SCMP: Japanese tennis sensation Naomi Osaka not only hit the cash jackpot with her historic US Open victory – she struck a blow for racial equality, according to a former Miss Japan… Priyanka Yoshikawa, who two years ago was crowned Miss Japan, believes Osaka can also help break down cultural barriers in a country where multi-racial children make up just two per cent of those born annually.
“Japan should be proud of her – she can definitely break down walls, she will have a big impact.” Osaka, who has a Japanese mother, a Haitian father and was raised in the United States, is set to shine a light on what it means to be Japanese, predicts Yoshikawa. “The way she speaks, and her humbleness, are so Japanese,” said the 24-year-old… Unlike Yoshikawa and Miyamoto, Osaka speaks hardly any Japanese after moving to Florida with her family as a toddler. “It’s not about language,” insists the Tokyo-born Yoshikawa, who was bullied because of her skin colour as a child… “But she’s what she thinks she is. If you think you’re Japanese, you’re Japanese.”… “But it’s still going to take more time for people to think ‘haafu’ can be Japanese,” she warned. “We need more people like Naomi.”
COMMENT: Indeed. Japan needs more people like Naomi. And like Priyanka. And Ariana Miyamoto. And Murofushi. And Asuka Cambridge. And Bekki. And Jero. And Darvish. And Miyazawa Rie. And Umemiya Anna. And Hiroko Grace. And Kinugasa “Iron Man” Sachio. And any number of other “haafu” celebrities in Japan who have made history over generations, but barely made a dent in diversifying Japan’s racialized self-concept of “Japaneseness” being predominantly pure-blooded. I’m not sure what’s different this time. Again, Debito.org is very happy to cheer on Ms. Osaka as she navigates her way through Japan’s adult society and through the trappings and pitfalls of sports fame. But it’s far too soon to be this optimistic that any real change has happened or will happen. As we’ve seen from the world-class people above, it takes a lot more than one tennis star to undo this degree of “Embedded Racism”. Where’s the “tipping point”?
For the second year in a row, Japan has crowned a biracial woman the winner of a major beauty pageant, reviving a conversation in the island nation about race, xenophobia and what it means to be Japanese. Japan is frequently labeled as one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, but some say this is a myth that discounts the minorities living there and stifles dialogue about discrimination in the country.
In May, Japan passed its first anti-hate speech law in an attempt to curb racism and xenophobia. While critics sceptical about the law’s effectiveness poked holes in the bill, many have applauded the government for taking steps toward addressing what they say is an often ignored issue. Some have viewed Priyanka Yoshikawa’s Miss World Japan win as a sign the country is becoming more open to diversity. Others argue Japan has been open for a long time, and stories suggesting otherwise are reinforcing antiquated stereotypes.
Panelists: Miss World Japan beauty pageant winner Yoshikawa Priyanka, Edward Sumoto, Baye McNeil, Aoki Yuta, and Arudou Debito.
ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.
This week: For the second year in a row a bi-racial woman has won a beauty pageant in Japan, prompting a racial debate; Japan has issued a warning that its businesses may withdraw from the UK once it leaves the European Union; and the Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has bought the British smartphone chip-designing company ARM for more than $30 billion.
Eleni Psaltis speaks to Dr Debito Arudou from the University of Hawaii; Nigel Driffield, a Professor of international business at Warwick business school in the UK; and Dr Harminder Singh, a senior lecturer in Business Information Systems at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
Table of Contents:
THE FAULTY DYNAMIC OF “NIPPON CLAIMING”
1) Japan Times JBC Col 113: “Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing tennis for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (Sep. 19, 2018)
2) SCMP: “Tennis queen Naomi Osaka a role model, says ‘Indian’ Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa”. A little more complex than that.
3) “Nippon Claimed” multiethnic tennis star Osaka Naomi gets “whitewashed” by her sponsor. Without consulting her. Compare with singer Crystal Kay.
4) Fuji TV’s “Taikyo no Shunkan”: Reality TV targeting NJ as sport. Again.
5) Japan Times officially sanitizes WWII “comfort women” and “forced laborers”. Pressure on my JT Just Be Cause column too.
6) Excellent Japan Times feature on dual citizenship in Japan: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy leaves many in the dark
7) Nikkei: Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program, attracting exactly ZERO applications after starting 3 months ago
8 ) BBC: Fukuoka Hilton Hotel refuses entry to Cuban Ambassador due to “US sanctions”. J authorities call action “illegal”. How quaint.
HOT DISCUSSIONS ON DEBITO.ORG
9) Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing
10) Senaiho on criminal complaint against Jr High School “Hair Police” in Yamanashi
11) SendaiBen on “Anytime Fitness” Sports Gym Gaijin Carding him, and how he got them to stoppit
12) JT: GOJ Cabinet approves new NJ worker visa categories. Small print: Don’t bring your families. Or try to escape.
13) Surprising survey results from Pew Research Center: Japan supportive of “immigration”
… and finally…
14) Pop Matters.com: Interview with Activist and Writer Debito Arudou on Foreigners’ Rights in Japan
BBC: Ahead of the Rugby World Cup held in Japan last year, a Japanese sports magazine, asked the national team’s captain, “Why are there so many foreigners in Japan’s squad?” The 31-year-old captain, Michael Leitch, originally from New Zealand, answered (in Japanese), “Because that’s how Japan is today. The rugby national team reflects the reality of current Japan, and also anticipates the future of Japan. As a team, we can embody and show society just how important diversity is.”
In Japan, rugby is famous for the phrase “no-side”, meaning once the referee blows the whistle to end the match, there are no more foes, only fellow players. While this phrase is no longer widely used, it has lodged itself firmly in the national consciousness of Japan. Athletes there with foreign roots are still called “players from a foreign country”. But in a country where the concept of wa is considered a fundamental virtue, there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things.
COMMENT: Here we have another one of those hopeful “Japan is changing” articles we get from time to time. BBC Reporter Okazaki clearly starts from a tack and then works backwards to find evidence to support it. But as Submitter FB pointed out quite succinctly, the article “highlights a few celebrity examples without any data on broad public attitudes or government policy towards immigration. The fact that 3rd generation ethnic Koreans aren’t citizens is the most telling fact of intransigence towards diversity.” Touche.
So let’s just draw a line in the sand here with a clear litmus test: At a bare minimum, until Japan’s historical aberration of “Zainichi” status is finally resolved by the Japanese government, and “generational foreigners” are legally accepted as diverse AND Japanese, Japan can never claim to be truly accepting of diversity. Full stop. Do that, and then we’ll start talking about how “Japan is changing” for a news peg. For one cannot ignore the historical contributions and sacrifices of Japan’s minorities, particularly the Zainichi, no matter what cosmetic overtures one might make in public towards a few token Visible Minorities for the sake of overseas media consumption.
Now that the clicks have died down on my latest Japan Times JBC column of January 28, 2019 (thanks for putting it in the Top Ten trending articles once again), what follows is the first final draft I submitted to the Japan Times for editing on December 29, 2018. I blog this version because a lot of information is lost (inevitably) as we cut the word count from 2800 to 1600 words. (I generally put everything in the first final draft, then cut it down to fit the page; that way we don’t overlook anything and have to backtrack.)
People have been asking what got cut (and yes, the original version mentions Michael Woodford and Jeff Kingston), so the piece below is quite a bit different from what appeared in the Japan Times here (meaning it shouldn’t draw away any readers from the JT version; in fact, it will probably spur more views from readers wanting to compare). Also, having links to sources matter, so here it all is, including my regular acerbic tone.
Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page
Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:
No. 10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…
Rest of the article at
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org
Table of Contents:
THE OPPOSITION FACES OPPOSITION
1) JT: Democratic Party Leader Renho and the “pure blood” mythos (covered in detail in book “Embedded Racism”)
2) JT: Renho nationality furor exposes Japan’s deeply embedded gender bias
A GOOD MONTH FOR MEDIA APPEARANCES
3) Debito panelist on Al-Jazeera program “The Stream”: “The politics of identity in Japan” after Yoshikawa Priyanka’s pageant victory
4) ABC NewsRadio Australia, Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan, Yoshikawa Priyanka, prompts another racial debate. Interviews Debito
5) Deep in Japan Podcast, Debito Interview Pts. 2 and 3 on book “Embedded Racism” and issues of racial discrimination etc. in Japan
6) Discussion: Should I stay or should I go? What’s your personal threshold for staying in or leaving Japan?
7) Book “Embedded Racism” now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code
… and finally…
8 ) Japan Times column Sept. 5, 2016: “JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views”
Table of Contents:
1) Reuters: Tennis star Osaka Naomi “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. I don’t think the comparison is apt, yet. She should also speak out for Japan’s Visible Minorities.
2) Updated petition against Japan Foreign Resident Re-Entry Ban: Still discriminatory: Requires extra hurdles for all NJ only, including extra GOJ permissions and overseas Covid tests
3) Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities 13: “Japan’s Cult of Miserable Happy”, Aug 24, 2020, questioning whether “omotenashi” Japan is actually all that hospitable to anyone, what with such a strong “culture of no”
I support the fact that Osaka Naomi is bringing to light racial injustice in the world, and is willing to take a stand in public to do so. However, this is a stand against racial injustice in another country. Not in Japan.
This is an easier target because a) Japan has long taught about racism in other countries (particularly America’s) as part of a narrative that racism “happens elsewhere, not here”, so this unfortunately plays into Japan’s grander deflection strategy; and b) this protest doesn’t imperil her sponsorship in Japan, where her money is coming from.
Yet racism, as this blog and my research have covered for more than a quarter century, is alive and “practiced undisturbed” (according to the United Nations) in Japan. That’s worth protesting. So is racism in America, of course. But there are plenty of high-profile voices involved in that already. What is sorely needed is someone standing up for the equal and nondiscriminative treatment of, for example, Japan’s Visible Minorities (a group Osaka is a member of).
Others have tried, such as VM Japanese beauty queens Miyamoto Ariana and Yoshikawa Priyanka, and their careers in Japan suffered as a result. Osaka Naomi, as Debito.org has argued before, has a stronger immunity card to criticize Japan if she so chooses. It’s still unclear she will ever choose to.