Regarding Hidesato Sakakibara’s March 4 letter, “Myth of Japanese homogeneity“: Education minister Bunmei Ibuki may be “clueless” about Japan’s degree of homogeneity — but where did Sakakibara get the idea that the “Jomon” and “Yayoi” people were “races”? And in what musty anthropology tome did he read that the Ainu were primarily Caucasian?

What some physical anthropologists call “Old Mongoloids” include Jomon people, a very heterogeneous population consisting of not very homogeneous Ainu and Okinawan people among other local “races” (in the broader sense of the word). So-called “New Mongoloids” include “Yayoi” — again, a very heterogeneous population of later arrivals and their descendants.

In any case, while remarks attributed to Ibuki may be politically incorrect, they are not wrong in the context of his highly romantic political platform for a “conservation that reforms.” Japan’s heterogeneous population has in fact been highly homogenized by the education ministry and other agents of national unification since the late 19th century.

It is Ibuki’s intent to utilize schools as the powerful tools they have proven to be for instilling ethnic pride to “regenerate” the “traditional social norms” that he feels have been lost in the wake of postwar education reforms — “the stronger-than-law silent conventions, the normative consciousness, [formed by] the activities of ancestors in the course of eternal history.”

william wetherall

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