As if it weren't enough to have an education system whose only apparent goal is to teach its students how to be 'Japanese,' it now appears that the government wants to teach the Japanese to be patriotic as well.
The proposal to make education more patriotic in Japan signals the determination of conservatives here to combat what they see as a self-obsessed youth culture, characterized by rampant school bullying and juvenile crime, which they say is eroding the nation's vaunted social order.
Under proposed revisions to the Basic Education Law, which are being debated in parliament, teachers would be required to instill in students "an attitude that respects tradition and culture, and loves the nation and the homeland that have fostered them."
The changes alarm liberal critics who worry that a legal duty to teach a love for Japan would override the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of thought and conscience. They argue that mandating educators to teach patriotism echoes the ultranationalism of imperial Japan, which led to the catastrophic error of military aggression and, ultimately, ruin.
Evidently most Japanese support the revisions, "[...] demanding schools foster civic morality and teach students to show more respect." It was also revealed that some schools have already begun "grading students on their level of patriotism" and "love for Japan." Responding to criticism of the plan, Prime Minister Koizumi told legislators, "[we] are not intending a law that would draw us into war," and noted that the proposed revisions would also require teachers to imbue a respect for other countries.
Aside from inducing loud barks of disgusted laughter from reasonable people, the above story might lead us to wonder, 'who the fuck is going to be in school here in 50 years' to study anything, let alone patriotism? More than 20 percent of the population is aged 65 or older, and because of an "abysmally low fertility rate" the population will decrease to below 100 million by 2042. This is not really news, as I have yet to meet anyone here who is not aware of this problem. What makes Japan's population decline somewhat alarming is its apparent reluctance to do anything about it. Western countries, for example, rely on a steady influx of immigrants to offset lower birth rates. This leads us to our next item...
There is, in Japan, a truly radical thinker (at least in Japanese terms). His name is Hidenori Sakanaka, and he believes Japan should allow the entry of 20 million immigrants in the next 50 years. Until recently Sakanaka, a career bureaucrat, was head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. From what I've read of him, he seems like a rather interesting chap. Some quotes:
"It is ultimately the Japanese people who will decide this issue, but the problem is that there is no debate. The population is declining and the birth-rate is falling, and there is no way we will solve this just by encouraging more births. Now is our chance to begin talking about it seriously."
"It's almost taboo to raise the issue of mass immigration here, [...] Japan has no experience of this, only of sending people abroad. Modern Japan almost totally shuts out foreigners and the only people who debate the issue are specialists. Nobody is even researching it."
"Here's the problem: The population of the world is over 6 billion, and about half of these people live in Asia. The population of China, India Vietnam and so on is growing very fast at the same time as ours is shrinking. We're a rich country surrounded by developing countries. If we just say we're going to stop immigration completely it will eventually overwhelm us, so we should deal with it now; open the taps slowly to qualified, distinguished people. It's like a dam; we're sitting behind it and a tsunami is coming. What are we going to do about it?"
"The common Japanese view of foreigners is very unsparing at the moment. Twenty years ago, 3 out of 10 people didn't like the Chinese; today it is 7 out of 10. Many Japanese fear foreigners because they think they cause crime. Seventy percent of Japanese are against allowing more tourists. That's ridiculous. Tourists don't cause crime and the overwhelming majority of foreigners are good people. But negative thinking about foreigners here is strong."
"The politicians are afraid that if they speak positively about immigration they'll run up against public opinion. But look: The politicians don't tackle it, the bureaucrats are divided among different agencies, and there is no policy, so who is going to start?"
"Someone should say: Look, there are good and bad foreigners. We won't solve this by ourselves, so let's discuss asking foreign laborers to come here in greater but controlled numbers, and making society easier for them to live. But we haven't even got to the entry point of that debate."
By Japanese standards Mr. Sakanaka is a loose cannon. It's quite refreshing to this gaijin, however, to hear a Japanese speak so frankly and honestly about these issues. There are no doubt many reasons for the negative views Japanese tend to have of foreigners. The media is partly to blame. Any serious crime comitted by a foreigner will be on the front page of every newpaper and the leading story of every newscast. The government is certainly responsible for many policies directed against foreigners, and contains many racist elements. It doesn't help that the American military is still here. Ultimately, though, it boils down to the fact that the Japanese, as a culture, are xenophobic. Anyone who tries to deny this simple fact is either deluded, a fucking idiot, or a liar.
Do I 'hate' the Japanese? Of course not. Should I 'teach' them the error of their ways? Most definitely not. Should I express my opinion? Yes, of course I should. The Japanese should take a look in the mirror once and a while. We can't force anyone to look into the mirror, but there's nothing wrong with holding it up. Here's our final item for today. Mr. Sakanaka is back in this one, although it's a bit older. In this article Sakanaka-san gives us some insight into the problem of human traficking in Japan. I'm not going to comment on it, because I think it speaks for itself.