My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my Shingetsu News Agency monthly “Visible Minorities” column 10, talking about how some minorities in Japan sell out to authority as soon as they are granted any privilege.  I mention former Diet Member Tsurunen Marutei, Japan scholar Donald Keene, and Kyoto Seika University President Oussouby Sacko, and how they are now ironically perpetuating problems they once faced.  Full text now archived below. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(And if you haven’t subscribed for Japan’s last bastion of independent journalism in English at SNA, I strongly suggest you do. Fund Progressive Media that enables exposes like these.)  

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

Visible Minorities: The Guestists and the Collaborators

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/05/18/visible-minorities-the-guestists-and-the-collaborators/

SNA (Tokyo) — In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?”

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, a Finland-born naturalized Japanese who in 2001 became the first caucasian elected to Japan’s national Diet. Despite more than a decade as a policymaker, Tsurunen strictly toed the party line regardless of how it affected NJ residents, and disavowed any NJ causes, in favor of “environmental issues.”

Even when fellow politicians made overtly racist statements about foreigners in Japan, Tsurunen refused to offer any counter-narrative. He even avoided Diet meetings with the United Nations on NJ discrimination and human rights. The last straw was when he voided his own citizenship status, calling himself a “foreigner” in a 2010 Japan Times interview, and advised NJ to accept their fate as permanent outsiders. Ultimately, after this self-gaijinizer figuratively promised to “change the color of his eyes” if he got reelected, Tsurunen lost his seat in 2013.

(Sources: 

Or consider the late scholar of Japanese literature Donald Keene. Congratulating himself on becoming a Japanese citizen, he announced that he was staying in Japan “in solidarity” with the Japanese people during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake (contrasting himself with the mythical fleeing foreign “flyjin”). He even sniped in a press conference, “As a Japanese, I swear not to commit any crimes” (pandering to the fictitious foreigner crime wave).

Despite public promises to help out with the Fukushima disaster, he instead took a leisurely ocean cruise, legally adopted his common-law husband as his son (which is how Japan’s LGBT communities establish inheritance ties), and eventually built his celebrated Donald Keene Center in a different prefecture. Yet to the very end he publicly portrayed himself as morally superior to the foreign riff-raff.

(Sources: 

Even today, collaborators pop up in the oddest places, as seen in the following case study of successful NJ activism.

Last month, a French resident of Kyoto reported to Debito.org about a comic book issued to grade-schoolers by Kyoto city. A primer on street safety, the manga portrayed the tribulations of local kids and their granny trying to navigate mannerly through the mean streets of Kyoto. NJ made an appearance—not as residents, but as physically-distinguishable Western and Asian “tourists” disturbing the peace by loitering, littering, and speaking loudly and incomprehensibly. And, for good measure, the frightened children are depicted as scared by the prospect of having to communicate to all “foreigners” in English.

The Kyoto resident and friends contacted the Kyoto city government, objected to the negative stereotyping and propaganda being officially distributed to their kids, and successfully got the comic withdrawn. Score one for the non-guestists.

Then we looked at who created the manga; it was the Kyoto International Manga Museum and Kyoto Seika University. Both organizations, if truly “international,” should have known better. Kyoto Seika University in particular has in its statement of principles a “respect for humanity… and dignity… recognizing diverse points of view… and promoting diversity… where no individual member will be denied opportunity, be excluded, or experience discrimination.”

That statement is undersigned by Dr. Oussouby Sacko, a Mali-born Japanese citizen who became Kyoto Seika University’s president in 2018 with great fanfare. He was even featured in the New York Times in one of their “Japan is changing” articles.

So how does producing a comic book that alienates “foreigners” square with Kyoto Seika University’s mission? We’re not sure, because Sacko has not responded to inquiries.

However, we do know that Sacko has an odd view of how racism works. In his NYT feature, he claimed that he has never experienced racism in Japan—just of being “treated differently simply because he does not look Japanese.” To him, differential treatment by physical appearance doesn’t qualify as racism because “it’s not because you’re black.” Complementing his Kyoto University degrees in engineering and architecture, Sacko should undergo some social science training in modern studies of racialization processes.

Furthermore, Sacko conducts flawed social science research. In a 2019 plenary session at the Japan Association for Language Teaching, he gave high-profile talks on educational leadership and the “necessity of collaboration between Japanese and foreign teachers to cope with the needs of more open and global education… for teaching, learning, and leading within the Japanese context.”

Yet, as attendees noted, much of his expert advice on the Japanese context was oblivious to “Japanese” managerial processes, including his vague goal-setting processes that threw his administration into turmoil. Moreover, he couldn’t recognize his own privilege as he offered a charming vignette about holding weekly parties in the lobby of his apartment complex, despite the subtle Kyotoesque protests from his neighbors.

After watching a few of Sacko’s television appearances, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Instead of creating alternative narratives that push the envelope for fellow residents of diversity, he serves up personal charm, charisma, and clownery. He seems just fine with being a token gaijin, capitalizing on his respected position in Japanese society, while saying nothing about his university creating a racist manga for grade schoolers. At Kyoto Seika University, it seems he’s just a mascot.

These are some of the minorities granted positions of power in Japan—in it for themselves, oblivious to the problems they perpetuate for others. It seems the more visible these minorities become, the more likely they will forget what they went through to get where they are. Again, they pull the ladder up behind them.

No wonder Japan’s “visible minorities” have so much trouble making inroads against discrimination in Japan. They often become their own worst enemies.

ENDS

======================
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38 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)

  • AnonymousOG says:

    Yep, absolutely. The rich are financially motivated to uphold the status-quo.

    Japan presently consists of “LESS THAN 3% Foreigner residents”, so Japan’s pamphlets and posters about “crime” and “rudeness” should have LESS THAN 3% Foreigner-Perpetrator depictions.

    Japan’s pamphlets and posters about “crime” and “rudeness” contain FAR MORE THAN 3% Foreigner-Perpetrator depictions, which means “Foreigners” are statistically Disproportionately-Represented negatively in Japan’s propaganda.

    • AnonymousOG says:

      PS – That educational site (which the “I vow to continue to label all racist acts as white-ness forever” person suggested we should learn from) falsely claims:

      “White-skinned people … are not subjected to racism.”
      http://www.aclrc.com/white-privilege
      (Ctrl+F white-skinned people)
      (Ctrl+F are not subjected to racism)

      Hmm, just like Oussouby Sacko, the narrative being pushed by that site is “Jinshu Sabetsu is only Jinshu Sabetsu when committed against a black person” and “Whites are not subjected to racism, even in Japan.”

      Is this what you found in your experience Debito, when you and your daughter were refused entry due to your particular race?

      Even when a friendly chat gives the feel-good appearance of a relatively-rare raised-in-Japan-culture person-who-truly-understands your experience and lifetime work, objectively we have seen this strangely stubborn repeated inappropriate action of pushing a patently false narrative, namely: that it’s fine to use a RACE-criticizing term (instead of CULTURE-criticizing terms, or ACTION-criticizing terms) and that it’s even fine to vow to continue doing so in the future as well.

      I think when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to use a label which blames any particular race.

      And, I think when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to propagate the myth that a particular race is not subjected to racism here in Japan.

      • Loverilakkuma says:

        >“White-skinned people … are not subjected to racism.”
        >“Whites are not subjected to racism, even in Japan.”

        Applying the words literally into different cultural context without considering the role of majority/minority is haphazard and misleading. If one is careful enough, h/she can avoid an embarrassing moment to make a fallacious argument above.

        >when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to propagate the myth that a particular race is not subjected to racism here in Japan.

        Again, if one is able to discern the term with respect to power relation and strategic maneuvering to restore one’s privilege or mask visibility by taking a central position, h/she will be able to move beyond its narrow scope that confines ‘race’ as a biological construct. Furthermore, in a broader context, the theory, if applied to a non-western context, opens up the possibility to argue that those taking in the central position may be able to exercise its power and privilege in the same manner as whites do in the western society. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the stake is not necessarily limited to a particular race.

  • Unfortunately the vast majority of foreigners are coming from other Asian countries where Communism/ Totalitarianism is the government model and freedom of assembly and speech is shunned so I don’t expect other foreigners to come together. Honestly I see other foreigners as the problem as they are just as racist as the Japanese. Many Asian foreigners, other Caucasians, Brazillians, Middle Easterners, and those of African decent I have come across don’t seem to want to collaborate or associate with a caucasian foreigner such as myself. They seem to either want to compete with each other at all costs. They stare at me as if I am a foreigner and they aren’t. Really odd. It is the exact opposite of the U.S. where foreigners even illegal immigrants have much leverage. Whereas in Japan foreigners regardless if we are legal or not, do not come together at all. COVID-19 is forcing many foreigners out of teaching jobs etc and foreigners returning home because of it, this is causing even more of a problem of us foreingers uniting.

    I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but it’s going to take a huge effort on the foreign community here in Japan to fight for civil rights here, which we have none. As you mentioned those foreigners that are in positions of power to change are collaborators with the Japanese because they want to be accepted by Japanese people no matter the cost and willingly forfeit showing conviction to stand for what is just because either they are afraid of losing their jobs here in Japan or want fame so bad they’d sell their soul for it. By these foreigners collaborating with Japanese they are reenforcing the Japanese who want to continue more hate speech and make general actuations that foreigners are the problem and a majority of crimes committed in Japan are by foreigners and or make foreigners look foolish by any means possible.

    We all know who commits the vast majority of crime in Japan and at 3% of the population with a minute margin of that pie graph consisting of caucasians, I’d say foreigners aren’t the problem. Japan needs to police their own criminal organizations that seem to have free rein and cause the majority of the problems in this society. We are dealing with major hypocrisy here when the minority is blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong. I highly doubt things will change as long as Japanese from pre-school on up are being indoctrinated. Heck, even half Japanese reinforce the Japanese propaganda model towards foreigners.

    • I think you hit the nail right on the head, Chris. My experience is the same, and I also think this is basically the entire point Dr. Arudō was attempting to make with this article.

      As long as immigrants keep in-fighting, it will be very difficult for us to improve our situation. This is all the more reason why I want to stress here that it’s imperative that we maintain focus on the common goal: improving human rights.

      That being said, I would also like to suggest that it’s important that take the same position towards other immigrants as we do towards Wajin. “Where are you from?” is not an acceptable salutation, “You’re Japanese is so good!” is not an acceptable remark during a simple transaction, and calling each other “foreigners” or “gaijin” is not an acceptable form of address. (I personally frequently encounter all three when dealing with other immigrants, be it at stores, restaurants, or in personal interactions.)

      Another thing I think is critical is to denounce the notion that immigrants who share a common second language should not speak Japanese to each other.

      In short, all the racist social norms forced on us by Wajin should not become standard operating procedure for us either.

  • I think we should call this problem the “Kimi Onoda effect.”

    I have a strong hunch the only reason these minority Japanese are ever able to reach any sort of position of power in the first place is because they consistently toe the line and repeat the mantras of Wajin racism.

    It’s not that achieving privilege or anything causes the behavior; the behavior is a necessary pretense for accomplishing the things they did in the first place.

    I feel a particular twinge of regret in regards to Dr. Sacko. I held him up as an example of black Japanese during a black history month lesson I did last year. I’d be loathe to find out my former students read his ignorant statements and view him as an example of what a minority Japanese “should be.”

    • “strong hunch, the only reason these minority Japanese are ever able to reach any sort of position of power in the first place is because they consistently toe the line”
      That’s a very good point.

      I’m afraid that maybe the worst and most insidious effect of “collaborator minorities” is that they ARE regarded by Wajin as role models for how “good” foreigners should be.

      • EDIT: I misplaced the marks, I meant
        “good foreigners”.
        Since minorities are perceived as foreigners, but of course many are simply hafu or non native Japanese.

  • Check this article out. Point the finger at the US while there is zero mention of xenophobia problems in Japan.

    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/05/19/commentary/world-commentary/covid-19-lessons-xenophobia/

    —- I’ll approve this comment because it links to an article that is fodder. But your main claim is incorrect.

    Goto: “To be fair, racism between Asians in Asia has been on the rise during the same period as well. Media reports of discrimination against Chinese nationals, from Chinese speakers being shooed away from restaurants in Seoul, and Chinese tourists being asked to stay elsewhere by Tokyo hotels, have been all too common.”

  • realitycheck says:

    One of the problems of the disconnect between members of the international community here is the fact that the ‘Three D’ jobs and similar ones are not being done by those of us from native English speaking countries like the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand nor from those who come from Europe.
    Those of us from the countries listed above have a privilege that the Three D workers and trainees/interns who come from developing/relatively undeveloped countries do not have. Especially those of us with a white skin are perceived as enjoying benefits that those other workers do not. And this is true to some extent.
    For example, I can’t argue with the ‘privilege’ assertion in cases where fresh graduates from my home country’s universities with no idea of what they want to do are being given visas to ‘teach’ English when in fact most of them have never done this kind of work nor prepared for it and in some cases have never really worked at any job that requires committed working hours.
    Meanwhile Filipana people or Indonesian people with strong English skills and far better grammatical knowledge as they actually learn English grammar, are shunted aside as non native speakers and generally perceived in Japan as inferior by virtue of not coming from western countries.
    This is not to deny the real racism – yes Japanese people, there is racism here against non Japanese regardless of their country of origin and skin color – that in my opinion has steadily increased as the number of non Japanese has increased. Of course 3 percent is so small compared to the numbers of international people in our home countries includng those born elsewhere and who are PR or citizens.
    However, you just have to be aware of what is going on around you in Tokyo which I have no problems saying has a surprising number of Japanese with provincial and redneck attitudes. They are resentful of non Japanese even as we are really only here to prop up their ailing system with our taxes hence the increased numbers of fresh graduates from the US and other western countries.
    Dr Debito has always been one to promote awareness of togetherness. We all need to spend more time trying to get to know different foreigner communities here and not simply those with whom we directly work.
    We need to develop a commitment to ‘When one foreigner is attacked/belittled/discriminated against/conned out of their money or their job, stereotyped as a criminal by universities, the media and authorities, this is an attack on all of us who make up the foreign community in Japan’.
    Speaking of Japanese racism and denial, I have a friend who had a class with a student yesterday. This woman has an active interest in the civil rights movement of the US in Dr King’s time as well as racism issues in contemporary US society.
    He said he would welcome this interest if only she would stop being in denial about her own country. Asked a careful question about minorities in Japan, she responded with the usual ‘There is no racism or discrimination in Japan because we are all Japanese.’
    Now the issue was about ethnicity/race so he didn’t mention Burakumin or sexual minorities or the people affected by nuclear radiation.
    He did try to carefully steer the conversation on to the topic of the Ainu and Zainichi. However, she brushed it away and was very uncomfortable when he referred to the fact that the Ainu were the original people of Japan just like the original people in the US, Canada, Australia, NZ etc.
    What we have here in Japan is as much a psychological issue as anything else.
    This is why some Japanese people develop a big interest in other countries’ minorities, at times an almost obsessive interest, and enjoy pointing out western immigrant countries’ failings in regard to their diverse communities and in their historical treatment of them.
    Yet if you mention the Ainu it is as they don’t exist outside of a few dances and association with bear hunting.
    Their interest in ethnicity and racism outside Japan is a classic case of projection of their own country and society’s problems onto the outside world in order to never have to think about them and hence engage in a critical assessment of their own society.
    Of course the same Japanese wouldn’t even think of them playing a prominent role in any Olympic ceremony.
    Just as well because the Ainu segment was dropped from the Tokyo Olympics which I hope will never happen. This present government does not deserve to host the Olympic Games nor does the suddenly active Governor Koike who is part of neo-fascist group Nippon Kaigi.
    It’s good to address the foreigner community now but post-pandemic will she still be interested in our communities and the issues we face?

    • Baudrillard says:

      I wasnt there but I wouldd argue there is something else at work here: appropriation/fetishism of a foreign culture as a “brand”, especially black culture by Japanese who like hop hop, etc.
      ” This woman has an active interest in the civil rights movement of the US in Dr King’s time as well as racism issues in contemporary US society.”
      “He said he would welcome this interest if only she would stop being in denial about her own country. Asked a careful question about minorities in Japan, she responded with the usual ‘There is no racism or discrimination in Japan because we are all Japanese.’”

      I actualy knew a black guy in Japan married to a Japanese woman with a degree in either African Studies or similar. I met her, she had zero interest in even conversing much with e.g. white people or Asian people. While a positive and informed decision, I could equally argue that the student you described above is of a similar ilk.

      So when your friend asked her about racism in Japan, her eyes glazed over because that is not what she bought and paid for. She probably thinks Japan is boring and homogenous and the history of black Americans is exotic.

      Again, I wasnt there, but I have seen this cultural fetishism especially in the 1990s to the point where it actually impacted on my own life teaching at an urban college. It also dovetailed with the whole “All Gaijin are American” thing, and about ten years later there was a “French wave”.
      Or students who are sick of America wanting to only learn British English, etc. Your culture as a product to be chosen; this is undeniably a fact of life in Japan.

      (I even had a student who only studied English because there was no French teacher, so when I told her I was of French descent a whole load of fetishization symptoms appeared, but I digress….)

  • I’ve been reading Debito’s columns for years now and this is definitely one of the best pieces, right on par with “White supremacists and Japan: A love story”. It always amazes me how other NJ are fine with being second class citizens. Many people I’ve talked to just repeat the same old talking points and arguments.

    1. The guestism mentioned in the column. “It’s their country not mine, I have no right to tell Japanese people how they should run their country.” I don’t even have to dismantle this one, as Debito has done this countless times already.

    2. The good old bullshit about Japan being an isolated island nation, which somehow means that Japanese people aren’t racist, they just have an “island mentality”. Once you mentioned that countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland are also island countries, but don’t have such “mentalities.” These people then quickly switch to another excuse which is “Well, these countries were imperialistic, or they have a history of immigration. Japan is not imperialistic and the country was isolationist for 200 years, you can’t compare those countries.” Yes, I can. First of all, Japan definitely used to be an imperialist country (from 1900-1945 please learn your history) and secondly it doesn’t matter for how long Japan used to be isolated from the rest of the world. That ended in 1853, which was 167 years ago. There’s no reason why Japan can’t implement a modern immigration policy similar to other developed nations.

    3. Then we have the classic “Japanese culture is so unique, immigrants would just destroy this uniqueness.” How is Japanese culture even unique? Most of it was imported through mainland China. Sure, Japan has things that you can only find in Japan, which includes things like architecture, food, language and other stuff. But every other country in the world has more or less the same thing. Most European and Middle Eastern countries have a much longer history of culture and civilization than Japan and I don’t see how immigrants are destroying those cultures. German, British, French and Italian cultures are doing perfectly fine in my opinion, despite all these countries having a decent amount of immigrants. It always amazes me how easily those NJ believe all the nihonjinron myths.

    This is definitely the best part of the column though: “Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.”

    This hits the nail right on the head. Yes, NJ who are in a position of power in Japan do everything they can to uphold the status quo and it’s extremely annoying to me. Instead of making it easier for all NJ, they are basically saying “Haha look at me, I’m a better “gaijin” than you are”! It’s extremely annoying and childish. They also somehow try to put other NJ residence down all the time (at least in my experience). I don’t really know what causes this, but HJ is probably right when he calls this Kimi Onoda effect. Those elite NJ probably think that Wajin will accept them as equal if they copy their racism and talking points. I’m glad that Ghosn is the only elite NJ that managed to tell the truth about Japanese racism and how fast you can lose everything you’ve built up over years in Japan, just because some Wajin wants to remove the foreigner from a position of power. Unfortunately right as the international media started to report about Ghosn, all this shit with the Corona Virus happend and no nobody cares about what he has to say anymore. Japan’s inhuman treatment of NJ will go unpunished again.

    It’s funny how Japan seems to only work in extremes, but as NJ, whatever you do, you’re in the wrong. If you complain about your treatment in Japan, you hate Japan and should go back home if you don’t like it here. But once you actually do leave, because you’re fed up with all the racism and xenophobia, you’re a flyjin and you betrayed Japan. You can only pass as acceptable NJ if you accept your status as second class citizen and never say anything negativ about Japan. And even then you’ll quickly get booted out by the Wajin majority once you become too powerful (see Ghosn).

  • Niklas you posted many truths. Its a no win situation when it comes to long term residence in Japan. Ive also encountered those NJ; they seem to live in a perpetual state of denial. For me, to state the obvious and even sometimes complain about it, is more realistic, even healthy, but I dont argue with those types anymore.

    Those elite NJ probably think that Wajin will accept them as equal if they copy their racism and talking points

    Thats a fools game and its a game that you will always loose. The long term affect of that makes me cringe to even think about it. Being somebody your not, just to be accepted…a .sick existence indeed.

    Their faces are not Japanese, and that alone, by default, disqualifies them from any meaningful acceptance; its only a temporary feel good, that they end up craving more and more. Eventually their master will turn on them, and they either give up the act, or enter the endless loop of self examination and the master will gas light them more and more. Look at all the clown gaijin talent who have fell for this. There are maybe one or two still in the game. An acceptance junkie, so we come full circle to what I just posted, you accept that your different and wont be accepted and work with that.

  • @JK I plan to watch it, but there‘s literally 0 information about a theatrical or blu-ray release in Europe or any other country outised of Japan. It‘s just airing at some film festivals. I hope that they release this movie and the Ushiku documentary on blu-ray one day. I think we could definitely link both movies through Debito.org, but like I said no sales announced for non of those two unfortunately. But I will link everyone to the trailer:

    https://youtu.be/-ZK5y4rbJEg

    It looks really good in my opinion and the story is a very important one to tell.

  • From the link JK posted ” I did not remember him. He was disappointed, unable to believe that I had forgotten someone with whom I had shared so momentous an occasion, but I had been so intent on trying to understand the emperor’s words that nothing else had really registered.”

    Actually a deep insight into Keene’s priorities. Remember when 3/11 happened? He said the first thing he worried about was whether a local ancient shrine had been damaged. Didnt mention the people.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  • @ JK, I think he bought into Japanese postwar propaganda as “He requested to return to the United States after growing sick of investigating Japanese war criminals, and visited Japan’s mainland for the first time soon afterwards.”

    He then spent time looking for the families of his Japanese friends he had met in China.

    So, to summarize, he made a lot of Japanese friends in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in China and then got sick of investigating Japanese war criminals, and instead had a very enjoyable visit to Japan.

    On the face of it, this is quite incriminating. One could even argue he was an early example of the Japanese charm offensive during the US occupation to get the American forces to leave asap.

  • More damning Keen extracts “Keene came so close to realizing his wish of setting foot in Japan’s mainland, but it was blocked by a superior he was on bad terms with. He was instead sent to China. ”

    So, a Japan fan from the start.

    “However, such carefree fun was short-lived. Keene was assigned with the task of probing into Japanese military war crimes on the Chinese mainland. Keene did not join the U.S. Navy to take part in fighting, and had no interest whatsoever in combat or the brutal events that happened as a result. The more he looked into the matters, the more he heard about the wicked acts committed by Japanese troops in China. He grew sick of it, questioning why he had to expose such cruel realities long after the war’s end. ”

    Oh, mendokusai! Those pesky war crimes. So long ago (like, two years) lets forget about them!

    Seems like a complete hedonistic dreamy day cloud walker with little regard for anything serious or human life, and not heroic in the slightest. Said it before, when 3/11 happened his first utterance was “oh no, what about the ancient temple over there?”

    I am starting to see why he fitted into Japan so well. Lets just enjoy Japanese food, clothes and culture and not think too deeply about unpleasant things.

    Pass the sake please.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    ‘questioning why he had to expose such cruel realities’, oh, poor Donald Keene! My heart bleeds for him. Why can’t victims of war crimes just STFU, eh?

    To be fair though, much as it IS a problem of Japanese culture, it’s also present in many societies around the world today; becoming offended by reality. The problem is that merely understanding unpleasant truths carries an implicit responsibility to not repeat or perpetuate the unpleasantness, and far too many people (usually the ones obsessing over ‘their rights’) are simply too psychologically and morally weak accept this.
    Case in point: you can’t get people to wear a mask or get vaccinated to protect their immediate family, so there’s not much chance of getting them to change their lifestyle to save the environment, is there?
    They retreat into conspiracist fantasy and protest about ‘their rights’ because reality ruined their ‘dreamy-day’ consensual hallucination.

  • Japan is not a real country, it is a figment of (western) imagination. So said Oscar Wilde, meaning the Japan westerners imagined was a fantasy. After WW2, a reconstructed Japan was even more so. Kyoto had been spared, and Keene and his ilk eagerly spun exotica myths, ignoring brutal realities.

    Live life as a nobody gaijin in Japan and you will encounter a very different reality and perhaps just 5-10% of your experience will be the fantasy bit, the anime, you came to Japan for. When you ask most Japanese about “Wabi” or such mysterious concepts they haven’t got a clue either. Something else you encounter is even if western VIPs pay you attention, if you aren’t “known” or “famous” to the Japanese, they cannot comprehend said visiting Western celebrity giving you the courtesy or time of day. E.g. you are an English teacher who went to Oxford and studied politics and teach at the embassy; a visiting VIP at the embassy could acknowledge you for this but the J handlers/managers around him handling the visit will resent your “intrusion”. In Japan, you are a not famous NJ so you do not matter on their hierarchy to paraphrase Ishihara. Gone are the days when your foreignness alone would grant you celeb status, Mr Keene.

    @ Jim, you mention consensual hallucination. I was just reading about George Sorel and fascism, and how crowds can be hypnotized and controlled by a kind of mass hallucination by a skilled orator (HItler, Mussolini) with nothing to do with the truth, instead what they want to hear. Thus, popularists like Trump and Abe, and his appeal.
    You says its (recent) problem around the world but I would say Japan is often ahead of the curve in e.g. being hyper sensitive, cancel culture, etc, although without progressive themes; its often the elites and the upper middle classes in Japan that are hyper sensitive about how they are perceived and their insecurity.

  • ‘questioning why he had to expose such cruel realities’,

    I just cannot get over the sheer snowflake irresponsible selfishness of this comment by Keene.

    1. “Why do I have to do it?” (because you are in the army in a post war situation)
    2. “Why expose” (because these are evil mass crimes, though no doubt your new Japanese “friends” would like to shove them under the proverbial carpet)
    3. “Cruel realities” (it is after a world war, the reality is cruel. No doubt you would prefer an anime fantasy world of maid cafes, oh yes, that did come to pass in your life time in Tokyo).

  • @Baud and @Jim Di Griz,

    Here’s an idea for an update on 「日光を見ない中は結構と言うな」:

    ドナルド・キーンの歴史を知らない中は結構と言うな。
    Don’t say “wonderful” until you know the history of Donald Keene.

    Oh, and speaking of Keene, there’s an exhibit in Karuizawa showcasing his life and works.

    In case you didn’t know, Karuizawa is surrounded by lush greenery and placed in a cool climate, and is the ideal environment to focus on writing…instead of investigating those pesky war crimes!

  • -investigating those pesky war crimes! Does anyone here have any evidence of Keene denying any imperial atrocities? Though I am more interested to know if any run of the mill NJ ever got to speak to him, (or he deigned to) and whether he skirted such unpleasant topics? Or, where he actually rebuked a newbie NJ to get in line and not criticize the hosts?

    Reminds me of an older American guy I met in the 90s in an elevator in Tokyo; he witnessed me at the receiving end of a bizarre “cultural difference” and was making unhelpful comments to his giggling friend, (Japanese person feigning sudden and dramatic illness to avoid answering a yes/no question, nothing particularly challenging, just this person wanted to go home early or something) and when I said, “Denial seems to be a thing here” he said he refused to say anything negative as he didn’t want to offend his hosts.

    So I guess work visas don’t count? I mean, we are just guests anyway by this logic. The skills we bring do not matter? I was struck at that moment between the guestist mindset of older generation (American post occupation, invited ex pat, here to smooth things along) and the newer- normal NJs here to do a job and not getting any red carpet treatment, just grudging tolerance (or, not).

    Guestism indeed. May it go the way of the dinosaur when these dinosaurs die out.

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