DEI-Related Issues in a Japanese Context
Reflections on the SPICE-CASEER joint course
The following is a guest article written by Sonosuke Nagai, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo. Nagai enrolled in a course at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Education called “Introduction to International and Cross-Cultural Education,” which was co-taught by SPICE Director Dr. Gary Mukai and former CASEER Director Dr. Hideto Fukudome. SPICE will feature several student reflections on the course in 2023.
This course began with a story that strongly attracted my interest. It is a story of a Japanese immigrant woman who married a U.S. soldier and moved to the United States after World War II. This story that was captured on video included interviews of the Japanese war bride and her family members looking back on that time. This particular story—as well as those of most Japanese war brides—informed me that though they were able to live productive lives, it was difficult for them to establish their identities in their new homes in the United States. I had never known about Japanese war brides before this class. In each class, Mukai presented theoretical models and studies on issues concerning topics like identity, providing me with deep insights. I was especially surprised that SPICE and former long-time journalist with The Washington Post Kathryn Tolbert collaborated on the development of curriculum on the topic of Japanese war brides for students in the United States. This made me reflect upon diversity, equity, and inclusion or DEI-related issues in a Japanese context.
I also learned other topics in this course such as culturally relevant curriculum, women’s empowerment, and multiple intelligences. The discussions were very enlightening for me as I am conducting research on diversity in universities, including in the United States.
Through my research, I have learned that the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in U.S. society has been a history of struggle, even though the United States is a very diverse society. In this respect, there is a significant difference from Japan, where diversity-related goals are often focused on the need to acknowledge the growing diversity within Japan, which is often perceived as homogeneous. I believe that Japan needs to promote issues related to not only diversity but also to equity and inclusion as well.
Diversity-related issues in Japanese society often focus on women and people with disabilities. They certainly have a history of social disadvantages that have yet to be resolved and require ongoing efforts. Furthermore, I feel that Japanese society also needs to look at people who have not extensively been discussed in the context of diversity, such as Zainichi Koreans in Japan. I feel that Japanese society should pay more attention to the identity of Zainichi Koreans and others like Zainichi Chinese. It was this course that made me think about these issues.
This course has provided me with cultural experiences and insights that have made me more aware of the importance of respecting diverse perspectives and continuing to set goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will continue to pursue my own research with high motivation.