Census is blind to Japan’s diversity: readers offer their thoughts

A selection of readers’ views on last month’s Just Be Cause column:

Infatuation with race boxes

In his article “Census blind to Japan’s true diversity” (Oct. 5), Debito Arudou calls for what amount to American-style race boxes.

Since the inception of the Family Register Law, the Constitution, the Civil Code and the Nationality Law in this order (between 1871 and 1899), Japan’s laws have not racialized its nationals (not “citizens”).

Post-1945 revisions of these laws continued in this tradition of legal blindness to private matters like race, ethnicity and national origin.

I can understand why a person would not want to be refused acceptance in the public sector on account of nationality, much less because of presumptions about nationality based on physical or other impressions. What I can’t understand is why such a person should be infatuated with race boxes on census forms.

Mr. Arudou is free to publicize his American origins and advocate on behalf of “naturalized” persons like himself or anyone else. Why, though, should such matters be the government’s business?

I stopped checking race boxes in the United States during the 1960s, when I realized the social pathology of racial classification on civil records, and on government and other official forms and questionnaires.

Abiko, Chiba

Equality under the law

Once again Mr. Arudou has made clear how badly he wants to be a “hyphenated Japanese” — a desire that myself and a great many others I know find perplexing. If the goal, as Mr Arudou himself often states, is “equality” — to be accepted as a Japanese, the same as anyone else — then what possible purpose is served by saying “I’m just like you — only different”?

Setting aside the issue that “American” is a nationality and not an ethnicity (and thus “American-Japanese” is nonsensical), what real purpose is served by allowing people to identify themselves officially as “hyphenates”?

The U.S. and Canada do, but Canada’s census ends up with over 200 “ethnicities,” and the U.S. with about a dozen “official” choices plus a write-in section, all of which adds up to a census result where the total “ethnicity” responses equal 200 percent of the actual population or more! What is anyone supposed to do with such statistical nonsense?

I want to ask what “policies” the Diet should implement to “get ready for” a multiethnic Japan? Some Japanese version of affirmative action, where the concept of all being equal before the law, as enshrined in the Constitution, is thrown out in favor of “some are more equal, you see, because they are minorities — they are qualified by virtue of the color of their skin, not their abilities”? Mr. Arudou offers no suggestions.

It is worth noting that the French census is prohibited from asking about ethnicity. French principles hold that all French citizens are equal. This is how it should be — there is no greater good that can be served by dividing people up along ethnic lines. One’s personal sense of identity is fine, but that should be kept separate from government policy.

Sano, Tochigi

None of the above

This was the first time I bothered to fill out the Japanese census, but it angered me. And there was no place on the form to write comments! So I wrote in big letters across the form: “You must add the category ‘involuntarily part-time employed’ to your categories.”

I am a permanent resident who has lived 11 years in Japan, and no employer has ever been willing to give me a contract longer than 12 months. Since the Japanese government refused to let me select my true employment status, I elected to mark the “no employment” box.

Let’s be honest about the fact that employers refuse to offer regular employment to many Japanese and most foreigners.