Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

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Japan

flag of Japan
   
TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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.

   
Affirmation Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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 dating from the era of Japanese colonization of Korea, Japan is not typically considered a country of immigration ordiversity.
  • 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.” Sachi (2006) notes that discussion of multiculturalism often neglects the social and economic conditions of migrants, and is predominantly regarded as a human resource than a practical solution to ensuring minorities’ rights.  
  • 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 piece of legislation is the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and a new Residence Card system for foreign residents replaced the Aliens Registration Act in 2012 (Immigration Bureau of Japan 2011). TheImmigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act underwent major revisions in 2019, most notably allowing lower-skilled foreign workers to fill labour shortages in areas such as construction, nursing, and farming (Toshihiro 2020; BBC 2018b). While these changes seem to loosen some of the tight restrictions regarding immigration, concerns have been raised about the potential exploitation of migrant labour (BBC 2018b).
  • Foreign Residents Information Centres have also been established in several cities to provide advice to immigrants (Immigration Bureau of Japan 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).
  • In 2006, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC) published the “Report of the Working Group on Multicultural Coexistence Promotion: Toward the Promotion of Multicultural Coexistence in Local Communities.” This framework identified the role of local governments in promoting multiculturalism, and focused on four key areas of policy development: communication support, livelihood support, multicultural community building, and improvements for systems of implementations (Nakamatsu 2014; Bradley 2014). Although some suggest this constitutes a multicultural policy or the groundwork for future policy development, many have noted that it is vague and remains ineffectual (Befu 2006; Nakamatsu 2014; Chapman 2006; Nagy 2012; Demelius 2020). The report has been described as lacking “a clear goal, direction, and policy guidelines” (Befu 2006, 8), and offers “only lip-service to cultural differences and rights of migrants” (Nakamatsu 2014, 140). There is little emphasis on reciprocal cultural exchange (Lee and Olsen 2015), and the focus of the document emphasizes the ways that migrants’ assimilation into Japanese communities can facilitate social harmony (Nakamatsu 2014).
  • 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 toimmigration, and some scholars suggest that these assemblies have a meaningful impact on local decision making (see Green 2013; Kwak 2009). Some municipalities (including Nagoya and Kitakyūshū) celebrate “multicultural month” where the local governments provide education and awareness campaigns pertaining to cultural diversity and tolerance (Toshihiro 2020). The Miyagi and Shizuoka Prefectures also have ordinances on promoting multicultural societies (Toshihiro 2020). That said, Nagy (2015) notes that the “programs implemented by local governments are in most cases patchwork, makeshift programs that are staffed by amateur teachers, event managers, and monolingual and mono-cultural representatives that do not have the education, experience, or background to successfully manage ethnic and racial diversity.”
  • In addition to the dearth of multicultural policies, there are also few anti-discrimination policies that protect minorities and migrants (Bradley 2014). In 2016, the central government passed the Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behaviour Against Persons Originating from Outside Japan, but the policy has been critiqued as ineffectual in protecting minorities as it does not impose sanctions on those who commit acts of hate speech (Daiki 2016; Toshihiro 2020). 

 

2. THE ADOPTION OF MULTICULTURALISM IN SCHOOL CURRICULUM

    No.

   
School Curriculum Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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). Although updates to the curriculum in 2011 called for enhanced cultural and traditional education, this centered exclusively on Japanese history, music, and art (Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau 2011).
  • In terms of migrants’ education, schooling is not mandatory for non-Japanese nationals (Vogt 2017; Gordon 2015; Nakamatsu 2014). Estimates suggest that nearly one fifth of migrant children may not be attending school at all (The Economist 2019). In terms of national-level policy, measures remain very limited and largely offer discretion to local communities on how to best serve students in their areas. Driven in part by the diverse geographical distribution of foreign students in Japan (Vogt 2017), the Ministry of Education has kept a “lower political profile” in this realm, providing a more active role for local authorities to determine schooling practices (Green 2014, 404). Schools with 10 or more foreign students are able to qualify for state assistance, including specialized teachers or “cultural intermediaries”, but those with fewer than 10 are generally supported by local volunteers or organizations (Vogt 2017; see also Kawato et al. 2015). In general, Japanese teachers are “trained to treat all children as if they were born and raised in Japan, speaking Japanese and knowing the fine nuances of this […] society” (Gordon 2015, 525).
  • Still, some schools and municipalities have made progress in implementing select multicultural programs or initiatives. These can include volunteer-led language classes, cooking classes, and providing additional test time for non-Japanese students (Vogt 2017). 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). Some schools have also started “International Classes” that allow newcomers of similar backgrounds to connect and learn more about their culture (see Gordon 2015). Still, many of the initiatives do not meaningfully engage with multicultural education practices and have faced criticism for focusing primarily on the 3F approach: food, festival, fashion (Tokunaga 2017). 
  • 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.

   
Media Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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 2010). 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 borders. 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. There are some ethnic minority media run by NGOs at the local level (Burgess, 2007) but nothing in the Promoting Media and Arts strategy speaks to support for ethnic minority programing (Agency for Cultural Affairs, 2011).
  • In 2020, NHK posted an acknowledgment of diversity on their website entitled “NHK 2020: Respect for All” (NHK 2020). The post notes that “The world is defined by diversity… Together, we will strive to overcome discrimination, resolve conflicts, and answer challenges.” This post came in response to ongoing criticism that emerged about the network in 2020 and their depiction of racial issues in Japan and abroad (Illmer 2020). Many sources observe that Japanese media frequently under- and mis-represents immigrants and racial minorities (see, for example, Illmer 2020; Sezer 2019; Thompson 2018).

 

4. EXEMPTIONS FROM DRESS CODES (EITHER BY STATUTE OR COURT CASES)

    No evidence found.

   
Exemption Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Takahata (2007, 738) notes that “No provision in Japan today clearly requires the government to exempt religious practices from generally applicable laws.” 
  • To date, there have been no bans on wearing the hijab in public, but Muslim women in Japan report challenges around workplace discrimination and harassment when it comes to wearing headscarves at work (see, for example, Mainichi Japan 2016; Obuse 2019). Through a series of leaked documents in 2010, it was also clear that Japanese police were surveilling all foreign national Muslims to monitor potential terrorist activity, a decision which the Japanese Supreme Court upheld in 2016 (Takashi 2018; Payton 2016). 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; see also Choi 2019).

 

5. ALLOWS DUAL CITIZENSHIP

    No.

   
Dual Citizenship Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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.

   
Funding Ethnic Groups Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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.). As Shipper (2008, 59) describes, “There are limited opportunities for immigrant ethnic associations to form in Japan because immigration control policies restrict the institutional development of temporary foreigner groups.” 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.”
  • Shipper (2008) suggests that rather than actively fight for minority or political rights, many of the ethnic associations that exist in Japan are primarily focused on fostering a connection with the home country. In some cases, these associations can serve as a social space for people from similar backgrounds to network, but in other cases, associations (such as some Fillipino and Thai associations) serve as an elite or exclusive club. 

 

7. THE FUNDING OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION OR MOTHER TONGUE INSTRUCTION

No.

   
Bilingual Education Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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). This remains the case in the Revisions of the Course of Study for Elementary and Secondary Schools (The Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau 2011).
  • 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 2009). 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 Technology1998).

 

8. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR DISADVANTAGED IMMIGRANT GROUPS

    No.

   
Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 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 in 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).
  • While the government passed the Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behaviour Against Persons Originating from Outside Japan in 2016 to target issues regarding hate speech, many activist groups still note that Japan has a long way to go in terms of advancing antidiscrimination policies (Margolis 2020).
  • Japan adopted non-binding legislation in 2018 to promote the representation of women in political office. The Act on Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field has been described as “more of a legislative gesture than a decisive gamechanger” (Stunkel 2018). No such comparable measures have attended to the disparity in the representation of minorities to date.