Archive for the 'NJ legacies' Category
If you think NJ have had little impact on Japanese history and society, think again. This category will chart some of the lesser-known legacies left behind by immigrants to Japan.
Posted by arudou debito on 9th April 2014
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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ legacies, Tangents | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 28th March 2014
JT: 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.”
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”: (video)
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.
UPDATE APRIL 1 (No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank): Marano gets a regular column with tabloid weekly Asahi Geino (see scan). 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.
UPDATE APRIL 2: Scott-Stokes also admits that he can’t even read his own revisionist book, let alone write it:
FCCJ: “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…”
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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 34 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 14th March 2014
LESSONS OF THE URAWA “JAPANESE ONLY” SOCCER STADIUM BANNER CASE OF MARCH 8, 2014
Let’s sew this issue up: What happened this week 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. Yet it wouldn’t have happened without the issue leaking outside of Japan, incurring gaiatsu (outside pressure), and a real threat to Japan’s worldwide reputation as a “civilized” society. A full explication follows:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, SITYS, Sport, 日本語 | 17 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd October 2013
Donald Keene, currently aged 91, had his Donald Keene Center opened up on September 21, 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.
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 Wikipedia, 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:
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 6th October 2013
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” themselves?
TheDiplomat.com: 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.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit | 16 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th August 2013
Japan Times: 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…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies | 10 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 21st July 2013
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.
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.
Let’s crunch some election statistics, with charts, and make some conclusions: Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district: Almost every prefecture went LDP. Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 and 2007 Upper House elections (see charts).
Now, as for assembly seat distributions: As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the LDP (at 115), KMT (at 20), 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: 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. The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House. That same conclusion is even more easily drawn if you look at the Proportional Representation vote…
Now, regarding for two elections that were of note to Debito.org: 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). Headlines:
1) XENOPHOBE SUZUKI NOBUYUKI GETS MORE THAN 1% OF TOKYO ELECTORATE
2) TSURUNEN LOSES HIS SEAT. NOT EVEN CLOSE
In fact, Tsurunen (who was running nationally under PR) got close to the same number of votes as Suzuki (who was running in Tokyo only), which I find decidedly scary.
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.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies, SITYS, 日本語 | 53 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th July 2013
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….
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.
Posted in History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, NJ legacies | 7 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th May 2013
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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Discussions, Education, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 14th May 2013
New 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
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, 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
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, 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
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, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Child Abductions, Education, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Pension System, Practical advice | No Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 6th May 2013
Economist: 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.
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. Congratulations. He provides the template: 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.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Practical advice, Tangents, 日本語 | 16 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th April 2013
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.) 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.)
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): 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
Posted in Education, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 15 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 9th April 2013
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:
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, United Nations, 日本語 | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 3rd April 2013
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 eijuusha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijuusha (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…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th March 2013
Asahi: 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.
COMMENT: 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.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 6 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th February 2013
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.
Posted in Education, Handbook for Newcomers, History, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th January 2013
“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”. 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…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 82 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th January 2013
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted in Education, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies | Comments Off
Posted by arudou debito on 5th January 2013
Let me devote this blog entry 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. (ILO data here.) 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.
Posted in History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd January 2013
Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th November 2012
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.
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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 13 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 4th August 2012
When doing research 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 is simply not on. I happen to have a hard copy of it in my archives, and upon rereading, it’s easy understand why a publisher would be embarrassed for ever publishing it. But deletion without retraction from a newspaper archive is simply not on. So let’s 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.
Clark (1999): 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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, United Nations | 17 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th July 2012
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.
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… Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Labor issues, Lawsuits, NJ legacies | 2 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 25th June 2012
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.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 16th May 2012
Simplifying Dr. Iida’s points: 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.
Fine. Now, as this relates to Debito.org: What do NJ in Japan get? None of this, really. And that’s why NJ are given incentives not to stay: It goes beyond mere “alienation” — it is a fundamental, egregious, and probably fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state dynamic of eliminating newcomers from the national narrative.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 28 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th May 2012
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.
ZG: 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.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, History, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ legacies | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th April 2012
SPECIAL NOTICE: The JT Community Page: A decade serving the community
JT: 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.
COMMENT: Short list of the editor’s picks at
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 all the Community Page articles I’ve written, with one-line synopses, at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#JOURNALISTIC
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Media, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »
Posted by arudou debito on 4th April 2012
JBC: 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.”
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ legacies | 31 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th March 2012
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.
Eric C: 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…
Posted in Cultural Issue, debito.org blog and website biz, Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Tangents | 134 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 9th March 2012
Good news. Congratulations to The Don for getting his Japanese citizenship, and on what looks to be an expedited schedule (of course; the guy is in his ninetieth year!). I think it’s good that an old man can realize his twilight dreams, and take advantage of opportunities that he has clearly earned as a contributor to Japan in the world.
That said, I don’t believe that gives him license to continuously bad-mouth other NJ, whom he yet again essentially accuses of desertion, according to the Asahi article trumpeting the news of his successful application below (translation mine):
“…[Keene] received Japanese Permanent Residency, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, knowing about the large numbers of foreigners that distanced themselves from Japan, he said, ‘I came to Japan, where I will always stay. I believe in Japan, is what I wanted to broadcast.’”
The Yomiuri adds: Worried over the news that an increasing number of foreigners were leaving the country, Keene made up his mind to permanently live in Japan. “I wanted to endure the hardships with the Japanese, who had taken good care of me, at a difficult time like this,” he said… Starting next month, he will travel by ship to India and Africa for vacation.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 25 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th January 2012
Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future. It went up last week. While long-term readers of Debito.org might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.
Asia Times: When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward.
Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen?
Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog …
VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe?
AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column  I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” . Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement…
VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 2 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 4th January 2012
Here’s my fourth annual round-up of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s NJ residents last year. Concluding paragraphs:
Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.
Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.
2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider (JBC Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.
Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically-cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 14 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th October 2011
This is still a growing issue, and there’s an excellent Reuters article below to hang this blog post on. Consider the case of Michael Woodford, a Brit hired more than thirty years ago by Japanese firm Olympus, with the superhuman tenacity to work his way up to the post of CEO (not hired, as are many of the famous NJ executives in Japanese companies, as an international prestige appointment). The presumption is that his appointment was because Mr Woodford would be different — there are plenty of Japanese corporate drones who would have gladly not rocked the boat for a quiet life and comfortable salary. But when he actually does something different, such as uncover and question possible corporate malfeasance, he gets fired because “his style of management was incompatible with traditional Japanese practices”. This of course, as further investigations finally gather traction, calls into practice the cleanliness of those traditional Japanese corporate practices. And it looks like the only way to get them investigated properly in Japan is to take the issue to overseas regulators (this is, after all, an international company, if only in the sense that it has international holdings, but now beholden to international standards). Not to mention the Japanese media (which, as the article alludes to below, is once again asleep at its watchdog position). None of this is surprising to the Old Japan Hands, especially those let anywhere close to Japanese corporate boardrooms, who see this nest feathering as a normal, nay, an obvious part of Japanese corporate culture the higher and richer you go. But woe betide the NJ whistleblower — perpetually in a vulnerable position for being of the wrong race and for not doing what he’s told like a good little gaijin. After all, there’s peer pressure behind membership in “Team Japan”, and as soon as it’s convenient, the race/culture card gets pulled by the crooks to excuse themselves. I’m just glad Mr. Woodford had the guts to do what he did. I doubt it’ll result in a system-wide cleanup (the rot is too systemic and entrenched, and few watch the watchers in corporatist Japan). But you gotta start somewhere, since exposure of corruption must be seen to be becoming commonplace in post-Fukushima Japan. Bravo Mr. Woodford, and expose away.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Ironies & Hypocrisies, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 35 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 13th October 2011
In a continuation of yesterday’s theme of the GOJ greenmailing away Japan’s negative images, here we have a more overt use of public funds to turn a frown upside down over a disaster: The JET Programme calling on ex-JETs to come back and reprise their role as de facto cultural lobbyists overseas. Except this time there’s an update — the clear aim of sexing up Japan’s image abroad in the wake of the March 11 disasters by dangling an all-expenses-paid trip to the stricken areas.
I have done research on the JET Programme’s role of producing cultural ambassadors before (and its role as a domestic educational force, which I came out in support of in this Japan Times column). But this is the most overt (and in my view, cynical) demonstration I’ve seen yet unmasking the JET Programme’s fundamental intention of burnishing Japan’s image abroad at all costs. As if this is a kind of aid package for the stricken areas: Let them eat good publicity. Kinda takes the air out of the argument of JET as a program first and foremost promoting domestic education.
JET Alumni Assoc: The Japan Tourism Agency, MOFA, and other local governments in Japan want to sponsor 20 ex-JETs — who were placed in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima or Sendai — to go back to Japan for one week in order to see the damages in the afflicted areas, so that when they return to their home countries, they can let people know what they experienced there. All expenses are paid (food, travel, insurance, etc.), except personal expenses.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 6th July 2011
One problem with our NJ brethren who leave us — through returning to their native countries, finding opportunities elsewhere, or, in Daniel’s case, death — is the disappearance of institutional memory. With a constant recycling of people, we as a community often know little of what happened before us, and have to start again from scratch.
That is the ultimate disempowerment: the ability to erase someone’s life work by not recognizing it.
This is why, at least in the case of death, we have an obligation to honor and remember NJ lives and efforts. Otherwise what is the point of making those efforts in the first place?
So let me propose a corrective measure: obituaries in The Japan Times. We should offer, say, a “Legacy Corner,” where someone who knew a recently deceased NJ of note well can submit a eulogy for possible publication. This way a print record remains of what they contributed to Japan and to us.
Many overseas newspapers, including The Guardian, already have this system in place. So should the JT…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Media, NJ legacies, Practical advice | 10 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 5th June 2011
Mainichi: With the nuclear plant crisis and continuing aftershocks, many foreign assistant English teachers have left Japan to return to their home countries, but one assistant language teacher (ALT) here chose to stay behind and do what he could for volunteer efforts.
Greg Lekich, 31, is an American ALT who teaches English at a high school in Sendai. Together with around 10 others, he has been doing volunteer work such as shoveling mud and helping clean people’s debris-filled houses. He says that he has many friends and students he has taught in Japan, and has grown used to where he lives now. He says he does not have plans to leave the country any time soon.
Lekich was born in Philadelphia. He spent a year of college learning Japanese and came to the country in 2004. After teaching English in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and other locations, he started work as an ALT at Miyagi Hirose High School and Miyagiken Technical High School from 2007.
When the earthquake struck on March 11, Lekich was in the teacher’s room at Miyagi Hirose High School. It was his first experience of a large earthquake. Following the instructions of the school staff, he evacuated to the athletic field outside. After walking for three hours to return home, he used the Internet to check on the safety of his foreign friends.
As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was added to the list of disasters, many foreigners in Japan began leaving the country. However, Lekich stayed in Sendai. His father, a former nuclear plant safety engineer, told him that under the circumstances, he didn’t think his son needed to worry so much about the radiation. His mother said she was worried, but asked him to do what he thought was right.
Lekich decided to volunteer. Together with other teachers in the prefecture, he made the website “Teachers for Japan,” through which he and the others have posted English videos of the disaster-hit areas and collected money for those orphaned by the quake or tsunami. He also helps with relief work such as cleaning debris in houses three or four days a week in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai and the cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo…
Posted in Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ legacies | 13 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 8th May 2011
Related to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ deserting Japan in its time of need, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT wanting to be “Fly-jin”. Good.
The problem is, it seems (after a short search) that this article has come out in English only — there is no link to the “original Japanese story” like many Mainichi articles have. So this may sadly may not be for domestic consumption. Or it may be available on Kyodo wire services (but again, not in Japanese for Mainichi readers). Sigh
Mainichi: More than 90 percent of foreigners studying or working in Japan expressed willingness to continue staying in the country despite the March 11 disaster, according to a recent online survey by a supporting group for them.
The International Foreign Students Association conducted the survey between March 22 and 26, to which 392 people responded. Of the respondents, 60 percent were students and the remaining 40 percent were graduates, while more than 90 percent of them were from China, Taiwan and South Korea.
Those who are willing to stay in Japan said, “Because I like Japan,” or “At a time like this, I think I want to work together (with Japanese) to help the recovery,” according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.
Posted in Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, NJ legacies | 4 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th April 2011
Octogenarian scholar and Japan specialist Donald Keene has announced his intention to become a Japanese citizen, and move to Japan in light of the Tohoku Disasters. Well, good for him.
Submitter JK notes, “While I respect Keene’s accomplishments as an academic, I can’t help but feel that his writings are a reflection of a person inhabiting a self-constructed bubble Japan whose universe is made up of haiku masters, poets, and scholars.” There are also a few comments on Japan Probe that make light of his (in)decision given his advanced age.
A bit harsh, but I do find the logic — of linking a show of solidarity in the face of a crisis with a decision as personal as changing one’s nationality (and in Japan’s case, abrogating one’s former nationality) — a bit discomfiting. As per Keene’s comments below, he’s basically falling into the ancient bad habit (a la Lafcadio Hearn’s day) of treating the Japanese people as monolithic. Plus he won’t have to live quite as long with his (last-minute) decision compared to younger people who really plighted their troth here and naturalized. A nice, but oddly-reasoned, gesture on Keene’s part.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 18 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th April 2011
More on the Open Season on NJ. Here is Internet news site Zakzak headlining that Yoshinoya, famous beef bowl chain restaurant, is being affected by the “big-volume escaping of NJ part-timers”. It apparently has lost a quarter of its NJ staff (over 800 souls) fleeing from the fears of radiation from the Tohoku Disasters. Then Zakzak gives us the mixed news that Yoshinoya is still profitable compared to its losses the same period a year ago, but is expected to take a hit to its profits from the Disasters.
Not sure how that relates, but again, the headline is that NJ are fleeing and that it’s raising doubts about whether the company is still “okay”. Even though Zakzak notes that the company is filling in the gaps with Japanese employees (er, so no worries, right? The Disasters, not the alleged NJ flight, are the bigger threat to solvency, no?). So… journalistically, we’ll hang the newsworthiness of a company’s profitability on the peg of “escaping NJ”?
If we’re going to have this much NJ bashing, how about an acknowledgement of how much NJ labor has meant to Japan and how we’re thankful for it, so please don’t leave?
Nah, easier to bash them. Takes the heat off the company for their own variably profitable business practices, and creates more attractive headlines for the media. It’s a win-win situation against the bullied and disenfranchised minority.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 14 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 7th April 2011
As I shift the focus of Debito.org to how NJ residents are being bashed in Japan post 3-11 despite their best efforts, it’s first prudent to start giving an example or two of how NJ are actually trying to help. Others who are similarly helping out are welcome to submit their stories here either by email (email@example.com) or as a comment below. Well done, James. Debito
Report on the Miyagi trip this past Sunday after our Saturday fundraising efforts.
By James Gibbs. April 1, 2011
After holding a fundraising event on Mar.26, the following day we delivered donated items along with a fully-loaded van of food and clothes to Onagawa next to Ishinomaki City, which is just north of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. I’ve made the following brief report on the trip along with first-hand observations on the situation and suggestions for future assistance as I know everyone is wanting to do something to help…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, NJ legacies | 11 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th January 2011
What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this.
Japan Times: The men stood up and explained that this week was the 40th anniversary of Rita’s death and they were going to her grave to pay their respects. The owner of the locket opened his briefcase and showed me a foil-wrapped haggis he’d ordered especially from his butcher. Another of the men took out a packet of oatcakes and a jar of heather honey.
They invited me to join them but the wind had returned with a vengeance and their drink had pasted me squarely to my seat. As they climbed out of the train, I asked them who they were. The three seemed sheepish for the first time since we’d met. Finally, the owner of the flask spoke up, “We’re the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club.”
Posted in Food, History, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »
Posted by arudou debito on 25th January 2011
An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business.
Japan Times: Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.
Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…
“The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”
This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.
Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Food, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 9 Comments »