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  • Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 18th, 2011

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    Hi Blog. In response to the feedback regarding his statements to the Japan Times last December 28, where in an article he calls himself a foreigner despite his Japanese citizenship, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei sends this public statement through his office:

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

    from: ツルネン マルテイ事務室
    date: Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM
    subject: ツルネン事務所より

    ツルネンマルテイの秘書の山本と申します。
    先日はツルネンのインタビュー記事についてのご意見をいただき、ありがとうございました。

    ご意見をいただいた件について、ツルネンから以下のような返事をことづかりました。

    =====================================================================================
    今回のご指摘、ありがたく受け止めます。
    ご指摘の通り、私の発言した英単語「foreigner」は不適切な言葉であったと反省しています。
    自分が「生まれながらの日本人」ではないことを表現するために「foreigner」と言いましたが、
    厳密に表現するためには「foreign-born person」、または記事でも使用している
    「finn-born Japanese」と表現すべきでした。
    誤解を生む表現をしてしまったことを反省し、お詫び申し上げます。
    =====================================================================================

    なお、ツルネン事務所には毎日大変多くのご意見を頂戴します。
    誠に残念ながら、それらすべてにツルネン本人がお返事することは時間的に難しい状況です。
    秘書が代理でお返事することにご理解いただければ幸いです。

    このたびは、貴重なご意見ありがとうございました。

    参議院議員ツルネンマルテイ
    秘書 山本綾子

    ****************************************
    参議院議員 ツルネンマルテイ
    秘書 山本綾子
    Ayako Yamamoto
    Secretary to Mr.Marutei Tsurunen,
    Member, House of Councilors, Japan
    Tel: +81-3-6550-0923
    Fax: +81-3-6551-0923
    E-mail: marutei_tsurunen01@sangiin.go.jp
    ****************************************

    Pertinent section by Tsurunen translated by Arudou Debito (not an official translation):
    ============================
    “I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner’, but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person’, or as I said in the article ‘Finn-born Japanese’.

    “I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and I would like to offer my apologies.”
    ============================

    ends

    16 Responses to “Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article”

    1. Mumei Says:

      山本様、

      わざわざご連絡をありがとうございました。誤解という事でほっとしました。
      ですが、本人を「ツルネンマルテイ」と綴っていらっしゃいますが、「弦念丸呈」かと思っていました。
      善かれ悪しかれ、表記法によってイメージが違ってきます。
      言う迄もなく、片仮名表記はよく外国のものと理解される嫌いがあります。

    2. OG Steve Says:

      Good Point Mumei :-)

      I thought the exact same thing. Why is 弦念丸呈’s secretary labeling her boss ツルネンマルテイ? I’ll bet that none of the other House of Councilors’ secretaries label their boss with Katakana.


      — Actually, Tsurunen-san has always run as a katakana candidate (just as some people run as hiragana candidates when their names are hard to read). This is basically a brand. Not one I personally would be happy being branded with (hypothetically, I would run under my kanji name or not at all), but those are some of the trade-offs made to get elected. As Kaoru says, it was his choice of identity and we’ll just have to respect that.

    3. Kaoru Says:

      The name is written in katakana on his official website. For whatever reason, it appears to be his own choice and we should respect that.

    4. Adrian Havill Says:

      Marutei Tsurunen naturalized in 1979. This was before the massive overhaul in the nationality & naturalization laws in 1985. Back then, you had to choose a kanji name even if you wanted a katakana one. Nobody knows if he didn’t want katakana all along; however, on the official Diet roster, he uses his katakana name, even though it’s not for campaigning (most politicians use their proper kanji on the Diet roster even if their campaign posters use kana).

      Furthermore, politicians render their names in katakana as well as hiragana. And some Japanese even have katakana names. Katakana does not always mean foreigner. An ateji kanji name can look just as foreign as katakana.

      Mumei should respect his preferences regarding how he wants to have his name written, just as people respect how Debito prefers to have his name romanized as Arudou and not Arudō or Arudô. And we shouldn’t assume he uses katakana because it’s a campaign or branding gimmick or he’s trying to appear “foreign.”

    5. Joe Says:

      This seems to me to be evidence that the guy’s become absolutely 100% Japanese, to the extent that he sees anyone without “pure Yamato blood” as a permanent foreigner, including himself!

      – Or that he misspoke.

    6. Joe Jones Says:

      Debito, if I remember correctly, you have to handwrite the candidate’s name on the ballot in order to vote for them, don’t you? Maybe Tsurunen is using katakana so that people don’t miscopy the kanji.

      — That’s correct. There is very low tolerance for any mistakes or stray marks on the hand-written ballots (even just putting, say, a “heart mark” on it will void it). You can of course just write the person’s name in hiragana even if he or she is on the ballot in kanji. And there is a list of candidates in the voting booth in kanji and furigana. Tsurunen’s name only appears in katakana on the ballot (as did, say, Alberto Fujimori’s some years ago). His campaign’s choice.

    7. OG Steve Says:

      OK, the Katakana labeling is not his secretary’s fault, sorry about that Ms. Yamamoto: the Katakana labeling is 弦念丸呈’s choice. Strange choice that’s hard for me to respect.

      The rules are unjust: that someone with an official Kanji name is allowed to write their name in Katakana, but someone with an official Katakana name is NOT allowed to write their name in Kanji.

      Case in point: my Japanese-citizen “half-foreigner-blood” children have a Katakana Family name registered at city hall, which they inherited from my wife because she took my Family name when we married and the City Hall forced her to take a Katakana version of my name, not the Kanji nickname I use, and not the Romaji that appears on my Passport. But our family would prefer out children to NOT be marked with Katakana at school, since they are born-in-Japan Japanese-citizens, not “foreigners”. So, here’s the problem: even though we have taught our children how to write their family name in Kanji (this Kanji corresponds exactly with the sound of their “official Katakana family name” they received), chances are high that when they enter school they will be FORCED by the teachers to write their name as it appears on the “official” papers, in カタカナ.

      So that’s great that 弦念丸呈 can choose to write ツルネンマルテイ, but it sucks that my children (who are Japan-born Japanese-citizens) can NOT choose to write their Family name in Kanji!

      One possible solution is: my wife and I going to court and begging the court to allow my wife to change her name (which she got from me) from Katakana to Kanji (very low chance of the court allowing this.)

      Another solution is my becoming a Japanese citizen, then my unofficial Kanji nicknames becomes official, thus it will apply to my wife, thus it will apply to my children, thus they will be ALLOWED by the school to write their name in Kanji.

      A third solution is my taking my Japanese wife’s name now (or is it too late for this option? maybe I would need to be adopted by my parents-in-law at this stage) so that my Japanese wife’s family’s name’s Kanji becomes the OFFICIAL family name Kanji for my wife, myself, and my children.

      Once again, we have a one-way street here: someone with an official Kanji name is allowed to write their name in Katakana, but someone with an official Katakana name is NOT allowed to write their name in Kanji.

      – Reach a decision on how you want your names rendered, and then go to court and tell them definitively what you want. I had my name officially changed after my divorce that way. I’ve been meaning to write that up someday… Anyway, back to the Tsurunen discussion.

    8. Mumei Says:

      Fair enough. If that is the way that he wants it then of course I have no problems accepting that.

    9. Michael Weidner Says:

      -OG Steve

      I teach at Elementary School and the name used in class and which is made to be used by the students is one that the parents choose. If you explain to the school board and the school that you are registering your children at that you would like to use the kanji version of your last name, then that is what will be used in all school documents, no matter what other documents might say. Do keep in mind that kids usually don’t start writing there own names in kanji until about the 3rd grade or so as most of the kanji used in names is much higher than the kanji that they learn in grades 1 and 2.

    10. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Name is somewhat a matter of choice.
      I work at junior high schools, and every graduation and entrance season I see and hear the Japanese staff making sure that the kanji for the students’ names are correct – “correct” refering to the slight variations on the official kanji. (“Yoshida-kun’s kanji has the longer bottom stroke…” etc.)
      As for Tsurunen rendering his name in katakana, that’s his choice. And I can see the value in it – at some point, the majority of the population of this country are going to need to see that it is possible to have a katakana surname and still be 100% Japanese.
      Culture is not static, and not attached to DNA.
      Questioning someone’s “Japanese-ness” by their name, or place of birth, or parentage says more about the questioner than it does about the questioned.

    11. OG Steve Says:

      About 弦念丸呈’s choice to write ツルネンマルテイ

      People, please remember that when an “Alien” is placed onto the Japanese spouse’s Koseki Tohon: the Katakana you happen to choose on that day (or, in some cases, the Katakana which the city office worker tries to choose for you) IS A NICKNAME. You might choose スチーブン, スチーヴン, スティーブン, or スティーヴン and if your official name is spelled Stephen the city worker might try to force upon you his incorrect idea of how your name should be pronounced, like スティーフェン, ステーフェン, スティーファン, ステーファーン, etc.)

      Look, the Roman Letter Name you were born with is your OFFICIAL name (until the day you become a naturalized Japanese Citizen) and the Alien Registration Card producers understand that, the ARC people NEVER try to force a Katakana nickname on you, the ARC people only use your Official Roman Letter Name.

      The Koseki Tohon people are forcing a nickname on Aliens (they refuse to write your name in the Official Roman Letterso) and here’s the problem: they force Katakana on you, they refuse to allow you the choice of Hiragana or Kanji, even if the reading is exactly the same.

      To reiterate, when you become a naturalized citizen you can choose how to write your name (Katakana, Hiragana, or Kanji) but until you become a naturalized citizen: spouses and children of “Aliens” are marked with Katakana as being foreign.

    12. Dan Rea Says:

      @ OG Steve:

      Wrong, so wrong you are. I moved from Nagoya to Miyazaki and was told at the Miyazaki City Hall I must have a Katakana for my name as Miyazaki, and this is what they said:

      Miyazaki is a rural prefecture and our city must be able know who you are, who mail is addressed to on your post box, and for your city ID card, health insurance … we do not recognize Romanji names.

      Well, then three city employess seize upon my name. It is spelled “Rea” but pronounce like “Ray”, that Scottish pronounciation, that even back home in the USA pronouced as “Ree-ah”. One suggested “レア” because it is a direct translitration, but not phonetically correct. The next suggested “レャ” because they said it looks unique. The last said “If it is pronounced like ‘レイ’ then that wold be best.

      In the end I chose “レイ” because if I do naturalize it will have more Kanji choices than the others. Do not assume that where you live is standard all over Japan because it isn’t. In Nagoya, I never needed a Katakana translation but in Miyazaki I do. My inkan (which I also never needed in Nagoya) also had to be bought and registered the same day.

      All non-Japanese in Miyazaki must have a Katakana rendering of their name printed on the insurance card, nenken papaer and book, on their city ID, on their post box, and have an inkan registered with it as well.

      – Let’s get the conversation back on track.

    13. OG Steve Says:

      The point about 弦念丸呈’s decision to label himself with Katakana label remains perfectly true:

      Nationwide: Alien Registration Cards have no Katakana names printed on them.
      Nationwide: Koseki Tohon’s have no Romaji names printed on them.

      Less than 1% of Japan-born pure-blood Japanese label their children with Katakana first names.
      Much less than 1% (more likely zero) Japan-born pure-blood Japanese have Katakana family names.

      Japanese citizens can label their children with Katakana first names, to be different and rare.
      Japanese politicians can label themselves with Katakana renderings, to make it easy to write.

      Yet non-citizens are forced to have a Katakana nickname legally tattooed onto the Koseski Tohon.
      And thus this Katakana nickname then becomes legally tattooed onto the “half” children born here.

      Japanese-citizens can choose Kanji or Hiragana or Katakana, non-citizens should be able to too.
      Japanese-citizens’ children aren’t forced to have Katakana names, non-citizens’ children are.

      My Kokumin Hoken card has a Kanji nickname printed on it, great, but my children have Katakana.
      My Japan-born children are labeled with a Katakana-Surname = 99% chance assumed to be Foreign.

      If I naturalize, my Japan-born children will FINALLY be able to have a legal Kanji surname.
      Until I naturalize, my Japan-born children are totally unable to have a legal Kanji surname.

      Instead of saying, “Well, some Japanese folks choose to use Katakana, so everything is fair.”
      Why not admit, “Wow, that’s a surprising, unfair fact about Japan’s laws: that needs Kaizen.”

      All you people who defend Japanese actions even when unfair, you are not being logical at all.
      Logical people say, “Every country and every culture has room for improvement to be more fair.”
      The logical answer to Debito’s threads is, “Yes, that is unfair, let’s enact new legislation.”

    14. M Says:

      Re: OG Steve:
      “Less than 1% of Japan-born pure-blood Japanese label their children with Katakana first names.
      Much less than 1% (more likely zero) Japan-born pure-blood Japanese have Katakana family names.”

      Source please!

      Katakana first names maybe uncommon now but were quite normal in pre WWII Japan.

    15. OG Steve Says:

      An analogy summary of Deniers versus Logic (simply replace Robbery with Racial Discrimination)

      Logic: “This country hasn’t enacted a law with penalties against Robbery yet, we need to enact one.”

      Denier: “This country doesn’t have Robbery AT ALL, you’re imagining something that isn’t there.”
      Logic: “Regardless of personal opinion, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “This country doesn’t have MUCH Robbery, you’re exaggerating the prevalence of Robbery.”
      Logic: “Regardless of the prevalence, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I personally have NEVER experienced Robbery here, so I don’t think we need such a law.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your experience, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I personally don’t MIND occasionally being a victim of Robbery, stop asking for a law.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your not minding, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Robbery exists in OTHER countries too, here are various articles about other countries.”
      Logic: “Regardless of other countries, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I have Japanese DNA, I was born in Japan, so every action practiced here must be GOOD.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your pride of birth, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I’m a naturalized-citizen, I LOVE this country just as it is, stop trying to improve it.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your love of Japan, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I CALLED one of those Robbery practitioners, they said it was just a misunderstanding.”
      Logic: “Regardless of what people claim, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I think businesses should have the right to commit Robbery based on race or citizenship.”
      Logic: “Regardless of what you think, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “I don’t care if your children become victims of Robbery due to their Katakana Surname.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your lack of care, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “You should just ask teachers to let your child hide the Katakana and HOPE they say yes.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your suggestions, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Katakana-surnames are often quietly denied credit cards, so what, I know some exceptions.”
      Logic: “Regardless of the exceptions, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “A few Japanese CHOOSE Katakana-first-names, so your kids should enjoy their Katakana-surnames.”
      Logic: “Regardless of what some people do, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Why don’t you just take your wife’s name, that will stop future Robbery, no law needed.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your predictions, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Japanese-citizens get Kanji, non-Japanese and-their-halfsie-kids get Katakana: it’s fair.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your idea of fair, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Take your Katakana-surname foreign-labeled-halfsies out of their country-of-birth Japan.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your proposed solution, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Stop saying all kids born in Japan deserve Kanji regardless of their father’s nationality.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your illogical advice, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Stop saying halfsie-Japanese-citizens deserve the same rights as pure-Japanese-citizens.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your strange request, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “OK, Robbery is still legal in Japan, it’s not a just-society yet, oh well, shou-ga-nai!”
      Logic: “Regardless of your defeatism, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “Even if Japan enacts a law with penalties against Robbery, Robbery will still continue.”
      Logic: “Regardless of your pessimism, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “This law must have penalties for Robbery against ANYONE? Even foreigners and their kids?”
      Logic: “Regardless of your surprise, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

      Denier: “So ALL humans here deserve equal access to Housing, Businesses, and even Kanji-surnames?”
      Logic: “Regardless of nationality, just-societies have laws with penalties against Robbery.”

    16. Dan Rea Says:

      I thought the conversation was going to back on track Steve.

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