I can understand the need for a career change. Why don’t you establish an organization dedicated to the goals you have set for yourself, the promotion of human rights in Japan. An NPO/NGO with you as the head. I am sure you will be able to find plenty of places to lecture and continue educating the general public on the human rights situation here in Japan. Continue to write, publish, serve as a forwarding center for information.
I would volunteer a couple hours a week working for such a goal, even if I was the only one there, but I am sure you won’t have trouble getting volunteers.;)
THANKS VERY MUCH FOR SUGGESTING THIS. DULY PUT IN THE THINKING CAP. DEBITO
This is the kind of slap in the face that really astounds me about living in this country.
One of the first things I learned about living here, both in college and now attempting to make a living here, is that there is nothing beyond novelty in the Japanese view of foreigners. Not only that, but our ideas and values, while entertained, are rarely if ever supported or proponed. Especially when those ideas strike at the heart of the Japanese mindset, as yours clearly do.
What’s happening is clear, as I see it, in that as long as you played by the rules you were fine, but why would an institution whose purpose is to educate(read: indoctrinate) the public and is funded and thusly controlled by businesses and the government advocate a line of study which would undermine the values upon which the current system is founded, i.e. racial discrimination, etc.?
Playing at equality is tolerated as long as its done among minorities. But, even after 14 years, try to go outside those borders and into the mainstream, where it might actually challenge people to think for themselves, and maybe even act on those thoughts, and you’re sure to get put in your place, especially coming from within an institution itself, whose purpose is to prepare people for a life of being too busy and automatomized to actually consider action or change.
I apologize for the familiarity of my comments, I don’t know you or the work you’ve done, I’ve just seen your name on everything that’s important to me since living here (I work for Nova), and seeing this happen is just all to reminiscent of every other time in history someone’s been shot down for coming too close to something important, and it frustrates me endlessly to have such a feeling of powerlessness to do something about it.
I wish you the best of luck in whatever endeavor your seek next.
I agree with David – take advantage of the extra time to better organize your activist work. Can you make a living from your publications and speaking tours, or is there too much offtime? Seek out sponsors for your high hit count.
Debito…I am really looking forward to your new book. I have already recommended it to many people. The Hokkaido Information University will be giving up a very valuable asset. Be that as it may, your future employer will benefit greatly from your experience. You will be fine.
Sure, your university doesn’t appreciate you, but long-term if you want to go anywhere in university teaching you need a doctorate. You also need to be consistent – at the moment your master’s is in international relations and you are teaching English. The university has a point when they say your research is not in your field (English) and this will come up again if you stay at a university and want to go higher in teaching.
The NPO idea above is a good one and you would be very good at it and continue to make the very real contribution you are making in Japan. But why go and ask politicians just one question and spend a whole year on it? With that amount of time and access to politicians you could be doing the research for your doctorate on discrimination in Japan. Or you could be doing the research for your doctorate on setting up an NPO dealing with discrimination in Japan.
If you have the funds, choose which subject you want to teach university in in the future (politics? anthropology? international relations?), and enroll for the doctorate in that field, doing your fieldwork in Japan on discrimination. That should set you up very well for the future.
Sorry to hear about it; I know you’ve lived in Hokkaido for a good minute and have a lot of memories there. I’m sure moving on will be hard.
I think you have the right idea in treating this as a chance for something bigger. You’re a published, internationally known political activist and scholar, who often represents a small yet growing segment of Japanese society. You can fluently speak and read English and Japanese, and you are a nationalized citizen with years of living in Japan under your belt.
I think your idea to interview AND OFFICIALLY PUT EVERY DIET MEMBER ON RECORD IN BOTH ENGLISH AND JAPANESE concerning the racial discrimination issue is a excellent one. I would be fascinated to hear the results and get access to the transcripts, as I’m sure would many other Asian Studies departments around the globe.
Also, I’ve been thinking for a long time that Japan needs that political organization that would play a similar role to what the NAACP was in the 1950′s [ie when it didn't suck] for African-Americans: a legal organization that can stand up for its members rights in the press and in courts. Obviously the comparison isn’t quite equal: the dangers and rampant discrimination and extreme oppression that blacks faced don’t apply to NJ in modern Japan. But there are serious problems facing NJs that need to be addressed, and waiting around for native ethnic Japanese to wake up and, “smell the coffee” hasn’t gotten anyone anywhere, nor has the piecemeal, disorganized activism and random lawsuits that have been tried so far. I do believe that NJ would benefit from being more organized with someone in the know (ie an educated, fluent, NJ naturalized citizen) either in charge or at least near the top. This organization would be particularly important in the coming years, when Japan wakes up to its demographic problems and comes to terms with the fact that it will HAVE to import AND KEEP drastically more human beings then it does now.
It’s Kevin Dobbs down in Tochigi. It really angered me to hear that your university has been treating you, a true humanitarian, so badly. Obviously, you’re more accomplished than probably anybody in your current university. But, alas, they really don’t see you as Japanese—even though you are Japanese. And you’re also the foremost civil rights activist in this country, which intimidates them, of course. It could be they’ve been looking for ways to bully you for a long time now. Of course, you cannot ever foresee such bullying; the Japanese are so good at hiding it—that is, until they strike. Anyway, you know I’ve been through this Hell and still am going through it. I could talk for years about their nefarious techniques.
You know, I’ve been teaching at Japanese universities for 18 years, so I’ve had chances to speak with many foreign teachers about how Japanese academics value foreigners’ accomplishments: all of these foreign teachers told me that their accomplishments were either moderately underappreciated or terribly underappreciated. Not one has ever told me that their Japanese counterparts truly appreciated their accomplishments. And I’m afraid we might not see a major change in this attitude over the remainder of our careers. Japan is probably the only country whose academics are just as racist as its farmers. Anyway, when you do start work at another university, I wouldn’t expect much change in attitude. Oh, they might pretend to love you at first, but, you know, that always changes.
I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for you regarding a possible job.
By the way, are you still employed there in Hokkaido? Or have you left already?
Your Tochigi Friend and Admirer,
–THANKS KEVIN, AND EVERYONE ELSE HERE FOR YOUR KIND WORDS. I HAVEN’T LEFT MY JOB. I’M JUST SAYING THAT I’M LOOKING FOR A NEW ONE. SORRY FOR ANY MISUNDERSTANDING. I’M NOT LEAVING THIS JOB UNTIL I GET A BETTER ONE. DEBITO
No good, no good. It’s hard to believe that a university that’s employed you since ’93 would be willing to just brush you off like this. They must have known that you wouldn’t stand for this kind of thing. Well what else can you expect from institutional racism. Good luck on finding your new job. Hopefully there’s someplace out there that’ll recognize the value of good research, over your foreign-looking appearance.
Another afterthought. If say you did set up an organization, instead of interviewing Diet members, why don’t you run for a seat in the Diet yourself. I am not saying you would be easily elected, but at least it would give you a forum to speak out on issues that you feel strongly about. Think of the publicity you could generate.
I recall vaguely you writing on this subject some time ago and remarked something about not being able to read Japanese quickly enought to keep up with a political job. Do you still feel this way? After all getting elected may not serve the issue best anyway. Ralph Nader comes to mind.
I would REALLY like to work for your human rights NGO (heck I would even volunteer and slave away in the education system during the day!)
Coming from Kofu, discrimination is so widely accepted that the rhetoric usually follows the same line: “You can’t do that, you’re a foreigner!”
But this is my home. And I love it. And I would hate that the strongest advocate for my rights in Japan would get discouraged. Stand tall Debito! There are so many of us right behind you!
–THANKS FOR THIS, KELL! I’M NOT SURE I’M BUSINESS-ENOUGH ORIENTED TO START MY OWN NGO (AND I’M DEFINITELY TOO LOUDMOUTHED TO BE A POLITICIAN, DAVID ) BUT HEARING ALL THESE KIND WORDS OF SUPPORT AND COMMITMENT FROM EVERYONE MAKE MY DAY VERY SPECIAL AND PUT ONE MORE IDEA INTO THE THINKING CAP. THANKS AGAIN. LET’S SEE WHAT THE COMING WEEKS BRING. BESTS, DEBITO IN SAPPORO
Debito, that’s an excellent project you have outlined for yourself. Its potential worth will reach far wider and have far greater impact than will your allegiance to Hokkaido Information University, its students and your colleagues there. If you have to cut the latter to pursue the project, then it only seems reasonable that you do so. There are many of us who live in Japan who benefit from your efforts and insights, and I’m sure we’d fill an auditorium in voicing our support for you.
How sad to hear. Hope you find a real good job…Is there any?
Concerning foreigners and DISCRIMINATION in Japan:
I had a bad experience at Shinsei Bank, Ikebukuro, Tokyo on Oct.4, 2007
Wanted to get a new card for my account (had lost it).
Though any other bank requires just a
kenkohoken card or driver’s licence as ID for a permanent residence like me (just had done it at the new postal bank the day before),
SHINSEI BANK (“only”, they said)
wants the gaijin card and takes copies of it as well. (Of course, Japanese are exempted, kenko hoken OK.)
Blatant DISCRIMINATION of foreigners with permanent residence status!
(Happened Oct.4, 2007, around 1 pm)
Please put it up on your website or somewhere on the Internet, with or without my name OK.
Although I’m fairly skeptical of the position you take on some issues, the research project you’re proposing could be fairly interesting if done properly. You could, of course, just keep your job and write to the Diet-members requesting a response. I see this as a better approach because I doubt you are going to meet all 722 Diet members within one year. Japan’s place on the power distance index is pretty high.
When you are arranging interviews with Diet members, they tend to ask you what your questions will be before you get to meet them. So the answers you get tend to be well prepared. The interviews I’ve conducted have generally been over the course of half an hour, so I could slip in surprises and tease out some honest answers, but given that you have designed a “one question interview” I’d say the response you will get won’t be much different than a written answer.
Wouldn’t that be something if you became a Diet member. You could really stir up the juice! If you’re concerned about the speed of your Japanese reading ability, well, hell. . .do Diet members even have to know how to read?
How u been. I just want to inform you about one University in OITA Kyushu. It’s called Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, its #1 in Japan with the number of foreign students they have about 5000 gaijin sei.
The working environment also looks much better than the other universities so why don’t you check it out.
Thanks for tha labor that your are doing, figthing the racial discrimination in Japan. Talking about job, what about to create your own place where people could pass a good time, drinking coffee, chatting, surfing the internet, eating ligth food, reading interesting books and magazines, talking in English, taking English lesson, etc…?