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Hi Blog. Great article from The Japan Times talking about how multiethnic Japan (including immigrants and Visible Minorities) is presenting a strong showing at the Rio Olympics. Timely and informative, and too early to note caveats (except that we’ve had multiethnic Japanese Olympians face large hurdles in the past; let’s hope the numbers of them this time have reached a tipping point). Have a look. Here’s the intro. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
ISSUES | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT
Celebrating Japan’s multicultural Olympians
Meet the athletes flying the flag and challenging traditional views of what it is to be Japanese
BY NAOMI SCHANEN, STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 17, 2016
Japan and Brazil’s ties go back to the early 20th century, when the first Japanese immigrants arrived as farmers in the South American country. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan — 1.5 million of the country’s 205 million people identify themselves as Japanese-Brazilian, including a handful of members of the Brazilian Olympic team.
But although the host countries of the current and next Summer Olympics share cultural bonds, compared to Brazil, where nearly half of people consider themselves mixed-race, multiculturalism remains elusive in Japan, where ethnic homogeneity is often held up as something to be proud of.
Though Japan is home to the second-largest Brazilian community outside of Brazil, only 2 percent of the country’s population was born overseas. Compared to most other developed countries, immigration to Japan is negligible. However, despite having to deal with an aging, shrinking population, the majority of Japanese seem to prefer it this way. In a recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll, only 37 percent said they felt that more non-Japanese should be accepted to fill the gaps in the country’s labor market.
Japan is home to 2.2 million foreign residents, and like it or not, a growing number of them are marrying Japanese citizens. The number of international marriages increased tenfold between 1965 and 2007, with registered new multiracial couples peaking at 40,272. Due to tighter immigration rules, the number has since dropped considerably, but marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals still make up roughly 1 in 30 unions — and around 1 in 10 in Tokyo.
However, no matter how common international marriages are today, Japanese society still sets the children of these couples apart. They may have grown up as Japanese citizens or be fluent at the language, but many complain of feeling excluded or discriminated against because of their backgrounds. These individuals’ struggles in dealing with their classification as hāfu (half) have been recounted numerous times in the media, particularly by bicultural figures in the public eye.
Some of these children, however, grow up to be Olympians — flying the flag for Japan and challenging the conventional definition of what it means to be Japanese. At the Rio Olympics, more than any before, multicultural Japanese athletes have been a notable presence in the stadiums. Here are profiles of some of these athletes — those who have given their all in Rio for Team Japan, broken the glass ceiling and possibly even opened up minds in their homeland.
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