Mainichi Waiwai: Homi Danchi and Japanese-Brazilian frictions in Aichi


Hi Blog. I’ve been to Homi Danchi, the place described below, and it wasn’t as bad as all that (if it’s a “slum”, I’ve seen worse, even in Japan). That was, however, about four years ago, and I didn’t really seek out more information on the J-NJ tensions at the time. Here’s what the media is saying about the situation now. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Foreigners’ Home Sweet ‘Homi’ greeted by local cold shoulder
Mainichi Waiwai Page, December 11, 2007
Courtesy of Steve Silver

Tucked in a corner of the Aichi Prefecture city of Toyota, the Homi Danchi housing estate most famous for its racial problems, may offer a vision of the Japan of the future, according to Spa! (12/4).

The estate opened in 1975 and, like many public housing complexes at the time, was then a highly desirable residence for many families.

But an influx of Japanese-Brazilian immigrants from the start of the 1990s saw the housing estate split along racial lines as Japanese residents complained fiercely about loud Latino music, cars parked illegally and rubbish dumped everywhere.

Three decades after it opened, Homi Danchi was no longer so homey. The housing estate had turned into a slum divided between its Japanese inhabitants and the descendants of other Japanese who had earlier left the country for greener pastures overseas.

The brawl between Japanese and Japanese-Brazilians saw its roots in 1990 changes to the Immigration Law that allowed any descendants of Japanese who had previously left this country to come into the country without any other visa restrictions, ironically in the belief that such a move would smooth over perceived cultural gaps brought by other foreigners lacking the blood of Yamato flowing through their veins.

Homi’s racial battle began when rules about public housing were relaxed a decade ago to allow foreigners to live there without restrictions, opening the floodgates to a swarm of non-Japanese moving in to the housing estate a short trip from the Toyota Motor Co. factories where many of the immigrants work.

“They literally popped up everywhere in no time at all,” a Japanese resident of the housing estate for over 20 years tells Spa! “Before you knew it, you would never see Japanese in the housing estate anymore.”

Many of the gripes Japanese residents had about their Brazilian “brethren” seem trivial, such as the propensity for partying and loud Latin music, but others point to the old adage of being in Rome and doing as the Romans do, urging the immigrants to lead a quieter lifestyle along the lines of the inhabitants who had been there longer.

But the Brazilian-Japanese were not going to take things lying down. When confronted by a group of right-wing thugs driving a loudspeaker screaming out messages along the lines of “Foreigner Go Home,” the foreigners took on the harassers in a very non-Japanese way: they firebombed the soundtruck.

Homi’s battle lines had been drawn and threatened to flare, but the government intervened, brokering a peace deal between the Japanese and Japanese-Brazilians. Now, the housing estate is a peaceful place, but Spa! notes that doesn’t mean the two groups get along, with the Japanese sticking to themselves and the foreigners clustering among their own, with each group ignoring the other.

Foreigners blame the Japanese for the uneasy stand-off.

“All the Japanese ever do is complain about us,” a Japanese-Brazilian resident of the housing estate tells Spa! “They don’t accept us at all. We try to greet them and they just ignore us. They don’t want to have anything to do with us.”

And here’s where Homi can serve as a harbinger. Danchi housing estates across Japan are losing their inhabitants as the country’s population shrinks. Japan’s current population of 126 million is estimated to drop below 100 million by 2050 unless something is done. More than likely, foreigners are going to be needed to make up for the lost 20-odd million. More and more public housing estates are going to become like Homi, where over half the current 8,000 inhabitants are non-Japanese.

With Homi’s Japanese and Japanese-Brazilians agreeing to mutually ignore each other, the weekly notes it’s not possible to say the problems between the two groups have been solved. But, to its credit, the magazine argues that the issue needs to be cleared.

“This is an issue that should be of prime importance,” Spa! says, “For Japanese, for foreigners, for governments and for businesses.” (By Ryann Connell, Mainichi Japan December 11, 2007)

6 comments on “Mainichi Waiwai: Homi Danchi and Japanese-Brazilian frictions in Aichi

  • Being a partial apologist, I’m sure there’s plenty of guilt on both sides. However, this is getting major media attention. This raises the issue of “is it better to put foreigners in a concentrated group (slum), or is it better to evenly disperse them along the Japanese landscape?” The Japanese are experts at ignoring things and/or not dealing with problems. Honestly, you can’t expect large numbers of “cultural” foreigners to live together and act Japanese. It won’t happen. Separating trash can easily be learned, but “leading a quieter lifestyle” can’t. The Japanese shouldn’t worry, though. In another few generations there won’t be enough Japanese left in Japan to complain…

  • Could sound childish, but I like the style! Oh boy, firebombing uyoku cars… In my country nobody would blame you if you do that (fascism is forbidden in Italy… in Japan not yet, even though they caused the H-bombing of the country)

  • Oooohhh; grouping members of a new and sometimes poorer sect of the population together…dismissing that group as, “outsiders” and not recognizing them and attempting to bring them into the mainstream….not talking about the issues at hand until its too late, and maybe not even then.

    Sounds like Japan is making many of the mistakes that America has made.

    More has to be demanded from both sides in this case. The Brazilians are going to have to make more of an effort to conform, and the Japanese are going to have to present them with actual chances to integrate. One without the other won’t work.

    I think I’ll look into this more. Thanks for the heads-up, Debito.

  • Certainly both sides are to blame. I am sure there is NJ xenophobia going on here and I also think that there is some truth to the complaints that the immigrants are not “conforming” to a certain degree. The fact is is that immigrants should respect there new culture which does not mean giving up their own culture.

  • “But the Brazilian-Japanese were not going to take things lying down. When confronted by a group of right-wing thugs driving a loudspeaker screaming out messages along the lines of “Foreigner Go Home,” the foreigners took on the harassers in a very non-Japanese way: they firebombed the soundtruck.”

    Words cannot express joy i felt at reading that paragraph. Good for the Japanese-Brazilians! The very sight of the uyoku soundtruck scum fills me with rage and disgust. Sounds like a few more immigrants from Brazil are what’s needed to clean this place up…

  • I grew up in an ethnically divided society and at a very young age was seeing firebombs being used against the ‘others’. I supported it then, out of ignorance, anger and fear, but after decades of ethnic conflict I, and a great many people from both sides of my community’s divide soon came to realise the truth that Gandhi spoke, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

    If you fight fire with fire, the flames only grow bigger and more and more people get burned. However, if you fight fire with the cooling waters of nonviolence, the fire will go out.

    Firebombing the black trucks, or using any form of political violence, will only reinforce the perceptions that some Japanese people have of NJs and to alienate our many friends here. We need to be squeaky clean. We need to make every effort to conform to basic norms here and to abide by the laws, indeed, to be model citizens. And when we are confronted with racism, to fight it with courage and integrity. This is my home now. I want to be peaceful.

    Above all, do not prove the racists right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>