Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Immigration deserves serious cultural ecological review.
ONO Goro  / Emeritus Professor, Saitama University

June 16, 2015
In Japan, the focus on manpower shortage in the context of Abenomics (Prime Minister Abe’s three arrows of fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms) has rekindled the debate on accepting immigrants. Worldwide, with the call for globalization, the liberalization of the movement of human beings, money and goods has come to be taken for granted.

However, the kind of globalization that we would like to see is one that will augment "diversity", which will help advance social evolution. It does not mean unifying the world in the mold of modern Western society. It is in this context that we should see the movement of human beings, and we should take care to ensure that the intermingling of diverse cultures do not end up in the loss of such diversity.

Human beings have flesh and blood. Goods embody the resources and energy put into their production process. As such, they cannot be treated merely as factors of production in the same way as money is. This should be seen not just in economic terms, but far more emphasis should be placed on the enormous impacts that the movements of human beings and goods have come to have on the natural environment, climate and culture both in their places of origin and in their destinations.

There have been historically confirmed cases in which the movements of human beings wrought devastating havoc on nature, for example, where pasturing and irrigation accompanying such movements caused soil runoffs and deforestation along the coast of the Aral Sea and in the Amazon River Basin. Around Japan, immigrants face the challenge of adjusting their life habits to the unfamiliar climate of their destinations, and problems also arise in their places of origin, as the depletion of the labor force leads to the deterioration of the natural and climatic conditions.

Proponents of the movement of human beings cite as their reasons not only economic factors but also humanitarianism, cultural enlightenment, importance of diversity and so forth. But many of these arguments fail to have universal resonance because they do not take into account the long-term adverse consequences of such movement.

It is argued that, given the conditions in the countries of origin, migration is "necessary for humanitarian reasons" or can serve as "economic cooperation" for these countries. In fact, what is needed on the part of these countries is to improve the social conditions that make life miserable for their people, not to send out these people as migrant labor, as some governments of these countries insist.

If the outflow of labor from a country should serve as a springboard for that country to take off economically, there should in the future be a reverse flow of the labor force back to their home country as that country develops. That would in turn bring about the collapse of the social structure in the destination country that has been built up with the inflow of migrant labor as an essential element. In any event, what has to be done is to create employment opportunities in the country of origin, instead of allowing the exploitation of factors of production such as labor and resources in that country. Despite all this, attempts to justify the movement of human beings as migrant labor under various pretexts have often resulted in discrimination and friction in the destinations countries.

For example, if the immigrants from the dry regions of the world keep on throwing away kitchen garbage in the humid climate of Japan in the same way as they did at home, it can give rise to the problem of infectious diseases and cultural friction and discrimination. This may give rise to situations similar to invasive alien species driving away the native species, leading to the collapse of the ecological balance preserved over many years in the recipient country.

In Japan, most of the businesses that employ foreign workers in fact are looking for low-wage labor for the so-called "3K" jobs (kitanai, kiken and kibishii in Japanese, translated as "3D" in English, i.e. Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning) which Japanese workers are reluctant to take up. In cases where the foreign workers are accepted for training as "technical interns", there have been unending examples of these workers being exploited under very poor working conditions. As for accepting highly skilled foreign professionals, unless we invite professionals of the highest caliber and assign them to work as leaders in fostering young professionals in Japan, as we did in the Meiji period, they may not help much in fostering human resources suited to the Japanese climate, and we may even lose some of the positive Japanese characteristics that have been appreciated by the international community.

The Japanese culture that we have today has been fostered through the process of importing advanced civilizations from abroad, digesting and assimilating them into our own climate since the dawn of history. In the course of long history, our forefathers learned lessons from the past and devised ways of living and improved the natural conditions in a manner best suited to our climate. We need to repay their legacies by passing them on to future generations.

Migration, or the movement of human beings, tends to be deemed inevitable as globalization proceeds apace. But we should take another look at it, not for economic reasons, but from a loftier perspective of the future of humankind. We should first recognize that symbiosis on a global scale would mean living separately but together in the sense of respecting the different cultures and values of others. The prerequisite for those who wish to migrate to other lands is to assimilate themselves to their lands of destination and to learn to love and defend the climate and culture there. Those who receive these immigrants in their midst, for their part, would be required to approach them without discrimination and treat them equally as those who share the same values, irrespective of their ethnic origin. Realistically speaking, it needs to be recognized that it is no easy task to clear these hurdles.

Goro Ono is Emeritus Professor of Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野 五郎 / 埼玉大学名誉教授

2015年 6月 16日



ところで、ヒトの移動は、それに伴う放牧・灌漑等により、今日アラル海沿岸やアマゾン川流域に見られるような土壌流出・森林破壊等を通じ破滅的な自然破壊をもたらしたことが史的にも確認される。 現代日本周辺でも、単なる流入先での風土と合わない生活というだけではなく、流出側でも働き手を失い風土を疲弊させる弊害が認められる。








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Immigration deserves serious cultural ecological review.