BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration


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Hi Blog.  Here we have another one of those hopefulJapan is changing” articles we get from time to time (and from long ago; for example here and here and here and here).  This time from the BBC, where the reporter takes up a number of issues we’ve been dealing with for decades here on  Reporter Okazaki clearly starts from a tack (e.g., “there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things”), and then works backwards to find evidence to support it.

As Submitter FB pointed out quite succinctly, the article “highlights a few celebrity examples without any data on broad public attitudes or government policy towards immigration. The fact that 3rd generation ethnic Koreans aren’t citizens is the most telling fact of intransigence towards diversity.” Touche.

So let’s just draw a line in the sand here with a clear litmus test:  At a bare minimum, until Japan’s historical aberration of “Zainichi” status is finally resolved by the Japanese government, and “generational foreigners” are legally accepted as diverse AND Japanese, Japan can never claim to be truly accepting of diversity.  Full stop.

Do that, and then we’ll start talking about how “Japan is changing” as a news peg.  For one cannot ignore the historical contributions and sacrifices of Japan’s minorities, particularly the Zainichi, no matter what cosmetic overtures one might make in public towards a few token Visible Minorities for the sake of overseas media consumption.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Is Japan embracing diversity?
By Eri Okazaki, BBC, 24th February 2020, courtesy of FB

Ahead of the Rugby World Cup held in Japan last year, a Japanese sports magazine, asked the national team’s captain, “Why are there so many foreigners in Japan’s squad?”

The 31-year-old captain, Michael Leitch, originally from New Zealand, answered (in Japanese), “Because that’s how Japan is today.”

Leitch went on to say, “The rugby national team reflects the reality of current Japan, and also anticipates the future of Japan. As a team, we can embody and show society just how important diversity is.” [Ed:  My, how the worm turns.]

The game wasn’t about the individual players

The home team – made up of players from South Africa, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Korea and of course Japan – whipped up a frenzy of passion throughout the country and across the world by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in the history of Japanese rugby.

PHOTO: Pieter Labuschagne, originally from South Africa, is one of several foreign-born players on Japan’s national rugby team (credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News)

The fervour surrounding the games on Japanese soil, and the success of the Japanese team, was unprecedented. But beyond sport, there was another conversation bubbling underneath the surface. About what it means to “be Japanese” in modern day Japan.

And how does this fit into Japan’s ostensibly homogenous narrative?

Who am I?

Some people in Japan still view their society as a mono-ethnic. Japan’s sense of national identity and what it means to “be Japanese” is deeply engrained.

This comes from layers of historical context; sakoku – an isolationist policy that lasted for over 200 years, which massively limited both migration and imports – as well as assertions from Japanese politicians’ over the years that they are a “homogenous society” and that the distinct nature of the country comes from being “one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race.”

PHOTO: In March every year, Japanese students attend career seminars and submit job applications as part of shūshoku katsudō (credit: Alamy)

And at first glance, it might seem like that on the surface. Take the traditional job-hunting practice of shūshoku katsudō for instance. In early April every year, thousands of university students dressed in ubiquitous black suits and carrying a briefcase can be seen traipsing the streets in search of jobs at the most reputable firms in the country. You can see why some still accuse Japan of homogeneity.

But that’s not actually the case.

Japan has several minority communities in addition to their foreign residents. The indigenous Ainu who have only been officially recognised by the Japanese government since 2019 as well as the Ryūkyūans or Okinawans. There are also the Burakumin or so-called “hamlet people” once considered the lowest caste in Japan’s now-abolished feudal.

And then there are groups who are considered to be foreigners despite being long-term residents over several generations such as the zainichi. The word simply means “living in Japan” but is most commonly used to refer to ethnic Koreans and their descendants who remained after being brought to Japan during the occupation of Korea from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945.

PHOTO:  New policies will see Japan welcoming more foreigners (credit: Alamy)

While the majority of these Koreans left Japan when the war ended, some 600,000 remained but over time, lost “imperial citizenship” that original settlers were given. The first generation were long-term residents of Japan without Japanese citizenship. As time went on, some of the next generation did apply and receive naturalisation.

In Japan, citizenship is determined by jus sanguinis or the nationality of your parents as opposed to place of birth. For that reason, Japan-born zainichi are counted as foreign residents in government figures.

With a rapidly ageing population, Japan has opened up its immigration policies to fill an acute labour shortage. In 2018 the government signed a bill to allow for hundreds of thousands of workers to come to Japan to work in specific sectors such as construction, nursing and farming.

But how will Japan deal with the changing face of its population?

Half or whole?

Japanese people of mixed heritage have long been known in Japan as hafu (meaning, half). Coined in the 1970s, some believe it’s a divisive term which on the one hand means multi-ethnicity while on the other means “not whole.” In fact, another term – daburu – meaning double began to be used in the 1990s as a way emphasising what is gained by being mixed race rather than what is missing. But in practice hafu is a more widely used term.

There have been several high-profile Japanese people of mixed race in the spotlight in recent years which has highlighted that there are still issues to be addressed.

Former Miss Japan, Ariana Miyamoto, knows first-hand the struggles of a perceived sense of “being Japanese”.

Miyamoto, 25, represented Japan at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant. She was born in Nagasaki, in southern Japan, to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. As a child growing up in Japan, she says she was bullied because of her dark skin. And when she became the first woman of mixed parentage to be chosen as Miss Japan, she was targeted by online abuse from those who claimed she “isn’t Japanese”, and “isn’t fit to represent Japan”.

PHOTO: Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto has spoken out about the racial abuse she has received (credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

But Miyamoto used her new-found fame to become a champion for others like herself, who are of mixed heritage.

And when Priyanka Yoshikawa of Japanese and Indian parents was chosen as Miss Japan for the Miss World pageant the following year, she credited her win to Miyamoto, saying she had helped show “mixed girls the way”.

And Miyamoto says things changed dramatically for her personally when Naomi Osaka won the US Tennis Open and by association, people’s attitude towards her changed completely.

It’s obvious, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious – Naomi Osaka

Japan’s leading tennis player was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and brought up in the US. Osaka is now ranked number three in the world but her success and visibility in the public eye has highlighted a perception that to “be Japanese” you must look and talk a certain way. The Japanese media often pointedly asked Osaka in post-game press conferences to “reply in Japanese” even though she is not fluent in the language.

PHOTO: Tennis player Naomi Osaka’s success has helped to change attitudes around multiculturalism in Japan (credit: Getty Images)

Japanese food company, Nissin, was also accused of “whitewashing” after it depicted Osaka with white skin and brown hair in an animated advert. Osaka responded by saying, “It’s obvious, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious.” The company, a sponsor of the Japanese tennis team apologised, saying it had meant no offence and vowed to “pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”

It was reported in October 2019 that Osaka has chosen Japanese nationality and gave up her US citizenship. Under Japanese law, those with dual citizenship must choose one before their 22nd birthday.

Osaka, for her part, is bemused by it all saying in an interview: “People start saying I’m American ’cause I live in America or I’m Haitian because my dad is Haitian, I’m Japanese ’cause my mom’s Japanese. I don’t know, I’d rather they just focus on the tennis.”

Living in harmony

Shahran Ishino first travelled from Tehran to Tokyo in 2002 as a student, and now holds Japanese citizenship. He runs a consulting firm that promotes the creation of a working environment conducive to both Japanese and foreign nationals.

Ishino believes Japan’s rugby team actually achieved a state that Japanese society has aspired to for centuries. And it was because of the team’s diversity, not in spite of it.

“The game wasn’t about the individual players,” he says, “it was about the team as a whole. That’s very Japanese. It was the very epitome of the Japanese virtue of wa (harmony).”

PHOTO: Iranian-born Shahran Ishino now works with companies to promote multi-cultural workplaces in Japan (credit: BBC)

The concept of wa could be argued as the very essence of the Japanese character. It denotes a sense that group values are more important the individual and therefore conformity to social norms is needed to achieve this state.

But Ishino takes a more nuanced view: “I believe the Japanese spirit of ‘wa’ is a truly wonderful thing. In the rugby team, the Japanese players accept the foreign players, and the foreign players are eager to do well along with their Japanese teammates. They performed well together as a team, everyone pulling together. Of course, they win or lose as the Japanese team, because that’s what they are.”

In Japan, rugby is famous for the phrase “no-side”, meaning once the referee blows the whistle to end the match, there are no more foes, only fellow players. While this phrase is no longer widely used, it has lodged itself firmly in the national consciousness of Japan.

Athletes there with foreign roots are still called “players from a foreign country”. But in a country where the concept of wa is considered a fundamental virtue, there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things.
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20 comments on “BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Japanese journalist working for BBC glosses over the true depth of racism and discrimination in Japan? Of course! As part of the ‘majority’ group she isn’t affected, can’t see it, and would defend it as ‘Japanese culture’ if you tried to explain it to her.
    More regurgitated ‘Japan myths’.
    BBC News should be asking themselves why Japan is such an unattractive place to live for NJ. They should be asking themselves ‘why are we letting a Japanese person tell us Japan isn’t racist? Why don’t we get the opinion of one of the many NJ Japanese-fluent journalists who’ve lived in Japan for a long time for the low-down?’.
    Oh! They can’t! Because Japan is so discriminatory and racist that respectable NJ journalists wouldn’t even dream of investing the time and energy required to learn Japanese so that they could live their and pursue a journalistic career.
    It’s not rocket science.

    • She got the gig because she is Japanese and she has to earn her keep by writing something both palatable and “new”. THE DULL REALITY OF JAPAN -the same old same ol- is not New-sworthy for her to sell the story.

      Though I for one would enjoy the pythonesque nature of such an article. “Japan still is not changing. Nothing new to report”

  • Yep, the Ainu, who were told to sod off a few months before they were set to perform a ceremonial dance during the Olympics!
    Look, seeing people like Naomi Osaka, Priyanka Yoshikawa, and the rugby team are wonderful. But what about official government policy and statements? Where’s the law banning discrimination in housing (with teeth for enforcement)? Where’s the initiatives in schools to support students of multiethnic roots from being bullied by classmates, faculty, and overzealous rule enforcement?

  • AnonymousOG says:

    And, probably not by accident, the BBC link itself is “Page Unavailable” for IP addresses in Japan.

    Japan’s PR folks probably attached this note to the donation made to the foundation of some decider at the BBC, “Please pump out some Public Relations propaganda advertising ‘articles’ to fool people outside Japan, but at the same time, try to prevent English speakers inside Japan from seeing it since they will loudly point out to the world the truth about Japan which the article is trying to lie about.”

    Even the “Page Unavailable” message itself is a lie, since it doesn’t have the honesty to admit this page is set to not be accessed from Japan.

    The “Page Unavailable” message dishonestly instead tells English-speaking residents of Japan, “We’re currently experiencing problems and the service is currently unavailable. We are working to resolve the issue – please try again later.”

    That message is proven to be a lie, by the fact that the page is instantly accessible without any “temporary problems” at all, when using an American proxy, or European proxy, or any outside-of-Japan archiving site:

    It’s ironic because that dishonest “we are working to resolve the issue” lie is exactly how presstitute Eri Okazaki writes the final paragraph of her propaganda piece, which I’ll paraphrase:

    “In Japan, Japan-Citizen Athletes who are not ‘racially 100% pure Japanese race’ are still labelled ‘Non-Japanese’ due to their race (yes, this sentence admits Japan still wrongly labels 日本人 as 外国人 based on race, but the government of Japan has decided we should use the word ‘roots’ instead of race.) BUT … there is hope … someday ‘changing society’ (code for “an unfortunate inevitable increase in the percent of ‘外国 race / foreign roots’ people living in Japan”) might possibly lead Japan to become ‘more natural’ (code for “less racist”) in the future. TLDR: Embedded Racism in Japan: we are working to resolve the issue, really we are, trust us, please come visit Japan later, you foreign-country foreign-race potential-tourist suckers.”

  • Article is a pretty good example of potemkin village mentality. Offer a few rare examples of “acceptance” and generalize to claim that they prove the whole.

    I saw undertones of this argument during the Rugby World Cup. Michael Leitch and the diversity of the Japanese team was being celebrated by many in the media as proof of Japan’s globalization. Same is true with Naomi Osaka. Problem is, once you get past a limited number of athletes who are in fact given a pass because they are bringing a win to Japan, you have a society where it is still protocol to regularly exclude non-wajin. And it is not simply the people who are doing the excluding – those who watch and do nothing, which makes up the vast majority of Japanese, are also complicit.

    I would add to Debito’s litmus test the condition that certain embedded concepts of exclusion also have to be purged from Japan’s social vocabulary. This includes the idea of “gaikokujin shimin” and “nihon kokusekisha,” which are both used to separate out people who acquired Japanese legal status from the true wajin, and ideas as commonplace as “bunka kouryuu (cultural exchange)” and “ibunka rikai (understanding of other cultures),” which connote social distance and imply that wajin and non-wajin are and must, by their nature, inhabit two different worlds.

    Articles like this muddy the waters and give fodder to Japanese apologists who are always looking for authority to prove their warped sense of Japanese reality. Without speculating about this particular author, they tend to be written by people who have no real world experience with any of the issues written on and are convinced of the good nature of all Japanese, seeing Japan only through heavily tinted rose colored glasses. They also tend to be written by people who claim that discrimination is a purely American phenomenon involving whites discriminating against blacks and that it is not possible to view Japan using the lens of “critical race theory” because that is a foreign lens and a western concept.

    What Japan needs to change going forward is a titanic shift in educational philosophy followed downstream by changes in social attitude. I think pressure from the actual victims – foreigners – does help, but my view is that real change in Japan is only going to happen when a sufficient number of Japanese themselves take it upon themselves to speak out against discrimination against foreigners. Unfortunately, I think we are a long way away from ever seeing social change of that scale, if we ever do at all.

    • Indeed, Japan gets a free pass from most of the west because 1. Right wingers like Japan’s “racial purity” and 2. left wing Social Justice Warriors ignore or deny that Asians (ie. the Japanese) can be oppressors. Or just are not that informed or interested on the subject or aware of Imperial Nippon war atrocities etc.

      It is only really those with real experience of life in Japan that know the real deal. I am reminded of ex Olympus’ Woodford’s interview with the Beeb’s (Asian) interviewer. She was insinuating that he was imagining the gaijin exclusion bit, and he had to hit back with “Have you ever lived in Japan?”

  • It‘s ironic how the rugby team is being celebrated nowadays because they achieved good results, but a few years ago the Japanese Rugby Federation claimed that the poor results of the team are a result of „too many foreigner“ playing in the team. Debito reported on this back in 2011.

    There will be similar statements made if the team starts to lose again. It‘s also quite funny how the author admits that Japanese people still label these players as „foreign country players“ in the last paragraph. Doesn‘t she see that therein lies the problem? These people are Japanese citizens, hold Japanese nationality and play for the Japanese national team. Labeling them as foreigners shows that Japan definitely doesn‘t understand what diversity even means. Btw a few days ago another detainee died because he was on a hunger strike. Why doesn‘t the BBC report on that?

  • I would add that the article conspicuously fails to take notice of all of the examples in the sports world where non-wajin are specifically discriminated against despite their positive feelings of cooperation towards their team and spirit of “wa.”

    Take the restrictions on the number of sumo (rikishi) in sumo stables and the restrictions on the number of foreigners that can take part in a men’s university track team participating in a marathon. Contrary to the angle of the article, many Japanese would say that the inclusion of non-wajin in these sports actually disrupts “wa.” Similarly, Debito-san has been unfairly attacked repeatedly for disrupting “wa” in Japan when he rightly addresses very obvious issues of racial discrimination. “Wa” is about not upsetting the status quo, so the only way to not disrupt “wa” is for non-wajin to stay quiet about their grievances and silently resign themselves to a lifetime of second-class citizenship. That is the real meaning of “wa” as it is popularly understood in Japan, unfortunately, not the whitewashed propaganda on parade on this piece.

  • I hate to say it, but if this fluff piece for a foreign power (Japan) is the best the Beeb can do, then Johnson’s push to decriminalize the license fee is most welcome and justified.
    Lucky they arent privatized, even.

  • This puff-piece is all about sports stars or beauty queens. Of course everyone loves these people and want to associate with them.

    Bet even still, even though we are talking about the most desirable people, even they are not fully respected as citizens.

    So what hope do normal NJ have? None. No hope.

  • Japan embraces diversity…when it comes to foreign workers.

    Foreign workers in Japan double in 5 years, hitting record
    Chinese account for largest share, while number of Vietnamese surges
    HATSUKI SATO, Nikkei staff writer
    JANUARY 25, 2019

    The number of Vietnamese workers in Japan, like this man who has a job at an auto parts producer, grew 32% last year. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
    TOKYO — The number of foreigners working in Japan reached a record high of 1.46 million, rising twofold over the past five years as the country grapples with a labor shortage, government data showed on Friday.

    The figure as of October 2018 represents a 14% increase from the previous year and the sixth consecutive annual gain, according to data released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

    China topped the list with nearly 390,000 workers in Japan as of October, accounting for 27% of Japan’s foreign employees.

    Vietnam ranked second, at over 310,000 and 22% of the total. The Philippines followed with around 160,000 workers, or 11%. Vietnamese workers rose the most in percentage terms, with an increase of 32% over the past year.

    The largest share of Japan’s workers from overseas — more than 430,000, or 30% of the total — ply their trade in manufacturing. Other sectors, such as retail as well as food and beverage service, contributed about 14% to 17% of the total.

    Though the number of foreign workers has increased rapidly, they still make up a small share of Japan’s total workforce at just 2%.

    Japan’s serious labor shortage has left the government scurrying to create a framework to boost the number of foreign workers and ease the strain on employers.

    A foreign worker law that takes effect in April lets the country formally accept blue-collar workers from abroad and give them a pathway to permanent residency. This likely will prompt even more foreigners to choose Japan as an employment destination. The government estimates that up to 340,000 foreign workers could enter Japan in the five years after the law takes effect.

    Though the law will allow additional overseas workers in agriculture, nursing and 12 other sectors, issues such as ensuring adequate working conditions for these employees have yet to be resolved.

    Concerns remain over Japan’s health care system and its ability to accommodate immigrants and their families. The government is trying to ensure that foreign workers will be able to do their jobs while being integrated into their communities.

    Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Motors, Panasonic and two other companies were forced to cancel so-called technical trainee internships on Friday. The internships allow companies to hire foreign workers at low salaries. However, the companies were found to have treated these laborers inappropriately by leaving them in charge of work that they were not authorized to do under the program.

  • “However, the companies were found to have treated these laborers inappropriately by leaving them in charge of work that they were not authorized to do under the program.”

    This is all a bit vague and unsatisfactory reporting. We are talking major companies here – Mitsubishi and Panasonic? What are the workers authorized to do and not do under the program? Any why are these disctinctions made despite there being an apparent need for them to do these things? Why all the secrecy?

  • Speaking of diversity…

    Olympic torch relay touts Japan diversity, but does it hide foreign residents’ reality?
    March 5, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)

    The diversity-championing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay to herald the opening of this summer’s Olympic Games is set to begin from March 26. People with roots in various countries and regions will complete a relay around the entire country while holding the torch aloft, which features a five-petalled cherry blossom design that is also meant to represent the five continents of the games.

    But does Japanese society really have the preparations in place to accept true diversity?

    Fujita Rashi Kougyou Co., a screws manufacturer based in the city of Nagoya, has a factory in the city of Okazaki in the central Japan prefecture of Aichi. Among its employees is Nandin-Erdene Lkhagvadorj, a 28-year-old Mongolian woman. On the day the Mainichi Shimbun visited, she was seen using an inspection unit to scrutinize whether some of the screws had sustained blemishes or damage. She is one of the over 80 foreign technical interns the company has employed at two of its factories in Aichi since 2007, and goes by the nickname Nandia at work.

    Nandia was chosen along with other notable individuals including shogi player Sota Fujii, 17, and comedian Atsushi Tamura, 46, to run the torch relay in Aichi. In November, she will reach the end of her five years as a technical intern; the maximum period for the job.

    She said, “I wonder if I was chosen by God because I worked hard in Japan. As one of my last acts here, I want to give back in gratitude to everyone at the company,” she said in fluent Japanese.

    Under the technical intern trainee program, young people come from developing nations to work in Japan and then later take back the skills they attain to their home countries. The report on the state of foreign workers employed in Japan by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare stated that in October 2019 there were 383,978 technical interns in all of Japan. The largest proportion of them, 43,210 people, were employed in Aichi Prefecture, which boasts a thriving manufacturing industry.

    The program was established under a lofty goal of creating people who through cooperative efforts would go on to take responsibility for the economic progress of developing nations. But in practice it’s often just a way for small and medium-sized businesses to obtain unskilled laborers.

    There have been instances of people working in awful employment conditions, doing long hours with unpaid overtime. Repeated cases of people running away from their placements are becoming a social problem.

    Ippei Torii, who has a lot of experience supporting foreign individuals and who heads the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization (NPO) Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, said, “The system is a con. It should be ended as soon as possible. People come to Japan under the pretense of receiving technical training only to end up working in low paid jobs.”

    It appears that firms like Fujita Rashi Kougyou, which offers its technical interns Japanese lessons every Thursday and allows them to shine in the workplace, are in short supply. For this very reason, the company encouraged Nandia to enter the draw for selection for the relay.

    Katsuhiko Tagawa, a consultant at the firm, said, “By showing everyone this person who has worked in a healthy environment, we wanted to change the image people have of technical interns. If they connect with their employers like family, then it’s by no means a bad program.”

    To expand the number of foreigners that can be accepted into Japan, the government revised the Immigration Control Act in 2019. Now, if technical interns complete certain training courses they are able to obtain a status of residency which allows them to extend their time in Japan. But there are issues with the changes, including that the fields they can be applied to are limited.

    For Nandia, the chance to participate in the Olympic torch relay has further strengthened her ties with Japan. She said, “Even after this event I want to stay in Japan and continue working here.”

    The torch relay is also exposing the light and shade that exists around the living situations for children in Japan who have roots in other countries. Alessandra Armitage, 12, a sixth-grade elementary school student in the city of Ibaraki in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka, was selected with a 1 in 190 chance of being allowed to participate in the relay. “I thought it was impossible, but when they told me I was so happy,” she said in the Osaka dialect.

    Her parents, both from the Philippines, wanted a better educational environment for their daughter. To secure her one, she and her mother, Joy, 37, moved to Japan six years ago. Initially Alessandra couldn’t speak any Japanese, and she remembers that she would resist having to study the language, saying, “I’m not a Japanese girl!” But as she gained more friends and became better able to speak, she found her confidence grew, and she eagerly started taking part in karate and other activities.

    Her mother Joy, who obtained a work visa and found employment as an assistant language teacher at elementary and junior high schools in the prefecture, said she is proud of her daughter. Alessandra said, “In the future, I want to be a lawyer and help people.”

    But in east Japan, life is very different for another girl with roots in another country. Miracle, 16, studies as a first-year student at a private high school in the capital and lives with her Ghanaian parents. Since the third grade of elementary school she has been practicing hard to become a pro basketball player, but she is not able to obtain residency, and she gave up on trying to apply for the torch relay under the belief there was no way she could be chosen.

    Miracle’s parents came to Japan in the early 1990s on a short-term visa that didn’t allow them to seek employment. They overstayed its terms and worked at a rubber goods factory in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Her mother had Miracle when she was 43 years old, and named her such because she felt it was a miracle to have had a child at a relatively advanced age.

    But their lives abruptly changed in January 2010. In consideration of the family’s future, Miracle’s father tried to register them through the alien registration system (abolished in 2012). It was then that their illegal stay in the country was discovered, and they were put in detention at an immigration facility.

    The family were ordered to return to their home country, but Miracle can only speak Japanese and the family had based their lives in Japan for a long time. They refused to leave, and ended up spending around eight months in detention.

    Now they are under provisional release, which means their detention has been temporarily stopped. Under the rules of provisional release, the family must as a rule check-in at an immigration facility every month, and the scope for their activities and where they can live is heavily restricted. They are forbidden from seeking work, and receive support to live from sources including a church they attend each week.

    According to a support group, if Miracle applied for a foreign student visa she would obtain it. But there are fears that if she did accept it, her parents would have to go back to Ghana in return for the legal change. Her lack of status as a resident has become a sticking point, with offers from high schools known as basketball powerhouses drying up. Her dream of becoming a professional basketball player is fading.

    Some countries in Europe and elsewhere legally grant residency under amnesty rules to individuals who live in a country for a certain number of years or fulfills other set criteria. Japan’s Immigration Control Act does have a system to allow for special residency permission, but the hurdles to gaining it are high.

    Torii, the head of the NPO Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, said, “In the Olympic Charter it says, ‘The practice of sport is a human right.’ There should be conditions in keeping with that in the host nation where the Tokyo Olympic Games are being held.”

    Seigo Kayanoki, a researcher specializing in migrant issues, said, “People with roots in other countries live here in Japan in various different ways, but the people chosen for the torch relay are only those who have had success in Japan. They can’t erase the impression that the municipal authorities have made convenient choices to feign a sense of diversity.”

    Ahead of the start of the torch relay, Miracle said, “If you really do hold diversity in esteem, then I want you to look around you. There are people like me in this world, too.”

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiro Tahara, Sports News Department)

    「多様性」掲げる聖火リレーだが…日本社会の受け入れ準備は十分か 在留資格ない高校生「周りを見渡して」

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    “…by leaving them in charge of work that they were not authorized to do under the program.”

    Sounds like the reporter and/or editor are trying to put the blame on the workers. Shouldn’t it read something like “by making them do work not covered by the terms of agreement”?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I really don’t know how many “Japan is changing” articles I am going to see. This is definitely not the last piece, for sure. It’s not surprising to see any media platform featuring special culture/tourism series. BBC is not alone in this. Other articles in their special are pretty much on the same level-playing field, echoing “Oh how wonderful, beautiful Japan is …” song. I wouldn’t disagree with the writers for simply doing their job. But, painting Japan as culturally progressive narrative with diversity flack to gloss over the plight of ordinary minorities ostracized by the mainstream media and society? It raises a red flag since the writer(Eri Okazaki) uses historical minorities conveniently by masking the visibility of their plight on race and human rights issue.

    I understand people love positive national narratives. (Yes, I know the power of narrative because I studied rhetoric and intercultural communication at the graduate school years back. You know how narratives empower the people if you are a fan of Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews/Chuck Todd, Fox News & Friends, Rush Limbaugh, Ed Schultz, etc.). I don’t have a problem with reporting good aspects of certain culture as long as it’s accurate, objective, and solely based on empirical and historical facts and evidence. But, what’s really mind-boggling is to see some highly aspirational writers who prostitute their talents for propagation of ostensible diversity as facade.That pretty much resonates with media pundits (both liberal and conservatives) who are peddling for centrist, neoliberal, pro-corporate/pro-billionaire narratives, days in and days out.

    Promoting diversity in a homogeneity-oriented society is like making a culture sandwich! You showcase the national rugby team for positive depiction of visible minorities. Then, you throw several model minorities who were the receiving end of imperial war and colonialism in the bun. Followed by them are additional models of visible minorities who are expected to show their cultural loyalty to the modern day Japan, thanks to sudden public recognition in social media! Putting all these ingredients inside, you take the other side of the bun, hold everything in-between, and viola! You’ve just made a juicy DiversityJapan Burger!!! Never mind the caveat of equalizing token ones with disenfranchised others. Never mind the Japan Olympics Committee’s sudden cancellation of Ainu folk performance in the opening ceremony(which we’re not even sure the games will ever be hosted at this point). It gives you no harm. You can remove some(or all) of the ingredients you don’t like. That’s how you learn to trivialize race and culture as the matter of personal opinion—rather than hard-won humanitarian referendum, burying it under the banner of “cultural uniqueness—a.k.a. exceptionalism in the island nation. Just imagine how fast you see cultural blindspots gape wide open at the glance of such a saccharine taste piece of crap like this article.

    No worries. A whole product is fully packaged with a virus-immune disinfectant (Hell yeah! Just ask the MHLW for the price. No panic attack for not wearing a darn mask.) Go rush to the Omotenashi shop elsewhere in Japan. It may be a sleeper for those who want to sink in the bubbles of “Japan-as-progressive-society” facade.

  • Loverilakkuma says:


    It looks like this English article is derived from the one that is originally written in Japanese. I found it from Japanese language version of BBC website. Here’s a kicker: Japanese-written article is different from English version. It’s not a translated one. They are different.

    Unlike English version, there’s no section titled “Who Am I”: nor is there any mentioning of Zainichies, Burakumin, Ainu, whatsoever. There is also a difference in narrating Nisshin’s whitewashing portrait of Osaka. The English version deliberately truncates Osaka’s comments and adds Nisshin’s excuse that denied their intention to racialize her. In the Japanese version, you can see Osaka’s critical of the company, which is disappeared in English version.

    Another caveat is that Japanese version doesn’t mention anything about Osaka’s choice to take out Japanese citizenship. It describes Osaka’s episode to illustrate the context for even more important issue “What does it mean to be a Japanese?” Indeed, Japanese version problematizes the conventional wisdom that all Japanese have to act, behave, and make themselves look like Japanese, describing that notion as “outdated.” That’s really a critical point worth for more conversation. It’s ironic to see that in Japanese article, while slipped out from English version. And, ironically, that makes seemingly tautological Japanese article look much better than English version.

    Frankly, I’m disappointed in BBC for letting this manipulation go unnoticed, regarding that they are publicly funded news media like PBS, NPR, and AP. It’s like getting sick and disgusted while watching corporate media pundits in MSNBC/CNN making a false representation of Bernie Sanders for glorifying Joe Biden or anyone who’s willing to follow the centrist ideology.

    So, there you have it. This is just one example of capitalizing on contradictory characteristics of media/popular culture for diversity double-talk. Anyway, if you can read Japanese well, I recommend this one.

    — Well found!

    【ジャパン2020】 ラグビー日本代表が示した多様性と「日本の和」
    岡崎 恵理、BBCニュース(東京)2020年01月10日




    日本中が湧いたのは、単に日本代表の快進撃があったからだけではない。国籍も文化も違う、様々なルーツを持つ選手で構成された多様性豊かな日本代表が、「ONE TEAM」で日の丸を背負って戦う姿に、多くの人が感動したからだ。









    「『日焼けしすぎ』って(笑)、びっくり。資生堂のアネッサ パーフェクトUVがあるから、私は絶対に日焼けしないのに、2人は全然知らなかったみたい(スマイル×3)」とツイートしたのだ。

















































    日本代表キャプテンのリーチ・マイケル選手(31)は今大会前、スポーツ誌「Sports Graphic Number」のインタビューで、「日本代表は何で外国人が多い? 」という質問に対し、こう答えている。









    • LRK, pardon me for nitpicking, but the article does mention Ōsaka’s decision to take Japanese citizenship:


      (emphasis mine)


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