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From Debito's doctoral research:

Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
  • (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield HB 2015, PB 2016)

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  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Archive for April, 2012

    Debito writes the Hokkaido Section in FODOR’S Guidebook on Japan, 20th Edition, out now

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th April 2012

    I’m happy to announce that more than a year after writing my piece within (and what with major disasters in Japan naturally setting back the publication date), FODOR’S has just released their JAPAN Guide, 20th Edition (of which I got a copy yesterday, thanks!).

    I was privileged to be allowed to write their Section on Hokkaido, so if you can’t get enough of my writing, get yourself a copy!

    Scans of the cover, Table of Contents, and my opening essay on what’s so nice about Hokkaido are below. Enjoy!

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Practical advice, Tangents, Tourism | 5 Comments »

    JT Community Page 10th Anniversary: Write a Haiku, win a copy of Debito’s HANDBOOK

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th April 2012

    As I wrote last week, next week heralds a celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Japan Times’ Tuesday Community Page. As I’ve written about 100 articles and JBC columns for it so far, I’ll be doing double duty next week with two articles, one in commemoration, and one a regular JBC column (more on the topic shortly before publication).

    This week, however, in anticipation, the JT announced that it would be offering FIVE free copies of Akira Higuchi and Arudou Debito’s bilingual HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (more on it here), which has been a solid and steady seller, what with all the information about getting the right visa, getting a steady job, getting settled for a permanent life in Japan, and dealing with problems and issues that may come up.

    That’s right, five free copies of HANDBOOK, and all you have to do is write a Haiku in English about Japan — “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Some examples by Zeit Gist contributor Colin Jones this week include:

    Random card checking
    Fingerprints at the airport
    Yokoso Japan!

    Non-Japanese folk
    Have constitutional rights
    Except when they don’t

    Barred from the hot springs
    for invisible tattoo
    It says “foreigner”

    Now, those are my kinda Haiku. And no doubt we’ll have some anti-Debito ones too (taste the irony of being rewarded by the very person you’re dissing!). Go for it! Submit via:

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Media | 18 Comments »

    Tsukuba City’s resolution against NJ suffrage passed in 2010, a retrospective in the wake of alarmism

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th April 2012

    I’ve sat on this for more than a year. Now that the whole debate on “granting foreigners suffrage will mean the end of Japan” has probably died down a bit, it’s time that we look back on what happened then, and on the aftermath wrought by people losing their heads.

    After the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009, after decades of mostly unbroken and corrupt Liberal Democratic Party rule, there was hope for some new inclusive paradigms vis-a-vis NJ in Japan, one of their smaller party planks was granting NJ (undecided whether NJ would be Permanent Resident or Zainichi Special Permanent Resident) the right to vote in local elections (like other countries do). This, alas, occasioned much protest and alarmist doomsaying about how Japanese society would be ruined by ever enfranchising potentially disloyal foreigners (“They’d concentrate in parts of Japan and secede to China!”, “Kim Jong-Il will now have influence over Japan!”), and suddenly we had regional governments and prefectures passing petitions (seigan) stating that they formally oppose ever giving suffrage to foreigners.

    The Tsukuba City Council was no exception, even though Tsukuba in itself is an exceptional city. It has a major international university, a higher-than-average concentration of NJ researchers and academics, a centrally-planned modern showcase living grid with advanced communication networks, and one of Japan’s two foreign-born naturalized citizens (Jon Heese; the other city is Inuyama’s Anthony Bianchi) elected to its city council. Yet Tsukuba, a city designed to be one of those international communities within Japan, was given in December 2010 a petition of NJ suffrage opposition to consider signing and sending off to the DPJ Cabinet. Here’s the draft:

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

    Yomiuri: J population falls record 259,000 in 2011 (as does NJ pop.); Keidanren think tank sees ROK surpassing J GDP by 2030

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st April 2012

    Here are two sobering articles regarding Japan’s unsustainability. The first indicates that Japan’s population decrease is, as predicted, accelerating, dropping by a record quarter-million in 2011 alone. Now, let’s acknowledge the caveats: This may be a blip due to the horrendous year that 2011 was for Japan. However, the death toll from the triple disasters is only estimated (highball) at around 20,000, less than a tenth of the overall fall in Japanese population. Moreover, if people say that this is due to people fleeing the country (meaning they’ll come back when the coast is clear, i.e., the fall is but temporary), okay, but then, I can’t help but point out, it’s clear the preponderance of the “flyjin” phenomenon is, once again, not due to NJ fleeing. So I’m not so sure that “fleeing” is the cause either. I’ll just chalk this development as more evidence of Japan’s unsustainability without immigration.

    The second article is, I believe, more alarmist and latently jingoistic — appealing to nationalism to get Japan to pull its socks up. A think tank affiliated with Keidanren (and we know how influential they are in the public policy realm — through them we got our new NJ cheap labor visa regimes from 1990 onwards) is saying that, horrors, Japan will not only drop in the world rankings (which we’ve anticipated for quite a while now due to demographics), THEY’LL FALL BEHIND SOUTH KOREA!! Why South Korea (as opposed to, say, Spain)? Because that would be a blow to national pride — a former colony and perpetual rival that we’ve always felt superior to (and who can apparently only use but the simplest cameras) shaming us in the world economy rankings!

    Whether or not these predictions come true is irrelevant (after all, as Reader Charuzu has pointed out in comments elsewhere, if and when the ROK and the DPRK reunify the costs will be horrendous) — if you don’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and have the Koreans lord it over us, DO SOMETHING!!, is basically the underlying call. After all, we’ve had warnings for well over a decade now that Japan’s population is going to fall and cause economic stagnation, and that didn’t change public policy all that much. It seems that only appeals to nationalism (and this time, targeting foreigners outside Japan, not within, as the latter strategy merely eliminated NJ labor and immigration as a possible solution), not appeals to logic, will pull Japan out of an economic nosedive.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 30 Comments »

    Japan Times Community Page 10th Anniversary: Vote for your favorite article at JT by May 5

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th April 2012

    SPECIAL NOTICE: The JT Community Page: A decade serving the community
    JT: On May 8, the Japan Times will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002. To mark the occasion, we are asking readers to pick their favorite Zeit Gist article of the past decade, be it a memorable scoop, informative feature or scathing critique.

    In return, The Japan Times is offering readers the chance to win a B4-size poster (above) illustrated by longtime Community artist Chris Mackenzie.

    Alternatively, winners can opt for one of 10 copies of “3.11: One Year On,” a 64-page Japan Times Special Report bringing together JT articles from the past year about the triple disasters in Tohoku and their aftermath. Please state your preference on the form below. This offer ends at 5 p.m. JST on Friday, May 5.

    The following are the Community editor’s picks of just some of the standout Zeit Gist articles of the last decade. Some were chosen because they help tell the story of of the last 10 years in Japan, others because the articles proved to be extremely popular – and in some cases simply because they are great reads.

    COMMENT: Short list of the editor’s picks at
    Debito has two of those articles listed, “Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese” (on skewed criminal jurisprudence by nationality), and “Demise of crime magazine historic” (on the GAIJIN HANZAI magazine and how we not only got it off the shelves, but also helped drive the slimy publisher bankrupt). Or you can see all the Community Page articles I’ve written, with one-line synopses, at

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Media, NJ legacies | 1 Comment » Racialized characters in Japanese video games

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th April 2012

    As Japan switches its economic clout into more “soft power” issues (i.e., selling its culture instead of its hardware; cf. METI’s promotion of “Cool Japan”), we are seeing instances of where Japan’s conceits and “blind spots” (i.e., a lack of cultural sensitivity towards, for example, minorities both in Japanese society and in other societies) have seeped into its output, with imperfect filters in place.

    Take for example one of my favorite sites for procrastination and indulging in hilarious writing: They have a pretty good research staff, and have dug up several instances of Japanese video games (since Japan dominates the industry) that are, as they put it, “politically incorrect” (today’s word for “racist”, since you can still be “politically incorrect” yet use it as a source of, say, humor; but it’s still the same “othering”, racializing, and subordinating process). We have examples of:

    Gay characters in the Sega’s VENDETTA street-fighting game the dry-hump everything as a weapon, and in BARE KNUCKLE 3 that mince about flamingly etc. (these were left in the Japanese version but removed from the overseas versions and in subsequent versions).
    Blackface and n*gger-lipped characters in Nintendo’s SQUARE NO TOM SAWYER game (which never got released in the US; wonder why).
    GEKISHA BOY, where street-animal African-Americans come in three types: “street pimp, prostitute, and Michael Jackson”.
    Sega’s DJ BOY, which features a stereotypical Big Black Mama shooting fireballs out of her anus.

    And plenty more. As demonstrates, the Japanese market generally keeps these (and other) stereotypes and conceits alive and well (as if Japan doesn’t need to worry about how they affect public perceptions of minorities in Japan), while for overseas markets things get sanitized (or not, occasioning protests and backpedaling) when Japanese sellers suddenly develop a “sensitivity”.

    If Japan really wants to keep its cultural exports viable, maybe it should attempt understand how other people anywhere, including within Japan, might feel about being represented in such a fashion. Or, if stereotyping is used as a source of humor, allow for everyone to be “fair game” (which, I have argued before, doesn’t happen enough in Japan; there is certainly ample Japanese protest when Japanese get similarly stereotyped).

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 15 Comments »

    Bryant in UCLA Law Review on oppressiveness of Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th April 2012

    An excellent paper (linked below) is Taimie Bryant, “For the Sake of the Country, for the Sake of the Family: The Oppressive Impact of Family Registration on Women and Minorities in Japan” (39 UCLA Law Review Rev. 1991-1992), with just about everything you need to know about the subtle (but very definite) “othering” processes found in Japan’s Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou) Systems. It gives the history of each (the koseki’s historical role in rooting out Christians, the juuminhyou’s role in census taking and tracking people), and then gives us some vagaries that arise from it:

    1) The doctor who temporarily lost his license to practice medicine because he offered pregnant women an alternate means to register their children rather than have them aborted to avoid the shame and stigma of illegitimacy.
    2) The woman professor who wished to continue using her maiden name professionally after marriage despite her university telling her that she could only be identified as per her husband’s koseki.
    3) The women who sued Nissan for discrimination because they were denied standard corporate allowances just because as women they were not registered as “head of household” (setai nushi).
    It also very neatly unpacks: 1) the genealogical tracing of family for generations by corporations and prospective marriage families to see if the person was a Burakumin, or had aberrant behavior from other family members,
    2) the hierarchical structure of Japan as a remnant of the prewar ie seido and how upper-class family values and structures were officially foisted upon the rest of Japanese society,
    3) the power of the normalization of labeling, and how the state’s attitudes towards anti-individualism (as these are dossiers on the family, not just the individual) as seen in this system creates a socially-constructed reality of constant subordination,
    4) the difficulty in fighting or reforming this system because of its normalization (although people have been trying for generations), as it is difficult to prove discriminatory intent of a system with no targetable individual discriminator (and with a plausible deniability of unintended consequences).
    5) How ethnic minorities in Japan are excluded and invisible because they simply aren’t listed as “spouse” or even “resident” on either form ( has talked about this at length in the past).

    As an aside, one game played under this system same-sex couples get linked to one another for inheritance and other family-dependent purposes. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Japan. However, people CAN adopt each other, and those ties are just about as dissoluble as a marriage.

    This is one other (unmentioned, of course) reason why I believe Donald Keene recently naturalized. If he remained a foreigner in Japan, he could be adopted, but his name would not be listed properly on the koseki and juuminhyou and no rights or benefits would accrue either way. However, if his partner adopts him after he becomes a Japanese citizen, then all the benefits accrue. Good for Don, of course (and my beef, remember, is not with him making these life choices, which he should do, but with him portraying himself as somehow morally superior to other NJ, something the Japanese public, according to a recent fawning Japan Times article, seems to buy into). But wouldn’t it be nice if Don, who seems to be speaking a lot in public these days about how things aren’t to his liking, would also speak out about these vagaries of the Family Registry System?

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 21 Comments »

    JDG on self-appointed Hanami Vigilantes in Osaka harassing NJ

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th April 2012

    JDG: On Sunday (8th April) I went via Hankyu Kurakuenguchi station to Shukugawa, where along the river bank many people enjoy hanami every year. It is (apparently) a very highly rated location on a national scale.

    I have been meny years with Japanese friends, and have never had a problem. However, this was the first year that I went early and alone in order to secure a nice spot. Shukugawa has rules on it’s website (such as no ‘reserving’ of a spot with unattended blue sheets, and you must not enter the roped off areas around the tree roots), which I read in advance.

    I arrived at 10.30 am, and immediately I found a nice spot and stopped, then some old guy started hassling me to move on, saying that I wasn’t allowed to stop there. I told him to shut up, and then ignored him (thinking he was just some grumpy old codger), but as I was setting out my sheet and blanket, four more old guys came along to join him, and tried telling me that the place I was in was off limits. I pointed to the Japanese groups set up all around me, and asked ‘What about them?’, but the old guys just ignored my question, and told me that they would call the police if I tried to give them any trouble.

    I know I wasn’t breaking any of Shukugawa’s rules, so I just ignored them and waited for the rest of my group to arrive. For the next hour the group of five old guys stood over me, coming over every 5 minutes to ask me if I was going to move on, or asking me if I didn’t think that I was selfish by taking up so much room (one blue sheet), and even taking my photo twice. I told them that it was against the law to take my photo without my permission…

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Food, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 33 Comments »

    Mainichi: JHS teacher arrested for defrauding insurance companies by repeatedly claiming his luggage was stolen by foreigners!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th April 2012

    Chalk this one up to the idiocracy that springs up whenever unquestioned hegemonic discourse (i.e., “foreigners commit crime”) in a society leads to too much giving the benefit of the doubt. We have some Japanese guy (a junior high school teacher, no less) repeatedly “losing” his luggage while traveling and then successfully getting insurance paid out on it due to claims of “thefts by foreigners”. (The idiot did it with enough frequency that cops became suspicious because they remembered his claims.)

    Frauds and blaming foreigners are nothing new. I wrote a whole Japan Times column in 2007 on how foreigners have been targets of a “Blame Game” for many years now. But often it goes beyond comical. We have a trucker in 2004 who overslept his appointment and then formally blamed it on being kidnapped by foreigners. We have a bosozoku biker gang that same year who killed somebody and tried to blame it on a foreign gang. And we have murder suspects in 2006 who tried to blame a homicide on a lurking “blond man” (in a city with very few foreigners to boot).

    Clearly the “foreign crime wave” which was fabricated by Tokyo Gov. Ishihara from 2000 has cast a long shadow. As submitter Becky says, “No wonder they get microaggressive, look at all the crime we commit!”

    Posted in Humor, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 16 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 50, April 3, 2012: Donald Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th April 2012

    JBC: The point is, Keene has made his life one of careful, disciplined research, and he should have tapped this wealth of knowledge and reactivated his critical faculties before shooting off his mouth like this.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is not to impugn Keene’s life choices — he can live where he likes and take out whatever citizenship he desires. But he should not be denigrating other people’s complex and personal life decisions (many made with careers to consider and families in tow) based upon flawed paradigms about NJ — paradigms fabricated by a sensationalist media and grounded in a discourse of prejudice and hypocrisy.

    If he does, he should be called out on it like anyone else. And in that spirit, let’s consider a few inconsistencies:

    Keene has said that he wants to live out his remaining years in Japan out of respect to the “resilient spirit of the Japanese people in a traumatic situation.” However, Kyodo reported on March 9 that this move was “partly because travel (between his homes in America and Japan) had become physically demanding.” At his advanced age, that’s understandable. But why so much public self-hugging for naturalizing?

    Moreover, what sort of support in “solidarity” for the Tohoku victims will Keene be involved in? The Yomiuri on March 9 notes that this month he’s traveling by ship to India and Africa for vacation. As soon as he gets back, he said, “I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster.”

    Like how? Collecting and driving supplies up to Fukushima? Volunteering to help out at gymnasiums sheltering displaced people? Organizing international fund drives? Moving rubble around, as so many NJ residents who did not “flee Japan” have already done?

    Here’s one thing Keene could do: Publicly retract his denigrating statements with apologies, and acknowledge the good that NJ have done for Japan all along — working here for decades, paying taxes, raising families, and living lives that fly in the face of the hegemonic yet unquestioned discourse that “NJ disrupt Japanese society.”

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ legacies | 31 Comments »


    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd April 2012

    Table of Contents:
    1) Naha City now requires JETs/AETs and JTEs to provide urine sample (drug test?) for contract renewal
    2) Mainichi: 23 percent of Japan’s top firms eager to employ more NJ. Why this is not newsworthy.
    3) Asahi & AFP on GOJ proposals re observing Hague Child Abduction Treaty, more loopholes such as NJ DV, and even bonus racist imagery

    4) Asahi: Tokyo District Court rules denying J citizenship to children born overseas with one J parent constitutional
    5) Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

    6) Powerpoint presentation on the J media-manufactured Myth of “Flyjin”; stats are in, lies are exposed
    7) Congratulations Donald Keene on getting Japanese citizenship. Now stop making yourself out to be somehow morally superior to NJ.
    8 ) Psych Today and on “Microaggression”, an interesting way to look at subtle social “othering”
    … and finally…
    9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 49: “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail”

    Posted in Newsletters | 1 Comment »

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