My SNA Visible Minorities Col 4: “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, Nov 18, 2019

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Hi Blog.  My latest Shingetsu News Agency column has just come out, and it’s a variation on the Gaijin Blame Game that goes on in Japan whenever Japanese authorities want to tighten their control over society further.  Here’s an excerpt:

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Visible Minorities: The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween
Column 4, Shingetsu News Agency, Nov 18, 2019, by Debito Arudou
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/11/18/visible-minorities-the-xeno-scapegoating-of-japanese-halloween/

SNA (Tokyo) — “Madness.” “Mayhem.” “Chaos unfolded.” “Anarchic behavior.” “Police try to subdue massive crowds running amok.”

That was how one single article in the Japan Times depicted the big party at Shibuya Crossing last Halloween Night. Other media echoed similarly riotous language, noting the heavy police presence and suspended alcohol sales. Sheer anarchy!

Reading all that, you could be forgiven for thinking Shibuya was set aflame and Hachiko knocked off his plinth. But drop by sometime; everything is still there just fine.

Why the alarmist attitude towards Halloween? We don’t see it for the revelry at, say, Japanese sporting events, where Hanshin Tigers fans take over Shinkansens and leap into Osaka rivers; or for annual Seijinshiki Coming of Age Days, where binge drinking and youthful hijinks disrupt boring official ceremonies; or any time of the year in entertainment districts nationwide, with public urination, people passed out on sidewalks or subways, and drunk chinpira picking fights.

Why not? Because those things are normalized. After all, it’s often hard for adults in Japan to have fun without alcohol, and excesses are tolerated as anzen-ben, a “safety valve” for letting off steam given the stresses of life.

Why isn’t Halloween treated the same? Because…
Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/11/18/visible-minorities-the-xeno-scapegoating-of-japanese-halloween/

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28 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities Col 4: “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, Nov 18, 2019

    • Yeah, but it was in the 60’s when, just like HK now, students at (even!) elite university Todai barricades themselves in and fought the police over the course of a siege, and ordinary salarymen went out to join the protests and burn cars in their lunchtimes! Even a US presidential visit was cancelled at the last minute. Imagine the humiliation for the LDP and the indelible mark that left on their collective (I hesitate to use the term for LDP octogenarians) ‘consciousnesses’.
      So yeah, like the constitution is a constant reminder of the humiliation of defeat, for them, crowds (unless Abe’s cherry blossom viewing party 😉 ) are uncomfortably close to the masses overthrowing them.
      I recommend ‘Postwar Japan as History’ by Andrew Gordon.

      — Source on the lunchtime salaryman bit?

      Reply
      • It’s in Gordon, but I don’t remember what page. It’s an excellent history of what really happened in Japan from the end of the war until it’s publication (1990?).
        It’s a history of the things about Japan that Japan wants to pretend aren’t true, the ‘honne’ of the tatemae narrative of postwar Japan becoming an advanced, democratic nation. It covers the labor union protests/riots and US reverse course very well, there’s an excellent chapter on the resistance to the construction of Narita airport, student protests in the 60’s and some great chapters on the discrimination against ‘burakumin’, Chinese and Koreans etc. especially the Koreans where he describes physical attacks on female zainichi students by random salarymen when N. Korea did something that upset Japanese nationalist sensibilities.
        The sort of things from the pre-internet era that get forgotten and then denied, and then seem hard to reconcile with the ‘dreamy day’.
        For lighter reading, I highly recommend Julian Cope’s (formerly of The Teardrop Explodes) history of Japanese postwar rock. It’s a perfect microcosm of the wider developments in Japan during the same time frame as Gordon’s history. All of the diversity and anti-establishment sentiment is absolutely crushed in the Japanese music industry by the 80’s leaving a vast musical wasteland of dumbed-down manufactured ‘pop’ with nothing to say except serve as the BGM to dreamy-day fantasies that infantilize the masses and prevent them from becoming a threat to entrenched power holders.

        Reply
        • Interested. Can you give me the full title of Gordon’s book, and did Cope actually say that Japanese music was dumbed down in the 80s?
          So, e.g. YMO are part of the dumbing down? I thought R. Sakamoto was quite anti-establishment (well, anti nuke).

          Reply
          • Gordon’s book is called Postwar Japan as history. If you google that, it should be the first result.
            Cope explains how the Japanese rock industry is reduced to manufactured bands that have got nothing to say fronted by faces that look good. Is that not dumbing down?

        • Jim where you the poster who made a note that a Japanese politician asked what would happen if a foreigner started a business and employed Japanese people, and how that would be terrible. I need to find a source for that for a petition I am writing to the UN. Thanks in advance if you can find it.

          Reply
          • It sounds like the sort of thing I’d share on Debito.org, but it doesn’t ring any bells, and it sounds like something that a few other commentators would share.
            Sorry, I’ll need a bigger hint to jog my memory.

  • Thanks anyway Jim
    I will keep searching. Or anyone else who knows what I’m talking about. When my story about the UN matter gets resolved I’ll share my story here at debito.org and debito can put it up here as I think it may be useful for others caught in my position.

    Reply
  • I’m looking for anything that shows there is a mindset in Japan that foreigners should not ever be allowed to be in positions of power over Japanese people in Japan. I have the law that shows that gaijin cannot be government employees. What I next want is something that shows this idea permeates society here and not just at the government level, but in businesses too.

    — Look up “Nationality Clause” in book Embedded Racism. Read on afterwards from page 96 to see how it percolates through society. Suggest you get the book.

    Reply
    • Presumably in Japan’s top down, trickle down command style society, what goes for the government is goes for similar top ranking, prestigious jobs in industry.

      Teaching or NJs with skills are accepted, as they are imparting knowledge to enable Japanese to do something, rather than order them around. A kind of separate but equal (though actually without benefits of belonging).
      Thus the NJ style of teaching can never be as strict or forceful as a Japanese teacher. I found that out in a Semmon Gakko in supposedly progressive Kawasaki. If I was too strict, the teenage drop out students could actually complain to my boss, as if they were customers. And I was reprimanded (despite him earlier telling me that I should be strict).

      And yet, his own lesson style was like a command lecture, and the students readily obeyed him.

      Its a game rigged against the NJ from the outset. Japanese from a young age may give you less respect and will act up in your class, unless you are amusing.

      The Japanese teachers did not have to entertain the students to command respect. It was a given.

      Reply
      • Funnily enough, I had a similar experience teaching at a Japanese university.
        A student coincidentally (I hope!) met me on the train on day. He asked me if he was going to be able to pass the class and get credits, because he wouldn’t be able to graduate if he didn’t.
        I told him the truth; all he had to do was turn up to every class. He’d pass.
        I never saw the kid in class again, I failed him, he couldn’t graduate, his parents complained to everyone about how I lied to him by telling him (get this) he ‘didn’t need to attend class to get the credits’ (right? Because how does that make sense?), and it ended in a face-off between me and my gakubu-cho, who demanded that I break the rules the University decided, and give this guy a passing grade!
        If universities are going to devalue themselves like that, well what’s the point of the whole thing?
        For some reason, the University needed me to change the grade (presumably so that I would implicate myself in some kind of malpractice that they could fire me for) and brought huge pressure upon me to do so. At the time I thought ‘Gee, all this effort to get me to do this, how can I alone genuinely hold so much power to change this?’, but of course, it was a case of pressuring me to do it by myself so that I alone could be held accountable.
        I dragged it out and refused.
        The kids grades weren’t reversed in time for him to graduate.
        I just walked out of the door one Friday and never went back, and the University never contacted me.
        Totally Mickey Mouse way to run a university. Whenever I see Japan university rankings and stuff, I just chuckle- it’s all meaningless.

        Reply
        • Only in Japan!
          “I just walked out of the door one Friday and never went back, and the University never contacted me.”
          Also, only in Japan would they just let it go like that- “unspoken understanding” I suppose!. Although conversely I had one person annaru fixatedly contact me to come back and teach even after I had left Japan some months ago, but would not sponsor my visa or anything.

          Its usually one of these two extremes.

          You mean when you see Japanese universities like Tokyo in the top thirty universities in the world? I am guessing your story originates in a quite a smaller university- quite a few of them are “university” in name only and are just taking money.

          “all he had to do was turn up to every class. He’d pass.”

          Maybe he doesnt understand phrasal verbs? Or he thinks, “pass” means as in, ” I ll pass (on attending)”??!!! (only half joking- I had a couple of students complain about something I said when in fact their word order was shot and I had actually said the opposite, e.g. “This school is better than my previous one” and he said I was dissing the current school, etc etc).

          Reply
          • Jim Di Griz says:

            I spoke to the kid in Japanese, so he had no excuse. Except of course, this is Japan, so he can claim my Japanese was incorrect, and had I explained in English, then that would no doubt have been the excuse for the misunderstanding.
            As for university rankings, I was a post-grad at a national university in Japan, and at one exam, the examiner made an announcement before the start of the test that plainly stated that if any of us needed credits to graduate, we should just write what grade we want on the top of the answer paper!

          • AnonymousOG says:

            As you and we know well: Japan’s culture quietly accepts and demands that ALL universities automatically-graduate all students regardless of each student’s actual results: all universities in Japan do that, even the “elite” “top-ranked” universities which people naively assume would never do so.

            And as you and we know well: Japan’s culture penalizes truth while allowing bold-faced lies to go totally unpunished (due to near-sighted prioritization of the “tatemae”, “uso ga houben”, “kusai mono ni wa futa o shiro”, “deru kugi wa utareru”, “shinjitsu doudemo ii, 「和」 ga ichiban daiji” culture) so when a “Japanese race” person is caught perpetrating a bad act, the acceptable “face-saving” next step is for the perpetrator to use the bold-faced lie of “there was a communication misunderstanding” to try the blame their bad act on the “foreign race person.”

            So yeah, in Jim’s example above, the student knew one is supposed to attend classes to learn, and the already non-attending thus-failing student even stalked Jim and understood Jim’s confirmation of reality (that one must attend classes), the student simply chose the bad act of continuing to not attend classes, and when Jim tried to give the appropriate penalty (namely, the worldwide accepted penalty of having to retake the course and actually attend classes next time to actually pass the tests and pass the course), the student simply chose to lie to his parents and to the principal and thus to wrongly blame the “foreign race person” for the student’s bad act of not attending classes and failing the course.

            And in the end, no matter which Japanese University Jim had been working at (even Todai, even Hitotsubashi), the end result would most likely have been the same: the principal forcing the professor (especially a sub-class “foreign race” professor) to automatically-graduate all students regardless of each student’s actual results.

            Thank you for having shared that experience Jim, and respect for your having taken the morally-high (yet financially-hard) road of walking away from that Japanese university which didn’t actually care about education.

          • @AnonymousOG I’m sorry, but that is too much of a generalization. It may be true at many universities, but not all.

            I have never been asked to change a grade for any student, and I teach compulsory English classes that must be passed to graduate.

            There was one memorable student that I failed five years in a row. I am not sure whether he was able to graduate in the end, but it wasn’t using a credit from one of my classes. So there is at least one exception.

            I fail a handful of students every year and only once has one of the students complained, and that compaint went nowhere.

          • AnonymousOG says:

            Fair point SendaiBen, “all” is obviously rounding up to 100%, I should have said “ALMOST all”, or “most”, or “a higher percentage than the worldwide developed-countries’ well-respected universities’ average rate.”

            Glad to hear you teach at one of the few universities in Japan which allow the proud brave few strict professors like yourself to successfully make a student retake a course, such power given to even a (gasp) “foreign race” professor in Japan, quite the exception to the rule, congrats.

            But actually brother, if you look critically at even “the exception” experience report which you shared above, it actually does NOT disprove the “automatic graduation in Japan” problem, and on the contrary your report probably even proves it:

            As you honestly admit, that student whom you failed 5 years in a row possibly (and I suspect: probably) was automatically-graduated ANYWAY, as you yourself admit: you didn’t check to find out if the university you work for actually prevented him from graduating as they should have.

            The Japanese university you work at promised, to you and to the world, that “Ben’s English course MUST be passed to graduate from this upstanding Japanese university, it’s a required course” but probably the students who fail it still somehow magically graduate from the university anyway, in the end.

            Please allow me to bold one word within your verbatim quote:

            “I teach compulsory English classes that must be passed to graduate.

            There was one memorable student that I failed five years in a row. I am not sure whether he WAS able to graduate in the end, but it wasn’t using a credit from one of my classes.”

            Hate to break it to you Ben, but if even ONE of the “course not passed” students (over your years/decades of teaching) ended up graduating from that university anyway, then: your “required for graduation” class is actually NOT required for graduation.

            A thought so scary to any professor’s illusion of power in Japan, probably NO professors (ahem, I mean ALMOST no professors) have a strong desire to actually check to see what the reality is.

            If one really cared deeply about this question of whether Japan culture has a “hard to get in, but absolutely a breeze to graduate” problem, here is what one would do:

            Make the list of ALL the students who ever signed up for yet never passed your course, and then give yourself and us the number of how many of those students somehow graduated from your university, even 1 such person would prove that passing your course is not required for graduation.

            If the answer is even just one, then the Japanese university’s “required course” claim is proven a lie.

            As you wrote: “I am not sure whether he was able to graduate in the end, but…”

            If he WAS able to graduate in the end, then: “it wasn’t using a credit from one of my classes.”

            And there you have it, forcing professors to give a passing grade to failing students is NOT the only tactic Japanese universities can use, to maintain this automatic-graduation system, that’s just one particular tactic which they used on Jim, they can just as easily utilize other techniques.

            For example, a vague grey-zone non-concrete “minimum requirement” system which can be easily finagled and bent this way or that, with a final “heavily-weighted” passing grade in some other course which magically makes the failed courses moot.

            Or, they can just as easily use the bold-faced-lie technique of claiming various courses are “required for graduation” while simply (shhh) quietly graduating even the students who don’t pass those courses.

            Who is going to check and complain? Not the students, not the parents, and obviously from your own experience Ben: even the supposedly strict professors themselves don’t even want to check to see if any “required course failed” students have ended up graduating from the university anyway.

            “I fail a handful of students every year…”

            I WOULD ask you to make the list of all the students who ever signed up for yet never passed your course then tell us the number of how many of those students somehow graduated from your university anyway, all it would take is a 10-minute ctrl+F search through the alumni list, BUT I suspect there is a reason why you haven’t done that check already.

            I boldly suspect that (consciously or unconsciously) you yourself meekly suspect that the uncomfortable result would be emotionally painful: “D’oh! Even the respected Japanese university I work for is thus proven to have graduated students who didn’t pass the ‘required courses’, thus Japanese universities are indeed emperor-wears-no-clothes pay-to-graduate frauds upon the world of academia. I wish I had remained in blissful ignorance of this fact. Now I either have to take the morally-high road of quitting as Jim did, or I have to admit to myself that I’m willing to now KNOWINGLY be a complicit part of Japan’s paper-mill-diploma system since I don’t want to walk away from this relatively-high professor salary. Hmmm.”

            Japanese universities:
            Hard to enter, easy to graduate.

            And by the way folks, even the “hard to enter” claim of Japanese universities might be a big fraud as well.

            For example, even though I was tested as a high-IQ-percentile 11 year-old placed into the gifted class doing Model United Nations and headed towards a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford (all due to that one IQ test), I then chose to become an ultra-lazy student who didn’t do much homework and thus had a “C” average throughout high school. And yet: somehow I was accepted into the “supposedly elite” Sophia University 上智大学 (Comparative Culture 比較文化部).

            How did that happen? Perhaps my dad “gave a donation” to some foundation or some decider’s offshore bank account? It’s possible, I don’t know.

            Or perhaps the annual $16,000 university price itself is the bribe, hidden-in-plain-sight.

            I think the Japanese schools CLAIM they are super-picky about who they accept, of course, it is vital for the world to have that impression, to keep the price high.

            But the reality is: even “C” average students like me are accepted into “elite” universities in Japan, since the truth is these universities will accept just about anybody if the parents seem rich enough to pay for the 4 (5, 6, whatever) years of bribe money oops I mean tuition.

            My dad was kinda’ rich at the time, so perhaps “high net-worth parent” is a box that gets checked somewhere in written or unwritten form, when Japanese universities choose which “Grade Point Average requirement” rules can be quietly overlooked, to financially benefit the profiteering owners and salary-receivers of these absolutely-for-profit businesses which we erroneously hail as “elite, strict, entry only for the best students” universities.

            It really seems to be a way for the relatively-rich to buy “peerage” status for their children to be unfairly chosen by the relatively-rich companies, throughout the world in general and especially in Japan more specifically.

            In addition to ultra lazy me having been accepted into an “elite” Japanese university, here’s another example of the entrance “requirements” not being at all strict in Japan:

            My Japanese wife, bless her heart, is not a smart person (seriously, 10% down-syndrome-level stupid, not joking, I have experienced seeing over 15 years of daily non-sequitur idiocy) yet somehow she was accepted into Meiji.

            How does that happen? Perhaps her mother (a relatively-rich City-Hall-Lifetime-Employee, who herself received her employment through family connections and not through academic merit) made a “donation” to, or arranged a “non-money personal favor” for the right decider?

            In summary, I confidently maintain Japanese universities are shockingly easy to graduate from (this is a well-known fact Ben, despite your naïve hopes to the contrary), and I even suspect Japanese universities are surprisingly easier-than-people-think to enter as well.

            Just as the Japanese prosecutors’ rate of conviction is higher than it should be, so too the Japanese universities’ rate of graduation is higher than it should be.

          • Jim Di Griz says:

            AnonymousOG, you understand perfectly. As the poster Baudrillard has said I’m the past, words in Japan are used as symbols on the assumption that they mean the same thing here as the do in the west; e.g. ‘police’ in Japan aren’t police by the western definition, and neither are ‘lawyers’ nor ‘the law’. Add to this ‘university’ which wouldn’t meet the western definition of such.
            When I was a post grad at a national university, I was shocked by the crumbling infrastructure, lack of basic resources and spoon-feeding of students by teachers.
            As a teacher at several private universities over 15 years, I was surprised by the infantile mollycoddling of the students- ‘the customer is god’ mentality upends even the ‘illusion of authority’ that Confucian education systems imbue the teacher with.
            When your professional life is of absolutely no consequence, it’s really easy to walk away from it.
            Some NJ teachers however, still believe that there is a hierarchy; teaching at university is better than being a H/S ALT etc. They are wrong. They are all equally disposable.

          • And now I see my “Japanese universities automatically graduate students” generalization is in fact already indeed admitted by yourself Ben:

            https://archive.is/phhPN

            “I only have direct experience of three universities: Cambridge in the UK for undergraduate study, Birmingham in the UK for MA, and Tohoku University as a lecturer teaching undergraduates.

            My impressions are that there are some pretty big differences between the UK and Japan in terms of university life.

            I would say that educational quality may be higher in the UK. Universities seem better organised and teachers are evaluated and trained more than is the case in Japan.

            The cliche that universities are hard to get into and EASY TO GRADUATE FROM IN JAPAN is still partially true.

            If I were choosing between attending a UK university or a Japanese one for undergraduate study, all things being equal I would probably choose the UK one.”

            So it turns out you agree with my bold “too much of a generalization” about Japan, you simply still are in the phase of feeling there is a need soften the blow of stating that reality by using meek qualifiers, such as:

            “my IMPRESSIONS are”
            “I WOULD say”
            “educational quality MAY be higher in the UK”
            “there are SOME”
            “PRETTY big differences”
            “UK universities SEEM better”
            “I would PROBABLY choose a UK university over a Japanese university for undergraduate study…”

            “The cliche that universities are easy to graduate from in Japan is still PARTIALLY true.”

            So we agree, Japanese universities have an automatic-graduation culturally-allowed problem, I’m just more willing to state the fact directly without all those meek qualifications.

            Anyway, respect to you for having obtained a position at one of Japan’s most highly respected “SAグループ Top 15” national universities.

            (I see by the way you also have publicly admitted: your national Japanese university has employed you for 10 years, they currently still only have awarded you with the the title of “lecturer” (with the possible carrot of tenure-track being dangled) and they annually pay you “5 million yen take home”.)

            Feel free to honestly let yourself and us know if you’re brave enough: at your national Japanese university which is literally in the top 15 of Japan, of the hundreds of students who didn’t pass your “required for graduation” course, how many of them shockingly appear in the graduated alumni list anyway.

          • @AnonymousOG I will only say that students don’t need to pass *my class* to graduate, they need an ‘English A1 credit’. There are over fifty instructors teaching English classes at my university so it is entirely possible for students to receive a credit from a different instructor to fulfil their graduation requirement.

            People call me many things, but I suspect that naive is not one of them 😉

          • Jim Di Griz says:

            AnonymousOG, thank you for your kind words, but I don’t feel that I made a moral stand and took the high ground.
            I just couldn’t go along with pretending to take it all so seriously any more when I knew the whole thing was a sham and that whatever I did and however seriously I took my job, it was literally of no consequence what so ever, and however much it paid, I wanted my life to mean more than that. I think that’s something many NJ don’t ‘get’- they will never be fully realized human beings working in Japan.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        AnonymousOG, you raised another interesting point. The university I walked out on was supposed to be a good school and had its own escalator H/S and JHS, but it was in the red after investing badly in real estate and was taking anyone who applied after subjecting them to sham application procedures. The affiliated H/S was taking kids with criminal histories and telling teachers not to leave them unattended with female students.
        When the H/S students visited the university they were strictly supervised to protect the JK from sexual harassment from male university students.

        Reply
        • Baudrillard says:

          hi Jim, a few queries. The students with criminal histories were all male? They had a history of criminally abusing females exclusively?
          I think this is more of a general trend against Japan’s traditional “hara” culture (seku hara, alcohol hara, power hara, smell harrassment and arguably its going too far in the other direction towards a cotton wool society, but I digress).

          Reply
          • Insofar as anyone deigned to share information with a mere NJ such as I, I was informed of ‘violent crimes’ involving the police, and ‘inappropriate sexual acts forced on female students’.
            Without being privy to exact details, that’s the equivalent of gossip, but the outcome; that particular students were to be effectively constantly monitored, or separated from others was a workplace reality for some teachers.

  • I think Japanese city officials are poor at planning and handling street events which thousands of people show up. A few years back, people got crushed and died coming home from a fireworks display in Kobe. Last summer, I was at the Tenjin-mastsuri with a friend and we couldn’t find a toilet. I live near there and I know where they are, but they were cordoned off. All the convenience stores near by closed their toilets for the night. I asked the police and they couldn’t help. My friend ended up going in an alley.

    I think city planners should try to embrace Halloween, even stop car traffic for the night.

    Reply

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