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Sunday, Mar. 9, 2008

READERS IN COUNCIL

No need for 'ethnic groups'


By WILLIAM WETHERALL
Abiko, Chiba

In his March 2 Counterpoint column, "Will Japan's insular mind-set ever be inclusive of others," Roger Pulvers claims that "gaikokujin . . . includes an enormous number of resident, nonethnic Japanese, primarily Koreans and Chinese."

"Japanese" includes anyone who is a national of Japan, regardless of their putative ethnicity. There are no "ethnic" or "nonethnic" subdivisions of Japanese nationality. If by "Koreans" and "Chinese" Pulvers means nationals of the ROK, DPRK, PRC or ROC, then they are foreigners because they are not Japanese. Japanese with other nationalities are classified as Japanese.

No country differentiates between "nationals" and "foreigners" except on the basis of their legal nationality, as race and ethnicity are not matters of international law. Thankfully, they are not matters of domestic Japanese law. Pulvers seems to believe there would be nothing wrong with "breaking down native-born people into ethnic groups for purposes of study and policy determination." The last thing Japan needs are bureaucrats armed with race boxes and laws that equate "national origin" with race or ethnicity -- something Japan has opposed since the "Gentlemen's Agreement" with the United States a century ago.

For many years now, there has been a steady acceleration of newcomers who stay -- more than the annual increase in the total resident alien population implies. The true increase in the new-stayer population is hidden by the decline of the population of Japan-born aliens. The trend toward mainstreaming foreigners alongside Japanese will continue -- as will naturalization.

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.


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