Mainichi: Japan’s only human rights museum likely closing after Osaka Gov Hashimoto defunds, says doesn’t teach Japan’s “hopes & dreams”

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  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.  Read on.  Arudou Debito

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

Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan’

By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Recommended citation: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan,’” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 36, No. 1, September 3, 2012.)

Hopes and Dreams
They exist all over Japan, like tiny sparks of light, flickering and fragile, but somehow surviving against the odds: the peace museums, the reconciliation groups, the local history movements that work to address problems of historical responsibility neglected or denied by national politicians. As Kazuyo Yamane notes, according to a UN survey, Japan has the highest number of peace museums of any country in the world (Yamane 2009, xii). But the heritage created at the grassroots by ordinary Japanese people is constantly under threat from the hostility of nationalist politicians and sections of the media: and never more so than today (see Chan 2008; Morris-Suzuki, Low, Petrov and Tsu 2012).

Among the sparks of light is Osaka’s Human Rights Museum, also known as Liberty Osaka.

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)

Rest of the article at:
http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

A message to that effect from Liberty Osaka, then the Mainichi Shimbun articles being referred to, follow for the record:

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

お知らせ

4月末から大阪市長は8月から当館への補助金打ち切りを表明し、皆様方にはご心配をおかけしています。大阪市は6月2日の公開ヒアリングにおいて、来年度の補助金打ち切りを前提としつつ、8月から約20%削減して補助金を組む方針を示しました。たいへん厳しい状況ではありますが、当館は来年3月まで事業と運営をおこなってまいります。来年4月からの事業と運営のあり方については関係諸機関・団体と協議してまいりますので、引き続きご支援・ご協力いただきますよう、よろしくお願い申し上げます。

2012年6月8日

大阪人権博物館

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

大阪人権博物館:存続の危機 府市の補助金打ち切り 問題知る場なくせば差別は消える?
毎日新聞 2012年07月25日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/feature/news/20120725dde018040097000c.html

国内で唯一の人権に関する総合展示施設、大阪人権博物館(リバティおおさか、大阪市浪速区)が、存続の危機に直面している。年間1億4000万円の収入のうち約85%を占めていた大阪府・市の補助金が、今年度で打ち切られるためだ。行政が人権問題についての施設費用をまかなう意味と、補助金打ち切りの背景を、識者らの言葉から探った。【鈴木英生】

同博物館は、1985年開館。部落差別を筆頭に、アイヌ▽在日コリアン▽沖縄▽女性▽ハンセン病▽薬害エイズ−−など、さまざまな問題を取り上げる。展示資料は約2000点。文書やパネルを並べるだけでなく、実物大で再現したアイヌのチセ(家)、沖縄や朝鮮半島などの民族衣装が着られるコーナーなどもあり、多面的だ。

橋下徹・大阪市長と松井一郎・大阪府知事は今春、展示が「差別と人権に縛られている」「子供が夢や希望をもって将来像を描く施設になっていない」などとして、補助金打ち切りを決めた。

博物館の関係者らは、補助金打ち切りを「人権教育の危機」と憤る。以前は橋下市長自身、「僕は、人権という教育は絶対必要だと思ってますので、ここはもう崩さず」(府知事時代の2009年に博物館リニューアルを求めた際の府議会での発言)などと語っていた。

そもそも人権問題の展示施設を、行政が支えてきたのはなぜか。人権博物館の元理事長でもある元木健・大阪大名誉教授(社会教育学)は「『社会教育法』で説明ができます」と話す。

一般的に、博物館の設置運営は、同法に基づく社会教育の一環とされる。同法は、国や地方公共団体が「市民の自主的な社会教育活動のための環境醸成」をしなくてはならないとする。「同法は、博物館など施設の設置運営どころか、集会の開催や資料の作成・配布までも、行政の責務としています」(元木さん)

ENDS

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

大阪人権博物館:存続の危機 府市の補助金打ち切り 問題知る場なくせば差別は消える?
毎日新聞 2012年07月25日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/feature/news/20120725dde018040097000c3.html

在日コリアン2世でもある姜尚中・東京大教授(政治学)は「橋下氏がターゲットとする施設に、人権博物館と、住友財閥の寄付で戦前に建った府立中之島図書館が入っているのは象徴的だ。さまざまなマイノリティーやマジョリティーが形作ってきた複雑な世の中全体を否定して、競争原理だけに基づく社会をつくりたいという思考が、背景にある気がする」と話している。

◇反対署名など展開
人権博物館は今後について「来年4月からの博物館のあり方は、関係諸機関・諸団体と協議する」としている。

部落解放同盟大阪府連などは「リバティおおさかの灯(ひ)を消すな全国ネット」を設立し、補助金打ち切り撤回を求めて運動している。同ネットは署名活動のほか、昨年度より2割削減された今年度の補助金を穴埋めするためのカンパ活動も展開中だ。
ENDS

AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Kurokawa defends his report, also apportions blame to NJ for Fukushima disaster!

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  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:

He 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 below)?  Or maybe it’s the flip side of “we’re all victims” now:  “We’re all to blame.”  Arudou Debito

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

AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Defends Report
Thu, 09/13/2012 – 11:25pm
YURI KAGEYAMA – AP Business Writer – Associated Press, courtesy of JDG

http://www.pddnet.com/news/2012/09/ap-interview-japan-nuke-probe-head-defends-report

The head of a major investigation into Japan’s nuclear disaster is defending his report against criticism that his panel avoided blaming individuals and instead blamed elements of the nation’s culture.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a doctor who headed the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, said he sticks with his view that the catastrophe was “Made in Japan,” underlining collusion among the regulators and the utility that had set off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He said his panel intentionally stopped short of naming individual culprits.

“No one takes responsibility in Japan, even those in positions of responsibility,” Kurokawa told The Associated Press this week at his commission office in Tokyo. “This is unique to Japan, a culture that stresses conformity, where people don’t complain.”

People are complaining, however, about the commission’s report, not only for lacking specifics on responsibility but for making statements on Japan’s culture that appeared in the English-language version of the document but not the Japanese version.

The 641-page report, released in July, compiled interviews with 1,167 people and scoured documents obtained from nuclear regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

A devastating March 2011 tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude quake destroyed backup generators and sent Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant into multiple meltdowns and explosions. About 150,000 people were evacuated from a 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone. Fears remain in Fukushima about cancer and other sickness from radiation.

The independent panel of 10 experts, including a lawyer, former diplomat and chemist, was appointed by the legislature. It is a style of investigation common in Western nations but was unprecedented in Japan.

The panel’s report has drawn criticism from Japanese and overseas critics.

“One searches in vain through these pages for anyone to blame,” Columbia University professor and Japan expert Gerald Curtis wrote in an opinion piece submitted to The Financial Times. “To pin the blame on culture is the ultimate cop-out. If culture explains behavior, then no one has to take responsibility.”

Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the government Atomic Energy Commission, which promotes nuclear technology, was critical of the differences between the English and Japanese versions of the report. He said it appeared to be putting on one face to the Japanese people, while presenting another abroad.

The preface of the English version said, “What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program;’ our groupism and our insularity,” he wrote in the English version.

The passage wasn’t in the Japanese message. But Kurokawa said he made similar points in other parts of the report in Japanese.

He said he wanted to reach a global audience by pointing to the longtime practice of handing plum jobs to retired bureaucrats, the half-century domination by a single party, and elitist employees taking lifetime jobs for granted as a peculiar “mindset” that fosters irresponsibility, slow decision-making and dubious governance.

“I didn’t want to say it, but it is ‘Made in Japan,'” Kurokawa said. “This is about Japanese culture and values. There is nowhere else quite like that.”

Tokyo prosecutors recently accepted a request by a group of lawyers to carry out an investigation into criminal charges of professional negligence against regulators and the nuclear plant’s management. If prosecutors move ahead, their power to subpoena records, raid offices and question officials would be far greater than that of Kurokawa’s panel.

Kurokawa said such an investigation was welcome as a sign of a “healthy democracy.” He said his six-month investigation offered plenty of fodder for a criminal inquiry. He said it 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. He said it may not have the names, but the dates and circumstances are there so all the investigators have to do is check, he said.

Japanese media have reported that prosecutors waited for Kurokawa’s report before deciding to take up a criminal investigation. The report’s finding that the accident was preventable and manmade made it more likely the prosecutors would investigate.

ENDS

Success, of a sort, as a “Gaijin Mask” maker amends their racist product to “Gaikokujin Masks”. Same racialized marketing, though.

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Been doing some writing and inserting into my research the definition of “gaijin” in Japan in terms of marketing.  You might remember this little tidbit from Debito.org, March 25, 2009:

Well, when I was looking up the maker and sales price on Amazon Japan last night, guess what I discovered.  The product has now been changed, as of August 2012:

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:

(Screen capture as of September 22, 2012.)

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 anyway not for sale 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? (Moreover believes it only goes one way — given the Perpetual Victim Complex, Japanese are more likely to be the victims of racism than the perpetrators of racism, of course.)

Anyway, I think Debito.org can claim credit for the “gaijin” => “gaikokujin” change.  Who else is covering this issue and archiving it?  I have the feeling that they saw it (as news anchor Kume Hiroshi did back in 2006, when he apologized ten years later for an obnoxious remark he made on national TV about “gaijin” back in 1996) and felt embarrassed enough to make some adjustments.  Not embarrassed enough to take it off the market, of course (as Mandom did their racist product back in 2005).  But we’re working on that.

Thanks for your support, everyone.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE Sept 24:  Here are a couple more, courtesy of the same company (thanks Debito.org Readers):  The “Kurohige Gaijin-san” (beard seems to be chiseled to look a bit like Tony “Darling Foreigner” Laszlo‘s comic character) and the “Hana Megane Gaijin-san.”  

http://www.kk-jig.com/products/orderno_6156/

http://www.kk-jig.com/products/orderno_6084/1/

However, the packaging for the Gaijin Beard mask is significantly different if you find it on the store shelves.  The image is less Tony Laszlo, more mullah.  Courtesy of DMG, taken at Tokyu Hands Shibuya, September 23, 2012.

Funny how the mullah glasses even have UV protection…

Kyodo: J airport “random body searches” start October. On “int’l passengers”, naturally, so not so random, considering police precedents of racial profiling

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. A policy trial balloon floated last December by the Transport Ministry has become a full-fledged policy measure:

///////////////////////////////
Japan to start random body searches at airports in October
Kyodo News, Friday, September 14th 2012, courtesy of MD
http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2012/09/182144.html

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.

The ministry is taking the step because terrorist plots involving the use of liquid or solid explosives have been reported in Britain and the United States. It did not say if it was referring to recent events.

The International Civil Aviation Organization recommends that countries conduct random contact inspections or full-body scans on passengers to enhance security.
ENDS

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

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.

Remember, this policy is from the same set of Keystone Kop travel authorities that have engaged in such unprofessional activities as planting boxes of cannabis (“randomly”, of course) in NJ bags to test their sniffer dogs.  Problem was, not only was the act of planting their drugs in actual people’s bags formally prohibited, airport authorities did so without notice 160 times over the course of eight months between 2007 and 2008!  We only know about this because one time the fools lost track of the bag they had spiked, and the owner went all the way to downtown Tokyo and checked into his hotel before he realized what was going on.  Now what if he had faced that “random” search while en route?  “Gee officer, I don’t know how that got there,” will certainly convince flinty-eyed NPA representatives trained to target “foreigners”.  Sources:

CNN: Narita Customs spike HK passenger’s bag with cannabis

Narita Customs Cannabis and Sniffer Dog Training part 2: Kyodo says it’s happened 160 times since last September

So attention all you transit passengers going through Japan to other points in Asia:  Even though you haven’t formally been “admitted” into Japan’s Constitutionally-governed territory (such as it is), you’re still going to be treated as an internal security threat, and subject to searches for the sake of preventing terrorism.  Because after all, under Japanese laws and policies, only foreigners are potential terrorists (and carriers of infectious diseases, too).  Enjoy your trip.  Youkoso Japan!  Arudou Debito

Weird “Japanese Only” advertisement in U Hawaii Manoa Ka Leo student newspaper by Covance asking for medical-experiment volunteers

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  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”

(Page 66.  Click on the image to expand in your browser.)

Covance is the “Contract Research Organization for Drug Development Services”, according to their website (www.covance.com).  Also, the link they provide in their advertisement above asks three locations (UK, United States (Global), and specifically Honolulu), and has only two languages:  English and Japanese, indicating their strong links to Japan (and no doubt the subcontracting for Japanese-oriented research — tool around the Japanese version for awhile; fascinating reading).

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. (see for example here and here).

What I find especially interesting about this ad is the imported racialized conceits about what defines a “Japanese”:

No doubt due to the sensitivities of the English-language audience, there is no mention of “Japanese blood” as a qualifier.  No matter, that’s indirectly stated:  Born in Japan, both parents born in Japan, or all four grandparents (we wouldn’t want a Non-“Japanese” grandparent sullying the mix, after all) for proper thoroughbred status.

I’m a Japanese, but I don’t qualify.  Naturalized.  So wrong blood.  Sorry.  And it still would be wrong, under the paradigms above, even if I had been born in Japan (say, to a family of diplomats or missionaries; they exist).  Imagine Covance making the same stipulations for, oh, I don’t know, sickle-cell anemia research by asking for only “African-Americans” (or bona fide “Africans”) who have been born only to “pure-black” families stretching back three generations?  That would raise some eyebrows.  But not when we transpose it onto Japan-based conceits, where the racism is embedded.

What a pity.  Nothing quite like getting fresh young people to “volunteer” their time and bodies for big pharma’s future profits.  But what a way to do it:  By advertising in a college campus newspaper drawing lines between people under questionable scientific rubric.  I think we need better screening procedures not only within the medical community, but also within the media, so less of this racialized social science leaks into the physical sciences.  Arudou Debito

Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et.al on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  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.  Arudou Debito

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

August 23, 2012
Hello Debito, I hope that you are well, and enjoying your sumer break.  I was wondering if I might suggest a JBC topic for you?

The Economist link I sent to you before, combined with the earlier war-crimes denial by the mayor of Nagoya, the ever-irritating blinky [Ishihara Shintaro], and now this:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120822x3.html

===========================================
The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012
No evidence sex slaves were taken by military: Hashimoto
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer (excerpt)
OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said there was no evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army forced Korean women and girls into sexual servitude at wartime military brothels.

In response to a question Tuesday about South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s visit to the disputed Takeshima islets, which are called Dokdo in South Korea, which controls them, Hashimoto touched on Lee’s recent demands for Japan to apologize to the forced sex workers — now often described as “sex slaves” by the media — who were euphemistically called “comfort women” by the Japanese.

“There is no evidence that people called comfort women were taken away by violence or threat by the (Japanese) military,” Hashimoto said. “If there is such evidence, South Korea should provide it.”…

In August 1993, after more than 1½ years of government research into the issue, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement saying the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of “comfort stations” and the transfer of comfort women.

“The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments,” the statement said.

“It is deeply regrettable that the politician (Hashimoto) made remarks that run counter to the official position of the Japanese government,” said a South Korean government spokesman in an email to The Japan Times. “Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono issued a statement acknowledging the forcible recruitment of the so-called comfort women, sexual slavery victims drafted for the Japanese Imperial Army. As such, we believe the Japanese government has already acknowledged the forced nature of the recruitment of comfort women.”
Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120823a6.html
===========================================

Hashimoto denying J-war crimes is giving me massive pause for thought about the future of Japan. J-politicians have done this since the reverse course, but the fact of Hashimoto doing it proves that even the ‘next’ generation of J-politicians can’t stop the denial, and abandon Imperial era ideology.

Why does this bother me (beyond the obvious)?

Power is (as I am sure you know) based on three ‘legs’ in international relations terms. The first is political power (you can influence countries because they agree with your policies). Post-war Japan has never had any clout in this area. The second form is economic power (you can influence other countries with cash incentives). Until now Japan has been quite adept at quelling ruffled neighbors feathers with large amounts of ODA. But now China and Korea are ‘catching up’ economically, and Japan is falling behind, so this economic power is seen to be escaping from Japan’s grasp.

The third type of power in international relations is military power (when you can’t convince or buy concordance, smack them in the face). Recent comments by J-politicians named above, the continued visits to Yasukuni by the insensitively flippantly named ‘Let’s Visit Yasukuni!’ group of Diet members, the recent changing of the constitution to ‘ensure Japan’s nuclear safety’ (a move that specifically does not exclude the development of nuclear weapons- ‘Self Defense Force’ type word games), are causing me and others, great apprehension about Japan’s future.

Whilst I have no doubt that Japan will not embark on a series of expansionist wars, it seems to me that increasing Japanese insecurity with economic stagnation (read as: ‘Economic failure=losing the post-war peace’), is forcing J-politicians to fall back increasing on the verbosity of the third leg of international relations power. The purpose of this verbosity is to garner domestic support rather than exert any real international influence, and in this sense, it is of great concern for NJ residents in Japan.

Whilst I hope sincerely that a significant majority of the Japanese public would resist such endorsement of Imperial-era Japanese militarism, I am not encouraged. Given that it is unrealistic to suppose that Japan could successfully take military action against it’s powerful neighbors free from the risk of retaliation, my fear is that (as in 1930’s Germany), we are seeing a ‘renaissance’ of Japanese nationalistic ideology, rather than it’s much prolonged demise. An ideology that can only find a vent for it’s frustration on the NJ living in Japan.

The implications of this for NJ is that Japan will certainly not become more open and less discriminatory, but rather the drastic opposite.

At present, it’s all rather in the balance, but the fact that 67 years after the end of WWII the Mayors of Japan’s first, second, and third cities can still deny war crimes whilst calling for a militarily ‘stronger’ Japan should certainly make any NJ think twice about even visiting.

I have had enough, and will be leaving with my family. Japan, I sincerely believe, will get much worse for NJ as the economy fails to right itself. I think that the case can be made that the chance for Japan to become an internationalized country (in the Western sense) passed some 20 years ago, and instead of looking to the future, the Japanese are raging at the passing of glory days gone by.

Sincerely JDG.

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

September 10, 2012

As a postscript to the mail I sent you before, have you seen this?
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120911a1.html

===========================================
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012
Tanigaki out, Ishihara likely in LDP race
Party angling for return to power; Noda kicks off DPJ campaign
By MASAMI ITO and NATSUKO FUKUE Staff writers

Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki gave up his bid Monday to seek re-election in the Sept. 26 LDP leadership race, paving way for his right-hand man, Nobuteru Ishihara, as yet an undeclared candidate, to vie for the helm…

[Current DPJ PM] Noda, 55, vowed to create a nuclear power-free society, without saying when this may be achieved, and pledged 1 percent inflation within a year to overcome deflation.

He also vowed to protect Japanese sovereignty, including over the Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls, and the Takeshima islets, which are held by South Korea. He pledged to pave the way for the return of the Russia-held islands off Hokkaido. Noda also noted the government will buy three of the five Senkaku Islands, which are currently owned by a Saitama businessman.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120911a1.html
===========================================

Son of blinky as the next PM, combined with The Economist’s insiders’ take on future LDP policy? Does not bear thinking about for NJ.

I believe that Japan has been stringing the world along all along, just so that we would be happy to buy their cars and VCRs and other crap. In it’s heart Japan has never changed because it doesn’t want to, and now that we aren’t buying enough of their products, they have no reason to pretend to have changed.

I think that the time is coming for a change in strategy. Working from inside to educate the Japanese about the issues is having no real effect, maybe the next phase is just to shove evidence of Japan’s disgraceful behavior into the face of the international community until Japan is shamed into taking action.

After all, what should the headline of the NY Times be on the day that PM Son-of-Blinky shakes hands with the President of the USA?

////////////////////////////////
The Japan Times, Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012
Hashimoto launches party amid workload, universal appeal doubts
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120913a3.html
OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s new national political party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), was officially launched Wednesday with the aim of fundamentally changing the way the nation is governed…

The event boasted a map of Japan that included not only the four main islands and Okinawa, but also the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets, which are also claimed by China, the Takeshima islets, which are held by South Korea, where they are called Dokdo, and the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan has wanted back since Soviet forces seized them at the end of the war.

Hashimoto’s party platform calls for proactive defense of Japanese sovereignty and territories. It did not specify how it would deal with territory Japan claims but no longer has control over….

There is also concern among Hashimoto’s advisers over how broad, nationally, the new party’s appeal will be. His biggest supporters are socially conservative urban males in their late 20s through late 40s, and media are already dubbing the party a “boy’s club.” Of the 105 local-level politicians in Osaka Ishin no Kai, only nine are women, and there were no female participants in Sunday’s discussion.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120913a3.html

////////////////////////////////
日本維新の会、結党を宣言 衆院選350人擁立目指す
朝日新聞 2012年9月13日
http://www.asahi.com/kansai/news/OSK201209130004.html

大阪維新の会(代表・橋下徹大阪市長)は12日、大阪市内で政治資金パーティーを開き、橋下氏が国政政党「日本維新の会」結党を正式に宣言した。次期衆院選に向けて350人程度の擁立を目指し、候補者の公募も週内に開始する。設立時期は、新党に参加する衆参国会議員7人の離党時期を踏まえ、今月下旬以降になる見通し。

パーティーで橋下氏は「我々大阪維新の会は国政政党をつくることに決めた」と、大阪市内に本部を置く日本維新の会結成を宣言。「これから日本の大いくさが始まる。今日そのスタートを切る」と、次期衆院選に向けた候補者擁立などの準備を本格化するとした。

橋下氏は、新党に参加するため11日に離党届を出した民主党の松野頼久元官房副長官(衆院熊本1区)、自民党の松浪健太衆院議員(比例近畿)ら衆参国会議員7人を紹介。次期衆院選での擁立を検討している前横浜市長の中田宏氏らのほか、維新の会との連携を模索する河村たかし名古屋市長や大村秀章愛知県知事も参加した。
ENDS
////////////////////////////////

September 12, 2012 3:45 am
Japan’s not ready to be a reliable ally

The Financial Times (London), Letter to the Editor
From Dr Jean-Pierre Lehmann. Courtesy DH
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/99321782-fb4d-11e1-87ae-00144feabdc0.html

Sir, Ian Bremmer and David Gordon’s suggestion that “Japan must be the new indispensable ally for the US in Asia” (September 10) is an absolute non-starter; going down that road would be disastrous for the US and for the region.

First, Japan has become more than ever since the end of the second world war, and more than any other major country, an inward looking-nation. There is no Japanese world view. The number of Japanese students in the US has significantly declined, in contrast to the growing numbers from many other Asian countries. Japan scores last but one (North Korea) in TOEFL (tests of English as a foreign language). Since Sadako Ogata served as the UN high commissioner for refugees there has been no prominent Japanese holding an international position. There is no visibility, let alone influence, of Japan at the World Trade Organisation. On this, as in respect to many other issues, no one knows what Japan stands for. At international policy forums, the Japanese, apart from a tiny handful of regulars, tend to be conspicuous by their absence. Japan remains a very closed country to foreigners: there are very, very few foreigners (and especially few non-Japanese Asians) in prominent positions in Japanese companies, Japanese universities, Japanese think-tanks, Japanese non-governmental organisations (of which there are very few internationally inclined), and so on. The picture of Japanese corporate diplomacy they present is a throwback to a vision of the 1980s, which was pretty much a mirage already then.

Second, and far more critical as recent events so sadly demonstrate, Japan, unlike Germany, has still not made peace with its neighbours. Relations are terrible with the Koreans and with China, but they are also bad with many other Asian countries or entities, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Not only has Japan shown no leadership in Asia, it has been seen to behave in a highly mercantilist fashion and with a stunning lack of conscience of its past atrocities. The Japanese have shown themselves, at best, to be amazingly insensitive.

For the moment, unlike in the 1930s and 1940s, Japan poses no military threat. However, its behaviour vis-à-vis the world in general and its Asian neighbours in particular poses a serious security threat. There can be no peace in the Asia of the 21st century if the peace of the 20th century in Asia has not been restored. By whitewashing the past (as the US did vis-à-vis Japan and Asia in the aftermath of the second world war) and embracing Japan as an indispensable ally in Asia, the US will be seriously exacerbating the already explosive regional condition.

Japan should be encouraged to make peace and open up. Then prospects for a peaceful and prosperous Pacific will be greatly enhanced.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Emeritus Professor at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland

ENDS

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

From: “Bestor, Theodore” XXXXXXX@WJH.HARVARD.EDU
Date: September 3, 2012 6:10:57 PM
To: EASIANTH@LISTSERV.TEMPLE.EDU
Subject: FW: China & Korea relations with Japan 中国〜日本/韓国〜日本
Reply-To: East Asia Anthropologists’ discussion

Dear Colleagues,

With Harumi Befu’s permission, I am forwarding his email of earlier today regarding the crises among various Asian nations over nominal control of tiny rocks in the several oceans and seas around East Asia. I entirely agree with his position that nationalist rhetoric is ramping up in very disturbing ways on all sides.

I send this along in the hope (both Harumi’s and my own) that those of us who study and write about East Asian cultures, societies, polities might help create spaces in which to engage in creative and productive dialogue that could contribute to a diffusing of tensions.

Harumi and I agree that the current heated rhetoric over the various specks in dispute are serious threats to regional peace and stability.

Perhaps EASIANTH could be a forum for discussion on this set of issues.

With best wishes, Ted

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

From: Harumi XXXX@stanford.edu
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2012 19:56:30

Subject: China & Korea relations with Jpan 中国〜日本/韓国〜日本

Dear Colleagues in East Asian Studies:
(Apologies for multiple mailing.)

This communication is being sent to my colleagues who might be concerned as I am with the current developments in the border dispute between Korea and Japan and between China and Japan, created by respective governments’ hardened positions. These disputes are unnecessarily escalated by the support of nationalist sentiments of all sides and are further flared by the media.

I hope at least some of you share my view that the current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy, and that it is time and it is the duty of us academics making our living by studying this area to undertake a concerted effort to make our voices heard, trusting that our collective wisdom has the power of persuading the public and the governments of the three countries.

Our academic endeavor is an effort in futility if we cannot exert any influence on the larger society in time of crisis.

I have no preconceived agenda, formula, or program of action. You must have your own take and preferred course of action. Some might like to act alone; others might like to underscore the Durkheimian belief that collective action is more than the arithmetic sum of parts. Whatever you wish to do, time is of essence. Dark clouds are gathering fast. I beseech you to act.

Respectfully submitted by your colleague,
Harumi Befu, Stanford University
p.s. My mailing list is woefully inadequate. I hope you will feel encouraged to utilize your own lists of contact.

ENDS

Diet session ends, Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions endorsement bill not passed

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. 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.

Entire movie at http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-sbfaja.html

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):

http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/blg-jldpac.html

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. Arudou Debito

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

Rocky, extended Diet session over; bills, treaties left in lurch
Hague, vote-value, deficit bond measures fail to clear grudge fest
The Japan Times, September 8, 2012
By MASAMI ITO Staff writer
Excerpt, rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html

The extended 229-day Diet session closes with a whimper Saturday, with piles of important bills and treaties left unaddressed and voters left only with an image of lawmakers engaging in political maneuvering for their own goals — particularly those over the contentious sales tax hike and over the next Lower House election.

And now both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are focused on one thing — the presidential elections for both parties to be held this month to choose the leaders who will guide their parties in that next general election…

During the current Diet session, which started in January, only 66 percent of newly submitted government-sponsored bills cleared both chambers.

Political squabbling took center stage last month when the nonbinding censure motion against Noda was approved by the Upper House, stopping almost all Diet deliberations.

Thus the government also failed to live up to its promise to the international community to pass a bill to endorse the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to prevent estranged parents from spiriting a couple’s children across borders.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html

Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Now let’s get back to some of Debito.org’s roasting chestnuts.  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…

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

Read on.  Arudou Debito

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

Foreign caregiver program faces tightening
Kyodo News, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120804f1.html

The program to enable Filipino and Indonesian care workers to work in Japan under free-trade agreements is at crossroads four years after its launch as Tokyo wavers over whether to tighten requirements for candidates in light of unexpected incidents that have run counter to the plan.

In the latest case, a 37-year-old Indonesian candidate was arrested and deported for working illegally at an auto parts plant in Aichi Prefecture instead of at the nursing home in Okinawa to which she had been assigned, apparently because she had difficulty mastering the Japanese language.

This came amid heightened public scrutiny of the program after it was reported that a number of candidate care workers had quit and returned to their home countries despite passing the qualification exam. They had been expected to work in Japan.

“Work at the special nursing home for the elderly was tough,” the Indonesian caretaker was quoted as saying when questioned by immigration officers in Nagoya after her arrest.

The woman came to Japan under the program in August 2010. After undergoing training, she began working at a special nursing home in Okinawa along with four other candidates in December of that year.

Last December she briefly returned to Indonesia, saying she wanted to spend Christmas and New Year’s in her home country.

She later re-entered Japan, but did not return to her workplace in Okinawa. Instead, she started working at the auto parts plant in Aichi in March.

“We had no problem with her working attitude, although it seems she was troubled by the fact that she was lagging behind other candidates in terms of learning Japanese,” a staff member at the nursing home said. “I wish she would have come to us for consultation.”

Caregivers who come to Japan under the program are allowed to stay in Japan for a maximum of four years until they pass the national exam. Before this summer, it was easy for them to apply for re-entry permits prior to making short trips to their home countries or for other travel outside of Japan.

Under the new immigration control system that came into effect in July, foreigners working in the country are now allowed to exit and return within a year without obtaining re-entry permits.

“A blind spot in the system has been taken advantage of,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. “Illegal employment absolutely came out of the blue.”

Similarly, an immigration official in charge lamented that when an application for a re-entry permit is submitted, it is “impossible” to detect whether the applicant is going to engage in activities beyond the scope permitted under the applicant’s visa status.

To remedy the situation, the government is considering revising the program’s prerequisites for entry into Japan, including requiring candidates to have a certain level of Japanese language skill. On the other hand, some are concerned that making the rules too stringent will go against the original aim of opening doors to foreign caregivers.

Commenting on the issue, Wako Asato, a special associate professor at the graduate school of Kyoto University, criticized the government for failing to come up with a consistent policy as it sits on the fence between those supportive of the program and others wary of it.

“How should Japan welcome and make good use of talented care workers from abroad? If the government does not present a clear stance on this, I believe we’ll be seeing more candidates giving up halfway or quitting to return home even after passing the exam,” the expert on migration said.

According to Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services, the program’s intermediate coordinator agency based in Tokyo, a total of 1,562 care workers and nurses have come to Japan under the program. Of them, five became unaccounted for and authorities have not been able to confirm if they left the country.
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 55: Toot your own horn — don’t let the modesty scam keep you down

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
justbecauseicon.jpg

Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
Toot your own horn — don’t let the modesty scam keep you down
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120904ad.html
By ARUDOU DEBITO

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.

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.

For example, if you’re giving a speech, have you ever noticed how social convention dictates that somebody else must introduce you and list up all your achievements — even if that results in omitting or misrepresenting important information? Nobody can ever know your life as thoroughly as you, yet you still can’t introduce yourself — because for some unquestioned reason you will “turn off” your audience.

For another example, if you’re doing research, you must reference other people and refrain from citing yourself — even if you’ve been the only one doing your kind of research in such breadth and depth for decades.

In Japan, the pressure to be reticent and deferential is especially strong: You essentially can never “toot your own horn” — even in job interviews! You have to wait until you are “discovered” and vouched for by others.

Mottainai — what a waste. Think of all the people you’ve come across in Japan with incredible talents who are languishing in obscurity. They remain unrecognized for all their hard work, unable to claim their rightful place in the canon simply because they’re too modest to tell people about it.

They wanly wait for others perchance to notice them, and if not, well, shikata ga nai. Years later, in seeps the twinge of regret for that effort and training for nothing.

But that happens everywhere, if you think about it. You have highly trained, disciplined and motivated individuals beavering away for lifetimes getting good at something, yet unable to make it “valuable,” i.e., lucrative (after all, you’re apparently not “professional” at anything until it earns you enough money). Why? Because most people have been raised to think that promoting oneself is egotistical.

Of course, some people get around those barriers. If you’re born with an ego the size of a rock star like Sting’s (or become a politician, where self-promotion is a job requirement — which is one reason why politicos are viewed so negatively), you’re innately impervious to the clique of critics, and switch off all that pesky modesty and humility.

Or, if you’re rich enough (and don’t want to pay the opportunistic self-help industry to help you reclaim your self-worth), you can hire a publicist, who will essentially act as the person introducing your speeches and tooting your horn.

Thus the rich inhabit a different level of “normal.” Think of the overweening and carpet-bombing publicity campaigns just before, say, Michael Jackson went anywhere. Media events revolving around people are basically modesty switcher-offers.

This is also why so many stars, celebs and politicians are able to keep their status “in the family” for generations: They have a self-sustaining publicity machine on hand to choke back the threat of obscurity. The egotists create their own elite social class because they don’t let humility and modesty get in the way.

Furthermore, consider the activists, who are at a particular disadvantage since they are not supposed to be celebrities or media hounds. They have to be self-sacrificing, fighting not for themselves but “for the cause,” rarely gaining the wherewithal (especially in Japan) to make their activism sustainable.

If due to humility (or fear of being seen as profiteering from the suffering of others) activists cannot embed themselves within a fund-raising group, then the status quo they’re trying to change is quite copacetic with that. Status quos by definition thrive on remaining unchallenged.

The point is, modesty and humility are in fact socially-imposed ways of keeping individuals disenfranchised, unable to reach their potential or a position of influence in a society. If they are ever “discovered” and “recognized” at all for their hard work and contributions, it will usually be in their twilight years (when they lack the energy to benefit from it) or, worse still, posthumously.

I believe this is by design. People are rarely able to change what’s “normal” in society when the “normal” forces them to be submissive and resigned to their fate. You are supposed to voluntarily give up your power for no reward — except the faint praise of being considered “modest” and “humble.” Suckers.

Look, will the sky fall if you praise yourself a bit and tell people what good works you’ve been trying to do? I say it’s time to recognize modesty and humility for what they are: scams to keep you down and keep society’s sense of normal unchanged.

You worked hard for what you’ve made of yourself; now become your own biggest fan and claim your kudos. For if you don’t tell others about your achievements, who will? And it might open doors both for you and for others.

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

Arudou Debito is the author of seven books and has been writing about Japan for more than 25 years (10 of them for The Japan Times), etc., etc. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

Hello Newsletter Readers. I took a break for most of this month from blogging to recharge the batteries, so this Newsletter is a short one.

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”

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

By ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
Freely forwardable

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

1) Tokyo Gov Ishihara at it again, calls NJ judo Olympians “beasts” spoiling Japan’s sport

The Sanitizer-General I refer to in my last Japan Times column (below) is at it again:

Yomiuri: Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro (79) said at his regular press conference on August 3, regarding the difficulties the Japanese judo team is having at the London Olympics, “Watching Westerners do judo is like watching beasts fight. An internationalized judo has lost its exquisite charm.” He added, “In Brazil, it’s said that they eat chocolate in their norimaki, but I wouldn’t call that ‘sushi’. It’s a shame that judo has also gone the same way.” (Translation Debito)

That’s the entire article. How sporting of him. These are the type of people who, for example, seek to keep NJ out of Sumo by limiting stable to one “foreign wrestler”, and they include naturalized citizens as “foreign” as well (unlawful under the Nationality Law; still waiting for the lawsuit). Judo will be the “Japanese sport that got away” since they “internationalized” it, I guess; but that’s why it’s an Olympic event and Sumo, run by racists (and sexists), will never be.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10511

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

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” 

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120807ad.html
Full text at http://www.debito.org/?p=10517

All for today. Bigger Newsletter next month. Thanks for reading!

ARUDOU, Debito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 ENDS

Sneak Preview: My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 55 on the adverse affects of modesty and humility

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

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
DRAFT FOURTEEN

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…

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

Read the rest on Tuesday! Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  Here it is:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120904ad.html