February 6, 2008
Written by C.N.
There are many things of which Japan and the Japanese citizens can be proud — technological innovation, strong economic power, and cultural trendsetter. On the other hand and just like any other country, there are other things for which Japan deserves to be criticized — nationalistic denials over its World War II atrocities, its insistence on continuing to kill whales, and its reputation for being intolerant of “outsiders.”
But as Buddhists will tell you, things are always changing and specifically, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, there seems to be an emerging trend in which young Japanese are increasingly embracing ethnic and cultural diversity in Japan and in the process, helping to change Japan’s reputation toward more tolerance of diversity:
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. . . .
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.
Perhaps not by coincidence, this apparent shift in attitude in favor of “foreigners” and/or greater diversity complements the Japanese government’s efforts to increase tourism to their country, as the Christian Science Monitor reports.
I commend the work of young Japanese such as Miharu Tanaka and I wish her and others like her the best success. But it’s clear that they are facing an uphill battle against centuries, even millenia of tradition and custom. Nonetheless, as they say, the only constant in the world is change.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Young Japanese Starting to Embrace Diversity" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/02/young-japanese-starting-to-embrace-diversity/> ().
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