Thursday, August 21, 2003

racially friendly japan

Even before writing this I've had premonitions of catching negative feedback for putting something like this up, but then I thought that maybe that reaction itself shows that the subject needs something being said about it.

Let me begin by saying that I've had nothing but the finest treatment in all my time in Japan. Most foreign nationals living here have learned to turn a blind eye to the bold title emblazoned across the cards we are legally required to carry with us at all times - Alien Registration Card. Whatever, it's their public image, not mine. But I've recently come into contact with a hidden mindset of racial inequality that's being perpetuated in Japan, and it sickened me so much I have to say something about it, reguardless of whether it happens to be a touchy subject or not.

Recently in a class, one of the students said that they weren't Japanese. They other students asked where that student was from and were answered with "Korea". That one word opens one of the darkest chapters of Japan's continuing history of racial predudice. So the other students then ask when that student came to Japan. "Oh, I was born in Japan, and so were my parents, but my grandparents came from Korea. I'm 3rd generation Korean". How can I put this tactfully... that shit the life out of me. It turns out that this person has to carry the same Alien Registration Card as I do, despite being what most of us would consider to be 2nd generation Japanese-Korean. I felt really terrible to hear this person saying things like that, especially being one the nicest people I've met, so I changed the subject and left it at that.

Or so I thought. Yesterday, the same person commented that they couldn't travel during the summer break because of their mother's illness. From what I could determine, she had to have some kind of tumor removed from inside her throat. In the same pleasant manner that this person explained that they weren't Japanese, they then told of how their mother is very worried because she makes her living by running a small shop, but she can't work there while she's recovering. The main problem is that because she's not considered to be Japanese she receives NO medical assistance from the Japanese government whatsoever. Is there a succinct term that could be used to describe the underlying issue at work here? The most applicable that I can think of is outright racism.

Now, I'm sorry if you don't like reading this, or if you feel that I'm out of place in writing it, but think about how it makes you feel and consider the real reason behind why it makes you feel that way. May I be so bold as to presume that it's because despite being unbelievable, it is sadly vey true. I don't know what can be done about it, but alerting people to the fact that it's happening is better than pretending there's no problem at all. Want something that will really churn you stomach? Do some research into how the first generation of Koreans came to be in Japan. You won't find much being told of that story if you visit the memorials at Hiroshima and Nagasaki declaring Japan's deploration of war and violence. Fair enough, leave the past in the past I say, but Japan is still carrying some of it's darkest secrets around with it today.

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