Hi Blog. I’ve got a few projects I have to concentrate on, so I’ll be putting Debito.org on a short vacation. (Not to worry; in its two decades of reporting, Debito.org has been on holiday many times.) Back in a little bit, or here and there when I find some time. Thanks for reading Debito.org, everyone. Sincerely, Debito
Acclaimed book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through through my publisher (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield) directly. Use promo code LEX30AUTH16. (Japan residents have reported getting the book for $40 including quick shipping.)
Academic reviews have been positive. Prominent Japanologist Tessa Morris-Suzuki has reviewed it as “important, courageous and challenging”, the Japan Studies Association of Canada has heralded it as “an important contribution to geography, cultural and area studies”, Social Science Journal Japan calls it “must-read text… highly recommended reading to anyone… who is interested in Japan’s future”, and an American Sociological Association journal review notes it as “a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development … as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better”
According to WorldCat, more than 130 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections. Get your discounted copy by going to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16.
More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.
Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf
In addition to the hundreds of “Japanese Only” businesses found on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments (the fieldwork for book “Embedded Racism”), here is an Okinawan diving and hiking tourist agency called “Begin Diving Buddies” on a remote southern island called Tokashiki (35 mins by boat from Naha, Okinawa Prefecture) that refuses all “foreign” divers or hikers.
Their excuse: “safety reason and regulation” (or more simply in the Japanese, just “safety” (anzenjou), since there are NO regulations which refuse foreigners in specific for wanting to swim or walk in the mountains).
“Dear foreign customer, we don’t give you service due to safety reason and regulation.
We are appreciated your understanding.”（申し訳ありません。 安全上の理由により，外国の方はお受けしておりません）
Begin Diving Buddies’ contact details are included. Feel free to give them a piece of your mind. You can also also let officialdom know as well. Here is Tokashiki-mura’s official website, and Okinawa’s official tourism writeup on the place.
Freelance writer Lee Sin Hae, 46, filed a lawsuit with the Osaka District Court in August 2014 against [officially-acknowledged hate group] “Zainichi tokken o yurusanai shimin no kai” (“Citizens’ group that does not forgive special rights for Korean residents of Japan,” or “Zaitokukai”) and its then chairman, Makoto Sakurai, demanding 5.5 million yen in compensation. Lee alleged that the group defamed her by calling her “an old Korean hag” during rallies in the Sannomiya district of Kobe and “a lawless Korean” on Twitter.
The district court ruled in September 2016 that Zaitokukai had made the statements with the intent to incite and intensify discrimination against Korean residents of Japan, and ordered the group to pay Lee 770,000 yen in damages. According to Lee’s attorney, in June 2017, the Osaka High Court became the first court to recognize that a plaintiff had been subjected to “composite discrimination” — in Lee’s case, ethnic and gender discrimination. However, the high court upheld the lower court’s compensation amount of 770,000 yen. Zaitokukai appealed, but the Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench turned down the appeal late last year, finalizing the Osaka High Court’s decision.
Submitter JK comments: Now one of the things I find curious in the article is that we’re introduced to so-called “composite discrimination” (複合差別) which, in the Japanese version of the article is defined as racial discrimination (人種差別) plus “gender discrimination” (女性差別; I think ‘sexism’ would be a better choice of words). However, in the English version, “composite discrimination” is defined as “**ethnic** and gender discrimination”.
Debito comments: The mistranslation is very indicative. My take is that one of three things happened:
1) The mistranslation was accidental, because Japanese society is so blind to the problem of “racial discrimination” in Japan (as Debito.org has demonstrated, it’s taken decades for it to be explicitly called “jinshu sabetsu” in the Japanese) that editorial standards have reflexively reverse-engineered the language to make it “ethnic” all over again.
2) The mistranslation was deliberate, because Japan has no races, therefore “racial discrimination” cannot exist in Japan (after all, holds the liberal Japanese view, “Japanese and Koreans are the same race, therefore discrimination against Koreans isn’t racial; it’s ethnic”). More on that below. Or,
3) The mistranslation was subterfuge, because the translator at the Mainichi happened to be one of those White Samurai types, who personally doesn’t see “racism” as a problem in Japan (despite the original Japanese wording), and sneakily changed things to protect his Japan from the outside world.
DB: Are you aware there is a “Japanese only” information booth at Beppu station? My partner and I walked in to get some information about a local onsen travel route. The woman sitting at the available desk basically refused to deal with us, and told us to go to the desk for foreigners. She initially pretended that the desk was for Japanese language help only. When we pointed out that we could speak Japanese (we had been the whole time) she shifted her excuse. The whole time she leant way back in her chair, and spoke in an extremely dismissively rude tone. In six years living in Japan I have never been treated as poorly.
After we gave up and walking out half in shock I noticed the signage. The ambiguity of “Japanese” here covers the apparent reality that they actually will refuse to serve anybody not visibly Japanese regardless of language ability. I’ll be sending a formal complaint later, but I thought I’d send you the story. Here’s some photos attached, taken April 6, 2016.
Debito.org has talked for years about racial profiling by the Japanese police (see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, not to mention demanding urine samples from “foreigners” in Roppongi only; seriously). Clearly it’s still going on. The issue here, however, is how institutions that are supposed to support and inform NJ in Japan of their rights, options, and protections in Japan (in this case, Temple University in Japan) are apparently not doing so. Read on.
We had an important Supreme Court ruling come down earlier this month, where an international custody dispute between two Japanese divorcees living in different countries resulted in the custodial parent overseas being awarded custody of the child, as per the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. (See Japan Times article excerpt below.)
Debito.org has commented at length on this issue (and I have even written a novel based upon true stories of Japan’s safe haven for international child abductions). Part of the issue is that due to the insanity of Japan’s Family Registry (koseki) System, after a divorce only ONE parent (as in, one family) gets total custody of the child, with no joint custody or legally-guaranteed visitation rights. This happens to EVERYONE who marries, has children, and divorces in Japan (regardless of nationality). It even happened to me.
But what makes this Supreme Court decision somewhat inapplicable to anyone but Wajin Japanese is the fact that other custody issues under the Hague (which Japan only signed kicking and screaming, and with enough caveats to lead to probable nonenforcement), which involved NON-Japanese parents, faced a great deal of racism and propaganda, even from the Japanese government.
As evidence, consider this TV segment (with English subtitles) on Japan’s ultraconservative (PM Abe Shinzo is a frequent contributor) Sakura Channel TV network (firmly established with the “present Japan positively no matter what” NHK World network). It contains enough bald-facedly anti-foreign hypotheticals (including the requisite stereotype that foreigners are violent, and Japanese are trying to escape DV) to inspire entire sociological articles, and the incredible claim that Japan’s court system is just appeasing White people and forcing a “selfish” alien system upon Japan.
The best bits were when banner commentator Takayama Masayuki claimed a) White men just marry women from “uncivilized” countries until they find better women (such as ex-girlfriends from high school) and then divorce them, capturing them as “babysitters” for once-a-week meet-ups with their kids (which Takayama overtly claims is the “premise” of the Hague Convention in the first place); and b) (which was not translated properly in the subtitles) where Takayama at the very end cites Mori Ohgai (poet, soldier, medical doctor and translator who wrote sexualized fiction about a liaison between a Japanese man and a German woman) to say, “play around with White WOMEN and then escape back home.” (Who’s being selfish, not to mention hypocritical, now?) Take yet another plunge into this racialized sexpit of debate, where the racism doesn’t even bother to embed itself.
Asahi: Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward has drafted an ordinance designed to protect racial, ethnic and sexual minorities from discriminatory practices, a move hailed by human rights experts as an “advanced measure.” The ward was one of the first local governments in Japan to recognize same-sex marriages, and the draft ordinance covers sexual minorities.
However, the draft specifically notes that its target also includes discrimination based on nationality and race. Under the plan, the ward will establish a committee that will handle public complaints about discrimination and advise the mayor on what measures to take. A standing committee of the Setagaya Ward assembly approved the draft on Feb. 26. The assembly is expected to adopt the ordinance at a plenary session on March 2, and it will likely take effect in April.
COMMENT: Setagaya-ku is trying to do what Tottori Prefecture tried to do in 2005 (which was, pass Japan’s first ordinance specifically against racial discrimination, which is still NOT illegal in Japan; alas, Tottori UNpassed it months later). To be sure, Setagaya-ku’s goals are obscured behind the typical slogans of “discrimination due to differences in culture”, and there isn’t even a mention of “racial discrimination” (rendered as jinshu sabetsu) in this Setagaya-ku pamphlet briefing on the issue from last September. But baby steps, and the issue of “racial discrimination” (which has long been denied even as existing in Japan) has had domestic media traction as an actual, existing problem because of Setagaya-ku. Let’s hope this serves as a template for other legislative bodies this time.
The Kyoto Government is advertising via subway posters free AIDS and STD testing. Good. But check out what image they’re using for the face of sexually-transmitted diseases:
Submitter XY: Please see the attached photo, snapped on a Kyoto metro yesterday afternoon. The only non-Japanese face visible in the metro car (other than mine) is on an advert for AIDS and STD testing by Kyoto City Government. I guess they could not imagine asking a Yamato nadeshiko to be the poster-girl for AIDS testing.
COMMENT: Why are we targeting a Visible-Minority demographic with this ad? As XY says, that’s the embedded racism of this campaign. My suspicion is that they are targeting Japan’s sex workers, and a frequent association is that any foreigner imported for this task has diseases. This poster merely fortifies that.
And it’s wrong. According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, in 2015, non-Japanese people accounted for the minority of 108 (88 male; 20 female) out of 1,006 AIDS cases in Japan (and homosexual men, not women, remain the largest affected demographic). Plus don’t forget that historically, a significant number of AIDS cases in Japan were the result not of sexual contact, but of HIV-tainted blood recklessly given to hemophiliacs *by the Japanese government* in the late 1980s. That’s why this poster is visually misrepresenting the issue on many levels.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND JAPAN: A LOVE STORY
JBC 111 for the Japan Times Community page
By Debito Arudou, Thursday, March 8, 2018
The Washington Post reported something interesting on Feb. 14: A farm put up a sign saying “Resist White Supremacy.” And it incurred a surprising amount of online backlash. Calls for boycotts. Accusations and recriminations. One-star Facebook reviews that had nothing to do with their products.
The article pondered: Who, other than a White Supremacist, would object to a message rejecting white supremacy? But if you’ve ever protested racism in Japan, or read comments sections in Japanese media, you’ll know these reactions have been old hat for nearly two decades. In fact, this column will argue that online intolerance and attack have been Japan exports…
Read the rest in the JT at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/03/07/issues/white-supremacists-japan-love-story/
Table of Contents:
1) Wash Post: South Korea’s naturalized athletes in the PyeongChang Olympics; beyond treated as mercenaries?
2) Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so
GOOD STATS AT LAST
3) Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated
4) JT: “Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1.28 million with labor crunch”; more grist for the grinder
BAD STATS AS USUAL
5) JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg
6) Hawaii’s false alarm missile attack of Jan 13, 2018. JT reports: “Hawaii residents spooked but Japanese sanguine”. Poor reporting and social science.
7) Asahi: Japanese living abroad plan unprecedented lawsuit demanding dual citizenship. Bravo!
8 ) New Years Eve 2017 TV Blackface Debate in Japan (again): Referential Links
… and finally…
9) A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”
Here’s something interesting and something to support if you are a Japanese living abroad — the maintenance of your legal identity in the form of dual nationality.
The Asahi reports that several Japanese citizens in Europe unprecedentedly plan to sue the government to abolish the law forcing Japanese to pick one nationality if they take another. Some emigres also want to undo the damage and restore their Japanese nationality.
Naturally, Debito.org wholeheartedly supports this effort. For too long the embedded binary of “you’re either Japanese or you’re not” (an Ichi-ro or a Ze-ro) has done untold social damage to people of multiple ethnicities and identities. Nobody in power has ever really listened to them, so now it’s time for the monoethnic Japanese abroad, who want inclusivity for their newfound diversity, to take up the charge.
Here’s hoping they get heard. Because others who have championed this sort of thing (such as MP Kouno Taro nearly a decade ago) got nowhere even in their own ruling political party. Enough Japanese already have dual. Let’s have the law reflect reality (and not institutionalize identity policing) at last.
WaPo: In a bid to upgrade its hockey program in fast-forward, one of the world’s most homogenous countries has created one of the most foreign-heavy Olympic teams of all time. Among 25 players on the South Korean men’s hockey team in PyeongChang, seven were born in other countries, including six in Canada. South Korea has 19 foreign-born athletes competing for it in these Olympics, most of any country, with hockey accounting for the largest share. […] The imported men’s players are less mercenaries than converts, granted naturalized Korean citizenship even though they have no Korean blood. To get that opportunity, they had to play at least two seasons for Korean clubs in a pan-Asian hockey league. And then meet with national hockey officials. And then national Olympic officials. And then the country’s Ministry of Justice.
Oh, and then they had to take a test and sing the national anthem. “Then, you find out if you pass or not,” said Eric Regan, a defenseman from Ontario, who naturalized in 2016. “I was with Matt Dalton, the goalie, at the time. We went through the process together and we both passed along with, I think, two other biathletes that day — both Russians. A month later we’re playing in the world championships for Team Korea. It was wild.”
COMMENT: Although breaking down blood-determined national borders in the name of sports participation is a positive development, it is unclear at this point how much of a dent these naturalized athletes will make on the national self-image of what it means “to be a Korean”. If they don’t win (which, sadly, they won’t), then it’s doubtful they will be anything more than an unsuccessful means to an end, an asterisk in the annals of Korean sports.
But if they are accepted nevertheless as “true Koreans” (as opposed to mercenaries; and there is a positive precedent with naturalized citizen Lee Charm/Bernhard Quandt becoming South Korea’s National Tourism Organization leader in 2009) Debito.org will be among the first to cheer.
Japan too has made “instant Japanese” for the purpose of strengthening Japan’s international sports showings, and the fielding of athletes of international roots who didn’t make teams overseas. And there have been some wins on their part. But the outlook is not good: Beyond someone like the (legendary but nasty) baseball player Oh Sadaharu, and some famous Sumo wrestlers (who nowadays aren’t even officially counted as “Japanese” anyway), who remembers them?
It’s Olympics time again, and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the athleticism but not the nationalism (and inevitable comparisons of strengths and weaknesses along national lines) that is endemic to bordered sports. Too many people compete for glory as representatives of whole societies, not for individual bests, and that particularly takes a toll on Japan’s athletes.
I’ve been a relentless critic of Japan’s sports commentary, but now that I’m watching it in the US, fair game. I was quite incandescent with rage at times listening to NBC’s stupid, overgeneralizing, and often borderline racist commentary of the Opening Ceremonies. Fortunately, I was not alone, and Korea protested not only the overgeneralizations, but also the ahistorical comments that were ill-considered. Fortunately, NBC apologized (and told the press that the offending commentator’s “assignment is over”), which is better than I’ve ever seen NHK do for its nasty coverage. Here’s the Washington Post on the issue.
WaPo: [NBC’s network’s analyst, Joshua Cooper] Ramo’s commentary amounted to bland trivia about Asia “seemingly plucked from hastily written social studies reports” — such as his observation that white and blue flags stood for North and South Korean unity. Variety compared his commentary to a Wikipedia article.
But Ramo’s big misstep came when he noticed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the crowd and offered what he knew about the country’s history with Korea. Japan was “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, correctly (though he did not mention that historians say the Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Koreans into sex slavery.) “But,” Ramo continued, “every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.” This was definitely not correct.
Finally, a quarter-century into the horrible government-sponsored NJ “Trainee” program, the GOJ is now releasing actual hard statistics about the people it is killing. And you can see why it took so long–the numbers are shameful enough to warrant a cover-up: Between 2014 and 2017, 22 NJ died (almost all due to workplace accidents, but at least one was probably being worked to death). This is more than twice the on-job fatality rate for J workers. There were also 475 cases of serious accidents to NJ “Trainees”, and, as activists point out below, this figure is probably understated.
A contrarian might argue that NJ are just accident-prone. But as the article describes below, working conditions are simply awful, not to mention generally illegal. And as as Debito.org has pointed out repeatedly over the decades, “the program is rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicide — even slavery and murder. Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.” (From Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2018, Item 4)
Anyway, let’s celebrate that we have some official statistics at last, for without them, it’s easy to see why this program can keep going for a quarter-century with little political traction to improve it.
Kyodo reports that there are more NJ laborers in Japan than ever (1.28 million, of the 2.3 million total NJ registered), and this is largely due to the temporary NJ “Trainees” being brought in under Japan’s “no unskilled labor” unskilled-labor visa policy.
The big news is that Chinese and now Vietnamese are the two biggest foreign worker nationalities in Japan (I assume the 338,950 Zainichi Korean Special Permanent Residents were not counted as “foreign workers” here), followed by Filipinos and Brazilians (yes, they’re coming again) and Nepalese.
So all the official transgressions against NJ laborers a decade ago are forgotten, and ever more victims of Japan’s revolving-door visa market are arriving to be exploited and sent home. Seems NJ never learn, but this new crop will find out soon enough.
JT: [T]his year more than 1 in every 8 new adults in Tokyo’s 23 wards are not Japanese citizens, figures compiled by The Japan Times show. According to data provided by the 23 ward offices, 10,959 new non-Japanese adults live in central Tokyo, or 13 percent of the 83,764 new adults living in the city. […] Experts attributed Tokyo’s recent surge in the number of young non-Japanese to a flood of foreign residents coming with student and training visas. […] Those with dual citizenship of Japan and another country are counted as Japanese citizens.
COMMENT: This is a positive development, but not something all that headline-grabbing as a bellwether. After all, the article barely mentions the NJs’ visa status. Are these Permanent Residents who can stay here forever, and make a difference without fearing the loss of their visa? or are they on something shorter and thus sweepable (or bribable) with the thud of a bureaucratic stamp of “nonrenewal”? (The article mentions the uptick in student and “trainee” visas; precisely my point. This is not immigration; it’s a reflection of stopgap labor movement.)
And the true measure of internationalization — international Japanese citizens (i.e., Japanese children of international roots) — are not counted at all, once again showing the “embedded racism” of the process (by deliberately reducing Japan’s level of “foreignness” to more comfortable levels by only counting “pure” foreigners in isolation). Then what is a more newsworthy stat? How about the record numbers each year of NJ residents with Permanent Residency? That never seem to make much news blip. No wonder. That would actually mean something IS changing.
Instead, we get soft stats in soft newspaper articles like these. Again, fine, but we Old Japan Hands are getting rather sick of hearing prematurely how “Japan is changing” in the media, and getting our hopes up unnecessarily.
Making news recently was the alert on January 13 sent throughout Hawaii that the islands were under nuclear attack. And there were a number of reports of final messages to loved ones and otherwise panicked behavior as people tried to make use of their final moments. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the local government kept us in suspense for 38 minutes. That is where the news is — the incompetence of local authorities coupled with international tensions fanned by an incompetent president.
But leave it to the Japan Times to try to draw sociocultural lines around the event. With the smarmy title, “False-alarm missile alert spooks Hawaii residents but Japanese sanguine,” it tried to paint Japanese as preternaturally calm while Americans were panicked. Drawing from a humongous sample size of three — yes, three — “Japanese”, the JT reported juicy quotes such as this:
“[Megumi] Gong, [a housewife and college student from Shizuoka Prefecture who has lived in Honolulu for the last three years], characterized the differences between how Americans and Japanese reacted as ‘fascinating.’ ‘I don’t know if it is a sense of crisis or an obsession with life, or whether one is more accustomed to emergency situations, but the difference in the responses is fascinating,’ she said. Japanese, Gong said, ‘are afraid’ but ‘aren’t panicked’ — a kind of ‘it cannot be helped’ attitude. ‘We don’t call our family to say I love you. We still go to work,’ she said. ‘Also, we give up fast,’ as if we ‘will die if the missile’ comes. We ‘can’t do anything.’”
COMMENT: Such is the blindness of transplant diaspora, who act, without any apparent social science training, as Cultural Representative of All Japan, wheeled out to represent an entire society of more than 100 million as a “we” monolith, and taken seriously by media merely by dint of her having Japanese background. And in contrast, at least one of my contacts in Hokkaido (which also had a DPRK missile alert (for real) over Oshima Hantou and Erimo last September) would disagree with the lack of local panic.
With the recent broadcast of an “Eddie Murphy homage” (with Japanese tarento Hamada Masatoshi doing blackface) on one of the most-watched shows in Japan all year, Debito.org feels a need at least to mention that there is a hot debate going on about whether Blackface is appropriate in other societies (such as Japan) with a different history of race relations.
My opinion is that doing Blackface is almost always a bad thing, due to its historical connotation regardless of context. And I add the caveat of “almost always” while struggling to think of any exception, except for purposes of historical grounding behind the issue. (And it’s not limited to blackface: Debito.org has covered racialized media in Japan, broadcast without input from the minorities affected, many times in the past, including here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
But that’s all I’ll say. I think Baye McNeil has a lock on the issue, and I’ll just refer Debito.org Readers to his most recent Japan Times column, at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/10/our-lives/time-japan-scrub-off-blackface-good/
Even better is a YouTube panel discussion sponsored by The Japan Times that involves McNeil, Anthropologist Dr. John G. Russell of Gifudai, and YouTuber Aoki Yuta.
Dr. Russell’s comments about Japan’s history with Blackface (there is in fact a history, despite the narrative that Japan is ignorant therefore innocent) are particularly salient. Watch if you want a definitive conclusion to the issue of Blackface in Japan for yourself.
As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year. In ascending order:
10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record
Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total. In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline. Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.
9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit…
Entire article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/03/issues/2017-japan-woke-issue-discrimination/
Version with links to sources now on Debito.org.
Table of Contents:
MORE NJ REFUSALS:
1) XY: My experience with a Harajuku shop keeper – “F*ckin Foreigner kill” racist signs and threatened violence
2) Bitcoin purchasing and racial profiling by Quoinex and BITPoint Japan: Hurdles for NJ customers only
3) Debito quoted in South China Morning Post article: “Why is racism so big in Japan?”
4) Working on 2017’s Top 10 Human Rights Events that affected NJ residents of Japan. What do you think should be included?
THE CONTROVERSIES CONTINUE:
5) Mainichi: Ex-hate speech group core member regretful on anniversary of clampdown law. SITYS. Hate speech laws matter.
6) Flawed academic article on Otaru Onsens Case et al.: “Discrimination Against Foreigners in Japan”, in Journal of Law and Policy Transformation
7) Reuters: “Who is Kazuo Ishiguro?” Japan asks, but celebrates Nobel author as its own. Very symptomatic of Japan’s ethnostate.
8 ) The “Franco-American Flophouse” blog entry on “Debito”
9) Racism in US World Series against baseball pitcher Yu Darvish: Immediately punished, and turned into learning opportunity
10) October 2017 Lower House Election Briefing: LDP wins big again, routs Japan’s left wing, but some silver linings to be had
… and finally…
11) Japan Times JBC 109: “‘Attach the evidence and wait for your day in court,’ says Turkish plaintiff after Osaka victory”
XY: Hi Debito, I’m a long-term resident of Japan and I’m writing to you to share and get you to share my encounter yesterday with a racist shopkeeper in Takeshita dori in Harajuku. It started with racist signs [photos included] and ended with him threatening me with violence.
…At that point I decided that there was no way I was going to spend any money in his shop, and anything I bought there would just feel bad so I told him that I no longer wanted the bag. He cursed me out for being cheap and wasting his time (although in fact I was going to buy the bag and already had my money out).
Later after I had finished my other business I decided to get photos of the signs so I could publicize his nastiness, so I went back to the shop and took photos. He yelled at me to stop taking photos and I told him I was only taking photos of the signs and not of his merchandise.
Then he grabbed something and went to hit me with it.
I screamed in shock and ran out of the shop. Totally shaken by this experience I decided to walk down to the large police station around the corner. I wanted to make a report because I felt it needed to be on record. The police refused to take a report and told me I should call 110 next time…
I’m working on my annual Top 10 Human Rights Events of 2017 that affected NJ residents of Japan. (Here’s the list for 2016.) Do Debito.org Readers have any suggestions about what should make the list?
Remember a) these must be events, not just ongoing issues (although they could be events that punctuate or illustrate the larger issue), b) these events must have occurred in 2017, and c) they must have a distinct effect on NJ residents in Japan.
Based upon that, what do you think mattered last year? Please let us know in the Comments Section below. Thanks, and happy holidays. I’ll put Debito.org on Holiday Tangent mode shortly.
SCMP: The hand-written sign in the entrance of a cosmetics shop in Japan might have been shocking to many Chinese, but to some observers its message was all too familiar. The sign, which said Chinese people were not allowed to enter, caused outrage when images of it were posted on Chinese websites last month.
Within 24 hours, the store’s owner Pola Inc ordered the sign to be removed and vowed to suspend operations at the outlet. Pola acknowledged the notice had caused “unpleasant feelings and inconvenience to many people” and said it would deal with the situation “gravely”. In contrast with the anger in China, the incident attracted little coverage in Japan and received only brief mention in the few media outlets that covered it at all.
That seeming lack of interest doesn’t surprise Debito Arudou, a human-rights activist who was born David Schofill in California and became a naturalised Japanese citizen in 2000. Discrimination is a sad fact of life in Japan, according to Arudou, and if anything, it is becoming more frequent – and more blatant…
Shiki: Recently I’ve been signing up for Bitcoin and other crypto exchanges in Japan. Most vendors have presented no problem, they follow the law in which they have the obligation to ask for an official ID, just like PayPal does in Japan, for which I have been sending the front of my Personal Number Card (My Number Card), and then they send you a post card to your address to confirm you actually live there. That’s what these exchanges and basically any virtual money company in Japan is required to do by law.
Except for 2 exchanges, Quoinex and BITPoint. I registered with the major Japanese exchanges like bitFlyer and Coincheck among other minor exchanges. With all of them I used my Personal Number Card, and no one told me I had to do something different because of my face. But like these 2 exchanges, more and more companies who like racial profiling are starting to ask for the Residence Card for extra-legal purposes, basically discriminating in the way people are able to open accounts or register to services based on their nationality unless you comply with some extra requirements.
One of the worst examples of this is AU, which is starting to reject foreigners for buying phones in multiple payments, if the expiration of their current status in Japan does not exceed the payment timeframe for their phones, which is usually 2 years. This basically means that if your current stay permit is of 1 year, or your stay is about to expire in less than 2 years, you won’t be able to get a phone at the same price as Japanese people. Let’s remember that the maximum stay period in Japan for most visas is of 5 years, and that you cannot renew your stay until 3 months prior to the expiration date of your current permit, which I would make the case that it excludes most foreigners under a non-permanent residency status.
Just like the My Number law states very clearly that it is illegal for someone who isn’t required by law to ask for your “My Number”, or taking copies of the part of your card which shows the actual number, I think we require a law to stop people who for asking for someone’s Residence Card if they aren’t legally required to do so. In some respects I would argue that the information inside the Residence Card is in many respects just as sensitive as your “My Number”, and asking for it is an invasion of privacy at best.
It’s the busy season for me now, so in lieu of saying something more elaborate, I think I’ll just put up this link and let people comment:
The blog, “The Franco-American Flophouse”, is a thoughtful one by Victoria Ferauge, who advertises herself and interests as:
“Born in Seattle, USA. Generation Xer. Lived on 3 continents (North America, Asia and Europe). Country agnostic. Mother of two Frenchlings. Cancer survivor (so far). Passionate about culture, language, international migration, citizenship law.”
I recommend a browse around.
Mainichi: To mark the one year anniversary of the anti-hate speech law coming into effect on June 3, the Mainichi Shimbun interviewed a 38-year-old man who formerly participated actively in anti-Korean and anti-foreigner hate speech demonstrations to the extent of becoming a leading member. He spoke about his experience and the actions that he now deeply regrets. […] When asked about what fueled his extreme behavior, he offered the authorization of the use of roads for demonstrations and the many dispatched police officers that surrounded the events. “Because we had received permission to use the road, I felt like anything I said was protected by the shield of ‘freedom of speech,'” he remembered. “Even if opposition groups surrounded our demonstrations, I felt safe because I knew the police officers would protect us. It felt like we had the upper hand.”
COMMENT: The Mainichi gives us an interesting case study of how one Wajin became a participant in hate speech groups, how he felt empowered due to the fact there was (at the time) no enforceable hate speech law in Japan, and how he eventually became disillusioned with the movement. While completely anecdotal and single-case, if we get enough of these, patterns emerge, and aggregated case studies eventually can become meaningful surveys (as the fieldwork resulting from the Otaru Onsens Case demonstrated, as it morphed into the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments and a doctoral dissertation study). Let us begin the first step of understanding how and why people hate, and hopefully more people will realize why societies should make hate speech legally culpable.
The Otaru Onsens Case, one of the most prominent lawsuits against racial discrimination in Japan’s history, continues to live on both in law and social-science academic journals. The most recent, “Discrimination Against Foreigners in Japan”, came out last July in the “Journal of Law and Policy Transformation”. It cites a lot of online sources (but not the definitive book on the case, “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan”).
However, if this paper was from a student in my Research Methods class, I would dock points for a number of things here, not least the lack of peer-reviewed sources cited. It’s essentially taking all the work from Debito.org and rehashing it as a show-and-tell for academic credit, moreover without reading the most recent books and analyses on cases since then; plus it has a number of typos and a rather glib final conclusion that: “[A]s it correctly noted [sic] by Yoshio Sugimoto[,] ‘contemporary Japanese society is caught between the contradictory forces of narrow ethnocentrism and open internalization [sic]’. This proves the fact [sic] that passing laws at all levels of government outlawing discrimination in Japan is just a matter of time.” As written, I don’t logically follow.
(I have the feeling even the article title was readjusted by the gatekeepers to revert the issue back to “foreigner discrimination”, making it once again an issue of nationality, and glossing over the fact that one of the excluded plaintiffs in the Otaru Onsens Case was in fact NOT foreign. Moreover, reading the Abstract below, I note how even the summary must include a disclaimer that the “foreigners” are partially to blame for their being discriminated against “due to differences in language, religion, custom and appearance as well”.)
Anyway, congrats I guess on keeping the issue and the information in circulation, and for getting this into the research canon past the academic gatekeepers who would rather not see discrimination in Japan as racial in nature.
About a month ago, Briton Kazuo Ishiguro, who writes exclusively in English, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Predictably, Japan’s media boasted that a third Japanese writer (with the caveat that he was Japan-born) had won a Nobel. Well, not really. Imagine, say, Germany claiming as their own all the Nobel-laureate scientists of the Deutsch diaspora living abroad, even those without actual German citizenship, for however many generations?
In Japan, this highly-questionable social science is hardly problematized. As noted below by Reuters, a similar claim was laid to Shuji “Slave” Nakamura, inventor of the LED, who due to his foul treatment by Japan’s scientific and academic communities quite actively disavows his connections to Japan (in fact, he urges them to escape for their own good). Same with Yoichiro Nambu, who got Nobelled as a team in 2008 for Physics, who had been living in the US since the 1960s, was a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, and had even relinquished Japanese citizenship and taken American.
I suspect this is for massaging a rather insecure national pride. Also because it is largely unquestioned under the concept of Japan as an ethnostate, where nationality is directly linked to blood ties. That is to say, anyone who is of Japanese blood can be claimed as a member of the Japanese societal power structure (i.e., a Wajin). And the converse is indeed true: Even people who take Japanese citizenship who lack the requisite Wajin blood are treated as foreign: Just ask Japan’s “naturalized-but-still-foreign” athletes in, say, the sumo wrestling or rugby communities.
It’s a pretty racist state of affairs. One I discuss in depth in acclaimed book “Embedded Racism”(Lexington Books, 2015). And, as I argue in its closing chapter, one that will ultimately lead to the downfall of a senescent Japan.
BleacherReport: Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has reportedly been suspended for the first five games of next season after making a racist gesture aimed at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in Game 3 of the World Series… Gurriel homered off Darvish in the second inning of Houston’s 5-3 win on Friday. After returning to the dugout, television cameras showed Gurriel pulling down on the corners of his eyes. He apologized for the incident following the game.
WaPo: …Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros without pay for five games at the beginning of next season for making a racially insensitive gesture and yelling an anti-Asian insult at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night. It is not expected that the players’ union will contest the discipline.
Gurriel’s immediate expression of remorse after the game, as well as a full apology and a desire to meet Darvish personally to apologize, may have helped the Astros first baseman avoid being suspended during this World Series.
Just as pertinent, Darvish, after saying that Gurriel’s acts were “disrespectful” to Asians around the world, wrote in a tweet that, “I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. . . . Let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.”
COMMENT: I rather like the attitudes taken by officialdom (immediate response to tamp down on racist expressions) and by the target (anger but optimism that this will be a lesson learned). I’m just a bit worried that the typical reaction in the Japanese press will be, “Well, discrimination happened to one of ours! Disgraceful! You see? Our racism towards others is just what everyone does worldwide. So there’s little need to address it here.” I doubt it will be seen as a “teaching moment”, beyond saying that racism happens in other countries to us Japanese, not in Japan. That’s the standard narrative reinforced in standardized education in Japan, and that’s why when you see it happen in Japan, it’s less likely to have constructive outcomes like these. Now that is a wasted opportunity. Well done, US MLB and all parties to this incident.
As is tradition on Debito.org (see previous writings here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), after a Japanese election we analyze the results:
WINNERS AND LOSERS:
The LDP won big, retaining its absolute 2/3 majority beyond 310 seats in the assembly. But it wasn’t an unqualified win. It retained exactly the same number as last time. However, KMT lost five seats from the 34 it had pre-election.
However, the protest vote by people who wanted a party to keep Japan’s Constitution as it is (the CDP), won bigger, going from 15 seats from its DPJ/DP politicians to a full 55. Message: The DPJ is dead, long live its spirit in the CDP.
The losers were just about everyone else. Koike’s Hope Party dropped from 57 to 50 seats, the far-right Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai) from 14 to 11, the far-left Communist Party from 21 to 12, and the tiny socialist Social Democratic Party (Shamintou) holding steady at two seats.
The biggest losers were the party-unaffiliated politicians (mushozoku) on both sides. The ones leaning left went from 27 seats to 21, while the ones leaning right went from eleven to one! Part of this is that due to the Proportional Representation vote (which only applies to official parties), these independents had to win in single-seat constituencies. But the bigger reason seems to be that brand recognition these days sells well: Either you stampeded with the herd under the LDP’s umbrella, or you went for a party flavor du jour (which quickly soured under Koike’s Hope, but clearly flowered under the CDP).
More past writings and analysis follow:
JBC: On Aug. 25, the Osaka District Court handed down a landmark ruling in a discrimination lawsuit.
Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national and 14-year resident of Japan, was refused service last October by an Osaka used car dealer, which stated in an email (text at www.debito.org/?p=14743) that they would not serve foreign customers. The car company also stipulated that even if the customer legally holds Japanese citizenship, they would only sell to people who could “hold their own (sonshoku ga nai) against native speakers” in terms of Japanese language ability (as determined solely by the car company).
Yener felt this was discriminatory, filed suit and won. The presiding judge said that it “was based on prejudice that a foreigner would cause trouble and does not justify the discriminatory treatment.” But what made this case particularly noteworthy is that Yener navigated Japan’s legal system all by himself — without a lawyer.
Thus this case offers potential lessons for other non-Japanese or international Japanese who face similar discrimination. JBC contacted Yener last week to find out more about the thinking behind bringing the case…
Table of Contents:
1) New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights
2) “Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.
3) Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage
4) “Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance
5) Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)
MORE ON YENER CASE
6) NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer
7) Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017
In case you haven’t heard, the center-left (and former governing party) Democratic Party of Japan (once Minshuutou, now Minshintou), has suffered a further blow to its existence, now having to sell its factional soul to a new party (Kibou no Tou, or the “Party of Hope”) headed by a name-brand candidate and Governor of Tokyo (Koike Yuriko). Koike is ostensibly just about as far-right as PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. As proof of that: In the JT article below, KnoT is demanding as a litmus test that new party entrants from the DPJ sign on to a party platform denying NJ residents (including Permanent Residents) the right to vote in any elections.
Given that PR in Japan, a legal status that is reasonably hard to achieve (and specific to Japan when it comes to its “Special Permanent Residents” (tokubetsu eijuusha), i.e., the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese “generational foreigners” and descendants of former citizens of empire), requires significant time and commitment to Japan, this is yet another slap in the face to people who stay (in many cases their entire lives), pay taxes, and contribute to society the same as any other citizen. The alarmism that KnoT in the article below displays is straight out of the LDP handbook — arguing that giving foreigners any power would mean they would turn against Japan, even secede — which is nothing short of distrust of foreigners’ very existence in society. Or xenophobia, for short.
In sum, voters have a choice between two viable parties now, both rightist with essentially the same platform, except that one is PM Abe and one is Rewarmed Abe, for those who don’t like the man and would prefer a shiny new woman. Sigh. Meanwhile, Japan’s tolerant left will remain in disarray for the foreseeable future.
As Debito.org has argued for decades, if you don’t make discrimination explicitly illegal, it spreads and mutates.
Now we have a bathhouse (the most famous type of “Japanese Only” businesses in Japan) named “Hagoromo-yu”, in cosmopolitan Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, which has a sign up explicitly refusing custom to all LGBT customers “who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation” (setsudo o mamoru).
But here’s the nasty kicker (and brazen nastiness seems to be the hallmark of Japan’s excluders these days; just consider the antics of Osaka car dealer Autoplaza in the recent Yener Case). The sign even includes this iyami on the bottom, striking back against the unusual progressiveness of the local government:
“Shibuya-ku has established the ‘same-sex partners ordinance’, but we at this establishment will refuse service to any LGBT customers who who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation.”
How nice. Location and contact details of Hagoromo-yu below. Feel free to give them a piece of your mind, as moderately as you like.
Nikkei: This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face. According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.
The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam. As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. […]
The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo. Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”
Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent. This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”
As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to Debito.org with more detail on his case, making it clear that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.
The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.) One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).
Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner. Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.
The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won. He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing. That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible. The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced. In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees. In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.
Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won. It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators. That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.
Review excerpt: [Embedded Racism] is a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development. The book will, no doubt, add to a lively discussion already afoot in Japanese studies, critical race studies, and critical mixed race studies of racism in Japan.
[…] The strongest part of the book, in my view, is chapter 5, which illustrates how “Japaneseness” is enforced through legal and extralegal means. The examples of visa regimes and even exclusion from sports and other contests through educational institutions show how everyday racism leaks into larger organizational practices, often without challenge.
[…] The book is clearly written and seems to be aimed primarily at undergraduate students, as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better, and it compiles interesting documentary legal data about the history of cases of discrimination in Japan. The book would easily suit courses that address global conceptions of race and ethnicity and how these are changing in Japan at both the micro and macro levels because of globalization.
A couple of weeks ago, friends Olaf and James wrote in to say that they went down Hamanasu Doori in Monbetsu, a seaport town in Eastern Outback Hokkaido. Here’s what book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 3 has to say about this case (expanded from the original entry on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments on Debito.org):
Place: Miscellaneous places around Monbetsu City (Hokkaidō) (two public/private sector bathhouses, a ramen shop, a restaurant, a karaoke parlor, and more than 100 bars).
Background: According to newspaper articles, plus several visits and interviews between 2000 and 2009 by the author and other activists, since 1995 Monbetsu’s local restaurateurs’ association (inshokuten kumiai) created and sold standardized signs in Cyrillic saying “Japanese Only Store” (Nihonjin sen’yō ten) that went up on over 100 bars and restaurants in the Hamanasu Dōri nightlife district. Interviews with bars displaying the signs revealed fears of Russian sailors’ custom, including the language barrier, drunken unruliness, nonpayment of bills, rumors of rape, surrounding Japanese customer dissatisfaction, and ties to Russian organized crime (although many interviewees said they had no actual experience with any of these issues – the sign was a preventive measure); some refused the author’s business even though he is not Russian and was accompanied by other Japanese. Three restaurants and a karaoke parlor expressed similar sentiments, and said they would have refused the author had he not been a fluent Japanese speaker. Two bathhouses (one private-sector, one public/private (dai-san sekutā)) claimed drunk and unruly Russian bathers were driving away Japanese customers).
Action taken by observers/activists: In July 2000, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu) Asahikawa Branch wrote a letter (see ER Chapter Eight) to the restaurateurs’ association calling their activities “clear racial discrimination against foreigners,” demanding they remove their exclusionary signs. In an interview with the author in April 2001, the kumiai head claimed that these signs were now the property of their respective purchasers, and what they did with them was not their concern. After extensive media exposure of the situation in local newspapers and national TV between 2000 and 2005, signs began coming down, and further interviews and media exposure of the restaurants, karaoke parlor, and the bathhouses resulted in exclusionary rules being rescinded in the karaoke parlor, one restaurant and the public/private-sector bathhouse. In 2006, an interview with another restaurant enabled the author to personally take down one of the Cyrillic signs with permission. In 2004, the author and one other activist submitted a petition (chinjō) to pass a local anti-discrimination ordinance (jōrei), which subsequently died in committee.
So the update is: The exclusionary signs are down in Hamanasu Doori. Pity it only took 22 years for it to happen, apparently by attrition. No thanks to the Monbetsu City Government, natch.
JBC: Let’s talk about Charlottesville.
As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.
Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:
Japan has also had plenty of hate rallies — there was about one per day on average in 2013 and 2014, according to the Justice Ministry. Rightist xenophobes and government-designated hate groups have assembled and held demos nationwide. Bearing signs calling foreign residents “cockroaches,” calling for a Nanking-style massacre of Koreans in an Osaka Koreatown, even advocating the extermination of “all Koreans, good or bad,” Japan’s haters have also used violence (some lethal) against the country’s minorities.
As JBC has argued before (“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step,” Jan. 31, 2016), freedom of speech is not an absolute. And hate speech is special: It ultimately and necessarily leads to violence, due to the volatile mix of dehumanization with flared tempers.
That’s why Japan decided to do something about it. In 2016 the Diet passed a law against hate speech (albeit limiting it to specifically protect foreign residents). And it has had an effect: Japanese media reports fewer rallies and softer invective.
America, however, hasn’t gotten serious about this. It has no explicit law against hate speech, due to fears about government censorship of freedom of speech. Opponents argue that the only cure is freer speech — that somehow hate will be balanced out by reasonable and rational counter-hate. That persuasion will win out.
But in 2016, it didn’t. Hate speech is precisely how Donald J. Trump got elected president…
Table of Contents:
1) Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!
2) Book Review in SSJJ journal calls “Embedded Racism” a “must-read text”, “highly recommended reading to anyone interested in Japan’s future”
3) Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.
4) Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.
5) Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals
6) Amy Chavez JT obit on “Japan writing giant” Boye De Mente: Let’s not whitewash his devaluation of Japan Studies
7) Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”
8 ) One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist of non-chart album cuts
In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society. It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here). Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.
Asahi: Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population. However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants. “Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked. Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?” The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.” Acceptance is unavoidable
Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.
Good news. Until now, if you wanted to qualify for any retirement payout under the Japanese National Pension System (Nenkin), you had to contribute 300 months, or 25 years, of your salary in Japan. This was an enormously high hurdle for many NJ residents, who would pay in but not always elect to stay the bulk of their working life in Japan. That meant that aside from getting back a maximum of three years’ worth of contributions upon request, you’d effectively lose your retirement investment as an enormous exit tax.
It made it so that the longer you stayed in Japan, the more of a pension prisoner you became, since if you left the country to work elsewhere, you’d lose, because you hadn’t paid into pension schemes in other countries and wouldn’t qualify. But now the threshold for qualifying at all in Japan has fortunately been reduced. From 25 to 10 years, as of August 2017. Hurrah.
Excerpt of the first and last paragraphs:
SSJJ: Why are there so few academic books or articles on Japan with the word ‘Racism’ in the title? It would be odd, to say the least, if Japan were the only inhabited place on earth where racism did not exist. Could it be that racial minorities in Japan are made up of groups that are too small, too transitory or too lacking in visibility to be worth the effort of close study? A more plausible explanation is offered by those who, like anthropologist John Russell, argue that powerful groups have disseminated the ‘national myth of Japan as a racism-free society that always manages to retain uncorrupted its essentialistic character, despite cultural borrowings’ (Russell 2010: 110). Given this highly successful effort to hush up discussions of racism in Japan, Debito Arudou’s new book on ‘Embedded Racism’ is very welcome. […]
In an anti-globalist era of Trump and ‘Brexit’ there will be many who argue that Japan is right to severely restrict immigration and preserve as much as possible that is unique about its national character. If those who do not ‘look Japanese’ have to suffer some discrimination, then that is just the price that has to be paid. There are also many who believe that the best antidote to racism is to have a nation state where as few people as possible look out of place. Arudou’s reply to this point of view, which acts simultaneously as a challenge to Japan’s leaders, is that if this national narrative is allowed to prevail, it will not only condemn Japan’s aging population to an ever-worsening demographic crisis, it will also have a ‘suffocating and self-strangulating’ effect on society (p. 303).
There are important academic contributions to the study of racism in Japan in this book, but it is as a must-read text on the crisis facing the shrinking Japanese population and its leaders that it really leaves its mark. Embedded Racism is highly recommended reading to anyone—whether they self-identify as Japanese or foreign or both—who is interested in Japan’s future.
Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render. They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations) But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark. She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.
Rubbish. I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance. The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite”, and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes. Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before. I’ve seen it. But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny. Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”. Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said. Portray it accurately. Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish.
Coming out of Debito.org’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news: Long-time readers of Debito.org know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.
And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. Yes, a photo of us is enclosed. I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.
As for people who still think Duran Duran peaked in the mid-1980s, I challenge you to listen to my iPod’s “Damn Good Duran Duran” playlist. (And in terms of musicality, I also challenge you to listen to John Taylor’s bass line on the song “Rio” as an isolated track, and tell me it doesn’t rank up there with Geddy Lee or Tina Weymouth.) Here are 40 remarkable DD songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:
Chavez: “Any Japanophile will have at least one of the 30 or so books authored by Boye Lafayette De Mente during his long and prolific writing career in Japan. His works are read by travelers, businesspeople and scholars alike, with offerings ranging from “The Pocket Tokyo Subway Guide” to the “Tuttle Japanese Business Dictionary,” and my personal favorite, “Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese.” Several of his books have become classics…”
COMMENT: One the last of the truly old-school postwar “Japan analysts”, who helped set the tone of Japanology as a pseudoscience fueled by stereotype. Check out his list of titles on Wikipedia and you’ll see the undermining of Tuttle as a reliable-source publisher. “Women of the Orient: Intimate Profiles of the World’s Most Feminine Women”, dated 1992, where he boasts of his sexual escapades, and draws broad conclusions about how Asian women please White men like him, anyone? Or if you want something approaching a different kind of lingus, try “The Japanese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Japanese Thought and Culture.” (“Complete”?). Plenty more that anybody actually trained in modern Humanities or Social Sciences would find highly problematic. Eulogies are one thing. But let’s not whitewash this person’s publishing record. “Classic” does mean “influential”, but it should not in this case necessarily imply “good”.
Mainichi: It has been a year since Japan’s anti-hate speech law took effect. And over that year, the number of demonstrations targeting specific races or ethnicities has apparently declined… It is perfectly natural to make sure that countermeasures against hate speech demonstrations do not lead to curbs on freedom of expression, but hate speech clearly violates human rights. We would like to see local governments across the country consider hate speech regulations in line with local conditions… Meanwhile, it should be remembered that even primary school children use computers and smartphones. Educating school children about online hate ought to be a national project.
COMMENT: We’ve talked before about unsophisticated columns in Japanese media regarding human rights. This one joins them. It wags a few fingers and applauds some local moves to eliminate hate speech, but it still has trouble going beyond vague urgings to actually advocate for the root solution: passing a law with criminal penalties against racial discrimination. Until this law in specific is part of the media’s steady drumbeat of finger-wagging, advocating a mere patchwork of local-level patches is again, a half-measure.