Hi Blog. PyeongChang. It’s Olympics time again, and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the athleticism but not the nationalism (and inevitable comparisons of strengths and weaknesses along national lines) that is endemic to bordered sports. Too many people compete for glory as representatives of whole societies, not for individual bests, and that particularly takes a toll on Japan’s athletes.
I’ve been a relentless critic of Japan’s sports commentary, but now that I’m watching it in the US, fair game. I was quite incandescent with rage at times listening to NBC’s stupid, overgeneralizing, and often borderline racist commentary of the Opening Ceremonies. (One of the most annoying was when Katie Couric noted how internet addiction is allegedly a problem in South Korea, and used it as a segue into a shameless plug of her upcoming show on internet addiction in America; and this relates to the Olympics how!?)
Fortunately, I was not alone, and Korea protested not only the overgeneralizations, but also the ahistorical comments that were ill-considered. Fortunately, NBC apologized (and told the press that the offending commentator’s “assignment is over”), which is better than I’ve ever seen NHK do for its nasty coverage. Here’s the Washington Post on the issue. Dr. Debito Arudou
Friday’s Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in South Korea were, by most accounts, spectacular. NBC’s coverage of the spectacle, on the other hand, was considered hit and miss. Occasionally disastrous.
It wasn’t so much the hosts, Katie Couric and Mike Tirico, who annoyed critics, but rather the network’s analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo.
Slate wrote that Ramo’s commentary amounted to bland trivia about Asia “seemingly plucked from hastily written social studies reports” — such as his observation that white and blue flags stood for North and South Korean unity. Variety compared his commentary to a Wikipedia article.
But Ramo’s big misstep came when he noticed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the crowd and offered what he knew about the country’s history with Korea.
Japan was “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, correctly (though he did not mention that historians say the Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Koreans into sex slavery.)
“But,” Ramo continued, “every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.”
This was definitely not correct. Every Korean did not agree that Japanese colonialism had its upside. In fact, thousands signed a petition demanding that NBC apologize for Ramo’s statement.
“His incorrect and insensitive comment about Korea’s history has enraged many of its people,” the Korea Times observed.
“Some say it’s questionable whether Ramo has been even following the news leading up to the current Olympics, as some of the disputes between South Korea and Japan erupted even during the preparation phase of the games,” the Korea Herald added, mentioning as an example the unified Korean flag that Ramo liked so much.
In fact, the Herald reported, an earlier flag design had outraged Japan because it included a group of islets still claimed by both countries.
Japan and South Korea have not even fully reconciled over atrocities committed during the occupation. While the Japanese government has expressed remorse and set up a fund in the 1990s to help victims it once referred to as “comfort women,” some politicians and academics claim estimates of 200,000 sex slaves are exaggerated. Many South Koreans, in turns, compare those skeptics to Holocaust deniers.
The morning after the Opening Ceremonies, NBC apologized for Ramo’s remarks. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments,” an anchor said during a Saturday broadcast, according to MSN.
In a statement to The Washington Post, NBC Sports said that the network also apologized in writing and that “we’re very gratified that [the PyeongChang Olympics] has accepted that apology.”
Yahoo Sports reported this was the second time that Ramo, who co-directs a think tank founded by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, has appeared as an Olympics analyst for NBC. He shared an Emmy Award for his commentary during Beijing’s Summer Games in 2008.
Ramo could not be immediately reached for comment. An NBC official told The Post that his assignment is over.
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Hi Blog. With the recent broadcast of an “Eddie Murphy homage” (with Japanese tarento Hamada Masatoshi doing blackface) on one of the most-watched shows in Japan all year, Debito.org feels a need at least to mention that there is a hot debate going on about whether Blackface is appropriate in other societies (such as Japan) with a different history of race relations.
(Courtesy of The Japan Times)
My opinion is that doing Blackface is almost always a bad thing, due to its historical connotation regardless of context. And I add the caveat of “almost always” while struggling to think of any exception, except for purposes of historical grounding behind the issue. (And it’s not limited to blackface: Debito.org has covered racialized media in Japan, broadcast without input from the minorities affected, many times in the past, including here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) And the fact that this is happening again despite a similar Blackface incident not two years ago (which ended up with the broadcast being cancelled a priori) is merely willful ignorance on the part of Japan’s media outlets.
Even better is a YouTube panel discussion sponsored by The Japan Times that involves McNeil, Anthropologist Dr. John G. Russell of Gifudai, and YouTuber Aoki Yuta.
Dr. Russell’s comments about Japan’s history with Blackface (there is in fact a history, despite the narrative that Japan is ignorant therefore innocent) are particularly salient. Watch if you want a definitive conclusion to the issue of Blackface in Japan for yourself. Dr. Debito Arudou
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10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record
Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total.
In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline.
Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.
9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit
Japan’s secondary schools have a degree of uniformity that stifles diversity. And this trend reached its logical conclusion with the news that one school was forcing children with natural hair color that’s anything but black to dye and straighten their locks.
We talked about dyeing a decade ago (“Schools single out foreign roots,” July 17, 2007), noting its adverse effects on children’s physical and mental health. Yet the Asahi Shimbun reported in May that 57 percent of surveyed Tokyo metropolitan high schools still require “proof of real hair color.” In Osaka, it’s more like 80 percent.
The tone-deaf school justified this by saying, “Even a blond-haired foreign exchange student dyed her hair black.” This lawsuit’s outcome will signal whether Japan’s increasingly diverse student population can ever escape this kind of institutionalized harassment. But at least one student is standing up for herself.
8) Five-year limit on contract employment backfires
As reported in the JT by Hifumi Okunuki (“‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs,” Nov. 27, 2016), Japan’s Labor Contract Law was revised in 2013 to increase worker job security. To put an end to perennial full-time contracted employment, anyone working more than five years on serial fixed-term contracts will now be able to switch to normalized full-time noncontracted (seishain) status if they wish.
However, the law was not retroactive and the clock started ticking on April 1, 2013, so as the five-year deadline approaches this coming April, employers are now terminating contracts en masse: Last April, Tohoku University told 3,200 employees their current contracts would be their last.
Hence the bamboo ceiling remains alive and well, except it’s been expanded from just filtering out foreign nationals to affecting anyone.
7) Hate-speech law has concrete effects
Despite concerns about potential infringement of freedom of speech, a hate speech law was enacted in 2016 to, among other things, specifically protect foreign nationals from public defamation. It worked: Kyodo reported last year that xenophobic rallies, once averaging about one a day somewhere in Japan, were down by nearly half. Racialized invective has been softened, and official permission for hate groups to use public venues denied.
Of course, this hate speech law is not legislation with criminal penalties against, for example, racial discrimination. And it still assumes that noncitizens (rather than, for example, members of “visible minorities” who happen to be citizens) need special protection, incurring accusations of favoritism and “reverse discrimination.”
Nevertheless, according to the Mainichi, haters have been chastened. A report quotes one hate rally attendee as saying that before the law change, “I felt like anything I said was protected by the shield of ‘freedom of speech’… I felt safe because I knew the police officers would protect us. It felt like we had the upper hand.”
Not so much anymore.
6) Pension system qualification lowered to 10 years
Last year saw an important amendment to Japan’s state pension (nenkin) rules. Until last August, you had to invest a minimum of 300 months, or 25 years, in the various schemes to qualify for payouts after reaching retirement age.
Japan thus turned workers into “pension prisoners” — if you ever took your career elsewhere, you would get at most a small lump-sum payout from Japan, and possibly zero from your new country of residence for not paying in enough. (It was especially punitive toward Japan’s South American workers, who forfeited pensions when bribed by the government to “return home” during 2009’s economic downturn.)
Although things have improved under bilateral totalization agreements (where pension payments in designated countries get counted toward Japan’s 25-year minimum), this year Japan lowered the bar to the more reasonable 10 years. (More on this at www.debito.org/?p=14704.)
Of course, this does not resolve the fact that Japan will have the highest proportion of pensioners anywhere on Earth. Payouts and minimum retirement ages will be revised accordingly to make the pension worth little. But still, it will not be zero, and payments can be claimed anywhere in the world when you’re ready.
5) Renho resigns, Democratic Party withers
In 2016, in an unprecedented move, a member of an ethnic minority became the leader of a major Japanese political party. Alas, that party was the Democratic Party (formerly the Democratic Party of Japan), which in 2017 crumbled into nothing.
Renho, a Taiwanese-Japanese who served in Cabinets under two DPJ prime ministers, was a popular reformer. (She was re-elected in 2010 with a record number of votes for her district.) However, last year her integrity was questioned when it emerged that she had technically retained dual citizenship by not formally renouncing her Taiwanese nationality. That was rectified in July, but weeks later Renho resigned, ostensibly to “take responsibility” for a poor DP showing in the Tokyo prefectural election. From there, the DP downward-spiraled into virtual oblivion.
Many Japanese politicians have been tainted by scandal merely for associating with foreign types (for example, former DPJ Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in 2011). Renho, alas, could not escape the stigma of her own putative “foreignness” — a huge setback for Japan’s politically invested ethnic minorities.
4) ‘Trainee’ program expanded, with ‘reforms’
Since 1993, to offset a labor shortage in Japan’s rusting small-firm industries, the government has been providing unskilled labor under an ostensible training program for foreign workers.
Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.
So guess what: In 2014, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe announced it would be expanded. Once restricted to the construction, manufacturing, agricultural and fishery industries, as of November it also includes nursing and caregiving. New opportunities were also proposed in “special economic zones” (so that foreign college graduates with Japanese language skills can pull weeds and till farmland — seriously). Furthermore, visas will be longer-term (up to five years).
To counter the abuses, the government also launched an official watchdog agency in November to do on-site inspections, offer counseling services to workers and penalize miscreant employers. But labor rights groups remain skeptical. The program’s fundamental incentives remain unchanged — not to actually “train” foreign laborers (or even provide Japanese language instruction), but rather to exploit them as cheap unskilled labor.
So expect more of the same. Except that now the program will ingest even more foreign workers for longer. After all, uncompetitive factories will continue to use cheap labor to avoid bankruptcy, construction will expand due to the Olympics, and more elderly Japanese will require caregivers.
3) North Korean missile tests and the fallout
Last year North Korea, the perpetual destabilizer of East Asia, commanded even more worldwide attention than usual (even popularizing the obscure word “dotard” among native English speakers). Flexing its muscles as a probable nuclear power, it test-fired missiles over Japan. The Japanese government responded by calling 2017 “the most severe security environment since the end of World War II” and warned regions of launches via the J-Alert system, while local authorities ran duck-and-cover-style nuclear attack drills.
This is but the most recent episode in a long history of Japan-North Korea reactionary antagonism. However, Japan is particularly wary of the possibility of infiltration. Members of the North Korean diaspora live in Japan (attending ethnic schools with photos of the Kim dynasty on their walls), with established networks for smuggling, money laundering and kidnapping of Japanese.
Essentially, North Korea’s international recklessness and habitual stupidity empower Japan’s warmongers and xenophobes to reinforce Japan’s bunker mentalities. They’ve successfully created domestic policies (such as the new “anti-conspiracy law”) that curtail civil, political and human rights for foreign and Japanese nationals alike — all legitimized based on the fear of North Koreans gaining even an iota of power in Japan.
Thus, North Korea’s antics ruin Japan’s liberal society for everyone. And last year Kim Jong Un upped the ante.
Abe’s success is partly down to an aging society being predictably more conservative. No political party in the democratic world has held on to power as long as Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Voting LDP, particularly in rural Japan, where votes count more than urban ones do, is often generational habit.
It’s also partly due to an opposition in disarray: After the DP stumbled and fell, the newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope) (whose policies weren’t all that different from the LDP’s) soured under the leadership of mercurial Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike — who resigned as party head, effectively abandoning her baby, in November.
And, to give due credit, it’s partly because Abe offers reassuring policies that, as usual for the LDP, sloganize stability and preservation of the status quo over concrete results or necessary reforms.
As far as Japan’s NJ residents are concerned, this election offered no good news. No party offered any policy improvements whatsoever for Japan’s international residents. (As noted above, how could they, what with North Korea’s missiles flying overhead?)
In sum, 2017’s election was not a rout of the opposition as has been seen before; the ruling coalition even lost a few seats. Moreover, the biggest victors, a new Constitutional Democratic Party streamlined of wishy-washy former DP members, offered a clear voice to the strong opposition among Japanese to changing the Constitution.
That said, JBC believes those changes will probably happen anyway, because despite this year’s scandals (e.g., the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen school debacles), five wins at the ballot box have made it clear that voters are just fine with Abe in power, whatever he does.
Twenty-five percent of respondents looking for work said they had been rejected for being foreign, and nearly a fifth said they had received a lower salary for the same reason. Nearly 30 percent said they were targeted by race-based insults. More than 37 percent said they supported a law against “foreigner discrimination” (sic).
There’s lots more (see “Time to act on insights on landmark survey,” JBC, April 26), and even with all the caveats (e.g., excluding Japan’s visible-minority citizens, who tend to be treated as foreigners, and offering no questions about discrimination by officialdom, such as police street ID checks or the manufacturing of fictitious foreign crime waves), it’s an unimpeachable set of official stats that may, despite the xenophobic political climate, result in future antidiscrimination policies.
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Hi Blog. About a month ago, Briton Kazuo Ishiguro, who writes exclusively in English, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Predictably, Japan’s media boasted that a third Japanese writer (with the caveat that he was Japan-born) had won a Nobel.
Well, not really. Imagine, say, Germany claiming as their own all the Nobel-laureate scientists of the Deutsch diaspora living abroad, even those without actual German citizenship, for however many generations?
In Japan, this highly-questionable social science is hardly problematized. As noted below by Reuters, a similar claim was laid to Shuji “Slave” Nakamura, inventor of the LED, who due to his foul treatment by Japan’s scientific and academic communities quite actively disavows his connections to Japan (in fact, he urges them to escape for their own good). Same with Yoichiro Nambu, who got Nobelled as a team in 2008 for Physics, yet had been living in the US since the 1960s, was a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, and had even relinquished Japanese citizenship and taken American.
I suspect these odd claims massage a rather insecure national pride. Also because they are largely unquestioned under the concept of Japan as an ethnostate, where nationality/citizenship is directly linked to blood ties. That is to say, anyone who is of Japanese blood can be claimed as a member of the Japanese societal power structure (i.e., a Wajin). And the converse is indeed true: Even people who take Japanese citizenship but lack the requisite Wajin blood are treated as foreign: Just ask Japan’s “naturalized-but-still-foreign” athletes in, say, the sumo wrestling or rugby communities.
It’s a pretty racist state of affairs. One I discuss in depth in acclaimed book “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books, 2015). And, as I argue in its closing chapter, one that will ultimately lead to the downfall of a senescent Japan. Dr. Debito Arudou
TOKYO (Reuters) – Minutes after Japanese-born Briton Kazuo Ishiguro was announced as the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, Japanese took to Twitter to ask: “Who (the heck) is Kazuo Ishiguro?”
For those who had never heard of the author of “The Remains of the Day” and other award-winning novels, the name that flashed across smartphones and TV screens was puzzling – it was undoubtedly Japanese-sounding, but written in the local script reserved for foreign names and words.
Far from the super-star status that his erstwhile compatriot – and perpetual Nobel favorite – Haruki Murakami enjoys, Ishiguro is not a household name in Japan.
But by Friday morning, the nation was celebrating the 62-year-old British transplant, who writes exclusively in English, as one of its own, seizing on his own declaration of an emotional and cultural connection to Japan, which he left at age five.
“I’ve always said throughout my career that although I’ve grown up in this country (Britain) … that a large part of my way of looking at the world, my artistic approach, is Japanese, because I was brought up by Japanese parents, speaking in Japanese,” Ishiguro said on Thursday.
Japanese newspapers carried his Nobel win as front-page news, describing him as a Nagasaki native who had obtained British citizenship as an adult.
“On behalf of the government, I would like to express our happiness that an ethnic Japanese … has received the Nobel Prize for Literature,” Japan’s chief government spokesman said.
The Sankei daily boasted: “(Ishiguro) follows Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe as the third Japanese-born writer” to win the prize.
The country similarly celebrated with gusto the 2014 Nobel Prize co-winner in physics, American Shuji Nakamura, despite his having abandoned his Japanese nationality years ago. Japan does not recognize dual citizenship for adults.
Many Japanese are familiar with Ishiguro’s 2005 dystopian novel “Never Let Me Go” through its dramatisation in a local TV series last year, though the fact that Ishiguro wrote the work was less known. In the last 16 years, Hayakawa Publishing, which holds exclusive rights to translate Ishiguro’s works into Japanese, sold less than a million of his eight titles.
Japanese may yet yearn for an elusive Nobel for Murakami, but for now, Ishiguro is their man of the hour.
“Since last night, we’ve received orders for 200,000 copies,” Hiroyuki Chida at Hayakawa Publishing said. “That’s unthinkable in this day and age.” ENDS
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TOKYO — Samith Hilmy, a 26-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was waiting anxiously at a real estate office in Tokyo as an agent went through the procedure of ringing the Japanese landlord of an apartment the student was interested in renting.
Following a brief exchange, which lasted no more than 10 seconds, Hilmy said, the agent hung up the phone and uttered the same three-word phrase he had heard from a dozen or so agents over a month of home hunting: “Sorry, no foreigners.”
When Hilmy first arrived in Japan in April, his Japanese language school set him up in an apartment for six months in Shin-Okubo, a district in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward. But he has to leave the place soon, and time is short.
He said he has also encountered some real estate agents that demanded four to five months’ worth of rent up front — some want a year’s worth — as “insurance” in case he leaves the apartment or the country without notice.
“I felt,” he said, “like I was being treated like a criminal.”
Hilmy’s odyssey is not unlike the reality faced by many foreigners living in Japan. This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face.
According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.
The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam.
As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
They have to endure the humiliating phone call that often ends with a “sorry, no foreigners” because some landlords worry about tenants from other countries flying the coop, so to speak.
A few years ago, a 63-year-old landlord from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district who asked not to be named rented an apartment to a male Chinese student. After six months or so, he said, neighbors began reporting that two other men had moved into the same flat, “often making a racket late at night.”
When the neighbors confronted the student, the tenant pretended not to understand Japanese. “It made me more hesitant [to rent to foreigners],” the landlord said. “I just don’t want any more trouble.”
Hiroyuki Goto, CEO of Global Trust Networks, a Tokyo-based guarantor service provider for foreign tenants, said not many landlords have actually had these kinds of experiences but the stories “have spread across the country, causing fear among landlords.”
Other reasons include landlords who assume foreign tenants would trouble neighbors — from Brazilians throwing large home parties and firing up the barbecue to American college students who like partying into the night in their apartments.
Goto said even if prospective tenants are skilled workers with stable jobs at big-name Japanese companies, many housing units remain out of reach.
Total OA Systems — a Tokyo-based IT consultancy with 200 or so employees, including those in China and the Philippines — plans to expand the number of its foreign engineers working in Japan. It currently has only a handful.
The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo.
Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”
Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent.
This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”
Some companies are taking the matter into their own hands. YKK recently opened a small serviced apartment complex for its foreign-born employees in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, central Japan. Its flagship plant is a 10-minute drive away.
The world’s leading zipper maker is getting ready to expand into the low-end segments in China and other parts of Asia. To get a head start, it is training more foreign employees who could go on to become managers at these plants and elsewhere. These trainees work stints of up to three years in Kurobe.
The 10 apartments are close to full with engineers from Indonesia and other countries, and YKK is already considering whether it needs more housing for the more than 30 overseas engineers it plans to welcome every year.
YKK’s foreign employees used to live in other company dormitories or in private housing rented by the company. YKK said it has not experienced landlords rejecting its foreign-born employees but feels its serviced apartments help these workers avoid cultural quibbles with would-be neighbors.
More serviced apartment units would “allow [the foreign employees] to concentrate on their training from the day after they arrive to Japan,” a representative said.
Japan has no law prohibiting landlords from refusing applicants based on ethnicity or nationality.
“Judicially, the only way to resolve such a rejection is through civil lawsuits, which is an extremely high hurdle for foreigners,” said Yumi Itakura, an attorney with the Tokyo Public Law Office, citing costly trial fees and a lack of law firms with enough capacity to help non-Japanese clients.
But there have been efforts by industry players to tackle the issue. The Japan Property Management Association, a group of over 1,300 companies handling some 5 million properties, in 2003 created guidelines that include advice for landlords and real estate agencies in dealing with prospective foreign tenants.
“In some countries, a rental contract doesn’t require a guarantor [which is common in Japan],” one piece of advice says. “Housing rules differ by country and region, therefore you should carefully explain the values and customs that are behind Japan’s housing rules.”
For foreign tenants, the association created an “Apartment Search Guidebook,” which describes the country’s common housing rules in six languages. An example: “Living with people other than those stated in the rental agreement or sub-leasing the property are violations of the rental agreement.”
At the local government level, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward is a forerunner in trying to tackle housing rental rejections. In 1991, the ward specifically stated in an ordinance that it will “strive to resolve [tenant] discrimination” based on nationality.
The issue is particularly important for Shinjuku, which has the highest proportion of foreign residents in Tokyo. As of Aug. 1, of 341,979 residents, 42,613 were not Japanese, more than 12% of the total. People from 130 or so countries live in the ward.
The ward office provides a weekly consultation session on real estate transactions for foreign residents who are having trouble finding a place to stay. In addition, it has set up a mechanism that offers help to residents in Chinese, Korean, English, Thai, Nepalese and Burmese.
Shinjuku periodically holds liaisons with property agents for better collaboration and smoother information exchanges, according to Shinjuku’s housing division. The effort is, in part, to support the elderly, disabled and foreigners, “who tend to be the most vulnerable when it comes to securing housing,” said Osamu Kaneko, the division’s manager.
According to a survey that Shinjuku conducted in 2015, separate from the justice ministry’s study, of 1,275 foreign residents, 42.3% said they had experienced discrimination in Japan. Of those, 51.9% felt discriminated against when looking for housing.
The justice ministry study underscores just how widespread discrimination is in Japan’s housing market. But the problem could be about to swell. At least the number of foreign residents in the country is trending up. At the end of 2016, it reached an all-time high, 2.38 million, 77% more than 20 years earlier.
Experts say access to housing in Japan is becoming ever more important as the third largest economy takes steps — though small ones — to open its door to more foreigners.
Chizuko Kawamura, a professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Daito Bunka University and an immigration policy expert, has proposed that the government set up a specialized body on multicultural initiatives that would make way for foreign resident support systems — from housing, education, medical access and fair employment.
This is “not limited to housing,” Kawamura said. “If our government cannot address the social needs of [foreigners] already living in Japan, we won’t be able to support those coming into the country in the future.” ENDS
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In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech BY DEBITO ARUDOU THE JAPAN TIMES AUG 23, 2017
Let’s talk about Charlottesville.
As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.
Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:
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Hi Blog. I’m trying to maintain my summer vacation (and a dry-out from the Internet for a little while), but every now and again I stumble across something interesting (what with this golden age of political comedy in the US), and here’s something indirectly Japan-related.
Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render. They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations). I understand well, having been in their situations more than once. (And let me say here for the record: I am not a trained interpreter, and I have had numerous debates with interpreters with accuracy versus diplomatic rendering of the language. I fall on the side of total accuracy warts and all.) Worth a watch:
But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark. She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.
Rubbish. I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance. The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite“, and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes.
Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before. I’ve seen it.
But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny. Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”.
Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said. Portray it accurately. Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish. Dr. Debito Arudou
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ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE Government of Japan, survey thyself BY DEBITO ARUDOU JBC 106, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 5, 2017
Something landmark happened late last year. Japan’s government undertook a nationwide survey of discrimination toward Japan’s long-term non-Japanese (NJ) residents.
The Foreign Residents Survey (FRS), drawn up in 13 languages, was randomly mailed last November to 18,500 NJ residents. It was widely dispersed — to about 500 names per local government.
Good. We need hard data about the breadth and depth of discrimination to deal with it. However, previous government surveys analyzed in this column (e.g., “Human rights survey stinks,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 23, 2007) had serious methodological problems. And afterwards, thanks to attention in The Japan Times, they were amended (Source: Embedded Racism p 243 fn 140). Many thanks.
So how is the survey this time? Much better. But it still needs work due to an enormous blind spot…
Version with links to sources up shortly.
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Thanks to readers for putting this in the Top Ten most-read JT articles for two days in a row! — Debito
JUST BE CAUSE
STOP NORMALIZING SUMO AS AN ETHNO-SPORT Foreign coverage of the new Yokozuna Kisenosato is embedding racism By Debito Arudou Just Be Cause Column 105 for the Japan Times Community Page Monday, February 20, 2017
I know that by now this is old news (blame press holidays and timely Trump articles), but congratulations to Kisenosato last month for ascending to yokozuna, sumo wrestling’s highest rank. After all your efforts, well done.
So what does JBC have to say about it? Nothing to diminish that achievement, of course. But let’s consider how the event echoed overseas. Here are some headlines from prominent news outlets:
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Hi Blog, and welcome to 2017. And to start this year (which I am not at all optimistic about), let’s try to talk about two bright sides to 2016.
First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:
OSAKA — A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned.
The company said the male conductor, who is in his 40s, made the announcement on an express train bound for Kansai International Airport at around 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, a public holiday, after the train left Tengachaya Station.
“Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement.
After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules.
When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”
The company says it has received complaints in the past about the large pieces of luggage carried by foreign visitors, but the announcement made by the conductor was the first of its kind.
“Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart is inappropriate,” a company representative said.
Next up an article from the Grauniad, which coupled the above story with another one about some sushi itamae-san who took it upon themselves to wasabi-bomb some NJ sushi. Full article follows below, but pertinent excerpt:
The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.
The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.
“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”
It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.
Again, the fact that this incident made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. The restaurant acknowledged and apologized.
There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Full Grauniad article:
A railway company in Japan has reprimanded a conductor who blamed the large number of foreign tourists on a crowded train for inconveniencing Japanese passengers.
The outburst will have done little to help Japan’s attempts to become a more welcoming destination for foreign visitors as it prepares to host the 2019 rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics a year later.
Japan’s successful pitch for the 2020 Games made much of the country’s reputation for omotenashi– traditional hospitality and service.
But there was precious little omotenashi on display when the conductor addressed passengers on a Nankai Electric Railway express train bound for Kansai international airport near Osaka on Monday morning.
“There are many foreign passengers on board today … this has caused serious congestion and is causing inconvenience to Japanese passengers,” said the conductor, a man in his 40s.
A Japanese passenger reported the incident to a station attendant at the airport, questioning whether the conductor’s wording was acceptable.
The conductor, who has not been named, later defended his choice of words: “I heard a male Japanese passenger at [another station] yelling: ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’” the Mainichi Shimbun quoted him as saying.
“I made the announcement to avert trouble and had no intention of discriminating [against foreign passengers],” he said.
A Nankai Electric spokesman told the newspaper that the firm had previously received complaints about foreign visitors with large suitcases, but added: “Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart [from other passengers] is inappropriate.”
The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.
The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.
“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”
It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.
Whether or not the incidents resulted from misunderstandings, the potential for friction between visitors and local people is likely to increase as Japan gains popularity as a tourist destination.
A record 2.05 million people visited the country in August, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, including 677,000 from China, 458,900 from South Korea and 333,200 from Taiwan.
Japan’s government hopes to double the number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020, and expects a tourism windfall of 8tn yen (£63bn).
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JK: Hi Debito: The GOJ wants foreign visitors spend a couple trillion yen the year the Olympics comes to town, so why not strike while the iron is hot and use this as leverage against xenophobic establishments by calling them out on their behavior (i.e. “there’s this shop down the way that excludes anyone foreign-looking — surely that reflects poorly on Japan and hurts the government’s numbers.”)?
Debito: Agreed. And that’s the big blind spot in this editorial. It talks about the shortcomings of tourism policy focusing only on infrastructure and profit, but neglects to mention the issues of how a police force dedicated to racial profiling (especially at hotels), or how being refused service somewhere just because the proprietor has a “thing” about foreigners (and can get away with it because Japan has no law against racial discrimination), can really ruin a visit. “Cultivating Japan fans” is one way of putting it, “stopping xenophobes” is another. And that should be part of formal GOJ policy as well. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
In just 10 months, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has already smashed through the 20 million mark for the year, surpassing the previous annual record of about 19.74 million arrivals set in 2015.
The first time foreign visitors topped 10 million was in 2013. At the time, the government set a target of “20 million people by 2020,” but visitor numbers expanded far faster than expected. Now the government is shooting for 40 million in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The wave of people coming to see Japan is a welcome development on many fronts, especially as our country’s population ages and begins to decline, particularly in the countryside. There are, of course, direct and obvious economic benefits from so many visitors shopping, eating and filling Japan’s hotel rooms. However, the tourism boom has also made companies and regional communities more outward-looking in their thinking, and that’s deeply significant.
However, while 20 million visitors is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the world champion of foreign tourism, France, which attracted more than 80 million visitors in 2014. And France isn’t the only country beating Japan by a wide margin. To put it another way, Japan has a lot of tourism growth potential.
What’s important is to avoid viewing visitors to our shores as mere consumers.
The government has declared it wants to see foreign visitors drop 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020. There’s nothing wrong with setting a numerical target in and of itself, but focusing solely on visitor spending could lead to a nasty trip-up.
This is, simply put, because conditions can change. A rising yen may make Japan a less attractive destination, while economic events abroad could also bring down visitor numbers. And those considering visiting Japan to shop for Japanese products may think twice if they find they can buy the same stuff online.
If a small town in regional Japan brought in a big-box retail outlet to attract foreign shoppers, it may see a short-term rise in visitors from abroad. However, most of the benefits might end up in the pockets of the retailer and the companies supplying it … and not the host community.
The conclusion that sparkly tourist-oriented facilities are needed to bring in visitors is wrong. There are attractions and ways to welcome foreign tourists that are close to hand and just waiting to be uncovered. Take farm stays, for example. Visitors don’t just stay the night and chow down on fresh produce; they help harvest it as well. Then there are tours of recycling centers that get visitors to think about how to tackle environmental issues. These sorts of “hands-on” experiences are likely to have a good chance of attracting more people back to Japan for repeat visits.
Also, while earthquakes are a major risk in Japan, disaster prevention can also become a resource for attracting visitors. For example, the Tokyo Fire Department has facilities called Life Safety Learning centers where visitors can feel what it’s like to be in an earthquake, among other hands-on activities. These centers have never been marketed outside Japan, and yet they are seeing more foreign visitors.
If Japan spends all its time chasing visitor numbers and tourist spending figures, it will eventually hit a wall. It should instead introduce people to the many faces of Japan, give them the chance to actually do things with Japanese people, and generally provide a diverse and substantive experience, looking to cultivate long-term “Japan fans.”
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The plaintiffs argued that “carrying out surveillance of us on grounds of our religion amounts to discrimination and is a violation of the Constitution” in the lawsuit filed against the Tokyo metropolitan and the central government.
Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department had been keeping close tabs on Muslims solely because of their religion, reasoning it was pre-empting possible terrorism.
The tide changed in the United States after the leak in 2013 of global surveillance programs and classified information from the National Security Agency by U.S. computer expert Edward Snowden, said Ben Wizner, attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Snowden, a former CIA employee, revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had secretly collected personal information and communications from the Internet.
The leak revealed the extent of clandestine surveillance on the public by the government for the first time.
The leaked data showed that the documents were compiled in a style of a resume on each individual, along with a record of tailing them.
Compensation of 90 million yen ($874,000) was awarded to the plaintiffs by the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court, which ruled there was a “flaw in information management.”
However, the plaintiffs appealed because the courts stated “surveillance of Muslims” was “unavoidable” in order to uncover terror plots.
The top court sided with lower court rulings, declaring the surveillance was not unconstitutional. A Moroccan man, one of the 17, said he was upset by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I am disappointed with the Japanese judiciary,” said the man in his 40s.
He said he was terrified by the sarin gas attack of 1995 on the Tokyo subway system, which he himself experienced. The attack left 13 people dead and thousands injured.
“Has there been a terror attack by Muslims in Japan?” he said. “Surveillance is a breach of human rights.”
After the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, investigative authorities heightened their surveillance of Muslim communities.
But recent U.S. court rulings have seen the judiciary move against the trend.
Two lawsuits were filed in the state of New York and New Jersey after The Associated Press news agency in 2011 reported on the wide-ranging surveillance of Muslim communities in the two states by the New York Police Department.
Last October, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiffs, sending the lawsuit in New Jersey back to the district court for further proceedings.
New York police reached a settlement with plaintiffs in January, banning investigations solely on the basis of religion.
In 2006, the German Constitutional Court delivered a ruling restricting surveillance.
Masanori Naito, a professor of modern Muslim regions at Doshisha University’s Graduate School in Kyoto, blasted the Supreme Court’s decision as a manifestation of its “sheer ignorance” of Islam.
Although Muslims account for more than 20 percent of the global population of 7.3 billion, only a fraction reside in Japan.
“As a result, Japanese tend to think that all Muslims are violent,” he said. “Conducting surveillance will only stir up a feeling of incredulity among Muslims and backfire. What police should do is to enhance their understanding of Muslim communities and make an effort to gather information.”
Debito: The obvious extension of this legitimization of racial profiling (defined as using a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination to target a people in Japan; it does not have to rely on phenotypical “looks”) is that for “national security reasons” the next step is to target and snoop on all foreign residents in Japan. Because they might be terrorists. The National Police Agency et al. have already been justifying the targeting of NJ as terrorists (not to mention as criminals, “illegal overstayers“, holders of “foreign DNA”, and carriers of contagious diseases). And Japan’s Supreme Court has now effectively given the green light to that too. The noose further tightens around NJ residents in Japan. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
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Hi Blog. The discussion about Japan’s recent passage of a hate-speech law continues. An article recently appeared in the Mainichi, about which Debito.org Reader JK said when submitting, “I don’t recall ever seeing anything this cut-and-dry; it’s a nice change.”
The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.
When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan’s Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan’s Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.
The new hate speech law is what you might call a “principle law,” as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects “those originally from nations outside this country” who are “living legally in Japan.” As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, “It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable.” I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, “Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan.”
In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, “You are not like us,” all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.
What’s more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn’t want to get married “because depression is inherited.” This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to “explain this to my parents as well.” Arbitrary “those people are all so-and-so” labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.
I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.
So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that’s impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It’s time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, “We will not tolerate discrimination.” (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) ENDS
COMMENT: While this article is well-intentioned, and says most of the things that ought to be said, the tone is pretty unsophisticated (especially if you read the Japanese version — the English version has been leveled-up somewhat). I have always found it annoying how discussions of human rights in Japan generally drop down to the kindergarten level, where motherly homilies of “we’re all human beings”, “let’s just get along” and “talking to somebody different will solve everything” are so simplistic as to invite scoffing from bigots who simply won’t do that.
I know this comment sounds unkind towards an author who is trying to promote kindness, but this article is not much of a public policy statement for suggestion of enforcement. And based upon this, I doubt that if the author had ever been part of a government shingikai on this issue that she would have come up with anything more than slogans, bon mots, patient anecdotes, and vague guidelines instead of actual legal and sociological arguments (strong enough to convince even the bigots) for why discrimination is a bad thing for a society and how it can be stopped.
For example, you simply cannot cite a (unknown) paper without more detail and expect it to stand without contrarians easily saying, “Well, that’s overseas, and we’re unique, special Japan, and that doesn’t apply here when foreigners aren’t real minorities or residents anyway.” While I’m glad that Japan, through this non-punitive hate-speech law, now has a statement of intolerance towards intolerance, this essay doesn’t really build upon it. Let’s not get all motherly in tone. Let’s get serious and write about how people who express public hatred towards entire peoples should be publicly punished for it. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.
What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago.
“After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”
Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold?
Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…
But back to Onur, who also took action. He stayed an extra day in Mito and raised the issue with local authorities:
“I went to Mito City Public Health Department (Hokensho), who were very helpful, and confirmed that as a resident I need not show ID at hotels. Then I showed them the poster from the Ibaraki police department. Surprised, they said they had never seen this poster before, and the police had not contacted them about it. They said it is clearly different from the real law, especially the bit about ‘every foreign guest.’
“The Hokensho added that the police have become stricter because of the G-7 (Ise-Shima) summit and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They said they would check the hotel and inform me of the result.”
But Onur wasn’t done yet: “Then I talked with two officers at the Mito City Police Department’s Security Division. They listened without making any comments. I showed them an official announcement from the Health Ministry and said that their poster is clearly different.
“The police read the ministry announcement and took notes like they were unaware of the law, asking questions like ‘Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask for your ID card?’ and ‘Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?’ I offered the contact number at Health Ministry for more information, but they said it wasn’t necessary. Finally, I asked them to fix their poster. They said they would check the law and behave accordingly.”
Shortly afterwards, Onur got a call from the Hokensho: “They checked my hotel and saw the poster was now changed. It seems the Ibaraki police had printed a new one and distributed it to all hotels within a few hours! The Hokensho said the new poster clearly states ‘foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan,’ which follows regulations. They said the police warned the hotel not to make the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.”
Well done. It’s satisfying to have others retrace our steps and get even better results. It’s just a shame that he should have to.
However, two issues still niggle. One is that photocopying requirement, which, according to The Japan Times’ own legal columnist, Colin P. A. Jones, may also be questionable:
“According to the Personal Information Protection Act (Kojin Joho Hogo Ho), the hotel should explain to you why they are collecting personal information from you, which is what they are doing if they take a copy of your passport,” Jones said in an email. “So if they can confirm that you are a resident of Japan by looking at your residence card or driver’s license, they do not need to take a copy because they have confirmed that the Hotel Act no longer applies. If they take a copy they are collecting personal information beyond what is necessary for the expressed purpose. In my experience, once you point this out, hotel staff then start mumbling about ‘their policies,’ but of course those don’t trump the law.”
Second issue: Ibaraki.
Ibaraki is where cops take local grumps seriously when they report a “suspicious foreigner” standing near JR Ushiku Station — seriously enough to arrest him on Aug. 13, 2014, for not carrying his “gaijin card.” Well, that “foreigner” turned out to be a Japanese, and Japanese are not required to carry ID. Whoops.
Ibaraki is also the site of a mysterious and under-reported knife attack on Chinese “trainee” laborers (the Japan Times, Feb. 23, 2015), which resulted in an as-yet-unresolved[*] murder. (Funny that. Imagine the media outcry if foreigners had knifed Japanese!)
Do Ibaraki police have anything to do with this? Actually, yes.
Ibaraki police have posted in public places some of Japan’s most militantly anti-foreign posters. I mean this literally: Since 2008, at least three different versions have depicted cops, bedecked in paramilitary weaponry, physically subduing foreigners. The slogan: “Protect (Japan) by heading (foreigners) off at the shores.”
Therein lies the point I keep banging on about in this column: What happens when racial discrimination is left unrestrained by laws? It just gets normalized and embedded.
Treating people badly without official checks and balances eventually makes abuse tolerated and ignored — like background radiation. And, fueled by the innate fear of The Outsider, the abuses just get worse and worse. Because they can.
In this case, the unfettered xenophobia radiating from the Ushiku Detention Center, Ibaraki’s fast-breeder reactor of foreigner dehumanization and abuse, has clearly corroded Ibaraki police’s judgment — to the point where they feel they can outright lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce, and have their propaganda irradiate hotels, street-corner busybodies and the general public.
It’s time for people to realize that Japanese police’s free rein to maintain our allegedly “safe society” has limits. For officially treating an entire people as potentially “unsafe” is dangerous in itself.
Ibaraki Prefecture thus offers a fascinating case study. Of what happens to a neighborhood when xenophobia goes beyond the occasional international summit or sports event, and becomes regularized into official extralegal standard operating procedure.
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Hi Blog. A first step towards Debito.org’s overarching goal — a law against racial discrimination in Japan — happened yesterday: Some kind of legislation to curb public expression of racism, in the form of a law against hate speech.
Japan’s first anti-hate speech law passed the Diet on Tuesday, marking a step forward in the nation’s long-stalled efforts to curb racial discrimination.
But the legislation has been dogged by skepticism, with critics slamming it as philosophical at best and toothless window dressing at worst.
The ruling coalition-backed law seeks to eliminate hate speech, which exploded onto the scene around 2013 amid Japan’s deteriorating relationship with South Korea.
It is the first such law in a country that has long failed to tackle the issue of racism despite its membership in the U.N.-designated International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Critics, however, have decried the legislation as ineffective.
While it condemns unjustly discriminatory language as “unforgivable,” it doesn’t legally ban hate speech and sets no penalty.
How effective the law will be in helping prevent the rallies frequently organized by ultraconservative groups calling for the banishment or even massacre of ethnic Korean residents remains to be seen.
Critics including the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees have also pointed out the law is only intended to cover people of overseas origin and their descendants “who live legally in Japan.”
The law’s mention of legality, they say, will exclude many foreign residents without valid visas, such as asylum seekers and overstayers.
Submitted by lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the bill initially limited its definition of hate speech to threats to bodies, lives and freedom of non-Japanese as well as other incendiary language aimed at excluding them.
But at the urging of the Democratic Party, the scope of the legislation was expanded to cover “egregious insults” against foreign residents.
The law defines the responsibility of the state and municipalities in taking measures against hate speech, such as setting up consultation systems and better educating the public on the need to eradicate such language.
The Justice Ministry’s first comprehensive probe into hate speech found in March that demonstrations organized by the anti-Korean activist group Zaitokukai and other conservative organizations still occur on a regular basis, although not all involve invectives against ethnic minorities.
A total of 347 such rallies took place in 2013, while 378 were held in 2014 and 190 from January through September last year, the Justice Ministry said. ENDS
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Hi Blog. Off on a tangent this time, as Debito.org is not in the habit of talking about the Japanese Imperial System (unless it has an impact on how NJ are treated in Japan, such as here or here). But this time, check this article out from The Economist. I will tie it into Debito.org’s themes in commentary below.
THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too.
It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.
Polls suggest that most Japanese would welcome a female monarch. A decade ago a looming succession crisis triggered a robust discussion, led by Junichiro Koizumi, then prime minister and Mr Abe’s political mentor, on whether to allow a woman to ascend the throne. But the birth of Hisahito, a boy prince, ended the debate. A draft law was quietly shelved.
Mr Abe does not share Mr Koizumi’s iconoclasm. An arch-traditionalist, he wants the male-only system preserved to protect the imperial bloodline. But in other ways he has been an unlikely champion of diversity since he came to power (for the second time) in 2012. He has cajoled Japanese firms into promoting more women and urged them to make it easier for them to come back to work after having children.
There is a long way to go. Japan is bottom of the rich world in most rankings of sexual equality. For the past month Mr Abe has struggled with the political fallout from a much-read blog post by a working mother angry at a chronic shortage of day-care places. Still, Mr Abe’s efforts appear to be getting somewhere. From April big companies will have to declare their plans for promoting women. The hope is that this will shame firms that overlook female talent. As for the proportion of board members who are women, it has inched up by a percentage point in the past year—to 2.7%.
The UN committee notes this progress but laments foot-dragging on other issues. Japanese women are still meant to need spousal consent for abortions, it says, even in cases of rape. Divorced women must wait months before remarrying thanks to an archaic rule designed to remove uncertainty over the paternity of unborn children. For most Japanese women, the question of whether or not some future princess can become empress is hardly pressing. But Yoko Shida, a constitutional scholar, says it matters nonetheless. It is, she says, a symbol of discrimination.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: What’s interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue. Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan’s rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism — because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss.
When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him. He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN.
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Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not). It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it. But not everyone, as Roger exposes below. Read on. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
DISCLAIMER appended March 12, 2016 JST: Debito.org has given this issue space because 1) one of our missions is to provide a voice to underrepresented views, 2) we have reported in the past that having two different versions of the Fukushima Report based on language was odd, and 3) Roger has made his claims under his name and is thus taking responsibility for the contents. The reportage culture of the FCCJ is also coming under scrutiny in this post, and as a former member of the FCCJ myself I have been a target of bullying and censorship, so it is possible there may be a “there” there in this case. That said, the views below are Roger’s, and not necessarily those of Debito.org as a whole. Moreover, again, Roger has put his name to his views to take responsibility, and those who do not comment under their actual names will not have their comments approved IF they direct their criticisms at people by name. Thus commenters’ names and their claims will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the names they mention. (That means in the comments section, “War Dog” has had his posts edited or deleted for engaging in personal attacks.)
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// March 8, 2016 Dear Debito,
Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.
It was an invention.
Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.”
In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture.
It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).
I have reported this matter to the Board of Directors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan because the consultant, a former speechwriter for Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, was working as publisher and editor of the club’s magazine at the time of the news conference; in fact, on the day of the news conference.
It may be true that Japanese culture is to blame for the Fukushima disaster. But it isn’t what the commission concluded and submitted formally (in Japanese) to the Diet on July 5, 2012.
Attached are records showing the commission’s hiring and financial relationship with the consultant (click on links to pdf files):
1. Attachments for report
I have downplayed the FCCJ’s involvement because it is my hope that the club’s Board of Directorswill address this matter in an open and transparent way. Unfortunately, the current BOD is under attackbecause they settled three litigations last December (two by staff and one by members) over the firingof 50 employees.
I proposed an article to the club’s magazine in August 2013 in which I summarized evidence that hadbeen submitted to the courts. I was refused. But had the magazine published my article, there is a goodchance that the lawsuits could have been settled then, saving the club nearly ¥25 million in legal fees.That’s nearly $200,000.
This time again, I have asked for space in the magazine. No response.
If you read the club’s notice, you won’t find a single reference to the fact that Kurokawa hired a clubfiduciary to help alter an official, taxpayer-funded report. Or that there was controversy over the translation.
Dickie, of course, didn’t know that these weren’t ‘translation’ mistakes.
It is not uncommon for newsmakers to hire PR consultants to help with their messaging. What is uncommon– and almost without precedent – is for the consultant to be an editor of a publication that has an interest inthe news event in question – and that publishes a report about that event.
As you are aware, Asahi Shimbun took a brutal beating for altering the testimony of the late Masao Yoshida,the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager.
How is this different?
Kurokawa signed off on the rewrite; it wasn’t a translation. But the commission didn’t approve. I contactedthe commission two weeks after the news conference. They said: “Refer to the Japanese, the official.”
The club’s magazine was founded by two AP legends – Max Desfor (pictured on the lobby wall with hisPulitzer Prize winning Korean War photograph) and John Roderick (pictured with Mao Zedong).
I shudder to think of what they would say if they knew that the magazine was now in the hands of a PRspecialist and a one-time tabloid magazine editor who, by extension, now decide what constitutes ‘news’.
For your reference: I am a 30-year veteran journalist, have never worked for a major news organizationthough did plenty of freelance work. I also served as FCCJ president (once), vice president (twice) andBOD director (twice). I chaired the club’s speaker program for five years and signed off on 800 pressluncheons including the last sitting Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Sept. 14, 2001.
Sincerely, Roger Schreffler, Providence RI & Tokyo
Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is in the process of restarting more reactors and has made some progress in the cleanup and decommissioning of the wrecked plant. Meanwhile, there are still some 100,000 evacuees from around the Fukushima site.
A new independent nuclear watchdog has also been set up along with new regulations prompted by Fukushima. But the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is under pressure from politicians and utilities to process restart applications more quickly and to be less strict on seismic issues and other matters. Equally important are the questions as to what lessons plant operators have learned from the unprecedented triple meltdown. Recent problems with restarts and disclosure by the utilities, among other issues, aren’t reassuring.
At this critical juncture, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, will come to the Club to talk about his new book “Regulatory Capture,” and answer questions about what has happened since the Fukushima accident. In the introduction to his 2012 Diet report, Kurokawa was scathing in his criticism of regulators and utilities, saying, “It was a profoundly man‐made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”
In his new book, in addition to describing the set up of the commission and its investigation of the Fukushima accident, he talks about Japan not learning the necessary lessons from it and applying them to prevent accidents in the future.”
“If there are major accidents or problems in areas other than nuclear power, Japan will make the same mistakes again, become isolated and lose the trust of the international community. The Fukushima nuclear accident is not over yet. Japan must seize the opportunity to change itself, or else its future will be in danger,” he says.
Dr. Kurokawa, MD and MACP, is an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, chairman of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or on the website (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.
Professional Activities Committee
UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER:
As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurokawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world.
Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, available on the FCCJ website for members only. Here’s an audio file of the question (an excerpt from minute 34 on the recording, for 3:26, in WMA format. Kurokawa press conference and .mp3 format:
where he now blames other factors on the outcome, such as a lack of time, him summarizing his own personal opinion for the report, and the lack of concision in the Japanese language.]
Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.
Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?
The Associated Press followed up with a question about the translation team. Kurokawa mentioned an acquaintance of his, Sakon Uda, who was ‘managing director’ of the project and currently works for Keniichi Ohmae at Ohmae’s graduate school of business.
I don’t know if the AP will follow up. But the AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012.
The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.
Following is the translation of the official Japanese introduction. Kurokawa talks about ‘mindset’ (思いこみ and マインドセット) but not ‘culture’.
Best, Roger Schreffler
Preface of Kurokawa Kiyoshi’s Statements (from the full text)
THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT IS NOT OVER.
This large-scale accident will forever remain part of the world’s history of nuclear power. The world was astounded at the fact that such an accident could occur in Japan, a scientifically and technologically advanced country. Caught in the focus of the world’s attention, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed, in their response to the disaster, some fundamental problems underlying Japanese society.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the third nuclear power plant to start commercial operation in Japan. Japan began to study the commercial use of nuclear power in the 1950s. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, nuclear power generation became part of Japan’s national policy, unifying the political, bureaucratic, and business circles into one entity promoting its use.
Nuclear power is not only the most incredibly powerful energy ever acquired by the human race, but a colossally complicated system that requires extremely-high levels of expertise as well as operational and management competence. Advanced countries have learned lessons through experience and from many tragic events, including the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Authorities in charge of the world’s nuclear power have maintained a basic stance of protecting people and the environment from all sorts of accidents and disasters, while nuclear operators have evolved in sustaining and enhancing the safety of equipment and operations.
Japan has itself dealt with a number of nuclear power plant accidents, small and large. Most of these were responded to, but without sufficient transparency; sometimes they were concealed by the organizations concerned. The government, together with TEPCO, the largest of the country’s ten utilities, promoted nuclear power by advocating its use as a safe energy source, while maintaining that accidents could not occur in Japan.
Consequently, the Japanese nuclear power plants were to face the March 11 earthquake totally unprepared.
Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? The answer to this question dates to the time of Japan’s high economic growth. As Japan pushed nuclear power generation as national policy with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination, an intricate form of “Regulatory Capture” was created.
The factors that contributed to this include: the political dominance by a single party for nearly half a century; the distinct organizational structure of both the bureaucratic and business sectors, characterized by the hiring of new university graduates as a group; the seniority-based promotion system; the lifetime employment system; and the “mindset” of the Japanese people that took these for granted. As the economy developed, Japan’s “self- confidence” started to develop into “arrogance and conceit.”
The “single-track elites”—who make their way to the top of their organization according to the year of their entry into the company or the ministry—pursued the critical mission of abiding by precedent and defending the interests of their organization. They assigned a higher priority to this mission over that of protecting the lives of the people. Hence, while being aware of the global trends in safety control, Japan buried its head in the sand and put off implementing necessary safety measures.
We do not question the exceptional challenge entailed in the response to the vast scale of the disaster created by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident on March 11, 2012. Furthermore, we understand that the accident occurred a mere eighteen months after the historical change in power, the birth of a new (non-Liberal Democratic Party) government for the first time in some fifty years.
Were the government, regulators and the operator prepared to respond to a severe nuclear accident? Did they truly understand the weight of responsibility they bore in their respective positions? And were they fully committed to fulfill those responsibilities? To the contrary, they showed questionable risk management capabilities by repeatedly saying that circumstances were “beyond assumptions” and “not confirmed yet.” This attitude actually exacerbated the damage that eventually impacted not only Japan, but the world at large. Undeniably, this accident was a “manmade disaster” that stemmed from the lack of a sense of responsibility in protecting the lives of the people and the society by present and past government administrations, regulators and TEPCO.
Nine months after this massive accident, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission was established by a unanimous resolution of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors of the National Diet, which represent the people of Japan. It is the first investigation commission in Japan’s history of constitutional government, and is independent both from the government and from the operator, as set up under the National Diet of Japan.
To investigate what was at the center of this accident, we could not but touch upon the root of the problems of the former regulators and their relationship structure with the operators. The Commission chose three keywords as the bases of our investigative activities: the people, the future and the world. We defined our mission with phrases such as “conducting an investigation on the accident by the people for the people,” and “to submit recommendations for the future based on the lessons learned from the mistakes,” and “to investigate from the standpoint of Japan’s status as a member of international society (Japan’s responsibility to the world.)” This report is the fruit of six months of investigative activities carried through with a few constraints.
About a century ago, Kanichi Aasakawa, a great historian born and raised in Fukushima, blew the whistle in a book titled Nihon no kaki (“Crisis for Japan”). It was a wake-up call concerning the state model of Japan after the victory in the Japanese-Russo War. In his book, he accurately predicted the path that Japan, with its “inability to change,” would take after the war’s end.
How now will Japan deal with the aftermath of this catastrophe, which occurred as a result of Japan’s “inability to change”? And how will the country, in fact, change subsequently? The world is closely watching Japan, and we, the Japanese people, must not throw this experience away. It is an opportunity, in turn, to drastically reform the government that failed to protect the livelihood of its people, the nuclear organizations, the social structure, and the “mindset” of the Japanese—thereby regaining confidence in the country. We hope this report serves as the first step for all Japanese to evaluate and transform ourselves in terms of the state model that Japan should pursue.
Last but not least, I strongly hope from the bottom of my heart that the people of Fukushima—particularly the children upon whose shoulders rest the future of Japan—will be able to resume their lives of peace as soon as possible. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the people all over of the world who extended their warm assistance and encouragement in the wake of this devastating accident. My sincere thanks also go to the many people who kindly cooperated and supported our investigation, the members of the Diet who unswervingly strove to make this National Diet’s investigation commission a reality, and all the staff of the commission office for their many days and nights of work.
Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago: here’s one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused “foreigners” until the day it went bankrupt). And now they want to attract foreign tourists. It’s a great metaphor for Japan’s lack of an immigration policy in general: Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don’t change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals. It’s acceptance with a big, big asterisk.
Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction. But it’s one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh). But alas, there’s no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Japan’s public baths, known as sento, represent an institution with hundreds of years of history. They provided an important public service in the days before homes had their own hot-water bathtubs.
Sento can range in style from simple hot springs piped into a large tub to modern facilities resembling theme parks and offering a range of therapies.
In the Edo Period (1603-1868), sento were so popular that every town had on. They were important centers of the community.
Sento are on the decline both because homes now have fully fledged bathrooms and because retiring operators find it hard to find successors to take on their businesses. There are now around 630 establishments in Tokyo, down from 2,700 in 1968, a peak year for sento.
Faced with this trend, the Tokyo Sento Association is trying to tap demand from non-Japanese residents and tourists.
It has installed explanatory signs at each facility showing non-Japanese speakers how to use a sento in five languages. It also plans to create an app for people to search for sento in English.
Hi Blog. My latest Just Be Cause column 94 for the Japan Times Community Page:
JUST BE CAUSE Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015 BY DEBITO ARUDOU THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 3, 2016
2015 was another year of a few steps forward but many steps back in terms of human rights in Japan. The progressive grass roots consolidated their base and found more of a voice in public, while conservatives at the top pressed on with their agenda of turning the clock back to a past they continue to misrepresent. Here are the top 10 human rights issues of the year as they affected non-Japanese residents:
10) NHK ruling swats ‘flyjin’ myth
In November, the Tokyo District Court ordered NHK to pay ¥5.14 million to staffer Emmanuelle Bodin, voiding the public broadcaster’s decision to terminate her contract for fleeing Japan in March 2011. The court stated: “Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” and that NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.
This ruling legally reaffirmed the right of employees to flee if they feel the need to protect themselves. So much for the “flyjin” myth and all the opprobrium heaped upon non-Japanese specifically for allegedly deserting their posts…
Hi Blog. Here is my latest for the JT. I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes. Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
ISSUES | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT Much jaw-jaw about war-war: the year 2015 in quotes BY DEBITO ARUDOU DEC 23, 2015, THE JAPAN TIMES
The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist.
“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/14/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-picked-china-build-indias-high-speed-rail-link-15-billion-deal/
“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/28/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-abe-japan-joint-press-confere
“I have been really annoyed by this issue. … I have nothing to do with the design. Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it.”
— Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ Organizing Committee, handling flak in July over plans for the new National Stadium, which were eventually abandoned after its budget doubled without any public explanation. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/22/national/mori-denies-role-failed-stadium-bid/
“Does local autonomy or democracy exist in Japan? Is it normal that Okinawa alone bears the burden? I want to ask (these questions) to all of the people [of Japan],”
— Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, criticizing the Japanese government in December for its plan to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, despite strong popular protests about environmental damage and Okinawa’s disproportionate hosting of American military bases in Japan. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/12/06/editorials/legal-showdown-henoko/
“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable… I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.”
— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pledging non-military assistance for Middle-Eastern Countries battling Islamic State, in January. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-japam-idUSKBN0KQ07L20150117
“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”
— Terrorist “Jihadi John” of the Islamic State, in a video message to the Government of Japan in January showing footage of journalist Kenji Goto’s beheading after being taken hostage. http://leaksource.info/2015/01/31/graphic-video-islamic-state-beheads-japanese-journalist-kenji-goto/
“It’s not only pre-war nostalgia. He needed to step up the rhetoric for the election. But I don’t think it’s coincidental that something related to wartime propaganda came up.”
— Sven Saaler, history professor at Sophia University, on Abe’s new goal of building a “Society in which all 100 million people can play an active role,” and how it is redolent of an old martial mobilization slogan. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-abe-slogan-idUKKCN0RW0SO20151002
“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”
— Shinzo Abe’s Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in August. http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201508/0814statement.html
“But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words [of apology and remorse] in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens? …The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong.”
— Historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki commenting shortly afterwards on how Abe’s WWII Statement fails History 101. http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/08/18/abes-wwii-statement-fails-history-101/
もう２０−３０年も前に南アフリカ共和国の実情を知って以来、私は、居住区だけは、白人、アジア人、黒人というふうに分けて住む方がいい、と思うようになった。 “After 20-30 years knowing the situation in The Republic of South Africa, I have come to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should be separated and live in different residential areas.”
— Ayako Sono, novelist and former Abe Cabinet adviser on education reform, in another Sankei Shimbun column, this one in February advising that a similar policy be instituted in Japan. http://www.debito.org/?p=13061
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) establishes in the Asia-Pacific a free, fair and open international economic system with countries that share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.”
— Prime Minister Abe, in a response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement struck between 12 Pacific Rim economies in October. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-trade-tpp-abe-idUSKCN0S004920151006
“In the trash collection areas on each floor, you’ll see veritable mountains of discarded boxes for cosmetics, shoes, small electrical appliances and so on. And they don’t even bother to flatten and tie them up for pickup. I had to go to the building custodian for assistance.”
— Unnamed resident complaining about Chinese tourists engaging in bakugai (“explosive buying”), leaving their rubbish in apartment complexes they have rented out to avoid recently-inflated hotel prices. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/12/national/media-national/no-tolerance-inns-chinas-shoppers/
European Pressphoto Agency: The Hudson Institute says it’s honoring Shinzo Abe ‘as a transformative leader.’
On Sept. 25, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join an elite group of right-leaning leaders like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, as the recipient of an award from conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank, Hudson Institute.
The award, named after Hudson Institute’s founder, the physicist-turned-geopolitical thinker Herman Kahn, is given every year to honor creative and visionary leaders with a Kahn-style dedication to national security–traditionally in the U.S. Mr. Abe will be the first non-American honoree to receive the Herman Kahn Award.
“Abe is being honored as a transformative leader seeking to advance the kind of reform necessary to restore Japan to full economic vitality,” the institute said in its news release. At the award ceremony to be held in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Abe is expected to deliver “a major speech” on economic reform in Japan and the continuing importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance, according to the release.
The Hudson Institute–as well as Mr. Kahn–has long had close ties with conservative leaders in Japan. Though Mr. Kahn started off his career as a physicist at the Rand Corporation in the 1940s, he moved on to writing about nuclear strategy with the publication of “On Thermonuclear War,” and then to the study of geopolitical trends, including the rise of Japan.
Mr. Kahn is known for predicting Japan’s ascendance as early as 1962, and in 1970 wrote “The Emerging Japanese Superstate,” in which he said that the country would “almost inevitably” become a great economic, technological and financial power–and would likely achieve global military and political clout as well. Mr. Kahn was a “confidante of every Japanese prime minister from Hayato Ikeda on,” until his death in 1983, the institute press release on the award to Mr. Abe said.
Mr. Abe too “is a longtime friend of Hudson Institute, someone who knows the critical importance of ideas to effective governance,” Hudson Institute Chief Executive Kenneth Weinstein said, in the release. “Given Herman Kahn’s legacy of research on Japan, it is altogether appropriate to honor Abe-san.”
Mr. Abe won’t be the first Japanese politician to speak at a Hudson Institute event, though. In December 2011, Nobuteru Ishihara, then secretary-general of Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, also gave a speech, calling for swift nationalization of disputed islands in the East China Sea and deployment of Japanese troops there. The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have been a major source of diplomatic strain between the two countries.
“The importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance is increasing as a means to deter any attempt by a country to forcefully change the national borders,” Mr. Ishihara was quoted as saying by the Japanese press at the time.
Mr. Ishihara’s speech was quickly followed by one at the Heritage Foundation, another conservative U.S. think tank, given by his more famous–and controversial–father, Shintaro Ishihara. At that April 2012 speech, the elder Ishihara, who was then governor of Tokyo, unveiled a plan for the Tokyo government to purchase the disputed islands. Japan’s national government headed off that purchase by nationalizing the islands itself later in the year, sparking massive anti-Japanese protests in China.
Mr. Abe has made no secret of his own nationalist leanings. He’s pushing to strengthen Japan’s national security, as the nation feels growing pressure from China’s rising economic–and military–power. China’s annual military spending has grown rapidly in recent years, reaching $166 billion in 2012, nearly triple Japan’s $59 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
But Mr. Abe needs to walk a fine line. He can’t pursue his pet issue of national security unless he first addresses Japan’s economic and fiscal problems–major challenges on their own. Wednesday’s Hudson Institute speech will offer the latest clues on how Mr. Abe hopes to proceed. ENDS
What the Hudson Institute itself says about the event:
(Video) At a gala luncheon in New York on September 25, 2013, Hudson presented its annual Herman Kahn Award to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in recognition of his extraordinary career on the world stage—and his vigorous, principled promotion free markets, global security, and democratic ideals.
The Prime Minister was introduced at the event by his long-time friend and Hudson Senior Vice President Lewis Libby. Abe then took the stage himself to accept the Kahn Award, offering kind and generous remarks about Hudson before delivering a substantial and serious talk about his plans to reform the Japanese economy—and his determination “to make my beloved country a proactive contributor to peace.”
“Japan should not be a weak link in the regional and global security framework where the U.S. plays a leading role,” the Prime Minister said. “Japan is one of the world’s most mature democracies. Thus, we must be a net contributor to the provision of the world’s welfare and security. And we will. Japan will contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world even more proactively than before.”
Hudson Institute Board Chair Sarah May Stern and Hudson President & CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein also made remarks during the ceremony, with Weinstein adding a special additional tribute to Hudson trustee Yoji Ohashi, Chairman of ANA Holdings Inc., for his visionary contributions to commercial aviation and dedication to a strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan.
Thank you for contacting the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) on 10 November 2015, letting us know the comments posted on Dr. Arudou Debito’s website in regard to the registration requirements for the “2016 Hong Kong Marathon tour package” sold in Japan.
After receiving your email, we have immediately communicated with the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), who is the organiser of Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon. According to HKAAA, all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour. They have already advised the tour operator “Kinki Nippon Travel” to amend relevant wordings on the registration site .
Once again, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Should we could be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me or send me an email.
Fion Cheng Senior Executive, Visitor Services Hong Kong Tourism Board
This has resulted in changes to the website wording, from
“This tour is designed exclusively for Japanese people. Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”
“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.”
Sounds better. Gone is the assumption that foreign nationals living in Japan are not residents of Japan.
However, if you actually go to the website registration page (http://www.hkmarathon.jp/pre.html), 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 as of November 14, 2015 JST)
So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, the “secret code for domestic consumption only” that is the Japanese written language is maintaining 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. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
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.
More tweeted details from the same source were: “November 12, 2015 in Bangkok Thailand. Registration for the Standard Chartered BKK marathon. they also had their own ‘bib boards’ i.e. Names and bib numbers not with the rest of the marathon runners, but ‘separate'”.
Hi Blog. One longstanding case that Debito.org has been following, among others, has been the Paul Toland Case, where his Japanese wife abducted their child aged 9 months, then committed suicide four years later, whereupon the grandmother claimed custody and cut off access with the child’s only remaining parent. More details below.
Godspeed to a satisfactory resolution, Paul. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Custody case a test for Japan, says U.S. father seeking access to girl held by grandmother BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER The Japan Times, OCT 26, 2015
A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter.
His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later.
Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws.
“In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July.
Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.
Japan joined The Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. The pact does not apply in Toland’s case because the abduction was within Japan — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time. In addition to this, the convention cannot be applied retroactively.
“How can we expect Japan to ever resolve more complicated divorce, child custody issues if it cannot even resolve this very straightforward case, which does not involve divorce and where one parent is deceased and the nonparent is withholding a child above the parent who wants to care for her?” he said.
The American father of a 13-year-old daughter urged at a Japanese family court on Monday to give him back custody of his daughter, who is now under the custody of her grandmother following the death of his former Japanese wife in 2007.
“If Japan rules as it should in favor of my daughter’s right to know and love her father, then it will truly be a threshold step for Japan, and Japan will be closer to joining the rest of the international community as a nation that respects the basic fundamental bond between a parent and a child,” Capt. Paul Toland of the U.S. Navy told a press conference in Tokyo.
Ruling against his claim will “truly alienate Japan from rest of the international community” and “show that Japan is simply out of touch with the rest of the world in their lack of understanding for basic fundamental parent rights,” said the 48-year-old father based in Hawaii.
Toland is in Japan to appear for the first time in the Tokyo Family Court to appeal his case, which is not a cross-border dispute, in not seeing his daughter for years.
He urged the Japanese court to make the right decision to return the child to him since he is the sole living parent since his wife died. Toland has since remarried and wants to take his daughter to Hawaii.
At the family court, the mother of his former wife has disputed Toland’s appeal. The father lodged a lawsuit with the court in July.
Toland’s lawyer Akira Ueno, who was present at the same press conference, said his client received in writing from the grandmother’s side that the daughter “does not want to see” her father.
Ueno said the grandmother’s side claims that things are fine the way it is now, as the girl goes to school and is engaged in club activities, an argument which the lawyer says is not acceptable.
As his case is not a cross-border dispute, Toland cannot seek the return of his daughter under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which took effect in Japan in April last year. The treaty is designed to help settle cross-border child custody disputes due to failed marriages.
The pact is also not retroactive, only dealing with cases occurring after its entry into force.
With Japan joining the pact and many Japanese politicians becoming vocal about changing Japan’s response to parental child abductions, Toland said he sees “some hope for change in Japan.” Before Tokyo acceded to the treaty, the country had been accused of being a “safe haven” for international child abductions.
His daughter was 9 months old when his wife left him in 2003 before proceedings for a divorce concluded and custody was given to the wife.
Toland has been asking to see and live with his daughter, but his request for access or visitation through government channels, in line with the Hague pact, has been rejected by the grandmother’s side. Since 2003, he has seen his daughter only several times.
Even in cases occurring before the Hague treaty took effect in a country concerned, parents can seek assistance for visitations under the pact.
The first word En learned when he began working at a construction site in Japan after moving from China was “baka,” Japanese for “idiot.”
The 31-year-old farmer is one of 50,000 Chinese who signed up for a government-run program that promises foreigners the chance to earn money while acquiring valuable on-the-job training. Like many of his compatriots, he hoped to leave Japan with cash in his pocket and a new set of skills that would give him a better shot at work at home.
“My Japanese colleagues would always say baka to me,” said En, who spoke only on condition that his full name not be revealed. “I am exhausted physically and mentally.”
His problem is not the bullying by Japanese colleagues, nor the two-hour commute each-way or the mind-numbing work that largely consists of breaking apart old buildings. It is the ¥1 million he borrowed to take part in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, ostensibly to cover traveling expenses and other “fees” charged by middlemen.
The loan has left him a virtual slave to Japan’s labor-hungry construction industry. “I cannot go back before I make enough money to repay the debt,” he said.
Japan is desperately short of workers to pay taxes to fund pensions and health care for its rapidly graying population, but it is almost constitutionally allergic to immigration. Less than 2 percent of the populace is classified as “non-Japanese” by the government; by comparison, around 13 percent of British residents are foreign-born.
This results, critics say, in ranks of poorly protected employees brought in through a government-sanctioned back door that is ripe for abuse and exploitation.
“This trainee program is a system of slave labor. You cannot just quit and leave. It’s a system of human trafficking, forced labor,” said Ippei Torii, director of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan, a nongovernmental group that supports foreign workers.
Around a quarter of Japan’s population of 127 million is 65 or older, and this proportion is expected to jump to 40 percent in the coming decades. The heavily indebted government, which owes creditors more than twice what the economy generates annually, is scrambling to find the money to cover the welfare and health costs associated with the burgeoning ranks of the elderly even as the taxpayer base shrinks.
Japan’s average birthrate of around 1.4 children per woman, far below the level necessary to replenish the national workforce, is ratcheting up the pressure.
In most developed nations, this kind of shortfall is plugged by immigration, but Japan allows no unskilled workers into the country amid fears by some they would threaten the nation’s culture of consensus, an argument others view as mere cover for xenophobia.
But in 1993, as the economy was on the way down from its bubbly 1980s zenith, the government began the foreign trainee program, which allows tens of thousands of workers, mostly from China, Vietnam and Indonesia, to come to Japan and supply labor for industries including textiles, construction, farming and manufacturing.
The 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.”
Hi Blog. My next Japan Times JBC 92 crystal balls again about Japan’s future based upon the landmark security legislation passed last month. JBC has been quite right about a lot of future developments these past few years. Let’s see how we do with this one. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE
Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito Column 92 for The Japan Times Community Page Monday, October 5, 2015
That’s it then. The circle is complete. Japan is primed to march back to its pre-World War II systems of governance.
Now just to be clear: I don’t think there will be another world war based on this. However, I think in a generation or two (Japan’s militarists are patient – they’ve already waited two generations for this comeback), a re-armed (even quietly nuclear) Japan selling weapons and saber-rattling at neighbors will be quite normalized.
This time, brought to you by the Japanese Consulate General (see page three of questionnaire below), and hosted by the East-West Center and the Center for Japanese Studies at UH Manoa, an academic named Dr. Nakayama Toshiaki, of prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University, gave an hourlong presentation about the “Mind of Japan”, and what that “mind” thought about America. Here’s his bio, text-searchable:
Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama East-West Center September 10, 2015 Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama spoke about Japan-U.S. relations especially in consideration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. An insight was given into America’s roles in the Asia Pacific and beyond through the eyes of a well-known professor, author, and columnist. Dr. Nakayama also shared his personal experiences in the context of this important relationship between the two allied nations. Dr. Nakayama is Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He received his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (2001) from Aoyama Gakuin University, was a CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2005-06), and has written two books and numerous articles on American politics, foreign policy, and international relations. He appears regularly in the Japanese media and writes a monthly column for Japan News. He was the recipient of the Nakasone Yasuhiro Award (Incentive Award) in 2014.
I attended, but thought even beforehand, based on the title of the talk, how scientifically problematic it is for someone to represent all of Japan as a “mind” so monolithically (I would expect it from a government representative, but not a trained doctorate-holding academic). But Dr. Nakayama, as would befit people with an agenda who are employed by the right-wing Yomiuri (moreover rewarded by the likes of far-rightist and WWII sexual slavery organizer Nakasone Yasuhiro), fulfilled his role as Gaijin Handler very professionally:
First he softened up the audience, spending several minutes (in fact, a sizable chunk of his allowed time) convincing everyone how Americanized he is (with a number of anecdotes about his time as a youth going to school in New York City and South Dakota and asking American girls out to dance), giving the audience a number of familiar warm-fuzzy touchstones in terms of economics, politics, and culture in excellent English. Then he switched smoothly into the “We Japanese” “us” and “them” rhetoric, no longer a non-dispassionate academic, now a government representative. He clearly felt confident enough in his knowledge of both the US and Japan to feel that he could portray Japan authoritatively in a hive-minded fashion, while painting a picture of the US as a fractious pluralistic place with people like Donald Trump. Seriously.
But after a rather pedestrian retelling of the US-Japan Relationship after WWII, Dr. Nakayama made the following statement right at the very end. It was indicative of what kind of snake-charming narrative Prime Minister Abe wishes to wrangle the (USG) Gaijin with. In regards to a question about Japan’s historical relationship with its immediate neighbors:
Nakayama: (From minute 1:02:00). But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history. But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible]. He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms.
I don’t think that was his intention. In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945. Everything that happened before that is basically wrong. That’s not how things turned out. Yes, there was a disastrous four years. If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that. But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games. And that’s a success case. Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945. An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible] that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance. I think that was the message.
Wow. Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas on a government-sponsored junket) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.” Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies). No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan). What happened before 1945 WAS basically wrong; and it wasn’t “also not wrong” for the reasons he gives. Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.
Further, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences. Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles. Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. I have just emerged from several weeks of proofing and indexing my upcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. It will be out in 5-8 weeks. I will keep you updated on where you and your library can get a copy.
With that amount of busy-ness (sorry for the delay in posting to Debito.org), please let me turn the keyboard to Debito.org Reader JK:
Hi Debito: It looks this has grown legs and started walking, so if you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I’ll provide some overdue commentary:
Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country.
A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos.
With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences.
At Ofuro cafe utatane, a bathing facility in Kita Ward, Saitama, which is visited by about 250,000 people annually, the management decided to allow tattoos that can be covered with 12.8-centimeter by 18.2-centimeter stickers.
The new policy was started on a trial basis from Aug. 1. If no problems arise by the end of the month, the facility will officially implement the policy.
The manager of the facility, Toshiki Yamasaki, 32, is also director of the Nippon Ofuro Genki Project, an association of young managers of baths and other facilities.
“The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture,” he said.
Hoshino Resort Co., which manages 33 luxury hotel resorts and other facilities in Japan and abroad, has also decided to exempt customers from bathing restrictions if their tattoos can be covered by an eight-centimeter by 10-centimeter sticker starting from October.
A midsize hot spring resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, lifted restrictions on tattoos this spring.
The local ski resort is popular with foreign tourists because of the good snow quality.
“I believe we need to understand cultural differences with other countries,” the hotel manager said, adding that restrictions on gang members were still in place.
Baths, resorts and other facilities began banning all tattoos, including full-body irezumi tattoos, after the Antigang Law went into effect in 1992, though in practice some places admit tattooed customers.
The Japan Tourism Agency surveyed about 3,700 facilities nationwide in June to learn how the restrictions were affecting foreign travelers.
Tsuru University Prof. Yoshimi Yamamoto, an expert on tattoo issues, said: “The circumstances are such that facilities have no choice but to change their response. Easing restrictions can help shake up conventions.”
COMMENT FROM JK:
1) Having a tattoo in Japan while being foreign AND not being a yakuza is an idea that is just now gaining traction?!
2) The (faulty) underlying assumption at work is that all yakuza have tattoos.
3) Suppose an NJ has several tattoos, or tattoos that cannot be covered by a single sticker, or even a full-body tattoo (surprise — just like yakuza, NJ get these too!), then what? More stickers? If so how may? Is ‘good enough’ coverage acceptable, or is perfection mandatory?
4) Despite the lack of a link to a Japanese translation, the idea being conveyed is that NJ with tattoos are outside of societal norms (read: betsuwaku), and so should not be treated as a yakuza since money can be made off them — this notion is beautifully illustrated by Mr. Toshiki Yamasaki who says, “The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture”.
5) Does the Antigang Law of 1992 actually have wording in it to the effect that onsen / sento operations are not permitted to admit persons with tattoos?
a) If not, then in the name of ‘understanding cultural differences with other countries’, let me into the Niseko hotel without requiring my tattoos to be covered!
b) If so, then put up a sign saying ‘No Japanese Gangsters Allowed’ and let me in with my tattoos uncovered — it’s not like such a sign would be breaking the law — to the contrary, it would be upholding it!!
6) Allowing the operator of a onsen / sento to determine someone’s ‘kakuzaness’ is akin to allowing them to determine ‘foreignness’ — in other words, the door is left open to abuse.-JK
I conclude: What’s at play here isn’t fair-mindedness. It’s merely the phenomenon of “not in front of the foreigners”, especially since pretty soon there will be millions of them watching Japan. I bet that once the Olympics pass, those open-minded rules will be rescinded and managers will revert to banning customers (particularly NJ) at whim all over again. This isn’t the tack that JK is taking above, but that’s what I see. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. I had a couple of other topics to bring up (for example, this one), but this essay was too timely and important to pass up. Required reading. First the analysis, then the full original statement by PM Abe being analyzed. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
As the clock ticked down to the 70th anniversary of the end of the Asia Pacific War, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faced a dilemma. His right-wing supporters were pushing him to produce a commemorative statement that would move away from the apologetic approach of his predecessors and ‘restore Japan’s pride’. Moderates, Asian neighbours and (most importantly) the US government were pushing him to uphold the earlier apologies issued by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi. Most of the media anticipation centred around the wording of the forthcoming Abe statement. Would it, like the Murayama Statement of 1995 and the Koizumi Statement of 2005, include the words ‘apology’ (owabi) and aggression (shinryaku)?
Abe’s response to this dilemma was clever. First, he established a committee of hand-picked ‘experts’ to provide a report locating Japan’s wartime past in the broad sweep of 20th-century history. Then, drawing heavily on their report, he produced a statement that was more than twice the length of those issued by his predecessors. His statement, to the relief of many observers, did use the words ‘apology’ and ‘aggression’. In fact, it is almost overladen with all the right words: ‘we must learn from the lessons of history’; ‘our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering’; ‘deep repentance’; ‘deep remorse and heartfelt apology’; ‘we will engrave in our hearts the past’.
But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens?
The story presented in Abe’s statement goes like this. Western colonial expansionism forced Japan to modernise, which it did with remarkable success. Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War gave hope to the colonised peoples of the world. After World War I, there was a move to create a peaceful world order. Japan actively participated, but following the Great Depression, the Western powers created economic blocs based on their colonial empires. This dealt a ‘major blow’ to Japan. Forced into a corner, Japan ‘attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force’. The result was the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, and everything that followed. ‘Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war’.
The narrative of war that Abe presents leads naturally to the lessons that he derives from history. Nations should avoid the use of force to break ‘deadlock’. They should promote free trade so that economic blocs will never again become a cause of war. And they should avoid challenging the international order.
The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong. This is perhaps not surprising, since the committee of experts on whom he relied included only four historians in its 16 members. And its report, running to some 31 pages, contains less than a page about the causes and events of the Asia Pacific War.
In effect, the Abe narrative of history looks like an exam script where the student has accidentally misread the question. He has answered the question about the reasons for Japan’s invasion of Manchuria with an answer that should go with the question about the reasons for the attack on Pearl Harbor.
There is widespread consensus that the immediate cause for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was the stranglehold on Japan created by imperial protectionism and economic blockade by the Western powers. But there is equal consensus that the reasons for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and for the outbreak of full-scale war in China in 1937, were different and much more complex.
Key factors at work in 1931 were the troubled relationship between the Japanese military and the civilian government; Japan’s desire for resources, transport routes and living space; rising nationalism in an economically and socially troubled Japan; and corruption and instability in Northeastern China. By the time Japan launched its full scale invasion of China in 1937, global protectionism was becoming a larger issue. But even then, other issues like Japan’s desire to protect its massive investments in China from the rising forces of Chinese nationalism were paramount.
Economic historians note that the Japanese empire was the first to take serious steps towards imperial protectionism. The slide into global protectionism had barely started at the time of the Manchurian Incident. Britain did not create its imperial preference system until 1932. The economic blockade that strangled the Japanese economy in 1940–41 was the response to Japan’s invasion of China, not its cause.
This is not academic quibbling. These things really matter, and vividly illustrate why historical knowledge is vital to any understanding of contemporary international affairs.
The Abe narrative of history fails to address the causes and nature of Japan’s colonisation of Taiwan (in 1895) and Korea (in 1910), and ignores the large presence of Japanese troops in China long before 1931. It says to China: ‘Sorry we invaded you, but those other guys painted us into a corner’. It offers an untenable explanation for Japan’s actions, and blurs the distinction between aggressive and defensive behaviour. Western media commentators who haven’t studied Japanese history may not pick up these flaws in the narrative, but Chinese and South Korean observers (who have their own, sometimes profoundly problematic, versions of this history) will instantly see them and rightly object.
Engraving a factually flawed story of the past in people’s hearts is not going to solve East Asia’s problems, and risks making them worse. Worse still, the Abe statement is generating deeply divergent responses in the countries where East Asian history is not widely taught (most notably the United States) and those where it is (South Korea, China and Japan itself), thus creating even deeper divisions in our already too divided world.
Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki is an ARC Laureate Fellow based at the School of Culture, History and Language, at the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University. ENDS =======================================
On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the 20th century. We must learn from the lessons of history the wisdom for our future.
More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies possessed mainly by the Western powers stretched out across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of colonial rule surged toward Asia in the 19th century. There is no doubt that the resultant sense of crisis drove Japan forward to achieve modernization. Japan built a constitutional government earlier than any other nation in Asia. The country preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.
After World War I, which embroiled the world, the movement for self-determination gained momentum and put brakes on colonization that had been underway. It was a horrible war that claimed as many as ten million lives. With a strong desire for peace stirred in them, people founded the League of Nations and brought forth the General Treaty for Renunciation of War. There emerged in the international community a new tide of outlawing war itself.
At the beginning, Japan, too, kept steps with other nations. However, with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan’s economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan’s sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force. Its domestic political system could not serve as a brake to stop such attempts. In this way, Japan lost sight of the overall trends in the world.
With the Manchurian Incident, followed by the withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.
And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.
On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.
More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.
Also in countries that fought against Japan, countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food. We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.
Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family. When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.
The peace we enjoy today exists only upon such precious sacrifices. And therein lies the origin of postwar Japan.
We must never again repeat the devastation of war.
Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.
With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge. Upon it, we have created a free and democratic country, abided by the rule of law, and consistently upheld that pledge never to wage a war again. While taking silent pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation for as long as seventy years, we remain determined never to deviate from this steadfast course.
Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.
Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.
However, no matter what kind of efforts we may make, the sorrows of those who lost their family members and the painful memories of those who underwent immense sufferings by the destruction of war will never be healed.
Thus, we must take to heart the following.
The fact that more than six million Japanese repatriates managed to come home safely after the war from various parts of the Asia-Pacific and became the driving force behind Japan’s postwar reconstruction; the fact that nearly three thousand Japanese children left behind in China were able to grow up there and set foot on the soil of their homeland again; and the fact that former POWs of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and other nations have visited Japan for many years to continue praying for the souls of the war dead on both sides.
How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?
That is what we must turn our thoughts to reflect upon.
Thanks to such manifestation of tolerance, Japan was able to return to the international community in the postwar era. Taking this opportunity of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all the nations and all the people who made every effort for reconciliation.
In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.
Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were able to survive in a devastated land in sheer poverty after the war. The future they brought about is the one our current generation inherited and the one we will hand down to the next generation. Together with the tireless efforts of our predecessors, this has only been possible through the goodwill and assistance extended to us that transcended hatred by a truly large number of countries, such as the United States, Australia, and European nations, which Japan had fiercely fought against as enemies.
We must pass this down from generation to generation into the future. We have the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deeply into our hearts, to carve out a better future, and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world.
We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan will fulfil its responsibility in the international community, aiming at the non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.
We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.
We will engrave in our hearts the past, when forming economic blocs made the seeds of conflict thrive. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to develop a free, fair and open international economic system that will not be influenced by the arbitrary intentions of any nation. We will strengthen assistance for developing countries, and lead the world toward further prosperity. Prosperity is the very foundation for peace. Japan will make even greater efforts to fight against poverty, which also serves as a hotbed of violence, and to provide opportunities for medical services, education, and self-reliance to all the people in the world.
We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan ended up becoming a challenger to the international order. Upon this reflection, Japan will firmly uphold basic values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights as unyielding values and, by working hand in hand with countries that share such values, hoist the flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world more than ever before.
Heading toward the 80th, the 90th and the centennial anniversary of the end of the war, we are determined to create such a Japan together with the Japanese people.
August 14, 2015 Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
Hi Blog. On the eve of the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific, a little tangent:
On display at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are original copies of Japan’s Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering. I think they make interesting reading in terms of the narrative they embed themselves within. Have a look:
Imperial Rescript Declaring War on The United States and Great Britain, December 8, 1941 (photo of document):
By the grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan [Emperor Shōwa], seated on the throne occupied by the same dynasty from time immemorial, enjoin upon ye, Our loyal and brave subjects:
We hereby declare War on the United States of America and the British Empire. The men and officers of Our Army and Navy shall do their utmost in prosecuting the war. Our public servants of various departments shall perform faithfully and diligently their respective duties; the entire nation with a united will shall mobilize their total strength so that nothing will miscarry in the attainment of Our war aims.
To ensure the stability of East Asia and to contribute to world peace is the far-sighted policy which was formulated by Our Great Illustrious Imperial Grandsire [Emperor Meiji] and Our Great Imperial Sire succeeding Him [Emperor Taishō], and which We lay constantly to heart. To cultivate friendship among nations and to enjoy prosperity in common with all nations, has always been the guiding principle of Our Empire’s foreign policy. It has been truly unavoidable and far from Our wishes that Our Empire has been brought to cross swords with America and Britain. More than four years have passed since China, failing to comprehend the true intentions of Our Empire, and recklessly courting trouble, disturbed the peace of East Asia and compelled Our Empire to take up arms. Although there has been reestablished the National Government of China, with which Japan had effected neighborly intercourse and cooperation, the regime which has survived in Chungking, relying upon American and British protection, still continues its fratricidal opposition. Eager for the realization of their inordinate ambition to dominate the Orient, both America and Britain, giving support to the Chungking regime, have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia. Moreover these two Powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire to challenge Us. They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations, menacing gravely the existence of Our Empire. Patiently have We waited and long have We endured, in the hope that Our government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement; and in the meantime they have intensified the economic and political pressure to compel thereby Our Empire to submission. This trend of affairs, would, if left unchecked, not only nullify Our Empire’s efforts of many years for the sake of the stabilization of East Asia, but also endanger the very existence of Our nation. The situation being such as it is, Our Empire, for its existence and self-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.
The hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors guarding Us from above, We rely upon the loyalty and courage of Our subjects in Our confident expectation that the task bequeathed by Our forefathers will be carried forward and that the sources of evil will be speedily eradicated and an enduring peace immutably established in East Asia, preserving thereby the glory of Our Empire.
[Added to Wikipedia entry, with different date: “In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hand and caused the Grand Seal of the Empire to be affixed at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, this seventh day of the 12th month of the 15th year of Shōwa, corresponding to the 2,602nd year from the accession to the throne of Emperor Jimmu.” (Released by the Board of Information, December 8, 1941. Japan Times & Advertiser)]
Japanese original in thumbnail (click to see full size):
COMMENT: I’m always intrigued by the formality of documents like these. One would have thought that a declaration of war would simply state, in essence, “We declare war on you, so kindly get your citizens and diplomatic missions out of our lands and prepare yourself for the loss of life, territory, and resources.” It’s interesting that they have to offer a series of justifications, as if persuasion is necessary (aren’t declarations of war unilateral, regardless of whether the other side understands why they’re about to be attacked?). It’s also interesting that the justifications being offered are, a) we had no choice because we were victims of Allied subterfuge all around us, b) we are victims of machinations to stop us from doing what we wanted to do abroad, and c) we were the peaceniks here, not you unconciliatory jerks. Declaring war is the only means left for Japan’s survival. Now, nearly three-quarters of a century later, undercurrents of Japan’s current narrative about WWII still reflect these tenets (e.g., here, here, and here).
And one more thing: Look at the photo and note who’s signing it. Aside from the usual suspects, there’s KISHI Nobusuke, a Class-A War Criminal. How the hell did he escape execution for doing something this public and then go on to be a Postwar Prime Minister?
Now let’s consider the Imperial Rescript signaling Japan’s surrender in 1945 (the Gyokuon Housou, read in part by the Emperor and broadcast on August 15, 1945; photo of document:)
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors, and which We lay close to heart. Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to secure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by every one — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to Our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their home and livelihood, are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.
Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may endanger needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitudes; foster nobility of spirit; and work with resolution so as ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep place which the progress of the world.
Japanese original in thumbnail (click to see full size):
COMMENT: Even more intrigue, as the word “surrender” was never used in the document. Just a capitulation that Japan will do what their enemies told them to do. But then we go on to the boilerplate justifications all over again that Japan engaged in war for self defense, not because of any territorial ambitions, but rather because we subjects emancipated ourselves with Japan’s assistance. Only now we have the new spin of victimhood as “general trends of the world” turned against Japan and somebody dropped “a new and most cruel bomb”. So out of respect for our dead and our ancestors, and for the greater peace (not to mention the safety and maintenance of the Imperial State), we leaders of Japan have decided that you subjects should stop fighting. Not that we did anything wrong, of course. Or even surrendered. So, all ye survivors, put all that behind you and work towards, again, enhancing the innate glory of the Imperial State. Therein lies the roots of the “Japan as postwar victim” narrative, only now with The Bomb woven in.
Fast forward to the present day: The Showa Emperor goes on to live a long and unquestioned life, many of the ancestors of the ruling elite are still in power (as you know, current PM Abe is Kishi’s grandson), and resurgent are Japan’s rightist revisionist views as the last remaining surviving Imperial Subjects of that era wink out due to old age.
The point is, the designers of these documents have managed to keep their legacy alive to the present day. That’s why they are interesting: Upon reading, the Rescripts don’t resonate as the “What the hell were they thinking?” sort of thing when horrible ideas are consigned to the ash-heap of history. In fact, they don’t seem all that out of place at all. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” doesn’t seem to apply here. Which is, quite frankly, scary. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Something significant happened in April that attracted only desultory press coverage, so let’s give it some more.
GPlus Media Co., which operates English-language websites Japan Today and GaijinPot, was sold to Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. The Fuji Media group has the Fuji Television Network under its wing, as well as the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun as an affiliate.
This matters to Japan’s resident non-Japanese (NJ) communities. Fuji TV was recently caught fabricating subtitles falsely quoting South Korean commenters as “hating Japan” (Japan Times, June 29). That’s an incredibly dishonest thing for a nationwide broadcaster to do, especially when it may have a nasty impact on Japan’s Korean minorities.
However, the Sankei Shimbun as a newspaper I believe is no less nasty.
The Fuji-Sankei group offers pretty much unwavering support to the country’s right-wing causes and talking points. They are further right than the Yomiuri — and that’s saying something.
Before I get to why we should care, let’s look briefly at the existing landscape of the nation’s English-language media. (I focus on the English-language press because Japan’s own ruling class does — to them, English is the world language, and Japan’s portrayal in it is of intense concern.)
In addition to The Japan Times (the country’s oldest English-language newspaper, independent of any domestic media conglomerate), other English papers at one time included The Daily Yomiuri, The Asahi Evening News and The Mainichi Daily News.
The last three were all “vanity presses,” in the sense of major Japanese media empires using them to feel self-important in the international arena. They had Japanese bosses, managers and editors who had in-house Japanese-language articles translated for the outside world. And, yes, they were for outside consumption — Japan’s English-language readers were never numerous enough to sustain four daily newspapers!
They were complemented by Kyodo and Jiji wire services, piggybacking on print media with articles that had also been translated from Japanese. In my experience working with all of them, their general political slants were: the Yomiuri squarely rightist, the Asahi and Jiji center-right or center-left (depending on the editor), and the Mainichi and Kyodo generally leftist.
Regardless of their political bent, most of these presses during the late 1980s and ’90s employed NJ as reporters doing English articles. Granted, these articles did not necessarily appear in their Japanese flagships — vanity newspapering means information about Japan goes outward, not inward; NJ were never allowed to touch the controls, and seldom were their articles translated into Japanese. However, they did offer foreign voices to foreign residents.
It was a renaissance, of sorts: NJ reporters often reported on issues germane and beneficial to NJ residents. Not only was there lively debate in English, but also there were some boomerang benefits — for example, overseas newspapers (such as the almighty New York Times, the bete noire of Japan’s elites) picking up their stories and shaming Japan’s policymakers into making changes (for example, the abolition of fingerprinting on Alien Registration Cards in 1999).
However, this dynamic has shifted dramatically toward disempowerment over the past 15 years. According to one employee I have talked to, The Daily Yomiuri relegated its NJ staff to doing puff pieces on Japan before making them mere interpreters of Yomiuri Shimbun articles. The Asahi Evening News did the same, according to another former employee, purging its foreign bureau before they could unionize. The Mainichi Daily News, whose popular WaiWai column translated the country’s seedy tabloid journalism, was bombarded by Internet trolls decrying this apparent embarrassment to Japan; the paper then fired its best writers.
When the shakeups subsided, The Japan Times had raised its price and trimmed its pages, and the English versions of the Asahi and Mainichi had ceased their print publications entirely. The Daily Yomiuri renamed itself the anodyne “The Japan News,” an attempt in my opinion to whitewash its right-wing image. However, the upshot was vanity presses stopped carrying out investigative journalism in English and only hired NJ as translators.
Frozen out of major Japanese media, NJ have created their own community presses. Japan has long-running newspapers for Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians. Regions such as Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo and, of course, Tokyo have all launched their own local-content magazines (with varying degrees of success). And that’s before we get to the online fora and fauna. However, aside from offering events and outlets for aspiring authors, none have the national and international media footprint that online news site Japan Today has (where, full disclosure, I also worked as a columnist).
Of all the major newspapers, only the Sankei Shimbun never had an English channel. That is, until now. And it’s not hard to guess how things will soon swing.
Already I am hearing murmurs of Japan Today’s moderators deleting reader comments critical of Japan’s media, anti-Chinese and anti-Korean sentiment, Fukushima investigations, and the revamped U.S.-Japan security arrangements.
Then again, that’s within character. To them, what’s the point of owning media if you can’t control its content?
However, the content is problematic because it is increasingly propagandistic. On June 16, for example, Japan Today reprinted an article from RocketNews24 (another Japanese media outlet devoting lots of space to puffing up Japan) on “the decline of Koreatown” in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. It blamed, inter alia, bad Korean food, the actions of the South Korean government toward disputed islands and bad South Korean management practices.
It discounted the domestic media’s popularization of kenkan (“hatred of things Korean”), which a search of Amazon Japan demonstrates is a lucrative literary genre. It also made no mention, of course, of the off-putting effects of periodic public demonstrations by hate groups advocating that people “kill all Koreans.” Essentially, the thrust of the article was: Koreatown’s decline is due to market forces or it’s the Koreans’ own fault. How nice.
However, I shouldn’t just pick on the Sankei. The other major national Japanese newspaper we still haven’t mentioned — the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) — also appears to be getting in on the act.
The point is: The country’s rulers understand extremely well the crucial role of the media in mobilizing consent and manufacturing national image and narrative. In this current political climate under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appears to be venomously opposed to any critical thinking of Japanese society, the last independent voice in English is what you’re reading now.
The Japan Times is the only sustainable venue left with investigative NJ journalists, NJ editors and independently-thinking Japanese writers, bravely critiquing current government policy without fretting about patriotism or positively promoting Japan’s image abroad.
Long may The Japan Times stand. Long, too, may its columnists, ahem, as I have here for more than 13 years. However, Just Be Cause has for the first time felt pressure (with this column) after coming under increased scrutiny in the editing process. The Community pages have within the past 18 months been reduced from four pages a week to two. How much longer before they are sanitized or cut entirely?
This is why I encourage all readers to support The Japan Times. Send appreciative emails to the editorial desks. Have your school, university, library and community centers subscribe to it. Get it from the newsstand or buy an online subscription. Click on its advertisers. Invest in it — however you can.
If The Japan Times succumbs to economic and political pressures, who else will lend NJ residents a sympathetic voice, maintain a free online historical archive to thwart denialists, or offer a viable forum that serves NJ interests? Nobody, that’s who. Support the last man standing.
Debito’s own 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Comments and story ideas: email@example.com
Hello Blog. Sorry for the delay — latest book revisions taking up a lot of time. I thought we’d go back to the archives today and look at a twenty-year-old article that appeared in Honolulu’s late, great alternative newspaper (which folded only recently), that has as much to say about the present situation of human rights for NJ residents of Japan as it did when it came out about a generation ago. In retrospect, it’s amazing how little has changed. Have a read. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
PRINTS OF DARKNESS
When civil-rights activist/missionary Ronald Fujiyoshi refused to be fingerprinted in compliance with Japan’s Alien Registration Law in 1981, he launched a personal attack on the Japanese government which still hasn’t ended.
February 9, 1994. Honolulu Weekly magazine, by David Flack
For Ronald Fujiyoshi, the Japanese government’s abusive fingerprinting requirement for foreign residents is only part of a vast matrix of institutionalized racial discrimination and totalitarian social control.
PHOTO: Fujiyoshi holds a press conference during his 25-day hunger strike.
Perhaps few people in Hawaii are watching Japan as closely as Ronald Fujiyoshi. His primary interest is the way the new government is officially dealing with racism. On this issue Fujiyoshi is fervently and outspokenly critical of Japan, and he speaks from experience. Living there for 15 years, working as a missionary in Osaka in the Korean-Japanese community, he engaged in an act of civil disobedience when he refused to be fingerprinted — as all foreign residents were then required by the government to do. Compelled to leave Japan in 1988, he is allowed to return only to attend court hearings for his trial, which is still in progress.
Last summer Japan embarked on what may be its most important transition period in recent history. Fed up with the “business as usual” tactics that have led to rampant corruption in Japan’s political circles for the last several years, on July 18 the country’s voters deprived the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of its majority in the Japanese Diet for the first time since World War II. The resulting coalition, a curious collection of opposition parties from both the left and right of the political spectrum, took the helm of the world’s second largest economy with little more than high hopes as its guide. Many experts predict the alliance’s demise before the end of 1994.
Fujiyoshi is keeping his fingers crossed that real change is in the air. After waging his own personal battle against the Japanese government for the greater part of the last two decades, the 53-year-old Hilo resident is hopeful that the recent change in government is a sign that the Japanese people have at last begun to fight back against what he contends is a sinister system which has been unjustly subjugating them for centuries.
Fujiyoshi’s personal beef is Japan’s latent racism, which he maintains is knowingly cultivated by the country’s ruling circles in order to foster an “us vs. them” mentality. Japan’s alien-registration laws are widely known to be among the most rigid and strictly enforced in the world. It has long been a complaint among non-Japanese immigrants in Japan that the laws are also part of a greater government scheme to prevent them from feeling completely at ease in their adopted homeland, withhold full citizenship rights and relegate them to positions of permanent underclass status in the overall economic tapestry of the nation.
Especially onerous to Fujiyoshi was the Japanese government’s longstanding policy of insisting that all foreign residents and criminal suspects in Japan submit fingerprints for identification purposes.
Being grouped with criminals and thus treated as undesirables created acute resentment in the Korean-Japanese community, over 700,000 strong and representing roughly four out of five of Japan’s foreign residents. Many of them have lived in Japan for several generations; their relatives were originally brought there forcibly during World War II as military conscripts or factory workers. They are still treated as outsiders, and their “alien” status frequently denies them jobs, housing and scholarships. Fujiyoshi contends that the fingerprint policy is both unconstitutional by Japan’s own admitted standards and an abhorrent violation of the United Nations International Covenant of Human Rights, to which Japan is a signatory.
Bowing to pressure which Fujiyoshi helped to apply, the Japanese Diet finally dropped the controversial fingerprinting clause for those non-Japanese who were bom and raised in Japan.
Despite being widely recognized as a front man for the grass-roots movement to have the law overturned, Fujiyoshi is hesitant to claim much credit personally for the Diet’s decision to repeal the statute. “You must remember that I was not the only person who refused to be fingerprinted,” he says. “Since 1980 nearly 15,000 people have done it.” Neither was he the first to disobey the law; several Japanese of Korean ancestry preceeded him. Most will agree, however, that among those who did protest, Fujiyoshi was certainly among the most energetic — and, as a result, emerged as a leader and spokesman for the movement.
Fujiyoshi has long been involved with civil rights. Bom in Los Angeles and raised on Kauai, he moved to the Big Island with his family when his father was transferred to Hilo by his chuch. As a young man in his 20s, Fujiyoshi left Hawaii in 1963 to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary, the same institution that Jesse Jackson would join a year later. The two became good friends; Jackson visited him in Japan in 1986. Fujiyoshi spent much of his seminary service in Chicago working in a black ghetto on the city’s west side. “Can you imagine me,” he says, “a local boy fresh off the Big Island, going from here to a Chicago ghetto? That was a real baptism.”
Fujiyoshi first journeyed to Asia in 1968 on a fellowship in Singapore with the World Council of Churches. He remained in Southeast Asia for five years, working as a lay missionary and slowly gaining notoriety for his activist, hands-on approach to organizing and helping groups of industrial workers in economically distressed communities. “The Church was saying all the right things on Sunday mornings,” hesays, “but the world was not changing. I became more interested in learning the skills necessary to actually solve some of the problems.”
His reputation for problem solving in the real world grew. In 1973 the Korean Christian Church asked him to relocate to Japan to help improve the living conditions of the sizable Korean population there. He took up residence in Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, home of Japan’s largest Korean community, where he spent the next 15 years living and working, voluntarily subjecting himself to the same long hours and low wages of the people he had come to help. Eventually he was able to earn their trust.
Fujiyoshi’s first open clash with the Japanese government came in 1981. Claiming that it was a violation of his basic human rights, he refused to comply with the fingerprinting requirement of Japan’s Alien Registration Law. He was indicted in 1982 and embarked on a civil-rights campaign within Japan’s court system which soon became a twisted game of cat-and-mouse. Four years after his initial indictment, Fujiyoshi was found guilty by the Kobe District Court but fined a mere $70. He faced another token fine after his appeal was rejected at the Osaka High Court. “It was just a slap on the wrist,” Fujiyoshi says of the fines, which were deliberately set at levels low enough for him to be able to afford. “They wanted to make sure that the decision was ‘guilty’ but also give the impression that the Japanese government is very benevolent.”
This face-saving charade was finally abandoned when the Japanese government refused to grant Fujiyoshi a permit that would have allowed him to re-enter Japan after returning to the U.S. to visit his ailing father-in-law. He responded to this action by embarking on a 25-day hunger strike aimed at publicly embarrassing the intransigent Japanese officials. He has since been given a special visa which allows him to return to Japan — but only to attend his own court hearings. Though he has been back in Hawaii since 1988, it is clear that his thoughts still lie in Japan. “I don’t feel like I ever left,” he says. “As long as my case is still being tried by the Japanese courts, I cannot separate myself from Japan.” Fujiyoshi has appealed his case to the Japanese Supreme Court, where it currently sits in quiet and secret deliberation. The process can take years, and a decision can come unannounced at any time. Feeling certain that his appeal will eventually be rejected by Japan’s highest court, he is already planning his next move. “If I lose this appeal,” he says, “then I will conclude that the Japanese judicial system cannot give me the justice I deserve. It is then my right to appeal the decision to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.” This might prove to be Fujiyoshi’s most powerful weapon. At a time when Japan is struggling with itself and the rest of the globe to find its appropriate niche in the world community, Fujiyoshi’s charges of racism and his refusal to be silenced could be a severe embarrassment to the Japanese government.
Those in power in Japan attempted to render the entire issue moot after the Showa emperor Hirohito’s death. In his honor an Imperial pardon was promulgated which granted amnesty to most of the defendants of fingerprinting cases still in litigation. It was purely a political move, Fujiyoshi asserts, a feeble effort to diffuse the issue before it could gain a measurable amount of publicity outside the country. With Fujiyoshi’s assistance and encouragement, other fingerprint refusers declined the offer and instead called a press conference to denounce the pardon. “The court’s acquittal of the refusers presumes that they are guilty and should be judged,” Fujiyoshi points out, “when it is the government and the emperor’s system that need to be examined.”
Fujiyoshi’s disdain for Japan’s governing institutions extends beyond the fingerprinting issue. The system in place in today’s Japan, he asserts, is the direct descendant of the nationalistic bodies that evolved following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the country emerged from a prolonged period of political chaos with a reinvigorated sense of national identity and a perceived “divine right” to culturally convert other Asians and make them loyal citizens of Japan.
Fujiyoshi characterizes Japan’s approach to its minority peoples as one of “assimilation and control.” He has argued in court that the Alien Registration Law is part of a larger Japanese government policy of controlling other Asian and Pacific peoples by forcibly “Japanizing” them: compelling them both directly and indirectly to conceal their ethnicity. This system of assimilation and control results directly in the exploitation of Asians by relegating them to the lowest echelon of the country’s economic caste system, he contends. He sees it as a continuation of repressive prewar policies which forced colonial subjects to adopt Japanese names, speak Japanese exclusively in public, wear Japanese clothing and worship only at Shinto shrines.
Fujiyoshi lambasts the myth painstakingly cultivated by the government that the Japanese are descendants of a pure race. “The people in authority perpetuate the myth that Japan is a homogeneous society,” he claims. “It provides strong socialcohesiveness, and people can then be more easily controlled. And by keeping the people controlled, the government can also keep control of the economy.”
Therein lies the import of Fujiyoshi’s thesis, that the core issue is not merely a dispute between the central government and its peripheral minorities; the policy affects all of Japan’s citizens in equally disastrous ways. The Japanese nation can be compared to a crowded boat, the theory goes, and if too many more are allowed on board, the boat will capsize and everyone will drown. It stands to reason that the few who are permitted on board will be those whom the Japanese government deems to be of little threat to its fostered image of Japan as a single-race country. “Discrimination against the Korean people is not just a holdover of some misunderstandings of history, and it’s not a part of a modem ideology to control non-Japanese people,” Fujiyoshi warns. “It is an attempt to control the Japanese people themselves.”
For Fujiyoshi, state-sanctioned racism is bad enough, but even more repugnant is the denial of its existence by most Japanese. He maintains that the power structure, for its own purposes, is using its tremendous control over the media (and consequent influence on public opinion) to perpetuate the traditional notion that there are only three major races in the world. “According to this view, all there are are Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid stocks,” says Fujiyoshi, recounting the argument he has heard more times than he cares to remember. This belief is worse than oversimplistic: It makes it possible for the Japanese government to exclude from the category of racial discrimination its dealings with other Asian and Pacific peoples living in the country. Japan can safely perceive itself as a country of only one race and sincerely believe that the racial conflicts plaguing the rest of the world can’t happen there.
According to Fujiyoshi, the primary flaw in this reasoning is that it completely disregards ethnicity: vast differences in culture, language and religion among peoples of the alleged three major racial stocks. And in the process it allows Japan to impose a bureaucratic system for other Asians living within its borders which, practically anywhere else in the world, would be denounced as institutionalized racial discrimination.
The Japanese government is a manipulative entity, Fujiyoshi asserts, which must be forced to confront the falsehoods it has been knowingly (and unknowingly) propagating. Sadly, the problem did not go away with the change in the country’s fingerprint laws. Now that Japan’s resident Koreans have had their burden partially lifted, the recent trend in the country has been to target South Asian peoples whose appearance is more easily discernible from their Japanese hosts. With the current economic slowdown proving to be stubbornly resilient, Fujiyoshi fears that these newer immigrants will become the scapegoats of the recession. “The assimilation and control policy attempts to stamp out the identity of long-term Asians and replace it with Japanese identity,” he says. “Until the Japanese government’s policy is ended, no real solution is in sight. Until their internal economic colony is eliminated, the other Asian and Pacific people in Japan will continue to be exploited because they are considered inferior. Until the national state ideology is exposed for what it is, the Japanese people will continue to be indoctrinated with a hidden racism toward other Asian and Pacific peoples.”
The coalition that assumed control of Japan a few months ago has the potential to effect profound changes rather than mere cosmetic modifications to enhance the government’s image. Fujiyoshi fears that even if his motives are genuine, the newly elected prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, may not be powerful enough to make a real difference. But his early actions show some promise. In an attempt to distance himself from past LDP bungles, Hosokawa has already delivered several sincere apologies for Japan’s controversial actions in World War II. Specifically mentioned were the “comfort women” of Asia who where forcibly conscripted and supplied to Japanese soldiers on the front lines during World War II. “Up until now the Japanese government wouldn’t admit its complicity,” Fujiyoshi says. “With the comfort women, once they admit what they are capable of, an entire can of worms is opened. Any official statement that relates to their attitude toward foreigners is significant. After that their treatment of all foreigners can then be called into question.” Now that the fingerprinting requirement has been abolished for permanent alien residents of Japan, does Fujiyoshi see a fundamental shift in the Japanese government’s way? “If the government was halfway repentant,” he says, “they would have done away with fingerprinting entirely.
If they were truly repentant, they would do away with the entire policy of assimilation.” Fujiyoshi’s brightest hope is the Japanese people. Now that Japan has emerged as one of the world’s most affluent nations, the Japanese are traveling abroad in record numbers. Young people are venturing overseas and experiencing other cultures. Many become exchange students. Fujiyoshi predicts severe conflict in the years ahead as the Japanese people become more accepting of other cultures on the one hand, and the government continues to espouse its hard-line stance on the other. “To be honest, I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out,” Fujiyoshi admits, “but if this new coalition can hold together, it will be very significant.” The leadership of the country, after all, will still be in control of education and the media. “Japanese history books refer to Korea as a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan. Just think how different it would be if Korea was instead viewed as a bridge connecting Japan to the wealth and riches of other Asian cultures.”
Now that he has all but exhausted his options in Japan’s legal system, Fujiyoshi’s passions are turning toward the recently formed United States-Japan Committee for Racial Justice, which assigned to itself as one of its first missions the daunting task of formulating a set of guidelines to help prevent potential future racist confrontations between the two countries from erupting into uncontrollable conflagrations of hate.
Despite these recent changes, Fujiyoshi still remains cautiously pessimistic about long-term prospects for United States-Japan relations. Racism is alive and well in both countries, he declares, evidenced by the lack of sensitivities on both sides of the Pacific during the 50th-anniversary observations of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. America exploited the anniversary as an opportunity to boost patriotism at a time when the U.S. government and economy had both come down with symptoms of terminal gridlock. Japan used the occasion to further alienate itself from America and the rest of Asia by not only refusing to apologize for the attack but even suggesting that Japan may not have been entirely responsible for the war in the Pacific. Fujiyoshi sees the possibility of an alarming increase of similar misunderstandings in the future as the once-solid friendship between the United States and Japan is further taxed by the economic slowdowns currently sapping both countries. “We need to adjust to the changes that are occurring,” he says, “and to join with others in dealing with some of the fundamental contradictions that remain in our societies. Only when people feel proud of what they are can they work well with others.”
Hi Blog. I’ve been sitting on this article for about a year, and now it’s time to come out. After a year at the East-West Center in Honolulu as an Affiliate Scholar (where I wrote up my doctoral dissertation; it will be coming out as a book in November), I must say that I agree with its points. If anything, it’s worse now than when the article was first published, since the people in charge are essentially the same and the programs they foster have very little integration with the local community (the campus at large has very little idea, for example, what goes on in their unannounced Wednesday Evening Seminars; their brown-bag lunch talks, although more widely advertised, are generally designed to be uncontroversial US-policy trial balloons). I see the place as an Elephants’ Graveyard for many a former US ambassador or high-level US bureaucrat who would like to count down the clock in their career in Honolulu’s magnificent climate. So much potential there, wasted due to leaden bureaucratic mindsets and the lack of utilized fresh outlooks. You’ll get a better idea how and why by reading this article. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
The East-West Center in Hawaii is timid, insular, and lacking in fresh, dynamic thinking about a region that has outpaced the institution as a whole.
The East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii is well-positioned geographically and conceptually to be a powerhouse of constructive, intellectual engagement with Indo-Pacific Asia. A 50-year legacy of providing academic and research fellowships to young students from Asia has developed a deep regional network of alumni now in senior government positions, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Over the years, hundreds of experts in governance, policy, science, and history have resided in or served as visiting scholars at the institution. Its spacious facilities, some designed by a world-class architect, are immersed within a beautiful, serene campus setting. And yet this venerable soft-power institution has become flaccid.
Inside the Center, offices are being emptied and desks fill the main corridors. Most of the fourth floor in the EWC’s main building is now rented out as office space for the University of Hawaii in the continual effort to conserve funds. Lining the halls are glass display cases of carefully arranged EWC publications that appear to have been enshrined there for decades. Visitors to the Center must obtain a password and pay a fee to access the wireless Internet. Once a place of community life with a highly popular Friday pau hana on the grounds outside, these after work community get-togethers were shut down years ago because of liability concerns. The atmosphere is more akin to a museum under consolidation than a hub of dialogue and activity.
The EWC president, Dr. Charles Morrison, has been in place for 16 years. During this period he is widely credited with keeping the non-profit Center from being shuttered (this instinct for survival applies to his own job, as he was once dismissed, but then returned to his position as president). Most recently he helped the institution weather the very public resignation of EWC’s entire energy team led by Dr. Fesharaki, which revealed the “turmoil” inside the Center. However, simple survival should never be the measure of institutional success. With a purported deadline of 2018 to achieve self-sufficiency, transformative change is required for the EWC to evolve from prolonged survival thinking to a thriving institution renowned for being a vanguard of engagement on critical issues.
Founded in 1960 through the vision of the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, the EWC’s mission to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue” is of paramount importance. While a 1978 GAO report demonstrates that concerns about the EWC’s identity and quality of contributions were emerging in its early decades, the Obama administration’s “rebalance to Asia” is the sort of golden opportunity for which the EWC was designed. However, senior fellows are unable to articulate what the EWC’s role is in the rebalance effort. According to them, Dr. Morrison has never stated how the EWC mission fits in the rebalance. One expert said “more of the same I would assume,” while another questioned the relevance of the EWC now that flights no longer need to stop in Hawaii when crossing the Pacific. A striking statement considering that Pacific Command, the nation’s largest strategic command and most visible face of the “rebalance,” sits only a few miles away.
When asked the question himself, Dr. Morrison said the EWC “does not have to rebalance” as it has always maintained a focus on Asia. Furthermore, while he agrees with the premise of the rebalance, he believes “it has not been articulated and resourced” by the Obama administration. Regardless of where one stands on this, these answers miss the point. While the EWC may not need to alter its focus, it should nevertheless be able to demonstrate its value to the strategy and any lack of articulation by the administration should be perceived as an opportunity to do just that.
In a written response regarding the EWC mission vis–à–vis the rebalance provided by a senior fellow, it was stated that “the EWC has led the Pivot for 50 years.” This statement is well-suited for a marketing brochure, but it dodges the question and in fact, that leadership is not in evidence. More than 50 years of foundation-building in the region should have resulted in a Center that is sought out and in demand for its knowledge, relationships, and most importantly, influence. That is not the case. One indicator is that the Center does not even receive an honorable mention in the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Global Think Tank Index Report, which ranks the world’s think tanks by country and focus. The many small “projects” of the EWC show little in the way of outcomes. Despite an emerging Asia-Pacific Leadership Program that brings young regional leaders to Hawaii, Dr. Morrison admitted it is “getting harder and harder to attract” people from the region. One explanation for this is how little utility the EWC has demonstrated to its own alumni.
Proudly announced on the EWC website as 62,000 strong, the majority of which are based in Asia, the vast alumni network remains a highly valuable yet almost entirely untapped resource. Unfortunately, the degree to which the network is active in any given country is entirely dependent upon the efforts of individual country alumni chapters. A current EWC fellow from Southeast Asia, who is about to return home after two years in Hawaii, expressed little knowledge about the EWC alumni community or what presence it had in his country. There had been no attempt by anyone at EWC to connect him with alumni back home and he was unaware that EWC maintained an “online community” for its alumni. Once he logged in, it became apparent why. The “community” is nothing more than a directory, much of which lacks actual contact information. Other than a service for looking up names, it is largely useless.
In a region where social media use has exploded over the last decade, deeper analysis of EWC’s numbers reveals the institution’s level of passivity with respect to its rich networks. The EWC has barely 1,500 Likes on its alumni Facebook page. The Center follows less than 200 on its Twitter account, most of which are other organizations rather than its own alumni. Out of 50 alumni chapters, less than 20 provide quarterly updates; for those that do, the content is remarkably thin. On the website, only nine chapters have “liaison” members named with contact information for those who want to connect with that chapter. The alumni blog boasts a new post only once a month on average and often this is simply the chapter’s quarterly update. While budget constraints are always a limiting factor, these methods for building an Asia-Pacific community are limited only by institutional imagination.
A more concerning example of shallow vision, with respect to the alumni network, is the upcoming EWC International Alumni Conference being held in Okinawa, a city the National Interest recently called “a crack in the Pacific Pivot to Asia.” Plans to relocate the Futenma air base continue to be a long-standing source of contention between Washington and Tokyo. However, according to Dr. Morrison, the EWC conference will not include the topic of U.S. military bases among its two days of panel discussions because it is was deemed “too controversial” by the Okinawa alumni chapter. Instead, conference participants will have a half-day sightseeing tour of “key spots to help you know more about Okinawa,” which include a historic temple and a monument to “re-realize the importance of world peace.” Additional optional tours include an “island relaxation tour” or a “bird-watching tour.”
At the time of writing, according to the EWC website, 279 of the EWC’s 62,000 alumni are registered to attend. Out of that number, 101 are coming from the United States and 115 from Japan or Okinawa, leaving only 63 alumni attending from the remainder of Asia. This should come as little surprise, given the lack of named speakers (other than Dr. Morrison), unspecified panel session topics, and a squandered field trip day. To hold a conference in such a strategic location and ignore any dialogue on the island’s most pressing East-West issue is more than a missed opportunity. It calls into question the very reason for the existence of the Center.
One sign of health for the EWC, which only further highlights the deficiencies in Hawaii, is its Washington, D.C. satellite office. Directed by Dr. Satu Limaye, the D.C. office is by all accounts more engaged with the U.S. foreign policy community and has been behind a few unique initiatives. For instance, its “ASEAN Matters For America” project and publication were conducted in partnership with the US-ASEAN Business Council and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. “The East-West Center in Washington,” as it is branded, is the point of origin for the majority of the foreign policy thinking at the EWC. According to Dr. Morrison, this is ostensibly by design. However, it has resulted in a split personality institution and created an unusual circumstance wherein the U.S. foreign policy community perceives the Washington satellite office as the hub, rather than a spoke, of the organization. In conversations with senior members of the US-ASEAN Business Council, it became clear that the EWC was not regarded as a Hawaii-based institution. This perspective accords with a number of U.S. diplomats posted at embassies in Asia. Dr. Morrison himself recognizes this issue saying in partial jest that he has considered “switching places with Satu.”
For these reasons and others, the current state of the EWC is untenable. Stakeholders should also view it as intolerable, and necessitating swift and groundbreaking action. The following are recommendations to facilitate a process of much-needed transformation and renewal:
1. Infusion of new leadership: There needs to be a reorientation from chasing money to chasing dynamic professionals who understand Indo-Pacific Asia and have fresh ideas for regional engagement. This should be determined in part by their recent years spent living and working in the region, not by grants managed from afar which include sporadic short-term trips. The Hawaii-based leadership needs to be overhauled. Although Charles Morrison has two more years on contract as president, the search should begin now for a new president and Dr. Morrison should be prepared to step down once that person has been identified. After 16 years in that role, he has given a great deal of himself to the institution, but now it is time for new leadership to take the helm.
2. Clear articulation of the EWC mission vis–à–vis the rebalance: The leadership must determine, articulate, and disseminate what the EWC’s mission will be and how it fits with and contributes to the “rebalance to Asia” and United States foreign policy objectives in the region. All staff should likewise be able to articulate how their work at the Center supports that mission. This should be obvious for an Asia-focused institution, which receives a substantial portion its funding from the U.S. government and where Hillary Clinton has made policy speeches on the rebalance.
3. Be present: Researchers and staff should be required to attend and participate in local conferences and events that address regional issues. This should be mandated regardless of whether they are invited as panel contributors or not. A thin budget may limit travel to off-island conferences, but there is little excuse for absence when local and regional partner institutions come together.
4. Open doors wide to the Hawaii community of practice and regional partners: Given its extensive and optimal space, the EWC should fashion itself as a hub of thinking and dialogue, not only for the university campus, but also for the broad spectrum of Hawaii-based organizations and their respective partners throughout Indo-Pacific Asia. This will require deliberate outreach and must be pursued as such. Easy starting points would be making Wi-Fi free and accessible to visitors, hosting week’s end pau hanas for staff and institutional partners, and making its Imin International Conference Center facilities available at indirect or no cost to its on-island partners for conferences, events, and meetings.
5. Activate the alumni network through engagement with real issues and resources designed to cultivate a sense of shared community: Fellows leaving the EWC to return home should be armed with valuable connections to the EWC network in their country. The Center should master its social media platforms, not only those used in the U.S., but also the most popular platforms in Asia. Alumni conferences should be held in the more accessible urban hubs of Asia, have invited speakers who are named in advance and are genuine influencers rather than dignitaries, and include panel discussions focused on specific, relevant, and critical issues. Site visits at these conferences should be utilized to connect participants with dynamic agents of societal change, rather than cultural sightseeing tours primarily for the benefit of American attendees.
6. Become Pacific Command’s integral civilian counterpart for engagement in the region: The United States spent more than a decade relearning the concept of civilian-military coordination and planning. The EWC did not benefit from that valuable experience and inescapable need. This is accentuated by the fact that the EWC does not have a single staff member with experience in Iraq or Afghanistan and has no process for engaging with the military directly. The president should make it a priority to build bridges with Pacific Command and cultivate a joint civilian-military partnership, which reflects the reality of U.S. engagement in the region. Likewise, the EWC should be deeply connected to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki. The opportunities for synergistic value-added between both institutions and their respective beneficiaries are too great to ignore. Pretenses that the EWC’s mission should be kept quarantined from the U.S. military’s role in the region is an outdated concept that is self-deceiving at best and counterproductive at worst. Civilian institutions have a vital role to play in shaping the military’s understanding of the region and that can only be accomplished if there is a real and active relationship.
Absent these critical changes, the East-West Center will continue its slide into a state of irrelevance that has been years in the making. This should not be the path for an institution that could be a key agent of forward-thinking dialogue and understanding in an East-West relationship in great need of it.
Jesse Wolfe is the editor-in-chief of the Indo-Pacific Review. He is a former U.S. Marine officer and U.S. Department of State political advisor. Jesse is a graduate of Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and is based in Honolulu.
Hi Blog. My monthly Japan Times columns have moved to the first Monday of the month. This time I’m talking about the geopolitics and historical amnesia behind PM Abe’s April visit to the United States, and what all the misdirected fanfare means not only for Asia as a region, but also NJ residents in Japan. Please have a read and feel free to comment below.
U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, The Japan Times, June 1, 2015 JUST BE CAUSE Column 88 for The Japan Times Community Page
As I’ve often written, I’m a big proponent of the historical record — if for no other reason, so we can look back at the past and learn from our mistakes.
That has been a major issue for the current Japanese government. As hundreds of historians have publicly stated, the Shinzo Abe administration has been systematically working to deny (or in Abe-speak, “beautify”) Japan’s worst wartime ugliness, on an increasingly obvious quest to reconfigure Japan as a military power. In other words, the right is marching the country back to the Japan that nearly annihilated itself 70 years ago.
But I’m even more disappointed with the historical amnesia of the Americans. Abe’s standing-ovation tour of the United States in April, during which the two allies established the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, has basically helped Abe further destabilize the region.
That’s awful news. The U.S., Japan’s strongest ally and chaperone for most of its foreign policy, is, given Japan’s powerless leftist opposition, basically the only one who can stop this. The U.S. has great sway over Japan due, again, to history. After World War II, America did an outstanding job of enabling Japan to get rich — thanks in part to its provision of advantageous trade and exchange-rate agreements and a subsidized security umbrella.
As the Asian extension of America’s Marshall Plan (a means to keep European countries from warring again by making them economically integrated, interdependent and successful, rather than leaving them to exact wartime reparations and revenge), Japan’s economic success is still seen amongst Washington’s foreign policy wonks as proof of their ability to foster democracy worldwide.
But the U.S., now assuming the post-Cold War mantle of world’s policeman, is undermining that goal by continuing to meddle in Japan’s politics.
We first saw this happen in the “reverse course” of 1947, when it was clear that China was going communist. Back then, Washington feared that labor unions might gather enough strength to force Japan into a similar leftist lurch (as seen in Italy, where the Americans also intervened and set Italian politics back into an unstable, corrupt funk that lasted decades).
So, in the name of “containing communism” at the dawn of the Cold War, the U.S. released the Japanese war criminals they hadn’t executed, who then went on to become prominent politicians, businessmen, organized-crime figures — even a prime minister.
It also basically handed back the levers of power to Japan’s prewar governing elites — for example, by reviving the zaibatsu industrial war-machine conglomerates (as keiretsu cartels), overlooking the domination of the education system by historical revisionists and blood-nationalists (the education ministry has since steadily reinstituted prewar traditions of suppressing history and enforcing patriotism), forgiving egregious war misdeeds (through the overgenerous Treaty of San Francisco in 1952), and allowing the re-creation of Japan’s military (as “Self-Defense Forces”) soon after the U.S. Occupation ended.
The blowback, however, is that America has been constantly snake-charmed by those elites. Their professional “gaijin handlers” (see “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in the U.S.,” Just Be Cause, Nov. 6, 2013) have decades of experience of playing the anticommunism card to suppress their mortal enemies — Japan’s leftists.
Then came the infamous U.S.-Japan Security Treaty amendments in 1960, forced upon the Japanese electorate without due process, causing enormous public opposition, riots and social damage, both in terms of property and political polarization.
This overt circumvention of Japan’s democratic institutions stunted the political maturation of Japan’s civil society: Japan never had, for example, the healthy subsequent antiwar grass-roots activism that unseated leaders worldwide in the late 1960s and beyond. As prominent American analysts themselves put it, Japan became an economic giant but a political pygmy.
Fast-forward to April 2015 and Abe’s U.S. tour. Despite years of media and academic attention on Abe’s revisionism, the U.S. bestowed upon him honors that no other Japanese PM has enjoyed, essentially legitimizing Abe’s campaigns worldwide.
Contrast this with how non-LDP left-leaning prime ministers have been treated: President Bill Clinton publicly humiliated Morihiro Hosokawa in 1994, and Washington hobbled Yukio Hatoyama five years ago (see “Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy,” JBC, June 2, 2010) on trade, military-base issues and reordered relations with China. Both PMs were so discredited that they were soon swept away by LDP re-elections, with reenergized conservatives on the rebound making reforms that set the stage for Japan’s recidivism today.
Why are the Americans resuscitating these toxic security guidelines? Simple: to contain China. But, to return to my original point, has Washington learned nothing from history? Can’t they see that the Cold War has been over for decades, and replacing the Soviet Union with China is a bad fit?
Granted, one can make a convincing case that China’s attitude towards democratic institutions ill-befits the Pax Americana. But the PRC is not the USSR — if anything, it’s precisely what the Marshall Planners would have wanted to happen to China.
Unfortunately, Washington seems eager to start Cold War II, with Japan again acting as America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in Asia. Except this time, it does not have an American at the steering wheel in Tokyo, and the blood-nationalist in charge is a descendant of the ruthless right, bent on settling old personal scores and putting Japanese weapons and military forces overseas.
I don’t think the Americans are fully aware of what they are encouraging. Abe will erode the very democratic institutions (including the pacifist Constitution) the U.S. established to “cure” Japan’s war-like tendencies in the first place.
Abe has already enacted the means to engineer public opinion through media censorship, half-truths and big lies, as well as to intimidate critics and punish whistle-blowers.
Now, freshly emboldened after his trip to Washington (he even recently sent his “liberal” wife to visit war-celebrating Yasukuni Shrine), Abe will soon legally reconstitute the mythological version of Japan — the one that made so many Japanese support total war and carry out continent-wide genocide.
If you think I’m exaggerating, look again at history. Japan has swung back from liberalism before, after the “Taisho Democracy” of the 1920s. The flowering of democratic institutions, moderate tolerance of dissent and unprecedented prosperity did happen, but it only lasted about 15 years before the ruthless right took over.
This time it lasted much longer, but Japanese society has numerous bad habits that foster a reverse-engineering into militarism. Five years ago I thought remilitarization inconceivable after generations of a pacifist narrative, but seeing now how fast Japan has snapped back is cause for great alarm. This will be confirmed beyond doubt once we see the revival of prewar politics by assassination, the natural progression from the current trends of intimidation and death threats.
This will certainly abet Japan’s domestic conversion from a mild police state into a much harsher one. And then what? If the past 15 years are any guide, Japanese society’s latent suspicion of outsiders will manifest itself in the targeting of its non-Japanese residents with even more force.
Why? Because it can. They’re here and subject to our laws. If they don’t like it, they should leave. Because Japan is for the Japanese, as the blood-nationalists would define them.
Look out, non-Japanese residents, you’re going to attract even more attention now — as lab rats for Japan’s nascent foreign policy. Nice work, America, “Arsenal of Democracy.” History shows that once again, you’ve encouraged more arsenal than democracy.
Debito’s own 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Comments and story ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Blog. Here’s the opening to my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column. There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
You’ve witnessed something very historic, because the exhibit is the first about any kind of Japanese military activity in the modern era ever held outside of Japan with Japanese cooperation — in this case, with the Chiran Peace Museum on the kamikaze in southern Kyushu.
What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago.
There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks. The bomb on the plane that hit the Missouri did not detonate. The wreckage spilled onto the deck and amidst that was the pilot’s remains. When the crew was putting out the fire, the initial reaction had been to hose his remains off the deck. But the captain of the USS Missouri, William Callaghan, announced to the crew: “No, we’re going to give him a proper military burial. Now that he’s dead, he’s not the enemy anymore. He’s just another human being, like you and me, who died for his country.”
The next day the crew formed on deck to consign their fallen former enemy to the depths with full naval honors. They even made a Japanese flag shroud from old unused signal flags.
I think that’s a nice story. If there can be some recognition of humanity even in such circumstances, that shows hope for human beings in an otherwise insane and irrational situation dominated by hatred and fear.
Q: How many ships were sunk in the kamikaze campaigns? …
Hi Blog. Further along the lines of how the Japanese Government is pressuring overseas historians to toe a GOJ-approved ideological line, here is an example of how they’re doing the same to foreign journalists. While Gaijin Handling is not a new activity (it even happened to Dave Barry back in the day — clearly they didn’t know he was a humor columnist), under PM Abe it is becoming more paranoid and insidious, with implications that criticism of Japan must somehow be linked to Chinese influence. In other words, criticism = shilling if not spying for the Chinese! This is a significant change in attitude, as the author points out below, and it will influence Japan PR’s ability to persuade (as opposed to threaten) the outside world. Wonder how long it’ll be before they drop by the Japan Times to lean on them too about my critical JBC columns. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
On My Watch Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Number One Shimbun, Thursday, April 02, 2015 Confessions of a foreign correspondent after a half-decade of reporting from Tokyo to his German readers by Carsten Germis, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Courtesy of Marcus
My bags are packed, as the song goes. After more than five years as the Tokyo correspondent for the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I will soon leave Tokyo for home.
The country I’m leaving is different from the one I arrived in back in January 2010. Although things seem the same on the surface, the social climate – that has increasingly influenced my work in the past 12 months – is slowly but noticeably changing.
There is a growing gap between the perceptions of the Japanese elites and what is reported in the foreign media, and I worry that it could become a problem for journalists working here. Of course, Japan is a democracy with freedom of the press, and access to information is possible even for correspondents with poor Japanese language skills. But the gap exists because there is a clear shift that is taking place under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – a move by the right to whitewash history. It could become a problem because Japan’s new elites have a hard time dealing with opposing views or criticism, which is very likely to continue in the foreign media.
The Nikkei recently published an essay by their correspondent in Berlin about the February visit to Japan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He wrote: “Merkel’s visit to Japan was more conducive to criticism of Japan than friendship. With Japanese experts, she discussed her country’s policy to end nuclear power. She talked about the wartime history when she visited the Asahi and when she met with Abe. She also talked with Katsuya Okada, president of the DPJ, the largest opposition party. . . . Friendship was promoted only when she visited a factory run by a German company and shook hands with the robot Asimo.”
That seemed harsh. But, even accepting the premise . . . what is friendship? Is friendship simply agreement? Is not true friendship the ability to speak of one’s beliefs when a friend is shifting in a direction that could cause him harm? And surely Merkel’s visit was more complex than just critical.
Let me make my own stance clear. After five years, my love and affection for this country are unbroken. In fact, thanks to the many fine people I’ve met, my feelings are stronger than ever. Most of my Japanese friends and Japanese readers in Germany have told me they feel my love in my writing, especially following the events of March 11, 2011.
Unfortunately, the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Tokyo see things completely differently, and it seems some in the Japanese media feel the same way. To them I have been – like almost all my German media colleagues – a Japan basher capable of only delivering harsh criticism. It is we who have been responsible for, as the Nikkei’s man in Berlin put it, the two countries’ bilateral relations becoming “less friendly.”
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is politically conservative, economically liberal and market oriented. And yet, those claiming that the coverage of Abe’s historical revisionism has always been critical are right. In Germany it is inconceivable for liberal democrats to deny responsibility for what were wars of aggression. If Japan’s popularity in Germany has suffered, it is not due to the media coverage, but to Germany’s repugnance at historical revisionism.
My tenure in Japan began with very different issues. In 2010, the Democratic Party of Japan ran the government. All three administrations I covered – Hatoyama, Kan and Noda – tried to explain their policies to the foreign press, and we often heard politicians saying things like, “We know we have to do more and become better at running the country.”
Foreign journalists were often invited by then Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, for example, to exchange views. There were weekly meetings in the Kantei, the PM’s residence, and officials were willing to discuss – more or less openly – current issues. We didn’t hesitate to criticize the government’s stance on certain issues, but officials continued to try to make their positions understood.
The rollback came soon after the December 2012 elections. Despite the prime minister’s embrace of new media like Facebook, for example, there is no evidence of an appreciation for openness anywhere in his administration. Finance Minister Taro Aso has never tried to talk to foreign journalists or to provide a response to questions about the massive government debt.
In fact, there is a long list of issues that foreign correspondents want to hear officialdom address: energy policy, the risks of Abenomics, constitutional revision, opportunities for the younger generation, the depopulation of rural regions. But the willingness of government representatives to talk with the foreign press has been almost zero. Yet, at the same time, anyone who criticizes the brave new world being called for by the prime minister is called a Japan basher.
What is new, and what seems unthinkable compared to five years ago, is being subjected to attacks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – not only direct ones, but ones directed at the paper’s editorial staff in Germany. After the appearance of an article I had written that was critical of the Abe administration’s historical revisionism, the paper’s senior foreign policy editor was visited by the Japanese consul general of Frankfurt, who passed on objections from “Tokyo.” The Chinese, he complained, had used it for anti-Japanese propaganda.
It got worse. Later on in the frosty, 90-minute meeting, the editor asked the consul general for information that would prove the facts in the article wrong, but to no avail. “I am forced to begin to suspect that money is involved,” said the diplomat, insulting me, the editor and the entire paper. Pulling out a folder of my clippings, he extended condolences for my need to write pro-China propaganda, since he understood that it was probably necessary for me to get my visa application approved.
Me? A paid spy for Beijing? Not only have I never been there, but I’ve never even applied for a visa. If this is the approach of the new administration’s drive to make Japan’s goals understood, there’s a lot of work ahead. Of course, the pro-China accusations did not go over well with my editor, and I received the backing to continue with my reporting. If anything, the editing of my reports became sharper.
The heavy handedness has been increasing over the past few years. In 2012, while the DPJ was still in power, I took a junket to South Korea, interviewing former comfort women and visiting the contested island of Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans). Of course it was PR, but it was a rare chance to see the center of the controversy for myself. I was called in by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meal and discussion, and received a few dozen pages of information proving that the island was Japanese.
In 2013, with Abe’s administration in charge, I was called in once again after I wrote about an interview with three comfort women. This also included a lunch invitation, and once again I received information to help my understanding of the prime minister’s thoughts.
But things seem to have changed in 2014, and MoFA officials now seem to openly attack critical reporting. I was called in after a story on the effect the prime minister’s nationalism is having on trade with China. I told them that I had only quoted official statistics, and their rebuttal was that the numbers were wrong.
My departing message
Two weeks before the epic meeting between the Consul general and my editor, I had another lunch with MoFA officials, in which protests were made of my use of words like “whitewash history,” and the idea that Abe’s nationalistic direction might “isolate Japan, not only in East Asia.” The tone was frostier and, rather than trying to explain and convince, their attitude was angrier. No one was listening to my attempts to explain why German media are especially sensitive about historical revisionism.
I’ve heard of an increase in the number of lunch invitations from government officials to foreign correspondents, and the increased budgets to spread Japanese views of World War II, and the new trend to invite the bosses of foreign correspondents deemed too critical (via business class, of course). But I would suggest the proponents tread carefully, since these editors have been treated to – and become inured to – political PR of the highest caliber and clumsy efforts tend to have an opposite effect. When I officially complained about the Consul’s comments about my receiving funds from China, I was told that it was a “misunderstanding.”
So here’s my departing message: Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not see a threat in Japan to freedom of reporting. Though many critical voices are more silent than during the DPJ administration, they are there – and perhaps in larger numbers than before.
The closed-shop mentality of the Japanese political elite and the present inability of the administration leaders to risk open discussion with foreign media doesn’t really affect press freedom; there are plenty of other sources to gather information. But it does reveal how little the government understands that – in a democracy – policy must be explained to the public. And the world.
It doesn’t strike me as funny any more when colleagues tell me that the LDP doesn’t have anyone in the press affairs department who will speak English or provide information to a foreign journalist. Nor does the fact that the present prime minister, who claims to be well traveled, has declined to make the short trip to speak to us at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. In fact, I can only be saddened at how the government is not only secretive with the foreign press, but with its own citizens.
In the past five years, I’ve been up and down the Japanese archipelago, and – unlike in Tokyo – I’ve never had anyone, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, accuse me of writings that were hostile to Japan. On the contrary, I’ve been blessed with interesting stories and enjoyable people everywhere. Japan is still one of the most wealthy, open nations in the world; it’s a pleasant place to live and report from for foreign correspondents.
My hope is that foreign journalists – and even more importantly, the Japanese public – can continue to speak their minds. I believe that harmony should not come from repression or ignorance; and that a truly open and healthy democracy is a goal worthy of my home of the last five great years. ❶
Carsten Germis was the Tokyo correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 2010 to 2015 and a member of the Board of Directors of the FCCJ.
Ever noticed how Japan — and in particular, its ruling elite — keeps getting away with astonishing bigotry?
Recently Ayako Sono, a former adviser of the current Shinzo Abe government, sang the praises of a segregated South Africa, effectively advocating a system where people would live separately by race in Japan (a “Japartheid,” if you will). But that’s just the latest stitch in a rich tapestry of offensive remarks.
Although their statements invited international and domestic protest, none of these people were drummed out of office or even exiled to the political wilderness. Why? Because people keep passing off such behavior as symptomatic of “weird, quirky Japan,” i.e., “They say these things because they are Japanese — trapped in uniquely insular mentalities after a long self-imposed isolation.”
Such excuses sound lame and belittling when you consider that it’s been 160 years since Japan ended its isolation, during which time it has successfully copied contemporary methods of getting rich, waging war and integrating into the global market.
This treatment also goes beyond the blind-eyeing usually accorded to allies due to geopolitical realpolitik. In the past, analysts have gone so gaga over the country’s putative uniqueness that they have claimed Japan is an exception from worldwide socioeconomic factors including racism, postcolonial critique and (until the bubble era ended) even basic economic theory!
So why does Japan keep getting a free pass? Perhaps it’s time to start looking at “Japaneseness” through a different lens: as a religion. It’s more insightful.
A comprehensive but concise definition of “religion” is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
Japaneseness qualifies. A set of beliefs ordering the “Japanese universe” is available at your nearest big bookstore, where shelves groan under the wiki-composite pseudoscience of Nihonjinron (the “Theory of The Japanese”), a lucrative market for navel-gazing about what Japanese allegedly think or do uniquely and collectively.
Japan also has its own creation myth grounded in mystical immortals (the goddess Amaterasu et al), with enough currency that a sitting prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, once publicly claimed Japan was “a nation of deities (kami no kuni) with the Emperor at its center,” in which Japanese have seen “beings above and beyond humankind” (2000). Seen in this way, Japan transcends the mere nation-state to become something akin to a holy land.
Devotional and ritual observances involve not only an imported and adapted foreign religion (Buddhism) hybridized with an established state religion (Shinto), but also elements of animism and ancestor worship whose observances regularly reach down to the level of the neighborhood (o-mikoshi festival portable shrines) and even the household (butsudan shrines).
As for a moral code governing conduct, Japanese media offer plenty of ascriptive programming (e.g., NHK’s popular quiz show “Nihonjin no Shitsumon” or “Questions The Japanese Ask” — as if that’s a discernible genre). They broadcast an unproblematized uniformity of “Japanese” thought, belief and morality generally offset from the remainder of the heterodox world.
Thus this religion-like phenomenon, because of the knock-on effects of vague mysticism and faith, goes beyond regular nationalism.
For one thing, unlike nationalism, religion doesn’t necessarily need another country to contrast and compete with — Japanese are sui generis special because they are a family descended from gods. For another, nationality can be obtained through law, but bloodline descent cannot — and blood is what makes someone a “real” Japanese. Further, how can you ever offer a counter-narrative to a myth? (For a national narrative, you can offer a different historical interpretation of mortals and events; it’s far tougher to argue different gods.)
These dynamics have been covered in much literature elsewhere — in fact, they are depicted positively by the Nihonjinron high priests themselves — but few people consider three other effects of religiosity.
First, there’s religion’s enhanced political power in prescribing and enforcing conformity. If media uncritically establish how “normal Japanese” act, then deviant thoughts and behaviors not only become “unusual” but also “un-Japanese.” It’s not a big leap from the “science” of what people naturally do as Japanese to the science of what to do in order to be Japanese. There is an orthodoxy to be followed, or else.
This dynamic also robs dissidents of the power to use reason to adjust society’s course. Instead of social mores being codified in the rule of law or grounded in terms of concrete “rights, privileges and duties” of a nation-state, they are molded case by case to suit an alleged “consensus feeling” of an abstract group, sending signals through the media or just through “the air” (which people are supposed to “read”: kūki o yomu).
How can one reason with or argue against an amorphous “understanding” of things, or summon enough energy to push against an invisible enfranchised opponent? Easier all around to fall back on the default shikata ga nai (“There’s nothing I can do”) attitude, meaning Japanese will police each other into acceptance of the status quo.
The second effect of this phenomenon is the corruption of social science. The broad-stroke categorization inherent to “groupism” normalizes the pigeonholing of peoples. In Japan, this has reached the point where influential people openly espouse fallacious theories, such as that eye color affects vision quality, blood type affectspersonality and race/country of origin/gender influence intellectual ability or talent (e.g., “Indians are good programmers,” “Jews are rich,” “Chinese have criminal DNA”).
Although stereotypes exist in every society, in Japan they underpin and blinker most social science. In fact, learning the stereotypes is the science.
The third effect is religion’s enhanced rhetorical power, and this projects influence beyond Japan’s borders.
If Japan’s behavior was merely seen as a matter of nationalism, then things could be explained away in terms of furthering national interests under rational-actor theory. But they’re not. Again, “quirky” Japanese get away with weird stuff like bigotry because they are treated with the deference traditionally accorded to a religion.
Scholar Richard Dawkins put it best: “A widespread assumption . . . is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect.”
Author Douglas Adams expounds on this idea: “Religion . . . has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion you’re not allowed to say anything bad about. You’re just not.’
“If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like. . . . But on the other hand if somebody says, ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday,’ you say, ‘I respect that.’ ”
Likewise, you must respect Japan, and woe betide you if you criticize it. Decry even the most egregious bad behavior, such as the whitewashing of an exploitative empire’s history into an exculpated victimhood, and you will be branded “anti-Japan,” a “Japan-hater” or “Japan-basher” by the reactionary cloud of anonyms that so dominate Japan’s Internet.
This trolling wouldn’t matter if that cloud was ignored for what it is — a bunch of anonymous craven cranks — but otherwise sensible people steeped (or academically trained) in Japan’s mysticism tend to take these disembodied opinions from the air seriously. Instead, the critic loses credibility and, in extreme cases, even their livelihood for not toeing the line. Japan is sensitive, and you’re not allowed to say anything bad about it. You’re just not.
This is one reason why even the most scientifically trained among us is ready, for example, to take seriously the comment of a single native-born Japanese (rather than trust qualified Japan experts who unfortunately lack the mystical bloodline) as some kind of evidence in any discussion on Japan. Every Japanese by blood and dint of being raised in the temple of Japanese society is reflexively accorded the right to represent all Japan. It’s respectful, but it also blunts analysis by keeping discussion of Japan within temple control.
So, whenever Japan makes mystical arguments — about, say, longer intestines, special soil and snow or the country’s unique climate — for political ends (to justify banning imports of beef, construction equipment, skis, rice, etc.), skittish outsiders tend to be deferential to the nonsense because of Japan’s “uniqueness” and respectfully ease off the pressure.
Or when Japan’s rulers coddle war-mongering rightists (who also advocate Japan’s mysticism) and sanction pacifist leftists (who more likely see religion as a mass opiate), relax — that’s just how Japan maintains its unique social order.
And if that social order is ever questioned, especially by any Japanese, that is treated as heresy or apostasy, drawing the threat of reprisal — if not violence — from zealots. After all, you do not question faith — or it would no longer be faith. You just don’t.
In sum, seeing Japaneseness through the prism of religion helps explain better why the world accommodates Japan egregiously excepting and offsetting itself. It may be time to abandon simple political theory (seeing Japan’s polity in terms of rational actors with occasional inexplicable irrationalities) in favor of the sociology of religious cults.
Specifically, this would mean studying Japan’s cult of personalities, i.e., the way a ruling elite is resurrecting mysticism and exploiting the reflexive deference usually reserved for religion to game the system. This is especially important now, as Japan’s rulers indulge in belligerent behavior — historical revisionism, remilitarization and so on — that’s helping destabilize the region.
This column was a seminal attempt to make that case. Discuss, if you dare.
Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: email@example.com
Hi Blog. I was invited to present 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.
[…] Since the exercise in Fukui nearly a decade ago, more than 100 drills in response to some form of security threat have been conducted at prefectures throughout the country. Assumptions behind the threats the drills are based on range from unidentified armed groups landing on the Japan Sea coast and bombing hospitals and medical facilities to railway station bombings in major cities and a widespread chemical weapons attack in central Tokyo.
While the law has prodded various local and central government agencies to coordinate a response, the Aum threat and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. began a process of rethinking about domestic security that first manifested itself at the 2002 World Cup and later in Hokkaido at the Group of Eight summit in 2008. In recent weeks, support for further measures picked up steam with the deaths of journalists Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa at the hands of the Islamic State group in the Middle East. The deaths of three Japanese tourists in Tunisia last week will simply accelerate what is already a fast-moving debate.
Suddenly, it seems, the domestic media, public and the political world are obsessed with threats, real and imagined, to the country’s security and to Japanese who venture abroad. Next year’s G-8 summit (sans Russia) will return to Japan, and seven cities — Hiroshima, Kobe, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Karuizawa, Niigata and Sendai — hope to host the world leaders of Japan, the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Germany and Italy.
The candidate cities have emphasized, in addition to their various cultural assets, their preparedness in the event of a security threat. Meanwhile, this year’s Tokyo Marathon saw an unprecedented level of police protection for the runners and those watching them, while security for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be some of the toughest ever seen. […]
Enemies of the State?
[…] 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.
In the case of the Henoko protesters, the Public Security Intelligence Agency says “Japan Communist Party … members and other anti-base activists from around the country are being dispatched to the Henoko area to engage in protests against the new facility.” The agency also says the Japan Communist Party mobilized supporters to assist two anti-base candidates in local elections last year: Susumu Inamine won the January 2014 Nago mayoral election, while Takashi Onaga won the November gubernatorial election running on anti-base platforms.
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 primeminister’s office. It further added that extremist groups were infiltrating anti-nuclear demonstrations and passing out flyers that called for all nuclear reactors to be decommissioned.
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. The Public Security Intelligence Agency said the Japan Communist Party’s total membership is around 305,000, down from 410,000 back in 2010, while the average age of all members was 57 years old, up from 55.7 years old five years earlier.
By contrast, only 2½ of the report’s 75 pages were devoted to right-wing groups. The agency said right-wing groups had been involved in protests over the Senaku Islands, had called for the retraction of the Kono Statement on comfort women and had used the Asahi Shimbun’s apology in August over a story on wartime forced prostitutes as an opportunity to conduct protests at the newspaper’s branches nationwide.
There was no mention, by name, in the Public Security Intelligence Agency report of Zaitokukai, merely of a “right-wing-affiliated group” that made racist remarks. However, a separate report put out by the National Policy Agency earlier this month mentioned Zaitokukai by name and noted that 1,654 members of right-wing groups were charged with breaking the law in 2014. This included 291 people who were charged with extortion, although many charges were for traffic-related violations. […]
Among other things, the law attempts to promote increased police monitoring of whomever the government deems a potential threat by making secret materials or plans to prevent “designated harmful activities.” What’s a “designated harmful activity”? That’s the first of many questions as yet unanswered.
It’s the same with measures designed to prevent “terrorism,” an ill-defined legal concept, and critics of the law have warned that, under the pretext of “security,” Japan will see more police monitoring of any individual or group the state deems to be a threat.
In January 2014, Tokyo District Court ordered the metropolitan police to pay for violating the plaintiffs’ privacy by leaking personal data. However, the court also said police information gathering activities on Muslims in Japan constituted “necessary and inevitable measures for the prevention of international terrorism.”
The case is being appealed in the Tokyo High Court, but the initial ruling came down well before Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto were captured and executed by Islamic State militants earlier this year. Given the public shock and political reaction to those killings, extreme security measures of questionable legality are cause for worry, says Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University.
“Despite the fact that the police had no evidence of illegal activities, the record shows they engaged in religious profiling of the Muslim community,” Repeta says. “Now that this intrusive police surveillance has been approved by the court, we should expect it to continue in coming years, as Japan hosts international events like next year’s Group of Seven conference and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
[…] One bright spot was that, despite years of official bureaucratic and right-wing political warnings about the dangers of foreign crime, only 28 percent of respondents in 2012 cited this as a reason for what they felt was a worsening security environment. This is down from the 55 percent who cited it as a major reason for their unease in the 2006 survey.
To prevent Japanese nationals from being targeted by international terrorism, the government must comprehensively reinforce countermeasures to protect Japanese living abroad, gather information on terrorism and guard key facilities.
The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is recently believed to have killed two Japanese in Syria, is threatening to continue to carry out terrorist attacks against Japanese. Lacking common sense, the fanatic criminal group will not listen to reason. Other radical groups inspired by ISIL’s latest attack may also target Japanese.
We should realize that the threat of international terrorism has entered a new stage.
The headquarters tasked with promoting measures to handle international organized crime and international terrorism at the Prime Minister’s Office adopted a policy Tuesday of keeping Japanese living abroad informed, through Japanese embassies and other diplomatic missions, about local security conditions.
The government will also step up security for Japanese schools abroad. Such facilities are easy targets for terrorism because they symbolize Japan, so their security systems as well as commuting routes must be checked thoroughly.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made clear Tuesday that the government will increase the number of defense attaches, who are Self-Defense Force officials, at Japanese diplomatic missions abroad.
Following a hostage crisis in Algeria in 2013 that involved Japanese nationals, the government increased the number of defense attaches. At present, more than 50 defense attaches are stationed in about 40 countries.
An SDF official can more easily access classified information held by local military authorities. SDF officials should be proactively deployed in such regions as the Middle East.
In the latest crisis, the issue of keeping Japanese travelers informed of possible risks has become an important task.
Review travel advisories
The Foreign Ministry issues four different levels of travel advisories for potential threats in accordance with local security conditions. The ministry has issued an evacuation advisory, the highest level in terms of risk, to nationals living in Syria or traveling there.
But the advisory has no binding power since the Constitution guarantees the freedom of traveling to a foreign country.
The ministry had repeatedly asked Kenji Goto, who was killed in the latest hostage crisis, to refrain from entering Syria — but to no avail.
The government must examine improvements to the advisory levels according to the risks involved, as well as the best way to communicate and distribute such information.
Terrorist attacks must also be prevented in Japan. Immigration checks need to be tightened further to block terrorists at the water’s edge. Security at governmental organizations, airports, nuclear power plants and other key facilities should be enhanced. It is also vital for the government to cooperate with the intelligence agencies of other countries.
ISIL is trying to spread its radical beliefs beyond national borders by manipulating online resources. It is also necessary to prepare for home-grown terrorism that could be launched by those influenced by such terrorist propaganda.
For example, in Australia, an attacker who had apparently been influenced by ISIL took hostages at a cafe in Sydney in December. The incident ended with two hostages killed.
Are there suspicious people apparently devoted to radicalism, collecting weapons and explosives?
Investigative authorities must vigilantly monitor online activity, detect any sign of terrorism and respond swiftly.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 4, 2015)
The Abe government has budgeted more than $15 million to fund Japan studies at nine universities overseas, including Georgetown and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of a “soft power” push to counter the growing influence of China and South Korea.
The program, the first time in over 40 years that Japan has funded such studies at U.S. universities, coincides with efforts by conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to address perceived biases in accounts of the wartime past — moves critics say are an attempt to whitewash history.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Georgetown University in Washington will receive $5 million each from the Foreign Ministry’s budget for fiscal 2015, which has yet to be enacted, a Finance Ministry official said.
In addition, the Japan Foundation, set up by the government to promote cultural exchange, will allocate ¥25 million per school to six yet-to-be selected universities in the United States and elsewhere, the official said.
That comes on top of $5 million in an extra budget for fiscal 2014 for Japan studies at New York’s Columbia University, where Japan scholar Gerry Curtis will retire late this year.
“The Abe government has a sense of crisis that history issues concerning Japan . . . are not properly understood in the United States, and decided to make a contribution so that Japan research would not die out,” the Finance Ministry official said.
The official said Japanese diplomats will vet professors hired for the programs to ensure they are “appropriate.” However, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said there were no such conditions placed on the funding.
The Foreign Minister “is not placing any such condition as the GOJ’s (Government of Japan) inclusion in the selection procedure of a new scholar,” Takako Ito, the ministry’s assistant press secretary, said in an email.
Georgetown University and MIT declined comment on the funding, while Columbia University spokesman Brian Connolly told reporters by email: “As a matter of long-standing university policy, donors to Columbia do not vet or have veto power over faculty hiring.”
Many Japanese politicians and officials worry Japan has been outmaneuvered by the aggressive public diplomacy of China and South Korea.
After a decade of shrinking spending on public diplomacy, the Foreign Ministry won a total of ¥70 billion for strategic communications in an extra budget for fiscal 2014 and the initial budget for the next year from April, up from ¥20 billion in the initial fiscal 2014 budget.
Those funds are to be used for “soft power” initiatives such as the Japan studies programs at foreign universities and setting up “Japan House” centers to promote the “Japan Brand.”
But the government is also targeting wartime accounts by overseas textbook publishers and others that it sees as incorrect.
One such effort has already sparked a backlash from U.S. scholars, who protested a request by Japan’s government to publisher McGraw-Hill Education to revise a textbook’s account of “comfort women,” the euphemism used in Japan for those forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
Hello Blog. One more post on the “Comfort Women” (since my last two publications here and here dealt with it) and then we’ll start getting back to regular topics. The Opinion Page on the NYT last November offered an excellent primer on the issue, including motives for why Japan’s ruling elites would seek to rewrite history (e.g., to sanitize their family honor and complicity in a dark past), both within and outside of Japan: Political subterfuge at the expense of history, all re-empowered by Japan’s rightward swing, in order to destabilize the region and re-aggravate the wounds of past conflicts, and to project deceitful historical revisionism worldwide. How dishonest and selfish of a select powerful few. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
WASHINGTON — In 1942, a lieutenant paymaster in Japan’s Imperial Navy named Yasuhiro Nakasone was stationed at Balikpapan on the island of Borneo, assigned to oversee the construction of an airfield. But he found that sexual misconduct, gambling and fighting were so prevalent among his men that the work was stalled.
Lieutenant Nakasone’s solution was to organize a military brothel, or “comfort station.” The young officer’s success in procuring four Indonesian women “mitigated the mood” of his troops so well that he was commended in a naval report.
Lieutenant Nakasone’s decision to provide comfort women to his troops was replicated by thousands of Imperial Japanese Army and Navy officers across the Indo-Pacific both before and during World War II, as a matter of policy. From Nauru to Vietnam, from Burma to Timor, women were treated as the first reward of conquest.
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.
A key objective of Mr. Abe’s government has been to dilute the 1993 Kono Statement, named for Japan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yohei Kono. This was widely understood as the Japanese government’s formal apology for the wartime network of brothels and front-line encampments that provided sex for the military and its contractors. The statement was particularly welcomed in South Korea, which was annexed by Japan from 1910 to 1945 and was the source of a majority of the trafficked comfort women.
Imperial Japan’s military authorities believed sex was good for morale, and military administration helped control sexually transmitted diseases. Both the army and navy trafficked women, provided medical inspections, established fees and built facilities. Nobutaka Shikanai, later chairman of the Fujisankei Communications Group, learned in his Imperial Army accountancy class how to manage comfort stations, including how to determine the actuarial “durability or perishability of the women procured.”
Japan’s current government has made no secret of its distaste for the Kono Statement. During Mr. Abe’s first administration, in 2007, the cabinet undermined the Kono Statement with two declarations: that there was no documentary evidence of coercion in the acquisition of women for the military’s comfort stations, and that the statement was not binding government policy.
Shortly before he became prime minister for the second time, in 2012, Mr. Abe (together with, among others, four future cabinet members) signed an advertisement in a New Jersey newspaper protesting a memorial to the comfort women erected in the town of Palisades Park, N.J., where there is a large Korean population. The ad argued that comfort women were simply part of the licensed prostitution system of the day.
In June this year, the government published a review of the Kono Statement. This found that Korean diplomats were involved in drafting the statement, that it relied on the unverified testimonies of 16 Korean former comfort women, and that no documents then available showed that abductions had been committed by Japanese officials.
Then, in August, a prominent liberal newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, admitted that a series of stories it wrote over 20 years ago on comfort women contained errors. Reporters had relied upon testimony by a labor recruiter, Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have rounded up Korean women on Jeju Island for military brothels overseas.
The scholarly community had long determined that Mr. Yoshida’s claims were fictitious, but Mr. Abe seized on this retraction by The Asahi to denounce the “baseless, slanderous claims” of sexual slavery, in an attempt to negate the entire voluminous and compelling history of comfort women. In October, Mr. Abe directed his government to “step up a strategic campaign of international opinion so that Japan can receive a fair appraisal based on matters of objective fact.”
Two weeks later, Japan’s ambassador for human rights, Kuni Sato, was sent to New York to ask a former United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, to reconsider her 1996 report on the comfort women — an authoritative account of how, during World War II, imperial Japan forced women and girls into sexual slavery. Ms. Coomaraswamy refused, observing that one retraction did not overturn her findings, which were based on ample documents and myriad testimonies of victims throughout Japanese-occupied territories.
There were many ways in which women and girls throughout the Indo-Pacific became entangled in the comfort system, and the victims came from virtually every settlement, plantation and territory occupied by imperial Japan’s military. The accounts of rape and pillage leading to subjugation are strikingly similar whether they are told by Andaman Islanders or Singaporeans, Filipino peasants or Borneo tribespeople. In some cases, young men, including interned Dutch boys, were also seized to satisfy the proclivities of Japanese soldiers.
Japanese soldiers raped an American nurse at Bataan General Hospital 2 in the Philippine Islands; other prisoners of war acted to protect her by shaving her head and dressing her as a man. Interned Dutch mothers traded their bodies in a church at a convent on Java to feed their children. British and Australian women who were shipwrecked off Sumatra after the makeshift hospital ship Vyner Brooke was bombed were given the choice between a brothel or starving in a P.O.W. camp. Ms. Coomaraswamy noted in her 1996 report that “the consistency of the accounts of women from quite different parts of Southeast Asia of the manner in which they were recruited and the clear involvement of the military and government at different levels is indisputable.”
For its own political reasons, the Abe administration studiously ignores this wider historical record, and focuses instead on disputing Japan’s treatment of its colonial Korean women. Thus rebuffed by Ms. Coomaraswamy, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, vowed to continue advocating in international bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council, for Japan’s case, which is to seek to remove the designation of comfort women as sex slaves.
The grave truth about the Abe administration’s denialist obsession is that it has led Japan not only to question Ms. Coomaraswamy’s report, but also to challenge the United Nations’ reporting on more recent and unrelated war crimes, and to dismiss the testimony of their victims. In March, Japan became the only Group of 7 country to withhold support from a United Nations investigation into possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, when it abstained from voting to authorize the inquiry. (Canada is not a member of the Human Rights Council but issued a statement backing the probe.) During an official visit, the parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, Seiji Kihara, told Sri Lanka’s president, “We are not ready to accept biased reports prepared by international bodies.”
Rape and sex trafficking in wartime remain problems worldwide. If we hope to ever reduce these abuses, the efforts of the Abe administration to deny history cannot go unchallenged. The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — all of whom had nationals entrapped in imperial Japan’s comfort women system — must make clear their objection to the Abe government’s perverse denial of the historical record of human trafficking and sexual servitude.
The United States, in particular, has a responsibility to remind Japan, its ally, that human rights and women’s rights are pillars of American foreign policy. If we do not speak out, we will be complicit not only in Japanese denialism, but also in undermining today’s international efforts to end war crimes involving sexual violence.
====================== Mindy Kotler is the director of Asia Policy Point, a nonprofit research center.
WASHINGTON – Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae has rejected criticism by U.S.-based historians that Japan tried to meddle with descriptions in an American textbook over the use of “comfort women” at wartime Japanese military brothels.
The academics “allege interference by the government, but this is not a matter to be considered from that angle in the first place,” Sasae told Japanese reporters Friday in Washington.
In November, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the Abe government had asked McGraw-Hill to alter some phrasing in the textbook “Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past,” which said the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited as many as 200,000 women between the ages of 14 and 20 to serve as forced prostitutes.
“We tried to make them (the publisher) draw attention to the facts,” Sasae said on Friday.
Disputes between Japan and South Korea over the comfort women issue have strained ties, as many of the victims were from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
The U.S.-based academics insisted the Abe government had tried to inappropriately interfere with the textbook’s publication. Sasae denied this, saying, “I don’t think we are interfering unreasonably.”
He did not elaborate further, simply saying, “We’ll thoroughly examine the statement.”
In a landmark 1993 apology issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, Japan admitted the recruitment and transfer of comfort women was conducted “generally against their will.” But during a 2006 Diet session, Abe, during his first stint in office, stopped short of clearly accepting the comfort women were forcibly recruited.
Abe’s current government asked a panel of experts last year to re-examine the way in which the 1993 Kono statement was compiled. Abe has said, however, that his administration has no intention of rewriting the statement itself.
A special Liberal Democratic Party committee on Thursday discussed ways to better convey Japan’s views on wartime historical issues to counter a public relations blitz by South Korea.
During the sixth gathering of the Special Mission Committee to Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan, chaired by Hirofumi Nakasone, some members said a carefully crafted strategic plan is needed to gain the understanding of the international community when it comes to the issue of “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
In the discussions on how the forced prostitution issue is portrayed in school textbooks overseas, a Foreign Ministry official told the committee that textbooks by one publisher in Germany and three in the United States contain depictions of comfort women.
Although most of the textbooks do not explore the issue in depth, the government needs to look at them carefully and determine whether they merit an official response, Masahiko Shibayama, a Lower House member who serves as a secretariat of the committee, told reporters after the meeting.
Officials from the Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry attended the meeting to answer members’ questions.
Shibayama also said the government must deal with such issues, which could damage Japan’s national interests, while avoiding the appearance of “historical revisionism.”
During the hour-long meeting, they also studied past lawsuits and rulings in other countries related to the issue.
The committee, launched last October by right-wing LDP members, including party policy chief Tomomi Inada, plans to compile and submit its recommendations to the administration as early as this month.
It also plans to draw up a recommendation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about his expected statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which will be closely watched by Beijing and Seoul.
Earlier this year, Abe and LDP lawmakers criticized a U.S. history textbook published by McGraw-Hill that included sentences such as: “The Japanese Army forcibly recruited, conscripted and dragooned as many as 200,000 women aged 14 to 20 to serve in military brothels.”
Japanese mainstream historians say it is impossible to determine the exact number of comfort women. But Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading historian on the issue, estimates there were at least 50,000.
The Foreign Ministry told the Japanese Consulate in New York last year to ask McGraw-Hill to revise the world history textbook.
Dr. Ziegler: I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit. I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books. And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like. So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks. So she asked if she could go through them and look at them. And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.” Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now: This was started some time ago, perhaps. I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?
US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 85, Mar 5 2015
The debate on Japan’s history of wartime sexual slavery (aka the “comfort women” issue) has heated up again, with the Japanese government extending its efforts to revise school textbooks overseas.
In November, McGraw-Hill, publisher of the world history textbook “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past” Vol. 2, by history professors Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley, was contacted by Japan’s Consulate General in New York. The request: that two paragraphs (i.e., the entire entry) on the comfort women be deleted.
On Jan. 15, McGraw-Hill representatives met with Japanese diplomats and refused the request, stating that the scholars had properly established the historical facts. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly targeted the textbook in a parliamentary session, stating that he was “shocked” to learn that his government had “failed to correct the things it should have.”
In the March issue of the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine “Perspectives on History,” 20 prominent historians, including professor Ziegler, signed a letter to the editor titled “Standing with the historians of Japan.” They stated that they “agree with Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history,” and “oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.”
For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the “Comfort Women” issue being targeted by the Japanese Government, courtesy of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Libraries:
From “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past”, by Jerry H. Bentley, Herbert F. Ziegler, and Heather E. Streets-Salter, Third Edition (the most recent version in the UH Library), pp. 624-5.
Comfort Women: Women’s experiences in war were not always ennobling or empowering. The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women age fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels, called “comfort houses” or “consolation centers.” The army presented the women as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria and from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia. The majority of the women came from Korea and China.
Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the “comfort women” catered to between twenty and thirty men each day. Stationed in war zones, the women often confronted the same risks as soldiers, and many became casualties of war. Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases. At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation. The impetus behind the establishment of comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing, where the mass rape of Chinese women had taken place. In trying to avoid such atrocities, the Japanese army created another horror of war. Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and hid their past or faced shunning by their families. They found little comfort or peace after the war.
Also, additional information on the issue found in the “Student Study Guide and Map Exercise Workbook to accompany TRADITIONS AND ENCOUNTERS, VOLUME II” (2000), by Lynda S. Bell, Gary E. Scudder, Jr., and Guangyuan Zhou, pg. 176:
D. Women and War
1. Women’s roles in the war
a) Half a million British women and 350,000 U.S. women joined military services
b) Both countries barred women engaging in combat or carrying weapons
c) Soviet and Chinese women took up arms and joined resistance groups
d) By taking jobs or heading families, women gained independence and confidence
2. Comfort women
a) Japanese armies forcibly recruited 300,000 women to serve in military brothels
b) 80% of comfort women came from Korea
c) A comfort woman had to cater to between 20 and 30 men each day
d) Many were massacred by Japanese soldiers, survivors experienced deep shame
Hi Blog. Getting back to another issue in Japan that has long needed fixing — the judiciary (see also here) — here are some overseas experts talking in a comparative perspective about Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers (aka Gaijin Tanks) that they liken to “prisons”.
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.
The HMIP’s underlying philosophy that detainees should enjoy “as much openness as possible” also sends out an important message to a nation where neglect is suspected in the successive deaths of two immigration detainees in recent years.
Although funded significantly by the British government, HMIP is nonetheless granted full autonomy to carry out “independent, rigorous” inspections, Bhui said.
Its team members can arrive at target institutions unannounced, go anywhere within the premises and speak to anyone they encounter. The organization also has “unfettered” ability to publish its findings and make recommendations both to center managers and the government entities in charge to urge them to rectify malpractice.
The group’s inspections over the years have led to significant changes in policy and “general improvement in treatment and conditions” at British immigration facilities, according to HMIP inspector Colin Carroll.
Unlike the past, the Home Office, which overseas immigration policies in Britain, no longer tolerates the use of physical force to deport pregnant women and children, Carroll said.
Also, detainees in Britain now can freely chat with visiting family members in an open lounge and hug and kiss them, Bhui said. They are also permitted to carry mobile phones and surf the Internet to stay in touch with their lawyers and keep abreast of developments in their home countries.
Some even watch movies, work on art projects or practice music with fellow detainees.
“People in immigration centers tend to be far more frustrated and dislocated, physically or mentally. They’re away from family, away from support. So the opportunity to make phone calls to the family makes a big difference,” Bhui said.
“Detention centers in the U.K. understand it’s better for the safety of their own center if detainees can contact people outside. Because (that way) they’re less frustrated, and if they’re less frustrated, they’re less likely to misbehave within the center.”
Detention inmates, Bhui continued, haven’t committed specific criminal offenses and are often trying to enter the country to make a better life for themselves and their families, which he said is a “laudable positive sentiment.”
“They’re not there to be punished. They’re not there because they’re criminals,” he said.
This notion of openness, however, appears nonexistent in Japanese immigration centers, where detainees frequently go on hunger strikes or attempt suicide to protest what critics describe as their almost inhumane living conditions behind closed doors.
The lack of adequate medical services, in particular, has taken a tragic toll on detainees in recent years, highlighting the nation’s doctor shortage.
In the past two years, a man from Sri Lanka and another from the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar who were detained at the Tokyo Immigration Regional Bureau in Shinagawa Ward died in separate incidents after staff failed to respond promptly to their medical emergencies. Two others died at the immigration center in Ushiku last March.
Bhui declined to comment directly on each of these cases, but added: “We have a system in the U.K. where if there is any death in detention, there will be an inquest by a coroner, who can call witnesses. Also, the ombudsman will do its own separate investigation into any death,” he said.
Bhui further noted that HMIP will follow up with detention centers to see if they have implemented preventive measures as recommended by the ombudsman. He called it a system to “identify problems, see why death happened in the first place and try to prevent that from happening in the future.”
“I think if there were system like that (in Japan), that would be good.”
Shortly after the death of the Sri Lankan man, the Tokyo Bar Association issued a statement in which it condemned the Justice Ministry’s repeated failure to identify the cause of detainees’ deaths and stressed the need for a third-party inquest system to prevent them.
Japan’s own inspectorate, or “nyuukokusha shuuyoshoto shisatsu iinkai” in Japanese, is under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, despite its purported third-party status. Every aspect of its visits to immigration centers is rigidly controlled and pre-arranged by the ministry, according to Koichi Kodama, a lawyer well-versed in foreigners’ rights.
Doo-what?: An image that went viral on the Internet shows members of male doo-wop group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z blacked up backstage during the filming of a show for Fuji TV scheduled for broadcast on March 7. | THE JAPAN TIMES
McNeil: All of which speaks directly to this racist bullsh-t — I mean, this cultural misunderstanding — one that could have been avoided in the 30-some-odd years this band [Rats & Star] has existed if, while they were researching the music, costumes and other aspects of black music and performance, they had simply taken a second to see if what they wanted to do with blackface had ever been done before. You know, just a little proactive research about the industry they would spend the next three f-cking decades profiting handsomely from.
But alas, when I saw this story on the Net the other day — that they were going to be on Fuji TV alongside popular girl group Momoiro Clover Z, who would be similarly blacked up — all I could say was, “Mata ka yo?” (“Jeezus! Again?”), suck my teeth and click away. To me, it’s not shocking to see blackfaced bands here. With the attitudes and ignorance encountered here regularly, the only shocking thing is that there aren’t more of these groups. A Ku Klux Klan-themed idol group wouldn’t even surprise me here.
I’m still, however, pleasantly surprised when non-Japanese people in Japan get worked up over something important. They’re a beautiful sight to see! Like when Julien Blanc was spreading his misogynistic garbage about Japanese women. Remember how the Japanosphere responded? They damn near shut down the Internet with their furor over his antics. Of course, everything he said could be heard in any gaijin (foreigner) bar in Tokyo or Yokohama on any given day, but it was still great to see people get activated for a good cause. Not to mention that, let’s say, inappropriate ANA advert that got a lot of people upset and resulted in Japan’s biggest airline re-editing a television commercial advertising new flights.
A well-known Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has sparked outrage by claiming foreigners should live in separate areas from Japanese people.
In an opinion piece for the conservative Sankei newspaper last week, Ayako Sono, 83, suggested that the infamous apartheid system that was practised in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 would be appropriate for Japan.
“It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” Sono wrote.
“Ever since I learned of the situation in South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians and blacks in that country,” she said in the piece.
She cited the case of an apartment block in Johannesburg that was, under apartheid, reserved for white families. As soon as the laws were changed, she said, the property “fell to pieces” because black people have large families.
“Ever since learning of this, I have said that humans can do many things together – business, research, sports, to name but a few – but when it comes to living, this is one area where the races must live apart.”
Sono was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education panel in 2013.
Her 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.”
Internet users have also weighed in on the argument, with tens of thousands of messages on Twitter and other online forums condemning Sono’s comments.
“The problem is not that this woman exists or holds these views,” wrote one commentator. “After all, every country has its far-right misanthropes, neo- Nazis, etc.
The problem is that this woman holds these views while being somewhat revered, even decorated.”
Another asked how Sono, or the Japanese government, would react if another country advocated rounding up Japanese nationals and segregating them purely because of their nationality, while the Sankei was criticised as a “vile, racist paper”.
Arudou said he intended to continue fighting for the rights of foreign nationals living in Japan, adding: “There is a widespread tautological feeling that foreigners don’t deserve human rights because they’re foreigners.
“It begs the question about whether a society can see non-citizens as fellow humans,” he said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as “Outrage as top author backs racial segregation”
Hi Blog. A discussion about the following article has already started here, so I thought it prudent to promote it to its own blog entry for proper discussion. First the article, then my comment. (N.B.: people who commented before who wish to repost their commment here, go ahead.)
In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.
If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.
Although Nakamura praised the Japanese culture of cooperation, hard work and honesty, he called out the education system for focusing too much on the limited goals of exams and getting into big companies. He pointed out that it is failing to give young people the English skills they need to function on a global level.
“In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.”
He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government.
Nakamura slammed Japan for failing to ensure that inventors are fairly compensated for their work, something that stifles innovation and provides “zero incentive” for employees to be creative.
Article 35 of the patent law says that patent rights belong to the inventor, but in practice, companies dictate the terms of compensation to their employees. In fact, Nakamura’s former company paid him the equivalent of just US$180 for his Nobel-winning invention. Nakamura sued in 2001 and a Tokyo court determined that his patent had generated about US$1 billion in revenue. Nakamura settled with the company for US$8 million.
“The most important thing is to go abroad and…see Japan from outside the country.”
Since the litigation, many companies have switched from giving employees a flat fee for patent rights to a percentage of royalties, but the Japan Business Federation has also begun lobbying the government to clarify the law and place patent rights squarely with companies. Prime Minister Abe has hinted that he would like to do so.
“If the Japanese government changes the patent law, it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors]. In that case, I recommend that Japanese employees go abroad,” said Nakamura.
In general, Nakamura encouraged young Japanese to leave, whether to get a better education, to expand their world view or to be better compensated for their work. Despite his criticisms, he is not advocating a wholesale abandonment of Japan either. Rather, a more internationalized population could be the key to meaningful reforms.
“The most important thing is to go abroad and they can see Japan from outside the country. And they understand, …oh, now I can understand bad thing of Japan. That’s the most important thing, no? Japanese people have to wake up about Japanese bad things, you know. I think that’s very important.”
It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan’s intelligentsia. How many readers remember the “Tonegawa Shock” of 1987?
When the 1987 Nobel Prize was given to [Susumu] Tonegawa, who had moved to the US so he could be inspired and free to carry on his research, Japanese academics took notice and some were humiliated. Tonegawa had asserted that if he had remained in Japan, he would have had to spend years courting favor with mentors and dealing with disinterested colleagues, lagging unchallenged and unmotivated, certainly never to attain Nobel laureate. The press labeled the phenomenon as “Tonegawa Shock” which described the actions of similar Japanese scientists, such as Leo Esaki, a 1973 laureate in physics, who left Japan to work at IBM in the US. [Source]
The Tonegawa Shock set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to “enliven” (kasseika) Japan’s education system by doing away with tenure. Sounds great to people who don’t understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure — the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) — in what was called the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan’s prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat. It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying “Academic Apartheid” of Japan’s higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for Debito.org when it was established in 1996.
With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus? Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan. But if there is more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you’ll probably hear about it on Debito.org. That’s what we’re here for. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Subject: Re: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine
Hello Ms McWilliams, and thank you for your attachment. My apologies for my late reply. It has been a busy week, and it has taken a little time to visit my safe deposit box and retrieve backed-up emails that are nearly ten years old.
Here is the permission I received from a M. Mairead Sweeney of The Australian Magazine, Dated December 19, 2000, to reprint the article “Our Other Man in Japan”.
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
There is no problem reproducing the article, as long as credit is given to
The Australian Magazine.
The Australian Magazine
============= PERMISSION GRANTED TEXT ENDS =================
Credit is, and always has been, given to The Australian Magazine.
Please review the following context from which this is taken. Here is my request to The Australian Magazine, dated December 4, 2000, for reproduction permissions to print “Our Other Man in Japan”. It is in raw text format (importing email from an old program [somewhat abridged]), for copyright permission, followed by the exchanges which resulted in the abovementioned permission being granted. My name back then was David Aldwinckle (it is now Arudou Debito, due to naturalization as a Japanese citizen).
I would appreciate receiving your acknowledgment of these permission-granted circumstances as soon as possible. I also wish you would do your homework before sending “notice” letters to my friends. My friend, [SH, who hosted my site at the time], who was also sent your “notice” letter, is hereby cc-ed with this reply. Kindly cc him your acknowledgment as well.
Arudou Debito (ne David Aldwinckle) in Sapporo, Japan
I am looking for an old article of yours which appeared in THE AUSTRALIAN
MAGAZINE. The date is not written anywhere on the pages, but here are the
details as I know them:
PUBLICATION: The Australian Magazine
ARTICLE TITLE: “Our Other Man in Japan”
AUTHOR: Richard McGregor
CONTENTS: about Gregory Clark’s life and times here in Japan
PAGE NUMBERS: pp. 27 to 41?
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1993-94 (article mentions Hosokawa as Prime Minister)
Could you please tell me of the date and issue number etc. for the article
for proper citation?
Thank you very much,
Dave Aldwinckle in Sapporo, Japan
(your contact details courtesy of Mr Steven Lunn, Tokyo Correspondent)
From: “Magazine, Australian” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “‘Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle'” <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 17:03:22 +1100
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21)
Well the good news it that I’ve had success in locating the article. The
The Australian Magazine, 16th October 1993, Edition 1.
If you need further information, please do not hestitate to contact me.
The Australian Magazine.
From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, 4 December 2000 4:34
To: Magazine, Australian
Subject: RE: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
Thanks for your speedy reply!
I only have a photocopy of the article in question, and no, I’m afraid it
(oddly enough) doesn’t give the date etc where it indicates the page number.
I’m afraid that you have all the information that I have.
Thanks for looking. I would really appreciate it and don’t mind if it takes
a few days. It’s quite a big article with a full-page photograph of Gregory
At 4:16 PM +1100 12/4/00, Magazine, Australian wrote:
> Dear Dave
> I presume you don’t have the front cover of the magazine, just the pages in
> question (?). Where it says the page number, normally it has the Issue Date
> also. This could be just on the more recent editions, I don’t know. I have
> had a quick look through our computerised archives but have found nothing
> yet. It may take a day or two to locate the information you require.
> Mairead Sweeney
> The Australian Magazine
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Monday, 4 December 2000 3:21
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Cc: email@example.com
> Subject: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
> To whom it may concern:
> I am looking for an old article of yours which appeared in THE AUSTRALIAN
> MAGAZINE. The date is not written anywhere on the pages, but here are the
> details as I know them:
> PUBLICATION: The Australian Magazine
> ARTICLE TITLE: “Our Other Man in Japan”
> AUTHOR: Richard McGregor
> CONTENTS: about Gregory Clark’s life and times here in Japan
> PAGE NUMBERS: pp. 27 to 41?
> APPROXIMATE DATE: 1993-94 (article mentions Hosokawa as Prime Minister)
> Could you please tell me of the date and issue number etc. for the article
> for proper citation?
> Thank you very much,
> Dave Aldwinckle in Sapporo, Japan
> (your contact details courtesy of Mr Steven Lunn, Tokyo Correspondent)
Excellent! Thank you very much!
Would it be possible to receive permission from The Australian to reprint
this article in full in our next issue of NPO Japan Association for Language
Teaching (JALT)’s Journal of Professional Issues?
We are a non-profit organization and our publication fees are funded by both
JALT and from our subscribers (about 75 people).
To find out more about our Journal and to see back issues, please see http://www.debito.org/PALEJournals.html
To find out more about JALT, please see http://www.jalt.org/
Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to hearing from you.
One JALT Journal of Professional Issues Editor
From: Arudou Debito [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Tuesday, 11 August 2009 1:44 AM To: McWilliams, Gina Subject: RESEND: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine
Hello Ms McWilliams. It’s been more than a week. May I have a response or an acknowledgment of receipt, please? Arudou Debito
On Aug 14, 2009, at 5:13 PM, McWilliams, Gina wrote: Dear Mr Debito
As previously noted, my client has no record of permission being granted for the relevant article to be reproduced/communicated on www.debito.org.
If, in fact, authorisation was granted in the terms set out below, I am instructed that my client now withdraws permission for the relevant article to be reproduced/communicated on www.debito.org and requires you to remove the article from the website within 7 days.
My client reserves all rights with respect to publication of the article on www.debito.org.
Yours sincerely Gina McWilliams | Legal Counsel | Nationwide News Pty Limited & News Digital Media Pty Limited
From: Arudou Debito <email@example.com> Date: August 16, 2009 12:05:09 AM JST To: Gina McWilliams <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: RESEND: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine
Look, I don’t know who you are, and I cannot trace this email’s IP on standard searches. Until I speak in person to a member of the media corporation claiming copyright over this article (that was granted me in writing fair and square from the actual media outlet several years ago), not just some alleged transmission from an alleged lawyer through an unverifiable email, I feel no credibility may be attached to this communication. Names and contact details. From them directly. And get my name right.
I received no further response from the organization or Ms. McWilliams. A friend contacted people within The Australian in March 2010 and unearthed this:
“I had been curious regarding Mr. Clark’s claims that the 1993 article about him in The Australian Magazine was retracted. I called the news desk at The Australian and they searched their archives in the basement. They found a letter to the editor from Clark regarding the article. However, they searched three weeks of issues following the article and they could not find any retraction or correction printed. Therefore, I found no evidence supporting Mr. Clark’s claim that the article was retracted.”
As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the top 10 human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:
10) Warmonger Ishihara loses seat
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). All the while, we gritted 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, Ishihara 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.
About time. He admitted last month that he wanted “to fight a war with China and win” by attempting to buy three of the disputed Senkaku islets (and entangling the previous left-leaning government in the imbroglio). Fortunately the conflict hasn’t come to blows, but Ishihara has done more than anyone over the past 15 years to embolden Japan’s xenophobic right (by fashioning foreigner-bashing into viable political capital) and undo Japan’s postwar liberalism and pacifism.
Good riddance. May we never see your like again. Unfortunately, I doubt that.
Mori incurred significant international criticism for this, but there were no retractions or resignations. And it isn’t the first time the stigmatization of foreignness has surfaced in Mori’s milieu. Since 2005 he has headed the Japan Rugby Football Union, which after the 2011 Rugby World Cup criticized the underperforming Japan team for having “too many foreign-born players” (including naturalized Japanese citizens). The 2012 roster was then purged of most “foreigners.” Yet despite these shenanigans, Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup right before the Tokyo Olympics.
JBC said its requirements were far too strict when it was first announced, predicting it would fail (see last year’s top 10, and “Japan’s revolving door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” JBC, March 6, 2012). Policymakers arrogantly presumed that NJ are beating down the door to work in Japan under any circumstances (not likely, after Japan’s two economic “lost decades”), and gave few “points” to those who learned Japanese or attended Japanese universities. Fact is, they never really wanted people who “knew” Japan all that well.
But by now even those who do cursory research know greater opportunities lie elsewhere: Japan is a land of deflation and real falling wages, with little protection against discrimination, and real structural impediments to settling permanently and prospering in Japanese society.
In another landmark move by the Tokyo District Court, last January the National Police Agency was ordered to compensate several Muslim residents and their Japanese families, whom they had spied upon as suspected terrorists. Although this is good news (clearly noncitizens are entitled to the same right to privacy as citizens), the act of spying in itself was not penalized, but rather the police’s inability to manage their intelligence properly, letting the information leak to the public.
Also not ruled upon was the illegality of the investigation itself, and the latent discrimination behind it. Instead, the court called the spying unavoidable considering the need to prevent international terrorism — thus giving carte blanche to the police to engage in racial profiling.
5) ‘Japanese only’ saga
If this were my own personal top 10, this would top the list, as it marks a major shift in Japan’s narrative on racial discrimination (the subject of my Ph.D. last year). As described elsewhere (“J.League and media must show red card to racism,” JBC, March 12, 2014), the Japanese government and media seem to have an allergy when it comes to calling discrimination due to physical appearance “discrimination by race” (jinshu sabetsu), depicting it instead as discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, “descent,” etc. Racism happens in other countries, not here, the narrative goes, because Japan is so homogeneous that it has no race issues.
More importantly, Murai said that victims’ perception of the banner was more important than the perpetrators’ intent behind it. This opened the doors for debate about jinshu sabetsu more effectively than the entire decade of proceedings in the “Japanese only” Otaru onsen case that I was involved in (where behavior was ruled as “racial discrimination” by the judiciary as far back as 2002). All of this means that well into the 21st century, Japan finally has a precedent of domestic discourse on racism that cannot be ignored.
4) Signs Japan may enforce Hague
Last year’s top 10 noted that Japan would join an international pact that says international children abducted by a family member from their habitual country of residence after divorce should be repatriated. However, JBC doubted it would be properly enforced, in light of a propagandist Foreign Ministry pamphlet arguing that signing the Hague Convention was Japan’s means to force foreigners to send more Japanese children home (“Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents,” JBC, Oct. 8). Furthermore, with divorces between Japanese citizens commonly resulting in one parent losing all access to the children, what hope would foreigners have?
Fortunately, last year there were some positive steps, with some children abducted to Japan being returned overseas. Government-sponsored mediation resulted in a voluntary return, and a court ruling ordered a repatriation (the case is on appeal).
However, the Hague treaty requires involuntary court-ordered returns, and while Japan has received children under its new signatory status, it has not as yet sent any back. Further, filing for return and/or access in Japan under the Hague is arduous, with processes not required in other signatory countries.
Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, and JBC hopes that respect for habitual residence continues even after international media attention on Japan has waned.
3) Ruling on welfare confuses
Last July another court case mentioned in previous top 10s concluded, with an 82-year-old Zainichi Chinese who has spent her whole life in Japan being denied social-welfare benefits for low-income residents (seikatsu hogo). The Supreme Court overturned a Fukuoka High Court ruling that NJ had “quasi-rights” to assistance, saying that only nationals had a “guaranteed right” (kenri).
People were confused. Although the media portrayed this as a denial of welfare to NJ, labor union activist Louis Carlet called it a reaffirmation of the status quo — meaning there was no NJ ineligibility, just no automatic eligibility. Also, several bureaucratic agencies stated that NJ would qualify for assistance as before.
It didn’t matter. Japan’s xenophobic right soon capitalized on this phraseology, with Ishihara’s Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in August announcing policies “based on the ruling” that explicitly denied welfare to NJ. In December, in another act of outright meanness, Jisedai made NJ welfare issues one of their party platforms. One of their advertisements featured an animated pig, representing the allegedly “taboo topic” of NJ (somehow) receiving “eight times the benefits of Japanese citizens,” being grotesquely sliced in half.
You read that right. But it makes sense when you consider how normalized hate speech has become in Japan.
Unfortunately, most protesters have taken the tack of crying “Don’t shame us Japanese” rather than the more empowering “NJ are our neighbors who have equal rights with us.” Sadly, the possibility of equality ever becoming a reality looked even further away as 2014 drew to a close:
1) Abe re-election and secrets law
With his third electoral victory in December, Abe got a renewed mandate to carry out his policies. These are ostensibly to revitalize the economy, but more importantly to enforce patriotism, revive Japan’s mysticism, sanitize Japan’s history and undo its peace Constitution to allow for remilitarization (“Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2013).
Most sinister of all his policies is the state secrets law, which took effect last month, with harsh criminal penalties in place for anyone “leaking” any of 460,000 potential state secrets. Given that the process for deciding what’s a secret is itself secret, this law will further intimidate a self-censoring Japanese media into double-guessing itself into even deeper silence.
These misgivings have been covered extensively elsewhere. But particularly germane for JBC is how, according to Kyodo (Dec. 8), the Abe Cabinet has warned government offices that Japanese who have studied or worked abroad are a higher leak risk. That means the government can now justifiably purge all “foreign” intellectual or social influences from the upper echelons of power.
How will this state-sponsored xenophobia, which now views anything “foreign” as a security threat, affect Japan’s policymakers, especially when so many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (even Abe himself) have studied abroad? Dunno. But the state secrets law will certainly undermine Japan’s decades of “internationalization,” globalization and participation in the world community — in ways never seen in postwar Japan.
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:
Police in Japan have placed a rightwing extremist group on its watchlist for the first time amid growing international pressure to crack down on a rise in hate speech against the country’s Korean community.
In its annual security report published this week, the National Police Agency said Zaitokukai, an ultra-nationalist group that claims it has 15,000 members, should be considered a potential threat to law and order.
Zaitokukai calls for the end to welfare and other “privileges” afforded to about half a million non-naturalised members of Japan’s ethnic Korean community, including the descendants of labourers brought over from the Korean peninsula to work in mines and factories before and during the second world war.
It frequently holds demonstrations, often in parts of cities such as Tokyo and Osaka with large Korean populations. Its supporters have described ethnic Koreans as “criminals” and “cockroaches” and called for them to be killed. Police said Zaitokukai and other far-right groups had held more than 100 rallies in the first 10 months of this year.
The police agency report – which usually targets members of Japan’s vast network of yakuza gangs – warned Zaitokukai was a potential threat to the public due to its “extreme nationalist and xenophobic” ideology.
Zaitokukai’s inclusion in the security watch list is unprecedented and comes months after Eriko Yamatani, who as minister for public security is Japan’s most senior police official, failed to publicly condemn the group.
Yamatani was invited to distance herself from Zaitokukai this October after a 2009 photograph emerged of her with Shigeo Masuki, then a senior member of the group. She told journalists she did not recall the photograph being taken, adding that it was not appropriate to comment on the policies of individual groups.
“Japan has a long history of placing great value on the idea of harmony and respecting the rights of everyone,” she said.
In July, a court in Osaka ruled that a Zaitokukai demonstration held near a school in Kyoto with links to a North Korean residents group amounted to racial discrimination.
In October, Osaka’s mayor, Toru Hashimoto, confronted Zaitokukai’s then leader, Makoto Sakurai, during a one-on-one debate, labelling him and his supporters racists who were not welcome in the city. The debate ended after just a few minutes, with both men hurling insults at each other and, at one point, appearing on the verge of physical violence.
The UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination has called on Japan to address hate speech and incitement to racist violence during demonstrations, and to punish public officials and politicians who disseminate hate speech. This week South Korea’s national assembly adopted a resolution urging Japan to take similar measures.