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2008年5月 4日 (日)


EDITORIAL: Brazilian immigration


As dusk descended on April 28, 1908, at the Port of Kobe, the steamship Kasato Maru departed with 781 Japanese aboard, bound for Brazilian shores. Last Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the departure of this first contingent of immigrants to Brazil.

These travelers dreamed of a shining new paradise awaiting, but what they found in Brazil was far from that. They spent years in backbreaking labor on coffee plantations, battling malaria and other hardships. The film, "Gaijin," directed by Tizuka Yamasaki, herself a third-generation Brazilian of Japanese descent, portrayed the challenges faced by this first wave of immigrants.

Amid the prolonged recession following the Russo-Japanese War, the ranks of jobless swelled in Japan. In Brazil, conversely, the emancipation of that nation's slaves had produced a labor shortage. These were among the contrasting conditions that spurred the start of Japanese immigration to Brazil.

The migration continued through the 1970s, despite the interruption of World War II, with a total of 250,000 people crossing the seas. Not only farmers, but also politicians, engineers and entrepreneurs among Japanese-Brazilians appeared one after another.

A reversal of that flow, and a swift increase of migrant workers in Japan, was triggered by the 1990 revisions to the immigration control law. At the request of the business community, second- and third-generation Japanese from Brazil were granted residence status without employment restrictions.

Director Yamasaki visited Japan in the late 1990s to film a sequel to her first work. Her goal was to explore why recent immigrants, despite being accepted into Japan under a so-called national policy, were treated as gaijin (aliens). She focused on the lifestyles of the Japanese-Brazilians, tracking the plights of their fourth-generation children, many of whom dropped out of school after being unable to adapt to Japan's educational system.

These Japanese-Brazilians are now 310,000 strong, exceeding the number of Japanese who originally moved to Brazil. While more of them have permanent residency, how to educate their children has become a particularly acute problem.

There is no shortage of cases in which such children stop attending school due to the language barrier and descend into delinquency. Even when they stay in school, many can form no tangible ambitions for the future. While it is natural to expect parents to take responsibility for their children's education, the success of such efforts depends upon adequate support in the classroom.

In Shizuoka Prefecture's Hamamatsu, home to large numbers of Japanese-Brazilians, teachers who are fluent in the language spoken in Brazil and part-time personnel are assigned to elementary and junior high schools to help these children learn the Japanese language. Such staffers also visit the homes of truant immigrant children.

The labor costs for such services are funded from the city budget, but there are limits to such financial resources. For that matter, not all local governments have acted as positively on this critical front as has Hamamatsu. The education of these children, who will bear the burdens of the future, should not be left only up to municipalities. The central government must also support them.

Assistance for immigrants having difficulties communicating in Japanese requires the help of nonprofit organizations and other groups. We suggest that firms, which have employed Japanese-Brazilian workers and made profits, should pay some of the costs. With the number of workers nationwide shrinking, the nation's response to Japanese-Brazilians is shaping up as a litmus test for acceptance of other immigrants into Japan. 日本語が苦手な親への支援にはNPOなどの協力が欠かせない。その費用は、日系人を雇って利益を上げている企業が手助けしてはどうか。 労働人口が減少するなかで、日系人への対応は、外国からの移民を受け入れるための試金石である。

One reason that so many first-generation Japanese immigrants to Brazil succeeded there was that Brazilian society opened its arms to those settlers, despite their different culture and customs.

We want to help these ethnic Japanese, who have returned to the land of their ancestors, blend into communities here and raise their children without anxiety.

The Asahi Shimbun, May 2(IHT/Asahi: May 3,2008)


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