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Old 09-01-2011, 07:20 PM   #76
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

snip
Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
My point and original objection was to the idea that an ethnic /cultural group (the Japanese) never accepts someone as one of their own ("Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese."). Please correct me if I misunderstood what you meant by what you wrote. I want to clarify it, not twist it. Some long-term residents in Japan do feel accepted in society and feel no stress. Some some of them don't. It is not a single case of true or false but rather a sliding scale of opinions that can be applied to life as an expat in any country.
I would like to recommend a book, though I don't know whether it's still in print. The Road Through Miyama, by Leila Philip (Vintage Books 1989) is a very nice example of how it is possible to be accepted into a culture, even in Japan.

Ms. Philips was an apprentice to a family of potters in the pottery-artisan village of Miyama in southern Japan. The book is a charming and quite interesting account of how she came to train there, how she adapted to daily life, and how, by the time she had completed her apprenticeship, the people of Miyama thought of her as "one of them," and it scarsely registered that she was a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian foreigner.

The "secret," I believe, is to cast aside one's own cultural biases and behaviors and to embrace, with humility, the ways of the culture which one is seeking to enter. This doesn't mean losing who one is, but simply not exuding and insisting upon acting out one's own culture's ways. You're a guest in someone else's home, and there is an etiquette to that.

It also takes time; people do not come to trust and relate overnight. One also has to "choose" the right community, where there is a common interest that promotes a bond For a person who is a craftsman, a crafting or artisanal village was the right place to fit in. In metro Tokyo, it probably would not have worked.

"Seek your niche, and it may find you."

Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 09-01-2011 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 09-01-2011, 07:30 PM   #77
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Lorel Latorilla wrote: View Post
Ever wonder why people say "uwaaa, o-hashi meccha jyozu yann!" ("wow you got some serious skills with the chopsticks!"),
It's been a while since anyone said that to me... then again, I haven't been to Kansai for a while.
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Old 09-01-2011, 11:42 PM   #78
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
snip

I would like to recommend a book, though I don't know whether it's still in print. The Road Through Miyama, by Leila Philip (Vintage Books 1989) is a very nice example of how it is possible to be accepted into a culture, even in Japan.

Ms. Philips was an apprentice to a family of potters in the pottery-artisan village of Miyama in southern Japan. The book is a charming and quite interesting account of how she came to train there, how she adapted to daily life, and how, by the time she had completed her apprenticeship, the people of Miyama thought of her as "one of them," and it scarsely registered that she was a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian foreigner.
Hello Cady,

Yes. It is interesting that her teacher was Japanese, but the original potters were Korean. I wonder if any tensions have lingered in the community as a result of this.

In Hiroshima there is a large Korean community, basically split in allegiance between the north and the south. They did not originally come to Japan of their own free will, but were brought here after Korea was annexed in 1910. Now, a few generations later, their descendants are native-born and speak Japanese like natives, but they refuse to take Japanese passports and abandon their nationality. They are something of a thorn in the side of the Hiroshima city government, which likes to proclaim Hiroshima as an 'international city of peace and culture'.

For the past ten years I chaired a committee of foreign residents here, set up by the Hiroshima city government, and one of the constantly recurring themes at the meetings was the difference between 'newcomers' and 'old-timers': basically, between those who come for a fixed period, for whatever reason, and those who are here for life. Given the fact that all are foreign residents, the needs and expectations of the latter group are quite different. For a start, they do not feel at all like guests in someone else's house: they act and feel exactly like Japanese, except for the one crucial difference.

An important factor here is Nihonjinron, mentioned before. When Japan was an empire, spreading the South-east Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, the so-called cultural differences were not emphasized too much. This is really a postwar phenomenon and the interesting thing is that some of my Japanese friends, who believe they get on with foreigners very easily, deny that it really exists. My experience of dealing with city officials on the residents committee suggests otherwise.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 09-02-2011, 02:30 AM   #79
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
First of all, I don't think I really stated it that extremely. However, just because some people feel accepted in the society doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist as a whole. There are many members of minorities that never feel discrimination - that doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist.
Sure, and there are members of minorities who insist that their lives are a daily racist onslaught when they are actually very well off and are totally misreading people's intentions and blowing things out of proportion. For someone moving to (or staying long term in) Japan, facts and figures and an unbiased cross-section of opinions would give a better indication of the potential difficulties.

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Going to Japan "as an Aikido person" gives you a role, a group, and a way for Japanese people to understand who you are that is more comfortable for them than directly trying to figure you out. This will help with some people and situations.
That wasn't how I meant it. In my experience most people here are just as ignorant of aikido as in other countries.

I was referring to the Japanese cultural aspect of aikido. I think the etiquette, terminology and philosophy that are usually featured in the training are helpful in understanding life in Japan. In the short term I think it gives a head start when initially fitting in and in the long term, the more global concepts of the art, as found in the philosophy of its creator, can make adaptation to any different culture easier IMO.

Carl
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Old 09-02-2011, 11:16 AM   #80
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

Hello Peter,

Thank you for your points.

I have to confess that I intentionally neglected to mention that Miyama was established as a Korean community 400 years ago, because the way the inhabitants are described in the book, it seems they are pretty much Japanese in lifestyle and culture, and all have Japanese names. There is likely some Korean ancestry in some of the inhabitants, but I did not get the impression that any of the people in the book saw themselves as "Korean." So, they seemed to be a safe example of a foreigner being able to integrate into a Japanese community.

The larger point, in my opinion, is that a foreigner being accepted comes more from living intimately within a community -- over an extended period of time -- than from just living and working in a country and never having to truly integrate with a people.

Living in a large city or even a mid-sized town where there is less opportunity even for locals to know each other well, is not conducive to developing bonds or cultural understanding. Even in the professional circles, there can be a barrier because individuals can set limits on how deeply their social roots will extend to a foreigner. They still live separately and only come together for work or (by choice) socially.

By contrast, village and small-town life foists people on each other for better or worse. I think that greater intimacy forces individuals to focus on the more pressing aspects of life -- interdependency being a key one -- bypassing "trivialities" such as nationality. Binding human relationships, which start with respect and trust, tend to form more solidly on the up-close-and-personal level, where the trials and tribulations of daily life are shared.

Regards,
Cady

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Cady,

Yes. It is interesting that her teacher was Japanese, but the original potters were Korean. I wonder if any tensions have lingered in the community as a result of this.

In Hiroshima there is a large Korean community, basically split in allegiance between the north and the south. They did not originally come to Japan of their own free will, but were brought here after Korea was annexed in 1910. Now, a few generations later, their descendants are native-born and speak Japanese like natives, but they refuse to take Japanese passports and abandon their nationality. They are something of a thorn in the side of the Hiroshima city government, which likes to proclaim Hiroshima as an 'international city of peace and culture'.

For the past ten years I chaired a committee of foreign residents here, set up by the Hiroshima city government, and one of the constantly recurring themes at the meetings was the difference between 'newcomers' and 'old-timers': basically, between those who come for a fixed period, for whatever reason, and those who are here for life. Given the fact that all are foreign residents, the needs and expectations of the latter group are quite different. For a start, they do not feel at all like guests in someone else's house: they act and feel exactly like Japanese, except for the one crucial difference.

An important factor here is Nihonjinron, mentioned before. When Japan was an empire, spreading the South-east Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, the so-called cultural differences were not emphasized too much. This is really a postwar phenomenon and the interesting thing is that some of my Japanese friends, who believe they get on with foreigners very easily, deny that it really exists. My experience of dealing with city officials on the residents committee suggests otherwise.

Best wishes,

PAG
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Old 09-02-2011, 02:43 PM   #81
Diana Frese
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Re: Moving to Japan

Although some people in cities (and especially towns in Vermont) were affected by the east coast hurricane, we ourselves just had a couple of days of power outage, so I am returning to this fascinating thread. Here's hoping the others recover soon.

I was in Japan many, many years ago and have maybe a couple of stories that may be of interest. There was a police headquarters near Aikikai hombu -- whenever we could make it to early morning class we could hear the Japanese national anthem on the loudspeakers. Some of the women college students I met in the daytime classes said they didn't like the special police, I think it was because these were used for "riot control" when there were student demonstrations.

But I had some friends who ran a nearby sushi shop. They were young but still felt free to give advice to me on the order of it's nice you Americans like sushi, but don't eat it too often on a student budget! So I didn't go there very often. When I did, there were sometimes members of the police there and they had in common an interest in martial arts, especially kendo. I had only studied it a couple of months in New York, two of my friends, Cassandra and Valerie had studied it for quite some time.

One evening one of the special police had drunk quite a bit and was able to speak better English than before. He said the Americans who left their country to study budo in Japan had real Frontier Spirit (I guess we call it Pioneer Spirit more often over here in the US, but maybe both equally often) He said we reminded him of the Japanese of a hundred years ago. (this was in the mid 1970's so we have to add another thirty five years or so to his statement) He meant it as a compliment.

Just thought I'd throw this little story into the discussion, that we were recognized as sort of kindred spirits by some of the young martial arts people over there.
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Old 09-02-2011, 08:31 PM   #82
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Since it hasn't been brought up yet, it is probably worth mentioning that Japanese themselves often feel a stigma when they move to another region or interact with people from another region. It isn't so much a homogenous culture as it is a cultural system that tends towards homogeneity.
(snip)
There are also the "hisabetsu burakumin" (formerly called "hinin" and "eta") -- a stigmatized group within Japan. They are the Japanese equivalent of India's Dalet ("untouchable") caste. They are the descendents of individuals who somehow were cast from society -- either for crimes they committed or were alleged to have committed, for having foreign ancestry such as Korean, or for having somehow ticked off some high-status official with the power to declare them "hinin" (non-person). Their families and descendents were thereafter condemned to be in the same caste and the stigma persists to this day, although discrimination against the burakumin was made illegal decades ago.

Burakumin were restricted to specific settlements and villages (Hachioji City, on the west border of Tokyo, was once a burakumin settlement and many burakumin still live there; the village of Wabuka in Wakayama prefecture, remains fully a burakumin settlement). Like the Dalet, they were, and often still are, limited to doing types of work considered unclean (leather tanneries, slaughterhouses, handling human remains, garbage removal, etc.), and are rejected as suitors by "higher" status Japanese families. Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."

It's just bizarre that even in a country where the majority of people are of the same ethnic ancestry, they can still find a way to separate out and discriminate against their fellows. Go figger.
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Old 09-02-2011, 09:32 PM   #83
Lorel Latorilla
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
There are also the "hisabetsu burakumin" (formerly called "hinin" and "eta") -- a stigmatized group within Japan. They are the Japanese equivalent of India's Dalet ("untouchable") caste. They are the descendents of individuals who somehow were cast from society -- either for crimes they committed or were alleged to have committed, for having foreign ancestry such as Korean, or for having somehow ticked off some high-status official with the power to declare them "hinin" (non-person). Their families and descendents were thereafter condemned to be in the same caste and the stigma persists to this day, although discrimination against the burakumin was made illegal decades ago.

Burakumin were restricted to specific settlements and villages (Hachioji City, on the west border of Tokyo, was once a burakumin settlement and many burakumin still live there; the village of Wabuka in Wakayama prefecture, remains fully a burakumin settlement). Like the Dalet, they were, and often still are, limited to doing types of work considered unclean (leather tanneries, slaughterhouses, handling human remains, garbage removal, etc.), and are rejected as suitors by "higher" status Japanese families. Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."

It's just bizarre that even in a country where the majority of people are of the same ethnic ancestry, they can still find a way to separate out and discriminate against their fellows. Go figger.
Ideological cannibalism. Where there is nothing feed on, the Japanese self starts to eat itself.

Unless stated otherwise, all wisdom, follies, harshness, malice that may spring up from my writing are attributable only to me.
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Old 09-03-2011, 03:13 AM   #84
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."
This kind of nihonjinron misrepresents people with genuine problems. Also you are not providing accurate information to anyone who wishes to move to Japan and train in aikido. In India it is estimated that over 250 million people have unequal rights due to their hereditary social designation (and if I were to use that fact to tar all Indians with the same brush I would also be guilty of discrimination). It is a far cry from the Burakumin case: the caste was abolished in 1871 - which for comparison is about a hundred years before the end of the White Australia policy. Both have lingering effects in the present but your implication that checking out a person's ancestry is normal for Japanese families, even for just a date is pure fantasy. One's ancestral address (by which one would deduce Buraku status) isn't even on the family register anymore.

Obviously Japan is a unique country, and the kind of bigotry in which one group of humans places themselves above another here only happens with this particular combination of cultural and demographic factors. That may make problems more special (and prone to exaggeration) to some Westerners, but Japan is not uniquely unique.

Carl
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Old 09-03-2011, 09:00 AM   #85
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

Carl,
Regarding India's caste and Japan's, my words were poorly chosen, or at least unclear; I did not intend to imply that burakumin were on the same level of abuse that India's caste is, but that it's the Japanese equivalent in that a group of people within a society were similarly separated out and discriminated against, and that their classification became hereditary. You are quite right that the degree is not the same, and I apologize for the inaccuracy.

However, as I have direct, personal relationships with individuals who are burakamin, I can attest that despite the illegality of discrimination, burakumin are still very much recognized, discriminated against and screened-for in Japanese society. It is all done "under the radar," and it is quite easy for any family in-the-know to look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged -- whether they are burakumin.

By the same token, one can say that racial discrimination is illegal in the U.S., but if anyone thinks for one minute that this means racism doesn't persist, he or she is sorely deluded.

As for accurate information related to aikido study in Japan, my original response had nothing to do with burakumin, but was a book recommendation in support of your argument that a foreigner could be accepted into Japanese society on some level. The thread spun off temporarily into another direction when Cliff commented on the Japanese feeling a stigma when moving to another region and provided an anecdote; my anecdotal comments on burakumin were simply a response to that.

Best,
Cady

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
This kind of nihonjinron misrepresents people with genuine problems. Also you are not providing accurate information to anyone who wishes to move to Japan and train in aikido. In India it is estimated that over 250 million people have unequal rights due to their hereditary social designation (and if I were to use that fact to tar all Indians with the same brush I would also be guilty of discrimination). It is a far cry from the Burakumin case: the caste was abolished in 1871 - which for comparison is about a hundred years before the end of the White Australia policy. Both have lingering effects in the present but your implication that checking out a person's ancestry is normal for Japanese families, even for just a date is pure fantasy. One's ancestral address (by which one would deduce Buraku status) isn't even on the family register anymore.

Obviously Japan is a unique country, and the kind of bigotry in which one group of humans places themselves above another here only happens with this particular combination of cultural and demographic factors. That may make problems more special (and prone to exaggeration) to some Westerners, but Japan is not uniquely unique.

Carl
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:49 AM   #86
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Moving to Japan

Going back to the thread topic and the question posed by the opening post, I had the idea of going to Japan to study when I was a student in the US. My initial idea was to go to the Aikikai Hombu, but I was disabused of this idea by a shihan, who was affiliated to the very same Hombu. He strongly advised finding suitable employment first, whether in Tokyo or elsewhere, and then think about aikido. He was strongly against going solely for aikido: by which he meant asking the Hombu to sponsor a visa and then doing odd jobs. (The Hombu no longer do this.)

So, I looked for university jobs and found three: at Tohoku in Sendai, at Hiroshima, and at Oita in Kyushu. I was lucky to obtain tenure very quickly, and thereby entered the 'system'--but had to learn Japanese quite intensively, in order to teach my classes in Japanese and participate in the meetings. This was quite a struggle but was well worth it. Aikido training was never a problem, because of the very small number of classes and the flexible teaching schedule.

In Hiroshima there are a number of foreign communities, all having devised systems of mutual support. If we consider only native English speakers, there are Ford & Mazda employees, many of whom are here for three years and inhabit a kind of ex-pat bubble, so do not have much incentive to get to know the culture at a deepening level; there are the English teachers at local schools (including the international schools), again on fixed contracts; there are the university people. All of whom tend to live in separate groups with fairly limited interaction.

And there are those from all three groups who have learned how to live with(in) the system and found their niche. All these people are committed to Japan for the long term and have put their kids through the Japanese school system. They also have good abilities in Japanese. I think members of this group also tend to have a good number of close Japanese friends with whom Japanese is the normal language of communication. They are well aware of the omote and ura aspects of Japan--and also the BS levels of some nihonjinron.

I know that this situation is also replicated with the Chinese, Korean (two groups), Brazilian and Filipino communities.

This has been my experience FWIW.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 09-03-2011 at 11:51 AM.

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Old 09-03-2011, 11:25 PM   #87
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
It is all done "under the radar," and it is quite easy for any family in-the-know to look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged -- whether they are burakumin.
This simply isn't true.

I'll say it again more clearly: The present day registration system does not have this information and it is illegal to look at old family registers which did have it.

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
By the same token, one can say that racial discrimination is illegal in the U.S., but if anyone thinks for one minute that this means racism doesn't persist, he or she is sorely deluded.
I totally agree. Japan is not special.

Carl
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Old 09-04-2011, 02:27 AM   #88
Lorel Latorilla
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Re: Moving to Japan

Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.

There was this one Chinese guy I knew, who enjoyed Judo and anime and Japanese language (if I remember well) and I asked him "why don't you just move to Japan and experience all this?" to which he answered "nah, the Japanese treat Chinese differently there". I never really wondered why he said that...I could've saved a lot of grief by taking his words into consideration.

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Old 09-06-2011, 10:36 AM   #89
HL1978
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Lorel Latorilla wrote: View Post
Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.

There was this one Chinese guy I knew, who enjoyed Judo and anime and Japanese language (if I remember well) and I asked him "why don't you just move to Japan and experience all this?" to which he answered "nah, the Japanese treat Chinese differently there". I never really wondered why he said that...I could've saved a lot of grief by taking his words into consideration.
Lorel,

You never heard the comment "Remember Hunter, Japan is not a themepark!"

Surely rob repeated the second half.
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Old 09-06-2011, 11:25 AM   #90
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Lorel,

You never heard the comment "Remember Hunter, Japan is not a themepark!"

Surely rob repeated the second half.
Haha. That advice came a bit too late. Hanging with Rob and Adam, hell, I'd consider it a theme park.

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Old 09-06-2011, 01:15 PM   #91
HL1978
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Re: Moving to Japan

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Haha. That advice came a bit too late. Hanging with Rob and Adam, hell, I'd consider it a theme park.
Its even more funny if you know the guy who said it originally and in what context.
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Old 09-06-2011, 01:40 PM   #92
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Re: Moving to Japan

Yeah the guys told me the story. I forget what it was about though? I just remember one time in the mean streets of Ikebukuro, I was pretty tipsy, took a piss on the streets, and Adam (or was it Rob?) was like "Remember Lorel, Japan is not a theme park!"

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Old 09-06-2011, 07:36 PM   #93
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

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This simply isn't true.

I'll say it again more clearly: The present day registration system does not have this information and it is illegal to look at old family registers which did have it.
I wish I could agree with you that it's no longer possible to track burakumin heritage, or that burakumin are no longer identified or discriminated against as a specific group. I know individuals who were indeed screened out as potential spouses expressly because of their buraku background.
Younger people are more likely to "intermarry" with burakumin, and the number of such marriages is growing, but their parents' generation (in their 50s and 60s) are still reticent and are less likely to approve of such a match. A survey of the population of Osaka in, I believe, 2007, revealed that 78% would consider marriage to burakumin to be "problematic"(from the Abduction Politics blog link provided below).

Though things have improved considerably, and in fact it is harder to access personal records now (it has been only 3 years since a new law was introduced to limit access to copies of family records @ city halls), it is still quite easy to do background checks on individuals, and even to get around restrictions on national koseki access -- and it is often done. My comment about checking a person out at city hall was just a bit of hyperbole to express the very real point that, even today, many Japanese families are bigoted against burakumin and will screen potential marriage matches to filter them out. It's amazing what lengths such people go through and how they find loopholes to obtain the information they want.

Here's an interesting snip from the Harvard Human Rights Journal: In 1968, after protests by the BLL to the Justice Ministry, the koseki ceased to be an item freely available for public perusal. Permission of the family whose vital statistics were involved became requisite, except that in infrequent cases, the permission of the Minister of Justice was sufficient. Unfortunately, refusing to grant permission to view one's family's records sets off an alarm, "suspicion is aroused," and usually a private detective is able to do other investigations, perhaps in the subject's hometown, to make a decision on his or her family background

In the mid-1970s, the Buraku Chimei Sokan, a contraband list of hisabetsu villages and districts along with the identities many of the families who lived in them, was published by some unscrupulous opportunists and made available for purchase by anyone who wished to buy it, and it was snapped up by countless individuals and corporations, including Toyota and Nissan. It raised quite a scandal and was quashed, but the list resurfaced years later on the Internet -- leaked onto an Internet chat site in 2006 -- and members of burakumin activist groups state that it is not hard to get hold of a copy even now.

That there would be this much interest today in determining who is "burakumin" is pretty damning evidence that the prejudice is still alive and kicking.

Anyway, here are some links to studies on burakumin history, current status, and other interesting information related to burakumin caste and other forms of discrimination in Japan:

A study in the Harvard Human Rights Journal:
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/...tml#Heading170

A 2009 interview with Shigeki Yasuda, of the Kyoto Buraku Liberation League:
http://www.japanvisitor.com/index.php?cID=419&pID=1976

An interesting blog (Abduction Politics) with anecdotal stuff as well as notes about recent research and data on the status of burakumin:
http://ishingen.wordpress.com/2007/04/06/burakumin/

Article on JapanProbe concerning the Buraku Chimei Sokan being leaked onto the Internet in 2006: http://www.japanprobe.com/2006/10/27...l-experiences/

New York International Law Review (2007): An assessment of discrimination in Japan (including Burakumin):
http://www.debito.org/canonpenceilrsummer07.pdf

###

Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 09-06-2011 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 09-07-2011, 09:03 AM   #94
Richard Stevens
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Re: Moving to Japan

I have a few friends who are considered burakumin. They come from a family of lumberjacks who live in work up in a small mountain town in in northern Okayama prefecture. It took a few years, and plenty of shochu, but they eventually opened up about the societal stigma associated with their heritage.

All three of them dropped out of middle/high school to go to work to help support their families. Two of them ended up in the family lumberjack trade and the other is an auto mechanic.

They never told me any stories of being specifically persecuted because of their heritage, but they have made specific choices in life out of fear of being "discovered" as they put it. They very rarely venture out of their local environment and interact on a social level with others of their group almost exclusively. It seems that they've accepted that they are lower on the societal pecking order and try to operate within those constraints.

It turned out that the repair shop one of them worked for as a mechanic was a good friend of mine and was well aware that he was employing a burakumin. He told me that he would never let his employee know he knew he was burakumin, because he didn't want him to be uncomfortable. I asked him how he knew his employee was burakumin and he said, "around here, if they are dark and from the mountains, they are burakumin."

These are isolated cases in an isolated area and I want to make it clear that I am not implying that these examples are mirrored across the burakumin community as a whole. However, it's always interesting to hear someone's first hand experience with an issue.
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Old 09-08-2011, 02:18 AM   #95
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Looks like things have gone way off topic.

Quote:
Lorel Latorilla wrote: View Post
Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.
That was my point regarding problems manifesting differently. I don't object to people warning about their negative experiences of Japan if that is what you are saying. I agree that it can still be good advice. We could argue all day about what the "real Japan" is. Pointing out the negatives with exaggerated theories about the local ethnic/cultural group is the problem here.

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I wish I could agree with you that it's no longer possible to track burakumin heritage, or that burakumin are no longer identified or discriminated against as a specific group. I know individuals who were indeed screened out as potential spouses expressly because of their buraku background.
I didn't say it was impossible to track Burakumin heritage by means other than what you stated. Nor have I said that the prejudice does not exist or cannot happen.

I disagreed that it is possible to "look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged " .

You have yet to prove that there are family registers available at city hall containing this information.

Your original "hyperbole" as you put it made out that discrimination in this way is a normal thing that families do in Japan. You didn't mention the need to look up illegal records or hire private detectives. You said it was "quite easy" to look at the family register in city hall. I agree that these new illegal methods you have described could work, particularly in an area that actually has a Buraku population. I disagree that this is easy or the first thing Japanese families do when their offspring has a date. To me it sounds significantly harder than just popping into city hall and paying a few thousand yen and it's unlikely to happen at all in areas with no Buraku communities or little awareness of them.

For example, the OP wanted to train in Tokyo. There are no Buraku communities in Tokyo. If you'd like to check the official surveys (not blogs), some people there have never even heard of the Buraku issue and the majority of those that have would not change their behaviour towards them. I would agree that it is more of a problem in other specific areas. One of my points is that the existence and extent of the problem should be represented correctly and not used to back up blanket assertions about an ethnic group or culture (bad nihonjinron).

I do appreciate that this is something you probably did not intend to do and that you have made subsequent attempts to clarify your meaning.

Carl
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Old 09-08-2011, 10:50 AM   #96
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

Carl, I think you are belaboring something that I thought had been clarified. As I pointed out in my previous post, I was using a touch of casual hyperbole when I referred to folks running to their local city hall to screen potential "undesireables" out of their kids' marriage prospects. I then went on to further clarify just how people actually do go about doing such research.

Again, the larger point is that it is still quite easy for such research. My clarification illustrated how that is done. It is an unfortunate reality that burakumin are still actively disdained, screened-for and discriminated against -- under the radar -- in Japan.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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Old 09-08-2011, 11:44 AM   #97
Diana Frese
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Re: Moving to Japan

Hi Cady,

Just a little background on our pre-Japan introduction to Japanese culture: The American Buddhist Academy on Riverside Drive in addition to having martial arts classes (kendo, judo, and possibly naginata at one time) and hosting the annual Obon Dance in Riverside Park (dancers wore yukata, except for the Tanko Bushi dance at the conclusion in which any spectators were invited to participate even if wearing regular clothes)

there were other events like possibly bingo and bazaars, I'm not sure, but I am sure there were Japanese movies every Saturday night, one Chambara Eiga (samurai movie) and one modern, and in the intermission an American style raffle of the ticket stubs....

This was way back in the late sixties I believe, and one of the modern movies was about the burakumin. The actor was very attractive looking probaby by any standards and it showed his suffering due to the prejudice. Unfortunately it was long ago and I don't remember the name of the movie or the names of the actors. And I'm not sure of the story line, but maybe he wanted to marry someone who was not burakumin, and that someone wanted to marry him but there was family opposition. Anyway, I think the hiding one's ancestry you mentioned was a theme, and the suffering such prejudice causes.... Well, hopefully you can somehow find the movie. All I am sure of is it seemed to be a "major motion picture" and it was probably the late l960's.

For "Senor Queso" going to Japan, I guess my points would be, you can learn a lot about Japan before going there, and you might be able to observe some delightful things when you get there. On a lighter note, we were at a summer camp and I heard a village festival passing through some trees on a path and they gave me a couple of rustic wooden drumsticks covered with plain pieces of pink cloth tied on with a string and let me beat the drum a couple of times. Sure I never became Japanese, and I was only there for a period of several months, but some people are remarkably willing to let foreigners share in the culture....

All the best, Daian (Japanese spelling I used there, given to me previously by Tai Chi friends from the Aikido dojo in NY....

Last edited by Diana Frese : 09-08-2011 at 11:49 AM. Reason: changed a misspelled letter
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Old 09-08-2011, 05:11 PM   #98
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Moving to Japan

Hi Diana/Daian (couldn't that mean "Great Tranquility"? What a lovely name that would be!),
Thank you for the lead about the movie. I'll see if I can track it. There are some literary works that have come out of the hisabetsu buraku, notably Kenji Nakagami's The Cape and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto. It's a kind of depressing collection of stories, but well-written. It has won some prestigeous awards in Japan.

I share your sense that many Japanese are open to sharing their culture with outsiders, and I truly believe that one can achieve a degree of acceptance -- perhaps even leading to being able to "blend in" -- within Japanese culture, if one finds the right niche and setting. Thanks to a quirk of fate, I may eventually be living there and spending my old age in a burakumin village, so it is helpful to hear from outsiders who have found such a niche in Japan.
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