Discrimination in Japan

In Niigata Prefecture stands Tsubame City and Sanjo City, and at these two cities are Tsubame-Sanjo Station and Sanjo-Tsubame Interchange.

This is very unusual because of the inconsistent naming. And even more so, Tsubame-Sanjo Station is situated in Sanjo City, while Sanjo-Tsubame Interchange is located in Tsubame City.

The reason behind this is because of the rivalry behind the cities since the Edo Period. During the Edo Period, Tsubame was filled with craftsmen while Sanjo had lots of merchants. These craftsmen had to sell their work to the merchants to help sell them to the public, and so they were dependent on the Sanjo merchants. However, in order to get a greater profit margin, these merchants frequently bargained for very cheap prices from the Tsubame craftsmen. And thus, they grew to dislike each other.

When the aforementioned station and interchange was due to be constructed, former Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei decided to be fair and appease the residents by naming the station with Tsubame’s name first so that they don’t get pissed about it being created in Sanjo. Likewise for the interchange, to name it with Sanjo first so that the residents don’t get pissed about it being erected in Tsubame.

An interviewee responded on TV that he still sees residents of the other city as a different race. When something goes wrong, they would automatically think it’s the other party’s fault.

Such a thinking is probably not uncommon in Japan as rivalry occurs not just across prefectures but also across different regions and even wards in Tokyo (think Kyoto and Shiga; Aomori’s Tsugaru and Nanbu; Tokyo’s Setagawa and Meguro), and likely in many places around the world.

Perhaps the culprit of discrimination is not in human’s tendency to demarcate, but ironically, the tendency to unite; having the need to be a part of something. And when multiple groups form simply due to geography, a sense of “they are not in our group” is born and an irrational dislike of those in a different group begins to bud.


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