Should Japanese schools teach multiculturalism?

by Masataka Yamamoto

Recently, the world internationalizes in everywhere and a lot of people’s exchange is going on in society. To understand the people who came from different places requires some knowledge of different cultures. Japan is one of the developed countries in the world so we have to know other cultures to play a role in international society as Japan.

I don’t think any Japanese schools teach multiculturalism so far. The word multiculturalism describes that the education of human race, ethnicity, gender, economic hierarchy, handicap problem, and sexual orientation. It is necessary to support students to realize who they are in many groups so they can understand what really they are. However, many old people try to protect Japanese culture itself from other cultures’ intervention. Also Japanese geographical features are island so it has fewer relations with other cultures, compared to countries which are located on the continent. Japan has fewer chances to touch with other cultures so Japan should more freely to know other cultures.

In my opinion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism in every school. It is because I have an experience of living in countryside of the United States and there were many black people and fewer Asian people. White people and black people were friendly to each other, but not to Asians. They called us like narrow eyes, kamikaze, yellow monkey, whatever that describes Asian or Japanese people badly. I felt very uncomfortable by being called such discriminatory words, so I thought it needs to disappear. This happened in the U.S., and Japan has fewer chances to get with other cultures than the U.S. If many foreigners go to Japanese elementary school or junior high and Japanese students don’t have multicultural education, what will happen? I think students will have discrimination against different cultures. To prevent this from happening, every Japanese school should teach multiculturalism for understanding of other cultures. Also knowing other cultures have merits when people going to other countries. For example, people in U.S. are mixed together as German, Russian, African, Chinese, etc. so to know other cultures is important in international society.

In conclusion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism to understand other cultures and learning multiculturalism will need when people go to another places. People are exchanging everywhere in this International society so learning of multiculturalism will be main tool to have a communication with people from different places.

How can people become Japanese?

by Tatsuya Haishi

Through the discussion in our class, I realized that there are many ways to become Japanese; however, it is a very difficult attempt to succeed. If I must choose one way to become Japanese, I would mention Japanese language. We cannot judge people’s nationality by their appearance like skin, hair and eyes in the age of globalization. We feel comfortable when we can communicate well with other people, yet if we feel that we cannot communicate well with them, maybe we begin thinking about a disparity between us and them. The most effective way to communicate well is the language. When I hit it off with a foreigner who really wants to be a Japanese citizen, it is difficult for me to recognize him as Japanese although I would like to.  He would be one of my foreign friends. However, if he can speak Japanese and communicate with me in Japanese, I will regard him as Japanese with no doubts. Accordingly, I think hafu people who grew up in Japan and can speak Japanese well are perfect Japanese.

I think that to be Japanese is still harder than to be other country’s citizen. Although I have no idea about the exact reason of that, in my experience, many Japanese people have the feeling that our society is a homogeneous community. Of course we learn and know Japan is not a racially homogeneous nation, but we have such sense unconsciously. I think that’s because we have few opportunities to meet foreigners in Japan. I also had never talked with foreigners until I entered the university.

Now, for most of Japanese people, to be Japanese means to be “Japanese-Japanese”, not “Korean-Japanese” or “British-Japanese”, but this situation may change in the near future. Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate and is facing a decrease of the work force. It will be necessary to accept immigrants from other countries to hire them. When they adapt themselves to Japanese society and have their kids, some of them come to feel that they are Japanese. I take it for granted that there are many kinds of races living together in London. Today, it is a quite natural scene that various different ethnic people are living together in the U.K. On the contrary, I would feel strange if there is a TV drama or a movie that a foreigner acts as Japanese. However, Japan may be a multiethnic nation like U.K. in future. If it becomes real, it will be easy to become Japanese.

The notion of citizenship in Japan

by Kentaro Sakamoto

Citizenship is a proof to show a person’s belonging to a certain community. Usually the community is a nation, or at least some sort of political community formed in a certain location. (n.d.) defines citizenship as “the character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen” (“Citizenship”). This definition makes us believe that one is accepted as a member of the society as long as he/she holds a citizenship of that community. However, the reality is different in many countries including Japan. Even if you have a Japanese citizenship, people often regard you as a foreigner as long as your appearance is different from an ‘average’ Japanese person or if you do not follow an ‘average’ Japanese cultural lifestyle. This is making harder for those who look ‘non-Japanese’ to incorporate into the society even when they have the citizenship of Japan. To know why this happens, understanding the modern history of Japan is important.

Since the Meiji Restoration, when Japan tore down the Samurai regime and started modernizing the society under a strong central government, the government worked hard to create an ethnic-based nation state by spreading the myth of ‘Japan as a mono-cultural, mono-ethnic society’ (Oguma, 1995). By giving people a common understanding of Japanese history and teaching them to speak the ‘common Japanese language’ which was created based on the Yamanote dialect, the central government succeeded to make the majority of Japanese people believe that Japan has been a homogenous country throughout the history (Ibid). The diversity represented by Ainu People and Okinawan people was denied, and they were force to assimilate into the Japanese society. Even when Japan started expanding its territory to overseas, it tried to assimilate people from its colonies in various ways. One example is claiming Japanese and Koreans have the same origin, implying Koreans to follow the Japanese way as ‘Japanese people’ (Kim, n.d.). After World War 2, this idea of homogenous Japanese society was even strengthened as Japan lost its territory overseas which resulted in having less diversity. Historically, having the citizenship of Japan did not merely meant having a legal contract with the Japanese government, but it also meant integrating to the Japanese society culturally.

However, Japan is becoming diverse. The number of international marriages is increasing which is making the so-called ‘hafu’ (a term described to use a person born between a Japanese parent and a foreign parent) people more and more visible to the society (Yamashita, 2013). Having Japanese citizenship does not automatically mean you look Japanese, speak Japanese, and follow Japanese lifestyle anymore. However, the myth of homogenous society is still dominating Japan so strongly that it seems like it will take more than decades for Japan to become a multicultural society where people do not automatically assume someone as a foreigner just because of the way he/she looks, or how he/she acts. While there are movements trying to create a multicultural society to accept hafus and other minorities, people from younger generations are tilting to the right influenced by the media, especially internet websites stirring up ill feelings against minority and foreign people. They often believe that Japan should be a nation only for Japanese, but their notion of ‘Japanese’ usually do not include those who do not look Japanese and do not follow the typical Japanese lifestyle, regardless of the possession of Japanese citizenship. What makes it harder for them to accept multiculturalism is news from European countries telling the ‘fail of multiculturalism’, represented by the 2011 England riots.

Then, what is the solution? How can Japan become a more open society? How can it change the notion of citizenship? It is very difficult to find the answer, but one way is to wipe away the negative images towards multiculturalism. What is not introduced about multiculturalism in Japan is how it has contributed to the economy of countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Australia. By giving immigrants citizenship, the government can collect more taxes which can become a solution for the collapsing national pension system due to the rapid growth of the population of old people. It can solve depopulation in rural areas. It can increase workers in farming and fishing industries which are facing serious problems because of the lack of young labors. Many of these difficult issues that appear to be insoluble can be solve by giving immigrants Japanese citizenships, changing the notion of citizenship to a thing that is given to everyone who helps forming the community in Japan, and creating a diverse society accepting different people.


Citizenship. (n.d.). In Unabridged. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

Kim, M. S. (n.d.). Koukoku shikan to kouminka seisaku [Emperor-centered historiography and Japanization]. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

Oguma, E. (1995). Tannitsu minzoku shinwa no kigen: Nihonjin no jigazou no keihu [The origin of mono-ethnic myth in Japan: The history of a Japanese self-portrait]. Tokyo: Shinyosha

Yamashita, M. (2013, April 11). 30 nin ni hitori ga hafu no jidai: Tachihadakaru bunka no kabe wo dou norikoeruka [An age that one in 30 children are hafu: How to overcome cultural barriers]. Wedge Infinity. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

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.

Are multi-culture and multi-ethnicity accepted in Japanese society?

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).

Prejudice and Multiculturalism in Japan

by Ayaka Nishizaki

In this time, I would like to bring the topic about prejudice and multiculturalism in Japan. One month ago, I saw a shocking situation that one couple of an American boy and a Japanese girl were insulted by one Japanese stranger. I was sad there is still some situations that ‘being different from others’ is not enough accepted in Japanese society. Therefore, I start to think how that situation occurs and about multiculturalism.

One big problem is that the Japanese idea of ‘egalitarianism’ sometimes causes prejudice. I learned the word ‘egalitarianism’ during class and I agreed that Japanese school and society focus on equality for everyone. Japanese school gives students the idea that we have to give same opportunity for everyone so that prejudice will not occur. However, I wondered ‘this egalitarianism is the exactly same meaning as treating people equally?’ In my opinion, Japanese school teaches how important they have to give same opportunities and rights for everyone, but they don’t teach ‘how important we accept something being different from others’. I felt strange when during discussion class, some Japanese students mentioned same opinion that I had heard before and many students agreed on. Japanese prefer ‘safety’ in society, so they unconsciously chose opinions they may feel comfortable with. I know not all of Japanese are like that and that is just one of examples, but my point is that Japanese society focus on being equal so much that it sometimes makes difficult to express ourselves and try to become similar to others in terms of fashion, hair style, even our different idea or thoughts.

‘Multiculturalism’, which is one I learned, will be very important in Japan. It is commonly said that many Japanese can’t think say their different opinion. On the other hand, American society gives people the basic idea that everyone is originally different. I don’t mean that American education is better: I think at least Japanese egalitarianism leads to some prejudice for foreigners. Therefore, Japanese needs to respect something being different, but how can Japanese society teach multiculturalism and make Japanese multiculturalism? I think it needs long time because Japan has one ethnic and they already have similar background, so students have difficulty in imaging what does being different mean. It is not easy to bring multiculturalism to Japan because of fixed environment. However, I can suggest that changing Japanese education system is one of the ways. After I came back to Japan from my studying in the U.S, I felt how few there are opportunities to share my opinion in Japan. Making more opportunities for students to discuss and share their opinion could be one step to multiculturalism in Japan.

The immigrant issue in Japan

by Asako Morita

Because the lecture last week by guest speaker was quite inspiring, I decided to research more about immigrant in Japan. Even though Japan has been welcoming more immigrants these days, it is still far from multicultural society compared to other countries. Therefore, as guest speaker insisted, the issues and problems of minority are easily ignored or invisible to the masses until minority in a trouble raises voice as a group. Then I would like to seek how Japanese government should make the policy to invite more immigrants.

First, I would like to demonstrate general information about immigrants in Japan. According to the statistic of national census, more than 2 million foreign workers are now in Japan. This number is still low compared to other developed countries such as the U.S. but it is almost increased twice than 10 years ago. 1.6 millions of people are from Asia and Chinese is the major immigrants in 2011. The next biggest number is from South America especially from Brazil. In the total number, almost half of them are women. However, like 75 percent of Philippines immigrants are women, the number of sex rate is quite different from each country. Because more and more immigrants or foreign workers have come to Japan, issues are getting defined.

Second, I would like to analyze what issues immigrants and foreign workers in Japan have. The one of the biggest issue is about an employment. Now, Japan is facing the issue of dwindling birthrate and an aging population. The concern from presence situation is shrinking of the labor force. On top of that, Japan is now in a depression so what enterprises in Japan have needed was the expectation of wage control. Then companies want 20 to 30 years old young simple labors and expected workers to go home before they get old. However, this turning over of young foreign workers cannot solve the issue of decreasing labor force. On the contrast, if a specific age group stays in Japan, Japanese composition of population becomes distorted.

Although if Japan succeeds in receiving numbers of immigrants, they may have hard time get used to living in Japanese society. Because Japanese life style is quite different from others, a friction might be caused and mass of immigrants would make a community by country where someone is from. Once Japanese government promotes to accelerate to receive immigrates, it is hard to stop it even though the situation changes.

Therefore, what I suggest is that Japan should make up the comfortable working environment for elderly people, women and foreign workers who are eager to work. And also, Japan has to break away from winning low cost competition model. Not only young simple foreign labors but also more and more skilled foreign workers should be welcomed. This is the way Japan survives in global economy under globalization.

Global Citizenship and Identity

by Eriko Maruyama

As one society is shifting from homogenizing society to multicultural one because of the increase of immigration, the problem of language is always controversial. In the United States, the increase of Hispanic immigrants is very remarkable, so it has been worried that Spanish would replace English. However, the fear was found to be wrong (Portes, A, 2002). The fact is that the migrants have getting to manage English as younger generations grow up. Almost 3rd generation of the migrants cannot speak their mother language but they only can speak English. Thus, the assimilation to English has been proceeding, while unities of mother languages have been getting weak. Does the collapse of language unity lead to the chaotic society?

In response to the tendency of immigrants’ loss of its original culture, the immigrants’ dominant society has launched to set bilingual education to maintain their mother languages. In these bilateral schools, students have subsidiary classes in their mother languages. According to the reading, this dual language education has been successful, and students can handle two languages fluently. Moreover, some school organise this dual language education even for students whose native languages are English. I disagree with this education system because equitable education must be regarded at least in public schools. I suppose that we cannot make agreeable selection of language in the multicultural society. Therefore, I would suggest the education which will make ‘global citizenship’.

One of the authoritative international organizations, Oxfam, defines the global citizen as people who is “aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen”, “respects and values diversity” and “is outraged by social injustice” (Oxfam Education). It is obviously important to have one common language, which means English, in order to communicate each other and create better society altogether. However, more importantly, we need to welcome the diversity of sense of values and respect them each other. In this context, the compulsory dual language education does not make sense at all. The objective of the dual education system is to preserve the original culture. But in my opinion, it is possible to maintain own original culture even we speak English because what makes society tied is not the language, but the common hope for the peaceful society. We can have two identities; our original culture identity and the identity as global citizen.

I have asked my European friends about their identity. They told me that they have two identities as their origin countries, such as Italian or German, and as the citizen in European Union. They speak different languages but they share the same future goals for the peaceful society. And their sense of identity has been built through the education. Therefore, I believe that it is possible to have more than two identities at the same time and to create diverse, but peaceful society. The lost of linguistic unity in the immigrants’ society does not lead to the chaotic society. It means that people create whole new identities as their original countries’ citizen and as the member of this planet. The common hope is much more important than forcing to speak fixed language. Lastly, I would quote the speech of the President Barack Obama:

“I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight.” (, 2012, cited in

As President Obama declared, it does not matter what kind of identity we have. The most important thing is that we respect the diversity and go forward for the creation of unified society as a member of global citizens.

Bibliography (2012), Barack Obama’s victory speech – full text, [online]. Available: [2012, November 11]

Oxfam Education, What is Global Citizenship?, [online]. Available: [2012, November 11]

Portes, A (2002) ‘English-only triumphs, but the costs are high’. SAGE Journals, vol. 1, February, pp 10-15.

Japanese Education Systems’ Ignorance of Muslim Migrants Children

by Akie Kuwano

Although Japan used to be referred to as ethnically homogeneous, the number of immigrants reached more than 1.5% of Japanese population in 2005. Despite this shift in immigrants’ population, Japanese education system is reluctant to change. In order to keep Japan as secular nation, Japan persists in its principle of separation of religion and education. However, this attitude often creates problems between Japanese schools and migrants parents/children. The problems are mostly evident in the case of Muslim migrants because their religion, Islam, rules not only the realm of their private life, but also their behavior in the public sphere. The main problems those Muslim migrants are facing in Japanese public schools is about school lunch.

One example of Muslim faith conflicting with school lunch in Japanese school is Ramadan. Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, provides that the ninth month of the Islamic calendar as Ramadan, the month of fasting. Many Muslims start Ramadan at the age of 7, just about the time when children start going to elementary school. Although it is medically proved that Ramadan does not cause any medical illness to healthy individual, without having any knowledge some teachers feel it abuses children.

The other instance is Halal food. Islam regulates what followers can eat and cannot eat, according to Qur’an. Food that is compatible with Islamic teaching is known as Halal food, while the others are called Haraam. The most frequently used Japanese condiments like soy sauce or mirin are Haraam because they usually contain alcohol. Accordingly, many of the lunch that Japanese schools provide are Haraam to Muslim children. In order to avoid Haraam foods, Muslim children often bring their own lunch box from their home. Some school view this as unequal to other Japanese children, some school urge Muslim parents to pay for school lunch.

To sum up, it is the lack of knowledge which preventing Japanese schools from handling problems correctly and flexibly with Muslim migrants children. It is understandable that Japan wants to eliminate religion from public sphere because in Japanese sense religion is what governs people’s private life; however, Japan also needs to understand that religion is sometimes inseparable from their public life and is even forming their culture, in which the society needs to pay respect to accommodate population from foreign countries.


Mina, Hattori. (2007). “Development of Religious Value for Indonesian Muslim Children in Japan: A Case Study of Voluntary Educational Activities in Nagoya City”, Intercultural Communication Studies, Vol.19


Multiculturalism in South Korea

by Youngim Kim

Unlike the U.S, South Korea tends to be a homogenous country and just permitted the overseas tip in 1981. However, since South Korea became a member of OECD, the migration of people from China and Southeast Asia in pursuit of better living has increased. I found the situation described from the US articles is somewhat similar to multicultural issues in Korea. South Korea has intensely developed intellectual and high skilled industry through immersion education system. Koreans consider many undocumented Chinese and Southeast Asian dayworkers as potential criminals. Most of them are rejected by Koreans and also experience discriminative treatment in terms of human right and basic wages. In spite of the multicultural policy by Korean government, immigrants and Koreans are hostile to each other.

Unlike the US-Mexico example, one growing part of immigrants in Korea can be classified as intercultural marriage between Korean men and foreign women from elsewhere in Asia in the country side. Korean men living in a rural community who are the majority of Korean women try to avoid marrying with, cannot help marrying through an arranged match with women from poorer country to carry on a family lineage. Though foreign women who married with Korean men can have Korean visa, the children born through such kind of international marriages usually feel a sense of alienation and have an identity crisis. The government policy also still does not support them even after the settlement. Most of foreign women living in the countryside of Korea have been forced to assimilate to traditional Korean culture, which is supporting husband’s parents and also doing traditional women’s work. The people who try to maintain and teach their culture to their children are still a minority. Moreover, the majority of Korean is against multicultural policy because they think foreigners disturb public peace and order, even though they know nobody of immigrants who committed a crime.

Of course, Chinese and Southeast Asians are not all of immigrants in South Korea. However, the discrimination toward foreigners depends on their race and language. Like Japan, Caucasians speaking English are the most welcomed people. In the global society, I think we cannot change this current flow, what is international mobility. Korean should change their attitude toward foreigners from a dichotomy or prejudice like “the foreigner” and “Korean” to cordial cultural exchange for the development of both countries.