H-Japan on New Multicultural Ordinance in Miyagi Pref


Hello Blog. Good news from the H-Japan mailing list. A new ordinance at the prefecutural level was recently enacted to promote multiculturalism in Miyagi Prefecture, home of Sendai. We’ll have to wait and see if this actually means anything in the future, but good news. Thanks to John Morris at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


—– Original Message —– From: “H-Japan Editor”
To: Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 1:09 PM
Subject: H-Japan (E/J): Multiculturalism in Miyagi Prefecture

H-Japan July 5, 2007

From: “JFMorris”

Dear List Members,

The Miyagi Prefectural Assembly voted on 13th [June] to approve the
Ordinance to Promote Multiculturalism within the prefecture. This makes
the first step by any level of government within Japan to institute any
kind or level of law to promote multiculturalism within Japan, but the
event has gone totally unnoticed by the domestic media, so far as I can

I was able to attend the session of the Industry and Economy Committee
which was the committee responsible for handling the substantive
questioning concerning the bill. The LDP has a large majority withing
the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly, and the Governor himself is a former
member of the Self-Defense Force: hardly material for a radical approach
to politics. However, the questions from the Assembly members on the
committee were all essentially supportive of the bill. They covered
matters such as, would passing this bill provide a basis for a North
Korean-linked Performing Arts Group to use the Prefectural Hall (both
the Governor and the Mayor of Sendai have refused permission for this
group to use the respective “Kaikan”), and the member pressing this
question hoped that the bill might provide support for politically
unpopular people to use public buildings, and keep the right-wing
extremists in check. Another question asked whether this bill would help
improve the situation of the abandoned orphans returned from China
(中国残留孤児). Yet another came from a member from rural northern Miyagi; a
Korean bride within his constituency set fire to her house and family
and self last week, and he was concerned that the bill would help
provide support for foreign brides isolated within local communities.
The last question was rather a request, that when the committee to
implete the Ordinance is set up, that the prefecture takes care to make
sure that the committee members are not just “big names” but people
committed to making the Ordinance and its subsequent action plan work.
There was not question nor comment critical of the bill itself. In part,
this was due to very careful prebriefing by the prefectural bureaucrats
responsible for drawing up the bill. From my observations of the gist of
the discussion surrounding the bill, I would suggest that the bill was
acceptable to the assembly members because for them, the “gaikokujin”
(taken mcuh more broadly then its literal sense) seen to be the primary
target of the bill were not an abstract “other,” but real people
connected in various ways to the social communities which form the
assembly members’ electoral base.

Why Miyagi Prefecture, with registered foreign residents constituting
only 0.7% of the prefectural population has been the first place in
Japan to come up with some attempt to put “multiculturalism” (or 多文化共生
or whatever you wish to label it) on it legislative agenda can only be
explained as a whim of Asano Shirou, the former governnor, who came up
with this idea out of the blue and with no know prior consultation with
anyone remotely connected with existing tentative steps in this area
within the prefectural apparatus. However, that the idea has gained
support from the new governor and the prefectural assembly (voted
unanimously at all levels) cannot be explained as a mere whim by a
departing governor. Discussing the situation in Miyagi with a person
connected to the Shinjuku Tabunka Kyousei Sentaa, this person was
baffled as to why Miyagi (of all places) should come up with such an
idea, and why it should gain wide political support. According to this
person, in Shinjuku, where registered foreign residents account for over
10% of the population, inter-ethnic relations are coldly strained, and
“tabunka kyousei” is a very unpopular word with those of the local
population who know of it. I think that the reason the bill in Miyagi
did get through was precisely because the number of “gaikokujin” is
sufficient to make people generally aware of our existence, but that the
number is still sufficiently small, and still largely interconnected
with the existing community for our presence to be seen as “belonging”
to local society, rather than existing in antagonism (garbage, loud
music and crime?) to it.

Yours faithfully,
John Morris Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai, Japan

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