We now have the xenophobic public demonstrations talked about previously on Debito.org, which had slogans such as “Kill the Koreans!” in Tokyo and “start a Tsuruhashi Massacre like the Nanking Massacre!” in Osaka, being debated and decried in Japan’s political circles. Witness this article fresh from the Asahi (translation mine):
Asahi: On May 9, the issue of the Zaitokukai’s repeated demos containing hate speech, calling for people to “Kill the Koreans”, was taken up in the Upper House’s Judicial Committee. Justice Minister Tanigaki Sadakazu said, “I am filled with concern. This runs directly counter to the course of a civilized nation.”… In regards to next steps, Tanigaki limited his statement to, “This is extremely worrisome because it is related to freedom of expression. I wish to observe most carefully to see whether it leads to sentiments of racial discrimination.”
Comments have also come from the top.
Japan Daily Press: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his concern on the increase of hate speech in the country in an Upper House Budget Committee session on May 7. The premier criticized the hate-mongering that has become rampant on the internet and in specific areas around the nation, adding that the hate these people show is dishonoring Japan… Abe concluded that those who are spreading hate speech – online or offline – do not represent the Japanese people. He also specifically said that it was his intention to restrict hateful comments posted on his official Facebook page. “It’s completely wrong to put others down and feel as if we are superior,” he said. “Such acts dishonor ourselves.”
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Although I am happy that the LDP is saying that these hateful tendencies are a bad thing, there are two tendencies that should be noted. One is that these are reactive, not active, stances by the governing parties. These clear and powerful acts of hate speech happened months ago, and now we’re just getting to them during question time, in response to opposition questions? Far too slow. The LDP should have denounced this behavior immediately if it ran so counter to what PM Abe can so cocksurely say is not “The Japanese Way of Thinking”. (And given that these people are legislators, where is the proposal for a law against it?)
The other is Abe’s disingenuousness. Abe might now say that those who are disseminating this kind of hate speech “do not represent the Japanese people”. Yet these right-wing haters are precisely Abe’s support base. As I discussed in my articles in the Japan Times (“Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer”, February 4, 2013) and on Japan Focus (“Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance.” Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3. March 4, 2013), Abe has been intimately involved with the Sakura TV crowd, for years now advocating all manner of hateful invective towards NJ, particularly Japan’s neighbors and domestic NJ residents. Abe is thus talking out of both sides of his mouth here.
In sum, if Abe wants to keep harping on about “honor” (whatever that means), I think he should be looking at himself and his political activities in the mirror. These hate-speech activities are a direct result of the political machinations of his political ilk, if not him personally. That a man could exist in such a powerful position in government not once, but twice, says indicative things about Japan’s view of “honor”, and about the Japanese public’s tolerance of disingenuousness.
NYT: Since taking over as Japan’s prime minister in December, Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party have been juggling a packed agenda of complicated issues, including reviving the country’s economy, coping with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and managing prickly relations with neighbors like North Korea. Stirring up extraneous controversy is counterproductive, but that’s exactly what he and his nationalist allies in Parliament have done. On Tuesday, a group of 168 mostly low-ranking conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. It was the largest mass visit by Parliament in recent memory…
Japan and China both need to work on a peaceful solution to their territorial issues. But it seems especially foolhardy for Japan to inflame hostilities with China and South Korea when all countries need to be working cooperatively to resolve the problems with North Korea and its nuclear program. Instead of exacerbating historical wounds, Mr. Abe should focus on writing Japan’s future, with an emphasis on improving its long-stagnant economy and enhancing its role as a leading democracy in Asia and beyond.
You have to hand it to zealots in political power for their singlemindedness and clarity of message. The extreme-right leaders of the LDP are pursuing their agenda with messianistic fervor from both above and below, opening booths and putting in Prime Ministerial appearances at online geek festivals, and even enlisting the Emperor to push an overtly-politicized agenda of historical revisionism.
BBC: Japan has for the first time marked the anniversary of the end of the allied occupation, which followed its defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the “restoration of sovereignty day” would give Japan hope for the future and help it become “strong and resolute”. The event is seen as part of Mr Abe’s nationalist campaign. He is also pushing for a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution to ease tight restrictions on the armed forces… “I want to make this a day when we can renew our sense of hope and determination for the future,” the 58-year-old said in front of officials gathered in Tokyo. “We have a responsibility to make Japan a strong and resolute country that others across the world can rely on,” he said.
Yomiuri: Also behind the government’s decision to sponsor the ceremony is the perceived threat to the nation’s sovereignty, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pursuit of constitutional revision, observers said. Takeshi Noda, chairman of the LDP Research Commission on the Tax System… He believes it is necessary to give the people an opportunity to ponder why the nation lost its sovereignty by considering as a set the April 28 anniversary of the restoration of independence and the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, the day the nation announced its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. He calls the Aug. 15 anniversary “the day of humiliation for losing [the nation's] sovereignty.”… Abe … delivered a video message, saying: “[The nation's] failure to thoroughly review the Occupation period right after sovereignty was restored has left serious problems. The next [task for us] is [to revise] the Constitution.”
Yomiuri then suddenly opines: Yet the nation’s territory and sovereign power have been threatened daily. China’s maritime surveillance ships have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Meanwhile, the Takeshima islands have been illegally occupied by South Korea, and Russia has been intensifying its effective control over the northern territories off Hokkaido. The current situation, in which the nation’s sovereignty is in unprecedented danger, also appears to have fueled Abe’s desire to hold the latest ceremony.
Comment: An even bigger surprise was that PM Abe found the time to put in an appearance at a local geek festival, sponsored by Internet snakepit of bullies and right-winger refuge 2-Channel’s corporate body, Niconico Douga a few days ago! Submitter JJS comments: “Wanted to point your attention to this as it seems like one of those things that will be passed up, glossed over, or completely go unseen by most people. I guess NicoNico video held some type of ‘Big Conference’ called 「ニコニコ超会議2」. It appears at first to be some gathering for tech-heads and geek culture of all kinds. But scroll down a bit to the section 自衛隊や在日米軍、各政党も参加 and you’ll see that Abe came to participate…essentially campaigning at the event. Nico Nico played a big role in one of the debates he proposed be put online, live. But to outright be campaigning at this event seems out of the norm and certainly a bending of the rules. Even more disturbing is the show of military hardware with tie-ins to cute “moe” characters, etc. There is something rotten in Nagatacho and it all seems to be going ‘according to plan.’”
Quite. The zealots leading the LDP have melded nationalism, militarism, and naked political ambition. Something wicked is not only this way coming, it is already here. If the LDP gets its way and converts this tone of agenda into real public policy, Japan is heading for remilitarization all over again
I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.
The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc. A synopsis of the new book is below.
You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:
Here are a couple of interesting cases that have fallen through the cracks recently, what with all the higher-level geopolitical flurry and consequent hate speech garnering so much attention. With not much to link them thematically except that these are complaints made into public disputes, let me combine them into one blog post and let them stand for themselves as bellwethers of the times.
First up, we have a criminal complaint filed with the police for classroom bullying resulting in serious injury due to his Pakistani ethnicity. This is one of a long line of cases of ethnic bullying in Japan, once again with insufficient intervention by authorities, and we’re lucky this time it hasn’t resulted yet in PTSD or a suicide. Like it has in these cases here with an ethnic Chinese schoolgirl, with an Indian student in 2007, or a Filipina-Japanese student in 2010 (in the last case NHK neglected to mention ethnicity as an issue). Of course, even here the Mainichi declines to give the name of the school involved. Whatever happened to perennial promises of a “major bullying study” at the ministerial level a couple of years ago to prevent things like this? Or of grassroots NGO actions way back when?
Next, here’s an article about a victim fighting back. We have a thirty-something city councilor (in another unnamed local government in Hyougo-Ken) who proposed (in writing) to a woman (now 28, who accepted), then broke it off as soon as he heard that she was a Japanese citizen with a Zainichi Korean grandfather (horrors — how that might damage his political career!, he said). So in October of last year (appearing in an article dated January 28, 2013), she sued him for 2.4 million yen. Stay tuned. Interesting to see if the outcome will indicate how, once again, naturalization still doesn’t make a former NJ a “real Japanese” in elite society’s eyes:
And finally, courtesy of japanCRUSH last January, we have this interesting titbit: “Japanese defense minister Onodera Itsunori is the latest politician to enter the fray by calling former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio a ‘traitor’ on a television programme. Onodera’s remark came after Hatoyama commented to Chinese officials that the Senkaku Islands should be recognised as disputed territory, rather than Japanese territory, during his trip to China. Interestingly, Hatoyama caused further controversy this week when he apologised for the Nanjing massacre.”
So this is what it’s coming to. Dissent from prominent Japanese (who, in Hatoyama’s case, are no longer even political representatives) who act on their conscience, deviate from the saber-rattling party line, and show any efforts at reconciliation in this era of regional brinkmanship get decried as “traitors”. Doesn’t seem like there is much space for tolerance of moderate or diverse views (or people) anymore.
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
By Arudou Debito
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
JT JBC: Last November, a reader in Hokkaido named Stephanie sent me an article read in Japan’s elementary schools. Featured in a sixth-grader magazine called Chagurin (from “child agricultural green”) dated December 2012, it was titled “Children of America, the Poverty Superpower” (Hinkon Taikoku Amerika no Kodomotachi), offering a sprawling review of America’s social problems.
Its seven pages in tabloid format (see debito.org/?p=10806) led with headlines such as: “Is it true that there are more and more people without homes?” “Is it true that if you get sick you can’t go to hospital?” and “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the fatter the children are?”
Answers described how 1 out of 7 Americans live below the poverty line, how evicted homeless people live in tent cities found “in any town park,” how poverty correlates with child obesity due to cheap junk food, how bankruptcies are widespread due to the world’s highest medical costs (e.g., one tooth filling costs ¥150,000), how education is undermined by “the evils (heigai) of evaluating teachers only by test scores,” and so on.
For greater impact, included were photos of a tent city, a fat lady — even a kid with rotten-looking picket-fence teeth. These images served to buttress spiraling daisy chains of logic: “As your teeth get worse, your bite becomes bad, your body condition gets worse and your school studies suffer. After that, you can’t pass a job interview and you become stuck in poverty.”
The article’s concluding question: “What can we do so we don’t become like America?”…
Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here. But we’re getting closer. Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy. Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know, but here’s a German media take on the issue:
DIE ZEIT: For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.
Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.
Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.
But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals…
Japan Times JBC: On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.
I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.
So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time…
Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”
Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents)…
The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.
Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included
It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve. Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012′s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this. My synopsis of this election, and future prospects for the direction Japan is now heading, follow below.
In brief: Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet.
JBC Intro: Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.
This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.
In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.
Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.
“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country…
Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record. The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record of Tottori Prefecture’s website is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan. So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable. First, however, the background:
On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders. Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010. It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3. However, the counterattack was immediate…
Something that came up on one of the mailing lists I’m on (a JALT group called PALE) is an interesting debate on physical education in Japan as part of cultural education in Japan — the new requirement for students to take a martial art in Junior High School as an attempt to “transmit tradition” and develop one’s inherent inner Japanese-ness.
My basic objection with all this education on “what it means to be Japanese” (which reasserted itself with former PM Abe’s reforms of the Basic Law of Education in 2006 to foster “an attitude that loves the nation”) is that, given the binary approach to “being Japanese” (especially when defined as “being unique”, with an added contrast to “being foreign”), it encourages people of NJ roots to be excluded (or else to deny their own diversity as incompatible). But the debate on PALE added a new dimension — an unnecessary degree of danger, given how martial attitudes in Japan often invite physical brinkmanship in unaccountable sports coaches over their young athletes. It’s tangental to the discussion of diversity in Japanese education, but read on as it’s good food for thought.
JT JBC: On Oct. 25, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced his resignation from office. He now plans to stand for election to the Diet as head of a new conservative party. He suggested political alliances with other conservative reactionaries and xenophobes, including Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) chief Takeo Hiranuma (Just Be Cause, Feb. 2, 2010). And all before a Lower House election that must be held within two months.
I say: Bring it on. Because it’s time for somebody to make clear which way Japan is heading.
The world’s media has largely misunderstood — or misrepresented — what kind of an elected official Ishihara is, often portraying him as a “nationalist” (which sounds like a patriot). He is in fact a hate-mongering racist bigot.
This is the man, remember, who began his governorship by calling for foreigners to be rounded up on sight in the event of a natural disaster — for they might (unprecedentedly) riot! Cue one natural disaster in 2011: No riots. Yet no retraction. Thus he got a free pass.
This is also a man who goes beyond the standard right-wing denials of the dark side of Japanese history, such as the Nanjing Massacre and the “comfort women.” He has called the 2011 tsunami “divine retribution” for Japan’s sins, insinuated that Africans in Japan are unintelligent, said commentators on Japan “don’t matter” if they’re foreign, likened foreign judo practitioners to “beasts,” claimed Chinese are criminals due to their “ethnic DNA,” called parts of Tokyo with higher foreign populations “hotbeds of crime” too scary for even Japanese crooks to enter, and stigmatized Japanese politicians who support more rights for foreigners by saying they must have foreign roots themselves (as if Japanese with tainted bloodlines are somehow unpatriotic).
He has also stated that old women are “useless” and “toxic” to civilization, gays “gadding about” are “pitiable,” French is unqualified as an international language because of its counting system — and so on ad nauseam, painting grotesque caricatures of foreigners and minorities in broad, bigoted strokes. Just listing them all would take up my entire column.
Yet, instead of pillorying this piece of work out of office, the media has generally dismissed his statements as “gaffes.” But a gaffe is technically an error or an unintended misstatement — and Ishihara’s are too frequent to be anything but deliberate.
Sadly, due to the limited attention span inherent in media cycles, Ishihara managed to out-stare the press. They then excused their own lack of tenacity by treating his outrageous comments like a personality quirk, as if he suffers from a particularly offensive form of Tourette’s — effectively handing him a free pass. Passes got freer after one re-election. Then another…
Something very important happened a few days ago when Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro made a surprise announcement that he would resign his governorship, launch a new political party, and run for a Diet seat in the next Lower House election due in two months.
I say bring it on. This xenophobic old bigot (now 80) has fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book: self-delusion, brought on by decades of megalomania and ideological sound-chambering within a cadre of sycophants — which Alberto Fujimori (an old friend of Ishihara and his elite ruling circles) similary fell for when the self-deluded demagogue buggered off back to Chile (forfeiting his unextradictable safe haven in Japan) to stand for reelection in Peru. Fujimori, as you know, was then extradited to Peru for trial and is now doing essentially life in prison. But I digress.
I say bring it on for two reasons. One is that even if elected (which he will be, under Japan’s Proportional Representation system — the main avenue for celebrity schmoes to pad their resume and stroke their egos), Ishihara can do less damage as a Dietmember of a fringe party (analysts already are beginning to doubt the strength of the Rightist alliance between other fringe parties) than as Governor of Tokyo, with an entire Metropolitan Police Force (the strongest and most influential in all of Japan) at his disposal to target people he doesn’t like. One of the reasons he says he resigned his Diet seat in 1995 after 25 years in office is because of his frustration with the powerlessness of the Diet in the face of the pervasive Japanese bureaucracy (which, as he correctly claims, rules the country). Now he’s going right back to that same Diet, and I think he thinks he’ll stop at nothing short of becoming PM (He won’t. He won’t live long enough. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto is the bigger threat at half the age.)
The other reason is because it’s time to put some cards on the table. The Center-Left in Japan (in the form of the DPJ) tried their liberalizations (with NJ PR local suffrage, etc.) and lost badly due to the hue and cry over how NJ, if given any power in Japan, would automatically abuse it and destroy Japan). The image in Japanese politics nowadays is of a rightward swing. Alright, let’s see just how rightward. Japan’s bureaucrats like things just the way they are (their sole purpose is to keep the status quo as is, even if that means Japan irradiates itself and strangles itself to death demographically). It would take a miracle (something I think not even Ishihara is capable of) to dismantle that system. If Ishihara wins, Japan’s rightward swing is conclusive, and the world will have to stop ignoring a resurgent militarist xenophobic Japan. If Ishihara loses, that will take a lot of wind out of Rightist sails and push the country back towards centrism.
In this poker game, I believe Ishihara will lose. And NJ in Japan have already won a victory by having that bigot abdicate his throne/bully pulpit as leader of one of the world’s largest cities.
Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed. Only a revolution can save it. What kind of revolution? Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”
That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.
“Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” [...] No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth. Sakanaka claims to have found one. Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” [...] It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.
Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2, I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door: How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads to diversity getting subsumed. And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.
Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.
But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it?
Japan Times: No doubt you’ve seen the news about the Takeshima and Senkaku disputes: Japan is sparring with China, South Korea and Taiwan over some specks in the ocean.
Why is this happening? Theories include pre-election political posturing and securing borders to exploit resources. But it’s gotten to the point where even respected academics (such as Stanford’s Harumi Befu and Harvard’s Ted Bestor) are worriedly writing, “current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy.”
My take on these scraps is pretty simple: They are merely a way to distract the Japanese public from a larger malaise, the symptoms of which include Japan’s loss of clout as Asia’s leading economy, perpetual economic funk, ineffectual political leadership and an irradiated food chain.
But the larger question remains: How could these far-flung rocks get so much domestic political traction? …
Here’s something quite indicative about the conservatives in Japan. As I will be alluding to in my next Japan Times column (due out October 2), there is an emphasis on making sure “hopes and dreams” are part of Japan’s future. Fine, but for Japan’s conservatives, fostering “hopes and dreams” means obliterating things like the shameful bits of Japan’s past (which every country, doing an honest accounting of history, has). For Osaka Mayor Hashimoto (who just launched his ominously-named “Japan Restoration Party”), that means killing off Japan’s only human-rights museum (which, when I visited, had a corner devoted to the Otaru Onsens Case). Because talking about how minorities in Japan combat discrimination against them is just too disruptive of Japan’s “dreamy” national narrative:
Morris-Suzuki: Founded in 1985, Liberty Osaka is Japan’s only human rights museum. It features displays on the history of hisabetsu buraku communities (groups subject to social discrimination), the struggle for women’s rights, and the stories of minority groups such as the indigenous Ainu community and the Korean minority in Japan. An important aspect of the museum is its depiction of these groups, not as helpless victims of discrimination, but rather as active subjects who have fought against discrimination, overcome adversity and helped to create a fairer and better Japanese society. By 2005 more than a million people had visited the Liberty Osaka. (See the museum’s website (Japanese) and (English).)
Today, the museum faces the threat of closure. The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of themuseum’s funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012)
There’s a case that can be made nowadays that Japan is not only in decline, it’s falling back on jingoism (beyond the standard nihonjinron and historical revisionism) to support the image of a Japan that was once better when it had fewer foreigners (or none, which was historically never the case). As my current research (more on this in future) has sought to demonstrate, Japan’s (Postwar, not Prewar, cf. Oguma Eiji) national narrative of “monoculturalism, monoethnicity, and homogeneity” has sponsored an ideological ethnic cleansing of Japan, thanks in part to revolving-door visa regimes and all manner of incentives to make sure that few “visibly foreign” foreigners stay here forever (hence the prioritizing of the Nikkei) for they agitate for more rights as generational residents (consider the visas that can be cancelled or phased out pretty much at government whim; we’ve seen it before with, for example, the Iranians in the late 1990s). And if you ever thought “the next generation of younger Japanese will be more liberal”, we now have Osaka Gov Hashimoro Touru (younger than I) also supporting historical revisionism (see below) and forming the “Japan Restoration Party” (the poignantly and ominously named Nihon Ishin no Kai) on September 12, 2012. With the recent saber-rattling (which nation-states indulge in periodically to draw public attention away from larger social problems, in Japan’s case the issues of nuclear power and the irradiating food chain) and the overblown flaps over the Takeshima/Tokdo and Senkaku/Diaoyu ocean specks, we have an emerging vision of Japan as a remilitarized power in Asia, courtesy of Debito.org Reader JDG. I thought we’d have a discussion about that here. Take a look through the resource materials below and consider whether or not you share the apprehension that I (and some major academics overseas, including Ted Bestor and Harumi Befu, at the very bottom) have about Japan’s future.
After much political gridlock (the likes of which have not been seen, since, oh, the LDP was in power and the DPJ controlled the Upper House — not that long ago), the current Diet session is over, and one bill that matters to Debito.org did not pass: The one endorsing Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. You know — the treaty that just about everyone else in the club of rich developed nations has signed, and the one that stops you at an international border if you’re traveling single with a child, demanding proof that you’re not abducting your child from the other parent. It’s a good idea, since divorce in Japan due to the Koseki Family Registry System results in one parent (regardless of nationality) losing all legal ties to the child, and leads in many (almost all, it’s estimated) cases to the child growing up with no contact whatsoever (since Japan does not allow joint custody) with the noncustodial parent. It’s even worse for international marriages, and Japan has gotten a lot of pressure from other countries in recent years to sign. Now unsuccessfully.
Well, so Japan will remain a haven for child abductions, both domestic and international. But the interesting thing I’m seeing concrete evidence of these days is overseas Japanese taking advantage of this system, banding together to assist each other in abducting their children to Japan, and the Japanese embassies/consulates cooperating with them as they spirit them into Japan. (I’ll blog about that someday once I receive permission to make that information public.)
But as I have argued before, I’m not sure it really matters if Japan signs the Hague. The GOJ has signed other treaties before (most notably the Convention for Elimination on Racial Discrimination), and refuses to enforce them under domestic laws with criminal penalties (or in Japan’s case regarding the CERD, now signed 17 years ago, refuses to create any laws at all). In the Hague’s case, the GOJ was looking for ways to caveat themselves out of enforcing it (by creating laws of their own advantageous to Wajin spiriters of children that would trump the HCICA, or finding loopholes, such as claims of DV (that only NJ inflict upon us gentle, mild, weak, peaceful Wajin), that would allow the children to stay in Japan out of fear.) Or, true to character, we’ll have people claiming that it’s a matter of “Japanese custom” (shuukan), the last resort for any unjustifiable situation (only this time coming from elected Japanese Dietmember Ido Masae who herself abducted her kids). It’s pretty messy, by design, so visit the Children’s Rights Network Japan Website to try and untangle it.
So I guess the question I’d like to open up for discussion is: Is it better for a nation-state to be bold-faced about it and just say, “We can’t enforce this treaty due to our culture, so we’re not going to sign it, and if you don’t like it, don’t marry our citizens”? Or, is it better for a nation-state to sign it, not enforce it, and face the (geopolitically mild) pressure of a broken promise? I know which route the GOJ has taken so far.
One social statistic that is very politically-charged in Japan (along with the unemployment rate, which is according to some kept low due to methodological differences in measurement) is Japan’s birth rate. I have already argued that Japan’s demographic science is already riddled with politics (in order to make the option of immigration a taboo topic). But here is another academic arguing that how the birth rate is measured differs from time to time, sometimes resulting in not counting NJ women giving birth in Japan! In other words, Japan’s demographic science is methodologically leaning towards only counting births of Japanese citizens, not of births of people in Japan — and a prominent scientist named Yoshida at Tohoku University is actually advocating that NJ births be excluded from Japan’s birth rate tally, for the purposes of formulating “appropriate public policy”! Application of the Nationality Clause to demographics to systematically exclude them from public policy considerations? The author of this piece from H-Japan calls it “apartheid”. So would I.
John Morris: The starting point for Professor Yoshida’s research is the discrepancy between the official birth rate announced by the Japanese government. The birth rate for years when a census conducted is higher than that for years when there is no census. The reason for this is that in census years, the birth rate is calculated on the basis of women of Japanese nationality resident in Japan, whereas in non-census years the birth rate is calculated using the total number of women in the relevant age cohort; i.e. including women of foreign nationality resident in Japan. Professor Yoshida recalculated the birth rate for 2011, a non-census year, excluding women of foreign nationality from his figures and compared it to the birth rate for 2010, a census year, for various levels of local governmental bodies across Japan. His press release demonstrates that when comparing 2011 and 2010, the official figures for the birth rate show either no change (10 prefectures ) or a decline across the prefectures of Japan, whereas when the 2 years are compared using his equivalent data, the birth rate shows a decline in only 8 prefectures (of which 5 are most likely affected by the events of March 2011), and actually shows an increase (albeit small) in 30 prefectures…
Professor Yoshida’s work contains two problems. If he wishes to point out the methodological inconsistency in the way the current Japanese birth rate is calculated, he has an important and very valid point. All scholars who use the official figures for the Japanese birth rate should be aware of his research. However, if he is going to claim (as he does in his press release and on public television and radio) that his figure are the objectively ‘correct’ figures for the Japanese birth rate, than his calculations are just as methodogically flawed as the governmental figures that he criticises. His calculations assume that all children of Japanese nationality born in Japan are born by women of Japanese nationality. The rate of marriages of Japanese men to women of foreign nationality has accounted for 3.2 to 4.6% of all marriages in Japan over the past 10 years or so. The overwhelming majority of children born from these marriages will be registered as ‘Japanese nationals.’ The gist of Professor Yoshida’s criticism of the official figures for the birth rate in non-census years is that they are lower than the reality. However, the figures that he claims are the objectively correct figures, by the same token, will always produce a figure for the birth rate that is higher than the reality, because it denies that there are children born to mothers of foreign nationality throughout Japan. If Professor Yoshida merely wished to demonstrate the inconsistency of the official figures for the Japanese birth rate then his research would be valid. However, to claim that his figures are objectively correct is not as invalid as the data that he criticises and for exactly the same reason that he criticises the government figures, the gross insult that he has committed by denying the existence of 10’s of thousands of women of foreign nationality married to Japanese men and bearing Japanese children is unforgivable…
I’ve sat on this for more than a year. Now that the whole debate on “granting foreigners suffrage will mean the end of Japan” has probably died down a bit, it’s time that we look back on what happened then, and on the aftermath wrought by people losing their heads.
After the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009, after decades of mostly unbroken and corrupt Liberal Democratic Party rule, there was hope for some new inclusive paradigms vis-a-vis NJ in Japan, one of their smaller party planks was granting NJ (undecided whether NJ would be Permanent Resident or Zainichi Special Permanent Resident) the right to vote in local elections (like other countries do). This, alas, occasioned much protest and alarmist doomsaying about how Japanese society would be ruined by ever enfranchising potentially disloyal foreigners (“They’d concentrate in parts of Japan and secede to China!”, “Kim Jong-Il will now have influence over Japan!”), and suddenly we had regional governments and prefectures passing petitions (seigan) stating that they formally oppose ever giving suffrage to foreigners.
The Tsukuba City Council was no exception, even though Tsukuba in itself is an exceptional city. It has a major international university, a higher-than-average concentration of NJ researchers and academics, a centrally-planned modern showcase living grid with advanced communication networks, and one of Japan’s two foreign-born naturalized citizens (Jon Heese; the other city is Inuyama’s Anthony Bianchi) elected to its city council. Yet Tsukuba, a city designed to be one of those international communities within Japan, was given in December 2010 a petition of NJ suffrage opposition to consider signing and sending off to the DPJ Cabinet. Here’s the draft:
This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues. Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place. He’s not alone. The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.
There may be a political dimension. As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.” Interesting if true. Let’s have that investigated.
A little academic expostulating, if I may: One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron). Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis. Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.
And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.
Here’s my fourth annual round-up of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s NJ residents last year. Concluding paragraphs:
Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.
Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.
2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider (JBC Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.
Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically-cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.
As the sands in the 2011 hourglass trickle away, here are a couple of posts to be filed away under Ironies. Today’s deals with how the GOJ sees “Tohoku disasters relief measures” — both in terms of funding foreign tourists and in funding ships killing whales.
Looks like one ministry is more prone to feeling public shame than the other, so, according to the announcements below, the suddenly “insensitive” proposal to give free plane tickets to foreign visitors to visit Japan has been cancelled. The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Ministry, however, is singularly shameless, so I doubt that will happen to whaling. Now, sooner or later, we’ll have to show sensitivity somehow to those afflicted by the Tohoku disasters. I wonder which ministry that falls under. Probably a lot of it under the former Construction Ministry arm of MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism), which has a long history of being even more shameless in ripping off the Japanese public than MAFF. Once again, evidence of just how out of touch Japanese bureaucrats are with the public they purportedly serve. I guess the next disaster, sadly, will have to happen in Tokyo.
JNTO: This autumn there were many reports about the Japan Tourism Agency proposing to give away 10,000 free flights to Japan in 2012. After the proposal was reported, people from around the world sent messages to Japan National Tourism Organization saying they would like to participate in the programme to visit Japan and to help revitalize Japan’s tourism industry following the March 2011 earthquake. So it is with regret that the Japanese Government announced the budget for this proposal has been declined, so the flight give away will not be going ahead.
Thanks to the support of the international community, Japan is making vigorous progress towards reconstruction in the earthquake and tsunami affected northeast of Japan, but recovery from the earthquake continues to be a pressing issue.
“We realise that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese Government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction. We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aide [sic] those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights,” said Kylie Clark, Head of PR & Marketing, Japan National Tourism Organization.
Happy holidays. Today I offer you some historical perspective regarding overseas dialog on Japan, in this case policy towards Japan by the United States. The year is 1965 (first edition 1961), an excerpt from a book about my age offering Edward Seidensticker, famous translator and interpreter of things Japanese for the English-reading outsider. This is a “WORLD LIBRARY” monthly library book on Japan (published by Time Life Inc.). His conclusion, in part:
Seidensticker: So many forces shaping the future of Japan are nevertheless out of Japanese hands, and therefore beyond the power of anyone to influence, that no country can afford to be unmindful of them. This can be said of any country, but it is particularly true of a country that remains divided.
For the West, and particularly its most powerful nation, a pair of injunctions would seem to be an apt conclusion to what has been said: Be quiet, and be strong.
Be quiet. If the troubles the United States had with Japan in 1960 taught a lesson, it was that the Japanese must not be pushed to a decision about their responsibilities in the world. They may eventually come to a decision by their own devices, but as things stand today, nothing should be done that might give the impression that the United States is applying pressure….
Debito’s comment, in part: In sum, this is a thoughtful article, and in 2000 words Seidensticker acquits himself well when it comes to knowledge and sensitivity towards Japan. But it’s clearly dated (not just because of smug hindsight to see how many predictions he got wrong); it’s clearly in the Edwin Reischauer camp of “poor, poor, misunderstood Japan, let’s not be ignorant or mean towards it”, meaning protecting the status quo or else someday Japan will attack us.
Yet now, fifty years later, Japan has essentially gotten everything it wanted from the West in order to develop and prosper. Yet I believe it’s heading back towards insularity today due to structures and habits that were NOT removed from Japan’s postwar bureaucracy and education system. Such as a weak investigative press, an economic system not geared beyond developmental capitalism, a lack of solid oversight systems that encourage rule of law rather than allow bureaucratic extralegal guidelines or political filibustering, a lackluster judiciary that cannot (or refuses to) hold powerful people and bureaucrats responsible, a public undereducated beyond a mythological and anti-scientific “uniqueness” mindset, able to understand equality and fairness towards people who are disenfranchised or who are not members of The Tribe, etc. These are all essential developments crucial to the development of an equitable society that were stalled or stymied (starting with the Reverse Course of 1947) under the very same name of maintaining the delicate balance of Japan’s anti-communist status quo. Well, the Cold War is long over, folks, yet Japan still seems locked into unhealthy dependency relationships (unless it is able to lord it over poorer countries in cynical and venal attempts to influence world politics in its own petty directions; also unhealthy). Only this time, for the past twenty years and counting, Japan simply isn’t getting rich from it any longer.
I have just spent the past six months getting through one of perhaps the more weighty tomes in the English language: William L. Shirer’s THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH — about Nazi Germany and Hitler’s campaigns before and during WWII. This 1150-page tombstone/doorstop of a book will sit proudly on my shelf as something read cover-to-cover with as much information absorbed from it as possible. I of course wrote a book review in the back cover (if you’re interested in hearing it, readers, let me know, and I’ll append it to the Comments Section), but the thing that I’d like to focus this blog entry upon today is Japan’s historical actions and negotiating tactics (including the Japanese government’s penchant for vagueness, obfuscation, and completely masked intentions) mentioned within the book, and how remarkably similar they remain today.
Conclusion: I’ve dealt with and witnessed the actions of the GOJ for decades now. Although now more than seventy years later, none of this seems out of sync with the way Japanese bureaucrats or politicians talk or act today. And once anyone overseas thinks they have a handle on and an avenue into the political situation, the cabinet changes and then you have to start again. Someday people are going to have to learn how the GOJ works internationally.
I was invited last week to contribute a bio of who I thought was one of Japan’s “most useless” Prime Ministers. I was surprised to find that Murayama was not taken. So here’s my writeup (#5, ordered by when they held office). There are nine other biographies done by some very knowledgable writers and observers of Japan, so have a read of them at the Japan Times from this link here. Enjoy!
JT: Short tenures, imprudent public statements, poor character judgment, weakness under pressure — when we think of useless prime ministers, all this seems like standard operating procedure. However, Tomiichi Murayama’s particular brand of uselessness was peerless. Essentially, everything he touched turned to sh-te…
He was the first Socialist Party prime minister, and the last. Having made a Faustian bargain to take the top job, he then proceeded to sell his party’s soul so blatantly that in his wake the Socialists were moribund and fractured. He proved to Japan’s voters that the left cannot govern, putting the corrupt Liberal Democrats back in power for 13 more years.
No other PM can be credited with setting back Japan’s development into a two-party democracy while killing his own party in the process. Yet. For that, he gets my vote not only as Japan’s most useless, but also its flat-out worst postwar prime minister.
No.1 Shimbun: In the quarter century I have been examining the treatment of foreigners in both the English and vernacular media, I have seen little improvement. In fact, in many ways it’s gotten worse. The foreign element has been increasingly portrayed as the subterfuge that will undermine Japanese society. To crib from a famous book title, Japan has become not only the “system that soured,” but also the “media that soured.”
When I first got here in the mid-1980s, at the start of Japan’s bubble era, non-Japanese (NJ) were seen as quirky “misunderstood outsiders,” treated with bemusement for their inability to understand “Japan’s unique culture.” NJ were here to help Japan learn English and internationalize itself into its hard-earned echelon as a rich country in the international community. After all, Japan had just surpassed the per-capita gross domestic product of its mentor – the United States – so the media was preparing the public for Japan’s new role as oriental ambassador to the West…
The next phase, which has essentially continued to the present day, overtly began on April 9, 2000, when recently elected archconservative Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara made his famous “Sangokujin” speech. He claimed that some NJ were “repeatedly committing heinous crimes,” and called for the Self-Defense Forces to round up NJ in the event of a natural disaster as they would (unprecedentedly) riot. Even in light of the Tohoku disasters, where this has been proven as utterly false, there has been no amendment or retraction. But this speech emboldened Japan’s reactionaries (particularly its police, fortified by its new internal “Policymaking Committee Against Internationalization”) to see rampant NJ bashing as politically viable…
In sum, the “blind spot” of Japanese media is that hardly any of it treats NJ as actual residents, with needs, concerns, and a stake in Japan. Local media do give spots on how NJ community events are faring, with the occasional update on social problems facing stricken foreign families. But that generally happens in areas with “high” concentrations of registered NJ residents (around 10% of total local population, achieved in increasingly fewer places as the NJ population drops). Rarely does NJ community news leak into more national arenas (unless, of course, it concerns foreign crime). Hardly anywhere in the Japanese-language media is a constant “voice” or venue granted to NJ regulars to offer an alternative viewpoint of life in Japan. (Please note, and this is not meant as a criticism, but tarento regulars like Dave Spector are first and foremost entertainers, rarely spokespeople for minorities, and foreign tarento have in fact visibly declined in number compared to their bubble era heyday.) Thus, unabashed bashing of NJ in the Japanese media goes unanswered without check or balance.
NPR ON BROOKLYNITE ANTHONY BIANCHI’S ELECTION TO INUYAMA CITY COUNCIL, broadcast on National Public Radio April 30, 2003. Writeup from NPR:
“NPR’s Melissa Block talks with Tony Bianchi, a Brooklyn native who was elected to the Inuyama city council in Japan last Sunday, about his campaign and its outcome. Bianchi is a naturalized Japanese citizen and the first person of North American origin ever to be elected to public office in Japan.”
Duration 4 minutes 15 seconds. Enjoy!
NPR All Things Considered on Anthony Bianchi's election to Inuyama City Council, broadcast April 30, 2003[ 4:18 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
JLK, on PM Kan June 28, 2011 press conference: Unbelievable! Most questions were mere bullying and nothing concrete. Except the Mainichi and two free lance reporters the rest was on a hunt on the chief of the government. Media played themselves the Nagatacho’s game. I was shocked to see that the only of the 2 good questions asked to PM Kan was by Mr. Shimada, a free lance reporter. A good validated comment and question about actions since and after the triple catastrophes (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear contamination) and how Japan’s social aspect has changed since 3/11 and the implications in actions and behaviors of the society. Kan started to answer on his philosophy and his expectation regarding Japanese population and I really noticed he was continuing explaining and elaborating his ruling concrete plan. Fabulous. But then NHK TV suddenly cut the answers of Prime Minister Kan… very articulated ones. He offered a vision of the present and the future after these exceptional disaster circumstances, I was astonished by Kan’s words.
So now, it’s clear. One knows one cannot truly rely on kisha clubs press releases. Luckily but minor impact, Kan’s comment is available on the web page of the Kantei. Now !! Why on earth do the media shut up the prime minister when he is presenting the most important policy speech of reconstruction after Japan chaos of March 11? Would the US cut B. Obama at a major speech? Would France cut N. Sarkozy live talks on such issues? During a press conf?…
Here is a report from a Debito.org reader who translates how the debate on Domestic Violence in Japan (being cited as a reason to create loopholes in Japan’s enforcement of the upcoming signatory status with the Hague Treaty on Child Abductions) is being stretched to justify just about any negative behavior (including non-tactile acts) as “violent”. And note how the checklist of “violent” acts below approaches the issue with the woman as perpetual victim and the man as perpetrator. If accepted as the standard definition, imagine just how much further this will weaken the fathers’ position in any Japanese divorce negotiation.
NGO Sayasaya: Checklist for Women
Please check any of these if you have experienced them:
He sulks if I deviate in any way from what he has requested of me.
He quickly blames me whenever something goes wrong.
When I go out alone, he calls my cell phone regularly.
He is reluctant to associate with my friends and parents.
He is angry if I come home late…
Checklist for Men
Please check any of these if you have experienced them:
I have yelled at her.
I wish that she would only have eyes for me.
Sometimes I don’t answer her when she wants to talk to me.
While speaking with her, I have stood up and got close to her.
She has thought that I made fun of her…
Source: Dr. Numazaki Ichirou “Why Do men choose violence?”
According to Professor Numazaki, the producer of this list, a check mark next to even ONE item indicates a DV event. (For women who checked off one item, they have been a victim of DV and, for men, any checks indicate that that man was a perpetrator of DV.)
Let’s now start looking at some aspects of what appears to be a Post 3-11 Backlash against NJ. Let’s start with the Tokyo Governor’s Election, due April 10.
We already have one overtly racist incumbent, Ishihara Shintaro, whom I’ve heard is alas the favorite to win, again. But also on the bill is this noticeably nasty candidate Furukawa Keigo, who advocates by his very slogan the expulsion of foreigners from his jurisdictions (pedants might counter that he’s only referring to Chinese and Koreans, but a) that doesn’t make it any better, and b) you think he’s only stopping there?).
Here’s Furukawa’s public campaign announcement:
Safeguard the capital. Safeguard Japan. Japan belongs to the Japanese people.
Now more than ever, we should resolutely expel the foreign barbarians
Eject foreigners from Tokyo.
(By foreigners, I mean mainly Chinese (the pejorative “Shinajin” used for this) and north and south Koreans. In other words, the foreigners who are thought to be causing harm to Japan.
1. Change the law so that foreigners cannot purchase land in Tokyo-to.
2. Absolutely opposed to voting rights for foreigners!!
3. Ban the the use of officially recognized Japanese aliases used by so-called “Zainichi” Koreans.
4. Make conversion of pachinko shop premiums into cash illegal…
The Nation.com: But even as Japan was reeling from the disaster’s death toll—which is expected to surpass 20,000—and growing increasingly frightened by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor complex, there was growing unease at the lack of straight information from both the government and Tepco, a utility with a troubled history of lies, cover-ups and obfuscation dating back to the late 1960s.
The information gap became an international issue on March 16, when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko openly contradicted the Japanese government by declaring that water in one of Tepco’s reactors had boiled away, raising radiation in the area to “extremely high levels.” He recommended evacuation to any Americans within fifty miles of the site—nearly double the evacuation zone announced by the Japanese government (which immediately denied Jaczko’s assertions). TheNew York Times piled on the next day with a major article that pilloried the Kan government. “Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more—and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed,” the reporters declared.
To be sure, Tokyo’s response to the disaster has been erratic, and the paucity of information about Fukushima was one of the first complaints I heard about the situation from my friends in Japan. But much of the criticism poured on Japan has obscured the many ways its political system has shifted since a 2009 political earthquake, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept out of power for the first time in fifty years. The changes, particularly to people who remember the government’s pathetic response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed nearly 6,500, have been striking.
Kyodo: Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara apologized Tuesday for his remark that the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami last week represented “divine punishment” of the Japanese people who have been tainted with egoism.
COMMENT: This from a man who claimed in public a decade ago that foreigners in Japan would riot in the event of a natural disaster (er, such as this one?) and that the SDF should be deployed to round them up — and also questioned the kokutai loyalties of citizens who have foreign roots. It seems this time, by issuing an unusual retraction (you think he’ll ever retract the foreigner riots claim now that it hasn’t happened?), he realized that this particular Senior Moment was going too far.
But this old fool has long lost the mental software governing prudence befitting a person in high office. For a milder (but concrete) example, check out this video, where Ishihara gets all snitty because he was trying to make another speech about how the world was not going the way he wants it (when asked to offer a few seconds of encouragement to runners in this year’s Tokyo Marathon on February 27). Watch to the very end where you hear him characteristically grumbling about being cut off mid-rant:
Japan Times: Foreign Minister Maehara admitted receiving ¥50,000 in donations from a South Korean permanent resident of Japan who lives in Kyoto. But according to the Liberal Democratic Party, which brought up the issue during a Diet committee last Friday, the donations total ¥200,000 over the past four years.
Maehara said at the press conference that total donations from the person came to at least ¥250,000 over five years.
The Political Funds Control Law stipulates that it is illegal for politicians to accept contributions from non-Japanese residents and foreign companies. If found guilty, the politician could potentially face up to three years imprisonment or a fine of up to ¥500,000, and also have his or her voting rights suspended.
COMMENT from Debito.org Reader: For one, it clearly demonstrates that foreigners with special status are STILL considered foreigners regardless, and two should draw attention to the fact that this rule is meant to prevent foreigners living in Japan from gaining political power through an activity like political (and in Maehara’s case possibly even a personal) donations–something that every politician relies on, no matter the country.
Here’s some news on a MOFA survey that was skewed (by dint, for one thing, of it being rendered in Japanese only, effectively shutting out many opinions of the NJ side of the marriage) linguistically to get results that were negative towards the signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions. Even then, MOFA got mixed results (as in, more people want the GOJ to sign the Hague than don’t, but it’s a pretty clean three-way split). Nice try, MOFA. Read the survey for yourself below and see what I mean.
In any case, the bureaucrats, according to Jiji Press of Feb 1 (see bottom of this blog post), seem to be gearing up to join the Hague only if there is a domestic law in place for Japan to NOT return the kids. I smell a loophole in the making.
NHK’s “Close Up Gendai” gave 28 minutes to the issue on February 2, 2011 (watch it here), in which they gave less airtime than anticipated to portraying Japanese as victims escaping to Japan from NJ DV, and more instead to the Japanese who want Japan to sign the Hague so they can get their kids back from overseas. Only one segment (shorter than all the others) gave any airtime to the NJ side of the marriage — but them getting any airtime at all is surprising; as we saw in yesterday’s blog entry, NJ don’t “own the narrative” of child abductions in Japan.
Japan Times Community Page: What do those companies need from you in addition to a secure environment in which to develop intellectual property? They need locations in Japan that are convenient to airports that provide access to a broad swath of Chinese cities. They’d also like those locations to be relatively near to urban centers that offer employees attractive housing, dining and entertainment options.
They need those tax breaks you’ve offered, but they need greater assurance from your government that the deals they cut in establishing operations here will last longer than, well, your party’s likely tenure in power. The cost of setting up a regional research and development center makes the tax holiday you’re offering a very minor inducement, especially as your offer has an imminent expiration date.
They need immigration policies that will let them decide what employees are required to staff their facility, and if you run into your counterparts at the ministries of education and justice, you might let them know that English- and other foreign language-speakers may be required, which may disqualify many of the Japanese citizens you’d like to see get jobs. And of course, they’ll need a streamlined visa procedure for any foreign workers, even if those workers are brown-skinned Asians.
They need you to create a business environment that is quickly and easily navigable by foreigners, i.e. in English, and that is, above all, flexible. Businesses need to be able to do whatever they need to do to operate, survive and thrive, without stumbling over bureaucratic obstacles all the time.
What they don’t need, Minister, is a Japan “that can say ‘no.’ ” Business investors need to hear “yes” and “no problem” and “we can get that done for you yesterday.”
You can do it, I’m sure, and your efforts will pay large economic dividends for decades to come.
Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:
Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
3) TOURIST VISAS EASED FOR CHINA (July 1)
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
MOJ: “In the past Japan was proud of its image in the world of being an exceptionally safe country, but in recent years, the number of criminal cases that have been identified by the authorities has increased remarkably, while the clearance rate has dropped drastically and remains at a very low level, which makes the deterioration of public safety an issue of grave concern to the nation. In particular, exceptionally violent crimes attracting public attention and the occurrence close at hand of many offences committed by youngsters or by foreign nationals coming to Japan are making people uneasy about the maintenance of public order. In addition, since computers and high-level information technology such as the Internet have become a common feature of daily life, new crimes abusing such advanced technology have risen in number. Further, effective measures against international terrorism such as the multiple terrorist attacks on the United States, and efforts toward solving problems concerning the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, are needed…” (Cosigned by Criminal Affairs Bureau, Correction Bureau, Rehabilitation Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Public Security Intelligence Agency, and Public Security Examination Commission)
COMMENT: Well, that’s what I would call an unrepentant Bunker Mentality Mode. It’s hard not to read this as, “We were a safe society until the foreigners came along and spoiled everything for us. So now we have to crack down on the foreigners and Japanese who deal with them.” Great. Of course, we have no purely homegrown crime here, such as the Yaks, right? Why is “Recovery of Public Safety” so firmly linked in “foreigner issues”? Because they’re a soft target, that’s why. Read the whole MOJ website entry and try to suppress a wry smirk.
Good news. Former LDP kingpin (now in his own little Hokkaido-based Party of One) Suzuki Muneo, who was twice convicted in lower courts of corruption charges, has just been convicted a third time by having his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court.
This ‘orrible little man has been of concern to Debito.org for many years now, because he has shown just how some people (one of us Dosanko, no less) are above the law. His life as case study demonstrates how in Japanese politics, a bent LDP bigwig could manipulate public policy (he was once known as the Shadow Foreign Minister, establishing under-the table kickback relationships — using GOJ discretionary budgets — with places like Russia and Tanzania, putting “Muneo Houses” in places like the Northern Territories (which he claimed were within his electorate in Outback Hokkaido). Not only that, he could get reelected despite repeated convictions just by appealing to a higher court. See more on Muneo here, and here’s a contemporary essay from 2002 (shortly before his downfall) depicting what shenanigans he was up to in real time.
Well, it only took eight years since his arrest to get this guy properly sentenced, but there you go: That’s how slowly our judiciary moves. Muneo faces jail time and loss of Diet seat. Good. Sadly, we’re bound to see this guy turn up again like a bent yen coin in our pocket. He’ll be incarcerated for a couple of years, wait out his five-year ban on running again, and no doubt throw his hat back in the ring before he hits his seventieth birthday. Hokkaido people can be that desperate to elect this man (one of the most charismatic Japanese politicians I’ve ever met) and he’ll be back protesting the rapaciousness of the Public Prosecutor. Article excerpt from the Japan Times follows.
Japan Times: What kind of school subject involves hectoring its students? Obviously one improperly taught. If you teach adults, take a survey of your own class (I do every year) and you’ll find that a majority of students fear, if not loathe, English. Many would be perfectly happy never again dealing with the language — or the people who might speak it. Thus eigo as an educational practice is actually fostering antisocial behavior.
Now bring in the vicious circle: “We Japanese can’t speak English.” Many Japanese do survive eigo boot camp, enjoy English, and get good at it. They pop up occasionally as NHK anchors doing overseas interviews, or as celebrities with overseas experience. Yet where are the mentors, the templates, who can make English proficiency look possible? Stifled. Ever notice how the Japanese media keeps voicing over Japanese when they speak English proficiently, or picking apart their performance for comic value? Because eigo is not supposed to be easy — so throw up some hurdles if there’s any threat of it appearing so.
Conclusion: Better to remain shy and meekly say that learning a foreign language is too difficult, so everyone feels less inadequate. The eikaiwa schools love it, making a mint out of the unconfident who, convinced they’ll never overcome the barriers, settle for being “permanent beginners.”
The point is, JET cannot fix — in fact, was never entrusted with fixing — Japan’s fundamental mindset toward language study: the dysfunctional dynamic that forces people to hate learning a language, then exonerates them by saying nobody can learn it anyway. Untangling that would be a tall order even for trained professionals. But force that upon a JET, who comes here with an unclear mandate, has no control over class, and has a contract of only a few years before experience deepens? TOEFL scores will not budge.
It’s fascinating whenever someone cons people out of pots of money — doubly so when someone cons a whole government. Take, for example, Japan’s biggest news story two weeks ago: Kim Hyon Hui’s four-day visit to Japan.
You might recall that in 1987 this North Korean spy, traveling on a fake Japanese passport, blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 passengers.
Last July 20, however, this agent of international terrorism was allowed into Japan for a reception worthy of a state guest. Bypassing standard immigration procedures, Kim had her entry visa personally approved by our justice minister, boarded a chartered flight that cost Japan’s taxpayers ¥10 million, and was whisked by helicopter to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s private dacha to eat with political elites.
Then, flanked by a phalanx of 100 cops (who made sure nobody raised any uncomfortable questions), Kim got to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, the cause celebre of North Korean kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens decades ago. Next, at her request, Kim boarded another helicopter (at around ¥800,000 an hour) for an aerial tour of Mount Fuji. As a parting gift, she got an undisclosed amount of “additional remuneration.” Sweet.
And what did Japan get? Kim said she had information for the Yokotas about their missing daughter and other Japanese abductees who trained her to be a multilingual spy — even though, way back when, she said she had never met Megumi. So suddenly Kim has a quarter-century-old brain fart and gets the red carpet?
The Megumi Yokota tragedy has for the past decade been a political football in Japanese politics, a means for Japan as a whole to claim victimhood status…
In the middle of the election period, here’s a surprising editorial from the Asahi — in support of NJ PR Suffrage! The ruling DPJ dropped it from their manifesto, and most parties that took it up as an issue (LDP, Kokumin Shintou (rendered below as People’s New Party) and Tachiagare Nippon (i.e. Sunrise Party, hah)) used it to bash NJ and try to gain votes from xenophobia (didn’t matter; the latter two still did not gain seats from it). Anyway, here’s the strongest argument made by mainstream Japanese media in support of it. And it’s a doozy. Thanks Asahi for injecting some tolerance into the debate. Maybe it made a difference in voting patterns.
Asahi: More than 2.2 million foreign residents are registered in Japan, and 910,000 of them have been granted permanent resident status. Japan is already a country comprising people with various backgrounds. It is appropriate to have those people rooted in their local communities to share the responsibility in solving problems and developing their communities.
It is also appropriate to allow their participation in local elections as residents, while respecting their bonds to their home nations.
In its new strategy for economic growth, the government says it will consider a framework for taking in foreigners to supplement the work force. To become an open country, Japan must create an environment that foreigners find easy to live in.
An Asahi Shimbun survey in late April and May showed that 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of foreign suffrage while 43 percent were against it.
Since public opinion is divided, the DPJ, which put the issue on the public agenda, should not waffle but should give steady and persuasive arguments to the public.
Background: The Upper House of Japan’s Diet (parliament) has a total of 242 seats. Half the UH gets elected every three years, meaning 121 seats were being contested this time. Of the ones not being contested, the ruling DPJ, which has held the majority of UH seats (through a coalition with another party) since 2007, had the goal of keeping that majority. To do that, the DPJ had to win 55 seats plus one this time (since they already had 66 seats not being contested this election). The opposition parties (there are many, see below) had the goal of gaining 66 seats plus one (since 55 of theirs were not being contested this election) to take the UH majority back. Here’s how the numbers fell this morning after yesterday’s election:
DPJ won 44 (and their coalition partner lost all of theirs).
Non-DPJ won 77.
Totals now come up to 106 (a loss of ten) seats for the DPJ, meaning they lost their absolute Upper House majority thanks to a coalition partner party (Kokumin Shintou) losing all their contested seats (three). Thus the DPJ lost control of the Upper House.
However, this does not mean that somebody else assumes power of it. Nobody is close to forming a Upper House majority, meaning there will be some coalition work from now on. After breaking down the numbers on this blog, conclusions:
DPJ lost this election, there’s no other spin to be had. But it was not a rout (like the UH election of 2007 against the LDP was, see here). Consider this:
Number of electoral districts where DPJ came out on top where they weren’t on top before (in other words, electoral gains as far as DPJ is concerned): None.
Number of electoral districts where DPJ stayed on top or kept their seat same as last election (in other words, no change for the worse): 22
Number of electoral districts where DPJ lost but lost before anyway (in other words, the status quo of no electoral gains held): 10
Number of electoral districts where DPJ flat out won before but lost a seat this time (this is the bad news, electoral losses): 12
Conclusion: The DPJ essentially held their own in a near-majority of contested electoral districts. They did not gain much, but did not lose big. In fact, in all multiple-seat constituencies, at least one DPJ candidate won (see below)…
Dear Mr. Arudou: Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Justin Tedaldi, and I am the editor of JQ Magazine New York, a publication of the JET Programme Alumni Association of America’s New York Chapter. I also write about Japanese culture in New York for Examiner.com. I lived in Kobe City for about two years, and my first work experience out of school was as a coordinator for international relations with the JET Programme.
I’m a longtime follower of your site (over ten years), and I would like to ask your help on behalf of all the JETs worldwide. As part of Japan’s efforts to grapple with its massive public debt, the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program may be cut. Soon after coming into power, the new government launched a high profile effort to expose and cut wasteful spending. In May 2010, the JET Program and CLAIR came up for review, and during the course of an hourlong hearing, the 11-member panel criticized JET, ruling unanimously that a comprehensive examination should be undertaken to see if it should be pared back or eliminated altogether. The number of JET participants has already been cut back by almost 30 percent from the peak in 2002, but this is the most direct threat that the program has faced in its 23-year history.
We are asking JET Program participants past and present, as well as other friends of the program to speak out and petition the Japanese government to reconsider the cuts. Please sign this petition in support of the grassroots cultural exchange the JET Program has fostered and write directly to the Japanese government explaining the positive impact the Program has made in your life and that of your adopted Japanese community.
The LDP and other rightists are still playing up the NJ PR Suffrage Issue, even though it’s not even a platform plank in this election (the DPJ Manifesto does not mention it this time) in a rather lame (and xenophobic) attempt to gather votes. Nothing quite like bashing a small, disenfranchised minority to make yourself look powerful and worthy of governance. Excerpt follows:
Japan Times: Whether to grant permanent foreign residents voting rights for local-level elections and allow married couples to keep their respective surnames have become contentious issues ahead of the July 11 Upper House election.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which advocates the introduction of foreigner suffrage and separate surnames for married couples if desired, faces strong opposition from conservatives in the Liberal Democratic Party and small parties, including its own ruling bloc partner.
Aichi Prefecture voters, however, are puzzled by the conservatives’ fervor because the topics have yet to stir national debate…
The LDP and small conservative parties set out to oppose the ideas in their platforms, vying with the DPJ, which has liberal views on these issues. Some homemakers, who used to be the last to become involved in politics, now speak to people at the weekly rally of Inoue’s group held at Kanayama Station in Nagoya.
“The pride of this country that has been built up by the Yamato (Japanese) race must be passed down to our children, otherwise there will be no future for the country,” said Masahito Fujikawa, 49, an LDP-backed candidate in the Aichi electoral district…
In an article cited in yesterday’s blog post, we had some xenophobe who organizes anti-NJ-suffrage campaigns saying:
“I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns.”
There goes a typical zealot making a typically empty unresearched claim. According to the Japan Times this week, NJ can indeed take part in election campaigns. Excerpt:
Although foreign residents may not be able to actually cast votes in elections, there are quite a few other things that we can do to involve ourselves in Japan’s political “machine” — and they are all legal. This tidbit of knowledge may come as somewhat of a surprise to Japanese and non-Japanese readers alike, but I assure you that it’s all verifiable in black-and-white. Well, to be totally honest, you’ll find this truth “told” more in white than black, as the Election Law is much more revealing in terms of what is not written on its pages than what is. The point is simply this: Although the law doesn’t directly state that foreign residents can participate in political and electoral activities, it also does not prohibit us from doing so. You can check it out for yourself; the Free Choice Foundation has posted the election rules in English on its Web site at www.FreeChoice.jp/election.asp or you can call the Election Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to hear it straight from the powers that be. The bureaucrats will be happy to tell you that, other than not being able to make political donations, residents of Japan are immune from discrimination of any kind — including by nationality — regarding participation in electoral activities.