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Multiculturalism is a reality in the U.S.; it is accepted neither in theory nor in practice in Japan.

46 Comments

Forbes contributor Stephen Harner

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in theory it might be acceptable in Japan but not in practice, because this nation claims to be unique homogenous society.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Well of course. We aren't allowed to vote. Until we are allowed to vote as "Permanent Residents" we won't see any representation of our culture in local events.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

They're going to have to suck it up and deal with it though if this country wants to have any hope in the future.

3 ( +7 / -3 )

NetNinja, since this quote compares Japan with US, please note that green card holder can't vote either (only a few states allow voting in local elections). But apart from that, yeah, Japan has a long way to go, but there are serious historical and cultural reasons for that. Compared with 10 years ago, things got much better

2 ( +4 / -2 )

NetNinjaFeb. 27, 2012 - 09:10AM JST Well of course. We aren't allowed to vote. Until we are allowed to vote as "Permanent Residents" we won't see any representation of our culture in local events.

Why do we have to see any representation of your culture in Japan ? I am a westerner but I have no wish to to make any changes to Japanese culture or events.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Vic, I do! I would love to change the way I and other foreigners get viewed. I would love to change how women in the workforce are treated. The first one is a foreigners problem but the second one is a Japanese problem that many people would like to change.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Multiculturalism is a reality in the U.S.; it is accepted neither in theory nor in practice in Japan.

No sh** Sherlock. A country that was founded on the very thing you speak of, multi-culturalism, vs an inaccessible country that let almost no-one else in for nigh on 300 years and then had a violent expansionist foreign policy and a horrific war with the west. Saying anything about which is better but it's not exactly surprising.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Actually this is one thing that l like about Japan. Being a foreigner in Japan it can be a bit frustrating but the Japanese have limited the negative effects that multiculturalism can and does have in other nations. The Japanese have managed to protect their way of life, their cultures and beliefs while countries that embrace multiculturalism throw all this away so as not to offend the new comers.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Agree oikakwa.

Fantastic insight Mr Harner. 99% of the people in Japan are Japanese so I guess it would not be hard to draw the conclusion that multi-cuturalism is not a biggie here. Here's another one for you to ponder over Mr Harnen:

Unlike people in America, most people in Japan have the same coloured hair and 99% of the population speak Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Simond, do not forget the Ainu.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I dunno, every day I see Japanese people with brown, blonde, blue, purple, white and even black hair.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Fair point JapanGal. Although I suspect that the Ainu only make up a fraction of a percent of the population and ethinicaly are closer to Russians or Mongolians.

Pardon the pun Serrano, but you are splitting hairs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Simond, do not forget the Ainu.

The Ainu were assimilated by the Japanese through the years, the process is called "silent genocide", similar to what happened to the native American Indians in the USA for example. The Ainus have no right to choose their nationality in their passports, they are forced to be "Japanese". Ainu people even choose to hide their identity because of discrimination in Japan. I read that the Ainus who had moved from Japan Northern islands to Russia even petitioned Putin against returning the northern territories to Japan because they were angered by the treatment of Ainu by Japanese. You can find the article on the net.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

VicMOsaka. I have one answer and pretty much my final answer. I PAY TAXES. The party's on me and I'm not invited. Nah bro. If you allow foreigners to live here here tax free then yeah, do whatever you want.

In America some may not have the right to vote but we do embrace their culture even if they are illegal aliens.

Don't FEAR a little desegregation okay. It doesn't hurt. If anything it enhances what we learn and brings forth a better picture of reality.

No point in arguing with me just so you know. As long as I'm a taxpayer I will demand a voice and acknowledgement of my presence.

Now I don't mind them banging on the drums during Obon or the dancing. As a matter of fact I think it's a wondeful thing. It's too bad they won't try the Electric Slide though. It's not that hard to do.

Or how about a little line dancing? Put on a country track too and let me teach yall how to two-step and kick your heels.

Vic, mixed culture is beautiful man, so groovy. Yeah man, that's cool, peace. Nothing but love and happiness. That's what all these colors I'm wearing represent, man. Peace and harmony between people.

I'm sorry if you hate your own culture but seriously, get off that divine purity thing bro. Your way leads to the dark side.

If you came here for pure Japanese your about a 100 years too late. Everything here is imported.

If you are willing to have Obon one week then allow other people to use the park too for their cultural events. That's where things get unfair. I don't want to disturb Japanese tradition. The problem is they don't want to share the park when we all pay taxes.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Ainu only make up a fraction of a percent of the population and ethinicaly are closer to Russians or Mongolians.

I think there only a few pure Ainu already in Japan. They are protomongolians and are do not share common DNA with Caucasians. They have wavy hair, more body hair, whiter face and larger deep set eyes that can distinguish them from modern Japanese. They are so called "jomon" people.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

The Japanese have managed to protect their way of life, their cultures and beliefs while countries that em

Normally I agree with you but don't on this. Younger Japanese don't have the first thing about their culture and beliefs. I had to teach a class of 16 girls how to tie and obi for their yukata because they all just buy the prep tied ones. They are great at the "pretty" things but when it comes down to the basics, are pretty useless and am willing to bet that your average western in Japan has a much better grasp of Japanese "culture and beliefs" because we've had to so many people educate us on various things. I've done tea ceremony, calligraphy, worn kimono, know how to put on a yukata alone, cook numerous traditional foods, can explain a lot of wive's tales, traditions, follow the proper procedures at a shinto wedding, a buddhist remembrance ceremony, explain why certain foods are included in osechi... I don't think your average Japanese person under the age of 40 can say the same. I know that "I" end up teaching my students a lot about their traditions because no one else has. They get the odd thing when they are kids but that all goes out the window once they start JHS and doesn't return unless they are bored housewives with time to kill.

If your idea of "protection" means excluding foreigners into the rights of Japanese, I would agree with you because that's about all I see them doing when it comes to holding on to their belief system.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I agree with the No Sh*t sherlock comment. The United States is unique among western nations in that it has a short history and was founded by emtirely by immigrants. Leaving the Native American issue aside for a moment. To compare the US to a country that didn't "open up" to the west completely until the late 1800s is simply stating the obvious as best, and pretty assinine at worst,. And as far as "muticulturalism" in East Asian countries goes, Japan is way ahead on South Korea and China on that front if for no other reason than their earlier exposure to the west. And we won't even get into wondering about "multiculturaliusm" in North Korea. The more ou think about it the more stupid this quote seems..

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

OssanAmerica, are you kidding? Or have you never heard of Australia, Canada and New Zealand?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Thank you Jonathon as that is exactly what came to my mind too! 'Unique" - arrrrrgh!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Multiculturalism is a reality in the U.S.; it is accepted neither in theory nor in practice in Japan."

...and Arudo Debito is very unhappy. What other conclusions are we supposed to draw from this quote? Harner, to his credit, didn't berate Japan for its lack of multiculturalism in his article. Nor, however, did he extol Japan for its lack of it. Too many people do one or the other.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tmarie,

I do understand and agree with what you said in the first part of your post. Rereading mine l wasnt really clear on the point l was trying to get across. You are completely right though younger generations in most countries have lost the skills, traditions and a lot of their identity with who they are and were they came from and that is a shame. I guess when t.v or other media become surrogate parents and parents are to slack to spend the time with their kids teaching and showing them the things they where shown as kids then it naturally and sadly dies out.

What l was meaning by my post was more aimed at where through multiculturalism some of the nations identity is supressed in the interests of appeasing the newer arrivals. For example in a nation that celebrates Xmas, toning down and banning Xmas events and decorations in public places or schools so as not to offend minorities. This is the sort of downside to multiculturalism l refer to this and numerous other examples.

If your idea of "protection" means excluding foreigners into the rights of Japanese, I would agree with you because that's about all I see them doing when it comes to holding on to their belief system.

I do not mean exclude foreigners from their rights, but a nation must hold onto some vestige of who they are. For example a foreigner who comes to my country to live to escape whatever is happening in their home country and get a better life in my country. Who then makes no attempt to assimalate, no attempt to be part of the wider community, wants to the law from the country they escaped bought in, and expects special treatment because of who they are. This is the bad side of multiculturalism and it is evident in many nations. Now the sad thing about all this is my nation was built on immigration, and many cultures have moved there and made it the nation it is today they have all added to who we are. Sadly there are some nationalities though that do not add to who we are but make us question what we are becoming and true Japan misses out on the good points of multiculturalism but they also miss out on the negatives and sometimes the negatives outweigh the positives.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

OssanAmerica, I would point out that European nations such as France, Spain, Germany, the UK, etc. all have histories as long as Japan's. Yet their populations are diverse and multicultural. Now, one might argue that they haven't been as successful at accepting immigrants as the U.S. and Canada. That's a fair point. But having a long history is no excuse to keep the doors shut.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Whe I first read the Quote I thought... is it really accepted. To a point... yes, and especially in the big cities but I think that the U.S. is more so MultiNational than MultiCultural. Just about everyone you meet in the USA that has been there over two generations is MultiNational.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If anything, I find multicultural societies promote their cultures more than homogenous societies. Look at all the different festivals and celebrations that go on in multicultural societies. You can have Kwanzaa, Xmas, Hanukkah, German Xmas, Russian Xmas, NYE, NY day for various nationalities and cultures... all celebrated in the community and at many schools. What more could society ask for? A chance to learn about different cultures and beliefs is fantastic. Not to mention all the tasty food that always goes along with celebrations!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Gaijins in Japan = Multiculturalism

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Multiculturalism is one of the concepts.Promoting multiculturalism might be a great idea to encourage diversity, which is often beneficial for the development of a country. But, a country does not like to promote it. It's no problem. It's their way to go. Of course, violence and discrimination against foreigners should not occur in the country. But, I think there is no obligation for all countries to promote multiculturalism.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Multiculturalism" is a contradiction in terms, unless you reduce the concept of "culture" to superficialities.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would point out that European nations such as France, Spain, Germany, the UK, etc. all have histories as long as Japan's. Yet their populations are diverse and multicultural. Now, one might argue that they haven't been as successful at accepting immigrants as the U.S. and Canada.

I would like to add that most European nations - and by that I mean nations like France, the UK and, to a lesser extent, Spain, have not always been "immigrant" nations. Until WW II, they have, on the contrary, mostly been "emigrant" nations or, to be more precise, have kind of "exported" parts of their population to their colonies. As a result of the process of de-colonization in the 60s of the last century, there has started a wave of "immigration" from these (former) colonies to the motherland(s) which is very plainly observable in France and the UK.

One thing with this kind of immigration is that most of the immigrants have been in touch with the culture of the country they're immigrating to before. Immigrants from African countries come to mind for France as well as the UK; immigrants from Pakistan and India for the UK and so on.

Germany, however, where I'm living, is a quite different case altogether. Germany hasn't had a significant colonial empire for any significant time; its colonies have been taken over by France and Britain (and Japan) after WW I. Immigration into Germany is mostly a secondary effect of labor shortage after WW II which the government tried to counter by recruiting foreign labor, first from Spain, Italy, Greece and so on, then from Turkey. At first, these workers were supposed to work a few years in Germany then go back to their countries. However, it didn't turn out that way. Most of them stayed, even brought their families to Germany - and their cultures. This immigration wasn't in any way controlled or steered with the effect that at some point the German society (and the government) was downright forced to accept the fact that it had become a multicultural society. This fact doesn't sit well with parts of the "native" population to this day.

Moreover, adopting German culture (or nationality, for that matter) doesn't happen out of the immigrants' wish to be part of the country, the cultural setting etc. like it is the case in the U.S. or Canada but mostly as a matter of convenience: Acquiring citizenship makes it easier to pass Customs and Immigration, to set up a business and so on. Besides that, Germany is supposed to leave them to their cultural beliefs, traditions, and structures.

But having a long history is no excuse to keep the doors shut.

I agree with that. But it doesn't constitute an obligation to keep them wide open, either.

What l was meaning by my post was more aimed at where through multiculturalism some of the nations identity is supressed in the interests of appeasing the newer arrivals.

That's what's going on in Germany as well. It's one of the causes of the recent flare-up of Neo-Nazism - albeit absolutely no excuse for that!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

they are having no choice these days with the amount of children being born to international couples and it is really gaining momentum. i am so happy that multiculturalism is being thrust upon the country with our beautiful multicltural children!!!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This is not surprising. The US has people from many countries and cultures together. Japan only has one culture: Japanese. Where there were other cultures, like Ryukyu, we have helped them integrate into Japanese culture and leave the other behind.

Sillygirl, it is the other way around. International children will have to adapt to and fit into the Japanese culture.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Us Anglo saxons are a fine example of how multiculturalism came to be with a mix of German, British, Welsh, Scottish etc..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Multiculturalism seems to work better if the host culture is strong enough and confident enough to promote itself first. Moving to a new country means that you should at least show passing interest in that country's culture and traditions. The US seems to be good at this- most people know what being "American" entails. Otherwise, there is the risk of diluting everything into a thin soup of cultural relativism.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

anglootaku:

" Us Anglo saxons are a fine example of how multiculturalism came to be with a mix of German, British, Welsh, Scottish etc.. "

The differences between those are just superficial. There is no conflict there. Try to find a multicultural compromise between those and the Taliban, and then come back and say that multiculturalism is a concept that works.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japan only has one culture: Japanese. Where there were other cultures, like Ryukyu, we have helped them integrate into Japanese culture and leave the other behind.

I'm not an expert on Japanese culture but I think the Ryukyuans might beg to differ as they won't consider themselves having been "helped" to integrate into Japanese culture.

Multiculturalism seems to work better if the host culture is strong enough and confident enough to promote itself first. Moving to a new country means that you should at least show passing interest in that country's culture and traditions. The US seems to be good at this- most people know what being "American" entails. Otherwise, there is the risk of diluting everything into a thin soup of cultural relativism.

I second this absolutely. I'd rather sharpen the argument: Multiculturalism works only

if the host culture is strong enough and confident enough to promote itself first

because otherwise why should anyone feel compelled to appreciate and respect the host culture?

Moving to a new country means that you should at least show passing interest in that country's culture and traditions.

That's exactly the point: Why else move to a new country in the first place and with the intention of staying there? (OK, there is always the possibility of someone move to a country seeking asylum. But even then...)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What's a culture if you say its arts, sports and their expression by origin then Japan is multicultural- most countries are even North Korea (these big displays are they native Korean culture of course not). If you say its a way of thinking by origin- Japan is multicultural they've been influenced by China, Korean, Portugal, Britain, America(enormously).... Only Tibet was probably monocultural.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just look at Yugoslavia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kashmir, Mindanao, or for that matter Egypt to see how wonderful "multiculturalism" works.

To dream that cultures which contradict each other can co-exist without conflict is naive.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

mr detlef,

I'm not an expert on Japanese culture but I think the Ryukyuans might beg to differ as they won't consider themselves having been "helped" to integrate into Japanese culture.

Perhaps some would, but at some point it will be such a distant memory that none will, and so it will no longer be true. We have helped them level up their culture to be considered as Japanese.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Perhaps some would, but at some point it will be such a distant memory that none will, and so it will no longer be true.

Excuse me if I'm being rude but I think you're confusing "be forgotten" (or "be completely suppressed") with "no longer be true".

We have helped them level up their culture to be considered as Japanese.

So they came begging, "Oh, please help us level up our culture which so so deficient"? I don't think so.

But you're right in one respect, unfortunately so: History is always written by the victors, as Winston Churchill said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Excuse me if I'm being rude but I think you're confusing "be forgotten" (or "be completely suppressed") with "no longer be true".

In terms of cultural identity, perhaps both are valid readings. The old culture here is not being surpressed, but bred out. The language is no longer taught, and taught less with a family with one dominant culture parent, less so in the next generation, etc. Until it is bred out. This is essentially the plan, and it is good and patriotic. And it must continue unquestioned.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

America and Japan are like chalk and charcoal! I don't want Japan to be multicultural! I want to live in Japan! The Japanese don't want a multicultural Japan! If you want to live in a multicultural society with the right to vote, then jump on a plane and leave Japan! Multiculturalism doesn't work, because human being generally can't stand each other!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The argument for MC from its supporters always comes down to the following logic:

Myth 1)The U.S is MC and was founded on MC ad is it's lifeblood success.

Truth 1) The U.S seal that was designed by Benjamin Franklin states the following " E Pluribus Unum " or in English " Out of Many, One" the reason for this was because the original 13 colonies each had a different culture, some actually had a state recognized religion, some even had multiple state recognized religion. So the seal was created to basically create a common culture based on a mixture of Republican style of Govt values and the protestant work ethic. In those days the 13 colonies were what you can call "MC" which had to be eliminated.

Myth 2) Which surmises the collectivist mentality that wishes to impose his/her views on everyone which is basically this "It creates wondrous vibrancy! new fresh ideas! more tolerance and prosperity! it will work everywhere else!"

Truth 2) Of course these people don't realize is that some countries have a foundation where immigrants can easily assimilate and even abandon their own cultures and values for their new host culture. Really this only works in the U.S, U,K, Canada, New Zealand and to some extent Australia notice a pattern here? that's right All former English colonies and England itself. Though the results are not as expected in places like France, Germany, Yugoslavia, Russia, India and Africa.

Myth 3 ) There are foreigners/gaijins living in Japan, therefore Japan is MC.

Truth 3 ) Fact of the matter is that MC is more then just none ethnic individuals living in an alien society. MC is the promotion of different cultures and styles, often aggressively against the native culture under the guise of "equality" and "tolerance" and "diversity". As well as its proponents main tenet the the grandiose delusion and utter false hood that all cultures are somehow "Equal, deserve equal respect and are all equally the same". I wonder why I should give equal serious respect between the Culture of Japan and the culture of Lesotho? One is prosperous, productive and successful while the other one is not.

Conclusion: MC (Multiculturalism) does not work, it just doesn't. The heads of state in the U.K, France and Germany have already made publicly acknowledged statements about how "MC has failed", one only need to look at immigrant neighborhoods in France, Germany the U.K and Southern California. Of course the proponent of MC will turn a blind eye and just shout "Racism and bigotry!" when they themselves do not tolerate opposing views and are intellectually bankrupt. Lastly, MC is a relatively new experiment along with its term that comes from the ivory halls of Western academia where all things academic work in theory but always fail in practice just like Socialism.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I see a lot of cultures and nationalities represented in Japan. Unlike western empires the Japanese didn't go and spread there tentacles around the world absorbing other cultures for their own benefit. The US acted on this desire via the slave trade. Now African culture is mixed with western culture, creating this multicultural 'nirvana'. I saw phooey. Japan is beautiful as is. Let the Japanese figure out what to do with its cultural direction. If you work here and pay taxes, that is great. It seems like they already accepted you, so what else do you want? The voice of millions? Well I say, go home and get what you want. If you don't want to go, and you want to call Japan home, I suggest living within the system like everyone else and try and express your desires with your peers and hope that they agree and act on those desires. In the US, multiculturalism is not so great. It is the only choice we have. The country was "founded" by people from different cultures. But there were already people here (we tried to kill them off). We then imported workers (we tried to kill them off too, or at least keep them separate). So why is it so great? Cuisine? Holidays? Give me a break. The Japanese are not stopping people from celebrating Christmas. You can eat roti if you like, McDonalds and even pizza while break dancing with B-boys. What more do you want? A voice in the political system? Well I believe you have that too. You just have to say it to a national and persuade them that Japan needs to change the way you want and if the Japanese want it too and believe what you do, they will change...eventually. Just like in the US. Change is slow. It took 100 years after all slaves were made free until the passage of the voting rights act of 1965 in the US. I wish my ancestors were Japanese so, at least, I could be proud of a country that respects me and my ancestors without having to beg while getting spit on. IMO, Japan is a great country that is changing as we speak. If you can't stand the speed, just wait until the next Sakura Mitsuri and take a deep breath.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@WilliB

Just look at Yugoslavia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kashmir, Mindanao, or for that matter Egypt to see how wonderful "multiculturalism" works.

To dream that cultures which contradict each other can co-exist without conflict is naive.

I have actually been to Egypt, Nigeria, Yugoslavia and they ARE multicultural, I saw a lot of Chinese in Egypt, Indians, Asians, Europeans from Germany, Italy, France, UK. A lot of British and French still in Egypt since colonial times, also with African Countries. A lot of Chinese in most countries these days.. so what you said is actually wrong.. Anyone can co exist in any parts of the world.. money talks all languages, when it comes to business also..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A voice in the political system? Well I believe you have that too. You just have to say it to a national and persuade them that Japan needs to change the way you want and if the Japanese want it too and believe what you do, they will change...eventually. Just like in the US. Change is slow.

So in other words, we just have to ask mommy and daddy if we can go out and play?

Why don't you just let that racist beast out and call us all second class citizens. You'd like to tell us that we are beneath Japanese then just say it. Don't be so weak and try to sugarcoat it so you can look ambiguous later.

No one is telling Japanese where to go with your cultural direction. The real problem is you don't know where to go.

If you work here and pay taxes, that is great. It seems like they already accepted you, so what else do you want?

You have no idea what "accepted" means. They'll always except our money. Being "accepted" is a completely different argument.

No offense buddy, but you sound like someone who hasn't spent a full lifetime here. The way you describe and defend Japan sounds like a "familiar" to a vampire. In the words of Blade: "I hate familiars".

Change is NOT slow. Change is simply accepted or it isn't. The only reason it would be slow is because those in positions to block progress haven't keeled over yet.

As far as African American culture goes, you are way off base. They certain didn't bring Africans to America to adopt their culture. Stay away from that topic cause you are not qualified to speak about that.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

No one is telling Japanese where to go with your cultural direction. The real problem is you don't know where to go.

And you do??? The Japanese, culturally, know what they want and I like about 90% of what they have come up with. I can't say the same for the US.

Change is NOT slow. Change is simply accepted or it isn't.

Like gay marriage rights??? I can't overstate how wrong you are when it comes to social progress and the speed in which things change. I'm not talking about technological advances. This is about human behavior and the human condition.

As far as African American culture goes, you are way off base. They certain didn't bring Africans to America to adopt their culture. Stay away from that topic cause you are not qualified to speak about that.

Of course they didn't bring African Americans here to adopt their culture (I never said that), but it is now PART of American culture and its multicultural image. The Japanese didn't bring anyone to Japan to use and then white/brainwash for assimilation. I don't think the Japanese would want to do that with people and cultures very different than their own. As far as bringing Africans to America...what "qualifications" would I need. My ancestors were slaves and I'm African-American/Cherokee. Do I need to be a historian as well? SMH

BTW, you are using except wrong. Except is with the exclusion of. Accept is to take or receive something offered. I know what accepted means, but I don't know if you do.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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