Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The decline and fall of Japanese civilization, pt.2

So in the last few weeks there have been a couple of instances which have contributed to the notion that Japan is no longer the place that it was. Now I’m not going to talk about the stabbing thing in Akihabara on Sunday as that sort of thing has been going on for ages here, indeed I think I may have written about it on occasion, so some things never change. No, what follows goes far deeper to the core of what it means to be Japanese (and in the process dragged Japan, kicking and screaming, a bit closer to the 21st century).

The first one was a couple of weeks ago. In the past large numbers of women have come/been enticed/forced to come to Japan to work in the ‘water’ industry – I don’t mean as hydroelectric engineers or plumbers, but as hostesses and, at times, more besides. Now, some of these ladies were from the Philippines and had more than casual relations with some married Japanese men folk and got pregnant. On knowing they had got the mistress up the spout the Japanese gents did the decent thing and scarpered sharpish so they didn’t have any embarrassing questions from their good lady wives like “you have another son…?”, only to have a crisis of conscience and acknowledge their contribution after the kids were born. The Filipinas, no doubt tutting their disgust, decided to have the kids anyway and stay here in Japan, but herein lay the problem. Because the mothers were not Japanese and because the fathers, though Japanese, refused to recognize their offspring before their birth, the children were effectively stateless – not officially Japanese even though to all intents and purposes they were, and not really Filipino as they had no real knowledge of the country.

Inevitably a group of these people took their matter to the court and inevitably each and every court in Japan told them “tough, if your Japanese father doesn’t recognize you before you’re born then you ain’t Japanese, sunshine”. Except suddenly the High Court, in full frontal assault on the homogeneity of the Japanese people, suddenly decided that this was unconstitutional and just a little bit silly, seeing as if the fathers had said “yup, that’s my kid” before the birth then there would have been no problem.

This, of course, opens the huge can of worms of parental recognition of offspring. In this country if a father doesn’t recognize a kid as his own then the kid is hugely disadvantaged as the kid will have no residency papers and the like as these things are always done through the male/father and if you have no father (on paper) then you are a non-person. So anyway hopefully this will now come an end, though I won’t be holding my breath.

The second all out assault on the homogeneity of the Japanese people (I rather liked that phrase so I thought I’d use it again, I hope you don’t mind…I also hope you don’t mind about me not writing anything for a month, oh well) came this time from the Diet, or parliament, which makes it even more odd than the High Court telling the govt to sort itself out. This time the Diet unanimously decide that the Ainu People, predominantly of Hokkaido and very north Tohoku are, in fact, indigenous to Japan and not another bunch of bloody foreigners. It is hard to know quite why the govt suddenly decided the acknowledge the Ainu as Japanese (as opposed to forcing them to pretend to be Japanese, as they did after 1871 when they banned the Ainu from doing anything ‘ethnic’ or ‘traditional’) but the fact that the G8 summit will be held in Hokkaido later this year (I think) might have had something to do with it.

An interesting aside on this one is that last September Japan was one of 144 signatories on a UN resolution calling for recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples (though of course the Ainu weren’t indigenous at the time, only indignant). Apparently only 4 countries voted against the resolution, countries with a long history of support, empathy and peaceful coexistence between the white settlers and the indigenous peoples they found on arrival. They are, of course, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (still, at least NZ got a 1/2 decent rugby team out of it).

Housing problems

The last thing for now is that the guru, the little ‘un and yours truly are in the throes of buying a permanent place to live in this country. I have applied for permanent residency, somehow secured a mortgage and nearly bought a flat that would probably have fallen down if a magnitude 5 sneeze had hit it, let alone an earthquake. I promise I will write more on this soon, but tonight I have to go and fill in more forms for a place we saw last Sunday and we like the look of. This time it is a new build, have a look here for more.

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