Table of Contents:
1) JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets
2) Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”
3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.
4) Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!
5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.
6) Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
7) Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”
8 ) Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”

Following the “foreign driver” stickers put on cars to stigmatize the NJ tourists (and NJ residents renting cars) in Okinawa and Hokkaido, now we have the Fukuoka Prefectural Police taking it upon themselves to associate bad driving with foreigners. Based upon one cited accident (Japanese drivers, after all, never have accidents, right?), the police put up a multilingual sign to caution everyone (and teach NJ how to drive all over again). How presumptuous. Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:

XY: my initial thoughts are:
– There are assumptions galore. The linked article about this issue mentions police making a poster to warn people of the “prohibited” act of dozing off behind the wheel, imploring them to take rests, etc. Incredibly, it implies that these practices are not common sense for people who are not experienced driving in Japan. This argument might hold a sliver of credibility if there was testimony from the driver proving that one of these factors was a cause of his accident. But the article gives no such proof.

– The article offers many statistics to show that the number of foreigners renting cars has indeed increased. Unfortunately, it does not bother to provide statistics proving that this has resulted in an increase in accidents (above and beyond the normal expected increase with more drivers on the road). Even if they did provide evidence showing an increase in accidents, they would still need to go a step further to show how this is directly related to foreign drivers and not something else (the rapid aging of licensed Japanese drivers, perhaps??).

When you take away the need to consider your foreign audience — this article being designed for domestic consumption only — it seems to me that this is another classic case of the Japanese authorities using foreigners as a punching bag for societal angst.

UPDATE: Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon Japan tour “Japanese Only” registration is sanitized to include NJ residents, but “Japanese Citizenship” remains requirement on actual registration page

This is an update to the previous post, but it deserves a separate blog entry for the deceitfulness. Thanks to Readers contacting the organizers in Hong Kong, the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon made it clear to their Japan tour organizers ( that restricting applications “exclusively for Japanese people” is unacceptable, as “all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour”.

The Japan-side website then changed its wording to “This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.” But if you actually go to the website registration page (, the requirement for applicants of Japanese citizenship (item six in the bullet points: 私は日本国籍を有しています) is still there (screen capture).

So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, in Japanese are the same “Japanese Only” rules. It is very hard to see this as a mere oversight. And as written, NJ resident applicants still face refusal and then a non-refund of their deposit payments. It’s gone from mere exclusionism to the potential for misleading applicants into corporate theft. How duplicitous and unprofessional of the Japan-side organizers. Imagine the internet uproar if a Japanese company made a mistake this big for its Japanese customers. Again, its seems, foreign customers in Japan don’t matter.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015: Was tweeted this picture in regards to the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon registration desk for Japanese in Bangkok, Thailand. Seems to be more systematic than just Japanese organizers within Japan. More like the organization is excluding foreigners everywhere in the world, including in those nations where Japanese are foreigners themselves. Racialized characters in Japanese video games

As Japan switches its economic clout into more “soft power” issues (i.e., selling its culture instead of its hardware; cf. METI’s promotion of “Cool Japan”), we are seeing instances of where Japan’s conceits and “blind spots” (i.e., a lack of cultural sensitivity towards, for example, minorities both in Japanese society and in other societies) have seeped into its output, with imperfect filters in place.

Take for example one of my favorite sites for procrastination and indulging in hilarious writing: They have a pretty good research staff, and have dug up several instances of Japanese video games (since Japan dominates the industry) that are, as they put it, “politically incorrect” (today’s word for “racist”, since you can still be “politically incorrect” yet use it as a source of, say, humor; but it’s still the same “othering”, racializing, and subordinating process). We have examples of:

Gay characters in the Sega’s VENDETTA street-fighting game the dry-hump everything as a weapon, and in BARE KNUCKLE 3 that mince about flamingly etc. (these were left in the Japanese version but removed from the overseas versions and in subsequent versions).
Blackface and n*gger-lipped characters in Nintendo’s SQUARE NO TOM SAWYER game (which never got released in the US; wonder why).
GEKISHA BOY, where street-animal African-Americans come in three types: “street pimp, prostitute, and Michael Jackson”.
Sega’s DJ BOY, which features a stereotypical Big Black Mama shooting fireballs out of her anus.

And plenty more. As demonstrates, the Japanese market generally keeps these (and other) stereotypes and conceits alive and well (as if Japan doesn’t need to worry about how they affect public perceptions of minorities in Japan), while for overseas markets things get sanitized (or not, occasioning protests and backpedaling) when Japanese sellers suddenly develop a “sensitivity”.

If Japan really wants to keep its cultural exports viable, maybe it should attempt understand how other people anywhere, including within Japan, might feel about being represented in such a fashion. Or, if stereotyping is used as a source of humor, allow for everyone to be “fair game” (which, I have argued before, doesn’t happen enough in Japan; there is certainly ample Japanese protest when Japanese get similarly stereotyped).