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Minorities in Japan


20 Jul 2002
I've always been interested in how societies treat non-majority groups. From my days of studying Japanese society I can remember a number of these groups. My question is what are these groups currently called. In the US African-Americans have gone from negro to black and finally to the hypenated title form used by many other ethnic groups. This change has reflected the politically correct form which in turn has been mainly determined by how the group being spoken about wishes to be referred to
Is this also the case in Japan? For example, has the term for the Burakumin changed? If so, to what? I would be interested in hearing any information or comments other forum members might have on this subject.
Nope, nothing has changed as far as I can tell.

We're all still Gaijin.

The poor burakumin probably go through the same hell.
Speaking of minorities in Japan. How common is it to see children or adults of mixed races (Caucasian, African-American/African, Hispanic, any other), with half being Japanese? I would assume it's still very rare to almost none?
Well, a large part of the "foreigners" in Japan are 2nd or 3rd generation half-Japanese returnees from South America (especially Brazilians). Thousands of Japanese went to live to the US, Brazil, Peru, etc after WWII for economical reasons. They have often married locals there and now their children are goig back to Japan (for the same reasons). They are no more considered as Japanese, even if they haven't mixed with the locals and have remained 100% Japanese in blood. Mixed or not, they are facing quite strong discrimination. Even Japanese born in Japan that have studied or lived too long outside Japan face discrimination from Japanese society.
But I also know children of expats who have studied in Japanese schools (NOT international schools) and don't really face any discrimination. So the important id first to have been born and raised in Japan and know how to behave in this society. As foreigner in Japan, you'll (almost) always be treated better if you are Caucasian than if you are Asian or black.
Thanks for the imput. While most of my experience living and studying in Japan took place a few years ago it would seem that you are both on the right track when you say little has changed. I remember a bucho with the Japanese auto parts company I was working for had been over at the US subsidary for a number of years and then returned to the main office in Shizuoka-ken. He was very westernized in a blue collar style that didn't sit well with the home grown office boys and was the subject of endless jokes and snide remarks . While before going he was earmarked for a high position at home he was soon shuffled off to a deadend titled office with little prospect for advancement. On another front
one of my fellow teachers was a 2nd generation Japanese Canadian who was treated very poorly because she didn't speak
Japanese. When they saw her they would assume she was a native but on meeting generally treated her as someone beneath
them. Her husband,who was European, didn't face the same treatment. Instead, like the rest of us entertaining gaijin, he was
fawned over and given a bemused and polite level of affective attention. Luckily their children were very young and so didn't face or were not aware of any real prejudice.
Speaking of the Burakumin, are people in Japan still required to register at the local police station when they move? Since geographical location is often the most clearly defined clue to membership in this minority population I was wondering if any government policy has attempted to stop this practice or the other common practice of investigating one's future marrige partner so as to discover if they come from a known Burakumin neighborhood or community?(Sorry for the length of my post but
I just a little longwinded.)
Thanks for the input also. I suppose "gaijin" treatment is something that will not just cease. However, I find it very understandable that they would like for the culture to be given its respect when a foreigner is visiting/living in their nation. I hope though that once those that notice a certain person that is willing to respect their culture, some are willing to be more acceptable and welcoming.

My other question with this would be (though probably an obvious answer), I would assume with modern times some of the younger crowd are more open minded to "gaijins" compared to the older crowd, or is it different? More of a balance?
Perhaps you are right about the generational difference but if you go to the Japan Today newsline and read some of the responses to the daily questions age doesn't always determine
who is most open to outsiders and their ideas.. It reminds me of the findings of US pollsters that if your parents vote for a particular political party you are likely also, especially, as you grow older. As they say the more we try and escape the way of them the more we come to reflect them. In Japan I understand it is much the same. That might help explain why the ruling party(LDP) continues to maintain the same place of power thru the years regardless of how poorly and ineffectively they govern.
Was it a local thing?

When I was in Japan 30 years ago the Korean people seemed to live in slum areas and were treated like the blacks were in the southern U.S. (poorly).
From the little I have read on this issue, and from my own experience in Japan (only one month,) I have definately noticed that foreigners are treated differently by the general public, but, I have never experienced anything I would call negative. I only noticed people being extra polite or curious. A lot of time I notice people stare, espeacially kids, but I think it is only out of curiosity. Actually, I was in a bar in Osaka, and I was the only person not paying an expencive table charge just because I was a foreigner.
Is there many cases where foreigners in Japan are actually physicaly attacked, or "hate crimes" (as people call them here) based on race, or treated unfairly?
Has anybody here heard of situations like this?
Or does anybody know of any organizations in Japan such as the "KKK"?
I would definately like to know more about this issue, since I may have had the wrong idea...
I also would like to throw in a question. A book that I recently read mentions that gaijin who speak "too" perfectly Japanese are being treated less courteously because they are considered as intruders into the Japanese society/culture. Could anybody give some comments?
I guess I have an interesting viewpoint on the situation. I am half Japanese, close enough that I can pass as a full japanese (while others think I look European or South american... so really who can tell) When I was over there recently, If I kept my mouth shut, I would recieve wonderful treatment. But the second I opened my mouth and hear my less than stellar japanese skills, I always recieved worse treatment. This was mostly true from older people, but I found that people my age (ie girls...) would be a bit more friendly. And when they figure out that I am a foreigner I often got the stare of curiosity as well.

I dont think I have ever heard of hate crimes, I have seen (from several programs) instances where younger japanese males act tough around westerners, and may shove them around (street punks). But actual violence.. no not really.
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