Sankei Sports etc: J soccer player Nakamura Yuuki quits Slovakian club, feels victimized by “racial discrimination”; my, how ironic!


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Hi Blog.  We have an interesting case of a Japanese sports player quitting an overseas soccer team claiming “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).  Nakamura Yuuki, formerly of Slovak football club MSK Rimaska Sobota, has been reported in the Japanese press as returning to Japan last September, blogging about his treatment negatively.  But look closely at this case and some odd thoughts come up.  According to the press (English-language ones first, then Japanese, translated):


Japanese soccer player Yuki Nakamura quits Slovakian club due to racial abuse
By Ida Torres / January 31, 2013 /

Japanese soccer striker Yuki Nakamura has quit his Slovakian club Rimavska Sobota saying his club and his teammates did nothing to support or protect him from the racial abuse targeted at him by supporters.

“It’s a real shame but I have come home because I have been subjected to racism at Rimavska Sobota and I can’t carry on living there,” Nakamura posted on his blog. The 25 year old, on loan from Czech side Viktoria Zizkov, said that fans would hurl racial slurs at him before and after games. When he told the club about it, they said there was nothing they could do about it. He decided he couldn’t continue living there and decided to just come home to Japan. He has previously played in Romania and the Czech Republic.

Other Japanese players have also experienced difficulties while playing overseas. Most recently in 2011, Lierse goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was taunted by opposing fans with chants of “Fukushima, Fukushima” in reference to the nuclear disaster from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Racism in football is still a persistent, serious problem and FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes it is one of the biggest scourges in the sport. He believes points should be deducted from teams in cases of racial abuse. Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan, who also plays for the national team of Ghana, walked out of a friendly match against Pro Patria after fans didn’t stop their “monkey” chants, even after being called out by the stadium announcer. United State’s Jozy Altidore is also another recent victim of racist chants, during a Dutch Cup game for his club AZ. The referee wanted to halt the fixture after fans continued hurling abuse at him, but Altidore asked for the game to continue.



Nakamura quits Slovakian club over racism
JAPAN TODAY, SPORTS JAN. 31, 2013 – 07:00AM JST ( 24 )TOKYO —

Japanese striker Yuki Nakamura says he has left Slovakian club Rimavska Sobota because he was a target of racist abuse.

“It’s a real shame but I have come home because I have been subjected to racism at Rimavska Sobota and I can’t carry on living there,” the 25-year-old Nakamura wrote on his blog on Wednesday.

Nakamura, who has also played in Romania and the Czech Republic, says supporters would hurl abuse at him before and after games and that none of his teammates would offer help.

“This is not normal,” said Nakamura, who was on loan from Czech side Viktoria Zizkov. “Some type of threat was made to the club but they said there was nothing they could do about it, so I came home. I doubt there are many players that have experienced this.”

Several Japanese players have encountered difficulties while playing overseas. In 2011, former Lierse goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was taunted with chants of “Fukushima, Fukushima” by opposing fans in reference to the nuclear disaster following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently reiterated his belief in deducting points from teams in cases of racial abuse — which he believes is the one of the biggest scourges in soccer.


Nakamura quits club over ‘racism’
Agence France-Presse February 01, 2013

TOKYO: Japanese striker Yuki Nakamura says he returned home over intolerable racism at Slovak club Rimavska Sobota, adding that the side had received threats over his appearances.

The incident is the latest in a string of racially-linked incidents in European football, with Italian giants Lazio fined a total of 140,000 euros ($190,000) by UEFA on Wednesday after their Europa League clashes against Tottenham and Maribor were marred by racist chanting.

In an online blog entry dated Wednesday, Nakamura, 25, said he returned to Japan because of racism that had even involved some of his own teammates.

“Unfortunately, I have come home because I was subjected to racism at the club I belonged to, Rimavska Sobota, and could not live there any more,” the footballer wrote.

Calling out his name before and after matches, some club supporters raised their middle finger to Nakamura “with a look of furious anger”.

“No teammates helped me. There were even some players who joined in (the harassment),” he added.

“It wasn’t normal anymore, and the team even received some sort of threats. They cannot be responsible (for my safety), so I came home,” he said.

Nakamura played in Romania and the Czech Republic before joining Rimavska Sobota on loan in July last year.


Even more at EIN World News Report.

Compare these with the Japanese-language reports below (my translation, then originals)


Japanese Soccer Forward quits club due to severe discrimination

Sankei Sports, January 31, 2013 (translation by Arudou Debito; corrections welcome)

Forward Nakamura Yuuki (25), of Slovak football club MSK Rimavska Sobota, wrote on his own blog on January 30 that “I received racially discriminatory treatment and could no longer live there, so I came back to Japan”, making clear that he had quit his team.

According to his blog, Nakamura had already returned to Japan by last September.  The target of racial discrimination from soccer fans, he also made clear that teammates would side with them.  “Before and after games, soccer fans would say my name with an angry demonic look in their eyes (oni no gyousou de), give me the finger… and none of my teammates would help me.  It also seemed like some of the players would have a hand in it too,” Nakamura wrote in detail.

In addition, Nakamura reported that the club explained to him, “We cannot take responsibility if threats come to the team.”

Nakamura began playing for a Rumanian club after graduating from Kokushikan University.  In 2012 he switched to the Viktoria Zizkov team in the Czech League, and in August he was on loan to MSK Rimavska Sobota.

Regarding incidents of racial discrimination towards Japanese players, in August 2011, Japan Team Goalie Kawashima Eiji, then a member of club Lierse in the Belgian League, was jeered at fans during a game where they said “Kawashima, Fukushima!” in reference to the nuclear accident.  This led to Kawashima protesting to the head referee and interrupting the game.

The soccer world is thick with (habikoru) problems of racial discrimination, FIFA president Sepp Blatter (76) has is considering deducting winning points from any team which engages in racial discrimination.



産経スポーツ 2013.1.31, courtesy of HS








Japanese soccer player in overseas league confesses that “racial discrimination” made him “unable to live there anymore”

RBB Today/Livedoor Sports, February 1, 2013 (translation by Arudou Debito; corrections welcome)

Forward Nakamura Yuuki (25), of second-tier Slovak football club MSK Rimavska Sobota, blogged that he had been subject to racially discriminatory treatment and could no longer carry on living there.

On January 30, in a blog entry entitled “The truth is…”, he wrote “This time I wanted to return to Japan sooner than usual.  So by the end of September I was back,” reporting that he had already come home.  “It’s a shame, but because I received racial discrimination at MSK I couldn’t live there anymore and so came home,” clarifying why he came home earlier than usual.

The treatment that Nakamura called “racial discrimination” was, as reported, “There were many things that made me think ‘Would such a thing happen in this day and age?’  Before and after games, soccer fans would say my name with an angry demonic look in their eyes (oni no gyousou de), give me the finger… and none of my teammates would help me.  It also seemed like some of the players would have a hand in it too.”  Nakamura also added that “things that looked like threats” also happened to the team.  But since the team wouldn’t take responsibility (for Nakamura’s safety), it looks like he made the decision to leave.

On Nakamura’s blog in August before he repatriated, Nakamura reported about recent play and living conditions, “Honestly, I’m tired.  I’m the only gaijin [sic] on this team and there are lots of communication problems;” “Well, it doesn’t matter where you go in this world, there’ll always be problems, right?’  Problems and adverse conditions.  It’s times like those when you really have to think about how to think about them,” showing the difficulties he was having with playing for overseas teams.  On his most recent blog entry, when he revealed how severe the bashing he was getting overseas, he said, “I think few other sportsperson have had this kind of experience,” concluding his blog entry with a positive feeling.

[Last paragraph of the article details his former Japanside career as a soccer player.]




RBB TODAY 2013年01月30日13時23分, courtesy of AS




中村選手は帰国前の昨年8月のブログでも、現地でのプレーや近況について報告するとともに、「正直かなり疲れました!外人は自分1人だけなんでコミニュケーションの問題とか色々と」「まあどの世界でもどこでも何かしらの問題はありますよね? 問題であったり逆境であったり。そんな時にどう思えるかって凄く大切だと思います」と、海外チームでプレーする苦労をつづっていた。今回のブログで、現地で猛烈なバッシングを受けていたことを明かしたが、「こんな経験をした選手もなかなかいないんじゃないでしょうか?」と、前向きな気持ちをつづってブログを結んでいる。




As Submitter AS notes:  Reading through the article and the blog quoted in the article, I can’t find anything that clearly shows racial discrimination.  People giving him the finger?  With no context, that could mean anything from racial discrimination to thinking he’s a useless player.

As Submitter HS notes: I find it very interesting how low the bar is for Japanese to scream “racism” overseas. Someone yells “Kawashima Fukushima” during a soccer game and Kawashima stops the game to protest?? And the Japanese media consider this taunt to be “racism”?? Surely the jeer is not appropriate but racism???

Try looking for an apartment – a place to live! – and being told “No!” simply because you are not Japanese. THAT’S racism. But why do I get the feeling that the Japanese media would make excuses, justify, and attempt to convince me that this is not racism but just a big misunderstanding on MY PART?

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I just find it interesting the difference in treatment in the media and public argument.  Nakamura essentially has a nervous breakdown due to the taunts, and then both the Japanese and overseas media report it as racial discrimination, put it in a larger context, and don’t question Nakamura’s claims.  Yet when we get the same kind of jeering in Japan of NJ (Shimizu S-Pulse’s Coach Ghotbi being accused in 2011 by supporters in a banner of being connected to Iranian nuclear weapons; or official-level jeers:  Japan’s Ekiden running leagues justifying extra hurdles for NJ athletes by claiming that sports are only interesting for Japanese fans if Japanese win them; or claims by Japan’s rugby union not winning because they have “too many foreign players” (including naturalized Japanese); and how about Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s 2012 remarks about NJ judo Olympians being “beasts” spoiling “Japan’s sport”?), nobody calls it “racial discrimination” in the Japanese press (if the foreign press pay any attention to it at all).  Racial discrimination only seems to happen overseas.

Where is FIFA or any other international sports league to decry racism when this sort of thing happens in Japan?  Buried in cultural relativism.  You can see that even more strongly in the comments to the Japan Today article cited above, which are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Nakamura.  I don’t doubt that Nakamura had readjustment problems and decided not to stay because he wasn’t comfortable overseas.  But imagine the reaction if a NJ player in the J-League were to quit, justifying it by saying “fans gave me an angry look” or “people gave me the finger”.  He’d be told by commenters to grow a pair, and would have bloggers both in English and Japanese questioning not only the veracity of his claims (dollars to donuts they would dismiss his claim of “racial discrimination” as cultural misunderstandings or insensitivity) but also his mental stability.

That’s not happening in Nakamura’s case.  Now why?  Are we that programmed to holding Japan to a different standard?  Arudou Debito


Nakamura’s blog, cited in the articles above:


2012-08-12 18:27:20













UPDATE FEB 2, 2013:

Debito here. Let me make a clarification to my post, since some people (off list) aren’t getting it:

Here’s what I am and am not saying:

  • I am NOT saying that Nakamura has no standing to have a complaint about the way he was felt he was treated.
  • I am NOT saying that Nakamura should have stayed on if he felt that way.
  • I am NOT saying that because racial discrimination (RD) also exists in Japan that Nakamura has no standing to claim RD in Europe.
  • I AM saying that the standards for what is called RD in Europe and in Japan seem to be different.
  • I AM saying that it is ironic that unequal treatment towards NJ sportspeople in Japan is not similarly decried as RD.
  • I AM saying that if international sports authorities are willing to acknowledge Nakamura’s treatment in European sports leagues as RD, those same international sports authorities (not to mention pundits and media commentators) should also have something similarly critical to say about the way NJ sportspeople are treated in Japan as well.

Thus, the irony I am pointing out is not that Nakamura claimed RD. The irony is that Japan’s unequal treatment of people by race/nationality/national origin is not held to the same standard as Europe’s unequal treatment of people by race/nationality/national origin.

For Nakamura, the threshold (based upon the standards of proof that he offered) was much lower than what people claim (and find their claims discounted for “cultural reasons”). Again, if any NJ quit his Japanese team due to getting the “stink eye” and “the finger” from the stands, nobody would take him or her at all seriously. It’s sweet that people (both European and Japanese) did in Nakamura’s case. But let’s universalize the thresholds and standards, shall we?

Capisce? Debito

Tokyo Gov Ishihara at it again, calls NJ judo Olympians “beasts” spoiling Japan’s sport


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Hi Blog.  The Sanitizer-General I referred to in my last Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column is at it again:


(読売新聞 2012年8月4日06時03分 スポーツ報知)courtesy of MS




Translation (by Debito):

Yomiuri:  Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro (79) said at his regular press conference on August 3, regarding the difficulties the Japanese judo team is having at the London Olympics, “Watching Westerners do judo is like watching beasts fight.  An internationalized judo has lost its exquisite charm.”  He added, “In Brazil, it’s said that they eat chocolate in their norimaki, but I wouldn’t call that ‘sushi’.  It’s a shame that judo has also gone the same way.”

That’s the entire article.  How sporting of him.  These are the type of people who, for example, seek to keep NJ out of Sumo by limiting stable to one “foreign wrestler”, and they include naturalized citizens as “foreign” as well (unlawful under the Nationality Law; still waiting for the lawsuit).  Judo will be the “Japanese sport that got away” since they “internationalized” it, I guess; but that’s why it’s an Olympic event and Sumo, run by racists (and sexists), will never be.

Anyway, for the record.  This will be my penultimate post before vacationing for the summer.  Arudou Debito Dejima Award to Japan Rugby Football Union, blaming J losses on “too many foreign players”, including naturalized former NJ


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New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Allow me to present a very rare and coveted award (this is only the fifth one in’s history) that only gives out to egregious racists and offenders of the sensibilities.  To people who are basically beyond any sort of appeal to logic or reason regarding treating other humans as equal and dignified human beings:  A Dejima Award.  And once again (this is the third time) it goes to that ever-encouraged admixture of bastion nationalism and Team-Japan-ism:  A Japanese sports league.  One that blames Japan’s apparently poor showing in rugby on the foreigners (apparently even those “foreigners” who are naturalized Japanese citizens). Read the article, then I’ll comment further:


Kirwan under fire for using too many foreign-born players
JAPAN TODAY, SPORTS OCT. 30, 2011, Courtesy of Yokohama John

TOKYO — All Blacks legend John Kirwan, due to quit as Japan coach after the Brave Blossoms’ disappointment at the rugby World Cup, came under fire Saturday for his use of foreign-born players.

The criticism came at a board meeting of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) which reviewed the World Cup in New Zealand, the union’s chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said.

Japan finished bottom of Pool A with three defeats—by eventual World Cup winners New Zealand, runners-up France and Tonga—and a draw with Canada.

“We talked about how our scrum went or how our breakdown went. We also talked about our mental side,” Yabe said. “Some argued that we had too many foreigners.”

Kirwan picked a record 10 foreign-born players, half of whom have obtained Japanese nationality, for his World Cup squad. The previous highest was seven, also selected by Kirwan for the 2007 World Cup in France.

He used seven of them in the starting line-up against Canada in an effort to break Japan’s World Cup winless streak, which dates back to their 52-8 victory over Zimbabwe 20 years ago. In 2007, Japan also drew with Canada.

Kirwan has insisted Japan must use foreigners to improve their results before 2019 when they host the World Cup.

“Rugby is a world sport, we accept everyone. It’s not political,” he said before the New Zealand tournament.

Earlier this month, the 46-year-old said he would not seek a new contract with Japan when his current five-year deal expires in December.

Former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who led the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final, which they lost to England, has been mentioned by some JRFU executives as a candidate to replace Kirwan, according to media reports.

Jones now coaches Japan Top-14 side Suntory Sungoliath.

Yabe said no specific name was named at the board meeting as Kirwan’s successor but they had set up a committee to choose the new coach and staff, hopefully by the end of this year.

“We noted the good things JK (Kirwan) has done. But the results are what matter,” he said. “JK said he would keep watching Japanese rugby beyond December. We will appreciate that.”


COMMENT: One comment from the Japan Today site that resonated with me in its succinct truthiness: “They needed a reason that they didn’t reach their highly unlikely expectations for the World Cup. Stating that their sights were set too high wouldn’t work, and neither would saying they just weren’t good enough. But blaming it about people who are not “pure” Japanese in the team… there’s an excuse all the people high up in the hierarchies can agree with.”

Just so. But in any case, savor just how stoneheaded this is. Like a fine wine, the flavor of this incident of clear and public racist scapegoating keeps unfolding on the tongue and in the mind, leading to a lingering despair for the future social dynamic of Japanese society.  No doubt for many people this will become SITYS cannon fodder for justifying a negative disposition towards Japan, and an understanding why it’s in decline. Not for me. I just give the Japan Rugby Football Union a golden razzie in the form of The Dejima Award. And create a permanent record for others to set their mental compasses by. Arudou Debito

Tokyo Gov Ishihara bids for 2020 Olympics through earthquake sympathy vote; also calls for Japan to have nukes, military conscription, and military-led government


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Hi Blog. Okay, Tokyo, you asked for this when you revoted in this creep for a fourth term last April. Now not only is racist xenophobe and Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro using the Tohoku Earthquake (which he originally called “divine retribution for Japan’s egoism“) as sympathy fodder for a renewed Olympic bid, but also, according to ANN News, he is calling for Japan to have nuclear weapons (in order to be taken seriously on the world stage, comparing it to a Mah-Jong game), military conscription, and even a military government!

Well, in my view this was only a matter of time, especially since Ishihara, if he’s not just flat-out senile, is of a generation (the Showa Hitoketa) which venerates Japan’s military past without actually serving in the military and experiencing the horrors of the Pacific War. He’s basically a warrior of words. And, again, the Tokyo electorate keeps putting him in a place where he can use those words for great effect and audience.  Including advocating siphoning off funds from disaster reconstruction for the purpose of circus.  Arudou Debito


First the YouTube video from ANN News (June 20, 2011, 40 seconds):


Let Olympic torch be lit as proof of recovery
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 20, 2011)

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has expressed his intention to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

When announcing his plan, Ishihara said he would like the envisioned Tokyo Olympiad to be held to show the world that Japan has recovered from the ravages of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, which would be nine years in the past in 2020.

During a session of the metropolitan assembly Friday, Ishihara stressed the importance of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Games, saying the Olympiad “would be the best return for the friendship and encouragement extended to us from around the world” in the wake of the disaster.

If Tokyo wins the bid, the Games would be certain to serve as a key catalyst for invigorating the nation to rebuild from the disaster.

The venue of the 2020 Olympics is scheduled to be decided at a general assembly of the International Olympic Committee in 2013. We want to invigorate efforts for Tokyo to host the Games, so the flame of the Olympic torch will again be lit in this nation’s capital.


Clear-cut message key

Tokyo’s bid for the Games will follow its unsuccessful attempt to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo’s rival in that race, won by obtaining wide-ranging support for its call to have the Olympics held for the first time in South America.

The primary lesson from Tokyo’s failure in its bid for the 2016 Olympics is that the city lacked a clear-cut message about why it wanted to host the Games.

The message that Tokyo wants to host the 2020 Games as proof of Japan’s recovery from the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis–just as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were symbolic of the nation’s rebuilding from the ashes of World War II–will likely be able to obtain empathy from many countries.

To spur public opinion in favor of hosting the 2020 Olympics–unlike the lukewarm public support for the 2016 bid–it is important to clearly explain to the public the significance and advantages of hosting the Games.

The Tokyo metropolitan government still has a reserve fund of 400 billion yen accumulated in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Tokyo has superb infrastructure, including high-performance transportation networks and accommodation facilities. In addition, its public order and security are known worldwide.

Such elements will be major selling points in efforts to win the Olympic bid.

Also, there reportedly are plans to hold some Olympic events in disaster-hit areas. We strongly hope this will be realized.


Nation must be united

Rome has already declared its candidacy for the 2020 Olympics. To win the race to host the Games, it is indispensable for the entire nation to unite behind the bid.

Ishihara has said, “It is imperative to have public opinion surge in favor of hosting the Games by rallying the entire strength of the country, the strength of all spheres, including the government, the sports world and business communities.”

Incidentally, the Sports Promotion Basic Law, which stipulates encouragement of sports policies as one of Japan’s national strategies, was enacted by the Diet on Friday. The new law says the government should “take special measures” to ensure sources of revenue and other needs for such purposes as hosting and holding the Olympics and other international sports events.

We realize the government must currently place top priority on securing funds to finance restoration and reconstruction projects from the March 11 disaster. But sooner or later the government will need to clarify its stance toward hosting the Olympics in this country.

The government should proactively study the feasibility of hosting the 2020 Games in tandem with such bodies as the Tokyo metropolitan government and Japanese Olympic Committee.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 19, 2011)


Kyodo: Soccer S-Pulse coach Ghotbi wants to meet banned fans over racial banner


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Hi Blog.  We have some proactive treatment against discrimination towards a NJ coach in Japan’s soccer leagues.  Witness the reaction of other fans towards a nasty fan banner singling him out by his nationality, attributing to him behavior that is unrelated and unwarranted:  criticism and the taking of responsibility.  Good.  Regardless of whether one might argue this actually constitutes “racism” or not, it is still indicative of the zero tolerance of discrimination that should be (and is, under FIFA) a hallmark of world sport leagues worldwide, including Japan’s.

I am, however, of two minds about manager Ghotbi meeting the nasty fans to somehow enlighten them.  It on one hand seems a good PR strategy — engage and convince the nasties that their targets are humans with feelings after all.  On the other hand, it may encourage other trolls who want attention (not to mention get a meeting with a famous NJ — just insult them and you get an audience) to do the same thing — and enough of these banners and people may start claiming “cultural misunderstandings” as justification (you get that with nasty slogans against NJ in Japanese baseball, e.g., the racist banners against Warren Cromartie).  In my experience it doesn’t always work to talk to discriminators (sometimes their names exposed to social opprobrium is enough), but sometimes it does, and at least there is social opprobrium and media attention this time.  Let’s keep an eye on this and see how it flies.  Hopefully buds get nipped.  Arudou Debito


S-Pulse coach wants to meet banned fans over racial banner
Kyodo News/Japan Today Tuesday 07th June 2011, Courtesy of Dave Spector

TOKYO — Shimizu S-Pulse manager Afshin Ghotbi has turned the other cheek toward two Jubilo fans who have been indefinitely banished from Iwata games for hoisting a racially motivated banner in the Shizuoka derby two weeks ago, wanting to meet them to try to raise international awareness throughout the J-League.

The two teenage Jubilo supporters were outlawed by their club on Monday after writing a banner that read, ‘‘Ghotbi, stop making nuclear weapons,’’ in the May 28 J-League contest between Shimizu and Iwata at Outsourcing Stadium. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Ghotbi, the ex-Iran national coach who is in his first season in Japan at Shimizu, is Iranian-American.

The banner has caught fire not only for its racist undertones, but because of its insensitivity toward the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Yet rather than further fry the two fans amid arguably the nastiest controversy between the Shizuoka-based clubs, the former assistant to Guus Hiddink on the South Korean national team wants a clear-the-air meeting with the pair to stamp out racism in the J-League for good.

‘‘I actually suggested a meeting between the two kids, to just sit down and maybe I can inform them that what they did is wrong,’’ Ghotbi told Kyodo News by phone on Monday. ‘‘Maybe that could be a great gesture. And also because they are young, it would give them an opportunity to do some right.

‘‘Iwata could ask them to do some service work on behalf of the J-League and Iwata for the community and charity, and earn them the right to come back to the stadium.

‘‘Nobody has said anything to me, but I would love for that to happen. I think by meeting them, it would be a great gesture that when mistakes are made, you have a chance to correct it, a chance to grow.

‘‘Maybe I can show them that I’m not so different than they are.’‘

The next Shizuoka derby is on Sept. 10 at Ecopa Stadium.

Ghotbi hopes he can face the two Jubilo supporters by then so that the game won’t be one of tension, but one of a carnival atmosphere—as a derby match ought to be in his opinion.

‘‘I know the S-Pulse fans are infuriated and very upset about it and before the next derby, I want to create a situation where our fans and their fans can become closer, make the derby more of a festival and celebration for the community,’’ he said.

For all his positive spin, nevertheless, the 47-year-old Ghotbi did say that he never expected to encounter a case of racism in the J-League, which he has raved about as it being the best championship in Asia.

‘‘I personally feel sad, primarily because I see the world as one,’’ said Ghotbi, who took Iran to the quarterfinals at the Asian Cup in January that was won by Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan. ‘‘I see all human beings the same, not divided by past or nationality. When I see behavior like that it only makes me sadder.

‘‘I also believe that particular sign by two young people is by no stretch of the imagination the vision or the behavior in Japan. It doesn’t reflect at all the way the Japanese people are and feel.

‘‘So it’s an isolated incident by two young emotional people who are misinformed, uneducated. I hope the J-League officials use this opportunity to help the J-League become even more global.’’


Japan Times JBC/ZG Column Jan 4, 2010: “Arudou’s Alien Almanac 2000-2010” (Director’s Cut)


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The Japan Times, Tuesday, January 4, 2011
DRAFT NINE, VERSION AS SUBMITTED TO EDITOR (Director’s Cut, including text cut out of published article)

Download Top Ten for 2010 at
Download Top Ten for 2000-2010 at
Download entire newsprint page as PDF with excellent Chris Mackenzie illustrations (recommended) at

It’s that time again, when the JUST BE CAUSE column ranks the notable events of last year that affected Non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This time it’s a double feature, also ranking the top events of the past decade.


5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)

This lawsuit followed the landmark Ana Bortz case of 1999, where a Brazilian plaintiff sued and won against a jewelry store in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, that denied her entry for looking foreign. Since Japan has no national law against racial discrimination, the Bortz case found that United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination (CERD), which Japan signed in 1995, has the force of law instead. The Otaru case (Just Be Cause, Jun. 3, 2008) (in which, full disclosure, your correspondent was one plaintiff) attempted to apply penalties not only to an exclusionary bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, but also to the Otaru city government for negligence. Results: Sapporo’s district and high courts both ruled the bathhouse must pay damages to multiple excluded patrons. The city government, however, was exonerated.

WHY THIS MATTERS: Although our government has repeatedly said to the U.N. that “racial discrimination” does not exist in Japan (“discrimination against foreigners” exists, but bureaucrats insist this is not covered by the CERD (JBC, Jun. 2, 2009)), the Otaru case proved it does, establishing a cornerstone for any counterargument. However, the Supreme Court in 2005 ruled the Otaru case was “not a constitutional issue,” thereby exposing the judiciary’s unwillingness to penalize discrimination expressly forbidden by Japan’s Constitution. Regardless, the case built on the Bortz precedent, setting standards for NJ seeking court redress for discrimination (providing you don’t try to sue the government). It also helped stem a tide of “Japanese Only” signs spreading nationwide, put up by people who felt justified by events like:


Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara set the tone this decade with a calamitous diatribe to the Nerima Ground Self Defense Forces (ZG, Dec. 18, 2007), claiming that NJ (including “sangokujin,” a derogatory term for former citizens of the Japanese Empire) were in Japan “repeatedly committing heinous crimes.” Ishihara called on the SDF to round foreigners up during natural disasters in case they rioted (something, incidentally, that has never happened).

WHY THIS MATTERS: A leader of a world city pinned a putative crime wave on NJ (even though most criminal activity in Japan, both numerically and proportionately, has been homegrown (ZG, Feb. 20, 2007)) and even offered discretionary policing power to the military, yet he has kept his office to this day. This speech made it undisputedly clear that Ishihara’s governorship would be a bully pulpit, and Tokyo would be his turf to campaign against crime — meaning against foreigners. This event emboldened other Japanese politicians to vilify NJ for votes, and influenced government policy at the highest levels with the mantra “heinous crimes by bad foreigners.” Case in point:


Once re-elected to his second term, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi got right down to business targeting NJ. No fewer than three Cabinet members in their opening policy statements mentioned foreign crime, one stressing that his goal was “making Japan the world’s safest country again” — meaning, again, safe from foreigners (ZG, Oct. 7, 2003).

WHY THIS MATTERS: Despite being one of Japan’s most acclaimed prime ministers, Koizumi’s record toward NJ residents was dismal. Policies promulgated “for the recovery of public safety” explicitly increased the peace for kokumin (Japanese nationals) at the expense of NJ residents. In 2005, the “Action Plan for Pre-Empting Terrorism” (ZG, May 24, 2005) portrayed tero as an international phenomenon (ignoring homegrown examples), officially upgrading NJ from mere criminals to terrorists. Of course, the biggest beneficiaries of this bunker mentality were the police, who found their powers enhanced thusly:

2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)

After May 1999, when their “Policy Committee Against Internationalization” (sic) was launched, the National Police Agency found ample funding for policies targeting NJ expressly as criminals, terrorists and “carriers of infectious diseases.” From NPA posters depicting NJ as illegal laborers, members of international criminal organizations and violent, heinous crooks, campaigns soon escalated to ID checks for cycling while foreign (ZG, Jun. 20, 2002), public “snitch sites” (where even today anyone can anonymously rat on any NJ for alleged visa violations (ZG, Mar. 30, 2004)), increased racial profiling on the street and on public transportation, security cameras in “hotbeds of foreign crime” and unscientific “foreigner indexes” applied to forensic crime scene evidence (ZG, Jan. 13, 2004).

Not only were crackdowns on visa overstayers (i.e., on crimes Japanese cannot by definition commit) officially linked to rises in overall crime, but also mandates reserved for the Immigration Bureau were privatized: Hotels were told by police to ignore the actual letter of the law (which required only tourists be checked) and review every NJ’s ID at check-in (ZG, Mar. 8, 2005). Employers were required to check their NJ employees’ visa status and declare their wages to government agencies (ZG, Nov. 13, 2007). SDF members with foreign spouses were “removed from sensitive posts” (ZG, Aug. 28, 2007). Muslims and their friends automatically became al-Qaida suspects, spied on and infiltrated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police (ZG, Nov. 9).

There were also orgiastic spending frenzies in the name of international security, e.g., World Cup 2002 and the 2008 Toyako G-8 Summit (JBC, Jul. 1, 2008). Meanwhile, NJ fingerprinting, abolished by the government in 1999 as a “violation of human rights,” was reinstated with a vengeance at the border in 2007. Ultimately, however, the NPA found itself falsifying its data to keep its budgets justified — claiming increases even when NJ crime and overstaying went down (ZG, Feb. 20, 2007). Hence, power based upon fear of the foreigner had become an addiction for officialdom, and few Japanese were making a fuss because they thought it didn’t affect them. They were wrong.

WHY THIS MATTERS: The NPA already has strong powers of search, seizure, interrogation and incarceration granted them by established practice. However, denying human rights to a segment of the population has a habit of then affecting everyone else (ZG, Jul. 8, 2008). Japanese too are now being stopped for bicycle ID checks and bag searches under the same justifications proffered to NJ. Police security cameras — once limited to Tokyo “foreigner zones” suchas Kabukicho, Ikebukuro and Roppongi — are proliferating nationwide. Policing powers are growing stronger because human rights protections have been undermined by precedents set by anti-foreigner policies. Next up: Laws preventing NJ from owning certain kinds of properties for “security reasons,” further tracking of international money transfers, and IC-chipped “gaijin cards” readable from a distance (ZG, May 19, 2009).


For the first time in 48 years, the number of foreigners living in Japan went down. This could be a temporary blip due to the Nikkei repatriation bribe of 2009-2010 (ZG, Apr. 7, 2009), when the government offered goodbye money only to foreigners with Japanese blood. Since 1990, more than a million Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese ancestry have come here on special visas to help keep Japan’s industries humming cheaply. Now tens of thousands are pocketing the bribe and going back, giving up their pensions and becoming somebody else’s unemployment statistic.

WHY THIS MATTERS: NJ numbers will eventually rise again, but the fact that they are going down for the first time in generations is disastrous. For this doesn’t just affect NJ – it affects everyone in Japan. A decade ago, both the U.N. and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi stated that Japan needs 600,000 NJ a year net influx just to maintain its taxpayer base and current standard of living. Yet a decade later, things are going in exactly the opposite way.

It should be no surprise: Japan has become markedly unfriendly these past ten years. Rampant and unbalanced NJ-bashing have shifted Japanese society’s image of foreigner from “misunderstood guest and outsider” to “social bane and criminal.” Why would anyone want to move here and make a life under these conditions?

Despite this, everyone knows that public debt is rising while the Japanese population is aging and dropping. Japan’s very economic vitality depends on demographics. Yet the only thing that can save Japan – a clear and fair policy towards immigration – is taboo for discussion (JBC, Nov. 3, 2009). Even after two decades of economic doldrums, it is still unclear whether Japan has either the sense or the mettle to pull itself up from its nosedive.

The facts of life: NJ will ultimately come to Japan, even if it means that all they find is an elderly society hanging on by its fingernails, or just an empty island. Let’s hope Japan next decade comes to its senses, figuring out not only how to make life here more attractive for NJ, but also how to make foreigners into Japanese.


Bubbling under for the decade: U.N. Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s 2005 and 2006 visits to Japan, where he called discrimination in Japan “deep and profound” (ZG, Jun. 27, 2006); Japan’s unsuccessful 2006 bid for a U.N. Security Council seat—the only leverage the U.N. has over Japan to follow international treaty; the demise of the racist “Gaijin Hanzai” magazine and its publisher thanks to NJ grassroots protests (ZG, Mar. 20, 2007); the “Hamamatsu Sengen” and other statements by local governments calling for nicer policies towards NJ (ZG, Jun. 3, 2008); the domination of NJ wrestlers in sumo; the withering of fundamental employers of NJ, including Japan’s export factories and the eikaiwa industry (ZG, Dec. 11, 2007).




Japanese politicians with international roots are few but not unprecedented. But Taiwanese-Japanese Diet member Renho’s ascension to the Cabinet as minister for administrative reforms has been historic. Requiring the bureaucrats to justify their budgets (famously asking last January, “Why must we aim to develop the world’s number one supercomputer? What’s wrong with being number two?”), she has been Japan’s most vocal policy reformer.

WHY THIS MATTERS: Few reformers are brave enough to withstand the national sport of politician-bashing, especially when exceptionally cruel criticism began targeting Renho’s ethnic background. Far-rightist Diet member Takeo Hiranuma questioned her very loyalty by saying, “She’s not originally Japanese.” (Just Be Cause, Feb. 2) Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara expanded the focus by claiming people in the ruling coalition had foreign backgrounds, therefore were selling Japan out as a “duty to their ancestors” (JBC, May 4). Fortunately, it did not matter. In last July’s elections, Renho garnered a record 1.7 million votes in her constituency, and retained her Cabinet post regardless of her beliefs, or roots.


After all the bad blood between these strikingly similar societies, Japan’s motion to be nice to South Korea was remarkably easy. No exploitable technicalities about the apology being unofficial, or merely the statements of an individual leader (as was seen in Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s apologies for war misdeeds, or Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono’s “statement” about “comfort women” – itself a euphemism for war crimes) — just a prime minister using the opportunity of a centennial to formally apologize for Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, backed up by a good-faith return of war spoils.

WHY THIS MATTERS: At a time when crime, terrorism and other social ills in Japan are hastily pinned on the outside world, these honest and earnest reckonings with history are essential for Japan to move on from a fascist past and strengthen ties with the neighbors. Every country has events in its history to be sorry for. Continuous downplaying — if not outright denial by nationalistic elites — of Japan’s conduct within its former empire will not foster improved relations and economic integration. This applies especially as Asia gets richer and needs Japan less, as witnessed through:


Despite a year of bashing Chinese, the government brought in planeloads of them to revitalize our retail economy. Aiming for 10 million visitors this year, Japan lowered visa thresholds for individual Chinese to the point where they came in record numbers, spending, according to the People’s Daily, 160,000 yen per person in August.

WHY THIS MATTERS: Wealthy Chinese gadding about while Japan faced decreasing salaries caused some bellyaching. Our media (displaying amnesia about Bubble Japan’s behavior) kvetched that Chinese were patronizing Chinese businesses in Japan and keeping the money in-house (Yomiuri, May 25), Chinese weren’t spending enough on tourist destinations (Asahi, Jun. 16), Chinese were buying out Japanese companies and creating “Chapan” (Nikkei Business, Jun. 21), or that Chinese were snapping up land and threatening Japan’s security (The Japan Times, Dec. 18). The tone changed this autumn, however, when regional tensions flared, so along with the jingoism we had Japanese politicians and boosters flying to China to smooth things over and keep the consumers coming.

Let’s face it: Japan was once bigger than all the other Asian economies combined. But that was then — 2010 was also the year China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. Japan can no longer ignore Asian investment. No nationalistic whining is going to change that. Next up: longer-duration visas for India.


The ruling coalition sponsored a bill last year granting suffrage in local elections to NJ with permanent residency (ZG, Feb. 23) — an uncharacteristically xenophilic move for Japan. True to form, however, nationalists came out of the rice paddies to deafen the public with scare tactics (e.g., Japan would be invaded by Chinese, who would migrate to sparsely-populated Japanese islands and vote to secede, etc.). They then linked NJ suffrage with other “fin-de-Japon” pet peeves, such as foreign crime, North Korean abductions of Japanese, dual nationality, separate surnames after marriage, and even sex education.

WHY THIS MATTERS: The campaign resonated. Months after PR suffrage was moribund, xenophobes were still getting city and prefectural governments to pass resolutions in opposition. Far-rightists used it as a political football in election campaigns to attract votes and portray the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) as inept.

They had a point: How could the DPJ sponsor such a controversial bill and not rally behind it as criticisms arose? Where were the potential supporters and spokespeople for the bill, such as naturalized Diet member Marutei Tsurunen? Why were the xenophobes basically the only voice heard during the debate, setting the agenda and talking points? This policy blunder will be a huge setback for future efforts to promote human rights for and integration of NJ residents.

Bubbling under for the year: Oita High Court rules that NJ have no automatic right to welfare benefits; international pressure builds on Japan to sign the Hague Convention on Child Abduction; Tokyo Metropolitan Police spy on Muslims and fumble their secret files to publishers; America’s geopolitical bullying of Japan over Okinawa’s Futenma military base undermines the Hatoyama administration (JBC, Jun. 1); Ibaraki Detention Center hunger strikers, and the Suraj Case of a person dying during deportation, raise questions about Immigration Bureau procedure and accountability.

JT’s Philip Brasor analyzes J media claims of bias towards Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s sports records


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a very interesting and nuanced article about differing treatment of sports figures in the media:  Ichiro in the US vs. Hakuho in Japan.  Excerpt follows.  Worth a read during the holidays.  Debito back in Sapporo

The Japan Times Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
MEDIA MIX by Philip Brasor
Media racism: How unsportsmanlike

Local favoritism is built into organized sports. At the macro level you have whole countries rooting for national teams at the Olympics or the World Cup. At the micro level you have fans cheering a hometown boy who plays for a team far away. By the same token, nationalistic fans denigrate opposing countries’ players in international tournaments, while athletes from outside a locality may not receive the same level of local enthusiasm as those who grew up there.

In its Sept. 30 issue, Shukan Shincho attempted to build a story on two recent events: Hakuho’s breaking of Chiyonofuji’s record for consecutive sumo victories, and Ichiro Suzuki’s milestone 3,500th hit as a professional baseball player. That these events occurred within 24 hours of each other was irresistible, and Shincho wanted to connect them in a way that was guaranteed to attract attention. The headline of the article was, “Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s racism problem.”

Both athletes are strangers in foreign lands; or, at least, they started that way. Ichiro has been an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners in the United States since he entered the Major Leagues in 2001 after nine years playing in Japan’s Pacific League, and he has consistently been one of the game’s best hitters in both countries. Hakuho was born and raised in Mongolia, and is now the sole yokozuna (grand champion) in what is an ancient and traditional Japanese sport. Shincho’s point is that because both are “foreigners,” they do not receive the same attention and respect from the media and the public in their respective countries as native athletes, despite the enormity of their achievements.

Shincho claims that Ichiro’s 3,500th hit, a landmark that very few players in the history of the major leagues have reached, was virtually ignored by the American press. The reason, according to the magazine, is that Ichiro compiled this record in two countries, and Americans don’t take Japanese baseball seriously. To support this theory, the reporter quotes Japanese sports writers and baseball players who make the case that Ichiro’s talent is superior to that of the vast majority of currently active American baseball players.

As proof that Americans don’t evaluate Japanese players equally, the opinion of retired major leaguer Pete Rose is cited…

Rest at

Yours is no disgrace, World Cup Japan Team. Otsukare. I hope the J media does not spin this as a loss.


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I just wanted to say before retiring for the night that tonight’s Japan-Paraguay game for the Top Eight was excellent.  Japan played very well (and also quite fairly — I was rather unimpressed with how often Paraguay’s players went for people’s legs instead of the ball), and coming down to a 0-0 draw after two overtimes is testament to how well Japan played.  Penalty kicks (Para 5 Japan 3, with Japan going second so no chance to make it 5-4) are the luck of the draw, in my opinion, and it could have gone either way, the teams were so well matched.

Now I’m worried about how the Japanese media is going to digest this.  We already have Manager Okada apologizing for not having enough power to achieve his “Best Four” goal (but so what — the current team is streets ahead of any other World Cup team Japan has ever fielded; ergo coaching power aplenty).

I’m afraid we’re going to get the loss viewed through the Nihonjinron Lens of the high-pressure Japanese media, with excuses about some sort of innate Japanese superiority/inferiority (as I mentioned last time I blogged on this topic the other day), and how this loss is representative of something.

Look, it’s just a game.  This time a great series of games done by a great team that just lost out thanks to one ball getting through at the very end.


Again, well done Japan Team, well done Okada.  お疲れさまでした。Arudou Debito in Sapporo

GANBARE NIPPON! On to the World Cup Best Sixteen!


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Hi Blog. It was certainly worth getting up at an ungodly hour this morning to watch the Japan vs. Denmark football match. Defying many people’s expectations (especially the domestic media’s), Japan has played very well in this World Cup, and earned their keep today by beating Denmark (according to FIFA, the 36th ranked, with Japan the 45th) soundly and clearly, 3-1.  Omedetou!!

Now the Japan team is advancing to the quarterfinals Best Sixteen.  I had strong doubts about having Okada on as coach again (given his previous dismal performance, I thought the powers that be hired him essentially because he’s Japanese).  Looks like I was wrong — he does have more than a pretty face.  Good team, good football, good games so far.  Again, well done.  Ganbare!!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Thought of this while cycling to work this morning:  To put a angle on this issue, let’s keep an eye out on how the Japanese media begins to spin this victory.  I’ve found that if a team representing Japan loses, the media looks for an issue of unfairness or unequalness (such as the alleged lack of good food at the Turin (a city hosting a world cuisine!) Olympics affecting Japanese performance).  But if there is a win, the media searches for “Japanese qualities” that gave the J athlete an advantage (winning J swimmers keep having the “yamato damashii” (Japanese Spirit) attributed to them).  I already saw TV commentary this morning referring to the special “cooperativeness” of Japan’s soccer team.  But of course, if they had lost, no doubt we’d hear about the innately small and weaker Japanese bodies going up against the formidable Danish and Dutch tank-built bodies, etc.  It’s never a neutral, “may the best man win on a level playing field”, is it?  There are plenty of examples of how sports rules under Japanese control are tailored to that bias (here, here, and here).  It’s not terribly “sporting”.

Ears open for how this gets spun, everyone?  Thanks.  D

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column March 2, 2010 on Racist Sumo Kyoukai


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Sumo body deserves mawashi wedgie for racist wrestler ruling
The Japan Times: Tuesday, March 2, 2010, version with links to sources


I’ve noticed how highly Japan regards sports. We love investing taxes in games and facilities, hosting international events and Olympics. Sports are even part of a government ministry, the one in charge of Japan’s science, education and culture.

There is a problem, however, with the concept of sportsmanship here. Sports in Japan only seem to be kosher if Japanese win.

For example, national sports festivals (kokutai) have refused noncitizen high school students, erroneously claiming these events are qualifiers for Japan’s Olympic athletes (Zeit Gist, Sept. 30, 2003).

High school ekiden runs similarly bar foreign students from starting relays, claiming that non-Japanese (NJ) have an unfair advantage. NJ creating too much of a lead at the beginning allegedly makes things “dull” for Japanese fans. (Recall that old myth about Japanese legs being too short to run fast? Tell that to marathon gold medalist and world record-holder Naoko “Q-chan” Takahashi.)

Even sumo, the national sport (kokugi), has faced charges of racism, most famously from former grappler Konishiki, whom The New York Times in 1992 reported as saying his promotion to the top rank of yokozuna was denied because he isn’t Japanese.

But sumo has enjoyed plausible deniability, having had four foreign-born yokozuna (Akebono, Musashimaru, Asashoryu and Hakuho). After Asashoryu’s retirement, there remain 42 foreign-born rikishi in the top ranks. Ergo sumo is internationalizing, right?

Not any more. The Japan Sumo Association announced on Feb. 23 that it would limit sumo stables to one foreign wrestler each — a decrease from two per stable. Since there are only 52 stables, and only about 800 sumo wrestlers in total registered with the JSA, this funnels things down considerably.

Worse, the JSA will now define “foreign” as “foreign-born” (gaikoku shusshin), meaning even naturalized Japanese citizens will be counted as “foreign.” This, according to the Yomiuri, closes a “loophole” (nukemichi).

Sorry folks, but this rule is unlawful under Japan’s Nationality Law, not to mention the Constitution. Neither allows distinctions between foreign-born and Japanese-born citizens. Under the law, a Japanese is a Japanese — otherwise, what is the point of naturalizing?

So The New York Times was right after all: The JSA is racist. If you are born into a status that you can never escape, “Japaneseness” becomes not a matter legal status, but of birth. Of caste. Of race. Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.

Put another way, if I were to apply to become a sumo wrestler (I certainly am in their weight class), I would have to become a foreigner again, despite being a naturalized Japanese citizen for almost 10 years. Somebody deserves a huge mawashi wedgie.

JSA’s justification? One stable master expressed fears that sumo was being “overrun with foreign wrestlers.” Perhaps they’re afraid of being overrun by talented wrestlers who just happen to be foreign? That’s not supposed to be a concern when a sport has a level playing field.

OK then, how about unleveling the playing field overseas for sports that Japanese are good at? Limit, say, American Major League Baseball teams to one Japanese player — even if they take American citizenship? If you really want to get pernickety, you can say that Americans of Japanese extraction are also “Japanese,” kinda like two governments famously did for Japanese- Americans and Japanese-Canadians during World War II when deciding whom to send to internment camps. No doubt that would occasion outcries of racism by the Japanese media, the watchdogs for how Japanese are treated overseas (yet significantly less so regarding how NJ are treated in Japan).

But that wouldn’t be good for the sport. Talent in athletes spans borders. For example, notes (under the category of “frivolities”) that more than a quarter of all active baseball players in the U.S. (28.4 percent) were foreign-born in 2009.

That’s a good thing. If you want to have a healthy sport, you get the best of the best competing in it. Everyone given a sporting chance, regardless of nationality or birth.

But hey, that’s not the concern of now-bona-fide certified racist institutions like the JSA. All they want is for Japanese to win.

Some might say the nativists have the right to decide who gets into their “club.” But that’s not how sportsmanship works. And it’s one reason why sumo will lose out to real international sports — like judo, for example, now an Olympic event. Sumo was denied that honor. Now we can see why: It’s run by bigots.

O Takanohana, superstar yokozuna recently elected to the JSA board with promises to reform this troubled organization, where art thou when we needed you most? How could you let this xenophobia come to pass? Or have you shown your true colors at last?

Somebody take the JSA to court. These racist ignoramuses killing this world-famous sport need to be taught a lesson — that Japanese citizenship is not an inconvenient “loophole.” It is the law, and they too are beholden to it.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month

Dejima Award for racist Sumo Kyoukai: Decides to count naturalized Japanese as foreigners and limit stables to one “foreigner”


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Hi Blog.  In one more step to define Japan’s slide into international irrelevance, the national sport (kokugi) has decided to turn not only exclusionary, but also undeniably racist.  The Japan Sumo Association announced this week that it will no longer count naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers as “real Japanese”.  Then it will limit each stable to one “foreign” wrestler, meaning “foreignness” is a matter of birth, not a legal status.  This is a move, we are told by the media, to stop sumo from being “overrun with foreign wrestlers”.

That means that if I wanted to become a sumo wrestler, I would become a foreigner again.  Even though I’ve spent nearly a quarter of my life (as in close to ten years) as a Japanese citizen in Japan.

Well, fuck you very much, Sumo Kyoukai.  You are the shame of Japan.  And I present you with your special Dejima Award (complete with a big loogie on top) reserved only for the most breathtakingly exclusionary moves seen in a society that even the UN says allows “deep and profound” racism.

You’d think with Takanohana’s coup-ascension to the upper echelons of the JSA, that things would be liberalizing.  Nope.  They’re going the other way.  I thought as much.

How about having some international sports leagues limit their Japanese players to one — say, Japanese in Major League Baseball teams? Including those Japanese who have naturalized?  Oh wait, do I hear calls of racism from the Japanese Peanut Galleries?  Yes, the shoe on the other foot would pinch, wouldn’t it?  And the sport as a whole would suffer since innate talent (as we have seen by the number of talented sumo rikishi from overseas) is hardly a nativist issue.  But try telling that to the racist JSA.

Arudou Debito in transit, wondering what kind of a Japan he’s returning home to.


JSA to change rule on foreign sumo wrestlers
Japan Today Wednesday 24th February 2010, Courtesy lots of people

TOKYO — The Japan Sumo Association decided on Tuesday it will allow only one foreign-born wrestler per stable, meaning the one slot reserved for foreigners, which until now would become vacant when wrestlers took Japanese citizenship, cannot be filled.

For example, if a Mongolian-born wrestler belonging to a stable were to gain Japanese citizenship, other foreign wrestlers would be prohibited from joining the same stable.

JSA Chairman Musashigawa notified stablemasters of the decision made at an extraordinary meeting at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan the same day.

The existing restriction on foreigners will be in effect until newcomers for next month’s spring tournament undergo physicals, after which the new rule will be imposed.

‘‘You get the impression it is a severe measure but if the brakes are not applied somewhere, there will be more and more stables overrun with foreign wrestlers, so it can’t be helped,’’ said one stablemaster.

In recent years, the number of foreign wrestlers has been on the rise, as the existing loophole leaves a vacancy once someone from a respective stable gains Japanese citizenship.

Four Mongolian-born wrestlers and two Chinese-born wrestlers have taken Japanese citizenship since April last year.

The JSA decided in February 2002 to ‘‘limit the number of foreign wrestlers who can be recruited to one per stable.’‘

The latest shakeup in the JSA comes after Mongolian-born former grand champion Asashoryu quit the sport just weeks earlier following allegations he attacked a man outside a Tokyo night club in a drunken rage.

Sumo has been rocked to the core in recent years by a spate of scandals, including charges of drug violations, a death threat and a six-year prison term meted out to a stablemaster over physical abuse leading to the death of a 17-year-old wrestler.

There are nearly 60 foreign wrestlers in sumo today.


Olympic Tangent: US-born Reed siblings skate for “Team Japan” despite one being too old to have dual nationality


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Olympics are the topic du jour, so let’s bring up something that relates to Reader JPS sent me a comment yesterday with some links (thanks, see below) pointing out how once again in Japan, citizenship and dual nationality are political issues, not legal ones. We have dual nationals (in the case below, the Reeds, two Japanese-Americans) skating for Team Japan.

For the record, I’m fine with that. Participate however you can in whatever team you choose as long as you’re doing so properly under Olympic rules. The problem is that under Japan’s rules, legally one of the Reeds should not be a dual national anymore — she had to choose one by age 22 and didn’t.   But for the sake of politics and medals, we’re bending the laws yet again — claiming people as ours only when it suits us.

Let’s just face reality, and allow dual nationality in Japan.  Period.   Then we have fewer identity problems and conflicts of interest.

Arudou Debito in Calgary, finding that Canada is pressuring their athletes almost as much as Japan does (Team Canada has never won a Gold on home soil; oh dear, so what.)


Hi Debito,

Hope you are enjoying Canada. So I was reading the top stories on Yahoo today and found this gem.,218757

So Cathy Reed and her brother are dual nationals (according to the article) and will be representing Japan in the Olympics. The problem here is that Cathy is 22 years old, almost 23.

1987 + 22 = 2009. So the grace period for choosing a nationality has lapsed. So if this is correct, she is in violation of Japanese law, but it seems that it isn’t a problem here. I wonder why? JPS



Three American ice dancing siblings won’t be skating for Team USA

By Trey Kerby
Yahoo Sports blog, Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:40 am EST,218757

A few weeks back we told you about the curious trend of ice skaters finding partners in foreign countries. That was unusual, but not too surprising. Skaters need partners, and if they can find them in other places, why not? But the story of the Reed siblings? Well, that’s weird.

Born to an American father and a Japanese mother in Kalamazoo, Michigan, all three Reed siblings – Cathy, Chris, and Allison – will skate in the Vancouver Olympics. None of them are members of Team USA.


Because of their mother’s Japanese citizenship, Chris and Cathy hold dual citizenship in the United States and Japan. They’ll be skating for Japan.

Allison, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the new rules to skate for Georgia’s national team, home of her partner, Otar Japaridze.

Growing up, the Reeds lived in Kalamazoo, Hong Kong, Cincinnati, Australia, and, finally, New Jersey, where Cathy and Chris met up with coaches Nikolai Morozov and Shae-Lynn Bourne. As the duo trained with their new coaches, they quickly flew up the ice dancing ranks. However, due to the depth of the American team, the Reeds began skating for Japan. In a country where ice dancing is not terribly popular, they almost immediately became the team to beat.

Little sister Allison’s story is even more fortuitous. She began the sport because of her siblings’ success but could not find a partner due to her small stature. Then she found Japaridze in – where else? – New Jersey. In their first competition together (Allison’s first international competition ever), the duo nabbed the very last Olympic spot.

Just your typical three-siblings-from-the-United-States-finding-international-success-for-other-countries story that’s pretty amazing. No biggie.

Reuters on skater Yuko Kawaguchi: How Japan’s lack of dual nationality brands her a “traitor”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog.  Here’s another case of how Japan’s lack of dual nationality causes unnecessary hardship and sacrifice.  Figure skater Yuko Kawaguchi has to give up her Japanese nationality in order to skate — and she reportedly gets branded a “traitor” for her trouble.

Japan puts enough pressure on its athletes to be world-class (sometimes demanding no less than a gold medal), and this lack of a “personal-best” culture (i.e. Japanese athletes have to become the pride or shame of the entire nation in any international competition) means many Japanese choke and crumble under the stress.  Or in this case, give up their legal ties to Japan entirely.  Silly.  Then again, if Kawaguchi DOES get the Gold, we might claim her all over again (like we did the emigrant “Japanese” who got Nobel Prizes recently).

It’s time to get governments off their 20th-Century war footings (as in, “If we grant dual nationality , what if we go to war with that country?  Which side will you choose?”) and allow individuals more options and identities.  And nationalities.  Because, again, the state of modern international migration warrants that.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


FEATURE-Olympics-Kawaguchi braves taunts to skate for Russia
Reuters, on Yahoo Sports Oct 14, 8:02 am EDT
By Gennady Fyodorov

MOSCOW, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Yuko Kawaguchi was branded a traitor in her native Japan when she changed nationality to pursue her childhood dream of competing in the Olympics.

Since Japan does not allow dual citizenship, the figure skater was forced to give up her Japanese passport in exchange for a Russian one, enabling her and partner Alexander Smirnov to represent her adopted country at next year’s Winter Games in Vancouver.

“It was a very hard choice for me to make. But since I was a little girl I wanted to compete in the Olympics so in the end I had to make that choice in order for me to fulfil my childhood dream,” the Aichi native told Reuters in an interview.

While competing internationally for Russia required approval only from the sport’s governing body, the International Skating Union (ISU), she had to obtain Russian citizenship in order to take part in the Olympics.

Kawaguchi, who turns 28 next month, made her international debut for Russia at the 2007 world championships in Tokyo, where she and Smirnov finished ninth.

They have steadily improved in each of the last two seasons, coming fourth in the world in 2008 before taking bronze at this year’s world championships in Los Angeles.

While switching countries is common among athletes nowadays, Kawaguchi’s decision met with angry reaction back in Japan.

“I’ve read some nasty comments on the Internet. Those who don’t know how international rules work in sports even called me a traitor but I don’t get angry at them,” she said.


“People who follow sports understand that I’m not a traitor. I still consider myself Japanese. I chose to compete for Russia because I didn’t have a (good) partner in Japan.”

Japan have regularly produced world-class skaters in individual events for men and women but struggled to find top-level performers for pairs competition.

Russia have dominated Olympic pairs skating for nearly half a century, winning gold at every Winter Games since 1964.

Despite the fact that Kawaguchi and Smirnov represent their best hope for a medal in Vancouver, there was some resentment towards the Japan native among Russian sports officials who felt the country should develop their own skaters.

The pair’s coach, Tamara Moskvina, disagreed.

“Unlike some nations who pay millions to lure top athletes, we didn’t buy Kawaguchi,” the renowned trainer, who has guided three different pairs to Olympic titles, told Reuters.

“It was strictly her own decision and she paid her own way to come to Russia and train here. It was her perseverance and hard work that made her a top skater.”

Kawaguchi’s resilience was the main reason she ended up in Russia in the first place.

Inspired by watching Russia’s Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze compete at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Kawaguchi wrote to their coach Moskvina, asking if she could also train her.

“I enjoyed watching Yelena skate. She was the most graceful skater; she was also very small, just like myself, but with a very big heart,” said the 1.57-metre tall Kawaguchi, who looks even smaller skating alongside the powerfully-built Smirnov.


“She was very persistent, so I finally agreed to take her aboard,” Moskvina recalled. “She also had to come to America as I was working in Hackensack, New Jersey, at the time.”

After spending several years in the United States, Kawaguchi followed Moskvina to St Petersburg when she returned home after leading Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze to the 2002 Olympic gold.

Kawaguchi and Smirnov, 25, each had two different partners before deciding to work together. She first skated with Russian-born Alexander Markuntsov, representing Japan.

“We had a good working relationship,” said Kawaguchi, who became the first pairs skater from Japan to medal at an international competition when she and Markuntsov won silver at the 2001 world junior championships.

“But it was very difficult for Alexander to acquire Japanese citizenship, thus we couldn’t represent Japan in the Olympics so after a while we decided to break up.”

Kawaguchi then teamed up with American Devin Patrick.

“It was a different story with Patrick. We had problems on the ice; we weren’t getting along too well,” she said.

St Petersburg-based Smirnov, who had skated with Alexandra Danilova and Yekaterina Vasilyeva before teaming up with Kawaguchi, was quick to pay compliments to his new partner.

“We often trained at the same rink and I could see how hard she works,” said Smirnov. “I thought I was a hard worker but after watching her I was really amazed by her work level.”

Moskvina said: “The combination of Japanese discipline and work ethic together with Russian artistry and elegance is what makes them unique.”

Asked to asses their Olympic chances, she was cautious, however, saying: “Don’t forget they have only been together for three years.

“Winning any medal in Vancouver would be a great success because time is on their side.” (Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email


Author’s blog at



Hi Blog.  Just something quick to say:



I watched as they took the Pacific League Pennant (their third time since moving up here, what was it, six years ago?) in a Fighters sports bar.  Extra innings, they took it 5 to 4 shortly after hearing that Rakuten just lost (giving them the pennant anyway).

We’ve got a marvelous team, fun to watch, cheery and fan-based (they win most of their home games), great last innings every game, and a number of stars.  It’s like the Fish that Saved Pittsburgh — rallies our island no matter how desperate the economics becomes.  Good show, all.

Arudou Debito in Fighters home base Sapporo

Terrie’s Take on Tokyo’s 2016 Olympic bid, decision due Oct 2. wa hantai.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog.  Something coming up next week of surprising interest to  Guv Ishihara’s pet project to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Tokyo.  We’ll hear the decision on October 2.  Here’s where stands:

While understandable a sentiment (what booster wouldn’t want to bring such a probable economic boon home?), has been unflinching in its criticism both of Ishihara (for his xenophobic rantings over the years, start here) and of the Tokyo Police (keishicho), who will no doubt be given charge of the security at the event.  As history has shown repeatedly (G8 Summits, overt and unapologetic racial profiling — even public scapegoating of NJ, border fingerprinting justified on bigoted grounds, deliberate misconstruing of crime data to whip up public fear, even spoiling one of the last Beatles concerts!), you don’t want to hand over matters of public security to a police force without proper checks and balances — because as even Edward Seidensticker noted, Keishicho will convert Tokyo into a police city if the event is big enough.   The Olympics is just that, and it really complicates things by bringing in foreigners, for the police get particularly carrot-arsed when they feel the outside world is watching.  As I wrote for the Japan Times some months ago:

Point is, international events bring out bad habits in Japan. And now we have Tokyo bidding for the 2016 Olympics? Cue yet another orgiastic official fear and crackdown campaign foisted on the Japanese public, with the thick blue line of the nanny state the biggest profiteer.

Conclusion: I don’t think Japan as a polity is mature enough yet to host these events. Japan must develop suitable administrative checks and balances, not to mention a vetting media, to stop people scaring Japanese society about the rest of the world just because it’s coming for a visit. We need to rein in Japan’s mandarins converting Japan into a Police State, cracking down on its already stunted civil society. (Zeit Gist, SUMMIT WICKED THIS WAY COMES, Japan Times April 22, 2008).

Terrie below (understandably) hopes Tokyo gets the Olympics.  I, for the record, hope it doesn’t.  It’s not because I live in Sapporo (I would have mildly supported Fukuoka’s bid, even despite the NPA, simply because Fukuoka never had the chance — unlike Sapporo — to be an Olympic host).  But the fact remains, as Terrie alludes to below, this is just a vanity project for one mean old man, working through Japan’s elite society to get what he wants, who feels as though he’s got one good deed to redeem all his bad works and ill-will over the years.  Other rich elites in their twilight years, such as Andrew Carnegie, have historically felt the same impetus.  But this Olympic bid certainly seems far more half-baked and far less philanthropic than, say, Carnegie’s legacy attempts.

O IOC, don’t fall for Ishihara’s ego.  Spare Tokyo, its tourists, and its ever-more-policed international residents yet another fear and social-control media blitz.  Give the Olympics to somebody else.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 27, 2009 Issue No. 535


On October 2nd an important overseas decision will be made that will determine the future of Tokyo as a city of international standing. That decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose members will convene in Copenhagen to decide which of Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Tokyo, or Madrid will get to host the 2016 summer Olympic games. All the big wigs involved with trying to get the Games for Tokyo, from Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara on down, flew out to Copenhagen on Saturday (Sep 26th) for their date with fate.

They won’t have to wait long.

Ishihara is trying his best to swing things Tokyo’s way, and reportedly has even asked newly elected PM Yukio Hatoyama and Seattle Mariners batter Ichiro Suzuki to attend the Copenhagen vote. However, he may have left his final run for the finish line too late. In its report released earlier this month (September), the IOC Evaluation Commission had some criticisms for Tokyo after their visit in April to examine the city’s facilities and planning. They particularly referred to a February poll that the IOC commissioned itself and which found that Tokyoites who “Support Strongly” the Games was just 25.2% — a surprisingly low number compared to any of the other three contenders. Strong support in Madrid, for example was 57.9%.

Indeed, as a result of the poll, the IOC Evaluation Commission specifically noted that Japan’s bid had the strong support of government but correspondingly lacked support by the public. Put another way, we have a classic case of those in charge of the local bid trying hard to get Japan’s “establishment” on board so as to provide sufficient financial support, which was indeed forthcoming, but they somehow forgot to involve the little people — the general public.

When the results of the February poll became public, we don’t know, but the Bid Committee finally “fixed” their PR problem a few days ago (in September, months too late), when a moving, talking 20-meter Gundam character robot was parked in Odaiba to pull in a reported 400,000 people who came to demonstrate their support for the Games bid. As a result, the public support in Tokyo for the Games is now supposed to be around 70%. The only trouble is that few members of the IOC can actually read Japanese newspapers or watch Japanese TV, and so these last minute efforts are unlikely to have much effect.

Indeed, this lack of reach by Japanese media to a world audience is frequently lost on Japanese politicians and governmental organizations, who think that because they can view the media, everyone can. This, in our opinion, is a good reason why Japan fails so frequently in its international bids for just about anything. A good example of this very domestic thinking can be found in the recent “Yokoso Japan” (Visit Japan) campaign. As far as we understand, almost all of the billions of yen allocated by the government to promote tourism were spent in Japan in the Japanese media.

It’s true that domestic tourism was also part of the agenda but foreign tourism was the main target, as proven by setting a high target for increased foreign visitor numbers. As it happened, luckily a short-lived economic boom in China and Korea in 2005-2007 helped pulled in several extra million Asian tourists, but despite some mutual back-patting this was largely accidental, and was certainly not the result of the almost non-existent overseas PR campaign.

Back to the local Bid Committee. In our view, not only did they forget to get buy-in from the man-in-the-street, but they seem have also bypassed 10% of those people who will be paying extra taxes to pay for the extravaganza (Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Chiyoda-ku, etc.). We refer, of course, to the invisible foreign community.

Yes, there is an English-language website, which from the dates of the photos and videos we presume was mainly put together for the benefit of the visiting IOC evaluation committee in April to show how cosmopolitan Tokyo is. But frankly it’s embarrassing to look at. Take the the section that carefully provides one and one-only restaurant (well, OK, there are two French establishments) representing 12 different national cuisines. Why couldn’t they make a proper effort to garner support of those hundreds of English-speaking venues that will actually be called upon to look after tens of thousands of non-Japanese speaking guests if we actually win the games?

You can see the Olympic bid English site at You can see the IOC Evaluation Commission’s report, which includes the Tokyo bid at:

As a further comment to the Bid Committee’s lack of awareness that the Olympics might actually be an international affair, if you go to the site’s organization chart, you will quickly notice that of the 19 officials named on the site, not one is a non-Japanese, and of the 56 “advisors” not one is a non-Japanese either. So we can only assume that foreigners will be asked to keep a low profile while Japan hosts the Games… and to pay their taxes on time.

OK, enough of the sour grapes. It’s not like Tokyo has no chance of winning, although with the Beijing Olympics only just done here in Asia, and there never having been a Games in South America before, the odds are apparently on Rio taking the honors for 2016. You won’t read that fact in the Japanese press, since they’re all saying Tokyo will win.

But it’s not a shoe-in for Rio. In their review, the IOC evaluation commission was concerned about the fact that Rio’s games facilities are spread out over hilly terrain, and the city will need an overhaul of its public transport systems to get guests around. There was also concern about violent crime.

Chicago also has a strong chance according to observers, but it has the problem of whether or not it can really afford the expense of the Games, given the poor shape the local economy after the meltdown of the U.S. auto industry. Also some of the Chicago venues are apparently a long way out of the city and not currently well serviced by public transport.

The other contender, Madrid, got a reasonably negative response that they may not fully appreciate the complexity of management required to host the Games.

Thinking positively, though, if we do win the right to host the Games, it will give the Tokyo metropolitan government a worthy project to focus on, and will cause them to finally do something with those ugly vacant lots built during the bubble era, that they are stuck with out at Odaiba. The venue plan for Tokyo calls for substantial planting of greenery in the area, as well as making the entire athlete’s village ecologically sound — with the latest solar, waste processing, and transport technologies being employed to give Japan a showcase to the world.

To wrap up, we do in fact hope that by some miracle Tokyo wins the 2016 Olympic Games. It would be a blast to be in the middle of all the buzz that will come with such an event. It will also significantly ramp up the world’s awareness of what a great place Tokyo is to live and visit — doing wonders for tourism.

But, in our heart of hearts, we fear that those handling the city’s bid may not have realized that to play a global game, you need to have a world-class team, not just money and government support. We’re not sure that such a team was brought to bear, and so we’re betting that Rio will probably win the hearts of IOC members — especially since South America is long overdue to host what should be a global event.

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Bumping into Ramos Rui, one of my heroes, by chance in Nagoya


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just a quick blog entry for today.  I was in Nagoya a few days ago finishing up one of my intensive courses on Media Professionalism, and at checkout from my hotel who should I bump into on the elevator but somebody I could have sworn looked just like one of my heroes.

Ramos Rui, a famous soccer player who has done a great deal in my opinion for assimilation of NJ (he even naturalized in 1989), toughing it out in what would become the J-League, then the Japan National Team, was standing right there.  I asked him, he acknowledged, and we had a quick conversation in Japanese about things.

I don’t think he knows as much about me as I do about him (of course — why should he?), but he was very cooperative when I asked if I could take a quick snap with my camera.  Here it is:


Again, Ramos-san is one of my heroes:  I have a poster of him on my office wall from the GOJ, encouraging people to vote IIRC, captioned “nihonjin to shite”.  Bravo.  I think he should be leading the Japan Team, not Okada.  But again, what do I know about sport (and J soccer in particular), except that he’s one of the few who toughed it out — and succeeded in making a name for himself!  Good for him.  Arudou Debito in Yokohama on why Brazilian footballers in Japan are so footloose


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I received this from the author yesterday for its mention of McDonald’s “Mr James”, but hell, I thought the article interesting enough (I know little about the subject) that I thought I’d bring it up here for comment.  Those more in the know, fire away.  Debito in Nagoya


Brazilians no mercenaries in dash for cash
By Mike Tuckerman | 6 September 2009 | 17:43
Courtesy of the author

SUBTITLE:  There was a monumental shift in Japan this week, and it wasn’t Leandro’s decision to up sticks to Al-Sadd.

After a near-unbroken half-century in power, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was turfed out by an electorate simmering with anger.

The LDP had become synonymous with corruption – its 50-year stronghold leaving the Japanese economy teetering on the brink.

It was time for change, and the citizens of Japan duly delivered one.

Meanwhile, Gamba Osaka striker Leandro followed a well-beaten path when he cashed in his yen to join Qatari club Al-Sadd for a fee in excess of $12 million.

The powerful forward had been at the Kansai side for barely nine months, having joined at the start of the year from local rival Vissel Kobe.

His departure has the potential to unleash catcalls that Brazilian players are only in the J-League for the money.

Well, so what if they are?

In a country where xenophobia is a softly-spoken secret – how’s this for McDonald’s latest Japanese ad campaign?– can anyone really blame Leandro for hopping on the first available flight to Doha?

Brazilian migrants first started arriving in Japan in the early 1900s.

Brazilian footballers have been an ever-present in the J-League since it kicked off in 1993, with Japanese coaches quick to harness the selfishness of Brazilian strikers in front of goal.

But for every Leandro jetting off to the Gulf – or Emerson, or Magno Alves, or Baré – there’s a Zico, a Toninho, or a Fernandinho.

There are plenty of Brazilians in the J-League committed to the cause.

Some, like the high-profile Zico, are afforded star status.

But others toil in relative anonymity, happy to ply their trade far from their homeland, struggling to overcome cultural and language barriers.

Often their contracts are terminated with no fanfare and little regard for their welfare.

When diminutive midfielder Fernandinho requested a transfer from Shimizu S-Pulse in 2008, he was granted an immediate loan move to Kyoto Sanga.

His return to Nihondaira Stadium with Kyoto was greeted by a chorus of jeers from Shimizu fans, clueless as to the reasons for his departure.

Deeply religious, Fernandinho had actually moved back to the Kansai region to be closer to his congregation.

Every year, dozens of Brazilian players are summarily informed by J-League clubs that their services are no longer required.

Often the news means up-rooting home and family to look for a new club overseas.

It’s a draining lifestyle – one I can attest to – and I don’t begrudge a single Brazilian player who chooses to make a living in Japan, or one who departs for pastures anew.

Japan Times columnist Andrew McKirdy’s illuminating insight into the life of Croatian defender Mato Neretljak proves it’s not just Brazilians willing to make a fist of things in Japan.

Leandro will be replaced –Gamba signed Pedro Junior on the day of Leandro’s exit – and there are plenty more Brazilians to try their luck in the J-League.

In an ideal world we would judge them for their exploits on the pitch, and not on their cut of big-money intercontinental transfers.

Follow-up: Sumo Stablemaster gets his for Tokitaizan hazing death


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. A bit of follow-up on a case that took up in 2007 due to the politics of Sumo (and our perceived need for the Association to divert attention from its own excesses by bashing the foreign rikishi). The stablemaster whose orders resulted in the death of Sumo wrestler Tokitaizan two years got his: Seven years in the clink. Good. But it’s now on appeal, and who knows if it’ll be lessened to the degree where it does not become a deterrent for future leaders to order and carry out the bullying and hazing of its underlings. Even Ozeki Kaio has rallied as a defender of the practices, see below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times, Saturday, May 30, 2009
Former stable master gets six years for young wrestler’s hazing death
NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Nagoya District Court sentenced a former sumo stable master Friday to six years in prison for telling wrestlers at his stable to haze and beat a 17-year-old wrestler who died in the 2007 assault.

News photo
Junichi Yamamoto KYODO PHOTO

Presiding Judge Masaharu Ashizawa said that Junichi Yamamoto, 59, with his “immeasurable power” as stable master, ordered the two days of physical abuse that “grossly disrespected the victim’s human dignity.”

Yamamoto immediately appealed the ruling.

Rest of the article at



The Japan Times, Thursday, June 4, 2009
Ozeki Kaio says harsh treatment is integral
The Associated Press

Sumo veteran Kaio said Tuesday that harsh treatment of wrestlers in training is an integral part of Japan’s ancient sport and is partially responsible for his own success.

Japan’s ancient sport has been rocked by several recent scandals, including one in which a trainer was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the fatal beating of a young wrestler during training.

Rest of the article at


NYT: Japanese Fans Mobilize to Keep Valentine as Their Manager


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

For the sports fans out there (I’m indifferent about baseball except if it’s the Fighters), here’s the NYT on how the fans are battling the management to keep their NJ baseball manager.  Comments?  Debito

The New York Times
May 21, 2009
Japanese Fans Mobilize to Try to Keep Valentine as Their Manager

CHIBA, Japan — After nine innings of sustained chanting and singing, about 150 of the most loyal fans remained behind in silence with their banners raised over their heads, the Japanese characters on the 70-foot signs shouting out in protest from the right-field bleachers.

“We would rather fight with Bobby, who says we’re the world’s best fans,” one sign read, “than with a front office who calls us worthless.”

“Bobby stands behind us. We stand behind Bobby,” read another.

It was the third consecutive game that the fans had staged this unusual protest, all part of a campaign to force the Chiba Lotte Marines to reverse course and keep Bobby Valentine, a baseball lifer from America, as their manager beyond the current season.

For six weeks, the fans of the Marines have been engaged in a battle with the front office over the fate of Valentine, who was told over the winter that his contract would not be renewed for financial reasons, despite his success with the team.

With over 50,000 signatures on a petition to keep Valentine, this is a struggle, the fans believe, that goes to the heart of Japanese baseball. They see Valentine as a positive influence who is leading the team and the sport toward a more viable future by promoting more access to players and more fan-friendly marketing concepts.

At the same time, they view the current front office, led by the team president, Ryuzo Setoyama, as more interested in the old status quo, when, they contend, fans were treated less as coveted customers and more as people expected to attend games out of a sense of duty. Although the team insists that Valentine simply makes too much money to be retained in 2010, the fans believe other factors may be in play.

“This problem is more than Japanese baseball itself; it’s about the Japanese society,” Kazuhiro Yasuzumi, a 39-year-old Marines fan and leader of the protest, said through an interpreter. He said that people with power and influence in Japan did not necessarily appreciate someone like Valentine, who has never been bashful about offering his opinion.

Valentine is indeed paid a lot of money: $3.9 million per season. When, and if, he goes, he will take with him some significant accomplishments, starting with the championship he won in 2005, the Marines’ first in 31 years. It was after that feat that he became the only foreigner to win the prestigious Shoriki Award for contributions to Japanese baseball.

During his six seasons in Chiba (Valentine also managed here for one season in 1995 before returning to the United States to manage the Mets), membership in the team’s fan club has grown by 600 percent to 140,000 card-carrying members and team revenues have increased by 400 percent. The street where he lives in Chiba has been renamed Valentine’s Way.

Still, Setoyama announced over the winter that the team could no longer afford Valentine and that he would not be retained after the 2009 season, angering some fans and mobilizing others.

In 1995, when Valentine was fired after one season, fans attempted to generate a petition on his behalf, but the effort was too late. This time they vowed to be better organized.

So, when Valentine returned to Japan in January to begin to prepare for the season, the protests began. Two hundred fans greeted him at the airport when he arrived. On opening day in early April, Marines fans unfurled a 200-foot banner that read, “Marines Is My Life,” but then quickly rolled it up to reveal more than a dozen flags, pennants and banners proclaiming support for Valentine.

Some of the banners displayed Valentine’s likeness or the No. 2 he wears on his jersey. Some read, “Bobby 2010”; others stated, “Respect Bobby,” in English.

Valentine said the protest left him in tears. He was not the only one affected.

“I got chills,” said Hiram Bocachica, a former major leaguer now with the Lions. “You don’t expect that for a manager.”

The fans also took their protest beyond the stands, going directly to the acting team owner, Akio Shigemitsu, in the stadium parking lot after one game and asking him to reconsider. Then came a front-office meeting. The minutes of that meeting were leaked to the Japanese press and portrayed Setoyama, the team president, speaking derisively about the team’s fans and discussing the possibility of moving the team out of Chiba.

In response, the team held a news conference in which Shigemitsu declared his support for Valentine through the end of the season and denied the team might be moved. Setoyama disputed the comments attributed to him in the news media reports; he did not respond to a request by The New York Times for an interview.

Meanwhile, Lotte, the team’s multinational parent company, is conducting an internal review of the circumstances surrounding Valentine and the club. And as it does, the protests continue. At every home game fans are greeted by supporters of Valentine asking for more petition signatures. The banners supporting him are unfurled every time a Marine batter reaches base. There are even rumblings of a silent protest in the right-field stands, where the loudest cheering section is traditionally situated.

“It’s an ugly battle taking place, but I think it’s only a blip on the screen,” said Jim Small, Major League Baseball’s top executive in Asia, when asked about the Valentine controversy. “For the most part, I think the trend is toward the new way of thinking, and that started with the Marines.”

And more particularly with Valentine, who took such steps as opening the windows of his office to give out autographs to surprised patrons and having some of the protective netting around the field removed so players could sign for fans. Normally loquacious, he has tried to keep a distance from the protests. But he did salute the fans for their support, and what he termed the magic show, when the banners supporting him appear “out of nowhere.”

Valentine also knows there is talk that he will be back managing in the major leagues before long but says any speculation about next year is insulting to those who have taken up his cause.

“I always talk about passion and commitment, but they have one-upped me,” he said of those fans. “They have committed themselves to the team, and whether it’s 1-1 in the 12th or 19-1 in the ninth, they always have incredible passion for the team. It’s inspiring. It’s a great life lesson for anybody.”


Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  I have been avoiding talking about the “puff pieces” about pot smokers in Sumo (I’m sure toking helps with the munchies around chanko-nabe time; we might even get people finding other uses for the hemp-like substance surrounding much of the ceremonial decor), because there was nothing particularly noteworthy or unfair about it.  Three sumo wrestlers who just happened to be Russian got caught inhaling, and they got it in the neck.  Dumb of them to do it.

However, now a Japanese rikishi, Wakakirin, just got caught and expelled.  Funny thing is, he tested positive for the substance (twice) back in August like all the rest.  Why wasn’t the bong lowered on him then?  

More importantly, this becomes Debito.orgable because Kyodo just had to run a bit saying that he got his stash from foreigners in Roppongi.  That’s right, even when it’s a Japanese gone to pot, weasel in some blame for the NJ all over again.  Sheesh.

A couple of articles substantiating this follow, courtesy of JK and The Club.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

◆Sumo: JSA fires wrestler arrested for marijuana possession
TOKYO, Feb. 2, 2009 KYODO NEWS

The Japan Sumo Association on Monday fired second-division wrestler Wakakirin, who has been arrested for marijuana possession in the latest drug-use scandal to hit Japan’s ancient national sport.
     The JSA executive committee took swift action to impose one of its heaviest punishments on a wrestler three days after police apprehended Wakakirin, 25, whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa, in Tokyo along with 30-year-old musician Tsutomu Hirano.
     The committee, however, stopped short of expelling Wakakirin. Dismissal is the second heaviest punishment after expulsion.
     Wakakirin is the first Japanese wrestler to be arrested in a marijuana case and the latest grappler to be thrown out of the sumo world after three Russians were dismissed over drug charges during the last six months.
     Top-division Russian grappler Wakanoho was arrested on charges of marijuana possession last August, while compatriots and brothers Roho and Hakurozan both returned positive results for marijuana use in ensuing drug tests conducted by the JSA.
     The series of drug-use scandals came as the sport struggled to restore its reputation, marred also by lingering match-fixing allegations and the fatal hazing last year of a teenage wrestler by his stablemates.
     On Saturday, Wakakirin submitted a written retirement offer to the JSA through his lawyer and stablemaster Oguruma. JSA Chairman Musashigawa left his fate in the hands of the executive committee.
     Wakakirin has admitted to police that he smoked marijuana. He made his sumo debut in 1999 and wrestled in the second-tier juryo division in the last five tournaments after being demoted from the top flight, where he peaked at ninth-ranked maegashira in January 2008.

Sumo wrestler says he got marijuana from foreigner in Roppongi


A second-division Japanese sumo wrestler arrested for possessing marijuana has said he obtained the drug from a foreigner in Tokyo’s Roppongi district and that he had smoked marijuana regularly, before then retracting that claim, police said Saturday.

Wakakirin, 25, whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa, earlier told Kanagawa prefectural police that he ‘‘had been smoking for some time’’ but later changed his testimony and said, ‘‘I only smoked marijuana twice before my arrest and have not smoked it in the past.’’

Wakakirin said the only two times he had smoked were at the office of a compact disc sales shop in Roppongi where he was arrested Friday after the police found 16 grams of marijuana while investigating another drug-related case.

But because the sumo wrestler tested positive twice in three urine tests conducted by the Japan Sumo Association in September, the police said they will continue investigating where he obtained the drug and the number of times he has smoked in the past.

Police sent the wrestler to prosecutors Sunday on suspicion of violating the cannabis control law. Wakakirin was apprehended along with musician Tsutomu Hirano, 30, at the office of a CD shop in the Roppongi district, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police.

Wakakirin told investigators he hollowed out a cigar, blended the contents with marijuana and put the mixture back into the cigar and smoked it, but a senior prefectural police official queried whether it is normal to inhale cigars in the same way as in smoking marijuana.

The police also sent Hirano to prosecutors Sunday.


Robert Whiting on NJ flunkey-cum-baseball hero Oh Sadaharu’s legacy


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Here’s an article which made me conclude something that I have been suspecting all along.

Baseball hero Oh Sadaharu, a Zainichi Taiwanese, is retiring. He has done a lot for baseball and no doubt for the image of NJ in Japan (especially the Sangokujin, Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s pet NJ to target as potential criminals).

But I am not a fan. As the article rather euphemistically headlines below, Oh’s record was hard to beat. That’s because anyone who came close, particularly a line of foreign baseball players, was stopped because they were gaijin. Even by Oh himself. Now, that’s unsportsmanlike. I will cheer anytime anyone does well as a personal best, especially when they overcome great personal odds (Oh was not allowed to play Korakuen High School baseball tournaments because Japan didn’t, and still doesn’t to some degree, allow foreign players to play in Kokutai leagues where “they might qualify for the Olympics and become national representatives” sort of thing).

But Oh for years now has struck me as a person who earns his laurels and his pedestal, then pulls the ladder up behind him, even for others who face similar obstacles. It’s one thing to discriminate because discrimination is the norm and you’re just playing ball. It’s another to go through the discrimination yourself, then turn around and abet the discrimination against others. It’s hypocritical, and Oh should have known and done better. He chose not to. And now that we have an authority on Japanese baseball, Robert Whiting, coming out and indicating as such in the article below, I’m ready to draw this conclusion:

Oh Sadaharu may be a baseball hero, but he’s an Uncle Tom and a turncoat, and that tarnishes his image as a genuine hero. Shame on you, Sadaharu. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

More on discrimination against NJ in the Kokutai here.


Equaling Oh’s HR record proved difficult

Special to The Japan Times, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008

Third in a three-part series

PART I — Devoted to the game: Looking back at Oh’s career
PART II — Oh’s career sparkled with achievements as player, manager

News photo
Back in the day: Sadaharu Oh, Hank Aaron and CBS-TV announcer Brent Musburger are seen at an exhibition home run contest held by the two prodigious sluggers on Nov. 2, 1974, at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium. Aaron won 10-9. (C) STARS AND STRIPES

The one big black mark on Sadaharu Oh’s reputation was, of course, the unsportsmanlike behavior of the pitchers on his team whenever foreign batsmen threatened his single season home run record of 55.

The phenomenon had first surfaced in 1985, when American Randy Bass playing for the Hanshin Tigers, who went into the last game of the season — against the Oh-managed Giants at Korakuen Stadium — with 54 home runs.

Bass was walked intentionally four times on four straight pitches and would have been walked a fifth, had he not reached out and poked a pitch far outside the plate into the outfield.

Oh denied ordering his pitchers to walk Bass, but Keith Comstock, an American pitcher for Yomiuri reported afterward that a certain Giants coach imposed a fine of $1,000 for every strike Giants pitchers threw to Bass.

A subsequent investigation by the magazine Takarajima concluded that the instructions had probably originated in the Giants front office, which wanted the home run record kept in the Giants organization.

Except for an editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun’s archrival, the Asahi, demanding to know why Oh did not run out to the mound and order his pitchers to throw strikes, the media remained silent, as did then-NPB commissioner Takeso Shimoda, who had often stated his belief that the Japanese game would never be considered first class as long as there were former MLB bench-warmers starring on Japanese teams.

Of course, the reality was more complex. There were many imports who were in fact gifted hitters, but were kept out of big league lineups by other shortcomings in their game or by bad luck — simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, Shimoda and like-minded critics failed to see such shades of gray.

A replay of the Bass episode came during the 2001 season. American Tuffy Rhodes, playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, threatened Oh’s record.

With several games left in the season, Rhodes hit the 55 mark. But during a late season weekend series in Fukuoka, pitchers on the Hawks refused to throw strikes to Rhodes and catcher Kenji Johjima could be seen grinning during the walks.

Again Oh denied any involvement in their actions and Hawks battery coach Yoshiharu Wakana admitted the pitchers had acted on his orders.

“It would be distasteful to see a foreign player break Oh’s record,” he told reporters.

The NPB commissioner on watch, Hiromori Kawashima, denounced his behavior as “unsportsmanlike,” and there was some outcry from the media.

However, this did not help Rhodes, who went homerless the rest of the way. Rhodes remained convinced that there was a “Code Red” that kicked into action whenever a foreign player did too well.

A second replay occurred in 2002, when Venezuelan Alex Cabrera also hit 55 home runs, tying Oh (and Rhodes) with five games left to play in the season. Oh commanded his pitchers not to repeat their behavior of the previous year, but, not surprisingly, most of them ignored him. There was more condemnation from the public, but, curiously, not from Oh, who simply shrugged and said, “If you’re going to break the record, you should do it by more than one. Do it by a lot.”

Such behavior led an ESPN critic to call Oh’s record “one of the phoniest in baseball.”

In Oh’s defense, there was probably nothing he could have done to prevent his pitchers from acting as they did. Feelings about “gaijin” aside, it was (and still is) common practice for teams to take such action to protect a teammate’s record or title.

In all three assaults on Oh’s record, the respective front offices had a decided interest in the outcome. Oh’s 55 homers was a Yomiuri record, while executives with the Hawks believed Oh’s status as a record-holder brought the organization favorable PR.

No pitcher on any of Oh’s teams wanted to be the one who gave up the homer that cost Oh that particular spot in the record books.

Finally, there was the question of Oh’s own personality. He was a product of his life experiences and his father’s life experiences as a member of a minority group in Japan. He surely knew better than to make waves and to embarrass the executive suits that had so much invested in him.

Still, amid all the fuss about protectionism in baseball, it is noteworthy that no one in the Japanese game ever sees fit to mention the fact that Oh hit most of his home runs using rock hard, custom-made compressed bats.

A batter using a compressed bat, it was said, could propel a ball farther than he can with an ordinary bat. Compressed bats were illegal in the MLB when Oh was playing in Japan, and were outlawed by the NPB in 1982 after Oh retired, but well before Bass, Rhodes and Cabrera had Japan visas stamped into their passports.

Oh’s finest hour as a manager was perhaps his performance in the 2006 inaugural WBC. He had passed his 65th birthday and his age was starting to show. Moreover, he was not in the best of health, and was months away from a bout with cancer that would spare his life but cause a rearrangement of his digestive system.

News photo
Thanks for the memories: Sadaharu Oh has left a lasting impact during his 50 years in baseball. His 868 career home runs is a record that may never be surpassed in Japan. AP PHOT

The NPB owners, after long negotiations, had agreed to participate in the tourney but the NPB Players Association refused to cooperate. They were upset over the March schedule which they felt would interfere with their spring training.

Another thing that bothered them was that they had been completely left out of the loop in the discussions leading up to the WBC, both by the NPB owners and the American organizers of the event.

The NPB owners, with typical arrogance, had not bothered to inform the players of what had been going on, much less seek their consent or consult with them about the terms of participation in the WBC, until long after the tournament was announced.

More important, the players were skeptical of the event itself. They did not particularly think it was a worthy use of their time.

To break the impasse, senior executives from Yomiuri (which had agreed to sponsor the Asian round) prevailed upon Sadaharu Oh to manage the team, hoping that the presence of one of the most revered names in Japanese baseball history could somehow change the dynamic. Their first choice, Shigeo Nagashima (naturally), was not available due to the aftereffects of his stroke.

Oh had his own (secret) misgivings about the event, but true to his agreeable nature, finally agreed to take part. “I’ll do it for the welfare of Japanese baseball,” Oh had said a well-publicized remark, “I’ll do it for the future. For 50 years from now.”

Ichiro Suzuki, among others, was, initially, not impressed.

“What difference does it make if some old guy is going to manage the team?” he reportedly told acquaintances, “That doesn’t make it a real event.”

But the “old guy” was persistent. He threw himself into the job with typical perseverance. His own story was a tale of continued perseverance and triumph over personal tragedy.

Oh began a courtship of Ichiro and Hideki Matsui and he did it with the grace and diplomacy that was typical of him. He worked very hard to persuade them individually how important it was that Japan participate, that they participate.

Japan’s greatest slugger approached them as if they would be doing him a personal favor if they joined the team. In the end, Ichiro agreed to play, although Matsui felt too strong an obligation to the Yankees to leave spring camp.

Oh drove his players hard and the cool, aloof Ichiro somehow magically transformed into a fiery leader, exhorting his team to greater effort in practice and in the actual competition.

Japan went on to win the tourney — despite its three defeats overall — on a succession of steadily improving performances and a managerial strategy which combined caution with aggression.

The final, a 10-6 triumph over Cuba played at Petco Park in San Diego, riveted the nation. It was watched by one out of every two Japanese, a total audience of roughly 60 million people, which made it one of the most watched sporting events in the history of Japan.

It ignited an enormous national cheer back home. It was an ironic ending for a team that had not wanted to participate in the first place.

With the WBC victory, Oh was now more popular than he had ever been and it was a fitting cap to his career. Yet in a survey conducted by Sangyo Noritsu University to determine the “Boss of the Decade” the following year, Oh finished well behind Nagashima in the voting, despite having a higher lifetime winning percentage, at the time.

Somehow the results were not surprising.

Oh had fought against adversity his whole life, it seemed. As a youth, he had been banned from participating in an important national tournament because he was not a Japanese citizen, even though he was the best player on his team.

As a pro, he had to cede the spotlight to the more popular, pure-blooded Nagashima, despite the fact that he was arguably the best player in baseball during the Giants glory years, and as Giants manager had been faced with a team that did not wholeheartedly welcome his leadership.

Oh’s years with the Hawks, successful as they were, were marred by other difficulties. Among them was the premature death, in 2002, of his wife Kyoko, who succumbed to stomach cancer. That was followed by the inexplicable theft of her ashes from the family graveyard, never to be retrieved.

And then came Oh’s own bout with stomach cancer. In the middle of the 2006 season, Oh underwent laparoscopic surgery in which his cancerous stomach was completely removed.

But the thing about Oh is that you never, ever heard him complain — about anything. He just sucked up whatever misfortunes life dealt to him and went on to the next challenge. He always tried to look at the bright side.

When he returned to manage the Hawks in 2007, several kilograms lighter and looking, as one reporter put it, “like an underfed jockey,” he acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

“Yes, I don’t have a stomach anymore,” he said, the last time I saw him, in the fall of 2007 when he appeared at a Foreign Sportswriters of Japan event to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award, “but now I can eat as much chocolate as I want.”

However, the Hawks fell further out of contention in that ’07 season and were eliminated in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

In 2008, the Hawks dropped into last place and Oh announced his resignation and his retirement from field managing. He referenced ill health, but also took responsibility for the team’s failure to win another championship. “Managers should not stay that long in one place,” he said.

The announcement of his retirement prompted a wave of tributes from the prime minister’s office on down, as well as a special newspaper editions and TV reports lauding his accomplishments.

People seemed to sense that with Oh’s retirement they had lost something more than just a baseball hero, that they had lost a connection to an era in Japan where the values of hard work, selflessness, and responsibility mattered a lot more than they do now.

Professor Saito summed it up when he eulogized Oh in an interview with NHK. “We are living in an era of instant gratification,” he said, “People these days want everything now and they give in too easily to adversity. But not Oh. He has shown us what the true meaning of ‘doryoku’ is.”

Johjima had flown back from the States to attend Oh’s farewell game on Oct. 7, 2008.

“Oh was a great human being,” he said when it was all over, “He was special, as a player, as a manager, as a man. He was a baseball father figure to me. It was a huge honor to play for him.”


PART I — Devoted to the game: Looking back at Oh’s career
PART II — Oh’s career sparkled with achievements as player, manager

Tangent: In Niseko, playing Cricket!


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Morning Blog.  Writing this as I wait for the copious amounts of water to take effect on my compact little hangover…

Have spent the weekend in Niseko (courtesy of RidgeRunner development Inc) getting more insight into just how the Australian-led building and skiing boom here is fundamentally changing this small ski town into an international resort area.  Property values are soaring, very nicely designed buildings are going up, multilingual parties are on tap every night… even the Hilton recently opened a hotel here.  More boosterism at

But the reason I dropped by this time (last time I emceed a forum in July 6, talking about the launch of organic farm Takadai Meadows run, again, mostly by NJ, and with speakers Alex Kerr, Bruce Gutlove, and Honma Yasunori) was to play Cricket!

Yes, Cricket, where you find that Baseball training (I played Little League) gets in the way of knowing how to hold the bat and how to catch that undeservedly hard ball (no gloves allowed; I have very bruised fingernails this morning, and am pleased I can type without broken phalanges).  I actually had fun (fielded, bowled my first over and managed to do it with only three wides, and even got four runs after about twenty minutes at bat).  Our pick-up team still managed to beat two teams, one with its own uniforms even (by ONE run at the last bowl–game couldn’t have been closer), and they take on the very serious Pakistani team today (which I shall give a miss; I need a Sunday at home for the first time since July).

It’s an event with charity auctions and large parties (of course), sponsored by organizations such as Metropolis/Jap@n.Inc/Crisscross, the Hokkaido International School, and various companies and government agencies.  And attended by cricket heroes whose names I’ve never heard of, of course.  More information at

Again, one of the fruits of multiculturalization.  Who would have thunk I’d have gotten to know why people worldwide enjoy playing Cricket in the backwoods of Hokkaido!  Long may a healthy development of Niseko continue.

Arudou Debito in Niseko

Tangent: China bans terrorists during Olympics (Shanghai Daily)


 Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Every now and again we do need a reality check. I’ve been heavily critical of Japan’s paranoid rules about G8 Summitry and security. Well, let’s cross the pond and see how even more silly China comes off regarding security during their Olympics (these sorts of things would never exist in China without foreigners bringing them in, of course):

China bans sex workers, terrorists during Olympics
By Li Xinran June 2, 2008

Courtesy of PM

OVERSEAS visitors suspected of working in the sex trade, of smuggling drugs or belonging to a terrorist organization will not be allowed to enter China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, organizers of the Games said today.

Foreigners with mental or epidemic diseases, including tuberculosis and leprosy, will also not be issued visas to visit China, the Organizing Committee said in a circular published on its official Website. 

Entry would be banned to anyone with “subversive” intent upon arriving in China, according to the rule.

“Foreigners must respect Chinese laws while in China and must not harm China’s national security or damage social order,” the rule states. 

The pamphlet, in Chinese only, also banned foreigners from carrying weapons, replica guns, ammunition, explosives, drugs, and dangerous species. 

Publications as well as computer storage devices with content harmful to China’s politics, cultures, morals and economy are also prohibited, the circular said. 

However, visiting foreigners may bring one pet during their visit. 

During their staying in China, overseas visitors shall also obey public rules. Drunkards in public areas might be detained by police, according to the pamphlet. 

Visitors are not allowed to sleep outdoors and shall keep passports, ID or driver’s licenses with them at all times, the pamphlet said.

Some areas in the country are not open to foreigners and overseas visitors will not be allowed to enter, the rule said. 

“Foreign spectators will not necessarily automatically get visas just because they have bought Olympic tickets. They need to apply for visas in accordance with rules at Chinese embassies,” the list said. 


The pamphlet also outlines six activities which are illegal at cultural or sporting events, including waving “insulting banners,” attacking referees or players, smoking, and lighting fireworks in venues. 


Bulgarian Kotooshuu wins first Sumo Tourney



Hi Blog.  Great news.  Kotooshuu, Bulgarian Sumo Wrestler, has finally won his first tournament, beating out both top-ranked Yokozuna earlier on this week to clinch the match a day before the final bouts tomorrow.

He becomes the seventh NJ (and the first Caucasian) to win after Hawaiians Takamiyama, Konishiki, Akebono, and Musashimaru, then Mongolians Asashouryuu and Hakuhou..  The last four wrestlers became Yokozuna in their own right.  Here’s hoping that Kotooshuu joins their ranks!  

Koto just has to win two tourneys in a row, IIRC.  Konishiki never made it to Yokozuna because he won a number of times but not in a row.  Thanks to Konishiki for forcing the Sumo Association to make this the clear qualification, to avoid charges of racism reported in the New York Times back in the day.

Deep and hearty congratulations!  

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Former Giants pitcher tarento promotes Narita Fingerprinting NJ system as “Anti-Crime” measure


Well, here’s the ultimate in government greenmailing: Get a real pitcher to pitch the system. Check out this chucklehead:

FINGERED — TV celebrity Kazutomo Miyamoto tries out the new foreigner fingerprinting system at Narita Airport. As a Japanese national, Miyamoto will not need to have his fingerprints taken when the new system comes into operation from Nov. 20. (Mainichi)

Celebrity uses fingerprint photo-op to call for cut in foreign crime

NARITA — TV celebrity Kazutomo Miyamoto urged immigration officials during a photo-op to use a new process to fingerprint inbound foreigners to fight foreign crime, not terrorism as the government claims the system will be used for.

“I think it’d be best if we could cut the amount of crime foreigners are committing and make Japan a safer place,” Miyamoto said at Narita Airport, where he was serving as the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau Chief For a Day as a promotional event for the fingerprinting process.

Starting from Nov. 20, Japan will follow the United States to become the second country in the world to implement individual recognition software for foreigners entering and leaving the country.

With the new system, nearly all foreigners will have to have fingerprints from both hands and a picture of their face recorded. Fingerprints will be verified with a list in what the government says will be an attempt to prevent terrorists or known criminals from entering Japan.

Japanese nationals will be able to pass through Immigration via an automated gate instead of waiting in line to be processed by officials if they have applied for permission and submitted fingerprints in advance.

Miyamoto, 43, was once a pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants.


COMMENT: Anything for a photo-op–even if it’s at the expense of Japan’s NJ residents (whom Kazutomo-kun probably knows next to nothing about). He isn’t going to be fingerprinted under any circumstances anyway, so I guess this is his only chance.

Pity he thinks that it’s for stopping foreign crime (which is, in fact, falling). Sorry chum, it’s allegedly for preventing terrorism and disease; and if you think it will make Japan a safer place, your publicist is as uninformed as you.

Then again, profiteering helps. According to a reliable source, these photo-ops run JPY 300,000 to 500,000. Nice bit of pocket change to get your fingers on afterwards.

Let Kazutomo-kun know your feelings at his official site:

Steve Koya below also notes that Mr Miyamoto’s manager’s office number is Tel:03-3224-1681 Fax:03-3224-1682 for anyone else who would like to make a complaint.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



一日入国管理局長:宮本さん、個人識別の手続き体験−−東京入管成田支局 /千葉
11月14日12時5分配信 毎日新聞 11月14日朝刊





LA Times on how J police ignore certain crimes. Like murder.


Hi Blog. We get some more press light on the Tokitaizan Sumo death last June, and how the police are NOT investigating it properly. No arrests have been made in conjunction with his brutal manslaughter. Turns out, according to this excellent article in the LA Times (well done Bruce Wallace), this is quite routine for the Japanese police. Read on.

This is far better than the recent NY Times outing on the subject. And it raises suspicions about a number of suspicious high-profile deaths in modern-day Japan. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down… on the coffin? Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan’s police see no evil
The boy had been badly beaten but his death was ruled natural. The case was closed in an official culture that discourages autopsies.
From the Los Angeles Times November 9, 2007
By Bruce Wallace Los Angeles Times Staff Writer,1,5774455.story?coll=la-headlines-world
Courtesy of Jon Lenvik

TOKYO — Photos of the teenager’s corpse show a deep cut on his right arm, horrific bruising on his neck and chest. His face is swollen and covered with cuts. A silhouette of violence runs from the corner of his left eye over the cheekbone to his jaw, and his legs are pocked with small burns the size of a lighted cigarette.

But police in Japan’s Aichi prefecture saw something else when they looked at the body of Takashi Saito, a 17-year-old sumo wrestler who arrived at a hospital in June. The cause of death was “heart disease,” police declared.

As is common in Japan, Aichi police reached their verdict on how Saito died without an autopsy. No need for a coroner, they said. No crime involved. Only 6.3% of the unnatural deaths in Aichi are investigated by a medical examiner, a minuscule rate even by nationwide standards in Japan, where an autopsy is performed in 11.2% of cases.

Forensic scientists say there are many reasons for the low rate, including inadequate budgets and a desperate shortage of pathologists outside the biggest urban areas. There is also a cultural resistance in Japan to handling the dead, with families often reluctant to insist upon a procedure that invades the body of a loved one.

But Saito’s case has given credence to complaints by a group of frustrated doctors, former pathologists and ex-cops who argue that Japan’s police culture is the main obstacle.

Police discourage autopsies that might reveal a higher homicide rate in their jurisdiction, and pressure doctors to attribute unnatural deaths to health reasons, usually heart failure, the group alleges. Odds are, it says, that people are getting away with murder in Japan, a country that officially claims one of the lowest per capita homicide rates in the world.

“You can commit a perfect murder in Japan because the body is not likely to be examined,” says Hiromasa Saikawa, a former member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police security and intelligence division. He says senior police officers are “obsessed with statistics because that’s how you get promotions,” and strive to reduce the number of criminal cases as much as possible to keep their almost perfect solution rate.

Japan’s annual police report says its officers made arrests in 96.6% of the country’s 1,392 homicides in 2005.

But Saikawa, who says he became disillusioned by “fishy” police practices and in 1997 left the force in disgust after 30 years, claims that police try to avoid adding homicides to their caseload unless the identity of the killer is obvious.

“All the police care about is how they look to people; it’s all PR to show that their capabilities are high,” Saikawa says. “Without autopsies they can keep their percentage [of solved cases] high. It’s all about numbers.”

The former policeman has written a memoir of his time on the force. Called “Policeman at the Scene,” it describes a police culture that has chipped away at the effectiveness of an autopsy system created during the U.S. occupation after World War II.

“The police textbooks taught us not to trust doctors,” he says, adding that police officers indirectly pressure doctors to sign death certificates without an autopsy. “Doctors are afraid of the police. They are afraid of retaliation. They worry the police could prosecute them for malpractice. So they are easily pressured.

“There is no one refereeing the police,” Saikawa says. “It’s scary.”

After the war, Americans created a medical examiner’s office for Tokyo after learning that thousands of deaths in the postwar rubble were being ascribed to starvation without any forensic examination. It was soon discovered that a tuberculosis epidemic was the main culprit.

The system was soon expanded to six other big cities which, for the most part, are the jurisdictions where autopsies are done with the most frequency (in 2004, autopsies were conducted in 29% of Kanagawa prefecture’s unnatural deaths; 18% of those in Tokyo). But much of the country remains without a fully functioning medical examiner system.

“There aren’t many doctors who want to do this kind of work and that means some areas don’t have a medical examiner at all,” says Dr. Masahiko Ueno, a former chief medical examiner in Tokyo who spent 30 years in the coroner’s office until he retired in 1988. Since then he has written more than 30 books about the cases that animated his career and the cold cases that intrigue him in retirement.

Ueno says his experience leaves him convinced that many homicides are being missed and he, too, blames a system that gives police great discretion over when an autopsy is performed. Although doctors are legally required to report “unnatural deaths” to police, the country’s medical act does not precisely define what that is.

The philosophical approach to death investigations differs between the West and Japan.

In the West, autopsies are performed to determine the cause of death. That is one reason the autopsy rate for people who die in hospitals has fallen in most Western countries: Improved medical diagnostics has removed much of the uncertainty about why a patient died.

But in Japan, investigations are not as concerned with uncovering the cause of death as with whether a crime has been committed. Without obvious signs of homicide, police are less likely to ask for an autopsy.

That applies to investigations of apparent suicides.

Japan has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, accounting for more than 30,000 deaths a year, but police request “almost no autopsies on suicides,” which could determine whether the cause of death is what it appears, Saikawa says.

Many police examinations of the body are cursory, he alleges, sometimes nothing more sophisticated than a visual examination.

Take the case in January 2006, when financial advisor Hideaki Noguchi was found dead in an Okinawa hotel with knife wounds. Noguchi was a close associate of Takafumi Horie, the brash founder of the Internet company Livedoor, which had just been the target of a nationally televised police raid and seen most of its multibillion-dollar value evaporate.

But despite being a central figure in a sensational criminal investigation and privy to Livedoor secrets, police declared Noguchi’s death a suicide. They did not ask for an autopsy, and the body was cremated.

Or take the suicide in April of Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who was found hanged in his Tokyo apartment. Matsuoka was embroiled in a scandal involving the misappropriation of political funds that suggested a broad system of organized influence peddling. Even though Matsuoka’s troubles were destabilizing the government and his death occurred just hours before his scheduled appearance to answer questions before a parliamentary committee, no autopsy was conducted to ensure that he had not died from something other than hanging.

A day later, Shinichi Yamazaki, a businessman implicated in the same scandal, plunged to his death in a parking lot outside his Yokohama apartment. No autopsy was conducted in that case either.

“The police said it was suicide,” says an incredulous Saikawa, “because he had left his shoes placed neatly together on the balcony.”

Japan’s forensic specialists have long been calling for an overhaul of the coroner system, but it took the death of the young sumo wrestler to finally bring the shortcomings under sharper scrutiny.

Doctors at the hospital where Saito was brought in, unconscious and battered, have since acknowledged that they had doubts about the police verdict. They said they initially attributed his death to acute cardiac failure, which occurs when the heart stops suddenly and does not rule out foul play.

But the police insisted otherwise. So the hospital signed a death certificate that blamed a diseased heart for killing the 17-year-old. It released the body to Junichi Yamamoto, the master of the training facility where Saito lived and had collapsed after what was described as a “strenuous” practice session. No need to pick up the body, the boy’s grieving family claims Yamamoto told them by phone. We’re having him cremated.

Had Saito’s parents not demanded to see their son’s body, the truth about the wrestler’s death might never have been known.

But when the body was returned home in another prefecture, they were shocked by its battered state. The family asked medical professors at Niigata University to perform an autopsy, which revealed that Saito’s heart stopped from the shock of injuries inflicted upon him. He probably had been beaten to death.

On this wisp of suspicion rested justice for a dead boy.

More than a month later, under pressure from the family and Japan’s muckraking weekly magazines, Aichi police opened an investigation that found the stable master and other wrestlers had viciously beaten Saito. It was punishment, they said, because he was trying to quit sumo. The stable master has admitted hitting Saito in the forehead with a beer bottle the night before he died.

Leaks to the media from the police investigation indicated that the boy was beaten again the next morning, punched, kicked and hit with a baseball bat by other wrestlers while Yamamoto watched.

Under fire from an appalled public, the Japanese Sumo Assn. last month finally acted and banned Yamamoto from the sport. Aichi police did not respond to questions about the investigation, or the agency’s policies and practices on requesting autopsies.

They have yet to file charges.


Naoko Nishiwaki and Hisako Ueno of the Times’ Tokyo Bureau contributed to this report.

NY Times on Sumo, Tokitaizan, and Asashoryu


Hi Blog. Not a matter of fingerprinting for a change, but another article to show that topics we bring up do make some ripples in the press.

And I’m still waiting for the “coach” (rather, the owner of a sumo stable) to actually be ARRESTED for assault and criminal negligence (if not manslaughter)–even after publicly admitting he used a beer bottle on his apprentice (who died soon afterwards), he’s still out there free. If only he were a foreigner–he could be arrested despite no evidence at all

Previous article on Asashoryu here. Wonder if he’ll ever return–he said in a little over a month more than two months ago. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Memo From Tokyo
Japan Wrings Its Hands Over Sumo’s Latest Woes
By NORIMITSU ONISHI New York Times: October 19, 2007

TOKYO, Oct. 18 — The problems swirling through Japan’s ancient sport of sumo recently would seem to be random, unconnected events.

A coach was expelled from the sumo association this month for inflicting fatal injuries on a 17-year-old apprentice in a hazing incident and may face criminal charges. One of the two grand champions, Asashoryu, has been suspended for claiming an injury and then being filmed playing soccer in his native Mongolia. He is also suspected of fixing matches with other wrestlers, including the other grand champion, also Mongolian.

When things seemingly could not get any worse, a woman tried to climb up into the elevated sumo ring last month during a match, a no-go place for women, who are considered impure in sumo tradition. She broke free from a female security guard in the audience but was pulled down by a sumo wrestler who prevented her from entering the sacred ring and, in the eyes of traditionalists, defiling it.

While the problems may have looked disparate, however, they were rooted in a quintessentially Japanese conflict between tradition and modernity. Should sumo, whose popularity has long been declining, change? The debate in Japan has taken on a heated, though predictable, course. Traditionalists have said any change would mean the death of sumo, while others have said that sumo will die if it fails to change.

In fact sumo has undergone continual change during its long history, which inevitably raises other questions. What, really, are its traditions?

The 17-year-old, Takashi Saito, died after being hit on the head with a bottle by his master and struck with a metal bat by wrestlers during practice. He had tried to escape twice from the stable because of the hazing, the second time on the day before the beating.

Hazing, including corporal punishment, has long been considered a fact of life in sumo stables, feudal-like camps where wrestlers are expected to live and train. In a practice called kawaigari, older wrestlers repeatedly throw a novice down on the ring, ostensibly to toughen him up but also to mete out punishment.

Critics said that this practice, and the culture of violence that led to the fatal beating, was symbolic of sumo’s failure to keep up with the times.

Traditionally, brawny teenagers from poor rural families came to the capital and were entrusted to a stable master and his wife. To this day, wrestlers lead regimented lives in the stables, doing chores and performing services for older colleagues.

As Japan has grown richer and as rural areas have emptied out of young people, fewer Japanese teenagers have been willing to lead this kind of life. Last year only 84 Japanese trainees joined stables, less than half the numbers in the early 1990s. The sumo association has allowed foreigners in, though only one per stable. But even though only 61 out of 723 sumo wrestlers are foreigners, they have risen to the top. No Japanese is on course to join the two Mongolians as grand champions anytime soon.

Asashoryu, in particular, has incurred the wrath of traditionalists. Though a formidable wrestler, he gives the strong impression that Japan is his workplace and that his heart lies in Mongolia. He has shown flashes of anger in the ring and other behavior that his critics say lack a grand champion’s “dignity,” a vague quality that sometimes seems to mean simply that he is not Japanese enough.

And then he faked his injury.

“If he were a Japanese grand champion, I think he would have submitted his resignation by now,” said Kunihiro Sugiyama, who was a sumo announcer for four decades.

Mr. Sugiyama said that sumo was less a sport than a cultural heritage that needed to be protected from, among others, “hungry” foreigners from countries with lower standards of living.

“If you go to Africa or India or South America and look around, you’ll find large people,” Mr. Sugiyama said. “We’re in an age of overindulgence in Japan, so if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile right away.”

Sumo is often said to be as old as Japan itself, but scholars trace the birth of a professional sport recognizable today to three centuries ago. The central aspects of today’s sumo — the tournaments and the rank of grand champion as the embodiment of sumo’s ideals — were established in the late 19th century, just as a new sport called baseball was becoming popular in Japan.

Sumo officials made other changes to emphasize the traditional aspects of sumo and to solidify its place as Japan’s “national sport,” said Lee A. Thompson, an American expert on sumo and a professor of sports sociology at Waseda University’s School of Sport Sciences here.

In the 1930s sumo authorities tried to stress ties to the Shinto religion by rebuilding the roof over the main sumo ring in Tokyo in the shape of a Shinto shrine. In the 1950s they formed the Yokozuna Review Board, a committee to consider candidates for the rank of grand champion.

“Sumo has latched on to a certain image of what Japan is — that Japan has this long tradition as a country and those things that are 1,000, 1,500 or 2,000 years old are still alive today,” Mr. Thompson said. “That’s why this appeal to tradition trumps a lot of other issues, in this case what might even turn out to be manslaughter,” he added.

So if sumo has always changed to fit the needs of the times, how can it do so now? Some have proposed raising the age of recruits or picking the best from college sumo clubs. Noriki Miyashita, a retired wrestler, favors turning sumo into an international professional league with Japan serving as “the major league.”

“When it comes to tradition, there invariably comes a time to re-examine things,” he said. “And I think the time has now come for the world of sumo.”

Deutsche Presse-Agentur: “Let’s be fair, let Japanese win our sports events”


Hi Blog.  Writing this to you on a timer at a hotel in Tokyo, so I’ll be brief.  An article on sports citing me, even though sports isn’t exactly my forte.  I hope I got the information below right.  Corrections from knowledgables appreciated.  Arudou Debito in Shinagawa

PS: Original feature which inspired this article at


Let’s be fair, let Japanese win – Feature
Posted on : 2007-10-04 | Author : Deutsche Presse-Agentur
News Category : Sports  Courtesy of the Author

Tokyo – You would think that fairness is the virtue of sports, but tell that to the Japanese authorities. In May, they approved a high school ban on foreign students running the first and the longest leg of a relay race in response to complaints from fans, a spokesman for the All Japan High School Athletic Federation said.

The decision came after the federation received mounting complaints from fans that “African runners lead the race so much that the Japanese athletes can’t narrow the difference or catch up throughout the race.”

Marathon races in Japan have seen many runners from Kenya, Ethiopia and other African nations taking part. At most one foreign student is allowed per team.

The relay marathon and 29 other sporting events that the federation manages limits the ratio of overseas athletes to about 20 per cent of all entries, but, according to a spokesman, complaints have flooded in only in relation to the high school marathon.

One of the reasons is that the race receives much coverage on television with a high viewer rate.

Fans wonder why they are not seeing Japanese students run when it is an all-Japan race, he said.

“We don’t consider this decision as discrimination,” the spokesman said. “We are not banning (foreign students) from participating in the race.”

Japanese fans and authorities don’t seem to realize that this is a form of discrimination, which makes the problem even more serious, because people approve of such discriminatory treatment in other social areas, Osamu Shiraishi of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Centre said.

But criticism of the decision has come from many quarters.

“They are basically saying that sports are great as long as Japanese win,” Arudou Debito, the author of Japanese Only, which highlights discrimination against foreign residents in Japan, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Racial discrimination is usually based on superiority, but it is based on inferiority in Japan in this sense, Debito said.

“This is symbolic to Japan’s sly opportunist ideology,” Shiraishi, a former official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said. “Making nationality an issue in sports goes against the genuine sportsmanship.”

There are sports that couldn’t generate solid competition without foreigners’ participation, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees official said.

For such competitions, Japan makes talented athletes its own kind.

Brazilian soccer players Santos Alexandro and Ramos Ruy gave up their nationalities and played in the national team for the World Cup after they became Japanese citizens.

A new regulation to the Japanese national sport of sumo in 2002 to allow one stable to host one foreign national at a time, partly because the industry was suffering from declining Japanese enthusiasts but becoming a popular hub of muscle men from abroad.

The fear was that the national sport would be tainted with foreigners. But, ironically, it relies on them for its survival and the yokozuna or highest-ranking wrestlers are Mongolians.

The sumo association also came under attack in the past when Hawaiian wrestlers were climbing up to the top. Some Japanese fans demanded Japanese nationality from potential yokozuna.

Amidst the controversy, Hawaiian Akebono Taro became the first foreign-born yokozuna in 1992 and later gave up his US passport to prepare for opening his own stable.

Although one of the few retirement plans for most sumo wrestlers is to open up their own stables, the Japan Sumo Association requires stable masters to be Japanese citizens.

Others, however, remain mum about their nationalities.

Some Korean or Chinese residents of Japan who excelled with their athletic competence hide behind their Japanese-given names and remained outside of national competitions.

While the government requires and prefers foreigners to become Japanese nationals in certain areas such as sport, resident Koreans and Chinese who are born and raised in Japan for three or four generations, are not granted citizenship at birth.

Japan’s home-run king Sadaharu Oh, born and raised in Tokyo, has been stripped of his chances to compete in the nation’s largest amateur athletic meets because he holds Taiwanese nationality.

Oh was lucky to find a vacancy in the quotas for foreign nationals in Japanese baseball when he entered a professional league, according to Arudou.

But there must have been many more like Oh and could have been many more home runs or advanced skills imported from overseas to polish Japan’s athletes if not for the restrictions.

The US Major Leaguer Ichiro Suzuki needed somewhere more challenging than Japanese baseball fields to excel, and he found a niche in Seattle.

“It goes against being sporting,” Arudou said of limiting or eliminating participation by foreign athletes. “Restrictions make sporting boring. Everyone has a chance to be number one.”

Print Source :




Great news for all us Dosanko!

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, *OUR* local team (nyah nyah!), has just won its second pennant IN A ROW in the Pacific League. BANZAI!!

And why this matters to The game tonight was between two NJ coaches–Hillman and Valentine–who between them have won the last two Japan Series and now four league pennants. They’ve certainly earned their stripes in Japan. If nobody points out that it’s now the NJ coaches who are bringing winning strategies to Japan, I will, of course. (Whaddya expect?) Now let’s see if we can get restrictions removed on quotas for foreign players on Japanese baseball teams.

And why this matters to Hokkaido: We’ve become a baseball powerhouse, what with Tomakomai Komadai also winning the High School Baseball leagues twice in a row from four years ago, then coming in second last year; the fact that they hardly qualified this year is going to be salved by this victory.

Sorry to say this is Hillman’s last season with the Fighters. He’s probably heading back to Texas to be with his Rangers. He’s done plenty here. Godspeed. He will be sorely missed.

Next stop, Pacific League champs take on the Central League champs (in what looks to be the goddamn Tokyo Giants). If Hillman can beat the Giants (who once held sway as the team Hokkaido supported–not that the Giants ever cared) in a home game, to me it will be poetic justice indeed.


Arudou Debito in Sapporo

COUNTERPOINT: Sumo’s Scapegoating of Asashoryu


An occasional series from for contrarian views. Ghostwriting for busy people who would otherwise be their own authors.
All the media attention is a diversion from what’s really wrong with Sumo


By James Eriksson (jerik AT, and Arudou Debito (
Released August 30, 2007

The Sumo Association has recently tag-teamed with the Japanese media to lay into Asashoryu—the Mongolian wrestler turned Sumo champ who has enjoyed a thorough winning streak. That is, until now.

Asashoryu, even at age 26, has dominated the sport. As Sumo’s sole Yokozuna (Grand Champion) for years now, his winning streaks and stellar win records (21 tournament wins so far) have been the stuff of legends, bringing attention back to a lackluster sport, and an inspiration to the Mongolian people who view him as a national hero.

But also earning him a place in the notoriety books has been his behavior. He has been known for fits of temper, flights of fancy, and throwing his weight around both figuratively and literally, in ways many felt were unbecoming the dignity of the sport.

I believe these outbursts are symptoms of the unmentionable: the possible use of steroids. One of the downsides of the benefits of steroids (bulk and quick reaction time, all fundamental to Sumo) is the flash temper tantrums. And as far as I know, there are no enforced bans or even tests for the presence of steroids in Sumo rikishi.

Never mind. He kept winning, and winning is everything in Sumo. (To the degree where in 1993, two successful Sumo stables merged so their wrestlers would face each other less, thus lose less in tournaments. And once Asa won enough to reach the top rank, people would support him because he’s the only Yokozuna out there. Within reason, of course.

The reasons came. First, a new Yokozuna, Hakuho (also of Mongolia) was anointed in May 2007. Meaning Asashoryu was now expendable.

Then, his little excursion to Mongolia this summer further chummed the waters.

Asa went home ostensibly to recover from a sports injury. But then he was videoed playing a game of soccer. Not only with a lot of vim apparently inappropriate for an injured athlete, but also having a good time and performing for the cameras. Never mind that he has been trained to do precisely that by Sumo.

People might say that this adultery with another sport and apparent cross purposes might be a breach of Sumo “etiquette”. But I believe Sumo etiquette works both ways here. Sumo is a sport for people who do what they’re told. Asa has been doing what his masters have been telling him to do for years now. Then when an authority as high as the Mongolian government (not to mention Japanese soccer start Nakata, who also happened to be there) invites him more than once to join in a friendly game for charity, he was probably not in a position to say no. I believe the press would have likewise criticized him if he had.

But I believe the whole soccer-Sumo scandal is a smokescreen. The real reason Asa was finally called to the carpet for a change was because Sumo as a sport is in a panic, and needs a scapegoat.

Not only has Sumo faced earlier this year yet another slew of allegations about bout fixing (, but also no Japanese signed up these days at the entry level last July to become junior wrestlers–for the first time in history ( Even though there is now another Yokozuna in existence, Asa was apparently needed this summer for recruitment purposes.

Not that difficult to understand why youths are shying away from Sumo, actually. Hazing in the junior ranks of the sport is rife and well-known. And it has gotten progressively worse–to the point where people are being killed by it.

Witness the death of wrestler Tokitaizan last June 26, after a “lynching”, where the body was found with a torn ear, broken teeth, broken bones, and cigarette burns.
Where was the media then? A blurb here and there, but coverage was definitely incommensurate to the degree of controversy a death should entail.

Instead, the media circus has sensed the blood in the water around Asa, and the Sumo Association has fanned the frenzy by slashing his pay, banning him from two tournaments, and confining him to house arrest (a degree of policing power which cannot be legal!).

Asa, meanwhile, is watching his world collapse around him. He is said to have suffered a mental breakdown, and needs treatment either here or in Mongolia. His wife has left him too—even left the country. Then there is the new charge of tax evasion. Speculation is growing that he’ll either leave Sumo for K1 pseudo-boxing (the Elephant’s Graveyard—witness former Yokozuna Akebono—for many an athlete in Japan), or abscond with all his riches back to Mongolia never to return—which would be a major black eye for the sport. He just yesterday actually did leave Japan for Mongolia, so breaths are being held to see if he ever returns. (After all, probably Sumo needs Asa more than vice versa at this stage.)

But again, this is all a diversion from the real story: That Sumo’s house of cards is being shaken.

We have a death deterring people from joining a system with institutionalized bullying, renewed allegations of bout fixing, the very real possibility of bodybuilding chemicals banned in most world sports, and the entirely possible death of the Sumo’s credibility that the Ohnaruto Scandal of 1996 (where a veteran wrestler and trainer, Ohnaruto, and commentator Hashimoto Seiichiro both became sick and died on the same day in the same hospital of unknown causes—shortly before they were to go before the press and spill the beans on charges of bout fixing etc.; see would have done a lot sooner.

Time for people to wake up, and realize that something smells fishy in Asashoryu’s persecution. This time it’s not the chanko nabe.


NB: Views expressed in this essay are generally those expressed by James Eriksson, with some embellishments from Arudou Debito.

UCLA basketball player naturalizes for J olympic team


Hi Blog. Here’s one way to avoid the accusation that foreigners in Japanese sports make events too boring: J.R. Sakuragi, a former NBA player known as J.R. Henderson, has become a Japanese citizen and will play for the Japan National Team in the FIBA Asian Championship, to qualify for the Olympics… Read on. Congrats, JR. Debito


Former UCLA player gets Japanese citizenship, spot on national hoops team
Japan Times Tuesday, July 17, 2007
By KAZ NAGATSUKA Staff writer
Courtesy of TT

Most fans are probably not familiar with this name: J.R. Sakuragi. But if they hear the name J.R. Henderson, that may ring a bell.

As the FIBA Asia Championship begins on July 28, the 12-man Japan National Team roster for the tournament was finalized and Sakuragi, who has recently acquired Japanese citizenship, found his name on it.

Sakuragi, a 203-cm forward, is expected to be a big presence in the paint for Team Japan in the upcoming Asia Championship in Tokushima, which will be the region’s qualifier for next year’s Beijing Olympics.

“This player had applied for the citizenship a long time ago, but it wasn’t permitted so soon,” said Japan coach Kimikazu Suzuki at a news conference after the team’s open workout and farewell ceremony for the Olympic qualifier at Yoyogi Gymnasium Annex on Monday.

According to Suzuki, Sakuragi finally received the citizenship on July 2.

Suzuki said that he did not know if Sakuragi would get the citizenship in time for the tournament, but had asked him to train to keep him in shape.

Sakuragi, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., played his college ball at powerhouse UCLA, where he was a member of the team that won the 1995 NCAA title. After averaging 14.2 points per game in his four-year career at the school, Sakuragi was a second-round draft choice, the 56th overall pick, of the Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis) in the 1998 NBA Draft. He played in Vancouver for one season.

The 30-year-old arrived in Japan in 2001 to play for the Aisin Seahorses of the JBL Super League. He’s spent the past five seasons with the team. Last season, he averaged 21.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.

“He’s been here for a long time,” said Suzuki, who also coaches Aisin. “So he knows how other Japanese players play well enough and he was able to be part of the national team in training without any problem.”

As a provisional team, Suzuki’s squad started its training for the Olympic qualifier in April, with the same core group of players. So there is anxiety whether Sakuragi will fit in on the squad before the Asia Championship despite his unquestionable ability as a player.

But Suzuki and other players think there are more positives by adopting Sakuragi than negatives.

“With (Sakuragi) being inside and getting the ball more, we’ll be able to create more space outside,” said captain Kenichi Sako, a veteran guard.

“Also, the degree of reliance on scoring inside will raise. And he can play in a transition game and passes the ball. This is his first training camp (Friday through Monday), though, he has already made some changes in our rhythm.”

Sakuragi, looking a bit nervous at Monday’s workout and ceremony, had to immediately leave the arena without talking to the media, but released a statement, saying, “I’m pleased. I’ve been here for six years and have had so much respect for the Japanese people. It was a huge decision for me, but (I) came to this after consulting with my parents and wife.”

With the participation of Sakuragi, center Shunsuke Ito, of the Toshiba Brave Thunders, has been left off the team.

Team Japan will try to capture the first berth in an Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Games in the July 28 to Aug. 5 tournament, in which only one nation will get an automatic berth in the Olympics.


Asahi: Banning/limiting NJ in J sports spreads from marathons to ping pong, basketball, soccer…


Hi Blog. reported in May 2007 how the All Japan High School Athletic Federation banned NJ runners from participating in the first leg of the HS championships.

Now the restrictions are spreading to other sports. As is always the case, once you can get away with discrimination in one sector, others copycat, as can be seen in the spread nationwide of exclusionary JAPANESE ONLY signs on multiple business sectors.

It’s long been a policy (with some recent loosening of restrictions) in the Kokutai National Sports Festivals. So if it happens in a tax-funded national event where people can qualify for something serious like the Olympics, it’s a credible enough rule that any amateur league can mimic. And clearly have.

Gotta feel sorry for all those NJ kids going to high school in Japan, and by dint of their birth, they are told they aren’t allowed to do their best in sports. Kinda defeats the purpose of these events, wouldn’tcha think?

But I don’t think the organizers of these events really understand what “being sporting” is all about. To them sports are great, as long as Japanese win. These twits should look what’s going on in Sumo… Or actually, perhaps they are. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Groups try to level playing field by limiting foreign players
Thanks to Trans Pacific Radio for notifying me.

The slogan of high school sport associations could be: If you can’t beat ’em, ban ’em.

The associations have introduced tough restrictions on foreign students because they are trouncing the Japanese athletes in sports such as the ekiden relay marathon, basketball and table tennis.

The restrictions followed protests from Japanese fans who say the superior ability of the foreign students is making the sporting events dull.

In May, the All Japan High School Athletic Federation decided to ban foreign students from running the first leg in the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships, which is held in Kyoto every December.

For the boys’ division, the total course of 42.195 kilometers is split into seven legs, with the 10-km first section the longest.

In the championships in December 2006, four Kenyan students ran in the first leg. The slowest Kenyan was still 30 seconds faster than the quickest Japanese runner.

Sumio Shokawa, secretary-general of the All Japan High School Athletic Federation’s track and field division, said an ekiden fan sent an e-mail complaining: “No Japanese students are shown on TV. That was like an African championship.”

Another disgruntled e-mailer told Shokawa: “The schools bring the foreign students here just to publicize the names of their schools. They are not suitable for high school sport competitions.”

In the past few years at the ekiden championships, fans of Japanese athletes gather at the Nishi-Kyogoku track and field ground in Kyoto to protest to the participation of foreign students.

The number of foreign students is increasing in other sports, much to the chagrin of many locals.

According to the high school athletic federation, 293 foreign students were registered in 32 prefectures in 2006.

As the number of foreign students has grown, so have the number of restrictions.

In basketball, for example, a school can have only one foreign student on the court. In soccer, only two foreign students from the same school are allowed on the pitch at the same time.

Senegalese students are drawing attention in basketball.

Noshiro Technical High School in Akita Prefecture, which has won the national high school championships as many as 20 times, was defeated by schools with Senegalese students in the past two years.

In the 2005 championships, the finals pitted Fukuoka Dai-ichi High School in Fukuoka Prefecture against Nobeoka Gakuen High School in Miyazaki Prefecture. Both teams had Senegalese students taller than 2 meters.

Foreign high school students who play table tennis are mainly from China.

Over the past 15 years, Chinese students have won the national inter-high school championships eight times in the boys’ singles division and 11 times in the girls’ singles division.

Currently, a school can have only one foreign student on its table-tennis team. In addition, foreign students cannot be on the same side for doubles matches.

Some have doubts on the restrictions on foreign students. They say the Japanese students should just work harder.

One is Shinya Iwamoto, coach of the track team at Sera Senior High School in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The prefectural school, which has accepted Kenyan students since 2002, won the national high school ekiden championships in 2006 for the first time in 32 years.

“Kenyan students are making greater efforts than their Japanese counterparts,” Iwamoto said. “Their attitudes have raised the level of the entire team.”(IHT/Asahi: June 29,2007)

Fun Facts #7: Latest Sumo Banzuke shows one third of top ranked are NJ (UPDATED)


Hi Blog. Not a big sports fan by any means (and I won’t analyze this too deeply, since there are plenty of others out there who see and know a lot more about Sumo), but perusing the Nikkan Sports pages while on the road the other day, I saw on page 12 of the issue dated June 26, 2007, the following Fun Facts:

(this is not unprecedented–Hawaiians Akebono and Musashimaru have also done this, but there were also Takanohana and Wakanohana as Yokozuna to balance them out in the 1990’s)


3) BROKEN DOWN BY NATIONALITY (apologies for any misread names, corrections appreciated):

SEVEN MONGOLIANS (Asashouryuu, Hakuhou, Tokitenkuu, Ama, Asasekiryuu, Tsururyuu, Ryuuou)

TWO RUSSIANS (Rouhou, Hakurousan)

ONE BULGARIAN (Kotooushuu)

ONE KOREAN (Kasugaou)



4) And currently in the lower ranks (Juuryou and Makushita), we have another eight NJ listed out of the 48–and seven of those are Mongolian (the other Russian).


Crystal-balling on Japan’s internationalization based upon rankings in Sport–especially Sumo (where rankings change very quickly, particularly in the ranks that don’t attract the attention of many fans) is difficult.

But this is pretty impressive, especially when I remember the bad old days when the Sumo Kyoukai doubted foreigners would ever have the proper “spirit” to achieve the enlightened ranks of the coveted Yokozuna. Then came Akebono. Now it seems as though NJ in general, and Mongolians in particular, have come into their own in one of the world’s most exclusive and entertwined-with-nationality sports (the word “kokugi”, anyone?). Bravo.

That’s all the interpretation of the stats I’ll offer. But it’s a development, now with Hakuhou’s ascent to Yokozuna, that should observe as well.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



…Now that you are a regular in the upper makunouchi ranks, how do you feel about all the foreign participation in sumo nowadays?

I know there are a lot of different nationalities now in sumo but I don’t see any of the foreign born rikishi as anything other than rikishi. Rikishi are rikishi to me.

In the stadiums and on television, via the Internet too, there seem to be more and more non-Japanese fans following the sport. Do you think this is good for sumo?

Definitely. At many of the basho I see more and more foreign people, even in the masu-seki box seats and it makes me happy as it gives me extra power to want to try harder.

In these days of so much dominance by non-Japanese rikishi, many Japanese and even foreign fans see yourself and Homasho-zeki as the bright Japanese hopes for the future — how do you feel about that?

I do like the attention, but there are so many rikishi in sumo nowadays that I just feel honored to be able to fight them as best I can.





National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit, by Arudou Debito
Japan Times, Sept. 30, 2003

Even more links here

Readers, add some more links or enclose more articles you find important in the Comments section below…?

Dejima Award 2: NJ students barred from starting Ekiden footrace (Asahi)


Hi Blog. In what is sure to be a continuing series, I would like to award the Second Dejima Award to the All Japan High School Athletic Federation.

Suggested by Chris Flynn, the Dejima Award is a showcase for those small-minded people in this society who feel the need to keep foreign peoples, ideas, and influences from these pristine shores. In much the same spirit as Feudal Japan kept foreigners secluded on an island off Nagasaki named Dejima centuries ago.

The obvious prescience displayed by the people who organize these footraces for students, when deciding to “keep the race more interesting for disgruntled fans” by shutting foreigners out of the starting lineup, is sure to make foreign students feel more welcome, and help keep Japan’s education system (struggling with our low birthrate, desperately courting foreign students) solvent and equal-opportunity. Not.

More from the Asahi Shinbun on this issue immediately following, with Japanese articles in the Comments section.

More on Japan’s nasty habit of shutting foreigners out of its sports and other competitions (again, sometimes using the same argument that foreigners have an unfair advantage due to physical or mental prowess) archived at

Avoid katou kyousou as best you can if it’s tainted with foreignness, I guess… Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Foreign students can’t start ekiden
Courtesy of Glenn Boothe

Bowing to pressure from disgruntled fans, a high school athletic association will prohibit foreign students from running the first leg of the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships relay marathon starting next year.

The All Japan High School Athletic Federation said the decision, reached Tuesday, is intended to make the races more interesting for fans.

But others say the move reeks of discrimination against foreign students.

In recent years, many students from Kenya have started the first–and longest–section of the ekiden races.

They have often built such wide leads that rival teams have had almost no chance to catch up in the later legs.

Ekiden fans and organizers said the strategies of those teams have made the races dull because the huge early leads all but eliminate the chances for the drama of a close finish.

Teams with foreign students running the first leg have won the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships five times in the past 10 years. Three of those victories were achieved after the first runner broke well ahead of the pack.

Of the five foreign students selected for the 2006 All Japan High School Ekiden Championships, four ran the first section for their teams.

“We looked into the issue in a constructive manner after angry fans complained it is a turnoff to see foreign students scoring an insurmountable lead in the first section,” said Kazunobu Umemura, executive managing director of the federation.

The rule will also apply to prefecture-level qualifying events.

The boys’ 42-kilometer ekiden consists of seven sections, with a 10-km first leg. The girls’ race, totaling 21 km, consists of five sections, starting with a 6-km leg.

Keisuke Sawaki, a director of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, said the high school federation likely had an “agonizing” time coming up with its decision.

“From the standpoints of ‘internationalization’ and school education, it would be ideal not to have any restrictions,” he said. “In reality, however, the differences in physical capabilities between Japanese and foreign students are far beyond imagination.”

Under rules established in 1994 by the All Japan High School Athletic Federation, the number of foreign students attending any competition under its supervision must be about 20 percent or less of all participating students.

In accordance with the rules, the number of foreign students who can enter the ekiden race has been limited to one from each school since 1995.

Koji Watanabe, coach of the track team at Nishiwaki Technical High School in Nishiwaki, Hyogo Prefecture, said new rules are needed to give public high schools with no foreign students a chance to win.

His team won the ekiden race in the boys’ division a record eight times.

But Takao Watanabe, coach of the track team at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School in Sendai, disagreed.

“It remains questionable to distinguish runners by nationality,” said Watanabe, whose team won the ekiden race for three straight years with Kenyan students through 2005. “The decision is not good from an educational point of view because it can be viewed as excluding foreign students.”(IHT/Asahi: May 24,2007)



Hello All. Time for another

and finally

freely forwardable
blogged in real time at


I had an interview yesterday morning with one of Japan’s major networks, TBS (the network which brought you “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin”, and still brings sunlight and subliminal musical jokes to Sunday mornings with “Sunday Japon”).

It’ll be a brief segment on the 2-Channel libel lawsuit, with me speaking as one of the many victorious plaintiffs which BBS administrator Nishimura Hiroyuki refuses to pay, despite court rulings.

The attention this issue is getting in recent weeks is very welcome. The more the better, as it may prod the creation of some legislation. Japan should at least strengthen “contempt of court” punishments for court delinquents, making evasions of this type a criminal offense prosecutable by police.

As it stands right now, a thwarted Plaintiff in Japan has to chase down the Defendant for payment, at his or her own time and expense.

As I found out two weekends ago, you can’t even “serve papers” to a Defendant (notifying him of his legal obligations and eliminating plausible deniability) yourself, say, in a pizza box or at a public event. I refer to Nishimura’s blythe speech at Waseda (more on that in the next section), where my lawyer said I could approach the podium with papers, but it would be a publicity stunt, not a legally-binding action. “Serving” must go via the court through registered post; and all the deadbeat has to do is not retreive his mail!

But I digress. The show will be broadcast as follows:
Thursday, November 16, 2006 (as in tomorrow)
I’m told sometime between 12 noon and 1PM.
However, the show starts at 11AM, so set your VCRS.
TV network: TBS (HBC in Hokkaido)

Final thought: Quite honestly, I find appearing on TV terrifying. It’s like dancing (which I can’t do either–I think too much to have any rhythm). It takes all my brainpower just to manage my thoughts digestably, and then worrying about how to manage my face and eyes and all overloads the system… Anyway, tune in and see how I did.



Scandal paper Yuukan Fuji (and its online feed ZAKZAK) has been doing a series on Nishimura and 2-Channel, mentioning my case by name as well (which is what occasioned TBS coming up north to talk to me yesterday).

You can see two of the articles from last week translated into English by Adamu at Mutant Frog (thanks!) at

Don’t mess with 2ch: ZAKZAK, Sankei Sports report

The rupo on the Waseda speech deserves excerpting:

———————- EXCERPT BEGINS ——————————–
The focus was, as could be expected, the issue of Nishimura’s litigation-related disappearance. Last month, in a suit brought by a female professional golfer (age 24) alleging she was slandered and harmed by the bulletin board seeking deletion of the posts and damages etc, Nishimura was ordered to delete the posts and pay 1 million yen in compensation. However, he ignored the call from the court to appear in this case, and never showed up in court even once.

As to the reasons for that, Nishimura admitted, “Actually, there are similar cases going on from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south.” He bluntly explained, “Well, lawyer fees would cost more than 1 million yen. Hey, I’ll go if I get bored.”

He explained that “I deleted the problem section (from the site),” but added his horrifying assertion that “there is no law to make me pay compensation by force, so it doesn’t matter if I win or lose in court. It’s the same thing if I don’t pay (the compensation).” When asked about his annual income, he boasted “a little more than Japan’s population (127 million).” So he’s not having money issues.

In response to Nishimura’s assertion that “there is no law forcing me to pay compensation,” Nippon University professor of criminal law Hiroshi Itakura points out, “a court’s compulsory enforcement (kyousei shikkou) can be used to ‘collect’ compensation.” He says that running from compensation is impossible. Also, if someone hides assets etc. for the purposes of avoiding compulsory execution, then “that would constitute the crime of obstructing compulsory execution,” (kyousei shikkou bougai zai). Itabashi wonders, “It is strange that the courts that ordered the compensation have not implemented compulsory enforcement. It’s not like Nishimura doesn’t have any assets.”
———————- EXCERPT ENDS ———————————–

Originals in Japanese at

2ちゃんねるの西村ひろゆき:早稲田にて「強制的に(賠償金を)払わせる法律がない」(追加:ZAKZAK 記事)

Two more ZAKZAK articles in Japanese which came out this week at


(Adamu, feel free to translate again, thanks!)

And an article photocopied (literally) and sent from Dave Spector while shinkansenning (thanks!), from Tokyo Sports, Nov 9, 2006. Headline notes how the police are starting to get involved:

I wonder how long Nishimura thinks he’s going to be able to get away with this…



Professor Noriguchi at Kitakyushu University is becoming a regular pundit on English language education in Japan.

After saying not two months ago in the Asahi Shinbun’s prestigious “Watashi No Shiten” column, that one problem with non-Japanese teachers is that they stay in Japan too long (, he’s back again with a response to his critics (or, as he puts it, his supporters).

Article is archived at

Kitakyudai’s Noriguchi again in Asahi on English teaching (Nov 4, 2006, with updates)

Let me rewrite a few of Noriguchi’s points and weave in comment and interpretation. He essentially asserts this time that:

So much energy devoted to the study of English (as opposed to other languages) is not only unneighborly, it is a reflection of a Japanese inferiority complex towards the West.

One consequence of this much focus on English is a lot of swindling and deception of the Japanese consumer, with bogus advertising about the merits and the effects of English language education.

In any case, English is hardly necessary for life in Japan, so why require it on entrance exams? Especially after all the trauma that Japanese go through learning it.

This is no mystery. Japanese have a natural barrier to learning English, given the “Japanese mentality”, the characteristics of the language, and the homogeneity of the country.

More so than other Asian countries, he mysteriously asserts. (Koreans, for example? And won’t the same barriers apply to other Asian languages if the Japanese are indeed so unique?)

Meanwhile, let’s keep the door revolving on foreign English-language educators by hiring retired teachers from overseas, who not only will bring in more expertise and maturity, but also by design (and by natural longevity) will not stay as long in Japan and have as much of an effect.

(NB: The last point is not his, but it’s symptomatic of Noriguchi’s throwing out of ideas which are not all that well thought through in practice. After all, nowhere in his essay does he retract his previous assertion that part of the problem is foreign teachers staying here too long.)

As before, Professor Noriguchi is reachable at
He says that far more people support his views than not, so if you want to show him differently, write him.

Meanwhile, those two Watashi No Shiten articles seem to be having an effect on domestic debate. As a friend of mine (who is in academic admin) said earlier today on a different mailing list:

============== BEGINS ====================
[Noriguchi’s] articles are not merely “problematic”–they are DEVASTATING to the cause of foreigners here. I’ve had to discuss his crackpot ideas (given a kind of pseudo authority because they appeared in the Asahi and because the author is Japanese) on two occasions over just the LAST WEEK–once with a university president, and once with the head of this city’s board of education. Both see in these articles justifications for firing experienced foreign faculty and bringing in cheaper newbies. After all, as Noriguchi … [has] made clear, we are only language “polishers” and “cultural ambassadors,” not teachers.

Some unintentional humor from [The Ministry of Education]. On my desk right now is a document [entitled Gaikokujin Chomei Kenkyuusha Shouhei Jigyou].

The plan as described: Bring in NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS to accelerate (and elevate) the pacing and quality of academic research here. The catch? These stars will be on contracts capped on principle at 1-3 years!

Wouldn’t want these “cultural ambassadors” to become stale….
============== ENDS =====================

Concluding thoughts: There is a large confluence of events in recent weeks which makes me wonder whether the Ministry of Education is gearing up for another cleanout of foreign faculty in Japanese universities (as happened between 1992 and 1994, see Hall, CARTELS OF THE MIND). I’ll develop that theory a bit more if you want in my next newsletter.



I mentioned last newsletter about an addition to the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Enterprises: An exclusionary restaurant, discovered in Kitakyushu on November 3, had an owner so fearful of foreign languages that he turned people away that maychance speak them.
If he can’t greet customers because of his own complexes, perhaps he’s in the wrong line of work?

Well, I sent a letter on this dated November 9, in English and Japanese, to the Kitakyushu Mayor’s Office, the City Bureau of Tourism, the local Bureau of Human Rights, the local Nishi Nihon Shinbun newspaper, all my Japanese mailing lists, and JALT Central. Text available at

Letter to Kitakyushu authorities re exclusionary restaurant, Nov 9 06

No responses as of yet. Few things like these are taken care of overnight. Wait and see.



One of the advantages of doing what I do is that I get very interesting emails from friends. The other day, I got a report from a friend who paid a visit to a Japanese prison, to offer moral support to someone incarcerated. I don’t really know much about what the incarcerated has done to justify his imprisonment, but that’s not the point of the story. Interesting are the bureaucratic tribulations he (the author, not the prisoner) had to go through just to get a short audience (limited to 15 minutes), worth recording somewhere for the record. In the end, I couldn’t help thinking: Is all this rigmarole necessary? What purpose could it possibly serve?

Read the report at

Eyewitness account of a visit to a Japanese prison (with comment)



A friend notified me of a blog entry (not exactly the most trustworthy source, I know) about German woman who wants to marry a Japanese man. The problem is, he’s a policeman, and apparently he was told by his bosses that Japanese police who want a future in the NPA cannot marry foreigners. There’s a security issue involved, it would seem.

Hm. Might be a hoax, but had the feeling it warranted further investigation. After I reported this to The Community mailing list (, I got a couple of responses, one saying that international marriage is in fact not forbidden by the NPA (and this supervisor bullying should be reported to internal affairs).

But the other response said that somebody married to a former member of the Japanese Self Defense Forces also had to quit his job because of it. He was involved in a “sensitive” area, apparently.

Hm again. I know that certain jobs (such as Shinto Priests) are not open to foreigners, due to one of those “Yamato Race” thingies. (Buddhism, however, seems to be open, as I know of one German gentleman on my lists who has an administrative post within a major Japanese sect.)

But imagine the number of people in, for example, “sensitive” jobs in the US State Department who would have to make a choice between their job and a foreign spouse?

I’m blogging this issue for the time being at

Blog entry: J police cannot marry non-Japanese? (with update)

with comments and pings open for a change.

Any information? Let us know. Thanks.

and finally:



For those of you under still under rocks: Our home team is unstoppable!

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, after reaching the top in Japan last month, on Sunday won the Asian Series, 1-0, vs Taiwan.

This makes them the best team in Asia this year. Our first baseman Ogawawara was just made MVP for the Pacific League, too! (Pity it looks as though we’re going to lose him to the rich but insufferably arrogant Tokyo Giants…)

Now if only we’d create a REAL world series, so the North Americans can’t lay claim to the title of “World Champion” every year!

Some articles of interest:
On Hillman and Fighers’ team spirit
On Ogasawara
Wrapping up the season

As always, thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
November 15, 2006



Our home team is unstoppable!

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, after reaching the top in Japan last month, just won the Asian Series, 1-0, vs Taiwan.

Now if only we’d create a REAL world series, where the North Americans can’t lay claim to the title of world champion every year…!

Thrilled Debito in Sapporo

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters poised for national victory tonight


Debito here. Another quick post to pass around the fever:

By Arudou Debito
October 26, 2005
freely forwardable

Now, I am in no way a sports writer (I mostly consider sports to be a diversion, rather than anything worth statistical or scientific analysis), but here goes:

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, my home team, look poised to take the national championship tonight. They are playing best of seven, and have won 3 games and lost 1. One more win and sayonara Chunichi Dragons!

It is their last home game, played to yet another capacity crowd of more than 40,000. The Fighters have won around 80% of their home games, so it looks likely they’ll win tonight. Tune in at 6PM and see.


Why this all matters:

1) It will be the first national win for the Fighters in 44 years, and the first ever since they moved to Hokkaido three years ago. Naturally, it will be the first win for Hokkaido ever, and results like these so soon after the transplant are wonderful.

2) This matters to Hokkaido, because Hokkaido is not a place where people have their spirits uplifted like this. As I wrote in a (now rather dated) essay more than a decade ago (see, about how Hokkaido, is a resource colony of the rest of Japan :

We have an economy based on agriculture and tourism, low incomes (and dropping–back then 40% less than Tokyo’s!) making us the poorest economy in Japan (we were a decade ago behind only Okinawa), a local workforce with little tendency towards entrepreneurialism or foreign trade, a bureaucracy in thrall to Tokyo (and financially dependent on Kaihatsukyoku tax handouts), and many of the homegrown businesses worth a damn (including our best college graduates and even Sapporo Beer) sucked down south (while feckless corporate drones got exiled up here to mark time in their careers). Back then, despite being the #5 city in Japan, we didn’t have so much as a baseball team to our name (while every other major city did), and we were stuck supporting the arrogant Tokyo Giants (who were diffident towards Dosanko at best).

Now we do have our own team, and it’s a real winner, crowding out the Tokyo Giants merchandise from the stores! We have dedicated fans filling the Sapporo Dome (originally seen as a boondoggle from the World Cup 2002 days, it is now rightly appraised as one of the nicest stadiums in the world) camping out overnight for tickets (even in chilly temperatures; camping has since been banned for safety reasons, but people have been taping their tarps to the grounds outside to hold their places overnight). The effect on the local community is something out of a movie.

More on the fever from an independent source at
(Japan Times Oct 24, 2006)

3) The press estimated that economic boon to Hokkaido (last month, as the Fighters were taking the league pennant) at 100 or so million US dollars. I bet it’s a lot more than that now that the bandwagon just keeps on rolling…

4) Trey Hillman has created a great team (it shows in the records), and may more teams emulate his humanistic style. The team has wonderful personalities and star players, a great sense of fan service (In baseball games I attended years ago, the crowd had to give even foul balls back to the team! Now, Shinjo throws nice catches to the audience for souvenirs.) , great ticketing and merchandising schemes, and a relaxed atmosphere that contrasts the often overbearing military bearing you see in Japanese baseball (more in Whiting’s YOU’VE GOTTA HAVE WA). You can indeed be a nice guy and smile when you make a mistake if you’re a Hokkaido baseball team (just look at how well Komadai Tomakomai did in the high school leagues for the past three years–two victories, second place this year), and still finish first.

5) This would be the second year in a row that an imported coach will have taken his team to the top of the heap (see Lotte’s Bobby Valentine last year). Here’s hoping that Japanese sport will stop seeing everyone, coaches, players, umpires etc. as “foreigners” worthy of comment or ridicule. Essay on nasty anti-gaijin comments made towards Valentine and Hillman even last month when they made some decisive decisions at:

Racist remarks against foreign baseball coach result in suspension, fine

Sport again: HS Coach refuses to meet Lotte foreign coach due to “language barrier”

Anyway, enough gush. I’m thrilled that our team is doing so well by behaving so nicely. Here’s hoping we don’t lose Trey Hillman to the Texas Rangers next year…

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Truly excited for once in his life by a sporting event
October 26, 2006





Back issues, archives, and real-time updates at
This post is freely forwardable.



These are some important developments in the future of immigration to Japan. Some proposals are quite sensible, if done properly. Article excerpts with comments follow:

“Foreigners to need ‘skills’ to live in Japan
Justice panel takes aim at illegal aliens”
Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

A Justice Ministry panel discussing long-term policies for accepting overseas workers said Friday the government should seek out those with special skills and expertise to cope with the shrinking labor force in Japan….

The proposal by the panel headed by Kono also claimed that reducing the number of illegal foreign residents will help the country regain its reputation as “the safest country in the world,” ultimately creating an environment where legal foreign workers can become a part of society. As suggested in the panel’s interim report released in May, the panel said foreigners who want to work in Japan, including those of Japanese descent, must have a certain degree of proficiency in the Japanese language to be granted legal status.

COMMENTS: I am largely in favor of these proposals, as long as the government (as I said in previous writings) keeps the language evaluation independently certifiable–not letting it become another means for labor force abuse (by allowing bosses to wantonly decide whether or not workers are “jouzu” enough).

Also glad to see they dropped the hitherto proposed “3% foreigner population cap” as unworkable. Inevitably they would end up kicking foreigners out as the Japanese population dropped. See the original proposal and a critique at

Also, got this comment from a friend:
Did you see the results of the public comment drive for the Kono report? According to the report (available on the Justice Ministry website at, they got 437 responses (well, that they officially validated, but that’s another plate of sushi).

Of these, 426, or 98 percent, were opposed to expanding the number of foreign workers. Even those few who wanted to expand the the number of foreign workers apparently said that solving the problem of “public safety” was a condition for their agreeing. Proof, as if we need more, that the foreigners-as-dangerous-criminals-propaganda over the past five years or so has been chillingly effective.

I’d be curious to learn how many people you know or know of wrote in. If it was more than a dozen, I think a fair question to Mr. Kono would be whether the opinions of resident foreigners were included in the survey.

Did anyone else respond to the MOJ request for info?
Please let me know at

Now for the next article concerning immigration:

“Govt to check foreign staff situation
Plans to have firms report worker details”
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept 23, 2006

By making it obligatory for companies to report foreign workers’ details, the government hopes to keep track of people on an individual basis, and to enhance measures for clamping down on those working illegally. In addition, it is hoped the measures will encourage foreign workers to take out social insurance, and allow central and local governments to offer better support to workers who have to change jobs frequently due to unstable contracts.

The government’s three-year deregulation program, finalized in March, discusses making it mandatory for firms to submit reports on their foreign employees and whether reports should include detailed information such as workers’ names and residence status. The policy is likely to prove controversial in light of the protection of foreign workers’ privacy and the impact of the new system on the economy.

COMMENT: Quite honestly, I am of two minds on this proposal. Depends on who the true target of this policy is: The employer (to force them to employ legal workers, and force them to take responsibility when they don’t? It would be about time.), or the foreign employee? (in another attempt to “track” them constantly, an extension of the proposed “Gaijin Chip” IC Card system? See my Japan Times article on this at )

It’s a wait-and-see thing for me, as there is no way to determine how it will be enforced until it is enforced. Witness the April 2005 revisions of hotel laws, requiring passport checks of tourists, which gave the NPA license to order hotels nationwide to demand passport checks of ALL foreigners (regardless of residency):



Story about frustrated player making anti-gaijin remarks about his coach, our own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Trey Hillman, who has had a simply incredible season (and may take the pennant for the first time for this new team). Excerpt follows:

At this stage of the season, the only thing any player should be thinking about is winning the pennant…

However, that was vastly overshadowed by the actions of Fighters starter Satoru Kanemura, who threw a major hissy fit due to being pulled by manager Trey Hillman in the fifth inning needing just one out to become the first Nippon Ham hurler to rack up five straight ten win seasons since Yukihiro Nishimura.

After the game, he told the press that. yanking him was “absolutely unforgivable” and then took a racial shot at Hillman, grumbling that, “because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t care about players’ individual goals.” He then challeneged reporters to print his remarks. “I don’t even want to look at him,” Kanemura said of Hillman.

[Original Japanese: “Zettai ni yurusanai. Gaikokujin wa kojin kiroku wa dou de mo ii n deshou. Shinユyou ga nai tte iu koto. Kao mo mitakunai.”) (Doshin Sept 25) ]

In addition, he accused the former Rangers farm director of being more indulgent with Iranian-Japanese righthander Yu Darvish than him. In the context of this little explosion, that also has a racial tinge to it. Kanemura also beefed that he didn’t think Hillman trusted him….

Kanemura… was immediately taken off the roster for the duration of the playoffs and told to not even show up at practice Monday…
Entire article at

Funny to hear a Japanese accuse a foreigner holding the group in higher regard than the individual…

Where this went next:

Kanemura suspended, fined Y2 million for criticizing Hillman
Japan Today, Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TOKYO Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said. Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day…. (Kyodo News)

COMMENT: While I support the sanctions meted out (for “criticizing the manager’s decision”, not for a “gaijin coach slur”, note), why am I not surprised by this development? Is it a given or a natural law that sooner or later, somebody’s foreignness is inevitably made an issue of here? I know Japan isn’t alone in this regard by any means, but one can hope that things can improve. Especially given the degree of fan service and overall relaxedness that the Fighters under Hillman have displayed–and still look likely to win the pennant! Nice guys can finish first. It’s just a shame that in the heat of the moment, the race card (or gaijin card, whichever interpretation you prefer) has to surface.

Bravo to showing zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Kanemura apologized on his blog (not for the “foreign coach” thingie, however–see, and the apology was accepted by Hillman.

But let’s go deeper. There are plenty of books and articles out there talking about how foreign players, umpires, even coaches are treated in Japan without the due respect they deserve, suffering great indignities due to their “gaijin” status.

And it wasn’t just Hillman last week. During the September 25 high school draft picks for professional teams, one of the stars, Ohmine Yuuta, got his hopes up to be picked by Softbank Hawks. It was supposed to be a done deal, but Bobby Valentine, coach of Chiba Lotte, put in a bid as well for him. As is the established precedent, both Softbank and Lotte drew from a lottery, and Lotte by chance won. Suddenly. Ohmine declined to join Lotte, which is quite a scandal in itself.

But you just gotta pick on the gaijin. The HS coach of Ohmine’s team, a Mr Ishimine Yoshimori, refused to even meet with Valentine on September 26, citing the following reason:

“Americans won’t comprehend our words or feelings.”
(amerikajin to wa, kotoba mo kimochi mo tsuujinai)

Thus Coach Ishimine publicly rebuked Valentine due to some kinda foreign “language barrier”. What an example to set in front of his students! Courtesy Sports Houchi September 27, 2006:

Amazing. Major coaches with worldwide reputations, like Valentine, are thus in the end still just gaijin, shown rudeness unthinkable between Japanese in this context. Remember who Valentine is: He brought Lotte to its first pennant win last year in a generation–31 years–the first foreign coach ever to do so.
It looks like Trey Hillman may be the second, two years running.

Final word: Shortly after I posted about Hillman, a friend brought up the argument that he didn’t see anything particularly racist or xenophobic about Kanemura’s comments. I answer that on my blog at

If the World Cup 2006 can explicitly make “no racism” an official slogan, isn’t it time for Japan’s sports leagues to stop sweeping this issue under the carpet, and make an official statement banning it as well?



This matters to this newsletter because enforced patriotism (particularly in the ways emerging under the creep towards the right wing in Japan) is anathema to multiculturalization and multiethnicity. What are the children of immigrants to say when asked how much they love their country, and be graded on it? (As is happening in grade schools in Saitama and Kyushu.) The “Kimigayo” Issue, where here people are exposed to punishment and job dismissal if they don’t stand and sing the national anthem, is a bellwether. Fortunately, some people are willing to stand up for themselves. Consider some Tokyo educators:

“City Hall to appeal ‘Kimigayo’ ruling”
Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

In Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo school board cannot force teachers to sing “Kimigayo” before the flag or punish them for refusing to do so, because that infringes upon the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution…

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday that City Hall will appeal Thursday’s 12.03 million yen district court ruling against the “Kimigayo” directive, which obliges Tokyo’s teachers to sing the national anthem before the national flag at school ceremonies.

He also said punishing teachers for not obeying the directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government board of education was “only natural because they neglected their duties as teachers.”

COMMENT: Quite a blow — Tokyo District Court, usually quite conservative, actually ruled against the government. Bravo. No word, however, on whether this ruling actually reinstates the suspended teachers or reverses their punishments (I suspect not).

More on this issue in the LA Times at,1,314185.story?ctrack=1&cset=true



The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Businesses, excluding customers by race and nationality (or a salad of the two), has just had an update. Joining the 19 cities and towns with a history of exclusionary signs is:

“Pub Aliw”, Iida-Chou, Ohta City, three blocks from JR Ohta:
This in a town full of Japanese-Brazilians, and a Filipina pub to boot (looking for foreign arubaito, according to a notice on the lower part of the door–in English!). No foreigners allowed–unless they work here!

Nice lettering on the exclusionary sign, though. Nothing like being told “Get lost Gaijin!” in a nice font.

But all is not bad news replete with irony. Also added a photo of a yakiniku restaurant in egregious excluder Monbetsu City last summer (“Mitsuen”–Monbetsu Ph 01582-4-3656). You can see a picture of me tip-top condition (having cycled 800 kms to get there) getting a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign down from there. You can also see a cat posing with me, as she had just been fed by the owners. Cats welcome, foreigners not.

Luckily, when we asked owners to take the sign down, they quickly complied! Pity it only took six years and a personal coaxing from us.

Also, and I might have mentioned this before, but what the heck: It’s irony that works in our direction…

An exclusionary sign also technically came down in egregious excluder Wakkanai City as well. Actually, public bath Yuransen (which not only illegally refused foreign taxpayers entry–it opened a segregated “gaijin bath” with a separate entrance, and charged foreigners more than six times the Japanese price to enter!) technically took its sign down because it went out of business. Photo at

So much for the claim by the management that letting foreigners in would drive them bankrupt…



The Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions of higher learning which refuse to provide permanent tenure to their foreign full-time faculty, has been revised again for the time being. It is a good indicator of how language instruction in Japan is being even further ghettoized in Japan’s tertiary education.

Joining the crowd of 98 Blacklisted universities is world-famous RITSUMEIKAN UNIVERSITY, which is upping its own ante to show the world how rotten they can make things for their foreigners. According to their most recent job advertisement, they are disenfranchising their foreign faculty further (with “shokutaku” positions), adding more languages to the roster of disenfranchised positions, and even cutting their salary (compared to a job ad of few years ago) by nearly a third!

KYOTO SANGYO UNIVERSITY is doing much the same thing, with contract positions containing a heavy workload and unclear extra duties:

Finally, long-Blacklisted KITAKYUSHU UNIVERSITY has arguably improved things, revising its job description to offer longer contract terms, with the possibility (they say) of permanent tenure for foreign faculty.

We’ll just have to wait and see, as the programs were inaugurated in April 2006. Fortunately, according to foreign faculty at the school, KU does currently have tenured foreigners, which means that it has also been moved to the Greenlist.

If you want an example of how things could be done more equitably in Japan’s university system, go to the GREENLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES at

A good example of a nice job offer can be seen in the job advertisement for AIZU UNIVERSITY, which joins 31 other Greenlisted schools.

Bravo. Submissions to either list welcome at
Submission guidelines available on the lists.
(It may take some time for me to get to listing things, sorry. Volunteer work is like that.)



Got some spare time on Saturday, October 7? Come to the Tokyo University Komaba Campus and see me and others speak on language issues. The Japan Times even covered it last weekend:

Personality Profile–Frances Fister-Stoga and Linguapax Asia
Japan Times Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006

The Linguapax Institute, located in Barcelona, Spain, is a nongovernmental organization affiliated with UNESCO. Linguapax Asia, associate of the Linguapax Institute, carries out the objectives of the institute and of UNESCO’s Linguapax Project, with a special focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. The objectives cover issues ranging over multilingual education and international understanding, linguistic diversity, heritage and endangered languages, and links between language, identity, human rights and peace. Frances Fister-Stoga, lecturer at Tokyo University, is director of Linguapax Asia…

This is the third annual international symposium organized by Linguapax Asia. It is open to the general public as well as to those with professional interest. Registration is not in advance, but at 8:30 a.m. on the day, Oct. 7, in building 18 of the Komaba campus of Tokyo University. The fee is 1,000 yen. The session will begin at 9 a.m.

Keynote speaker in the morning session will be Charles De Wolf, professor at Keio University, translator, writer and expert on East Asian and Oceanic languages. He will discuss multilingualism and multiculturalism. The afternoon keynote speaker will be Arudo Debito, a professor at Hokkaido Information University and author on human rights issues. He will discuss the question of language and nationality. A dozen other distinguished speakers and two workshops will round out the day.

Web site:

For those who are unable to make it, you can download my paper (still in draft form) in Word format at

Download my accompanying Powerpoint Presentation at

My paper’s abstract:
============ABSTRACT BEGINS=============================
In Japan, a society where considerations of “nationality” and “language possession” seem to be closely intertwined, the author finds from his personal experience that having Japanese citizenship is an asset to communicating in Japanese to native Japanese. More indicative is the author’s survey of over two hundred Japanese college students on “What is a Japanese?” over the course of ten years. His findings are that people who have Japanese language ability are more likely to be viewed as “Japanese” than if they do not–even if the fluent do not have citizenship. The author feels this non-racially-based construct for determining inclusion in a society is a very hopeful sign for Japan’s future as a multicultural, multiethnic society.
===========ABSTRACT ENDS================================

I think that’s about enough for today. Thanks as always for reading! I will be slower to respond while I’m on the road for the next three weeks…

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan


Sport again: HS Coach refuses to meet Lotte foreign coach due to “language barrier”


This is an addendum to my post earlier today (, on Trey Hillman’s getting bad-mouthed by a player for a sports decision due to being foreign:

During the September 25 high school draft picks for professional teams, one of the stars, Ohmine Yuuta, got his hopes up to be picked by Softbank Hawks. It was supposed to be a done deal, but Bobby Valentine, coach of Chiba Lotte, put in a bid as well for him. As is the established precedent, both Softbank and Lotte drew from a lottery, and Lotte by chance won. Suddenly. Ohmine declined to join Lotte, which is quite a scandal. Furthermore, the HS captain of the team Ohmine played for, Ishimine Yoshimori, refused to even meet with Valentine on September 26, citing the following reason:

“He won’t comprehend our words or feelings.” (「言葉も気持ちも通じない」)

Thus Coach Ishimine publicly rebuked Valentine essentially for his foreignness, citing a language barrier as an excuse.

Courtesy Sports Houchi (September 27, 2006,

Nice how issues of foreignness keep coming up like this. Major coaches with worldwide reputations, like Valentine, are still just gaijin to be dismissed in Japan, unworthy of being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

And does Valentine deserve it! He brought Lotte to its first pennant win last year in a generation–31 years–the first foreign coach ever to do so.

It looks like Trey Hillman may be the second, two years running.

(This issue came up while researching one of my papers:
“On Language and Nationality”
which will be given at Linguapax Asia 2006 Third International Symposium
Tokyo University, Saturday, October 7, 2006, 2:00-2:30PM)

Racist remarks against foreign baseball coach result in suspension, fine


Story about frustrated player making anti-gaijin remarks about his coach, our own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Trey Hillman, who has had a simply incredible season (and may take the pennant for the first time for this new team). Excerpt follows:

At this stage of the season, the only thing any player should be thinking about is winning the pennant. Because of a seventh inning grand slam by Lotte DH Benny Agbayani, the Marines were victorious over the Nippon Ham Fighters to inject even more chaos into this topsy turvy quest for first.

However, that was vastly overshadowed by the actions of Fighters starter Satoru Kanemura, who threw a major hissy fit due to being pulled by manager Trey Hillman in the fifth inning needing just one out to become the first Nippon Ham hurler to rack up five straight ten win seasons since Yukihiro Nishimura. After the game, he told the press that. yanking him was “absolutely unforgivable” and then took a racial shot at Hillman, grumbling that, “because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t care about players’ individual goals.” He then challeneged reporters to print his remarks. “I don’t even want to look at him,” Kanemura said of Hillman. In addition, he accused the former Rangers farm director of being more indulgent with Iranian-Japanese righthander Yu Darvish than him. In the context of this little explosion, that also has a racial tinge to it. Kanemura also beefed that he didn’t think Hillman trusted him.

Hillman wouldn’t comment on any of this, but General Manager Shigeru Takada, a former outfielder with Yomiuri, did, saying that he thought Hillman, who has taken the Sparky Anderson tack to handling pitchers this season by going to the bullpen at the first signs of trouble, had actually waited too long before hitting the eject button on Kanemura, who was immediately taken off the roster for the duration of the playoffs and told to not even show up at practice Monday. A meeting will also be held Monday to determine what to do about Kanemura. None of the players interviewed, at least any of those who were willing to comment, were supportive of their teammate. Takada was especially miffed that Kanemura was talking about individual and not team goals.

Rest of the article at

Let’s see where this goes:

Kanemura suspended, fined Y2 million for criticizing Hillman
Japan Today, Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 07:22 EDT

TOKYO Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said. Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day.

“I’ll never forgive him. He is a foreign manager, so he probably doesn’t care about individual stats. I don’t even want to see his face,” Kanemura said after Nippon Ham lost 8-4 to the Lotte Marines at Chiba Marine Stadium. In the bases-loaded situation, Kanemura, 30, needed one more out to have a chance of notching his 10th win of the season. He has posted double-digit wins in the past four seasons. (Kyodo News)

(Refreshing comments, as always, on the Japan Today BBS under the article)

COMMENT: While I support the sanctions meted out, why am I not surprised by this development? Is it a given or a natural law that sooner or later, somebody’s foreignness is inevitably made an issue of here? I know Japan isn’t alone in this regard by any means, but one can hope that things can improve. Especially given the degree of fan service and overall relaxedness that the Fighters under Hillman have displayed–and still look likely to win the pennant! Nice guys can finish first. It’s just a shame that in the heat of the moment, the race card (or gaijin card, whichever interpretation you prefer) has to surface… Bravo to showing zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Debito in Sapporo, proud supporter of the Fighters!



On Sep 27, 2006, Debito’s friend wrote:
Personally, and I’ve read Kanemura’s comments in Japanese, too, I
didn’t find them to really be “racist” or xenophobic in any way.

Okay, here they are:

(Zettai ni yurusanai. Gaikokujin wa kojin kiroku wa dou de mo ii n deshou. Shin’you ga nai tte iu koto. Kao mo mitakunai.) (Doshin Sept 25)

Now whether you consider that “racist” or “xenophobic” is a matter of
your tolerance for the terminology used.

Kanemura was not criticizing his coach personally for what was in his
mind a bad decision. He was making a blanket statement about
foreigners (hopefully he used the word gaikokujin instead of gaijin,
but even the media softens quotes like these at times, see, making it a factor in the
coach’s decisionmaking processes.

Slot in “Chinese”, “Black”, or any term of reference that is
generally unrelated to nationality (as “gaikokujin” is) in place of
“gaikokujin”, and you can make a case that this was inappropriate for
reasons more than just breaking the taboo of a player ridiculing his
coach in public.

This base of reference for decisionmaking power would not have
happened to a Japanese coach, for example. And imagine if this had
happened to a Zainichi coach (particularly a Zainichi Korean) or a
clearly Buraku coach. There would quite possibly be protests from
those quarters too. It’s only as racist, xenophobic, or problematic
in these situations as people like us in Hillman’s “quarter”, if you
will, tend to make it. Clearly I would. My friend wouldn’t. Okay.

The interesting thing is it seems the print and broadcast media is
sweetening the subject, making the fine and suspension merely a
matter of ridiculing the coach (which is fine in itself). But nobody
I’ve been able to talk to (including my barber today, who has the
radio on constantly) seems to know that “foreignness” was an issue in
the statements.

Hmmm… Is it a good thing to keep on sweeping this issue under the
rug, or would it be better to finally deal with it, so people put
this elephant in the room out to pasture? The World Cup 2006 very
clearly adopted as one of its slogans the complete intolerance of
dealing with people on racist (or xenophobic, whatever) terms. I
think it’s about time Japan’s sports leagues began adopting the same


Anyway, everyone, watch the game tonight on NHK Sougou Terebi. 6PM.
If the Fighters win or tie against Softbank tonight (Fighters won 8
to nothing against them last night!), that’s it–we win the pennant!

Go Trey Hillman go! Debito