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  • PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 29th, 2012

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    Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader Stephanie sent me this eye-opening email a few days ago. I’ll let her tell the story (citing and redacting with permission), and comment at the very bottom after the article being cited:

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

    November 25, 2012
    Hello Debito. I really don’t know if this falls under an area of concern that you might want to get involved with but…

    My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.

    She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.

    Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.

    One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo.

    I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page.

    My issue is not that some people feel this way. My issue is that this magazine is for elementary students who, after reading it, believe it. I have plenty of issues with America but also feel very strongly about not writing or portraying all of America based on one area of America. This author says things that are downright wrong and then goes on to tell the kids that they should always seek to find out the truth … that angers me. Can you imagine a counter part article printed in the States about Japan based on one person’s narrow vision of an area and experience in Japan. I have a friend who works in a H.S. in Japan — the students write graffetti on the walls and throw desks out the window — should I write an article for all US children to read about the downfall of Japanese schools?

    I will write the magazine, the author, and whoever else I can think of but truly I think we will only turn an ear if more than one person writes to discuss this.

    Is this something you can write about? Maybe call or write the magazine?

    Also, above the magazine name on the front of the magazine and the back page that I am sending you it says something about “JA group” If this is backed by JA do you have an idea of who I could write with JA as well? Please let me know. And thank you. Regards, Stephanie

    PS: I have an email below that I am preparing to send the Chagurin magazine regarding the article I just wrote you about. I can only send this in English — unless you, or someone you know might be willing to translate this. It would need to be on a volunteer basis as I really can’t afford to pay anything beyond 1,000 yen at this time — and my own Japanese is poor beyond the daily chit chat. Thanks, Stephanie
    —————————————————————–

    Dear Chagurin Editor,

    My 6th grade daughter borrowed her school’s “Chagurin” magazine, December 2012 issue. She enjoys reading the Chagurin magazine, but was surprised when she read the article “Hikontaikoku America no kodomotachi”

    While this article does have some truths — the majority of the article is not only negative but also filled with generalizations and falsehoods.

    It is not true that in “doko no machi ni itemo” you will find parks filled with tents. We live in Japan, but we are from America. In all of our experience of living and traveling America — we have never seen a park with homeless people in tents. It may be true for a few select areas of America, but not as Mika Tsutsumi writes in her article. This is incorrect and a huge generalization.

    It is not true that one filling at the dentist costs 150.000 yen. That is nowhere near true and is completely outrageous. It would cost around $100.

    And it is not true that because of the expense of filling one tooth people can not interview and get jobs. That, again, is a huge generalization.

    I am saddened that you would allow such a negative article with several falsehoods to be printed for young children in Japan to read and believe!

    We love Japan. We love America. Both countries have strengths and weaknesses. Both can learn from each other. But to write an article in either country that takes an experience of one person in one area and then paint it as truth for the whole country — that is just wrong.

    I come from a multi-cultural background and I raise my children here in Japan so they too can experience a new culture and way of thinking. It is disappointing for me to have my daughter read this article and then talk with her teacher, telling her that the article was not true and the teacher responds that it is written and so must be true. And sadder yet, to have the Japanese children that read this article actually believe it.

    I believe the only way to make this right is to write a retraction of the article, clarifing the falsehoods and generalizations.

    I know an ALT who teaches at a public school in Japan. The students at that school write on the walls, don’t listen to teachers, sneak off and smoke in the school, and throw desks out the window. Shall I take this experience and write an article for a children’s magazine in America about the demise of the Japanese school system?

    Of course I would not. But I hope you can understand what I am saying. I am truly disappointed in the printing of this article. I look forward to your response.

    Sincerely, Stephanie
    ENDS

    UPDATE JANUARY 2013:  CHAGURIN EDITORS RESPOND, ADMIT ERRORS IN ARTICLE

    =======================================
    CHAGURIN MAGAZINE COVER DECEMBER 2012
    Note that this magazine is put out by the JA Group “as a magazine to further the education of children’s dietary lifestyles”), and is recommended by the Japan National Parent-Teachers’ Association.

    FIRST PAGE OF ARTICLE
    The author is credited as Tsutsumi Mika, a native of Tokyo who was at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (commonly known as UNIFEM) and Amnesty International’s NYC division, before landing her current job at Nomura Securities America. One of her books is also entitled “Report from the Field: The Poverty Great-Power Country of America” (Iwanami Shoten Inc.).  The article’s headline: “Children in Poverty Great-Power Country of America”, where in the subtext notes that the site of the “American Dream” is now a place where one in seven people live in poverty, and children are also being affected (“sacrificing” (gisei), is the word used). “Let us learn what is happening in America, and think about it together!” is the conclusion.
    (all pages enlargable by clicking on image)

    SECOND PAGE OF ARTICLE
    Question raised: “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America?”
    Answer proffered: “There are many tents where people who have been forcefully evicted from their homes have to live.” (Among other claims, the article notes how this can be found in parks in any town — and Tsutsumi even takes care to note that it affects Whites as much as Blacks and Latinos!)

    THIRD PAGE OF ARTICLE
    Question raised: “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the more fat children there are?”
    Answer proffered: “Because all they can afford is junk food, children with decrepit bodies and teeth are increasing.”

    FOURTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
    Question raised: “Is it true that even if you get sick, you can’t go to hospital?”
    Answer proffered: “It’s the world’s most expensive place for medical costs, where one hospitalization can cost you all your assets.” This is also the page with the claim that a single tooth filling will cost you 150,000 yen, and the suspiciously bad teeth on a photographed child.

    FIFTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
    Question raised: “Is it true that one out of every two school students teachers quit school within five years?”
    Answer proffered: “This is one of the many evils (heigai) from tests that only evaluate people based upon point scores”. [Seriously, this criticism despite Japanese society being famous for its "examination hells".]

    SIXTH PAGE OF ARTICLE
    Question raised: “Is it true that the number of children [sic] who graduate high school and enter the army are increasing?”
    Answer proffered: “With the poverty, future options for youth are disappearing”.

    SEVENTH PAGE OF ARTICLE (the best one yet!)
    Question raised: “What can we [readers] do so that we don’t wind up like America?”
    Answer proffered: “If you have questions, find things out for yourself, and develop an eye that can see through to the truth”. It claims that Japan is on the same road as America, what with the homeless, the TPP and resultant outsourcing overseas etc. One of the questions that Tsutsumi suggests we subject to critical thinking is “Why are hamburgers so cheap?”

    BACK PAGE OF MAGAZINE
    Gives profiles of the editors behind this propaganda piece. The editor of this article, Mogi Kumiko, notes how it was so frightening that it made her break out in goosebumps.

    Mogi encourages people to send in their feelings about the article. That address is:

    Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Ichigaya Funagawara Machi 11.  Postcode 162-8448
    Chagurin’s website is at http://www.ienohikari.net/press/chagurin/
    The sponsors, Ie-No-Hikari (funded by the Japan Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives), can be found at http://www.ienohikari.net/ja/
    (And in case you were wondering, the doggerel name for the magazine apparently comes from Child-Agricultural-Green.)

    COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Y’know, I am quite partial to the succinct definition of “propaganda” given by The Problem of the Media (2004) author Robert W. McChesney: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” That I believe is exactly what is happening with this magazine.

    I have seen these kinds of dirty tricks rolled out by the goons in Japan’s agricultural sector before. Remember the whole rice kyousaku back in 1995, when rice had to be imported, but the “good stuff” was blended with Japanese, American and Chinese-made Japonica, while the lower-quality stuff was sold as is and called “Thai rice” to make sure a firewall was maintained between “Japanese” and “foreign” rice? I do, and The Ministry of Dirty Tricks itself (Nourinshou) has done the same thing with other agricultural goods, including apples back in the 1990s and imported beef/longer Japanese intestines back in the 1980s.

    Of course, now we have a more international audience in Japan’s schools, who can see through the propaganda because they have experiences outside of Japan. It’s immensely disingenuous for author Tsutsumi to advocate a critical eye toward the truth yet fall into the propagandizing camp herself. Especially to an audience of Sixth Graders nationwide. But catch them while they’re young, and you will instill fear in them of not only America, but the outside world for a lifetime.

    Wonder when the JA will give us the same straight poop on Japan’s irradiating food chain. Arudou Debito

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

    UPDATE JANUARY 2013:  CHAGURIN EDITORS RESPOND, ADMIT ERRORS IN ARTICLE

    51 Responses to “PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms”

    1. pondscum Says:

      What this article says is not untrue.

      It is, however, extremely exaggerated.

      To be fair, I remember this kind of stuff in my school textbooks written about Russia, Africa, and some Asian countries when I was a kid.

      Hollywood movies portray every African nation as a poverty-stricken police-state. Every Middle-Eastern country is full of terrorists, etc.

      I recall growing up being brainwashed that “Everyone country besides America is poor, communist country with no freedom.”

      We should all write emails to this magazine and criticize it, certainly. But, we shouldn’t be surprised.

    2. TJJ Says:

      There are more homeless people in blue tents in Osaka parks than in any other city I’ve ever visited.

    3. Jair Says:

      A valid topic and data turned upside down into perfect fearmongering.

      “How lucky we are to be in Japan, it’s the most civilized place in the world” seems the only possible conclusion for the sixth graders. Bonus points to Ms. Tsutsumi for stating that joining the TPP and ending blatant protectionism will endanger Japan.

      This really remembers me of a Japanese-Spanish friend that used to tell me “I’m positive they educate kids so they don’t know about the rest of the world and can’t speak English on purpose”. That way people don’t have any options apart staying in Japan and accepting whatever living conditions the ruling elites impose.

    4. Kevin Says:

      Abhorrent. I have no other words. Letter writing commencing.

    5. David Says:

      Ok yes, the elaborated answers are exaggerated and over the top, and in many ways just outright wrong, and yes it’s clearly aimed to play to stereotypes of America and there are no sources mentioned or references cited, and … so on, but, if you take a look at just the short question and answers (not the longer explanation mind you)…

      “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America?”
      Well, yes. The housing crisis forced many people out of their homes. Many people were, and are still being, evicted. Everything else after that is rubbish but that much IS true.

      “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the more fat children there are?”
      Kinda stretched this one a bit, but, still, not far off. Child obesity is on the rise in America. It’s a huge issue that the FLOTUS has been working to raise awareness on.

      “Is it true that one out of every two school students quit school within five years?”
      I don’t know where she got that number from, but what she’s talking about is the problems with No Child Left Behind. Which, objectively, hasn’t been the most successful program. Calling it out as flawed isn’t exactly sinful.

      “Is it true that the number of children [sic] who graduate high school enter the army?”
      Yes, certainly, given that started in the Bush-era, but with the economy where it is today many graduates would rather join the armed forces than go to college with no promise of a job and a guarantee of debt.

      So, I dunno, I found myself saying while I read this, “Man, these stories are ridiculous, and that picture of that kid is just stupid, but, if you really had to answer the questions “Is the housing crisis forcing all kinds of Amercan families out of their homes?” “Does poverty increase the likelihood of obesety?” “Is the American education system flawed to the detriment of students?” and “Has the economy and unemployment rate forced high school graduates to forgo or postpone college and debt in favor of guaranteed, immediate employment, such as the army?”
      the answer to all of them would be Yes.

      It’s just everything else about the article that sucks. This author took real problems and turned them into anti-American propaganda, that much is certain. But the problems are real. I’m not saying she was right to spout all that drivel into the minds of impressionable children though. I’m just saying, if we’re going to critique the article, maybe we should try to do it not out of being offended at having some of America’s less proud areas highlighted, but rather how it’s being used to affect the minds of the Japanese youth.

    6. john k Says:

      If you have questioned based upon a closed ended argument the response shall either be yes or no…no other outcome. It is not the answer that is wrong, it is the question. The question has been designed to illicit such a reply to be sued in such an incorrect manner. The Q&A is factually correct. But beyond that it is false, since any inference is purely subjective and without foundation and not supported by any evidence.

      For example:
      “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America?”

      Firstly you need to define “without homes”..does this mean no where to live…or simply living in rented accommodation?

      So the question raises several points…which are not addressed simply because it would add weight and fact rather falsehoods.

      For example..if the question is phrased thus:

      ““Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America is because of the financial banking crisis”
      or
      “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America is because there are not enough homes built quickly enough”
      or
      “Is it true that the number of people without homes is increasing in America because people no longer wish to buy their home”

      etc etc

      Simply adding a qualifier completely changes the Q&A….not adding the qualifier, allows the author to polarise the answer to their own personal agenda, while being “correct” that being a simple “yes” or “no”…but, beyond that, it has no meaning and is extremely poor journalism. Claims/statements require facts to support them. There are none presented. Anyone with 2 brain cells can shoot this down..

      You should also present this to a more wider journalistic audience too.

    7. Icarus Says:

      Uh oh. Someone hasn’t been paying attention to what’s happening in the US. Even just a 5 minute search would have provided you with all of the sources to your questions:

      Homelessness in the US:
      http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/526/homeless-facts.html
      (Source: PBS)

      Info: “One approximation of the annual number of homeless in America is from a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which estimates between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness. According to a 2008 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report an estimated 671,888 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2007. Some 58 percent of them were living in shelters and transitional housing and, 42 percent were unsheltered.”

      More info from NBC news: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/18/10177017-homeless-numbers-down-but-risks-rise?lite

      ************************

      Proliferation of Tent Cities:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tent_cities_in_the_United_States
      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26776283/ns/us_news-life/t/hard-times-tent-cities-rise-across-country/#.ULbZDIb_JTZ

      Info: “From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

      Nearly 61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they’ve experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report’s release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.”

      *************************************

      Here’s the link between poverty and obesity:
      http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/60/11/2667.full
      (Source: Mayo Clinic, Published on the American Diabetes Association website)

      Info: “In 2010, 15.1% of Americans lived in poverty based upon family income census data (6). With the economic downturn, the number of people in the U.S. living in poverty rose to 46 million people—the greatest number in more than 50 years (6).

      Are poverty and obesity associated? Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S. (2,6). In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity (Fig. 1A). Counties with poverty rates of >35% have obesity rates 145% greater than wealthy counties.”

      *******************************

      Here’s the figures for 1 in 2 new teachers (not students: that’s a mistranslation) quitting within 5 years:
      http://www.nea.org/home/12630.htm
      (Source: National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, Published on the National Education Association website)

      Info: “Nationally, the average turnover for all teachers is 17 percent, and in urban school districts specifically, the number jumps to 20 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future proffers starker numbers, estimating that one-third of all new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years.”

      Comment: Have you never heard of “No Child Left Behind” and calls for more teacher accountability? The No Child Left Behind Act has been widely criticized by teachers for teaching to the test, or in other words create artificial standards to make it look like children are learning a la higher test scores.

      **************************************

      Link between poverty and military recruitment:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/03/AR2005110302528.html
      (Source: Washington Post)

      Info: ” Such patterns are pronounced in such counties as Martinsville, Va., that supply the greatest number of enlistees in proportion to their youth populations. All of the Army’s top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.

      “A lot of the high recruitment rates are in areas where there is not as much economic opportunity for young people,” said Anita Dancs, research director for the NPP, based in Northampton, Mass.”

      *************************

      The only page that has issues with it is the page about health care. American health care is clearly the most expensive in the world, with over 60% of all reported personal bankruptcies caused by medical bills (http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jun2009/db2009064_666715.htm). However, as far as I can tell, the cost of getting a cavity filled ranges in price from $100 to approx. $450. The price varies based on the material of the filling and type of care. And that photo is obviously a kid wearing fake Halloween teeth.

      However, the topics and answers being addressed here are not over-exaggerations at all. If you haven’t noticed we just re-elected a president because he wasn’t going to shun half of the population to benefit the wealthy, and because he was the first president to make major improvements to the health care system in the US. Also, for what people consider to be the wealthiest nation in the world, the fact that these problems exist to the extent they do is simply unacceptable. There is clearly a lot to learn from the problems the US is facing, and having a 6th grader take a look at this Q&A is certainly not unreasonable.

      The conclusion of the article is to be educated. Look around yourself and don’t trust the media solely for information; actively talk with people about these things, and look for solutions.

      Apologies for the mistranslation. Mea culpa. I have made the corrections. Thanks for this informed comment.

    8. Benjamin Says:

      I think all countries have this type of propaganda and it works both ways. I am not a fan of the USA and its false portrayal of itself or the way USA abuses other countries or the way that USA culture seeps into my daily life. However I agree that to negatively use issues in this way is just pure prejudice especially a person in trusted authority. This is essentially child abuse.

      As an adult if someone tells me that homelessness is bad in the USA I will go and research for myself and compare to the UK and Japan. As a child in school I am more reliant on trusting the person who gives me the information.

      My personal prejudice is that I consider the culture of Japan and USA to be very similar and far removed from Europe. However I have an American friend who thinks exactly the opposite. So in reality we see what we want to see and have to step back once in a while. This article does not do that and therefore is purposely offensive and uninformative.

    9. Loverilakkuma Says:

      It’s interesting to share critical pieces of international topic with students at elementary school–and I personally don’t have problem with that. I don’t disagree with her over the problems America is now facing, in general, it’s real–especially about public education. If you don’t, I strongly urge you guys to read Diane Ravitch’s blog(http://dianeravitch.net/) ; she provides tons of information about the issues (i.e., dismantling public schools, outsourcing teachers, rise of charter schools, you name it). I personally believe Ravitch will be more than happy to see people learning the problems her country is facing today.

      But my applause on the article stopped right at the moment I read the pages shown above–I was struck dumb with the way it is formatted. I’m referring to Q&A. It’s calculating and misleading, and I would even say ‘despicable’. Why? That’s because the questions sound more like pre-arranged–rather than novelty. It gives me an impression that an imaginary questioner seem to know the answers already, so it’s kind of like knee-jerk reaction.

      I don’t believe it’s solely Tsutsumi’s fault—and we shouldn’t place our blame entirely on her for article’s nastiness to the detriment of its entire quality. It’s all about lack of professionalism that leads to poor editorship and affects the integrity of publications and journalism. That’s what I can see about the article on JA. Japan really needs wise people like Bob McChesney & John Nichols who have been advocating for restoring the quality of journalism and media(Free Press) in their country for many years. And better educator like Diane Ravitch, since Japan is screwing really badly on education reform—especially English as foreign language education.

    10. Martin A Says:

      I think the original submitter has overreacted a lot. After having read through the article, I find it, as another poster said, not entirely inaccurate at all. Yes, the author grossly overstates the cost of dental treatment (a random check of a few locales on bracesinfo.com shows between $80-400, depending on how much is needed and how many surfaces – a lot less than ¥150,000 to be sure, but not cheap), and that kid’s teeth do look pretty fake.

      Yet, I can’t help but wonder, given the prevalence of homelessness and unemployment in the states, which is almost certainly higher than Japan, whether all these, which the author seems to find inconceivable, might have led her to believe the worst about the US and to think that dental care was indeed so expensive. It certainly does not excuse her slovenly reporting and disregard for the very advice to develop eyes that can see through to the truth, but given the lack of any real social welfare provision in the states, I can understand how she might think a filling is so astronomical. I do wonder where she got the 50% drop out rate, though, and as you point out, Debito, it is quite risible that a publication for Japanese schoolchildren criticizes a high-stakes testing regime.

      Even with these criticisms in mind, at least someone is sounding the alarm that there are real threats to Japan’s social welfare provisions, as wanting as they may be. However, it would be nice if those sounding that alarm would base their arguments on facts, and not what can only be misinformation at best, or unfounded speculation at worst.

    11. Cabby Says:

      Unfortunately I think most of the points raised in the article are indeed true. The problem is how they are represented. They manner in which this is written generates misunderstandings and reinforces stereotypes. I am going on the translations to English. The problems cited are real and the stats do bear them out but again these could have been better presented and in context, politically and historically.

      New teacher attrition rates are terrible, it is no secret that the impoverished are more prone to obesity, homelessness is a sin that has continued to increase year after year, many Americans do not visit doctors or hospitals because of not having insurance or having ridiculously high deductibles and bad co-payment plans.

      A few weeks ago PBS aired a special on poor children in the U.S. Worth a watch to see the real picture.

      – It is testament to our educations that we as readers with critical faculties can see that the points raised are real social problems. The point of this blog entry, however, is how a) they are presented (as you and others have noted) b) to a young audience without significant training in the critical thought the author is advocating, c) couched as a contrast to how Japan is (or is becoming) as a cautionary tale, and d) in a way unsophisticated enough to present these conditions with the appearance of unmitigated absolutes e) about a foreign society that isn’t going to answer or correct the absolutes. Then we get to the sensationalism (e.g., the allegedly fake teeth in the illustration and the misquoted prices) and the subterfuge (the odd linkage to international trade/TPP as the source of problems, etc.)…

      Finally, consider the shoe on the other foot — if an article of this tone and content appeared in a grade-school level newspaper overseas funded by the farming lobby and endorsed by the PTA with the same type of content about Japan, the first people banging on the publisher’s door in protest would be the Japanese embassy, and then the internet denizens will follow with accusations of racism and anti-Japaneseness. The fact that not a single poster on Debito has cited anti-Americanism as the author’s motive (in fact, a few comments I did not let through were explicitly anti-American themselves; moreover with no substantiation for claims) is testament again to the sophistication of our audience here: We can acknowledge problems in societies of origin without glossing over them with blind patriotism. Those sorts of issues I would like to be part of this discussion on Debito.org.

    12. Markus Says:

      That photo of the kid with the fake teeth reminds me (not in a good way) of the anti-Japanese propaganda posters of WWII, where the Japanese were caricatured with extremely disgusting, long front teeth. Such portrayals are founded on racist ideas, no two ways about it. Whoever decided to print this photo as an “example of poor oral health” in America is a racist, in my opinion.
      Are Japanese people who have studied at the supposedly high quality Japanese universities really this oblivious to why it is wrong? I can’t imagine so because they seem to think that how they were portrayed 60 or 70 years ago by the US government was racist and untrue.
      Ironically, US citizens are usually seen around the world as caring very much for oral hygiene and are more likely to have misaligned teeth corrected, much more so than most Europeans.
      The awareness of the importance of oral hygiene in Japan, on the other hand, seems not very far spread, judging from appearance. The Japanese should be the last people to point fingers at others for their oral hygienic standards.

    13. dosanko Says:

      I tend to agree with some of the other posters here that actually reading the article in its entirety leaves less of a bad taste in one’s mouth than reading just the Q&As, but still:

      The Q&As are awful. These short “answers” are about as good at “answering” the question asked as a presidential debate participant. I think the only answer that comes close to answering the actual question is the last one regarding how not to become like America.

      And the writer didn’t help herself out by starting with the assertion that you can find tents clustered together in the parks of any town in America. I was just in the States with my family a few months ago; went to all of the parks in my hometown and adjacent town (not hard, only three parks total); didn’t see any tents. This is not to deny the existence of tent cities or the very real homeless problem (as supported by Icarus’s helpful post), but the use of どこの町にも shows the reader that this writer is pushing an agenda right from the get-go.

      Other points that popped out to me, in addition to the ones already cited by others, include:

      The No Child Left Behind Act does require most schools to provide student’s names, addresses and phone numbers to military recruiters. It does not require schools to provide financial information as asserted in the article. (http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/2002/12/00_section9528.htm)

      According to the US Dept of Agriculture, the average food stamp benefit per person is $130 month, or about $1.44 per meal. Not nearly enough (in my opinion), but considerably more than the 40 cents mentioned in the article. (http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/public-assistance-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-myths-realities.aspx#_edn15)

      Roughly 10% of people in Japan do not participate in either gov’t or employer health care, which is a bit different than saying that “all” (すべて) participate. (http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/85466/E92927.pdf)

      That’s what I found on a quick scan of the document and I’m eager to see what others may have turned up.

      – Right. And this degree of error and unmitigated example might fly for analysts at Nomura Securities (where they should lose money for bad calls), but one would hope that journalistic ethics and editorial checks might be de rigueur at this magazine catering to children nationwide: If you’re making broad statements about society, you had better double-check that the facts are correct. Nope, looks like Chagurin’s Mogi just bowed to “sensei” and took her at her word. Thanks for the research.

    14. Benjamin Says:

      I can understand that this forum needs to be moderated but it is important to understand that there is a anti-american stance in Japan from non-Japanese people, me included. It is nothing to do with the people but more to do with the corporations and government.
      The USA influence over North Korean talks, car industry etc etc show the Japanese government as corrupt and manipulated.
      How is this relevant to the article? This is how propaganda works you take an already bad feeling and pile on some extra less important information. If however as had been said earlier some contributors have been blocked all this will do is increase their beliefs. By all means have the last say but be careful what you remove.

      As for teeth just watch Austin Powers to see how the English teeth are portrayed. I had good dental until Maggie removed it. My dentist in the UK was very good if not a bit barbaric not giving me any pain killers until I was 18. My dentist in Japan is also very good so comparatively they are the same.

      – Relax. I am being careful as always about what I filter. I of all people understand healthy skepticism towards any government or person in power. And, semantics please, I did not block the commenter — just the comment. The (two) comments I did not let through were essentially Tsutsumi-style all over again, with similar blanket assertions but even less substantiation. Different comments that made the same points more sophisticatedly AND had links and stats to back them up were let through, so the same viewpoints with more light, less heat, are being represented.

    15. dosanko Says:

      Well, she wasn’t at Nomura for very long (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20100404x1.html). I think my favorite quote is “So I joined Nomura, where everything works efficiently and fast —”. (Nothing works efficiently OR fast at Nomura.)

      She continues to demonstrate her loose nature with facts: “On Sept. 12, 2009, around 2 million people demonstrated in Washington D.C. against President Obama’s policies…” In fact, reputable estimates ranged from around 60,000 to as high as 800,000 (though the high number was by one of the sponsors, so somewhat suspect).

      Then she gets Citizens United completely wrong by saying “corporations will be able to contribute as much as they like to candidates’ political funds”. And then digs a deeper hole with, “Even companies in the United Kingdom or millionaires from Dubai will be able to fund the candidates”. No less an authority than Wiki sums it up succinctly with: “the ruling did not affect the 1907 Tillman Act’s ban on corporate campaign donations (as the Court noted explicitly in its decision), nor the prohibition on foreign corporate donations to American campaigns, nor did it concern campaign contribution limits.”

      I’m sure the list of errors goes on, but I just don’t have the time…

      – Completely irrelevant tangent, but I love how the first two photos of Tsutsumi on the JT site show her in EXACTLY the same pose in two different places (could have been photoshop, but the clothes are different). Down to the position of her fingers. /tangent.

      Although via the JT interview it’s clear that Tsutsumi is a smartie and has lots of experience at getting to the heart of the matter, she obviously has an axe to grind, and in her fervor and verve to become a bestselling author doesn’t bother to render some of her cherry-picked facts accurately. Critical eye or no, if you’re going to tackle problems like these, you had better get it right, or hope that somebody is fact-checking you so when you do go public with your assertions, you are getting it right.

      No, I think Tsutsumi is playing to an editorial bent of poking holes in the formerly-emulatable economic superpower of the US so she escapes poverty herself. Picking on the US is easy, as it is a soft target in Japan; I can hardly wait until she turns her critical eye on Japan with the same verve; somehow, however, I don’t think that will sell as well to the “Han-Nichi Haters” or make the kiddie magazines.

    16. Mike Says:

      It has been my experience that Japanese who are hell bent on bashing America have experienced something over there that made them uncomfie and outside their comfort zone. They go into the all-or-nothing mode and start with the fat people, homeless everywhere etc generalizations. What is interesting about America, and what makes it different than Japan is that Americans will be openly critical about their country and government, but dare you say something critical about Japan! all hell breaks loose. True, America has issues. There are homeless, many ex cons or vets, some drug addicts, some just down on their luck. I must tell you however, even with a limited skill set, I have found it much easier to find a job in the U.S. or territory than in Japan. Id like to point out what makes the U.S. a much better option to live for me vs. Japan:

      1. In the U.S., there isnt the concept of “gaijin” or caste system. Ok, deep south, you might get it, but you can move to the west coast or any other progressive state you want. Your a gaijin in Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, no matter where you move to. Visit any hotel, gas stand etc throughout the U.S., its mostly likely run by somebody from India or the Middle East. check out who is working in the hotels, mostly foriegner, and nobody blinks an eye about it. Good luck on finding that here. “why is that gaijin working here?” or “koko wa gaikoku mitai” if too many of us in one place.

      2. Americans are spontaneous, and pragmatic in their thinking. If you want somebody to think and take care of everything in your life, then move to Japan. You need to get from A to B in the states, you need a car, and most of us had one in high school. We learned how to repair it, pump our own gas, and get around in it. In Japan, many people dont even have a license. Individualism is not promoted in Japan, and I have never met so many unhappy people in my life. Your free will is crushed for the good of the whole. If the U.S. is such a backwards place, then why so many Japanese go there to study and work?

      3. America is a progressive country. It takes time but it happens. We have a mixed race president. Whats progressive about Japan? I had more rights and less stares 10 years ago, seems things are moving backwards here to me.

      So, in summary, there isnt a utopia on the planet earth. Japan certainly isnt one, evident by all the suicides the train is delayed for every week it seems.
      America is making huge strides in development these days. its a new day, an exciting time. The natural gas developments, more rights for all, some states even decriminalizing pot. I think its a kind of revolution going on; people questioning what works, what should go- like an ongoing experiment. Japan just sits back, watching, adapting what and claiming they invented it but trashing the rest if it doesnt fit the unique Japan model. Japan is not an experiment, its too risky for that so anything risky is squashed. At least Mika could of used better examples like gun control and the drug problem on the border; those are legit problems over there.

    17. Kirk Masden Says:

      My own take on this is similar to the comments regarding the elements of truth in the article. I would add, though, that it takes an outstanding writer to present the issues chosen in simple language without being simplistic. I don’t think the author was up to the task.
      単純化せずに、複雑な現象を子どもにも理解しやすい言葉で説明することは難しいことです。この記事を書いた人は残念ながら単純化の落とし穴にはまってしまったと思います。

      – Tsutsumi’s bio says she has umpteen books published, including one with almost the same content as this article. One of Japan’s major publishing houses thinks she’s up to the task. I have, however, seen much dreck put out by Japan’s publishing houses (even the respectable ones) that also make the same oversimplistic overgeneralizations and do not do their job of fact-checking “sensei”. I think the EDITORS are not up to the task, either.

      I’ll go one further: The sponsors of this magazine and their ministry have a long history (I have given a couple of examples) of propagandizing for the sake of keeping Japan’s agricultural markets closed. This article in particular has a xenophobic bent, moreover aimed at children, and in light of Japan’s imminent rightward swing has more portent than has been discussed by commenters so far.

    18. DeBourca Says:

      Any articles in Chagurin about the poverty levels in small towns in Hokkaido? Or among Japanese women and children?Any discussions about what they can do about it?

    19. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @ #16 Mike – “You need to get from A to B in the states, you need a car, and most of us had one in high school. We learned how to repair it, pump our own gas, and get around in it. In Japan, many people dont even have a license.”

      This is one point that’s squarely in Japan’s favor. In America, someone who can’t drive a car — and this includes everyone with impaired vision, epilepsy, and just delayed reaction time due to advanced age — is practically a second-class citizen, and neither the government, nor private employers, do anything to alleviate this. (In Japan employees typically get their train passes subsidized by their employers. In America, people typically get parking places at their workplace, subsidized by their employer. But only people who can drive to work can claim this benefit, whereas no one is banned from riding the train.)

      Nobody actually hates non-drivers, but seemingly all of society is arrayed against them. Just 30% of all jobs in the USA are accessible by transit, meaning that 70% of the jobs in the country require an automobile… or some very strong legs. Can you think or a race, ethnicity, or religion that 70% of all employers would refuse to hire? I can’t.

      Im surprised Ms. Tsutsumi didn’t mention this. An entire class of people in America has been made functionally disabled, whereas in Japan, where automobile ownership is below critical mass, they can lead perfectly normal lives.

    20. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Debito

      >Although via the JT interview it’s clear that Tsutsumi is a smartie and has lots of experience at getting to the heart of the matter, she obviously has an axe to grind, and in her fervor and verve to become a bestselling author doesn’t bother to render some of her cherry-picked facts accurately. Critical eye or no, if you’re going to tackle problems like these, you had better get it right, or hope that somebody is fact-checking you so when you do go public with your assertions, you are getting it right.

      Honestly, I don’t know what kind of motives she has exactly in her works. It’s arbitrary and you can make any kind of educated guess like we are doing now. But what is clear to me is that the way the effect of public discourse is created, once the article gets published and reaches to the readers, makes us learn what kind of person she is as a person and a professional journalist as well. We sometimes have difficulty in passing judgment especially when an author is new to some readers. The distinction between person and persona is blurry. That’s when we sometimes fall into a trap like she did.

      Before I became a regular reader of your blog two years ago, I was critical of you when I read your JT article about the JET Programme crisis at the very first time. I became so mad at the tone of language—at first, because I knew it wasn’t providing any solution to the problems surrounding the government’s public policy– due to ignorance by administrative officials. But, I was patient enough to hold off my initial bias and keep reading other JT articles you wrote. I was very critical of Japan’s problems even before I found your blog, and that enabled me to fix my initial position and avoid taking wrong guys (i.e., CG, Rimbaughrroid or Glenn Beck-like apologists) to my side. So, our initial biases can be changed or unchanged depending on the works an author publishes and our capacity to critique them objectively and analytically.

      It seems like she’s been in the dough for awhile, since she has published several works in Japanese. I haven’t seen her works written in English—if she has ever published in the international media (like JT or the Asahi Evening News). See how it would work for her, should she have such an opportunity. I bet she’s gonna have a hard time to clear of the roadblocks. I don’t really know what her persona looks like. As a person, she may not be a bad witch—at least different from creepy apologist gangs. As a professional writer, she has several problems, and there are a lot of room to work on to become a more competent, and sapient analyst. I’m gonna say that an absence of systematic professional guidance, peer-reviewing, and strong editorship pretty much explains how far Japanese journalism is left behind international media. I know American journalism has similar problems, but this is exactly the difference between the two. And, it is very crucial. Her bio claims solid connections with decent civic organizations, so I think (I hope) there’s still a glimmer of hope for her professional/moral improvement in the future, depending on how she makes use of her connections in the future, i.e., having good journalists such as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), Martin Fackler (NYT), Hiroko Tabuchi(NYT), Michael Zielenziger(journalist, an author of “Shutting Out the Sun”) as a key mentor. Is that a wishful thinking?

    21. trustbutverify Says:

      Frankly, the most disturbing quote in this whole post was:

      …the teacher said it was written so it is true.

      That’s it?

      If the kids aren’t given the opportunity of having the same kind of discussion on this magazine article as is happening here — albeit at a 6th grade level — what is the point of even introducing the magazine into the classroom?

      Lots of things are written that are not true, and are matters of interpretation. That’s a skill the kids need to learn.

    22. dude Says:

      Debito – excellent topic. As always, thank you for hosting this discussion.

      Each nation, group, whatever, has a tendency to think of “others” in black & white, absolute terms, and themselves in color. This is partially because of a lack of familiarity. Right now, Japan is faced with potentially following the same path as the U.S. is currently on. Becoming more multi-cultural, accepting immigrants, etc. From the 1950′s through the 1980′s, America, the occupier, was the rich, dominating country that held Japan’s fate in its hands.

      I think if you read this article through Japanese eyes, the true parts are true, and the exaggerations are…not that important. The conclusion is that America is not what it used to be, and Japan needs to be careful, or else it will end up like America (gasp!). I do like the part at the end where it encourages readers to ask questions, and see for themselves. This is not common in Japanese education.

      Still, as I have learned from Japanese and Chinese people, any perceived insult must be countered immediately. The Chinese government controls the content of Hollywood films by openly stating that any film with a Chinese villain (or a Chinese person portrayed in a negative way) will not be allowed in Chinese theaters. If a director casts a Chinese person in a negative role, they are cutting the potential financial success of their movie (This almost never happens).

      As stated above, the Japanese embassy (overseas), and right wing organizations (in Japan) jump on any perceived negative portrayal of Japanese people or Japanese culture.

      I will now begin writing protests to the publisher. I hope you all tell your friends to do the same. It really is all about the numbers people.

    23. Michael Says:

      Let’s do a Japan version for the kids:

      In Japan, there are no parks and nature-except for Okinawa where the government doesn’t care enough about the people to try to stimulate the economy. by paving everything in sight.

      In Japan, Daddies only come home every other Sunday for 4 hours because they are PRETENDING TO BE WORKING or going out with their Co-Workers to places named after crayon colors like Pink.

      In Japan, it’s OK for Daddy to have a few girlfriends and for Mommy to get very dressed up to take English lessons.

      In Japan families can’t go to the movies anymore because for 4 people the cost is $104!

      Artificial food was invented in Japan by Ajinomoto and others.

      When you go to the doctor in Japan, an old man tells you stuff that was proven wrong 30 years ago and you are not allowed to ask any questions. Then you get 4 medicines that probably don’t work because the medicine company takes the doctor to one of those “pink” place.

      In Japan dentistry is cheap but many people have black teeth although they brush for 10-15 minutes three times a day.

      If you take a special train line in Western Tokyo, you can see people who “fly” on to the train tracks.

      If you come from a country other than Japan, in Japan, men in blue suits on bicycles will often stop you to say hello.

      Older people in Japan do not have peripheral vision.

      This is fun, can I keep going? I am not even a sensei……

    24. Benjamin Says:

      Being openly critical of your government is an important factor missing in Japan. If you sit and chat with Japanese people they all have issues with what is happening but fail to express them in the right way. Confrontation is hard for all of us but as it has been part of my normal life it is easy for me.
      I spent a year working as a salary man and my colleague who basically babysat me hated having to express her opinion because it would then make her responsible for the outcome. This is how Japanese people are taught. So I am not surprised the teacher said if it is written it is true because normally no one will normally commit to paper anything they are unsure of.
      The trouble being that then anyone who claims to be an expert is believed without questioning.
      I have not done the research yet but recently there are claims on pepsi zero that drinking it helps reduce the fat intake of greasy food. Essentially drinking Pepsi when eating KFC is somehow healthy. A bit different to some campaigns in the USA trying to reduce the mega-size helpings of fizzy drinks to combat obesity.

      Back to the article. Has anyone sent it to the American Embassy/Consulate for comment. Or maybe send a copy with translation to your representative in America. If it directed against the English I would be copying it to my MP and possibly one of the lower forms of printed press.

    25. Bob Says:

      While I agree there is a degree of truth to the article, it is most definitely written in an agressive manner meant to re-inforce the myth that the US is a dangerous, horrible country while Japan is the shining light. This piece of fluff is expected for the adult market who have already formed their narrow, biased opinions. But to force feed it to elementary school children is inexcusable.
      It also is worth mentioning that if the tables were turned, the indignation would reach the highest political circles here in Fallout Japan.

    26. Mike Says:

      “Has anyone sent it to the American Embassy/Consulate for comment.”

      the U.S. consulate and embassies job is to promote relations between the U.S. and Japan, or as some have commented, to promote U.S. joint ventures with Japanese companies in Japan and to issue student visas to sweet Japanese wanting to study abroad. Much of the staff is fluent in Japanese and are most likely in the newbie stage, so the US embassy is the last place in Japan I would send for a comment on anything negative about the U.S. “If you dont like it here, why you stay” is the response I would expect. Perhaps one of the more liberal news papers might be a avenue to exploit, but Im guessing that representing US views abroad is not part of the mission of dept state in Japan.

    27. Baudrillard Says:

      I like Michael’s version of Japan for Kids, keep it coming.

      About what Bob says, This piece of fluff is expected for the adult market who have already formed their narrow, biased opinions. But to force feed it to elementary school children is inexcusable.”

      Indeed, that was my first take when seeing the article- is this really for kids? It looks like something out of the pages of Friday or some other sensationalist gossip mongering tabloid for adults.

      Is this training for kids to read this crap as adults?

      Its not all that far away from Gaijin Hanzai either, in style and laughable (as Debito says) reprinted photos of the esteemed author in the same pose.

      It looks a bit like a cheap Thai or Philippines gossip mag on recycled paper from the 90s.

    28. Karjh12 Says:

      All this confirms that I made the correct decision to pull my now 10 year old son out of Japan
      and even out of the Japanese Saturday School here in Melbourne Australia which is largely financed
      by the Japanese government and supplies the school with Japanese textbooks.

      We have our issues and problems here too but are trying to address them in critical and hopefully
      positive ways . My son’s school encourages this .I was in pre bubble burst Japan and almost got
      taken in .My son is now asking interesting thoughtful questions.

    29. Benjamin Says:

      Maybe the US embassy works different to British one but part of their job is to support those living in the country. I would not expect a fight from my Embassy but definitely some diplomacy and an acknowledgement that it is not acceptable. I would advise everyone to be in contact at some level with their requisite embassies if for nothing else than to get the odd invite to a free lunch.

      My partner finally had time to read through the article and she agreed there is nothing untrue in it but the focus is very negative. Part of the article is about the US Army recruitment via an on line game. This has been reported on Japanese television and my partner talked about it as if they would watch people on line gaming and contact them. However from what I have read today it was recruitment through recruitment offices and exhibitions rather than through the internet direct.
      A lot of articles where claiming a type of press ganging but historically in every country recruitment into the army has been a bit dodgy. The scary part for the US is that military service could easily involve actual conflict where in many countries military service is just preparation. However I have worked with plenty of ex-army in the UK and all of them have done active service of some kind.

    30. Markus Says:

      Michael, your version is funny and true. How about some “fun facts” about LDP member’s ties to Yakuza involvement or a certain individual named “Yoshio Kodama”?

      #22, Dude, you say “Each nation, group, whatever, has a tendency to think of “others” in black & white, absolute terms, and themselves in color. This is partially because of a lack of familiarity. Right now, Japan is faced with potentially following the same path as the U.S. is currently on. Becoming more multi-cultural, accepting immigrants, etc. From the 1950′s through the 1980′s, America, the occupier, was the rich, dominating country that held Japan’s fate in its hands.”

      Yet, I think it is valid to single out Japan because its unfamiliarity with the outside world is inexcusable given we’re living in 2012 with globalisation, the internet, and cheap travel having been around for over a decade now. Japan calls itself an open, democratic country, and the world in general seems to be satisfied at taking this “tatemae” at face value.

    31. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Micheal #23

      You should make a picture book!

      @ Stepanie, et al,

      I was tempted to translate her letter, but then realized that there is no point. She will only be regarded (at best) as being hypersensitive to criticism of her country, and get treated like a slightly mental child, or (at worst) she will be seen as a trouble maker and (yet more!) proof that ‘gaijin’ are selfish racists who can’t fit in, and want to force their world view on others (I have seen this happen before). This is why my kids don’t go to a state school.

      I understand that the article is based on some facts about America, but it is presented in a context that seeks to ‘America-bash’, and is contrasted with the imaginary perfect Japan (of ‘myths of Japanese uniqueness’ fame). In that sense it constitutes misleading, bad social science, and black propaganda. The Japanese have the constantly irresistable urge to mimic American culture as a symbolic proof of their modernity, whilst at the same time deriding it whenever possible, since the mimicking has undermined what they perceive to be ‘genuine’ Japanese culture. I suppose it’s a kind of projection based on a perceived ‘selling-out’ of their own culture. The bashing is not limited to the US. I think that the Japanese also derive a kind of superior self-satisfaction in identifying the failings of Western nations. When the riots broke out in London last year, so many of my colleagues thought it was ever so clever to tell me that the image of the English gentleman was now exposed to be a lie, and that all Brits were in fact hooligans, despite the fact that the image they held of the English gentleman came from 1950′s Ealing comedies, and Sherlock Holmes.

      Anyway, the main point being that any formal response to this rag will ultimately end with the Japanese portraying themselves as the victims, and Stephanie in the role of ‘white-devil’.

    32. Mike Says:

      “Maybe the US embassy works different to British one but part of their job is to support those living in the country. I would not expect a fight from my Embassy but definitely some diplomacy and an acknowledgement that it is not acceptable”

      During the fukushima disaster, I recall that embassies other than the U.S. were relocating their people to their respective countries. The base people were evacuated on gov flights, but for the rest of us, you were on your on. There was a protest I guess, so the US embassy said they would fly you to HK, one way…lol, but this was only after Germany and France were getting their people out of here, dont recall the US embassy taking the lead on it. The US embassy supports its mission in Japan, keeping the Japanese happy.

    33. Billy-Bob Says:

      About those teeth. They look strikingly similar to what is advertised as a set of ‘Billy-Bob Caveman’ – down to the chip and stain.

      http://www.amazon.com/Billy-Bob-Teeth-Caveman/dp/B002RCR5FM

    34. Saine Says:

      Perhaps we should write an article called “Children in the Racial Discrimination and No-Human Rights Country of Japan”
      We have data and documented cases so the article would be factually correct.

      Then we could ask Tsutsumi if this would be a good way to present Japan to American 6th graders.

    35. dude Says:

      #30 Markus – I am not excusing their behavior – just trying to shed some light on (what I perceive to be) their mental state.

      For example, do you spend much of your day worrying about relations between Sunni & Shiite Muslims in Iran? If you are in Japan, this is a distant issue.
      For a 2nd example, most Japanese people were born and raised in Japan. They are very familiar with things Japanese. When you give them a story with generalizations and exaggerations about a place far away, they will tend to believe it, and not question the author.

      Now that we know that (when the subject is about a foreign country) most Japanese people will gloss over the facts, and believe this crap as written, the solution is simple: zero tolerance. Start writing letters. Just don’t be surprised if most Japanese people don’t care.

      #34 – Saine – I love it. But it would never be allowed in U.S. schools. What if you made one copy, and distributed it as an ebook online? I would LOVE to see a Japanese language version of this…

    36. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Love Michael’s ideas.
      I was thinking pretty much along the same lines – take a “truth” and present it as a “whole truth” (particularly to an age group without much critical thinking).
      I am reminded of a Japanese TV show which showed how “Australia has a unique version of Chasey (“Tag”) in which the boys kiss the girls”. Growing up in Australia, we knew of it but it was pretty much an urban myth – no-one actually played it.
      We could well apply the same version to Japan, a-lah Michael. “Japan has vending machines that sell girl’s underwear” – apparently it is true, there are maybe a couple of machines in the whole country. The “whole truth” version is not as appealing as the “truth” version”

      And really, do kids need something of this depth and darkness along with “Christmas goodies to make with pancake mix” and “Make your own rubber stamp from an eraser”?
      It’s just like the news when they cover “Four Chinese ships impounded for illegally fishing in Korean waters” – nothing at all relevant to Japan, except for demonising the Chinese.

    37. giantpanda Says:

      Well, the Western world does the same to Japan, to some degree. Nothing like a classic “only in Japan” story to amp up the image of Japan as a deeply weird country where people are not normal. Witness the “bagel head” craze which according to western media was supposedly spreading across Japan like wildfire and turned out to be just some random people doing wierd sh*t to their foreheads with saline solution. http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/72373847.html

      – Let’s not start getting overly relativistic here, especially when you say “the Western world does the same to Japan”. Look, there’s an enormous difference in scope, scale, degree, and intent between a) pointing out the weird and esoteric and b) holding up another society AS A CAUTIONARY TALE. If Tsutsumi wished to point out the problems and possible wrong paths that Japan should not be taking in future, that’s fine. But she doesn’t, really. She points out the problems of one other society (exaggeratedly if not outright incorrectly) and uses it as a example for how Japan should not behave and become — as if there is a definite path of convergence between Japan and the US, and Tsutsumi needs to burn her image of the US in effigy to illuminate the path out.

      And she does this to impressionable school kids, not fully-formed adults, need we bear mentioning again? As has been pointed out numerous times within this very blog entry. Are you reading these comments and giving them your full attention, or are you merely tossing in an ill-thought-out example just to exercise your fingers or assuage your cultural-relativity reflex? Don’t even.

    38. Charuzu Says:

      Apropos of children, this article:

      http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21567419-family-firms-adopt-unusual-approach-remain-competitive-keeping-it-family?frsc=dg|b

      may be of interest to many .

      – More appropos of the NYT Donald Keene article, methinks.

    39. Norik Says:

      Now that the shoe is on the other foot

      http://www.cracked.com/article_20118_5-things-nobody-tells-you-about-living-in-japan.html

    40. john k Says:

      #38 Charuzu

      The BBC covered this recently too:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00y0jkm

      Sorry for the slight digression.

      – Jeez, what is this fixation on adoption all of a sudden?

    41. BenMcC Says:

      Nobody likes their dirty laundry aired in public and this article does a pretty good job of making the US look bad. While this “journalist” raised some valid issues (yup, healthcare, fat kids, and poor people are problems), I am a bit dismayed at the low level of journalism that was involved here – especially the obviously fake teeth picture. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised though, Japanese TV often rolls out “experts” to provide opinions on current events. How many times have we seen Dave Spector on TV here as some sort of “expert” on the US. At least he has some credentials… I suppose. It seems that she has published two books here in Japan on the same subject as this article and is seen as some kind of expert. I called it! I’ll bet the content of this children’s article comes directly from her books. You also won’t be too shocked to know that she received literary awards for at least one of the books.

      I think when you look at her profile it is pretty clear that she is a leftwing nutjob (I’m not exactlty a rightwinger but she makes me look like Newt Gingrich). She went to New York State Univeristy and then got a masters at City University in New York. She worked for the UN and then at Amentsy International. I’m guessing her eduction has been pretty one sided and her work experience was even worse. Here is a link to her Official Website http://mikatsutsumi.org/ (You can send her comments through the site)and one to an article published in the Japan Times. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20100404x1.html Again, read these and understand who this person is. Unfortunately kids are not equiped to understand that they need to question the motives of an author. Even adults rarely do it.

    42. Doug Says:

      I think everyone might find this interesting. Give it a read, and Ben, in spite of her past education and work experiences this might change your impression. People do change for various reasons.

      http://eminism.org/blog/entry/142

      I would still be interersted in the motive for writing such an article in the way she did.

      Cheers

      – Yes, thanks for this. It’s funny how the Japan Times profile of Tsutsumi doesn’t mention her marriage to xenophobic politician Kawada Ryuuhei. Also funny that it renders one of her schools as “New York State University” (which doesn’t exist — I think they’re referring to the SUNY system, but without knowing what campus this is we can’t evaluate the school; it’s like saying she went to the University of California). Sloppy.

      As for Tsutsumi’s motives, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that she knows a heckuva lot about the shortcomings of the American system (having spent so much time there) but won’t apply her critical thinking to the Japanese system, at least not in public. She clearly has an investment in this system (as a politician’s wife), and she’s doing very, very well out of it, becoming so much of a left-wing elite that she can jump to the right.

    43. Masako Says:

      Media and Reporting:

      Creating a media lighting rod. An article written in Canada, entitled “Are Canadian Universities too Asian”, in one of Canada’s widely published newsmagazine created a lot of “attention”…It is worth a study to see what the perceptions are and what the reporting of it leads to.

    44. DeBourca Says:

      @Ben with the “leftwing nutjob” comments; You can’t let it lie, can you? The problem with the article is the uncirtical acceptance of the criticism of the US while conveniently ignoring the huge social problems in Japan (Many of which are thanks to the influence of vaious US governments; eg Koizumi’s dismantling of social protection on the urging of his buddy George W Bush). She is spot on with the “fat kids” and the poor people, as you so sensitively put it. The US is a hole for many people living there.

    45. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @42 Doug

      Thanks for the link. Turns out she is a witch disguised in a little girl with a red head hoodie. Now I will have to reconsider what I said in my previous post (#20). Hypocrisy comes home to roost especially when a western educated Japanese unleashes her/his demon as right-wing, xenophobic, nationalist in the making once back in Japan. Tsutsumi might want to befriend with right-wing vixens like Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann because she seems to have the same wavelength. She’s far cry from many writers contributing to an international language media (i.e., JT, Asahi Evening News). Not even close to a left-wing journalist Katsuichi Honda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katsuichi_Honda), a famous reporter who not only made the investigative report on Vietnam War, but applied his critical perspectives to Japan’s cover-up of the Nanjing Massacre. It seems unlikely she will follow the same path as Honda did 42 years ago.

    46. Norik Says:

      Stephanie, here’s my opinion as a mother, currently living in Japan. You say you don’t speak Japanese, but I believe you’ve already heard of ijime. There was a case , I think Debito -san missed it, about a girl with NJ mom, who killed herself because of this ijime. Although the media didn’t dig much around it, as they do with other cases, it seemed that the girl was teased and bullied because her mom comes from a poor country.
      http://www.asyura2.com/10/nametoroku6/msg/804.html
      The links in the press are not active , so the the info about the case is only from blogs, but you get the idea. Articles like the one you present here create misconceptions, which can lead to ijime. You can explain that to your girl’s teacher, and ask for a chance to make presentation and explain the truth. You can call your BoE and mention the ijime again. If you decide to write to the magazine , mention ijime- recently much attention is given to the ijime problem, so I guess they won’t overlook your complaint

      – Thanks for your advice. But Point of Order: “I think Debito-san missed it.” Why this needless dig at me? Especially when you yourself “didn’t dig much” around Debito.org, because if you had, you would have found no fewer than four blog entries mentioning the Uemura Akiko Suicide you are referring to. I can’t be everywhere at once and Debito.org will cover and archive what it can. But do a bit of research before making nasty (and false) claims or don’t bother posting here again.

    47. emi Says:

      hi folks… i’m the blogger who wrote about tsutsumi’s xenophobic position re citizenship statute. i also have a japanese blog (or two) where you can read tsutsumi’s entire column on the topic. i recommend those of you who read japanese to read her own words nd decide for yourselves.

      http://d.hatena.ne.jp/macska/20081209/p1

    48. Baudrillard Says:

      About Tsutumi’s husband, Kawada Ryuhei, who Emi above says on her website is a rightwing Xenophobe.

      Kawada is the HIV positive man who was one of those who sued the Gree Cross coroparation after a tainted blood products scandal. From Wikipedia,

      “He has expressed a desire to work on issues of health, welfare, and labour. He has also indicated he will form a Green Party of Japan based on the Rainbow and Greens which supported his campaign. He belonged to Your Party in December 2009.”

      So Emi may be right, but how does his green politics tie in with that? Any evidence that he is a racist/fascist?

      – Well, that’s the thing. I too find it disappointing that both of these social-justice activists only see social justice in terms of nationality, meaning as soon as a foreign element is involved, slam go the fairness doors and Japan has to be protected from the outside regardless of logic or political bent.

      Remember also that Kawada is a member of “Minna no Tou“, which is an odd mishmash of center-right/libertarian bents that from what I can make out basically want to attract voters who are too left for the LDP yet too right for the DPJ (or, of course, can’t stand any major party). Libertarian types also often bridge the spectrum of Left and Right. But Japanese-style libertarianism it would seem does not disavow xenophobia, as the opposition by some politicians to the revisions to the Nationality Law using scare tactics (as mentioned in Emi’s blog) about fraudulent citizenships demonstrate. The point is, Kawada is a member of a political party with an agenda. Moreover, once you become a proponent of a soft-target cause that spans the political spectrum (such as protecting Japan from bad foreign influences), you can jump right and left at will, as these two are doing.

      Emi has already sent a link about the distaff side of this couple here. As for more about Kawada and his opinion about the 2008 Nationality Law amendments, your Wikipedia also cites “2008年12月 – 参議院本会議において国籍法改正案に対し、重要法案に対する粗雑な立法過程に疑問があるとの理由で、同様の問題提起をした田中康夫らと共に反対票を投じる”. Also start by having a look here, and let’s let Emi post some more evidence she has.

      PS: Love the irony here from Kawada on his website, English version: “We also need to pick up another serious problem. It is ‘discrimination.’ Discrimination is the most serious issue not only in developing countries but in developed countries. I still see it in my country. Let us face the fact that the enemy lies in each of our home.”

    49. Emi Says:

      I don’t think I said that Kawada was right-wing–I wrote that he (along with Yasuo Tanaka of 新党日本 New Party Nippon) joined with the right-wing xenophobes in his opposition to expanding citizenship rights to children of Japanese fathers and non-Japanese mothers.

      In my view Kawada belongs to the tradition of urban populist reform movements in Japanese political scene, which includes サラリーマン新党 Salarymen’s New Party (1969-1992), 日本新党 Japan New Party (1992-1994), Tanaka’s 新党日本 NPN (2005-), Kawada’s みんなの党 Your Party (2009-), and of course 日本維新の会 Japan Restoration Party (2012-) which is at the center of attention in the current election cycle.

      These political parties position themselves against the corporatist collusion between bureaucracy, big business, and organized labor that lasted for several decades after WWII, and may appear to have a “libertarian bent” as others have observed. But it is more about anti-establishment populism than about libertarian principles, which explains why these same politicians can sometimes endorse populist anti-immigration positions that seem incompatible with libertarianism.

    50. Milo Says:

      I lived and worked in Japan for 10 years in the 90′s, and never found any evidence of critical thinking. What I’m truly surprised about is why anyone takes this article seriously – I mean, really people, with quotes like “It is written so it must be true” and applying critical thinking to the issue of why hamburgers are so cheap??

      There is no critical thinking, no thinking, hardly a brain at all in this entire sloppily written and un-researched article. Ms. Tautsumi is clearly a product of the dumbed down Japanese education system, which is mostly a Prussian invention, designed to produce cogs who react but can’t think much. Honestly, people, consider the source.

    51. Rma Says:

      It reminded me an article I just read about Japan written by an American blogger stating that there is no ATMs or hospitals working at night in Tokyo. People with narrow mind when living abroad, are unhappy and try to put their unhappiness out this way. It doesn’t mean that to be critical to the country we chose to live is bad. It isn’t at all. We must be engaged. And to be engaged is to fight back stupidities like this article and others. Stephanie, you are doing a great job as a mother. And your daughter is responding to that being critical to her own school.

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