Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, but they already have one:  how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same.

And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted below) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES FEB 7, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/07/national/trainee-program-small-firms-drive-rise-japans-foreign-worker-numbers/

The official number of foreign workers in Japan has surpassed 1 million for the first time, thanks in part to aggressive employment by regional companies and small businesses to cope with the labor shortage.

While these firms, though few and far between, are breaking new ground with their hiring, it remains unclear how the government wants to go about allowing in more foreign workers as it works out a new policy.

Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya.

It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers.

Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future.

“I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said.

A manager in the bank’s personnel section said: “The two of them had the power to carve out a life in Japan from scratch, and we have expectations that they will prosper in various ways.”

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam.

“I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

“It is difficult for a company of our size to employ Japanese students in science and technology, and recently it has been especially tough,” said the company’s president, Makoto Yoshimoto, adding that it’s hard to compete against larger companies for the most talented graduates from Japanese universities.

Yoshimoto noticed many diligent and outstanding students when the company started conducting business in Vietnam several years ago. Twenty applicants responded to the company’s job listings, but only two, including Kien, were hired.

Many foreign workers have also been working at small businesses but for low wages, brought to Japan under the government’s skills acquisition program that critics say is a cover for hiring cheap labor. These workers often return home just when they get used to their jobs, which are usually based on three-year contracts.

Yoshimoto said: “For the two Vietnamese this is regular employment with the same salary as for Japanese. I won’t mind if they work here until they retire.”

According to a survey by employment information company Disco that covered 630 firms nationwide, 38.1 percent employed or planned to employ foreign students in fiscal 2016, while more than half — 59.8 percent — expect to hire such workers in fiscal 2017.

The percentage of foreign workers who were recruited after graduating from overseas universities is expected to rise from 18.9 percent in fiscal 2016 to 32 percent in fiscal 2017. Disco said small and medium-size domestic companies that are little known to students are starting to recruit college graduates from abroad.

There were 1.08 million foreign workers on the official books at the end of October, up 19.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey by the labor ministry.

This was the first time the 1 million milestone was passed since 2008, when the ministry first started collecting statistics based on hiring reports by businesses.

The government has been promoting employment of foreign nationals with advanced skills and knowledge, but in reality, trainees under the skills acquisition program have been fueling the growth.

The latest ministry data show that program trainees grew by 25.4 percent to 211,108, outstripping specialized professionals, who increased 20.1 percent to 200,994. The number of students working as part-timers jumped by a robust 25 percent to 209,657.

The government, faced with a declining and graying population, is exploring the ramifications of accepting more foreign workers.

A debate is underway among lawmakers and bureaucrats over whether to expand the scope of businesses that can hire foreign nationals as regular workers to cover glaring shortfalls in the agricultural and construction industries, not just highly skilled professions.

But many in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition have expressed concern that throwing the doors open further for foreign workers would lift the lid on a Pandora’s box of immigration troubles.

Even labor unions, despite a desire to defend the rights of foreign workers, are wary of their influence on domestic employment and are against their easy acceptance into the workforce.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////////

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Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  We have a really weird conceit going on in the foreign press (see Washington Post and BBC below) regarding sumo wrestler Kisenosato’s rise to yokozuna, the highest rank.  (Congratulations, and well done, by the way.)  They are portraying it as “Japan’s first sumo champion of 19 years.”

Well, guess what, guys.  Wrong.  Japan has had other sumo champions in the 19 years, as you mention.  Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.  There as also (oddly disgraced and scapegoatedAsashoryu as well.  Yes, they were born in Mongolia.  But guess what.  Who cares?

If you do care, does that mean you are subscribing to the racist theory (widely held in Japan, anyway, dating from the days of Akebono and Musashimaru) that because they aren’t Japanese, they don’t count as “real” sumo champions?  (Both Akebono and Musashimaru are naturalized Japanese, by the way, and were when they were yokozuna less than 19 years ago.  How ignorant of you not to mention that.)

Or are you subscribing to the tenet, as the Sumo Association does, that even naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers don’t count as Japanese?

Or are you subscribing to the tenets, as expressed by racist fans below, that sumo has somehow “lost something” because foreign-born wrestlers rose to the top?  Is sumo an ethno-sport?  The Sumo Association tried to make it into into an Olympic event, by the way.  And would that mean if Japanese do not medal, as happens in Japan-originated events such as Judo, that the event has “lost something”?

Foreign reporters, kindly don’t racialize the sport with these types of headlines and reports.  Herald the athletes for their physical prowess regardless of origin.  Because you know better.  Articles like these wouldn’t fly if you were writing about a sport in your home country.  Imagine England claiming (and you reporting as such) that soccer has no real champion every time it doesn’t win a World Cup!  Don’t succumb to a racist narrative just because it comes from Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once more
By Anna Fifield. The Washington Post, January 25, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-19-long-years-japan-has-a-grand-champion-of-sumo-once-more/2017/01/25/

TOKYO — After decades of scandals and humiliation at the hands of Mongolian wrestlers, sumo finally has Japanese grand champion again.

Kisenosato, a 30-year-old, 385-pound wrestler, was promoted Wednesday to the rank of yokozuna, the first time a Japanese competitor has been elevated to the highest tier in sumo in 19 years.

“The position of yokozuna is proof of much hard work and he’ll need to continue to work hard and protect the position like hell,” Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, told reporters when announcing the promotion.

Japan’s national sport has been in decline in recent years, partly the result of a generational shift towards sports like baseball, partly because of the health issues associated with the heft needed to wrestle, and partly because of the increasing dominance of foreigners.

All three of the current yokozuna, whose ranks Kisenosato now joins, come from Mongolia. Competitors from Brazil, Russia, China and even Hawaii have also been doing well in past years.

So Kisenosato electrified Japan at the weekend when he won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, recording 14 wins and only one loss.

Usually, a wrestler is promoted to yokozuna after winning two tournaments, but the Yokozuna Deliberation Council Monday recommended that Kisenosato be elevated to the top rank after only one victory.

The Japan Sumo Association concurred Wednesday, making Kisenosato the first Japanese wrestler to be promoted to grand champion since Wakanohana in 1998.

“Kisenosato to end long drought of Japan-born yokozuna,” a headline in the Asahi newspaper declared. “Hopes are rising that this new Japanese yokozuna will reinvigorate the world of sumo,” a writer said in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Kisenosato had something of a reputation for fragility, failing to come through high-pressure matches on many occasions. But at the tournament on Sunday, something felt different, he said.

“I was not excessively tense and was able to fight while keeping my calm,” he told Japanese reporters. “In addition to my own power, I felt that some different power was working.”

Indeed, Kisenosato has set another record: It took him 89 rounds of tournaments to become yokozuna, the slowest record in modern sumo history. And his victory Sunday came only after two Mongolian yokozuna pulled out of the tournament.

Some worry that Kisenosato has been promoted too quickly or that rules were bent to allow him to reach grand champion status.

“I like Kisenosato. Of course I want to see a Japanese yokozuna! And I believe his stable results in the past six tournaments were wonderful,” Ebizo, a renowned and outspoken kabuki actor, wrote on his blog this week. “But he became yokozuna with only one tournament win. I wonder if this could be an attempt to produce a Japanese yokozuna after such a long time.”

Yuki Oda contributed to this report.

ENDS

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

Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years
BBC, 25 January 2017, courtesy of JDG
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38721106

Japan has formally named its first home-grown sumo grand champion in almost two decades, in a boost to the traditional wrestling sport.

Kisenosato, 30, was promoted to the top-most yokozuna rank after his win in the first tournament of the year.

He is the first Japanese-born wrestler to make it since Wakanohana in 1998. Five wrestlers from American Samoa and Mongolia have made it in the interim.

Foreign wrestlers have come to dominate sumo, amid a lack of local recruits.

Kisenosato, who comes from Ibaraki to the north of Tokyo and weighs 178kg (392 pounds), has been an ozeki – the second-highest rank – since 2012.

After being runner-up on multiple occasions, he finally clinched his first tournament victory – and thereby his promotion to yokozuna – in the first competition of 2017.

“I accept with all humility,” Kisenosato said in a press conference after the Japan Sumo Association formally approved him.

“I will devote myself to the role and try not to disgrace the title of yokozuna.”

What is sumo?
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R) competes against Akebono (L) at the Sumo Basho in Vancouver (file image)Image copyrightAFP
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R), seen here fighting Hawaiian Akebono, was the last Japanese wrestler to be promoted to yokozuna

Japan’s much-loved traditional sport dates back hundreds of years.

Two wrestlers face off in an elevated circular ring and try to push each other to the ground or out of the ring.

There are six tournaments each year in which each wrestler fights 15 bouts.

Wrestlers, who traditionally go by one fighting name, are ranked and the ultimate goal is to become a yokozuna.

Many Japanese fans will be pleased to see a local wrestler back at the top of a sport regarded as a cultural icon.

As yokuzuna, Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, joins three other wrestlers in sumo’s ultimate rank – Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.

The trio all come from Mongolia, following a path forged by sumo bad-boy Asashoryu, who was Mongolia’s first yokozuna in 2003.

The last Japanese-born wrestlers to reach the top were brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana, who made it to yokozuna in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

In recent years, sumo has been hit by falling numbers of Japanese recruits, partly because it is seen as a tough, highly regimented life.

Young sumo wrestlers train in tightly-knit “stables” where they eat, sleep and practise together and are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in the belief that it will toughen them up.

In 2009, a leading coach was jailed for six years for ordering wrestlers to beat a young trainee who later died, in a case that shocked the nation.

Those at the top of the sport are also expected to be role models, showing honour and humility – and can be criticised if they get it wrong.

Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu led the sport for many years, but sumo elders were troubled by some of his behaviour

Sumo must also compete with the rising popularity of football and baseball, which have vibrant leagues that draw crowds of young Japanese fans.

But the sport is attractive to wrestlers from other nations, who can earn a good living. Wrestlers have come from Estonia, Bulgaria, Georgia, China, Hawaii and Egypt, as well as Mongolia and American Samoa.

As a child, Kisenosato was a pitcher in his school’s baseball club before he chose to train as a wrestler at a stable in Tokyo.

He made his debut in 2002 and, reported Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, the 73 tournaments he took to become a yokozuna are the most by any wrestler since 1926.

Speaking to reporters after the tournament victory on Monday that sealed his elevation, Kisenosato said he was pleased to be holding the Emperor’s Cup trophy at last.

“I’ve finally got my hands on it and the sense of pleasure hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words but it has a nice weight to it.”

ENDS

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

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Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing:  Helping NJ help each other.  Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one.  Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes.  It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any.  Fine, but that’s not helpful at all.  Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Group drawing on long-term foreign residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer
The Japan Times, Jan 10, 2017 (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/

Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS).

In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed.

Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

For its part, APFS has organized a series of lectures and workshops that are currently taking place every other Saturday in a community hall in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, in which experts from many different fields discuss topics important to foreign residents. The issues covered include visa problems, labor laws, the welfare system and translation problems. […]

Particularly thought-provoking, she said, was a lecture on Japanese school education, which taught the class that the government essentially discriminates against foreign pupils by not making their enrollment compulsory, but merely “allowing” them to go to public school on a voluntary basis.

“This is the root of many problems, I think,” she said.

Further details are available at http://www.apfs.jp/

Full JT article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/
========================

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Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has talked at length about the “Great Gaijin Massacre of 1992-4,” where National and Public Universities decided to terminate en masse (at the urging of the Ministry of Education) their foreign faculty who were over 35 years old 1) as a cost-cutting measure, and 2) because they could — since most NJ were on contract employment (meaning one could be “fired” through a simple contract non-renewal), while full-time J faculty were almost always employed on permanent non-contracted tenure from day one. “Academic Apartheid” is what respected scholars such as Ivan Hall called it. And conditions have not really gotten better, as (again through government design) more full-time Japanese faculty are being put on contract employment themselves, while far fewer full-time NJ are being granted permanent tenure.

Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed again in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times.  After all these years of service, even less job security awaits. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs
by Hifumi Okunuki
The Japan Times, Nov 27, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

I have discussed the “five-year rule” several times before in this column — the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013. Under the amendment, any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. See my earlier stories for more details, particularly my March 2013 column, “Labor law reform raises rather than relieves workers’ worries.”

The amendment was supposed to give workers more job security. Or at least that is what lawmakers claimed the purpose was. From the start I had my doubts — doubts that are now being borne out.

The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018.

After enactment, some employers put new hires on one-year contracts with a three-renewal limit, or a five-year maximum with no renewal possible afterwards. It seems obvious this was to avoid being restricted by the five-year rule, which is really a “more-than-five-year rule.” Other employers are planning to either change their employees’ working conditions or fire or nonrenew their employees over the coming year, 2017. Again, it seems obvious that their intention is to avoid the new law and thereby violate its job-security spirit.

And this month I’ll name names — or a name in this case. This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

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

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Japan Times column Sept. 5, 2016: “JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views”

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JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views
By Debito Arudou
Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 100
September 5, 2016

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

The day I proposed this column to my editors back in 2008, I knew it would be a hard sell.

Fortunately, I had a track record. I had been writing Zeit Gist articles (45 of them) every two months or so for the Community Page since 2002, and the JT was looking for new ways to serve the community beyond pages commemorating “Swaziland Independence Day” (which is Tuesday, incidentally). International goodwill and advertising revenue are all very well, but what about offering practical information for non-Japanese (NJ) residents making a better life here, or drawing attention to emerging domestic policies that affect them?

So my pitch was that the JT needed a regular columnist on human rights and issues of social justice. And I was convinced there was enough material for a monthly. They weren’t as convinced, and they were especially nonplussed at my suggestion for a column title: “Just Be Cause”!?

But shortly afterwards JBC got the green light, and on March 4, 2008, the first column was published — on why activism is frowned upon in Japan (because it’s associated with extremism). And off we went.

Nearly 10 years and 100 columns later, it is clear that, like the Debito.org archive (started 20 years ago, one of the oldest continuous personal websites on Japan) and daily blog (now 10 years old), JBC is in it for the long haul.

In this special anniversary column, let’s look back at what JBC has covered.  The themes have been, in order of frequency:

(Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/09/04/issues/jbc-marks-100-columns-million-page-views/.)

—————————-

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Ten years of Debito.org’s Blog: June 17, 2006. And counting.

mytest

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Hi Blog. I just wanted to say that today (June 17, 2016) marks the Tenth Anniversary of founding of the Debito.org Blog (as opposed to the Debito.org Website, which has been in existence this year for 20 years).

We’ve done a lot. As of today, Debito.org has 2605 blog posts, 29,537 read and approved comments from Debito.org Readers, and probably around a hundred published articles archived with links to sources here. It has been the archive for at least one Ph.D. research, and cited as the source for many more publications by independent scholars, researchers, and journalists.

The award-winning Debito.org website remains the online domain of record concerning human rights for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities in Japan, and long may it continue.

Sincerely yours, Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  We are celebrating Debito.org’s 20th Anniversary in 2016, so please consider donating a little something.  More details here.

The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uni profs).

mytest

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Hi Blog. This is an update to the Ninkisei Issue within Japan’s Academic Apartheid Education System, where foreign educators are given perpetual contracts. A contracted position may not sound bad to Western ears, but Japan’s tertiary education system (the second largest in the world) generally does not contract full-time Japanese educators. Since most full-time Japanese enjoy permanent tenure from day one of hiring, a contract becomes a term limit only for foreigners. Abuses of the system include “The Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994, where most foreign faculty above the age of 35 in National Universities (kokuritsu daigaku) found their contracts were not being renewed — in a successful attempt by the Ministry of Education to bring in younger, cheaper foreigners. Since these veteran teachers had not paid into overseas pension plans (and decades of Japanese pension payments are nonrefundable), they could not simply “go home”. They got stuck with part-time work with no benefits to pay house loans, fund kids’ college tuition, or fulfill pension plans.

According to Ivan Hall’s CARTELS OF THE MIND (WW Norton, 1998), there are more full-time foreign faculty with permanent tenure in one American university than in all of Japan! Not to mention a systemwide disdain (“academic apartheid”) towards foreign educators regardless of qualification, seeing them merely as cheap disposable labor. See the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions with breathtakingly unequal employment policies, at www.debito.org/blacklist.html

Now for the update.  Let’s see what happened to the survivors a quarter century on. The upshot is that their turn to be fired is now coming. According to labor union expert CF:

================================
“I have given it a nickname – the “2018 Cliff” If you have been working from (April) 2013 continually on renewable contracts, then (March) 2018 will be 5 years of employment, therefore on April 1 2018, if you demand permanent employment, the company must keep you on as permanent – until retirement (albeit on the pre-2018 conditions) from April 2019. To avoid this, companies will be dumping staff before the end of March 2018 to avoid the transfer to permanent status (無期転換). For better or worse, universities and research facilities deadline is 2023, so employees have an extra 5 years’ grace. The Cliff is coming, and many will be pushed off.
================================

COMMENT: So this is what NJ who persevered and contributed the bulk of their working lives to Japanese society, get at the end: An unceremonious dumping onto the job market, with no new place to go, and skills that will not easily transfer to their country of origin. And often before their MINIMUM 25 years (yes!) of required Japan-pension contributions are fulfilled.

People seeking to make a life in Japan: Beware! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

What follows is a discussion that transpired on a labor-rights listserv I subscribe to. Posts are used and redacted with permission:

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

Date: April 4, 2016
From: AB

Now going on three years, I was forced to resign in protest from a ’tenured’ position as an Associate Professor at [Honey Badger Japan] Jr. College. Going on 32 years, over half my life, living continuously in Japan – most of which was spent running from college to college as a hijokin adjunct, a graduate degree in T.E.S.O.L., research and publications, community out-reach work and international volunteer activities … phht … all gone.

How did HB Jr. College. do it? Or more importantly for fellow readers of this listserv, Easy. Here’s how it went down in my case.

Even after 11 years as a tenured full time member of the faculty, my department (only 8 full-timers at most) pretty much excluded me from any decision making processes at the required weekly meetings — and unlike my ethnic Japanese colleagues behavior towards each other, presumed to have the right to micro-manage my classes down to what language I should use in the classroom or in open campus activities, what materials are too easy, too difficult, or too unconventional for ‘my’ classes, and what pedagogic approaches I should use. A colleague (same age, became full-time when I did) opined that even on my weekends, I should first get departmental permission to use my English for volunteer activities … even in support of other departments at HBJC. I had no idea what they did on their weekends, could have been pachinko or Kabukicho for all I knew.

After some years of just shucking and jiving while bearing it all, I finally complained to the Gakucho (Dean), who reassured me that I was hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai. Of course, how could he have said anything other?

I reported this back to my gakka’s shunin (Head of Department) who said:

1 – The current Dean of the school is wrong.
2 – I was hired while under the administration of a previous Dean with different policies, and those unstated policies were still in effect.
3 – The Department will not include volunteer activities in its curricula this year, so I am forbidden to use my office or resources for community outreach activities with the local city government (I was on the board of directors of XXXXX City government’s Kokusai Koryu Kyoukai) and other volunteer activities … four trips (at my own expense) to [an impoverished Asian country] with students from my own school as well as students from other Tokyo colleges, accompanying my students to a local kindergarten to teach English … as well as XXXXX in-house high school, working with Soup no Kai supporting the homeless in Shinjuku, collaborating with an NGO supporting the severely handicapped, and so on. Things that I thought would have been expected for promotion in U.S. universities were expressly forbidden by two successive department chairmen.

I reported the Department Chairman’s opinion to the Dean, particularly comment 3 which seemed contradictory to the school’s raison d’être as stated on their glossy homepage. The Dean disagreed with the department opinion, and once again, reassured me that I am an equal among equals, and it is up to me to just ‘try harder’ to communicate with my colleagues.

I requested a meeting between the Dean and my Department Chairman to decide my status … whatever that might be … along with its attendant rights and obligations. No such meeting was forthcoming, and neither did either indicate any willingness to discuss, much less settle, the issue.

Informed by the Gakubucho (Dean of the Jr. College and also a member of my department) that I was entitled and eligible to take my one year research sabbatical, I parlayed my volunteer activities in [the impoverished Asian country] with [a local institute] to serve as my sponsor, I quit my one part-time job at XXXXXXX University, and just prior to preparing for a year abroad, was presented by the Dean with a one page document, in Japanese, drawn up specifically for me. No other teachers who had taken sabbaticals in HBJC’s over 120 year history had ever been required to sign such a document requiring me to obey ALL school wide rules and attendant obligations, as well as ALL departmental rules and attendant obligations.

I pointed out that those rules and obligations were contradictory and problematic … and that they, themselves, have as yet to have agreed upon my status and obligations. In that meeting with the Gakucho and Gakubucho, I told them that if I sign such a document, according to department rules, I was explicitly forbidden by my department to voluntarily help even my own seminar student prepare for the XXXXXXXXX Speech Contest.  I had been the only one in the school since even before becoming tenured who took personal responsibility for speech contestant preparation.  Her speech was about her first hand experience at a seaside community during the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I asked the Gakucho and the Gakubucho that if I signed the document forbidding me from helping that student, if they would take personal responsibility for that student’s still embryonic speech. I still have a digital recording of that meeting, and the only response you will hear is an awkward silence.

Pressed again to either sign, or not sign, at the risk of losing my sabbatical … I had to make a choice on the spot, either support the student, or support my ‘career’. With no family depending on me to bring home the bacon, I had the luxury of choice, so I refused to sign. Meeting ended. Research sabbatical immediately revoked.

A day or so later, I made a phone call to XXXXXX University explaining my sabbatical had been canceled and inquired whether I might retain my 3 koma one-day a week schedule. ‘Sorry, that position has already been filled’ was the courteous reply.

Later I received a letter from the head of the Board of Directors of HBJC Inc. telling me that as I have demonstrated no willingness or capacity to follow BOTH the school and the department rules, as of the following academic year, I was to be relieved of all rights to teach classes, and report to my office and await forthcoming orders to be later more clearly specified.

In the meantime, I joined a local union, showed up to a few larger union meetings, and talked with a lawyer — who said I would likely win a case against the school, but it would be a long, emotionally costly, pyrrhic victory at best. A year and a half later, a couple of meetings between the school lawyer and my labor union reps, and my allotted medical leave of absence had expired, leaving me with no choice but to either return to the school under the same conditions (no classes, no research sabbatical) … or resign.

In effect, fellow listserv readers, ignore this cautionary tale at your own peril. When push comes to shove, your ‘contract’ is not worth the paper it’s written on.  Thinking that at age 60, with half a life-time experience, I could just start all over again and go back to life as an itinerant hijokin, living year by year. Ha. Can not even get beyond the faceless intercom voice at the new pre-school next door to my apartment to offer my services as an English volunteer (and here I am being led by mass media to believe the day care centers are in crisis mode) — much less even get a single koma of part-time work in Japan.

I will end this post with [this thought]: Earlier tonight, I saw on NHK 7 pm news that Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Dean gave the opening ceremony speech in English … ‘Be positive. Take chances’. What a crock. A goddamn Kabuki show. And followed at 7:30 pm by more Olympics-inspired panem et circenses in place of my beloved Hiroko Kuniya in prime-time ’Close Up Gendai’ … as if a bevy of ambitious cute young things in the late night CUG ‘plus’ will make up for her once or twice in a generation journalistic integrity. Sincerely, AB.

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: CD

AB, it sounds like you were put through hell and back. I’m really sorry to hear it!

I’ve advised a number of people in labor situations over the years, including six people over the last twelve months. To be honest, there seems to be a recent upswing in these kinds of cases, almost to the extent of the great “gaikokujin kyoushi” purge of the 90s. While I have my own theories, I’d be interested in reading other opinions about whether and why this may be happening.

I have a pretty good track record with labor cases, not to mention negotiating experience on both sides of the table. From this perspective, let me offer some general advice:

1) Regardless of the provocation, don’t ever quit (unless of course you have a great new job lined up). Let them fire you instead–being terminated gives you advantages later.

2) While certain things can be required of joukin (aka “tenured”) university faculty–to include both the submission of syllabi and the wording used in said syllabi–many of the things listed in AB’s post (e.g., language of instruction, specific pedagogical approaches and materials) usually cannot be demanded of university joukin. (Part-timers can have less protection.) The only exceptions to this that I know of would be where the language and pedagogical requirements were either known to the applicant before hire or represent standards developed and agreed to by all (to include AB) the joukin faculty responsible for these classes–situations seen mostly with intensive language programs or English-medium instruction (EMI) departments/institutions.

3) Given #2, and assuming that AB really was joukin (hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai), many of the issues described at his workplace fit the government’s definition of Power Harassment (パワハラ).

4) There are several legal remedies available to people in such situations, some expensive and some not so expensive. Regarding the latter, on February 13 in a post to this listserv, I described in detail a FREE (albeit slow) process where the city will fight your employer to stop the Power Harassment (to include even unlawful termination). Again, this process is SLOW–typically, it takes four months to a year to conclude a case. However, I have found it reasonably effective (they usually can negotiate better treatment/employment terms and/or buyouts)… and again it’s free.

5) As alluded to in #2, #3 and #4, the laws here are, to a surprising extent, designed to protect the employee. Moreover, even as a foreign contract worker, you sometimes (e.g., occasionally even in the case of contract non-renewal) have legal protections/recourses available to you that are not available in your home country. Failing to utilize them when wronged is… silly.

6) That said, join a union and try to prepare BEFORE trouble starts. Unions tend not to look favorably upon those who join only after something bad happens. Some will refuse outright to help, while others may be lukewarm in their support. In addition to joining a union, always keep everything (including the advertised copy of your job description and all pertinent emails) and document everything related to your job duties and work performance. While most likely you will never need them, the sad reality in this country is that you never really know. I personally have known foreigners who have had no problems for YEARS–sometimes over twenty years–only to come to work one day and suddenly find that they are no longer wanted.

7) If you need action/results quickly, use a lawyer–preferably one either contacted through your union or specializing in labor issues–and prepare to go to court. Remember that Japanese people DO sue their employers, and such lawsuits are not so rare. At my current university (and department…), there have been three (!) such lawsuits over the last eight years.

8) Know that, regardless of the strength of your case, your lawyer will never promise victory. (Typically, the best they’ll give you is a 50-50 chance if it goes to court.) That said, as I’ve posted numerous times before, your employer almost always does NOT want to go to court–because of the stigma involved in such cases, even winning represents bad publicity. Given this, employers in my experience will almost invariably seek to settle before going to trial.

9) Your employer will most likely lowball you with their first settlement offer and/or try to intimidate you into taking nothing. Now, the amount of settlement you can (should?) receive depends on many factors, including your hiring status (e.g., “joukin” or “ninki-tsuki”), years employed, the strength of your case and employer perception of your ability/willingness to fight. (I have personally found the last to be the most important factor.) That said, with regards to termination and contract nonrenewal cases, while every situation is different (and assuming you are not simply reinstated to your position), I’ve generally seen settlement ranges from four months to twelve months of salary.

Hope this helps! Sincerely, CD

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: EF

At this point I would advise against teachers to stay here after age 50 or even after 45, unless you have tenure. I met a teacher who is 57 and lost his job at [a National University] after 8 years. Seven other teachers were gotten rid of too. He has a Ph.D. in education but can only get part-time work now. I know another teacher in [a city near Tokyo] who has no job and he must be about 58 or 59 now.

At my new job in XXXXX City the form asked whether I want to get paid or even be paid for commuting.  I guess they hope I will work for free. What do they want, retired teachers to just volunteer.  This could be because of money problems. At a national university in Tokyo, with a deficit of 400 million yen, the university decides that the tea machine in the part-time teachers’ room has got to go. This is in Chofu. Sincerely, EF

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

Date: April 15, 2016
From: GH

I would be wary of the idea that universities have an exemption to the five-year rule. There was a big discussion at my university about this last year, and the head of HR and one of the rijis told me that the wording of the exemption is not very clear (surprise surprise!) and that even among national universities, there was disagreement about what it actually means. Apparently, some universities are now taking the limit to be ten years whereas others are playing it safe and assuming it to be five. Wherever you work, it might be a good idea to find out how they are interpreting it.

My grasp of the legislation is not at the level of some of the posters here, but as I understand it, this new law comes with a number of loopholes anyway. For example, universities will still be able to cut part-timers if they are no longer needed because of “changes to the curriculum” regardless of how long they have worked there. A change to the curriculum could be something as minor as a tiny alteration to the name of a class (“the class that teacher taught is no longer offered at our university, so his/her services are no longer required”) so it seems to me that universities could still get rid of someone quite easily if they wanted to.

I think that in a perverse way, the situation will only become clear when the first person takes their institution to court. If / when that happens, all the other institutions will panic and there will be a huge cull. If it never happens, I guess universities will gradually forget about it. As I say, I am most certainly not an expert on this, but this is the situation as it was explained to me by the people in charge at my university. Sincerely, GH

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

Date: April 15, 2016
From: AB

To: ARUDOU, Debito

Hello Debito san,

Maybe you remember our recent exchange in an e-mail saying I was working on my own writing chops to add to the ‘Great Dialog’ of culture … what it means to be a human, what do we mean by ‘education’, and so on. I have been doing so on Quora, and many times, have posted links to your web page to substantiate my more anecdotal arguments. I am grateful for your critical eye and sheer doggedness in providing a much needed source of information that deserves a wider audience.

I am now 60, and apparently locked out of a career track in academia … failing to gain even one koma of part-time work after two years of submitting resumes and showing up for interviews, failing to gain permission to resume doctoral studies at XXXX Japan, and even failing to gain admission to an on-line Master’s Degree course at XXXXXXXX University in the US. As such, I do not have the financial safety-net of any institution at my disposal, and neither do I have the presumption that I will some day regain such institutional protection. And being kanji illiterate, I don’t even know how much I don’t know about Japanese law and what obligations and rights to which I am entitled (similar to my being kept running circles in the dark at HBJC Inc.). Feeling the full force of the Dunning-Kruger effect here.

Despite an abundance of information from your website (and book – bought, but not yet read), and some well-considered and well-meant advice from listserv members, Facebook ‘buddies’, Quora, and even family back in the states … my day to day survival, even my sanity, is sustained by only three things:

1 – A small community made up primarily of a close circle of friends, mostly Japanese — and mostly here in Japan. I think the constraints of Dunbar’s Number has more than a little to do with this.

2 – The new found leisure to read from the great works of the liberal arts tradition as well as more recent STEM oriented material … and write — as therapy. It helps to have at my disposal more than a lifetime’s worth of books, music, movies, and a wall full of video lectures from The Great Courses series.

3 – A stubborn tenacity to stand by the values and beliefs I have gained from the above two.

Kind regards, Debito san. And keep up the good fight.  Sincerely, AB.

ENDS
====================================

Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  We are celebrating Debito.org’s 20th Anniversary in 2016, so please consider donating a little something.  More details here.

April 15, 1996: Twenty years of Debito.org. And counting.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  As of today (JST), Debito.org has been in action for twenty years.

That means two decades of archiving issues of life and human rights in Japan.

After starting out as an archive of my writings as Dave Aldwinckle on the Dead Fukuzawa Society (an old-school open mailing list that once boasted some of the biggest names in Japanese Studies as members, but eventually succumbed to a death by a thousand spammers), Debito.org, with assistance from internet mentors like Randal Irwin at Voicenet, soon expanded to take on various contentious topics, including Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, The Gwen Gallagher Case, The Blacklist (and Greenlist) of Japanese UniversitiesThe Community in Japan, The Otaru Onsens Case, the Debito.org Activists’ Page and Residents’ Page, book “Japanese Only” in two languages, the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments (which became the basis of my doctoral fieldwork), racism endemic to the National Police Agency and its official policies encouraging public racial profiling, the “What to Do If…” artery site, our “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” (now in its 3rd Edition), the overpolicing of Japanese society during international events, the reinstitution of fingerprinting of NJ only at the border, the establishment of the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA), the 3/11 multiple disasters and the media scapegoating of foreign residents (as “flyjin”), the archive of Japan Times articles (2002- ) which blossomed into the regular JUST BE CAUSE column (2008- ), and now the acclaimed academic book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books 2016).

Debito.org has won numerous awards, been cited in publications worldwide, and its work noted in reports from organizations such as the US State Department and The United Nations.  With thousands upon thousands of documents and reference materials, Debito.org remains one of the oldest continuously-maintained websites on Japan.  It is THE website of record on issues of racial discrimination and human rights for Visible Minorities in Japan, and, for some, advice on how to make a better, more stable, more empowered life here.  It has outlasted at least two stalker websites, a faux threat of lawsuit, an insider attempt to artificially set its Google Page Rank at zero, and cyberhackings.  And it will continue to go on for as long as possible.

I just wanted to mark the occasion with a brief post of commemoration.  Thank you everyone for reading and contributing to Debito.org!  Long may we continue.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

P.S. Let us know in the comments section which part(s) of Debito.org you’ve found helpful!

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

Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  We are celebrating Debito.org’s 20th Anniversary in 2016, so please consider donating a little something.  More details here.

“Onsen-Ken Shinfuro Video”: Japan Synchro Swim Team promotes Oita Pref. Onsens — and breaks most bathhouse rules doing so. Historically insensitive.

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  As a bit of a tangent (but only a bit).  Check this out:

https://youtu.be/20ZWZJgixtw

COMMENT:  This is an excellent video featuring the former Japan synchronized swimming team in various hot springs (onsen) around Oita Prefecture.  I have been to some of these myself, and can attest to the magic of both the location and the waters.

BUT

I hate to pee in the pool here, but there are several things happening here that are absolutely impermissible by Japanese standards (in fact, they were cited as reasons for excluding all “foreigners” entry to the baths during the Otaru Onsens etc. Case of 1993-2005):

  1. Making noise in the bathing area.
  2. Splashing about.
  3. Wearing bathing suits in the pool.
  4. Wearing towels in the pool.
  5. Mixed bathing in a non-rotenburo area.
  6. Not washing off one’s body completely before entering (note that they get in dry after only a cursory splash).

If anyone does any of these things in real life, they will probably get thrown out of the bathhouse.  Worse yet, if anyone who DOESN’T LOOK JAPANESE did anything like this, everyone who doesn’t look Japanese (i.e., a “foreigner”) a priori would be denied entry at the door, merely by dint by phenotypical association.  That’s why I have a hard time enjoying this video knowing the history of Japanese public bathing issues, where stone-headed onsen owners looked for any reason to enforce their bigotry on people they thought couldn’t learn Japanese bathhouse rules.

Instead, without any irony whatsoever, we have the Japan synchro swim team breaking most of them.  To raucous applause.  Good thing they didn’t bring in a NJ synchro team to do this stunt — because then “cultural insensitivity” would creep into the mix.

Granted, there is a lengthy disclaimer at the end to say that swimming and bathing suits are not allowed in Japanese baths, and that rules etc. must be followed.  But I still remain grumpy at the lack of historical sensitivity shown towards the “foreigners” who suffered for being refused entry to Japan’s public baths despite following all decorum and rules.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Continuing with historical reflection on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific and the dropping of the atomic bombs, let me turn the keyboard over to Debito.org Reader JK for an interesting insight, this time quite germane to the aims of Debito.org.  Let’s see what ruling gets handed down next month.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

August 11, 2015
JK: Hi Debito. Here’s something you may not have considered — unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims.  From the article below:

“But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers.”

And this:

“Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.”

Finally:

“I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

There’s obviously plenty of fodder here for a blog entry on debito.org, but putting that aside for the moment, there’s something subtle I noticed when reading the article, specifically, this:

2014年6月の大阪高裁判決は、援護法について「国の責任で被爆者の救済を 図る国家補償の性格がある。国外での医療費を支給対象から除外するこ とは合 理的ではない」などと認定。

In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.”

Did you catch it?

It’s this: reasonableness / unreasonableness as the basis for legal opinion (i.e. unreasonable exclusion of foreign medical expenses).

Does this ring a bell for you? I sure hope so!

If not, you may recall the legal opinion of a one Mr. Keiichi Sakamoto with regard to unreasonable discrimination

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

At any rate, here are the references. Regards, JK

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

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150811p2a00m0na005000c.html
Supreme Court likely to rule in favor of Korean A-bomb sufferers over medical costs
The Mainichi Shinbun, August 11, 2015

The Supreme Court has decided to rule Sept. 8 on a lower court decision revoking the 2011 Osaka Prefectural Government’s decision not to cover the medical costs of South Korean survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who received medical treatment in South Korea.

The Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court is likely to uphold the Osaka High Court’s decision on the case as it has not held any hearings necessary to review the high court’s ruling that Japanese authorities must cover all medical expenses for A-bomb sufferers residing abroad.

The plaintiffs are a Korean who returned to South Korea after surviving the Hiroshima atomic bombing and relatives of two other now-deceased Korean A-bomb sufferers. Although the South Korean A-bomb survivors had received an Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Handbook, the Osaka Prefectural Government turned down their applications for provision of medical expenses incurred in South Korea. The plaintiffs have demanded that the Osaka Prefectural Government scrap its decision to refuse to pay them the medical costs, among other requests.

In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.” The Osaka High Court upheld the October 2013 Osaka District Court’s decision that called for payment of all medical costs and turned down an appeal from the Osaka Prefectural Government.

The state has been covering all medical expenses for A-bomb sufferers residing in Japan under the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law. But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers. Such being the case, A-bomb sufferers living abroad have argued that the government’s support for them is not enough.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were about 4,300 A-bomb sufferers living abroad who had an Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Handbook as of the end of March 2015. Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.

The South Korean plaintiffs are likely to win the lawsuit being fought in Osaka over whether the provision for medical expense coverage stipulated in the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law applies to A-bomb sufferers living abroad. Supporters for A-bomb sufferers abroad said A-bomb victims and their bereaved families overseas had felt relieved after hearing the news. But because the district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki handed down opposite rulings over similar lawsuits, supporters for foreign A-bomb victims are calling for quickly removing the disparity in medical support between the victims in Japan and those abroad considering the years passed since the atomic bombings.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Osaka are Lee Hong-hyon, a 69-year-old South Korean man, and relatives of two other South Korean A-bomb sufferers who already passed away. They filed applications with the Osaka Prefectural Government to receive medical expenses incurred in South Korea. But the prefectural government turned down their applications, saying that medical expenses incurred overseas cannot be covered. Therefore, the South Koreans decided to file the lawsuit.

Junko Ichiba, 59-year-old chair of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, conveyed the latest development to the South Korean plaintiffs on the evening of Aug. 10. Ichiba quoted Lee Hong-hyon as saying, “I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

People concerned with the lawsuits in Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed hope that the Osaka case would have a positive effect on the cases in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Keizaburo Toyonaga, a 79-year-old A-bomb sufferer who heads the Hiroshima branch of the “Citizens’ Association for Helping Korean A-bomb Survivors,” said, “I am very pleased. The Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law should be revised as soon as possible.” Nobuto Hirano, co-representative of a Nagasaki-based liaison support group for A-bomb victims overseas, said, “It is good news. The state should revise the system promptly.” The group provides support to plaintiffs in the Nagasaki case.
ENDS

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

在外被爆者医療費:「全額支給」確定へ9月8日最高裁判決
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20150811k0000m040074000c.html

被爆者援護法の医療費支給規定が海外に住む被爆者に適用されるかが争われた訴訟の上告審で、最高裁第3小法廷(岡部喜代子裁判長)は判決期日を9月8日に指定した。高裁の判断を見直す際に必要な弁論を開いておらず、在外被爆者の医療費の全額支給を認めた大阪高裁判決が確定する見通しとなった。

原告は、広島で被爆し韓国に帰国した被爆者や死亡した被爆者の遺族ら。被爆者健康手帳の交付を受けたが、韓国での医療費の支給申請を大阪府に却下され、処分の取り消しなどを求めていた。

2014年6月の大阪高裁判決は、援護法について「国の責任で被爆者の救済を図る国家補償の性格がある。国外での医療費を支給対象から除外することは合理的ではない」などと認定。医療費の全額支給を認めた1審・大阪地裁判決(13年10月)を支持し、府側の控訴を棄却していた。

国は援護法に基づいて、国内の被爆者に医療費を全額支給している。しかし在外被爆者については援護法とは別枠で上限を設けて医療費を助成し、在外被爆者らは「不十分だ」と訴えていた。

厚生労働省によると被爆者健康手帳を持つ在外被爆者は3月末現在で約4300人。広島、長崎両地裁でも同種の訴訟が起こされていたが、在外被爆者側の請求を棄却(いずれも控訴)しており、司法判断が分かれていた。【山本将克】

mainichi081015

ENDS

==========================================
— UPDATE: GOOD NEWS. DEBITO

Supreme Court rules hibakusha overseas are entitled to full medical expenses
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, SEP 8, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/08/national/crime-legal/supreme-court-rules-hibakusha-overseas-entitled-full-medical-expenses/

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting to my next Japan Times JBC Column 90, disputing the discourse that people 1) have to “look Japanese” in order to be “Japanese”, and 2) cannot be Japanese AND something else (such as a different nationality, “race”, or ethnicity).  I make the case that many things such as these, once ascribed from birth, are now a matter of personal choice — and that person must claim it (in the face of constant identity policing) in order to own it.

As noted in the column, this think piece is grounded in a debate I had earlier this month regarding an incident with a bank teller in Canada who expressed incredulity at me having a Japanese passport.  Thanks for making it the most-read article on the JT Online for two days again this month.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

PS:  Sneak preview of the article’s illustration, by Adam Pasion:

DebitoJT0803151

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more

By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE column 90 for the Japan Times Community Page
August 3, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/02/issues/claiming-right-japanese/ 

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

I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship.

It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment.

“What an unusual name. Where are you from?”
Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty).
Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.”

Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?”
“I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.”
Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.)

Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while.

I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Afterwards, I asked the teller (an Asian gentleman), “How would you like it if you produced a Canadian passport and I said, ‘That’s funny; you don’t look Canadian’?” He said, not much, and apologized.

There are a few important details to this story I don’t have space for (see www.debito.org/?p=13381), but the conclusion was that the manager sent the teller home for the day (a surprise to me, as I never asked for any sanction) and then invited me to his office for a chat.

“I understand your frustration,” said the manager, “because I am Metis.” He was referring to his official minority status in Canada as a descendent of First Nation aboriginals and colonial settlers.

“I hate it when people I’m doing business with tell me that I don’t ‘look Metis,’ even after I show my status card.” He said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable at his bank, and in Canada.

Refreshed by this experience, I blogged and Facebooked about this no-nonsense zero tolerance. And then the topic blew up in my face.

Some readers wrote in to say I had overreacted. Instead of jumping straight to “racism,” I could have defused things with a quick explanation of my background or a joke.

Others said that I was defying common sense. A white guy with a Japanese passport expecting no surprise? Unreasonable. (Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.)

The critics that really got my goat were those that expressed disgust at my acting so “un-Japanese” (as in, not avoiding conflict) and went on say that, to them, I no longer qualified as a Japanese. (I unfriended them because that’s pretty thoughtless. By their logic, I could murder somebody and still qualify, since some Japanese do murder.)

The most interesting argument accused me of exercising my “white privilege”: “You get to be white and Japanese? You’ve taken this too far!” I had victimized the Asian teller because I had the power in this relationship as a white in Canada’s white-dominated society. (The critic’s thoughtful essay and my answer are archived at www.debito.org/?p=13404.)

For the record, I don’t doubt the existence of white privilege. (You can even find an example on our Community pages: Gregory Clark’s Dec. 4, 2014 “Kick out the touts who rule Roppongi” Foreign Agenda column.) I acknowledge that I have received advantageous treatment worldwide due to my lighter skin color and white background.

But the two of us parted paths at the point where the critic said I could not be “white and Japanese.” I do not believe that they are mutually exclusive. (Neither does Japan: In apartheid South Africa, Japan successfully lobbied to be Japanese and “honorary whites”.)

I’m Japanese and white because I earned it — through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, living and contributing to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.

I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it. I am not Japanese but white. I’m claiming the “and.”

So why write a column about this? After all, I got myself onto this sticky wicket by naturalizing into a country with few “non-Asian-looking” citizens.

Because this goes beyond me. What about the people who didn’t have a choice — like our Japanese kids?

It shouldn’t be an issue. They are Japanese children, full stop. And they can be something else yet 100 percent Japanese. It’s not a zero-sum game. (That’s why I am not a fan of the term hāfu.) I say claim the “and.” For them.

Mountains out of molehills? OK, how will you react the 100th time (or the fifth time in a day) that you hear, “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” Will you stand idly by when people openly doubt your kids’ identity as they grow up and risk being denied equal opportunities in society?

We’re fully formed adults — we can take these sucker punches — but kids need someone in their corner, pushing for their right to be diverse yet belong.

The push must happen until the point where the surprise is switched around — into shock at someone daring to imply that a citizen or resident with a surprising background is not a “real” or “normal” member of society.

Admittedly, careless comments from individuals are not something you can immediately fix, but alienating attitudes about people’s identities should not be expressed in a corporate or official capacity. To anyone. Anywhere. That’s where the push starts.

Don’t get me wrong: People can think what they like. But if they articulate thoughts inaccurate, unkind or alienating about us or the people we care for, we should reserve the right to push back accordingly — and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere.

But let’s come down from ideals and return to the bank counter. The main issue there was not the law of averages determining “normal” or “triggers” or “privilege.” It was one of self-identification.

Pause for a second and take stock of where things are going these days: Somebody can self-identify as Japanese and African-American, and represent Japan at the Miss Universe contest (like Ariana Miyamoto). Or be male and then female or vice versa (like Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and Lana Wachowsky). Or be LGBT and married. Or, like Rachel Dolezal, be white and “culturally black” enough to head a chapter of America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

A future is emerging where the major social statuses assigned us from birth — e.g., gender, “race,” nationality, even ethnicity — are breaking down. They can be a matter of personal choice.

That’s a good thing. With the unprecedented porosity of international borders nowadays, the notion of a “normal” person is ever eroding. That’s why I believe that anyone should be allowed to shape, control and, yes, claim their own identity.

Now, you might think that Japan, the island society, is unaffected by these trends. I would disagree. As I describe in my forthcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” the pressure of Japan’s aging demographics is unrelenting. If Japan cannot get over the conceit of having to “look Japanese” to be treated as one, then it cannot make “new Japanese,” and the country will continue to sink into an insolvent economic abyss.

Thus, if our Japanese kids cannot self-identify, hundreds of thousands of them (eventually millions, as people continue mixing) will spend their lives having their identities policed back into being “foreign,” not fitting in when they should be welcomed for all their potential as individuals with more worldly insights.

Let’s knock off the identity policing. Stop telling people who they are. Let them tell us. Let them claim the “and.”

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

Debito’s 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

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

mytest

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

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

Not Japanese Enough? Miss Universe Japan looks to fight prejudice
July 25, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20150725p2g00m0fe023000c.html

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

Because of her darker skin she was criticized online for “not being Japanese enough” and there were those who wanted to know why a “pure” Japanese had not been chosen.

Even Ariana had her doubts when she was declared the winner out of 44 finalists. “Is it really all right that it’s me?” was her first reaction. She admits she worried a lot about what people thought.

But when she came to see that there were far more people supporting her than putting her down, she became brighter about the future and the kind of role she could play. “I’d like to participate in movements that fight against racism and stereotypes,” she says.

“My mother is Japanese and my father is African-American. Probably that’s why I got so much attention,” Ariana says with a laugh. Some of her classmates in Sasebo, Nagasaki, used to bully her, saying things like, “Don’t swim in the same pool ’cause your skin will rub off on me.”

As a biracial child wondering where she should fit in, Ariana would frequently turn to her mother, who would encourage her by saying, “Everyone envies you for your beauty.”

Ariana’s parents divorced when she was very young. When she went to the United States to visit her father, she felt comfortable because she found people of many different ethnicities.

After attending a local high school in Arkansas for two years, she returned to Japan. Arriving at Narita airport, she said she was shocked to discover how really Japanese she felt. Every Japanese sign she saw made her feel she was back home.

In a world where racial discrimination and hate speech show no signs of abating, whether in Charleston, South Carolina where nine African-Americans were gunned down in a church, or streets in Shin-Okubo in Tokyo where discrimination is aimed at ethnic Koreans, she wants to make a difference.

Taking advantages of her new fame as Miss Universe Japan, she hopes in the future to campaign for a Japan and a world without prejudice. “I think Japan is showing some signs of change. We see more and more ‘haafu’ (biracial) TV personalities coming onto the scene. I think we can really change,” Ariana said.

Ariana is still unsure about the exact role she will play.

“Now I’m concentrating to be fully prepared for the Miss Universe world event which will take place sometime in 2015. I wish I can participate in some activities to raise awareness and fight against racial discrimination after that.”

The date for the Miss Universe contest, the international beauty pageant owned by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who himself is embroiled in controversy over racially insensitive remarks he made about Mexican immigrants, has not yet been decided.

Hopefully, Ariana’s victory in Japan is a signal that Japanese society is opening to accept more diversity. An added bonus is the pride she will feel by representing her country in the same light when she steps on the world stage.

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Okay, a few points:

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

2) The article is better than many (for example this one or this one) because it doesn’t have the “Duhhhh, duhhhh, she’s just soooo beautiful…!” fawning objectification that a lot of the stunned (male) reporters do when discussing her role and her future.  However,

3) The article is basically bog-standard in terms of talking about Miyamoto, with no new news that hasn’t been reported elsewhere.  One might say that it’s good that her voice is making a Japanese newspaper.  But it really didn’t.  This article didn’t appear in the Japanese version of the Mainichi.  There is no link provided to the Japanese version like it is for other articles on the site (well, it is a Kyodo wire services article, not done by Mainichi reporters; and that’s also indicative).  A search of the Mainichi revealed that it was basically sequestered to a foreign-language-reading audience.  Once again, it’s basically showcase boilerplate for the Gaijin without making a domestic dent.

Anyway, Debito.org wishes Miyamoto-san well.  I hope that she doesn’t get ground down by the boredom of the same questions over and over again, by the nasty people who police her identity, or by the frustration she may soon feel when she realizes that her optimism about Japan changing was just her being youthful.

Given that her narrative about fighting racial discrimination is basically only showing up in the foreign-language media, the only way I see her really making a change is if she wins Miss Universe.  Then of course Japan and the media will fall all over themselves to claim her as “Japanese” (as they do Nobel Prize winners who move overseas and take foreign nationalities).  And then she’ll have greater leverage.  For that reason, among others, I hope she does win.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times Just Be Cause 89, “Media redraw battle lines in bid for global reach”, on Fuji network’s acquisition of Japan Today.com, July 6, 2015

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Hi Blog. Coming out tomorrow is my latest Japan Times column. Opening paragraphs:

justbecauseicon.jpg

============================================
Media redraw battle lines in bid for global reach
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, July 6, 2015
JUST BE CAUSE column 89 for the Japan Times Community Page

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/07/05/issues/media-redraw-battleines-bid-global-reach/ 

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.

Over the past 15 years, for example, they have run articles grossly exaggerating foreign crime (see “Generating The Foreigner Crime Wave”, Japan Times, Oct. 4, 2002), a column claiming that Chinese had criminal “ethnic DNA” (May 8, 2001, written by regular columnist and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro “let’s fight a war with China” Ishihara) and an opinion piece by Ayako Sono on Feb. 11 that praised the racial segregation of South African apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy.

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).

That’s why GPlus Media’s buy-up matters. This is an era of micromanagement of any media criticism of Japan (even NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii on Feb. 5 admitted publicly on that his network will not report on contentious subjects until the government has “an official stance”; in other words, NHK is now a government mouthpiece). Meaning this buy-up is another outsider’s voice being effectively silenced — and another rightist platform empowered.

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.

According to MediaWeek, the Nikkei bought into U.K. media group Monocle in 2014 in order to, according to its CEO, “further boost its global reach.” In June, Monocle declared Tokyo “the world’s most livable city,” and Japan Today dutifully headlined this as news. All purely coincidence, of course.

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: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Post #2500: Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall’s speeches at the opening of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots exhibit aboard USS Missouri, Apr 10 and 11, 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. To celebrate Debito.org’s 2500th Blog Post (not including all of the other sites for example here, here, and here in the ten years before the blog was established), I am proud to have the privilege of putting up two important speeches by friend and colleague Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall of Shizuoka University, author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze” (Penguin, 2005)

These speeches were given on April 10 and 11, 2015, to commemorate the opening of a temporary exhibit of historical artifacts and records of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots. This important exhibition is currently below decks for at least the next six months aboard the USS Missouri (yes, the site where Japan surrendered and ended WWII), anchored at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. It is open to the public, featuring things from the Chiran Peace Museum near Kagoshima, Kyushu, never before seen outside of Japan. I was in attendance at both events, and it made several US newspapers (the front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription only), on Hawaii NewsNow, and the Los Angeles Times, inter alia) as well as some Japanese media. The ceremony itself took place on the 70th Anniversary of a suicide pilot colliding with the Missouri (its bomb did not explode), with many people on both sides of the Pacific in attendance.

BuckySpeaksMissouri041015

I’ll let Bucky tell the rest of the story. First the shorter speech of April 11, then the longer one with more context and intents of April 10. Read and have a think about how some people are wresting control of Japan’s wartime narrative into a less jingoistic direction. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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SPEECH BY MAYOR SHIMO-IDE OF CHIRAN, MINAMI-KYUSHU CITY, KAGOSHIMA. TRANSLATED AND READ BY DR. M.G. “BUCKY” SHEFTALL
USS MISSOURI, HONOLULU, HAWAII, APRIL 11, 2015

戦艦ミズーリ記念館 セレモニー 市長挨拶
Ladies and gentlemen, Aloha, good morning, ohayo gozaimasu.
First, on behalf of the city of Minamikyushu, Japan, I would like to thank the Battleship Missouri Memorial and its staff for giving us this opportunity to exhibit artifacts from our city’s collection of kamikaze pilot letters and personal effects in this historic and symbolic place.

Seventy years ago, our two nations were at war with one another. 
Seventy years ago to this very day, on April Eleventh, Nineteen Forty-Five, a nineteen-year-old Japanese kamikaze pilot crashed his aircraft into this ship — only a few yards from where I am standing. But even in the midst of bitter war, even as lookouts scanned the skies for more attackers, the captain and crew of the Missouri held a military funeral for the dead pilot with honor and respect.

Seventy years ago, the captain and crew of the USS Missouri were able to recognize humanity shared with a fallen enemy. I believe that spirit lives on in this ship, and that it is what allows us to gather here today on the occasion of the opening of the first exhibit on kamikaze history ever held outside of Japan, triumphant over the bitterness and hatred our nations had for one another in a past still within living memory.

In the last months of the war – a war which started with an attack by Japan upon this very spot in 1941 – our town saw off many, many kamikaze missions. It is regrettable that we cannot undo a past in which our two countries were once at war. But now, seventy years later, through this historic exhibit at the Battleship Missouri Memorial, we are provided with an opportunity to stand together steadfastly and look back upon that past in a spirit of reconciliation and mutual understanding.

President John F. Kennedy once said “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”All of us gathered here today, and everyone else on this planet, wants peace on earth. And certainly, all of us share from the bottom of our hearts the hope and the prayer that the human race never again sees a war on the scale of destruction and ferocity of the bitter conflict between our two countries seventy years ago. I sincerely believe that this exhibit represents a step, even though maybe only a small step, in the cause of peace not only for our countries, but also for East Asia and the world as a whole.

Finally, I would like to thank the president, curator and staff of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and everyone else who, through their patience, cooperation and great efforts, have helped to make this exhibit possible. Together with my prayers for the success of the exhibit, I also offer my sincerest gratitude. Thank you.
ENDS
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Kamikaze Lecture April 10, 2015
Written and delivered by Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall
USS Missouri, Honolulu, Hawaii

Ladies and gentlemen, Aloha, and mahalo for inviting and joining me here this evening. I would like to give a special mahalo to the hard work and generous hospitality of the Battleship Missouri Memorial staff in providing this spectacular and profoundly historic and symbolic venue for my talk, in which I will try to put into appropriate context two events of direct relevance to why we are gathered here on the fantail of this legendary warship.

One of these events involved a 19-year-old man – a boy, really – named Setsuo Ishino crashing a Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane in a kamikaze attack against this ship, hitting it about twenty yards from where I stand, exactly seventy years ago to the day tomorrow. I have spent the past fifteen years of my academic career attempting to figure out why thousands of sane, rational young Japanese men like Ishino did what they did, and were able to do what they did, in 1944-45. And make no mistake about it, as you will see when you read their letters later on when we go belowdecks to see the exhibit, these young men WERE sane and rational – I believe it was rather the circumstances into which they were thrown in 1944-45 that were insane, and irrational.

I have also studied why and how those young men could be ordered to do what they did by ostensibly sane and rational senior military professionals.

Likewise, I have tried to figure out how the populace of an entire nation – in full knowledge via Japanese state mass media at the time of exactly what the “kamikaze” concept entailed, in all of its tragic, gruesome details – could cheer the kamikaze pilots on for the last ten months of the war, sure to the very end that the kamikaze campaign waged by both the Imperial Army and Navy was sure to miraculously rescue them and bring the nation a glorious victory even as Japan’s cities were being burned to the ground every night by American B-29s. To put that era of magical thinking in sharper perspective, during the ten months that constant news headlines and stirring radio broadcasts about the kamikaze gave the Japanese nation the will and hope to keep fighting on in their lost war, approximately half of Japan’s two million military fatalities in the entire conflict and the vast majority of its civilian fatalities were suffered.

In the limited time we have this evening, I hope I can shed at least a little light upon – and do justice to the weight of – the extremely complex issues related to the kamikaze phenomenon, none of which can in any case be explained with single, simple answers.

The second relevant event I would like to put in proper context is about to happen, also tomorrow, and also on this ship, but several decks below the spot where young Setsuo Ishino’s Zero hit the Big Mo. And here, I am of course referring to the “kamikaze artifacts” exhibit featuring letters, uniforms, and other personal effects of kamikaze pilots – the first exhibit of its kind ever held outside of Japan – that will open here at the Battleship Missouri Memorial tomorrow morning.

Before proceeding, I would like to make a note regarding terminology. I am aware that the term “kamikaze” is pretty much standard around the world – outside of Japan, that is, where it is eschewed for various reasons – for describing the late-war Japanese military tactic of the deliberate crashing of aircraft into targets. However, in the interest of historical accuracy, of avoiding stereotypes fossilized by decades worth of lurid Sergeant Rock comic books and tacky slang usage, and most importantly, at least for me, in the interest of ease of elocution, for the rest of my talk, instead of the term “kamikaze”, I am going to use the phrase “tokkō”, which is a Japanese abbreviation of the euphemistic military expression “tokubetsu kōgeki” or “special attack”. So, from hereon out, it’s not “kamikaze”, but “tokkō”. Everyone on board with that?

So, let’s move on to what I’m pretty sure is the first question about tokkō that is probably at the front of everyone’s mind this evening, NAMELY, “Why did they do it?” That is a simple and quite reasonable question to which there are, unfortunately, and at risk of repeating myself, no simple and reasonable single answers. This issue is so complex that, in my fifteen-odd years of study dedicated to it, I think I have barely scratched its surface, and I doubt I will ever figure it all out. Actually, I doubt anyone ever will or can. Nevertheless, I will try to share with you now a summary of some of the fruits of all of that surface-scratching the Japanese taxpayer has been paying me to do for the past fifteen years.

First and foremost, tokkō should be approached from the perspective of brute military expedience. By the time the Japanese military began deploying tokkō, it had already endured a nearly two-year-long steady stream of military defeats and setbacks since the heady period of initial Japanese successes in the first 12 months of the war.

One specific development in the overall dire military situation which had direct influence on the eventual deployment of tokkō was Japan’s near complete loss of air superiority – or even anything approaching air parity — in just about every theater of operations against Allied forces from at least early 1943 on. This loss of air superiority extended to the Japanese Home Islands themselves by late 1944. This turning of the tide of the Pacific war in the air can in large part be credited to new American fighter designs such as the Grumman Hellcat which were not only superior to but in fact specifically designed to destroy the previously overwhelmingly dominant Japanese fighter types. But most credit in this case must be given to the sheer economic and strategic inevitability of what was bound from the start to happen to Japan’s war fortunes when America’s industries tooled up to full war emergency power, so to speak, and the American populace mobilized itself psychologically and steeled itself emotionally for a long, brutal fight against a determined enemy the final outcome of which was nevertheless never in question even when oil fires and burning warships blackened the skies over this very spot on December 7, 1941.

Of course, in an aviation-dominated conflict such as the Pacific Theater, the loss of air superiority was, at the risk of gross understatement, a critical setback for the Japanese military – particularly the Imperial Navy and Merchant Marine, upon which the new Japanese Empire was even more dependent than the old British Empire had been upon its own maritime resources. Without the ability to put up a decent fight in the air, Japanese forces could neither take the fight to the enemy nor adequately defend themselves when the enemy took the fight to them – something that was happening with increasing frequency and intensity from early 1943 on. When Japanese surface vessels sortied out to close for combat, they were as often as not sunk by Allied aircraft before they ever saw an enemy warship. Without the ability to put up solid resistance in the air, the Japanese military could neither stop nor even significantly slow down the Allied fleets that were breaching the ramparts of the Japanese Empire on all fronts and beginning to close in on the Japanese Home Islands themselves by late 1944, when the tokkō tactic made its official debut at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October of that year.

When Western writers attempt to address the issue of tokkō, their approach all too often has a vaguely patronizing, Rudyard Kipling-esque, almost touristy feel to it – a tendency to draw facile parallels to the samurai ethos and the like – lots of misty imagery of mountaintop Zen temples and harakiri scenes and purple prose about cherry blossoms and such – in other words, to write the tokkō phenomenon off to a case of some kind of exotic, inscrutable Japanese weirdness. I do not approve of this trope in Western writing on the subject of tokkō, and have always tried to avoid it unless I am mentioning it in the specific case of wartime Japanese propaganda’s prodigious efforts to sell the tokkō concept to the general public and to the military rank-and-file using similarly flowery and self-exoticizing imagery – portraying tokkō as something springing up naturally from some native, ancient, magical samurai spirit in the Japanese soul – as opposed to being something mapped out as a desperation tactic in a naval planning room and ordered to be performed by adolescent pilots who had no choice in the matter of their personal fate. Yes, if I were a 1944 Japanese propagandist tasked with selling the tokkō concept to the Japanese public, I certainly would have opted for the misty mountain cherry blossom samurai imagery, too. As stirring PR, it’s brilliant.

So, minus all of the “East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet” boilerplate, and keeping our emotive adjectives and adverbs to a bare minimum, what was tokkō was all about?:

From October 1944, the Imperial Japanese military – choosing to continue fighting in a combat environment in which air superiority had been completely and irretrievably ceded to the enemy – began fielding what were, in dispassionate, brutally frank terms of intended tactical utility, guided anti-ship missiles. The technology that could be applied to these “guided missiles”, however, was limited to what was available to the Japanese military in 1944-45.

Technological limitations, the exigencies of a rapidly deteriorating tactical and strategic situation, and perhaps, the temptation of having on hand a ready supply of young men that were – thanks to three generations of intensive state education for this very role – capable of any sacrifice (or at least incapable of refusing orders to make any sacrifice) for their cause – all had direct bearing on the decision to commit to tokkō. With the luxury of such human resources at hand, Japanese planners reached the conclusion that a human brain and body – i.e., a pilot – comprised the most pragmatic and effective option available for the target acquisition and guidance control system necessary for this anti-ship missile, while a bomb-laden high performance military aircraft was regarded as the most practical choice for its ballistic component. “Successful” deployment of the weapon, of necessity, involved the inevitable destruction of the human “guidance system” when the “missile” was crashed into its target – generally an Allied warship. The Japanese military had these resources at hand in 1944-45, and they were used to pursue the war effort.

Now, all of this raises a second very important question, namely, “Did anyone in Japan try to stop the decision to go all out on tokkō tactics?” There was, initially, a measure of opposition within the military to the expenditure of human lives in such a horrific manner – even Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, who would go on to be the first flag officer to give tokkō orders in the field, went on record in a high level Tokyo naval strategy meeting as being opposed to using men and aircraft in this manner when the concept – which Ohnishi initially called tōsotsu no gedō or “military apostasy” — first began getting airtime in high-ranking naval circles after major defeats at Guadalcanal and the Aleutians.

However, the general panic in the wake of the fall of Saipan in 1944 – now putting Japan itself within range of B-29 bases which could not be neutralized by Japanese land forces (unlike US bases in China) – the success of the tokkō tactic’s debut at Leyte Gulf, and perhaps of equal importance, the extreme ingroup conformity and groupthink that characterized Japanese military culture of the era, are all factors that contributed to the silencing of most would-be critics of tokkō. From then on until the end of the war it was acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of field commanders in both the Imperial Navy and Army that the new “guided anti-ship missile” was capable of accuracy and destructive power far greater than what was by then considered obtainable with conventional air tactics against superior Allied forces. As the thinking at the time went, if all of the nation’s military pilots were going to be killed anyway in lopsidedly unequal air combat, why not make their deaths count by striking powerful blows against the enemy? So tokkō was used. And once tokkō entered the public imagination via the mass media, with the military now so publicly and irreversibly committed to the tactic, no one had the nerve to try to stop the whole catastrophic process once it was set in motion. Not even the Emperor himself, who is reported to have stood and solemnly bowed in the direction of the Philippines when told the news of the first “official” tokkō deployment at Leyte Gulf.

And as far as the general populace was concerned? As I intimated previously, the tokkō pilots were collectively presented to the public – and received rock star-like adoration from that public – as dashing young heroes. The mass media record of the era makes unquestionably clear that there was a huge amount of public support for tokkō – both of the sincere and, one suspects, prudent lip-service variety – while the war was going on. No one questioned the tactic, or the sacrifice, or the meaning of it all in wartime Japanese print or broadcast.

For the most part, young, usually unmarried pilots with little or no previous combat experience carried out the tokkō missions. By war’s end, some 5,843 of these young men, many if not most as “volunteers” in name only, had died in tokkō attacks (the vast majority of these aerial tokkō attacks as opposed to manned torpedoes or suicide motorboats) that sank or damaged over 200 Allied ships and killed or wounded approximately 15,000 Allied servicemen, also resulting in the highest rate of psychological casualties – then referred to as “combat fatigue”, and what would today be referred to as PTSD – ever seen before or since in the history of the American armed forces.

So, what do the Japanese think of the tokkō legacy now?

Even though tokkō casualties amounted to less than one percent of the total Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) aviation casualties and only a slightly higher fraction of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) aviation casualties during the war, the tokkō legacy has continued to be a tremendously symbolic and emotionally powerful feature of the postwar Japanese psychological landscape. The existence of a Japanese institution such as the Chiran Peace Museum, which has cooperated in putting together the exhibition here, is proof of the symbolic and emotional power the tokkō legacy continues to have in Postwar Japan, and proof, perhaps, that this legacy has yet to be completely worked out in popular Japanese historical consciousness. This is true not only for Japanese whose lives were personally and directly affected by tokkō during the war, but I think for all other Japanese since. While it is clear that tokkō was and continues to be something of which millions of Japanese are proud (and one suspects this sentiment is publicly expressed with varying degrees of sincerity and conviction, and privately embraced with varying degrees of cognitive dissonance involved), it is also clear that the tokkō legacy poses a weighty belief dilemma in Japanese discourse regarding national identity – both during and since the war.

Specifically, the essentially overlapping legacies of tokkō-as-historical legacy and tokkō-as-real-time-official military policy have posed particularly hard questions in the following areas: firstly, about the moral implications for those involved in conceiving, carrying out and or otherwise supporting the tokkō campaign in real-time; secondly, about how the tokkō legacy will and SHOULD be treated by historical posterity; and lastly, about how this legacy should be explained (if at all) to current and future generations of Japanese young people. The tokkō legacy might even be said to raise – and I believe it should be ALLOWED to raise – hard questions about the nature and responsibility of a society and political system under which such a tactic could be conceived and executed by its leadership, unquestioningly obeyed by the military rank-and-file, and enthusiastically supported to the degree that it was by that society’s members.

Frankly, I do not think most Japanese want to see Japan become a country like that again – either willingly, out of some kind of misguided cultural nostalgia, or forced to become so by circumstance – with the nation backed into a corner again like it was in 1944-45. And I KNOW no OTHER country wants to see Japan become like that again. The efforts, cooperation, generosity, and moral courage of the city of Minamikyushu and its Chiran Peace Museum in helping to put this exhibition together at Big Mo are proof aplenty that there are movements afoot in Japan to begin the necessary and long overdue process of negotiating explanatory narratives about Japan’s war experience that are acceptable not only for certain domestic Japanese niche audiences, but which are acceptable globally, as well, including with former enemies the loathing and fear of whom still exist in living Japanese memory. These developments and the aspirations for world peace they entail can ONLY have positive consequences for Japan, for the region of East Asia, and for Japan’s national image around the world. It is win-win for everyone involved. Through this reaching out to a former enemy in this literally historically unprecedented exhibit, Chiran is blazing a trail – it is showing the rest of Japan – and ALL OF US – how it can be done, how a commitment to remembering the past can and must put to rest, once and for all, simmering, lingering resentments and hatred about that past. And we are all the better off for these efforts. As you join me below decks later, I ask that you keep that idea in your mind as we explore this exciting new exhibit, and to also keep in mind the idea that you can acknowledge another human being’s humanity and honor his memory and sacrifice without being compelled to glorify, rationalize, or romanticize the cause for which he was sacrificed or, and this certainly applies in this case, without being compelled to attempt to glorify, rationalize, or otherwise romanticize the manner in which that sacrifice was made. Captain William Callaghan and the crew of the USS Missouri taught us as much not twenty yards away from where we are gathered, 69 years and 363 days ago. It is a lesson we should never forget. Thank you for your attention this evening.

ENDS

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

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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

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The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth
By MINDY KOTLER
The New York Times, NOV. 14, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/opinion/comfort-women-and-japans-war-on-truth.html

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.

Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

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.”

Professor Ziegler met with JBC on Feb. 17

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Read the interview at The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/03/04/issues/u-s-author-recounts-lecture-got-comfort-women-uninvited-japanese-guests/.  A fuller version will be up at The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus (www.japanfocus.org) in a few days, with more information on how the GOJ pressured Dr. Ziegler and how Japan’s neighbors responded.

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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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

ENDS

UPDATEFuller interview with Dr. Ziegler now up at the Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”

mytest

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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.)

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Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
RocketNews, January 23, 2015
Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
Courtesy of lots of people

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.

“Zero incentive”

“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.”

ENDS
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COMMENT:  Wow.  “Slave” Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan’s corporate behemoths (yes, he sued — millions of people do in Japan every year — and he won!), but also he wouldn’t settle for life in Japan as it is.  He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan’s insularity (and governmental mind control!?).  Pretty brave and bracing stuff.  Bravo.

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

Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

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Hello Blog. Here’s something that might go relatively unnoticed unless we bring it up here at Debito.org:

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Go master Seigen Go dies
The Yomiuri Shimbun
December 01, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001757079, courtesy of JK.

Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100.

Funeral services will be held with only close relatives in attendance, but a more public farewell ceremony is expected to be held at a later time.

Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.

In 1933, Go and fifth-dan player Minoru Kitani announced a new strategy focusing on the center of the board, which has become the basis of modern go strategy.

Go dominated professional circles until his retirement in 1984, waging fierce battles with top players.
ENDS

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

Why does this matter to Debito.org? As submitter JK notes:

Hi Debito: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).

Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

mytest

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Hi Blog. I want to say thank you to everyone who read this and made it the the #1 most-read article at the JT Online for two days, and again for a number of days later!  Dr ARUDOU, Debito:

justbecauseicon.jpg
TIME TO BURST YOUR BUBBLE AND FACE REALITY

By Debito Arudou
JBC 82 for the Japan Times Community Page
December 4, 2014

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/

I want to open by saying: Look, I get it.

I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. You might even have believed that people are governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan.

You don’t. Unless you marry an elite whose family funds your whims, you’ll discover that as you get older, opportunities narrow and doors close.

The first major life stage might be getting married — so easy to do here. Then you’d better lose the Peter Pan lifestyle and find a way to support your sudden kids. Or you’ll never see them again after the divorce.

Then you finally land that steady job that might lead to a career. But it’s hard enough nowadays for Japanese in their 20s and 30s to land secure employment (let alone climb the corporate ladder), so why should Johnny Foreigner cut in? Even if you manage to, people often assume tokenism and don’t take you seriously. The bamboo ceiling is pretty impenetrable.

But what about your trusty Genki Gaijin shtick? You’ll look jolly silly doing it as a geriatric, playing the perpetual dancing monkey, never the organ grinder.

Finally, as is true for everyone in Japan, the older you get, the less wriggle room you have in your career. Good luck comfortably changing jobs in your 40s or 50s. Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders. NJ OBs in powerful positions? Unlikely.

Part of that is by design: Enough NJ live the life of Riley and assume the future will take care of itself. After all, for their fellow unambitious and unobtrusive Japanese corporate drones, it will; except that they will likely live a pre-designed, boring and “normal” workaday life taken care of by the state.

But for NJ, given the recent court decision about their welfare benefits, the perpetual weakness of their contract employment, and employers not paying into their pension systems with impunity, a “normal” career is not at all guaranteed. NJ have to be vigilant at an age when everyone else seems to be partying.

Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.

This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them. After all, what self-respecting Japanese wants some NJ as their senpai (senior) in the workplace? Suddenly, despite following all the rules, NJ didn’t get the same rewards.

So, after a quarter-century in Japan, I get it. And here’s what you oughta get by now:

If NJ don’t do something outside the bubble they’ve lived in so far, they might end up as some anonymous dead gaijin on a gurney, unremembered and unmourned, merely cremated and disposed of by authorities unsure of your next of kin. I’ve seen it happen — an accelerating number of times.

Why? Parables such as the one about “boiled frogs” come to mind (i.e., the frog who never noticed the temperature of the water around him rising until it was too late to jump out), but more insightful is what Pierre Bourdieu called the “illusio,” i.e., the belief that the great lifetime “game” we all agree to play is worth playing, and the fiction we collectively choose to follow is reality.

The fiction we have been accepting as reality is: Japan will treat NJ equally as long as they play the game by Japanese rules. This shows a sore lack of self-reflection about the NJ’s place in Japanese society, where those rules are stacked against them properly assimilating. It’s not because NJ always elect to be treated like guests. Guest treatment is in fact the default.

For example, have you ever noticed how difficult it is for NJ to become established in Japan’s essential, respected and licensed jobs — e.g., as doctors (and nurses), lawyers, engineers, administrative-level bureaucrats, etc.? Instead, where are they consigned? Factories, education, tenuous entrepreneurship, contracted tech, as nonadministrative corporate drones, and in entertainment. These jobs are basically fungible and expendable. And they are the default.

That’s why NJ must learn how to become “hosts.” By this I mean that they must offer Japan something that cannot be dismissed as a mere trifle or token effort.

That skill must be precious enough that NJ residents can choose to deny it to Japan, should they ever want to reclaim their power, self-respect and dignity. The NJ who exclusively do what Japan needs, and who cannot be replaced with a Japanese substitute (for example, people acting as indisposable ambassadors of Japanese knowledge — e.g., Ed Reischauer, Donald Richie or Donald Keene), can hold their skills hostage and become secure, respected, even immortal.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but face reality: What do you have to offer Japan? I’m not asking if there is something you do well; I’m asking: After all these years, is there something that you can do that Japan positively cannot live without? If not, then Japan can easily live without you, and you could be headed for the gurney.

No doubt people will decry this column. Look, I “get” that too, for it’s a natural part of illusio maintenance. People trapped in their bubbles will fight to their last breath to avoid having them burst. Facing the reality of their perpetual second-class caste status would force them to admit that they made a mistake by submitting to Japan’s default subordination processes — that they traded their entire life for something that they ultimately found no stake in.

Criticize away if that makes you feel better. It’s more comforting to play the game and party on. For now. But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble. Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.

Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

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

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/. And this will be the anchor site for the article, so comment both below and at the JT if you like. As always, thanks for reading! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JT: Ishihara and Hiranuma’s conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy NJ a la July Supreme Court decision

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In a show of xenophobia mixed with outright meanness, Japan’s political dinosaurs (we all know what a nasty person Ishihara Shintaro is, but remember what kind of a bigot Hiranuma Takeo is too) will propose legislation that will officially exclude NJ taxpayers down on their luck from receiving the benefits to social welfare that they have paid into.  Put simply, they are seeking to legislate theft.  Oh, and just in case you think “if you want equal rights in Japan, you should naturalize“, they’ve thought of that too, and according to the article below are calling for naturalization to become more stringent as well.

This is on the heels of a dumbfoundingly stupid Supreme Court decision last July that requires Japanese citizenship for access to public welfare benefits.  I’ve heard people say that all this decision did was clarify the law, and that it won’t affect the local governments from continuing to be more humanitarian towards foreign human residents.  But you see, it HAS affected things — it’s now encouraged rightists to codify more exclusivity, not leftists more inclusivity.  In this currently far-right political climate in Japanese politics and governance, more exclusionism, not less, will become normalized, as long as the mindsets and actions of these horrible old men are allowed to pass without comment or critique.

Well, that’s one reason Debito.org is here — comment and critique — and we say that these old bigots should have their legacy denied.  But remember, it’s not as simple as waiting for the Old Guard to die off (Nakasone Yasuhiro, remember, is still alive and pretty genki at age 96), because a new generation of conservative elites are waiting like a row of shark’s teeth to replace the old.  Be aware of it, and tell your voting Japanese friends about how this affects you.  Because no-one else can with such conviction.  You must do all that you can so your legacy, not theirs, wins.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

THE JAPAN TIMES: NATIONAL
Conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy foreigners
BY MIZUHO AOKI, STAFF WRITER
AUG 26, 2014, courtesy of john k and pku
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/26/national/conservative-party-submit-bill-halting-welfare-needy-foreigners/

Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) said Tuesday it plans to submit a revised bill to the extraordinary Diet session this fall to exclude poverty-stricken non-Japanese residents from receiving welfare benefits.

The opposition party, launched this month by conservative lawmakers including former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, said the public assistance law should be revised in accordance with the recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that permanent residents of Japan are not entitled to welfare benefits for financially needy people.

“Based on the ruling, it is (our duty) to revise the public assistance law,” Hiroshi Yamada, the secretary-general of the party, told a news conference in Tokyo.

Regardless of whether foreign residents pay taxes in Japan or not, the public assistance law is only for “Japanese nationals,” he stressed. Another law should be created to deal with foreigners, he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that permanent foreign residents of Japan are ineligible for welfare benefits, in response to a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency.

The public assistance law stipulates that only Japanese nationals are eligible to receive the welfare payments. Even so, municipalities have been providing welfare benefits, such as monthly stipends for living expenses and housing, to financially needy foreigners with permanent or long-term residency status for years.

This practice was based on advice issued by the central government in 1954 to accept applications from foreigners in dire need of aid from a “humanitarian” point of view.

The conservative opposition party, headed by Takeo Hiranuma, was officially established on Aug. 1 after breaking from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). Its basic policies, unveiled in July, include denying non-Japanese residents the right to vote in national or local elections as well as introducing stricter standards for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

ENDS

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

mytest

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Hi Blog.  When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009.  The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.). Kyodo News back then lazily (or rather, ignorantly) observed how problematic the system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then:  Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle“, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month.  (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news:  The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it.  As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020.  And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists.   But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers?  They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right?  So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative.  And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Japan moves to expand controversial foreign worker scheme
BY ANTONI SLODKOWSKI
REUTERSAPR 2, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/02/national/japan-moves-to-expand-controversial-foreign-worker-scheme/

Japan is considering expanding a controversial program that now offers workers from China and elsewhere permits to work for up to three years, as the world’s fastest-aging nation scrambles to plug gaps in a rapidly shrinking workforce.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday submitted a proposal to let workers to stay for up to five years, relax hiring rules for employers and boost the number of jobs open to them.

“We will strengthen the governance of the program,” LDP lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who authored the proposal, told reporters. “We are aware of the concerns and we allowed people who had objections to voice their objections.”

Shiozaki said the LDP wanted to see harsher penalties for companies that abused foreign workers and would use external inspectors and local governments to monitor compliance.

The program, started in 1993, sponsors around 150,000 workers, mostly Chinese, for jobs in areas such as the garment industry and farms.

In theory, the foreign workers come to Japan as trainees to acquire technical expertise, but lawyers and labor activists say many face abuse, from illegally low wages to the confiscation of their passports.

Such conditions “may well amount to slavery,” the United Nations said in 2010, and called on Tokyo to scrap the program.

But Japan is desperate for more workers, especially in industries such as construction and farming. With just under half its population expected to be aged 65 or older by 2060, Japan faces a severe labor shortage that promises to hamper Abe’s ambitious economic revival plans.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer who has represented foreign workers based in Tokyo, said the proposed safeguards would not go far enough and urged the government to abolish, rather than expand, the program.

“The workers can’t freely choose their workplace after coming to Japan. They are refused the right to sign and cancel contracts, so they have no freedom as laborers,” said Ibusuki.

“If you don’t fix this structural problem, it doesn’t matter how much you tighten regulations, it won’t go away,” he said.

Nearly 200 companies were found to have mistreated trainees in 2012, a jump of 21 percent from two years earlier, government data show. There were 90 cases of failure to pay legal wages and more than 170 cases of violations of labor regulations.

The shortage of workers is most acute in the construction industry, whose workforce has shrunk by a third from 1997, when public works peaked. By 2010, about a fifth of all construction workers were older than 60.

The lack of workers has left construction companies struggling to meet demand for new projects tied to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and reconstruction work in areas destroyed by the 2011 tsunami.

Shiozaki said two government panels reporting to Abe will discuss the proposal and consider it as part of a growth strategy to be announced in June.

Foreign-born workers make up less than 1.3 percent of the workforce, according to the 2010 census.

ENDS

Japan’s Right-wing swing taking on NJ media: Foreign correspondents ‘blindly swallowing’ anti-Japanese propaganda, writer alleges

mytest

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Hi Blog. As Japan’s right-wing swing begins to be noticed and acknowledged overseas (I predicted this swing would happen quite a while ago), foreign media are increasingly taking off the kid gloves, and dealing forcefully with Japan’s perpetual historical amnesia. So much so that it’s making some Japanese opinion leaders uncomfortable, and, as the article below attests, they’re pushing back against the apparent gaiatsu by claiming the foreign correspondents are succumbing to “propaganda”. Have a read.

Within, note how opportunist NJ panderer Henry Scott-Stokes is being tossed around like a ball in play as evidence of something (hey, revisionism has more credibility if someone, anyone, from the NJ side will parrot their views). Debito.org has already covered the profiteering that some NJ (particularly those who have no idea what has been written for them in Japanese) will engage in. Shame on them for becoming the monkey to the organ grinder.

As a bracing counterpose, check out this other extremely angry article by Robert Fisk in the UK Independent on the Abe Administration and Japan’s burgeoning (and hypocritical) revisionism; he’s clearly commenting outside of his comfort zone, but this is what will increasingly come out as the mask of “peaceful Western ally” that Japan’s elites have shamelessly worn for two generations continues to slip.  And this generation of elites, who have never known war (and will never have to serve even if there ever is one), will continue to extol the glory of it.  Arudou Debito

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

Foreign correspondents ‘blindly swallowing’ anti-Japanese propaganda, writer alleges
JAPAN TODAY KUCHIKOMI APR. 10, 2014, courtesy of MS
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/foreign-correspondents-blindly-swallowing-anti-japanese-propaganda-writer-alleges

TOKYO — In his “East Asia Anemometer” (an anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed) column for the Sankei Shimbun column of March 29, Takao Harakawa accused foreign correspondents based in Tokyo of harboring “blind belief” in the anti-Japanese propaganda being generated by China and South Korea. He bases this on his observations from a recent press conference that in his view descended into a “blame-Japan” fest.

China, he alleges, has ordered its embassies in various countries to engage in a worldwide campaign to criticize prime minister Abe for visiting Yasukuni Shrine last December. And South Korea recently went so far as to use the venue of an international comic exhibition to lambaste Japan over the sex-slave (“comfort women”) issue.

These two neighboring countries’ persistent efforts to discredit Japan, suggests Harakawa, may finally be starting to show results, as the press event held in mid-March at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Yurakucho, Tokyo, turned into a one-sided affair.

The event was intended to publicize the activities by a delegation of Japanese legislators in local government assemblies who had visited Glendale, California to protest Korean lobbyists’ installation of a statue of a comfort woman in a public park.

But when it came time for questions, Harakawa didn’t like the tone of the reporters at all.

“During the war, Korean laborers worked in the coal mines in Oita prefecture. Do you think they were sent there forcibly or not?” was one question.

“We’re not here today to discuss laborers, this is a press conference about ‘sex slaves,’” replied Yoshiko Matsuura, a councilor in the Suginami assembly, in an attempt to deflect his question.

Matsuura pointed out that the 1993 “Kono Statement” apologizing to the sex slaves was based on “completely vague testimony, and also noted that as a result of the controversy there, Japanese children residing in Glendale had been subjected to “bullying and harassment” by Korean children.

“The statue of the ‘comfort woman’ erected in Glendale will leave a huge bill to be paid in the future,” she warned.

The questions fired back by the correspondents in attendance, however, were “conspicuous in the way they were either based on insufficient understanding or bias.”

Another correspondent’s remarks that “You’re saying that the ‘sex slaves’ are a fabrication, but as opposed to merely making that statement, how many facts are there to support it? Presently Japan is continuing to lose sympathy throughout the world,” is given as another example.

Tomoko Tsujimura, a member of the Komae City assembly who also attended the gathering, was quoted as saying “Since the Japanese government is not completely responding [to the allegations], Japan’s position is being outweighed by propaganda from South Korea, and I feel the foundations have been laid for many members of the foreign media to harbor feelings of disgust toward Japan.”

After the event, Kawahara said a sympathetic foreign journalist said to him, “Today’s event was not to ask questions to you, but to cast blame on Japan.”

In the background of the journalists’ mindset, believes Harakawa, was a viewpoint echoing the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Details from the press event have appeared in the online versions of TIME magazine and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Neither of them were inclined to support Matsuura’s views. TIME’s reporter even wrote that the speakers’ efforts to take the offensive over the sex slave issue was “likely to do them more harm than good.”

Interpreter at the event was Hiroyuki Fujita, an international journalist and translator of Henry Scott-Stokes’ recent book (in Japanese) titled, “Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist.”

“Foreigners, especially citizens of the Allied nations (during WW2), tend to view the historical truth in terms of judgments handed down by the Tokyo war crimes tribunal,” said Fujita. “According to that view, Japan must be the villain, and anyone who attempts to assert something at odds with that is stereotypically tarred as a revisionist who is attempting to gloss over history. One of the very few correspondents who’s an exception to this would be Mr Henry Scott-Stokes, who has really done his homework on the issues.”

Japan faces an urgent need to assume a state of readiness to counter propaganda from China and Korea, including additional budgetary measures for issuing information, Harakawa concludes.

ENDS

JT: Motley crew of foreigners backing Japan’s revisionists basks in media glare (with UPDATES)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Check this out:

NATIONAL / MEDIA| BIG IN JAPAN
Motley crew of foreigners backing Japan’s revisionists basks in media glare
BY MARK SCHREIBER
THE JAPAN TIMES MAR 22, 2014, Courtesy of the author

In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months, foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray. And some have even sided with revisionist positions, raising questions over the Japanese military’s alleged recruitment of sex slaves (“comfort women”) and other contentious wartime topics.

For these individuals, preaching to the Japanese choir does appear to have its rewards. At a gathering in Tokyo last autumn, veteran British journalist Henry Scott Stokes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the showpiece meeting of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s short-lived effort to align Asians against European colonial powers.

“Japan is a country of rising sun,” he told his audience. “Joining hands together with the fellow Asian people who desire truly Free Asia, I sincerely hope that Japan will play a vital role for realizing democratic Asian unity.”

Soon thereafter, Shodensha published Scott-Stokes’ book “Eikokujin Kisha ga Mita Rengokoku Sensho Shikan no Kyomo” (“Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist”). The book, whose third chapter echoes the speech in its description of Japan as “Asia’s light of hope,” has gone through 11 printings and sales have shot past 80,000. Last week it was rated Amazon Japan’s 32nd best-selling title…

Rest of the article at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/22/national/motley-crew-of-foreigners-backing-japans-revisionists-basks-in-media-glare/

COMMENT:  In light of the recent Nazi Swastika flags appearing in right-wing marches, it’s pretty wrong-headed for anyone who wants to keep a good reputation to publicly align with people like these.  But it’s within character.  I’ve heard plenty of pretty unflattering things about Mr. Scott-Stokes through the grapevine over the years.  But another NJ bozo mentioned in the article as being in the pocket of Japan’s revisionist right is Tony Marano, a YouTube Vlogger (a sample video of his is up at the JT site; follow above link), who has in the past ignorantly commented on the “Japanese Only” signs issue — by blaming NJ (i.e., the “ugly Americans”) for the signs’ existence.  Particularly one “liberal” foreigner (guess who; and I’m not a foreigner) who sues “them” and “messes up their legal system“:


Courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6vCjqJ9U7k#t=16

I wonder if Marano will ever get over his ignorance by actually doing any reading up on the issue.  Probably not.  Critics of his ilk rarely do — it makes the maintenance of their world view that much simpler.  And, clearly, as the JT article establishes, more profitable.  ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE APRIL 1 (No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank): Marano gets a regular column with tabloid weekly Asahi Geino. Now all he has to do is spout off, and it gets translated into a language and culture he doesn’t understand. I love how they try to directly translate his “god bless” at the end of the article.  Marano has no idea what he’s getting himself into.
Texas_Oyaji.1
=================================

UPDATE APRIL 2: Henry Scott-Stokes, mentioned in the JT article above, also admits that he can’t even read his own revisionist book, let alone write it:

Oddly, perhaps, he admits to not knowing exactly what’s between the pages of the book that carries his name – he says he reads little Japanese and an English translation has yet to be produced. It was dictated over hundreds of hours to another FCCJ member, Hiroyuki Fujita, then brought to publication by Tony Kase, an old friend of Henry’s with connections to the LDP. “Tony Kase had the most to do with this,” he explains, but adds: “I have to accept responsibility for it since it is in my name.”

From “The Revenge of History”, FCCJ’s Number 1 Shimbun, April 1, 2014
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/332-the-revenge-of-history.html

So like Marano, Scott-Stokes has no idea how he’s being rendered in Japanese. Seems like for some, Japanese language fluency and apologist/revisionist stances are inversely proportional.

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

UPDATE APRIL 3:  Now a second Marano column has appeared in daily tabloid Yuukan Fuji, this one dated April 4 and apparently out every Thursday…  

Marano_YF.4Apr

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

UPDATE APRIL 6:  Debito.org Reader Don MacLaren responds to Marano’s accusation that litigious NJ are in Japan “messing up their legal system”.  According to MacLaren, despite numerous attempts on numerous fora, Marano has not responded to him publicly.  MacLaren’s video, then his comments accompanying his video, follow:


Courtesy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exozeU7LplU

Published on Apr 6, 2014

Don MacLaren:  Mr. Tony Marano has published numerous videos on Japan, many of them sympathetic to the right wing element in Japan, which believes Japan’s actions in World War II were noble. He also posted a video called, “No foreigners allowed” signs in Japan,” concerning non-Japanese (people’s) feelings about this discrimination (regarding these signs, posted in front of Japanese business establishments) and a lawsuit that was initiated over this discrimination.

Mr. Marano suggests Americans are excessively litigous, while the Japanese are not. I take exception to this as I was a defendant in a frivolous lawsuit in Japan brought on by my visa sponsor and employer. I felt I had no choice but to countersue (even though I couldn’t afford a lawyer at first). After almost a year and a half of litigation, I was awarded everything I wanted. I resigned my position with the company and left Japan. Please read the link below to read more about my time in Japan’s courts:
http://donmaclaren.com/don_maclaren_-…

Mr. Marano’s video, “No foreigners allowed” signs in Japan” is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6vCj…

The Japan Times Piece I refer to in my video, where I first read about Mr. Marano is here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014…

Debito Arudou’s blog/website is here:
http://www.debito.org/

The discussion on Mr. Arudou’s blog/website on Mr. Marano (and non-Japanese who support Japan’s right-wing element) is here:
http://www.debito.org/?p=12215

Thank you for tuning in. Please feel free to comment/criticize in a civil, reasoned way in the “comments” section of this video. Sincerely, Don MacLaren

Longer version of MacLaren’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCvrAN3uf08
ENDS

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

UPDATE APRIL 14, 2014:

The pandering columns keep proliferating.  Now Scott-Stokes has a regular column in Yuukan Fuji (bylined “Wake Up, Japan”, this inaugural one dated April 15, 2014) where he calls Korean issues with Wartime Sexual Slavery “nonsense” and the Kouno Statement on it as “the worst” (sai-aku).

HSS_YF1

Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case: Conclusions and Lessons I learned from it

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Let’s sew this issue up:

LESSONS OF THE URAWA “JAPANESE ONLY” SOCCER STADIUM BANNER CASE OF MARCH 8, 2014

Urawajapaneseonlysideview030814

What happened this week (see my Japan Times column on it a few days ago) is probably the most dramatic and progressive thing to happen to NJ in Japan, particularly its Visible Minorities, since the Otaru Onsens Case came down with its District Court Decision in November 2002.

In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.).  All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room — that more invidious racialized processes were involved.

But in the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan’s race relations history.

BACKGROUND ON WHY THIS MATTERS: The following is something I wanted to get into in my last column, but I lacked the space:

After studying this issue intensely since 1999, and doing a doctoral dissertation on it, I can say with confidence that using the abovementioned alternative language is the normal way the Japanese media and debate arenas obfuscate the issue — because jinshu sabetsu is what other countries do (most common examples of racial discrimination taught in Japanese education are the US under Segregation and South African Apartheid), NOT Japan. As I wrote in my column on Thursday, Japan sees itself as a “civilized country”; rightly so, but part of that is the conceit that real civilized countries don’t engage in “racial discrimination” (and since allegedly homogeneous Japan allegedly has no races but the “Japanese race“, and allegedly no real minorities to speak of, Japan cannot possibly engage in biologically-based “racial discrimination” like other heterogeneous societies do).

So admitting to actual racial discrimination within Japan’s borders would undermine Japan’s claim to be “civilized”, as far as Japan’s elites and national-narrative setters are concerned. Hence the determined resistance to ever calling something “racial discrimination”.  Further proof:  In my extensive research of the Otaru Onsens Case, where I read and archived hundreds of Japanese media pieces, only ONE article (a Hokkaido Shinbun editorial after the Sapporo High Court Decision in  September 2004) called it “jinshu sabetsu” as AS A FACT OF THE CASE (i.e., NOT merely the opinion of an expert or an activist, which meant for journalistic balance the “opinion” had to be offset with the opinions of the excluder — who always denied they were being racial, like the rest of Japanese society).  It’s systematic.  We even have prominent social scientists (such as Harumi Befu) and major book titles on discrimination in Japan that steadfastly call it only “minzoku sabetsu“, such as this one:

nihonnominzokusabetsucover

where I had to fight to get my chapter within it properly entitled “jinshu sabetsu“:

nihonnominzokusabetsu002

No matter how conscientious the scholar of minority issues in Japan was, it was never a matter of jinshu.

Until now.  That has changed with the Urawa “Japanese Only” Stadium Banners Case.

FINALLY CALLING A SPADE A SPADE

Get a load of what Murai Mitsuru, Chair of the J. League, said after some initial hemming and hawing:

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

“There are various ways of determining what constitutes discrimination.  But what is important is not so much why discrimination occurs, but how the victim perceives it and in this case, the acts must be considered nothing short of discriminatory.

“Over the last several days through the media and on the Internet, these acts have had unexpected social repercussions both domestic and abroad, and it is clear that they have damaged the brand of not just the J-League but of the entire Japanese football community.

“With regards to Urawa Reds, they have had repeated trouble with their supporters in the past and the club have previously been sanctioned for racist behavior by their fans.”

“While these most recent acts were conducted by a small group of supporters, it is with utmost regret that Urawa Reds — who have been with the J-League since its founding year in 1993 and who ought to be an example for all of Japanese football — allowed an incident like this to happen.”

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

It’s the speech I would want to give.  He cited a record both past and present to give the issue context.  He said that stopping racist behavior was integral to the sport and its participants.  And he acknowledged that it was the victims, not the perpetrators, who must be listened to.  Well done.

Then he issued the stiffest punishment ever in Japanese soccer history, where Urawa would have to play its next match to an empty stadium (their games are some of the best attended in Japan), which really hurts their bottom line. Better yet, it ensures that Urawa fans will now police each other, lest they all be excluded again. After all, even stadium management let the sign stay up for the entire game:

urawajapaneseonlybanner030814
Courtesy of the Asahi Shinbun.  Note the staff member guarding the full gate, behind Urawa’s goal posts.  Note also the Rising Sun flags.

It also looks like those racist fans will also be banned indefinitely from Urawa games, and stadium staff may too be punished.  Bravo.

More important, look how this issue was reported in Japanese (Mainichi Shinbun):

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

8日に埼玉スタジアムで行われたサッカーJリーグ1部の浦和−鳥栖戦の試合中、会場内に人種差別的な内容を含む横断幕が掲げられた問題で、Jリーグの村井満チェアマンは13日、浦和に対し、けん責と、23日にホームの同スタジアムで開催される清水戦を無観客とする処分を科すと発表した。Jリーグでの無観客試合の処分は初めて。

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

with jinshu sabetsu included AS A FACT OF THE CASE.

And then look how the issue spread, with the Yokohama Marinos on March 12 putting up an anti-discrimination banner of their own:

showracismtheredcard031214

And Huffpost Japan depicting jinshu sabetsu AGAIN as a fact of the case:

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

横浜マのサポーターがハーフタイムに「Show Racism the Red Card」(人種差別にレッドカードを)

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

The incentives are now very clear.  Discriminate, and punishment will be public, swift, meaningful, and effective.  And others will not rally to your defense — in fact, may even join in in decrying you in public.  Excellent measures that all encourage zero tolerance of jinshu sabetsu.

LESSONS

However, keep in mind that this outcome was far from certain.  Remember that initially, as in last Sunday and Monday, this issue was only reported in blurbs in the Japanese and some English-language media (without photos of the banner), with mincing and weasel words about whether or not this was in fact discrimination, and ludicrous attempts to explain it all away (e.g., Urawa investigators reporting that the bannerers didn’t INTEND to racially discriminate; oh, that’s okay then!) as some kind of performance art or fan over-exuberance.  At this point, this issue was going the way it always does in these “Japanese Only” cases — as some kind of Japanese cultural practice.  In other words, it was about to be covered up all over again.

Except for one thing.  It went viral overseas.

As Murai himself said, “these acts have had unexpected social repercussions both domestic and abroad, and it is clear that they have damaged the brand of not just the J-League but of the entire Japanese football community“.  In other words, now Japan’s reputation as a civilized member of the world’s sports community (especially in this age of an impending Olympics) was at stake.  Probably FIFA was watching too, and it had only two months ago punished another Asian country (China/Hong Kong) for “racial discrimination” towards towards Filipino fans.  In this political climate, it would be far more embarrassing for Japan to be in the same boat as China being punished from abroad.  So he took decisive action.

This is not to diminish Murai’s impressive move.  Bravo, man.  You called it what it is, and dealt with it accordingly.

But I believe it would not have happened without exposure to the outside world:  Gaiatsu (outside pressure).

After all these years studying this issue, I now firmly believe that appealing to moral character issues isn’t the way to deal with racism in Japan.

After all, check out this baby-talk discussion of this issue in Japan’s most prominent newspaper column, Tensei Jingo, of March 13, 2014:

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

Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward is starting a project called “A shopping district with people who understand and speak a little English.” I like the part that says “a little.” Shinagawa will be the venue for some of the events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The ward came up with the idea as a way to welcome athletes and visitors from abroad.

Why “a little”? Few Japanese can confidently say they can speak English. Many more think they can perhaps speak “a little” English. According to Kiyoshi Terashima, the ward official in charge of the project, it is aimed at encouraging such people to positively try and communicate in English. The ward will ask foreigners to visit the stores so that attendants there can learn how to take orders and receive payments using English.

Writer Saiichi Maruya (1925-2012) vividly depicted the trend of 50 years ago when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time. Just because we are having the Olympics, “there is no need to stir up an atmosphere that all 100 million Japanese must turn into interpreters,” he wrote. The quote appears in “1964-Nen no Tokyo Orinpikku” (1964 Tokyo Olympics), compiled by Masami Ishii. I wonder if we can be a little more relaxed when Tokyo hosts the Olympics for the second time.

Warm smiles are considered good manners in welcoming guests. By contrast, I found the following development quite alarming: On March 8, a banner with the English words “Japanese Only” was put up at the entrance to a stand at Saitama Stadium during a soccer game.

Posting such a xenophobic message is utterly thoughtless to say the least. This is not the first time. In the past, an onsen bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up a sign that said “no foreigners” and refused the entry of some people, including a U.S.-born naturalized Japanese man. The Sapporo District Court in 2002 ruled that the action was “racial discrimination” and ordered the bathhouse to pay damages to the plaintiffs for pain and suffering.

Hate speech against foreigners is another example. Hostility is becoming increasingly prevalent and Japanese society is losing its gentleness. Are we a society that denies and shuts its doors to people or one that welcomes and receives them? Which one is more comfortable to live in? Let us learn to be more tolerant toward each other; for starters, if only by just a little.

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

That’s the entire article.  Asahi Shinbun, thanks for the mention of me, but what a twee piece of shit! It devotes half of the column space to irrelevant windup, then gives some necessary background, and summarily ends up with a grade-school-level “nakayoshi shimashou” (let’s all be nice to one another, shall we?) conclusion. The theme starts off with “a little” and ends up thinking “little” about the issue at hand.  They just don’t get it.  There’s no moral imperative here.

Contrast that to Murai’s very thoughtful consideration above of how the victims of discrimination feel, how racists must not be given any moral credibility or leniency from punishment, and how anti-racism measures are not merely an honor system of tolerance towards each other.  Correctamundo!  One must not be tolerant of intolerance.  But after all this, even Japan’s most prominent leftish daily newspaper just resorts to the boilerplate — there is neither comprehension or explanation of how discrimination actually works!

When will we get beyond this dumbing down of the issue?  When we actually have people being brave enough to call it “racial discrimination” and take a stand against it.  As Murai did.  And as other people, with their banners and comments on the media and other places, are doing.  Finally.

CONCLUSION:  IT AIN’T OVER UNTIL WE GET A LAW CRIMINALIZING THIS BEHAVIOR

I do not want to get people’s hopes up for this progress to be sustainable (after all, we haven’t seen the full force of a potential rightist backlash against Murai yet, and the Internet xenophobes are predictably saying that too much power has been given up to the Gaijin).  We are still years if not decades away from an anti-RACIAL-discrimination law with enforceable criminal penalties (after all, it’s been nearly twenty years now since Japan’s signed the UN CERD treaty against racial discrimination, and any attempt to pass one has wound up with it being repealed due to pressure from alarmists and xenophobes!).

But at least one thing is clear — the typical hemmers and hawers (who initially criticized my claim that this is yet another example of racial discrimination) are not going to be able to claim any “cultural misunderstanding” anymore in this case.  Because Urawa eventually went so far as to investigate and make public  what mindset was behind the banner-hoisters:

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

Japan Times:  “The supporters viewed the area behind the goal as their sacred ground, and they didn’t want anyone else coming in,” Urawa president Keizo Fuchita said Thursday as he explained how the banner came to be displayed in the stadium.

“If foreigners came in they wouldn’t be able to control them, and they didn’t like that.”

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

Wow, a fine cocktail of racism, mysticism, and power, all shaken not stirred, spray-painted into this banner.  Which goes to show:  In just about all its permutations, “Japanese Only” is a racialized discourse behind a xenophobic social movement in Japan.  If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…  And if and only if people in authority will allow the quack to be properly heard and the quacker LABELED as a duck, then we’ll get some progress.

But chances are it won’t be, unless that quack is also heard outside of Japan.  After waiting more then ten years for somebody to call the “Japanese Only” trope a matter of jinshu sabetsu again, finally this week the fact that jinshu sabetsu exists in Japan has been transmitted nationwide, with real potential to alter the national discourse on discrimination towards Visible Minorities.  But it wouldn’t have happened unless it had leaked outside of Japan’s media.

Conclusion:  Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan.  Remember that, and gear your advocacy accordingly.  ARUDOU, Debito

Donald Keene Center opens in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture. His life and library can be seen, for a price.

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Hi Blog.  Saw this interesting poster in, of all places, an elevator in Narita Airport last September:

DonaldKeeneCenter

Yes, that’s our Donald Keene, currently aged 91, whose center last September 21 was opened up in Kashiwazaki (for those who unfamiliar with that part of Niigata Prefecture, K-town is in between Nagaoka and Joetsu; nice beach) in order to transmit “the excellence of Japanese literature” (watashi wa ninon bungaku no subarashisa o tsutaetai).

This is an important event, as it counts as an established NJ legacy on the scale of Edwin Dun and of course Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo (both of whom have their lives immortalized in building form).

Now, where Debito.org has taken issue with Keene is with not with his scholarship or contributions to the field of Japanese studies (indeed admirable), but with his naturalization while publicly denigrating NJ.  As chronicled here and in the Japan Times, he himself made a big fuss about how he was becoming a Japanese citizen for selfless reasons, e.g., to “become one of them“, to show “solidarity with the Japanese people” in their time of great need, so that he might help victims of the Tohoku Disasters in some way.

Fine.  But he also threw in all sorts of irrelevancies and nastiness, such as making himself out to be morally superior to other NJ residents (contrasting himself with those allegedly fleeing Japan like the mythical “Flyjin”, mentioning how he wasn’t committing crimes like they were — despite actual NJ crime trends).  It was a poor show of social science by a trained researcher.

If he’s going to be mean, then he’s going to have his record scrutinized like everyone else.  So, despite his promises to “contribute to areas affected by the [Tohoku] disaster“, by now what has he done?  Put his Donald Keene Center in Tohoku to attract tourists?  Sorry, Kashiwazaki is quite far away from the disaster areas, and the Donald Keene Center website doesn’t even mention the events in Tohoku as any form of motivation.  Visited Tohoku like other NJ to help out with relief efforts?  Well, according to his English Wikipedia entry, he gave a speech in Sendai; thanks, but…  Or opening up his library for free to the public?  No, sorry, that’s not how business is done:

DonaldKeeneCenter2

Not sure where profits are going.  Again, no mention of contribution to disaster relief on the Center’s website.

And of course, there is one very big contribution to Japan he could still yet make.  One very big open secret about douseiaisha in Japan is that even if they can’t get officially married (due to Japan’s koseki system), they can still adopt one another and establish inheritance rights.  That’s precisely what Keene did by naturalizing, getting his own koseki, and then adding his partner to it.  So in this worldwide wave of tolerance/reactionary intolerance towards gay marriage, gay rights is another issue Keene could use his influence to raise awareness about (and before you say he’s too old to do so, consider George Takei).  But no.

Again, these are all a person’s life choices, and I will respect Keene’s.  Except for the fact that he doesn’t respect others’ life choices (he should read “Yes I Can” by Sammy Davis Jr., and learn something about not denigrating other minorities in his position to advance himself, and then pulling up ladders of opportunity behind him). He doesn’t seem to be keeping his public promises.  His pandering to stereotypes about NJ, plus public gestures of self-hugging while making a show of his apparent self-sacrifices, are disingenuous upon closer inspection.

I’m not in the habit of paraphrasing Depeche Mode (I’m famously a proud fan of Duran Duran), but maybe it’s time to start.  A stanza of “Everything Counts” applies here:

“All for himself, after all.”

That is not the best legacy for immigrants and former NJ to leave behind.  Arudou Debito

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

UPDATE OCTOBER 8, 2014:  Dr. Donald Keene reiterates his belief that NJ left in significant numbers after the 3/11 Disasters in Tohoku in a recent Yomiuri interview. Even though I demonstrated in a Japan Times column that this was not the case in April 2012.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10081
So much for his role as a scholar… 

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

Message Special / Donald Keene / My life now is the happiest that I ever had: Scholar
Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun
11:11 pm, October 05, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001615967

When the terrible things happened in Tohoku, and especially when I read that many foreigners who had lived in Japan, worked in Japan, were leaving the country, I was very angry, and I wondered what I could do to show I was different. (REST OF THE ARTICLE IN COMMENTS SECTION BELOW).

TheDiplomat.com: “In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?”, on the debate about Japan’s increasing diversity

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Hi Blog. I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” (man, how I find that concept distasteful in Japan’s lexicographical context) themselves? Me, I think it’s a helluva lot more sensitive than this example of pap (succumbing to the temptation to zoologize people) passing as journalism about “haafu” that appeared in the J-media about a year ago. Arudou Debito

hafuthefilm

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In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?
Mixed-race individuals and their families seek acceptance in a homogeneous Japan.
The Diplomat.com, October 03, 2013
By J.T. Quigley (excerpt), courtesy of the author
Entire article with photos at http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

“Spain! Spain!” the boys shouted at her and her brother, day in and day out at a summer camp in Chiba prefecture. The incessant chanting eventually turned into pushing and hitting. One morning, she even discovered that her backpack full of clothes had been left outside in the rain.

“It was the worst two weeks of our lives,” recalls Lara Perez Takagi, who was six years old at the time. She was born in Tokyo to a Spanish father and Japanese mother.

“When our parents came to pick us up at the station, we cried for the whole day. I remember not ever wanting to do any activities that involved Japanese kids and lost interest in learning the language for a long time, until I reached maturity and gained my interest in Japan once again.”

By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?

Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.

Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.

Rather than calling someone mixed-race or biracial, some believe that the term hafu insinuates that only the Japanese side is of any significance. That could reveal volumes about the national attitude toward foreigners, or perhaps it’s just the word that happened to stick in a country where mixed-race celebrities are increasingly fixtures on television.

No Entry

Olaf Karthaus, a professor in the Faculty of Photonics Science and Technology at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, is the father of five “hafu” children. Far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, he raised them in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which makes up 20 percent of Japan’s total land mass, yet houses only five percent of the population.

In 1999, Karthaus visited an onsen (hot spring) with a group of international friends, all married to Japanese spouses. The onsen had decided to deny entry to foreigners after some negative experiences with Russian sailors, hanging signs that read “Japanese Only” and refusing entry to all foreigners.

The Caucasian members of his group were flatly denied access to the bathhouse based on their foreign appearance. When management was asked if their children – who were born and raised in Japan and full Japanese citizens – would be allowed to bathe, the negative attitude toward anyone who appeared to be non-Japanese became shockingly clear.

“Asian-looking kids can come in. But we will have to refuse foreign-looking ones,” was the onsen’s answer. Negative sentiment had trickled down from a group of rowdy sailors to defenseless toddlers.

Karthaus, along with co-defendants Ken Sutherland and Debito Arudou – an equal rights activist who was born in the U.S. but became a naturalized Japanese citizen – sued the onsen for racial discrimination. The plaintiffs won, and the onsen was forced to pay them one million yen ($10,000) each in damages. The case made international headlines and shed light on issues of race and acceptance in Japan.

Regardless of Karthaus’ negative experience, he expresses a deep fondness for Japan and says that none of his children have been direct victims of racism.

“My son got called a gaijin (a Japanese term that literally means outsider – as opposed to the more formal gaikokujin, which means foreigner) once, in the third grade. But there was no discrimination otherwise for my other kids,” Karthaus tells The Diplomat. “My eldest daughter actually dyed her hair to look more foreign.”

Legal Complexity

Many observers see a loosening of immigration policy as a potential remedy to the birth-rate issue, but Japan, which along with the Koreas topped the list in a Harvard Institute study of the most racially homogeneous countries, is largely unwilling to accept an influx of foreigners.

“Although the government cannot prevent media hyperbole, the Justice Ministry could do much more with its crime statistics, which belie the common perception that immigrants are to blame for increases in petty crime and drug abuse,” writes Bloomberg.

For those foreigners who have made a home in Japan, the law for any biracial children they have is complex. While children can enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, the government doesn’t allow hafu to retain their dual nationality after age 22. According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, this decision is based on concerns over what would happen in the event of international friction or military action between a dual-citizen’s other country and Japan.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘but what if we declare war on your other country – which side will you choose?’” says Arudou, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle after obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2000. He renounced his U.S. citizenship two years later, in accordance with the strict rules against being a dual national.

“There have been debates on revising to allow dual [citizenship], due to Nobel Prize winners who naturalized overseas, but they failed because, again, people worried about loyalty and hidden foreigners,” Arudou adds.

The denial of dual citizenship beyond age 22 was actually put in place quite recently, in a 1984 amendment to the Japanese Nationality Act. Japan is a jus sanguinis country, meaning that citizenship is based on blood, not location of birth. With an increase in the number of mixed-race couples giving birth to children with dual citizenship, the government decided that restrictions were necessary to preserve national sovereignty.

Rest of the article at:
http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 66: “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ”, Aug 5, 2013

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Hi Blog. Thanks for making my article once again one of the top-read articles on the day of publication!  Arudou Debito

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Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ
By ARUDOU Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 66 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES COMMUNITY PAGE
August 6, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/08/05/issues/ol-blue-eyes-isnt-back-tsurunens-tale-offers-lessons-in-microcosm-for-dpj/
Version with links to sources

Spare a thought for Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first European-born naturalized immigrant parliamentarian. He was voted out in last month’s House of Councilors election.

You might think I’d call it tragic. No. It was a comeuppance.

It needn’t have turned out this way. Squeaking into a seat by default in 2001, Tsurunen was later reelected in 2007 with a reaffirming mandate of 242,740 proportional representation votes, sixth in his party. Last month, however, he lost badly, coming in 12th with only 82,858.

For a man who could have demonstrated what immigrants (particularly our visible minorities) can do in Japan, it was an ignominious exit — so unremarkable that the Asahi Shimbun didn’t even report it among 63 “noteworthy” campaigns.

However, Tsurunen offers lessons in microcosm for his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and on why Japan’s left wing was so spectacularly trounced in the last two elections.

Tsurunen became an MP partly because, as a Caucasian Newcomer, he offered protest voters something different (even visibly) from established expectations. But he wasn’t a sphinx. He said he would speak up for outsiders, promote intercultural tolerance, and support laws banning discrimination in housing and employment (New York Times, Mar. 8, 2002).

However, mere months later he distanced himself from “foreigner issues.” In a 2002 interview, he told me that his basic policy was to hitch his fortunes to the DPJ. Quote:

“There will be cases, such as international problems, where… I will have to vote along party lines, even if it is at odds with my personal convictions… After all, if I don’t follow party discipline, I will be expelled from the party. Then I won’t be able to do my job. I will maintain my ability to say my own opinion, but at important times I will be a party man. That’s how I stand.”

That’s not much of a stand. Yet as the DPJ’s fortunes rose to become a viable ruling party, Tsurunen became more invisible.

Where was Tsurunen (or his staff) when the United Nations visited the Diet on May 18, 2006, presenting preliminary findings about racial discrimination in Japan?

When the DPJ took power and began presenting significant proposals enfranchising outsiders, such as suffrage for Permanent Residents and anti-discrimination laws, where was Tsurunen when opposition debates became racialized and xenophobic?

When bigoted politicians such as Shintaro Ishihara and Takeo Hiranuma began questioning the loyalty of Japanese with “foreign ancestors” (“Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues”, JBC May 4, 2010), why wasn’t Tsurunen standing up for himself? After all, if not him, who? (The most vocal protests were from Mizuho Fukushima, the leader of a different party altogether.)

Not only did Tsurunen fail to influence the debate, he even relinquished control over his own public narrative and identity.

He famously gaijinized himself in the Japan Times (“Mind the gap, get over it: Japan Hands,” Dec. 28, 2010) by calling himself a “foreigner,” and telling people to accept and work with their fate as permanent outsiders.

Despite some public backpedaling and capitulation, Tsurunen’s attitude never changed, and even after twelve years in office he never tried to transcend mere first impressions of being Japan’s First Gaijin MP.

As proof, check out one of his pamphlets shortly before this election, where he even metaphorically offered to “change the color of his (blue) eyes” (“me” no iro kaete, i.e., change his mind). Now that’s what I call racialized pandering!

tsurunenmarutei2013pamphletcrop

See full pamphlet at http://www.debito.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/tsurunenmarutei2013pamphlet.jpg

So in the end, what was Tsurunen’s agenda? Unclear, because he let others dictate it.

As did the DPJ. And that’s why they fell from power.

To give them some credit, Japan’s politics has entrenched difficulties for newcomers. The DPJ inherited a system corrupted by decades of LDP rule and patronage, firmly nestling Japan in now more than two “lost decades” of economic stagnation. Yet regime change was so inconceivable that the 2009 election had to popularize a new word in Japanese (seiken kōtai) to reflect a new party coming to power.

The DPJ also had the bad luck of the March 11, 2011 disasters happening on their watch. Given how badly Japan’s nuclear industry botched their job (plus refused to cooperate with the DPJ), this would spell doom for any party in power.

Nevertheless, here’s where the DPJ is culpable:

During its short time in power, the DPJ made some impressive policy proposals in very clear precedent-setting manifestos. The problem is that during the crucible of public debate, they didn’t stand by them.

The DPJ’s first major sign of fragility was their policy cave-in vis-à-vis the US Government over American bases in Okinawa (JBC, “Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy”, Jun. 1, 2010).

This eventually cost us our first DPJ prime minister, and gave glass jaws to future policy proposals sent into public policy brawls. Increased welfare services? Bogged down. Historical reconciliation with neighbors? Lame. Renewable energy? Nixed. Any other issues than border disputes? Weak.

Eventually, the DPJ could neither control their party narrative nor or set the public agenda. By the time PM Noda took charge, the electorate and the media were somehow convinced that a gridlocked Diet (due to the LDP’s machinations) was the DPJ’s fault!

Allowing the LDP to set the agenda is particularly fatal in a society that fixates on brands (and the LDP is THE default political brand of Postwar Japan), and generally roots for winners rather than underdogs. (After all, if the media is constantly telling you that the DPJ is going to lose, why would you waste your vote on them?)

Contrast this with how clear the LDP has been about their intentions over the past year, even if it includes erasing Postwar democratic liberalism.

This column argued last November (“If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on”) that Japan’s Right should show their true colors, so the electorate could decide if they wanted a Diet of historical revisionists, bigots, and xenophobes. The debate was indeed in technicolor. And last December, with the DPJ’s resounding electoral defeat, voters decided that xenophobia was okay with them.

Then this column argued last February (“Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer”) that if both Houses of Parliament went LDP in July, this would bring about radical constitutional revisions affecting civil liberties. Last month, voters apparently decided that was okay too. Thus a perfect storm of politics had completely routed Japan’s Left.

But many Leftists still deserved to lose their position in the Diet because they were too timid or disorganized to carve a space for themselves in Japan’s political narrative. We knew more about who they were not (the LDP), rather than who they were.

Similarly, Tsurunen will be remembered as a person with insufficient self-awareness of his role in Japanese politics. He openly called himself an “outsider,” then refused to fight for issues that concerned outsiders. Like Tsurunen, the DPJ ultimately accepted their fate as permanent outsiders.

So, barring an unlikely “no-confidence” vote, we have around three more years of LDP coalition rule. During this time in the political wilderness, Japan’s Left had better learn the power of controlling their own narrative, and grasp the fact that the party in power should set the terms of debate on public policy. If they ever want to be insiders again, seize the agenda accordingly.

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

Debito Arudou’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send comments and ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.
ENDS

2013 Election Special: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It’s as predicted (if not encouraged) by Japan’s media:  The rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its coalition partner  “Buddhist Party” Kōmeitō (KMT), won an outright majority in Japan’s Upper House.

BACKGROUND

Background for those who need it:  Japan’s Diet (Parliament) is a bicameral legislature, with a more-powerful Lower House (House of Representatiaves) and a more rubber-stamping Upper House (House of Councillors) that can block Lower House legislation.  The Upper House holds elections every three years (Councillors have 6-year terms, and half the Upper House — 121 seats — goes up for election at a time), and yesterday was the Upper House’s most recent election.

The timing of this election was important to Japan’s accelerating swing to the Right.  As Debito.org noted after last December’s Lower House Election, Japan’s rightwing parties — the LDP, KMT, and even a lunatic-Rightist fringe called the Japan Restoration Party (JRP, headed by the likes of xenophobic bigot Ishihara Shintaro and demagogic Hashimoto Tōru) — won an enormous victory over the ruling leftwing parties (particularly the Democratic Party of Japan, or DPJ, who had finally wrested power from the LDP, a party that had become very corrupt and inbred after governing Japan for most of its Postwar Era, in 2009).

How enormous a victory was last December’s Lower-House election for Japan’s Right?  It put 3/4 of all Lower House seats in the hands of ultraconservative parties — ones who were openly stating they favored the reinstatement of a Japanese military (not just the “Self Defense Forces”), a revision of Japan’s Constitution to remove Postwar sensibilities regarding individual rights, and a very ahistorical accounting for Japan’s Wartime responsibilities; they were also quite nakedly playing up external threats to sovereignty by niggling over disputed ocean specks with China and South Korea (see here and here).  These trends were enough to cause alarm in even dispassionate scholars of Japan, but no matter — the DPJ was voted out.

Thus yesterday’s election was to be a referendum on the past six months of Prime Minister Abe, who was previously PM last decade in a spectacularly inept LDP administration that went down in flames in less than a year.  Although political Pollyannas said Abe would be restrained between January and July due to this election (indeed, he vacillated somewhat on his stance towards historical revisionism, such as Japan being involved in wars of aggression and wartime sexual slavery), Abe still made the election more about temporary economic upturns with a hint of constitutional reform — asking for a mandate to resolve the gridlocked Diet (gridlock he had caused, it should have been noted), while occasionally raising alarmist fears about outsiders and Japan’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, the DPJ could not make the main issue of the election how the LDP’s proposed constitutional reforms would abrogate everyone’s constitutional rights.  The LDP’s campaign slogan was in fact “Take back and return Japan” (Nihon o tori modosu); readings by scholars noted that this meant taking Japan back not from the DPJ, but from a Postwar constitution back to something Prewar.  So much for restraint.

So SITYS.  Debito.org has long called for Japan’s rightists to bring it on and show their true colors — so that Japan’s voters could decide whether they really wanted reactionary arch-conservatives to tinker with their civil and political rights.  It looks like they have.  Debito.org has also warned what would happen if Japan’s Right got what it wanted.  Turns out voters didn’t seem to care, for now with this resounding Upper House victory, they have given Abe the mandate to do so.  Let’s crunch some election results and then offer some conclusions:

ELECTION RESULTS

These results are from Japan’s mainstream media, so there is nothing particularly specialist in these analyses.  I will take screen captures from the Asahi Shinbun’s website at Asahi.com, dated Monday July 22, 2013, 2:15 AM JST, with all seats reporting in:

Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district:

UpperHouse2013Senkyoku

 

EXPLANATION:  Each box is a prefecture.  Inside each box is a colored kanji representing one seat and, depending on the color, to which party it went.  The navy blue ones are the LDP, the sky blue ones the coalition KMT.  Red is the center-left DPJ, and within the fringe parties of note, the light green is the ultrarightist JRP and the orange is all-over-the-map-politically Your Party (Minna no Tō).

COMMENT:  As you can see, almost every prefecture went LDP.  Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 Upper House election:

UpperHouse2010Senkyoku

and the 2007 Upper House election, which was quite decisively DPJ:

UpperHouse2007Senkyoku

Now let’s look at how the Upper House looks in terms of seat distribution and assembly majority.

UpperHouse2013shinseiryoku

EXPLANATION:  The uppermost grouping is the LDP/KMT coalition, denoting a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat Upper House.  That gives them an absolute majority, as half the seats (visible in the horizontal bar chart) is 121.  The 10 are unaffiliated and fringe parties, the 11 are the Japan Communist Party, and at 59 is the DPJ.

In the smaller greyer horizontal bar chart below the larger one, you can see the distribution of assembly seats before the election.  Below that is a chart showing the seats distribution with this election (e.g., 65 for the LDP), plus the seats that were not up for election this time (e.g., 50 for the LDP), totaling the political power of 115 seats below that.

COMMENT:  As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the JRP (at 9) and the Minna no Tō (at 18).  This means a reform of Japan’s Constitution is now very possible if not probable.

Next, to see how much of a rout this election was for the DPJ, consider this bar chart for this election alone, not including seats that were not up for election this time:

UpperHouse2013Kaisenbun

 

EXPLANATION:  The biggest seat getters were the LDP/KMT coalition at 76.  They had 44 before this election.  The other fringe parties, Minna no Tō (politically wild-card) went from 3 to 8, JRP (ultra rightist) went from 2 to 8, and JCP (leftist communist) went from 3 to 8.  Clearly the biggest loser was the DPJ, which dropped from 44 to 17.

COMMENT:  The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House.

Next, Japan has a funny election system seen in other parliamentary democracies where the electorate votes for an individual candidate in a prefectural seat (senkyo-ku), and then votes for a second time for a political party (called hirei-ku, or Proportional Representation).  So of the 121 seats up for grabs this time, 73 are for prefectural seats largely apportioned by local population numbers (i.e., larger population = more seats), while 48 are reserved for people who get votes on behalf of their party.  So if people preferred an individual candidate but didn’t like their party, they could vote for the person and then a second time for a different political party.  Here’s how those turned out:

UpperHouse2013votebreakdowns

At the top is the LDP again, which got 47 seats in electoral districts, and 18 seats from PR votes, total 65 seats of the 121 up for grabs, increasing their total seats in the Upper House from 84 to 115.  You can do the same math for the other parties, which are, respectively, LDP coalition party KMT (sky blue, center-rightist), DPJ (red, center-leftist), Minna no Tō (orange, wild card), JRP (green, ultra-rightist), JCP (purple, leftist-communist), and other fringe parties in grey Seikatsu no Tō (political despoiler Ozawa Ichiro’s latest incarnation), Shamintō (leftist), Midori no Kaze (green leftist), Kaikaku (unknown leanings; did not field a candidate), Taichi (Suzuki Muneo’s demagogic party), the rest of the fringes, and the unaffiliateds.

COMMENT:  Once again, the biggest winners were the LDP, the biggest losers the DPJ (which got as many as KMT and just one more than the ultrarightist JRP!)

TWO ELECTIONS OF NOTE TO DEBITO.ORG:

As talked about in previous blog entries, two candidates were notable a) for their underwhelmingness (Japan’s first European-born MP Tsurunen Marutei) and b) for their rabid xenophobia (the anti-Korean candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki).  Suzuki first:

1) XENOPHOBE SUZUKI NOBUYUKI GETS MORE THAN 1% OF TOKYO ELECTORATE

suzukinobuyukicampaignposterjuly2013

In the end, Suzuki came in tenth (out of twenty candidates), which is not too shabby considering how extremely nasty he is. As of this writing, 74,083 people in Tokyo voted for him.  I find that decidedly scary.

UpperHouse2013TokyoSuzukiNobuyuki

2) TSURUNEN LOSES HIS SEAT.  NOT EVEN CLOSE

tsurunenmarutei2013pamphletcrop

Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, the human chameleon who got his Diet seat for two terms, did little of import with it, and then promised to change even the color of his eyes, decisively lost in the PR vote.

UpperHouse2013DPJPRvotesTsurunen

For the DPJ, he came in thirteenth, gaining only 81,856 votes (not all that many more than Suzuki, and this is a nationwide vote!).  This is below the threshold allowed for the total votes cast for the DPJ, which gave only seven candidates (those denoted by red roses) a seat.

COMMENT:  What an ignominious end to what could have been a noteworthy career.  And if you think I’m exaggerating Tsurunen’s underwhelmingness, even the Asahi didn’t see Tsurunen’s loss (as Japan’s first Visible Minority elected to the Diet) as significant enough to include in the 63 “noteworthy races” (chūmoku no tōraku) they gave special coverage to.

CONCLUSION:  I think Abe will now see this as vindication of his mandate, and we’ll see even more pushing of his rightest agenda to undo as many Postwar reforms as possible.  Those will become very visible in the coming weeks.  Vigilance.

Alright, that’s the bare bones of this election.  Let’s open this up to Comments. Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Assessing outgoing MP Tsurunen Marutei’s tenure in the Diet: Disappointing

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In keeping with the upcoming Upper House Election in Japan in less than one week (July 21), one member whose seat is up for renewal is Tsurunen Marutei, the septagenarian Finland-born naturalized Japanese. He has spent a great proportion of his life in Japan running for elections in local positions (successfully), then nationally (not so successfully, but finally squeaking in on the last rung of Proportional Representation seats by “kuri-age“, when the person who got in instead, Ōhashi Kyosen, gave up his seat in disgust with Japan’s political system).  Tsurunen then won his second six-year term in 2007.  This was significant, since it could be argued that Tsurunen now had a more secure mandate thanks to his works.

However, next week Tsurunen looks likely to lose his Diet seat.  And in Debito.org’s opinion, so be it.  On the eve of this rather ignominious end to what should have been a noteworthy political career, let’s assess here what Tsurunen accomplished:  As far as Debito.org is concerned, very little.   As I have written elsewhere:

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

Normalization of the Gaijin’s permanent “foreigner” status: The self-proclaimed “foreigner” MP Tsurunen Marutei 

 Another naturalized citizen was also undermining Japan’s naturalization regime. Tsurunen Marutei, Japan’s first European-born Caucasian MP, assumed office in Japan’s Upper House in 2002 promising to “speak up for the outsiders”, “promote intercultural tolerance and laws banning discrimination in housing and employment” while cultivating support from the Zainichi Korean minority.[1] However, after distancing himself from “foreigner issues” in a 2002 interview with the author and in a 2006 interview with Metropolis magazine,[2] he was conspicuously absent from a Diet meeting with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene in 2006 regarding the latter’s preliminary report on racial discrimination in Japan.[3] Then, in an interview with the Japan Times conducted in English, Tsurunen was quoted as follows:

We are foreigners and we can’t change the fact. But still Japanese accept us into this society as foreigners… I don’t need to try to be Japanese or assimilate too much. I want to be accepted as a foreigner and still contribute to this society. It’s no problem for me to be a foreigner — it’s a fact… I always say I am Finn-born Japanese.[4]

There were many critiques of this statement with some questioning the legal validity of the statement “Japanese foreigner” from a national representative in the Diet sworn to uphold Japan’s laws. As racialized concepts of “Japaneseness” were being established beyond legal parameters by xenophobic public officials (such as Ishihara Shintarō), Tsurunen, the most prominent Visible-Minority naturalized citizen of Japan, instead of protesting was normalizing and justifying the racialization of Japanese citizenship – by calling himself a “foreigner”, and thereby enforcing his Gaijin status upon himself.

Tsurunen responded to the criticism: “I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner,’ but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person,’ or, as I said in the article, ‘Finn-born Japanese.’ I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and would like to offer my apologies.”[5]

Notwithstanding this gaffe, Tsurunen, facing re-election in 2013, published this pamphlet (click on image to expand in browser):

tsurunenmarutei2013pamphlet

(MP Tsurunen’s 2013 support pamphlet with bio and basic policy stances.)

Note the slogan on the right third of the pamphlet: “‘Me’ no iro kaete, ganbarimasu.” (I will change the color of my “eyes” [change my outlook] and do my best). Further rendering the kanji for “eye” in blue to match his eyes, Tsurunen is highlighting his physical attributes as a Visible Minority as part of his public appeal, and thus further “othering” himself in what may be a desperate act to maintain his Diet seat.


[1] “Yugawaramachi Journal: Japan’s New Insider Speaks Up for the Outsiders.” New York Times, March 8, 2002.

[2] Interview, March 4, 2002, archived at www.debito.org/tsuruneninterview.html; “Foreign-born lawmaker puts Japan’s acceptance of outsiders to the test.” Metropolis Magazine, August 9, 2006.

[3] On May 18, 2006, 2-3PM, at the Shūgi’in Dai-ichi Kaikan, Diene gave a preliminary presentation of his findings to MPs and the general public. I was present, as were several MPs, but Tsurunen was not. In cases where the MP is absent due to schedule conflicts, it is protocol to send a secretary to the event to leave the MP’s business card (meishi) as a show of support. Tsurunen’s office sent no representative and left no card.

[4] See “Mind the gap, get over it: Japan hands.” Japan Times, December 28, 2010.

[5] See Arudou Debito, “Naturalized Japanese: Foreigners no more.” Japan Times, February 1, 2011.

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

CONCLUSION:  As Tsurunen noted in his interview with Debito.org back in 2002, his only policy was to hitch himself to the DPJ.  Quote:  “[T]here will be cases, such as international problems, where we in the Upper House will have to put things to a vote. I will have to decide there and there pro or con. At that time, I think I will have to vote along party lines, even if it is at odds with my personal convictions. If asked by the media before or after why I did that, I will have to say that that’s how party politics work. After all, if I don’t follow party discipline, I will be expelled from the party. Then I won’t be able to do my job. I will maintain my ability to say my own opinion, but at important times I will be a party man. That’s how I stand.” That’s not much of a stand.

And now that the DPJ has gone down in flames, so will he; Tsurunen as the election looms clearly has little he can use to recommend himself for his job except the color of his eyes.  This unremarkable politician, who once said he’d fight for the “outsiders”, in the end did little of that. In fact, it seems Tsurunen fought only for himself, wanting a Diet seat only as a matter of personal ambition and status — to be Japan’s first at something.  Even if it was to occupy what he seems to have made into a sinecure.  Same as any politician, people might argue.  But Tsurunen, with all the visibility and potential of Japan’s first foreign-born and Visible-Minority Japanese MP, squandered a prime opportunity to show what Visible Minorities in Japan can do.

If anything, Tsurunen deserves to be remembered as a person who had no spine, conviction, clear moral compass (despite being a member of Japan’s religious community), or worst of all self-awareness of his minority background in Japan.  He was, for example, no Kayano Shigeru, Japan’s first and only Ainu MP.  And ultimately Tsurunen will be a footnote in history if he remembered at all — a man who called himself a “foreigner” yet refused to fight for the rights or issues that concerned or influenced them.  Mottai nai.  Time to retire into obscurity. Arudou Debito

Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Posters on Debito.org have been champing at the bit to talk about Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s controversial statements on the GOJ WWII sexual slavery program (which also involved NJ and colonial slaves, making this a Debito.org issue).  So let’s have at it as a Discussion in a separate blog entry.

Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing:  He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.

Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing.  Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”.  This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste:  How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability.  Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit).  So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do.  Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made.  But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.

The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it.  In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.”  That is:  Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.

Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”.  And that is wrong both morally and factually.  It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism.  People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie.  Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.

But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect:  For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY.  That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.

At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down.  Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office.  But it is more “honest” than the alternative.

Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A.  After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers.  But an advance word of warning:  Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules:  Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources.  In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org.  Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources.  Go to it.  But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself.  Arudou Debito

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

Statement by Toru Hashimoto
Asahi Shimbun, Asia and Japan Watch, May 27, 2013, courtesy of JDG
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270012

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimioto issues a statement ahead of his press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

* * *

Ideals and values on which I stand:

Today, I want to start by talking about my basic ideals as a politician and my values as a human being.

Nothing is more regrettable than a series of media reports on my remarks with regard to the issue of so-called “comfort women.” These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context.

I attach the utmost importance to the universal values of human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, whose universality human beings have come to accept in the twenty-first century. As a constitutionalist, I also believe that the essential purpose of a nation’s constitution is to bind government powers with the rule of law and to secure freedom and rights of the people. Without such legal limitations imposed by the constitution, the government powers could become arbitrary and harmful to the people.

My administrative actions, first as Governor of Osaka Prefecture and then as Mayor of Osaka City, have been based on these ideals and values. The views on political issues that I have expressed in my career so far, including my view of the Japanese constitution, testify to my commitment to the ideals and values. I am determined to continue to embody these ideals and values in my political actions and statements.

As my ideals and values clearly include respect for the dignity of women as an essential element of human rights, I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.

What I really meant by my remarks on so-called “comfort women”

I am totally in agreement that the use of “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War 2 was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.

I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women. Our nation must be determined to stop this kind of tragedy from occurring again.

I have never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity and human rights of women as an essential part of the universal values in today’s world. It is extremely regrettable that only the cut-off parts of my remarks have been reported worldwide and that these reports have resulted in misunderstood meanings of the remarks, which are utterly contrary to what I actually intended.

We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women. What I intended to convey in my remarks was that a not-insignificant number of other nations should also sincerely face the fact that their soldiers violated the human rights of women. It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to the Japanese soldiers. This kind of attitude shelves the past offenses that are the very things we must face worldwide if we are truly to aim for a better world where the human rights of women are fully respected. Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Against this historical background, I stated that “the armed forces of nations in the world” seemed to have needed women “during the past wars”. Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that “I” tolerated it.

It is a hard historical fact that soldiers of some nations of the world have used women for sexual purposes in wars. From the viewpoint of respecting the human rights of women, it does not make much difference whether the suffering women are licensed or unlicensed prostitutes and whether or not the armed forces are organizationally involved in the violation of the dignity of the women. The use of women for sexual purposes itself is a violation of their dignity. It also goes without saying that rape of local citizens by soldiers in occupied territories and hot spots of military conflict are intolerable atrocities.

Please do not misunderstand, and think that I intend to relativize or justify the issue of comfort women for former Japanese soldiers. Such justification has never been my intention. Whatever soldiers of other nations did will not affect the fact that the violation of the dignity of women by the former Japanese soldiers was intolerable.

What I really meant in my remarks was that it would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world. It would suppress the truth that the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers not only existed in the past but also has yet to be eradicated in today’s world. Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of “sex slaves” or “sex slavery.”

If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.

While expecting sensible nations to voice the issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, I believe that there is no reason for inhibiting Japanese people from doing the same. Because the Japanese people are in a position to face the deplorable past of the use of comfort women by the former Japanese soldiers, to express deep remorse and to state their apology, they are obliged to combat the existing issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, and to do so in partnership with all the nations which also have their past and/or present offenses.

Today, in the twenty-first century, the dignity and human rights of women have been established as a sacred part of the universal values that nations in the world share. It is one of the greatest achievements of progress made by human beings. In the real world, however, the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers has yet to be eradicated. I hope to aim for a future world where the human rights of women will be more respected. Nevertheless, we must face the past and present in order to talk about the future. Japan and other nations in the world must face the violation of the human rights of women by their soldiers. All the nations and peoples in the world should cooperate with one another, be determined to prevent themselves from committing similar offenses again, and engage themselves in protecting the dignity of women at risk in the world’s hot spots of military conflict and in building that future world where the human rights of women are respected.

Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue. In April this year, the G8 Foreign Ministers in London agreed upon the “Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Based on this accomplishment, I expect that the G8 Summit to be held in this June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the UK, will become an important occasion where the leaders of G8 will examine how soldiers from nations in the world, including the former Japanese soldiers, have used women for sexual purposes, face and reflect upon the past offenses with humility, solve today’s problems in partnership with one another, and aim for the ideal future.

With regard to my remark in the discussion with the U.S. commander in Okinawa

There was a news report that, while visiting a U.S. military base in Okinawa, I recommended to the U.S. commander there that he make use of the adult entertainment industry to prevent U.S. soldiers from committing sexual crimes. That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of U.S. soldiers from committing crimes and strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the relations of trust between the two nations. In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark. I will elaborate my real intention as follows.

For the national security of Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the most important asset, and I am truly grateful to contributions made by the United States Forces Japan.

However, in Okinawa, where many U.S. military bases are located, a small number of U.S. soldiers have repeatedly committed serious crimes, including sexual crimes, against Japanese women and children. Every time a crime has occurred, the U.S. Forces have advocated maintaining and tightening official discipline and have promised to the Japanese people that they would take measures to stop such crimes from occurring again. Nevertheless, these crimes have not stopped. The same pattern has been repeating itself.

I emphasize the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and greatly appreciate the U.S. Forces’ contribution to Japan. Nonetheless, the anger of the Okinawan people, whose human rights have continued to be violated, has reached its boiling point. I have a strong wish to request that the U.S.A. face the present situation of Okinawa’s suffering from crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, and take necessary measures to alleviate the problem.

It is a big issue that incidents of sexual violence have frequently happened without effective control within the U.S. military forces worldwide. It has been reported that President Obama has shown a good deal of concern over the forces’ frequent reports of military misconduct and has instructed the commanders to thoroughly tighten their official discipline, as measures taken so far have had no immediate effect.

With all the above-mentioned situations, I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan” should be considered as one of all the possible measures. Even if there is no measure with an immediate effect, the current state of Okinawa should not be neglected. From my strong sense of crisis, I strongly hope that the U.S. army will use all possible measures to bring a heartless minority of soldiers under control. When expressing this strong hope, I used the phrase “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan.” When this phrase was translated into English, it led to the false report that I recommended prostitution–which is illegal under Japanese law. Furthermore, my remark was misunderstood to mean that something legally acceptable is also morally acceptable. Although the adult entertainment industry is legally accepted, it can insult the dignity of women. In that case, of course, some measures should be taken to prevent such insults.

However, I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology. In conclusion, I retract my inappropriate remarks to the U.S. Army and the American people and sincerely apologize to them. I wish that my apologies to them will be accepted and that Japan and the United States of America continue to consolidate their relationship of alliance in full trust.

My real intention was to further enhance the security relationship between Japan and the United States, which most U.S. soldiers’ sincere hard work has consolidated, and to humbly and respectfully ask the U.S. Forces to prevent crimes committed by a mere handful of U.S. soldiers. My strong sense of crisis led to the use of this inappropriate expression.

In the area of human rights, the U.S.A. is one of the most conscientious nations. Human rights are among those values accepted throughout the world as universal. In order for human rights of the Okinawan people to be respected in the same way as those of American people are respected, I sincerely hope that the U.S. Forces will start taking effective measures in earnest to stop crimes in Okinawa from continuing.

About the Japan-Korea Relationship

The Japan-Korea relationship has recently gone through some difficult times. Underlying the difficulty are the issue of comfort women and the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands. Ideally, Japan and South Korea should be important partners in East Asia, as they share the same values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that a closer relationship based on greater trust between Japan and South Korea would contribute to the stability and prosperity of not only East Asia but also the world.

One of the points of tension is that concerning wartime comfort women. Some former comfort women in Korea are currently demanding state compensation from the Japanese government.

However, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, both signed in 1965, have officially and decisively resolved any issues of claims arising from the war, including the right of individual persons to claim compensation. Japan has also performed its moral responsibility with the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund, and it paid atonement money to former comfort women even after the resolution of the legal contention with the treaties.

The international community has welcomed the Asian Women’s Fund. A report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations welcomed Japan’s moral responsibility project of the Asian Women’s Fund. Mary Robinson, the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the Fund a favorable evaluation. Unfortunately, however, some former comfort women have refused to accept the atonement money from the Asian Women’s Fund.

Japan has given significant importance to the Treaty on Basic Relations and the Agreement on the Settlement, both of which made final resolution of any legal contention in 1965, and Japan also sincerely faces, reflects on, and apologizes for its own wartime wrongdoings with feelings of deep remorse.

The whole situation poses a rending dilemma for us: how to make such a compensation that former comfort women would accept as our sincere remorse and apology, while also maintaining the integrity of the legal bilateral agreements between Japan and Korea.

The Korean government has recently claimed that interpretive disputes over the individual right of compensation for former comfort women in the Agreement on the Settlement still remain. I hope that the Republic of Korea, as a state governed by the rule of law, recognizes the legal importance of the above-mentioned agreements. If the Republic of Korea still believes that there exist interpretive contentions in the agreements, I think that only the International Court of Justice can resolve them.

One can hope that the same legal/rule-of-law stance is also observed in the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands.

I firmly believe that neither hatred nor anger can resolve the problems between Japan and Korea. I firmly believe in the importance of legal solution at the International Court of Justice, which arena would allow both sides to maintain rational and legal argument while both maintain both respect for each other and deep sympathy to former comfort women.

I wish to express sincerely my willingness to devote myself to the true improvement of the Japan-Korea relationship through the rule of law.

================================
Japanese version:
橋下徹氏:「私の認識と見解」 日本語版全文
毎日新聞 2013年05月26日
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130526mog00m010012000c.html

2013年5月27日

橋下徹

■私の拠(よ)って立つ理念と価値観について

まず、私の政治家としての基本的な理念、そして一人の人間としての価値観について、お話ししたいと思います。

いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する私の発言をめぐってなされた一連の報道において、発言の一部が文脈から切り離され、断片のみが伝えられることによって、本来の私の理念や価値観とは正反対の人物像・政治家像が流布してしまっていることが、この上なく残念です。

私は、21世紀の人類が到達した普遍的価値、すなわち、基本的人権、自由と平等、民主主義の理念を最も重視しています。また、憲法の本質は、恣意(しい)に流れがちな国家権力を拘束する法の支配によって、国民の自由と権利を保障することに眼目があると考えており、極めてオーソドックスな立憲主義の立場を採(と)る者です。

大阪府知事及び大阪市長としての行政の実績は、こうした理念と価値観に支えられています。また、私の政治活動に伴って憲法をはじめとする様々(さまざま)なイシューについて公にしてきた私の見解を確認いただければ、今私の申し上げていることを裏付けるものであることをご理解いただけると信じております。今後も、政治家としての行動と発言を通じて、以上のような理念と価値観を体現し続けていくつもりです。

こうした私の思想信条において、女性の尊厳は、基本的人権において欠くべからざる要素であり、これについて私の本意とは正反対の受け止め方、すなわち女性蔑視である等の報道が続いたことは、痛恨の極みであります。私は、疑問の余地なく、女性の尊厳を大切にしています。

■いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する発言について

以上の私の理念に照らせば、第二次世界大戦前から大戦中にかけて、日本兵が「慰安婦」を利用したことは、女性の尊厳と人権を蹂躙(じゅうりん)する、決して許されないものであることはいうまでもありません。かつての日本兵が利用した慰安婦には、韓国・朝鮮の方々のみならず、多くの日本人も含まれていました。慰安婦の方々が被った苦痛、そして深く傷つけられた慰安婦の方々のお気持ちは、筆舌につくしがたいものであることを私は認識しております。

日本は過去の過ちを真摯(しんし)に反省し、慰安婦の方々には誠実な謝罪とお詫(わ)びを行うとともに、未来においてこのような悲劇を二度と繰り返さない決意をしなければなりません。

私は、女性の尊厳と人権を今日の世界の普遍的価値の一つとして重視しており、慰安婦の利用を容認したことはこれまで一度もありません。私の発言の一部が切り取られ、私の真意と正反対の意味を持った発言とする報道が世界中を駆け巡ったことは、極めて遺憾です。以下に、私の真意を改めて説明いたします。

かつて日本兵が女性の人権を蹂躙したことについては痛切に反省し、慰安婦の方々には謝罪しなければなりません。同様に、日本以外の少なからぬ国々の兵士も女性の人権を蹂躙した事実について、各国もまた真摯に向き合わなければならないと訴えたかったのです。あたかも日本だけに特有の問題であったかのように日本だけを非難し、日本以外の国々の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について口を閉ざすのはフェアな態度ではありませんし、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざすために世界が直視しなければならない過去の過ちを葬り去ることになります。戦場の性の問題は、旧日本軍だけが抱えた問題ではありません。第二次世界大戦中のアメリカ軍、イギリス軍、フランス軍、ドイツ軍、旧ソ連軍その他の軍においても、そして朝鮮戦争やベトナム戦争における韓国軍においても、この問題は存在しました。

このような歴史的文脈において、「戦時においては」「世界各国の軍が」女性を必要としていたのではないかと発言したところ、「私自身が」必要と考える、「私が」容認していると誤報されてしまいました。

戦場において、世界各国の兵士が女性を性の対象として利用してきたことは厳然たる歴史的事実です。女性の人権を尊重する視点では公娼(こうしょう)、私娼(ししょう)、軍の関与の有無は関係ありません。性の対象として女性を利用する行為そのものが女性の尊厳を蹂躙する行為です。また、占領地や紛争地域における兵士による市民に対する強姦(ごうかん)が許されざる蛮行であることは言うまでもありません。

誤解しないで頂きたいのは、旧日本兵の慰安婦問題を相対化しようとか、ましてや正当化しようという意図は毛頭ありません。他国の兵士がどうであろうとも、旧日本兵による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が決して許されるものではないことに変わりありません。

私の発言の真意は、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題が旧日本軍のみに特有の問題であったかのように世界で報じられ、それが世界の常識と化すことによって、過去の歴史のみならず今日においても根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題の真実に光が当たらないことは、日本のみならず世界にとってプラスにならない、という一点であります。私が言いたかったことは、日本は自らの過去の過ちを直視し、決して正当化してはならないことを大前提としつつ、世界各国もsex slaves、sex slaveryというレッテルを貼って日本だけを非難することで終わってはならないということです。

もし、日本だけが非難される理由が、戦時中、国家の意思として女性を拉致した、国家の意思として女性を売買したということにあるのであれば、それは事実と異なります。

過去、そして現在の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について、良識ある諸国民の中から声が挙がることを期待するものでありますが、日本人が声を挙げてはいけない理由はないと思います。日本人は、旧日本兵が慰安婦を利用したことを直視し、真摯に反省、謝罪すべき立場にあるがゆえに、今日も根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題に立ち向かう責務があり、同じ問題を抱える諸国民と共により良い未来に向かわなければなりません。

21世紀の今日、女性の尊厳と人権は、世界各国が共有する普遍的価値の一つとして、確固たる位置を得るに至っています。これは、人類が達成した大きな進歩であります。しかし、現実の世界において、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が根絶されたわけではありません。私は、未来に向けて、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざしていきたい。しかし、未来を語るには、過去そして現在を直視しなければなりません。日本を含む世界各国は、過去の戦地において自国兵士が行った女性に対する人権蹂躙行為を直視し、世界の諸国と諸国民が共に手を携え、二度と同じ過ちを繰り返さぬよう決意するとともに、今日の世界各地の紛争地域において危機に瀕(ひん)する女性の尊厳を守るために取り組み、未来に向けて女性の人権が尊重される世界を作っていくべきだと考えます。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、徹底して反省しなければなりません。正当化は許されません。それを大前提とした上で、世界各国も、戦場の性の問題について、自らの問題として過去を直視してもらいたいのです。本年4月にはロンドンにおいてG8外相会合が「紛争下の性的暴力防止に関する閣僚宣言」に合意しました。この成果を基盤として、6月に英国北アイルランドのロック・アーンで開催予定のG8サミットが、旧日本兵を含む世界各国の兵士が性の対象として女性をどのように利用していたのかを検証し、過去の過ちを直視し反省するとともに、理想の未来をめざして、今日の問題解決に協働して取り組む場となることを期待します。

■在日アメリカ軍司令官に対する発言について

また、沖縄にある在日アメリカ軍基地を訪問した際、司令官に対し、在日アメリカ軍兵士の性犯罪を抑止するために風俗営業の利用を進言したという報道もありました。これは私の真意ではありません。私の真意は、一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪を抑止し、より強固な日米同盟と日米の信頼関係を築くことです。一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の問題を解決したいとの思いが強すぎて、誤解を招く不適切な発言をしてしまいましたが、私の真意を、以下に説明いたします。

日本の安全保障にとって、米国との同盟関係は最も重要な基盤であり、在日アメリカ軍の多大な貢献には、本当に感謝しています。

しかしながら、多くの在日アメリカ軍基地がある沖縄では、一部の心無いアメリカ軍兵士によって、日本人の女性や子どもに対する性犯罪など重大な犯罪が繰り返されています。こうした事件が起きる度に、在日アメリカ軍では、規律の保持と綱紀粛正が叫ばれ、再発防止策をとることを日本国民に誓いますが、在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪は絶えることがありません。同じことの繰り返しです。

私は、日本の外交において日米同盟を重視し、在日アメリカ軍の日本への貢献を大いに評価しています。しかし、人権を蹂躙され続ける沖縄県民の怒りは沸点に達しているのです。在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の現状をアメリカに訴え、何としてでも改善してもらいたい、という強い思いを持っております。

アメリカ軍内部において性暴力が多発し、その統制がとれていないことが最近、アメリカで話題となっています。オバマ大統領もアメリカ軍の自己統制の弱さに相当な危機感を抱き、すぐに効果の出る策はないとしつつ、アメリカ軍に綱紀粛正を徹底するよう指示したとの報道がありました。

このような状況において、私は強い危機感から、在日アメリカ軍司令官に対して、あらゆる対応策の一つとして、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」を利用するということも考えるべきではないかと発言しました。すぐに効果の出る策はないとしても、それでも沖縄の現状を放置するわけにはいきません。私の強い危機感から、ありとあらゆる手段を使ってでも、一部の心無い在日アメリカ軍兵士をしっかりとコントロールして欲しい、そのような強い思いを述べる際、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」という言葉を使ってしまいました。この表現が翻訳されて、日本の法律で認められていない売春・買春を勧めたとの誤報につながりました。さらに合法であれば道徳的には問題がないというようにも誤解をされました。合法であっても、女性の尊厳を貶(おとし)める可能性もあり、その点については予防しなければならないことはもちろんのことです。

今回の私の発言は、アメリカ軍のみならずアメリカ国民を侮辱することにも繋(つな)がる不適切な表現でしたので、この表現は撤回するとともにお詫び申し上げます。この謝罪をアメリカ軍とアメリカ国民の皆様が受け入れて下さいます事、そして日本とアメリカが今後とも強い信頼関係を築いていけることを願います。

私の真意は、多くの在日アメリカ軍兵士は一生懸命誠実に職務を遂行してくれていますが、一部の心無い兵士の犯罪によって、日米の信頼関係が崩れることのないよう、在日アメリカ軍の綱紀粛正を徹底してもらいたい、という点にあります。その思いが強すぎて、不適切な表現を使ってしまいました。

アメリカは、世界で最も人権意識の高い国の一つです。そして、人権は世界普遍の価値です。アメリカ国民の人権と同じように、沖縄県民の基本的人権が尊重されるよう、アメリカ軍が本気になって沖縄での犯罪抑止のための実効性ある取り組みを開始することを切に望みます。

■日韓関係について

日本と韓国の関係は現在厳しい状況にあると言われています。その根底には、慰安婦問題と竹島をめぐる領土問題があります。

日本と韓国は、自由、民主主義、人権、法の支配などの価値観を共有する隣国として、重要なパートナー関係にあります。日韓の緊密な関係は、東アジアの安定と繁栄のためだけでなく、世界の安定と繁栄のためにも寄与するものと信じています。

現在、元慰安婦の一部の方は、日本政府に対して、国家補償を求めています。

しかし、1965年の日韓基本条約と「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」において、日本と韓国の間の法的な請求権(個人的請求権も含めて)の問題は完全かつ最終的に解決されました。

日本は、韓国との間の法的請求権問題が最終解決した後においても、元慰安婦の方々へ責任を果たすために、国民からの寄付を募り1995年に「女性のためのアジア平和国民基金(略称アジア女性基金)」を設立し、元慰安婦の方々に償い金をお渡ししました。

このアジア女性基金を通じた日本の責任を果たす行為は、国際社会でも評価を受けております。国連人権委員会へ提出されたレポートもアジア女性基金を通じての日本の道義的責任を歓迎しています。また国連人権高等弁務官であったメアリーロビンソンさんも基金を評価しています。

しかし、残念ながら、元慰安婦の一部の方は、このアジア女性基金による償い金の受領を拒んでおります。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、反省とお詫びをしつつも、1965年に請求権問題を最終解決した日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定も重視しております。

日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定を前提としつつ、元慰安婦の方々の心に響く償いをするにはどのようにすればいいのかは大変難しい問題です。韓国政府は最近、日韓基本条約とともに締結された「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」における元慰安婦の日本政府への請求権の存否の解釈が未解決だと主張しております。韓国も法の支配を重んじる国でしょうから、日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定という国際ルールの重さを十分に認識して頂いて、それでも納得できないというのであれば、韓国政府自身が日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定の解釈について国際司法裁判所等に訴え出るしかないのではないでしょうか? その際には、竹島をめぐる領土問題も含めて、法の支配に基づき、国際司法裁判所等での解決を望みます。

私は、憎しみと怒りをぶつけ合うだけでは何も解決することはできないと思います。元慰安婦の方の苦しみを理解しつつ、日韓お互いに尊敬と敬意の念を持ちながら、法に基づいた冷静な議論を踏まえ、国際司法裁判所等の法に基づいた解決に委ねるしかないと考えております。

法の支配によって、真に日韓関係が改善されるよう、私も微力を尽くしていきたいと思います。
ENDS

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

Hashimoto explains remarks in Q&A session at Tokyo news conference
Hashimoto denies ‘will of state’ in comfort women system
May 27, 2013
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270124

AJW
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 explained his views on “comfort women” and other issues during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Excerpts from the question and answer session follow:

***

Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?

Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.

We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.

Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.

I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don’t think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.

Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.

Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?

Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.

When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.

What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.

There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.

What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.

Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.

The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.

It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.

It is now time to begin discussing this issue.

I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.

Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.

The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.

Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women,” which indicates trafficking was involved?

A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.

However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.

You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.

The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.

The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.

The Kono statement should be made clearer.

Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.

The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.

Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.

The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.

It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.

Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?

A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.

Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.

Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.

Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.

Ishihara does have a different view of the past.

That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.

Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.

The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.

Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan’s responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.

However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.

Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?

A: I am not denying Japan’s responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.

I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.

I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.

However, such things also occurred at private businesses.

I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.

Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.

I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.

I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.

I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.

Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn’t that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?

A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.

In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.

We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.

***
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now

mytest

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART TWO

Hello Newsletter Readers. This month’s Newsletter is a little late due to a press holiday on May 7, the date my Japan Times column was originally to come out. So this month you get two editions that are chock full of important announcements. As a supplement, here is information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:

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

1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99

rsz_finished_book_coverB&N

Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide).

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

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

2) Debito’s eBook “JAPANESE ONLY: THE OTARU ONSENS CASE AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN JAPAN” now available in a 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

japaneseonlyebookcovertext

It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

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

3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

In Appropriate cover

My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

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

Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito

ENDS

Tangent on Sexual Minorities: Gay marriage trends worldwide, and how Japan’s Douseiaisha do it: Donald Keene’s marriage by Koseki adoption

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to take readers on a bit of a tangent, as this blog tends to focus on minorities in Japan in terms of “race”, social, or national origin.  We don’t talk much about Sexual Minorities, such as the LGBT communities in Japan (particularly the Douseiaisha, Japanese for Homosexuals), and how they are missing out on the wave of legalized gay marriage worldwide.  Consider this from The Economist:

====================================
economistgaymarriage042213

Daily chart
Altared states
Apr 22nd 2013, 14:40 by Economist.com
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/04/daily-chart-14?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/dc/altaredstate
More countries legalise gay marriage

TENS of thousands of people thronged the streets of Paris at the weekend to protest against a gay-marriage bill that is set for a second reading in the National Assembly on April 23rd. They are unlikely to stop its passage. The bill, which is an election pledge by the Socialist president, François Hollande, was passed by a large majority at its first reading in February despite fierce opposition organised by conservative and Catholic groups. France is not the only country where gay marriage has been on the legislative or judicial agenda in recent weeks. On April 17th New Zealand became the 12th country to legalise gay marriage, though the law will not come into effect until August. Uruguay, too, has passed a similar bill that awaits the signature of the president before it becomes law. And in late March the American Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case on the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to a man and a woman. In all these countries—and indeed in much of the West—opinion polls show public support for same-sex marriages.
ENDS
====================================

Debito.org applauds this trend of legalizing gay marriage.  Meanwhile Japan, as you can see above, to its credit has no law criminalizing homosexuality.  It, however, does not permit gay marriages due to the vagaries of the Family Registry (Koseki) System.  In short, only a wife and a husband by gender can create a married family unit.

But as has been pointed out here on Debito.org before, people find ways to get around this.  Gay couples, in order to pass on inheritance rights, adopt each other into the same family unit on the Koseki.  The problem is for international couples that non-citizens cannot be listed on a Koseki as husband or wife.

So here is how LGBT foreigners can get around it:  Naturalize and adopt.  As Debito.org previously suggested might be the case, famous naturalized Japanese Donald Keene has done it, and recently gone public about it:

====================================
ドナルド・キーンさんが養子縁組 三味線奏者の上原さんと
Sports Nippon, April 30, 2013, courtesy of Mumei
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/society/news/2013/04/30/kiji/K20130430005714360.html

日本文学研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(90)が、浄瑠璃三味線の奏者、上原誠己さん(62)と養子縁組したことが30日、分かった。キーンさんが29日、新潟市内で行った講演で明らかにした。

誠己さんによると、キーンさんが日本国籍取得を表明した2011年春ごろから養子縁組の話が持ち上がり、昨年3月に正式に「キーン誠己」となった。

06年11月、誠己さんが古浄瑠璃について教えを請うためにキーンさんを訪問して交流が始まった。大英博物館で台本が発掘された人形浄瑠璃「弘知法印御伝記」を09年、約300年ぶりに復活上演した際も、キーンさんの助言を受けた。

誠己さんは「五世鶴沢浅造」として長年公演に出演。1997年に故郷の新潟市に戻り、家業の酒造会社を手伝いながら、三味線の指導や奏者の活動を続けた。

現在は東京都内でキーンさんと同居し、スケジュール管理や食事作りなどに携わる。誠己さんは「健康管理をしっかりやり、多忙な先生を支えたい」と話している。
ENDS
====================================

Congratuations, Don.  Seriously.  May you accomplish all the goals that remain before you in the years left to you.  My only requests, as I have made several times before, are that 1) you do not make a pandering show of it as some kind of “solidarity with the Japanese” kinda thing; and 2) you do not denigrate others (i.e., NJ, by insinuating statistically incorrectly that NJ are less likely to be loyal to Japan (as “Flyjin”) or more likely to be criminals).  Clearly the real reason you naturalized was a lot less selfless than you portray (which is fine, but let’s have a bit less public self-aggrandizing and self-hugging, please).  It is unbecoming of a person of your stature in Japan-related academia.

Anyway, that’s the template for how you do it.  Gay NJ who wish to marry Japanese and get the same inheritance rights should naturalize and adopt one another.  Or else, barring naturalization, go overseas to a society more enlightened about Same-Sex Marriage and get married.  Bonne chance.  Arudou Debito

Harbingers of further insularity: J international marriages way down, as are J students studying abroad

mytest

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Hi Blog. We have some more harbingers of Japan’s retreat into itself. International marriages are way down, and so are Japanese students studying abroad.

First, check out this significant stat about international marriage:  At last measurement, international marriage figures (in blue) have dropped by about 25% since their peak in 2006! (International divorce figures, in yellow, have crept up too.)

mofaintlmarriage19792010

(Courtesy the Foreign Affairs Ministry http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/pr/wakaru/topics/vol82/index.html. (I’ll talk a little more about the contents of this page shortly, as the focus is on international divorce and the probable consequences of Japan’s signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions.)

I call it significant because it removes one of the fundamental means to Japan’s increased diversity.  If Japan’s perennially low birthrate means fewer children, having fewer international marriages means probably fewer international Japanese children.  And this will quite possibly lead to further marginalization of the “half” population as a temporary “blip” in international coupling (last seen as a “social problem” with the Postwar konketsuji mixed-blood children, publicly stigmatized for being “bastard children of prostitutes”; see Fish, Robert A.  2009.  “‘Mixed-blood’ Japanese:  A Reconsideration of Race and Purity in Japan.”  Pp. 40-58 in Weiner, ed., Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity.  2nd ed.  Sheffield:  Routledge.)

As a tangent, note the normalized racialization of the GOJ’s illustration above, where the “foreigner” is male and blue-eyed.  Even though the majority of Japanese-foreign marriages are not “Western male” either in terms of marriages in general or even foreign husbands in specific, perpetually!  So says MHLW:

mhlwmarriagestatt19502009Courtesy http://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/saikin/hw/jinkou/suii09/marr2.html

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

Next up, consider how Japanese students are not going overseas much (according to the Japan Times, they are being significantly outdistanced by, for example, the South Koreans and Chinese):

Jstudentsstudyabroad8310Courtesy of http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/19/national/high-schoolers-dream-of-ivy-league/ and JJS.

That said, I’m a bit skeptical about whether this trend means a great deal, as I don’t think people who study abroad necessarily become more broad-minded or open to outside ideas (and Japanese society has structural mechanisms for marginalizing students who leave the system anyway).  Moreover, the domestic discourse nowadays is finding ways to rationalize away the need, for example, to study a foreign language at all.  Nevertheless, I would argue that these trends are not particularly good for Japan, as they are not only harbingers of insularity, but also encouraging even further insularity in addition to recent trends I have written about before.  Arudou Debito

New eBook: “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Onsens Case”, 10th Anniv Edition with new Intro and Postscript, now on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook $9.99

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.

The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc.  A synopsis of the new book is below.

You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:

Price:  $9.99 (a bargain considering JO is currently on sale on Amazon Japan used for 3100 yen, and at Amazon.com used for $390.93!), or the equivalent in local currency on all other Amazons (935 yen on Amazon Japan).

If you haven’t read JO yet (as clearly some media presences, like TV Tarento Daniel Kahl or decrier of “bathhouse fanatics” Gregory Clark, have not; not to mention “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo would rather you didn’t), now is a brand new opportunity with additional context.  Here’s the Synopsis:

SYNOPSIS OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF eBOOK “JAPANESE ONLY”

If you saw signs up in public places saying “No Coloreds”, what would you do? See them as relics of a bygone era, a la US Segregation or South African Apartheid? Not in Japan, where even today “Japanese Only” signs, excluding people who look “foreign”, may be found nationwide, thanks to fear and opportunism arising from Japan’s internationalization and economic decline.

JAPANESE ONLY is the definitive account of the Otaru Onsens Case, where public bathhouses in Otaru City, Hokkaido, put up “no foreigners allowed” signs to refuse entry to Russian sailors, and in the process denied service to Japanese. One of Japan’s most studied postwar court cases on racial discrimination, this case went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, and called into question the willingness of the Japanese judiciary to enforce Japan’s Constitution.

Written by one of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit, a bilingual naturalized citizen who has lived in Japan for 25 years, this highly-readable first-person account chronologically charts the story behind the case and the surrounding debate in Japanese media between 1999 and 2005. The author uncovers a side of Japanese society that many Japanese and scholars of Japan would rather not discuss: How the social determination of “Japanese” inevitably leads to racism. How Japan, despite international treaties and even its own constitutional provisions, remains the only modern, developed country without any form of a law against racial discrimination, resulting in situations where foreigners and even Japanese are refused service at bathhouses, restaurants, stores, apartments, hotels, schools, even hospitals, simply for looking too “foreign”. How Japan officially denies the existence of racial discrimination in Japan (as its allegedly homogeneous society by definition contains no minorities), until the Sapporo District Court ruled otherwise with Otaru Onsens.

JAPANESE ONLY also charts the arc of a public debate that reached extremes of xenophobia: Where government-sponsored fear campaigns against “foreign crime” and “illegal foreigners” were used to justify exclusionism. Where outright acts of discrimination, once dismissed as mere “cultural misunderstandings”, were then used as a means to “protect Japanese” from “scary, unhygienic, criminal foreigners” and led to the normalization of racialized hate speech. Where even resident foreigners turned on themselves, including Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark’s repeated diatribes against “bathhouse fanatics”, and future “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo’s opportunistic use of activism to promote his own agenda at the expense of the cause. Where the plaintiffs stay the course despite enormous public pressure to drop the lawsuit (including death threats), and do so at great personal risk and sacrifice. Remaining in print since its first publication in 2003, JAPANESE ONLY remains a testament to the dark side of race relations in Japan, and contains a taut story of courage and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Now for the first time in ebook format, this Tenth Anniversary Edition in English offers a new Introduction and Postscript by the author, updating the reader on what has changed, what work remains to be done, and how Japan in fact is reverse-engineering itself to become more insular and xenophobic in the 2010s. Called “a reasoned and spirited denunciation of national prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry” (Donald Richie, legendary Japanologist), “clear, well-paced, balanced and informative” (Tom Baker, The Daily Yomiuri), “a personal and fascinating account of how this movement evolved, its consequences and how it affected those who participated in it” (Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times), and “the book of reference on the subject for decades to come and should be required reading for anyone studying social protest” (Robert Whiting, author of You’ve Gotta Have Wa), JAPANESE ONLY is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Japan’s future direction in the world and its latent attitudes towards outsiders.

More reviews at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html
ends

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone who read my article, as it has been trending within the most-read articles within the past couple of days once again this month.  Here it is on the blog for commentary with links to sources.  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

justbecauseicon.jpg
Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class
BY ARUDOU Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause Column 62, published April 2, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/02/issues/tweak-the-immigration-debate-and-demand-an-upgrade-to-denizen-class/
Version below with links to sources

Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.

One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.

In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.

The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.

Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijūsha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijūsha (special permanent resident, for the zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).

Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen.

Denizenship,” as discussed by Tomas Hammar of Stockholm University, is a mid-step between migrant and immigrant, foreigner and citizen — a “quasi-citizenship.” In his 1990 book “Democracy and the Nation State,” Hammar talks about three “entrance gates” for migrants to become citizens: 1) admission to the country, 2) permanent residency, and 3) acquisition of full citizenship.

Denizens have passed the second gate, having become resident aliens who have been granted extensive civil and social citizenship rights — including national and/or local suffrage in some countries.

Although denizens lack the full political rights of a citizen, scholars of international migration note that countries are increasingly giving denizens faster tracks to full citizenship, including relaxation of blood-based nationality (e.g., in Sweden, Holland, Switzerland and Germany), official guidance in naturalization procedures after obtaining permanent residency (e.g., United States), greater tolerance for dual citizenship (e.g., Mexico) and some electoral rights (e.g., European Union). [all claims within books by scholars below, but some quick references here]

A similar discussion on denizenship has taken place in Japanese academia, thanks to Atsushi Kondo (1996), Chikako Kashiwazaki (2000) and Akihiro Asakawa (2007) et al., all of whom rendered the term in katakana as denizun, translating it as eijū shimin (permanent “citizens,” so to speak).

Perhaps this will come as no surprise, but their extensive research highlighted the comparatively closed nature of Japanese immigration policy. Japan has been an outlier in terms of citizenship rules, going against the trend seen in other advanced democracies to enfranchise denizens.

For example, Japan has an intolerance of dual nationality, high hurdles for achieving permanent residency, arbitrary and discretionary rules for obtaining full citizenship, few refugees, and strict “family” blood-based citizenship without exception for future generations of denizens (which is why Japan is still home to hundreds of thousands of zainichi “foreigners” 60 years after their ancestors were stripped of Japanese citizenship).

Essentially, Japan does not recognize denizenship. This was underscored during recent debates on granting local suffrage rights to permanent residents (gaikokujin sanseiken). Opposition politicians stated clearly: If foreigners want the right to vote, they should naturalize.

Sadly, steps to humanize the debate, by incorporating the perspectives of long-term residents themselves, were not taken, creating a tautology of disenfranchisement. The antireformers eventually won the debate, retrenching the binary between “foreigner” and “citizen” and obscuring the gray zones of long-term residency.

There are long-standing systemic issues behind this entrenchment. As Kashiwazaki notes: “The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.”

As discussed on these pages numerous times, the firewall keeping foreigners from ever becoming settlers is maintained by Japan’s revolving-door visa regimes, strict punishments for even slight administrative infractions that “reset the visa clock,” and a permanent “police the foreigners” credo from a Justice Ministry not configured for immigration or integration.

This has a long history. As Japan’s “Immigration Bureau” has argued repeatedly after it designed the postwar rules on any foreign influx (here in 1959): “Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. Particularly because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.”

After a high water mark of “internationalization” in the 1990s, Japan’s conservatives in the 2000s (backed up by periodic official “foreign crime” and “visa overstayer” campaigns to scare the public) managed to stem the tide of liberalization seen in other advanced democracies, turning Japan into an immigration Galapagos increasingly reactionary towards outsiders — even as demographics force Japan’s decline.

Like the people it represents, denizenship as a concept remains invisible within Japan’s public discourse, oblivious to how foreigners actually live in Japan. Categorically, people are either gaikokujin or nihonjin. Rarely if ever are the former termed eijūsha, eijū shimin, imin or ijūsha (immigrants).

Let’s tweak the terms of debate. If you’re planning on living in Japan indefinitely, I suggest you get your neighbors warmed up to the fact that you as a non-Japanese (let’s at least avoid the dislocated, transient trappings of the generic word “foreigner”) are not merely gaikokujin. You are jūmin (residents). And as of 2012, most of you now have a jūminhyō (residency certificate) to prove it.

Then spread the word through the grass roots, such as they are. Upgrade your status and mollify the binary. Or else you’ll just be stuck in a rhetorical limbo as something temporary and in transit. Not good for you, not good for Japan.

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

Debito’s most recent publication is “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance” in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (japanfocus.org/site/view/3907) Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Pages of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp.

Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig“, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners.  For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997.  More examples here.

Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at.  Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections.

Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody?  Again, deserves to be known about.  Arudou Debito

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Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification
Asahi Shimbun AJW, March 16, 2013, courtesy of MP
By TAKUFUMI YOSHIDA/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303160063

Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth.

Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.”

The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The proposal was made by Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., and others.

Article 16 of the Labor Contract Law stipulates that there must be reasonable grounds for a dismissal. Employers are not permitted to sack workers unless they have valid reasons, such as poor performance, disciplinary offenses or reducing the work force as a result of financial trouble.

Hasegawa and other members suggested that the Labor Contract Law should be amended to allow employers to dismiss workers at their discretion.

They also called for the establishment of a system in which employers would be able to fire workers without a valid reason as long as they provide them so-called monetary re-employment support.

In addition, they said the Labor Contract Law should make it clear in what instances dismissals would not be permitted.

In many European countries, if a court determines that a dismissal is unlawful, the employer can still dissolve the employment relationship by paying the fired employee compensation–usually one to two years worth of salary.

But if a similar court decision was made in Japan, workers would have few options other than returning to their former workplaces.

The system the panel in Japan is pushing differs from the European labor practice in that employers would be able to freely sack workers without reasonable grounds as long as they pay compensation.

Panel members said the proposed system would not only increase liquidity in the labor market, but benefit workers, depending on the amount of compensation paid.

The panel includes 10 leaders from the private sector and is expected to come up with a proposed economic growth strategy by June.
ENDS

Donald Richie passes away at age 88. Saluting one of our pioneering Japanologist brethren

mytest

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Hi Blog. I just want to say a brief word of thanks to Donald Richie for a life well lived on the occasion of his passing (thanks AS for the notification) yesterday at age 88. We’ll add articles as they come out in commemoration, but here’s the first brief one from Yahoo News/Asahi Digital:

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http://dailynews.yahoo.co.jp/fc/entertainment/movie/?1361296907

ドナルド・リチーさん死去 黒沢・小津らを海外に紹介
朝日新聞デジタル 2月19日(火)20時2分配信
黒沢明、小津安二郎、溝口健二ら日本映画の質の高さを海外に紹介した米国出身の映画評論家ドナルド・リチーさんが、19日午後1時26分、東京都内の病院で死去した。88歳だった。

米オハイオ州生まれ。1946年に来日し、米軍機関紙スターズ・アンド・ストライプスの記者に。コロンビア大進学のため帰国し、54年に再来日。英字紙ジャパンタイムズなどで映画評を執筆した。59年、外国語による最初の体系的日本映画論「ザ・ジャパニーズ・フィルム」(共著)を発表。カンヌ国際映画祭の溝口特集に企画協力するなど、欧米での日本映画への関心を高めることに貢献した。

68~73年には米ニューヨーク近代美術館の映画部長を務め、日本映画の大規模上映を実現した。主な著書に「映画のどこをどう読むか」「黒沢明の映画」「小津安二郎の美学」など。83年、第1回川喜多賞。実験映画作家の顔も持ち、舞踏の土方巽、作曲家の武満徹らの協力で前衛的な作品を制作した。

朝日新聞社
最終更新:2月19日(火)22時58分

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The era of the pioneering Immediate Postwar hands-on Japanologists is truly and inevitably coming to an end. First Edwin Reischauer (long ago in 1990; I managed to meet him and host a talk by him and his wife Haru at UCSD in 1989), then Edward Seidensticker (2007), now Donald Richie (for whom Debito.org has had praise for in the past for his healthy attitude of “swallowing Japan whole”; I met him about ten years ago and had a very good conversation; he also kindly lavished praise on HANDBOOK). Of the very famous ones, Donald Keene is basically the last one standing.  And I don’t think I will be able to eulogize that Donald in the same way.

I will miss Donald Richie. Feel free to append articles and your thoughts below. Arudou Debito

Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)

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BOOK REVIEW
At Home Abroad: The Contemporary Western Experience in Japan“, by Adam Komisarof. Reitaku University Press, 2012. 251 pages, ISBN: 978-4-892025-616-1

athomeabroadcover

(Publisher’s note:  On sale in Japan through Amazon Japan, in North America through Kinokuniya USA)
Review exclusive to Debito.org, January 20, 2013
By ARUDOU DEBITO (updated version with errata corrected and Robin Sakamoto’s photo added)

At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan” (Reitaku University Press 2011). However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.

The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.

The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie (photos below).

As Komisarof acknowledges in his section on caveats (pp. 11-2), these people have a “Western cultural heritage” (as nine are from the US) and are mostly Caucasian; he notes that he confines his analysis to “Westerners”, and does not “presume to address the experiences of Korean permanent residents of Japan or people from developing countries,” as “both deserve to have entire books written about their experiences, which are in many ways quantitatively different from non-Japanese who have moved here by their own volition from affluent nations” (ibid). To counter this, Komisarof taps into “other types of diversity among the interviewees in terms of ethnicity, profession, and gender” (ibid) (e.g., Anton is African-American, Murphy-Shigematsu and Fukushima are of Japanese descent, and Yoshida is a Japanese raised abroad; three — Sakamoto, Arudou, and Murphy-Shigematsu — were naturalized Japanese at the time of their interview).

Being self-aware of these caveats salvages the science, but the interviews (despite good questions from Komisarof) are uneven and do not always speak to the point. Donald Keene comes off as patrician and supercilious about his position in Japan (not to mention out of touch with the way that most NJ live in Japan) when he says: 

There is still a hard core of resistance to Japanese culture among foreigners living in, say, Minato-ku. […] All of their friends are non-Japanese — with the exception of a few Japanese friends who speak English fluently. They live in houses that are completely Western in every detail. They read the English newspaper, The Japan Times, and they know who danced with whom the night before. They are still living in a colony. But I think that colony has grown smaller than ever before and has been penetrated by new people who want to learn about Japan. If you read about Yokohama in 1910, it would have been a very strange family that thought it was a good idea to let their son or daughter to go to a Japanese school and learn anything about Japan. They would never think in terms of living here indefinitely. They would think, “When we finish our exile here, we will go to a decent place.” (23)

donaldkeenenhk
Donald Keene, courtesy of NHK

No doubt, this may have been true in Yokohama back in 1910. But that is over a century ago and people thought even interracial marriage was very strange; nowadays it’s not, especially in Japan, and I doubt many NJ residents see Japan as a form of “exile”. Keene remains in character by depicting himself as a Lawrence of Arabia type escaping his colony brethren to get his hands dirty with the natives (somehow unlike all the other people interviewed for this book; I wonder if they all met at a party how Keene would reconcile them with his world view).

pakkunmakkun

Patrick Harlan also comes off as shallow in his interview, mentioning his Harvard credentials more than once (as wearers of the Crimson tend to), and claims that he is sacrificing his putative entertainer career income in America by “several decimal places” for “a good gig here”.  Despite his linguistic fluency to be a stand-up manzai comic, he makes claims in broad strokes such as “Ethnic jokes don’t even exist [in Japan]. People are treated with respect.” (36)  He also talks about using his White privilege in ways that benefit his career in comedy (such as it is; full disclosure: this author does not find Pakkun funny), but makes assertions that are not always insightful re the points of assimilation/integration that this book is trying to address. Clearly, Dave Spector would have been the better interview for this research (although interviewing him might be as difficult as interviewing Johnny Carson, as both have the tendency to deflect personal questions with jokes).

karenhillantonRobinSakamotopaulsnowdenglenfukushima
(L-R) Karen Hill Anton, courtesy of her Linkedin Page; Robin Sakamoto, courtesy of Robin Sakamoto; Paul Snowden, courtesy of the Yomiuri Shinbun;Glen Fukushima, courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

Other interviews are more revealing about the interviewee than about the questions being broached by the book.  Both Karen Hill Anton and Robin Sakamoto, despite some good advice about life in Japan, come off as rather isolated in their rural hamlets, as does a very diplomatic Paul Snowden rather ensconced in his Ivory Tower. Glen Fukushima, although very politically articulate, and highly knowledgable about code-switching communication strategies to his advantage in negotiations, also sounds overly self-serving and self-promoting.

Daniel Kahl’s interview is the worst of the book, as it combines a degree of overgeneralizing shallowness with an acidulous nastiness towards fellow NJ.  For example:

I can read a newspaper and my [TV] scripts… I know about 2000 kanji, so I’m totally functional, and I think that’s a prerequisite for being accepted.  I hate to say it, but there are a lot of foreigners who complain, “I’m not accepted in society!”  That’s because you can’t read the sign that explains how to put out your garbage.  And people get mad at you for mixing cans with bottles.  Simple as it may seem, those are the little things that get the neighbors angry. (206)

danielkahljapanprobe
Poster of Daniel Kahl courtesy of Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights, caption courtesy of Japan Probe back in the day.

Especially when Kahl says:

I think that a foreigner who comes here and makes the effort can definitely be accepted. If you feel that you are not, then you’ve already got a chip on yours shoulder to begin with. […] For example, do you remember the incident in Hokkaido when the Japanese public bath owners had a “No Foreigners” sign up in front of their buildings? I guess two or three foreign folks got really upset about that, and they sued the place. Why would you sue them? Why don’t you go talk to those people? Tell the, “Look, I’m a foreigner. But I’m not going to tear your place up. Could you take down that sign?” Then the Japanese might have explained that they weren’t doing it to keep out all foreigners, but to keep out the drunk Russian sailors who were causing all the trouble in the first place. I don’t know all of the details, but these foreigners thought that they were making a political and legal statement. It could have been made very effectively, though, without embarrassing that city or the public bath owners. The foreigners were trying to change the law, but it was a pretty confrontational way to do so. I can almost guarantee that those foreigners are going to have a hard time being accepted by the Japanese in general. (100)

 

Kahl is exactly right when he says, “I don’t know all of the details,” since just about everything else he says above about the Otaru Onsens Case is incorrect. For example, it was more than “two or three foreign folk” getting upset (Japanese were also being refused entry, and there was a huge groundswell of support from the local community); one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit mentioned is not foreign. Moreover, as Arudou mentions in his interview, they did “go talk to those people”: they spent more than fifteen months talking one-on-one with all parties to this dispute, until there was no other option but to go to court (which millions of Japanese themselves do every year).  Moreover, at least one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Olaf Karthaus, is very well assimilated into his community, having graduated two children (with a third in junior high) through Japan’s secondary schooling, becoming Director at the Department of Bio- and Material Photonics at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, and participating daily in his Sapporo church groups.  In any case, Kahl’s lack of research is inexcusable, since he could have easily read up by now on this case he cites as a cautionary tale:  There are whole books written in English, Japanese, or even free online in two languages as an exhaustive archive available for over a decade as a cure for the ignorant. There’s even, as of 2013, an updated Tenth Anniversary Edition eBook downloadable for Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK, moreover for a very reasonable price of $9.99 or yen equivalent.  One can safely conclude that Kahl chooses to be ignorant in order to preserve his world view.

michaelbondytomokoyoshidastephenmurphyshigematsu
(L-R) Michael Bondy courtesy of his Linkedin Page; Tomoko Yoshida courtesy of Keio University; Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu courtesy of Stanford University.

The best interviews come from Bondy (who offers much practical advice about getting along in a Japanese-hybrid workplace), Yoshida and Murphy-Shigematsu (both of whom have some academic rigor behind their views of the world, and express their measured views with balance, deep thought and intuition). But the best of the best comes last with Donald Richie, who shows that old people do not necessarily become as curmudgeonly as Keene. Just selecting one nugget of insight from his excellent interview:

If I could take away the things that I don’t like about Japan, then it wouldn’t be Japan anymore. So I’ve always made an attempt to swallow Japan whole — not to discriminate so much between what I like or don’t. This is not as important as, “Does this work or not?” or “Does this serve a wider purpose or not?” These are more important questions than whether I like them or not. I’ve never paid too much attention to what I don’t like and conversely what I do like about Japan. […] But what I do like is the sense of interconnectiveness. […] When workmen used to try to make a wall and a tree would get in the way, they would make a hole in the wall to accommodate the tree instead of the other way around. This used to be seen on a regular basis. Alas, it is no more. A lot of the things which I like about Japan have disappeared. If this symbiotic relationship was ever here, it is not here anymore. The Japanese have down terrible things physically to their country. That would be something which I do not like about Japan. But if I dice it into likes and dislikes, and I have difficulty doing that, there wmust be a better way to see differences. Indeed, in my wriitng, I try not to rely on like and dislike dichotomies. I rely more on what works and doesn’t work. (172)

donaldrichie
Donald Richie still courtesy of his film anthology

That said, Richie does careen into Keene territory when he carelessly compares NJ in Japan with autistic children in a kindergarten:

If an autistic child goes to a kindergarten, he becomes a legal member of that class, but he’s still an autistic child.  So he has double citizenship.  That is very much me — like any foreigner here.  He is put in a special class for autism, but at the same time,  he is given all of the honors and securities of belonging to this particular class.  He gets a double dose.  And if he is smart, then he recognizes this. (224)

This is not a good comparison, as it likens extranationality to a mental handicap.  And it also ignores the racialized issues of how somebody “looks” in Japan (as in “looks foreign”) with how somebody is treated (as a “foreigner”), when autism is not a matter of physical appearance.  It also assumes that people can never recover from or overcome a birth-based “autism of national origin” (this author’s paraphrase), becoming acculturated enough to “become a Japanese” (whereas autism is, as far as I know, a lifelong handicap).  This clearly obviates many of the acculturation strategies this book seeks to promote.  Richie may stand by this comparison as his own personal opinion, of course, but this author will not, as it buys into to the notion of surrendering to a racialized class (in both senses of the word) system as being “smart”.

In the last third of the book, Kamisarof takes these interviews and incorporates them into the following questions, answered with balanced input from all participants:

  1. When do Westerners feel most comfortable with Japanese people?
  2. How does Westerners’ treatment in Japan compare to that of immigrants and long-term sojourners in their home countries?
  3. Is there discrimination against Westerners in Japan?
  4. How does discrimination in Japan compare to that in Western countries?
  5. Is it right to play the Gaijin Card?
  6. Are Westerners accepted more by Japanese people if they naturalize to Japan?
  7. Can Westerners be accepted in Japan, and if so, what do they need to do to belong?
  8. Can popular public ideas about who belongs in Japanese society move beyond nationality?
  9. How are Japanese perceptions of Westerners changing?

After this remix of and focus upon individual strategies, Komisarof devotes his final chapter to bringing in academic discussions about general “acculturation strategies”, based upon attitudes and behaviors (both on the part of the immigrant and the native), putting them into a classic four-category strategy rubric of “Integration” (i.e., the “multicultural salad”), “Assimilation” (i.e., the “melting pot”), “Separation” (i.e., segregation into non-mixing self-maintaining communities), and “Marginalization” (i.e., segregation from mainstream society with self-maintenance of the non-mainstream community discouraged). In an attempt to choose the “best” acculturation strategy, Korisamof then builds upon this rubric into a sixteen-category “Interactive Acculturation Model” that may lose most non-academic readers. He concludes, sensibly:

“Merely increasing the non-native population in Japan without improving acculturation strategy fits is insufficient and may cause further problems. Instead, it is critical that a sense of BELONGING and PARTICIPATION, rather than mere coexistence, be shared between Japanese and the foreign-born residents in their midst… ” (237, emphases in original). “The underlying message of this book for all nations wrestling with unprecedented domestic diversity is that the inclusion of everyone is essential, but only through mutual efforts of the cultural majority and minorities can such inclusion become a reality. Creating living spaces where people can feel a sense of belonging and share in the benefits of group membership is an urgent ned worldwide, and it is happening, slowly, but surely, here in Japan. (239)

This has been a perpetual blind spot in GOJ policy hearings on “co-existence” (kyousei) with “foreigners”, and this book needs a translation into Japanese for the mandarins’ edification.

If one could point to a major flaw in the book, it would not be with the methodology.  It would be with the fieldwork:  As mentioned above, the interviews do not ask systematically the same questions to each interviewee, and thus the answers do not always speak to the questions about assimilation strategies Komisarof later asks and answers.  For example, Arudou’s typically rabble-rousing interview style offers little insight into how he personally deals with the daily challenges of life in Japan.  (For the record, that information can be found here.)  As is quite typical for people in Japan being asked what Japan is all about and how they “like” it, the interviewees answer in individually-suited ways that show myopic views of Japan, redolent of the fable about the Blind Men and the Elephant.  Not one of the respondents (except for, in places, Arudou) talks about the necessity for a sense of community building within NJ groups themselves, i.e., unionizing, creating anti-discrimination or anti-defamation leagues, or fostering the organizational trappings of the cultural self-maintenance that may be essential or is taken as a given within other non-Westerner transplant communities (although disputed by Ishi, 2008).  Instead, all we hear about (due to the lines of questioning within the fieldwork) are how atomistic people create their own psychological armor for “dealing with Japan”.

Another important issue remains fundamentally unaddressed by Komisarof:  How one must assume “good faith” and “reciprocity” on the part of Japanese society bringing in NJ to work, and how these assimilation strategies being offered must one day bear fruit (as the interviewee proponents claim they will.  Harlan:  “True acceptance comes when you are contributing to society as fully as anyone else.” (200)).  But what if your full contributions to Japan are not being fully recognized, with long-term friendships, promotions, equal access to social welfare, and even senpai status over Japanese?  As the links to each of these topics attest, this is not always the case.  Under Komisarof’s assimilation strategies, what do you do then?  Give, give, and give for many years and then just hope society gives something back?  What guarantees should there be for reciprocity?  There is only so much a mentally-healthy individual can contribute, sacrifice, and offer to “assimilate” and “integrate” into a society before feeling used and used up.

That said, if you want an insightful, thoughtful book that will introduce you to the global academic debate on transnational migration, assimilation, and integration, moreover tailored to the peculiar milieu of Japan, Komisarof’s “At Home Abroad” is it.

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

SOURCE:  Ishi, Angelo Akimitsu (2008), in David Blake Willis and Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Eds., “Transcultural Japan:  At the borderlands of race, gender, and identity.”  New York:  Routledge, pp. 122-5.

Copyright ARUDOU Debito 2013.  All rights reserved.

Call for help from JALT PALE group for Publications Chair

mytest

PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING

Hey everyone.  Arudou Debito here.  I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.

The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair.  If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results.  It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go.  It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc.  We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT.  One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.

PALE has a long history of activism and assistance.  I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years.  An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at http://www.debito.org/PALE

So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at professor_goetz@yahoo.com.

Our latest project is to produce a PALE anthology.  But if our SIG is decommissioned at the next JALT EBM on February 2-3, or a later EBM, then access to PALE’s coffers becomes much more difficult and further subject to outside control.

Also, PALE needs new membership anytime, so please also contact Tom if you would like to become a member.

Please help out.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few Debito.org-esque comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

genderpaygapasia2005
Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito

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

Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: January 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/beate-gordon-feminist-heroine-in-japan-dies-at-89.html
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
News photo

In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10060 http://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=9265
http://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10010
http://www.debito.org/?p=10497
http://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10414
http://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips http://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
News photo

After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=9745
http://www.debito.org/?p=9756
http://www.debito.org/?p=10706
http://www.debito.org/?p=10428
http://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10055
http://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time

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Hi Blog.  I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies.  But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.

Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career.  I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals.  Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals).  Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste.  In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”.  Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.

This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras).  How about this for a research question:  Why else might The Don have naturalized?   I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice.  How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family.  Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims.  This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.

Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame:  Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it?  It’s called:  “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.”   Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.

(Then we get to a few semantic issues unduly unsophisticated for the NYT:  the old stereotypes within about Japan as “a racially homogeneous nation” — haven’t we gotten beyond that yet?  Well, there is a sop thrown in to qualify the reconfirmed Flyjin Myth with “many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country.”  Yes, EVEN Japanese left Japan.  Huh.  Of course, under normal circumstances, NJ would never stay and Japanese would never leave, even if the food chain is getting irradiated and the GOJ, as Martin has so assiduously reported in the past, has been unforthright about it.  But that’s me putting on my semantic “microaggression” cap; excuse the digression…)

Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan?  Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.”  Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.

Why is this not problematized?  Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”.  That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.  Arudou Debito

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

New York Times, November 2, 2012
Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them
By MARTIN FACKLER, courtesy of AH

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/asia/with-citizenship-japan-embraces-columbia-scholar.html

TOKYO — WITH his small frame hunched by 90 years of life, and a self-deprecating manner that can make him seem emotionally sensitive to the point of fragility, Donald Keene would have appeared an unlikely figure to become a source of inspiration for a wounded nation.

Yet that is exactly how the New York native and retired professor of literature from Columbia University is now seen here in his adopted homeland of Japan. Last year, as many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country for fear of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident that followed a deadly earthquake and tsunami, Dr. Keene purposefully went the opposite direction. He announced that he would apply for Japanese citizenship to show his support.

The gesture won Dr. Keene, already a prominent figure in Japanese literary and intellectual circles, a status approaching that of folk hero, making him the subject of endless celebratory newspaper articles, television documentaries and even displays in museums.

It has been a surprising culmination of an already notable career that saw this quiet man with a bashful smile rise from a junior naval officer who interrogated Japanese prisoners during World War II to a founder of Japanese studies in the United States. That career has made him a rare foreigner, awarded by the emperor one of Japan’s highest honors for his contributions to Japanese literature and befriended by Japan’s most celebrated novelists.

Dr. Keene has spent a lifetime shuttling between Japan and the United States. Taking Japanese citizenship seems a gesture that has finally bestowed upon him the one thing that eludes many Westerners who make their home and even lifelong friendships here: acceptance.

“When I first did it, I thought I’d get a flood of angry letters that ‘you are not of the Yamato race!’ but instead, they welcomed me,” said Dr. Keene, using an old name for Japan. “I think the Japanese can detect, without too much trouble, my love of Japan.”

That affection seemed especially welcome to a nation that even before last year’s triple disaster had seemed to lose confidence as it fell into a long social and economic malaise.

During an interview at a hotel coffee shop, Japanese passers-by did double takes of smiling recognition — testimony to how the elderly scholar has won far more fame in Japan than in the United States. A product of an older world before the Internet or television, Dr. Keene is known as a gracious conversationalist who charms listeners with stories from a lifetime devoted to Japan, which he first visited during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

BUT what is perhaps most remarkable about Dr. Keene is that Japan, a racially homogeneous nation that can be politely standoffish to non-Japanese, has embraced him with such warmth. When he legally became a Japanese citizen this year, major newspapers ran photographs of him holding up a handwritten poster of his name, Kinu Donarudo, in Chinese characters. To commemorate the event, a candy company in rural Niigata announced plans to build a museum that will include an exact replica of Dr. Keene’s personal library and study from his home in New York.

He says he has been inundated by invitations to give public lectures, which are so popular that drawings are often held to see who can attend.

“I have not met a Japanese since then who has not thanked me. Except the Ministry of Justice,” he added with his typically understated humor, referring to the government office in charge of immigration.

With the patient air of someone who has tussled with Japanese bureaucracy before, he listed what he called the absurd requirements imposed upon him to take Japanese citizenship, including documentation to prove his completion of elementary school in New York City. Still, in a nation that welcomes few immigrants, Dr. Keene’s application was quickly approved. To become Japanese, Dr. Keene, who is unmarried, had to relinquish his American citizenship.

His affection for Japan began in 1940 with a chance encounter at a bookstore near Times Square, where Dr. Keene, then an 18-year-old university student at Columbia, found a translation of the Tale of Genji, a 1,000-year-old novel from Japan. In the stories of court romances and intrigue, he found a refuge from the horrors of the world war then already unfolding in Europe and Asia.

Dr. Keene later described it as his first encounter with Japan’s delicate sense of beauty, and its acceptance that life is fleeting and sad — a sentiment that would captivate him for the rest of his life.

When the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy, where he received Japanese-language training to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. He said he managed to build a rapport with the Japanese he interrogated, including one he said wrote him a letter after the war in which he referred to himself as Dr. Keene’s first P.O.W.

LIKE several of his classmates, Dr. Keene used his language skills after the war to become a pioneer of academic studies of Japan in the United States. Among Americans, he is perhaps best known for translating and compiling a two-volume anthology in the early 1950s that has been used to introduce generations of university students to Japanese literature. When he started his career, he said Japanese literature was virtually unknown to Americans.

“I think I brought Japanese literature into the Western world in a special way, by making it part of the literary canon at universities,” said Dr. Keene, who has written about 25 books on Japanese literature and history.

In Japan, he said his career benefited from good timing as the nation entered a golden age of fiction writing after the war. He befriended some of Japan’s best known modern fiction writers, including Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe. Even Junichiro Tanizaki, an elderly novelist known for his cranky dislike of visitors, was fond of Dr. Keene, inviting him to his home. Dr. Keene says that was because he took Japanese culture seriously.

“I was a freak who spoke Japanese and could talk about literature,” he joked.

Japanese writers say that Dr. Keene’s appeal was more than that. They said he appeared at a time when Japan was starting to rediscover the value of its traditions after devastating defeat. Dr. Keene taught them that Japanese literature had a universal appeal, they said.

“He gave us Japanese confidence in the significance of our literature,” said Takashi Tsujii, a novelist.

Mr. Tsujii said that Dr. Keene was accepted by Japanese scholars because he has what Mr. Tsujii described as a warm, intuitive style of thinking that differs from what he called the coldly analytical approach of many Western academics. He said that this has made Dr. Keene seem even more Japanese than some of the Japanese novelists whom he has studied, like Mr. Mishima, an ultranationalist influenced by European intellectual fads.

“Keene-san is already a Japanese in his feelings,” Mr. Tsujii said.

Now, at the end of his career, Dr. Keene is again helping Japanese regain their confidence, this time by becoming one of them. Dr. Keene, who retired only last year from Columbia, says he plans to spend his final years in Japan as a gesture of gratitude toward the nation that finally made him one of its own.

“You cannot stop being an American after 89 years,” Dr. Keene said, referring to the age at which he got Japanese citizenship. “But I have become a Japanese in many ways. Not pretentiously, but naturally.”
ENDS

Resurrecting Gregory Clark’s embarrassingly xenophobic Japan Times column on “Global Standards” Nov 1, 1999, quietly deleted without retraction from JT Online archives

mytest

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Hi Blog.  When doing research last blog entry, on how Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark led the Apologist counterattack on criticism of Japan for institutionalized racism (as witnessed at the time by the Ana Bortz Case of 1998-9 and the Otaru Onsens Case of 1999-2005), I discovered that one of his most xenophobic columns, entitled “Problematic Global Standards” of November 1, 1999 (weeks after the Bortz verdict in Shizuoka District Court made clear that racism, none other, existed within these shores) has long been deleted from the Japan Times archive.  I think after reading it you might understand why a publisher would be embarrassed for ever publishing it, but deletion from a newspaper archive without a retraction is simply not on.  I happen to have a hard copy of it in my archives:

Let me also type it out in full now, so it becomes word-searchable by the search engines for posterity.  Bigots, media fabricators, and profiteers like Clark deserve to be hoisted by their own petard.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

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PROBLEMATIC GLOBAL STANDARDS
By Gregory Clark
The Japan Times, Monday, November 1, 1999

The Japanese are preoccupied nowadays with something called “global standards.” Spelled out clumsily in “katakana” English, “gurobaru sutandaado” has every implication of a backward, inferior Japan rightly despised by the civilized world for its failure to reform itself in our Western image.

It is true there are some Japanese standards that need to be reformed. The apathy towards social evils like “yakuza,” bike gangs and tobacco is one. Corruption in conservative political and business circles seems endless.

The education system could learn much not just from the West, but also from Taiwan or Singapore, particularly at the tertiary level.

But for every Japanese minus there is usually more than a more-than-compsenating plus. Over the years, the Japanese have evolved a value system that for all its faults has created the advanced and reasonably stable society that most of us come here to enjoy.

Or, to put it another way, for all the global standards that Japan should be emulating, there is usually any number of Japanese standards that the rest of us should emulate — particularly the ones that say people should be honest and reasonably polite to each other.

Which is where the sad story of the Hamamatsu jewelry shop owner fined recently for racial discrimination becomes relevant.

That Japan is remarkable for its lack of organized theft is no secret. One result is that even jewelry merchants feel little need to take little precautions.

Another is that Japan has become a paradise for Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle-Eastern and Latin American gangs keen to exploit this lack of precaution. To date they have managed to pull off close to 100 major jewelry heists, not to mention any number of big-haul raids on pachinko parlors.

With jewelry thefts, one ploy is to have someone, often a female accomplice, visit the targeted store in advance and pretend to show a purchasing interest while checking out details for the planned theft later.

Another is for the accomplice to create a disturbance, and while Japan’s fuss-sensitive shop assistants have their attention diverted, others in the gang pretending to be customers empty the unlocked display boxes.

Needless to say, this gives Japan’s jewelry merchants something of a problem. That some may have decided that their best defense is to ban all foreign-looking would-be customers from their stores is not very surprising.

But that, precisely, is where the man in Hamamatsu came unstuck. His district has a large Latin American-origin workforce. Having already suffered two robberies, he saw fit to deny entrance to a woman of Latin appearance who turned out to be a Brazilian journalist.

She also happened to be legalistic (another “global standard” Japan need not rush to adopt) and since Japan did not have a relevant law, the shop owner was charged under a U.N. antidiscrimination convention that Japan had signed. Found guilty, he was fined Y1.5 million.

No doubt the judge involved saw the U.N. connection as the ultimate in global standards. Many in the media here were equally enthusiastic. Few seem to have considered the corollary, namely that from now on not just the jewelers but anyone in the merchandise business will have to embrace another “global standard” — the one that says they should regard all customers as potential criminals to be welcomed with guns, guards, overhead cameras, and squinty-eyed vigilance.

True, discrimination against foreigners can be unpleasant, and in Japan it includes refusals to rent property. But as often as not, that is because they do not want to obey Japan’s rules and customs.

Refusal to respect the culture of a host nation is the worst form of antiforeign discrimination.

This clash between “global standards” and Japanese standards leaves its detritus in other areas.

Japanese standards say that there are times when an economy functions better if rival companies can get together, sometimes with customers, to agree on prices and market share. Unfettered competition can easily lead not just to monopolies, but also to very damaging “over-competition” (“kato kyoso”) as Japanese firms, with their strong survivalist ethic, struggle to keep alive.

But the “global standards” imposed on postwar Japan say otherwise. They insist that competition has to be free and unfettered. All and any cooperation between companies — the dreaded “dango” phenomenon — is a crime.

So Japan compromises. Dango that happen to be exposed are evil. The others are OK. What it should be doing is preventing dango that aim simply to jack up prices, while encouraging those that bring order to markets and help customers.

A recent victim of this expose standard was a small group of cast-iron pipe makers that had colluded on prices, mainly to rescue a weak competitor from bankruptcy. For its generosity, the group had its executives arrested and paraded as criminals.

Curious, the United States, which helped impose this anti-dango standard also condemned Fujitsu’s famous Y1 bid for a large Hiroshima computerization contract. The bid was a typical result of what can happen in Japan when competition is free and unfettered.

Nagging Western demands for unfettered competition in Japan’s finance industry and an end to government control over the banking system also led indirectly to the bubble economy and Japan’s current economic plight.

The same standards also managed to wreck the Asian economies two years ago, and then endorsed strong criticisms of Malaysia and Hong Kong for the state interventions that were crucial for rescuing those two economies from the wreckage imposed on them by Western speculators.

It’s time Japan, and much of the rest of the world, worked out their own standards.

===================
Gregory Clark is president of Tama University
ENDS

Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

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Hi Blog. In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record.  And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
Courts back workers’ rock-solid right to strike (excerpt)
By HIFUMI OKUNUKI, professor of constitutional and labor law at Daito Bunka University and Jissen Women’s University
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

[…]

One large company recently lost its claim of ¥110 million in damages against its union and union executives (see “Berlitz Loses Suit Over Union Teacher Strikes,” Feb. 28, The Japan Times).

Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus.

The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes. While case law stipulates that prior notice must be given for a strike, it does not set a minimum time. Berlitz teachers often gave less than five minutes’ notice. This probably created a headache for management, because they had less time to send replacement teachers to cover the struck classes.

The school also claimed that a union executive, Louis Carlet (full disclosure: Carlet is the current president of Tozen Union), had admitted to wanting to damage the company in a Sept. 30, 2008, Zeit Gist column in The Japan Times (“Berlitz Strike Grows Despite Naysayers“).

Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan. The court rejected the company’s contention that the union was striking to destroy the company and agreed with the union’s assertion that the only purpose of the strikes was to realize its demands.

Management appealed the verdict and Tokyo High Court is currently overseeing reconciliation talks between the two sides.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

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

Related sites:

ENDS

NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up.  Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land.  The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not).  Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.

It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan:  Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down).  Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.”  This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).

And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back?  Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there?  It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc.  have been  Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy.  The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history.

It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.  Arudou Debito

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

A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands
By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times
Published: June 10, 2012, courtesy lots of people

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504EED81639F933A25755C0A9649D8B63

CORRECTION APPENDED
CHICHI JIMA, Japan — Every morning, as the sun rises over this remote Pacific Island and its tiny port with typically Japanese low-slung concrete buildings, John Washington commits a quiet act of defiance against the famously insular Japan: he hoists an American flag over his inn.

Mr. Washington, 63, whose white skin and blond hair, which is turning white, mark him as something of an outsider, is a great-great-grandson of the island’s founding father, an American sailor named Nathaniel Savory who set sail in 1830 with a band of adventurers for this island, which was known as a lawless natural wonder.

These days, Mr. Washington’s attempt to evoke that history seems increasingly like an act of desperation. His community — descendants of those settlers — is vanishing as young people leave this isolated outpost, a 25-hour ferry ride from Tokyo in a chain once known as the Bonins, or assimilate, dropping the Anglican religion and English language of their forebears.

”I feel it will all die out with my generation,” Mr. Washington said. ”They don’t teach the history of the Bonin Islands to kids, don’t teach about Nathaniel Savory. The Japanese hide these things.”

And what they are hiding, he says, is a tale as colorful and lurid as it is disputed.

Since it was settled by Mr. Savory’s American and European followers — fortune seekers, deserters, drunkards — and their Hawaiian wives, the island has been pillaged by pirates, gripped by murder and cannibalism, and tugged back and forth between Japan and the United States in their battle for supremacy in the Pacific. There was a brief revival of the island’s Western culture after World War II, when it was ruled by the United States Navy.

Even the island’s V.I.P. visitor list seems outsized for a spit of land just five miles long. It includes Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who stopped here on the 1853 voyage in which he opened Japanese ports at gunpoint, and Jack London, who visited as a 17-year-old deckhand and later wrote about the Bonins.

Today, the island is a sleepy place. Its rhythms are set by the arrival once every six days of the ferry that makes the 600-mile journey from Tokyo, which has administered Chichi Jima as part of what are now known as the Ogasawara Islands, after the United States returned them to Japan in 1968.

About 2,000 people live here, mostly Japanese from the mainland who came after the transfer. Over time, they have overwhelmed the descendants of the original settlers — known here as Obeikei, or the Westerners — who are now estimated to number fewer than 200.

Most of the Obeikei are Japanese citizens. Most of those who still speak English and retain distinctly Western or Polynesian features are over the age of 50.

In a country that prides itself on its homogeneity and avoids tackling uncomfortable situations directly, many of Chichi Jima’s Japanese residents profess to having little knowledge of or interest in the Westerners. They instead focus on running the whale-watching and diving tours for the tourists drawn to a pristine island chain that last year was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Some Japanese residents say the Westerners have made their own lot by being standoffish, using both Western and Japanese names, and pining to return to the ”Navy time” after World War II, when they had the island virtually to themselves.

An old graveyard with Christian tombstones is one of the few visible traces of the Westerners’ history. And the official account of the island’s history, presented at the village-run visitor center, plays down the Westerners’ role in settling the island.

It says the island chain was discovered in 1593 by a samurai named Sadayori Ogasawara, for whom the chain was later named. The ”Euro-American natives” are presented as little more than squatters who occupied what officials say was already Japanese territory, despite a consensus among modern Japanese and Western historians that Ogasawara never visited the islands.

”They are not the same as indigenous natives who have been here for hundreds of years,” said Kazuhiko Ishida, the island’s vice mayor. He said that while no efforts are being made to preserve the Westerners’ culture, they are not mistreated, either.

Westerners agree, but even some of those with close Japanese friends and spouses say feeling marginalized is not much better.

”They call me foreigner,” said Sutanrii Minami, 64, a tour guide who also goes by Stanley Gilley and who looks Polynesian. ”I’m not a foreigner. I was born on this island.”

What is undisputed is that the island was left largely to rule itself until 1875, when Japanese settlers and officials took over in what the historian Daniel Long calls the first act of territorial expansion by a budding Japanese empire.

”Chichi Jima was probably the only case where the island was claimed by an Asian power and the natives were English-speaking Westerners,” said Mr. Long, who has written several books on the island.

It is also agreed upon that the island was untouched when sailors’ tales of an ”uninhabited paradise” drew the 35-year-old Mr. Savory and about 20 settlers. They eked out a living selling provisions to passing Yankee whalers and British warships.

Many visiting captains remarked on the lawlessness of the island, recording tales of murder and polygamy. It also proved vulnerable to pirates, who in 1849 made off with Mr. Savory’s gold — and his wife. Witnesses later told a passing captain that the abduction was a tall tale: they said the woman, who was much younger than Mr. Savory, eagerly joined the marauders, leading them to his hidden wealth.

Islanders say that such raids may have led the settlers to peacefully accept the Japanese as rulers, who treated them with benign neglect.

That changed with the approach of World War II. Although they were not interned, the Westerners were forced to take Japanese names and were watched as possible spies. In 1944, most were evacuated along with the Japanese residents to the mainland, where they say they suffered discrimination.

”We are loyal Japanese, but they treated us as enemies when they saw the color of our faces and our eyes,” said Aisaku Ogasawara, 81, an Anglican pastor who also goes by Isaac Gonzales.

During the war, some of the Western men entered the Japanese Army, joining the garrison that defended the island. They witnessed a different horror, historians say, when eight captured American airmen were beheaded and then eaten by the starving Japanese defenders.

After the war, the United States Navy used the island for a submarine base. The Navy allowed the Western-descended settlers to return in 1946, but Japanese former residents were barred from coming back — possibly because of the nuclear warheads that historians say were stored on the island.

When the island was returned to Japan in 1968, the Westerners were given a choice of becoming either Japanese or American citizens. Many left for the United States.

Some wish that Japan and the United States had allowed them to decide the island’s future themselves.

”This island was returned without our control,” said Rokki Sebori, 52, who also goes by Rocky Savory and runs the island’s cooperative supermarket. ”We still feel in our hearts that this is our island.”

ENDS
Correction: June 17, 2012, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A picture caption last Sunday with an article about the vanishing community of Americans on Chichi Jima, a remote Pacific island that was founded by an American sailor but turned over to the Japanese in 1968, misstated the given name of a Westerner who served in the American Navy and now runs a bar in the island. He is Rance Ohira, not Lance.
ENDS

Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)

mytest

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Hi Blog. As I’ve been hitting the books these days in terms of theories of nation-state formation and concomitant creation of racialized societies, I found something I think readers of Debito.org might be interested in:

This is an excerpt from the late Dr. Iida Yumiko, from her book “Rethinking Identity in Modern Japan” (Routledge, 2002), pages 264-5. Plough through it, as it is written in the (often impenetrable) prose of academics (and don’t get derailed by words like “ontological”, please), and afterwards I’ll rewrite it in simpler language and tell you why it is germane to Debito.org:

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

Iida: “As a collective human organization, the nation necessitates a common set of functional rules articulated in the form of a narrative. […] Since individuals are born into a socio-cultural system that ontologically precedes them, they are predisposed to certain patterns of meaning and behavior operative in the existing symbolic system; their sensory experiences, emotional attachments, and sense of moral duty, all of which occupy an import an place in the social life of humanity and society, are built upon such cultural bases.

“State hegemonic power, thus, rests on its ability to weave the identity of its subjects into the reigning system of symbolic meanings, which the subjects in their everyday practices then embody. Further, the survival of the nation-state and the well-being of its subjects [sic] are dependent upon, and reinforced by, the existing symbolic system. Naturally, the form and intensity of such connections between the state and the subject varies from place to place; arguably, the linkage is much less significant in the advanced industrial societies of the West, where ‘culture’ appears less of an immediate issue and the state’s power to regenerate ‘hegemonic consensus’ is constituted more by the legal and institutional apparatus.

“The question of degrees not withstanding, however, the fact remains that the hegemonic reproduction of the nation is dependent upon its subject being provided with such socio-cultural foundations for shared memories of the past, as sense of communal moral obligation, a coherent vision of the world, and collectively articulated hopes.

If in the current global context the nation-state is indeed being dismantled [by the effects of multinational corporations, global migration of capital and labor, etc.], then the danger looms nigh that highly disruptive forces contained within the bounds of the nation-state will be unleashed, forces which at present are more or less circumscribed by the established symbolic links constituting, albeit hierarchically, the order and stability between a nation and its subjects.

Since the normal functioning of the nation-state is a necessary condition for the stability of the individual subjects whose everyday lives are integrated into hegemonic political-cultural institutions, contesting hegemony runs a number of risks, for ‘to battle the temporal constructions of power is to battle the self and to damage the readily available means of achieving comfort and assurance’.”  ENDS

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

Now leaving aside Iida’s problematic use of “subjects” (as opposed to “citizens” or “nationals”), let me rearticulate this passage for readers who aren’t used to academic writing and then comment:

TRANSLATION:  Every country has to convince the people who live within it to accept that a) there is a country that they are members of, and b) that there are rules they have to follow in order to be members (obeying the laws, paying taxes, potentially giving up one’s life to defend it, etc.).  When power becomes this unquestioned, it becomes (to use Gramsci’s word) “hegemonic”, in other words, normal enough to be invisible and generally unquestioned.  Almost all people on this planet, born into a nation-state, accept that they are members of one country of another (by dint of having a passport, a tax home, accountability before the law etc.) and play by the rules because that’s how they were socialized.

But there is a give-and-take here.  The nation-state must give its members four things in order for them to adopt the rules of play and pass them down to the next generation.  These are, according to Iida above:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all,

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations to it,

3) A world view that makes sense,

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

COMMENT:  Fine.  Now, as this relates to Debito.org:  What do NJ in Japan get?

1) A shared memory of the past?  Not really, since what NJ generally hear in the national narrative (and replicated in ignorant overseas media and scholarship) is how foreigners, if any influence at all in Japanese society, are generally exogenous influences (Chinese writing, Perry, MacArthur, the gaijin du jour/baseball star revved up for mass consumption and soon forgotten, etc.).  NJ are not seen as part of Japan’s domestic past or legacies.  Japan takes any foreign influence and makes it “Japanese”, as we keep hearing, and that’s what makes Japan “unique”.  Any attempts to correct that ahistory are generally shouted down as not home-grown (by now by definition) or else ignored as just temporary (again, by definition, since the domestic media won’t appraise it either long-term or as something domestic; for example, look how much trouble I’ve had just getting the Japan Times to be the only media outlet giving simple Obituaries to long-term NJ residents and their legacies).

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations?  Not really. I’ve mentioned before (see my last blog post, for example) how NJ communities are not even acknowledged in Japan (Japan as a nation has enough trouble ever acknowledging that even domestic minorities exist).  If anything, NJ are (by default, only — something not actively generated by the nation-state) linked by who they are NOT (i.e., not Japanese), rather than by who they ARE; which, the record shows, is not much of a basis for a community (communities here have to link themselves, as the independent outsider Zainichi and Nikkei media demonstrate).

As for moral obligations, Rick Gundlach has written some very thoughtful posts on how NJ, as they rip at each other in public, do it beyond the regular moral bounds of Japanese society (his most recent: “a lot of what foreigners do in Japan is make up their own rules about what is and is not acceptable, or legal, or socially desirable, in Japan. They seldom rely on what is actually legal, or what the Japanese would themselves like to have the foreign community do“) — in essence, NJ are left out of being held accountable under domestic standards for their actions (as you’ll see when the Japanese police act so lackadaisically towards NJ-on-NJ crime).  That is perhaps the best evidence yet of just how outside the Japanese sense of community NJ are.

3) A world view that makes sense?  I don’t think even many Japanese would assert without reservation that Japan’s world view makes sense, especially after the Fukushima Disasters; it’s just that most Japanese are having trouble seeing any alternative (or seeing one but unsure how to get enough people on board to get it enforced) given how people are socialized towards nation-state power in Japan.

But in regards to NJ, since many CAN see an alternative, the oft-touted national narrative often makes even less sense.  Even before Fukushima, being told constantly, for example, that Japan is #1 at just about everything, that only Japan has the best stuff in the world (be it vegetables to consumer electronics — even crappy housing under generations of recycled mortgages are somehow justified) and has the safest classless most equitable society etc. (except when something that isn’t supposed to happen does happen — like theft, violence, discrimination, or clear class-based elite privilege — it comes as a great shock to many), and you foreigners are damned lucky to be here in our Japan — not contributing to it, of course, but somehow taking advantage of it (i.e., by getting paid for your labor).  Then one begins to wonder if the national narrative is not a form of group psychosis.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.  This was the biggest denouement after Fukushima, when a lot of people, seeing the lies and obfuscations that were coming out of the media essentially to protect the elite and corporatist sides of Japan, lost hope that Japan could ever fix itself.  Again, this loss of hope was not something that only affected the NJ, but when NJ began to be partially and specifically blamed (as “Flyjin“) for Japan’s troubles under the new post-3/11 national narrative, then what hope for the future was there for NJ to live normal lives as regular, untargeted, unaccused members of Japan’s domestic community?

In sum, one of the reasons I believe why NJ have little sense of “belonging” to Japan is not only that they are constantly “othered” and alienated (through the daily processes of “Microaggressions“, which happen in every society), but also that in Japan’s case they are by-and-large egregiously deprived of the four essential requirements that are incumbent upon a nation-state to make people accept that nation-state as something with hegemonic power over their lives.  And that’s why so many NJ in the end feel little affinity and will just pick up and leave.

Even if NJ do make the investment (family, home, loans, language and acculturation, even permanent residency/citizenship), they are generally not included in Japan’s national narrative.  This is a fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state engineering, and it will not keep people coming to and staying in a depopulating Japan if they will never feel “Japanese”, by design.  Arudou Debito

Commemorating the Japan Times Community Page’s 10th Anniversary, a brief column by Arudou Debito, May 8, 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog. As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us. Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 8, 2012
THE ZEIT GIST

A decade serving the community

Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002.

Here, an editor, columnist and writer who helped make the section what it is today reflect on the first decade of the Community section.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120508zg.html

The Columnist’s section:

The columnist: ARUDOU, Debito

I remember my first article on the Community Page back in June 2002, after I jumped ship as a columnist at the Japan Today website.

Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront).

It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.

Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”

Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?

For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.

I have been honored to not only have had more than a hundred of my articles featured here since 2002, but also to have the ideas debated in a venue that people, including academics and Japanese policymakers, take seriously.

For example, my favorite Community Page memory is the reaction from “Forensic Science Fiction: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (Jan. 13, 2004), where I critiqued the National Research Institute for Police Science’s highly unscientific “DNA tests for foreigners.”. They claimed that you could examine biotic evidence at crime scenes and tell whether the suspect was foreign or not. They sold this snake oil to us taxpayers for years by claiming that “foreign proteins are different than Japanese.”

When I telephoned NRIPS on different business shortly afterwards, the person on the other end immediately knew me by name, and with no invitation launched into a defense of the policy as “having nothing to do with foreigners.”

I then pulled up the policy and read it back to him. “The very title says, ‘Developing an index using biological materials in order to expose foreign crime.’ In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I can read Japanese. Can you?” I got a gasp and then a delicious silence. Plus, in a country where the police ignore media scrutiny and even get away with murder (ZG, Nov. 1, 2011), the NRIPS still felt obligated a month later to send the JT a flaccid letter of denial. Gotcha.

In sum, I have observed three definite stages in the development of the NJ “community” since I got to Japan. In the 1990s, communities were forming during the influx of foreign labor, with some regions reaching double-digit population percentages of NJ. In the 2000s, NJ communities came under attack by xenophobes and chauvinist politicians who firmly believe the fiction that more foreigners means less Japan. And now, in the 2010s, we’re watching the NJ communities attacking themselves, cleaving into one-upping camps over who is “more dedicated to Japan” in this era of perpetual stagnation, rollover disasters and seemingly endless self-sacrifice.

The Community Page, despite all of that, stands as our outlet, and our legacy. Long may it run.

ARUDOU, Debito is the Just Be Cause columnist for The Japan Times
=============================

Japan Times Community Page 10th Anniversary: Vote for your favorite article at JT by May 5

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. Let me commemorate a special event. The Japan Times Community Page, a forum for NJ issues etc. that comes out every Tuesday, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary next month. They are having a retrospective and competition (with prizes) for choosing the best article (I have had the honor of contributing about a hundred so far), and you can vote online at the JT from the link and article below.

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

A decade serving the community
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/community-anniversary.html
On May 8, the Japan Times will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002. To mark the occasion, we are asking readers to pick their favorite Zeit Gist article of the past decade, be it a memorable scoop, informative feature or scathing critique.

In return, The Japan Times is offering readers the chance to win a B4-size poster (above) illustrated by longtime Community artist Chris Mackenzie.

Alternatively, winners can opt for one of 10 copies of “3.11: One Year On,” a 64-page Japan Times Special Report bringing together JT articles from the past year about the triple disasters in Tohoku and their aftermath. Please state your preference on the form below. This offer ends at 5 p.m. JST on Friday, May 5.

The following are the Community editor’s picks of just some of the standout Zeit Gist articles of the last decade. Some were chosen because they help tell the story of of the last 10 years in Japan, others because the articles proved to be extremely popular – and in some cases simply because they are great reads.

Please feel free to pick another story from among the close to 500 Zeit Gists

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

Short list of the editor’s picks at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/community-anniversary.html

Debito has two of those articles listed, “Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese” (on skewed criminal jurisprudence by nationality), and “Demise of crime magazine historic” (on the GAIJIN HANZAI magazine and how we not only got it off the shelves, but also helped drive the slimy publisher bankrupt). Or you can see titles and links to all the Community Page articles I’ve ever written, with one-line synopses, at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#JOURNALISTIC

(The one I think I’m most proud of, for the record, is “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION:  Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004))

I will also be doing double-time next month when, in addition to my regular column, I’ll be offering a 600-word retrospective as the Community Page columnist and contributor from the beginning.

Anyway, The Community Page has been a good thing, giving not only a sense of NJ community but also of legacy, so let’s give it due commemoration. Thanks as always for reading both here and there. Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 50, April 3, 2012: Donald Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths

mytest

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

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justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times Tuesday, April 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 50
Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths
(Original title:  “Let’s put some myths to rest”)
By ARUDOU, DEBITO
Courtesy of http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120403ad.html

Congratulations to Donald Keene, who was granted Japanese citizenship last month with great media fanfare. At 89 years young and after a lifetime contributing to world scholarship on Japan, he truly deserves it.

Unfortunately, while receiving all the kudos, Keene demonstrated that he had fallen for two of Japan’s media-manufactured myths about non-Japanese (NJ) residents: 1) that they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime in Japan, and 2) that they fled Japan (as “flyjin”) in disproportionate numbers due to the Tohoku disasters.

In media reports, both when he applied for citizenship last November and when he got it on March 7, Keene said repeatedly that he was naturalizing to “encourage,” “endure hardships” and “show solidarity” with the Japanese people as a Japanese — unlike, the media also repeatedly reported him as saying, the large number of foreigners who left Japan after the earthquakes.

He also joshed at a March 7 press conference, quote, “As a Japanese, I swear not to commit any crimes.”

Very funny. You know a public discourse has become hegemonic when you can joke about it. But when you have an iconic (former) NJ promoting falsehoods about NJ, we need to put them to rest.

First, about foreign crime: As has been discussed in these pages before (Zeit Gist, Feb. 20, 2007, Oct. 7, 2003, and Oct. 4, 2002), the National Police Agency has performed all kinds of statistical magic to inflate NJ crime figures. Hence the rise of foreign crime over the past decade has been, to put it mildly, disproportionately reported in both scope and degree. As always, 99 percent of crime in Japan is committed by Japanese.

Even more so now. According to the most recent NPA figures (www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai/H23_Z_RAINICHI_ZANTEI.pdf), foreign crime has dropped every year without pause since its peak in 2005. In fact, by more than half — so precipitously that the NPA includes crime numbers from 1982 (when there were far fewer NJ here anyway) to depict some kind of comparative rise.

Last year was no different, with crime falling by double-digit percentages in every major category, to below levels last seen in 1993! This matters because Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara infamously predicted in 2000 that in the event of a natural disaster (and 2011 had at least two), “bad foreigners” would riot and need rounding up by the Self-Defense Forces.

Clearly none of that happened. Yet the public discourse of NJ as criminal, as promoted by grumpy (or acidulously jokey) geriatrics, hasn’t changed.

Now let’s look at the renewed flyjin discourse, since Keene’s self-promotion as a paragon of virtue now threatens to similarly tar NJ as deserters.

I have talked about flyjin before (Just Be Cause, May 3, 2011), essentially arguing, “So what if NJ left? It’s not as if they were made to feel welcome and a part of Japan.”

But now that last year’s statistics are in we need an update — because it’s clear the whole flyjin phenomenon was a myth.

According to the Ministry of Justice (www.moj.go.jp/content/000094842.pdf), the NJ population registered with the government (so as to leave out NJ tourists, who must depart within three months anyway) dropped for the third straight year in 2011, by 55,671 souls, or 2.6 percent. This is little different than 2010’s drop of 51,970, or 2.4 percent — meaning this is an ongoing trend little changed by the disasters.

Moreover, look at the largest drop in terms of nationality: Brazilians, falling by nearly 9 percent, for more than a third of the total. Where are Brazilians clustered? Around Nagoya, nowhere near the disaster areas.

The point is, NJ migration (in a science riddled with caveats and complications) was happening anyway for two reasons unrelated to Tohoku: 1) because NJ are the first downsized whenever our labor market goes sour, and 2) because it is standard operating practice within Japan’s visa regimes to boot out unwanted NJ workers (JBC, March 6, 2012, and April 7, 2009).

Moreover, if this column does what the Japanese media steadfastly refuses to do (that is, compare Japanese with NJ numbers), we can see that according to the government Statistics Bureau (www.stat.go.jp/data/jinsui/pdf/201203.pdf), the numbers of “Japanese flyjin” last year (that is, those who actually left the country, as opposed to the indubitably higher numbers who moved away from the danger zones domestically) also increased: A net 24,889 Japanese left Japan in March and April 2011 alone.

And, as a brief but indicative tangent, consider the comparative migration patterns of “Japanese flyjin” during Thailand’s disastrous floods last October. Not only did Japanese not remain in Thailand “in solidarity,” they also took Thai workers with them (on one-time temporary six-month visas, of course) so as not to disrupt Japanese factory production schedules.

The hypocrisy is palpable. And from what I have seen, the Thai media did not bash either the Japanese fleers or the Thai temps as deserters.

The point is, Keene has made his life one of careful, disciplined research, and he should have tapped this wealth of knowledge and reactivated his critical faculties before shooting off his mouth like this.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to impugn Keene’s life choices — he can live where he likes and take out whatever citizenship he desires. But he should not be denigrating other people’s complex and personal life decisions (many made with careers to consider and families in tow) based upon flawed paradigms about NJ — paradigms fabricated by a sensationalist media and grounded in a discourse of prejudice and hypocrisy.

If he does, he should be called out on it like anyone else. And in that spirit, let’s consider a few inconsistencies:

Keene has said that he wants to live out his remaining years in Japan out of respect to the “resilient spirit of the Japanese people in a traumatic situation.” However, Kyodo reported on March 9 that this move was “partly because travel (between his homes in America and Japan) had become physically demanding.” At his advanced age, that’s understandable. But why so much public self-hugging for naturalizing?

Moreover, what sort of support in “solidarity” for the Tohoku victims will Keene be involved in? The Yomiuri on March 9 notes that this month he’s traveling by ship to India and Africa for vacation. As soon as he gets back, he said, “I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster.”

Like how? Collecting and driving supplies up to Fukushima? Volunteering to help out at gymnasiums sheltering displaced people? Organizing international fund drives? Moving rubble around, as so many NJ residents who did not “flee Japan” have already done?

Here’s one thing Keene could do: Publicly retract his denigrating statements with apologies, and acknowledge the good that NJ have done for Japan all along — working here for decades, paying taxes, raising families, and living lives that fly in the face of the hegemonic yet unquestioned discourse that “NJ disrupt Japanese society.”

People who rise to mythical status should not perpetuate myths themselves. For someone who’s spent his life helping the outside world understand Japan, it’s ignominious indeed that Keene would now do the opposite for outsiders in Japan.

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

Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Discussions on this issue on Debito.org at debito.org/?p=10017. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. I was going to write on something else today, but I got this letter as a post comment this morning. It’s considered and considerate — usually letters on this topic are nasty flames, criticizing me personally for ever doing what Debito.org has been doing for (as of next month) fifteen years now. And it’s also a useful exercise to think about why we do the things that we do.

I won’t answer it, for now. I’ll open it up for discussion here on Debito.org and see how other people think. Thanks for writing in, Eric. Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////
Eric C
Submitted on 2012/03/18
Debito:
Thank you on behalf of all NJ who have lived in Japan or are living in Japan. You are doing brilliant work. I agree with almost everything you say and do and I am in awe of your energy, perseverance and spirit.

However, the more I read your site and columns and learn about your story, the more I find myself wondering why you keep trying. I lived in Japan for years and I did what you did, but on a lesser scale: I fought discrimination, xenophobia and racism as hard as I could. I like to think I gave as good as I got, if not better. I caused a fair bit of hell at my local kuyakusho, at immigration, with the police and with various random racist folks. That’s not to say I went around with a chip on my shoulder: I had a lot of Japanese friends, spoke the language well and really tried to fit in. But, finally, I decided to leave Japan and I don’t regret it. Not for a second. Every day I’m out of there, I give thanks that I had the balls and foresight to leave.

My question to you is why do you keep trying? I don’t want to be negative, but I think even you have to admit that Japan and the Japanese are not really going to change. Not in any meaningful way. They are xenophobic to the core, perhaps even genetically so. The society is feudal, with only the flimsiest veneer of legality. There is no real law – power and connections are all that matter. Japan reached a highpoint of openness and internationalization in the early 90s, and it’s been rapidly closing and going backwards since then. As the country stagnates and gets poorer, it’s going to become less and less welcoming to foreigners. I mean, the mayors of the three main cities in Japan are all nationalists and, most likely, racists.

Frankly, I don’t even think it’s worth trying to change Japan. They’re not worth it. Let them go their own miserable way to stagnation and backwardness. Let the world pass them by. Japan is like a stubborn old geezer in your neighborhood who does something offensive (letting his dog bark all night, for instance). You know that arguing with him is a waste of time. The only sensible thing to do is move away. Fuck him, to be direct about it.

You’ve fought the good fight, Debito, and a lot of gaijin owe you a huge debt of gratitude. But, for your own peace of mind, why not let someone else take up the burden? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be best for all NJ to simply pack up and leave and let the Japanese do whatever it is they want to do? Let them sing the kimigayo morning, noon and night. Let them teach English so poorly that no one can speak it. Let them lobotomize their kids in the name of educating them. Let them claim that their actions in WWII were one vast charitable mission to spread peace and love throughout the world. Let them sink slowly into the swamp of their own bloody minded ignorance.

It’s not our job to “fix” their society. It’s not our job to educate them about how the world really works. It’s not our job to try to bring them into the modern world.

Sorry, this is a bit of a downer of a post, but anyone who knows Japan as well as you know it must surely realize that the defining characteristic of modern Japan is the inability to change. They’re so stubborn that if you ask them to change, they’ll consciously avoid changing just to spite you. I mean, why do you think they keep whaling and dolphin killing when it requires vast government support to keep doing it? They do it precisely because the world tells them to stop.

I say, leave them to it and live your own life.
ENDS

UPDATE:  The author has offered more lengthy and elaborate comments below here and here.  You might want to read them first before going on to everyone else’s.