My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES AUG 23, 2017

Let’s talk about Charlottesville.

As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:

Japan has also had plenty of hate rallies — there was about one per day on average in 2013 and 2014, according to the Justice Ministry. Rightist xenophobes and government-designated hate groups have assembled and held demos nationwide. Bearing signs calling foreign residents “cockroaches,” calling for a Nanking-style massacre of Koreans in an Osaka Koreatown, even advocating the extermination of “all Koreans, good or bad,” Japan’s haters have also used violence (some lethal) against the country’s minorities.

As JBC has argued before (“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step,” Jan. 31, 2016), freedom of speech is not an absolute. And hate speech is special: It ultimately and necessarily leads to violence, due to the volatile mix of dehumanization with flared tempers.

That’s why Japan decided to do something about it. In 2016 the Diet passed a law against hate speech (albeit limiting it to specifically protect foreign residents). And it has had an effect: Japanese media reports fewer rallies and softer invective.

America, however, hasn’t gotten serious about this. It has no explicit law against hate speech, due to fears about government censorship of freedom of speech. Opponents argue that the only cure is freer speech — that somehow hate will be balanced out by reasonable and rational counter-hate. That persuasion will win out.

But in 2016, it didn’t. Hate speech is precisely how Donald J. Trump got elected president…

Read the rest at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/08/23/issues/wake-charlottesville-u-s-follow-japan-outlaw-hate-speech/

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Book Review in SSJJ journal calls “Embedded Racism” a “must-read text”, “highly recommended reading to anyone interested in Japan’s future”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Social Science Journal Japan (SSJJ) has just released its review of book “Embedded Racism“.  Excerpt follows. Full review at https://academic.oup.com/ssjj/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ssjj/jyx012

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Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination, by Debito Arudou. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015, 404 pp., $110.00 (ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6)
Robert W. ASPINALL
Social Science Journal Japan jyx012. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/ssjj/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ssjj/jyx012
Published: 15 July 2017

Excerpt of the first and last paragraphs:

Why are there so few academic books or articles on Japan with the word ‘Racism’ in the title? It would be odd, to say the least, if Japan were the only inhabited place on earth where racism did not exist. Could it be that racial minorities in Japan are made up of groups that are too small, too transitory or too lacking in visibility to be worth the effort of close study? A more plausible explanation is offered by those who, like anthropologist John Russell, argue that powerful groups have disseminated the ‘national myth of Japan as a racism-free society that always manages to retain uncorrupted its essentialistic character, despite cultural borrowings’ (Russell 2010: 110). Given this highly successful effort to hush up discussions of racism in Japan, Debito Arudou’s new book on ‘Embedded Racism’ is very welcome.

[…]

In an anti-globalist era of Trump and ‘Brexit’ there will be many who argue that Japan is right to severely restrict immigration and preserve as much as possible that is unique about its national character. If those who do not ‘look Japanese’ have to suffer some discrimination, then that is just the price that has to be paid. There are also many who believe that the best antidote to racism is to have a nation state where as few people as possible look out of place. Arudou’s reply to this point of view, which acts simultaneously as a challenge to Japan’s leaders, is that if this national narrative is allowed to prevail, it will not only condemn Japan’s aging population to an ever-worsening demographic crisis, it will also have a ‘suffocating and self-strangulating’ effect on society (p. 303).

There are important academic contributions to the study of racism in Japan in this book, but it is as a must-read text on the crisis facing the shrinking Japanese population and its leaders that it really leaves its mark. Embedded Racism is highly recommended reading to anyone—whether they self-identify as Japanese or foreign or both—who is interested in Japan’s future.

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Book “Embedded Racism”, acclaimed as “important, courageous and challenging” and “a must-read” by prominent academic journals, now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code LEX30AUTH16

mytest

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Hi Blog. “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” has been receiving acclaim.   Prominent Japan Scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki calls it “important, courageous and challenging“, the Pacific Affairs journal finds it “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan“, the Japan Studies Association of Canada says it is “an important contribution to geography, cultural and area studies“, and the Sociology and Ethnic Studies imprint of the American Sociological Association calls it “a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development, … as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better… The book would easily suit courses that address global conceptions of race and ethnicity and how these are changing in Japan at both the micro and macro levels because of globalization.”

Dr. Robert Aspinall in a review in Social Science Journal Japan concludes:

“There are important academic contributions to the study of racism in Japan in this book, but it is as a must-read text on the crisis facing the shrinking Japanese population and its leaders that it really leaves its mark. Embedded Racism is highly recommended reading to anyone—whether they self-identify as Japanese or foreign or both—who is interested in Japan’s future.” (read more)

“Embedded Racism” has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through my publisher (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield) directly.

Go to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16. (Japan residents have reported getting the book in about a week for $40 including quick shipping.)

More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.

Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf

More than 100 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have in its first year of publication made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections (according to WorldCat).  Add it to yours!

Thanks very much as always for reading! Dr. Debito Arudou

Japan Times cites Debito on “Tackling [anti-foreigner] signs in Japan that you’re not welcome”, including Tokyo Harajuku Takeshita Doori

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s an earnest Japan Times journalist trying to take on some nasty anti-foreign signs up in a prominent Tokyo shopping area. The article cites me at the end, thanks. Read on for another comment from me that didn’t make the cut. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Tackling signs in Japan that you’re not welcome
BY DAISUKE KIKUCHI
The Japan Times, June 4, 2017

Entire article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/04/national/tackling-signs-japan-youre-not-welcome/

“MOTHER F——- KISS MY ANUS. F—- OFF Mother F——-… foreigner. Sneaking PHOTO.”

A hand-written sign bearing these words is among several decorated with similar insults that greet shoppers outside a fashion store that sells rock-style clothing in Tokyo. The sign sits among shirts emblazoned with designs featuring overseas rock bands such as Iron Maiden, Children Of Bodom and Marilyn Manson in the fashion and kawaii culture mecca of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street in Shibuya Ward.

The Japan Times visited the shop after being approached by a foreign resident who was disgusted to see the signs while he was with his young daughter.

“The shop is absolutely covered in these messages,” wrote the reader. “I walk past this place from time to time. The thing that annoys me most is that Harajuku is such an anything-goes area full of all kinds of subcultures and minorities, not least of all foreigners, so this place is like a nasty little pit of intolerance inside an oasis of colour and joy.”

Asked about the thinking behind the signs, a staff member at the store explained that the shop put them up after becoming frustrated by the terrible manners of foreign shoppers.

“They usually take pictures, without permission,” said the staff member. The shop is concerned about images of its products being uploaded to the internet, she said. As to whether they would consider taking down the sign, she added: “I’m not so sure. If (they) had good manners, we wouldn’t do this, but there are so many that have really bad manners.”

[…]

In 2002 the Sapporo District Court ordered a bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, to pay ¥1 million each in damages to three plaintiffs refused entry because they did not look Japanese. This ruling was based on articles of the civil code protecting individual rights and authorizing damages when these rights are violated, Article 14 of the Constitution — which forbids discrimination — and international conventions on racial discrimination and civil rights. However, the court did not uphold the plaintiffs’ claim against the city for its failure to implement an ordinance against racial discrimination based on the international pact cited in the Bortz case. That verdict was confirmed by the Sapporo High Court.

Debito Arudou, a plaintiff in the Otaru case and a columnist for The Japan Times who writes about human rights, hosted a “Rogues Gallery” of “Japanese only” and other discriminatory signs found across the country on his website, Debito.org, in the years after the Otaru case. There, readers could post photos of signs they found locally or on their travels, as well as any measures taken to get those signs removed, some of which proved successful.

“After the Otaru onsens case, bigoted shopkeeps realized they could put up ‘Japanese only’ signs with impunity, and they proliferated around Japan,” explains Arudou. “I dropped by those places, asked ‘Why this sign?’ and what could we do about it.

“Most managers adamantly denied any racism on their part, until I asked if someone like I, a Caucasian with a Japanese passport, could come in. When they said no, I pointed out the racism, to which they just shifted tack and blamed their racist customers. When they said yes, I often came inside and got more information about what was necessary to get the signs down. When they said they’ll think about it and I should come back later, I did and was usually denied entry again. I’d say each situation happened about a third of the time.

“We did get several signs down,” Arudou says. “Part of it was by calm persuasion about what how unenforceable the policy was: How were they to decide who was Japanese, especially when I was proving it was possible to be one without looking like one — and what about Japan’s international children? Part of it was the need to make the rules clear despite a language barrier. I listened to their rules, wrote up a bilingual sign for them to display, and received their exclusionary sign in trade. And part of it was quietly pulling signs down in the middle of the night. They didn’t go back up.”

Based on his experiences, Arudou advises engaging with business owners displaying discriminatory signs.

“If you have the language ability, or a friend or native speaker who is so inclined, ask the manager why the sign is up, and what it would take to get it down,” Arudou says. “After all, we shouldn’t allow racist behavior to be normalized through public signage. And if that doesn’t work, of course, I would never advocate that people pull the signs down quietly in the middle of the night. Never ever.”
ENDS

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NB: I also commented directly about the signs that open this article, which didn’t make the cut:

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The authorities are right. This isn’t a “Japanese Only” sign. It’s just a rude anti-foreigner sign, painstakingly rendered by shop staff too angry to say “No photos, please.” Kinda ironic, given the penchant for Japanese tourists here in Hawaii to take snapshots of anything they find exotic. At least merchants here word their notices more politely.

You could make the case that this is hate speech, but it might not convince enough people who can’t be bothered with signs that don’t affect them. It’s better to contact tourist associations, and do some name-and-shame as the 2020 Olympics loom.

Or better yet, create unintended consequences. Tell people where the sign is, and go take pictures of it. Add to the irony with photos of “no photos”.

=========================
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Japan Times JBC column 107: “Time to act on insights from landmark survey of Japan’s foreign residents” Apr 26, 2017

mytest

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Hi Blog. My next Japan Times Just Be Cause column has just come out. Here’s the opening:

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TIME TO ACT ON INSIGHTS FROM LANDMARK SURVEY OF JAPAN’S FOREIGN RESIDENTS

The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE Column 107, Thursday April 27, 2017, by Debito Arudou

As promised, in March the Justice Ministry released the results of a survey on Japan’s foreign residents (gaikokujin juumin chousa), conducted last year (see “Government, Survey Thyself,” JBC Mar. 5). Compiled by the “Center for Human Rights Education and Training” public-interest foundation (www.jinken.or.jp), it surveyed the types and degrees of discrimination that foreigners face here. (The report in Japanese is at http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001221782.pdf.)

And as promised, here’s JBC’s synopsis of those results:

The report opens with a statement of purpose, talking about the pressures to “live together” (kyousei) with foreigners due to internationalization and globalization, not to mention the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Record numbers of foreigners are crossing Japan’s borders, bringing with them different languages and customs, and “so-called” hate speech demos are also causing “numerous human rights problems.” So to lay the groundwork for human rights protections for foreigners, this survey would grasp the issues directly facing foreigners “staying” (zairyuu) in Japan…
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Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/04/26/issues/time-act-insights-landmark-survey-japans-foreign-residents/.

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Japan Times JBC 106: “Government, survey thyself”, on unprecedented nationwide poll of NJ on discrimination, with one big blind spot (March 5, 2017)

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Government of Japan, survey thyself
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
JBC 106, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 5, 2017

Something landmark happened late last year. Japan’s government undertook a nationwide survey of discrimination toward Japan’s long-term non-Japanese (NJ) residents.

The Foreign Residents Survey (FRS), drawn up in 13 languages, was randomly mailed last November to 18,500 NJ residents. It was widely dispersed — to about 500 names per local government.

Good. We need hard data about the breadth and depth of discrimination to deal with it. However, previous government surveys analyzed in this column (e.g., “Human rights survey stinks,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 23, 2007) had serious methodological problems. And afterwards, thanks to attention in The Japan Times, they were amended (Source: Embedded Racism p 243 fn 140). Many thanks.

So how is the survey this time? Much better. But it still needs work due to an enormous blind spot…

Read the rest at The Japan times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/03/05/issues/government-japan-survey-thyself/

Version with links to sources up shortly.
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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 105: “Media, stop normalizing sumo as an ethno-sport”, Monday, Feb 20, 2017

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Thanks to readers for putting this in the Top Ten most-read JT articles for two days in a row!  — Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

STOP NORMALIZING SUMO AS AN ETHNO-SPORT
Foreign coverage of the new Yokozuna Kisenosato is embedding racism
By Debito Arudou
Just Be Cause Column 105 for the Japan Times Community Page
Monday, February 20, 2017

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/02/19/issues/media-outside-japan-must-stop-normalizing-sumo-ethno-sport/

I know that by now this is old news (blame press holidays and timely Trump articles), but congratulations to Kisenosato last month for ascending to yokozuna, sumo wrestling’s highest rank. After all your efforts, well done.

So what does JBC have to say about it? Nothing to diminish that achievement, of course. But let’s consider how the event echoed overseas. Here are some headlines from prominent news outlets:

BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38721106

Washington Post: “After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once again.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-19-long-years-japan-has-a-grand-champion-of-sumo-once-more/2017/01/25/

New York Times: “For the first time in years, Japan boasts a sumo grand champion.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/world/asia/japan-sumo-champion-kisenosato.html

The Guardian: “Kisenosato becomes Japan’s first homegrown sumo champion in 19 years.”
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2017/jan/25/kisenosato-becomes-japans-first-homegrown-sumo-champion-in-19-years-video

Even our own JT: “Kisenosato becomes first Japanese-born yokozuna in almost two decades.”
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/01/25/sumo/kisenosato-becomes-first-japanese-born-yokozuna-almost-two-decades/

Hmm. At least three of those headlines make it seem like Japan hasn’t had a Japanese yokozuna – or any yokozuna – for nearly two decades.

That’s false. We’ve had five yokozuna (Musashimaru, Asashoryu, Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kakuryu) since 1998.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_yokozuna

Unless they’re referring to the fact that the last four champions have been Mongolian, not Japanese. But that means they don’t count?

Then what about Musashimaru? He’s a naturalized Japanese, and was one (as the Japan Times duly noted) when he became yokozuna in 1999.

So he’s not counted because he’s not a “real” Japanese? Apparently. That’s why the JT and Guardian slipped in qualifiers like “homegrown” and “Japan-born”. As if that matters.

It shouldn’t. Except to racists.

And it matters in Japan because of the embedded racism of the sport…

Read the rest at

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/02/19/issues/media-outside-japan-must-stop-normalizing-sumo-ethno-sport/

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Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”

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Book Review in Pacific Affairs Journal
http://www.pacificaffairs.ubc.ca/book-reviews/book-reviews-2/forthcoming-book-reviews/ (page down)

EMBEDDED RACISM: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. By Debito Arudou. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015. xxvi, 349 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6.

Arudou’s book is a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan. It comes on the heels of both the Japanese government’s 2014 official claim that an anti-racial discrimination law is not necessary (third combined report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD]), and recent developments in Japan that have politicized the issues of dual nationality and hate speech, and even the Miss Universe Japan pageant.

Arudou draws on a quarter-century of research involving personal interviews, action research, and cataloguing, to highlight micro-level observations that illuminate the broader macro-level structural workings of the racialized dimensions of what it means to be “Japanese” in Japan. The contribution of this book is not only in its richness of information, but also in Arudou’s focus on a paradoxical blind spot in both the quotidian status quo understandings of and academic discourses on racialized social dynamics in Japan: the invisibility of visible minorities. Borrowing from Critical Race Theory (CRT), and applying its analytical paradigms present in Whiteness Studies to the case of Japan, Arudou argues that “the same dynamics can be seen in the Japanese example, by substituting ‘White’ with ‘Japanese’” (322-323). He introduces the concept of embedded racism to describe the deeply internalized understandings of “Japaneseness” that structurally permeate the psyche and sociolegal elements of Japanese society, resulting in systemic discriminatory treatments of individuals based on visible differences.

Instead of defining the Self/Other binary in oft-conceptualized terms of citizenship, he uses an original Wajin/non-Wajin heuristic. By original Wajin, he refers to visually identifiable “Japanese” who are members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority, and for non-Wajin he refers to both invisible (e.g., ethnic minorities who can pass as “Japanese”) and visible (Gaijin, foreigners and naturalized Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese”) minorities who are not members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority. He uses this heuristic to parse out the nuanced sociolegal-structural logics that differentiate between not only citizens and non-citizens, but also non-citizens who can phenotypically pass as “Japanese” and citizens who cannot, in which the former is often given preferential sociolegal treatment, and the latter is often subject to overt racial discrimination.

More specifically, the book opens with a theoretical primer on race and the universal processes of racialization and nation-state formation. The author then critiques how studies on Japan often suffer from flawed conceptualizations of foreignness, viewing it as a function of either ethnic differences within the Asian-phenotype community or legal membership status, thereby overlooking overt discrimination against visible minorities that are racial in nature.

The first chapter contextualizes racial discrimination in Japan and explicates Arudou’s usage of the concept of visible minority and his theory of embedded racism in the context of Japan. The second chapter then addresses the historical roots of extant racialized understandings of “Japaneseness” by tracing national self-image narratives that Arudou argues undergird the dynamics of present-day treatments of foreigners in Japan. The next chapter surveys approximately 470 cases of establishments that have engaged in racialized refusals of entry and services and three civil court lawsuits, to demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is determined by racialized paradigms such as physical appearances (37–38).

In chapter 4, Arudou explains how Japanese nationality laws, family and resident registries, and policing regulations/practices constitute the legal underpinnings of the racialized “Japanese” identity, and asserts that Japan’s legal definition of a “Japanese citizen” is closely intertwined with “Japanese bloodlines” (11). The following chapter shifts the focus to how “Japaneseness” is enforced through exclusionary education laws, visa (residence status) regimes, and racial profiling in security policing. This chapter is supplemented with chapter 6, which highlights differential judicial treatments of those who are seen as “Japanese,” and those who are not. Chapter 7 details how media representations of “foreigners” and “Japanese” as well as the criminalization of “foreigners” popularize the racialized narratives of “Japaneseness” established by the processes discussed in chapters 4 to 6.

Chapter 8 shifts gears as Arudou turns his attention to domestic civil society and international criticisms of Japan’s embedded racism, and discusses the government’s passive reactions. Arudou traces the correspondence between the government and the (CERD) before and during its first two CERD report reviews in 2001 and 2010 (but not the most recent CERD review in 2014). Chapter 9 then takes two binaries that can be used to understand how sociolegal distinctions of “Japaneseness” are often made—by nationality (citizen/non-citizen) and by visual identification (Wajin/Gaijin)—and superimposes them to form a heuristic matrix of eleven categories of “Japanese” and “foreigner.” The author thus drives his point across that social privilege and power in Japan are drawn along lines that straddle conceptual understandings of and assumptions about both legal and phenotypical memberships. The book concludes with a final chapter on the implications of embedded racism for Japan’s future as an ageing society, and argues that Japan’s demographic predicament could be mitigated if Japan can begin eliminating its racism to create a more inclusive society for all.

The book does not touch on the voices and local/community advocacy initiatives among and on behalf of visible minorities, and stops short of systematically testing how the proposed heuristic matrix and its combinations of characteristics empirically lead to differential treatment. However, it does cover a lot of ground, and would be of interest to a wide audience, from the casual reader interested in learning about the racial dynamics in Japan, to researchers with area studies interests in Japan and/or substantive field interests in international migration, ethnic and race studies, citizenship and human rights, and advocacy politics at both the domestic and international levels. Arudou argues that Japan’s passive stance to addressing racial discrimination is “the canary in the coal mine” regarding its openness to “outsiders” (xxiii), and by starting this conversation, he addresses “the elephant in the room” that needs to be reckoned with for Japan to navigate its way through its impending demographic challenges.

— Ralph Ittonen Hosoki, University of California, Irvine, USA

Ends


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Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

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JUST BE CAUSE
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Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Print version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/

Version with links to sources follows

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10)  Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years

We’ve named and shamed this before (“Downloadable Discrimination,” Zeit Gist, March 30, 2004). From Feb. 16, 2004, Japan’s Immigration Bureau had websites where anyone could anonymously rat on foreigners for any reason whatsoever — including (as a preset option) the xenophobic “repugnance and anxiety” (ken-o fuan). This occasioned calls for abolition from rights groups, including Amnesty International, and government leaders. As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations pointed out in 2005, “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination toward foreigners.”

Yet Japan’s police “see no evil” when it suits them. According to the Asahi in 2015, the sites were being inundated with hate emails “slandering” Japan’s Zainichi generational Korean community. Immigration suddenly realized that false leads from trolls were a waste of time. Yep, we told you so more than a decade ago. Glad it sunk in.

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

This year showed us that 2015 was not a fluke. In 2015, multiethnic American-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan competition as Japan’s first biracial national beauty queen. In 2016, Indian-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa was elected to represent Japan despite protests about whether she is a “real” Japanese. Although these events are cheer-worthy because they demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is not purely a matter of looks, they’re more important because the women’s stories of being “different” have highlighted their struggles for acceptance. When the domestic media bothers to report them, that is.

The discussion has mostly been a shallow one about “looks.” Sadly, this is par for the course. As I said to ABC NewsRadio Australia, “Why do we keep doing these 19th-century rituals? Demeaning women by putting them on a stage, making them do debasing things, and then saying, ‘This is a standard of beauty that is or is not Japanese?’ How about we just call it what it is: incitement to superficial judgment of people not as individuals but by physical appearance?” Progress made, yes, but the real progress will be when beauty pageants stop entirely.

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

Similarly, Japan’s athletes have long been scrutinized for their “foreignness.” If they are “half” or even naturalized, their “foreignness” becomes a factor no matter what.

If they do badly, “It’s the foreigners’ fault.” As seen when Japan’s men’s rugby team lost in 2011 and the nation’s rugby union criticized coach John Kirwan for using “too many foreign players” (including naturalized former NJ). The team was then ethnically cleansed. When multiethnic Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed underperformed in 2014, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Chair Yoshiro Mori essentially labeled them leftovers, bashing them (mistakenly) as “naturalized citizens” who couldn’t make the U.S. Team.

But if they do well, they get celebrated. Remember October 2015, when Brave Blossoms, the men’s rugby team, scored an upset over South Africa, and their players’ enhanced physical strength was attributed to their multiethnicity? Suddenly the fact that many players didn’t “look Japanese” (11 were even born outside Japan) was no problem.

Same when Japanese athletes did well in Rio last year. Prominent performances by multiethnic Japanese, including Mashu Baker (Gold in Judo); members of Japan’s Rugby Sevens (the men’s team came in fourth); other members of Japan’s soccer, basketball and athletics teams; and most prominently, runner Asuka Cambridge (who missed out on Gold only to Usain Bolt) made it clear that hybrid Japanese help Japan in sports. If only people would stop putting up the extra hurdle of attributing success or failure to race.

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

After years of tired leftist politics with stale or uninspiring leaders, last September the main opposition Democratic Party made young and dynamic Taiwanese-Japanese politician Renho Murata its leader. It was the first time a multiethnic Japanese has ever helmed a major party, and immediately there were full-throated doubts about her loyalties. Media and politicos brought up Renho’s alleged ties to untrustworthy China (even though Taiwan and China are different countries; even the Ministry of Justice said that Taiwanese in Japan are not under PRC law), or that she had technically naturalized (Renho was born before Japanese citizenship could legally pass through her mother) but had not renounced her dual citizenship, which wasn’t an issue when she was a Cabinet member, nor when former Peruvian President and dual citizen Alberto Fujimori ran for a Diet seat in 2007 (Zeit Gist, May 5, 2009).

Whatever. Renho has proven herself a charismatic leader with an acerbic wit, ready to ask difficult and pointed questions of decision makers. She famously did so in 2009, during deliberations to fund the “world’s most powerful computer,’ when she asked, “What’s wrong with being number two?” The project still passed, but demanding potential boondoggles justify themselves is an important job. The fact that Renho is not cowed by tough questions herself is good for a country, which with 680,000 Japanese dual citizens deserves fresh unfettered talent with international backgrounds.

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

This has made the JBC annual Top 10 several times, because it’s a test case of accountability when NJ die in official custody. In 2010, Ghanaian visa overstayer Abubakar Awudu Suraj was so “brutally” (according to this newspaper) restrained during deportation that he was asphyxiated. Suraj’s widow, unsuccessfully seeking justice through Japan’s criminal justice system, won civil damages from the Immigration Bureau in a 2014 Tokyo District Court decision. However, last January, the Tokyo High Court overturned this, deciding that the lethal level of physical force was “not illegal” — it was even “necessary” — and concluded that the authorities were “not culpable.” Suraj’s widow took it to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected last November.

Conclusion: Life is cheap in Japan’s Immigration detention systems (Reuters last year reported more NJ deaths in custody due to official negligence). And now our judiciary has spoken: If NJ suffer from a lethal level of force — sorry, are killed by police — nobody is responsible.

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

Past JBC columns on Japan’s right-wing swing anticipated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would capitalize on the left’s disarray and take Japan’s imagined community back to an imagined past. Sure enough, winning the Upper House elections last July and solidifying a majority in both houses of Parliament, he accomplished this hat trick. Since then, Abe’s popular support, according to the Asahi, remains at near record-highs (here and here). There’s even talk of changing the rules so he can be PM beyond his mandated five-year term.

That’s it then, really. Everything we feared his administration would do since 2012 is all coming to pass: the dismissing of universal human rights as a “Western concept,” the muzzling and intimidation of the press under a vague state secrets act, the deliberate destabilization of East Asia over petty territorial disputes, the enfranchising of historical denialism through a far-right cabal of elites, the emboldening of domestic xenophobia to accomplish remilitarization, the resurgence of enforced patriotism in Japan’s education system, the further exploitation of foreign workers under an expanded “trainee” program, and the forthcoming fundamental abrogation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution.”

Making Japan “great” again, similar to what’s happening in the United States under President-elect Donald Trump, has been going on for the past four years. With no signs of it abating.

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

In April 2013, Japan’s Labor Contracts Law was amended to state that companies, after five years of continuous contract renewals, must hire their temporary workers as “regular employees” (seishain). Meant to stop employers from hiring people perpetually on insecure contract jobs (“insecure” because employees are easily fired by contract nonrenewal), it is having the opposite effect: Companies are inserting five-year caps in contracts to avoid hiring people for real. Last November, The Japan Times reported on the “Tohoku University job massacre,” where 3,200 contract workers are slated to be fired en masse in 2017.

JBC sees this as yet another “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” scenario (ZG, July 8, 2008). This happened in Japanese academia for generations: Known as “Academic Apartheid,” foreign full-time scholars received perpetual contract employment while Japanese full-time scholars received permanent uncontracted tenure from day one. This unequal status resulted in the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-4, where the Ministry of Education (MOE) told National and Public Universities not to renew the contracts of foreigners over the age of 35 as a cost-cutting measure. Then from 1997, the MOE encouraged contract employment be expanded to Japanese full-time educators. From 2018, it will be expanded to the nonacademic private sector. It’s a classic case of Martin Niemoller’s “First they came …” poem: Denying equal rights to part of the population eventually got normalized and applied to everyone.

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

Japan has been suddenly cognizant of “foreigner discrimination” this year. Not “racial discrimination,” of course, but baby steps. The Asahi kicked things off in January by reporting that 42 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52 percent of that was in finding apartments. Glad to have the stats, albeit localized.

Then the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights conducted its first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination toward longer-term NJ residents by mailing them a detailed multilingual survey (available at www.debito.org/?p=14298), asking questions specifically about unequal treatment in housing, employment, education, social situations, etc. It even mentioned the establishment of “laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination against foreigners” (not a law against discrimination by race, natch).

Although this survey is well-intentioned, it still has two big blind spots: It depicted discrimination as 1) due to extranationality, not physical appearance, and 2) done by Japanese people, not the government through systemic racism embedded in Japan’s laws and systems (see my book “Embedded Racism” for more). As such, the survey won’t resolve the root problems fundamental to Japan’s very identity as an ethnostate.

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

Japan’s oft-touted sense of “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi) is an odd thing. We are seeing designated “foreigner taxis” at Kyoto Station (with a segregated stop), “foreign driver” stickers on Hokkaido and Okinawa rental cars stigmatizing NJ tourists (and NJ residents touring), and media grumblings about ill-mannered Chinese crowding stores, spending scads of money (diddums!) and leaving behind litter. (Japan’s tourist sites were of course sparkling clean before foreigners showed up. Not.)

Then there’s the omnipresent threat of terrorism, depicted for years now by the government as something imported by foreigners into a formerly “safe Japan” (although all terrorist acts so far in Japan have been homegrown). To that end, 2016 was when Japan’s Supreme Court explicitly approved police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion. (What’s next? Surveilling foreign residents due to their extranationality?)

Yet foreigners are a necessary evil. Japan still needs them to do its dirty work in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishery and nursing sectors. So this year the foreign “trainee” work program was expanded, along with measures against abuses. About time — bad things, including NJ slavery and child labor have been happening for decades, with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry acknowledging that about 70 percent of employers hiring “trainees” engage in illegal labor practices. Omotenashi has been counterweighted by government-sponsored exploitation of NJ, and now with the upcoming 2020 Olympics, there’s plenty more dirty work out there.

And after all this, 2016 offered one big bright spot:

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

Japan’s first law protecting “foreigners” from group denigration in public was passed nationwide in May. JBC (Feb. 1) heralded it as a step in the right direction. Critics quickly pointed out its shortcomings: It doesn’t actually ban hate speech, or have penalties for violators, and it only covers people of overseas origin “who live legally in Japan” (meaning “foreigners,” but not all of them). Plus it skirts the issue of racial discrimination, natch.

However, it has had important effects. The law offered a working definition of hate speech and silenced people claiming the “Western construct” of hate speech didn’t exist in Japan. It also gave Japan’s bureaucrats the power to curtail haters. The Mainichi Shimbun reported that this year’s xenophobic rallies, once daily on average somewhere in Japan, had decreased. Rallies also reportedly softened their hateful invective. Since Japan’s outdoor public gatherings need police and community approval (ZG March 4, 2003), even an official frown on hatred can be powerful.

Official frowning spread. The National Police Agency advised prefectural police departments to respond to hate speech demos. A court banned a rally in a Korean area of Kawasaki for “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a personal life.” Another court ordered hate group Zaitokukai to compensate a Zainichi Korean for public slurs against her. Both judges cited the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been ignored in lawsuits against “Japanese only” establishments.

These are remarkable new outcomes in a society loath to call “No Foreigners Allowed” signs discriminatory, let alone order police to take them down. Progress to build upon.

Bubbling under the top 10

11 Population of registered NJ residents reaches record 2.23 million despite significant decreases in recent years.

12 “Special economic zones” expand to the aging agriculture sector, and want “skilled foreigners” with college degrees and Japanese-language ability to till fields on three-year visas. Seriously.

13 The Nankai Line train conductor who apologized to passengers for “too many foreigners” on an airport-bound train is officially reprimanded, not ignored.

14 Osaka sushi restaurant Ichibazushi, which was bullying foreign customers by deliberately adding too much wasabi, is forced by social media to publicly apologize.

15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

——————–
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Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016

mytest

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times tapped me for an opinion on the US Elections and Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency. So here’s my latest JBC a couple of weeks early. Excerpt:

////////////////////////////////////////
JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
NOV 16, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/16/issues/trumps-lesson-can-lie-way-top/

The morning after the election, I woke up to Trump’s America.

I’d had a fitful sleep the night before. I’d watched the results from Hawaii, one of America’s bluest states, where our friend had organized a house party to ring in the predicted victory of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of local hero Barack Obama’s legacy. The first polls on America’s East Coast would be closing in our early afternoon. We’d see a clear outcome by dusk and go home happy.

But we lost our swing as the sun went down. Donald Trump started with an early lead thanks to some victories in the Bible Belt and Great Plains. But OK — they almost always go Republican. And, not to worry, the Northeast states mostly went blue. As soon as a few of the “battleground” states turned our color, as polls predicted they would, Clinton would leapfrog to victory.

[N.B. I have a feeling SNL was also at our party…]

But then more southern states started going red. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana — sure, lost causes to begin with, right? Wyoming, Montana, Idaho — so deep red that the networks called them right after their polls closed.

But then Ohio fell. And Florida. And Georgia. I remember our cheers when Virginia went blue, then our shrieks when North Carolina canceled that out. Then the nor’easter: Maine and New Hampshire became too close to call. Even when the West Coast states came in and put Clinton in the lead, that too began to erode. After California, the Democrats had nothing left in the tank.

At that point the TV networks began to doomsay. MSNBC’s polling geek spent more than a television hour on incoming votes from rural and urban counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominoes were falling the other way. And then, stunningly, Trump’s victory in the “rigged” (Trump’s word) Electoral College became a mathematical certainty.

By the time the cameras turned to Clinton’s victory bash and showed delegates slinking out, I had too. Back home, I watched as Clinton conceded even before all the networks had called it for Trump. I felt betrayed. And insomniac.

————— break ——————-

JBC has commented on previous U.S. elections (“Hailing the tail end of Bush”, Dec. 2, 2008), so let me tell you: I searched for a silver lining to all this. I found none…

Rest of the column at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/16/issues/trumps-lesson-can-lie-way-top/

==================================

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Another positive review of book “Embedded Racism” by Japan Studies Association of Canada (JSAC): “important contribution to geography, cultural, and area studies”

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Book “Embedded Racism” notches up another positive review in academic circles (see another one by Tessa Morris-Suzuki here), this time from the Japan Studies Association of Canada. Opening paragraph follows. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JSAC:  “From the immigration crisis in Europe to the growing tensions around racism and law enforcement in the United States, discussion of institutionalized racism, exclusionary rhetoric in the media, and legal barriers to equality seems essential now more than ever. In his most recent book […] cultural critic, activist, and scholar Debito Arudou attempts to spark just such a discussion. A critical analysis of Japan’s treatment of visible minorities (people living in japan who do not display phenotypical Japanese traits) and the legal, political, and social mechanisms that perpetuate the exclusion of such minorities from various aspects of Japanese society, Embedded Racism is extremely well timed. Arguing that racism operating through various institutions in Japan is akin to experiences of racism in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, Arudou’s carefully constructed work attempts to debunk the dominant narrative of Japanese exceptionalism, which he claims provides an escape from accountability to the rest of the world. Describing how structural racism behind institutional, legal, social, and media narratives influences the degree to which “outsiders” are constructed and consequently excluded from essential social and legal protections, Embedded Racism is an important contribution to the fields of geography, cultural, and area studies […]” (Natasha Fox, Japan Studies Association of Canada (JSAC) Newsletter, Fall 2016) (read full review)

=====================================

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My Japan Times JBC column 102, Oct 31, 2016: “U.S. and Japan elections: Scary in their own ways “

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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JUST BE CAUSE
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U.S. and Japan elections: scary in their own ways
Subtitle:  American political campaigns can be frighteningly tribal while fear of the foreign permeates polls here
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, October 31, 2016
Column 102 for the Japan Times Community Page

Happy Halloween. Let’s talk about something really scary: elections in the United States and Japan.

I say scary because these countries are the No. 1 and No. 3 largest economies in the world, not to mention representative democracies considered too big to fail. Yet the way things are going is truly frightening.

Let start with election campaigns in the U.S., since they are probably very familiar and fresh to readers:

The U.S.: two tribes go to war […]

Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/30/issues/u-s-japan-elections-scary-ways/

======================
Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  We are celebrating Debito.org’s 20th Anniversary in 2016, so please consider donating a little something.  More details here.

Scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki reviews book “Embedded Racism” in journal Japanese Studies, calls it “important, courageous and challenging”

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Japanese Studies
ISSN: 1037-1397 (Print) 1469-9338 (Online)

Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjst20

BOOK REVIEW
Debito Arudou, Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki.  Reproduced with kind permission of the author.
To cite this article: Tessa Morris-Suzuki (2016) Debito Arudou, Embedded Racism:
Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination, Japanese Studies, 36:2, 277-279,

DOI:10.1080/10371397.2016.1224446
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10371397.2016.1224446
Published online: 04 Oct 2016.

Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

Debito Arudou, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015, xxvi, 323 pp. + notes, bibliography, index, ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6 https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513913

Japan is somewhat usual amongst developed countries in not having a law prohibiting racial discrimination. The postwar constitution states that ‘all of the people are equal under the law’, but, as Debito Arudou points out in this book, in the Japanese-language version of the text, ‘people’ is rendered as kokumin (nationals), thus excluding foreign residents. It is also true that in May 2016 the Japanese parliament passed a ‘Law on Measures against Hate Speech’ (Hētosupīchi Taisaku Hō) to combat the inflammatory expressions of hostility towards ethnic minorities: a hostility which has become an all-too-familiar feature of far right political discourse in recent years. But this law makes no provision for legal sanctions against perpetrators of ‘hate speech’, instead merely encouraging educational measures by the government and other public bodies; and since the law focuses on overt expressions of ‘hate’, it will presumably be powerless to discourage quieter forms of discrimination, such as the continuing practice by some landlords of refusing to rent properties to foreigners.

Embedded Racism confronts these ongoing issues of racial prejudice in Japanese society, focusing particularly on discrimination against people assumed to be foreign because they are visibly different from the standard phenotypical image of ‘Japanese’. The author, a naturalised Japanese citizen of American origin, has been engaged for years in campaigns to combat these forms of discrimination, and draws on his experience as a campaigner and as a long-term resident in Japan to create a persuasive and alarming dossier on the widespread existence of racial discrimination in Japanese society. A central issue which recurs throughout the book is the deep-seated assumption that race, ethnicity and nationality must coincide, and therefore that those who do not ‘look Japanese’ must therefore be foreign nationals. Particularly telling anecdotes include an instance where the author and one of his children (who is of relatively ‘Caucasian’ appearance) were refused entry to a hot spring bath while his wife and another child (who happens to be of more ‘Japanese’ appearance) were accepted, despite all being equally Japanese citizens.

This book, though, is more than a narrative of instances of discrimination and campaigns for redress. The author also seeks to explore the roots of the problem, which he locates in the legal apparatus of nationality, the workings of the court system, the lack of serious official mechanisms to combat discrimination, and stereotypes perpetuated by the mass media. Like other scholars of discrimination in Japanese society, Arudou identifies key problems as arising from Japan’s ius sanguinis (bloodline) nationality laws, which bestow Japanese nationality only on those descended from Japanese citizens. He also highlights the impact of the koseki (family registration) system, which relegates foreigners who marry into Japanese families to a marginal and subordinate status. These problems were compounded by the jūminhyō (resident registration) system, which excluded foreigners and rendered them statistically invisible, and by the alien registration system, under which foreign residents in Japan are required to carry their registration cards at all times and show them to the police on request. As Arudou notes, important changes to these systems were introduced in 2012, with foreigners being incorporated into the jūminhyō system, and visa and registration processes being overhauled. Yet these reforms have gone only a small way towards addressing the complex systems of exclusion affecting members of Japan’s ‘visible minorities’, while rising fears of crime and terrorism have if anything increased official scrutiny and suspicion of foreign residents and border-crossers.

Particularly powerful sections of the book detail the way in which racial profiling by the police, embodied in repeated reports on the problems of ‘foreigner crime’, have helped to embed exclusionary attitudes in Japanese society. Such reports, which often convey a misleading impression of trends in crime rates and of the proportion of offences committed by ‘foreigners’, feed into sensationalised media headlines and into the rhetoric of far right politicians. Though victims of discrimination theoretically have avenues of redress both through the courts and through the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights (BOHR), Arudou argues persuasively that neither has proved an effective source of protection for the rights of visible minorities. The courts have a very mixed record of upholding claims for equal treatment, while the BOHR has only very limited advisory powers, and often seems extremely cautious in exercising such powers as it does possess.

The picture is not wholly negative. Arudou notes the good work performed by Japanese NGOs and legal networks, and by some trade unions and local governments, which have made efforts to reduce barriers to the inclusion of foreign residents and have worked to combat prejudice and discrimination. All the same, he concludes that Japan remains a complex patchwork of overlapping categories of exclusion, where formal nationality and visible difference combine to create multiple dimensions of embedded racism.

This book is an important addition to the literature on problems of citizenship and minorities in Japan, particularly because it highlights the distinctive problems of visible minorities, rather than focusing on the large ‘invisible minorities’ (Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc.) who have been the subject of much existing research; but this focus does open up some problems which could be explored further. A particularly complex set of issues surround the marginalisation of Ainu and Okinawans – indigenous minority groups who exist on the borderline between visibility and invisibility. Most Ainu and Okinawans are not identifiable as ‘different’ in terms of physical appearance, and yet stereotypical images of the physical difference of these groups survive and sometimes play into the language of prejudice and the practice of discrimination. Although these issues are alluded to in Embedded Racism, they are not drawn out in any detail. Further discussion of the problem of these invisible/visible indigenous minorities might help give further depth to the notion of ‘visibility’: a phenomenon which is constantly created and re-created, not just by external realities, but also by images in the eye of the beholder.

Another area where there is scope for further discussion is the relationship between Japan’s embedded racism and that of other countries. As Arudou points out, for example, Japan’s former colonies Korea and Taiwan have inherited family registration and nationality systems that in part resemble Japan’s (though with some significant variations). Korea too, like Japan, has long-cherished myths of ethnic homogeneity. How are countries like South Korea and Taiwan dealing with the challenges of dis-embedding racism from their twenty-first century societies? Answers to this question might help to clarify the peculiarities of the problems faced by Japan, and open up ways for East Asian countries to share proposals for undoing the legal and conceptual barriers to the creation of more ethnically and racially inclusive societies.

In the final sections of Embedded Racism, the author looks to the future, without great optimism, but with some clear and cogent suggestions for steps that the Japanese government should take if it truly wishes to make Japan a more open society. These include passing strong and effective laws against discrimination, strengthening the powers of the Bureau of Human Rights, reforming the citizenship and family registration systems, and legalising dual nationality. Arudou also argues for the involvement of non-citizens in the processes of creating new policies affecting foreign residents. He expresses little confidence that the Japanese authorities will respond to such ideas, but his critique of Japan’s embedded racism and his proposals for change certainly deserve to be read by policy makers, as well as by scholars of Japan. This is an important, courageous and challenging book, and it casts a sharp light on problems which are often ignored or veiled, but which have profound consequences for the present and future of Japanese society.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki
Australian National University
© 2016 Tessa Morris-Suzuki, reproduced with permission of the author
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10371397.2016.1224446

===============================

Embedded Racism” has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through publisher Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield directly.

Go to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16.

More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.

Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf

Nearly 100 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections (according to WorldCat).

==========================

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My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Oct 3, 2016)

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito. The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 101
To be published Oct 3, 2016

I love elections. Anywhere. It’s fascinating to see how politicians craft public appeals. No matter how flawed the process, it’s how nation-states recharge their legitimacy and publicly reaffirm their mandate to govern.

During this season of the world’s most-watched presidential campaign, JBC will assess “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of how the United States and Japan run their elections. […] I want to talk about the expression of political culture and momentum that has grown from generations of campaigning, and how it brings out the “good” (things that are healthy for a representative democracy), the “bad” (things that aren’t), and the “ugly” (the just plain ludicrous)…

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/02/issues/comparing-elections-u-s-japan-good-bad-ugly/

=====================

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Debito panelist on Al-Jazeera program “The Stream”: “The politics of identity in Japan” after Yoshikawa Priyanka’s pageant victory

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AlJazeeraPriyankaDebito091416

The politics of identity in Japan
The conversation on race and ethnicity widens in the island nation.
Al-Jazeera.com Program “The Stream”, September 14, 2016
http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201609131500-0025282

For the second year in a row, Japan has crowned a biracial woman the winner of a major beauty pageant, reviving a conversation in the island nation about race, xenophobia and what it means to be Japanese.

Japan is frequently labeled as one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, but some say this is a myth that discounts the minorities living there and stifles dialogue about discrimination in the country.

In May, Japan passed its first anti-hate speech law in an attempt to curb racism and xenophobia. While critics sceptical about the law’s effectiveness poked holes in the bill, many have applauded the government for taking steps toward addressing what they say is an often ignored issue.

Some have viewed Priyanka Yoshikawa’s Miss World Japan win as a sign the country is becoming more open to diversity. Others argue Japan has been open for a long time, and stories suggesting otherwise are reinforcing antiquated stereotypes. We discuss at 19:30 GMT.

On today’s episode, we speak to:

Priyanka Yoshikawa @Miss_priyanka20
Miss World Japan 2016

Baye McNeil @locohama
Author, columnist for The Japan Times
bayemcneil.com

Edward Sumoto @MixedRootsJapan
Founder, Mixed Roots Japan
mixroots.jp

Debito Arudou @arudoudebito
Author, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
debito.org

Yuta Aoki @ThatYuta
YouTuber
youtube.com/YPlusShow

See it at http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201609131500-0025282

============================

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ABC NewsRadio Australia, Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan, Yoshikawa Priyanka, prompts another racial debate. Interviews Debito

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Hi Blog. ABC NewsRadio Australia interviews me again, this time about Yoshikawa Priyanka, second winner in a row (the first being Miyamoto Ariana last year) of a major national beauty pageant in Japan with mixed roots. Have a listen. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

=========================
Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan prompts another racial debate and Japan warns that its businesses may withdraw from the UK after Brexit
http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4535998.htm
Duration: 14:48, posted Sept. 12, 2016

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: For the second year in a row a bi-racial woman has won a beauty pageant in Japan, prompting a racial debate; Japan has issued a warning that its businesses may withdraw from the UK once it leaves the European Union; and the Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has bought the British smartphone chip-designing company ARM for more than $30 billion.

Eleni Psaltis speaks to Dr Debito Arudou from the University of Hawaii; Nigel Driffield, a Professor of international business at Warwick business school in the UK; and Dr Harminder Singh, a senior lecturer in Business Information Systems at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4535998.htm

==========================
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Japan Times column Sept. 5, 2016: “JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views”

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JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views
By Debito Arudou
Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 100
September 5, 2016

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

The day I proposed this column to my editors back in 2008, I knew it would be a hard sell.

Fortunately, I had a track record. I had been writing Zeit Gist articles (45 of them) every two months or so for the Community Page since 2002, and the JT was looking for new ways to serve the community beyond pages commemorating “Swaziland Independence Day” (which is Tuesday, incidentally). International goodwill and advertising revenue are all very well, but what about offering practical information for non-Japanese (NJ) residents making a better life here, or drawing attention to emerging domestic policies that affect them?

So my pitch was that the JT needed a regular columnist on human rights and issues of social justice. And I was convinced there was enough material for a monthly. They weren’t as convinced, and they were especially nonplussed at my suggestion for a column title: “Just Be Cause”!?

But shortly afterwards JBC got the green light, and on March 4, 2008, the first column was published — on why activism is frowned upon in Japan (because it’s associated with extremism). And off we went.

Nearly 10 years and 100 columns later, it is clear that, like the Debito.org archive (started 20 years ago, one of the oldest continuous personal websites on Japan) and daily blog (now 10 years old), JBC is in it for the long haul.

In this special anniversary column, let’s look back at what JBC has covered.  The themes have been, in order of frequency:

(Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/09/04/issues/jbc-marks-100-columns-million-page-views/.)

—————————-

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Finger Lakes Times: Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences in book on racism in Japan

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Hi Blog. My old hometown newspaper in Geneva, NY, interviewed me for a local article. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences with racism in the Land of the Rising Sun
By NEETU CHANDAK fltimes@fltimes.com Jul 28, 2016
http://www.fltimes.com/news/former-genevan-now-a-japanese-citizen-and-author-details-his/article_7269d474-54d5-11e6-a849-8b18c5331a1a.html

“It’s very subtle, like slow-burning acid, but once you realize it, you become pigeon-holed.”

This is how Debito Arudou, formerly Dave Aldwinckle of Geneva, describes the subtle racism in Japan in his highly acclaimed book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.” It was published late last year.

In 1999, Arudou and his children were denied access to a public bathhouse in Japan. Bathhouses there are family affairs; under the law, all Japanese citizens have the right to enter such places.

Arudou and an international group consisting of Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Germans went to the bathhouse to investigate. It turned out that people who did not look Japanese, even if they were citizens, were being denied access.

“I speak, read and write in Japanese. I’m also a naturalized citizen of Japan,” Arudou explained. “What more do I need to do to be considered as a Japanese?”

Arudou admits he had his work cut out for him: to expose his experiences, to shed light on how discrimination hurts, and to pursue what can be done to stop it.

“Every society has racism, and we need to end it because racism places a trail for others to hurt people based on appearances,” he said.

Is it possible to eradicate racism? Arudou believes so.

He said understanding how racism works can help lawmakers create policies that can tackle the issue. Arudou’s theory is that racism is a three-step process: differentiation, othering and subordination.

Differentiation is recognizing the differences of others based on skin color, socioeconomic status and other factors. This is done as a natural process to group people.

Othering is believing that a certain group of people are “not like us,” the us-vs.-them mentality.

Subordination is the process of building walls for those who are not like a certain group to block opportunities.

Simply understanding the process of racism and discrimination is not the end-all, be-all solution, Arudou cautioned. Actively taking steps to alleviate the situation is the right start.

“Stop judging others,” he said. “Instead of basing our perceptions on looks, we need to individualize it. Get to know the person.”

Many research institutions have made Arudou’s book a part of their libraries, including Cornell University.

Arudou said he “definitely” has some future book-writing ideas in mind — but for now, they’re a secret.

=================================
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“Deep in Japan” Podcast interviews Debito on Racism in Japan and book “Embedded Racism” (UPDATED: Goes viral in Poland!)

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Hi Blog. Jeff Krueger interviewed me a few days ago, and put up this podcast. He did a lot of research for this podcast, including reading 400-page book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” in three sittings, and investigating much of the anti-activist narrative in Japan. I had a listen to it this morning, and think it’s probably the best interview I’ve ever had done. Please have a listen and support his channel, even leave a review up at iTunes.

///////////////////////////////////////////////

Podcast: Deep in Japan, by Jeff Krueger
Title: “Debito: Racism in Japan”
Released: Aug 14, 2016

In this podcast, I interview writer, researcher, activist, Japan Times columnist, naturalized Japanese citizen and, most recently, author of the amazing book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” Dr. Arudou Debito. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Debito’s books and articles, visit his award-winning blog at www.debito.org. As always, sounds provided by www.bensound.com/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/podcast/deep-in-japan/id1121048809?l=en&mt=2
Soundcloud (free subscription via Facebook etc.): https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan/debito-racism-in-japan

Deep in Japan homepage at https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan

ENDS

=======================

UPDATE AUGUST 18:  Podcast goes viral in… Poland!  (Thanks to this popular vlog.)  Now at 6700 listens on Soundcloud alone!  Thanks!

=======================

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Japan Times JBC column 99, “For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution”, Aug 1, 2016

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution
By Debito Arudou
The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE column 99, August 1, 2016

Nobody here on the Community page has weighed in on Japan’s Upper House election last July 10, so JBC will have a go.

The conclusion first: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a hat trick this election, and it reaffirmed his mandate to do whatever he likes. And you’re probably not going to like what that is.

Of those three victories, the first election in December 2012 was a rout of the leftist Democratic Party of Japan and it thrust the more powerful Lower House of Parliament firmly into the hands of the long-incumbent Liberal Democratic Party under Abe. The second election in December 2014 further normalized Japan’s lurch to the far right, giving the ruling coalition a supermajority of 2/3 of the seats in the Lower House.

July’s election delivered the Upper House to Abe. And how. Although a few protest votes found their way to small fringe leftist parties, the LDP and parties simpatico with Abe’s policies picked up even more seats. And with the recent defection of Diet member Tatsuo Hirano from the opposition, the LDP alone has a parliamentary majority for the first time in 27 years, and a supermajority of simpaticos. Once again the biggest loser was the leftist Democratic Party, whose fall from power three years ago has even accelerated.

So that’s it then: Abe has achieved his goals. And with that momentum he’s going to change the Japanese Constitution.

Amazingly, this isn’t obvious to some observers. The Wall Street Journal, The Economist (London), and Abe insiders still cheerfully opined that Abe’s primary concern remains the economy — that constitutional reform will remain on the backburner. But some media made similar optimistic predictions after Abe’s past electoral victories…

Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/07/31/issues/abe-will-always-constitution/

===============

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Book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Press 2016) now out early in paperback: $49.99

mytest

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Hi Blog. Sales of book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, November 2015) in hardcover have been outstanding.

embeddedracismcover

In less than a year after being published, WorldCat says as of this writing that 83 of the world’s major academic libraries worldwide (including Stanford, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) already have it in their collections.

Now my publisher has brought it out in paperback early for classroom use (it usually takes a year or two before that happens). Price: Less than half the hardcover price, at $49.99.  It currently occupies the first spot of Lexington’s Sociology Catalog this year under Regional Studies:  Asia (page 33).

Now’s your chance to get a copy, either from the publisher directly or from outlets such as Amazon.com. Read the research I spent nearly two decades on, which earned a Ph.D., and has for the first time 1) generated talk within Japanese Studies of a new way of analyzing racism in Japan (with a new unstudied minority called “Visible Minorities“), and 2) applied Critical Race Theory to Japan and found that the lessons of racialization processes (and White Privilege) still apply to a non-White society (in terms of Wajin Privilege).

Get the book that finally exposes the discrimination in Japan by physical appearance as a racialization process, and how the people who claim that “Japan has only one race, therefore no racism” are quite simply wrong.  Further, as the book argues in the last chapter, if this situation is not resolved, demographically-shrinking Japanese society faces a bleak future.

Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.” Now out in paperback on Amazon and at Lexington Books. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book.

Exclusively for now on Amazon Kindle is “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961“. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.

Cover

Book summary:

Being the Wry Eye Witness Chronicle of Rookie American Cultural Diplomat Ivan P. Hall.

As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.

In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.

Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.

Crawling onto the Great Buddha’s head at Bamian. Mounting the first modern art exhibition in Afghanistan. Picnicking on mountain meadows later pummeled by Soviet gunships. Capturing on camera those remote mood-laden landscapes, those stunning Afghan juxtapositions of verdant and austere. Directing Broadway hits with young Pakistani actors destined to become Foreign Secretaries and top ambassadors of Bangladesh. Flying lessons with the Pakistan Air Force. Living it up in Calcutta. The nagging moral conundrum of that extraordinary artistic sensibility throughout Bengal cheek-by-jowl with material poverty and physical pain never seen before or after on such a vast and poignant scale. Rousing welcomes for his talks on Faulkner or the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign at Muslim Libraries and Assembly Halls. A heady and nostalgic anecdotal romp through worlds long since lost.

Ivan’s Bio reads as follows:

Ivan P. Hall’s passion for straddling cultural gaps dates from his birth on the Protestant campus of the American College of Sofia in Orthodox Bulgaria in 1932. Following his Princeton B.A. in European History in 1954, he served with the U.S. Army as a German language interpreter in military intelligence in Bavaria and as a ‘cellist with the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, took an M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was stationed with the U.S. Information Service in 1958-1961 as a rookie cultural officer in Afghanistan and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh), including a heady stint at 27 as acting U.S. Cultural Attaché in Kabul.

Turning then to East Asia with a Ph.D. from Harvard in Japanese History, Hall went on to author three books on Japan’s always fascinating if ambivalent intellectual ties with the outside world including a biography of the controversial Meiji westernizer Mori Arinori (1973); Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, chosen by Business Week as one of its Ten Best Business Books of 1997; and Bamboozled! – How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and its Implications for Our Future in Asia (2002).

Hall has taught courses in English and Japanese on Modern Japan, Japanese Intellectual History, American Intellectual History, Political Ideology, and International Cultural Relations as a professor at The Gakushuin and visiting professor at Keio and Tsukuba Universities in Japan and as a lecturer at Tokyo University, Yonsei and Renmin Universities in Seoul and Beijing, and the Harvard Summer School. From 1977-1984 he was the Tokyo-based Associate Executive Director of the federally funded Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission for scholarly and artistic exchanges between those two countries. He now makes his home in Thailand.

I urge anyone who is interested in either Ivan’s view of the world, or how the world was quite a different place vis-a-vis the Cold War’s relationship with Islam a mere half-century ago, to download and read “Happier Islams” on Amazon Kindle.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 98, “Ibaraki Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth”, June 6, 2016 (UPDATED with links to sources)

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth
Repeat-offender Ibaraki force called to account for backsliding on the issue of hotel snooping
By Debito Arudou.  Column 98 for The Japan Times Community Page, June 6, 2016 Version updated with links to sources.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/06/05/issues/japans-police-still-unfettered-law-truth/

Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law.

A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.

IbarakipolicehotelposterApr2016
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.

What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago.

The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.

It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005:

“After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”

Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold?

Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…

But back to Onur, who also took action. He stayed an extra day in Mito and raised the issue with local authorities:

“I went to Mito City Public Health Department (Hokensho), who were very helpful, and confirmed that as a resident I need not show ID at hotels. Then I showed them the poster from the Ibaraki police department. Surprised, they said they had never seen this poster before, and the police had not contacted them about it. They said it is clearly different from the real law, especially the bit about ‘every foreign guest.’

“The Hokensho added that the police have become stricter because of the G-7 (Ise-Shima) summit and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They said they would check the hotel and inform me of the result.”

But Onur wasn’t done yet: “Then I talked with two officers at the Mito City Police Department’s Security Division. They listened without making any comments. I showed them an official announcement from the Health Ministry and said that their poster is clearly different.

“The police read the ministry announcement and took notes like they were unaware of the law, asking questions like ‘Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask for your ID card?’ and ‘Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?’ I offered the contact number at Health Ministry for more information, but they said it wasn’t necessary. Finally, I asked them to fix their poster. They said they would check the law and behave accordingly.”

Shortly afterwards, Onur got a call from the Hokensho: “They checked my hotel and saw the poster was now changed. It seems the Ibaraki police had printed a new one and distributed it to all hotels within a few hours! The Hokensho said the new poster clearly states ‘foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan,’ which follows regulations. They said the police warned the hotel not to make the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.”

Well done. It’s satisfying to have others retrace our steps and get even better results. It’s just a shame that he should have to.

However, two issues still niggle. One is that photocopying requirement, which, according to The Japan Times’ own legal columnist, Colin P. A. Jones, may also be questionable:

“According to the Personal Information Protection Act (Kojin Joho Hogo Ho), the hotel should explain to you why they are collecting personal information from you, which is what they are doing if they take a copy of your passport,” Jones said in an email. “So if they can confirm that you are a resident of Japan by looking at your residence card or driver’s license, they do not need to take a copy because they have confirmed that the Hotel Act no longer applies. If they take a copy they are collecting personal information beyond what is necessary for the expressed purpose. In my experience, once you point this out, hotel staff then start mumbling about ‘their policies,’ but of course those don’t trump the law.”

Second issue: Ibaraki.

Ibaraki is where cops take local grumps seriously when they report a “suspicious foreigner” standing near JR Ushiku Station — seriously enough to arrest him on Aug. 13, 2014, for not carrying his “gaijin card.” Well, that “foreigner” turned out to be a Japanese, and Japanese are not required to carry ID. Whoops.

Ibaraki is also the site of a mysterious and under-reported knife attack on Chinese “trainee” laborers (the Japan Times, Feb. 23, 2015), which resulted in an as-yet-unresolved[*] murder. (Funny that. Imagine the media outcry if foreigners had knifed Japanese!)

Do Ibaraki police have anything to do with this? Actually, yes.

Ibaraki police have posted in public places some of Japan’s most militantly anti-foreign posters. I mean this literally: Since 2008, at least three different versions have depicted cops, bedecked in paramilitary weaponry, physically subduing foreigners. The slogan: “Protect (Japan) by heading (foreigners) off at the shores.”

Ibaraki police have also offered the public online information about “foreign crime infrastructure,” as if it’s somehow separate from or more ominous than the yakuza. They claim that foreigners are responsible for drugs, illegal medical activities, underground taxis, false IDs — and paternity scams to get Japanese citizenship. And, conveniently, the National Police Agency argued within its 2010 white paper that foreign crime infrastructure “cannot be grasped through statistics” (see “Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism,” JBC, July 8, 2013). It’s enough to make the public paranoid.

And Ibaraki is a strange place for such militancy. It does not have a particularly high concentration of foreigners. Except for, of course, those behind bars at Ibaraki’s Ushiku Detention Center.

Japan’s infamous immigration detention centers, or “gaijin tanks,” are where foreign visa overstayers and asylum seekers are left to rot indefinitely in what Amnesty International in 2002 called “secret detention facilities.” Gaijin tanks don’t get the oversight governing Japan’s prisons because the former do not officially qualify as “prisons.” They’re pretty bad places to be.

And Ushiku’s gaijin tank is notoriously bad. It has made headlines over the past decade for drugging and subjecting detainees to conditions so horrendous that they have gone on hunger strikes, committed suicide or died having received improper medical care and under other mysterious circumstances.

Therein lies the point I keep banging on about in this column: What happens when racial discrimination is left unrestrained by laws? It just gets normalized and embedded.

Treating people badly without official checks and balances eventually makes abuse tolerated and ignored — like background radiation. And, fueled by the innate fear of The Outsider, the abuses just get worse and worse. Because they can.

In this case, the unfettered xenophobia radiating from the Ushiku Detention Center, Ibaraki’s fast-breeder reactor of foreigner dehumanization and abuse, has clearly corroded Ibaraki police’s judgment — to the point where they feel they can outright lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce, and have their propaganda irradiate hotels, street-corner busybodies and the general public.

It’s time for people to realize that Japanese police’s free rein to maintain our allegedly “safe society” has limits. For officially treating an entire people as potentially “unsafe” is dangerous in itself.

Ibaraki Prefecture thus offers a fascinating case study. Of what happens to a neighborhood when xenophobia goes beyond the occasional international summit or sports event, and becomes regularized into official extralegal standard operating procedure.

=========================

Debito’s latest project is the mockumentary film “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin,” which is now being funded on Kickstarter. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send all your comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

=========================

[*]  Correction:  According to Chinese media translated into Japanese, the abovementioned knife attack and murder of Chinese “Trainees” has resulted in the arrest of 5 Vietnamese nationals:

日本の中国人技能実習生、ベトナム人5人に包丁で襲われ1人死亡1人負傷=茨城県警察は殺人と殺人未遂容疑で逮捕―中国紙
http://www.recordchina.co.jp/a114724.html

2015年7月23日、人民日報(電子版)は日本の報道を引用し、中国人技能実習生を殺害したとして、茨城県警察が殺人と殺人未遂の容疑でベトナム人5人を逮捕したと伝えた。

警察によると、今年2月22日午後9時40分ごろ、当時農業技能実習生だった中国人の孫文君(スン・ウェンジュン)さん(33)は茨城県鉾田市の路上を同僚と歩いていた際、包丁を持ったベトナム人の男女5人に襲われた。

これにより孫さんは死亡し、もう1人の中国人技能実習生も負傷した。その後の調査で、ベトナム人男女らの中には元農業技能実習生もおり、警察は動機などについて調べを進めている。(翻訳・編集/内山)ENDS

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Kickstarter: “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” a mockumentary film by Primolandia Productions starring Debito Arudou

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UPDATE JUNE 4, 2016:

GoGoadvert060316

Preview of movie:  “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin”

More details and Kickstarter support page to fund this project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/primolandia/go-go-second-time-gaijin?token=3490749a

THE STORY:
“Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a mockumentary that focuses on a Caucasian expat living in Japan who, after receiving a blow to the head, wakes up believing that he is a member of an ultranationalist right wing group (the “uyoku dantai”). An idealistic amateur “director” (in the scheme of the mockumentary) is making a documentary film about this odd character because he believes that it will propel his own filmmaking career towards prominence. As the director and his subject’s views begin to diverge though, things begin to fall apart. “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a story about identity, delusion, myopic nationalism, ascendent conservative trends in Japan’s current government, other big words, and how those beliefs do not accurately reflect the political and social reality of Japanese society. Only the best ingredients for a controversial comedy.

SELECTED CAST AND CREW:

Debito Arudou (Actor) is a writer, blogger, and human rights activist. He was born in the United States and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000. He is the author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan and has recently published Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination (Lexington Books).

Shintaro Naka (Actor) is an educator and actor in Southwest Japan. He has performed in several short-films, including A Portrait of No One in 2009, as well as performing as Toshio in Kazuhiko Konoike’s Sensitive (2012) and the follow-up film Suddenly (2013).

Robert Nishimura (Writer/Director) is among the last generation of “Zonians,” born and bred in the Republic of Panamá. In the last two decades, under the Primolandia Productions label, he has produced short films, TV documentaries, video installations, provided art direction for Japanese fashion magazines, and designed promotional material for films in Japan and the US. Based in Japan for the past 11 years — and now a permanent resident — he currently is the co-owner and curator of an art gallery in southwest Japan.

Stirling Perry (Writer/Producer) is an educator living in Hiroshima, Japan. He previously co-wrote and directed Gokurōsama (2008) with Robert Nishimura, a short film shot exclusively for the Akira Kurosawa Short Film Competition. Stirling is currently writing several feature films, with the first slated to go into production in 2016.

Paul Leeming (Cinematographer) began his film career in Sydney in 2005 and graduated from the Sydney Film School in 2006, majoring in Directing, Cinematography and Sound. In 2007 he moved to Japan and started Visceral Psyche, writing and directing several award-winning films and shooting many more as a cinematographer. Paul is now living in Berlin with his sights set firmly on Hollywood.

Kazuhiko Konoike (Producer/Assistant Director) began his production career at Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman) and GAGA Distribution before starting his own production label, cinepos, in 2008. Since then, Kazuhiko has made several short films and promotional videos, with many more to come.

More details and Kickstarter support page to fund this project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/primolandia/go-go-second-time-gaijin?token=3490749a

“Japan’s Under-Researched Visible Minorities: Applying Critical Race Theory to Racialization Dynamics in a Non-White Society”. Journal article in Washington University Global Studies Law Review 14(4) 2015

mytest

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Debito’s latest publication is in in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review (Vol.14, No.4):

Japan’s Under-Researched Visible Minorities: Applying Critical Race Theory to Racialization Dynamics in a Non-White Society
Dr. Debito Arudou
Washington University Global Studies Law Review

Abstract
Critical Race Theory (CRT), an analytical framework grounded in American legal academia, uncovers power relationships between a racialized enfranchised majority and a disenfranchised minority. Although applied primarily to countries and societies with Caucasian majorities to analyze White Privilege this Article applies CRT to Japan, a non-White majority society. After discussing how scholarship on Japan has hitherto ignored a fundamental factor within racialization studies—the effects of skin color on the concept of “Japaneseness”—this Article examines an example of published research on the Post-WWII “konketsuji problem.” This research finds blind spots in the analysis, and re-examines it through CRT to uncover more nuanced power dynamics. This exercise attempts to illustrate the universality of nation-state racialization processes, and advocates the expansion of Whiteness Studies beyond Caucasian-majority societies into worldwide Colorism dynamics in general.

Recommended Citation
Dr. Debito Arudou, Japan’s Under-Researched Visible Minorities: Applying Critical Race Theory to Racialization Dynamics in a Non-White Society, 14 Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 695 (2015),
http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_globalstudies/vol14/iss4/13

==========================

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My latest Japan Times column JBC 97: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments” (May 2, 2016)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest column, which is a departure from my usual writing.  Enjoy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 1, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment.

By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future.

I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible.

Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these.

So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.)

Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world! […]

Read the rest at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

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Out in Paperback: Textbook “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books) July 2016 in time for Fall Semester classes: $49.99

mytest

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embeddedracismcover
Hi Blog. I just received word from my publisher that “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield 2016) will also be released as a paperback version in July/August 2016.

This is good news. Usually when an academic book comes out in hardcover, the paperback version is not released for a year or two in order not to affect sales of the hardcover. (The hardcover is, generally, intended for libraries and must-have buyers).

However, sales of the hardcover have been so strong that the publisher anticipates this book will continue to sell well in both versions.

So, just in time for Fall Semester 2016, “Embedded Racism” will be coming out over the summer for university classes, with an affordable price of $49.99 (a competitive price for a 378-page textbook, less than half the price of the hardcover).

Please consider getting the book for your class and/or adding the book to your library! Academics may inquire via https://rowman.com/Page/Professors about the availability of review copies and ebooks.

Full details of the book, including summary, Table of Contents, and reviews here.

Hardcover version: November 2015 (North America, Latin America, Australia, and Japan), January 2016 (UK, Europe, rest of Asia, South America, and Africa), 378 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4985-1390-6
eBook: 978-1-4985-1391-3
Subjects: Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General, Social Science / Minority Studies, Social Science / Sociology / General

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

==========================

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ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools (plus an aside on odd Japan Times editorial bias)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting “Assistant Language Teachers” (ALTs) “outsourcing” system–a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government’s JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard).  The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage.  Here’s the math, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union:


Courtesy of Fukuoka General Union and Chris Flynn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G95K0vjB3A
Caption: Uploaded on Feb 10, 2016
This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can’t survive on this low wage.
北九州市の市立中学校で働く派遣の語学指導助手の給料の実態。可処分収入は月3万円、­それはすべて食費に使うと1日1000円ぐらい。フルタイムの先生なのに貧困層。現実­です。

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:

Purging the nation of racism
The Japan Times JAN 30, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/01/30/reader-mail/purging-nation-racism/

Chulbom Lee, in his Letter to the Editor in the Jan. 17 issue titled “Move forward by protecting foreign residents,” reminds readers that not even two years ago the U.N. Committee of Racial Discrimination called on Japan to take action against incidents of racism that continue to plague the country. Lee insinuates that increased legal protection against harassment or job discrimination for Japan’s foreign residents would prove the nation is not still steeped in past militaristic nationalism.

One could make a case for the continuing plight of the assistant language teacher (ALT). Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal — is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

The fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously — ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made — is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

Time is past due for Japanese government at all levels to take a stand for tax-paying foreign nationals! We can only hope that such monkey business will not last too far into the new year.

CHRIS CLANCY
NAGANO
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

As an interesting aside, Chris Clancy kindly sent me the original letter he submitted to the editor.  Note what it originally sourced:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////
ORIGINAL TEXT FOLLOWS, COURTESY OF CHRIS CLANCY:

Arudou Debito gives a fair assessment of the good, the bad and impeded progress regarding human rights issues in Japan in his most recent “Just Be Cause” column (“Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015,” January 3). One issue he could also have included is the continuing plight of the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT).

Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal – is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

Arudou-san points out that Japan did sign the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination in December 1995, but the fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously – ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made – is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

We can only hope that such monkey business will not continue too far into the new year. Perhaps improved conditions for foreign educators will be one of the positive stories in Arudou-san’s top 10 for 2016.

Chris Clancy, MSEd (educator, USA)
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Receiving no response, and wanting to make sure that this issue got the exposure it deserved, Chris submitted two more versions of this letter to the JT editors (I reproduce the one above with his permission).  Editors took the one that avoided sourcing my article.

So it’s interesting how certain elements within the Japan Times are that unfriendly. Not only do they sometimes not put up links to my columns on the Japan Times Facebook feed when they come out (is avoiding increasing their readership something they’re professionally entitled to do?), they’ve also refused to review my book “Embedded Racism“, claiming that they don’t review individual monographs anymore. Except when they’re 20-year-old monographs by Alex Kerr (last January). Or “Essential Reading for Japanophiles” [sic].  Odd bias, that. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC 95, “Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step” Feb. 1, 2016

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Hi Blog. Here is my Japan Times Just Be Cause column 95 on hate speech legislation in Japan. Thanks once again for sending it to #1 again on the Japan Times Online! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step”
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Just Be Cause column 95 for the Japan Times Community Page
The Japan Times, Monday, Feb. 1, 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/

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 94 Annual Top Ten: “Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015”, Jan. 3, 2016

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Hi Blog. My latest Just Be Cause column 94 for the Japan Times Community Page:

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 3, 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/

Happy New Year 2016: “Embedded Racism” makes TUJ Prof Jeff Kingston’s “Recommended Readings” for 2015

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Hi Blog, and 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 (it was founded on March 15, 1996), 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” (Rowman & Littlefield 2015/2016) as one of his “Recommended Readings” in The Japan Times.  Thank you.  It joins the other good reviews.

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.

Looking forward too seeing what 2016 brings.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (my latest for the JT), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015

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Hi Blog. Here is my latest for the JT. 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. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////

ISSUES | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT
Much jaw-jaw about war-war: the year 2015 in quotes
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
DEC 23, 2015, THE JAPAN TIMES

Published version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/12/23/issues/much-jaw-jaw-war-war-year-2015-quotes/

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.

“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.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/14/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-picked-china-build-indias-high-speed-rail-link-15-billion-deal/

“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.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/28/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-abe-japan-joint-press-confere

“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.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/if-japan-gets-attacked-we-have-to-immediately-go-to-their-aid-if-we-get-attacked-japan-doesnt-have-to-help-us

“Administrative bodies must leave records. Without records, how could the public as well as experts examine the process in the future?”
— Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of politics at Meiji University, commenting in September on the Abe administration’s lack of records on internal discussions behind the historical reinterpretation of the Constitution in 2014, which led to the lifting of the long-held ban on collective self-defense, potentially enabling Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/28/national/politics-diplomacy/government-skipped-recording-debate-over-constitutional-reinterpretation/

“I have been really annoyed by this issue. … I have nothing to do with the design. Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it.”
— Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ Organizing Committee, handling flak in July over plans for the new National Stadium, which were eventually abandoned after its budget doubled without any public explanation.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/22/national/mori-denies-role-failed-stadium-bid/

“Does local autonomy or democracy exist in Japan? Is it normal that Okinawa alone bears the burden? I want to ask (these questions) to all of the people [of Japan],”
— Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, criticizing the Japanese government in December for its plan to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, despite strong popular protests about environmental damage and Okinawa’s disproportionate hosting of American military bases in Japan.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/12/06/editorials/legal-showdown-henoko/

“Despite the principle of separation of powers, the judiciary in Japan tends to subordinate itself to the administrative branch. I think it will be very difficult for the prefectural government to win the suit.”
— Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota commenting in November on the lawsuit between Okinawa Prefecture and the central government over the Henoko Base construction plan, based upon his experience twenty years ago when he lost a case in Japan’s Supreme Court over denying leases of local lands for US military use.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/17/national/politics-diplomacy/former-okinawa-governor-raps-japanese-government-suit-u-s-base/

“In March, an internal document of the SDF was exposed in a Lower House Budget Committee meeting, showing a plan to permanently station about 800 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force troops at U.S. Marine Camp Schwab at Henoko and other U.S. facilities in Okinawa.”
— Sentaku monthly magazine, commenting in July on the probable future use of US bases by the Japanese military in light of increasing tensions with China.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/07/28/commentary/japan-commentary/henoko-base-eventually-will-be-used-by-the-sdf/

“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable… I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.”
— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pledging non-military assistance for Middle-Eastern Countries battling Islamic State, in January.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-japam-idUSKBN0KQ07L20150117

“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”
— Terrorist “Jihadi John” of the Islamic State, in a video message to the Government of Japan in January showing footage of journalist Kenji Goto’s beheading after being taken hostage.
http://leaksource.info/2015/01/31/graphic-video-islamic-state-beheads-japanese-journalist-kenji-goto/

“The Japanese government didn’t make due efforts to save my son. It was simply remiss in its duties. I believe my son died a tragic death because the government did nothing. I demand that it conduct a thorough soul-searching.”
— Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, in a statement in May denouncing the Japanese government’s handling of the hostage crisis.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/26/national/gotos-mother-alleges-government-inaction-led-sons-death-hands-islamic-state/

“差別のない世界を子どもたちに” “難民歓迎” “民主主義を肯定“
“Give children a world without discrimination.” “Refugees welcome” “Reaffirming democracy.”
— Slogans shouted by 2,500 demonstrators at a third-annual Tokyo Democracy March in November in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
http://www.jcp.or.jp/akahata/aik15/2015-11-23/2015112301_04_1.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=13675

“There are 100 million voters in Japan. What percent of them are protesting in front of the Diet? The number is insignificant. I’m not denying their right to protest. But it’s wrong for the national will to be decided by such a small number of demonstrators.”
— Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, regarding a demonstration in August that organizers said drew 120,000 people to protest security legislation that paves the way for the deployment of Japanese troops abroad to fight in defense of allies even when Japan is not directly threatened.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/its-a-denial-of-democracy-if-just-that-many-protesters-would-be-enough-to-decide-the-will-of-the-nation-the-number-of-voters-in-japan-is-100-million-the-protesters-in-front-of-the-diet-would-be-no

“Their claims are based on their self-centered and extremely egoistic thinking that they don’t want to go to war. We can blame postwar education for such widespread selfish individualism.”
— LDP Diet Member Takaya Muto, 36, criticizing university students protesting the aforementioned controversial security bills in August.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/their-claims-are-based-on-their-self-centered-and-extremely-egoistic-thinking-that-they-dont-want-to-go-to-war-we-can-blame-postwar-education-for-such-widespread-selfish-individualism

“Since we started our activities as an ‘emergency action,’ and many of our members are slated to graduate from universities soon, SEALDs will dissolve after next summer’s Upper House election. After that, if individual persons want to take action or create another movement, they are free to do so.”
— Mana Shibata, 22, organizer of the prominent Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, speaking at a news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/28/national/politics-diplomacy/anti-war-student-organization-close-shop-upper-house-poll/

“It’s not only pre-war nostalgia. He needed to step up the rhetoric for the election. But I don’t think it’s coincidental that something related to wartime propaganda came up.”
— Sven Saaler, history professor at Sophia University, on Abe’s new goal of building a “Society in which all 100 million people can play an active role,” and how it is redolent of an old martial mobilization slogan.
http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-abe-slogan-idUKKCN0RW0SO20151002

“People come up to me every day and ask, ‘What happened to women’s empowerment?’ ”
— Masako Mori, former cabinet minister in charge of grappling with Japan’s declining birthrate, noting how as soon as Abe launched his “100 million active people” catchphrase in September, his previous one about empowering women disappeared.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/people-come-up-to-me-every-day-and-ask-what-happened-to-womens-empowerment

“There’s something wrong about exploiting underprivileged women from abroad to do household work in the name of boosting female labor participation in Japan. Men’s share of housework has not yet been discussed sufficiently.”
— Motoko Yamagishi, secretary general of Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, speaking in November about the foreign workers being imported as maids and household workers on an experimental basis in Osaka and Kanagawa, which have been designated as “special economic zones” where some labor protections do not apply.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/theres-something-wrong-about-exploiting-underprivileged-women-from-abroad-to-do-household-work-in-the-name-of-boosting-female-labor-participation-in-japan-mens-share-of-housework-ha

“International Court of Justice judges are not necessarily experts in marine resources.”
— An unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman in October, confirming that Japan will no longer respond to lawsuits filed over whaling issues. Japan later announced it would resume “research” whaling in 2016 despite the ICJ having ruled that the program was anything but scientific.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/icj-judges-are-not-necessarily-experts-in-marine-resources
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/japan-to-resume-whaling-programme

赴任前、入会していた日本外国特派員協会で、日本語ができない外国人記者たちが偏向した「反日」記事を世界に発信しているのを苦々しく感じた。日本も日本語能力を外国人特派員へのビザ発給の条件にしたらどうだろうか。正しい日本理解につながるかもしれない。
“When I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, I had a bitter feeling that foreign reporters who don’t understand the Japanese language are filing biased ‘anti-Japan’ articles worldwide. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for issuing a visa? That might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.”
— Author Noburu Okabe in a column earlier this month in the conservative Sankei Shimbun.
http://www.sankei.com/column/news/151215/clm1512150004-n1.html
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/639-new-members-in-july/639-new-members-in-july.html

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”
— Shinzo Abe’s Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in August.
http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201508/0814statement.html

“But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words [of apology and remorse] in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens? …The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong.”
— Historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki commenting shortly afterwards on how Abe’s WWII Statement fails History 101.
http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/08/18/abes-wwii-statement-fails-history-101/

やはり従軍慰安婦の問題というのは正式に政府のスタンスというのがよくまだ見えませんよね。そういう意味において、やはり今これを取り上げてですね、我々が放送するということが本当に妥当かどうかということは本当に慎重に考えなければいけないと思っております。
“Regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue, I can’t see an official government stance on it yet. So for that reason, I think it’s very important to consider very prudently whether it is appropriate for us to take it up for broadcast.”
— NHK Director-General Katsuto Momii, revealing the national broadcaster’s lack of independence from the government vis-à-vis reporting on issues surrounding Japan’s government-sponsored wartime sexual slavery.
http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH256DRYH25UCVL01P.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/world/asia/in-japan-bid-to-stifle-media-is-working.html

もう20−30年も前に南アフリカ共和国の実情を知って以来、私は、居住区だけは、白人、アジア人、黒人というふうに分けて住む方がいい、と思うようになった。
“After 20-30 years knowing the situation in The Republic of South Africa, I have come to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should be separated and live in different residential areas.”
— Ayako Sono, novelist and former Abe Cabinet adviser on education reform, in another Sankei Shimbun column, this one in February advising that a similar policy be instituted in Japan.
http://www.debito.org/?p=13061

“Already we have more foreigners than registered dogs.”
— Hiroaki Noguchi, a Liberal Democratic Party assemblyman in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, while asking questions earlier this month about the number of foreign residents who had allegedly not paid their taxes.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/13/national/saitama-assemblyman-apologizes-remark-number-registered-dogs-foreigners/

“Municipalities can offer the biggest support to same-sex couples who face hardships in everyday life. We want to deliver this message: Don’t worry on your own, we are with you.”
— Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, which announced in November that it was joining two Tokyo wards in legally recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/30/national/social-issues/another-japanese-city-to-recognize-same-sex-unions/

“Our children will still be around in 2100, and that’s the perspective we need to remember.”
— Japanese Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa, speaking in the lead-up to the December Paris talks on climate change, which led to a historic agreement by 196 countries to limit carbon emissions and forest degradation before global warming reaches irreversible levels.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/our-children-will-still-be-around-in-2100-and-thats-the-perspective-we-need-to-remember http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/12/world/paris-climate-change-deal-explainer.html

“Other advanced countries prioritize political education. Things like mock elections should be promoted for students in Japan. If young people aren’t encouraged to participate in politics, we’ll end up with politics only for the elderly.”
— Tokyo University education professor Shigeo Kodama, an education professor at the University of Tokyo, commenting in the lead-up to the lowering of Japan’s legal voting age from 20 to 18 in June.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/other-advanced-countries-prioritize-political-education-things-like-mock-elections-should-be-promoted-for-students-in-japan-if-young-people-arent-encouraged-to-participate-in-politics-we

“Young people aren’t hanging around places for a long time as much as they used to. It’s tough to know what they’re doing and where. Police haven’t been able to keep up with the spread of social networks. It’s getting harder to grasp what’s happening.”
— An unnamed senior National Police Agency official speaking in March about the ills of social media on Japan’s youth.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/young-people-arent-hanging-around-places-for-a-long-time-as-much-as-they-used-to-its-tough-to-know-what-theyre-doing-and-where-police-havent-been-able-to-keep-up

“If you come across children alone at night, please ask them, ‘What are you doing?’ If this is difficult, it’s also OK to contact the police and other authorities.”
— Mieko Miyata, director of the Japan Research Institute of Safer Child Education, speaking after two junior high school children were found dead after they had spent a night hanging around the streets of Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, in August.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/if-you-come-across-children-alone-at-night-please-ask-them-what-are-you-doing-if-this-is-difficult-its-also-ok-to-contact-the-police-and-other-authorities

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) establishes in the Asia-Pacific a free, fair and open international economic system with countries that share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.”
— Prime Minister Abe, in a response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement struck between 12 Pacific Rim economies in October.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-trade-tpp-abe-idUSKCN0S004920151006

“The TPP could violate the Japanese right to get stable food supply, or the right to live, guaranteed by Article 25 of the nation’s Constitution.”
— Masahiko Yamada, Agriculture Minister under previous Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, filing a lawsuit against the government to halt Japanese involvement in TPP talks in May.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/15/national/crime-legal/ex-minister-turns-courts-bid-keep-japan-tpp-talks

“Japan is full of Chinese, they ask to go to places with none. That’s a difficult one to handle.”
— Yasushi Nakamura, President of Hato Bus Co., commenting in November on the ubiquity of Chinese tourists in Japan in 2015.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/12/business/aboard-tokyos-yellow-hato-bus-china-tourists-surge/

“In the trash collection areas on each floor, you’ll see veritable mountains of discarded boxes for cosmetics, shoes, small electrical appliances and so on. And they don’t even bother to flatten and tie them up for pickup. I had to go to the building custodian for assistance.”
— Unnamed resident complaining about Chinese tourists engaging in bakugai (“explosive buying”), leaving their rubbish in apartment complexes they have rented out to avoid recently-inflated hotel prices.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/12/national/media-national/no-tolerance-inns-chinas-shoppers/

“The Self-Defence Forces are trying to brainwash students without leaving any evidence behind.”
— Parent of a school student in Shiga, complaining in October about the SDF distributing recruitment messages on toilet paper to six junior high schools in the prefecture.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/the-sdf-is-trying-to-brainwash-students-without-leaving-any-evidence-behind

ENDS

Happy Joy Day: My book “Embedded Racism” arrives on my shelves; happy photo

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. 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). Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Eleven touristy articles of mine about touring Sapporo, Hokkaido, and environs, published by Netmobius

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  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 the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them:

Sapporo New Chitose Airport — how it’s run like airports everywhere should be.
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-new-chitose-airport/

Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
http://www.sapporostation.com/transportation-from-new-chitose-airport-to-sapporo/

Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016)
http://www.sapporostation.com/hokkaido-shinkansen-traveling-from-tokyo-to-sapporo/

History of Sapporo Station — From Meiji to the Present
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-station-history/

Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-station-layout-and-facilities/

Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu)
http://www.sapporostation.com/shopping-near-sapporo-station/

Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower)
http://www.sapporostation.com/sightseeing-near-sapporo-station/

Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey)
http://www.sapporostation.com/hotels-near-sapporo-station/

Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-subway-namboku-tozai-and-toho-lines/

Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa
http://www.sapporostation.com/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)
http://www.sapporostation.com/jr-hokkaido-train-lines-accessible-from-sapporo/

About my sponsor: Netmobius is an online media company developing quality websites since 1995. The company is based in Singapore and specializes in travel and transportation guides. I look forward to writing for them again.

You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Interview with ABC News Radio Australia on my book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  ABC NewsRadio in Australia recently interviewed me about my latest book, “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”, out now in hardback and eBook.  Enjoy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////

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.
Duration: 15:08
First posted 26/10/2015 12:52:18

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4338971.htm

ENDS

My latest Japan Times JBC Col 93: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book “Embedded Racism”

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, NOV 1, 2015

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/

Please comment below, and thanks for reading!

My next Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. My next Japan Times JBC 92 crystal balls again about Japan’s future based upon the landmark security legislation passed last month. JBC has been quite right about a lot of future developments these past few years. Let’s see how we do with this one. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 92 for The Japan Times Community Page
Monday, October 5, 2015

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…

Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/10/04/issues/japan-rightists-patient-wait-conveyor-belt-death-shudders-back-life/.

Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JBC column 91 for the Japan Times Community Page
September 7, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/09/06/issues/japans-right-keeps-leaving-left-dust/

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.

As an activist in Japan, I worked with the left (as in the self-proclaimed center-leftists, socialists and communists) and dealt with its right (the center-rightists, conservatives, populists and nationalists) for decades.

Since I advocate for minority rights here, I am simpatico with the left, given their comparative tendency to view people as individuals — as opposed to the right’s reflex of seeing people as groups that are ascribed characteristics from birth.

Of course, both sides have belief systems you must subscribe to for membership. (That’s precisely what a political camp is.) Both tell stories and maintain narratives to garner public appeal. And, naturally, their organizations are clubby and cliquey. Worse, in Japan, while membership might be instant, acceptance into leadership roles often takes many years (in case you are a spy or a subversive).

Nevertheless, the right has distinct advantages that the left should be aware of, if it wants to have any hope of playing the game better.

One advantage is simplicity of goals. Basically, the rightists (as conservatives) want things left the way they are — or apparently were. The left wants change, which means it has to argue harder for it. On the other hand, the right can simply invoke the almighty power of precedent.

This sets off a vicious circle. Japan is a land that craves precedent, yet the left has little leadership precedent to cite. They can never argue that Japan has been a socialist state (even though in many areas it is exactly that), and few dare display communist sympathies (even though Japan’s appeal to historical collectivism would fit right into any commune).

“Precedentophilia” also avails the right of a scare tactic: They can argue that the left would force Japan to chart unknown territory. Rightists, on the other hand, are merely citing the tried and true: “Hey, the system worked for our ancestors in the past, right?”

And there the debate usually dies. Whenever Japan harks to the past, an element of ancestor worship seeps in. This stifles critical thinking, for insinuating that our forefathers were somehow wrong is to disrespectfully question the essence of Japanese identity. You see that even with WWII war criminals — who would have led Japan into oblivion if they had continued to get their way — enshrined as heroes at public worship sites and in popular culture.

Then there’s the leftist ideological distaste for measuring everything in terms of money. That’s a fatal error in politics. Rightists have no trouble whatsoever doing so, since they have a lot more of it. And with money, of course, comes power — and the rightists have no trouble with that either. In their inherited world, being rich and powerful for generations has normalized their entitlement to the point where they claim it without shame or self-consciousness.

But the biggest disadvantage I see in Japan’s left is an intellectual snobbery.

First, if you want to join their ranks, you must prove your ideological worth. I remember numerous times asking for assistance from leftist groups in the quest for equal rights for all. We were on the same page, yet their Young Turks grilled me about whether I had read this author or that book. Essentially, I had to pass an entrance exam — be demonstrably schooled in their canon and their lexicon — or else I would get no support.

Then there’s the problem with narrative: Japanese leftists are oddly lazy about honing their talking points. Why? Because their ideals were handed to them in the postwar “peace Constitution.” Since then they have basically rested on their (un-won) laurels.

This became painfully obvious during the current debate on Japan’s remilitarization. Because Article 9 had been hitherto sacrosanct, the left didn’t think they had to talk about war anymore. It was simply inconceivable that Japan would ever fight one again.

The right, however, knew that undermining what leftists have taken for granted would be a multigenerational fight. And over time it got good at it.

Rightist victories have been gradual but significant, as seen in the policy creep of doublespeak — from the “Self-Defense Forces” all the way to today’s “collective self-defense.” The left just bleated that this was unconstitutional, without crafting a clearer narrative about the horror and excesses of war to capture the popular imagination. More effective were rightist scares about security threats from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.

With any multigenerational battle comes the grooming of young successors, and at this the right excels.

Despite being blue-bloods clinging to the class structure, rightists have been peerless when it comes to appealing to those outside their class, particularly Japan’s young. (Why do you think they suddenly decided to lower the voting age from 20 to 18?)

Rightists intuitively understand that if something is to be a talking point, you have to put it in manga or anime form. Then you’ll reach even the most disaffected shut-in (who will then go online to terrorize a newfound foe).

In comparison, leftists look more like doctrinaire fossils, sniffing at all this anti-intellectualism: “Who needs to tell lowbrow stories when we have abstract principles to adhere to?”

But the right knows it needs as many people as possible parroting its talking points — for a fundamental maxim of propaganda is that if enough people say something, it becomes true.

That’s why rightists lower their standards for admission. They take just about anyone as long as they parrot. Even their xenophobes will enlist foreigners! Take a broke retired journalist, a redneck Net ignoramus or a paramilitary spook for hire, and just put their names on inflammatory Japanese publications in a language they can’t read anyway. Plus, ferreting out foreign parrots makes the right’s talking points seem more worldly.

In essence, the rightists keep their eyes on the prize: money and power. In the game of politics, that gives you the advantage every time. And when you’re wielding patronage and privilege for this long, you get good at doling it out to the underprivileged, like soup at the breadlines.

The leftists? Well, hey, they can’t even talk to one another, let alone band together against this dynamic. Intellectual schisms are historically toxic, to the point of factions killing one other (think Kakumaru-ha vs. Chukaku-ha in the 1970s). Of course, the rightists aren’t all friends either, but at least they can be odd bedfellows following a narrative under the same religion — Japan.

And therein lies the ultimate power in this game: nationalism. It’s easiest to appeal to people by resorting to patriotism. Again, it blunts critical thinking. (Even Western media handle Japan’s most bigoted rightists with kid gloves, labeling them “nationalists,” “conservatives,” even “patriots”!)

This is all much easier than using slogans about impalpable “equality,” “democracy” and “peace.” After all, money and privilege offer tangible and immediate benefits, whereas peace is a public good you only appreciate when it’s gone. And few now remember it being gone. Like it or not, the simpler narrative sells.

If Japan’s left is ever to aspire to power, it must, ironically, learn to be more open-minded, cooperative and co-optive. It must learn how to get out there, welcome new blood and convince people with a compelling story of alternatives (rather than just sit back and wait for the enlightenment of the masses, followed by an ideological litmus test). Otherwise, Japan’s left will keep on losing to the right on a past-revering, precedent-based playing field naturally slanted against them.

Leftists: Stop only learning how to argue. Learn how to appeal. Learn narrative.

====================================

Debito Arudou’s next book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” will be out in November. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Japan Times JBC 90: “Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more”, Aug 3, 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting to 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.

As noted in the column, this think piece is grounded in a debate I had earlier this month regarding an incident with a bank teller in Canada who expressed incredulity at me having a Japanese passport.  Thanks for making it the most-read article on the JT Online for two days again this month.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

PS:  Sneak preview of the article’s illustration, by Adam Pasion:

DebitoJT0803151

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more

By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE column 90 for the Japan Times Community Page
August 3, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/02/issues/claiming-right-japanese/ 

“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.”

Afterwards, I asked the teller (an Asian gentleman), “How would you like it if you produced a Canadian passport and I said, ‘That’s funny; you don’t look Canadian’?” He said, not much, and apologized.

There are a few important details to this story I don’t have space for (see www.debito.org/?p=13381), but the conclusion was that the manager sent the teller home for the day (a surprise to me, as I never asked for any sanction) and then invited me to his office for a chat.

“I understand your frustration,” said the manager, “because I am Metis.” He was referring to his official minority status in Canada as a descendent of First Nation aboriginals and colonial settlers.

“I hate it when people I’m doing business with tell me that I don’t ‘look Metis,’ even after I show my status card.” He said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable at his bank, and in Canada.

Refreshed by this experience, I blogged and Facebooked about this no-nonsense zero tolerance. And then the topic blew up in my face.

Some readers wrote in to say I had overreacted. Instead of jumping straight to “racism,” I could have defused things with a quick explanation of my background or a joke.

Others said that I was defying common sense. A white guy with a Japanese passport expecting no surprise? Unreasonable. (Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.)

The critics that really got my goat were those that expressed disgust at my acting so “un-Japanese” (as in, not avoiding conflict) and went on say that, to them, I no longer qualified as a Japanese. (I unfriended them because that’s pretty thoughtless. By their logic, I could murder somebody and still qualify, since some Japanese do murder.)

The most interesting argument accused me of exercising my “white privilege”: “You get to be white and Japanese? You’ve taken this too far!” I had victimized the Asian teller because I had the power in this relationship as a white in Canada’s white-dominated society. (The critic’s thoughtful essay and my answer are archived at www.debito.org/?p=13404.)

For the record, I don’t doubt the existence of white privilege. (You can even find an example on our Community pages: Gregory Clark’s Dec. 4, 2014 “Kick out the touts who rule Roppongi” Foreign Agenda column.) I acknowledge that I have received advantageous treatment worldwide due to my lighter skin color and white background.

But the two of us parted paths at the point where the critic said I could not be “white and Japanese.” I do not believe that they are mutually exclusive. (Neither does Japan: In apartheid South Africa, Japan successfully lobbied to be Japanese and “honorary whites”.)

I’m Japanese and white because I earned it — through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, living and contributing to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.

I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it. I am not Japanese but white. I’m claiming the “and.”

So why write a column about this? After all, I got myself onto this sticky wicket by naturalizing into a country with few “non-Asian-looking” citizens.

Because this goes beyond me. What about the people who didn’t have a choice — like our Japanese kids?

It shouldn’t be an issue. They are Japanese children, full stop. And they can be something else yet 100 percent Japanese. It’s not a zero-sum game. (That’s why I am not a fan of the term hāfu.) I say claim the “and.” For them.

Mountains out of molehills? OK, how will you react the 100th time (or the fifth time in a day) that you hear, “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” Will you stand idly by when people openly doubt your kids’ identity as they grow up and risk being denied equal opportunities in society?

We’re fully formed adults — we can take these sucker punches — but kids need someone in their corner, pushing for their right to be diverse yet belong.

The push must happen until the point where the surprise is switched around — into shock at someone daring to imply that a citizen or resident with a surprising background is not a “real” or “normal” member of society.

Admittedly, careless comments from individuals are not something you can immediately fix, but alienating attitudes about people’s identities should not be expressed in a corporate or official capacity. To anyone. Anywhere. That’s where the push starts.

Don’t get me wrong: People can think what they like. But if they articulate thoughts inaccurate, unkind or alienating about us or the people we care for, we should reserve the right to push back accordingly — and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere.

But let’s come down from ideals and return to the bank counter. The main issue there was not the law of averages determining “normal” or “triggers” or “privilege.” It was one of self-identification.

Pause for a second and take stock of where things are going these days: Somebody can self-identify as Japanese and African-American, and represent Japan at the Miss Universe contest (like Ariana Miyamoto). Or be male and then female or vice versa (like Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and Lana Wachowsky). Or be LGBT and married. Or, like Rachel Dolezal, be white and “culturally black” enough to head a chapter of America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

A future is emerging where the major social statuses assigned us from birth — e.g., gender, “race,” nationality, even ethnicity — are breaking down. They can be a matter of personal choice.

That’s a good thing. With the unprecedented porosity of international borders nowadays, the notion of a “normal” person is ever eroding. That’s why I believe that anyone should be allowed to shape, control and, yes, claim their own identity.

Now, you might think that Japan, the island society, is unaffected by these trends. I would disagree. As I describe in my forthcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” the pressure of Japan’s aging demographics is unrelenting. If Japan cannot get over the conceit of having to “look Japanese” to be treated as one, then it cannot make “new Japanese,” and the country will continue to sink into an insolvent economic abyss.

Thus, if our Japanese kids cannot self-identify, hundreds of thousands of them (eventually millions, as people continue mixing) will spend their lives having their identities policed back into being “foreign,” not fitting in when they should be welcomed for all their potential as individuals with more worldly insights.

Let’s knock off the identity policing. Stop telling people who they are. Let them tell us. Let them claim the “and.”

===================================

Debito’s 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

“Gaikokujin ja arimasen: An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan”, an academic paper by Dr. Cade Bushnell analyzing the conversation I had with Yunohana management during Otaru Onsen Case

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  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.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////

July 2, 2015

Dear Dr. Arudou,

Just a note to inform you that my paper featuring your interaction at the bath house has gone public:

http://www.japan.tsukuba.ac.jp/research/
http://japan.tsukuba.ac.jp/research/JIAJS_Vol7_ONLINE_11_Bushnell%20FINAL.pdf

Thank you again for your understanding and kind cooperation in allowing me to use the data.

Best,
Cade Bushnell
University of Tsukuba

====================================

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:  Participants of talk-in-interaction may make various categories and collections of categories relevant to their talk (Hester & Eglin, 1997; Sacks, 1992; Schegloff, 1992, 2007). From an ethnomethodological perspective, such categories are understood not as static possessions, but rather as being assembled by the participants on a moment to moment basis as they co-construct their interaction (Hester & Eglin, 1997; Nishizaka, 1995, 1999; Psathas, 1999; Watson, 1997). Additionally, the participants’ co-construction of, alignment to, or contestation of categories may reflexively affect the sequential organization of their talk (Watson, 1997).

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.

Keywords: Conversation Analysis, Membership Categorization Analysis, Dispute Talk, Discrimination, Nationality

http://www.japan.tsukuba.ac.jp/research/

http://japan.tsukuba.ac.jp/research/JIAJS_Vol7_ONLINE_11_Bushnell%20FINAL.pdf

Japan Times Just Be Cause 89, “Media redraw battle lines in bid for global reach”, on Fuji network’s acquisition of Japan Today.com, July 6, 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. Coming out tomorrow is my latest Japan Times column. Opening paragraphs:

justbecauseicon.jpg

============================================
Media redraw battle lines in bid for global reach
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, July 6, 2015
JUST BE CAUSE column 89 for the Japan Times Community Page

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/07/05/issues/media-redraw-battleines-bid-global-reach/ 

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. (I focus on the English-language press because Japan’s own ruling class does — to them, English is the world language, and Japan’s portrayal in it is of intense concern.)

In addition to The Japan Times (the country’s oldest English-language newspaper, independent of any domestic media conglomerate), other English papers at one time included The Daily Yomiuri, The Asahi Evening News and The Mainichi Daily News.

The last three were all “vanity presses,” in the sense of major Japanese media empires using them to feel self-important in the international arena. They had Japanese bosses, managers and editors who had in-house Japanese-language articles translated for the outside world. And, yes, they were for outside consumption — Japan’s English-language readers were never numerous enough to sustain four daily newspapers!

They were complemented by Kyodo and Jiji wire services, piggybacking on print media with articles that had also been translated from Japanese. In my experience working with all of them, their general political slants were: the Yomiuri squarely rightist, the Asahi and Jiji center-right or center-left (depending on the editor), and the Mainichi and Kyodo generally leftist.

Regardless of their political bent, most of these presses during the late 1980s and ’90s employed NJ as reporters doing English articles. Granted, these articles did not necessarily appear in their Japanese flagships — vanity newspapering means information about Japan goes outward, not inward; NJ were never allowed to touch the controls, and seldom were their articles translated into Japanese. However, they did offer foreign voices to foreign residents.

It was a renaissance, of sorts: NJ reporters often reported on issues germane and beneficial to NJ residents. Not only was there lively debate in English, but also there were some boomerang benefits — for example, overseas newspapers (such as the almighty New York Times, the bete noire of Japan’s elites) picking up their stories and shaming Japan’s policymakers into making changes (for example, the abolition of fingerprinting on Alien Registration Cards in 1999).

However, this dynamic has shifted dramatically toward disempowerment over the past 15 years. According to one employee I have talked to, The Daily Yomiuri relegated its NJ staff to doing puff pieces on Japan before making them mere interpreters of Yomiuri Shimbun articles. The Asahi Evening News did the same, according to another former employee, purging its foreign bureau before they could unionize. The Mainichi Daily News, whose popular WaiWai column translated the country’s seedy tabloid journalism, was bombarded by Internet trolls decrying this apparent embarrassment to Japan; the paper then fired its best writers.

When the shakeups subsided, The Japan Times had raised its price and trimmed its pages, and the English versions of the Asahi and Mainichi had ceased their print publications entirely. The Daily Yomiuri renamed itself the anodyne “The Japan News,” an attempt in my opinion to whitewash its right-wing image. However, the upshot was vanity presses stopped carrying out investigative journalism in English and only hired NJ as translators.

Frozen out of major Japanese media, NJ have created their own community presses. Japan has long-running newspapers for Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians. Regions such as Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo and, of course, Tokyo have all launched their own local-content magazines (with varying degrees of success). And that’s before we get to the online fora and fauna. However, aside from offering events and outlets for aspiring authors, none have the national and international media footprint that online news site Japan Today has (where, full disclosure, I also worked as a columnist).

That’s why GPlus Media’s buy-up matters. This is an era of micromanagement of any media criticism of Japan (even NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii on Feb. 5 admitted publicly on that his network will not report on contentious subjects until the government has “an official stance”; in other words, NHK is now a government mouthpiece). Meaning this buy-up is another outsider’s voice being effectively silenced — and another rightist platform empowered.

Of all the major newspapers, only the Sankei Shimbun never had an English channel. That is, until now. And it’s not hard to guess how things will soon swing.

Already I am hearing murmurs of Japan Today’s moderators deleting reader comments critical of Japan’s media, anti-Chinese and anti-Korean sentiment, Fukushima investigations, and the revamped U.S.-Japan security arrangements.

Then again, that’s within character. To them, what’s the point of owning media if you can’t control its content?

However, the content is problematic because it is increasingly propagandistic. On June 16, for example, Japan Today reprinted an article from RocketNews24 (another Japanese media outlet devoting lots of space to puffing up Japan) on “the decline of Koreatown” in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. It blamed, inter alia, bad Korean food, the actions of the South Korean government toward disputed islands and bad South Korean management practices.

It discounted the domestic media’s popularization of kenkan (“hatred of things Korean”), which a search of Amazon Japan demonstrates is a lucrative literary genre. It also made no mention, of course, of the off-putting effects of periodic public demonstrations by hate groups advocating that people “kill all Koreans.” Essentially, the thrust of the article was: Koreatown’s decline is due to market forces or it’s the Koreans’ own fault. How nice.

However, I shouldn’t just pick on the Sankei. The other major national Japanese newspaper we still haven’t mentioned — the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) — also appears to be getting in on the act.

According to MediaWeek, the Nikkei bought into U.K. media group Monocle in 2014 in order to, according to its CEO, “further boost its global reach.” In June, Monocle declared Tokyo “the world’s most livable city,” and Japan Today dutifully headlined this as news. All purely coincidence, of course.

The point is: The country’s rulers understand extremely well the crucial role of the media in mobilizing consent and manufacturing national image and narrative. In this current political climate under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appears to be venomously opposed to any critical thinking of Japanese society, the last independent voice in English is what you’re reading now.

The Japan Times is the only sustainable venue left with investigative NJ journalists, NJ editors and independently-thinking Japanese writers, bravely critiquing current government policy without fretting about patriotism or positively promoting Japan’s image abroad.

Long may The Japan Times stand. Long, too, may its columnists, ahem, as I have here for more than 13 years. However, Just Be Cause has for the first time felt pressure (with this column) after coming under increased scrutiny in the editing process. The Community pages have within the past 18 months been reduced from four pages a week to two. How much longer before they are sanitized or cut entirely?

This is why I encourage all readers to support The Japan Times. Send appreciative emails to the editorial desks. Have your school, university, library and community centers subscribe to it. Get it from the newsstand or buy an online subscription. Click on its advertisers. Invest in it — however you can.

If The Japan Times succumbs to economic and political pressures, who else will lend NJ residents a sympathetic voice, maintain a free online historical archive to thwart denialists, or offer a viable forum that serves NJ interests? Nobody, that’s who. Support the last man standing.

==================================

Debito’s own 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Film record of Debito in action negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment in Shinjuku: excerpt from documentary “Sour Strawberries” (2009)

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. 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:

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus extended interview with Dr. M.G. Sheftall: “Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu”

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  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

M.G. Sheftall, Professor of Modern Japanese History at Shizuoka University and author of Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze (Penguin 2005), was in Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the battleship USS Missouri (site of the Japanese surrender in World War II) speaking at the dedication of a temporary exhibition of the Tokkō Kamikaze suicide pilots on April 10 and 11, 2015.

[…]
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?

SheftallIn 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.

In other words, there’s not much “story-worthiness” there from the standpoint of either the producers or consumers of entertainment media content – which is of course how and where most postwar Japanese learn about Tokkō to begin with, not to mention most of their 20th century Japanese history. Also – and I hope this doesn’t sound as cynical as I’m afraid it might – these three Tokkō platforms would not have lent themselves to economically viable cinematic depiction in the pre-computer graphics era 1950s, 60s and 70s Japanese film industry – when the postwar Tokkō legacy took the decisive “semi-romanticized” turn in Japanese historical consciousness that has characterized it ever since, and that was itself largely the result of the influence of Tokkō films of the era, which were financed by sympathetic conservatives in the entertainment industry and “technically advised” by former IJA and IJN figures. A couple of Kaiten-themed films were made – one that comes to mind starred a young Ishihara Yūjirō during his breakout period – but the model-making and special effects were extremely challenging and also apparently quite expensive. Much more economical to use model airplanes against a rolling “sky” backdrop with some clouds painted on it, right? Plus the more claustrophobic, horrific, and yes, futile aspects involved with the specialized Tokkō platforms could be avoided. Instead, in the stock Tokkō story arc of the era, you have these dashing young men sitting around a single barracks room set, delivering soliloquys and speeches about the meaning of it all, then donning white pilot scarves and boarding their planes at the end of the movie to fly off into the clouds – literally disappearing into the heavens — as the credits roll and the stirring music kicks in. No blood-and-guts horror, no killing, no futility depicted. Fukuma Yoshiaki wrote a great media studies treatment some years back now on the postwar cinematic treatment of Tokkō. I would love to translate that someday.

Read it all at http://japanfocus.org/-M_G_-Sheftall/4326/article.html

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 88: “U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism”, on America’s historical amnesia in US-Japan Relations, June 1, 2015

mytest

lenderbieBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. My monthly Japan Times columns have moved to the first Monday of the month.  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. Please have a read and feel free to comment below.

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/31/issues/u-s-greenlights-japans-march-back-militarism/

U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, The Japan Times, June 1, 2015
JUST BE CAUSE Column 88 for The Japan Times Community Page

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. The U.S. has great sway over Japan due, again, to history. After World War II, America did an outstanding job of enabling Japan to get rich — thanks in part to its provision of advantageous trade and exchange-rate agreements and a subsidized security umbrella.

As the Asian extension of America’s Marshall Plan (a means to keep European countries from warring again by making them economically integrated, interdependent and successful, rather than leaving them to exact wartime reparations and revenge), Japan’s economic success is still seen amongst Washington’s foreign policy wonks as proof of their ability to foster democracy worldwide.

But the U.S., now assuming the post-Cold War mantle of world’s policeman, is undermining that goal by continuing to meddle in Japan’s politics.

We first saw this happen in the “reverse course” of 1947, when it was clear that China was going communist. Back then, Washington feared that labor unions might gather enough strength to force Japan into a similar leftist lurch (as seen in Italy, where the Americans also intervened and set Italian politics back into an unstable, corrupt funk that lasted decades).

So, in the name of “containing communism” at the dawn of the Cold War, the U.S. released the Japanese war criminals they hadn’t executed, who then went on to become prominent politicians, businessmen, organized-crime figures — even a prime minister.

It also basically handed back the levers of power to Japan’s prewar governing elites — for example, by reviving the zaibatsu industrial war-machine conglomerates (as keiretsu cartels), overlooking the domination of the education system by historical revisionists and blood-nationalists (the education ministry has since steadily reinstituted prewar traditions of suppressing history and enforcing patriotism), forgiving egregious war misdeeds (through the overgenerous Treaty of San Francisco in 1952), and allowing the re-creation of Japan’s military (as “Self-Defense Forces”) soon after the U.S. Occupation ended.

The blowback, however, is that America has been constantly snake-charmed by those elites. Their professional “gaijin handlers” (see “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in the U.S.,” Just Be Cause, Nov. 6, 2013) have decades of experience of playing the anticommunism card to suppress their mortal enemies — Japan’s leftists.

Even as Japan embarked on the road to recovery, the U.S. made sure that “our bastards” (to paraphrase at least one American president) remained in power, creating a shadowy electoral slush account for the Liberal Democratic Party called the “M-Fund,” and fostering a one-party state that lasted several decades.

Then came the infamous U.S.-Japan Security Treaty amendments in 1960, forced upon the Japanese electorate without due process, causing enormous public opposition, riots and social damage, both in terms of property and political polarization.

This overt circumvention of Japan’s democratic institutions stunted the political maturation of Japan’s civil society: Japan never had, for example, the healthy subsequent antiwar grass-roots activism that unseated leaders worldwide in the late 1960s and beyond. As prominent American analysts themselves put it, Japan became an economic giant but a political pygmy.

Fast-forward to April 2015 and Abe’s U.S. tour. Despite years of media and academic attention on Abe’s revisionism, the U.S. bestowed upon him honors that no other Japanese PM has enjoyed, essentially legitimizing Abe’s campaigns worldwide.

Contrast this with how non-LDP left-leaning prime ministers have been treated: President Bill Clinton publicly humiliated Morihiro Hosokawa in 1994, and Washington hobbled Yukio Hatoyama five years ago (see “Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy,” JBC, June 2, 2010) on trade, military-base issues and reordered relations with China. Both PMs were so discredited that they were soon swept away by LDP re-elections, with reenergized conservatives on the rebound making reforms that set the stage for Japan’s recidivism today.

Why are the Americans resuscitating these toxic security guidelines? Simple: to contain China. But, to return to my original point, has Washington learned nothing from history? Can’t they see that the Cold War has been over for decades, and replacing the Soviet Union with China is a bad fit?

Granted, one can make a convincing case that China’s attitude towards democratic institutions ill-befits the Pax Americana. But the PRC is not the USSR — if anything, it’s precisely what the Marshall Planners would have wanted to happen to China.

China’s rapid economic growth and heavy integration into the world market, both as its factory and lender of last resort, indicates that it shall not (and should not) be so easily contained. Containment strategies drawn up by George Kennan 68 years ago are clearly obsolete.

Unfortunately, Washington seems eager to start Cold War II, with Japan again acting as America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in Asia. Except this time, it does not have an American at the steering wheel in Tokyo, and the blood-nationalist in charge is a descendant of the ruthless right, bent on settling old personal scores and putting Japanese weapons and military forces overseas.

I don’t think the Americans are fully aware of what they are encouraging. Abe will erode the very democratic institutions (including the pacifist Constitution) the U.S. established to “cure” Japan’s war-like tendencies in the first place.

Abe has already enacted the means to engineer public opinion through media censorship, half-truths and big lies, as well as to intimidate critics and punish whistle-blowers.

Now, freshly emboldened after his trip to Washington (he even recently sent his “liberal” wife to visit war-celebrating Yasukuni Shrine), Abe will soon legally reconstitute the mythological version of Japan — the one that made so many Japanese support total war and carry out continent-wide genocide.

If you think I’m exaggerating, look again at history. Japan has swung back from liberalism before, after the “Taisho Democracy” of the 1920s. The flowering of democratic institutions, moderate tolerance of dissent and unprecedented prosperity did happen, but it only lasted about 15 years before the ruthless right took over.

This time it lasted much longer, but Japanese society has numerous bad habits that foster a reverse-engineering into militarism. Five years ago I thought remilitarization inconceivable after generations of a pacifist narrative, but seeing now how fast Japan has snapped back is cause for great alarm. This will be confirmed beyond doubt once we see the revival of prewar politics by assassination, the natural progression from the current trends of intimidation and death threats.

This will certainly abet Japan’s domestic conversion from a mild police state into a much harsher one. And then what? If the past 15 years are any guide, Japanese society’s latent suspicion of outsiders will manifest itself in the targeting of its non-Japanese residents with even more force.

Why? Because it can. They’re here and subject to our laws. If they don’t like it, they should leave. Because Japan is for the Japanese, as the blood-nationalists would define them.

Look out, non-Japanese residents, you’re going to attract even more attention now — as lab rats for Japan’s nascent foreign policy. Nice work, America, “Arsenal of Democracy.” History shows that once again, you’ve encouraged more arsenal than democracy.

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Debito’s own 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Japan Times JBC 87 May 4, 2015: Interview with M.G. Sheftall: “Japan-U.S. effort to tell Kamikaze suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise”

mytest

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Hello Blog. Here’s the opening to my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column. There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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justbecauseicon.jpg

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
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/

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? …

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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/.

Feel free to comment below.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC Column 86 April 6, 2015: “Japan makes more sense through a religious lens”

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  Thank you for putting this up at the #1 spot at the Japan Times Online for two days in a row.  Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

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JAPAN MAKES MORE SENSE THROUGH A RELIGIOUS LENS
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 86 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page
April 6, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/04/05/issues/viewed-religious-lens-japan-makes-sense/

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, effectively advocating a system where people would live separately by race in Japan (a “Japartheid,” if you will). But that’s just 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), and arguing that Western diplomats cannot solve problems in the Middle East because of their “blue eyes and blond hair” — not to mention 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.”

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.

A comprehensive but concise definition of “religion” is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Japaneseness qualifies. A set of beliefs ordering the “Japanese universe” is available at your nearest big bookstore, where shelves groan under the wiki-composite pseudoscience of Nihonjinron (the “Theory of The Japanese”), a lucrative market for navel-gazing about what Japanese allegedly think or do uniquely and collectively.

Japan also has its own creation myth grounded in mystical immortals (the goddess Amaterasu et al), with enough currency that a sitting prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, once publicly claimed Japan was “a nation of deities (kami no kuni) with the Emperor at its center,” in which Japanese have seen “beings above and beyond humankind” (2000). Seen in this way, Japan transcends the mere nation-state to become something akin to a holy land.

Devotional and ritual observances involve not only an imported and adapted foreign religion (Buddhism) hybridized with an established state religion (Shinto), but also elements of animism and ancestor worship whose observances regularly reach down to the level of the neighborhood (o-mikoshi festival portable shrines) and even the household (butsudan shrines).

As for a moral code governing conduct, Japanese media offer plenty of ascriptive programming (e.g., NHK’s popular quiz show “Nihonjin no Shitsumon” or “Questions The Japanese Ask” — as if that’s a discernible genre). They broadcast an unproblematized uniformity of “Japanese” thought, belief and morality generally offset from the remainder of the heterodox world.

Thus this religion-like phenomenon, because of the knock-on effects of vague mysticism and faith, goes beyond regular nationalism.

For one thing, unlike nationalism, religion doesn’t necessarily need another country to contrast and compete with — Japanese are sui generis special because they are a family descended from gods. For another, nationality can be obtained through law, but bloodline descent cannot — and blood is what makes someone a “real” Japanese. Further, how can you ever offer a counter-narrative to a myth? (For a national narrative, you can offer a different historical interpretation of mortals and events; it’s far tougher to argue different gods.)


These dynamics have been covered in much literature elsewhere — in fact, they are depicted positively by the Nihonjinron high priests themselves — but few people consider three other effects of religiosity.

First, there’s religion’s enhanced political power in prescribing and enforcing conformity. If media uncritically establish how “normal Japanese” act, then deviant thoughts and behaviors not only become “unusual” but also “un-Japanese.” It’s not a big leap from the “science” of what people naturally do as Japanese to the science of what to do in order to be Japanese. There is an orthodoxy to be followed, or else.

This dynamic also robs dissidents of the power to use reason to adjust society’s course. Instead of social mores being codified in the rule of law or grounded in terms of concrete “rights, privileges and duties” of a nation-state, they are molded case by case to suit an alleged “consensus feeling” of an abstract group, sending signals through the media or just through “the air” (which people are supposed to “read”: kūki o yomu).

How can one reason with or argue against an amorphous “understanding” of things, or summon enough energy to push against an invisible enfranchised opponent? Easier all around to fall back on the default shikata ga nai (“There’s nothing I can do”) attitude, meaning Japanese will police each other into acceptance of the status quo.

The second effect of this phenomenon is the corruption of social science. The broad-stroke categorization inherent to “groupism” normalizes the pigeonholing of peoples. In Japan, this has reached the point where influential people openly espouse fallacious theories, such as that eye color affects vision qualityblood type affectspersonality and race/country of origin/gender influence intellectual ability or talent (e.g., “Indians are good programmers,” “Jews are rich,” “Chinese have criminal DNA”).

Although stereotypes exist in every society, in Japan they underpin and blinker most social science. In fact, learning the stereotypes is the science.

The third effect is religion’s enhanced rhetorical power, and this projects influence beyond Japan’s borders.

If Japan’s behavior was merely seen as a matter of nationalism, then things could be explained away in terms of furthering national interests under rational-actor theory. But they’re not. Again, “quirky” Japanese get away with weird stuff like bigotry because they are treated with the deference traditionally accorded to a religion.

Scholar Richard Dawkins put it best: “A widespread assumption . . . is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect.”

Author Douglas Adams expounds on this idea: “Religion . . . has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion you’re not allowed to say anything bad about. You’re just not.’

“If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like. . . . But on the other hand if somebody says, ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday,’ you say, ‘I respect that.’ ”

Likewise, you must respect Japan, and woe betide you if you criticize it. Decry even the most egregious bad behavior, such as the whitewashing of an exploitative empire’s history into an exculpated victimhood, and you will be branded “anti-Japan,” a “Japan-hater” or “Japan-basher” by the reactionary cloud of anonyms that so dominate Japan’s Internet.

This trolling wouldn’t matter if that cloud was ignored for what it is — a bunch of anonymous craven cranks — but otherwise sensible people steeped (or academically trained) in Japan’s mysticism tend to take these disembodied opinions from the air seriously. Instead, the critic loses credibility and, in extreme cases, even their livelihood for not toeing the line. Japan is sensitive, and you’re not allowed to say anything bad about it. You’re just not.

This is one reason why even the most scientifically trained among us is ready, for example, to take seriously the comment of a single native-born Japanese (rather than trust qualified Japan experts who unfortunately lack the mystical bloodline) as some kind of evidence in any discussion on Japan. Every Japanese by blood and dint of being raised in the temple of Japanese society is reflexively accorded the right to represent all Japan. It’s respectful, but it also blunts analysis by keeping discussion of Japan within temple control.

So, whenever Japan makes mystical arguments — about, say, longer intestines, special soil and snow or the country’s unique climate — for political ends (to justify banning imports of beef, construction equipment, skis, rice, etc.), skittish outsiders tend to be deferential to the nonsense because of Japan’s “uniqueness” and respectfully ease off the pressure.

Or when Japan’s rulers coddle war-mongering rightists (who also advocate Japan’s mysticism) and sanction pacifist leftists (who more likely see religion as a mass opiate), relax — that’s just how Japan maintains its unique social order.

And if that social order is ever questioned, especially by any Japanese, that is treated as heresy or apostasy, drawing the threat of reprisal — if not violence — from zealots. After all, you do not question faith — or it would no longer be faith. You just don’t.

In sum, seeing Japaneseness through the prism of religion helps explain better why the world accommodates Japan egregiously excepting and offsetting itself. It may be time to abandon simple political theory (seeing Japan’s polity in terms of rational actors with occasional inexplicable irrationalities) in favor of the sociology of religious cults.

Specifically, this would mean studying Japan’s cult of personalities, i.e., the way a ruling elite is resurrecting mysticism and exploiting the reflexive deference usually reserved for religion to game the system. This is especially important now, as Japan’s rulers indulge in belligerent behavior — historical revisionism, remilitarization and so on — that’s helping destabilize the region.

This column was a seminal attempt to make that case. Discuss, if you dare.

===========================

Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

ABC News Radio Australia interviews me on multiethnic Japanese Ariana Miyamoto’s crowning as Miss Japan 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. 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 (which the African-Americans at my conference were quite aware of).  Listen to it (our bit starts at minute 6:24) at:

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4207325.htm

Some context from other media:

arianamiyamotocnn032515 arianamiyamoto012715

As for the radio program, I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.  Thanks ABC.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  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:

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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?

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Go to http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246 for the rest.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

 

Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 85, Mar 5 2015

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

////////////////////////////////////

Read the interview at The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/03/04/issues/u-s-author-recounts-lecture-got-comfort-women-uninvited-japanese-guests/.  A fuller version will be up at The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus (www.japanfocus.org) in a few days, with more information on how the GOJ pressured Dr. Ziegler and how Japan’s neighbors responded.

For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the “Comfort Women” issue being targeted by the Japanese Government, courtesy of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Libraries:

From “Traditions and Encounters:  A Global Perspective on the Past”, by Jerry H. Bentley, Herbert F. Ziegler, and Heather E. Streets-Salter, Third Edition (the most recent version in the UH Library), pp. 624-5.

////////////////////////////////////

Comfort Women:  Women’s experiences in war were not always ennobling or empowering.  The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women age fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels, called “comfort houses” or “consolation centers.”  The army presented the women as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria and from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia.  The majority of the women came from Korea and China.

Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the “comfort women” catered to between twenty and thirty men each day.  Stationed in war zones, the women often confronted the same risks as soldiers, and many became casualties of war.  Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases.  At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation.  The impetus behind the establishment of comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing, where the mass rape of Chinese women had taken place.  In trying to avoid such atrocities, the Japanese army created another horror of war.  Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and hid their past or faced shunning by their families.  They found little comfort or peace after the war.

////////////////////////////////////

Also, additional information on the issue found in the “Student Study Guide and Map Exercise Workbook to accompany TRADITIONS AND ENCOUNTERS, VOLUME II” (2000), by Lynda S. Bell, Gary E. Scudder, Jr., and Guangyuan Zhou, pg. 176:

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D. Women and War

1. Women’s roles in the war

a) Half a million British women and 350,000 U.S. women joined military services

b) Both countries barred women engaging in combat or carrying weapons

c) Soviet and Chinese women took up arms and joined resistance groups

d) By taking jobs or heading families, women gained independence and confidence

2. Comfort women

a) Japanese armies forcibly recruited 300,000 women to serve in military brothels

b) 80% of comfort women came from Korea

c) A comfort woman had to cater to between 20 and 30 men each day

d) Many were massacred by Japanese soldiers, survivors experienced deep shame

////////////////////////////////////

ENDS

UPDATEFuller interview with Dr. Ziegler now up at the Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus.

Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid

mytest

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Hi Blog. Story still ongoing, and we got quoted in the SCMP. Hopefully all this attention from the outside world will make the Sankei Shinbun (or maybe even the author) recant and retract the story. I will be pleasantly surprised if it does, but bigots of this age group rarely do, and after all the recent Asahi Shinbun bashing after admitting they ran a badly-sourced story the Sankei probably doesn’t want to admit they were wrong either. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Top Japanese author Sono backs racial segregation saying it’s ‘impossible to live alongside foreigners’
Ayako Sono, 83, suggests that a version of South Africa’s apartheid could work in her country

February 15, 2015, by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1713536/top-japanese-author-sono-backs-racial-segregation-saying-its-impossible

A well-known Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has sparked outrage by claiming foreigners should live in separate areas from Japanese people.

In an opinion piece for the conservative Sankei newspaper last week, Ayako Sono, 83, suggested that the infamous apartheid system that was practised in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 would be appropriate for Japan.

“It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” Sono wrote.

“Ever since I learned of the situation in South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians and blacks in that country,” she said in the piece.

She cited the case of an apartment block in Johannesburg that was, under apartheid, reserved for white families. As soon as the laws were changed, she said, the property “fell to pieces” because black people have large families.

“Ever since learning of this, I have said that humans can do many things together – business, research, sports, to name but a few – but when it comes to living, this is one area where the races must live apart.”

Sono was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education panel in 2013.

Her 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.”

Internet users have also weighed in on the argument, with tens of thousands of messages on Twitter and other online forums condemning Sono’s comments.

“The problem is not that this woman exists or holds these views,” wrote one commentator. “After all, every country has its far-right misanthropes, neo- Nazis, etc.

The problem is that this woman holds these views while being somewhat revered, even decorated.”

Another asked how Sono, or the Japanese government, would react if another country advocated rounding up Japanese nationals and segregating them purely because of their nationality, while the Sankei was criticised as a “vile, racist paper”.

Arudou said he intended to continue fighting for the rights of foreign nationals living in Japan, adding: “There is a widespread tautological feeling that foreigners don’t deserve human rights because they’re foreigners.

“It begs the question about whether a society can see non-citizens as fellow humans,” he said.
================================================

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as “Outrage as top author backs racial segregation”
ENDS