Hi Blog. Here’s a submission from Debito.org Reader CR, about the application of the “five year rule” of Japanese Labor Contract Law in Japan’s blue-chip companies. Although the 2003 revision in the law was meant to say, “five years of contract renewals means you must rehire the person as a regular employee (sei sha-in) without a contract” (which would end the exploitative system of unstable employment through perpetual contracting), it’s had the opposite effect: encouraging employers to cap the contracts at five years. Meaning that starting from April 1, 2018, five years since the revised Labor Contract Law took effect, we’re expecting to see a mass firing of Japan’s contract laborers.
This is precisely what has been happening to Japan’s non-tenured foreign academics for generations in Japan’s Academic Apartheid System, with the occasional “massacre” of older Japanese contracted academics just to save money, but now it’s being expanded systemwide to the non-academic private sector. We’ve seen rumblings of its application at Tohoku University for everyone. But of course we have to make it even worse for foreign workers: At Canon, one of Japan’s flagship companies, NJ are being given special “temp” employment categories with contracts explicitly capped at five years from the outset. One more reason to read your employment contracts carefully, if not avoid entirely the increasingly unstable and segregated jobs in Japanese companies. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
I work as a translator for Canon. Although I don’t work at the 本社 (HQ), I am a Canon Inc. employee.
First, let’s just get this out of the way: you are welcome to use any information I provide here in your blog (and I am willing to get additional information as far as I am able), but I would prefer to remain anonymous.
At Canon, NJ are hired as “プロ社員” (pro sha-in), which basically means “contract employee”. Note that there is also a “Jプロ社員” (J-pro sha-in) category, as Japanese can also be hired as contract employees (my understanding is Japanese who are 中途採用 (chuuto saiyou, or halfway hires) start as contract employees, but can move to 正社員 (sei sha-in, or regular non-contract workers) within a year or two; I don’t know the conditions for this, however).
The contracts are typical one-year contracts with the option of renewal, provided renewal is the desire of both parties; basically the standard you would expect. As you know, in 2013 the revision to the Labor Contract Act came into effect, essentially giving contract employees an avenue to become 正社員 regular non-contract workers after five years of continuous, contract-based employment (the earliest this could happen for an employee is then April 1, 2018). This, presumably, was designed to help people like myself achieve greater employment security.
Here’s the thing. Apparently, after the revision to the law, and I’m not sure of the exact date that they started doing this because to my knowledge there are not really frequent hirings of NJ and nobody I’ve spoken with seems to know, NJ hires have a clause in their contract stipulating that there will be no further renewal after their period of employment reaches the 5-year mark. Potential hires are informed of this before or during the interview process, apparently, so those in the know can make an informed decision. However, it is also my understanding that there are people who were hired before this change took place and are being grandfathered in; in other words, the 5-year limit clause is not being added to their contracts, and presumably they will be able to become 正社員 when the time comes, but newer NJ hired will not.
Obviously I’m pretty incensed about this, it’s difficult to work in an environment where there are clear discriminations such as this. Note that while I believe the discriminations are racially-based, the only thing that is visible is based off nationality. I don’t know how the company handles NJ who have naturalized, or even if any naturalized Japanese citizens are among the employee ranks. It rankles even more because there are always various “Compliance”-related initiatives, announcements, and activities, to show employees how important it is to play fair, not discriminate, follow the rules and the law, etc.
So, big, established, famous, international Japanese companies are already putting discriminatory clauses that violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law into the contracts of NJ. Also, this effectively puts the kibosh on any potential promotions of NJ; you cannot be promoted as a contract employee. The glass ceiling is alive and well.
It would be nice to this get some attention and change as a result, but I won’t hold my breath about changes, at least.
All the best, CR
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Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed again in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times. After all these years of service, even less job security awaits. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
I have discussed the “five-year rule” several times before in this column — the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013. Under the amendment, any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. See my earlier stories for more details, particularly my March 2013 column, “Labor law reform raises rather than relieves workers’ worries.”
The amendment was supposed to give workers more job security. Or at least that is what lawmakers claimed the purpose was. From the start I had my doubts — doubts that are now being borne out.
The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018.
After enactment, some employers put new hires on one-year contracts with a three-renewal limit, or a five-year maximum with no renewal possible afterwards. It seems obvious this was to avoid being restricted by the five-year rule, which is really a “more-than-five-year rule.” Other employers are planning to either change their employees’ working conditions or fire or nonrenew their employees over the coming year, 2017. Again, it seems obvious that their intention is to avoid the new law and thereby violate its job-security spirit.
And this month I’ll name names — or a name in this case. This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.
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THE STORY: “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a mockumentary that focuses on a Caucasian expat living in Japan who, after receiving a blow to the head, wakes up believing that he is a member of an ultranationalist right wing group (the “uyoku dantai”). An idealistic amateur “director” (in the scheme of the mockumentary) is making a documentary film about this odd character because he believes that it will propel his own filmmaking career towards prominence. As the director and his subject’s views begin to diverge though, things begin to fall apart. “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a story about identity, delusion, myopic nationalism, ascendent conservative trends in Japan’s current government, other big words, and how those beliefs do not accurately reflect the political and social reality of Japanese society. Only the best ingredients for a controversial comedy.
SELECTED CAST AND CREW:
Debito Arudou (Actor) is a writer, blogger, and human rights activist. He was born in the United States and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000. He is the author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan and has recently published Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination (Lexington Books).
Shintaro Naka (Actor) is an educator and actor in Southwest Japan. He has performed in several short-films, including A Portrait of No One in 2009, as well as performing as Toshio in Kazuhiko Konoike’s Sensitive (2012) and the follow-up film Suddenly (2013).
Robert Nishimura (Writer/Director) is among the last generation of “Zonians,” born and bred in the Republic of Panamá. In the last two decades, under the Primolandia Productions label, he has produced short films, TV documentaries, video installations, provided art direction for Japanese fashion magazines, and designed promotional material for films in Japan and the US. Based in Japan for the past 11 years — and now a permanent resident — he currently is the co-owner and curator of an art gallery in southwest Japan.
Stirling Perry (Writer/Producer) is an educator living in Hiroshima, Japan. He previously co-wrote and directed Gokurōsama (2008) with Robert Nishimura, a short film shot exclusively for the Akira Kurosawa Short Film Competition. Stirling is currently writing several feature films, with the first slated to go into production in 2016.
Paul Leeming (Cinematographer) began his film career in Sydney in 2005 and graduated from the Sydney Film School in 2006, majoring in Directing, Cinematography and Sound. In 2007 he moved to Japan and started Visceral Psyche, writing and directing several award-winning films and shooting many more as a cinematographer. Paul is now living in Berlin with his sights set firmly on Hollywood.
Kazuhiko Konoike (Producer/Assistant Director) began his production career at Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman) and GAGA Distribution before starting his own production label, cinepos, in 2008. Since then, Kazuhiko has made several short films and promotional videos, with many more to come.
COMMENT: This is an excellent video featuring the former Japan synchronized swimming team in various hot springs (onsen) around Oita Prefecture. I have been to some of these myself, and can attest to the magic of both the location and the waters.
I hate to pee in the pool here, but there are several things happening here that are absolutely impermissible by Japanese standards (in fact, they were cited as reasons for excluding all “foreigners” entry to the baths during the Otaru Onsens etc. Case of 1993-2005):
Making noise in the bathing area.
Wearing bathing suits in the pool.
Wearing towels in the pool.
Mixed bathing in a non-rotenburo area.
Not washing off one’s body completely before entering (note that they get in dry after only a cursory splash).
Instead, without any irony whatsoever, we have the Japan synchro swim team breaking most of them. To raucous applause. Good thing they didn’t bring in a NJ synchro team to do this stunt — because then “cultural insensitivity” would creep into the mix.
Granted, there is a lengthy disclaimer at the end to say that swimming and bathing suits are not allowed in Japanese baths, and that rules etc. must be followed. But I still remain grumpy at the lack of historical sensitivity shown towards the “foreigners” who suffered for being refused entry to Japan’s public baths despite following all decorum and rules. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. Debito.org has long complained about how NJ (especially the “Trainees” being thrust into sweatshop and slave labor) were being exploited by ill-designed and unsupervised visa statuses in Japan. Let’s take a look at the American example and do a bit of triangulating. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal.
She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m.
But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.
In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used.
When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear.
Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly.
Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away.
Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work.
“Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.” — Kathryn Xian, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery
“At the time, I was confused and didn’t know what to do,” the chef said, recalling her ordeal in 2012. Civil Beat granted her anonymity and withheld the restaurant’s name at her request. She said she feared reprisals.
The chef’s story, recounted in an interview conducted in Japanese, provides a rare glimpse into the dark side of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which was created half a century ago to foster “global understanding” through cultural exchanges but has since blossomed into the source of thriving, multi-million-dollar businesses.
But it’s virtually impossible to determine just how common these experiences are among about 2,000 J-1 visa holders in Hawaii.
That’s in part because the program, as a cultural exchange, isn’t subject to monitoring by the U.S. Department of Labor — unlike other guest worker programs.
The State Department, for its part, recently established a system to keep track of all complaints it receives, but spokeswoman Susan Pittman told Civil Beat that the tally for the entire program isn’t readily available, and a Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted before the data could be compiled.
Kathryn Xian, founder and executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says another reason the issue tends to fly under people’s radar is that the victims often choose to escape their situation by simply returning to their home country.
“What’s difficult about J-1 is that these people usually don’t seek help,” Xian said. “Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.” ‘Notoriety’ and ‘Disrepute’
Created under the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, the J-1 program was designed to give foreign students and young professionals a temporary work experience and expose them to the American way of life — at no cost to taxpayers.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pay upwards of $10,000 in fees and insurance to enter the country under the program and work for four to 18 months. The State Department’s latest figures show that more than 297,000 J-1 visas were issued in 2012, including 2,021 visas for those heading to work in Hawaii.
But, in recent years, some participants — and their advocates — have complained that it’s being used as a source of cheap, foreign labor with little federal oversight.
The issue grabbed national headlines in 2012, when hundreds of J-1 visa holders working at Hershey’s packing plant in Pennsylvania staged a raucous protest. About 400 of them were staying in the country for “Summer Work Travel,” the biggest of the 14 categories of the J-1 program allowing students of modest means to work in a temporary job as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel to the U.S.
“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place. But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.” — Stephen Boykewich, National Guestworker Alliance
They were put to work, often on night shifts, lifting heavy boxes and packing chocolates on Hershey’s fast-moving production line — while being paid substantially below the minimum wage after deductions.
The troubling tales of the summer programs were nothing new to officials at the State Department. In 2010, an investigation by the Associated Press uncovered widespread abuse, finding that some students were taking home less than $1 an hour, while others were being forced to work as strippers — even though the regulations prohibit the students from taking on work that could “bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute.”
In response, the State Department conducted a systematic review of the summer program and eventually acknowledged that its “work component … has too often overshadowed the core cultural component.”
The department later issued new rules for the program that significantly reduced the types of jobs the students can perform — to keep them away from most warehouse, construction, manufacturing and food-processing work. The rules also tightened requirements on the sponsor organizations and their contractors that administer the J-1 program on behalf of the State Department, ensuring that students were matched up with jobs that are appropriate and safe. Ripe for Exploitation
The changes haven’t rooted out all the unlawful labor practices in the J-1 program.
Last week, the Labor Department announced that a Waikiki-based wedding planner called Wave USA Inc. — aka Ka Nalu Wedding — agreed to pay more than $35,000 in restitution to a group of eight Japanese employees, all of whom were here on J-1.
According to the Labor Department, the eight were the company’s “front-line workers” from November 2012 to July 2014 and were paid full-time salaries that varied from $700 to $1,000 a month — a rate well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Stephen Boykewich, communications director at the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped organize the Hershey’s protest in 2012, said the problems persist because of the program’s flawed setup: The sponsor organizations and their contractors, which are responsible for vetting the hosting companies, are the ones tasked to monitor the working conditions. So, when any problem comes up, they have a vested interest in downplaying it.
“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place,” Boykewich said. “But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.”
In Hawaii, the issue is compounded by the fact that there are only seven sponsor organizations operating in the islands, and they only place participants into academic institutions — typically as scholars or physicians.
That means those looking for nonacademic work in Hawaii are forced to find their sponsor organization from the mainland, and this arrangement makes the regular, on-site monitoring of the working conditions a logistical nightmare.
John Robert Egan, an immigration attorney who once chaired the Hawaii chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the way the system is set up now works to the advantage of unscrupulous employers.
“Part of the problem is that they are bringing in people who don’t speak good enough English and are not familiar with the legal system and don’t know what protections are available. So that’s ripe for exploitation,” Egan said.
‘Alleged Bad Acts’
The Japanese pastry chef came to Hawaii hoping that her training here would bring her closer to realizing her dream of opening her own bakery.
To make her trip possible, she had to work with layers of contractors in Japan. First, she dealt with a company called Global Associates and its subsidiary, Hawaii Exchange Service. They then put her in touch with their affiliate — a Japanese company called the American Career Opportunity Inc. — to help her go through an English proficiency test and work with a California-based sponsor organization called the ASSE International Student Exchange Programs.
In all, she paid about $8,850 in fees and $1,300 for her medical insurance. And she spent thousands of dollars more to make living arrangements in Hawaii.
By the time she arrived and discovered her restaurant’s working conditions, her savings account had been tapped out. “I felt trapped as I had invested so much time and money to come to work on my J-1 visa,” she wrote in her 2012 affidavit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “I did not believe I could go home as I would realistically never have another opportunity to come back to the U.S.”
But going back to work for the restaurant wasn’t much of a choice for her, either. Luckily, a network of friends, victims’ advocates and pro bono attorneys came to her rescue and got her in touch with officials at the U.S. State and Labor departments.
“I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.” — Pastry chef from Japan
This, in turn, triggered a barrage of calls from officials at American Career Opportunity and Global Associates. They called her — and her mother in Japan — incessantly, trying to convince her to go back to work at the restaurant. When it became clear that she wasn’t going back, she said they tried to intimidate her into voluntarily returning to Japan.
Fearing that she’d be deported, she fled her apartment and went into hiding. At first, she stayed at the house of a married couple she had befriended during her first week in Hawaii. Then, Xian of the Pacific Alliance found her space at a shelter run by a local church.
As far as the chef knows, the investigations at the State and Labor departments are still pending — more than three years later. Meanwhile, with the help of attorneys, she applied for a T-1 visa, which is set aside for trafficking victims. After about a year, her application was approved, enabling her to stay in the country and start working again.
Ira Kurzban, general counsel for ASSE, says the company wasn’t notified about the case until federal authorities got involved.
“From our perspective, we did everything we could possibly do as soon as we learned that there was a problem,” Kurzban said, adding that the State Department “has never said” that the company engaged in “any of the alleged bad acts that were claimed to have happened.”
Officials from the State and Labor departments declined to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.
Officials at American Career Opportunity did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment. Global Associates and Hawaii Exchange Service could not be reached.
The chef is trying to move past her bitter experience. With Xian’s help, she managed to recover the fees she had paid for her visa. And, last year, she got a cooking job at the Kahala Mall and has saved enough to move into her own apartment.
But there’s one thing she still can’t shake: “It’s been three years now, but, to this day, I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.”
Hi Blog. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting to my next Japan Times JBC Column 90, disputing the discourse that people 1) have to “look Japanese” in order to be “Japanese”, and 2) cannot be Japanese AND something else (such as a different nationality, “race”, or ethnicity). I make the case that many things such as these, once ascribed from birth, are now a matter of personal choice — and that person must claim it (in the face of constant identity policing) in order to own it.
I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship.
It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment.
“What an unusual name. Where are you from?” Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty). Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.”
Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.)
Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while.
I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”
Afterwards, I asked the teller (an Asian gentleman), “How would you like it if you produced a Canadian passport and I said, ‘That’s funny; you don’t look Canadian’?” He said, not much, and apologized.
There are a few important details to this story I don’t have space for (see www.debito.org/?p=13381), but the conclusion was that the manager sent the teller home for the day (a surprise to me, as I never asked for any sanction) and then invited me to his office for a chat.
“I understand your frustration,” said the manager, “because I am Metis.” He was referring to his official minority status in Canada as a descendent of First Nation aboriginals and colonial settlers.
“I hate it when people I’m doing business with tell me that I don’t ‘look Metis,’ even after I show my status card.” He said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable at his bank, and in Canada.
Refreshed by this experience, I blogged and Facebooked about this no-nonsense zero tolerance. And then the topic blew up in my face.
Some readers wrote in to say I had overreacted. Instead of jumping straight to “racism,” I could have defused things with a quick explanation of my background or a joke.
Others said that I was defying common sense. A white guy with a Japanese passport expecting no surprise? Unreasonable. (Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.)
The critics that really got my goat were those that expressed disgust at my acting so “un-Japanese” (as in, not avoiding conflict) and went on say that, to them, I no longer qualified as a Japanese. (I unfriended them because that’s pretty thoughtless. By their logic, I could murder somebody and still qualify, since some Japanese do murder.)
The most interesting argument accused me of exercising my “white privilege”: “You get to be white and Japanese? You’ve taken this too far!” I had victimized the Asian teller because I had the power in this relationship as a white in Canada’s white-dominated society. (The critic’s thoughtful essay and my answer are archived at www.debito.org/?p=13404.)
For the record, I don’t doubt the existence of white privilege. (You can even find an example on our Community pages: Gregory Clark’s Dec. 4, 2014 “Kick out the touts who rule Roppongi” Foreign Agenda column.) I acknowledge that I have received advantageous treatment worldwide due to my lighter skin color and white background.
But the two of us parted paths at the point where the critic said I could not be “white and Japanese.” I do not believe that they are mutually exclusive. (Neither does Japan: In apartheid South Africa, Japan successfully lobbied to be Japanese and “honorary whites”.)
I’m Japanese and white because I earned it — through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, living and contributing to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.
I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it. I am not Japanese but white. I’m claiming the “and.”
So why write a column about this? After all, I got myself onto this sticky wicket by naturalizing into a country with few “non-Asian-looking” citizens.
Because this goes beyond me. What about the people who didn’t have a choice — like our Japanese kids?
It shouldn’t be an issue. They are Japanese children, full stop. And they can be something else yet 100 percent Japanese. It’s not a zero-sum game. (That’s why I am not a fan of the term hāfu.) I say claim the “and.” For them.
Mountains out of molehills? OK, how will you react the 100th time (or the fifth time in a day) that you hear, “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” Will you stand idly by when people openly doubt your kids’ identity as they grow up and risk being denied equal opportunities in society?
We’re fully formed adults — we can take these sucker punches — but kids need someone in their corner, pushing for their right to be diverse yet belong.
The push must happen until the point where the surprise is switched around — into shock at someone daring to imply that a citizen or resident with a surprising background is not a “real” or “normal” member of society.
Admittedly, careless comments from individuals are not something you can immediately fix, but alienating attitudes about people’s identities should not be expressed in a corporate or official capacity. To anyone. Anywhere. That’s where the push starts.
Don’t get me wrong: People can think what they like. But if they articulate thoughts inaccurate, unkind or alienating about us or the people we care for, we should reserve the right to push back accordingly — and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere.
But let’s come down from ideals and return to the bank counter. The main issue there was not the law of averages determining “normal” or “triggers” or “privilege.” It was one of self-identification.
Pause for a second and take stock of where things are going these days: Somebody can self-identify as Japanese and African-American, and represent Japan at the Miss Universe contest (like Ariana Miyamoto). Or be male and then female or vice versa (like Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and Lana Wachowsky). Or be LGBT and married. Or, like Rachel Dolezal, be white and “culturally black” enough to head a chapter of America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
A future is emerging where the major social statuses assigned us from birth — e.g., gender, “race,” nationality, even ethnicity — are breaking down. They can be a matter of personal choice.
That’s a good thing. With the unprecedented porosity of international borders nowadays, the notion of a “normal” person is ever eroding. That’s why I believe that anyone should be allowed to shape, control and, yes, claim their own identity.
Now, you might think that Japan, the island society, is unaffected by these trends. I would disagree. As I describe in my forthcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” the pressure of Japan’s aging demographics is unrelenting. If Japan cannot get over the conceit of having to “look Japanese” to be treated as one, then it cannot make “new Japanese,” and the country will continue to sink into an insolvent economic abyss.
Thus, if our Japanese kids cannot self-identify, hundreds of thousands of them (eventually millions, as people continue mixing) will spend their lives having their identities policed back into being “foreign,” not fitting in when they should be welcomed for all their potential as individuals with more worldly insights.
Let’s knock off the identity policing. Stop telling people who they are. Let them tell us. Let them claim the “and.”
Debito’s 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: email@example.com
This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.). In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home. The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks.
I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face.
This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by this blog entry.
The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:
Support for what I did.
Criticism for my overdoing it — surely this could have been handled better by me, e.g., by deflecting it with a quick explanation of my background or a bit of humor.
Disbelief at my inability to use common sense: To them, of course I don’t “look Japanese” (especially in a society with so few Caucasian Japanese), so my apparent expectation of the teller’s lack of surprise is unreasonable.
Anger (especially from Canadians) of my acting like a typically-loud and conflict-encouraging American in Canada.
Disgust at my acting so atypically Japanese that I no longer qualified as a Japanese in that person’s eyes (and that was it for us: Unfriended. Anyone who says I’m not “Japanese” because I don’t look or act “Japanese” in their view is neither a friend nor a person I care to talk to again. That’s taking the identity policing too far. After all, I could have committed a murder, and that would not have disqualified me — since some Japanese people murder, and don’t lose their “Japanese” status; my objecting to a teller’s inappropriate statement is somehow worse than that?)
Outrage towards my victimizing the teller (who as, I pointed out in my blog post, I deduced to be of native Korean background). To them, I was oblivious towards my White Privilege in a White-majority and White-dominated society.
The most articulate proponent of Camp 6 was a person I will call JG, and he posted a comment so well-argued that I thought it worth archiving in full at Debito.org. I answered it after a few days (again, I had a number of other commitments while on vacation, and didn’t want to just toss something off again), but here it is:
(N.B. There is one more bit at the very end, after JG’s and my exchange, where I essentially capitulate and agree that I overdid it this time. Do read to the bottom if you’re convinced that I never admit I’m wrong.)
Debito: Hi Everyone. At long last, here is my reply to JG essay. I am sorry for taking so long — these things take time to compose, so thank you for your patience. For completeness’ sake, I will quote it in full with my answers after each one of his paragraphs:
JG: Sorry, this smells of white-privilege, dude! You get to be white AND Japanese! You’ve taken this TOO far! […] I mentioned in another sub-thread that your actions smacked of “white-privilege”, but I think that you missed my point, or choose to ignore it, which is a very symptom of said privilege. What I mean by “white-privilege” in this context is that when one speaks about discrimination, one cannot ignore the part that power plays in the situation. In this case, you are in Canada, NOT in Japan, so the context of power changes. In Canada, you are perceived as WHITE, which in North America is the gold-standard (it is also the case in Japan, but that is another discussion). People who are perceived as White have certain advantages that others who are not perceived as White. Please note that I am not talking about ethnicity or culture here, but the socially-constructed notion of RACE that is defined primarily by stereotypical physical attributes and phenotypes interpreted through the lens of the observer. So while you may “feel” that you are Japanese, others will see you as WHITE; and this is especially salient in the North American context where being labeled as WHITE affords you privileges not afforded to others, even though they may be citizens through birth or naturalization.
Debito: I do not dispute either in concept or form the existence of White Privilege. I acknowledge that being White has assisted and does assist me and others who look like me from society to society, and that the treatment of people deemed to be “White” by society provides systemic advantages in societies that are both White-majority and Non-White-majority dominated. And I acknowledge that people will see me as “White” anywhere I go.
Where you and I part company in this paragraph is my wish to be White AND Japanese. I do not believe that they are (or should be) mutually exclusive. Just as Japanese themselves in Apartheid South Africa successfully lobbied to be Japanese AND “Honorary Whites” under the law. And this was not a case of naturalization in the ASA example, either. My being naturalized as a Japanese gives me even more standing to claim that I am Japanese AND White; I’ve earned this qualification through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, time spent in and contributions to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American passport and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes. I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it.
Moreover, I am not willing to have my identity policed by others, unaware of this degree of dedication, into being Japanese BUT White anywhere I go. I am a Japanese, full stop. As are my Japanese children, full stop. As are yours, full stop. Regardless of how our children look, anywhere in the world, they are ALSO Japanese. It is up to us to claim that for ourselves and them, and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere. Otherwise we’d still have people saying in other societies that they were not “real” members of (insert society here). This must stop, as borders nowadays with international migration and immigration are porous like never before. I believe that introducing White Privilege into the mix here distracts and detracts from the main issue, which is: self-identification. I believe that a person has the right to shape and control their own identity, and claim it when necessary without being unduly accused of an abuse of social power.
JG: Now, in consideration of the above, can you see how YOU were the one with the power in this exchange? Sure, the statement that the guy made may have been insensitive or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have not experienced a “white” person who identified himself as part of a group that has been historically “non-white”, especially when identifying as “white” affords so much advantage and social capital. Also, considering that he himself was a visible minority, might take a bit of offense to someone with such obvious social advantage, identifying himself as a part of the Asian community. In other words, “Why is this White guy trying to be like us? Is he trying to appropriate our culture like the other whites in the past took the land, culture, and livelihood during colonization?”
Debito: Yes, now let’s talk about the power relations here in this particular case regardless of self-identification. You made the case that I, as a White person, had the power in this relationship. That could very well be the case, and I won’t deny it as a possible factor. (Not mentioned is that I also had the power in this relationship as an account holder and a customer.) He was no doubt surprised by a person like me having a passport like that (I don’t blame him for that — it’s an understandable reaction). And his reaction was probably innocuous and not ill-intentioned. All agreed so far.
That said, the issue in this situation I believe is the remark he made. If the teller had also been identifiable and self-identified as “White”, I would have reacted the same way to this social othering. It doesn’t matter what the teller’s background is: It’s an inappropriate remark.
Where we part company further is in seeing everything revolving around a person socially-identified as “White” as riddled with White Privilege that is actually being enforced consciously or unconsciously. My existing as a White Japanese possibly (as you argued) being seen as an appropriator of his culture is his baggage. And if he wants a job dealing with people in a customer-client relationship, he must lose that baggage, or at least not act or remark on it — just as anyone “White” who has to deal with any Visible Minority must lose their personal baggage, as part of company policy as a company representative.
Whether or not that baggage can ever be properly “loseable” is something we can debate (I also concur that racialization processes make that impossible to reduce to zero), but I don’t think its existence should be used as an excuse to empower hypocrisy. By that I mean, if I can’t do it to him, he can’t do it to me. And to imply that he can just because I’m apparently White and he’s not is unduly switching the victimization. That goes for anywhere that has any claims (including the Non-White majoritarian societies) to having anti-discrimination rules and practices.
(Further, if legacies of colonization that you brought up were an issue for this gentleman, the Japanese colonized Korea, so Whiteness is quite probably not a factor in this.)
If the very sight of me somehow, as you put it, “offends” him (which I think is unlikely, but that’s how you couched this issue), I don’t think he should be doing this particular job. But anyway, I really don’t think that’s what happening here. I’m sure he’s a fine teller that just let his tongue slip and vocalized the first thing that popped into his head. You can make the case that I overreacted to it (and I’m fine with that interpretation), but to say that I victimized him just because I happened to be White and he didn’t is in my opinion, in this case, a stretch.
JG: Regardless of what was going on in his head (because it is impossible to know), the facts as you have stated yourself, are that despite his initial shock of finding out that you were “Japanese”, he STILL provided you with service and did not challenge your identity in any meaningful or legal way that denied you anything; which is what TRUE discrimination is. As we understand it, you were not refused or denied service, you were not suspected of misrepresentation or of being a criminal, and the authorities were not called. It only seems that your feelings were hurt because this guy could not immediately recognize from your appearance that you were Japanese (or part of the larger imagined Asian community). And your response to this, instead of using this opportunity to educate him of the larger, diverse, growing imagined Asian diaspora to which you seem to be laying claim; and maybe making an ally in the process; you go for the nuclear option and call his boss on him, claiming “racism”!
Debito: Quite so. This is the better case to make that I overreacted, and, again, that interpretation is quite solid. He did not deny me service (although, as my accompanying eyewitness attested, he did interfere with us seeing the manager — but this information came later and you couldn’t have known it; you later still doubted I my second eyewitness was telling the truth, but more on that later).
However, let’s at least admit that he did deny me a comfortable space for doing business as a customer by socially-othering me. People may say that they wouldn’t react in the same way (that’s their prerogative, of course). Maybe that comment wouldn’t even make them personally uncomfortable. But again, I say, how much of this do you tolerate before you say enough?
One of the issues I have had to deal with just about every day no matter where I go in the world is the natural curiosity about my background turned into vocalized judgment. Where are you from? “Japan.” (Or, “Born in the US, but lived in Japan” if I’m feeling chatty.) Common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.” Or, “Interesting last name, where’s it from?” “Japan.” (Or some more elaborate variant.) “But you don’t look Japanese.” Customs official whenever I cross a border (except, amazingly, in Canada or Japan): “What’s with this Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” “But you don’t look Japanese.” And that’s the milder version (at the Jamaican border they actually took my passport to their back room and had a laugh at it), before the Americans in particular render me to Secondary for a few hours’ of wait and inquisition until I miss my flight. I’m serious. Just saying “It’s a long story,” just doesn’t cut it, having to “school” everyone on a daily basis gets tiring, and having to bite my lip through a number of these intrusive and humiliating situations leaves a psychological mark after a while. It causes “triggers”, and that’s what I think was at play with this teller in Canada. That’s why I’m such a big fan of microaggressions as a social diagnosis — I face them every day and know the signals for my situation inside and out.
You might say I got myself into this situation by naturalizing into a country where there are few Non-“Asian”-looking citizens. Fine. But I’m not a unique case. What do you do when it starts happening to your Japanese kids who don’t look so-called “Asian”? How will you react the hundredth time (or the fifth time in a day): “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” And will you stand by when people doubt your kids’ identity as they grow older and start dealing with society’s veto gates? Alienating comments like these between individuals are not something you can do much about. But these alienating attitudes being expressed in a corporate or official capacity should not happen. To anyone.
Further, as I have said before, I was not in the bank that day to school the teller. That’s not my job. Just like it was not my job to correct everyone’s English everywhere, anyplace, when I was an English teacher. My job is to complete the transaction and get on with my day, and I’d like that to happen without having to deal with vocalized prejudice.
JG: Please do not get me wrong, as a permanent resident of Japan for almost 18 years with a Japanese wife and child, as well as considering Japanese citizenship myself, I understand that if this happened in JAPAN, one MIGHT understand the desire to call the boss in. However, this happened in CANADA, NORTH AMERICA! Why would you hold the same standard of being treated as a Japanese to a person who is not Japanese, in a place that is NOT Japan?
Debito: Sorry, we’re not going to agree on this, but I don’t believe this should happen anywhere regardless of whatever humans we’re dealing with, or what “race/ethnicity/group/etc.” is dominant in a society. That includes Japan, Canada, wherever. When it happens to you as a Japanese citizen enough times, you might react differently. I don’t know you and I’m sure, of course, but you don’t know me either, and I wouldn’t be so summarily dismissive of my position (and just put it down to “White Privilege”) when you’re not in it yet.
JG: The most critical point to my argument is this: YOU were the transgressor in this situation, NOT the teller. I am sure that the boss took your complaint seriously, openly scolded the teller, and summarily dismissed him in your presence; but guess what? It wasn’t because you were JAPANESE, it was because you were WHITE! You were in a bank in North America, where white people have social advantage due to physical attributes that are interpreted by the majority as being advantageous, where the system is tilted more to the side of said people, and where visible minorities have historically (and are still) at a disadvantage.
Debito: You might be right that I got preferential treatment because I’m White, I don’t know. But I rather doubt it in this case. Remember, you’ve got the facts of the case wrong (and wouldn’t believe further testimony): 1) the teller was not dismissed in our presence (he was after we left the building the first time), 2) we didn’t ask for the sanctions that he got (in fact, we didn’t ask for any sanctions at all), and 3) we would not have even KNOWN that those sanctions had happened if we hadn’t gone back and talked to the manager (meaning his sanction was not done for our benefit to curry favor with the White privileged). Moreover, 4) if White Privilege was a factor, wasn’t the fact that the manager was a minority himself in a position of power have any bearing here? Might one not be able to make the argument that since both the teller AND the manager were minorities in Canada, that they might have banded together to protect each other against the White Privilege? I don’t know. But I can’t conclude definitively that White Privilege was at play here, and I hope that you won’t simply say, “You can’t conclude because you’re White.” The evidence just isn’t conclusive either way.
JG: I notice that you have fallen in love with the term “microaggression” in your writings and I would like to say that your understanding of the term falls extremely short, and this situation is stark evidence of it! Again, as as WHITE person, no, better yet, a WHITE MALE in North America, who (whether you are aware of it or not) has social capital and power afforded to him by his physicality, you basically bullied a visible minority Korean-Canadian into accepting the way YOU see the world and you possibly endangered his carreer and future job prospects! How can you call yourself a crusader for visible minorities when you used your WHITE-PRIVILEGE to take the livelihood of a person with less power than you over a simple comment?!?
Debito: I think the bank was the one who told the teller how the company sees the world and how he should represent the company, not us. I know, you’ll couch it as the bank trying to appease the Dominant Whites, but I think this would have happened to any teller of any background who said this. Agree to disagree.
Also, I somewhat doubt this teller’s career is in danger, and I base this on a conversation I had with another Canadian manager friend I consulted with two days ago who has experience in these customer-service situations. Although my friend would not have taken the measure of sending the teller home (and he doubts that it involved a day without pay, either), he said that after a reprimand and a promise not to do it again, this would be seen as a teachable moment and forgotten shortly thereafter as long as it didn’t happen again. He strongly doubts that there would be any career endangerment.
Of course, this is all speculation. But so is the speculation about career endangerment, as is the speculation that White Privilege was involved here. We simply don’t have enough data about the event to say definitively what power relations were at play.
JG: And since you tend to use personal anecdotes as “facts” for your arguments, allow me to follow suit: I am a Irish-Scottish-Chickasaw-Chotaw-Jamaican-African American. I am most often identified as “black” by others (although I have been called Indian, Arab, Mexican, or just “foreigner” in my time in the US) mainly due to skin color. When I go back to the US to visit, I shop with my Japanese credit card and sign the card in Japanese because that is the name I use in Japan. I almost ALWAYS get looks when I do this, just as I do here in Japan. Both here and in other countries I sometimes even get, “Are you SURE this is your signature?” and I simply reply with a matter-of-fact, “Yes” or “Sou desu”, for whichever the situation calls. I do not call for a manager and complain as it is not necessary. I know that you are more Japanese than I am, but from my understanding, the prevailing culturally appropriate attitude for most Japanese is to avoid conflict when at all possible.
Debito: Okay. That’s how you deal with it; I respect that. Not necessarily how I would always deal with it. Perhaps you think we have different coping strategies because you are seen as “black” and I am seen as “white”. Perfectly feasible. But saying that I can’t react a certain way because I’m seen as “white” is a bit disempowering when facing discrimination. I’d rather deal with discrimination using ways granted to us as human beings within a society by the law, regardless of my (or anyone’s) skin color.
JG: Now imagine that I, as a “black” person, reacted the way YOU did at the bank in Canada. Do you honestly believe that I would be treated with the same respect? Well, in Canada, maybe. But in the US, it could very well turn into a story on the evening news! Let me give YOU a teaching point that you failed to give the Canadian teller: Visible minorities go through this ALL THE TIME! When a black person experiences and awkward moment or a “mistake” happens, we always have to question whether it was just an innocent misstep or was there actual discrimination going on. Where the PRIVILEGE comes in is that you, as a WHITE MALE, you have the freedom to question and complain, while a black person risks being called “ghetto”, “uncivilized”, or “an angry black man”! Your white-privilege shelters you from this reality. I am not blaming you for it, but as a so-called social activist you should be aware of it!
Debito: I see your point very well. I am aware that Visible Minorities have had (and still have) it pretty rough in various societies, and that Whites have had it pretty damned good for centuries. I would hope that if a person identified as Visible Minority in any society had this happen to her/him, that they too would stand up for themselves as I did, regardless of the social opprobrium and unfair facile labeling that frequently befalls them. That they have done so bravely for so long is inspiring and instructional, not to mention progressive. But clearly the “White Privilege” really hasn’t shielded me this time, in this discussion. Nor has it shielded me over the years, as people have seen me as the “outraged man tilting at windmills” etc., and assumed that just about everything I do is something I do with anger and out of anger etc. (See examples of criticism at http://www.debito.org/?p=12274, and proof of my style of activism at http://www.debito.org/?p=13365). Anyway, your point about having to question whether it was an innocent misstep or actual discrimination going on is well taken.
JG: It is natural for people culturally, socially, and economically “double-dip” if it is advantageous and if they can get away with it, but PLEASE do not insult the intelligence of the people here by telling us that you are “doing it for the greater good” and “doing it for us”!
Debito: Did I tell you that? Are you quoting me? I’ll answer that: No. I did not say that. Please do not cite things I did not say as some kind of evidence.
JG: I know by telling you all of this, I run the risk of being blocked and unfriended, as you have demonstrated by doing it to others who disagree with you. This is why I find your earlier comment about how society and the law agrees with you very ironic, since you quite liberally exercise your power to divorce yourself from dissenters. However, I hope you choose not to, as I hope that we can learn more from one another though this exchange.
Debito: No, you did not run the risk of being blocked for telling me all this (in fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a very thoughtful, well-crafted, earnest essay; thanks for it). What I do block people for is for being abusive. You were not abusive here. You were abusive later, which is why I eventually blocked you, long after you refused my request for retracting the angry comments you made later:
(For the record, what I requested of JG: “I would like you to retract the statements you make above basically accusing me of lying about having another eyewitness to this issue, not to mention bad faith and profiteering. These: “Even if your “eyewitness’s” account of what happened is accurate”,” “dodge the issues by posting a mysterious anonymous eyewitness account and advertising your book”. “conveniently-timed “anonymous” eyewitness who refuses to be identified because you have “stalkers”” (I do have stalkers, JG). All of those statements are grounded in anger, not reason. If you cannot retract them, I cannot engage in discussion with you, as you seem unable to fundamentally trust me. Usually when somebody becomes this abusive towards me, I block and unfriend them. But your essay on White Privilege was earnest and thoroughly-argued enough to warrant a response, so I didn’t unfriend you. But after this subsequent unfair indictment of my character, motives, and my friend’s testimony, I do not feel as inclined to discuss until these are retracted. I want a civil discussion. These accusations are not civil. So please retract, or end of discussion with me.”)
If someone wants to forward this response to JG, go ahead. But I don’t think there is any room for discussion between him and me as individuals. As to the points he raises, I hope my attempt to answer them to all of you in a calm, reasoned manner will be seen as earnest and well-intentioned on my part. I apologize in advance for any blind spots I may have due to my personal background being raised and living in several racialized societies, but I hope that, as JG said, we can all learn from one another through this exchange. I know I feel I have. Thank you for reading and discussing.Debito
Final thoughts from Debito:
One of the reasons I like having discussions like these, even those that sometimes bruise the Ego, is that they make me think and self-reflect, even help me lose some bad habits. The best comment came from a person whose tone of criticism proved his very point. From SMC:
SMC: You presuppose a lack of empathy on the teller’s part. But an awkward, inappropriate remark is not the same thing as a lack of empathy. I wasn’t there, so I cannot say anything about the tone, volume, etc., of the teller’s remark that might give me a better idea of the nature of the exchange between you and him.
But it would appear that you chose to respond to a perceived (and probably unconscious) lack of empathy by being consciously non-empathetic, and dealt with the situation in a legalistic, self-validating way.
The Buddhists have an interesting concept called “skillful means”; in other words, having the wisdom to know how to adjust one’s tactics to make one’s point in the most effective way possible.
In a legal/juridical context the kind of approach you took would be appropriate, but in this case it appears that you missed the chance to help educate and enlighten a fellow human being with a few well-chosen words. You’ll probably do better next time, friend.
Hi Blog. I’ve been doing Debito.org for decades now, and one thing that I admit I find annoying is how people talk shite about me. I don’t mind if people disagree with me — as I note below, it’s the nature of the beast when dealing with issues this contentious. But what really rankles is how some types will criticize me for things I didn’t say and didn’t do. Even when there’s ample record out there (decades of archives and thousands of articles on Debito.org and elsewhere) for people to properly cite and research, some people still cling to preconceptions and prejudices they formed either long ago, or based upon information they got second- or third-hand from other people of their ilk also talking shite. And since there are lots of them and one of me, I largely have to remain silent towards these criticisms or else I’d have no time to get anything done.
But I had an exchange some time ago when someone shared my blog entry on the Ten-Take tempura restaurant’s “JAPANESE ONLY” sign in Asakusa, Tokyo on a social networking site. As you will see below, the critic is clearly someone who is articulate and should, based upon his education, be able to research better. He voiced his criticisms in much the same way the garden-variety trolls do, but with a degree of persuasiveness that I thought deserved an answer.
Let this exchange be a stock answer to all the people who think I’m making matters worse through my actions to fight racism and discrimination in Japan. Naturally, I’m gonna disagree, and here’s why. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
This is how the conversation began, being the first response to the shared post:
April 6, 2014: [Name changed, rendered as Billy] writes:
The problem I always have with David Aldwinkle [sic] comes in his suggestion at the end. Asking people to start harassing the restaurant owner with phone calls? Way to reinforce the 迷惑 stereotype of foreigners that this restaurant owner already has. Aldwinkle often seems to want to head up some kind of gaijin mafia hit squad that goes around naming, shaming, hounding, and publicly humiliating anyone suspected of mistreating foreigners in Japan. It’s ugly mob tactics, and it makes him look just as ugly, if not uglier, than the people with the “Japanese Only” signs. In many cases, Aldwinkle’s attitude and tactics earn some sympathy for those signs.
Aldwinkle’s crude approach especially comes to light in the fifth comment on that blog post. Someone suggests a sensible, conciliatory approach with the restaurant owner, offering to translate menus for him and to resolve other problems. Aldwinkle won’t let this comment go up on his blog without attaching to it a snarky, bolded response that aims to humiliate the comment’s author. Maybe Aldwinkle would be proven right in the end that this restaurant owner wouldn’t budge, but Aldwinkle isn’t particularly interested in finding out. His first pass in these situations is to accuse and attack, immediately putting anyone in his path on the defensive. He tosses hand grenades in situations where gentle words might have more effect.
Arudou Debito…the guy who took Japanese citizenship so that he could try to force Japanese people to behave more like Americans.
April 6, 2014 (in response to some comments): Billy writes:
In my experience, people don’t attack Debito-san for “their own reasons” so much as they criticize him because he is a highly abrasive person who burns bridges and seeks to cause offense. Debito-san always turns these criticisms into attacks against him, and then proceeds to alienate his critics even further. Whatever good points he sometimes has are often lost to his heavy-handed language used to bully people into his viewpoint. This is a guy who publicly stated to a room full of people that he got Japanese citizenship so he could rub it in their (Japanese people’s) noses.
Bully really is the best word to describe him. That, and hot-head. He takes offense at everything, and he tears into anyone who offends him. I’ve seen him in action. He lived for years in my wife’s hometown. If Debito called a restaurant about a sign, I’m fairly certain he launched immediately into angry, confrontational accusations. If a Japanese restaurant owner feels that he can’t deal with foreigners, encouraging a lot of foreigners to call is only going to engender bitterness.
But Debito doesn’t seem to care about how people feel. He doesn’t want to win over hearts and minds. His own abrasive demeanor can’t do this, and so he’s concluded that it’s impossible for anyone to succeed in Japan by being kind. When I’ve spoken to him before, his version of winning seems much more oriented toward orchestrating a public shaming against someone, after which Debito engages in some crowing about how his stance is morally superior to anyone else’s. Threatening and forcing people into submission is much more his style. From my limited interactions with him, I’ve had to conclude that he’s simply not a nice human being, nor a happy person. Even when he does have a legitimate complaint, his approach typically only reinforces whatever negative stereotypes he’s complaining about.
April 6, 2014 (in response to more comments): Billy writes:
That sentiment that society needs to change is, in itself, not a particularly Japanese one. Society is changing nonetheless, but Japan has spent much of its history trying either to avoid change or to carefully manage it within strict (Japanese) boundaries.
We can think Japan needs to change, but short of a massive influx of foreigners into Japan who gain citizenship and through raw numbers effect rapid change, the pace of change is going to be controlled by Japanese people more than by anyone else. Any approach that doesn’t involve changes happening from within the belly of Japanese society might win a few superficial battles (a court settlement against an onsen, for example), but it’s not going to bring about any real change.
In the case of this restaurant sign, I can think of three approaches that might possibly work:
The first is polite confrontation that involves questions instead of accusations and offers to help (menu translations, etc.) It’s hard to say with certainty the odds of this working, but it sometimes does.
The second is simply to walk into the restaurant, sit down and order, and if challenged, reply in Japanese, “Your sign said no one under five years old. I’m over five, so is there a problem?” Focusing on what the Japanese says and pretending the English isn’t even there forces the owner to initiate the confrontation, which many Japanese people won’t do. It may not get the sign taken down, but enough instances of this will render it meaningless in the owner’s mind.
The third way, and probably the most effective in Japan, is to subtly draw attention to the sign and the restaurant to Japanese friends and allies. Make a lot of friends, and make those friendships the sort where those Japanese people will be aghast that you might be barred from an establishment. Many of those Japanese friends might, as Japanese people tend, opt to avoid any conflict, but many will talk. They’ll express in passing how awful a sign like that is to other Japanese people, and then those people will steadily begin to take note of such signs and find them odious, too. It’s a long-game approach. It won’t get the sign taken down today. But it’s probably the best chance at actually changing anything in Japan.
I quite vividly remember eating a very good sushi meal in Abashiri one spring a number of years back with some friends after the owners tried to keep us out. In that case, there wasn’t a sign, but we were told that we wouldn’t be served as soon as we walked in the door. After asking just a couple questions trying to clarify the restaurant’s policy (within earshot of a dozen or so customers at various tables who were in various stages of eating), we were quickly seated. The owners saw their Japanese customers starting to look uncomfortable at our being turned away, which we drew attention to with our questions, and that unspoken pressure from the other customers was enough to resolve the situation favorably. We got good sushi. They got some friendly, polite customers who spent a fair amount of money, and the service grew less awkward and reluctant as our meal progressed.
But Debito? He probably would have opted for a press conference in front of the place rather than eat a meal there, which would have benefited no one.
April 7, 2014: [Another poster Curtis; name changed] writes:
When [my wife] and I first took over [our workplace], the first teacher we hired was initially denied the apartment we had found for her for being foreign. I contact Debito and his advice and support were very practical and measured. Thanks to his help we ended up getting the teacher into the apartment. I think he has become somewhat more forceful recently–probably out of understandable frustration and in response to attacks that are very often unreasonable and apologist in nature–but the stereotype I hear of him doesn’t match the Debito I’ve encountered in real life. From what I’ve seen in person, I think he would handle an encounter with the restaurant owner in a measured and reasonable fashion.
April 7, 2014: Arudou Debito writes:
Thank you, [Curtis]. And that’s exactly what I did, in a measured and reasonable manner. I called Ten-take, simply asked if they had a Japanese Only rule in place (they do), and asked why — as I always do. They gave me the three reasons why as I reported them on my website (they wouldn’t have given them if all I did was accused them). When I asked if he thought all foreigners would behave in the manner he gave as reasons, he said that he just couldn’t handle them (tai’ou shi kirenai) due to a language barrier. When I asked him if this was not in some way discriminatory (kore wa sabetsu de wa nai deshou ka), he hung up on me.
You might ask the other person who was in the room with me when I made this call, but there was no confrontationalism, no shouting, no raising of voices on either side, no taking offense at “everything” — in fact, nothing of what [Billy] is accusing me of without any evidence whatsoever (which is quite unbecoming of a PhD-level researcher and former educator of his stature over at [XXXX]).
Frankly, I don’t think he’s ever seen me in action. If he would do some research over at the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments and read up on some case studies I have recorded there as my doctoral fieldwork, he would see that I have at various junctures taken every one of the steps that he suggests above. Further, if he would read my book JAPANESE ONLY, he might see that we spent more than fifteen months trying to win over hearts and minds during the Otaru Onsens Case before we finally resorted to going to court and holding those inevitable press conferences.
Moreover, I don’t recall ever having the pleasure of ever meeting or talking with [Billy]. And I certainly don’t recall ever saying to any room that I took Japanese citizenship so I could rub it in their noses (the narrative for my naturalization I have always used has been the same as I have said here: http://www.debito.org/japantodaycolumns1-3.html); anyone who has read my essays or seen my speeches online or live knows that sort of language is just not in my vocabulary. Given the length and degree of confrontationalism within this very exchange, I think [Billy] is the one with the anger issues.
April 7, 2014: [Curtis]: I also want to stick up for [Billy]. While I disagree with the Debito comments and believe they would be hurtful, he is also usually very measured in his responses and I have difficulty imagining him having issues with anger management.
April 7, 2014: Billy: You never know, [Curtis]. I might be seething deep down inside.
But I am glad, Debito, that you joined this thread. I’d much rather have a discussion of your tactics with you here.
No, I wasn’t present for the phone call to this restaurant. But your description doesn’t do much to alleviate my concerns. I don’t know what the tone was on your initial questions or how the conversation started, but where it ended strikes me as highly confrontational. Accusing someone of racism in any language or culture is probably going to cause them to clam up, circle the wagons, or just walk away.
Yes, the sign is plainly discriminatory. But I question how likely an accusation of discrimination is to resolve the situation. My experience is that the language you use in that conversation, “差別,” is inflammatory, not likely to resolve the situation, and potentially likely to make it worse. At the very best, it will force a superficial change in the behavior (the sign comes down), while leaving a sour impression among those involved. Externally pressuring people to keep their racist tendencies hidden under the surface maybe gets a person into an establishment today, but does it ultimately make the culture or the individuals involved better?
And in Japan, word about such things gets around, and being on the right side of sympathy helps a lot. I’ve had about half a dozen conversations with various Japanese people over the years, some whom I’ve known very well and regarded as good friends–people who are not at all sympathetic to racism–about you and your tactics, Debito. They’ve brought up the topic of you, often knowing I’d lived in Hokkaido and wondering if I knew you or knew of you. What I’ve heard said in some form or another in every conversation is that, while you identify many real problems, your approach decidedly does not fit with Japanese culture, and it probably earns the people putting up those signs more sympathy than they’d otherwise get. That’s the public image that you often project, Debito. Maybe you’re O.K. with that; maybe you disagree that it’s how many Japanese people think about you. But I’ve heard it from enough people that I’m not making off-the-cuff remarks here.
Finally, yes, Debito, you are unlikely to recall, but we have crossed paths on a few occasions. The one at which you made the rather indelicate comment about why you opted for Japanese citizenship was at a JET recontracting conference in Kobe about 14 years ago. I asked a question or two to you during your session and talked briefly with you afterward. Your comment was made in response to someone else asking you why bother with Japanese citizenship if you are so critical of so much in Japan. You gave two three reasons, as I recall, the first two being that it made sense since you owned a home and were invested here that you have the commensurate status and political rights and that some day it might allow you to run for political office if the opportunity presented itself. But then you said that the other reason is to–whether your exact phrasing at the time was to rub or to hold, my memory is fuzzy, but “noses” was definitely a part of it–wave that passport under their noses when they tried to exclude you as non-Japanese. The statement drew quite a reaction from the people sitting around me–it struck all of us as a very crude reason to get citizenship, one in which the goal was less to become part of this other culture and nation and more to gain political standing (power) in this nation in order to force people to bend to your sensibilities.
And, of course, there you are, pictured in your rogue’s gallery, passport in hand, putting pressure on managers to give you entrance. Should they open their doors to all customers? Yes. But I’m not particularly clear how trying to impose on these Japanese people Western ideas of nation-state citizenship when their idea of “Japanese” is cultural and ethnic is really going to solve the problem. In some cases, you’ve definitely gotten policies reversed. You’ve definitely drawn attention to the problem. But is it really progress when a lot of this has to be accomplished by force through courts, human rights offices, and tourist bureaus? I remain skeptical.
April 7, 2014: Arudou Debito: Thank you for your response, [Billy]. I can see better where you’re coming from now.
1) First, about the discrimination. I’m glad that we can agree that the sign is discriminatory. What you’re objecting to is me and my alleged tactics. So let’s focus on that.
2) When it comes to me, I can only see that you’re basing your information on what I do and have done on the embers of a memory, i.e., a speech I gave for the Hokkaido Association of Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (HAJET) and AJET, on “Survival Strategies, and How You Can Make a Difference in Japan” (Hakodate February 27 and Kobe May 29, 1999, respectively — before I had even “bothered with” Japanese citizenship or gone to the Otaru Onsens). You can read my write-ups for the occasion (which serve better than your memory — since I will again categorically deny that I said anything like what you claim) at http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#survivalstrategies.
3) Despite this, and despite testimonials from others who said that I do not behave as you claim, and despite the fact that I have recorded doctoral-quality fieldwork up at the Rogues’ Gallery (again, if I went in there only making accusations, I would not have engendered such detailed information about why the excluders were excluding), you still cling to this self-admittedly “fuzzy” memory as proof of my malicious character (viz. “not a nice human being”). Then you wonder why “Debito always turns these criticisms into attacks against him.” Because instead of dealing with the issue of the discriminatory sign, the first sentence you open up with in this exchange is a volley against me: “The problem I always have with David Aldwinkle [sic]…” QED.
4) Understandably, much of this invective is the nature of the beast, as we are dealing with contentious issues (racism, which many people deny even EXISTS in Japan), and so doing anything that goes against the status quo (especially in Japan) will cause controversy. Doubly so for somebody trying to get an exclusionary sign down. Trying to get sympathy for that is pretty challenging when we don’t have empathy to begin with — most people who ever see that sign are not being targeted by it, and even if they feel it’s wrong, many conflict-avoiding habits would encourage them to simply ignore it and take their business elsewhere. But as the Rogues’ Gallery demonstrates, that simply encourages copycatting elsewhere, nationwide; the sign must come down, for it legitimizes and normalizes overt exclusionary behavior.
But again, let’s recognize this field of racism for what it is — a minefield — and understand that nobody is going to agree on one solution for how to deal with it. I have basically tried everything (including all the tactics you have suggested), with varying degrees of success. In some circumstances, it MUST be accomplished through courts, human rights offices, and tourist bureaus. Why else do you think these means of mediation exist? Because every society has bigots who simply will never change their minds and treat people without their own racialized baggage. Short of a law to criminalize discriminatory behavior, that is how anyone can (and sometimes must) seek recourse in Japan.
5) Now, usually I don’t bother with this type of bullyragging from people like you who play the man instead of the ball, but I see you have a Ph.D. (in English), and should be able to engage in better research. So I steered you towards some information sources to research. However, all you cite within them is a photograph of me “passport in hand” (for the record, it was taken after I had been refused entry, so forgive me for looking a bit indignant), without citing anything from the sources that would weaken your case (such as the many hours I spent with many of these discriminators calmly trying to convince them to repeal their rules). You thus steadfastly maintain your standpoint by collecting only the information that supports it. This is called confirmation bias, and as such goes against your doctoral training.
6) Finally, if you want to use the old “Japanese culture” meme to level criticism at me, then we’ll have to agree to disagree there (not the least because of the difficulty in defining “culture”). Since you cited some anonymous people who disagree with my alleged methods as some sort of cultural representatives, well, I’ll cite back all the Japanese people who have told me they’re very glad I’m doing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it — partially because they never could (they themselves say they don’t have the mettle), and partially because they’re not in my position as a Caucasian Japanese, fighting for my children’s future of equal treatment here. You don’t agree with that, fine. But don’t serve this soft science to further ground unfounded accusations about my tactics and character.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: I can’t help but think that what’s really bugging you is that you’re seeing a White guy doing all this (you even started out this conversation refusing to use my real name, let alone research it sufficiently to spell it correctly). If a native Japanese speaker went in and said, “Sabetsu de wa nai deshou ka?” (which I have heard said by native speakers on these occasions many times; it is a question, not an accusation), I bet you wouldn’t dare accuse him or her of defying Japanese culture or of imposing Western values. Because he’s not Western, in your eyes. Ooh, that sounds a bit racist on your part.
Now, how does that feel? Rather presumptuous, no?
But I have no evidence (short of that interaction you said we had long ago, and we are having now) to impugn your character like that. [Curtis] (a man I have great respect for) vouches for your anger-free character (as I hope he would, since he hired you). So I won’t make a claim that you are being racist. But the evidence is certainly present in this exchange that your spurious judgments about me as a person have overpowered your research training. I can only conclude that if it is not prejudicial in nature towards people like me fighting racial discrimination in my country, then it is based upon a latent anger on your part being facilitated by the Internet that needs pacifying with evidence and reason.
Let’s hope that this exchange ultimately brings your training as an educator and researcher out of you. If not, thanks for the debate, and let’s get back on with our lives.
From “Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan”, by Jeff Kingston, Japan Times, May 16, 2015
JT: “[Government officials] have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” [US-based journalist Ayako Doi] says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.
Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”
“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.” […]
Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.
“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”
Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”
I’m not sure you have a leg to stand on here, Greg. After all, isn’t discriminating against you a right for Japanese people?
I’ll let Debito.org Reader JDG conclude this blog entry:
JDG:Please spare a moment’s thought for the plight of Gregory Clark. Even though this has happened to him (and seriously, see how low an opinion of him is held in the article ‘Our Other Man in Japan’), I have to say that such intimidation and discrimination, EVEN against Gregory Clark, is deplorable (in fact, when you or I are discriminated, we get the whole apologist slapdown. When it happens to Clark, suddenly it’s ‘The Forces of Darkness’! I mean what is this? Lord of the Rings?). I just wish that he’d used all his years of access to policy makers to work to improve the lot of NJ in Japan, rather than for his own personal gain, and IMHO, vain pride and sense of self-entitlement.
Anyhow, starting with that time he got annoyed with the police because they didn’t care who he was, and therefore didn’t arrest some black guys for him, he seems to have just gone downhill. What’s next? Black vans outside his house, and bullets from the uyoku in the post?
Since I read in previous articles about Gregory that he was loaded and flush with cash from property deals and public speaking, I won’t be asking Debito.org readers to donate any money to get Gregory off the street, nor will I be asking any of you to ‘adopt an Australian’ for $5 a month (or anything like that).
Dear Greg, If you’re reading this, you always have a home here with us (maybe. I dunno, after all, it’s Dr. Debito’s page, and you’ve been kind of critical of him in the past. Just sayin’.). What I mean is, now that you’ve seen Japan ‘through the looking glass’ as it were, had your bubble burst, and have experienced the kind of discrimination that you always said didn’t exist for NJ in Japan, anytime you want to pitch in and lend a weighty hand in this struggle for human rights, we (well, I guess ‘I’, after all, I can’t speak for the others) would welcome you, and your past sins would be forgiven, as it were (again, that’s an ‘I’ statement).
Yours sincerely, JDG (the kind of NJ you wouldn’t have given the time of day to).
Hi Blog. Here’s something very interesting I found while researching other things, and the first step I’m taking to start grounding my research in a Hawaiian context. An old essay in a plantation-era manual on “sharing prosperity” amongst the capitalists in the islands, talking about Japanese newcomers and second-generationers. Written more than 100 years ago, it offers perspectives long before their time, and also attitudes more inclusive than I would anticipate. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Here are the pages scanned (click on image to expand in browser), with full text retyped below them:
JAPANESE CHILDREN ARE NO MENACE IN HAWAII AMERICAN-HAWAII, PEOPLE AND INDUSTRIES (By Wallace K. Farrington) From “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers”, by Royal D. Mead, 1912
One of the favorite fads of the alarmists is to point with fear and trembling to the large number of Japanese children who are supposed to be growing up in the Territory of Hawaii, and who are expected, by the alarmists, to control the electorate at some future day.
Japanese born in the Territory may of course elect to accept American citizenship and vote. Theoretically they might overwhelm the population other than Japanese-American. But it is to be supposed that people of other races and nationalities will not cease to grow and increase.
The facts are that there is a steady exodus of Japanese children born in these islands to the homes of Japanese parents in Japan. In other words a very large proportion of the Japanese send their children back to Japan as soon as they are old enough to travel.
This is proved by the statistics. For the seven years from 1905 to 1911 inclusive the departures of Japanese children for Japan from the port of Honolulu exceeded the arrivals by 6,734. In other words excess of Japanese children born in the islands and sent back to the home of their parents in Japan amounted to about one thousand a year for seven years. This exodus is going on continually.
It is true that the parents of many of these children previous to their being sent away take out certificates of birth showing that they were born in Hawaii.
The records of the office of the Secretary of the Territory gives the fol-lowing totals of certificates of Hawaiian birth, which it should be understood is merely a record of American birth, for the years under comparison:
HAWAIIAN BIRTH CERTIFICATES ISSUED TO JAPANESE.
Year Males Females Total [if difficult to understand, click on pages above to see original charts]
1906 60 6
1907 16 0 16
1908 353 42 395
1909 715 68 783
1910 2611 325 2936
1911 7 8 15
3708 443 4151
Year Males Females Total
1910 7 6 13
17 11 28
It thus appears that less than two-thirds of the excess of Hawaiian-born Japanese who were sent back to the homes of their parents took out certificates to establish the fact that they were born on American territory.
The purpose of securing these certificates is undoubtedly to assure these children the right of free entry to the United States should at any future time rules be laid down by Japan or the United States to restrict the movement of the Japanese laboring classes between the two countries.
The Hawaiian-born Japanese as shown by the records of the Japanese consulate in Honolulu for the years 1905 and 1911 inclusive a period of seven years, amounted to a total of 18, 775 divided as follows:
Year ….. 1905 1906 1907
Male ….. 1167 988 1134
Female … 1070 933 1045
Total ….. 2237 1921 2179
1908 1909 1910 1911 Grand Total
1505 1578 1668 1608 9, 648
1365 1428 1832 1454 9, 127
2870 2006 3500 3062 18, 775
Taking into consideration the death rate for this period, it would be safe to say that during the seven years, inclusive, a surplus of ten thousand Japanese children male and female remained in the Territory of Hawaii to become citizens of the United States.
If none other than Japanese children were born in Hawaii from year to year the alarmists might have some ground for their fear. The Portuguese-American and the Hawaiian-Americans are more prolific than the Japanese, and there is also the Chi-nese-American and the Caucasian races to be taken into account. It should also be borne in mind that there is a steadily increased influx of Americans from the mainland.
To claim or expect that these Japanese children will control the electorate in the sense of voting as a unit is preposterous.
It should be remembered that these children are attending the American schools. They are instructed in the English language. They are in their play and in the work associated with the American children of all classes and thus are growing up in an American atmosphere.
On this point we quote from an article by Prof. M. M. Scott, principal of the McKinley High school and a foremost educator of Hawaii for many years. This article was published in a previous issue of the Bulletin “People and Places of Hawaii. ” In this Mr. Scott says:
“To show more clearly the voting population in the near future, it may not be amiss to give the statistics of the school population for the year taken from the report of the superintendent of Public Instruction: nationalities: Hawaiian,4767; half-castes, 3691; American, 999; British, 189; German, 265; Portuguese, 4777; Scandinavian, 67; Japanese, 6095; Chinese, 2797; Porto Ricans, 447; Korean, 168; unclassified, 594.
“It will be seen from this table that nearly 9000 of the approximate 25, 000 children in all the schools, both public and private are Orientals, i. e., Japanese and Chinese. There are no compiled figures ready at hand to show the number of these two nationalities born here. Most of the Japanese native to the territory are of very recent birth, as it is for the last few years only that the Japanese brought their women folk here. They are a Virile and fecund race. Though most of the Japanese in Hawaii are young and vigorous men in the prime of manhood, either unmarried or have left their wives in Japan, yet last year were born 3024 Japanese children in this territory.
“There are some that are concerned lest these children, growing up here will not assimilate to American ideals. They have too intense a patriotism for their own country, it is said. Such criticism ignores a well established truth that those who have no love for their native land or race, will not become patriotic adopted citizens. The Japanese have ever been a loyal people. Under feudalism, they were almost fantastically loyal to their feudal lord. Feudalism being abolished, their loyalty was with equal zeal transferred to the Emperor—to Japan as a whole. Ambassador Uchida recently touching Honolulu on his way to Washington, advised the Japanese boys born here, and intending to live here, to become patriotic American citizens.
“The American public school is the great assimilating crucible, which transfuses and blends the various nationalities. How could it be otherwise? One language, one literature, one playground, the same songs, manners and customs—coupled with mild and just laws, giving equal opportunities to all, irrespective of race.
“Nor is this mere theory. There have been born in Hawaii both Chinese and Japanese, educated here to man’s and woman’s estate, and, going back to their own country, have found themselves entirely at variance and out of sympathy with things there. Provision is made in Hawaii for the sound education of all its youth of all nationalities, in a public school system not surpassed in any state or territory of the mainland. Education is free and compulsory. A school is kept open for forty-two weeks in the year in the remotest country districts. It would he an anomaly to find an adult Hawaiian who can not read and write, most of them in both English and Hawaiian. This laudable foresight in providing means for the training of the young originated with the early missionaries, whose descendants, many of whom are now men and women of wealth and social influence, are leaders in all the activities that make for the betterment of the rising generation of all our races. Interest in education is not confined to any one class. Planters, business men, lawyers, doctors—all urge upon every legislature the importance of generous provisions for the education of the youth of the land. ”
There is nothing in evidence thus far to show that the Japanese-American citizen will not make as loyal and trustworthy an American as the other races and nationalities that have been absorbed by the American body politic and are now numbered among the Americans who set the highest standards of citizenship.
Of course Hawaii is doing something new in this connection. But the first fruits of the Chinese-American gives every promised that the American influence in Hawaii over the Oriental of the Far East will be as bene-flcient and will develop as certainly a good and loyal American as the Americanism of the Eastern and Middle States in its influence on the Oriental of the Asia Minor, Russia and the population of what is in general terms the Near East.
No American need worry over the future of Hawaii’s Americanism if the present immigration policy, agreeable to both Japan and the United States, is followed out. That is, to allow Hawaii to assimilate what Oriental population it already has, and at the same time balance the proportions by allowing, for a time a larger immigration of toilers from Europe.
Hi Blog. Here’s something for the Shoe on the Other Foot Dept.: A “No Japanese Passengers” taxi in Thailand, refusing to take all “Japanese” passengers. There’s even a sign (courtesy of Khaosod English):
What’s important is how swift and decisive the challenge from society is, and whether it is effective. In the Thai taxi case below, according to media, the taxi driver (rightly) lost his license to do business at the airport, and quite a furore happened both online and in print media denouncing this act as wrong-headed, even racist. Good. A similar furore also happened when a hotel in India had “Japanese Only” rules (the Indian authorities did not brook this kind of discrimination either).
Of course, some hay has been made about this Thai taxi on Japanese social media, with rightly-deserved (but unironic) condemnations of the “discrimination” against Japanese overseas.
One last point: Koki Aki, the Japanese gentleman who set this issue in motion by complaining online after being ripped off by a Thai cabbie (prompting the cabbie to exclude), subsequently defended himself against trolls who said he must not like Thailand: “I criticize Thailand, but I don’t hate Thailand.” Well put. Now, if only other debaters in Japan’s debate arenas would be so cognizant. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
BANGKOK — A taxi association at Bangkok’s international airport has condemned a cabbie who is reportedly refusing to take Japanese passengers, one day after a Japanese man made headlines with his rant against a driver who refused to turn on his meter at the airport.
A photo widely shared on social media this morning shows a sign posted on a taxi window in English, Japanese, and Thai. The Thai text reads: “No picking up of Japanese passengers.”
The notice ends with the text, “From: Association of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s Taxi Drivers.”
The photo surfaced a day after airport authorities fined a taxi driver 1,000 baht and banned him from picking up passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport for trying to overcharge a Japanese man. The punishment was carried out after the Japanese man’s harsh rebuke of the cab driver, who reportedly demanded a flat-rate of 700 baht for a ride to Bangkok’s Saphan Kwai district, went viral on social media.
However, Sadit Jaitiang, director of Association of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s Taxi Drivers, told Khaosod in a phone interview that he had nothing to do with the notice, and only found out about the sign from social media today.
“I have not seen the sign with my own eyes, but I have seen photos of it. Let me stress that the Association is not related to such notice in any way,” Sadit said. “Taxi drivers cannot be picky. We cannot choose to take or refuse passengers of certain nationalities. If we do that, we won’t have any money. We have to take care of our families.”
Sadit said he is looking into who is responsible for sign, and will hold that person accountable if he or she is a member of the airport taxi association.
“As the director of the Association, I condemn this action. The Association wholeheartedly disagrees with it. We are working to find out which driver put up the sign. If we discover that one of our members indeed put up the sign, that person will be held responsible,” Sadit said.
Hundreds of Thai internet users have vented anger at the “No Japanese” sign, with some accusing the taxi driver of racism, discrimination, and refusing to obey the regulation. Others have jokingly commented that the driver should stop using a Japanese car.
BANGKOK — A taxi driver has been suspended from picking up passengers at Bangkok’s international airport after a Japanese tourist’s complaint about the driver’s refusal to use a meter went viral on social media.
Koki Aki posted on Facebook, in Japanese and Thai, on Sunday that the cab driver assigned to him at Suvarnabhumi Airport refused to use a meter and demanded a flat-rate of 700 baht for a ride to Saphan Kwai district in Bangkok.
Aware that a usual fare for the trip would not cost more than 350 baht, Koki reportedly asked the driver to use the meter, but the driver refused. Koki said he complained to the staff managing the airport’s taxi kiosk system, but was told that it was normal for passengers to negotiate fares with drivers for a long distance trip.
Airport staff say they instructed Aki to file a formal complaint, but that he declined to do so. However, Aki wrote in his Facebook post that it was he who requested to file a complaint, only to be ignored by the staff who “acted like they don’t care about my concern and don’t want to do their job.”
“This is the international airport of Thailand, and this is the place to take cabs from the airport, but there are even scams here,” Aki wrote. “They don’t care about the passengers at all. What can we foreigners do?”
Aki’s complaint came at a time when many Bangkokians have been airing grievances about taxi drivers who refuse to pick up them up in downtown Bangkok, preferring to take tourists who can be duped into paying extortionate fares. Tapping into this grief, Aki’s Facebook status soon went viral on Thai social media accounts, garnering more than 15,500 “shares.”
Prapon Pattamakijsakul, the director of Suvarnabhumi Airport, said he has already launched an investigation into the incident and punished the taxi driver who tried to overcharge the Japanese tourist.
According to Prapon, the driver, Chaiyan Charoensopha, has been stripped of his license to pick up passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s taxi queue, in accordance with the airport’s regulation and penalty codes.
“Taxi drivers must always use their meters in their service,” Prapon said, adding that passengers who encounter any problems should keep the tickets issued by the taxi kiosks as evidence for filing complaints to officials. Complaints can be filed by calling 02-132-9199 at any time of day, he said.
Prapon also told reporters that there are 35 complaints about taxis at Suvarnabhumi Airport on average per month, which amounts to 0.01 per cent of all rides.
“Nevertheless, if the airport authorities investigate these complaints and discover that the drivers are guilty, we punish every one of them strictly without any exception,” Prapon said. “Therefore, the airport would like to ask everyone to file a complaint if they ever see a taxi driver behaving inappropriately, such as refusing to use meters, being rude, or refusing to take passengers.”
Teerapong Rodprasert, director of the Department of Land Transport, said Chaiyan, the taxi driver, confessed to the allegation and was fined 1,000 baht for violating the department’s taxi regulation.
“We didn’t suspend his driving license because he committed the offence for the first time,” Teerapong said. “So we recorded his wrongdoing into the database and sent him to participate in a lecture about service mentality for four hours.”
After his complaint was publicized by a number of Thai media outlets, Aki wrote yesterday that he was “very surprised” to see such a reaction. He explained in another Facebook post that he has been regularly visiting Thailand for the last 10 years and even knows how to write in Thai.
“Many Thais sent messages to my inbox … Most of the comments say “I apologize on behalf of my fellow Thai,” or “Please don’t forget that not all Thais are bad,”” Aki wrote. “These comments, I feel that they are comments from the Thai people with sincere hearts. I am very glad to hear them. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I criticize Thailand, but I don’t hate Thailand.”
Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination Like the abused who then go on to abuse, Japan is too psychologically scarred to see discrimination going on within its borders BY DEBITO ARUDOU
Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 78, August 14, 2014
But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may have been established.
I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of noncitizens, either.
This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens here. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy.
First, let me establish the “hard time admitting it” bit. (Apologies for reprising some old ground.)
As covered in past columns, Japan’s government and media are seemingly allergic to calling discriminatory treatment based upon skin color or “foreign” appearance racial discrimination (specifically, jinshu sabetsu).
Bravo. Thank you. But so far, it’s the exception that proves the rule.
This see-no-evil attitude even affects scholarship on Japan, as I discovered during my doctoral dissertation literature review. Within the most-cited sources reviewing discrimination in Japan, not one listed “skin color” as among Japan’s discriminatory stigmata, or included RD as a factor (calling it instead discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, ingrained cultural practice, etc.). Indicatively, none of them (except some obscure law journal articles) mentioned the Otaru onsen ruling either.
Now peer into Japan’s education system. Jinshu sabetsu happens anywhere but Japan. The prototypical examples are the American South under segregation and apartheid-era South Africa. But homogeneous Japan, the argument runs, has no races, therefore it cannot logically practice racial discrimination. (Again, the Otaru onsen ruling disproves that. But, again, see no evil.)
So why can’t Japan own up? Because RD inflicts such deep psychological wounds that whole societies do irrational, paranoid and crazy things.
Consider this: Harvard University anthropologist Ayu Majima, whose chapter in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel’s 2013 book “Race and Racism in Modern East Asia” I cited last month, also discussed the aftermath of the United States’ Asian exclusion policy of 1924 — under which Japan, despite all its attempts to “Westernize” and “de-Asianize” itself, was subordinated as a “colored” nation.
Japan’s public reaction was (understandably) furious, and visceral. The Kokumin Shimbun called it “a national dishonor” and demanded that U.S.-Japan ties be severed. In the words of one liberal Japanese journalist at the time: “Discrimination from the United States was due to regarding the Japanese as a colored people. This is a disgrace to the most delicate matter of the Japanese ethnic pride.”
Public outcry morphed into mass hysteria, including countless letters to the government urging war on America. Several people even committed suicide outside the American Embassy!
Although these events subsided, Japan’s elites never let go of this slur. The Japanese ambassador wrote the U.S. secretary of state, saying that the issue was “whether Japan as a nation is or is not entitled to the proper respect” that forms “the basis of amicable international intercourse throughout the civilized world.” Emperor Hirohito later called the act “a remote cause of the Pacific War.” It has also been connected to Japan’s rejection of the West and invasion of Manchuria.
See how crazy RD makes people? Mass hysteria? Calls for war? Suicides? International isolation? Invading China?
RD also psychologically wounds people to the point that it can feed illogical exceptionalism, denialism and perpetual victim status.
It short-circuits the ability to run self-diagnostics and see the fundamental hypocrisy behind the idea that, for example, Japanese are perpetual victims of RD, but rarely, if ever, perpetrators of it — as if Japan is somehow an exception from the racialization processes that happen in every society.
Seriously. During Japan’s colonial era, when Japan was “liberating” and colonizing its neighbors under the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, officials argued that under Japan’s Pan-Asianism, where (unlike Western colonization) her new subjects were of the same skin color, Japan could not practice “racism” in the Western sense.
Source: Oguma Eiji, A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images, 2002, pg. 332-3.
But the historical record indicates that Japan’s colonized subalterns were subordinated and exploited like any racialized minority — something Japan’s similarly psychologically-wounded neighbors have never forgotten.
Then, in the postwar period, Japan’s national narrative mutated from “heterogeneous Asian colonizer” to “pure homogeneous society.” How did official illogic accommodate this shift? Again, with fallacious ideas such as “Japan has no races, therefore it cannot possibly practice racism.”
This claim is easily disproven by pointing to the country’s “Japanese only” signs. But then what happens? Relativism, denialism and counterattack.
Either deniers repeat that Japan has no RD (patently false; again, that pesky Otaru onsen case), or they argue that everyone else in the world is racist and Japanese have been victims of it (citing wartime examples such as the U.S. and Canadian Japanese internment camps, or the atomic bombings) — as if racism is just how the world naturally functions, and two wrongs make a right.
Then the focus turns on you. You face accusations of racism for overgeneralizing about Japan (e.g., with the counterargument that only a few places post “Japanese only” signs — just don’t point out the standard practice of denying NJ apartments . . .). Or you are charged with being remiss for not acknowledging the “positive discrimination” that “esteemed NJ” get (some, that is), and that positive discrimination somehow compensates for and justifies the negative. Then the debate gets tangled in red herrings.
But the point is that the reaction will be as swift, clear and visceral as it was way back when. The milder accusations will be of cultural insensitivity, Japan-bashing or Japan-hating. But as you get closer to the heart of the matter, and the incontrovertible evidence moves from anecdotal to statistical, you’ll be ostracized, slandered, harassed by Japan’s shadowy elements, stalked and issued death threats. Believe me, I know.
Again, racism is not seen as something that “civilized” countries like Japan would do. To call it out is to question Japan’s level of civilization. And it conjures up an irrational denialism wrapped within a historical narrative of racialized victimization.
Thus Japan’s constant self-victimization leads to paranoia and overreaction (justifying even more tangential craziness, such as defenses of whaling and dolphin culls, international child kidnappings after divorce, and historical amnesia) due in part to fears of being besmirched and discriminated against again. Like a jilted suitor heartbroken by an exotic lover, Japan thus takes extreme precautions to avoid ever being hurt again — by forever forsaking close, equal and potentially vulnerable relationships with anyone with a whiff of the exotic.
Until Japan gets over itself and accepts that racialization processes are intrinsic to every society, it will never resolve its constant and unwarranted exceptionalism. Bigots must be dealt with, not denied or justified. Like the abused who becomes the abuser, Japanese society is simply too psychologically damaged by RD to stop its RD.
This remains the fundamental hurdle Japanese society must overcome before it can empathize fully with outsiders as fellow equal human beings. As was evident in last month’s Supreme Court ruling.
There — now you have my comment on it.
Debito Arudou’s most recent publication is the Hokkaido and Tohoku Chapters in Fodor’s 2014 Japan travel guide. Twitter: @arudoudebito. An excerpt of Ayu Majima’s chapter can be read at www.debito.org/?p=12122, and more of Debito’s analysis of the Supreme Court ruling at www.debito.org/?p=12530. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery. [Endnote 1]
This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.
But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior.
For example, Japan’s pundits have already begun arguing that Japan’s disappointing performance in the World Cup in Brazil was partly down to the fallacy that Japanese bodies are smaller and weaker than those of foreigners. Japan’s sports leagues have long used this belief to justify limiting foreign players on teams — as if it somehow “equalizes” things.
This “equalization” is not limited to the infamous examples of baseball and sumo. The National Sports Festival (kokutai), Japan’s largest amateur athletic meeting, bans almost all foreigners. Japan’s popular Ekiden footrace bans all foreigners from the first leg of the marathon, and from 2007 has capped foreign participants on teams at two (the logic being that the Ekiden would become “dull” (kyōzame) without a Japanese winning).
These limitations also apply to intellectual contests. Until 2006, Japan’s national Takamado English Speech Contests barred all people (including Japanese) with “foreign ancestry”. This included non-English-speaking countries, the argument being that any foreign blood somehow injects an unfair linguistic advantage. (After 2006, Takamado provided a list of English-speaking countries whose descendants would continue to be ineligible.)
This is atrocious reasoning. But it is so hegemonic because of Japan’s long history of race-based superiority studies.
In 1875, Yukichi Fukuzawa (the man gracing our ¥10,000 note) wrote an influential treatise called “An Outline of a Theory of Civilization.” Borrowing from Western eugenics, he reordered the world to correlate levels of civilization with skin color.
White-hued people were at the top, dark-skinned people at the bottom. Naturally for Fukuzawa, Asians were ranked just below whites. And, naturally, Japanese were the most “civilized” of the Asians.
The West has largely moved on from this dangerous bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution. However, Japan’s social sciences still largely ascribe to century-old social stratification systems that see race as a biological construct, and bloodlines and blood types as determinants of behavior.
So far, so Japanese Society 101. But the point I want to stress here is that inferiority complexes are counterintuitively counterproductive.
I say counterintuitive because they foster feelings not of humility towards people they admire, but of anger. Yes, anger.
Harvard University anthropologist Ayu Majima discusses this in her 2013 essay “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan.” She talks about how the elites of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) (who would set Japan’s nascent national narratives) felt a sense of “distance, inferiority and disjuncture towards the West.”
Distance was a big theme back then. Although Japan is of course geographically Asian, with deep historical connections to China, Fukuzawa and other Meiji Era elites advocated that Japan “quit Asia and enter Europe” (datsu-a nyū-ō).
So that’s what happened. Over several decades, Japan industrialized, militarized, colonized and adopted the fashions and trappings of “Western civilization.” Japan sought recognition and acceptance from the West not as an inferior, but as a fellow world power. Japan wanted the sense of distance to disappear.
But that didn’t happen. Japan’s elites were shocked when the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) refused to include in its 1919 Covenant an anti-racial discrimination clause that Japan (yes!) had demanded. More shocking was when Japan was treated like a “colored,” “uncivilized” nation under America’s Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.
This is where the psychology of inferiority complexes is generally misunderstood. When people try this hard for validation and don’t get it, it doesn’t engender the passive humility and must-try-harder attitudes so often gushed about in the Western media regarding Japan.
Majima argues, “While an inferiority complex is generally regarded as a sense of inferiority towards oneself, it should rather be regarded as a sense of indignity and anger towards the lack of recognition of one’s worth . . . for not being recognized, approved or admitted by the important ‘other.’ “
So instead you get isolation, loneliness, anxiety and scant sense of belonging. (I’m sure you long-termers who feel unrecognized for all your efforts to “fit in to Japan” can relate to this.)
How did Japan react to being rebuffed? Policymakers declared that Japan neither belonged to the East nor the West. It isolated itself.
Worse, according to Majima, “Japan sought to identify itself through the unstable ‘distance’ between self and others as ‘tradition.’ “
Ah, tradition. Lovely thing, that. It turns this angry mindset from a phase in Japan’s history into part of its permanent self-image.
This feeling of isolation gave rise to Japan’s “cult of uniqueness,” and it dominates Japan’s self-image today, constantly vacillating between superiority and inferiority when dealing with foreigners. This “tradition” of ranking oneself in comparison with others, particularly in terms of degrees of civilization, has become ingrained as cultural habit and reflex.
And that’s why inferiority complexes are counterproductive for Japan’s relationship to the outside world: They make it more difficult for “foreigners” to be seen and treated as individuals. Instead, they get thrust into the impossible role of national or cultural representative of a whole society.
They also make it more difficult for Japanese to be neutral towards foreigners. Rather, the default reflex is to see them in terms of comparative national development and civilization.
These complexes also interfere with constructive conversations. For if acceptance, recognition and superlative praise of Japan as a safe, peaceful, developed country are not forthcoming from the outsider, insult and anger almost inevitably ensue. After all, criticism of Japan besmirches its self-image as a civilized society.
This is especially true when it comes to issues of racial discrimination in Japan. Japanese society is loath to admit it ever happens here — because racial discrimination is not what “civilized” societies do. I will discuss this in a future column.
============================ Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: email@example.com
 Ashikari, Mikiko. 2005. “Cultivating Japanese Whiteness: The ‘Whitening’ Cosmetics Boom and the Japanese Identity.” Journal of Material Culture 10(1): 73-91.
 References includeArudou Debito, “A level playing field? National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit.” Japan Times, September 30, 2003; “Sumo shutout in Fukushima.” Japan Times, September 30, 2003; “Top court upholds foreigner ban.” Japan Times, June 12, 2004. See also Douglas Shukert’s testimonial about his case at www.debito.org/TheCommunity/kokutaiproject.html. Also, JASA’s information on the Kokutai is at www.japan-sports.or.jp/kokutai/, in English at www.japan-sports.or.jp/english (which makes no mention of nationality requirements for participants).
 Dilworth, David A. et al. trans. 2009. Yukichi Fukuzawa: An Outline of a Theory of Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press.
 Majima, Ayu. 2013. “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan: Male Elites’ Racial Experiences Abroad, 1880s-1950s.” In Kowner, Rotem, and Walter Demel, eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
 Cf. Lauren 1988; Kearney 1998; Dikötter 2006. Even then, as Russell (in Weiner, ed. 2009: 99) notes, “[Japan’s] rhetoric of racial equality left much to be desired, for not only did Japan’s racial equality clause not question the right of League members to possess colonies (at the time Japan was also seeking [a new colony in China]) but its demand for ‘fair and equal treatment’ applied only to ‘civilized nations’ (bunmei koku) and League member states – not to their colonies and subject peoples. Japan’s ruling elites were less interested in securing equality for non-whites than in ensuring that Japan, as a sovereign nation and member of the League, would be afforded the same privileges as Western nations…”
Hi Blog. While we’re on the subject of sports, here’s something that I found very positive: A Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays named Kawasaki Munenori doing his darnedest to meet the domestic press:
I have written in the past about how certain other Japanese athletes overseas do it differently. In fact, my very first newspaper column (in the Asahi Evening News — remember when it was titled that?) way back in 1997 was a grumble (what else? I’m Debito) on how J-baseball pioneer Nomo Hideo (remember him?) was skiving in terms of trying to connect with his adoptive community:
I will admit right now that I’m no expert on sports, but from what I’ve seen (and I’m welcome to correction/updates), many of Japan’s athletes overseas don’t bother to publicly learn the language, or connect all that much with their local community. Baseball superstar Ichiro is the immediate example that comes to mind, as AFAIK he assiduously avoids American media; some might justify it by saying he’s all business (i.e., focused on the game) or trying to avoid gaffes. But I still think it comes off as pretty snobby, since these sportsmen’s lives are being supported by fans, and they should give something back.
Hi Blog. Bit of a tangent here, but when we saw Japan drop behind China to become the #3 largest economy, we saw reactions of craziness that still reverberate today (not the least sour grapes, but more heightened security issues). I wonder how the Americans will react to this news.
The Economist (London) tells us like it is, with the aplomb of a former world power itself, declaring the American Century over. China will be the world’s largest economy years at the end of this year, nearly half a decade ahead of schedule.
Myself, I think this is (or should be) inevitable: China has the most people, so it stands to reason that it should have the most capacity to produce and be rich if not richest. After all, the Pax Americana Postwar goal of helping countries become rich and developed is that they’ll become more stable economically, thus more likely to suppress warlike urges in favor of the mutual profit motive. Plus the Americans always held out hope that an emerging middle class would agitate for democratic reforms, and shudder at the thought of the Chinese system in its current form becoming the global hegemon. Will it react similar to Japan and see China as a threat, or will it keep Postwar historical goals in perspective and see it as a form of mission accomplished?
Yet China, as the second article below indicates, is downplaying that kind of future. Although global development theories are something I studied in grad school, China isn’t my field. So Debito.org Readers. any thoughts as to why? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
UNTIL 1890 China was the world’s largest economy, before America surpassed it. By the end of 2014 China is on track to reclaim its crown. Comparing economic output is tricky: exchange rates get in the way. Simply converting GDP from renminbi to dollars at market rates may not reflect the true cost of living. Bread and beer may be cheaper in one country than another, for example. To account for these differences, economists make adjustments based on a comparable basket of goods and services across the globe, so-called purchasing-power parity (PPP). New data released on April 30th from the International Comparison Programme, a part of the UN, calculated the cost of living in 199 countries in 2011. On this basis, China’s PPP exchange rate is now higher than economists had previously estimated using data from the previous survey in 2005: a whopping 20% higher. So China, which had been forecast to overtake America in 2019 by the IMF, will be crowned the world’s pre-eminent country by the end of this year according to The Economist’s calculations. The American Century ends, and the Pacific Century begins.
China plays down GDP size BY FRANK CHING THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 18, 2014
More than a week after new World Bank figures indicated that China would overtake the United States this year and become the No. 1 economy comes the news that, for the first time, the world’s three biggest public companies and five of the top 10 in the Forbes Global 2000 List are Chinese.
American companies accounted for the remaining five on the top 10 list. The biggest U.S. companies were JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, in fourth and fifth place respectively, trailing Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.
There are no European companies among the top 10. Royal Dutch Shell and HSBC Holdings, among the top 10 last year, have been edged out.
Xinhua, the official Chinese press agency, reported the news without comment under the headline “China has world’s 3 largest companies: Forbes.”
This was unlike the treatment given to the report the previous week that China would become the world’s largest economy this year. Then, the news was played down, if reported at all.
In fact, the official People’s Daily newspaper made clear the disdain with which the Chinese government held predictions using purchasing power parity by declaring, “Chinese want a better life, not an artificial ranking as world’s no. 1 economy.”
It cited “another report from the World Bank” that “indicated that the GDP of the U.S. was about $16.8 trillion in 2013, ranking first, while China’s GDP was only $9.18 trillion, ranking second.” It then put things in better perspective by saying: “China’s per capita GDP ranks only 99th in the world.”
Clearly China not was comfortable about its elevation to the world’s No. 1 economy by the end of this year. Being in second place is more comfortable and can be used by the government to urge the Chinese people to work harder.
The People’s Daily recalled that “catching up with the United States” was once stated as the goal of the Chinese people. But it added pointedly, “this meant not only the pursuit of economic strength but also a strong demand for self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Hi Blog. Today’s post is a history lesson, about a very different Japan that took racial discrimination very seriously. Especially when Japanese were the victims of it overseas. Let me type in a section from Majima Ayu, “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan”, in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel, Eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013, pp. 398-401. Quick comment from me follows (skip to it if you think this text is a little too academic for your tastes).
Japan’s Racial Equality Clause was denied by the Western powers, and racial discrimination such as the Japanese exclusion in California still remains, which is enough insult to raise the wrath among the Japanese. — Emperor Showa, 1946.
Although Japanese exclusion was largely caused by racial discrimination, some elites tried to deny this by replacing the issue with class issues, similar to the interpretation of physical grooming. According to the minister of war, Terauchi Masatake (1852-1919), the Anti-Japanese movement arose because Japan had sent “bottom-class workers” who looked like “monkeys in the zoos” to the United States. In fact, the Japanese government encouraged workers from farming villages to emigrate because these villages were so impoverished and their population continued to grow. Terauchi’s view towards the Japanese immigrants to the United States was shared among elites since racial issues originally emerged as labor issues. However, the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 did not support the Japanese elites’ interpretation of existing class issues but made obvious the racial distinction between Japan and the United States.
As cited, the Emperor Showa (1901-1989) saw the Exclusion Act as “a remote cause of the Pacific War” (Terasaki & Miller 1995: 24). When President Woodrow Wilson met Ambassador Chinda Sutemi (1857-1929) in 1913, he was shocked by Chinda’s grave reaction to the Law, and knew then that war was more than a possibility. As a letter on 8 February 1924 from Secretary of State Charles E. Hugues to Chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization Albert Johnson stated, “The Japanese are a sensitive people, and unquestionably would regard such a legislative enactment as fixing a stigma upon them.” It also aptly used the term stigma used before by Taguchi. In fact, opinions against the Japanese Exclusion Act were an immediate reason for public outcry in Japan. The population had become exasperated by the weak-kneed diplomacy that brought national dishonor amidst the emotional bashing from the mass media. This manifested in extremely emotional and near mass-hysteric situations, such as the suicides near the American Embassy on May 31, the follow-up suicides, the events for consoling the spirits of the deceased, and the countless letters sent to the Naval Department calling for war against the United States (Matsuzawa 1980: 363-4).
While the situation heated up rapidly, it quickly subsided. However, the elites’ reaction against the Act remained strong. On the 15th of January 1924, Hanihara Masano, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, stated in a memorandum that to “to preserve the self-respect” of Japan, “the sole desire of the Japanese Government was to relieve the United States Government of the painful embarrassment of giving offense to the just national pride of a friendly nation”. Three months later on April 10th, Hanihara sent another letter to Secretary of State Hughes:
To Japan the question is not one of expediency, but of principle. To her the mere fact that a few hundreds or thousands of her nationals will or will not be admitted into the domains of other countries is immaterial, so long as no question of national susceptibilities is involved. The important question is whether Japan as a nation is or is not entitled to the proper respect and consideration of other nations. In other words, the Japanese Government asks of the United States Government simply that proper consideration ordinarily given by one nation to the self-respect of another, which after all forms the basis of amicable international intercourse throughout the civilized world.
Some criticized Japan’s contradiction in terms of its pressure on Asia, but their anger only focused on Japan’s national dishonor and on the insults to its reputation. According to Hanihara’s correspondence with Secretary of State Hughes, the Exclusion Act “would naturally wound the national susceptibilities of the Japanese people.” It would also bring the “possible unfortunate necessity of offending the national pride of a friendly nation… stigmatizing them as unworthy and undesirable in the eyes of the American people” and “seriously offend the just pride of a friendly nation.”
Even Kiyosawa Kiyoshi (1890-1945), known as a liberal journalist, also took a critical stance of this. “Discrimination from the United States,” he wrote, “was due to regarding the Japanese as colored people. This is a disgrace to the most delicate matter of the Japanese ethnic pride.” On the 2nd of July at the Kokumin Shinbun, Tokutomi Sohou designated the 1st of July 1924 — the day the Anti-Japanese Immigration Law had passed — as the “Day of National Dishonor”. He explained the significance of the day to be one of “cutting ties with the United States”, and embracing their Asian brothers.” Tokutomi explained that the Anti-Japanese Law had caused “the Japanese to suffer unprecedented insult.” He also stated, “The immigrant issue is not simply a matter of US-Japan relations, it is the issue [lying] between the United States and the colored races” In the meantime, Nitobe Inazo (1862-1933) wrote in his 1931 correspondence on the night before the Manchurian Incident that the Exclusion Act was “a severe shock which came completely out of the blue… my heart was deeply wounded and I felt strongly insulted as if we Japaense were suddenly pushed down from our respected status to being the wretched of the earth.”
American’s racial categorization aggravated Japan’s anger, which turned to anxiety as a result of Japan’s diminishing sense of belonging in the world; “the world being limited to the Western powers,” as Tokutomi cited earlier, even if Japan earned a status equal to that of the Western powers, there would still be a great “distance” between them, namely one of racial and religious differences, and the whole difference between the East and West. The sentiment of being a “solitary wanderer” rejected by the West contradicts the manner in which Japan brought about its own isolation. Tokutomi also asserted that the express “Asian” had no other meaning beyond the geographical, and thus Japan’s self-perceptions and identity no longer belonged to Asia. The sense of isolation was actually based on the denial of “Asia”, and it came from Japan’s own identification built upon the idea of “Quit Asia and Join Europe”. It could be said that Japan’s contradictory identification came to reveal Japan’s inability to identify with either the East or the West, a situation that came about through the emergence of a consciousness of the racial distance, especially from 1919 to 1924.
COMMENT: There is a lot here to parse and analyze, and I’ll leave space for Debito.org Readers to tell us their reads. But mine on the most topical level is this:
Look at how crazy racial discrimination makes people. Mass hysteria? Suicides? Rumors of war? Feeling rejected by the West after the elites had taken a risk and turned the national narrative away from the East? Thereby laying the groundwork for Postwar Japan’s narrative of uniqueness and exceptionalism that fuels much of the irrational and hypocritical behavior one sees in Japan today (especially vis-a-vis racial discrimination towards anyone NOT “Japanese”). Yet during Prewar Japan (when Japan was colonizing), the GOJ denied that it could even ideologically PRACTICE racial discrimination, since it was liberating fellow members of the Asian race (Oguma Eiji 2002: 332-3); and now we get denials that it exists in Japan, or that Japanese even understand the concept of racial discrimination because Japanese society allegedly has no races. After all, racial discrimination is something done to us Japanese by less civilized societies. It couldn’t happen in Japan. Yet it does. And when that is pointed out, then the denialism comes roaring back intertwined, as the above passage demonstrates, with the historical baggage of victimization. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”
I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.
But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…
However, there remains a marked lack of empathy in Japan towards outsiders, especially minorities and foreigners. Why? I would argue it’s because few Japanese ever leave their carefully constructed comfort zones to become minorities or foreigners themselves.
If you think about it, concerns about security, safety and comfort basically dominate all levels of Japanese existence — especially if it involves leaving the Japanese existence entirely. Even though going overseas is the only way Japanese will ever walk in the shoes of a foreigner, many still spend their short jaunts within group buses on package tours, experiencing a foreign land from a controlled environment geared to Japanese comfort levels. SEE ENDNOTE FOR SOURCES
I do sympathize. Why would anyone pay all that money for a quickie trip and suffer the discomfort of unpredictability? Being a member of a rich, developed country with a high expectation of quality, service and social order should have taken care of all that.
Who wants to deal with all those scary foreign languages and potential criminal behaviors lurking beyond the hotel stoop, anyway? It could spoil a stress-free vacation.
But there’s a deeper disconnect going on here. I’ve written before about Japanese society’s overwhelming conceit with social power maintenance, and power plays a part in this discussion too.
You see, sympathy is in fact about power. People worthy of sorrow or pity have to appeal to people in a position to give that sympathy. Sympathizers have the power to decide to be charitable or merciful.
On the other hand, empathizers have to give up their power. They have to live situations like somebody else, feel their discomforts and disadvantages, walk in their shoes.
But we won’t. We’re rich. We’ve earned the right to stay in our own shoes.
So never mind empathy. Sympathy’s simpler, for if anyone needs our help, we’ll send money — if they’re within our ambit of concern. It’ll still have no real impact on our lives — or, more importantly, no real impact on our perceptions of their lives.
Now let’s seal off the attitudinal loop from foreigners in particular: Hey, if you don’t like living in Japan as a disadvantaged foreigner, you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. We don’t go to your country as a guest and tell you what to do in your house, do we?
Probably not, because one can understand the feelings of fellow Japanese in this situation. Empathy, however, generally doesn’t go outside the tribe: Japan can discriminate against foreigners, but woe betide the foreigners if they do it to Japanese!
Again, I do sympathize, since a lack of empathy is by design. The government has long portrayed foreigners as Japan’s opponents — agents of crime, terrorism, disease and land grabs.
The end result is that even the most well-intentioned people in Japan, who do protest clear examples of racial discrimination (e.g., the “Japanese only” signs at businesses, the racist street demos saying “Kill all Koreans,” the “Japanese only” banner by Urawa Reds soccer fans), use a different subtext.
They denounce racism as “Nihon no haji,” decrying the shame (haji) that xenophobia brings upon Japan on the international stage: It makes Japan, and by extension themselves as Japanese, look bad.
Shame is a very effective message — thank you for it — but the more empathetic tack would be to argue that foreigners are people too; that they live in Japan just like any Japanese; that they deserve to live in Japan as residents, patronize bathhouses and restaurants as customers, attend soccer matches as fans, like anyone else; that foreigners deserve exactly the same human rights and access to public goods as any other Japanese.
But equal treatment is rarely part of the debate. Instead people argue, “If they want to be treated the same, they should naturalize,” as if that fixes everything. Trust me, it doesn’t.
Again, empathy is key. If more people had it, they would advocate for Japanese society to “do unto foreigners,” because they would understand how foreigners feel, as Obama argued, and wouldn’t wish that treatment upon anyone.
Japan, let’s work on that empathy deficit. Less dōjō (sympathy), more kyōkan (empathy). Broaden your ambit beyond the tribe and you just might realize that power is not “zero-sum,” i.e., that giving more power to foreigners in Japan does not mean less power for you. In fact, it makes things better for everyone, as it gives more people more opportunity to fulfill their lifetime potential in society.
Now, who wouldn’t empathize with that?
=============================== Debito Arudou, who has just received his Ph.D. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University, is editing his dissertation on racial discrimination in Japan into a book. Your comments and story ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org
ENDNOTE I have gone through several databases, including ProQuest, and searched through the full archives of about ten academic peer-reviewed journals on tourism, and there really isn’t much related rigorous sociological/anthropological in recent years on this, it would seem. What I could track down published within the past five or so years:
From: Generalized pattern in competition among tourism destinations Dawes, John; Romaniuk, Jenni; Mansfield, Annabel. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research3.1 (2009): 33-53.
Establishes that Japanese tourists take shorter holidays and more picky about their destinations of the four groups selected: “This suggests Japanese tourists travel to a smaller range of destinations than USA, UK and Singaporean Tourists. This result might be due to greater loyalty to single destinations or due to taking fewer holidays overall.”
Cross-cultural tourist behaviour: a replication and extension involving Hofstede’s uncertainty avoidance dimension Litvin, Stephen W; Crotts, John C; Hefner, Frank L. The International Journal of Tourism Research6.1 (Jan/Feb 2004): 29-37.
This one tells what we already know about Japanese avoidance of uncertainty and risk, replicates older results: ABSTRACT: Hofstede’s five cross-cultural dimensions have been broadly applied in the literature. Money and Crotts recently applied the dimension of uncertainty avoidance to a matched sample comprised of low uncertainty avoidance German and high uncertainty avoidance Japanese tourists, finding their behaviors consistent with those behaviors predicted by Hofstede. This study both replicates and extends their research across a representative sample of first time leisure visitors to the USA representing 58 nations. It was found that visitors from high uncertainty avoidance cultures exhibited behaviors consistent with those of the Japanese in the Money and Crotts research, whereas visitors from low-uncertainty avoidance cultures behaved similarly to their German subjects. Such findings, across a broad sample population, validate the original research through a more rigorous test of its propositions, provide increased confidence regarding their generalizability, and further contribute to our understanding of the influence of national culture on tourist behavior. http://marketing-to-japan.com/the-japanese-tourist.html
(sourced from www.visitbritain.com, date unknown) Package tours 48.2% Individually arranged 37.1% (increasing) Group travel 6.2%
Hi Blog. Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border. These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally. ARUDOU, Debito
A series of recent blunt statements from U.S. officials have left no doubt that Washington blames China’s maritime expansionism for rising tensions in Asia. Now, America’s main ally in the region needs to hear a similarly forthright message.
Japan had been clamoring for the U.S. to speak out more forcefully after China imposed an “air-defense identification zone” over a set of islands claimed by both countries. Officials in Tokyo have warned that any hint of daylight between Americans and Japanese only encourages further bullying from the mainland. For that same reason, U.S. officials have tempered their criticism of statements and actions by Japanese leaders that irk China, not to mention other victims of Japanese aggression during World War II.
This circumspection is becoming counterproductive. Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.
Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.
Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone.
The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual. President Obama’s trip to Asia in April is an opportunity for the White House not only to reaffirm its disapproval of Chinese adventurism but also to make clear that Abe’s provocations are threatening stability in the region, and damaging the U.S.-Japan alliance.
This won’t change many minds inside Abe’s inner circle, of course. But most Japanese are acutely sensitive to any hint of U.S. displeasure. (Nearly 70 percent of respondents to one poll called on Abe to heed the negative reaction to his Yasukuni visit, which included a mild expression of “disappointment” from U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.) Voters threw out Abe once before when he let nationalist obsessions distract him from minding the economy. Sustained domestic pressure is needed to rein him in again.
Abe is not necessarily wrong to want to make Japan a more muscular nation — to rejuvenate its economy, open up its society and normalize its self-defense forces. A more robust Japanese military could play a bigger role in promoting global and regional stability — whether through anti-piracy patrols or peacekeeping missions — and come to the defense of its allies. Inflaming Chinese and Korean sensitivities helps achieve none of those goals.
All it does is raise the likelihood of conflict in the region. That Abe’s recent actions and comments may be less dangerous than China’s adventurism is beside the point. He’s eroding the international goodwill that Japan has built up over decades as a responsible democracy — all for no good reason. If he can’t see that for himself, perhaps the U.S. — and his own citizens — can help him.
Japan risks losing a global PR battle with China after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine for war dead and comments by other prominent figures on the wartime past helped Beijing try to paint Tokyo as the villain of Asia.
Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by territorial rows, regional rivalry and disputes stemming from China’s bitter memories of Japan’s occupation of parts of the country before and during World War II.
Relations chilled markedly after a feud over disputed East China Sea isles flared in 2012.
Beijing, however, has stepped up its campaign to sway international public opinion since Abe’s Dec. 26 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honors leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals with millions of war dead.
That strategy has helped China shift some of the debate away from its growing military assertiveness in Asia, including double-digit defense spending increases and the recent creation of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea that was condemned by Tokyo and Washington, experts said.
“Right now, this is a real war,” said Shin Tanaka, president of the FleishmanHillard Japan Group in Tokyo, a communications consultancy.
“Japan and China are using missiles called ‘messages’ and the reality is that a lot of damage is already happening in both countries,” he added, warning of a mutual backlash of nationalist emotions and potential harm to business ties.
Abe has repeatedly said he did not visit the shrine to honor war criminals but to pay his respects to those who died for their country and pledge Japan would never again go to war.
Getting that message across is not easy, communications and political experts said. Abe’s Yasukuni visit “gave China the opportunity . . . to attack Japan and send the message that China is the good guy and Japan is the bad guy,” Tanaka said.
Some Japanese diplomats and officials dismissed any suggestion they were worried, saying Tokyo’s rebuttals and the country’s postwar record of peace would win the day.
“Their Goebbelsian PR binge — repeat it 100 times then it becomes true, ungrounded or not — shows all the symptoms of a Leninist regime still remaining in the 21st century,” Tomohiko Taniguchi, a councilor in the Cabinet secretariat of the prime minister’s office, said in an email.
He was referring to Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda from 1933 to 1945.
“Yes we feel annoyed, but the next moment we relax for we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Still, experts said Abe’s shrine visit had made it easier for Beijing to try to link Abe’s plans to bolster the military and loosen limits on the pacifist Constitution to Japan’s militarist past.
“The most fundamental thing they say is to assert that Japan is going on a path of militarism a la the 1930s. That’s just nonsense,” said Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. “But the problem is the Chinese are able to blur a lot of this stuff because of what Abe did.”
Recent remarks about Japan’s wartime past by the chairman of NHK and members of its board of governors have added grist to China’s PR mill.
Among those remarks were comments by new NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, who told a news conference last month that the “comfort women” — a euphemism for the vast number of females forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels — had counterparts in every country at war at that time. He later apologized.
NHK’s chief is selected by a board of governors that includes four Abe appointees.
Since the start of the year, Chinese ambassadors and other officials have targeted Japan 69 times in media around the world, the Foreign Ministry said in Tokyo. The campaign includes interviews, written commentaries and news conferences.
As of Feb. 10, Japan had issued rebuttals in 67 cases with the other two under review, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said.
Asked if China had won over international opinion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said countries such as South Korea — where memories of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule run deep — had also criticized Tokyo.
“The mistaken ways of the Japanese leader have incurred the strong opposition of the international community,” Hua told reporters. “China is willing to work with other victims of the war and the international community to uphold historical justice.”
The verbal jousting has spanned the globe from capitals such as London and Washington to remote Fiji and South Sudan.
The best known exchanges are the “Voldemort attacks” in which China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, last month compared Japan to the villain in the Harry Potter children’s book series. In reply, Japan’s envoy, Keiichi Hayashi, said China risked becoming “Asia’s Voldemort.”
“We try to explain that Japan faces its history squarely and has expressed remorse . . . (and that) Japan will continue to pursue the path of a peace-loving country,” Sato said.
“Sometimes they try to link the visit to the shrine to security policy. That is a totally unrelated matter.”
Still, some in Japan fear that China’s PR blitz is having an impact on world opinion.
“A lie is repeated so that people are brainwashed and start to believe it,” Akira Sato, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on defense policy, told Reuters.
Echoed a Western diplomat in Beijing: “China is being successful at getting its message across while Japan keeps saying stupid things like questioning the existence of comfort women. I think (China) has changed opinions.”
Tokyo’s mostly reactive approach, some PR experts said, was not enough to sway international public opinion, a worry some Japanese diplomats share privately.
“Japan is very worried that China is winning this propaganda war,” said an Asian diplomat based in Beijing. “Their diplomats have been asking how they can better put their side of the story and win people over in the West.”
That could be tough if Abe declines to say whether he will visit Yasukuni again or other prominent Japanese figures make contentious comments on wartime history, experts said.
Other matters, such as revisionist changes to Japanese textbooks to promote patriotism, could add fuel to the fire.
“Even if he doesn’t go to Yasukuni again, there are plenty of issues on their (the Japanese government’s) agenda,” Sneider said.
Hi Blog. Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Thanks as always for reading and commenting to Debito.org. Arudou Debito
Making headlines recently has been a commercial by ANA, one of Japan’s flagship airlines. Released last Saturday, its 30-second spot shows two Asian men (one a comedian named Bakarizumu, but let’s call them A and B) standing at an airport window speaking English with Japanese subtitles.
Looking out at the jets, A says, “Haneda Airport has more international flights nowadays.” B replies, “Finally.” Then their exchange goes, “Next stop, Vancouver.” “Next stop, Hanoi.” “Exciting, isn’t it?” Then B says, rather oddly, “You want a hug?” When A only gives him a nonplussed look, B continues, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When A explains, “But I am Japanese,” B counters, “I see. Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” And A, smiling broadly, agrees to it.
Alright so far. Except that, as you can see in the picture below, A is now wearing a strapped-on long nose and a big blond wig. Off they fly to their destinations.
This has occasioned considerable debate and media coverage. Many commenters in the English-language online forums have called this advertisement “racist” (one even said “Debito bait”; I’m chuffed), and have made motions to take their business elsewhere. Others have said the advertisement isn’t racist, just lame. A few managed to find a deep pocket of latent irony, saying it’s actually poking fun at the Japanese people and their insular attitudes. Meanwhile, within Japanese-language forums, according to a Yahoo Japan poll, 82% of respondents see no problem with it.
(NB: Note look how the question is worded. It introduces the issue by saying that a comedian (Bakarizumu) performed the act (read: it’s a joke!), and says that the complaints came “from foreigners” (read: not from Japanese) of “racial discrimination” (read: misleading representation of the issue). So we’ve set up the question as “we joking Japanese” vs “those kvetching foreigners” “taking a madcap jape” too seriously, and bingo, you get a vast majority of people wondering what the problem is.)
It probably comes as no surprise to you that JBC objects to this ad. If ANA had really wanted to “change the image of Japan,” it should have avoided racializing their product. Instead, it’s just business as usual.
Consider some other racist marketing strategies from not so long ago (visuals and reports archived at debito.org/?p=12077):
Last year, Toshiba marketed a bread maker with an obnoxiously overexuberant Japanese girl speaking katakana Japanese, wearing a blond wig and a big nose. (Ad archived at debito.org/Toshibasuipanda.mp4.)
In 2010, Nagasaki Prefecture promoted its “foreign” buildings by showing Japanese tourists wearing—you guessed it—blond wigs and big noses. (Ad archived at debito.org/?p=7523.)
In 2005, Mandom sold men’s cosmetics with a Rasta-man motif, juxtaposing black people with a chimpanzee. (Ad archived at debito.org/mandomproject.html.)
Dare I mention the resurrection of book “Little Black Sambo” in 2005, which inspired overtly racist nursery-school songs in Saitama about black butts? (See Matthew Chozick, “Sambo racism row reignites over kids’ play,” Zeit Gist, April 13, 2010.)
Har har. Can’t you see it’s all just a joke, imbued with a deep sense of irony subversively directed at Japanese people? Except that, as I’ve pointed out in JBCs passim, irony as humor is not one of Japan’s strong suits.
Moreover, remember when McDonald’s Japan was using a nerdy white guy to hawk newfangled burgers? JBC argued (“Meet Mr. James, Gaijin Clown,” Sept. 1, 2009) that stereotyping of this nature only works as humor if, among other things, there is a “switch test” – i.e., everyone is fair game for parody.
But in Japan it’s not fair game. Japanese society and media takes quick umbrage to being lampooned by the outside world, especially in a racialized manner.
Case in point: To commemorate the publication of “Little Black Sambo,” I drew up a parody called “Little Yellow Jap” to put the shoe on the other foot (debito.org/chibikurosanbo.html). I made the protagonist as stereotypically exaggerated as the ink-black gollywogs in the book: bright yellow skin, round glasses, buck teeth, and clad in a fundoshi loincloth. I pointed out on every page that this was a parody of Japan’s Sambo, and contextualized it with a full explanation in Japanese of why racialized books for children are bad.
Or consider the case of British TV show QI (Philip Brasor, “Cultural insensitivity no laughing matter,” Media Mix Jan. 30, 2011, discussed here). Producers were forced to apologize for a joke about a recently-deceased Japanese who in 1945 unluckily travelled to Nagasaki, after experiencing the first atomic bombing, to catch the second one. A panelist had dryly quipped, “He never got the train again, I tell you.”
That’s not funny! That’s insensitive. And insulting! And racist, according to the more unified online communities in Japan, backed up by protesting Japanese government officials, all of whom clearly understand irony. (For the record: I’m being ironic. Please laugh.)
Back to ANA. I bet the omnipotent gerontocracy at corporate headquarters didn’t think anything amiss (obviously; they approved the ad), because, as is often claimed in these situations, Japanese in fact “admire” (akogareru) white people. This ad is, if anything, a paean. After all, look at him! He looks like Robert Redford, one of the prototypical kakkō-ii foreigners of our generation! (They could do with a Brad Pitt update, I guess.)
In tepid apology letters, ANA uses the standard disclaimer: “We didn’t mean to offend anyone.” Okay. And I’m sure many of your potential customers didn’t “mean” to be offended either. But many were. And if you have any pretentions to being an international company, you wouldn’t get in these sticky wickets in the first place.
To be fair, this campaign was probably cooked up not by ANA, but by one of Japan’s advertising oligarchs (no doubt Dentsu, with nearly a third of Japan’s market share). Anyone with an eye on the Japanese media knows how they make silly amounts of money on silly stereotypes (including the one that Japanese don’t hug), while reaffirming the binary between “Japan” and “the rest of the world.”
“Dear ANA: Are you aware that most of your foreigner customers are from places like Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur? And that most of them probably don’t have blond/orange hair? Oh, and even the ones with blond hair probably don’t have noses like a tengu goblin. And pretty sure that Japanese people enjoy being hugged and have emotions. Well, at least the Japanese who aren’t sticks-in-mud CEO boardroom types with no sense that the world doesn’t really resemble their 19th-century, ‘we are so different from you funny-looking white gaijin’ Meiji-Era mentality.
“Look forward to seeing your 2020 customers. They may surprise you. Sincerely, A Big-Nosed White Guy who speaks Japanese.”
Touché. Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards.
For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”
Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages.
This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”
Hi Blog. A bit of a tangent this time, but what do you think about this article? It suggests that diversity in Japan’s corporate culture is being suppressed, and overseas experience is in fact a DEMERIT to placement and advancement. If true, then how the heck are NJ supposed to get ahead in Japanese companies if even Japanese face the same resistance? And what does it say about Japan’s future in the global market? Arudou Debito
Many young Japanese students go abroad to study with high hopes. They return home with foreign degrees and even higher hopes, only to be shot down by conservative company ideals.
On the very first day in her first job after graduation, Tomoko Tanaka says her dominant emotion was of disappointment.
Tanaka, who does not want her real name or the name of her company used in this article because it could affect her career, began work in April of this year and had high hopes that the years she spent studying overseas would make her a popular candidate with Japanese employers.
Instead, it seems, the effort and money that went into perfecting her English skills in the UK may have been wasted as Japanese firms do not always welcome potential recruits who have been exposed to foreign ways of thinking and behaving.
“I did not have a clear dream for my career, but I did want to work for a big and famous company,” 23-year-old Tanaka told DW. “I studied in the UK for one year, I learned about the difficulties of living with people from various countries, from different cultures, and the importance of taking action in order to change something and to make myself understood.
“And I felt more confident after living abroad because I could overcome many difficulties,” she added.
High test scores Initially, Tanaka was encouraged by her job interviews as employers seemed to value a high score in language assessment tests.
After securing a job that appeared to offer good career prospects, Tanaka learned that she was being sent to a rural part of Japan and would be working in the administration department. Since she started, she has not yet had an opportunity to use her English skills.
“In my opinion, most Japanese companies want young people who have a ‘Japanese background’ and international communication skills, but I think that is global human resources in a very limited sense,” she said.
Graduates from foreign universities find it difficult to get a job
“It seems that Japanese companies want young people to obey their rules, but only to use their skills when the company needs it,” she added.
But this runs counter to what Japan needs in the rapidly evolving world of international trade, commerce and international relations.
In March, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that Japan would take part in negotiations to construct the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement and indicated that opening up to the rest of the world offers the best chances of growth for the nation.
Japan has also actively been seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the government is planning to revise parts of the constitution that will enable Japanese troops to play much larger roles in international peace-keeping operations and companies are being encouraged to go further afield to secure the resources and markets that will provide for the nation’s future.
Companies lagging behind Many companies here, however, are not keeping up with that vision.
A survey conducted in March 2012 by Disco, a Tokyo-based recruitment company, determined that less than one in four firms planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad.
Even among major, blue-chip companies, less than 40 percent said they would employ Japanese who had attended a foreign university.
Aware of the problems they face if they have invested their time and funds on an education overseas, more are staying closer to home. In 2004, there were 82,945 Japanese at colleges overseas; in 2010, the figure had contracted to less than 60,000. In the US alone, the number has fallen from a peak of 47,000 in the 1997-’98 academic year to just 19,900 in 2011-’12.
Inevitably, as places are freed up at foreign institutions, they are being snapped up by students from developing nations with a thirst for knowledge, with China and India in the forefront of the surge.
“It seems to me that for the first few years of young Japanese graduates’ careers, they are effectively being ‘trained’ in the corporate culture and requirements of their company,” said Chris Burgess, a lecturer in English and Australian Studies at Tsuda College in Tokyo.
Talent going to waste “That means that despite all the rhetoric from the government, these companies are wasting so much talent,” he said.
PM Kan indicated that opening up to the rest of the world could help the country’s growth
“They are usually long-standing institutions with structures that are very difficult to reform,” he said. “There is an inbred corporate culture and they are very reluctant to evolve, even when they need to do precisely that to survive in an increasingly competitive business world.”
It is an alarming statistic that fully 25 percent of new employees at Japanese companies resign within the first three years, he said, simply because they are not satisfied with what they are doing.
“I felt confident and really motivated when I started my job interviews,” said 26-year-old Yumi Hara, from Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.
Two years in London and a degree in East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia that gave her Chinese and Korean on top of her English would make her an attractive option for a Japanese company that had ambitions of expanding its operations overseas.
“But in the interviews, they didn’t really want to know what I thought, but whether I was able to give them the perfect answer, to tell them what they wanted to hear,” she said.
Hara admits she was “devastated” at the constant rejections – particularly when she discovered that friends who had opted to go to Japanese universities and had very limited language abilities were getting the very jobs that she wanted.
“Today I’m teaching English in a small school and I’m pretty happy doing this as it’s a small company and I have the responsibility to start new things,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be going to work for a big Japanese company any time soon.”
Hi Blog. As a followup to the previous blog post talking about racist public notices by the Japanese police forces, here is another type of discriminatory sign that is also worthy of discussion — one that warns the public that NJ are criminals:
(in Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and English)
WARNING If we find any kinds of criminal acts of foreigners, we SURELY report not only to the police but also to your workplace and your agency.
— GENKY Stores Inc (a drugstore in Kani-shi, Gifu-ken, dated February 28, 2013, taken by HSD, courtesy of shared links on Facebook through SM)
(Reuters) – Tokyo police will try to rein in a wave of shoplifting by lonely elderly people by involving them in community service, a police spokesman said Thursday.
One out of four elderly shoplifters in the capital blamed their crime on loneliness, Japanese media quoted a police survey as saying. Another 8 percent said it was because they had “no reason to live.”
More than half the elderly shoplifters said they had no friends and 40 percent of them lived alone, media said.
“Making shoplifters do volunteer work in the community is effective,” the Tokyo Shimbun quoted J.F. Oberlin University professor Akihiro Sakai, head of a police research panel set up to tackle shoplifting, as saying.
“Instead of increased punishment, I hope we can rehabilitate shoplifters with special care.”
A police spokesman declined to confirm the details of the survey but said it would be released to the public soon.
Elderly shoplifting cases in Tokyo reached all-time highs last year, nearly catching up with the number of cases involving young offenders.
People 65 years or older accounted for 23 percent of the 17,800 known shoplifting cases in 2008, more than doubling in the past five years, media said.
An example cited in the Ministry of Justice’s annual report on crime describes a 76-year-old woman who turned to shoplifting several years ago as a way to battle loneliness after her parents died.
Over 20 percent of Japan’s population is aged 65 or over, with that figure set to double by 2050.
==================================== At least one blogger writes that, statistically speaking, it’s to be expected. Masamizu Kibashiri (an obvious pseudonym) points out that the fatalist tone of the reporting on elder shoplifting hides a salient and very apparent fact: The number of old people has risen sharply during the past decade while the number of minors has declined at almost the same rate. In the past 20 years, the over-65 population of Japan has jumped from 15 million to 27 million. Given this increase, the slighter rise in shoplifting arrests could actually be taken as being encouraging: Not as many older people are shoplifting as might be expected.
Kibashiri proposes a different statistical model for gauging the phenomenon: Number of elder arrests per 10,000 population of over-65s. Using that statistical model, he finds that the percentage of elder shoplifters has, in fact, risen significantly, from 2.8 in 1989 to 9.5 in 2009, with the largest jump coming around 2005. Obviously, there is a meaningful increase here, but the media needs to qualify its reporting of an “epidemic.”
Hi Blog. We have an interesting case of a Japanese sports player quitting an overseas soccer team claiming “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu). Nakamura Yuuki, formerly of Slovak football club MSK Rimaska Sobota, has been reported in the Japanese press as returning to Japan last September, blogging about his treatment negatively. But look closely at this case and some odd thoughts come up. According to the press (English-language ones first, then Japanese, translated):
Japanese soccer striker Yuki Nakamura has quit his Slovakian club Rimavska Sobota saying his club and his teammates did nothing to support or protect him from the racial abuse targeted at him by supporters.
“It’s a real shame but I have come home because I have been subjected to racism at Rimavska Sobota and I can’t carry on living there,” Nakamura posted on his blog. The 25 year old, on loan from Czech side Viktoria Zizkov, said that fans would hurl racial slurs at him before and after games. When he told the club about it, they said there was nothing they could do about it. He decided he couldn’t continue living there and decided to just come home to Japan. He has previously played in Romania and the Czech Republic.
Other Japanese players have also experienced difficulties while playing overseas. Most recently in 2011, Lierse goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was taunted by opposing fans with chants of “Fukushima, Fukushima” in reference to the nuclear disaster from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Racism in football is still a persistent, serious problem and FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes it is one of the biggest scourges in the sport. He believes points should be deducted from teams in cases of racial abuse. Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan, who also plays for the national team of Ghana, walked out of a friendly match against Pro Patria after fans didn’t stop their “monkey” chants, even after being called out by the stadium announcer. United State’s Jozy Altidore is also another recent victim of racist chants, during a Dutch Cup game for his club AZ. The referee wanted to halt the fixture after fans continued hurling abuse at him, but Altidore asked for the game to continue.
Japanese striker Yuki Nakamura says he has left Slovakian club Rimavska Sobota because he was a target of racist abuse.
“It’s a real shame but I have come home because I have been subjected to racism at Rimavska Sobota and I can’t carry on living there,” the 25-year-old Nakamura wrote on his blog on Wednesday.
Nakamura, who has also played in Romania and the Czech Republic, says supporters would hurl abuse at him before and after games and that none of his teammates would offer help.
“This is not normal,” said Nakamura, who was on loan from Czech side Viktoria Zizkov. “Some type of threat was made to the club but they said there was nothing they could do about it, so I came home. I doubt there are many players that have experienced this.”
Several Japanese players have encountered difficulties while playing overseas. In 2011, former Lierse goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was taunted with chants of “Fukushima, Fukushima” by opposing fans in reference to the nuclear disaster following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently reiterated his belief in deducting points from teams in cases of racial abuse — which he believes is the one of the biggest scourges in soccer.
TOKYO: Japanese striker Yuki Nakamura says he returned home over intolerable racism at Slovak club Rimavska Sobota, adding that the side had received threats over his appearances.
The incident is the latest in a string of racially-linked incidents in European football, with Italian giants Lazio fined a total of 140,000 euros ($190,000) by UEFA on Wednesday after their Europa League clashes against Tottenham and Maribor were marred by racist chanting.
In an online blog entry dated Wednesday, Nakamura, 25, said he returned to Japan because of racism that had even involved some of his own teammates.
“Unfortunately, I have come home because I was subjected to racism at the club I belonged to, Rimavska Sobota, and could not live there any more,” the footballer wrote.
Calling out his name before and after matches, some club supporters raised their middle finger to Nakamura “with a look of furious anger”.
“No teammates helped me. There were even some players who joined in (the harassment),” he added.
“It wasn’t normal anymore, and the team even received some sort of threats. They cannot be responsible (for my safety), so I came home,” he said.
Nakamura played in Romania and the Czech Republic before joining Rimavska Sobota on loan in July last year.
Compare these with the Japanese-language reports below (my translation, then originals)
Japanese Soccer Forward quits club due to severe discrimination
Sankei Sports, January 31, 2013 (translation by Arudou Debito; corrections welcome)
Forward Nakamura Yuuki (25), of Slovak football club MSK Rimavska Sobota, wrote on his own blog on January 30 that “I received racially discriminatory treatment and could no longer live there, so I came back to Japan”, making clear that he had quit his team.
According to his blog, Nakamura had already returned to Japan by last September. The target of racial discrimination from soccer fans, he also made clear that teammates would side with them. “Before and after games, soccer fans would say my name with an angry demonic look in their eyes (oni no gyousou de), give me the finger… and none of my teammates would help me. It also seemed like some of the players would have a hand in it too,” Nakamura wrote in detail.
In addition, Nakamura reported that the club explained to him, “We cannot take responsibility if threats come to the team.”
Nakamura began playing for a Rumanian club after graduating from Kokushikan University. In 2012 he switched to the Viktoria Zizkov team in the Czech League, and in August he was on loan to MSK Rimavska Sobota.
Regarding incidents of racial discrimination towards Japanese players, in August 2011, Japan Team Goalie Kawashima Eiji, then a member of club Lierse in the Belgian League, was jeered at fans during a game where they said “Kawashima, Fukushima!” in reference to the nuclear accident. This led to Kawashima protesting to the head referee and interrupting the game.
The soccer world is thick with (habikoru) problems of racial discrimination, FIFA president Sepp Blatter (76) has is considering deducting winning points from any team which engages in racial discrimination.
Japanese soccer player in overseas league confesses that “racial discrimination” made him “unable to live there anymore”
RBB Today/Livedoor Sports, February 1, 2013 (translation by Arudou Debito; corrections welcome)
Forward Nakamura Yuuki (25), of second-tier Slovak football club MSK Rimavska Sobota, blogged that he had been subject to racially discriminatory treatment and could no longer carry on living there.
On January 30, in a blog entry entitled “The truth is…”, he wrote “This time I wanted to return to Japan sooner than usual. So by the end of September I was back,” reporting that he had already come home. “It’s a shame, but because I received racial discrimination at MSK I couldn’t live there anymore and so came home,” clarifying why he came home earlier than usual.
The treatment that Nakamura called “racial discrimination” was, as reported, “There were many things that made me think ‘Would such a thing happen in this day and age?’ Before and after games, soccer fans would say my name with an angry demonic look in their eyes (oni no gyousou de), give me the finger… and none of my teammates would help me. It also seemed like some of the players would have a hand in it too.” Nakamura also added that “things that looked like threats” also happened to the team. But since the team wouldn’t take responsibility (for Nakamura’s safety), it looks like he made the decision to leave.
On Nakamura’s blog in August before he repatriated, Nakamura reported about recent play and living conditions, “Honestly, I’m tired. I’m the only gaijin [sic] on this team and there are lots of communication problems;” “Well, it doesn’t matter where you go in this world, there’ll always be problems, right?’ Problems and adverse conditions. It’s times like those when you really have to think about how to think about them,” showing the difficulties he was having with playing for overseas teams. On his most recent blog entry, when he revealed how severe the bashing he was getting overseas, he said, “I think few other sportsperson have had this kind of experience,” concluding his blog entry with a positive feeling.
[Last paragraph of the article details his former Japanside career as a soccer player.]
As Submitter AS notes: Reading through the article and the blog quoted in the article, I can’t find anything that clearly shows racial discrimination. People giving him the finger? With no context, that could mean anything from racial discrimination to thinking he’s a useless player.
As Submitter HS notes: I find it very interesting how low the bar is for Japanese to scream “racism” overseas. Someone yells “Kawashima Fukushima” during a soccer game and Kawashima stops the game to protest?? And the Japanese media consider this taunt to be “racism”?? Surely the jeer is not appropriate but racism???
Try looking for an apartment – a place to live! – and being told “No!” simply because you are not Japanese. THAT’S racism. But why do I get the feeling that the Japanese media would make excuses, justify, and attempt to convince me that this is not racism but just a big misunderstanding on MY PART?
Where is FIFA or any other international sports league to decry racism when this sort of thing happens in Japan? Buried in cultural relativism. You can see that even more strongly in the comments to the Japan Today article cited above, which are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Nakamura. I don’t doubt that Nakamura had readjustment problems and decided not to stay because he wasn’t comfortable overseas. But imagine the reaction if a NJ player in the J-League were to quit, justifying it by saying “fans gave me an angry look” or “people gave me the finger”. He’d be told by commenters to grow a pair, and would have bloggers both in English and Japanese questioning not only the veracity of his claims (dollars to donuts they would dismiss his claim of “racial discrimination” as cultural misunderstandings or insensitivity) but also his mental stability.
That’s not happening in Nakamura’s case. Now why? Are we that programmed to holding Japan to a different standard? Arudou Debito
Debito here. Let me make a clarification to my post, since some people (off list) aren’t getting it:
Here’s what I am and am not saying:
I am NOT saying that Nakamura has no standing to have a complaint about the way he was felt he was treated.
I am NOT saying that Nakamura should have stayed on if he felt that way.
I am NOT saying that because racial discrimination (RD) also exists in Japan that Nakamura has no standing to claim RD in Europe.
I AM saying that the standards for what is called RD in Europe and in Japan seem to be different.
I AM saying that it is ironic that unequal treatment towards NJ sportspeople in Japan is not similarly decried as RD.
I AM saying that if international sports authorities are willing to acknowledge Nakamura’s treatment in European sports leagues as RD, those same international sports authorities (not to mention pundits and media commentators) should also have something similarly critical to say about the way NJ sportspeople are treated in Japan as well.
Thus, the irony I am pointing out is not that Nakamura claimed RD. The irony is that Japan’s unequal treatment of people by race/nationality/national origin is not held to the same standard as Europe’s unequal treatment of people by race/nationality/national origin.
For Nakamura, the threshold (based upon the standards of proof that he offered) was much lower than what people claim (and find their claims discounted for “cultural reasons”). Again, if any NJ quit his Japanese team due to getting the “stink eye” and “the finger” from the stands, nobody would take him or her at all seriously. It’s sweet that people (both European and Japanese) did in Nakamura’s case. But let’s universalize the thresholds and standards, shall we?
Hi Blog. Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy. As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant.
http://www.kitv.com/news/hawaii/Sen-Daniel-K-Inouye-dead-at-age-88/-/8905354/17808008/-/wsjrh/-/index.html Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.
But consider how he was able to do this, as pointed out by submitter PKU:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/442nd_Infantry_Regiment_%28United_States%29 President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the “Go For Broke” regiment), saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Ultimately, the draft was instated to obtain more Japanese–Americans from the mainland and these made up a large part of the 14,000 men who eventually served in the ranks of the 442nd Regiment.
Now this is important. Even as least AS FAR BACK AS FDR (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to disentangle race/national or social origin from nationality.
This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status). Nor is Japan really trying. I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”). This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as people of color and diversity. But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see here, here and here).
As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States! She was born in Japan.
In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable. Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat. Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator. Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.
My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future. Given its demographics, especially Japan. Arudou Debito
UPDATE: U.S. Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press. Ms. Hirono becomes the Aloha State’s first woman senator as well as the first Japan-born immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
As Japan’s politicians jockey over when to hold the next general election, one of Japan’s own is on the cusp of making U.S. election history.
Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono is favored to win the open Senate seat in Hawaii when voters cast their ballots Tuesday. If successful, Ms. Hirono will usher in a wave of firsts. She will be the first Japanese immigrant to be elected senator. She will also be the first Buddhist and Asian-American woman. She will be the first woman senator to represent the Aloha State, and is already the first foreign-born woman of Asian ancestry to be sworn into Congressional office.
The 65-year-old congresswoman was born in Fukushima, the northeastern prefecture where the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. When she was 8 years old, her mother moved the family to Hawaii. Ms. Hirono once said the immigrant experience and being raised by a single mother in economically difficult circumstances made her a “feisty and focused” lawmaker. She became a naturalized citizen in 1959, the same year Hawaii became a state.
Regardless who wins, Hawaii will get its first woman senator. Ms. Hirono, currently serving her third term in the House of Representatives, is up against former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican and long-time political rival to whom Ms. Hirono lost the 2002 gubernatorial race. The two women are chasing the seat opened up by Hawaii’s 88-year-old junior senator, Daniel Akaka, a Democrat. After a 36-year career, Mr. Akaka, the Senate’s only Chinese American, announced his retirement last year.
Scores of Americans of Japanese descent have been elected to public office since World War II. Case in point: If Ms. Hirono wins, both senators from the Aloha State will be of Japanese descent. Senior senator Daniel Inouye, who is also a Democrat, made his own imprint on Asian American history as the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later, the Senate. The 88-year-old Mr. Inouye has been a senator since 1963, making him the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.
There have been only five Asian American senators until now. Four have represented Hawaii and one has represented California.
But no Japanese-born–or any Asian-born for that matter–has been elected to the Senate. According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, of 1,931 senators who have been sworn in since 1789, there have been 58 born outside the U.S. Most immigrated from Ireland (16), England (12) and Canada (10). One each came from Cuba, Mexico, Antigua and Sweden. People who have been U.S. citizens for at least nine years are eligible to be senator.
Ms. Hirono is a familiar face among Hawaii’s Democratic establishment. Since returning from the mainland after earning a law degree from Georgetown University, she served for 14 years in the state legislature, eight years as lieutenant governor and is currently in her fifth year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her one election failure was her bid to become governor in 2002. But it raised her profile, both at home and in Japan. State broadcaster NHK covered her campaign extensively and had plans to televise the 2002 election live, according to a Chicago Tribune story.
Ms. Hirono, whose immigrant story seems to resonate with Hawaii’s diverse voting population, has campaigned fully backing President Barack Obama’s platform, casting her opponent as a Republican lackey. The Hawaiian-born president recently recorded a radio ad for Ms. Hirono, noting that she once worked with his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
“So Mazie isn’t just a reliable partner of mine in Washington; she is part of my ohana at home in Hawaii. Now, I need Mazie’s cooperative style and commitment to middle-class families in the U.S. Senate,” said the president in the ad released Saturday. “Mazie is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education. A staunch defender of Medicare and Social Security.”
Ms. Lingle’s campaign challenges Ms. Hirono’s past claims of support for the middle class. “Contrary to her rhetoric and her efforts to portray herself as caring about working people, Mazie Hirono’s actions clearly illustrate either that her words are just talk or that she simply does not understand the impact of her votes,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Ms. Lingle’s campaign manager, in a statement on Oct. 23.
In the final days of campaigning, polls indicated Ms. Hirono breaking away from her opponent with as much as a 22-percentage-point lead.
The Noda Cabinet approved bills at its meeting on February 14 that will assign an identification number to every citizen and every company, without regard to concerns over privacy abuse or to apprehensions about the possibility of having to pay more in taxes in order to receive better welfare services.
The identification system will collate personal information currently administrated under different programs such as for pension, healthcare, and taxation. The government states that it wants to implement a national ID system in January 2015.
There is now growing concern that such a national identity system could lead to invasion of privacy issues and may also be used to restrict government social security payments.
The government claims that a national ID system will provide easier access to social welfare programs for low-income families.
If that is the aim, it can use other means to provide benefits. What is the government’s true motive?
Akahata reports that the true intention is the promotion of the idea that “social welfare is a benefit one pays for,” which contradicts the established idea of social welfare as a basic human right. The government, in essence, aims to cut back on its payments for social welfare benefits and increase social welfare premiums on the general public.
Democratic Party of Japan member of the Lower House Tamura Kenji during a Cabinet workgroup meeting candidly stated that the introduction of a national ID system is aimed at strengthening tax collection.
The DPJ has since 2009 called for a national ID system as “essential” to “avoid paying unneeded or excessive social security benefits.”
Japanese business leaders have also pushed for a national ID system. Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) Yonekura Hiromasa said point-blank, “That’s for the purpose of cutting social security expenditures.”
An opinion poll conducted in November last year by the Cabinet Office shows that more than 80% of respondents “do not know” about the proposal to introduce a national ID system. The government should not be allowed to proceed with the plan to introduce such a system while keeping it secret from the general public.
Baye McNeil, author of the new book “HI, MY NAME IS LOCO AND I AM A RACIST“, has a dynamic blog called “Loco in Yokohama” I think you ought to check out. He writes about racism in Japan with a fresh brazenness that I think many Debito.org Readers might find interesting. His 4-part (so far) series entitled, “Why do Gaijin Clash Over the Issue of Racism in Japan” is what drew me in.
Links and quick summaries of those four parts below, and you should read the posts in order. If you’re at all interested in how you (and your multiethnic children) are being slotted in the subordinated “gaijin” category in Japan not only by Japanese, but by other NJ, you will want to read these and have a think.
Also interesting is our respective positions in the blogosphere. As Baye himself points out, I’m White, and he’s Black (or whatever label you want to use: Caucasian/African-American etc.), and how we get treated by NJ as vehicles of the debate is a facet little covered in discussion (case in point: the “Tepido” Stalkers are friendly towards him, natch — ‘cos they don’t to be branded as “racists”). So let’s read some Baye and cue up on that issue before we get into my next Japan Times Just Be Cause Column (out June 5), where I will offer “Microaggressions Part Two”. Enjoy. Arudou Debito
Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? Part One (May 13, 2012) (where Baye excerpts from his book discussing his motivations for writing about the topic of racism in Japan, since many people seek to dismiss it as figments of the imagination; he also divulges his connection with me (where he attended a speech of mine a writers’ conference) before writing his book, and compares it to his connection afterwards with a full-of-praise Tepido “Hikosaemon”)
Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. Whenever I make a point about the anti-assimilative nature of many of the GOJ’s policies towards NJ, one of the common counterarguments I hear is the foreigners can freely buy land in Japan (unlike in other societies), so it’s not that bad.
Well, it looks as though the recent push to keep an eye on foreign land acquisition in Japan “due to issues of national security” is still afoot. As Submitter MMD notes:
//////////////////////////////////////////////// May 1, 2012 Dear Debito: Just found the article linked below on Yomiuri’s website which gives some food for thought.
The article comments on Yomiuri’s own survey in which prefectural governments were asked “about the number of land acquisitions by foreigners and the size of the land acquired” The article also includes the usual ingredients for fear mongering, starting with:
“In one example in which a Japanese name was used to disguise a land transaction, a Chinese in his 40s living in Sapporo bought 14 hectares of mountain forest and other lands near the Niseko area in Hokkaido last autumn. For this transaction, he used the name of a Japanese real estate company.”
and concluding with:
“It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University of Commerce who participated in a discussion on the ordinance in Hokkaido.”However, as many land transactions are unclear because names are borrowed, it’s important to carefully check out each transaction,” Ebina said.
The title of the article which reads “ Foreign buyers snap up land / Survey shows many people use Japanese names to hide acquisitions” already says it all actually.
Aha, but there you go. There are foreigners and then there are FOREIGNERS! In this case, it’s apparently those sneaky Chinese we have to fear. Gotcha. Makes perfect sense if you’re a Japanese policymaker, a xenophobe who claims that Chinese are trying to carve up Japan, or an editor at the Yomiuri, I guess. Good company to be within. And as MMD pointed out, never mind Japan’s government-level bid to buy up land the Chinese contend is theirs… Arudou Debito
At least 1,100 hectares of mountain forest and other land have been acquired by foreigners, with Hokkaido providing the lion’s share, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
The survey discovered 63 land transactions involving foreign purchasers, but Japanese names were apparently used to disguise many of the deals, a subterfuge not recognized by local governments.
This indicates the number of deals in which Japanese land and forests are falling into foreign hands may be much larger than those found in the survey.
The survey, conducted from the end of March through earlier this month and covering all 47 prefectures, asked prefectural governments about the number of land acquisitions by foreigners and the size of the land acquired.
Under the National Land Use Planning Law, those who acquire more than one hectare of land are required to notify the prefecture concerned.
According to the survey, foreigners bought 57 pieces of land totaling 1,039 hectares in Hokkaido, accounting for 94 percent of land acquired by foreign capital nationwide.
Of the purchased land, about 70 percent was obtained by corporate bodies or individuals in Hong Kong, Australia and other places in Asia and Oceania. Corporate bodies in British Virgin Islands, known as a tax haven, were involved in 11 land transactions.
Regarding such deals, some people believe water resources are being targeted by foreign buyers. In response, Hokkaido and Saitama Prefecture introduced ordinances in March to require prior notification whenever someone tries to purchase a designated reservoir area. Fukui, Gunma, Nagano and Yamagata prefectures are considering similar ordinances.
In one example in which a Japanese name was used to disguise a land transaction, a Chinese in his 40s living in Sapporo bought 14 hectares of mountain forest and other lands near the Niseko area in Hokkaido last autumn. For this transaction, he used the name of a Japanese real estate company.
During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the man said he was afraid of provoking a backlash from the Japanese if he bought the land under his name. He also said he hoped to resell the land for a profit as he thought Japanese land prices had bottomed out.
A real estate agency in the Kanto region that was involved in the sale of a mountain forest to a foreign customer said: “Even though foreigners don’t aim to obtain water resources, their acquisitions could cause consternation. They feel safe if their deals are registered under a Japanese name.”
Regarding mountain forests acquired by foreign buyers, the central government said in May last year that 40 such transactions have been carried out in the five years up to 2010, with land acquired totaling 620 hectares.
“It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University of Commerce who participated in a discussion on the ordinance in Hokkaido.
“However, as many land transactions are unclear because names are borrowed, it’s important to carefully check out each transaction,” Ebina said. (Apr. 28, 2012)
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Hi Blog. In line with the current theme of the GOJ targeting NJ, here’s some idea of just how ignorant Japanese are of what happens to foreigners in Japan, e.g., Gaijin Card Checks. Submitted as a comment in November 2010 by Marius, it deserves resurrecting as a separate blog entry today:
COMMENT: I find this amusing, less because the ditzy Japanese panelists don’t seem to realize that once outside of Japan THEY become foreigners, more because nobody there seems to realize (or, for the purposes of balance in this admittedly short segment, have it pointed out) that this practice of random search with criminal penalties is already standard procedure in Japan. NJ have been profiled this way for at least two generations now, regardless of whether or not they’re tourists!
Lack of public awareness of this issue is part of the problem, and it enables the Japanese police, as we have seen on Debito.org, to feel like they can take liberties with their law enforcement as soon as a foreigner is involved. “Do unto others…” should also entail that regular Japanese folk consider what might happen to them if THEY were foreigners (but as this show demonstrates, for many that is simply pin to konai). Arudou Debito
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Hi Blog. I’ve been to South Korea a few times, and always thought it felt like I was visiting Japan in a different dimension. No more so than right now.
According to the Korea Times article below, we have a naturalized citizen getting turned away from a bathhouse. The management justifies it by saying that she, as a foreigner by appearance, is dirty or contagious. She calls the police, but it turns out there is no domestic law to prevent this from happening. The excluded person then claims racial discrimination, takes it up with the authorities, and we currently are at the point of seeing whether anything official will happen to stop this.
Ku Su-jin, an Uzbek native who was naturalized in Korea, shows her passport indicating Korean nationality during a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday. Ku said she was prohibited from using a sauna in a case of racial discrimination. / Yonhap
Lack of law against racial discrimination leaves foreigners vulnerable
By Kim Rahn
An ethnic Uzbekistan woman has filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission after she was denied entrance to a sauna here.
A sauna employee refused to admit to the woman, a naturalized Korean, saying she was still a “foreigner” by appearance and foreign users may “make water in bathtub dirty” and “pass on AIDS.”
Such an action was possible because there is no law on discrimination by race, according to a support center for immigrants.
“Many foreigners face such discrimination often but mostly they remain silent because they don’t speak Korean well and don’t know where they can appeal,” said Ku Su-jin, whose Uzbek name is Karina Kurbanova.
Assisted by a civic group, she held a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday.
“I’m filing the petition on behalf of other foreigners and especially our children including my seven-year-old boy, as I don’t want him to be discriminated against because of physically appearing different to Koreans,” she said.
Ku visited a sauna in Busan at around 3 p.m. on Sept. 25. But the employee denied her entry, saying foreigners are prohibited.
She reported this immediately to the police.
“The sauna worker told police that foreigners are not allowed there because they may make the water dirty. He also said Koreans customers don’t like using the facility with foreigners because in the town there are many foreign women working at bars and there were rumors that some have AIDS,” she said.
Ku is legally a Korean as she obtained citizenship in 2009 after marrying a Korean man. She told this to the owner, but he said she was a foreigner by appearance.
Police officers said there is no law to regulate such racist discrimination, advising her to go to another sauna, she said.
Officials at the center, who are supporting Ku’s petition, said the owner took advantage of a legal loophole regarding discrimination.
“There are laws banning discrimination by gender or by worker’s status. But there is none governing discrimination by race, not only do Koreans discriminate against foreigners but also Koreans discriminate against other Koreans like in Ku’s case,” a director of the center said.
The director said if the rights commission recommends the sauna to change, the group will help Ku file a civil suit against the sauna owner for the mental distress she sustained.
She said what Ku and the center ultimately call for is the establishment of a law banning discrimination by race, against both foreigners and naturalized Koreans.
“In these modern times when 1.3 million immigrants live here, it is shameful that they have their human rights infringed upon and are deprived of many entitled rights in daily life only because they look different or they came from other countries. Korea claims to stand for multiculturalism, but is far short of laws and systems for immigrants,” the director said.
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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.
But one other thing also has to be said. Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”. One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.” That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).
Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.
The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months! The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.
Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information). We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell. They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on. Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part. You know who you are. It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong. Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.
Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters. Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved. I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already. Arudou Debito
(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)
More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands
NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST) http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.
The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.
A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril
By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER Published: August 8, 2011
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate.
Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.
The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.
But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.
“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”
The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”
In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.
Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.
“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”
In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.
“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”
The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public.
Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.
The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”
The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.
Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public.
“As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.
Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.
At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home.
“I want to play outside,” she said.
About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.
Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.
On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.
Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.
Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.
And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.
“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.
The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.
But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.
However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.
A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.
Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.
“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”
Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.
In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.
Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”
Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.
“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”
A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”
Seeds of Mistrust
Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.
Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.
“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”
In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.
After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.
“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.
The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.
But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.
“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”
Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima
Kodama TatsuhikoProfessor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo
Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives
…In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.
What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.
In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb…
Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid
Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)
After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Timestermed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.
The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported theNew York Times on Monday.
“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”
Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)
Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”
The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.
This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:
“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”
U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:
“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”
Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry
There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.
After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.
“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré. “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”
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Hi Blog. Received this this morning from Terrie Lloyd. Very much worth reading, as it shows the damage done by the market aberration (if you believe in free markets as the final arbiter of fairness) of holding labor costs artificially low — you get resistance to ever raising them again once business gets used to those costs as being “normal”. As wages and working conditions in Japan continue their race to the bottom, it seems that two decades of NJ “Trainee” near-slave and slave labor will come back to haunt the Japanese economy after all. Arudou Debito
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * * A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, June 19, 2011, Issue No. 618
Addicted to Chinese Trainees, e-biz news from Japan
Date: June 19, 2011 11:49:26 PM JST
Presumably a big contributor to this record number of needy
people has been the Great East Japan earthquake in March.
The level of joblessness has soared to around 90% of
employable survivors in the worst hit areas, and by
the end of May about 110,000 were out of work and applying
for the dole at various Hello Work offices in Iwate,
Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures.
So, one would think that with this excess capacity of
workers, many of whom are from the agricultural, fisheries,
and manufacturing industries, juxtaposed with the
phenomenon of disappearing Chinese trainee workers from
factories around the same regions, less than half of whom
are yet to return, that there would be a slew of local
hirings to make up the shortfall. Certainly after the
Chinese trainees fled the disaster areas, there were plenty
of news reports of employers grumpily saying, “We can’t
trust Chinese employees, next time we’ll hire locals.”
But are they following through with local hiring offers?
Our guess is “not”.
The reason is because a Japanese breadwinner from Iwate on
unemployment, or even welfare, can still receive 2-5 times
more than the Chinese trainees do for the same jobs. The
factory and farm operators may grizzle about their
“unreliable” Chinese employees, but without this source of
ultra-cheap labor, they have no way of being able to
compete with the flood of goods and produce coming in from
China itself. The fact is that thousands of small companies
all over Japan are addicted to cheap trainee labor from
China and elsewhere, and to go local they would soon go out
Thus, unless the government comes up with some kind of
subsidy system, the folks in Fukushima will stay unemployed
and the missing trainees will be replaced with new trainees
just as soon as the recruiters in the remoter regions of
China can find them.
We have mentioned before in Terrie’s Take (TT-399 —
Trainees or slaves?), foreign “trainees” in Japan are paid
a pittance. On average they make about JPY60,000 a month in
the first year, then if they are lucky, around JPY120,000 a
month for the following two years, after which they have to
return to their home country.
One of our readers alerted us to an excellent report just
put out this month by a Hong Kong labor relations think
tank called the China Labor Bulletin. The report is called
‘Throw Away Labor — The Exploitation of Chinese “Trainees”
in Japan’ and is a encapsulation of the appalling
situation involving the virtual slave trade going on
between Chinese recruiters and small- to medium-sized
companies in rural Japan who need this cheap labor to
The report chronicles the various miseries that Chinese
trainees experience once they get to Japan, including:
withheld wages, no or very underpaid overtime, withheld
passports, threats of law suits if they flee back to China,
unsanitary living conditions, extremely difficult working
conditions… well the list goes on. And of course it’s
debatable whether such trainees actually receive any
education worth taking home with them.
The problem is that when you have poor and relatively
uneducated people from the Chinese hinterland making just
2,000 yuan per month (JPY26,000), almost anything sounds
better than what they have, especially when a recruiter
mentions Japan. The report details how trainees are
inveigled into a contract, and once committed, how they are
locked in to delivering that contract under very harsh (and
real) threats of legal action back in China.
This cheap labor addiction represents the reality of the
Japanese rural labor market. No doubt we’ll see the media
highlighting how locals are landing construction jobs and
getting back on their feet — that makes for feel-good
copy. But with only a comparatively small number of such
jobs going, there may well be a larger number of new
“trainee” visas being issued so as to ensure that
the rural factories and farms stay in business for a while
Earlier on this month, the Yomiuri newspaper carried an
article about an auto parts manufacturer in Akitakata,
Hiroshima, which is being investigated for hiring more
foreign “trainees” than allowed by the rules. The company
apparently padded the number of its regular employees, so
that it could bring on an additional 3 Chinese trainees
to add to the 3 already working there. The company had
discovered that not only were the trainees able to do the
same work as locals, they are more than 50% cheaper.
While this case may not seem like such a big deal, it is
the tip of a pretty ugly iceberg. The government’s foreign
trainee program, which started with the grand design of
helping to lift the basic skills of Japan’s neighbors, now
appears to have degenerated into being little more than a
pipeline of low-cost laborers to keep struggling small
manufacturers and farmers going.
The trainees work/train under near-slavery conditions and
the fall-out from this seems to be increasing. Last year
alone, 1,888 of them ran away from their postings, many
going on to become illegal workers elsewhere in the
country. Broken down by nationality, they numbered 3,516
Chinese, 2,629 Vietnamese, and 1,498 Indonesians — pretty
much the same ratios as the nationalities being brought in
under the program.
There are about 83,000 trainees accepted into Japan each
year, about 160,000 in total, of which just over 70%
(55,000 annually) are from China. They are allowed to work
(ummm, sorry, “train”) in 62 different types of industry,
such as agriculture, food processing, construction,
apparel, and animal husbandry.
The numbers in agriculture are a particular eye-opener and
foretell labor trends in this country. Young Japanese
really don’t want to work the land and thus there are now
about 9,000 foreign trainees bolstering the sector,
compared with just 2,200 Japanese high school graduates.
That means there is a 4:1 likelihood that next time you
want to buy a daikon or eggs directly from the farm, you’d
better be able to speak Mandarin.
The trainee system has been turned into a form of legalized
“slavery”. Most trainees for the duration of their 3 years
have virtually no employment rights (they are, after all
supposed to be trainees not employees) and are paid
unbelievably low compensation — just JPY66,000 (average) a
month plus accomodation in the first year, and a more
luxurious JPY118,000 (average) or so for the following two
years. Could you survive on this? We’d have problems…
The treatment some of these trainees are receiving is
pretty shocking. The “Association Tokushima”, a group
assisting Chinese laborers with problems in Japan, says
that they have documented a case of a 27-year old female
trainee working for a Tokushima-based food processing
plant, who received just JPY70,000/month for working 8
hours a day, 6 days a week, and an overtime allowance of
just JPY300/hour. Apparently she was working 14 hours a
day, then moon-lighting doing farm work on Sundays.
In another case, covered in the Asahi Shimbun back in
August, a Chinese female trainee arrived in Japan to learn
how to grow spinach and strawberries. But somehow she wound
up in a Forestry company. While there, she was required to
clean the company president’s home and even polish his
shoes. During her first year, in 2004, she received an
allowance of JPY50,000/month and JPY300/hour for overtime.
After she “graduated” from her first year and become a
so-called documented worker, her salary was supposedly
lifted to JPY112,000/month plus overtime. But in reality
the company deducted JPY90,000/month for rent, futon lease
(really!), washing machine lease, etc. To top it all off,
one of her managers had her apartment key and about 4
months into her traineeship started visiting and demanding
Conditions like these came to the notice of the press in
August, when a Chinese trainee at a pig farm in Chiba
complained about the harsh work conditions and was told
that his traineeship would be terminated. This of course
meant that he would be banished back to China — trainees
seldom get an extension unless the sponsoring company wants
them. In despair, he went berserk and stabbed 3 people,
including an official of the Chiba Agricultural
Association, the very organization that had brought him to
Japan in the first place. The official died. Since then,
the Ministry of Agriculture and other trainee
program-related ministries have started to review means of
enforcing the rules of the program that are supposed to
protect the trainees from these types of abuses.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare,
companies accepting foreign trainees and workers are mostly
small-scale businesses with less than 19 employees. There
were more than 180 documented cases of fraud or
mistreatment last year (2005) and it is suspected that a
lot more cases go unreported. In fact a Ministry of Health
survey found that of 731 reviewed companies, a full 80% of
them were violating the minimum wage law and labor
standards law for their 2nd- and 3rd-year trainees.
Obviously the problem is severe enough that the Ministry is
allocating JPY400m (US$3.38m) to its quango looking after
the placement of trainees, JITCO, for the purpose of
monitoring participating companies to make sure that they
stay compliant with the trainee program rules.
With the falling birth rate and migration of the domestic
workforce out of hard labor jobs, Japan clearly has to turn
to foreign workers to keep things going. The government
knows this and is infact planning to expand the trainee
system. Among the proposals are to increase the number of
trainees a company can employ from just one for every 20
staff, to an unlimited number, and to increase the variety
of jobs that a trainee can fill. Some employer
organizations are even calling for rule changes to make it
legal to bring in unskilled foreign workers in the same way
that they can already do with skilled ones.
But the expansion can’t go ahead until someone takes
responsibility for properly protecting the welfare of the
trainees. Although JITCO is being assigned this role, with
the increased number of inspectors, in fact, given that
they are a major player (they account for about 60% of
trainees) in sourcing and matching the trainees, and so it
seems like the current problems are in fact JITCO’s to solve.
Instead, we feel that the government should legislate to
keep traineeships to just one year and make sure that
classes from a local education institution — which need
new students — are incorporated. Once trained, graduates
should be allowed to become regular workers and enjoy the
benefits of a minimum salary, labor rights, and the ability
to get their visas renewed. Those that don’t pass their
first year should be sent home.
Already a step in the right direction is being taken, in
the way that semi-skilled Filippino health care workers are
to be handled. If they pass their language tests and gain
a solid record during their training period they will be
allowed to stay and work in Japan indefinitely… [Note from Debito: Hah.]
As for Japanese guests? Not always better. Here’s the latest mutation: The Yomiuri reports places are refusing Japanese people too from irradiated Fukushima Prefecture because they think they might be glowing:
As the article lays out, it’s not just a hotel (although hotels have a particular responsibility, even under the law, to offer refuge and rest to the paying public). A gas station reportedly had a sign up refusing Fukushima Kenmin (they must think Fukushimans spark!), while complaints came in to official soudan madoguchi that a restaurant refused Fukushimans entry and someone had his car defaced. In all, 162 complaints reportedly came in regarding fuhyou higai, or roughly “damages due to disreputation” of being tarred by the disasters. Now that’s an interesting word for a nasty phenomenon.
Good news is that these problems are at least being reported in the media as a social problem, and Fukushima Prefecture is asking the national government to address them. Let’s hope the GOJ takes measures to protect Fukushima et.al. from further exposure to “fuhyou” and discrimination. Might be a template for getting the same for NJ.
(Okay, probably not, but it’s still the right thing to do.) Arudou Debito
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Hi Blog. Here’s some news on a MOFA survey that was skewed (by dint, for one thing, of it being rendered in Japanese only, effectively shutting out many opinions of the NJ side of the marriage) linguistically to get results that were negative towards the signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions. Even then, MOFA got mixed results (as in, more people want the GOJ to sign the Hague than don’t, but it’s a pretty clean three-way split). Nice try, MOFA. Read the survey for yourself below and see what I mean.
In any case, the bureaucrats, according to Jiji Press of Feb 1 (see bottom of this blog post), seem to be gearing up to join the Hague only if there is a domestic law in place for Japan to NOT return the kids. I smell a loophole in the making.
TOKYO — An online survey by the Foreign Ministry showed Wednesday that people who have directly been involved in the so-called parental ‘‘abductions’’ of children as a result of failed marriages were divided on Japan’s accession to an international treaty to deal with child custody disputes.
Of 64 respondents to the questionnaire posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad between May and November last year, 22 were in favor of Japan joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, while 17 were against the idea.
The remaining 25 respondents did not make their stance clear, said Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Ikuo Yamahana at a press conference.
The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence when they are wrongfully removed or retained in the case of an international divorce. It also protects parental access rights.
Those seeking Japan’s accession to the convention said Tokyo should no longer allow unilateral parental child abductions as the country is perceived overseas as an ‘‘abnormal’’ nation for defending such acts.
People opposed to Japan’s signing of the treaty said the convention ‘‘doesn’t fit with’’ Japanese culture, values and customs and urged the government to protect Japanese nationals fleeing from difficult circumstances such as abusive spouses and problems in foreign countries.
Some pointed to the disadvantages faced by Japanese parents seeking a local court settlement on child custody abroad, such as expensive legal fees and the language barrier.
Yamahana said the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will further examine the possibility of joining the convention based on the results of the online survey. ‘‘We will discuss what we can do to ensure the welfare of children,’’ he said.
International pressure on Tokyo to act on the parental abduction issue has been growing, with legislative bodies in the United States and France recently adopting resolutions that call for Japan’s accession to the treaty.
At present, 84 countries and regions are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Seven major economies, only Japan has yet to ratify the pact.
Of the 64 respondents, 18 said they have abducted children and 19 said their children have been taken by their former spouses. A total of 27 said they have been slapped with restrictions on traveling with their children because Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention.
By country, 26 respondents were linked to parental abduction cases in the United States, followed by nine in Australia and seven in Canada. ENDS
Debito: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just started asking for opinions from the public regarding Japan’s ascension to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which provides guidelines for dealing with cases of children being taken across borders without the consent of both parents, as well as establishing custody and visitation; all past Debito.org articles on the issue here.).
But now we have the MOFA officially asking for public opinions from the goldfish bowl. Despite the issue being one of international marriage and abduction, the survey is in Japanese only. Fine for those NJ who can read and comment in the language. But it still gives an undeniable advantage to the GOJ basically hearing only the “Japanese side” of the divorce. Let’s at least have it in English as well, shall we?
Kyodo article below, along with the text of the survey in Japanese and unofficial English translation. Is it just me, or do the questions feel just a tad leading, asking you to give reasons why Japan shouldn’t sign? In any case, I find it hard to imagine an aggrieved J parent holding all the aces (not to mention the kids) saying, “Sure, sign the Hague, eliminate our safe haven and take away my power of custody and revenge.” That’s why we need both sides of the story, with I don’t believe this survey is earnestly trying to get. Arudou Debito
TOKYO — Japan began Tuesday soliciting views via the Internet on the possibility of the country ratifying an international convention to deal with problems that arise when failed international marriages result in children wrongfully being taken to Japan by one parent.
The online survey by the Foreign Ministry asks people who have been involved in the so-called parental ‘‘abductions’’ to Japan of children of failed marriages what they think about Japan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Complaints are growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child.
The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of such ‘‘abducted’’ children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has suggested that he is considering positively Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention and ratifying it during the next year’s ordinary Diet session.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said at a regular news conference Tuesday that the government will examine opinions collected through the online survey in studying the possibility of joining the convention. The questionnaire will be posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad, he said.
At present, 82 countries are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Eight major powers, Japan and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty.
SURVEY REGARDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION
Question 1: Have you ever had an experience like the ones below regarding the problem of children being moved across borders? You do not have to reveal anyone’s names in your answers:
— There was a child abducted across an international border / you had no choice but to move with your children (please give details):
— You had a court trial in a foreign country and your border movements were restricted by a court order. (Response space)
— If convenient, please tell us about the following conditions: Age of the child: — Whether you are the mother or the father — Whether you had custody of the children / The name of the relevant country (Response space)
Question 2: Did you know the existence and the content of the Hague Convention? (Response space)
Question 3: Do you have an opinion about Japan not becoming a party to the Hague Convention so far? (Response space)
Question 4: If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, you think there would be any advantages or disadvantages given to people in similar circumstances, or yourself? (Response space)
Question 5: If you have any comments about the issues – child abduction and the Hague Convention and other international issues, please state them below: (Response space)
There may be cases where we need to contact you to receive more details on your case. Would contacting you be possible? (Yes/No)
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THE TOP TENS FOR 2010 AND THE DECADE
ZEIT GIST 54 / JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 35 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
The Japan Times, Tuesday, January 4, 2011 DRAFT NINE, VERSION AS SUBMITTED TO EDITOR (Director’s Cut, including text cut out of published article)
WORD COUNT FOR DECADE COLUMN #5-#2: 988 WORDS
WORD COUNT FOR 2010 COLUMN #5-#2: 820 WORDS
It’s that time again, when the JUST BE CAUSE column ranks the notable events of last year that affected Non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This time it’s a double feature, also ranking the top events of the past decade.
WHY THIS MATTERS: Although our government has repeatedly said to the U.N. that “racial discrimination” does not exist in Japan (“discrimination against foreigners” exists, but bureaucrats insist this is not covered by the CERD (JBC, Jun. 2, 2009)), the Otaru case proved it does, establishing a cornerstone for any counterargument. However, the Supreme Court in 2005 ruled the Otaru case was “not a constitutional issue,” thereby exposing the judiciary’s unwillingness to penalize discrimination expressly forbidden by Japan’s Constitution. Regardless, the case built on the Bortz precedent, setting standards for NJ seeking court redress for discrimination (providing you don’t try to sue the government). It also helped stem a tide of “Japanese Only” signs spreading nationwide, put up by people who felt justified by events like:
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara set the tone this decade with a calamitous diatribe to the Nerima Ground Self Defense Forces (ZG, Dec. 18, 2007), claiming that NJ (including “sangokujin,” a derogatory term for former citizens of the Japanese Empire) were in Japan “repeatedly committing heinous crimes.” Ishihara called on the SDF to round foreigners up during natural disasters in case they rioted (something, incidentally, that has never happened).
WHY THIS MATTERS: A leader of a world city pinned a putative crime wave on NJ (even though most criminal activity in Japan, both numerically and proportionately, has been homegrown (ZG, Feb. 20, 2007)) and even offered discretionary policing power to the military, yet he has kept his office to this day. This speech made it undisputedly clear that Ishihara’s governorship would be a bully pulpit, and Tokyo would be his turf to campaign against crime — meaning against foreigners. This event emboldened other Japanese politicians to vilify NJ for votes, and influenced government policy at the highest levels with the mantra “heinous crimes by bad foreigners.” Case in point:
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
Once re-elected to his second term, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi got right down to business targeting NJ. No fewer than three Cabinet members in their opening policy statements mentioned foreign crime, one stressing that his goal was “making Japan the world’s safest country again” — meaning, again, safe from foreigners (ZG, Oct. 7, 2003).
WHY THIS MATTERS: Despite being one of Japan’s most acclaimed prime ministers, Koizumi’s record toward NJ residents was dismal. Policies promulgated “for the recovery of public safety” explicitly increased the peace for kokumin (Japanese nationals) at the expense of NJ residents. In 2005, the “Action Plan for Pre-Empting Terrorism” (ZG, May 24, 2005) portrayed tero as an international phenomenon (ignoring homegrown examples), officially upgrading NJ from mere criminals to terrorists. Of course, the biggest beneficiaries of this bunker mentality were the police, who found their powers enhanced thusly:
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
After May 1999, when their “Policy Committee Against Internationalization” (sic) was launched, the National Police Agency found ample funding for policies targeting NJ expressly as criminals, terrorists and “carriers of infectious diseases.” From NPA posters depicting NJ as illegal laborers, members of international criminal organizations and violent, heinous crooks, campaigns soon escalated to ID checks for cycling while foreign (ZG, Jun. 20, 2002), public “snitch sites” (where even today anyone can anonymously rat on any NJ for alleged visa violations (ZG, Mar. 30, 2004)), increased racial profiling on the street and on public transportation, security cameras in “hotbeds of foreign crime” and unscientific “foreigner indexes” applied to forensic crime scene evidence (ZG, Jan. 13, 2004).
Not only were crackdowns on visa overstayers (i.e., on crimes Japanese cannot by definition commit) officially linked to rises in overall crime, but also mandates reserved for the Immigration Bureau were privatized: Hotels were told by police to ignore the actual letter of the law (which required only tourists be checked) and review every NJ’s ID at check-in (ZG, Mar. 8, 2005). Employers were required to check their NJ employees’ visa status and declare their wages to government agencies (ZG, Nov. 13, 2007). SDF members with foreign spouses were “removed from sensitive posts” (ZG, Aug. 28, 2007). Muslims and their friends automatically became al-Qaida suspects, spied on and infiltrated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police (ZG, Nov. 9).
WHY THIS MATTERS: The NPA already has strong powers of search, seizure, interrogation and incarceration granted them by established practice. However, denying human rights to a segment of the population has a habit of then affecting everyone else (ZG, Jul. 8, 2008). Japanese too are now being stopped for bicycle ID checks and bag searches under the same justifications proffered to NJ. Police security cameras — once limited to Tokyo “foreigner zones” suchas Kabukicho, Ikebukuro and Roppongi — are proliferating nationwide. Policing powers are growing stronger because human rights protections have been undermined by precedents set by anti-foreigner policies. Next up: Laws preventing NJ from owning certain kinds of properties for “security reasons,” further tracking of international money transfers, and IC-chipped “gaijin cards” readable from a distance (ZG, May 19, 2009).
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
For the first time in 48 years, the number of foreigners living in Japan went down. This could be a temporary blip due to the Nikkei repatriation bribe of 2009-2010 (ZG, Apr. 7, 2009), when the government offered goodbye money only to foreigners with Japanese blood. Since 1990, more than a million Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese ancestry have come here on special visas to help keep Japan’s industries humming cheaply. Now tens of thousands are pocketing the bribe and going back, giving up their pensions and becoming somebody else’s unemployment statistic.
WHY THIS MATTERS: NJ numbers will eventually rise again, but the fact that they are going down for the first time in generations is disastrous. For this doesn’t just affect NJ – it affects everyone in Japan. A decade ago, both the U.N. and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi stated that Japan needs 600,000 NJ a year net influx just to maintain its taxpayer base and current standard of living. Yet a decade later, things are going in exactly the opposite way.
It should be no surprise: Japan has become markedly unfriendly these past ten years. Rampant and unbalanced NJ-bashing have shifted Japanese society’s image of foreigner from “misunderstood guest and outsider” to “social bane and criminal.” Why would anyone want to move here and make a life under these conditions?
Despite this, everyone knows that public debt is rising while the Japanese population is aging and dropping. Japan’s very economic vitality depends on demographics. Yet the only thing that can save Japan – a clear and fair policy towards immigration – is taboo for discussion (JBC, Nov. 3, 2009). Even after two decades of economic doldrums, it is still unclear whether Japan has either the sense or the mettle to pull itself up from its nosedive.
The facts of life: NJ will ultimately come to Japan, even if it means that all they find is an elderly society hanging on by its fingernails, or just an empty island. Let’s hope Japan next decade comes to its senses, figuring out not only how to make life here more attractive for NJ, but also how to make foreigners into Japanese.
Bubbling under for the decade: U.N. Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s 2005 and 2006 visits to Japan, where he called discrimination in Japan “deep and profound” (ZG, Jun. 27, 2006); Japan’s unsuccessful 2006 bid for a U.N. Security Council seat—the only leverage the U.N. has over Japan to follow international treaty; the demise of the racist “Gaijin Hanzai” magazine and its publisher thanks to NJ grassroots protests (ZG, Mar. 20, 2007); the “Hamamatsu Sengen” and other statements by local governments calling for nicer policies towards NJ (ZG, Jun. 3, 2008); the domination of NJ wrestlers in sumo; the withering of fundamental employers of NJ, including Japan’s export factories and the eikaiwa industry (ZG, Dec. 11, 2007).
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
Japanese politicians with international roots are few but not unprecedented. But Taiwanese-Japanese Diet member Renho’s ascension to the Cabinet as minister for administrative reforms has been historic. Requiring the bureaucrats to justify their budgets (famously asking last January, “Why must we aim to develop the world’s number one supercomputer? What’s wrong with being number two?”), she has been Japan’s most vocal policy reformer.
WHY THIS MATTERS: Few reformers are brave enough to withstand the national sport of politician-bashing, especially when exceptionally cruel criticism began targeting Renho’s ethnic background. Far-rightist Diet member Takeo Hiranuma questioned her very loyalty by saying, “She’s not originally Japanese.” (Just Be Cause, Feb. 2) Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara expanded the focus by claiming people in the ruling coalition had foreign backgrounds, therefore were selling Japan out as a “duty to their ancestors” (JBC, May 4). Fortunately, it did not matter. In last July’s elections, Renho garnered a record 1.7 million votes in her constituency, and retained her Cabinet post regardless of her beliefs, or roots.
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
After all the bad blood between these strikingly similar societies, Japan’s motion to be nice to South Korea was remarkably easy. No exploitable technicalities about the apology being unofficial, or merely the statements of an individual leader (as was seen in Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s apologies for war misdeeds, or Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono’s “statement” about “comfort women” – itself a euphemism for war crimes) — just a prime minister using the opportunity of a centennial to formally apologize for Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, backed up by a good-faith return of war spoils.
WHY THIS MATTERS: At a time when crime, terrorism and other social ills in Japan are hastily pinned on the outside world, these honest and earnest reckonings with history are essential for Japan to move on from a fascist past and strengthen ties with the neighbors. Every country has events in its history to be sorry for. Continuous downplaying — if not outright denial by nationalistic elites — of Japan’s conduct within its former empire will not foster improved relations and economic integration. This applies especially as Asia gets richer and needs Japan less, as witnessed through:
WHY THIS MATTERS: Wealthy Chinese gadding about while Japan faced decreasing salaries caused some bellyaching. Our media (displaying amnesia about Bubble Japan’s behavior) kvetched that Chinese were patronizing Chinese businesses in Japan and keeping the money in-house (Yomiuri, May 25), Chinese weren’t spending enough on tourist destinations (Asahi, Jun. 16), Chinese were buying out Japanese companies and creating “Chapan” (Nikkei Business, Jun. 21), or that Chinese were snapping up land and threatening Japan’s security (The Japan Times, Dec. 18). The tone changed this autumn, however, when regional tensions flared, so along with the jingoism we had Japanese politicians and boosters flying to China to smooth things over and keep the consumers coming.
Let’s face it: Japan was once bigger than all the other Asian economies combined. But that was then — 2010 was also the year China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. Japan can no longer ignore Asian investment. No nationalistic whining is going to change that. Next up: longer-duration visas for India.
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
WHY THIS MATTERS: The campaign resonated. Months after PR suffrage was moribund, xenophobes were still getting city and prefectural governments to pass resolutions in opposition. Far-rightists used it as a political football in election campaigns to attract votes and portray the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) as inept.
They had a point: How could the DPJ sponsor such a controversial bill and not rally behind it as criticisms arose? Where were the potential supporters and spokespeople for the bill, such as naturalized Diet member Marutei Tsurunen? Why were the xenophobes basically the only voice heard during the debate, setting the agenda and talking points? This policy blunder will be a huge setback for future efforts to promote human rights for and integration of NJ residents.
Bubbling under for the year: Oita High Court rules that NJ have no automatic right to welfare benefits; international pressure builds on Japan to sign the Hague Convention on Child Abduction; Tokyo Metropolitan Police spy on Muslims and fumble their secret files to publishers; America’s geopolitical bullying of Japan over Okinawa’s Futenma military base undermines the Hatoyama administration (JBC, Jun. 1); Ibaraki Detention Center hunger strikers, and the Suraj Case of a person dying during deportation, raise questions about Immigration Bureau procedure and accountability.
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Hi Blog. Now we have fears about NJ, particularly Chinese, buying up Japanese land — particularly if it involves forests or water tables! As submitter JK put it, “This just drips with paranoia of NJ and reeks of hypocrisy.” Or as Woody from Toy Story would put it, “Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole!” Are we now going to get “Eco” arguments now for excluding NJ? Arudou Debito
When the news first broke in June that a Hong Kong-based investor had two years earlier purchased more than 50 hectares of forest in Kucchan, near the Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido, shock waves ran through local residents.
Then in September, the Hokkaido government confirmed that several other parcels covering more than 400 hectares were also in the hands of foreign investors.
Since then, fears have been growing that foreign interests are increasingly buying up aquifers in Hokkaido.
“Water is apparently one of their targets, along with lumber. But trees have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and sustain biodiversity,” said Hideki Hirano of the Tokyo Foundation and the chief researcher behind two reports raising alarm bells about the increase in foreign ownership of Japan’s forests.
Such purchases have experts worried that Japan’s natural resources or even national security could be under threat. This nation has no law regulating land purchases by foreign interests and once an acquisition is made no one can infringe on the ownership, even if the land contains natural resources or is deemed crucial to national security.
With water and food security becoming a hot topic in recent years, aggressive land purchases by foreign interests are also taking place worldwide.
Many emerging economies, including China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, have reportedly snapped up farmland in Africa with the aim of producing crops there. Perhaps belatedly, Japan has also started investing in overseas farmland.
In Hokkaido, 29 contracts have been purchased by foreign interests, including Chinese, Australian, New Zealand and Singaporean enterprises.
It is a worrying issue not only for Hokkaido but for the rest of mountainous Japan.
Hirano said there is speculation that dozens of plots, including in Mie and Nagano prefectures, as well as on Tsushima, Amami Oshima and the Goto islands, are being targeted by Chinese and other foreign investors.
The growing sense of alarm finally prodded local governments, as well as officials in Tokyo, to start talking about ways to limit such purchases.
Last month, Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said a local ordinance is needed to force foreign interests to report an intended land purchase before the contract is signed.
At the national level, Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated in October the possibility of restricting foreign ownership of land where it could jeopardize national security.
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Hi Blog. Here’s another entry for the “shoe on the other foot” department — how Japan businesses squeal “foul!” when they face visa restrictions on their Japanese hires within Britain, and threaten sanctions and pullouts. Imagine if a foreign government were to try to do that to Japan for its visa programs, which are technically designed to give backdoor preferential treatment to unskilled workers? I’m pretty sure people would comment that the GOJ has the right to regulate its borders as it sees fit. Never mind comity, I guess. Arudou Debito
LONDON — Japanese firms are threatening to review future plans to invest in Britain if the new government follows through with its proposal to put an annual cap on immigration levels.
Corporate executives have told ministers that moves to limit the number of skilled people from outside the European Union who can be employed in Britain will seriously harm their businesses.
Japanese firms are particularly concerned about plans to curb the number of senior staff who can engage in short-term intracorporate transfers, as well as limits on recruiting skilled staff from outside the EU.
Britain’s new center-right government has decided to cap immigration due to growing concern that non-EU citizens are taking jobs away from the British.
In July, an interim cap was imposed on skilled workers, but ICTs are currently exempted. But a new cap will be introduced in April, and ministers are consulting on how big it should be and which sectors should be covered, including possibly ICTs.
Critics say Indian ICTs to Britain have been conducted in order to acquaint staff with information technology functions so the work can later be sent overseas. They also claim there are plenty of unemployed British IT workers who could perform the jobs.
The government is aiming to bring immigration down to “tens of thousands” each year compared with hundreds of thousands under the previous government.
Japanese firms say it is unfortunate that a new system designed to crack down on abuses might hamper those who have always followed the rules.
“The JCCI has communicated to U.K. ministers and officials in September its strong concerns about the introduction of further limits on non-EU immigration and the possible impact on the existing operations and future investment of Japanese companies in the U.K.,” said Patrick Macartney, manager at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The local Japanese automakers, which regularly transfer high-tech engineers from Japan to Britain, have been lobbying hard to get ICTs exempted from the proposed cap. The urgency is underlined by the fact that both Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have just announced major new investments in environment-friendly cars.
But the newly imposed cap on skilled workers is already impacting Japanese firms in Britain.
Katsuji Jibiki, a human-resources manager at Mitsubishi Electric Europe, revealed at a recent business seminar that his firm has been denied work permits to recruit about 30 engineers from outside the European Union.
He said, “These days we have big difficulties with work permits. Every year the government changes the policy and it is a big headache for us.”
Jibiki added that if the problems persist “there is a possibility of transferring our regional headquarters from the U.K. to continental Europe. We are thinking about such contingency plans.”
Japanese firms are threatening to review future investments in Britain if the government goes ahead with plans to put an annual cap on immigration levels.
Company bosses have told ministers that moves to limit the number of skilled citizens from outside the European Union that can be employed in Britain will seriously harm their businesses.
Japanese firms are particularly concerned about plans to curb the number of senior staff who can be transferred from Japan on a short-term basis, or intra-corporate transfers, as well as limits on recruiting skilled staff from outside the European Union.
The new center-right government has decided to impose a cap on immigration due to growing concern that non-EU citizens are taking jobs that could be done by skilled British people.
In July, an interim cap was imposed on skilled workers but ICTs are currently exempted. A new cap will be introduced in April and ministers are consulting on the size of the cap and which sectors should be covered, including possibly ICTs.
Critics say some Indian ICTs to Britain have been conducted in order to acquaint staff with information technology functions so that the work can later be offshored. They also claim that there are plenty of unemployed British IT workers who could carry out the jobs.
The government is aiming to bring immigration down to ‘‘tens of thousands’’ each year from hundreds of thousands under the previous government.
Japanese firms say it is unfortunate that a new system designed to crack down on abuses could hamper those who have always followed the rules.
Patrick Macartney, manager at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Kyodo News, ‘‘The JCCI has communicated to UK ministers and officials in September its strong concerns about the introduction of further limits on non-EU immigration and the possible impact on the existing operations and future investment of Japanese companies in the UK.’‘
Japanese car companies in Britain, which regularly transfer high-tech engineers from Japan to Britain, have been lobbying the government hard to exempt ICTs from the proposed new cap. The urgency is underlined by the fact that both Nissan Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp have just announced major new investments in eco-friendly cars.
But the newly imposed cap on skilled workers is already impacting on Japanese firms in Britain.
Katsuji Jibiki, a human resources manager at Mitsubishi Electric Europe, revealed at a recent business seminar that his firm has been denied work permits to recruit about 30 engineers from outside the European Union.
He said, ‘‘These days we have big difficulties with work permits. Every year the government changes the policy and it is a big headache for us.’‘
Jibiki added that if the problems persist ‘‘there is a possibility of transferring our regional headquarters from the UK to continental Europe. We are thinking about such contingency plans.’‘
And speaking at the same event, Stephen Gomersall, the European chief executive of Hitachi Ltd said, ‘‘There’s a danger that immigration legislation which is justified on totally different grounds can have operational consequences for sophisticated Japanese manufacturers.’‘
The British Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has studied the idea of a cap and taken evidence from Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, the government’s independent adviser on migration issues.
He told members about an encounter with Japanese executives ‘‘hostile’’ to the cap. They told him, ‘‘We provide huge foreign direct investments into the UK. Are you saying that it may be difficult for us to get our people in?’‘
The committee has warned that if the cap is set too high it could have a negative effect on business. Members recommend ICTs to Britain for under two years should be exempted.
The government says that it is listening to the concerns of the business community and recognizes the need to administer the cap flexibly.
Some analysts have speculated that the government could exempt certain sectors from the cap.
Firms are currently allowed to recruit skilled workers from outside the European Union if they are unable to fill posts with the local population or the job is on a list of ‘‘shortage occupations.’‘
Due to concern over immigration levels, Britain has already curbed the number of unskilled workers accepted into the country and placed tougher restrictions on student visas.
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Hi Blog. There is a person out there (one of many, no doubt) who takes a dim view of what we do here at Debito.org. To the point of saying things in a published column we did not say. Have a read of this. Comment from me follows.
An “interview” with controversial human rights activist Orudo Debiru
Categories: Amusement/Fiction foreigners in Japan
Today- a Uni-files interview with the controversial activist and newspaper columnist Orudo Debiru
(For those who don’t know, Orudo Debiru is a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan. He is also wholly fictional and if he happens to resemble some actual person from say, Hokkaido, that’s because you, dear reader, made an unwarranted connection. Today he joins us with one of his most ardent, and equally fictional, supporters- Jay Newbie).
Uni-files: Debiru, in a recent newspaper article you argued that even non-Japanese living outside Japan, including those who have never set foot in Japan, should have the right to vote in Japanese elections. You also argued that they should be eligible for all the public and social services offered by the Japanese government, including pensions and welfare benefits. This seems to be a bit radical don’t you think?
Debiru: No. Otherwise you’re discriminating between Japanese people and non-residents. Why should only Japanese have access to the benefits of ‘Team Japan’?
Newbie: Japan owes something to the world. It can’t just always be take, take, take. Japan has to give in return.
Debiru: Japan is the only ‘developed’ county that doesn’t provide the vote for it’s non-citizens who live elsewhere.
Uni-files: Really? No country in the EU does that, nor do Canada, U.S., or Australia.
Debiru: What other countries do is irrelevant! What’s right is right! Are you saying that it is right for Japan to be discriminatory?
Uni-files: Debiru, you and your supporters often mention that some attitudes, policies, or states of affairs occur ‘only in Japan’ among developed countries. It seems that you buy into notions of Japanese uniqueness or exclusivity. Do you?
Debiru: Not at all! The notion of Japanese uniqueness is a nationalist myth!
Newbie: Of all developed countries, only the Japanese think of themselves as being unique. It seems to be part of the Japanese mentality. They believe whatever the government tells them. You won’t find this type of belief in Western countries anymore, only in Japan.
Uni-files: Ok. Let’s move on. You’ve also blogged about “how the Japanese authorities plan to incarcerate all foreign residents as a precaution against the foreign criminals”. I haven’t come across any such policy statements. Can you ground this?
Debiru: Well, I was scouring the internet looking for anything that might prove my preconceptions about the ulterior motives of the Japanese authorities when I came across another blogger who talked about how his upholsterer in Inaka Prefecture thought he had overheard a conversation at a vegetable stand about the local district council becoming more vigilant about registering foreigners for social services and helping them with securing housing. And I can substantiate it too- with a link to the blog. Anyway, to me, being told to ‘stay in your house’ in this manner is equivalent to incarceration. And the registration is clearly a way of rounding up the foreigners- just like a crminal [sic] dragnet.
Newbie: In any civilized country this would cause mass rioting in the streets. But because the Japanese are such compliant sheep, not to mention the blatant racism here, no one will stand up for us. The Japanese just pretend that foreigners don’t exist. They stare at us like we’re from another planet.
Uni-files: That must be tough for them to do, both ignoring your existence and staring at you at the same time!
Debiru: This is just the start of the whole racist process. Next thing you know, your pension is declared null and void and your ‘ha-fu’ kids are kicked out of school for not being Japanese enough.
Newbie: Wow, Debiru. That was your best answer yet!
Uni-files: Let me ask about these racism charges a bit. For example, I know that you oppose the fingerprinting of non-Japanese at airports but can this really be called racist? After all, it is based upon citizenship, right? For example, Debiru, you are racially Caucasian but, as a Japanese citizen, you don’t have to be fingerprinted. And someone who is racially ‘Japanese’- although Japanese isn’t even a racial category- but doesn’t hold a Japanese passport still has to be fingerprinted. So while it may be other things, how can you say it is ‘racist’?
Debiru: Don’t feed the troll, Newbie. Don’t feed the troll.
Uni-files: Ok, nect [sic] question. Regarding a specific recent blog entry of yours… You recently criticized the city of Sonzainashi for exploiting non-Japanese. Apparently, the city authorities had developed a ‘Welcome Foreign Guests’ plan in which selected hotels, hot springs, eateries, bars and so on offered English information and services and had started a promotional campaign that actively encouraged non-Japanese to visit. So, what was the thrust of your criticism?
Debiru: When they carry out this facile, deceitful put-on for non-Japanese they’re only doing it because they want their business. “Let’s take the foreigner’s money away from them” is the real motivation. ‘Yohkoso Japan!’- Yeah, right!
Newbie: I consider it a form of robbery; another way of victimizing us, the weakest members of this society.
Uni-files: You guys seem to be very negative about anything to do with Japan, even when Japan scores an apparent success.
Newbie: That’s because Japan places everyone into an us and them paradigm. They do it all the time. They have institutionalized the formula. They use it to justify oppressive policies. We would never do that in the U.S. We have laws that forbid it and an education system that teaches us not to do so.
Uni－files：So, given that Debiru is Japanese, would you put him among that number?
Newbie: Well, I mean, he’s not really a Japanese in the same way they are. (Debiru stares at Newbie). Well I mean, like, he’s not exactly Japanese like them. So to speak. He’s a different Japanese from all the other Japanese. (Debiru continues staring at him). Well, of course he’s just the same as them in that he’s a Japanese citizen. But Debiru is more…ummm… progressive. (Debiru smiles).
Uni-files: OK. Back to the point. Wouldn’t you at least agree that public order and efficiency here is quite excellent?
Debiru: Japanese public order is maintained by coercion and implicit threat. It’s fifty years behind most other countries in this regard.
Uni-files: OK. How about robotics? Or even toilet technology?
Newbie: Robotics here is 36 years behind every other country in the world. And Japan is 23 years behind as far as toilets go.
Uni-files: On what basis can you make such bold claims?
Newbie: Three months ago in the U.S., before I came to Japan, I visited another state for the first time. And their toilets were better than here. Not as xenophobic.
Uni-files: Ok. How about manga and animation? Surely Japan’s ranking in these…
Newbie: You sound like a Japan apologist, acting as if racism never occurs here. Like nothing ever happened in Nanjing!
Debiru: Speaking of which, China has overtaken Japan as the world’s #2 power so Japan can’t possibly be leaders in those fields and therefore must be on the decline in all catgories.[sic] And it is this frustration at being a washed up, has-been society that it causing Japanese to lash out at foreigners.
Uni-files: Really? How so?
Debiru: It happens all the time. Read my blog.
Uni-files: I don’t doubt that there are individual cases but I don’t see it as systemic.
Debiru: If it isn’t systemic, why would I have so many blog posts? That’s all the proof you need! Anyway, just on our way over to this interview the taxi driver spat at us, called us ‘Dirty foreigners’ and told us to ‘Get out!”.
Uni-files: Wow! In twenty years in Japan I have never even come close to experiencing anything remotely like that. Can you elaborate? He spat at you?!
Debiru: Well, he was making disgusting sucking sounds with his teeth so that you could hear the saliva washing around. To me that’s spitting.
Uni-files: I wouldn’t call that spitting…
Debiru: Stay on topic! The point is he would never have done that if the passenger was visibly Japanese.
Uni-files: I see. And he called you a ‘dirty foreigner’?
Debiru: Well he called us “gaikokujin no kata”.
Uni-files: But that’s a very polite way of just saying ‘foreigner’! Where’s the ‘dirty’ part?
Newbie: Well we already know that the Japanese are racist and xenophobic so we can safely assume what he must have been thinking.
Uni-files: And the ‘Get out!’ part?
Newbie: He asked us where we wanted to “get out”. (awkward silence). It’s semantics.
Debiru: Not only that but I am not a foreigner. I’m a Japanese citizen. (starts sniffling) I was… racially profiled!
Newbie: (patting Debiru’s slumping shoulders) There, there. Now you are a racial profiling survivor!
Debiru (brightening up): If Japan had an anti-discrimination law with any teeth he’d have his ass hauled off to jail.
Newbie: Exactly. And you know what, you’ll never see the weak-kneed Japanese media or the history textbooks pick up on stories like this either. They don’t want to hear about these high-octane truths.
Debiru: This is precisely why we need laws against racism, xenophobia, being opposed to immigration, questioning multiculturalism, and other wrong and hateful thoughts.
Uni-files: So you’re in favor of more state authority and policing over what people think?
Debiru: Are you kidding? The police and judiciary here are totally inept and corrupt. They should stay out of people’s lives… ummm…except for the lives of those people who hold unhealthy views.
Uni-files: One more thing about this case. You say that you were racially profiled because the taxi driver believed that you were a foreigner, which by the way, is a mistake that most non-Japanese would probably make as well. But how do you know that the driver was in fact Japanese. Couldn’t he have been ethnically Korean or Chinese? In other words, didn’t you profile him equally?
Debiru: (closes his eyes) Don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll.
Uni-files: Ok. Last question. I’m wondering how you chose your Japanese name.
Debiru: It’s the closest phonetic approximation to my previous name. In fact, I asked to have a different, more suitable name first but was refused by the [iyami deleted] Japanese authorities.
Author’s Profile at ELT News Mike Guest is Associate Professor of English in the School of Medicine at the University of Miyazaki. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, he has been living, working, and researching in Japan (not to mention lounging in the professors-jacuzzi and taking lengthy, fully-funded research trips to 5-star beach resorts in Bora-Bora) for almost twenty years.
COMMENT: What a card. Well, for those unfamiliar with Mr Guest, he is a columnist at ELT News and the Daily Yomiuri (I even wrote about one of his DY columns here at Debito.org, favorably). However, what inspired a column of this caliber and tone in the ELT News (under the heading of “a candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher’s perspective”) is a bit beyond me. Its fallacious attributions (these statements are not quotes from me; if Mr Guest had critiqued actual quotes — and lordy knows there are years of my words online he could have referred to — that would have been better, no? Better yet, why not just interview me?), the presumption that people who support or comment at Debito.org must be malinformed Newbies, the general mean-spiritedness of it all, et cetera — are quite unbecoming for a person aiming to be a respected opinionist by taking puerile pot-shots at people on professional educational fora.
Especially in the Comments section where, amongst other obnoxious ripostes, he had this to say:
Alright, since Mr Guest decided to compare academic credentials, I decided to research his. Here’s what I found at his university website, where he has a one-year contract as an English teacher:
This looks okay, until you do some research. Aston University is a distance learning school in Birmingham UK that does indeed offer his degree (probably this one here). Fine.
========================= Subject: RE: Degree
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010
From: Regent College Admissions
Thanks for your email. Regent College is a completely separate institution from UBC.We have some partnerships/affiliations with UBC, but a degree awarded from Regent College is solely from Regent and unrelated to UBC entirely. [emphasis added]
I hope this helps – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have further questions! If you are interested in receiving information about our MDiv degree, I’d be happy to send you our MDiv materials.
Amy Petroelje, Inquiries and Housing Coordinator
5800 University Blvd Vancouver, BC V6T 2E4 phone 604.224.3245 toll.free 800.663.8664 fax 604.224.3097
So when I asked Mr Guest about his qualifications last week after his presentation at JALT Nagoya, here’s what he claimed:
but as even his alma mater acknowledges, a degree from Regent College is not a degree from UBC. It’s like saying somebody who graduated from Ithaca College, or Cornell College for that matter, graduated from Cornell University. Not an ethical thing for an educational professional to do, especially when he wishes to establish himself as a credible critiquer of educational matters.
So if Mr Guest wants to scrutinize others, I hope he will accept the same public scrutiny. Sadly, I’m not sure he will. The following, written shortly after our first meeting at JALT Nagoya on a site called “Tepido.org” (an interesting choice of venue; it’s a website devoted *solely* to trashing me personally and people who contribute to Debito.org, run by blogger Mr Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson and toy store employee Mr Lance Braman), indicates that Mr Guest’s antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, and blame-shifting continue unabated:
It’s funny that this discussion about credentials should come up here now. Yesterday, Debito attended my presentation at the JALT Conference in Nagoya and confronted me afterwards. I wasn’t really surprised. First, during the Q and A session, he asked what my credentials were. A left-field question to be sure and I knew that he was up to something. Later he came to the front as I was packing up, with a bit of a manic gleam in his eye, a voice recorder in his hand, looking like an intrepid young reporter who’s ‘gonna take yer ass downtown’, and began a prepared spiel, trying very hard to be intimidating (but looking me to me a bit more like a caricature).
He said (among other things) that I was a fraud because I had misrepresented my academic credentials (I imagine this will be up on his site soon if not already). For the record, the crux was this: I have a BA from Simon Fraser Univ. (Canada) in Philosophy, an MSc in Applied Linguistics from Aston U. (U.K.) and a Masters in Theology from the graduate theological seminary on the UBC campus, Regent College. Regent issues its own independent degrees because of its religious affiliation, despite sharing the UBC campus and facilities, some teaching staff, plus several credits and classes (many of which I took for classical languages and linguistics). I also did an ESL teaching certificate course at UBC but whatever….
Anyway, when I mentioned a ‘Master’s from UBC’ in answer to his credentials question, Debito reacted like he had just found a photo of me in a compromising situation with a goat, thererafter harping upon my misrepresenting myself as having graduated from UBC.
Of course, way back when the personnel at my current university wanted to know my academic background I naturally went into detail about the relationship between Regent (the theological seminary) and UBC. Why hide anything? But when some guy asks you this from a crowd at an ESL presentation you’re not going to go into great detail. People don’t know what the theological school at UBC’s name is. It’s like if someone abroad asks where you live in Japan- you live in Chiba but you work in Tokyo. So you say Tokyo. No one expects the interlocutor to start suddenly playing prosecutor.
Debito also added that “we” (who?) had contacted Regent in Canada to find out about its relation to UBC and had also checked out my U of Miyazaki database in advance. So this underscores what I wrote in my parody, about his habit of scouring about in search of ways to find any potential striking point in any perceived adversary and then blowing the results out of proportion as if this credentials quibble constituted a weighty riposte to my earlier criticisms of him.
The upshot of this seems to be that Debito took umbrage at a comment I made here on Tepido about us having the same credentials. My comment had been in response to someone on his site saying that Mike Guest is in an isolated university bubble (or words to that effect), arguing that if someone wants to devalue my opinion based upon the claim of being an out-of-touch egghead, the same must apply to Debito. Instead, Debito seemed to take this as an invitation to an academic pissing match, and when confronting me in Nagoya, duly informed of his Ivy League school pedigree, which apparently trumps all: “So, we don’t have the same credentials do we, Mike?”
Well, I guess that’s true in a sense. For example I have two masters degrees whereas… oh, wait a second. None of this has any bearing on the validity or non-validity of my original criticisms of Debito does it? It’s just a sad attempt at rank pulling- arguing from assumed authority. I don’t know where Regent ranks in terms of thological seminaries, but even if my education was limited to Uncle Peter showing me how to bait a hook, my criticisms of Debito remain. Fishing for quibbles in how I answer an awkward question on-the-spot from the audience at an ESL presentation is rather pathetic But you know he’s going to do stuff like this.
I tried to talk with him after this, seeing if he might pull out of Debito mode but what followed was basically stonewalling on his behalf (plus a few choice words aimed in my direction) and eventually I gave up. I just look at it this way- it’s Debito being Debito. I expected a reaction from him at some point- after all, I took a shot at him and he’s trying to take one back- but the fact is that I just lose interest in these kind of one-dimensional people. I’ve already spent too much time writing about him…
(NB: I might add that Mr Guest suggested I “switch to decaf” during those four allegedly unantagonistic and disinterested attempts to talk with me. Again, what a card.)
Clearly, Mr Guest doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he’s done. I have no truck with someone’s right to hold opinions about someone and express them in public. But there are limits, of course — as in, are those opinions accurate? If not, there should be scrutiny to make those inaccuracies clear. However, it’s hard to scrutinize someone hiding behind “parody” to claim somebody said something he never said (it absolves Mr Guest of the responsibility of providing evidence or doing verifiable research). Makes one question the professionality of the ELT editors, who should be offering better safeguards to preserve the integrity of their forum.
However, scrutinizing someone’s alleged professional background is much simpler. You don’t say you graduated from a place you did not graduate from and expect to be treated as an honest professional.
And you don’t pick on people like this (misrepresentation of the record is definitely a pattern in Mr Guest’s world) without expecting some scrutiny yourself. Now face the scrutiny. Like an adult.
That’s why I decided to go ahead with this expose on Debito.org. People can make their own decisions about what kind of future relationship they wish to maintain with Mr Guest as a columnist, scholar, and professional. Arudou Debito
UPDATE NOVEMBER 27
The deceptions continue. Mr Guest writes:
“Regent is a Theology School located on the UBC Endowment Lands. Many facilities are shared. If you want to do a Master’s degree in Theology you go to Regent, because UBC can’t offer Theology courses. Several credits I took as part of this Master’s I took at regular UBC classes (mostly linguistics) since some courses are cross-transferable. I also did an EFL teacher training course at UBC.”
“Regardless, if you want to do a Graduate degree in Theology at UBC you have to attend Regent or Vancouver School of Theology. Both are on the campus but are required to issue their own degrees as religious institutions. At both you can take classes and get cross credits from the standard UBC curricula and have full access to all UBC facilities. I used this to take linguistics courses- which were not offered at Regent. I also did a further ESL certification course at UBC.”
COMMENT: Let’s cut through the fog. Nowhere on your degree from Regent College, the one you cite as part of your academic credentials, does it say “University of British Columbia”. They are not the same institution. Claiming UBC on your employer’s website and at JALT, and insinuating as such online, does not change that.
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Hi Blog. Here’s what a place like Canada does when you have a thing like racially-motivated slurs and abuse: They give the abuser jail time. In fact, more than the prosecution was seeking. Fancy that. I’ve been told on more than one occasion to “go back to my own country” (even after naturalization, and once by a professor in my own university), and nobody has ever anything about it. Sad, innit? Arudou Debito
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Hi Blog. Here’s something that should raise a smile this Saturday morning. Somebody working in an administrative position as a NJ in a Japanese company (GEOS, an Eikaiwa!) gets harassed in the workplace (gosh, what a surprise). Then when taken to court, the company tries to claim this harassment is “The Japanese Way”! Guess what: They forgot this ain’t a Japanese courtroom where this actually might wash. They lose. Just goes to show you that what are considered working standards in Japan towards NJ (or anybody, really) aren’t something that will pass without sanction in other fellow developed societies. Attitudes like these will only deter other NJ from working in Japanese companies in future. Idiots. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
The boss of a multi-national English language school in Auckland has been awarded $190,000 after an employment tribunal dismissed claims he was used to being treated “the Japanese way”.
David Page was stripped of his job as regional director of GEOS New Zealand at a conference in 2008 and demoted to head of the company’s Auckland language centre.
In April last year, he was fired by email after being given “one last chance” to make the school profitable.
Page launched an unfair dismissal claim against GEOS, which comes under the umbrella of the GEOS Corporation founded by Japanese businessman Tsuneo Kusunoki.
But the company responded by claiming that Page “accepted understanding of the ‘Japanese way’ of doing business”. They went on to say he was used to Kusunoki “ranting”, “berating” and “humiliating” people “so this was nothing new”.
But the Employment Relations Authority said the company’s failings were “fundamental and profound”.
Member Denis Asher said the final warning was “an unscrupulous exploitation of the earlier, unlawful demotion”. He said: “A conclusion that the ‘Japanese way’ already experienced by Mr Page was continuing to be applied is difficult to avoid.”
Page, an Australian, started with the company as general manager for GEOS Gold Coast, Australia, in July 1999.
He moved to Auckland in March 2006, to take on the role of regional director. He was informed of his demotion at a regional conference in Thailand in November 2008.
Four months later he received a final warning that if the Auckland language centre was not in profit by the end of May his employment would be terminated.
Asher also said “an entirely unfair, unilateral process was applied” by the company in the decision to dismiss Page.
Page was awarded $55,000 for loss of income, $21,000 for hurt and humiliation, and $31,849.99 for long service leave. The total amount, including superannuation, under-payment of salary, holiday pay and bonuses came to more than $190,000.
The parent company, GEOS Corporation, went bankrupt in April owing $121 million. The New Zealand branch has been taken over by New Zealand Language Centres Limited. They refused to comment last night.
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Hi Blog. In an interesting twist to the whole “racial discrimination” issue in Japan, we have Japanese managers suing their former employer, world-famous luxury brand maker Prada, for alleged workplace sexual and power harassment, and “lookism” (i.e. treating people adversely based upon their “looks”). Some excerpts from the Japan Times:
The Japan Times Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fired Prada manager files suit (excerpt)
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer
The Japan Times Saturday, April 17, 2010
Ex-Prada exec claims harassment (excerpt)
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100417a6.html Former Prada Japan senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, who is suing the company over emotional distress from alleged harassment, said Friday she took the action to support mistreated working women in Japan who don’t feel they have the power to fight their employers.
“I filed the lawsuit against Prada Japan for creating a working environment cruel and unsafe for women,” Bovrisse said at a news conference at the Tokyo District Court. “Prada Japan’s personnel practice is abusive to women.”
The civil trial, in which Bovrisse will argue that the Italian fashion company discriminated against her and other female workers for what the company president called poor appearance, will get under way May 14. She is demanding an apology, compensation and cancellation of her dismissal from the company….
The Japan Times Saturday, May 15, 2010
Two former managers to file harassment suits against Prada (excerpt)
Two former shop managers of Prada Japan will file harassment lawsuits against the company, a move inspired by a former senior retail manager who sued the company for another harassment case, her lawyer said Friday.
Yoshiki Kojima, the lawyer for former senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, revealed the move when her suit commenced before the Tokyo District Court. Bovrisse is demanding the company apologize, pay compensation for emotional distress and come up with measures to prevent harassment. […]
Bovrisse alleges Prada Japan’s CEO asked her to get rid of shop managers and assistant managers who he described as unattractive last May. After she refused to do so, Prada Japan’s human resources manager gave most of those managers, including the two planning to file suit, transfer orders that amounted to demotions in May and June last year, according to Bovrisse and a shop manager and two assistant shop managers who received the orders.
FNN News May 14, 2010
COMMENT: Good, in the sense that people who are treated badly by employers don’t just take it on the chin as usual. But what makes this a Debito.org issue is the allegation, made by at least one morning Wide Show (“Sukkiri” last Monday, May 17), is that the companies are practicing “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).
Funny thing, that. If this were a Japanese company being sued for harassment (some examples here), there would be no claim of racial discrimination (as race would not be a factor). But this time it’s not a Japanese company — it’s Prada. Yet when NJ or naturalized Japanese sue for racial discrimination (as they did in the Otaru Onsen Case), the media would NEVER call it “racial discrimination”, merely “cultural misunderstandings” and the like.
Another example of the Japanese media saying racism is only something done TO Japanese, never BY Japanese?
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Hi Blog. Another example of sauce for the goose. When we see Japanese overseas being subjected to a unequal treatment (in this case, an optional tourist surcharge), we get news coverage and complaints (in this case, from a Japanese bystander — either ignorant or not wanting to acknowledge that the Home Team doesn’t in fact treat foreigners equally — who richly claims that “everyone is equal in Japan”). Shoe sure does pinch on the other foot.
For the record, I think this (optional) surcharge is okay as long as it’s optional and not applied to only one ethnic group (if there’s an issue of taxpayer subsidies of a place, then fine; allow for refunds of VAT for non-residents at the border to offset). However, according to the article below, it looks like this very surcharge was encouraged by the Japanese tourist board! Wheels within wheels. At least they get a badge. Anyway, something to chuckle over on a rainy Saturday. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a £5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.
The group was following a trail from Bowness to Hawkshead taken by 80,000 of their countrymen each summer. They come to see Hill Top, the cottage where Peter Rabbit, a character as central to a Japanese child’s upbringing as Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse, was invented.
Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.
Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that £5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”
The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, was born when Japanese Travel Trade, effectively the Japanese tourist board, approached Japan Forum, run by Lakeland businesses.
Keira Holt, a marketing executive with Nurture Lakeland, which supports conservation in the Lakes, said that the Japanese were keen to promote ecotourism. She emphasised that the donation was voluntary and that Japanese people were not being discriminated against. They were, she said, simply leading the way. “Ecotourism is huge in Japan,” she said. “We are incredibly appreciative that their concern for the environment extends to our own country.
“The money will go towards anything to do with conservation, restoring worn footpaths and promoting biodiversity such as projects to protect species like the red squirrel.”
So far 3,200 visitors have signed up to the scheme. They will be rewarded with a badge bearing the legend “Help look after the landscape that inspired Peter Rabbit” and a certificate.
The initiative was launched at Wray Castle, near Ambleside, where Potter stayed as a 16-year-old in 1882 and fell in love with the Lakes.
She acquired Hill Top, a farm cottage near Sawrey, in 1905. The setting inspired The Tales of Peter Rabbit and characters such as Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten and Samuel Whiskers. The author died in 1943, leaving the property to the National Trust. The curators maintain it as it was when she lived there.
The popularity of the books has been boosted by the release of the 2007 film Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger.
Yesterday the Japanese visitors, who make up about one in four of all visitors, stepped through the modest porch into the dark interior or enjoyed a pot of tea with spectacular views over Esthwaite. Junko Ishiwata, a tour guide for Mountain Goat, said: “In Japan Peter Rabbit is a very popular character like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. In the books there is the beatiful Lakeland scenery. Many people want to see it for themselves.
“I think the donation scheme is great for the Lakes. Five pounds is not very big for the Japanese people, espcially if they receive the Peter Rabbit badges. But, at the same time, they have already paid a lot of money to come here. It really depends on each individual person. After they see the beautiful scenery, they may wish to contribute something.”
John Moffat, general manager of the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter properties, said: “The Japanese are very important to us at Hill Top. It is a key place they want to visit when they come to the UK.”
For the record, I believe LBS is a work of history and as such should not be “banned”. It should, however, whenever used always be placed in historical context, and seen as materiel to enlighten people about the prejudices of the day. I have never seen it done so in Japan. In fact, the republisher Zuiunsha — which appears to have just appropriated the book from the previous Japanese publisher and republished it for fun and profit — doesn’t even offer a disclaimer or a foreword in the book explaining why this book has been problematic; existentially, it’s just a book they can get rich off of. Who cares if some people might be adversely affected by it?
Japan Times illustration (tiff file, click on squares if not visible in your browser):
THE ZEIT GIST
‘Sambo’ racism row reignites over kids’ play
The 1899 book still making waves in 21st-century Japan
The Japan Times, April 13, 2010 (excerpt)
By MATTHEW CHOZICK
“Little Black Sambo, Sambo, Sambo/His face and hands are completely black/Even his butt is completely black.”
Word of nursery-schoolers in Saitama Prefecture chanting a “Little Black Sambo” song — “akin to what might be taught by a white supremacist group” — spread online recently, prompting 21st century-style activism: Facebook postings, blogosphere commotion, an online petition, CCed e-mails to Tokorozawa City Hall. In a phone call, a Midori Hoikuen nursery school employee admitted to having read and then re-enacted — with toddlers — the best-selling children’s book “Little Black Sambo” (known here as “Chibikuro Sanbo”). The re-enactment’s song lyrics, as printed above, were allegedly translated by a biracial child’s concerned parent and then uploaded onto Facebook.
Since the first, Victorian-era printing of “Little Black Sambo,” its pejorative title and caricature illustrations — pitch-black faces with bulging red lips, white balloon eyes — have been a perennial bone of contention for civil-rights proponents in the U.S. and, later, Japan. Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes described the text in 1932 as “amusing undoubtedly to the white child, but like an unkind word to one who has known too many hurts to enjoy the additional pain of being laughed at.”…
Activist and Japan Times columnist Debito Arudou uploaded a parody onto his Web site, debito.org, titled “Little Yellow Jap” (“Chibi Kiiro Jappu”). Arudou asks, “What if your race was depicted in the same way as in this book?”
Redolent of Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor played by Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Arudou’s characters have enormous eyeglasses, exaggeratedly yellow skin and big front incisors. In Arudou’s parody, the original’s tigers become monkeys, butter is miso, one character is garbed in sumo getup and another in a Hello Kitty apron.
Arudou’s artwork succeeds, like the book it lampoons, in being both somewhat offensive and also kind of cute. This conflation is important because cuteness directs feelings of fondness and intimacy toward items of all kinds, not just puppies. Indeed, throughout “Little Black Sambo” there are numerous physical characteristics that humans are biologically programmed to find cute. According to Austrian Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz, these include “predominance of the brain capsule, large and low-lying eyes, bulging cheek region.”…
Whether or not this book is innocent of bigotry will continue to be debated, but in the meantime it may be a good idea to foster a critical atmosphere in which “Little Black Sambo,” held in the hands of a competent teacher, can educate children while charming their imaginations. If you teach, get a debate rolling. Bring a copy of “Little Black Sambo” to class along with Arudou’s illustrations. Let’s not be hasty in making pre-Amazon.com kindling out of a potentially valuable pedagogic tool…
Hi Blog. I had heard numerous reports about a place down in Okinawa that turned away Japanese customers (or, rather, charged them an exorbitant fee for membership) in favor of NJ. It made print today in the Japan Times Zeit Gist Column. Excerpt follows:
THE ZEIT GIST
The Japan Times, March 6, 2010
‘Non-Japanese only’ Okinawa eatery turns tables
Jon Mitchell explores why one restaurateur has effectively banned Japanese patrons
Despite overwhelming Okinawan opposition to the presence of the United States military, open animosity towards American servicemen is remarkably rare here. One of the few places where it is experienced, though, is in central Okinawa’s entertainment districts. Japanese-owned clubs and bars regularly turn away American customers, and some of them display English signs stating “members only” and “private club” in order to exclude unwanted foreign patrons. With Japan’s laws on racial discrimination tending towards the ambiguous, transforming a business into a private club has become a common way to circumvent any potential complaints to the Bureau of Human Rights.
Under these circumstances, the notices on the door of Sushi Zen, a small restaurant located at the edge of Chatan Town’s fishing port, are not unusual: “This store has a members-only policy. Entry is restricted to members.” However, what is different is the fact that they’re written in Japanese, and designed to keep away Japanese customers. Furthermore, Sushi Zen’s owner is not a xenophobic foreign expatriate, but a soft-spoken Japanese man named Yukio Okuhama.
COMMENT: Now, while I can’t personally condone this activity, I will admit I have been waiting for somebody to come along and do this just to put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s see how people who defended the exclusionism of “troublemakers” who just happened to be foreign-looking (hiya Gregory Clark) in the Otaru Onsens Case et.al., react to somebody excluding “troublemakers” who just happen to be Japanese. And watch the hypocrisy and “Japanese as perpetual victim” arguments blossom.
If this winds up getting “Japanese Only” signs down everywhere, this will have been a useful exercise. Somehow, I don’t think it will, however. Japanese in Japan are never supposed to be on the losing end of a debate on NJ issues. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
TOKYO — Japan’s top Internet forum 2channel was offline Tuesday after an apparent mass hacker attack from South Korea over slanderous comments on their Olympic figure skating queen Kim Yu-Na.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that more than 10,000 users had launched a “concerted cyber offensive” and coordinated their attacks through web communities since Monday against the popular site www.2ch.net.
The site, launched in 1999, allows users to post comments on hundreds of topics, from politics and sports to entertainment and manga cartoons, without providing a user name, a model meant to boost online freedom of speech.
But the site has repeatedly become a forum for right-wing nationalists and users posting xenophobic slurs, especially against South Korea and China.
The 2ch forum is Japan’s largest online bulletin board by number of users and page views, according to Internet research firm NetRatings Japan.
The site was not accessible on Tuesday, but its search lists showed Japanese-language attacks had earlier been posted against Kim, who beat Japanese rival Mao Asada to take gold at the Vancouver Winter Games.
South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported online that the cyber war was launched on Monday, the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule that became known as the March First Movement.
South Koreans have often been angered by comments on the messaging forum, including one that called a deadly attack against a South Korean college student in February in Irkutsk “Russia’s good deed”, Yonhap reported.
The 2ch forum has often drawn controversy at home as some of its anonymous users have posted death threats and verbal attacks against high-profile figures that have led to legal action against the site’s operators.
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Hi Blog. Three articles (two with original Japanese) below charting a couple of interesting developments regarding Japan as an international haven for child abductions.
The first article is what happens when the shoe’s on the other foot, and the NJ parent goes on trial for allegedly abducting his or her child from Japan — the Japanese authorities eventually convict the NJ. Asahi reports a Chinese father was found guilty (sentence suspended) in Japanese court of successfully, shall we say, “committing a Savoie” — actually getting his Japanese-Chinese daughters out of Japan (moreover after a J court awarded his ex-wife custody). The story follows below, but one of the daughters came back to Japan from China and stayed on, and the father came over to get her — whereupon he was arrested and put on trial. Now the mother wants Japan to sign the Hague Convention to protect Japanese from abductions (well, fine, but neither China nor Japan is a party, so there you go; oddly enough, accusations of spousal abuse — as in this case — are being leveled conversely as reasons for Japan NOT to sign the Convention). Just sign the damn thing, already.
The third article (following the original Japanese versions of the first two) is how Minister Okada of the Foreign Ministry is setting up a special task force on this issue. Good. But let’s see if it can break precedent by acknowledging that NJ have as much right to access and custody of their children as Japanese do. Dubious at this juncture. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
In another case highlighting legal complexities if international marriages fall apart, a court found a Chinese man guilty of “abducting and taking overseas” his two daughters from their Japanese mother 10 years ago.
The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court sentenced Qin Weijie, 55, to two years in prison, suspended for three years, on Thursday.
According to the ruling, Qin and his Japanese wife were undergoing divorce procedures in June 1999, when he talked to their daughters, then 7 and 8, on a street in Akishima in western Tokyo. He took them on a flight to Hong Kong from Kansai Airport. The girls had been living with their mother at the time.
When the divorce was finalized, a Japanese court gave the mother sole custody of the children.
But Qin refused to hand over the daughters.
“(The defendant) disrespected the law, and his behavior was malicious. The circumstances after his criminal act were not good, either,” Presiding Judge Manabu Kato said.
According to Qin’s 44-year-old former wife, she was staying at a shelter with the two girls in 1999 to escape Qin’s physical abuse. She said she spent the next 10 years searching for her children, fearing that they may be abused.
But the presiding judge said the daughters “grew up with a proper amount of love.” He also noted that the younger daughter chose to live with her father in China, even after returning to Japan temporarily earlier this year.
After the ruling, Qin said: “In Shanghai, not only my second daughter but also my 1-year-old son from my remarriage are waiting. I’d like to go home soon and fulfill my duty as their father.”
He had told the court that he took the girls to China for their own sake because “their life was unstable” in Japan at the time.
Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison term for Qin.
When the daughters returned to Japan in January to renew their passports, the second daughter returned to China on her own will, but the elder daughter decided to stay with her mother.
Qin was arrested in September when he entered Japan for the purpose of getting the older daughter back.
According to the mother, the older daughter broke down in tears when she passed by the site where she was taken away 10 years ago. The girl is also being treated for an eating disorder, the mother said.
“My daughter is afraid of my ex-husband, and she is emotionally hurt. How can we get back the lost 10 years?” the mother said.
Disappointed with the suspended sentence, the mother urged the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction and adopt measures to protect mothers and children who have escaped from abuse.
Under the convention, when a child has been taken from his or her country of residence, the child must be returned to that country.
Neither Japan nor China is party to the Hague Convention.
In recent months, cases of legal problems have surfaced concerning divorced Japanese women bringing their children to Japan without the consent of their former husbands overseas.
When the mother reported the abduction to police, she was told there was nothing they could do.
After she obtained legal custody, she asked the Foreign Ministry, the Chinese government, Diet members and lawyers for support. She even traveled to China several times but could not get her daughters back, she said.
In 2004, Tokyo police finally accepted her criminal complaint against Qin.
According to the welfare ministry, there were 37,000 international marriages in Japan last year, as well as 19,000 divorces among international couples. (IHT/Asahi: December 4,2009)
The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law, after their Chinese father took them to China in the wake of a marriage breakup, it has been learned.
The consulate general renewed the passports of the girls, now aged 18 and 17, in 2004, despite their mother’s repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.
As a result of the consulate general’s actions, the girls remained in China for five more years, and the situation was not resolved until the father came to Japan in September this year and was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.
“As a result of the government’s mistake, I had to wait five years for the return of my daughters,” the children’s mother, who is in her 40s, said. “I want the government to move actively to protect the rights of children.”
Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passport Law regulations state that permission must be obtained from a person who has custody of the children for the passports to be issued.
Representatives of the woman said that she and the Chinese man, 55-year-old Qin Weijie, married in 1988 and lived in Tokyo, but she left due to domestic violence by Qin. In June 1999, Qin met his daughters as they were traveling to school near the home to which his wife had moved, and he took them to China.
Qin and his wife divorced in 2000, and she was granted custody of the children. However, as she didn’t know where they were, she repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry not to renew their passports. She also filed a criminal complaint against Qin accusing him of abducting the children and taking them overseas. However, the consulate general renewed the passports in January 2004.
About five years later, when the deadline for renewing the passports of the children was again approaching, Qin contacted his former wife asking her to sign a consent form for renewal, but she said she wanted to meet them directly and confirm what they wanted to do, so the two came to Japan in January.
Qin was arrested after entering Japan in September this year at Narita Airport, trying to take his elder daughter, who wanted to remain in Japan, back with him. His former wife said the eldest daughter was suffering from an eating disorder and panic attacks, due in part to violent behavior from Qin.
On Thursday, Qin was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, after going on trial facing international abduction and other charges. In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Manabu Kato criticized Qin’s actions, saying, “His act of taking the children away without notice deserves criticism,” but noted, “At the time Qin also held custody of the children.” Commenting on the wife’s position, the judge stated: “It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division admitted the mistake in renewing the passports without consent, but said it could not provide detailed background information on individual cases.
TOKYO — The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday set up a division to handle such issues as whether Japan should sign the 1980 Hague Convention, seeking to protect children from the harmful effects of failed international marriages.
Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nations that is not a party to the convention, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence.
‘‘I have heard opinions from European countries and America…and I would like to consider how to deal with the matter swiftly. But it is also a fact that there are difficult problems,’’ Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.
The Division for Issues Related to Child Custody will consist of nine officials who are already serving the Foreign Ministry.
In a related move, the ministry held the first Japan-France liaison meeting aimed at promoting information exchanges and information sharing regarding specific cases that involve the two countries.
France is the first country with which Japan has set up such a bilateral mechanism in relation to the issue, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.
During the meeting, French officials handed a list of 35 cases in which Japanese women had returned to the country with their children after their marriages with French men failed.
The French officials also called for Japan to facilitate the process of identifying the children’s locations or their health condition.
Hi Blog. Finally we have the turnabout that I bet will precipitate Japan signing the Hague. A Czech father has reportedly abducted his child out of Japan, and the MOFA says it is powerless since Japan is not a party to the Hague Treaty on Child Abductions. Well, sauce for the gander, isn’t it?
A Czech man has taken his 5-year-old son apparently to a place overseas from his home in Gifu Prefecture, prompting the boy’s Japanese mother to seek help from the Foreign Ministry in searching for the boy’s whereabouts, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
The ministry, however, has few means in dealing with the case as Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention that standardizes laws that prevent international parental child abduction, they said.
Japan remaining a non-signatory has drawn international criticism recently after an American father who tried to take back his two children from his Japanese wife was arrested on suspicion of child abduction in Fukuoka Prefecture in September.
The children might have been handed over to the father’s side if Japan were the member of the convention, which stipulates that children should be returned to the original residing place when they are taken forcibly. The mother was reported by some American media to have unlawfully taken the children first from the United States.
While such cases of Japanese women taking their children to Japan after divorcing or separating from their non-Japanese husbands or partners are often reported and cause problems, cases in which children are taken out of Japan have been relatively rare.
In the latest case, Kayoko Yamada, a 40-year-old resident of the city of Yamagata, Gifu, sought help from the Foreign Ministry after her husband, a 31-year-old Czech Republic national, left home with their son on Aug 23, according to the sources.
Yamada received a phone call the following day from the husband, saying he and the son were in Frankfurt, Germany. She has received no contact since then, and assumes they are probably in the Czech Republic, the sources said.
Yamada and her husband have been living in Japan but recently were talking about divorce.
Experts say Japan could seek help from Czech authorities in search of the whereabouts of Yamada’s son if Japan were a member of the convention.
With the annual number of international marriages rising by almost six times over the last 30 years to some 37,000 in Japan last year as a government report indicates, divorce and such related problems have been on the rise as well.
The number of children taken by Japanese parents from the United States, Britain, France and Canada to Japan totaled over 160 as of this May, and some cases involve those wanted on abduction charges.
This is making the rounds of the blogoverse. South Park takes on the Japanese dolphin culls and whale hunts, thanks to the publicity from “The Cove“. It’s worth seeing. As a South Park fan, I must say this is all within character for the show… and it as usual ties the issue up into large intellectual knots, and pushes the frontiers of “taboo humor”. Enjoy, I guess. Debito in Sapporo
Hi Blog. Slightly dated article recently published in the South China Morning Post, but still worth a read, for how the issues of Japanese family law and child abductions affect Japanese too. Let’s have more of this info in editorials in places like the Asahi. Arudou Debito
Divorced fathers in Japan fight to see children
Law almost always grant custody to mothers; dads want that to change
Junji Kurokawa / AP
Divorcee Masahiro Yoshida, a 58-year-old musician, is among a small but growing number of divorced or separated fathers who have turned to the courts to get custody back, or at least gain a right to see their children.
updated 12:04 p.m. ET Oct. 8, 2009 (South China Morning Post October 20, 2009)
TOKYO – On Christmas Eve two years ago, Masahiro Yoshida returned to his home to find it empty. His wife had fled with their 2-year-old daughter, seeking a divorce.
Since then, he’s rarely seen his child because Japanese law grants custody to only one parent — almost always the mother. His wife has refused to allow him regular visits, accusing him of emotional swings and past verbal and sometimes physical abuse.
Yoshida, a 58-year-old musician, is among a small but growing number of divorced or separated fathers who have turned to the courts to get custody, or at least gain a right to see their children. More broadly, many are demanding a change in Japanese law to allow joint custody, as is the case in most developed countries.
“I think about my daughter all the time. I can’t believe the courts allow this,” said Yoshida, who admits hitting his wife twice but otherwise denies her claims. “This is a country that allows kidnapping.”
The law was thrown into the international spotlight last week when an American was arrested for allegedly snatching his children from his Japanese ex-wife as they walked to school in southern Japan. Christopher Savoie, a 38-year-old Tennessee man, remains in custody in the city of Fukuoka while prosecutors decide whether to press charges.
His case has received little attention in Japan, a reflection of how widely accepted it is that young children should remain with their mother in divorces or separations. The law doesn’t explicitly say mothers should get custody — only that one parent should, and by cultural default, that’s the mother.
A common issue
“In Japan, nobody thinks it’s a problem if a mother takes away her children without consent,” said Hideki Tani, a lawyer who has taken on cases of fathers seeking access to their children. “Here, it’s common for either parent to completely lose contact with children, but people outside Japan find it outrageous.”
Tani did acknowledge a need to address problems like domestic violence that can contribute to broken families.
Lately, the number of custody battles has risen as overall divorce cases have climbed and more men have become involved in child-rearing and homemaking. Divorced men also say that children should have a right to see their fathers — and that too often the kids’ interests are neglected.
“Nobody thinks about children’s well-being,” Yoshida said. “They are the victims.”
Last year, there were more than 20,000 child custody cases in Japanese family courts, up from less than 17,000 in 2000, Ministry of Justice statistics show. About 90 percent of those decisions favored the mothers — as in Yoshida’s case.
In December, a court ruled against his petition for custody of — or rights to visit — his daughter, now 4, who lives with his ex-wife and her parents.
“I’m outraged by a society that allows this,” Yoshida said.
His ex-wife, Akemi Kurahashi, 44, says she left Yoshida because she and her child needed legal protection from an abusive husband. She says most of it was verbal, but that once her eardrum burst when he hit her.
She twice left Yoshida, but returned when he begged and apologized, she said. Worn down, she eventually fled with their daughter that Christmas Eve when he was out performing with his jazz band.
Kurahashi says she is willing to consider letting him visit once a month on the condition he is emotionally stable and the visit takes place in public and in her presence. She is even open to the principle of joint custody in Japan, though she said the law must guarantee protection against domestic violence.
“I will swallow my own feelings if my daughter is happy seeing her dad,” she said. “But I still fear he may end up hurting me or her someday.”
There have also been a few cases of fathers forcibly keeping children away from their ex-wives. In June, a 48-year-old man was arrested in Tochigi prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, after refusing to hand over his 3-year-old son to his wife, who had left them, despite a court decision that the son should be legally in the care of his former wife.
Yoshida has banded together with other divorced fathers to form a support group, one of several that have sprung up in recent years.
A few lawyers and lawmakers have showed support for their cause. A bar association group is studying parenting and visitation arrangements in other countries such as Australia.
Japan also faces a growing number of international custody disputes. The U.S., Britain, France and Canada have urged Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which has been signed by 80 countries. It seeks to standardize laws among participating countries to ensure that custody decisions can be made by appropriate courts and protect the rights of access of both parents.
Japan’s government has argued that signing the convention may not protect Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said this week that officials were reviewing the matter.
Divorced fathers say that joining the Hague convention would be a major step toward bringing the possibility of joint custody to Japan because it would require a major overhaul of the country’s family laws.
“For us it’s not a diplomatic issue. It’s a problem at home that Japan should correct,” said Mitsuru Munakata, a 34-year-old freelance writer who has seen his 3-year-old daughter only twice in the last two years.
Although he recently won court permission for a two-hour meeting with his daughter every other month, he is concerned because his ex-partner is now remarried — and if she dies the custody right would go to her new husband.
“Then I’m totally out of the picture,” Munakata said. “When I have an urge to see my daughter, I worry that I might get arrested someday.”
Hi Blog. Here’s the future. You become a citizen of where you live. It happens even to Japanese in Korea, according to this article. As it should. And I think all countries should allow people to take the citizenship of residency. And allow them to keep their birth citizenship. Because the state of international migration necessitates that. It’s the major step to true assimilation, in my view. And it should not involve an identity sacrifice. It doesn’t seem to, in the rather rosy article below. Arudou Debito in Monbetsu
The Masashi family’s five children are fully Japanese, but think like Koreans. They can speak their mother tongue but are more fluent in Korean. They have been to Japan but have lived in Korea all their lives. Now, the family is trying to become naturalized as Korean citizens.
Their parents, Ananose Masashi, 47, and his wife Kazuko, 46, came to Korea in 1989, a year after they got married. Like many newlywed couples before them, they started their new life in Seoul. They eventually decided to set up their own Japanese translation and interpretation company…
“Honestly, it would be nearly impossible for my kids to live in Japan now because they are more Korean than Japanese,” Mrs. Masashi said. “They want to continue their lives in Korea.”
Perhaps this is only natural, given the way the Masashis have educated their children. The children have attended Korean schools since elementary school, speak better Korean than Japanese and the majority of their friends are Korean…
Some have asked whether the family has felt the effects of the lingering tensions between Korea and Japan, which have flared periodically since the Japanese colonization of the country from 1910-1945.
But Mr. Masashi says the family has never experienced any anti-Japanese sentiments nor felt the threat of harm.
“Some say that Koreans still have ill feelings toward the Japanese, but actually we’ve never had that problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, the family is making plans for their impending citizenship. When asked what they will do when the day comes, Mrs. Masashi was the first to respond, saying she is hoping to get a loan.
But Satoe, the eldest, was quick to cut in. She is looking forward to “accessing various sites with her new resident registration number.”
Many foreign residents still have a hard time accessing Korean Web sites because of the real name system, which requires prospective users to enter their name and registration number before being allowed to enter a site…
By Yim Seung-hye, Cho Kang-su [email@example.com]
Hi Blog. Busy day today, so let me just throw up this letter I emailed to San Francisco re a Letter to the Editor of the Japan Times. The author of it openly claims to engage in discriminatory practices in the US. If he is a real person, at a real company, then let’s hope San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission investigates and writes back. Worth a try. Feel free to email the HRC yourself, email address included. Arudou Debito in Sapporo, on the road this weekend (may be slow in updating comments and blog)
Human Rights Commission
25 Van Ness Avenue, Room 800
San Francisco, CA 94102-6033
From: ARUDOU Debito
Columnist, The Japan Times newspaper (Tokyo)
October 8, 2009
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a columnist in the Japan Times (see archive of my columns at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl-ad-all.html), and would like to report a public statement made by a person apparently writing from your jurisdiction publicly admitting to a discriminatory act.
A Mr Andrew J Betancourt, of “Redwood Properties Real Estate” of San Francisco has said, in a letter to the Japan Times dated October 6, 2009, the following:
“As a landlord in San Francisco with over 22 units, I have rejected foreigners just because they were foreigners.”
That letter in the Japan Times here (first letter in the list):
Hi Blog. The Community yahoogroup has been having an interesting discussion about “positive discrimination”, where NJ actually get special treatment or discounts for being foreign. What do readers of Debito.org think about that?
Here are some posts from The Community developing the issue. Comments? Debito
Just wanted to pass along a very nice thing that happened today —
went out to a cafe here in Fukui with my family for lunch and was
surprised to find a sign in English at the register reading “10%
discount to all foreigners”. Although the discount is nice, it’s even
nicer to see a shop going out of its way to open itself up to NJs,
especially in a conservative prefecture like Fukui. It’s the first
time I’ve seen anything of the sort expressly written out as a sort of
store policy, so it was definitely a nice experience. The food was
good, too. 😉
I doubt any other community members will ever get the chance to go
there, but just to give credit where it’s due, here is a link to the
Although the foreigner-friendly sentiment may be admirable, do people really approve of differential pricing depending on nationality?
That said, someone recently insisted on taking the tax off something I bought in a tourist-oriented shop in Kyoto, even though I was not taking it abroad. I didn’t complain too hard!
If I noticed a shop nearby that was giving discounts to foreigners and they had items I needed, I wouldn’t hesitate to go there.
It does however beg the question of how they define foreign and how
they determine foreignness. Would zainichi Koreans be included here,
and are they asking for ID or are they just basing it off appearances?
How about the likes of Debito and myself, [both naturalized citizens]?
I think your sympathy with the people who try to be foreigner friendly
is as well intentioned as the people who make those efforts.
To try and convey the feeling, instead of just the principle, of what
I’m talking about, I’d like to relate an anecdote.
There used to be a club in Roppongi called “Vanilla”. And they gave out
tickets that said:
“with this ticket, 1.000 yen/2d
Foreigners & Women use only”
As anyone who has gone clubbing in Roppongi, 1000 yen for two drinks and
admission is a pretty sweet deal.
So I showed up with some people, a mixed crowd of some Japanese, some
foreigners, some men, some women. Two of the men were non-Japanese Asians.
At first the women at the front counter would not accept the tickets
from the Asian men. But, as you suggested a person could do, they then
provided their “gaijin cards”.
And the women *still* checked with the managers to make sure it was all
The distinct feeling we got was that the idea of the foreigners discount
was that they had an image of what being a foreigner who goes to a club
is like. They wanted the kind of young and cool black American you might
see in a rap video, or a tragically hip white DJ-type you might see at a
rave in London.
In other words, yes, my friends could prove they were, in fact, foreign
and eligible for the discount.
But they sure didn’t feel great about having to confront the feeling
they got from the club, which could be described as “Oh… when we said
‘foreigners’, we didn’t mean *you*, but, I guess we have to let you in
I understand the sentiment here, but we accept ladies’ day at the cinema and
senior discounts or children’s discounts in a number of places. I think any
effort to be foreigner-friendly (as opposed to foreigner-suspicious or
foreigner-hostile) should be accepted with the good will with which it was
If you are an Asian foreigner and want the good discount, you could flash
your alien registration card. If you are a “foreign”-looking Japanese
national you could of course refuse the discount, but aren’t there times
when nice manners and accepting people’s attempts to be friendly trump
politics? It might even be a funny teachable moment: “I know I look
foreign, but I’m actually Japanese. Can I still have the discount? [LOL].”
I’m all for challenging rude and hostile treatment of foreigners (or
anyone), but I do fail to see what we gain by rejecting on “principle”
people’s attempts to reach out in kindness.
I think the reason senior and student discounts exist is because of the
general societal consensus that those people don’t have as much
disposable income as the working middle class. We respect that students
are working for future contribution, and seniors have given us past
contribution. So we cut them some slack.
With situations such as ladies night at clubs or movies, it’s marketing.
If the women come, the men will follow.
So the question then comes back to us as, do we want to be seen as
disadvantaged (like seniors with fixed incomes) or a marketing tool
(like women getting half price at a bar).
Personally, I think both of those perceptions keep us viewed as
separate. In the short term they are well intentioned and harmless in
any one specific case. But the more situations where foreigners get
privilege for being foreign will keep Japanese seeing us as some kind of
Yes, very well stated. That is really almost precisely the way I felt in reading about this. I’m sort of torn between, on one way, a desire to applaud somebody’s attempt to be kind, but at the same time concerned about the very fact that people of a different nationality are seen as either objects of discrimination or privilege. I understand the sort of “duty free” treatment of tourists, because there it is very much a question of purpose of travel rather than nationality, but when the store also gives special treatment to foreigners who are basically members of the Japanese community (in general, I watch Japanese politics more closely than American politics), then I think it requires some thinking.