Saturday, July 24, 2021

Japan Olympics Diversity

Japan's population is 98 percent Nihon. For reasons of ethnic chauvinism, fear of the outer world (like the U.S. and Commodore Perry's expeditions to that country in 1853-1855), or outright racism, it's unreasonable to expect much "diversity" to be coming to that nation's shores anytime soon.

Frankly, given the above, I'm not sure what's the purpose of this article. *Shrug.*

At LAT, "Tokyo Olympics: Diverse faces are representing Japan. Does it reflect real change?":

TOKYO — With millions around the world watching, Rui Hachimura walked onto the gleaming white floor of Japan’s Olympic Stadium on Friday waving the country’s red-and-white flag.

The 6-foot-8 Washington Wizards forward with a Japanese mother and Beninese father led his nation’s athletes in procession, a beaming smile peeking out of the sides of his face mask. Towering 20 inches over his fellow flag bearer, wrestler Yui Susaki, the 23-year-old’s careful steps signaled a changing face of Japan.

But in an unpopular Games, echoing with protests outside the largely empty Tokyo stadium, the discontent and ire over the influx of foreign visitors in the midst of a pandemic threatened to overshadow the inclusive image Japan had intended with Hachimura.

Even apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, the years and months leading up to the Games have been marked by a series of disappointments over promises to highlight diversity. The planet’s biggest sporting event has been troubled by high-profile resignations following scandals involving sexist and discriminatory remarks. The Olympic moment will come and go with neither a highly anticipated new anti-discrimination law nor immigration policies that reflect Japan’s fast-changing needs and norms.

It has left a conflicted feeling for Japanese like Hachimura or tennis great Naomi Osaka, who lighted the Olympic torch capping Friday’s ceremony, who haven’t always felt accepted. Some Japanese cling to notions of ethnic and cultural homogeneity even as the country needs young people to replace the world’s fastest-aging population. Though cities like Tokyo have become more cosmopolitan over the last half century, only 2% of babies born in Japan have at least one foreign parent.

Athletes like Hachimura are “one of the few people that can bring major changes for us,” said Alonzo Omotegawa, who has a Japanese mother and Bahamian father and has lived in the Tokyo area his entire life. Yet he has been repeatedly told: You are not Japanese.

The 25-year-old English teacher said he questions whether Hachimura’s popularity and symbolism will be enough to stifle the discrimination he faces on a daily basis — change the minds of landlords who refuse to rent to him because of his skin color, children who ask if it will wash off or police who stop and search him without a warrant, saying people with dreadlocks like him “tend to carry drugs.”

“The country is only on our side when it wants to be,” he said.

Organizers devoted a chapter of Friday night’s opening ceremony to a performance featuring children of diverse ethnic backgrounds assembling the Tokyo Olympics emblem. For months, the slogan “Unity in Diversity” had been pasted on posters around the city, projecting at least for the international media that this nation of 126 million was pledging to become more nuanced and accepting.

At the same time, the pandemic, as it has elsewhere, has brought out in Japan suspicion of those who look different, and a fear they may bring danger. That unease has been amplified in recent days as tens of thousands of athletes and others from around the globe have filtered into a nation that had kept its borders heavily restricted, even keeping out many foreign expats who’d long called Japan home.

Gracia Liu-Farrer, a sociologist at Tokyo’s Waseda University who studies migration and inequality in Japan, said of the Olympics: “It’s ironic. It’s not a moment of change but a moment of almost intensification of xenophobia because of this global health crisis.”

Even so, she said, the international attention around the Olympics has led to soul-searching and introspection over discriminatory opinions and remarks that may have previously gone unchallenged. The week before the opening ceremony, a director who’d made a Holocaust joke years ago and a composer who admitted to once bullying disabled classmates stepped down from their roles...

 Still more.