Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

From Debito's doctoral research:

Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
  • (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield 2015)

    Click on book cover for reviews, previews, and 30% discount direct from publisher. Available as Kindle eBook on

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Archive for the 'Human Rights' Category

    Issues which affect everyone on a fundamental level, especially in terms of access to the fruits and protections of a constitutionally-based society.

    Asahi & Mainichi: “No Hate” “No Racism”, “Refugees Welcome” say protesters at Tokyo anti-discrimination rally. Bravo.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th November 2015

    Asahi: “Refugees welcome” was a rallying cry among 2,500 or so Tokyo Democracy March demonstrators who paraded through the capital’s Shinjuku district on Nov. 22 following the recent Paris terror attacks. The crowd, protesting all forms of discrimination, urged Japan to welcome those fleeing danger with some waving a banner displaying the asylum seeker-friendly slogan. […]

    Causes on the agenda included the prejudice experienced by ethnic Korean residents in Japan, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and people with disabilities. The third annual demonstration also focused on asylum seekers amid concerns over anti-refugee sentiment in and outside Japan after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. […]

    The event was first organized in 2013 chiefly as a protest against groups which staged a number of hate speeches targeting the numerous ethnic Korean residents in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. The demonstration has so far drawn on various themes, including the display of a discriminatory banner declaring “Japanese Only” at Saitama Stadium during a J.League football match on March 8, 2014. “We participate in this event because of our desire to improve our society,” said a 30-year-old organizer of the protest.

    COMMENT: This development is a positive one, both in that it happened (as an annual rally, no less), and that it was reported in the news.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Media, 日本語 | No Comments »

    UPDATE: Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon Japan tour “Japanese Only” registration is sanitized to include NJ residents, but “Japanese Citizenship” remains requirement on actual registration page

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th November 2015

    This is an update to the previous post, but it deserves a separate blog entry for the deceitfulness. Thanks to Readers contacting the organizers in Hong Kong, the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon made it clear to their Japan tour organizers ( that restricting applications “exclusively for Japanese people” is unacceptable, as “all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour”.

    The Japan-side website then changed its wording to “This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.” But if you actually go to the website registration page (, the requirement for applicants of Japanese citizenship (item six in the bullet points: 私は日本国籍を有しています) is still there (screen capture).

    So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, in Japanese are the same “Japanese Only” rules. It is very hard to see this as a mere oversight. And as written, NJ resident applicants still face refusal and then a non-refund of their deposit payments. It’s gone from mere exclusionism to the potential for misleading applicants into corporate theft. How duplicitous and unprofessional of the Japan-side organizers. Imagine the internet uproar if a Japanese company made a mistake this big for its Japanese customers. Again, its seems, foreign customers in Japan don’t matter.

    UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015: Was tweeted this picture in regards to the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon registration desk for Japanese in Bangkok, Thailand. Seems to be more systematic than just Japanese organizers within Japan. More like the organization is excluding foreigners everywhere in the world, including in those nations where Japanese are foreigners themselves.

    Posted in "Embedded Racism", "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Sport, Tourism, 日本語 | 2 Comments »

    Interview with ABC News Radio Australia on my book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2015

    Japan in Focus: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker gets compensation, a new book explores racism in Japan, and why most married women give up their surnames.

    ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.

    This week: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker has become the first person to be awarded worker’s compensation by the Japanese government after being diagnosed with leukemia, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii launches a new book on racism in Japan and how it has become embedded in laws and various social structures and the Japanese Supreme Court is considering whether it’s unconstitutional to force people to give up their surnames upon marriage.

    Eleni Psaltis speaks to Komei Hosokawa from the Citizens’ Commission of Nuclear Energy, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii and Japan Times journalist Masami Ito.
    Duration: 15:08
    First posted 26/10/2015 12:52:18

    Posted in "Embedded Racism", Articles & Publications, Education, Human Rights, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »

    My latest Japan Times JBC Col 93: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book “Embedded Racism”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st November 2015

    JBC: Japan has a dire problem it must address immediately: its embedded racism.

    The country’s society and government are permeated by a narrative that says people must “look Japanese” before they can expect equal treatment in society.

    That must stop. It’s a matter of Japan’s very survival.

    We’ve talked about Japan’s overt racism in previous Just Be Cause columns: the “Japanese only” signs and rules that refuse entry and service to “foreigners” on sight (also excluding Japanese citizens who don’t “look Japanese”); the employers and landlords who refuse employment and apartments — necessities of life — to people they see as “foreign”; the legislators, administrators, police forces and other authorities and prominent figures that portray “foreigners” as a national security threat and call for their monitoring, segregation or expulsion.

    But this exclusionism goes beyond a few isolated bigots in positions of power, who can be found in every society. It is so embedded that it becomes an indictment of the entire system. In fact, embedded racism is key to how the system “works.” Or rather, as we shall see below, how it doesn’t…

    Read the rest at

    Posted in "Embedded Racism", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, Pension System, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 37 Comments »

    Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th October 2015

    October 16, 2015 From XY:
    Hi Debito. I am getting a LOT of messages these days from friends in Cambodia asking about the opportunities for their friends to work in Japan. I tell them the conditions are tough and the climates a killer (for them) but they say it’s better than the sweatshops in their homeland.

    One of my Cambodian friends is in Kumamoto for a year and a half on a study program. He just got here. He is freezing his ass off already and wants me to send him clothes (he doesn’t have money to buy any, he needs his small allowance for food). Poor guy.

    Anyhow, I had no idea Japanese companies are doing so much serious recruiting in Cambo and Vietnam these days… The impoverished Cambodians are coming here in droves.

    Messaging a businessman in Cambo right now, he wants to provide labor to Japanese companies. Do you think they are treating these foreign workers better than in the past, or is it the same thing?

    Debito responds: It’s the same thing. Japan’s reputation has run sour in Brazil/Peru, China, Philippines, and Indonesia. The Japanese Government is just moving on to another set of suckers. It would love to get their hands on Burmese too.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 6 Comments »

    Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th October 2015

    Japan Times: The [Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program], however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.” “The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym.

    Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services. The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.” The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers. “It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses. For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.”

    Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Pension System, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 11 Comments »

    JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st October 2015 hasn’t talked as much as other topics about the Government of Japan (GOJ)’s attitude towards refugees (in that, the acceptance of refugees is one measure of international contributions by the club of rich, developed countries and UN treaty signatories). But it is safe to say that the GOJ has not been cooperative, accepting fewer people in total over the past sixty years than some countries do in a single year — as the United Nations is aware. So now the Abe Administration is trying a different tack: Accepting refugees as temporary students, and then sending them “home” someday. Reader JK parses that to bits by citing articles below.

    Mainichi: “The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.” …and… “The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.”

    JK: Translation: GOJ doesn’t want to look bad at the UN in front of the other nations who are actually doing something to help refugees, so what to do?…Ah! Accept refugees as students to make it look like Japan is making a difference — Japan trains the Syrians so that one day they can go ‘home’ and fix everything up, and as students, they’re not in a position to stay for good as would be the case if they were accepted as refugees. It’s a win-win!

    Mainichi: “As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.

    JK: Translation: Accepting immigrants is the last thing we should do.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Refugees, Tourism, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

    Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th September 2015

    Contrast this situation with the situation of “Trainees” and other visa statuses in Japan:

    HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

    In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work…

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 8 Comments »

    Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd September 2015

    Hi Dr Debito, I thought you might be interested in my experience of trying to get an appointment at the top hospital for neurology in Japan. Basically they refuse to see me unless I pay for a specialist medical interpreter – they won’t even see me with a third party volunteer hospital interpreter.

    I have a problem with a nerve at the base of my spine. It may or may not be caused by an accident I had early last year in which a taxi hit me when I was riding my bicycle. I got a referral to the 国立精神・神経センター from my clinic because my research said they were the best in Japan for neurology.

    I called them up to organize an appointment. My Japanese isn’t great so they told me in Japanese that I need a Japanese speaker to call on my behalf to make an appointment. [… As] the appointment time is this Monday at 9:45 am none of my friends could come with me. I searched out a group that organizes a free medical interpretation service telephone line staffed by trained professionals. They were a great help, […but] the hospital refused to allow telephone based interpretation during my appointment. I must have a person come with me. I said ok.

    The lady from the volunteer service organized a volunteer to go with me […but then] the hospital said they would not accept a layperson as a volunteer to accompany me. The hospital said that I must engage a professional medical interpreter. I thought this strange – they initially said that I need to come with a friend. A friend would undoubtedly be a layperson as well, so their refusal of a lay volunteer seems contradictory and petulant. At this point it is too much hassle and will become prohibitively expensive to go to this hospital. Is it legal to treat me like this?

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 26 Comments »

    Asahi: Supreme Court backs stripping children of Japanese nationality if parents lapse in registering their births abroad

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th August 2015

    Asahi: The Supreme Court confirmed that authorities can revoke the Japanese nationality of children born outside Japan whose parents fail to submit the proper paperwork within three months of their babies’ births. The top court’s ruling on March 10, [2015], said Article 12 of the Nationality Law, which defines the procedures to maintain Japanese nationality, does not violate the Constitution.

    As a result of the ruling, 15 female and male children born in the Philippines to Japanese fathers married to Filipino mothers have lost their Japanese nationality. They had argued that the article was irrational and discriminatory against Japanese born abroad. […] According to the plaintiffs, their Japanese nationality was revoked because their parents did not know about the provision and failed to submit the documents to Japanese authorities within the designated three-month period.

    COMMENT: This is what can happen if you dare give birth outside of the motherland and legally acquire a suspicious second passport. has mentioned before how creative judicial interpretations of Japan’s Nationality Law Article 12 are a) systematically stripping children born to mixed-nationality couples of their Japanese citizenship simply for bureaucratic expedience (for if both parents were Japanese nationals, Article 12 did not apply); and b) effectively absolving Japanese men from taking responsibility for sowing their wild oats abroad.

    Now according to the ruling reported to below, it looks like Article 12 now does apply even if both parents are Japanese nationals — you have three whole months to get registered, otherwise you clearly aren’t a real Japanese. Except that in the case cited, the exclusionism is again being enforced on mudblood kids simply because their parents slipped up with proper procedure.

    It remains unclear if a Japanese mother who gives birth overseas (and would hitherto automatically retain Japanese nationality for her child) and does not register her child would void the Japanese citizenship, but the intent of the interpretation below is basically to prevent dual nationality, not honor jus sanguinis ties under the law. So this looks to be an affirmation and expansion of the 2012 Tokyo District Court case, a reversal of the 2008 Supreme Court case, moreover expanded to both parents regardless of nationality.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 10 Comments »

    More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th August 2015

    According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize “fraud visa holders”, Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely “resetting your visa clock” and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices:

    Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?)

    Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.)

    Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government “Snitch Sites” empowering the general public to bully NJ residents?

    Which means you’re likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Handbook for Newcomers, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »

    Thoughts: How does a society eliminate bigotry? Through courts and media, for example. Not waiting for it to “happen naturally”. Two case studies.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th August 2015

    One of the age-old debates about how to eliminate racial discrimination in Japan is a matter of process. Do you wait for society to soften up to the idea of people who are (and/or look) “foreign” being “Japanese”, or do you legislate and force people to stop being discriminatory? Critics of anti-discrimination activists often recommend that the latter apply the brakes on their social movement and wait for society in general to catch up — as in, “You can’t force people by law to be tolerant.”

    Well, yes you can. History has shown that without a law (be it a US Civil Rights Act, a UK Race Relations Act, etc.) and active media campaigns to force and foment tolerance, it doesn’t necessarily occur naturally. As we have seen in the Japanese example, which is approaching the 20th Anniversary of its signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination without keeping its promise to pass a law against racial discrimination.

    I submit to Readers two interesting case studies of how tolerance towards a) same-sex marriage, and b) transgender issues have been promoted in the American example. The speed at which LGBT tolerance and legal equality in many areas of American society has been breathtaking. Why have walls come tumbling down so fast? Because proponents of marriage equality managed to back its opponents into such a corner that any other position they might have taken would have been seen as bigotry. And because proponents of tolerance have managed to achieve positions of power within media to make sure an accurate message gets out. Neither of these things have been true in the Japanese example, because bigotry is still a tenable position in Japan, and NJ are so shut out of Japanese media that they have no voice to counteract it.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, History, Human Rights, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »

    Mainichi: Unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims? Supreme Court decision due Sept. 8

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th August 2015

    JK: Hi Debito. Here’s something you may not have considered — unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims.
    From the article below: “But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers.” And this: “Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.” Finally: “I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

    There’s obviously plenty of fodder here for a blog entry on, but putting that aside for the moment, there’s something subtle I noticed when reading the article: In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.”

    Did you catch it? It’s this: reasonableness / unreasonableness as the basis for legal opinion (i.e. unreasonable exclusion of foreign medical expenses). Does this ring a bell for you? Recall the legal opinion of a one Mr. Keiichi Sakamoto with regard to unreasonable discrimination [when ruling against you in the Otaru Onsens Case].

    Now, I am no lawyer, but the problem I see with using the notion of reasonableness / unreasonableness in this way is that it leaves the door open to abuse (e.g. there may be a scenario where excluding medical expenses incurred abroad by foreign A-bomb victims is, in the opinion of the court, reasonable, or discrimination by an onsen refusing to admit NJ *is* reasonable, etc.). [Let’s see what the Supreme Court hands down on September 8.]

    Supreme Court rules hibakusha overseas are entitled to full medical expenses
    THE JAPAN TIMES, SEP 8, 2015

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Good News, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Lawsuits, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, 日本語 | 7 Comments »

    Japan Times: Debate on anti-discrimination bill begins in Diet; sadly, doomed to failure

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th August 2015

    JT: The Diet started deliberations Tuesday on a bill that would ban racial discrimination, including harassment and hate speech, and oblige the government to draw up anti-discrimination programs that report every year to lawmakers.

    The bill, submitted to the Upper House by opposition lawmakers, was crafted to cope with a recent rise in discrimination against non-Japanese, in particular ethnic Koreans. However, it does not have punitive provisions and whether it will ever be enacted remains unclear, as lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly remain reluctant to support the proposal….

    COMMENT: Well, I’m heartened that somebody in Japanese politics these days still cares about the plight of Japan’s minorities, particularly its Visible Minorities in particular, who will be affected by, as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan put it, “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu). Sadly, it’s already front-loaded for failure…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, 日本語 | 2 Comments »

    Japan Times JBC 90: “Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more”, Aug 3, 2015

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st August 2015

    Here’s 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.

    JBC: “A Japanese passport? You don’t look Japanese.” 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.”…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »

    Mainichi: “Not Japanese Enough?” Bog-standard article about Miss Japan Miyamoto Ariana’s fight against racial discrim in Japan, not in Japanese for J-audience

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th July 2015

    I’ve been withholding comment on the very good news about Miyamoto Ariana’s ascension to the role of Miss Japan, and for the role that she is taking on of her own volition to fight “racial discrimination” (yes, explicitly jinshu sabetsu — something that the J-media generally refuses to even acknowledge exists in Japan). What I’ve been waiting for is how the J-media (as opposed to the predictable reaction from the J-xenophobes) would react to her activism. And here’s a good example from the Mainichi Shinbun: (A few comments follow the article.)

    Mainichi: At first glance, Ariana Miyamoto does not look like an ordinary Japanese woman. But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age. In March, she became the first mixed race contestant to be crowned “Miss Universe Japan,” but not everyone cheered the result…

    Debito: Okay, a few points: 1) The opening paragraph, where the article says, “But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age.” Well, she IS a native speaker of Japanese, and she IS a typical Japanese her age. Because she IS a Japanese. 100%. Even she says so. Front-loading the articles to reinforce the narrative that she isn’t a Japanese because she has mixed roots is one major problem in this unnecessary debate about Miyamoto-san’s identity….

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 7 Comments »

    Japan Times: Govt “Snitch Sites” being used to target Zainichi Koreans for harassment

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd July 2015

    In the previous blog entry, I pondered aloud a future Japan after the rule of law and the Japanese Constitution is further eroded for the sake of reactionary nationalism. Under’s purview, without clearer evidence I wasn’t able to speculate how this would affect NJ residents of Japan. Now there is some evidence (which was brought up elsewhere on within Comments starting from here) within a Japan Times article excerpted below.

    Not all that long ago, NJ residents of Japan were basically seen as misunderstood guests. As I describe in great detail in my upcoming book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (out in November), thanks to GOJ campaigns in the 2000s the narrative officially shifted to seeing NJ as a source of crime, illegal overstaying, infectious diseases, and terrorism.

    As can be seen in the JT article, this attitude has percolated down to the interpersonal level. Again, not that long ago, Japanese in general were quite unaware that NJ had to carry “Gaijin Cards” 24-7 or face arrest, detention, and financial penalty (many I talked to were even more flabbergasted when they realized that NJ fingerprinting — the hallmark of criminal tracking in Japan — was once involved).

    This has clearly changed: anonymous xenophobes-cum-bullies empowered by the Internet are now aware enough of NJs’ vulnerable status as something trackable by Gaijin Cards (thanks to official NJ-targeting campaigns such as this one, found in places like subway stations back in 2011) that they are now spreading false rumors about Gaijin Card conversion (from the ARC to the remotely-trackable Zairyuu Card) and visa overstaying (in this case targeting the Zainichi Korean “generational foreigners” ethnic minority in Japan). They are now “overwhelming Immigration” with “tips from bounty seekers”.

    The kicker to this incident is that the internet bullies have been empowered by a system of “snitch sites” that the Japanese Government set up long ago (and has long decried as incredibly open to abuse: see also here) to anonymously rat on any NJ based upon any reason whatsoever. Did the fools who set up this system really think that sooner or later this wouldn’t happen? What’s next, as Japan’s general public starts to get involved in this GOJ-sponsored “Gaijin Hunt”?

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media | 2 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th July 2015

    A couple of weeks ago, shortly before bedtime when I was tired and on vacation, I tossed off a blog entry on about my recent experience with what I considered to be racism towards me at a Canadian bank for not having a passport that matched the bank teller’s expectation of phenotype. In other words, the teller said my having a Japanese passport was “funny” to him, as I didn’t “look Japanese”.

    This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.). In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home. The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks.

    I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face. So much so that I had to add an addendum to the post from a person accompanying me to that bank, filling in a number of things I hadn’t bothered to mention — such as the fact that we called the manager because we had a separate issue of business that needed a manager’s attention, and the teller in fact interfered with that request, and more. This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by that blog entry. The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Practical advice, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 17 Comments »

    Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd July 2015

    Got an interesting story to tell: Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada. My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course. That’s all I have.

    The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

    I said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

    Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager, and…

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 62 Comments »

    Film record of Debito in action negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment in Shinjuku: excerpt from documentary “Sour Strawberries” (2009)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th June 2015

    As a follow-up to the previous blog entry, where I cited somebody who (ironically) accused me of dealing with people by “launch[ing] immediately into angry, confrontational accusations”, here’s an actual movie record of me in action.

    This is part of a documentary by Daniel Kremers and Tilman Koenig named “Sour Strawberries: Japan’s Hidden Guest Workers” (2009), talking about how Japan’s NJ, as a labor force and a resident population, are being treated in Japanese society. It is an excellent film that touches upon many important subjects, and it can be previewed and purchased here.

    I appear for about five minutes within negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment, one of the dozens upon dozens I have talked with over the years, to confirm the facts of each case (recorded for posterity at the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments) and investigate the firmness of the exclusionary policy. See it for yourself:

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Speech materials, 日本語 | 7 Comments »

    “The problem I have with David Aldwinkle [sic] is…” A stock criticism of me and my methods, then my answer.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th June 2015

    April 6, 2014, by “Billy” (name changed): 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 [sic] 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.


    This is a common criticism leveled against me. Since the author has a doctorate (in English), I decided to take him up on his claims and show the shortcomings in his social science and research methods in an informative exhange.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 22 Comments »

    AOL News: J-League soccer ref speaks English to, then denigrates Japanese-German player, denies anything discriminatory. But then official protests from club!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th June 2015

    AOL News: In the June 6 J2 match between teams Avispa Fukuoka and Tokushima Vortis, it has come to light in a club statement that will be filed with the J-League that Referee Takayama Hiroyoshi used discriminatory language against Fukuoka player Sakai Noriyoshi.

    Sakai Noriyoshi is the younger brother of Japan soccer representative Sakai Goutoku, who is half-Japanese, half-German. In the 35th minute of the second half during a foul, Referee Takayama asked in English “Are you OK?”, to which Sakai answered in Japanese, “Daijoubu desu”. Takayama then apparently said, “What the… you [using omae, a masculine, informal, often disparaging or belligerent way to say “you”], you can speak Japanese after all.” To which the bystanding players protested. At that time Referee Takayama promised that he would apologize after the game, but no apologies were forthcoming. The club protested to the commissioner, but during investigations Takayama denied that there was any discriminatory statement made.

    COMMENT: When you read the whole article, you’ll see that several positive precedents are being set here, sorely needed in Japan’s sports milieu where racialization of athletes is quite normal. Bravo to the bystanding players, the club, the fans and even the reporter for not letting this migroaggression stand unchallenged.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Sport, 日本語 | 16 Comments »

    Arimura Haruko, Minister for the Empowerment of Women: Immigration is a “Pandora’s Box”, offers weird Team Abe arguments to justify

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st May 2015

    Now let’s get to the narrative by Team Abe on immigration. Despite calling for the expansion of the officially-sanctioned system of often-slavery that the “Trainee” Program constitutes (even cynically saying that we need cheap temporary foreign labor for constructing the 2020 Olympics), and the recognized need for caregivers below, we have a government official below charged with empowering people (a worthy goal in itself) also advocating the disempowerment of others — not giving people who would be contributing to Japan any stake in its society.

    That’s one thing. Another is how this Minister for the Empowerment of Women Arimura Haruko is justifying this organized disenfranchisement of NJ. Despite being married to a NJ herself, she uses him as a fulcrum (his family in Malaysia forcing their Indonesian nanny to sleep on the floor), alleging that mistreatment of immigrants is something that naturally happens (okay, without their proper enfranchisement, yes) and that it would be “unthinkable in Japan” (oh, is she as a government official ignorant of the much bigger abuses of that “Trainee” program that have been going on for more than two decades)?

    Completing the effect of working backwards from preset conclusions, Arimura then brings the song home by blaming foreigners for their own disenfranchisement: alleging their terroristic tendencies (a common trope for the past decade since PM Koizumi in 2005), and how bringing them here would be a “Pandora’s Box”:

    Bloomberg: Japan should fix its shrinking workforce by enabling women to work, before turning to the ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration, the country’s minister for the empowerment of women said in an interview last week. Haruko Arimura, a 44-year-old mother of two, said Japan must act fast to change a trend that could otherwise see the workforce decline by almost half by 2060. But she warned if immigrants were mistreated — something she’d witnessed overseas — it raised the risk of creating resentment in their ranks.

    “Many developed countries have experienced immigration,” she said in her Tokyo office. “The world has been shaken by immigrants who come into contact with extremist thinking like that of ISIL, bundle themselves in explosives and kill people indiscriminately in the country where they were brought up,” Arimura said. “If we want to preserve the character of the country and pass it on to our children and grandchildren in better shape, there are reforms we need to carry out now to protect those values.”

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 14 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th April 2015

    AFP: A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer. Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an “across-the-board policy” of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers—unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.

    “Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations,” a member of the staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons. “We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don’t show up. “We don’t think it is anything discriminatory,” he said… No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.

    COMMENT: Given the relativism and exceptionality that pervades the world’s treatment of Japan (giving it a free pass for some pretty egregious examples of racism), I would be rather surprised if Michelin took their stars away. Let’s wait and see.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Food, Human Rights, Tourism | 28 Comments »

    Kyodo: Summary Court overturns fine levied on Filipino-Japanese man after Osaka police botch assault probe — that punished him for defending himself against drunk Japanese assailants!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th April 2015

    JDG: Well, this is an interesting case. Now, if we take the poor reporting to mean that ‘Filipino-Japanese’ = naturalized Japanese citizen of NJ descent, this story is quite telling.

    Naturalized Japanese citizen is stopped in Osaka by two drunk Japanese guys, who grab his shirt collars whilst shouting at him. The naturalized Japanese punches one in the face in self-defense and is arrested, charged, goes to court, and is fined.

    The Japanese assailants, since they are ‘victims’ of their own victims self-defense, are not apprehended, and win compensation from their victim!

    Thankfully, this was over-turned at a [summary] court. But the fact that it played out like this clearly shows the intense institutional racism of the Japanese police and legal system. In effect, if you are Japanese, you can commit assault (by western standards) on NJ (well, anyone who was not born Japanese), and the legal system recognize you as the victim if you are injured whilst attempting assault!

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Lawsuits | 23 Comments »

    Kyodo: Ryukoku U exchange student denied “No Foreigner” Kyoto apartment in 2013; MOJ in 2015 decides it’s not a violation of human rights!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th April 2015 (article below) reports that the Ministry of Justice Legal Affairs Bureau has refused to acknowledge “No Foreigners” apartments as a violation of human rights. This is the outcome of a case back in 2013, where an exchange student at Ryuukoku University was denied a flat despite going through the Student Union, and he took it to the Bureau of Human Rights for the official word on the subject. More than two years later (presumably the poor chap wasn’t living on the street in the interim), the MOJ determined that the foreigner-averse landlord had not violated anyone’s human rights, refusing to elaborate further. Great. Job well done and great precedent set, BOHR.

    Two things of note: One is a media bias. Note how once again the article portrays the issue incorrectly in this scan of the sidebar illustration: It’s not “Foreigner Discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu no jirei). It’s racial discrimination, because the first case they cite (the Otaru Onsens Case in 1999) eventually has a Japanese being refused too. Yet the Japanese media will almost always refuse to undermine the incorrect narrative that racial discrimination never happens in Japan.

    Second thing is that Japan’s generally ineffective Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu) has a long history of blind-eyeing the very thing it’s charged with protecting against. As further evidence of its ineffectuality – even complicity with discriminators – here is an example where the Sapporo BOHR advised a local government (Otaru) that it has no legal obligation to pass ordinance against racial discrimination, only suggesting that the city make such an ordinance if it considers it necessary. This is a scan of a BOHR document from my book “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten) , pg. 347 in the English version:

    Further, the BOHR has denied information to claimants on the pretext of protecting claimants from their own privacy, so I wholeheartedly agree with the exchange student’s complaints about the lack of transparency. So this latest event of saying a blanket exclusionary policy as not a violation of human rights is but one more example to record on for posterity.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, SITYS, United Nations, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

    Spoke at Washington University at St. Louis Law School Colorism Conference April 3, on skin color stigmatism in Japan

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd April 2015

    I presented at a very high-profile Global Perspectives on Colorism Conference at the Harris World Law Institute, University of Washington at St. Louis School of Law, joining some excellent speakers with impressive backgrounds. The first day had some really informative presentations (much more rigorous and thoughtful than the Ethnic Studies class I took at UH), and I hope to be just as rigorous and thoughtful tomorrow during my fifteen minutes.

    Title: Skin color stigmata in “homogeneous” Japanese society
    Speaker: Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Scholar, University of Hawaii at Manoa

    Abstract: Japanese society is commonly known as a “homogeneous society”, without issues of “race” or skin color stigmata. This is not the case. The speaker, a bilingual naturalized Japanese of Caucasian descent, has lived for a quarter century in Japan researching issues of Japanese minorities. He has found that biological markers, including facial shape, body type, and, of course, skin color, factor in to differentiate, “other”, and subordinate people not only into “Japanese” and “non-Japanese”, but also into “cleaner” and “dirtier” people (and thus higher and lower social classes) within the social category of “Japanese” itself. This talk will provide concrete examples of the dynamic of skin-color stigmatization, and demonstrate how the methods of Critical Race Theory may also be applied to a non-White society.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Racist Images in Media, Speech materials, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »

    JT: “Should Japan beef up its anti-terrorism measures?” Renewed political opportunism to further erode Postwar civil liberties, go soft on right-wing groups

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd March 2015

    Related to the increasingly tightening domestic security over Japanese society in the wake of attacks on Japanese citizens abroad, here is an overlooked article by Eric Johnston in the Japan Times a few days ago. It’s a long one, with contents excerpted below as germane to As we have talked in detail in the wake of other wakes, e.g., the G8 Summit in Hokkaido, the G8 Summit in Nago, the 2002 World Cup, other anti-democratic habits brought out in Japanese society whenever Japan holds an international event, and also a longstanding theory that Gaijin are mere Guinea Pigs (since they have fewer civil or political rights) to test out pupal public policy before applying it to the rest of the Japanese population, I believe what’s going on here is a long arc of further eroding Postwar civil liberties in the name of security and ever-strengthening police power in Japan — in favor of rightist elements. Read on:

    JT: However, former Aum members are not the [Public Security Intelligence Agency’s] only concern. Another four pages are devoted to the activities of groups trying to stop the construction of a replacement facility at Henoko for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, voicing support for keeping the 1995 Kono Statement regarding the “comfort women,” criticizing the government’s pro-nuclear energy policy, or protesting collective self-defense and the state secrets law that went into effect late last year…

    Over three pages, the Public Security Intelligence Agency claimed “extremist” groups were cooperating with overseas organizations to criticize the government’s position on the comfort women issue, and that the Japan Communist Party was involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, and in front of the Diet and the prime minister’s office… Two pages were devoted solely to the Japan Communist Party’s leadership and membership, and its criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government… By contrast, only 2½ of the report’s 75 pages were devoted to right-wing groups…. There was no mention, by name, in the Public Security Intelligence Agency report of Zaitokukai…

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, G7/G8 Summits, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, SITYS | 2 Comments »

    NYT Opinion: Mindy Kotler on “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth”, an excellent primer on the issue

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th March 2015

    Kotler: We know of Lieutenant Nakasone’s role in setting up a comfort station thanks to his 1978 memoir, “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23.” At that time, such accounts were relatively commonplace and uncontroversial — and no obstacle to a political career. From 1982 to 1987, Mr. Nakasone was the prime minister of Japan. Today, however, the Japanese military’s involvement in comfort stations is bitterly contested. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is engaged in an all-out effort to portray the historical record as a tissue of lies designed to discredit the nation. Mr. Abe’s administration denies that imperial Japan ran a system of human trafficking and coerced prostitution, implying that comfort women were simply camp-following prostitutes.

    The latest move came at the end of October when, with no intended irony, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party appointed Mr. Nakasone’s own son, former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, to chair a commission established to “consider concrete measures to restore Japan’s honor with regard to the comfort women issue.” The official narrative in Japan is fast becoming detached from reality, as it seeks to cast the Japanese people — rather than the comfort women of the Asia-Pacific theater — as the victims of this story. The Abe administration sees this historical revision as integral to restoring Japan’s imperial wartime honor and modern-day national pride. But the broader effect of the campaign has been to cause Japan to back away from international efforts against human rights abuses and to weaken its desire to be seen as a responsible partner in prosecuting possible war crimes.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies, United Nations | 13 Comments »

    PNS: Deaths of unknown persons in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police: At least 5 in past year

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th March 2015

    PNS: A troubling pattern of deaths of suspects in police custody is emerging in Tokyo, Japan. At least five people have died in police custody in the last year, with little publicity or investigation. The names of the victims have not apparently been released, which puts Japan at odds with international norms of transparency and police accountability.

    Unknown man arrested May 12, 2014 in Meguro Ward
    Unknown man arrested May 25, 2014 in Shinjuku
    Unknown man arrested May 31, 2014 in Konan
    Unknown man arrested August 25, 2014 in Shinagawa
    Unknown man arrested February 11, 2015 in Akasaka

    All cases have resulted in fatalities of those in custody.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, 日本語 | 38 Comments »

    Japan Times: UK inspectors say Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers are like “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd February 2015

    Getting back to another issue in Japan that has long needed fixing — the judiciary — here are some overseas experts talking in a comparative perspective about Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers (aka Gaijin Tanks) that they liken to “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse than prisons, because they don’t come under the same judicial oversight for minimum standards that Japanese prisons do, and detainees, unlike the criminally-incarcerated, do not have a “prison sentence” with a limited time-frame attached to it. Not to mention Gaijin Tanks add a second layer of incarceration for NJ only, where even the NJ exonerated of a criminal offense get released from prison only to wind up in a Gaijin Tank for “overstaying” the visa they couldn’t renew because they were incarcerated. For people in Gaijin Tanks, detention can be perpetual, and that’s before we get to the horrible, even lethal, treatment they suffer from while in custody. Read on:

    JT: When British incarceration inspection expert Hindpal Singh Bhui last month paid his first visit to a Japanese immigration detention center, his overriding initial impression was that it looked like a prison. “The fact that if someone comes to visit detainees, the starting point is that you’re behind a glass screen and you can’t touch someone — that feels quite restrictive,” Bhui, team leader for London-based Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, told The Japan Times during a recent visit to Japan. “It’s something which perhaps is a prison-style approach and which was surprising to see in immigration detention centers,” Bhui said of his visit to the government facility in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture.

    Established in 1982, HMIP is an independent inspectorate with unchallenged authority to probe state-run institutions, from prisons to immigration and military detention centers. The British system stands in contrast with Japan’s immigration inspectorate, which is poorly funded and regarded as having little independence from the government, Japanese lawyers say…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government | 4 Comments » quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th February 2015

    SCMP: [Sono’s] comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists. “It’s a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system ‘racial discrimination’ in her column, she advocates it,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign.

    “Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?” he asked. “Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing? I hope – and I stress hope – this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch,” he added. “But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan’s ultra-conservative ruling elite.”…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Media | 6 Comments »

    IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th January 2015

    IPC Digital via Google Translate (from Portuguese original): Video of alleged discrimination in hospital resonates with Japanese Internet:

    The video shows a Brazilian accusing a doctor of refusing care and offended her daughter with curses, wishing his death (Kuso, Shine), reflected in forums of discussions and Japanese blogs. Dozens of posts in blogs and other forums, highlighted the event… The vast majority of comments were against the alleged discrimination.

    Some Japanese netizens pointed out that, despite the apparent exaltation of the father, the doctor should have attended the transfer request and that should never have used those words with the child. Even in anonymous forums where it is not necessary to identify to post a comment, most Internet users showed outrage at the perceived attitude of the doctor, saying that “certainly should be fired,” and that “the university should be responsible for the wrong attitudes of physicians.”

    COMMENT: It has made the news. Unlike, say, this “Japanese Only” hospital reported on back in 2012, which wound up being ignored by the local media. It pays to video these things — they go viral, and force apologies. Not sure how this will stop it from happening in future, but glad that somebody is paying attention this time. Portuguese videos first, then Portuguese article, Google translated version, and finally Japanese articles.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, 日本語 | 21 Comments »

    Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd January 2015

    Here’s something for the Shoe on the Other Foot Dept.: A “No Japanese Passengers” taxi in Thailand, refusing to take all “Japanese” passengers (sign courtesy of Khaosod English). Naturally, condemns all exclusionism of this type, and encourages people to challenge it and have these signs and rules repealed. We have devoted much cyberspace to recording and archiving the converse, “Japanese Only” signs that exclude all “foreigners” (that unfortunately have gone largely unchallenged in Japan). not to mention the occasional “Japanese Only” establishment run for Japanese clientele outside of Japan (that excludes all “foreigners” in their own country, natch).

    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).

    Now, if only the Japanese authorities would be so decisive about this kind of exclusionism in Japan (as has demonstrated over these past twenty years, they generally aren’t; they even deny racial discrimination ever happens in Japan, quite counterproductively). 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.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Good News, Human Rights, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 11 Comments »

    Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th January 2015

    Yomiuri: In an effort to address population declines in provincial areas, the government plans to create a database to provide people thinking of moving from urban to regional areas with information about potential destinations, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The government hopes to encourage more urbanites to move to regional areas by making it possible for them to extensively search for information on such issues as residency and welfare services anywhere in the country…

    The government plans to promote the development of robots for use in the service industry, such as at hotels and pubs, to cope with the industry’s worsening problems of labor shortages and heavy workloads, according to sources. In September, the government is expected to establish a panel dubbed the “committee for the realization of the robot revolution,” which will comprise manufacturers and users of robots, and plans to subsidize programs judged to have bright prospects.

    COMMENT: Of course, the Yomiuri diligently types it down and offers it up uncritically, with the typical pride of showing off “Japan’s stuff”. The policy assumption is that if you offer people information, they’ll magically want to move out to the countryside — up to now they were just chary because they didn’t know where they could get an onigiri in Nakamura-son, Inaka-Ken.

    That’s unrealistic. It’s not a matter of lack of information. It’s a matter of lack of economic opportunity for Japan’s largely white-collar labor force (the “potential migrants” being mentioned, of course, are Japanese) being offered out in The Boonies. Hasn’t the GOJ gotten the memo yet after more than a quarter century of Japanese turning their noses away from 3K blue-collar work? Not to mention the inevitable “Taro-come-lately” outsider treatment from the locals that greets many Japanese urbanites deciding to move out of the cities? Fact is, Japan’s ruralities are even giving their land away for FREE, and it’s not stemming the exodus from.

    Moreover, how about that other proposal below of introducing more robots in service areas to produce the 3K stuff? Laced within that Industrial Policy is an appeal to national pride, as in Japan’s future as a world leader in robot use (without the actual substance of practicality behind it). Ooh, our robots can produce bentos? Can yours, France? Then what: build robots to consume what robots produce? No matter what, offering robots as replacements for humans in the labor market inevitably overlooks how this does nothing to revitalize Japan’s taxpayer base, because ROBOTS DO NOT PAY TAXES.

    There is another option, the unmentionable: Immigrants assuming the mantle of Japan’s farming economy and rural maintenance. No, you see, that would be a security risk. Too high a local foreign population would mean those areas might secede from Japan! (Seriously, that is the argument made.)…

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 24 Comments »

    My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st January 2015

    As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the Top Ten human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:

    This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012), while gritting our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship. However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, he resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater…

    Read the next nine and five bubble-unders below with links to sources:

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, SITYS, Sport, United Nations | 8 Comments »

    Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th December 2014

    As a Holiday Tangent, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth). It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents.

    But that was just one person. Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan’s entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular). Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of “the past is a foreign country” relief. Japan cannot. Not right now.

    Kureishi: I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear.

    I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared…

    The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 9 Comments »

    Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st December 2014

    According to the Grauniad (article below), hate group Zaitokukai (which has been part of a group publicly advocating the killing of Japan’s generational Korean residents, the Zainichi) has been placed on a National Police Agency “watchlist” as a threat to law and order. That is good news. However, I wonder if it will deter Zaitokukai’s bullying activities, where they can verbally abuse, knock down, and even punch (watch the video to the end) an old man who counterdemonstrates against them: Where were the police then? (Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or within the movie Yasukuni?)

    As has argued before, the Japanese police have a soft touch for extreme-rightists, but take a hard line against extreme(?) leftists. So placing this particular group on a watch list is a good thing. As having laws against violence and threats to law and order is a good thing. Alas, if those laws are not enforced by Japan’s boys in blue, that makes little difference. We will have to wait and see whether we’ll see a softening of Zaitokukai’s rhetoric or Sakurai Makoto’s bullying activities.

    Meanwhile, according to the Mainichi Shinbun at the very bottom, local governments (as opposed to the foot-dragging PM Abe Cabinet) are considering laws against hate speech (well, they’re passing motions calling for one, anyway). That’s good too, considering that not long ago they were actually passing panicky resolutions against allowing Permanent Residents (particularly those same Zainichi) the right to vote in local elections. Methinks that if the world (e.g., the United Nations) wasn’t making an issue of Japan’s rising hate speech (what with the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all), this would probably not be happening. In other words, the evidence suggests that it’s less an issue of seeing the Zainichi as fellow residents and human beings deserving equal rights, more an issue of Japan avoiding international embarrassment. I would love to be proven wrong on this, but the former is a much more sustainable push than the latter.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, United Nations, 日本語 | 7 Comments »

    Japan Election 2014: “Why taboo?” Grotesque foreigner-bashing cartoon by Hiranuma’s Jisedai Party, features “Taboo Pig” sliced in half over NJ welfare recipients “issue”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th December 2014

    As everyone in Japan probably knows (as they cover their ears due to the noise), it’s election time again, and time for the sound trucks and stump speeches to come out in force until December 14. And with that, sadly, comes the requisite foreigner bashing so prevalent in recent years in Japan’s election and policy campaigns (see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Here’s 2014’s version, from “The Party for Future Generations” (Jisedai no Tou; frontman: racist xenophobe Dietmember from Okayama 3-ku Hiranuma Takeo), courtesy Reader XY:

    XY: Today I ran across this election campaign video that isn’t as bad as the usual CM fare, but seems to suggest that 8 times as many foreigners as native Japanese are receiving welfare hand-outs. Here’s the lyrics (from the video’s own description):

    DEBITO: is concerned about this normalization of NJ bashing — to the point of believing that blaming foreigners for just about anything gains you political capital. Look how this alleged “NJ welfare cheats” issue has become one of Jisedai’s four (well, three, actually, since the first issue mentioned is a grumble instead of a substantive claim) planks in their platform. Even though, as we have discussed here earlier, this is a non-issue. Link to CM and screen captures enclosed with analysis.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 11 Comments »

    Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights 2014 on raising public awareness of NJ human rights (full site scanned with analysis: it’s underwhelming business as usual)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th November 2014

    DEBITO.ORG READER AM: Debito, I saw an internet banner ad on the website that along with a cartoon figure, posed the question “gaikokujin no jinken mamotteru?” [Are you protecting the human rights of NJ?] I thought I must have been seeing things, but clicking through I landed on a Japan Ministry of Justice page offering advice on how to protect the rights of non-Japanese.
    It seems that this is a campaign is part of Japan’s push to ready the country for the 2020 Olympics, addressing issues such as ryokan denying service to non Japanese. Definitely a nice change from the focus on hooliganism leading up to the World Cup in 2002.

    DEBITO: I would agree. It’s much better to see Non-Japanese as people with rights than as rapacious and devious criminals who deserve no rights because, according to the Ministry of Justice’s own surveys, NJ aren’t as equally human as Japanese. And this is not the first antidiscrimination campaign by the Japanese Government, in the guise of the mostly-potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu, or BOHR) nominally assigned to protect human rights in Japan (which, as has pointed out before, have put out some pretty biased and insensitive campaigns specifically regarding NJ residents in Japan). And did I mention the Japanese Government in general has a habit of portraying important international issues in very biased ways if there’s ever a chance of NJ anywhere getting equal treatment or having any alleged power over Japanese people? It’s rarely a level playing field or a fair fight in Japan’s debate arenas or awareness campaigns.

    So now that it’s 2014, and another influential Olympics looms, how does the BOHR do this time? (And I bother with this periodic evaluation because the Japanese Government DOES watch what we do here at, and makes modifications after sufficient embarrassments…) I’ll take screen captures of the whole site, since they have a habit of disappearing after appearing here. Here’s the top page:

    CONCLUSION: Again, much talk about NJ and their lives here with minimized involvement of the NJ themselves. As my friend noted, it’s better this than having NJ openly denigrated or treated as a social threat. However, having them being treated as visitors, or as animals that need pacifying through Wajin interlocutors, is not exactly what I’d call terribly progressive steps, or even good social science. But that’s what the BOHR, as I mentioned above, keeps doing year after year, and it keeps their line items funded and their underwhelming claims of progressive action to the United Nations window-dressed.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Sport, Tourism, United Nations, 日本語 | 4 Comments »

    “Japanese Only” nightclubs “W” in Nagoya and newly-opening “CLUB Leopard” in Hiroshima

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th November 2014

    Two more places to add to the roster of “Japanese Only” Exclusionary Establishments in Japan, and this time, they are places that Japan’s youth frequent: nightclubs (nothing like catching them when they’re young and possibly more open-minded…)

    1) Nightclub “W”
    名古屋市中区栄3-10-13 Wビル 6F&7F
    TEL 052-242-5705

    Contributor SM writes: Last night I was in downtown Nagoya (Sakae) and I saw this sign posted at the entrance of a large dance club called “W.” There was a very buff bouncer beside the sign. I approached him and asked if I’d be allowed to go in. He apologized and said no. I asked if it was because of dress code or because I was foreign. (I was in a nice outfit, having gone out for dinner with my husband earlier.) He said it was because I was foreign. I asked why this was a policy. He said it was the rule of management, and he had to enforce it. I took some photos (although he had said no photos allowed.) He didn’t try to stop me from taking the photos, we said good night, and went on our way.

    2) CLUB Leopard in Hiroshima (opening December 5)
    住所 広島市中区流川町7-6
    第五白菱ビルB1F TEL 082-569-7777
    It also has a pretty impressive website:, and here is a very impressive number of rules that all patrons must follow, including those NJ who apparenty can’t be patrons: “DO NOT ENTER NON-JAPANESE”

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, 日本語 | 27 Comments »

    Mainichi: Thousands of anti-hate speech demonstrators take to Tokyo streets Nov 2, 2014

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th November 2014

    Good news. With the upswell in hate speech in Japan, particularly against Zainichi Koreans, we have social antibodies kicking in, with public counterdemonstrations on Nov. 2 to say that this behavior is unacceptable. Of course, this is only the second time that the anti-racists have demonstrated, as opposed to the many, many, many times the pro-racism forces have turned out on the streets. But it is a positive step that salutes, and I hope that they will take a more proactive (as opposed to reactive) approach to set the public agenda. That agenda should be: punitive criminal laws against hate speech and racial discrimination in Japan. For the lack of legislation in Japan means that the xenophobic elements can essentially do as they please (short of breaking already-established laws involving more generic violence towards others) to normalize hatred in Japan. And they will probably succeed in doing so unless it is illegal. My fear is that opponents of public hatred might think that just counter-demonstrating is sufficient, and if hate speech ever dies down, they’ll think problem solved. As the United Nations agrees, it won’t be.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, United Nations, 日本語 | 18 Comments »

    Louis Carlet et al. on the misunderstood July 2014 Supreme Court Ruling denying welfare benefits to NJ: “no rights” does not mean automatic NJ denials

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th November 2014

    Two weeks ago wrote on the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Japan’s ruling that NJ have “no right” to social welfare (seikatsu hogo) because they are not citizens. I have been hearing rumblings that the media have been misinterpreting this ruling due to linguistics and politics, and that an adjudged no legal right has not resulted in denials. I submit to you the corrections from Tozen Union’s Louis Carlet, with a followup from another Commenter that are simply too good to languish within comments. Nevertheless, as noted in that earlier post, the point remains that there are some very nasty and xenophobic people in Japan’s political system who are capitalizing on what people think the Supreme Court said. Which may mean, in this increasingly ultra-rightist political climate, that the effect might ultimately be the same.

    CARLET: [Japan Times’] Otake’s article is mistaken on two major points. First, the Supreme Court in no way found foreigners ineligible for welfare. Second, the ruling, far from landmark, upheld the status quo. The highest court overturned the High Court’s actual landmark ruling which said that foreigners have “quasi rights” to welfare. Up until then foreigners never had the “guaranteed right” (kenri) to welfare but they were and are eligible just like Japanese citizens.

    I think the problem is mistranslation. Kenri means a guaranteed right whereas “no right” in English suggests ineligible. The only difference arising from not having the kenri is that if the welfare office rejects an application from a citizen then the Japanese person can appeal the decision to the office. A foreigner with no kenri for welfare cannot appeal at the office but only in court. That is the ONLY difference between how foreigners and Japanese are treated by the welfare office. Foreigners get welfare just like Japanese do. In fact the plaintiff currently gets welfare although originally rejected.

    OSFISH: The clarification that needs to be repeated over and over again is that “welfare” here does not mean “welfare” in its biggest sense of all social expenditures, such as pensions, health costs, unemployment insurance and so on. It does not mean shakai hoken in any sense at all. Welfare in this limited sense is a means-tested benefit for people who have fallen through the gaps of insurance-based social protection because they cannot contribute, or are not under the umbrella of a contributor. The main recipients are long-term disabled, single mothers (abandoned by their partners) and elderly with inadequate or no pension rights. It is a completely different system to shakai hoken and operates on a different logic of desert and eligibility. Broadly speaking, the same social insurance/social assistance split operates in large parts of the industrialised world. Japan more or less imported its system from Europe.

    To repeat: welfare here does not mean shakai hoken. Please rest easy, and do NOT consider opting out based on this ruling; it’s got nothing legally or logically to do with shakai hoken. And in any case, welfare is not being taken away. People in dire straits need to know that.[…]

    [According to this GOJ source] 66% of all recipients are Koreans – almost all probably zainichi SPRs: a group that really stretches the concept of “foreign”, I’m sure you’ll agree. Of those Koreans, and quite disproportionately compared to other groups, around half of the recipients are old people. I would hazard a guess that this is a strong reflection of the economic disenfranchisement of the first post-war generation of zainichi. These are people who were disproportionately not properly or poorly integrated into the economy and welfare system. (For what it’s worth, incomer “foreigners” claim less than their “share”, but this shouldn’t be too surprising or interpreted as anything meaningful, as residence status is attached to visa status, is attached to good evidence of financial stability. Of course there are going to be fewer incomer recipients.)

    Let’s combine this fact that Koreans make up the bulk of recipients with the far-right party’s suggestion that “foreign” recipients should naturalise or leave. For a westerner claiming social assistance, it would be very hard indeed to naturalise if you could not demonstrate financial stability. It’s pretty much out of the question. However, for zainichi Koreans, that financial stability condition doesn’t apply. The rules for SPR naturalisation are not strict. So it looks to me like an attempt to coerce elderly impoverished zainichi Koreans into giving up their nationality and identity. That’s why this relatively small amount of budget money matters to these thoroughly unpleasant people.

    Posted in Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media | 4 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2014

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

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

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

    Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course…
    (Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media | 31 Comments »


    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2014

    Table of Contents:

    1) From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; JINF Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas
    2) Georgetown prof Dr. Kevin Doak honored by Sakurai Yoshiko’s JINF group for concept of “civic nationalism” (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in Japan
    3) Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype
    4) Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys
    5) Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image

    … and finally…
    6) Japan Times JBC column 80: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions

    Posted in Human Rights | No Comments »

    Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st November 2014

    Two good JT columns recently indicate how gaiatsu is becoming one of the last tools left for anyone to counter Japan’s Right-Wing Swing. One from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat’s charm. But he’s recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration:

    CORTAZZI: Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here. […] In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[…] It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights.

    DEBITO: Quite strong language from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It’s even stronger:

    YAMAGUCHI: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption. […] It is hardly possible that [the UNSC] would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[…]

    What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire. It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects.

    DEBITO: It’s nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like “the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism”, because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan’s media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan’s Postwar Era, it’s time for denunciations to happen. Because they’re not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »

    Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th October 2014

    JT: But the July ruling [that found permanent residents of Japan legally ineligible for public assistance] has given momentum to some forces, including those harboring anti-foreigner sentiments and advocates of cutting “waste” in government spending, to try to limit foreigners’ access to welfare. The minor opposition party Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), co-founded by ultranationalist Shintaro Ishihara, plans to submit bills to the extraordinary Diet session that would give destitute foreigners a year to choose between two extremes: becoming naturalized citizens or leaving the country.

    The move follows an August proposal, by a team of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party tasked with eliminating wasteful state spending, to restrict welfare assistance to foreigners. “The welfare outlays to foreigners run up to ¥122 billion per year,” the Aug. 4 report by the LDP team said. “We must say it is difficult to maintain the status quo.” The team also said the government “should create guidelines (on public assistance) for foreigners who arrive in Japan, and consider deporting those who cannot maintain a living.”

    JT commenter: “According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s total social welfare benefits reached ¥103.487 trillion in fiscal 2010, topping ¥100 trillion for the first time.”

    Okay, so in Japan, the total welfare budget is 103.487 trillion yen. But only 0.122 trillion yen of that goes to foreigners, so that means that the other 103.365 trillion yen are going to Japanese people! Here, let’s do some math:

    103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system!

    Now let’s do the math for foreigners:
    122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system!

    Japan’s GDP is 536,122,300,000,000 yen (over 536 TRILLION yen). So 122 billion yen is less than 0.03% of Japan’s economy. Basically, Shintaro Ishihara with his Jisedai no Tou, and the LDP, are wasting countless hours of time on something that, at best, will save Japan 0.03% of its GDP. To make an analogy, I make about $28,000 a year. So this is the same as me OBSESSING and LOSING SLEEP AT NIGHT over how I can save $8 per year.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Fun Facts, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »

    Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd October 2014

    Kyodo: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other. The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names. Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned. During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.”

    Friend: I’m sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan’s hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they “hate Japan”, then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully.

    Debito: I disagree. Sakurai is a bully. I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation. And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did. People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto’s actions. He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city. And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed. Good. Fire with fire.

    Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena. My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example. It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did. Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.

    UPDATE OCT 23: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Now it’s time for me to make some qualifications…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 29 Comments »

    From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th October 2014

    It’s the next natural step of Japan’s Extreme Right: jingoism and terrorism. They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan’s “Comfort Women” wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm. No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) — as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs. The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts. And it won’t stop there — the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below). The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” is more evidence that the outside world still hasn’t caught up with what’s really going on with Japan’s Right Wing Swing.

    Mainichi: Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue.

    Yomiuri Ad: Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order? A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Education, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 37 Comments »

    Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th September 2014

    Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included).

    This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923.

    To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article).

    So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 4 Comments »