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Humans of ISC65: Mina Montoya Aoki

For today advocate, we proudly to present to you Mina Montoya Aoki- a member of [Table 1: The Global Refugee Crisis in the Japanese Context]. Mina just came back from her one year abroad at Singapore and she has a lot to share with you!

Q1. Please tell us what are the reasons/motivations that made you apply for ISC65?

Hi, I’m Mina from Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies. I just came back from a year abroad in Yale-NUS College in Singapore. My year has been full of new discoveries and revelations, and I am still reminiscent of the wonderful memories I made there. I hope to use the experiences and knowledge I gained in my future activities and endeavors.

I have a very personal reason for joining ISC. My mother is a Filipina married to a Japanese, and the three of us moved to Tokyo for my education about 8 years ago at the beginning of my junior high school. My mother faced difficulty assimilating into the new environment, and finding a job was a daunting task due to the language barrier. The past 8 years has made me realize not only the depth of her love, but also the enormity of her sacrifice in coming to Japan. I strongly felt for the difficulty of her situation as an immigrant, and I wanted to use my position of privilege as a university student to voice out change for the social position of people like her. Being a part of ISC is a step in that direction.

Q2.What do you think about your table’s topic?

My table tackles the issue of refugees in the Japanese context. In 2017, the Japanese government gave refugee status to 20 individuals, whereas the applications for that year were about 20,000. This shows the extreme exclusivity of the selection process for refugees, which makes it unfavorable for those who require immediate asylum. One of the reasons why the screening process is so selective is because among the applicants, there are also foreign laborers who seek to enter Japan and gain legal residence through the refugee status. The need to tell apart applicants and select those who fit the definition lead to the slow approval process. In order to accept more refugees, Japan needs to improve its overall immigration policy. I also think that the unpreparedness of the government in dealing with immigrants is a symptom of the Japanese society’s historical indifference towards foreigners. This shows that it is important to make change at the societal level as well.

Q3. Can you tell us a little bit about your hometown?

I grew up in a provincial area called Puerto Galera in the Philippines. Even though it is a very remote area, it is relatively well-developed compared to the other towns on Mindoro Island where Puerto Galera is located. It is a tourist destination for foreign divers and local weekend visitors from Manila, enjoying the rich marine life, white sand beaches and scenic views from the mountain. I spent my childhood surrounded by nature, going on hikes and picnics with my family and friends. On the flipside of being in touch with nature, I also experienced many inconveniences in terms of lifestyle. When I was younger, we would experience power outages that would last for days, and sometimes there would be no water from the faucets. That is why, when I first came to Tokyo and heard that power outages did not happen unless a big disaster occurred, I was very surprised. Compared to Tokyo, the futuristic metropolis fueled by rapid technological advancement and constant change, Puerto Galera seems to me like a small frontier trying to keep up with such advancements. The beauty of my remote hometown is in the simple lifestyle not overridden by machines, the ability to interact with nature at a close proximity, and the discoveries made possible by having your own free time away from the busyness of city life.

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