"In times of contagion, therefore, what we do or don't do is no longer just about us. This is the one thing I wish for us never to forget, even after this is over."
This passage is taken from How Contagion Works, a book written by the Italian author Paolo Giordano (translated by Ryosuke Iida, Hayakawa Publishing). He wrote that the immigrants did not receive the important news related to COVID-19. Although the context is different, I interpreted it as a message relevant to the policy of Japanese language education, which provides foreigners with Japanese language support, yet lacks attention to individuals and perspectives of coexistence.
Postwar Japanese language education has developed in response to the social demands of each era; for example, acceptance of returnees from China and Indochinese refugees in the 1970s, the increase of Japanese Latin Americans in the 1990s, and the 2008 plan for accepting 300,000 international students. Due to factors such as the high level of interest in Japanese culture, the number of people studying Japanese overseas is approximately 3.85 million in 142 countries and regions. Furthermore, Japanese learners in Japan are becoming increasingly more diversified with categories such as international students, foreign workers, and children moving to Japan. Until now, Japanese language education has been vaguely regarded as teaching Japanese language to foreigners. However, in addition to focusing on teaching methods, the sociocultural perspective of language acquisition, and multicultural understanding, Japanese language education today is making interdisciplinary advancement and has become a field that also considers political issues such as relationships between native speakers and non-native speakers, disabilities, gender, and identity. Due to the need to assess Japanese language education from a social context, I have in recent years been attending more to research on the life stories of international students and relevant policies, while at the same time conducting practical research at Chuo University. All of my research address social significance of Japanese language education based on the findings from conversation with specific individuals, as well as insights in the fields such as education studies, social studies, and contemporary philosophy. In this article, I would like to touch upon various policies and issues of coexistence (multicultural coexistence) in Japanese language education.
In 2006, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications defined multicultural coexistence as the fact that people of different nationalities and ethnicities recognize each other's cultural differences and live together as members of the local community. Since then, the concept of multicultural coexistence has been actively discussed in the field of Japanese language education. However, when based on essentialism which views culture and identity as fixed, who falls into the category of people of different nationalities and ethnicities is unclear. Furthermore, it is ambiguous as to whether or not recognizing each other's cultural differences goes beyond regional society to include recognition of difference, guarantee of rights, etc., on a national level. For such reasons, the concept of multicultural coexistence has been criticized as weak. Amidst such circumstances, the Japanese Language Education Promotion Act (hereinafter, "the Promotion Act") was executed on June 28, 2019. In terms of legislation, the Japanese government has already adopted the Comprehensive Measures for Acceptance and Coexistence of Foreign Nationals (passed on December 25, 2018; revised on December 20, 2019) and the Enhancement of Comprehensive Measures for Acceptance and Coexistence of Foreign Nationals, (June 18, 2019), and has been advancing policies aimed at realizing a society for coexistence with foreigners. As confirmed by the names of these initiatives, coexistence is a key concept to be pursued under the law.
He completed his studies in the Graduate School of Humanities, Tokyo Metropolitan University. He holds a PhD in education.
After being dispatched to Vietnam by the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, he taught at the Kanda University of International Studies, served as a Japanese language instructor at the Japan Foundation, Sydney, and taught in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Osaka University of Economics and Law. He assumed his current position in 2017.
His main written works include How do International Students Try to Demonstrate Their Self-Existence at University?, Journal of International Students Education Vol. 23 (awarded the 10th Outstanding Essay Prize by the Japan Association for International Student Education), and Opposing the Movement to Regulate the Form of Regional Japanese Language Education, Horizon of Storytelling: Life Story Review Vol. 3, Serica Syobo, Inc.
As of June 2020, he currently serves as a member of the Academic Journal Editorial Committee at the Association for Language and Cultural Education, and as an Examination and Operation Coordinator at the Society for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language.