Friday, November 18, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki May 23, 1996 (What Is A Foreigner?)

Last week the city of Kawasaki abolished the Japanese nationality caluse from the city municipal employee test criteria. However, the Home Ministry announced, "You must have Japanese citizenship to be a public employee." The Japanese government believes that foreigners "cannot work in the public interest or enact public opinion."

Basically a foreigner is someone who is born and raised in another country, has a different mother tongue than you, and has different manners and customs. However, there are people born in Japan, who speak Japanese, and have the same Japanese customs as all other people who live here, but who in the eyes of the government do not have Japanese citizenship. In the eyes of the Japanese government, these people are "Koreans." In the eyes of other countries, these people would be called "Japanese." The decision made by the city of Kawasaki relates mostly to these people.

Among these so-called "foreigners" are pople who have never been out of Japan. Some of these people speak no language other than Japanese. Be that as it may, these people are treated as "foreigners" rather than as "citizens." They pay taxes but have no right to vote. They must carry the government mandated Foreigner Registration Card at all times.

As a foreigner myself with a different hometown, another mother tongue, a different culture and customs I want to preserve, and with the distinct possibility that I will not spend the rest of my life in Japan, I'm obviously a foreigner. However, in my opinion those people who were born here and who will spend their entire lives doesn't matter who their ancestors were: they are Japanese. What does everybody else think?

(Click on the article to Sumo-Size it)

See you next time!

This is the "Ken-Bun-Ki" article that I am most proud of and, re-reading it now, 15+ years later, I'm still very proud that a) I wrote it and b) my town printed it.
The majority of Korean-Japanese "foreigners" live in or around Kawasaki City. In 1996 that city's City Hall made their historical announcement that they would open up their municipal employee test to all residents of Kawasaki, irregardless of their "nationality." Although I can't find that this clause was overruled by the central government, I also couldn't find any proof that any "Korean" residents ever became city employees.

I have not lived in Japan for any length of time for these last ten years, but when I left in 2001 the central government was still borderline racist in their thinking when it came to "pure bloods" and I haven't read any announcement that they are any better than they used to be. Sure, there used to be announcements every few years about how the government is going to "loosen" up on controls, but then nothing ever happened. For the 14 years that I lived in Miyzaki, although I was a hard-working member of Japanese society I was not allowed to vote or own property or even live wherever I wanted to without checking in with my parole officer the Ministry of Justice (how's that for an oxymoron?). I had to carry ON MY PERSON 24-7 a Foreigner Identity Card that struck me as akin to the "papers" required by racist South Africa. But maybe that was just me. Anyway, the government position on me and mine after 14 years really began to grate on me, and that is one of the reasons I moved, rather than stay and subject my daughter to this type of overt racism (and don't even get me started on the sexism). I like my racism the American way, under the table and behind your back, thank you. :-)

Anyway, if I ever do move back to Japan, I think I would like to help set up something in Miyazaki similar to this organization in Kawasaki: the Kawasaki Municipal Foreign Residents Assembly
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love the Japanese people, but I'm not too fond of the Japanese government.

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