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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Japan

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and / or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Most observers characterize Japan as ethnically and racially homogeneous. Although there is an immigrant population as well as a minority Korean population, Japan is not typically considered a country of immigration or diversity. 
  • Although there is a multiculturalism discourse emerging in Japan, much of it assumes that the mere existence of some degree of social diversity itself constitutes “multiculturalism.” As Burgess (2007) points out in his assessment of the country’s policy framework, “in practical terms, there is little concrete evidence of multiculturalism at work in contemporary Japan.” 
  • At an institutional level, the Immigration Bureau is housed within the Department of Justice and concerns itself primarily with issues related to regulation and control. The primary pieces of legislation are the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Aliens Registration Act. Foreign Residents Information Centres have also been established in several cities to provide advice to immigrants (Immigration Bureau 2010). 
  • The Agency for Cultural Affairs is a department of the Ministry of Education and is responsible for cultural matters; this includes issues related to religion and the Japanese language. While the promotion of “diverse forms of culture” is mentioned as one of the agency’s guiding principles, this appears to be related more to the promotion of many types of cultural activities, rather than an affirmation of the importance of minority cultural traditions (Agency for Cultural Affairs 2009). 
  • At the municipal level, some more proactive measures have been implemented. For example, since at least the mid-1990s, many cities have created advisory councils composed of foreign citizens (Ishikida 2005). These provide advice and guidance on matters related to immigration.


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Although a report on curriculum reform in Japan notes the schools should “help children cultivate rich humanity, sociality and identity as a Japanese living in the international community,” the emphasis is on developing empathy, respect for life and human rights, a sense of norms of public morals, justice and fairness, judgment and self-control in the context of internationalization, rather than emphasizing specifically multicultural principles. The report also notes that “children will be encouraged to appreciate different cultures open-mindedly, and to cultivate the mind of international cooperation and the identity as Japanese living in the international community” (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology 1998). There is no specific mention of multiculturalism or cultural diversity. 
  • In some schools, particularly where there is a significant ethnic Korean population, ethnic clubs or extracurricular classes may be offered, but these do not appear to be formalized or institutionalized in any significant way (Ishikida 2005). 
  • In the government’s 2009 plan for cultural affairs, there is a section on children’s activities in the arts and culture; mention is made of the importance of teaching Japanese folk culture and promoting regional cultures, but there is no mention of the promotion of minority cultural traditions (Agency for Cultural Affairs 2009).


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • NHK is Japan’s public broadcaster. Radio 2 provides news reports in foreign languages for non-Japanese listeners, and the broadcaster does note in its promotional materials that it offers a “diverse range” of programming and is “committed to intercultural dialogue” (NHK 2010a, 2010b). However, these commitments appear to be related more to Japan’s desire to reach out to the international community than to reflect or preserve minority cultures within its own border. Indeed, there is no mention of any commitment to ensuring programming reflects the country’s diversity or includes minority communities. 
  • Article 3.2 of the Broadcast Law, which was amended in 2005, sets out the standards broadcasters must meet when designing programs. These include provisions that the program “(i) shall not disturb public security and good morals and manners; (ii) shall be politically impartial; (iii) shall broadcast news without distorting facts; and (iv) as regards controversial issues, shall clarify the point of issue from as many angles as possible.” 
  • In addition, Article 1 provides that “the purpose of this Law is to regulate broadcasting for the public welfare, and to strive for the sound development thereof, in accordance with the principles as stated below: (i) to secure the maximum availability and benefits of broadcasting to the people; (ii) to assure the freedom of expression through broadcasting by guaranteeing impartiality, integrity in broadcasting and its autonomy; and (iii) to make broadcasting contribute to the development of a healthy democracy by clarifying the responsibility of those persons engaged in broadcasting.” The law does not make any specific reference to cultural diversity, ethnic and racial minorities, or multiculturalism. 
  • In addition, Burgess (2007) notes that the government offers virtually no support to the ethnic media.


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   No evidence found.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There have been no bans on wearing the hijab in public, and Song (2008) notes that incidents of harassment against Muslims seem to be decreasing. No evidence of any discussion of the turban or other religious symbols could be found. 
  • Korean students who attend ethnic schools and wear the chima-chogori—a type of traditional Korean dress—often face harassment and discrimination on the way to school. This prompted the Bureau of Education to recommend that students don a standard school uniform when in public and commuting; they could then change into their traditional dress once at school (Ishikida 2005).


5. Allows dual citizenship

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Dual nationality is not permitted. If an individual acquires dual nationality because he was, for example, born abroad to Japanese parents, then one nationality must be chosen by the age of 22. Those who do not comply will lose their Japanese citizenship (United States Office of Personnel Management 2001). Apart from some very specific instances, Japanese citizenship can only be acquired by descent.


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • A report on the development of NGOs in Japan notes the difficulty that such organizations face, in general, in terms of achieving official tax-exempt status and acquiring government funds (Yamakoshi n.d.). A scan of a directory of Japanese NGOs revealed few that could be considered specifically “multicultural” or “ethnic”; most appear to focus on international development and cooperation. 
  • In addition, Burgess (2007) suggests that even “support for minority festivals, holidays, and celebrations is practically unheard of, though most localities, often with NGO support, do hold kokusai koryu (international exchange) events where foreign culture is introduced.”


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • In 1991, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Japan and South Korea to encourage extracurricular ethnic classes for Korean students; these offer an opportunity to learn Korean (Ishikida 2005). Similar courses do not appear to exist for other minority groups. There are also some Korean-language schools in Japan, but these are not accredited; as a result, graduates of these schools are ineligible for admission into university unless they pass a separate qualifying exam. “Western-style” international schools, on the other hand, have received accreditation (Burgess 2007). 
  • In the government’s 2009 plan for the Administration of Cultural Affairs in Japan, the section on Japanese language policy refers to the importance of promoting Japanese as the national language and outlines the steps that should be taken to assist foreigners in learning Japanese. No mention is made here of bilingual or mother-tongue instruction, not even as an instrument to facilitate the learning of the country’s official language (Agency for Cultural Affairs 2009). 
  • The Ministry of Education has prepared some guidelines on the teaching of foreign languages in secondary schools. However, the focus here is on the teaching of English; no other languages are mentioned (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology 2003). Moreover, in a report on curriculum reform, the learning of foreign languages is highlighted only insofar as this increases Japanese students’ ability to interact in an increasingly internationalized world (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology 1998).


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There is no evidence of any positive action measures for immigrant groups. In fact, even some of the more basic provisions related to anti-racism and discrimination are absent. Restrictions were imposed on the hiring of foreign residents as teachers, civil servants and healthcare workers until at least the mid-1990s (Ishikida 2005). Even as recently as 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to deny a foreign national, who was employed as a health care worker, the opportunity to take a promotion exam “on the grounds that she was not Japanese” (Burgess 2007).

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