MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Location: file:///C:/0ED24C8E/AAV11MulticulturalismintheNewJapan.htm Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Type: text/html; charset="windows-1252" Multiculturalism in the New Japan

Multiculturalism in the New Japan= . Crossing the Bounda= ries Within.

Nelson H. H. Graburn, John Ertl & K. Tierney, 2008.  New York: Berghahn Books, 2008, ix-252p= .

                                                =                                  Reviewed by Valentina Gentile=


Is there a multicultural society in Japan= ?

Accordi= ng to the editors of this book, Nelson H.H. Graburn, John Ertl and Kenji Tierney, although it is still difficult to speak in terms of a multiculturalism, for example, as found in Europe, cultural and ethnic heterogeneity is becoming = more and more an important reality for Japanese society (Nelson H. H. Graburn et= al. 2008). In contrast with the longstanding myth of Japanese homogeneity (Befu 1993), the manifest goal of this book is to highlight the composite reality= of the “New Japan”, a nation that counts at least 1.9 million officially registered foreigners, without considering non-registered immigrants and th= ose ethnically undetermined groups living in the country.

     Undoubtedly, the primal aspect of th= is book concerns its methodology. In actual fact, instead of falsifying the id= ea of Japanese homogeneity which finds its origin in a vast postwar literature known as Nihonjinron (Yoshino 1992; Befu 2001), the notion of Japane= se multiculturalism upheld in the volume is meant to call into question the ve= ry category of the generic term “Japanese.” The authors argue that such a cate= gory has been formed through particular historical events within Japan and between Japan= and rest of the world. In this way, they show how categories - such as, what constitutes a nation, ethnicity, race, and culture - have been used in post= -war nationalist literature to manipulate and subvert the reality.

      Furthermore, and above all in the “Introduction”, significant attention is paid to terminology; here, the aut= hors contextualize the meaning and the usage of key terms, such as ethnicity or multiculturalism. Most of these words, as for instance esunikku (eth= nic) or daibâshiti (pluralism/diversity), do not have the same connotatio= n of the corresponding English terms, and this creates several problems of interpretation. A similar word for “multiculturalism,” tabunka kyôsei (literally, ‘many cultures living together’), has not always had a positive connotation in its usage. On account of this, several Japanese scholars pre= fer to adopt the expression tabunka-shugi, which is more related = to the sense of “policy of, or in favor of, multiculturalism.”

       This section is extremely signific= ant; the issue of language cannot be ignored or underrated in a book that aims at evaluating a non-Western model of multiculturalism. In this case, the differences in meanings and uses of those terms cannot be restricted to a linguistic issue; the term, in fact, emphasizes the distance between a West= ern version of multiculturalism rooted in a peculiar understanding of ethnic gr= oups and minority rights (Kymlicka 1995, 2001) and the Japanese reproduction of = what I would call “a soft version of internationalization.” For example, one can= not easily oppose the thought that a Western notion of ethnicity and ethnic gro= ups is extremely important in defining a minority group as distinct from a “people”, and therefore as a bearer of special individual rights, such as minority rights (Hutchinson 1994, 1996; May 2004). However, the above-menti= oned distinction between a “people” and ethnic groups and therefore between mino= rity rights and a collective right “to self-determination” may perhaps prove to = be less intelligible in Japanese society considering that the Japanese simply = do not have a word for ethnic. Actually, their term esunikku mea= ns exotic, different, and there emerged only recently a word for diversity (daibâsh= iti).

        The book is a collection of thirt= een contributions. In their Introduction, Nelson Graburn and John Ertl offer an overview of the issues explored in the volume. In particular, the two autho= rs introduce the debate about the possible models of multiculturalism in the n= ew Japan. In the first chapter, “the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake and town-making toward multiculturalism”, Yasuko Takezawa focuses on the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake that in 1995 destroyed Kobe<= /span> and its neighbourhood. This event showed the dramatic living conditions of = the poor and foreign communities in Kobe<= /span>. The discovery of many different ethnic communities living together, in particular Koreans, Vietnamese refugees, and Brazilians, facilitated the emergence of the new phrase tabunka kyôsei. For long, Kobe had been thought of publicly as one of Japan’s most international cities. Takezawa shows how the case of = Kobe has drawn together several important aspects. First, emphasis is brought to bear on the new concept of tabunka kyôsei, especially in its positive connotation. Second, it leads to the emergence of several NGOs and local so= cial movements aimed at supporting multiculturalism in the territory.

      The second chapter focuses on the cultural meanings of the “foreign executive” in the Japanese economy during= the millennium decade. In his previous works, Tomoko Hamada showed how the mode= l of Japanese business was rooted in a peculiar Japanese business culture (Hamada 1980). In this chapter, consequently, he demonstrates that the collapse of = the Japanese economy during the present decade led to an actual change:  internationalization of the Japanese bu= siness model. This change involved first the imposition of English as an administrative language, and that the introduction of English in the new business culture may have played an important role in the creation of a cosmopolitan Japan= .

       Chris Burgess is the author of the= third chapter, “(Re)Constructing Boundaries: Internati= onal Marriage Migrants in the Region of Yamagata as Agents of Multiculturalism.” Burgess offers a qualitative analysis that investigates the constructive ro= le of foreign wives in promoting the intercultural dialogue among different gr= oups in the region of Yamagata, one of the most depressed                                                =                                                                            =                                                                                                         =                 areas of Japan= . After a long series of works aimed at falsifying the idea of a causal link between identity-prone violence and poverty (Sen 2008), in this chapter Bur= gess shows that poverty is not necessarily an obstacle to the intercultural dial= ogue and cooperation. On the contrary, his choice of focusing on the case of for= eign women without highlighting any gender issues raises some queries. Notwithstanding the existence of a vast corpus of literature focused on the nexus multiculturalism/gender, Burgess does not even mention this crucial issue.1  In Yamagata, t= hese same foreign women are precisely the very activists responsible for the transformation of the region toward a multicultural society. It would have = been interesting to learn how these women perceive themselves, and if gender mat= ters in this specific case.

       Women are again the main subject i= n the fifth and tenth chapters. In the first case, the author, Shinji Yashimita, examines three migration flows of women: Japanese women who leave the home country for Bali, Indonesia; those who go to study in Calif= ornia; and, finally, women, especially from the Philippines, who come to Japan= to work. Also in this section, it would have been interesting to note how t= he nexus multiculturalism and gender works. At least with respect to the first= two flows, this nexus is in fact very significant in showing women’s motivation= s. In the first case, the flow directed to Bali might be understood as a strong reaction of those women to Japanese gender inequalities and the social hierarchy between men and women, which is still evident in contemporary Japan= . On the contrary, in the second case, the flow directed to California, the women’s choice to go to study abroad may be read as an effort toward hi= gher levels of emancipation and gender equality. Finally, in the tenth chapter M= itzi Carter and Aina Hunter discuss the link between racism and gender. In particular, they focus on the case of racism toward black women in <= st1:country-region>Japan.

        John Ertl’s fourth chapter offers= an analysis of the policies of internationalization and decentralization in the context of Ishikawa Prefecture. The ideas of decentralization and international peripheries are key issues = of this section: the author insists on the constructive potential of small municipalities in promoting higher levels of multicultural integration and internationalization. In particular, Ertl refers to the case of the emergen= ce of a peculiar “world city,” Kanaz= aswa City, based on strong international networks.

       Gaku Tsuda’s chapter is devoted to Brazilian Nikkeijin migrants and their living conditions after their return to Japan= . The Nikkeijin are descendant of emigrant Japanese who used to live i= n Latin America. In the last decades, a vast number of Brazilian = and Peruvian Nikkei returned to Japan. The author focuses on the high levels of marginalization of the Nikkeiji= n: they are often forced to live in conditions of poverty and exploitation by Japanese employers. What is evident in this case is that an actual multicultural acceptance and openness in Japan is still far from being achieved. This skepticism is confirmed by Tsuda’s concluding words “if such signs are any indication, Japan’s eventual transition to a tolerant and inclusive multiethnic society will in= deed be quite difficult.” 

       The seventh chapter is focused on = an additional minority group: the Zainichi Koreans. Unlike the previous chapter, in this case the author, Jeff Hester, emphasizes the good level of integration these Koreans are experiencing in recent years. The number of interethnic marriages are on the increase, and their social and economic conditions have likewise improved, to the extent that they have lost their ethnic source connotation, while becoming in the process “hyphenated Japane= se,” i.e., Kankoku-kei Nihonjin, Korian-kei Nihonjin, etc. Hester insists on the positive impact of these Koreans in building a new kind of “Japaneseness,” in which ethnic or racist criteria are being excluded from = the definition of the concept of citizenry. In the same breath, one should draw attention to the fact that these Koreans are willing to forget their own et= hnic origins in order to become Nihonseki Chôsenjin (Koreans with Japanese Nationality). Thus, the issue is to understand the effort of Japanese citiz= ens toward an actual multicultural integration of these non-Japanese people in = the light of the Koreans’ willingness to become Japanese citizens fully, abando= ning their cultural and ethnic origins. Things are more complicated when the eth= nic community refuses to integrate on the majority’s terms. <= /p>

       Keiko Yamanaka is the author of the eighth chapter. This work has the merit of introducing a relevant issue: the alleged constructive potential of civil society in fostering multiculturali= sm. The case-study on the Nepali immigrant community in Central Japan is in fact a way of emphasizing the relevant role= of grassroots activism in promoting “trans-nationalism from below.” However, Yamanaka reserves only a little space for the definition of the complex not= ion of civil society (see page 153); while, in the general context of the chapt= er, it seems that she refers primarily to the NGO actors in the specific case of the Nepali community.

       Education represents a further rel= evant aspect for a multicultural society; in this book: it forms the topic of the ninth chapter, “Newcomers in Public Education: Chinese and Vietnamese Child= ren in a Buraku Community.” The chapter focuses on the existence in the Japanese education system of specific “ethnic clubs”; the author, Yuko Okub= o, describes the impact of these clubs on both the life of the young “newcomer= s” and Japanese society. The clubs’ activities are made available once a week = to young “newcomers.” The main purpose of these clubs is to educate foreign children of their cultures and language. In her concluding remarks, Okubo s= hows her skepticism toward these clubs, which in her opinion are likely to accentuate the ethnic differences rather than reduce the emphasis on cultur= al matters. On the other hand, the assumption that multiculturalism entails a reduction in the emphasis on cultural differences is obviously questionable= .

       In the eleventh chapter, John Nels= on offers a very interesting description of the regional nature of internationalism and multiculturalism in Japan, with added accent on how ancient religious traditions have influenced speci= al relations with different foreign cultures in different historical moments. =

Less theoretical though ha= rdly less interesting, the last two chapters relate multiculturalism to two rele= vant aspects of Japanese contemporary life: sport and tourism. The twelfth chapt= er is given to the study of Sumo as a key aspect of Japanese nationhood and identity. On the other hand, the concluding chapter studies how tourist flo= ws - into and out of the nation - are likely to shape both kakusaika (int= ernationalization) and tabunka Kyôsei (multiculturalism).<= /p>

       To conclude, we must note that in = the last few decades, due to globalization processes, the Japanese government h= as gradually opened its borders and market to the international community: flo= ws of people in and out of the nation have profoundly changed the demographic morphology of this country. Although, as noted earlier on, it would be misleading to consider Japan as an authentic model of a multicultural natio= n, the profound transformations wrought in both domestic policies and the ‘pop= ular imagination’ in recent years are slowly increasing the relevance of new soc= ial and associational modalities that support a multicultural approach to polit= ics.


= Notes

= 1. In particular, I am referring to those relevant voices in feminist literature who tend to consid= er multiculturalism as dangerous for women. Susan Okin, Joshua Cohen, Matthew Howard & M. Nussbaum. Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

= 2. Nelson H.H. Graburn, John Ertl & K. Tierney. Multicu= lturalism in the New Japan= . Crossing the Boundaries Wit= hin. New York: Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 134.


= References

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_= ______. 2001. Hegemony of Homogeneity: an Anthropological Analysis of “Nihonjinr= on”. Transl. Melbourne: Pacific Press, 2001.

Hamada T. = “Winds of Change: Economic Realism and Japanese Labor Management.” in Asian Sur= vey 20, (1980): 397-406.

Hutchin= son J. Ethnicity.= Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Hutchinson,  J. & Smith, A. Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Kymlicka W. Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

___________. Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship. <= st1:City>Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

May S., M<= span style=3D'text-transform:uppercase'>odood, T. & Squires,= J. Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Minority Rights. Cambr= idge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Nelson H. = H. Graburn, John Ertl & Tierne= y K. 2008. Mu= lticulturalism in the New Japan. Crossing the Boundaries Within. = New York: Berghahn Books, 2008.

Sen A. “Violence, Identity and Poverty”, in Journal of Peace Research 45 (2008): 5-15.

Susan Okin, Joshua Cohen, Matthew Howard & Nussbaum M. 1999. Is Multiculturalism Bad For Women? = Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Yoshino K. Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan. A Sociological Enquiry. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1992.


 = ;

Art= icle appeared in Volume 5 of  « The Asianists’ ASIA » (2008) edited by T.Wignesan

Centre de Recherches sur les Etudes Asiatiques, B.P. 90145,  94004 Créteil Cedex, France

E-mail : t.wignesan@neuf.fr Wignesh@aol.c= om  ISBN 978-81-8253-138-3

      http://w= ww.cyberwit.net/wignesanjournal.htm