Cultural Citizenship: ‘Jun Japa’ at Japanese Universities

by Rena Shoji

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Multiculturalism or Anti-Multiculturalism in Japan

English: Ainus wearing their traditional cloth...

English: Ainu wearing their traditional clothes, Ainu Museum, City of Shiraoi, Hokkaido, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Naresh Kumar

The Japanese version of multiculturalism is anti-multiculturalism. Every action or support, provided by the government and people of Japan is not for cultural minorities but for the social and cultural majorities. When we read the literature it provides us with skepticism. I believe that the job of the literature is not to tell us whether it is right or wrong, but it needs to urge readers to think critically before they decide what is right or wrong. There is a need to accept people for who they are, rather than trying making them into who we are. We all are different but isn’t that a good thing. Japan is the last developed country to move towards minorities’ rights. A tradition which was important to Ainu’s ancestors has become to modern Ainu, a matter of cultural survival. It is hard to find someone in the current generation who speaks Ainu fluently, and it is because of the oppression by the Japanese government from the past century.

The Ainu minority in Japan is struggling to keep up their identity and culture. The oppression from the government is not anymore but it has driven Ainu minorities towards extinction. After Japan started its internationalization, the slogans like international exchange, cultural exchange, etc., are heard very often. Commentators say that Japan is on the route of becoming a multicultural country. The notion of Japanese multiculturalism is embedded in Japan’s culture, education and society and this excludes minority groups of Japan.

In Hokkaido, Ainu museums and cultural centers can be found, but is it to distinguish themselves as different people or to provide a picture of Ainu culture for Japan? It is hard to figure out whether Japan is preserving history or ignorance. Many see Ainu people as part of Japanese people. However, it is hard to distinguish whether government policies are to include or exclude the Ainu people. Behind different policies promoting Ainu culture, there is a continuing story of Ainu discrimination.

The consensus by the government shows that there are around 30,000 Ainu people left (Onishi, 2008). However, the exact number of Ainu population in Japan in unknown as Ainu people are excluded from the census. Many argue that this is the result of an exclusion policy by the government. The Ainu language is passed through parents to children without any proper written forms (Aljazeera, 2010). 1974’s Ainu welfare program was introduced to raise the living standards of Ainu, but the Ainu’s living standards have lagged behind those of other Japanese (ibid). Many Ainu people hide their identity because they fear discrimination. Japan is the last developed country which is working towards equality but the process is really slow. I fear that if such cases of discrimination, exclusion from social welfare, etc. carry on, then Ainu population might extinct from Japan.


Aljazeera, (2010, February 4). Japan improves relations with Ainu. Retrieved from

Onishi, N. (2008, July 3). Japan Recognizes Ainu as an Indigenous People, but what comes next? Retrieved from

JSL and life in Japan

by Moraima Flores

“and asking ourselves, if some LM reach higher education against all odds, what combinations of factors and circumstances have enabled them to do so” (Kanno 2004, p. 245)

I arrived to Japan in August 2007 ready to start high school and without any knowledge of Japanese. I found this school in Osaka prefecture where they accepted up to 14 foreign students per year with no previous Japanese language knowledge required. The entrance exam consisted in three tests: math, English and an essay written in your first language (Spanish in my case). They allowed me to use a dictionary Japanese-Spanish during the tests so it would help me understand what I was asked to do.

Classes started in April, and I remember getting to school all nervous. I met my new classmates to find myself in a class of about 40 students, and all the foreign students (we were 8 that year) were place in the same class. Even though my classmates and teachers were really friendly, I remember feeling really isolated the first few months because I was the only one in the entire 2008 class of about 140 students who could not communicate properly with anyone.

This school was a public school, and from what I was explained, not a very good one given that it’s placed in the middle of the ranking of “how good” or “how difficult” it’s to get in. My teachers would tell me that it was “average” in terms of education. Most of the students graduating from this school would choose to find a permanent job, or would go to specialized schools (senmon-gakko) upon graduation. Still, there was a big number going to university, all of them private and not that well-known, so I remember getting laughed at when I said I wanted to go to Ritsumeikan, because this university was outside the possibilities of my high school. I noticed, though, that the foreign students would go to better universities than most of the Japanese students. In my class, out of us eight, 6 students opted for tertiary education upon graduation, and 4 of those got accepted to either Ritsumeikan University or Kansai University, two of the most prestigious universities in the Kansai area.

Before the year started we were asked to take a Japanese test designed by the school to place us in JSL classes based on our proficiency at the time. There was a big gap between those students who went to junior high school in Japan and those of us who just arrived. In our first year, at the beginning we were all pulled out of our home room and taken to the remedial classes, but sometimes we would be allowed to take classes with our Japanese peers in our home room to see if we could follow or not. I took all of my academic classes, except for English and math, in another classroom, but this varied from student to student depending on their Japanese language proficiency or, in my case, how good one was in that particular subject. In the remedial classes, all of us would carry dictionaries, and were encouraged to stop the class if we had any questions. All of the teachers from the remedial classes would summarize the content in handouts with ‘furigana’, sometimes adding drawings, graphs and even technical words written in our mother tongue for us to understand it better.

The school was flexible in its curriculum allowing their students to choose up to more than half their subjects by 3rd year. The school encouraged foreign students to keep studying their mother language, so it set up “first language” classes for us even if they only had one student for certain languages (like it was my case). To be honest, I sort of refused to take this class because it made me feel even more isolated and the teacher, although a native speaker, was not prepared to teach a high school level student in Spanish. The content was very basic, and she ignored the differences between the way Spanish is spoken in Paraguay and the way it is in her country, sometimes even making fun of my choices of words. By my third year I refused to keep on taking Spanish classes and decided to focus more on Japanese.

The school offered a variety of after school clubs, and one of them was the “Tabunka-koryu-bu” (Multicultural exchange club), to which all the foreign students were active members of. Moorehead (2013) described in his research the ‘Amigos’ room where the students would go to study or to relax from their stressful school environment, we used to call this place the ‘Tabunka room’ at my school. We were called in once a week after class to discuss extracurricular activities like festivals or international exchange reunions we could participate in. There was an active group of teachers in Osaka prefecture who organized numerous international exchange reunions through out the year; they seemed to keep up to date about the curriculum, the students and teachers of other schools to provide mutual support. All the foreign students were welcome to the Tabunka room, which we considered our “safe place.” As Moorehead (2013) described, most of the foreign students would go to this room to talk, play and just relax from our stressing ‘trying to fit in’ life in our home rooms. However, there would always be a teacher there who would usually help us with our homework, sometimes the teachers would hear that we are not doing good in certain subject so they would make us stay after school to study and offer guidance.

The JSL classes weren’t easy; they would be heavy and condensed, a lot of grammar and kanji to learn. The aim of the school was that by the time its foreign students reached senior year they wouldn’t need remedial classes and would be able to study with their Japanese peers in their home rooms. The foreign students were strongly encouraged to take JLPT exams every year, and the ultimate goal was to obtain N1 by senior year. The teachers would set up re-enforcement classes after school, or even during the summer/spring break for subjects that couldn’t be tackled during school hours like preparation for interviews (for university entrance or work), JLPT practice exams, essay academic writing, etc.

As Kanno (2004) and Moorehead (2013) pointed out, JSL education and support for foreign students vary depending on the school and prefecture. I would want to add that it might also vary depending on the level of education, given that in high school the system is designed for students to carry more responsibility than they would in middle school, expected to choose a future path and to find the best way to achieve their goals relying more in previously acquired knowledge than on their parents or teachers; whereas in elementary and middle school the students carry less responsibility, leaving this to parents and teachers alike. Since the school I attended to only accepted 14 students per year, I’m left wondering what happened with the ones that don’t get in. Do they go to other schools? Or they just don’t attend any? The fact that the government has a budget for this kind of programs shows that there’s recognition for diversity in the education system, but as Moorehead (2013) and Kanno (2004) showed, it’s not standardized.


Kanno, Yasuko. 2004. “Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school.” Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, edited by A. Pavlenko, and A. Blackledge. London: Multilingual Matters.

Moorehead, Robert. 2013. “Separate and unequal: The remedial Japanese language classroom as an ethnic project.” The AsiaPacific Journal 11(32):3.

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.


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

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

“Making a choice” or “forceful separation”?

by Kyungyeon Chung

On the walls of immigration bureau offices in Japan, one can easily spot posters regarding dual citizenship. As the Japanese government does not recognize dual citizenship of its citizens, these posters usually say something along the line of  “let’s make it clear: choose your nationality,” “make a choice: no more duality.” Somehow, the rhetoric of posters seems to suggest that dual citizenship is unclear, undesirable, and duplicate, and thus a negative thing.

Today, in the face of increasing immigration and the growing flow of goods, services and persons across state borders, the concept of dual citizenship has arisen as a politically hot topic. While some argue that the recognition of dual citizenship is simply a legislative act that allows freedom, many believe it means more than granting of an extra passport. Opponents for the recognition argue it will complicate bureaucratic administration for the government. However, the most prominent argument behind the opposition is that the concept is not compatible with what “citizenship” entails. Citizenship has long been associated with state-control over its people – ‘citizenry’ – and, as T.H. Marshall defined, “a claim to be accepted as full members of the society” (Bloemraad, Korteweg & Yurdakul, 2008). Dual citizenship effectively challenges this idea of state-control as it allows the person to be a member of two separate societies, eligible for two separate sets of privileges, and obligated to two separate sets of duties.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.17.07 PMThe confusion it causes is understandable. However, forcing one to choose one citizenship over another – the father’s over mother’s, the birth country over the country of residence, or vice versa – is this reasonable? In an opinion article from the New York Times, Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies argued that, for US nationals, engaging in dual citizenship basically means renouncing US citizenship, and is an absurdity that should be prohibited (2014). However, having two passports cannot possibly mean that one is betraying their ‘native’ country. For many immigrants, their children, and expatriates around the world, dual citizenship is about having freedom of association. Just because a person has moved from his/her native country to another, it does not mean he/she automatically renounces, forgets, or even wants to distance from the past. As time passes their emotional attachment and/or political participation can grow in both countries. In such situations, denying the chance of dual citizenship forcefully imposes what a person’s identity should be or where his/her allegiance should lie – does this not qualify as an infringement on freedom of personal choice? It effectively forces them to officially renounce their past so that they can be ‘loyal’ citizens of the present country of residence. If that’s what opponents want to achieve by invalidating dual citizenship, how effective could this possibly be anyway in forming allegiance?

It is more likely that dual citizenship is an irreversible and unavoidable occurrence in the face of globalization. Multiple national, racial and ethnic identities will continue to grow unabated no matter what governmental policies are in place. Recognizing multiple nationalities may be a nuisance for many governments, especially the ones who believe in their perceived ‘homogeneity’. Yet, eventually, the time will come that they have to admit the presence of diversity within the artificially set state borders.


Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. (2008). Citizenship And Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, And Challenges To The Nation-State. Annual Review of Sociology, 34(1), 153-179.

Krikorian, M. (2014, January 30). An exclusive relationship. International New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

法務省 (The Government of Japan Ministry of Justice). (n.d.). 国籍選択について (About choosing nationality). Retrieved May 18, 2014, from


My Future, My Nationality

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Tomoki Bischel

When we students think about our future, we tend to think about graduating school, job hunting, or other facts. I too also think about these facts and feel worried. However, when I think about my future, the first thing that comes in mind is about choosing my nationality. I was born and grew up in Japan, but since I was born half American and half Japanese, I have both nationalities. In Japan, the ministry of justice requires citizens who have a dual nationality to choose either one by the age of 22. Since I will be 20 this year and I only have 2 years left to decide, I am starting to think about this seriously. When thinking about which nationality I should choose, the word ibasho which we discussed in our class came to my mind.

I believe there are many definitions for the word ibasho. For me, ibasho is a place where you feel secure and happy; like when you’re with your friends or family, and I believe our nationality is also one of them to us. Although I was rose in Japan, I had many chances to go to America to meet my relatives. So, for me, not only Japan but America is also one of my ibasho. So, when it comes to have to choose my nationality, it sometimes feels like I have to choose my ibasho and feels almost impossible to choose only one. Some may say that choosing your nationality may not be the same as choosing your ibasho, since you don’t need a nationality to go to a country. However, not having a nationality can narrow choices that you have. For example, if I decide to choose America as my nationality, I won’t be able have suffrage in Japan even though I was born and grew up in this country.

I only have two years left to choose my nationality, and as I have mentioned, this would probably be one of the biggest choices that I will make in life. Having have to choose a nationality, I have a sort of fear against how the other country will look once I choose a nationality. Anyhow, I hope to be able to make a choice that I won’t regret in the future; a choice that will most help me in the future. For me, a nationality isn’t just a passport, it’s my ibasho.

Japan and Hafu Nationality

by Reina Doi

Imagine that your parents have an international marriage (one of your parents is Japanese), and you are living as hafu in Japan. In your house, two type of cultures are mixed, and you belong to two countries through your experiences. However, if you were 22, you would have to choose one country as a nationality. You used to have two nationalities that your parent’s home country, but you can choose only one nationality, so you automatically have to abandon one nationality, though you have two countries’ identity.

Do you think that situation is unreasonable? I think many people think “I want to keep both nationalities like before!”. However, this is real story that hafu people face. In Japan, dual citizenship is not admitted, and as I say before, hafu are forced to choose one nationality by age 22. Many countries such as America, France and UK allow dual citizenship, and hafu get guarantee from country.  Why Japan does not admit like other countries? I think the reason relates to dual citizenship demerits. In America, there are many immigrants from all over the world, and America give citizenship for them. It seems good, but American government does not officially support dual citizenship, because if person has two nationalities, it would be trouble when person committed one country’s law. Besides, it is annoying to some Americans that some people might come to America for giving birth, and the children get American nationality, and then go back to their home country.

Thus, dual citizenship has some negative aspects. However, I think Japan should allow dual citizenship. Globalization is coming to Japan too, and we cannot stop this stream. Some people believes that Japan is homogeneous country, but that is not true. Many foreigners are lived as a worker and international marriage is getting more and more. Therefore Japan should prepare that follow globalization. Japan does not have enough care and guarantee for foreigner, and even hafu. Hafu is also increasing (one out of thirty baby is hafu) recently, so Japan have to think whether continuing present nationality’s system or not. I think giving up one nationality means forcing to lose one own identity from government, so Japan should give right to choose that hafu choose one or keep two nationalities.

To join global society, Japan should quit old system, and accept new style. More people should come, and Japan’s lived foreigners and hafu will increase. Therefore I think it is time that Japan prepare and take action for hafu to live better in Japan.

Identity of Hafu and Japanese

by Kanami Hirokawa

One in 30 children is born as a hafu today in Japan. Hafu have parents who have different nationality and looks. Therefore, hafu tend to have different looks with Japanese and they may catch people’s eye easily. In such a situation in Japan, how do hafu people build their own identity? Do they have only one identity or hybrid identity? Why do many Japanese think hafu is cool and beautiful?

First of all, it is necessary to think about identity of hafu. When I watched a video about hafu in class, many of hafu said that they have a hybrid identity, but they said that they can not become complete and true Japanese. Many of hafu in this video grow up in Japan and know the Japanese culture. Moreover, some of them can speak Japanese fluently. However, why can’t they become ‘true’ Japanese? In order to have the consciousness of belonging, to have same value and culture is needed. For example, if they live in Japan, they try to speak Japanese. In addition to this, it is also important that hafu are appropriated by Japanese, regarded as a member of Japan and they can join Japanese society.

Next, Japanese often regard hafu as a ‘stranger’ even if they know Japanese culture and can speak Japanese. Hafu often attract people’s eye and they are regarded not as Japanese but as a special people. Today, in Japan hafu and foreigners are minority and many Japanese still have the fixed idea that Japan is a homogeneous nation. This is why hafu and foreigners are regarded as a ‘stranger’ in Japan. Such a fixed idea should be broken because Japan has been a multicultural country since the old days. For example, Ainu people lived in Hokkaido as native people and in the 20th century many foreigners like Koreans and Brazilians came to Japan. I suggest that Japanese must change their fixed idea and appropriate hafu.

Japanese tend to ask hafu questions like “where are you from?” even if they grow up in Japan and have Japanese values and Japanese culture. Japanese must know that people who have different looks with Japanese live in Japan as Japanese. Moreover, Japanese should accept hafu as a member of Japan and should not make borders between Japanese and hafu because they grow up in Japan and have same identity with Japanese. In order that hafu become Japanese completely, not only Japanese accept hafu as a member of Japanese in Japanese society but also Japanese government should begin the approach to make Japan a ‘true’ multicultural country. Japan is based on the idea of jus sanguinis and conservative to foreigners. Today, in the world, globalization is developing now and Japan should review their principle.

In conclusion, hafu are often regarded as special people in today’s Japanese society. In order that hafu become true Japanese, Japanese should break their fixed ideas and Japanese government should change their policy. Furthermore, in the future Japan may have to accept more foreigners because of the declining birth rate and the lack of workers. If such a situation comes, foreigners will come to work in Japan and have more opportunities to get on with foreigners. The number of hafu will be increasing from now on. Therefore, Japanese need to appropriate hafu and foreigners.


Hafuwokangaeyou [Let’s think about hafu].(2010). Sandra, H. Retrieved May 8, 2013, from

Natalie, M. W, and Marcia, Y. L. (2010). The Hafu Project. The Hafu Project.

Seichisyugi [Jus Sanguinis]. (n.d.). Murato Lawyer Office. Retrieved May 8, 2013, from