People’s Contradictory Cries in Tokyo

Ando Isamu, SJ

Spring symbolizes life and hope in Japan where harmony is considered to be a traditional value. Nevertheless, I would like to mention two incidents going on these days in Tokyo that provoke concern in a near future.

On one hand, a group of people living in Japan on expired visas, supported by Japanese citizens, started to hold on May 20th, 2013 are holding off a 5-day sit-in in front of Tokyo’s Immigration headquarters. They protest the official policy to deport visa over-stayers on chartered planes. According to official reports over 3,030 visa violators have received deportation orders this year. The number of visa violators is in the vicinity of 62,000. Official records take only into account “numbers” and make plans to deport 350 people yearly. But behind the cold figures there are children, human people unable to work due to legal restrictions and the sick.

Through the activities of this Jesuit social center we often experience the fear and stress imposed on these people due to the hidden persecution of the actual legal barriers. The persons conducting the actual sit-in hope their voices will be heard at the top of immigration. But the fact is that, except English media, Japanese mass media shows deaf ears up to their cries.

On the other hand, the month of May is watching a series of angry incidents in a central region of Tokyo known by a concentration of Korean shops and Korean population. The place is Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. The protesters, incited by right-wingers are Japanese citizens that oppose the presence of Koreans and Chinese, not only in that district but also in the whole country. The use of bellicose rhetoric with discriminated words, like describing Korean residents as “cockroaches” and instigating to exterminate them has been going on for the last months. We can find that by surfing the Internet. Nationalist groups are behind such movements.

Freedom of speech naturally can foster that. Nevertheless, the delicate Japanese and Korean, Chinese historical relationships together with the fluid situation in North Korea and the controversial island borders with China and South Korea, all these add much concern for the near future. The current public hateful remarks do not foster any kind of mutual understanding and could develop towards an anti-foreigners move. Some think that the imposition of a law to ban people from inciting discrimination would solve the problem. The solution is not as simple. A change of attitudes towards reconciliation is a must. The Jesuit social center is eager to hear positive opinions for real action. We want suggestions.

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