2020 Tokyo Olympics drops Ainu performance from its Opening Ceremonies, despite 2019 law officially recognizing and promoting them as an indigenous people in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  One thing I’ve been meaning to mention, now that it’s finally made the international news, is the fact that the Tokyo Olympics have decided to showcase Japan’s latent bigotry after all.  Despite being the first officially-recognized ethnic minority in Japan, the Hokkaido Ainu indigenous people, once included in the 2020 Opening Ceremonies, have found their performance dropped due to “staging production issues” (enshutsu no tsugou).

Debito.org’s take is that including the performance for the world to see would have too clearly contradicted the (postwar-created and carefully-curated) narrative of Japan as a homogeneous monocultural monoethnic society.  In contrast to how numerous Opening Ceremonies have showcased the diversity of the hosting country, this is an enormous slap in the face to the Ainu not only socially, but also legally, given the 2019 law that finally recognizes them as Japan’s indigenous people, and promises to help promote their culture. First chance they get, the GOJ fumbles it.

We’ve started talking about this on Debito.org elsewhere, but let me open up a dedicated blog entry for discussion.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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I first saw this terse article in the Hokkaido Shinbun in early February:

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東京五輪開会式でアイヌ舞踊不採用 「演出の都合」
北海道新聞 02/07/2020, courtesy of EJ
https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/article/390859?fbclid=IwAR1Oy88_R4RjR2oO8zqDzqublXZwu9J4CAbfCV57XDQryXBfXDsO8klZK4s

今夏の東京五輪開会式のプログラムで、アイヌ民族の伝統舞踊が採用されない方針であることが6日、関係者への取材で分かった。内閣官房アイヌ総合政策室が道アイヌ協会側に1月末に説明した。五輪開催決定後、道や同協会が舞踊の披露を政府に要望。前向きな感触を得て、道内各地で練習会も行われているが、演出上の都合としてプログラムに盛り込まれない見通しとなった。

政府関係者や大会組織委員会関係者は「時間も限られており、演出の都合上、難しい」としている。一方、マラソン・競歩の札幌開催(8月6~9日)に合わせ、発着点となる大通公園の西1丁目広場でアイヌ民族が舞踊を披露する機会が設けられるよう、札幌市と協議するという。

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Weeks later, the overseas media finally picked up on it:

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Tokyo Olympics: dance by Japan’s indigenous people dropped from opening ceremony
Move raises questions about status of Ainu ethnic minority, whose cultural identity Japan is legally obliged to protect
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
The Grauniad, Fri 21 Feb 2020 (excerpt)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/21/tokyo-olympics-dance-by-japans-indigenous-people-dropped-from-opening-ceremony

Japan’s commitment to the rights of its indigenous people has been questioned after organisers of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics dropped a performance by members of the Ainu ethnic minority from the Games’ opening ceremony.

Members of the Ainu community, originally from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, had been expecting to showcase their culture to the world in a dance at the Olympic stadium, but learned recently that the plans had been scrapped.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee said the performance had been dropped from the ceremony due to “logistical constraints”.

“Unfortunately, this particular Ainu dance performance could not be included because of logistical constraints related to the ceremonies,” it said in a statement to the Guardian.

“However, Tokyo 2020 is still deliberating other ways to include the Ainu community. We are not able to provide further details of the content of the opening and closing ceremonies.”

The public broadcaster NHK said last week that an Ainu ceremonial dance would be included in a cultural exposition at the Tokyo National Museum in March, but Ainu representatives said performers, who had already started rehearsing, had been anticipating an appearance on a much bigger stage.

“Everyone was looking forward to performing at the Olympic stadium,” said Kazuaki Kaizawa of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, which started discussing the inclusion of an Ainu element in the opening ceremony with organisers three years ago.

“We are willing to talk to the organisers about how Ainu culture can be represented during the Olympics,” Kaizawa told the Guardian, adding that the Games’ organising committee had yet to explain its decision. “We’re hopeful something can be worked out.”

The decision sits uncomfortably with recent moves by Japan’s government to improve the status of the Ainu. In May last year, parliament passed a law that legally recognised them as Japan’s indigenous people, obliging the government to protect their cultural identity and ban discrimination in employment, education and other areas.

The law was intended to officially end more than a century of discrimination that began in the late 19th century, when Japan’s Meiji-era government took control of Hokkaido, where the Ainu had been hunting, fishing, practising an animist religion and speaking their own language since the 1300s, according to experts.

But after opening the island to Japanese settlers, the government forced the Ainu, who it referred to as “former aborigines”, to assimilate.
Rest of the article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/21/tokyo-olympics-dance-by-japans-indigenous-people-dropped-from-opening-ceremony
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Now Reuters via The Japan Times:

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Olympic snub: Dance of Japan’s indigenous Ainu dropped from opening ceremony
REUTERS, FEB 22, 2020, courtesy of JDG
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/22/national/ainu-dance-olympics/

Olympic organizers have dropped a dance by Japan’s indigenous Ainu people from the opening ceremony of this year’s Summer Games, a representative of the minority group said on Friday.

“Ainu dancers will not be included in the opening ceremony in Tokyo,” said Kazuaki Kaizawa, an official at the Hokkaido Ainu Association in Sapporo.

They were told there wasn’t room to fit the dance into the July 24 performance, Kaizawa said.

“We had been preparing and it is a disappointment, but we hope there will still be a chance for us to show Ainu culture elsewhere.”

Officials at the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rest of the article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/22/national/ainu-dance-olympics/
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Debito.org Reader HJ is critical of the portrayal of the issue:
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HJ:  What an atrociously shoddy article, full of double-speak and outright mistakes. Reuters should be ashamed.

“The Ainu people, a hunting and gathering people thought to be descendants of early inhabitants of Japan…”

“Thought to be?” What nonsense! They are an ethnic minority that has unequivocally been present in Japan just as long or perhaps longer than Wajin.

“…who were later displaced mainly to Hokkaido…”

Good grief, what painful abuse of language. They were not “displaced.” They were murdered and had their land stolen, then forcefully assimilated into Wajin society, much the same as the native peoples of North America were done by white invaders.

“The Ainu people…have recently been getting more official attention from a state that had once colonized them.”

Again, egregious misuse of language. They were murdered in droves, had their land stolen, then were forcefully assimilated, then had their very existence denied all the way up to the level of the national government. Referring to that as “colonization” is maliciously dishonest.

“…many Ainu fear identifying as other than Japanese…”

How did this make it past an editor? Newsflash: ALL AINU ARE BOTH AINU AND JAPANESE. “Ainu” and “Japanese” are not mutually exclusive terms. How incompetent must one be to write an article about a (finally) state-recognized Japanese ethnic minority group and simultaneously describe members of said group as if they were somehow not Japanese? […]
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ENDS
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020

mytest

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Hi Blog. The Diamond Princess cruise ship case (which has been discussed extensively on Debito.org this past week) fell within my SNA monthly column window this time, so here’s my take on it. Enjoy. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Japan’s Botched Response to the Coronavirus
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, Feb 17, 2020

SNA (Tokyo) — The drama of cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently moored at Yokohama and quarantined by Japan’s Health Ministry due to some of the 3,700 passengers and crew testing positive for the coronavirus, is a human rights crisis.

The Covid-19 outbreak that originated in China has killed more than 1700 people and sickened tens of thousands.

Here’s my take: Surprise! I’m not going to argue that the prison-ship conditions are due to racism, but more a matter of official stupidity…
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Read the rest at the Shingetsu News Agency website:

Visible Minorities: Japan’s Botched Response to the Coronavirus

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Senaiho “Hair Police” School Bullying Case Update 4: Civil lawsuit launched against school bullies, gaining traction with other international couples

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest update from NJ resident Senaiho (previous updates three, two, and one here), whose daughter was not only bullied by school peers, but also had her hair forcibly cut by schoolteachers in public, causing her so much PTSD that she dropped out of school.  This is yet another incident of Japan’s institutionalized school bullying of children of color that Debito.org has long called “the Hair Police“. Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)

The difference now is that Senaiho has launched an actual civil court case.  Over more than a year now Senaiho has tried other channels, such as taking it before school authorities and asking for criminal investigations, and all they have gotten is stonewalling and official coverup.  So now he’s suing the bullies themselves.  Let’s see what precedent this is going to set.  Given that others are now standing up against insanely intrusive Japanese school conformity rules (“burakku kousoku”, including warmer clothes in winter, freedom of assembly or travel, and even the color of their underwear!), this may be a landmark case.  Meanwhile, Senaiho offers an update with a newspaper clip below.

Well done, Senaiho. Stay the course!  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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From: Senaiho
Subject: Brief update
Date: February 7, 2020
To: debito@debito.org

Hello Debito,
Included is an attachment from the Yamanashi Nichi Nichi Shinbun 2/5/2020 shot of an article that just gives an announcement of our case in the court, so I won’t bother to translate it all. It does state that the parents of the bullying perpetrators say in documents filed in the suit, that they think bringing awareness of N.J. and prejudice/bullying of these people should be the job of the schools, not theirs as parents. I think the school will argue that is the job of the parents, and not the schools. Passing the buck.

What I can say in addition to the article is that while we have a mountain of documents that the school and city officials provided according to the freedom of information request we made, there are glaring gaps in these documents — so much extensive redaction made that they become almost worthless. What we hope to do through this suit is use the power of the court to force the school officials and city office to provide us with complete files of information regarding us. This should include the names of the co-conspirators that engaged in the bullying, who hopefully can be brought into this suit at a later date.

There is also the option of reopening the criminal case with the prosecutors office if we find additional evidence. We have three years to do this.

We have also been contacted by several people from various parts of the country asking for advice on what they should do in their own bullying/futokou cases. Our impression is that children of international and mixed marriage couples suffer disproportionately at the hands of bullies, and school officials which is no surprise to you I am sure, but they also tend to suffer more because of a lack of support and isolation in getting information they need. There is also a great variety of policies that various school systems have around the country which makes it more confusing.

Thanks again for everything. Sincerely, Senaiho

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The article:


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“Gaikokujin Shimin”: Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki (kinda) answers a query about the racialized application of this term that officially makes Japanese into “foreigners” (UPDATED)

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Hi Blog. As we’ve talked at length before (it even topped my annual JT Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2019), city governments have been using a racialized definition of local residents, namely “Gaikokujin Shimin“, that officially classifies even naturalized Japanese citizens, Japanese children with foreign roots, or anyone with connections to a foreign land as “foreigners”. Submitter ABC below offers a letter sent to the Kawaguchi City Government asking for clarification of the uses and effects of this official term. Thankfully, Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki Nobuo answered Submitter ABC.  I enclose the query, Okunoki’s answer, and my attempt at a translation of the answer, below.

I’ll comment on the contents afterwards.

SUBMITTER ABC’S LETTER (reproduced here with permission):
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From: ABC
Subject: A letter to and response from Kawaguchi mayor Okunoki
Date: January 30, 2020
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Hi Debito,

I wrote some posts in the comments section for “The annual Top Ten for 2019 of human rights issues as they affected NJ residents in Japan” upon seeing that the article mentioned Kawaguchi as using 外国人市民 like other municipalities. As a resident, this didn’t sit well with me and I wrote a letter to the mayor. I received a response today so I’d like to share what I sent (via snail mail) and what I received.

I’ve redacted certain sections and text for privacy reasons.
Sincerely, ABC

PDF: Letter to Mayor Okunoki 0113 redact (click on link to download)
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MAYOR OKUNOKI’S ANSWER (click to expand in browser):

TRANSLATION BY DEBITO (WITH CORRECTIONS COURTESY OF DEBITO.ORG READER LOVERLAKKUMA IN THE COMMENT SECTION)
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(Basic official opening greeting)
Thank you very much for sending your opinion as a Letter to the Mayor. I will answer your questions below.

First, why does the “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism” have the definition of “Gaikokujin Shimin: Not only foreigners who are local residents, but also includes residents who have taken Japanese citizenship, and residents who have cultural backgrounds in foreign countries”? It has that definition because even if someone has naturalized and taken Japanese citizenship, it is assumed (soutei) that they might still require some assistance in regards to multicultural coexistence.  Please understand that this doesn’t mean our city has any intention of forcefully framing (gouin ni minasu) people who have taken Japanese citizenship as foreigners.

Second, why did the “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism Ver. 2.0” delete that definition? While we were promoting multicultural coexistence based upon our “Revised Kawaguchi City Aims for Coexistence with Multiculturalism”, we were formulating our “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism Ver. 2.0”. This does not mean that we revised the definition, but rather that we came to the conclusion (toraeta) that our efforts to support foreign residents — including naturalized people — had progressed enough (tsuchikawareta) to gain public understanding for those who may need support, so there was no need for further clarification of that definition.

For the third question “Under what concepts and framings is the city taking the initiatives toward foreign residents living in Kawaguchi City (short-term and/or long-term)?”:  We are engaging in promotion of our multicultural co-existence by reframing the previous concept of “foreign residents,” from “recipients of support” (shien no taisho) to “providers of support” (shien suru gawa) in the “The Kawaguchi City’s Vision for Multicultural Co-existence Ver 2.0.”.  This extols (utau) the vision of a city where people can participate positively in city planning (machi zukuri).

Fourth, how is Kawaguchi City envisioning the future for foreigners (and the descendants of children of international marriages)? Our city presumes that in future the number of foreigners will continue to increase. We want these people to serve as leaders in local community for any public need such as fire drills. We are seeking our goal by incorporating foreign perspectives, regardless of nationality, for the successful building community that all residents in our city can live peacefully and securely. We look forward to your understanding and cooperation.

January 29, 2020. OKUNOKI Nobuo, Kawaguchi City Mayor

PS: The people in charge of this matter are in the Cooperative Promotional Section of the city government. Yoroshiku.

ENDS
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO:

Y’know, I think Mayor Okunuki has his heart in the right place.  I think he’s genuinely trying to assist people of diversity live peaceful lives in his district like any other person.

However, any discussion of how problematic it is to use the term “Gaikokujin Shimin“, i.e., grouping together people as “foreigners” regardless of nationality or legal status (based upon an explicit presumption that some people who have taken the trouble to naturalize still want to be treated as foreign), has been obscured in pat Bureaucratic Japanese sloganeering.

All this talk linking “multicultural coexistence” to “machi zukuri” (as if it wouldn’t happen anyway without the need to officially differentiate between people by assumed “foreignness”) doesn’t progress beyond the “sekkyokuteki” boilerplate, or the mutual-appreciation society of “let’s be nice to foreigners” that still manages to offset people with any foreign connections as somehow “different” and “worthy of special attention”.  It’s as if Neanderthals still exist, and we’re still pondering policy on to integrate them into our Real-Human community.

Calling them “Gaikokujin Shimin” doesn’t help.  It’s precisely the problem, actually, as the tool of offsetting.  And just saying that the “definition has no forceful intent to presume that naturalized citizens etc. are foreigners” doesn’t make it so.

In sum, I think this is one of the best examples in favor of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, about how language and the very words we use constrict cognition and world views.  The fact that Japanese bureaucrats cannot under any circumstances step out of their linguistic bubbles, and consider what it’s like as a minority in Japan dealing with the embedded racism of Japanese policymaking, is demonstrated very well here.   Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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