Archive for November, 2012

photo by Tony Del Vecchio

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

(sonnet by Emma Lazarus (184987), written in 1883 and, in 1903, engraved on a bronze plaque inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty)


The American “Melting Pot”


America’s history is one of immigration. Unlike many other countries around the world, America is a country made up of people from numerous backgrounds and ethnicities. The promise of freedom and opportunity as envisioned in Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet has drawn millions of people from all corners of the Earth to the country in hopes of a brighter future.

Sebastiano Galella (Great-grandfather of Tony Del Vecchio), who came to America from San Fele, Italy, around 1890 through the immigration center at Ellis Island, Port of New York

Read the following article by the BBC about the so-called American “Melting Pot” and prepare answers to the questions that follow:


PDF File here:

BBC NEWS | Americas | ‘Melting pot’ America


Prepare for the next class by writing your thoughts on this issue (minimum 250 words) in the Leave a Reply section below, considering the following DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

• What is meant by the American “melting pot”?

• Which do you think describes America better — a melting pot, a tossed salad, or a tomato soup” and why?

• What advantages does a multicultural society have or a homogeneous one? What are the disadvantages?

• How does the election (and re-election) of Barack Obama reflect American society as a whole?

• Should people in a multicultural society retain their original cultural identity or try to assimilate into that society as quickly as possible?

• Are all ethnic minorities able to become fully integrated into American society? If not, what is preventing them from doing so?

• What ethnic group does Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington say poses a “threat to American identity?” What does he mean by that? Is America heading for, or are we already experiencing, the kind of “clash of civilizations” that Huntington described in his provocative thesis?


PDF file here:

Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations | HistoryOrb.com

• In a country where people come from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, what kinds of “glue” do you think holds the society together?

How many generations do you think it would normally take a family from a foreign country to fully assimilate into a new culture? What do you think might delay such an assimilation?

• Discuss the significance of Emma Lazarus’ poem. What does this say about America? Has America kept the promise she described to its many immigrants?




Read Full Post »


A Homogeneous Japan?


(Continued — see Week 22 for details)


Read Full Post »


A Homogeneous Japan?


A heterogeneous country is one that is very diverse ethnically and culturally, like the United States. A homogeneous country is not diverse and its population has similar roots, language, customs, etc. Japan is often described as a homogeneous country.


Watch the following short video clips by Harvard University professors Theodore Bestor and Helen Hardacre:













Prepare for the next class by writing your thoughts on this issue (minimum 250 words) in the Leave a Reply section below, considering the following DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

How accurate do you think Bestor and Hardacre’s descriptions of Japanese society are?


Is Japan really a “homogeneous” society or is it more diverse than most people believe? How unique is it really?


What does Bestor mean when he says that the way societal institutions are combined is different in Japan as opposed to other countries?


Is Bestor accurate in his assertion that wealth disparities are not as great in Japan than in America, for example? What would account for this?


Does ethnic homogeneity make for a homogeneous society, or are there other factors at work?


To what extent do ethnic minorities like the Ainu and the Korean Japanese population — in Japanese sometimes called zai-nichi kankokujin – exert influence on Japanese culture?


Why is it that ethnic Koreans in Japan have a hard time assimilating into Japanese society? Are they, as Hardacre asserts, “shut out” or excluded from full participation in Japanese society?


How important are hierarchical relations in Japan with respect to how people interact with each other?


To what degree do concepts of “in-groups” and “out-groups” influence Japanese society?


How does the concept of “Ie” or family exert influence on people outside or across a boundary to people who are not part of that social group?


Why is the idea of consensus so important in Japan? Do you think this brings about the kind of harmony Bestor mentions? How well is conflict within groups managed in Japan as opposed to how it is managed in other countries like America?

PDF files of the above lectures can be downloaded here:

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (1)

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (2)

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (3)

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (4)

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (5)

Asian Topics on Asia for Educators || Contemporary Japan_ Japanese Society (6)



Read Full Post »


Getting Divorced in Japan


Despite our best intentions, sometimes marriages don’t work out and couples wind up getting divorced.

Read the following PDF file on the rate of divorce in Japan as compared with other countries:


Global Divorce Rate Comparison for Japan


What accounts for the rising divorce rate in Japan?

Why do you think the Japanese divorce rate is still half that of the United States, where one in two marriages end in divorce?

Is marriage itself on the decline? Is it an outdated institution?

How do you think the government can encourage couples to get married and stay together?


In the Best Interests of the Children


Children, unfortunately, are often casualties following a divorce. They are torn between their love for both of their parents who are now going to live lives separate from one another. 

Read the following PDF files that compare divorce and child custody issues between Japan and the United States:


Parents’ rights a demographic issue | The Japan Times Online



United States Law Regarding Custody of Children Following Divorce


What do you think accounts for the differences in the way the two countries treat divorce and child custody/visitation issues?

How do you think Japan compares with the United States as to how it handles these issues?

Does the Japanese legal system further discourage couples, especially men, from getting married due to the consequences that follow a divorce (i.e., difficulty maintaining contact with children)?

How much of these differences would you attribute to Japanese cultural norms?

How essential do you think a it is for a child to maintain contact with both parents following a divorce?

What steps do you think could/should be taken to protect the interests of innocent children following a divorce?


Read Full Post »

Continued from last week

(See Week 19 for details)


Read Full Post »