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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Racist Kyoto?


These signs were plastered on many of the homes and businesses to the north of the Kyoto Prefecture government building.

They are noisily, unabashedly opposing the construction of a dormitory for foreign students.

A loose translation:

Disregarding the local neighbors, dumping a dorm for foreign students on us - we oppose!!

To be fair, if plans came to light for such a dorm in our neighborhood we would be concerned. The thought of many drunken noisy American, European, and Asian students all living in the same place - close to us - would not be pleasant.

However, the nation of Japan and city of Kyoto depend heavily on the money those students spend and, one hopes, the warm feelings for Japan and Kyoto that they take back to the their home countries.

Why do nearly all Japanese universities continue a policy of "Dejima" dormitories. Dejima was of the course the man-made island built in Nagasaki harbor to keep the Dutch away from the local population, and the locals away from dangerous Dutch ideas and practices.

To segregate students who are majoring in Japanese, have studied the language and culture for several years, traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to be in Japan - is self-defeating for the foreign students, Japanese students, and the host universities.

Why not instead build dormitories for all students? That is, put the foreign students in the same dorms with their Japanese classmates. This would promote exchange and, in the event of trouble, the local students could mediate the situation better than their foreign peers.

And, to the neighbors we say, we understand your concerns - noise, putting out trash on the wrong day, etc. - but a broader more welcoming attitude is in order. We do not all of the details, and many homes did not have the signs - but this is not the message Kyoto should be broadcasting to the world.


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