimation has been made over a decade ago, it can be expected that this number has grown significantly. Although the numbers of TCKs are growing, not many countries recognize them. However, in the study of TCKs, Japan is often raised as a good example of dealing with TCKs. Japan gives special recognition for Japanese TCKs as kikokushijo and provides special programs for them.

In the past, kikokushijo did not have a positive image, since many of them were “westernized” which caused them to lose some of their Japanese identity and that they looked arrogant to the Japanese. However, recently, their status is changing because their ability of languages and cross-cultural skills is starting to be valued (Fail et al. 2004, 325).

According to Goodman, kikokushijo are commonly defined as those “Japanese children who have lived overseas (Normally thought of as the “West”) for such a long period of time that they have lost many of their Japanese cultural traits; have certainly forgotten many of their Japanese-language skills; and have become imbued with non-Japanese ways of behaving, most notably with Western ideas of individualism (Goodman 2003, 178).” However, this is just the general definition to the term kikokushijo. There are many children that do not exactly fit this definition but still are considered kikokushijo. Goodman gives five general features that those who are considered kikokushijo have in.

1. Both parents of a kikokushijo are Japanese.
2. They went overseas before they are twenty years old.
3. They went overseas because of their father’s temporarily post overseas.
4. They have been overseas for more than three months (This is because if it is less than three months it is more like being a tourist than a kikokushijo).
5. When they return to Japan, they will enter schools that are part of the mainstream education system rather than going to an international school.

Because of Japan’s recognition of the existence of TCKs, Japan has created programs for them so that they will have to face fewer difficulties coming back to the Japanese society. Programs for kikokushijo were created because the Japanese felt sympathy for them since they did not choose to go overseas but had to go overseas due to their parents’ business. Since these kikokushijo have missed a large part of the Japanese education, it is hard for them to catch up to it. This would be a huge problem for the kikokushijo because in Japan, education is very important and in order to have a good job in the future, people must go to college. However, with the lack of the Japanese education kikokushijo have, it will be very difficult for them to enter college or even to high school as there are exams for applying for high school as well. As a result, many schools, including colleges, have considerations for the kikokushijo having special allowances to enter schools. Nowadays, there are many schools which have sections “for the kikokushijo”. Being kikokushijo in Japan is now a privilege because they have special education advantages.

Eakin, Kay Branaman. According to my passport, I’m coming home. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of State, Family Liaison Office, 1998.
Fail, Helen, Jeff Thompson, and George Walker. “Belonging, identity and Third Culture Kids: Life histories of former international school students.” Journal of research in International Education. 3. (2004): 319-338.
Goodman, Roger, C. Peach, A. Takenaka, and P. White, eds. Global Japan: The experience of Japan’s new immigrant and overseas communities. New York, NT: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

by Rashel Phillips