Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020


Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at
If you like what you read and discuss on, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog. I know everyone’s talking about the Coronavirus (and I do here too, for a bit). But my latest column backs the lens up to see this all in a larger context of Japan’s perpetual bad habits, and how they get a “free pass” even when those habits have adverse effects on the rest of the world. Especially when Japan is being held up as a model by many as a system that helps the powerful evade responsibility and transfer blame. Have a read.

One more note: Nowhere else in Japan but an independent news press like the Shingetsu News Agency would publish an article like this. This article will be behind a paywall in a few days, so please chip in $5 a month (I pay more) at the venue for access.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Visible Minorities: No Free Pass for Shirking Responsibility

SNA (Tokyo) — There’s an oft-used expression in Japanese: sekinin tenka. Best translated as “passing the buck,” it’s a reflex of dodging blame for one’s own actions by transferring responsibility to others. For too long, Japan has done so on the world stage with impunity—even when it affects the world adversely.

Let’s start with, since it’s timely, the 3.11 Fukushima nuclear meltdown that took place nine years ago this month. While the earthquake and tsunami are not Japan’s fault, situating a nuclear power plant so perilously close to the coastline is; as is the perpetually-botched response of containment and leakage (even the willful dumping) of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Contrast that with the attention and criticism (and even a TV series) Russia got for Chernobyl, where the situation has finally been contained in a sarcophagus. In Japan, officials instead blamed world standards of safe radiation levels for being alarmist (adjusting them upwards for domestic political purposes) and declared Fukushima produce safe for consumption.

Even more timely is how sekinin tenka influenced Japan’s Covid-19 response…

Read the rest at

Do you like what you read on  Want to help keep the archive active and support’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or if you prefer something less complicated, just click on an advertisement below.

2 comments on “Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    This was a really good read Dr. Debito.
    When faced with a ‘tough decision’, institutionally Japan prefers to procrastinate and waste time, allowing themselves to be ‘overcome by events’, rendering the original decision (or lack thereof) as irrelevant in the light of the newer, worse situation which requires (wait for it)…more procrastination. They all look very busy whilst procrastinating though (and everyone assumes, since the Japanese are so (warning! ‘Japan myth’) ‘efficient’ that much is being done and done ‘properly’).
    I was struck by your mention of the Fukushima triple melt-down.
    I recall how NHK constantly reassured that there was not meltdown’ whilst at precisely the same moment, BBC World News was talking about the triple melt-down as a fact.
    I can’t help also wonder if in the same way that the national SPIDI atmospheric radiation system was showing where the Fukushima radiation was spreading in real-time, and the Japanese government withheld that information to ‘prevent confusion’, putting the health of residents at risk, the Japanese government is now aware that it has a serious Covid-19 outbreak but is seeking to ignore it because it would cause ‘confusion’ and upset the business-as-normal ‘dreamy day’ (and of course, lead the public to question the government’s handling of Diamond Princess)?
    I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks.
    Only today, the governor of Tokyo is asking people not to gather ‘or else’ and threatening a lockdown;

    Maybe now that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are off, the five doesn’t have to be embarrassed by having an outbreak- it looks like Japan may go from ‘isolated cases’, skip widespread testing and self-isolation, and proceed directly to the ‘lockdown’ stage.

    I wonder how many elderly and vulnerable will die at home alone after being refused testing or unable to go through all the hoop-jumping to get testing?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>