Teaching Diversity: Increasing Awareness of Multiculturalism and its Implications in Japanese Education

Mieko Yamada, Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne


Japan has made itself one of the most powerful competitors in the world by expanding its transnational and international corporations, and the nation has rapidly experienced multicultural phenomena. Particularly after the influx of immigrant populations in the 1990s, the insufficient attention to racial and ethnic diversity within Japan as well as around the world has been criticized by other nations.¹ As Japan is increasing its interactions with the international community, the Japanese way of treating “others” has become highly visible. In fact, Japan’s recent diversification has originated from the kokusaika or internationalization movement during the 1980s, and the term has been recently replaced by globalization (Kubota, 2002; Nakamura, 1999). To accomplish the goal of kokusaika, significant social opening and diversity have been inevitable. Given this insufficient attention to multiculturalism, sociologists of education question what should be taught for promoting international understanding and, more fundamentally, human rights.

This proposed study explores how cultural attitudes toward diversity, specifically race and ethnicity, are taught in Japanese education. More specifically, it will examine how Japanese students understand the issues of "race," "ethnicity," and "diversity" in both domestic and global contexts. In this study, Japanese university students will be recruited to participate in survey and follow-up interviews. Survey will be utilized to identify general attitudes toward diversity, focusing on race and ethnicity in both domestic and global contexts, while interviews will be conducted to allow participants to express their thoughts on diversity with using their own voices.