Hi Blog. Pursuant to yesterday’s Asahi article mentioning kids bullying a child with international roots, here’s a letter from a father who felt the diversity-stripping effects of the word “gaijin” firsthand, when his Japanese daughter first entered a Tokyo grade school. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Subject: my 6-year-old (Japanese) daughter called “gaijin”
Date: October 24, 2008
You probably don’t remember, but I wrote you several years ago to ask about the complicated issue of children’s names in the case of “international couples” here in Japan, and you kindly answered that query.
Well, it is about 6 years later and my daughter XXXXXX is getting ready to enter elementary school next April. We happen to live right between two schools in Tokyo, and my wife took XXXXXX to visit both of them yesterday. XXXXXX is quite excited to be an ichi nen sei next year and was looking forward to the visit, but it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.
In one of the classes they were visiting, a boy pointed at XXXXXX and shouted 外人だ！外人がいる！ The teacher went on “teaching” as if nothing was happening, while the shouts grew louder and soon the entire class was pointing and staring at poor XXXXXX, who was in complete shock. Ultimately, my wife had no choice but to leave the classroom and try to console XXXXXX.
I can’t say this came as a complete surprise, as XXXXXX does indeed look quite “European,” but it was depressing that the teacher saw no reason to intervene in some way to make the experience less mortifying for my daughter. If this had occurred on the street it would have been bad enough, but it is even more disheartening that it happened at a school, a place that should be at the forefront of efforts to curb stupid racial discrimination.
Anyway, the reason that I am bothering you with this sad little tale is that I was wondering if you happened to know anything about the Ministry of Education’s “policy” towards racial discrimination and what (if anything) the schools are doing to explain the simple fact that Japanese people now come in all shapes, sizes and faces. I suspect there is no effort being made whatsoever to counter the ignorance of students and teachers, but I thought if anyone was up to date on this subject it would be you.
So far, my wife and I have sent a letter to the Principal of the school and depending on the response (if any!) we receive I may pursue the matter further, whether writing to The Japan Times or to the Ministry of Education itself. Do you have any other suggestions on how to raise a bit of a stink about this (assuming, of course, you think that the incident is as stinky as it seemed to me and my wife).
I’m sorry to take up so much of your time with this, but any advice you might have would be much appreciated.
Best regards, MX
2008/10/25 Arudou Debito <firstname.lastname@example.org> replied:
Hello Michael. Thanks for sharing this. May I post this up on my blog? I’ll anonymize it if you like. It’s an important tale. If you’d like to add anything more, please do. Meanwhile, consider what I did in this situation here.
Do take it up with your school. Schedule an appointment and meet with the people in charge with the school face to face. Get in writing what the school intends to do about this. The teacher was completely irresponsible. Debito