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From Debito's doctoral research:

Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
  • (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield HB 2015, PB 2016)

    Click on book cover for reviews, previews, and 30% discount direct from publisher. Available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle eBook on

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Archive for the 'Fun Facts' Category

    Interest facts or factoids regarding Japan which shed a surprising amount of light on the way things are.

    Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th October 2014

    JT: But the July ruling [that found permanent residents of Japan legally ineligible for public assistance] has given momentum to some forces, including those harboring anti-foreigner sentiments and advocates of cutting “waste” in government spending, to try to limit foreigners’ access to welfare. The minor opposition party Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), co-founded by ultranationalist Shintaro Ishihara, plans to submit bills to the extraordinary Diet session that would give destitute foreigners a year to choose between two extremes: becoming naturalized citizens or leaving the country.

    The move follows an August proposal, by a team of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party tasked with eliminating wasteful state spending, to restrict welfare assistance to foreigners. “The welfare outlays to foreigners run up to ¥122 billion per year,” the Aug. 4 report by the LDP team said. “We must say it is difficult to maintain the status quo.” The team also said the government “should create guidelines (on public assistance) for foreigners who arrive in Japan, and consider deporting those who cannot maintain a living.”

    JT commenter: “According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s total social welfare benefits reached ¥103.487 trillion in fiscal 2010, topping ¥100 trillion for the first time.”

    Okay, so in Japan, the total welfare budget is 103.487 trillion yen. But only 0.122 trillion yen of that goes to foreigners, so that means that the other 103.365 trillion yen are going to Japanese people! Here, let’s do some math:

    103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system!

    Now let’s do the math for foreigners:
    122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system!

    Japan’s GDP is 536,122,300,000,000 yen (over 536 TRILLION yen). So 122 billion yen is less than 0.03% of Japan’s economy. Basically, Shintaro Ishihara with his Jisedai no Tou, and the LDP, are wasting countless hours of time on something that, at best, will save Japan 0.03% of its GDP. To make an analogy, I make about $28,000 a year. So this is the same as me OBSESSING and LOSING SLEEP AT NIGHT over how I can save $8 per year.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Fun Facts, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »

    Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028

    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 »

    Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th December 2013

    Hi Blog. I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship. Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).

    I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)

    My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It’s a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.

    Posted in Fun Facts, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Tangents | 6 Comments »

    Bad social paradigms encouraging bad social science: UC Berkeley prof idiotically counts “flyjin” for H-Japan listserv

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd June 2011

    I have a real rib-tickler for you today. Here we have an academic employed at UC Berkeley trying to squeeze flawed data into an already flawed paradigm — not just that of “gaijin” [sic], but also of “flyjin” — as she goes around Tokyo counting NJ as if they were rare birds (or, rather, rarer birds, according to her presumptions under the rubric).

    I raise this on because it’s amazing how stupid concepts from Planet Japan somehow manage to entice apparently educated people elsewhere to follow suit, and… I’ll just stop commenting and let you read the rest:

    H-JAPAN (E)
    June 19, 2011
    From: Dana Buntrock, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley

    For those of you who have not yet returned to Japan since 3/11, it may be helpful to understand how significant the absence of “gaijin” is in the capital, a point noted more than once on this list.

    I am using the term “gaijin” here to refer to racially differentiated (non-Asian) individuals, including those who appear to be from the Indian subcontinent. If mixed-race children were with a non-Asian parent, I counted them. I also counted one woman in a version of the headscarf worn by Moslem women, seen from behind, and her child (in a stroller), because the attire was clearly non-Japanese in nature. That is, I tended to err on the side of counting individuals as being foreign…

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Fun Facts, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 10 Comments »

    Fun Facts #15: Percentages of J high school grads matriculating into college by prefecture

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th June 2010

    As a Sunday Tangent, here are the Ministry of Education’s latest figures (2009) for Japanese high school students entering college. In most prefectures, it’s only about half the graduates. Figures here.

    A cursory look reveals that Okinawa has by far the fewest percentage of students going on to college (the national average is 53.9%), and Tokyo/Kyoto (Kyoto allegedly being the place with the highest number of colleges per capita) the highest. Hokkaido is significantly below average as well (third from the bottom), but it’s still higher than Iwate. See how your prefecture stacks up.

    As this is a Fun Facts category, I’ll leave interpretations to others. But this is significantly less than the American percentages, according to the US Department of Labor, reporting that 70.1% of high school graduates went to college last year. Given that university is significantly more expensive in the US than in Japan (it costs at least a luxury car per year these days in tuition alone to go to, say, an elite private or Ivy League), I’m disinclined to say it’s a matter of economics. Thoughts?

    Posted in Education, Fun Facts, Tangents, 日本語 | 26 Comments »

    Fun Facts #14: JK provides budgetary stats to show why current immigration-resistant regime is unsustainable

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd April 2010

    Frequent commenter and contributor to JK offers a follow-up about a recent article featured here on, about the NJ nurse import program (one that as of this time is doomed to become yet another revolving-door visa program). He offers some “Fun Facts”, as in budgetary statistics, about why the current visa regime discouraging labor imports but not immigration is unsustainable. Read on.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government | 7 Comments »

    Fun Facts #13: National minimum wage map

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th March 2009

    Have you ever wondered what the minimum wage is in Japan? Well, guess what, it depends. On the prefecture. On the industry. On the industry within the prefecture too.

    Now, before you throw up your arms in anguish and wonder how we’ll ever get an accurate measure, along comes the GOJ with a clickable minimum wage map by prefecture and industry. You can have a look and see where people on the bottom rung of the ladder are earning the least and most. To quote Spock, “Fascinating.”

    Of course, when I say “on the bottom rung of the ladder”, I mean citizens. There are however, tens of thousands of people (i.e. NJ “Trainees”) who don’t qualify for the labor-law protections of a minimum wage. They get saddled with debts and some make around 300 yen an hour, less than half the minimum minimum wage for Japanese…

    Posted in Fun Facts, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 2 Comments »

    Fun Facts #12: Statistics on Naturalized Citizens in Japan; holding steady despite immigration

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th February 2009

    More Fun Facts: Something else interesting that cropped up while researching my thesis: The number of people who have naturalized (or applied and been rejected for Japanese citizenship for the past ten years. Screen capture of the most recent stats from the MOJ on blog.

    Over the past ten years (1998-2007), 153,103 people became Japanese citizens. That’s a sizeable amount, for if you assume reasonable influx for the previous five decades (1948-1997), we’re looking at at least half a million people here as cloaked NJ-blood citizens. That’s a lot of people no matter how you slice it. (Of course, these older stats are still not available online for confirmation.)

    As you can see, numbers have held steady, at an average of about 15,000 plus applicants per year. And about the same number were accepted. In fact the rejection rate is so low (153,103/154,844 people = 98.9% acceptance rate), you are only a little more likely to be convicted of a crime during criminal trial in Japan (99.9%) than be rejected for citizenship once you file all the paperwork. That should encourage those who are considering it.

    Also note the high numbers of Korean and Chinese applicants (around 90% or more). I was one of the few, the proud, the 725 non-K or C who got in in 2000. Less than five percent. However, the numbers of non-K or C accepted over the past ten years have tripled. I wonder if I was part of blazing some sort of trail.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government | 7 Comments »

    Fun Facts #11: Ekonomisuto estimates 35% of Japan’s population will be over 65 by 2050

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd February 2009

    While researching stuff on, I realized that one source I quote often in my powerpoint presentations has never been blogged: An Ekonomisuto Japan article, dated January 15, 2008, with an amazing estimate.

    The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that well over a third of the Japanese population (35.7%) will be over 65 years of age by 2050, and the majority of those oldies will be well beyond a working age. Can you imagine over a third of a population above 65 years of age? Who works and who pays taxes, when this many people are retired on pensions or should be? That’s if trends stay as they are, mind. That’s why the GOJ has changed its tune to increasing the NJ population. We’re talking a demographic juggernaut that may ultimately wipe out this country’s productivity and accumulated wealth.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, 日本語 | 2 Comments »

    Fun Facts #10: Excellent Japan Times FYI column on the sex industry in Japan

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2008

    Excellent FYI Column in the Japan Times on the Sex Industry in Japan:

    “What law bans prostitution in Japan? The Prostitution Prevention Law, enacted in 1957, forbids the act of having “intercourse with an unspecified person in exchange for payment.”

    It also punishes acts including soliciting by prostitutes and organized prostitution, such as operating brothels. Legal experts say it is hard for police to crack down on prostitution because it is tricky to verify if a couple had consensual or compensated sex. The law meanwhile does not ban paid sex with a “specified person,” or someone who has become an acquaintance. It also defines sex exclusively as vaginal intercourse. Thus other paid sexual acts are not illegal…”

    Lots more interesting data within. I’m not going to comment more specifically on why I’m reposting it on (because anything I say will just be misconstrued). It’s just a great article on a pervasive topic in Japan…

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Fun Facts, Japanese Government, Tangents | 8 Comments »

    Fun Facts #9: Divorce, Population decrease, Japan’s minus GDP growth, and inherited Nat’l Diet member seats

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th December 2007

    Fun stats showing a leap in Japan’s divorce rate (as predicted), a predicted drop in Japan’s labor force, a more impressive drop Japan’s GDP over the past ten years (in contrast with the rest of the developed world), and one reason why the system is breaking down–nearly 40% of the parliament is second-or third-generation (or more) Dietmembers, meaning Japan’s legislature is a peerage masquerading as a legislature.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 4 Comments »

    Fun Facts #8: Stuff gleaned from Seidensticker’s “Tokyo Rising”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th September 2007

    Been stampeding through the late Edward Seidensticker’s book TOKYO RISING, and these are some fun facts that popped up for On the unaccountable Tokyo police, their targeting of the sangokujin, and Japan’s postwar prosperity kickstarted by the Korean War. Very quick review of the book at the very bottom too.

    Posted in Fun Facts, History, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 6 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th June 2007

    Most recent Sumo Banzuke shows that nearly a third of all the top-ranked Sumo wrestlers in Japan are now foreign born, not to mention both of the two at the top rank of Yokozuna. And there are more coming in the lower ranks. Glad to see that Sumo has opened up significantly since the bad old days, as one of the world’s most exclusive sports, once inextricably linked to nationality (“kokugi”), has opened itself up to this degree. Phenomenon bears brief mention on, with comment from 3YEN.COM about Sumo’s recent recruiting difficulties.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Sport | 3 Comments »

    Fun Facts #6: “Newcomers” soon outnumbering “Oldcomers”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th June 2007

    According to my calculations based upon recent demographic trends, the immigrant “Newcomer” Permanent Residents will outnumber the “Oldcomer” Zainichi generational foreigners by the end of this year. This is historically unprecedented and represents a sea change in the make up of the registered NJ population in Japan.

    Posted in Fun Facts, Immigration & Assimilation | 3 Comments »

    Fun Facts #5: Nat Geo on Japan’s Tsunami Charity

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st May 2007

    According to the National Geographic Dec 2005, Japan’s record regarding keeping its international promises regarding tsunami relief has been excellent. In fact, it’s basically the only country with made (even superseded) its goal of donations for victims of the big waves a couple of years ago. Bravo, Japan!

    Posted in Fun Facts, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government | 2 Comments »

    Fun Facts #4: Indicative Postwar “Child’s Play”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th April 2007

    John Dower: Children’s games can provide a barometer of their times. With consumer of any sort still in the distant future, youngsters were thrown back on their imaginations, and their play became a lively measure of the obsessions of adult society. Not long before, boys in particular had played war with a chilling innocence of what they were being encouraged to become. They donned headbands and imagined themselves piloting the planes that would, in fact, never return. They played at being heroic sailors long after the imperial navy began to be decimated. Armed with wooden spears and bayonets, they threw themselves screaming at mock-ups of Roosevelt and Churchill and pretended they were saving the country from the foreign devils [48]. In defeat, there was no such clear indoctrination behind children’s games. Essentially, they played at doing what they saw grownups do. It was a sobering sight…

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Fun Facts, History | 1 Comment »

    Fun Facts #3: TIME: Japan’s postwar housing shortage and the aftermath

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th April 2007

    Fun Fact: “THE AVERAGE HEIGHT OF BUILDINGS IN TOKYO WAS 1.7 STORIES IN 1965”–and how I believe that has affected Japan’s housing quality to this day. Citing old TIME Magazine article as historical reference to how Japan’s high-growth had created a huge bubble economy and “rabbit hutch” housing market, and policy solutions shifted political power significantly towards the construction industry. And love the anecdote about the lack of space inhibiting conjugal relations…

    Posted in Fun Facts, History, Japanese Government | 2 Comments »

    Fun Facts #2: Comparative govt “kokusaika”-friendliness by Prefecture

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th April 2007

    Fun Facts: Minami Nihon Shinbun of February 12, 2007 offers a color-coded chart of how each of Japan’s 47 municipal governments stack up in terms of “Multicultural Coexistence” (tabunka kyousei)–behind the two other pillars the national government determined in March 2006 to be the backbone of Japan’s internationalization: “International Communication” (kokusai kouryuu), and “International Cooperation” (kokusai kyouryoku). The results…

    Posted in Fun Facts, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 1 Comment »

    Fun Facts #1: Comparative GDPs of J Prefectures

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th April 2007

    Kicking off my first installment of FUN FACTS–an occasional series of interesting articles blogged for posterity. Asahi Shinbun of Feb 7, 2007 talks about PM Abe’s vision of “doushuusei”, the consolidation of prefectures, to cut down on local government costs and maybe even devolve more power to self-sufficient local governments. If Japan’s 47 local governments were cut down to eleven regions, this would produce the following results…

    Posted in Fun Facts, Japanese Government, 日本語 | No Comments »

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