"A land of incredible diversity: modern yet steeped in custom; home of the friendliest of welcomes. A country of blazing neon lights and rugged mountains, coasts and valleys." Japan has a fascinating and multifaceted culture; on the one hand it is steeped in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years; on the other it is a society in a continual state of rapid flux, with continually shifting fads and fashions and technological development that constantly pushes back the boudaries of the possible. It could therefore be said that Japan is a country of stark contradictions and is in part this that makes it such a fascinating country to visit and unique tourist destination. If you are looking for something different you are sure to find it here! People
One people, one race?
Japanese people appear at first glance to be one of the most socially and ethnically homogenous groups in the world. It is reasonable to equate Japan’s rapid post-war economic development to the 1990s with social solidarity and conformism. Despite labour shortages since the 1960s, authorities resisted officially sanctioning foreign workers until the 1980s, relying on increased mechanization and an expanded female workforce instead (1). Until recently, Japanese workers have associated themselves primarily with the company they work for – a businessman will introduce himself as ‘Nissan no Takahashi-san’ (I am Nissan’s Mr Takahashi). By extension, we might get the idea that a Japanese person subordinates the self to the objectives of society. In 2008, however, long-serving Japanese politician Nariaki Nakayama resigned after declaring that Japan is ‘ethnically homogenous’, showing that the old ‘one people, one race’ idea has become politically incorrect. Criticism of Mr Nakayama’s statement focused on its disregard for the indigenous Ryukyukan people of southern Okinawa, and the Ainu people from the north island of Hokkaido colonised by the Japanese in the late nineteenth century. In 1994 the first Ainu politician was elected to the Japanese Diet, suggesting that the Japanese are keen to officially recognise distinct ethnic groups in Japan. Modern Demographic Development
The most recent census asked people to define themselves only by nationality and not ethnicity, so the true demographic of the country is still unclear Although only around 15,000 foreigners are naturalized each year, immigration has continued officially and unofficially since Japan ended its policy of isolation in the mid 18th century. Apart from foreign immigration, Japanese people and their descendants have moved freely since the borders were opened. Although the census does not recognise them, there are now an estimated 750,000 Japanese citizens with mixed heritage, as well as 1.5 million permanent foreign residents in a total population of around 126 million. Some ‘harufu’ have gained a high profile in Japan, contesting the nationalist assertion that homogeneity is synonymous with Japanese prowess. In 2004 Yu Darvish, of mixed Japanese and Iranian heritage, pitched an entire game for the professional Nippon Ham baseball team without a batsman reaching first base. More recently, Finnish-born Tsurunen Marutei became a member of parliament. Since Japan’s main indigenous and immigrant ethnic groups tend not to reside in the densely populated Kanto and Kansai areas of central Honshu where holidaymakers generally go, a tourist would probably conclude that the non-Japanese population is a relatively tiny number of white Caucasians. There is a floating population of Western English language teachers and finance sector workers, particularly in Tokyo, but the authorities have extremely tight restrictions on extending specialist work visas beyond three years so very few become permanent residents. The largest ethnic groups represented are in fact originally from Korea, China, Brazil and the Philippines. Since the 1970s there has been a steady inflow of Brazilians of...