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Abstract

This article provides an overview of the state of the field of racial and other minorities in Japan – a field that has developed in English mostly since the 1990s. The construction of race in Japan conflates race, ethnicity, language, culture, class, and citizenship. As a result, the majority “Japanese” are constructed against “foreigners,” both categories implying the aforementioned characteristics. Minorities in Japan lack some or all of the aforementioned traits: most are seen as racially different from Japanese but some are marginalized in other ways that support hierarchical social organization. After reviewing scholarship that analyzes the meaning of race in Japan, I briefly describe the major minority groups: Ainu, Okinawans, Burakumin, ethnic Koreans, foreign workers, Japanese Brazilians and mixed race Japanese.