Posted by debito on 29th September 2012
Here’s something quite indicative about the conservatives in Japan. As I will be alluding to in my next Japan Times column (due out October 2), there is an emphasis on making sure “hopes and dreams” are part of Japan’s future. Fine, but for Japan’s conservatives, fostering “hopes and dreams” means obliterating things like the shameful bits of Japan’s past (which every country, doing an honest accounting of history, has). For Osaka Mayor Hashimoto (who just launched his ominously-named “Japan Restoration Party”), that means killing off Japan’s only human-rights museum (which, when I visited, had a corner devoted to the Otaru Onsens Case). Because talking about how minorities in Japan combat discrimination against them is just too disruptive of Japan’s “dreamy” national narrative:
Morris-Suzuki: Founded in 1985, Liberty Osaka is Japan’s only human rights museum. It features displays on the history of hisabetsu buraku communities (groups subject to social discrimination), the struggle for women’s rights, and the stories of minority groups such as the indigenous Ainu community and the Korean minority in Japan. An important aspect of the museum is its depiction of these groups, not as helpless victims of discrimination, but rather as active subjects who have fought against discrimination, overcome adversity and helped to create a fairer and better Japanese society. By 2005 more than a million people had visited the Liberty Osaka. (See the museum’s website (Japanese) and (English).)
Today, the museum faces the threat of closure. The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of themuseum’s funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012)
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, History, Human Rights, Japanese Politics, 日本語 | 22 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th September 2012
Here’s something interesting. A Debito.org Reader submits an article about an AP interview with the head investigator behind the Fukushima Nuclear Disasters, Kurokawa Hiroshi, who in his report on what caused the disaster (depending on which version you read) not only points a finger away from “specific executives or officials” (rather blaming “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture”), but also rather subtly points a finger at NJ. As written below, part of the responsibility also lies within the international community. Quote:
“[Kurokawa] said [his six-month investigation] showed that bureaucrats brushed off evidence of tsunami risks that had been clear as far back as 2006, and that representatives from international watchdog groups took travel money from the utilities.”
Gosh, travel money as hush money? That must have been quite a lavish journey. As the submitter notes: “NJ allowed themselves into being bribed by TEPCO, and therefore, failed to make sure TEPCO was acting properly? Total blame shifting. Why didn’t he say that in his English presentation to the FCCJ?”
Perhaps because “Kurokawa made similar points in other parts of the report,” sort of thing (see article)? Or maybe it’s the flip side of “we’re all victims” now: “We’re all to blame.”
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd September 2012
Been doing some writing and inserting the definition of “gaijin” in Japan in terms of marketing into my research, and found that the “Gaijin Mask” found at Tokyu Hands in 2009 and featured on Debito.org has recently been changed to “Gaikokujin Mask”, according to Amazon Japan.
Note the stereotypical racialized characteristics for both “dokkiri” party goods include large a large nose, blue eyes, cleft chin, blond hair, “Hollywood smile,” and grand gesticulations. The default language for the “foreigner” (as seen by the harō and ha-i!) is English (if not katakana Japanese for the desu copula). However, “gaijin” has been adjusted to “gaikokujin” (as if that makes the commodification of racism all better).
Note also that even though this apparently has been a recent change (information was received by Amazon Japan only last month), it’s suddenly “Currently unavailable” and “can not be shipped outside Japan”. (I wonder if anyone looking at the product with an IP in Japan is also unable to purchase it.) See screen capture here:
Same thing with the racialized Little Black Sambo dolls I found on Amazon Japan last night (which have been on sale since shortly after unbook Little Black Sambo was resuscitated in Japan, extending racism into the next generation): It’s also “Currently unavailable.” And not for sale anyway outside of Japan. So methinks the producers are well aware that they could get in trouble if marketed to an overseas audience. But no matter — there’s money to be made here — who cares if the product is racialized when the domestic market from childhood thinks racism of this sort is unproblematic?…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Good News, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 20th September 2012
Kyodo: The transport ministry said Thursday it will start conducting random body searches on international passengers at 29 airports across the country in October to prevent explosives from slipping through metal detectors. At present, body searches are only performed on passengers who set off metal detectors before boarding, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry [sic]. The ministry did not elaborate on how the body searches would be carried out or by whom.
COMMENT: Well, the ministry might well use the word “random”, but precedent dictates that enforcement of any policing operation in favor of “security” tends to see anyone who “looks foreign” as the security threat. Examples are Legion here on Debito.org, but see a few here, here, here, here, and here. My point is that we’re just making racial profiling, which is standard procedure in policing operations in Japan, ever more systematic and justified under formal policy. After all, without the “probable cause” of a metal detector alarm, the procedure has now become completely discretionary.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Tourism | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th September 2012
I’m currently researching on the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, and late last month I found this weird advertisement in the Ka Leo student newspaper (August 20, 2012, the debut issue for the start of the semester for maximum exposure):
“Have you ever wanted to help Japanese people in a way that could make a meaningful difference? Participating in a clinical trial can be a deeply rewarding way to possibly help advance medical breakthroughs in Japan.
“Volunteers should be: Healthy, between the ages of 18 and 60, born in Japan, or have both parents or all 4 grandparents born in Japan…
“Think you can volunteer? Great! COVANCE, Honolulu, Hawaii”
The upshot: We want healthy “Japanese” for “medical breakthroughs in Japan” (as opposed to breakthroughs in medical science anywhere). I smell patents, or at least patently racist language of “testing Japanese for Japanese since Japanese bodies are different” that infiltrates Japan’s physical and social sciences. But what I find especially interesting about this ad is the imported racialized conceits about what defines a “Japanese”…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 32 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th September 2012
There’s a case that can be made nowadays that Japan is not only in decline, it’s falling back on jingoism (beyond the standard nihonjinron and historical revisionism) to support the image of a Japan that was once better when it had fewer foreigners (or none, which was historically never the case). As my current research (more on this in future) has sought to demonstrate, Japan’s (Postwar, not Prewar, cf. Oguma Eiji) national narrative of “monoculturalism, monoethnicity, and homogeneity” has sponsored an ideological ethnic cleansing of Japan, thanks in part to revolving-door visa regimes and all manner of incentives to make sure that few “visibly foreign” foreigners stay here forever (hence the prioritizing of the Nikkei) for they agitate for more rights as generational residents (consider the visas that can be cancelled or phased out pretty much at government whim; we’ve seen it before with, for example, the Iranians in the late 1990s). And if you ever thought “the next generation of younger Japanese will be more liberal”, we now have Osaka Gov Hashimoro Touru (younger than I) also supporting historical revisionism (see below) and forming the “Japan Restoration Party” (the poignantly and ominously named Nihon Ishin no Kai) on September 12, 2012. With the recent saber-rattling (which nation-states indulge in periodically to draw public attention away from larger social problems, in Japan’s case the issues of nuclear power and the irradiating food chain) and the overblown flaps over the Takeshima/Tokdo and Senkaku/Diaoyu ocean specks, we have an emerging vision of Japan as a remilitarized power in Asia, courtesy of Debito.org Reader JDG. I thought we’d have a discussion about that here. Take a look through the resource materials below and consider whether or not you share the apprehension that I (and some major academics overseas, including Ted Bestor and Harumi Befu, at the very bottom) have about Japan’s future.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th September 2012
After much political gridlock (the likes of which have not been seen, since, oh, the LDP was in power and the DPJ controlled the Upper House — not that long ago), the current Diet session is over, and one bill that matters to Debito.org did not pass: The one endorsing Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. You know — the treaty that just about everyone else in the club of rich developed nations has signed, and the one that stops you at an international border if you’re traveling single with a child, demanding proof that you’re not abducting your child from the other parent. It’s a good idea, since divorce in Japan due to the Koseki Family Registry System results in one parent (regardless of nationality) losing all legal ties to the child, and leads in many (almost all, it’s estimated) cases to the child growing up with no contact whatsoever (since Japan does not allow joint custody) with the noncustodial parent. It’s even worse for international marriages, and Japan has gotten a lot of pressure from other countries in recent years to sign. Now unsuccessfully.
Well, so Japan will remain a haven for child abductions, both domestic and international. But the interesting thing I’m seeing concrete evidence of these days is overseas Japanese taking advantage of this system, banding together to assist each other in abducting their children to Japan, and the Japanese embassies/consulates cooperating with them as they spirit them into Japan. (I’ll blog about that someday once I receive permission to make that information public.)
But as I have argued before, I’m not sure it really matters if Japan signs the Hague. The GOJ has signed other treaties before (most notably the Convention for Elimination on Racial Discrimination), and refuses to enforce them under domestic laws with criminal penalties (or in Japan’s case regarding the CERD, now signed 17 years ago, refuses to create any laws at all). In the Hague’s case, the GOJ was looking for ways to caveat themselves out of enforcing it (by creating laws of their own advantageous to Wajin spiriters of children that would trump the HCICA, or finding loopholes, such as claims of DV (that only NJ inflict upon us gentle, mild, weak, peaceful Wajin), that would allow the children to stay in Japan out of fear.) Or, true to character, we’ll have people claiming that it’s a matter of “Japanese custom” (shuukan), the last resort for any unjustifiable situation (only this time coming from elected Japanese Dietmember Ido Masae who herself abducted her kids). It’s pretty messy, by design, so visit the Children’s Rights Network Japan Website to try and untangle it.
So I guess the question I’d like to open up for discussion is: Is it better for a nation-state to be bold-faced about it and just say, “We can’t enforce this treaty due to our culture, so we’re not going to sign it, and if you don’t like it, don’t marry our citizens”? Or, is it better for a nation-state to sign it, not enforce it, and face the (geopolitically mild) pressure of a broken promise? I know which route the GOJ has taken so far.
Posted in Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th September 2012
Let’s have a look at what’s becoming of Japan’s latest “revolving door” labor visa regime scam (after the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “Points System”): the “foreign caregivers”, which has ground to a halt due to the (otherwise fully-qualified) NJ health professionals themselves realizing that the systematic barriers were creating an exploitative regime. So now according to Kyodo News it looks like it’s being scaled back. But not without kicking someone in the ribs first. As submitter JDG notes:
“The foreign caregiver program was launched because there was a realization that the looming shortage of caregivers to meet Japan’s aging population had already arrived. However, as you have documented, from it’s inception it has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, low pay, harsh conditions, few incentives, and subject to some strange accounting.
“Well, here is the logical conclusion: foreign caregivers are ‘gaijin criminals taking advantage of the system’. Rather than examining what is wrong with the system, the (of course) natural response by officials is to make the program even tougher to live with for caregivers. Only a Kyoto University Prof. seems to have any sense about him. I would say that this development will mark the end (in real terms) of the program. Of course, it’s all the NJ’s fault…”
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th September 2012
JT: Some weeks ago I was asked to give a speech at my current research institute. When I offered workshops on activism and racial discrimination in Japan in general, they asked for something more personal: “Tell us how you’ve made a difference in Japan.”
I said, “How can I do that without sounding boastful and self-aggrandizing?”
They had no answer. Thus this perfectly legitimate topic was oddly taboo only because I would be talking about myself. That’s when I became aware of the undermining effects of modesty and humility.
Modesty, according to dictionaries, is essentially a lack of conceit or vanity; humility is a lack of pride in oneself and a sense of deference.
These two words are associated with very positive and virtuous feelings, whereas their antonyms — arrogance, hauteur, egotism, conceitedness, etc. — are very negative. Within that contrast lies immense subliminal and normalized pressure to be humble and modest in society.
But there are negative aspects to that. Given my recent studies in sociology, where one thinks about what is “normal” in a society and what justifies the status quo, those alleged virtues can in fact be enormous barriers….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Tangents | 25 Comments »
Posted by debito on 4th September 2012
Table of Contents:
1) Tokyo Gov Ishihara at it again, calls NJ judo Olympians “beasts” spoiling Japan’s sport
2) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 54 Aug 7, 2012: “For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life”
Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd September 2012
Hi Blog. Hope you had a good summer in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re back after a few weeks off. To break the fast of Debito.org entries, here’s a sneak preview of my next Japan Times column, which is out within 48 hours. Enjoy.
ON MODESTY AND HUMILITY (tentative title)
By ARUDOU Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 55 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published Tuesday, September 4, 2012
As per this column’s title, this month’s topic was chosen, well, “just because” it’s been on my mind.
Some weeks ago I was asked to give a speech at my current research institute. When I offered workshops on activism and racial discrimination in Japan in general, they asked for something more personal: “Tell us how you’ve made a difference in Japan.”
I said, “How can I do that without sounding boastful and self-aggrandizing?”
They had no answer. Thus this perfectly legitimate topic was oddly taboo only because I would be talking about myself. That’s when I became aware of the undermining effects of modesty and humility…
UPDATE: Here’s the rest: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120904ad.html
Posted in Articles & Publications | 2 Comments »