(This version made public on December 15, 2004 to some journalists):

Hello Journalist friends. Didn't pass this on to you when it came up two days ago, because I didn't think it big or conclusive enough to warrant your attention. But with yesterday's developments, I think this is another interesting case of Japanese media and watchdogging.

On Monday night, I sent the following announcement to my mailing lists:

Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 19:17:06 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Stepin Fetchit lives again on Hokkaido TV

Hi Folks. Nothing like a bit of Stepin Fetchit to liven up Japanese late-night TV....

Just got this announcement from one of my lists, re Hokkaido Television Broadcasting late night boshuu (English in Original)

HTB television is looking for 3 foreigners to appear on a late night TV programme.

They want 3 people who can communicate in Japanese well enough to do the programme:
1 white male (preferably macho)
1 black male (preferably macho)
1 white female (preferably beautiful with blond hair)

The programme will involve calling people and speaking only English. They want to see how people deal with a wrong number call from a foreigner who doesn't speak Japanese. Think of it as a telephone candid camera. It's supposed to be funny.

The contact is Mr. Yamauchi Hideki
Tel: 011-821-4900
Fax: 011-813-7691
H-phone: 090-5985-1871
E-mail: yamauchi@htb.co.jp
They would prefer people to contact them this week.


I'll make my feelings known to them about programming of this calibre. Probably too late to stop most of it going on around Japan, but we do what we can... Debito

So I did make my feelings known. And this is what happened.

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 12:56:36 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: HTB's "Stepin Fetchit"-style show cancelled

Hi All. My recent email on the HTB late-night TV casting call (asking for a "macho White" and a "macho Black" male, and a "beautiful blonde female") to make what seemed like prank calls in English to Japanese cellphones, caused quite a stir.

Well, good.

And the stir was not confined to gated mailing lists, it turns out. I phoned the director of the show the evening I received and sent out the notice (two days ago), and made the following points (in a calm, reasoned manner, of course):

The problems I have with the TV show proposal are:

1) It makes the assumption that foreigners can't speak Japanese, and presents it as such.

2) It reinforces the stereotype of non-Japanese speakers as scary (specifically that, and the presumed language barrier, are two major reasons given for businesses refusing foreigners entry, especially in Hokkaido).

3) It only uses the stereotypical foreigners--white blonde Caucasians or black guys. No South Americans or Asians, which are proportionally much higher in Japan as part of the foreign population.

4) As written, it sounds like these are going to be crank calls, which helps nothing, not least the image of "foreigners" in Japan.

5) In Hokkaido in particular, this sort of humor is more ironic than funny, given what's still happening around Japan and Hokkaido thanks to Otaru with all the refusals. This is counterproductive.

6) How about a show with these people getting refused entry at businesses around town (my next Japan Times article, out next week, is about how Susukino is essentially now closed to foreigners) because they don't speak Japanese? I'm sure that will go down real well with the viewers, not. But it would be a better program for addressing the issues of the day.

7) Or how about a show where the non-Japanese were presented (without them intimidatingly barking at people in a foreign language), have people react (for the laughs), then show that these "foreigners" are actually residents and can speak Japanese well enough to communicate just fine. Then the end of the segment can say, "Jeez, why did we go to such an extreme in our reaction?" and end on a note of "we can overcome barriers in the end."

In conclusion: I understand that this idea as is for a TV show may be funny, nervous laughter and all that. But as a broadcasting center influencing public opinion, one should focus more on what should be put out to make Japan a better place, not reinforce stereotypes through the airwaves. It's hard enough communicating with many Japanese people, given their preconceptions about foreigners, without TV reinforcing them.


The director, Mr Yamauchi, proffered in his defense inter alia:

1) The show has no intention of reinforcing stereotypes or being discriminatory. Mr Y lived in the US for six years and knows what it is like to be a minority.

2) Oh, and as for the three stereotypes, we'll take any foreigner, regardless of race, speaking any foreign language.

3) As for the prank calls, they would be made to "tarento" staff within their network to freak them out (even though the TV notice said the foreign pranksters would be calling "people", making any tarento targeting completely unclear).


He said he would like to take this up with his producer and would like to meet me in person ASAP. We will, in a day or two.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning I got a call from a Mr Furuta Toshiaki, Executive Director (Daihyou Torishimari Shachou) of HTB, who asked if we could meet. At 4:30 PM yesterday for an hour, I met with him and three other high-powered people on the HTB totem pole (Mr Yamaki Shuuji (Senmu Torishimariyaku), Mr Igarashi Atsushi (Joumu Torishimariyaku), and Mr Yokoyama Kenji (Torishimariyaku)), who told me they had heard of my complaint (surprisingly--I never called HTB itself, and I talked to Mr Yamauchi on his keitai; musta gotten a few complaints from friends on my mailing lists...).

The show, they announced right away, has been cancelled. And they offered no justifications whatsoever for what they considered an ill-thought-out program prospectus. They were very sorry for any offence taken and promised to hold meetings on how to raise awareness of issues such as these. They also wanted to know if I would participate on any panel discussions they might have on this issue (as well as join them for a beer perhaps in the new year). And they took a copy of my book.

Pinch me. Years of cranking out emails and trying to get press networks to take more care about international and intercultural issues amounted to mostly hot air about playing to inherent biases of viewers, indelible stereotypes justifiable for the sake of humor, or just good ol' "Japanese culture".

(The worst case was in February 1993, when STV filmed me and several of my friends waiting for a bus--without our permission--and used it as a background image in conjunction with a news report on murder committed by a Middle-Easterner in front of Sapporo Station. I filed a complaint, which got me a verbal apology and some telephone cards. Nowadays, I know better what to do. Maybe HTB knows that...)

But not this time.

To be fair, HTB has always given us plenty of airtime for the Otaru Onsens Case, and I consider this to be a mere brainfart, nothing sinister, from a producer-director team which didn't think deeply about their proposal, or anticipate that anyone would find fault.

Now that they did, they did the right thing. Bravo!

See? Piping up at the right time and the right place can have beneficial effects! Japanese can be as sensitive to issues of race and culture as anyone else if they are brought up and communicated properly.

Arudou Debito
Dec 15, 2004


Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 14:39:20 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Newspaper covering "Stepin Fetchit" story (abridged)

Hi All. A major newspaper will be covering the whole HTB "Stepin Fetchit" saga, probably for tomorrow's choukan. Had coffee with the reporter this morning.

Also had coffee last night with the director of the deceased program, Mr Yamauchi. Really nice guy, who can't imagine in retrospect what the hell he had been thinking.

He says he received a lot of mail from people out there protesting the show (to the tune of about forty or so posts), both in English and Japanese. (In fact, I just found out, it was a protest mail from the Zainichi Community directly to HTB's Shachou Mr Furuta which really got the ball rolling.)

Aalso, friend Eve Sander was inspired enough by this whole matter to make an amusing internet movie about it! See it at

Crumbs, who'da thunk the issue would have caught fire like this? Debito

Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 15:58:27 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Friends: 2 news articles, one on HTB Stepin Fetchit

Hello Friends and HIBA. Two articles. One which appeared in Hokkaido Shinbun last Saturday on the HTB "Stepin Fetchit" issue, the other an editorial on the need to end discrimination in Japan (in the Daily Yomiuri, of all places; they nevertheless remain in character by stopping short of demanding a law against it).

Here goes:


Hokkaido Shinbun Dec 18, 2004 pg 32
(Translated by Arudou Debito)
If the link is dead, click here to page down to Japanese text.

"A negro [kokujin--thus translated to keep the article's flavor of stereotyping], if possible macho.
A whitey [hakujin--also thus translated], if possible blonde and beautiful".
This email, sent by programmers at Hokkaido Television Broadcasting (HTB) to
dozens of non-Japanese asking for people to appear on a TV show, incurred a
backlash: "This incites racial prejudice". On December 17, Doshin heard
news that the program had been cancelled. Sources inside the company said,
"We were trying too hard to be funny, and got careless."

The show, produced by HTB, was to be part of "FOMA presents 9!", a
late-night program broadcast on Tuesday nights. Problematic was the
scenario where foreigners who only speak English were to make sudden phone
calls at "tarento" professional entertainers, surprising them, with
hilarious results. It was planned to be broadcast after January 2005. HTB
asked foreigners who are macho (i.e. manly and muscular in stature) and
beautiful blondes to contact them in order to appear, and sent the email to
several foreigners.

This main was aimed at foreign residents of Japan, and sent through mailing
lists for freelancers and part-timers.

It arrived in the inbox of an American-born Japanese, Arudou Debito,
Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University, who protested.
"Half of all domestic foreigners are Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, and they
understand Japanese. This program will only reinforce stereotypes that
'foreigners are blond Caucasians who only speak English.'" HTB's CEO Furuta
Toshiaki commented, "It is as the criticism says. This program would only
have confirmed prejudices."

A quick comment about this article:

I have been accused by one yahoo mailing list of not letting enough alone already--essentially trying to get my name in the papers further by siccing Hokkaido Shinbun on HTB. Not the way it happened. After HTB cancelled its show, I sent out a very pleasantly-worded update on the issue to all my Japanese lists (
click here to page down to it in Japanese) thanking HTB and praising their action of cancelling the program. Doshin then took up the issue themselves and put out the above article as they saw fit. In any case, I see this as a positive development, one of the media watchdogging itself.


Time to end discrimination against foreigners
Yomiuri Shimbun, December 14, 2004

"There are too many foreigners here--throw them out immediately." This comment was written on an anonymous postcard that was mailed to a social welfare council in Higashinari Ward, Osaka, in early November.

The council received the postcard as a response to a questionnaire it had distributed to gain ideas from residents on how to build up the community.

"I feel really ashamed," a council official said. "We want to gather ideas on how to create a community where people can live happily, regardless of race."

On Dec. 1, proceedings concerning a racial discrimination lawsuit began at the Osaka District Court. Steve McGowan, a black American who lives in Kyoto Prefecture and filed the lawsuit, said he had been told to leave a shop, despite being a potential customer, by the shop's middle-aged owner, who reportedly said at the time, "I hate black guys."

During the first court session, McGowan said he had been insulted due to the color of his skin, adding that he wanted to make the shop owner understand that discrimination was unacceptable.

At a primary school in the Kansai region, a boy was bullied by older students over the spelling of his middle name in katakana. His mother is from South America.

As the boy blamed his middle name for his problems at school, his mother visited a human rights group and asked its members whether she should change her son's name to a Japanese name so that he could settle in at school.

Song Chong Chi, director of an Osaka-based nonprofit organization that aims to support multiracial communities, is a second-generation Korean residing in Japan. She visited an elderly person as a care worker, but after introducing herself, the person spat in her face and refused to be helped by Song.

Song said Japanese society tells residents of Korean descent to follow Japanese rules or return to their own countries if they do not like it.

"With a heavy-handed and exclusionary attitude, the Japanese can't see foreigners as partners in a community," she said.

Many foreigners in Japan have experienced discrimination in different ways.

Arudo Debito, an associate professor at Hokkaido Information University who changed his name from David Aldwinckle in 2000 when he became a Japanese citizen, is preparing to sue the central government for compensation over discrimination.

Arudo, a New York native who lives in Nanporocho in western Hokkaido, was refused entry to a public bath in Otaru, also in Hokkaido, in 1999 because he was "a foreigner."

He filed and won a lawsuit against the facility's operator, saying the facility had violated the United Nations' International Convention on All Form of Racial Discrimination.

During the legal battle, Arudo discovered that Japan had ratified the convention, but failed to formulate domestic laws to prohibit racial and other forms of discrimination, unlike other developed countries.

Arudo and his Japanese wife have two daughters.

"I want to rid Japan of discrimination for my daughters' sakes and for the country's future. I believe this is my duty as a man who became Japanese," he said.

Song's comments seem to support those of Arudo.

"I believe it's time for the Japanese to seriously think for themselves about what kind of relationship they want to have with foreigners," she said.

About 1.91 million foreigners were residing in Japan as of the end of last year.

The industrial sector is in great need of foreign workers and it has urged the central government to accept more workers from abroad. Soon everyone will be given the chance to live in multiethnic communities. Copyright 2004 The Yomiuri Shimbun


Thanks for reading! Debito in Sapporo
December 20, 2004

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Portions Copyright 2004, Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan



Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 15:36:45 +0900
To: debito@debito.org
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: HTB「マッチョ外人」募集は取り止めとなった!

 皆様、こんにちは。有道 出人です。いつもお世話になっております。

 アップデートですが、月曜の夜、北海道テレビ(HTB)からの出演募集を拝 見し転送しました(以前はオリジナル英語だけだったが、以降省略して和訳し ます。英語オリジナルをご覧になるならここをクリックして下さい。)



当番組では外国人は人に電話して英語のみをしゃべる。日本語ができない外国 人から電話の受ける人のリアクションを撮影したい。電話の「ドッキリカメ ラ」のようでユーモア番組を。

お問い合わせは Mr. Yamauchi Hideki
Tel: 011-821-4900
Fax: 011-813-7691
H-phone: 090-5985-1871
E-mail: yamauchi@htb.co.jp


 その後、ディレクターの山内氏と携帯で話しました。私が感じた番組の問題 は以降にように説明しました:

 2)「外国人は怖い、べらべらと英語でしゃべられたらどうする!?」とい う躊躇を促進する(よって、地下鉄で隣に座らず、『外人が怖い、我々は英語 できない』と主張した『外国人お断り』の温泉や店舗は多いです。特に北海道 で。)
 3)なぜ「外国人」は白人や黒人(特に金髪美人)に限るのか。登録してい る外国人はたいていアジア人(45%ぐらいは在日韓国や中国人、三位はブラ ジル人)です。これは明らかなステレオタイプで現状を反映しないのです。 (山内氏は「でも、特に白人や黒人に限らず、外国人出演者を募集している。 そう書いていないことはすみません」と言いました。)
 4)募集では、まるで赤の他人にイタズラ電話をするようだ。これは外国人 のいいイメージになるのか。英語でハラスメントに見える。(山内氏は「これ は赤の他人ではなく、関連しているタレントへの電話とリアクションです。」 しかし募集ではそう解釈できません。)
 5)このような番組はユーモアよりも皮肉だと感じざるを得ない。小樽が発 端で全道的にの疎外営業ポリシーが多くなり(特に、最近すすきのの飲み屋で 『外人ダメ!』は頻繁になった。来週これについて私のジャパンタイムズのコ ラムが出てから和訳して転送します。)、なぜこのことを。これよりも、外国 人みたいな人がスナックなどに入るところを「ドッキリカメラ」で撮ってほし いです。でも、それはユーモアにならないねですね。悲しいことです。


 私の示唆は、「もしどうしてもユーモアを狙っているならば、これはどうで しょうか。外国人みたいな人を出演して、『英語ハラスメント』をさせない で、無言のままでタレントの反応を撮影すること。そして、そのユーモアを見 てから、この外国人を日本語でしゃべらせて。『あ、あなたは日本語ができ る、なんだあ!(実は殆どの外国人住民は少なくとも日本語でコミュニケーシ ョンレベルができ、ほぼ半分(すなわち在日の方々)は日本語のネーティブで す)。あ、日本の住民ですか。なるほど。ならば、なんで僕たちはこう騒いだ んだろね!ごめん。じゃあ、ビールを一緒に」のような『外見のカベ、言語の 障壁は乗り越えるもんだ!』の教訓を助長すべきだと思います。」

 要は、日本語は難し言語ではありません。●日本人●と話すのは難しいで す。なぜなら色々な大前提を乗り越えることは必要です。上記の番組はその大 前提を再度確認となるので、いけないと思いました。

 山内氏は非常に真剣に聞いて下さって、その後一緒に会うつもりです。いい 話し合いでした。


 HTB映像株式会社の代表取締役社長の古田俊あき氏から電話をいただきまし た。そして、当日午後4:30から一時間くらいHTBの他の管理職の方々(専 務取締役山木周治氏、常務取締役五十嵐篤志氏、取締役横山憲治氏)と会合 し、深くお詫びして下さいました。「軽卒な企画ですみませんでした。不快な ことで、どうもすみません。この番組はキャンセルしました。そして、これか ら二度とそうならないことを図るために会議を開くと思いますので、その都度 どうぞご参加を」などとおっしゃいました。非常にありがたい話でした。
 HTBさんはいつも小樽温泉問題を的確に取材した下さったので、今回も適切 な措置も採ったと思います。たいてい、テレビ局は私の苦情について「それは あんたの解釈にすぎないから」それとも「ユーモアで別に外国人を差別する意 図はないので、あなたはちょっと考え過ぎでは?」と片付けられました。

 (一番ひどかったのは93年2月のSTVの対応でした。私と外国人の友達と 一緒に札幌国際プラザのあるMNビルの玄関で昭和新山国際雪合戦行きのバスを 待っている際、STVのカメラマンは私たちを無断撮影をした。そして、当日の ニュース番組のレポート「札幌駅前で中東系外国人は日本人女性を殺害」の 中、私たちの顔や立ち待っている姿の映像は『バックグラウンド・イメージ』 として使用。「外国人が集まるところで中東風の犯人を見張りましょう」みた いに報道。人がその放送を観て私の顔だったと分かって私に知らせた。私が STVにクレームしに行った結果は:口頭的なお詫び(文書は却下)、そしてテ レホンカード2枚をくれたことにすぎなかった。だからHTBの対応は非常に対 照的である。)

 HTB、バンザイ!ありがとうございました。有道 出人

December 15, 2004


Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 12:16:44 +0900
To: debito@debito.org
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: 道新記事:HTB「求ム 金髪白人」

皆様、こんばんは。有道 出人です。本日の道新(朝刊)でこの記事が出ました。

北海道新聞朝刊 2004/12/18 07:58 pg 32


 番組はHTB映像が制作し、HTBが火曜深夜に放送している「FOMA pre
sents 9!」。問題の企画は英語しか話せない外国人がタレントに突然電話を




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Portions Copyright 2004, Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan