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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 18th, 2013

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    Hi Blog. Here are a couple of interesting cases that have fallen through the cracks recently, what with all the higher-level geopolitical flurry and consequent hate speech garnering so much attention.  With not much to link them thematically except that these are complaints made into public disputes, let me combine them into one blog post and let them stand for themselves as bellwethers of the times.

    First up, we have a criminal complaint filed with the police for classroom bullying resulting in serious injury due to his Pakistani ethnicity.  This is one of a long line of cases of ethnic bullying in Japan, once again with insufficient intervention by authorities, and we’re lucky this time it hasn’t resulted yet in PTSD or a suicide.  Like it has in these cases here with an ethnic Chinese schoolgirlwith an Indian student in 2007, or a Filipina-Japanese student in 2010 (in the last case NHK neglected to mention ethnicity as an issue).  Of course, even here the Mainichi declines to give the name of the school involved.  Whatever happened to perennial promises of a “major bullying study” at the ministerial level a couple of years ago to prevent things like this?  Or of grassroots NGO actions way back when?


    Pakistani student’s parents file complaint against classmates over bullying

    TAKAMATSU — The parents of a 13-year-old Pakistani junior high school student here have filed a criminal complaint with police, accusing their son’s classmates of bullying and injuring him.

    A male Pakistani student at a public junior high school in a town in Kagawa Prefecture was bullied and seriously injured by his classmates, his parents alleged in a complaint filed on Feb. 18 with prefectural police.

    The parents requested on the same day that the town’s board of education investigate the case and take measures to prevent a recurrence as they claim the student has been racially abused by four of his classmates since last spring. However, the education board denies bullying took place at the school.

    According to the parents who held a news conference, the student was verbally bullied about the color of his skin by four of his classmates ever since he entered school last April. The parents claim that the students would make racist comments that their son’s skin was “dirty” and that they told him to “go back to his home country.”

    The student was also physically bullied repeatedly by his classmates. Last November, one of the four classmates tripped him over when he was running in the hallway, severely injuring his legs and face. Since that incident, the student reportedly has to use crutches to walk.

    The student’s 41-year-old father said, “We asked the homeroom teacher and vice principle multiple times to improve the situation but they failed to take any action.”

    February 19, 2013 (Mainichi Japan) 


    毎日新聞 2013年02月19日 00時37分(最終更新 02月19日 09時33分)



    婚約破棄:「在日差別意識に起因」 女性が市議を提訴
    毎日新聞 2013年01月28日 15時00分(最終更新 01月28日 16時11分)







    And finally, courtesy of japanCRUSH last January, we have this interesting titbit:

    Japanese defense minister Onodera Itsunori is the latest politician to enter the fray by calling former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio a ‘traitor’ on a television programme. Onodera’s remark came after Hatoyama commented to Chinese officials that the Senkaku Islands should be recognised as disputed territory, rather than Japanese territory, during his trip to China. Interestingly, Hatoyama caused further controversy this week when he apologised for the Nanjing massacre.

    Translations courtesy of japanCRUSH:

    Defense Minister Calls Hatoyama a ‘Traitor’ (kokuzoku)

    Sankei Shinbun:  On the evening of January 17, defense minister Onodera Itsunori gave a scathing criticism of Hatoyama Yukio, who met with Chinese officials in Beijing, for his acknowledgement of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture as being a disputed territory between Japan and China. Onodera stated, ‘This is a huge negative for Japan. At this, China will announce to the world that there is a dispute, and form international opinion. For the first time in a long while, the word ‘traitor’ came to mind’. Onodera spoke on a BS-Fuji news programme.


    産經新聞 2013.1.17 22:29 [鳩山氏の不思議な行動

    Defense Minister Onodera: Former Prime Minister Hatoyama is a ‘Traitor’

    JIJI/  On the evening of January 17, defense minister Onodera Itsunori appeared on a BS-Fuji television programme, and said that ‘This is a huge negative for Japan. I shouldn’t really say this, but for a moment the word ‘traitor’ came to mind,’ strongly criticising former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio’s remark that ‘It is important to recognise that the Senkaku islands are a disputed territory’.

    The defense minister showed his anxiety, saying ‘Although there is no dispute, and (Senkaku) is native Japanese territory, the Chinese will announce to the world that this is what a former Japanese prime minister thinks, and indeed world opinion will be formed as though there really is a dispute’.


    時事通信 1月17日(木)22時37分配信



    So this is what it’s coming to.  Dissent from prominent Japanese (who, in Hatoyama’s case, are no longer even political representatives) who act on their conscience, deviate from the saber-rattling party line, and show any efforts at reconciliation in this era of regional brinkmanship get decried as “traitors”.

    Check out this photo essay link from the Sankei showing Hatoyama and missus provocatively bowing and praying at Nanjing (text of article follows):


    鳩山元首相が「南京大虐殺記念館」訪問 中国、「安倍内閣牽制」に利用も
    産經新聞 2013年1月17日





    Doesn’t seem like there is much space for tolerance of moderate or diverse views (or people) anymore.  Arudou Debito

    10 Responses to “Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues”

    1. pondscum Says:

      I was bullied in school, too. Naha High School in Okinawa. I got beat up and spit on and all sorts of stuff.

      Instead of getting all sad and pathetic, I started working out, lifting weights and learning Karate from a family friend (for those who don’t know, Karate is of Okinawan origin).

      I then (this was kind of corny, I’ll admit) told the whole class that if anyone tried to bully me, I would kick the shit out of them.

      They tried, and I did.

      Then, no one ever fucked with me again.

    2. john k Says:

      Sadly, it’s the only way. Bullies are always weak, always. Their only strength is the voice of numbers.
      Kick the shit out of the ringleader, and he looses all his credibility in the eyes of his “peers”. It is though, a sad way if this is the only way to combat bully of any kind. Shame on Japan for not dealing with such issues too.

    3. Mike Says:

      The word ‘traitor’ is thrown around so casually by right wingers to describe their opponents that it almost ceases to have meaning.

    4. Bayfield Says:

      “The word ‘traitor’ is thrown around so casually by right wingers to describe their opponents that it almost ceases to have meaning.”

      I agree with this. Other words include “communist”, “liberal”, “lefty” and any term associated with liberal politics tend to be used incorrectly most of the times. Anything that the LDP, nationalist or apologist doesn’t like, even if its not politically related is considered “commie” to them.

      From what I have heard and read from apologists and many Japanese alike, it technically seems that words like “communist” and “lefty” is basically an unwritten jargon meaning “things I don’t like” everytime terminology is misused. Or perhaps words like “commie” and “lefty” is used by J-nationalists and apologists to substitute for swear words, thinking that this why it will make them sound more “legit” and “professional”. Instead of outright calling someone a “bastard” for example in the heat of an argument, the J-nationalist and apologist will replace it with what they think is more “professional”, such as “commie” or “communist”. However, I think that misuse of terminology is far from being “professional” as they think they are.

      The far-right and apologists also tend to give Karl Marx FAR more credit than he deserves. They have attached “Marx” to things that even Marx doesn’t know of or thought of.

    5. Markus Says:

      The vocabulary used by the Japanese right-wing is often described as “colorful”, but I think it clearly shows the mind-boggling extent of fascist thought patterns that we are dealing with. Shintaro Ishihara’s quip about foreign wrestlers being “beasts”, i.e. saying they are “sub-human”, and the use of martial vocabulary such as “traitor” are two examples of the type of language that the Nazi movement introduced into German politics during their rise to power.

    6. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      “I was bullied in school, too. Naha High School in Okinawa. I got beat up and spit on and all sorts of stuff.”

      Pondscum, what was the basis of their bullying? Okinawans bullying a mainlander? Or are you foreign? Or was it something completely different?

    7. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Bayfield #4

      I was thinking about what you wrote about the casual overuse of the word traitor, and initially I agreed with you. But then I started thinking about all the J-netizen comments I have been reading over the last 9 months or so (anyone who is anti-nuclear power, advocates calm over island disputes, teachers who won’t sing the national anthem etc- first they are branded traitors, then they are accused of being zainichi Korean, and typically accused of being Chinese spies ultimately), and I kept coming back to this post, and the comment made by Debito therein;

      Something about all this seemed to chime, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read your post.

      I think that the atmosphere we are seeing now *is* the closest approximation to a state of war that Japanese leaders require to pursue their own agenda.
      All of the nationalism, accusations of being a traitor, or not even ‘real’ Japanese are just so reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984. In 1984 the war was heard on the radio, and seen on the screen, but rarely (bar the odd bomb) directly intruded on the lives of the ordinary citizenry. However, the populace was encouraged to join in the nationalist screaming and shouting, required to do so even to prove their patriotism, and ‘enemies’ were publicly humiliated and punished at the ‘hate’ events laid on for them.

      The war depicted in 1984 bears striking similarities to the Gulf wars which Baudrillard argues to have been media events for domestic consumption- the ‘spectacle’ (just like Roman bread and games). Any opposition to the second Gulf war was deemed to be ‘unpatriotic’ once the actual fighting had started (since when was there a time limit on critical thinking?).

      Anyway, the BBC’s Adam Curtis, in his excellent documentary series The Power of Nightmares;

      explains how the Gulf War was just such a spectacle for the purpose of restoring the authority of politicians in the eyes of the people.

      I am seriously proposing that what we are seeing now is the creation of unnecessary tensions with neighbors in order to create a kind of ‘phoney war’ mentality in Japanese society, that is just as real for the Japanese as was the war on terror for the average American or Brit (and just as real as the ‘war’ Winston Smith was living through in 1984). The fighting (if any) is far removed from our ‘dreamy day’, and all that is required to preserve the illusion of the ‘dreamy day’ is to not question reality. Any questioning, opposition to the authorities, or suggestions of change is met with accusations of being ‘unpatriotic’.

      Debito, I would argue that the current state of affairs is the closest to a state of wartime mentality that is required for the authorities to silence opposition as being ‘unpatriotic’. What would be the use of going any further towards a ‘real’ war? A ‘real’ war would interfere with the ‘dreamy day’ illusion just a little too much; separate J-boys from their hair gel, and forcing them out of GAP clone clothes, and into uniform, would risk a backlash.

      This is the ‘new, unspoken, social contract’; do your patriotic duty by not asking questions, and the J-elite will not interfere with your consumerist ‘dreamy day’ fantasy.

    8. Baudrillard Says:

      -This is the ‘new, unspoken, social contract’; do your patriotic duty by not asking questions, and the J-elite will not interfere with your consumerist ‘dreamy day’ fantasy.”

      Same as Communist China then! Oh, the irony.

    9. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I was reading the article on public attitude toward racial/color-blindness in contemporary society. In the west, it’s getting very complicated due to the conflict of interests between political correctness reflecting from problematic race history and merit-based program (a.k.a. affirmative action). Here are a couple of quotes from the article I find it very interesting:

      “I think that is incredibly important that people realize that today’s proponents of colorblindness pretend that they are the heirs to Thurgood Marshall and John Marshall Harlan,” he said. “But that is a lie. They are the heirs of Southern resistance to integration. And the colorblindness arguments that they use come directly from the Southern efforts to defeat Brown v. Board of Education.”

      “I am not going to speak to anyone else’s motives. It is unfair to paint people with the Jim Crow brush because they have those kinds of arguments,” he said. “I don’t like people being judged based on the color of their skin.” If a program “treats people different because one has a different skin color, I find that offensive and I think the Constitution does as well.”


      These two views seem to be converged but, actually they are spoken from opposing perspectives (the top one is left, the bottom one is conservative).It could bring people elsewhere depending on initial cultural assumptions to the detriment of arguments that contradict with their initial positions (i.e., left, neutral, right). And I think this is exactly what we are seeing in Japanese political discourse too. Wonder how Japanese perception of race/color-blindness can be contrasted with this.

    10. debito Says:

      Regarding the city councilor jilting his fiancee of Korean ancestry. Reader T sends word:

      just in case, I just found his name is Motohiro Sato, a city councilor in Takarazuka city, Hyogo prefecture.

      on the website of the city council, on March 19, a resolution urging Sato to resign as a city councilor was passed. but Sato refused to quit. this is interesting. thanks for letting us know.

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