Emigrant group calls for unity, support for schools abroad

by Setsuko Kamiya

A group of Japanese emigrants attending a conference in Tokyo urged the government Thursday to support Japanese schools in their countries to increase the number of people who can speak the language worldwide — a recent government initiative.

The Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad also encouraged the communities of “returnees” — that is, descendants of emigrants now living in Japan — to unite to improve their living and working conditions and take pride in their cultural backgrounds.

“Japanese emigrants in South and Central America have been at the center of Japanese language education,” said Brazilian delegate Noritaka Yano. “It’s natural to focus on the Southeast Asian countries and the United States to teach Japanese because of the economic connections and alliances. But South and Central American countries should be included, too.”

Attendees at the 49th conference this year included representatives from 14 countries including Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, the United States and Mexico.

The annual conference is intended to form stronger ties among Japanese emigrants in various countries and to promote understanding among Japanese toward the “nikkei” communities overseas.

At the meeting Thursday, the group asserted that their unique position as ethnic Japanese who grew up in different cultures is a key asset for both Japan and the countries they live in.

Kokei Uehara, another Japanese emigrant to Brazil, said he is delighted Japanese emigrants are getting more attention in ceremonies and events marking the centennial of Japanese migration to Brazil.

“I believe that it’s a sign that Japanese emigrants to Brazil are getting a good reputation,” Uehara said.

Most at the three-day conference through Friday emigrated before and after the war or are their descendants. Others had migrated after marrying foreign nationals.