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.
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.