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Unlike many other rich countries, Japan has resisted multiculturalism with assiduousness. It’s foreign-born population accounts for only about 2% of the total. In contrast, some 14% of the U.S.’s population and 15% of Germany’s are of foreign origin. The idea of a homogeneous racial and cultural identity has long been central to Japan’s sense of itself, which in part explains why it’s been loathe to receive immigrants. In many polls, people have expressed a preference for robots over foreigners to fill the labour shortages that the nation’s demographic decline has caused.
But increasingly, sport is challenging the idea that a Japanese identity must be ethnically determined, allowing for new and more inclusive definitions of “Japaneseness”. The most visible case in point are the Brave Blossoms, Japan’s squad at the ongoing Rugby World Cup tournament that the country is hosting. The team made it to the quarterfinals against the odds. Legions of fans, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, could be seen literally leaping with noisy joy every time a team member scored a try. If social media threads are a barometer, the Brave Blossoms and their fight as the underdogs have stirred up heightened fe
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