Archive for the 'Tangents' Category
Stuff that doesn’t quite fit into any other category, but which I think deserves blog amplification. Indulge me a little…
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2016
Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961”. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.
Book Summary: As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.
In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.
Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Good News, History, Tangents | No Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st May 2016
JBC 97: After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment.
By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future.
I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible.
Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these.
So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.)
Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world!
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Tangents | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st April 2016
Terrie Lloyd: After a strong start last year, the ruling LDP government seemed genuinely perplexed when at the end of the year the nation’s annual Real GDP was found to be just 0.5% and for the last quarter a problematic -0.3%. The government’s leadership continue have their collective heads buried in the sand by blaming an unusually warm winter and other external factors for the anemic performance. You kind of feel sorry for them. After all, they have done everything by the textbook (well, the Keynesian textbook, anyway), by expanding the nation’s money supply aggressively, and by implementing various stimulus packages.
But unfortunately Mr. Abe’s crew seem to have forgotten one small thing, they need the public to respond to their pump-priming (the whole point of Keynesian policies), and this means being seen to be making real regulatory reforms for the future, not just recirculating cash among vested interests. Abe needs to make good on his promised third arrow – slashing business regulations and encouraging innovation, liberalizing the labor market, getting tough with the agricultural sector, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing workforce diversity through immigration and improved support of working mothers. But instead the reverse is happening…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th March 2016
As PM Abe becomes further emboldened by a lack of organized political opposition, his administration is becoming more reactionary towards Japan’s Left. According to the Japan Times, it will subject the Japan Communist Party to the Anti-Subversive Activities Law (Hakai Katsudou Boushi Hou), reserved for subversives who resort to violence. Of course, the JCP is a legitimate party (in fact, Japan’s oldest political party) with a number of seats in the Diet, and it is allowed to agitate for reforms and even non-violent revolution, as it has for decades now. But Abe seems bent on a return to Japan’s old form, when Leftists were incarcerated, tortured, and killed in custody in Wartime Showa Japan.
Looking forward to him similarly cracking down on Japan’s violent rightists as well, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I presume violent rightists wouldn’t be considered “revolutionaries” by the Abe Administration in the same sense — their form of revolution would take Japan back to a status quo of inter alia Emperor worship, unaccountable elite rule, and military adventurism. To Abe’s clique that is also part of Japan’s history, even if that would “subvert” Japan’s current democratic institutions.
Posted in Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th March 2016
Economist: THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too. It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.
COMMENT: What’s interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue. Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan’s rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism — because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss.
When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him. He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN.
Wow, that’s awfully generous. I can imagine numerous countries making the same argument — this contentious point is merely a “distraction” so drop it. Once again, Japan gets geopolitically kid-gloved. What’s next: Japan protests UN criticism of its “Japanese Only” practices as “totally inappropriate”? Actually, Japan essentially has (see also book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 8), but not to the point of the UN withdrawing its criticism. Yet.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Tangents, United Nations | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th March 2016
Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post: “Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions” (Debito.org, July 16, 2012).
Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not). It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it. But not everyone, as Roger exposes:
Schreffler: I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown. Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.
More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course. […] Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.
Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.
It was an invention.
Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.” In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture. It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).
UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER:
Debito, As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurosawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world. Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, when the audio goes up on the FCCJ website. It’s at minute 34 on the recording] . Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.
Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?
[…] [T]he AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012. The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th February 2016
McNeill: For most correspondents, it has become an unpleasant morning ritual: opening the laptop and wading through abusive tweets and mail. One of my recent articles, on Japan’s plunging press-freedom rankings provoked this response: “You’re anti-Japanese scum. Japan grows weaker because left-wing traitors here mix with the likes of you. Get out, moron.”
That’s mild compared to the slurs that percolate on the Twitter feeds of star reporters. Hiroko Tabuchi, former Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, recalls a stream of invective laced with sexual and ethnic smears (see sidebar).Justin McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian has been branded an “ultra-leftist North Korean spy” and repeatedly invited to “Fack off.”
Many reporters trudge the path taken by McCurry, from engagement to frustration, and resignation. “I have tried several different ways to deal with trolls, from snapping back to taking the time to dream up what, in my mind at least, is a rejoinder so withering that it will surely be the final word on the matter. It never is, of course.” Increasingly, he says, he reaches for the Twitter mute button: When trolls send an abusive message now “they are simply pissing into cyberspace.”
But McCurry says it’s important to understand the difference between legitimate criticism and trolling. “I’ve had my share of critical emails, tweets and Facebook postings,” he says. “When the point is made in a temperate manner and, more importantly, with a real name attached, I take in what has been said and, if necessary, respond. But I regard this as reader feedback, not trolling.”
Debito: One thing I might add, as a longtime veteran of being targeted by trolls, is that it’s worse for some of us than you mentioned above. For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I’ve endured death treats for decades, and I can’t conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they’ll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative.
I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me…
Posted in Discussions, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Practical advice, Tangents | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th February 2016
Here is an excellent bit of investigative journalism done by the Australians on an organization that the USG would do well to do their own research on (and the US media pay due attention to): PM Abe’s Nippon Kaigi, which threatens to undo just about everything The Occupation did to demilitarize Postwar Japan and defang its self-destructive ultranationalism. Why hasn’t anyone else done a good in-depth report on them, even after this report came out over a year ago? Because it’s probably not something people want to believe–that the belligerent elements of Prewar Japan are not only ascendant, they are already well-organized within Japan’s highest echelons of government. A transcript follows, but I strongly recommend people click on the link and watch the video at the ABC News Australia Lateline program to get the full effect. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4364818.htm
LATELINE: It’s been described as one of the most influential political organisations in Japan. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, has an impressive list of members and advisors, including the Prime Minister and much of his cabinet. But very little is known about this right-wing nationalist lobby group which aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies and even change the Constitution. It operates mostly out of the public eye, but North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney gained rare access to file this exclusive story for Lateline.
Posted in "Embedded Racism", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th January 2016
O’Day: SEALDs is suggesting that students can use some of the freedom that their positioning affords for political engagement, instead of channeling it into more traditional activities like sports clubs and social circles, that tend to dominate students’ leisure time. Yet SEALDs is also proposing something more significant than a reallocation of students’ time—they are also attempting to construct a different kind of political identity among college students. Another SEALDs member explained it this way:
“Our movement is not our life; it is a part of our life not our whole life. I went to class yesterday as usual, and we have rappers, people who do music, people who just study, people who are trying to be teachers, we have all kinds of people, and our movement is a part of what we do in our life but not our whole life. If you focus on the movement and movement only, you will become narrow.”
What this SEALDs member is suggesting is a reconfiguration of what constitutes student political identity. SEALDs is essentially showing other students that it is acceptable to seriously engage political ideas, without become radical, or having to completely devote themselves to the cause. SEALDs is challenging an all-or-nothing orientation to politics that tends to cleave most students into taking either an apolitical stance, or fully committing to a cause that will likely marginalize them. Instead, SEALDs is coming up the middle with a proposition that you can be a regular student, have conventional ambitions, aspire to a middleclass life, and still carve out a piece of yourself that is informed and engaged with political issues. If this proposition is hardly radical, it is currently resonating with a broad spectrum of students.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | No Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th January 2016
JT: Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.
SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.
This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.” […]
For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 24 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd December 2015
I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes. Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources:
JT: The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist. Quotes follow:
“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.
“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.
“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, Tangents, Tourism | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th November 2015
WSJ: On Sept. 25, [2013,] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join an elite group of right-leaning leaders like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, as the recipient of an award from conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank, Hudson Institute. […] Mr. Abe won’t be the first Japanese politician to speak at a Hudson Institute event, though. In December 2011, Nobuteru Ishihara, then secretary-general of Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, also gave a speech, calling for swift nationalization of disputed islands in the East China Sea and deployment of Japanese troops there. The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have been a major source of diplomatic strain between the two countries. […] Mr. Ishihara’s speech was quickly followed by one at the Heritage Foundation, another conservative U.S. think tank, given by his more famous–and controversial–father, Shintaro Ishihara. At that April 2012 speech, the elder Ishihara, who was then governor of Tokyo, unveiled a plan for the Tokyo government to purchase the disputed islands. Japan’s national government headed off that purchase by nationalizing the islands itself later in the year, sparking massive anti-Japanese protests in China.
Hudson Institute Website: At a gala luncheon in New York on September 25, 2013, Hudson presented its annual Herman Kahn Award to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in recognition of his extraordinary career on the world stage—and his vigorous, principled promotion free markets, global security, and democratic ideals. “Japan should not be a weak link in the regional and global security framework where the U.S. plays a leading role,” the Prime Minister said. “Japan is one of the world’s most mature democracies. Thus, we must be a net contributor to the provision of the world’s welfare and security. And we will. Japan will contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world even more proactively than before.”
COMMENT: According to the articles above, less than a year after being returned to power and decimating Japan’s Leftists, PM Abe received this award from an American conservative think-tank. It’s clear that conservative elements in the hegemon wish Japan to have a leader like Abe honored and in power. I’m not quite sure why. It would be facile to think it’s merely because the US wants to maintain bases and a weapons market, or even contain China. No, think tanks like these are also grounded in morals and values that transcend economics and politics (such as, in this case, Abe’s alleged dedication to “democratic ideals”). The funny thing is, these people seem to think Abe shares their values. He really doesn’t, unless these people are fundamentally positive towards a racialized reorientation of Asia, where Japanese bigots settle old historical scores, pick fights, destabilize the region, and return Asia back on the course of an arms race.
I’m probably missing something (again, this isn’t quite my field), but I’m aghast at the short-sightedness of American neocons (especially, as noted above, the Heritage Foundation egging on the Ishiharas to purchase the disputed Senkaku rocks and inflame Sino-Japanese tensions). As I was the similar short-sightedness of the Obama Administration honoring Abe years later. In sum, positive overseas recognition like this helps keep Abe’s popularity ratings up (and the money to the LDP rolling in, and Japan’s right-wing swing swinging, etc.). I don’t think they understand what Frankenstein they’re creating.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st November 2015
It has been a busy past few months. August and September were spent proofing and indexing my new book Embedded Racism. But while doing that, I was working for a group called Netmobius who asked me to do some touristy writeups on Sapporo and environs. Since I’ve lived in the area for more than two decades and already written three chapters for Fodor’s Japan Travel Guides, I was happy to do it. Here are links to the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them:
Sapporo New Chitose Airport — how it’s run like airports everywhere should be.
Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016)
History of Sapporo Station — From Meiji to the Present
Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities
Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu)
Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower)
Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey)
Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines
Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa
Getting Off the Beaten Track: JR Hokkaido Train Lines Accessible from Sapporo (Asahikawa/Furano, Obihiro/Kushiro)
You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Media, Practical advice, Tangents, Tourism | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th October 2015
CSM: The decision to host the G-7 summit near Ise underscores Abe’s devout Shinto faith. Yet his commitment to Japan’s indigenous religion has led to far more than symbolic gestures. He and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have pursued a wide range of Shinto-inspired policies – from more openly embracing Japan’s imperial heritage to reforming aspects of Japanese education and even re-evaluating the country’s wartime record – with the explicit goal of renewing what they say are traditional values.
As old perhaps as Japan itself, Shinto has no explicit creed or major religious texts. Its adherents pray to “kami,” spirits found in objects both living and inanimate, and believe in a complex body of folklore that emphasizes ancestor worship. But as Japan modernized in the late 19th century, officials made Shinto the state religion, and Japanese were taught to view the emperor as having divine stature. The religion became closely associated with Japanese militarism, leading to its separation from state institutions after World War II.
Shinto struggled for decades to find a place in postwar Japan, and given the religion’s history, some critics see the country’s newfound interest in it as a sign of simmering nationalism at best. At worst, they describe it as a reprise of the official State Shinto of imperial Japan. But among conservatives it reflects a palpable fear that Japan has somehow gone adrift after two decades of economic stagnation, rampant materialism, and the rise of neighboring China. Many believe the time has come for the religion to regain its rightful place in the public sphere.
“Shinto is refusing to be restricted to the private and family life,” says Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “There is this sense that Japan needs to get back what it lost after World War II and that this will be good for the nation.”
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, G7/G8 Summits, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, SITYS, Tangents | 21 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th September 2015
Contrast this situation with the situation of “Trainees” and other visa statuses in Japan:
HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.
In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd September 2015
Nakayama: (From minute 1:02:00). But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history. But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible]. He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms. I don’t think that was his intention. In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945. Everything that happened before that is basically wrong. That’s not how things turned out. Yes, there was a disastrous four years. If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that. But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games. And that’s a success case. Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945. An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible] that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance. I think that was the message.
COMMENT: Wow. Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.” Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies). No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan). Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.
Moreover, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences. Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles. Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th September 2015
Preview: JBC has talked about Japan’s right-wing swing before. The news is, it’s swung so far that Japan’s left is finally getting its act together.
For example, over the past year historians inside and outside Japan joined retired politicians to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accurately portray Japan’s role in World War II during the 70th Anniversary commemorations last month. It didn’t work, but nice try.
Or how about the decimated Democratic Party of Japan submitting a bill to the Diet that would ban racial discrimination (yes!), hate speech and related harassment? Sadly, the bill has no hope of passing, or of being enforceable even if it does (what with loopholes for “justifiable discrimination” and no criminal penalties). But, again, nice try.
And we are seeing outdoor protest after protest, with ranks swelling to numbers not seen in decades.
That’s all fine — and about time, given that people repeatedly reelected these rightists in the first place. But let’s discuss why Japan’s left has basically always been out of power (leaving aside the geopolitical pressures from Japan’s sugar-daddy busybody — see “U.S. green lights Japan’s march back to militarism,” Just Be Cause, June 1). The left keeps losing, and much of it is their own damned fault…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st August 2015
Morris-Suzuki: [S]ome observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs…
The story presented in Abe’s statement goes like this. Western colonial expansionism forced Japan to modernise, which it did with remarkable success. Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War gave hope to the colonised peoples of the world. After World War I, there was a move to create a peaceful world order. Japan actively participated, but following the Great Depression, the Western powers created economic blocs based on their colonial empires. This dealt a ‘major blow’ to Japan. Forced into a corner, Japan ‘attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force’. The result was the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, and everything that followed. ‘Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war’.
The narrative of war that Abe presents leads naturally to the lessons that he derives from history. Nations should avoid the use of force to break ‘deadlock’. They should promote free trade so that economic blocs will never again become a cause of war. And they should avoid challenging the international order. The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong. This is perhaps not surprising, since the committee of experts on whom he relied included only four historians in its 16 members. And its report, running to some 31 pages, contains less than a page about the causes and events of the Asia Pacific War…
Economic historians note that the Japanese empire was the first to take serious steps towards imperial protectionism. The slide into global protectionism had barely started at the time of the Manchurian Incident. Britain did not create its imperial preference system until 1932. The economic blockade that strangled the Japanese economy in 1940–41 was the response to Japan’s invasion of China, not its cause. This is not academic quibbling. These things really matter, and vividly illustrate why historical knowledge is vital to any understanding of contemporary international affairs….
Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th August 2015
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific, I do a textual analysis of two interesting documents: The Imperial Rescript declaring War and the Imperial Rescript declaring surrender (well, not exactly). They are interesting not only because of the language justifying war and peace, but also how the narratives they promote (that of Japan as Asian liberator and later victim of of “world trends” and “a most cruel bomb”) can still be easily found today in Japan’s domestic WWII narratives.
The point is, the designers of these documents have managed to keep their legacy alive to the present day. The Rescripts don’t resonate as the “What the hell were they thinking back then?” sort of thing when horrible ideas are consigned to the ash-heap of history. In fact, they don’t seem all that out of place at all. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” doesn’t seem to apply here. Which is, quite frankly, scary.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Tangents | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th July 2015
What’s happening these days in Japan under PM Abe, i.e., the ramming of new security guidelines through the Diet, will have ripple effects for years, particularly in terms of Japan’s legislative practices and constitutional jurisprudence. Not since the days of Abe’s grandfather doing much the same thing, ramming through the US-Japan Security Treaty more than five decades ago (which also did remarkable damage to Japan as a civil society), have recent policy measures been given the potential to undermine the rule of law in Japan. And I say this with all the disappointment of a Japanese citizen, voter, and Japanophile. The Japanese Government has truly shamed itself as a proponent of its own civilization, and its short-sighted voting public has done too little too late to prevent a self-entitled single-minded person as awful as Abe being given a second crack at governance (this time with a majority in both parliamentary houses, no less).
Debito.org, with its focus on life and human rights in Japan as relates to NJ and Visible Minorities, isn’t really in a position to comment on this until it becomes clear how these policy outcomes will affect them. Right now, all can say is that I told you this would happen. Consider my record in real time in my previous Japan Times columns on the rise of Abe and Japan’s looming remilitarization (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Meanwhile, I’m not one to speculate further without more concrete evidence.
Speculation, however, can be your job. What do Debito.org Readers think the future is for NJ and Visible Minorities under this new Japan where fundamentally-pacifist policy underpinnings are being undermined and circumvented? (We can see the forthcoming attitudes within LDP propaganda very sharply critiqued by Colin P.A. Jones recently in The Japan Times.) Your turn to crystal-ball. Opening this up for discussion:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Discussions, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, SITYS, Tangents | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th July 2015
A couple of weeks ago, shortly before bedtime when I was tired and on vacation, I tossed off a blog entry on Debito.org about my recent experience with what I considered to be racism towards me at a Canadian bank for not having a passport that matched the bank teller’s expectation of phenotype. In other words, the teller said my having a Japanese passport was “funny” to him, as I didn’t “look Japanese”.
This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.). In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home. The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks.
I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face. So much so that I had to add an addendum to the post from a person accompanying me to that bank, filling in a number of things I hadn’t bothered to mention — such as the fact that we called the manager because we had a separate issue of business that needed a manager’s attention, and the teller in fact interfered with that request, and more. This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by that blog entry. The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Practical advice, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd July 2015
Got an interesting story to tell: Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada. My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course. That’s all I have.
The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”
I said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”
Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager, and…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 62 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2015
Now up with critique from an unexpected quarter is an extended interview I did with Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall on the WWII Japan Tokkō “Kamikaze” suicide missions, which appeared in an abridged version in the Japan Times as my JBC column on May 4 2015. This longer version features more questions from me and more candor from Bucky. Here’s an excerpt:
Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu: an interview with M.G. Sheftall
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 22, No. 1, June 08, 2015
Dr. ARUDOU Debito, Dr. M.G. Sheftall
4) You mentioned earlier about other Tokkō missions, including the suicide motorboats. But we hear mostly about the pilots, hardly ever about the other types of Tokkō. Tell us a little more about these other branches, and why you think the pilots have garnered all the attention, especially in popular culture and at Yasukuni Shrine, where they are more famously enshrined as heroes?
Sheftall: In addition to the iconic self-immolating bomb-laden fighter plane version of Tokkō almost anyone inside or outside of Japan associates with the term “Kamikaze”, there were three other major Tokkō platforms that we could deem significant in terms of: 1) the expenditure involved in their development and production; 2) the initial expectations the Japanese military had for their success; and 3) the loss in human lives caused by their deployment. These were the Kaiten (“Fortune-reverser”) manned torpedo, the Shin’yō (“Ocean-shaker”) rammer-motorboat, and the Ōka (“Cherry Blossom”) manned rocket bomb – which was essentially a 1940s cruise missile with a human being in place of a computerized guidance and target acquisition system. Really brutal contraption.
In any case, all three of these platforms were bitter disappointments for the Japanese military. Each of them resulted in over a thousand “friendly” fatalities involved in attempts to deploy them – this is also counting the crew members of the “motherships” ferrying the Kaiten and Ōka (specially modified fleet submarines for the former, and specially modified twin-engined bombers for the latter) into battle – while only causing a few hundred Allied casualties in total between the three of them, as compared with “conventional” aviation Tokkō, which caused some 15 thousand Allied casualties just in the Battle of Okinawa alone. So, right off the bat I would say that this dismal operational history is certainly a sizable factor behind the rather low profile – and the poor reputation, when known at all – of these specialized Tokkō weapons in the postwar Japanese public imagination.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Tangents | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd June 2015
IPR: The East-West Center in Hawaii is timid, insular, and lacking in fresh, dynamic thinking about a region that has outpaced the institution as a whole.
The East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii is well-positioned geographically and conceptually to be a powerhouse of constructive, intellectual engagement with Indo-Pacific Asia. A 50-year legacy of providing academic and research fellowships to young students from Asia has developed a deep regional network of alumni now in senior government positions, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Over the years, hundreds of experts in governance, policy, science, and history have resided in or served as visiting scholars at the institution. Its spacious facilities, some designed by a world-class architect, are immersed within a beautiful, serene campus setting. And yet this venerable soft-power institution has become flaccid. […]
The EWC president, Dr. Charles Morrison, has been in place for 16 years. During this period he is widely credited with keeping the non-profit Center from being shuttered (this instinct for survival applies to his own job, as he was once dismissed, but then returned to his position as president). Most recently he helped the institution weather the very public resignation of EWC’s entire energy team led by Dr. Fesharaki, which revealed the “turmoil” inside the Center. However, simple survival should never be the measure of institutional success. With a purported deadline of 2018 to achieve self-sufficiency, transformative change is required for the EWC to evolve from prolonged survival thinking to a thriving institution renowned for being a vanguard of engagement on critical issues.
Founded in 1960 through the vision of the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, the EWC’s mission to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue” is of paramount importance. While a 1978 GAO report demonstrates that concerns about the EWC’s identity and quality of contributions were emerging in its early decades, the Obama administration’s “rebalance to Asia” is the sort of golden opportunity for which the EWC was designed. However, senior fellows are unable to articulate what the EWC’s role is in the rebalance effort. According to them, Dr. Morrison has never stated how the EWC mission fits in the rebalance. One expert said “more of the same I would assume,” while another questioned the relevance of the EWC now that flights no longer need to stop in Hawaii when crossing the Pacific. A striking statement considering that Pacific Command, the nation’s largest strategic command and most visible face of the “rebalance,” sits only a few miles away.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Tangents | 1 Comment »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th May 2015
In my previous blog entry, I mentioned the disenfranchisement of foreigners from Japanese media, and my upcoming book (out in November) will discuss further the effects of that in terms of tolerance of difference and counteracting public defamation. As a Debito.org Tangent, let’s contrast this with the degree of access that foreigners in America have to influence the domestic narrative and talking points. I don’t know how unusual this is on a country-to-country scale (Debito.org Readers are welcome to mention the foreign anchors/pundits holding court outside the US and Japan), but given the influence that American media has worldwide, this is not a small matter. The NYT does a survey:
NYT: American late-night television shows have probably never had so many anchors with foreign accents as they will have soon. Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, will become at least the third non-American native to host a popular TV comedy show later this year when he takes over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart. He will join two Britons, John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and James Corden, who recently started hosting “The Late Late Show” on CBS.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Humor, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Tangents | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th May 2015
THE JAPAN TIMES: ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Japan-U.S. effort to tell suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise
BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU. MAY 3, 2015
Dr. M.G. Sheftall, professor of modern Japanese history at Shizuoka University and author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze,” was in Honolulu last month for the dedication of a temporary exhibition about the Tokkō kamikaze suicide pilots aboard the battleship USS Missouri, the site of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. JBC sat down for an interview with Dr. Sheftall about the kamikaze phenomenon and what makes this exhibition unique.
Q: So, what’s going on here?
You’ve witnessed something very historic, because the exhibit is the first about any kind of Japanese military activity in the modern era ever held outside of Japan with Japanese cooperation — in this case, with the Chiran Peace Museum on the kamikaze in southern Kyushu.
What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago.
There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks. The bomb on the plane that hit the Missouri did not detonate. The wreckage spilled onto the deck and amidst that was the pilot’s remains. When the crew was putting out the fire, the initial reaction had been to hose his remains off the deck. But the captain of the USS Missouri, William Callaghan, announced to the crew: “No, we’re going to give him a proper military burial. Now that he’s dead, he’s not the enemy anymore. He’s just another human being, like you and me, who died for his country.”
The next day the crew formed on deck to consign their fallen former enemy to the depths with full naval honors. They even made a Japanese flag shroud from old unused signal flags.
I think that’s a nice story. If there can be some recognition of humanity even in such circumstances, that shows hope for human beings in an otherwise insane and irrational situation dominated by hatred and fear.
Q: How many ships were sunk in the kamikaze campaigns?
Rest of the article up at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/
There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Gaiatsu, Good News, History, Japanese Government, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th April 2015
Essay on Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, 1912, Conclusion: There have been born in Hawaii both Chinese and Japanese, educated here to man’s and woman’s estate, and, going back to their own country, have found themselves entirely at variance and out of sympathy with things there. Provision is made in Hawaii for the sound education of all its youth of all nationalities, in a public school system not surpassed in any state or territory of the mainland. Education is free and compulsory. A school is kept open for forty-two weeks in the year in the remotest country districts. It would he an anomaly to find an adult Hawaiian who can not read and write, most of them in both English and Hawaiian. This laudable foresight in providing means for the training of the young originated with the early missionaries, whose descendants, many of whom are now men and women of wealth and social influence, are leaders in all the activities that make for the betterment of the rising generation of all our races. Interest in education is not confined to any one class. Planters, business men, lawyers, doctors—all urge upon every legislature the importance of generous provisions for the education of the youth of the land.
There is nothing in evidence thus far to show that the Japanese-American citizen will not make as loyal and trustworthy an American as the other races and nationalities that have been absorbed by the American body politic and are now numbered among the Americans who set the highest standards of citizenship. Of course Hawaii is doing something new in this connection. But the first fruits of the Chinese-American gives every promised that the American influence in Hawaii over the Oriental of the Far East will be as bene-flcient and will develop as certainly a good and loyal American as the Americanism of the Eastern and Middle States in its influence on the Oriental of the Asia Minor, Russia and the population of what is in general terms the Near East. No American need worry over the future of Hawaii’s Americanism if the present immigration policy, agreeable to both Japan and the United States, is followed out. That is, to allow Hawaii to assimilate what Oriental population it already has, and at the same time balance the proportions by allowing, for a time a larger immigration of toilers from Europe.
Posted in Cultural Issue, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th April 2015
To celebrate Debito.org’s 2500th Blog Post (not including all of the other sites for example here, here, and here in the ten years before the blog was established), I am proud to have the privilege of putting up two important speeches by friend and colleague Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall of Shizuoka University, author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze” (Penguin, 2005)
These speeches were given on April 10 and 11, 2015, to commemorate the opening of a temporary exhibit of historical artifacts and records of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots. This important exhibition is currently below decks for at least the next six months aboard the USS Missouri (yes, the site where Japan surrendered and ended WWII), anchored at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. It is open to the public, featuring things from the Chiran Peace Museum near Kagoshima, Kyushu, never before seen outside of Japan. I was in attendance at both events, and it made several US newspapers (the front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription only), on Hawaii NewsNow, and the Los Angeles Times) as well as some Japanese media. The ceremony itself took place on the 70th Anniversary of a suicide pilot colliding with the Missouri (its bomb did not explode), with many people on both sides of the Pacific in attendance.
I’ll let Bucky tell the rest of the story. First the shorter speech of April 11, then the longer one with more context and intents of April 10. Read and have a think about how some people are wresting control of Japan’s wartime narrative into a less jingoistic direction.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Good News, History, Media, NJ legacies, Tangents | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th March 2015
Koike: We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism, reflecting the Confucian notion that people do not lament poverty when others lament it equally. This willingness to accept a situation, however bad, as long as it affects everyone equally is what enabled Japan to endure two decades of deflation, without a public outcry over the authorities’ repeated failure to redress it. This national characteristic is not limited to individuals. The government, the central bank, the media, and companies wasted far too much time simply enduring deflation – time that they should have spent working actively to address it. Japan finally has a government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that is committed to ending deflation and reinvigorating economic growth, using a combination of expansionary monetary policy, active fiscal policy, and deregulation. Now in its third year, so-called “Abenomics” is showing some positive results.
COMMENT: Here we have another LDP spokesperson peddling Japan’s exceptionalism to worldwide socioeconomic forces, and to an international audience. While food for thought, it’s clear by the end that this is just Koike shilling for PM Abe’s economic policies, spiced up with some Nihonjinron. Once again Japan gets away with shoehorning in “Japan-is-unique” mysticism within any social scientific analysis just because Japanese are seen as “funny quirky people from an island country affected by a long history of self-imposed isolation”. I’ll be talking a bit about the politics of that in my next Japan Times column, coming up on Monday April 6 (out on Mondays starting in April).
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th February 2015
As a tangent to what Debito.org usually takes up, let’s consider something interesting that affects everyone in Japan: the pretty insane work ethic.
Caveat: Having a society that works hard pays out enormous benefits in terms of convenience. Who can grumble about being able to, say, get a good meal at any time from a convenience store, or have bureaucrats and postal workers working on weekends? Well, those people working those kinds of jobs. And while I see a similar erosion of working hours in the United States (according to the OECD, both Americans and Japanese work fewer hours per year in 2013 than they did in 2000, but Americans still work more hours than Japanese — not surprising seeing how inhumane the amount of time people in retail have to work, especially here in Hawaii), one big issue is the ability to take vacations. I see people working full-time around here able to take sick days and even vacations without much blowback from their colleagues. Not in Japan, according to the article below. That’s why the GOJ is considering making the vacations mandatory.
This is good news. However, a closer consideration of the stats given below show an disturbing tendency: Western Europeans take almost all of their mandatory paid holidays off (up to more than a month), while Japanese take less than half of the half of the paid holidays days off they possibly could (i.e., around nine days a year, according to the article below). And what are the labor unions pushing for? Eight days. How underwhelming. Earn your dues, unions!
I think anyone reading Debito.org (since so many of us have worked for Japanese companies) understands why Japanese workers take so few days off and sometimes work themselves to death — peer pressure…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Good News, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Tangents | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd February 2015
JBC: Consider this: Anyone you see in a silent film is dead, and I mean long dead. So is almost everyone from any movie predating the 1950s. People from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Close behind are the Korean and Vietnam War vets (my growing up in a country that habitually wages war offers easy milestones). Even the people who protested their actions, the famed hippies of the 1960s, are wrinkly and retiring. Soon it’ll be the Desert Storm vets, who are already into paunchy middle age, as time marches on.
I was born at an odd time. Just 13 days shy of what the media calls the baby boomers, people my age aren’t part of Generation X either. I don’t really understand, for example, why people insist on getting tattoos or body piercings, or find public humiliation funny (e.g., “Borat”? “The Office”?), but I do understand why they keep stealing from their elders’ music (rock, psychedelic and progressive — all genres I grew up with and still listen to). But it eventually dawns on us fogies just how derivative popular culture is, and always has been. Straddling two media-manufactured generations meant I more easily saw an arc.
Now permit me to make you feel old too: We are now well into the 21st century, 15 years since Y2K, 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. No children in developed countries know a time without the Internet; some can’t imagine not submitting their homework online, and are no longer learning cursive. Google a recent photo of any media personality you grew up with and you’ll see their wrinkles either starting or becoming well-advanced. Then look in the mirror yourself and trace…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, History, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th January 2015
I’ve been sitting on this blog post for nearly six years, so I think it’s safe to say that nothing has come of this. Back in 2009, somebody claiming to be a lawyer representing the publisher of The Australian Magazine contacted me, claiming copyright infringement, and demanded that Debito.org remove from its archives a 1993 article concerning Japan pundit Gregory Clark (who writes articles occasionally so embarrassingly xenophobic and bigoted that at least one has been deleted from the Japan Times archive).
Funny thing is that once I reproduced an email from 2000 from The Australian Magazine that permitted reproduction of said article on Debito.org, that somebody and her threat vanished. Again, that was back in 2009. It’s now 2015, so let’s put this up for the record. Something tells me that Gregory Clark really doesn’t want you to read this very revealing article in The Australian about him, his modus operandi, and his motives in Japan.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Tangents | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th January 2015
Another complete tangent, but hey, it is January 13 where I am and it’s my birthday and my blog, so…
Did I mention it’s my birthday? Well, I’m the type of person who loves to be wished “Happy Birthday!”, so I even go out of my way tell people that today is the day. And as my Facebook shows, people very kindly respond with greetings and best wishes. Thanks!
But since I broached the subject , I’ve had interesting conversations yesterday and today with people who take a dim view of birthdays. No, it’s not for the reason you might think (i.e., growing older and more clearly one day, month, year closer to death). They put it down to modesty, even culture.
One friend I talked to today never advertises his birthday because he’s afraid that doing so will invite somebody to give him a present. Then he’d feel obligated to give something back and that causes him stress. He prefers his birthdays and his celebrations be immediate family affairs celebrated only by the people who care enough to remember it’s his birthday without being told. Telling other people kinda spoils something. He’d rather enjoy fruit fallen from a tree due to a windfall, not because he deliberately shook the tree.
Another friend talked about how birthdays are to him an artificial Western invention — who celebrated birthdays in days of yore, and in his Eastern culture? He also feels that a celebration of oneself on one day is silly, when every day that one is alive should be a cause for celebration. Why focus in on one day? To them I said…
Posted in Discussions, Tangents | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th December 2014
As a Holiday Tangent, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth). It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents.
But that was just one person. Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan’s entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular). Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of “the past is a foreign country” relief. Japan cannot. Not right now.
Kureishi: I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear.
I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared…
The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th December 2014
Yomiuri Obit: Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100. Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.
Submitter JK: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).
Debito: Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here.
Posted in History, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Sport, Tangents | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th May 2014
Bit of a tangent here, but when we saw Japan drop behind China to become the #3 largest economy, we saw reactions of craziness that still reverberate today (not the least sour grapes, but more heightened security issues). I wonder how the Americans will react to this news.
The Economist (London) tells us like it is, with the aplomb of a former world power itself, declaring the American Century over. China will be the world’s largest economy years at the end of this year, nearly half a decade ahead of schedule.
Myself, I think this is (or should be) inevitable: China has the most people, so it stands to reason that it should have the most capacity to produce and be rich if not richest. After all, the Pax Americana Postwar goal of helping countries become rich and developed is that they’ll become more stable economically, thus more likely to suppress warlike urges in favor of the mutual profit motive. Plus the Americans always held out hope that an emerging middle class would agitate for democratic reforms, and shudder at the thought of the Chinese system in its current form becoming the global hegemon. Will it react similar to Japan and see China as a threat, or will it keep Postwar historical goals in perspective and see it as a form of mission accomplished?
The Economist: UNTIL 1890 China was the world’s largest economy, before America surpassed it. By the end of 2014 China is on track to reclaim its crown. Comparing economic output is tricky: exchange rates get in the way. Simply converting GDP from renminbi to dollars at market rates may not reflect the true cost of living. Bread and beer may be cheaper in one country than another, for example. To account for these differences, economists make adjustments based on a comparable basket of goods and services across the globe, so-called purchasing-power parity (PPP). New data released on April 30th from the International Comparison Programme, a part of the UN, calculated the cost of living in 199 countries in 2011. On this basis, China’s PPP exchange rate is now higher than economists had previously estimated using data from the previous survey in 2005: a whopping 20% higher. So China, which had been forecast to overtake America in 2019 by the IMF, will be crowned the world’s pre-eminent country by the end of this year according to The Economist’s calculations. The American Century ends, and the Pacific Century begins.
Posted in Discussions, Gaiatsu, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th April 2014
As Japan’s right-wing swing begins to be noticed and acknowledged overseas (I predicted this swing would happen quite a while ago), foreign media are increasingly taking off the kid gloves, and dealing forcefully with Japan’s perpetual historical amnesia. So much so that it’s making some Japanese opinion leaders uncomfortable, and, as the article below attests, they’re pushing back against the apparent gaiatsu by claiming the foreign correspondents are succumbing to “propaganda”. Have a read.
Within, note how opportunist NJ panderer Henry Scott-Stokes is being tossed around like a ball in play as evidence of something (hey, revisionism has more credibility if someone, anyone, from the NJ side will parrot their views). Debito.org has already covered the profiteering that some NJ (particularly those who have no idea what has been written for them in Japanese) will engage in. Shame on them for becoming the monkey to the organ grinder.
As a bracing counterpose, check out this other extremely angry article by Robert Fisk in the UK Independent on the Abe Administration and Japan’s burgeoning (and hypocritical) revisionism; he’s clearly commenting outside of his comfort zone, but this is what will increasingly come out as the mask of “peaceful Western ally” that Japan’s elites have shamelessly worn for two generations continues to slip. And this generation of elites, who have never known war (and will never have to serve even if there ever is one), will continue to extol the glory of it.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ legacies, Tangents | 22 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th February 2014
Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border. These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally.
Bloomberg: Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.
Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.
Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone. The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th February 2014
Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of “Pinprick Protest” from more than two years ago — the Papa John’s “lady chinky eyes case” where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility. As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur.
Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan — where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else — shake your head — claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate).
The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs. Eventually. The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up. And it took a court case to get theirs down. And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn’t enough.
Anyway, here’s the story. I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Food, Good News, Human Rights, Media, Racist Images in Media, Tangents | 4 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 26th December 2013
Hi Blog. I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship. Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).
I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)
My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It’s a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.
Posted in Fun Facts, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Tangents | 6 Comments »
Posted by 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 27th November 2013
A bit of a tangent today. The author of this article asked me for some input some months back, and I steered him towards some resources that talked about Japan’s historical involvement with Burma (and deep ties between the ruling junta and Japan’s WWII government — to the point of using the Imperial Army’s public order maintenance style over its colonies as a template to repress domestic dissent). Even with recent changes in Burma’s government, Japan’s engagement style is reportedly not changing — it’s still up to its old nontransparent policymaking tricks. I put up this article on Debito.org because it relates to the Abe Administration’s perpetual use of China not only as a bugbear to stir up nationalism and remilitarization, but also something to encircle and contain, as Abe visits more Asian countries in his first year in office than any other PM (without, notably, visiting China). Nothing quite like getting Japan’s neighbors to forget Japan’s wartime past (and, more importantly, Japan’s treatment of them as a colonizer and invader) than by offering them swagbags of largesse mixed with a message of seeing China instead as the actual threat to regional stability. Result: Who will agitate for the offsetting of Japan’s historical amnesia if the descendants of their victims (or their governments, lapping up the largesse) will not? These are the “arrows” Abe is quietly loosing, and this time outside Japan in support of his revisionism.
DVB News: Japan’s traditional approach to diplomacy – characterised by “quiet dialogue” – is becoming a threat to Burma’s fragile reform process. In recent weeks, the Japanese government has demonstrated an alarming lack of transparency regarding both its role in Burma’s peace process and land grabbing problems at Thilawa, Japan’s flagship development project near Rangoon. Eleven News also reported on Tuesday that a Burmese parliament member demanded greater transparency about how Japanese financial aid is distributed to Burma’s health sector…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Tangents | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd November 2013
UN News: Two independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about a Government-sponsored draft bill in Japan that would decide what constitutes a State secret.
The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health requested further information from the Japanese authorities on the draft law and voiced their concerns regarding its compliance with human rights standards…
“Transparency is a core requirement for democratic governance,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue. “The draft bill not only appears to establish very broad and vague grounds for secrecy but also include serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets.”
According to reports, information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism will all be classified as a state secret, while ministers could decide what information to keep from the public.
COMMENT: The snowball is rolling and a version of this legislation, even if “watered down” (or perhaps not), will probably be rammed through into law, since both houses of Parliament are in the hands of ultraconservative parties without a viable opposition party anymore. Why wasn’t this seen coming down the pike in the first place before it got to this stage? The warning signs were all there from last December’s election (before that, even, if you read PM Abe’s manifestoes about his “beautiful country”) about Japan’s rightward swing. This consolidation of information control has always been part and parcel of state control — no surprises, especially in Japan. So this public reaction of both naiatsu and gaiatsu is too little, too late. Get ready for the politicized criminalization of public disclosure.
Posted in Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents, United Nations | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th October 2013
Yesterday I attended a speech by Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi, President of the International University of Japan in Niigata, and currently the Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security for PM Abe. I attended because I wanted to see what was making one of PM Abe’s leading advisors tick. Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint.
He spoke in excellent English, and came off as a very articulate, passionate, and fluent advocate of his cause, which is essentially to make Japan strong enough militarily to deter China. He did not feel a need to be restrained by a diplomat’s training, calling various schools of thought “totally wrong” and “stupid”, nor an academic’s subtlety that should come with a doctorate, where he said with firm certainty at various stages that “no Japanese” wants things like expansion of Japan’s borders (he also called Koreans an “emotional people”). Almost all of the geopolitical problems he referred to in his talk were traced back to China, and he made a strong, reasoned plea for Japan’s inherent sovereign right for collective self defense in order to “contribute to peace and stability” by being empowered to assist Japan’s friends and allies (particularly, naturally, the Americans).
Dr. Kitaoka was very smooth. He pushed all the right rhetorical buttons with an American audience (this one at the EWC quite full of American military brass; as you can hear in the speech, the audience was quite emotive), contrasting rich, democratic, non-nuclear, and “peace-loving” Japan with richening, undemocratic, nuclear and unfree China, which is increasing its defense budget every year and seeking territorial expansion (he even mentioned China’s dealings in Africa in that context). He also smoothed feathers to head off the “Genie in the Bottle” argument (which is one image the US military uses to justify its continued presence in Japan — to stop Japan from remilitarizing) by pointing out five conditions why today’s Japan is different. (See them well elaborated in his Yomiuri article scanned below.)
So to this end, Japan would need its first National Security Council, which would hopefully be established by November 2013.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 53 Comments »
Posted by 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 19th July 2013
Morris-Suzuki: The current popularity of the Abe administration in no way reflects public enthusiasm for these grand political designs. It is, instead, a response to the government’s economic stimulus package, and to Abe’s skill in making optimistic statements, which convey a sense of leadership to a population weary of political uncertainty and economic malaise. In the end, the Abe government’s performance should and will be judged, not on any political labels, but on the impact that it has on Japanese society and on Japan’s relations with its region and the world. It is possible that Abe may yet choose to focus on the vital tasks of creating a basis for a strong Japanese economic future and improving relations with Japan’s neighbours, rather than pursuing the ideological agendas of anti-liberalism and “escape from the postwar regime”.
In the meanwhile, though, those who care about the future of Japanese society should not allow the dazzle of verbal juggling to induce a political version of the Gruen Transfer. The prime minister’s ideology may be re-branded for the global market, but the old adage remains: buyer beware.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents | 8 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 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 15th April 2013
Bignose: …So the three of us were round our friend’s place where she cooked a lovely dinner and then she introduced us to a “must watch” waraibangumi called “Kobito-zukan” こびとづかん. I was very interested because as a father I monitor Japanese kids programs my wife wants to show our child quite closely, avoiding programs that I think are problematical (too cute, squealing, gender stereotypes and having very young performers, especially young girls, performing adult routines…and it’s not only my wife and I that find groups such as AKB48 extremely disturbing and problematic on many, many levels). I always try to balance out any media experiences my child has with Japanese media with alternatives in English, either from the U.S. or the UK, for example. As I watched it, I thought fine, fine, it looks like a decent story, very entertaining. But I wondered, why is this kiddies program so entertaining for adults? Why is it such a hit? My friend’s eye were glowing, and she was clearly getting very excited.
By the second minute I started to find the patronizing tone grating, largely because it reminds me of how I am still sometimes treated by Japanese people dealing with gaijin, you know as if we are some sort of stupid alien pets. Before I go any further, I’d like readers to look at the other pictures from the set of characters for this series: Notice anything?
Bignoses! They all look like that older grumpy University English teacher you had that you didn’t really like and had to put up with, with his strange alien ideas and his attitude problem at not playing the game and being “yasashii,” i.e. entertainment. They even have blackfaced “kokujin” characters with even bigger flatter noses and big lips. Where are the Asian characters? There are none.
As I watched further, more things fell into place. The lovable western looking kobito is lured into a world thinking he’s going to get his nice juicy peach, not knowing in fact that he’s going to be completely controlled as a lovable pet that is going to be patted and taken care of until his part is played… this to me seems all about appealing to the control fantasies of othering gaijin. Controllable kobito lovingly lured into traps by their own stupidity to be cared for and controlled and as entertainment for Japanese.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Media, Racist Images in Media, Tangents | 15 Comments »