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Friday, June 30, 2017

Anglophones in Japan Survey - Commentary and Analysis by INOUE Eido

Sakura, Osaka 2017
As some of you might know last year I did a study on Anglophones in Japan: a survey and over 30 follow-up interviews .  The data I collected was used for my Master's dissertation. I cannot thank the participants enough for their time; their answers produced a rich data set for analysis.  As promised, I sent the survey results to the participants who wanted to receive them.

I also have to thank those who were instrumental in spreading the news about the survey and encouraging people to participate.  I could not have reached so many people without their help.

One very helpful person was Inoue Eido, a naturalized Japanese citizen who writes for the excellent blog Becoming Legally Japanese.  This is a site in English where you can get very solid factual information about how to naturalize in Japan.  The FAQ is particularly useful because it answers some of the more common questions about things like Japanese naturalization laws and dual citizenship, and Why would anybody want to become Japanese?  

For those of you who are following the rising number of renunciations of American citizenship (which, to look at it more positively, means achieving citizenship in the country of residence) 10 of the blog contributors are former Americans.  Note, however, that there are also contributors from Canada, Great Britain, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Bangladesh.  This provides, I think, a better overall context for understanding renunciation/naturalization as a phenomenon that is hardly unique to US citizens.

Inoue-san was kind enough to promote my survey on the blog.  And after he had received the survey results, he asked if he could post them with his commentary on the site.  My response was, "I sent it to you because you and others were kind enough to participate and if you want to in turn send the survey results to your friends, your family or write up a response to it, you can."  To be very clear the results that I sent are the raw numbers and contain no identifying information. whatsoever. Also these were the survey results only and do not include any data about the interviews.

Inoue-san has published his post and you can read it here: Analysis of "Native English Speaker in Japan Survey" Results.

Fascinating commentary.  I particularly appreciated his remarks on how the questions could have been refined.  As for the analysis, there are things I agree with and things I don't but that's perfect because it's the start of a conversation.  I was also very amused by his generalizations of the Anglophones who came to Japan in different eras:

"1945+: Those that came in the fifties and sixties came for their country (the Allied forces [U.S.] military).
1970: Those that came in the seventies came for God (missionaries).
1984: Those that came in the eighties came for the money (the "bubble era").
1993: Those that came in the nineties came for the women (relationships)
2001: … and those that came after the millennium came for the animé ☻."

I think very similar (and equally amusing) generalizations over time could be made of Americans and other migrants in France, the UK, Brazil, Canada or any other country.  Not only are the reasons for migrating multi-causal but they change with time.  Societies simply aren't static; human beings are odd, unpredictable creatures.  Americans used to go to France to study medicine; today it's argued that they are more likely to be marriage migrants.  In the future, perhaps we will see an increase in American scientists and entrepreneurs heading for the Hexagon to study climate change.  Who knows? 

A study is a snapshot in time.  This one was conducted at the end of 2016.  I have wonder what this Anglophone population in Japan might look like in 2026 as the world changes:  Brexit, the healthcare debate in the US, income inequality, technology, changes in the structure of the English as a Foreign Language industry.

I make no predictions.  I just hope that I'll be around long enough to see how the story unfolds.


Inaka Nezumi said...

The most interesting part of Inoue-san's article for me is the assertion that "To the typical Japanese, what is most important in practical day-to-day life for acceptance is Ethnicity," where Ethnicity is defined as, "the everyday culture and traditions and especially language," and "is something that can be learned and acquired by anyone[...]." I might not have used the word "Ethnicity" here (which to me implies something about one's up-bringing, which obviously can't be changed after the fact), but the basic idea I think is correct, or at least agrees with my experience.

I have found that over the years of living in Japan, that the frequency of occasions in which I am made to feel like a foreigner has gradually gone down, to the point where it is rather surprising and unexpected when it does happen. Obviously my phenotype has not changed -- though it has aged! -- and most people don't know my citizenship status, so the only reason can be that third category of attributes that Inoue-san labels Ethnicity. (Either that, or Japanese society has changed, but judging from the complaints of new arrivals, that cannot explain all of it.) Not just language proficiency, but I think one's body language, facial expressions, habits, interests, even opinions and values, gradually get molded to conform to those of the people around one (whether one wants that to happen or not). This gradually leads to self-identifying as just a regular member of society. I think most people pick up on that somehow, and treat one accordingly -- by and large, anyway, with the occasional inevitable exception.

I do note that the frequency of feeling like being treated like a foreigner increases on the rare occasion that I visit Tokyo, which could be partly a result of my lacking the big-city body language to look like I fit in there, and could also partly be due to the large number of foreigners there as tourists and in foreigner-specific occupations.

Anyway, very interesting to see that take on things.

井上エイド said...

Hi Nezumi-san. Thanks for the comments.

Re ethnicity, I held my tongue a bit for the sake of length (my comment was already way too long) but I think we're both right in that when one's formative years are critical in formulating one's strongest ethnicity (I did mention "the earlier the better"). I am an optimist and do believe things that are learned can be unlearned and old dogs do learn new tricks... but once you're past your teenage years, it is much, much harder (for example, removing an accent from a second language, while it can be done and their are those who can do it, is almost impossible. There are simply degrees of lessening it over time).

There are some ethnicities in the world where the color of your skin or the heredity status of your parents is considered to be mandatory for acceptance into the ethnicity.

I do believe, however, that Japanese in Japan do not believe this at their core -- they may need to be educated about this (99.9999% of the populace has never personally met a Japanese person who is on a non-traditional phenotype, thus they need to overcome stereotypes).

For example, if you were to ask me, "could a paraplegic compete in track & field and win and beat able-bodied Olympic athletes?" prior to Oscar Pistorius, I would have told you "no". Not because I'm able-prejudiced... I just didn't know it was possible for the human body to obtain that level of performance when hampered by a physical disability (it's a matter of physics). Once I saw it done, I don't think that anymore.

Likewise, if a Japanese has met a foreigner, they have likely only met them in the context of international events, drinking mixers, involving a great deal of "international community" and interpretation and the like. The pre-conceived stereotype one develops in that foreigners in Japan are incapable of behaving and interacting outside of this "international" subculture. Once they meet somebody outside of it, they change their way of thinking.

This could explain your feelings of feeling like a "foreigner" when in Tokyo: there are a whole lot more of these contexts.

You can observe this by asking their attitudes towards popular celebrities in the media who are Euroasian (or even Caucasian) to whom Japanese have been exposed to exclusively in the context of the Japanese language and Japanese society.

Interestingly, if you look at the contracts of many foreign-appearing celebrities (who are in fact Japanese), they often have riders in their contracts that prohibits the host or the show from putting them in foreign language contexts (ex. "Becky", etc), so that the image of them being of "foreign ethncity" doesn't get stuck to them (and thus limit their ability to perform for the Japanese audience in shows that focus exclusively on a domestic context).

Inaka Nezumi said...

Hi Inoue-san,

"There are some ethnicities in the world where the color of your skin or the heredity status of your parents is considered to be mandatory for acceptance into the ethnicity.

I do believe, however, that Japanese in Japan do not believe this at their core"

Yes, I think you are probably right about this, and it is something that I had not really appreciated at first, but it seems that Japan is not really a race-based society. Makes sense really, since there hasn't been much racial diversity for most of its history, so such categories would not have been useful. This in contrast with countries like the US or South Africa that, within living memory, employed racial categories that actually determined the legal rights of people. The categories used to divide people in one country won't necessarily transfer to another country.

Interesting to hear about the celebrities' contracts. I had no idea. I think there are some actual foreigners who are generally treated domestically, such as Robert Campbell, and that Merrill-Lynch economist whose name escapes me at the moment. I wonder if they have any such riders in their contracts. Then there is Patrick "Pakkun" Harlan, who seems to be visibly chafing against the "obnoxious Yank" typecasting that he seems to have gotten stuck with, and who seems to be trying to move away from it. I bet he would like to have such a rider.

Unknown said...

I've come to think that, in Japan, race (skin colour, heredity status of your parents) is part of the stereotype of a Japanese person, but not part of the norms.

Here's an example to show what I mean. Suppose that someone tells you they have a pet bird. You imagine a parrot, or a budgie. If they bring out a penguin, you are surprised, but you aren't inclined to argue with them: they have a pet bird, it's right there. On the other hand, if they bring out a rubber duck, you will argue with them: a rubber duck is not really a bird. A penguin does not match the stereotype of a bird, but a rubber duck violates the norms.

A white person claiming to be Japanese is a rubber duck in the USA, but a penguin in Japan.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Fascinating comments. As I was doing my fieldwork it was clear that this was contested terrain in so many way. For every person I spoke with (and those I know personally) Anglophone migrants have very different opinions about if it is possible or not to be fully integrated and accepted into Japanese society. There are similar discussions, by the way, among the Anglophones in France. It is possible to be French? Of course if you're talking about citizenship. Not so clear when talking about being a fully accepted member of French society. The French themselves argue about this - is French an ethnicity based on primordial ties? Ties that include but are not limited to culture and language. There is an expression "Francais de souche" which mean a person with deep connections to France that go back generations. About 1/4 of French today have at least one grandparent who was foreign. And official French integration policy is assimilationist, not multi-cultural. Attempts to move toward the latter are resisted.

Is there a similar discussion going on today in Japanese society? Between those who want Japaneseness to be primarily about heritage and those who wish it to be more open and accessible to anyone? In short, what do the Japanese birthright citizens have to say about what it takes to belong in Japan?

Inaka Nezumi said...

I don't know if there is much discussion going on about this in Japanese society. Partly, I think, because there are so few people choosing to naturalize each year, that it is not much of an issue. To the extent that it comes up, for example in the context of the discovery of the dual-citizenship of politicians Renho and Kimi Onoda, I think the main issue raised in the comments sections was the question of loyalty. Which both politicians addressed by promptly renouncing their other nationalities. (And both claimed they didn't realize they had still retained the other one.)

News coverage of naturalized citizens seems to generally be very positive: Donald Keene, rugby players, sumo wrestlers, the occasional Olympian. What is generally stressed is the naturalized citizen's devotion to Japan, in an approving way. One unfortunate bit of news lately is the discovery that a naturalized Japanese citizen turns out to have been in involved in a terrorist attack that killed 22 people, including 7 Japanese citizens, in Bangladesh last year. Initial reports mainly indicate surprise about the whole situation. Will have to see how that story develops.

When I went to the Legal Affairs Bureau to pick up my naturalization papers, I had to sign for them. I remember clearly that the worker there told me, "you are Japanese now, so you should sign with your official Japanese name." The word used for "Japanese" was "nihonjin," as in Japanese person, not merely "citizen" or any such term limited to legal definition. So from what I see, at least, the Ministry of Justice considers me to be a full Japanese person, not merely a legal citizen, and expects me to behave as one.

When I have told native-born Japanese about my new citizenship, nobody seems to bat an eye or object, at least not to my face. I do get some curious questions about the mechanics of it ("so you have to give up your old citizenship, then?"), and I also started hearing about political opinions, and getting questions about my political opinions, more freely and in depth than I used to (I think this effect was also mentioned in one of Inoue-san's blog posts). But I don't hear anybody saying, "well, you may be a citizen, but you don't really belong here," or anything like that.

Inaka Nezumi said...

By the way, Victoria, independent of citizenship, regarding your observation:

"For every person I spoke with (and those I know personally) Anglophone migrants have very different opinions about if it is possible or not to be fully integrated and accepted into Japanese society."

I think it is (if I didn't think so, I probably wouldn't have naturalized -- what torture that would be, to bind oneself legally to a land where one could never feel at home), even without naturalizing. Robert Campbell is a good public example. Of course, one will never be able to be "Japonais de souche," bragging about which side one's ancestors fought on in the Onin Rebellion and such. But for all practical purposes, yes, I think it is possible. With the caveat, that it takes a whole heck of a lot longer than one might think is reasonable -- 10 years is probably not enough, closer to 20 would be good. All right, might be shorter if one is quicker at acculturating, but that is the kind of time scale I think one has to be patient for. And that is probably too long for a lot of people who are trying to decide how much of their lives to invest in the potentially failed experiment of settling down in a new country.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Nezumi-san, Very interesting. And I'm very heartened by your experience which seems to have been very positive. Others I have spoken to have had less positive experiences and sometimes even within their families which is (I know from experience) very hurtful.

I catch the edges of national identity questions in Japan usually in the context of academic discussions about other migrants - koreans, chinese, philippinos - but also in the way foreigners of Japanese ancestry are perceived - the Japanese from South America. There is preferential visa treatment for them which means that the state still views them as co-ethnics to a certain extent even if they don't speak Japanese or know anything about Japanese culture. (Nothing unusual about that - having an Irish grandparent will get one an Irish passport and there is no requirement to speak Gaelic.:-)

But what the academic arguments don't tell us is what the man or woman on the street thinks of such things. And I'd like to find a study that delves deeper into what the Japanese themselves think about belonging and integration here (not what foreigners or former foreigners think they think about it). See what I mean? Have you and the others in this discussion talked to co-workers, family members and the like about what they think about you and belonging here? Are there discussions about foreigners and naturalization in op-eds and magazines? Are there political parties with opinions about what it means to be Japanese? That's what I'm looking for here.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

One last point (while I have you). Yes, I think there are sitations where it may be more desirable NOT to belong in the sense of full assimilation. I see this with my French spouse3 when we visit the US. He has far more cachet as a Frenchman then he would as just another American. French culture and civilization is highly prized and they love his accent and ask his advice about wine, cheese, summer homes, Paris life and other things. I derive some benefit from this since I am constantly told how lucky I am to have married a French - something that happens here in Japan too. :-) It would be very limiting in a lot of ways if we actually lived in the US but it's fun for him when we visit. In Japan is it rewarding in some ways to be the American or the Frenchman or the Canadian? Is there a positive side that leads to what some might consider preferential treatment? And would something be lost if the foreigner assimilated and tried to be just like everyone else?

Inaka Nezumi said...

I didn't mean to make it sound like it has all been roses. I did experience housing discrimination, a clear-cut, and reportedly still on-going, problem that should really be done something about. In the fuzzier categories of things that make one feel accepted, I certainly had my share of experiences that tested my patience, particularly in the early years.

As for what native Japanese think, a quick google doesn't turn up any surveys on the subject (maybe that can be your next project? :)), though I did find the following:

Someone asks for a Mongolian friend about naturalization procedures, and whether they would be accepted as nihonjin. Of the 10 replies that address the latter question,
7 are quite positive, saying that attitude, loyalty and "heart" (with reference to Chris Hart) are the important attributes to being accepted as Japanese. Another reply agrees that attitude is the most important thing, but is pretty negative on the presumed motivations of people from poorer countries (i.e., they just want an easier life). One asserts that most people don't care one way or the other, but refuses to give their own opinion. And one is very negative: a naturalized citizen is just a foreigner with Japanese citizenship. Not a controlled study by any means, but the odds seem pretty good from that sampling of replies.

Finally, I don't think being American is considered particularly cool. Kind of a familiarity breeds contempt thing, perhaps. But being a native English speaker can engender jealousy in other parents, who wish they could provide a bilingual environment for their kids. (Little do they know how ineffective that can be, but dreaming is free.)

Unknown said...

As another data point, people have tended to refer to me as "nihonjin", rather than anything more complex, and it has never provoked a negative reaction. I raised the issue on my blog a while back, and got a comment, from someone I am pretty sure is "deep" Japanese, flatly asserting that I was Japanese and should stop worrying about it. The discussions I've seen among the Japanese have all been concerned with cultural assimilation, often expressed in terms of concern that some naturalised Zainichi Koreans have not properly assimilated. In addition, multiculturalism in Kawasaki is inextricably bound up with foreign residents, so I don't think someone would be regarded as Japanese if they hadn't assimilated. It's worth noting that the Zainich Koreans are racially indistinguishable from the Japanese even before naturalisation, which is further evidence that "race", at least in US terms, is not a very important issue.

Political parties don't seem to have strong opinions, but when I was introduced as Japanese to a substantial group of Diet members from the conservative wing of the LDP, they all reacted positively to the news, so the conservative wing of the LDP would appear to have no problem with it. The other conservative group whose opinions I know, the Shinto Seiji Renmei, also has no problem with it. They was even an unchallenged piece in the Jinja Shinto newspaper saying that Japanese people were starting to look more different as more people naturalised, and that it was important not to get caught up in physical appearance.

I really do have the impression that it's one of those things that is a big issue in the US that simply isn't important in Japan. (A bit like homosexuality or gun control.)

The main advantage I've found to being from outside Japan is that I can admit complete ignorance of the appropriate etiquette or customs in a field, and people will tell me what I should be doing without any critical overtones. As my (Japanese-born) wife is sometimes equally ignorant, this can be quite helpful. I think people find it very easy to imagine how you could have missed learning something when you were growing up in a distant country.

Inaka Nezumi said...

David Chart, haha, yes, my wife sometimes uses me in the same way. 'Oops, we messed something up. You go deal with them -- they'll cut you more slack than they will me.'

Inaka Nezumi said...

Haha, yes, my wife sometimes uses me in the same way. 'Oops, we messed something up. You go deal with them --they'll cut you more slack than they will me.'

井上エイド said...

Q: "Are there political parties with opinions about what it means to be Japanese? That's what I'm looking for here."

Shinzo Abe, writing in his biography "Towards a Beautiful Country", which is basically a manifesto about civil/liberal nationalism, wrote an entire chapter on it.

As a general rule of thumb, civic nationalists believe in a strict interpretation of a constitution as it defines the Nation and government, and the State of Japan's Constitution defines what a Japanese national is (Article 10), which says that the concept of a Japanese national is defined by Japanese [Nationality] Law. And the Japanese Nationality Law defines the naturalization process as one way of many to Be Japanese.

Also, even pre-1945 State of Japan are race blind because it's compatible with strict Imperialism (even though in actual practice the implementation of this idealized imperial equality/unity was deeply flawed). Remember it was the Empire of Japan that tried introduction the concept of racial equality at the Treaty of Versailles after WW1... Japan wanted to play with and be recognized as the same as the big (White) boys at the Empire table: America, Britain, France, etc. And it was America (and the British) that said "no".

The concept of race-blind naturalization and inter-racial marriage was recognized in law by the Japanese WAY before the West managed to do so.

I laugh when people say how weird it is that non-Asian people have been becoming Japanese... people have been doing it since the 19th century!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Nezumi-san, I will look into it. I took your advice and joined an alumni association so I will still have access to Francophone and Anglophone academic journals. As for studies in Japanese, my daughter (the younger Frenchling) is turning out to be a very able translator. She just took the JPLT level 2 test and is reading Japanese novels now. As an aside one thing I have noticed about Japanese language education outside of Japan is that the kanji do not figure prominently enough in the curriculum. A lack that the Japanese university here did its best to fill.

Yes, that is absolutely my impression. Some of my older participants - those who came in the 1970s or earlier when there were very few anglophones in Japan talk about how well received they were. This has changed and to give a broader context it has changed in many places. (Though to suggest this makes some US homelanders quite upset.) Some of that is certainly familiarity but it is also I think a Rise of the Rest phenomenon. Certainly the French are more aware today of economic inequality in North America and to a lesser extent Europe. The student, tourist or marriage migrant from developed countries can be from a social strata where he/she lives a conserably worse life than the average middle-class individual in the host country. I suspect that (could be wrong) that socioeconomic status is becoming more salient than nationality.

David, I don't have a good sense of what kind of official policy the Japanese have toward immigrant incorporation. Are they assimilationist, integrationist or moving toward multi-culturalism? From what I have seen of the naturalization process it seems very simple and straightforward without the harder language or civics tests that are starting to be common in Europe. Nor do I see anything that resembles an interrogation about national "values" as in "Do you believe that men and women are equal?" From that I infer that yes they are quite open to making new citizens and that something less than full assimilation is required here. Does that sound right to you?

Inoue-san, Yes, the difference between civi and ethnic nationalism. Oddly enough the two can coexist. One can believe that being French is all about adherence to the 4 pillars of French nationality and still have in one's heart a sense that there is a promordial tie between a people and a place that goes back so far it is almost inconceivable (Our ancestors, the Gauls...) Clifford Geertz is a fan of the latter. Patrick Weil is at the other end. The two war with each other at different times in different democratic states. What accounts for why the pendulum swings toward one and not the other in a particular era? I have a few ideas but no certainty. Still thinking about that one...

Yes, absolutely the era of imperialism and the Versailles treaty. The issue for the Europeans was of course their colonies and their right to maintain their mastery over them. My father-in-law was a French army officer (a centurion of empire) and served in Laos and later Algeria. Oh the stories he told. As for the North Americans the picture is complex. As a child of the American West coast the racial other was Asians (not African-Americans) and, in particular, the Japanese. The bias against them existed long before WW II but it was given new life during that conflict. My grandfather fought in the Aleutians which was uncomfortably close to the states of Washington and Oregon. However, late in his life my great-grandfather's companion was a native Japanese woman who had been put in a camp and lost her farm. Does this prejudice still exist? I think there are echoes of it and that may be one reason why older Americans find it difficult to understand why an American would want to become a Japanese citizen.

Unknown said...

I don't think there is really an official policy, and if there were I would have expected it to come up on one of the committees I've been on. As a result, things may be a little incoherent; as you say, the naturalisation process has much less formal "cultural" material than the US or Canadian processes. (My father and sister, respectively, have been through those, so I can compare.) However, "multicultural" matters are still thought of in terms of foreign residents, and even for half-Japanese children who were born here, they are officially described as "children with roots in foreign countries" when it is necessary to draw attention to the cultural differences.

Thus, it seems to me that Japanese identity is thought about in cultural terms, while there are no formal policies to that effect in the naturalisation process, and no assimilationist policies directed at foreigners living in Japan. I suspect there is simply no general policy about naturalisation, because no-one has felt the need to create one.

It also seems to me that the nikkeijin from South America are not thought of as Japanese, racial link notwithstanding. "Toyota: Made in Japan by Brazilians", as they say.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

David, I would have to go back and check my sources but I recall that there was an assimilation policy in place at one point for Koreans. But I'm glad to hear from you that there does not appear to be official policies to force assimilation. The older I get and the more I study integration/assimilation the more I come to believe that the process doesn't need to be helped along unless there is some sort of structural problem that has kept some groups out permanently. Migrants are minorities and whatever the larger society denies the first generation is generally granted to later generations. For our great-grandchildren who will be Japanese or French or perhaps something else we will be an odd footnote in the family tree. Whether we are integrated or not is ultimately irrelevant because the children will be. That's my take on it anyway. What I haven't asked about however is how well the children of the visibly foreign are received in Japan. Again I have had mixed responses to this question from anglophones who have had no issues at all to others whose children have had problems at school and the like. I watched a video from Black Tokyo the other day and they were pointing out instances where visibly haafu children and adults have had problems. No idea how widespread that is but can any of you speak to that?

I found enough evidence in my study to convince me that, yes, the Japanese-Brazilians were brought in because they are co-ethnics. There was a particularly interesting paper I found that talked to business owners in Japan who expressed a desire for a workforce with "Japanese feeling" and heritage even though they didn't speak the language or know the culture. I suspect that there was a sense that they would be more easily integrated because of their heritage. I don't think it worked out quite they way they imagined.:-) I've certainly heard and read a grumble or two. And yet, if one takes that longer view then yes, their children will be indistinguishable from other Japanese children within a generation or two.

Maybe the problem here is that a constructed identity is not like citizenship. Citizenship is a legal status, it is binary - you are one or you aren't. But within the identity "French," "Japanese," "British" are there not different levels? With some seen as being closer to the ideal as defined by the group, and others farther away. Or perhaps it is contextual where in some situations one can be considered to belong to "Japanese" or "French" society but not in others? I'm thinking of when I go to Mass in Versailles, I feel as though I belong with no caveats whatsoever - as just another woman in a French Roman Catholic community. I don't feel that same sense when I'm staring down the bureaucrat at the social security office. :-)

Are there situations in Japan where you feel less Japanese in spite of your citizenship?

And at this point I would like to thank all of you for your comments and your patience in answering these questions. I am insatiably curious and this is something I want to try and understand as best I can.

Unknown said...

The Japanese Empire was definitely assimilationist, and it wouldn't surprise me if a bit of that lingered after the war. However, there doesn't seem to be any of it left in formal policy now.

I do think that an imperative to learn the local language, including reading and writing, is a good idea. That's based on just how often a lack of Japanese ability is a problem for foreign residents, and how much it tends to cut off second and third generation minorities. (It's something that comes up constantly in just about every problem that foreign residents face.) I would push assimilation to that extent. I also think that strong encouragement to form links with the majority community and not form a clear minority community is a good idea. I can't think of any historical situation in which being a well-defined minority has worked out well for the minority.

It's interesting that the Brazilians were brought in because people thought they would be Japanese; my impression came from how they are regarded now.

I certainly agree that there are distinctions of Japaneseness. There are important senses in which I am "less Japanese" than my daughter, who is "less Japanese" than my wife, who is "less Japanese" than Ichikawa Ebizo. However, I'm not sure that "more" and "less" are the best way to distinguish it. I am drawn to "family resemblance" definitions here, where there is nothing that all Japanese people share, and you can have two Japanese people who share nothing, but they are still all clearly Japanese. (Consider someone with a Japanese family going back 80 generations who works in traditional arts, and someone who is the child of naturalised Zainichi Koreans and works in manga and anime.) So, no matter how Japanese you are, I suspect that there are contexts in which you do not feel you belong; some people will react by labelling the context as "not really Japanese", but I think that is often unjustified. Naturalised citizens are likely to react by feeling less Japanese.

There is a real problem with how to refer to Japanese people with a different skin colour. I tend to use "NMJA", for "Not Majority Japanese Appearance", partly to emphasise that it is a pretty artificial distinction.

On the subject of haafu, the Kawasaki survey of foreign residents turned up a result that under 10% of their children had been bullied for having foreign roots, so it isn't common. My daughter's comment was "One good thing about being a haafu is that everyone wants to be friends with you". (She does get a bit fed up of the other girls wanting to stroke her hair, however.) My impression is that haafu are a visible minority, which brings some issues with it, but that there is no general negative prejudice. Also, interestingly, my daughter regards black/Japanese and Chinese/Japanese haafu as being "the same" as her, and I suspect that she has picked up the prevalent social opinion in that respect.

Inaka Nezumi said...

About haafu kids having problems, my kid was very sensitive when younger about having any kind of difference pointed out, even if meant kindly. Didn't want to be seen with me in public, as that would put the kid in the category of "foreigner," in the kid's mind. As for actual cases of bullying based on appearance, there may have been a few incidents, but that seemed to be mostly kids looking for anything different about each other to pick on, like weight, height, etc. One incident stood out, though: a teacher, chewing out the kid for some infraction, added the unnecessary statement, "I don't know how they do things in your country, but here in Japan we..." A teacher really should know better than that.

And yes, my kid does tend to make friends with other halfs, and it doesn't matter what the other half is: Chinese, Korean, Russian, American... somehow there seems to be a natural tendency to form bonds between kids who have any non-Japanese heritage, whether easily visible or not. They seem to feel they have something in common.

As for me feeling "less Japanese" at times, certainly I didn't have the experience of growing up and going to school here, so there are some things about the process I was unfamiliar with, and have learned about by seeing my kid go through it. It is usually my wife who will rub it in in exasperation that I lack the cultural knowledge to have expected such-and-such an event would typically occur at this stage of school or whatever.

Oliver Wendell Yagumo said...

"There are some ethnicities in the world where the color of your skin or the heredity status of your parents is considered to be mandatory for acceptance into the ethnicity.

I do believe, however, that Japanese in Japan do not believe this at their core"

Very well put, Inoue-san. My own experience is that I came to Japan at seventeen years of age, and learned to speak the language with little trace of a foreign accent. I have also managed to internalize a lot of the body language and posture that function as subconscious signals in this society. By way of example, I live in a touristy town, and I occasionally am approached by complete strangers (Japanese tourists) asking me for directions (in Japanese) as if it were the most natural thing. Apparently, I look like a local, despite the fact that I look nothing like a local (if you catch my meaning).

Also, I often am told that I am "more Japanese than the Japanese," which is a bit of a curious concept. Although there is a lot about my lifestyle that is not typical of this society, I do have some habits and hobbies that most people associate with their grandparents' generation.

A full treatment of the subject would occupy a long evening's conversation, but suffice it to say that I feel that the people in my community have accepted me because I have managed to learn or otherwise "acquire" the Japanese ethnicity (or whatever it is that gets one into the club).