chapter  4
21 Pages

Can tabunkakyōsei be a public philosophy of integration? Immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism in Japan


Introduction The 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States gave rise to “much talk of the ‘securitization’ of migration” (Castles 2007:34). While strengthening the already existent perception of migration as a security issue, it also confronts us with a difficult question: how can we best integrate immigrants into a host society without causing severe damage to public security? For Japan, this in effect means a challenging task to deal with a new kind of security issue – the task that inevitably emerges if Japan is to break with its official stance of non-immigration and hence to adopt a pro-immigration policy. As is well known, Japan has adhered to its non-immigration policy for a long time, so that it is regarded as “an anomaly” among developed industrial countries in not relying heavily on foreign labor (Hollifield 1992: 15). This official stance has remained unchanged even by the existence of de facto labor migrants coming through “back-door” and “side-door” channels (Thränhardt 1999).1 As a result, Japanese public discussion has mainly focused on immigration control, leaving integration policy underdeveloped. In this regard, Japan contrasts sharply with Germany, because the latter has enforced a new immigration law (Zuwanderungsgesetz), which, devoting one chapter to integration, marks an important move towards integration policy (Groß 2006). Such a decisive break with the political mantra that “Germany is not an immigration country at all” may be unthinkable for the Japanese government. Turning to the local level, however, it becomes clear that many efforts have been made to fill the gap, by taking measures to integrate foreign residents into local communities. The idea underlying these policies is normally called “tabunkakyōsei,” literally meaning a coexistence of multiple cultures. Roughly speaking, it denotes an idea concerning institutions and practices that accommodate cultural diversity and the needs that go with them, so that it can be regarded as the Japanese version of multiculturalism. Over a decade, tabunkakyōsei policies have functioned as a local substitute for a national integration policy. In recent years, the national government has made a cautious move towards immigration and integration policy, by explicitly drawing on the idea of

tabunkakyōsei. This move was precipitated by concerns over the shrinking and aging Japanese population (hence workforce) and requested by local municipalities having a concentrated population of foreigners.2 One of the most prominent political actors in this regard is the MIC. The ministry launched a study group on the promotion of tabunkakyōsei in 2005; this group eventually published a report in 2007 (MIC 2007). This shift was backed by two of the prime minister’s consultative bodies, the Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform and the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy 2007). In this context, it is noteworthy that the Nippon Keidanren – a very influential business interest group, which advocates a pro-immigration policy – appeals to the same idea in a recent report on policy recommendations (Nippon Keidanren 2004). Seen this way, tabunkakyōsei seems to be gradually gaining currency as “a public philosophy of integration.”3 To be sure, considering the deep-seated struggles and conflicting interests among bureaucrats (see Vogt 2007), the rise of tabunkakyōsei to an official philosophy of integration is unlikely to come about without facing and overcoming the opposition of vested interests and historical nationalistic or xenophobic views.4 Yet, this move to recognize tabunkakyōsei policies practiced at the local level as a matter of official public policy seems to deserve a warm welcome when considering the incoherent and halfway attitude of the Japanese government on immigration policy: it practically opens side and back doors to immigrant workers, while officially denying this fact and taking no positive measures for integration policy at the national level (Morris-Suzuki 2002: 169). However, before embracing the move, it is worthwhile to critically examine the tabunkakyōsei idea as a public philosophy of integration.5 For this purpose, I will discuss three main questions. The first question is: what are the basic tenets of tabunkakyōsei as a public philosophy of integration? By integration policy, I understand a set of public measures to incorporate immigrants into the major social institutions of a host society. The second question is: what sort of citizenship does it envisage? The third question is: how does it respond to the issue of public anxiety in the context of the advancing political economy of deregulation? The first two questions, which are concerned with the basic question about the nature of tabunkakyōsei, probably do not require any further explanation. Yet, the significance of the last question is not self-evident. So I will briefly explain it in two points. First, as Joseph Carens (2005: 42) rightly observes, any policies aimed at promoting the integration of immigrants should be inserted into pre-existing contexts. As I will explain below, one of the major sociopolitical contexts in contemporary Japan is the political economy of deregulation. Hence, we need to critically examine the tabunkakyōsei model of integration in order to see how these contexts actually work. Second, by aiming at multicultural coexistence, the idea of tabunkakyōsei can be regarded as a Japanese version of multiculturalism. Concerning multiculturalism, there have been public and scholarly criticisms that blame it for being narrowly fixed on the public recognition of cultural differences, thereby neglecting socioeconomic concerns.6 Therefore, the political

economy of deregulation, which gives rise to various sources of insecurity, provides a vantage point to see whether the tabunkakyōsei model can appropriately meet the anti-culturalist challenge. In this chapter, I will argue that due to its basic tenets of culturalist orientation and heavy reliance on local activism – my answer to the first question – the tabunkakyōsei public philosophy of integration reveals itself as limited in scope and effectiveness. Concerning the second question, I will show that the tabunkakyōsei model is problematic in being disconnected from citizenship law, which results in regarding immigrants only as local residents, but not as future national citizens. Concerning the third question, the public philosophy in question is problematic in failing to appropriately respond to insecurity problems emerging from the political economy of deregulation, thereby strengthening the public perception of immigrants as a source of insecurity.7 This chapter is structured as follows. In the first section, I will present the basic features of the tabunkakyōsei model. In the second section, I will show that the tabunkakyōsei concept of integration is problematic due to its disconnectedness from citizenship law. In the third section, I will discuss how problematic this public philosophy of integration is with respect to the major policy orientation towards deregulation and small government. In the fourth section, I will argue that the tabunkakyōsei model not only fails to appropriately respond to public anxiety caused by the political economy of deregulation, but also potentially aggravates exclusionary politics towards foreigners.