From Kokusaika to Tabunka Kyosei

Global Norms, Discourses of Difference, and Multiculturalism in Japan

Author: Petrice R. Flowers


Demographic shifts and increased migration, coupled with restrictive immigration and citizenship policies, have left Northeast Asian states ill equipped to confront the challenges of growing numbers of long-term sojourners. When the policy of a state that is resistant to immigration is at odds with the local reality, as is the case in Japan, local governments attempt to shape how people understand or make sense of a geographical area in ways that integrate foreign residents. The resulting contest over the "meaning of place" in Japan results in multicultural policies that highlight the importance of place. These policies, called tabunka kyosei (broadly understood as multiculturalism), have become an important part of discussions about diversity and difference in Japan, although the extent to which these policies will result in a more critical engagement with difference remains to be seen. This article offers an ethnography of Shijuku Ward's Okubo administrative area to illustrate how local governments skirt restrictive national immigration policies and instead draw from global norms of multiculturalism to create policies that manage the meaning of local places in ways that integrate foreign residents.

Regions: Pacific
Countries: Japan
Topics: Migration

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December 2012