Featured Servanthood: Citizen’s Network for Japanese-Filipino children Inc.

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If you are abandoned by your father, if you are forsaken by your home country, you may lost your roots, which you should hold on in this world or you may lost self-belief, which is most precious in your heart wondering that “Why do I live?”, “Who am I?”… the Citizen’s Network for Japanese-Filipino Children Inc., a non-profit organization working together with their office in Manila and lawyers in Japan, will help you.

(Google Translation of Japanese Article)

“Children with overseas roots” The reality that Japan should know

Abandonment of childcare, poverty, bullying … Young people facing difficulties

At the JFC network field office "Maligaya House" in the Philippines. Children singing the national anthem of the Philippines to send a video message to Japanese supporters (2014) (Photo: Kazue Noguchi)

Young people with overseas roots are increasing their presence in Japanese society in recent years. Among them, Japanese Filipino Children, whose parents are Japanese and Filipino, are said to have a total of 100,000 in both Japan and the Philippines. Most of them have Japanese fathers. Many have experienced difficulties such as abandonment of childcare, poverty, and bullying. Last year, a collection of their essays was released to the world by a support group. What are the thoughts of young people with Hibi roots that I saw in the process?

Children looking for a Japanese father

“Naomi Osaka dual citizenship turmoil”, “Japan is already an “immigrant power”, “Who is the real Japanese?” Rieko Ito, the secretary general of the specified NPO JFC Network, checks the news about half and immigrants on a daily basis and shares it on SNS and mailing lists.

“The number of people with diverse roots in Japan is increasing, and it can no longer be said that “Japan is like this” and “Japanese is like that.” Mr. Ito says so.

Since the 1980s, the number of women coming to Japan from the Philippines and Japanese men traveling to the Philippines for business has increased, and many children were born during that time. The children are abbreviated as JFC (Japanese Filipino Children). While many children grow up happily with their parents, many mothers and children are abandoned by their fathers in Japan and left in the Philippines.

The JFC Network was established in 1994 by lawyers and citizens to support these women and children. He has not been able to travel to Japan, and has consulted with mothers who do not understand Japanese law, and has continued to provide legal support such as searching for fathers, requesting child support, and requesting recognition.

Mr. Ito has been involved in activities since the establishment when he was a college student.

A major factor in the increase in JFC was the acceptance of female entertainers. However, their acceptance has been severely restricted since 2005. In the background, women have been strongly criticized internationally for being forced to work in a hostile environment and causing serious human rights violations.

However, even now, more than 15 years after that, consultations continue. According to Mr. Ito, in the last 10 years or so, children in their late teens to 20s are increasingly asking them to find their father. When the organization was first established, the children were young and could only speak through their mothers. It’s different now. The grown-up children are trying to find their father on their own initiative.

Mr. Ito says. 

“When I get in touch with my dad, I get told that I can’t do anything because I’m old and living on a pension. But the kids don’t ask my dad for financial support. I just want to see my dad.”

“There are many children who have worked hard in the Philippines and graduated from college with excellent grades, and many have already found employment, but as all of them have decided, they say”,

 “I don’t know my father and I’m not complete. I feel that getting recognized as a child of my father is necessary for me to live with dignity.”

Fathers often have another family in Japan

In the case of the JFC network support, the father has another family in Japan and often refuses to accept cognition because he wants to protect Japan’s living base. In such a case, a recognition request trial will be filed. Under the revised Nationality Law, which came into effect in 2009, children can acquire Japanese nationality if they are recognized by a Japanese father and notified to the Japanese embassy before the age of 20.

JFC, which has a so-called “Japanese” appearance and name, is regarded as special in Filipino society, and when it was recognized as a “Japanese child,” he wanted to acquire Japanese nationality.

The JFC Network has helped more than 300 people acquire Japanese nationality since 2009. Young people who became Japanese on a sunny day came to Japan one after another. In some cases, school-aged children came with their mothers. Mr. Ito also receives consultations from such people.

“I often get a message on Facebook saying,’How are you?’. That’s when something happens. You’re in financial trouble, or you’re not doing well at school or at work. In that case, we are introducing an organization that provides professional support. “

Rieko Ito (right) listening to the latest situation from JFCs at the JFC network office (Tokyo) (Photo: Kazue Noguchi)

In 2014, the 20th anniversary of its founding, the JFC Network organized an essay contest on the theme of “My life as a Japanese Filipino Children.” A wide range of essays were collected from both countries for young people with Hibi roots. After that, many young people were involved in translation, and it was published as a book last year.

Ray Ventura, a Filipino male journalist living in Japan who served as a judge for the contest, evaluated each of the submitted works as “a work written honestly without hiding it.”

“One woman wrote that her father stopped coming to the Philippines and grew up with a mother who had mental problems. She gained recognition and was able to meet her with Japanese nationality. I came to Japan in anticipation of this, but I couldn’t meet him. There are many other people who have written similar experiences.

Why doesn’t my dad see his child? I thought I couldn’t believe it as a person. But the children aren’t angry with their dad. I can tell that I love him, and I’m trying to overcome my anger and pave the way for myself. That’s amazing.”

The writer and the children born in the heyday of the bubble overlapped

Ventura, who came to Japan during the heyday of the bubble, lived in Kotobuki-cho, Yokohama for a while while working at a construction site. There were many Filipino women around, and many JFCs were born. It is said that the children and the writer overlapped.

“A man who grew up with a Filipino mom in Japan wrote that when he was little, he was taken to the store where his hostess mom worked every night and played with a child of the same age in the waiting room. Some might think that he would take his child to such a place, but he enjoys writing about playing with his friends.

The fact that the mother managed to survive and raise her child while her husband and parents were not on her side is also very clear. Maybe even if I interviewed and wrote it, this would not be the case. I can write because I am the person who has a living experience. “

Thinking that the essay should be read by a lot of people, Mr. Ventura proposed to Mr. Ito to make it into a book, and the book making started. As he continued to interact with the writer, Ventura noticed a special aspect of JFC.

“Every child has a strong desire to know and learn various things. This is because JFC is a natural” hybrid. “If a child was born to a Japanese parent in Japan, Even if you can only speak Japanese, that’s fine.

But when my father and mother are in different countries, I am naturally interested in two languages ​​and cultures. If you try to adapt to two countries, you will also experience failures. You may find yourself half-hearted. But having two roots is very attractive in itself. “

Ventura herself has a daughter with her Japanese wife. I contacted my daughter who went to the United States to study abroad and asked her to write an essay like any other JFC. The essay, which arrived shortly after, stated that he had been bullied in Japan because of differences in appearance and name, and had always been in pain at school. However, after living in the United States, he stopped comparing himself with others and became able to accept himself.

At the end of the essay, “I have no regrets and I no longer intend to live in the pain of the past. I am grateful for all the difficulties I have experienced in living in Japan.” Was written.

“Made in Japan,” a collection of 16 essays, was knitted in this way and was released by a major Filipino publisher in the fall of 2018.

Saki Tanaka, who applied for an essay contest at the age of 25, had a happy childhood in the Philippines with her parents. I moved to Japan when I was 12 years old. The essay describes the school experience at that time.

“I remember being bullied by the leader girls because of their Japanese accent. I can’t blame them. When answering teachers’ questions and reading textbooks. Because my pronunciation was always a little different … they treated me as ‘gaijin’ even though my appearance was the same as the Japanese. “

Encounter at a life-changing international exchange lounge

I didn’t want to worry my parents and sisters, so I couldn’t make a noise at home.

“When I was a junior high school student, after club activities, I went to the international exchange lounge in the city every day. Not only did I receive Japanese instruction, but I also heard various consultations. It has a cozy atmosphere. It was a “place” where I could be myself. Even when I was preparing to take the high school exam, I was kind enough to teach me until late at night until I understood the math problems I was not good at. “

This encounter changed Mr. Tanaka.

“At one point I felt like I was close to the roots of the Philippines, but thanks to the blessings of meeting teachers and other volunteers, I eventually dreamed of becoming a bridge between Japan and the Philippines. When I heard the theme, I thought, “This is it!” At that time, I wasn’t able to demonstrate my strength in Japan, so I wanted to get something that I could be proud of. It was. Writing became an essay for me and my JFC friends. “

Mr. Tanaka concludes his essay.

“There are words like this:’Be yourself in the changes of the world you want to see.’ I think one of them is a way of life that inherits the good points of each of the two worlds.”

[Left] Saki Tanaka is in the middle. In the Philippines with my grandmother and cousin (2014) [Right] A photo taken when I participated in the "Sagamihara International Lounge" event supported by my junior high school days (2019) (both provided by myself)

After the collection of essays was published in the Philippines, it was decided to make a Japanese version. Mr. Ito also asked JFC for photos and illustrations, saying, “I want to make it with as many parties as possible.” A photography group of 4 JFCs will be formed, and Mr. Tanaka will join. When I took a peek at a meeting one day, Tagalog was bustling there.

A man from the Philippines, who came from the Philippines a few years ago and works for a foreign-affiliated staffing agency, took a picture of his workplace and his room with his iPhone and brought it with him. A table with Japanese words written on the bedside. It is reflected.

“At first I worked in a factory. But after studying Japanese, I was able to join the current company. It’s a very good company. When I come from the Philippines, there are people who think that they can only work in a factory. There are many, but if you do your best, you can get various jobs. I want to change the image of the Philippines in Japan. “

A man in the second year of high school was also in the shooting team. He came to Japan the year before the high school exam. I showed everyone a photo of my Japanese passport at the meeting.

“This is a picture I took that day when I got my Japanese passport in the Philippines. At that time, I felt like I got the key to my new life.”

Essay collection "Travel around Father's Country / Mother's Country: The Story of Japanese Filipinos I Want to Tell" (Photo: Daisuke Shibata)

The illustrations used are paired on the front and back.

The cover illustration was done by Kazuo Yasuga, who studies design at a vocational school. At the time of the essay contest, he was a junior high school student. Mr. Yasuga, who had just arrived in Japan, read an essay by JFCs who were a little older than himself.

“The passion and emotions of each writer have been conveyed. I was moved to realize that each person is now, overcoming the hardships and difficulties of being born as JFC. I wondered many times if I could express the words of the writers with illustrations. “

The illustrations used are paired on the front and back. On the table are the sun reminiscent of the Hinomaru and four parents and children walking around the town. The same townscape and family are depicted on the back, but the sun and father are missing. “I expressed the feeling that something was missing, which I felt when one person disappeared from my life,” says Yasuga.

The Japanese version of the essay collection “Travel around Father’s Country / Mother’s Country-The Story of Japanese Filipinos I Want to Tell” was completed in September last year. Mr. Tanaka, who was involved in writing, shooting, and translating essays, looks back on his past.

“When I first came to Japan from the Philippines, I couldn’t exert my strength as I used to, and I lost confidence. After that, I ran into many walls, but with the support of many people, I am now. I am glad that I was able to make new JFC friends as a result of my involvement with the JFC network, and thanks to that circle, I was able to develop my abilities.

I am just grateful to the people who took care of me. This time I would like to give back by helping those who are trying to establish themselves even in the difficult environment like I used to be. I also want to make something with my friends, for example, storytelling using picture books and videos. I want to leave our living testimony to posterity. “

Frequent cases of working under unreasonable conditions

The history of the JFC network has already exceeded a quarter century. During this time, various things happened. As mentioned above, the number of JFCs who have acquired Japanese nationality and come to Japan has increased in the last 10 years. They can’t rely on their fathers who live in Japan, and they often come to Japan without knowing Japanese well, using a temporary staffing company.

As a result, there were many cases of working under unreasonable conditions. Still, many JFCs chose to come to Japan.

Mr. Ito will have more opportunities to meet and talk with young people who he knew only on paper before. Everyone was confused by the gap between learning Japanese and living in the Philippines, and sometimes experiencing discrimination while trying to find a place in Japan.

Mr. Ito talks.

“It’s reliable that children have grown up and can convey their thoughts in words and in various ways of expression. It’s really diverse that parties like them speak out. I think that it will help to change the society so that everyone can live comfortably. If there are 100 JFCs, there are 100 stories. I want various people to know the stories of each person. “

Interview = Kazue Noguchi (journalist) / Frontline Press

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