Not allowing for or admitting Japanese citizens of mixed ethnicity informs the notion among Japanese that Japanese nationality is a feature of blood, race, or distinct ethnicity as opposed to a mere matter of citizenship.
Only a short time in Japan will introduce anyone to the nasty Japanese habit of talking about bi-cultural children as “half.” It underscores the common belief here that Japanese-ness is a feature of race above all else. I have spent years describing my children as“double.” They have dual citizenship to which they are entitled, and the government does not issue passports to people it does not recognize as proper citizens. My efforts are all in vain, of course. But it was not until a few weeks ago that an educated, professional Japanese person - a woman - crossed the line by using “half blood” to describe mixed-race children to me. We were talking about some of my current Japanese public high school students, many of whom are Filipino-Japanese kids whose English is quite high. They are Japanese students, no doubt. But their Filipino parent helps explain their English facility. But this woman wasn’t seeing it that way, and her language hit me like a club. I was very annoyed and reminded of “mud bloods” in Harry Potter, and of the “half breed” moniker used in old American western TV shows that I used to watch, like Gunsmoke and Ponderosa. I don’t blame the old TV shows. That was the language of the day. But in this day and age I was put out by this woman’s language and the thinking behind it. She could see it on my face, too. The look of innocent perplexity on her face was almost comical.
This brings me to the topic of the Japanese census. Currently, every day the Japanese population shrinks, or declines by about 200-souls while the Canadian population increases by about 1,000. (I am exceptionally pleased with Canadian population growth first, because as a male I have a fetish with size and, second, due to concern that if we cannot physically occupy our territory then our claims to sovereignty over it are compromised. That makes Canada an under-populated land gravely at risk from our rapacious southern neighbor.) Even at that rate, though, it would take more than a century for the Canadian population to equal the Japanese. As in Canada, the government here conducts its census once every five years and this year, 2010, is another Year of the Census. As far as I know, I have never been counted in a census here. Neither have I been counted in a Canadian census since I was a university student, so far as I know. That does not mean that I have not, indeed, been counted. Maybe my wife filled out the census form on my behalf. Nor does it mean that the Japanese and Canadian governments do not know of my existence, because my existence isdocumented. In Japan foreigners staying longer than 60-days must become “registered aliens.” No one, not even Japanese citizens, can legally live anywhere in the country without registering at the local city, borough or ward office as a resident. I am obliged to carry my Alien Registration Card on my person at all time when I am outside my home. Japanese police are fond of “carding”foreigners, meaning randomly stopping us just to see if we have our papers. It has happened to me several times. Soon alien registration authority will be transferred from local governments to the federal Immigration Ministry. But until then the Nakano Ward Office in Tokyohas possession of the records of my vital data. But then, I know for a fact that the registered information at the city office is neither current nor entirely accurate.
Similarly, the Canadian government has my vital data - also neither accurate nor current - at the Canadian Embassy, where I have repeatedly registered myself as an expatriate citizen. But I also know for a fact that the embassy has a habit of periodically deleting or throwing away its records without first trying to contact me to confirm my status. Almost every time I go there for a new passport I discover that I am no longer registered with them and they list me as “returned to Canada.”
The official population of Japan is roughly 127 million. But this does not include the 1½-to-2-million short and long term registered foreigners. It’s not just as though we don’t count. It’s exactly that we don’t count. And, one of the interesting features of the Japanese census is that it makes no provision for people to indicate their ethnicity. For example, bi-racial, bi-cultural children of marriages like mine between Japanese and foreign nationals may only be listed as Japanese, despite the fact that the law entitles such children to dual citizenship. So the Japanese children of foreign parents are counted in the total, but not their parents, and the fact of their foreign parentage is not admitted in the statistics.
Not allowing for or admitting Japanese citizens of mixed ethnicity informs the notion among Japanese that Japanese nationality is a feature of blood, race, or distinct ethnicity as opposed to a mere matter of citizenship. And it allows the politicians and media complacently to manipulate the myth of Japanese homogeneity and with total impunity to boldly ignore the patent reality that Japanis, indeed, a multi-ethnic society. It has been for quite some time. There are black and white (naturalized) Japanese citizens who are, legally, no less Japanese than the natives. Although Japanese law does not allow or make provisions for different levels of citizenship, that idea does not penetrate, even among the lawmakers who write the laws. And, if you publicly suggest that the Imperial family is genetically more Korean than Yamato (Japanese) - which it is - you might be putting your physical safety at risk.