As American as Apple Pie?

English: Apple pie.

English: Apple pie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lourdes Fritts

It is always amusing to observe the looks of disbelief in a classroom when the topic of invented traditions is being discussed. Some look betrayed as if their whole life had been a lie, while others scratch their heads and ask “Well, weren’t all traditions invented at some point?”

Unfortunately, I must confess that I generally fall under the same category as the head scratchers. There are certain qualities of an invented tradition that don’t make sense to me. For example, the discussion in this case was about the Scottish kilt, Hugh Trevor-Roper (1983) argues that the Scottish kilt was not an ancient Highlander tradition, but rather workwear designed for Scots by an Englishman; the kilt was not even considered to be a cultural asset until the noblemen began to wear it and refer to it as such. While these two facts are not exactly difficult for me to grasp, it is the fact that the kilt can be considered an invented tradition when the version that we know today was created in 1745 (Trevor-Roper 1983). Hasn’t it been long enough for it just to be considered a tradition?

In 1745 my home country, the United States, hadn’t even been officially created yet. This lead me to ask myself if there are any genuine traditions present in modern America that cannot be classified as “invented”. It is common knowledge that many aspects of culture and tradition in America have derived from the cultures that immigrants brought with them. While all traditions were invented at some point, the term “invented tradition” refers to a pre-existing symbol, item, or ritual that has been repurposed to fit the new needs of society (Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983). But what about traditions that serve little to no purpose such as a food like apple pie?

Apple pie is considered to be a traditional American treat, in fact the phrase “as American as apple pie” describes something or someone that is archetypically American. However, the tasty treat is actually a blend of pastries that came from multiple European countries. Thus, it is not quite an American tradition (Ferroni 2012). This being said, can it then be considered invented? It is not an ancient dish nor is it original, but what could have possibly been accomplished by apple pie being viewed as an American tradition?

The same can be said for a number of traditions present in modern America, which leads me to believe that the definition of invented traditions needs to grow in order to include hybridity, creolization, and time progression. With cultures becoming more influenced by one and other, new traditions and meanings to old symbols are being formed. When will today’s new symbols become the next old tradition?

References

Ferroni, Nicholas. 2012. There Is Nothing More American Than Apple Pie, Right? Huffington Post, December 27. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/as-american-as-apple-pie_b_2369851.html

Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. 1983. The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland. Pp. 15-41 in The Invention of tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Non-nationals in Japan: the Burakumin

English: The_New_fighting_the_Old_in_early_Mei...

English: The_New_fighting_the_Old_in_early_Meiji_Japan circa 1870 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Miyu Fujihara

John Lie (2011) argues that:

“The predicates of peoplehood are categorically asserted rather than inductively proven. Being more prescriptive than descriptive they propose and enforce what it means to be a typical or normal member… In other words, the state and its associated institutions constitute people in their idealized image, exercising biopower that shapers society and citizens… Hence as much as modern peoplehood seeks to an inclusionary identity, it excludes relationally defined minorities of the body and of the mind.”

Simply speaking, he means that creating legislation and norms and its contents decides who’s in and out, or who is ideal, mainstream or a national, and who is an outsider, a minority or a non-national. As the title of his chapter suggests, “the paradoxes of peoplehood” implies this process.

This is greatly applicable to Burakumin in Japan. Lie (2011:179-180) discusses a process that the Burakumin went through. Even though the laws and social consciousness now acknowledge the Burakumin (although not fully), and after the Meiji Restoration gave them rights equal to the mainstream Japanese, this didn’t change much of the situation. Instead it gave the Burakumin a further burden. They were given more equal conditions, meaning they were giving the same expectations they had to meet, but this time without any protections or help from anyone, however with the persistent image that they were still at the bottom of society. They got more pressure from society, earned less money, and were remained just as poor as they had been.

Here is a related example of this paradox that my mother experienced. When my mother was in junior high school, there was a random group of kids who took extra classes. They were always taken from the classroom occasionally and studied in a different classroom. She later found it out that those kids were Burakumin and the reason why they were taking extra classes was for their education, which they had been deprived of historically. I assume that the purpose was to even out the educational opportunities and lessen the gap between the mainstream and the Burakumin. However, because they were treated differently by teachers, my mother thought that the kids were special and different from her and the rest of her classmates. This can mean that they saw the kids as different, abnormal, or a non-national group: outsiders.

Even recently, the Burakimin have been discriminated against, especially when job hunting because they have particular kinds of last names and birth places that imply a Buraku ancestry.

In Japan, who is and is not the mainstream is very explicit. I think this norm is not easy to break down as it has been passed on over generations, together with an essentialist aspect of Japanese people. However, doing nothing never helps people get out of poverty and out of the bottom stratum of the society. In my opinion, with the accelerating globalization, as long as the idea of nation-state exists, there always will be those who are “outsiders”.

Reference

Lie, John. 2011. Modern Peoplehood. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Being Mixed Race in Racially Divided America

The New Age of Slavery, by Patrick Campbell

by Lourdes Fritts

Much like the way some people do not care about their local sports team, I do not give much thought to my racial identity. This is mostly due to the fact that if I gave my race anymore thought than the occasional ponder, I would be in a constant state of identity crisis. My mother is Japanese-Korean raised in Japan, and my Father is Irish-German-Mexican raised in America. Thus I have christened myself as an “Euro-Mexi-Asian-American”. Fortunately I have been privileged enough in life where I was never made particularly conscious of my race; I have never let my race define me and very few people I’ve met have defined me by it. However, due to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I have become unusually conscious of my ethnic background.

After the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson my Facebook was splashed with statuses saying things like“f*ck white people #AmeriKKKa”, and articles talking about what white people need to do about racial inequality. There were many types of reactions to the grand jury’s decision but everything ultimately boiled down to race or more specifically, the oppression of black Americans by white Americans. Every day frustrated black (along with some enlightened white) Facebook friends posted lists of black victims of police brutality and offended white friends posted articles supporting the “not all whites” stance. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand my role in this conversation, I am horrified by the violence and inequality that American society has tolerated for so long but I cannot say that I completely empathize with black Americans. I am upset about Ferguson but I was not exactly sure why.

It is this feeling of disconnect that  had made me conscious of my ambiguous racial identity. On one hand I am partially white, does that put me on the side of the oppressor? Did I feel upset because of underlying guilt?  But what about the times where I was discriminated against, what about all the times where people told me to go back to China? Was I upset because I was afraid of being a victim of violent discrimination? While it isn’t true, I couldn’t help but feel that there was really no place for me in the conversation about race, I straddled an awkward border of whiteness that made it seem that I didn’t have the right to talk about race as a minority.

I thought about all these things for a while and ultimately decided that my disgust with the Ferguson case did not derive from any sense of ethnic identity (as a white or as a minority) but rather a betrayal of my national identity. As Craig Calhoun (1993:235) puts it, “The idea of nation is itself an instance and an archetype of this classifying logic of categorical identities”. As hackneyed as it sounds, I believed that being American stood for unparalleled equality and opportunity and seeing that it was not as I believed upset me quite a bit. I realized that my national identity was stronger than my racial identity because of my racial ambiguity. While this epiphany does virtually nothing to solve the racial tensions in Ferguson, I do believe that figuring something like this out can encourage more people to act as a community.

References

Calhoun, C. 1993. Nationalism and Ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology, 19, 211-239.

Clarke, R., & Lett, C. (2014, November 11). What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson – CNN.com. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/ferguson-brown-timeline/

The Dilemma of Multicultural Education

Anonymous student post

As I have noted in the previous blog post, Singapore is dealing with problems that have appeared due to the cultural and linguistic diversity brought by immigrants. Besides the declining use of ethnic mother tongues as well as individuals’ cultural identities, there are other results that have been observed due to English-speaking bilingual education. Those are the social mobility in society and the country’s conflicting ideals.

According to Nakamura (2009), people’s English ability has certain influence on upward mobility in society. In her research, it has been proved that those who use English have higher incomes than those who use their ethnic mother tongues daily. As we have discussed in class, there is a certain social structure in Singapore that creates this situation. The structure of “the higher education you get, the higher income and social status you get in the society” is especially notable in Singapore.

If we keep this fact in mind and look at the university education, you would notice that almost all of the university courses are offered in English, hardly any in the ethnic mother tongues (except for the language classes). There is no doubt that if you cannot use English, you will fail to get into the university and thus end up having a lower social status. In addition, even if people could use English, their income and status depends on what type of “English” they use. If they could only speak in “Singlish” (Singaporean English), then, their income would be lower than those who can speak in “British-like English”.

This shows that linguistic ability is what creates Singapore’s social hierarchy. In other words, immigrants tend to do better by assimilating (using English) rather than “staying ethnic” (using mother tongues).

Although it is obvious that there is a top-down pressure of speaking a “proper English” in the society, there is still many campaigns or programs that Singaporean government tries to keep ethnic diversity, as they recognize it as their national strength. One example is that in 1979, the government started the “Special Assistance Plan School” for Chinese schools in Singapore (Lee, 2008). This school offers a higher education in Chinese for the purpose of not diminishing the Chinese cultures, values and norms. Also, as I have noticed while studying in National University of Singapore, there were many opportunities for students to be aware of their cultural identities such as cultural weeks, which students with different ethnic groups introduced their cultures to others.

In my opinion, “Singapore as a multicultural country” is in a dilemma in that people are encouraged to keep their ethnic identities but they cannot do better in society if they actually “stayed ethnic.” In conclusion, this type of gap between “linguatocracy” (Nakamura, 2009) which refers to those who can speak “proper English” and immigrants who could only speak in their mother tongues will be apparent in any other countries that are expecting to open up themselves for immigrants. We could learn from Singapore’s case and think of the way to conduct educations in the diversified society.

References

Lee, E. (2008). Singapore: the unexpected nation. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Nakamura, M. (2009). Shingaporu ni okeru kokumin togo. Kyoto: Horitsubunkasha.

English Education and Preservation of Ethnic Diversity in Singapore

English: National Institute of Education, Sing...

English: National Institute of Education, Singapore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Reference

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

 

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Yasukuni and Nationalist Identities, Japanese and Korean

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan agreed to visit a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany to lay a wreath in honor of Germany’s war casualties. Reagan’s team of advisors did not do their homework, and it was later discovered that the cemetery contained graves of some of Hitler’s elite officers who had taken part in the massacre of Jews. Here was a president who always talked about “American values”, and he was going to pray for soldiers who had caused the Holocaust. There were strong protests by Jewish groups, US congressmen, US military officials, and regular citizens who all urged Reagan not to make the visit. He felt he could not cancel, however, and instead, a trip to a nearby concentration camp was also scheduled for the day of the cemetery visit. Reagan was not anti-Jewish, nor was he a Nazi sympathizer, and he himself had even served on the “right side” of the war. Although he had simply bumbled into the visit, the “Bitburg Fiasco” turned into one of the lowest points of Reagan’s presidency. He and his handlers had failed to see the powerful symbolism of the visit.

One German political editor noted the day after the visit was announced that Germany “had been able to become a member of the community of civilized nations after the war not by denying but by accepting its Nazi past.”

The Reagan-Kohl idea of a historic harmony is, therefore, an insult not only to those who suffered and died in the camps. World War II was not just another European war. It was the darkest hour of European civilization. Its end brought to an end the world’s most atrocious regime and the world’s hitherto most dangerous conflict. It also laid the basis for a democratic West Germany and a united West (Lou, 1991).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on 26 January 2013, made his second visit to Yasukuni Shrine, a powerful symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism. Unlike Reagan who had bumbled into his visit, Abe went on purpose. Unlike the Americans, who had fought against the German aggressors, Japan was the aggressor. Unlike many Japanese leaders who deny many wartime actions, the Germans have accepted their Nazi past. Thus, it is understandable that the Koreans and Chinese would be upset by visits to Yasukuni by Abe and other officials.

This post explores national identity and visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese government officials. I examine how the visits help to form and strengthen a sense of nationalistic, racist self-identity among some Japanese. I will also show how the visits help to form a particular identity of Koreans today. This paper is based on Benedict Anderson’s (2006) Imagined Communities.

First, with regard to Japanese identity, Yasukuni Shrine shows us a negative side of Japanese nationalism and patriotism. Twelve class-C war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. In fact, the government pressured the shrine to include the war criminals in 1978. The museum at the shrine, the Yushukan, does not show the atrocities that the Japanese army brought on its neighbors in Asia, controlling the way history is remembered. The shrine symbolizes the beliefs of ultra-nationalist right-wing groups today. Japanese officials not only insult Asian neighbors when they visit the shrine, but they also make the Japanese identity look bad to the world. Finally, while there is supposed to be a separation of religion and state, Yasukuni Shrine seems like a very political place that portrays nationalism based on “us vs. them.”

Love and self-sacrifice are important parts of a nation’s identity, and Yasukuni is a symbol of that positive side of nationalism and patriotism. Anderson points out that a love of nation is often expressed in its literature. Emperor Hirohito paid a visit to the shrine and wrote a poem that said: “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.” Because of this, soldiers who went to war would say “Let’s meet at Yasukuni.” These words signify loyalty to the emperor, to the nation, and to the Shinto religion. In this way, it was and remains a symbol of love and self-sacrifice.

People who believe it is the right or duty of Japanese, even government officials, to pray at Yasukuni argue that it is a spiritual place. To worship at Yasukuni is an act of love and gratitude to those who fought and died for Japan (John, 1991). Many Japanese also believe it is the right of the people of a nation to worship whoever and however they choose to worship.

Anderson discusses the roots of racism and says that in some cases it came from social class differences rather than nationalism. But in the case of the Japanese, is it possible that nationalism and racism were pretty much the same thing?

Koshino Kosaku is a sociologist who studies Japanese identity. He argues that “racialism” includes racism but is broader in meaning. He describes race as a socially constructed and imagined community because it does not have a real biological foundation, and because most members of the group don’t actually know each other. Although the Japanese are mixed, many of them imagine that they are a racially distinct and homogeneous group. These people believe that being Japanese is an unchosen result of nature. The Meiji leaders invented the idea of Japan as a “family-nation of divine origin.” All Japanese were supposedly related to each other and to the emperor. “Kinship, religion, and race were fused to produce a strong collective sense of oneness” (Koshino, 1998).

Koshino says that the notion of blood ties is still a part of the Japanese subconscious. The idea of Japanese blood makes the idea of “us v. them” stronger. Japanese culture is associated with a “Japanese race,” and Japanese tend to be possessive of their culture. Many people believe that no matter how long Chinese or Koreans live in Japan, they will always remain Chinese and Korean because they are different “minzoku”. He says the concept of “minzoku” can mean race, ethnic community, and nation. Anderson says that a nation is closed because it is something you don’t choose. It is, however, also open because through language and naturalization you can enter a nation. It seems that as long as the Japanese tend to think of themselves as a separate race and continue to feel racist toward others, Japanese nationalism is much more closed than open. Abe’s visits to Yasukuni only make this racist identity stronger. (Koshino, 1998)

Next, we will discuss Yasukuni and Korean identity. Whenever a Japanese official visits Yasukuni, the Koreans protest. It seems as Korean nationalism has been strengthened through protest against Japanese policy. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One Korean said that he can not talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Jukka Jouhki discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:

Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. (Jouhki, 2009)

Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as it was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are still trying to work through. Therefore, Japanese leaders’ nationalism, expressed through visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.

Amartya Sen writes that a sense of identity can be positive because it makes us closer to others in our group, but it can also be negative because it can cause a deep feeling of division with those who are outside your group. He talks about how Al Qaeda tries to create a militant Islamic identity so that the people will feel the West is separate and bad. In the same way, Abe’s visit to Yasukuni creates sense of division from both the side of Japanese and Koreans.

The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live. The descriptive weakness of choiceless singularity and … the illusion of destiny exacts a remarkably heavy price” (Amartya, 2006).

Visits to Yasukuni can cause certain groups, both Japanese and Korean, to get caught up in one identity, forgetting they have diverse identities, and this can lead to conflict. These visits cause some Japanese to identify themselves as Japanese in a nationalist, racist way. They can cause some Koreans to identify themselves as Korean and the former victims of Japanese imperialism in an overly nationalistic way.

Clearly, Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of patriotic love and self-sacrifice. It depends on your political beliefs as to whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing. I believe the people were used and sent to war by the Meiji oligarchs in their official nationalism, and they need to be prayed for. However, I believe, that we should pray for them in a place that is not so political and insensitive to the Koreans and others. It leads to a nationalist identity, on both sides, that is divisive and may lead to conflict and violence.

References

  1. Benedict, A. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism.
  2. Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology19, 211. 239.
  3. Lou , C. (1991). President reagan: “the role of a lifetime. (p. 520). Touchstone Simon and Schuster
  4. John, B. (1991). Yasukuni: the war dead and the struggle for japan’s past. (2007 ed., p. 56). C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
  5. Jouhki, J. (2009, May 8). The second invasion: Notes on korean reactions to the yasukuni shrine issue. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/179474/The_Second_Invasion_Notes_on_Korean_Reactions_to_the_Yasukuni_Shrine_Issue
  6. Koshino, K. (1998). Making majorities. (2007 ed., p. 19). C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
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Japanese mascotization, marketing, and imagined communities

by Deanne Walters

Mascots are everywhere in Japan. Often anthropomorphized and cute, they represent companies, cities, and even the Japanese Self Defense Force. They came about after the economic bubble crashed. The national government decided to decentralize, putting more responsibility on the prefectures and cities (Birkett, 2012). Because of the economic bubble, there had also been a mass migration out of the countryside and into the cities (Birkett, 2012). Smaller cities had shrinking populations, both from aging and emigration as well as the problems of the economic depression (Birkett, 2012). So a new way to promote cities and create city pride was made, mascots or characters that represented cities (Birkett, 2012). The mascots speak the local dialect and are often based off of a city’s historical legend or city’s industries (Occhi, 2012).

This marketing tool became very popular and now there are over 800 mascots in Japan (Kracker, 2013). Each prefecture has at least 2 mascots and some have over 50 (Tan, n.d.). These mascots help create the imagined community of the city and become the representation of the city. The characters participate in community events and some of these events become so popular they bring in tourism (Birkett, 2012). These characters have been shown to be very popular with children and the elderly (Tan, n.d.). Some mascots become popular even outside of their city. An example of the massive popularity of mascots can be shown with the mascot grand prix a national event in which people vote on their favorite mascot. The ideas that will be discussed in relation to the mascotization are mascots as soft power, creating imagined hometowns, mascots and their connection to the past, and mascots similarity to invented traditions.

Soft power as defined by Joseph Nye is the ability to influence events and people (2005). While Nye was looking specifically at countries, anything can have soft power. The soft power of the mascots is created in different ways from other organizations, with mascots it is often done through cuteness. Mascots are made to be marketing tools and cuteness is an important component of that marketing (Birkett, 2012). Cuteness is not unique to marketing mascots, it is quite widespread in Japan (Madge, 1997). During live events, the cuteness of the mascots helps create approachability and familiarity that is not possible between two people (Birkett, 2012). This familiarity helps foster the imagined community of the city and from that people feel pride in their cities. The public’s connection to the mascots did not start at events, but through contest were amateur artist create possible mascots and they are voted on by the public and there are also contests for mascots’ names (Occhi, 2012). This connection is then used, indirectly, when mascots are used in marketing that is aimed toward the public, similar to how celebrity endorsements are used (Occhi, 2012).

Mascots at events are played by people wearing costumes and are able to interact with the people around them (Occhi, 2012). These events are specifically working to promote the connection between the mascot and the people (Occhi, 2012). These events are aimed at children and families and used to reinforce the both the characters and the sponsors (Occhi, 2012). The sponsors are usually companies or branches of local government (Occhi, 2012). Many of the mascots also promote traits like kindness and cleanliness (Occhi, 2012). At these events there are also various group activities that promote the idea of togetherness (Occhi, 2012).

Part of the soft power that mascots have is the fact that they are not seen as marketing tools, but as a friendly character something between a mascot and a human (Birkett, 2012). Some of the popular characters get fan mail and talk with their fans over twitter (Birkett, 2012). One famous character, Kumamon, made over 2.5 million yen in merchandise sales (Birkett, 2012). These characters represent their city or prefecture and so are also popular with tourists (Tan, n.d.). Mascots have been successful marketing tools (Birkett, 2012). They can also fail, only some of the characters are popular, usually the more rounded and soft mascots and not the more human shaped mascots (Occhi, 2012). The soft power of mascots is created through their cuteness and approachability. They are aimed at children and families. They are used to market cities, local events, and the mascot’s sponsor.

Mascots were not the first thing to be tried to help revive towns. There was push before them for creating “hometowns” which were the idea of traditional Japan and were said to be the hometowns for urban people, profiting off of the nostalgia of urban people (Birkett, 2012). The connection to the past was not only for the tourists’ sake. The town’s reconnection to the past was also important for the townspeople to feel pride and connection to their town (Birkett, 2012). Towns would also promote some rare product, natural resource, or legends tied to the place and create merchandise of it (Birkett, 2012). Some attempts of merchandising failed because it was available everywhere, however some became successful because they could only be bought in one shop (Birkett, 2012).

Sento-kun

Mascots have been the most successful form of marketing for towns. The mascots share similar ideas to previous marketing schemes. Mascots are usually based on either the industries or the legends of the area (Birkett, 2012). When the mascots are using a figure from history or a legend, the connection is always to the ancient past. One of those mascots is Sento-kun. He was created for Nara’s 1300th anniversary as the embodiment of Nara (“Sento-kun’s profile,” n.d.). He is a young boy with deer antlers to represent the deer in Nara (Hashi, 2011). He is heavily connected to the past because they created him to be the new protector of Nara as other deities were before him (“Sento-kun’s profile,” n.d.). The mascots that are based off legends and traditional creatures vary from Yoichi-kun based off of the archer Nasu no Yoichi from the Tales of Heike to demons and the kappa (Birkett, 2012). All of them have been redesigned to be cute. They are a reinterpretation of the past not completely disconnected from it, but clearly changed (Occhi, 2012). The mascots have been the latest and most successful form of marketing for the towns. The mascots are similar to the previous marketing schemes in promoting the towns with their unique products and connection with the past.

Mascots share attributes to invented traditions. Invented traditions are traditions that have been created recently, but are made to seem as if they are a tradition from the past (Vlastos, 1998). The purpose of the traditions is often to support the status quo. Instead of being from the past, mascots inherit the past. Their purpose is to promote the community similar to some invented traditions that also support group identities. Mascots also promote the status quo, promoting only positive ideas and parts of the past.

Representations of the community, connections to the past, invented traditions, imagined hometowns, and soft power are all discussed in the paragraphs before are also present in national imagined communities. The first parallel is with banal nationalism. Banal nationalism is when an imagined community has objects that make the community feel connected, like flags (Billig, 1995). For cities, the mascots become those representations for the community, while the ties to the cities are not are strong as with the nation there is still the imagined community and the reinforcement of it through the mascots.

Another parallel is with the connection to the past. Nation-states often connect themselves with the past and use the past to support their positions with invented traditions (Vlastos, 1998). In this same way mascots and cities are also using the past for their own ends, which are creating pride in the city.

The next parallel is imagined hometowns and imagined pasts. Imagined hometowns do not have any direct parallel to national imagined communities, but when looking at the ideas that make up imagined hometowns there are parallels. When making imagined hometowns recreates a romanticized Japanese past (Birkett, 2012). Recreating an imagined past is also something that national imagined communities will do as well (Anderson, 2006).

The final parallel, soft power, is one of the more obvious parallels. Both imagined communities have goals that they wanted accomplished through their citizens, the difference is the goals they have. Mascots and the imagined city communities share more resemblance to national imagined communities than would first be assumed.

Created to foster city pride and market the city, mascots have become successful in those goals and beyond. The creation of city pride has had the inadvertent effect of creating imagined city communities around these mascots with various parallels with national imagined communities. The mascots also now have power themselves that is used to market the city, local government branches and companies. The mascots and Japanese city pride show another variation of imagined communities and how marketing can be intermixed with that.

References

  1. Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York, NY: Verso.
  2. Billig, M. (1995). Banal nationalism. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  3. Birkett, M. (2012). “Amateur” mascots on the loose: The pragmatics of kawaii (cute). (Master’s thesis, University of Michigan).
  4. Hashi. (2011). Japan’s wackiest town mascots. Retrieved from http://www.tofugu.com/2011/08/31/japans-wackiest-town-mascots/
  5. Kracker, D. (2013, May 20). Get loose with japan’s yuru-chara. Retrieved from http://www.mtv81.com/features/specials/get-loose-with-japans-yuru-chara/ 
  6. Madge, L. (1997). Capitalizing on “cuteness”: The aesthetics of social relations in a new postwar Japanese order. The Journal of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, 9, 155-174.
  7. Nye, J. S., Jr. (2005). Soft power: The means to success in world politics. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.
  8. Occhi, D. J. (2012). Wobbly aesthetics, performance, and message. Asian Ethnology, 71(1), 109–132.
  9. Sento-kun’s profile. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.japantravelinfo.com/anime/pdf/sento_kun_profile.pdf 
  10. Tan, C. S. L. (n.d.). ご当地キャラ (gotochikyara) & ゆるキャラ (yurukyara) – the fusion of pop culture in place branding in japan. Retrieved from http://www.ijbts-journal.com/images/main_1366796758/0006-Caroline.pdf 
  11. Vlastos, S. (1998). Mirror of modernity: Invented traditions of modern japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
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Yasukuni Shrine and Korean Identity

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

In his research on nationalism, Craig Calhoun talks about when and how nations were formed. Some people say nations are primordial, that they have been around forever, that they are “natural” phenomena. Others, including Calhoun, believe that nations and nationalism are modern and constructed. By 1815, the world was full of nations. He calls nationalism the most momentous phenomenon of modern history. He writes:

In East Asia, nationalism has throughout the twentieth century been the rhetoric not only of anti-imperialist struggles but of calls for strengthening and democratizing states from within. (p213-214) 

Calhoun cites references on China, relating how anti-Japanese imperial protest, the May Fourth Movement in 1919, was both anti-imperialist and served to strengthen and democratize China. This was later to have led to the revolution.

It seems as Korean nationalism has beeb strengthened through protest against Japanese policies. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One of my Korean friends told me that he cannot talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Jukka Jouhki (2009) discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:

Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. 

Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as she was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are trying to work through.

Japanese leaders’ nationalism, such as visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.

References

Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology19, 211-239.

Jukka, J. (2009, May 8). The second invasion: Notes on korean reactions to the yasukuni shrine issue. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/179474/The_Second_Invasion_Notes_on_Korean_Reactions_to_the_Yasukuni_Shrine_Issue 

 

Is multiculturalism really a “failure” in Germany?

by Michelle L.

In our class we came upon the quote of the German chancellor Angela Merkel: “multiculturalism has utterly failed”

Unfortunately we did not discuss about the backgrounds and the deeper meaning of this quote. In this post I would like to take a closer look on this topic.

Germany‘s migration image has been changing tremendously since the end of the second world war. As of 2011, 19.5% of the German population had some sort of immigration background, meaning either being born in a foreign country as a non-German citizen or born to a foreign-born parent in German with or without German citizenship. Nowadays, the largest share belongs to the Turkish community (18.5%), followed by Polish (9.2%).

After the second world war, Germany was in need of labour to rebuild the country. People were encouraged to come to Germany and work there. This applies mostly to Turkish immigrants to former West Germany and Vietnamese immigrants to the former GDR, as for being a fellow communist nation. The government did not invest in language training or did not provide any service to make it easier to adopt for the migrant workers, since they were only seen as temporary cheap labour or so-called Gastarbeiter. Gastarbeiter is a German term for immigrant workers who came to Germany between the end of the war and the 1970s. Literally meaning “guest worker”, it refers to the temporary contracts after which the immigrant workers were supposed to return. In recent times this word got quite a negative connotation.

However, many people stayed and brought their family to Germany or married a German spouse. The government was not prepared for this. Since there literally was no effort in integrating the immigrants, those people were tolerated but not integrated in society. This continued for quite some time and the government somehow missed the turning point of Germany becoming a migration country.

Whereas other cities have a “China Town”, parts of Berlin seem like a Turkish parallel world. Even though some families are staying in Germany for the 3rd or 4th generation, many of them keep close ties to their home country and mixed slangs developed.

However, I do not think that multiculturalism has failed – it is the government who failed in creating opportunities to integrate immigrants into German society. It was only in 2005 that Germany introduced compulsory German language courses to immigrants, in case that the do not have sufficient knowledge of German to work. Moreover bilingual primary education only focusses on languages like French, Spanish and English. Most immigrant children therefore attend a regular school, where teachers are not prepared for them. This creates an environment where it is difficult for them to adopt. Since some districts in Berlin have a very dense immigrant population, people are more likely to stay in there national group.

I see Germany, my home country, as a multicultural society. Growing up in Berlin, I shared my class room with people from many different backgrounds. 24% of Berlin’s residents have a migration background and events in Berlin like “Carneval of Cultures” attract thousands of peoples. This percentage is still quite small compared to cities like Frankfurt (am Main), the heart of Germany’s financial sector and the most important international airport in Germany. The city is home to 42% of residents with immigration background.

Nevertheless, many “native” Germans are hostile towards immigrants. As of 2008, a survey found out that 53% think that “Germany has too many immigrants” and 50% think that immigrants like to stay along their fellows. In recent years, attacks on refugee homes increased and the National Democratic Party of Germany (a far-right German nationalist party) still manages to get many votes by promoting to “send all foreigners home”. Even though they were not able take part in any federal government, they are still active on a local level.

Recently, realizing the problem of demographic change (aging society) and the lack of high-skilled workers marked a shift in Germany’s immigration policies. However, it seems like the government is always only approving of immigration if it is in need. I hope that this attitude will change and Germany’s growing multicultural society will be seen as a benefit of our country.

References:
1) BBC News. “Merkel says German multicultural society has failed”. 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11559451
2) Abalı, Oya. “German Public Opinion on Immigration and Integration”. 2009. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/tcm-germanpublicopinion.pdf
3) Statistisches Bundesamt. “Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus”. 2011. https://www.destatis.de/DE/Publikationen/Thematisch/Bevoelkerung/MigrationIntegration/Migrationshintergrund.html