JAPAN’S MINORITIES: The Illusion of Homogeneity, edited by Michael Weiner. London: Routledge, 2008 (1st edition 1997), 234 pp., £19.99 (paper). Jeff Kingston writes for the Japan Times:
“Japan is a multiethnic society largely in denial about its diversity. Here we can examine the contradictions and consequences of this discourse. This second edition published a dozen years after the first is a welcome update with 10 chapters analyzing, inter alia, Japan’s six principle minority groups — Ainu, burakumin, Chinese, Koreans, nikkeijin(Japanese return migrants and their descendants) and Okinawans. Examining contemporary Japan from this perspective offers many insights about identity, ideology, race, ethnicity and the narrative of homogeneity. There may be a better book covering this range of subjects, but I haven’t read it.”
The “Other Other” by John Russell is another notable new contribution that focuses on the black presence in Japan. He notes, “one of the ironies of transplanted Western anti-black artifacts is that many Japanese refuse to recognize them as ‘racist’ in Japan, said items having lost whatever racist meanings attached to them in their previous lives by the virtue of the fact that Japan is believed to lack racial prejudice and discrimination.” Here, the myth of Japan as a racism-free society is dissected in terms of how it serves, “to reinforce and sustain Japanese notions of difference.”
There is much more to savor in this fine collection, one that is ideal for undergraduates and any readers curious about the dynamics of diversity in supposedly “homogeneous” Japan.
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