Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  On Japan’s National Foundation Day, a time where Japan’s patriots often come out and make statements on what it means to be a “Japanese”, fabled feminist Sociology Professor at Tokyo University Ueno Chizuko wrote something for the Chuunichi Shinbun. As the headline proclaims, “Let’s become equally poor together”.

Here’s a bit more about her in an interview with the Japan Times (2006).

As TG, the person who tipped me off to this article writes, “Chizuko Ueno, Japan’s most famous academic feminist, says there is no chance of reversing the decline in the birthrate; that at the same time Japanese society is inherently incapable of inter-cultural understanding; that therefore she opposes any move to liberalize immigration policy; and that the Japanese people should accept that they are going to gradually decline into poverty over the years to come.

“Hmm. I wonder what Hidenori Sakanaka, Arudou Debito and other FB friends think about this. She is a gadfly who likes to provoke, and you could read this as an attempt at satirical pessimism possibly. Or has she just lost the plot?”

Provoke indeed.  It’s caused a stir on Japanese debate fora (it took more time than usual to find where this article appeared — people were too busy debating this on online fora to even disclose that). And on FB, where I was fortunately tagged, we had some interesting comments:

AB: “I read this yesterday and wondered about 平等に貧しくなろう。She also talks about a soft crash landing, if I recall correctly. Resigned pessimism of the wartime 「まだ焼き出されていないのか」type was my interpretation, but I don’t suppose I’m right.”

CD: >こういう「もう経済成長しなくていい」「一緒に衰退していこう」みたいなことを言う似非リベジジババ結構いるんだけど「アンタの人生の終焉に国を巻き込むな」と言いたい。老いて衰退してくのはアンタ自身だ、若い子には「アンタらにはない」可能性がある。世の中の若いヒト全てに対して失礼だ。
“Boom. Couldn’t say it better myself in either language. The myopic narcissistic “L’etat, c’est moi” conflation of self and cultural space in this woman’s train of thought are simply staggering in someone who dares to parade her ideas in the media as a purported “public intellectual”.”

CD(2): “Note that while I am suspicious of her psychological motivations for framing the situation thusly, that does NOT mean that I don’t think it may very well go down the way she lays it out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people this age and older whose symbolic immortality is so tied up with the idea of “Japan for Japanese only and only the kind of Japan I’ve known” that they would rather “die than switch”, so to speak. Young people had better light a political fire under their butts here, or the whole shebang will slide down in a long, slow geriatric national/cultural kamikaze dive. The event horizon for this is coming up fast.”

EF: “Setting aside the point about having children, many of our students counter her comments regarding the inability of Japanese to gain multi-cultural understandings.”

GH: “I still remember her ‘feminist’ paper given years ago at SOAS, it was premised on two points: western feminism was not a perfect fit to Japan (fair enough, other non-white feminists make similar points), but then everything she said about being a feminist in Japan seemed to contradict her own very existence as a single female academic: it seemed to be about being a better housewife or being happy with different work conditions because of the fragility of the female body (menstrual leave days for example). It only made some sense to me years later, when I saw her speak at a big feminist history conference in Tokyo: her position is against the old hardcore Marxist feminist ideology of the generation just before her (and dating back to before the war). So she’s fighting an ideological battle that pushes her to say the most incredibly bizarre things sometimes: we are not all equal, but equivalent, this was her mantra. Of course equivalences can be very arbitrary…”

And GH is where I came in:

DEBITO: I very much agree with [GH’s] insight, and I think it sheds light into the mentality behind this article. I have often noticed that feminism in Japan is not “equality between the sexes” but “separate but equal” status between the sexes, inherently accepting that inequality is inevitable due to purported physical and emotional differences between men and women. Some things are “women’s work”, for example, and some things are men’s, and you’d better respect that order or else woe betide you for intruding.

Once you accept this kind of natural status quo, it becomes just as easy to accept that there should be “separate for foreigners in Japan” too, however “a foreigner” is defined. The problem is that most people accept without much question the “necessarily separate but unequal” mantra as well, since foreigners are not Japanese, by definition, and Japanese are told on a daily basis (no exaggeration) about the inherent differences between them. And therein lies the slow-drip mindset that over the years will eventually affect even the most intellectually-rigorous, as they get older and fossilized in their beliefs.

You even find it in many very long-term foreigners in Japan, who will even argue that they deserve their own unequal status. Rigor becomes rigid.

So to me, Ueno’s pontificating on the natural order of separation is a natural outcome of living in a society as hierarchical and segregated as Japan’s.  I think with this article, she’d have a more comfortable cup of tea with the likes of Sankei columnist Sono Ayako, who on National Foundation Day exactly two years ago expressly praised South African Apartheid and advocated a similar system for Japan’s foreigners.  –Dr. Debito Arudou

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

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

mytest

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AlJazeeraPriyankaDebito091416

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

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

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

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

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

On today’s episode, we speak to:

Priyanka Yoshikawa @Miss_priyanka20
Miss World Japan 2016

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

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

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

Yuta Aoki @ThatYuta
YouTuber
youtube.com/YPlusShow

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

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

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Discussion: Should I stay or should I go? What’s your personal threshold for staying in or leaving Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Some weeks ago a Debito.org Reader posed an interesting question to the Comments Section. Let me rephrase it like this:

  • What is your threshold for remaining in a society? Are there any conditions which will occasion you to consider an exit strategy?

Caveats: Of course, this can apply to anyone anywhere. But a) since this is a blog about Japan, and b) people who have chosen to live in another society for whatever reason have the experience of moving from one place to another (hence “hometown inertia” is not a factor), let’s make this specific to people who are living (or have lived) in Japan.

What would have to happen (or did happen) for you to have to decide to move out of Japan?

It’s an interesting hypothetical. For some expats/residents/immigrants in history, even a war was not enough (see the interesting case of William Gorham). So it’s all a matter of personal preference. What’s yours? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

mytest

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

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tangent: McNeill in No.1 Shimbun: “Into the Valley of the Trolls”: Is ignoring them really an effective strategy?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Excellent potential for discussion being broached with the following article, long overdue.  Excerpt and my comment follows.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Into the Valley of the Trolls
Is growing online harassment just part of the job or should it be confronted? And when does it cross the line?
by David McNeill
No. 1 Shimbun, Sunday, December 27, 2015
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls.html

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.”

Cyber abuse is a serious issue, notes a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review. “There’s far from any kind of consensus on how to deal with it and what journalists’ roles are,” says author Lene Bech Sillesen. Law enforcement struggles to deal with the proliferation of anonymous online harassment. Platform providers often “suck” at dealing with trolls, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo memorably admitted this year.

Increasingly, the consensus seems to be shifting toward confrontation. The Review cites a growing genre of stories about unmasking trolls. In the Swedish TV show Troll Hunters, journalist Robert Aschberg tracks down and confronts offenders on camera. “It’s a huge problem,” says Aschberg, “and it’s no different from exposing, let’s say, corrupt politicians, or thieves.”

THE RISE OF THE troll, and the shifting terrain it represents in our networked society, is a particular dilemma for journalists. For decades, virtually the only rejoinder available to print readers was the carefully moderated letters page, but the internet has opened up multiple channels of feedback. Many bloggers view journalists as fair game because they are public figures.

Inevitably, the result is a steady river of bile, but most journalists are understandably wary of trying to block it. As Martin Fackler, a former Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Times notes: “You’re walking a fine line. Journalists dish out criticism, and need to take it with the same grace. Otherwise, we look hypocritical. And we need to support freedom of speech, even for our critics.”

In practice, most journalists follow Fackler in not feeding the trolls, and many don’t even block them to avoid the providing the veneer of cyber-street cred. Fackler, who says he has yet to block any troll accounts, advocates only shutting down those that cross boundaries of decency. “Short of that, I think everyone deserves the same freedom of speech that we demand in our own work.”

Where, however, do these boundaries lie? Perhaps the only line everyone agrees on is the one dividing incivility from threats of violence….

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

The rest is at http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls.html

I did leave a comment at the article:

=======================================
January 29, 2016
Thanks for the article. 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.

So after realizing that being ignored still works in their favor, now they are going after journalists, which brings into the debate issues of freedom of the press. Plus journalists have a more amplified public soapbox and credibility to advocate for change than we activist-types do. I hope you will continue to research and speak out against this, and not fall into the mindset that anonymous threats and stalking are simply part of being a public figure.

Thanks again for broaching the subject. Arudou Debito

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

O’Day in APJ: Japan Focus: “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Since the SEALDs activism topic has inspired much discussion on Debito.org, let’s look at them (and other youth protesters in Japan) from another angle, where an academic colleague argues that the group is by design demonstrating without full devotion to the cause.

This article came out before SEALDs announced that it was disbanding, so I wonder if partial devotion means killing off the group without transitioning to new leadership to preserve the credibility of the hard-won brand.  (No mention either of allegations of parochialism and bullying towards NJ.)  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

From Robin O’Day, “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 37, No. 2, September 14, 2015.

Excerpt:

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.

Entire article at http://apjjf.org/-Robin-O_Day/4376/article.html

Discussion: Abe rams through Japan’s new security guidelines: How will this affect NJ and Visible Minorities in Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog. 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. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Update to Canada bank racism issue: Fascinating FB conversation gets me to capitulate

mytest

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Hi Blog. 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. (I encourage people who haven’t read the original Debito.org blog entry to go here and do so before reading further.  In fact, sorry to do this:  since I don’t want to just rehash the debate below, comments that don’t reflect a careful reading of that post and the subsequent text will not be allowed through.)

This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by this blog entry.

The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:

  1. Support for what I did.
  2. Criticism for my overdoing it — surely this could have been handled better by me, e.g., by deflecting it with a quick explanation of my background or a bit of humor.
  3. Disbelief at my inability to use common sense:  To them, of course I don’t “look Japanese” (especially in a society with so few Caucasian Japanese), so my apparent expectation of the teller’s lack of surprise is unreasonable.
  4. Anger (especially from Canadians) of my acting like a typically-loud and conflict-encouraging American in Canada.
  5. Disgust at my acting so atypically Japanese that I no longer qualified as a Japanese in that person’s eyes (and that was it for us:  Unfriended. Anyone who says I’m not “Japanese” because I don’t look or act “Japanese” in their view is neither a friend nor a person I care to talk to again.  That’s taking the identity policing too far.  After all, I could have committed a murder, and that would not have disqualified me — since some Japanese people murder, and don’t lose their “Japanese” status; my objecting to a teller’s inappropriate statement is somehow worse than that?)
  6. Outrage towards my victimizing the teller (who as, I pointed out in my blog post, I deduced to be of native Korean background).  To them, I was oblivious towards my White Privilege in a White-majority and White-dominated society.

The most articulate proponent of Camp 6 was a person I will call JG, and he posted a comment so well-argued that I thought it worth archiving in full at Debito.org.   I answered it after a few days (again, I had a number of other commitments while on vacation, and didn’t want to just toss something off again), but here it is:

(N.B. There is one more bit at the very end, after JG’s and my exchange, where I essentially capitulate and agree that I overdid it this time.  Do read to the bottom if you’re convinced that I never admit I’m wrong.)

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

Debito:  Hi Everyone. At long last, here is my reply to JG essay. I am sorry for taking so long — these things take time to compose, so thank you for your patience. For completeness’ sake, I will quote it in full with my answers after each one of his paragraphs:

JG: Sorry, this smells of white-privilege, dude! You get to be white AND Japanese! You’ve taken this TOO far! […] I mentioned in another sub-thread that your actions smacked of “white-privilege”, but I think that you missed my point, or choose to ignore it, which is a very symptom of said privilege. What I mean by “white-privilege” in this context is that when one speaks about discrimination, one cannot ignore the part that power plays in the situation. In this case, you are in Canada, NOT in Japan, so the context of power changes. In Canada, you are perceived as WHITE, which in North America is the gold-standard (it is also the case in Japan, but that is another discussion). People who are perceived as White have certain advantages that others who are not perceived as White. Please note that I am not talking about ethnicity or culture here, but the socially-constructed notion of RACE that is defined primarily by stereotypical physical attributes and phenotypes interpreted through the lens of the observer. So while you may “feel” that you are Japanese, others will see you as WHITE; and this is especially salient in the North American context where being labeled as WHITE affords you privileges not afforded to others, even though they may be citizens through birth or naturalization.

Debito: I do not dispute either in concept or form the existence of White Privilege. I acknowledge that being White has assisted and does assist me and others who look like me from society to society, and that the treatment of people deemed to be “White” by society provides systemic advantages in societies that are both White-majority and Non-White-majority dominated. And I acknowledge that people will see me as “White” anywhere I go.

Where you and I part company in this paragraph is my wish to be White AND Japanese. I do not believe that they are (or should be) mutually exclusive. Just as Japanese themselves in Apartheid South Africa successfully lobbied to be Japanese AND “Honorary Whites” under the law. And this was not a case of naturalization in the ASA example, either. My being naturalized as a Japanese gives me even more standing to claim that I am Japanese AND White; I’ve earned this qualification through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, time spent in and contributions to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American passport and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes. I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it.

Moreover, I am not willing to have my identity policed by others, unaware of this degree of dedication, into being Japanese BUT White anywhere I go. I am a Japanese, full stop. As are my Japanese children, full stop. As are yours, full stop. Regardless of how our children look, anywhere in the world, they are ALSO Japanese. It is up to us to claim that for ourselves and them, and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere. Otherwise we’d still have people saying in other societies that they were not “real” members of (insert society here). This must stop, as borders nowadays with international migration and immigration are porous like never before. I believe that introducing White Privilege into the mix here distracts and detracts from the main issue, which is: self-identification. I believe that a person has the right to shape and control their own identity, and claim it when necessary without being unduly accused of an abuse of social power.

JG: Now, in consideration of the above, can you see how YOU were the one with the power in this exchange? Sure, the statement that the guy made may have been insensitive or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have not experienced a “white” person who identified himself as part of a group that has been historically “non-white”, especially when identifying as “white” affords so much advantage and social capital. Also, considering that he himself was a visible minority, might take a bit of offense to someone with such obvious social advantage, identifying himself as a part of the Asian community. In other words, “Why is this White guy trying to be like us? Is he trying to appropriate our culture like the other whites in the past took the land, culture, and livelihood during colonization?”

Debito: Yes, now let’s talk about the power relations here in this particular case regardless of self-identification. You made the case that I, as a White person, had the power in this relationship. That could very well be the case, and I won’t deny it as a possible factor. (Not mentioned is that I also had the power in this relationship as an account holder and a customer.) He was no doubt surprised by a person like me having a passport like that (I don’t blame him for that — it’s an understandable reaction). And his reaction was probably innocuous and not ill-intentioned. All agreed so far.

That said, the issue in this situation I believe is the remark he made. If the teller had also been identifiable and self-identified as “White”, I would have reacted the same way to this social othering. It doesn’t matter what the teller’s background is: It’s an inappropriate remark.

Where we part company further is in seeing everything revolving around a person socially-identified as “White” as riddled with White Privilege that is actually being enforced consciously or unconsciously. My existing as a White Japanese possibly (as you argued) being seen as an appropriator of his culture is his baggage. And if he wants a job dealing with people in a customer-client relationship, he must lose that baggage, or at least not act or remark on it — just as anyone “White” who has to deal with any Visible Minority must lose their personal baggage, as part of company policy as a company representative.

Whether or not that baggage can ever be properly “loseable” is something we can debate (I also concur that racialization processes make that impossible to reduce to zero), but I don’t think its existence should be used as an excuse to empower hypocrisy. By that I mean, if I can’t do it to him, he can’t do it to me. And to imply that he can just because I’m apparently White and he’s not is unduly switching the victimization. That goes for anywhere that has any claims (including the Non-White majoritarian societies) to having anti-discrimination rules and practices.

(Further, if legacies of colonization that you brought up were an issue for this gentleman, the Japanese colonized Korea, so Whiteness is quite probably not a factor in this.)

If the very sight of me somehow, as you put it, “offends” him (which I think is unlikely, but that’s how you couched this issue), I don’t think he should be doing this particular job. But anyway, I really don’t think that’s what happening here. I’m sure he’s a fine teller that just let his tongue slip and vocalized the first thing that popped into his head. You can make the case that I overreacted to it (and I’m fine with that interpretation), but to say that I victimized him just because I happened to be White and he didn’t is in my opinion, in this case, a stretch.

JG: Regardless of what was going on in his head (because it is impossible to know), the facts as you have stated yourself, are that despite his initial shock of finding out that you were “Japanese”, he STILL provided you with service and did not challenge your identity in any meaningful or legal way that denied you anything; which is what TRUE discrimination is. As we understand it, you were not refused or denied service, you were not suspected of misrepresentation or of being a criminal, and the authorities were not called. It only seems that your feelings were hurt because this guy could not immediately recognize from your appearance that you were Japanese (or part of the larger imagined Asian community). And your response to this, instead of using this opportunity to educate him of the larger, diverse, growing imagined Asian diaspora to which you seem to be laying claim; and maybe making an ally in the process; you go for the nuclear option and call his boss on him, claiming “racism”!

Debito: Quite so. This is the better case to make that I overreacted, and, again, that interpretation is quite solid. He did not deny me service (although, as my accompanying eyewitness attested, he did interfere with us seeing the manager — but this information came later and you couldn’t have known it; you later still doubted I my second eyewitness was telling the truth, but more on that later).

However, let’s at least admit that he did deny me a comfortable space for doing business as a customer by socially-othering me. People may say that they wouldn’t react in the same way (that’s their prerogative, of course). Maybe that comment wouldn’t even make them personally uncomfortable. But again, I say, how much of this do you tolerate before you say enough?

One of the issues I have had to deal with just about every day no matter where I go in the world is the natural curiosity about my background turned into vocalized judgment. Where are you from? “Japan.” (Or, “Born in the US, but lived in Japan” if I’m feeling chatty.) Common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.” Or, “Interesting last name, where’s it from?” “Japan.” (Or some more elaborate variant.) “But you don’t look Japanese.” Customs official whenever I cross a border (except, amazingly, in Canada or Japan): “What’s with this Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” “But you don’t look Japanese.” And that’s the milder version (at the Jamaican border they actually took my passport to their back room and had a laugh at it), before the Americans in particular render me to Secondary for a few hours’ of wait and inquisition until I miss my flight. I’m serious. Just saying “It’s a long story,” just doesn’t cut it, having to “school” everyone on a daily basis gets tiring, and having to bite my lip through a number of these intrusive and humiliating situations leaves a psychological mark after a while. It causes “triggers”, and that’s what I think was at play with this teller in Canada. That’s why I’m such a big fan of microaggressions as a social diagnosis — I face them every day and know the signals for my situation inside and out.

You might say I got myself into this situation by naturalizing into a country where there are few Non-“Asian”-looking citizens. Fine. But I’m not a unique case. What do you do when it starts happening to your Japanese kids who don’t look so-called “Asian”? How will you react the hundredth time (or the fifth time in a day): “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” And will you stand by when people doubt your kids’ identity as they grow older and start dealing with society’s veto gates? Alienating comments like these between individuals are not something you can do much about. But these alienating attitudes being expressed in a corporate or official capacity should not happen. To anyone.

Further, as I have said before, I was not in the bank that day to school the teller. That’s not my job. Just like it was not my job to correct everyone’s English everywhere, anyplace, when I was an English teacher. My job is to complete the transaction and get on with my day, and I’d like that to happen without having to deal with vocalized prejudice.

JG: Please do not get me wrong, as a permanent resident of Japan for almost 18 years with a Japanese wife and child, as well as considering Japanese citizenship myself, I understand that if this happened in JAPAN, one MIGHT understand the desire to call the boss in. However, this happened in CANADA, NORTH AMERICA! Why would you hold the same standard of being treated as a Japanese to a person who is not Japanese, in a place that is NOT Japan?

Debito: Sorry, we’re not going to agree on this, but I don’t believe this should happen anywhere regardless of whatever humans we’re dealing with, or what “race/ethnicity/group/etc.” is dominant in a society. That includes Japan, Canada, wherever. When it happens to you as a Japanese citizen enough times, you might react differently. I don’t know you and I’m sure, of course, but you don’t know me either, and I wouldn’t be so summarily dismissive of my position (and just put it down to “White Privilege”) when you’re not in it yet.

JG: The most critical point to my argument is this: YOU were the transgressor in this situation, NOT the teller. I am sure that the boss took your complaint seriously, openly scolded the teller, and summarily dismissed him in your presence; but guess what? It wasn’t because you were JAPANESE, it was because you were WHITE! You were in a bank in North America, where white people have social advantage due to physical attributes that are interpreted by the majority as being advantageous, where the system is tilted more to the side of said people, and where visible minorities have historically (and are still) at a disadvantage.

Debito: You might be right that I got preferential treatment because I’m White, I don’t know. But I rather doubt it in this case. Remember, you’ve got the facts of the case wrong (and wouldn’t believe further testimony): 1) the teller was not dismissed in our presence (he was after we left the building the first time), 2) we didn’t ask for the sanctions that he got (in fact, we didn’t ask for any sanctions at all), and 3) we would not have even KNOWN that those sanctions had happened if we hadn’t gone back and talked to the manager (meaning his sanction was not done for our benefit to curry favor with the White privileged). Moreover, 4) if White Privilege was a factor, wasn’t the fact that the manager was a minority himself in a position of power have any bearing here? Might one not be able to make the argument that since both the teller AND the manager were minorities in Canada, that they might have banded together to protect each other against the White Privilege? I don’t know. But I can’t conclude definitively that White Privilege was at play here, and I hope that you won’t simply say, “You can’t conclude because you’re White.” The evidence just isn’t conclusive either way.

JG: I notice that you have fallen in love with the term “microaggression” in your writings and I would like to say that your understanding of the term falls extremely short, and this situation is stark evidence of it! Again, as as WHITE person, no, better yet, a WHITE MALE in North America, who (whether you are aware of it or not) has social capital and power afforded to him by his physicality, you basically bullied a visible minority Korean-Canadian into accepting the way YOU see the world and you possibly endangered his carreer and future job prospects! How can you call yourself a crusader for visible minorities when you used your WHITE-PRIVILEGE to take the livelihood of a person with less power than you over a simple comment?!?

Debito: I think the bank was the one who told the teller how the company sees the world and how he should represent the company, not us. I know, you’ll couch it as the bank trying to appease the Dominant Whites, but I think this would have happened to any teller of any background who said this. Agree to disagree.

Also, I somewhat doubt this teller’s career is in danger, and I base this on a conversation I had with another Canadian manager friend I consulted with two days ago who has experience in these customer-service situations. Although my friend would not have taken the measure of sending the teller home (and he doubts that it involved a day without pay, either), he said that after a reprimand and a promise not to do it again, this would be seen as a teachable moment and forgotten shortly thereafter as long as it didn’t happen again. He strongly doubts that there would be any career endangerment.

Of course, this is all speculation. But so is the speculation about career endangerment, as is the speculation that White Privilege was involved here. We simply don’t have enough data about the event to say definitively what power relations were at play.

JG: And since you tend to use personal anecdotes as “facts” for your arguments, allow me to follow suit: I am a Irish-Scottish-Chickasaw-Chotaw-Jamaican-African American. I am most often identified as “black” by others (although I have been called Indian, Arab, Mexican, or just “foreigner” in my time in the US) mainly due to skin color. When I go back to the US to visit, I shop with my Japanese credit card and sign the card in Japanese because that is the name I use in Japan. I almost ALWAYS get looks when I do this, just as I do here in Japan. Both here and in other countries I sometimes even get, “Are you SURE this is your signature?” and I simply reply with a matter-of-fact, “Yes” or “Sou desu”, for whichever the situation calls. I do not call for a manager and complain as it is not necessary. I know that you are more Japanese than I am, but from my understanding, the prevailing culturally appropriate attitude for most Japanese is to avoid conflict when at all possible.

Debito: Okay. That’s how you deal with it; I respect that. Not necessarily how I would always deal with it. Perhaps you think we have different coping strategies because you are seen as “black” and I am seen as “white”. Perfectly feasible. But saying that I can’t react a certain way because I’m seen as “white” is a bit disempowering when facing discrimination. I’d rather deal with discrimination using ways granted to us as human beings within a society by the law, regardless of my (or anyone’s) skin color.

JG: Now imagine that I, as a “black” person, reacted the way YOU did at the bank in Canada. Do you honestly believe that I would be treated with the same respect? Well, in Canada, maybe. But in the US, it could very well turn into a story on the evening news! Let me give YOU a teaching point that you failed to give the Canadian teller: Visible minorities go through this ALL THE TIME! When a black person experiences and awkward moment or a “mistake” happens, we always have to question whether it was just an innocent misstep or was there actual discrimination going on. Where the PRIVILEGE comes in is that you, as a WHITE MALE, you have the freedom to question and complain, while a black person risks being called “ghetto”, “uncivilized”, or “an angry black man”! Your white-privilege shelters you from this reality. I am not blaming you for it, but as a so-called social activist you should be aware of it!

Debito: I see your point very well. I am aware that Visible Minorities have had (and still have) it pretty rough in various societies, and that Whites have had it pretty damned good for centuries. I would hope that if a person identified as Visible Minority in any society had this happen to her/him, that they too would stand up for themselves as I did, regardless of the social opprobrium and unfair facile labeling that frequently befalls them. That they have done so bravely for so long is inspiring and instructional, not to mention progressive. But clearly the “White Privilege” really hasn’t shielded me this time, in this discussion. Nor has it shielded me over the years, as people have seen me as the “outraged man tilting at windmills” etc., and assumed that just about everything I do is something I do with anger and out of anger etc. (See examples of criticism at http://www.debito.org/?p=12274, and proof of my style of activism at http://www.debito.org/?p=13365). Anyway, your point about having to question whether it was an innocent misstep or actual discrimination going on is well taken.

JG: It is natural for people culturally, socially, and economically “double-dip” if it is advantageous and if they can get away with it, but PLEASE do not insult the intelligence of the people here by telling us that you are “doing it for the greater good” and “doing it for us”!

Debito: Did I tell you that? Are you quoting me? I’ll answer that: No. I did not say that. Please do not cite things I did not say as some kind of evidence.

JG: I know by telling you all of this, I run the risk of being blocked and unfriended, as you have demonstrated by doing it to others who disagree with you. This is why I find your earlier comment about how society and the law agrees with you very ironic, since you quite liberally exercise your power to divorce yourself from dissenters. However, I hope you choose not to, as I hope that we can learn more from one another though this exchange.

Debito: No, you did not run the risk of being blocked for telling me all this (in fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a very thoughtful, well-crafted, earnest essay; thanks for it). What I do block people for is for being abusive. You were not abusive here. You were abusive later, which is why I eventually blocked you, long after you refused my request for retracting the angry comments you made later:

(For the record, what I requested of JG: “I would like you to retract the statements you make above basically accusing me of lying about having another eyewitness to this issue, not to mention bad faith and profiteering. These: “Even if your “eyewitness’s” account of what happened is accurate”,” “dodge the issues by posting a mysterious anonymous eyewitness account and advertising your book”. “conveniently-timed “anonymous” eyewitness who refuses to be identified because you have “stalkers”” (I do have stalkers, JG). All of those statements are grounded in anger, not reason. If you cannot retract them, I cannot engage in discussion with you, as you seem unable to fundamentally trust me. Usually when somebody becomes this abusive towards me, I block and unfriend them. But your essay on White Privilege was earnest and thoroughly-argued enough to warrant a response, so I didn’t unfriend you. But after this subsequent unfair indictment of my character, motives, and my friend’s testimony, I do not feel as inclined to discuss until these are retracted. I want a civil discussion. These accusations are not civil. So please retract, or end of discussion with me.”)

If someone wants to forward this response to JG, go ahead. But I don’t think there is any room for discussion between him and me as individuals. As to the points he raises, I hope my attempt to answer them to all of you in a calm, reasoned manner will be seen as earnest and well-intentioned on my part. I apologize in advance for any blind spots I may have due to my personal background being raised and living in several racialized societies, but I hope that, as JG said, we can all learn from one another through this exchange. I know I feel I have. Thank you for reading and discussing. Debito

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Final thoughts from Debito:

One of the reasons I like having discussions like these, even those that sometimes bruise the Ego, is that they make me think and self-reflect, even help me lose some bad habits.  The best comment came from a person whose tone of criticism proved his very point. From SMC:

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

SMC: You presuppose a lack of empathy on the teller’s part. But an awkward, inappropriate remark is not the same thing as a lack of empathy. I wasn’t there, so I cannot say anything about the tone, volume, etc., of the teller’s remark that might give me a better idea of the nature of the exchange between you and him.

But it would appear that you chose to respond to a perceived (and probably unconscious) lack of empathy by being consciously non-empathetic, and dealt with the situation in a legalistic, self-validating way.

The Buddhists have an interesting concept called “skillful means”; in other words, having the wisdom to know how to adjust one’s tactics to make one’s point in the most effective way possible.

In a legal/juridical context the kind of approach you took would be appropriate, but in this case it appears that you missed the chance to help educate and enlighten a fellow human being with a few well-chosen words. You’ll probably do better next time, friend.

Respect, SMC
========================================

Yep, quite so. I admit that I overreacted, and in an unproductive way.  I capitulate. Thanks to everyone who explained that to me so patiently. It eventually sunk in. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable

mytest

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Hi Blog. 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. Hey Kinmu Taro, how dare you duck out of the office for a vacation and thereby increase the workload for everyone else? How dare you even try to leave “early” on a daily basis. After all, “early” is defined as ahead of anyone else — you even have to embarrassingly announce “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” (“Excuse my rudeness for leaving ahead of you.”) as you walk out the door as an apparent show of good manners (it’s more a mutual policing strategy). So you work late, even if that means you just sit at the office until 7 or 8 PM waiting for the boss, who often has no real interests outside of the company, to leave first (or ask you out for drinks, although that Bubble-Era experience is probably a dying phenomenon). So you find make-work or skiving strategies to look busy, and thus the company soaks up the overwhelming majority of your waking hours, for six or even seven days a week.  To the point where the overwheming majority of Japanese workers are reportedly bored to bits on the job. I’m not saying anything here you probably don’t know already.  I’m just explaining why I opened this blog entry with calling Japan’s work ethic “insane”.

So of course, what with all this embedded bullying, making the holidays mandatory is the only way to go. If it’s enforceable, that is: you’ll have to be brave enough to take it up with the Labor Standards Bureau if your employer won’t play ball (given how many people already work on national holidays anyway, employers don’t). So this development is good news for everyone, except that it’s not really asking for more than what the average person takes off anyway. Not until people demand Western-European standards of vacationing culture will things change.  Clearly even Japan’s worker-representative labor unions are not about to do that (especially given the argument that the United States works even more hours).

I think Japanese corporate culture has immense trouble understanding that working longer does not equal working harder. Being able to take proper vacations is important in understanding how to work smarter — in order to increase worker productivity during the actual hours worked.  By being able to duck out for a vacation recharge when necessary without the stress of guilt interfering, I think the Americans have a bit more leeway to do that.

Labor productivity studies is not exactly my field, and I’m sure plenty of Debito.org Readers have their own opinions and experiences about the work ethic in Japan.  Opening this topic up for discussion.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days
Japan Times/AFP-JIJI, FEB 4, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/04/business/workaholic-japan-considers-making-it-compulsory-to-take-vacation-days/

Who wouldn’t want a holiday?

In Japan, plenty of workers fail to take their paid vacation allowance. The Abe administration is now considering making it compulsory for workers to take at least five days of paid holiday a year, in a bid to lessen the toll on mental and physical health.

Workers typically use less than half their annual leave, according to a survey by the labor ministry that found employees in 2013 took only nine of their 18.5 days average entitlement.

A separate poll showed that one in six workers took no paid holidays at all that year.

The administration wants to boost the amount of paid leave used to 70 percent by 2020 and is planning to submit legislation in the current Diet session mandating holidays.

In early discussions, employers’ groups have proposed limiting the number of compulsory paid holidays to three days, while unions have called for eight.

The culture of long working hours and unpaid overtime is regularly criticized as a leading cause of mental and physical illness among employees.

The term “karoshi,” which means “death by overwork,” entered the lexicon a few years ago amid a surge in the number of people dying because of stress-related problems or taking their own lives.

According to a poll by the Japanese unit of Expedia, a U.S.-based online travel agency, workers in France enjoyed 37 paid holiday days in 2010 and used 93 percent of them.

Spain had 32 paid vacation days and Denmark 29, with the average employee using up more than 90 percent.

As well as the health benefits, days off encourage workers to spend money on leisure activities, thereby boosting the economy.

Japan has a relatively high 15 statutory holidays annually. In recent years there has been a move to shift the days so that they fall adjacent to the weekend, making domestic holidays more of a possibility.

This year for the first time there will be a five-day weekend in May and in September, to which it is expected some employees will add a few days’ leave to make their vacations longer.
ENDS

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog. A discussion about the following article has already started here, so I thought it prudent to promote it to its own blog entry for proper discussion. First the article, then my comment.  (N.B.: people who commented before who wish to repost their commment here, go ahead.)

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

Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
RocketNews, January 23, 2015
Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
Courtesy of lots of people

In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.

Although Nakamura praised the Japanese culture of cooperation, hard work and honesty, he called out the education system for focusing too much on the limited goals of exams and getting into big companies. He pointed out that it is failing to give young people the English skills they need to function on a global level.

“Zero incentive”

“In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.”

He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government.

Nakamura slammed Japan for failing to ensure that inventors are fairly compensated for their work, something that stifles innovation and provides “zero incentive” for employees to be creative.

Article 35 of the patent law says that patent rights belong to the inventor, but in practice, companies dictate the terms of compensation to their employees. In fact, Nakamura’s former company paid him the equivalent of just US$180 for his Nobel-winning invention. Nakamura sued in 2001 and a Tokyo court determined that his patent had generated about US$1 billion in revenue. Nakamura settled with the company for US$8 million.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and…see Japan from outside the country.”

Since the litigation, many companies have switched from giving employees a flat fee for patent rights to a percentage of royalties, but the Japan Business Federation has also begun lobbying the government to clarify the law and place patent rights squarely with companies. Prime Minister Abe has hinted that he would like to do so.

“If the Japanese government changes the patent law, it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors]. In that case, I recommend that Japanese employees go abroad,” said Nakamura.

In general, Nakamura encouraged young Japanese to leave, whether to get a better education, to expand their world view or to be better compensated for their work. Despite his criticisms, he is not advocating a wholesale abandonment of Japan either. Rather, a more internationalized population could be the key to meaningful reforms.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and they can see Japan from outside the country. And they understand, …oh, now I can understand bad thing of Japan. That’s the most important thing, no? Japanese people have to wake up about Japanese bad things, you know. I think that’s very important.”

ENDS
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COMMENT:  Wow.  “Slave” Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan’s corporate behemoths (yes, he sued — millions of people do in Japan every year — and he won!), but also he wouldn’t settle for life in Japan as it is.  He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan’s insularity (and governmental mind control!?).  Pretty brave and bracing stuff.  Bravo.

It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan’s intelligentsia.  How many readers remember the “Tonegawa Shock” of 1987?

When the 1987 Nobel Prize was given to [Susumu] Tonegawa, who had moved to the US so he could be inspired and free to carry on his research, Japanese academics took notice and some were humiliated. Tonegawa had asserted that if he had remained in Japan, he would have had to spend years courting favor with mentors and dealing with disinterested colleagues, lagging unchallenged and unmotivated, certainly never to attain Nobel laureate. The press labeled the phenomenon as “Tonegawa Shock” which described the actions of similar Japanese scientists, such as Leo Esaki, a 1973 laureate in physics, who left Japan to work at IBM in the US. [Source]

The Tonegawa Shock set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to “enliven” (kasseika) Japan’s education system by doing away with tenure.  Sounds great to people who don’t understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure — the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) — in what was called the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan’s prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat.  It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying “Academic Apartheid” of Japan’s higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for Debito.org when it was established in 1996.

With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus?  Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan.  But if there is more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you’ll probably hear about it on Debito.org.  That’s what we’re here for.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Tangent: A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.

mytest

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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 that we celebrate birthdays because in days of yore we had no birth certificates, thus most knew not exactly when they were born (making hard to celebrate).

More important to me is that birthdays are an unusual type of celebration.  Holidays or festivals celebrate, for example, a significant community event (e.g., an independence or foundation day, a notable person’s birth or death, a historical remembrance of ancestors and what they did or went through), the advent of a season, a person’s specific position in our lives (a parent or child), or other things cultural or temporal that the individual has no real control over.

A birthday, on the other hand, celebrates the individual.  It is the only event of the year that allows the individual to claiim his or her own special day, and allows said birthday person to bathe in Lake You and feel appreciated for being alive and part of other people’s lives.

And unlike festivals where people feel obligated to carry a large palanquin, stand in a parade, throw coins in a box, deck the halls, or engage in some cultural festivities that the individual has little control over, birthdays are nearly completely up to the individual.  Hell, as argued above, the individual can choose NOT to celebrate himself at all by just keeping schtum about his DOB.

But to me, the birthday is the most important day in the calendar year in terms of psychological recharging because it heralds the triumph of the individual, and the things that make her or him special, over the larger impersonality of culture.  I instinctively support that, because individuals generally get subsumed in the maintenance of the imagined community.  The national holiday can happen without you.  Your birthday cannot.

And why not celebrate every day you’re alive, not focus on one day?  What other day but a birthday will most well wishers be on board to wish you well?

What do other Debito.org Readers think?  Turning the discussion over to you.  Enjoy the tangent.  Dr. Debito

Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns

mytest

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Hello Blog.  Let’s start 2015 with a discussion about Japan’s tourism policy and some of the memes within.  Submitter JDG offers these thoughts about a recent Japan Times article:

===================================
JDG: Hello Dr. Debito, First of all, a happy new year to you. I wondered if you had chanced upon this article in the JT:
Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns | The Japan Times
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/25/national/now-boastful-japan-really-tune-visitors-want-foreign-expert-warns/

It’s really interesting, since it was written about a guy who has no connection (AFAIK) to the debate about NJ human rights, and is not a scholar of Japan. However, he has independently reached a conclusion that you yourself have expressed several times on Debito.org; Japanese deciding amongst themselves what NJ want/need/have difficulty with, is a sign of cultural arrogance aimed at controlling NJ.

I think this is important external reinforcement of your point of view. It shows that you are not alone and paranoid (as the apologists always try to portray you), but rather shows that in a totally different field of expertise, another observer has witnessed the same phenomena as you.

There are many interesting points that he raises, and I agree with him, but the main takeaway from the article is that the concept of ‘omotenashi’ is being used as a system of control over NJ in Japan (and we know how much the Japanese establishment believes that NJ need to be controlled), whilst at the same time serving a very racist nihonjinrongiron function of reassuring the Japanese themselves that they are unique and superior to NJ. Nice win for your logic. Sincerely, JDG.

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

Let me open this up to discussion on Debito.org. Article excerpt first. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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NATIONAL
Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns
BY SHUSUKE MURAI, STAFF WRITER, THE JAPAN TIMES, DEC 25, 2014

Japan’s self-professed “omotenashi” (spirit of selfless hospitality) is often misinterpreted to force predetermined services on foreign visitors, says one longtime observer.

Cultural services expert David Atkinson, 49, says the nation’s confidence in what it offers the world is misplaced: Many foreigners who visit leave unfulfilled…

Atkinson says it is troubling to see Japanese increasingly lauding their own culture and that the trend could even become an obstacle to the government’s goal of getting 30 million tourists to visit annually by 2030…

“Originally, omotenashi means leaving the choices to the guests, not forcing foreigners with a different set of values to behave the way Japanese people expect,” he said.

Omotenashi became a buzzword in August 2013, when television celebrity Christel Takigawa used the term during Tokyo’s final presentation to the International Olympic Committee’s general assembly in Argentina for permission to host the 2020 Olympics…

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/25/national/now-boastful-japan-really-tune-visitors-want-foreign-expert-warns/

ENDS

Japan Times JBC 81, Nov 5 2014, “Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?”

mytest

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Hello Blog.  Here’s my latest JT column  posted as a question, not an answer this time.  Any answers?  Please post in the Comments Section below and/or at the JT website.  Thanks as always for putting this column once again in the Top Ten Most Read on the Japan Times online this month! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, NOV 5, 2014

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/11/05/issues/social-change-japan-come-top-bottom/

This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?

By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.

By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.

Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course. For top-down, I have seen many rules decided by decree. How about the steadily encroaching anti-smoking rules in public places? It’s no longer just train platforms; you can’t even have a lit cigarette on many Tokyo streets anymore. Some movements were instituted after government awareness-raising drives, like the nōshi wa hito no shi (“brain death is a person’s death”) campaign deployed in the 1990s to overcome apparently religious-based objections to organ donation.

These and many more examples of social engineering and official consensus-manufacturing have resulted in people changing their outward behavior, if not their outright belief in a previous system. (Who remembers that brain death was ever an issue?) And it happens pretty quickly (as in weeks or months), especially if these moves are backed up by criminal penalties. Remember when drunk driving was much less harshly punished? (I do, and thanks to Draconian penalties for even one glassful, we have the world’s only decent-tasting zero-alcohol beer.)

Bottom-up, however, takes a lot longer — years or decades — but it can be just as irresistible a social force. For example, I have seen the slow death of “old maid” bashing (remember “Christmas cakes” referring to women over age 25?), the loss of faith in overwork as proof of a person’s worth, and the stigmatization of power-based bullying (e.g., sexual and power harassment) to the point of achieving court victories. The progress of this genre of social change can be quite imperceptible, but when backed up by a media campaign after a social shock (such as a huge scandal or a horrific crime — stalking, for example), bottom-up change can happen much faster.

But these are relatively small fry. For really significant social changes, such as the abolition of racial discrimination and/or hate speech in Japan, both methods have been tried, and have failed.

Advocates (yes, including myself) have tried the top-down approach for decades, asking all levels of government and the bureaucracy to outlaw discrimination as blatant as “Japanese only” signs and rules. Their most common response is, “It’s too early; we have to change the public’s mind first.” For them, the bottom-up approach is the chicken before the egg.

But starting at the grass roots has been tried too. In fact, that’s where we started, working as hundreds of advocates for decades. I personally have spoken at hundreds of gatherings to thousands of people — even one-on-one to the discriminators themselves, calmly (yes, calmly) coaxing them to treat people with dignity and equality, as they themselves would want to be treated in a similar situation.

But in this case, the problem isn’t as simple as asking individuals to give up something like smoking on a train platform; this is an issue of excluders worrying aloud that “foreigners” are a threat to their cultural integrity in general, if not their business specifically. It may even be a matter of them saying, “I just don’t like those people, so sod you.”

Moreover, unaffected bystanders can be quite sympathetic to excluders who fear for their livelihoods (even if they are excluding a neighbor). Besides — cue vicious circle — there’s no law against them doing it. And then we return to the top-down approach: the egg before the chicken.

I admit that I lean towards the top-down approach. There are plenty of historical examples of bottom-up not working when it comes to the big changes. America’s Susan B. Anthony, for example, campaigned tirelessly at the grass-roots level for women’s suffrage throughout the 1800s but failed to get the vote in her lifetime. Or in Japan’s case, the foremost grass-roots movements in Japan right now — protests against the state secrets law, remilitarization and the restarting of nuclear reactors — are gaining little traction in the face of the government’s relentless top-downism.

Moreover, many of the great grassroots successes in history got lucky. Mahatma Gandhi’s grass-roots achievement of Indian independence was aided by the fact that the grip of the British Empire had been weakened by two world wars. Nelson Mandela was lucky not to meet the same fate as Steve Biko, and to see a more liberal South African government in his lifetime. Thus, change happened because leaders made sage decisions — and there is an enormous amount of top-down inherent in that.

Personally, I have witnessed significant social change — most notably, the flowering of America’s civil rights movements after 1964. Very much a grassroots effort, it still took more than a century for equal rights to be enforceably guaranteed by top-down policymaking and criminal penalties. But I remain convinced that the social change was top-down.

As a child growing up in New York state in the 1970s, I vividly remember African-American classmates (there were a significant number in my elementary schools) feeling empowered, even adopting the swagger and proud demeanor of hero boxer Muhammad Ali, without being accused of being “uppity Negroes.” Instead, there was enormous opprobrium from teachers and other influential people for anyone who dared, for example, use racist language, such as the N-word. Even observing that somebody might be “different” because they had different skin color was simply “not done” anymore.

Why? I believe the new top-down rules set the agenda and terms of debate in a more tolerant direction. You had to accept that the “old ways” were “backwards” and no longer appropriate.

Obviously, it wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of holdouts, disobedients and overt racists in the American example. The U.S. was still two generations away from an African-American president, and to this day a huge number of minorities are disenfranchised just because they are minorities.

But back then it was made very clear that somebody was going to get it in the neck “from above” if there were any violations of the new narrative. That’s why as kids, our overt behavior and eventually our attitudes changed — maybe not immediately into good habits, but certainly away from reinforcing bad habits.

Of course, this is the American example, with limited application to Japan. Japanese society has very different attitudes towards the outward appearance of “difference” and expression of dissent. The national narratives of inclusivity and community construction are arguably polar opposite to America’s.

Even the power of the Japanese grass roots is purported to be different. Political science professor Jiro Yamaguchi recently wrote (“Perilous spirit of the times,” The Japan Times, Oct. 28) about Japan’s “deep-seated tendency of conformism”; fellow professor Koichi Nakano has described the business of governing Japan as an “elite-driven process rather than a society-driven process.” Some even argue that a traditional, unchanging world view is what makes Japanese into Japanese, so why would anyone expect any major change?

But, again, all societies have bad habits, and racial discrimination is a doozy. How could a more positive environment be created so that the children of immigrants (many of the latter of whom are here at the bidding of the Japanese government) and international marriages will not be treated as “foreign” and sometimes be denied equal treatment?

So I ask readers: On balance, is unequal treatment to be legislated away, with people catching up through the carrots and sticks of a new legal and social regime? Or is it something that people will cotton on to eventually, as they push for reforms because it just “makes sense” to treat people (especially fellow Japanese) equally?

Is a bad social habit to be thrown out the second-floor window, or patiently cajoled down the stairs and out the front door? Discuss.
==============================
Debito Arudou’s co-authored bilingual “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon as a paperback and e-book, see www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
==============================

Georgetown prof Dr. Kevin Doak honored by Sakurai Yoshiko’s JINF group for concept of “civic nationalism” (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Dovetailing with our previous blog entry, I noticed within the ranks of Sakurai Yoshiko’s ultraconservative group Japan Institute for National Fundamentals the Guest Researcher Dr. Kevin Doak of Georgetown University.  He was honored by them earlier this year:

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

U.S. professor honored for Japan studies
The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) July 14, 2014
By Rie Tagawa / Japan News Staff Writer, courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001422779

A professor of Georgetown University in Washington has been selected for his study of nationalism in modern Japan as the first recipient of a private award established to promote research on Japan by foreign scholars.

“It truly is a privilege and gives me the great confidence to continue my study,” said Prof. Kevin Doak at a July 8 ceremony in Tokyo to announce recipients of the first Terada Mari Japan Study Award established by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a Tokyo-based think tank.

Doak, 54, received the Japan Study Award, top prize, for his 2009 book “A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan” (published in Japanese under the title “Ogoe de Utae ‘Kimigayo’ o”) and other works on Japan. In the book, he says English-language media do not necessarily provide correct explanations about nationalism in Japan. For instance, the book discusses a growing trend of “civic nationalism” in modern-day Japan, a concept opposite to ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism, Doak writes, is based not on ethnic roots but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community.

Doak further explained this trend in his commemorative speech delivered on the day following the award ceremony, saying that civic nationalism should be attributed to “the lost decade” of the 1990s following an earlier obsession with economic growth as it allowed the Japanese people an opportunity to look for deeper meaning in their lives than merely acquiring material goods.

“Ethnic nationalism was coming into conflict with the reality of a multiethnic, cosmopolitan Heisei Japan,” he said, referring to Japan’s current era.

The Japan Study Special Award, second prize, was granted to Liu Anwei, a 57-year-old Chinese professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, for his research on the life of Zhou Zuoren, a Chinese writer and younger brother of the famous writer Lu Xun, who lived in a turbulent period of relations between Japan and China.

Brandon Palmer, 44, an associate professor at Coastal Carolina University in the United States, was given the Japan Study Encouragement Award for his research on Japan’s annexation of Korea, and Vassili Molodiakov, 46, a professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo, received the same prize for his study on the history of relations between Japan and Russia.

In the pamphlet explaining the award, Yoshiko Sakurai, president of the think tank and a journalist, wrote the award was created to honor foreign researchers specializing in Japan’s politics, history, culture and other areas.

“Japan remains misunderstood on many accounts,” she wrote. “The best way to dispel such misperceptions is to help people abroad increase their knowledge of Japan.”

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

COMMENT:  I of course respect the views of an academic colleague who has the training, knowledge, and rigor to express his views in a measured, balanced, and well-researched way.

Dr. Doak has caused some debate regarding his point about civic versus ethnic nationalism.  Here are some points made by colleagues:

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

“Kevin Doak, who teaches Japanese history at Georgetown University, is one of the most consistently interesting academic writers of his generation. His research focuses on Japan’s experience of nationalism and modernity.  Doak’s thinking on Yasukuni has been published widely in the right-wing Japanese media such as the Sankei newspaper, and the journals Voice and Shokun. Only recently, however, has he made his views known in English in an important essay entitled ‘A religious perspective on the Yasukuni Shrine controversy.’

“Doak’s position is that there is no constitutional impediment to Japanese Prime Ministers’ visiting Yasukuni; Prime Ministerial visits neither violate the separation of state-religion nor threaten the religious freedom of any Japanese citizen.27 In adopting this position, he is informed by the afore-mentioned Pluries Instanterque, and its acceptance of the Japanese government’s definition of Yasukuni in the 1930s as a civic, patriotic site. As we have seen, it sanctioned Catholics’ visits there as ‘purely of civic value.’ Doak stresses the significance of the re-issue of this document in 1951, and sees it as a natural reflection of the Catholic Church’s tolerant theological thinking, and its broadminded approach to Shinto before, during and after the war…..”  

John Breen, “Popes, Bishops and War Criminals: reflections on Catholics and Yasukuni in post-war Japan,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 9-3-10, March 1, 2010. http://www.japanfocus.org/-John-Breen/3312

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

>In adopting this position, he is informed by the afore-mentioned Pluries Instanterque, and its acceptance of the Japanese government’s definition of Yasukuni in the 1930s as a civic, patriotic site. 

“Isn’t this what the Catholic Church swallowed, under entreaty from the Japanese diocese, under fear that to do otherwise would result in Christianity being banned in Japan (again) as the nation geared up for total war?”

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

“Kevin Doak is a serious scholar, but I don’t know what has been happening with him in recent years. The Japanese translation of this book is entitled 大声で歌え、君が代 or Lustily Sing the Kimigayo, and it is being marketed as a polemic in favour of patriotism, not as a detached academic tome. In part it seems the book has been hijacked by a publisher with an agenda — the two-star comment on Amazon Jp is instructive — but then how did Kevin allow them to do this? It would be interesting to compare the English and Japanese texts, if only life were not so short. This case bears comparison with the recent hoo-hah about Henry Scott-Stokes’ book, another publisher-driven right-wing venture.”

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

“Translating “nation” and “nationalism” into Japanese has always been problematic. 国家主義 is literally “statism” but is one common translation. 民族主義 is ethnicity, or ethnicism, but is so traditional for “nationalism” that the traditional term for the post WWII African nationalist movement is 民族主義運動, despite its being opposed to ethnic nationalism. “Nationality” in the UN discrimination treaty is translated 国籍 despite its clear reference to ethnicity, and Soviet “nationalities policy,” which translation is used to give the Japanese government its excuse to pretend that ethnic discrimination isn’t covered by the treaty and they only have to take refugees persecuted for their citizenship in their own country, not those who are persecuted for their ethnicity, i.e. nobody. Recently there’s been a trend to using ナショナリズム in katakana, especially when talking about multiethnic nationalisms like Indian, US American, Brazilian, etc. 

“One possible interpretation of this news article is that Doak is saying Debito’s campaign for awareness of diversity in Japan is having some impact on Japanese self-perception. I’m not sure how true that is, or even whether that’s what Doak means, but without knowing which Japanese terms are being talked about it’s impossible to know. 

“BTW, if the “nation state” is 国民国家, not 民族国家, would “nationalism” then be 国民主義?The whole thing strikes me as an example of Japanese failure to understand the off-island world, like insisting that an American county is a 郡 but a British county is a 州 but an American state is the same 州 and then actually insisting in English that British counties and American states are equivalents. Not everyone actually thinks like that, of course, but there are plenty who do.”

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

“Doak is to be taken seriously, and this is precisely the problem as I see it. A very good historian who is basically a nice guy nevertheless sees in historical revisionism a source of rejuvenation for Japan. He quoted my first book, Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism, in his own Nationalism book. He is to be watched, just as Abe is to be watched and, hopefully, rebutted.”

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

“Who funds/endows his Georgetown chair?”  “It is the Nippon Zaidan.”

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

My closing comment is that his concept of civic nationalism (according to the Yomiuri writeup above) not being “based on ethnic roots, but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community”, doesn’t quite square with my research on how “Japaneseness” is enforced not only through “Japanese Only” signs and rules, but also through the structure and enforcement of Japan’s legal and administrative systems.   That I believe goes beyond civic engagement and into issues of ethnicity (and racialization processes).  Perhaps someday we’ll have a chat about that.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

mytest

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Hello Blog. In what is for me the best JT article of the year (and well worth bumping my JBC column to next week), Colin Jones lifts the lid off Japanese constitutional and legal history and shows definitively the evolution of rights for non-citizens (or lack thereof). Occasioned by the recent Japan Supreme Court verdict which states that NJ are not guaranteed social welfare, the article’s upshot is this:

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

Think you’ve got rights as a foreigner in Japan? Well, it’s complicated
The Japan Times, August 6, 2014, BY COLIN P.A. JONES

Excerpt: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either?

Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials.

So, you can pay your taxes, participate in that anti-nuclear demonstration and maybe even have a run-in or two with the cops, but at the end of the day your ability to live in Japan may ultimately be at the discretion of a bureaucrat’s view of some of the very subjective standards set forth in the immigration laws and regulations, such as whether you have been “good” or “engaged in the activities related to your residence status.” In my experience bureaucrats are generally nice, and most of the time it is probably more work for them to kick you out than to let you stay, particularly if you have a Japanese spouse and/or children. But it is probably safer to assume that you do not have any right to be in Japan; that being the case, assumptions about rights to welfare or just about anything else would seem equally suspect.

It is worth bearing in mind that Japan’s Korean population was divested of its Japanese nationality by nothing more than a Ministry of Justice interpretation of the 1952 peace treaty — an interpretation that paid little heed to what effect that would have on the people effectively rendered stateless as a result. That was a different era, of course, but if push comes to shove in any dispute with the government, it is probably safe to expect that you will lose, and nothing in the Constitution will likely affect that outcome.

This should be obvious to anyone familiar with Japan’s system of immigration detention and deportation, which exists in an parallel dimension where due-process requirements and the constitutional protections against arrest, detention and punishment do not apply, because the deprivations of freedom and deportations are not punitive and the administrative process by which cases are resolved are not “trials.”

An Occupation-era ordinance that would have established a system of oversight through separate quasi-judicial commissions was never put into force, leaving the whole process comfortably within the control of the Ministry of Justice. In any case, by the logic of the Supreme Court decision mentioned above, those who are not in the country in accordance with the ICRRA may not be entitled to constitutional protections anyway.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/08/06/issues/think-youve-got-rights-foreigner-japan-well-complicated/
////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Well, this has been but one event in the death of the NJ communities by a thousand cuts (and the source of a number of smug comments by some saying “See, NJ really don’t belong in Japan, and if they want to, they should naturalize.”  As if it’s their fault for not doing so.  And as I’ve said before, that is no panacea; if you are a Visible Minority, you still will not receive equal treatment in Japanese society.)

But what I’d like to have clarified is Colin’s point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State.  Although Colin’s approach is strictly legalist (naturally), I would conjecture that they do (I have seen first-hand how foreigners are allowed to have much greater senses of entitlement here, for example, in the United States) or at least should.  But the relativists (who insist that Japan is no outlier in this regard; they so want to be right in their own minds that they will even support unequal treatment that affects them adversely) will not take Debito.org seriously even if I start citing laws from overseas.

So let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research.  Let’s find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light.  Here are two research questions, with research boundaries incorporated:

  • Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to  rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries?  (Let’s say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.)  
  • Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to “all people/residents”, including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan?

Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that’s impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship).  But simply put:  Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not?

Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.  Let’s spend some time researching this.  I’ll let this blog entry be the anchor site until next week, when my column comes out on how racial discrimination makes whole societies go crazy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”

mytest

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Hi Blog. We’ve discussed on Debito.org before the rigmarole of NJ drivers in Japan getting J Driver Licenses, being subjected to extra intrusive procedures that are of questionable legality. Well, a Debito.org Reader decided to do his civic duty and ask for some reasons why. And this is what he found out. Read on and feel free to contribute your own experiences. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

//////////////////////////////////////////////
July 13, 2014
Hi Debito, I’m a long time reader, but rarely have time to comment. I’ve had a pretty disheartening, if not entirely surprising, experience recently when I went to renew my drivers license and thought I’d share it with you and perhaps your readers if you find it worthwhile to share.

As you might know, residents of foreign citizenship (外国籍の方 in the bureaucratic parlance) are required to show their residence cards or in other way demonstrate their status of residence when getting or renewing their drivers license. Obedient citizen as I am, of course I went along with it and presented it when asked, but I did make clear I would like to be clarified on the legal basis for such a request. I didn’t expect that the person doing the registration would know something like this off the top of their head, but I was intended on talking to someone eventually who could point to this and that paragraph of this or that law that governs these circumstances.

So after all the procedure was finished and I got my license, I went to the window I was told I’d get my questions answered. The first person could only, after quite a while, produce the Immigration law article 23, which only says that you are in general required to present the passport or the residence card when the police and other authorities ask for it “in the execution of their duties.” So I asked for a specific law or ordinance that shows that in this concrete case it is indeed their duty to ask for the card. I got sent to her boss, who again only wasted my time with the same answer (Immigration law) and got irritated and dismissed me, but not before arranging for me to see the final boss of bosses, who should be able to answer my, I thought very simple, question i.e. what is the legal basis for what you’re doing?

Neither the last guy could legitimize the demand in legal terms, so we agreed that he will research it and call me later to let me know. He did call later the same day, only to tell me that after all, the legal basis would have to be in the Immigration law, because he couldn’t find any other! He said it is all done to prevent the “illegal overstayers” from getting drivers license, as if that, or any other goal, would justify working outside of legal framework.

I was flabbergasted that apparently no one in the whole Koto drivers center (江東試験場) knew the legal basis of their actions. I understand the receptionists, but I went four stages up their hierarchy and still nobody could justify their demands in legal terms. I’ve read the law on traffic before I went there and knew it did not specify this (道路交通法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S35/S35HO105.html) but I revisited it again afterwards. Neither it, nor the other major traffic law (道路法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S27/S27HO180.html) even mention status of residence or residence cards at all, and most certainly not when specifying the circumstances in which the authorities can refuse to issue you the license (physically unfit, alcoholism etc) It actually specifically states that they must issue you the permit if these do not apply, and you’ve passed the test (Article 90
公安委員会は、前条第一項の運転免許試験に合格した者(当該運転免許試験に係る適性試験を受けた日から起算して、第一種免許又は第二種免許にあつては一年を、仮免許にあつては三月を経過していない者に限る。)に対し、免許を与えなければならない。)

So I am now faced with an inevitable conclusion that they asking for residence cards is likely ILLEGAL. Of course, this is a condition which only applies to foreign residents, so it is unlikely to cause a national uproar, but it is nevertheless very unsettling, and not only for NJ, which might be the primary target at present. My biggest problem in all this is that they seemed genuinely baffled that someone is asking for a legal basis for their conduct, and the inability of the whole place to come up with a justification. It seems to me the bureaucracy is very much used to acting outside the legal framework, or at the very least, do not think of their daily work as something done only on the firm basis of law.

I would be very much interested to hear your and your readers thoughts and perhaps similar experiences. I am seriously considering refusing to show the card next time, but bring the printed letter of the law which says they are obliged to issue me with a permit.

Sincerely, JDriver

MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  While we’re on the subject of sports, here’s something that I found very positive:  A Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays named Kawasaki Munenori doing his darnedest to meet the domestic press:


Courtesy http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2014/04/18/japanese-baseball-player-gives-epic-interview/

I have written in the past about how certain other Japanese athletes overseas do it differently.  In fact, my very first newspaper column (in the Asahi Evening News — remember when it was titled that?) way back in 1997 was a grumble (what else? I’m Debito) on how J-baseball pioneer Nomo Hideo (remember him?) was skiving in terms of trying to connect with his adoptive community:
nomoAEN

I will admit right now that I’m no expert on sports, but from what I’ve seen (and I’m welcome to correction/updates), many of Japan’s athletes overseas don’t bother to publicly learn the language, or connect all that much with their local community. Baseball superstar Ichiro is the immediate example that comes to mind, as AFAIK he assiduously avoids American media; some might justify it by saying he’s all business (i.e., focused on the game) or trying to avoid gaffes.  But I still think it comes off as pretty snobby, since these sportsmen’s lives are being supported by fans, and they should give something back.

If I had a hotline into their brain, I would tell them to go further — exhort them to  countermand the dominant discourse that English is too hard for Japanese to learn well.  And then I would exhort even further:  J sportsmen in the big leagues get treated pretty well (especially salarywise — that’s why they’re no longer playing in Japan!), yet you never hear them speaking up about the shoe on the other foot, on behalf of the often lousy and discriminatory treatment many NJ sportsmen get treated in Japan (imagine if the United States put such stringent foreigner limits on their baseball team rosters, for example; contrast it with how many foreign players (more than a quarter of the total in 2012) MLB actually absorbs!)

Again, sports isn’t quite my field, and if you think I’m being inaccurate or unduly harsh, speak up!  People have in the past:  Here’s an archived discussion we had nearly twenty years ago about Nomo in specific; I daresay that despite all the trailblazing Nomo did, and the wave of Japanese baseball players going overseas to seek fame and fortune, little has changed in terms of giving back.

That’s why Kawasaki is such a lovely exception, doing his level best to connect.  His earnestness is very endearing. Debito.org gives two thumbs up!  May more follow his example.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Tangent: Economist: China to become world’s largest economy by end-2014. Will USA react to being overtaken similar to Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  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?

Yet China, as the second article below indicates, is downplaying that kind of future.  Although global development theories are something I studied in grad school, China isn’t my field.  So Debito.org Readers. any thoughts as to why?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Daily chart
Crowning the dragon
The Economist, Apr 30th 2014 by J.M.F. and L.P.
China will become the world’s largest economy by the end of the year
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/04/daily-chart-19?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/dailychartppp

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.

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China doesn’t want to be recognized as such:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/05/18/commentary/world-commentary/china-plays-down-gdp-size/

China plays down GDP size
BY FRANK CHING
THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 18, 2014

More than a week after new World Bank figures indicated that China would overtake the United States this year and become the No. 1 economy comes the news that, for the first time, the world’s three biggest public companies and five of the top 10 in the Forbes Global 2000 List are Chinese.

American companies accounted for the remaining five on the top 10 list. The biggest U.S. companies were JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, in fourth and fifth place respectively, trailing Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.

There are no European companies among the top 10. Royal Dutch Shell and HSBC Holdings, among the top 10 last year, have been edged out.

Xinhua, the official Chinese press agency, reported the news without comment under the headline “China has world’s 3 largest companies: Forbes.”

This was unlike the treatment given to the report the previous week that China would become the world’s largest economy this year. Then, the news was played down, if reported at all.

In fact, the official People’s Daily newspaper made clear the disdain with which the Chinese government held predictions using purchasing power parity by declaring, “Chinese want a better life, not an artificial ranking as world’s no. 1 economy.”

It cited “another report from the World Bank” that “indicated that the GDP of the U.S. was about $16.8 trillion in 2013, ranking first, while China’s GDP was only $9.18 trillion, ranking second.” It then put things in better perspective by saying: “China’s per capita GDP ranks only 99th in the world.”

Clearly China not was comfortable about its elevation to the world’s No. 1 economy by the end of this year. Being in second place is more comfortable and can be used by the government to urge the Chinese people to work harder.

The People’s Daily recalled that “catching up with the United States” was once stated as the goal of the Chinese people. But it added pointedly, “this meant not only the pursuit of economic strength but also a strong demand for self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/05/18/commentary/world-commentary/china-plays-down-gdp-size/
ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 75, May 1, 2014: “Tackling Japan’s ‘Empathy Deficit’ Towards Outsiders”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this in the Top Ten Trending at the JT Online once again this month!  Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

==============================================
TACKLING JAPAN’S “EMPATHY DEFICIT” TOWARDS OUTSIDERS
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 75 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
May 1, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/30/issues/tackling-the-empathy-deficit-toward-non-japanese/
Version with links to sources follows:

In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech about people’s “empathy deficit.” He described empathy as “the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.”

“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”

I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…

Of course, Japanese people have great sympathy for human suffering worldwide. Look through the media (particularly material from human-rights NGOs) and you’ll see plenty of pictures of starving or impoverished people abroad. The government has also been extremely generous with overseas development assistance, and is one of UNICEF’s biggest donors and promoters.

But “sympathy” has for hundreds of years meant a feeling of sorrow or pity for others. That’s very different from the ability to understand and share another’s feelings — empathy, which only evolved into a widely understood concept during the 20th century. That is not to say that empathetic behavior is anything new, of course: Many societies have a long history of axioms and examples (“walk a mile in his shoes,” “do unto others,” Buddha and Christ surrendering their worldly possessions for a higher calling, etc.) encouraging altruistic behavior. In his best-seller “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Steven Pinker devoted a whole chapter to how empathy has recently fostered human-rights revolutions worldwide.

However, there remains a marked lack of empathy in Japan towards outsiders, especially minorities and foreigners. Why? I would argue it’s because few Japanese ever leave their carefully constructed comfort zones to become minorities or foreigners themselves.

If you think about it, concerns about security, safety and comfort basically dominate all levels of Japanese existence — especially if it involves leaving the Japanese existence entirely. Even though going overseas is the only way Japanese will ever walk in the shoes of a foreigner, many still spend their short jaunts within group buses on package tours, experiencing a foreign land from a controlled environment geared to Japanese comfort levels.
SEE ENDNOTE FOR SOURCES

I do sympathize. Why would anyone pay all that money for a quickie trip and suffer the discomfort of unpredictability? Being a member of a rich, developed country with a high expectation of quality, service and social order should have taken care of all that.

Who wants to deal with all those scary foreign languages and potential criminal behaviors lurking beyond the hotel stoop, anyway? It could spoil a stress-free vacation.

But there’s a deeper disconnect going on here. I’ve written before about Japanese society’s overwhelming conceit with social power maintenance, and power plays a part in this discussion too.

You see, sympathy is in fact about power. People worthy of sorrow or pity have to appeal to people in a position to give that sympathy. Sympathizers have the power to decide to be charitable or merciful.

On the other hand, empathizers have to give up their power. They have to live situations like somebody else, feel their discomforts and disadvantages, walk in their shoes.

But we won’t. We’re rich. We’ve earned the right to stay in our own shoes.

So never mind empathy. Sympathy’s simpler, for if anyone needs our help, we’ll send money — if they’re within our ambit of concern. It’ll still have no real impact on our lives — or, more importantly, no real impact on our perceptions of their lives.

Now let’s seal off the attitudinal loop from foreigners in particular: Hey, if you don’t like living in Japan as a disadvantaged foreigner, you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. We don’t go to your country as a guest and tell you what to do in your house, do we?

And now let’s close it further with selective empathy: Ever wondered why many Japanese get so het up when their compatriots get discriminated against overseas? Such as in 1962, when Japan successfully lobbied apartheid South Africa to make Japanese into “honorary whites”? Or in 2010, when the British government threatened to put caps on special visas for Japanese (and other non-EU nationalities), and Japanese firms threatened an investment boycott? Or when even normally stoic Emperor Hirohito in 1946 expressed rare public outrage at racism towards Japanese in California?

Probably not, because one can understand the feelings of fellow Japanese in this situation. Empathy, however, generally doesn’t go outside the tribe: Japan can discriminate against foreigners, but woe betide the foreigners if they do it to Japanese!

Again, I do sympathize, since a lack of empathy is by design. The government has long portrayed foreigners as Japan’s opponents — agents of crime, terrorism, disease and land grabs.

The end result is that even the most well-intentioned people in Japan, who do protest clear examples of racial discrimination (e.g., the “Japanese only” signs at businesses, the racist street demos saying “Kill all Koreans,” the “Japanese only” banner by Urawa Reds soccer fans), use a different subtext.

They denounce racism as “Nihon no haji,” decrying the shame (haji) that xenophobia brings upon Japan on the international stage: It makes Japan, and by extension themselves as Japanese, look bad.

Shame is a very effective message — thank you for it — but the more empathetic tack would be to argue that foreigners are people too; that they live in Japan just like any Japanese; that they deserve to live in Japan as residents, patronize bathhouses and restaurants as customers, attend soccer matches as fans, like anyone else; that foreigners deserve exactly the same human rights and access to public goods as any other Japanese.

But equal treatment is rarely part of the debate. Instead people argue, “If they want to be treated the same, they should naturalize,” as if that fixes everything. Trust me, it doesn’t.

Again, empathy is key. If more people had it, they would advocate for Japanese society to “do unto foreigners,” because they would understand how foreigners feel, as Obama argued, and wouldn’t wish that treatment upon anyone.

Japan, let’s work on that empathy deficit. Less dōjō (sympathy), more kyōkan (empathy). Broaden your ambit beyond the tribe and you just might realize that power is not “zero-sum,” i.e., that giving more power to foreigners in Japan does not mean less power for you. In fact, it makes things better for everyone, as it gives more people more opportunity to fulfill their lifetime potential in society.

Now, who wouldn’t empathize with that?

===============================
Debito Arudou, who has just received his Ph.D. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University, is editing his dissertation on racial discrimination in Japan into a book. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

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

ENDNOTE
I have gone through several databases, including ProQuest, and searched through the full archives of about ten academic peer-reviewed journals on tourism, and there really isn’t much related rigorous sociological/anthropological in recent years on this, it would seem. What I could track down published within the past five or so years:

From: Generalized pattern in competition among tourism destinations
Dawes, John; Romaniuk, Jenni; Mansfield, Annabel. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research3.1 (2009): 33-53.

Establishes that Japanese tourists take shorter holidays and more picky about their destinations of the four groups selected:
“This suggests Japanese tourists travel to a smaller range of destinations than USA, UK and Singaporean Tourists. This result might be due to greater loyalty to single destinations or due to taking fewer holidays overall.”

Cross-cultural tourist behaviour: a replication and extension involving Hofstede’s uncertainty avoidance dimension
Litvin, Stephen W; Crotts, John C; Hefner, Frank L. The International Journal of Tourism Research6.1 (Jan/Feb 2004): 29-37.

This one tells what we already know about Japanese avoidance of uncertainty and risk, replicates older results:
ABSTRACT: Hofstede’s five cross-cultural dimensions have been broadly applied in the literature. Money and Crotts recently applied the dimension of uncertainty avoidance to a matched sample comprised of low uncertainty avoidance German and high uncertainty avoidance Japanese tourists, finding their behaviors consistent with those behaviors predicted by Hofstede. This study both replicates and extends their research across a representative sample of first time leisure visitors to the USA representing 58 nations. It was found that visitors from high uncertainty avoidance cultures exhibited behaviors consistent with those of the Japanese in the Money and Crotts research, whereas visitors from low-uncertainty avoidance cultures behaved similarly to their German subjects. Such findings, across a broad sample population, validate the original research through a more rigorous test of its propositions, provide increased confidence regarding their generalizability, and further contribute to our understanding of the influence of national culture on tourist behavior. http://marketing-to-japan.com/the-japanese-tourist.html

ALSO
(sourced from www.visitbritain.com, date unknown)
Package tours 48.2%
Individually arranged 37.1% (increasing)
Group travel 6.2%

http://books.google.com/books?id=LC4c7i3WrPgC&pg=PA214&lpg=PA214&dq=are+japanese+tourists+more+likely+to+tour+in+groups+than+other+nationalities?&source=bl&ots=gXuRHVKInI&sig=xLud0YIHdySfGG7ue2xlItv9oms&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gGxZU47CD-Xg2QXc3IDYDA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=are%20japanese%20tourists%20more%20likely%20to%20tour%20in%20groups%20than%20other%20nationalities%3F&f=false
“In the past they liked to travel in relatively large groups, but by the mid-1990s the young were increasingly traveling in smaller groups or on their own and had come to resemble Western tourists. Individual Japanese tourists became less interested in purchasing pre-arranged tours…” (2008)

http://books.google.com/books?id=_Jz4ZJsoaMgC&pg=PA327&lpg=PA327&dq=are+japanese+tourists+more+likely+to+tour+in+groups+than+other+nationalities?&source=bl&ots=-QHjToQ_40&sig=c6H_eqttasGJvdUoq-xo_breAsk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gGxZU47CD-Xg2QXc3IDYDA&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=are%20japanese%20tourists%20more%20likely%20to%20tour%20in%20groups%20than%20other%20nationalities%3F&f=false
“Japanese tourists are the most distinctive…”
“Koreans and Japanese are the least active and reserved in social situations (probably due to their collectivistic and high-uncertainty-avoidance characteristics)… Japanese are the most adventurous in food preferences, and they plan their trips rigidly and meticulously, but choose short trips.” (1997)
endnote ends

Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals?

mytest

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Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  An alert Debito.org Reader has sent in the following (thanks for it):

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

I’m emailing you to let you know about a new campaign going around in Tokyo for COCO’s English Juku. English Juku advertisements have always been rather lowbrow at times, but this one has hit multiple lows in my opinion. The ads in the trains are the same advertisement banner used at the top of their main website here.

cocojukuwebsite013114

Main website contains the main advertisement. http://www.cocojuku.jp/

At first I laughed due to how awkward and confusing it appeared. On second glance on the train today I took a closer look and thought about it within the context of the Japanese text and statements made. Is this playing on racial overtones to push for a reason to be learning English? What if the bride was Indian, African, or of another Asian ethnic background such as Chinese? Are these overtones really appropriate for an advertisement?

Furthermore, a few friends of mine also pointed out how downright sexist the ad was as well. It is clearly exclusively aimed at Japanese men with the woman being just an object of possession and trade with no say on who she marries, especially in the YouTube video.

YouTube Advertisement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O93n0jGF25M

Thought you might be interested in seeing this rather questionable advertisement campaign. It’s especially ironic considering the way that COCO recruits their instructors in the US and the images portrayed on that section of the site.

Recruitment site: http://www.cocojuku.jp/recruit/

While I laughed at first, I have to say I find this ad campaign simply offensive on many levels.

-Anonymous

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

Their other ad spot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv2pWI8sptI

COMMENT:  I’m tuckered out after the ANA advertisement issue.  I think I’ll let others have their say.  I’ll put this on Discussion mode for looser moderation.  Is this the same as the ANA ad to you, with a racialized bent to the product?  If not, why not?

On a related note, in lieu of a deeper comment, I will mention that I read Catherine Pover’s book LOVE WITH A WESTERN WOMAN (a guide for Japanese men), courtesy of CP.  And while there was some inevitable stereotyping of both the subject and the target audience, I thought the book was an earnest attempt to communicate what a “Western” woman might like and how a Japanese man might better get to know one.

I wonder what Caroline would have to say about this ad.  I’ll ask her.  ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS

Best of 2013: What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting NJ in Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As the last post for 2013, let me ask you your opinion:

What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting or concerning NJ in Japan during 2013?

I will be doing my regular annual Top Ten recap in my next Japan Times JBC column (moved to Thursdays since November, so out January 2).

I’ve already ready written up and submitted my list to the JT, but I don’t want to influence your answers by doing a blog poll of options or anything like that.  I’ll keep the question open-ended and ask for your feedback in the Comments Section.

So as 2013 draws to a close, I want to say thanks as always to everyone for reading Debito.org for yet another year.  We’re only two years and a bit from our twentieth anniversary (as we were created on March 15, 1996!  Read a brief synopsis of our history here.)  Here’s to another successful (and hopefully hacker-free) year of reading and commenting on Japan and human rights issues.

ARUDOU, Debito

Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:

NJstarephoto

Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

TheEyeNPAstarephoto
(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:
http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/chian/gaikokujin/24manual.pdf

Here’s the cover:

gaikokujinhiringmanualcover

Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf.

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Debito.org Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

TheDiplomat.com: “In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?”, on the debate about Japan’s increasing diversity

mytest

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Hi Blog. I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” (man, how I find that concept distasteful in Japan’s lexicographical context) themselves? Me, I think it’s a helluva lot more sensitive than this example of pap (succumbing to the temptation to zoologize people) passing as journalism about “haafu” that appeared in the J-media about a year ago. Arudou Debito

hafuthefilm

///////////////////////////////////
In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?
Mixed-race individuals and their families seek acceptance in a homogeneous Japan.
The Diplomat.com, October 03, 2013
By J.T. Quigley (excerpt), courtesy of the author
Entire article with photos at http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

“Spain! Spain!” the boys shouted at her and her brother, day in and day out at a summer camp in Chiba prefecture. The incessant chanting eventually turned into pushing and hitting. One morning, she even discovered that her backpack full of clothes had been left outside in the rain.

“It was the worst two weeks of our lives,” recalls Lara Perez Takagi, who was six years old at the time. She was born in Tokyo to a Spanish father and Japanese mother.

“When our parents came to pick us up at the station, we cried for the whole day. I remember not ever wanting to do any activities that involved Japanese kids and lost interest in learning the language for a long time, until I reached maturity and gained my interest in Japan once again.”

By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?

Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.

Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.

Rather than calling someone mixed-race or biracial, some believe that the term hafu insinuates that only the Japanese side is of any significance. That could reveal volumes about the national attitude toward foreigners, or perhaps it’s just the word that happened to stick in a country where mixed-race celebrities are increasingly fixtures on television.

No Entry

Olaf Karthaus, a professor in the Faculty of Photonics Science and Technology at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, is the father of five “hafu” children. Far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, he raised them in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which makes up 20 percent of Japan’s total land mass, yet houses only five percent of the population.

In 1999, Karthaus visited an onsen (hot spring) with a group of international friends, all married to Japanese spouses. The onsen had decided to deny entry to foreigners after some negative experiences with Russian sailors, hanging signs that read “Japanese Only” and refusing entry to all foreigners.

The Caucasian members of his group were flatly denied access to the bathhouse based on their foreign appearance. When management was asked if their children – who were born and raised in Japan and full Japanese citizens – would be allowed to bathe, the negative attitude toward anyone who appeared to be non-Japanese became shockingly clear.

“Asian-looking kids can come in. But we will have to refuse foreign-looking ones,” was the onsen’s answer. Negative sentiment had trickled down from a group of rowdy sailors to defenseless toddlers.

Karthaus, along with co-defendants Ken Sutherland and Debito Arudou – an equal rights activist who was born in the U.S. but became a naturalized Japanese citizen – sued the onsen for racial discrimination. The plaintiffs won, and the onsen was forced to pay them one million yen ($10,000) each in damages. The case made international headlines and shed light on issues of race and acceptance in Japan.

Regardless of Karthaus’ negative experience, he expresses a deep fondness for Japan and says that none of his children have been direct victims of racism.

“My son got called a gaijin (a Japanese term that literally means outsider – as opposed to the more formal gaikokujin, which means foreigner) once, in the third grade. But there was no discrimination otherwise for my other kids,” Karthaus tells The Diplomat. “My eldest daughter actually dyed her hair to look more foreign.”

Legal Complexity

Many observers see a loosening of immigration policy as a potential remedy to the birth-rate issue, but Japan, which along with the Koreas topped the list in a Harvard Institute study of the most racially homogeneous countries, is largely unwilling to accept an influx of foreigners.

“Although the government cannot prevent media hyperbole, the Justice Ministry could do much more with its crime statistics, which belie the common perception that immigrants are to blame for increases in petty crime and drug abuse,” writes Bloomberg.

For those foreigners who have made a home in Japan, the law for any biracial children they have is complex. While children can enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, the government doesn’t allow hafu to retain their dual nationality after age 22. According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, this decision is based on concerns over what would happen in the event of international friction or military action between a dual-citizen’s other country and Japan.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘but what if we declare war on your other country – which side will you choose?’” says Arudou, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle after obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2000. He renounced his U.S. citizenship two years later, in accordance with the strict rules against being a dual national.

“There have been debates on revising to allow dual [citizenship], due to Nobel Prize winners who naturalized overseas, but they failed because, again, people worried about loyalty and hidden foreigners,” Arudou adds.

The denial of dual citizenship beyond age 22 was actually put in place quite recently, in a 1984 amendment to the Japanese Nationality Act. Japan is a jus sanguinis country, meaning that citizenship is based on blood, not location of birth. With an increase in the number of mixed-race couples giving birth to children with dual citizenship, the government decided that restrictions were necessary to preserve national sovereignty.

Rest of the article at:
http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

Tokyo wins Olympics for 2020. What do you think about that?

mytest

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Hi Blog. Coming out of break briefly for important news about Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics, announced earlier today. In lieu of any comments from me (you can probably anticipate that Debito.org did not support Tokyo’s bid, and not least because Tokyo Governor Inose resorted to inappropriate comments about other candidates in public), I’ll just open up this blog entry for discussion. Commenters are welcome to also include articles that present cogent arguments pro and con, and more to the point how Japan could get the Games despite an ongoing nuclear crisis (all that CNN below can speculate were detractors for the other candidates was a neighboring conflict in Syria and continuing economic malaise in Spain — something Japan has plenty of experience with too). Read on. Arudou Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////
Tokyo to host 2020 Olympic Games
By CNN Staff
updated 8:15 PM EDT, Sat September 7, 2013
IOC president Jacques Rogge announces the winner of the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, following Saturday’s vote in Buenos Aires.
http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/07/sport/world-olympics-2020

(CNN) — Tokyo has been chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2020 Summer Games.

In voting Saturday in Buenos Aires, the committee picked Tokyo over the two other contenders, Madrid and Istanbul.
The announcement came at 5:20 a.m. Tokyo time, but a large crowd watching on an outdoor video screen burst into cheers.

Tokyo previously hosted the Summer Games in 1964.

Japan’s bid for 2020 billed the city as the safe choice — despite radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally made a presentation to the committee and promised an effective cleanup.

“I am so happy, I am overjoyed,” Abe told reporters at the post-announcement press conference.

“I would like to share this joy with the people back home. We’ve received so much support from the people of the IOC and I would also like to express my support to them. And to the people around the world.

“A safe and secure Olympic Games will be staged by us — I think that was another hope for their support. I would like to pledge that we will be discharging this responsibility.”

Abe said Tokyo would try to stage a successful Games to thank the world for its support after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan.

“Sport has the power to unite people,” he said. “We experienced that after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, when athletes came to our country and helped us. Japan needs the power of sport, we need hopes and dreams.”

Abe said Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics had left a strong impression on him as a child.

“I was only 10 years old but a lot of kids like me were fascinated. Like many children I dreamed of winning a medal. It was a celebration giving hopes and dreams,” he said. “The joy (of winning the 2020 vote) was even greater than when I won my own election.”

Tokyo’s bid came in at $5 billion to $6 billion, compared to $19 billion pledged by Istanbul, said Ed Hula, editor and founder of aroundtherings.com, which covers the business and politics of the Olympic movement.

But Tokyo’s government has already amassed a $4.9 billion Olympic fund to pay to prepare for the Games, Hula said. And a $1 billion national stadium that will be used for the athletic events and the Opening Ceremonies will already have been built for the rugby World Cup in 2017 and is not considered an Olympic expense.

Turkey would have been the first Muslim country to host the Games, and with a median age of less than 30 years, one of the youngest. However, it missed out for the fifth time.

Istanbul would have been “a more emotional choice,” Hula said. But its huge bid would have been needed to fund infrastructure improvements, including modernization of its transportation system.

Turkey’s border with Syria also might have troubled some committee members, he said.

And this summer, the image of Turkish sport took a hit when about three dozen athletes tested positive for drugs, he said.

June’s rioting in Istanbul’s Taksim Square may also have tainted the city’s hopes, though Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan tried to persuade IOC members ahead of Saturday’s vote.

“We live at a time when our region and the world crave for peace,” Erdogan said as part of Istanbul’s final presentation.

“And at this critical moment, we would like to send a strong message of peace to the whole world from Istanbul, the city of friendship and brotherhood.”

Tokyo led after a first round of voting Saturday but fell short of a majority, with 42. Istanbul and Madrid tied for second on 26 votes each, and a 49-45 tiebreaker vote put the Turkish city in the final runoff with Tokyo.

Tokyo won the deciding vote, 60 to Istanbul’s 36, according to an IOC tweet.

Madrid, like Tokyo, was a repeat bidder — making its third consecutive case for the Games, one that was little changed from previous attempts, Hula said.

The Spaniards’ $2 billion bid said they had little need for new infrastructure, he said. And they have ample sports experience, having hosted a number of other high-profile, international events.

But the country’s economic plight remained a drawback, with one out of four adults unemployed. Though Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted that rate is improving, “the fact is that most reasonable, sensible economists think unemployment is going to linger at a high level for years to come,” Hula said.

And Spain’s athletes, too, have had issues with doping accusations. In a case that occurred several years ago, blood bags from athletes who had tested positive were destroyed, Hula said. “It’s been a long-running situation.”

Spain’s Prince Philip, a former Olympic sailor, was a lead figure in Spain’s presentation.

“Some people around the world have questioned hosting the Games in a time of economic uncertainty,” he told the IOC members Saturday ahead of the voting.

“But I don’t see this as a threat to the Olympics, I see it as an opportunity. The benefits of sport are measured in generations, not in dollars.”

On Sunday, the three sports competing to be added to the 2020 roster will know their fate.

Squash is hoping to be included for the first time, but is up against a combined baseball/softball bid and wrestling — which is seeking to be reinstated.

The 125th IOC Session will be the last for its president Jacques Rogge, who is standing down after 12 years in the role. The 71-year-old’s successor will be elected Tuesday.

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be in Brazil. The Winter Olympics will be held in Russia in 2014 and South Korea in 2018.
ENDS

Japan’s “hate speech” debate proceeds apace, but not sinking in, according to university survey cited in Mainichi

mytest

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Hi Blog. After the now-famous incidents (fortunately) earlier this year of the “Kill All Koreans” march in Tokyo and the “Tsuruhashi Korean massacre” speech in Osaka, hate speech has become a topic for discussion in Japan’s media. Here are some examples (courtesy MS, click on image to expand in browser):

nikkansports041513
Nikkan Sports April 15, 2013

chuunichishinbun051013
Chunichi Shinbun May 10, 2013.

NikkanGendai13Aug13
Nikkan Gendai August 13, 2013.

And here’s one from Yuukan Fuji, July 6, 2013, with the view for bad-mouthing Koreans:
YukanFuji070613

Good. Have the debate, good, bad, and ugly.  That said, it doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact, according to the Mainichi:

///////////////////////////////////////////////
The Hate Speech Problem: More than 60% don’t know about it, according to an awareness survey of college students.
Mainichi Shinbun, Aug 8, 2013, translation by Arudou Debito (corrections as always welcome)

In the wake of public demonstrations in places including Tokyo and Osaka displaying hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans, about 1000 students in Osaka area universities were surveyed for their awareness of the problem. It was revealed that more than 60% did not know about the hate speech.

Touyou University Department of Sociology’s Izawa Yasuki, who carried out this survey, analyzed the results as follows: “It could be said that many young people have no idea how they should take in the problems of Asia, because they were not given the materials to discern these things during their primary and secondary education,” noting the significant number of people who did not answer the survey at all.

The survey was also carried out by Zainichi Korean youth leagues headquartered in Osaka during June and July. It mainly surveyed youths in Tokyo and Osaka between the ages of 18 to 23, with 1014 responses.

According to this, the students who knew about the hate speech problem totaled 35%. When asked about what they thought about it, over 70% replied that “they should absolutely desist” or “it’s undesirable”, while 10.3% said they thought nothing of it and 7.4% said they felt the same way as the hate speechers.

In addition, more than 70% replied that then had no Zainichi Korean friends. Also, more than 70% indicated that they felt that their school instruction in modern Asia/Japanese history was insufficient.

[last paragraph untranslated because it’s not really relevant or scientifically significant]
//////////////////////////////////////////////////

ヘイトスピーチ問題:6割以上知らず…大学生ら意識調査
毎日新聞 2013年08月08日
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20130808-00000084-mai-soci

東京や大阪などで在日コリアン排斥などを掲げる「ヘイトスピーチ(憎悪表現)」デモなどを巡り、大都市圏の大学生ら約1000人に意識調査をしたところ、6割以上がヘイトスピーチの問題を知らなかったことが分かった。無回答も目立ったといい、調査を実施した東洋大社会学部の井沢泰樹教授(教育社会学)は「多くの若者はアジアの問題をどう受け止めるべきか、判断できる材料を(学校教育の中で)与えられてこなかったのではないか」と分析する。

調査は在日コリアン青年連合(事務局・大阪)と共同で6〜7月に実施。東京、大阪などの18〜23歳を中心に計1014人が回答した。

それによると、ヘイトスピーチの問題を知っていたのは全体の35%。どう思うかを聞いたところ、「絶対やめるべきだ」「よくないと思う」の合計が7割を超えたが、「何とも思わない」(10.3%)、「共感する」(7.4%)との回答もあった。

また、全体の約7割が身近に在日コリアンの友人や知人はいないと回答。日本とアジアの近現代史を巡る学校での歴史教育について、7割超が「不足」と感じていた。

一方、17〜39歳の在日コリアン91人にも調査を実施。ヘイトスピーチを知る前後での変化を問う設問では、同じ在日の友人を求めるようになった(8人)▽日本人が怖くなった(7人)▽在日と知られるのを避けるようになった(6人)−−などの回答が並んだ。【小泉大士】

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

COMMENT: Although surveys like these are generally easy to poke holes in methodologically (I skipped translating the last paragraph because, for example, the sample size was too small), I think that we can still broach a conversation here about how hate speech (even examples of it advocating murder and massacre) should be registering more of a shock within “peaceful Japan” than it apparently is. Of course, we can say that college students as a survey sample are more interested in playing video games, drinking and getting laid than soaking in the news. But when something is REALLY shocking in Japan, there’s enough carpet-bombing media debate on it that it certainly appeared in my college classrooms, and I doubt that has happened in this case. What do others think? I offer no clear conclusions on this case in point, so I put it under “Discussions” for looser moderation. Arudou Debito

Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Posters on Debito.org have been champing at the bit to talk about Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s controversial statements on the GOJ WWII sexual slavery program (which also involved NJ and colonial slaves, making this a Debito.org issue).  So let’s have at it as a Discussion in a separate blog entry.

Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing:  He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.

Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing.  Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”.  This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste:  How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability.  Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit).  So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do.  Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made.  But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.

The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it.  In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.”  That is:  Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.

Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”.  And that is wrong both morally and factually.  It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism.  People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie.  Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.

But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect:  For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY.  That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.

At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down.  Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office.  But it is more “honest” than the alternative.

Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A.  After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers.  But an advance word of warning:  Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules:  Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources.  In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org.  Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources.  Go to it.  But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself.  Arudou Debito

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

Statement by Toru Hashimoto
Asahi Shimbun, Asia and Japan Watch, May 27, 2013, courtesy of JDG
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270012

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimioto issues a statement ahead of his press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

* * *

Ideals and values on which I stand:

Today, I want to start by talking about my basic ideals as a politician and my values as a human being.

Nothing is more regrettable than a series of media reports on my remarks with regard to the issue of so-called “comfort women.” These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context.

I attach the utmost importance to the universal values of human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, whose universality human beings have come to accept in the twenty-first century. As a constitutionalist, I also believe that the essential purpose of a nation’s constitution is to bind government powers with the rule of law and to secure freedom and rights of the people. Without such legal limitations imposed by the constitution, the government powers could become arbitrary and harmful to the people.

My administrative actions, first as Governor of Osaka Prefecture and then as Mayor of Osaka City, have been based on these ideals and values. The views on political issues that I have expressed in my career so far, including my view of the Japanese constitution, testify to my commitment to the ideals and values. I am determined to continue to embody these ideals and values in my political actions and statements.

As my ideals and values clearly include respect for the dignity of women as an essential element of human rights, I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.

What I really meant by my remarks on so-called “comfort women”

I am totally in agreement that the use of “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War 2 was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.

I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women. Our nation must be determined to stop this kind of tragedy from occurring again.

I have never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity and human rights of women as an essential part of the universal values in today’s world. It is extremely regrettable that only the cut-off parts of my remarks have been reported worldwide and that these reports have resulted in misunderstood meanings of the remarks, which are utterly contrary to what I actually intended.

We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women. What I intended to convey in my remarks was that a not-insignificant number of other nations should also sincerely face the fact that their soldiers violated the human rights of women. It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to the Japanese soldiers. This kind of attitude shelves the past offenses that are the very things we must face worldwide if we are truly to aim for a better world where the human rights of women are fully respected. Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Against this historical background, I stated that “the armed forces of nations in the world” seemed to have needed women “during the past wars”. Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that “I” tolerated it.

It is a hard historical fact that soldiers of some nations of the world have used women for sexual purposes in wars. From the viewpoint of respecting the human rights of women, it does not make much difference whether the suffering women are licensed or unlicensed prostitutes and whether or not the armed forces are organizationally involved in the violation of the dignity of the women. The use of women for sexual purposes itself is a violation of their dignity. It also goes without saying that rape of local citizens by soldiers in occupied territories and hot spots of military conflict are intolerable atrocities.

Please do not misunderstand, and think that I intend to relativize or justify the issue of comfort women for former Japanese soldiers. Such justification has never been my intention. Whatever soldiers of other nations did will not affect the fact that the violation of the dignity of women by the former Japanese soldiers was intolerable.

What I really meant in my remarks was that it would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world. It would suppress the truth that the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers not only existed in the past but also has yet to be eradicated in today’s world. Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of “sex slaves” or “sex slavery.”

If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.

While expecting sensible nations to voice the issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, I believe that there is no reason for inhibiting Japanese people from doing the same. Because the Japanese people are in a position to face the deplorable past of the use of comfort women by the former Japanese soldiers, to express deep remorse and to state their apology, they are obliged to combat the existing issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, and to do so in partnership with all the nations which also have their past and/or present offenses.

Today, in the twenty-first century, the dignity and human rights of women have been established as a sacred part of the universal values that nations in the world share. It is one of the greatest achievements of progress made by human beings. In the real world, however, the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers has yet to be eradicated. I hope to aim for a future world where the human rights of women will be more respected. Nevertheless, we must face the past and present in order to talk about the future. Japan and other nations in the world must face the violation of the human rights of women by their soldiers. All the nations and peoples in the world should cooperate with one another, be determined to prevent themselves from committing similar offenses again, and engage themselves in protecting the dignity of women at risk in the world’s hot spots of military conflict and in building that future world where the human rights of women are respected.

Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue. In April this year, the G8 Foreign Ministers in London agreed upon the “Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Based on this accomplishment, I expect that the G8 Summit to be held in this June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the UK, will become an important occasion where the leaders of G8 will examine how soldiers from nations in the world, including the former Japanese soldiers, have used women for sexual purposes, face and reflect upon the past offenses with humility, solve today’s problems in partnership with one another, and aim for the ideal future.

With regard to my remark in the discussion with the U.S. commander in Okinawa

There was a news report that, while visiting a U.S. military base in Okinawa, I recommended to the U.S. commander there that he make use of the adult entertainment industry to prevent U.S. soldiers from committing sexual crimes. That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of U.S. soldiers from committing crimes and strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the relations of trust between the two nations. In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark. I will elaborate my real intention as follows.

For the national security of Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the most important asset, and I am truly grateful to contributions made by the United States Forces Japan.

However, in Okinawa, where many U.S. military bases are located, a small number of U.S. soldiers have repeatedly committed serious crimes, including sexual crimes, against Japanese women and children. Every time a crime has occurred, the U.S. Forces have advocated maintaining and tightening official discipline and have promised to the Japanese people that they would take measures to stop such crimes from occurring again. Nevertheless, these crimes have not stopped. The same pattern has been repeating itself.

I emphasize the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and greatly appreciate the U.S. Forces’ contribution to Japan. Nonetheless, the anger of the Okinawan people, whose human rights have continued to be violated, has reached its boiling point. I have a strong wish to request that the U.S.A. face the present situation of Okinawa’s suffering from crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, and take necessary measures to alleviate the problem.

It is a big issue that incidents of sexual violence have frequently happened without effective control within the U.S. military forces worldwide. It has been reported that President Obama has shown a good deal of concern over the forces’ frequent reports of military misconduct and has instructed the commanders to thoroughly tighten their official discipline, as measures taken so far have had no immediate effect.

With all the above-mentioned situations, I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan” should be considered as one of all the possible measures. Even if there is no measure with an immediate effect, the current state of Okinawa should not be neglected. From my strong sense of crisis, I strongly hope that the U.S. army will use all possible measures to bring a heartless minority of soldiers under control. When expressing this strong hope, I used the phrase “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan.” When this phrase was translated into English, it led to the false report that I recommended prostitution–which is illegal under Japanese law. Furthermore, my remark was misunderstood to mean that something legally acceptable is also morally acceptable. Although the adult entertainment industry is legally accepted, it can insult the dignity of women. In that case, of course, some measures should be taken to prevent such insults.

However, I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology. In conclusion, I retract my inappropriate remarks to the U.S. Army and the American people and sincerely apologize to them. I wish that my apologies to them will be accepted and that Japan and the United States of America continue to consolidate their relationship of alliance in full trust.

My real intention was to further enhance the security relationship between Japan and the United States, which most U.S. soldiers’ sincere hard work has consolidated, and to humbly and respectfully ask the U.S. Forces to prevent crimes committed by a mere handful of U.S. soldiers. My strong sense of crisis led to the use of this inappropriate expression.

In the area of human rights, the U.S.A. is one of the most conscientious nations. Human rights are among those values accepted throughout the world as universal. In order for human rights of the Okinawan people to be respected in the same way as those of American people are respected, I sincerely hope that the U.S. Forces will start taking effective measures in earnest to stop crimes in Okinawa from continuing.

About the Japan-Korea Relationship

The Japan-Korea relationship has recently gone through some difficult times. Underlying the difficulty are the issue of comfort women and the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands. Ideally, Japan and South Korea should be important partners in East Asia, as they share the same values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that a closer relationship based on greater trust between Japan and South Korea would contribute to the stability and prosperity of not only East Asia but also the world.

One of the points of tension is that concerning wartime comfort women. Some former comfort women in Korea are currently demanding state compensation from the Japanese government.

However, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, both signed in 1965, have officially and decisively resolved any issues of claims arising from the war, including the right of individual persons to claim compensation. Japan has also performed its moral responsibility with the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund, and it paid atonement money to former comfort women even after the resolution of the legal contention with the treaties.

The international community has welcomed the Asian Women’s Fund. A report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations welcomed Japan’s moral responsibility project of the Asian Women’s Fund. Mary Robinson, the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the Fund a favorable evaluation. Unfortunately, however, some former comfort women have refused to accept the atonement money from the Asian Women’s Fund.

Japan has given significant importance to the Treaty on Basic Relations and the Agreement on the Settlement, both of which made final resolution of any legal contention in 1965, and Japan also sincerely faces, reflects on, and apologizes for its own wartime wrongdoings with feelings of deep remorse.

The whole situation poses a rending dilemma for us: how to make such a compensation that former comfort women would accept as our sincere remorse and apology, while also maintaining the integrity of the legal bilateral agreements between Japan and Korea.

The Korean government has recently claimed that interpretive disputes over the individual right of compensation for former comfort women in the Agreement on the Settlement still remain. I hope that the Republic of Korea, as a state governed by the rule of law, recognizes the legal importance of the above-mentioned agreements. If the Republic of Korea still believes that there exist interpretive contentions in the agreements, I think that only the International Court of Justice can resolve them.

One can hope that the same legal/rule-of-law stance is also observed in the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands.

I firmly believe that neither hatred nor anger can resolve the problems between Japan and Korea. I firmly believe in the importance of legal solution at the International Court of Justice, which arena would allow both sides to maintain rational and legal argument while both maintain both respect for each other and deep sympathy to former comfort women.

I wish to express sincerely my willingness to devote myself to the true improvement of the Japan-Korea relationship through the rule of law.

================================
Japanese version:
橋下徹氏:「私の認識と見解」 日本語版全文
毎日新聞 2013年05月26日
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130526mog00m010012000c.html

2013年5月27日

橋下徹

■私の拠(よ)って立つ理念と価値観について

まず、私の政治家としての基本的な理念、そして一人の人間としての価値観について、お話ししたいと思います。

いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する私の発言をめぐってなされた一連の報道において、発言の一部が文脈から切り離され、断片のみが伝えられることによって、本来の私の理念や価値観とは正反対の人物像・政治家像が流布してしまっていることが、この上なく残念です。

私は、21世紀の人類が到達した普遍的価値、すなわち、基本的人権、自由と平等、民主主義の理念を最も重視しています。また、憲法の本質は、恣意(しい)に流れがちな国家権力を拘束する法の支配によって、国民の自由と権利を保障することに眼目があると考えており、極めてオーソドックスな立憲主義の立場を採(と)る者です。

大阪府知事及び大阪市長としての行政の実績は、こうした理念と価値観に支えられています。また、私の政治活動に伴って憲法をはじめとする様々(さまざま)なイシューについて公にしてきた私の見解を確認いただければ、今私の申し上げていることを裏付けるものであることをご理解いただけると信じております。今後も、政治家としての行動と発言を通じて、以上のような理念と価値観を体現し続けていくつもりです。

こうした私の思想信条において、女性の尊厳は、基本的人権において欠くべからざる要素であり、これについて私の本意とは正反対の受け止め方、すなわち女性蔑視である等の報道が続いたことは、痛恨の極みであります。私は、疑問の余地なく、女性の尊厳を大切にしています。

■いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する発言について

以上の私の理念に照らせば、第二次世界大戦前から大戦中にかけて、日本兵が「慰安婦」を利用したことは、女性の尊厳と人権を蹂躙(じゅうりん)する、決して許されないものであることはいうまでもありません。かつての日本兵が利用した慰安婦には、韓国・朝鮮の方々のみならず、多くの日本人も含まれていました。慰安婦の方々が被った苦痛、そして深く傷つけられた慰安婦の方々のお気持ちは、筆舌につくしがたいものであることを私は認識しております。

日本は過去の過ちを真摯(しんし)に反省し、慰安婦の方々には誠実な謝罪とお詫(わ)びを行うとともに、未来においてこのような悲劇を二度と繰り返さない決意をしなければなりません。

私は、女性の尊厳と人権を今日の世界の普遍的価値の一つとして重視しており、慰安婦の利用を容認したことはこれまで一度もありません。私の発言の一部が切り取られ、私の真意と正反対の意味を持った発言とする報道が世界中を駆け巡ったことは、極めて遺憾です。以下に、私の真意を改めて説明いたします。

かつて日本兵が女性の人権を蹂躙したことについては痛切に反省し、慰安婦の方々には謝罪しなければなりません。同様に、日本以外の少なからぬ国々の兵士も女性の人権を蹂躙した事実について、各国もまた真摯に向き合わなければならないと訴えたかったのです。あたかも日本だけに特有の問題であったかのように日本だけを非難し、日本以外の国々の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について口を閉ざすのはフェアな態度ではありませんし、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざすために世界が直視しなければならない過去の過ちを葬り去ることになります。戦場の性の問題は、旧日本軍だけが抱えた問題ではありません。第二次世界大戦中のアメリカ軍、イギリス軍、フランス軍、ドイツ軍、旧ソ連軍その他の軍においても、そして朝鮮戦争やベトナム戦争における韓国軍においても、この問題は存在しました。

このような歴史的文脈において、「戦時においては」「世界各国の軍が」女性を必要としていたのではないかと発言したところ、「私自身が」必要と考える、「私が」容認していると誤報されてしまいました。

戦場において、世界各国の兵士が女性を性の対象として利用してきたことは厳然たる歴史的事実です。女性の人権を尊重する視点では公娼(こうしょう)、私娼(ししょう)、軍の関与の有無は関係ありません。性の対象として女性を利用する行為そのものが女性の尊厳を蹂躙する行為です。また、占領地や紛争地域における兵士による市民に対する強姦(ごうかん)が許されざる蛮行であることは言うまでもありません。

誤解しないで頂きたいのは、旧日本兵の慰安婦問題を相対化しようとか、ましてや正当化しようという意図は毛頭ありません。他国の兵士がどうであろうとも、旧日本兵による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が決して許されるものではないことに変わりありません。

私の発言の真意は、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題が旧日本軍のみに特有の問題であったかのように世界で報じられ、それが世界の常識と化すことによって、過去の歴史のみならず今日においても根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題の真実に光が当たらないことは、日本のみならず世界にとってプラスにならない、という一点であります。私が言いたかったことは、日本は自らの過去の過ちを直視し、決して正当化してはならないことを大前提としつつ、世界各国もsex slaves、sex slaveryというレッテルを貼って日本だけを非難することで終わってはならないということです。

もし、日本だけが非難される理由が、戦時中、国家の意思として女性を拉致した、国家の意思として女性を売買したということにあるのであれば、それは事実と異なります。

過去、そして現在の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について、良識ある諸国民の中から声が挙がることを期待するものでありますが、日本人が声を挙げてはいけない理由はないと思います。日本人は、旧日本兵が慰安婦を利用したことを直視し、真摯に反省、謝罪すべき立場にあるがゆえに、今日も根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題に立ち向かう責務があり、同じ問題を抱える諸国民と共により良い未来に向かわなければなりません。

21世紀の今日、女性の尊厳と人権は、世界各国が共有する普遍的価値の一つとして、確固たる位置を得るに至っています。これは、人類が達成した大きな進歩であります。しかし、現実の世界において、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が根絶されたわけではありません。私は、未来に向けて、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざしていきたい。しかし、未来を語るには、過去そして現在を直視しなければなりません。日本を含む世界各国は、過去の戦地において自国兵士が行った女性に対する人権蹂躙行為を直視し、世界の諸国と諸国民が共に手を携え、二度と同じ過ちを繰り返さぬよう決意するとともに、今日の世界各地の紛争地域において危機に瀕(ひん)する女性の尊厳を守るために取り組み、未来に向けて女性の人権が尊重される世界を作っていくべきだと考えます。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、徹底して反省しなければなりません。正当化は許されません。それを大前提とした上で、世界各国も、戦場の性の問題について、自らの問題として過去を直視してもらいたいのです。本年4月にはロンドンにおいてG8外相会合が「紛争下の性的暴力防止に関する閣僚宣言」に合意しました。この成果を基盤として、6月に英国北アイルランドのロック・アーンで開催予定のG8サミットが、旧日本兵を含む世界各国の兵士が性の対象として女性をどのように利用していたのかを検証し、過去の過ちを直視し反省するとともに、理想の未来をめざして、今日の問題解決に協働して取り組む場となることを期待します。

■在日アメリカ軍司令官に対する発言について

また、沖縄にある在日アメリカ軍基地を訪問した際、司令官に対し、在日アメリカ軍兵士の性犯罪を抑止するために風俗営業の利用を進言したという報道もありました。これは私の真意ではありません。私の真意は、一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪を抑止し、より強固な日米同盟と日米の信頼関係を築くことです。一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の問題を解決したいとの思いが強すぎて、誤解を招く不適切な発言をしてしまいましたが、私の真意を、以下に説明いたします。

日本の安全保障にとって、米国との同盟関係は最も重要な基盤であり、在日アメリカ軍の多大な貢献には、本当に感謝しています。

しかしながら、多くの在日アメリカ軍基地がある沖縄では、一部の心無いアメリカ軍兵士によって、日本人の女性や子どもに対する性犯罪など重大な犯罪が繰り返されています。こうした事件が起きる度に、在日アメリカ軍では、規律の保持と綱紀粛正が叫ばれ、再発防止策をとることを日本国民に誓いますが、在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪は絶えることがありません。同じことの繰り返しです。

私は、日本の外交において日米同盟を重視し、在日アメリカ軍の日本への貢献を大いに評価しています。しかし、人権を蹂躙され続ける沖縄県民の怒りは沸点に達しているのです。在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の現状をアメリカに訴え、何としてでも改善してもらいたい、という強い思いを持っております。

アメリカ軍内部において性暴力が多発し、その統制がとれていないことが最近、アメリカで話題となっています。オバマ大統領もアメリカ軍の自己統制の弱さに相当な危機感を抱き、すぐに効果の出る策はないとしつつ、アメリカ軍に綱紀粛正を徹底するよう指示したとの報道がありました。

このような状況において、私は強い危機感から、在日アメリカ軍司令官に対して、あらゆる対応策の一つとして、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」を利用するということも考えるべきではないかと発言しました。すぐに効果の出る策はないとしても、それでも沖縄の現状を放置するわけにはいきません。私の強い危機感から、ありとあらゆる手段を使ってでも、一部の心無い在日アメリカ軍兵士をしっかりとコントロールして欲しい、そのような強い思いを述べる際、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」という言葉を使ってしまいました。この表現が翻訳されて、日本の法律で認められていない売春・買春を勧めたとの誤報につながりました。さらに合法であれば道徳的には問題がないというようにも誤解をされました。合法であっても、女性の尊厳を貶(おとし)める可能性もあり、その点については予防しなければならないことはもちろんのことです。

今回の私の発言は、アメリカ軍のみならずアメリカ国民を侮辱することにも繋(つな)がる不適切な表現でしたので、この表現は撤回するとともにお詫び申し上げます。この謝罪をアメリカ軍とアメリカ国民の皆様が受け入れて下さいます事、そして日本とアメリカが今後とも強い信頼関係を築いていけることを願います。

私の真意は、多くの在日アメリカ軍兵士は一生懸命誠実に職務を遂行してくれていますが、一部の心無い兵士の犯罪によって、日米の信頼関係が崩れることのないよう、在日アメリカ軍の綱紀粛正を徹底してもらいたい、という点にあります。その思いが強すぎて、不適切な表現を使ってしまいました。

アメリカは、世界で最も人権意識の高い国の一つです。そして、人権は世界普遍の価値です。アメリカ国民の人権と同じように、沖縄県民の基本的人権が尊重されるよう、アメリカ軍が本気になって沖縄での犯罪抑止のための実効性ある取り組みを開始することを切に望みます。

■日韓関係について

日本と韓国の関係は現在厳しい状況にあると言われています。その根底には、慰安婦問題と竹島をめぐる領土問題があります。

日本と韓国は、自由、民主主義、人権、法の支配などの価値観を共有する隣国として、重要なパートナー関係にあります。日韓の緊密な関係は、東アジアの安定と繁栄のためだけでなく、世界の安定と繁栄のためにも寄与するものと信じています。

現在、元慰安婦の一部の方は、日本政府に対して、国家補償を求めています。

しかし、1965年の日韓基本条約と「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」において、日本と韓国の間の法的な請求権(個人的請求権も含めて)の問題は完全かつ最終的に解決されました。

日本は、韓国との間の法的請求権問題が最終解決した後においても、元慰安婦の方々へ責任を果たすために、国民からの寄付を募り1995年に「女性のためのアジア平和国民基金(略称アジア女性基金)」を設立し、元慰安婦の方々に償い金をお渡ししました。

このアジア女性基金を通じた日本の責任を果たす行為は、国際社会でも評価を受けております。国連人権委員会へ提出されたレポートもアジア女性基金を通じての日本の道義的責任を歓迎しています。また国連人権高等弁務官であったメアリーロビンソンさんも基金を評価しています。

しかし、残念ながら、元慰安婦の一部の方は、このアジア女性基金による償い金の受領を拒んでおります。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、反省とお詫びをしつつも、1965年に請求権問題を最終解決した日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定も重視しております。

日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定を前提としつつ、元慰安婦の方々の心に響く償いをするにはどのようにすればいいのかは大変難しい問題です。韓国政府は最近、日韓基本条約とともに締結された「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」における元慰安婦の日本政府への請求権の存否の解釈が未解決だと主張しております。韓国も法の支配を重んじる国でしょうから、日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定という国際ルールの重さを十分に認識して頂いて、それでも納得できないというのであれば、韓国政府自身が日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定の解釈について国際司法裁判所等に訴え出るしかないのではないでしょうか? その際には、竹島をめぐる領土問題も含めて、法の支配に基づき、国際司法裁判所等での解決を望みます。

私は、憎しみと怒りをぶつけ合うだけでは何も解決することはできないと思います。元慰安婦の方の苦しみを理解しつつ、日韓お互いに尊敬と敬意の念を持ちながら、法に基づいた冷静な議論を踏まえ、国際司法裁判所等の法に基づいた解決に委ねるしかないと考えております。

法の支配によって、真に日韓関係が改善されるよう、私も微力を尽くしていきたいと思います。
ENDS

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

Hashimoto explains remarks in Q&A session at Tokyo news conference
Hashimoto denies ‘will of state’ in comfort women system
May 27, 2013
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270124

AJW
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 explained his views on “comfort women” and other issues during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Excerpts from the question and answer session follow:

***

Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?

Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.

We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.

Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.

I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don’t think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.

Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.

Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?

Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.

When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.

What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.

There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.

What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.

Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.

The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.

It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.

It is now time to begin discussing this issue.

I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.

Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.

The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.

Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women,” which indicates trafficking was involved?

A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.

However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.

You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.

The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.

The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.

The Kono statement should be made clearer.

Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.

The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.

Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.

The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.

It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.

Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?

A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.

Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.

Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.

Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.

Ishihara does have a different view of the past.

That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.

Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.

The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.

Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan’s responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.

However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.

Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?

A: I am not denying Japan’s responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.

I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.

I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.

However, such things also occurred at private businesses.

I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.

Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.

I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.

I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.

I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.

Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn’t that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?

A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.

In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.

We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.

***
ENDS

Discussion: “Bignose” on Cute “Kobito-zukan” comic characters for kids and NJ control fantasies?

mytest

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Hi Blog. In the vein of the recent discussion on treatment of NJ in Japanese media, here’s food for thought from a Debito.org Reader under the pseudonym “Bignose”.  I’m intrigued but not 100% convinced, so I’ll open this one up under the Discussions heading for lighter moderation. Arudou Debito

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

Cute Kobito and Control Fantasies?
January 6, 2012

Hi Debito, It’s Bignose here.Remember those stereotypical pictures of Caucasian gaijin so beloved in this country? Looks like theeeey’re back with a vengeance!  I am filing this with you to see what you and other readers think.

Initially I thought the point I want to make might be a stretch; that I might be being hypersensitive. It’s possible to see insults where there are none, or that comments received are misinterpreted through cultural misunderstandings, poor language ability, things taken out of context. So I am going to be quite careful what I say. But after long, long experiences living in Japan, to put it in a nutshell, I smell a rat.

In a sense, to me, the theme I am about to raise resonates with the issue over “Mr. James,” remember, our lovable goofy Kakakana Japanese spewing junk food munching baseball fan? I know you received a lot of criticism about raising this issue. For me the acid test is what would happen if the boot was on the other foot. If a major junk food conglomerate in the U.S. was selling teriyaki burgers flaunted by a slit-eyed, bespectacled, broken Engrish speaking salariman hairi lecommending TERIAKI BURGA, how would the Japanese embassy feel about it. I am not sure they would be happy happy happy about it all.

To the item at hand. It’s about othering and control fantasies referring to a “lost paradise” (a shitsuraken perhaps?) that was Japan when foreigners were cute and mainly for entertainment.

A few nights ago my wife (who is Japanese) and I and our infant child were having dinner at a friend’s place. Our friend is a longstanding one, she’s known and worked with my wife when they were at a major Japanese advertising company 15 years ago and our friend, who is in her 40s, is a professional and an account manager. She speaks reasonably fluent English and has done home stays, a year abroad, etc.

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 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.

kobitozukan

Courtesy http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/singing_d_more/GALLERY/show_image.html?id=61443344

So my friend put on several こびとづかん segments from her DVD collection:
https://www.youtube.com/results?client=safari&rls=en&q=こびとづかん&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=w1

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. Or perhaps sometimes it’s just trying to be kind and well meaning to the alien. Or perhaps it’s just me, I was thinking.

As soon as our little critter appeared in the third minute, I realized I felt a little bit uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95dEI_hCwIQ

[NB:  Note that the newspaper put down as a cage to catch the critter is in English…]

Then suddenly in just on the 4th minute, our friend starting squealing in laugher. As our stupid but harmless character [kakure momojiri] she loved so much because he was so cute was inching his way up the trap showing his pink ass, our friend squealed out “XXXXX-san, it looks just like YOU!” and she started giggling uncontrollably.

kakuremomojiri

I went along with it but I felt even more unsettled. I do want to say that her friend has never seen my (admittedly) pink-ish ass and secondly I don’t think our lovable momo-munching kobito friend looks like me. I’m relatively slim, even if I am not as young as I used to be.

But when our little friend ….whoops!…bikkuiri !!! hilariously plopped into the tender trap prepared for him, the yen started to fall, so to speak.

Before I go any further, I’d like readers to look at the other pictures from the set of characters for this series:

http://shop.kobito-dukan.com

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.

It struck me why this children’s program such a huge hit with adults. On one level they are great stories, but I really am not sure that it is a good lesson to take creatures out of nature and turn them into entertainment pets. But as they are not humans and with only limited intelligence, no harm done, no doubt! Yep, an there are many more problematical kiddies programs out there involving sexualization and gender stereotyping, violence and etc. and all sorts of garbage from just about anywhere you care to name in the world.

But on another level, 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.

I thought about it and I thought about it. I said to my wife, am I being oversensitive? She was completely confused. So I said, well, what if all these kobito had slanted eyes and were yellow and this was a U.S. show. Would you feel comfortable about it. Then the penny dropped for her too.

There is a lot more could say at this point, but I just wanted to share this with other Debito readers to see what they thought.  “Bignose.”

ENDS

Proposal: Establishing a Debito.org YouTube Channel?

mytest

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Hi Blog. There has been discussion within a previous blog entry about establishing a YouTube channel that can screen information videos/vlogs/etc. on topics Debito.org is concerned about. This is not unusual, as many advocacy groups have their own YouTube channels (such as Sakura TV, dedicated to disseminating far-rightist and historically revisionist views).

My vision for a Debito.org would be information that NJ in Japan could use for improving their lives in Japan, such as What to do if… a cop stops you for an ID check — filming some Shokumu Shitsumon proceedings as has happened with Japanese citizens here, here, and here (my favorite). As submitter MJ wrote in to me privately (he has taken videos of cops who have backed off from harassing him once they realized they were being filmed):

fwiw:
– I’ve never had to follow through on threat to upload to youtube because they backed off without me showing ID.
– uploading video is relatively straightforward; a youtube/vimeo/etc. account will come with instructions
– edited versions are best, the shorter the better while leaving in the salient action
btw, you could make a youtube Debito channel…
(yes, a dedicated, Debito-supporting, internet-techie volunteer would be a nice thing ;-))

In other words, filming these proceedings in action may act as at least a primary information source, at best a deterrent.  The threat of accountability stops many a bureaucratic abuse.

For the record, my level of commitment to this project is lending the Debito.org brand to support pre-screened videos. But I sadly have neither have the time nor the expertise to establish or maintain a Debito.org Channel (maintaining Debito.org by itself is a full load). Sorry. So let me open this blog entry up to comments about interest, expertise, and commitment, and if people wish for me to get them in touch with one another off list, let me know. (If you wish to maintain your privacy, please use a pseudonym when communicating with each other, and please use a dedicated email address for this project.)

Alright, what say everyone? I personally think it’s a great idea and I’ll do what I can to help. Arudou Debito

NHK on Fukushima: Offering all-expense-paid junkets to NJ journalists, interviews for NJ residents who experienced disasters. What’s the catch?

mytest

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Hi Blog. In an interesting development, NHK is offering opportunities for NJ (both journalist and resident) to give their views on the “The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”. For example:

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

Job: Non-Japanese journalists to cover stories in the Tohoku region

POSTED BY  (Asia Chapter of the Asian-American Journalists Association) ⋅  ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
FILED UNDER  

NHK is looking for non-Japanese journalists to cover stories in the Tohoku region. All the expenses are paid by NHK. Anyone interested in this, please contact Ayako Mie at ayako.mie@japantimes.co.jp

Project Description

NHK Enterprises will soon start the production of a new series program. Its title is “Tomorrow: Japan, beyond 3.11”. NHK will air this series from April 2013 and NHK Enterprises will produce 30 episodes in one year. The synopsis of this series is as follows;
A huge disaster attacked Japan. It was as if it denied the civilization which we build in 20th and 21st century. But many new movements begin in all over Japan. They are about ecology, new energy, industry, education, community, mental care and etc. Many experts and scientists are working hard to build the future of Japan not only in Tohoku area but also all over Japan. They think they have to utilize the precious experience of disaster.In this series, a foreign journalist, presenter or editor of TV, radio, or website will visit the places where new movements begin. He or she will cover this and will meet the people who are involved in this movement. And this series will depict the process of his or her discovery and will ask his or her impression. It will tell us the new things which Japanese people have not recognized.

(28 minutes x 30, From April 2013 to March 2014)

We are now looking for journalists, presenters or editors who can come to Japan to cover the new movements in Tohoku area or in Japan. The criteria of the reporter and theme of the series are as follows;

  1. Journalists, presenters or editors of TV, radio, or website who can deliver their messages through the media to the broad audience in their countries.
  2. Those who have the concern for the new situation after the earthquake in Japan and those who want to meet key persons of the new movements in Japan.
  3. Themes of this serried are the nuclear issues, the new technology about the earthquake, new movements which began after the earthquake, new trends of business, volunteers and etc. They can be not only directly connected to the earthquake of nuclear crises but also about the broad movements of life style, culture, technology or business.

If you have any idea of the reporter in your country, please tell us the name and contact information. We’ll invite him or her and will coordinate the trip and research in Japan. And we’ll allow them to use the materials which we will shoot.

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

Now that’s a great opportunity for outsiders to come in on a junket and do some reporting. This opportunity is also being echoed within a call to GaijinPot for NJ residents to give their views:

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

“My 3-11″ – Voluntary Interviewee for the program

https://jobs.gaijinpot.com/job/view/lang/en/job_id/82360, courtesy of MB

ON AIR:
March 2013

CONTENT:
NHK is seeking to interview those who had experienced The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake & Tsunami while living in Japan. They will film your unique perspective and experience on the disaster, and it impacted your life in Japan. The interview will take place for the special documentary program in February to be aired in March.

CONDITIONS:
Please write your 3-11 experience in your cover letter
Currently reside in Japan (Preferred for the interview)
Those who previously posted your earthquake experience on GaijinPot
http://injapan.gaijinpot.com/japan-needs-you/my311/

EXAMPLE:
**** My 3.11 memory *****
“That night I walked home with what seemed like every other person in Tokyo. My abiding memory of that walk was the good spirits, friendly nature and calm resolve to get home shared by everybody.

I was working as the editor of a news website when the earthquake first struck. It had been an almost stereotypical slow news day when the office started to shake, then shook some more, and then kept shaking. That convinced us to prepare to leave. I had just enough time to write a one-sentence bulletin on a large earthquake being felt in Tokyo before having to leave….

***** What did I get / learn from your experience of 3-11? *****
I had my first sense of wide scale failure on 3.11 and the immediate aftermath. Authorities, some individuals and technology all cracked in some way. But I learnt how to conquer fears in a scenario such as that, how to deal with systematic failures around you and how to buck up and keep smiling.”

Some of examples in the above link;
– British Photographer, living in Saitama
– Software engineer, Pakistani
– Margarita, Swedish, Female, Fukushima
– Canadian, Chiba-ken, Male, English teacher
– Japanese-Egyptian
– Juliet M, Koriyama ,Fukushima, English Teacher
– United States, Ibaraki, Female, Assistant Language Teacher
– ALT American, in Kamaishi, Iwate
…and many other contributors.

Although NHK is only able to interview a small number of listed applicants, we appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and we will read (and possibly consider airing) no matter if you are selected as an interviewee or not.”

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

This invites a “where’s the catch?” reaction.  When I posted this announcement yesterday within a separate blog entry, one of the more cynical comments from a Debito.org Reader included:

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

Marcus:  @Debito (#19), how convenient that they give you a pre-made, “wa”-stressing example of what you should write. I understand that Japanese-style documentaries are almost exclusively not real, but scripted reality along these lines. The truth has to be hidden, unless it exactly fits the bigger scheme, I guess.

It kind of makes me want to submit an sarcastic entry like, “On 11/3 I was living the sweet gaijin life, getting drunk, doing drugs, and french kissing frozen tuna in Tsukiji, when suddenly the earth started to shake. Of course, I was completely freaked out by it because I am not as used to it as the noble Japanese. When the shaking got really strong I switched on CNN, which by the way is owned by the Chinese and therefore totally Anti-Japanese. I saw the Tsunami hitting Tohoku and realized that this might have be ‘The Big One’. So I did what all we Gaijin came to Japan to do: Go out onto the street to riot and loot, and try to overthrow the Emperor. I made it to Shinjuku and met an old, but really genki man on the street who seemed to suffer from really dry eyes. I was so impressed and intimidated by his antics that I gave up all my evil plans, and spent the rest of the day marveling at ‘the good spirits, friendly nature and calm resolve to get home shared by everybody.’

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

NHK in fact has a history of using NJ to advance an agenda, for example using a quite willing supplicant in Tarento Daniel Kahl to portray overseas media as being biased regarding reportage on Fukushima (something Debito.org has had opinions about in the past). Consider this five minutes (!!) of NHK airtime devoted to Kahl for the newsworthy gesture of making a grandstanding YouTube video:

After all, if even a native speaker (well, one, anyway, and a few others that agreed with Kahl with no dissenters included in the broadcast) says there’s something fishy about overseas reportage (despite, after all, Japan’s already fishy domestic reportage), my, that’s added credibility for NHK viewers! It’s hard to believe that the above proposals won’t be put to the same ends, which is why I created this blog entry to discuss it.  After all, I saw how Hokkaido Shimbun, for example, completely sanitized an article I wrote in 1995 about my experiences in Kobe as a post-earthquake volunteer there (see below) and still had the temerity to put my name on it! (see also here)

Debito in Kobe as an earthquake volunteer. “Everyone was such a hard trier (ganbariya).” Not my title, not my contents.

It’s not outside precedent.  I would even argue that “sanitizing opinion for domestic consumption” is standard operating procedure.

What say you, Debito.org Readers? Arudou Debito

Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids

mytest

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Hi Blog. Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”

The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified —  in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see herehere and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes.  It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.

Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments:  She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination.  (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)

That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article.  Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text (redacted to remove Stephanie’s last name).  Any translation errors are mine, and corrections are welcome. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!

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

TRANSLATION BEGINS:

Salutations.  We received your letter regarding the “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article in the December 2012 issue of Chagurin.  Thank you for your interest in our magazine.  We apologize for the delay in our answer.

Chagurin was created as a magazine to report on the importance of farming, food, nature and life, and cultivate the spirit of helping one another.  The goal of the article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” was not to criticize America.  It was to think along with the children about the social stratifications (kakusa shakai) caused by market fundamentalism (shijou genri shugi) that has gone too far.

Let us now answer the four criticisms that you pointed out, incorporating the answers of author Tsutsumi Mika:

1) Your point that “In any town you might go” you will find parks full of [homeless peoples’] tents being untrue:

Indeed, saying that “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” might be considered an exaggerated (kochou) way to put it.

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • It is a fact that after the Lehman Shock, with bankruptcies driving people out of their homes, the people living in tents has gone up dramatically (kyuuzou).  These are called “tent cities”, and they have been reported in major news media as well as in world media such as the BBC.
  • That said, tents aren’t only in parks, so the expression “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” I think is a mistaken way to put it. [sic]

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

  • “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” is a mistaken expression, so we amend it to “there are tents in various places”.

2) Your point that “At a dentists. a filling (tsumemono) costs 150,000 yen [approximately 1700 US dollars]” being untrue:

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • A bill for a tooth’s treatment will easily exceed 1000 dollars, especially in the cities.
  • Even if you are insured, there are cases where the insurance company refuses to pay.
  • If you are not insured, there are many cases where they take advantage of your weakened position (ashimoto o mirarete) and demand high prices.

[NB: With remarkable serendipity, I have a friend who just had dental work for a root canal for a cracked tooth and a cap on top.  The entire root canal came to about 1000 dollars, and the cap about 800 dollars.  So total that’s about what Tsutsumi claims is the market price for a filling, in a city like Honolulu.  And yes, fortunately, the insurance company paid for most of it.  So obviously your mileage may vary from Tsutsumi’s claims.]

In regards to points 1 and 2, the author did extensive on-site research, and this is grounded upon information with sources.  Saying it as an “everything and all” absolute beckons overstatement, and for giving rise to misunderstandings we apologize.

Regarding point three, about the the picture of the boy with cavities in fact wearing fake Hallowe’en teeth:

chagurin4teethcrop

We checked with the photo agency from whom we borrowed this photo, and found out that they are fake teeth.  This was a mistake by our editorial department, and we apologize for putting up the wrong photo (ayamatta shashin o keisai shita koto).

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

“Regarding the photo of the image of the boy with bad teeth, these were not cavities, these were false teeth used as a costume, and we apologize and correct this error.”

4) Your point about the column being so negative:

Regarding that, the last page of the article states that it is calling for children to independently (jishuteki) choose data for themselves (jouhou no shusha sentaku), so as a project (kikaku) in itself we think this is a positive thing.  Author Tsusumi is of the same opinion.

There are many things in this world that we want children to learn.  Unfortunately with the way the world is now, there are many problems, not limited to poverty and social inequality, but also food supply, war, etc.  In regards to these problems, we would like to positively take up these issues and include Japan’s problems as well.

Thank you very much for your feedback.  We will take them under advisement in our upcoming articles, and not make mistakes like these again by paying attention to fine details.  We appreciate your reading our publication very much.  

Signed, Chagurin Editors Iwazawa Nobuyuki and Mogi Kumiko

ENDS

CHAGURIN REPLY SCANS (two pages):

chagurinreply1 chagurinreply2

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  While both Stephanie and I appreciate the fact that the magazine admitted to some mistakes (let alone answered her at all; although Tsutsumi clearly didn’t budge from her claims), the fundamental points I raised in my November post on this article and the treatment of the issues remain unaddressed:

 – It is testament to our educations that we as readers with critical faculties can see that the points raised [within Tsutsumi’s article] are real social problems [in the United States]. The point of this blog entry, however, is how a) they are presented b) to a young audience without significant training in the critical thought the author is advocating, c) couched as a contrast to how Japan is (or is becoming) as a cautionary tale, and d) in a way unsophisticated enough to present these conditions with the appearance of unmitigated absolutes e) about a foreign society that isn’t going to answer or correct the absolutes. Then we get to the sensationalism (e.g., the allegedly fake teeth in the illustration and the misquoted prices) and the subterfuge (the odd linkage to international trade/TPP as the source of problems, etc.)…

Finally, consider the shoe on the other foot — if an article of this tone and content appeared in an overseas grade-school level newspaper funded by the farming lobby and endorsed by the PTA with the same type of content about Japan, the first people banging on the publisher’s door in protest would be the Japanese embassy.  Then the internet denizens will follow with accusations of racism and anti-Japaneseness. The fact that not a single poster on Debito.org has cited anti-Americanism as the author’s motive (in fact, a few comments I did not let through were explicitly anti-American themselves; moreover with no substantiation for claims) is testament again to the sophistication of our audience here: We can acknowledge problems in societies of origin without glossing over them with blind patriotism.

Stephanie herself added (dated January 15):

I received a response from the editor of Chagurin magazine. I sent them a letter in November and when I did not hear back I thought they would not respond. I was surprised when this letter arrived a few days ago. And to admit any kind of mistake or wrong…I think that is a big step. […]

Yes, I thought missing the core issue of this being a propaganda piece aimed at children is what happened in their response (my daughter translated the letter for me). I’ve lived half my life in locations that were not exactly warm to my being caucasian or my being American. With that I have learned the frustrations of not being able to “make” someone see a different viewpoint or a view beyond what they narrowly have allowed themselves. Growing up, “Where are you from?” I never knew quite what to answer, I’m a “third culture kid”. My mom is [a native of one European country] and my dad is [a native of another European country], I have dual citizenship.

Still, that Chagurin admitted anything wrong — was surprising. I’m still hoping that gradually, with people willing to write and speak out that there will be a change and an ability to focus on the true points of concern in these very important issues. And yes, if the shoe were on the other foot it would have been a huge deal!

I did follow the article and discussion after you posted it. I very much enjoyed the discussion and was glad that the majority of those sharing understood the overall concern –not, as you mentioned an anti-American issue. […]

I want to thank you again for the site you maintain that provides awareness and support for so many people — thanks.

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

Alright, Debito.org Readers: We have been formally encouraged to think independently by Chagurin and Tsutsumi, so let’s use some critical thinking about this publication, the author, the tack, and the points/evidence raised therein. Problem solved with this apology and retraction? Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 58, Dec. 11, 2012: “Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Just wanted to thank everyone for putting this column in the Top Ten Most Read again this month (as it is every month for years now), and thank the JT Editor for choosing it as an “Editor’s Pick” this month.  Now up for commentary:

justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 58
Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121211ad.html

Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.

This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.

In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.

Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.

“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country.

But surely this is a case of mountains and molehills, a critic might counter — aren’t “like” and “dislike” harmless and inevitable facets of the human condition? After all, these two emotions inform so much of our lives, including choices of food, lifestyle, leisure, friends, lifetime partners, etc. Is it really that unsavory a thought process?

Of course not. My point is that reducing public debate to “like or dislike” is too unsophisticated for thoughtful social critique — especially when it is being enforced from above. I will even argue that this rubric fundamentally interferes with the constructive debate an ailing Japan desperately needs.

Consider this: Have you ever noticed how words not only affect our thoughts, but even limit their scope and expressibility?

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they do (look up “cognitive linguistics” and its proponents Lera Boroditsky and George Lakoff). Publicly framing what should be a complex intellectual process as a “like or dislike” dichotomy vastly oversimplifies the shades of the emotional spectrum.

Now add on another layer that stifles dissent yet further in Japan: wa maintenance. Dissent frequently gets silenced to keep things calm and orderly. Remember the oft-cited axiom of “putting a lid on smelly things” (kusai mono ni wa futa o shiro) to explain away censorship and coverup? The more criticism something might invoke, the more likely it is to be suppressed. (How the Olympus and Fukushima fiascoes were handled are but two examples.)

It also engenders an element of self-censorship. If there is inordinate pressure to “like” things, then you’d better keep the “dislikes” to yourself. After all, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all,” right?

Non-Japanese (NJ) readers of this column know this dynamic well, because the pressure on NJ to “like” Japan is relentless.

Ever notice how you are supposed to say “I like Japan” at every opportunity? Mere hours or minutes off the airplane, someone wants to hear how much you like Japan so far. As you begin to study Japanese, set phrases are less “Where is the library?” more “I like sushi, anime and Japan’s unique four seasons” and other pat platitudes.

Even years or decades later, thanks to the predominance of “guestism,” NJ “guests” are not to be overly critical of their “host” country (even if they are naturalized citizens, as letters protesting this column indicate just about every month). I was even compelled to devote an entire column (JBC, Feb. 6, 2012) to what I like about Japan. Why? Oh, just because.

And if you dare get critical? You face exclusionism, even from NJ themselves. The common retort to any criticism is, “Well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?”

With reasoned argument debased to the level of “love it or leave it,” the “like or dislike” ideological prism effectively becomes an intellectual prison. The reaction towards critics of Japan is clear and immediate: Non-likers become disliked.

So why are people so quickly labeled han-nichi (anti-Japan), Nihon-girai (Japan-haters) or “Japan-bashers” just because they offer criticism? Because, linguistically, you can stigmatize and shut them up for walking on the wrong side of the dichotomy.

Thus, “like” leads to an enforcement of “like-mindedness.” It is ultimately an issue of power — a subtle means to disenfranchise any dissenter and empower the status quo. And that suits the Powers That Be just fine, thank you very much.

This dynamic is being used very effectively on the eve of a historic election. As Japan wilts economically, politically and demographically, ascendant rightwing demagogues are offering simplified slogans dictating how the public can better “like” Japan by “disliking” their leftwing opponents and critics.

Not to mention “disliking” outsiders — after all, the wolf at the door in many debates is a bullying China. Or anyone who hasn’t fallen in on “Japan’s side.”

Therein lies the fatal flaw of the “like or dislike” discourse in public debate, which critic-haters are invariably blind towards.

The act of criticizing a government is not the same as criticizing an individual, or a group of individuals, or even necessarily a society in general. A government is always — but always — fair game for critique. A government is power personified, and power must be constantly challenged. “Liking or disliking” a government is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

I should mention one more significant problem with this oversimplification process: If it is so easy in public discourse to talk about “liking” or “disliking” things without offering a reasoned argument why, it becomes just as easy to apply this to people.

As in “I like/dislike foreigners,” which one hears all too often in Japan. Healthy societies should not be this unsophisticated towards other human beings. But if normalized public discourse is this unsophisticated, what can you do but choose a side? Better “like” the side with the power, or else. It’s even patriotic.

That side, alas, will not favor fresh, new ideas put forth by the critics already labelled outsiders and excluded from the debate — and that’s ironic. As Japan’s rightists hark back to an (ahistorical) golden past of Japan’s preeminence and intellectual purity, they ignore the legacies of those outsiders: Pre-industrial Japan sent envoys overseas and imported foreign specialists to investigate how modern nations ran themselves, famously adopting outside models successfully.

Sadly, rightwing exclusionism is selling well these days because it’s offering, as usual, simple solutions to more complex issues, grounded in how much people love Japan and dislike other people.

We must get beyond this grade-school-level debate. That means being brave and brazen with critique. Don’t succumb to the pressure to say only “good things” about any society. It beggars meaningful conversation and defangs the debate necessary to make things better.

Criticism does not signal “dislike”; it indicates critical thinking. If critics didn’t care enough about a place to analyze it deeply, they wouldn’t bother. Critique is their — and your — civic duty.

So do Japan some good: Offer some fresh ideas. Be a critic. Or else, as things get worse, you will only find more things to be critical of. Silently, of course.

——————————-

Arudou Debito and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.

ENDS

SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy

mytest

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Hi Blog.  A little follow-up on something I have been reporting on for years now:

As Readers of Debito.org know, Japan instituted its new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado, or ZRK) from July 15, 2012, promising to promote the “convenience” of NJ residents by streamlining bureaucratic procedures.  But as I have argued, the Ministry of Justice’s main interest is not the convenience of NJ (or else it would have not left NJ in legal limbo when Japan’s Postal Authorities arbitrarily decided not to honor the old Gaijin Cards as a valid form of ID any longer — even though the MOJ acknowledged the old Gaijin Cards issued by them were still legal for at most three more years).  No, the MOJ’s interest is in policing NJ (well, “administering” (kanri) is how they benignly put it, as they explicitly noted in their Cabinet-level presentation last May about how to “co-exist” with NJ in future — essentially by cracking down on visa overstayers further).

To that end, the ZRK has an embedded IC Chip with RFID technology, which, as I have argued for years now, is a means to remotely track NJ in a crowd and beef up racial profiling.  After all, if the NPA scans a crowd and sees somebody walking while visibly “foreign”, they now have probable cause to stop them for one of their patented ID checkpoints formerly permitted under the Foreign Registry Law.  Hey you, gaijin, why aren’t you showing up on our scanners?  Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…

(As an aside, I have been told by at least one legal expert that spot checks are apparently no longer legally permitted, since the Foreign Registry Law has been abolished, but never mind — it’s still happening.  In fact, I just heard word the other day that somebody who got zapped for a Gaijin Card check in Tokyo wasn’t carrying it, had to be escorted home for proof of valid visa, and after showing it was still slapped with a 200,000 yen fine.  Waiting for final confirmation on that…)

However, here’s where the SITYS (See I Told You So) comes in:  People who should know better have constantly argued that I’m donning a tinfoil hat for saying that embedded IC Chips are remotely trackable, and will be used not only for identity theft (for NJ only, since only they are legally required by law to carry ZRK at all times or face criminal penalty), but also for enhanced policing.  No amount of evidence presented (even “the scan-proof travel pouches” long on sale) has convinced them.  So let’s try again:

Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”.  If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?

“Green Card” Faraday Envelope:

Global Entry Card Faraday Envelope:

Do you think the GOJ will ever issue a Faraday Envelope to NJ with their ZRKs?  Nosiree.  That would defeat the point of inserting the IC Chip in the first place.  (For the record, taking off the tinfoil hat and wrapping it around your card protects your privacy — until you get remotely racially profiled, of course…)

Remember, protecting the privacy of NJ is not a priority of the MOJ.  As far as they’re concerned, NJ have no right to privacy, for who knows what they’ll get up to in Japan if they’re not properly “administrated”?

So let’s face facts, everyone:  Embedded chips are there to track NJ and legally NJ only.  No more denialism please.  SITYS.  Arudou Debito

BV: “Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?” On how Japan’s elite bureaucratic rot is adversely affecting Japan’s children

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Guest author “Bitter Valley” is back again with another thing he wants to get off his chest.  I think he should, so here it is.  One of my pet theories about Japan’s swing towards insularity and conservatism is that as people get older (and Japan as a society is doing just that demographically), they get more politically conservative and resistant to change — or at least change that is not in their best interests.  And as “Bitter Valley” points out, it means an inordinate weighting of political power and economic resources in favor of the old at the expense of the young (especially since the very young have no vote, ever fewer numbers, and few political and civil rights to begin with).  This is manifesting itself in ways that BV thinks are worth mentioning in Japan’s most cosmopolitan city.  Given how centralized political power is in Japan, what happens here will set precedents for the rest of the nation.  Arudou Debito

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Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?
By Bitter Valley.  Exclusive to Debito.org, October 19, 2012

Hi Debito, this is “Bitter Valley” again, a year and some change after my previous post about Shibuya Ku’s knuckle-headed attitudes toward my family (I’ll always be a gaijin and my daughter is only Japanese, and that’s that).

We’ve just had some terrible news that the second major children’s facility we have access to in Shibuya, the Kodomo no Shiro (Kiddies Castle) is closing down in 2015. It’s a bit of a hammer blow for us, as we have already just lost the Jidokaikan (Tokyo Children’s Center), which is going to be demolished for another old people’s home.

Regardless of what might really behind the closures (more on this later) it’s going to lower the quality of life for kids and mums and dads in Shibuya (and wider afield) considerably.

Both children’s facilities are/were two of the only major educational/ fun/ accessible/ cheap (no or low cost) play centers. Both, incidentally, were/are tremendous resources for Shibuya’s large ratio of multinational kids. Parents of older children say that there are schools with most classes not only have one but several multiracial or foreign or Japanese but of NJ parentage in classes. Increasingly it’s seen as no big deal.

That’s great, at least to non-knuckleheads and/or racists.

But the closures suck.

First of all the Tokyo Children’s Hall (Jidokaikan) was shut down last year and this spring. The adjacent park was closed and the homeless community, many of whom had been forcibly ejected from what is now “Nike Park,” went where? I don’t know.

I don’t mind people whizzing up and down on their silly skateboards in some lumpen concrete basin. Better that than the road, where the idiots sometimes venture. But I do feel for the homeless, who have now been shunted out of two parks in two years.

After spending a fortune building a gochiso, luxurious old people’s home at Mitake no Oka next door to the Jidokaikan, the plan is now by Tokyo Metropolitan Government to turn it into a old folks leisure center. That means the kids lose out, but the old folks get two delux centers.

That’s right. The building next to the Jidokaikan used to be a shogakko and a fire station. That got knocked down and deluxe old folks home got built. I unfondly remember when it opened. The officials used to park their expensive Toyota Land Cruisers and other official vehicles with their parking rights windshield stickers on the sidewalk in front. I was so angry at this I put up stickers on the windshields saying “Your luxury vehicle paid for by our local taxes.”  The cars all disappeared the next day.

There was a minor concession- they built a nursery, but the nursery that had been public before was privatized, run by Benesse, so while we continue to pay our taxes, we have to pay for privatized nursery care by a company that immediately starts throwing its branded toys, goods disguised as educational programs, at infants.

Meanwhile the “park” next to the Jidokaikan is now a plain concrete flat space. The jidokaikan just sits there, empty and unused, 18 months after being closed down.

The loss of Jidokaikan was a great blow for mums, dads and kiddies people all over Tokyo as it was a major fun and educational center for kids from all over the place.

NOW to our disgust (my wife is appalled and angry, rare for her, it takes a lot to make her disgusted) Kodomo no Shiro (Kiddies Castle) (http://www.kodomono-shiro.jp/index.shtml) up the road (Omotesando) is being closed in 2015 due to “lack of demand.”

Turn my brain upside down- white is black and black is white. The place is like a non-branded treasure trove for kids, with an excellent kiddies gym, educational and workshop facilities and an AV and music center, excellent, trained staff — who don’t treat gaijin any differently from any other kids or parents.

Lack of demand? The place is brilliant, popular and packed out. On any given weekend, it’s also packed with foreign kids, haafus, kids from all over the place. It genuinely is a major popular, well-run, packed out educational and fun palace for all sorts of children — open, tolerant, vibrant, safe and cheap.

This amounts to a systematic closing down of badly needed facilities for kids and infants that are paid for by entrance fees and taxes, for more expensive, privatized versions.

From our perspective there seems to be clear bias here. The oyaji making these decisions are making things great for themselves, and stuff the mums and kids and people raising families.

Kiddies 0, Oldies 2; or perhaps oldies win by two knockouts and submission by tired, stressed mums.

Perhaps this is Japan’s plan for the future. Turn Tokyo into a vast old folks home and leave their children’s children to pick up the bill, or have their kids play in the ruins?

ENDS

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

mytest

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Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on Debito.org in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito

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‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

Japan as we know it is doomed.

Only a revolution can save it.

What kind of revolution?

Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

“Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

Sakanaka claims to have found one.

Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121021x3.html
ENDS

ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration

mytest

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader CJ submits the following ZakSPA! page talking about Japan’s genetic internationalization in tabloid style: How “funny” it is to be a “half.”

http://www.zakzak.co.jp/zakspa/news/20121009/zsp1210091400003-n1.htm

Reading through the articles (enclosed below), I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, it’s good to have the media acknowledging that there are Japanese kids of diverse roots and experiences out there, with some tone of saying how silly it all is that so many people get treated in stereotypical ways (with a “roundtable of halfs” at the end giving their own views on the situation). On the other hand, the level of discourse gets pretty low (“some foreigner talked to me in Narita Airport in English and it was so frightening I felt like crying”), and an opportunity to actually address a serious issue of how Japan has changed is wasted on parts laughing, parts crybabying, parts confirmation that treating people as “different” because they look “different” is a natural, if not inevitable, part of life in Japan. I’ll let Debito.org Readers read for themselves and decide whether this important topic is being broached properly.

Definitely not cool, however, is the topic page with the prototypical illustration of a “half”:

We have not only some phenotypical “othering” going on here, but also the trope of “being foreign means you can’t use chopsticks”. One would think that most multiethnic Japanese (not to mention anyone regardless of nationality — it’s a skill) would have few problems with that. But it’s supposed to be funny, in a “microaggressive” sort of way. Har har. Arudou Debito

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“一般人ハーフ”のトホホな体験談を紹介!外見、言葉、文化…

★[一般人ハーフ]のトホホな日常 ZAK X SPA! 2012.10.09

外見でトホホ編

バラエティ番組を中心に、今、ハーフタレントが大人気!しかし一般人ハーフは、いいことばかりじゃないようで、日本人離れした外見がトホホな事態を招くことも。

「高校に進学するときに引っ越しをして、誰も知ってる人がいない学校に。そしたら『あいつ何者?』って感じで、最初の1週間は周りからものすごく注目されました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

初日の休み時間には、彼を一目見ようと学年中が押しかけ、廊下が黒山の人だかりになったとか。

「話しかけてくるわけでもなく、ワイワイ言いながら遠巻きに見てるだけで……。動物園のパンダになったような気分でした」って、どんなド田舎の学校だよ!?

「ハーフって○○だよね」という思い込みで、ミョーなことを言われちゃうこともある。

「『ハーフなのに背が低いよね』ってよく言われます。ベッキーだって158cmで、 私と一緒。背の低い白人ハーフもいることを知ってほしい(笑)」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

逆に、「ハーフ」と聞いて視界にフィルターがかかってしまった例も。

「『やっぱり外国の人だからまつ毛が長いですね』『顔が小さいですね』と言われる。ホメようとしているんでしょうけど、現実と全然違う。だって、普通の日本人(父母ともに日本人=以下同)の平均と変わらないですから」と苦笑するのはスリランカとのハーフ女性。

「学生の頃はよく『金髪紹介しろよ』『妹いないの?』『姉さんいないの?』とか言われました(笑)」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)って、妹や姉がいたら何する気だ!?さらに「お母さんはキレイか?」とも聞かれたそうだが、いったい何を期待してるのやら。 ハーフにエロな妄想を抱く日本人は男女を問わないようで、「ガイジン顔(白人系)だからか、『エッチ好きなんでしょ』と言う人も。ルーマニアハーフの友達は『このおしり、本物?』と女性に触られたとか」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)とは、同性でもセクハラの域。

「新宿の風俗で“ウマ並み”と思われて断られた。腹が立つより切なかった」(イタリアとのハーフ男性)ってのは、ある意味うらやま……いや、お気の毒さまでした。

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

■言葉でトホホ編

ハーフの皆さんが日本人に必ず一度は言われるというセリフ。それは「○○語で何か話して!」だ。

「腹が立つとまではいかないけど、ロシア語を話せるとわかったら、『何かしゃべってみて』と言われるのが困る。何かってナニ?」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

聞いたところで、さっぱりわかりゃしないだろうにねえ。

仕方なく何か適当にしゃべったとしても、「ハンガリー語は(日本人には)ピンとこない言語なので、しゃべると必ずビミョーな空気になる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)というのも切ない。

別の意味でタチの悪いのが、「語学を少々たしなんでいます(キリッ」という日本人だとか。

「社内で英語がペラペラとされている人が、自分との関わりを避けようとするので笑ってしまった」(イタリアとのハーフ女性)という程度ならカワイイもの。

「フランス語が少しできる日本人女性には、必死にフランス語を使おうとする人が多いですね。気がつけば私は日本語で話し、相手は限られたフランス語で返している状態に。お互いの会話のリズムが悪くなるし、正直、迷惑です」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

気分だけはパリジェンヌのつもりなのかもね……。

普通に日本語で話しただけで驚かれたり「お上手ですねー」とホメられたりするのは日常茶飯事。そこで「『やぶさかでない』とか、『さもありなん』みたいな言葉を使うと、驚き度が3段階ぐらいアップする」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)ってのも何だかなー。

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

■言葉でトホホ編

ガイジン顔を見るや否や、「日本語が話せない」と勝手に思い、妙な対応をする日本人も多い。

「日本で、初対面の人に『○○でーす!』と日本語であいさつしているのに、私と一緒に来た日本人に『このコ、どこのコ?』と聞かれること多数。日本語で話しかけてるんだから、私に聞いてー」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

耳で聞いた「日本語のあいさつ」より、目の前の「ガイジン顔」のほうが脳内で勝っちゃったのね。

「夜に車を運転中、ナンバープレートを照らすランプが切れていたらしく、パトカーに『止まりなさい』と言われたのですが、警官は自分の顔を見るや『日本語わかりますか?』。日本語がわかるから停車したんですけどね」(オランダとのハーフ男性)とはごもっとも。

「駅員に日本語で発車ホームを尋ねたら変な英語で返され、何言ってるかわからなくて電車に乗り遅れたことがあります」(スイスとのハーフ女性)となると大迷惑だ。

英語で話しかけるならまだしも、インチキ外国人化する人もいる。

「『ニホンゴ、ワカリマスカ?』『コレ、ヨメマスカ?』と、カタコトで話しかけられることが。『はいはい、わかりますよ!』と大声で答えてます」(カナダとのハーフ女性)、「日本語で話しているのに、やたらカタカナ語や外来語を使ってくる」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)って、お前はルー大柴か!

「図書館で本を読んでいたら、中年男性がそーっと近寄ってきて、『日本語読めるんですか?』と聞かれました。日本語を読めない人が、本を開いて見つめて何をするというのでしょう?」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

実は、ナンパだったのかも!?

■トイレで外国人に英語で話しかけられてビビった!

日本生まれの日本育ちだったり、非英語圏と日本のハーフだったりで「英語が話せない」というハーフは少なくない。それゆえトホホな思いをすることも。たとえば、トルコとのハーフ男性の場合、「日本の私立中高一貫校に入ったら、みんな私よりも英語ができて、中1の頃はバカにされました」。

日本人だけでなく、外国人にも英語が話せると見られてしまう。

「子供のとき成田空港のトイレで、隣に来た外国人からいきなり英語で話しかけられた。どう返していいかわからず、“最中”なので逃げられず、怖くて泣きたくなりました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

「困るのは英語で道を尋ねられたとき。わかる英語だけ言って、あとは日本語で対応。悲しいのは、クラブで英語で声かけられて日本語で答えるとガッカリされること。『ヤダー、ニセモノじゃん!』って」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

でも、最近は慣れて「そういう反応を楽しんでる」のだそうだ。

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

■文化でトホホ編

「日本と○○のハーフです」と言うと、その国の文化や国民性に関するステレオタイプなイメージを押しつけられるのもハーフの悩み。

「『ドイツと言えばビール!サッカー!お城!ロマンティック街道!』と言われますね。あと、『シャウエッセン』(笑)。それは日本で売ってるソーセージでしょ。ドイツとはまったく関係ないよ……」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

まあ、日本人がフジヤマ、ゲイシャ、テンプラとか言われるようなもんか。ただ、当たってる場合もあって、「『父親がロシア人』と答えると『お父さんは大酒飲み?』と聞かれる。でも、本当に大酒飲みなので『ウイスキーならオンザロックで7杯くらい』と正直に答える」と苦笑するのはロシアとのハーフ女性。とはいえ、「『バナナで釘が打てるのか』『プーチンは好きか』とかも聞かれるけど、そんなん知らんがな!」とのことだ。

相手に興味を持つのはいいけれど、「初対面で親しくもないのに、根掘り葉掘り“取り調べ”みたいに聞くのはやめてほしい」(カナダとのハーフ女性)と、うんざりしているハーフは多い。

「日本人であると説明しても同列に扱ってもらえず、失礼な質問攻めにあったり、執拗な外国人キャラづけによるからかいを受ける」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)なんて声も。ガイジン顔だからってハーフタレントと同じようにイジられたら、そりゃウザいよな。

その点、日本人にとって馴染みの薄い国の場合は、「お国はどちらと聞かれたら、『半分ポーランドです』と答える。オランダやポルトガルなどと違って、日本人にポーランドのイメージがない。だから、それ以上あまりツッコまれない。ある意味ラク」(ポーランドとのハーフ男性)だとか。たまに聞かれるのは「酒をたくさん飲むんだろ?」で、「これは本当(笑)。ドイツとロシアに挟まれた国だからねー。ポーランドではウオッカをショットグラスのストレートで飲む。最高でボトル2本空けたことがあります。日本人の友達はつぶれちゃいます(笑)」って、それは個人差あるのでは……?

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

■文化でトホホ編

ハーフの食生活にも、誤解と偏見がいっぱいだ。

「牛丼屋で黙って座っていたら、スプーンにフォークまで出してくれるが、黙ってお箸で食べる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)

「コンビニのおにぎりを食べてると『似合わないね』『違和感ある』と言われ、パン類やピザなどを食べてると『似合うね』と言われる」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

フランスとのハーフで現在は主婦の女性は「『家では何料理を作るの?』と食生活に変な興味を持たれることに辟易しています」と眉をひそめる。

「日本人が想像するようなフランス料理を家で作るわけがありません。普通に日本の家庭料理です、と答えると驚かれたり、フランスの食事が恋しくないのかと心配そうに聞かれるのにも、ややうんざり」

いまだ日本人の“おフランス”イメージは抜けず!?

「ハーフというだけで、その国を代表する人みたいな扱いをするのはやめて!」と訴えるのは、スイスとのハーフ女性。

「たとえばコーヒーに角砂糖を2個入れると、『スイス人はコーヒーにお砂糖を2個入れるんですね』と言われます。違います。私がそうしているだけです。2個の人、1個の人、ブラックで飲むスイス人もいます。個人差をまったく無視し、私のすべての行動をスイスと結びつけないでください……」

逆に「『我々日本人は~』と聞かされるのも疲れます。『私の母も日本人やけど全然ちゃうで!』と言いたくなる」と憤慨する。

「高齢の方には『先の大戦では日独伊三国同盟でしたね』と、やけに好意的な人がたまにいる」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)ってのも、喜んでいいのかどうなのか。

戦争がらみでは「『北方領土を返せ』と言われる。直接言われたり、知らない人からメッセが来たり」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)って、お門違いもいいところだ。

別の意味で非礼極まりないのが下ネタ関係。「ガイジン=エッチという先入観からか、妙に下ネタを振ってくる人、やめてほしい」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)、「『ロシアの女性ってエッチも情熱的なんだよね~』『ハーフとエッチしたことないからさせて~』とか言う男。バイカル湖に沈めたい」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)など怒りの声多数。

何を勘違いしてるのか知らんけど、そういう輩は味噌汁で顔洗って出直してこーい!

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

■ハーフ座談会

サンドラ:まずは“ハーフあるある”から。「その顔で○○?」ってよく言われませんか?

荒川:「その顔でヒロシ?」とよく言われます(笑)。純日本人に見られたことは皆無。イギリス人の友達にも「ガイジン顔」「日本人には到底見えない」と言われたことがあります。

中澤:初対面ではなく、長い付き合いの友達でも、和食を食べていると「似合わないねー」と言われます(笑)。

一同:あるあるー!

中澤:おにぎりの中身は「梅干しじゃなく、せめてツナにしろ」とかね(笑)。

サンドラ:私たちガイジン顔の人に「おにぎりが似合わない」と言うのは、日本人に「ハンバーガーが似合わない」「ステーキ食べるな」って言っているようなもの(笑)。

林:マックで食べてると、「めっちゃ似合う」とか言われます。別に嫌な気分はしないけど。

サンドラ:知らない日本人から声かけられることも多いですよね。

小林:いきなり「英語しゃべって」と来ることも。さすがに小学生、大きくても中学生くらい。

荒川:小さい子が必ず「アメリカ人だ!」と言うのが不思議。「英語人だ!」って言われたことも(笑)。

齋藤:急いで駅の階段を駆け上がっていたら、知らない人が突然「グッドモーニング!」って。とっさに「おはようございます!」と返してしまいましたが、妙な感じでした(笑)。

中澤:話したがるおじさんとかいませんか?飲み屋でフッと目が合うと、急に英語で話しかけてきたりするような--。

林:俺はそういうの嫌。露骨に“嫌ですオーラ”出してます。

中澤:自分はわりと話します。頑張ってるんだな、と思って。でも、さっきまで俺、日本語で話してたんだけど……という(笑)。

サンドラ:顔見知り程度の人が、英語の練習したくて誘ってくることって、ありますよねー。

一同:あるあるー!!

齋藤:「私、英会話習いたいから、ランチでもどう?今から全部英語ね」って(苦笑)。

中澤:そういうときは、しゃべらないですね。母が英会話の先生をしているんですが、1時間何千円でやっているわけです。それと同じことをタダでやれって言われているようなものですから。

小林:英語関連で言うと、私が日本語話せるとわかっているのに、親戚がときどき会話に英単語を交ぜて話してきますね。「はい、これお茶、ティーね」とか……。

一同:(爆笑)

林:俺は日本生まれで英語は頑張って勉強して覚えたのに、テストでいい点数取っても「ハーフだからいいよな」って言われたことがあります。

小林:私も母がフランス人だから英語は関係ないんですけど、小中学校と、まあまあ勉強はできるほうだったんです。それで、英語も成績よかったんですが、周りはやっぱり「ラクしていい点数取れていいねえ」って感じで。

齋藤:私は中1まではよかったんですけど、中2のときに赤点取ってしまって(笑)。そこから頑張って勉強するようになりました。

サンドラ:ハーフと言うと「家では何語で話すの?」というのもよく聞かれる質問ですよね。

中澤:「父とは日本語、母とは英語」と言うと「じゃあ両親の間では?」って聞かれて「英語です」って。そういうのをいちいち答えなきゃいけないんですよね。

サンドラ:もっと進むと、「夢は何語で見てるんですか?」「寝言は何語ですか?」とか。

中澤:「痛いときは『アウチ!』って言うの?」とか(笑)。

サンドラ:あと「ミドルネームはないの?」というのも。

一同:それは必ず聞かれますね。

荒川:小さい頃はミドルネームがありましたが、自分はそれが嫌だった。病院などで名前を呼ばれると、みんなが一斉に注目する。親に懇願して、小学校に上がる前に今の名前に変えた。昔は今より金髪でほかの子と全然違うから、見た目もコンプレックスでした。

中澤:わかります!自分も小さい頃、髪が真っ茶で目立つから、それで先生に目をつけられたし。

■半分は日本なのに日本の部分はスルーされる

サンドラ:「どこの国?」と聞かれるのはいいけど、聞いてどうするのかなって気もする。「どっちがドイツ?」「父」と言うと、もう次は「お父さんとお母さん、どこで知り合ったの?」となる。

中澤:勝手に家系図を作られているみたい(笑)。

小林:どうして初対面の人に、そこまでファミリーストーリーを話さなきゃならないの?

齋藤:普通、親のなれそめなんか聞かないよね。で、ハーフと知ってから「俺、鹿児島と兵庫のハーフだから」とか言う人も。

一同:いるー!超あるある!

サンドラ:いろいろ聞かれながら、半分日本人なんだけどなあ、って思います。日本とドイツだと言っているのに、日本はスルーでドイツのことばかり。それが悔しい。

中澤:日本人が出身地の話で仲間意識を持つのはわかるけど、ハーフ相手だと仲間探しではなく違いを探してるって感じがする。

サンドラ:純日本人でもみんなが直毛の黒髪ではないのに、そこから外れると「違う人」。そう教育されてきたから、大人になっても「ハーフは違う人」と思うのかも。

小林:母の国のフランスだけでなく、「日本のどちら?」って、父の国のことも聞いてくれたらうれしい。同じ和歌山出身の人なら、すごく盛り上がれそう。でも、聞かれたことはありません(笑)。

中澤:日本の中に現にある多様性に目を向けてほしいですよね。

サンドラ:若いギャルたちは意外に「どこの国の人?」とか聞いてこない。もう少しで「いろんな日本人がいる」というのが“普通”になるかもしれませんね(笑)。

■司会 サンドラ・ヘフェリンさん ドイツ育ちの日独ハーフ。日本在住歴15年。著書『浪費が止まるドイツ節約生活の楽しみ』(光文社)、『ハーフが美人なんて妄想ですから!!』(中公新書ラクレ)ほか。HP「ハーフを考えよう」http://half-sandra.com/
ENDS

The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?

mytest

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Hi Blog. Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2 (see it here), I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door:  How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads  to diversity getting subsumed.  And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.

Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.

But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it? Arudou Debito

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

ON SANCTIONED REALITY, MAJORITARIANISM AND JAPAN’S DEMOCRACY
By ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published October 2, 2012
DRAFT SIXTEEN – version submitted for edits and rejected for publication

I recently attended an interesting talk. It discussed Japan’s cultural conceit with the “real,” “genuine,” and “legitimate” as governed by the kanji “hon.” For example, genuine articles are “honmono,” the home of a famous product “honke”, one’s genuine feelings, intentions and character include “honki”, “honne,” “honshō” and “hongoshi,” you get the idea.

That made me think: What makes something legitimately “genuine” or “real” in Japan? Public acknowledgment of authenticity, of course. Certification could be an official government document, strong media attention, or even positive word of mouth.

For example, an artist or writer instantly becomes worthy of attention and accolade after becoming a “Living National Treasure” or an Akutagawa Prize winner. (Remember, this is how future Tokyo Governor Ishihara got his start.)

Of course, by definition one needs public support to become popular, and popularity begets more recognition as celebrity.

But Japan takes the “popularity = recognition” concept one step further, to “popularity = more trustworthy.” Unrecognized things tend to be seen as less legitimate in terms of quality or as a source of information.

For example, a restaurant without a write-up in the local tour guidebook can’t be any good. If something’s apparently unpopular, there must be something wrong with it. This is why tourist traps overseas pay big bucks to be featured in the Japanese “Hato Bus” media circuit.

So what is this column’s epiphany? If popularity means something is more “real” and “legitimate,” sole individuals and their opinions will have less influence over reality. This has a profound effect on Japan’s democracy. Seriously.

Start with an everyday interaction: Remember when you asked a group their opinion (particularly in classrooms). What’s the first thing most respondents do? Turn to their neighbors for affirmation.

Few are brave enough to immediately offer their “own opinion” because it might “not be commonly acceptable” (tsūyō shinai). There has to be a “consensus” before anyone declares anything definitive.

One exception, of course, is an opinion about Japanese behavior or culture. Ever notice how answers like, “because we’re an island nation” or “we have a long history of being a closed society” are immediate and standardized? Because they are the “consensus responses” – commonly-held, thus legitimate. This is one reason why Japanese society is so susceptible to talking in stereotypes.

Point is, people here have to “read the air” (kūki o yomu) first to determine reality, which takes time, energy, and guesswork to concoct. Moreover, people who buck the trend with an unpopular opinion merely look like troublemakers. This tedious dynamic forces people to default into silence.

The exception to the silent default is when someone has enough power in the group to be a sempai. Or a bully. Both will if necessary browbeat people into their mode of thinking.

Thus, reality depends on the dominant group hierarchy maintaining the dominant discourse.

One problem with a “certified reality for mass consumption” is that minority views are unacceptable. By definition, if a majority does not support a minority view, then tsūyō shinai. After all, if enough people don’t say or do it, it’s not “The Real Japan.” This majoritarianism acts as a natural brake on Japan’s diversity.

But the bigger problem is the brake on dissent.

If people are more likely to “take seriously” a fact or opinion (and, due to a lack of training in critical thinking, people often have trouble telling the difference) just because they saw that fact or opinion on TV or in a newspaper, then people who control media outlets can create “consensus” by “changing the air.”

This means that Japanese society, whose most trusted and ubiquitous media outlet is government-run, becomes more easily manipulated by officialdom.

Of course, the media manufactures public consensus in all societies. But in Japan’s case, a hierarchical social dynamic enforced at all levels of society makes people particularly susceptible to top-down decision making.

This can be taken too far. We’ve witnessed a decade of “rampant foreign crime” grounded in police media campaigns instead of careful statistical analysis (Zeit Gist Oct. 7, 2003).

But now consider the current claims that a few faraway “islands” are sufficient reason to hate the local ethnic shopkeeper. Volume has shouted down reason.

Now add one more thing to the mix: “koe.” In Japan, disembodied voices are often taken as legitimately as official voices. That’s how Japan’s media justifies rumor through anonymous sources, and how officials justify public policy by saying “koe ga atta” (there has been talk of…). This is further amplified by Japan’s anonymous Internet culture, a bullying and outrage industry in its own right (JBC Feb. 3, 2009).

Eventually any bubble of commonly-held lies and distortions will pop. But when it pops in Japan, there is little denouement. Rarely are the brave individuals who initially offered dissent commended. Most dissenters realize it’s too mendōkusai (bothersome) to pipe up and so in future just pipe down.

In sum, this social dynamic helps the ruling elite keep control of the status quo. And it’s one reason why conservatives have spent their lives dismantling liberalized education (yutori kyōiku) – for heaven forbid that Leftist teachers ever indulge in critical thinking or encourage students to question authority!

There are consequences: Every now and then Japan’s debate arenas fall into an echo-chamber “reality trap,” where circular logic based on bad social science becomes mutually-reinforcing. We’ve seen the logical excesses in public outrages about, say, human rights, gender equality, foreign suffrage, and now Japanese territorial integrity with the Senkakus and Takeshima.

Once mired in this “reality trap,” the most effective way to adjust the prevailing “reality” (aside from total defeat in a war) is by appealing to Japan’s legitimacy overseas.

Since the Meiji Era, Japan has always wanted be taken seriously by the club of powerful countries. Due to the enormous cultural value placed upon hierarchy, Japan has aspired to join the club in a superior, respected position.

Yet most people know Japan as the “fragile superpower,” and Japan’s ruling elites know well that there is much to lose by creating trouble: Not only in terms of hard-won (and paid for) international esteem, but also economic resources if bullies and zealots irritate the neighbors.

Bully celebrities and zealots have gained much ground these past decades, legitimizing jingoistic interpretations of history in mainstream media. But I think the browbeaten public is betting that reason will soon prevail amongst ruling elites.

Why? Because Japan never wants to be seen as the aggressor in any conflict, or the bad guy in any situation.

Consider the dominant discourse in postwar Japan: We didn’t engage in military conquest during WWII – a rapacious military leadership inflicted great suffering on all Japanese. Then we were subjected to horrific atomic bombings. After that, we had decades of miraculous prosperity generated from our own hard work. But then things slowed down even though we did our best. It’s not our fault: Even our current mess was caused by force majeure – our volcanic archipelago, against which we stoically persevere. We are all victims.

What about dissenting opinions to this discourse, including the public’s complicity in rooting out prewar Leftists, the wartime responsibility of the Showa Emperor, the granting of favorable terms of trade for reconstruction, and generations of government-industrial corruption through unaccountable bureaucratic rule? All drowned out under Japan’s majoritarianism, delegitimizing unpopular opinions in favor of perpetual victimhood.

But not this time. It’s pretty difficult to justify Japan’s victim status with the Senkakus and Takeshima. The rocks are just an official distraction from the irradiating food chain and accelerating economic tailspin.

Back to the concepts of “genuine” and “legitimate.” What good is this “islands” dispute if the other rich countries, looking increasingly to China as Asia’s leader, won’t see Japan as a “genuine” victim with a “legitimate” grievance?

Sooner or later the ruling elites, perpetually looking over their shoulder at world opinion, will tell the jingoists to tone it down — for business’ sake. It’s the effect of gaiatsu, or outside pressure.

Gaiatsu is basically the only way that Japan, once it gets into these ideological bully-pulpit spirals, will be calmed down. Because Japan’s general public, structurally defanged by a culture of being unable to say or think anything is “real” or “legitimate” without certified permission, cannot stop itself when domestic bullies get too powerful. It needs somebody else to put the jingoism genie back in the bottle.

Outside world, it’s nigh time to do it again.
1396 WORDS
ends

Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et.al on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization

mytest

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Hi Blog.  There’s a case that can be made nowadays that Japan is not only in decline, it’s falling back on jingoism (beyond the standard nihonjinron and historical revisionism) to support the image of a Japan that was once better when it had fewer foreigners (or none, which was historically never the case).  As my current research (more on this in future) has sought to demonstrate, Japan’s (Postwar, not Prewar, cf. Oguma Eiji) national narrative of “monoculturalism, monoethnicity, and homogeneity” has sponsored an ideological ethnic cleansing of Japan, thanks in part to revolving-door visa regimes and all manner of incentives to make sure that few “visibly foreign” foreigners stay here forever (hence the prioritizing of the Nikkei) for they agitate for more rights as generational residents (consider the visas that can be cancelled or phased out pretty much at government whim; we’ve seen it before with, for example, the Iranians in the late 1990s).  And if you ever thought “the next generation of younger Japanese will be more liberal”, we now have Osaka Gov Hashimoro Touru (younger than I) also supporting historical revisionism (see below) and forming the “Japan Restoration Party” (the poignantly and ominously named Nihon Ishin no Kai) on September 12, 2012.  With the recent saber-rattling (which nation-states indulge in periodically to draw public attention away from larger social problems, in Japan’s case the issues of nuclear power and the irradiating food chain) and the overblown flaps over the Takeshima/Tokdo and Senkaku/Diaoyu ocean specks, we have an emerging vision of Japan as a remilitarized power in Asia, courtesy of Debito.org Reader JDG.  I thought we’d have a discussion about that here.  Take a look through the resource materials below and consider whether or not you share the apprehension that I (and some major academics overseas, including Ted Bestor and Harumi Befu, at the very bottom) have about Japan’s future.  Arudou Debito

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August 23, 2012
Hello Debito, I hope that you are well, and enjoying your sumer break.  I was wondering if I might suggest a JBC topic for you?

The Economist link I sent to you before, combined with the earlier war-crimes denial by the mayor of Nagoya, the ever-irritating blinky [Ishihara Shintaro], and now this:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120822x3.html

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The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012
No evidence sex slaves were taken by military: Hashimoto
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer (excerpt)
OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said there was no evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army forced Korean women and girls into sexual servitude at wartime military brothels.

In response to a question Tuesday about South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s visit to the disputed Takeshima islets, which are called Dokdo in South Korea, which controls them, Hashimoto touched on Lee’s recent demands for Japan to apologize to the forced sex workers — now often described as “sex slaves” by the media — who were euphemistically called “comfort women” by the Japanese.

“There is no evidence that people called comfort women were taken away by violence or threat by the (Japanese) military,” Hashimoto said. “If there is such evidence, South Korea should provide it.”…

In August 1993, after more than 1½ years of government research into the issue, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement saying the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of “comfort stations” and the transfer of comfort women.

“The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments,” the statement said.

“It is deeply regrettable that the politician (Hashimoto) made remarks that run counter to the official position of the Japanese government,” said a South Korean government spokesman in an email to The Japan Times. “Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono issued a statement acknowledging the forcible recruitment of the so-called comfort women, sexual slavery victims drafted for the Japanese Imperial Army. As such, we believe the Japanese government has already acknowledged the forced nature of the recruitment of comfort women.”
Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120823a6.html
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Hashimoto denying J-war crimes is giving me massive pause for thought about the future of Japan. J-politicians have done this since the reverse course, but the fact of Hashimoto doing it proves that even the ‘next’ generation of J-politicians can’t stop the denial, and abandon Imperial era ideology.

Why does this bother me (beyond the obvious)?

Power is (as I am sure you know) based on three ‘legs’ in international relations terms. The first is political power (you can influence countries because they agree with your policies). Post-war Japan has never had any clout in this area. The second form is economic power (you can influence other countries with cash incentives). Until now Japan has been quite adept at quelling ruffled neighbors feathers with large amounts of ODA. But now China and Korea are ‘catching up’ economically, and Japan is falling behind, so this economic power is seen to be escaping from Japan’s grasp.

The third type of power in international relations is military power (when you can’t convince or buy concordance, smack them in the face). Recent comments by J-politicians named above, the continued visits to Yasukuni by the insensitively flippantly named ‘Let’s Visit Yasukuni!’ group of Diet members, the recent changing of the constitution to ‘ensure Japan’s nuclear safety’ (a move that specifically does not exclude the development of nuclear weapons- ‘Self Defense Force’ type word games), are causing me and others, great apprehension about Japan’s future.

Whilst I have no doubt that Japan will not embark on a series of expansionist wars, it seems to me that increasing Japanese insecurity with economic stagnation (read as: ‘Economic failure=losing the post-war peace’), is forcing J-politicians to fall back increasing on the verbosity of the third leg of international relations power. The purpose of this verbosity is to garner domestic support rather than exert any real international influence, and in this sense, it is of great concern for NJ residents in Japan.

Whilst I hope sincerely that a significant majority of the Japanese public would resist such endorsement of Imperial-era Japanese militarism, I am not encouraged. Given that it is unrealistic to suppose that Japan could successfully take military action against it’s powerful neighbors free from the risk of retaliation, my fear is that (as in 1930’s Germany), we are seeing a ‘renaissance’ of Japanese nationalistic ideology, rather than it’s much prolonged demise. An ideology that can only find a vent for it’s frustration on the NJ living in Japan.

The implications of this for NJ is that Japan will certainly not become more open and less discriminatory, but rather the drastic opposite.

At present, it’s all rather in the balance, but the fact that 67 years after the end of WWII the Mayors of Japan’s first, second, and third cities can still deny war crimes whilst calling for a militarily ‘stronger’ Japan should certainly make any NJ think twice about even visiting.

I have had enough, and will be leaving with my family. Japan, I sincerely believe, will get much worse for NJ as the economy fails to right itself. I think that the case can be made that the chance for Japan to become an internationalized country (in the Western sense) passed some 20 years ago, and instead of looking to the future, the Japanese are raging at the passing of glory days gone by.

Sincerely JDG.

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September 10, 2012

As a postscript to the mail I sent you before, have you seen this?
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120911a1.html

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012
Tanigaki out, Ishihara likely in LDP race
Party angling for return to power; Noda kicks off DPJ campaign
By MASAMI ITO and NATSUKO FUKUE Staff writers

Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki gave up his bid Monday to seek re-election in the Sept. 26 LDP leadership race, paving way for his right-hand man, Nobuteru Ishihara, as yet an undeclared candidate, to vie for the helm…

[Current DPJ PM] Noda, 55, vowed to create a nuclear power-free society, without saying when this may be achieved, and pledged 1 percent inflation within a year to overcome deflation.

He also vowed to protect Japanese sovereignty, including over the Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls, and the Takeshima islets, which are held by South Korea. He pledged to pave the way for the return of the Russia-held islands off Hokkaido. Noda also noted the government will buy three of the five Senkaku Islands, which are currently owned by a Saitama businessman.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120911a1.html
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Son of blinky as the next PM, combined with The Economist’s insiders’ take on future LDP policy? Does not bear thinking about for NJ.

I believe that Japan has been stringing the world along all along, just so that we would be happy to buy their cars and VCRs and other crap. In it’s heart Japan has never changed because it doesn’t want to, and now that we aren’t buying enough of their products, they have no reason to pretend to have changed.

I think that the time is coming for a change in strategy. Working from inside to educate the Japanese about the issues is having no real effect, maybe the next phase is just to shove evidence of Japan’s disgraceful behavior into the face of the international community until Japan is shamed into taking action.

After all, what should the headline of the NY Times be on the day that PM Son-of-Blinky shakes hands with the President of the USA?

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The Japan Times, Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012
Hashimoto launches party amid workload, universal appeal doubts
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120913a3.html
OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s new national political party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), was officially launched Wednesday with the aim of fundamentally changing the way the nation is governed…

The event boasted a map of Japan that included not only the four main islands and Okinawa, but also the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets, which are also claimed by China, the Takeshima islets, which are held by South Korea, where they are called Dokdo, and the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan has wanted back since Soviet forces seized them at the end of the war.

Hashimoto’s party platform calls for proactive defense of Japanese sovereignty and territories. It did not specify how it would deal with territory Japan claims but no longer has control over….

There is also concern among Hashimoto’s advisers over how broad, nationally, the new party’s appeal will be. His biggest supporters are socially conservative urban males in their late 20s through late 40s, and media are already dubbing the party a “boy’s club.” Of the 105 local-level politicians in Osaka Ishin no Kai, only nine are women, and there were no female participants in Sunday’s discussion.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120913a3.html

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日本維新の会、結党を宣言 衆院選350人擁立目指す
朝日新聞 2012年9月13日
http://www.asahi.com/kansai/news/OSK201209130004.html

大阪維新の会(代表・橋下徹大阪市長)は12日、大阪市内で政治資金パーティーを開き、橋下氏が国政政党「日本維新の会」結党を正式に宣言した。次期衆院選に向けて350人程度の擁立を目指し、候補者の公募も週内に開始する。設立時期は、新党に参加する衆参国会議員7人の離党時期を踏まえ、今月下旬以降になる見通し。

パーティーで橋下氏は「我々大阪維新の会は国政政党をつくることに決めた」と、大阪市内に本部を置く日本維新の会結成を宣言。「これから日本の大いくさが始まる。今日そのスタートを切る」と、次期衆院選に向けた候補者擁立などの準備を本格化するとした。

橋下氏は、新党に参加するため11日に離党届を出した民主党の松野頼久元官房副長官(衆院熊本1区)、自民党の松浪健太衆院議員(比例近畿)ら衆参国会議員7人を紹介。次期衆院選での擁立を検討している前横浜市長の中田宏氏らのほか、維新の会との連携を模索する河村たかし名古屋市長や大村秀章愛知県知事も参加した。
ENDS
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September 12, 2012 3:45 am
Japan’s not ready to be a reliable ally

The Financial Times (London), Letter to the Editor
From Dr Jean-Pierre Lehmann. Courtesy DH
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/99321782-fb4d-11e1-87ae-00144feabdc0.html

Sir, Ian Bremmer and David Gordon’s suggestion that “Japan must be the new indispensable ally for the US in Asia” (September 10) is an absolute non-starter; going down that road would be disastrous for the US and for the region.

First, Japan has become more than ever since the end of the second world war, and more than any other major country, an inward looking-nation. There is no Japanese world view. The number of Japanese students in the US has significantly declined, in contrast to the growing numbers from many other Asian countries. Japan scores last but one (North Korea) in TOEFL (tests of English as a foreign language). Since Sadako Ogata served as the UN high commissioner for refugees there has been no prominent Japanese holding an international position. There is no visibility, let alone influence, of Japan at the World Trade Organisation. On this, as in respect to many other issues, no one knows what Japan stands for. At international policy forums, the Japanese, apart from a tiny handful of regulars, tend to be conspicuous by their absence. Japan remains a very closed country to foreigners: there are very, very few foreigners (and especially few non-Japanese Asians) in prominent positions in Japanese companies, Japanese universities, Japanese think-tanks, Japanese non-governmental organisations (of which there are very few internationally inclined), and so on. The picture of Japanese corporate diplomacy they present is a throwback to a vision of the 1980s, which was pretty much a mirage already then.

Second, and far more critical as recent events so sadly demonstrate, Japan, unlike Germany, has still not made peace with its neighbours. Relations are terrible with the Koreans and with China, but they are also bad with many other Asian countries or entities, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Not only has Japan shown no leadership in Asia, it has been seen to behave in a highly mercantilist fashion and with a stunning lack of conscience of its past atrocities. The Japanese have shown themselves, at best, to be amazingly insensitive.

For the moment, unlike in the 1930s and 1940s, Japan poses no military threat. However, its behaviour vis-à-vis the world in general and its Asian neighbours in particular poses a serious security threat. There can be no peace in the Asia of the 21st century if the peace of the 20th century in Asia has not been restored. By whitewashing the past (as the US did vis-à-vis Japan and Asia in the aftermath of the second world war) and embracing Japan as an indispensable ally in Asia, the US will be seriously exacerbating the already explosive regional condition.

Japan should be encouraged to make peace and open up. Then prospects for a peaceful and prosperous Pacific will be greatly enhanced.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Emeritus Professor at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland

ENDS

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From: “Bestor, Theodore” XXXXXXX@WJH.HARVARD.EDU
Date: September 3, 2012 6:10:57 PM
To: EASIANTH@LISTSERV.TEMPLE.EDU
Subject: FW: China & Korea relations with Japan 中国〜日本/韓国〜日本
Reply-To: East Asia Anthropologists’ discussion

Dear Colleagues,

With Harumi Befu’s permission, I am forwarding his email of earlier today regarding the crises among various Asian nations over nominal control of tiny rocks in the several oceans and seas around East Asia. I entirely agree with his position that nationalist rhetoric is ramping up in very disturbing ways on all sides.

I send this along in the hope (both Harumi’s and my own) that those of us who study and write about East Asian cultures, societies, polities might help create spaces in which to engage in creative and productive dialogue that could contribute to a diffusing of tensions.

Harumi and I agree that the current heated rhetoric over the various specks in dispute are serious threats to regional peace and stability.

Perhaps EASIANTH could be a forum for discussion on this set of issues.

With best wishes, Ted

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

From: Harumi XXXX@stanford.edu
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2012 19:56:30

Subject: China & Korea relations with Jpan 中国〜日本/韓国〜日本

Dear Colleagues in East Asian Studies:
(Apologies for multiple mailing.)

This communication is being sent to my colleagues who might be concerned as I am with the current developments in the border dispute between Korea and Japan and between China and Japan, created by respective governments’ hardened positions. These disputes are unnecessarily escalated by the support of nationalist sentiments of all sides and are further flared by the media.

I hope at least some of you share my view that the current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy, and that it is time and it is the duty of us academics making our living by studying this area to undertake a concerted effort to make our voices heard, trusting that our collective wisdom has the power of persuading the public and the governments of the three countries.

Our academic endeavor is an effort in futility if we cannot exert any influence on the larger society in time of crisis.

I have no preconceived agenda, formula, or program of action. You must have your own take and preferred course of action. Some might like to act alone; others might like to underscore the Durkheimian belief that collective action is more than the arithmetic sum of parts. Whatever you wish to do, time is of essence. Dark clouds are gathering fast. I beseech you to act.

Respectfully submitted by your colleague,
Harumi Befu, Stanford University
p.s. My mailing list is woefully inadequate. I hope you will feel encouraged to utilize your own lists of contact.

ENDS

Diet session ends, Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions endorsement bill not passed

mytest

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Hi Blog. After much political gridlock (the likes of which have not been seen, since, oh, the LDP was in power and the DPJ controlled the Upper House — not that long ago), the current Diet session is over, and one bill that matters to Debito.org did not pass: The one endorsing Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. You know — the treaty that just about everyone else in the club of rich developed nations has signed, and the one that stops you at an international border if you’re traveling single with a child, demanding proof that you’re not abducting your child from the other parent. It’s a good idea, since divorce in Japan due to the Koseki Family Registry System results in one parent (regardless of nationality) losing all legal ties to the child, and leads in many (almost all, it’s estimated) cases to the child growing up with no contact whatsoever (since Japan does not allow joint custody) with the noncustodial parent.  It’s even worse for international marriages, and Japan has gotten a lot of pressure from other countries in recent years to sign.  Now unsuccessfully.

Entire movie at http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-sbfaja.html

Well, so Japan will remain a haven for child abductions, both domestic and international. But the interesting thing I’m seeing concrete evidence of these days is overseas Japanese taking advantage of this system, banding together to assist each other in abducting their children to Japan, and the Japanese embassies/consulates cooperating with them as they spirit them into Japan.  (I’ll blog about that someday once I receive permission to make that information public.)

But as I have argued before, I’m not sure it really matters if Japan signs the Hague. The GOJ has signed other treaties before (most notably the Convention for Elimination on Racial Discrimination), and refuses to enforce them under domestic laws with criminal penalties (or in Japan’s case regarding the CERD, now signed 17 years ago, refuses to create any laws at all).  In the Hague’s case, the GOJ was looking for ways to caveat themselves out of enforcing it (by creating laws of their own advantageous to Wajin spiriters of children that would trump the HCICA, or finding loopholes, such as claims of DV (that only NJ inflict upon us gentle, mild, weak, peaceful Wajin), that would allow the children to stay in Japan out of fear.)

Or, true to character, we’ll have people claiming that it’s a matter of “Japanese custom” (shuukan) the last resort for any unjustifiable situation (only this time coming from elected Japanese Dietmember Ido Masae who herself abducted her kids):

http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/blg-jldpac.html

It’s pretty messy, by design, so visit the Children’s Rights Network Japan Website to try and untangle it.

So I guess the question I’d like to open up for discussion is:

Is it better for a nation-state to be bold-faced about it and just say, “We can’t enforce this treaty due to our culture, so we’re not going to sign it, and if you don’t like it, don’t marry our citizens”? Or, is it better for a nation-state to sign it, not enforce it, and face the (geopolitically mild) pressure of a broken promise? I know which route the GOJ has taken so far. Arudou Debito

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Rocky, extended Diet session over; bills, treaties left in lurch
Hague, vote-value, deficit bond measures fail to clear grudge fest
The Japan Times, September 8, 2012
By MASAMI ITO Staff writer
Excerpt, rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html

The extended 229-day Diet session closes with a whimper Saturday, with piles of important bills and treaties left unaddressed and voters left only with an image of lawmakers engaging in political maneuvering for their own goals — particularly those over the contentious sales tax hike and over the next Lower House election.

And now both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are focused on one thing — the presidential elections for both parties to be held this month to choose the leaders who will guide their parties in that next general election…

During the current Diet session, which started in January, only 66 percent of newly submitted government-sponsored bills cleared both chambers.

Political squabbling took center stage last month when the nonbinding censure motion against Noda was approved by the Upper House, stopping almost all Diet deliberations.

Thus the government also failed to live up to its promise to the international community to pass a bill to endorse the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to prevent estranged parents from spiriting a couple’s children across borders.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html

Tangent: Newsweek column on “rising ugly nationalism towards foreign residents” in China. Hm, how about an eye on Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As a tangent, here’s an article looking at issues of race and ethnicity in China through a veil of vignettes.  A lot of the issues raised can be (and have been) applied to Japan.  Just not as harshly.   I’ve made the point before about how the Western media seems to give Japan a free pass regarding racism as a “friendly” state.  Yet, as per the Newsweek article below, Western media couches racism more as representative of the spectre of Chinese nationalism and bad treatment of expats.  Compare:  When we had the ultimate example of racism in Japan during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005), the overseas press took it up handily, but we also had oodles of apologists rise up en masse to dismiss or defend it.  Including Western toadies like Gregory Clark (see how clumsily Clark took up this USA Today article of March 8, 2000 by Peter Hadfield on racism in Japan back in the day), who defended it as Japanese cultural uniqueness and exceptionalism to “global standards” (said pundit even went so far as to claim “antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” — while in the process getting even the exclusionary onsen’s name wrong).  But I digress.

Again, I’m not sure why Japan is so seductive to the Western media (Dower would perhaps claim it’s part of the GOJ’s media savviness, starting with the Imperial duck hunt charm offensive of SCAP that saved the Imperial system (Embracing Defeat, p. 299-301)), while China keeps getting treated as devious.  The only theory I can come up is geopolitics (and the fear that the future of democracy and economic growth will have Chinese uniparty characteristics).  What say you, Readers?  Arudou Debito

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China Grapples With Issues of Race and Ethnicity
Jul 30, 2012 Newsweek Magazine
By Duncan Hewitt
Courtesy of the Daily Beast and CD
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/29/china-grapples-with-issues-of-race-and-ethnicity.html
SUBTITLE:  As China grapples with rising nationalism and an influx of foreign residents, the country’s long and contradictory relationship with outsiders is coming to the fore—and it’s turning ugly.

Beijing’s Sanlitun Village mall is the very image of cosmopolitan, modern China. Its quirky and colorful glass-fronted modern buildings are filled with top international name-brand stores. In its paved plaza, smart young Chinese shoppers rub shoulders with foreign residents and visitors of every age and nationality. Groups of young foreign students mix with smartly dressed professionals and diplomats. It’s a scene that seems to embody the “inclusiveness” that, according to an official slogan on the street nearby, is now part of the “Beijing spirit.”

But there’s a seamier side to the neighborhood too—on the small street just behind the village, several stores have sprung up with signs proclaiming, in English, the words “Sex Shop.” Pictures of attractive young women try to tempt passersby into nearby nightclubs. And over the years, local residents have complained about noise and drunkenness from the area’s bars and clubs, which attract a sizable proportion of foreigners among their clientele.

In recent months, tensions over the unsavory behavior of some of Beijing’s foreign residents have come to the fore. In May there was a furious public reaction after footage was posted online showing the aftermath of an alleged attempted sexual assault on a young Beijing woman by a drunken British man. The pictures showed angry locals beating up the supposed perpetrator. This was soon followed by film of an incident on a train in which a Russian cellist from the Beijing Symphony Orchestra insulted a Chinese passenger who asked him to take his feet off the back of her chair. The cellist eventually made a public apology, but still had to resign his post.

Amid a mood of public anger, at least in online forums, the Beijing police announced a three-month campaign to crack down on “foreigners illegally staying in the capital”—including those who had jobs but no work permit or who had overstayed their visas. They also set up a hotline and encouraged locals to “report such violations,” according to Chinese media. Several other cities, including Shanghai, also stepped up spot-checks on the documents of foreigners, in the most visible campaign of its type since the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

All this caused some anxiety, notably among foreign residents in Beijing. And tension was stirred up further by a post on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, by Yang Rui, host of one of China Central Television’s main English-language programs. The show Yang fronts is called Dialogue, and its stated aim is to promote intercultural understanding. But that appeared to be the last thing on Yang’s mind when he tweeted, in response to the two incidents, that China should kick out “foreign trash.” He also warned of foreign “spies” shacking up with Chinese women as a cover while they tried to steal state secrets, and he gloated over the expulsion from China in May of Melissa Chan, the Beijing correspondent for Al Jazeera TV’s English channel.

Yang later sought to cool the controversy, emphasizing that he thought there were many good foreigners in China, and arguing that he had not called Chan a bitch, as had been widely reported—but rather, in his own translation, a “shrew.” And he received some criticism online, as well as from China’s official English-language newspaper, Global Times, which said his comments were “too harsh” and had “caused misunderstanding,” though it rejected calls for him to be sacked.

Yet while the paper sought to reassure readers that what it described as “the anti-foreigner campaigns seen in some Western countries will not be staged in China,” a column in another official paper, China Daily, put Yang’s comments in the context of the Opium Wars and past foreign humiliation of China. And with the nation in the midst of a sensitive political transition and anxieties about social stability growing, some observers have suggested that a more nationalistic mood is quite likely over the coming months. Chan’s expulsion (the first of a foreign journalist in more than a decade) and recent threats to other foreign journalists that their visas might be canceled if they report on sensitive subjects were seen as further evidence of a changing mood.

Not everyone thinks that China is witnessing an upsurge of xenophobia: Daniel Bell, a specialist in Chinese philosophy and values at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, says Yang’s “nationalistic” remarks are “unrepresentative” of a society that has, he says, historically welcomed outsiders who accept its values—indeed, he notes, even some of the country’s more hawkish commentators have argued that China’s current economic strength provides a prime opportunity to “compete with the U.S. to hire foreign talent,” citing the example of China’s “golden age” in the Tang dynasty when foreigners are said to have served in official posts.

Hu Xingdou, an outspoken social critic and professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, believes that nationalism has risen in China in recent years, partly in step with the nation’s growing economic strength. Consequently, he says, “if foreigners are seen to be behaving inappropriately, this may prompt some extreme comments.” But he suggests that overall, Chinese people are welcoming to outsiders—the country’s problem, he suggests, is not so much one of “racial prejudice,” but rather of putting too much emphasis on “differentiating people by race.” Since the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, he notes, it has made a point of identifying people by their ethnicity—the identity cards carried by all Chinese citizens specify which of the country’s ethnic groups they belong to. In these circumstances, he say, “it’s more likely that people who don’t have so much experience of the world will see an outsider and say, ‘Oh, there’s a foreigner,’ or ‘There’s a black person.’?”

That the use of such phrases is seen as acceptable in China was highlighted by the fact that even when TV host Yang tried to play down the controversy over his remarks, he appeared quite happy to go on record as calling Chan a “foreign shrew” and did not seek to distance himself from the phrase “foreign trash”—words that in many societies would be considered highly inflammatory.

It’s evidence of what many of China’s foreign residents and visitors know well—that it’s not uncommon to be defined, even to one’s face, by one’s ethnicity: “When I’m taking my child for a walk in the lanes near our house in Beijing, people will often point and say, look, a laowai—a foreigner,” says Bell. It is, he suggests, something one gets used to, and he adds that the best solution is often to make a joke of the situation: “Sometimes I just turn round and look behind me, as if to see where they’re pointing,” he adds, “and then everyone starts laughing.”

Cultural commentator Hung Huang, a prominent writer and editor who lived for many years in the U.S., says that for most Chinese people, the use of phrases such as laowai “carries no intention of discrimination.” China, she says, “is more claustrophobic than xenophobic—many people are still not used to foreigners and just feel awkward around them.” Still, she acknowledges that such comments highlight the fact that China has never had a public debate on how to deal with issues of race and ethnicity. “People are not so aware of ideas like political correctness. It’s not like in the U.S.,” she says. “And in fact they tend to make comments about all aspects of people’s appearance—you’re so fat, you’re not pretty—there are few taboos.”

As a result, it’s not uncommon, for example, to hear commentators on Shanghai television’s coverage of European soccer matches pointing out that a certain player is “black.” Times may have moved on from the late 1980s, when students at a university in Nanjing besieged a group of African students in their dormitory, following tensions over their relationships with local women. But a few years ago, when a Shanghai TV reality show featured a young Chinese woman whose father was black, the girl and her mother received a significant amount of abuse online.

According to Professor Hu, it’s evidence that there is still some lingering “folk prejudice towards black people” in Chinese society. Yiyi Lu, a Beijing-based sociologist, argues, however, that “Chinese people are not so much racist as snobbish—they tend to think of Africans, for example, as coming from poor countries.” Contact with wealthier Africans or African-Americans, she believes, will gradually break down such attitudes.

But not everyone is convinced. Frank Dikötter, Chair Professor of Humanities at Hong Kong University and a specialist in Chinese attitudes to race, argues that China remains “permeated with racial stereotypes—there’s an obsession with skin color and a deep-rooted fixation with blackness,” he said, adding, “When I was a kid, if I stared at someone, I got a slap. In China, staring at foreigners is allowed, sometimes even encouraged.” It is, he suggests, “completely unacceptable in the 21st century—and I’m tired of the double standards people use in their attempts to find excuses for such attitudes in China.”

Indeed, Dikötter argues that Chinese government policy has enshrined the notion of foreigners being separate since its earliest days: in the first decades of communism, he notes, foreigners were either denounced as capitalists, or, if considered friendly and therefore permitted to visit China, they were treated “as a special case and were given guides or mentors when they visited the country—so the whole idea of foreigners was loaded with all sorts of meaning.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that foreigners have often been seen in China not just as individuals, but also as representatives of their countries—or, indeed, of the entire outside world. Some have argued that this applies particularly if they have done something bad—not least because of the emphasis on the crimes visited upon China by foreigners during and after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, which have formed a major part of China’s “patriotic education” curriculum over the past two decades. Thus the alleged British assailant in Beijing and the Russian cellist on the train were widely depicted not just as individuals doing something wrong, but as symbols of how bad foreigners could be and the threat they could pose.

But sociologist Yiyi says such attitudes work the other way, too—she notes that Chinese media recently also played up incidents where foreigners had rescued Chinese citizens from drowning and from attacks. “Suddenly the media were saying that foreigners were more public-spirited than Chinese people,” she says. “We’re still just too quick to generalize,” she adds, pointing out that “Chinese society as a whole remains quite isolated—we’re just not cosmopolitan enough to know how to interact with foreigners.”

It’s an apparently contradictory attitude summed up in the phrase “beautiful imperialist,” famously used by American academic David Shambaugh to describe China’s view of the U.S. And Hung, the cultural commentator, feels that the radical shifts in official perceptions of foreigners over the past half century have left a legacy of both confusion and some bitterness among the Chinese public. After denouncing them in the Cultural Revolution, she says, China suddenly “elevated foreigners to special-guest status” when economic reforms got underway in the 1980s: “We had hotels and shops that were only open to foreigners back then,” she recalls, “so for a long time Chinese people were artificially made to feel second class.”

As a result, she suggests, there’s still a tendency to treat foreigners as VIPs: if a foreigner commits a traffic violation, for example, she says, “the police are less likely to do anything about it—they think it’s too much trouble.” Yet now, in a nation that has grown wealthier, many people feel they deserve equal status to foreigners, she believes. “So people are very sensitive about this.” Add to this the fact that China’s growing wealth gap has given many ordinary people “a sense of resentment towards all privileged classes,” and the continuing perception that most foreigners in China are well off, and it’s hardly surprising that people have reacted angrily to the recent incidents of foreigners behaving badly, she argues. “The forced hospitality we had to show to foreigners in the past has actually been detrimental to our relations with them,” she says.

The number of foreigners in China is still relatively low, at about 1 million, but they are becoming more common in most of the country’s major cities—and farther afield, too. As numbers grow, and China’s economy attracts more and more such people, its citizens may have to get used to dealing with foreigners of all kinds—not just the “beautiful” and respected VIPs of past decades, but the arrogant or even downright criminal. It’s clearly still a steep learning curve for both sides—with foreigners’ understanding of China’s historical sensitivities often under scrutiny and Chinese attitudes toward race facing new challenges. China does not recognize dual nationality, and many people regard foreign nationals of Chinese ethnicity as basically still “Chinese.” So how will the country cope with the growing number of mixed children being born? In Shanghai alone, there are currently around 27,000 Chinese citizens married to foreign spouses, yet the offspring of such marriages are still referred to by many people as being “mixed blood” (though this also now appears to be seen as increasingly desirable by some—it’s not uncommon to hear people commenting that such children are “more intelligent” or “more beautiful”).

As China’s interaction with the outside world grows, there’s clearly going to be a lot to get used to. Some believe the outlook remains optimistic, however—Professor Hu says relations between Chinese people and foreigners “should get better … We need to look at this with an inclusive attitude,” he adds, “but I think society will become more mature and more welcoming.” Still, he says, an antiracism law would help, too. Or perhaps the authorities could simply start by telling Yang, as the host of one of China’s multibillion-dollar attempts to improve the nation’s global image by expanding its English-language media internationally, that he might try to avoid using phrases such as “foreign trash” in the future.

===========================
Duncan Hewitt, a former BBC China correspondent, writes for Newsweek and other publications from Shanghai. His book China: Getting Rich First: A Modern Social History (published in the U.K. as Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China) focuses on social change in the country and its impact on ordinary people’s lives.

ENDS

Japan Times LIFELINES guest columnist Dr Berger on “Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan”. Seems grounded in stereotypes.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Giantpanda sent the following as a blog comment, but let me open it up for discussion as a post of its own:

The Lifelines column in the Japan Times today features what could be an extremely interesting question – NJ dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan. However, the writer [psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Berger of the Meguro Counseling Center] seems to place all the blame on NJ who end up developing depression or other psychological problems as a result of social exclusion on the NJ themselves. General message seems to be: Can’t cope? It’s not any fault of Japanese society. You are just nuts, or not ‘resilient’ enough. Can’t make friends? Hang in there for a few more years and “keep your expectations in check”. Oh, and get yourself a girlfriend. Those are much easier to come by than Japanese friends.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120619ll.html

Did anyone else get the sense this was patronising to the extreme, and blames the victims for their own predicament?

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I’m afraid I did a bit. There seemed to be too much generalization of interaction based upon stereotypes of Japanese people (and the presumption that the inmates have not in fact taken over the asylum). I think the good Doctor has read too much Reischauer or Jack Seward (he lost me when he brought in the “saving face” cultural chestnut).  I know, I’ve commented at length before on friendships in Japan, but I hope I came off as a bit more sophisticated than Dr. Berger’s analysis.

What do others think?  I’m genuinely curious.  Opening this up for Discussion (meaning I moderate more loosely, remember), Arudou Debito

EXCERPT OF ARTICLE FOLLOWS:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

LIFELINES
Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan

By DOUGLAS BERGER
Q: As mental health professionals dealing chiefly with native English-speakers in Tokyo, do you often have to deal with people who feel isolated and excluded in Japan, e.g. long-termers who have failed to “fit in” here, as in they lack Japanese friends, despite knowing the language, culture and so on?

A: Anyone who has been in Japan for a while has met other foreigners who have been in the country a long time. Some of these people do well socially and psychologically over the years and some do not. Some of these individuals may indeed come to our clinic, and while the people we see usually have either had a depression from before coming to Japan or experienced a worsening of their depression while here, there are certainly others who have a general social isolation but are not necessarily depressed. What might separate those who do well from those that do not?

First, we can look at psychiatric illnesses like anxiety or depression. Those with such conditions often have an inability to enjoy things, low energy and concentration, and their sleep and appetite may be disturbed. These problems often run in families. While social success may help mitigate them, they may still affect anyone regardless of their length of stay in Japan, number of friends, or other aspects of social success. People with these conditions require some kind of intensive psychiatric intervention.

Among those who do not have a specific mental illness, some seem to do well generally being alone, while others seem desperate to connect with people. This may relate to attachment needs that everyone has and that are probably innate. We have all seen some toddlers who are happy to explore their environment and others who cry whenever they are separated from their mother. Attachment needs do not completely disappear in adults.

Getting back to being a foreigner in Japan, those people with high attachment needs who see that Japanese readily group together and seem to make close friendships with each other may be disappointed if they then have an expectation that they will also easily form these kinds of social circles, particularly if they do not first understand Japanese social structure and modify their interactions and expectations accordingly. This is because Japanese social structure works on a group-affiliation basis where formality, saving face and etiquette are valued highly, especially with guests. People who grew up together, who went to the same school or entered a corporation at the same time, or who have family ties, etc., have a basis to affiliate easily.

It is extremely difficult for a non-Japanese to fit into this social structure as few non-Japanese have these close affiliations and, by definition, none are in the superset group of being Japanese. It is very common to hear how well someone was treated at a welcome party or on a short trip to Japan and then later hear that they felt excluded. This is because they confused politeness and formality with deep warmth. Deep warmth and close friendship will require the person to engage with their Japanese circles for a long time.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120619ll.html

Baye McNeil’s “Loco in Yokohama” blog brings up uncomfortable truths in the debate on racism in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Since the debate on “Microaggressions” and racialized treatment of people in Japan went into full swing over the past month, one other blog has been offering a good deal of insight as to how people are ultracentrifuged for special treatment in Japan by race, and how those people being ultracentrifuged likewise treat each other in a racialized manner.  Such are the habits fostered by this dread social disease called racism, and in Japan’s case it’s good to have a different take on it at last.

Baye McNeil, author of the new book “HI, MY NAME IS LOCO AND I AM A RACIST“, has a dynamic blog called “Loco in Yokohama” I think you ought to check out.  He writes about racism in Japan with a fresh brazenness that I think many Debito.org Readers might find interesting.  His 4-part (so far) series entitled, “Why do Gaijin Clash Over the Issue of Racism in Japan” is what drew me in.

Links and quick summaries of those four parts below, and you should read the posts in order.  If you’re at all interested in how you (and your multiethnic children) are being slotted in the subordinated “gaijin” category in Japan not only by Japanese, but by other NJ, you will want to read these and have a think.

Also interesting is our respective positions in the blogosphere.  As Baye himself points out, I’m White, and he’s Black (or whatever label you want to use:  Caucasian/African-American etc.), and how we get treated by NJ as vehicles of the debate is a facet little covered in discussion (case in point:  the “Tepido” Stalkers are friendly towards him, natch — ‘cos they don’t to be branded as “racists”).  So let’s read some Baye and cue up on that issue before we get into my next Japan Times Just Be Cause Column (out June 5), where I will offer “Microaggressions Part Two”.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

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

Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? Part One (May 13, 2012)
(where Baye excerpts from his book discussing his motivations for writing about the topic of racism in Japan, since many people seek to dismiss it as figments of the imagination; he also divulges his connection with me (where he attended a speech of mine a writers’ conference) before writing his book, and compares it to his connection afterwards with a full-of-praise Tepido “Hikosaemon”)

Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? Part Two: Trust Issues (May 15, 2012)
(where Baye makes it clear what sort of debates on racism he’s dealt with on the Loco blog before, his take on “Microaggressions”, and why he doesn’t want to be categorized as “The Black Debito”)

Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? Part Three: The Dark Side of “When in Rome…” (May 19, 2012)
(his most contentious entry so far, where he gets into the politics of being a denier of racism in Japan, and how apologism leads to reification and replication of that racism amongst NJ themselves)

Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? Part Four — I can’t make this shit up! (May 27, 2012)
(where Baye argues that fighting the status quo is where people show their true colors — in this case, how Whites aren’t allowed to play the “race card” like Blacks can (e.g., witness the outrage towards Debito for daring to suggest McDonald’s “Mr. James” was racism — even though it was a prime opportunity for Whites “to see the world, however minutely, through the eyes of a marginalized race”))

ENDS

Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Aly Rustom has taken the trouble to write this up for critique and debate.  I think it deserves some.  Putting this up with the reminder that this is under the “Discussions” category (where I moderate more loosely), and that I don’t necessarily agree with all or even any of it.  Have a think.  Arudou Debito

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

March 8, 2012
Ways to fix Japan
By Aly Rustom

Prologue

It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done.

There are those who will attempt to paint me as a Japan basher. Let me respond to this accusation early:

1. I am married to a Japanese and have lived here for over a decade. Most of my friends are Japanese, and I do speak as well as read and write the language.

2. Criticism is not bad unless it simply takes the form of negative complaining. Constructive criticism is good and it shows that I care enough to write out my thoughts and observations that I have accumulated for over a decade and am willing to share them with everyone.

So without further ado, let’s start:

Taxes

A. Sales Tax, Health Insurance and Public Education

While everyone doesn’t want to pay higher taxes and the debate about raising the sales tax is a sensitive issue, there would be an easier way to sell the idea. Instead of raising sales tax from 5 to 10% and upsetting everyone, why not raise it to 20% with the promise that health care and education becomes completely free. People would be far less apt to complain if their trips to the doctor and their children’s education becomes free and guaranteed. This will also help the Japanese government compete with the private health insurance companies and most people probably will opt for the public option since they are already paying the taxes for it. Also this will ensure that foreigners will be in the system as well since it is included from the very beginning in our taxes. Also, our public schools have problems with parents who don’t pay for the school lunches or uniforms which forces the schools to shoulder the cost. Raise the taxes and include all these costs into the inescapable tax system, and these problems will be solved.

B. City and Ward Taxes

First, the ward and city taxes should be calculated and taken out from people’s salaries along with the income tax. Second , Increase ward and city taxes on residents and companies based in Tokyo and other large cities, while offering companies and residents tax breaks for moving outside of the cities. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka should have extremely high living taxes in order to encourage more migration to the countryside, and companies should also have to pay hefty taxes for having offices and factories in these major cities.

Taxes should be significantly lower taxes for relocating outside the big cities, and residents and companies alike should be given big tax breaks and benefits for relocating to towns (machi) instead of small cities (shi). The government can invigorate these towns by having more funds be allocated to building train stations and train lines in towns without them and not to fixing roads that don’t need fixing. If the government invests in better and more convenient transportation, companies might be more apt to relocate outside the major cities and spread the population around a bit more, breathing some life in these dying costal towns.

C. Pachinko and Hostess club taxes

The government should more heavily tax the pachinko parlors. Their profit margin is huge, and much of it is sent to North Korea as many of the owners are North Korean. It would be extremely prudent to propose a hefty tax on all parlors, say about 20-25% of all their profits. Let us not forget that recently, tax authorities have stated that about 40 corporate groups running pachinko parlors across Japan have not declared over ¥100 billion in total taxable income with back taxes amounting to several billion yen. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t the government apply more scrutiny to these establishments and not only force them to pay their taxes, but also raise their tax rate?

The hostess clubs are another type of establishment that should also be taxed heavily. That money can then also be used to fund more government social programs that would benefit the public instead of encouraging more vice.

D. Fast Food Tax

Another business sector that should be taxed is the fast food industry. The government needs to tax fast food restaurants more. Fast food should not be this cheap. The problem is that it is encouraging young as well as older people to eat more unhealthy food. As the economy stagnates more and more people flock to cheaper venues. Unfortunately most of the cheapest venues are fast food restaurants which serve unhealthy food. They need to be taxed heavily to become less attractive price wise to people, and to let the family restaurants in Japan enjoy a resurgence in popularity.

Working hours

The working hours MUST be strictly defined and implemented. The nation cannot continue to overwork its people, because fathers are becoming estranged from their families. Why not implement a system similar to France , where when an employee works overtime one week, they get those hours in off time the following week. Somewhere between 35-40 hours a week maximum should be the working norm. Companies should also be heavily fined for overworking their employees. If a company is forcing its employees to work overtime, that usually means that company is suffering from inadequate manpower and therefore should hire more employees. Companies could also get tax breaks for hiring more workers a particular year and pay more tax for laying off workers. One of Japan’s main reasons for its economic decline is the lack of domestic demand and and over reliance on exporting it’s goods and products overseas. Why is there no domestic demand? Because everyone is working all the time, and no one is out spending money to stimulate the economy. Why is that? Oh, because they have no free time. People who work all the time don’t spend money. People who don’t spend money don’t stimulate the environment.

Minimum Wage and the working class

I would strongly urge the government to raise the minimum wage to 1000¥ an hour, and set the basic starting wage to no less than 250,000¥ per month regarding full time workers. This would certainly boost public spending and give people some measure of financial stability. The companies can easily afford to do this. Japan should learn from the US’s mistake and salvage its middle class. If it doesn’t, the nation will collapse financially, as America surely will. If Japan does not find a way to stimulate domestic spending it will be doomed. The only way to secure Japan’s future is to ensure that even people on minimum wage can afford to contribute financially to society which along with less working hours would greatly contribute to the increase of domestic demand.

Holidays

A. Summer and Winter

Why not have a Winter vacation for two weeks and Summer vacation two weeks so that people can recharge their batteries twice a year?Also people should have the option of combining their two weeks into one month to allow them to a take longer vacation once a year. It’s common knowledge that countries with a high rate of productivity also allow lots of off time for their citizens. Longer vacations would also mean that people would not be so apt to kill themselves every year. Overworked people develop a sense of hopeless, because they see their lives as nothing except work. The meaning of life becomes lost to them, and they become jaded. Walking around the forests near Mt Fuji and trying to stop suicides isn’t going to do it. Changing the system will. Also, lets not forget another important point: people on holiday tend to spend their money which in turn stimulates the economy’s domestic demand.

B. Public Holidays

The first thing that should be done is the following: when a national holiday falls on a Thursday, that Friday should also be a day off. If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday, that Monday should also be a paid holiday, and that should be the case regardless of whether or not the employee is part or full time.

Housing

Many of the rules and regulations regarding renting apartments in Japan are bizarre and draconian. Some of these ancient ways of doing business really need to change. One of the things that really needs to change regarding housing is this stupid idea of key money (reikin). This is nothing more than a form of legalized bribery given to a landlord by a prospective tenant, and it should be stopped. This key money issue is causing problems in society. For example, many employees are finding it difficult and expensive to move closer to work, because key money is very expensive . So instead they remain in their previous dwellings and commute up to two hours one way to work. This in turn affects their productivity, makes them more tired, and less happy in life generally . It’s also just simply not good for society and the economy of this country for people to be less mobile and less able to change their living quarters.

Fees

Another thing that really needs to be stopped is fees on late payments. The reason for this is very simple: these fees then sink people more deeply into debt and they are less able and less likely to pay off their debts which leads to suicide. There’s no doubt that these late fees are a huge contributing factor to suicide as people list debts as one of the main reasons for their suicides. The government and landlords have a right to demand their taxes and rent, but they have no right to place any additional fees on people who already are struggling to pay. It’s stupid to force people more into debt and then spend lots of money and resources trying to stop them from killing themselves when the government itself is partially to blame.

Hay fever

The hay fever affliction is a problem that is severely overlooked in Japan. It is amazing to see the amount of hype that has been given in the media to the Swine Flu pandemic while complete and utter indifference has been displayed toward a far more widespread pandemic: hay fever. And yet, the remedy is staring everyone right in the face: start cutting down all the various birch trees that cause the different types of hay fever.

A. Suffering population
We have a nation of red eyed, runny nosed sneezers whose productivity is ebbing due to this condition. And every year, the people’s condition gets worse. People are suffering, the nation’s productivity rate is dropping, and the healthcare cost is rising from this condition. In addition to that, a third of all children are afflicted with this condition.

B. Weakened military
Lets also not forget about national security. What happens if the nation finds itself in a situation where it has to defend itself without warning all of a sudden? Imagine a coughing swollen eyed SDF…

C. Creating jobs and income through better use.
Cutting down all these useless trees which make people sick and planting, shall we say, various fruit trees like apple, orange, and banana trees etc. which are healthy for people would get rid of the hay fever problem as well as provide a source of income and nutrition for the nation. In addition to that, if the government subsidizes this endeavor instead of whaling which is causing Japan diplomatic problems it could generate record profits, create more jobs, save money otherwise that would be spent importing fruit, and give Japan some measure of independence. Imagine the number of farming jobs that can be created through an endeavor like that, not mention some degree of national security in being able to grow your own food to feed your population as opposed to spending money importing it.

D. Domestic supply of wood
All these useless trees could be an excellent source of wood for a number of years and temporarily save Japan a lot of money on wood imports, not to mention the number of logger jobs that would be created by that industry.

Smoking

Anti-smoking laws should be enacted in Japan more vigorously. Currently, North America, Australia and Europe all have strict anti-smoking laws and the Middle East is starting to follow in their footsteps. It is embarrassing that Japan still is so far behind and backward in that respect. Japanese smokers are becoming less and less prevalent in society these days . The Japanese government estimates that less than 20% of the population are smokers. It is imperative for Japan to enact antismoking laws to protect the children and pregnant women from secondhand smoke which is even more dangerous than direct smoking. Add to that the point mentioned beforehand regarding hay fever, and you have a major health hazard that will deeply affect adults and children alike.

A. Public Places
First, a law that prohibits smoking in any public place including restaurants and bars is desperately needed. We need a smoke free public area society.

B. Vending Machines
Second, the nation must do away with the cigarette vending machines. The less convenient it is to buy cigarettes the less people will be apt to smoke. It makes it so much easier for people who are trying to quit smoking to quit when they don’t see these vending machines in their faces every day.

C. Tobacco Tax
Finally, introduce a very hefty tobacco tax to further discourage people from taking up or continuing to smoke. A pack of Marlboros shouldn’t cost less than 1000 yen. In fact, they cost closer to 2000 yen through the increased taxes. It is incredible that in a country as expensive as Japan a pack of cigarettes would only cost 400 yen. And let’s not forget that these are imported cigarettes.

Immigration

This has always been a sensitive topic in Japan. There are ways to slowly bring the population to a stable count.

A. Born in Japan
First, allow all people born in Japan to have Japanese citizenship. Zainichis and children of LEGAL immigrants should be allowed to become citizens automatically.

B. Parents 0f Japanese nationals
Second, foreign parents of Japanese citizens should also have the right to become citizens. If your own flesh and blood is Japanese, shouldn’t you be recognized as one as well?

C. Investors
Third, people who buy a house or bring a certain amount of money into the country should also be allowed to become citizens. They are, after all, stimulating the economy.

D. Employers of Japanese nationals
Finally, people who start a business and employ Japanese nationals as well people with a lot of money who invest in the country should also be given that right. People who give their money to Japan should be rewarded with its citizenship. All of this would increase the number of Japanese nationals without actually opening up immigration just yet. A slight liberalization of the rules might help soften the Japanese people to the prospect of immigration in the near future.

Government sponsored programs

A. Free or cheap English Day Care centers
One of the reasons the Japanese women are refusing to marry is that many of them fear not being able to go back to work due to the lack of public facilities that can accommodate their children. Well, how about the government funding a new version of the JET program in which foreigners can be brought to Japan to simply be day care center nannies. They would just play with the kids and watch cartoons with them in English and other things like that. The toddlers would learn English naturally through games and come to like it because they wouldn’t be studying, just playing with the language. They would shed their fear of foreigners because they would be exposed to them at an early age. That would also allow the mothers to go out and work or pursue a hobby, which would certainly encourage them to have more babies since the government is finally stepping in and helping them. Why not make all day care centers in Japan English speaking? This would ensure all Japanese children would grow up with very good English speaking skills and give young women encouragement to have more children.

B. Government run Japanese language programs.
It would very prudent of the local governments to hold daily language classes in a public facility that aid foreigners in understanding and learning the Japanese language and culture. This would help foreigners assimilate better in the society which would benefit Japanese people as much as foreigners. The government should also declare that employers of foreign nationals cannot forcibly overwork their foreign employees to the point where they cannot attend these language classes thereby making their integration into Japanese society more difficult and more time consuming. The companies must allow employees to attend these classes.

Epilogue

In a perfect world, this would happen. However, I am not optimistic. I know the Japanese system too well.

The Japanese politicians will never implement such drastic measures to save their country. None of them have ever shown themselves to be mavericks. This is the really sad part. There are ways to fix this country. It’s just that no one will stand up and do it. People just sit and discuss and pretend they are concerned, but no one really is. The Japanese today are a far cry from the Japanese of long ago who would die for their country. Those before thought nothing of committing suicide for their country. However, today’s politicians are not even willing to take a few political risks for a better future for Japan. What future is left for the Japanese people?

ENDS

Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column solely devoted to the May 1 JBC column on “Microaggressions”

mytest

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times today devoted its entire community page column section to reader responses regarding my May 1, 2012 Just Be Cause column on “Microaggressions“. (And yes, most listed were actually quite positive.) I think that’s plenty today for a blog entry. Have a read starting from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120522hs.html and feel free to comment on them below (if you wish to comment on the article itself on Debito.org, go here).  And yes, the old column once again got put back in the JT Online Top Ten Most Read Stories! Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone! Arudou Debito

Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

mytest

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Hi Blog. I was going to write on something else today, but I got this letter as a post comment this morning. It’s considered and considerate — usually letters on this topic are nasty flames, criticizing me personally for ever doing what Debito.org has been doing for (as of next month) fifteen years now. And it’s also a useful exercise to think about why we do the things that we do.

I won’t answer it, for now. I’ll open it up for discussion here on Debito.org and see how other people think. Thanks for writing in, Eric. Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////
Eric C
Submitted on 2012/03/18
Debito:
Thank you on behalf of all NJ who have lived in Japan or are living in Japan. You are doing brilliant work. I agree with almost everything you say and do and I am in awe of your energy, perseverance and spirit.

However, the more I read your site and columns and learn about your story, the more I find myself wondering why you keep trying. I lived in Japan for years and I did what you did, but on a lesser scale: I fought discrimination, xenophobia and racism as hard as I could. I like to think I gave as good as I got, if not better. I caused a fair bit of hell at my local kuyakusho, at immigration, with the police and with various random racist folks. That’s not to say I went around with a chip on my shoulder: I had a lot of Japanese friends, spoke the language well and really tried to fit in. But, finally, I decided to leave Japan and I don’t regret it. Not for a second. Every day I’m out of there, I give thanks that I had the balls and foresight to leave.

My question to you is why do you keep trying? I don’t want to be negative, but I think even you have to admit that Japan and the Japanese are not really going to change. Not in any meaningful way. They are xenophobic to the core, perhaps even genetically so. The society is feudal, with only the flimsiest veneer of legality. There is no real law – power and connections are all that matter. Japan reached a highpoint of openness and internationalization in the early 90s, and it’s been rapidly closing and going backwards since then. As the country stagnates and gets poorer, it’s going to become less and less welcoming to foreigners. I mean, the mayors of the three main cities in Japan are all nationalists and, most likely, racists.

Frankly, I don’t even think it’s worth trying to change Japan. They’re not worth it. Let them go their own miserable way to stagnation and backwardness. Let the world pass them by. Japan is like a stubborn old geezer in your neighborhood who does something offensive (letting his dog bark all night, for instance). You know that arguing with him is a waste of time. The only sensible thing to do is move away. Fuck him, to be direct about it.

You’ve fought the good fight, Debito, and a lot of gaijin owe you a huge debt of gratitude. But, for your own peace of mind, why not let someone else take up the burden? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be best for all NJ to simply pack up and leave and let the Japanese do whatever it is they want to do? Let them sing the kimigayo morning, noon and night. Let them teach English so poorly that no one can speak it. Let them lobotomize their kids in the name of educating them. Let them claim that their actions in WWII were one vast charitable mission to spread peace and love throughout the world. Let them sink slowly into the swamp of their own bloody minded ignorance.

It’s not our job to “fix” their society. It’s not our job to educate them about how the world really works. It’s not our job to try to bring them into the modern world.

Sorry, this is a bit of a downer of a post, but anyone who knows Japan as well as you know it must surely realize that the defining characteristic of modern Japan is the inability to change. They’re so stubborn that if you ask them to change, they’ll consciously avoid changing just to spite you. I mean, why do you think they keep whaling and dolphin killing when it requires vast government support to keep doing it? They do it precisely because the world tells them to stop.

I say, leave them to it and live your own life.
ENDS

UPDATE:  The author has offered more lengthy and elaborate comments below here and here.  You might want to read them first before going on to everyone else’s.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column #48: “These are a few of my favorite things about Japan”, Feb. 7, 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This essay was again in the top five “most read articles” on the Japan Times all day yesterday, thanks everyone!  And according to my editor, I have pioneered the use of the word “turtle-heading” in the JT (aw, shucks!).  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

The Japan Times Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE, Column 48

These are a few of my favorite things about Japan

The excellent illustrations, as always, by Chris Mackenzie.

The Just Be Cause column has been running now for four years (thanks for reading!), and I’ve noticed something peculiar: how commentators are pressured to say “nice” stuff about Japan.

If you don’t, you get criticized for an apparent “lack of balance” — as if one has to pay homage to the gods of cultural relativism (as an outsider) or tribal commonalities (as an insider).

This pressure isn’t found in every society. Britain, for example, has a media tradition (as far back as Jonathan Swift, William Hogarth and George Cruikshank) where critics can be unapologetically critical, even savage, towards authority (check out Private Eye magazine).

But in Japan, where satire is shallow and sarcasm isn’t a means of social analysis, we are compelled to blunt our critique with pat niceties. Our media spends more time reporting nice, safe things (like how to cook and eat) than encouraging critical thinking.

Likewise, Just Be Cause gets comments of the “If Debito hates Japan so much, why does the JT keep publishing him?” ilk — as if nobody ever criticizes Japan out of love (if we critics didn’t care about this place, we wouldn’t bother).

Moreover, why must we say something nice about a place that hasn’t been all that nice to its residents over the past, oh, two stagnant decades (even more so since the Fukushima nuclear disaster)? Japan, like everywhere else, has problems that warrant attention, and this column is trying to address some of them.

Still, as thanks to the readership (and my editor, constantly put off his beer defending me in bars), I’ll succumb and say something nice about Japan for a change. In fact, I’ll give not one, but 10 reasons why I like Japan — enough to have learned the language, married, had children, bought property, taken citizenship and lived here nearly a quarter-century.

Leaving out things like cars, semiconductors, consumer electronics, steel, etc. (which have been written about to death), Japan is peerless at:

 

News photo

 

10. Public transport

Overseas, I’ve often found myself saying, “Curses! I can’t get there without a car!” but even in Hokkaido I could find a way (train, bus, taxi if necessary) to get practically anywhere, including the outback, given a reasonable amount of time.

How many cities the size of Tokyo can move millions around daily on infrastructure that is, even if overcrowded at times, relatively clean, safe and cheap? Not many.

 

News photo

 

9. Seafood

Japan’s irradiated food chain notwithstanding (sorry, this has to be caveated), dining in Japan is high quality. It’s actually difficult to have a bad meal — even school cafeterias are decent.

World-class cuisine is not unique to Japan (what with Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, French, etc.), but Japan does seafood best. No wonder: With a longer history of fishing than of animal husbandry, Japan has discovered how to make even algae delicious! Japanese eat more seafood than anyone else. Justifiably.

 

News photo

 

8. Onomatopeia

I am a Japanese kanji nerd, but that’s only the bureaucratic side of our language. Now try gitaigo and giseigo/giongo — Japanese onomatopoeic expressions. We all know gussuri and gakkari. But I have a tin ear for pori pori when scratching the inside of my nose, or rero rerowhen licking something, or gabiin when agape.

Japanese as a language is highly contextualized (say the wrong word and mandarins just sit on their hands) and full of confusing homophones, but the universe of expressiveness found in just a couple of repeated kana is something I doubt I will ever master. My loss.

 

News photo

 

7. Packaging

Stores like Mitsukoshi cocoon your purchase in more paper and plastic than necessary. But when you really need that cocoon, such as when transporting stuff, you’re mollycoddled. Japanese post offices offer boxes and tape for cheap or free. Or try the private-sector truckers, like Yamato or Pelican, whom I would even trust with bubble-wrapping and shipping a chandelier (and for a reasonable price, too).

If you don’t know how to pack, leave it to the experts — it’s part of the service. As Mitsukoshi demonstrates, if it’s not packaged properly, it’s not presentable in Japan.

 

News photo

 

6. Calligraphic goods

I’m used to crappy Bic ballpoint pens that seize up in the same groove (and inexplicably only in that groove, no matter how many times you retrace), which you then summarily discard like used toothbrushes. But in Japan, writing implements are keepers, combining quality with punctiliousness.

People prowl stationery stores for new models (with special buttons to advance the pencil lead, twirl cartridges for multiple colors, or multicolored ink that comes out like Aquafresh toothpaste) spotted in specialty stationery magazines (seriously!). Maybe this is not so mysterious considering how precisely one has to write kanji — but I know of only two countries that put this fine a point on pens: Germany (whose companies have a huge market here) and Japan.

 

News photo

 

5. Group projects

Yes, working in groups can make situations inflexible and slow. But when things work here, they really work, especially when a project calls for an automatic division of labor.

For example, when I was politically active in a small Hokkaido town, we would rent a room for a public meeting. Beforehand, without ever being asked, people would come early to set things up. Afterward, attendees would put everything back before going home.

I’ve done presentations overseas and the attitude is more, “Hey, you take care of the chairs — what are we paying you for?” Sucks.

It’s nice to be here, where pitching in often goes without saying, and everyone has a stake in keeping things clean and orderly.

 

News photo

 

4. Public toilets

Sure, public conveniences exist overseas, but they are frequently hard to track down (shoppers overseas must have enormous bladders) and when found, they can resemble a war zone.

Japan, however, generally keeps its toilets clean and unstinky. Comfortable, too. Sure, I hate it when I’m turtle-heading and can only find Japan’s squatter types, but I also hate being trapped overseas in a stall where strangers can see my ankles under the door.

Besides, whenever I need a public time-out, I head for the nearest handicapped toilet and bivouac. Ah, a room to myself; it’s a love hotel for my tuchus. And that’s before mentioning the washlets, bidets, warmed toilet seats . . .

 

News photo

 

3. Anime

I’ve been reading comic books since I was 2 years old, and have long admired Japanese animation and comic art. I can’t resist anime’s clean lines, sense of space and forcefulness, and storyboard style of narrative.

Once underrated overseas, Japan’s comics are now one of our coolest cultural exports. Resistance is futile — watch the knockoffs on Cartoon Network (love “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Samurai Jack”)!

Consider one knock-on benefit of a society so consumed by comic art: Japan’s average standards for drawing are very high. I came from a society with an enormous standard deviation in artistic talent: You either get stick figures or Pat Oliphants. In Japan, however, contrast with the following example.

I once tested my university students on spatial vocabulary. I drew a room on the answer sheet and said, “Under the table, draw Doraemon.” Amazingly, 98 of 100 students could draw a Doraemon that would infringe copyright — complete with propeller, collar bell, philtrum and whiskers.

Try getting people overseas to draw a recognizable Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat or even just Snoopy and you’ll see how comparatively under-practiced drawing skills tend to be outside Japan.

 

News photo

 

2. Silly cute

Nobody combines these two quite like Japan does — simultaneously campy, tacky and kitschy. Some pundits lament how the culture of cute has paved over genuine time-tested Japanese iconography. But if you avoid being a curmudgeon, you’ll wind up giggling despite yourself.

Where else are you going to get Marimokkori (algae balls with superhero capes and inguinal endowments)? Try resisting Hello Kitty when she’s affecting regional dining habits or clothes (I love Pirika Kitty and supertacky Susukino Kitty, both homages to Hokkaido). And all those cellphone mascots! And there’s plenty more crap out there, some finding markets overseas.

What’s the appeal? My theory is that the Occident just can’t do cute or silly without sarcasm seeping in (even Disney resorts to wise-cracking). Shooting for it include France’s Barbapapa (which comes off as “easy to draw,” not cute), Finland’s weird Moomins (with that evil-looking Little My character) and Britain’s even weirder Teletubbies (arguing its cuteness will give you a hernia; watch while stoned). They all could do with a cute J-makeover and a firm J-marketing push.

Look, campy, tacky and kitschy eventually become ironic, cheap and tiresome. But Japan’s brand of straight-faced silly manages to (thanks to that intrinsic lack of sarcasm) remain tirelessly unironic. As long as you keep developing new and unexpected permutations, you never quite get sick of it. Instead you just giggle.

People need that. Silly-cute makes life in Japan and elsewhere more bearable.

 

News photo

 

1. Onsens

Of course. If you can get in. Ahem.

Illustrations by Chris Mackenzie. A version of this essay appeared in the now-defunct Sapporo Source magazine in December 2009; an expanded version can be found at www.debito.org/?p=2099. Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

End-year Irony #2: Japanese cast as Roman in “Thermae Romae” despite J complaints about Chinese cast as Japanese in “Memoirs of a Geisha”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another bit of irony from Japanland.  It’s quite petty, so I kept it as a year-end frivolous tangent:

Japanese movies can cast Japanese as NJ, but NJ movies apparently cannot cast NJ as Japanese.  Works like this, according to Debito.org Reader JDG:

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

December 1, 2011
Hello Debito, Hope you are well.
Saw this on Japan Probe:
http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/11/29/thermae-romae-live-action-movie/#disqus_thread

in THERMAE ROMAE, and thought that it was a bit rich to cast a Japanese guy as an Italian, considering the outcry in Japan when a Chinese actress starred in the film adaptation of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, the showing of which was even banned by some theaters in Japan on that basis!

http://www.japanprobe.com/2007/03/05/actors-pretending-to-be-japanese/
http://www.japanprobe.com/2006/07/12/ziyi-zhang-lashes-out-at-japan-for-censoring-memoirs-of-a-geisha-what-2/

It’s a double standard, and the apologists are all over it already. The very fact that the producers can’t find a European looking, Japanese speaking actor for the part (who is well known enough in Japan to pull in a crowd), is a direct result of Japan’s insularity.

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

COMMENT:  To head those apologists off at the pass:  There is indeed a long history in Hollywood to cast Asians fungibly — Chinese cast as Japanese in WWII propagandistic movies, some quite odd ethnic Japanese cast as “real” Japanese or even other Orientals (e.g., Mako, Gedde Watanabe), etc., etc., and that’s before we get to the outright racial stereotyping done in period-piece embarrassments such as Mickey Rooney’s Mr Yunioshi in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S. Doesn’t take much to dig up the same phenomenon anywhere in world cinema.

But this is becoming unforgivable in this time of greater globalization, migration, immigration, and general ability to research, travel, and understand different people. People in the media should be trying harder. And they certainly are not in the THERMAE example. Nor were they in SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (2010) — the live-adaptation of the manga and anime starring Kimura Takuya, in which the whole human galaxy is exclusively Japanese! (according to the IMDB full cast list)  Even the STAR TREK crew casting did a bit better than that way back in the mid-1960’s!  (Incidentally, I love how again-fungible-Asian Mr. Sulu is translated into “Mr. Katou” for the Japanese audience… But I digress.  Then again, at least the cast is diverse enough to allow for that.)

I’m no doubt opening a can of worms (I can hardly wait until someone brings up the deliberate cultural insensitivities of BORAT…), but let’s end the year on a relatively frivolous note, since 2011 was probably the worst year on record for Japan and its residents in my lifetime. More on that in my upcoming Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column, out on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

Have a happy remainder of the year, everyone, and thanks for reading Debito.org! Arudou Debito

Merry Xmas to those celebrating: How “religious” treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Merry Xmas to those celebrating.  As a special treat, allow me to connect some dots between terms of public discourse:  How Japan gets kid-gloved in international debate because it gets treated, consciously or unconsciously, with religious reverence.

It’s a theory I’ve been developing in my mind for several years now:  How Japan has no religion except “Japaneseness” itself, and how adherence (or irreverence) towards it produces zealots and heretics who influence the shape and scope of Japan-connected debate.

So let me type in two works — one journalistic, the other polemic — and let you connect the dots as I did when I discovered them last November.  I hope you find the juxtaposition as insightful as I did.

I’ll do a couple more of these thinking pieces for the holidays as Debito.org enters 2012, its fifteenth year of operation.  Thanks for reading, everyone.  Arudou Debito

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

Excerpted from “Rice, the Essential Harvest”, from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (USA) Vol. 185, No. 5, May 1994, pp. 66-72.  By Freelancer Robb Kendrick of Austin, Texas.

NB: This section comes after the author takes us on a journey of other rice-centered countries.  Watch the subcontextual treatment:  First photos from 1) India, where its caption portrays rice as a means of avoiding starvation; 2) Japan, whose caption immediately resorts to religious subtext: “Colossal strands of rice straw entwine over an entrance to the Izumo Shinto shrine, one of Japan’s oldest.  Denoting a sacred place, the rice-straw rope, — or shimenawa — is the world’s largest at six metric tons.  Grown in Japan for more than 2000 years [sic], rice is woven through culture, diet, even politics.  Small shimenawa often hang over doorways to ward off evil.  One evil the nation cannot stop:  skimpy harvests, which in 1993 forced Japan to ease its sacrosanct restrictions on rice imports.”; 3) Madagascar, seen as staving off hunger in the face of a dearth of harvesting technology; 4) The Philippines, where rice technology is supported under the International Rice Research Institute; and 5) China, where peasant children eat rice for breakfast in rice-growing Zhejiang Province.

Then we get two paragraphs of text talking about the religious symbolism of rice in Bali.  Then the intercontinental versatility of rice growing and usage (as it’s even used in Budweiser beer), plus the research being done in The Philippines to make it even more so.  Then mentions of low-tech production in The Philippines, with photos of rice being used in a Hindu wedding in India and in religious ceremonies in India and Bali.  Further paragraphs depict how the Balinese meld both ritual and routine in perpetual harvests.  Then we get into the history of rice’s migration from India through to China, and how China has been working on rice hybrids at the Chinese National Rice Research Institute.  Thus the focus of this article has so far been more on the history and ubiquitousness of rice as a staple in many societies.

Then we get to Japan, and the tone of the article shifts perceptibly:

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

Next stop, Japan.  At the Grand Shrines of Ise, 190 miles southwest of Tokyo, the most revered precinct of Japan’s Shinto religion, white-robed priests cook rice twice daily and present it to the sun goddess, Amaterasu, who, they say, is the ancestor of the imperial family.

“The goddess brought a handful of rice from the heavens,” a senior priest tells me, “so that we may grow it and prosper.”  He adds that in the first ceremony performed by each new emperor, he steps behind a screen to meet the goddess and emerges as the embodiment of Ninigi no Mikoto, the god of the ripened rice plant.  Then every autumn the emperor sends to Ise the first stalks harvested from the rice field he himself has planted on the imperial palace gorunds.  All Japanese, says the priest, owe their kokoro — their spiritual essence, their Japaneseness — to the goddess, “and they maintain it by eating rice, rice grown in Japan.”

Japanese law, in fact, long restricted the importation of rice.  “Rice is a very special case,” explained Koji Futada, then parliamentary vice minister for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.  “It is our staple food, and so we must have a reliable supply as a matter of national security.  That is why we politicians favor sulf-sufficiency, the domestic growing of all the rice we eat.”

And also because the farmers exert disproportionate influence in elections?

“Yes,” he said, “that is also true.”

And so the government buys the rice from the farmers at about ten times international market prices. It also subsidizes part of the cost to consumers.  Still, Japanese consumers pay about four times as much as they would if they could buy rice in a California supermarket.  All this cost the government about 2.5 billion dollars in 1992.  One result is that land will stay in rice production that might otherwise be available for housing, which is in short supply.  About 5 percent of the city of Tokyo is classified as farmland, worked by 13,000 families.  That would be space enough for tens of thousands of new homes.  Does all this mean that Japanese rice farmers are rolling in money?

Thirty miles north of the capital, in the Kanto Plain, I visit the Kimura family in the town of Kisai — typical of most of Japan’s 3.5 million rice-farming households:  Rice is not a major part of their working life.  Grandfather Shouichi, 83, along with his son Take and Take’s wife, Iwako, both in their 50s, look after a prosperous gardening-supply business; grandson Masao, 25, commutes to an office in central Tokyo.  Three out of four rice-growing families hereabouts have become “Sunday farmers,” relying on income from other sources, mainly jobs in factories that sprang up nearby in the past ten years.

The Kimuras farm two and a half acres — this modest size is typical too — and they tell me the work is not arduous:  Excerpt for planting seeds in boxes in a shed, they do it all with machines — transplanter, tractor — in about ten working days for one person, plus a few hours for spraying fertilizer, insecticide, and herbicide.  “Harvesting is no work at all.  We hire a combine.”  What do the Kimuras get out of it?

“Enough rice for us to eat for a year,” says Shoichi.  “But no profit.  Zero.”  Expenses go up, rice prices don’t.  It’s the same for most farmers around here.  “We do this only because we inherited the land.”

But nature and international politics are forcing a change.  An unusually cold and rainy summer reduced Japan’s 1993 harvest by some 25 percent, so more than two million tons of rice will have to be imported before the end of this year.  And after that, a newly revised global treaty — the General Agreement on  Tariffs and Trade, or GATT — will oblige to allow annual imports of 4 to 8 percent of its rice requirement.  But will the domestic rice price drop?  Hardly.  The government still sets the wholesale price, and that’s likely to stay high.

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

That’s it.  The rest of the article deals with a) liberalization of the rice markets in Vietnam, b) rice economies in Europe, c) in Africa, d) in the United States, and finally e) the future of rice technology and how production will have to accommodate growing populations.

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

Here’s my point:  No other country is treated in this National Geographic article with such reverence and deference as Japan.  Look:  A parroted religious introduction citing an obscure deity is channeled into a discourse on national identity, and an alleged political need for self preservation by excluding outside influences (everyplace else mentioned is seen as increasingly cooperative in developing a reliable food supply).  If anything, many other countries are seen as somehow less able to cope with their future because of their technological or economic insularity.  Not Japan.  It gets a free pass on cultural grounds, with a deference being accorded to “Japaneseness” as a religion.  (There is, by the way, one more picture of Japan in the article — that of sumo wrestlers doing “ritual shiko exercise”, with attention paid to the dohyo rice ring in this “honored Japanese sport”.  Cue the banging of gongs and the occasional shakuhachi flute…)

Granted, the article does offer up the hope of Japan’s rice market being liberalized, thanks to the disastrous 1993 rice harvest and pressure from GATT.  But now nearly twenty years later, how are those rice imports coming along?  Not so hot: According to the USDA in 2003, “Japan agreed to a quota on rice imports that now brings 682,000 tons of rice into the country annually. However, most of this rice is not released directly into Japan’s market. Instead, imported rice often remains in government stocks until it is released as food aid to developing countries or sold as an input to food processors.”  Meaning it didn’t work.  See a historical article I wrote on the misplaced propagandistic reverence (and GOJ dirty tricks) regarding rice imports here (and also apple imports, while I’m at it), so you can see how the discourse helps keep things closed.

Why does this keep happening?  My theory is that it is due to the politics of religiosity.  For when you treat Japanese culture as a religion, the terms of debate change, putting rationality, logic, and overall fairness on their back foot.

Consider this excerpt from Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, between pp. 20 and 23:

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A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts — the non-religious included — is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other.  Douglas Adams put it so well, in an impromptu speech made in Cambridge shortly before his death, that I never tire of sharing his words:

“Religion… has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever.  What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not.  Why not?  — because you’re not!’  If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it.  If somebody think taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it.  But on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘I respect that’.

“Why should it be that it’s perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative prty, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows — but to have an opinion about how the Universe… no, that’s holy? … We are used to not challenging religious ideas but it’s very interesting how much of a furore Richard creates when he does it!  Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you’re not allowed to say these things.  Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be.”…

[Dawkins continues further down:]  If the advocates of apartheid had their wits about them they would claim — for all I know truthfully — that allowing mixed races is against their religion.  A good part of the opposition would respectfully tiptoe away.  And it is no use claiming that this is an unfair parallel because apartheid has no rational justification.  The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification.  The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices.  But ask a religious person to justify their faith and you infringe “religious liberty”.

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

This is why appeals to “Japaneseness” so many times take on a religious overtone.  Why does the National Geographic feel the need to interview a priest as some sort of source about world rice?  Allegedly, “because Japanese rice is as essential fundamental to the Japanese people as their kokoro“.  Presto!  It’s off the subject table for rational debate.  Because once you criticize Japan’s rice policy, apparently Japanese are hard-wired to take it as a personal affront.  After all, there IS so much pressure to somehow, somewhere, say something “nice” about Japan — especially if you’re being any way critical.  For balance, some might say, but I would say it is because we feel the pressure to treat Japan more kid-glovey than we would, say, China, Russia, or any other nation, really.  Why?  Out of reverence for how somehow “special” Japan is.

I believe Japan is neither exceptional nor special (no more special than any other society), and it should be exposed to the same terms of critique and debate as anyone else.  Yet it gets a free pass, as I saw during the Otaru Onsens Case, where for example many bought into the “foreigners must be excluded” thanks in part in reverence to some arguments being made, in paraphrase, were “Japanese baths are a very special place for Japanese people, and if they want those kept pristine and exclusive only for those who really understand Japanese bathing culture, then so be it.”  No need to treat people equally just because they’re people anymore.  Only those born with the sacerdotal kokoro need apply to bathe in these now holy waters.

This is my Xmas present to Debito.org Readers:  Look at Japan-related discourse now through the lens of religious discourse.  Watch the kid gloves come on.  It is a very careful and deliberate means to defang political debate and stymie change in this society which badly needs it.

Again, “Japaneseness” as a religion with all the trappings — an analytical thought process in progress on Debito.org.  Arudou Debito

Arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles for registering international marriages in Tokyo Edogawa-ku Ward office. Have things changed?

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  As we start the countdown to the end of the year, let’s turn to feedback from Debito.org Readers who have written in over the months to talk about the arbitrariness of Japan’s bureaucracy towards NJ.  First off, check this out:

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December 5, 2011

Hello! I love your site, first off, as it makes me feel like my frustrations, my concerns, all of it are understood by someone else. Thanks.

My fiance and I went to get married today, and from the second we walked in the door it was: “…oh.” I understand that there have been many occasions of abuse of the system, but my fiance called the offices to ask what we needed to register. We took everything, but the second we walked in the door, it all changed.

My fiance tried to convince me it was HIS fault that the office needed more “proof”. I told him to not give me a load of BS, and eventually he admitted that the staff even told him point blank: “Look, it’s different because you are marrying a foreigner. If she were Japanese you wouldn’t have this problem, but she’s a foreigner.”

We brought every single document that they asked for. He called, made a checklist, and we brought it with us. Now they need everything from all of my “foreign proof and documentation” translated, extra stamps, his parents permission for him to marry me, etc. They told him none of that would be needed when he called, but when it came time to actually “seal the deal”, and we were standing in front of them, that is what we were told. We double checked with my embassy, etc, and we got told the same thing: “You don’t need any of that in your ward, just what you already have”. The items they ask for aren’t even on the ward’s website.

What should I do, as I don’t feel this should be allowed. I looked at your site, but didn’t see it mentioned about what one should do if it is a governmental institution itself.

I’ve dealt with so many sideways looks, been asked not to enter into establishments down south, etc, all because I am not good enough. I am “gaijin”. I’m not sure how you take it. My Japanese professor in college told me he left after 20 years, despite having a fiance, as he couldn’t take it. No matter what he did, he was still always “gaijin”. I understand, finally, what he means.

You are a strong, strong person for having been here so long. My hat is off, permanently, to you. K

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I responded:

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

December 5, 2011

Hello K. What kind of a place was this? A country bumpkin area, a city ward office? It might take an hour or so to register, but no, none of this is required. My belief if that you got bum staff that day who don’t know what they’re doing (problem is, I don’t think the staff will change from day to day). My best suggestion is that you change ward offices (reregister your husband’s honseki at a different address, via a family member; someplace more modern and used to international marriages). Marriage in Japan is supposed to be pretty easy, comparatively.

More advice in our Handbook for Immigrants at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

Shall I blog this for more advice from others? I will anonymize your name, of course. Just make it clearer what kind of place this is (even if you don’t give the exact location). Please let me know. Bests, Debito

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To which K replied:

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

December 5, 2011

Hello and thank you for replying so quickly. I know you must be a very busy person. I appreciate it.

Actually, it was in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo. I came home so mad I could spit, and bitter at the country. I was searching the Internet for advice about discrimination in Japan. I’d looked at your blog, but didn’t see information about discrimination by a government service so was checking elsewhere. You are, however, the only good site with good, current information that I could find, so I decided to email.

It is pretty surprising though, right? I’d expect Tokyo, and Edogawa-ku which is a family area, of all places, to have a more liberal view.

Please blog about it, if you’d like, as I’m interested if other Tokyoites have experienced the same. My fiancé said a lot of foreign women like me, but who wanted to become hostesses or some such, have abused the system so he was expecting some hassle. I say: why should it matter where I am from? Why should the system be so vastly different for foreigner and Japanese marriage in the first place?

I think what insulted me the most was the staff saying to him that the reason it was different because he was marrying a foreigner, straight to his face.

By the way, this was a separate office/branch of the city ward that only dealt with marriages and moving/change of residency. Thank you again! K

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COMMENT: So, what are experiences of others out there? I certainly didn’t have this rigmarole, but I got married all the way back in 1989. My impression from others has always been that it’s pretty easy to get married in Japan to a Japanese, period. Have things recently changed? Arudou Debito

Have Your Say: Letters to the Editor re my Oct 4 2011 Japan Times JBC column, “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action”

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Two positive letters were printed in the Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column, regarding my October 4, 2011 column, “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action“:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101hs.html

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
HAVE YOUR SAY
Ganbatte and gaman stifle debate, hinder recovery

Nuclear debate discouraged (excerpt)

Re: “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action” by Debito Arudou (Just Be Cause, Oct. 4):

I was wondering when such an article would show up in the newspapers. Thank you for finally commenting on some of the finer workings of how the triple disaster is being dealt with in Japan.

Like any event on this scale, the catastrophe has brought out the best and worst in Japanese culture. While one cannot help but admire the stoicism, calmness and composure in dealing with the events in March, the lack of discussion about the future of nuclear energy, food safety and lessons learnt is shocking.

For non-Japanese it is difficult to follow the social workings in Japan. Concepts such as ganbatte and gaman, which are raised by the author, play an important part in discouraging necessary debate. Also, the Japanese social convention of considering the expectations and feelings of others suppresses discussion….

Rest of the letters at:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101hs.html

ends

GOJ wants seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2013-2015. Here’s MOFA’s formal pledge of Japan’s commitments to human rights. Note what’s missing.

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Here we have Japan wanting a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, to help control the agenda and process of review (like any any applicant, especially the venal ones, which is why the HRC was revamped in 2006 after being occupied by some of the world’s most egregious human rights offenders). Applicant Japan promises to treat countries with mutual respect for their history and traditions (read: “I’m okay, you’re okay, so let’s just all get along and not worry about universal standards of human rights — especially as they would be applied to Japan”; there is a long history behind this attitude in the GOJ, see Peek, J. M. 1991. “Japan and the International Bill of Rights.” Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, Fall 1991 10(3): 3-16; and Peek, J. M. 1992, “Japan, The United Nations, and Human Rights.” Asian Survey 32(3): 217-229, read my writeup on Dr. Peek’s findings here).

Note that the GOJ promises to follow the UN’s recommendations for improving domestic human rights (see some of those most recent recommendations here, and decide for yourself how well the GOJ is doing, then read on here to see the plus ca change.  Also note what’s missing in their promises:  Anything about the Hague Convention on Child Abductions (what with all the abductions after divorce), and of course, anything about passing a law or taking any measures against racial discrimination (despite saying in 2008 that Japan was making “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination“)  But that’s tough, you see:  We don’t have any other races in Japan that would fall under the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination’s protection, remember; that standpoint remains fundamentally unchanged closing in on 20 years after signing the CERD.  Here’s the transcript of how the UN review of Japan’s human rights record went back in February 2010, and what the UN subsequently recommended Japan do back in March 2010 regarding the CERD.  Read on to see how they are being studiously ignored in Japan’s pledges below, as usual.  Arudou Debito

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

MOFA WEBSITE TEXT BEGINS

Top > Foreign Policy > Human Rights > Japan’s Human Rights Commitments and Pledges (Candidature for HRC membership 2013-2015)

[Courtesy Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dated September 30, 2011, http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/human/pledge1109.html, thanks to PMP]

Japan’s Human Rights Commitments and Pledges
(Candidature for HRC membership 2013-2015)

I. Japan’s basic human rights policies

  1. Upholding the highest standards of human rights enshrined and guaranteed in the Constitution of 1947, Japan has consolidated its democratic political system and has developed policies for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as universal values.
  2. Japan firmly believes that the promotion and protection of human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community. It is therefore committed to addressing grave violations of human rights. Japan believes that the culture, religion, history and traditions of each country must be taken into account when addressing human rights issues, and will seek to achieve progress through dialogue and cooperation based on an approach which is tailored to meet the specific aspects of the country, region or theme concerned.

II. International commitments and pledges for the promotion and protection of human rights

A. Conclusion and implementation of the international human rights instruments

  1. Japan has concluded the following international human rights instruments and will continue to make utmost efforts to implement its obligations. Japan will duly follow up on the recommendations it has received in order to fulfill its commitments under the treaties and cooperation with the treaty bodies:
    • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1979)
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1979)
    • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1995)
    • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1985)
    • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1994) and its two Optional Protocols (2004 and 2005)
    • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1999)
    • Geneva Conventions of 1949 (1953) and their First and Second Additional Protocols of 1977 (2004)
    • Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1981) and its Optional Protocol (1982)
    • International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2009)
  2. In 2007, Japan signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is now working towards its early conclusion.
  3. Japan is giving serious consideration to the individual communications procedure.
  4. Japan is working toward the early conclusion of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction with a view to protecting the best interests of children.

B. Activities of the Human Rights Council (HRC)

  1. Japan will continue to be actively engaged in the HRC’s activities, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), so as to promote the improvement of the human rights situations in various countries and regions. During its continuous membership since the HRC’s establishment until 2011, Japan has taken an active role in the HRC’s discussions and in the adoption of its resolutions.
  2. Japan has promoted international initiatives to eliminate discrimination and support marginalized groups. For example, Japan submitted an HRC resolution on persons with leprosy which was adopted by consensus in September 2010(A/HRC/RES/15/10).
  3. Japan has taken an active role in the HRC Review. Japan remains committed to improving the work and functioning of the Council so as to maximize its efficiency and effectiveness.
  4. Japan sincerely took note of the outcome of its own UPR session of May 2008, and in March 2011 voluntarily published the follow-up status of the recommendations it accepted.

C. Cooperation with the High Commissioner and Special Procedures

  1. Japan will continue its full cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, her Office and Special Procedures. Japan has extended an official Standing Invitation to all thematic mandate-holders, in view of their important roles.

D. Contribution to the work of the General Assembly and to the Security Council

  1. Japan will continue to participate actively in discussions on promoting human rights in the UN General Assembly, including through submitting draft resolutions to the Third Committee. Japan will steadily continue to promote the Security Council’s policy agenda for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, inter alia, the protection and empowerment of women and children.

E. Promoting human rights through bilateral cooperation

  1. As stated above, Japan will continue to attach great importance to “dialogue and cooperation” which is based on mutual understanding and respect. Japan has held regular bilateral dialogues and consultations on human rights with the governments of more than 10 countries. Japan will continue to promote democratization as well as protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in line with its human rights policy concerning Official Development Assistance (ODA). In particular, Japan will focus on providing support to vulnerable groups such as children and persons with disabilities and to protect their human rights. In line with its Initiative on Gender and Development (GAD) announced in 2005, Japan continues to ensure that a gender perspective is incorporated into all sections and every stage of ODA process.

F. Financial assistance

  1. In 2009, Japan’s bilateral ODA disbursements reached US$354.45 million for health and welfare, US$1,870.75 million for gender equality and US$95.94 million for peace-building. In FY 2009, disbursements for measures pertaining to persons with disabilities amounted to US$1,687.46 million.
  2. Japan continues to support human rights activities by UN organizations such as OHCHR, UNICEF and UN Women. In FY 2010, Japan contributed approximately US$ 5 million to UN Women. Japan, as the top Asian donor to the OHCHR, will continue to support its activities including by making voluntary contributions.

III. Promoting human rights in Japan

  1. In line with the obligations stipulated in the international human rights instruments to which Japan is a party, all relevant government agencies continue to promote and protect human rights in various fields within Japan. Japan will follow up on the UPR recommendations which it accepted in 2008 and recommendations it has received from human rights treaty bodies. Japan will continue to enhance its dialogue with civil society, including non-governmental organizations and to implement the policies and measures in the following areas in order to enhance the protection of vulnerable groups:

A. Gender equality

  1. In December 2010, the Cabinet adopted the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality, toward the realization of a gender-equal society. It is an effective action plan which consists of 15 priority fields and 82 performance objectives. Japan aims to increase the representation of women in leadership positions to at least 30 percent by 2020 through specific “positive actions”.

B. Combating trafficking in persons

  1. Japan continues to implement domestic measures and pursue international cooperation in this area as well. Japan revised its existing action plan and formulated Japan’s 2009 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in December 2009.

C. Rights of the child

  1. Japan will continue to implement the Comprehensive Measures to Eliminate Child Pornography, adopted in 2010. Japan has reviewed the existing measures and introduced new laws such as the revised Child Welfare Law (2008) and the revised Civil Code (2011) and will steadily enhance various measures such as those against child abuse.

D. Indigenous people

  1. Japan will continue to promote comprehensive and effective policy measures for Ainu people, taking their views into consideration through various channels, inter alia, the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion with the participation of Ainu representatives.

September 30, 2011

ENDS


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