Japanese Education in the 21st Century
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Contents of This Chapter
  1. 10-1    KOREAN CHILDREN
    2. 10-1-2    KOREAN SCHOOLS
      1. Human Rights and Korean Children
      1. Korean Names
    1. 10-2-1    NEWCOMERS
      1. Japanese Language Education
      2. Newcomer Students
      3. Foreign Students in Ume Elementary School
    3. 10-2-3    REFUGEE CHILDREN
  4. NOTES

Foreign students include third- and fourth-generation Korean children, newly arrived Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children and refugee children.  Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools and receive the same education, while about 10 percent of Korean children attend Korean schools.  The number of recently arrived foreign children has increased since the 1990s with the arrival of many Nikkei workers.  Remedial education and ethnic education are provided for foreign students so that they can be proud of their ethnicity and will overcome academic challenges and linguistic barriers.  This chapter will present and discuss education for Korean children and the children of newcomers, such as Nikkei, Chinese returnee, and refugee children. 



After Japan’s colonization of Korea in 1910, the number of Korean migrants rapidly increased in Japan.  In 1930, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that Korean children in Japan would be required to enroll in elementary schools as Japanese nationals.1  Approximately 7,000 Korean elementary school students out of 40,000 school-aged Korean children attended elementary schools.  Only 18.5 percent enrolled, compared to the nearly 100 percent enrollment rate for Japanese children in 1931.  By 1945, approximately 70 percent of Korean children were enrolled in elementary schools (Lee 1999:136-137).  However, many of them enrolled in night elementary schools because they had to work during the daytime.  In 1941, in Kōbe, 84.6 percent of night elementary school students were Korean.  By the end of war, Korean children became the primary users of night elementary schools (Yasukawa 1998:573-575).

In 1945, Korea was liberated, and Koreans living in Japan formed the League of Koreans in Japan (Chōren).  Since April 1946, the Chōren has established Korean ethnic schools that teach Korean language and history.  By October 1946, there were 525 elementary schools with 42,182 students and 1,022 teachers, four middle schools with 1,180 students and 52 teachers, and 10 youth schools with 714 students and 54 teachers.  Fifth- and sixth-graders took four hours of Korean language and two hours of Japanese language classes per week (Lee 1999:139-141). 

On the other hand, in 1946, another Korean residents’ organization, the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), was founded by nationalist Koreans who opposed the left-leaning Chōren.  Mindan established its own Korean ethnic schools by April 1948: 52 elementary schools with 6,297 students, two middle schools with 242 students, and two vocational-training schools with 289 students (Lee 1999:142).

The Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) in the General Headquarters (GHQ) allowed Korean ethnic schools to teach Korean language as an addition to the regular curriculum in 1947.  However, in 1948, the GHQ changed its stance and opposed the ethnic education of Korean residents.  The MOE, following orders from the GHQ, sent an official notice in 1948 that Korean ethnic schools should obey the School Education Law and teach a Korean language class as an extracurricular class.  Otherwise, ethnic schools would be closed.  Many Koreans demonstrated against this order. 

In 1949, the Japanese government dissolved the two largest communist-dominated Korean associations, the Chōren and the Minsei (Korea Democratic Youth Association), under the order of GHQ.  The GHQ ordered the closure of most Korean ethnic schools.  Parents, teachers, and students together fought the closures in order to save their schools.  Thirty-nine ethnic schools were opened privately. 

In Hyōgo Prefecture, more than 30,000 people were arrested for disobeying the GHQ’s order.  In Osaka, more than forty schools were closed and about 10,000 Korean students were integrated into nearby Japanese schools.  Korean language education was prohibited in elementary schools and was taught as a foreign language in middle schools.  Korean children learned Korean in an extracurricular class in Japanese schools (Kang 1994:80-82).  Some Korean schools stayed open as unofficial volunteer schools.  Some Korean schools became branches of Japanese public schools that offered ethnic classes.  As a result, 20,000 Korean children were able to receive ethnic education in unofficial schools or branch schools, and the rest of the 40,000 Korean students were transferred into Japanese schools or withdrew (Lee 1999:145). 

After the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Koreans in Japan were no longer considered Japanese nationals and became resident aliens.  Therefore, Korean children were exempted from compulsory elementary and middle education.  In 1953, the Japanese government declared that Korean children could attend Japanese schools if they wished.  In 1953, the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture recognized the Kyoto Korean school as a special school, and other prefectures followed suit. 

By 1955, many Korean schools operated as private miscellaneous schools.  Korean schools are legally regarded as “miscellaneous schools” under Article 83 of Japan’s School Education Law.  Miscellaneous schools are not as well subsidized by the government as accredited private schools, but have more freedom to design their curriculum, and are not bound by the MOE’s Course of Study. 

The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), formed in 1955, is an affiliate of North Korea that runs North Korean schools while the Mindan, affiliated with South Korea, operates South Korean schools.  Graduates of these high schools do not receive the educational credentials that make them eligible for college admissions, and are required to take a national examination (known as high school equivalency exams) to be eligible for college admission.  Currently many private universities and colleges exempt these graduates from taking a national examination for college eligibility. 

By 2003, 613,791 Korean residents registered in Japan included 471,756 “special permanent residents”2 and 39,807 “general permanent residents” (Hōmushō 2004a).  In 1994, 67 percent of Koreans belong to South Korea (Zainippon 1997:7).  Korean residents are concentrated in the Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto and Hyōgo Prefectures) and Tokyo metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefectures.  In 1998, Osaka City had 99,878 Koreans, and especially, the ward of Ikuno in Osaka City had 36,700 Koreans, one out of four residents (Paku 1999:20).  However, the number of special permanent resident-status Koreans has been falling because of intermarriage and naturalization. 

Korean children in Japan are mostly the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of people who arrived in Japan between 1910 and 1945.  Very few third- and fourth-generation Koreans speak Korean.  They use Japanese names and have Japanese friends.  Legally they are Korean nationals, but many are culturally, linguistically, and socially Japanese.  The number of intermarriages and naturalizations has been increasing among Korean youths.  Many older Koreans have resisted naturalization because of bitter memories of Japan’s colonization of Korea.  As time passes, more Koreans have less resistance accepting Japanese citizenship.  There is also a new trend to preserve Korean identity and names even after naturalization.

Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools.  In most cases, Korean children use Japanese names and are barely distinguishable from their Japanese peers.  Some schools that have large numbers of Korean students provide after-school ethnic activities, clubs or classes for Korean children. 

Comparatively, about 10 percent of Korean children attend Korean schools, most of which are under the control of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), affiliated with North Korea.  These schools, established by Korean residents after World War II, are classified as miscellaneous schools and they emphasize ethnic education for Korean children, free from the guidance of the MOE.  All children have the right to be educated, regardless of their ethnic background or nationality.  Although Korean students are welcomed in Japanese public schools, many choose to attend ethnic schools instead.

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The ethnic schools under the Chongryun, a North Korean affiliate, emphasize ethnic education in order to develop Korean identity and pride among Korean students as “overseas nationals” of North Korea, according to the guidelines issued by North Korea.  The number of Korean students in ethnic schools under the Chongryun had increased until the 1960s as the overwhelming majority of Koreans in Japan were North Korean (e.g., 85.8% in 1950 and 79.9% in 1960) (Zainippon 1997:7), and had been very enthusiastic about North Korea and its ruler, Kim Il Sung.  Kim Il Sung sent scholarships and educational expenses for Korean children in Japan to the Chongryun, and welcomed Korean residents to North Korea.  Remittances from North Korea since 1958 had totaled 23 billion yen by 1977 (Lee 1981:170).  In April 1966, more than 140 ethnic schools with 14 branches, 30 ethnic classes, 208 afternoon and night classes were serving 40,000 students (Lee 1999:150).  In the 1960s and the early 1970s, the ideology of North Korea and Kim Il Sung dominated the Chongryun ethnic schools.  All fourth graders joined the Young Pioneers and learned about the childhood of Kim Il Sung.  In the early 1970s, when the portrait of Kim Il Sung became popular among the Chongryun, schools made sure that all students had a portrait of Kim Il Sung at home (Ryang 1997:26-28, 101). 

The number of students in these schools has decreased from 46,000 in 1960 to 11,000 in 2003, as many Koreans opted to register as South Koreans after the 1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty granted special permanent residency for South Koreans (Zainippon 1997:67; AS February 21, 2003).  For the past ten years, the number of North Korean schools dropped by more than 30 schools and 6,000 students (AS February 18, 2004).  Also, by the 1970s, many Koreans were disenchanted with North Korea.  The decreasing number of students has caused financial crises among the ethnic schools whose budgets depend on tuition and donations from parents. 

The schools also faced the need for curriculum and textbook reforms in order to teach third-generation Korean children who did not speak Korean at home and did not plan to move back to Korea.  After the mid-1970s, the textbooks included more content relating to Japan, as the active first-generation members of Chongryun were replaced by second-generation Koreans.  The 1983 textbook and curriculum reform changed all textbooks modeled on North Korean textbooks into textbooks with more Japanese content.  In the late 1980s, schools started to take Japanese holidays as well as North Korean holidays (Ryang 1997:25, 180; Lee 1999:155). 

Textbooks and curricula were revised again in 1993 in order to accommodate the needs of third- and fourth-generation Koreans.  References to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were substantially reduced, and “ideological education” was removed from the curriculum (Ryang 1997:51).  Social science textbooks began to include more descriptions of Japanese history, geography, politics, and economics.  Mathematics textbooks are virtually identical to their Japanese counterparts.  In Japanese language arts, Japanese classics such as the Story of the Heike Clan are included (Lee 1999:154-5).  In September 2002, the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were removed from classrooms.  History education that was previously based on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will be changed into more general history education (AS September 7, 2002).  

However, the emphasis upon ethnic education remains.  More than one-fourth of total unit hours in elementary and middle ethnic schools are devoted to Korean language arts, and in the social science curriculum, North Korean history, geography, and civics still play a significant role (Lee 1999:154-155).  In reality, many students have a difficult time learning the Korean language and academic subjects in Korean because they do not speak Korean outside of school.  Group awareness of Korean identity is strong among the students because they have the same ethnic background (Moriguchi 1999:407-410).

In contrast, the Mindan operates four Korean schools, two of which are accredited private schools and two of which are miscellaneous schools.  The overwhelming majority of Koreans who are affiliated with the Mindan have sent their children to Japanese schools.  More than 85 percent of students at Tokyo Kankoku School are the children of non-resident Koreans from South Korea whose parents came to Japan temporarily for work (Zainippon 1997:78).  The other three schools in the Kansai area where Korean residents are concentrated consist mostly of third- and fourth-generation Korean children. 

The Mindan’s Korean schools teach Korean language and history, in addition to the general subjects in accordance with the MOE’s Course of Study.  They encourage the students to study in South Korea as college students or exchange students.  The Mindan also organizes summer training camps for elementary and middle school students, where they learn about Korean language and culture.  In 1995, 1,656 students participated in 38 summer camps.  In addition, the Mindan provides short-term lecture courses for Korean studies in “ethnic colleges” for Korean and Japanese adults as part of a lifelong learning program (Zainippon 1997:82-83).  Teaching Korean history and culture to Japanese people is regarded as part of human rights education.

Human Rights and Korean Children

Korean schools are classified as miscellaneous schools (kakushu gakkō), similar to driving schools or cooking schools.  Because of this status, the students receive far fewer public subsidies, and require special permission to participate in formal athletic competitions.  Moreover, the graduates of Korean schools had to take a national examination for college eligibility before applying to national universities, which did not recognize credits from ethnic schools.  However, miscellaneous schools have greater freedom to design their own curriculum and pedagogy.

Some prefectural governments subsidize ethnic schools, but the subsidies for ethnic schools are much less generous.  For example, private schools receive more than four times as many prefectural subsidies as ethnic schools in the Kanagawa prefecture (Lee 1999:159-160).  Donations to ethnic schools, which account for 40 percent of school budgets, do not have tax credits because of their status as miscellaneous schools (Pak 1992:46).  Public subsidies to public, private, and foreign/ethnic schools vary depending on the degree of their autonomy from the MOE.  Since these Korean students, like their Japanese counterparts, are the future workforce and residents of Japan, the government needs to offer more subsidies to these schools, because they are more like accredited schools than are other miscellaneous schools.

Concerning the “unequal access” of Korean children to higher education, which the Human Rights Committee warned about in 1998 (U.N. Committee 1998a), the Japanese government argues that the graduates of Korean schools do not complete a Japanese curriculum, and, therefore, have to take a university entrance qualification examination before taking a college entrance examination (U.N. Committee 1998b).

Since 2000, any 16-year-old or older can take a national examination for college eligibility, and they are eligible to apply for college when they turn 18 (Monbushō 1999b:12).  Prior to the 2000 revision, the prerequisite to taking a university entrance qualification examination was the academic ability of middle school graduates or the students attending evening or correspondence high schools.  Prior to 2000, the government did not recognize the graduates of ethnic middle schools as having the academic ability of Japanese middle school graduates.  Therefore, the students from ethnic schools had to attend Japanese evening high schools or correspondence high schools first in order to obtain eligibility to take the university entrance qualification examination. 

In 1999, the MOE announced that graduates from Korean schools and international schools could take the national examination for college eligibility without any credits from Japanese schools (AS July 9, 1999).  More private, prefectural, municipal colleges have permitted graduates from ethnic high schools to take an entrance examination just as graduates from regular Japanese high schools do.  As of 1994, 162 out of 406 private colleges and 17 out of 48 prefectural and municipal colleges accept graduates from Korean high schools without a national examination for college eligibility (Lee 1999:159).

The MOE had prohibited all national universities from taking graduates from ethnic high schools who had not passed a national examination for college eligibility until the 2004-5 academic year.  However, almost 80 percent of presidents of national universities preferred waiving the examination requirement (AS July 2, 2003).  Requiring a national examination for college eligibility of graduates of ethnic high schools is, in fact, a redundant practice.  All students who apply for national universities have to take the National Universal Test and the entrance examinations assigned by each national university.  Anyone who passes these entrance examinations from highly competitive national universities is most likely to pass a national examination for college eligibility, which is a high school equivalency exam.  There is no reason why students from ethnic high schools have to take a national examination for college eligibility.  Finally, the MOE decided to entrust each college with the authority to examine the academic quality of those without high school equivalency, such as graduates of Korean schools, high school dropouts, and middle school graduates, without the requirement of the national examination for college eligibility from the college examination for the 2004-5 academic year.

Almost all national universities decided to exempt graduates of Korean schools from the requirement of the national examination for college eligibility.  Furthermore, the MOE decided to change the national examination for college eligibility into the high school equivalency examination so that those who pass the examination will have the same status as high school graduates officially.  For graduate schools, since 1999, each graduate school, including graduate schools of national universities, has the right to decide on a case-by-case basis if an applicant from a Korean University of Chongryun should be admitted or not.

For a long time, students of ethnic schools had been prohibited from participating in athletic competitions.  However, in recent years, Japanese sports associations have finally accepted the participation of ethnic schools.  Since 1991, the Japan High School Baseball Association has allowed foreign and ethnic schools to participate in its competitions.  Since 1994, the National Association of High School Physical Education has invited foreign and ethnic schools to compete, and the Japan Association of Middle School Physical Education has, since 1997, recognized the participation of foreign schools (AS January 16, 2001).

Derogatory remarks and violence against Korean students, especially female students, are common, especially when relations between Japan and North Korea sour.  Some examples include the allegations that North Korea was stockpiling nuclear weapons in 1994, and the 1998 North Korean ballistic missile test that launched missiles from North Korea into the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean (AS September 10, 1998). 

Since Korean girls commute to their schools wearing the chima chogori (Korean traditional clothes), they are easily recognized and harassed by Japanese people, especially right-wingers who hate to see North Korea threaten Japan.  Because of crises such as the Tendom incident in 1998 when North Korea launched missiles, six cases of the harassment of Korean students and schools were reported to the police, including hate crimes against girls wearing the chima chogori (U.N. Human 2000).  Concerned for the safety of Korean students, the Bureau of Education in the Chongryun notified 61 ethnic middle and high schools that they should allow girls to wear Japanese-style uniforms, and not the chima chogori until they arrive at school (AS March 6, 1999).  Insults, bullying, and attacks against Koreans violate their human rights.  The Human Rights Bureau undertook a series of vigorous street campaigns in order to eliminate violence and harassment of Koreans.  Human rights education helps to change public attitudes about Korean residents of Japan.

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Most Korean children attend Japanese schools and have the same education as Japanese children.  As of 1997, 83 percent of all school age Korean children in Osaka Prefecture go to Japanese schools.  Most Korean students use Japanese names and are indistinguishable from Japanese students at school.  There is no Japanese language education for third- and fourth-generation Korean children who are already fluent in Japanese.  After the 1991 memorandum of the Japanese and South Korean governments, which enshrined the rights of Korean residents in Japan, education for Korean children has improved.  Ethnic classes are recognized as extracurricular programs.  Korean residents have obtained the right to be hired as full-time public teachers (Lee 1999:160, 169).

The educational attainment of Korean children has almost reached the national average.  In the 1950s and 1960s, a higher percentage of absenteeism, dropouts and juvenile crimes were recorded among Korean teenagers because of poverty at home and discrimination in schools and workplaces.  In 1963, the estimated rate of delinquency among Korean youths was 28.17 per 10,000, much higher than the average of 4.49 per 10,000 in Kōbe (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:266).  In 1976, 88.2 percent of Korean students went on to high school, compared to 93.7 percent of all middle school graduates in Hyōgo Prefecture.  Only half of them went on to public academic high schools and 8.2 percent of them (4% in Hyōgo Prefecture) went to evening high schools.  In 1976, only 26.3 percent of Korean high school graduates went on to higher education, compared to 45.8 percent in Hyōgo Prefecture (Rohlen 1981:196-197).  The disparity has decreased over the last several decades, though the enrollment of Korean and other minority children in high schools and colleges remains lower than the national average.

Korean residents frequently have difficulty obtaining employment at Japanese companies because of their alien status.  Governmental employment has been largely closed to Korean residents because Japanese citizenship is required for public service, though some local governments have started to hire foreigners.  Many Korean residents are self-employed or work in family businesses more than their Japanese counterparts.

However, the employment rate of young Koreans is much closer to that of their Japanese counterparts.  Since 1997, in order to prevent employment discrimination, all job applicants have to use the same application form that does not require a family registry address, family occupation, or family’s educational history in order to prevent employers from discriminating against applicants because of their origins.  The Buraku Liberation League (BLL) lobbied hard to implement uniform job application forms for Buraku children.  The same application forms also help eliminate employment discrimination against Korean children.

By law, Korean children have the right to receive ethnic education to preserve their culture and identity.  Minority rights in Japan have improved as the government ratified the Human Rights Covenants in 1979, enacted the Fundamental Human Rights Law in 1993, and launched a human rights awareness campaign for the Decade of Human Rights Education (1995-2004).  The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1994, makes special provisions for the rights of minority children.  A minority child has the right “to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language” (Article 30).

Localities that are home to a large Korean population promote ethnic education for Korean children in cooperation with their parents and teachers.  Ethnic education gives Korean children an opportunity to learn the Korean language and culture with other Korean children, and to nurture their ethnic pride and solidarity through group activities.  Ethnic education in schools and the community have been shown to help Korean children develop high self-esteem and pride in their ethnic identity.  Furthermore, it helps Japanese children better understand their Korean peers and respect their ethnic identity.

Korean ethnic classes and the Korean Children’s Associations were founded in the early 1950s when Korean children were sent into Japanese schools because of the forced closure of Korean schools.  In 1953, 8,268 Korean students attended 151 ethnic classes in 95 schools (Nakajima 1997:321-324).  Many of these classes have since been abolished.  In Osaka, eleven ethnic classes created by the 1948 memorandum between the governor of Osaka and Korean representatives still remain.  These are funded by the prefecture and are taught by full-time instructors who handle foreign students (Hester 2000:178).  In 1971, teachers in Osaka who were concerned with the education of Korean children founded the Concerned Society for the Education of Korean Students in Japanese Schools, which in 1983 grew into the National Conference for Research on the Education of Koreans in Japan.  Since 1972, the Osaka prefectural government, whose jurisdiction includes the largest Korean population in Japan, adopted a set of principles and directives for the education of Korean children.  Many municipal administrations of areas that have many Koreans followed suit.  Teachers, parents, and volunteers have also formed extracurricular clubs for Korean children. 

After the 1991 memorandum between Japan and South Korea, the MOE started promoting extracurricular ethnic classes for Korean children.  Many ethnic classes were introduced in the 1990s.  In 1998, Osaka City had 70 schools that were teaching ethnic classes to 2,000 students enrolled.  In Osaka Prefecture, 3,000 of the 26,000 Korean students in Japanese schools attended ethnic classes.  However, about half of the Korean students in Osaka’s public schools do not have access to school-based ethnic education.  Since 1992, these classes have received some city funding, but many instructors work as volunteers.  However, in 1997, Osaka City started to make municipal employment contracts with the instructors of ethnic clubs (Lee 1999:168, 170; Hester 2000:178, 181). 

These classes meet one to four times a week, and students learn not only Korean language and history but also Korean music and drama.  Japanese students are welcome to participate in some of these clubs.  According to a 1995 ethnographic study in M Elementary School in the Ikuno ward where about 40,000 Koreans reside, 70 percent of the 366 students were Koreans.  About 100 fourth-grade Korean students studied Korean language and culture in Japanese, with Korean greetings at the beginning and end of class (Nomura 1996:69-70).

Another ethnographical survey describes how one elementary school in Osaka has Korean classes every Wednesday afternoon, where 20 students from the first- to sixth-grade learn songs, the Korean writing system, folk tales, history, and geography, and perform folk dance and music with a third-generation Korean teacher.  Most children have both Korean and Japanese names, and they address each other by Korean names in class (Hester 2000:175).  In some high schools in Osaka, Kōbe, and Hiroshima, Korean students organize their own culture study groups and clubs (Umakoshi 1991:287). 

In communities where many Korean residents live, Korean residents often take the lead in organizing Korean Children’s Associations, and provide ethnic classes and human-rights awareness classes for Koreans and Japanese people in local community centers.  The Fureai community center in Kawasaki City operates a Children’s Association, classes for human-rights awareness, adult classes, home education classes, ethnic culture lectures, literacy classes, and other courses.  In Osaka, several Korean Children’s Associations provide summer camps and activities (Lee 1999:170).  In addition, the Chongryun and the Mindan have their own branch organizations for Korean youths and children. 

Korean children mainly learn Korean language, culture and customs from their parents.  In 1993, 40 percent of Korean youths received some form of ethnic education (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:29).  Korean parents’ attitudes toward their ethnicity most effectively accounted for their children’s participation in ethnic education.  The parents who keep their Korean traditions alive at home or belong to an ethnic organization are more likely to encourage their children’s involvement in Korean education and organizations.  Korean children make friends with other Korean children through ethnic education, activities, and organizations (Fukuoka and Kim 1997). 

Many Korean parents want their children to have ethnic education, probably because of minority-rights movements in schools and in the community.  According to a 1989 survey of the parents of Korean children in Japanese schools in the Kansai area, 43.9 percent thought that ethnic education was necessary, while 40 percent thought that ethnic education was necessary only if their children had an interest in learning about their culture.  Those who claimed that ethnic education was necessary were more likely to be fathers, first-generation immigrants, college graduates, graduates from Korean schools, or graduates from schools in Korea.  They also tended to speak about Korea and Korean identity more frequently at home, and to have more Korean friends (Kyoto 1990:40-41). 

More parents wanted their children to study ethnic education in 1989 than in 1979.  Almost two-thirds of parents wanted their children to keep their Korean identity, and more than half of Korean parents also wanted their children to keep their Korean nationality (Kyoto 1990:41, 47).  Positive attitudes toward ethnic identity and education have given children high self-esteem and ethnic pride.  Korean children can not only learn about ethnic education at home from their parents, but they can also learn about it in Korean schools, ethnic classes in Japanese schools, and ethnic organizations such as Korean Children’s Associations. 

Korean Names

Most Korean residents in Japan use Japanese names, out of necessity and convenience.  In 1940, Koreans were de facto forced to change their Korean names into Japanese names under the assimilation policies of the Japanese government during the colonization of Korea (1910-1945).  Most Koreans resisted the change because they respected their Korean ancestral names.  When Korea was liberated in 1945, most Koreans happily discarded their Japanese names in favor of their original Korean names. 

Korean last names are distinguishable from Japanese last names.  Therefore, using a Korean last name announces an individual’s ethnic identity.  Most Korean residents in Japan have kept their Japanese names in order to avoid potential discrimination and prejudice.

Korean children usually do not use Korean names because they are afraid of being teased, ostracized, or ridiculed by Japanese children.  In 1997, 13.5 percent of Korean elementary school children in Osaka used their Korean names, including 26.1 percent in elementary schools with ethnic classes and 7.1 percent in elementary schools without ethnic classes (Lee 1999:168).  Ethnic education seems to give Korean children positive attitudes about Korean identity, and encourages them to use their Korean names.  Also, Korean children nurture their ethnic identity by using their Korean names in ethnic classes.  According to a 1993 survey of South Korean youths, 40 percent of respondents said they had been mistreated because of their ethnicity.  Bullying is the most common type of mistreatment mentioned by children between the fourth and sixth grades (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:46-7).

The teachers belonging to the National Conference on Research for the Education of Koreans in Japan started a movement to encourage the use of Korean names in schools and to educate Japanese children to welcome Korean classmates.  Teachers delivered lessons in Korean history and culture in social studies classes and school special events, in order for Japanese children to understand why Korean children are in Japan.  Since 1981, the Tokyo Board of Education has officially used Korean names, but Korean students and parents can decide how they want to use their names in schools.

The decision to use or not to use a Korean name is a family decision.  The majority of Korean children do not have access to ethnic classes or do not know other Korean children in their schools.  Therefore, using their Korean names can be an act of great courage.  Through the nationwide promotion of multicultural education and human rights education, Japanese children will overcome their prejudices against Korean children so that Korean children can feel more comfortable using their Korean names.

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Japanese students learn about Korean culture, history, and the human rights of Korean residents in social science classes.  Korean issues can be also discussed in long homeroom hours or special activities, such as the annual Human Rights Meeting in December.  In addition to textbooks, students can learn about Korean issues by watching movies and videos, or by listening to a talk given by a Korean resident.  Communication with Koreans helps students become familiar with Koreans and Korean issues, especially in those schools with no “proclaimed” Korean students.  In Osaka Prefecture, a human rights textbook called Ningen (“People”) is used as a supplement to the regular textbook.  Each volume of Ningen contains one story or poem about Korea or Koreans (Aoki 2000:166).

History textbooks emphasize Japan’s cultural debt to Korea and the good relations between Japan and Korea from ancient times through the Early Modern period, with the exception of Japan’s invasion of Korea in the late sixteenth century.  History textbooks portray Japan as a victimizer and Korea as a victim during the colonization of Korea (1910-1945).  The textbooks mention the massacre of Korean residents after the 1923 Greater Tokyo Earthquake, the suppression of independence movements during the colonization period, the wartime forced labor of Koreans, and the use of Korean comfort women. 

Since the 1980s, leftist historians have placed greater emphasis upon Japan’s war crimes against Asia and written extensively about the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) from the perspective of Japan’s Asian victims.  After foreign criticism during the 1982 textbook controversy over the invasion of China, the government has given liberal and leftist textbook authors unprecedented latitude to depict Japan as a victimizer.  In response to the leftists, right-wing scholars and leaders led by Fujioka Nobukatsu of Tokyo University, have criticized history textbooks that are too favorable toward Korea, as biased, apologetic, and masochistic (Nishio and Fujioka 1996).

Japanese students need to know the truth of Japan’s colonization and war crimes in order to build good relations with Korea.  However, the overconcentration on war crimes in the textbooks may cause Japanese students to oversimplify the situation by seeing only the bad Japanese victimizer and the poor Korean victim, and thus feel uncomfortable learning about the Asia-Pacific War.  Even leftist historians argue that the stories about Japanese people who opposed the colonization of Korea and spoke against the discrimination of Koreans should be included in the history textbooks.  Otherwise, students would be uncomfortable learning only about the negative behavior of Japanese people, and might have negative feelings toward Korea (Nichikan 1993:104). 

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10-2-1    NEWCOMERS

Since the early 1980s, foreigners from Asia without working permits have entered Japan as temporary workers.  These newcomers are distinguished from Korean and Chinese permanent residents whose parents and grandparents came to Japan before 1945.3  The first newcomers were young women from Taiwan and the Philippines who entered the entertainment industry in the early 1980s.  Later, during the “bubble economy” and the labor shortage of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a massive inflow of young single men from Asian countries, such as China, South Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iran came as undocumented manual workers in hopes of earning the highly valued Japanese yen. 

In order to resolve the severe shortage of unskilled workers in small and mid-sized companies, the revised 1990 Immigration Control Law allowed the children and grandchildren of Japanese nationals who had emigrated to Latin America and elsewhere, to come and work in Japan unconditionally.  A huge number of Nikkeijin, “Japanese migrants or Japanese descendents with foreign nationality,” mainly from Latin America, flooded into Japan.  The majority of Nikkei who came to Japan are Nikkei (“Japanese-”) Brazilians. 

In 1988, Brazil had the largest overseas Japanese community, 1.23 million Nikkeijin (“Japanese-Brazilians”) (Sellek 1997:187).  The Brazilian economy had suffered hyperinflation of 1,500 percent between the late 1980s and 1990 (Nihon Rōdō 1995:1).  In 1997, of the nearly 250,000 registered Latin American aliens in Japan, 82 percent were Brazilians and 15 percent were Peruvians.  The first-generation Nikkeijin with Japanese nationality and Nikkeijin with dual citizenship do not count as registered aliens, but they account for perhaps 12 percent of the population of Nikkeijin from Latin America.  Therefore, in 1997, the number of Nikkeijin from Latin America amounted to more than 278,000 (Kitagawa 1998:199-200).  They are concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan areas and the Tōkai area, where many automobile plants and factories are located.  In 2002, there were 234,000 Nikkei workers, 1.4 times more than 1992, though the number has not changed much since 1997.  According to a 2002 survey, Nikkei workers stayed in Japan for 10 years or more (28%), 7 to 10 years (21%), 5 to 7 years (16%), 3 to 5 years (13%), 1 to 3 years (16%) and less than one year (5%) (Kōseirōdōshō 2004).

As of 2003, the number of registered foreigners amounts to 1,915,030, the largest on record, 1.50 percent of the Japan’s population of 127,619,000.  Registered foreigners include Koreans (32.1%), Chinese (24.1%), Brazilians (14.3%), Filipinos (9.7%), Peruvians (2.8%), Americans (2.5%), and others (14.5%)(Hōmushō 2004a).  As of 2004, there are estimated 219,418 undocumented aliens, a number that has been decreasing since 1993.  They are mainly Koreans (21.2%), Chinese (15.3%), Filipinos (14.3%) and Thais (6.5%)(Hōmushō 2004b).  Foreigners are concentrated in the metropolitan areas around Tokyo and Osaka.

Foreign children include the children of the newcomers who need Japanese language education and the children of “old comers,” that is, third- and fourth-generation Korean and Chinese children.  Most foreign children who need Japanese language education in primary and secondary schools are Nikkei children, the grandchildren of Chinese returnees, refugee children (mainly from Vietnam), children of non-resident foreigners, and Japanese returnee children from overseas.  The majority are Nikkei children.  Nikkei children are not immigrant children who plan to stay in Japan.  Most parents of Nikkei children plan to return to their country in a few years, though more and more Nikkei parents are, in fact, staying in Japan for a longer time.

It was not until 1991 that the MOE conducted its first survey on Japanese language education in schools because Japanese schools had not had foreign students who needed Japanese language training.  About 5,500 foreign children of newcomers were counted in 1991.  According to a 2003 MOE survey, 19,042 foreign children needed to learn Japanese language education in public elementary, middle, high schools, six-year secondary schools, and special schools.  The majority of municipal governments (565) had one to four students who needed Japanese language education in elementary and middle schools, and 139 municipal governments had at least 30 (Monbukagakushō 2004c).

Half of those students are Nikkei children from Brazil and other Latin American countries.  Portuguese-speaking students, 36 percent of those who need Japanese language education, are Nikkei children from Brazil, and Spanish-speaking students (14%) are Nikkei children from Peru and other Latin American countries.  They are concentrated in the Tōkai, and Kantō metropolitan areas.  Chinese-speaking children (26%) are the grandchildren of Chinese returnees and are most likely to be found in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, and Osaka (Monbukagakushō 2004c).

The grandchildren of Chinese returnees, refugee children, and Nikkei children who plan to stay in Japan need both a good education and proficiency in Japanese, in order to enroll in high schools and colleges, and to lead stable and independent lives in Japan.  Among 1,143 high school students who needed to learn Japanese language, 54.3 percent are Chinese-speaking, and 24.1 percent are Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking.  Among 1,143 high school students, 650 students go to regular daytime high schools, 465 attend evening high schools, and 28 students go to correspondence high schools (Monbukagakushō 2004c).  This indicates that these students have difficulty passing the examinations for admission to regular daytime high schools.

In 1997, one daily school for Brazilian children was established for the first time in Hamamatsu City.  Then, there were more daily schools established for Brazilian children in Toyota City and Toyohashi City (Murata 2001:151).  The private Pythagoras School in Brazil opened its first school in Japan with 170 students between the ages 3 and 18 in Ota City in 1999.  By 2001, a sixth school was established with 30 students between the ages of 3 and 15 in Nagano (Sakai 2001:309-310; Mainichi Interactive January 25, 2002).  In Oizumi Town, where there are 230 Brazilian children, only 56 percent of Brazilian children of school age attended public elementary and middle schools in 2000.  The opening of the daily Brazilian school, Colegio Pitagoras was established at the border between Oizumi Town and Ota City in 1999 met with an immediate welcome (Sakai and Onai 2001:102; Fujiwara 2001:241). 

In addition, there are three informal supplementary Brazilian schools for 150 students in Ota City and Oizumi Town.  The students, ranging in age from six to 16, learn Portuguese, mathematics, social studies, and science from Brazilian schools (Fujiwara 2001).  Among 17,000 Brazilian children between the ages of six and 15, about 7,500 go to Japanese public schools, and about 2,500 go to Brazilian schools, as of 2000.  This leaves 7,000 Brazilian children who do not go to school (Sekiguchi 2003:78).

One survey of Brazilian and Peruvian children who returned to their countries after a few years in Japan found that most of these children had difficulties readjusting to their schools.  It took approximately half a year for elementary school students and one to two years for middle and high school students to understand class materials (Murata 2001:152-154).

Japanese Language Education

Since 1991, as the number of school-age children of Nikkei newcomers has grown, the Japanese government has created measures to help foreign children in public primary and secondary schools.  All foreigners, including undocumented aliens, can send their children to public schools, without drawing scrutiny from the authorities.  Since 1991, the municipal administration sends a welcome-to-school notice to every household in which a six-year-old resides.  Upon enrolling in public school, they are provided free tuition and free textbooks like any other Japanese student.

The MOE provides Japanese language classes and educational counselors to foreign students.  Since 1989, the MOE has supported research on the education of foreign students.  As of 1999, 12 schools have been officially designated as associated schools for research, and 20 schools have been endorsed as center schools for foreign students.  Since 1992, the MOE has deployed additional Japanese language teachers, and since 1993, has provided workshops for teachers on educating foreign students.  The MOE has also, since 1999, dispatched educational counselors for foreign students and their parents who consult with them in their native language (Sōmuchō 2000a:374-377).  Prefectural and municipal boards of education, with support from the MOE, are responsible for these measures.

The most common pedagogy used in Japanese language education is the “pullout” method, as most schools have only one to four foreign students if any.  Foreign students who need Japanese language education are pulled out of Japanese language arts and social studies classes, and are tutored Japanese until they are able to keep up with their classes.  Originally, many schools that had a few foreign students arranged informal language classes with teachers who had free time, or with a vice-principal or principal.  Then, municipal boards of education began assigning full-time Japanese language teachers, part-time Japanese language teachers or volunteers.  Since then, Japanese language education has improved through standard textbooks, teaching materials, and teachers’ workshops.  In many cases, Japanese language teachers circulate among several schools.  More than half of all middle school students (54%) and 59 percent of high school students stay in Japanese language classes for more than two years, while 60 percent of elementary school students leave these classes within two years (Monbukagakushō 2004c).

Many foreign children learn interpersonal communication skills in school.  Acquiring abstract cognitive language proficiency in order to keep up with Japanese language arts and social studies classes takes longer.  Most foreign children attend regular classes before becoming proficient at abstract cognitive language. 

Bilingual and native-language education are now provided by municipal boards of education.  Native-language teachers and volunteers, who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, or Vietnamese, are dispatched by the local or prefectural boards of education to schools at regular intervals, usually once a week.  Bilingual and native-language education helps many Nikkei children maintain fluency in their native language when they return to their countries of origin.  Moreover, native-language education helps foreign students respect their native languages and cultures, and reinforces their ethnic pride.  In addition, native language-speaking teachers and volunteers provide foreign students with consultation in their native language on schoolwork, on the Japanese language, and on their school life.

Newcomer Students

According to the 1992-1993 survey of Nikkei children and Japanese children, foreign students who came to Japan as teenagers have a harder time adjusting to Japanese schools, mastering the language, and making friends than younger foreign students (Nakanishi 1995).  They have difficulty mastering the abstract cognitive language necessary to understand social studies and Japanese language arts classes.  They frequently have trouble keeping up with their classes and assignments.  Many foreign students are often enrolled in lower grades because of their deficient knowledge of Japanese.

At the elementary school level, Japanese and foreign students readily played together despite the language difference.  Playing sports and music together can help foreign students develop friendships with their Japanese classmates.  However, foreign students in middle schools often have a hard time making friends because they are older than their classmates, and because Japanese students are busy with extracurricular activities and cram schools (Nakanishi 1995).  Few foreign students participate in extracurricular activities because they have Japanese language classes, after-school supplementary lessons, homework, or responsibilities at home, or have problems with the language. 

In 1994, a major concern of teachers of foreign students was that the students have a difficult time coping with the differences in school culture and the hierarchical organization of extracurricular clubs.  The parents themselves are not proficient in Japanese, and their work schedules keep them too busy to be actively involved in their children’s education (Satō 1995:62-66).  Teachers and counselors in community-based language classes indicate that foreign students worry about keeping up with their school work, making friends, following school rules, forgetting their native language, and future employment (Miyajima 1999:142). 

Foreign students, especially the most recent arrivals, need counselor teachers who can converse with them in their native language.  Training and workshops for teachers help them understand the cultures of foreign students, and work together with parents, because few teachers in Japan have ever had foreign students in their classrooms.  The cooperation of homeroom teachers, Japanese language teachers, native-language teachers, educational counselors, and community-based volunteers can help foreign students succeed in school. 

High school entrance examinations are the highest hurdle for many foreign students.  Although some high schools have special quotas for foreign students, most high schools require foreign students take the same examinations as other Japanese students.  As a result, many foreign students enter evening high schools and vocational high schools (Nakanishi 1995:35).  According to data from 1999, about 40 percent of foreign students went up to high school after graduating middle school in Kanagawa in 1999 (Miyajima 2002:120, 141).  However, a school education is necessary for anyone who intends to work in Japan.  More high schools are considering affirmative action admissions policies for foreign students.  Teachers and counselors encourage foreign students to attend high school, and talk to their parents about the value of a high school education. 

Foreign Students in Ume Elementary School

Ume Elementary School in Marugame was designated as an Associated School for Research on the Education of Foreign Students during the 1998-2000 school years, and received subsidies for research on the education of foreign students.  Since 1994, this school has had foreign students, and in 1999, it had six Peruvian students, one Brazilian student and one Chinese student.  The newest fifth-grade Chinese girl entered school in 1999.4 

The school formed a committee for foreign student education, consisting of one full-time and one part-time Japanese language teacher, seven homeroom teachers, and three teachers whose classes did not have foreign students.  The committee designed a Japanese language education curriculum in order to promote language proficiency in foreign students.  The committee also introduced “international-understanding education” so that the Japanese students could become familiar with the cultures of Peru and Brazil.  The school introduced foreign students and their cultures to Japanese students and parents through school papers, school television broadcasts, special events, and class activities.

The school has one full-time Japanese language teacher and one part-time language teacher.  Only one student need to study conversational Japanese, but all of the students needed to learn more abstract cognitive language.  The teachers designed individualized study plans, based on the results of the students’ Japanese language placement tests.  They were excused from their regular classes between one and six times a week to take Japanese language classes, depending on the amount of practice they needed.

Foreign students also receive native-language education, taught by a Spanish-speaking teacher and a Portuguese-speaking teacher.  Since 1996, a Spanish-speaking teacher has been sent by the prefectural board of education for two-hour lessons every other week.  Spanish language education is important especially for the students who plan to go back to Peru.

The teacher also teaches the culture and history of Peru in Spanish.  All students feel comfortable expressing their thoughts in Spanish.  All six Peruvian students speak Spanish with their parents at home, but they cannot read or write Spanish because they came to Japan before they were of school age.  Both parents work and do not have enough time to teach Spanish to their children.  Parents often worry that their children are forgetting Spanish, and may not be able to catch up in school after they return to Peru.  The teacher also translates school memos into Spanish for their parents. 

I observed one Spanish class and one Portuguese class.  A Japanese instructor who is fluent in Spanish teaches four Peruvian students, mainly in Spanish.  The class was very lively, and the teacher taught verb conjugations by asking questions in Spanish.  In the Portuguese class, a teacher used flash cards to teach spelling and writing.  Native-language classes meet only once every other week.  However, the opportunity to learn their native language helps foreign students maintain their language proficiency, and enhances their ethnic identity.

The homeroom teachers of foreign students provide assistance with schoolwork during recess or after school.  Though the foreign students can speak Japanese, they often have problems with complicated sentences, Chinese characters (kanji) and abstract cognitive recognition.  Thus, their educational achievement suffers because of language barriers.  The committee of Ume School concluded that the school needed classroom aides to help the foreign students in academic classes.

The homeroom teachers created friendly homeroom environments and helped them to make friends with their Japanese classmates.  Some homeroom teachers had all the students learn several Spanish words from their Peruvian classmates during the morning and afternoon homeroom periods.  The homeroom teacher of one fourth-grade Peruvian girl decided to let all her students play together during break twice a week because the girl had a hard time making friends.  One Brazilian girl in the fourth grade who was two years older than her classmates could not communicate well in Japanese, and therefore, she had been going to the Japanese language classes instead of spending time with other students during recess.  The homeroom teacher let other Japanese classmates go with her to the Japanese language class so that they could make friends with her and the other foreign students. 

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About 1.55 million Japanese civilians living in Manchuria suffered the ordeal of repatriation during the aftermath of World War II.  When the Soviet Union advanced into Manchuria on August 9, 1945, many men were conscripted.  Military and civilian deaths during and immediately after the invasion numbered 245,000.  Another 700,000 Japanese men were captured and sent to Siberia and Outer Mongolia for forced labor, where 55,000 died of starvation, cold, and exhaustion (Ienaga 1986:293-295; Nakayama 2000:263).  Women, children, and the elderly fled into safe areas.  By October 1945, the post-war turmoil had abated, but they had no shelter, food, or clothing to see them through the freezing Manchurian winter.  Many children were left with Chinese families, and many women married Chinese men who would provide for them.  Children who were adopted by Chinese families are known as “orphans remaining in China” (Chūgoku zairyū koji).  Girls who were 13 or older and married to Chinese men are called “women remaining in China” (Chūgoku zairyū fujin). 

After the establishment of the Chinese People’s Republic in 1949, China and Japan severed diplomatic relations until the 1972 Normalization Treaty.  Since 1973, the Japanese government has encouraged Chinese orphans to return to Japan if they can find a Japanese relative to sponsor them.  Since 1993, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has supported all those who wanted to return to Japan even if they could not find a relative.

Chinese returnees return to Japan with their spouses, children and grandchildren.  By October 2004, 6,265 Chinese returnee households (2,478 households of Chinese orphan returnees and 3,787 households of Chinese women returnees) with 20,048 family members have returned to Japan (Chūgoku 2004).  Others returned to Japan at their own expense.  In 1999, the number of children and grandchildren of war orphans and their spouses who have accompanied them to Japan was as high as 60,000.  Approximately 30,000 descendants of Chinese returnees have become Japanese citizens (Komai 2001:62). 

Chinese returnees and their families can visit one of the three Readjustment Promotion Centers (eight Centers before 1999) to enroll in four months of instruction in Japanese language and culture.  Then, they are settled into regions where their relatives or sponsors live.  Afterwards, they can also attend classes at one of the twelve Centers for Training in Independence to learn Japanese language and culture and to receive eight months of aftercare services.  Most Chinese returnees and their families live in metropolitan areas near Readjustment Promotion Centers.   

Since 1976, the MOE has designated an associated school for the education of Chinese children, and hired extra teachers.  In 2003, 4,913 elementary, middle, and high school Chinese students needed assistance with learning Japanese (Monbukagakushō 2004c).  Starting in 1999, the MOE has hired counselors for Chinese and other foreign students and their families.  The MOE has published supplementary teaching materials for teachers since 1986, and Japanese language materials since 1989. 

The children and grandchildren of Chinese returnees perform below the national average in school, mainly because they lack Japanese language proficiency.  Many Chinese children are assigned to lower grade levels than their age.  According to a 1995 survey, among those who received education in Japan, 44.2 percent were middle school graduates, 19.2 percent were high school graduates, and 28.8 percent were graduates of technical schools, and 7.7 percent were junior college or university graduates.  More than half gave up on education for economic reasons, and 38.5 percent did so because of language problems (Komai 2001:98).

According to 88 Chinese high school students who have lived in Japan for three years or more, about 70 percent of their parents speak Chinese to them all the time, while 54.8 percent of siblings speak both Chinese and Japanese (Kiyoda 1995).  Among Chinese returnees in 1999, 31 percent said that their children and grandchildren had problems at school, including educational expenses, language comprehension problems, difficulty with class work, or bullying (Kōseishō 2000).   

Many prefectures provide special treatment for Chinese returnee children who wish to take the high school entrance examination.  In Osaka Prefecture, extended hours, hiragana reading for Chinese characters, Japanese-Chinese and Chinese-Japanese dictionaries, and Chinese translations for key words of the composition at the entrance examination for high school, are provided for Chinese children who came to Japan after the first grade.

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Japan was a stopover for many political asylum seekers who were going to the United States during the Cold War, but did not have to deal with these refugees directly until the arrival of “boat people,” mostly from Vietnam, in 1975.  In 1979, the Japanese government set a quota for refugees, and opened a refugee camp.  In 1981, Japan signed the U.N. 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and enacted the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.  Therefore, Japan has an international obligation to be open to refugees and asylum-seekers.  The quota for refugees was eliminated in 1994.  In December 2003, 11,087 refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia live in Japan.5  Before March 1994, they had entered the country as “boat people” from the overseas refugee camps.  However, the majority of entry now is through family reunifications.

The Refugee Project Headquarters at the Asia Welfare Education Foundation, established in 1979, have helped refugees and their families settle in Japan.  After they are admitted, most Indochinese refugees have stayed in the Settlement Facilitation Centers in Himeji, Hyōgo (1979-1996), Kanagawa (1979-1998), the Reception Center in Nagasaki (1981-1995), or the International Rescue Center in Tokyo (1983-).  The Settlement Facilitation Centers have provided room and board so that refugees can learn Japanese language and customs and speak with job placement counselors to find a job or arrange internships. 

Many refugee children have low educational achievement as a result of their lack of fluency in Japanese.  Refugee children receive remedial education and special treatment to improve their Japanese language skills and educational level, as do Nikkei and Chinese returnee children.  Refugee children learn the Japanese language in school like other foreign students who need Japanese language education. 

In addition, community-based volunteer associations help refugee children with their schoolwork and with learning the language.  Refugee children have a hard time passing entrance examinations for regular high schools.  Many parents of refugee children do not place as much emphasis on the education of their children, and some refugee children begin working at the age of 15 (Nakanishi 1995:34-35).  Their parents do not know much about the school system due to insufficient mastery of the Japanese language, the lack of social contact with Japanese people, and long, hard work hours (Miyajima 2002:135).  Therefore, teachers have had to persuade some parents to let their children attend high school, as a high school education is necessary to obtain a stable job.  A special quota and preferential treatment for refugee children taking the high school entrance examination should be available to all refugee students.  In addition, teachers must ensure that refugee children are not victimized by their classmates.  Refugee children are often bullied because of their status and ethnicity. 

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Many schools have foreign students make presentations about their country and cultures to their Japanese classmates in homeroom classes and in school events.  However, most schools do not have foreign students, and only teach about diversity through the regular social science classes.  Japanese students learn about human rights and diversity as part of social science.  Middle and high school textbooks now mention foreign migrant workers and the new immigrants.

A popular middle-school civics textbook has a section, “Living Together in the Multicultural Society” that describes newcomer foreign workers mainly from Asia and South America (Tokyo Shoseki 2002c:20-21).  The students are expected to discuss the causes and effects of the influx of foreign workers, and the rights of foreigners in Japan.  They can also study the role of the community in internationalization.  High school teachers recommend teaching about foreign workers using role play, interviews, newspaper, magazines, videos, guest speakers, the Internet, games and debates (Fujiwara 1994; Takahashi 1995:28).

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Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools, speak Japanese at home, and use Japanese names.  In many ways they cannot be distinguished from Japanese children.  The educational attainment of Korean children has almost reached the national average.  However, their status as aliens may create difficulty in finding employment.  Some schools with many Korean children provide extracurricular ethnic classes, where they learn the Korean language and culture with other Korean children.  Ethnic education helps Korean children feel ethnic pride and solidarity. 

In 1993, more than 17,000 Korean children were attending Korean schools organized by the Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), an organization affiliated with North Korea.  In these schools, students speak Korean, read Korean textbooks, call each other by Korean names, and girls wear traditional clothing, chima chogori.  Ethnic consciousness and group solidarity are strong among the students.  But even those students have a hard time mastering the Korean language because most of them do not speak Korean outside of school.

Human rights education and multicultural education teach Japanese children to understand and respect Korean culture with the goal of eliminating prejudice against Koreans.  All Japanese children learn Korean history and culture so that they can understand why so many Koreans live in Japan.  History textbooks emphasize Japan’s invasion and colonization of Korea from the perspective of Korean victims, and civics textbooks underscore the human rights of Korean residents in Japan.

Due to the shortage of labor during the “bubble” economy of the late 1980s, the government enacted the revised 1990 Immigration Control Law to allow Nikkeijin (Japanese migrants/Japanese descendents with foreign nationality) to work in Japan unconditionally.  A huge number of Nikkeijin, mainly from Latin American countries, flooded into Japan.  Many of them brought their families and have stayed in Japan.

Responding to the increasing number of Nikkei children, the government began to provide Japanese language education, native-language education, and educational counseling.  In 2003, 19,042 foreign students in public schools needed Japanese language education.  Among these students were Nikkei children and the grandchildren of Chinese returnees.  In most cases, they are excused from their regular classes to work on their Japanese.

The majority of foreign students can converse in Japanese.  However, they have trouble reading and writing Japanese, and their cognitive language proficiency is below average for their age.  Therefore, they tend to be behind in social studies and Japanese language arts, and are denied admission to elite academic high schools.  They need tutoring to keep up with classes, and course guidance.  Special treatment and high school admission quotas help these students continue their education, which is necessary for those students who plan to stay and work in Japan. 


1.    Many books and articles concerning Korean residents in general (e.g., Lee and DeVos 1981; Hicks 1997; Ryang 2000); Korean ethnic schools (Ryang 1997; Inokuchi 2000); the education of Korean children in Japanese schools (Lee 1991; Umakoshi 1991; Okano 1997; Hester 2000) have been published in English.

2.    “Special permanent residency” was granted in 1991 to those people who lost their Japanese nationality on the basis of the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, and their descendants.

3.    As the number of Nikkei children has increased in schools since the mid-1990s, many books and articles about the education of Nikkei children have been published in Japan (Watanabe 1995a, 1995b; Nakanishi and Satō 1995; Ota 1996; Satō 1997; Sasaki and Akuzawa 1998).  The education of Nikkei children is discussed in English (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999; Tsuneyoshi 2001).

4.    This case study is based on my observation of classes and interviews with teachers at Ume (pseudonym) Elementary School on February 21, 2001, in addition to the school report for the “international-understanding education,” and school bulletins.  See also Case Study 7.1 International-Understanding Education in Ume Elementary School.

5.    The Refugee Assistance Headquarters provides detailed information concerning refugees from Indochina on the Internet.

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