Archive for the 'Cultural Issue' Category
Sundry issues about Japan not necessarily related to human rights
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th December 2014
In the Japanese media run-up to this election, there was enough narrative of doomsaying for opponents to PM Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), what with Japan’s Left in disarray and Japan’s Right ascendant after 2013’s electoral rout. The LDP was to “win big by default” in a “landslide victory”. The day after the election, we can say that yes, Abe won, but “big” is a bit of a relative term when you look at the numbers…
CONCLUSIONS: The Far-Right (Jisedai) suffered most in this election, while the Far-Left (JCP) picked up more protest votes than the Center-Left (DPJ). My read is that disillusioned Japanese voters, if they bothered to vote at all, saw the LDP/KMT as possibly more centrist in contrast to the other far-right parties, and hedged their bets. With the doomsaying media awarding Abe the election well in advance, why would people waste their vote on a losing party unless they felt strongly enough about any non-issue being put up this election?
Nevertheless, the result will not be centrist. With this election, Japan’s lurch to the Right has been complete enough to become normalized. PM Abe will probably be able to claim a consolidated mandate for his alleged fiscal plans, but in reality his goals prioritize revising Japan’s “Peace Constitution” and eroding other firewalls between Japan’s “church and state” issues (e.g., Japan’s remilitarization, inserting more Shinto/Emperor worship mysticism in Japan’s laws, requiring more patriotism and “love of country” in Japan’s education curriculum, and reinforcing anything Japan’s corporatists and secretive bureaucrats don’t want the public to know as “state secrets”).
All of this bodes ill for NJ residents of Japan, as even Japanese citizens who have “foreign experiences” are to be treated as suspicious (and disqualified for jobs) in areas that the GOJ deems worthy of secrecy. And as Dr. Jeff Kingston at Temple University in Japan notes, even the guidelines for determining what falls into that category are secret. Nevertheless, it is clear that diversity of opinion, experience, or nationality/ethnicity is not what Japan’s planners want for Japan’s future.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, SITYS, 日本語 | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th December 2014
As everyone in Japan probably knows (as they cover their ears due to the noise), it’s election time again, and time for the sound trucks and stump speeches to come out in force until December 14. And with that, sadly, comes the requisite foreigner bashing so prevalent in recent years in Japan’s election and policy campaigns (see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Here’s 2014’s version, from “The Party for Future Generations” (Jisedai no Tou; frontman: racist xenophobe Dietmember from Okayama 3-ku Hiranuma Takeo), courtesy Debito.org Reader XY:
XY: Today I ran across this election campaign video that isn’t as bad as the usual CM fare, but seems to suggest that 8 times as many foreigners as native Japanese are receiving welfare hand-outs. Here’s the lyrics (from the video’s own description):
DEBITO: Debito.org is concerned about this normalization of NJ bashing — to the point of believing that blaming foreigners for just about anything gains you political capital. Look how this alleged “NJ welfare cheats” issue has become one of Jisedai’s four (well, three, actually, since the first issue mentioned is a grumble instead of a substantive claim) planks in their platform. Even though, as we have discussed here earlier, this is a non-issue. Link to CM and screen captures enclosed with analysis.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th December 2014
OPENING: I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning.
Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”
Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male).
Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.
But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.
Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 39 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th November 2014
DEBITO.ORG READER AM: Debito, I saw an internet banner ad on the asahi.com website that along with a cartoon figure, posed the question “gaikokujin no jinken mamotteru?” [Are you protecting the human rights of NJ?] I thought I must have been seeing things, but clicking through I landed on a Japan Ministry of Justice page offering advice on how to protect the rights of non-Japanese.
It seems that this is a campaign is part of Japan’s push to ready the country for the 2020 Olympics, addressing issues such as ryokan denying service to non Japanese. Definitely a nice change from the focus on hooliganism leading up to the World Cup in 2002.
DEBITO: I would agree. It’s much better to see Non-Japanese as people with rights than as rapacious and devious criminals who deserve no rights because, according to the Ministry of Justice’s own surveys, NJ aren’t as equally human as Japanese. And this is not the first antidiscrimination campaign by the Japanese Government, in the guise of the mostly-potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu, or BOHR) nominally assigned to protect human rights in Japan (which, as Debito.org has pointed out before, have put out some pretty biased and insensitive campaigns specifically regarding NJ residents in Japan). And did I mention the Japanese Government in general has a habit of portraying important international issues in very biased ways if there’s ever a chance of NJ anywhere getting equal treatment or having any alleged power over Japanese people? It’s rarely a level playing field or a fair fight in Japan’s debate arenas or awareness campaigns.
So now that it’s 2014, and another influential Olympics looms, how does the BOHR do this time? (And I bother with this periodic evaluation because the Japanese Government DOES watch what we do here at Debito.org, and makes modifications after sufficient embarrassments…) I’ll take screen captures of the whole site, since they have a habit of disappearing after appearing here. Here’s the top page:
CONCLUSION: Again, much talk about NJ and their lives here with minimized involvement of the NJ themselves. As my friend noted, it’s better this than having NJ openly denigrated or treated as a social threat. However, having them being treated as visitors, or as animals that need pacifying through Wajin interlocutors, is not exactly what I’d call terribly progressive steps, or even good social science. But that’s what the BOHR, as I mentioned above, keeps doing year after year, and it keeps their line items funded and their underwhelming claims of progressive action to the United Nations window-dressed.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Sport, Tourism, United Nations, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2014
Opening: This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?
By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.
By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.
Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course…
(Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media | 30 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st November 2014
Two good JT columns recently indicate how gaiatsu is becoming one of the last tools left for anyone to counter Japan’s Right-Wing Swing. One from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat’s charm. But he’s recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration:
CORTAZZI: Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here. […] In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[…] It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights.
DEBITO: Quite strong language from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It’s even stronger:
YAMAGUCHI: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption. […] It is hardly possible that [the UNSC] would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[…]
What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire. It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects.
DEBITO: It’s nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like “the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism”, because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan’s media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan’s Postwar Era, it’s time for denunciations to happen. Because they’re not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, Debito.org is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd October 2014
Kyodo: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other. The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names. Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned. During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.”
Friend: I’m sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan’s hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they “hate Japan”, then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully.
Debito: I disagree. Sakurai is a bully. I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation. And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did. People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto’s actions. He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city. And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed. Good. Fire with fire.
Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena. My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example. It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did. Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.
UPDATE OCT 23: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to J-Cast.com, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Now it’s time for me to make some qualifications…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd September 2014
Continuing our occasional series on “The Blame Game” (I’ve written about this before in the Japan Times), where embarrassing and inconvenient domestic problems are blamed on foreigners, here’s a report by a Japanese media source that Japan’s venerable symbolic Mt. Fuji is covered in human hiker crap.
Fine. I’ve hiked up many mountains, and I’m sure a hike up Fuji would challenge many an intestine. But then the article headlines that it might be due to the increase in foreign tourists (particularly Chinese and Koreans), parroting internet speculation. Not so fine. It does add “balance” by saying that others have said that Japanese also do it. But again, that’s not what the headline says, and you’d have to read further to get that. The story should in fact be that people are bashing foreigners, not that NJ pooping on Fuji might be happening.
Click bait is one thing, but the media practice of picking on foreigners because they are too weak in Japan’s media to respond against group defamation (as I discuss in my doctoral dissertation; more on that later, sorry) is another. Japan needs stronger anti-defamation leagues (we at Debito.org have tried; remember McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr. James” campaign?) to nip this sort of thing in the bud.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tourism, 日本語 | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th September 2014
SCMP: But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.
“It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist. “After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.
“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.” Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women. “It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.
UPDATE: THIS SCMP ARTICLE PRODUCED AN ARTICLE IN HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Racist Images in Media, 日本語 | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th August 2014
Opening paragraphs: Readers may be expecting this column to have something to say about the Supreme Court decision of July 18, which decreed that non-Japanese (NJ) residents are not guaranteed social welfare benefits.
But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may establish.
I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of non-citizens, either.
This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens in Japan. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th July 2014
AFP: In celebrity-obsessed Japan with its conveyor belt of 15-minute stars, fashion model and “talent” Rola is blazing a meteoric trail at the forefront of a galaxy of mixed-race stars changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture. Turn on the TV and there’s no escaping the bubbly 24-year-old of Bengali, Japanese and Russian descent—she even dominates the commercial breaks. A marketing gold mine, Rola smiles down celestially from giant billboards, her wide eyes and girlie pout grace magazine covers and she even greets you at vending machines. But Rola, who settled in Japan when she was nine, has done it by turning the entertainment industry on its head, her child-like bluntness slicing through the strict convention that governs Japanese society.
JPN_GUY: The positive reaction to mixed-race models is certainly better than not wanting them on screen. It’s “anti-racist” and to be welcomed. To a certain extent, I guess it does show Japan is becoming more open and tolerant. But like most things, it’s not that simple. For one thing, all these women are stunning beautiful. Everyone loves a good-looking girl. We knew that already! But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician. As I said, the high visibility of mixed-race people in better than being vilified and ignored, for sure. But it’s also a sign of fetishism, and a refusal to see mixed race people as just “one of us”. Celebrities are “special” by definition. Ironically, that’s why visible minorities have less difficulty breaking into this field.
DEBITO: Of course, most “tarento” blaze and then fizzle without making any real impact, least of all “changing the DNA Japanese pop culture” as this article and its pundits claim. Rola in particular does not seem to be consciously promoting any increase in social tolerance of “haafu” — she’s just doing her thing, entertaining with a new (or actually, not all that new, but for now fresh-sounding) schtick as an ingenue. Of course. That’s her role as an entertainer. This has been the role of so many other entertainers, including the Kents (Kent Derricott made his pile and returned to the US to buy his mansion on the hill in Utah for his family; Kent Gilbert did much the same and lives in Tokyo with a residence in Utah as well), Leah Dizon (remember her?, already divorced from the Japanese guy who made the baby bump the speed bump in her career; she’s trying to make a comeback in Japan while based in Las Vegas), Bob Sapp, Chuck Wilson, and many, many more that I’m sure Debito.org readers will recount in comments below.
Sadly, none of these people have really made or will make a long-term impact on Japan’s mediascape. The best long-seller remains Dave Spector, who is a very, very exceptional person in terms of persistence and media processing (not to mention stellar language ability), but even he makes little pretense about being anything more than an “American entertainer” for hire. Other impactful persons I can think of are Peter Barakan and perhaps these people here. So it’s not non-existent. But it’s not powerful enough to permit “Doubles” to control their self-image in Japan, either.
I wish Rola well. I hope she continues to make the media splash she’s making. But the overhype can be fatal for many an entertainer when people eventually tire of her current incarnation. Even if Rola becomes “successful” by revamping her act to become more substantial, she’ll just be as subsumed and co-oped as Miyazawa Rie or Becky is. Or as forgotten as Leah Dizon within a few years. Let’s hope not, and let’s hope that she becomes a long seller. But I doubt it. Because the ingenue trail she is blazing (or rather, is being blazed for her by her agents) of the “sexy-baby-voice tarento” genre has never really allowed for that.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th July 2014
On the heels of our prior discussion about the Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s “scandal” about having the audacity to put a NJ as CEO of the company (shock horror! Think of how much the company will be compromised!, was the narrative), here’s a special issue by left-leaning AERA magazine of July 14, put out by the (left-and-right-leaning, depending on the editor) Asahi News Corp, on Japan’s “global companies”. Its big headline is that offices that are not multinational in terms of staff “will not succeed”. (Somebody tell that to Takeda Pharma’s xenophobes!) [scan of magazine banner enclosed]
You might think this is a forward-thinking move, but AERA also resorts to the same old media tropes about NJ. For example, it puns on the seminal TV show of more than a decade ago called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin” with a bit on “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Japanese workplaces”. Not to appear dated, it also refers to Koko Ga Hen’s current incarnation “YOU Wa Nani Shi Ni NIhon E” (What did YOU [sic] come to Japan to do?), with a poll of twenty (a scientifically-significant sample!! /sarcasm) real-live NJ residents of Japan saying what they find unsatisfactory about Japan. There’s also a discussion between two J pundits on immigration (yep; how about polling an immigrant?), a comparison between NJ transplant schools modeled on the Indian, Chinese, and Canadian education systems (why? dunno), and the coup de grace — the influential Oguri Saori manga “Darling wa Gaikokujin” being riffed on to talk about “Darling wa Damenzu Gaikokujin”.
This is about J women marrying NJ “Wrong men” (from a manga title, a polyglot word of Dame (J) and Mens (E?)) who are penniless, unfaithful, or violent (and in this case, according to AERA, from less-economically-developed countries, viz. the newly-coined word “kakusa-kon”, or economically-tiered marriages), because the NJ get a visa, and the women get the relief (iyashi) of having less to lose (financially or materially) after the breakup. Whaa….?
Yep, even when we resort to the hackneyed stereotypical tropes (gotta love the swarthy smitten NJ in the illustration; clearly by the skin tone there’s kakusa there), we still have to pander to prejudices by including some nasty ones.
There’s more up there, so other comments? Mine is that even if J companies take things to heart and hire more NJ employees, I’m worried that 1) like before, it’ll only be on a “contingency” basis (to take the NJ out for a test drive, meaning the hiring process is two-tiered and unequal, with less job security for the NJ), and 2) it’ll just happen because it’s “trendy”. NJ have been hired as “pet gaijin” (as was common practice during the “Bubble Years”; I know) to show off how “international” the company has become, without ever allowing NJ employees to play any real part in the company’s future. Just plonking NJ in your office doesn’t necessarily mean much (until NJ become, for example, managers). And when they do, the Takeda-styled soukaiya mentioned last blog entry will no doubt protest it anyway (if not fire you for doing the right thing about J-boss corruption, a la Olympus).
Sorry to rain on what may be a positive trend (I’d much rather have them acknowledge that J companies cannot remain insular than not, of course), but I’m not sure AERA is encouraging real non-insularity. Especially when even they can’t keep the discussion serious and refrain from painting NJ with negative stereotypes.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th July 2014
Japan’s largest drug maker, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., last month tapped a NJ (a Frenchman by the name of Cristophe Weber) to be its next CEO. This occasioned protests by the founding Takeda family and dissident shareholders, because hiring a NJ to be its leader would allegedly be abhorrent.
Relativism first: We’ve of course had protests and government interventions in other countries when foreigners buy up a strategically-important company. (Let me date myself: I remember the Westland helicopters scandal when I was living in England back in the 1980s!) So business xenophobia is not unique to Japan, of course.
But check out the narratives of justification for the exclusionism being proffered with straight faces:
A NJ CEO of a Japanese company would be “bad for the morale of Japanese employees”. (Why?)
A NJ CEO would necessarily result in “technological transfer overseas” (i.e., NJ are untrustworthy).
This would mean “finances or research and development would be entrusted to NJ” (Would it? This is an unaccountable dictatorship? This is not an issue of NJ-dom: Remember the corruption of the Olympus case, and they were all Japanese at the helm — until a NJ became the whistleblower.)
A NJ CEO is tantamount to a hostile “takeover by foreign capital” (again, those trust issues).
This particular NJ is unknowledgable of Japan’s health care industry of the “traditions and corporate culture” of Takeda (i.e., NJ are ignorant about Japan and Japan’s permutations of industry).
Imagine those arguments being made if a Japanese helmed an overseas company (we already had a Japanese in 2009 placed at the helm of, for example, the Japan Society in New York — an organization founded in 1907 by powerful Americans to explore Japanese society). Accusations of racism would probably fly. But in Japan, not so much. These knee-jerk exclusionary discourses are that hegemonic.
Anyway, the exclusionists (who only hold 1-2% of total shares, so they’re basically soukaiya) did not win out, and Weber became CEO. Nyah. Some referential articles about the Takeda Pharma Case follow.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st July 2014
Opening paragraphs: Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).
You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery.
This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.
But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th June 2014
Here is my latest publication, expanded this time from one chapter to two:
FODOR’S Japan 2014 Travel Guide
Two full chapters on tourism in Hokkaido and Tohoku
Pp. 707-810. ISBN 978-0-8041-4185-7.
Available from Amazon.com (for example) here.
Here are some excerpts. Get a copy, or advise your touring friends to get a copy!
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Practical advice, Tourism | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th June 2014
While we’re on the subject of sports, here’s something that I found very positive: A Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays named Kawasaki Munenori doing his darnedest to meet the domestic press (video here): I have written in the past about how certain other Japanese athletes overseas do it differently. In fact, my very first newspaper column (in the Asahi Evening News — remember when it was titled that?) way back in 1997 was a grumble (what else? I’m Debito) on how J-baseball pioneer Nomo Hideo (remember him?) was skiving in terms of trying to connect with his adoptive community (article here).
I will admit right now that I’m no expert on sports, but from what I’ve seen (and I’m welcome to correction/updates), many of Japan’s athletes overseas don’t bother to publicly learn the language, or connect all that much with their local community. Baseball superstar Ichiro is the immediate example that comes to mind, as AFAIK he assiduously avoids American media; some might justify it by saying he’s all business (i.e., focused on the game) or trying to avoid gaffes. But I still think it comes off as pretty snobby, since these sportsmen’s lives are being supported by fans, and they should give something back.
If I had a hotline into their brain, I would tell them to go further — exhort them to countermand the dominant discourse that English is too hard for Japanese to learn well. And then I would exhort even further: J sportsmen in the big leagues get treated pretty well (especially salarywise — that’s why they’re no longer playing in Japan!), yet you never hear them speaking up about the shoe on the other foot, on behalf of the often lousy and discriminatory treatment many NJ sportsmen get treated in Japan (imagine if the United States put such stringent foreigner limits on their baseball team rosters, for example; contrast it with how many foreign players (more than a quarter of the total in 2012) MLB actually absorbs!)
Again, sports isn’t quite my field, and if you think I’m being inaccurate or unduly harsh, speak up! People have in the past: Here’s an archived discussion we had nearly twenty years ago about Nomo in specific; I daresay that despite all the trailblazing Nomo did, and the wave of Japanese baseball players going overseas to seek fame and fortune, little has changed in terms of giving back.
That’s why Kawasaki is such a lovely exception, doing his level best to connect. His earnestness is very endearing. Debito.org gives two thumbs up! May more follow his example.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Sport | 26 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th June 2014
Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers. It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens). As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years”, and herein many of Abe’s purposes are clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency. Here’s the Table of Contents: […]
Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), “We Are Tomodachi” magazine is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse. Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine). No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language. So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore. (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers: If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)
So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time: What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan. Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:
“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with. Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly. When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it. So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses: light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells. Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”
This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science. The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do. Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?). What rubbishy analytical tools. And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tourism | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th May 2014
For a change (compared to these videos for example here, here, and here), have a look at Japan’s xenophobic public rallies from the perspective of anti-racism protesters. This is from May 11, 2014, a counter-rally against Zaitokukai in Osaka Nanba, drowning out Zaitokukai spokesman Sakurai Makoto. Good stuff: (video)
A couple of things I’ve noticed within the emerging narratives of Japan’s xenophobic demos:
1) The use of the word “reishisuto” (racist) both in Japanese and English, and the pat use of “sabetsu”, to get their point across. This way the narrative doesn’t split between the Newcomers and the Oldcomers, as discrimination towards these two groups is very different. But counter-demonstrator DO bear signs that say “jinshu sabetsu”, or racial discrimination. Good. Looks like the Urawa Reds fans’ “Japanese Only” banner last March finally cracked that rhetorical nut.
2) The use of the word “shame” (haji) once again to express displeasure, but no signs saying how NJ are residents too and such deserve rights. As I’ve argued before, until we make that connection, there’s still a layer of “othering” going on here.
3) The use of the same rough language and simple drowning out of xenophobic messages through noise and chant. Fighting fire with fire.
4) The popularization of the “f*ck you finger” (aka “The Bird”, not in common use in Japan in my experience until now).
Other videos of demos and counter demos are welcome in the Comments Section. No doubt there will be more. I’m just glad that people are finally and firmly speaking out against these issues.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, 日本語 | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th May 2014
Today’s post is a history lesson, about a very different Japan that took racial discrimination very seriously. Especially when Japanese were the victims of it overseas. Let me type in a section from Majima Ayu, “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan”, in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel, Eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013, pp. 398-401.
Pathos of the Glorious “Colored”
Japan’s Racial Equality Clause was denied by the Western powers, and racial discrimination such as the Japanese exclusion in California still remains, which is enough insult to raise the wrath among the Japanese. — Emperor Showa, 1946.
As cited, the Emperor Showa (1901-1989) saw the exclusion Act as “a remote cause of the Pacific War”… In fact, opinions against the Japanese Exclusion Act were an immediate reason for public outcry in Japan. The population had become exasperated by the weak-kneed diplomacy that brought national dishonor amidst the emotional bashing from the mass media. This manifested in extremely emotional and near mass-hysteric situation, such as the suicides near the American Embassy on May 31, the follow-up suicides, the events for consoling the spirits of the deceased, and the countless letters sent to the Naval Department calling for war against the United States…
American’s racial categorization aggravated Japan’s anger, which turned to anxiety as a result of Japan’s diminishing sense of belonging in the world; “the world being limited to the Western powers”, as Tokutomi cited earlier, even if Japan earned a status equal to that of the Western powers, there would still be a great “distance” between them, namely one of racial and religious differences, and the whole difference between the East and West. The sentiment of being a “solitary wanderer” rejected by the West contradicts the manner in which Japan brought about its own isolation. Tokutomi also asserted that the express “Asian” had no other meaning beyond the geographical, and thus Japan’s self-perceptions and identity no longer belonged to Asia. The sense of isolation was actually based on the denial of “Asia”, and it came from Japan’s own identification built upon the idea of “Quit Asia and Join Europe”. It could be said that Japan’s contradictory identification came to reveal Japan’s inability to identify with either the East or the West, a situation that came about through the emergence of a consciousness of the racial distance, especially from 1919 to 1924.
COMMENT: Look at how crazy racial discrimination makes people. Mass hysteria? Suicides? Rumors of war? Feeling rejected by the West after the elites had taken a risk and turned the national narrative away from the East? Thereby laying the groundwork for Postwar Japan’s narrative of uniqueness and exceptionalism that fuels much of the irrational and hypocritical behavior one sees in Japan today (especially vis-a-vis racial discrimination towards anyone NOT “Japanese”). Yet during Prewar Japan (when Japan was colonizing), the GOJ denied that it could even ideologically PRACTICE racial discrimination, since it was liberating fellow members of the Asian race (Oguma Eiji 2002: 332-3); and now we get denials that it exists in Japan, or that Japanese even understand the concept of racial discrimination because Japanese society allegedly has no races. After all, racial discrimination is something done to us Japanese by less civilized societies. It couldn’t happen in Japan. Yet it does. And when that is pointed out, then the denialism comes roaring back intertwined, as the above passage demonstrates, with the historical baggage of victimization.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th April 2014
Excerpt: In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech about people’s “empathy deficit.” He described empathy as “the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.”
“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”
I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.
But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th April 2014
Mainichi: Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
COMMENT: It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists. And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals. After all, take a look at this new system of guarantor-free housing by “Tokyo Sharehouse” — which has at least fifteen “sharehouses” advertised as “Japanese Only”:
LaFelice Ikejiri (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1324/
Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/
Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/
Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings): http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/
Pleades Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/
La Vita Komazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/
La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/
Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/
Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/
La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/
Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/
Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/
Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/
Stella Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/
Solare Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/
Y’know, that’s funny. Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ? So they’d look international? Or so they’d look exclusionary to an international audience? And you gotta love how they pretentiously put the names of the residences in faux French, yet won’t take French people…!
So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing. But what are they for, exactly? Mere omphaloskepsis? How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 42 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th March 2014
JT: In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months, foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray. And some have even sided with revisionist positions, raising questions over the Japanese military’s alleged recruitment of sex slaves (“comfort women”) and other contentious wartime topics.
For these individuals, preaching to the Japanese choir does appear to have its rewards. At a gathering in Tokyo last autumn, veteran British journalist Henry Scott Stokes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the showpiece meeting of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s short-lived effort to align Asians against European colonial powers. “Japan is a country of rising sun,” he told his audience. “Joining hands together with the fellow Asian people who desire truly Free Asia, I sincerely hope that Japan will play a vital role for realizing democratic Asian unity.”
COMMENT: In light of the recent Nazi Swastika flags appearing in right-wing marches, it’s pretty wrong-headed for anyone who wants to keep a good reputation to publicly align with people like these. But it’s within character. I’ve heard plenty of pretty unflattering things about Mr. Scott-Stokes through the grapevine over the years. But another NJ bozo mentioned in the article as being in the pocket of Japan’s revisionist right is Tony Marano, a YouTube Vlogger (a sample video of his is up at the JT site; follow above link), who has in the past ignorantly commented on the “Japanese Only” signs issue — by blaming NJ (i.e., the “ugly Americans”) for the signs’ existence. Particularly one “liberal” foreigner (guess who; and I’m not a foreigner) who sues “them” and “messes up their legal system”: (video)
I wonder if Marano will ever get over his ignorance by actually doing any reading up on the issue. Probably not. Critics of his ilk rarely do — it makes the maintenance of their world view that much simpler. And, clearly, as the JT article establishes, more profitable.
UPDATE APRIL 1 (No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank): Marano gets a regular column with tabloid weekly Asahi Geino (see scan). Now all he has to do is spout off, and it gets translated into a language and culture he doesn’t understand. I love how they try to directly translate his “god bless” at the end of the article. Marano has no idea what he’s getting himself into.
UPDATE APRIL 2: Scott-Stokes also admits that he can’t even read his own revisionist book, let alone write it:
FCCJ: “Oddly, perhaps, he admits to not knowing exactly what’s between the pages of the book that carries his name – he says he reads little Japanese and an English translation has yet to be produced. It was dictated over hundreds of hours to another FCCJ member…”
So like Marano, Scott-Stokes has no idea how he’s being rendered in Japanese. Seems like for some, Japanese language fluency and apologist/revisionist stances are inversely proportional.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 37 Comments »
Posted by Dr. 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 | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th March 2014
J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM
JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published March 13, 2014
By ARUDOU Debito, Version with links to sources
On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands.
It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.”
So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, Sport | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th March 2014
Going viral on Saturday was news of a banner up at a sports meet on March 8, 2014, that said “Japanese Only” (the Urawa Reds soccer team in Saitama Stadium, which according to Wikipedia has some of the best-attended games in Japan). Here it is:
According to media outlets like Al Jazeera, “the sign could be considered racist”, Kyodo: “seen as racist”, or Mainichi: “could be construed as racist”. (Oh, well, how else could it be considered, seen, or construed then? That only the Japanese language is spoken here?). Urawa Stadium management just called it “discriminatory” (sabetsu teki) and promised to investigate. Fortunately it was removed with some solid condemnations. But no media outlet is bothering to do more than blurb articles on it, barely scratching the surface of the issue.
And that issue they should scratch up is this: Since at least 1999, as Debito.org has covered more than any other media on the planet, Japan has had public language of exclusion (specifically, “Japanese Only” signs spreading around Japan) that have justified a narrative that says it’s perfectly all right to allow places to say “no” to foreigners”, particularly those as determined on sight. It’s also perfectly legal, since the GOJ refuses to pass any laws against racial discrimination, despite promises to the contrary it made back in 1995 when signing the UN CERD.
This much you all know if you’ve been reading this space over the decades. But it bears repeating, over and over again if necessary. Because this sort of thing is not a one-off. It is based upon a mindset that “foreigners” can be treated as subordinate to Japanese in any circumstances, including in this case the allegedly level playing field of sports, and it is so unquestioned and hegemonic that it has become embedded — to the point where it gets dismissed as one of Japan’s “cultural quirks”, and the language of the original Otaru Onsens “Japanese Only” sign has become standardized language for the exclusionary.
But the problem is also in the enforcement of anti-racism measures. You think any official international sports body governing soccer (which has zero tolerance for racism and is often very quick to act on it) will investigate this any further? Or that the Olympic Committee before Tokyo 2020 is going to raise any public eyebrows about Japan’s lackadaisical attitude towards racism in its sports? For example, its outright racism and handicapping/excluding/bashing foreigners (even naturalized “foreigners”) in Sumo, baseball, hockey, rugby, figure skating, the Kokutai, or in the Ekiden Sports Races, which deliberately and overtly handicaps or outright excludes NJ from participation?
I’m not going to bet my lunch on it, as scrutiny and responsibility-taking (as in, finding out who put that banner up and why — speculation abounds) could happen. But it probably won’t. Because people can’t even say clearly and definitively that what just happened in Urawa was “racism” (and Al Jazeera, the Asahi, or the Mainichi didn’t even see fit to publish a photo of the banner, so readers could feel the full force and context of it). And that we’re going to see ever more expressions of it in our xenophobic youth (which was a huge political force in Tokyo’s last gubernatorial election) as Japan continues its rightward swing into bigotry.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Sport | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th February 2014
Aaand, the inevitable has happened: Japan’s apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan’s elite. Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan’s biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao’s propensity to choke under pressure. But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed’s racial background has negatively affected their performance:
“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”
Oh. But wait. They’re not naturalized. They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese. And how about Japan’s other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)? Oh, but he won, so that’s okay. He’s a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi.
In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan’s athletes choke. As I’ve written before, they put so much pressure and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don’t medal (or worse yet, don’t Gold), they are a national shame. It’s a very high-stakes game for Japan’s international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan: It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles).
Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media’s glance. As CBS News put it: “Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!” But expect more of this, for this is how “sporting spirit” is hard-wired in Japan. Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they’re devoid of any self-awareness or empathy. If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves? Then she was taken off the team, never to return.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th February 2014
With some media outlets forecasting a rise in rents due to an alleged economic recovery Abenomics (somehow seeing rising fixed costs for businesses and people as a harbinger of something good), here’s an article stating that Japan’s depopulation (except in Tokyo, where any real opportunity for economic upward mobility is clustering) is probably going to render that moot. Japan’s housing (as you longer-termers probably know, it’s already pretty crappy and not built to last) is also depopulating, as this fascinating article from the Japan Times excerpted below demonstrates. Already more than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, and in less than a generation it will be nearly a quarter. And yet there are forecasts for rents (okay, office rents) to rise again. I smell another real estate bubble in the works, although media-driven instead of demand-pulled. Should be some bargains out there for those who can find the realtors and renters who aren’t “Japanese Only.”
JT: As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, run-down, uninhabited properties like this are becoming more common. As of 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 7.57 million vacant homes, or 13.1 percent of all houses in Japan, up from 3.94 million in 1988 and 5.76 million in 1998, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The rate is expected to rise to 23.7 percent in 2028.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Fun Facts, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th January 2014
Debito.org Reader: I’m emailing you to let you know about a new campaign going around in Tokyo for COCO’s English Juku. English Juku advertisements have always been rather lowbrow at times, but this one has hit multiple lows in my opinion. The ads in the trains are the same advertisement banner used at the top of their main website here.
At first I laughed due to how awkward and confusing it appeared. On second glance on the train today I took a closer look and thought about it within the context of the Japanese text and statements made. Is this playing on racial overtones to push for a reason to be learning English? What if the bride was Indian, African, or of another Asian ethnic background such as Chinese? Are these overtones really appropriate for an advertisement?
Furthermore, a few friends of mine also pointed out how downright sexist the ad was as well. It is clearly exclusively aimed at Japanese men with the woman being just an object of possession and trade with no say on who she marries, especially in the YouTube video. While I laughed at first, I have to say I find this ad campaign simply offensive on many levels.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Media, Racist Images in Media | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th January 2014
Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Conclusion:
Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards. For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”
Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages. This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Good News, Humor, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Racist Images in Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tourism | 35 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th January 2014
In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!! To “ensure they behave” (those rapscallions!) and “avoid embarrassments” (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?). Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction: Book JAPANESE ONLY) — thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information). Again, it’s not news. It’s in fact recycling news from 2010.
This is another reason that Japan’s obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb — the domestic media has to reinforce the “Island Society” narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world. At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all “foreigners” on sight as potential “hooligans” (World Cup 2002) or “terrorists” (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys).
Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive. As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate “Gaijin Bath” at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers. Good. But again, Kyodo, do some research.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit 2008, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, Tourism | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th January 2014
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:
“The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
4. Visa regimes get a rethink
3. Hate speech turns murderous
2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
1. The state secrets law
11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd December 2013
As the year-end holidays approach, Debito.org usually puts up topics that are more tangental and less serious. As Japan is going through something I consider to be very serious (a return to Prewar values and political systems), this is hardly the time, but I think I’ve said so far all that one needs to say about the issues for now in previous blog posts. So today, let’s look at a site that I have become quite a fan of: Cracked.com.
I used to read CRACKED magazine, but always found it to be an insipid copy of MAD Magazine. But online, it’s a place with an obnoxious, scatological tone that has thankfully graduated from its high-school smart-alecky roots. Their articles are some of the best diversions and procrastinations I’ve had over the years (they’re quite well referenced, too). It seems that writers from them are fans of Debito.org as well. Check out this site:
5 Innocent Gestures That Make You Look Like a Dick Overseas (cites Debito.org!)
Posted in Cultural Issue, Tangents | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th December 2013
JT: Hey, all you residents heading abroad for the holidays, here’s a little experiment to try on yourself: When you return to Japan, take note of an interesting phenomenon that starts just as you deplane and plug back into Japanese society.
You’ll feel a palpable and intractable pressure — a pressure to conform to The Order, that standardized way of doing things in Japan. You can use it to get what you want, or you can defy it and feel the burn of its stare.
I call this pressure The Eye.
Of course, you can find The Eye in all societies. Also known as the “evil eye” or “hairy eyeball,” it’s a glare you get when you’re doing something the crowd doesn’t like. Humans as a species have an innate sensitivity to the feeling of being watched. Perhaps it’s a primal instinct to keep us in formation and out of trouble.
But The Eye in Japan is so powerful that it doesn’t need a crowd…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th November 2013
Last month in Hawaii I attended a speech titled “Japan’s new National Security Strategy in the Making” by a Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka. A scholar and university president, Dr. Kitaoka is deputy chairman of the “Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security” within the Shinzo Abe administration.
I sat in because I wanted to see how a representative of Japan’s government would explain away Abe’s militaristic views to an American audience.
Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint. He was smooth. In impeccable English, to a packed room including numerous members of Hawaii’s military brass, he sold a vision of a remilitarizing Japan without a return to a prewar militarized Japan. (You can see the entire speech at http://www.vimeo.com/77183187.)
He laid out how Japan would get around its ban on having a military beyond a “self-defense force,” i.e., one that could project power beyond its borders. It would be the same way Japan got around its constitutional ban on having any standing military at all: Japan would once again reinterpret the wording of the Constitution.
His logic: If Japan has a sovereign right to “individual self-defense” (i.e., the right to attack back if attacked), it also has an inherent sovereign right to “collective self-defense” (i.e., the right to support Japan’s allies if they are attacked). A reinterpretation must happen because, inconveniently, it is too difficult to reform the Constitution itself.
That legal legerdemain to undermine a national constitution should have raised eyebrows. But…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd October 2013
Donald Keene, currently aged 91, had his Donald Keene Center opened up on September 21, in order to transmit “the excellence of Japanese literature” (watashi wa ninon bungaku no subarashisa o tsutaetai). This is an important event, as it counts as an established NJ legacy on the scale of Edwin Dun and of course Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo.
Now, where Debito.org has taken issue with Keene is with not with his scholarship or contributions to the field of Japanese studies (indeed admirable), but with his naturalization while publicly denigrating NJ. As chronicled here and in the Japan Times, he himself made a big fuss about how he was becoming a Japanese citizen for selfless reasons, e.g., to “become one of them”, to show “solidarity with the Japanese people” in their time of great need, so that he might help victims of the Tohoku Disasters in some way.
Fine. But he also threw in all sorts of irrelevancies and nastiness, such as making himself out to be morally superior to other NJ residents (contrasting himself with those allegedly fleeing Japan like the mythical “Flyjin”, mentioning how he wasn’t committing crimes like they were — despite actual NJ crime trends). It was a poor show of social science by a trained researcher.
If he’s going to be mean, then he’s going to have his record scrutinized like everyone else. So, despite his promises to “contribute to areas affected by the [Tohoku] disaster”, by now what has he done? Put his Donald Keene Center in Tohoku to attract tourists? Sorry, Kashiwazaki is quite far away from the disaster areas, and the Donald Keene Center website doesn’t even mention the events in Tohoku as any form of motivation. Visited Tohoku like other NJ to help out with relief efforts? Well, according to Wikipedia, he gave a speech in Sendai; thanks, but… Or opening up his library for free to the public? No, sorry, that’s not how business is done:
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th October 2013
I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” themselves?
TheDiplomat.com: By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?
Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.
Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th September 2013
Kyodo: A public bath facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido, refused entry to a Maori woman from New Zealand due to her face tattoos, a facility official said Thursday. The Maori language lecturer, 60, has the tattoos, called ta moko, worn traditionally by some indigenous New Zealanders, on her lips and chin. She was in Hokkaido for a conference on indigenous languages in the town of Biratori in the northernmost prefecture. On Sunday afternoon a group of 10 people involved in the conference visited the thermal baths but were refused entry by a facility staff member.
Oh the ironies of the above happening: a) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the famous Otaru Onsens Case (where people were refused entry just for being foreign; well, okay, just looking foreign), b) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the indigenous Ainu (whose conference in Biratori this indigenous Maori lecturer was attending), and c) it’s a traditional face tattoo, which the Ainu themselves used to have before the GOJ outlawed them.
But wait, there’s more irony. Check this out: Mainichi: Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics: “The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony.”…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th September 2013
(Debito.org Readers please note: Debito.org is technically still on break, and I will be slow once again to approve comments. Please be patient. Thanks.)
It’s been a long, hot summer, so time for a lighter topic for JBC:
A non-Japanese (NJ) friend in Tokyo recently had an interesting experience while out drinking with coworkers. (For the record – and I only say this because how you look profoundly affects how you are treated in Japan – he is a youngish Caucasian-looking male.)
His Japanese literacy is high (which is why he was hired in the first place), but his speaking ability, thanks to watching anime in America from childhood, is even higher — so high, in fact, that his colleagues asked him whether he is part-Japanese!
That kinda harshed his buzz. He wondered how he should respond. Should he abide by Japanese manners and deferentially deny his jouzu-ness? Or accept the praise with a “thank you” and a smile?
I commented that he should not only say thank you and accept the accolades, but also claim the part-Japaneseness. Yes, lie about it.
Why? Because this simple-looking interaction involves several issues, such as social hierarchy, bad science and privacy. And if not handled well, this episode could end up eroding his standing within this group…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th August 2013
I’m about to vacation the blog for a few weeks for the summer, but before I do, here’s some food for thought about the debate on discrimination in this part of the world. Contrast the Korea Times article below about racial discrimination in South Korea with any article about racial discrimination in Japan. I see striking parallels, especially given my experience as a naturalized Caucasian Japanese myself. The debate in South Korea seems to be falling into similar mental traps and policy-level blind spots.
KT: In a report submitted to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2003, the Korean government explained that the “homogeneity of the Korean people and the relative lack of multiethnic experiences have been conducive to prejudice against foreign cultures and people.”
But Hyung-il Pai, a professor of Korean history at the University of California, argues in her book, “Constructing ‘Korean’ Origins,” that the idea of a pure Korean race is a myth constructed by Japanese colonial scholars and Korean nationalists. The archaeological record actually shows that Korea’s historical development reflected diverse influences from throughout Northeast Asia.
Nonetheless, “Race as the basic unit of analysis in Korean history was the pedestal on which the nation was built. Race or blood was considered the most critical factor in Korean identity formation,” she explained about modern Korean attitudes on history.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th August 2013
After the now-famous incidents (fortunately) earlier this year of the “Kill All Koreans” march in Tokyo and the “Tsuruhashi Korean massacre” speech in Osaka, hate speech has become a topic for discussion in Japan’s media. Here are some examples (click on image to expand in browser): Good. Have the debate, good, bad, and ugly. That said, it doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact, according to the Mainichi:
Mainichi: In the wake of public demonstrations in places including Tokyo and Osaka displaying hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans, about 1000 students in Osaka area universities were surveyed for their awareness of the problem. It was revealed that more than 60% did not know about the hate speech. Touyou University Department of Sociology’s Izawa Yasuki, who carried out this survey, analyzed the results as follows: “It could be said that many young people have no idea how they should take in the problems of Asia, because they were not given the materials to discern these things during their primary and secondary education,” noting the significant number of people who did not answer the survey at all.
COMMENT: Although surveys like these are generally easy to poke holes in methodologically (I skipped translating the last paragraph because, for example, the sample size was too small), I think that we can still broach a conversation here about how hate speech (even examples of it advocating murder and massacre) should be registering more of a shock within “peaceful Japan” than it apparently is. Of course, we can say that college students as a survey sample are more interested in playing video games, drinking and getting laid than soaking in the news. But when something is REALLY shocking in Japan, there’s enough carpet-bombing media debate on it that it certainly appeared in my college classrooms, and I doubt that has happened in this case. What do others think?
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Media, 日本語 | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th July 2013
One of the things that the LDP has been good at during this election cycle has been controlling the agenda. By diverting attention away from contentious constitutional reform by talking about economic reform (or at least the promise of it), Abe and Co. have used imagery of loosing “three arrows” (monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, then eventually structural reforms). The Economist (London) on June 15 wondered if “Abenomics” had “failed before it even properly began”.
As Debito.org and others have been saying for years now, you can’t have sustained growth without a healthy and energetic workforce, especially as society ages, pensioners crowd out taxpayers, and public works continue to fill in the gaps and crowd out entrepreneurship. And if you want youth, energy, and entrepreneurialism, you cannot beat immigration and the Can-Do Make-Do Spirit of the Immigrant.
But the strong xenophobic tendencies of the LDP and the dominant fringes within the ruling side of Japan’s politics have made this currently politically untenable. And here’s the Wall Street Journal giving us their take on why a serious immigration policy should have been one of the GOJ’s “arrows”:
WSJ: If there’s one reform that’s symbolic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s eponymous program to rejuvenate the Japanese economy, it’s immigration. By importing new consumers and workers, immigration is crucial to stimulating domestic capital investment by companies. By expanding the taxpaying population base, it improves the government’s fiscal position. Immigration will facilitate foreign direct investment, boosting productivity.
All of that makes immigration reform precisely the kind of bold and deep change Mr. Abe promises. But the thing that makes immigration reform most emblematic of Abenomics is that despite its importance to Japan’s future, it is almost entirely absent from the agenda…
Investors have lately panned Abenomics, rightly, for its lack of daring. Optimists hope this is a political calculation that a month before a major election is no time to introduce bold reforms, and that more and better is on the way later. But reflection on the immigration problem raises a different prospect. Any meaningful reform will be deeply disruptive—whether in terms of new immigrants let in, small farms consolidated and old farmers retired, new businesses started and old firms bankrupted. In all the hubbub about Abenomics, everyone forgot to ask whether Japan really wants the upheaval needed to restart growth. Unless and until Japanese are willing to tolerate such changes, Abenomics will be more wish than reality.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th July 2013
Here’s Eric Johnston surveying how last winter’s hate speech finally blew up into a social issue during the spring (enough so that even Abe had to publicly disavow it), then did not gain enough political traction to become a campaign issue during the election. It’s a shame, really, as how people voice their opinions about groups of people in public have profound effects on how those groups will be treated both in public debate and in public policy. Even with PM Abe’s Facebook record of jingoistic and revisionistic “mobilization of the otakusphere”, voters indicated last week that they didn’t care. If anything, they gave Abe a strengthened mandate to continue in this vein. So even though this article talks about events before the Upper House election, I foresee no change to how hate speech is used to continue Japan’s rightward swing in Japan’s social discussions and politics. There is simply no pressure to.
JT: Over the past six months or so, it has been the rightist group Zaitokukai that has been responsible for much of the hate speech. Arita said this was not a coincidence. “Zaitokukai was established during the “right-leaning” Abe’s first administration in 2006 and 2007, and started escalating their aggression after the resurgence of (Abe’s) Liberal Democratic Party and the advent of his second administration last year,” Arita said. Judging from Abe’s rhetoric in May, Arita doubts the prime minister in particular would be seriously inclined to sign on to any sincere legislative effort to ban such virulent talk.
“In the most recent edition of the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju, Abe was asked about hate speech. His response was ‘I leave this matter to the good conscience of the average Japanese,’ ” Arita said. “But politicians must take responsibility for trying to resolve this issue. The fact that Abe can make such a comment fills me with doubt about how seriously he’s taking it.” Nor do most Diet members seem to want to mull legal bans.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Politics | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th July 2013
Meiji University law professor Lawrence Repeta has written up an important article about the probable outcomes and motivations of the specific texts (and subtexts) behind the LDP’s proposed constitutional revisions. Frightening stuff, especially from a human-rights perspective. And it looks to me like it may come true with PM Abe’s Upper House win last weekend.
Repeta: 2. Elevating maintenance of “public order” over all individual rights
The LDP would revise key language of Article 12 of the Constitution to read that the people “shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public interest and public order.…”
What are these “duties and obligations”? The LDP doesn’t say. Such open-ended language would serve as an invitation to zealous officials eager to identify duties and obligations that may limit or even override individual rights. The most disturbing aspect of this text, however, is that “freedoms and rights” would be subordinated to “public interest and public order.” “Freedoms and rights” are specified in the present text of the constitution, but the new expression “public interest and public order” is undefined. In their Q&A pamphlet, LDP authors explain,
“Public order” here is “social order” (shakai chitsujo); it means peaceful social life (heibon na shakai seikatsu). There is no question that individuals who assert human rights should not cause nuisances to others.
So the LDP target appears to be individuals who “assert human rights” and thereby “cause nuisances to others.” Although the public order limitation would apply to all constitutional rights, we can expect that it would have an especially powerful chilling effect on speech rights and other forms of protest. Every public march or other political demonstration slows traffic and causes “nuisances” to others. Most democratic societies accept such inconveniences as a necessary cost of freedom, especially for protection of the right to speak out. Japan’s courts have shown little respect for such rights, however, repeatedly ruling in favor of police action to manage public demonstrations and otherwise restrict public speech.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 24 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th July 2013
Suzuki Nobuyuki, a candiate for Tokyo in the Upper House for the far-right Restoration Party Shinpuu (New Winds, not to be (easily) confused with Ishihara’s Restoration party), calls for the end of relations with Korea, and an end to immigration (imin). Oh, and he also wants Japan to rearm itself with nuclear weapons (kakubusou) — now that’s even fodder for Japan’s increasingly isolationist future.
Here’s his newspaper blurb (click on image to expand in your browser): It has the typical right-wing tropes about a strong country with sufficient autonomy to defend itself from Chinese invasion, defending Japan’s honor by weeding out “masochistic” (jigyaku) history from education and reestablishing the family unit along traditional lines (no doubt meaning bringing back the Ie Seido), returning Japan to its status as the “world’s safest country” by bringing back the “world’s safest energy source,” nuclear power, and kicking out immigrants so they don’t take jobs away from Japanese (even though NJ were brought in as official policy during Japan’s labor shortage to do the dirty jobs Japanese don’t want in the 3K sector; oh, never mind — facts don’t matter to these people). Nasty ideology seeing the light of day these days in Japan. Are there still people not becoming alarmed yet? The stuff coming out of the mainstream involving constitutional revisions is even scarier.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 15 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd July 2013
We are mere weeks away from the next Diet Upper House election (July 23, to be exact), where half the seats are up for grabs, and at this point it looks like Japan’s rightward swing will be successful and complete. According to current opinion polls (and they do matter a priori, as Japan’s voting culture rarely supports underdogs), the LDP is far and away in the lead (so far so that the opposition DPJ won’t even bother to field more than one candidate in the Tokyo constituency), meaning they will probably add the Upper House to its collection of majorities in the more-powerful Lower House as well.
With this comes the likelihood of first changes in the Postwar Constitution. Legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones of Doshisha University has already come out with articles in the Japan Times discussing the LDP’s proposed changes (see here and here). What I will do in this blog entry is scan and paste in the lecture notes (ten pages) from another legal scholar, Lawrence Repeta of Meiji University, who gave his analysis in a lecture at Temple University in Tokyo on May 23, 2013. It is less accessible than Colin’s newspaper articles but no less authoritative, so here it is, courtesy of CP (notes in the margins probably also by CP). Repeta similarly holds that we will see a shift in focus towards strengthening The State in the name of “public order”, and prioritizing the duties and obligations of the Japanese public rather than guaranteeing their rights as individuals.
In sum, we are seeing the return of Japanese as Imperial subjects rather than citizens, where rights and duties are granted from above rather than secured and guaranteed from below. This is what’s coming, folks. Be prepared.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, SITYS, 日本語 | 50 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th June 2013
World-class company Toshiba seems to think that domestic commercials will only be seen within the putatively hermetic Japanese domestic market. And that there are no people in Japan who might take offense at being racially caricatured. The advertised product in question: A rice cooker that can also double as a bread maker — Toshiba SuiPanDa Model APB-R100X. The issue: Gaijinizing the user to promote bread consumption. Some stills from the CM enclosed. Note the accented speech rendered in katakana subtitle for the Gaijinized Japanese actress, complete with blond hair, appended big nose, and overexuberant gestures and speech patterns. Not to mention the dichotomous stereotype that people who eat bread (as opposed to potatoes or some other kind of starch) are automatically “Western” (youfuu).
Debito.org has added this to its collection of Japanese commercials and product lines that use biological memes of racism to hawk product. Here are some stills of those, some of which were taken off the air when people protested. Of course, you are welcome to protest this as well. Here’s the Toshiba website with the product in question and some links to feedback sites. Many Japanese advertisers just never seem to learn. It’s up to us to tell them.
UPDATE JUNE 29: Here are two other commercial spots for other Toshiba products, featuring the same businesswomen actresses in the same vein, but without the racialization. As a friend pointed out elsewhere, “Toshiba could have communicated the same message more effectively by interviewing a master baker or some other expert.” Courtesy of Kotaku. Note that in these videos, these people are co-workers who know each other. Gaijinized in the breadmaker commercial, she’s an unknown stranger. Once again, Gaijin are the perpetual “Other” who don’t belong, even with all the NJ working for Japanese corporations.
UPDATE TWO: Toshiba is clearly aware that this commercial is problematic because they immediately removed it from their website. http://www.toshiba.co.jp/eco/ch/homebakery/index_j.htm
That’s kinda funny. A world-class electronics company thinking that it can just remove their racist advert without comment, retraction, or apology, and that would be it? Not very media- or tech-savvy, are they? Download your own copy from Debito.org in mp4 format, for posterity. http://www.debito.org/Toshibasuipanda.mp4
UPDATE THREE: Even funnier, this racist advertisement goes against its own Corporate Standards of Conduct!
1. Toshiba Group Corporate Policy
Directors and Employees shall: “not make reference to politics or religion in advertising, cause offense or show disrespect by implying discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, physical disability or age.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Good News, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Racist Images in Media, 日本語 | 54 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2013
Ryall: Many young Japanese students go abroad to study with high hopes. They return home with foreign degrees and even higher hopes, only to be shot down by conservative company ideals.
On the very first day in her first job after graduation, Tomoko Tanaka says her dominant emotion was of disappointment. Tanaka, who does not want her real name or the name of her company used in this article because it could affect her career, began work in April of this year and had high hopes that the years she spent studying overseas would make her a popular candidate with Japanese employers.
Instead, it seems, the effort and money that went into perfecting her English skills in the UK may have been wasted as Japanese firms do not always welcome potential recruits who have been exposed to foreign ways of thinking and behaving…
A survey conducted in March 2012 by Disco, a Tokyo-based recruitment company, determined that less than one in four firms planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad. Even among major, blue-chip companies, less than 40 percent said they would employ Japanese who had attended a foreign university. Aware of the problems they face if they have invested their time and funds on an education overseas, more are staying closer to home.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Labor issues, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th May 2013
This post comes to you as a query. Are any Debito.org Readers noticing that the Japanese police are keeping closer tabs on people by going door-to-door to survey occupants (junkai renraku), asking them to fill out Junkai Renraku Cards? (To see what information is required for the Junkai Renraku, especially for NJ residents, here’s one translated into English by the NPA).
According to the Aichi Prefectural Police website, this will be in order to:
Give advice on how not to become victims of crime,
Take measures for people who have been victims of crime,
Contact neighborhoods that have recently been victims of crime (such as sneak thievery and car break-ins) and advise them how to take measures against crime in the future,
Prevent youth crime (shounen no hankou boushi),
Have lists of occupants (renraku hyou) on hand and phone numbers in case of disasters, and more.
A couple of funny things going on here. First, information about neighborhood occupancy should be available through the juuminhyou system in the first place. Much of this information is also surveyed by the National Census (kokusei chousa), where, I might add, providing any information is optional (note how the optionality of providing personal information is not mentioned in the Aichi Police website). Why do the police feel the need to compile their own data set?
Now, you might think I’m making too much of this. But naturally I would argue not. Especially since we have had cases of police agencies doing one thing (like putting out racist anti-NJ flyers) while offering sweetness and light on their official English website. There’s a lot of tatemae here, and you only have to be a minority in Japan before you understand just how much intent and enforcement differ from the sloganeering.
My advice: If you get an unexpected knock one day and see (through the peep sight) a cop at your front door, don’t answer. Because if they visually identify you in any way as NJ, you are automatically suspicious and you’ll get the Third Degree.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 79 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th May 2013
Economist: On April 17th New Zealand became the 12th country to legalise gay marriage, though the law will not come into effect until August. Uruguay, too, has passed a similar bill that awaits the signature of the president before it becomes law. And in late March the American Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case on the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to a man and a woman. In all these countries—and indeed in much of the West—opinion polls show public support for same-sex marriages.
Debito.org applauds this trend of legalizing gay marriage. Meanwhile Japan, as you can see above, to its credit has no law criminalizing homosexuality. It, however, does not permit gay marriages due to the vagaries of the Family Registry (Koseki) System. In short, only a wife and a husband by gender can create a married family unit. But as has been pointed out here on Debito.org before, people find ways to get around this. Gay couples, in order to pass on inheritance rights, adopt each other into the same family unit on the Koseki. The problem is for international couples that non-citizens cannot be listed on a Koseki as husband or wife.
So here is how LGBT foreigners can get around it: Naturalize and adopt. As Debito.org previously suggested might be the case, famous naturalized Japanese Donald Keene has done it, and recently gone public about it. Congratulations. He provides the template: Gay NJ who wish to marry Japanese and get the same inheritance rights should naturalize and adopt one another. Or else, barring naturalization, go overseas to a society more enlightened about Same-Sex Marriage and get married.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Practical advice, Tangents, 日本語 | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th April 2013
You have to hand it to zealots in political power for their singlemindedness and clarity of message. The extreme-right leaders of the LDP are pursuing their agenda with messianistic fervor from both above and below, opening booths and putting in Prime Ministerial appearances at online geek festivals, and even enlisting the Emperor to push an overtly-politicized agenda of historical revisionism.
BBC: Japan has for the first time marked the anniversary of the end of the allied occupation, which followed its defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the “restoration of sovereignty day” would give Japan hope for the future and help it become “strong and resolute”. The event is seen as part of Mr Abe’s nationalist campaign. He is also pushing for a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution to ease tight restrictions on the armed forces… “I want to make this a day when we can renew our sense of hope and determination for the future,” the 58-year-old said in front of officials gathered in Tokyo. “We have a responsibility to make Japan a strong and resolute country that others across the world can rely on,” he said.
Yomiuri: Also behind the government’s decision to sponsor the ceremony is the perceived threat to the nation’s sovereignty, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pursuit of constitutional revision, observers said. Takeshi Noda, chairman of the LDP Research Commission on the Tax System… He believes it is necessary to give the people an opportunity to ponder why the nation lost its sovereignty by considering as a set the April 28 anniversary of the restoration of independence and the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, the day the nation announced its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. He calls the Aug. 15 anniversary “the day of humiliation for losing [the nation’s] sovereignty.”… Abe … delivered a video message, saying: “[The nation’s] failure to thoroughly review the Occupation period right after sovereignty was restored has left serious problems. The next [task for us] is [to revise] the Constitution.”
Yomiuri then suddenly opines: Yet the nation’s territory and sovereign power have been threatened daily. China’s maritime surveillance ships have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Meanwhile, the Takeshima islands have been illegally occupied by South Korea, and Russia has been intensifying its effective control over the northern territories off Hokkaido. The current situation, in which the nation’s sovereignty is in unprecedented danger, also appears to have fueled Abe’s desire to hold the latest ceremony.
Comment: An even bigger surprise was that PM Abe found the time to put in an appearance at a local geek festival, sponsored by Internet snakepit of bullies and right-winger refuge 2-Channel’s corporate body, Niconico Douga a few days ago! Submitter JJS comments: “Wanted to point your attention to this as it seems like one of those things that will be passed up, glossed over, or completely go unseen by most people. I guess NicoNico video held some type of ‘Big Conference’ called 「ニコニコ超会議2」. It appears at first to be some gathering for tech-heads and geek culture of all kinds. But scroll down a bit to the section 自衛隊や在日米軍、各政党も参加 and you’ll see that Abe came to participate…essentially campaigning at the event. Nico Nico played a big role in one of the debates he proposed be put online, live. But to outright be campaigning at this event seems out of the norm and certainly a bending of the rules. Even more disturbing is the show of military hardware with tie-ins to cute “moe” characters, etc. There is something rotten in Nagatacho and it all seems to be going ‘according to plan.'”
Quite. The zealots leading the LDP have melded nationalism, militarism, and naked political ambition. Something wicked is not only this way coming, it is already here. If the LDP gets its way and converts this tone of agenda into real public policy, Japan is heading for remilitarization all over again
Posted in Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, ２ちゃんねる, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 46 Comments »