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  • Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Jun 2 2009: “The issue that dares not speak its name”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 3rd, 2009

    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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

    Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest.  Enjoy!  Debito in Tokyo

    The issue that dares not speak its name

    The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    By ARUDOU Debito

    A few columns ago (“Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates,” March 3), I discussed how foreign apologists resuscitate dead-end discussions on racial discrimination. Promoting cultural relativity for their own ends, they peddle bigoted and obsolescent ideologies now impossible to justify in their societies of birth.

    This would be impossible in Japan too, if racial discrimination was illegal. And it would be nice if people who most need a law passed would unite and demand one.

    But that’s not why getting that law is tough. It’s more because the domestic debate on racial discrimination has been dulled and avoided due to rhetorical tricks of the Japanese media and government. After all, if you can’t discuss a problem properly, you can’t fix it.

    How it works: In Japanese, “racial discrimination” is jinshu sabetsu. That is the established term used in official translations of international treaties (such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD) that Japan has signed up to.

    However, the Japanese media won’t couch the discussion in these terms. This was visible during the nationwide debate generated by the Otaru onsen case (1999-2005), where public bathhouses refused entry to customers because they didn’t “look Japanese.” If you read the oodles of non-tabloid articles on this case (archived at www.debito.org/nihongotimeline.html ), you’ll see the debate was conducted in milder, misleading language.

    For example, it was rendered in terms of gaikokujin sabetsu (discrimination against foreigners). But that’s not the same thing. The people being discriminated against were not all foreign (ahem).

    Or else it was depicted as gaiken sabetsu (discrimination by physical appearance). But that’s not “race,” either. Nor is “physical appearance” specifically covered by the CERD.

    This term particularly derails the debate. It actually generates sympathy for people afraid of how others look.

    Think about it. If, say, some old fart is standoffish towards people who are tall, big, dark, scary-looking, foreign-looking, etc., oh well, shikata ga nai — it can’t be helped. We Japanese are shy, remember.

    Fortunately, there are limits: “Looks,” sure, but few Japanese would ever admit to disliking people specifically by race, even though one is a factor of the other.

    That’s because racial discrimination, according to the Japanese education system, happens in other countries — like America under segregation or South Africa under apartheid. Not in Japan.

    Then things get really wet: Remember, We Japanese admire certain types of foreigners, so we’re obviously not prejudiced. And We Japanese have been discriminated against in the past for our race, like, for instance, those American World War II internment camps. And how about the time we got ripped off for being naive, trusting Japanese last time we ventured overseas? So it works both ways, y’see?

    Welcome to the Never-Never Land of Self-Justification and Victimization. If We Japanese are doing something discriminatory, so what? Everybody else is doing it. So we’ll keep on keeping on, thank you very much. There the debate dies a death of a thousand relativities.

    Back to the media, which stifles more intelligent debate through its rhetoric of avoidance. They rattle on about minshuteki sabetsu (discrimination by ethnicity), even though it wasn’t until last year that Japan even admitted it had any minorities.

    Or else it’s not portrayed as a form of discrimination at all: It’s a matter of cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, microwaves and sun spots, whatever — anything but calling a spade a spade. That’s why only one article out of the 100 or so on the Otaru onsen case actually deemed it — flat out, without quoting some radical-sounding activist — jinshu sabetsu. Not a misprint. One. And that was a Hokkaido Shimbun editorial at the very end of the case.

    Pity it only took five years of debate for them to get it, and more pity that the media has since mostly gone back to claiming discrimination by nationality, looks, ethnicity, culture etc. all over again.

    The Japanese government’s fingerprints are also all over this rhetorical legerdemain. When the U.N. CERD Committee first accused Japan of not doing enough to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2000 ( www.debito.org/japanvsun.html ), double-talk was in fine form.

    First, the government argued back that Japan has no ethnic minorities, and therefore anyone who was a citizen was a member of the Japanese race. Thus citizens were not covered by the CERD because any discrimination against them couldn’t be by race.

    Then they admitted that foreigners in Japan might indeed be victims of discrimination. But that’s too bad. They’re foreigners. They don’t have the same rights as citizens, such as the right to vote or run for office. Even the CERD acknowledges that. Oh well. If foreigners want the same rights, they should naturalize.

    Never mind those half-million or so former foreigners who have naturalized, such as this writer, who don’t all fall into this neat dichotomy. Somehow they don’t count.

    Essentially, the government is arguing that the CERD covers nobody in Japan.

    That’s why domestic debate on racial discrimination is so carefully worded. If somebody gets denied something ostensibly because they’re a foreigner, or foreign-looking, it’s not a matter of race. It might be discrimination by nationality, or by face, or by culture, or not even discrimination at all.

    Just don’t dare call it jinshu sabetsu, the scourge that dares not speak its name. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, you can’t legislate against it.

    Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

    The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009
    ENDS

    35 Responses to “Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Jun 2 2009: “The issue that dares not speak its name””

    1. Shinrin Says:

      I read the printed version on the train and I was waiting for your posting, friend !

      Let us dream with an ideal scenario ?

      The Japan Times is one of the oldest Japanese newspapers and if was possible to have a Japanese language edition with a groundbreaking approach the NJ community would find a voice which the Japanese speaking community would, eventually, listen to.

      I think that most of the monolingual Japanese do not have a clue about all these issues. As a matter of fact the majority do not understand at all what is “jinshu sabetsu”.

      Recently, in a debate with a bilingual Japanese where we got to the point about “me” as a foreigner, and not understanding the “Japanese culture”, I decided to ask him the folowing question:
      - What are the main ideas of Yukichi Fukuzawa (Obviously he knew the guy, because he handles a couple of 10.000 Yen notes on a weekly basis) and what`s the relevance of his thoughts to Japan today ?

      This fellow had no idea and he started to praise me…What for ? Praise me for his ignorance about Japanese cultural heritage ?

      Do you see the problem, don`t you ?

      Maybe a “Manga” explaining “jinshu sabetsu” to the people would make more sense, when we consider the Japanese “Pictographic Culture” (Nothing against it…It is actually cool, I think) which has some difficulties reasoning in a more linear way.

      Maybe your “Japanese Only” book should come up in a “Manga” version to begin with, Debito !
      Even “Kanikosen” from Takiji Kobayashi got one these days in spite of the sucess of the original book.

      La Lucha Continua – The Struggle Continues !

      All the best !

    2. Fred Bitt Says:

      I don’t mean to sound too pessimistic or too optimistic, but this isn’t a problem related only to Japanese racial discrimination debates. Lots of really important discussions and social problems in Brazil get distorted and disfigured by newspapers and politicians who have their own agenda and not enough ethics.

      – I see. But that doesn’t excuse it happening in Japan. And the press in English (particularly the Japan Times) was not shy about calling the situation racism, flat out. Having a united media and GOJ front on this is something worth columning about. I don’t want the debate death of a thousand relativities to happen here either, thanks.

    3. Kimpatsu Says:

      @Fred:
      Two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, there is racism in other countries, but note that in the West, such discrimination is illegal. In Japan, it is not. This makes Japan morally and ethically [deficient]. All else is smoke and mirrors.

    4. Scott Says:

      “Never mind those half-million or so foreigners that nave naturalized…”

      Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?

      Government is based on people getting elected. Getting elected is based on people voting for you. Getting people to vote for you is based on appealing to their interests, concers, fears and hopes.

      The reality is, there’s about 130, 000 million people in Japan, and about 2,000,000 million foreigners. Less than one percent.

      Politicians, the government, the media, whoever, are not going to focus their attention on issues that affect less than one percent of the population.

      I think you’re right to continually bring these issues to light, as the mainstream media ignores them, but to constantly berate the Japanese government for ignoring an issue that will have little, if any, effect on how people vote for them into office may not be futile, but it does seem a bit unrealistic. The government and the media focus on issues that will bring them power and bring them money. When one percent of the population is concerned, neither power nor money are apt to flow from such a source. This isn’t right, but it’s real, and to expect the media and the government to quickly change the course of their attention in a notoriously rigid country is somewhat wishful thinking.

    5. pete Says:

      “Back to the media, which stifles more intelligent debate through its rhetoric of avoidance. They rattle on about minshuteki sabetsu (discrimination by ethnicity), even though it wasn’t until last year that Japan even admitted it had any minorities.”

      “The Japanese government’s fingerprints are also all over this rhetorical legerdemain. When the U.N. CERD Committee first accused Japan of not doing enough to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2000 ( http://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html ), double-talk was in fine form.”

      Let me see if I understand you correctly, Debito. You have just argued in the Japan Times that there is a (willful and perhaps secret — it isn’t clear) government-media conspiracy, based on your own personal review of apparently all Japanese-language newspapers from an undisclosed time period and sample, that is designed to hurt your political agenda by deliberately “avoiding” in concert your personally preferred rhetoric needed to get the law you want somehow passed. OK. If you say so.

      Keep ‘em coming, Debito. Your writing is certainly never dull.

    6. john k Says:

      “..If we pretend it doesn’t exist,..”

      That is the problem here in Japan. If “the powers that be” or anyone for that matter, does not want to address ‘something’ they selectively ignore it. Then it becomes de rigeur to not mention it and behold, it is no longer spoken about, for fear of the etiquette police dragging you away in the middle of the night for speaking the “officially” unspeakable!

      Until the dynastic GOJ is removed in all its forms, it shall continue in this vein, so long as the course of action keeps them in power and the masses obsequious to the point of mentally numb!

    7. Philip Says:

      It’s interesting that you still refer to the Otaru onsen case. Hasn’t any big racist happen since then? Maybe racial discrimination isn’t a big issue in Japan? Gaikokujin sabetsu, discrimination against foreigners, is definitely a bigger issue. But it’s not the foreigners that come from rich countries; it’s the people who come from China and Brazil.

      The words racism, racist, and racial discrimination make people think of certain things. What I think of is hatred, segregation, poverty, hate crimes, unfair trials, etc. What racial discrimination that happening is nothing compared to what is happening in the USA (and other counties)–past and present–even after it became illegal. Yes, you say that doesn’t mean it’s OK–you’re right! But it became illegal in those counties because it was out of control. In Japan, is it getting worse as more and more foreigners come to Japan, or are Japanese becoming more accepting and open-minded? Since you’re still referring a 10-year-old case…

    8. Jcek Says:

      The sad thing is a large fraction of foreigners in Japan cannot reach a consensus on this issue. People are being treated vastly differently when they come to Japan from a foreign country, sometimes its positive, but most of it negative. Especially those who attempt to “stay” in Japan a few years. People that refer to themselves as a “guest” even though they hold residence, work, and pay taxes is a shame. I still think people should adapt to their situation but they don’t have toapologize for being who they are, which I always seem to find other people expecting from me. I am adamant however, that the foreign residents of Japan can make a change for the better despite the huge hurdles. Everyone can start by volunteering in their free time, and educate themselves in the local language.

    9. jim Says:

      It was a great article, and it was long overdue. Korea has already put into law an anti-discrimination law. So I wonder why its taking the GOJ so long to get with the program. But the first baby step is for them to admit that there needs to be a law, frankly speaking I wouldnt hold my breath.

    10. Mark Hunter Says:

      Debito, congratulations! This is your best article yet. A spade has been called a spade. Pete, Japan will never be on a footing with many other countries until racial discrimination is illegal. That’s all anyone wants, no political agenda, no conspiracy theories, just a reasonable law. Debito is bang on. Many Japanese journalists also admit that there is unofficial / self-censorship in the Japanese media, so it is no stretch at all to think that this uncomfortable topic might be self-censored, too. Even after the new law is passed, things won’t be perfect, as is the case in countries with anti-discrimination laws, but at least those countries have a starting point. Japan does not have that starting point because the issue goes directly to the heart of what it means to be Japanese, at least it does for the Ministry types and old politicians that actually run the country. When one’s identity is challenged, which a new law would, people start to feel really, really, uncomfortable. It means examining the very core and fiber of one’s being and status as a member of a particular ethnic group. It would be ignorant in the extreme to think that at least some part of Japaneseness is not constructed on the notion of superiority, as it is in many cultures, and that the power elites don’t milk that identity to maintain power (LDP). Well done Debito!

    11. Anonymous Says:

      I will have to disagree with you on this one, Debito. I don’t believe in races. Too much political correctness, yes, but I would prefer “ethnic” over “racial”.

      I know races still exist as a social concept, and that would be a valid reason to file against racial discrimination (since it is appliable in everyday life). Then again, much political correctness, but I think they should just make punitive measures of ethnic discrimination be the same as that of racial discrimination (if there is any difference — I’m ignorant on this matter).

      – Those are the definitions and the terms, agreed to under international treaty. Sorry.

    12. JP Says:

      Racism exists in Japan. It is a problem. Anyone who chooses to argue around the point it just simply trying to not see the true reality.

    13. Pete Says:

      “Pete, Japan will never be on a footing with many other countries until racial discrimination is illegal. That’s all anyone wants, no political agenda, no conspiracy theories, just a reasonable law.”

      Mark –

      If you don’t want to be associated with conspiracy theories, then don’t enable them. It’s that simple.

      I don’t expect you to agree with me when I say to you that I was not discriminated against racially or otherwise in all my happy years living in Japan (that was my personal experience and potentially different from yours), but I *do* expect you to agree with me when I say that you should have a healthy skepticism of anyone making sweepingly vague claims about the entire Japanese media industry, government officials, and “the powers that be” based on logical fallacies. Debito has taken the simple fact that Japan does not have an anti-discrimination law (one that he wants at least — it’s never clear what he actually wants) and combined it with the second “fact” (and I’m being generous it’s even a fact given Debito’s unclear methodology and sample) to arrive at an implausible argument about evil media-government “motives.” It’s called post hoc ergo prompter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). There is no law, therefore the media and government are deliberately “stifling” debate in order to prevent awareness. “Awareness”, of course, implies the media knows what is right and wrong based on Debito’s normative handbook. How would anyone know what all Japanese officials and journalists are thinking? Is there anyone arrogant enough to say they know what most Japanese journalists and officials are “thinking”?

      A little humility in the article would have gone a long way towards building credibility.

      Were these types of logical fallacies used to make sweeping conclusions about the motives of foreigners in Japan, I guarantee that all of you (Debito especially) would have been offended.

      Unfortunately, what I read increasingly on this website are bizarre conspiracy theories, bold claims, and weak analogies drawn from other countries. It’s entertaining to read (don’t get me wrong), but it’s not the kind of respectable literature that one reads because it’s informative, well-researched and logical.

      – Methinks this writer hasn’t done enough research on Japan’s Press Club media cartels, and how they control the flow of information to the public (and I guess a sample size of a hundred or so articles on an issue isn’t big enough to draw conclusions from). And has never quite understood the difference between criticizing a government (fair game) and an entire ethnicity (discriminatory)… Ah well. A little humility on my part would somehow fix everything, I guess.

    14. Mark Hunter Says:

      Anonymous….isn’t discrimination based on ethnicity included in most countries’ anti-discrimination laws, maybe even in some constitutions? I’m not sure, but your point is a valid one.

    15. Pete Says:

      “Methinks this writer hasn’t done enough research on Japan’s Press Club media cartels, and how they control the flow of information to the public (and I guess a sample size of a hundred or so articles on an issue isn’t big enough to draw conclusions from). And has never quite understood the difference between criticizing a government (fair game) and an entire ethnicity (discriminatory)… Ah well. A little humility on my part would somehow fix everything, I guess.”

      I agree with you that if you were a little more humble in your writing, then perhaps you wouldn’t face the constantly negative letters-to-the-editor in the Japan Times that I keep noticing.

      As for Laurie Anne Freeman’s thesis, of course I am aware of it. It is one of hundreds made on the subject of the Japanese media by scholars. I would think that anyone truly familiar with the literature would know that Freeman is not the final word on the subject. For those truly interested in a balanced view of the Japanese media and government activities, I would recommend the following scholars who have written on the subject in an excellent anthology entitled Media and Politics in Japan, edited by Susan J. Pharr and Ellis S. Krauss (University of Hawaii Press, 1996).

      No one expects you to publish serious literature on the level of these scholars, Debito. Then again, no one expects you to promote conspiracy theories either without acknowledging that you are just guessing about “motives.” But that’s what you end up doing: promoting conspiracy theories. It’s a shame.

    16. Mark Hunter Says:

      Pete..thanks for the comments. I beg to differ with your tenuous arguments about logic. Despite what you say about there being no logical reason to claim the lack of anti-discrimination laws in Japan is deliberate, don’t you, at the very least, find it a little odd that all the other ‘advanced’ nations have major governmental ministries or departments of immigration to facilitate the integration of immigrants, and Japan does not? I give much more credit for awareness to Japanese officials than you do. How could they not know that other countries have laws to respect the rights of immigrants, provide language training, and a welcome and that these immigrants have overwhelmingly contributed to the success of all the advanced nations? I give much more credit to these Japanese officials. There is a deliberate policy of inaction because, as some insiders have already admitted (I can’t dig up the exact references at this time), immigration is a taboo issue if a party wants to get elected or stay elected. That’s precisely why Mr. Hatoyama obfuscated this week when asked about the right for permanent residents to vote in local elections. He said that now is not the time to discuss it. Well, if not now, when? If you were not on the receiving end of any discrimination while in Japan, that’s great. However, that is not the yardstick by which the rights of other foreigners, particularly non-white ones, should be determined. In Japan, it is not illegal to discriminate on the basis of race. Officials know this and have repeatedly at the national level said no such law is necessary, it is up to localities. The media in Japan does as it is ‘instructed’ through self-censorship. They themselves have admitted it on numerous occasions. They don’t have to know what is right or wrong. In essence, Pete, you’ve basically sold yourself up the river by admitting you like the entertainment value of this site, and then dumping on the messenger by saying it’s not clear what he wants. What is so hard to understand about a desire to have an anti-discrimination law? Logical fallacy? Hmmmm. Me thinks we might be a bit muddled.

    17. Shinrin Says:

      Dear Pete,

      I am just repeating what others have said but, for me, an Anti-Discrimination Act enshrined in the Japanese legal system would solve the problem. After that we could let it go and see what happens.
      By the way you`ve made a clear mistake in your “scientific assessment” of what Debito writes:

      “…How would anyone know what all Japanese officials and journalists are thinking?..”

      That is easy: By what they state or write, Pete ! Before making “logical assessments” please pay attention to your own statements.

      Journalists and Public Officials DO THINK IN PUBLIC ! What they think behind their wife`s ears is not statistically relevant. Otherwise we could never do “social sciences” and assess public opinion or have a relevant sample on any given social reality, isn`t it ?

    18. Yves Says:

      I guess Pete has learned what amazing tool to happiness humility is, during his years in Japan, where he apparently experienced things unimaginable by any other foreigner to ever sail around these shores…like getting a mobile phone, staying at hotels, getting a subscription for local newspapers, or simply (why not)…going for a foot massage…But Pete, don’t start shouting : …BUT I DID GET A MOBILE PHONE…because you’ll show everybody that you’re missing the point again.

      I think Debito is a great exemple of a person who knows exactly what he wants and has the guts to make it clear to everybody…And what’s that, you might ask.Well, the guy just wants to have a bath.But have a bath the normal way…Without any preconditions, lawsuits and the threat of World War III starting in the process.

      So your accusation is completely groundless.Japan as a society has been very vocal in arguing for, or firmly opposing too many things, to hastily conclude that it somehow hasn’t noticed yet a need for Racial Discrimination Law.As you may have noticed Japanese people fight for what they believe fiercely.At times and in the spirit of the great Apple ad you might call them ‘the crazy ones’…I believe most of the readers of this blog would agree that in Debito we have an exemple of such a fine japanese spirit.He may not be a yamatoite, but he is Japan in her true passion, boldness, and…you asked for it…humility.You can disagree with him, vilify him or call him arrogant, but you simply cannot tell HIM, wether HE needs a law to protect HIS rights, and the rights of his children and many others in their situation.Especially if you’re not japanese.And if he chooses to see ‘a conspiracy’ in the complete lack of cooperation and disintertest in his plight shown by many circles supposed to actually defend the rights of the citizens /like politicians, mass media etc/…it is his right, because it is his country…But if you actually bothered to read through the abundant information published here you’d noticed that he sounds more like a novelist /and at times lawyer/ rather than a conspiracy theorist.

      Some while ago Debito was called ‘evil’, so I guess he’ll survive the arrogance accusation as well…

    19. Mike Says:

      Agreed. Pete is either some diplomat or base employee shielded from the everyday nuiances that we all encounter or just plain stupid.

    20. Philip Says:

      What “everyday nuisances” is everyone encountering? And what does that have to do with discrimination? Living in a foreign country has nuisances because of many things. The language is different; the culture is different;the way people think, the laws, the business system, the banking system, the list can go on.

      The people who mistaken these nuisances for racism are the ones who are just plain stupid.

      Wait a second. Mike are you trying to say “nuisances” or “nuances”? Because “nuiances” is not a word. Well, either way, my argument is valid.

      – The discussion is degenerating. I’ll approve this comment, but if it causes troll reactions I’ll delete it, and all other comments calling people (as opposed to policies and mindsets) stupid. I doubt you’ve read much of anything on Debito.org, Philip.

    21. Philip Says:

      Sorry. I was just using Mike’s words. What I mean to say is some people overreact to certain nuisances–like requiring a guarantor to rent a place–and think it’s racism. Yes, most likely, a foreigner won’t have a guarantor, but that rule wasn’t made to prevent foreigners from renting. Many Japanese people now run into the same problem.

      If one’s mindset is already “Japan is a racist country” then one perceives every nuisance as racist. Some might even provoke racism.

      – Your arguments are all over the place. And accusing people of things they did not say. Enough already.

    22. Massimo Says:

      Pete the fact that you may not have encountered problems does not mean that somebody else was not treated unfairly.
      I’m glad for you.

      Being refused an apartment because 大家さんは年配の方で。。or 大家さんは外人が苦手な方で。。or whatever…that happened to me many many times even if I am not a strange, ayashii type, I assure you.
      The real estate company refuses “at prior” without any appeal.
      It was funny once I went to ask for an apartment (in Shin-Ookubo !!!) was advertised as with an “international atmosphere” they refused to show me the apartment because I was gaijin. I almost laughed.
      I tried to convince them to arrange a meeting with the owner just to talk in Japanese and let him “see” who/what I am. They told me that the owner just refused by principle (to gaijin). Nice huh ?
      It’s frustrating.
      I also agree that there are much worse cases of racism out there, also in other countries. Of course there are.

      I think that racism will last looong on this earth because it’s something rooted deep inside us but at least we should be able to change/create the LAWS to protect everybody equally and impartially.
      I can understand racism can still continue to exist on a private/personal level but NEVER on a PUBLIC level like refusing a service, refusing entrance etc.
      That must be punished, harshly, by law and must be set an example.

      Not all is black/white so sometimes I understand that it could be hard to prove that you didn’t provide me that service just because I am (something) but at least the law should be there. At least.
      It gives confort.

      We need straight, clear, simple laws.
      Here everything is too あいまい vague and leaves too much space
      to (lol) “interpretation”. It must be made impossible to “snake” around laws.

    23. Manule Says:

      Hey Philip, nobody is speaking about the nuisances-like of requiring a guarantor to rent a place, we’re talking about the places that openly promotes “only japanese”, if this is not discrimination then what the heck you think it is?

    24. let`s talk Says:

      It is first of all foreigners` fault.Most of them accept racial discrimination as “a Japanese thing” and want to do nothing to change the situation.
      http://forum.gaijinpot.com/showthread.php?t=71190

      – Thanks for taking these posters on yet another silly debate page to task, but some of them just don’t want to know their rights, and heap scorn upon those who do… Ah well. Power to you.

    25. Simon Says:

      Pete said:
      “I agree with you that if you were a little more humble in your writing, then perhaps you wouldn’t face the constantly negative letters-to-the-editor in the Japan Times that I keep noticing.”

      Yes, that would be a good start. Debito, here’s a challenge for you, take it or leave it, whatever: Since racism and discrimination are so widespread here, happening every day, etc. etc., I want to see you write ONE regular-length column on the topic WITHOUT mentioning your Otaru case. (Double points if you can avoid bringing up the Brazilian lady’s issue with the jewellery shop, either.)

      Seriously, it’s like it’s the only weapon in your arsenal. Surely you can find something else that shows what a horrible situation we face in Japan? One that doesn’t involve your pet project?

      – Clearly you haven’t read my JT columns and articles. (There are more than sixty to choose from.) Most do not refer in any way to the Otaru Onsens Case.

    26. Massimo Says:

      let`s talk Says:
      June 6th, 2009 at 10:28 pm
      It is first of all foreigners` fault.Most of them accept racial discrimination as “a Japanese thing” and want to do nothing to change the situation.
      http://forum.gaijinpot.com/showthread.php?t=71190

      – Thanks for taking these posters on yet another silly debate page to task, but some of them just don’t want to know their rights, and heap scorn upon those who do… Ah well. Power to you.

      Oh my God, I hope there are not many people in Japan like some of the posters on that forum…..I couldn’t really believe what I was reading….(goose bumps).
      It’s also because that there are people like those that things do not change.
      Unbelievable, really. Unbelievable. No words left.

    27. KG Says:

      Massimo Says:

      Oh my God, I hope there are not many people in Japan like some of the posters on that forum…..I couldn’t really believe what I was reading….(goose bumps).
      It’s also because that there are people like those that things do not change.
      Unbelievable, really. Unbelievable. No words left…

      You really do not want to read this thread in response to the Akihabara massacre.One year after. http://forum.gaijinpot.com/showthread.php?t=71291

      courtesy of the self proclaimed No1 for foreigners in Japan/Japan Today… and some people wonder why NJ have issues here.

      However in hindsight this is also the forum that one of the moderators made a thread of puns regarding the murder of Lindsey Hawker and the admin deleted all references to NOVA and Interac that would negatively impact on their revenue.

      Horses, courses…

      – Quite. But I think this is quite enough about GaijinPot. This thread is not about them, so let’s conclude that with this post.

    28. level3 Says:

      The “I’ve never experienced racism in all my 1 or 2 years in Japan!” is a weak argument, and probably not even true.
      The thing is, for people who live in an “English bubble” through their jobs or schools, you have little way of knowing personally how racism has affected your life.

      The biggest issue that a large chunk of long-term gaijin residents experience, who have even learned to speak the language, is housing discrimination. “But when I went to the apartment agency, I didn’t experience any discrimination!”, you may claim.

      That’s probably because you walked in and asked them to show you a list a places, rather than walking in and showing them a list of places you searched for yourself on their websites to inquire about. Go in with no inquiries, and the agency staff will be sure to NOT tell you about any of the properties which have a “NO GAIJIN” listing, right along with other terms like “No pets” or “Unit bath”. This is not a conspiracy theory, these internal listings DO exist, and some are even found on major renatal agency web listings, as I believe debito provided a link to before.

      But when I walked in with a list of 6 apartments I was interested in, having checked a rental booklet and website (without the “no gaijin” labels) 3 of those apartments were immediately taken off the table by the agent, because “The landlords are strict about foreigners….it’s difficult” In a way, I admired the rental agent (who isn’t personally responsible for landlords’ racism) for being fairly open about admitting that I couldn’t get the apartment because the landlord is basically racist, rather than just saying “There are no units available now.” (Though perhaps other rental agents who can’t bring themselves to admit the race factor DO use that excuse, and again, you then have no way of knowing that you have just experienced racism. The rose-tinted glasses aren’t knocked off your face.)

      This could be true in many other areas.
      Racism doesn’t have to be blatant, guys in hoods burning crosses on your front lawn.
      It can be more subtle, [not getting an apartment, never being considered for permanent employee status, getting special attention from the police, getting dumped by a girlfriend whose parents disapprove, etc.] which makes it easy to ignore for those who don’t want to believe it exists.

    29. KG Says:

      Agree totally with all of the above… My last apartment company refused me as a foreigner to my face so my J-friend sitting next to me said that they would rent it instead… much sucking of breath and then oh but you need to be approved by the landlord – the landlord turned out to be living in the USA and was more than happy to rent it to a foreigner… the last words in Japanese directed at my friend/guarantor from the realtor was ‘I do not know how a foreigner can afford such a place.’ Needless to say once I was installed I had the company management advising me on how to sort my garbage etc etc…

      re:” This could be true in many other areas.
      Racism doesn’t have to be blatant,..
      It can be more subtle”

      This evening I gave up my seat on the train to an elderly woman. She thanked me loudly in english. Once I exited the train someone from that carriage deliberately knocked me to the ground. I have had kidney blows in transit, snide remarks but this was different…

      The only way to change attitudes is through integration and acceptance. What does Japan want? Tourism-please refer to the last G8 summit losses/hotels not wanting anything other than domestic tourist/cultural differences… The Olympics/Rugby World Cup after the debacle of the soccer hooliganism?

      Would integration affect – yes in a positive way – but only if the population accept the need that society as it is known will look after them and maybe just maybe a foreigner will care.

      Oh and my attack this eve was obviously random and not in anyway associated with the circumstances. However when you live in a society that you think it is that forsakes too many questioned unanswered.

      Apologies. I do not think I can stay here much longer.

      Debito are you in town (Sun)?…

      – Yes. Come to Linguapax. I’ll be there all Sunday.

    30. AET Says:

      @ Level3

      You’re absolutely right. Once you move out of the “English bubble”, Japan is not such a pretty place.

      Simple case -

      I used to park my bicycle in an alley adjacent to the building I work in. Everyone that works in the building does. Most of the renters are restaurant owners, so some patrons leave their bicycles as well. There are no signs or notices anywhere stating that leaving your bicycle there is a violation of any law or their personal wishes. None.

      Recently, a woman decided to start operating a food stall selling takoyaki in that alley. For about a week, I just continued to park my bicycle in the same place I always had, along with the other bicycles I saw every day.

      Then one day I come in and the woman is standing in my way preparing her stall. As I attempt to go around her, she notices me and starts putting her hands up and making motions for me to stop. She states in broken English, “park… no!”

      Now if I were in the English bubble, I’d just assume there was no parking. Maybe I had missed a sign, or this spot was the lady’s property. Surely, as I am a foreigner, I had made a mistake.

      But I understand Japanese fairly well, so I told her to repeat herself in Japanese. She told me parking was forbidden. I asked why, to which she replied the area was the property of the people working in the building. (Hmm, and I’m only wearing this suit and tie and a company pin that matches the company in this building, but I digress…) I tell her I work in the building. My company pays quite a lot of rent, in fact, to be in the building. She looks baffled. Then she says that it was cleaning day. Apparently alleys have cleaning days that have no notices/bulletins/etc., unlike every other public work in my area. Finally she just exclaims, “Can’t you just park somewhere else?!”

      And that’s only one of many joyful times where foreigners like myself have left people baffled by our ability to respond in Japanese, which is really crippling to their ability to deny us things without reason. In the English bubble, you can make up that reason. Outside of it, you find your counterparts struggling to do the same.

      A solid set of anti-racism and anti-descrimination laws would help eliminate some of that nonsense.

      And a side note – anyone who believes Japan practices descrimination by default and therefore cannot change (essentially stating that Japan and all the people in it are inherently and irreversibly racist/descriminatory) is in fact themselves a bigot. You’re not more open-minded or knowledgeable about Japan; quite the opposite. Japanese people are people first, just anyone else. People can change, no matter who they are. And so can governments and their laws.

      Keep fighting Debito.

      – Are you parking your bike somewhere else?

    31. AET Says:

      It depends on the weather. If it’s raining, then I put my bike right back in the alley where there are overhangs. Otherwise I just park it in front of the entrance to my building. I see the woman every single day and I do hope she sees me too. =)

    32. Behan Says:

      I think there is a lot of racism in Japan. In my dealings with Japanese people they almost always seem to make it an issue when there is no need to do so.
      An employer put me in an apartment because that landlord would rent to foreigners. In sports I have been told that some teams refuse to play against foreigners. I have been singled out by police for questioning. I have heard countless racist remarks made by people around me. Companies employing foreigners have different standards(some illegal) for their NJ staff. And, in general, a lot of people here make an issue out of the fact that I am(we are) not Japanese.
      I know that there are countries worse than Japan, but racism is very alive in Japan and I don’t now how anyone can deny it.
      I expect to get flamed for this but I thought I would throw in my two cents anway…

      – I strongly doubt you’ll be flamed here. This isn’t Japan Today, GaijinPot, Japan Probe or JapanSoc. Irresponsible comments don’t get through.

    33. snowman Says:

      Behan, who’s going to flame you mate? You just wrote about the way it is here.

    34. Kyushujoe Says:

      Blimey, with a name like yours, Snowman, you’d better hope you don’t get flamed!

    35. Mike Says:

      While I cannot speak for Japan Today, GaijinPot or Japan Probe, on behalf of Japansoc I’d like to say that we all do our best to promote open discussion. Occasionally an odd comment might slip through that is slanderous, but for the most part is quite a balanced arena. In my humble opinion, any reasoned debate that gets going about foreigner’s rights and other important issues is a good thing.

      – Of course, I agree. If it’s reasoned. We’re just getting some people with hatred in their hearts launching continuously personal attacks, to the point of dredging up completely baseless rumor and conjecture as some form of evidence. Prime example here (read down to comment by jeff3355). You owe it to your forum to make sure these types of people don’t debase your discussions.

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