ABC Radio Australia: “Expatriates concerned by plans for Japanese language tests”


Here’s another one for your consideration. Debito

Expatriates concerned by plans for Japanese language tests
ABC Radio Australia 18/01/2008, 14:11:18
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Plans to introduce language tests for foreigners wishing to live and work in Japan has prompted concerns from the expatriate community.

Japan’s foreign minister, Masahiko Komura, made the announcement on Tuesday, and the foreign ministry told Radio Australia the department should pursue the terms of the new requirement quickly.

The plans, announced just months after the country began photographing and finger-printing all foreign nationals on entry to Japan, have not been taken well in many quarters of Japan’s expatriate community.

Dave Aldwinckle has been a permanent resident in Japan since 1996, and is married to a Japanese with two children.

The author, columnist and human rights campaigner, who goes by the Japanese name, Arudou Debito, told Radio Australia over a million people will be affected by the move.

“And millions more if you include their families as well that are Japanese,” he said.

“To pass them all off as potential terrorists is worse than callous, in my view, it’s unappreciation for the work that people have done over here already,” Mr Aldwinckle said.

‘Another arbitrary hurdle

He says while he believes anyone wanting to live in Japan should be able to read, write and speak Japanese, it will be difficult to test and enforce.

“It’s another potentially arbitrary hurdle to put up in front of foreigners that, given the past government enforcement of policy, I’m a little bit concerned about how this is going to be enforced as well,” he said.

Dr Chris Burgess, of Tsuda College in Tokyo, says the proposed language test for foreigners is going to harm Japan in a multitude of ways.

“The new regulations, supposedly aimed at eradicating illegal residents, is just going to push them underground more than anything,” Dr Burgess told Radio Australia.

“I think, in some ways this is a poorly thought out policy and just a knee-jerk reaction to public attitudes which demand more to be done to tackle the foreign crime – a myth that you see in newspapers all the time, that foreigners are criminals; unfounded statistically, but that’s the myth.”

The Secretary General of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Professor Mushakoji Kinhide, has another theory about the language test.

“It is, more or less, a general position of the Liberal Democratic Party leadership about the so-called overseas, Japanese-origin, Latin American migrants,” Professor Kinhide said.

The ‘Nikkei-jin’ factor

The deputy director of the Foreign Nationals Affairs Division in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Terasawa Genichi, told Radio Australia that ‘Nikkei-jin’ – returning Japanese emigrants and their descendants living outside of Japan – are indeed a focus in the proposed language test.

Declining an interview, Mr Terasawa did, however, stipulate that the test was not targetting any particular ethnic group.

Professor Mushakoji says the group has caused problems before.

“Unfortunately the Japanese-descent, young people who come do not necessarily speak Japanese and have very genuine cultural habits which are quite different from the Japanese and so there has been a few cases of cultural problems – Brazilian-Japanese will tend to sing and dance and be quite different in their behaviour at night,” he said.

In 2006, the then-foreign minister, Taro Aso, described Japan as “one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture, and one race”.

Professor Mushakoji is therefore concerned about the comments of the new Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura.

“If Komura has repeated the statement already made by Aso it is a manifestation of the Japanese government not to admit that Japan will gradually have to turn into a multicultural country and insist on keeping Japan as a homogenous society,” Professor Mushakoji said.

Naturalised Japanese citizen, Dave Aldwinckle feels, like many others, unduly targeted.

“Well, foreigners aren’t like Japanese, there’s no commonality, the Japanese are unique, etc,” he said.

“If you keep playing that button the Government can keep getting budgets for anti-terrorism moves which will eventually target disenfranchised foreigners – hey, foreigners can’t vote.”

Full story available on the Connect Asia website:

6 comments on “ABC Radio Australia: “Expatriates concerned by plans for Japanese language tests”

  • Concern? Many will be here for long anyway. The worse is that we cannot do anything, LDP decide and even Japanese people cannot change their own polices so foreigners have more chance not to change it. As I mentioned in one of comments, it`s good to have own EU Citizenship, I can always go back, but give me a little bit time (2-3years) and I`m gone. Wouldn`t be good for Japan if let`s say at least 70% of foreigners would go back with their Japanese or foreign spouses and their kids? They would change everything back immediately. Good Luck Nippon. You will go down sooner or later. Keep your homogeneity


  • Again, not enough emphasis on how the fingerprinting and the exclusionism are RACIST policies. Just replace “Japanese” for “white” and “non-Japanese” for “black” to see exactly how racist this current government is. Taro Aso’s statement I’ve heard before, only in German: “Ein volk, ein reich, ein fuhrer”.
    The only reason the current racist Japanese government doesn’t get on with the far right in Europe is because there can be only one master race, and each thinks that they’re it. Hammer home that message, compare our current plight to that of South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, and the gaiatsu will end this crap faster than anything.
    Such a pity that countries place trade above human rights.

  • What a stupid proposal. In the US to obtain citizenship, you have to pass a pretty basic english proficiency test. But that is to become a citizen. Permanent Residents do not have to do this. I think immigrants should learn the language but they should not be forced to. How dumb.

  • This is obviously targeted at the ‘Nikkeijin’.
    Whilst there have been problems, the J-government needs to realise that integration and assimilation are two way streets.

    ‘Foreigners should do this, foreigners should do that’, is all very well to say, but the Japanese government was, is, and probably always will be part of the problem as far as people not integrating goes.

  • The entire article on “Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister” (Respectfully, your call Debito, to publish or not. It’s long. I put it on and will highlight it when I meet the IOC in person in April, Lausanne, CH. My still-resident-in-Japan buddy cross referenced it on where he’s poking Fukuda in the eye to clean up the toxic waste dump that Japan has become.)

    Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister

    Published: February 13, 2006 (NYT)

    People everywhere wish they could be proud of every bit of their countries’ histories. But honest people understand that’s impossible, and wise people appreciate the positive value of acknowledging and learning from painful truths about past misdeeds. Then there is Japan’s new foreign minister, Taro Aso, who has been neither honest nor wise in the inflammatory statements he has been making about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War.
    Besides offending neighboring countries that Japan needs as allies and trading partners, he is disserving the people he has been pandering to. World War II ended before most of today’s Japanese were born. Yet public discourse in Japan and modern history lessons in its schools have never properly come to terms with the country’s responsibility for such terrible events as the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement of Korean young women, the biological warfare experiments carried out on Chinese cities and helpless prisoners of war, and the sadistic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in the city of Nanjing.
    That is why so many Asians have been angered by a string of appalling remarks Mr. Aso has made since being named foreign minister last fall. Two of the most recent were his suggestion that Japan’s emperor ought to visit the militaristic Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are among those honored, and his claim that Taiwan owes its high educational standards to enlightened Japanese policies during the 50-year occupation that began when Tokyo grabbed the island as war booty from China in 1895. Mr. Aso’s later lame efforts to clarify his words left their effect unchanged.
    Mr. Aso has also been going out of his way to inflame Japan’s already difficult relations with Beijing by characterizing China’s long-term military buildup as a “considerable threat” to Japan. China has no recent record of threatening Japan. As the rest of the world knows, it was the other way around. Mr. Aso’s sense of diplomacy is as odd as his sense of history.

    Despite a shrinking population and a shortage of labour, Japan is not eager to accept immigrants or refugees
    GEOFFREY YORK , The Globe and Mail, Toronto October 9 2007

    Despite its wealth and democracy, Japan has one of the world’s most intolerant regimes for refugees and immigrants. And despite its labour shortages and declining population, the government still shows little interest in allowing more foreigners in.
    From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants.
    Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan.
    But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.
    Japan’s attitude toward immigrants is equally unwelcoming. It has one of the industrialized world’s lowest rates of accepting immigrants. Only about 1 per cent of its population is foreign-born, compared with 19 per cent in Canada and 9 per cent in Britain.
    Yet paradoxically, Japan is in greater need of immigrants than most other nations. Because of a sharp drop in its birth rate, its population is on the verge of a decline unprecedented for any nation in peacetime. The latest projections have the number of its citizens – 127 million – plunging to just 95 million by 2050.
    At the same time, the population is rapidly aging. By mid-century, about 40 per cent will be over 65, leaving a relatively small labour force to support the country.
    Demographic decline has emerged as one of Japan’s most hotly debated and angst-ridden issues. Yet the obvious solution – allowing in a substantial number of immigrants – is rarely considered. The tight restrictions on foreigners have remained in place.

    Robots, rather than immigrants, are seen as the potential solution to labour shortages. One government panel has recommended that foreigners should never comprise more than 3 per cent of the population.
    Much of Japan’s hostility to immigrants and refugees is the result of prejudice against foreigners, who are widely blamed for most of the crime in the country. Ignorance is widespread. In one survey, more than 90 per cent of Japanese said they don’t have any regular contact with foreigners, and more than 40 per cent said they rarely even see any.
    Politicians are reluctant to allow any challenge to Japan’s racial homogeneity. Their beliefs are typified by a top leader of the ruling party, former foreign minister Taro Aso, who described Japan as “one culture, one race.”
    The government has refused to pass laws against racial discrimination, making Japan one of the few industrialized countries where it is legal.


  • So if the government doesn’t like my language skills and decides to throw me and Japanese spouse and our two children out of the country, will they pay off my mortgage? Hey it’s a new sub-prime loan problem waiting to happen. The Nikkei is worried about a non-problem in the states, BTW only 6% or loans are non-performing, then they should worry about the ‘vast’ numbers of foreigners who have home loans here. Same logic right… same over reaction right?

    Lloyd in Niigata


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