Ethnicity and the census

Debito, writing in the Japan Times:

Japan’s census does not measure for ethnicity (minzoku). It still measures only for nationality (kokuseki). In other words, on the form you indicate that you are Japanese or that you are miscellaneous (indicate nationality).

So what does that mean for the Ainu? They are Japanese citizens, of course, but their indigenous status remains unaccounted for.

Then how about naturalized citizens? I of course wrote down “Japanese” for my nationality on the census. But I would also have liked to indicate that I am a hyphenated Japanese — a Japanese with American roots, an Amerika-kei Nihonjin.

But it’s not just about me. How about children of international marriages? My kids are just as American as they are Japanese, so why not have it formally acknowledged? It would be in other societies with ethnic diversity. Why can’t we show how genetically diverse Japanese society is, or is becoming?

I wrote about this subject at MFT back in March, and my conclusion, having thought about it some more, is that ethnic distinctions are simply not that meaningful in and of themselves. Usually, they are completely arbitrary — just as arbitrary as nationality.

Debito, for instance, wants to identify as an “American Japanese.” This is his right, but it doesn’t tell you anything about him. You could correctly apply the same label to someone who would be considered an ethnic minority in America (like Akebono) or even someone who would be considered Japanese or Japanese American in America (like Hikaru Utada).

Or, as Donald Horowitz once put it (as quoted by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations):

An Ibo may be an Owerri Ibo or an Onitsha Ibo in what was the Eastern region of Nigeria. In Lagos, he is simply an Ibo. In London, he is a Nigerian. In New York, he is an African.

And in most of the US, he would just be “black” — much like the current president of the United States, whose ancestry and upbringing has practically nothing in common with the majority of “black” people in the same country.

This brings me to the barely-informed assertion, not knowing much about census practices elsewhere, that the US has some of the most thoroughly developed racial and ethnic census profiling in the world, and while it generates a ton of data, it is all pretty useless.

The most common American view is that the population consists of five races: white, black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Native American. In reality, “Hispanic” or “Latino” is not a race–there are Hispanic people of European, African and Native American origin, and of varying combinations thereof–so the US Census recognizes four races, has a “multiracial” alternative option, and treats “Hispanic or Latino” as a separate descriptor which can apply to a person of any race. But because Hispanic and Latino people are not used to being called “white,” they often trip up when being asked to identify themselves as such (more on this here). That’s not the only arbitrary distinction. Arabs, Iranians and Turks are treated as “white” even though their groups hail from parts of Asia and are reviled with suspicion by legions of ignorant “white” people. Indians and Pakistanis are treated as “Asian/Pacific Islander” alongside East Asians, Polynesians and Australian aborigines. You get the idea.

To confuse matters further, the US Census lets people self-identify using a more detailed “ancestry” field, and in practice nearly anything you can think of gets written down in this space, including unhelpful answers like “United States,” “Southerner” and “Amerasian.”

Debito continues:

I believe the government still wants to maintain the image of Japan’s ethnic homogeneity, as it justifies a lot of status-quo policymaking (e.g., a closed-door refugee regime, no official immigration policy, the firm and oft-repeated belief that Japan is not and will never be an “immigration nation”).

After all, Japan’s identity is currently based on the ideals of cultural and even racial purity. Why would one dare to collect official data that would undermine that?

The US Census is arguably set up with the opposite purpose in mind — to provide tons of (probably misleading) data that show off the diversity of the population.

I agree that Japan should do a better job of acknowledging the presence of other ethnic groups within its borders. To me, though, it’s a tough call, because all of the possible approaches have serious flaws.

The government’s main objection is somewhat legitimate. As Debito puts it:

The official reason I keep getting from the Census Bureau is that this is a privacy issue. Asking people for their ethnic backgrounds is apparently too personal.

He doesn’t buy this because there is other highly personal information which is surveyed, such as household income (not so personal in Japan, by the way, but I digress). It is clearly an intensely personal issue for many affected people–just look at how many effectively “hide out” as Japanese people, with a Japanese name and hazy family background, so that they can lead normal lives among the mainstream of the population without being viewed as an outsider. Or look at the burakumin, whose leaders don’t even want anyone to know where they used to live hundreds of years ago.

Even setting that issue aside, there are still serious problems with any survey of ethnicity in Japan.

The question could be most simply phrased: “Do you have any non-Japanese ancestry?” But there is a serious scientific problem: everyone would technically be forced to say “yes” because we are pretty sure that the human race did not spontaneously form in Japan. And there is a practical problem: nth-generation Japanese citizens who happen to have a great-grandparent from Korea are in a different situation than a half-Japanese person from Japan, a half-Japanese person from South America, a multi-generation zainichi, an Asian immigrant laborer or a JET teacher.

If the census can’t be so vague, it has to be multiple-choice; “choose your own answer” doesn’t work, as explained above. So what should the choices be? There are countless Japanese people who have lived and had families in other countries for over a hundred years, so national origin doesn’t say anything. “Race” is tricky because most foreigners in Japan are technically of the same race as “purebred Japanese” people (i.e. East Asian/Mongoloid). Any classification has to be further broken down by specific combination; is a half-Japanese half-American person counted as Japanese or American, and how is American counted anyway? Do you need to know how many “black” or “white” people there are? How Korean do you have to be to be “Korean?”

I am pretty content with the fact that the Japanese census doesn’t get into these issues, and only looks into declared nationality, which is at least not a gray area: any given person in Japan is either Japanese, stateless, or entered Japan as a national of one other country (i.e. the passport they most recently showed to immigration). It doesn’t say a lot but it is at least legally relevant.

97 thoughts on “Ethnicity and the census”

  1. Totally agree with you, Joe, and for all the sensible reasons you have given. Race and ethnicity are too vague to be considered in a census. I know so many Japanese who have, say, a Taiwanese grandparent, or a half-German parent. But why should the census be delving into such questions of ancestry? What purpose does it serve? None that I can think of.

  2. “Ethnic distinctions are simply not that meaningful in and of themselves.”

    This is true on one level, but it is meaningful when collecting census data. If Japan is to understand the composition of its culture and take steps to increase tolerance and integration based on a growing number of people who are of mixed ethnicity or who are naturalized but not of Japanese origin, it is helpful to collect deeper information.

    Right now, Japan does little to educate its people about how to accept and handle people of other ethnic heritages. This is one of the reasons that prejudicial behavior (denying entry into businesses, which still happens) and plain bad manners (like staring) occur. I think that Japan needs to educate the population about how to regard people who are unlike themselves, and in order to encourage acceptance and equal regard, they have to realize that their foreign community and the number of children of natives and other countries is growing. If they do not measure this accurately, then they cannot illustrate clearly that, yes, more foreigners are Japanese citizens and the census shows it.

    Anecdotal experience, like seeing more foreigners around, is of little value as people interpret the increased presence of foreign faces in accord with their particular bias (e.g., more tourists, a greater concentration of them in a particular area due to the presence of a certain business, etc.). Deeper data gathering will lead people to know that the ethnic composition of their country is changing and they need to adapt their thinking to be more expansive and their behavior to be less exclusive. It will also lead to objective understanding of where government money may need to go to incorporate services and where law might lead to a more equitable footing for such people. Right now, the law in Japan is largely silent (or is unenforced) in regards to equal rights for those of foreign background because we are perceived as being too tiny a minority to “matter”.

    I think your analysis of the “difficulty” of pinning down ethnicity complicates the matter more so than necessary. People are the ethnicity they identify as. It’s not about a genetic history spanning X number of generations, but rather how people see and present themselves. It’s really as easy as that.

  3. Canada produces demographic data from its census that lists over 200 “ethnicities” – down to how many people consider themselves to be Manx. Impressive, but it tells you everything and nothing as multiple entries are possible, so the grand total is well over 200% of Canada’s population.

    On the other hand, France does not ask ethnicity on its census. Putting aside bad memories of 60-70 years ago, when things were decided based on what ethnic group one was (and not for the better), it goes against the basic concept that if one is French one is equal with everyone else who is French.

    Personally, I do not understand the logic of on the one hand saying “I am Japanese, and demand to be recognized as being the same as any other Japanese!” while on the other hand saying “Except that I want to be treated differently and have my hyphen as an ‘American-Japanese'”.

    Especially since “American” is a nationality, not an ethnic group under any standard definition of the term, and one cannot be an “American” after naturalizing in Japan and renouncing American nationality.

    Still, I guess it is one’s right to personally identify their ethnicity however they want, just as it is one’s right to list their religion as “Jedi” if they so see fit. Such identification should not form the basis of any official government statistics or policy proposal, however. Leave it off the census – asking how many non-Japanese live in Japan is legitimate, but that is as far as it should go. Children of international marriages may be in a unique position, however if one of their citizenships is Japanese, and they are in Japan, then from an official, legal and logical standpoint they are Japanese. Only. Just as if they happened to be in their other country of citizenship during that country’s census, they would be counted as “American” or “French” or whatever – not “Japanese national”.

  4. Orchid, the US census tells us that 12.4% of America is black – has that knowledge in and of itself changed people’s attitudes, raised awareness and eliminated racism in the US?

    Not by a long shot.

    What did happen was the government looked at those numbers and made the horrible decision that if 12% of an area’s population was black, then 12% of the students at the local university needed to be black, or 12% of cops needed to be black, etc. In the name of equality areas of society were made decidedly unequal. Competence didn’t matter, skin color did.

    That’s not the way to make people colorblind.

  5. Super nitpicky point, but you aren’t forced to choose on the Japanese census if you are Japanese or non-Japanese. That is, it’s not a mutually exclusive choice, as dual nationality is allowed for minors.

  6. Before Debito or anyone else generalizes about how Japanese see their minzoku or the composition of the country, they should actually look at some research –

    See – Hudson and Aoyama, Views of Japanese Ethnicity Amongst Undergraduates in Hokkaido over on Japan Focus

    There is good evidence out there that the idea of a separate and distinct Japanese minzoku is breaking down – yes, because of more diverse education and popular representation. The last thing that we need is a census telling people, “oh, there’s Japanese-Japanese and then there’s everyone else” – which seems to be what Debito wants. Or something?

    As that small university survey indicates, if people were asked to indicate their own minzoku, the results would not be useful for any sort of government initiatives, because you would likely have “mainstream” Japanese identifying themselves in all sorts of ways, naturalized Japanese-Koreans giving up the hyphen as a way to assimilate, etc.

    This idea that “the Japanese” see “themselves” as ethnically distinct and inviolable is something out of the 80s and its precisely the kind of sweeping generalization without evidence that people accuse those same “the Japanese” of.

  7. That is awesome, M-Bone. Thank you for sharing the link.

    I wonder how a similar survey of people in their 50s would read. Or people in their 80s. I often feel like the major thing holding Japan back is its high life expectancy…

  8. “I wonder how a similar survey of people in their 50s would read. Or people in their 80s.”

    I do a lot of “Japan by the numbers” stuff and my gut feeling is that a 50s sample would be more pluralist than one might expect. That was the generation that was educated at the height of Marxist universalism’s impact on Japanese education (before the government did something similar as a capitalist oriented “kokusaika” in the 1980s). For people in their 80s, it would likely be very homogeneous. Of course, old Japanese are the most statistically likely to go ape shit in public over how cute half Japanese babies are, so it evens out.

    I don’t think we have to worry about the next gen at all. Even kids growing up in the do-inaka have children of marriages between Japanese men and Filipino or Vietnamese women in their classes (higher proportions of mixed children some rural schools than urban) and will encounter very diverse environments when they decide to go to the big city for university or for good.

  9. LB, I seem to remember a statistic from somewhere that 75% of children from a black/white marriage in the US self-label themselves as white.

  10. I’m actually quite offended when an official American document asks for my “race” (yuck) and the only option that kind of fits is “white.” I’m not sure why, but I think where I grew up there was a conscious effort to eliminate the concept of genetic heritage as a salient policy factor and replace it with “ethnicity,” a problematic concept, perhaps, but one that is socially constructed and therefore more capable of dealing with self-identification. Still, I prefer the Japanese approach.

  11. But then, Fat Tony, the census in your part of the world tends to confuse the #&$^ out of white people from North America whose best option for ethnicity among the main choices is “European”. They also end up grouping Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Afghanis together in one “Asian” category that is totally meaningless on any policy level. That’s the danger of detail on censuses – it really is a strange feeling being prodded to think of your identity in a different way simply because the categories of choice in that place are different. Citizenship, however, is not subjective.

  12. If a census isn’t the right vehicle for a government to assess the ethnicity and identity of its population, what is? Or is the argument rather that governments shouldn’t look at such issues?

  13. I don’t see how asking someone’s ethnicity is a bad thing. If Japan ever becomes an immigrant nation and starts taking people from all over the world, it might be handy to know that in X area there’s a large community of Y people.

  14. Mulboyne, if someone wants to probe into the complex question of ethnicity, they could do so by devising a better survey method than a nationwide census, and might get more accurate results. Perhaps it would include DNA testing. I really doubt that a census could provide reliably accurate information on this question, and am not sure of the usefulness of the information to the government.
    Incidentally, your question could be asked about all sorts of characteristics, such as sexual orientation. Does asking about it it serve the needs for which a census is taken? Would a census produce accurate information? Are there better ways to get the same information?

  15. Census asks you to declare your gender. What you write there or not won’t change who you are or how you feel because of your gender. Or how people treat you because you’re a male, female, transgender/genderless (not offered as an option). Ethnicity is the same. But, one should be able to say who s/he is.
    Some don’t get the concept of ethnicity and confuse it with nationality.
    Maybe it helps to think this way: Jews may be German or U.S. citizens (have German or U.S. nationality), but they also feel they belong to their Jewish community – with their distinct language (not in all cases), cultural background, customs, etc. And no matter what they may think of themselves, there will be always people who’ll see them as Jewish (which we sadly know from history).
    Roma people are another good example. Although nationals of Romania, unlike non-Roma Romanians in France, only Roma people are Sarkozy’s targets for removal from the country. Thus, ethnicity is an important category and census should allow people to have options and be counted as what they are. I, for example, may be an ethic Korean (whose ancestors were forcibly taken into Japan many decades ago), even though I naturalized and took J nationality later. There are people like that who don’t want to stay invisible.

  16. “Super nitpicky point, but you aren’t forced to choose on the Japanese census if you are Japanese or non-Japanese. That is, it’s not a mutually exclusive choice, as dual nationality is allowed for minors.”

    Dual nationality is tolerated for minors in Japan but for the purpose of the census, you are told that if you have Japanese citizenship, you are to claim Japanese on the forms.

    At least that is what the English version of the instructions say. It isn’t mentioned in the Japanese instructions that I could find.

  17. @Mulboyne – This is only my personal opinion, but governments shouldn’t look at ethnicity, religious preference, or what-have-you at all, aside from in the very limited sense of preventing discrimination based on same. In other words, if it can be proven that Company X won’t hire members of ethnic/racial/religious/social Group Y just because they are members of Group Y (and this is assuming that Group Y is not a designated terrorist organization, etc., naturally), or that a landlord will not rent to members of Group Y, or a public venue will not admit members of Group Y, and so on then the hammer needs to come down.

    But that is all, and that can be covered under “all citizens are equal under the law” as spelled out in the Constitution. It can be argued that Japanese laws need to be more specific or more stringently applied, and I would argue that, as in the US, the laws be enforced by the public prosecutor’s office instead of being “civil cases” requiring the victim to hire a lawyer themselves and sue in civil court – plus the penalties should actually be “penalties”, and the concept of contempt of court should be made law so if an offender does not pay the courts themselves drag them back in and slap them silly. Problem is, a lot of people in Japan have real issues with giving more power to the State, even when it would probably be in everyone’s best interests to do so, provided there was an effective check system in place. It would be an uphill battle to give the courts the kind of power that would really be needed to properly stamp out discrimination even under existing laws. That is one reason why I disagree with Mr. Arudou’s calls for sweeping “anti-discrimination” laws or “hate speech” laws – if the laws which already exist to cover these problems are failing to do so due to half-assed penalties, inability of the courts to enforce those penalties, and inability of the state to pursue (as they are “civil” matters, not “criminal” and thus outside the scope of what the cops and prosecutors are able to touch) then writing yet more laws which will run into the same problems is just wasting time and effort.

  18. Wataru, from a practical point of view, asking about sexual orientation wouldn’t work in a census format. The government may treat the answers as private but its a household, not an individual, survey, and answers might easily seen by other members of the household.

    Only a couple of weeks ago, Britain’s Office for National Statistics published a survey on sexual orientation which raised another issue. Our census treats ethnicity as a matter of self-identity, not DNA. The ONS has said:

    “Membership of an ethnic group is something that is subjectively meaningful to the person concerned, and this is the principal basis for ethnic categorisation in the United Kingdom. So, in ethnic group questions, we are unable to base ethnic identification upon objective, quantifiable information as we would, say, for age or gender. And this means that we should rather ask people which group they see themselves as belonging to”.

    Sexual orientation is not only a matter of self-identity. There are, for instance, groups who people who have homosexual sex who would not call themselves gay (e.g. prisoners). That’s another reason why, at least under the British methodology, the census wouldn’t be the right vehicle for such a survey.

    LB raises the example of France and it’s an interesting one. Their aversion to collecting ethnicity data probably goes back to the war where the majority group used the information to stigmatize and persecute minority groups. It is, however, the minority groups who are now asking to be counted. It’s still an unresolved matter but Sarkozy set up a commission to look at the possibility of introducing ethnicity questions in the census.

    I don’t think the accuracy question is really a significant problem. All nations have to deal with the issue of mistakes and misinformation in replies to even basic census questions. If you’ve got a decent set team statisticians, you know how to adjust for answer bias or put a figure on the margin of error.

    As far as what use the data might be, one important use of census information is to create benchmarks which help you better gather, and understand, other data which is compiled on a regular or ad hoc basis. Health, employment and education statistics are areas which benefit.

  19. I can see how ethnicity data may be of use to the governments of countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia or Myanmar. In Japan, not so much. Not at this point, at least.

  20. I’m also uncertain about whether Japan needs to collect ethnicity data. It’s probably of more use for countries with large and regular immigration. Japan might become such a country but it isn’t one now. If there is any need to encourage a sense of pluralism then the census doesn’t seem like the best way to do so. Arguably, population survey methodology should react to trends rather than anticipate them.

  21. I think Wataru has it — what problem are we actually trying to fix here? Doudou Diene wants a better picture of the ethnic groups that are present in Japan. Debito wants proof of ethnic heterogeneity among Japanese citizens. But the population of naturalized citizens and part-Japanese people, who have full political rights and seem to fit into society as well as anyone else, is probably the last group we have to worry about among Japan’s ethnic minorities. The real social and political problems seem to relate to the huge population of disenfranchised “special permanent residents” and the transient underclass of developing-world laborers, and we already have pretty decent stats on their numbers, nationalities, locations and working conditions.

  22. Just as I thought seeing Pakkun in the TV commercial of the national census as a sign of progress,now this.

    Anybody wants to know how much the Debito’s “activism”leaving any traces in the conventional Japanese mindset,should pick up the recently out volume ②of Mari Yamazaki’s “Thermae Romae”,the most talked about manga of the year 2010.

  23. M-Bone: A group of anthropology undergraduates who have just finished a course on the origins of the Japanese are possibly the least representative sample I can imagine. It’s even worse than interviewing Americans who have just come out of the Hiroshima museum to find out whether most Americans think dropping the bomb was justified.

    I tend to agree with Joe; ethnicity questions on a census are only really useful when there are socially-defined ethnicities within the country, like “black” in the USA or “Arab” in France. The only group that I think might work in Japan is “Korean”, because I believe quite a lot of Zainichis have naturalised without abandoning their cultural affiliations.

    On the other hand, when there are socially-defined ethnicities, I think it is quite important to collect information about them.

  24. Joe, you said what I was going to say. Any article on foreigners in the census that doesn’t mention zainichi Koreans/Chinese, new Chinese immigrants, and other immigrant labor first and foremost has the country’s priorities mixed up. The issue of naturalized citizens is certainly important, but I think it’s still minor enough that using other means to study it is fine.

    Debito’s reasoning that the census takers are actively trying to massage the figures to support claims of a racially pure nation don’t seem convincing to me. What is he basing it on besides his hunch? My own hunch is that the census takers opted for a safe “country of citizenship” field precisely because they didn’t want to rock the boat of zainichi and “immigration policy” politics.

  25. David, you are assuming that they read the book or came to class. A big “if”.

    In any case, what is the alternative? Generalizing based on no evidence at all?

  26. “seem to relate to the huge population of disenfranchised “special permanent residents””

    Now, isn’t the Japanese government trying like heck to get them to take citizenship to the point where they have a dramatically hastened (rubber stamp) application process? Isn’t this disenfranchised more or less self imposed, especially among the NK affiliates?

  27. Sorry about tripling up –

    Aren’t the new Chinese immigrants, guest workers, etc. easy enough to trace through visa numbers anyway?

  28. M-Bone: Generalising based on no evidence at all would be better; the “evidence” presented in the paper is likely to have a strong systematic bias, and so be actively misleading, as well as giving a totally spurious air of solidity to the resulting speculation.

  29. David, if the students actually switched their “ethnic identity” based on one university course, how deeply rooted could it be in the first place?

    Similarly, if US visitors to the A-Bomb museum flipped opinion after seeing the exhibit, wouldn’t that be significant? Or if we can point to a large number of US visitors to Japan who are interested enough in alternative historical perspectives to visit the A-Bomb museum with an open mind, wouldn’t that be significant as well? Or if we found that people coming out of the exhibit justified the bomb at the same rate as the American population a whole, wouldn’t that be worth noting? Imperfect surveys can still produce interesting data.

    Strong systematic biases trump pulling stuff out of a hat. At the very least those surveys would involve a willingness to actually talk to people about how they think about the world. The alternative is just repeating “The Japanese think this, The American think that”, exactly what Debito is up in arms about.

    I also think that you should take a look at the intro of the article again. The authors are very open about what the students were exposed to in the class. There is little indication that it is anything in the course that led students to think things like “because I was born in Hokkaido, I might have Ainu blood”. The fact that is taken as a given and not as a negative by some at least tells us something. Look at the other parts of the Ainu discussion – they all include elements from family/regional narratives that do not seem to have been “taught” in the course. The authors also express surprise at some of the self-definitions, suggesting that they were not from the course material. It also references ambiguous feelings about “minzoku” which are narrated in identity terms, rather than with reference to course content. One of the conclusions also states that the students did NOT refer to ethnicity as it is in the anthropological literature, indicating that their views may not have been shaped by the course content as much as pre-course prejudices and ideas as to what the term means.

    Also, if you read the whole article, you will note that there is a “control” survey conducted among “occupational therapy” students included as a balance. Your lack of reference to this suggests that you are ignoring it or didn’t read much past the introduction. I also think that your comments downplay how open about the methodology of the authors was and how carefu lthey were to include another point of view. The number of students in the control survey is fewer than the main one, but the authors are honest about this as well.

    Your accusations of spuriousness are debatable, given the balance of some of the analysis – “Prejudice against and misunderstandings of the Ainu continue to exist in contemporary Japan. The comment of one student here that the Ainu seem to be an “old”, i.e., non-contemporary ethnic group may be seen in such a context. However, the fact that a quarter of respondents in the first survey saw their own ethnicity as “Ainu” suggests that other, more complex views of the Ainu also exist among young Japanese. While we accept that this identification with the Ainu is unlikely to exist outside Hokkaido, and in this case was probably influenced by the context of the course in anthropology, nevertheless we submit that our results imply that straightforward anti-Ainu prejudice no longer exists amongst a significant group of young Japanese adults. Even in Hokkaido, it is probable that Japanese students normally rarely think about the Ainu in terms of their own identities. In this case we accept that they were almost certainly encouraged to think in such terms by the context of the lectures. However, the important point is that, when give the opportunity to think about the Ainu, so many students were willing to accept a degree of Ainu ancestry for themselves.”

    The authors are clear that even if they are “creating” the identity context through the course, the fact that students so readily identify with Ainu blood suggests that such “blood” is not considered to be a visceral negative, as has been suggested by some commentators who are writing in the “out of a hat” school, not using survey evidence.

    In any case, both surveys – among the anthro course students and the control group – suggest that a knee-jerk “We’re Japanese” isn’t a given among young people in Hokkaido. While the results are yet to be published so you will have to take my word for it, there is an article in preparation that makes similar points for Tokyo university students as well.

    Finally, the authors are writing particularly to problematic McVeigh’s comments on Japanese higher education. Have you read McVeigh’s stuff? Makes Debito look like a philologist.

  30. M-Bone: I’m short of time, so this has to be short.

    First, strong systematic biases do *not* trump pulling stuff out of a hat. Strong systematic biases can create solid-looking evidence that black people are inherently thick, or that no-one in Japan is unhappy with race relations here.

    I’d like the conclusion of this study to be representative, and I suspect it might be, but this study provides no reason to think that it is. Notably, a large part of the control group (a third) chose “Asian” for ethnicity, as compared to not one of the anthropology group. That suggests that the course has had an influence. Further, the responses of 17 of the 21 control students are groups that include “Japanese”; Japanese, Asian, and Mongoloid. Of the people who didn’t say they were Japanese, narrowly or broadly, two didn’t know, and one thought she was British.

    The paper itself isn’t at all bad, because it’s very open about the background, and the point about the Ainu is somewhat supported (although note that not one of the control group thought they were Ainu), and interesting. The study is interesting and suggestive, but treating it as evidence of how “the Japanese see their minzoku” is wrong; it isn’t.

  31. But do the authors claim representative-hood?

    I certainly didn’t – simply fragmentation.

    At a dozen points in the article, the authors refer to historical and contemporary biases as a way of balancing their discussion. I, for one, am not out to whitewash anything. I just wonder what grounds people have to uncritically assume that there is a single, monolithic standard for talking about race or ethnicity in Japan.

    If the authors have a varied view, can’t the piece be food for thought without being gospel? I bring up this article because it resonates with my experience in Japan. It seems like it resonated with Joe’s and I’m sure that it goes for others as well.

    I also think that the “black people are thick” comparison is totally off base. That is established through “whitey define black people” types of crazy analysis, not through taking the time to listen. However limited, looking at an example of self-definition like the student survey is WAY different than looking at an example of pigeonholing others – the historical original of anit-black racism, eugenics, etc.

    “Notably, a large part of the control group (a third) chose “Asian” for ethnicity, as compared to not one of the anthropology group.”

    This is also an important finding, given that much of the contemporary literature holds that Japanese consider themselves to be “Japanese” and not “Asian”. All we need to establish here is that “Japanese” is not the exclusive touchstone. If I wanted to further problematize the survey, I could argue that it was a few years ago – “newer” young Japanese might very well have an even more diverse way of thinking about nationality, no?

    In any case, one of the major points in the existing understanding is that The Japanese consider “Japanese” and “Asian” to be oppositional groups. Your reading of the survey and the conclusions of the authors show that this is shaken up by the result – an important achievement for what the authors openly call a first step toward further research.

    I’ll ask, if young Japanese aren’t considering themselves to be “Asians” or “Mongoloid”, what should they be considering themselves to be? Those seems like natural directions for the broadening of the Japanese identity and the end to exclusivity. The category that exists just beyond that is “human” and I don’t think that any society can quite claim to be there yet, not without nationalist qualifications anyway.

    Japanese (nationality) progressive cosmopolitans have latched on to “Asian” as an identity definition for a number of reasons – it is a category that thinks Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, etc. TOGETHER which is a way of not only smoothing out race relations in the life space of Japan (geographical area) but also of pushing for East Asian solidarity. This is based on an idea of “difference” but one I hope that international commentators will take as an indication of Japanese moving to a broader trans-national imaginary (ie. beyond Debito’s America-centric legalized vision of identity which really does not have too much pull in China or Korea either).

  32. M-Bone: You bring up this article because it resonates with your experience in Japan. Exactly. It resonates with mine, as well. People tend not to be critical of research that supports their existing beliefs; that’s how so much of the “black people are thick” research managed to pass muster. We have to be very careful about research that supports our positions.

    If the survey was of 85 people who’d just come out of a Zaitokukai “Why The Yamato Spirit Is Vital” meeting, and had 85% of them saying that they were Yamato, would you suggest that it was a valuable place to start the discussion?

    This really is important: even as a place to start, 80-odd students who have just had a course on Japanese ethnicity are valueless.

    There’s enough bad social science on the other side of the debate. I’d prefer to keep it off our side.

  33. “People tend not to be critical of research that supports their existing beliefs”

    For me, resonance plus massive qualifications on the part of the authors builds into an interesting piece worth bringing up. You also have to consider – do you and I believe the way that we do because of source prejudice or because of (what Chomsky called) skeptical empiricism? Part of my reason to put stock in this article comes from a wide reading in anthropology and sociology. If you take Oguma Eiji or someone similar as a starting point for this discussion, it becomes clear that “Japanese-ness” was a mutli-ethnic concept decades ago, fugged around with by high-growth conservatives, and is now coming back. This isn’t just one article, nor is it wishful thinking.

    In any case, I didn’t bring the article up because I think that it “proves” that Japanese aren’t racial thinkers. Problematization and proof are two different things. Since I don’ really put much stock in turthy arguments anyway, I’ll stick with breaking down the absolute certainty with which people raise absolutes – be they the “thickness” of black people or “exclusivity” of The Japanese, I’m interested in chipping away when I see interesting bodies of evidence to the contrary.

    Zaitokukai – a dodgy comparison, no? People join an activist group like that because of a developed identity (I’ll say a shitty one). People don’t sign up for an undergrad anthro basket weaving course for the same sort of reason. And besides, that does leave the control group….

  34. M-Bone: Could you re-read your initial comment, and tell me whether you would still phrase it that way? It reads to me as if you are presenting the paper as evidence that the Japanese don’t think in terms of a single race, rather than as merely problematising taking it as a default assumption. I agree that the article can do the latter, although even then only the occupational therapy students count; the others had just finished a course in which “the idea that in prehistory the Japanese had diverse roots was a major theme running through the course.” But it’s no more effective at doing so than our personal experience.

    Now, if the authors follow up with more research, that might well be helpful.

    As to the first point, a wide reading in 19th century American anthropology and sociology would confirm your “skeptical empiricist” belief that black people were thick, and so studies showing it would resonate. People never think that their own beliefs are due to source prejudice. This is the main danger I’m concerned about.

    The Zaitokukai comparison is a little extreme, but people taking an anthropology course on the origins of the Japanese are a self-selecting group, and are unlikely to include people who are strongly committed to an opposed ideology. To take another example from a different field, it’s as informative as a survey of people conducted as part of the final exam of an undergraduate evolutionary biology course would be on general US attitudes to the theory of evolution, for the same reasons.

  35. Hi. I have a question, its about my citizenship i hope you can help me. I am born in philippines with a filipina mother and a japanese father. They are not married because my father has a family in japan but he acknowledge me as his daughter he even signed my birth certificate and the affidavit of acknowledment. Recently,ive been thinking if i can acquire a japanese citizenship. I am already 23years old. Thanks much..

  36. I’m confused about the whole issue here. Debito wants to expand the the scope and purpose of the census for his own pet cause. The obvious reply is “pound sand, Debito” right?

    There are literally thousands of pieces of information that, if gathered, could be used to fuel more rational governmental policy. Why this one?

    I would think the primary purpose of the census is to keep track of the voting/ government aid eligible population in a certain area. If you’re not a citizen, you can’t vote, and shouldn’t be counted in those numbers, but should still be counted in some calculations. The shape of your nose doesn’t seem all too relevant.

    And someone else hit this above, but if you’re here legally, they’ve got you tracked a lot closer than they do the 200 year olds. Illegals don’t seem likely to fill out a census form.

  37. On a slight tangent, I was at a Rotary meeting earlier today, talking to a young (mid-20s) Chinese woman who had grown up in an ethnic Korean-dominated area of rural Manchuria, learned Japanese in university and got a scholarship to study in Japan. After explaining a bit about the co-existence of Korean and Han people in her area, she asked me: “Does the US have many ethnic groups like China does?”

  38. M-Bone touched on some Japanese considering themselves ethnically “Asian”, and how this goes against the “conventional wisdom” that “Japanese don’t consider themselves ‘Asian'”. I have to wonder how many other Asian nationalities would, if asked about their ethnicity in the same way, choose “Asian”. I have a hunch the answer would be “not too many”. I spent a year studying in University in China, and while the Chinese talk about the Hans and the other ethnic groups in China, Asia seems to exist in their consciousness as “areas outside of China”. I mean, they know “China is in Asia”, but that often seemed to occupy a similar place in their consciousness as saying “China is not in Africa” – a statement of logical fact, not quite the same as “France is part of Europe” would sound to a Frenchman, for example. And when you think about it, there is no indigenous word in Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Tagalog (the three languages I am to some degree familiar with) for “Asia”, and I have heard there is no native word in any Asian language for the concept.

    Anyone have any evidence, statistical or anecdotal, that other Asians consider themselves “Asian” as an ethnicity?

  39. In the original comment, I said that Debito and others should look at SOME research, not only THIS research. There is plenty more out there.

    I write – “There is good evidence out there that the idea of a separate and distinct Japanese minzoku is breaking down – yes, because of more diverse education and popular representation.” Out there, not only in that article. And “good evidence” is what I mean by problematization. I’m not writing in definitive terms here. At no point do I say something like “look at that survey, it proves that The Japanese don’t see themselves as Japanese”.

    I do use the university survey as “proof” for something, however – “As that small university survey indicates, if people were asked to indicate their own minzoku, the results would not be useful for any sort of government initiatives”

    For me, the surveys presented in the article do clearly show that there is enough ambiguity in “the minzoku question” to make statistics gathered that way worthless. Even a 5-10% swing in statistics would make a final result worthless. What could we learn, for example, if the national census revealed that 80% of the population are Japanese, 10% Mongoloid, 5% Asian, with a smattering of “I’m German” types of craziness?

    “although even then only the occupational therapy students count; the others had just finished a course in which “the idea that in prehistory the Japanese had diverse roots was a major theme running through the course.”

    Once again – the Ainu point. Course or no course, the ease at which these students identify with Ainu blood is important.

    “taking an anthropology course on the origins of the Japanese are a self-selecting group”

    Perhaps, but if you know Japanese university students, just registering for a class like that does not predispose a flexible idea of identity, I think. Not to anywhere near the degree that active participation in a racist organization involves self-selection by racists.

    “To take another example from a different field, it’s as informative as a survey of people conducted as part of the final exam of an undergraduate evolutionary biology course would be on general US attitudes to the theory of evolution, for the same reasons.”

    You’ll note that in my original post and especially followup response to Joe’s query, I’m describing the change that I see in attitudes toward ethnicity as generational. That is, I wouldn’t use either the anthro survey or the other one as a marker of attitudes among the general population, but as an example of a heterogeneity among young people or the ease at which set “Japanese” identities can be unsettled.

    On the American comparison, we’ll disagree here as well as I think such a survey would be very interesting and useful. There is always the chance that students WOULDN’T change their opinions, right? Or we could discover that young students with a strong secular education differ greatly from the mainstream – that, however, would problematize an assertion that “The Americans don’t believe in evolution”, no? That’s no different than Debito’s “Japan’s identity is currently based on the ideals of cultural and even racial purity.” I raised that particular piece of research because it reflects not only the problems of an ethnicity census question, but also, the embrace of Ainu blood by students and diverse conceptualization of identity does suggest that Debito’s rather stark definition is untenable as a totalizing way of talking about “Japan’s Identity”.

    “Does the US have many ethnic groups like China does?”

    The correct answer to that question is – “The US has every ethnic group.” I love that bit in “Inside Man” where the cops need a foreign language recording translated and they just play it to a crowd of New Yorkers knowing that somebody there will understand it.

  40. The question of whether people think of themselves as Asian depends on whether they are thinking in terms of politics, ethnicity or geography. A similar issue arises when you ask an Englishman about Europe. Geographically, some think of Europe as the continent and you’ll often hear the English say “in Europe” and mean “not here”.

    Politically, some proudly claim the label of European while others despise it. Ethnically, many would say they are from “European” stock but it’s not really a very helpful term on that question and some might even see their celtic heritage as distinct from one traced to invaders from overseas.

    Incidentally, leaving aside the matter of whether ethnicity questions on the census are a good idea, I think some above are overstating the problems of whether we could possibly learn anything from the answers. Of course, they won’t address all the questions we might have. For instance, I’m curious to know how many half-Japanese there are in Japan (and outside, for that matter) but that’s not something a census question could tell us without getting invasive.

  41. Was talking with English and American friends the other day. The English guy asked the American if he had ever been to Europe. The answer was yes (I knew he’d been only to England). The English guy replied that he himself had never been to Europe.

    “I think some above are overstating the problems of whether we could possibly learn anything from the answers”

    I don’t know… in that survey that I linked one student decides that she is ethnically German because, like, German is a state of mind. With such a small number of foreigners in Japan relative to the total population, just a small portion of “Japanese” giving funky answers means that the resulting numbers would be … what? They wouldn’t be useful either for proactive legislation to help integration nor for Debito’s “spread the word” mandate. Just think, if two percent of otherwise totally mainstream Japanese consider themselves to be Native American, Jamaican, Mongolian, or Korean, they could effectively double Japan’s diversity number. Not a bad thing necessarily, but unlike the informal university survey linked above, there would be know way to tell the difference between someone who “feels” Jamaican and a Jamaican immigrant to Japan as all we would see in the end would be raw numbers.

    Likewise, I would love to know how many half Japanese there are. However, there is A – no politically correct way to ask this, it would have to be done by a private researcher and B – what if there are people who “feel” half or who “think” they might be half because their hair curls when it is humid or like Becky so much that they want to be a half and fib it? You could ask if people have a non-Japanese parent to limit the “subjective ethnicity” but this gets massively complicated – Japanese-American from Hawaii marries a naturalized Zainichi who considers herself Japanese first and foremost – is their kid half?

  42. “The correct answer to that question is – “The US has every ethnic group.” I love that bit in “Inside Man” where the cops need a foreign language recording translated and they just play it to a crowd of New Yorkers knowing that somebody there will understand it.”

    NYC is far and away the most linguistically diverse place on Earth, to the point where researchers who document endangered languages have failed to find living native speakers of some languages in their original country, but were able to find suitable subjects and make field recordings in Queens.

  43. “With such a small number of foreigners in Japan relative to the total population, just a small portion of “Japanese” giving funky answers means that the resulting numbers would be … what?”.

    I think you are overestimating both the number of people likely to give funky answers and the effect they would have. The “funky” effect could only really be pronounced on small groups and any statistician worth his or her salt would be alert to this.

  44. Think something like the 2001 Jedi census in England. They got 1.79%, only a few tenths of a percent behind Hindu. I know that this is an example of organizaed Jack-assery, but when dealing with very small groups (the non-Zainichi foreign part of the population of Japan being in the 2% ballpark) it doesn’t take much to throw things off. A statistician would no doubt be putting the people who feel German and someone who takes the “Japanese are one of the lost tribes” theory seriously and puts down Jewish (a phenomenon of self-definition noted in the 1980s during the “Jewish conspiracy boom”) in an “other” category, but that category could substantially increase the number of “non-Japanese ethnicity” who show up, no?

    With just raw data – “Japanese”, “Chinese”, “Korean”, “other” – I don’t think that there is a statistician’s out on this problem.

    In any case, perhaps we should just agree that we would like to see some enterprising researcher put together a phone survey to estimate the numbers of mixed-race Japanese or to do something with a sample size (1000-2000) where they can take a look at each response to give ethnicity answers context. The census is too massive for this.

  45. I had might as well provide a few bits of info about that to-be-published (book collection, could be two years) survey that I alluded to above. General education class at an elite Tokyo school, not prepped on ethnicity which was one of 20 questions. 55% Japanese, 30% Asian or Mongoloid, 15% other answers. Since students were asked to write up to three lines about why they indicated said ethnicity, I know that some of the “other” answers included Korean “because ancestors of Japanese came from Korean peninsula”, Mongolian (same reason), and Ainu (becasue I’m from Hokkaido). All students had “Japanese” names.

  46. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more about it and in the end, it is still only about 100 students, but I like what I see. I have a plan of my own to do a survey at a Japanese uni that is unique for its large number of foreign students. I’m wondering if the diverse environment actually leads to more definitive “Japanese” self-definition. That will be interesting to watch going forward – a greater pluralism when considering Japanese national belonging could produce a more clear ethnic identity.

  47. “I’m wondering if the diverse environment actually leads to more definitive “Japanese” self-definition.”

    I took Roy to an apartment complex called Homi Danchi in Toyota city,Aichi about a year and half ago.
    Now there’s a problem since Aichi prefecture is worried that nearly 50 percent among the 11000 residents are now unemployed Brazillians who can not speak any Japanese and local J-resients believe Brazilians do not respect the communal rules from garbage collecting,parking to cleaning the neighborhood.
    There’s significant decline in the living environment that had caused the Japanese residents and community leaders demanding to halt the Brazilians entering into vacant rooms.
    Homi is turning into Banlieue of Japan,and the last thing people there need is more
    greater pluralism that makes everyone a stranger in a strange town.7

    All this idea on hypenated identity politics injected into Japan sounds like a pure delusion coming from English teaching expats,if you ask me.

  48. “A statistician would no doubt be putting the people who feel German and someone who takes the “Japanese are one of the lost tribes” theory seriously and puts down Jewish (a phenomenon of self-definition noted in the 1980s during the “Jewish conspiracy boom”) in an “other” category, but that category could substantially increase the number of “non-Japanese ethnicity” who show up, no?”

    You’re in danger there of sounding like someone who would have advised William the Conqueror not to bother with the Domesday Book because the Northern barons might hide some sheep.

    Census data isn’t interpreted raw. There’s a good deal of work done on looking at the influence of question bias, respondent error, collection and distribution failures and any number of other factors which might distort census data. It’s also compared with other datasets to highlight anomalies. Even if you do fear that 20,000 Japanese who like sausages, James Last and the Yokohama Oktoberfest might suddenly decide to answer “German” if asked their ethnicity, that answer isn’t going to be taken at face value or shoved in a box to make it fit.

  49. Mulboyne: The reason Debito and others want this on the census is precisely because there is no other data set on point. How are the statisticians supposed to tell that those 20,000 German-Japanese don’t really have German blood in them?

  50. As is often the case, Debito’s intentions are good but his analysis and methods have flaws. The goal of using the census to try and measure the diversity of Japan’s residential population is a good and useful one, but for many reasons enumerated above, asking about “race” is not necessarily the most useful way to do it.

    Race is a highly subjective and complex category, which we sometimes use as shorthand because of its high level of correlation with certain other, more measurable, traits. So why not just skip “race” entirely and ask the specific factual questions regarding what we want to know?

    I would suggest that instead of asking about race, questions such as the following be asked instead, so at to get at the information:

    (If responder is a Japanese citizen.)”Were you, or either of your parents, born as a citizen of a country besides Japan. If so, please explain below.”

    “Are any languages other than Japanese spoken in your home?”

  51. “How are the statisticians supposed to tell that those 20,000 German-Japanese don’t really have German blood in them?”

    I still hold that there is no way to tell. In addition, ethnic identification can’t really be an anomaly statistically, because, to a degree, we have to accept it as subjective. No matter what the statisticians do with the US census, for example, if I put myself down as “black”, I go in as black.

  52. Anyway Mulboyne, I definitely see where you are coming from. The more numbers that we have to talk about Japan’s foreign community, the better. Even, to a degree, flawed ones.

    However, my perception on this has been shaped by those surveys that I mention above (one available online, the better one, unfortunately not) that suggests among Japanese in some contexts anyway, close to half might identify themselves ethnically as something other than “Japanese”. Even if this is only younger Japanese, or university educated Japanese, that is statistically significant.

    In this sense, the census could provide a fascinating data set – we could compare age and likelihood to answer “Japanese”, for example, or geographical region (I expect Hokkaido and Okinawa would provide interesting answers). However, I feel that in this area, the small surveys that allow for more a qualitative look (ie. asking respondents why they feel Korean or Mongolian – German is a bit of a MacGuffin, only raised because of that student’s weirdo survey answer) have major advantages over the census survey of ethnicity. If the government started comparing names or other parts of the census data to see who is “really” German (and thus “really” Japanese) or eliminated certain ethnic answers – that is kinda like the state stepping in and saying “you are this, you can’t be that”, which could be a disastrous sort of precedent.

    Roy provides two alternatives that I like.
    (However, you might see some people claiming English as a cultural capital thing, and there is also the issue of Japanese born in the colonies before 1945 – now considered to be “other countries” – once again, a statistically significant number).

    The main thing is, we really need to decide what we want the data to do. If, like Debito, we simply want to provide evidence of diversity, a phone survey of 2000 (10,000 would be fantastic) households will produce numbers that are just as “useful” as the census option – perhaps more useful in that more followup questions to the straight ethnic definition would be possible. Sounds like a research project waiting to happen.

  53. “Homi is turning into Banlieue of Japan,and the last thing people there need is more
    greater pluralism that makes everyone a stranger in a strange town.”

    Aceface, the university that I mention is Ritsumeikan Ajia Taiheiyo Daigaku – with over 50% foreign students. That is a “professional” enviornment, and surveying students there would be more interesting in terms of the way they define themselves than anything to do with shifting demographics.

    Canada (highest immigrant to population ratio in the world) has recently published a slate of stats on how recent immigrants are having far more difficulty getting good jobs and many are impoverished / reliant on social assistance. At some point, immigration isn’t simply doing people a favor, the old liberal line. Canada, and Japan, have to have significant debates about that issue. There has to be a “sweet spot” in both societies, but I’m afraid that has typically been set to maximize growth rates, not to ensure quality of life for anyone.

  54. Roy has some good ideas.

    Canada (highest immigrant to population ratio in the world)

    I read that and thought “no way that’s true.” Wikipedia says the Vatican wins that contest, with Canada coming in behind the likes of Australia, Switzerland, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE.

  55. “Aceface, the university that I mention is Ritsumeikan Ajia Taiheiyo Daigaku – with over 50% foreign students. That is a “professional” enviornment, and surveying students there would be more interesting in terms of the way they define themselves than anything to do with shifting demographics.”

    You should’ve chose Akita Kokusai Kyouyou Daigaku-with over 60% foreign professors working under Debito’s arch-enemy and hard-core panda hugger Gregory Clark.

  56. Should have written “new immigrant” for Canada. Canada’s new immigrant arriving yearly to total population ration is the highest in the world, according to the Canadian government anyway. It is also reported in the Wikipedia immigration article.

    Australia 22,500,000 people and 150,000 immigrants (1 for 150 people)
    Canada 34,250,000 people and 250,000 immigrants (1 for 137 people)

    In any case, Vatican City should be totally banned from any comparative discussion of countries!

    “hard-core panda hugger Gregory Clark”

    I know, I’ve been reading NBR on the Senkaku issue. He also loves him some Russian bear.

  57. I was concerned that, in dismissing Debito’s agenda, commenters were resorting to arguments which question the value of ever surveying the ethnicity of any population. In principle, if a question is worth asking a population sample, it’s worth asking in a census because that’s the largest possible survey group and most heavily analysed data.

    It’s a different issue whether it should be asked, and I suggested above that immigration levels in Japan are probably not high enough to make it worthwhile. Not because statisticians can’t make sense of the numbers but because it’s not yet important enough for Japan’s national census. If the population composition changes significantly in ten years then it might be nice to have an earlier base number for comparison but no country’s census tries to anticipate trends.

    I share Aceface’s concern about encouraging double-barrelled designations. Britain has a far more diverse population than Japan and you just don’t hear those labels to anything like the same degree as in America. Debito might want to be recognized as American Japanese but that doesn’t really help me understand him as Joe points out in his original post.

  58. The census could be meaningful if only they have category of say “the year of immigration” or “first language”.
    But my concern is as some of you may know,there are very strong negative perception on government collecting information that could lead into possible implementation of ID card in the future and ethnicity survey is just that.
    Plus,that information could be used for the benefit of the well being of immigrant,but the most frequent use would by police using as source of information of foreigner related criminal investigation of which in many cases the victim and the suspect are both foreigners/immigrants.

  59. On the matter of encouraging pluralism, there are some signs of this happening naturally. The first two banzuke rikishi to be born in the Heisei era both have Filipino mothers. A Sankei article heralded them as Japan’s new challenge to the dominance of foreign wrestlers. Aceface pointed out that sumo great Taiho had a Ukrainian father so this isn’t a new phenomenon but greater media coverage now means there were several pictures of the wrestlers standing with their proud parents. We saw the same when Yu Darvish joined professional baseball.

    Of course, it’s unlikely to be all sweetness and light but positive examples like these ought to help.

  60. One standout for me is Kang Sang Jung (not that I agree with all of his academic arguments; I also partly regret that a strong academic writer has become something of a geino chishikijin) selling 1,000,000 copies of Nayamu Chikara. It is basically a self help book, but his personal problems/nayami are focused around a Zainichi identity discussion. The fact that this didn’t turn readers off and might actually have been a plus for many is quite notable. Not only are people with diverse backgrounds slipping into the mainstream without controversy on the right or fanfare on the left (fanfare is also a way of playing up difference), but discussion of those issues in popular fora seem increasingly to be natural (this just happens to be my particular nayami) rather than exceptionalizing (we Japanese need to listen to the Zainichi).

    In my own work, I’ve been happy to find examples of foreign criminals whose crimes are being discussed in terms of “Japanese” social problems (ie. make a big deal about the crime and how to prevent it without relating it to a foreign crime wave) everywhere except the Sankei (surprise, surprise).

  61. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world UK agipopper Banksy seems to have gotten his negative Asian images mixed up in that crazy new Simpsons opening – one of the (evidently Chinese) sweatshop hell slaves is using a severed dolphin head’s tongue to seal envelopes!

  62. “should pick up the recently out volume ②of Mari Yamazaki’s “Thermae Romae”,the most talked about manga of the year 2010.”

    Aceface, I wrote this off as a manga devoted to naked men. I also missed the 2010大賞 thing. Can you tell me what’s up?

  63. Wikipedia says the Vatican wins that contest, with Canada coming in behind the likes of Australia, Switzerland, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE.

    A very important distinction is that Australia and Canada allow immigrants to naturalize easily and grants foreign nationals civil rights and open paths to naturalization. The other countries on that list do not:
    * Switzerland requires your municipality to interview and approve you for naturalization — if your neighbors don’t like you, you can’t be Swiss!
    * Saudi Arabia and the UAE provide essentially no real options for naturalization for non-Arabs.
    * Singapore makes permanent residence very easy but it is almost impossible to naturalize (requires marriage to a local and performing military service for 2 years).
    * Israel is yet another weird case as it is by definition a country of Jewish immigrants.

    So allowing for immigrants that are considered first class citizens, Canada is really number 2.

  64. M-bone:

    The manga is basically about a public bath architect of Roman era named Lucius,who can jump the time and space and into 21st century Japanese bathhouse everytime he got drown in the bath.Sounds insane but that’s what the manga is all about.

    The episode in question is Lucius discovers the Germans who became Roman citizens after years of service in the frontier just simply don’t get the etiquette at the bathhouse and annoyed Romans.Then he had fight with one of them and got drowned and warped to 21st century Japan facing the same problem with the Russian sailor.

    Read the rest on your own.

  65. I believe that non-Jews can still immigrate to Israel and apply for citizenship, but they have to do it through what would in many countries be the ordinary process, while Jews are basically automatically approved as long as they can prove their Jewishness and reside in the country long enough.

  66. I favored the numbers of people immigrating yearly as a proportion of the total population because it speaks more to the situation now (when you think about it, a country could totally cut off immigration and still be rated as a “high immigration society” because of a body of historical immigrants, many of whom could have come decades before). Israel has a huge percentage of immigrants as part of its total population, but this includes people going wayyyyyyyyy back. The average number of immigrants to Israel (getting full rights, not temporary laborers who are in a tenuous position lately) in the last few years has been around 15,000.

    That is 1/500 of population, far, far, far lower than 1/150 for Aussie and 1/137 for Canada, which seems to be the “champ”, but given reports of a deplorable lack of opportunities for newcomers, this may be a grim distinction.

  67. I’m confused – does that 1/500 number include Jewish immigration or just non-Jewish?

  68. Curzon: You’re slightly wrong on Singapore — they require two years of permanent residence OR military service, and then citizenship is pretty much automatic if you want it. The big hurdle is that, like Japan, they don’t allow dual citizenship.

    One of my former co-workers, an Australian who lived and worked in Japan but owned property in Singapore and had PR there, was offered Singaporean citizenship in the mail while living in Japan. He turned it down because he wanted to keep his Ozzie passport. On the other hand, one of the senior executives in my company was born, raised and educated in India, but worked in Singapore for several years and got citizenship so that he could have a useful passport for travel.

    M-Bone: Where are you getting those numbers? And for that matter, why should a yearly migration statistic, averaged over an unspecified period of time, be more convincing than the total number of living immigrants in the country? By that standard, a country could easily be catapulted ahead in the rankings by virtue of having a neighbor who generates lots of refugees or (in the case of Canada) who drives potential migrants away with insane entry procedures.

  69. I divided population stats for 2009 (or most recent) by the officially listed number of newly arriving immigrants. This is what the Canadian government did to develop a #1 stat (yeah!). It isn’t the be all and end all, but I think that it does mean that Canada should be central to discussions of high immigration societies. Most stats used in international comparison look at number of cases per 10,000 of population, but I think number of yearly immigrants as a ratio to the number of citizens is a fair way to do it. I also checked to make sure that those listed as “immigrants” to Canada are not short term, etc. but are on a PR track which leads to citizenship in all cases apart from fraud, crime, etc.

    “And for that matter, why should a yearly migration statistic, averaged over an unspecified period of time”

    Canada has been at this rate for a while – since the 1990s. If this were a one year thing, it would change the tenor of the discussion, but even if it were, it would still be a notable way of highlighting movements of people, flash-spots, etc. Canada has also been very high historically – some years in the 1970s had a greater immigrant to population ration than now.

    “be more convincing than the total number of living immigrants in the country?”

    Take Israel, for example. Immigration between 1948 and 1951 – about 650,000 – or slightly less than 10% of the current population. Another 300,000 in 1990-1991 (Soviet Jews). That really doesn’t tell us a thing about the current immigration situation (a recent year less than 1/8 of the peak year). So in the original context of the discussion – potential lessons of relevance to Japan – Canada has far more prolific and recent integration stories (only one Latin American country in Canada’s top 15 sources of immigrants, so we really can’t blame this on the US – Canada, like Australia and NZ, is actively courting Indians, Pakistanis, and diaspora Chinese of all sorts).

    Also, if you scroll down farther and farther of that list of absolute immigration numbers and percentages that you linked to, you find things like Andorra at over 75%! And we see places like Kuwait or Qatar that import a non-citizen peon class. But really, can these oil caliphates or European border places really give us any insights for a discussion of contemporary high immigration regimes with a China-India/Pakistan-Philippines orientation like Canada or Australia? Those seem like the most obvious ones to look at for how or how not to do it.

  70. I dunno.Is Debito worth 70something post discussion?

    The last time I remember we discussed over the man was on the JT column he wrote that Japanese killing foreigner gets off lightly and the example he used was a guy who chopped his Filipino girl friend into pieces who was not filed as murder because of lack of evidence at that moment of investigation.

    I posted a link about a week ago which somehow never appeared on the thread that the Japanese man, in question,Nozaki was sentenced death penalty.

    The man simply lacks qualification to have his word on decent media which JT obviously is not.

  71. Aceface, I had completely forgotten that Debito was in any way connected to the genesis of this thread!

  72. I take back what I said on Ardou.It could be a good time to start talking about ban on hate speech in Japan.

    We just had an anti-China demonstration for two days in a row this weekend.
    The one on sunday at Akihabara was seemingly organized by this dude.

    Issue like this should be much more focused than boring hyphenated identity politics.

  73. Part of me is thinking that eventually one of these guys is going to blow something up and invite the government to break the back of the whole movement.

  74. Interesting storm brewing in Oita. You may have heard of the case of the 78 year old Chinese woman, born and brought up in Japan and a permanent resident, who applied for welfare payments (生活保護) but was turned down. When she tried to appeal, she was refused on the grounds she was a foreigner. She took them to court and an initial ruling upheld her right to appeal, saying Oita refused her that right illegally. However, a second ruling has now said that she is not actually entitled to the payments. The district court judge’s statement said the primary responsibility for her well-being lies with the country of her nationality and it would be difficult for the city to assess whether she held any assets overseas.


    Her lawyers say this is the first ever such ruling and plan to appeal. I’d imagine special permanent residents groups will be very concerned if it stands. I’d imagine there are currently several cities around Japan which are making such payments who could decide to review their legality.

    The case has already received some national attention and I’d imagine it’s due to get more.

  75. If she is a special permanent resident, this is pretty scandalous. I wonder, however, if she is a “normal” PR. If that is the case, the situation seems tremendously unfortunate and some kind of solution should be found on humanitarian grounds, but I can see why they want to restrict welfare payments to citizens.

  76. I find their argument that ” it would be difficult for the city to assess whether she held any assets overseas.” somewhat troubling though. If you actually take this argument seriously, then you might as well automatically decline welfare payments to any Japanese citizen who has ever been overseas, or has a large extended family, because they could be hiding assets. And in reality, they would probably be more likely to be hiding assets than a poor, elderly woman who happens to have foreign citizenship but has likely never lived abroad.

  77. They absolutely don’t care about that when setting you up for health insurance (which is pretty altruistic) so the argument in the case of welfare seems a bit of a stretch – like they are throwing every argument that they can think of at the problem in hopes that it will go away.

    Welfare review is very intrusive in Japan, however. They really do go to homes and make sure that people sell the 52 inch TV before they let them collect welfare payments.

    Interestingly, in Canada, as the sponsor of my wife’s PR, I’m responsible for repaying any welfare that she collects (which I hope will be zero!).

  78. I will say that I had ABSOLUTELY no problem collecting unemployment in Japan, when I was still here for a couple of months after my job had ended due to my decision not to renew the contract. Of course, like health care that is, at least theoretically, an insurance system funded by the premiums rather than actual “welfare.”

  79. “like health care that is, at least theoretically, an insurance system funded by the premiums”

    If you have “no income” (because all of your income is foreign, something that I was totally up front with) then the premiums are pretty much zero.

  80. When I’ve reported no income as a student my health premium was something like 1700/month. I guess that’s the minimum. But

  81. I had no intention of using it as I get coverage on another insurance plan, but I signed up after that buzz about immigration taking it into account for visa renewal.

  82. I don’t know whether she is a special permanent resident or permanent resident. Her background suggests the first but there has been no mention of it in press coverage to date.

    If I recall correctly, her story is she suffered domestic violence and was obliged to move out of the family home. Oita turned down her original claim because they judged she had assets in her name in the form of a joint bank account. I suspect her argument is that she has no effective access to those assets. Oita didn’t deny her payments because she was a foreigner, that only came up as an issue when it was given as the reason she could not appeal.

    The assets question is an important one for anyone claiming welfare, Japanese or not, but this second court ruling effectively removes finances from the debate. Although the judge spoke about assets overseas, he has ruled that she is not, in principle, entitled to any payments as a foreigner.

    His decision doesn’t automatically mean that any city giving welfare to permanent residents must stop but the legal basis for doing so is now unclear. If his view is upheld by an appeal court then, in the absence of a clear Ministry directive, welfare will become a lottery for permanent residents as some districts pay and others decide not to.

  83. A professor at Hitotsubashi University has argued the judge’s ruling is inconsistent with Japan’s 1979 ratification of the International Covenant on Human Rights.


    Reports mainly refer to her as 永住資格を持つ中国籍の女性 which doesn’t clear up the issue of whether she is a special permanent resident. Given her age, if she is an SPR then, presumably, at one time she would have been classified as Japanese.

  84. If she is SPR then she would most likely be Taiwanese/ROC nationality, and probably wouldn’t be referred to as “Chinese.”

  85. I think there are just over 3000 Chinese SPR in Japan (not Taiwanese). Given how small that number is, it’d be surprising it wasn’t mentioned anywhere if she was one. In 2003, before Chinese emigration to Japan really picked up, there were around 80,000 Chinese ordinary permanent residents so the odds are she’s in that group.

  86. Her family history his no doubt a fascinating historical case and could likely help to rally progressives like Tanaka to her defense.

  87. Really, 3000? I thought it was far fewer than that.

    Actually I’m unsure how many Taiwanese SPRs remain, since although they were easily the second largest group after Koreans, most of them naturalized long ago.

  88. It’s interesting that Debito so desperately wants to be treated the exact same as every Nihonjin (citizen), but when it comes time to census wants to be identified as Nihonjin* with an asterisk.
    Last I checked, he sues people for treating him like Nihonjin*, then wants to declare it as such on a census form. Give me a break. I don’t think the guy has a clue what he really wants.
    If the form had an option for ethnicity and a checkbox for “white” … he would still be offended and just interpret it as the “racist” Japanese government attempting to identify who is “real Japanese” and who is just a naturalized wannabe.

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