• SHARE

What in the world is going on with Readers in Council and the charge of xenophobia appearing in letters the past month?

The Japanese have concerns about food imported from China. “Japanese xenophobia!” The Japanese are incensed about yet another “molestation” in Okinawa by a U.S. serviceman. “Japanese xenophobia!” The Tsukiji (Tokyo) fish operators are worried about sanitation risks from tourists. “Japanese xenophobia!” Gifted overseas students are not being attracted to Japanese universities in adequate numbers. The reason? “Japanese xenophobia!” There is fear in Okinawa. Sixty years of unpunished crime by U.S. servicemen? No, a “xenophobic Japanese media-government establishment.”

I suspect that these lemming-like claims can be sourced to the shrill hysteria that greeted the introduction of fingerprinting a few months back, and the common belief that the fingerprinting initiative was racist. But the logic behind this claim was always deeply suspect. The United States and Britain also have fingerprinting programs, which no one has ever suggested constitute racism. So that presumably means that a multicultural nation has the right to fingerprint, whereas a largely monoracial one does not. As well as having constructed an irrationally formed thought, advocates of this belief are guilty of discrimination themselves.

As Japan is essentially a monoracial nation, every restriction that is placed upon the “guests” to its shores will constitute a form of “racial separation.” But this does not automatically imply xenophobia or racism. It is simply a consequence of Japan’s largely monoracial construction. People should think a little more carefully about what racism and xenophobia actually are before using these words so freely.

peter stevenson