DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 12, 2008

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Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 12, 2008
Table of Contents:

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REVELATIONS
1) Aso’s new wheeze: Teigaku Kyuufukin. Bribe voters as “economic stimulus”.
Might not include NJ, though.
2) Japan Times Zeit Gist on PM Aso’s connection to WWII forced labor

STEREOTYPING
3) “TALK A LOT” textbook (EFL Press) has a rotten caricature of a “strange foreigner” for an English lesson
4) KM on how only NJ suspects get named in J media, even when J perps involved in crime
5) Robert Whiting on NJ flunkey-cum-baseball hero Oh Sadaharu’s legacy

DAMAGE CONTROL
6) Mainichi: Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue
7) Mainichi: Japan might sign child abduction convention, quotes J lawyer who opposes, who claims:
90% of intl divorces are due to NJ DV!

FUN TANGENTS
8) AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) Americans abroad
9) JapanZine parody of Japan Times, “Gaijin Activist Successful in Obtaining a Ban on Racial Slur”

… and finally…
10) Post#1000: Oyako-Net and “From the Shadows” Documentary Forum on post-divorce child abductions
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
Freely forwardable

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REVELATIONS

1) Aso’s new wheeze: Teigaku Kyuufukin. Bribe voters as “economic stimulus”. Might not include NJ, though.

Here’s a post from a friend (anonymized as XYZ) regarding PM Aso’s new wheeze: the “teigaku kyuufukin”. Get people more positively predisposed towards the LDP by putting money in their pockets (as in, not to get too technical about it, a bribe). According to NHK, that means anyone over the age of fifteen and under 65 gets 12,000 yen in their pockets, and anyone under 15 or over 65 gets 8000 yen.

Wonderful stimulus package, like the LDP’s gimmick some years ago which IIRC gave something like 10,000 yen per household as coupons (which did nothing to boost GDP in the end, and just increased the national debt). Except that back then, foreigners could not qualify as coupon receivers (as NJ are not, again, officially-registered residents — they’re just taxed like residents).

This time around, NHK and others have been debating whether NJ deserve to be bribed (after all, they can’t vote; but nor can people under 20 yet they qualify). I guess the fact that any discussion of it is happening is an improvement over the exclusionary last round of bribes. But the assumption that NJ don’t really count is once again disconcerting. More at:

http://www.debito.org/?p=2002

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2) Japan Times Zeit Gist on PM Aso’s connection to WWII forced labor

Japan Times: After evading the issue for more than two years, Taro Aso conceded to foreign reporters on the eve of becoming prime minister that Allied POWs worked at his family’s coal mine in Kyushu during World War II.

But Aso’s terse admission fell far short of the apology overseas veterans’ groups have demanded, while refocusing attention on Japan’s unhealed legacy of wartime forced labor by Asians and Westerners.

Calls for forced labor reparations are growing louder due to Prime Minister Aso’s personal ties to the brutal practice, as well as his combative reputation as a historical revisionist. The New York Times recently referred to “nostalgic fantasies about Japan’s ugly past for which Mr. Aso has become well known.” Reuters ran an article headlined “Japan’s PM haunted by family’s wartime past.”

Three hundred Allied prisoners of war (197 Australians, 101 British and two Dutch) were forced to dig coal without pay for Aso Mining Co. in 1945. Some 10,000 Korean labor conscripts worked under severe conditions in the company’s mines between 1939 and 1945; many died and most were never properly paid…

Courts in Japan and former Allied nations have rejected legal claims by ex-POWs, so the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway have all compensated their own surviving POWs. Hundreds of British and Dutch POWs and family members have made reconciliation-style visits to Japan in recent years as part of the Tokyo-sponsored Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative. Stiffed by the U.S. government, American POWs have also been excluded from Japan’s reconciliation schemes a situation they say Prime Minister Aso has a special responsibility to correct…

http://www.debito.org/?p=1980

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STEREOTYPING

3) “TALK A LOT” textbook (EFL Press) has a rotten caricature of a “strange foreigner” for an English lesson

Here’s a page from a book by David Martin called TALK A LOT Book One, published by EFL Press. One lesson, “Strange Foreigner”, uses all the stereotypes you might desire. It shows a long-haired unshaven tattooed “gaijin” (sic) biker in jolly-roger underpants and zori, smoking and drinking a beer while carrying a knife on a motorcycle (yeah, that’s a frequent occurrence in Japan!), somehow towing a bulldog along, speaking katakana and asking for directions to his place of employment.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1994
The intimidated students even call him a scary “gaijin”. How nice. The author obviously knows very little about how most NJ live in this country. But what the hell — why not sell nasty stereotypes under the guise of English education?

Writer David Martin then responded to suggest we “relax” and “stop thinking about things too much”, plus how he finds the brusque style of my writing “upsetting”…
Excerpt:
===============================================
“Thank you for your email regarding the “stereotype” in Talk a Lot,
Book 1. I have had a look at your website and read the comments.
I want to explain this, not to defend myself or my actions but
just so you know. First of all, it’s NOT meant to be a stereotype
in any way whatsoever. Foreigners who live in Japan are not like this,
and everyone knows it. It’s done comically like this and is a gross
overexageration in order to motivate students to use a normally
dull grammar points.
[sic]

“For your information, very few people, students nor teachers have been
offended by this. Yes, if you think too hard and are too critical, it may
offend someone. Please relax, enjoy life and stop thinking too much.
Look at it in a different light and you may not be so upset. Also, keep in
mind that I, myself, am a foreigner and am poking fun at myself so
why would it be offensive. Offensive to whom?”

===============================================

My answer and some very animated discussion at
http://www.debito.org/?p=1994

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4) KM on how only NJ suspects get named in J media, even when J perps involved in crime

Mainichi: “A Chinese woman suspected of faking her marriage to a Japanese man just before she gave birth so her son could obtain Japanese citizenship has been arrested, it has been learned.

“Metropolitan police arrested Jiang Xinxin, 27, a resident of Tokyo’s Kita-ku, on suspicion of making a false declaration on an official document”

KM: I’m wondering why the name of the Chinese woman has been published but not the name of her Japanese accomplice (that is, the man she had the fake wedding with). According to the Japanese article both the Chinese woman and the Japanese man are being prosecuted. Yet, only the name of the Chinese woman has been published.

Hmmm. I think I see a pattern here. If a foreigner is involved, even tangentially, publish the name. If a Japanese person is involved, respect their privacy. Problematic coverage, don’t you think?

http://www.debito.org/?p=2001

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5) Robert Whiting on NJ flunkey-cum-baseball hero Oh Sadaharu’s legacy

Here’s an article which made me conclude something that I have been suspecting all along.

Baseball hero Oh Sadaharu, a Zainichi Taiwanese, is retiring. He has done a lot for baseball and no doubt for the image of NJ in Japan (especially the Sangokujin, Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s pet NJ to target as potential criminals).

But I am not a fan. As the article rather euphemistically headlines below, Oh’s record was hard to beat. That’s because anyone, particularly a line of foreign baseball players who came close, was stopped because they were foreign. Often by Oh himself.

Now, that’s unsportsmanlike. I will cheer anytime anyone does well as a personal best, especially when they overcome great personal odds (Oh was not allowed to play Korakuen High School baseball tournaments because Japan didn’t, and still doesn’t to some degree, allow foreign players to play in Kokutai leagues where “they might qualify for the Olympics and become national representatives” sort of thing).

But Oh for years now has struck me as a person who earns his laurels and his pedestal, then pulls the ladder up behind him, even for others who face similar obstacles. It’s one thing to discriminate because discrimination is the norm and you’re just playing ball. It’s another to go through the discrimination yourself, then turn around and abet the discrimination against others.

It’s hypocritical, and Oh should have known and done better. He chose not to. And now that we have an authority on Japanese baseball, Robert Whiting, coming out and indicating as such in the article below, I’m ready to draw this conclusion:

Oh Sadaharu may be a baseball hero, but he’s an Uncle Tom and a turncoat, and that tarnishes his image as a genuine hero. Shame on you, Sadaharu.

http://www.debito.org/?p=1992

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DAMAGE CONTROL

6) Mainichi: Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue

Mainichi: Japanese women from collapsed international marriages are increasingly bringing their children to Japan without confirming custody rights, creating diplomatic problems between Japan and other countries, it has emerged.

In one case three years ago, a Japanese woman’s marriage to a Swedish man collapsed and she brought their child to Japan. Later when she traveled to the United States by herself she was detained, as police in Sweden had put her on an international wanted list through Interpol for child abduction. She was sent to Sweden and put on trial.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction bans people from taking their children to their home country after a collapsed marriage without confirming issues such as custody and visitation rights of the country in which they are living. The convention has about 80 signatory countries, mainly in Europe and North America, but Japan is not one of them.

Among cases known to foreign governments, there are about 50 cases between Japan and the U.S. in which foreign husbands are requesting custody of children brought to Japan by Japanese women, and about 30 such cases between Japan and Canada. Similar cases exist between Japan and countries such as Britain, Australia and Italy.

In such cases, when foreign husbands file lawsuits in Japan seeking custody or visitation rights, their claims are rarely accepted, and the tough barriers put up by Japan in such cases have caused frustration…

http://www.debito.org/?p=1966

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7) Mainichi: Japan might sign child abduction convention, quotes J lawyer who opposes, who claims 90% of intl divorces are due to NJ DV!

Addendum to the above entry, complete with little needles in the article trying to poke holes in the NJ case:

“Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer familiar with the issue, is opposed to Japan signing the convention, based on the viewpoint of Japan protecting its own citizens.

“In over 90 percent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse,” Onuki says. He says that when the Japanese women come back to Japan, they don’t bring with them evidence of domestic violence or other problems, making their claims hard to prove, and the voice of the man saying, “Give me back my child,” tends to be heard louder.”

I wonder where he got the figure of 90% from? From his practice of representing NJ clients? (One of my friends hired him, and says he’ll fire him after this comment.)

http://www.debito.org/?p=1983

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FUN TANGENTS:

8) AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) Americans abroad

BERLIN (AFP) Barack Obama’s victory in the US election has given Americans an almost overnight excuse to stop hiding their passports.

Americans around the world have reported being congratulated by strangers in the street. Obama t-shirts are on sale in stores in Paris and London, and after years of criticism over Iraq, climate change and other disputes, newspaper headlines have proclaimed that the United States is cool again.

“YES, WE CAN be friends!” splashed Germany’s top selling Bild daily on its front page Thursday. “We have fallen in love with the new, the different, the good America. ‘Obamerica’.”…

In [Sapporo], university lecturer and rights activist Arudou Debito, or formerly David Aldwinckle, said he abandoned his US citizenship in 2002 during the Bush administration.

Debito, 43, who now has a Japanese passport, welcomed the Obama victory as “the end of the dark age” and said he hoped the new president “may make the [former] American side of me proud again.”

But Hansen, the writer in Germany, said that it was often hard to be an American abroad even before Bush.

“It suffered before. When I came to Germany under (Ronald) Reagan, and then George Bush senior marched into Kuwait, and I heard the same sayings ‘no blood for oil’ and that relationships with America had reached a nadir and all these things.

“It happens regularly. The perception of America sinks to a low point but it also regularly goes up,” said Hansen.

http://www.debito.org/?p=1993

COMMENT: Well done soon-to-be President Obama. Take back the country from the divisive and capitalizing forces that I have been glad to disassociate myself from. Arudou Debito, former American citizen.

Two essays of note on this sentiment here:

http://www.debito.org/japantodaycolumns16-18.html (see essay 17)
http://www.debito.org/deamericanize.html

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9) JapanZine parody of Japan Times, “Gaijin Activist Successful in Obtaining a Ban on Racial Slur”

JapanZine (Nagoya’s free magazine for the international community) recently did a parody of the Japan Times, calling it the “Gokiburi Gazette”. Front and center, an article about activist “Tepid Naruhodo”, who gets the word “gaijin” banned, only to have its replacement shortened to the same thing. It’s very funny. Seriously. As are the other articles and the masthead advertisements.

http://www.debito.org/?p=1987

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… and finally…

10) Post#1000: Oyako-Net and “From the Shadows” Documentary Forum on post-divorce child abductions

This marks the 1000th post on the Debito.org blog since it started a little over two years ago, in June 2006. Long may we run. To celebrate, some good news about the developing documentary called FROM THE SHADOWS, on child abductions after divorce in Japan, and the growing attention being devoted to it (including NHK). Word from David Hearn, one of the directors (along with Matt Antell) follows about a recent OYAKO-NET meeting…

http://www.debito.org/?p=1996

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Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 12, 2008 ENDS

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