Archive for the 'Articles & Publications' Category
My writings published in refereed academic journals, or journalistic articles published in newspapers etc.
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th January 2016
On Jan. 15, the Osaka Prefectural Assembly passed the first local ordinance against hate speech in Japan. JBC sees this as a step in the right direction.
Until now, there was no way to define what “hate speech” was, let alone take any measures against it. Defining a problem is fundamental to finding a solution.
Moreover, passing an ordinance makes a general statement to society that the existence of hate speech is not only undeniable but also impermissible. This matters, given Japan’s high tolerance for racist outbursts from public officials, and clear cases of bullying and intimidation that have otherwise been protected under “freedom of speech” (genron no jiyuu). Osaka has made it clearer that there is a limit to what you can say about groups of people in public.
However, this still isn’t quite at the stage where Osaka can kvell. There are no criminal or financial penalties for haters. An earlier version of the ordinance offered victims financial assistance to take their case to court, but that was cut to get it passed. Also, an adjudicating committee (shinsa-kai) can basically only “name and shame” haters by warning and publicizing them on a government website — in other words, it can officially frown upon them.
Even the act of creating a law against hate speech has invited criticism for opening up potential avenues to policymaker abuse. They have a point: tampering with freedom of speech invites fears, quite reasonably, about slippery slopes to censorship. So let’s address the niggling question right now: Should there ever be limits put on what you can say? JBC argues yes…
Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/01/31/issues/osakas-move-hate-speech-just-first-step/
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 1 Comment »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd January 2016
2015 was another year of a few steps forward but many steps back in terms of human rights in Japan. The progressive grass roots consolidated their base and found more of a voice in public, while conservatives at the top pressed on with their agenda of turning the clock back to a past they continue to misrepresent. Here are the top 10 human rights issues of the year as they affected non-Japanese residents:
10) NHK ruling swats ‘flyjin’ myth
In November, the Tokyo District Court ordered NHK to pay ¥5.14 million to staffer Emmanuelle Bodin, voiding the public broadcaster’s decision to terminate her contract for fleeing Japan in March 2011. The court stated: “Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” and that NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.
This ruling legally reaffirmed the right of employees to flee if they feel the need to protect themselves. So much for the “flyjin” myth and all the opprobrium heaped upon non-Japanese specifically for allegedly deserting their posts…
Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/01/03/issues/battles-history-media-message-scar-2015/
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Lawsuits, Media, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st January 2016
Happy New Year 2016 to all Debito.org Readers and their families. I wish you all health and happiness as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Debito.org this year, and continue onwards to discuss life and human rights in Japan.
One very pleasant news that happened at the end of last year was Dr. Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, mentioning “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” as one of his “Recommended Readings” in The Japan Times. Thank you.
That book would not have come about without Debito.org cataloging events and issues in real time over the decades, and a good chunk of that research was done with the assistance of people reading and writing for Debito.org. Thank you all very much for helping me to write my magnum opus.
And just to tell you: my publisher has kept me appraised in real time of the sales, and it is selling far better than anticipated (and it’s about to be released in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America). I hope you will ask your library to get a copy.
Posted in "Embedded Racism", Articles & Publications, debito.org blog and website biz, Good News, History | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd December 2015
I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes. Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources:
JT: The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist. Quotes follow:
“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.
“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.
“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, Tangents, Tourism | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th December 2015
It’s a bit of a busy time for me right now (come to think of it, when is it not?), so let just put up a quick pic of me looking all happy and such for getting my copy of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”.
It’s my first hardcover book published in the United States. How sweet it is. Just wanted to share the joy. Holding your new book in your hand is one of the greatest feelings an author can have. May you all experience the feeling for yourselves someday (if you haven’t already).
Posted in "Embedded Racism", Articles & Publications, Good News, Victories | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st November 2015
It has been a busy past few months. August and September were spent proofing and indexing my new book Embedded Racism. But while doing that, I was working for a group called Netmobius who asked me to do some touristy writeups on Sapporo and environs. Since I’ve lived in the area for more than two decades and already written three chapters for Fodor’s Japan Travel Guides, I was happy to do it. Here are links to the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them:
Sapporo New Chitose Airport — how it’s run like airports everywhere should be.
Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016)
History of Sapporo Station — From Meiji to the Present
Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities
Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu)
Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower)
Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey)
Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines
Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa
Getting Off the Beaten Track: JR Hokkaido Train Lines Accessible from Sapporo (Asahikawa/Furano, Obihiro/Kushiro)
You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Media, Practical advice, Tangents, Tourism | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2015
Japan in Focus: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker gets compensation, a new book explores racism in Japan, and why most married women give up their surnames.
ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.
This week: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker has become the first person to be awarded worker’s compensation by the Japanese government after being diagnosed with leukemia, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii launches a new book on racism in Japan and how it has become embedded in laws and various social structures and the Japanese Supreme Court is considering whether it’s unconstitutional to force people to give up their surnames upon marriage.
Eleni Psaltis speaks to Komei Hosokawa from the Citizens’ Commission of Nuclear Energy, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii and Japan Times journalist Masami Ito.
First posted 26/10/2015 12:52:18
Posted in "Embedded Racism", Articles & Publications, Education, Human Rights, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st November 2015
JBC: Japan has a dire problem it must address immediately: its embedded racism.
The country’s society and government are permeated by a narrative that says people must “look Japanese” before they can expect equal treatment in society.
That must stop. It’s a matter of Japan’s very survival.
We’ve talked about Japan’s overt racism in previous Just Be Cause columns: the “Japanese only” signs and rules that refuse entry and service to “foreigners” on sight (also excluding Japanese citizens who don’t “look Japanese”); the employers and landlords who refuse employment and apartments — necessities of life — to people they see as “foreign”; the legislators, administrators, police forces and other authorities and prominent figures that portray “foreigners” as a national security threat and call for their monitoring, segregation or expulsion.
But this exclusionism goes beyond a few isolated bigots in positions of power, who can be found in every society. It is so embedded that it becomes an indictment of the entire system. In fact, embedded racism is key to how the system “works.” Or rather, as we shall see below, how it doesn’t…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/11/01/issues/tackle-embedded-racism-chokes-japan/
Posted in "Embedded Racism", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, Pension System, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 37 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd October 2015
JBC: He’s done it.
As past JBCs predicted he would, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gotten his way. Last month he closed a chapter on “pacifist Japan,” ramming through unpopular new security legislation that now allows Japanese military engagement in offensive maneuvers abroad.
That’s it then. The circle is complete. Japan is primed to march back to its pre-World War II systems of governance.
Now just to be clear: I don’t think there will be another world war based on this. However, I think in a generation or two (Japan’s militarists are patient – they’ve already waited two generations for this comeback), a re-armed (even quietly nuclear) Japan selling weapons and saber-rattling at neighbors will be quite normalized.
Alarmism? Won’t Japan’s affection for Article 9 forestall this? Or won’t the eventual failure of Abenomics lead to the end of his administration, perhaps a resurgence of the opposition left? I say probably not. We still have a couple more years of Prime Minister Abe himself (he regained the LDP leadership last month unopposed). But more importantly, he changed the laws.
So this is not a temporary aberration. This is legal interpretation and precedent, and it’s pretty hard to undo that (especially since the opposition left is even negotiating with the far-right these days). Moreover, Japan has never had a leftist government with as much power as this precedent-setting rightist government does. And it probably never will (not just because the US government would undermine it, a la the Hosokawa and Hatoyama Administrations).
But there’s something deeper at work beyond the Abe aberration. I believe that social dynamics encouraging a reverse course to remilitarization have always lain latent in Japanese society…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th September 2015
Preview: JBC has talked about Japan’s right-wing swing before. The news is, it’s swung so far that Japan’s left is finally getting its act together.
For example, over the past year historians inside and outside Japan joined retired politicians to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accurately portray Japan’s role in World War II during the 70th Anniversary commemorations last month. It didn’t work, but nice try.
Or how about the decimated Democratic Party of Japan submitting a bill to the Diet that would ban racial discrimination (yes!), hate speech and related harassment? Sadly, the bill has no hope of passing, or of being enforceable even if it does (what with loopholes for “justifiable discrimination” and no criminal penalties). But, again, nice try.
And we are seeing outdoor protest after protest, with ranks swelling to numbers not seen in decades.
That’s all fine — and about time, given that people repeatedly reelected these rightists in the first place. But let’s discuss why Japan’s left has basically always been out of power (leaving aside the geopolitical pressures from Japan’s sugar-daddy busybody — see “U.S. green lights Japan’s march back to militarism,” Just Be Cause, June 1). The left keeps losing, and much of it is their own damned fault…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st August 2015
Here’s my next Japan Times JBC Column 90, disputing the discourse that people 1) have to “look Japanese” in order to be “Japanese”, and 2) cannot be Japanese AND something else (such as a different nationality, “race”, or ethnicity). I make the case that many things such as these, once ascribed from birth, are now a matter of personal choice — and that person must claim it (in the face of constant identity policing) in order to own it.
JBC: “A Japanese passport? You don’t look Japanese.” I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship.
It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment.
“What an unusual name. Where are you from?”
Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty).
Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.”
Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?”
“I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.”
Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.)
Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while.
I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th July 2015
The landmark Otaru Onsens Case of “Japanese Only” signs continues to reverberate more than a decade later. Dr. Cade Bushnell of the University of Tsukuba kindly sent me the following notification of a research article he wrote, based upon a taped conversation I had with exclusionary management at Onsen Yunohana back in 2000, which precipitated the famous lawsuit. Please have a read, especially if you are interested in the field of Conversation Analysis.
Gaikokujin ja Arimasen (I’m Not a Foreigner):
An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan
Cade BUSHNELL University of Tsukuba, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Associate professor
Journal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, University of Tsukuba, Vol. 7, March 2015
Abstract (excerpt): In the present research, I examine a service encounter between a Caucasian Japanese national, his two friends, and the racially Japanese staff of a public bath house in Japan. In the analysis, I use conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis to examine the specific ways in which the participants co-construct the categories of Japanese and foreigner, how they constitute the category Japanese as being bound to differential sets of attributes, rights, legal statuses, and so forth, and how they treat these mutually different categorical constitutions as being problematic for assembling the real-world activity of using the bath house facilities. I also consider how the sequential and categorial aspects of the talk jointly work to make the interaction visible as being a dispute as the participants align to or contest categories in their interaction.
Link to full text follows:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Education, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th July 2015
Opening paragraphs: Something significant happened in April that attracted only desultory press coverage, so let’s give it some more. GPlus Media Co., which operates English-language websites Japan Today and GaijinPot, was sold to Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. The Fuji Media group has the Fuji Television Network under its wing, as well as the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun as an affiliate.
This matters to Japan’s resident non-Japanese (NJ) communities. Fuji TV was recently caught fabricating subtitles falsely quoting South Korean commenters as “hating Japan” (Japan Times, June 29). That’s an incredibly dishonest thing for a nationwide broadcaster to do, especially when it may have a nasty impact on Japan’s Korean minorities.
However, the Sankei Shimbun as a newspaper I believe is no less nasty. Over the past 15 years, for example, they have run articles grossly exaggerating foreign crime (see “Generating The Foreigner Crime Wave”, Japan Times, Oct. 4, 2002), a column claiming that Chinese had criminal “ethnic DNA” (May 8, 2001, written by regular columnist and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro “let’s fight a war with China” Ishihara) and an opinion piece by Ayako Sono on Feb. 11 that praised the racial segregation of South African apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy. The Fuji-Sankei group offers pretty much unwavering support to the country’s right-wing causes and talking points. They are further right than the Yomiuri — and that’s saying something. Before I get to why we should care, let’s look briefly at the existing landscape of the nation’s English-language media…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/07/05/issues/media-redraw-battleines-bid-global-reach/
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 31 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th June 2015
As a follow-up to the previous blog entry, where I cited somebody who (ironically) accused me of dealing with people by “launch[ing] immediately into angry, confrontational accusations”, here’s an actual movie record of me in action.
This is part of a documentary by Daniel Kremers and Tilman Koenig named “Sour Strawberries: Japan’s Hidden Guest Workers” (2009), talking about how Japan’s NJ, as a labor force and a resident population, are being treated in Japanese society. It is an excellent film that touches upon many important subjects, and it can be previewed and purchased here.
I appear for about five minutes within negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment, one of the dozens upon dozens I have talked with over the years, to confirm the facts of each case (recorded for posterity at the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments) and investigate the firmness of the exclusionary policy. See it for yourself:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Speech materials, 日本語 | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2015
Now up with critique from an unexpected quarter is an extended interview I did with Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall on the WWII Japan Tokkō “Kamikaze” suicide missions, which appeared in an abridged version in the Japan Times as my JBC column on May 4 2015. This longer version features more questions from me and more candor from Bucky. Here’s an excerpt:
Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu: an interview with M.G. Sheftall
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 22, No. 1, June 08, 2015
Dr. ARUDOU Debito, Dr. M.G. Sheftall
4) You mentioned earlier about other Tokkō missions, including the suicide motorboats. But we hear mostly about the pilots, hardly ever about the other types of Tokkō. Tell us a little more about these other branches, and why you think the pilots have garnered all the attention, especially in popular culture and at Yasukuni Shrine, where they are more famously enshrined as heroes?
Sheftall: In addition to the iconic self-immolating bomb-laden fighter plane version of Tokkō almost anyone inside or outside of Japan associates with the term “Kamikaze”, there were three other major Tokkō platforms that we could deem significant in terms of: 1) the expenditure involved in their development and production; 2) the initial expectations the Japanese military had for their success; and 3) the loss in human lives caused by their deployment. These were the Kaiten (“Fortune-reverser”) manned torpedo, the Shin’yō (“Ocean-shaker”) rammer-motorboat, and the Ōka (“Cherry Blossom”) manned rocket bomb – which was essentially a 1940s cruise missile with a human being in place of a computerized guidance and target acquisition system. Really brutal contraption.
In any case, all three of these platforms were bitter disappointments for the Japanese military. Each of them resulted in over a thousand “friendly” fatalities involved in attempts to deploy them – this is also counting the crew members of the “motherships” ferrying the Kaiten and Ōka (specially modified fleet submarines for the former, and specially modified twin-engined bombers for the latter) into battle – while only causing a few hundred Allied casualties in total between the three of them, as compared with “conventional” aviation Tokkō, which caused some 15 thousand Allied casualties just in the Battle of Okinawa alone. So, right off the bat I would say that this dismal operational history is certainly a sizable factor behind the rather low profile – and the poor reputation, when known at all – of these specialized Tokkō weapons in the postwar Japanese public imagination.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Tangents | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th May 2015
This time I’m talking about the geopolitics and historical amnesia behind PM Abe’s April visit to the United States, and what all the misdirected fanfare means not only for Asia as a region, but also NJ residents in Japan. Here’s the opening:
JT JBC: As I’ve often written, I’m a big proponent of the historical record — if for no other reason, so we can look back at the past and learn from our mistakes.
That has been a major issue for the current Japanese government. As hundreds of historians have publicly stated, the Shinzo Abe administration has been systematically working to deny (or in Abe-speak, “beautify”) Japan’s worst wartime ugliness, on an increasingly obvious quest to reconfigure Japan as a military power. In other words, the right is marching the country back to the Japan that nearly annihilated itself 70 years ago.
But I’m even more disappointed with the historical amnesia of the Americans. Abe’s standing-ovation tour of the United States in April, during which the two allies established the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, has basically helped Abe further destabilize the region.
That’s awful news. The U.S., Japan’s strongest ally and chaperone for most of its foreign policy, is, given Japan’s powerless leftist opposition, basically the only one who can stop this. [But they won’t. In fact, they’ve done exactly the opposite by publicly legitimizing Japan’s march back to militarism…]
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th May 2015
THE JAPAN TIMES: ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Japan-U.S. effort to tell suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise
BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU. MAY 3, 2015
Dr. M.G. Sheftall, professor of modern Japanese history at Shizuoka University and author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze,” was in Honolulu last month for the dedication of a temporary exhibition about the Tokkō kamikaze suicide pilots aboard the battleship USS Missouri, the site of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. JBC sat down for an interview with Dr. Sheftall about the kamikaze phenomenon and what makes this exhibition unique.
Q: So, what’s going on here?
You’ve witnessed something very historic, because the exhibit is the first about any kind of Japanese military activity in the modern era ever held outside of Japan with Japanese cooperation — in this case, with the Chiran Peace Museum on the kamikaze in southern Kyushu.
What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago.
There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks. The bomb on the plane that hit the Missouri did not detonate. The wreckage spilled onto the deck and amidst that was the pilot’s remains. When the crew was putting out the fire, the initial reaction had been to hose his remains off the deck. But the captain of the USS Missouri, William Callaghan, announced to the crew: “No, we’re going to give him a proper military burial. Now that he’s dead, he’s not the enemy anymore. He’s just another human being, like you and me, who died for his country.”
The next day the crew formed on deck to consign their fallen former enemy to the depths with full naval honors. They even made a Japanese flag shroud from old unused signal flags.
I think that’s a nice story. If there can be some recognition of humanity even in such circumstances, that shows hope for human beings in an otherwise insane and irrational situation dominated by hatred and fear.
Q: How many ships were sunk in the kamikaze campaigns?
Rest of the article up at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/
There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Gaiatsu, Good News, History, Japanese Government, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th April 2015
JBC: Ever noticed how Japan — and in particular, its ruling elite — keeps getting away with astonishing bigotry? Recently Ayako Sono, a former adviser of the current Shinzo Abe government, sang the praises of a segregated South Africa, advocating a system where people would live separately by race in Japan (a “Japartheid,” if you will). But that’s but the latest stitch in a rich tapestry of offensive remarks.
Remember former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s claim that “old women who live after losing their reproductive function are useless and committing a sin,” or his attribution of Chinese criminality to “ethnic DNA” (both 2001)? Or former Prime Minister Taro Aso admiring Nazi subterfuge in changing Germany’s prewar constitution (2013), arguing that Western diplomats cannot solve problems in the Middle East because of their “blue eyes and blond hair,” and advocating policies to attract “rich Jews” to Japan (both 2001)? Or then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone declaring Japan to be “an intelligent society” because it was “monoracial,” without the “blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans” that dragged down America’s average level of education (1986)?
Although their statements invited international and domestic protest, none of these people were drummed out of office or even exiled to the political wilderness. Why? Because people keep passing off such behavior as symptomatic of “weird, quirky Japan,” i.e., “They say these things because they are Japanese – trapped in uniquely insular mentalities after a long self-imposed isolation (sakoku).”
Such excuses sound lame and belittling when you consider that it’s been 160 years since Japan ended its isolation, during which time it has successfully copied contemporary methods of getting rich, waging war and integrating into the global market.
This treatment also goes beyond the blind-eyeing usually accorded to allies due to geopolitical realpolitik. In the past, analysts have gone so gaga over the country’s putative uniqueness that they have claimed Japan is an exception from worldwide socioeconomic factors including racism, postcolonial critique and (until the bubble era ended) even basic economic theory!
So why does Japan keep getting a free pass? Perhaps it’s time to start looking at “Japaneseness” through a different lens: as a religion. It’s more insightful…
Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/04/05/issues/viewed-religious-lens-japan-makes-sense/. This will be the anchor site, so feel free to comment below.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Racist Images in Media | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd April 2015
Very briefly (as it’s a busy time here at the Colorism Conference — plus another blog post out tomorrow on my upcoming JT column), here is a link to my recent interview last weekend with ABC NewsRadio Australia, on the crowning of multiethnic Japanese Ariana Miyamoto as Miss Japan. Listen to it at:
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th March 2015
Last week I offered Japan Times readers an abridged version of an interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler, historian at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, on Japanese Government pressure to censor all mention of Japan’s official sexual slavery during WWII (the “Comfort Women” issue). The full text of the interview is now available at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus’s website (a very valuable resource, in case you haven’t heard of it before). An excerpt that did not make the cut in The Japan Times due to space limitations:
Dr. Ziegler: I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit. I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books. And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like. So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks. So she asked if she could go through them and look at them. And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.” Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now: This was started some time ago, perhaps. I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?
Go to http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246 for the rest.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd March 2015
JBC: The debate on Japan’s history of wartime sexual slavery (aka the “comfort women” issue) has heated up again, with the Japanese government extending its efforts to revise school textbooks overseas.
In November, McGraw-Hill, publisher of the world history textbook “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past” Vol. 2, by history professors Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley, was contacted by Japan’s Consulate General in New York. The request: that two paragraphs (i.e., the entire entry) on the comfort women be deleted.
On Jan. 15, McGraw-Hill representatives met with Japanese diplomats and refused the request, stating that the scholars had properly established the historical facts. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly targeted the textbook in a parliamentary session, stating that he was “shocked” to learn that his government had “failed to correct the things it should have.”
In the March issue of the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine “Perspectives on History,” 20 prominent historians, including professor Ziegler, signed a letter to the editor titled “Standing with the historians of Japan.” They stated that they “agree with Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history,” and “oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.” Professor Ziegler met with JBC on Feb. 17…
Excerpt ends. For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the “Comfort Women” issue being targeted by the Japanese Government:
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ legacies | 23 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th February 2015
SCMP: [Sono’s] comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists. “It’s a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system ‘racial discrimination’ in her column, she advocates it,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign.
“Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?” he asked. “Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing? I hope – and I stress hope – this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch,” he added. “But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan’s ultra-conservative ruling elite.”…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Media | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd February 2015
JBC: Consider this: Anyone you see in a silent film is dead, and I mean long dead. So is almost everyone from any movie predating the 1950s. People from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Close behind are the Korean and Vietnam War vets (my growing up in a country that habitually wages war offers easy milestones). Even the people who protested their actions, the famed hippies of the 1960s, are wrinkly and retiring. Soon it’ll be the Desert Storm vets, who are already into paunchy middle age, as time marches on.
I was born at an odd time. Just 13 days shy of what the media calls the baby boomers, people my age aren’t part of Generation X either. I don’t really understand, for example, why people insist on getting tattoos or body piercings, or find public humiliation funny (e.g., “Borat”? “The Office”?), but I do understand why they keep stealing from their elders’ music (rock, psychedelic and progressive — all genres I grew up with and still listen to). But it eventually dawns on us fogies just how derivative popular culture is, and always has been. Straddling two media-manufactured generations meant I more easily saw an arc.
Now permit me to make you feel old too: We are now well into the 21st century, 15 years since Y2K, 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. No children in developed countries know a time without the Internet; some can’t imagine not submitting their homework online, and are no longer learning cursive. Google a recent photo of any media personality you grew up with and you’ll see their wrinkles either starting or becoming well-advanced. Then look in the mirror yourself and trace…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st January 2015
As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the Top Ten human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:
10) WARMONGER SHINTARO ISHIHARA LOSES HIS DIET SEAT
This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012), while gritting our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship. However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, he resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater…
Read the next nine and five bubble-unders below with links to sources:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, SITYS, Sport, United Nations | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th December 2014
OPENING: I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning.
Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”
Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male).
Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.
But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.
Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 46 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2014
Opening: This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?
By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.
By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.
Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course…
(Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media | 31 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th October 2014
JT: After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April.
That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith.
These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties.
We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, Mar. 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men).
It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese (www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf) and English (www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf), it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son. The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th September 2014
SCMP: But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.
“It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist. “After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.
“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.” Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women. “It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.
UPDATE: THIS SCMP ARTICLE PRODUCED AN ARTICLE IN HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Racist Images in Media, 日本語 | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th September 2014
Got quoted (and some of Debito.org’s “Japanese Only” signs posted) in BBC Brasil today (thanks Ewerthon for the link). I’ll paste the article below with the Google machine translation in English afterwards. Corrections welcome.
Machine translated excerpt: “A report of the UN Human Rights Committee referred to the Japanese government, highlights the passive reaction of the police in demonstrations of this kind. The authorities have been criticized for only observe, without taking any effective action to curb abuses.
In late August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the country “firmly approached the manifestations of hatred and racism and incitement to racial hatred and violence during public demonstrations.” Since 2013, Japan has registered more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches.[…]
For the writer, activist and American-born researcher naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, “(such discriminatory attitudes) have become increasingly overt, organized, and normalized.”
Debito collects, since 1999, pictures of signs of shops, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, many of them sent in by readers from all over Japan, with English phrases – and even in Portuguese – prohibiting the entry of foreigners. The collection became a book entitled Japanese Only: The Otaru case of spa and racial discrimination in Japan. [NB: Not quite right, but my clarification was ignored by editors.]
Debito is said still worried that with the increasing dissemination of the thoughts of the extreme right, the cause get more and more “fans”.”Japan still has the belief that extremism is less likely to happen in its ‘peaceful society'”,” he explained. “I do not think it’s that simple. Ignoring the problems of hatred, intolerance and exclusivism towards minorities hoping they simply disappear too is a positive and historically dangerous thought.”
The Brazilian community in Japan is also a constant target of discriminatory attitudes. Fourth largest group among the foreigners living in the country, Brazilians are constantly complaining of abuses generated by racial discrimination and the issue is always raised in discussions with local authorities…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, United Nations | 15 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th September 2014
“VISIBLE MINORITIES” ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE DRAGNET
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 79 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page, September 4, 2014
Around noon on Aug. 13, in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, a local apartment manager notified the police that a “suspicious foreigner” was hanging around the nearby JR train station.
Cops duly descended upon someone described by the Asahi as a “20-year-old male who came from the Philippines with a Japanese passport” (sic).
When asked what he was doing, he said he was meeting friends. When asked his nationality, he mentioned his dual citizenship. Unfortunately, he carried no proof of that.
So far, nothing illegal here: Carrying ID at all times is not legally required for Japanese citizens.
But it is for foreigners. So the cops, convinced that he was really a foreigner, took him in for questioning — for five hours. Then they arrested him under the Immigration Control Act for, according to a Nikkei report, not carrying his passport, and interrogated him for another seven.
In the wee hours of Aug. 14, after ascertaining that his father is Japanese and mother foreign, he was released with verbal apologies. That hardly suffices. If any of you have ever undergone Japan’s “voluntary questioning” and/or 23 days of interrogation after arrest, you know how harrowing it can be. And this isn’t the first instance…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 1 Comment »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th August 2014
Opening paragraphs: Readers may be expecting this column to have something to say about the Supreme Court decision of July 18, which decreed that non-Japanese (NJ) residents are not guaranteed social welfare benefits.
But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may establish.
I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of non-citizens, either.
This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens in Japan. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th July 2014
In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”). More comment after the articles:
JT: The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law. The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan. The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings. The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011. While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law. Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits. In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government. In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.
COMMENT: And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan. More information on what has appeared on Debito.org over the years in this blog entry.
My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff? It’s a challenge: She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake. Still, the reflexes are kicking in. We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate). Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below. A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan.
UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: This very blog entry gets cited in the South China Morning Post.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, 日本語 | 61 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st July 2014
Opening paragraphs: Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).
You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery.
This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.
But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th June 2014
Here is my latest publication, expanded this time from one chapter to two:
FODOR’S Japan 2014 Travel Guide
Two full chapters on tourism in Hokkaido and Tohoku
Pp. 707-810. ISBN 978-0-8041-4185-7.
Available from Amazon.com (for example) here.
Here are some excerpts. Get a copy, or advise your touring friends to get a copy!
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Practical advice, Tourism | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th June 2014
Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.
However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!
And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.
Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd May 2014
Big news this week I hadn’t gotten around to blogging was Monday’s front-page story in the Asahi Shinbun, about Japan’s “Japanese Only” signs, with a sizable chunk of the article devoted to the research that Debito.org has done on them.
It made a huge splash in the media. So much so that TV Asahi will be doing a segment on it on Sunday during their show『報道ステーションSUNDAY』（毎週日曜日１０時～１１時４５分）for being one of the Asahi’s most viewed online articles of the week. So switch it on and have a watch. Anyone want to record the segment for replay on Debito.org?
Here’s the article from the English version of the Asahi (significantly different from how it appeared in Japanese), followed by the original Japanese. Have a read. And thank you, everyone, for reading and supporting Debito.org.
ASAHI: A “Japanese Only” banner at a professional soccer game made international headlines and led to unprecedented penalties. But such signs are not new in Japan, and some have even appeared at tourist hotspots. It is true that some signs like these have been put up by people who genuinely dislike citizens of other countries. But many others say they had no intention to be discriminatory, and that their “Japanese Only” displays stem from the language barrier and problems with foreign customers unaware of Japanese rules and customs. Two apparent reasons why these signs keep showing up is a general sense of apathy among the public and a lack of understanding at how offensive the words can be for foreigners in Japan…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Good News, Human Rights, Sport, 日本語 | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th April 2014
Excerpt: In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech about people’s “empathy deficit.” He described empathy as “the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.”
“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”
I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.
But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd April 2014
Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, APR 2, 2014
Long-time readers of The Japan Times will already be aware of some of the information in today’s column. But within is an important update, so press on.
As you no doubt know (or should know), non-Japanese residents are required to carry ID 24/7 in the form of wallet-size “gaijin cards,” nowadays known as zairyū kādo (resident cards). (People without those cards — i.e., tourists here for less than three months — must instead always carry a passport.) Don’t leave home without yours, for you could face detention and a criminal penalty if a police officer suddenly demands it.
Which they can do at any time — underscoring the weakened position of non-Japanese under domestic law and social policy. According to the former Foreign Registry Law, any public official empowered by the Ministry of Justice may demand ID from a non-Japanese person, whenever. Inevitably, this encourages racial profiling, as cops with systematic regularity target people who “look foreign” (including naturalized citizens, such as this writer) for public shakedowns that are intimidating, alienating and humiliating…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/02/issues/rights-can-protect-against-fake-cops/
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Practical advice, 日本語 | 37 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th March 2014
Unrelated to the big flap last weekend about the Urawa Reds “Japanese Only” Saitama Stadium Banner issue, I was interviewed by the BBC regarding anti-NJ messages, and the public backlash against the xenophobes. Since I’m not an expert on Zainichi issues, I gave a bit more background on how Visible Minorities are treated in the following segment:
BBC World Service
BBC Trending, March 16, 2014
“Scrubbing anti-foreigner scribbling from Tokyo’s streets”
Segment duration: 9 minutes
My bit comes in between 14:45 and 15:53, but please listen to the whole segment; it’s a decent article.
I’m very happy that people are charting racist graffiti using Google Maps. Kinda like what Debito.org has done for more than a decade with its Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, complete with map to substantiate visually how widespread the issue has become. Bravo. Make a record, and make it permanent, because the only way we’re going to show that a problem exists (and is getting worse) is by not letting racists become historical deniers.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th March 2014
J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM
JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published March 13, 2014
By ARUDOU Debito, Version with links to sources
On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands.
It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.”
So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, Sport | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th January 2014
Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Conclusion:
Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards. For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”
Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages. This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Good News, Humor, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Racist Images in Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tourism | 35 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th January 2014
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:
“The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
4. Visa regimes get a rethink
3. Hate speech turns murderous
2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
1. The state secrets law
11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th December 2013
As the last post for 2013, let me ask you your opinion:
What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting or concerning NJ in Japan during 2013?
I will be doing my regular annual Top Ten recap in my next Japan Times JBC column (moved to Thursdays since November, so out January 2).
I’ve already ready written up and submitted my list to the JT, but I don’t want to influence your answers by doing a blog poll of options or anything like that. I’ll keep the question open-ended and ask for your feedback in the Comments Section.
So as 2013 draws to a close, I want to say thanks as always to everyone for reading Debito.org for yet another year. We’re only two years and a bit from our twentieth anniversary (as we were created on March 15, 1996! Read a brief synopsis of our history here.) Here’s to another successful (and hopefully hacker-free) year of reading and commenting on Japan and human rights issues.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Discussions, Human Rights | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th December 2013
JT: Hey, all you residents heading abroad for the holidays, here’s a little experiment to try on yourself: When you return to Japan, take note of an interesting phenomenon that starts just as you deplane and plug back into Japanese society.
You’ll feel a palpable and intractable pressure — a pressure to conform to The Order, that standardized way of doing things in Japan. You can use it to get what you want, or you can defy it and feel the burn of its stare.
I call this pressure The Eye.
Of course, you can find The Eye in all societies. Also known as the “evil eye” or “hairy eyeball,” it’s a glare you get when you’re doing something the crowd doesn’t like. Humans as a species have an innate sensitivity to the feeling of being watched. Perhaps it’s a primal instinct to keep us in formation and out of trouble.
But The Eye in Japan is so powerful that it doesn’t need a crowd…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th November 2013
Last month in Hawaii I attended a speech titled “Japan’s new National Security Strategy in the Making” by a Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka. A scholar and university president, Dr. Kitaoka is deputy chairman of the “Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security” within the Shinzo Abe administration.
I sat in because I wanted to see how a representative of Japan’s government would explain away Abe’s militaristic views to an American audience.
Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint. He was smooth. In impeccable English, to a packed room including numerous members of Hawaii’s military brass, he sold a vision of a remilitarizing Japan without a return to a prewar militarized Japan. (You can see the entire speech at http://www.vimeo.com/77183187.)
He laid out how Japan would get around its ban on having a military beyond a “self-defense force,” i.e., one that could project power beyond its borders. It would be the same way Japan got around its constitutional ban on having any standing military at all: Japan would once again reinterpret the wording of the Constitution.
His logic: If Japan has a sovereign right to “individual self-defense” (i.e., the right to attack back if attacked), it also has an inherent sovereign right to “collective self-defense” (i.e., the right to support Japan’s allies if they are attacked). A reinterpretation must happen because, inconveniently, it is too difficult to reform the Constitution itself.
That legal legerdemain to undermine a national constitution should have raised eyebrows. But…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th October 2013
Good news. With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week. The JT explains in more detail below.
Proud to be part of this writing crew. We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space. Bravo. Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen. — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, Practical advice | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th October 2013
I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” themselves?
TheDiplomat.com: By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?
Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.
Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th October 2013
Blame news cycles, but I’m coming in late to the discussion on Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. Sorry. The most poignant stuff has already been said, but I would add these thoughts.
Probably unsurprisingly, I was not a supporter of Tokyo’s candidacy. Part of it is because I have a hard time enjoying events where individuals are reduced to national representatives, saddled with the pressure to prove an apparent geopolitical superiority through gold medal tallies. Guess I’m just grouchy about international sports.
That said, this time around, the wheeling and dealing at the International Olympic Committee has been particularly distasteful. Unlike the IOC, I can’t forget Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose’s denigration of fellow candidate city Istanbul for being “Islamic” (conveniently playing on widespread Western fears of a religion and linking it to social instability). This was especially ironic given rising xenophobia in Japan, where attendees at right-wing rallies have even called for the killing of ethnic Koreans who have lived in and contributed to Japan for generations.
Nor can I pretend to ignore the risk of exposing people to an ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. Even if you think the science is still unclear on the health effects of radiation in Tohoku, what’s not in doubt is that there will be incredible amounts of pork sunk into white-elephant projects in Japan’s metropole while thousands of people still languish in northern Japan, homeless and dispossessed. When so much work is incomplete elsewhere, this is neither the time nor place for bread and circuses.
All of this has been said elsewhere, and more eloquently. But for JBC, the most important reason why the Olympics should not come to Japan is because, as I have argued before, Japan as a government or society is not mature enough to handle huge international events…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, G7/G8 Summits, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th September 2013
(Debito.org Readers please note: Debito.org is technically still on break, and I will be slow once again to approve comments. Please be patient. Thanks.)
It’s been a long, hot summer, so time for a lighter topic for JBC:
A non-Japanese (NJ) friend in Tokyo recently had an interesting experience while out drinking with coworkers. (For the record – and I only say this because how you look profoundly affects how you are treated in Japan – he is a youngish Caucasian-looking male.)
His Japanese literacy is high (which is why he was hired in the first place), but his speaking ability, thanks to watching anime in America from childhood, is even higher — so high, in fact, that his colleagues asked him whether he is part-Japanese!
That kinda harshed his buzz. He wondered how he should respond. Should he abide by Japanese manners and deferentially deny his jouzu-ness? Or accept the praise with a “thank you” and a smile?
I commented that he should not only say thank you and accept the accolades, but also claim the part-Japaneseness. Yes, lie about it.
Why? Because this simple-looking interaction involves several issues, such as social hierarchy, bad science and privacy. And if not handled well, this episode could end up eroding his standing within this group…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th August 2013
Japan Times: Spare a thought for Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first European-born naturalized immigrant parliamentarian. He was voted out in last month’s House of Councilors election.
You might think I’d call it tragic. No. It was a comeuppance.
It needn’t have turned out this way. Squeaking into a seat by default in 2001, Tsurunen was later reelected in 2007 with a reaffirming mandate of 242,740 proportional representation votes, sixth in his party. Last month, however, he lost badly, coming in 12th with only 82,858.
For a man who could have demonstrated what immigrants (particularly our visible minorities) can do in Japan, it was an ignominious exit — so unremarkable that the Asahi Shimbun didn’t even report it among 63 “noteworthy” campaigns.
However, Tsurunen offers lessons in microcosm for his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and on why Japan’s left wing was so spectacularly trounced in the last two elections…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies | 10 Comments »