Ibuki & Abe on human rights & butter, plus reactions from media and UN

mytest

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

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Ibuki: Japan ‘extremely homogenous’
The Japan Times Feb 26, 2007

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070226a6.html

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
indigenous people.

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
technology.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
ENDS

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
Japan ‘homogeneous’
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”
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 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
history.”
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
own words.”
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
homogenous country.”
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.”
==Kyodo

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

Abe fine with ‘homogeneous’ remark
The Japan Times Feb 27, 2007
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070227a9.html

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
homogenous country.”

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.”
ENDS

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

COMMENTS FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND THE UNITED NATIONS (earlier blog post on debito.org):
http://www.debito.org/?p=239

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
Yamato Minzoku.

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.

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/27/wjapan27.xml

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

Here is a link to his comments in Japanese:
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20070226-00000022-mai-pol

Some of his comments:
1. 人権だけを食べ過ぎれば、日本社会は人権メタボ
リック症候群になる
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.”

2. 権利と自由だけを振り回している社会はいずれだ
めになる。これが今回の教育基本法改正の一番のポ
イント
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
reforms.”

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
decisions.

I’ll note that at least one politician has a nice come back to Ibuki.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto stated:
「日本は人権意識が足りない国だと国際的に見られ
ている。メタボリックどころか栄養不足だ」
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.”

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20070227-00000046-mai-pol

COMMENTS FROM MATT DIOGUARDI END

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EDITORIAL
Beating the Yamato drum
The Japan Times March 1, 2007

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20070301a1.html

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.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
ENDS

ASAHI SHINBUN EDITORIAL, ENGLISH FIRST, THEN JAPANESE ORIGINAL

EDITORIAL/ Ibuki in the dark on rights
Asahi Shinbun 02/28/2007
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200702280167.html

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)

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人権メタボ 文科相のひどい誤診だ
http://www.asahi.com/paper/editorial20070227.html

 「毎日バターばかり食べていれば、皆さんはメタボリック症候群(内臓脂肪症候群)になる。人権だけを食べ過ぎれば、日本社会は人権メタボリック症候群になるんですね」

 伊吹文部科学相は長崎県での自民党支部大会でこう語った。

 内臓に脂肪がつきすぎると心筋梗(こう)塞(そく)など様々な病気を起こしやすくなる。そんな医学的な症状に例えて、人権をあまり重んじすぎると、社会がおかしくなる、と言ったのだ。

 講演のテーマは「教育再生の現状と展望」だった。伊吹文科相は「権利と自由だけを振り回している社会はいずれ駄目になる。権利には義務が伴う」とも語っている。

 人権を振りかざして義務を果たさずに権利ばかりを主張するのはおかしい。そう言いたかったのかもしれない。

 しかし、「権利」と「人権」は重なり合うが、同じではない。

 「人権メタボリック症候群」という言葉から伝わってくるのは、人権に対する文科相の感性の乏しさだろう。

 本当に「人権過多」の状況がいまの日本社会にあるのだろうか。周りを見渡してみよう。

 文科相の足元では、いじめに耐えられずに自殺する子どもが絶えない。子どもだけでなく、お年寄りへの虐待も頻発している。配偶者らからの暴力や脅迫の被害も数え切れない。障害者や外国人などへの差別もなくならない。

 先週には、強圧的な取り調べで自白を迫り、事実をでっちあげる捜査がいまだに行われていることが、裁判所で断罪されたばかりだ。

 社会が取り組まなければならない人権問題の多さに戸惑いこそすれ、行き過ぎではないかと心配するような状況ではまったくない。

 北朝鮮による拉致問題も重大な人権侵害だ。そう日本政府も考えて、北朝鮮に対する人権非難決議を国連に提出し、採択されたのではなかったか。

 この問題の解決のためにも、自由、民主主義、基本的人権、法の支配といった基本的価値を共有する国々との連携を強化する。安倍首相は1月の施政方針演説でそう述べていた。

 その首相が伊吹発言を「問題ない」と言うのも、おかしな話だ。

 「人権」はいまや世界のキーワードだ。大きく変動する国際社会、アジア情勢の中にあって、民主主義と人権を掲げ続けることが日本の役割だろう。一人ひとりが尊重される「人権立国」をめざす姿勢こそが国際的な評価を高める。

 それだけに、日本の教育や文化を担う大臣が人権をないがしろにするような発言をしたのはとても残念だ。日本人は今の人権状況で十分だと思っている。そんな間違ったメッセージを世界に発してほしくはない。

 メタボリック症候群になるどころか、人権はまだまだ栄養が足りない。

6 comments on “Ibuki & Abe on human rights & butter, plus reactions from media and UN

  • There’s a lot I want to say here, but a bit too tired. I have worked on a long post for my blog and will send it tomorrow, I hope. So just this for now

    Ibuki said: “In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the Japanese all the way”

    You respond: “Or how about Japan’s postwar SCAP? Oh, that doesn’t count, I guess.”

    That’s *his* very point. That his point *exactly*.

    That’s why he thinks the educational system is messed up. it was during the occupation that the old system was established. He thinks we need a system true to Japan.

    Kind of sends shivers up your spine, if you ask me.

    Reply
  • FORWARDING FROM KIRK AT THE COMMUNITY ML–DEBITO

    Thanks Matt!

    I don’t know if Abe will be made to regret it but he should be.
    Abe’s defense strikes me as more problematic than the original
    gaff. Abe is equating homogeneity with getting along well. By this
    logic, diversity (more foreigners in Japan, etc) leads to acrimony.
    It also implies that whatever peace and good human relations have
    characterized Japan thus far have been in spite of minorities such as
    Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, etc. This is a very problematic way for
    Japan’s leader to defend a remark.

    Kirk

    Reply
  • FORWARDING FROM TONY AT THE COMMUNITY ML–DEBITO

    Further reports(*) seem to indicate the original comment on “homogeneity”
    was part of a speech about not showing individuality rather than about
    racial differences.

    Ibuki is now coming under fire for stating that overemphasis on
    individual rights is detrimental to the all important “wa”.

    As such his opinion is just as problematical, but it should induce the ire of
    not just the racial minorities in Japan.

    (*) Among others;
    http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/400238
    http://www.asahi.com/paper/editorial20070227.html
    ENDS

    Reply
  • –FORWARDING THIS EMAIL EXCHANGE TO THE BLOG FYI. DEBITO

    On Feb 28, 2007, at 5:39 PM, Tony K wrote:
    Further reports seem to indicate the original comment on “homogeneity”
    was part of a speech about not showing individuality rather than about racial differences.
    Ibuki is now coming under fire for stating that overemphasis on
    individual rights is detrimental to the all important “wa”.
    As such his opinion is just as problematical, but it should induce the ire of
    not just the racial minorities in Japan.

    MATT DIOGUARDI REPLIES:

    The more I look into Ibuki’s comments the more troubled I become.

    There is no transcript available for the speech, but if one goes to
    Ibuki’s official home page, one can find much the same types of
    stuff, only worded with a slight bit more caution.

    His home page is here:
    http://www.ibuki-bunmei.org/

    One interesting page is here:
    http://www.ibuki-bunmei.org/officialorgan01.html

    There you will find the following paragraph:
    例外はありますが、基本的には一民族、一民族の統
    治、一言語、宗教的対立のない国・日本は、世界で
    も珍しい国。悠久の歴史のなかでの祖先の営みは、
    法律以上に強い暗黙の約束ごと、規範意識を形成し
    てきました。
    唯一度だけ、第二次世界大戦後に、日本の統治権は
    占領軍に移り、約十年弱の間、日本の文化は途絶し
    ました。この間に作られた教育基本法と教育制度は
    約六十年間続き、この制度で教育を受けた日本人
    が、人口のほとんどを占めています。教育の効果は
    五十年後に現れ、その再生は百年の計。

    As best I can translate this (corrections would be great), it says:
    “Although there are exceptions basically, Japan is one race, ruled by
    one race, a country of one language, a country without religious
    strife, in this world a truly rare country. Throughout history, the
    work of our ancestors was to form a tacit promise with each other
    that is part of our collective consciousness and goes *beyond* the
    law. For just one sole time, following World War II, Japan was ruled
    by an occupation army, and for just under ten years, Japanese culture
    stopped. It was during that very period when a the Fundamental Law of
    Education was passed creating the current educational system, an
    educational system that has gone on for 60 years, an educational
    system nearly all Japanese have passed through. And now as we see the
    (undesirable?) results, it is time to resuscitate the educational
    system for the next one hundred years.”

    I’ve blogged on this here:
    http://tinyurl.com/27rd8f

    Basically, Ibuki seems to be blaming Japan’s current problems on the
    Fundamental Law of Education that was put into place during the
    American Occupation. He probably feels it emphasizes rights to much,
    and doesn’t do enough to build or shape national character. So he
    wants wants to revise this law (already has somewhat) to fit the
    needs of the collective conscious of the nation, the Yamato race.

    Ibuki leads his own faction, and according to Wikipedia his faction
    is “considered by many to be the most right-wing grouping among the
    major factions.”

    See here (copy and paste and beware of white spaces):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democratic_Party_(Japan)
    #Shisuikai_.28Ibuki_Faction.29

    Not exactly the kind of person you want to have to have the Ministry
    of education.

    His speech last week-end must have been a bit like the scene at the
    end of Dr. Strangelove:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeqfHZ0VV7g

    He might genuinely have not wanted to say “Yamato Minzoku” but in his
    excited zeal the word perhaps just leaped from his lips.

    Best,
    Matt Dioguardi

    Reply
  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    I find it amusing that in the light of nearly two dozen child suicides in two months, an increase in students not attending school, and schools not teaching the required hours of cumpulsory subjects, the best the Monbusho has been able to come up with is a push for “fostering a love for the country that nutured them (students)”

    Reply

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