Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case: Conclusions and Lessons I learned from it

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Hi Blog.  Let’s sew this issue up:



What happened this week (see my Japan Times column on it a few days ago) is probably the most dramatic and progressive thing to happen to NJ in Japan, particularly its Visible Minorities, since the Otaru Onsens Case came down with its District Court Decision in November 2002.

In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.).  All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room — that more invidious racialized processes were involved.

But in the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan’s race relations history.

BACKGROUND ON WHY THIS MATTERS: The following is something I wanted to get into in my last column, but I lacked the space:

After studying this issue intensely since 1999, and doing a doctoral dissertation on it, I can say with confidence that using the abovementioned alternative language is the normal way the Japanese media and debate arenas obfuscate the issue — because jinshu sabetsu is what other countries do (most common examples of racial discrimination taught in Japanese education are the US under Segregation and South African Apartheid), NOT Japan. As I wrote in my column on Thursday, Japan sees itself as a “civilized country”; rightly so, but part of that is the conceit that real civilized countries don’t engage in “racial discrimination” (and since allegedly homogeneous Japan allegedly has no races but the “Japanese race“, and allegedly no real minorities to speak of, Japan cannot possibly engage in biologically-based “racial discrimination” like other heterogeneous societies do).

So admitting to actual racial discrimination within Japan’s borders would undermine Japan’s claim to be “civilized”, as far as Japan’s elites and national-narrative setters are concerned. Hence the determined resistance to ever calling something “racial discrimination”.  Further proof:  In my extensive research of the Otaru Onsens Case, where I read and archived hundreds of Japanese media pieces, only ONE article (a Hokkaido Shinbun editorial after the Sapporo High Court Decision in  September 2004) called it “jinshu sabetsu” as AS A FACT OF THE CASE (i.e., NOT merely the opinion of an expert or an activist, which meant for journalistic balance the “opinion” had to be offset with the opinions of the excluder — who always denied they were being racial, like the rest of Japanese society).  It’s systematic.  We even have prominent social scientists (such as Harumi Befu) and major book titles on discrimination in Japan that steadfastly call it only “minzoku sabetsu“, such as this one:


where I had to fight to get my chapter within it properly entitled “jinshu sabetsu“:


No matter how conscientious the scholar of minority issues in Japan was, it was never a matter of jinshu.

Until now.  That has changed with the Urawa “Japanese Only” Stadium Banners Case.


Get a load of what Murai Mitsuru, Chair of the J. League, said after some initial hemming and hawing:


“There are various ways of determining what constitutes discrimination.  But what is important is not so much why discrimination occurs, but how the victim perceives it and in this case, the acts must be considered nothing short of discriminatory.

“Over the last several days through the media and on the Internet, these acts have had unexpected social repercussions both domestic and abroad, and it is clear that they have damaged the brand of not just the J-League but of the entire Japanese football community.

“With regards to Urawa Reds, they have had repeated trouble with their supporters in the past and the club have previously been sanctioned for racist behavior by their fans.”

“While these most recent acts were conducted by a small group of supporters, it is with utmost regret that Urawa Reds — who have been with the J-League since its founding year in 1993 and who ought to be an example for all of Japanese football — allowed an incident like this to happen.”


It’s the speech I would want to give.  He cited a record both past and present to give the issue context.  He said that stopping racist behavior was integral to the sport and its participants.  And he acknowledged that it was the victims, not the perpetrators, who must be listened to.  Well done.

Then he issued the stiffest punishment ever in Japanese soccer history, where Urawa would have to play its next match to an empty stadium (their games are some of the best attended in Japan), which really hurts their bottom line. Better yet, it ensures that Urawa fans will now police each other, lest they all be excluded again. After all, even stadium management let the sign stay up for the entire game:

Courtesy of the Asahi Shinbun.  Note the staff member guarding the full gate, behind Urawa’s goal posts.  Note also the Rising Sun flags.

It also looks like those racist fans will also be banned indefinitely from Urawa games, and stadium staff may too be punished.  Bravo.

More important, look how this issue was reported in Japanese (Mainichi Shinbun):




with jinshu sabetsu included AS A FACT OF THE CASE.

And then look how the issue spread, with the Yokohama Marinos on March 12 putting up an anti-discrimination banner of their own:


And Huffpost Japan depicting jinshu sabetsu AGAIN as a fact of the case:


横浜マのサポーターがハーフタイムに「Show Racism the Red Card」(人種差別にレッドカードを)


The incentives are now very clear.  Discriminate, and punishment will be public, swift, meaningful, and effective.  And others will not rally to your defense — in fact, may even join in in decrying you in public.  Excellent measures that all encourage zero tolerance of jinshu sabetsu.


However, keep in mind that this outcome was far from certain.  Remember that initially, as in last Sunday and Monday, this issue was only reported in blurbs in the Japanese and some English-language media (without photos of the banner), with mincing and weasel words about whether or not this was in fact discrimination, and ludicrous attempts to explain it all away (e.g., Urawa investigators reporting that the bannerers didn’t INTEND to racially discriminate; oh, that’s okay then!) as some kind of performance art or fan over-exuberance.  At this point, this issue was going the way it always does in these “Japanese Only” cases — as some kind of Japanese cultural practice.  In other words, it was about to be covered up all over again.

Except for one thing.  It went viral overseas.

As Murai himself said, “these acts have had unexpected social repercussions both domestic and abroad, and it is clear that they have damaged the brand of not just the J-League but of the entire Japanese football community“.  In other words, now Japan’s reputation as a civilized member of the world’s sports community (especially in this age of an impending Olympics) was at stake.  Probably FIFA was watching too, and it had only two months ago punished another Asian country (China/Hong Kong) for “racial discrimination” towards towards Filipino fans.  In this political climate, it would be far more embarrassing for Japan to be in the same boat as China being punished from abroad.  So he took decisive action.

This is not to diminish Murai’s impressive move.  Bravo, man.  You called it what it is, and dealt with it accordingly.

But I believe it would not have happened without exposure to the outside world:  Gaiatsu (outside pressure).

After all these years studying this issue, I now firmly believe that appealing to moral character issues isn’t the way to deal with racism in Japan.

After all, check out this baby-talk discussion of this issue in Japan’s most prominent newspaper column, Tensei Jingo, of March 13, 2014:


Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward is starting a project called “A shopping district with people who understand and speak a little English.” I like the part that says “a little.” Shinagawa will be the venue for some of the events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The ward came up with the idea as a way to welcome athletes and visitors from abroad.

Why “a little”? Few Japanese can confidently say they can speak English. Many more think they can perhaps speak “a little” English. According to Kiyoshi Terashima, the ward official in charge of the project, it is aimed at encouraging such people to positively try and communicate in English. The ward will ask foreigners to visit the stores so that attendants there can learn how to take orders and receive payments using English.

Writer Saiichi Maruya (1925-2012) vividly depicted the trend of 50 years ago when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time. Just because we are having the Olympics, “there is no need to stir up an atmosphere that all 100 million Japanese must turn into interpreters,” he wrote. The quote appears in “1964-Nen no Tokyo Orinpikku” (1964 Tokyo Olympics), compiled by Masami Ishii. I wonder if we can be a little more relaxed when Tokyo hosts the Olympics for the second time.

Warm smiles are considered good manners in welcoming guests. By contrast, I found the following development quite alarming: On March 8, a banner with the English words “Japanese Only” was put up at the entrance to a stand at Saitama Stadium during a soccer game.

Posting such a xenophobic message is utterly thoughtless to say the least. This is not the first time. In the past, an onsen bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up a sign that said “no foreigners” and refused the entry of some people, including a U.S.-born naturalized Japanese man. The Sapporo District Court in 2002 ruled that the action was “racial discrimination” and ordered the bathhouse to pay damages to the plaintiffs for pain and suffering.

Hate speech against foreigners is another example. Hostility is becoming increasingly prevalent and Japanese society is losing its gentleness. Are we a society that denies and shuts its doors to people or one that welcomes and receives them? Which one is more comfortable to live in? Let us learn to be more tolerant toward each other; for starters, if only by just a little.


That’s the entire article.  Asahi Shinbun, thanks for the mention of me, but what a twee piece of shit! It devotes half of the column space to irrelevant windup, then gives some necessary background, and summarily ends up with a grade-school-level “nakayoshi shimashou” (let’s all be nice to one another, shall we?) conclusion. The theme starts off with “a little” and ends up thinking “little” about the issue at hand.  They just don’t get it.  There’s no moral imperative here.

Contrast that to Murai’s very thoughtful consideration above of how the victims of discrimination feel, how racists must not be given any moral credibility or leniency from punishment, and how anti-racism measures are not merely an honor system of tolerance towards each other.  Correctamundo!  One must not be tolerant of intolerance.  But after all this, even Japan’s most prominent leftish daily newspaper just resorts to the boilerplate — there is neither comprehension or explanation of how discrimination actually works!

When will we get beyond this dumbing down of the issue?  When we actually have people being brave enough to call it “racial discrimination” and take a stand against it.  As Murai did.  And as other people, with their banners and comments on the media and other places, are doing.  Finally.


I do not want to get people’s hopes up for this progress to be sustainable (after all, we haven’t seen the full force of a potential rightist backlash against Murai yet, and the Internet xenophobes are predictably saying that too much power has been given up to the Gaijin).  We are still years if not decades away from an anti-RACIAL-discrimination law with enforceable criminal penalties (after all, it’s been nearly twenty years now since Japan’s signed the UN CERD treaty against racial discrimination, and any attempt to pass one has wound up with it being repealed due to pressure from alarmists and xenophobes!).

But at least one thing is clear — the typical hemmers and hawers (who initially criticized my claim that this is yet another example of racial discrimination) are not going to be able to claim any “cultural misunderstanding” anymore in this case.  Because Urawa eventually went so far as to investigate and make public  what mindset was behind the banner-hoisters:


Japan Times:  “The supporters viewed the area behind the goal as their sacred ground, and they didn’t want anyone else coming in,” Urawa president Keizo Fuchita said Thursday as he explained how the banner came to be displayed in the stadium.

“If foreigners came in they wouldn’t be able to control them, and they didn’t like that.”


Wow, a fine cocktail of racism, mysticism, and power, all shaken not stirred, spray-painted into this banner.  Which goes to show:  In just about all its permutations, “Japanese Only” is a racialized discourse behind a xenophobic social movement in Japan.  If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…  And if and only if people in authority will allow the quack to be properly heard and the quacker LABELED as a duck, then we’ll get some progress.

But chances are it won’t be, unless that quack is also heard outside of Japan.  After waiting more then ten years for somebody to call the “Japanese Only” trope a matter of jinshu sabetsu again, finally this week the fact that jinshu sabetsu exists in Japan has been transmitted nationwide, with real potential to alter the national discourse on discrimination towards Visible Minorities.  But it wouldn’t have happened unless it had leaked outside of Japan’s media.

Conclusion:  Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan.  Remember that, and gear your advocacy accordingly.  ARUDOU, Debito

18 comments on “Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case: Conclusions and Lessons I learned from it

  • To the extent that these processes of othering are racialized, I think we need a definition of race in the Japanese context. As a scholar of race who was academically trained in the US and who studies Japan, analyzing group dynamics in Japan using theories of race that were developed to explain the US context, has been a challenge. Race has meant something different in the US, compared to other countries.

    Are we talking about biologized notions of group membership? What are the markers of racial categories? How many categories are there? How do these categories matter? And what’s the intersection of race, ethnicity, caste, class, gender, etc?

    I agree that the hemming and hawing has not been helpful, and Japan would benefit greatly from a more open acknowledgement of the issues. But we need to be clearer what race means here. How do we understand discrimination by Japanese against South Americans of Japanese descent? Making more international or global connections with issues of discrimination in Japan is really important, but we also can’t assume that race means the same thing in each context. As a social, and not biological, category, race is defined variously in different places.

  • I’m afraid I don’t understand why it’s so important that it be called jinshu sabetsu, rather than minzoku sabetsu. I mean, sure, in English, accusing someone of being “racist” is about the strongest thing you can accuse them of, and “ethnic discrimination” doesn’t have quite the same impact. But that’s in English. Besides, common/popular conceptions of “race” and “ethnicity” tend to conflate the two, and to confuse or not understand whatever the differences may be that sociologists have articulated.

    So, in short, I trust that based on your extensive research, you have special insights into the denotations & connotations of jinshu vs. minzoku in Japanese… could you explain it out a bit more?

  • Debito,
    This is one of your best ever blog entries…thank you for all you do!
    You are one of the foremost academic experts on racial discrimination in Japan.
    Keep going!!!

  • Most people in Japan admit that Jinshu Sabetsu is bad. (Denying entry based on Race, as in apartheid.)
    Many places in Japan deny entry based on race. (e.g. Debito denied entry even WITH Japanese citizenship.)
    Most people in Japan say that when Japan denies entry based on race it isn’t jinshu sabetsu, it’s “kubetsu”.

    “Kubetsu” is a magic denial word that infers there is a “good reason” to “apply differentiation” for “safety”.
    “Kubetsu” (“differentiation”) emanates from good “ito” (“intention”) of controlling a proven-rowdy group: Non-Japanese.

    Japan admits that they used to discriminate against Ainu/Ryuku/Burakumin minorities, they label that “minzoku sabetsu”.
    Japan denies that they are currently discriminating against Black/White/Asian minorities. Japan denies “jinshu sabetsu”.

    @Travis and @Robert – Japan’s crime isn’t so difficult to understand: there are places in Japan denying entry to Non-Japanese.
    “But, maybe there is some misunderstanding about what this mean?” It simply means no non-japanese, no half-castes, no quarters.

    Look, the problem here is simple: Would a guard standing in front of a “Whites Only” sign remain un-prosecuted outside Japan?
    When presented with photographic proof of this racial-discrimination entry-denial crime, Japan refuses to prosecute the perps.

    You either have the honesty to say, “Arrest and prosecute both that guard and the sign maker” or you’re a reality denying liar.
    If you admit that racial-entry-denial like “Whites Only” must be prosecuted, you must admit the same about “Japanese Only”. Done.

    Thanks for the words Mr. Murai, but until the known perpetrators are arrested & prosecuted, Japan is still practicing apartheid.

    “We Japanese view Japan as our sacred ground, and we don’t want any non-Japanese else coming in.”
    “If big foreigners come in we won’t be able to control them, and we don’t like that idea at all.”

    “We have less muscle, so we need to use what we can: entry-denial and lies, to maintain control.”
    “Look, you strong people specialize in honesty and equality, we specialize in lies and hierarchy.”

    “We profit from selfish ‘white lies’ daily so we don’t want to admit that ‘tatemae’ is dishonesty.”
    “The only way you are ever going to get us to prosecute racial discrimination is by forcing us to.”

    “That’s right, go ahead, penalize us physically again, because we still haven’t learned the lesson.”
    “Nagasaki and Hiroshima were punishment for what we did to Chin, but we still claim we didn’t do it.”

    “The rest of the world prosecutes racially-based entry-denial, but Japan does not since Japan is superior.”
    “Japanese victims are protected around the world but Non-Japanese victims are still not protected in Japan.”

    No more words: until Japan starts prosecuting every “Japanese only” perpetrator, the world bans Japan’s products.
    Yep it begins now: until Japan prosecutes every “Japanese only” perpetrator, the world bans all Japanese products.

    A 2014 country so selfish that they don’t prosecute racially-based entry-denial perpetrators deserves Punishment.
    Say goodbye to your big screen TVs and smartphones Japan, unless you put that guard and that sign-maker in prison.

    This 2014 “Ban Japanese Products” campaign that is starting will crush Japan completely, leaving all Japanese poor.
    Nobody likes ultimatums, but here is the world opinion: imprison those perpetrators for 6 months, or the ban begins.

    — I think this is a bit over the top. Calm down.

  • It takes only one person to write and post a racist banner the way it was done at this stadium. Yet the team as a whole was punished, no one is taking personal responsibility for this act (perhaps only Mr Murai as the head of J-League). I find this quite disturbing.

  • We have seen the ads by ANA/Panasonic et al, those went viral – overseas etc…and those ads were “dumbed down” to placate the voices. But the inherent narrative was still there and no sincere apology or understanding was shown in the replies by said.

    Yet here, the main difference, as I noted in the first posting on this the other week, what would FiFa say?….thus there is no inward debate about this being just a misunderstanding etc (usual lame excuse) and the ability to simply sweep it under the carpet as such. It had to be dealt with since for once ‘they’ are being held to a higher accountability and address it head on. Since the consequences would be fare worse for the J-league if they didn’t.

    Full credit to Murai, however, without the threat of FiFa’s penalties for not addressing the discrimination (defined by a non-J standard too), would his reaction be the same…..we’ll never know.

  • After reading the summary of Murai’s statement, I was interested to find out exactly what he said in Japanese. This proved to be more difficult than I imagined. The reason is that English was a summary presented by (and slightly embellished upon) by the reporter and not a close translation of the words that Murai actually uttered.

    First, here’s the location of a full Japanese transcript of the press conference:


    Now, in regard to the issue of intent here’s what Murai said in his prepared statement:

    ::::::START QUOTE::::::
    当該横断幕の記載内容は「JAPANESE ONLY」であり、差別表現と受け止めた方もいることから、その掲出意図にかかわらず、差別的内容と判断できる。
    Translation: The words “Japanese Only” were written on the banner and there were also people who interpreted it as a discriminatory expression so, regardless of the intent of the people who put it up, it can be deemed discriminatory content.
    :::::::END QUOTE:::::::

    Now for comparison purposes, here’s what I think is basically a rendering of the same content in the Mainichi article:

    ::::::START QUOTE::::::
    “There are various ways of determining what constitutes discrimination,” Murai said in a statement. “But what is important is not so much why discrimination occurs, but how the victim perceives it and in this case, the acts must be considered nothing short of discriminatory.”
    :::::::END QUOTE:::::::

    The difference between the Mainichi version and what Murai actually said is, in my mind at least, significant. Although I agree with Debito that Murai took the right position, I think his statement was still too timid for my tastes in that it seems to treat the idea that the intent may not have been discriminatory as plausible.

    For your reference, here’s Murai’s response to a question about interpretation. The position he takes is similar. (Sorry but I don’t have time to translate.)

    ::::::START QUOTE::::::
    Q.「JAPANESE ONLY」という文言はそれだけで問題があるとは思いますが、ここまでの課程で、クラブの方からあの文言を掲出することに込められた意図をクラブはどう判断して、横断幕を撤去する前に、どう報告を受け、Jとしてどう判断したのかという点と、色々とクラブの(不手際?)があると思うんですが、それはどのような説明があって、チェアマンとしてはどのような判断をしたのでしょうか。
    村井チェアマン:一点目「JAPANESE ONLY」という文言に対して浦和側がとういう解釈をしたのかというには、あとの記者会見で確認いただければ良いと思いますが、。私としての認識としては、掲出した側の意図がどうあれ、それを見た、たとえば外国人の方がそれを差別的な表現だと受け止めることはきわめて自然なものであり、私もこれは差別的な表現だと認識しております。それから不手際等については、後ほど浦和側から、私が受けた内容とほぼ同等のものを開示してくれという話をしましたんで、時系列的に細かく提示があると思います。その内容を受けた私の心証としては、それを撤去しろというような指示をしたにもかかわらず、試合終了まで放置されたこと、これは違反行為をサポーターがしただけではなくて、差別的な掲示をそのまま放置したこと事態は差別的な行為にある種、加担したと捉えても、おかしくないという風に思いますよ、とクラブ側には伝えています。
    :::::::END QUOTE:::::::

    Finally, in addition to the differences in translation, I would like to point out that the message that typically comes through the media is slightly muffled. It has been very common to put words like discrimination (差別) in quotations, as though the nature of what was going on is in doubt. Headlines have often ended in か, making what should be a statement about discrimination into a question.

    I agree that Murai’s decision and his statements about it constitute a step forward. But, on the other hand, I don’t think that statements that Japanese people have been exposed to in the media are as strong is what we see in English-language reports. Like Japanese-language newspapers, English-language newspapers tend to write what their readers want to read.

  • Slight tangent, but I stumbled upon this video when browsing the “What’s popular in Japan” section on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0iqqMlqIRY) on immigration. It’s some kind of opinion piece on immigration and the decreasing birth rate, etc. Some of the (of course anonymous) commentators show the same attitude to foreigners in Japan as the people who put up that offending Japanese Only banner in the stadium.

    If Debito feels this does not belong here, feel free to delete, but here are some excerpts translated by me:

    “Japan by the Japanese and for the Japanese!”

    “Please Japanese women! Give birth to more children!”

    If you look really hard there are also some sensible comments to be found like:

    “You (Kazuya the video uploader) seem to mix up Japanese people and people of Japanese ethnicity. Naturalized people are also Japanese. Maybe what you want to say instead is, that the rate of people of Japanese ethnicity is decreasing.”

  • I would agree with Robert that there are some things left to be specified when speaking of racial discrimination in this context. Even though I’ve seen people talk about the “japanese race” I’m not sure “japanese” can really be classified as “race” in the same way as “black” or “white”. Neither does the discrimination against burakumin fit the idea of “racism”.

    Actually, my impression is that we’re seeing discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity and race (i.e. appearance) all together. In the case of naturalized citizens, the “looks” are very important and therefore race can overwrite the nationality. On the other hand, people who look asian can, if they speak japanese well enough, pass as japanese quite easily in daily life, but can encounter discrimination based on their nationality or ethnicity once it becomes known.

    When people say “japanese only” they seem to think not only of one factor, but race, nationality, lineage and even language all corresponding to what they define as “japanese”, which may vary depending on the person.

  • How do you define RACE is missing the point. The Rwanda massacres were discrimination; two ethnic groups with the same genetic makeup and society, just because one was called Hutu and the other Tutsi. It is discrimination whether it be white against black, Christians against Muslims, old young, O+ AB-, male female, it makes no difference. Just because they are not what I perceive myself to be does not mean that I can use any supposed difference to treat anyone else with less respect.

    Japanese society has a long way to go, and until it can recognize and acknowledge its shortcomings it’s not going to progress. Does society still discriminate against Burakumin? Maybe they say not, but the term is still used. I wait for the anti Korean (and other) demonstrators to all be arrested and jailed before I’d consider they had made a little progress.

    Anti discrimination legislation of any form is not the total answer, but it’s a start. There are still pay differentials where it has been in place for decades. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the society and this won’t happen in Japan as they don’t want it to.

    In many ways I don’t think the problem will be with us for long. 30 years of falling birth rate, fewer births than deaths for the last seven years, rising elderly population, and a seemingly pathological desire to remain ‘pure’ will mean that in a few years there will no longer be a race called Japanese. Whoever they were.

  • Bitter Valley says:

    Credit to Mr. Murai and J-League for their decisive action. I think like Debito, you have to recognize “wins” like this for their importance in raising the issue.

    But several subtexts that maybe important (among others I don’t have time to think off before going to work)
    1. A “higher power” in the form of
    (i) Clear and explicit regulations and policy
    (ii) Clear and explicit chance of financial and (further) repetitional damage
    played a key role in the decisive and correct action of the J-League.

    -> This begs the question: would they have bothered without these swords hanging over them?
    Perhaps I am being a little bit cynical here?

    Perhaps we should ask the redoubtable Mr. International Olympics, that paradigm of forward thinking, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, in between his golfing and Olympics related junkets, coordination meets in luxury hotels, fact-finding missions to exotic countries etc. what he would have done.

    The question is important, but also in a way, mute; clear clear and explicit “rules and regulations” and a “higher power” to sanction contravention is clearly the best way to stop racism.

    YET, officially it seems, the narrative in Japan is that there is no racism, the country is homogeneous, and therefore explicit laws defining and sanctioning punishment for racism are not needed.

    Excuse me, but, ….ahem…isn’t there something a little odd about this narrative?

    2. Not twisting this victory into an excuse to do nothing or to prove Japan already has the mechanisms to go about maintaining its wa.

    I haven’t read in Japanese or English the mainstream media coverage of this event, but I fully expect in past practice for the message to be conveniently twisted to suit the various agenda of people who want to avoid at all costs the loss of face nationally in Japan admitting it is a society that desperately needs explicit and enforceable laws to combat racial discrimination
    –> Arguments to show that Japan bows once again to gaits; just one banner yet so many people punished. Whitely is bullying us poor Japanese victims again. We must resist for our national dignity.
    –> Arguments showing that the decisive action shows how wonderful Japan is because look how clearly it worked to stamp out this discrimination, even though it wasn’t REALLY discrimination, just a cultural misunderstanding. Look, isn’t Japan great. Even though the foreigners didn’t understand that we weren’t really being racist (we’re not like that, it’s just our unique culture) we were the ones that bent over backwards to accommodate their needs, etc.
    (So we don’t need a law defining and punishing discrimination).

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ BV #11

    In this, you are correct;
    1. External pressure forced the result we wanted.
    2. The reported message on this story differs between that for the international ‘soto’ audience, and the domestic ‘uchi’ audience.

    External pressure has always been the only way Japan has ever changed, I have no expectation that a nation that never teaches critical thinking skills could do otherwise. Hence, no surprise, no problem, and a victory for international norms of human rights. The end justifies the means.

    The reported message; well, since when did the Japanese national character ever have the ability to take a long hard look at its collective self in the mirror, and be honest about what it saw?
    Of course, the domestic message will be distorted, sweetened, and refocused. Since this should also have been expected, it shouldn’t bother us in itself. However, if it generates a backlash that would only further tarnish Japan’s international image, I’m sure there will be more of the external pressure awaiting.

    Essentially, this case has set a precedent, which has in turn raised the stakes in terms of expectations upon Japan. We will have to see if it has set a new standard of anti-discriminatory behavior in response to ‘Japanese only’ signs in general society.

    I don’t care if the Japanese don’t understand why they stop being discriminatory, and I don’t care if they agree with it. All that matters is that the behavior stops. In their minds, they can privately think and believe whatever they want.

  • just flipped on the spectator-less game on TV and Urawa have adorned the stadium with bland and confusing “Sports for Peace” banners, ignoring any mention of racism.
    One step forward, two steps back.

  • For anyone interested in exactly what was said in Japanese, I found a bit more information. I was reading an article in the Mainichi Newspaper (Japanese version) and found the following:

    (This is actually from an article that Debito quoted earlier — with the English article! — apologies for not seeing the connection right away.)

    This is quite close to the following English:

    “There are various ways of determining what constitutes discrimination,” Murai said in a statement. “But what is important is not so much why discrimination occurs, but how the victim perceives it and in this case, the acts must be considered nothing short of discriminatory.”

    At any rate, since I had posted earlier about not being able to locate the original statement, I wanted to correct the record. Thanks.

    — No, thank YOU!

    Full article:

    差別横断幕:浦和に無観客試合 Jリーグ初の処分
    毎日新聞 2014年03月13日 13時15分(最終更新 03月13日 20時58分)


     横断幕には「日本人以外お断り」の意味がある「JAPANESE ONLY」と書かれており、浦和のサポーター席へ入るゲートに掲げられた。試合後に浦和が撤去し、掲げた人物から事情聴取するなど調査を進め、13日までにJリーグに報告した。


  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Curious. 11 Urawa Reds supporters groups have decided to dissolve in the light of the “Japanese Only” affair, citing a sense of responsibility.



     解散を申し出たのは、B-ROCK CREW、COOL BEANS、 Crimson Knights、FF、RED GUN’s、 R-NETTERS、UK211、U-UNITED、URAWA RED A BRIGADE、X-LINE、URAWA BOYS。サポーターグループから「過去のトラブル及び今回の事案について、当事者としての責任を認識し、全員で解散を決めました。今後は、差別撲滅に向けた取り組みを含め浦和レッズのために行動していきます」とコメントがあったことも併せて発表された。

     浦和は、8日に行われたJ1第2節のサガン鳥栖戦で、浦和側のスタンドのコンコースに『JAPANESE ONLY』と、差別的な表現として受け取られる可能性のある横断幕が掲げられた問題で、Jリーグからけん責処分と、23日のJ1第4節の清水エスパルス戦を無観客試合とする制裁を受けていた。

  • Some aftermath to the Urawa Reds “Japanese Only” Saitama Stadium banner:

    ‘Japanese Only’ sign sparks bigotry debate

    SAITAMA – For nearly two decades, Shunji Usui has been a fixture at Urawa Red Diamonds matches at Saitama Stadium in the suburbs of Tokyo, a face in the crowd among the most avid — and sometimes rabid — fans of any Japanese soccer club.

    In recent weeks, though, Usui’s pride in the former Asian champions has been tempered by embarrassment at seeing the team he loves held up as a symbol of the kind of intolerance critics say has been emboldened by the conservative politics of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    On March 8, a banner with “Japanese Only” scrawled on it was hoisted on a stadium gate behind goal one, an area packed with thousands of the club’s hard-core fans. Despite complaints from onlookers, it remained in place until the end of the game.

    In response, the Mitsubishi Motors-owned club was given the harshest punishment in the two-decade history of professional soccer in Japan — a J-League edict ordering the team to play before an empty stadium.

    That cost Urawa over $1 million in lost ticket sales. In addition, more than 10 Reds supporter groups, including UB Snake, the group responsible for the banner, were disbanded.

    When the Reds returned home for a domestic cup game last week, flags and drums were banned, essentially putting fans on probation. The only banner allowed was one held up by a club official warning fans against discriminatory behavior.

    “There are people who hate foreigners in Japan, and there are people who hate foreigners in this stadium,” said Usui, 53, a teacher at a local school.

    “By quietly standing by, we gave them a platform to voice such views. So it’s fair enough that now we have to pay for this.”

    Although Japanese soccer has not suffered from the sort of hooliganism that has so often blighted the game in Europe and South America, Reds fans have a record of rowdiness.

    In 2008, the club was fined nearly $200,000 after a scuffle involving Gamba Osaka fans. In November, Urawa were fined $96,000 after fans set off firecrackers near the bus of a rival team.

    Supporters have also displayed the Rising Sun flag, a symbol used by the Japanese army during its colonial rule over Asia in the first half of last century, which is seen by many as a painful reminder of Japan’s militaristic past.

    But the most recent incident in Urawa, which comes as Japan begins preparations for the 2020 Olympics, reignited a debate about Japanese identity and attitudes toward foreigners.

    Many Urawa fans — and players — were quick to denounce the exclusionary banner.

    In early April, more than a quarter of the 20,000 Reds fans who turned up for the first open-door home match since the incident signed a declaration condemning discrimination.

    Urawa center back Tomoaki Makino tweeted a picture of the controversial banner to his 177,000 followers and criticized fan behavior.

    “My biggest regret is we didn’t take the flag down quickly enough,” Urawa President Keizo Fuchita said, vowing a zero-tolerance policy in the future.

    Critics, however, see a worrying trend that goes beyond soccer.

    Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/16/national/japanese-only-sign-sparks-bigotry-debate/

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