Hiroshima International Conference -- ISA, RC21, December 19-20,1998

Panel 19: Discrimination in Japanese Cities, 16:30-18:30, Sunday, December 20


"Japanese" and "Non-Japanese":

The Exclusivity in Categorizing People as "Japanese"1


Yasunori Fukuoka (Saitama University, Japan)



"Japanese": An undefined term


It is widely believed, especially among Japanese people themselves, that Japan is a "homogeneous" society. The government itself has repeatedly declared that there is no problem with minorities in this country.2

 This is not true, of course, and never has been. In many parts of Japan there are still communities of Burakumin,3 the descendants of people defined as outcasts during the feudal Middle Ages. The Ainu, a distinctively different ethnic group who inhabited Japan long before the formation of the Yamato4 Japanese who came to dominate the archipelago, are still to be found, living mainly in Hokkaido and struggling to maintain their distinctive and long-suppressed culture. The people of Okinawa, formerly the citizens of an independent Ryukyuan kingdom, were subject to persecution by their Japanese conquerors until well into the post-war period. Even today the Japanese government's willingness to allow a heavy concentration of US military facilities on the Okinawan islands surely reflects a discriminatory consciousness towards the Ryukyuan people.

 And then there are the Koreans ? people brought to Japan before and during the war by circumstances beyond their control, and their descendants. Today, the great majority of them are second-, third- or fourth-generation migrants, born and raised in Japan. Their human rights are still not fully recognized in Japan. The 1980s and 1990s have brought new waves of immigration to Japan, from Asia and South America, and the new migrants have generally met with the same ingrained prejudice that their predecessors suffered on their arrival in Japanese society.

 Admittedly Japan's minority population is relatively small, but that does not mean there is no problem. On the contrary, the overwhelming numerical dominance of the majority makes it all the easier to ignore or isolate the minorities. In that sense, it may be that Japan's minorities inhabit an even more severe environment than their counterparts in societies that recognize themselves to be multiethnic. I wish to stress that Japan is nowhere near achieving the kind of tolerance that will allow the majority and the minorities to live together in a spirit of mutual acceptance of difference.

 However, although the homogeneous society is no more than a myth, it remains a particularly powerful myth with enduring influence over the identity-formation of Japanese people. So rather than simply denouncing it, I think there is a need for us to very carefully analyze precisely what people mean when they say that Japanese society is homogeneous.

 Claims to that effect are based on the assumption that Japanese society is made up of a single ethnic group, "the Japanese." The concept is generally taken for granted, but I wish to suggest that it is not as unproblematic as people make out.

 Hirowatari Seigo (personal communication) has pointed out that nowhere in Japanese law is there any definition of what precisely is meant by the word "Japanese."5 This may seem like a questionable assertion, considering that Japan's Nationality Law6 clearly states in Article 1 that: "The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national (Nihon kokumin) shall be determined by the provisions of this Law." The law states that Japanese nationality may be acquired through birth or naturalization. Any "person who is not a Japanese national" is defined as an "alien."

 But although the law defines "a Japanese national," note that it does not define "a Japanese." This is not mere nitpicking. Nationality is no more than an artificial concept that can be changed to include or exclude different groups of people by legal reform. As is well known, some countries determine nationality by place of birth; others, including Japan, determine it by blood inheritance. Even within that broad principle, however, the definition of Japanese nationality can vary and indeed has done so. Until 1984 only a child whose father had Japanese nationality could acquire nationality in turn; but the reform of that year extended the right of nationality to the offspring of mothers with Japanese nationality.7

 The fact is that there is a considerable gap between what the law defines as a Japanese national and what the average "Japanese" believes to be a Japanese in terms of "common sense."


Eight degrees of Japaneseness and non-Japaneseness


Very well: What exactly is a "Japanese"? Or to put it a little more specifically, what are the defining features of the image of Japaneseness in the minds of most "Japanese" people?

 It is customary to define "where people are from" in terms of two elements: ethnicity and nationality. Hence bipartite labels such as "Chinese American" or "African American," where the first term of the label denotes ethnicity and the second half nationality.

 However, it is my contention here that "ethnicity" should in turn be broken down into two components: "blood lineage" and "culture." Adding in "nationality" thus gives us a set of three variables, and enables us to draw up the kind of typological framework shown in Figure 1 below. I believe that if we reconstruct the concept of Japaneseness by looking at the various permutations of these three variables, we will arrive at a picture of what Japaneseness really means that is not too far removed from the "common-sense" view itself.






































Figure 1 Typological framework of "Japanese" and "non-Japanese" attributes



"Lineage": I put this term, and "culture," in quotation marks to indicate that we are talking about "lineage" and "culture" as constructs conceived in Japanese society, not in any absolute sense of the word.8 A plus sign indicates that a person has "Japanese blood"; a minus sign indicates blood of a different ethnic group.

"Culture": Here a plus sign indicates that a person has internalized "Japanese culture." That is, the person speaks Japanese, and has the kind of values, customs and lifestyle generally thought of as "Japanese." A minus sign indicates that the person has internalized a different culture.

Nationality: Here a plus sign indicates that a person holds Japanese nationality under the Nationality Law discussed above. A minus sign indicates that the person does not hold Japanese nationality, or is an "alien" under the law.


Varying these three terms against each other produces eight possible permutations, as shown in Figure 1.

 Now let me make it perfectly clear that this is a theoretical construction. It does not attempt to faithfully reproduce the tremendous complexities of actual social phenomena. It is a gross simplification, with only a very limited degree of applicability to reality.

 For example, I freely admit that my framework glosses over the question of how to classify people of mixed blood, mixed culture or multiple nationality.9 Rather than dealing with these problems in depth at this point, allow me to simply acknowledge them and hope that the reader will still find some heuristic value in this construction of mine.

 I also freely admit that there may well be no one on earth that fits neatly into one of my eight categories. The typology is an attempt to strike a balance between the infinite variety of real life and the crude dualism of the common conceptualization of "Japanese" and "foreigner." Its value, I believe, lies in giving us some kind of a conceptual handle on Japanese society. Moreover, it is striking that all eight of the types generated by this theoretical model can in fact be identified in real-life Japan.

 Having issued these caveats, let me now consider the kinds of people to whom these eight different labels might apply.


1 "Pure Japanese"

Type one covers people who are of "Japanese lineage," have internalized "Japanese culture" and hold Japanese nationality.

 In other words, this is the widely-held image of a "pure Japanese," the kind of person that most people in Japanese society believe themselves to be.

 However, as mentioned earlier, type one includes the minority group known as Burakumin.


2 First-generation Japanese migrants etc.

Type two covers people who are of "Japanese lineage" and have internalized "Japanese culture," but hold foreign nationality.

 First-generation migrants from Japan to North or South America, or to Hawaii, the so-called issei, would fall into this category. In recent years a few of these people have returned to Japan, along with far greater numbers of second- and third-generation emigrants, as so-called "workers of Japanese descent" (Nikkeijin rodosha).10 Most Japanese think of these people as "Japanese," although they are foreign nationals and may have largely forgotten the Japanese language.

 Another case in point would be that of Japanese women who married Korean husbands during the period from 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, to 1952, when the San Francisco peace treaty came into force. Under the prevailing nationality law, they were reclassified from "domestic registration" (naichi koseki) to "Korean registration" (Chosen koseki) upon marriage.11 After 1952 these women became foreigners to Japan, holding Korean nationality. They could not regain their Japanese nationality except by applying for naturalization like any other kind of foreigner.


3 Japanese raised abroad

Type three covers people who are of "Japanese lineage" and hold Japanese nationality, but have internalized a foreign culture.

 Rare though this combination is, it may be observed in a few of the so-called "returnee children" (kikoku shijo). This term denotes Japanese children who spend several years abroad in connection with their parents' employment and then return to Japan; in some cases, they are actually born in the foreign country, and grow up and go to school there, so that by the time they return to Japan they have internalized the other country's culture more than Japan's.

 These cases are very exceptional, however. Usually these children are inculcated with Japanese culture, and especially the language, in the household. Again, many of them attend special Japanese schools.

 Accordingly people of Japanese lineage and nationality who have been raised abroad are thought of by most Japanese as regular members of Japanese society. Their categorization as such implies pressure to "behave like a Japanese." Tales of these children being bullied at school are commonplace. Sadly, too, in their efforts to fit in with those around them, they tend to forget the foreign language they have previously acquired.


4 Naturalized Japanese

Type four covers people who have internalized "Japanese culture" and hold Japanese nationality, but are of foreign lineage.

 Some of the ethnic Koreans living in Japan called Zainichi12 fall into this category -- those who have been born in Japan, raised in an environment that does not stress their Korean ethnic identity, educated in Japanese schools, and who have acquired Japanese nationality through naturalization.

 In legal terms, these people are no different from any other Japanese. But they cannot conceal their ethnic origins when it comes, for example, to marriage. It is a fact that many members of Japanese society still define these people as "non-Japanese" and tend to feel an aversion to them as potential marriage partners.


5 Third-generation Japanese emigrants and war orphans abroad

Type five covers people who are of "Japanese lineage," but have internalized foreign culture and hold foreign nationality.

 This would apply to many nisei and sansei (second- and third-generation Japanese emigrants), especially the latter. Most Japanese have the feeling that, by and large, these people are basically Japanese -- a feeling that tends to last only until they actually meet one of them. For reasons explained in Note 10, nisei and sansei are accounting for a growing proportion of the foreign workers coming to Japan, and so these encounters are becoming more frequent. Then comes the discovery that although these people may look very Japanese, they cannot necessarily speak the language. This realization produces a vague feeling of uneasiness that will not be dispelled until it is realized that despite their appearance, these people have been brought up abroad.

 Another case in point would be the so-called "war orphans" and their offspring. These were ethnic Japanese children who lived with their parents, mainly in Manchuria and other parts of China, during Japan's colonial adventure. They were abandoned by their parents as they fled from the advancing Soviet forces and subsequently brought up by adoptive Chinese parents. All these people speak Chinese and have absorbed Chinese culture. They have Chinese nationality unless and until they settle permanently in Japan and regain their Japanese nationality. Normal usage would describe them as "Japanese Chinese" (Nikkei Chugokujin). But this kind of cool, objective language has never been used by the Japanese media when discussing these people. They are invariably described as Chugoku zanryu koji (orphans abandoned in China) and viewed as objects of sympathy and collective national guilt as victims of war. It is probably fair to say that most Japanese people view the war orphans as "Japanese."

 It is well known, however, that those war orphans who have actually moved back to Japan under the Japanese government repatriation programs, after half a lifetime spent in China, often experience agonies of conflict in their engagement with what is for them an alien culture. To put it bluntly, once they arrive in Japan they cease to be fellow countrymen who are sentimentalized objects of pity -- "poor Japanese" -- and instead come to be viewed simply as grown-up Japanese people who cannot speak the language -- "stupid Japanese." This set of attitudes has greatly obstructed the attempts of the war orphans to join Japanese society.


6 Zainichi Koreans with Japanese upbringing

Type six covers people who have internalized "Japanese culture," but hold foreign nationality and are of different ethnic lineage.

 Another sub-section of the young Zainichi Koreans fall into this category -- those who have been brought up in Japanese-speaking households and attended regular Japanese schools, but have not naturalized. Such people usually use a Japanese alias rather than their original Korean name, and can pass for Japanese if they conceal their ethnic identity. However, the day their Japanese associates discover that they are of Korean extraction is the day they cease to be viewed as fellow Japanese.


7 The Ainu

Type seven covers people who hold Japanese nationality, but are of different ethnic lineage and have internalized an independent culture.

 Part of Japan's Ainu ethnic minority would fit in this category. Only a part, because the fact is that very few Ainu can still speak the Ainu language these days. This is the outcome of Japanese government policy from the Meiji era (1868-1912) onwards, under which the Ainu homeland, Ainu-Moshiri13 was renamed "Hokkaido" and subjected to intense programs of colonialism and assimilation. Even so, Ainu are clearly categorized as "non-Japanese" by most mainstream Japanese today. This is the main reason why many Ainu strive desperately to conceal their Ainu identity, even while others attempt to assert aboriginal rights through such organizations as the Utari Association.14


8 "Pure non-Japanese"

Type eight covers people who are of non-Japanese lineage, have internalized non-Japanese culture and hold foreign nationality.

 In short, we are talking about foreigners -- not in the sense in which the word is used in Japan's Nationality Law, under which people in groups two, five and six above are also classified as foreigners, but as understood by most members of Japanese society. That means "pure foreigners," an image of unambiguous foreignness to place in mental counterpoint opposite the image of unambiguous Japaneseness with which most Japanese identify themselves.

 The Japanese word used to describe these "pure foreigners" is gaijin, an abbreviation of gaikokujin, literally a "person from an outside country." The term always used to be associated with Caucasians who came to Japan from Europe and North America. In recent years, however, Japan has become one of the principal centers of the global economic system, and has attracted large numbers of migrant workers from various Asian countries. These days it is common enough to meet these people while walking the streets or riding the trains.


The myth of the "homogeneous society"


Three points emerge from the above intellectual experiment.

 First, it is quite clear that the concept of "Japanese" and "non-Japanese" is by no means a simple dichotomy with a distinct borderline. There is a whole spectrum of intermediate identities between the two conceptual poles of "pure Japanese" and "pure foreigner." The typological style adopted above is of course no more than a crude conceptual device: in reality, varying degrees of ethnic blood-mixing and of Japanese/foreign cultural internalization generate a seamless continuum of subtly contrasting ethnic identities.

 Take for example the remarkably difficult question of how Ryukyuans should be classified. These are the contemporary inhabitants of the Ryukyu islands, now known as Okinawa prefecture. In recent years it has become customary in Japanese society to think of Ryukyuans as "Japanese." But the Ryukyu islands used to be an independent kingdom. In cultural terms, too, the islands have developed very differently from mainland Japan, albeit on shared prehistoric origins (Takara 1993). It is clear that the various languages spoken on the Ryukyus are of the same linguistic family as Japanese, but they are so distinctive that it is debatable whether or not they can properly be considered dialects of Japanese (Masiko, personal communication). At the very least it is a fact that most mainstream Japanese cannot understand the Ryukyuan languages in their spoken form.

 Whether the Ryukyuan people should be thought of as Japanese or as a separate ethnic grouping is an equally fine point. However, Tomiyama Ichiro has convincingly shown that the Ryukyuan people have a history of being coerced into "turning Japanese" (Tomiyama 1990).


 A second point that arises from the theoretical framework outlined above is that the three elements of lineage, culture and nationality do not carry equal weight in the formation of perceptions of Japaneseness and non-Japaneseness. Quite clearly lineage is the dominant element.

 Types two, three and four all carry two pluses and one minus. Type two (first-generation Japanese emigrants etc.) and type three (Japanese brought up abroad), both feature Japanese lineage, and tend to be pulled into the "Japanese" category. But type four (naturalized Japanese) do not have Japanese lineage and tend to be pushed out to the "non-Japanese" category despite their Japanese culture and nationality.

 Likewise types five, six and seven all carry one plus and two minuses, but only type five people (third-generation Japanese emigrants, war orphans, etc.) are generally pulled into the "Japanese" category. The ethnic Koreans of type six and the Ainu of type seven both tend to be classified as "non-Japanese."


 Third, and here we come to my main conclusion, Japan is definitely not a homogeneous society. However numerous or scarce the eight types described above may be, the sheer fact of their existence testifies to that. The persistence of the myth of Japanese homogeneity in the face of the facts speaks only to an exceedingly low level of tolerance on the part of the majority toward elements differing from it.

 It may be objected that Japan, if not entirely ethnically homogeneous, is at least considerably more homogeneous than most countries. Certainly if one compares Japan to the USA, built on the persecution of the Native Americans and subsequently populated by immigrants, or with China, a country which officially recognizes fifty-six different ethnic groups within its borders, it is obviously a relatively ethnically homogeneous nation.

 Note, however, that when people speak of Japan as a homogeneous society, the description nearly always comes with the unstated implication that this is a good thing.15 The trouble is that when discourse mixes factual description with tacit value judgments, it is all too easy for unconscious intolerance to come into play.

 Japanese society will not tolerate ambiguous identity. Faced with a person who shows certain characteristics that differ from the mainstream, Japanese society will respond in one of two ways: either the ambiguous person will be forced to abandon those characteristics and become as much like a "pure" Japanese as possible; or the person will be classified simply as "non-Japanese." Further, the full members of Japanese society are defined as "Japanese," and the "non-Japanese" are only permitted to reside in Japan on the sufferance of the majority. Thus those who are defined as "non-Japanese" are effectively deprived of membership rights in Japanese society. And so the myth of Japan as a mono-ethnic society continues to persist in the realm of ideas, however far removed it may be from lived reality.16



1 This paper will appear as a chapter of my book, Lives of Young Koreans in Japan (London: Kegan Paul International, forthcoming), translated by Tom Gill (Kyoto Bunkyo University, Japan). In this paper, Japanese and Korean names are written with the family name first, as is customary in East Asia.

2 For example, in 1979, after much delay, the Japanese government finally ratified the International Covenants of Human Rights. The following year the government submitted a report on Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which it stated that in Japan minorities as defined in the covenant "did not exist." As a result the report was roundly criticized in the United Nations Human Rights Committee, by members pointing out that it ignored the existence of Korean residents, Ainu, Okinawans, and Burakumin.

3 Burakumin literally means "hamlet people." The term is a euphemism for people traditionally made to live in designated outcast settlements. These settlements are known today as hisabetsu buraku or "discriminated hamlets." Burakumin are Japanese people, ethnically identical to other Japanese but subject to intense discrimination as the present-day descendants of outcast groups with their origins somewhere in the middle ages. Today there are thought to be up to 6,000 Buraku districts and over 3 million Burakumin in Japan.

 It used to be widely accepted that the despised outcast group from which the Burakumin are descended, known as Eta (a word literally meaning "full of impurity": an insulting term for the Burakumin), were created by the ruling authorities during the early years of the Edo period (1603-1868), as part of a divide-and-rule policy toward the masses. In the last twenty years, however, historians have increasingly come to question this account of Burakumin origins, and the whole issue is being comprehensively reviewed. As I write, no new consensus has yet emerged from the various competing hypotheses.

 What is clear, however, is that in the course of the Edo period the outcasts known as Eta were placed in the lowest position in society. Some were put to work as executioners or junior policemen, others worked in transportation, yet others were singers and dancers, who conducted ritual performances to ensure good harvests etc. Many more worked in manufacturing industry, tanning leather or making whetstones, lamp wicks, bamboo parts for looms, etc. These industries were official outcast monopolies, and appear to have ensured a minimal standard of living for the outcasts.

 Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the government issued the so-called "Emancipation Edict" in 1871. This officially abolished outcast status and re-designated the former outcasts as commoners (heimin). Ironically, this edict had a negative impact on the outcasts. On paper the category no longer existed, but in reality discrimination persisted; meanwhile abolition of the category also meant the end of the outcast monopolies and designated jobs, depriving many former outcasts of their means of support.

 Notwithstanding the rural connotations of "hamlet people," modern-day Burakumin do not live in places remote from the rest of society. During the Edo period some of the Buraku were located on the outskirts of castle towns, others by the side of major highways or rivers (reflecting the traditional outcast role in road and river transportation). Today it remains the case that there are both urban and rural Buraku.

 For myself as a sociologist, anti-Burakumin discrimination ranks alongside the Zainichi Korean issue as a major research theme.

4 Yamato is a word used to describe the Japanese as a race. The word has been mythologized, as in expressions such as Yamato-damashii (the Japanese spirit) or Yamato-nadeshiko (a comely Japanese maiden).

5 See also Hirowatari 1994. Japanese nationality is defined principally by blood inheritance, in a modification of the Nationality Law first enforced in 1899, which simply stated that "children born of Japanese nationals are also Japanese nationals." As Hirowatari points out, "this definition is logically open-ended, because even if we went back into history applying it backward from one generation to another endlessly, we would never get a clear-cut definition of a Japanese national" (Hirowatari 1994:3-4).

6 Law No.147 (1950) amended by Law No.268 (1952) and by Law No.45 (1984). All quotations from the government's official English translation (Ministry of Justice 1985).

7 "A child shall be a Japanese national: (1) When, at the time of its birth, the father or the mother is a Japanese national." (Ministry of Justice 1985:1)

8 It is virtually impossible to question the issue of Japaneseness without using terms that in turn give rise to further questions. If we look at the history of "the Japanese" we find there is no such thing as a single, clearly defined ethnic group that has inhabited the Japanese archipelago since antiquity.

 These islands were peopled, over many thousands of years, by people who came across the sea from the Korean peninsula, from the Chinese mainland, and from other regions to the north and south. In more recent history, too, there have been large-scale migrations to Japan that cannot be ignored. For example, according to one early ninth century document, the Shinsen Shoji Roku (A Newly-Compiled Record of Aristocratic Families), one-third of all the aristocratic families then living in the region of present-day Kyoto, Nara and Osaka were of overseas origin. At risk of stating the obvious, let me make it plain that there is nothing "pure" about the concept of the Japanese race itself: we are talking about a grand mixing of ethnic strains here.

 As for "Japanese culture," again we are talking about a conceptual construct rather than a ground-level reality. Japanese culture varies considerably from one region of Japan to another, and, like the blood-stock, has absorbed countless foreign influences over the centuries. Hence my use of quotation marks for these terms.

9 Article 14 of Japan's Nationality Law permits the holding of dual nationality up to the age of 22, at which point the holder must choose whether to retain Japanese or foreign nationality (Ministry of Justice 1985:5).

10 In an attempt to resolve the contradiction between its need for imported unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and the long-standing ban on issuing working visas to such people, the Japanese government in 1989 loosened its visa restrictions for foreign nationals of Japanese descent (cf. Hirowatari 1994:23). The length of stay permitted is in direct proportion to the percentage of Japanese blood that the applicant can prove to possess. This has encouraged a wave of temporary reverse migration from émigre Japanese communities for work purposes.

11 The family register (koseki) is a Japanese system of social control. Unlike, say, an ID-card system, it pertains to families rather than individuals. The place where one's family is registered is called the honseki. Often the honseki is not the registered person's actual address at all. Rather it is deemed to be that of the "main household" (honke) of the person's family. This may be the address of the individual's parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. There may even be no one living at the address at all.

 When Japan annexed Korea, the conflicting desires to absorb her people, and yet remain distinct from them, were reflected in changes to legal institutions. Koreans were now "Japanese nationals" (Nihon kokumin); but even if they lived in Japan, their family register would be kept in Korea. This was called "Korean registration" (Chosen koseki). Meanwhile, the original Japanese people were described as having "domestic registration" (naichi koseki).

12 The word Zainichi literally means simply "resident in Japan." It is used adjectivally with Chosenjin (North Korean) and/or Kankokujin (South Korean), or more informally as a noun on its own, to indicate members of the Korean minority in Japan. For the purposes of this paper I define "Zainichi" as including (1) ethnic Koreans who came to Japan around the time of World War II, or earlier, and have lived here ever since; and (2) their offspring, who have been born and raised in Japan and basically look upon Japan as their permanent place of residence.

 The expression Zainichi was first adopted by members of the Korean minority themselves, shortly after the end of World War II. The usage reflects the fact that at the time they themselves tended to believe that their stay in Japan would only be temporary. The word is still used by Japan's ethnic Koreans to describe themselves, but it has taken on a rather different significance. Rather than implying temporary residence, it is now used by some ethnic Koreans to make a distinction between themselves, the Japanese, and mainland Koreans of North and South alike.

13 In the Ainu language, Ainu simply means "people," while Moshiri means "peaceful land." Hence Ainu-Moshiri, the term used for the Ainu homelands, literally means "the peaceful land where the people live."

14 Utari is an Ainu word meaning "comrade," applied only to fellow Ainu. The Utari Association's efforts brought a partial victory on May 9, 1997, when the 1899 Law on the Protection of Former Indigenous People of Hokkaido (Hokkaido Kyu-Dojin Hogo Ho) was finally abolished and replaced with a new law that established a government foundation for the promotion of Ainu culture. The old law was designed to legitimate the Japanese invasion of Ainu-Moshiri, confining the Ainu to "agricultural reservations" and effectively outlawing their traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

 The new law drops the discriminatory word dojin (an insulting term for an indigenous person) but refrains from using the more neutral term senju minzoku (aboriginal people), since the wording literally means "people who lived somewhere before" and could imply a Japanese government responsibility to recognize Ainu land rights. Inadequate though the new law is, however, it at least holds out some hope for a revival of the Ainu-puri (Ainu lifestyle) and the Ainu language.

15 During the boom years of the 1980s, many political and business leaders appeared to believe that Japan's economic success vis-a-vis the multiethnic USA was due to her ethnic homogeneity. On August 22, 1986, then-prime minister Nakasone Yasuhiro famously remarked that "Japan, with her high level of education, has become a pretty intelligent society -- far more so than America. In America there are quite a few blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, so that the average level is still extremely low...." Again, on July 24, 1988, Watanabe Michio, then head of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, remarked that while Japanese took bankruptcy very seriously, the many black people in America simply laughed at it because they no longer had to pay their debts.

16 The practice of pressurizing people to change their name when they naturalize is an especially clear example of this mindset at work. If someone becomes a Japanese national, he or she is supposed to have a Japanese-sounding name, too. To many Japanese, and especially immigration officials, there is something intrinsically wrong about a Japanese person with a foreign-sounding name. Nationality and culture must match. Not that there is anything to this effect in Japan's immigration laws. It simply used to be common knowledge among Zainichi Koreans that one's application for Japanese nationality would not be accepted if one did not write a Japanese-sounding name in the relevant section of the form.

 Having said that, there is some evidence that in recent years immigration officials have been exerting less pressure on people to adopt Japanese-sounding names when they acquire Japanese nationality. According to Kim Chan-Jung (personal communication), some five or six Zainichi Koreans known to him personally have recently naturalized while keeping their Korean names. Strictly speaking, however, these people have not quite kept their names unchanged: the Japanese government insists that names of Japanese nationals be written in Chinese characters that are in general use, as defined and listed by itself, or in one of the two Japanese syllabaries, hiragana and katakana. For Koreans this means that they may have to change one or more of the characters in their name if they are not on the government lists, and that they cannot officially register their names in han-gul, the Korean script, or in Roman letters for that matter.

 It is impossible to say what percentage of people who naturalize are keeping their original names these days, for the naturalization announcements carried in the Kanpo (the official gazette published daily by the Japanese government) only record the pre-naturalization name.

 However, the 1993 survey found that among young South Korean nationals living in Japan, there was a strong correlation between "strength of desire to naturalize," on the one hand, and "sense of ethnic inferiority" (Pearson's correlation coefficient r = 0.56), and the opinion that "there is no need to make a fuss about one's ethnicity" (r = 0.38), on the other (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:96). This amounts to suggestive evidence that most Zainichi Koreans who adopt Japanese nationality do, in fact, use a Japanese-style name after naturalization -- typically the same name they have been using as an alias prior to naturalization. One also hears frequently of the practice whereby Japanese employers automatically give Japanese nicknames to their foreign workers from Asia and Latin America in the workplace.



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