Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals?

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Hi Blog.  An alert Debito.org Reader has sent in the following (thanks for it):

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

I’m emailing you to let you know about a new campaign going around in Tokyo for COCO’s English Juku. English Juku advertisements have always been rather lowbrow at times, but this one has hit multiple lows in my opinion. The ads in the trains are the same advertisement banner used at the top of their main website here.

cocojukuwebsite013114

Main website contains the main advertisement. http://www.cocojuku.jp/

At first I laughed due to how awkward and confusing it appeared. On second glance on the train today I took a closer look and thought about it within the context of the Japanese text and statements made. Is this playing on racial overtones to push for a reason to be learning English? What if the bride was Indian, African, or of another Asian ethnic background such as Chinese? Are these overtones really appropriate for an advertisement?

Furthermore, a few friends of mine also pointed out how downright sexist the ad was as well. It is clearly exclusively aimed at Japanese men with the woman being just an object of possession and trade with no say on who she marries, especially in the YouTube video.

YouTube Advertisement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O93n0jGF25M

Thought you might be interested in seeing this rather questionable advertisement campaign. It’s especially ironic considering the way that COCO recruits their instructors in the US and the images portrayed on that section of the site.

Recruitment site: http://www.cocojuku.jp/recruit/

While I laughed at first, I have to say I find this ad campaign simply offensive on many levels.

-Anonymous

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

Their other ad spot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv2pWI8sptI

COMMENT:  I’m tuckered out after the ANA advertisement issue.  I think I’ll let others have their say.  I’ll put this on Discussion mode for looser moderation.  Is this the same as the ANA ad to you, with a racialized bent to the product?  If not, why not?

On a related note, in lieu of a deeper comment, I will mention that I read Catherine Pover’s book LOVE WITH A WESTERN WOMAN (a guide for Japanese men), courtesy of CP.  And while there was some inevitable stereotyping of both the subject and the target audience, I thought the book was an earnest attempt to communicate what a “Western” woman might like and how a Japanese man might better get to know one.

I wonder what Caroline would have to say about this ad.  I’ll ask her.  ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014, “Director’s Cut”

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Hi Blog. Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Thanks as always for reading and commenting to Debito.org. Arudou Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad
BY  ARUDOU Debito
The Japan Times, JAN 24, 2014, Column 72 for The Community Pages
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/24/issues/dont-let-ana-off-the-hook-for-that-offensive-ad/

Making headlines recently has been a commercial by ANA, one of Japan’s flagship airlines.  Released last Saturday, its 30-second spot shows two Asian men (one a comedian named Bakarizumu, but let’s call them A and B) standing at an airport window speaking English with Japanese subtitles.

(See the ad at debito.org/ANAHanedaAd2014.mp4.)

Looking out at the jets, A says, “Haneda Airport has more international flights nowadays.”  B replies, “Finally.”  Then their exchange goes, “Next stop, Vancouver.”  “Next stop, Hanoi.”  “Exciting, isn’t it?”  Then B says, rather oddly, “You want a hug?”  When A only gives him a nonplussed look, B continues, “Such a Japanese reaction.”  When A explains, “But I am Japanese,” B counters, “I see.  Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” And A, smiling broadly, agrees to it.

Alright so far.  Except that, as you can see in the picture below, A is now wearing a strapped-on long nose and a big blond wig.  Off they fly to their destinations.
ANAHanedabignose

This has occasioned considerable debate and media coverage.  Many commenters in the English-language online forums have called this advertisement “racist” (one even said “Debito bait”; I’m chuffed), and have made motions to take their business elsewhere.  Others have said the advertisement isn’t racist, just lame.  A few managed to find a deep pocket of latent irony, saying it’s actually poking fun at the Japanese people and their insular attitudes.  Meanwhile, within Japanese-language forums, according to a Yahoo Japan poll, 82% of respondents see no problem with it.

ANAYahooJapansurvey2014
http://polls.dailynews.yahoo.co.jp/other/10721/result
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140120-00000038-jij_afp-bus_all)

(NB:  Note look how the question is worded. It introduces the issue by saying that a comedian (Bakarizumu) performed the act (read: it’s a joke!), and says that the complaints came “from foreigners” (read: not from Japanese) of “racial discrimination” (read: misleading representation of the issue). So we’ve set up the question as “we joking Japanese” vs “those kvetching foreigners” “taking a madcap jape” too seriously, and bingo, you get a vast majority of people wondering what the problem is.)

It probably comes as no surprise to you that JBC objects to this ad.  If ANA had really wanted to “change the image of Japan,” it should have avoided racializing their product.  Instead, it’s just business as usual.

Consider some other racist marketing strategies from not so long ago (visuals and reports archived at debito.org/?p=12077):

Last year, Toshiba marketed a bread maker with an obnoxiously overexuberant Japanese girl speaking katakana Japanese, wearing a blond wig and a big nose.  (Ad archived at debito.org/Toshibasuipanda.mp4.)

toshiba2013suipanda1

In 2010, Nagasaki Prefecture promoted its “foreign” buildings by showing Japanese tourists wearing—you guessed it—blond wigs and big noses.  (Ad archived at debito.org/?p=7523.)
nagasakitabinetto2

In 2005, Mandom sold men’s cosmetics with a Rasta-man motif, juxtaposing black people with a chimpanzee.  (Ad archived at debito.org/mandomproject.html.)
MandomAd2

Dare I mention the resurrection of book “Little Black Sambo” in 2005, which inspired overtly racist nursery-school songs in Saitama about black butts?  (See Matthew Chozick, “Sambo racism row reignites over kids’ play,” Zeit Gist, April 13, 2010.)
Sambooriginal

And how about the Choya plum saké commercials in 2008, featuring three girls (two Caucasian, one Japanese), the latter sporting a big plastic nose and stick-on paper blue eyes?  Although most of these ads were soon pulled after complaints, you can still go to Amazon Japan or Tokyu Hands and buy your own “gaijin” stick-on blue eyes and nose (with the caption “Harō Gaijin-San”) to sport at parties!

Har har.  Can’t you see it’s all just a joke, imbued with a deep sense of irony subversively directed at Japanese people?  Except that, as I’ve pointed out in JBCs passim, irony as humor is not one of Japan’s strong suits.

Moreover, remember when McDonald’s Japan was using a nerdy white guy to hawk newfangled burgers?  JBC argued (“Meet Mr. James, Gaijin Clown,” Sept. 1, 2009) that stereotyping of this nature only works as humor if, among other things, there is a “switch test” – i.e., everyone is fair game for parody.

But in Japan it’s not fair game.  Japanese society and media takes quick umbrage to being lampooned by the outside world, especially in a racialized manner.

Case in point:  To commemorate the publication of “Little Black Sambo,” I drew up a parody called “Little Yellow Jap” to put the shoe on the other foot (debito.org/chibikurosanbo.html).  I made the protagonist as stereotypically exaggerated as the ink-black gollywogs in the book:  bright yellow skin, round glasses, buck teeth, and clad in a fundoshi loincloth.  I pointed out on every page that this was a parody of Japan’s Sambo, and contextualized it with a full explanation in Japanese of why racialized books for children are bad.

Yet for years now in the Japanese version of Wikipedia’s entry on me, this parody is cited as an example of my “discrimination against Japanese.”  Clearly turnabout is not in fair play.

Or consider the case of British TV show QI (Philip Brasor, “Cultural insensitivity no laughing matter,” Media Mix Jan. 30, 2011, discussed here).  Producers were forced to apologize for a joke about a recently-deceased Japanese who in 1945 unluckily travelled to Nagasaki, after experiencing the first atomic bombing, to catch the second one.  A panelist had dryly quipped, “He never got the train again, I tell you.”

That’s not funny!  That’s insensitive.  And insulting!  And racist, according to the more unified online communities in Japan, backed up by protesting Japanese government officials, all of whom clearly understand irony.  (For the record:  I’m being ironic.  Please laugh.)

Back to ANA.  I bet the omnipotent gerontocracy at corporate headquarters didn’t think anything amiss (obviously; they approved the ad), because, as is often claimed in these situations, Japanese in fact “admire” (akogareru) white people.  This ad is, if anything, a paean.  After all, look at him!  He looks like Robert Redford, one of the prototypical kakkō-ii foreigners of our generation!  (They could do with a Brad Pitt update, I guess.)

In tepid apology letters, ANA uses the standard disclaimer:  “We didn’t mean to offend anyone.”  Okay.  And I’m sure many of your potential customers didn’t “mean” to be offended either.  But many were.  And if you have any pretentions to being an international company, you wouldn’t get in these sticky wickets in the first place.

(Two apology letters http://www.debito.org/?p=12077#comment-431421
http://www.debito.org/?p=12077#comment-431434
UK Independent on the apologies http://www.debito.org/?p=12077#comment-431419)

To be fair, this campaign was probably cooked up not by ANA, but by one of Japan’s advertising oligarchs (no doubt Dentsu, with nearly a third of Japan’s market share).  Anyone with an eye on the Japanese media knows how they make silly amounts of money on silly stereotypes (including the one that Japanese don’t hug), while reaffirming the binary between “Japan” and “the rest of the world.”

Nevertheless, ANA deserves its lumps, because reps simply don’t know what they’re apologizing for.  In fact, they clumsily reinforced the binary, stating in press releases that complaints have “mostly come from foreign customers” (as opposed to real customers?), before finally pulling the ad last Tuesday.

Now consider this:  Gerry Nacpil, Supervisor of ANA Sky Web, wrote in his apology: “The intention of this commercial was… to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”

So… “global citizens” equals White people?

Now the ad is even more problematic.

To quote a friend, in an open letter to ANA:

“Dear ANA:  Are you aware that most of your foreigner customers are from places like Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur?  And that most of them probably don’t have blond/orange hair?  Oh, and even the ones with blond hair probably don’t have noses like a tengu goblin.  And pretty sure that Japanese people enjoy being hugged and have emotions.  Well, at least the Japanese who aren’t sticks-in-mud CEO boardroom types with no sense that the world doesn’t really resemble their 19th-century, ‘we are so different from you funny-looking white gaijin’ Meiji-Era mentality.

“Look forward to seeing your 2020 customers.  They may surprise you.  Sincerely, A Big-Nosed White Guy who speaks Japanese.”

Touché.  Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards.

For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep.  ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”

Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies.  NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages.

This is a prime opportunity.  Don’t let ANA off the hook on this.  Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”

ENDS

ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!

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Hi Blog. It’s times like these when people seem glad that a forum like Debito.org exists.  I say this based on the large number of people who submitted information about the new ANA commercial on Haneda Airport’s increased international flights. Seems that somebody, anybody, should express outrage.  Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Here it is (courtesy lots of people; thanks!):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jgzAOCmWA0

(UPDATE JANUARY 22:  ANA has pulled the ad, so the link above is dead.  I have archived it for posterity as an .mp4 at http://www.debito.org/ANAHanedaAd2014.mp4.  Thanks JK!)

Well, let’s have a think. With two Asian guys speaking only in English (one saying he’s Japanese — the noticeably shorter guy) noting that Japan will have more international access (Vancouver and Hanoi are mentioned as their destinations), the message of the ad is that the image of Japan will change. “Exciting, isn’t it?”, says the Japanese bloke. The taller dude says, “You want a hug?” When nothing happens (i.e., no hug), he oddly says, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When the tall dude says, “Let’s change the image of  Japanese people,” the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him:

ANAHanedabignose

Yeah, that’ll do it.  Put on a wig and a fake nose, and that’ll change Japan’s image.

Actually, no it won’t.  This is in fact business as usual, given how Japan has a nasty habit of racializing commodities.  Check out but a few examples of racist Japanese commercial campaigns from Debito.org’s archives (click on images to see more information).  Then I’ll comment about the ANA one:

Traveling to Nagasaki (let’s gaijinize ourselves!) (2010):
nagasakitabinetto nagasakitabinetto2

Toshiba sells breadmakers! (2013)
toshiba2013suipanda1

McDonald’s Japan sells burgers! (2009)
mcdonaldsmrjames001

Selling sweets! (2013)
vibesumadara3

Mandom sells men’s cosmetics! (2005)
MandomAd2

Mini Stop Konbini sells Afro Melon Bread! (2010)

Publisher Zuiunsha resurrects “Little Black Sambo” without historical context! (2005)
Sambooriginal

Selling party favors! (Tokyu Hands 2008, still on sale on Amazon)

COMMENT ON ANA’S AD CAMPAIGN:

Well, I have the feeling that once again, a major Japanese company left their advertising to one of the big-name ad firms (as Toshiba above did), and they once again just thought they were being cute by sticking a wig and a big nose on somebody and making them look “foreign”.  After all, who would complain?  Japan is after all a homogeneous society with no racial issues (not!).  Chuckling old-timey OBs on the board who make all the decisions and expect everyone to knuckle under thought nothing of it, especially since (check out that screen capture again):

ANAHanedabignose

the guy looks remarkably like Robert Redford!  Who to a lot of Japanese (especially to the generation who haven’t had a Brad Pitt update yet) is the prototypical and idealized Westerner!

But some people, myself included, take a dim view of this campaign.  Let me quote an esteemed friend of mine:

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

Dear ANA,
I’m not sure you know this, but are you aware that most of your foreigner customers are from places like Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur? And that most of them probably don’t have blond/orange hair?
Oh, and even the ones with blond hair probably don’t have noses like a tengu goblin.
And pretty sure that Japanese people enjoy being hugged and have emotions. Well, at least the Japanese who aren’t sticks in mud CEO boardroom types with no sense that the world doesn’t really resemble their 19th century, “we are so different from you funny looking white gaijin” Meiji Era mentality.
Look forward to seeing your 2020 customers. They may surprise you.
Sincerely,
A Big Nose White Guy who speaks Japanese

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

Quite.  If ANA really wanted to change the image of Japan, they should have had the guys hugging!  Arudou Debito

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

UPDATE JANUARY 20:  Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints below (English original):  The intention of this commercial was to highlight how international flights from Haneda Airport will increase from March 30, 2014 and to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”

Interesting mindset.  Good to know what ANA was thinking.  But do you think this advertisement accomplishes that?  Are “global citizens” therefore Robert Redford lookalikes?  In light of this, the advertisement is to me even more problematic.

UPDATE JANUARY 22:  ANA’s campaign expands to the Hibiya Line in Tokyo (Courtesy of JK, click on photo to expand in browser):

ANAHanedaHibiyapic012214

UPDATE TWO, JANUARY 22: FYI, the Japan Times has tapped me to do my next Just Be Cause column early on, you guessed it, the ANA advertisement.  Already filed, it will come out Saturday, January 25 JST.

UPDATE: HERE’S THE JAPAN TIMES ARTICLE.

NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks

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Hi Blog. In what I consider to be good and very significant news, the Tokyo District Court ruled that NJ who had their privacy violated, due to National Police Agency leaks of personal information, were entitled to compensation.

This is good news because the government rarely loses in court. Considering past lawsuits covered by Debito.org, the police/GOJ can get away with negligence (Otaru Onsens Case), grievous bodily harm (Valentine Case), and even murder (Suraj Case).

But not privacy violations. Interesting set of priorities. But at least sometimes they can protect NJ too.

Note also what is not being ruled problematic. As mentioned below, it’s not an issue of the NPA sending out moles to spy on NJ and collecting private information on them just because they happen to be Muslim (therefore possible terrorists). It’s an issue of the NPA losing CONTROL of that information. In other words, the privacy breach was not what’s being done by The State, but rather what’s being done by letting it go public. That’s also an interesting set of priorities.

But anyway, somebody was forced to take responsibility for it.  Good news for the Muslim community in Japan.  More background from the Debito.org Archives on what the NPA was doing to Japan’s Muslim residents (inadequately covered by the article below), and the scandal it caused in 2000, here, here, and here.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE JAN 17:  I was convinced by a comment to the Japan Times yesterday to remove this entry from the “Good News” category.  I now believe that the court approval of official racial profiling of Muslims has made the bad news outweigh the good.  That comment below the article.  

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

Tokyo ordered to pay police leak compensation
NHK World, January 15, 2014, courtesy of JK
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140115_36.html

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been ordered to pay compensation of more than 90 million yen, or about 860,000 dollars, for breach of privacy resulting from a leak of police documents.

The case involves 114 documents related to international terrorism that were leaked online in 2010. They contained the names, addresses and photos of Japanese people and foreigners who provided information to police investigators.

About 2 months after the documents were leaked, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department acknowledged the documents as their own, and pledged protection and support for those whose identities have been revealed.

But the police were never able to identify who was responsible for leaking the documents, which was done with special software that made the leak untraceable. The statute of limitations on the case expired in October.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo District Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by 17 Muslims who claimed that their privacy had been violated.

Presiding judge Masamitsu Shiseki acknowledged that the police created the documents and called intelligence-gathering by investigators an unavoidable measure to prevent international terrorism.

But the judge said the documents were probably leaked by Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department personnel, and held the Superintendent-General responsible for failing to properly manage their intelligence.

One of the plaintiffs told reporters that he felt a bit relieved that the court acknowledged the responsibility of the police. But he said that what he and others really wanted the court to acknowledge was that the police investigation was discriminatory and illegal. He said he was sorry that the court did not find the investigation illegal.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department says it is regrettable that the court did not accept its claims. It also said it will decide whether to appeal the ruling after studying the content of the decision.

ENDS

COMMENT FROM STEVE JACKMAN AT THE JAPAN TIMES (see full comment here):

So, the Japanese court has legally sanctioned the government to racially profile its Japanese citizens and residents, by giving the Japanese government its official approval and permission to racially profile them based on their religious beliefs. This smacks of the early days of the rise of Nazism, when the Nazis racially profiled Germany’s Jewish population based solely on their religious beliefs.

The Japanese court has ruled that the police can gather information on Japanese citizens and residents, based solely on the reason that they are Muslim. It cited that terrorist attacks had been carried out by Islamic radicals around the world, and the ruling stated that, “There is a sufficient danger that such acts could also occur in Japan”. Never mind, that these muslim citizens and residents have committed no crimes, have nothing to do with terrorism, and that until now Japan has only experienced home grown terrorism, which has nothing to do with its muslim population.

After the court’s verdict, the lawyer for the muslim plaintiffs stated, “The ruling allowed the gathering of information just because an individual happened to be a Muslim”. He further raised concerns about the effects of the court’s ruling in light of the recent enactment in Japan of the state secrets protection law, which defines information related to terrorism as being subject to classification as a state secret. “The gathering of information itself will become a secret and there would be no brakes applied on investigations conducted by those in public security,” he said.[…]

ENDS

Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”

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Hello Blog.  In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!!  To “ensure they behave” (those rapscallions!) and “avoid embarrassments” (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?).  Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction:  Book JAPANESE ONLY) — thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information).  Again, it’s not news.  It’s in fact recycling news from 2010.

This is another reason that Japan’s obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb — the domestic media has to reinforce the “Island Society” narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world.  At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all “foreigners” on sight as potential “hooligans” (World Cup 2002) or “terrorists” (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys).

Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive.  As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate “Gaijin Bath” at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers.  Good.  But again, Kyodo, do some research.  Arudou Debito

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

NATIONAL
Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave
BY SATOSHI IIZUKA, KYODO NEWS, courtesy of Olaf
DEC 30, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/30/national/tokyo-bathhouses-look-to-tap-foreigners-but-ensure-they-behave/

Bathhouses in Tokyo are taking greater steps to welcome foreigners visiting the capital by preparing a guidance manual and poster in several languages to help them understand the proper etiquette for communal bathing so they can avoid embarrassments.

“We would like to receive foreigners with warm hospitality so they can enjoy the culture of ordinary Japanese,” said Kazuyuki Kondo, who runs a bathhouse in Ota Ward.

Public bathhouses, or “sento,” which originally became popular during the Edo Period (1603-1868), are still in use, especially by people who do not have bathing facilities in the home.

After bathhouse operators in Ota and the municipal government completed the manual and poster, they distributed them to about 50 sento in the ward in March, with a view to attracting more foreigners visiting Tokyo for business or leisure, as the ward is home to Haneda airport.

The illustrated manual, written in English, Korean and both traditional and simplified Chinese, is intended for use by sento staff to communicate with foreigners.

It contains expressions such as, “The fee is ¥450,” “I’m sorry, but please remove your undergarments before entering the bathing area,” and “Please be mindful of other customers and enjoy yourself quietly.”

The poster, which shows a typical bathhouse layout and a flow chart for using it, also helps customers understand the sometimes complicated system.

Kondo, owner of Hasunuma Onsen, said the signs are effective and foreign customers are having no problems. He said many visit after learning about his bathhouse over the Internet or from acquaintances.

The Tokyo Sento Association followed suit and provided the same contents in manuals and posters to all bathhouses in the metropolitan area in November, and is considering spreading them nationwide in the near future.

“More and more foreigners will come to Tokyo as Haneda airport will increase its slots for international flights. What’s more, we have to prepare to welcome them ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020,” said Kondo, who previously headed the association’s Ota branch.

Every sento usually has several large baths over 50 cm deep. The temperature of the water is usually kept at around 42 degrees, and some even tap hot natural spring water, technically making them “onsen.”

Besides the basic function of bathing, sento are also community gathering venues that cross generational lines.

As of November, there were 709 sento in the capital, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. There are more in areas with many old detached houses and apartment blocks, some of which have no bathing facilities.

Sento have been closing by the dozens in recent years, due largely to the aging of the owners, a lack of successors and rising maintenance costs.

But now they are being re-evaluated as a kind of spa facility in cities and towns where people can relax inexpensively, according to the association.

“I don’t expect a surge in the number of foreign users, but I am sure sento have gradually become popular with them,” Kondo added.

“Sento can be a good tourism resource, as there must be foreigners who are looking forward to bathing in them, especially among repeat visitors to Japan,” said Masaru Suzuki, a professor at Obirin University in Tokyo.

“What is important is how to promote them to travelers. A useful way would be to ask foreigners who are living Japan to help us,” said Suzuki, whose specialty is tourism marketing.

He suggested that foreigners studying or working in Japan be asked to introduce sento through social-networking sites, such as Facebook.

Setting up a “free-of-charge day” for foreigners would also help them seek out their first bathhouse experience in Japan, he added.

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 6, 2014

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 6, 2014

Happy New Year to Debito.org Newsletter Readers!

Table of Contents:
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1) NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and 2) PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”
2) Best of 2013: What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting NJ in Japan?
3) Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)
4) Holiday Tangent: Debito.org cited in Cracked.com!

And finally…

5) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 70, Dec. 4, 2013: “In Japan, no escape from The Eye’s perpetual policing glare”
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1) NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and 2) PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”

You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that). It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China. This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors.

NYT: The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. […] Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12039

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2) Best of 2013: What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting NJ in Japan?

As the last post for 2013, let me ask you your opinion:

What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting or concerning NJ in Japan during 2013?

I will be doing my regular annual Top Ten recap in my next Japan Times JBC column (moved to Thursdays since November, so out January 2).

I’ve already ready written up and submitted my list to the JT, but I don’t want to influence your answers by doing a blog poll of options or anything like that. I’ll keep the question open-ended and ask for your feedback in the Comments Section.

So as 2013 draws to a close, I want to say thanks as always to everyone for reading Debito.org for yet another year. We’re only two years and a bit from our twentieth anniversary (as we were created on March 15, 1996! Read a brief synopsis of our history here.) Here’s to another successful (and hopefully hacker-free) year of reading and commenting on Japan and human rights issues.

(We had a number of comments, at http://www.debito.org/?p=12036)

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3) Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)

I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship. Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).

I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)

My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It’s a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12023

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4) Holiday Tangent: Debito.org cited in Cracked.com!

As the year-end holidays approach, Debito.org usually puts up topics that are more tangental and less serious. As Japan is going through something I consider to be very serious (a return to Prewar values and political systems), this is hardly the time, but I think I’ve said so far all that one needs to say about the issues for now in previous blog posts. So today, let’s look at a site that I have become quite a fan of: Cracked.com.

I used to read CRACKED magazine, but always found it to be an insipid copy of MAD Magazine. But online, it’s a place with an obnoxious, scatological tone that has thankfully graduated from its high-school smart-alecky roots. Their articles are some of the best diversions and procrastinations I’ve had over the years (they’re quite well referenced, too). It seems that writers from them are fans of Debito.org as well. Check out this site:

5 Innocent Gestures That Make You Look Like a Dick Overseas (cites Debito.org!)

http://www.debito.org/?p=11892

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And finally…

5) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 70, Dec. 4, 2013: “In Japan, no escape from The Eye’s perpetual policing glare”

Thanks once again for putting this article on the JT Online’s Top Ten for more than a day. Channelling Foucault’s Panopticon:

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In Japan, no escape from The Eye’s perpetual policing glare
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, DEC 4, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/12/04/issues/in-japan-no-escape-from-the-eyes-perpetual-policing-glare/
Version with comments and links to sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=12010

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That’s all for this month. Thanks as always for reading!
ARUDOU, Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 6, 2014 ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

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Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers.  Thank you as always for reading and commenting.  2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).

Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
The empire strikes back: the top issues for non-Japanese in 2013
BY ARUDOU Debito
JANUARY 7, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/06/issues/the-empire-strikes-back-the-top-issues-for-non-japanese-in-2013/

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat (see “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ,” JBC, Aug. 5).

10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.

9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.

8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability (“By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor,” JBC, June 4).

7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests (see “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right,” JBC, Sept. 1).

6. Xenophobia taints No. 1 cleanup

The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.

Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.

5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty

As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.

As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).

The Hague treaty seeks to codify and level the playing field for negotiation, settlement and visitation. However, Japanese legal scholars and grass-roots organizations are trying to un-level things by, among other things, fiddling with definitions of “domestic violence” to include acts that don’t involve physical contact, such as heated arguments (bōgen, or violent language) and even glaring at your partner (nirami). Put simply: Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. Thus, the treaty will probably end up as yet another international agreement caveated until it is unenforceable in Japan.

4. Visa regimes get a rethink

Two years ago, domestic bureaucrats and experts held a summit to hammer out some policies towards foreign labor. JBC pointed out flaws in their mindsets then (see “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese,” July 3, 2012), and last year they ate some crow for getting it wrong.

First, a highly touted “points system” for attracting highly skilled workers with visa perks (which JBC argued was unrealistically strict; see “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” March 6, 2012) had as of September only had 700 applicants; the government had hoped for 2,000. Last month, the Justice Ministry announced it would relax some requirements. It added, though, that more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries, were also necessary — once again falling for the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money.

In an even bigger U-turn, in October the government lifted its ban on South American NJ of Japanese descent “returning” to Japan. Those who had taken the repatriation bribes of 2009 (see “Golden parachutes for Nikkei mark failure of race-based policy,” JBC, April 7, 2009), giving up their accumulated welfare benefits and Japanese pensions for an airfare home, were now welcome to return to work — as long as they secured stable employment (as in, a one-year contract) before arrival. Good luck with that.

Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

3. Hate speech turns murderous

This was also the year that the genteel mask of “polite, peace-loving Japan” slipped a bit, with a number of demonstrations across the nation advocating outright hatred and violence towards NJ. “Good Koreans or bad, kill them all,” proclaimed one placard, while another speaker was recorded on video encouraging a “massacre” in a Korean neighborhood of Osaka. An Asahi Shimbun reporter tweeted that anti-Korean goods were being sold on Diet grounds, while xenophobic invective (even rumors of war with China) became normalized within Japan’s salacious tabloids (see here and here).

It got so bad that the otherwise languid silent majority — who generally respond to xenophobia by ignoring it — started attending counterdemonstrations. Even Japan’s courts, loath to take strong stands on issues that might “curb freedom of speech,” formally recognized “hate speech” as an illegal form of racial discrimination in October, and ordered restitution for victims in one case (a Zainichi Korean school) and a year of actual jail time in another (for harassing a company that had used a Korean actress in its advertising).

However, leading politicians offered only lukewarm condemnations of the hatred (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “dishonorable,” months after the fact) and no countermeasures. In fact, in April, Tokyo’s then-governor, Naoki Inose, slagged off fellow Olympic candidate city Istanbul by denigrating Islam — yet Tokyo still got the games.

Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).

This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:

2. LDP holds both Diet chambers

In July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party accomplished its primary goal by chalking up a landslide victory in the Upper House to complement its equally decisive win in the Lower House in December 2012. Then, with virtually no opposition from the left, it got cocky in its deceptiveness.

Shortly after the election, Deputy PM Taro Aso enthused aloud about Nazi Germany’s policymaking tactics, advocating similar stealth for radical constitutional reforms before Japan’s public realizes it. Later it became clear that LDP reform proposals (excising, for example, “Western” conceits of individuality, human rights and a demystified head of state, and replacing them with the duty to “respect” national symbols, the “public interest” and “public order”) might be too difficult to accomplish if laws were actually followed. So off went Abe’s gaijin-handlers on overseas missions (see “Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6) to announce that reinterpretations of the Constitution’s current wording would resolve pesky postwar restrictions.

Meanwhile, Abe was being rebranded for foreign consumption as a peace-loving “ethnic nationalist” instead of (in JBC’s view) a radical historical revisionist and regional destabilizing force. Not only was his recent visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine repackaged as a mere pilgrimage to Japan’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, but Japan’s remilitarization was also portrayed as a means to assist America and the world in more effective peacekeeping operations, as seen in Abe’s “human security” and “proactive peace policy” neologisms.

As always, a liberal slathering of “peace” talk helps the munitions go down. Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For curtains are precisely what are being drawn with the passage of:

1. The state secrets law

In a country where most reforms proceed at a glacial pace, the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets took everyone by surprise, moving from the public-debate back burner to established law in mere weeks. We still don’t know what will be designated as a “secret,” although official statements have made it clear it would include information about Fukushima, and could be used to curtail “loud” public rallies by protesters LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened to “terrorists.”

We do know that the punishments for leakers, including journalists, will be severe: up to 10 years’ jail for leaking something the government says it doesn’t want leaked, and five for “conspiracy” for attempting to get information even if the investigating party didn’t know it was “secret.” It’s so vague that you can get punished for allegedly “planning” the leak — even before the leak has happened or concrete plans have been made to leak. Although resoundingly condemned by Japan’s media, grass roots and the United Nations, it was too little, too late: Stealth won.

The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).

After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.

In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.

May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito

NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”

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Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog. You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that).  It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and  — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China.

This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors. Arudou Debito

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THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL
Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism
Published: December 16, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/opinion/japans-dangerous-anachronism.html

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. The law covers national security issues, and it includes espionage and terrorism.

Just before the passage of the law, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, likened those legally demonstrating against the state secrecy law to terrorists in his blog on Nov. 29. This callous disregard of freedom of speech greatly raised suspicion of what the Abe government really has in mind. The Japanese public clearly seems to fear that the law will infringe on press freedom and personal liberties. In a public opinion poll conducted by the Kyodo News Agency, 82 percent of respondents said that the law should be repealed or revised.

Mr. Abe is, however, arrogantly dismissive of the public’s concerns. “The law does not threaten ordinary life,” he said after the law’s passage. Showing an alarming ignorance of democracy, Gen Nakatani, a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated that “the affairs of government are distinct from the affairs of the people.”

The law is an integral part of Mr. Abe’s crusade to remake Japan into a “beautiful country,” which envisions expanded government power over the people and reduced protection for individual rights — a strong state supported by a patriotic people. His stated goal is to rewrite the nation’s Constitution, which was imposed by the United States Army during occupation seven decades ago.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s draft constitution, made public in April last year, deletes the existing article on the guarantee of fundamental human rights. It adds that the people must respect the national flag and national anthem. It states, “The people shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public order and public interest.” It also says that the prime minister will have the power to declare a state of emergency and suspend ordinary law.

Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.

ENDS

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PS:  I am loath to quote this source, but even Fox News on New Years Eve turned on its ally: “Yet the visit to the [Yasukuni] Shrine makes many Americans think twice — wherein lies the real danger point in the Pacific — the crazy kid running North Korea, Chinese adventurism or a resurgence of the kind of nationalism that led Japan into war and conquest?”