An Update from the Dean

TUJ - The Outsider Within Japan

October 25, 2011

One of the great strengths of TUJ is its truly international character. On the simplest level it is an American university in Japan, but we have faculty and staff from over twenty different countries and we regularly have students from over fifty countries. This semester we have students from 56 countries. We can say that TUJ is global, as those 56 different countries represent every area of the world, and we can say that it is international because our education affects peoples from many nations as well as the relations among them.

I have long been fascinated by nationalism ever since I was a student, especially by the way the individual consciousness of the nation, and membership in that nation, remains strong even as the world becomes more interconnected. TUJ students are becoming adults in the 21st century and yet we still define ourselves and categorize others by concepts that were developed in the mid-19th century. Nationalism is a very easy and simple way to define oneself; you're from there and I'm from here. But the conundrum of nationalism is demonstrated by the desire of European countries to break into the smallest possible units after the end of the cold war while simultaneously trying to join Europe's major integrating institution, the European Union. In my opinion it can be explained by fundamental psychological and cultural imperatives.

New communications technologies, led by the internet, mean that our world is expanded to include all people from everywhere, and that it forms the platform for the globalization of economics, politics, and cultural interaction. While this is in some ways exciting and liberating, it also frightens us because it challenges our self-identity and so we want to maintain a space that is ours and ours alone. In other words, we want to keep our identity in a small human group. Most people do not perceive the peoples of the globe to be a group in the way that their nation is a group. Indeed, it is even very difficult to develop a true identification with a region such as being "Asian" or North American". They are concepts but not identities.

As an American who has lived in and studied Japan for many years of course I see this conundrum in the context of the internationalization of Japan. In that context, I've been watching the Rugby World Cup and I'm struck by the relationship between the Japanese national team and what we do at TUJ. In Japan's opening game with France, one of the top teams in the world, Japan fought much harder than any had thought possible. At 14 minutes left in the game they were only 3 points behind France at 24-21, and although they went on to lose, many thought it was the best game that Japan has ever played in the world cup. For the first time a Japanese player was named the Man of the Match in a World Cup. That man was James Arlidge, a New Zealander. As a matter of fact the reason the Japanese team did so well is that half the starting 15 were non-Japanese. This is allowed under the rules of the International Rugby Board. Some would say that this is a travesty, that the team was not really "Japanese". However, if you look at all the teams, including two teams in the final match, New Zealand and France, they all have players who are neither citizens nor members of the nation.

Is this a travesty? If it is, it is a travesty of the consciousness of nationalism, especially in Japan. A member of the Japanese nation is more defined by racial and cultural elements than political, such as citizenship. This is very different from a nation that is more made up of people from all over the world, like the United States. In the United States "us" is very hard to define.

And that brings us back to TUJ and the Rugby World Cup. All developed countries have "guests" of one form or another and they are essential to economic growth and prosperity. If Japan can compete much better as a rugby team with those foreigners they have brought inside and allowed to be part of the national team, perhaps it is also true that Japan cannot compete in the global economy without doing the same. Japan believes itself to have been internationalized through trade, but that was a one-way street which sent exports from Japan to the world but blocked off much return traffic. Industrial goods flowed out but foreign nationals were not allowed to flow in, and those who did have never been allowed to become important figures in domestic Japanese economic, political, or cultural areas. However, like the rugby team, in order to succeed in the future Japan will have to bring in foreigners who can work within Japan for Japan. TUJ is an "outsider within" and one of its missions is to support Japan's global competitiveness by creating Japanese and non-Japanese human resources that help Japan succeed globally, but also enrich Japan domestically. Our strength is Japan's strength and the world's strength.

With best regards,