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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 10th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  What follows is a report from Meat67 (sorry for the delay) on a citywide survey of NJ carried out by Urayasu, Chiba-ken, across the river from Tokyo proper.  Scans enclosed below.  Compare this with an excellent one from Sapporo City that came out in 2008.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    From: meat67
    Date: February 26, 2010

    I received the following survey in the mail from the City of Urayasu (see below). While I have many friends and acquaintances in Japan and Urayasu, I sometimes feel alienated from “official” Japan, so I was pleased to see that the city wanted my opinion on their “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines”. Like most things from governments there are good and bad things about this survey


    The first nice thing about the survey was the option of doing it in English and Japanese. For those people whose Japanese is at a low level the option of doing it in English is nice, while the option of Japanese acknowledges that many immigrants, can, in fact, read and write Japanese. That being said, just from my own personal observation from living in Urayasu for the past seven years, the inclusion of Chinese and Tagalog versions as well would have made it even better.

    I think there are a good variety of questions on the survey, from the general to the specific. They ask about general life in Japan and dealing with Japanese people. They also ask about specific groups sponsored by the local government. Many of the general questions have an “other” option, which is great. They probably received many responses they were not expecting or had thought of .

    I liked question 3 about the resident’s association. I have never been asked to join in all the time I have lived here. However, I never went out of my to find out about it either, so when I move next month I will try to find out more about the one in my new area.

    Unfortunately, the most general question, 14, has such a tiny box that I had to write really small to fit in what I wanted to say. I mentioned the racism of the police, which, I don’t think, the city can do much about. I also told them that the cyclists and drivers here drive me crazy because they don’t stop at stop signs, sometimes not even for red lights, drive the wrong way down one way streets, don’t look when they cut from the sidewalk to the road, etc…. This, more than anything else, affects my daily life, since I ride my bicycle somewhere almost everyday. I often arrive at work pissed off. It’s so bad that a couple of months ago I actually mentioned to a co-worker how surprised I was that for three or four days in a row no one had annoyed me. I have gone so far as to change the route I take to work a few times to see if that would make a difference. My morning commute is more often than not the most stressful 10 minutes of the day.

    Like any survey, some of the questions can be open to interpretation. Question 7-1, for example, asks if you have experienced difficulty at work. I circled 2 because I do not always receive all the information I need. However, I don’t think this is always because I am not Japanese, but because I am in the part-time teachers room. Even many of the Japanese part-time teachers don’t always know what’s going on, since they don’t attend the morning teachers meetings either.

    Question 12 is a little problematic. Even though I am “2. Somewhat satisfied” and so went on to question 12-1, I would have liked to answer 12-2 also. I am dissatisfied with some things as well and would have liked to say what they are. I’m just more satisfied than not.

    I would have changed some of the language. Just one example is “foreign nationals (外国人居住者)”. Again, from my experience of living here for seven years, the vast majority of foreign nationals I meet are immigrants, so why not call us that? The use of “immigrants” would make me feel much more accepted as a contributing member society rather than just a “guest”.

    Finally, I have to ask, why do people think it’s so hard to separate garbage? The city hall offers a chart with pictures and descriptions of the various types of garbage. Garbage bags have their purpose written in both Japanese and English. I really for the life of me cannot figure out where this “Oh my god, foreigners cannot figure out the super complex garbage rules of Japan” idea comes from. When my girlfriend, who has lived in Japan all her life, moved in with me she spent the first month or two asking me questions about the garbage.

    All in all, I am happy with the city government’s initiative. I was happy to answer the questions on the survey. In fact, I would be more than happy talk with someone from city hall to answer more questions if they wanted to. I look forward to seeing the results on the city’s website.

    Meat67 in Urayasu


    10 Responses to “Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey”

    1. Karl Says:

      Some of the questions are somewhat typical of people with the perception that Japanese people are mysterious and inscrutable to foreigners (“I don’t quite understand what Japanese people are thinking” and “I do not understand Japanese culture and habits”), but overall good job Urayasu for actually caring about what foreigners think.

      I was also a bit sad that for the question “What would you like in terms of dealing with Japanese people?” the response “To treat me like a normal person” was not an option. But I suppose that’s what the “other” box is for.

    2. norik Says:

      I’ve received and answered to similar surveys in Nagoya, but nothing has changed so far. Many of my colleagues from different countries were reluctant in filling in such surveys, exactly because nothing ever changes. The last one I threw out.In Osaka I haven’t received one yet.
      Sorry to be such pessimist. Maybe in Urayasu it will be different, people will actually try and improve things for foreigners.

    3. Level3 Says:

      Other “Japanese people and the city government think I am too stupid to know how to separate garbage even when given a cartoonish chart” – “Japanese obaasans inspect my garbage” – “The garbage I separate is all burned at the same incinerator anyway” – “Young Japanese people in my area don’t separate their garbage, but I am blamed because I am the foreigner.” for starters. The obsession with garbage is almost comic. Almost.

      Perhaps edit the choices to make it read “I don’t understand Japanese thinking ABOUT GARBAGE SEPARATION” and as a final line “Japanese people don’t tend to understand sarcasm.” :)

      But yes, it seems the survey didn’t bring up major REAL issues that affect our lives.
      Police racial profiling.
      Housing discrimination.
      Or did I not see those choices?
      A pet issue for me is maybe more leeway on vacation time, we can’t make an annual visit to the folks on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I takes a week.
      Did they even TALK to any foreigners when they made this survey? (I think I would add that question to my response.) Or maybe this is the first step in such a process? Could be good.

      Nice to see they at least consider the possibility that neighbors and employers might discriminate against foreigners, and that the school system might not suit our kids, but of course, no room left for elaboration.

    4. Allen Says:

      It is very nice that this sort of action is being taken. Does anyone in Fukuoka have any idea if such a survey is coming around or already has? (Fukuoka is where me and my twin are moving after college)

    5. Kimberly Says:

      @Level3, housing discrimination was addressed in Q.5, answers 10 and 11 are both about housing issues.

      The garbage bit is hilarious… I’m the one who keeps all the garbage days straight in our household too, my (Japanese) husband is still stuck in the days of burnable vs. unburnable, he’d toss all the recycleables in with the dead batteries and put it out on the wrong day if I didn’t keep everything in order. Garbage seperation… probably one of the EASIEST things for a newcomer to master!

    6. Meat67 Says:

      After moving from Urayasu to a new city with different trash rules a month ago, I kept finding the wrong trash in the wrong bin. I asked my girlfriend, who is Japanese, about it and she admited that she hadn’t actually read the trash posters provided by the city despite the fact that I had taped them up over the bins to make it easy. Sigh. After I asked her to read them every thing was fine.

    7. Level3 Says:


      Thanks for pointing that out.
      I’m not sure if it is really addressing the issue of blatant housing discrimination, though.
      The choices are about difficulty finding a place to live, and difficulty getting a guarantor.
      A bit vague.
      I suppose these might be interpreted (especially from the stereotypical “Japan has no discrimination” viewpoint) as a problem of information, with the solution being a multi-lingual directory to housing and guarantors – rather than a problem of racial discrimination, with the solution being anti-discrimination laws.

    8. norik Says:

      About housing:
      I’d like to share with you one very interesting experience my husband (South Korean, not zainichi) had at the end of 2009. Since our family had a new member, we needed a bigger house, and while I was in my home country, my hubby was looking for an appartment.Well, he faced the usual stuff( “already taken, sorry!”,different conditions for an NJ, the landlord prefers Japanese,sumimasen), so he was delighted to find an appartment in very beautiful, green, calm neighbourhood, where the landlord was actually happy to have foreign tenants.I have to mention the fact that my husband has English name (very fashionable among young Koreans to have one, like Gianna Jin, or Philip Lee), and he uses it outside Korea. So he went to meet the landlord, but when they met and talked for a while, and it became clear that my husband is South Korean national, the landlord said: “Sorry, when I heard your name I thought you are American or from any other English speaking country. This appartment is for Americans, Australians or Europeans,not for NJ from Asian countries” My husband assured him that he has a guarantor and solid income, but all in vain-the guy would give the place only to the above nationalities.
      I hadn’t heard about such discrimination yet, but honestly, that’s kind of weird. My husband was really pissed off. He told me later-“You, Europeans, are complaining about discrimination, but as you see, we are discriminated against you too. ” And the funniest part is-noone can do anything about this. If the discrimination is between foreigners and Japanese, maybe yes, but between foreigners and foreigners…

      — Divide and conquer. Discrimination does that to the discriminated against when you see degrees of it within a group. That’s one reason why it’s so hard to get rid of, when even those people discriminated against start pointing fingers at each other and not potentially not cooperating to stop the real problem — the interpersonal corrosiveness of prejudice..

    9. Level3 Says:


      Was this landlord Japanese?

    10. Mike Says:

      “Divide and conquer. Discrimination does that to the discriminated against when you see degrees of it within a group. That’s one reason why it’s so hard to get rid of, when even those people discriminated against start pointing fingers at each other and not potentially not cooperating to stop the real problem — the interpersonal corrosiveness of prejudice..”

      So very true and well put Debito. Ive witnessed this amoungst the foriegn community here in Japan time after time.

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