Japan’s Identity Crisis

The chapter “Ethnic Diversity and Citizenship Education in Japan” in the textbook “Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives”  is a rather scathing critique of the Japanese government’s backwardness. The government, despite egregious indicators suggesting otherwise, has continued to preach the notion of a homogonous Japan.

This façade obviously cannot hold  for long. Borders between countries are becoming ever the more porous, and Japan is already finding itself in the throes of globalization’s turbulence. Even if the government doesn’t recognize a multicultural Japan, they’ll have to recognize it when the ministries are swarmed with trick-or-treaters from all across the world nagging at their sleeves for candy.

Of course, the rational hunch would be that the Japanese government officials are fully aware of Japan’s future as being inevitably awash with foreigners, and they’re probably just as equally aware of the outdated notions of the “pure and homogonous Japan” that they’re trying to peddle with increasing desperation. It is all most likely their way of buying time before the day of reckoning.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s book “utsukushii kuni he [To a Beautiful Country]” really comes to mind in terms of rising nationalistic sentiments amongst the Japanese people. The book’s notoriously nationalistic overtones is probably matched only by Masahiko Fujiwara’s “Kokka no hinkaku [The dignity of the State].” Both are, quite conspicuously, attempts to try and resurrect a national identity amongst the Japanese people.

As Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, the author of the chapter eloquently pointed out, the sense of collective identity has continued to decline precipitously in Japan. But efforts like Abe and Kiichi’s are counterproductive: any man with a morsel of liberal education will be able to quickly spot the words which connote the arousal of nationalistic fervor.

What we really need, then, is a new generation of Japanese who consider themselves members of one multicultural global village.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

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