PRACTICE (July 19, 2003)

[Discussion] "Diversification of Japan" (Shin)

Shin is thinking about the future of Japan in London.
"The globalization" process of the world is bringing us not only internationalization of the economic activities but also the flow of people across the borders and accompanying exchange of the cultures. The "cultural" aspects have more important impact on our life and society, and can cause difficult problems to overcome. Japan, the country which has so far been reluctant to accept foreign immigrants, has also to face this problem with recent increase of the foreign residents.

The integration of the foreign residents (immigrants as well as long-term residents) in our society is a necessary process for Japan to keep its prosperity, I think. I went to U.K. this June and visited several research centers there. At every institute the research teams are composed of people with various backgrounds, not only from European countries but from all over the world. I could "feel" the dynamic energy produced from the encounter with something different. I strongly felt the need to create in Japan a system which can benefit from the interaction of different cultures, i.e. from diversification of the society.

The immigration policy in Japan has long been that of controlling and monitoring foreigners. It did not pay much attention to integrating them as members of the society even though there have been substantial number of Koreans, Taiwanese, and Chinese who remain in Japan after the Word War U. However, the situation is changing with rapid increase in the number of newcomers, mostly from Asian and South American countries. The central government as well as local municipalities feel the need of integration policy. There are difficult problems to be solved, such as housing, education of immigrant children, health insurance, medical care, and etc.. Some expresses the crimes by foreigners are also concern. Our attitude of mind toward somebody "from outside world" (YOSOMONO) may have to be changed.

The demographic trend -- the aging and shrinking population -- is another factor which forces us to accept the integration policy. Diversification of Japan seems to me the only way to keep our society competitive enough in the world. There is simply no other choice, the societies which cannot attract talent from the outside cannot keep developing.

Today, I would like you to join me in thinking a little bit about what we can do for "symbiosis" with foreign residents in Japan and to make the most of the globalization process by integrating them in our society.

I invite you to come and discuss the issue on this Saturday.

Chikako Kashiwazaki, "Japan: From Immigration Control to Immigration Policy? "