Despite closer PHL-Japan ties, integration woes still hound Japinoys
Despite closer ties between the Philippines and Japan, Japanese-Filipino children are still finding it hard to find their identity owing to Japan's strong national identity that discourages Japanese fathers from acknowledging their children from a foreigner.
Take Ken Ishikawa for example. Interviewed through Facebook, Ishikawa lamented how he continues to struggle to "make sense of myself as a person" in the face of Japanese societal taboos involving mixed-race children.
"My greatest struggle so far is being able to make sense of myself as a person and to integrate the elements of my Filipino and Japanese heritage together," he said. "I would have a healthier sense of it if I had a connection with my relatives there (Japan)."
Ishikawa said Japanese-Filipino kids, or Japinoys, like him find it difficult to create a cultural identity as their Japanese relatives—their tangible connection to Japan—refuse all attempts at communication.
Ishigawa is an active member of Batis-YOGHI (Youth Organization Gives Hope and Inspiration), an organization of children of Filipino women migrant workers in or from Japan. He made the statement during the historic state visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to the Philippines aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Ishigawa explained that gaining recognition in Japan is still seen as a "family matter" by the Japanese government in spite of efforts in the past to support children of mixed race, including Filipinos.
Societal and financial sanctions also discourage fathers from acknowledging their children, he said.
"There's very real stigma against men who stray there. For one, the company they work for can slash their salaries and second, their children will have trouble finding good marriages," Ishikawa explained.
Second-generation Japinoys, according to separate reports by Japan Times and The Asahi Shimbun, seek recognition to complete their identity or to allow their children to work abroad. Those who work in Japan risk alienation, lower pay, and maltreatment.
Language and cultural barrier also play a role why Japinoys find it hard to assimilate in Japanese society.
The administrator of Malago.net, a forum for the Filipino-Japanese community in Japan, said Filipinos have a hard time integrating due to difficulties in basic communication. Lack of skills also makes them prone to abuses.
"Karamihan na naapi here is 'yung mga pumapasok na mga trainee na Pinoy under trainee visa at mga Pinay na meron anak na Japanese na nakapunta dito sa tulong ng mga underground community," the administrator, who refused to be identified, said.
He said for Filipinos, Japinoys included, knowing how to speak the language is key to making it in the Land of the Rising Sun.
"In finding work, medyo may kahirapan po yong mga can't read and write Japanese language po," he said.
The Japanese government has taken steps to address discrimination though legislation. In 2015, the National Diet—Japan's bicameral legislature—started deliberations on a bill banning racial discrimination.
Submitted in May, the bill seeks to outlaw "unjustifiable discrimination based on race" and would require the "central and local governments to form basic anti-discrimination policies and programs," according to a Japan Times report.
However, the bill does not have punitive measures against those committing racist acts. It also faces strong opposition from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which believes the bill may infringe freedom of speech. —KBK, GMA News