Skip to content

Diversity vs. Divercity

June 29, 2012

It’s not a typo. At the waterfront of Tokyo, there is a newly developed commercial complex called DiverCity Tokyo Plaza. The tag line, according to the developer, is ‘Tokyo Trend Revue, where entertainment, shopping, playing and dinning all come together’ or some like that. They have Old Navy, H&M, Coach, Zara, UNIQLO, etc. Well, in short, it’s just another shopping mall. Nothing diverse in its concept.

Not-so-diverse Diversity in Japan

Diversity (with ‘s’) has been a buzz word in Japan for the past couple of years. Japanese interpretation of diversity is promotion of women in the workforce. There have been a lot of discussion to stop gender discrimination at employment and at work, to provide more social support for working mothers, to role model a career path for the women in management, and on and on.

On the other hand, other elements of diversity, such as race, religion, or sexual orientation, are left out. These diversity factors have never been an issue in Japan because it is considered a mono-race, mono-religion, mono-couple country. Japan is a very homogeneous society – at least a great majority of Japanese think so. The voice of the minorities is too weak to be heard. Thus, people conclude there is no need to promote racial, religious, or sexual-orientational diversity.

I’m an Alien, I’m a Legal Alien

This homogeneity-orientation is the base of Japanese social systems. There is an invisible power field dictating people’s behavior. It is this power field that keeps the order of the hyper-crowded Tokyo subway station, enforces pedestrians to wait at a red light with no traffic, and keeps people in a long queue patiently waiting for food distribution after Tsunami.

Those who don’t share the same homogeneity as a Japanese would also realize this power field. While it strengthens the tie among the Japanese, it politely bounces the outsiders out from the Japanese value system. You may not notice is when just visiting Japan, but this is something that long-staying foreigners strongly feel. They are always treated as a guest, mostly in a positive way, but definitely in a different way.

A Canadian blogger Monna in Japan nicely put it in her post ‘the problem with foreigners.’ No matter how hard they try to assimilate, they can never become a true part of the society because they don’t look like a Japanese.

DiverCity and Battery Park

Let’s go back to DiverCity, the shopping mall. This area is called ‘Daiba,’ meaning the battery in Japanese. Like Battery Park in Manhattan, Daiba was originally developed and armed to defend the capital city from a sea-side attack. Under Japanese phonetic system, the word ‘Daiba City’ has the same sound as ‘diversity.’ So the developer made up a pseudo-English word ‘DiverCity.’

The promoter must have also hoped to share the popularity of the ‘diversity’ initiative, which in Japan is to advocate women in the workforce. They might have wanted the mall to be seen as a supporter of the working women, who by the way has the most desposable income among different demographies.

Ironically, however, DiverCity, despite its sound, is not a promoter of diversity. What they promote is mass-produced fashion trend. Everyone here is homogeneously fashionable in the latest Tokyo style.

Today’s Lesson

Daiba where DiverCity locates was developed in 1853 to defend the country from the US Navy, who demanded us to open the port and go global. Today, DiverCity is defending our homogenous society from the outside world, who try to promote the true global diversity.

Advertisements
2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2012 6:12 am

    “Those who don’t share the same homogeneity as a Japanese would also realize this power field. While it strengthens the tie among the Japanese, it politely bounces the outsiders out from the Japanese value system. You may not notice is when just visiting Japan, but this is something that long-staying foreigners strongly feel. They are always treated as a guest, mostly in a positive way, but definitely in a different way.”

    I haven’t been to Asia, much less Japan. I haven’t even been to my ancestral root country, which is China.

    I was born and lived in Canada my whole life so far. But I can imagine this invisible thread of homogenity that politely nudges out non-Japanese people into the perimeter of the inner circle.

    On one hand it can make a country strong in a superficial way but not strong enough to deal with rapid change forced upon them when:

    *natural birth rate is dropping…and that’s happening to Japan and many other developed countries
    *hence less national tax base to sustain the national budget/economy…when natural population growth is dropping

    Honest, I wouldn’t want to be a university-educated Japanese woman if she would like to seriously apply her education in a full-time career that relates to her education and remain in Japan. I have read enough that there are serious barriers for Japanese women even now in the 21st century to rise through the management ranks in Japan.

    However maybe this can be a guest post on your blog…:D Or you have some knowledge…ie. do you know any Japanese female IT professionals that hold decision-making positions in Japan?

    • July 30, 2012 9:57 pm

      Jean,

      What you said about Japanese women’s career sounds very true to me. Especially after spending sometime in the US, I clearly see the invisible barriers surrounding female professionals. I know for sure that what happened to Yahoo! in the US would not happen in Japan, at least for another decade or two. Still the Japanese workforce is dominated by senior male employees. There are gender barriers as well as seniority barriers. Maybe I’ll try to collect some data to compare.

      – Shinobu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: