Archive for the 'Food' Category
This category is concerned with food and eating issues — always a hot topic in Japan.
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th May 2015
An interesting exercise in propaganda is Japan’s display at the Expo 2015, currently underway in Milano, Italy. 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) and digest the tropes:
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.
That’s amazingly easy to poke holes in, even before we get to calling Japan “diverse”. The government makes its case, and I perforate away in this blog entry. Opening:
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…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Food, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Tourism, 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th April 2015
AFP: 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… No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.
COMMENT: 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. Let’s wait and see.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Food, Human Rights, Tourism | 26 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th July 2014
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.
Bangalore Mirror: 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. […] Based on an incident 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…
Mail Online India: 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.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Food, Good News, Human Rights | 28 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd May 2014
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 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): (scan)
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 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.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Exclusionism, Food, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th April 2014
Another to add to the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments. This time, a restaurant, as submitter YT notified me via email and photographs:
April 5, 2014, YT 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!!!
Photos of sign, storefront, and shopfront noren: (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.”)
Contact: “Ten-take” tempura restaurant, Tokyo-to Taitou-ku Asakusa 2-4-1, phone 03-3841-5519
COMMENT: I called Tentake today 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.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Food, 日本語 | 50 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th February 2014
Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of “Pinprick Protest” from more than two years ago — the Papa John’s “lady chinky eyes case” where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility. As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur.
Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan — where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else — shake your head — claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate).
The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs. Eventually. The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up. And it took a court case to get theirs down. And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn’t enough.
Anyway, here’s the story. I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Food, Good News, Human Rights, Media, Racist Images in Media, Tangents | 4 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th November 2012
Contributor Stephanie: 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…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Food, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 51 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th April 2012
JDG: 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…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Food, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 33 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th December 2011
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.
National Geographic May 1994, on world rice: “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.”
Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”: “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… 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.”
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Food, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Tangents | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th December 2011
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.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Food, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 34 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th March 2011
John Harris writes: 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:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Food, Gaiatsu, Media, Practical advice | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th January 2011
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.
Japan Times: The men stood up and explained that this week was the 40th anniversary of Rita’s death and they were going to her grave to pay their respects. The owner of the locket opened his briefcase and showed me a foil-wrapped haggis he’d ordered especially from his butcher. Another of the men took out a packet of oatcakes and a jar of heather honey.
They invited me to join them but the wind had returned with a vengeance and their drink had pasted me squarely to my seat. As they climbed out of the train, I asked them who they were. The three seemed sheepish for the first time since we’d met. Finally, the owner of the flask spoke up, “We’re the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club.”
Posted in Food, History, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th January 2011
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.
Japan Times: 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…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Food, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th December 2010
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:
XY: 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…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Food, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Racist Images in Media | 40 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th October 2010
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…
Posted in Discussions, Food, Tangents, Tourism | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th October 2010
In honor of upcoming Canadian (and soon American) Thanksgiving:
APPOLONIA MENDIS CYPCAR’S TURKEY STUFFING
From Arudou Debito, great grandson, Debito.org
(for a 13-14 lb turkey)
1 lb ground veal
1/2 box of saltines (box 1 1b size) ground coarsely
1 pint whole milk
1/2 lb butter
4 eggs beaten
salt and pepper to taste
It’s the taste I miss most from the USA.
Posted in Food, History, Tangents | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th July 2010
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.
Nicol: 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.”…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Food, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th February 2010
Article: McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan, the latest sign of the faltering economy in the Asian country… 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.
COMMENT: Kinda makes you believe in karma. Zamaa miro.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Food, Good News | 26 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th January 2010
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 McDonalds 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. 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?
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Food, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 42 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th December 2009
Time for a Sunday Tangent. My latest tangental column in SAPPORO SOURCE — on the top nine things I like about Japan.
Download the entire issue of SAPPORO SOURCE here in pdf format. Cover, scanned page, and text of the article follows.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Food, Tangents | 16 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th September 2009
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. Also articles in SF Chronicle, TIME, SCMP, and more. Perhaps it’s time to consider pulling the plug on this campaign before it embarrasses your organization any further?
UPDATE: Even Subway Sandwiches lets their NJ character shills speak in proper Japanese. Why not McDonald’s Japan?
UPDATE 2: McDonald’s USA responded within 24 hours with another “Dear John” letter, the same one sent verbatim to all complainants, stressing the lack of intent to offend and that we should take it up with McD’s Japan. Taraimawashi.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Food, Media | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd September 2009
SF Chronicle: “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?'”
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…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Food, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 24 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th August 2009
TIME Magazine: 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.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Discussions, Food, Good News, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd August 2009
McDonald’s Japan seems to be tweaking the “Mr James” campaign in a more positive direction: 1) Losing the katakana tray inserts, 2) Giving him a more endearing backstory, 3) Having him speak in hiragana too, not just katakana, 4) Not featuring him in more international neighborhoods of Japan. Readers, confirm, deny, or expand?
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.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Food, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 34 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st August 2009
“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.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Food, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd August 2009
Sunday Tangent: 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. NPR gave it a good review.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Food, Tangents | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd December 2008
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.
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’s a hoax.
Posted in Food, Humor, Tangents | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th December 2008
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.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Food, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th October 2008
Complete tangent on a Sunday: An amazing ramen place I found in Sapporo. Feel free to contribute your favorite ramen places (hey, this is Japan — we have to talk about food sometime!)
Posted in Food, Tangents | 4 Comments »