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Regarding the July 6 article “UNHCR exec lauds refugee strides, urges more“: In the 1970s, Japanese vessels in the South China Sea rescued a lot of boat people who hoped to live in Japan. After several years, though, most of them left for the United States and other Western countries.

Some Westerners criticize Japan’s strict policies on refugees, arguing that we should accept more people seeking asylum — at least from Asian countries. They add that it would be better for Asian people to live in a culture that is close to their own inasmuch as it appears to embrace Buddhism.

I understand their opinion, but I cannot help thinking that Asian refugees would be much happier going on to the New World like the U.S., Canada and Australia. Nowadays many Japanese people are atheistic; in addition, with more than 97 percent of the population identified as ethnic Japanese, many of us tend to act like intolerant islanders.

The Japanese are always looking for qualitative identity and carefully watching strangers. Sinister bullying is a serious problem in our society and it is nurtured in the workplace.

Japanese companies are like small closed villages with their own rules. Amid this long-lasting recession especially, corporate staffs blindly obey conventions that, for members, sometimes supersede national laws.

Even the Japanese occasionally feel like they’re being suffocated, and many citizens commit suicide as a result.

If we are unable to expect change in this country anytime soon, who can recommend such a place to refugees?

While we might easily accept our fate in the philosophy of our community instead of in the existence of God, we cannot go back to being pious Buddhists like many Southeast Asians, or to following the teachings of Confucius like the Chinese and Koreans. Even as Japan has modeled its democracy on North America and Western Europe since the end of World War II, we know we cannot readily be like “Christians.”

We must reconstruct not only our damaged land but also our society by ourselves.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

satoshi sato

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