Official Nationalism and the Japanese Annexation of Korea

鮮, referring to Korea, and 内, literally meaning inside, representing Japan

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In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues that the emergence of “official nationalism” was, to a large degree, incited by the national movement in the American nations. Old dynastic groups felt the need to merge nation and empire in order to retain power that is competitive to that of establishing imagined communities. Among such empires, Anderson uses Japan as one example.

Japan officially annexed Korea in the year 1910, and the following 9 years were called the Military Police Reign Era. This era was characterized by massive violence, frequently involving deaths of civilians. The Military Police Reign Era was abruptly ended in March 1st of 1919 when, for the first time, the Korean public across the peninsula joined the demonstration to resist against repressive Japanese colonial rule. Realizing the limitation to rule by force, the government-general switched its policy to “cultural policy”, which was an attempt to break down Korean identity and culture (partly) through forbidding usage of Korean language. In schools, students were severely punished if they spoke in their language, and such punishment methods included forcing children to beat each other if one of them talked to the other in Korean. Through education and forced visit to shines (and many other ways), the government-general laid the foundation for full mobilization as the tide of war was gradually turning against Japan.

Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Ko...

Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Korea, implemented a draft of Koreans for wartime labor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Japanese imperialism continued even after the end of WWII. The period between 1945 and 1948 marked the most intensive education movement by the Koreans in Japan of all time. When the liberation was finally achieved in 1945, the Koreans in Japan immediately set up language schools to prepare for repatriation. However, the GHQ, along with the Japanese government, took oppressive measure to interrupt the Korean identity education enforced by the League of Koreans, a group that undertook the management of schools. In 1947, the occupation force issued the sentence commanding Korean schools to follow the direction of the Japanese administration, which basically denied the education right of Korean children. The second directive was issued in March 1948, which stated that the government will shut down the schools by force if the league does not accept the first order. Receiving the directive, enraged Koreans immediately gathered to organize demonstrations. In April 7th, around 10,000 participants in Kobe gathered in front of the school gate to block the police from entering the school. Police resorted to brutality against parents and teachers who strongly resisted. Following such a large scale demonstration, on April 24th, the government took down the order and the GHQ, for the first time, declared the state of emergency in Kobe, which virtually marked the victory for Koreans. Although there are some other political reasons behind the oppressive measure taken by the oppressors, from the fact that the GHQ and Japanese government tried to exterminate Korean educational institutions, it is possible to make an observation that they were aware of the power of language and its potential to be their threat.

Refugeeism, social rights and the Japanese government

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Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and t...

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Government of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Anne Allison (2013), Japan is facing an era of ordinary refugeeism, in which ordinary people like us could be a homeless with no job and no place to return to. Many of these people Anne Alison calls “the drifting poor” are flexible or irregular workers, including temporary workers or day laborers having no job security, often with no compensation or health insurance and earning about 7000yen for a day on average. Some of these workers become net café refugees, spending nights at an internet café or hamburger shops since they cannot afford an apartment. Among those most precarious workers, quite many numbers are the young generations in their age of twenties. This new face of poverty in Japanese society are ordinary youth we can find anywhere in Japan once expected to be a re-productivity of Japanese society and shoulder it’s economy of the next generation (Allison, 2013).

It seems clear that Japan’s progressively reproductive futurism is collapsing into precarious society with no hope for the future, as Anne Allison points out in her book. Recently, only a few percent of world population is monopolizing the wealth and the economic gap is widening and the number of precarious people are considered denizens without sustainable jobs, full citizenship or home even inside their home country is increasing. Japan is not the exception but at the front of this trend.

This situation of denizens contradicts the Japanese constitution. According to article 25 which stipulates the right to life and the state’s social mission, all citizens are entitled to have healthy and culturally basic existence (Tanaka, 2014). It could also be a violation of social rights in International Covenants on Human Rights that Japan has been ratifying (Tanaka, 2014). It is obvious that being homeless and not able to lay down when sleeping, eating cup noodles only and continuously threatened by job insecurity is not a healthy and culturally basic existence and Japanese government has a responsibility by not fulfilling this right.

The Japanese Government protected big companies in priority and introduced the system of results-based employment and individual responsibility after facing the bursting of the bubble economy and the following economic decline. However, they did not proclaim any effective policy on social security to protect people who fell out of the new working system nor develop a social welfare system. Currently, the Abe administration is practicing the policy of Abenomics, the economic and monetary policies of prime minister Abe. I suspect that this economic measure is not effective by accelerating the social gap and distortion of neoliberalism.

Statistics are showing that although companies’ profits had increased with Abenomics, capital investment has not increased; therefore the policy is failing to distribute wealth for the employees (Suzuki, n.d.). Furthermore, the administration is spending so much time and effort on the argument of revision of article 9. Rather, I think the government should provide countermeasures on employment and social welfare for this critical situation affecting too many irregular workers. However, the Abe administration has reduced the budget for public assistance since August 2013 (Seikatsuhogohi, 2013).

If the future of our country is the youth who are irregular workers, with no home, no hope or plan for the future, Japan will blow up itself. In order to break through this situation, it is very important to have NPOs or NGOs to help those precarious people. However, I believe this is more the government’s responsibility to control and correct these issues. I think one of the biggest problems is that the Japanese people have little sense of entitlement and depend on the bureaucracy. We citizens too have a responsibility by light polls at elections to overlook the hardship. I think we should not just accept unfair situations or deceived by government’s little temporary distribution of economic profit trying to divert citizen’s dissatisfaction. We Japanese citizens should actively request the government to fundamentally improve the social welfare system.


Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University press.

Tanaka, M. (2014). Basic documents of International Law. Toshindo: Japan.

Suzuki, M.(n.d.). Setsubitoushi karamita keikijunkan [capital investment and economic rocovery]. Retrieved from

Seikatsuhogohi 8 gatubunkara gengakue [public assistance budget will be reduced from this August] (May 16, 2013). Retrieved from Asashi Digital:


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Making Refugees’ Ibasho

by Ami Nishigaki

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison mentions the net cafe refugees and refugees in Japan. I believe that the government should make a system to solve this problem, and there are three reasons for that.

Firstly, it is impossible to say that the net cafe refugees’ right to life is protected. All the people in Japan have the right to life, and right to be protected it by the government. It is the government’s responsibility to do something to make the situation better.

Secondly, no one except some NGOs or NPOs seems to be interested in this problem, as it is not so directly connected to their lives. It is difficult for people to think about the net cafe refugees seriously. Therefore, it is necessary that the government, as a leader of Japan, pays attention to this problem, and lead people to take it seriously.

Finally, if the government does nothing, people may not do anything. Even though people care about the refugees, they cannot do anything as it is not clear what is the good things for them to do. Also, it is inevitable to mention money and costs. Who will pay for it? I would not. I would use my money for my family, or myself. I seem to be indifferent, but I think this is what most people do, and this is reality. For these reasons, I think it is the government’s job to do something for net cafe refugees.

I suggest one tax system for companies as a solution. If a company makes a shop for refugees that serves a cheap meal and a cheap shower and lets people stay all night, employing some refugees, the government will reduce the tax for this company.

As Allison quotes from Yuasa Makoto (2008), there are a lot of people who do not have a house. Those people do not even have a place to go back, and cannot live ‘ an ordinary life’. Moreover, they do not have enough confidence on themselves.

In order to make their life better and easier to find a job, what we can do to encourage them is not just giving money or helping as a volunteer but make them pay money to have a rest and get ready for job hunting or one day work so that they can get at least confidence in their health and body. They still have to pay money as Japan is a capitalistic country and a charitable work will not last so long. However, making a shop only for refugees may make their feeling better, or easier to go in.

In conclusion, if this system goes well, the government can do its duty, companies can receive benefit as a reduction tax, and refugees can find places which welcome them.

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Refugees cannot fit in and would take jobs from Japanese

by Reina Doi

Recently, lots of refugees are coming to Japan to expect better living, but most of them are not accepted as refugees, so they forced displacement. For this situation, some people criticized that this is not appropriate as a country which ratify the treaty of refugees,and Japan should accept more refugees. However, I disagree that opinion in that employment issue, cultural aspects and national sentiments.

First of all, I believe if Japan admits many refugees to come, more Japanese will feel difficulty to find job, and it will make hierarchy in Japanese society. Employer prefers low cost to employ, so refugees would rob work from Japanese people, and an unemployment rate will increase. In addition, society will divide into two opposites, and as a result, cognition that refugees should do working which people do not want to do will be general. Thus, increasing refugees affects Japanese employment.

Next, there are big culture shock if refugees come to Japan, and especially language seems suffered them. Language is the basic of communication, and important in everything one does. Of course, refugees who come to Japan did not study Japanese in their own country, even English is not so common, and not useful in daily life, so Japan is not good to live. However, Japanese government does not support for them to learn language, so it is too hard to live like their home country.

Finally, national sentiments could be important when we think about refugees. Many Japanese normally feel uncomfortable around foreigners, because it is rare that foreigners live in Japan compared with other countries. For instance, U.S. is formed by immigrants, and even now there are lots of people are coming and live together. However, Japan is not same as U.S., and even though Japan ratified the treaty of refugees, it does not match public opinion, so if government enforce to admit more refugees, they would suffer from discrimination. Besides, if tax which is caused for taking care of refugees increase, antipathy will burst, and it makes demonstration which accept lots of refugees.

To sum up, saving Japanese worker, culture differences in that language and national sentiments is the reason that I disagree to allow. Japan seems that it is not appropriate to admit refugees, because there are no good system to save refugees and people are exclusive. Therefore it does not good effect for refugees, and they will feel difficulty to live Japan. For these reasons, I think Japan should not allow more refugees.