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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Japan's Minorities: Not Enough Respect

My original reason for reading Japan's Minorities edited by Michael Weiner was to find out more about the Ainu who I had read about in Harukor by Honda Katsuichi.  Yet I made unexpected discoveries about other populations in Japan.


"Creating a Transnational Community: Chinese Newcomers in Japan" by Gracia Liu-Farrer is primarily concerned with the current Chinese population in Japan.  Chinese are coming to Japan for education and jobs. Yet this essay also  revealed still another aspect of Japanese war crimes in WWII.  They abducted thousands of Chinese for forced labor in Japan. 17% of them died due to malnutrition, disease or being killed during uprisings.  I found an article about Chinese survivors of forced labor suing for wages that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003. It can be found at Chinese Forced Laborers Sue .  One of the uprisings was known as the Hanaoka Incident.  I found an article in The Japan Times about it here: Commemoration of Hanaoka Incident . 400 Chinese forced laborers were killed in the Hanaoka Incident.

Even more tragic were the thousands of Korean forced laborers who were victims of the nuclear bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This revelation appeared in the essay "Zainichi Koreans in History and Memory" by Michael Weiner and David Chapman.  There was an official apology from the Japanese government to the survivors in 1990, and the Mayor of Nagasaki went to South Korea to tell survivors that they could receive radiation treatment in Japan.  There was a token sum issued to assist survivors.  It was all too little, too late. A 1988 New York Times article documents the story of these Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors at Korean Hiroshima and Nagasaki Victims

In "Multi-Ethnic Japan and Nihonjin" I learned that the half-Japanese children born in Japan of mixed race marriages were not legally allowed to become citizens of Japan until 1984.  This reminded me of the U.S. prohibition on naturalization for Asian immigrants, a policy which ended almost twenty years earlier in 1965.

The most surprising immigrant minority in Japan are the Japanese-Brazilians who are the subject of the article "Japanese-Brazilian Ethnic Return Migration and the Making of Japan's Newest Immigrant Minority" by Takeyuki Tsuda.  These are the descendants of Japanese who went to Brazil.  Because they appear Japanese, it was thought they would integrate with Japanese society more easily.  This didn't happen because they are Portuguese speakers who are culturally Brazilian.  Japanese prejudice labels them with the stigma of having been double "failures". Their ancestors are considered failures since they left Japan because they couldn't find adequate employment, and they themselves are viewed as failures because they left Brazil to find better paying jobs in Japan.  They are given temporary jobs, yet they are criticized for lacking company loyalty.  Perhaps a company that was willing to trust Japanese-Brazilians with permanent positions would earn their loyalty.

 Since I am interested in Umbanda, an African diasporic religion in Brazil, I wondered about Japanese-Brazilians practicing Umbanda in Japan.  I found nothing about Umbanda in Japan.  I did locate an article that partly dealt with an Okinawan woman who became an Umbanda spirit medium in Brazil.  It can be found at Okinawan Spirit Medium in Brazil. It seems to me that if there are Japanese-Brazilians practicing Umbanda in Brazil, they probably have brought the religion to Japan. It would be intriguing to find out whether Japanese-Brazilian Umbanda practitioners can find commonality with native Japanese mediumistic traditions that I read about in Harukor .

It seemed clear to me that Japan doesn't respect their minorities enough--whether they are native to Japan like the Ainu, or whether they are immigrants like the Chinese or the Japanese-Brazilians. 



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