The Face of Japan Is Changing, But Some Aren't Ready
Kotaku.com Brian Ashcroft 2015/3/14
Change happens slowly in Japan, but it does happen. You wake up one day, and things that weren't possible years ago are happening today. Nowhere is that more evident than in the woman who will represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant—but that's to the chagrin of some who wanted a more "Japanese" winner.
Eriana Miyamoto is the twenty-year-old selected to represent Japan in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant. As reported by Mainichi News, Miyamoto even expressed uneasiness as to whether or not it would be okay for a hafu [half-Japanese] like her to represent Japan.
When introducing herself to reporters after her selection, Miyamoto said that her mother is Japanese and her father is American. She added that she was born and raised in Nagasaki and that while she doesn't "look Japanese" on the outside, on the inside, there are many Japanese things about her.
Let's be clear. She is Japanese. She's a Japanese citizen. She grew up here. She was born here. She's Japanese. Yet, out of politeness or even humility, she explained herself to the Japanese press. After this was out of the way, the rest of her interview progressed fairly normally with questions about how she felt when her name was announced or if she's thinking of entering the Japanese entertainment industry.
Her selection has caused controversy online in Japan. Website Byokan Sunday and Naver Matome have a good round-up of comments that appeared on Twitter. Comments like, "Is it okay to select a hafu to represent Japan?" or "Because this is Miss Universe Japan, don't you think hafu are a no-no?" When not wondering if this was "okay," others said things like she didn't look Japanese, her face was "too gaijin" or that the country deserved a "pure-blooded Japanese" (純日本人 or "junnihon") beauty instead. Elsewhere online, one commenter wrote, "It makes me uncomfortable to say she's representing Japan."9
Because the vast, vast majority of Japan is filled with Japanese people from homogeneous backgrounds, you get comments like this from people who have no idea what it is like to be different or not to be part of an overwhelming majority. There's a lack of empathy, and unfortunately, that can reflect poorly on Japanese society.10
Consider that mixed marriages between Japanese and Chinese and Koreans have been happening since the 7th century and that by the 9th century, a third of all nobles in Japan claimed foreign ancestors. This intermingling has happened throughout Japan's history, so the term "pure-blooded Japanese" can seem ambiguous at best. However, while the number of hafu are increasing, the number of mixed marriages is still low. In 2006, for example, 5.46 percent of all brides were foreign (and 1.18 percent of the grooms were foreign). Yes, the vast majority were with Filipino, Chinese, and Korean spouses. But, annually, there are 20,000 mixed babies born in Japan.
On GirlsChannel, a popular site that allows readers to vote on comments, many of the highest-rated comments said that they wanted a more "Japanese" contestant to represent Japan—with the explicit implication that half-Japanese people do not reflect the country. However, not everyone thinks that way. This is extremely important to point out. There were comments supporting her selection, with people saying that the only thing that matters is whether or not she's a citizen and loves this country or whether or not she was born and raised in Japan. Others said criticizing the selection because she wasn't "Japanese" enough was "pathetic" and outdated thinking.11
The notion of being Japanese has traditionally been narrow. There is no denying that. But babies that are born here, grow up here, and speak Japanese as their native language act and think, well, Japanese. The same goes for anyone who is raised in any country. Your environment breeds culture. Your culture is how you define your identity. Your identity is what makes you who you are.
You know, you see movies like Hafu (above), and you think the country is changing, and then, you see stuff like this. One commenter on website GirlsChannel put it best: "Even if you are hafu, if you have Japanese citizenship, then you're Japanese." If only more people felt that way. Many do. Over time, maybe more will.
A. Well, it is my second time around in Japan, but altogether, I have lived here for over 13 years. Originally, I came here in 1994 to work as a translator (English->French). After a year or so, I started to teach French and English, and developed a real liking for it. In 1999, I moved back to Europe with my family. We lived for 7 years in Belgium and France, before moving back to square one a little more than 8 years ago. After returning to Japan, I started teaching full-time.
A. I really love how students are curious and eager to learn about foreign culture - especially adult students enrolled in conversation lessons. They often demonstrate a keen and genuine interest in the culture of my country, and there is a lot of exchange going on. It is interesting and fun to realize how differently our respective cultures and educations have shaped our perception. Besides the language, it is really about sharing experience, impressions and discover about our own respective cultures. I often learn plenty!
Parents should encourage kids to experience a stay abroad, of course. But I'd also tell them not to listen to those who keep saying Japanese people just aren't good at English, and never to use it as a sort of excuse. Also, to try and consider languages for what they are: a fundamental tool for human communication. And more importantly, I would encourage all students to make mistakes, and more mistakes. Try and keep trying, that is how your learned how to walk...
Hobbies: Music (singing) and video editing
Favorite movies: Pulp Fiction - Billion Dollar Baby - Planet Of The Apes (1968 version) - Blade Runner - Nosferatu - Leaving Las Vegas - Enemy Of The State -
Favorite food: Sashimi, okonomiyaki, sanma with misso soup (Asari clams!) and rice, Japanese sweets with sweet bean paste, most food served in Izakayas, … And of course, let's not forget mom's cooking… Getting hungry again!
Favorite season: Definitely autumn when it comes to Japan. I barely survive Japan's muggy summer.
Favorite amusement park ride: These days, I'd say roller coasters.
Favorite animation character: While E. Coyote or Bugs Bunny.
Favorite Place: Along the river in Hamakita, walking my dog at sunset and catching my breath on weekends. So peaceful, and sunsets are just gorgeous here.
A country you would like to visit before you are 50: Thailand, Canada and Mexico… Though I may not make it before I turn 50.
Most listened to song: When it comes to music, I mostly listen to… my mood. But this week, my most listened song is "Dream Brother" by the late Jeff Buckley, one of the most divine voices.
Color you wear the most: Black & blue
Mac or windows: Mac with a smile, Windows with a frown and groan
Never miss any opportunity you have to communicate with foreigners. Chances may not arise so often here in Hamamatsu, so just go for it and initiate conversation! Ultimately, this is the very reason why you are learning a foreign language! Being able to exchange a few, simple and friendly words with a foreigner will no doubt strengthen your self-confidence and –if you happen to be shy– help you develop an English communication reflex. Just talk!
We welcome James Bowles to the Imagination Ink ALT team from 2014! James comes from Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. We wish him great success here with us! Now let's meet James...
A. I have lived in Japan for almost 10 years.
A. I enjoy teaching different age groups and a variety of levels. Meeting interesting people while teaching is the most rewarding part of this work.
A. So many students and mixed abilities. My philosophy is to make English fun so students enjoy learning the language.
A. The most important point is to appreciate the value of English in an increasingly globalized society. Parents should also try venture outside Japan with their children as often as they can.
Hobbies: playing music, computers, solar cooking, camping, growing vegetables
Favorite Movies: “The Matrix” and “Krush Groove”
Favorite Food: Pizza
Favorite Amusement Park Ride: "Ninja" at Six Flags Over Georgia
Favorite Animation Character: "Kibo" on Doraemon
Favorite Place: Anywhere in Nature
A country you would like to visit before 50: Egypt
Most listened to song: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Color you wear the most: Navy blue
Mac or windows: Mac for 30 years +
Follow your own path and be yourself. Everyone has his/her own lives to lead.
JAPAN'S WORLD KITCHEN: Foreign chefs to get visas to study Japanese culinary arts in Kyoto
January 01, 2014 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles on Japanese “washoku” cuisine, which was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in December.
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As global interest in Japan’s culinary culture continues to grow, the city of Kyoto in November was designated as the country’s first "special economic zone" allowing foreigners to work in restaurants specializing in Japanese cuisine.
Under the Immigration Control Law, foreign chefs are not permitted to work in restaurants serving traditional Japanese food, but that will change as the government is set to begin issuing visas before the end of the current fiscal year.
With the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Dec. 4 recognizing Japanese "washoku" cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, more chefs from around the world are likely to be drawn to Kyoto under the new visa system.
The city already has its fair share of non-Japanese training in the country's culinary arts.
At Kikunoi, a Japanese restaurant in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward, 26-year-old Imad Saade, is now studying at his own expense. His father runs a chain of Japanese restaurants in his home country of Lebanon.
"I want to learn about selecting dishware and ingredients and about food presentation," he said.
Hu Jizhou, 26, from Heilongjiang province, China, and Jong Yong-hyok, 21, from South Korea, are both studying at the Kyoto Culinary Art College in the city’s Nakagyo Ward. Jong, whose father operates a Japanese-style "yakiniku" restaurant in South Korea, said: "My dream is to serve food like small Japanese-style 'kobachi' dishes as well. After I graduate, I want to work and study at a 'kyo-ryori' restaurant."
At the Tsuji Culinary Institute of Advanced Studies in Osaka's Abeno Ward, three South Koreans including 27-year-old Kwon Dong-won studied calligraphy and how to serve dishes in addition to cooking. Kwon said enthusiastically, "I want to show people the cuisine's cultural background, too."
Only foreigners with cooking skills who are sent to Japan by a restaurant in their home country are eligible for the special visa, which is valid for a maximum of two years. Kikunoi is already considering hiring a French chef.
(This article was written by Shoko Terasaki and Masaomi Ogawa）
Understanding Differences in How Children and Adults Learn
Oct. 3, 2013 — There are words that convey a meaning, like verbs, nouns or adjectives, and others, like articles or conjunctions that sustain them, providing a structure for the sentence. A few years ago some scientists of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, together with collaborators from other Universities, showed that the order of the two categories of words within a sentence is important for language acquisition in infants already in their first year of life. Today a study, carried out by the same SISSA scientists, shows that also adults have similar preferences. A phenomenon that may help understanding the differences between how children and adults learn.
Think of a frequently used noun or verb in our language. Try to count how many times you have uttered it in the last two hours. Now, do the same with the article "the." The language we speak is not only made of content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, for instance) but also of lots of words that provide a support to them (articles, prepositions, etc.) that are used much more frequently than the first (function words, or functors). Despite the huge variability of known languages, language scientists were able to divide them roughly into two main categories: the languages in which the functor precedes the content word -- and that use a Verb-Object order (VO) -- and vice versa (OV). The experimental observations showed that the frequency of the terms is a clue that helps identifying to which category a language belongs and, as a consequence, "tuning in" to it.
Knowing the language's structure enables the individual to segment the speech (to divide the language flow into single words) and affects language learnability. This effect has been observed also in very young children for some languages, such as Italian and Japanese. Now a group of neuroscientists including Jacques Mehler and Marina Nespor of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste have extended the experiment also to adults, employing a wider range of languages. The research has been published in the review Frontiers in Psychology.
The experiment was carried on Italian and French native speakers (in representation of the VO language group), and on Japanese and Basque native speakers (OV languages), carrying out learning tasks centered on sentences in an artificial (invented) language that could feature one of the two order structures. "In the previous studies we observed that infants as young as 8-month-old already 'prefer' an artificial language that mirrors the structure of their native language," explains Nespor. "In this new series of studies we have observed this type of preference also in adults."
"This would also explain the increasingly greater difficulties encountered in learning a new language when growing up. Children, while showing such preference precociously, are in fact much more flexible and can easily learn also a language that has a different word order from their own, while adults seem to be more rigidly tied to their native language scheme." adds Nespor. "Of course, when learning a language, also other variables come into play such as lexicon and prosody" concludes the neuroscientist.