“We ought not to be ashamed of applauding the truth, nor appropriating the truth from whatever source it may come, even if it be from remote races and nations alien to us.” — al-Kindi, 9th-Century Arab philosopher. From Francis Wheen, “How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World”, pg. 307.
This website is about life in Japan from the viewpoint of one American-born writer residing in Sapporo, Japan, both before and after he became a naturalized Japanese citizen. It may interest people who want to know more about Japan, and how it affects residents who have the appearance and/or status of non-Japanese.
Who am I?
My name is Arudou Debito (in Kanji ), formerly David Christopher Aldwinckle, born 1965 in the United States, Permanent Resident of Japan from 1996, and naturalized Japanese citizen from 2000. Father of two with a Japanese woman and employed as a tenured associate professor at a university in Hokkaido, I bought land and built a house out in the countryside in 1997, which was the main reason I took Japanese citizenship.
What is this site for?
This site gets around 7000 page views and 3500 individual visits on average per day, and many people have emailed to ask what I seek to accomplish with it. It started out quite simply: I like to write, and have over time put out hundreds of essays over internet mailing lists. I felt some essays were worth archiving on a personal website, so in 1997 I put up a couple hundred. However, as I got involved in social issues I thought deserved wider attention, the reports I wrote got archived as well. You can find many of those (updated daily) on my BLOG.
What is this BLOG for?
At the risk of sounding pretentious, let me quote a famous philosopher: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another’s guidance. Sapere aude! Dare to know! That’s the motto of Enlightenment.” (Immanuel Kant, from “Critique of Pure Reason”, as cited in Francis Wheen, “How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World”, page 2).
The point is, by blogging this information on a daily basis (which some people say can find depressing), we are daring to know and inform ourselves of the condition of human rights in Japan. It necessarily means we hear the bad news before the good news, become aware of how to convert bad into good, and celebrate the small but hard-won and incremental victories over time. For this field, that is the process of Enlightenment. Still, if you just want to see the good news, click here.
Now, with well over 3000 essays, articles, publications, and reference materials floating around this domain name, this site has two categories:
WEBSITE: For Longer-Term Residents of Japan
Japan has a standard of living high enough to convince some people to stay permanently. Some steps I have made and recorded might be of reference to those people. Information on topics such as Permanent Residency, Naturalization, Housebuilding, Employment, Education etc are mixed in with other, hopefully amusing and poignant, anecdotes on travails of life in this fascinating country. Click here to have a look.
Of particular interest:
Note that not all of the stuff above is for the “lifers”, so drop by if you don’t think you’d be interested in the next category:
WEBSITE: For Social Activists in Japan
People who love a society often seek ways to improve it. No society is perfect, after all, and I say there is nothing wrong with working for improvements if one means to live here, pay taxes and contribute to Japanese society much like anyone else. In fact, most “registered foreigners” in Japan are here longer than one might expect (a little under half are legally Permanent Residents, born in Japan). This raises questions about the oft-claimed “monoculturality” of Japanese society, and casts doubt on the “you’re-guests-in-Japan-so-don’t-complain” canards thrown at foreign-born social activists. So if you are interested in how people like me are working towards making Japan a nicer place to live for everyone, click here.
Of particular interest:
If you are looking for information about our NEW LAWSUIT against the National Government of Japan for negligence under International Treaty, click here to see our goals and organization.If you would like to be kept appraised in real time of my reports and other related media, go to my NEW BLOG and sign up under RSS. Back issues of my regular newsletter here too.
If you just want plain old links, I’ve got some perennially obsolescing URLs to some media sites etc. on my Links Page. Sorry, nothing ribald.
HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS
(Akashi Shoten Inc, English and furigana Japanese, on sale from March 15, 2008)
Are you in a tight situation? No time to navigate the entire debito.org site? Here is an easy FAQ site of important topics:
WHAT TO DO IF… (click on a link to go directly to that heading on the site)
And more. Updated and added to frequently. Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for? Start at the very top of the “What to do if” site and see what headings are on offer.
About the Website Author as a Person:
There is of course plenty of me that comes through as an interested observer in my writings, but in a nutshell: If you want “to know my biases,” see the page on my background. If you would like “to see my street cred” in the print and broadcast media world, please take a look at my publications (including the abovementioned Japan Times columns)
In sum, I see the Internet as a marvellous facilitator of information, and a good way to deliver individual opinions to people who, considering paths not taken in a very esoteric society, might want to hear one person’s experiences. I hope you find this site useful and interesting.
If you would like to join some internet fora which discuss issues raised here, please visit either The Community Website or the Japan Reference Page. You are welcome to share your viewpoints there in public, or else email me individually at firstname.lastname@example.org. (NB: I may not be able to answer everyone punctually due to a perennially full mailbox, so please be patient. Also, please write subject lines that are unlikely to be snagged by spam filters. A simple “Hi” won’t reach my inbox, I’m afraid. Thanks to web search spiders grazing on my site, I get hundreds of spam messages a day. Sorry. Yoroshiku!)
. . . . . .
“Japanese Only–The Otaru Onsen Refusals and Racial Discrimination in Japan”
By Arudou Debito
“A reasoned and spirited denunciation of national prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry. It’s not that the Japanese have all that much more of it than anyone else, but that they lack an interface to fight it. This lively accounting will help them find it.” —Donald Richie
“An important, trailblazing work that will go down in the annals of civil activist journals. It is, on the one hand, a gripping tale of one man’s pursuit of justice and equal treatment in a foreign land, and on the other, an engaging primer on how to fight city hall in Japan. The detailed descriptions of how the opaque machinery of Japanese government bureaucracy and its legal systems work are in themselves worth the price of admission. Will be the book of reference on the subject for decades to come and should be required reading for anyone studying social protest.” –Robert Whiting, author, The Meaning of Ichiro, You’ve Gotta have Wa, and Tokyo Underworld:
“Deftly capturing the devil of Japanese xenophobia in the details of simply getting a bath, Debito Arudou combines intellectual honesty, moral courage, and sheer physical perseverance with a wry sense of humor to show how difficult it is in Japan to mount and sustain a campaign to dismantle racially discriminating barriers that would be illegal and quickly laughed out of court in the US. Arudou’s love of the Japanese people is proven by taking out citizenship, and by a fluency in writing and speaking the language that would put to shame most Western ‘Japan Experts’. He treats us to a startling expose of the twisted logic employed by the defenders of discrimination, be they Japanese or resident foreign Uncle Toms. A powerful, poignant, and path-breaking docu-narrative.” —Ivan Hall, author, Cartels of the Mind and Bamboozled.
This site won the Kampai Budokai Hot Site Award in 1998,
the Japan Reference Page Site of the Month for April 2001,
and the A Look Into Japan Site of the Month for July 2001