Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

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JUST BE CAUSE
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Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Version with links to sources

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10)  Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…

We’ve named and shamed this before (“Downloadable Discrimination,” Zeit Gist, March 30, 2004). From Feb. 16, 2004, Japan’s Immigration Bureau had websites where anyone could anonymously rat on foreigners for any reason whatsoever — including (as a preset option) the xenophobic “repugnance and anxiety” (ken-o fuan). This occasioned calls for abolition from rights groups, including Amnesty International, and government leaders. As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations pointed out in 2005, “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination toward foreigners.”

Yet Japan’s police “see no evil” when it suits them. According to the Asahi in 2015, the sites were being inundated with hate emails “slandering” Japan’s Zainichi generational Korean community. Immigration suddenly realized that false leads from trolls were a waste of time. Yep, we told you so more than a decade ago. Glad it sunk in.

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

This year showed us that 2015 was not a fluke. In 2015, multiethnic American-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan competition as Japan’s first biracial national beauty queen. In 2016, Indian-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa was elected to represent Japan despite protests about whether she is a “real” Japanese. Although these events are cheer-worthy because they demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is not purely a matter of looks, they’re more important because the women’s stories of being “different” have highlighted their struggles for acceptance. When the domestic media bothers to report them, that is.

The discussion has mostly been a shallow one about “looks.” Sadly, this is par for the course. As I said to ABC NewsRadio Australia, “Why do we keep doing these 19th-century rituals? Demeaning women by putting them on a stage, making them do debasing things, and then saying, ‘This is a standard of beauty that is or is not Japanese?’ How about we just call it what it is: incitement to superficial judgment of people not as individuals but by physical appearance?” Progress made, yes, but the real progress will be when beauty pageants stop entirely.

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

Similarly, Japan’s athletes have long been scrutinized for their “foreignness.” If they are “half” or even naturalized, their “foreignness” becomes a factor no matter what.

If they do badly, “It’s the foreigners’ fault.” As seen when Japan’s men’s rugby team lost in 2011 and the nation’s rugby union criticized coach John Kirwan for using “too many foreign players” (including naturalized former NJ). The team was then ethnically cleansed. When multiethnic Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed underperformed in 2014, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Chair Yoshiro Mori essentially labeled them leftovers, bashing them (mistakenly) as “naturalized citizens” who couldn’t make the U.S. Team.

But if they do well, they get celebrated. Remember October 2015, when Brave Blossoms, the men’s rugby team, scored an upset over South Africa, and their players’ enhanced physical strength was attributed to their multiethnicity? Suddenly the fact that many players didn’t “look Japanese” (11 were even born outside Japan) was no problem.

Same when Japanese athletes did well in Rio last year. Prominent performances by multiethnic Japanese, including Mashu Baker (Gold in Judo); members of Japan’s Rugby Sevens (the men’s team came in fourth); other members of Japan’s soccer, basketball and athletics teams; and most prominently, runner Asuka Cambridge (who missed out on Gold only to Usain Bolt) made it clear that hybrid Japanese help Japan in sports. If only people would stop putting up the extra hurdle of attributing success or failure to race.

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

After years of tired leftist politics with stale or uninspiring leaders, last September the main opposition Democratic Party made young and dynamic Taiwanese-Japanese politician Renho Murata its leader. It was the first time a multiethnic Japanese has ever helmed a major party, and immediately there were full-throated doubts about her loyalties. Media and politicos brought up Renho’s alleged ties to untrustworthy China (even though Taiwan and China are different countries; even the Ministry of Justice said that Taiwanese in Japan are not under PRC law), or that she had technically naturalized (Renho was born before Japanese citizenship could legally pass through her mother) but had not renounced her dual citizenship, which wasn’t an issue when she was a Cabinet member, nor when former Peruvian President and dual citizen Alberto Fujimori ran for a Diet seat in 2007 (Zeit Gist, May 5, 2009).

Whatever. Renho has proven herself a charismatic leader with an acerbic wit, ready to ask difficult and pointed questions of decision makers. She famously did so in 2009, during deliberations to fund the “world’s most powerful computer,’ when she asked, “What’s wrong with being number two?” The project still passed, but demanding potential boondoggles justify themselves is an important job. The fact that Renho is not cowed by tough questions herself is good for a country, which with 680,000 Japanese dual citizens deserves fresh unfettered talent with international backgrounds.

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

This has made the JBC annual Top 10 several times, because it’s a test case of accountability when NJ die in official custody. In 2010, Ghanaian visa overstayer Abubakar Awudu Suraj was so “brutally” (according to this newspaper) restrained during deportation that he was asphyxiated. Suraj’s widow, unsuccessfully seeking justice through Japan’s criminal justice system, won civil damages from the Immigration Bureau in a 2014 Tokyo District Court decision. However, last January, the Tokyo High Court overturned this, deciding that the lethal level of physical force was “not illegal” — it was even “necessary” — and concluded that the authorities were “not culpable.” Suraj’s widow took it to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected last November.

Conclusion: Life is cheap in Japan’s Immigration detention systems (Reuters last year reported more NJ deaths in custody due to official negligence). And now our judiciary has spoken: If NJ suffer from a lethal level of force — sorry, are killed by police — nobody is responsible.

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

Past JBC columns on Japan’s right-wing swing anticipated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would capitalize on the left’s disarray and take Japan’s imagined community back to an imagined past. Sure enough, winning the Upper House elections last July and solidifying a majority in both houses of Parliament, he accomplished this hat trick. Since then, Abe’s popular support, according to the Asahi, remains at near record-highs (here and here). There’s even talk of changing the rules so he can be PM beyond his mandated five-year term.

That’s it then, really. Everything we feared his administration would do since 2012 is all coming to pass: the dismissing of universal human rights as a “Western concept,” the muzzling and intimidation of the press under a vague state secrets act, the deliberate destabilization of East Asia over petty territorial disputes, the enfranchising of historical denialism through a far-right cabal of elites, the emboldening of domestic xenophobia to accomplish remilitarization, the resurgence of enforced patriotism in Japan’s education system, the further exploitation of foreign workers under an expanded “trainee” program, and the forthcoming fundamental abrogation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution.”

Making Japan “great” again, similar to what’s happening in the United States under President-elect Donald Trump, has been going on for the past four years. With no signs of it abating.

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

In April 2013, Japan’s Labor Contracts Law was amended to state that companies, after five years of continuous contract renewals, must hire their temporary workers as “regular employees” (seishain). Meant to stop employers from hiring people perpetually on insecure contract jobs (“insecure” because employees are easily fired by contract nonrenewal), it is having the opposite effect: Companies are inserting five-year caps in contracts to avoid hiring people for real. Last November, The Japan Times reported on the “Tohoku University job massacre,” where 3,200 contract workers are slated to be fired en masse in 2017.

JBC sees this as yet another “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” scenario (ZG, July 8, 2008). This happened in Japanese academia for generations: Known as “Academic Apartheid,” foreign full-time scholars received perpetual contract employment while Japanese full-time scholars received permanent uncontracted tenure from day one. This unequal status resulted in the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-4, where the Ministry of Education (MOE) told National and Public Universities not to renew the contracts of foreigners over the age of 35 as a cost-cutting measure. Then from 1997, the MOE encouraged contract employment be expanded to Japanese full-time educators. From 2018, it will be expanded to the nonacademic private sector. It’s a classic case of Martin Niemoller’s “First they came …” poem: Denying equal rights to part of the population eventually got normalized and applied to everyone.

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

Japan has been suddenly cognizant of “foreigner discrimination” this year. Not “racial discrimination,” of course, but baby steps. The Asahi kicked things off in January by reporting that 42 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52 percent of that was in finding apartments. Glad to have the stats, albeit localized.

Then the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights conducted its first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination toward longer-term NJ residents by mailing them a detailed multilingual survey (available at www.debito.org/?p=14298), asking questions specifically about unequal treatment in housing, employment, education, social situations, etc. It even mentioned the establishment of “laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination against foreigners” (not a law against discrimination by race, natch).

Although this survey is well-intentioned, it still has two big blind spots: It depicted discrimination as 1) due to extranationality, not physical appearance, and 2) done by Japanese people, not the government through systemic racism embedded in Japan’s laws and systems (see my book “Embedded Racism” for more). As such, the survey won’t resolve the root problems fundamental to Japan’s very identity as an ethnostate.

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

Japan’s oft-touted sense of “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi) is an odd thing. We are seeing designated “foreigner taxis” at Kyoto Station (with a segregated stop), “foreign driver” stickers on Hokkaido and Okinawa rental cars stigmatizing NJ tourists (and NJ residents touring), and media grumblings about ill-mannered Chinese crowding stores, spending scads of money (diddums!) and leaving behind litter. (Japan’s tourist sites were of course sparkling clean before foreigners showed up. Not.)

Then there’s the omnipresent threat of terrorism, depicted for years now by the government as something imported by foreigners into a formerly “safe Japan” (although all terrorist acts so far in Japan have been homegrown). To that end, 2016 was when Japan’s Supreme Court explicitly approved police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion. (What’s next? Surveilling foreign residents due to their extranationality?)

Yet foreigners are a necessary evil. Japan still needs them to do its dirty work in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishery and nursing sectors. So this year the foreign “trainee” work program was expanded, along with measures against abuses. About time — bad things, including NJ slavery and child labor have been happening for decades, with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry acknowledging that about 70 percent of employers hiring “trainees” engage in illegal labor practices. Omotenashi has been counterweighted by government-sponsored exploitation of NJ, and now with the upcoming 2020 Olympics, there’s plenty more dirty work out there.

And after all this, 2016 offered one big bright spot:

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

Japan’s first law protecting “foreigners” from group denigration in public was passed nationwide in May. JBC (Feb. 1) heralded it as a step in the right direction. Critics quickly pointed out its shortcomings: It doesn’t actually ban hate speech, or have penalties for violators, and it only covers people of overseas origin “who live legally in Japan” (meaning “foreigners,” but not all of them). Plus it skirts the issue of racial discrimination, natch.

However, it has had important effects. The law offered a working definition of hate speech and silenced people claiming the “Western construct” of hate speech didn’t exist in Japan. It also gave Japan’s bureaucrats the power to curtail haters. The Mainichi Shimbun reported that this year’s xenophobic rallies, once daily on average somewhere in Japan, had decreased. Rallies also reportedly softened their hateful invective. Since Japan’s outdoor public gatherings need police and community approval (ZG March 4, 2003), even an official frown on hatred can be powerful.

Official frowning spread. The National Police Agency advised prefectural police departments to respond to hate speech demos. A court banned a rally in a Korean area of Kawasaki for “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a personal life.” Another court ordered hate group Zaitokukai to compensate a Zainichi Korean for public slurs against her. Both judges cited the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been ignored in lawsuits against “Japanese only” establishments.

These are remarkable new outcomes in a society loath to call “No Foreigners Allowed” signs discriminatory, let alone order police to take them down. Progress to build upon.

Bubbling under the top 10

11 Population of registered NJ residents reaches record 2.23 million despite significant decreases in recent years.

12 “Special economic zones” expand to the aging agriculture sector, and want “skilled foreigners” with college degrees and Japanese-language ability to till fields on three-year visas. Seriously.

13 The Nankai Line train conductor who apologized to passengers for “too many foreigners” on an airport-bound train is officially reprimanded, not ignored.

14 Osaka sushi restaurant Ichibazushi, which was bullying foreign customers by deliberately adding too much wasabi, is forced by social media to publicly apologize.

15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

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Mainichi Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors. Good luck with that without an anti racial discrimination law

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JK:  Hi Debito:  The GOJ wants foreign visitors spend a couple trillion yen the year the Olympics comes to town, so why not strike while the iron is hot and use this as leverage against xenophobic establishments by calling them out on their behavior (i.e. “there’s this shop down the way that excludes anyone foreign-looking — surely that reflects poorly on Japan and hurts the government’s numbers.”)?

Debito:  Agreed.  And that’s the big blind spot in this editorial.  It talks about the shortcomings of tourism policy focusing only on infrastructure and profit, but neglects to mention the issues of how a police force dedicated to racial profiling (especially at hotels), or how being refused service somewhere just because the proprietor has a “thing” about foreigners (and can get away with it because Japan has no law against racial discrimination), can really ruin a visit.  “Cultivating Japan fans” is one way of putting it, “stopping xenophobes” is another.  And that should be part of formal GOJ policy as well.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors
November 1, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161101/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

In just 10 months, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has already smashed through the 20 million mark for the year, surpassing the previous annual record of about 19.74 million arrivals set in 2015.

The first time foreign visitors topped 10 million was in 2013. At the time, the government set a target of “20 million people by 2020,” but visitor numbers expanded far faster than expected. Now the government is shooting for 40 million in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The wave of people coming to see Japan is a welcome development on many fronts, especially as our country’s population ages and begins to decline, particularly in the countryside. There are, of course, direct and obvious economic benefits from so many visitors shopping, eating and filling Japan’s hotel rooms. However, the tourism boom has also made companies and regional communities more outward-looking in their thinking, and that’s deeply significant.

However, while 20 million visitors is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the world champion of foreign tourism, France, which attracted more than 80 million visitors in 2014. And France isn’t the only country beating Japan by a wide margin. To put it another way, Japan has a lot of tourism growth potential.

What’s important is to avoid viewing visitors to our shores as mere consumers.

The government has declared it wants to see foreign visitors drop 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020. There’s nothing wrong with setting a numerical target in and of itself, but focusing solely on visitor spending could lead to a nasty trip-up.

This is, simply put, because conditions can change. A rising yen may make Japan a less attractive destination, while economic events abroad could also bring down visitor numbers. And those considering visiting Japan to shop for Japanese products may think twice if they find they can buy the same stuff online.

If a small town in regional Japan brought in a big-box retail outlet to attract foreign shoppers, it may see a short-term rise in visitors from abroad. However, most of the benefits might end up in the pockets of the retailer and the companies supplying it … and not the host community.

The conclusion that sparkly tourist-oriented facilities are needed to bring in visitors is wrong. There are attractions and ways to welcome foreign tourists that are close to hand and just waiting to be uncovered. Take farm stays, for example. Visitors don’t just stay the night and chow down on fresh produce; they help harvest it as well. Then there are tours of recycling centers that get visitors to think about how to tackle environmental issues. These sorts of “hands-on” experiences are likely to have a good chance of attracting more people back to Japan for repeat visits.

Also, while earthquakes are a major risk in Japan, disaster prevention can also become a resource for attracting visitors. For example, the Tokyo Fire Department has facilities called Life Safety Learning centers where visitors can feel what it’s like to be in an earthquake, among other hands-on activities. These centers have never been marketed outside Japan, and yet they are seeing more foreign visitors.

If Japan spends all its time chasing visitor numbers and tourist spending figures, it will eventually hit a wall. It should instead introduce people to the many faces of Japan, give them the chance to actually do things with Japanese people, and generally provide a diverse and substantive experience, looking to cultivate long-term “Japan fans.”

Original Japanese
訪日客2千万人 息の長いファン作りを
毎日新聞2016年11月1日 東京朝刊
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161101/ddm/005/070/169000c

今年、日本を訪れた外国人旅行者が2000万人を突破した。昨年は1年間で過去最多となる1974万人を記録したが、今年は10カ月で2000万人に達した。

訪日外国人数が初めて1000万の大台に乗ったのは2013年のことだ。当時は「20年に2000万人」の達成を目指していた。外国人の日本訪問は予想以上の速さで増加し、政府は今や、「20年に4000万人」を目標としている。

国内の人口が減少に転じ、特に地方の過疎、高齢化が進む中、世界から人がやって来ることは多くの意味で歓迎できる。買い物や宿泊といった直接的な経済効果はもちろんだが、企業や地域社会が、外向きの思考へ意識転換するきっかけを得る意義は大きい。

ただ、2000万人を突破したとはいえ、世界には年間8000万人超(14年)のフランスを筆頭に、外国人客の受け入れ数で日本をしのぐ国が少なくない。まだまだ成長の潜在性があるということだ。

重要なのは、訪日客を単に外から来る消費者と見ないことだろう。

政府は20年に訪日客の消費額を8兆円とする目標を掲げる。目標設定自体、悪いことではないが、消費額ばかりにこだわると足をすくわれかねない。

訪日に不利な円高や、海外の経済情勢の悪化などに左右される恐れがあるからだ。さらに、インターネットなどで簡単に日本製品が買えるようになれば、「わざわざ日本まで行かなくても」となるかもしれない。

例えば地方の町が外国人客を増やそうと量販店を誘致したとする。一時的な集客効果があるかもしれないが、恩恵を受けるのは主に量販店やそこで売られる製品の企業であって、地元の経済では必ずしもない。

では、観光の目玉となる施設が不可欠かというと、それも違う。魅力や招致の手法は案外身近に埋もれているものである。

農家に泊まって、土地の食を味わうだけでなく収穫など農作業を体験する企画や、ごみのリサイクル施設を訪れ環境問題を考えるツアーなど、体験型の観光は、今後リピーターの訪日客を増やすうえで可能性がありそうだ。

地震は日本にとってリスクでも、防災は観光資源に変わり得る。地震の揺れなどを体験できる東京消防庁の災害教育施設には、海外向けの宣伝をしているわけでもないのに、外国人の来館が増えている。

数字を追うばかりでは無理が来る。世界の人々が日本のさまざまな顔を発見したり、日本人と共に何かを体験したりするような多様な品ぞろえで、息の長いファン作りにチャレンジしたい。

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Kyodo: Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply [sic]. How about the J employers who employ illegally?

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Hi Blog.  Here we go again with some media bias focusing on the evils “illegal foreign laborers” do, overlooking the fact that it’s Japanese who hire them illegally.  (One segment even justifies these illegal hiring practices under the guise of economics.)

Two other submitters below make some more arguments, with a focus on the recent smoke out of illegal police activities in Ibaraki Prefecture.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply
Japan Times / Kyodo News, June 12, 2016, courtesy of JDG and BGIO
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/11/national/social-issues/foreigners-illegally-working-on-farms-in-japan-increases-sharply/

The number of foreign laborers working illegally on farms across the nation rose threefold over the three year period ending in 2015, according to government data.

The findings highlight the difficulties facing Japan’s agricultural sector, including labor shortages and the advanced age of many of the country’s farmers.

Among all the illegal foreign workers subject to deportation in 2015, the greatest number — 1,744 or 21.9 percent — had worked in the farming sector. That was up from 946 in 2014, 695 in 2013, and 592 in 2012, according to the Justice Ministry.

The ministry also found illegal farm workers were “concentrated on farms in Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, which are easily accessible from Tokyo.”

The average age of the nation’s farmers is now 66.4 years old, and the fact so many have no one to succeed them has become a serious social issue.

“I just cannot keep my business afloat unless I hire (illegal laborers), even if it means breaking the law,” said a 62-year-old farmer in Ibaraki.

The government does operate schemes under which farmers can legally employ foreign workers, including a technical internship program for people from developing countries. Some 24,000 foreign laborers were working on Japanese farms as of fiscal 2014 under that on-the-job training program, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Since the government began compiling such data in 1991, Tokyo had regularly topped the list of 47 prefectures for the number of foreign laborers working illegally. But last year, the capital ranked third behind Ibaraki with 1,714 illegal workers and Chiba second with 1,238.

An immigration official said it is believed that around 5,000 undocumented workers are currently working in Ibaraki.

By nationalities, the greatest numbers of illegal workers came from China, Thailand and Vietnam.

The number of foreign workers who overstayed their visas rose in 2015. The increase came after the government relaxed visa requirements for visitors from Asian countries.
ENDS

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Submitter BlondeGuy InOz comments: I love the way that the headline is “Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply” when in reality it should have been more along the lines of “Japanese agricultural employers continue to flout trainee laws and illegally exploit foreign workers from developing countries”, or alternatively “percentage of foreign workers from developing countries exploited by Japanese agriculture sector worker rises to 7% (1,744 of 24,000) of those employed in ‘trainee’ scheme”. But then such headlines would require the type of objective and balanced media coverage than has long been missing in what has the temerity to call itself ‘journalism’ in this country.

I let a lot of things go but I just couldn’t bring myself to let this one pass by without at least commenting. Note: that one of the main offending prefectures is Ibaraki prefecture. I experienced my fair share of racism and exclusion (e.g. denied entry to restaurants, denied the right to apply for a credit card, etc…) when living there during a previous stay in the prefecture between 1996 and 2001 (was resident in Japan from 1996 – 2010 before returning to my home country for what has been a better life).

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Submitter JDG comments: Well, well, well! What have we here? The people benefitting from the anti-constitutional voter weighting disparity, the people receiving the most is government subsidies (including a special bonus to help them restructure for the now never to be implemented TPP), the people who have voted LDP over and over again. Rural farmers are the exact same people breaking the law by employing the greatest number of NJ illegally!

And guess where? Chiba and IBARAKI!

It makes a laughing stock and a sham of the legal system, the JA, the LDP, and the stupid notion that Japanese Shinto mumbo-jumbo rice farming culture is a corner-stone of Japanese identity! If it wasn’t for the LDP letting it’s voters illegally employ NJ, those voters and their farming culture would be over! No wonder Ibaraki police are so crazy; they are being told one thing by the government and then expected to turn a blind eye to the NJ underpinning the local economy! That conflict of interest must be causing them trauma!

In addition, I would put forward the following supposition to explain the behavior of the Ibaraki Police:

Local people, believing NPA statements that the vast majority of crime is caused by NJ, are alarmed by all the ‘shady’ NJ in Ibaraki.

The local police have to been seen to act tough on this issue to make the citizens feel safe, and to ensure that they don’t voice their dissatisfaction by throwing out the local LDP incumbent at the next election.

Therefore the PD put up posters of a militarized police, and hassle law abiding NJ whenever the locals phone them, since this means that they can be seen to be acting, when in fact they are choosing to overlook the huge numbers of NJ illegally employed by LDP supporting farmers, and under-pinning the local economy.

It’s all a dog-and-pony-show designed to distract the citizenry from politicians in league with law breaking Japanese farmers, so that they can keep their sticky fingers on the levers of power.

See? It all makes sense now.

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ENDS

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Japan at Expo Milano 2015: Official display claims Japan is a land of “harmonious diversity” (in English). SRSLY? Yep. Let’s parse.

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Hi Blog.  I think an interesting exercise in propaganda (which all nation-states indulge in, of course, but with differing degrees of popular acceptance as reality) is Japan’s display at the Expo 2015, currently underway in Milano, Italy.  (H/T to Debito.org Reader Max for pointing this out.).  It is a useful exercise to parse out the themes, memes, and dialectic within the display, as it is a good example of how Japan officially wants to be seen by the outside world.

For example, chew on this word salad (the Exhibit Message, courtesy of http://www.expo2015.jp/en/about/exhibition/):

====================================
Japan’s agriculture, which coexists with nature, cherishing all forms of life.
Japan’s nutritionally balanced diet, as represented by the traditional menu of “one soup, three dishes” that is rich with diverse fermented foods and plant proteins.
Japan’s cherished food culture, produced and nurtured by tradition and innovation.
Building upon the spirit of mutual respect and appreciation of coexisting diversity, we will creatively address global issues to pioneer a bright future.
====================================

Wow, I can poke holes in that pretty easily.  All forms of life including, say, oh, near-extinct fireflies, or overfished tuna or culled dolphins if you include aquaculture?  A “balanced diet” that includes whole separate candy and snack aisles in supermarkets, not to mention hell to pay if you ever want to eat vegetarian or vegan?  And “coexisting diversity”? Hang on a minute, let me catch my breath.  Okay, yes, let’s talk about that one, as it is germane to Debito.org (other Readers can parse other bits for themselves — there’s a lot to digest).  Here is the case they make, English original:

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

Scene Ⅱ DIVERSITY
●The diversity and additional development of Japan’s agriculture, food, and food culture
There is a great variety of agriculture in the world, with diverse food to match. Similarly in Japan, unique agriculture, food and food cultures have been cultivated in the various regions according to weather and climate, with additional developments based on learning from the world. In this zone, visitors will fully realize the diversity of Japan and the world by taking in an overview of more than 1000 content items related to agriculture, food and food culture.

The “Diversity Waterfall” will pour diverse content extending from production areas to the dining table to provide an interactive experience. When content floating in the waterfall basin is touched, related information will display.

As visitors enter the room, they will launch the Japan Pavilion application on their smartphones installed in advance. Set properly, their areas will light up in blue. When a visitor touches an image that interests her, the image will move to a position in front of her and load onto her smartphone. Images acquired in this exhibit area will be accumulated and can be seen along with other content on the archives page when the app is accessed after leaving the pavilion.

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

Original Japanese from http://www.expo2015.jp/about/exhibition/

Scene Ⅱ DIVERSITY
●日本の農と食、食文化の多様性、さらなる拡がり
世界には様々な農業があり、それに応じた多種多様な食があります。また日本でも同様に、気候や風土に応じて各地域で独自の農と食、食文化が育まれ、世界か らも学びながら、さらなる拡がりをみせています。このゾーンでは農と食、食文化に関する1,000を超えるコンテンツを一望することで、世界と日本の「多様性」を実感していただきます。

産地から食卓まで多種多彩なコンテンツが流れ落ちる「ダイバーシティの滝」。滝壺に漂うコンテンツに手を触れると、関連する様々な情報が映し出されるインタラクティブ体験を提供。

室 内に入り、あらかじめインストールしておいたスマートフォンの日本館アプリを起動させ、正しくセットすると自分のエリアが青く発光。興味のある画像にタッ チすると、その画像が体験者の目の前に移動し、スマートフォンに取り込まれます。退館後にアプリにアクセスすると本展示エリアで取得した画像が蓄積されて おり、その他のコンテンツもアーカイブページで閲覧することができます。

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

COMMENT: I of course am not knocking how good Japanese food is.  But it’s an interesting way to define “diversity” by basically equating it with “unique”.  Part of “diversity” in my view is being exposed to differences, and accepting those differences from The Other as part of The Self (e.g., and this is just sticking to food:  Canada claims poutine, the US claims pizza, Italy claims pasta, and France claims couscous as part of their own representative cuisines — even though they have strong and often-forgotten roots from outside).  Japan in any other context would portray itself as “homogeneous” (it still claims “uniqueness” in the display, natch), which is quite different than “diverse”.

This may be a matter of semantics not translating well, but since the display even appropriates the English word for its own use (similar snickers if not derisive scoffs would occur if a Japanese word were used in an odd context in a foreign language:  “Kamikaze” drinks, for example), I think it’s fair game for similar scoffs and claims of inaccuracy.  Especially when it’s being used for the purposes of portraying Japan as somehow “open” and “exposed” to significant differences in any real sense — ironic when you consider how often Japan’s food culture is unwelcoming to a diverse customer base.  Then once you get out of Japan you realize how REALLY diverse the world is — think cuisine in any major world city with its patchwork of ethnic cuisines cooked up by immigrants; even Honolulu’s far-flung island-constrained food culture is arguably more “diverse” than what you’d see just about anywhere in Japan.

What’s being portrayed in the Milano display is essentially “diversity within a terrarium” (gosh, look at all our different kinds of flora and fauna, and how they coexist harmoniously within our fishbowl!).  Thus I think the creators of this display have little idea what “diversity” really is.

Anyway, let me get back to why we’re bothering with this silliness on Debito.org.  We’ve done these sorts of discourse analyses here before, for example, with foreign crime reportage and the xenophobic bunker mentalities that exist within Japan’s police forces.  But let’s have a good look at how the GOJ wishes to present itself to the world:  As “Cool” (as in hip), “Harmonious with Nature” (old trope — don’t forget Japan’s unique four seasons!), and even, astoundingly, as “diverse” (in a land that in the Postwar Era did an about-face when shedding its “diverse” empire to become “homogeneous”; see Oguma Eiji, A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images).

The fact that people around the world believe a lot of these contradictory tropes about Japan (to channel Alanis Morissette:  it’s ancient yet modern, open yet closed, peaceful yet martial, sober yet drunk etc.) is one of the reasons I believe that people get so confused and mentally-drained when they actually experience Japan and try to square away these official fabrications and half-truths (see Paris Syndrome).  Then when locals often assume the mantle of Cultural Representative of All Japan to The Foreigner to perpetuate these boilerplates, it actually contributes to the distance between people, making one’s respect diminish due to an apparent lack of critical thinking.  All this for the sake of preserving a national narrative built on poor social science, and created, as you see, by Japan’s ruling elites, in this case JETRO (assisted by MAFF, aka the Ministry of Dirty Tricks, one of the most duplicitous ministries in Japan).

In effect, you are seeing not just the Big Lie, but the Baldfaced Big Lies, created to show only Japan’s “good side” no matter how distanced from reality it so provably is.  We’ve seen it before plenty, but it’s really out in force during the PM Abe Era — not even a sense of irony to Japan’s propaganda anymore. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Entire text in order, for the record:

Exhibit message

Japan’s agriculture, which coexists with nature, cherishing all forms of life.
Japan’s nutritionally balanced diet, as represented by the traditional menu of “one soup, three dishes” that is rich with diverse fermented foods and plant proteins.
Japan’s cherished food culture, produced and nurtured by tradition and innovation.
Building upon the spirit of mutual respect and appreciation of coexisting diversity, we will creatively address global issues to pioneer a bright future.

Exhibit Scenes
PROLOGUE

●The world of aioi, where people and nature coexist

The front video screen will narrate the aioi (two tree trunks growing from one root) of people and nature. Paintings and calligraphic works will express the country of Japan blessed by rain and the destruction/regeneration of the environment as caused by humans. Lights and shadows, life and death… the various phenomena that seem to conflict yet cannot exist without the other shall be sculpted into Japanese language. The walls on the left and right will resemble a series of Ukiyoe prints, a Japanese cultural asset that is familiar in Europe. These will render the story “The Life of Rain,” tracing the abundant water that nurtures Japan’s soil over the course of four seasons. The entrance will be like a picture scroll to represent the country of Japan where people and nature live hand in hand. At the same time, it will serve to bring visitors into the world of the Japan Pavilion.

Scene Ⅰ HARMONY

●Japan’s food production centers that are respectful of nature and cultivate a rich variety of bounties

Developed amid steep land and a climate of abundant rain and humidity, Japan’s paddies retain and cover the land surface with water, creating native soil that preserves rich vegetation and biodiversity. This not only provides bounties of food for people, it also serves to control nature that sometimes brings harm such as floods and droughts. We will introduce this type of scheme as part of Japan’s agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry that coexists with nature, using the symbol of storks, which cannot make a habitat unless a rich ecosystem is maintained.

A magical space that combines the endless reflection of half-mirrors installed on the walls with video systems. The latest projection mapping technology will render Japan’s rural scenery of the four seasons.

ZONE 01
Image CG + text message

ZONE 02
A journey of Japan’s production regions, guided by a stork. The exhibition experience will be interactive in a space surrounded by video.

Scene Ⅱ CORRIDOR

●A long, narrow corridor of hospitality, evocative of the stone pavement in a Japanese-style garden

The seasons will be depicted in the corridor with sound and smell to introduce the scenery and festivals of the four seasons that can be seen around Japan.

Elements such as hanging scrolls with pressed flower art and aromas will create the aura of the seasons, while eight show windows with video systems will be placed on the wall.
Amid this, we will introduce rural scenery, creatures and festivals of the four seasons. Speakers will emit sounds reminiscent of each of the seasons.

Scene Ⅱ DIVERSITY

●The diversity and additional development of Japan’s agriculture, food, and food culture

There is a great variety of agriculture in the world, with diverse food to match. Similarly in Japan, unique agriculture, food and food cultures have been cultivated in the various regions according to weather and climate, with additional developments based on learning from the world. In this zone, visitors will fully realize the diversity of Japan and the world by taking in an overview of more than 1000 content items related to agriculture, food and food culture.

The “Diversity Waterfall” will pour diverse content extending from production areas to the dining table to provide an interactive experience. When content floating in the waterfall basin is touched, related information will display.

As visitors enter the room, they will launch the Japan Pavilion application on their smartphones installed in advance. Set properly, their areas will light up in blue. When a visitor touches an image that interests her, the image will move to a position in front of her and load onto her smartphone. Images acquired in this exhibit area will be accumulated and can be seen along with other content on the archives page when the app is accessed after leaving the pavilion.

Scene Ⅱ LEGACY

●Traditional wisdom and techniques that link to the future. Japanese cuisine is food of the future.

One soup, three dishes; fermentation and sun-drying; soup stock and umami; seasoning in the mouth; varied food culture according to region and season. We will appeal that the rich wisdom and techniques deeply ingrained in Japanese food since ancient times can become universal values and serve as food of the future, contributing to a healthy diet for people around the globe.

A showcase packed with the traditional wisdom and techniques applied to Japanese food. The Japanese diet with its excellent nutritional balance, exemplified by the classic “one soup, three dishes” menu, will also be shown with graphics.

SceneⅢ INNOVATION

●Japan’s creative solutions that uniquely address global issues

We will introduce Japan’s approach of mutual recognition and respect for the world’s variety of food production and diets while executing richly unique initiatives. Of this, we will share issues of global scale such as agriculture/food standardization, uneven food supply distribution, and nutritional imbalance. As steps to resolve these, we will propose the establishment of cooperative associations based in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry and local communities to improve lifestyles; the traditional Japanese diet with excellent nutritional balance; and sustainable agricultural production initiatives that coexist with nature. We will also introduce international contributions of food and food production assistance that cross borders and advanced technology such as science and engineering that extend beyond the boundaries of disciplines

This future lab space will visualize the various issues faced by the globe today and introduce Japan’s newest technology developments and international initiatives to help resolve these. At the Future Globe Stage at the front, characters such as Morizo & Kiccoro, a stork, and a robot will appear to introduce Japan’s solutions to the various global issues, interweaving a story that will resonate with the emotions.

●Interactive Globe

Interactive Globes will introduce global-scale food issues and Japan’s solutions in response, using large data images and photos.

Scene Ⅳ COOL JAPAN DESIGN GALLERY

●The captivating cool Japan produced by tradition and innovation

Ingredients of the four seasons and tableware according to cuisine play important roles in Japan’s food culture. The shapes and designs of Japanese tableware, as well as the traditional techniques to create them, have been passed down through generations and are used every day as traditional crafts. This exhibition zone that also serves as a gallery space extending from the space to the tableware. Here, up-and-coming artisans of traditional crafts throughout Japan inherit and evolve traditional techniques to create various tableware that shall be communicated to the world as “Cool Japan Design.”

Stylish “Cool Japan Dining” cultivated by tradition and innovation. This area introduces the diverse reach of Japanese food culture developed through the coexistence of artisan techniques and cutting-edge design.

Scene Ⅳ FOYER – JAPAN SHOW CASE

●Captivating “Cool Japan” content

This zone is the lobby area for the Live Performance Theater. In addition to theater guidance, the Japan Show Case will show videos introducing the charms of Japan, such as anime, fashion and other new lifestyle information, tourism resources throughout Japan, and traditional culture. We will also introduce the latest technology tapped at the Japan Pavilion, as well as the newest agriculture and food technologies.

Scene Ⅴ LIVE PERFORMANCE THEATER

●The sentiments and bonds between people that start from the dining table. Japanese food is a global food that connects to the world.

The words itadakimasu and gochisosama express gratitude toward all people involved in food as well as toward the bounties of nature. Sharing these words deepens family bonds, cultivates friendships and expands the circle of communication. With shows that create a sense of unity by actively engaging the audience, visitors will experience how Japanese food can be global, connecting people around the world with smiles.

The restaurant-style theater wraps up the Japan Pavilion. Visitors watch shows from dining table-like seats. This arena theater-style emphasizes that this is a dining space with a sense of solidarity, in contrast with the conventional theater space where the audience faces front. Dining table-style audience seats are arranged in an arc surrounding the center stage, where cast members will perform according to the program. These will bring a sense of unity through interaction via media tables surrounded by the audience, cast performances and large-screen video spatial presentations. This will be a dynamic entertainment theater that actively engages the audience so that people from around the world can share sentiments, joy and smiles.

Spring presentation image.
The show progresses according to the four seasons.

A media table with multiple video displays. Each visitor can enjoy the interaction.

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

Original Japanese, full text:

展示メッセージ

あらゆる生命を慈しみ、自然と共生する日本の農。
多様な発酵食品や植物性蛋白質を中心とした一汁三菜に代表される
栄養バランスに優れた日本の食。
伝統と革新によって生み出され育まれた多彩な日本の食文化。
『共存する多様性』を相互に尊重し感謝する精神を礎に、地球的課題に独創的に取り組み、
明るい未来を切り拓く。
展示シーン
PROLOGUE

●人と自然が共に生きる相生(あいおい)の世界

人と自然の「相生」を物語る正面の映像スクリーンでは、雨に恵まれた日本と、人による環境破壊と再生を、書画で展開します。光と影、生と死、相反するようで、どちらかが欠けても存在できない様々な事象を、日本語の彫刻に。その左右の壁面には、ヨーロッパにも馴染みある日本文化浮世絵の連作のように見立て、日本の壌土を育む豊かな水の、四季をめぐる物語「雨の一生」。エントランスを一つの「絵巻物」のようにし、人と自然が共に生きる日本を、日本館の始まりの空間として表現します。
SceneⅠ HARMONY

●自然と寄り添い、多様な恵みを育む日本の食の産地

多雨・多湿な気候で急峻な土地に切り拓かれた日本の水田は、水をその土地に留め、地表を水が覆うことにより、豊かな植生と生物多様性を保持する国土を生み出しました。そして、人びとはそこから食の恵みを得ると同時に、洪水や渇水など、時に災いをもたらす自然をも治めてきました。このような営みを、自然と共生する日本の農林水産業として、豊かな生態系が維持されなければ生息できない「コウノトリ」をシンボルに紹介します。

壁に設置されたハーフ・ミラーの無限反射と映像装置を組み合わせた幻想的な空間。
最新のプロジェクションマッピング技術により、四季折々の農村風景を演出。

ZONE 01
イメージCG+テキストメッセージ

ZONE 02
コウノトリに誘われ、日本の産地を巡る旅。映像に囲まれた空間で、インタラクティブに展示体験できる。
SceneⅡ CORRIDOR

●日本庭園の石畳をイメージさせる細長い「おもてなし」の回廊空間

回廊では、音と香りで季節感を演出し、日本各地で見られる四季折々の風景と祭事を紹介。

「押し花アート掛け軸」や「香り演出」など季節感を醸し出す演出を施し、壁面には映像装置が設置された8つのショーウィンドーを配置。
その中で「四季折々の農村風景と生き物たち、四季の祭り」を紹介します。また、指向性スピーカーにより季節感のある音の演出も展開します。
SceneⅡ DIVERSITY

●日本の農と食、食文化の多様性、さらなる拡がり

世界には様々な農業があり、それに応じた多種多様な食があります。また日本でも同様に、気候や風土に応じて各地域で独自の農と食、食文化が育まれ、世界からも学びながら、さらなる拡がりをみせています。このゾーンでは農と食、食文化に関する1,000を超えるコンテンツを一望することで、世界と日本の「多様性」を実感していただきます。

産地から食卓まで多種多彩なコンテンツが流れ落ちる「ダイバーシティの滝」。滝壺に漂うコンテンツに手を触れると、関連する様々な情報が映し出されるインタラクティブ体験を提供。

室内に入り、あらかじめインストールしておいたスマートフォンの日本館アプリを起動させ、正しくセットすると自分のエリアが青く発光。興味のある画像にタッチすると、その画像が体験者の目の前に移動し、スマートフォンに取り込まれます。退館後にアプリにアクセスすると本展示エリアで取得した画像が蓄積されており、その他のコンテンツもアーカイブページで閲覧することができます。
SceneⅡ LEGACY

●未来につながる伝統の知恵と技。日本食は「未来食」

「一汁三菜」「発酵・天日干し」「出汁・うま味」「口内調味」「地域や季節に応じた多様な食文化」など、古来より日本食に込められた様々な知恵と技が、普遍的な価値となって、地球上の人びとの健康的な食生活に貢献する「未来食」となることを訴求します。

日本食に込められた伝統の知恵と技が凝縮されるショーケース。「一汁三菜」など栄養バランスに優れた日本の食生活もグラフィカルに紹介。

SceneⅢ INNOVATION

●地球的課題に対し独創的に取組む「日本のクリエイティブ・ソリューション」

世界の様々な食料生産や食生活を、互いに認め合い尊重しながら、独創性に富んだ取組みを行う日本の姿勢を示します。その中で、農業や食の画一化、食料の偏在化と栄養バランスの偏りなどの地球規模の課題を共有し、その解決に向け、農林水産業と地域社会に根ざして人びとの生活を向上させる協同組合組織の確立、栄養バランスに優れた伝統的な日本型食生活、自然と共生する持続的な農業生産の取組みなどを提案し、国境を越えた食と食料生産支援の国際貢献や科学・工学など分野を越えた先端技術なども紹介します。

現代の地球が抱える様々な問題を可視化し、課題解決に向けた日本の最先端の技術開発や国際貢献の取り組みを紹介するフューチャー・ラボ空間。正面の「Future Globe Stage」ではモリゾー・キッコロ、コウノトリ、そしてロボットといった様々なキャラクターが登場し、地球が抱える課題に対する日本のソリューションの数々を情緒的なストーリーに織り交ぜてご紹介します。

●触れる地球(Interactive Globe)

食にまつわる地球規模の課題や、それらに対する日本のソリューションを、ビッグデータや写真画像を「触れる地球(Interactive Globe)」で用いながらインタラクティブに紹介。

SceneⅣ COOL JAPAN DESIGN GALLERY

●伝統と革新がもたらす“クールジャパンダイニング”

日本の食文化では、四季折々の食材や料理に合わせた食器も大切な役割を演じます。和食器の形やデザイン、それを作り出す伝統のワザが現代にも伝承され、伝統的工芸品として日常に使われています。このゾーンは、空間から食器に至るまで、トータルプロデュースされたギャラリー空間です。その中で、新進気鋭のアーティストによる感性を伝統で培われた匠のワザにより表現した様々な和食器を、伝統の技を継承し発展させる「クールジャパンダイニング」として世界に発信していきます。

伝統と革新がもたらすスタイリッシュな「クールジャパンダイニング」。「匠の技」と「先端デザイン」の共存による日本食文化の多様な広がりを紹介。
SceneⅣ FOYER – JAPAN SHOW CASE

●魅惑的な“クールジャパンコンテンツ”

このゾーンはライブパフォーマンスシアターのウェイティング空間です。シアターガイダンスの他、アニメ、ファッションなどの最新ライフスタイルや、日本各地の観光資源、伝統文化の魅力を映像で紹介する「ジャパンショーケース」です。
また、日本館で活用される新技術や農と食に関する新技術も合わせて来場者に紹介します。

SceneⅤ LIVE PERFORMANCE THEATER

●食卓から始まる人びとの想い、絆。日本食は世界をつなぐ「地球食」

食に関わる全ての人びとや自然の恵みに対する感謝の気持ちを表す言葉「いただきます」や「ごちそうさま」。
この言葉を共有することで、家族の絆を深め、友情を育み、コミュニケーションの輪を拡げていきます。一体感のある観客参加型のショー演出を通して、日本食が、世界の人びとを笑顔でつなぐ「地球食」となることを体感していただきます。

日本館の締めくくりとなる、レストランスタイルのシアターでは、来館者がダイニングテーブル風の客席に着席してショーを観賞。正面性のある一般的なシアター空間ではなく、ダイニング空間であることを重視した、一体感のある円形劇場スタイル。弧を描くように並ぶダイニングテーブル風の客席に囲まれたセンターステージでは、演出の進行に合わせてキャストがパフォーマンスを行う。観客が囲むメディアテーブルのインタラクションとキャストのパフォーマンス、大型映像空間演出により、一体感のあるショーを展開。世界の人々の思いがつながり、笑顔となって喜びを分かち合う、ダイナミックな参加型エンタテインメント・シアター。

春の演出イメージ。日本の四季に合わせてショーが進行。

複数の映像ディスプレイを配したメディアテーブル。来場者一人一人がインタラクションを楽しめる。
展示紹介映像

ENDS

Tokyo sushi shop Mizutani, with 2 Michelin stars, refuses NJ customers; awaiting Michelin Guides’ response

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Hi Blog. Thanks to everyone who submitted these articles. Here’s yet another place in Japan that refuses NJ customers entry, and once again giving a reason against the group based upon the alleged actions of a select few (Japanese never renege on their reservations, after all, right?). And of course bring in the boilerplate language barrier (which was not an issue in these refusals in the first place).  Anyway, what makes the Sushi Mizutani case particularly noticeable is that Michelin has recommended this place, and so far Michelin have not commented on whether these kinds of exclusionary policies are grounds for removing that recommendation. But given the relativism and exceptionality that pervades the world’s treatment of Japan (giving it a free pass for some pretty egregious examples of racism), I would be rather surprised if Michelin took their stars away. They have been advised of this situation, so let’s wait and see. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Michelin restaurant in Ginza refuses reservations by foreigners
The Tokyo Reporter, By Kenji Nakano on April 26, 2015, courtesy of lots of people
Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu finds the policy of Sushi Mizutani to be ‘discriminatory’
http://www.tokyoreporter.com/2015/04/26/michelin-restaurant-in-ginza-refuses-reservations-by-foreigners/

On April 8, the secretary for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu telephoned Sushi Mizutani, a 10-seat restaurant located in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district, to make a reservation for four people.

The reservation was on behalf of Bangfu, who was hosting three guests from the Communist nation. The secretary, a Japanese female, was told that seats were available on the requested day.

However, once the course of conversation revealed that the party would in fact consist of foreigners she was informed that the restaurant has a policy of refusing reservations from non-Japanese.

Mo, a 30-year resident of Japan, then telephoned the restaurant himself and received the same information. “It was disappointing,” Mo told evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (April 26).

With Sushi Mizutani having received a two-star ranking in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2015, the paper finds the policy disturbing as Japan is continuing a push to attract more visitors from overseas.

In a phone conversation with the head of the restaurant, whose typical meals runs around 20,000 yen, Nikkan Gendai learns that issue involves problems that occurred in the past.

“In order to preserve the atmosphere of the restaurant, we try to maintain that the total number of guests are split between Japanese and foreigners,” says the representative. “Since we’ve had foreigners make reservations and not show up and other problems, we only take reservations through a hotel concierge or (through a service provided by) a credit card company.”

Mo’s status as a permanent resident is irrelevant, according to Sushi Mizutani.

“Whether one is a tourist or not cannot be determined over the phone,” the representative says. “So this is an across-the-board policy.”

The appeal of Japanese cuisine has been one factor in the recent rise in travelers from overseas coming to Japan. Earlier this month, the Japan National Tourism Organization said that the 1,526,000 tourist arrivals for March set a record.

That record will likely fall again soon. For the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the government expects 25 million foreigners to arrive in Japan. By comparison, last year the figure stood at 13 million.

Perhaps ironically, Mo works as a tourism adviser for Yamanashi and Kagawa prefectures. He finds the behavior of Sushi Mizutani baffling, though he does have some sympathies regarding problems that may have taken place in the past.

“However, I, a permanent resident, find the conscious separation of foreigners and Japanese to be discriminatory,” he says.

The matter is not just a problem just for Sushi Mizutani, the journalist continues.

“For the betterment of the entire image of Japan for visitors, conscious change may be necessary,” he says. (K.N.)

Source: “Sabetsu? Yoyaku kyohi sa reta gaikoku hito ga ikidoru mishuran sushi-ten no taio,” Nikkan Gendai (April 26)

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

Michelin-star sushi restaurant in Tokyo defends foreigner rules
Japan Today NATIONAL APR. 28, 2015 – 03:50PM JST ( 133 ), Courtesy of lots of people
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/michelin-star-sushi-restaurant-in-tokyo-defends-foreigner-rules
TOKYO —A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer.

Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an “across-the-board policy” of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers—unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.

“Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations,” a member of the staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons.

“We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don’t show up.

“We don’t think it is anything discriminatory,” he said.

The confirmation came after a report that the restaurant, located in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district, had refused to take a reservation for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu.

Mo, a resident of Japan for 30 years who is fluent in Japanese, intended to host three guests at the high-end restaurant, where prices start at 20,000 yen per person, the Nikkan Gendai tabloid reported.

The magazine said that as soon as his secretary—a Japanese woman—told the restaurant Mo’s name and contact number, the person taking the booking suddenly changed his attitude and said “some arrangements were necessary”—indicating the reservation was not acceptable.

“We have an increasing number of cases in which people are abandoning their reservations,” a restaurant worker told AFP, adding Japanese-speaking customers are called for reconfirmation a few days before their reservation.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Japan has rocketed in recent years as the value of the yen has fallen and as tensions have eased between Beijing and Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants to attract 20 million foreign visitors a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Despite decades of exposure to non-Japanese tourists, many facilities, even in cosmopolitan Tokyo, have difficulties dealing with people who they assume cannot speak the language.

Tokyo has a huge selection of top-class eateries, and regularly tops the global list for Michelin-starred restaurants.

No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.
ENDS

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

And as for the ability for NJ clients to get around this exclusion by using a concierge service:
=====================
Wes Thorpe: I called trying to make a reservation tonight, and was told that because I was a foreigner I would need to make a reservation through my hotel or my credit card’s concierge service. I explained (in Japanese) that I’ve lived in Japan for 23 years and am a permanent resident, and that as I don’t have a platinum card I’m unable to use Visa’s concierge service. They told me I’m out of luck. Truly despicable.
=====================

ENDS

Sushi Mizutani
8-7-7 Ginza Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061
03-3573-5258
Sushi Restaurant
Today 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 5:00 – 9:30 pm

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

差別? 予約拒否された外国人が憤るミシュラン寿司店の対応

日刊 ゲンダイ 2015年4月26日
http://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/news/159356

ショッキングな話である。2015年の「ミシュランガイド東京」で2つ星を獲得した銀座の「鮨 水谷」が、予約をしようとした外国人に差別的な対応をしたという。実際に店側とやりとりし、「がっかりした」と話すのは、在日30年の中国人ジャーナリスト・莫邦富氏だ。

今月8日、莫氏の秘書(日本人女性)が「水谷」に電話をし、5月12日に4人で訪れたいと伝えたところ、「空いています」との返事だった。ところが、連絡先や氏名を伝えると、「えっ、海外の方ですか?」と聞かれ、日本在住であることを伝えても、「日本人は同行しますか」「調整が必要です」の一点張り。莫氏本人が電話を代わり、4人とも中国人で、しかし自分は来日30年でジャーナリストとして仕事をしていること、今回の食事が莫氏側の招待であること、招待客の1人は日本に留学経験があり、日本の政官界とも仕事をしている社長であることなど、本来なら伝える必要のない個人情報まで明らかにしても、「調整が必要です」とハッキリしない態度だったという。

「水谷」はカウンター10席で、夜のおまかせコースが2万円からという超高級店。常連客によると「金持ちの白人がしょっちゅう来て、大声でしゃべっている」という。外国人を受け入れている店なのに、莫氏へのヒドい対応は何なのか? 莫氏の電話を受けた店の担当者に取材すると、こんな言い分だった。

「店の雰囲気づくりのため、海外の客と日本人客の比率を半々にしています。海外の客については予約をしたのに来ないなど、トラブルが多発したので、ホテルのコンシェルジュ、もしくはカード会社を通じた予約だけに限定しています」

ただ、莫氏は海外からの旅行客ではなく、日本に永住している。

「旅行客かそうでないかは、電話だけでは判別できません。海外の客には、一律でこういう対応をしています」

■外国人観光客増加を目指す日本の課題

莫氏は、石川県や山梨県などのインバウンド(訪日外国人)誘致のアドバイザーの仕事もしている。

政府は東京五輪の2020年までにインバウンド2500万人(14年は1300万人)を目指しているが、莫氏はそんな日本の高級店の不可解な対応に、こう憤る。

「外国人客の困った事態があったのかもしれませんから、『水谷』さんの立場は理解します。ただ、私は日本に永住していますし、そもそも外国人と日本人を分断する意識は差別としか言いようがありません。『水谷』さんだけの問題ではなく、日本のインバウンド全体のイメージをよくするために、意識改革が必要なのではないでしょうか」

水谷は、ケネディ米大使から予約電話があっても、「ホテルのコンシェルジュかカード会社を通して」と拒否するのだろうか?
ENDS

Japanese hotel and restaurant bars all Non-Japanese — in Bangalore, India! And it’s shut down by the local Indian govt. within days

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Hi Blog.  This case you might have heard about already, but in terms that Debito.org has talked about for decades, there are no surprises here:  A “Japanese Only” Japanese restaurant has been discovered turning away “foreigners” in a foreign land — India.  Well, turning away all “non-Japanese”.  Because, you see, “Japanese” is not a function of nationality.  It’s a function of racialized tribalism.

In other words, no matter where you are in the world, under Japanese binary sensibilities, there are two types of people:  Japanese and NJ — not Japanese and “foreigners”.  Overseas, Japanese technically become foreigners.  But not in exported Japanese contexts such as Japanese restaurants.  So again, Japanese society’s exclusionary view of the world anytime, anywhere, becomes perfectly understandable when looked at through this binary rubric.

Fortunately, not all societies let this sort of racism pass without comment or sanction.  And India, despite being saddled with a horrible caste system, is no exception.  Within weeks after exposure, it was partially shut down after notice from the Greater Bangalore City Corporation on explicit charges of racial discrimination — something Japan simply cannot do.  Articles follow.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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‘Only Japanese, no Indian people, ma’am’
Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jun 24, 2014, 02.00 AM IST

Howard Murphy, a Brit, too was barred from the restaurant in Uno-In. ‘It is just racist,‘ Murphy told Bangalore Mirror
By : Tapasya Mitra Mazumder & Afsha Khan, Courtesy of JK
http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/cover-story/Only-Japanese-no-Indian-people-maam/articleshow/37097278.cms,

Unabashedly racist, Uno-In Hotel bars all other nationals; ironically, its head and staff are Indians

The hotel makes no bones about it. Its website categorically states: Located in Bangalore, we are a hotel exclusively for Japanese. Situated on Langford Cross Road in Shanthinagar, Hotel Uno-In, which also houses a Japanese rooftop restaurant called Teppen, has a policy of not allowing access to Indians, or for that matter, any other non-Japanese nationals.

Adjacent to the KTM showroom, Uno-In started two years ago with the sole aim of catering to Japanese nationals visiting the city for work or tour. It’s clear the hotel is not eager to advertise its presence as a hand-painted sign on the mouth of the road is the only giveaway to the place situated at the cul-de-sac.

Based on an incident (we will come back to it later) that happened a few months back, these reporters visited the hotel with a colleague and got a first-hand taste of the discriminatory attitude. The moment they stepped foot into the lobby and expressed a desire to have lunch at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant Teppen, they were told ‘Indians’ were not allowed. Below is a transcript of the recorded conversation that took place with Nic U Iqbal, MD and CEO of Nippon Infrastructure which runs the hotel.

BM Reporter: Hi. We are here for Teppen.

Hotel Staff: Yes, but only Japanese people allowed ma’am. No Indian people.

Reporter: No, we were not told that. A friend of ours recommended the place to us and said it has amazing Japanese food.

Hotel: Hi, I am Nic. This is a dedicated place for Japanese people alone.

Reporter: No, but we heard so much about this place from our Japanese friends.

Hotel: I know but we really don’t do that. It is really hard to maintain the quality system and we just have Japanese corporate people visiting us. We are the Nippon group and we have tie-ups with our own Japanese companies. Their people come to us. The entire hotel is for the Japanese alone and we don’t entertain anyone else.

After about five minutes of cajoling, we were allowed in with Iqbal stating, “I run the whole show so you can go in as my guests.” The afterthought of a welcome seemed to be directly linked to the absence of any Japanese guests (and hence no one at all) in the restaurant.

Recalling an ‘incident’ in March, Amisha Garg Agarwal, director (strategy planning), Percept/H said, “A couple of months back some colleagues accompanied our Japanese clients to the hotel for lunch. But they didn’t allow my colleagues in, stating, ‘Indians are not allowed’, despite the clients insisting they be permitted into the restaurant.”

She says when they sought an explanation, they were told Indians demanded Indian and vegetarian food. “We have heard about many more such cases from our Japanese friends in the city,” she said.

Ishiro Takazuma (name changed on request), a Japanese advertising professional who frequently travels to Bangalore for work, said that during one of his initial sojourns, he had stayed at the Uno-In and knew the food there was good. So when some Japanese colleagues were in the vicinity along with a couple of Indian colleagues a couple of months back, he recommended Uno-In’s restaurant. “We have never had any problem there before but our Indian colleagues were stopped from accompanying us into the restaurant. They relented on our insistence, though. I understand their policy of catering only to Japanese clients and their rights to reservation, but they should not have stopped our Indian friends from entering the place when they were with us.”

The ‘rights of admission reserved’ rule is in the realm of ambiguity at best. When we asked the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the issuing authority for trade licences, about how far an establishment can go in its ‘right of admission reserved’ rule, the officials had no clue. ”We have never come across it till now. We issue licences, check if the health, safety and cleanliness standards are being maintained. Nothing beyond it,” said an official.

When Bangalore Mirror contacted Uno-In’s Iqbal for comment, he said they had no qualms in admitting any customer, but they mainly catered to the needs of those residing in their corporate houses, mostly comprising the Japanese. “It is not a walk-in restaurant which is why we haven’t even publicised it as a restaurant. We do not have the infrastructure to function as a full-fledged restaurant which is why we have limited it to only Japanese delegates. And we do not entertain anyone else apart from Japanese people. However, if people come and request to have a Japanese meal, we do not mind catering to their requests.” That, based on experiences earlier by some Bangaloreans and the reporters is bunkum.

‘IT IS JUST RACIST’

To its credit, Uno-In seems to be ‘fair-handed’ in its racism. BANGALORE MIRROR sent a Brit to see if they will have a different set of rules, in typically Indian fashion, for the whites. Howard Murphy , founder of Amurco and from Manchester, was told on Monday lunch hour by the receptionist that the place is ”restricted to Japanese” and denied him entry. “Later another person — I presume he was the manager — came and said the same thing…that the place is meant only for Japanese. It’s just racist.”

An African PhD student, Charles Mwiriji Keega, was our next decoy. His experience: “We parked the bike outside.A guard opened the gate for us and I said I want to eat lunch here. He guided me to the place where the restaurant was. An executive officer came to me here and along with him four other people who seemed like heads at the restaurant came. They (all Indians) saw me and said that it’s not a restaurant first. I could see the tables there. So told them that. Then one guy came and told me that this is only for Japanese. He got a bit angry and tried to chase me out. They told me to go eat elsewhere. I said that I wanted to have Japanese food. He got annoyed with me and started to bully me out.”

SO WHAT’S ON THE MENU?

With entry banned to non-Japanese, Bangalore Mirror just had to eat at Uno In’s open-air cafe to satiate its curiosity pangs. Having virtually begged to be let in, here goes the accidental review, without any fear or favour. Not that it will help you, unless you are a Japanese reading this

So how does this exclusively-for-Japanese restaurant look inside? Teppen, an open-air cafe on the fourth floor of Uno-In, exudes the air of an office cafeteria. Since we were the only customers — and Indians at that — the staff was initially a touch wary but eased up after we returned their bow and smiled. The menu carried just the Japanese names of the dishes which is understandable considering its clientele. A waiter pointed out the chicken items, and even a vegetarian dish, he thought we may prefer over-fried pork with the skin on.

As we had heard of Daikon (radish), we decided to order that hoping it might be served with a dressing of vinegar and sesame. But the bowl of raw, shredded radish placed in front of us was unseasoned. We, thus, sincerely apologise if this isn’t Japanese etiquette, but we doused it in the soya sauce placed on our table to alter it to suit our palate. What we could make out was that most items on the menu were set meals – essentially a protein served on a platter with rice, miso soup, pickled cucumber and raw vegetables.

It suffices here to say that we left with the knowledge that we had got a taste of authentic Japanese food. For what it’s worth, the fried jumbo shrimps enveloped in thick hot and crispy batter and the miso soup with tofu cubes went down well, but if anybody wants to have sushi, they will need to come here for dinner as they aren’t available at lunch.

ENDS
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Bangalore shuts down ‘Japanese only’ hotel
The Mail Online India, By ARAVIND GOWDA
PUBLISHED: 18:40 EST, 2 July 2014
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2678420/Bangalore-shuts-Japanese-hotel.html

All over: Uno-in hotel in Bangalore, a Japanese-only restaurant, has been closed down

A ‘Japanese only’ hotel, which allegedly did not entertain Indians and other foreign nationals in its restaurant, has been closed down by the Greater Bangalore City Corporation (GBCC) on charges of racial discrimination.

The Uno-Inn Hotel – set up two years ago in central Bangalore by a local entrepreneur in association with the Nippon Infrastructure Company to cater to the growing number of Japanese visitors – shot to limelight after it allegedly stopped Indians, British and Africans from entering the roof-top restaurant.

The 30-room hotel and the restaurant were meant exclusively for Japanese tourists and businessmen visiting the city.

Last week, a few Bangaloreans, who decided to try out the Japanese restaurant at the hotel, were shocked when they were reportedly informed that they were unwelcome there.

This shocked the locals, who duly brought the matter to the notice of the GBCC.

Recently, GBCC officials visited the hotel and detected various violations by the management.

Consequently, the GBCC locked 10 out of the 30 rooms of the hotel and issued a notice to the hotel to comply with the local laws.

But the hotel management contended that Indians and other foreign nationals were welcome at their restaurant.

The GBCC is not authorised to initiate any action against the hotel management for its alleged racial discrimination, and only the law enforcement agencies were entitled to initiate action against the hotel.

ENDS

Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012

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Hi Blog.  Significant news:  In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same.  A place called Konsho Gakuen (aka “Saitama Cooking College”, “Saitama Confectionary College” in brochures featured on NHK) in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body.  This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin):

konshogakuenJapaneseOnlyhoushin

People knew about this.  A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012.  But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it.  Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.  Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.

So finally it hits the media.  And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below inter alia that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).

Debito.org would normally cheer for this.  But the school is just taking their sign down.  Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination).  When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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‘No foreigners allowed’ cooking school backtracks, will accept foreign applicants
May 23, 2014 Mainichi Japan, Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140523p2a00m0na018000c.html

A private vocational school in Saitama Prefecture which had barred foreigners from enrollment has reversed course and will begin allowing foreign applicants for the 2015 academic year, the Mainichi has learned.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in its May 23 morning edition that the Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture-based Konsho Gakuen states explicitly in its student recruitment material that “foreigners cannot enroll. This is school policy. Please be aware that this school does not accept foreigners.” Konsho Gakuen, established in 1976, operates three schools, one each for cooking, nutrition and confections.

A school representative told the Mainichi that it was “not accepting press inquiries,” and that the school’s policy “is exactly what it says (in the pamphlet). Foreigners had better go somewhere else.” According to a source related to the education sector in the prefecture, the school was “worried there would be trouble if it had many students staying in Japan illegally.”

Meanwhile, the prefectural educational affairs department said that the same “no foreigners” passage was included in Konsho Gakuen’s materials for both academic 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, the prefecture had formally requested in January and August last year that the school “select students for admission fairly, based on ability and aptitude,” but that Konsho Gakuen had not responded.

At about 11 a.m. on May 23, after the story had appeared in that morning’s edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, Konsho Gakuen board chairman Akio Imai called the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare — which overseas cooking schools — to apologize, according to ministry sources.

Imai was quoted as saying, “Starting from this academic year’s entrance exams, we will begin accepting foreign applicants.” He also apparently said the no-foreigners passage in Konsho Gakuen’s student recruitment materials would be deleted.
ENDS

Original Japanese article:

埼玉の専門学校:外国人入学を拒否「開設以来の方針」
毎日新聞 2014年05月23日 07時45分, Courtesy of MS
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20140523k0000m040129000c.html

来年4月の入学者向けに作られた埼玉県製菓専門学校の募集要項
調理師や栄養士を養成する埼玉県熊谷市の私立専門学校が、生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ない」と明記していることが分かった。県が公正な選抜をするよう依頼したが、運営法人は「開設以来の学校の方針」として応じなかった。行政側に指導権限がないことから、差別的な取り扱いが是正されない状態が続いている。【奥山はるな】

外国人の受け入れを拒否しているのは、学校法人今昌学園(今井明巨理事長)が運営する埼玉県調理師専門学校と同栄養専門学校、同製菓専門学校の3校。書類選考と面接で入学者を決めているが、来年4月の入学者向け募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ません。これは本校の方針です」と明記している。

今春や昨春入学分の要項も同様で、連絡を受けた県学事課は昨年1月と8月、法人に「本人の能力や適性をもって公正に選抜してほしい」と依頼したが応じなかった。

取材に対し、今井理事長は「(取材は)受けられない。理由はない」「募集要項にある通りだ。別の学校に行けばよい」と話したが、県内の教育関係者によると「不法滞在の学生が増えたら困る」と理由を説明しているという。

県学事課は「私学なので県が法的根拠をもって指導するのは難しいが、他校でこのような事例は聞いたことがない。誠に遺憾」と法人を非難。調理師などの養成機関として指定している厚生労働省関東信越厚生局は「外国人の入学について法令上の定めはなく、はっきり改善を求められない」とした。

文部科学省専修学校教育振興室は「教育基本法が定める教育の機会均等は外国人にも可能な限り適用されるべきだというのが通説で、不当な差別は望ましくない」とする一方で、「背景や事情があるのかもしれず個別具体的には判断できない」としている。

法人は1976年設立。県によると、3専門学校の在学者(5月1日現在)は調理師156人▽栄養140人▽製菓83人−−の計379人。

国籍による差別を巡っては、試合会場でサポーターが「JAPANESE ONLY」と書いた横断幕を掲げた問題で、3月にサッカーJリーグ1部の浦和レッズがリーグから処分を受けた

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

THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 23, 2014, NATIONAL
School axes policy of barring foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITER
(excerpt of the bottom half of the article, full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/23/national/school-axes-policy-of-barring-foreigners/

[…] When contacted by The Japan Times, Imai said he had decided to ditch the policy and said all three schools would start accepting applications from foreign students from the next academic year.

The decision came only a few months after an incident at a J. League soccer game fueled a nationwide debate about racial discrimination. At the game, fans of the Urawa Reds hung a banner above the stadium entrance declaring, in English, “Japanese Only.” The J. League punished the team for failing to remove the banner by forcing it to play its next home game in an empty stadium.

“I acknowledge that the (‘no-foreigner’ part) of our admission policy was terribly misleading,” Imai said without elaborating.

Imai said the remote location of his cooking schools in Kumagaya kept them somewhat isolated from the trends of globalization, making the mere thought of taking in foreign students “inconceivable.”

“I also acknowledge that we’ve had this fear about what would happen if we accepted foreigners. We’ve been afraid that there will be unpredictable consequence if we do,” Imai said without elaborating.

As for the no-foreigner policy, Imai said he never thought it would be considered discriminatory or xenophobic, despite warnings from the prefectural government, which has no authority to order a change in the private school’s policy.

“I thought other schools were doing the same, too,” he said.

After media pressure built, however, he spoke with the schools’ principals and decided Friday that he should make the admission policy “fairer” and bring it “up to date.”
ENDS

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

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
NHK 5月23日 12時14分, Courtesy of MS
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140523/k10014668071000.html (with video)

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
調理師などを養成する埼玉県熊谷市にある専門学校が生徒の募集要項に、「外国人の入学はできません」と記載して入学を断っていたことが分かり、埼玉県は運営する学校法人に改善を指導しましたが、これまでに応じていないということです。

この専門学校は、埼玉県熊谷市にある学校法人「今昌学園」が運営する調理師や栄養士などの専門学校3校です。

埼玉県によりますと、おととし11月、これらの専門学校の生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学はできません」と記載されていると外部から指摘があり、県が調べたところ外国人の入学を断っていることが分かりました。

埼玉県は外国人の入学を認めないのは不適切だとして、学校法人に対し、能力や適性に基づいた公正な入学試験を行うよう口頭や文書で繰り返し改善を指導したということです。

これに対し、学校法人は「設立以来の学校の方針だ」として指導に応じていないということです。
「今昌学園」の役員はNHKの取材に対し、「外国人を受け入れないのは就職まで面倒をみることができないためで、昭和47年の設立以来受け入れていない」と話しています。

厚生労働相「調査し適切に対応」

この専門学校を調理師免許を取るための養成施設として指定している田村厚生労働大臣は、「差別的な扱いがあるとすれば望ましくない。どうして拒否しているか背景をしっかり調査したうえで、適切に対応したい」と述べ、学校関係者から聞き取り調査を行い、指導を行うかどうか検討する方針を示しました。

文部科学相「拒否は大変遺憾」

下村文部科学大臣は「外国人であることで差別があってはならない。意欲や能力、志がある人に対しては日本人、外国人を問わずチャンスを提供するべきで外国人という理由で入学を拒否することは大変遺憾だ。埼玉県に適切に指導してもらいたい」と話しました。
ENDS

“Japanese Only” exclusionary Tentake tempura restaurant in Asakusa, Tokyo, allegedly due to NJ “hygiene” issues

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Hi Blog. Another to add to the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments. This time, a restaurant, as submitter Yoshio Tanaka notified me via email and photographs:

====================================
April 5, 2014, Yoshio Tanaka wrote:

Please would you mind helping me? Today I went to a restaurant in Asakusa with my wife and some Japanese friends. They didn’t allow us to enter, because me and my wife are not Japanese. In the entrance there is a paper that says “Japanese only” in English, and other advertisement in Japanese. My Japanese friend, entered to the restaurant and kindly asked the manager if me and my wife could enter, too. The manager said they doesn’t allow foreigners, no matter if they speak Japanese nor have been living in Japan for long.

I hope you can help me, and write some article about this discrimination. I think discrimination is one of the worst problem in our world, so we must stop it immediately.  Thank you for your time!!!
====================================

(All photos taken April 4, 2014.)

asakusatentakesign040514
(NB:  The Japanese below the JAPANESE ONLY text on the sign reads, “The inside of this restaurant is very small.  In order to avoid accidents, we are sorry, but we refuse entry to all children below the age of 5.  We ask for our customers understanding and cooperation.”)

asakusatentakefront040514
Storefront

asakusatentakebanner040514
Noren of restaurant with the phone number.

天健 (てんたけ)
ジャンル 天ぷら、天丼・天重
住所 〒111-0032 東京都台東区浅草2-4-1
TEL・予約  03-3841-5519

“Ten-take” tempura restaurant, Tokyo-to Taitou-ku Asakusa 2-4-1, Phone 03-3841-5519

Contact details courtesy http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131102/13010522/, last updated January 2014, with no mention of its “Japanese Only” rules.  (It does mention the no children under five:  店内が非常に狭いため、事故防止の観点から5歳未満の子連れ不可の張り紙あり」.  Interesting how a “no foreigners” rule somehow escapes mention.)

COMMENT: I called Tentake today (April 5) to confirm with the management that yes, they do have a “Japanese Only” restriction.  Their reasons given:  1) Hygiene (eiseimen), which were, when asked, issues of “foreigners” not taking off their shoes when entering, 2) NJ causing problems (meiwaku) to other customers, and 3) a language barrier, as in NJ not speaking Japanese.  Basic Otaru Onsen exclusionary excuses.  When asked if he didn’t think these were prejudicial generalizations about all NJ, he said repeatedly that he couldn’t deal with “foreigners” (tai’ou o shi kirenai).  Then he hung up.

That’s as much information as I could get out of the management regarding the reasons for the exclusionism.  Readers who feel that this restaurant is behaving inappropriately for a business open to the general public are welcome to phone them at the number above, or drop by and say so directly.  Douzo.  ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE APRIL 18, 2014:  The sign is down and the shop is open to NJ customers again.

Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired

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Hi Blog.  Still deep into my project at the moment, so I’ll be brief.  Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of “Pinprick Protest” from more than two years ago — the Papa John’s “lady chinky eyes case” where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility.  As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur.

Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan — where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else — shake your head — claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate).

The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs.  Eventually.  The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up.  And it took a court case to get theirs down.  And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn’t enough.

Anyway, here’s the story.  I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.  Arudou Debito

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

‘Lady Chinky Eyes’: Papa John’s Store Calls Woman Racial Slur In Receipt (PHOTO) (UPDATE)
The Huffington Post, Laura Hibbard
First Posted: 01/07/12 03:22 PM ET Updated: 01/08/12 12:08 AM ET

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/07/lady-chinky-eyes-papa-johns-store-uses-receipt-to-call-woman-racial-slur_n_1191434.html

Minhee Cho went to Papa John’s for some fast food goodness. Little did she know, she would get it served with a side of racism.

At around 12:30 p.m. today, Papa John’s customer Minhee Cho tweeted a photo of a receipt she received at a Papa John’s restaurant in uptown, New York City.

In it, under the customer’s name section, the restaurant employee who rang up the order used the racial slur “lady chinky eyes” to describe her.

ladychinkyeyespapajohns2012
Minhee Cho @mintymin
Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes” http://t.co/RLdj2Eij
January 7, 2012 5:06 pm via Twitpic

Cho posted the photo to her Twitter page, where it was quickly retweeted by hundreds of people. By 3 p.m., the photo had been viewed over 25,000 times.

When The Huffington Post reached the Papa John’s in question for comment, the assistant manager — who only gave her first name as Marjani — said she was unaware of the incident.

“I apologize,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm but some people will take it offensive.” She added that she “had an idea of who it was,” based on the time of the receipt.

Marjani went on to say that this was the kind of behavior that would result in disciplinary action, but declined to go into further detail on what she planned to do.

Papa John’s has yet to respond to the incident in a statement or its Facebook and Twitter accounts, but with such a PR disaster on their hands, they most likely will soon.

UPDATE: Papa John’s has responded to the incident on Facebook. A post on its official page reads:

We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.

The company has also addressed the matter on its Twitter feed, tweeting to multiple people that “We have issued an apology, are reaching out to customer & franchise employee is being terminated.”
ENDS

PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader Stephanie sent me this eye-opening email a few days ago. I’ll let her tell the story (citing and redacting with permission), and comment at the very bottom after the article being cited:

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

November 25, 2012
Hello Debito. I really don’t know if this falls under an area of concern that you might want to get involved with but…

My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.

She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.

Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.

One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo.

I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page.

My issue is not that some people feel this way. My issue is that this magazine is for elementary students who, after reading it, believe it. I have plenty of issues with America but also feel very strongly about not writing or portraying all of America based on one area of America. This author says things that are downright wrong and then goes on to tell the kids that they should always seek to find out the truth … that angers me. Can you imagine a counter part article printed in the States about Japan based on one person’s narrow vision of an area and experience in Japan. I have a friend who works in a H.S. in Japan — the students write graffetti on the walls and throw desks out the window — should I write an article for all US children to read about the downfall of Japanese schools?

I will write the magazine, the author, and whoever else I can think of but truly I think we will only turn an ear if more than one person writes to discuss this.

Is this something you can write about? Maybe call or write the magazine?

Also, above the magazine name on the front of the magazine and the back page that I am sending you it says something about “JA group” If this is backed by JA do you have an idea of who I could write with JA as well? Please let me know. And thank you. Regards, Stephanie

PS: I have an email below that I am preparing to send the Chagurin magazine regarding the article I just wrote you about. I can only send this in English — unless you, or someone you know might be willing to translate this. It would need to be on a volunteer basis as I really can’t afford to pay anything beyond 1,000 yen at this time — and my own Japanese is poor beyond the daily chit chat. Thanks, Stephanie
—————————————————————–

Dear Chagurin Editor,

My 6th grade daughter borrowed her school’s “Chagurin” magazine, December 2012 issue. She enjoys reading the Chagurin magazine, but was surprised when she read the article “Hikontaikoku America no kodomotachi”

While this article does have some truths — the majority of the article is not only negative but also filled with generalizations and falsehoods.

It is not true that in “doko no machi ni itemo” you will find parks filled with tents. We live in Japan, but we are from America. In all of our experience of living and traveling America — we have never seen a park with homeless people in tents. It may be true for a few select areas of America, but not as Mika Tsutsumi writes in her article. This is incorrect and a huge generalization.

It is not true that one filling at the dentist costs 150.000 yen. That is nowhere near true and is completely outrageous. It would cost around $100.

And it is not true that because of the expense of filling one tooth people can not interview and get jobs. That, again, is a huge generalization.

I am saddened that you would allow such a negative article with several falsehoods to be printed for young children in Japan to read and believe!

We love Japan. We love America. Both countries have strengths and weaknesses. Both can learn from each other. But to write an article in either country that takes an experience of one person in one area and then paint it as truth for the whole country — that is just wrong.

I come from a multi-cultural background and I raise my children here in Japan so they too can experience a new culture and way of thinking. It is disappointing for me to have my daughter read this article and then talk with her teacher, telling her that the article was not true and the teacher responds that it is written and so must be true. And sadder yet, to have the Japanese children that read this article actually believe it.

I believe the only way to make this right is to write a retraction of the article, clarifing the falsehoods and generalizations.

I know an ALT who teaches at a public school in Japan. The students at that school write on the walls, don’t listen to teachers, sneak off and smoke in the school, and throw desks out the window. Shall I take this experience and write an article for a children’s magazine in America about the demise of the Japanese school system?

Of course I would not. But I hope you can understand what I am saying. I am truly disappointed in the printing of this article. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely, Stephanie
ENDS

UPDATE JANUARY 2013:  CHAGURIN EDITORS RESPOND, ADMIT ERRORS IN ARTICLE

=======================================
CHAGURIN MAGAZINE COVER DECEMBER 2012
Note that this magazine is put out by the JA Group “as a magazine to further the education of children’s dietary lifestyles”), and is recommended by the Japan National Parent-Teachers’ Association.

FIRST PAGE OF ARTICLE
The author is credited as Tsutsumi Mika, a native of Tokyo who was at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (commonly known as UNIFEM) and Amnesty International’s NYC division, before landing her current job at Nomura Securities America. One of her books is also entitled “Report from the Field: The Poverty Great-Power Country of America” (Iwanami Shoten Inc.).  The article’s headline: “Children in Poverty Great-Power Country of America”, where in the subtext notes that the site of the “American Dream” is now a place where one in seven people live in poverty, and children are also being affected (“sacrificing” (gisei), is the word used). “Let us learn what is happening in America, and think about it together!” is the conclusion.
(all pages enlargable by clicking on image)

SECOND PAGE OF ARTICLE
Question raised: “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America?”
Answer proffered: “There are many tents where people who have been forcefully evicted from their homes have to live.” (Among other claims, the article notes how this can be found in parks in any town — and Tsutsumi even takes care to note that it affects Whites as much as Blacks and Latinos!)

THIRD PAGE OF ARTICLE
Question raised: “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the more fat children there are?”
Answer proffered: “Because all they can afford is junk food, children with decrepit bodies and teeth are increasing.”

FOURTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
Question raised: “Is it true that even if you get sick, you can’t go to hospital?”
Answer proffered: “It’s the world’s most expensive place for medical costs, where one hospitalization can cost you all your assets.” This is also the page with the claim that a single tooth filling will cost you 150,000 yen, and the suspiciously bad teeth on a photographed child.

FIFTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
Question raised: “Is it true that one out of every two school students teachers quit school within five years?”
Answer proffered: “This is one of the many evils (heigai) from tests that only evaluate people based upon point scores”. [Seriously, this criticism despite Japanese society being famous for its “examination hells”.]

SIXTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
Question raised: “Is it true that the number of children [sic] who graduate high school and enter the army are increasing?”
Answer proffered: “With the poverty, future options for youth are disappearing”.

SEVENTH PAGE OF ARTICLE (the best one yet!)
Question raised: “What can we [readers] do so that we don’t wind up like America?”
Answer proffered: “If you have questions, find things out for yourself, and develop an eye that can see through to the truth”. It claims that Japan is on the same road as America, what with the homeless, the TPP and resultant outsourcing overseas etc. One of the questions that Tsutsumi suggests we subject to critical thinking is “Why are hamburgers so cheap?”

BACK PAGE OF MAGAZINE
Gives profiles of the editors behind this propaganda piece. The editor of this article, Mogi Kumiko, notes how it was so frightening that it made her break out in goosebumps.

Mogi encourages people to send in their feelings about the article. That address is:

Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Ichigaya Funagawara Machi 11.  Postcode 162-8448
Chagurin’s website is at http://www.ienohikari.net/press/chagurin/
The sponsors, Ie-No-Hikari (funded by the Japan Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives), can be found at http://www.ienohikari.net/ja/
(And in case you were wondering, the doggerel name for the magazine apparently comes from Child-Agricultural-Green.)

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Y’know, I am quite partial to the succinct definition of “propaganda” given by The Problem of the Media (2004) author Robert W. McChesney: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” That I believe is exactly what is happening with this magazine.

I have seen these kinds of dirty tricks rolled out by the goons in Japan’s agricultural sector before. Remember the whole rice kyousaku back in 1995, when rice had to be imported, but the “good stuff” was blended with Japanese, American and Chinese-made Japonica, while the lower-quality stuff was sold as is and called “Thai rice” to make sure a firewall was maintained between “Japanese” and “foreign” rice? I do, and The Ministry of Dirty Tricks itself (Nourinshou) has done the same thing with other agricultural goods, including apples back in the 1990s and imported beef/longer Japanese intestines back in the 1980s.

Of course, now we have a more international audience in Japan’s schools, who can see through the propaganda because they have experiences outside of Japan. It’s immensely disingenuous for author Tsutsumi to advocate a critical eye toward the truth yet fall into the propagandizing camp herself. Especially to an audience of Sixth Graders nationwide. But catch them while they’re young, and you will instill fear in them of not only America, but the outside world for a lifetime.

Wonder when the JA will give us the same straight poop on Japan’s irradiating food chain. Arudou Debito

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

UPDATE JANUARY 2013:  CHAGURIN EDITORS RESPOND, ADMIT ERRORS IN ARTICLE

JDG on self-appointed Hanami Vigilantes in Osaka harassing NJ

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
Novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  As spring gets underway in the population centers of Japan and people go out partying under the cherry trees, here’s a rather unpleasant development that JDG reports:  anti-gaijin vigilantes, who take it upon themselves to police people they suspect of potential unsavory behavior (in a reportedly less than micro-agressive manner) under rules they purport to know.

This isn’t the first time, of course, Debito.org has heard about anti-NJ vigilanteism in bored power-hungry Japanese ojisan.  There is the officially-sanctioned stuff (“Japan Times: NPA to entrust neighborhood assoc. with more policing powers, spy cameras” Debito.org July 1, 2009), and even the Chounaikai neighborhood associations (historically used to help the prewar Kenpeitai Thought Police increase their snooping abilities). But there are also “citizens’ groups” (see “TV Asahi ‘Super Morning’ rupo re Shibuya Center Gai citizen patrols harassing buskers, NJ“, Debito.org January 10, 2011) and other busybodies interfering with and taking nosey pictures of NJ going about their business in public (ending up as fodder in places like Gaijin Hanzai Magazine). Then there’s the quick mobilization of society whenever NJ are around anyway (as in the Hokkaido G8 Summit of 2008, where “local residents” and “advisors” hundreds of kilometers away were summoned to defend Japan from within (see The Japan Times “SUMMIT WICKED THIS WAY COMES, The G8 Summit gives nothing back, brings out Japan’s bad habits”, April 22, 2008, where “3000 amateur “local residents” and “neighborhood associations” in Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, [were called upon] to “watch for suspicious people” around “stations and important facilities”).

Golly, compared to this, self-appointed hanami police look like nothing. Except when you fall under their dragnet for harassment just for sitting on a blue tarp while foreign. Is this happening to anyone else? Arudou Debito

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

April 10, 2012

Hi Debito, Hope you are well. Just wanted to share this story with you, maybe some of your readers have had similar experiences.

On Sunday (8th April) I went via Hankyu Kurakuenguchi station to Shukugawa, where along the river bank many people enjoy hanami every year. It is (apparently) a very highly rated location on a national scale.

I have been meny years with Japanese friends, and have never had a problem. However, this was the first year that I went early and alone in order to secure a nice spot. Shukugawa has rules on it’s website (such as no ‘reserving’ of a spot with unattended blue sheets, and you must not enter the roped off areas around the tree roots), which I read in advance.

I arrived at 10.30 am, and immediately I found a nice spot and stopped, then some old guy started hassling me to move on, saying that I wasn’t allowed to stop there. I told him to shut up, and then ignored him (thinking he was just some grumpy old codger), but as I was setting out my sheet and blanket, four more old guys came along to join him, and tried telling me that the place I was in was off limits. I pointed to the Japanese groups set up all around me, and asked ‘What about them?’, but the old guys just ignored my question, and told me that they would call the police if I tried to give them any trouble.

I know I wasn’t breaking any of Shukugawa’s rules, so I just ignored them and waited for the rest of my group to arrive. For the next hour the group of five old guys stood over me, coming over every 5 minutes to ask me if I was going to move on, or asking me if I didn’t think that I was selfish by taking up so much room (one blue sheet), and even taking my photo twice. I told them that it was against the law to take my photo without my permission. I took theirs only after that (see attached photo).


When my NJ and Japanese friends turned up, the old guys took off pretty sharpish.

I realize that this is not an earth-shattering case of discrimination, but I think it is important because:

a) I wasn’t breaking any rules. By taking my photo, the old guys are breaking the law.
b) I don’t like unelected volunteer jobsworths bullying people around.

I want to make sure that other NJ know their rights when confronted by old gits like this. Sincerely, JDG

ENDS

Merry Xmas to those celebrating: How “religious” treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate

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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:

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

The System really is irredeemably broken: BBC: Tsunami relief funds diverted to GOJ whaling program

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Hi Blog. A bit of a tangent, but an important one, as it’s a watershed moment. I saw some news three days ago that made me say out loud, “That’s torn it. The System is irredeemable.” According to the BBC and the SMH below, we have relief efforts that should be going towards helping its own citizens recover from a tsunami and botched corrupt nuclear disaster going towards a GOJ pet project, a corrupt one that essentially exists to thumb its nose at the world: whaling. Yes, whaling.

People might have excused the GOJ for botched relief efforts up to now because a) the scale of the disaster is unprecedented or facing too many unknowns, b) the infrastructure was too damaged for efficient cleanup and rescue, c) things just take time and money to fix. But there is NO excuse for diverting money away from relief efforts for this kind of vanity project. It’s porkbarrel at the expense of a slowly-poisoned public.

And do you think the domestic media would have exposed this if activists and the foreign media hadn’t? The System is broken, and the Japanese public, cowed by a forever-fortified culture of submission to authority that punishes people for ever trying to do something about it, will not fix it. As I have argued before, Japan has never had a bottom-up revolution. And I don’t see it happening at this time no matter how corrupt and poisoned things get.

As coroner, I must aver: The GOJ has bankrupted Japan morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably. Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  NB to Commenters:  Please avoid getting the discussion bogged down in the petty politics of whaling (this has been discussed on much better forums).  This is not a blog post about whaling per se, rather about GOJ corruption and money earmarked for disaster relief purposes being sunk into what is in this blogger’s opinion an unrelated industry.  If you wish to debate cogently whether or not this activity counts as corruption, go ahead.  But tangents and snipes about alleged ocean terrorism, Sea Shepherd tactics etc. will not be approved.

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

BBC News 7 December 2011
Japanese tsunami fund ‘used for whaling programme’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16064002  Courtesy of JK

Japan has used funds from its tsunami recovery budget to subsidise its controversial annual whaling programme, environmental activists say.

Greenpeace says 2.3bn yen ($30m; £19m) is being used to fund extra security measures for the whaling fleet.

Japanese officials argued when they applied for extra funding that whaling helped coastal communities.

The whaling fleet reportedly headed for Antarctic waters this week, though Tokyo has not confirmed the reports.

There has been a ban on commercial whaling for 25 years, but Japan catches about 1,000 whales each year in what it says is a scientific research programme.

Critics say those claims are just a cover for a commercial operation, and accuse the Japanese of hunting the animals to the brink of extinction only for food.

Activists from the Sea Shepherd group have attacked the fleet as part of their campaign against whaling.

Last year Japanese abandoned its programme before it was completed, citing “harassment” from the group.

Earlier this year, the Japanese Fisheries Agency applied to the government for extra funding for its programme from the emergency budget aimed at helping communities recover from the devastating tsunami and earthquake.

The agency argued that some of the towns and villages affected relied on whaling for their livelihoods.

Activists say the agency’s funding request was approved and it has spent the money on extra security and covering its debts.

Junichi Sato, from Greenpeace Japan, told Australia’s ABC that there was no link between the whaling programme and the tsunami recovery.

“It is simply used to cover the debts of the whaling programme, because the whaling programme itself has been suffering from big financial problems,” he said.

The Australian and New Zealand governments have both criticised Japan’s decision to continue whaling.

They are both considering sending vessels to monitor the whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd activists have promised to carry on their campaign against the whaling fleet.
ENDS

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

Japan uses $28.5m in disaster funds for whaling: claim
Sydney Morning Herald
Andrew Darby in Hobart December 07, 2011  Courtesy AJ
http://m.smh.com.au/environment/whale-watch/japan-uses-285m-in-disaster-funds-for-whaling-claim-20111207-1ohzc.html

A growing number of Japanese environmental and consumer groups are joining in protest against the use of disaster recovery funds to subsidise the loss-making whaling fleet.

The government recently gave the whalers 2.28 billion yen ($28.5 million) as part of a special budget for recovery from the March 11 triple disaster. Mr Kaz Inadome from the Japanese Consulate said no money from the disaster relief funds collected in Australia had been used. All that money had gone to the Red Cross in Japan.

Much of the extra funding will go towards security forces for the whaling fleet, which left Japan yesterday for the Antarctic, where conflict is expected with Sea Shepherd activists.

A total of 18 Japanese non-government organisations, including the Environmental Lawyers Federation and Consumers Union have signed on to a protest letter to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

“We demand the government not waste any more taxpayers’ money on the whaling program, but instead spend this money on projects that actually help the people, communities and region affected by the tragic March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis,” the letter said.

“It is clear that the Japanese government’s stated goal of resuming commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is unachievable. The whaling program cannot survive without taxpayer handouts.”

Greenpeace Japan distributed the letter, because, according to executive director, Junichi Sato: “This is a new low for the shameful whaling industry and the callous politicians that support it.”

However, the Fisheries Agency of Japan said the funding was necessary because some traditional whaling communities were devastated on March 11.

Senior Agriculture and Fisheries vice-minister Nobutaka Tsutsui told a review committee recently the government was determined to continue its research program until it led to the resumption of commercial whaling.

Mr Kaz Inadome from the Japanese Consulate said no money from the disaster relief fund had been used.
ENDS

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

JAPAN TSUNAMI FUNDS AID WHALING FLEET

Kieran Mulvaney
Analysis by Kieran Mulvaney 
DISCOVERY NEWS Thu Dec 8, 2011 01:50 PM ET 

http://news.discovery.com/earth/japan-uses-tsunami-funds-to-support-whaling-fleet-111208.html  Courtesy of CG

Japan’s Antarctic whaling fleet has left port on its annual hunt, seeking to kill 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales for what it claims are ‘scientific research’ purposes. (The meat from the hunt is sold commercially.)

The hunt, already controversial, has attracted greater ire from critics with an admission by the Japanese government that it is using funds earmarked for earthquake and tsunami reconstruction to subsidize the fleet’s operations.

Greenpeace accused the government of diverting 2.28 billion yen (US$30m) from the earthquake recovery fund to help pay for this year’s hunt.

“It is absolutely disgraceful for the Japanese government to pump yet more taxpayer money on an unneeded, unwanted and economically unviable whaling programme, when funds are desperately needed for recovery efforts,” said Junichi Sato, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, to The Guardian newspaper.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency stated that the money would be used for “stabilising whale research.” In the words of one official: “We will bolster measures against acts of sabotage by anti-whaling groups so as to stably carry out the Antarctic whaling research.”

That was a reference to the fact that last year’s hunt was called off a month early, with the fleet having caught only 172 whales, which the Fisheries Agency blamed on the attentions of Sea Shepherd. Japan’s Coast Guard stated that it would be sending an unspecified number of vessels to escort the whaling fleet. Some domestic news reports indicated that there would be two escorts.

Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku justified the use of funds by claiming that a successful whaling program would help ensure the recovery of some coastal towns devastated by this year’s tsunami. 

“The government will support the reconstruction effort of a whaling town and nearby areas,” he told AFP. “This program can help it reconstruct food-processing plants there… Many people in the area eat whale meat, too. They are waiting for Japan’s commercial whaling to resume.”

However, Greenpeace sources told Discovery News that as far as they could tell, 2 billion yen was being appropriated as a straight subsidy for the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), the body that runs Japan’s ‘research’ whaling program. This is on top of an existing 700 million yen subsidy. (Update: This Wall Street journal blog quotes a Fisheries Agency official as confirming that 1.8 billion yen is for “supporting whaling research.”)

They also expressed confidence that the fleet would not come close to reaching its publicly-stated quota, pointing out that, two years ago, the number of ‘catchers’ – or harpoon-equipped hunting vessels – in the fleet dropped from three to two, and last year it dropped further, from two to one. This year, as last year, just one catcher will be used. Within official circles in Tokyo, the sources said, the target quota is much lower, largely due to a recognition that there is not enough demand for the meat.

That view was supported by Patrick Ramage, Whale Program Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“As always, it’s important to pay attention, not to what is said but what actually happens,” he told Discovery News. “On the one hand, the Japanese government is finding the funds to continue with this money-losing enterprise. On the other hand, all the signals – for example, at the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission – are that this may well be the last hurrah for Japanese whaling in the Antarctic. The current Prime Minister is a long-time advocate for and supporter of the whaling industry. But the number of those supporters in the Diet, and particularly the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, is dwindling.”

ENDS

John Harris on how Coca Cola could help Japan save a nuclear power plant’s worth of power: Switch off their 5.5 million vending machines

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John R. Harris of Chiba, Japan writes (sources at bottom):

March 16, 2011:

Friends, people around the world are emailing us in Japan, asking how they can help us cope with the disaster here. Here’s how YOU can help:

We need to unleash a tsunami of social media on Coca-Cola asking them to unplug their vending machines across Japan — NOW!

Across eastern Japan we are experiencing rolling power cuts and train service cuts to compensate for the nuclear plant outages. This interruption of normal life hugely ramps up public anxiety.

In the midst of all this, the 5,510,000 vending machines across Japan* are still operating. According to a report I read years ago, these machines require electricity equivalent to the output of an entire nuclear power plant.

The most power-hungry are the soft-drink machines that have both refrigeration and heating (for hot canned coffee). Coca-Cola has perhaps the largest network of beverage machines across Japan. Unlike domestic rivals, as a global company Coca-Cola must listen to consumers around the world. So if concerned Americans, Canadians, Europeans and everyone else speak up forcefully, Coke must act. And Japanese domestic operators will be forced to follow suit.

So, please, spread this message via email, Twitter and Facebook to everyone you know. And please email Coca-Cola’s CEO asking him to pull the plug on his vending machines in Japan.

Coca-Cola knows they have a problem, as you can tell by the message on their corporate website: “As challenges with power outages continue in many parts of the country, Coca-Cola Japan is supporting the government’s request to conserve energy by converting television and radio advertising to public service announcements to encourage energy conservation.”

We think that’s just not good enough. If you agree, please email:

Muhtar Kent, Chairman & CEO, The Coca-Cola Company
pressinquiries@na.ko.com

Or contact Coke on Twitter: @CocaCola
http://twitter.com/COCACOLA

See sources below

www.thecoca-colacompany.com/dynamic/press_center/2011/03/statement-on-the-japan-disaster.html
Statement on the Japan Disaster

March 14, 2011
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Coca-Cola system has pledged 600 million Japanese yen (US $7.3 million) in cash and product donations to the relief effort. That contribution includes more than 7 million bottles of needed beverages, such as water, tea and sports drinks. Coca-Cola Japan and its 12 bottling partners will provide the beverages to national and local government authorities and other community groups for distribution. The system has also activated free dispensing of products from selected vending machines.

As challenges with power outages continue in many parts of the country, Coca-Cola Japan is supporting the government’s request to conserve energy by converting television and radio advertising to public service announcements to encourage energy conservation.

The Coca-Cola system in Japan continues to focus on the safety and well-being of our employees, and we continue to assess the conditions of our facilities in the hardest hit regions.

Coca-Cola Japan has sent its deepest condolences to those people impacted by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.”

* “According to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association (JVMA), there are about 5.51 million vending machines in Japan.” (source: article by Anne Carter on articlesbase.com)
ENDS

JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido

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Hi Blog. What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this. Arudou Debito

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

The Rita Taketsuru Fan Club
The romantic story of a woman still toasted by some as the Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry
By JON MITCHELL
The Japan Times Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, courtesy of MMT

(conclusion:) As it turned out, she would never set foot again in the country of her birth. In January 1961, Rita Taketsuru passed away after a long struggle with liver disease. Masataka was devastated. He blamed her sickness on the war and Yoichi’s harsh winters, and he lamented the fact that they hadn’t chosen to stay in Britain. For two days after her death, he locked himself in his room and, on the day of her funeral, too heartbroken to visit the crematorium, he begged for her bones to be brought to him in a bowl so that he could lie next to his beloved forever.

Masataka outlived his wife by 18 years, and today the two are interred together on a hillside near the distillery. Walking through the town, I’m delighted to discover that the woman who’d once been ostracized as a potential enemy of the state has since left her indelible mark on the landscape — Yoichi’s main thoroughfare is named “Rita Road” and a kindergarten she helped to establish still bears her name.

After 15 minutes, I arrive at the Taketsurus’ grave. The gray lozenge of stone is lit pink by the setting sun, some fireflies flare brightly and the air smells of freshly-mown grass. In the valley below, I spot the red rooftop of the distillery.

In the years since his death, Masataka’s genius at Scotch whisky production has finally been recognized: In 2007, a bottle of “Taketsuru” was voted the world’s best blended malt; followed in 2008 by 20-year-old “Yoichi” winning the best single malt in the world award.

The “Yoichi” orbits out of my price range, so it’s a miniature bottle of the blended that I’ve brought for Masataka — and for Rita, a packet of Scottish shortbread. Clasping my hands together in a quiet prayer, I think about what I’ve learned during my trip here: About the Taketsurus’ love and loss, their determination and persecution, and the leap of faith it must have taken Rita to follow the man she married halfway around the world in pursuit of an improbable dream.

I wonder whether these qualities were what attracted those three men on that wintery train to her life story in the first place. I’m not sure. But as I lay my offerings on the grave, there’s one thing about which I am certain — the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club has a new member.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101128x1.html

Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan

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Hi Blog. An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business. Arudou Debito

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

German braumeister puts Otaru brewery on map
Specialized suds sell and speak of long pedigree, perfection
The Japan Times, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011
By ROB GILHOOLY

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110122a1.html

While Japan’s major breweries continue to report flat beer sales amid an ailing economy, there is one Hokkaido-based beer maker that’s brewing up a storm.

Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.

Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…

“The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”

This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.

Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…

Yet, Braun says this shift toward nonmalt “nonbeers” poses little threat to his brewery. Japan’s major beer producers have each attempted to mimic the kind of craft ales produced by the country’s 222 microbreweries, but invariably fail due to the distribution difficulties posed by yeast-based products.

“Every year, Asahi Breweries sends staff here for research purposes and they often say they would like to do what we do, but couldn’t get it to the customer in decent enough shape,” says Braun. “Neither could I, and that’s why I don’t try. What’s important for microbreweries is not to expand to other areas, but to brew decent beer that will lure more customers and improve understanding of what real ale is all about. By doing this, I believe we can change the beer culture here.”

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110122a1.html

“Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a letter from cyberspace on another potentially offensive marketing campaign portraying African features as black-bread Afros to sell food.

No doubt we’ll get the defenders of this sort of marketing, e.g. “Japan has so few black people it has no sensitivity to this sort of thing”, “it’s not racist, at least not intentionally”, “lighten up guys, and stop foisting your cultural values on the Japanese”, or “it’s a Japanese character, not a real black character, so it’s not a problem”.  Any other naysaying?  Oh wait, yeah, “you just don’t get Japan”.  Anyway, check this out.  Arudou Debito

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

November 20, 2010:

Hi Debito, My name is XY, Founder and Director of [….] a marketing consultancy in [Japan] that researches Japanese consumer behavior on behalf of our international clients like Coca-Cola, VISA credit cards etc. As such, I often peruse the shelves of convenience stores to see what the latest trends are. I was shocked to find in my local Mini-Stop the all-new campaign for ブラックメロンパン, a bread that parodies a black man’s afro on the package. This is no small thing. Mini-Stop is a very large and growing combini chain and this is a signature campaign prominently advertised and displayed on their shelves.

I read your JT articles often and appreciate all of them. I figured you are the man to bring light to this latest scandal. I also read your article on the McDonald’s campaign and agree wholeheartedly… however this Mini-Stop campaign is just so much more overt and insensitive… even more so than the EMobile monkey monstrosity.

I have attached a couple photos below (click to expand in browser):


Best Regards, XY.

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Discovering how cheap, yes cheap, parts of Japan are becoming

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Hi Blog.  I just finished a first draft of an update of the Hokkaido chapter in a famous travel guidebook (tell you more later after it hits the press), and thought I’d tell you what I noticed:

Japan is becoming surprisingly attractive for tourism.  One thing I’ve seen when traveling overseas is just how surprisingly expensive things are — like, say, dining out.  Inflation, Euro-currency-inflation, tips and service charges of ten to twenty percent, etc. have made eating in a sit-down restaurant a rather unattractive option (when traveling I usually self-cater, visiting overseas supermarkets where things are far cheaper).

In contrast, Japan’s currency sans inflation, a stable tax regime, and deflationary prices in many sectors have ultimately kept prices the same while they gradually rise overseas. After all these years of hearing about Japan as “the place where you goggle at hundred-dollar department store melons”, it’s finally reached a point where generally speaking, it’s now become cheaper in Japan.  While travel costs seem about the same (if not slightly higher in some cases due to fuel-cost-appreciation), once you get here, you’re able to predict costs, stick to budgets, and pay comparatively less without hidden fees creeping in.

Then look at Hokkaido, which is becoming a bargain destination.  It’s possible to get a relatively cheap flight up here (20,000-30,000 yen RT) if you plan accordingly and time it right.  Then once here (especially if you get a package tour subsidized by the Hokkaido government to include a few nights in a hotel), tourists make out.  As far as this guidebook went, just about every hotel I checked had reduced their rates (compared to the previous edition) substantially — some by half! Making them substantially cheaper than comparable hotels I saw overseas.  Further, dining out is very cheap (in Sapporo Susukino, for example, you can get a 2-hour tabe-nomi-houdai all you can eat and drink for about 3500 yen).  I can see why tourism is booming up here.  Good.  We’re no longer the poorest prefecture, IIRC.

That said, any economy increasingly being powered by tourism suffers from two major flaws:  1) a fickle market, and 2) residents may be enjoying an income, but in general the reason why things are getting cheaper here are because people are making less money themselves.  As they say:  Nice place to visit.  Wouldn’t want to live here.  Because the resident economy and the higher-income tourist economy is by nature fundamentally different in its buying and spending power.

I’m not speaking as an expert in any of these fields.  I just thought I’d comment on something I’ve observed over the past couple of days and open up the blog to discussion.  Anyone else noticing these trends?  Arudou Debito

Weekend Tangent: My great grandmother’s veal turkey stuffing recipe

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Hi Blog.  This is some serious business for me, although a tangent for others (but not so as Canadian Thanksgiving is mere days away; American readers, stock up!).

This here’s a family recipe, handed down through now four generations, for the thing I miss the most about the US:  turkey stuffing.  As any aficionado of turkeys knows, if the stuffing is subpar, then the turkey also comes out dry and bland (this is one of the reasons why so many Japanese I believe find turkey underwhelming, and don’t know what the fuss is about).

I grew up on this, but since I can’t get it here (turkeys cooked here are often killed by a soy sauce, not a butter, base; they are smoked up here in Hokkaido rather than baked as well, which to me is underwhelming), there’s no reason why I shouldn’t propagate this recipe worldwide.  It’s very simple.  The only thing you have to do is convert Imperial to metric, and Bob’s Your Uncle.  From my great grandmother Appolonia Mendis Cypcar, born in Southern Poland, emigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th Century, survivor of one of the world’s biggest nautical disasters (the capsizing of The Eastland in Chicago harbor on July 24, 1915), survivor of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (my great grandfather Mendis did not survive it), survivor of the Great Depression, who died at the age of 96 in the 1980s.

APPOLONIA MENDIS CYPCAR’S TURKEY STUFFING
From Arudou Debito, great grandson, Debito.org

(for a 13-14 lb turkey)

  1. 1 lb ground veal
  2. 1/2 box of saltines (box 1 1b size) ground coarsely
  3. 1 pint whole milk
  4. 1/2 lb butter
  5. 4 eggs beaten
  6. salt and pepper to taste

And that’s it. Mix together and stuff family turkey as normal.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

Sunday Tangent: Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

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Hi Blog.   As another angle to the subject of the documentary The Cove, here we have Japan Times naturalist columnist (and fellow naturalized citizen) C.W. Nicol offering his view on what’s going on in Taiji. What’s interesting is his take on the matter of animal cruelty. Although he supports whaling as an issue and has no truck with tradition involving hunting of wild animals, what gets him is what the hunt does to the people in the neighborhood. I’m reminded of what goes on at Pitcairn Island (you get a society removed enough long enough from the authorities, they’ll invent their own rules, even if at variance with permissible conduct in society at large, and claim it as tradition). It was another reason for me personally to feel the conduct at Taiji is reprehensible.

The problem is that although Taiji is a small community, once it’s claimed to be “Japanese tradition”, you get one of the world’s most powerful economies behind it.  Then all manner of issues (Japan bashing, economics, a general dislike at the national level of having outsiders telling Japan what to do, fear of right-wing repercussions, and corruption of culturally-tolerant debate arenas overseas) adhere and make the debate murky. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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The Japan Times Sunday, July 4, 2010
OLD NIC’S NOTEBOOK
A meeting of minds (excerpt)
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20100704cw.html
Last month, dolphin-welfare campaigner Ric O’Barry visited me in the Nagano hills, where we discussed the Taiji dolphin cull and what’s happening to marine mammals worldwide
By C.W. NICOL

In 1958, just before my 18th birthday, I went along on an Inuit hunt for seals in the Canadian Arctic. That was the first time I tasted that rich, dark red — almost black — meat, and it was like nothing else I had eaten before. I loved it.

Inuit hunters still used kayaks back then (and so did I) and I felt nothing but admiration for those men who went out into icy waters in such a flimsy craft, risking their lives to bring back food, fuel and the raw material for boots and clothing. In the many trips I have made to the Arctic since then, that feeling has never changed.

Then, in 1966, I first sailed aboard a whale-catcher, with a mixed Canadian and Japanese crew, hunting for sei and sperm whales off the west coast of Canada. Whale meat was on sale in pretty well every fish shop in Tokyo in the early 1960s when I first came to this country, so I had already come to appreciate its taste. Since then I have been on many marine mammal hunts — for seals, beluga, walrus and whales — and I retain enormous respect for the courage, skill and seamanship of those who take food from the sea.

That, however, is a stance that has made me unpopular with many antiwhaling folk around the world.

Nonetheless, in October 1978 I went to Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture to live in the town for a year and research the history and culture of Japanese whaling for a book I aimed to write — a book that turned out to be my novel, “Harpoon.” The anti-whaling movement was beginning to display some nasty anti-Japanese tendencies just then, and I thought it might be mollified by some understanding, through my book, of the whalers’ long background…

What horrified me in Taiji was that the dolphins were not harpooned, and thus secured to be quickly dispatched. Instead, the hunters were simply throwing spears into a melee of the animals swimming in a small inlet they had sealed off from the sea, hitting them here and there. Then they’d retrieve the spear by hauling in a rope tied to it and hurl it again or use it close up to stab with. This was a far cry from the efficiency — and respect for life, and death — of an Inuit hunter or a whaler at sea.

That first time I witnessed the Taiji killings, I saw a dolphin take 25 minutes to die, while on another hunt I saw one that thrashed and bled for a horrible 45 minutes before it succumbed to its wounds. Killing, if justified and necessary, should surely be merciful and quick — yet I even saw an old grandmother laughing at a dolphin’s death throes and pointing out the animal to the small child with her as if it was some kind of joke. That really hurt and shook my belief in people.

In addition to this catalog of horrors, though, as a former marine mammal research technician in Canada, it shocked me that all those dolphins were being captured and killed with no government inspector or fisheries biologist on hand to take data and monitor the kill. I protested about what was going on to the fishermen, and to Town Hall officials in Taiji. I even went to Tokyo and protested to a senior official in the Fisheries Agency, but he just sneered and said, “What does it matter, they die anyway.”…

Rest of the article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20100704cw.html

DailyFinance.com: McDonald’s Japan loses big, shutting 430 outlets, thanks in part to “Mr James” campaign

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Hi Blog.  File under “revenge is sweet”:  McDonald’s Japan lost out big last year in Japan in part, according to the article below, to their gaijin shill “Mr James”. They refused to retract the campaign, and then played dirty pool in the media regardless of how it affected Japan’s ethnic minorities.  (It’s not only McD’s, of course; Mercedes-Benz is currently doing much the same thing with their own idiotic gaijin shill “Mr Naruhodo”; at least he speaks in kanji too.)  But this time, according to this article, it looks as though they got bit in the ass for it.

Good.  Kinda makes one believe in karma after all.  Arudou Debito in Banff.

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McDonald’s to Close Hundreds of Outlets in Japan
By JONATHAN BERR
Posted 8:45 AM 02/09/10, courtesy of ADW

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/mcdonalds-to-close-430-outlets-in-japan-as-economy-falters/19350531/

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan, the latest sign of the faltering economy in the Asian country.

A 50% owned affiliate will shutter the locations over the next 12 to 18 months in conjunction with the strategic review of the company’s real estate portfolio. The world’s largest restaurant chain plans to take charges of $40 million to $50 million in the first half of the year. McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) has 3,700 stores.

“These actions are designed to enhance the customer experience, overall profitability and returns of the market,” the company said in a press release.

McDonald’s also is opening 90 new restaurants and refurbishing 200 in Japan. Clearly, McDonald’s is retrenching. The fast food market in Japan is bad because of the weak economy. It’s the same reason that Wendy’s Arby’s Group Inc. (WEN) said in December that it was exiting the Asian country. A Wall Street Journal editorial recently argued that “the unfolding economic crack-up in Tokyo is something to behold.” Japan has never really recovered from the lost decade of the 1990s and the current worldwide economic recession is underscoring these weaknesses. Some experts have urged U.S. officials to learn from Japan’s mistakes.

The Golden Arches has been struggling in Japan for a while. Last year, a marketing campaign featuring “Mr. James,” a geeky, Japan-loving American, was denounced as an offensive flop, according to Time.com. McDonald’s has tried to appeal to Japanese tastes with wassabi burgers, chicken burgers and sukiyaki burgers. A Texas Burger, with barbecue sauce, fried onions, bacon, cheese and spicy mustard, proved to be a hit. But consolidated sales at McDonald’s Japan fell 10.8% last year. Profit is expected to plunge 54.7% this year.

Overall, though, McDonald’s continues to hum along. Global sales rose 2.6% in January, topping analysts’ estimates. Comparable store sales in the U.S. fell 0.7% in January, a weak performance that nonetheless surpassed the rest of the industry thanks to the popularity of the Mac Snack Wrap and the Dollar Breakfast Dollar Menu. In Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, comparable sales rose 4.3%. Shares are up 6.6% over the past year.

ENDS

Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”

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Hi Blog.  This has been bubbling a bit these past couple of days in the Comments Section of a few blog entries, so let’s bring it to the fore and get a discussion going.

KFC (aka Kentucky Fried Chicken) has been accused of racism, according to various media sources, thanks to a recent advertisement it ran in Australia.  Here it is:

The Guardian UK writes:
========================================
KFC accused of racism over Australian advertisement
KFC advert showing Australian cricket fan placating West Indies supporters with chicken has caused anger in America
Andrew Clark guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 January 2010 16.32 GMT

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/06/kfc-advertisement-accused-of-racism

The Australian arm of the fast-food chain KFC has been accused of racial insensitivity over a television commercial showing an outnumbered white cricket fan handing out pieces of fried chicken to appease a dancing, drumming and singing group of black West Indian supporters.

Aired as part of a series called “KFC’s cricket survival guide”, the 30-second clip depicts an uncomfortable looking man named Mick wearing a green and yellow Australian cricket shirt, surrounded on all sides in a cricket stand by high spirited Caribbean fans.

“Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” Mick asks. He then passes round a bucket of KFC chicken, the drumming stops and he remarks: “Too easy.”

Although intended only for an Antipodean audience, the clip has quickly found its way around the world on the internet, prompting stinging criticism in the US where fried chicken remains closely associated with age-old racist stereotypes about black people in the once segregated south.

A writer at one US newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, questioned whether the ad was a spoof, remarking: “If it is a genuine KFC advertisement, it could be seen as racially insensitive.”

Another on-line commentator, Jack Shepherd of BuzzFeed, asks: “What’s a white guy to do when he finds himself in a crowd full of black folks? KFC has the answer.”

KFC Australia has come out fighting, saying that the commercial was a “light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team” that had been “misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US.”

The company said: “The ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC’s permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism.

“We unequivocally condemn discrimination of any type and have a proud history as one of the world’s leading employers for diversity.”

In the Australian media, the reaction has been mixed, with some commentators accusing Americans of “insularity”. Brendon O’Connor, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, told 9 Network News that the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue: “They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than that of other countries.”

The flare-up comes three months after another racial controversy between Australia and the US in which the American singer Harry Connick Jr, appearing as a judge on an Australian television talent show, reacted strongly to a skit in which a group of singers appeared with blacked up faces to emulate the Jackson Five.

On the show, called “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday“, Connick gave the group zero points and demanded an apology from the broadcaster, remarking: “If they turned up looking like that in the United States, it would be like ‘hey, hey, there’s no more show’.”


GUARDIAN ARTICLE ENDS
////////////////////////////////////////////////

Then this happens:

KFC advertisement in Australia sparks race row
By Nick Bryant BBC News, Sydney
Friday, 8 January 2010

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8447457.stm

The Australian arm of the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken has had to withdraw an advertisement after accusations of racial insensitivity.

It showed a white cricket fan trying to pacify a group of rowdy West Indian fans by handing around fried chicken.

When the advertisement reached America via the internet there were complaints.

It was accused of reinforcing a derogatory racial stereotype linking black people in the American deep south with a love of fried food.

The advertisement from Kentucky Fried Chicken features a white cricket fan dressed in the green and gold of the Australian team surrounded by a group of West Indian supporters, who are dancing and singing to a calypso beat.

He decides to quieten them down by handing around a bucket of fried chicken.
Picked up by the American media, the advertisement immediately stirred controversy, because it was alleged to have perpetuated the racial stereotype that black people eat a lot of fried chicken.

The fast food chain’s head office in America said it was withdrawing the advertisement, and apologised for what it called “any misrepresentation” which might have caused offence.

It is the second time in three months that something broadcast in Australia has caused a racial stir in America.

The last flare-up was over an entertainment show on the Australian network Channel Nine in which a group of singers appeared with blacked-up faces to impersonate the Jackson Five.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT: Funny thing, this. We get KFC Australia doing a hasty retreat from its controversial commercial days after it goes viral on YouTube, and pulling it pretty quickly.

Now contrast with the ad campaign by another American-origin fast-food multinational, McDonalds. For those who don’t know, between August and November of last year McDonald’s Japan had that White gaijin stereotype “Mr James” speaking katakana and portraying NJ as touristy outsiders who never fit in. More on what I found wrong with that ad campaign here.

Yet the “Mr James” ad campaign never got pulled — and the debate we offered with McDonalds Japan was rebuffed (they refused to answer in Japanese for the Japanese media). In fact, the reaction of some Asians in the US was, “Karma’s a bitch“, as in White people in Japan deserve this sort of treatment because of all the bad treatment they’ve foisted on Asians overseas in the past. Still others argue that we can’t expect Japan to understand the history of other countries, or how they feel about certain sentiments found overseas, and one shouldn’t foist their cultural values onto other cultures (this argument usually pops up when one sees minstrel blackface shows etc in Japan). This argument was also made in comments to this blog as well.

But KFC pulls the ad, in contrast to “Mr James”, where people rushed to defend it in the name of cultural relativism. Why the difference?

I’m not saying I have the answer to this question. So I bring it up for discussion here on Debito.org. What do readers think?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

SAPPORO SOURCE DEBITO column Dec 2009: Top 9 Things I Like about Japan

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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.  Time for a Sunday Tangent.  My latest tangental column in SAPPORO SOURCE — on the top nine things I like about Japan.  (It’s a Top Nine because that’s all I could fit within 900 words.)

Download the entire issue of SAPPORO SOURCE here in pdf format.  Cover, scanned page, and text of the article follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Click on image to expand in browser)

sapporosource1209001

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TEXT AS FOLLOWS:

JAPAN’S TOP NINE

SAPPORO SOURCE Column 6 to be published in December 2009 issue

By Arudou Debito DRAFT SEVEN

People often ask me, “Isn’t there something you like about Japan?”  The answer is, plenty!  Nine things I think Japan is peerless at:

9) PUBLIC TRANSPORT.  Overseas I’ve often said, “Drat, I need a car to get around!”  But even in Hokkaido, I can find a way (train, bus, taxi if necessary) to get somewhere, including the sticks, given a reasonable amount of time.  Besides, in urban areas, how many cities the size of Tokyo can move millions around daily on infrastructure that is relatively clean, safe, and cheap?  Not that many.

8) SEAFOOD.  Food in Japan is high quality, and it’s 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…), 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.

7) ONOMATOPEIA.  I am a Japanese kanji nerd, but that’s only the bureaucratic side of our language.  Now try gitaigo and giseigo/giongo, i.e. Japanese onomatopeic 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 rero when licking something, or gabiin when agape?  Japanese as a language is highly contextualized (say the wrong word and bureaucrats sit on their hands), but the universe of expressiveness found in just a couple of repeated kana is something I doubt I will ever master.  My loss.

6) 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 across the country (for a reasonable price, too).  If you don’t know how to pack, leave it to the experts.  It’s part of the service.  Because as Mitsukoshi demonstrates, if it’s not packaged properly, it’s not presentable in Japan.

5) CALLIGRAPHIC GOODS.  I’m used to crappy American Bic ballpoint pens that seize up in the same groove (and inexplicably ONLY in that groove, no matter how many times you retrace).  But in Japan, writing instruments combine 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) that they 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 putting this fine a point on pens:  Germany (which has a huge market here), and Japan.

4) GROUP PROJECTS.  Yes, working in groups makes situations inflexible and slow, but when things work here, they really work, especially a project calls for an automatic division of labor.

For example:  In my former hometown of Nanporo my friends and I were politically active, and we’d rent a room at the choumin center for a town meeting.  Before the meeting, people would show up early to set up chairs and tables.  Afterward, attendees would help put everything back before going home.  I’ve done presentations overseas and the attitude is more:  “Hey, you proles take care of the chairs — what are we paying you for?”  Sucks.  Nice to be here, where pitching in often goes without asking.

3) PUBLIC TOILETS.  Sure, public conveniences exist overseas, but they are frequently hard to find (I think shoppers overseas must have enormous bladders) — and when found, look like they’ve been through Lebanon or Somalia.  Japan, however, generally keeps its toilets clean and unstinky.

And pretty 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 bare ankles under the door.  Besides, whenever I’m on the road in Japan and need a time-out, I head for the nearest handicapped toilet and bivouac.  Ah, a room to myself; it’s a love hotel for my tuchus.

2) ANIME.  I’ve read comic books since I was two years old, and I’ve long admired Japanimation and comic art.  I can’t resist anime’s clean lines, sense of space and forcefulness, and storyboard style of storytelling.  Once underrated overseas, Japan’s comics are now one of our largest cultural exports.  Resistance is futile:  Knockoffs are all over Cartoon Network (I love 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 come from a society with an enormous standard deviation in artistic talent:  you either get stick figures or Pat Oliphants.  Here, however, consider this example:

I once gave an exam at a Japanese university testing spatial vocabulary.  I drew a room on the answer sheet and said, “Under the table, draw Doraemon.”  Amazingly, 98 of 100 students drew a clearly-recognizable Doraemon, most 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.

1)  ONSENS.  Of course.  If you can get in.  Ahem.

900 WORDS

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

Arudou Debito is a columnist for the Japan Times and author of three books:  Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (English and Japanese versions), and Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants (co-written with Akira Higuchi).  His website, updated daily, is at www.debito.org.  An expanded version of this essay is at www.debito.org/?p=2099.

ENDS

Quick letter to McDonald’s USA “Contact us” website re “Mr James” (UPDATED: Compare to Subway Sandwiches’ J-speaking NJ shills)

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just sent this out this evening to McDonald’s USA’s “Contact Us” section on their website (since McDonald’s Japan is certainly giving the “Mr James” issue short shrift).  FYI.  Debito

Hello McDonald’s USA:

You might be interested to read my column in the Japan Times talking about what’s wrong with McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” Campaign:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090901ad.html

It has received similar attention in the San Francisco Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/09/02/apop090209.DTL

TIME Magazine:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1918246,00.html

South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):
http://www.debito.org/?p=4176

and McDonald’s Japan CR Director Kawaminami’s rather embarrassing letter defending “Mr James”:
http://www.debito.org/?p=4243

Not to mention Facebook’s “I Hate Mr James” page (now at 223 members): http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=136293508102

Perhaps it’s time to consider pulling the plug on this campaign before it embarrasses your organization any further?

Thanks for your attention.

http://www.mcdonalds.com/contact/contact_us.html

ENDS

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

UPDATE:  Note how Subway Sandwiches handles NJ shills.  Courtesy of and commentary by Erich:

I spotted this the other day when buying lunch!  The two foreign characters in this ad by Subway are treated fairly!

The girl on the left speaks in katakana, but it is a logical necessity since she is just naming food and saying “set”, which is normally written in katakana anyway.  The man on the right speaks in proper japanese, using kanji instead of katakana for the word “vegetable”. I think the McDonald’s advertising agency should see this as an example of the right thing to do…

subwayNJshills2009
http://www.subway.co.jp/campaign/index.html

http://www.subway.co.jp/campaign/image/main1.jpg

ENDS

San Francisco Chronicle on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” campaign, and similar ethnically-insensitive sales campaigns overseas

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Here’s a column to bushwhack your way through.  I’m not sure whether the article is about the “Mr James” campaign or about me, but I appreciate the feedback.  I also stand corrected:  I thought McD’s in America would never try an Asian version character like “Mr James” in the US.  Seems McD’s is a serial stereotyper.  As I wrote on Tuesday in the Japan Times, protest media images if you don’t like them, wherever they occur.  A letter to the company may just kick off a constructive discussion.  Arudou Debito in Muroto, southern Shikoku

=================
McRacism in Japan?
By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/09/02/apop090209.DTL

The blogosphere has been aflame over the last month as a group of marginalized and disenfranchised (and mostly Caucasian) individuals have fought back against a juggernaut that has, in their eyes, compromised their personal rights and cast aspersions upon them.

No, I’m not talking about health care reform protestors or tea party organizers. These angry activists are in Japan, not the U.S. — and the monolith they’re fighting against isn’t the federal government, but an entity whose worldwide influence is possibly even more potent: Global burgermeister McDonald’s.

Last month, Mickey D’s began an advertising campaign for four new Japan-only burgers it dubbed the “Nippon All-Stars.” These include the “Tamago Double Mac” (two all-beef patties, bacon, mushrooms, a fried egg and instant cardiac arrest), the “Tsukimi Burger” (a one-story version of the Tamago), the Chicken Tatsuya (battered chicken sandwich, heavy on the mayo) and the Gracoro (a cheesy, saucy deep-fried croquette on a bun).

But it’s not the taste or the health implications of the sandwiches that has led to this backlash — it’s the marketing.

That’s because the national face of the Nippon All-Stars campaign is a happy, dorky, bespectacled white tourist named “Mr. James.” Clad in regulation nerd uniform — red short-sleeved shirt, mismatched tie, rumpled khakis and a permanently stunned expression — Mr. James shouts about the deliciousness of the burgers in broken Japanese on commercials that have saturated TV, the Internet and print publications.

“What’s the matter [with this depiction]? Put the shoe on the other foot,” wrote foreigner-rights advocate Debito Arudou (nee David Ardwinckle) [sic] in a column for The Japan Times. “Imagine McDonald’s, a multinational that has long promoted cultural diversity, launching a McAsia menu in America, featuring a deep-bowing, grimacing Asian in a bathrobe and platform sandals saying, ‘Me likee McFlied Lice!’ or, ‘So solly, prease skosh honorable teriyaki sandrich?'”

McHatin’ It

Of course, in the past, McDonald’s has essentially done just that. During last year’s Olympics, it unveiled a commercial featuring two Chinese kids engaged in high-flying wire-fu combat in an ancient temple, dueling it out with fists and feet and chopsticks over the last McNugget in the pack.

Seeing that ad brought back memories of McDonald’s limited-edition “Shanghai” Chicken McNuggets, which briefly appeared on menus back in 1986. Served in a red takeout box stamped with cartoon-Chinese lettering, they came with a fortune cookie, chopsticks and three absurdly non-Shanghainese dippings: “duck sauce,” hot mustard and … teriyaki sauce.

Worst of all, to complete the pseudo-Sino experience, the chain’s employees were forced to wear conical McCoolie hats — a bit of irony given their minimum-wage status — while commercials ended with mascot-clown Ronald McDonald throwing a karate chop to faux Asian music.

Lame, ignorant campaigns like this one may seem innocuous. But they give people license to mock and exclude people based on racial or cultural difference, which in turn can lead down a slippery slope to more troubling outcomes.

(My own private Shanghai McNugget trauma came when I found myself pelted with them by a bunch of leering, gibberish-spouting fellow high schoolers while quietly eating a non-oriental menu item. Although I wouldn’t exactly assign the experience hate crime status, the pointier, vaguely Indiana-shaped nuggets could have put an eye out, and had things gone McBad escalation might have led to my getting a Quarter Pounding — or even a full-on Big Mac Attack.)

Given that, two decades later, offensive images of Asians are still common in American media, it’s understandable that some Asian Americans have reacted to the outcry against the Mr. James campaign with “turnabout is fair play” schaudenfreude rather than sympathy.

I’ll admit that my own initial reaction wasn’t far from that of the authors of the blog Disgrasian, whose gleeful post included the line “karma is a b*tch.” But upon further reflection, it’s not clear how the depiction of white stereotypes in Japan is appropriate payback for media abuses against Asians in the U.S.

Besides, asks James S., founder and editor-in-chief of the popular Japan-based blog Japan Probe, “Are we in some kind of race to win last place in the stereotyping Olympics? Foreign residents in Japan shouldn’t be held accountable for bad things other people in their country of origin are doing. Arguing about which countries have worse stereotyping accomplishes nothing.”

Here and There

Even if who-has-it-worse debates are unproductive, as James S. suggests, a comparison of cultural landscapes is an illuminating way of providing context around our own experiences. America’s diversity of race, origin and belief, and the standards that protect us against discrimination via those categories, are unique among nations. They’re at the core of our democracy, and they’re the foundation of our national identity.

Japan, meanwhile, is a largely homogenous society with certain factors that have contributed to a very strong “insider-outsider” sensibility.

“There’s undoubtedly a strong distinction between Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan, largely due to Japan’s history of isolation, its island geography, and the population itself, which is largely Japanese,” says Gen Kanai, a veteran blogger who writes about Japanese cultural and technological trends. “These aren’t factors that can or will change quickly, so I believe this distinction will stay with Japan for the foreseeable future.”

The insider-outsider distinction is integrated into Japan’s very language, as Kanai points out. “In Japanese, all non-Japanese words are put into their own writing system, katakana,” he says. “And the adjectives gai — outside — and nai — inside — are often used to indicate whether an idea or product is from Japan, or from elsewhere.”

Or, for that matter, a person: The term “gaijin,” a casual shortening of the more formal “gaikokujin,” is Japan’s default expression for foreigner — to the dismay of activists like Debito Arudou, who has publicly argued that gaijin is as offensive a term for non-Japanese as “n*gger” is for blacks.

Debito’s point is that the term reinforces a dismissive, permanent “alien” status that allows foreigners to be offhandedly discriminated against, by both institutions and individuals.

“Gaijin is not a nice word, and I have not modified my opinion that it is akin to ‘n*gger’ in application,” says Debito. “Is that stance confrontational? That’s a matter of opinion, but people are debating the issues and that’s what matters in the end.”

Debito has spent much of the quarter-century he’s lived in Japan pushing for such reactions. His most famous campaign remains his 2001 lawsuit against a hot spring resort in the small village of Otaru [sic], which displayed a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign at its entrance; the resort’s operators indicated that the policy against non-Japanese guests was due to previous problems with “drunken Russian sailors.” Debito and two co-plaintiffs won their anti-discrimination suit, each receiving $25,000 in damages.

His latest cause has been challenging the “gaijin cards” that foreigners in Japan must keep with them at all times, noting that the IC chips within the cards could be used to track non-Japanese “like the aliens in ‘Aliens 2.'” (He acknowledges that there’s a “tinfoil hat” aspect to his concerns, but as with most of his causes, he believes that doing something is always better than doing nothing.)

These flamboyant initiatives and contentious pronouncements in the pages of The Japan Times have not won him unalloyed support even among his fellow expatriates.

“I can’t really say I agree with the causes Debito chooses or many of the tactics he uses,” says Japan Probe’s James S. “His methods lead to the lumping of all foreign residents together, creating an ‘us versus them’ mentality for the Japanese. I think that any approach to fighting discriminatory practices needs to include the Japanese in the movement.”

As sympathetic as James S. is to Debito’s fight to win open access to hot springs resorts, he points to more serious concerns foreign residents in Japan face, such as housing discrimination. “It is common for landlords to absolutely refuse to rent apartments or houses to foreigners, regardless of employment status, language ability, or type of visa,” he says. “It is not a fun to have a real estate agent tell you that he or she must phone a landlord to ‘check if gaijin are okay’ before you can view an apartment.”

That’s a situation that might shock Americans, who’ve grown up with the expectation that all residents of our country have equal protection under law. And though it’s not always easy, much less automatic, anyone can become an American citizen, and once you’re a citizen, you’re an American, period.

At least, officially. One of the things that’s troubling about the state of political discourse in this country is that Americanness has become less and less absolute. Politicians of both parties, but especially the Right, have taken to reflexively invoking the concept of “real” Americans, with a greater degree of realness ascribed to those upholding their standards of religion (Christianity), residency (rural and smalltown Midwest and South), place of birth (the mainland U.S.), and class (blue-collar and working class). It’s a terrible trend, and its consequences are toxic.

Japan, driven by demographic imperatives, is slowly lowering its “outsider/insider” firewall. As its society ages and fewer children are born — Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world — welcoming foreigners in may be critical to maintaining a productive society. And with newly elected Yukio Hatayama poised to become the first Prime Minister from the reformist Democratic Party of Japan, which won a shocking landslide victory this week to break the conservative Liberal Democratic Party’s decades-long stranglehold on power — it’s thought that the new regime might be open to revisiting of Japan’s absurdly restrictive immigration policies.

“I’m hopeful for the future,” says James S. “I think that Japan will gradually become more open and diverse.”

Meanwhile, America seems headed in the opposite direction, with backlashes against immigrants, a return to isolationism and even questions about the legitimacy and birth status of the President becoming surprisingly mainstream. Red-meat issues for some — but for the idea of America, a recipe for disaster.

Jeff Yang forecasts global consumer trends for the market-research company Iconoculture (www.iconoculture.com). He is the author of “Once Upon a Time in China: A Guide to the Cinemas of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China,” co-author of “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action” and “Eastern Standard Time,” and editor of the forthcoming “Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology” (www.secretidentities.org). He lives in New York City. Go to http://altreviews.com/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi to join INSTANT YANG, Jeff Yang’s biweekly mailing list offering updates on this column and alerts about other breaking Asian / Asian American pop-culture news, or connect with him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1074720260, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jeffcyang, or Twitter:http://twitter.com/originalspin.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/09/02/apop090209.DTL

ENDS

TIME Magazine on McDonald’s “Mr James” Campaign

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  The “Mr James” issue even made TIME Magazine a few days ago.  Starts off fine, then skates into the territory of Straw Men and Silly Arguments (“unclean”?  Even I said this argument was silly when asked about it over the phone).  The last paragraph (“The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth … is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign.” Really?) I just don’t get, no matter how many times I read it, sorry.  If someone could reinterpret that paragraph for me, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, thanks for covering the issue, Ms Masters.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Not Everyone Is Lovin’ Japan’s New McDonald’s Mascot
By COCO MASTERS / TOKYO

TIME Magazine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1918246,00.html

Mr. James is lovin’ being back in Japan. The exuberantly geeky American mascot of McDonald’s Japan latest ad campaign oohs and aahs over fireworks. His smile beams from his cardboard cutouts outside McDonald’s establishments across the country.

But a growing number of non-Japanese who live in Japan are decidedly not lovin’ Mr. James. In a country known for its small foreign-born population — only 1.5% of 127 million — and restrictive immigration and naturalization policies, the new envoy for McDonald’s Japan is creating a stir among non-Japanese residents.

A doppelganger of Steve Carell’s 40-Year-Old Virgin with glasses, Mr. James is a character invented by Japanese advertising behemoth Dentsu and McDonald’s Japan for its new burger line — the “Nippon All Stars” — campaign. The purpose of the campaign, running Aug. 10 to Nov. 5, is to promote four burgers available only in Japan. On his blog, found on the McDonald’s Japan website, Mr. James describes himself as a 43-year-old Japanophile born in Ohio with a penchant for travel, who, when particularly excited, generously treats people he doesn’t even know. (That seems to be a plug for the $1,000 cash prizes for 1,000 people who submit photos of Mr. James or people imitating Mr. James.)

But elsewhere, Mr. James, dressed in his buttoned-up red polo shirt, tie and khakis, is seen as playing to Japan’s xenophobic tendencies. Annoyed expats have described the character as “white, dorky” and speaking “mangled Japanese.” The chair of The Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens’ Association of Japan, Arudo Debito — a naturalized Japanese citizen born David Aldwinckle — has officially protested the Mr. James campaign with a letter to McDonald’s Corporation headquarters in Illinois. Soon after the ads started to roll out, somebody set up an “I hate Mr. James” Facebook group, which now has 67 members.

Debito considers the characterization of “a clumsy sycophantic ‘nerd'” an embarrassment. “If this were in a different country, and we had a Japanese in a [summer kimono] and [wooden sandals] saying ‘Me like Mcflied lice, please eato,’ we’d have the same sort of anti-defamation league speaking out and saying this is disparaging to Asians or Japanese,” says Debito. He says the campaign’s portrayal of non-Japanese as “unquestioningly supportive and culturally ignorant” will only make life more difficult for foreigners in Japan.

On his blog, Mr. James posts travel plans — to places, such as Kyushu, where he visits McDonald’s restaurants — and ruminates about his favorite burgers. He bungles his attempts at written Japanese, and mispronounces words with a staccato-like butchering of the language. One online video shows him talking to himself while practicing from a phrasebook, proclaiming “horenso” (spinach) with a gesture. Mr. James has appeared in two commercials since the campaign began, in which he also mistakes words, for instance, yelling “tamago” (egg) in Japanese instead of a similar sounding word “tamaya”, which is shouted during fireworks.

McDonalds Japan spokesman Junichi Kawaminami says that there is no official response to criticism of the Mr. James campaign [UPDATE:  READ OFFICIAL RESPONSE HERE]. He does, however, explain the story of the character, which appears in the first commercial. “Mr. James’s daughter was determined to go to Japan and study and so he looked at maps and got excited to go with her,” says Kawaminami. “Once he found out that McDonald’s was offering the Tamago Double Mac, it became the deciding factor.” Why? It was on the McDonald’s Japan menu years ago and became Mr. James’s favorite when he was a student in Japan. That, says Kawaminami, is when Mr. James became a great fan of Japanese culture and food.

Some of the Mr. James criticism, however, seems a little thin. One comment on Facebook says that because Mr. James wears the same clothes everyday in August might suggest that foreigners are “unclean.” If we’re going to look at the clothing choices of fast food icons, it seems fair to point out that Ronald McDonald and Col. Sanders have been wearing their famous uniforms for half a century. There’s no doubt that the spectacle of the foreigner in Japan is an everyday occurrence in media. A foreigner’s response that he or she can use chopsticks or enjoys raw fish is met with smiles and amazement because — in some ways — affirmation of Japanese culture is stronger when it comes from outside, or is a non-Japanese perspective. But there is certainly no shortage of elegant, articulate Japanese-speaking foreigners in local media, from morning television programs to magazine advertisements for Japanese products.

The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth — basically a double Big Mac with an egg on it — is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign. To protest Mr. James as a stereotype of a minority population in Japan because the Ohio-native fails to speak or write Japanese fluently, dresses like a nerd and blogs about burgers only ends up underscoring the fact that there really aren’t a lot of foreigners who fit the bill running around Japan. For most foreigners in Japan who know no one like that — and who only see a burger mascot — it begs the question: Where’s the beef?

ENDS

McDonald’s Japan “Mr James”: Reports of improvements

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I am hearing of improvements in the infamous and controversial katakana-speaking “gaijin” character “Mr James”, advertising McDonald’s hamburgers.  Just wanted to confirm with Debito.org readers:

1) Peach reports the “katakana tray inserts” (meaning these):

mcdonaldsmrjames002

are not being used anymore.   Visited a McDonald’s in Tennouji, Osaka today and discovered this.

2) Justin commented to Debito.org:

Submitted on 2009/08/19 at 9:54pm
One interesting note about the “Mr. James” ads: There aren’t any in the McDonalds across from Kamiyacho Station, just down the hill from the Hotel Okura. This is a gaijin-heavy area, with lots of us staying in the hotel or working in the offices nearby. If the “Mr. James” ads are so inoffensive, why is McDonalds Japan keeping them out of its restaurants in foreigner-heavy neighborhoods?

3) As has been reported in the SCMP and other media outlets, the “backstory” of this character has become more sophisticated, depicting him as a tourist from Ohio, not a resident of Japan, burgering his way through Japan’s burghers (dare him to come to Hokkaido!) and blogging his experiences.  Although this doesn’t excuse his being rendered in katakana.  For those wishing to give McD’s the benefit of the doubt (I don’t), one could argue that this man is just a Japan otaku, not the typical gaijin.  But you still got the huge billboards outside the restaurant with Mr James — you don’t even have to go inside the restaurant to get “Jamesed”, let alone take the trouble to visit online and get the backstory.  Collateral effects.

4) Mr James has suddenly become a quick study in Japanese.  His blog posts are no longer exclusively in katakana, although his Japanese remains a bit on the broken side (all the nouns are gaijinized in katakana) with nary a kanji to be seen.

Are others seeing these improvements?  And are there any more adjustments to report?

These are all evidence that McDonald’s Japan is taking complaints about this campaign seriously.  But I still say the campaign must be suspended entirely.  They may be trying to make him a character with more redeeming characteristics.  But he’s still, in my book, a gaijin — an epithet made flesh; that’s how he was designed, and now McDonald’s Japan, for better or worse, is saddled with him.  Get rid of this albatross.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

South China Morning Post on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” Campaign, quotes FRANCA

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  SCMP reports:

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Foreigners fail to see joke over McDonald’s dorky-white-guy ad
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
South China Morning Post, August 21, 2009

http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2c913216495213d5df646910cba0a0a0/?vgnextoid=9dedf41d04833210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=teaser&ss=Asia+%26+World&s=News (registration required)

He’s white, dorky and speaks mangled Japanese.

Meet Mr James, McDonald’s Japan’s fictitious white envoy, who has managed to outrage foreigners’ rights groups, which labelled him an offensive racial stereotype.

The chain began its “Nippon All Stars” campaign on August 10, fronted by what the Foreign Residents and Naturalised Citizens’ Association (Franca) said was an “oddball-looking Caucasian” praising a new line of burgers in pitifully broken Japanese.

With trousers worn high, Mr James’ thick-framed glasses and polo-shirt-and-tie combination is unmistakably nerdy. He is travelling around Japan and keeping a blog of the places that he visits. As part of the advertising campaign, people who see him are encouraged to take a photo and send it to McDonald’s, with the best one photo winning a 100,000 yen (HK$8,220) prize.

“The idea behind the campaign is that Mr James used to live in Japan as a student, heard about the new McDonald’s product and wanted to try it again, so he has come back to travel around the country,” spokesman Junichi Kawaminami said.

The actor playing Mr James, whom the company declined to identify or provide contact details for, was until recently in the southern city of Fukuoka.

“McDonald’s has obviously put a lot of money into this campaign as there are full-length posters and banners in every restaurant that I see as well as by the side of roads here, and the company is apparently not concerned that they are offending people and hope we continue to buy their burgers,” Franca chairman Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese born in the United States, said.

“This is untenable in a Japan with ethnic minority residents,” he said. “They are being ill-portrayed by this stereotype and their lives may be affected by this careless campaign by one of the world’s most influential multinational companies.”

McDonald’s Japan confirmed that it had received complaints about the campaign and said it was examining the matter. Similar complaints to its US headquarters have been referred back to the Japanese firm.

“What really angers me is that no one involved in the process here thought that anyone would take offence to see a caricature such as this advertising their company,” Mr Arudou said. “Can you imagine the outrage there would be in the US or any other country if a restaurant chain used an image of a Japanese man with big, round glasses, buck teeth, geta sandals and a kimono telling people to `buy flied lice, is velly good! “That’s the sort of thing that gets embassies and global human rights’ groups angry and involved,” he said.
ENDS

Activism: New documentary “The Cove” on dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Wakayama Pref

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  A tangent in terms of rights for humans, less a tangent in terms of successful activism in Japan regarding rights for sentient beings.

I heard on NPR Fresh Air July 30 (podcasts available here) a review and an interview on upcoming documentary “THE COVE”, regarding a town in Wakayama Prefecture named Taiji famous for its whale hunts.  It’s also going to become famous for its periodic dolphin slaughter, the subject of this movie.

Ostensibly, the activists claim, for “pest control”, the slaughter of entire schools (if you consider the dolphin a fish, like the fishermen apparently do) of dolphins is apparently due to the dolphins having a taste for the fish that they catch (sorry, but dolphins gotta eat too).  It’s a frequent event that takes place in a national park that is otherwise off limits to public eyes.  The documentarians (one of whom trained Flipper — seriously — and realized the error of his ways) actually put cameras in rocks and other submersibles to capture first hand the footage of the slaughter the GOJ denies is happening.

The movie comes out in spring.  That and a number of other documentaries — SOUR STRAWBERRIES (about abuses of migrant workers and immigrants), FROM THE SHADOWS (about Japan as a safe haven for child abductions), and TOKYO UNDERWORLD (about the relationship between the GOJ and organized crime, based upon Robert Whiting’s non-fiction book; incidentally the best book on Japan I’ve ever read) may bring out sides of Japan that the GOJ largely denies exists as a problem.  Pity the domestic media doesn’t do its job and get to the bottom of these issues itself.

Especially since, the interviewees make clear, there is a public health issue.  The meat from the killed dolphins are often given out as school lunches etc.  Even though they have mercury levels higher than the fish at Minamata which caused the famous poisoning disease.

Quite a PR time bomb being exposed here.  This is what activism can do.  Bravo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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More about the issue here, with preview of the THE COVE (Japanese, English, German)

http://www.savejapandolphins.org/covelearnmore.php

JAPAN FOCUS article on Taiji and the “Clash of Cultures”, by David McNeill

http://www.japanfocus.org/-David-McNeill/2306

THE COVE in the news:

http://news.google.com/news?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=the+cove+japan+dolphins&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&ei=WOt0SqCZCKTk6gP91LChCw&sa=X&oi=news_group&ct=title&resnum=4

An interview with one of the activists, Flipper’s reformed trainer, Richard O’Barry:

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2009/01/the_coves_richard_obarry_on_se.html

Lot and lots more information:

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=the+cove+japan+dolphins&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

ENDS

Humor: Cracked Mag Online on unappetizing restaurants

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japan

Morning Blog.  More humor for a national holiday:  Some restaurants (according to Cracked Magazine, which I thought was a poor second cousin to Mad Magazine, until I started reading the cutting online version) that defeat their purpose by offering food in very unappetizing ways:

http://www.cracked.com/blog/9-restaurants-designed-to-ruin-your-appetite/

Now I don’t believe for a second that there is a place in Roppongi that allows you to diddle your meal before you eat it (in fact, I found this site due to a trackback to Debito.org exposing the source as the deep-sixed Mainichi Waiwai).  But it’s still a good read, and I love the (what seems to be verified) idea of airborne meals even if it is a hoax.  The entire idea is like the scene in the Bunuel movie “The Phantom of Liberty” switching meals and toilets (in fact, one of the featured restaurants specifically plays on that theme).  It makes you think about something you do, often without really thinking about it, three times a day.

By the way, foreshadowing:  The end of the year is a good time for reflection, and lists.  I’m working on the top ten best and worst of Japan, as well as ten things that changed my world this year.  I’ll have them out between Xmas and New Years.  And my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (due out January 6) will be on Japan’s top ten most important human rights advances in 2008.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japan

Hi Blog. Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below — the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, where the fish is also good.

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Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market
(Mainichi Japan) December 3, 2008

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20081203p2a00m0na015000c.html?inb=rs

Courtesy of several submitters

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced a month-long ban on visitors to the famous fish auctions in Tsukiji from mid-December, blaming large numbers of foreign tourists for obstructing business.

The metropolitan government has sent out a notice of the ban to embassies, hotels, travel companies and other businesses across the capital.

The Tuna Markets, as they are known, are one of the three most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, alongside Akihabara and Asakusa. During early morning hours there were nearly 500 visitors on some days; but many working at the markets have complained of visitors’ showing a lack of courtesy to staff.

According to a tuna wholesalers’ association, the rush in foreign visitors started with the “sushi boom” 10 or so years ago, and has grown especially severe over the past five to six years, following news of the market’s planned closure.

While the auctions are technically off-limits to spectators, auctioneers have informally allowed people to watch from a designated area of the auction hall. With many taking flash photography or touching the produce, however, auctioneers and market workers alike have often been disturbed by visitors: “They can’t understand the language, so we can’t even warn them,” complained one.

As a result, the metropolitan government has informed various tourism-related organizations of their decision to ban spectators at the morning auctions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17.

“It’s not a bad thing for Tsukiji to gain attention, but with the risk of injury to visitors, and the potential to affect business during the busy Year End and New Year season, it’s unavoidable,” said a metropolitan official. But it’s likely to take time for the news to filter round through signboards and leaflets, as there are many foreigners who visit the auctions individually after learning about the place by word of mouth.

One Tokyo hotel said: “We’ve explained you can’t enter the auction area before, but if you are asked for directions to Tsukiji, you have no choice but to tell them. All we can do is leave it to the judgment of our guests.”

ends

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Original Japanese story
築地市場:競り見学中止 外国人観光客マナー悪い
毎日新聞 2008年12月3日 15時00分(最終更新 12月3日 16時55分)
http://mainichi.jp/select/today/news/20081203k0000e040078000c.html

 東京都中央卸売市場(築地市場、中央区築地5)のマグロの競り場に、外国人観光客が多数押し掛け業務に支障が出ているとして、都は各国大使館やホテル、旅行会社に、12月中旬から約1カ月間、競り場の見学中止を通知した。築地のマグロ競りは外国人の間でも「ツナ・マーケット」と呼ばれ、秋葉原、浅草と並ぶ3大人気スポット。早朝から500人近くが訪れる日もあるが、マナーを守らない人もいて関係者から不満の声が出ていた。

 マグロを扱う仲卸業者の団体によると、見学者はほとんどが外国人で、すしブームに伴って十数年前から増え始めた。取り上げる観光ガイドブックも多く、築地市場が数年後に閉鎖されることも知られ、ここ5、6年は特に目立つという。

 競り場は基本的に見学者の立ち入りは禁止だが、外国人観光客が多いため市場側がスペースを設けて黙認してきた。しかし、競り場に入ってフラッシュをたいたり、マグロに触ったりして、競りの仕事を妨げるマナー違反者も多い。仲卸業者の野末誠さん(72)は「言葉が通じず注意もできない」と話す。

 このため都は、12月15日から来年1月17日までは早朝の競り場の見学中止を決め、関係団体に通知した。市場担当者は「築地が注目されるのは悪いことではないが、年末年始の繁忙期に業務に支障が出たり、観光客がけがをされても困るのでやむをえない」と話す。今後、看板やチラシで周知するが、口コミで個人的に訪れる外国人観光客も多く、周知徹底には時間がかかりそうだ。

 都内のあるホテルは「以前から競り場への立ち入りはできないと説明しているが、築地への行き方を聞かれれば教えないわけにはいかない。お客様の判断に任せるしかない」と困惑している。【合田月美】
ends

Tangent: Excellent Ramen at Sakurajima, Sapporo Nishi-ku

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japan

Hi Blog.  I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but it’s a Sunday, I’m on the road, and stats show that this is the day when Debito.org blog gets the least hits (Monday is generally the most).  So let me indulge myself with an entry today about food (hey, food discussion sites are Legion in Japan, anyway).

Quite frankly, I’m not that much a foodie.  I know what I like and I generally eat that, especially since (I’m not much of a cook) if it’s just put in front of me, it’s fair game.  I take my time appreciating it, especially if it’s expensive (and if a restaurant is dedicated to slow food).  But I’m a person who indulges in habitual meals and comfort food (meaning lots of meat and potatoes; probably not a sustainable diet).  Because of the monotony, I know certain things well (such as apples — only eat Fuji, maybe mutsu or tsugaru in a pinch — also know my spuds, soup, yakitori…), the rest, well, I’ll enjoy it but not write home about it.

But I had some ramen the other day that is worth writing home, or, rather, my blog, about.  I know this is all the way up in Sapporo, but it’s really worth your time if you appreciate ramen enough to go out of your way for it.  People do — lines are prevalent at this joint, and when I went past and say empty seats for a change, I had a late lunch (yes, they have parking).  It was incredible.

Here’s what their main item, “Sakurajima Ramen”, looks like:

Yes, that’s chashuu at eight o’clock (more if you order Chashuu Sakurajima, not available that day), another piece of grilled pork at four o’clock, and TWO pieces of charbroiled buta no kakuni at two o’clock, with pickles and hanjuku tamago.  The broth is not overbearing, either.  Everything is carefully cooked and put in.  My only gripe:  the noodles are thin (I’m a thick noodle guy), so it’s standard passable noodle fare.

I also ordered gyouza, and here’s how it came out:

It’s PURPLE with the contents, and includes the burnt-bit excess crispy excess film (at left, on and off plate).  Full of spice, gorgeous.

All that together was only 1150 yen.  I spent at least 30 minutes eating it all slowly.  The restaurateurs seemed appreciative.

The storefront:

How to get there:
住所:〒063-0034 北海道札幌市西区西野4条3丁目1-38
電話:011-667-1321

http://www.sapporo-town.com/review/sp047345

Ramen gourmets, let us know your favorite local ramen shops (names, addresses, weblinks) in the Comments Section below, if you like!  Arudou Debito in Tokyo