Posted by debito on March 1st, 2007
Hi All. Sorry to be slow on this issue, but for the record, let me blog a few articles and reactions on this issue without much time right now for comment (will include comments from others). Debito in Youga, Tokyo
Ibuki: Japan ‘extremely homogenous’
The Japan Times Feb 26, 2007
NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Education minister Bunmei Ibuki said Sunday that
Japan is an “extremely homogenous” country, a type of comment that in
the past has drawn criticism.
In 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
“homogenous race” nation and faced strong criticism, mainly from Ainu
Speaking at a convention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Ibuki said, “Japan has been
historically governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an
extremely homogenous country.
“In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way,” Ibuki said in a 40-minute speech on education
reform. Ibuki is minister of education, culture, sports, science and
QUICK COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Just like, “In it’s long, multifaceted history, America has been governed by the Americans all the way.”?
Or how about Japan’s postwar SCAP? Oh, that doesn’t count, I guess. The issue is too silly to dwell upon any further. Let’s get to what makes this more problematic:
Abe sees no problem in education minister calling
TOKYO, Feb. 26 KYODO
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed
criticisms over his education minister’s remarks a day
earlier and said there was nothing wrong with the
minister calling Japan an ”extremely homogenous”
”I think he was referring to the fact that we
(the Japanese public) have gotten along with each
other fairly well so far,” Abe said when asked to
comment on the remarks by education minister Bummei
Ibuki. ”I don’t see any specific problem with that.”
Abe, who has been hit by a series of gaffes by
members of his Cabinet recently, added, ”Of course
there have been battles in our history, as in the
Sengoku (warring states) era, but it was rare that one
side would completely wipe out their opponents, so I
believe we’ve cooperated well with each other through
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the
top government spokesman, also said he did not find
the remarks ”specifically problematic” but warned
that ”Cabinet ministers must be responsible for their
Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki
Prefecture that ”Japan has been historically governed
by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn
criticisms in the past, such as in 1986 when then
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
nation with a ”homogenous race.” He faced strong
criticism mainly from Ainu indigenous people.
In his 40-minute speech on education reforms,
Ibuki, who is minister of education, culture, sports,
science and technology, also said, ”In its long,
multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way.”
Ibuki also issued a warning about paying too much
respect to human rights, illustrating his remark by
pointing out what happens if one eats too much butter.
”No matter how nutritious it is, if one ate only
butter every single day, one would get metabolic
syndrome,” he said. ”Human rights are important, but
if we respect them too much, Japanese society will end
up having human rights metabolic syndrome.”
Abe fine with ‘homogeneous’ remark
The Japan Times Feb 27, 2007
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed criticism of remarks
by his education minister the day before and said there was nothing
wrong with Bunmei Ibuki calling Japan an “extremely homogenous” country.
“I think he was referring to the fact that we (the Japanese public)
have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” Abe said. “I
don’t see any specific problem with that.”
Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture that “Japan has been historically
governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn criticism in the past. For
instance, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone faced a strong backlash,
mainly from Ainu indigenous people, when in 1986 he described Japan
as a nation with a “homogenous race.”
COMMENTS FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND THE UNITED NATIONS (earlier blog post on debito.org):
COMMENTS FROM MATT DIOGUARDI:
Bunmei Ibuki’s comments were *worse* than I realized. If this isn’t
big news, in my opinion, it *should* be. If I have time I will blog
on this tomorrow. I hope others do as well.
The Japan Times articles did *not* report on other comments that
*did* get reported in the Japanese press. Searching around I did find
that some of these comments got reported in at least one English
newspaper, the Telegraph.
Ibuki makes comments that show on a fundamental basis he
misunderstands constitutional government.
He seems to view rights as entitlements sort of handed out by the
government. However, these rights can be overemphasized and to the
detriment of the minzoku.
Minzoku translates as folk, but it’s code words for *race*, as in
Ibuki’s opinion is that rights should not be overemphasized at the
expense of the minzoku. And he explicitly identifies the Yamato Minzoku.
This is the *same* minzoku that so many Japanese lost their lives
over during WWII.
This is sort of like saying, yes, it’s nice to have rights, but don’t
forget that the heart and soul of Japan is the Yamato minzoku, our
homogenous race heritage.
This is really unbelievable and stunning. The fact that Abe does not
see a problem with these comments is also political miscalculation he
hopefully will suffer for.
Ibuki should resign and Abe should profusely apologize.
Because of the importance with which I see this issue, I’m posting
the entire Telegraph article:
Minister’s human rights rant shocks Japan
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
Last Updated: 6:39am GMT 27/02/2007
Japan’s education minister has stunned the country with a gaffe-
strewn speech in which he claimed that too much emphasis has been
put on human rights.
Bunmei Ibuki, 69, also said that Western-style individualism is
damaging Japan, while he praised Japan’s racial homogeneity and
appeared to denigrate minorities.
Japanese newspapers reported yesterday that Mr Ibuki, a veteran
politician who worked at the Japanese embassy in London for four
years in the 1960s, implied in his speech in Nagasaki that problems
with Japan’s education policy stemmed from the fact that it was
imposed by the US occupation authorities after the Second World War.
“Japan has stressed the individual point of view too much,” he
said. He also argued that a society gorged on human rights was like
a person with an obesity-related illness.
“If you eat butter everyday you get metabolic syndrome. Human
rights are important but a society that over indulges in them will
get ‘human rights metabolic syndrome’,” he said.
The speech raises questions about Tokyo’s commitment to concepts
such as human rights and democracy, which Japanese commentators
note were brought to Japan by defeat in the war rather than created
independently by domestic reforms.
It is unclear whether Mr Ibuki’s choice of the word “butter” was
intentional or unfortunate, but it echoes an old disparaging
Japanese expression for Western ideas: “stinking of butter”.
The term came about because Westerners traditionally had a far
higher dairy content in their diet than Japanese and hence were
thought to smell of butter.
Here is a link to his comments in Japanese:
Some of his comments:
ningendake wo tabesugireba, nihonshakai wa ninken metaborikku shoukougun
“If we (eat) partake too much of human rights, our society will
degrade as the human body does when it partakes of unhealthy food.”
kenri to jiyuu dake wo furimawashite iru shakai wa irzure dame ni
naru. kore ga konnkai no kyouiku kihonn houkaisei no ichiban no pointo
“If we only brandish our desire for freedom and rights, then society
becomes useless. That is the number one point of our educational
The idea that there is some kind of trade off between rights and a
“good” society is completely misconstrued. A good society is one
where people have rights and those rights are protected, period.
If we allow that rights can be curbed at the needs of *society* we
introduce a random variable that can be interpreted however one wants
to interpret it. We *all* have different views on what a *good*
society would be. This is why we have democracy.
Moreover, Ibuki doesn’t seem to grasp that freedom in a political
sense *only* means freedom from (physical) coercion. The government
cannot grant freedom in any other sense of the word. We accept that
the government will have to use a limited amount of (physical)
coercion to carry out its job, this is why we recognized the
fundamental danger inherent in governmental power.
Shall we allow more government physical coercion in in order to
support the Yamato minzoku. This is absurd. And its coming from the
minister of education!
The primary function of government is not to create a utopian
society, be it the Yamato minzoku, or some extreme form of Islam or
Christianity. The *fundamental* function of government is to
*protect* our rights. Through the exercise of those rights, we might
be able to help society, physical coercion should not shape those
I’ll note that at least one politician has a nice come back to Ibuki.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto stated:
nihon wa ninken ishiki ga tarinai kuni da to kokusaiteki ni mirarete
iru. metaborikku dokoro ka eiyou busoku da.
“As from an international perspective Japan does not have enough of a
human rights sense of consciousness, I’d say as far as human rights
rather than having a human rights syndrome, we’re undernourished.”
COMMENTS FROM MATT DIOGUARDI END
Beating the Yamato drum
The Japan Times March 1, 2007
With health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa’s gaffe remark that women are “childbearing machines” still fresh in people’s memory, yet another Cabinet member has put his foot in his mouth. This time, education minister Bunmei Ibuki has voiced objectionable ideas on the general character of the Japanese state and human rights issues.
In his speech about “education resuscitation” in a meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Mr. Ibuki said the Yamato race has ruled Japan throughout history and that Japan is an extremely homogeneous country. He also expressed the idea that there should be limits to the enhancement of human rights. Likening human rights to butter, he said, “However nutritious butter is, if one eats only butter every day, one acquires metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important. But if they are respected too much, Japanese society will end up with human rights metabolic syndrome.”
Mr. Ibuki’s comment is ideological. It is known that Japan’s ancient culture, the foundation of Japan’s present culture, was an amalgamation of various roots. No one single race formed Japanese culture. Referring to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s remark in 1986 that Japan is a nation with a “homogeneous race,” Mr. Ibuki said, “I did not say homogeneous race.” Even so, his mentioning the homogeneous character of Japan shows he does not altogether accept Japanese society as a composite also of Korean, Chinese and other foreign residents as well as Japanese nationals who do not identify themselves as members of the Yamato race — Ainu people, for example.
His human rights comment is also troublesome. It is clear that Japan has many human rights problems that must be addressed. Mr. Ibuki should remember that various rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are the basis of a healthy democracy. Strangely, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended Mr. Ibuki, saying his statements are not problematic. Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader.
ASAHI SHINBUN EDITORIAL, ENGLISH FIRST, THEN JAPANESE ORIGINAL
EDITORIAL/ Ibuki in the dark on rights
Asahi Shinbun 02/28/2007
Addressing at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture on Sunday, education minister Bunmei Ibuki said: “If you eat only butter every day, you develop metabolic syndrome. If Japanese overindulge themselves on human rights, the nation will develop what I’d call ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.’”
Metabolic syndrome’s telltale symptom is abdominal obesity, which could cause strokes and other diseases. Ibuki used this medical case to voice his view that society will become “diseased” if human rights are overemphasized.
Speaking on the present and future of educational revival, he also asserted: “Any society that goes hog-wild for rights and freedoms is bound to fail eventually. For every right, there is obligation.”
Perhaps Ibuki wanted to point out the mistake of asserting one’s rights without accepting the obligations that go with them.
However, although “rights” and “human rights” can overlap each other in some areas, they are not completely interchangeable concepts.
The very fact that Ibuki coined the expression “human rights metabolic syndrome” revealed his insensitivity to human rights issues. Is there truly a glut of human rights in Japan today?
In the education world in which Ibuki has the top administrative responsibilities, suicides among bullied children continue because they are unable to cope with the torment.
Elderly people are increasingly becoming victims of abuse. There are also endless cases of domestic violence and threats from spouses. Foreigners and people with disabilities continue to face discrimination.
Last week, a Kagoshima District Court ruling condemned the persistent police practice of using heavy-handed interrogation tactics to force “confessions” out of crime suspects and making up investigation reports.
The situation in Japan is alarming not because of human rights excesses, but rather because there are too many human rights issues that are being ignored by our society.
The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents constituted a grave violation of human rights. Therefore, the Japanese government submitted a United Nations resolution condemning Pyongyang’s violations of human rights. The resolution was adopted by the world body.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated in his policy speech last month that he would work closer with nations that share such basic values as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law. But what we don’t understand is that the same Abe sees “nothing wrong” with Ibuki’s comment.
Human rights issues are among the primary concerns of the world today. It is surely Japan’s role to continue upholding democracy and human rights in the fast-evolving international community and situation in Asia. Japan will be held in higher esteem only if it strives to become a “human rights nation” where every individual is respected as a person.
It is all the more regrettable that Ibuki, the very minister in charge of Japanese education and culture, has uttered remarks that revealed his lack of respect for human rights. The last thing we want the education minister to do is give the rest of the world the wrong message–that the Japanese people are quite satisfied with the present state of human rights.
Where human rights are concerned, Japan is nowhere near developing any disease from overindulging. It is still undernourished.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 27(IHT/Asahi: February 28,2007)