More quick thoughts on last night’s election: Looking at the numbers

Hi Blog.  Again, remote computer, on the road, so this time just a few thoughts based upon what I read in all the major newspapers this morning (just looking at the matrix of data), nothing insider or anything:

THE RAW NUMBERS:  According to two major newspapers (Asahi and Mainichi, the others had slightly different numbers when they went to press), opposition parties got a total of 322 seats including Proportional Representation (308 for elected seats), gaining 195.  Incumbent ruling parties got 140 (119 elected seats), losing 192.  This is a landslide for the opposition no matter how you slice it, and an absolute majority of the 480 total seats in the Lower House.  In terms of PR (180 seats total), The LDP dropped from 77 to 55, while the DPJ rose from 61 to 86.  It was a rout.

THE AFTEREFFECTS:  Former PM Aso (get used to that moniker!) almost immediately announced his resignation as party leader.  But he showed just how much of an ungracious loser he is (as I mentioned in my last blog entry) when interviewed by being cold, abrupt, nasty, impolite, and pretty much impolitic when interviewed by all networks (let’s face it, Aso killed the LDP, and he’s gotta blame somebody else in his mind).  And as noted yesterday in a very insightful comment, punditry was advising caution and fear (Tahara Souichiro’s opening speech in his debate program was scare-mongering; maybe it’s time to get someone younger to lead these debates) and flinty-eyed expectations of the DPJ overnight, as if we can’t quite trust the public to have spoken properly.  People have just gotta get used to the LDP being clearly out of office for the first time, as the Yomiuri noted, for 55 years.

THE VOTERS REALLY DID SPEAK:  Voting went up in every prefecture except Oita.  The average was 69%, the highest since 1990.  In terms of individual elected seats, the DPJ won in most prefectures, except for LDP strongholds in outlying Honshu (Yamaguchi, Shimane, Tottori, Fukui, Toyama, and Aomori), Kyushu (Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and Miyazaki), and Shikoku (Kouchi and Ehime).  The DPJ kicked ass in the Nagoya area (all elected seats went DPJ), also seizing all seats in Shiga, Niigata, Nagano, Fukushima, and Iwate, then seizing almost all seats in Shizuoka, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyougo, Mie, Hiroshima, Kanagawa, Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Akita, and Hokkaido.  And in all Proportional Representation blocs, even those with prefectures that had LDP wins, the DPJ won more PR seats than the LDP (breaking even with Koumeitou support only in Okayama).  Again, there’s no way for the LDP to put a bright face on all of this.

KINGPINS OUT.  We got rid of a number of old farts that have long overstayed their welcome.  Nakagawa the G8 Drunk.  Sexual harasser Yamasaki.  Controversial Kyuuma (from Nagasaki, who insinuated positive things about the atomic bombings), former PM Kaifu (former PMs don’t get kicked out; first time for decades), IIRC current cabinet member Fuyushiba, and a couple of others.  Biggest embarrassment of the election:  Koumeitou leader Ohta, who also lost his seat — and party leaders are supposed to be in safe seats; Koumeitou clearly paid a heavy price for not distancing themselves from Aso.   Drawing a close second in terms of embarrassment was the number of Aso cabinet members (current and previous) who lost their seats entirely (again, Nakagawa, and his replacement Yosano).  There may be more, don’t have the current cabinet list in front of me.

But with PR, many of the “zombie candidates” (who can run both in single-seat constituencies, and if they don’t get in they can stay in by PR) came out after midnight:  Former cabinet ministers Machimura, Noda, Koike, and Takebe, for example.   The oldest person I saw elected was 77 (Mr Fukui), the youngest 27 (a Mr Yokokume), both DPJ, both Minami Kanto Bloc.

BUT SOME STILL VOTED THE PERSON NOT THE PARTY:  Former PMs Aso and Abe (and narrowly Fukuda) all maintained their seats.  Former PM Mori, the kingpin with the “god’s country” remarks, just squeaked in, but in most cases when there was a close race with the LDP incumbent, the second-place opposition candidate got in with PR to balance it out.  Former PM Koizumi’s son did inherit his father’s seat (which has done more to deligitimize this “reformer” in my eyes).  But of the “Koizumi Children” (young LDP politicians riding K’s coattails to “reform the LDP”, and soon found themselves frozen out from this unsavable party), only two retained their seats; 65 lost.  Awful but apparently popular twice-convicted crook (his case is still on appeal in the Supreme Court; he’s stalling for time) Suzuki Muneo got in again with his own party on PR.

More LDP notables:  Nasty TV personality Hirasawa got back in his individual seat in Tokyo.  Even nastier right-wing exclusionary xenophobe Hiranuma got in comfortably in Okayama.  Daughter of former PM Obuchi (currently in the cabinet) was relected in Gunma in a landslide.  BTW, anyone want to count for me the number of women that got elected this time and compare to previous?  Heckuva lot!

In sum, a historic day.  And it may change everything.

That’s all I time I have for now.  More trends, please let the blog know, but I’m again on the road for awhile and may take a while to approve comments.  Please be patient.  Thanks for reading.  Debito in Kurashiki

Quick update on Japan’s national election: WOW

Hi Blog.  Just a quick word from on the road on a remote computer:


I thought the DPJ were going to win big.  But not this big.  Watching kingpin after kingpin fall in the LDP (not sure if they’ll be resurrected by the PR vote; results are not all in yet).

To say the least, I’m very cheered by the result.  About bloody time.  More than five decades of the same party is far too long for any electoral system.

And was anyone else watching former PM Aso as he was answering questions to the networks?  Refusing to say hello to anyone or thanks when done, just pulling his earpiece out all surly.  He really is a piece of work.

Will try to comment in more detail tomorrow when I have some numbers and newspapers in front of me.  Arudou Debito in Kurashiki

Sapporo Source DEBITO column Sept 09 on “albums” vs “tracks” culture

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Hi Blog.  On this very important day of an election that might change everything, let me offer you this tangent:

As I promised Sapporo’s monthly international magazine SAPPORO SOURCE, I would be creating columns off the beaten track and not human-rights related.  Take in September’s latest indulgence:  “Album” vs. “Tracks” culture, and how that has affected the way we listen to music.

Next month:  Zombie Movies, and why they are the ultimate in terror and horror.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The entire issue of SAPPORO SOURCE for September 2009 can be downloaded in pdf format here.  Click on the images below to expand.






Keeping track of musical albums as an art form

Column three for the SAPPORO SOURCE Debito Column

Submitted August 1, 2009, to be published in September Issue


I turned 44 this year, but in terms of musical tastes I might as well be prehistoric.  Music
“generations” (as in, the life cycle of a genre that people identify with, like “Psychedelic”, “Heavy Metal”, “Funk”, “Punk”, “Disco”, “New Wave”, “80s Music” etc.) seem to be getting shorter, lasting four years or so.

When I was young and the earth’s crust was still forming, we’d listen to music that our parents couldn’t understand (Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath usually did the trick).  After all, it was “our” music, not theirs.  The fogies would dismiss it as some kind of unsyncopated noise that we had better turn down before the Devil carried us off.

Nowadays, however, I’m the fogy who doesn’t get it.  I flip on MTV and see scantily-clad line dancers working out to “rap music” (to me, an oxymoron).  Or I listen nonplussed to “hip hop” or “house”.  Somehow I missed whole genres.  “Grunge”? “Trance”? “Techno”?  Meanwhile tunes familiar to me have either been relegated to “Classic Rock”, or else are getting recycled by American Idol as “remakes” and “updates”.  Sometimes I wonder if we’ve run out of ways to manipulate the 120 notes audible to the human ear.

Ah well.  That’s the way generations of genres work.  If kids they want to buy something new just because it’s new (and why wouldn’t they — we did), then fine.  But I will harrumph that you whipper-snappers have lost something.  Due to the way your music is packaged.

Back in my day we reached a high water mark.  I’m not talking about the technology — ours was lousy.  Cassette tapes taping lo-fi from radios?  Car stereos with crappy “8-track tapes”?  You young punks get great sound effortlessly:  CDs that take up less space and are indestructible compared to vinyl records.  Or you just download “Tracks” from iTunes and put your entire collection in a palm-sized mp3 player.  You win.

What I’m talking about is what you lost by having a “Tracks”-based musical culture.  By being able to cherry-pick a few tunes without having to listen to the whole record, you miss the culture that sprung up around the limitations of vinyl.  With vinyl’s total playback time of around 45 minutes (that’s why the typical cassette tape is 90), some musicians who wanted to be taken seriously had to think about how to frame their music.  They came up with the concept of an “Album”.

An Album is not a collection of “Tracks”.  An Album contains an opening song, a series of passable tunes you get into later, a mini-climax by the end of “Side One”, something that pulls you into “Side Two”, takes you to a secret sublime place, then finishes with such an incredible conclusion that you want to hear the whole Album all over again.  It’s a perpetual motion sound machine.

In other words, be it vinyl or cassette, good Albums are something you “get into”.  Meaning it becomes a leitmotif, the “soundtrack” of this stage in your life, a time capsule for the future.  For example, I “got into” ASIA’s first album right out of high school, and no matter how many years it’s been, one listen and I’m eighteen and it’s summer.

Sure, the single Track might do that, but an Album sustains that feeling for close to an hour.  Because any song is not only enjoyable in itself, but also there’s the anticipation of the next song.  Which means the songs are not interchangeable (records or tapes had no “shuffle” button, after all!) — they were deliberately put in that order by the artist.

The point is, you can’t just cut the Album into Tracks, because tunes without context weakens them.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and close to the middle of Side Two you get transported to a zone that you could not have gotten to otherwise.  The Album might have a concept; it might not.  But it is unified by a mood that there are no shortcuts to.

Now, if you don’t think this old coot is out of his mind, and you’re willing to give The Album phenomenon a try, here’s your starter kit.  Arranged not by musical taste (I make no claims to be comprehensive), but rather by how easy these Albums are to “get into”:


BEGINNER:  BEATLES “Sgt. Pepper” (arguably the first real Album) and “Abbey Road”.  SADE “Stronger Than Pride”.  PET SHOP BOYS “Behaviour”.  PINK FLOYD:  “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”.  U2 “Joshua Tree” and “Unforgettable Fire”.  ASIA eponymous first album.  SEAL “Seal”.

INTERMEDIATE:  GENESIS “Trick of the Tail” and “Wind and Wuthering” (recommend back to back).  Korean group ROLLER COASTER “Absolute”.  GEORGE MICHAEL “Faith”.  MOBY “18”.  PORTISHEAD “Dummy”.  MOODY BLUES “Days of Future Passed”.  FLEETWOOD MAC “Rumours”.  DEPECHE MODE “Ultra”.  TALKING HEADS “More Songs about Buildings and Food”.

ADVANCED:  BLUR “13”.  THE WHO “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”.  THE FIXX “Phantoms”.  DAVID BOWIE “1. Outside”.  DJIVAN GASPARYAN AND MICHAEL BROOK “Black Rock”.  ABDELLI “New Moon”.  PINK FLOYD “The Wall”.  And my favorite Album of all time:  GENESIS “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”.


Final word:  If you chase these Albums down, beware the gimmicky reissues with “bonus tracks”.  They generally throw off the whole Album, so separate them into your playlist of CD-single remixes (for when you want to “get into” Tracks instead).  Also, take your time “getting into” these Albums.  I recommend one per week.

Tally ho.  Happy hunting in your local used-CD store.  Tell them your crotchety but avuncular Uncle Debito sent you.



CSM’s Kambayashi on Japan’s “hereditary candidates” and new voter attitudes

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Hi Blog.  On this election eve, I thought I’d just send one reporter’s opinion about how Japan is shaping up towards one important issue (that affects both the leaders of the LDP and DPJ):  inherited seats.  Courtesy of the author.  Moreover, keep an eye out tomorrow night for coverage of the old LDP gorillas who could very well lose their seats (according to the J media):  Former PM Mori in Ishikawa, Former PM Abe in Yamaguchi, Takebe in Hokkaido… Arudou Debito in Kurashiki

Christian Science Monitor July 09, 2009
In election season, Japan’s voters more skeptical of ‘hereditary’ candidates
Amid recession woes, some politicians see an opening in a system long tipped toward political families.
By Takehiko Kambayashi | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Shimonoseki, Japan
Just a few years ago, it would have been unimaginable for a political neophyte like Takako Tokura to try to crack into politics.

But today, Ms. Tokura, a vivacious mother of three, is on the stump. Her goal: to represent Yamaguchi Prefecture’s 4th District in the House of Representatives in an election that is expected to be held in late August or in early September.

It’s a gutsy move for an unknown. For one thing, her audience in the venerable city of Shimonoseki, where she is contesting the seat, has a long tradition of supporting the next generation of well known political families. Indeed, her opponent is former prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose father, Shintaro, was a foreign minister, and grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, also held the prime ministership.

But Tokura – whose candidacy is seen as a long shot – is convinced that the country is ready for fresh blood.

The political climate has changed since former Prime Minister Abe and his successor, Yasuo Fukuda (whose father also served as premier) abruptly stepped down under pressure. And their woes, analysts say, have contributed to growing skepticism about both the qualifications of hereditary politicians and the merits of giving certain families such a strong grip on power.

“This could mark the beginning of a permanent shift, and it is a shift that could ultimately help shake up Japanese politics,” says Akikazu Hashimoto, a political science professor at J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo. “This is probably the first time we’ve seen the pendulum swing against them.”

The image of hereditary politicians has been further aggravated by policy flip-flops and weak leadership from Mr. Aso – himself the grandson of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, and the son-in-law of Zenko Suzuki, also a former premier. Major polls show 60 to 70 percent of those surveyed don’t support Aso’s cabinet.

Tokura is running for office in one of Japan’s most conservative regions, a stronghold of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the hometown of Mr. Abe and Yoshimasa Hayashi, a newly appointed minister of economic and fiscal policy and a fourth-generation lawmaker.

But even here, Tamotsu Tomoda, who is close to Abe, was defeated in the March race for Shimonoseki mayor, while, last month, in the nearby city of Ube, Kimiko Kubota, who rose from a citizen group leader, won the mayoral poll and will become the first woman mayor in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

“Many people are asking us to change [Japanese politics],” says Tokura, a member of the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Ruling party’s hereditary tradition

While political dynasties have held sway in the United States – think the Kennedys and the Bushes – in Japan they exert more influence in the nation’s politics.

“If you include those whose grandfather was a local assembly member, the total number of hereditary politicians makes up about 50 percent of LDP lawmakers,” says Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University in Tokyo.

Moreover, politicians invest in forming support groups. The koenkai, which are usually backed by local business leaders, connects the politicians to constituents.

The local organization provides votes and money, while, in return, politicians give them things like business licensing, regulatory approvals, and public works projects.

“The koenkai is an organization that keeps a patronage system,” says Mr. Iwai. “Given their money, name recognition, and organizational power, it is easier for hereditary politicians to win. But that prevents a capable person from running in that seat.”

I’m a reformer – but want my son to get my seat

The institution of a political dynasty is so entrenched that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, known as a top reformer, is now working to help his son Shinjiro “inherit” his seat after announcing his retirement from politics.

“The times have changed. But [politicians] still succeed using old ideas and old styles of politics. They cannot breathe new ideas into the political system,” argues Mr. Hashimoto of J. F. Oberlin University.

Even so, in Yokosuka, the hometown of Mr. Koizumi that lies just south of Tokyo, incumbent Ryoichi Kabaya lost to 33-year-old Yuto Yoshida in the June mayoral election – despite Koizumi’s endorsement.

The DPJ puts some limits on candidates whose parents or close relatives were lawmakers. The LDP tried, but could not.

In Yamaguchi, candidate Tokura, who helped her husband run a small business in Shunan, an industrial town 450 miles west of Tokyo, is critical of second- and third-generation politicians like Abe.

Tokura, whose father works as a fisherman, has witnessed a number of contractors going under, while more locals have been forced to shutter their businesses, she says.

She emphasizes that hereditary politicians like Abe, who grew up and went to a private school in Tokyo, are out of touch with local struggles. She is proud to say all her family members, including their three children, have attended local public schools.

“Many here are finding it hard to make ends meet,” says Tokura, who led a local team in plans to revitalize the area and also spearheaded the sales of blowfish – a local delicacy – at a nationwide exhibition. “The government budget proposal is just for the haves. We have to invest in education and social-security services.”

Hisatsugu Ishimori, a first-time DPJ candidate, also faces formidable challenges as he tries to defeat Hajime Funada, a third-generation LDP lawmaker in the Tochigi 1st District, about 60 miles north of Tokyo, which sits on the buckle of the nation’s conservative belt.

Mr. Ishimori, a burly brain surgeon and former champion rugby player, has witnessed the breakdown of the medical care system.

“Even though there’s an excessive burden being imposed on medical staff, the patients still aren’t getting adequate care,” he says.

Ishimori says he wants to get into politics to repair a damaged system. He’s already visited nearly 30,000 households in the district.

“Japan has a lot of potential,” he says. “We should invest in people.”

Takehiko Kambayashi

TIME Magazine on McDonald’s “Mr James” Campaign

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Hi Blog.  The “Mr James” issue even made TIME Magazine a few days ago.  Starts off fine, then skates into the territory of Straw Men and Silly Arguments (“unclean”?  Even I said this argument was silly when asked about it over the phone).  The last paragraph (“The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth … is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign.” Really?) I just don’t get, no matter how many times I read it, sorry.  If someone could reinterpret that paragraph for me, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, thanks for covering the issue, Ms Masters.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Not Everyone Is Lovin’ Japan’s New McDonald’s Mascot

TIME Magazine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009,8599,1918246,00.html

Mr. James is lovin’ being back in Japan. The exuberantly geeky American mascot of McDonald’s Japan latest ad campaign oohs and aahs over fireworks. His smile beams from his cardboard cutouts outside McDonald’s establishments across the country.

But a growing number of non-Japanese who live in Japan are decidedly not lovin’ Mr. James. In a country known for its small foreign-born population — only 1.5% of 127 million — and restrictive immigration and naturalization policies, the new envoy for McDonald’s Japan is creating a stir among non-Japanese residents.

A doppelganger of Steve Carell’s 40-Year-Old Virgin with glasses, Mr. James is a character invented by Japanese advertising behemoth Dentsu and McDonald’s Japan for its new burger line — the “Nippon All Stars” — campaign. The purpose of the campaign, running Aug. 10 to Nov. 5, is to promote four burgers available only in Japan. On his blog, found on the McDonald’s Japan website, Mr. James describes himself as a 43-year-old Japanophile born in Ohio with a penchant for travel, who, when particularly excited, generously treats people he doesn’t even know. (That seems to be a plug for the $1,000 cash prizes for 1,000 people who submit photos of Mr. James or people imitating Mr. James.)

But elsewhere, Mr. James, dressed in his buttoned-up red polo shirt, tie and khakis, is seen as playing to Japan’s xenophobic tendencies. Annoyed expats have described the character as “white, dorky” and speaking “mangled Japanese.” The chair of The Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens’ Association of Japan, Arudo Debito — a naturalized Japanese citizen born David Aldwinckle — has officially protested the Mr. James campaign with a letter to McDonald’s Corporation headquarters in Illinois. Soon after the ads started to roll out, somebody set up an “I hate Mr. James” Facebook group, which now has 67 members.

Debito considers the characterization of “a clumsy sycophantic ‘nerd'” an embarrassment. “If this were in a different country, and we had a Japanese in a [summer kimono] and [wooden sandals] saying ‘Me like Mcflied lice, please eato,’ we’d have the same sort of anti-defamation league speaking out and saying this is disparaging to Asians or Japanese,” says Debito. He says the campaign’s portrayal of non-Japanese as “unquestioningly supportive and culturally ignorant” will only make life more difficult for foreigners in Japan.

On his blog, Mr. James posts travel plans — to places, such as Kyushu, where he visits McDonald’s restaurants — and ruminates about his favorite burgers. He bungles his attempts at written Japanese, and mispronounces words with a staccato-like butchering of the language. One online video shows him talking to himself while practicing from a phrasebook, proclaiming “horenso” (spinach) with a gesture. Mr. James has appeared in two commercials since the campaign began, in which he also mistakes words, for instance, yelling “tamago” (egg) in Japanese instead of a similar sounding word “tamaya”, which is shouted during fireworks.

McDonalds Japan spokesman Junichi Kawaminami says that there is no official response to criticism of the Mr. James campaign [UPDATE:  READ OFFICIAL RESPONSE HERE]. He does, however, explain the story of the character, which appears in the first commercial. “Mr. James’s daughter was determined to go to Japan and study and so he looked at maps and got excited to go with her,” says Kawaminami. “Once he found out that McDonald’s was offering the Tamago Double Mac, it became the deciding factor.” Why? It was on the McDonald’s Japan menu years ago and became Mr. James’s favorite when he was a student in Japan. That, says Kawaminami, is when Mr. James became a great fan of Japanese culture and food.

Some of the Mr. James criticism, however, seems a little thin. One comment on Facebook says that because Mr. James wears the same clothes everyday in August might suggest that foreigners are “unclean.” If we’re going to look at the clothing choices of fast food icons, it seems fair to point out that Ronald McDonald and Col. Sanders have been wearing their famous uniforms for half a century. There’s no doubt that the spectacle of the foreigner in Japan is an everyday occurrence in media. A foreigner’s response that he or she can use chopsticks or enjoys raw fish is met with smiles and amazement because — in some ways — affirmation of Japanese culture is stronger when it comes from outside, or is a non-Japanese perspective. But there is certainly no shortage of elegant, articulate Japanese-speaking foreigners in local media, from morning television programs to magazine advertisements for Japanese products.

The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth — basically a double Big Mac with an egg on it — is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign. To protest Mr. James as a stereotype of a minority population in Japan because the Ohio-native fails to speak or write Japanese fluently, dresses like a nerd and blogs about burgers only ends up underscoring the fact that there really aren’t a lot of foreigners who fit the bill running around Japan. For most foreigners in Japan who know no one like that — and who only see a burger mascot — it begs the question: Where’s the beef?


Starting tour screening SOUR STRAWBERRIES (Okayama, Tokyo, Yokohama, perhaps Nagoya) Aug 30-Sept 14, blog updated less often

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Hi Blog.  Just to let you know, I’m leaving the keyboard starting August 28, heading south for a couple of weeks.  I’ll be touring movie SOUR STRAWBERRIES between Okayama, Yokohama, and Tokyo and giving speeches.  So I probably won’t be able to update the blog and approve comments more than once a day for the next couple of weeks.  FYI.  Debito

Here’s the schedule:

Hosting screenings of SOUR STRAWBERRIES: A documentary directed by Tilman Koenig and Daniel Kremers of Leipzig, Germany, anywhere in Japan in late August-Early September 2009. Please contact Debito at to arrange a screening.

========= WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT =========

The documentary “Sour Strawberries – Japan’s hidden guest workers” was shot in March 2008 by a German-Japanese film crew in Tokyo. The movie shows migrants fighting for their rights as workers and citizens. The persons concerned are always at the centre of interest. While describing their situation, they are the protagonists of the movie. Contains interviews with NJ workers on their treatment, with input from people like migration expert Dr Gabriele Vogt, Dietmember Kouno Taro, Keidanren policymaker Inoue Hiroshi, labor rights leader Torii Ippei, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei, and activist Arudou Debito, who gives us an animated tour of “Japanese Only” signs in Kabukicho.

More information and stills from the movie at
A three-minute promo of the movie at

If you can’t make the screenings but would like to order the movie directly from the directors, go to

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL SCREENINGS WILL HAVE A VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION OF 500 YEN PER PERSON. (The directors went to great time and expense to create this documentary; let’s do what we can to compensate them.) Debito will also have copies of the DVD available for purchase for 1500 yen.


  1. OKAYAMA: Sunday August 30, 2009, 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM, Okayama International Center (CONFIRMED)  SPECIAL GUEST:  DIRECTOR DANIEL KREMERS
  2. TOKYO SHIBUYA: Thursday September 10, 2009, evening, The Pink Cow restaurant, for Amnesty International AITEN (CONFIRMED)  SPECIAL GUEST:  DIRECTOR DANIEL KREMERS
  3. TOKYO AKIHABARA: Friday September 11, 2009, 7PM, Second Harvest Japan (CONFIRMED) SPECIAL GUEST:  DIRECTOR DANIEL KREMERS
  4. YOKOHAMA: Saturday September 12, 2009, 3-6PM for group “Drinking Liberally” at The Hub bar in Hiyoshi, Yokohama (CONFIRMED): Directions: Hiyoshi is on the Tokyu Toyoko line about 25 minutes out of Shibuya. Besides from Shibuya, Hiyoshi can also be reached from/connected to from Ebisu (Hibiya line), Meguro (Meguro line – continuation of the Namboku and Mita subway lines terminates at Hiyoshi) and Oimachi (Oimachi line connecting at Oookurayama to the Meguro line). The Hub is a 2 minute walk from the Hiyoshi station. Map here. Facebook entry here.  SPECIAL GUEST:  DIRECTOR DANIEL KREMERS

May I add that I have seen the movie, and it is excellent. We have sold out of three press runs of the DVD, and will be selling more at the venue.

If you can’t make the screenings but would like to order the movie directly from the directors, go to

If you’d like to see my previous speeches, handouts, and powerpoints (so you can get an idea what I talk about), please click here.


SITYS: Japan Times confirms that 74-year-old tourist WAS indeed incarcerated for 10 days for carrying a pocket knife

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Hi Blog.  After a very nasty discussion on last month, regarding the validity of a story by Brian Hedge that a 74-year-old tourist was incarcerated for more than a week just for holding a pocket knife, the Japan Times has come through (The only media to bother — subscribe to the paper, everyone!  Who else you gonna call?) and confirmed that it actually did happen.

It sure would be nice for the anonymous nasties who raked people over the coals to capitulate now.  How ’bout it?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009
Tourist’s 10-day detention rapped
Lawyers say elderly American should never have been jailed for holding small pocketknife
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer (excerpt)

It all started when an American tourist asked a police officer for directions to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

The Californian, 74, could never have imagined the officer would reply to his question with: “Do you have a knife?”

He could never have dreamed, either, that his possession of a pocketknife, which he calls a “customary personal item,” would be illegal in Japan and lead to 10 nights in detention, the man told The Japan Times during a recent interview.

“It was unpleasant and disappointing,” he said.

The actions by police, including asking the man if he was carrying a knife, are questionable, lawyers said.

In particular, they say 10 days in detention is problematic — although unfortunately in Japan not uncommon.

“I seriously doubt the man needed to be detained at all,” said lawyer Kazuharu Suga, who has been assigned to defend the American.
“Police should have confiscated the knife and released him after getting answers for why he came to Japan, where and how long he plans to stay in Japan and how he got the knife,” Suga said.

“Unfortunately, in cases like this, 10 days of detention is not unusual,” he said, adding that a foreigner could be held longer if police have linguistic trouble communicating with the suspect…

Rest of the article at:

The Japan Times Community Page ran a series of responses on Tuesday from readers, many outraged, by this treatment. Here they are:

One pocket knife, nine days’ lockup
Following are a selection of readers’ responses to the July 28 Hotline to Nagatacho column headlined “Pocket knife lands tourist, 74, in lockup.”
The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009


“Truly a horror story…”

Rest at


McDonald’s Japan CR Director Kawaminami Junichi responds to FRANCA

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Hi Blog.  NPO FRANCA received this morning a response from McDonald’s Japan Director of Corporate Relations, a Mr Kawaminami Junichi, regarding our protest letters in English and Japanese on the “Mr James” sales campaign.

I appreciate him taking time to respond, but he toes the line he narrated to various world media stressing the lack of intention to offend, again without discussing any of the possible ill-effects to NJ residents from stereotyping.

He also only answered in English, wish is a bit of a disappointment.  I presume he doesn’t want the discussion to expand to the Japanese debate arenas.  Letter follows below.

Meanwhile, I have devoted my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to the “Mr James” phenomenon and what it might mean, with a historical context.  Out Tuesday, September 1, get a copy!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Reuters THE GREAT DEBATE column on how this election in Japan just might change everything

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Hi Blog. I was asked by Reuters to write a little something at the end of last month. This popped out in a little more than 45 minutes. Felt good, hope it reads well and rings true. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

06:58 August 25th, 2009

Japan: The election that might change everything
By: Arudou Debito
– Arudou Debito, is a columnist for the Japan Times, activist, blogger at, and Chair of the NPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association. The opinions expressed are his own –

Japan’s famous mantra is that things don’t change much or very quickly. But I have a feeling that this approaching Lower House parliamentary election on August 30 just might prove that wrong.

But first some background. Japan has been ruled essentially by one party since the end of World War II — the Liberal Democrats (LDP). That’s longer than in any other liberal democracy, competing with other countries that have no other parties to choose from.

There are many theories as to why that happened. Some might insist that risk-averse Japanese weren’t ready to tamper with the status quo, when economic growth was running so smoothly between 1950 and 1990, and everyone was feeling prosperous.

But that theory breaks down when you realize that Japan is the only developed economy which actually SHRANK on average over the past twenty years. If prosperity breeds contentment, two decades is enough time to voters make the elected feel their winter of discontent.

I believe there just hasn’t been a viable opposition party until now. The previous #2 party for most of the postwar era, the Socialists, were essentially a one-issue group, holding just enough seats to block any revisions to Japan’s “Peace Constitution”. They succeeded. Our peacetime constitution has never been amended.

But the Socialists imploded in 1995 when their leader made a Faustian bargain to take power briefly from the LDP. Ineptitude and three decades of opposition politics soon tripped them up, and the LDP was back in power within a year.

Arising from the ashes, eventually, was the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which eventually convinced enough voters that it wasn’t going to similarly implode. It’s only taken 15 years and a lot of horse trading (and some years holding the basically powerless Upper House) before it proved itself a viable second party.

It really proved itself earlier this July, when it ambushed the LDP in the Tokyo Government elections. For the first time in 40 years, Japan’s largest city has the opposition in control. This is riding the wave of a shambolic LDP, with three disastrous (and unelected) prime ministers after the famously-charismatic Koizumi. The current PM, Aso, is essentially an oblivious political Brahmin, who has made it clear that his only claim to power is his personal sense of entitlement. Tellingly, he has refused to give up the LDP leadership even after the July ambush, and is driving his party into the ground.

It is now clear how deep the rot runs. A near-majority of people in the LDP hold “inherited seats”, meaning they are sons, daughters, or blood relatives of former Dietmembers — some for several unbroken generations. This degree of cosy entitlement has only encouraged more elitism, rot, and preservation of a status quo that is long run out of excuses for Japan’s relative lack of prosperity. The LDP are the party resisting change, and the only weapon they have left in their arsenal is that you can’t trust the opposition party because it’s never held the reins. But that fear by circular logic isn’t selling this time.

I think, as do most people, that we will have a change of government, with the DPJ taking power in September. Will it change anything, however?

It just might. The DPJ Manifesto (They were the party that started this earlier this decade. How revolutionary! Making your policies clear to the voter!) is already out and it’s saying some pretty ambitious things. Paying families sizable amounts to support their children. Making schools up to junior high free. Making our toll highways free. Breaking the stranglehold the bureaucrats have over our policymaking levers. And quite a bit more that is ambitious if not a bit vague. (But that’s quite normal.) According to my backdoor channels, there’s even the promise of the DPJ facing up to the task of dealing with Japan’s decreasing population by broaching that taboo topic (until after the election) — loosening up the borders to let more immigration happen! That would mean EVERYTHING changes!

Many of these may turn out to be merely political promises, of course. But they’re still better than anything the LDP has come up with, and the DPJ is setting the agenda for this election. Being in control of the debate is a good thing. And it has had the intended effect. Although a month is a long time in politics, I think at this time the attitude is, “Well, why not give the DPJ a try? Can they really do all that worse than the LDP are doing now?”

I am an American-born naturalized citizen of Japan. Have been for nearly a decade now. I’ve voted in several elections. This is the one I’m most looking forward to.

DPJ changes its slogan from “Kokumin” to “Anata…”

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Hi Blog.  I watched the LDP and the DPJ’s respective political advertisements on NHK yesterday, and had quite a surprise:

Well, two actually.  First was I thought the LDP’s was better (the DPJ’s, despite the catchy song, was too corny).  But never mind.  I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference, what with recent polls forecasting DPJ landslide victories.

The bigger surprise was the DPJ’s slogan in the TV spot.  Their campaign slogan has been “kokumin no seikatsu ga daiichi” (the citizens’ livelihoods are the most important thing).  It says as such on their Manifesto and their website.

However, in the TV spot (and on the back of the Manifesto) it was “ANATA no seikatsu ga daiichi” (your livelihoods are the most important thing).

For reasons I can’t elaborate upon at this juncture, I have been giving a lot of feedback and input to DPJ Hokkaido in recent months.  One of my recommendations has been to remove the “kokumin” in favor of “shimin” or “juumin”, so that NJ are not excluded.  But “anata” will do just as well.   I’d like to believe my suggestions some impact.

Meanwhile, one policy issue I didn’t bring up, because I didn’t think it was tenable now, was the issue of suffrage for long-term NJ.  But as we’ve seen on, DPJ Head Hatoyama has come out in favor of that when it really wasn’t necessary in this election.  That suggests some pretty nice potential changes on the drawing board after the DPJ more than likely wins.

After all, PM Aso just keeps on gaffing.  His latest?  Insinuating that people who don’t have enough money should not get married last Sunday.  I think the remaining LDP candidates are just facepalming their way through this election.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times on nuts and bolts of Japanese elections

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Hi All.  More stuff from the JT to get you up to speed on how the numbers game works in Japan’s Diet.  Excerpted below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009
Ultimately, it all comes down to numbers
Staff writer

All signs seem to indicate Prime Minister Taro Aso and his Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition face a tough battle in trying to hold onto their Lower House majority in the Aug. 30 election.

If the Democratic Party of Japan-led opposition camp wins a majority in the Lower House, it will be able to select the prime minister, most likely the current DPJ president, Yukio Hatoyama, ending more than five decades of almost uninterrupted LDP rule.

Following are questions and answers regarding how the Lower House election works:

What are the terms of office, the chamber’s electoral breakdown and the length of the campaign period?

The Lower House has 480 members, elected for four-year terms. Of these, 180 are elected from 11 multimember districts via proportional representation, and 300 from single-seat districts.

But the Lower House can be dissolved by the prime minister at any time, as Aso did on July 21.

By contrast, the Upper House has 242 members who each serve six-year terms, with half standing for re-election every three years on fixed dates. The next Upper House election will be in 2010.

The Lower House is the more powerful chamber, able to override votes on bills imposed by the Upper House with a two-thirds majority. The LDP-New Komeito coalition currently controls the Lower House, while the opposition, with the DPJ the largest force, controls the Upper House…

More at

McDonald’s Japan “Mr James”: Reports of improvements

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Hi Blog.  I am hearing of improvements in the infamous and controversial katakana-speaking “gaijin” character “Mr James”, advertising McDonald’s hamburgers.  Just wanted to confirm with readers:

1) Peach reports the “katakana tray inserts” (meaning these):


are not being used anymore.   Visited a McDonald’s in Tennouji, Osaka today and discovered this.

2) Justin commented to

Submitted on 2009/08/19 at 9:54pm
One interesting note about the “Mr. James” ads: There aren’t any in the McDonalds across from Kamiyacho Station, just down the hill from the Hotel Okura. This is a gaijin-heavy area, with lots of us staying in the hotel or working in the offices nearby. If the “Mr. James” ads are so inoffensive, why is McDonalds Japan keeping them out of its restaurants in foreigner-heavy neighborhoods?

3) As has been reported in the SCMP and other media outlets, the “backstory” of this character has become more sophisticated, depicting him as a tourist from Ohio, not a resident of Japan, burgering his way through Japan’s burghers (dare him to come to Hokkaido!) and blogging his experiences.  Although this doesn’t excuse his being rendered in katakana.  For those wishing to give McD’s the benefit of the doubt (I don’t), one could argue that this man is just a Japan otaku, not the typical gaijin.  But you still got the huge billboards outside the restaurant with Mr James — you don’t even have to go inside the restaurant to get “Jamesed”, let alone take the trouble to visit online and get the backstory.  Collateral effects.

4) Mr James has suddenly become a quick study in Japanese.  His blog posts are no longer exclusively in katakana, although his Japanese remains a bit on the broken side (all the nouns are gaijinized in katakana) with nary a kanji to be seen.

Are others seeing these improvements?  And are there any more adjustments to report?

These are all evidence that McDonald’s Japan is taking complaints about this campaign seriously.  But I still say the campaign must be suspended entirely.  They may be trying to make him a character with more redeeming characteristics.  But he’s still, in my book, a gaijin — an epithet made flesh; that’s how he was designed, and now McDonald’s Japan, for better or worse, is saddled with him.  Get rid of this albatross.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times: Parties split on issues of NJ PR suffrage

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More good coverage on issues that matter to the NJ community by the Japan Times:  Where the parties stand on one of the most fundamental rights that can be granted to anyone:  the right to vote.  Including those NJ who were born and raised here.  This issue is quite unnecessary (given that even talking about immigration in public is taboo), yet Hatoyama is making an issue of it.  Good.  Again, this election could change everything.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009
Parties split on foreigner suffrage
By MASAMI ITO Staff writer

Prime Minister Taro Aso and Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama displayed clear differences Monday in their parties’ positions on whether to allow foreigners with permanent residency to vote in local races.

During an open debate hosted by the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Aso said his Liberal Democratic Party does not favor immediately giving foreigners local-level suffrage.

“(Foreigners’) right to vote is a big issue and we are not fully in agreement with those who are calling for granting suffrage (to foreigners) immediately,” Aso said, refusing to elaborate.

But Hatoyama said it is now time to consider granting foreigners voting rights at the local level.

“There are pros and cons and the DPJ is in the process of unifying its opinion right now,” Hatoyama said. “But considering the future, I think that the time has come to take a positive step.”

Whether to grant foreigners suffrage has become a contentious issue in the political world. While the conservative ranks of the LDP are strongly opposed, its coalition partner New Komeito is actively promoting this right.

Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), which is expected to join hands with the DPJ if the main opposition party ousts the LDP-New Komeito coalition Aug. 30, has sided with the LDP view on this issue.

“Giving foreigners local-level suffrage is a major issue that could shake the existence of the nation, and we are against it,” said Kokumin Shinto leader Tamisuke Watanuki, a veteran lawmaker who used to belong to the LDP.

Foreign nationals currently do not have the right to vote, and permanent foreign residents, especially Korean descendants of those who lived in Japan before and during the war and were forced to take Japanese citizenship at that time, have been fighting for local-level suffrage.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, there were more than 910,000 foreign nationals registered as permanent residents at the end of 2008.


Japan Times on upcoming national election #1: Rules regarding Campaigning

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Hi Blog. Let’s get back to other important matters: The general election coming up on August 30. Got a good primer here on how campaigns are run in Japan, courtesy of the Japan Times.

No doubt you’ve experienced some of the soundtruckery that causes some to plug their ears.  I actually like elections in Japan, see why here.  I’ve also experienced some of these campaigning restrictions (some I believe interfere with a normal democratic process of public debate) myself when I helped get my ex-wife elected some years ago (see here). Have a read. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009
Strict rules in play to keep campaigning above board (excerpt)
By MASAMI ITO. Staff writer

Since Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved the Lower House last month and announced Aug. 18 would be the official start of campaigning for the Aug. 30 general election, hundreds of undeclared candidates have been making the rounds to attract voters.

But both before Aug. 18 and afterward, they will be subject to a raft of detailed campaign regulations. And all it takes is one slip, whether by a candidate or an aide, to jeopardize what could otherwise be a successful campaign….

What can candidates do as far as campaigning?

Soapbox speeches with loudspeakers are permitted between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. if the candidate displays a special flag distributed by the Election Administration Commission.

Even without microphones, candidates can still give speeches. They are often found outside train stations or other areas with high pedestrian traffic. Candidates engage in “tsuji-dachi” (standing on street corners), picking strategic locations to hail passersby early in the morning or early evening during peak commute times.

A candidate may ply the streets of an electoral district between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in clearly identified campaign cars blaring speeches and loaded with waving supporters.

Naturally, politicians also turn out at local events like festivals where they can press the flesh to build name recognition.

What about the time before the official campaign kickoff?

By law, candidates are prohibited from engaging in campaigning except for the designated time before the election, but they have the right to freedom of political activities. The Public Offices Election Law separates election campaigning from political activities, saying the goal of the former is to get elected while the latter is a promotion of a general political objective or policy .

Most political activities before campaigning starts are unrestricted.

Posters to announce lectures or speeches bearing the potential candidate’s image can be put up as long as they don’t identify the person as a candidate for a specific election.

But these posters must be taken down six months before the end of the legislator’s term, which currently for the Lower House is Sept. 10, so those bearing individual photos should have been removed by now.

Then why are there still posters around with the faces of candidates?…

Rest of the article at


South China Morning Post on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” Campaign, quotes FRANCA

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Hi Blog.  SCMP reports:

Foreigners fail to see joke over McDonald’s dorky-white-guy ad
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
South China Morning Post, August 21, 2009 (registration required)

He’s white, dorky and speaks mangled Japanese.

Meet Mr James, McDonald’s Japan’s fictitious white envoy, who has managed to outrage foreigners’ rights groups, which labelled him an offensive racial stereotype.

The chain began its “Nippon All Stars” campaign on August 10, fronted by what the Foreign Residents and Naturalised Citizens’ Association (Franca) said was an “oddball-looking Caucasian” praising a new line of burgers in pitifully broken Japanese.

With trousers worn high, Mr James’ thick-framed glasses and polo-shirt-and-tie combination is unmistakably nerdy. He is travelling around Japan and keeping a blog of the places that he visits. As part of the advertising campaign, people who see him are encouraged to take a photo and send it to McDonald’s, with the best one photo winning a 100,000 yen (HK$8,220) prize.

“The idea behind the campaign is that Mr James used to live in Japan as a student, heard about the new McDonald’s product and wanted to try it again, so he has come back to travel around the country,” spokesman Junichi Kawaminami said.

The actor playing Mr James, whom the company declined to identify or provide contact details for, was until recently in the southern city of Fukuoka.

“McDonald’s has obviously put a lot of money into this campaign as there are full-length posters and banners in every restaurant that I see as well as by the side of roads here, and the company is apparently not concerned that they are offending people and hope we continue to buy their burgers,” Franca chairman Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese born in the United States, said.

“This is untenable in a Japan with ethnic minority residents,” he said. “They are being ill-portrayed by this stereotype and their lives may be affected by this careless campaign by one of the world’s most influential multinational companies.”

McDonald’s Japan confirmed that it had received complaints about the campaign and said it was examining the matter. Similar complaints to its US headquarters have been referred back to the Japanese firm.

“What really angers me is that no one involved in the process here thought that anyone would take offence to see a caricature such as this advertising their company,” Mr Arudou said. “Can you imagine the outrage there would be in the US or any other country if a restaurant chain used an image of a Japanese man with big, round glasses, buck teeth, geta sandals and a kimono telling people to `buy flied lice, is velly good! “That’s the sort of thing that gets embassies and global human rights’ groups angry and involved,” he said.

McDonald’s “Mr James” Campaign: FRANCA’s downloadable protest letter in Japanese

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Hi Blog.  Here is the Japanese translation for the FRANCA letter protesting the “Mr James” burger campaign currently underway at McDonald’s Japan.  You can see the original English here.

Please feel free to copy and send this letter to McDonald’s yourself via their feedback inlets on their website.  (try here in particular)  Better yet, take it to your local McDonald’s doing this campaign, ask for the manager, and hand them this letter to express your disgruntlement.  You can download the Word version of it here:

Please also consider not buying food at McDonald’s for the duration of this (three-month) campaign.  Maybe tell the manager that when you submit your letter.

Talked to the media yesterday.  An article on this issue should be appearing in the South China Morning Post tomorrow (Friday).  It’s already appeared on  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGONPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association


会社法人等番号 4300-05-005413

〒163-1339. 本社住所, 東京都新宿区西新宿6-5-1 新宿アイランドタワー
日本マクドナルド株式会社 代表取締役会長 原田 泳幸 様  当店舗担当者 方

拝啓 ますますご繁栄の事をお喜び申し上げます。

突然の失礼をお許し下さい。在日外国人・帰化人のための非政府組織であり人権擁護団体「日本永住帰化移民住民協会」(FRANCA Japan)と申します。FRANCAは、下記の目標を達成するために努めております:1)外国人及び複数の文化背景を持つ日本人に対するマイナスイメージ及びステレオタイプの公の場からの除去に努めること。2)人種・国籍・民族・出身地などによる差別の除去に努めること。3)移民及び文化の多様性の利点に関する理解を広めるのに努めること。FRANCAは長期間にわたる効率的な陳情・情報交換・広報を通じて、日本国民の意識を高めることにより、上記の目標を達成することを目標としております。






もっと分かりやすく例えると、海外のマクドナルドで新しいライスのメニューをキャンペーンしようとしたら、小柄で眼鏡をかけ少し前歯が出ている、アジア人と思われる男性が片言英語で「Ah so solly, prease to eeto honorable McLice!」を言うキャラなら抗議の対象になるでしょう。国内のマイノリティも「差別」と叫んで人権擁護団体もキャンペーンを取り止める要求もきて、不買運動もすることがよくあるパターンです。


平成21年8月20日 有道 出人(あるどう でびと)FRANCA Japan 会長

From the food tray inserts:


From stickers on every table:


At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:


Close up of the cutout:


Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009, Sapporo Nakanosawa Branch):



Aso presides over sinking LDP ship, slams DPJ Hatoyama for being open to NJ suffrage

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Hi Blog.  Election season has officially kicked off, as of yesterday (whadda time for me to take a vacation!), and here we have the slow and steady disintegration of the LDP (Japan Times speculates not on whether opposition DPJ will win, but by how much).  Even former LDP independent Tanaka Makiko just joined the DPJ.

But where this dovetails with is the long-standing issue of suffrage for Permanent Residents (particularly the Special PRs, who have lived here for generations as foreigners).  DPJ head Hatoyama is making liberalizing overtures, while PM Aso tries to claim Japan for the Japanese only.  This according to a Japan Times article courtesy of John I’ve excerpted below.

Personally, I’m glad Aso stayed on as LDP head after the disastrous Tokyo Prefectural elections last July.  He’s running the party into the ground.  And making it all that much easier for the DPJ to assume the reins.  One fear, however, a friend expressed to me this morning is that too much defection to the DPJ might make it the same party with a different name.  But I’m not going to go all that pessimistic yet.  A change of political party after five decades is good.

Eyes on the election, everyone.  And I should have a Japanese letter of protest for you to take to your local McDonald’s re the ludicrous “Mr James” Campaign up here by tomorrow.  Arudou Debito on holiday.  Kinda.


The Japan Times Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009
Down in polls, Aso says only LDP can provide security (excerpt)

… Aso also expressed his disapproval of DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama’s willingness to give local-level suffrage to foreign nationals with permanent residency.

“Hatoyama says that Japan is not a country just for Japanese, but if that is the case, then whose country is it for?” Aso asked. “Honestly speaking, this isn’t something that will be resolved by just granting (foreigners) suffrage and it is likely that there will be many more difficult problems.”

While many lawmakers in the DPJ and New Komeito are for granting foreigners the right to vote in local elections, many conservative LDP members have expressed strong reluctance.

The prime minister added that the number of descendants of Koreans who lived in Japan before the war and were forced to take Japanese nationality at that time is declining and that “we must consider various things like whether (suffrage for foreigners) is even necessary.”


FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Please feel free to adapt this letter to your needs and send it to any corporate outlets of McDonald’s you feel are appropriate.  Please continue to express your disgruntlement where it can be heard (there is even the suggestion that people walk in to restaurants with indelible ink pens and wrote “racist” across the face of the “Mr James'” full-size display figure).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGONPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association


[…], Sapporo, Japan

FRANCA is registered with the Japanese government as an NPO.

Registration number 4300-05-005413

McDonald’s Corporation Headquarters

2111 McDonald’s Dr, Oak Brook, IL 60523 USA

Walt Riker
Vice President, Corporate Media Relations
Heidi Barker
Sr. Director, Corporate Media Relations
Louise Marcotte-Jervoe
Director, Corporate Media Relations
Tara Handy
Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
Lisa McComb
Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
Lizzie Roscoe
Supervisor, Corporate Media Relations
Theresa Riley
Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations
Sue Atzhorn
Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations

To Whom It May Concern:

We write to you on behalf of FRANCA, a human rights group concerned with the rights of non-Japanese residents in Japan.  Our goals are:  1) To eliminate negative public images and stereotypes of non-Japanese and multi-cultural Japanese; 2) To eliminate discrimination by race, nationality, ethnicity, and national origin; 3) To highlight the benefits of immigration and a multi-cultural society.  FRANCA works to achieve these goals through sustainable and effective lobbying, networking and public relations campaigns aimed at educating the public.  More about us at

We wish to bring to your attention a sales campaign launched this month by McDonald’s Japan that we find extremely problematic.

The “Mr. James” character, representing the “Nippon All Stars” hamburger campaign, features a spectacled Caucasian narrating his love for Japan and Japan’s version of McDonald’s’ hamburgers.  Our association finds the following things problematic:

  • 1) The character speaks broken accented Japanese (using the katakana script, one used for foreign loanwords).  The impression given is that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly, which is simply not true for the vast numbers of non-native (and Japanese-native) foreigners in Japan.
  • 2) The character is called “Mr. James” (again, in katakana), promoting the stereotype that foreigners must be called by their first names only (standard Japanese etiquette demands that adults be called “last name plus -san”), undoing progress we have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.
  • 3) The image used, of a clumsy sycophantic “nerd” for this Caucasian customer, is embarrassing to Caucasians who will have to live in Japan under this image.

To illustrate the issue more clearly, would McDonald’s USA (or McDonald’s in any other country, for that matter) choose to promote, for example, a new rice dish with a “ching-chong Chinaman” saying, “Me likee McFlied Lice!”?  Of course not.

Likewise, we do not think these attitudes perpetuating stereotypes of ethnic minorities within their respective societies should be promoted anywhere by a multinational corporation with the influence of McDonald’s.  We ask that McDonald’s Headquarters review McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” Campaign and have it discontinued immediately.

We look forward to your favorable reply.

Sincerely yours,

ARUDOU Debito (Mr.)

Chair, FRANCA Japan.

Enclosures:  copies of relevant media materials regarding “Mr. James”

From the food tray inserts:


From stickers on every table:


At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:


Close up of the cutout:


Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009, Sapporo Nakanosawa Branch):



J population drops, Internal Ministry converts it into rise, excludes NJ from tally.

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Here’s one way to tip any undesirable downward trend in statistics:  change the paradigms.  In this case, the Internal Ministry considers “Japanese population” not only as births and deaths, but also inflows.  That is, inflows of citizens only.  Once again, inflows (or current residency) of foreigners are not considered part of the “population”, even though they pay taxes and contribute to Japanese society like any other living breathing soul.

Know of any other G8 country which refuses to include its foreign population as part of its total population?  The fact is, given that we get plenty more than 45,914 foreigners per year coming in, the main thing keeping Japan’s population in the black is immigration.  But again, that’s a taboo topic in public.  We can’t act as if Japan actually needs foreigners, after all.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Number of citizens residing in Japan rises for 2nd straight year
Wednesday 12th August, 03:08 AM JST


The number of Japanese citizens residing in the country rose for the second year to over 127 million as of the end of March, partly because more people returned to the country than left after Japanese companies pulled back from overseas operations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said Tuesday.

The total number of citizens residing in Japan now stands at 127,076,183, up 10,005 from a year earlier, when calculated based on the number of citizens listed on basic resident registers nationwide, the ministry’s data showed. Japan saw more deaths than births, translating into a net drop of 45,914, but the decline was offset by factors including an increase in the number of Japanese people returning from overseas.


McDonalds Japan’s new creepy “Mr James” burger campaign, featuring katakana-speaking gaijin

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Here’s a campaign by one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, McDonald’s, promoting stereotypes in a way quite untoward in this day and age (and no doubt would raise hackles with anti-defamation leagues if McD’s tried it in, say, its country of origin).

The new NIPPON ALL STARS campaign (which seems to have kicked off a few days ago, on August 10, with its Tamago Double Mac), features a bespectacled, somewhat nerdy, gaijin speaking in broken katakana (i.e. accented) Japanese.  “Mr James” is his name (following the convention of forcing all Western foreigners to be called by their first names, as opposed to last name plus -san, proper etiquette).  And boy is he happy with Japan, with life, with the taste of Japanese-variety burgers at McDonalds.  Hell, they’re so good that even this nerdy-looking gaijin (full-body cardboard cutouts available at every McD’s) approves of them through his poor accented broken Japanese.

You even get a “James Tamaran Desu (“it’s so good I can’t stand it!”) Card” and a chance to win from a million dollar pool if you succumb to his sales pitch.  It’s more than a little creepy.

Here are some scans, taken of materials photographed and collected at McDonald’s Yodobashi Camera Sapporo August 13, 2009 (click on image to expand in browser):

From the food tray inserts:


From stickers on every table:


At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:


Close up of the cutout:


Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009)


As Submitter AP put it:


Subject: mcdonalds ads feature gaijin “MR. JAMES”


Hey, Debito, I often read your blog and bought your handguide as well. I really think living in Japan can be trying as a foreigner, and your efforts toward bringing overlooked issues to light and making things easier for all of us don’t go unnoticed!

I wanted to send you a picture I took…
I got hungry while wandering in BicCamera’s Osaka store, fell victim to a craving, and ended up eating at the McDonald’s there. On my tray I found this gem:;

They were able to find some sucker to gaijin himself up (who ends up to, of course, be American), and the captions show so well how Japanese people often see foreigners.

First, his Japanese is all katakana, as if he’s not speaking properly. His sentences are all short and simply-constructed. and last, he is practically in love with Japan. Convenient they found such a fellow!

Not sure if you’ve seen this anywhere, as I first noticed it yesterday because I’ve been abroad on holiday until last Friday. On the subway ride home, I saw another small window sticker with the same MR. JAMES caricature. I’m just shocked how the ad group at a giant corporation such as McDonald’s thinks this is okay! What do you make this campaign?

Thanks for your time, and thanks again for the time you put into these kinds of issues, AP


I think a strongly-worded letter from registered NPO FRANCA to McDonald’s USA HQ regarding the issues of stereotyping here would be warranted.  Hell, you think McD USA would start putting up a full-body “ching-chong-chinaman” with funny glasses and protruding teeth, saying “Me likee McFlied Lice”.  You think that would fly over there?  If not, it shouldn’t be allowed over here.  And I think you should make your displeasure known if you are so inclined at every McDonald’s you patronize (or not).

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, wishing this was happening in September so he could enjoy the summer.

Interview with the Berlin Institute for Population and Development

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

(title deleted since I fundamentally disagree with it, and it sounds like a quote from me when it isn’t)
of Arudou Debito, Hokkaido Information University
Interview by Sabine Sütterlin, August 3rd, 2009

Author and civil rights activist Debito Arudou was called David Christopher Aldwinckle originally and was born in 1965 as an American citizen. In 1991, he settled in Sapporo on Hokkaido Island. He regularly deals with xenophobia and exclusionism he finds in Japan. Since 1993, he has taught English and Debate at the private Hokkaido Information University. Since 2000, he is a Japanese citizen.

Only 1,7 per cent of Japan’s population – which in 2007 totalled 127,77 million people – are foreigners. This is one of the lowest percentages worldwide. Why are there so few? Where do they come from? And what has brought them to Japan?

After opening to the world now nearly 150 years ago, Japan has had a long history of bringing in foreigners. First as advisors to get Japan “caught up” technologically after centuries of isolation. Then as laborers from the Japanese empire at that time to man its war machine. Then as leftover former citizens of the empire, moreover educators, researchers, students and regular workers during its postwar reconstruction.

The most pronounced period of importing foreign labor began in 1990, when Japan inaugurated a new visa regime to bring in laborers from poorer countries, particularly China, South America, and South-East Asia. Japan had a huge labor shortage in the dirty, difficult, and dangerous industrial jobs which Japanese workers eschewed. Policymakers saw benefit in bringing in laborers who would be willing to work for less than those Japanese workers. Consequently, this visa regime has more than doubled the number of non-Japanese residents in Japan since 1990.

But why are there still so few?

Japan has no official immigration policy. In fact, its policy is for “revolving-door” employment. That means people have term-limited visas dependent on having a job in Japan, as in the factory “trainees” from China. Other example: Foreigners of Japanese ancestry can come here for as long as they like, work in factories and contribute to the national pension plans, but then have been offered bribes to go back home and forfeit all their investments as soon as economic conditions turn sour; this happened last April. There is little governmental preparation for assimilation or assistance in helping people settle in. And it is quite difficult to get Permanent Residency. The official attitude is: As a foreigner, you’re a guest. Enjoy your time here, make some money, then go back.

How did you manage to become a Japanese citizen?

It is a procedure like naturalization anywhere, with some arbitrary requirements about acculturation that I managed to overcome.

You reflect on some of these arbitrary requirements on your website: For example, you were asked to submit a form to indicate whether your relatives approved of your naturalization. According to other sources, officials would sometimes recommend applicants to change their names so that those sound more Japanese.

You have to show how Japanese you are, and that includes permission from family and neighbors. Other officials wanted to see how Japanese the contents of applicants’ refrigerators or their children’s toys were. These are basically means for inspectors to refuse you if they feel something “funny” about you, I guess. It didn’t happen to me, and I am pretty “funny”. And according to government naturalization statistics, they accept almost anyone who passes the initial screening interview and files the paperwork.

But if Japan decides it does not want or need immigrants – what is wrong with that?

Because it doesn’t reflect reality. We have had a UN report that stated, at least one Prime Minister who acknowledged, and several important domestic organizations who admitted, that Japan needs immigration. Now. Our society is aging and our tax base is decreasing. We are on the cusp of a demographic nightmare, a future with a society that cannot pay or take care of itself. Either way, people will come here, even if it means they find an enfeebled or empty island to live in. Might as well do it now while we have more energy and choices.

The people who represent us or make decisions for us are not necessarily that receptive to understand that people who appear to be different are not a threat. We cannot expect them to lead us to a world they cannot envision. It’s our country, too.

Japanese demographers emphasize that the shrinking of the population has also positive effects like having more space or more land for agriculture.

More land is great, but who will farm it? We are already seeing the depopulation of the countryside in Japan. Our farmers have so much trouble finding wives that many import them from abroad. Meanwhile, things are centralizing in the urban areas and becoming even more crowded. I do not think there is a move to “return to the garden” yet, like one sees when people retire to the country overseas. I think things will continue on the same steady decline for at least the next few years.

How does Japan manage to keep its productivity on the long term without enhancing its labor force with immigrants?

I do not think anyone knows. A society with the most elderly as a percentage of the population in modern history is an unprecedented development. Business federations and think tanks in Japan wanly talk about robotics and automation, employing women and old people more effectively. That is about all. But it seems that talking about “immigration” as a means to fixing the problem is taboo at the moment.

How do Japanese react when they hear about integration problems in Europe?

It is used to make the ramparts even firmer. Politicians here cite riots and intercultural strife overseas all the time. This stops our country from even considering an immigration policy. So we bring in unofficial labor force anyway and end up with much the same problems. Blinkered viewpoints and scare tactics all around. It is disappointing, and untoward for a society this educated and literate.

Interview by Sabine Sütterlin, August 3rd, 2009

The interview may be reprinted with indication of source (Sabine Sütterlin / Berlin-Institute).

The Economist Banyan column on the LDP’s terminal decline

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  The election is approaching, and it looks as though we really will get a change in government, which may change everything.  I’m surprisingly hopeful at this juncture.  To open this discussion, here’s a column from last month’s Economist, a very thought-provoking one on what one-party politics (in that, Japan has effectively had one political party in power longer than some countries with only one political party!) has done to Japan as a society.

The most eyebrow-raising claim within is that Aso isn’t giving up his leadership to somebody else because of a “family honour” thing — between him and another political Brahmin, even if he is in the opposition party:  “The man who will bring the LDP’s rule to an end this summer is Hatoyama’s grandson, Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the DPJ. Family honour is demanding its due: for Shigeru Yoshida’s grandson, it is nobler to fall to Ichiro Hatoyama’s descendant than to succumb to mere LDP hoplites.” Do readers agree?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Banyan Column
End of the line for the LDP
Jul 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Japan has long been changing faster than its Liberal Democratic Party, which is now in terminal decline

HIS distraught colleagues cannot forgive Taro Aso for calling a general election on August 30th, following a dismal stint as prime minister. They accuse him of setting up the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) for a landslide victory, so bringing the long rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to an abrupt and ignominious end.

Yet the question is not why the LDP’s rule looks about to end soon. Rather it is how on earth the party managed to cling on to power for so long. A once-invincible party failed to adapt to wholesale changes in the social and economic model that it was set up to manage. If its 54-year rule really does come to a halt, that fact alone will confront both party and country with wrenching change and unprecedented uncertainty.

Few things more powerfully demonstrate the inbred character of LDP-dominated politics than its family background. Mr Aso’s grandfather, Shigeru Yoshida, was the great statesman of shattered Japan’s post-war reconstruction. Yoshida’s rule came to an end in 1954 when he was unseated as prime minister by his nemesis, Ichiro Hatoyama. The next year the two men joined forces and the Liberal Party merged with the Japan Democratic Party to form the Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japan’s politics ever since. The man who will bring the LDP’s rule to an end this summer is Hatoyama’s grandson, Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the DPJ. Family honour is demanding its due: for Shigeru Yoshida’s grandson, it is nobler to fall to Ichiro Hatoyama’s descendant than to succumb to mere LDP hoplites. In any case, Mr Aso knows no one can save his party now.

That is because its history runs so deep. Old Hatoyama and Yoshida formed the LDP as a bulwark against resurgent socialist parties and the political system they devised seems expressly designed to resist change. The American occupiers had anyway pushed Japan in a conservative direction as early as 1948, when the risk of communist revolution in Japan and China—to say nothing of the Soviet threat—had come to be seen as a greater peril than militarism. The Korean war reinforced these priorities, while adding an economic dimension: the United States needed Japan’s economy to be humming again to help the war effort.

Thus developed Japan’s characteristic mix of anti-communist—even anti-civic—politics with state-directed development and policy set by bureaucrats. Yoshida founded the Ministry for International Trade and Industry, MITI, whose bureaucrats were famously powerful. Trust-busting efforts were quickly wound down after the second world war. Oligopolies—in the form of the former zaibatsu conglomerates—were supported, even if they had been implicated in Japanese aggression. A man accused of war crimes became a notable post-war prime minister and Yakuza gang bosses consorted with top politicians and helped put down left-wing protests. The political and bureaucratic system was solidly made and has lasted, like so many things in Japan. But its origins, and its effects on Japan, were ultimately rotten.

In some countries—Italy, say—incestuous politics is resented, mocked or circumvented by the rest of the country. During Japan’s boom years, it seemed to be delivering the goods. Outside the radical left, most Japanese were bought off by a social contract in which politicians, bureaucrats and big business arranged the country’s economic affairs. Businesses won preferential finance and in return offered “salarymen” job guarantees and the dream of a middle-class life. But the contract could be honoured only with high rates of growth, and the oil shocks of the early 1970s put paid to these.

Perhaps this might have been the end of the LDP, but political competition had been so stifled that there was nothing to take the party’s place. Instead, the crisis of the 1970s led to a steep rise in corruption. Factional competition within the party increased. Fund-raising skills came to the fore (in Japan, like America, politicians mostly finance their own campaigns). So did the ability to fund public works in rural areas that were still the LDP’s base. Corruption cemented local baronies and for a good while won votes. Even today the late Kakuei Tanaka, an astonishingly corrupt prime minister, is more often praised than cursed.

The beginning of the end

A 19th-century Russian said that Europe’s democracies were moderated by corruption. Japan had corruption moderated by democracy. During the 1980s, the LDP managed to adapt itself somewhat to new political concerns, such as pollution and the success of issue-driven opposition figures in cities and prefectures. The party even lost power briefly in 1993 and, in 2001-06, a razzle-dazzle prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, seemed to be giving it a new lease on life.

But by the time Mr Koizumi came along, the tension had become intolerable between the change-resisting features of politics on the one hand, and the reality of profound economic and social upheaval on the other. Companies could no longer keep lifetime promises to workers yet the government failed to take over social-welfare obligations. Women wanted better work prospects yet ministers would refer to them as “breeding machines”. The demands of civic groups for more consumer protection were met grudgingly and late.

Now, the LDP has abandoned nearly all pretence at reform. Though the party has plenty of modernisers, many—notably the so-called Koizumi’s children—will be the first to be swept out on August 30th while the old guard may survive better because they have their own sources of funding and support. That the LDP is still so mired in the past shows both why its fall would be such an historic moment and why it would also be only the start of real change. The party was the keystone of a political system that has long been crumbling. To effect change means not just replacing the keystone but painstakingly rebuilding the arch.


Yomiuri, Sankei, FNN: Sakai Noriko’s husband fingers NJ dealers as source of their drug habit

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  It’s all over the news these days, probably receiving more press than even when Michael Jackson died.  Celebrity Sakai Noriko (and her husband)’s arrest for drug use.  The word “junkie” has certainly entered the lexicon.

The latest:  Despite Noriko’s yakuza connections, her husband is saying foreigners supplied their drug habits.

Turning the keyboard to some concerned NJ residents of Japan, who poignantly foresee not only hypocrisy, but a reinforced spate of NJ crackdowns for drugs.  Anonymized.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Debito, With all of the Sakai NoriP news going on, the Yomiuri was quick on the uptake to speculate that foreigners may be the source for drugs:

(Off topic: I found this sentence to be particularly flawed:
繁華街では外国人グループによる密売が目立ち […] Hardly very 密売 if it is 目立ち.)

(2009年8月9日03時23分 読売新聞)

Now just wait for it… as we all knew would be coming, her husband Takasō puts the blame on foreigners for the drugs:
夫の高相祐一容疑者(41)は、[…] 逮捕された当初は、「路上で外国人から買った」などと話していたという

酒井法子容疑者覚せい剤事件 覚せい剤は「夫からもらったものを使った」

警視庁は、酒井容疑者が姿を消していた6日間の足取りについても捜査している。(08/10 14:09)

It’s such a familiar story, so I can’t say that I am surprised in the least. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to increased racial profiling or another wave of urine tests.



NHK news reported this evening that her husband is telling the police his source of stimulant drugs was a “gaikokujin.” I’ve seen it in several other places on the TV news.

It might even be true, but these guys are just agents of the yakuza who assume the risks of dealing with the end-users. I also fail to understand why an unproven gaikokujin connection makes it any different from buying it from a Japanese. What it does do is get police off the hook about having to track down and arrest the source of the man’s drugs. In other words, a cop-out. Sheeesh….

産經新聞 2009.8.10 19:28

Iranian drug dealers operating in upper-class Tokyo neighborhoods
Tokyo, Saturday, 1 November. 2008 /PanOrient News
The shocking photo, taken from a security camera on a Tokyo street in broad daylight, shows a tall man of middle eastern origin passing a white plastic bag to a young Japanese woman.

According to the Drug Control Department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which supplied the photograph, the transaction took place on the street in Takanawa — one of Tokyo’s most affluent neighborhoods. It was one of three exclusive residential districts, along with Shirokane and Azabu, said to have been targeted by Iranian drug dealers about one year ago.

Evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (Nov. 1) reports that the dealers supplied stimulants drugs to as many as 20,000 users, which brought them revenues upwards of 20 million Japanese yen a month.

The drug buyers were not necessarily residents of the neighborhoods where the dealers operated, but went there to seek the drugs because police patrols in Shibuya and other areas frequented by young people had driven foreign dealers off the street.

Aside from audacity of openly engaging in drug transactions on the street in affluent neighborhoods during daylight hours, the extent of demand for drugs made the revelations doubly shocking.

“The group was organized into 10 teams, who supplied drugs to Tokyo-area users who numbered upwards of one hundred thousand,” Katsuhiro Sakata, a investigator at the Health Ministry, is quoted as saying. “Among the users were men who could no longer hold down jobs at their companies because of their addition, as well as many full-time housewives.

“Japanese dealer typically only sell to regular customers, but the Iranians were out to make money, so they would sell their stuff to anyone. That’s how they expanded their business.”

Yukio Murakami, a freelance journalist, tells Nikkan Gendai that the dealers carefully staked out their sales territory.

“From about four years ago, they moved into Jiyugaoka, a trendy district in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward,” says Murakami. “They also operated unobtrusively in small stations along the Tokyu Ikegami line.”

Communicating with customers via sites on the Internet, the dealers used specialized jargon,  referring to their goods as “udon” (a type of wheat noodle) or “melanin” (skin pigmentation).

“Stimulants are the drug of choice for poor people,” says Murakami. “Housewives may become acquainted with dealers via ‘encounter’ sites on the Web, and become addicted. In many cases their craving drives them to prostitution. Eventually they may lose their sanity and turn to crime, even murder.”

A Iranian man in his early forties going by the name of Abolfazl Zarbali, who was arrested last July, allegedly told authorities he has been coming to Japan to deal drugs for the past 12 years. Police are continuing their crackdown.

=PanOrient News

ENDS Far higher proportion of NJ in Japanese prison than proportion of population

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Here are some interesting stats (courtesy of Adamukun at Twitter):  Proportions of foreigners within jail populations.  Saudi Arabia has by far the highest.  But Japan is well up there as well, and as a comparative proportion of the total domestic population significantly higher than Saudi.

What we need now is a chart weighting the percentage of foreigners within a population compared to this proportion of foreigners within the prison population, to see the disparity in conviction rates.  (I’ve done some preliminary searches:  I can only seem to find comparative charts going up to 1997 for some reason; woefully out of date, so I’ve done a quick country-by-country search for a few select countries).

Speaking for Japan only, that visibly seven percent or so looks many multiples of the 1.7% of the NJ population (about 4x), meaning that roughly speaking you are four more times likely to be incarcerated if you are foreign than if you are Japanese.  And with all the racial profiling and targeting that goes on by the Japanese police forces, this is a sad if not scary statistic.


Foreign prisoners

Doing time abroad

Aug 5th 2009

Where foreigners fill prisons

NEARLY three-quarters of Saudi Arabia’s prison population is foreign born, the highest share in the world. Switzerland, another rich country with lots of foreign workers, has a similarly large proportion of non-natives behind bars. Migration within the European Union helps to account for the relatively high incidence of foreign inmates in some EU countries, though this may change. EU law now allows for repatriation of inmates to serve their sentences in their native countries. Over 40% of prisoners in Greece, Belgium and Luxembourg are foreigners. By contrast, only 6% of America’s inmates are from abroad.

Estimates from the US State Dept for some of the above countries:

Saudi Arabia’s foreign population:  24.8% (July 2008, meaning prison population of foreigners only about 3x of total population):

Switzerland’s foreign population:  21% (2008, meaning prison population of foreigners only about 3.3x of total population)

Greece’s foreign population:  10% (2005, meaning prison population of foreigners about 4.4x of total population)

Germany’s foreign population (“immigrant background”): 18% (2008, meaning prison population of foreigners about 1.4x of total population)

Australia’s foreign population: 24% (2008, meaning prison population of foreigners about 0.8x of total population)

Japan’s registered foreign population: 1.74% (2008, meaning prison population of foreigners about 4x of total population)

Readers, add more if you like.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


BLOG BIZ: Access to may be sporadic for 24 hours starting 6PM Sat Aug 8

Hi Blog.  Just to let you know:  Due to server maintenance, access to may be spotty for a day or two.  Please don’t comment for 24 hours starting 6PM JST today, Sat Aug 8, or until I let you know that maintenance is done.  Otherwise, your comments might get lost in the shuffle.

Thanks everyone for reading and contributing to  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tangent: Links to American artist David Stanley Hewett’s work

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Being A Broad founder Caroline Pover has recently started managing the business of American artist David Stanley Hewett. Both David and Caroline support a lot of charities and individuals in the international community in Japan, and Caroline has been very supportive of my books, so I’d like to support them in return by spreading the word. — Arudou Debito


David Stanley Hewett is an American artist who has been living in Japan since 1992. He comes from a family of artists and began painting as a small child, alongside his mother in her studio. Hewett has led a life of diverse experiences, with each new experience adding further inspiration to his art. He has been a teacher, a US marine, an entrepreneur, and a banker, while continually creating paintings and ceramics that can now be found in art collections in Japan, other parts of Asia, the United States, and Europe. His work has been exhibited in venues such as Takashimaya Art Gallery, Mitsukoshi Artifex Gallery, Bunkamura Gallery, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, to name a few. His commissions include pieces for the Peninsula Hotel, the Hotel Okura, and the St. Regis Hotel, along with an impressive commission for 108 pieces that are on display at the Imperial Hotel. He has also produced work for corporate collections belonging to Mizuho Bank and Mitsubishi Corporation, among others. Hewett feels honored that his work has been used extensively in Japanese traditional clothing, including kimono and yukata. Recently his Bushido series of paintings inspired an obi for Takashimaya’s Jomon-Kai collection; it became the number one best-selling obi in Japan.

Hewett creates Japanese-influenced abstract art, incorporating references to Japanese history, the Shinto religion, martial arts, and the Bushido code—a philosophy and code of conduct encompassing courage, honor, loyalty, and wisdom, and adhered to by the samurai. He is inspired by visits to special places in which one experiences a strong sense of history combined with an acute awareness of the beauty of the ageing process, while surrounded by stunning nature—Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, even an ancient barn belonging to his aunt all provide inspiration for his work. Hewett spends days meditating at such places, and his art attempts to recreate feelings and thoughts associated with those experiences. Hewett’s work is appealing to both the Japanese and Western eye, and his paintings and ceramics have been included in many collections of those who appreciate art with Japanese subtleties and Western dynamics.

Check out Hewett’s work at or email for more information.


Yomiuri: UN set to criticize Japan for lack of gender equality and flawed marriage law (read: child abductions after divorce)

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  A bit of a tangent, as it doesn’t talk about human rights for NJ in specific, but it shows how in other areas the GOJ plays the same old game of bait and switch with the UN and human rights groups, and refuses to come to terms with trends and pressures one finds in other fellow modern, industrialized countries.

Comment from submitter:  Excellent Yomiuri article on gender inequality in Japan – While this article doesn’t directly touch on child abduction issues it does discuss issues that might lead to and allow forced retention. A very good read.


Gender equality long overdue / U.N. set to rap govt stance on women’s rights, marriage law, education
By Mihoko Tsukino / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Daily Yomiuri Jul. 30, 2009

The U.N. watchdog panel on gender equality is poised to issue recommendations to Japan in which it will address this nation’s delay in implementing policies to bring about equality between men and women.

The government should humbly accept the findings of the expert U.N. panel known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and lawmakers are urged to buckle down and begin implementing a wide range of gender equality measures.

The pact that sets out the principles covering equality of the sexes– officially called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women–was adopted by a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in 1979. Japan ratified the convention in 1985.

Known as the women’s rights version of the Bill of Rights, the convention stipulates the equality of women and men in political and public activities, calls for the prohibition of sexual exploitation of women and inequality in access to education and employment, as well as discrimination on the basis of sex in marital and family relations.

Signatory countries to the convention, now numbering 186, are required to periodically undergo monitoring by CEDAW by submitting reports to the panel on measures taken to comply with their obligations under the treaty.

CEDAW tracks the progress of parties to the treaty in rectifying inequalities and draws up recommendations to address shortcomings, prodding nations to take legislative and other remedial actions, including changing their social systems.


Japan severely criticized

Last Thursday, CEDAW screened a report presented by the Japanese government at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

The screening of Japan’s records on elimination efforts of discrimination against women was the first in six years. Japan had previously been screened three times.

CEDAW singled out various areas in which efforts by the Japanese government were considered to have fallen short of addressing problems linked to gender discrimination. Among them were a failure to conduct in-depth discussions on the need to revise the Civil Code–which leads to discriminatory treatment of children born outside of marriage in inheritance procedures–and a provision that stipulates married couples should have the same surname.

The U.N. committee also took note of what it regards as Japan’s retrogressive gender equality education and sex education, as well as a slow pace of improvement in women’s social participation.

The Japanese officials who replied to questioning at the CEDAW screening session were drawn from the Cabinet Office, the Justice Ministry and the Education, Science and Technology Ministry.

Some of them were reportedly subject to such warnings from panel members as “not to repeat replies to the same effect” as those given by previous Japanese officials, or asked sternly to “provide explanations in more concrete terms.”

Yoko Osawa, a member of a Japanese nongovernmental body called mNet- Information Network for Amending the Civil Code, who sat in on the committee session, said, “Most members of the Japanese government delegation made a point of repeating prepared, boilerplate explanations of systems and laws in response to the various questions posed by the CEDAW members.

“Several CEDAW members pulled the translation headphones out of their ears, apparently because they were so disgusted,” Osawa said.

As lawyer Mikiko Otani, an expert in international human rights law, put it, “The way the Japanese officials responded to the panel members should be considered a reflection of their lack of knowledge of the U.N. treaty and also Japan’s lack of a sense of responsibility as a signatory country to the treaty.”

“I think Japan, a country that seeks to hold a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, should be ashamed of being subject to such criticism from the gender equality panel,” she added.

The pact for abolishing discrimination against women has led Japan to enact a number of laws, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1985 and laws requiring both boys and girls to take a homemaking course in middle school and high school, enacted in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

Although CEDAW recommendations have no binding power, they nonetheless have been a catalyst for advancing gender equality, such as spurring this nation’s legislation to bring about the Basic Law for a Gender- Equal Society in 1999 and the Domestic Violence Prevention Law in 2001.

However, a mountain of issues remain unaddressed.

Japan ranked 58th among 108 countries on the most recent U.N. index on women’s social participation, one of the the lowest among industrially advanced nations.

Highlighting the disparity between women and men in this nation, women account for less than 10 percent of the members of the House of Representatives, while women section chiefs in private sector companies stand at a mere 6.6 percent.


Optional Protocol left unratified

Every one of this nation’s lawmakers should be held responsible for failing to pay due attention to the international gender equality treaty and related U.N. recommendations that have resulted in delays in ending the disparities that disadvantage women.

A legislator-sponsored bill calling for a revision of the Civil Code in response to CEDAW recommendations has been repeatedly presented to the Diet. But the bill that would delete provisions that discriminate against women has been scrapped every time without in-depth deliberation.

Japan’s failure to ratify the Optional Protocol on the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women also is being questioned by the international community.

The protocol stipulates that a mechanism should be put in place that would allow individual women who have exhausted legal and other avenues available within Japan to report directly to CEDAW to ask them to inquire into alleged human rights violations against them.

As Japan has been repeatedly urged to ratify the protocol, government ministries and agencies concerned have been studying the wisdom of doing so.

However, with many politicians expressing wariness about signing a protocol they say might come into conflict with the principle of independence of the nation’s judiciary, no earnest discussions have yet to take place in the political arena.

Following the latest screening by CEDAW, a new set of recommendations will be issued as early as late August, around the time new members of the lower house have been elected in the coming general election.

Judging from the way CEDAW carried out the screening of the Japanese government-submitted report, its recommendations will most likely be pretty tough.

This country should be humble in accepting the forthcoming recommendations and both the government and legislature should be ready to tackle the task of adopting and enforcing gender equality policies in a way considered worthy of a full member of the international community.

(Jul. 30, 2009)

BBC: British furniture store puts up “no foreign students” sign (parallels with Otaru Onsens Case)

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  The parallels with the Otaru Exclusionary Onsens Case are pretty straight, so let’s keep an eye on this one.  Will be interesting to see how the British authorities treat this case.  I have a feeling the government will demand they take the sign down, and if not threaten with criminal procedure.  The article suggests as much.  That is, however, where the parallels end.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Foreign students banned from shop
BBC News Monday, 3 August 2009 20:36 UK, courtesy of MMT

A notice on the door of Perfect Homes bans foreign students from entering
Polite notice
A furniture shop in a south coast town has banned foreign students who it says take their fast food into the store to eat on the sofas and coffee tables.

Chris Moffet, manager of Perfect Homes in Eastbourne, said he put up a sign barring foreign students after his stock was damaged.

Solicitor Paul Gilbert said the store could be leaving itself open to prosecution under race relations laws.

But Mr Moffet said: “I am not prepared to have damage done to my products.”

Rubbish on floor
A “polite notice” on the shop doorway asks foreign students not to enter because of the actions of a small number.

Mr Moffet said students spilt drinks on the tables and left rubbish on the floor.

Eastbourne has 25 language schools, with 25,000 foreign students visiting the town every year and contributing some £12m to its economy.

Students interviewed by BBC South East said they did go into shops to eat, but Jergen Matthes, owner of one of the language schools, said he did not believe students would behave in such a way.

“They will go to sports shops and internet cafes and spend hours and hours there, where they are welcome because they are spending money,” he said.

“But a furniture shop is not an attraction for students anywhere in the world that I know.”

Mr Gilbert said there was no limit on the amount of compensation that could be awarded against the shop by a court if a successful prosecution ever took place.


Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column: “Unlike Humans, Swine Flu is Indiscriminate”

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Unlike humans, swine flu is indiscriminate
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009

The biggest news a few months ago, now affecting every prefecture in Japan, has blipped off our radar screens. For the time being.

I’m talking about the H1N1 swine flu virus that originated in Mexico, took wing across oceans and continents, and eventually settled down here despite our government’s panicky measures.

Time to learn some lessons. We need to prevent a public panic from once again causing discrimination against the ill.

H1N1 was first reported last March in Mexico, with an apparently high mortality rate. It was also newsworthy because for the first time we were charting a new virus from patient zero in real time.

But ideas spread faster than viruses. Once the former reached our fine land, Prime Minister Taro Aso, afraid of being seen as a “do-nothing” in the face of looming elections, turned uncharacteristically proactive — as in, taking measures against the outside world.

This is a government, remember, which institutes laws expressly targeting foreigners in the name of, quote, “effective prevention of infectious diseases and terrorism.” So, predictably, we prescribed hypochondriac policies against them.

Almost immediately our shores were scrubbed. Airports instituted (fortunately, pervasive and noninvasive) heat scanners to track cowls of fever. Ground staff donned violet spacesuits that, though not hermetic, were plenty intimidating. Whole countries were suddenly scarlet-lettered into no-go zones just because of a domestic case or two.

Conditions soon deteriorated. The first people diagnosed with H1NI in Japan were incoming foreign tourists. They were quarantined in hotels (not hospitals) with nothing but instant curry rice for company. Arriving international flights were grounded for hours while everyone was screened. The government forced international conferences to cancel because they might attract foreigners. Mainichi and Kyodo reported hospitals turning away feverish Japanese who happened to have foreign friends.

Just when it looked like we were going to go all SARS-scare again (when Japanese hotels in 2003 were refusing all foreigners just because one Taiwanese tourist caught that new variety of pneumonia), Golden Week intervened. Japanese returning from vacation imported contagion. It was no longer a “foreign” virus.

In a sense, good: That pre-empted pseudo-scientists from espousing the ever-resurfacing canards of Japan’s tribal invulnerability. (During SARS, these dunderheads were even theorizing, for example, that Japanese speakers spread less disease because they don’t spit when talking.)

But that didn’t immunize the public against discrimination. Taking advantage of the anonymity offered by the phone and Internet, Japanese patients received bullying messages and phone calls warning them not to spread their pox, as if these Typhoid Marys had become brain-dead zombies ready to bite Japanese society into dystopia.

The media propagated it further. Drafting the assistance of over-cooperative airlines, news broadcasts reported the seating arrangements of infected people. Then panelists wondered if anyone within a two-meter radius (the reputed range of the virus) of these individuals could rejoin our healthy society.

They even filmed airport quarantine rooms, where sweaty-handed bureaucrats tape-measured a two-meter distance between chairs down to the centimeter. Like Aso, everyone was so afraid of being seen to do nothing that they did too much.

Finally, Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe called for reason: Calm down, everyone. It’s just the flu! Not much different than what we get every season.

Good, but this too is symptomatic: It’s usually not until Japanese become the target of discrimination that government agencies try to soothe the hotheads.

Let’s learn our lessons already. This will not be the last pandemic we experience in our lifetimes. The media is predicting a second round of H1N1 within a year. Even if that doesn’t happen, we will undoubtedly track future bugs in real time as they spread and sicken. That’s what bugs do — that’s how they survive. And it seems whipping up public fear is how media networks survive.

But if humankind itself is to survive, with any degree of integrity and protection for the people in weakened circumstances, we must learn not to succumb to what perpetually plagues the human condition: ignorance and panic. If people don’t keep a sense of perspective, they could wreak more damage than the flu did.

So let’s keep our radar screens on how these cycles of discrimination recur.

Beware the poxy mouths of irresponsible media, spreading misleading data from panic-addled pundits and profiting pharmaceutical companies (you think surgical masks actually filter out microscopic viruses?). Also, question the government’s readiness to treat Japan as a hermetically sealable island, walling it off from foreigners.

These are unhealthy trends that authorities rarely reflect upon or forsake. They even officially encourage the wagging tongues and clacking keyboards of anonymous ignorant, petulant bullies. The government might keep the germ out, but they won’t stop infectious ideas breeding and hurting people anyway.

So the lessons to be learned: Let cool heads prevail over feverish rumor; let sensible precautions and accurate information prevail over quick-fix elixirs and snake-oil social science; and for heaven’s sake, stop blaming the victim for being sick!

Above all, let everyone realize that infections, unlike people, are indiscriminate.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009

Freeman offers specific dialogs to deal with J police during Gaijin Card Check

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard to Freeman in Japan, who offers advice on what to do if the cops decide to do a Gaijin Card Checkpoint for being visible while foreign.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Dear Debito,
I have read all of your great advice, thank you for kindly sharing.
Please share this easy-to-remember summary with your readers.

Are you a human being here in Japan who appears to be Non-Japanese?
Do you want to avoid being coerced into interrogations by police officers?
Then here is how to respond when a police officer asks to speak with you:

#1  Silently show your Alien Registration Card.* **

#2  Say, “Ittemo ii desu ka?
Repeat this exact sentence,
without adding any other words,
until the police officer admits, “Hai.

#3  After hearing “Hai.” you are free to leave.

The police officer might try to fool you into speaking further.
They might give a variety of clever, rehearsed, responses.
For example, “Where are you in such a hurry to go?”
“Where did you learn such good Japanese?”
“We just need to ask a few questions, OK?”
“How did you learn about Japan’s laws?”
“You may go after we visit the Kouban.”
“How long have you been in Japan?”
“We just need to visit the Kouban.”
“Why don’t you want to answer?”
“What do you think of Japan?”
“Do you like Japanese food?”
“Are you guilty of something?”
“What country are you from?”
“Your country is so beautiful.”
“You’ll be on your way soon.”
“Just a few more questions.”
“Can I check your pockets?”
“You can go in a little while.”
“Can I just check your bag?”
“Will you just chat with me?”
“Can you just pee in here?”
“Sure is nice weather, eh?”

Don’t let the police officer fool you.
Simply calmly repeat your mantra.
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)

* If you are a Japanese National who just appears to be Non-Japanese
just replace #1 with the sentence “Nihon Kokuseki Shutokusha Desu.”

** If you have the time, energy, and will, to lengthen the detainment process,
feel free to attempt to educate the police officers about your various rights.
Risk: the police officer might decide to find (or invent) a reason to arrest you.
Reward: your Rosa Parks speech might help make Japan better in the future.
For example, before moving to #2, feel free to try saying the following sentences:

Keisatsukan mo,
mibun o shimesu shouhyou o
keiji shinakereba narimasen.

(Police officers also have to show their I.D.)

Kousoku sare mata wa,
Renkou sare moshiku wa,
Kyouyou sareru koto wa nai.

(You can’t force me to stay here,
you can’t force me to go with you,
and you can’t force me to answer.)

Keisatsukan shokumu shikko hou,
dai ni jou, dai ni kou to dai san kou.

(Police Execution of Duties Law
Article 2, Clause 2 and Clause 3.)

Kyodou fushinsha DAKE ni,
shokumu shitsumon suru koto
dekimasu, guttaiteki ni donna
fushin na koui o shimashitaka?

(You can only question suspicious people,
exactly what suspicious action did I do?)

Reijou ga arimasuka?
(Do you have a warrant?)

Jinken no ihan desu node kouben shimasu.
(This is a violation of human rights so I protest.)
At this point one can calmly sit down as a protest.

Watashi wa taiho sarete imasu ka?
(Am I under arrest?)

Donna yougi de taiho sarete imasu ka?
(Under what charge am I under arrest?)

(All inspired by Debito’s great summary.)

Thank you again Debito, for your important human rights work.

The bottom line is, all conversations are completely voluntary!
If you want to remain free, simply repeat, “Ittemo ii desu ka?

Freeman in Japan

PS – If anyone has a more effective sentence, please share.
Also, if anyone has a success story using this, please share.

Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column out Tues Aug 4 on discrimination due to Swine Flu

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just a quick update today to let you know that my next JUST BE CAUSE column in the Japan Times will be coming out tomorrow, Tuesday August 4 (Weds in the provinces), on how the Swine Flu Pandemic (like the SARS Panic some years ago), if handled badly, might cause more damage than the flu might.  I offer lessons from the last scare a couple of months ago on how to avoid discriminating against the sick.  Get a copy!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Here’s a link to the JT site with the article:

I’ll have the text up here on tomorrow for comments.  Have a read for now.  D

Japan Times: NJ visas now contingent on enrollment in Japan’s health insurance program starting April 2010

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Here’s a good article describing issues of health insurance and pensions, and how recent revisions clarifying that every resident in Japan (including NJ) must be enrolled may expose the graft that employers have been indulging in (“opting out” of paying mandatory social security fees, encouraging NJ not to pay them, or just preying on their ignorance by not telling them at all) to save money.  The problem is, instead of granting an amnesty for those employees who unwittingly did not pay into the system, they’re requiring back payments (for however many years) to enroll or else they get no visa renewal!  Once again, it’s the NJ employee who gets punished for the vices of the employer.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


New law: no dues, no visa (excerpt)
Enrollment in Japan’s health insurance program tied to visa renewal from 2010
The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In your wallet or somewhere at home, do you have a blue or pink card showing that you are enrolled in one of Japan’s national health and pension programs? If not, and if you are thinking of extending your stay here, you may want to think about a recent revision to visa requirements for foreign residents. The changes, which the Justice Ministry says were made in order to “smooth out the administrative process,” may have major consequences for foreign residents and their future in Japan.

On a drab, rainy Sunday in June, a group of foreign workers gathered at the office of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu in Shimbashi to discuss an equally drab topic: social insurance. According to a new immigration law passed by the Diet earlier this month, foreign residents will be required to show proof of enrollment in Japan’s health insurance program in order to renew or apply for a visa after April 1, 2010…

The bottom line is that all residents of Japan … have to be enrolled in one or other of the two systems. The revised visa laws, therefore, should pose no threat to anyone’s visa renewal, because every foreigner in Japan should already be enrolled.  However, the reality is that most foreigners in Japan do not have either form of insurance…

Louis Carlet, deputy secretary of Nambu, laid it down for everyone in the room to understand. There are a few basic things that all foreigners in Japan have to know, he explained: first, that everyone over the age of 20 in Japan is required to enroll in an approved Japanese government health insurance scheme and pension fund. If you are under 75 and working at a company that employs more than five people, this most likely means the shakai hoken (social insurance) program; if you are unemployed, self-employed or retired, the equivalent system is thekokumin kenko hoken and kokumin nenkin (national health insurance and pension). The only people exempt are sailors, day laborers, and those working for companies employing less than five people, or for firms without a permanent address (e.g. a film set).

The two systems cover different ground, all of which is explained in detail at….

Rest of the article at:

Activism: New documentary “The Cove” on dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Wakayama Pref

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  A tangent in terms of rights for humans, less a tangent in terms of successful activism in Japan regarding rights for sentient beings.

I heard on NPR Fresh Air July 30 (podcasts available here) a review and an interview on upcoming documentary “THE COVE”, regarding a town in Wakayama Prefecture named Taiji famous for its whale hunts.  It’s also going to become famous for its periodic dolphin slaughter, the subject of this movie.

Ostensibly, the activists claim, for “pest control”, the slaughter of entire schools (if you consider the dolphin a fish, like the fishermen apparently do) of dolphins is apparently due to the dolphins having a taste for the fish that they catch (sorry, but dolphins gotta eat too).  It’s a frequent event that takes place in a national park that is otherwise off limits to public eyes.  The documentarians (one of whom trained Flipper — seriously — and realized the error of his ways) actually put cameras in rocks and other submersibles to capture first hand the footage of the slaughter the GOJ denies is happening.

The movie comes out in spring.  That and a number of other documentaries — SOUR STRAWBERRIES (about abuses of migrant workers and immigrants), FROM THE SHADOWS (about Japan as a safe haven for child abductions), and TOKYO UNDERWORLD (about the relationship between the GOJ and organized crime, based upon Robert Whiting’s non-fiction book; incidentally the best book on Japan I’ve ever read) may bring out sides of Japan that the GOJ largely denies exists as a problem.  Pity the domestic media doesn’t do its job and get to the bottom of these issues itself.

Especially since, the interviewees make clear, there is a public health issue.  The meat from the killed dolphins are often given out as school lunches etc.  Even though they have mercury levels higher than the fish at Minamata which caused the famous poisoning disease.

Quite a PR time bomb being exposed here.  This is what activism can do.  Bravo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


More about the issue here, with preview of the THE COVE (Japanese, English, German)

JAPAN FOCUS article on Taiji and the “Clash of Cultures”, by David McNeill

THE COVE in the news:

An interview with one of the activists, Flipper’s reformed trainer, Richard O’Barry:

Lot and lots more information:


Weekend Tangent: Naturalized Caucasian Korean becomes SK’s National Tourism Org leader

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Hi Blog.  It’s the weekend and the summertime, so how about a little diversion?  Here we have a case of how a naturalized citizen in South Korea has been given a significant administrative post.

Good for him, and good for Korea.  This is a country with only recently established a law against racial discrimination (at last) in 2007, and their democracy’s much younger than ours.  What’s holding Japan back?  The LDP’s primacy?  Not for long, I bet, and there are hundreds of thousands of naturalized citizens here to choose from.  I know at least eight of them.  Let’s get cracking.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Naturalized Korean Lee Cham named tourism head
The Korea Herald, July 29, 2009, Courtesy of MS

Media personality Lee Cham was named chief of the Korea National Tourism Organization Wednesday, the first naturalized Korean to take a top government post in Korea, according to Yonhap News.

Lee, 55, is the first German male ever to become a naturalized Korean citizen, and his appointment is anticipated to pave the way for others like him to assume government positions, a pledge by President Lee Myung-bak during the 2007 election.

“I became a Korean citizen to help the country in some way,”

Lee said in an earlier interview with Yonhap after it was known he had been nominated. “I hope this new role will bring me closer to that goal.”

Lee will hold the post for three years from Thursday, when he will officially be appointed to the post by Culture Minister Yu In-chon.

“The ministry had requested the president to consider Lee for the post, considering his global experiences which will help boost the domestic tourism sector,” the culture ministry said in a press release.

Having come to Korea in 1978 as Bernhard Quandt, the catalyst for Lee’s move was a post with a European cultural foundation, where he helped with academic seminars on international issues.

Over time, Lee has played many different roles in Korean society, including a German teacher, English teacher, consultant, actor and broadcaster.

Lee became one of only a few dozen Caucasian citizens of South Korea in 1986. He has since become a prominent figure in Korean media and politics, and worked for President Lee’s campaign during the 2007 elections.

Lee Cham currently hosts a Korean culture and food show on KTV, a government channel, and is member of the state-run Korean food promotion body.