Archive for the 'History' Category
Topics which deal with the long shadow of the historical past in Japan, and how it affects us even today.
Posted by arudou debito on 24th March 2014
I put this up as a matter of record of how Japan’s overt xenophobia has mutated from the hatred of a specific people (the Chinese and/or Koreans); now it’s piggybacking upon a historical campaign that ultimately led to genocide.
Witness this video taken of xenophobic demonstrators doing one of their demonstrations (note that this ilk last year also advocated genocide with a sign saying “good or bad, kill all Koreans”). The video below is subtitled as filmed in Tokyo Edogawa-ku, Kodomo no Hiroba (a children’s park), on Sunday, March 23, 2014:
COMMENT: This is one of the outcomes of an education system that still hasn’t come to grips with its fascist past, and thus has literate people appropriating symbols for shock value without historical awareness of what they’re advocating (or, worse yet, they are aware, and actually support genocidal fanaticism!). For once I’m willing to give these demonstrators the benefit of the doubt (as we see plenty of swastikas around Asia more as ideological fashion statements; moreover, we still haven’t seen a group manifesto specifically advocating murder). But not if Nazi Swastikas appear again. And I bet they will.
The only good news one could point out in this Edogawa-ku video to is the presence of counter-demonstrators. Not so long ago, protests like these were just seen as venting, confined to rightist wingnuts without much political traction, so they were ignored by the public in general who just walked by tacitly. Now with Japan’s sharp and overt right-wing swing, people ARE seeing the danger (as it increasingly gets noticed overseas) that these people represent, and coming out to show that racists do not represent all Japanese (their banners are, after all, also in English for foreign consumption). Good. Please continue.
But the counter-demonstrators could do better with their message. One thing that keeps getting missed out in these racist vs. counter-racist demos is the notion that the foreign element being decried is not really foreign. They (particularly the Zainichi being targeted) are residents of Japan who have been contributing to Japanese society for decades and generations. Nobody is really pointing this out — that NJ BELONG IN JAPAN and are INVESTED IN JAPAN just the same as citizens. Instead, it’s more along the lines of “racism is embarrassing to Japan, so knock it off”. It’s a shame issue, not a moral issue of equality and equal treatment of other peoples. We saw that in the recent “Japanese Only” sign issue with the Urawa Reds soccer team earlier this month: Despite some really good condemnations of racism in Japanese soccer, nobody really had the balls to say explicitly that the problem with this exclusionary sign is that NJ are Urawa Reds fans too. So this foreigner-verboten “sacred ground” within Saitama Station is a stupid concept, because fandom in sport should (and does) transcend nationality and race.
So if any counter-demonstrators are reading this blog (thanks if you are), may I suggest that you counter the evils of the “bad things foreigners in Japan do” propaganda with some “good things foreigners in Japan do” placards too? A simple, “外国人も日本人と同じ、住民だ！” would work magic in awareness raising and debate-agenda setting. Thanks.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, 日本語 | 17 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 14th March 2014
LESSONS OF THE URAWA “JAPANESE ONLY” SOCCER STADIUM BANNER CASE OF MARCH 8, 2014
Let’s sew this issue up: What happened this week is probably the most dramatic and progressive thing to happen to NJ in Japan, particularly its Visible Minorities, since the Otaru Onsens Case came down with its District Court Decision in November 2002.
In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).
It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.). All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room that more invidious racialized processes were involved.
But in the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan’s race relations history. Yet it wouldn’t have happened without the issue leaking outside of Japan, incurring gaiatsu (outside pressure), and a real threat to Japan’s worldwide reputation as a “civilized” society. A full explication follows:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, SITYS, Sport, 日本語 | 17 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th February 2014
Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border. These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally.
Bloomberg: Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.
Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.
Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone. The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 26 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd February 2014
JIJI: The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.
COMMENT: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに９３万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.
I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as you note. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years.
Posted in Bad Social Science, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 6th January 2014
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:
“The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
4. Visa regimes get a rethink
3. Hate speech turns murderous
2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
1. The state secrets law
11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 3rd January 2014
You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that). It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China. This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors.
NYT: The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. [...] Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, SITYS | 11 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th December 2013
Hi Blog. I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship. Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).
I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)
My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It’s a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.
Posted in Fun Facts, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Tangents | 6 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th November 2013
A bit of a tangent today. The author of this article asked me for some input some months back, and I steered him towards some resources that talked about Japan’s historical involvement with Burma (and deep ties between the ruling junta and Japan’s WWII government — to the point of using the Imperial Army’s public order maintenance style over its colonies as a template to repress domestic dissent). Even with recent changes in Burma’s government, Japan’s engagement style is reportedly not changing — it’s still up to its old nontransparent policymaking tricks. I put up this article on Debito.org because it relates to the Abe Administration’s perpetual use of China not only as a bugbear to stir up nationalism and remilitarization, but also something to encircle and contain, as Abe visits more Asian countries in his first year in office than any other PM (without, notably, visiting China). Nothing quite like getting Japan’s neighbors to forget Japan’s wartime past (and, more importantly, Japan’s treatment of them as a colonizer and invader) than by offering them swagbags of largesse mixed with a message of seeing China instead as the actual threat to regional stability. Result: Who will agitate for the offsetting of Japan’s historical amnesia if the descendants of their victims (or their governments, lapping up the largesse) will not? These are the “arrows” Abe is quietly loosing, and this time outside Japan in support of his revisionism.
DVB News: Japan’s traditional approach to diplomacy – characterised by “quiet dialogue” – is becoming a threat to Burma’s fragile reform process. In recent weeks, the Japanese government has demonstrated an alarming lack of transparency regarding both its role in Burma’s peace process and land grabbing problems at Thilawa, Japan’s flagship development project near Rangoon. Eleven News also reported on Tuesday that a Burmese parliament member demanded greater transparency about how Japanese financial aid is distributed to Burma’s health sector…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Tangents | 3 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th November 2013
Last month in Hawaii I attended a speech titled “Japan’s new National Security Strategy in the Making” by a Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka. A scholar and university president, Dr. Kitaoka is deputy chairman of the “Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security” within the Shinzo Abe administration.
I sat in because I wanted to see how a representative of Japan’s government would explain away Abe’s militaristic views to an American audience.
Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint. He was smooth. In impeccable English, to a packed room including numerous members of Hawaii’s military brass, he sold a vision of a remilitarizing Japan without a return to a prewar militarized Japan. (You can see the entire speech at http://www.vimeo.com/77183187.)
He laid out how Japan would get around its ban on having a military beyond a “self-defense force,” i.e., one that could project power beyond its borders. It would be the same way Japan got around its constitutional ban on having any standing military at all: Japan would once again reinterpret the wording of the Constitution.
His logic: If Japan has a sovereign right to “individual self-defense” (i.e., the right to attack back if attacked), it also has an inherent sovereign right to “collective self-defense” (i.e., the right to support Japan’s allies if they are attacked). A reinterpretation must happen because, inconveniently, it is too difficult to reform the Constitution itself.
That legal legerdemain to undermine a national constitution should have raised eyebrows. But…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 32 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th October 2013
Yesterday I attended a speech by Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi, President of the International University of Japan in Niigata, and currently the Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security for PM Abe. I attended because I wanted to see what was making one of PM Abe’s leading advisors tick. Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint.
He spoke in excellent English, and came off as a very articulate, passionate, and fluent advocate of his cause, which is essentially to make Japan strong enough militarily to deter China. He did not feel a need to be restrained by a diplomat’s training, calling various schools of thought “totally wrong” and “stupid”, nor an academic’s subtlety that should come with a doctorate, where he said with firm certainty at various stages that “no Japanese” wants things like expansion of Japan’s borders (he also called Koreans an “emotional people”). Almost all of the geopolitical problems he referred to in his talk were traced back to China, and he made a strong, reasoned plea for Japan’s inherent sovereign right for collective self defense in order to “contribute to peace and stability” by being empowered to assist Japan’s friends and allies (particularly, naturally, the Americans).
Dr. Kitaoka was very smooth. He pushed all the right rhetorical buttons with an American audience (this one at the EWC quite full of American military brass; as you can hear in the speech, the audience was quite emotive), contrasting rich, democratic, non-nuclear, and “peace-loving” Japan with richening, undemocratic, nuclear and unfree China, which is increasing its defense budget every year and seeking territorial expansion (he even mentioned China’s dealings in Africa in that context). He also smoothed feathers to head off the “Genie in the Bottle” argument (which is one image the US military uses to justify its continued presence in Japan — to stop Japan from remilitarizing) by pointing out five conditions why today’s Japan is different. (See them well elaborated in his Yomiuri article scanned below.)
So to this end, Japan would need its first National Security Council, which would hopefully be established by November 2013.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 53 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th August 2013
Japan Times: Spare a thought for Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first European-born naturalized immigrant parliamentarian. He was voted out in last month’s House of Councilors election.
You might think I’d call it tragic. No. It was a comeuppance.
It needn’t have turned out this way. Squeaking into a seat by default in 2001, Tsurunen was later reelected in 2007 with a reaffirming mandate of 242,740 proportional representation votes, sixth in his party. Last month, however, he lost badly, coming in 12th with only 82,858.
For a man who could have demonstrated what immigrants (particularly our visible minorities) can do in Japan, it was an ignominious exit — so unremarkable that the Asahi Shimbun didn’t even report it among 63 “noteworthy” campaigns.
However, Tsurunen offers lessons in microcosm for his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and on why Japan’s left wing was so spectacularly trounced in the last two elections…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies | 10 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th July 2013
In keeping with the upcoming Upper House Election in Japan in less than one week (July 21), one member whose seat is up for renewal is Tsurunen Marutei, the septagenarian Finland-born naturalized Japanese. He has spent a great proportion of his life in Japan running for elections in local positions (successfully), then nationally (not so successfully, but finally squeaking in on the last rung of Proportional Representation seats by “kuri-age”, when the person who got in instead, Ōhashi Kyosen, gave up his seat in disgust with Japan’s political system). Tsurunen then won his second six-year term in 2007. This was significant, since it could be argued that Tsurunen now had a more secure mandate thanks to his works.
However, next week Tsurunen looks likely to lose his Diet seat. And in Debito.org’s opinion, so be it. On the eve of this rather ignominious end to what should have been a noteworthy political career, let’s assess here what Tsurunen accomplished: As far as Debito.org is concerned, very little….
Now that the DPJ has gone down in flames, so will he; Tsurunen as the election looms clearly has little he can use to recommend himself for his job except the color of his eyes. This unremarkable politician, who once said he’d fight for the “outsiders”, in the end did little of that. In fact, it seems Tsurunen fought only for himself, wanting a Diet seat only as a matter of personal ambition and status — to be Japan’s first at something. Even if it was to occupy what he seems to have made into a sinecure. Same as any politician, people might argue. But Tsurunen, with all the visibility and potential of Japan’s first foreign-born and Visible-Minority Japanese MP, squandered a prime opportunity to show what Visible Minorities in Japan can do.
Posted in History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies | 7 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th May 2013
Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing: He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.
Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing. Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”. This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste: How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability. Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit). So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do. Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made. But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.
The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it. In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.” That is: Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.
Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”. And that is wrong both morally and factually. It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism. People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie. Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.
But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect: For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY. That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.
At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down. Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office. But it is more “honest” than the alternative.
Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A. After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers. But an advance word of warning: Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules: Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources. In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org. Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources. Go to it. But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Discussions, Education, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th April 2013
JDG: “Saw this story on Japan Today (link): It’s a story about a poster campaign to advertise a TV show where NJ straight off the plane are asked why they came to Japan. In the poster, ‘talent(less)’ J-celebs, and a variety of caricatured NJ are proffering answers (‘maid’ cafes, lolitas, etc). I think that there are two ways of looking at this: The first is that they are proceeding from the false assumption that all NJ in Japan are visitors who must be here for some uniquely crazy ‘Japanese’ experience that they can’t get at home, and plays into the myth that there are no NJ long term residents who are here because of their jobs, or family connections. Whilst ignorant and not very helpful for understanding the wide variety of NJ identities, it is a common enough mistake for the Japanese to make.
“However, my second thought is that this poster is an inadvertent and unintended insight into a darker aspect of Japanese psychology on the NJ issue. What if we suppose that this poster is not the product of some ignoramus who genuinely knows nothing of NJ realities in Japan, and believes the myth totally? What if this poster simply reflects a more widespread and deep rooted opinion that NJ shouldn’t be living in Japan because they have families or business here? What if the poster is deliberately not offering reasons such as ‘I’m here because I’m on the board or directors of (insert J-company here)’, or ‘I’m here to get my children back’, or ‘I’m here with the IAEA to inspect your reactors’? These are exaggerations, of course, but the point that I am making is that this poster in itself is a tool of devision, disenfranchisement, exclusion, subjugation, and othering. All that, and created with a lack of self-awareness in the process? A frightening indicator of the extent to which discrimination is normalized in japanese society.”
COMMENT: I would concur in particular with the aspect of maintaining the dominant discourse in Japan of NJ as “guests”, i.e., “temporary visitors, not residents”, mixed in with the shades of “Cool Japan” that helps Japanese society revalidate and even fetishize itself through foreigners. But when you look back a bit historically, there’s more editorial subterfuge here…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tourism | 41 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 9th April 2013
I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.
The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc. A synopsis of the new book is below.
You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, United Nations, 日本語 | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 3rd April 2013
Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.
One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.
In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.
The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.
Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijuusha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijuusha (special permanent resident, for the Zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).
Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th March 2013
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
By Arudou Debito
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS | 4 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th March 2013
Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.
Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year). This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).
Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako at Keio, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm. Excerpts from one of her writings follows:
Conclusion: It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay. So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 20 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 22nd February 2013
Wash Post: Miki Dezaki, who first arrived in Japan on a teacher exchange program in 2007, wanted to learn about the nation that his parents had once called home. He taught English, explored the country and affectionately chronicled his cross-cultural adventures on social media, most recently on YouTube, where he gained a small following for videos like “Hitchhiking Okinawa” and the truly cringe-worthy “What Americans think of Japan.” One of them, on the experience of being gay in Japan, attracted 75,000 views and dozens of thoughtful comments.
Dezaki didn’t think the reaction to his latest video was going to be any different, but he was wrong. “If I should have anticipated something, I should have anticipated the netouyu,” [sic] he told me, referring to the informal army of young, hyper-nationalist Japanese Web users who tend to descend on any article — or person — they perceive as critical of Japan. But before the netouyu put Dezaki in their crosshairs, sending him death threats and hounding his employers, previous employers and even the local politicians who oversee his employers, there was just a teacher and his students…
COMMENT: Miki Dezaki contacted me last week for some advice about how to deal with this (I watched the abovementioned video on “Racism in Japan” and found it to be a valuable teaching aid, especially since it reconnected me with “Eye of the Storm”, the original of which I saw in grade school four decades ago); the only major problem I have with it is that it neglects to mention current stripes of racism against immigrants and Visible Minorities in Japan), and told him to stand his ground. Now the “Netouyo” (Netto Uyoku, or Internet Right-Wing, misspelled throughout the article above) have stepped up their pressure and attacks on him, and authorities aren’t being courageous enough to stand up to them. Now that his issue has been published in the Washington Post, I can quote this article and let that represent the debate.
The focus of the debate is this: a perpetual weak spot regarding bullying in Japanese society. We have loud invisible complainants cloaked by the Internet, who can espouse hateful sentiments against people and shout down historical and current social problems, and they aren’t simply ignored and seen as the cowards they are: anonymous bullies who lack the strength of their convictions to appear in public and take responsibility for their comments and death threats. People in authority must learn to ignore them, for these gnats only get further emboldened by any attention and success they receive. The implicit irony in all of this is that they take advantage of the right to “freedom of speech” to try and deny the same rights to those they merely disagree with. I hope that sense prevails and the debate is allowed to proceed and videos stay up. Miki has done admirable work making all this information (including translations into Japanese) on uncomfortable truths accessible to a Japanese audience. Bravo, Miki. Stand your ground. Debito.org Readers, please lend your support.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, ２ちゃんねる, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, 日本語 | 32 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th February 2013
The era of the pioneering Immediate Postwar hands-on Japanologists is truly and inevitably coming to an end. First Edwin Reischauer (long ago in 1990; I managed to meet him and host a talk by him and his wife Haru at UCSD in 1989), then Edward Seidensticker (2007), now Donald Richie (for whom Debito.org has had praise for in the past for his healthy attitude of “swallowing Japan whole”; I met him about ten years ago and had a very good conversation; he also kindly lavished praise on HANDBOOK). Of the very famous ones, Donald Keene is basically the last one standing. And I don’t think I will be able to eulogize that Donald in the same way.
Posted in Education, Handbook for Newcomers, History, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 8th February 2013
Japan Times JBC: On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.
I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.
So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time…
Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”
Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents)…
The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Education, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 49 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 5th January 2013
Let me devote this blog entry to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated. Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding: Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property). A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken. NYT obituary enclosed below.
A few Debito.org-esque comments: One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous. That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here). (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)
Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced. One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).
The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24. Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap. (ILO data here.) Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work. Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.
Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”. We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14′s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only. We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education. Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments. And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.
I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing. My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.
Posted in History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd January 2013
Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th December 2012
In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid. As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down! They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan. And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.
That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.
Immediately below is the article I’m referring to. Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots. According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants. Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan. But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.” This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted! Why? As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 61 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th November 2012
Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record. The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record of Tottori Prefecture’s website is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan. So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable. First, however, the background:
On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders. Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010. It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3. However, the counterattack was immediate…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 6 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 11th November 2012
Here’s something that’s been on my mind for years, and probably on other Readers’ minds too: The emphasis on blood in Japan in determining one’s status in society.
The BBC below talks about the hegemony of discourse in Japan linking personality traits to blood types. Most of the developed world with any social science training has debunked this. There is of course other quackery of the same ilk (horoscopes/palmistry etc.), but they are hardly taken seriously (they don’t matter in, for example, job interviews). But “blood”-based conceits encourage much more dangerous habits. As noted below, they have historical connections with eugenics, Master-Race theories and Social Darwinism (i.e. that people can be sorted into personality “types” based upon birth-determined genotypical markers) which, in extreme cases, have led to pogroms and genocide.
Yet in Japan, blood-based theories of social behavior hold significant sway. In my opinion (based upon my current research), a conceit with “blood” not only legitimizes a lot of bad science (both physical and social), but also converts a lot of latent racializing tendencies into “old-school racism” (I say “old school” because most social scientists nowadays acknowledge that racism is a social construct, not a biological one). In some cases, for example, one has to be “pure-blooded” in order to be, for example, a “real” Japanese. Thus it doesn’t just allegedly determine personality — it determines one’s legal standing in society. More on that from me some other time.
In any case, in society such as Japan’s that has this amount of weight put on hierarchy, having a quack science like this (so normalized that people can profit handsomely from it) avails people with poor analytical skills of one more factor to “sort, categorize, typify, and even stigmatize” people for things that are simply not their fault. It’s one more way of taking the individual out of the equation for personal behavior.
Simply put, this pseudoscience fosters horrendously bad habits. For in Japan, once the “blood type” equation is expanded beyond the allegedly “uniform and homogeneous society” trope, people become more susceptible to engaging in racial profiling towards “foreigners” — once the invisible genetic markers get expressed as visible phenotypical ones.
In sum, dumb ideas with common currency dumb down an entire society. And personality typing by blood is one of the dumbest.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, History, Human Rights, Tangents | 37 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 31st October 2012
The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan does a very good article summarizing what it was once like for us “Bubble Era” veterans, and how views of Japan were once either Japan as the perfectible society to be emulated or as the irresistible wave of the future (as in, in addition to the pop-culture economic bellwethers listed below, Michael J. Fox’s boss in BACK TO THE FUTURE II being a Japanese).
Now, as the article indicates below, it’s all collapsed, and former boosters have now become pessimists (with even Japan championer Ezra Vogel now turning his attention to China!). Here in Hawaii, the Chinese consumer is ascendant, with the likely domination of Chinese over Japanese language on store signs fairly soon. In this year’s remake of TOTAL RECALL, the exotic language being used in the background was no longer Japanese (a la BLADE RUNNER), but rather Chinese. Check out the dominant kanji in this greeting card: Mainland Chinese (with Japanese far receding). I think this trend will continue as Japan is eclipsed not only by China but even South Korea (Gangnam Style on last week’s episode of SOUTH PARK anyone? It’s Japan with more color and better pronunciation of diphthongs…) in terms of economics, politics, and visions of the future.
WASH POST: Jesper Koll, an economist who’s lived in Japan for 26 years, says it’s not easy for him to keep faith in a country that’s shrinking, aging, stuck in protracted economic gloom and losing fast ground to China as the region’s dominant power. “I am the last Japan optimist,” Koll said in a recent speech in Tokyo.
Indeed, the once-common species has been virtually wiped out. It was only two decades ago that Japan’s boosters — mainly foreign diplomats and authors, economists and entrepreneurs — touted the tiny nation as a global model for how to attain prosperity and power. But the group has turned gradually into nonbelievers, with several of the last holdouts losing faith only recently, as Japan has failed to carry out meaningful reforms after the March 2011 triple disaster. The mass turnabout has helped launch an alternative — and increasingly accepted — school of thought about Japan: The country is not just in a prolonged slump but also in an inescapable decline.
Posted in History, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 45 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th October 2012
Something came up over the past month that deserves mention on Debito.org when it comes to putting all the “violent protests against Japan” into some perspective. Something that was not given much audience in the Japanese media — far-rightists targeting domestic minorities in Japan due to the recent flap over some offshore rocks.
Yes, people say “both sides are guilty of saber rattling and banging nationalist drums.” But one thing I like to remind people is: Who picked this most recent fight over the Senkakus? And who keeps perpetually stirring things up by having what I would consider a denialist view of history when it comes to being an aggressor and colonizer over the past hundred years? Sorry, but many of Japan’s prominent leaders do. And they (deliberately, in this case) serve to stir up passions overseas. Then when people overseas protest this, who then suddenly claims that the foreigners are overreacting or Japanese are being targeted and victimized? Japan’s leaders. And Japan’s media, to rally the rest of the public.
However, Japan’s victimization trope is being overplayed. Japanese media, according to the Japan Times, is turning up the invective to compare Chinese protests to Kristallnacht.
Well, consider the following domestic actions by Japanese far-rightists against not just foreign business communities overseas, but actual NJ residents of Japan who have been living in Japan for generations (who, by all reasonable standards — including fighting and dying for the Japanese Empire — should be Japanese citizens by now). Are we seeing the same comparisons to Krystallnacht? And will we see those comparisons in the media once we get glass in the gutter and bloodied faces? If the standard for violence in Japan is also “verbal” (as in kotoba no bouryoku), then we’re on our way.
Stop it, everyone, before you do something you might regret later. (Then again, perhaps not, if Japan’s revisionist attitudes towards history continue to hold sway.)
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th October 2012
Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2, I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door: How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads to diversity getting subsumed. And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.
Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.
But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it?
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media | 40 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th September 2012
Here’s something quite indicative about the conservatives in Japan. As I will be alluding to in my next Japan Times column (due out October 2), there is an emphasis on making sure “hopes and dreams” are part of Japan’s future. Fine, but for Japan’s conservatives, fostering “hopes and dreams” means obliterating things like the shameful bits of Japan’s past (which every country, doing an honest accounting of history, has). For Osaka Mayor Hashimoto (who just launched his ominously-named “Japan Restoration Party”), that means killing off Japan’s only human-rights museum (which, when I visited, had a corner devoted to the Otaru Onsens Case). Because talking about how minorities in Japan combat discrimination against them is just too disruptive of Japan’s “dreamy” national narrative:
Morris-Suzuki: Founded in 1985, Liberty Osaka is Japan’s only human rights museum. It features displays on the history of hisabetsu buraku communities (groups subject to social discrimination), the struggle for women’s rights, and the stories of minority groups such as the indigenous Ainu community and the Korean minority in Japan. An important aspect of the museum is its depiction of these groups, not as helpless victims of discrimination, but rather as active subjects who have fought against discrimination, overcome adversity and helped to create a fairer and better Japanese society. By 2005 more than a million people had visited the Liberty Osaka. (See the museum’s website (Japanese) and (English).)
Today, the museum faces the threat of closure. The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of themuseum’s funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012)
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, History, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, 日本語 | 22 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 25th June 2012
Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up. Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land. The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not). Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.
It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan: Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down). Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.” This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).
And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back? Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there? It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc. have been Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy. The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history. It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th May 2012
As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us.
ZG: Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront). It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.
Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”
Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?
For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, History, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ legacies | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th April 2012
An excellent paper (linked below) is Taimie Bryant, “For the Sake of the Country, for the Sake of the Family: The Oppressive Impact of Family Registration on Women and Minorities in Japan” (39 UCLA Law Review Rev. 1991-1992), with just about everything you need to know about the subtle (but very definite) “othering” processes found in Japan’s Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou) Systems. It gives the history of each (the koseki’s historical role in rooting out Christians, the juuminhyou’s role in census taking and tracking people), and then gives us some vagaries that arise from it:
1) The doctor who temporarily lost his license to practice medicine because he offered pregnant women an alternate means to register their children rather than have them aborted to avoid the shame and stigma of illegitimacy.
2) The woman professor who wished to continue using her maiden name professionally after marriage despite her university telling her that she could only be identified as per her husband’s koseki.
3) The women who sued Nissan for discrimination because they were denied standard corporate allowances just because as women they were not registered as “head of household” (setai nushi).
It also very neatly unpacks: 1) the genealogical tracing of family for generations by corporations and prospective marriage families to see if the person was a Burakumin, or had aberrant behavior from other family members,
2) the hierarchical structure of Japan as a remnant of the prewar ie seido and how upper-class family values and structures were officially foisted upon the rest of Japanese society,
3) the power of the normalization of labeling, and how the state’s attitudes towards anti-individualism (as these are dossiers on the family, not just the individual) as seen in this system creates a socially-constructed reality of constant subordination,
4) the difficulty in fighting or reforming this system because of its normalization (although people have been trying for generations), as it is difficult to prove discriminatory intent of a system with no targetable individual discriminator (and with a plausible deniability of unintended consequences).
5) How ethnic minorities in Japan are excluded and invisible because they simply aren’t listed as “spouse” or even “resident” on either form (Debito.org has talked about this at length in the past).
As an aside, one game played under this system same-sex couples get linked to one another for inheritance and other family-dependent purposes. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Japan. However, people CAN adopt each other, and those ties are just about as dissoluble as a marriage.
This is one other (unmentioned, of course) reason why I believe Donald Keene recently naturalized. If he remained a foreigner in Japan, he could be adopted, but his name would not be listed properly on the koseki and juuminhyou and no rights or benefits would accrue either way. However, if his partner adopts him after he becomes a Japanese citizen, then all the benefits accrue. Good for Don, of course (and my beef, remember, is not with him making these life choices, which he should do, but with him portraying himself as somehow morally superior to other NJ, something the Japanese public, according to a recent fawning Japan Times article, seems to buy into). But wouldn’t it be nice if Don, who seems to be speaking a lot in public these days about how things aren’t to his liking, would also speak out about these vagaries of the Family Registry System?
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 3rd March 2012
While doing research two days ago, I ran across this curious footnote in journal article (Levin, Mark, “Essential Commodities and Racial Justice”; Journal of International Law and Politics (NYU, Winter 2001) 33:419, at 500, footnote 288), which tells us a lot of something quite remarkable about how much extra-parliamentary legislative power is invested in Japan’s bureaucracy: The power to strip entire peoples of their Japanese citizenship (despite their colonial contributions and experience, including fighting and dying in the Imperial Army) by fiat. By kairan, even.
Levin: The involuntary de-naturalization [of hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Taiwanese persons resident in Japan] was accomplished by administrative fiat, interpreting the Nationality Lw under an implicit association with the 1951 Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers. “In 1952, nine days before the Peace Treaty came into force, the Director-General of the Civil Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Justice issued a Circular Notice [an internal government document] to the officials concerned, announcing that all Koreans, including those residing in Japan, were to lose their Japanese nationality.” … Although Japanese courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently upheld the legality of this act, Iwasawa persuasively argues that the court rulings were analytically unsound, that Japan’s action violated international standards regarding nationality, and that the action was unconstitutional because the act “runs counter to Article 10 of the Constitution, which provides, ‘The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by hōritsu [statutes].’ The question should have been settled by a statute enacted by the Diet.”
This degree of extralegal power — to the point of a simple office memo to disenfranchise for generations an entire minority in Japan — shows just how abusive and capricious Japan’s mandarins can be — and the judiciary will back them up.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government | 26 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th February 2012
This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues. Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place. He’s not alone. The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.
There may be a political dimension. As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.” Interesting if true. Let’s have that investigated.
A little academic expostulating, if I may: One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron). Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis. Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.
And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 22 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th December 2011
Happy holidays. Today I offer you some historical perspective regarding overseas dialog on Japan, in this case policy towards Japan by the United States. The year is 1965 (first edition 1961), an excerpt from a book about my age offering Edward Seidensticker, famous translator and interpreter of things Japanese for the English-reading outsider. This is a “WORLD LIBRARY” monthly library book on Japan (published by Time Life Inc.). His conclusion, in part:
Seidensticker: So many forces shaping the future of Japan are nevertheless out of Japanese hands, and therefore beyond the power of anyone to influence, that no country can afford to be unmindful of them. This can be said of any country, but it is particularly true of a country that remains divided.
For the West, and particularly its most powerful nation, a pair of injunctions would seem to be an apt conclusion to what has been said: Be quiet, and be strong.
Be quiet. If the troubles the United States had with Japan in 1960 taught a lesson, it was that the Japanese must not be pushed to a decision about their responsibilities in the world. They may eventually come to a decision by their own devices, but as things stand today, nothing should be done that might give the impression that the United States is applying pressure….
Debito’s comment, in part: In sum, this is a thoughtful article, and in 2000 words Seidensticker acquits himself well when it comes to knowledge and sensitivity towards Japan. But it’s clearly dated (not just because of smug hindsight to see how many predictions he got wrong); it’s clearly in the Edwin Reischauer camp of “poor, poor, misunderstood Japan, let’s not be ignorant or mean towards it”, meaning protecting the status quo or else someday Japan will attack us.
Yet now, fifty years later, Japan has essentially gotten everything it wanted from the West in order to develop and prosper. Yet I believe it’s heading back towards insularity today due to structures and habits that were NOT removed from Japan’s postwar bureaucracy and education system. Such as a weak investigative press, an economic system not geared beyond developmental capitalism, a lack of solid oversight systems that encourage rule of law rather than allow bureaucratic extralegal guidelines or political filibustering, a lackluster judiciary that cannot (or refuses to) hold powerful people and bureaucrats responsible, a public undereducated beyond a mythological and anti-scientific “uniqueness” mindset, able to understand equality and fairness towards people who are disenfranchised or who are not members of The Tribe, etc. These are all essential developments crucial to the development of an equitable society that were stalled or stymied (starting with the Reverse Course of 1947) under the very same name of maintaining the delicate balance of Japan’s anti-communist status quo. Well, the Cold War is long over, folks, yet Japan still seems locked into unhealthy dependency relationships (unless it is able to lord it over poorer countries in cynical and venal attempts to influence world politics in its own petty directions; also unhealthy). Only this time, for the past twenty years and counting, Japan simply isn’t getting rich from it any longer.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 9th November 2011
The Japan Times Community Page does it again! Legal scholar Colin P. A. Jones on the loopholes and contradictions within the Japanese postwar Constitution, how they came about, and what they mean in practice in terms of NJ (and Japanese) civil and human rights. This is one of the most enlightening pieces I’ve read all year, connecting a lot of dots and answering questions I’ve had building up for years. What are you waiting for? Read it! Several times. Until it sinks in.
JT: Of course, the real Pandora’s box of constitutional paradoxes involves the rights of non-Japanese [...]. The first paradox is presented by Chapter 3 of the charter, which in Japanese is titled “Rights and Duties of the Japanese People.” The clear linkage of rights to citizenship is missing from the official English version; to read it properly, you need to understand that where it says “the people,” the Japanese term used is kokumin, which clearly refers to Japanese nationals. In some places the term used is “person,” which lacks any nuances of citizenship, but it still appears in a chapter whose title appears to limit all rights to citizens.
This subtle but important discrepancy is the result of what historian John Dower calls “language games” on the part of the Japanese government team when it rendered the Americans’ English draft into Japanese. This form of passive resistance, together with another modification that the Americans inexplicably accepted (the elimination of “nationality” as a prohibited category of discrimination under the equal protection provisions of Article 14), has resulted in a Constitution that seems schizophrenic insofar as it speaks of defining equality and “fundamental human rights” as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human…
So what rights do foreign residents have under the Constitution? Well, according to the Supreme Court, they are entitled to all the same rights as Japanese people, except for those which by their nature are only to be enjoyed by Japanese people. Does that help?
Posted in History, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 14 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd November 2011
JT JBC: There is an axiom in Japanese: uso mo hōben — “lying is also a means to an end.” It sums up the general attitude in Japan of tolerance of — even justification for — not telling the truth.
First — defining “telling the truth” as divulging the truth (not a lie), the whole truth (full disclosure) and nothing but the truth (uncompounded with lies) — consider how lies are deployed in everyday personal interactions.
Let’s start with good old tatemae (charitably translated as “pretense”). By basically saying something you think the listener wants to hear, tatemae is, essentially, lying. That becomes clearer when the term is contrasted with its antonym, honne, one’s “true feelings and intentions.”
Tatemae, however, goes beyond the “little white lie,” as it is often justified less by the fact you have avoided hurting your listener’s feelings, more by what you have gained from the nondisclosure.
But what if you disclose your true feelings? That’s often seen negatively, as baka shōjiki (“stupidly honest”): imprudent, naive, even immature. Skillful lying is thus commendable — it’s what adults in society learn to do.
Now extrapolate. What becomes of a society that sees lying as a justifiably institutionalized practice? Things break down. If everyone is expected to lie, who or what can you trust?…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 77 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 25th October 2011
I have just spent the past six months getting through one of perhaps the more weighty tomes in the English language: William L. Shirer’s THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH — about Nazi Germany and Hitler’s campaigns before and during WWII. This 1150-page tombstone/doorstop of a book will sit proudly on my shelf as something read cover-to-cover with as much information absorbed from it as possible. I of course wrote a book review in the back cover (if you’re interested in hearing it, readers, let me know, and I’ll append it to the Comments Section), but the thing that I’d like to focus this blog entry upon today is Japan’s historical actions and negotiating tactics (including the Japanese government’s penchant for vagueness, obfuscation, and completely masked intentions) mentioned within the book, and how remarkably similar they remain today.
Conclusion: I’ve dealt with and witnessed the actions of the GOJ for decades now. Although now more than seventy years later, none of this seems out of sync with the way Japanese bureaucrats or politicians talk or act today. And once anyone overseas thinks they have a handle on and an avenue into the political situation, the cabinet changes and then you have to start again. Someday people are going to have to learn how the GOJ works internationally.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th July 2011
To take us through the holiday weekend (and shortly before I vacation this blog for the summer), let’s have a discussion about this article by Peter Tasker which achieved a prominent spot in a prominent policymakers’ magazine.
The article offers hope that Japan will rebuild. But it also cherry-picks economic statistics to show that Japan isn’t as bad economically as all that (he even dismisses the “Lost Decade(s)”; does Mr. Tasker get out of Tokyo much?). And, more oddly, he takes the opportunity of Japan’s worst postwar disaster to swipe at the “Revisionists” (the contrapose to the “Chrysanthemum Club”), particularly the late Chalmers Johnson. The C-Club, a group of scholars with great sway in US-Japan Relations for just about the entire Postwar Era, generally tends to explain away most of Japan’s disinclination to follow international rules and norms by citing their own conjured-up sacerdotal cultural oddities and esoterica (or, less charitably, “intellectual chicanery” and “uncritical apolog[ism] for Japan”). It preys on the fact that it knows more Japanese words and concepts than most Western readers do, and cites them even if they aren’t grounded in much. And woe betide any competing point of view to come in and spoil the US-Japan Relationship love-in.
True to form, in the best rewarmed Reishauer, Mr. Tasker acclaims the country’s “extraordinary social cohesion and stoicism” in the name of “social stability” and “national self-respect”, thanks to “mutual respect, not victory in competition”, and of course, “gaman” and “shimaguni konjo”. This overseas school of thought once again portrays poor, poor Japan as perpetually misunderstood by the West, not as a corporatist state that serves its citizenry at times pretty poorly and seeks little consent from its governed. As Japan’s per capita incomes keep dropping, people (particularly new employment market entrants) find themselves less able to advance or improve their lives, while the flaws of the state have come ever more into stark relief thanks to Fukushima.
For this time, Fukushima’s increasing radiation exposure is not something that can wait like a regular disaster (such as the slow recovery efforts after the Kobe Earthquake of 1995). Meanwhile, the ineffectual state keeps covering up information, shifting safety standards for radioactivity, and exposing more people and the international food chain to accumulating toxin. Yet it’s this much-vaunted public “stoicism” (as opposed to feelings of powerlessness and futility) that is precisely what will do people in. Mr. Tasker’s citing of the alleged common belief that “the janitor in your apartment building is not a representative of ‘the other’. He is you.” may be something the Japanese are being told to tell themselves (although I can’t find any sources for that), but I don’t believe this attitude is going to be a constructive source for recovery this time. Fukushima will, however, eventually become a source of “grand-mal victimization”, as a substitute for solution and revolution, as the malcontents who might do something will give up and/or just flee. We will quite possibly see an exodus (if there isn’t an unreported one going on already) of Japanese (which has happened periodically before during the other times Japan’s economic system broke down; hence the immigrant Japanese communities in places like South America, Hawaii, and California) from this system which quite simply cannot fix itself, and the people feel powerless to demand better even as they get slowly poisoned.
The difference this time is that the breakdown in the state is spreading toxins beyond its own borders, unabated four months later, with no end in sight. I wonder if Mr. Tasker would offer any revisions to his article now. But I doubt it. His politics come through pretty clearly below.
Finally, in contrapose to the media’s much vaunted “Japanese earthquake without looting” canard, I enclose at the very bottom two articles for the record substantiating ATM machine and convenience store theft in the earthquake areas. A friend also noted a Kyodo wire entitled “684 million yen stolen from ATMs in hardest-hit prefectures” that made the July 16 Japan Times but he says can’t be found archived anywhere. “Stoicism and social cohesion”? People are people. Shit happens and people react. Let’s not obfuscate this with cultural canards aiming at advancing the outdated politics and analytical rubric of the Chrysanthemum Club.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Gaiatsu, History, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th June 2011
Here is a deep article from Reuters this month on how deep the rot goes in Japan’s labor market and safety practices regarding nuclear power. It’s germane to Debito.org because even NJ workers have been hired and exposed to radiation in Japan — without proper recordkeeping. Guess that’s one of the advantages of utilizing NJ laborers — they are the “temp temps” (my term) that escape any official scrutiny because imported labor “sent home” after use is somebody else’s problem.
Reuters: [I]n 1997, the effort to save the 21-year-old [Fukushima] reactor from being scrapped at a large loss to its operator, Tokyo Electric, also included a quiet effort to skirt Japan’s safety rules: foreign workers were brought in for the most dangerous jobs, a manager of the project said.
“It’s not well known, but I know what happened,” Kazunori Fujii, who managed part of the shroud replacement in 1997, told Reuters. “What we did would not have been allowed under Japanese safety standards.”
The previously undisclosed hiring of welders from the United States and Southeast Asia underscores the way Tokyo Electric, a powerful monopoly with deep political connections in Japan, outsourced its riskiest work and developed a lax safety culture in the years leading to the Fukushima disaster, experts say…
At Fukushima in 1997, Japanese safety rules were applied in a way that set very low radiation exposure limits on a daily basis, Fujii said. That was a prudent step, safety experts say, but it severely limited what Japanese workers could do on a single shift and increased costs.
The workaround was to bring in foreign workers who would absorb a full-year’s allowable dose of radiation of between 20 millisieverts and 25 millisieverts in just a few days…
It is not clear if the radiation doses for the foreign workers were recorded on an individual basis or if they have faced any heath problems. Tepco said it had no access to the worker records kept by its subcontractors. IHI said it had no record of the hiring of the foreign workers. Toshiba, another major contractor, also said it could not confirm that foreign workers were hired.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 24th June 2011
What follows (and will take us up through the weekend) is an academic paper that changed my world view about Japan earlier this year. Written by friend M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall, and presented at the Association of Asian Studies annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 3, 2011, it talks about how Japan’s culture is dysfunctional and, put more metaphysically, unable to fill the need of a people to “deny death”. This will on the surface be difficult to wrap one’s head around, so read on, open the mind wide, and take it all in. Reprinted here with permission of the author and revised specially for Debito.org. Concentrate. It’s like a dense episode of the X-Files. And it will raise fundamental questions in your mind about whether it’s worth one’s lifetime doing service to and learning about a dying system, which is ascriptive and exclusionary in nature, yet essentially serving nobody.
Sheftall: In a single paragraph of brutal candor, Richie verbalized a certain metaphysical malaise in the Japanese condition that I had been vaguely aware of since arriving in the country in 1987. Outside of the jeremiads and diatribes of right-wing pundits, this metaphysical malaise (or lacuna, as I have referred to it above) is generally kept politely hidden – like an embarrassing family secret jealously protected – although I had caught many glimpses and snippets of it here and there during my long years in Japan, most often and vividly in the sake-lubricated lamentations of older Japanese men (especially those old enough to remember life when the Meiji cosmology was still vibrant and functional). Moreover, it explained the grievously conflicted belief systems (i.e., torn between lingering loyalty to the Meiji cosmology vs. necessary adjustments to the undeniable realities of the postwar present) I had observed to more or less of a degree among virtually all of the Japanese war veteran subjects of my ethnographic project. My subjects had gradually revealed their lingering emotional turmoil over the collapse of the Meiji cosmology to me over our months and years of acquaintance with displays ranging from self-deprecating humor and passive resignation on some occasions, to painful and unrestrained expressions of profound grief, humiliation, and snarling hinekuri resentment on others. But it was not until I encountered Richie’s passage – which is worth quoting at length here – that I could really grasp the “pathology”, if you will, of this “metaphysical malaise”:
Richie: “In the decades following the war Japan has vastly improved in all ways but one. No substitute has ever been discovered for the certainty that this people enjoyed until the summer of 1945…Japan suffered a trauma that might be compared to that of the individual believer who suddenly finds himself an atheist. Japan lost its god, and the hole left by a vanished deity remains. The loss was not the emperor, a deity suddenly lost through his precipitate humanization. It was, however, everything for which he and his whole ordered, pre-war empire had stood. It was certainty itself that was lost. And this is something that the new post-war world could not replace”(120-121).
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, History, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 28 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 28th May 2011
Today I’d like to write about something that came to mind when I was listening to National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” podcast of February 21, 2011, which interviewed author and Columbia University professor Eric Foner for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. (NPR information site on this show, excerpt from the book, and link to audio recording here.)
It was an excellent interview, shedding insights on just how entrenched unequal treatment towards people was in a system that on paper and in its very declaration of independence proclaimed that all men are created equal. I found similarities in the attitudes that people have towards foreigners in Japan, based not only on recent confessions by a public prosecutor that criminal jurisprudence training seeks to systematically deny human rights to foreigners, but also consequent twitter comments that justified the status quo of unequal treatment for foreigners. It shows just how far Japan as a society (not to mention the GOJ’s Bureau of Human Rights, which itself misunderstands the very concept of human rights in its surveys and awareness raising efforts; see my Japan Times article, “Human Rights Survey Stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science”, of October 23, 2007) has to go before it understands that concepts of human rights are universal, not based upon citizenship.
Now for the disclaimers: I am aware that apparently linking the treatment of NJ in Japan to slaves in America is not an apt comparison (although Japan’s “Trainee/Researcher” system for importing cheap NJ labor has encouraged widespread labor abuses, child labor, and, yes, even slavery). I am aware that most NJ are in Japan of their own free will (if one ignores the forced labor of many Zainichi ancestors), whereas slaves were brought to the US by force. Et cetera. But the two concepts are related if not co-joined, as racial discrimination and justified unequal treatment is common to them both. What I want you to think about as you read the interview is how the contemporary debate arena and concepts of fundamental equality were blurred in both Pre-Civil-War USA and are still being blurred in contemporary Japan, tying the hands of even someone as able and firm in his convictions as Abraham Lincoln.
Excerpt of the interview follows. Quick comment from me below.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Discussions, History, Human Rights | 24 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th April 2011
Gardner: The Japanese government undertook a rapid expansion of nuclear power after the oil shocks of the early 1970s to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy, despite the high earthquake risk in the region…
Why risk it? Why should we build and operate nuclear power plants knowing that they do pose real dangers, whatever the magnitude of those dangers may be? And why, in particular, would Japan build nuclear power plants on land that so often buckles and heaves?…
The Japanese miracle was built on a foundation of cheap energy -mostly oil, mostly from the Middle East. The oil embargo of late 1973 plunged the world into the frightening recession of 1974, and no one suffered worse than Japan.
“The recent period of Japanese glory, from 1969 to 1973, when it seemed a small, distant country would overtake the giants of the West, lasted longer than a dream, but it has ended with dramatic suddenness,” wrote Donald Keene, an American professor of Japanese culture, in the New York Times. It was March 3, 1974. “The same people who only a few months ago were talking and acting as if the future held unlimited possibilities of economic expansion now gloomily announce, not without a touch of masochism, that they live in a country completely at the mercy of others for survival.”
Many Japanese were sure their country would sink back into poverty. The old fears of mass starvation and environmental ruin returned. “Prophecies of disaster abound,” Keene noted.
The Japanese government responded with a sweeping, multi-pronged campaign to reduce Japan’s dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Conservation and energy-efficiency was a major component. So was a rapid expansion of nuclear power.
Of course the Japanese knew their seismological reality. Indeed, Japanese earthquake science and engineering is the best in the world. But the Japanese also knew the danger of the status quo. It was a trade-off…
Posted in Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 5th April 2011
The Nation.com: But even as Japan was reeling from the disaster’s death toll—which is expected to surpass 20,000—and growing increasingly frightened by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor complex, there was growing unease at the lack of straight information from both the government and Tepco, a utility with a troubled history of lies, cover-ups and obfuscation dating back to the late 1960s.
The information gap became an international issue on March 16, when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko openly contradicted the Japanese government by declaring that water in one of Tepco’s reactors had boiled away, raising radiation in the area to “extremely high levels.” He recommended evacuation to any Americans within fifty miles of the site—nearly double the evacuation zone announced by the Japanese government (which immediately denied Jaczko’s assertions). TheNew York Times piled on the next day with a major article that pilloried the Kan government. “Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more—and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed,” the reporters declared.
To be sure, Tokyo’s response to the disaster has been erratic, and the paucity of information about Fukushima was one of the first complaints I heard about the situation from my friends in Japan. But much of the criticism poured on Japan has obscured the many ways its political system has shifted since a 2009 political earthquake, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept out of power for the first time in fifty years. The changes, particularly to people who remember the government’s pathetic response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed nearly 6,500, have been striking.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 7 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th January 2011
What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this.
Japan Times: The men stood up and explained that this week was the 40th anniversary of Rita’s death and they were going to her grave to pay their respects. The owner of the locket opened his briefcase and showed me a foil-wrapped haggis he’d ordered especially from his butcher. Another of the men took out a packet of oatcakes and a jar of heather honey.
They invited me to join them but the wind had returned with a vengeance and their drink had pasted me squarely to my seat. As they climbed out of the train, I asked them who they were. The three seemed sheepish for the first time since we’d met. Finally, the owner of the flask spoke up, “We’re the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club.”
Posted in Food, History, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »
Posted by arudou debito on 22nd November 2010
James Fallows: I have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few hours ago, at age 79, at his home near San Diego. He had had a variety of health problems for a long time.
Johnson — “Chal” — was a penetrating, original, and influential scholar, plus a very gifted literary and conversational stylist. When I first went to Japan nearly 25 years ago, his MITI and the Japanese Miracle was already part of the canon for understanding Asian economic development. Before that, he had made his name as a China scholar; after that, he became more widely known with his books like Blowback, about the perverse effects and strategic unsustainability of America’s global military commitments. Throughout those years he was a mentor to generations of students at the UC campuses at Berkeley and San Diego…
Posted in Education, History | 7 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th October 2010
One of my hosts at the University of British Columbia turned me on to a website I thought deserved a bit more attention: their “Asia-Pacific Memo”. Although not all about Japan (Japan in overseas academia is losing out big time these days to China, (sadly) understandably), it has a lot of food for thought about how to interpret current events in Asia. Have a look:
Japan-specific topics here:
Posted in Education, History, Human Rights, Tangents | No Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 9th October 2010
In honor of upcoming Canadian (and soon American) Thanksgiving:
APPOLONIA MENDIS CYPCAR’S TURKEY STUFFING
From Arudou Debito, great grandson, Debito.org
(for a 13-14 lb turkey)
1 lb ground veal
1/2 box of saltines (box 1 1b size) ground coarsely
1 pint whole milk
1/2 lb butter
4 eggs beaten
salt and pepper to taste
It’s the taste I miss most from the USA.
Posted in Food, History, Tangents | 14 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th August 2010
In another big piece of news, Japan is taking another step closer to healing the wounds around Asia of a cruel colonial past by saying sorry to South Korea. Good. Bravo. Sad that it took a century for the apologies and return of some war spoils, but better now than never. Let’s hope it further buries the ahistorical revisionist arguments that basically run, “We were invited to Korea, and did them a favor by taking them over.” — arguments that help nobody get over the past or help with neighborly Asian cooperation.
Kyodo: Prime Minister Naoto Kan is scheduled to release a statement for South Korea on Tuesday regarding the centenary later this month of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, ruling party lawmakers said Monday.
The statement will include a phrase expressing deep remorse and apologizing for Japan’s colonial rule, stating also that Japan will return cultural artifacts taken from the peninsula that South Korea has been demanding, according to sources familiar with the matter…
On the transfer of cultural artifacts, the items in question are believed to be held by the Imperial Household Agency, including the Joseon Wangsil Uigwe, a meticulous record of Korean royal ceremonies and rituals.
The statement to be released Tuesday will only be directed at South Korea, whereas the Murayama statement apologized to Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression, the sources said.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, History, Injustice, Japanese Government | 27 Comments »