Hello Blog. Here’s the last Japan Times column I’ll do this year–and it’s a doozy. I’m very happy with how it came out, and judging by the feedback I’ve gotten others are too.
It’s about how Japan’s xenophobia is in fact by public policy design, due to unchallenged policymakers and peerage politicians, and how it’s actually hurting our country. Have a read if you haven’t already.
Best wishes for the holiday season, Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
“THE MYOPIC STATE WE’RE IN”
Fingerprint scheme exposes xenophobic, short-sighted trend in government
By ARUDOU DEBITO
THE JAPAN TIMES COMMUNITY PAGE
Column 42 for The Zeit Gist, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007
“Director’s Cut” of the article with links to sources at
Excellent illustration by Chris MacKenzie at the Japan Times website at
We all notice it eventually: how nice individual Japanese people are, yet how cold — even discriminatory — officialdom is toward non-Japanese (NJ). This dichotomy is often passed off as something “cultural” (a category people tend to assign anything they can’t understand), but recent events have demonstrated there is in fact a grand design. This design is visible in government policies and public rhetoric, hard-wiring the public into fearing and blaming foreigners.
Start with the “us” and “them” binary language of official government pronouncements: how “our country” (“wagakuni”) must develop policy for the sake of our “citizens” (“kokumin”) toward foreign “visitors” (rarely “residents”); how foreigners bring discrimination upon themselves, what with their “different languages, religions, and lifestyle customs” an’ all; and how everyone has inalienable human rights in Japan — except the aliens.
The atmosphere wasn’t always so hostile. During the bubble economy of the late ’80s and its aftermath, the official mantra was “kokusaika” (internationalization), where NJ were given leeway as misunderstood outsiders.
But in 2000, kicked off by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s “sangokujin” speech — in which he called on the Self-Defense Forces to round up foreigners during natural disasters in case they riot — the general attitude shifted perceptibly from benign neglect to downright antipathy….