Wash Post: A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions (including Ezra Vogel!) — as Japan is eclipsed by an ascendant China

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan does a very good article summarizing what it was once like for us “Bubble Era” veterans, and how views of Japan were once either Japan as the perfectible society to be emulated or as the irresistible wave of the future (as in, in addition to the pop-culture economic bellwethers listed below, Michael J. Fox’s boss in BACK TO THE FUTURE II being a Japanese).  Remember?

Now, as the article indicates below, it’s all collapsed, and former boosters have now become pessimists (with even Japan championer Ezra Vogel now turning his attention to China!).  Here in Hawaii, the Chinese consumer is ascendant (look how empty most of the “Japanese Only” trolleys are nowadays in Waikiki), with the likely domination of Chinese over Japanese language on store signs fairly soon.  In this year’s remake of TOTAL RECALL, the exotic language being used in the background was no longer Japanese (a la BLADE RUNNER), but rather Chinese.  Check out the dominant kanji in this greeting card:  Mainland Chinese (with Japanese far receding).

I think this trend will continue as Japan is eclipsed not only by China but even South Korea (Gangnam Style on last week’s episode of SOUTH PARK anyone?  It’s Japan with more color and better pronunciation of diphthongs…) in terms of economics, politics, and visions of the future.

Ah well, Japan, you had your chance.  You blew it.  Arudou Debito

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A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions
By Chico Harlan. Washington Post, October 27, 2012.  Also republished in The Japan Times.  Courtesy of WDS
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-declining-japan-loses-its-once-hopeful-champions/2012/10/27/f2d90b2e-1cea-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_story.html

TOKYO — Jesper Koll, an economist who’s lived in Japan for 26 years, says it’s not easy for him to keep faith in a country that’s shrinking, aging, stuck in protracted economic gloom and losing fast ground to China as the region’s dominant power.

“I am the last Japan optimist,” Koll said in a recent speech in Tokyo.

Indeed, the once-common species has been virtually wiped out. It was only two decades ago that Japan’s boosters — mainly foreign diplomats and authors, economists and entrepreneurs — touted the tiny nation as a global model for how to attain prosperity and power.

But the group has turned gradually into non­believers, with several of the last hold­outs losing faith only recently, as Japan has failed to carry out meaningful reforms after the March 2011 triple disaster.

The mass turnabout has helped launch an alternative — and increasingly accepted — school of thought about Japan: The country is not just in a prolonged slump but also in an inescapable decline.

There’s frequent evidence for that in economic data, and in the country’s destiny to become ever-smaller, doomed by demographics that will shrink the population from about 127 million today to 47 million in 2100, according to government data.

The current doom is a sharp reversal from several decades ago, when Japanese companies bought up Columbia Pictures and Rockefeller Center, and Americans argued whether Japan was to be feared or envied.

Like a separate but related group, known as “Japan bashers,” the optimists were bullish about Japan’s future as an economic powerhouse. But unlike the bashers, who viewed Japan as a dangerous challenger to the United States, the optimists saw Japan as a benevolent superpower — rich but peaceful, with a diligence worth emulating.

Now, when Japan is discussed, it’s instead for its unenviable fiscal problems — debt, rising social security costs, flagging trade with China because of an ongoing territorial dispute.

China, not Japan, is mentioned in U.S. presidential debates and described as the next threat to American supremacy. Japan’s government has announced record quarterly trade deficits while some of its iconic companies — Sony and Sharp — have announced staggering losses.

By 2050, Japan “will be the oldest society ever known,” with a median age of 52, according to the recent book “Megachange,” published by the Economist magazine. Even over the next decade, Japan’s aging population will drag down the gross domestic product by about 1 percent every year. That will further strain Japan’s economy, which in 2010 lost its status as the world’s second-largest, a position now claimed by China.

“If you speak optimistically about Japan, nobody even believes it,” Koll said. “They say, ‘Oh, in 600 years there will be 480 Japanese people left. The Japanese are dying out and debt is piling up for future generations.’ Japan is an easy whipping boy.”

Now a pessimist

Japan optimism became a mainstream movement with the 1979 publication of “Japan As No. 1,” an international bestseller that described the way a country the size of Montana had come to make cars as well as the Germans, watches as well as the Swiss and steel as well as the Americans — in more efficient plants. Japan’s people worked hard, its government guided the economy, and its streets were clean and crime-free.

“Japan has dealt more successfully with more of the basic problems of post­industrial society than any other country,” wrote author Ezra Vogel, a sociologist at Harvard.

But Vogel, who has lived for several periods in Japan, and has traveled here at least once a year since 1958, says he, too, has become a pessimist. Most Japanese still have a comfortable life, he says, but the political system is “an absolute mess,” juggling prime ministers almost every year. The youngest generation, its expectations sapped by years of deflation, “doesn’t have the excitement about doing things better.”

Even the promise of lifetime employment and tight cooperation between government and corporations has backfired, leaving a bureaucracy-enforced status quo that makes it hard for established companies to reform and for smaller, more creative companies to emerge.

“What I did not foresee is that the slowdown would be such a challenge — that many of the things that worked so well on the way up . . . would be so difficult on the way down,” Vogel said.

Vogel, still a professor emeritus at Harvard, says he has switched his focus in the past five years to China.

A disturbing trend

For more than a decade after Vogel’s book was published, his predictions seemed prescient. Between 1980 and 1990, Japan’s national wealth nearly tripled. Real estate prices in downtown Tokyo skyrocketed so high that analysts said the land under the Imperial Palace was worth more than the state of California. Japanese companies bought up American landmarks, and some policymakers feared Japan was challenging U.S. supremacy, particularly by using protectionist trade policies that blocked American products.

Vogel credited Japan’s success in part to its willingness to study others. He described a nation obsessed with overseas travel: Students went to American universities, national sports coaches studied the training programs in other countries, trade ministry bureaucrats went on missions to Europe to hone policies. Japan even had programs in five foreign languages available on its national television networks.

But today, former Japan optimists see a disturbing trend. Fewer Japanese, they say, want to interact with the rest of the world, and undergraduate enrollment of Japanese students at U.S. universities has fallen more than 50 percent since 2000. The generation now entering Japan’s job market is described by older workers here as risk-averse and unambitious, with security and comfort their top priorities.

“They have just given up trying to be number one” said Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative. “People think you just cannot beat China, so don’t even try. But that’s bad, because if you don’t train yourself on the international scene, you don’t . . . sharpen your edge. And you become more inward-looking. There’s a sense in Japan that we are unprepared to be a tough, competitive player in this global world.”

Japan is famous among historians for its sudden transformations, re-engaging with the world in the mid-19th century after two centuries of isolation, later moving toward the militarism that helped launch World War II. After the mega-disaster last year, Japanese hoped for another transformation, with the reconstruction of a tsunami-battered region prompting a broader political and economic overhaul.

But Japanese increasingly feel that hasn’t happened, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Just 39 percent now say that last year’s disaster has made Japan a stronger country, compared with 58 percent in a similar survey taken right after the earthquake and tsunami. (According to the same survey, released in June, 93 percent of the Japanese public describe the current state of the economy as bad.)

Preference for self-criticism

Global sentiment has swung so far against Japan, the last few optimists now relish the chance to make a case on Japan’s behalf.

Although Japan is commonly thought to be a “Detroit-like zone” with little chance for economic growth, former Sony chief executive Nobuyuki Idei said in an interview, the country still has a chance to prosper if it can tap into Asia’s booming economies as a trade partner or investor. Tokyo-based venture capitalist Yoshito Hori said that Japan’s many strengths are often overlooked, because Japanese prefer self-criticism to self-promotion.

“The value of Japan is, even when we do something good, we rarely say it,” Hori said.

“When the Chinese achieve something, they say, ‘We have done this.’ ” Japanese must learn to do the same, Hori said, “otherwise, we will lose our position globally.”

That’s partly why Koll, a ­JPMorgan Japan manager, decided this summer to give a TED talk — the common name for a series of pop-education ­speeches — in which he described his reasons for being the last optimist.

Japan has the world’s most competent financial regulator, Koll said, and a per capita GDP several times that of China. Real estate prices are back down to 1981 levels — “wealth destruction has been tremendous,” he said — but Japan has weathered this while still retaining its social cohesion and relative quality of life, with an unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent.

But Koll also admitted in his speech that being bullish on Japan is tantamount to saying Elvis is still alive.

“Things have changed,” he said. “When I first got here, I had conversations with people who said, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky to speak Japanese, because we’ll all be working for the Japanese soon.’ You know, those are the things they’re saying about China now.”
ENDS

Ishihara resigns Tokyo Governorship, seeks Diet seat as new party head. I say bring it on.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Something very important happened a few days ago when Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro made a surprise announcement that he would resign his governorship, launch a new political party, and run for a Diet seat in the next Lower House election due in two months.

I say bring it on.  This xenophobic old bigot (now 80) has fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book:  self-delusion, brought on by decades of megalomania and ideological sound-chambering within a cadre of sycophants — which Alberto Fujimori (an old friend of Ishihara and his elite ruling circles) similary fell for when the self-deluded demagogue buggered off back to Chile (forfeiting his unextradictable safe haven in Japan) to stand for reelection in Peru.  Fujimori, as you know, was then extradited to Peru for trial and is now doing essentially life in prison.  But I digress.

I say bring it on for two reasons.  One is that even if elected (which he will be, under Japan’s Proportional Representation system — the main avenue for celebrity schmoes to pad their resume and stroke their egos), Ishihara can do less damage as a Dietmember of a fringe party (analysts already are beginning to doubt the strength of the Rightist alliance between other fringe parties) than as Governor of Tokyo, with an entire Metropolitan Police Force (the strongest and most influential in all of Japan) at his disposal to target people he doesn’t like.  One of the reasons he says he resigned his Diet seat in 1995 after 25 years in office is because of his frustration with the powerlessness of the Diet in the face of the pervasive Japanese bureaucracy (which, as he correctly claims, rules the country).  Now he’s going right back to that same Diet, and I think he thinks he’ll stop at nothing short of becoming PM (He won’t.  He won’t live long enough.  Osaka Mayor Hashimoto is the bigger threat at half the age.)

The other reason is because it’s time to put some cards on the table.  The Center-Left in Japan (in the form of the DPJ) tried their liberalizations (with NJ PR local suffrage, etc.) and lost badly due to the hue and cry over how NJ, if given any power in Japan, would automatically abuse it and destroy Japan).  The image in Japanese politics nowadays is of a rightward swing.  Alright, let’s see just how rightward.  Japan’s bureaucrats like things just the way they are (their sole purpose is to keep the status quo as is, even if that means Japan irradiates itself and strangles itself to death demographically).  It would take a miracle (something I think not even Ishihara is capable of) to dismantle that system.  If Ishihara wins, Japan’s rightward swing is conclusive, and the world will have to stop ignoring a resurgent militarist xenophobic Japan.  If Ishihara loses, that will take a lot of wind out of Rightist sails and push the country back towards centrism.

In this poker game, I believe Ishihara will lose.  And NJ in Japan have already won a victory by having that bigot abdicate his throne/bully pulpit as leader of one of the world’s largest cities.

The clock is ticking, Ishihara.  How much more time you got?  Do your thing and then shuffle this mortal coil.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012
Ishihara to resign, form new political party
Outspoken nationalist says he wants to take his case countrywide
By MIZUHO AOKI Staff writer

In a surprise move, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced Thursday he will resign and return to the national arena by launching a new political party that can battle the Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party in the next Lower House election.

Later in the day, Ishihara submitted his letter of resignation to the chairman of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, in effect giving 30 days’ notice. However, he can leave office earlier if the assembly gives its approval. The election to replace him will be held no more than 55 days from Thursday.

The 80-year-old former author said he would launch the party with Diet members later in the evening, and he plans to run in the next Lower House election on the proportional representation segment of the ballot.

Ishihara said he will be the leader of the new party, which is expected to include members of Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan). He said at least five Diet members, the minimum required to be recognized as a national political party under election laws, will join up with him.

How much influence the party will have on the national level remains to be seen.

Ishihara was once regarded as a key player in a possible realignment of existing political parties, but public attention shifted to Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who has gained popularity among voters frustrated with the DPJ and LDP.

Ishihara said he wants to cooperate with Nippon Ishin no Kai but didn’t elaborate.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121026a1.html

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The Japan Times, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012
ANALYSIS
Ishihara-Hashimoto tieup seen as difficult
Hawkish allies share nationalist bent but differ on nuclear future
By ERIC JOHNSTON and NATSUKO FUKUE, Staff writers

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s announcement Thursday that he is resigning to form a new national party marks the first step in his final major political push.

But one of Ishihara’s key assumptions, that his new party will team up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), remains problematic due to unresolved differences, especially on the future of nuclear power.

Ishihara, 80, and Hashimoto are close personally and have long hoped to form a third political force able to challenge the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party. But political experts say the influence Ishihara’s envisioned party would wield in Nagata-cho could be far more limited.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121027a1.html

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Japan Times Editorial of October 28, 2012 on this issue here.

ENDS

BV: “Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?” On how Japan’s elite bureaucratic rot is adversely affecting Japan’s children

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Guest author “Bitter Valley” is back again with another thing he wants to get off his chest.  I think he should, so here it is.  One of my pet theories about Japan’s swing towards insularity and conservatism is that as people get older (and Japan as a society is doing just that demographically), they get more politically conservative and resistant to change — or at least change that is not in their best interests.  And as “Bitter Valley” points out, it means an inordinate weighting of political power and economic resources in favor of the old at the expense of the young (especially since the very young have no vote, ever fewer numbers, and few political and civil rights to begin with).  This is manifesting itself in ways that BV thinks are worth mentioning in Japan’s most cosmopolitan city.  Given how centralized political power is in Japan, what happens here will set precedents for the rest of the nation.  Arudou Debito

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Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?
By Bitter Valley.  Exclusive to Debito.org, October 19, 2012

Hi Debito, this is “Bitter Valley” again, a year and some change after my previous post about Shibuya Ku’s knuckle-headed attitudes toward my family (I’ll always be a gaijin and my daughter is only Japanese, and that’s that).

We’ve just had some terrible news that the second major children’s facility we have access to in Shibuya, the Kodomo no Shiro (Kiddies Castle) is closing down in 2015. It’s a bit of a hammer blow for us, as we have already just lost the Jidokaikan (Tokyo Children’s Center), which is going to be demolished for another old people’s home.

Regardless of what might really behind the closures (more on this later) it’s going to lower the quality of life for kids and mums and dads in Shibuya (and wider afield) considerably.

Both children’s facilities are/were two of the only major educational/ fun/ accessible/ cheap (no or low cost) play centers. Both, incidentally, were/are tremendous resources for Shibuya’s large ratio of multinational kids. Parents of older children say that there are schools with most classes not only have one but several multiracial or foreign or Japanese but of NJ parentage in classes. Increasingly it’s seen as no big deal.

That’s great, at least to non-knuckleheads and/or racists.

But the closures suck.

First of all the Tokyo Children’s Hall (Jidokaikan) was shut down last year and this spring. The adjacent park was closed and the homeless community, many of whom had been forcibly ejected from what is now “Nike Park,” went where? I don’t know.

I don’t mind people whizzing up and down on their silly skateboards in some lumpen concrete basin. Better that than the road, where the idiots sometimes venture. But I do feel for the homeless, who have now been shunted out of two parks in two years.

After spending a fortune building a gochiso, luxurious old people’s home at Mitake no Oka next door to the Jidokaikan, the plan is now by Tokyo Metropolitan Government to turn it into a old folks leisure center. That means the kids lose out, but the old folks get two delux centers.

That’s right. The building next to the Jidokaikan used to be a shogakko and a fire station. That got knocked down and deluxe old folks home got built. I unfondly remember when it opened. The officials used to park their expensive Toyota Land Cruisers and other official vehicles with their parking rights windshield stickers on the sidewalk in front. I was so angry at this I put up stickers on the windshields saying “Your luxury vehicle paid for by our local taxes.”  The cars all disappeared the next day.

There was a minor concession- they built a nursery, but the nursery that had been public before was privatized, run by Benesse, so while we continue to pay our taxes, we have to pay for privatized nursery care by a company that immediately starts throwing its branded toys, goods disguised as educational programs, at infants.

Meanwhile the “park” next to the Jidokaikan is now a plain concrete flat space. The jidokaikan just sits there, empty and unused, 18 months after being closed down.

The loss of Jidokaikan was a great blow for mums, dads and kiddies people all over Tokyo as it was a major fun and educational center for kids from all over the place.

NOW to our disgust (my wife is appalled and angry, rare for her, it takes a lot to make her disgusted) Kodomo no Shiro (Kiddies Castle) (http://www.kodomono-shiro.jp/index.shtml) up the road (Omotesando) is being closed in 2015 due to “lack of demand.”

Turn my brain upside down- white is black and black is white. The place is like a non-branded treasure trove for kids, with an excellent kiddies gym, educational and workshop facilities and an AV and music center, excellent, trained staff — who don’t treat gaijin any differently from any other kids or parents.

Lack of demand? The place is brilliant, popular and packed out. On any given weekend, it’s also packed with foreign kids, haafus, kids from all over the place. It genuinely is a major popular, well-run, packed out educational and fun palace for all sorts of children — open, tolerant, vibrant, safe and cheap.

This amounts to a systematic closing down of badly needed facilities for kids and infants that are paid for by entrance fees and taxes, for more expensive, privatized versions.

From our perspective there seems to be clear bias here. The oyaji making these decisions are making things great for themselves, and stuff the mums and kids and people raising families.

Kiddies 0, Oldies 2; or perhaps oldies win by two knockouts and submission by tired, stressed mums.

Perhaps this is Japan’s plan for the future. Turn Tokyo into a vast old folks home and leave their children’s children to pick up the bill, or have their kids play in the ruins?

ENDS

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

mytest

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Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on Debito.org in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito

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‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

Japan as we know it is doomed.

Only a revolution can save it.

What kind of revolution?

Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

“Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

Sakanaka claims to have found one.

Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121021x3.html
ENDS

Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service

mytest

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Hi Blog. I know so little about this issue that I post this with hopes that others will do some investigation for us (thanks, research on other things in process). Comment follows too-short article.

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Foreigners on welfare need to pay pension premiums: agency
TOKYO, Oct. 16, 2012, Kyodo News, courtesy of JK
http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2012/10/188282.html

Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.

In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”

ENDS

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COMMENT:  It sounds like the same sort of thing that happened when Oita Prefectural bureaucrats unilaterally decided in 2008 that elderly NJ didn’t deserve welfare benefits, despite it being legal by Diet decree since 1981 (see here also item six). It took a very brave and long-lived Zainichi to get that straightened out.

Only this time, it’s not just some local bureaucrats and asinine local courtroom judges. It’s the governing agency on the whole pension scheme, publishing a “guideline” on this. Even though, as the Yomiuri noted in 2011, “The [2011 Fukuoka] high court ruling noted Diet deliberations in 1981 on ratifying the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that countries ‘shall accord to refugees within their territories treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals’.”  One would think that this would apply in this case too.  Thoughts?  Arudou Debito

ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader CJ submits the following ZakSPA! page talking about Japan’s genetic internationalization in tabloid style: How “funny” it is to be a “half.”

http://www.zakzak.co.jp/zakspa/news/20121009/zsp1210091400003-n1.htm

Reading through the articles (enclosed below), I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, it’s good to have the media acknowledging that there are Japanese kids of diverse roots and experiences out there, with some tone of saying how silly it all is that so many people get treated in stereotypical ways (with a “roundtable of halfs” at the end giving their own views on the situation). On the other hand, the level of discourse gets pretty low (“some foreigner talked to me in Narita Airport in English and it was so frightening I felt like crying”), and an opportunity to actually address a serious issue of how Japan has changed is wasted on parts laughing, parts crybabying, parts confirmation that treating people as “different” because they look “different” is a natural, if not inevitable, part of life in Japan. I’ll let Debito.org Readers read for themselves and decide whether this important topic is being broached properly.

Definitely not cool, however, is the topic page with the prototypical illustration of a “half”:

We have not only some phenotypical “othering” going on here, but also the trope of “being foreign means you can’t use chopsticks”. One would think that most multiethnic Japanese (not to mention anyone regardless of nationality — it’s a skill) would have few problems with that. But it’s supposed to be funny, in a “microaggressive” sort of way. Har har. Arudou Debito

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“一般人ハーフ”のトホホな体験談を紹介!外見、言葉、文化…

★[一般人ハーフ]のトホホな日常 ZAK X SPA! 2012.10.09

外見でトホホ編

バラエティ番組を中心に、今、ハーフタレントが大人気!しかし一般人ハーフは、いいことばかりじゃないようで、日本人離れした外見がトホホな事態を招くことも。

「高校に進学するときに引っ越しをして、誰も知ってる人がいない学校に。そしたら『あいつ何者?』って感じで、最初の1週間は周りからものすごく注目されました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

初日の休み時間には、彼を一目見ようと学年中が押しかけ、廊下が黒山の人だかりになったとか。

「話しかけてくるわけでもなく、ワイワイ言いながら遠巻きに見てるだけで……。動物園のパンダになったような気分でした」って、どんなド田舎の学校だよ!?

「ハーフって○○だよね」という思い込みで、ミョーなことを言われちゃうこともある。

「『ハーフなのに背が低いよね』ってよく言われます。ベッキーだって158cmで、 私と一緒。背の低い白人ハーフもいることを知ってほしい(笑)」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

逆に、「ハーフ」と聞いて視界にフィルターがかかってしまった例も。

「『やっぱり外国の人だからまつ毛が長いですね』『顔が小さいですね』と言われる。ホメようとしているんでしょうけど、現実と全然違う。だって、普通の日本人(父母ともに日本人=以下同)の平均と変わらないですから」と苦笑するのはスリランカとのハーフ女性。

「学生の頃はよく『金髪紹介しろよ』『妹いないの?』『姉さんいないの?』とか言われました(笑)」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)って、妹や姉がいたら何する気だ!?さらに「お母さんはキレイか?」とも聞かれたそうだが、いったい何を期待してるのやら。 ハーフにエロな妄想を抱く日本人は男女を問わないようで、「ガイジン顔(白人系)だからか、『エッチ好きなんでしょ』と言う人も。ルーマニアハーフの友達は『このおしり、本物?』と女性に触られたとか」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)とは、同性でもセクハラの域。

「新宿の風俗で“ウマ並み”と思われて断られた。腹が立つより切なかった」(イタリアとのハーフ男性)ってのは、ある意味うらやま……いや、お気の毒さまでした。

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■言葉でトホホ編

ハーフの皆さんが日本人に必ず一度は言われるというセリフ。それは「○○語で何か話して!」だ。

「腹が立つとまではいかないけど、ロシア語を話せるとわかったら、『何かしゃべってみて』と言われるのが困る。何かってナニ?」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

聞いたところで、さっぱりわかりゃしないだろうにねえ。

仕方なく何か適当にしゃべったとしても、「ハンガリー語は(日本人には)ピンとこない言語なので、しゃべると必ずビミョーな空気になる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)というのも切ない。

別の意味でタチの悪いのが、「語学を少々たしなんでいます(キリッ」という日本人だとか。

「社内で英語がペラペラとされている人が、自分との関わりを避けようとするので笑ってしまった」(イタリアとのハーフ女性)という程度ならカワイイもの。

「フランス語が少しできる日本人女性には、必死にフランス語を使おうとする人が多いですね。気がつけば私は日本語で話し、相手は限られたフランス語で返している状態に。お互いの会話のリズムが悪くなるし、正直、迷惑です」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

気分だけはパリジェンヌのつもりなのかもね……。

普通に日本語で話しただけで驚かれたり「お上手ですねー」とホメられたりするのは日常茶飯事。そこで「『やぶさかでない』とか、『さもありなん』みたいな言葉を使うと、驚き度が3段階ぐらいアップする」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)ってのも何だかなー。

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■言葉でトホホ編

ガイジン顔を見るや否や、「日本語が話せない」と勝手に思い、妙な対応をする日本人も多い。

「日本で、初対面の人に『○○でーす!』と日本語であいさつしているのに、私と一緒に来た日本人に『このコ、どこのコ?』と聞かれること多数。日本語で話しかけてるんだから、私に聞いてー」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

耳で聞いた「日本語のあいさつ」より、目の前の「ガイジン顔」のほうが脳内で勝っちゃったのね。

「夜に車を運転中、ナンバープレートを照らすランプが切れていたらしく、パトカーに『止まりなさい』と言われたのですが、警官は自分の顔を見るや『日本語わかりますか?』。日本語がわかるから停車したんですけどね」(オランダとのハーフ男性)とはごもっとも。

「駅員に日本語で発車ホームを尋ねたら変な英語で返され、何言ってるかわからなくて電車に乗り遅れたことがあります」(スイスとのハーフ女性)となると大迷惑だ。

英語で話しかけるならまだしも、インチキ外国人化する人もいる。

「『ニホンゴ、ワカリマスカ?』『コレ、ヨメマスカ?』と、カタコトで話しかけられることが。『はいはい、わかりますよ!』と大声で答えてます」(カナダとのハーフ女性)、「日本語で話しているのに、やたらカタカナ語や外来語を使ってくる」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)って、お前はルー大柴か!

「図書館で本を読んでいたら、中年男性がそーっと近寄ってきて、『日本語読めるんですか?』と聞かれました。日本語を読めない人が、本を開いて見つめて何をするというのでしょう?」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

実は、ナンパだったのかも!?

■トイレで外国人に英語で話しかけられてビビった!

日本生まれの日本育ちだったり、非英語圏と日本のハーフだったりで「英語が話せない」というハーフは少なくない。それゆえトホホな思いをすることも。たとえば、トルコとのハーフ男性の場合、「日本の私立中高一貫校に入ったら、みんな私よりも英語ができて、中1の頃はバカにされました」。

日本人だけでなく、外国人にも英語が話せると見られてしまう。

「子供のとき成田空港のトイレで、隣に来た外国人からいきなり英語で話しかけられた。どう返していいかわからず、“最中”なので逃げられず、怖くて泣きたくなりました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

「困るのは英語で道を尋ねられたとき。わかる英語だけ言って、あとは日本語で対応。悲しいのは、クラブで英語で声かけられて日本語で答えるとガッカリされること。『ヤダー、ニセモノじゃん!』って」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

でも、最近は慣れて「そういう反応を楽しんでる」のだそうだ。

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■文化でトホホ編

「日本と○○のハーフです」と言うと、その国の文化や国民性に関するステレオタイプなイメージを押しつけられるのもハーフの悩み。

「『ドイツと言えばビール!サッカー!お城!ロマンティック街道!』と言われますね。あと、『シャウエッセン』(笑)。それは日本で売ってるソーセージでしょ。ドイツとはまったく関係ないよ……」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

まあ、日本人がフジヤマ、ゲイシャ、テンプラとか言われるようなもんか。ただ、当たってる場合もあって、「『父親がロシア人』と答えると『お父さんは大酒飲み?』と聞かれる。でも、本当に大酒飲みなので『ウイスキーならオンザロックで7杯くらい』と正直に答える」と苦笑するのはロシアとのハーフ女性。とはいえ、「『バナナで釘が打てるのか』『プーチンは好きか』とかも聞かれるけど、そんなん知らんがな!」とのことだ。

相手に興味を持つのはいいけれど、「初対面で親しくもないのに、根掘り葉掘り“取り調べ”みたいに聞くのはやめてほしい」(カナダとのハーフ女性)と、うんざりしているハーフは多い。

「日本人であると説明しても同列に扱ってもらえず、失礼な質問攻めにあったり、執拗な外国人キャラづけによるからかいを受ける」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)なんて声も。ガイジン顔だからってハーフタレントと同じようにイジられたら、そりゃウザいよな。

その点、日本人にとって馴染みの薄い国の場合は、「お国はどちらと聞かれたら、『半分ポーランドです』と答える。オランダやポルトガルなどと違って、日本人にポーランドのイメージがない。だから、それ以上あまりツッコまれない。ある意味ラク」(ポーランドとのハーフ男性)だとか。たまに聞かれるのは「酒をたくさん飲むんだろ?」で、「これは本当(笑)。ドイツとロシアに挟まれた国だからねー。ポーランドではウオッカをショットグラスのストレートで飲む。最高でボトル2本空けたことがあります。日本人の友達はつぶれちゃいます(笑)」って、それは個人差あるのでは……?

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■文化でトホホ編

ハーフの食生活にも、誤解と偏見がいっぱいだ。

「牛丼屋で黙って座っていたら、スプーンにフォークまで出してくれるが、黙ってお箸で食べる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)

「コンビニのおにぎりを食べてると『似合わないね』『違和感ある』と言われ、パン類やピザなどを食べてると『似合うね』と言われる」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

フランスとのハーフで現在は主婦の女性は「『家では何料理を作るの?』と食生活に変な興味を持たれることに辟易しています」と眉をひそめる。

「日本人が想像するようなフランス料理を家で作るわけがありません。普通に日本の家庭料理です、と答えると驚かれたり、フランスの食事が恋しくないのかと心配そうに聞かれるのにも、ややうんざり」

いまだ日本人の“おフランス”イメージは抜けず!?

「ハーフというだけで、その国を代表する人みたいな扱いをするのはやめて!」と訴えるのは、スイスとのハーフ女性。

「たとえばコーヒーに角砂糖を2個入れると、『スイス人はコーヒーにお砂糖を2個入れるんですね』と言われます。違います。私がそうしているだけです。2個の人、1個の人、ブラックで飲むスイス人もいます。個人差をまったく無視し、私のすべての行動をスイスと結びつけないでください……」

逆に「『我々日本人は~』と聞かされるのも疲れます。『私の母も日本人やけど全然ちゃうで!』と言いたくなる」と憤慨する。

「高齢の方には『先の大戦では日独伊三国同盟でしたね』と、やけに好意的な人がたまにいる」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)ってのも、喜んでいいのかどうなのか。

戦争がらみでは「『北方領土を返せ』と言われる。直接言われたり、知らない人からメッセが来たり」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)って、お門違いもいいところだ。

別の意味で非礼極まりないのが下ネタ関係。「ガイジン=エッチという先入観からか、妙に下ネタを振ってくる人、やめてほしい」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)、「『ロシアの女性ってエッチも情熱的なんだよね~』『ハーフとエッチしたことないからさせて~』とか言う男。バイカル湖に沈めたい」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)など怒りの声多数。

何を勘違いしてるのか知らんけど、そういう輩は味噌汁で顔洗って出直してこーい!

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■ハーフ座談会

サンドラ:まずは“ハーフあるある”から。「その顔で○○?」ってよく言われませんか?

荒川:「その顔でヒロシ?」とよく言われます(笑)。純日本人に見られたことは皆無。イギリス人の友達にも「ガイジン顔」「日本人には到底見えない」と言われたことがあります。

中澤:初対面ではなく、長い付き合いの友達でも、和食を食べていると「似合わないねー」と言われます(笑)。

一同:あるあるー!

中澤:おにぎりの中身は「梅干しじゃなく、せめてツナにしろ」とかね(笑)。

サンドラ:私たちガイジン顔の人に「おにぎりが似合わない」と言うのは、日本人に「ハンバーガーが似合わない」「ステーキ食べるな」って言っているようなもの(笑)。

林:マックで食べてると、「めっちゃ似合う」とか言われます。別に嫌な気分はしないけど。

サンドラ:知らない日本人から声かけられることも多いですよね。

小林:いきなり「英語しゃべって」と来ることも。さすがに小学生、大きくても中学生くらい。

荒川:小さい子が必ず「アメリカ人だ!」と言うのが不思議。「英語人だ!」って言われたことも(笑)。

齋藤:急いで駅の階段を駆け上がっていたら、知らない人が突然「グッドモーニング!」って。とっさに「おはようございます!」と返してしまいましたが、妙な感じでした(笑)。

中澤:話したがるおじさんとかいませんか?飲み屋でフッと目が合うと、急に英語で話しかけてきたりするような--。

林:俺はそういうの嫌。露骨に“嫌ですオーラ”出してます。

中澤:自分はわりと話します。頑張ってるんだな、と思って。でも、さっきまで俺、日本語で話してたんだけど……という(笑)。

サンドラ:顔見知り程度の人が、英語の練習したくて誘ってくることって、ありますよねー。

一同:あるあるー!!

齋藤:「私、英会話習いたいから、ランチでもどう?今から全部英語ね」って(苦笑)。

中澤:そういうときは、しゃべらないですね。母が英会話の先生をしているんですが、1時間何千円でやっているわけです。それと同じことをタダでやれって言われているようなものですから。

小林:英語関連で言うと、私が日本語話せるとわかっているのに、親戚がときどき会話に英単語を交ぜて話してきますね。「はい、これお茶、ティーね」とか……。

一同:(爆笑)

林:俺は日本生まれで英語は頑張って勉強して覚えたのに、テストでいい点数取っても「ハーフだからいいよな」って言われたことがあります。

小林:私も母がフランス人だから英語は関係ないんですけど、小中学校と、まあまあ勉強はできるほうだったんです。それで、英語も成績よかったんですが、周りはやっぱり「ラクしていい点数取れていいねえ」って感じで。

齋藤:私は中1まではよかったんですけど、中2のときに赤点取ってしまって(笑)。そこから頑張って勉強するようになりました。

サンドラ:ハーフと言うと「家では何語で話すの?」というのもよく聞かれる質問ですよね。

中澤:「父とは日本語、母とは英語」と言うと「じゃあ両親の間では?」って聞かれて「英語です」って。そういうのをいちいち答えなきゃいけないんですよね。

サンドラ:もっと進むと、「夢は何語で見てるんですか?」「寝言は何語ですか?」とか。

中澤:「痛いときは『アウチ!』って言うの?」とか(笑)。

サンドラ:あと「ミドルネームはないの?」というのも。

一同:それは必ず聞かれますね。

荒川:小さい頃はミドルネームがありましたが、自分はそれが嫌だった。病院などで名前を呼ばれると、みんなが一斉に注目する。親に懇願して、小学校に上がる前に今の名前に変えた。昔は今より金髪でほかの子と全然違うから、見た目もコンプレックスでした。

中澤:わかります!自分も小さい頃、髪が真っ茶で目立つから、それで先生に目をつけられたし。

■半分は日本なのに日本の部分はスルーされる

サンドラ:「どこの国?」と聞かれるのはいいけど、聞いてどうするのかなって気もする。「どっちがドイツ?」「父」と言うと、もう次は「お父さんとお母さん、どこで知り合ったの?」となる。

中澤:勝手に家系図を作られているみたい(笑)。

小林:どうして初対面の人に、そこまでファミリーストーリーを話さなきゃならないの?

齋藤:普通、親のなれそめなんか聞かないよね。で、ハーフと知ってから「俺、鹿児島と兵庫のハーフだから」とか言う人も。

一同:いるー!超あるある!

サンドラ:いろいろ聞かれながら、半分日本人なんだけどなあ、って思います。日本とドイツだと言っているのに、日本はスルーでドイツのことばかり。それが悔しい。

中澤:日本人が出身地の話で仲間意識を持つのはわかるけど、ハーフ相手だと仲間探しではなく違いを探してるって感じがする。

サンドラ:純日本人でもみんなが直毛の黒髪ではないのに、そこから外れると「違う人」。そう教育されてきたから、大人になっても「ハーフは違う人」と思うのかも。

小林:母の国のフランスだけでなく、「日本のどちら?」って、父の国のことも聞いてくれたらうれしい。同じ和歌山出身の人なら、すごく盛り上がれそう。でも、聞かれたことはありません(笑)。

中澤:日本の中に現にある多様性に目を向けてほしいですよね。

サンドラ:若いギャルたちは意外に「どこの国の人?」とか聞いてこない。もう少しで「いろんな日本人がいる」というのが“普通”になるかもしれませんね(笑)。

■司会 サンドラ・ヘフェリンさん ドイツ育ちの日独ハーフ。日本在住歴15年。著書『浪費が止まるドイツ節約生活の楽しみ』(光文社)、『ハーフが美人なんて妄想ですから!!』(中公新書ラクレ)ほか。HP「ハーフを考えよう」http://half-sandra.com/
ENDS

Shuukan Kin’youbi: Protests against NJ businesses in Tokyo turn ugly, yet J media compares Chinese protests against J businesses to Kristallnacht

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Hi Blog. Something came up over the past month that deserves mention on Debito.org when it comes to putting all the “violent Chinese etc. protests against Japan” into some perspective. Something that was not given much audience in the Japanese media — far-rightists targeting domestic minorities in Japan due to the recent flap over some offshore rocks.

Yes, people say “both sides are guilty of saber rattling and banging nationalist drums.”  But one thing I like to remind people is:  Who picked this most recent fight over the Senkakus? And who keeps perpetually stirring things up by having what I would consider a denialist view of history when it comes to being an aggressor and colonizer over the past hundred years? Sorry, but many of Japan’s prominent leaders do. And they (deliberately, in this case) serve to stir up passions overseas. Then when people overseas protest this, who then suddenly claims that the foreigners are overreacting or Japanese are being targeted and victimized? Japan’s leaders. And Japan’s media, to rally the rest of the public.

However, Japan’s victimization trope is being overplayed.  Japanese media, according to the Japan Times, is turning up the invective to compare Chinese protests to Kristallnacht. See here:

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The Japan Times, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012
BIG IN JAPAN
Tabloids return fire, urge China business pullout

By MARK SCHREIBER
On Sept. 29, the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Sankei Shimbun editorial writer Ryutaro Kobayashi asked how it would be possible for Japan to continue discussions with a China that had “lost its national dignity.”

Kobayashi was referring to the sometimes-destructive renhai (human wave) demonstrations in over 100 cities in China protesting Japan’s nationalization of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which resulted in billions of yen in damages to Japanese-owned businesses.

Scenes of angry mobs trashing stores and factories have led, not surprisingly, to viscerally emotional reactions in Japan’s media. One common response has been a palpable sense of victimhood, of which perhaps the most extreme example appears in a 98-page “mook” (a short book in glossy A4 magazine format) from Shukan Asahi Geino devoted entirely to China, under the headline “Chugoku, fuyukai na shinjitsu” (“China: The unpleasant facts”). Superimposed over a photo of the ransacked branch of the Heiwado supermarket in Changsha, Hunan Province, is a caption that reads, “Sept. 16, 2012 will be inscribed in history as China’s version of the Kristallnacht” (a reference to the notorious pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria on Nov. 9, 1938).

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20121007bj.html
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Well, consider the following domestic actions by Japanese far-rightists against not just foreign business communities overseas, but actual NJ residents of Japan who have been living in Japan for generations (who, by all reasonable standards — including fighting and dying for the Japanese Empire — should be Japanese citizens by now). Are we seeing the same comparisons to Krystallnacht? And will we see those comparisons in the media once we get glass in the gutter and bloodied faces? If the standard for violence in Japan is also “verbal” (as in kotoba no bouryoku), then we’re on our way.

Stop it, everyone, before you do something you might regret later. (Then again, perhaps not, if Japan’s revisionist attitudes towards history continue to hold sway.) Arudou Debito

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Nationalists converge on Shin-Okubo’s Koreatown
JapanToday.com KUCHIKOMI SEP. 18, 2012
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/nasty-nationalists-converge-on-shin-okubos-koreatown

Sandwiched between two major streets running parallel, the “Shin-Okubo Koreatown” in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district is home to dozens of Korean-style restaurants and retail shops proffering goods that range from Korean cosmetics to items appealing to fans of “Hanryu” dramas.

Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 14) reports that on Aug 25, a large demonstration of rightists—who are upset over South Korea’s territorial claims to Takeshima island (referred to as Dokdo in Korean)—marched through the neighborhood. The demonstration, whose organizers had tabbed “The Citizens’ Great March to Subjugate South Korea,” consisted of an estimated 500 demonstrators, many of who waved the militaristic “kyokujitsuki” (rising-sun flag), and who chanted such slogans as “Kankokujin wa kaere” (South Koreans go home) and “Chosenjin wa dete yuke!” (Koreans get out).

Things got even nastier after the march ended, when the marchers broke off into smaller groups of around 10 and moved from the main drag to the neighborhood’s many small lanes, where they confronted shopkeepers with even more hostile remarks, such as “Chon-ko wa karere” (Go home, you Korean bastard”) or “We’ll kill you.” They also intimidated compatriots they encountered with veiled warnings like “If you’re a Japanese, then don’t come to this area.”

“It’s very aggravating,” a worker of a street stall selling confections is quoted as saying. “Some young visitors from South Korea got harangued by the protesters. Since that day, the number our customers has tapered off.”

“It appears that the Zaitokukai (short for Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai or group opposed to special rights for Koreans in Japan) thinks it can build momentum for its movement by harping on the Takeshima and Senkaku issues,” says journalist Koichi Yasuda, who authored a book titled “Pursuing the ‘darkness’ of Internet patriots, the Zaitokukai” (Kodansha), about the noisy group that has been boosting its membership through skillful use of the Internet.

“While I don’t see any signs yet that they are increasing their influence, they still bear watching,” Yasuda adds. “As far as they are concerned, discriminating against the ‘zainichi’ (Koreans in Japan) is everything, and they aren’t terribly concerned about what will become of the disputed territories in the future. But they can use the timing of the dispute as a pretext for pushing their own agenda.”

Some rightists also provoked clashes in the Chinese enclave adjacent to the north exit of JR Ikebukuro station, resulting in police being summoned.

When such run-ins occur, however, Shukan Kinyobi notes that it has been rare for Japan’s mainstream media to devote much coverage. And even those who are confronted by the rightists tend to refrain from seeking sympathy from society, perhaps out of fears that any negative publicity will drive away their customers.

When the Shin-Okubo Merchants’ Association was approached by Shukan Kinyobi for a comment, it declined on the grounds that “We haven’t grasped the details.” The Shinjuku branch of the Zainichi Korean Association replied, “There’s nothing to discuss.” The Chinese in Ikebukuro were also reluctant to speak to reporters.

A staff member at one Korean firm in Shin-Okubo confided to the magazine, “The South Korean embassy here sent out a warning advisory to Korean businesses and groups to the effect that from Aug 25, we should not approach demonstrators or make inflammatory remarks. ‘Refrain from any activities that would put your safety at risk,’ it advised.

“If trouble were to break out, nothing good would come from it, as far as we’re concerned,” he added.

As long as this country has no statute against hate crimes, Shukan Kinyobi opines, this kind of ethnic and racial discrimination will remain out of control. Sixty-seven years since the end of the Pacific War, the issue of “territorial disputes” is being used as a new pretext to abet what are long-term trends.

ENDS

The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?

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Hi Blog. Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2 (see it here), I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door:  How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads  to diversity getting subsumed.  And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.

Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.

But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it? Arudou Debito

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ON SANCTIONED REALITY, MAJORITARIANISM AND JAPAN’S DEMOCRACY
By ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published October 2, 2012
DRAFT SIXTEEN – version submitted for edits and rejected for publication

I recently attended an interesting talk. It discussed Japan’s cultural conceit with the “real,” “genuine,” and “legitimate” as governed by the kanji “hon.” For example, genuine articles are “honmono,” the home of a famous product “honke”, one’s genuine feelings, intentions and character include “honki”, “honne,” “honshō” and “hongoshi,” you get the idea.

That made me think: What makes something legitimately “genuine” or “real” in Japan? Public acknowledgment of authenticity, of course. Certification could be an official government document, strong media attention, or even positive word of mouth.

For example, an artist or writer instantly becomes worthy of attention and accolade after becoming a “Living National Treasure” or an Akutagawa Prize winner. (Remember, this is how future Tokyo Governor Ishihara got his start.)

Of course, by definition one needs public support to become popular, and popularity begets more recognition as celebrity.

But Japan takes the “popularity = recognition” concept one step further, to “popularity = more trustworthy.” Unrecognized things tend to be seen as less legitimate in terms of quality or as a source of information.

For example, a restaurant without a write-up in the local tour guidebook can’t be any good. If something’s apparently unpopular, there must be something wrong with it. This is why tourist traps overseas pay big bucks to be featured in the Japanese “Hato Bus” media circuit.

So what is this column’s epiphany? If popularity means something is more “real” and “legitimate,” sole individuals and their opinions will have less influence over reality. This has a profound effect on Japan’s democracy. Seriously.

Start with an everyday interaction: Remember when you asked a group their opinion (particularly in classrooms). What’s the first thing most respondents do? Turn to their neighbors for affirmation.

Few are brave enough to immediately offer their “own opinion” because it might “not be commonly acceptable” (tsūyō shinai). There has to be a “consensus” before anyone declares anything definitive.

One exception, of course, is an opinion about Japanese behavior or culture. Ever notice how answers like, “because we’re an island nation” or “we have a long history of being a closed society” are immediate and standardized? Because they are the “consensus responses” – commonly-held, thus legitimate. This is one reason why Japanese society is so susceptible to talking in stereotypes.

Point is, people here have to “read the air” (kūki o yomu) first to determine reality, which takes time, energy, and guesswork to concoct. Moreover, people who buck the trend with an unpopular opinion merely look like troublemakers. This tedious dynamic forces people to default into silence.

The exception to the silent default is when someone has enough power in the group to be a sempai. Or a bully. Both will if necessary browbeat people into their mode of thinking.

Thus, reality depends on the dominant group hierarchy maintaining the dominant discourse.

One problem with a “certified reality for mass consumption” is that minority views are unacceptable. By definition, if a majority does not support a minority view, then tsūyō shinai. After all, if enough people don’t say or do it, it’s not “The Real Japan.” This majoritarianism acts as a natural brake on Japan’s diversity.

But the bigger problem is the brake on dissent.

If people are more likely to “take seriously” a fact or opinion (and, due to a lack of training in critical thinking, people often have trouble telling the difference) just because they saw that fact or opinion on TV or in a newspaper, then people who control media outlets can create “consensus” by “changing the air.”

This means that Japanese society, whose most trusted and ubiquitous media outlet is government-run, becomes more easily manipulated by officialdom.

Of course, the media manufactures public consensus in all societies. But in Japan’s case, a hierarchical social dynamic enforced at all levels of society makes people particularly susceptible to top-down decision making.

This can be taken too far. We’ve witnessed a decade of “rampant foreign crime” grounded in police media campaigns instead of careful statistical analysis (Zeit Gist Oct. 7, 2003).

But now consider the current claims that a few faraway “islands” are sufficient reason to hate the local ethnic shopkeeper. Volume has shouted down reason.

Now add one more thing to the mix: “koe.” In Japan, disembodied voices are often taken as legitimately as official voices. That’s how Japan’s media justifies rumor through anonymous sources, and how officials justify public policy by saying “koe ga atta” (there has been talk of…). This is further amplified by Japan’s anonymous Internet culture, a bullying and outrage industry in its own right (JBC Feb. 3, 2009).

Eventually any bubble of commonly-held lies and distortions will pop. But when it pops in Japan, there is little denouement. Rarely are the brave individuals who initially offered dissent commended. Most dissenters realize it’s too mendōkusai (bothersome) to pipe up and so in future just pipe down.

In sum, this social dynamic helps the ruling elite keep control of the status quo. And it’s one reason why conservatives have spent their lives dismantling liberalized education (yutori kyōiku) – for heaven forbid that Leftist teachers ever indulge in critical thinking or encourage students to question authority!

There are consequences: Every now and then Japan’s debate arenas fall into an echo-chamber “reality trap,” where circular logic based on bad social science becomes mutually-reinforcing. We’ve seen the logical excesses in public outrages about, say, human rights, gender equality, foreign suffrage, and now Japanese territorial integrity with the Senkakus and Takeshima.

Once mired in this “reality trap,” the most effective way to adjust the prevailing “reality” (aside from total defeat in a war) is by appealing to Japan’s legitimacy overseas.

Since the Meiji Era, Japan has always wanted be taken seriously by the club of powerful countries. Due to the enormous cultural value placed upon hierarchy, Japan has aspired to join the club in a superior, respected position.

Yet most people know Japan as the “fragile superpower,” and Japan’s ruling elites know well that there is much to lose by creating trouble: Not only in terms of hard-won (and paid for) international esteem, but also economic resources if bullies and zealots irritate the neighbors.

Bully celebrities and zealots have gained much ground these past decades, legitimizing jingoistic interpretations of history in mainstream media. But I think the browbeaten public is betting that reason will soon prevail amongst ruling elites.

Why? Because Japan never wants to be seen as the aggressor in any conflict, or the bad guy in any situation.

Consider the dominant discourse in postwar Japan: We didn’t engage in military conquest during WWII – a rapacious military leadership inflicted great suffering on all Japanese. Then we were subjected to horrific atomic bombings. After that, we had decades of miraculous prosperity generated from our own hard work. But then things slowed down even though we did our best. It’s not our fault: Even our current mess was caused by force majeure – our volcanic archipelago, against which we stoically persevere. We are all victims.

What about dissenting opinions to this discourse, including the public’s complicity in rooting out prewar Leftists, the wartime responsibility of the Showa Emperor, the granting of favorable terms of trade for reconstruction, and generations of government-industrial corruption through unaccountable bureaucratic rule? All drowned out under Japan’s majoritarianism, delegitimizing unpopular opinions in favor of perpetual victimhood.

But not this time. It’s pretty difficult to justify Japan’s victim status with the Senkakus and Takeshima. The rocks are just an official distraction from the irradiating food chain and accelerating economic tailspin.

Back to the concepts of “genuine” and “legitimate.” What good is this “islands” dispute if the other rich countries, looking increasingly to China as Asia’s leader, won’t see Japan as a “genuine” victim with a “legitimate” grievance?

Sooner or later the ruling elites, perpetually looking over their shoulder at world opinion, will tell the jingoists to tone it down — for business’ sake. It’s the effect of gaiatsu, or outside pressure.

Gaiatsu is basically the only way that Japan, once it gets into these ideological bully-pulpit spirals, will be calmed down. Because Japan’s general public, structurally defanged by a culture of being unable to say or think anything is “real” or “legitimate” without certified permission, cannot stop itself when domestic bullies get too powerful. It needs somebody else to put the jingoism genie back in the bottle.

Outside world, it’s nigh time to do it again.
1396 WORDS
ends

Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader MMT writes in (he says it all, really, so I won’t comment further):

September 30, 2012: An interesting bit of news that was on the JT homepage this week. It seems that although the alien registration card is considered equal to the new zairyu card until July 2015 by the government, it appears not for certain government agencies. Japan Post has a notice on their homepage stating that foreign residents can no longer use the alien registration card as of July 9th, 2012 (or in other words, the same day the zairyu card became available). How the post office can reject ID which is still valid and basically force longer-term residents into changing over their cards immediately is beyond my comprehension.

http://www.post.japanpost.jp/service/fuka_service/honnin/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120925at.html

JT:  “Even though alien registration certificates are valid until 2015, Japan Post decided effective July 9, 2012, to no longer accept such cards. Please see this website,” he writes.

“I found this out when needing to show identification for receiving a restricted delivery mail service document. I am a permanent resident. I find it odd, perhaps discriminatory, and certainly a bureaucratic overreach on the part of the postal service.”

We confirmed this with Japan Post; it’s true that they are now only accepting the new resident cards (zairyūkādo), which have replaced alien registration cards, despite the fact the latter are still valid until renewal or 2015 (whichever comes first). If you have another form of picture ID, such as a driver’s license, this should work, or a passport if your address doesn’t need to be confirmed.

October 1, 2012: As a further bit of news regarding this story, I called the immigration help line on October 1, 2012, to see if they were aware of this development. The staff informed me that yes, the alien registration card is still valid, as stated and acts as one’s zairyu card until July 9th, 2015. When I asked if they were aware that the Japan Post officially began rejecting the alien registration card the very same day the zairyu card became available, they replied that perhaps in cases such as with banks and the post office, you may have to switch over to the new card in order to have acceptable ID. I quickly pointed out that since the government (namely, the Ministry of Justice, no less) has deemed this ID to be equal to the zairyu card for a further three years, shouldn’t it be unacceptable (unlawful?)  for any any semi-government agency or private business to reject it? They agreed that my argument “made sense.”

The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. It was at that point that I hinted that perhaps it was the job of the immigration department to inform all relevant agencies to stop making arbitrary rules regarding which government-issued ID they will choose to accept: to which I got no answer. Strange, indeedCheers,  MMT

Okay, I’ll comment:  It’s just evidence of how secondarily the concerns of NJ are taken in Japan.  Even the bureaucracy that governs and polices them won’t fight for them when one branch of it arbitrarily denies them privilege or assistance.  Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes: “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place”

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justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121002ad.html

No doubt you’ve seen the news about the Takeshima and Senkaku disputes: Japan is sparring with China, South Korea and Taiwan over some specks in the ocean.

Why is this happening? Theories include pre-election political posturing and securing borders to exploit resources. But it’s gotten to the point where even respected academics (such as Stanford’s Harumi Befu and Harvard’s Ted Bestor) are worriedly writing, “current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy.”

My take on these scraps is pretty simple: They are merely a way to distract the Japanese public from a larger malaise, the symptoms of which include Japan’s loss of clout as Asia’s leading economy, perpetual economic funk, ineffectual political leadership and an irradiated food chain.

But the larger question remains: How could these far-flung rocks get so much domestic political traction? Bully-pulpiteer Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara managed to raise $18 million from the general public for buying bits of the Senkakus. This in turn forced Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to nationalize them with $26 million of public funds, entangling the government in this imbroglio (and no doubt giving Ishihara a chuckle over all the mischief he’d caused).

(NB:  Total money raised by Ishihara according to Yomiuri Sept 7, 2012: 1.4 billion yen.  Purchase price 2.05 billion yen.) http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120906004354.htm

After all, Japan has a lot to lose in these disputes. Known as the “fragile superpower,” Japan depends on the outside world both for raw materials and export markets. (China is, remember, Japan’s largest trading partner.)

Japan also has a reputation for being diplomatic towards everyone for business purposes (with its foreign policy sardonically known as happō bijin gaikō, “like a woman who appears beautiful viewed from any angle”). Why now so out of character?

Some might argue that Japan is “growing up” and “acting like a normal country.” Ishihara himself co-wrote the book “The Japan That Can Say No,” which among other things called for Japan to be more “assertive” on the world stage.

But that was in 1989. Now much older and more powerful (as head of a megacity), Ishihara has clearly revised “assertive” to mean “belligerent.” This isn’t Japan just saying “no.” It’s Japan saying, “Gimme. Or else.”

And this is not limited to Ishihara anymore, meaning the fundamental character of Japan’s leadership has shifted. The heads of Japan’s three main cities (Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya) have all expressed “revisionist” views of history, doubting the legitimacy of Asian claims of Japan as aggressor and plunderer during World War II. Revisionists seem determined to fan passions against outsiders for demagogic purposes.

For example, in what historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Japan Focus, Sept. 3) calls “foreign policy by tweet,” Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto capriciously stirred up historical matters largely settled a decade ago. Through glib texts to the general public, he stated in essence that the “comfort women” wartime sexual slavery issue had not been resolved by Japan’s official acknowledgment of the historical evidence in 1993 (something Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also asserted but later retracted).

The subtext is that Hashimoto’s ilk wants a government-authored history that paints Japan in a “hopeful” light. Indicatively (and ironically, considering his family background), he is pulling funding from Japan’s only human rights museum in Osaka next year, on the grounds that displays are “limited to discrimination and human rights” towards Japan’s minorities. In his view, they fail to inspire Japan’s children with a future full of “hopes and dreams” (Mainichi Shimbun, July 25).

How did this cabal gain such political leverage? I think we can understand their appeal through the lens of rekindling national “hopes and dreams.”

First, as Japan’s “lost decade” of economic woe stretched into two, a public hungry for hope and inspiration became receptive to the message of reliving past glories — not only in terms of wealth and international prestige, but also in terms of military might (as can be seen in the popularity of jingoistic manga like “Gomanism”). At last, there was something to be proud of amidst the interminable bad news.

Second, Gov. Ishihara, in cahoots with Japan’s police forces, banged the alarmist drum of foreign crime and terrorism so loudly and successfully that other political hopefuls could chime in and get (re-)elected. The ensuing suspicion of “outsiders in our midst” helped stem the tide of Japan’s internationalization and diversification, as Japan’s foreign-resident population, after an unbroken 48-year rise, began falling.

Third, hopes for liberalization were dashed when, for the first time in Japan’s postwar political history, a viable opposition party took over from the perpetually-ruling, corrupt Liberal Democratic Party. A mere three years later, people seem disappointed that the Democratic Party of Japan couldn’t undo a half-century of embedded LDP cronyism.

This all plays into the hands of zealots who wish to “restore” Japan (To what? A bubble economy? A regional military power?) without a clear template — except past precedent. The small print is that those past systems won’t work without the exercise of military power, or favorable overseas terms of trade designed for a reconstructing economy (neither of which are viable for present-day Japan).

No matter, say the Revisionists, let’s march backward: Last month, not only did the LDP reelect staunch historical revisionist Shinzo Abe as its party leader, but Hashimoto also launched his ominously named Japan Restoration Party, which has few policy aims except the proactive defense of Japanese sovereignty and territories.

It’s laughable how far removed all this is from what the Japanese public really wants. I believe most Japanese are not looking for trouble with any neighbor — in Japan or abroad. They just want to lead a quiet, prosperous life.

But now that even the Japanese media have started adopting the jingoistic tone of “restoring” Japan, the current discourse of belligerency is normalized and irresistible. Only true patriots dare say anything in public, while the silent majority hunkers down and waits for the fracas to pass (hopefully without any shots fired).

In a few months, this may all amount to a storm in a teacup. But I don’t think so. Political movements such as these (even if promoted by a very loud minority) do real social damage, setting precedents that legitimize the next wave of nationalism and antiliberalism.

As I’ve discussed on these pages before (e.g., Zeit Gist, July 8, 2008), extreme positions have eventually justified quiet but radical and illiberal reforms. For example, officially sponsored fears about foreign crime and terrorism have created a surveillance society that affects everyone. Since the DPJ took office, alarmist (and successful) invective against, say, granting local suffrage to foreign permanent residents also emboldened conservatives to defeat other liberalizing proposals, such as granting separate surnames to married couples and more civil rights for children. Several attempts at getting a universal law against discrimination have been defeated because of allegations that foreigners would abuse Japanese with it.

Thus foreigners are the perpetual wolf at the door, and have been used very effectively to mobilize the nation against both putative internal and external threats.

Now with boats clashing prows and loosing water cannon at each other because of ocean specks, soon there will be very normal-sounding calls for revisions of our “Peace Constitution.” Revisionists will argue (Ishihara already has) that like any “normal” country, Japan needs an actual “military,” able to defend its sovereignty from the wolves.

Therein lies the cognitive dissonance of any historical revisionist: Somehow “hope” is generated by forgetting a regrettable history.

This must not happen, because the proponents of this view simply do not wish to learn from history. And you all know what George Santayana said about “those who cannot remember the past (being) condemned to repeat it.”

I will conclude with the thoughts of M.G. Sheftall, professor of modern Japanese cultural history at Shizuoka University:

“Postwar Japan wanted to be welcomed back into the community of responsible countries and membership in the United Nations. So as a condition, the government acknowledged a ‘we were wrong’ narrative of the war experience. I think bearing guilt for a few more generations for the 20 million Asians killed under Japanese imperialism is necessary before the words ‘army’ or ‘navy’ inevitably return to the official Japanese lexicon. It’s just the decent thing to do.

“As a historian, it’s discomfiting having anything smacking of wartime ideology making a comeback while men who committed atrocities for the Imperial Japanese military still live. While they deserve some sympathy for what they endured under an ideology they were unable to resist or reject, I don’t they deserve the satisfaction of leaving this mortal coil feeling that Japan’s war has been historically vindicated. There’s justice in that, I think.”

By then, history will have taught Japan’s governing elites the folly and waste of clashing over petty nationalistic goals. If there is any hope.

============================
Debito Arudou’s latest writing is the Hokkaido section of the Fodor’s Japan travel guide. 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 OCTOBER 1 2012

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 1, 2012

Table of Contents:

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BAD POLITICS

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

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

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

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

BAD SCIENCE

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

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

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

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

… and finally…

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

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

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BAD POLITICS

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

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:

Tessa 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 the museum’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)

http://www.debito.org/?p=10619

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10554

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

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…”

http://www.debito.org/?p=10497

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10548

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BAD SCIENCE

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

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.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=10567

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

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?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10591

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10565

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

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”…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10563

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… and finally…

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

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
Blogged version with reader comments at http://www.debito.org/?p=10539
By ARUDOU DEBITO

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All for this month. Thanks for reading!
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 1, 2012 ENDS

“From the Shadows” documentary on Japan’s child abductions debuts in Philly Film Festival Oct 23 & 27, tickets on sale now

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Great news.  A movie that has been close to a decade in the making is finally hitting the silver screen:  A documentary on child abductions after divorce in Japan (something I have personal experience with; I was interviewed regarding the Murray Wood Case six years ago; the documentary project has since expanded into something much, much bigger and my interview got cut.  Ah well, DVD extras…?).  Directors David Hearn and Matt Antell have this to say:

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From The Shadows, a documentary film about Parental Child abduction in Japan, will premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival on October 23rd and October 27th. This film follows the lives of 5 “Left Behind Parents” trying desperately to reconnect with their children after having their child-parent relationship cut by the other parent. Through their individual stories we examine why this situation is so common in Japan and hear opinions from an array of experts on the situation. The film has had work-in-progress screenings on Capitol Hill (Nov. 2011) and in Tokyo (Apr. 2012) that was attended by the foreign ministry and several embassy reps.
The screening venues and times for the Philadelphia Film Festival are:

1. Tuesday October 23rd, 5:00 pm  – Prince Music Theater – 1412 Chestnut Street  Philadelphia, PA 19102
2. Saturday October 27th 7:35 pm  – Ritz East – 125 South Second Street  Philadelphia, PA 19106

First go to this link: http://filmadelphia.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/fromtheshadows0_mattantell_filmadelphia2012
 
Then go to the bottom of the screen and make sure you select the screening(s) you want to attend and proceed through to payment.

We hope you can attend one or both screenings. There will be a Q and A session after each screening and a reception after the 27th screening. More information on the film and the trailer can be seen at www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com

Please contact David at david@fromtheshadowsmovie.com for more information.

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Congrats, guys.  I’m nowhere near Philly, but those who are, please consider attending!  Wish I could be there!  Hope it gets picked up by a distributor!  Arudou Debito