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  • Christian Science Monitor: “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity”

    Posted by arudou debito on January 18th, 2008

    Hi Blog. I’m going to be off to Tokyo from tomorrow, and have some serious writing to do over the next few days. I’m probably not going to be able to do much on this blog (except if and when I come up for air when writing), so let me put out a couple of recent articles you might find interesting. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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    Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity
    By Takehiko Kambayashi | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
    January 18, 2008 edition
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0118/p04s01-woap.html

    In a country that has long prided itself on homogeneity, it’s becoming cool for youth to embrace the growing number of foreigners in their midst.

    Oizumi, Japan: Miharu Tanaka hands out fliers in Tokyo advertising Brazilian eateries in Oizumi, a city two hours away by train. The young woman makes the commute to encourage people to visit the country’s most diverse city, with its 16 percent non-Japanese population.

    Her efforts are part of a generational shift toward becoming more receptive to a multicultural Japan. But in a country that has long prided itself on homogeneity and is seeing a rise in Japanese-centric nationalism, it will take some persuading for most people to embrace the growing reality of a more diverse population.

    Japan has long been wary of – even hostile to – foreigners in its midst. Some say the media perpetuate a stereotyped image of foreigners as criminals.

    Japan’s bias against foreigners shows in its immigration laws. It is virtually impossible for immigrants to find work here and become citizens. Most foreigners are reduced to low-level “3K” jobs – kitanai, kiken, and kitsui, or “dirty, dangerous and hard” – that most Japanese were no longer willing to take. The country wants to maintain its “racial homogeneity,” critics say. Officials recently began considering ways to tie long-term residency permits and work visas to Japanese language ability.

    Certainly, the self-image of a homogeneous society remains strong. But some say that perception is incorrect. The official count of registered foreign residents is 2 percent of the nation’s total population of 128 million; but that represents an increase of 47 percent in the past 10 years and excludes many non-Japanese residents. While Japan has witnessed more international marriages – 21,000 children are born to these couples every year – its census figures do not show ethnicity.

    Moreover, the number of registered foreigners does not include naturalized citizens, indigenous people, or those who overstay their visas, argues Debito Arudou, a US-born social activist who became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000.

    Brazilian Japanese are thought to number around 300,000. The descendants of Japanese who immigrated to Brazil in the early-1900s, they returned to the land of their ancestors in recent decades. But since immigration reforms in 1990 granted only the descendants of Japanese the right to live and work in Japan, Japanese Brazilians mostly serve in 3K jobs in Oizumi and similar drab, industrial towns.

    These areas have become non-Japanese enclaves – as well as microcosms of the racial tensions that have arisen with diversity. In Oizumi, where most non-Japanese residents are Brazilian, more Brazilian flags hang from buildings than Japanese ones. Brazilian restaurants, grocery stores, and video-rental shops dwarf Japanese sushi bars and noodle shops.

    Japanese Brazilians in Oizumi complain about being called gaijin, or “outsiders,” and treated as such. When they run into Japanese colleagues, some Brazilians complain, the Japanese pretend not to recognize them. A majority of foreigners who live in neighborhoods alongside Japanese would like to interact with them, a 2007 opinion poll found. But only 10 percent of Japanese in these areas felt the same.

    But a growing number of Japanese – mostly youths, such as Tanaka – are trying to persuade compatriots to embrace ethnic minorities. Unlike in previous generations, young adults tend to be more welcoming of diversity. Some analysts argue that, in a country with a dwindling birthrate – 1.32 as of 2006, down from 1.66 two decades ago – and a rapidly aging population, Japan should roll out the red carpet for foreigners.

    In Oizumi, young Japanese are teaming up with Brazilians, cracking barriers among communities. Tanaka formed a group named Kimobig (“daring”) to energize exchanges such as language classes between Japanese and Brazilians.

    Not everyone is pleased with the group’s efforts. Tanaka receives prank calls and harassing e-mails from Japanese and Brazilians. Still, she says, more locals have gotten acquainted with Brazilian residents. Urbanites have been entranced by Brazilian music, dance, and food. “So great is what one person can do,” she says. “One person can help change his or her parents’ views and their friends.’ ”
    ENDS

    10 Responses to “Christian Science Monitor: “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity””

    1. Drew Says:

      I find it amusing that “highest percentage of foreigners” is supposed to equate with “most diverse”. The article itself said that most non-Japanese in that city are Brazilian. What exactly is “diverse” about a city that has 2 ethnic groups instead of just one?

    2. HO Says:

      “Japan has long been wary of – even hostile to – foreigners in its midst. Some say the media perpetuate a stereotyped image of foreigners as criminals.”
      Very broad sentence almost to the point of prejudice against Japanese. If so, why does not CSM have interview with such Japanese and show their side of the story?

      “It is virtually impossible for immigrants to find work here and become citizens.”
      I know an ethnic Chinese who found a job in Japan and became a naturalized citizen.

      “But since immigration reforms in 1990 granted only the descendants of Japanese the right to live and work in Japan,”
      Another misinformation. Does CSM have journalistic ethics?

      “In Oizumi, where most non-Japanese residents are Brazilian, more Brazilian flags hang from buildings than Japanese ones.”
      Though they have all the right to fly Brazilian flags all over the city, I do not think it is a wise thing to do. What would locals think if this happens? Is there any city in the US where you can see more foreign flags than the Stars and Stripes? If there were one, would US citizens just sit calmly and see those foreign flags fly?

    3. yuki Says:

      “Very broad sentence almost to the point of prejudice against Japanese. If so, why does not CSM have interview with such Japanese and show their side of the story?”

      Perhaps you must had miss the article where a few japanese newspapers and channels reported the belief that a foreigner committed the sasebo shooting, without any evidence instead of what innocent bystanders stated, the same innocent bystanders who are influence by the media to believe foreigner commit’s crimes. You can turn a blind eye to it if you want, it does not mean it doesn’t exist.

      http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=841

      “Though they have all the right to fly Brazilian flags all over the city, I do not think it is a wise thing to do. What would locals think if this happens? Is there any city in the US where you can see more foreign flags than the Stars and Stripes? If there were one, would US citizens just sit calmly and see those foreign flags fly”

      You definitely must not have live in california, you only have to come to san diego and you will see mexican flags flown all over the place. Cars, painted on doors, flown at houses. Nobody says a thing.

    4. HO Says:

      I do not deny that there are some Japanese who are xenophobic and discriminate foreigners, but I do not think all Japanese are xenophobic, either. CSM portraits as if all the Japanese except those schoolgirls and some young people discriminate against foreigners. Why couldn’t CSM have an interview with the city officials who, CSM claims, discriminate against foreigners, yet allowed such high concentration of Brazilians in their city?

      About Mexican flags in San Diego, there seems to be a heated debate.
      http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20060408-9999-7m8mexflag.html

      –SIMMER DOWN, H.O.  YOUR PATRIOTISM IS IRKING YOU INTO OVERREACTION.  I KNOW THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT ALL JAPANESE ARE XENOPHOBIC (I KNOW HIM PERSONALLY), AND I BELIEVE THAT FEW WOULD GET THAT MESSAGE EITHER FROM HIS ARTICLE.

    5. zero abrera Says:

      “Why couldn’t CSM have an interview with the city officials who, CSM claims, discriminate against foreigners, yet allowed such high concentration of Brazilians in their city?”

      How bout this HO?

      I highly doubt that the reason why there is a high concentration of foreigners in a certain city is out of sincere hospitality, genuine care/concern or what have you. Most likely there are industries in that area where manpower is needed to fill in for the workload that the locals (Japanese) refuse to do. And by “refuse to do”, I am pertaining to really exhausting jobs. Still not convinced? Go to a factory where the foreigners work and observe them for a whole work day.

      To make matters worse, in some(? or more I think) cases, there are hakengaishas (or brokers, as coined by the others) who act as a contractor for labor supply in a factory. To the factory, this is favorable because it will relieve them of the responsibility of the workers’ welfare. and as for the middleman? a huge cut off the hourly wages of the factory workers. I checked a job office website and found that this practice is illegal. But why is it that there are so many of them still running this modus operandi?

      And lastly, letting gaijins in does not necessarily equate to welcoming them. Not doing something to alleviate the problem leads to its continuance, ergo in some respects, contributing to “discrimination” as well.

      Believe me, I know what I am talking about. My two cents worth.

    6. HO Says:

      “I checked a job office website and found that this practice is illegal.”

      I am afraid you should have checked reliable sources.
      Check article 4 of 労働者派遣法 or 労働者派遣事業の適正な運営の確保及び派遣労働者の就業条件の整備等に関する法律.
      It is OK to “haken”, except the laborer engages in
      1. port labor,
      2. construction labor, or
      3. security service labor.
      “Haken” in factories is not at all illegal.

      Also, “haken” companies are responsible for providing all the benefits and social insurances in accordance with the Labor Standards Law and other laws at its cost for the laborers. The net wage that “haken” companies pay for the laborers must be more than the minimum wage. So, what’s wrong?

      As Debito points out, “internship” is a problematic loophole in factories, but I do not see any problem with “haken”.

      As to Brazilians, Zero’s argument is based on assumptions. That’s why I think the other side of the story is needed. (Debito, sorry for the redundancy.)

    7. adam w Says:

      So,ho knows a naturalized chinese who managed to find a job?
      Hallelujah! We are all saved..
      Debito,you can close this site down cos your job is done.

    8. zero abrera Says:

      this is the site i checked: http://www.tfemploy.go.jp/en/coun/cont_4.html

      just to make sure i’ve read everything right.

      On dispatching workers

      The Worker Dispatching Law prescribes that an employer has to obtain a license from, or report to the Minister of Welfare and Labour, when the employer dispatches an employee, whom the agent employs as its own company staff, to another company with which a worker dispatching contract has been agreed. The dispatched employee works at the designated company under the order or instruction of that company.

      Worker dispatch can be carried out of any types of work except for work related to Port transport, Construction work, Security work, Work related to medical care and Work involving manufacturing articles.

      ….

      … For example, dispatching workers for unskilled jobs at factories or construction sites is illegal.

      correct me if i’m wrong, but where does one work involving manufacturing articles?

    9. HO Says:

      The page you linked is too old. The restriction on “haken” for factories was lifted in March 2004.

      Following is only in Japanese language.
      http://www.mhlw.go.jp/general/seido/anteikyoku/kaisei/index.html
      Read the first line on page 1 of the PDF file at ◎労働者派遣・請負を適正に行うために(PDF:81KB).

    10. zero abrera Says:

      i stand corrected then. having it in english or at least updating the site could have helped. nevertheless, thanks for the info.

      p.s. it just pains me to think that the laborers, who put themselves on the line by engaging in 3k jobs are having their wages cut off. i’ve been hearing commentaries wherein Y180,000 is barely enough for subsistence here in Japan, yet the NJ people in this sector, most often than not, earn below that mark. if in case you want some proof, there are gazettes (i.e. pinoy gazette – for Filipinos) wherein 800-900 yen per hour jobs are advertised (with the names of the hakengaishas), and not even a mention of a provision of fringe/social benefits.

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