Friday, January 1, 2010

Minorities in Japan

When it comes to minorities, there is a huge difference between America and Japan. In America, if you are born in America you are American. In America, if you go through the naturalization process you are American. One of the great things about America is that it is a collection of people from all over the world who can call themselves American. This is not the case in Japan.

In Japan, you are only considered Japanese if you are of Japanese descent. No matter how long your family has lived in Japan you are not Japanese unless your genes are Japanese. I had first heard about this from my friend MyongFa about a year and a half ago. I was very confused as she told me that she was born in Japan but was Korean. She went to a Korean school and had a Korean passport. During my travels in Japan, I met many other Korean people. In fact, I hung out with Koreans in three different cities. All of the Koreans I met were the second or third generation born in Japan. However, none of them had a Japanese passport. Like me, a temporary worker in the country, they had to carry an ID card at all times.

Think about this for a second: In my family, I am the third generation born in America. All of my grandparents were the first generation born in the country with their parents having immigrated from different countries in Eastern Europe. I consider myself to be an America. My parents consider themselves to be Americans. My grandparents consider themselves to be Americans. All of us hold American passports -- or are eligible to hold American passports -- and all of us call ourselves American. However, if our situations were identical in Japan, none of us would hold Japanese passports and none of us would call ourselves Japanese.

The irony of this blog post -- and yes this is a big generalization -- is that the Japanese are in denial about themselves since the Japanese are ALL of either Korean or Chinese descent originally.