Definitions of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan and Japan

Multiculturalism is a society that consists of many various cultures. And they coexist together. Recently in the world, there are many multicultural cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, London, and Hong Kong. However, Japan is not considered to be the multicultural society, even the biggest city in Japan, Tokyo. There are many benefits of being multicultural city, but Japan has not been able to receive those benefits, because of not being multicultural society.


Globalization has enabled people to cross national boundaries. As a result, the number of intermarriages beyond national borders has increased all over the world. In Japan, the number of people who marry interracially/ethnically is increasing. It is reported that one in twenty couples are intermarried. Intermarriage is considered to be an indicator of racial/ethnic tolerance as well as coexistence, and therefore an indicator of the maturity of multiculturalism. We might think that the increase of intermarriage suggests that Japan has become a multicultural society.


Some argue for Japanese multiculturalism in terms of foreigners' rights and the lack of such rights, labor, education, social welfare, visa status, intermarriage. Atsushi Kondo, a University of Tokyo professor argues that "In Japan, there are people who avert their eyes from the multicultural reality of Japan, and insist on a 'monoracial/ethnic' myth of Japan. These people delay social change towards multicultural society in the era of globalization". These arguments are very significant when we think of Japanese multiculturalism. Japan has had more and more foreign residents, and their settlement has changed Japanese culture and society. With their increase, Japanese cultural, legal, educational, and social frameworks have been transformed so that both foreign residents and Japanese could coexist peacefully as citizens living on Japanese soil.

One of the aspects missing in the arguments of multiculturalism in Japan is a right to name. Researchers on intermarriages point out the importance of peer networking and support for intermarried couples and their children, of bi/multilingual and cultural education for children, of providing appropriate racial/ethnic labels for children, and so on. All of these points are very important, but a right to name is rarely argued. Children of intermarried couples have at least two cultural heritages. Under the present Japanese family law, it is very difficult, not necessarily impossible though, to give children of intermarried couples a hyphenated last name to reflect their multicultural heritage. This paper discusses why hyphenated names of children of intermarried couples are important for the achievement of multiculturalism in Japan in an era of globalization.


The number of foreign residents in Japan significantly increased after 1990 due to a change in immigration law in that year. Prior to 1990, unskilled laborers were not given a labor visa to stay and work in Japan. However, because of the lack of laborers bolstered by so-called the "bubble economy" in the 1980s, many Japanese companies needed laborers. To meet

the demand, the government decided to issue visas to unskilled foreign laborers, who have Japanese heritage.


Discourses on multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity in Japan rarely deal with the issue of a right to name for multi-ethnic families. A multicultural society is a society where people of different backgrounds can respect each other's differences and peacefully coexist. If a person has to sacrifice his/her multicultural heritage, he/she does not live in an inclusionary. Thus, if Japan respects the rights of intermarried couples and their children, now would be a time to think about changing the family law and to give a right to hyphenate surnames not only for multi-ethnic children but also for women and/or revise the law that it would be an option for the children to select either the father's or the mother's surname. My question, then, is as to why is Japan there is, still, indifference with regard to multicultural rights? One of the clues to analyze Japanese indifference to multiculturalism would be the myth of Japan as a racially/ethnically homogeneous nation: this myth is still prevalent in Japan. The image of a homogeneous nation is so rooted in Japanese culture that mainstream Japanese hardly notice the ethnic minorities' existence. While the percentage of foreigners in Japan is less than 5%, it is perhaps understandable that many Japanese people are in a "daydream" of racial/ethnic homogeneity. On the other hand, the number of foreigners has increased year by year owing to globalization and thus allowing intermarried couples and their children a right to at least hyphenate their surname might sound a small step, but it would be a significant step to make Japan a multicultural society.


If Japan defines multiculturalism in terms of intermarriages and family rules. Azerbaijan defines multiculturalism in a slightly different manner and concept. Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan is defined in terms of the people`s geographical location, ethnic minorities (Mountain Jews, Tats, Talysh, Kurds, Molokans, Ingiloys, Tsakhurs, Avars, Lezgins, Khynalygs, Buduqlus, and Grysz) and religion (Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam). Each of these factors variously affected and enriched Azerbaijan culture. Today, Azerbaijan as multicultural state provides the best opportunities for various culture followers and also subculture members realizing their values and beliefs.Azerbaijan can be excellent example where thistheory realize itself because with tolerant attitude

toward new cultures and their acceptance makeAzerbaijan one of the multicultural state fromancient times. The contemporary Azerbaijanlocated on the border of European and Asiancontinents, the coast of Caspian Sea. Later, allhistorical processes shoved that its suitablegeographical location one of the factors thatfacilitated this process.

Azerbaijan, a predominantly Shiite Muslim country, is also home to several other ethnic and religious groups, including ancient Zoroastrian, Christian, and Jewish communities.  Respect and tolerance for national minorities has played a vital role in the development of the country from antiquity to the days of the Silk Road to modernity.

Studies have shown that Azerbaijan has made a concerted effort to create and foster the necessary political and social conditions for developing and strengthening the country’s traditions of multiculturalism and tolerance. Time and again, Azerbaijan has demonstrated that harmony is possible and issues can be resolved without resorting to violence or strife.The relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani Jews, cannot be explained away by simple mutual self-interest. Common values and a shared history permeate the modern relationship. Both countries are enriched by the human connections and a determination to live in diverse and religiously tolerant societies.

Researches have also shown that the cultural, social and political movementscaused shifting to new European-style educationinstead of the traditional madrasa education and tofoundation of schools, mass media, theater, tradeunions, charitable organizations, libraries, new genreof literature, political parties, political and culturalideas. The socio-cultural changes and developmentin nineteenth century led to transform from empirestate model that based on tribal, dynastymanagement system to the democratic republic,nation-state model in twentieth century.Modern Azerbaijan culture is new and integratedculture that not only combines European culture inthe face of Russia and East-Islamic culture in the faceof Iran but also keeps its ancients, nationaltraditions.


Oliver Belarga


Participant of International Multiculturalism Winter School "Multiculturalism as a liestyle in Azerbaijan:Learn, Explore, Share"

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