Incidents of confrontationalism toward NJ are on the rise. Debito.org argues that this is standard social bullying of foreigners being disguised as a reaction to alleged “overtourism”. Push back at it.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This is just a quick personal post as what’s happening to others is also happening to me.

We’ve had plenty of reports in recent months of people being confrontational towards NJ (Resident and Tourist), or people who look like NJ, accusing them of all manner of cultural slights and faux pas.

In recent weeks, we’ve had a confrontation at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, and enough tourism in Kyoto and Mt Fuji to warrant bans on people going to certain places — even the recent overkill of a local government putting up a screen to block a view of Mt Fuji around a convenience store, with predictable accusations that foreigners are spoiling everything.  Halloween in Shibuya even became a target, with drinking in the street made out to be a foreign-imported problem (seriously?!).

Some of this is inevitable.  For quite some time now we’ve had grumbles about Chinese consumers’ spending habits in places like Ginza.  And whenever foreigners are about, they tend to be the first people blamed for any problem due to “cultural differences” that are automatically at odds with Japan’s putative “uniqueness”.  They’re a soft target.

It even happened to me yesterday in front of Tokyo Station.  Some ojisan (now they’re actually younger than me) decided to jump his place in line for taxis in front of us, and then cursed me out when I told him that that wasn’t acceptable behavior.  When I cursed him out back, he told me to speak “proper Japanese” peppered with a few “omae”s to establish his dominance.  I told him to get lost and to eat shit, and he jumped into the cab and fumed as the doors closed.  The people behind us in line apologized to me (thanks; appreciated, but not something you’re responsible for), and a visual survey of the crowd behind me reveled no hairy eyeballs being directed at me.  They saw his line jumping too.  So I got the next cab and got on with my day.

But the lesson I took from this incident is that, since bullying is a cultural standard in Japan due to the hierarchical nature of everything here, there are plenty of bullies who naturally believe that anyone who looks NJ is on lower social rung.  Seeing me as a soft target, the bully yesterday decided to enforce that.

And while he didn’t accuse me specifically of being a tourist, it’s easy nowadays to justify the standard bullying that happens to NJ as a reaction to overtourism.

We as Visible Minorities and NJ Residents should be wary of that dynamic and push back at it.  Don’t let overtourism become leverage for bullying.  Make it clear that rules are rules, rudeness is rudeness, and Cool Japan is no longer cool when it becomes knee-jerk disrespectful.

After all, tourism is what Japan wanted.  “Cool Japan” and all that.  And now you’ve got record levels of visitors (not to mention NJ Residents, by the way).  So live with it.  Deal with it (as I’ve found Japan generally has, successfully).

But definitely don’t blame people who look “foreign” for doing what Japanese do too.  I mean, just about everything foreign tourists do here are what Japanese also do at home — from littering to being loud in public to shoplifting (theft by Japanese is by far the largest crime in Japan), etc. etc.  And it’s especially true for Japanese abroad, due to a philosophy of tabi no haji wa kakisute (“shed your shame when traveling”, with both positive and negative connotations).

Lose the racism and quit the bullying.  And stand up to the bullies when necessary.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My SNA Visible Minorities column 56: Addressing Japan’s Child Abduction Problem (on the recent bill passed to allow joint custody after divorce (May 27, 2024)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest SNA column.  There are mixed feelings from many people hurt by the Koseki System, but I hold the view that the new law allowing for Joint Custody after divorce is a step in the right direction.  Read on and see what you think.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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ADDRESSING JAPAN’S CHILD ABDUCTION PROBLEM
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D., Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 56, May 27, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/05/27/visible-minorities-addressing-japans-child-abduction-problem/

It has been one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets.  It has shattered lives and caused enormous international embarrassment to Japan’s reputation as a nation of laws.  It has caused untold misery to countless children and families worldwide.  And amongst all the G7 “developed” nations, it only happens like this in Japan.  

I’m talking about Japan’s issues with child custody and access after divorce.  

Japan has something called the Family Registry (koseki) system.  It serves the important purposes of not only conferring Japanese citizenship, it also prioritizes the family unit over the individual.  A throwback system unamended for more than a century, the Family Registry has a major bug:  If you get divorced, the bureaucracy forces the couple as a registered family unit to cleave back into two unconnected individuals with completely severed family ties. 

The problem is that children are likewise forced into one severed family registry or another,  This means they lose all legal ties with one parent, and that parent (usually the father) has not rights of joint custody or child visitation.  

This means that divorce in Japan completely disappears a “Left Behind Parent’ (LBP) from a child’s life.

This invisibility is enforced by the rest of society too.  For example, if you want to visit your child’s school and find out how they’re getting along, the school will turn you away as a stranger.  Or if you want to say hello to your child at home or on the street, your ex can call the police and have you arrested as a stalker.  Even in extreme cases where the custodial parent dies or abandons the children, grandparents have adopted the kids (since the kids are still legally registered to that family unit) and shut out the LBP all over again!  Despite this, LBP are obligated to pay child support.  So essentially the system is there to punish you for ever getting divorced, since you lose everything and can’t even pay to play.

This cruel system affects everyone in Japan, Japanese citizen or not (as former Prime Minister and LBP Junichiro Koizumi can attest).  But it hits international divorces especially hard.  If you are, say, a foreign resident with a Spouse Visa you void your status to live and work in Japan.  Then on top of that you get specially targeted by two evil narratives.  

One is of course the racial profiling that happens when your ex siccs the police on you, and you get the regular third degree for existing while foreign in Japan.  The other is a conviction that foreigners are naturally violent and prone to spousal or child abuse.  Yes, people actually believe (and are repeatedly told by mass media and even the Japanese government) that despite all the bullying in Japan that goes on at home, school, and the workplace, foreigners are the ones who beat their children because of automatically presumed “cultural differences.”

Your rights are even fewer if you marry a Japanese and live overseas.  Umpteen cases have been recorded of illegal child abductions (e.g., taking a child across an international border without the permission of both parents) by Japanese spouses fleeing to Japan.  Sometimes they are assisted by abduction guidebooks you can find on Amazon Japan.  Sometimes they have been actively abetted by the local Japanese consulate issuing them a new passport, in defiance of overseas court orders granting joint or sole custody to the Non-Japanese parent.  And when the LBP comes to Japan to enforce the court order in Japanese court, they get ruled against because “habitual residence” has already been established here.  She who dares, wins. 

Many a Non-Japanese LBP has been arrested, gone on hunger strike, or even committed suicide due to this nightmarish lack of rights.  And enough international arrest warrants on Japanese spouses have piqued the interest of foreign governments.  Finally, after decades of overseas government pressure (gaiatsu), Japan signed The Hague Convention on International Child Abductions in 2014, only a decade ago.  Unfortunately, Japan just caveated its way out of ever enforcing it.  

People filing claims under the Convention rarely got a Japanese court to side with them.  If the abduction took place many months ago, then “habitual residence” was established and that’s that.  Or there’s the common prejudice that a child naturally belongs more with their mother.  And one verbal claim of “child abuse” or “spousal violence” (which in Japan, according to some spokespeople, could include a raised voice, an angry look, or even a silent stare in an argument) is usually enough to close ranks.  Plus there’s the conceit that Japan’s population is decreasing, so there’s a demographic interest in stopping depopulation through repatriation.  We got our kid back, so that’s that.

This system has even inspired racism.  As I mentioned before, the Japanese mass media and government surveys have long had a white-hot curiosity about finding what causes conflict in any international marriage.  (Japanese men are pretty browned off about losing their women to foreigners—even though the majority of international marriages are Japanese men to foreign women—so there’s a smug satisfaction in knowing that foreign men aren’t perfect either.)  But a Foreign Ministry pamphlet in 2014, issued shortly after Japan signed the Convention, clearly reinforced the narrative that foreigners are violent through illustrations depicting a Caucasian father beating his child.  For good measure, the pamphlet also insinuated that Japanese can’t get a fair deal in a foreign court, and was clearly written working backward from a conclusion that the Convention disadvantaged Japanese.

Likewise, the most creative argument came from far-right propaganda network Sakura TV, which opined in 2018 that Japan’s signing the Hague Convention was just the judiciary trying to appease White people.  The Convention’s main goal was to empower White men playing around with women from “uncivilized” countries, who would then divorce them in favor of White women, and convert their foreign playthings into de facto babysitters of their offspring.  Therefore the Convention exists to ensure White cads still enjoy access to their bastard children!

But let’s return to reality and get to the good news occasioning this column.  First, full disclosure:  I too have been through a divorce in Japan and lost all contact with my children.  So have many of my friends and colleagues, Japanese and foreign.  I have argued before that nobody, Japanese or foreign, should get married under these conditions and have children, as it’s just too risky should the relationship sour.  I stand by that argument even today.  

But finally this May the Japanese Diet passed a law establishing joint custody.  Starting in 2026 and working retroactively, this law means that both parents will now, at least on paper, legally have a say in a child’s upbringing after divorce.  Unless both parents agree to sole custody, joint is presumed under Family Court proceedings.

Naturally, there will be caveats for accusations of domestic violence or child abuse.  But these have to be recognized by a court case-by-case as legitimate concerns.  It is the first change to Japan’s laws concerning parental authority in 77 years, and it will be revisited in five years to assess how well it’s working.

Not surprisingly, the response has been muted from my experienced colleagues.  Some, inured to decades of Japan’s bad-faith negotiations and policing, doubt the law will ever be properly enforced.  Signing the Convention didn’t work, so why should this?  After all, what Japanese court would ever willfully give priority to a foreigner over a Japanese in a dispute?  Or by now the law is too little, too late, as their children are all grown up and the damage is done for a lifetime.  An outcome that makes up for all the past cruelty and denial is simply impossible.  

Nevertheless, my take is that this new law is still good news.  It’s better to have it than not.  It can be pointed to as the law of the land, as opposed to a malleable norm that can be much more easily bent away from any LBP in any convoluted “he-said, she-said” dispute.

In principle, giving power to both parents over the well-being of a child is better than giving all power to one vindictive spouse.  It will at least allow the possibility of a child hearing both sides of a story, which is a valuable skill set for anyone in their formative years.  Moreover it will bring Japan back within international practices.  

It’s been pretty much determined by child psychologists that, on average, children need both parents in their life.  It’s about time the law in Japan reflected that.  The Japanese government has finally taken that step in the right direction.  Now let’s wait and see if it gets enforced in good faith.
ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

mytest

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column talks about how NJ do have the ability to get some political power in Japan.  It will of course mean some work on their part, but that’s inevitable for all minorities anywhere.  But the biggest obstacle, aside from the willful exclusion of NJ from the electorate, is the will to naturalize and run for office.  You can do it, and I believe it’s likely you’ll get in, since the Japanese electorate is really quite hungry for something different to choose from.  But you’ve gotta stop believing that you’re merely a “guest” in Japan in the first place.  Read on to see some examples of elected former NJ and take note.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Non-Japanese Residents claim political power despite obstacles
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 54, March 31, 2024
Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/03/31/visible-minorities-non-japanese-residents-claim-political-power/

I teach Political Science at the university level.  In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all.

I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system.  Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead.

But this assumes one major fundamental:  that they can participate in the democratic system at all.  Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote.  Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to.  Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.  

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs.  

My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself.  Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle.  We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.  

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping.  As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan.

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

A lot of the issue is that, as I have written before, many of Japan’s minorities believe they really don’t have the ability—or even the right—to shape Japanese society.  They convince themselves that they are merely “guests” in Japan—not taxpayers and residents—and therefore have no say in how they’re treated by public policy.  

After all, they’re in Japan by choice, and if they don’t like the way things are, they should go “home.”  They’ve internalized the narrative that Japan is not “home” and foreigners don’t belong here.

This dehumanizing mantra is well-established and reinforced on a daily basis.  But less considered are the underlying political structures enforcing it.  It’s hard to have a stake in a society when it might be booting you out shortly.  

Official permission to work, i.e., visas, are generally only one to three years in duration, sometimes non-renewable, and often tethered to a specific job sponsor.  This means many NJ can’t change jobs without losing their visa and risking going to jail as overstayers.  Employers, of course, are happy with this situation, leveraging this vulnerability to abuse and exploit NJ workers even further.  Thus all the incentive structures are there to make NJ life in Japan temporary and miserable.

But consider one more disenfranchising mechanism:  The larger scheme to make sure NJ never coalesce into interest groups and voting blocs.  

In other societies, minorities, newcomers and immigrants cluster in like-minded regions where they can create communities.  Harlem.  Chinatowns.  The Navajo Nation.  Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, and Little Saigon.  The Dearborn Muslims.  New York’s Jewish communities.  The Polish Patches.  The Castro District.  The proposed states of Jefferson and Deseret.  And the majority-minority states of Hawaii, California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, and soon Georgia.  

Once people reach a critical mass in a population, they can foster entire social movements, even elect representatives and become an unignorable political force.

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

But Japan makes sure NJ never reach a critical mass.  Whenever we hear about, for example, Chinese buying up land in an area, out come the politicians stoking fear about Chinese becoming the local majority and “seceding from Japan.”  Essentially, the logic is that more foreigners means less Japan, and if NJ ever get power over Japanese, Japan is lost.  That’s especially visible when NJ are officially denied administrative roles in any public sector positions.

Then there’s simply getting rid of NJ Residents by not renewing visas en masse.  Clean house and ethnically cleanse.  The lost historical Iranian, Filipina, and Brazilian communities in Japan are testament to that. 

But even without a critical mass, power within a democracy is granted to people who can vote, so Japan makes sure NJ Residents never become part of the electorate.  

Japan still has no official immigration policy to encourage NJ Residents to become Japanese citizens.  Further, whenever Japan announces an expansion to any working visa program, politicians at even the highest levels of government are quick to clarify this does not mean these migrants will become immigrants.  The very word “immigrant” (as in a person) isn’t an established concept in Japanese policymaking circles.  

This situation seems unlikely to change, despite the recent resumed mass migration into Japan.  Japan’s NJ Registered Resident population reached a record high of 3.4 million in 2023, up more than 10% over the previous year.

Yet the government has made it more difficult over the past two decades to go from a one-year visa to a three, not to mention obtain Permanent Residency.

The numbers reflect this.  Although the largest group of NJ Residents are Permanent Residents, their numbers only grew about 3% in 2023.  

Then there’s the issue of actually taking out Japanese citizenship, as this author has.  Yet the number of people who have naturalized on average over the past decade is less than 1000 per year, and on a general downward trend.  

No wonder.  After years languishing in nasty jobs and jumping through so many visa hoops, getting Japanese citizenship is often a very arbitrary process, with applications rejected even for parking tickets and “cultural incongruities.”  There’s also favoritism shown to applicants from countries with richer economies and lighter skins.  Not to mention the identity sacrifice of forcing people to give up their birth nationality.

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

Consequently, the only NJ groups in Japan that have accrued any political power are the Zainichi generational “foreigners.”  They’re the Japan-born descents of the former citizens of empire, who have lived in Japan more than a century yet are still “foreigners.”  Also known as the “Oldcomers,” they have formed lobbying groups such as as Mindan, Mintoren, and Soren.  Then there are also historical and indigenous minority groups such as the Burakumin Liberation League and Utari Kyoukai.  They all have managed to move the needle on how minorities are portrayed in the media.  

But in terms of shifting real political power, there is no substitute for getting the vote and a seat at the policymaking table.  And that means overcoming it all to become a citizen and get elected to office.

That happens, even in Japan.  Perhaps the most visible case was Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, who not only served in his local town council in Kanagawa Prefecture from 1992, he also served two terms in Japan’s national Diet from 2002 to 2013.

Others have since followed.  Decades ago US-born Anthony Bianchi and Canadian-born Jon Heese won back-to-back city council seats in Inuyama and Tsukuba respectively.  Bianchi has since retired, but Heese (whom I have interviewed for this column before) has since graduated up to a prefectural-level elected position.  

We have also seen incumbents such as Bolivian-born Noemi Inoue, elected in 2011 to the Sumida-ku Assembly; Syrian-born former Egyptian Sultan Nour, elected in 2021 to Shonai Town Assembly in Yamagata Prefecture; and Uzbekistan-born Babakhodjaeva Orzugul, elected to a seat in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku Assembly in 2023. 

Notably, all of them won their seats quite easily, some even getting the highest number of votes of all candidates running, despite the fact that their fellow NJ Residents cannot vote for them.  Bravo.

A reporter recently asked me if this meant change in Japan was afoot.  

My answer was that yes, this is not something we’ve seen before, and Visible Minorities claiming the right (and the structural power) to be Japanese is a positive change.  I think anyone who wants to see the change has to be the change, and they’re doing that.

How did they win so handily?  My theory is that given Japan’s single-party democracy, I think the Japanese electorate are hungry for any hope of change.  Something different.  Newcomer Immigrant Japanese can be precisely that.  So for once, being seen as an outsider in Japan can be an advantage. 

This theory also holds when you consider the opposite example:  When Diet Member Tsurunen didn’t offer his constituents anything new beyond having blue eyes (seriously, that was his slogan), he got voted out.  They realized he was basically running more for himself than them.  So you really have to be the change, not just look it.

Finally, the reporter said, “I think Heese, Orzugul, Inoue, and Sultan offer interesting insights into the shifting demographics of Japan.  But none of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino—the four groups who make up the most non-Japanese residents.  Do you think it is easier for certain types of Non-Japanese to gain power and acceptance in the country?”

My answer was this:

“I don’t know.  There is certainly a hierarchy of treatment based upon country of origin and skin color in Japan, especially in naturalization processes.  But certainly people of Chinese and Korean ancestry have been elected in the past.  

“Probably when other ethnic groups aren’t overworked, underpaid, and restricted to unstable visa statuses, we’ll see more of them naturalizing and running for office.”

We’ll talk again with Jon Heese about running for office next column.

ENDS
======================
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Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Interesting statistics here on how the labor migration has resumed to the point where hundreds of thousands of NJ are migrating to Japan every year, and NJ Residents are at record highs.  Also interesting is that Kyodo doesn’t seem to feel the need to shoehorn in foreign crime statistics this time (just a brief allusion to overstaying at the end).  I’ll be incorporating these stats into my next SNA Visible Minorities column, out shortly, and argue how this influx can translate into political power. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise
PHOTO: Foreign tourists visit Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year.
The Japan Times/Kyodo Mar 23, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/03/23/japan/society/foreign-nationals-visas-japan-record/

The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data has shown, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country’s efforts to address its acute labor shortage.

As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2% to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan’s technical internship program grew 24.5% to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed.

The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan’s severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2%. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2% to around 362,000.

By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000.

The number of foreign arrivals, excluding reentry by residents, increased more than sixfold from the previous year to around 25.83 million following the easing of border restrictions associated with COVID-19.

The number has now recovered to over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

In 2023, over 9.62 million Japanese nationals left the country for reasons including tourism, which was more than triple the figure from a year earlier but still remained under half of pre-pandemic levels.

There were 79,113 foreign nationals who overstayed their visas in Japan as of Jan. 1, 2024, an increase of 8,622 compared with the year before. Vietnamese made up the largest group at approximately 15,000. ENDS

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My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)

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Hi Blog.  People have been clamoring for me to write about this case.  Well, here you go.  No surprises in my conclusion, probably.  Just some new research.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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MISS JAPAN SHIINO KAROLINA LOST HER CROWN, INEVITABLY

By Debito Arudou. Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 53 February 26, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/02/26/visible-minorities-miss-japan-karolina-shiino-lost-her-crown-inevitably/

You might have heard the big news last month about Shiino Karolina, a Ukrainian-born Japanese citizen who won the title of Miss Japan.

You have also heard earlier this month that she lost her crown due to allegations of her having an affair with a married man.

Yappari.  I thought that might happen.  How convenient.  Let’s put this event in perspective.  

This not the first time a Japanese beauty contest in has chosen a person not “pure-blooded” to represent Japan.  In 2015, African-American-Japanese Miyamoto Ariana was chosen as Miss Japan in 2015. 

This was big news back then too for winning despite her biracial status.  I say “despite” because oodles of internet trolls questioned whether a half-Japanese could represent Japan.  

And guess what?  She could, since lightning struck a second time a year later, when Indian-Japanese Yoshikawa Priyanka was crowned Miss World Japan.

However, with Shiino, the third time was not the charm.  She only lasted two weeks.  Why?  Because she was a bridge too far.

Shiino, who came to Japan as a child from Ukraine and was raised and naturalized in Japan, was admitted to the contest on the basis of her Japanese citizenship, meaning without any blood-quantum qualifier.  

This is a very positive step, as it acknowledges that “Japaneseness” is a legal status.  (And yes, this pronouncement came with all the caveats that she’s a fluent speaker, acculturated, “more Japanese than we are” from all the people who would vouch.  Phew.)

Shiino’s win showed that people can become Japanese over time, not just be ascribed it from birth and bloodlines.  

This matters to Japan’s rapidly depopulating society.  If Japan can bring immigrants over and see them as “Japanese” like any other, well enough to represent Japan even if you don’t “look” it, this portends well for Japan’s inevitable international future.

But then came the backlash.

The first problem was the media making a big deal of this for the wrong reasons.  Instead of heralding the positive steps and future implications for Japanese society, they used racialized headlines (most without even mentioning Shiino by name, making her an issue instead of a person) to focus on how they anticipated readers would react.  Never mind the judges’ decision, where she won because of her looks.  Media once again made her win a “despite.”   

Media also empowered the self-proclaimed Identity Police.  Instead of focusing on the voices of how Shiino was in fact Japanese, media again devoted an outsized proportion of space to the trolls who reinforce the unhealthy narrative that “real” Japanese have to look a certain way.  

The trolls should not even make the news.  There are racists in every society, and their unhealthy hate will always be underground chatter.  Unearthing and megaphoning them just resuscitates their dying ideologies.  Manufacturing drama for the sake of clickbait is irresponsible pandering.

The second problem here is with “beauty contests” in general.  They are a throwback idea that women should be pedestaled just because they won the “lovely lottery”.  Too bad for all those who “fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down.”  (There’s a half-trillion-dollar cosmetics industry to help fix that, of course.)

Remember the origin of these pageants.  According to a well-researched article in Honolulu Magazine, “the first modern contests involving the judging of women’s outward appearance can be credited to P.T. Barnum, one of the country’s greatest showmen, who also held national contests for dogs, chickens and babies, in 1854.”  

So putting people on display like dogs and chickens was always problematic.  And by “people,” of course we mean “women.”  Where are the international beauty pageants similarly subjecting men to the “male gaze”?

Now put it through the Japan filter, where looks are linked to citizenship:  you have to “look Japanese to be Japanese.”  

Thus any contest that focuses on “looks” means Japan adds an extra hurdle.  “Shiino doesn’t even look Asian, let alone Japanese.  How can she possibly represent ‘us’?” 

Try claiming that a Visible Minority (or a Person of Color, however defined) doesn’t represent “us” in a lot of other societies, and then try to dodge the accusation of being a “racist country.”

The same embedded racism is so hard-wired in that you see it in overseas ethnic-transplant societies.

In Hawai’i, for example, there are the Miss Chinatown Hawai’i, the Narcissus Festival, The Cherry Blossom Festival, the Miss Latina Hawai’i and the Miss O’ahu Filipina beauty contests, where contestants have to exhibit sufficient blood quanta to qualify.  

For the Japanese exhibitors, purity of bloodline mattered.  The Cherry Blossom Festival wasn’t even open to “multiethnic Japanese-American women” until 1999.  And that’s before you get the extra layer of now having to be stewardesses not just of countries, but of entire cultures.

But back to the worldwide pageants where ethnic identity is less important than looking good in a swimsuit.  You still have the issue of, “Who can represent ‘us’?”  And what befell Shiino is similar to what happened to Vanessa Williams, the first African-American woman to win Miss America in 1984.  

Out came the Identity Police back then too:  A black woman representing America?  Oh hell no.  Eventually Williams lost her crown due to nude photographs taken two years prior.  

Now with Shiino:  A Ukranian-Japanese with no Japanese blood whatsoever representing Japan?  Oh hell no.  Find a reason to dethrone her.  

It only took two weeks to find a sex scandal.  After all, pageant women are also supposed to be virginal and available too.  (Hence the “Miss” in the title.)  Being c*ck-blocked by a married man sort of spoils the male gaze.  

Nevertheless there’s a whiff of hypocrisy to what happened to Shiino.  It’s hard to believe other contestants weren’t also having sex as consenting adults.  So why Shiino?  Because the pageant organizers didn’t anticipate how controversial a win by a Japanese without any bloodline would be.  They blinked and looked for an off-ramp.  

The sad conclusion to draw from this case is that Shiino Karolina got hers.  Japan still isn’t ready to recognize Japaneseness as a legal status instead of an ethnic bloodline, and people will still resort to any means to revert to type.  In this case, blood type.  

But if you really want to fix this situation, you’ll abandon beauty contests altogether.  They just bring out bad habits in society, and at the expense of women.

ENDS
======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities Column 50, “Memory-holing the ‘Japanese Only’ signs” (Oct 31, 2023), where I conclude that, since racial discrimination is unconstitutional but not illegal in Japan, the most effective way to get “Japanese Only” signs down is to get the media and government involved. If they won’t help, you’re probably out of luck.

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Memory-holing the “Japanese Only” signs

Exclusionary businesses have a long history in Japan, and people seem to be forgetting it.  Here’s a reminder from somebody who has studied them more than anybody.

By Debito Arudou.  Shingetsu News Agency VM 50, October 31, 2023

News Item:  The Okinawa Times reported that an izakaya pub in Naha put up a sign saying, in a mix of English and Japanese, “Because our staff can only speak Japanese, Japanese Only (sorry).  We don’t allow customers from overseas to enter our bar.”  Once it made the news, the local government tourist agency intervened, and after some weeks and back and forth, the bar took the sign down.  

For this, my 50th column for SNA, I’d like to take the reader on a little nostalgia trip through a project I’ve been working on for a quarter century:  “Japanese Only” signs.  

I’ve investigated and interviewed hundreds of these exclusionary places, published and updated seven books on this issue in English and Japanese, and curated on Debito.org the “Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments” since 1999 to make sure this issue doesn’t get memory-holed.   

For it seems that memory-holing is happening.  A SoraNews24 article on the Naha Case didn’t do much research, claiming somehow that, “Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars.”  (Incorrect.  The highest incidents of exclusionary rules are in fact hotels.)  

Then we get to the public reaction to the news.  When I put it up on Debito.org, some readers were defensive as usual, basically ranging from the “self-othering” by the Guestists (quote:  “I understand why they do it. I’m not offended. It’s their business and country.”) to the Ostriches who prefer, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary, to bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem simply doesn’t exist (quote:  “You are overdramatizing things.  It doesn’t say we do not allow foreigners.  Being to those places as long as you speak Japanese you can enter anywhere.  You have to see things from their perspective too you know.  They don’t wanna get in trouble because a tourist doesn’t read nor understand.  As simple as that.”)

But it’s not as simple as that.  “Japanese Only” signs in fact predate the massive tourist influx to Japan over the past decade and thus cannot be blamed on them.  Yes, signs have popped up here and there since foreigners were allowed back in after the pandemic, but the earliest signs I’ve been able to verify started in 1992, when public baths in the city of Kofu put up signs refusing foreigners — particularly foreign women imported during the Bubble Era to work as bar hostesses and in the sex trades — due to the contemporary fear of AIDS (which of course was linked to foreigners).  Fortunately, once the Kofu Case hit national news, the city health department intervened, demanded the bathhouses cease excluding, and educated the public about how AIDS is actually transmitted (i.e., not through shared bathwater or bathhouse).

But then it bubbled up again in Otaru, a seaport in Hokkaido, when in 1993 “Japanese Only” signs went up in a couple of public baths ostensibly to bar Russian sailors shipping in seafood from former Soviet waters.  However this time local media and government ignored the situation, because they knew the locals have a “thing” about about Russians.  

After WWII, many Japanese who lived in wartime-occupied Sakhalin and the Kuriles were forcibly repatriated by international agreements, and most emigrated to Hokkaido in general and Otaru in specific.  Memories are long in a defeated people, so they ate the Russians’ seafood but drew the line at “smelly, scary, and drunk Russkies” (their words) sharing their public baths.  And up stayed the exclusionary signs for years.

How on earth can this happen?  Because in Japan, “Japanese Only” rules are unconstitutional but not illegal.  

Unconstitutional because discrimination by race is explicitly barred under the Constitution of Japan (Article 14).  Not illegal because Japan is the only developed democratic country without any law in its civil or criminal code specifically banning racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

And it shows.  Compare what would happen if a business open to the public put up a “no foreigners” sign in other developed democratic countries.  Civil rights laws would kick in and the local civil rights division would probably get their their business license suspended.  Media would also make an issue of it.  There might even be boycotts, spray paint, and broken windows.

Not in Japan.  Quite the opposite, actually.  When we took up the abovementioned Otaru Case in 1999, we actually had people and opinion leaders rallying on the side of the exclusionary establishments.  They made sophistic arguments claiming that unique Japanese culture must be protected from allegedly illiterate, ignorant, and rampaging foreigners.  (A column explicitly titled “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” even appeared in The Japan Times.)  Or that businesses could exclude anyone anytime for anything.  (Try making that argument to the Burakumin, for example, and see how far you get.)  One establishment mentioned that their patrons have bad WWII memories (to which we replied, “What about German customers?”)

But it wasn’t just offhand, ill-considered comments.  The government was even complicit back then.  The Potemkin department for overseeing discriminatory issues in Japan, the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights (which has only advisory, not punitive powers), actually coached the Otaru City Government in writing NOT to do anything about their “Japanese Only” bathhouses — because, they argued, it would legally carry no penalty!

And that’s only talking about the discrimination that’s clearly signposted.  Now consider, for example, renting an apartment in Japan or trying to get a job at the “Hello Work” unemployment agency.  Racist landlords and corporate practices are so normal that explicitly stating “no foreign applicants” in their descriptions is perfectly acceptable. 

This is all really funny, because Japan signed a United Nations treaty in 1995 (the CERD) in which it promised to take all effective measures to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.  As the Naha Case proves nearly 30 years later, Japan was just going through the motions of a “developed country,” signing treaties without any intention to enforce them.

So why not just go elsewhere and spend your money at a place that won’t exclude you?  Because the problem with leaving “Japanese Only” signs up is that covert discrimination in Japan becomes overt.  Racism becomes an option for any bigot who obviously need fear no penalty.  

History bears this out.  After the Otaru Case made national and international news after 1999, exclusionary signs and rules spread nationwide across industries.  This included bars, discos, internet cafes, restaurants, stores and shops, hotels, realtors, schools, and even hospitals.  It goes without saying, but these industries have a fundamental impact on a minimum standard of living.  It’s not just a matter of getting a drink in a bar.  If there’s ever even the possibility that you can’t shop, stay, reside, receive an education, or get medical treatment, you’re in trouble.

So if you leave discrimination alone, it not only spreads — it mutates.  Consider the most elaborate exclusionary sign I ever saw:  “Chinese and naturalized citizens, war orphans, and children with mixed Chinese blood are absolutely refused entry.  Only pure-blooded Japanese males only.”  That’s grounded in some mighty specific prejudices.  

But why do these places exclude in the first place?  In my interviews over more than a decade, their standpoints range from, “Foreign customers were disruptive to my business” to “I personally hate foreigners.”  Some who thought their prejudice through a bit more cite an apparently exclusive clientele that want their dining or bathing experience to be “foreigner-free.”  Even those who never dealt with a foreign customer cited rumor to claim that something bad might happen, so the signs were a preventative measure.  

All point to a pretty simple logic:  If foreigners are let in, they’ll go bankrupt because Japanese customers will stay away.  (Even though plenty of these places went under anyway despite their exclusionary policies.  So maybe it wasn’t the foreigners after all.)  

But here’s the most insidious thing:  enforcement.  To the gatekeepers, a “foreigner” can be determined on sight.  This happened in practice when people who didn’t “look Japanese” enough were still refused entry even after they showed proof of Japanese citizenship.  That means they excluded by race, not nationality.  “Japanese Only” signs exclude Japanese too.

So you see, the “Japanese Only” sign in Naha was nothing new or all that simple.  What’s new is that the Okinawa media and the local government played a role in getting it down.  

After decades of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that seems to be the best route.  

With the Otaru Case, we tried everything else.  We spent more than a year negotiating with the exclusionary businesses, the local, regional, and national governments, and the general public.  Then we spent much money and many years in Civil Court trying to get one place to open their doors and one government to take responsibility for their years of negligence.  I even took the Otaru Case to Japan’s Supreme Court in 2005, which stunningly denied cert because it somehow “didn’t involve any Constitutional issues.”  At least the courts formally acknowledged that “Japanese Only” signs are in fact “racial discrimination.”  But that was a lot of energy spent on one bathhouse.  Now try doing that for all the other places that exclude foreigners.

As the Naha Case shows, the most effective way to get an exclusionary sign down is to get it in the media and make the government fear an impact on local tourism.  In a society where issues of human rights perpetually take a back seat to business ethics (which, in any society, would happily make money selling poison to the public as long as there’s no law to stop them), you really have few other reliable or effective options in Japan.  

Sad to say, but it’s as simple as that.

ENDS

======================
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“Japanese Only” sign on izakaya bar in Naha, Okinawa (Okinawa Times and Japan Today). Removed after govt scrutiny and media exposure.

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest entry for the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, where a bar in Okinawa refuses all “customers from overseas” (=”Japanese Only“) to enter the bar.  The difference is that the media took it up and ran them through the wringer of logic.  Not to mention they faced government scrutiny, which history shows makes all the difference.  It came out poorly for the bar, so they took the sign down.  Good.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(courtesy Okinawa Times)

Okinawa pub posts ‘Japanese only’ admission sign based on some shaky logic

116 Comments

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24, courtesy of Eric

 

 

▼ A photo of the notice

 

Screen-Shot-2023-10-05-at-9.12.35.png

Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars, with menus almost entirely consisting of drinks, and often the presence of hostesses or “floor lady” pseudo-hostesses. Izakaya, on the other hand, are essentially restaurants, where customers are expected to order both food and drinks, and it’s competitively rarer for them to have such exclusionary admission policies.

[Ed:  Clearly the author didn’t do much research.]

According to local newspaper Okinawa Times, the notice had been posted since at least a year ago, during which the management has turned away non-Japanese would-be customers. Eventually the sign came to the attention of two members of a Naha residents group that reported it to various government departments, including the Naha City Tourism Division and Okinawa Convention Bureau. This prompted a visit by members of the Tourism Division in August of this year in which they asked the owner to take the sign down, especially in light of increasing numbers of overseas travelers visiting Okinawa following the lifting of pandemic protocols, but the owner refused to do so.

The owner claims that the notice wasn’t meant to be taken as discriminatory intent, saying “We only have one person working the dining hall, and one person in the kitchen, so we don’t have time to spare for customer interaction. We have no intent of discriminating.” Coupled with the sign’s disclaimer that the staff only speaks Japanese, that would seem to indicate that the aim of the no-customers-from-overseas rule was to eliminate time-consuming communication problems, but if that’s really the case, the more appropriate policy would have been “Customers must order in Japanese.” It’s pretty short-sighted to make a blanket assumption that all non-Japanese diners will be unable to speak Japanese, given that the number of people living outside Japan who’ve still acquired some basic proficiency with the language is higher than it’s ever been, as is the number of non-ethnically Japanese residents of Japan, most of whom can order food and drinks in the language without difficulty. Even if the owner’s concern was foreign customers asking for changes in how their food is prepared, something far more common at restaurants outside Japan than within it, a sign saying “No menu substitutions allowed” would be sufficient and succinct.

With the sign getting increased attention, the owner has apparently rethought the Tourism Division’s request to remove it, and at some point in September it was taken down, with the owner saying “The writing was incorrect.”

However, he also added “What I want the government to do isn’t to try to attract travelers from other countries, but to teach people about izakaya culture.” But if what he really wants is a broader understanding of izakaya drinking and dining traditions, presumably on a global scale (since Japanese people are already familiar with those traditions), it’s hard to see how turning people away because they’re not Japanese was going to accomplish that.

Source: Okinawa Times

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Japanese from Okinawa Times
入店拒否の張り紙。英語で「スタッフが日本語しか話せないため/日本人のみ(ごめんなさい)/海外からのお客さまは入店させません」と記す=9月、那覇市
沖縄タイムズ 2023年10月2日 Courtesy of KM and JK
https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/1232333

那覇市の居酒屋が入り口に「ジャパニーズオンリー」と書いた紙を張り、外国人の入店を拒否していた。国籍による違法な差別で、市民グループが気付き、行政に相談した。現時点で店側は張り紙を取り外しているが、客や通行人を傷つけていた事実は残る。行政による支援や啓発の必要性も浮かぶ。(編集委員・阿部岳)

張り紙は「スタッフが日本語しかしゃべれないため」と書き、さらに英語で外国人の入店禁止を伝える内容。1年ほど前に張り、実際に入店を断ったこともある。拒否された客は「非常に悲しい」とネットに投稿している。
経営者は「ホール担当1人、キッチン担当1人で接客に時間を割けない。差別は意図していない」と主張する。

ただ、国籍だけを理由にした入店拒否は人種差別撤廃条約に反する。静岡地裁浜松支部は1999年、街頭の店舗は一般に開放されていると指摘し、外国人の入店を拒否した宝石店に損害賠償を命じた。

那覇市の居酒屋の張り紙を偶然見つけた市民グループの2人は、市の各部署や沖縄観光コンベンションビューローに相談して回った。「沖縄カウンターズ」のメンバーは「これを見た外国人がどれだけ傷つくか。でもいきなり炎上させるのではなく、行政も一緒に円満に解決したかった」という。

相談を受けた市観光課は8月、店を訪問し、「観光客が増える中、好ましくない」と撤去を打診したが、店側は応じなかった。市の担当者は「権限がなく、お願いしかできない」と説明する。

最終的に本紙が9月、取材に訪れると、経営者が「文面は間違っていた」と撤去した。一方で「行政はただ海外客を呼ぶのではなく、居酒屋文化を伝えてほしい」と求める。

問題解決に向けて行政にかけ合ったもう1人、「多文化ネットワークfuふ!沖縄」のメンバーは「観光行政も人数や収入だけでない、文化の相互理解につながる観光を目指してほしい。店側が相談できる場所も必要ではないか」と投げかける。

4月に施行された県差別のない社会づくり条例は、事業者に差別解消に向けた努力を求めている。条例の検討委員だった白充(ペクチュン)弁護士は「国籍のみを理由とした入店拒否は条例に抵触しており、実効性が問われる。県民一人一人の意識変容に加え、県が周知徹底する努力も必要だ」と話した。
ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 43: “Salute to the “Author of Cartels of the Mind’,” an obituary of influential Japan Studies scholar and mentor Ivan Hall (1932-2023)

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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column 43 is a tribute to old friend, mentor, and influential scholar Ivan Hall.  I blogged about him shortly after he died here.  This is a fuller treatment, excerpted.  RIP.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Salute to the Author of Cartels of the Mind
By Debito Arudou
Shingetsu News Agency, February 20, 2023

SNA (Tokyo) — Ivan Parker Hall, author of landmark book Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, died in Berlin on February 1, 2023, at age 90.

Before I start writing another obituary, please let me pause and talk about our very close relationship: Ivan Hall fundamentally changed my life into an activist researcher in Japanese Studies.

It wasn’t always this way. When I first arrived in Japan during the latter 1980s, I was in fact a cultural relativist. Carefully trained in the non-judgmentalism of the liberal arts, I had the mantra of “Who am I to judge Japan?” It had its own way of doing things, and would get along just fine without one white Western interloper (or even the outside world) telling it what to do. As per my classic Edwin O. Reischauer Ivy League training, Japan was one of those precious “culturally unique” jewels that should just be left to flourish in its own way.

That’s why at first I was a devoted scholar of the “Japanese Way.” After all, Japan must be doing something right. Its people were living the longest in the world. Its economy measured per capita had just surpassed that of Americans. It was buying up major world assets on the strength of the Yen. Our next boss, according to movies such as Back to the Future II, was going to be Japanese.

It took just one stint working for an abusive Japanese trading company–and the bursting of Japan’s asset bubble–to disabuse me of those early notions.

But it wasn’t until I became a Japanese university professor that I saw just how much the Japanese system was wasting talent due to racism. Japanese faculty hired full-time were getting permanent tenure from Day One, while almost all foreign educators (who were often more qualified than their Japanese counterparts) were getting permanent contract work.

Enter Ivan Hall, who summed this situation up most pithily as “Academic Apartheid.”…

Read the rest at the Shingetsu News Agency at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/02/20/visible-minorities-salute-to-the-author-of-cartels-of-the-mind/

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My SNA column 41: “Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise” (Dec 27, 2022), about what to do when people say you shouldn’t celebrate regular traditions you hold dear because they’re “not Japanese”

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Hi Blog.  Let me say it upfront:  If you’re celebrating December customs such as Christmas, then I hope you had a Merry (and unobstructed) Christmas and a Happy New Year.  If your Christmas was in fact obstructed in some way by people who claim that “Christmas is not Japanese” or “Christmas is something you should outgrow” (as happened to a friend of mine recently), my end-year SNA column is for you:

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

Visible Minorities: Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise

SNA (Tokyo) — A long-term Non-Japanese resident friend, married with a Japanese husband and adult kids, recently told me about a new development in their relationship: Christmas was no longer to be celebrated in their household.

Their children were all grown and didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore; so no more presents or any big dinner to celebrate the day. They would allow her only a tree.

Why this sudden change of heart? To her surprise, all this time Christmas had been regarded by the family as a nuisance, a cultural imposition on them. Now it was time to grow out of it.

It raises a fundamental issue that someday comes up within any intercultural relationship: How much culture do you give up for the sake of compromise?  

I argue that Japan’s “unique” culture narrative (and therefore its lack of commonality with anything “foreign”, by definition) can often create sudden, long-term culture shocks.  Because people here can see any accommodation of “foreign” culture as an identity sacrifice, a denial of “Japaneseness”, this can kill relationships, and I offer advice on what to do about it.  

Article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/12/27/visible-minorities-celebrating-christmas-as-a-compromise/

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

Thanks for reading!  Seasons Greetings to all Debito.org Readers and beyond!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My SNA Column 40: Visible Minorities: “Hard to Root for Japan at Sports Events” (Nov 28, 2022), due to all the nasty and racialized attitudes towards our athletes, and the lack of fair play in general

mytest

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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column was inspired by the World Cup.  Intro:
//////////////////////////////////////////
Visible Minorities: Hard to Root for Japan at Sports Events
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, November 28, 2022

SNA (Tokyo) — First off, bravo the Japan team for its upset victory over Germany in their first match of the 2022 World Cup!

It was a game where the Samurai Blue showed world-class skill against a lackluster team, and didn’t let the nerves of playing a former world champion get the better of them. Of course, they did lose their next game against Costa Rica, but their achievement against Germany stands.

I want to devote this column to why it’s difficult for me to root for Japan teams in general. It’s not an issue of nationality (since I have that). It’s a matter of how Japan as a society approaches international sports; given the racialized obstacles towards “foreign” participants, a lack of fair play, the unrelenting pressure on our athletes, and media attitudes that oscillate between racial superiority and victimhood, we take all the fun out of it…

Thanks for reading!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My SNA Column 39: Visible Minorities: “Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies” (Oct 24, 2022), where I ask you to seriously reconsider devoting your life to a place that could revoke your legal status at any time

mytest

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Visible Minorities: Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, OCT 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

SNA (Tokyo) — This month Japan finally lifted its Covid restrictions and reopened its borders to tourists. Well, whoop-de-doo.

For now, foreigners will no longer suffer entry caps, or go through extra procedures just because they’re foreign, such as being sequestered in foreigner-only floors of hotels with tour-minders so they don’t wander off and contaminate the rest of Japan.

Never mind that Japanese entrants, barely subjected to these strictures put on foreigners, had all this time predictably infected Japan quite freely.

Remember how this whole thing started back in 2020, when cases were found in Yokohama Port aboard a luxury liner called the Diamond Princess? It soon became mired in Japan’s bureaucratic politics, the ship’s patients counted by no country as part of their Covid case total. This was the bellwether for Japan’s future Covid border policies of incompetence and racism…

Rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

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Debito’s SNA VM37: “Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program,” Aug 22, 2022, and why I remain skeptical that reforms will actually happen

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Visible Minorities: Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program
August 22, 2022, By Debito Arudou

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: video footage surfaced in 2020 of a Vietnamese “trainee” being physically abused by Japanese co-workers at a construction company in Okayama Prefecture, resulting in injuries including broken ribs and a broken tooth. Despite a criminal complaint, the Okayama Prefectural Police Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute the four Japanese co-workers involved.

Here is the video footage that started it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK1HhnvktOc&t=76s

This Vietnamese trainee is not alone. Despite the strict Covid border controls, currently 280,000 foreigners toil as temporary low-wage workers in Japan’s farms and factories nationwide. Given Japan’s often nasty work environments, which generally combine exploitative work ethics with a normalized bullying culture, this means that more than a quarter of a million foreigners are here and in harm’s way under a system of unfettered abuse…

[…]

Fortunately, there are some stirrings that reforms might happen. Even the conservative Yomiuri Shinbun said in an August 20 editorial that reforming the system is “unavoidable.” Moreover, the government announced last month a full-scale review of the program, intending to “bring this long-standing issue to a historical conclusion.”

I am skeptical these reforms will achieve what is promised, which is basically to resolve the ongoing human rights abuses which have always characterized the trainee system. One reason for my doubts is because…
==================================

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/08/22/visible-minorities-reforming-japans-dickensian-foreign-trainee-program/

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Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs

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Hi Blog. Particularly dear to my heart is the issue of public baths in Japan (onsen and sento), as racist exclusionism is something my friends and I have dealt with for decades (including a successful civil suit in Otaru that went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, a couple of books in English and Japanese, and even a doctoral dissertation). Despite all these years of recording their “Japanese Only” signs and activities, already people seem to be trying to forget, or remembering not to remember, how this industry already in decline did itself no favors by being racist.

The most recent example of historical revisionism was in a Japan Times article about “Sento Samaritans”, where it didn’t even mention that past.  The article is excerpted below. I wrote in their Comments Section in reply:

======================
Debito: I applaud the efforts of these movements to keep neighborhood sento open. However, the writer of this article (and perhaps the activists themselves) neglected to mention an important part of history, where public/private baths have refused entry to foreign and foreign-looking residents and customers. If offering this communal experience is “an important channel of communication between neighbors”, then it’s also important to recognize the fact that sometimes sento and onsen have undermined themselves by putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and not recognized “foreigners” as fellow neighbors. Openness to all members of the community should also be part of their slogans.
======================

The JT article is excerpted below.

Also, The Japan Times in general seems to be forgetful of this discriminatory history as an editorial policy, as their archive on recent articles regarding Sento demonstrates. The JT laments the decline of the industry (for example, here) without getting into how some of their decline is their own fault. That’s particularly galling, considering I wrote for the Japan Times for two decades a regular column, in addition to other stringer articles, on this very subject.

Seems The Japan Times doesn’t prioritize this type of issue anymore. So much for reporting “in the public interest”.  This is how history gets unlearned and eventually repeats itself.  Just wait for the next moral panic blamed on “foreigners”, and communal doors to a public service will shut all over again.  Even if if drives the excluder out of business.  Talking about preservation without including this issue is in fact counterproductive for the industry.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

////////////////////////////////

Sentō Samaritans: The fight to save urban bathhouses
Activists believe bathing for a coin means soaking up culture
The Japan Times, August 6, 2022 (excerpt)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2022/08/06/general/sento-bathhouse-historians/

Dozens of elderly regulars, families with children and young Tokyoites from all over the city strip, shower off and soak.

This was the scene during a scorching weekend in July at Inari-yu, a rejuvenated sentō (public bathhouse) in Kita Ward’s Takinogawa neighborhood. Together in baths ranging from warm to very hot, bathers admired the bright blues and greens of a recently repainted mural of Mount Fuji over their heads.

Built in 1930, Inari-yu is a rare surviving example of the shrine-like miyazukuri architectural style typical of Tokyo’s prewar bathhouses. The main attraction for visitors, though, was the reopening of the century-old nagaya, a type of Edo Period (1603-1867) rowhouse, adjacent to the sentō. Inari-yu’s staff originally lived in this building, but it had been abandoned for decades — until three years ago, when Sento & Neighborhood, a nonprofit that aims to revive historic bathhouses, started working with Inari-yu’s fifth-generation owners to restore the nagaya.

At the inaugural event, Sento & Neighborhood organized activities such as a lecture by an architectural historian, a community breakfast and a neighborhood walking tour. Next to Inari-yu’s entrance, a market with local food vendors added to the colorful and festive atmosphere.

Unmissable for the attendees, of course, was also a visit to the bathhouse. Stepping out of the heat and into Inari-yu’s cool, soothing interior, bathers shed their clothes and their fatigue in the spacious changing rooms with simple wooden decor overlooking a small, outdoor koi pond.

“Bathhouses are a space where I can ground myself,” says Sam Holden, who first found solace in sentō when he was a graduate student in Tokyo.

Holden, who labels himself an urban activist, is a writer, translator and renovation specialist. He founded Sento & Neighborhood together with four associates in 2020 with the idea of “changing historic bathhouses as little as possible but finding a way for them to become sustainable,” Holden explains, hinting at the financial difficulties that many sentō face…

[History of Sentos redacted]

To Holden, visiting bathhouses means exploring the back alleys that embody a deeper layer of Japan’s urban fabric tucked away from busy and anonymous main streets — and one that has been part of Japanese cities for centuries.

“Across the street from the bathhouse you have the liquor shop where the grandpas gather, the vegetable grocer and tofu shop and all sorts of local eateries,” Holden says. “Preserving a bathhouse means not only preserving that building, but this neighborhood network.”

Read the full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2022/08/06/general/sento-bathhouse-historians/

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something for the undergraduates taking classes on critical thinking and government censorship to write a midterm essay on:

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put up a website that enables anyone to submit to the government “information about any accounts in overseas [media] relating to our country that is based on misunderstandings of the truth/facts (jijitsu), or is incompatible with our country’s standpoint.”

https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/p_pd/pds/page22_003885.html

Here are some essay writing prompts.  Discuss:

  1. Why is the Japanese government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, getting involved in policing foreign media?  Are they the new international media police?
  2. Why is there an assumption that “our country” has a defined “standpoint” that uniformly faces the rest of the world?  And whose “truth” is this?
  3. Where did the line-item budget come from to pay these MOFA bureaucrats to act as the media police?  Don’t they have enough on their plate already managing, y’know, our country’s diplomacy?

Actually, I might be able to answer the third one.  There’s a political dimension to all this.  Check out this tweet from SNA on Dietmember Onoda Kimi:

Yeah, we’ve talked about Onoda Kimi before.  She’s the American-born former dual-national American-Japanese MP who advocates for antiforeigner public policy that would go against her foreign father’s interests.  As I wrote for SNA back in 2020:

You can see how deep the pathology runs in Kimi Onoda, LDP Upper House Diet Member from Okayama. She similarly insinuated on March 30 that government subsidies should be denied Non-Japanese residents. But this is stunningly ironic because she was born in America to an American father. She even held American nationality until 2016 (when she was ratted out and gave it up), meaning she too was a foreigner in Japan.

That’s how deep Japan’s dehumanizing antibodies run — where even a self-hating haafu would effectively deny equal treatment to her own father! What immense psychological scars from childhood bullying have prompted her to deny any ties to her minority origins, and to pander for the approval of majority whim that Non-Japanese Residents belong on a separate and unequal tier in society?

If we ever meet, one question I’d like to ask is, “Who hurt you?”

Anyway, good job, Onoda Kimi.  Mission accomplished.

Actually, what MOFA is doing is very much within the Japanese Government (GOJ)’s character anyway.  The GOJ is very sensitive to how they are perceived abroad, historically stepping in many times to “correct misperceptions” in foreign media.  See herehere, here, here, here, and here, for example.  (And it’s a stark contrast to, for example, the Americans, who ignore outright disinformation even when it affects their own citizens abroad.)

Granted, compared to the US’s negligence (even making outright threats against their US citizens for not ignoring racial discrimination in Japan), I’d rather that a government step in to correct public misperceptions when their citizens abroad stand to get hurt.  But I’m also suspicious of the GOJ’s motives, as evidenced by the links above, as their “standpoint” towards historical and “factual” interpretation is riddled with ahistorical revisionism.

Moreover, asking for the public’s participation like this is redolent of the “Snitch Sites” the Immigration Bureau deployed in 2004, so that anyone could anonymously sicc the GOJ on any foreigner they thought could be an “illegal” — much to the delight of all the Zainichi Korean haters out there.

In sum, this “MOFA foreign media policing site” is yet another politically-motivated government-sponsored website that is encouraging online abuse and feeding the trolls.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

mytest

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Hi Blog.  After the Abe Assassination, people have been asking me what I think about it.  In short, I think Abe’s historical revisionism is what got him killed.  Opening of my latest SNA column 35:

///////////////////////////////

Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History

By Debito Arudou,  Shingetsu News Agency, July 18, 2022

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/07/18/visible-minorities-abes-assassination-and-the-revenge-of-history/

SNA (Tokyo) — The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–-what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe.

First, let’s talk about what national narratives are: stories created by governments, education systems, and media that unify people within a nation-state. For example, Japan sees itself as a pure-blooded monoethnic society that can be mobilized under shared collective goals to accomplish political and economic miracles. On the other hand, the United States sees itself as a “melting pot” of immigrants and cultures whose harnessed diversity has made it the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And so on.

Accurate or not, all societies create national narratives as a matter of necessity. They tell us what we as a group believe and share as collective history. Without them, policymakers would have great difficulty getting disparate people to obey social norms and laws, or accept their status as a member of society. When people believe that they share a history, starting with national education from childhood, political “legitimacy” can be entrenched. You really know it has worked when someone “loves” their country so deeply that they’ll die for it.

But there’s a problem endemic to creating a shared history–you have to decide who’s a member of society and who’s not. Narratives that unify also must exclude. You can’t have an “in-group” without the existence of an “out-group” to contrast yourself with. You can’t have “citizens” without also having “foreigners.”

Sooner or later even the most well-intentioned people make mistakes that turn people against each other, privileging some people at the cost of others, disenfranchising and even killing in the name of national integrity.

So from that comes two types of history: a “good” one that is celebrated, and a “bad” one that people generally don’t want to talk about.

Consider a few examples of the latter:

When the European powers of the world were colonizing other lands, they soon discovered they couldn’t extract treasure without exterminating local peoples. Consider Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean.

Or as the United States grew and developed, “Manifest Destiny” wielded an unspeakable impact on Native Americans–and that’s before we mention the horrors of chattel slavery.

Japan too didn’t secure its borders without committing cultural genocide against the Ainu and Ryukyuans. There was also that brief episode in the last century when it decided to “liberate” Asians abroad under the auspices of a racist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The point is that every country has a dark side, and any honest historical accounting would allow for that.

Unfortunately, most countries would rather see themselves as the “good guys” in their own narrative, and either downplay or ignore the atrocities committed in the name of the nation.

That’s a bad idea for a number of reasons: not only because it produces poor public policy that leaves past injustices and grievances unresolved, but also because it leaves people blind to the more genuine lessons of history.

For example, the American tendency to see the US Civil War as merely a good-spirited contest between North and South economic and cultural needs overlooks the fact that owning people as property was the central cause of the war. And yet, narratives are still circulating in the South that downplay slavery and its impact.

Why do you think there’s so much backlash these days towards Critical Race Theory, which highlights the legacy of unequal racialized treatment still embedded within current legal systems and narratives? It is because many people would rather just pretend these issues are all settled.

Similarly, why do you think there’s so much backlash in Japan to teaching about atrocities like the Unit 731 biological warfare, the Nanjing Massacre, the brutal colonization of Korea and China, or the government-sponsored sexual slavery of the Comfort Women? It is because some would prefer to pretend that it never happened.

This is where Abe comes in–he was deeply committed to historical revisionism, asserting that Japan was a victim (not an aggressor) in the Pacific War, no more guilty of wrongdoing than any other great power. He also wanted to remove many of the “Western” elements (such as civil rights and individual liberties) that had been enshrined in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” to prevent a recurrence of Japan’s past militarism.

For people like Abe, a national narrative depicting Japan as the “bad guys” would force Japanese to feel shame about their country and to “love” it less. That’s the rubric behind his enforced patriotism and revised compulsory education curriculums.

It was an immature approach which forestalls ever coming to terms with and learning from the past.

Some other countries are more mature about it. Germany, for example, has accepted that its inexcusable historical deeds are just that–inexcusable–and contemporary Germans are taught as such.

There’s no denying that Nazi Germany was one of the worst political systems that ever existed. German schoolchildren are rightly taught to “Beware the Beginnings” (Wehret den Anfängen); that is, to be vigilant against something similar ever happening again.

South Africa has done something similar with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada is finally coming to grips with its genocidal Indian Residential School System. And so on. Some societies acknowledge a portion of their dark past and try to move forward on a healthier basis.

On the other hand, societies with dishonest historical narratives wind up stuck in the past, continuously refighting and relitigating old battles. Remember what George Santayana said about people not learning from history? They’re doomed to repeat it.

Was American mob violence against the US Capitol on January 6 something entirely new? In fact, this sort of thing happened in city and state legislatures many times in the past. Have you ever heard of the Meridian Race Riot of 1871, the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, the South Carolina Race Riots of 1876, and the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898? Probably not, and that’s the point. If you don’t know about them, it’s like they never happened.

These and many other incidents evicted anti-slavery politicians from elected offices in the South, established Jim Crow laws for nearly a century, and created the longstanding ahistorical narratives that pervade some elements of Trumpist politics to this day.

In other words, the Capitol insurrection was in fact a repeat from a historical blueprint..

Likewise, the Abe assassination was, in the longer view of history, not unique. Mark Schreiber recently offered a “guided historical tour” in the Asia Times on the long list of political killings in Tokyo alone, calling it “practically routine” in times that are not so distant from our own.

But such history was so suppressed in favor of “safe Japan” narratives that Abe himself scoffed at the need for additional security around public political events. During a 2015 Diet floor session, Abe officiously dismissed a question from MP Kiyomi Tsujimoto about the possibility of domestic terrorism, sniping that it was an attempt to “denigrate Japan.”

That was one of the historical blind spots that got Abe killed.

Even now the narrative of “safe Japan” is reasserting itself. The Japanese media still won’t accurately portray Abe’s killing as an “assassination.” Yet, as the Japan Times noted, similar political killings are freely portrayed as ansatsu–as long as they happen overseas.

Why? Apparently because, in Japan, assassinations are somehow “historically unexpected.”

Even the excuse that Abe’s killing was not “political” is inaccurate. This was not a random murder. As reported in various media, the killer wanted to retaliate because his family had been financially crippled by the Moonies, and specifically targeted Abe for his connections to them. That sounds political to me. Yet the Japanese media initially tried to suppress Abe’s Moonie connection until SNA and social media commentators broke the story.

Societies that stunt growth with “love-of-country-at-all-costs” narratives do themselves an enormous disservice, and not just because it leads to things like politics through violence.

Japan is still stuck in other hackneyed feedback loops: that it has always been a monoethnic society without actual minorities (it has ethnically cleansed itself numerous times); that it never actually lost the Pacific War (using the term shusen–war’s end–instead of haisen, war defeat) in historical accounts; and that Japan is not responsible for past militarism, much to the aggravation of nearby countries. These are counterproductive to Japan’s present and future.

Ahistoricity also keeps Japan from facing one more essential fact it has known for decades–that it is an aging, stagnating society, facing senescence and insolvency within a generation or two unless it allows immigration. To move forward, it needs to adopt more inclusive narratives.

That means coming to terms with, and teaching, the dark side of its history. The senseless death of Abe, who was the most prominent proponent of head-in-the-sand nationalism in postwar Japan, is a good opportunity for a reevaluation.

Otherwise history will continue to exact its revenge.

ENDS
======================
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My SNA VM35: “Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers” (June 20, 2022) including the Sandamali, Suraj, Fernando, Okafor, Ekei etc. Cases.

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Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers
Shingetsu News Agency, June 20, 2022, by Debito Arudou

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

SNA (Tokyo) — News Headline: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman.”

In August 2020, a Sri Lanka national named Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali was arrested for overstaying her visa, and detained in a Nagoya Immigration Detention Center. She had arrived in Japan in 2017, but her student visa was cancelled in 2019 because she couldn’t afford tuition fees. While in detention, she opted not to return to Sri Lanka, reportedly due to reduced flights during Covid and an abusive boyfriend back home.

During her seven months in custody, however, Sandamali’s health steadily declined due to a stress-induced stomach condition. According to the Straits Times, Sandamali “was vomiting blood in her final days, and was so weak that she had no control of her arms and legs. The immigration authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to medical expert advice to put her on an intravenous drip or to grant her provisional release to ease her stress. A report by public broadcaster NHK suggested that officials tend to suspect malingering for minor illnesses in their reluctance to grant provisional release.”

That’s a questionable decision, since she had lost 20 kilograms from her small frame over seven months—hard to dismiss as mere “malingering” or “minor illness.” And her decline was not sudden: According to the Asahi Shinbun, she had notified her jailers from mid-January about nausea and lack of appetite. Nineteen days before her death, a urine test indicated she was in a state of starvation. The New York Times noted that in her final days she could ingest little more than water, sugar, or morsels of bread, and could barely make a fist or speak. Yet she was again refused provisional release for hospital treatment.

On March 6, 2021, Sandamali died in her cell, aged 33. An August 2021 postmortem probe by Japan’s Immigration Services Agency ruled that Sandamali had been “mistreated” by the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, formally reprimanding the bureau’s director and three other supervisors for not reporting her requests for examination and treatment to an outside doctor.

But overlooked was cruelty of her captors. According to Nikkei Asia, “one immigration officer allegedly mocked Wishma when she was unable to swallow her drink,” and the Mainichi Shinbun reported that other Immigration officers misled a doctor about her condition two days before her death, dismissing her illness as merely “psychosomatic.”

By the time Sandamali’s family received her body, “her skin was wrinkled like an old person, and it was stuck firmly to her bones.” In November 2021, Sandamali’s family lodged a criminal complaint against officials at the Nagoya facility, accusing them of murder through willful negligence.

Unfortunately, as noted above, last week the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the Sandamali case, citing an inability to establish criminal liability or even a cause of death, blaming it on “multiple factors.”

Multiple factors indeed. Sandamali’s case is not unprecedented. According to CNN, since 1997 at least 27 foreign detainees have died in Japan’s Immigration detention centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks,” because they detain foreigners only).

The main factor here is the cruel and unusual punishment by public officers, expressly forbidden under Article 36 of the Constitution.

Yet nobody has ever been held criminally liable for foreigner deaths in detention. That’s what makes Japan’s Gaijin Tanks so cruel and unusual.

Let’s consider a few more cases, then talk about the system that killed them…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

======================
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Japan Today expose: How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants (Feb 22, 2022)

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(Photo courtesy of Japan Today)

Hi Blog.  Since Japan Today has a history of “expiring” its articles (in addition to some irresponsible journalistic practices) and this one is important enough to warrant public archiving, Debito.org includes its full text below for the record.  As Japan’s xenophobic and extreme border controls continue to treat foreign outsiders like the plague despite some signs of opening (as we have discussed here, here, and here), officialdom treats foreigners it has incarcerated like animals or worse (as we have discussed here).  What follows is some excellent original reporting on yet another death in custody, and the political ramifications that conspired to maintain the deadly status quo.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Opinions
How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants
Japan Today, Feb. 22, 2022, By Dreux Richard, courtesy of JDG
https://japantoday.com/category/features/opinions/how-the-media-failed-japans-immigrants?comment-order=popular
TOKYO
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a strange institution. It’s responsible for the way Japan is perceived abroad, and it decides who receives the opportunity to immigrate. But its jurisdiction over the lives of immigrants largely vanishes when they reach Japan. It’s also the most influential agency that does not play a meaningful role in developing the government’s legislative agenda. Senior MoFA officials can only watch in dismay as less prestigious agencies, including some of Japan’s most corrupt, devise legislation that erodes the rights of immigrants and damages Japan’s international reputation.

A proposed overhaul of Japan’s detention system, scuttled in 2021 after the death of detainee Wishma Rathnayake and a resulting wave of protests, was especially unpopular with Japanese diplomats. The Kishida administration has revived it anyway, with parliamentary debate anticipated this summer. Until recently, MoFA relied on the press to guard against legislative aggression toward immigrants, quietly passing sensitive information to reporters who covered the Ministry of Justice, which enforces immigration law.

According to MoFA officials who acted as my sources during the 10 years I covered immigration, their current reluctance to cooperate with journalists is related to the sense, among the agency’s staff, that the media has become “much louder, but much less effective” on issues of immigration.

The officials I spoke with traced this problem to 2019, when a detainee starved to death at a detention center in Nagasaki, following a four-week hunger strike.

The Ministry of Justice cleared the detention center of wrongdoing, issuing a report that contained several defamatory statements about the detainee. He was not, as the ministry’s findings suggested, a hardened criminal or a deadbeat father—not according to court records, not according to his family.

The report went on to claim that it wasn’t possible to return the detainee to Nigeria because he refused to cooperate with the deportation process in January 2019. But the report also documented a meeting in May of 2019 where the detainee begged to be deported. As one MoFA official dryly observed, “May comes after January.”

The death was covered in Japan’s major newspapers, as well as a variety of global outlets. All of them printed the government’s claims without attempting to verify them. Not a single reporter succeeded in confirming the identity of the detainee, a native of southeastern Nigeria who came to Japan 19 years earlier to look for work in the leather tanneries of Hyogo Prefecture. His name was Gerald “Sunny” Okafor.

An important story about the destruction of a family was overlooked. Okafor’s widow, who is deaf, struggled to raise her daughter alone after her husband was detained, pushing her to the brink of psychological collapse. Immigration officials took advantage of her vulnerability, pressuring her to file for divorce and promising—disingenuously—that it would expedite Okafor’s release.

The media also failed to uncover administrative malpractice at the detention center, which led Mr. Okafor to believe that steps were being taken to expedite his return to Nigeria. After learning this wasn’t true, he refused to receive intravenous fluids, precipitating his death. The Nigerian embassy helped the Ministry of Justice cover up these mistakes, leaving a paper trail in Okafor’s immigration file.

The success of this cover-up has undermined the best opportunity to sink the proposed immigration reforms, which were developed in response to Okafor’s death. The reforms are based on the insulting notion that the detention center could have saved Okafor if it had possessed greater powers of coercion—the power to sanction his attorneys, for instance, if they pushed too aggressively for their client’s release.

But the press has helped to turn Okafor’s death into a non-story, by disseminating state propaganda that diminishes the death’s significance, then responding to that propaganda with opinion essays instead of investigations.

“The media approaches the immigration debate as an ideological matter, rather than a test of the integrity of Japan’s institutions,” observed one MoFA official who monitored Mr. Okafor’s case. “That’s not helpful to people in government who are trying to fix the system, because it doesn’t change anybody’s mind. It only inflames existing disagreements.”

If disobeying the instructions of immigration officials becomes a criminal offense, as the government has now proposed, it will be made possible by the collapse of non-partisan relationships between trustworthy elements of Japan’s government and their counterparts in the press.

Mr. Okafor’s body shortly after his death. “Japan never saw what starvation did to that man. It should haunt them,” said Stanley Egbogota, chairman of an Igbo civic association that raised money for Mr. Okafor’s family. Photo: With permission from the family of Gerald Okafor


In an era of journalism where editorial decisions are shaped by web traffic and algorithms, the loss of knowledgeable sources may not strike every media professional as a matter of concern. Reporters didn’t need to speak with anyone who knew Mr. Okafor in order to write about him, or to decide that it was no longer necessary to write about him — even as parliament debated legislation that resulted from his death.

“They got the answers they needed,” Okafor’s widow observed in our most recent correspondence. “And in such a convenient way: from no one, from nowhere.”

=======================

For six years, Dreux Richard covered Japan’s Nigerian community for a daily newspaper in Tokyo. His first book, Every Human Intention: Japan in the New Century, was published by Pantheon in 2021. ENDS

My SNA Visible Minorities col 34: “Henry Scott-Stokes, Sell-Out to Gaijin Handlers, dies.” May 23, 2022, with ruminations on why foreign journalism in Japan has historically been so astray.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s my latest SNA column, discussing in part why journalism on Japan has historically had so many topical, “weird Japan” stories. Part of it is because some commentators on Japan remain willfully ignorant of the Japanese language. Others get duped by the industry of “Gaijin Handlers” designed to steer foreign perceptions of Japan in the “right direction”. And some commentators, like the late Henry Scott-Stokes, former Tokyo Bureau Chief at The Financial Times, Times of London, and New York Times, become willing abettors of the Japanese far-right, selling their reputations to maintain their privilege.

Have a read. It resolves one mystery I always felt when meeting numerous veteran foreign correspondents during the Otaru Onsens Case. They would often arrogantly question my standing to work within the Japanese system as resident, citizen, and activist. Yet they could barely read the menu. Time for me to question their standing too. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Henry Scott-Stokes, Sell-Out to Gaijin Handlers
Shingetsu News Agency, May 23, 2022, by Debito Arudou

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/05/23/visible-minorities-henry-scott-stokes-sell-out-to-gaijin-handlers/

SNA (Tokyo) — Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes, patrician among Japan’s foreign correspondents since 1964, recently died in Tokyo at the age of 83, but not before he did untold damage by performing as a foreign handmaid to Japan’s fascists.

A man described as “tweedy” and “entertaining and congenial,” Briton Scott-Stokes was nonetheless a man of privilege, lucky enough to land in Japan as Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times only three years after graduating from Oxford.

Becoming bureau chief of a major newspaper at the wizened old age of 26 might seem odd today, but back then foreign journalism in Japan had lower standards, and the field was infused with neocolonial attitudes towards the “natives.” Fluency in your assigned country’s language was not required.

Nor was Japanese required at the other “Big Three” English-language newspapers in Japan, as Scott-Stokes later became bureau chief of The Times of London and the New York Times through the 1970s and early 1980s. For a man described as “someone who really understood Japan,” he spent his entire 58 years in Japan as a functional illiterate, unable to fluently read, write, or speak Japanese.

To be fair, this was normal: Scott-Stokes arose from a bygone generation of Japan commentators who were poorly trained in social science methods. That’s actually one reason why newspaper analysis on Japan at the time was so topical. They simply couldn’t do their own deep and rigorous research in the vernacular.

As a result, overseas readers usually got the topical “weird Japan” stories–dismissively called the “Three Es” of economics, exotica, and erotica–that condescendingly promoted the Japanese as “inscrutable” and the Japanese language as “the hardest in the world” for foreigners to learn.

Of course, that had the self-serving effect of absolving their willful ignorance. The problem with doing onsite research dependent on interpreters (in Scott-Stokes’ case, his second wife) is that professionals become blinkered. Not only are you less able to talk to the hoi polloi on their own terms about their daily lives, but in Japan in particular you become vulnerable to the elite, targeted by a particular class of people with an agenda for prominent Western journalists.

Also known as “Gaijin Handlers,” this industry of information spooks is designed to distract attention from politically troubling or shameful stories about Japan, and at best mislead foreign correspondents into parroting government propaganda.

After all, the Japanese government is well-practiced in steering domestic media and influencing public perception for social control–hence Japan’s enormously restrictive “Press Clubs.”

Until the mid-1980s, the Gaijin Handlers succeeded quite well. The image of Japan transmitted to the outside world was kept “harmless and weird,” and Japan got richer and richer on its trade surpluses.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Japan suddenly emerged even wealthier than the United States in terms of per capita GDP. Japanese companies bought up prominent overseas properties while the US taxpayer footed the bill for Japan’s regional defense. Overseas editors started demanding that Japan be studied as an economic powerhouse, if not a rival.

This is when a new generation of Japan scholars came in, where if you weren’t fluent in Japanese you simply weren’t respected.

We did our own research outside of government meddling, using the same vernacular sources the Gaijin Handlers read and tried to obfuscate. We knew their code because we spoke it too. Our analysis wasn’t perfect, but we could better see through the propaganda.

Times change, and most of the old hacks moved on to other countries or settled into a quiet life in Japan, living a harmless twilight existence as cottage consultants in their cups.

Scott-Stokes didn’t. He didn’t just continue to rely on his privileged access to Japan’s elite for his income; he decided to embrace their fascist tendencies.

He first attracted attention from Japan’s far right in 1974 with his signature book, a biography in English of his alleged friend Yukio Mishima. It proved useful to Mishima’s ilk. With the imprimatur of a pedigreed white man whitewashing one of Japan’s far right fanatics into a sympathetic hero, he helped refashion Japan’s fascism for the outside world.

Then, by the 2010s, as journalistic standards rose and money got tighter, Scott-Stokes went all-in with his Gaijin Handlers, selling his reputation for thirty pieces of silver.

His 2013 book Falsehoods in the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist, came out in Japanese only, and it sold an estimated 100,000 copies within a few months.

But Scott-Stokes wound up blindsided by its contents. Despite his name being on the cover and his standing as the titular “British Journalist,” it turns out that he didn’t actually write the book, let alone read it. The Times of London reported that he had essentially dictated it to an interpreter.

Later asked about sections denying “as a historical fact” the Nanjing Massacre of civilians by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937, he initially said he was “shocked and horrified” at having been unable to check that “rogue passage.” Then Scott-Stokes reversed himself and stood by what was written. “If I’ve been taken advantage of, it’s with my complicity.” Books needed to be sold, after all.

Further, he doubled down on minimizing Japan’s “alleged” war crimes with whataboutism, comparing them to the “war crimes” of the atomic bombings, and of the “victor’s justice” of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal–all Japan historical revisionist tropes. He even argued that the United States, not Japan, bears “prime responsibility” for the Pacific War.

Some of his absurd claims are still visible on far right websites, such as, “It is largely as a result of Japanese shedding their blood that we entered a new world where colonies did not exist any more and there is racial equality.”

He concluded, “You should not be misled by anti-Japanese propaganda but rather take pride in Japan as a nation,” noting that Japan was “Asia’s light of hope” which “liberated Asian countries from white domination” (replaced by, the record also demonstrates, Yamato domination; they too were brutal colonizers, after all). All of this effort was to “protect the Japanese soul.”

Fortunately, Scott-Stokes’ former employers took responsibility for their own, acknowledging in their obituaries that his book was “embraced by right-wing apologists for atrocities committed by the Japanese military during World War II” (New York Times), and “Scott-Stokes was certainly sympathetic to Japanese nationalist right-wingers” (The Times of London).

I can find no specific buy-in from Scott-Stokes for other tropes that the far-right takes pride in, such as encouraging thoroughbred Wajin bloodlines free of miscegenation or promoting “pure” Yamato males as the only people entitled to represent and rule Japan.

But his sympathies for those who do, especially those who lament Japan’s postwar disapproval of “traditional Japanese values,” including Meiji Era martial training and the Emperor as the head of state, gave their rhetoric a sense of legitimacy. And it runs directly counter to Japan’s inevitable future, given its low birthrates and aging society, as a multicultural, multiethnic society.

The point is that Scott-Stokes’ lifetime peddling in and profiteering off of Japan’s mysticism has interfered with seeing Japan’s history, and its present-day realities, realistically.

His son, Harry Sugiyama Scott-Stokes, a celebrity broadcaster in Japan and frequent commentator at NHK, has announced that he will be “carrying on in the spirit of my father,” whatever that means.

In the end, what is the measure of a life well spent? In my view, it is to leave the world a better place than you found it. By this measure, Scott-Stokes did quite the opposite.

By passively, then later actively, promoting the aims and ideology that undergird Japan’s fascist xenophobes, he offers no template for Japan’s foreign communities, let alone his professional colleagues. His support of people who would never grant equal rights to minorities, particularly Japan’s Visible Minorities, is especially ironic and counterproductive.

Future residents and interpreters of Japanese society should see Scott-Stokes as a cautionary tale. Here was a man who lived most of his life in a country, even tried to rewrite the narrative on it, yet remained in a bubble of privilege so opaque he could never see the obvious–that he was being used by elites who would never let his type into their club.

Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes became a “useful idiot” to the Gaijin Handlers, destroying his legacy.

ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 33: “Why Progressives keep losing” (short answer: because they alienate their own allies), April 18, 2022

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Hi Blog.  My most recent SNA column is a think-pied about how the Left keeps losing out to the Right. Because working with the Left is like herding cats.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Why Progressives Keep Losing

Shingetsu News Agency, April 18, 2022

SNA (Tokyo) — Shingetsu News Agency President Michael Penn wrote about my previous column:

“Debito found a way to provoke them again, and I must say that I don’t understand the way a lot of people think these days. Those who read the article and interacted with what was written tended to say on social media that they largely agreed with it. But there was a more vocal cohort who, not really disagreeing with any specific arguments made, were outraged on the basis that Debito, a white man, had dared to give any advice to Naomi Osaka. Apparently, we are now supposed to live self-contained within our own little tribal identities, and universal humanity is no longer recognized as sufficient grounds to express an opinion, even for a news columnist whose job is to comment on public affairs.”

There’s a lesson here.

Yale historian Timothy Snyder said recently in a television interview, “The Left loses for the right reasons; the Right wins for the wrong reasons.”

One of the reasons why the Left, particularly the Progressives who have not enjoyed much power worldwide for more than a century, keeps losing is because of their fractiousness.

Just as soon as they gain an advantage or start making headway in the policy arena, they lose focus and begin turning on themselves. They alienate natural allies because they are not ideologically pure enough, or worse yet, as seen above, the wrong skin color.

Granted, the Left has always had a tougher time mobilizing people than the Right. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, the Left wants leaders they can fall in love with, while the Right wants leaders they can fall in line with.

Let’s unpack that. Voices from the Left are discordant and diverse, and expectations are high and sometimes uncompromising. It’s also a lot tougher for a Leftist leader to gain and sustain the “love” of their supporters since, no matter what else happens, there will always be winners and losers with every decision they make.

But for Rightists, it’s a lot easier to “fall in line” behind an ideological camp whose basic organizing principle is money (and the shameless acquisition of it). And once they gain enough of it, money in itself not only buys power, but also, oddly enough, credibility. […] Sadly, that’s why the Right understands power better…

But that’s Right vs. Left. Now let’s talk about Left vs. Left, and how they undermine themselves…

Read whole column at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/04/18/visible-minorities-why-progressives-keep-losing/ 

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 31: “Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man”, an honest obituary. Feb 20, 2022

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Visible Minorities 31: Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man
Shingetsu News Agency, February 21, 2022
By Debito Arudou 

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/02/21/visible-minorities-good-riddance-to-an-evil-man/

Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who died February 1, was an evil man. Any honest obituary would admit as such. Unfortunately, the media’s retrospectives have tended to eulogize him, using weasel words so as to not speak ill of the dead.

But that’s the wrong reflex. Evil should never be whitewashed, especially when it comes to a person as evil as Ishihara, and by doing so they are complicit in historical revisionism. I will try to rectify that with this column by recounting Ishihara’s actual record.

COMPARISON AND CONTEXT

I do not use the term “evil” lightly.  Consider other people in Japan who, when granted power, did wrong:

Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, a rehabilitated war criminal, stunted Japan’s development into a mature sovereign country by perpetually subordinating Japan’s geopolitical interests to the American military under the US-Japan Security Treaty.  

Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who abetted the “Comfort Women” system of wartime sexual slavery, spent his life not only denying its existence, but also reconstituting Japan’s ruthless revisionist far-right.  

And Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, did all he could to restore prewar elitism to the postwar governing system, by destroying any “Western” ideals of individuality, human rights, and pacifism; and (unsuccessfully) trying to “revise” Japan’s postwar Constitution.  

But all of these horrible little men still pale in comparison to a man as irredeemably evil as Shintaro Ishihara.

WHITEWASHING THE RECORD THROUGH WEASEL WORDS

Most obits have used weasel words to describe Ishihara’s life:  “Controversial,“ “brash,” “charismatic,” “unapologetic,” “chauvinistic,” “contentious,” a “firebrand (or fiery) nationalist,” “staunch right-winger,” “outspoken conservative,” even “gaffe-prone,” woefully understating his misdeeds.  

Some went even further, looking for some good in him:  His establishment of the Shinginko Tokyo bank using public monies (which failed, becoming a windfall for the yakuza), involvement with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (and we’ve written here what a nationalist mess that became), restrictions on diesel cars in Tokyo (yes, less air pollution is good, but rarely were his policies green), and an “outspokenness” towards anything he didn’t like (that’s not a virtue; just a guilty pleasure to watch).  

One of the harsher ones, after calling him a “rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig,” still fell for his “unmistakable, evocative allure,” and concluded that “Tokyo has lost something” with his death.

What we lost was a legitimizer of hatred.  

Revealingly, one of Ishihara’s elitist co-conspirators described him as “a politician who challenged what became the norms in the postwar era… He was not afraid of criticisms and insisted on what he had to say” (Shinzo Abe).  Translation:  Ishihara’s extreme stances and policies helped our right-wing policy aims seem less extreme.

INSTEAD, MEMORIALIZE ISHIHARA’S HATEFUL DEEDS

So let’s recount Ishihara’s actual record, starting with his peerless sense of entitlement.  

Born into wealth, he got lucky getting a prestigious book award at an early age which catapulted him into celebrity status.  This enabled him to hobnob with elites and attain elected national office for several decades.  After all, electorates in any society are suckers for celebrities.

He eventually found himself in a position of real power, elected multiple times to the governorship of the world’s largest and richest city.  And he used that bully pulpit to further aims explicitly motivated by hate, admitting in 2014, “Until I die, I want to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, and I want to die hated by people.”

Accordingly, Ishihara infused hate and spite into just about any public policy he sponsored.  Remember how mere weeks into his first term as Tokyo Governor he called for the Japanese military to actively round up foreigners (using the racist epithet “Sankokujin”) in the event of a natural disaster?  How were they to do that?  Unclear — probably just arrest anyone who “looks foreign.”  Why?  Because in his words, foreigners are “heinous” and will of course riot and run amok when given the opportunity.  

That claim was put to the test during the Tohoku Tsunami, and surprise, no foreigner riots.  Any retractions from Ishihara?  Of course not.  Men of no conscience or sense of consequence for their actions never apologize unless they’re forced to.

For Ishihara was a man who unapologetically said that he loathed Koreans and Chinese, and went out of his way not only to justify Japan’s occupation of its Asian neighbors, but also deny its colonial and wartime atrocities.  (All while calling the US atomic bombing of Japan racist.)  Ishihara even claimed, in his regular Sankei Shinbun columns, that Chinese were innately criminal due to their “ethnic DNA.” 

A hateful man who poured his hate into concrete policies, Ishihara installed Japan’s first neighborhood surveillance cameras specifically in areas of Tokyo he claimed were “hotbeds of foreign crime,” and went on TV at regular intervals to propagandize that Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Roppongi at night were no longer Japan.

He also said that Japanese politicians who support more civil and human rights for foreign residents must have “foreign ancestors” themselves, and abetted political witch hunts and loyalty tests to root out politicians with international connections.

Essentially, Ishihara was trying to ethnically cleanse Japan, undoing the “internationalization” phase of the 1980s and 1990s of openness and tolerance. 

In its place, he sponsored overt racism and normalized xenophobia.  He fueled Japan’s reflexive self-victimization by scapegoating foreigners, accusing them of crime, terrorism, subversive activities, and a general undermining of all things “Japanese.”  

And it worked. To this day, entire political parties, candidates, and hate groups publicly rally for the expulsion of foreigners and the extermination of Koreans. That’s why current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can’t easily lift the world’s longest, most draconian and unscientific Covid border policies–because polls say 57% of the fearful Japanese public want them kept.

In his spare time, Ishihara also found ways to hate anyone who wasn’t like him, even blaming his own citizens for their woes.  Such as the time he said the 2011 Tohoku Disasters were “divine punishment for Japanese people’s egoism.”  

Ever the misogynist in his novels and policy statements (one obit called him “the King of Toxic Masculinity”), he called women who survived past menopause “a waste” and “a disease of civilization” (as opposed to men, however senile, who can still “propagate the species until their 80s and 90s”), said that a woman euthanized for having ALS suffered from a “karmic disease due to the sins of a past life,” and averred that gays and lesbians are “genetically subnormal.”  There’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there.

STOP EULOGIZING A HITLER PROTOTYPE

That’s why I find it so jarring that obituarists minced their words.  Stop it, because you are complicit in historical revisionism.  

To find any redeeming qualities in a man like Ishihara is like noting that Hitler liked dogs, built Germany’s autobahns, or created Volkswagen.  But that shouldn’t be the focus of any honest historical accounting of a balance sheet of evil.

And yes, I made a comparison to Hitler.  That’s not Godwin’s Law.  Think about it:  If Ishihara had been given the powers Hitler had, do you think he would have done much different?  

Other people of Ishihara’s ilk (such as Prime Minister Taro Aso) have expressed admiration for Hitler, saying he had the “right motives,” because that enables politicians to achieve results.  Shucks, if only Japanese politicians’ power wasn’t so diluted by Japanese bureaucracy, and the Japanese military freed to project more power wherever it wanted, what could we accomplish?

Well, that was precisely what Ishihara was trying to do whenever he had power.

Remember when Governor Ishihara tried to leverage public and private monies (eventually forcing the national government’s hand to do so) to buy up the Senkakus, some disputed rocks in the East China Sea?  That was, in his words, his attempt to “start a war with China and win.”  To this day, major world media that should know better blithely portray this conflict as merely a “feud,” a “row,” and a “spat.”  

Given that Ishihara was also calling for Japan to develop nuclear weapons, that means, if Ishihara had achieved his results, he would have mass-murdered the people he hated.  

Thus comparisons with Hitler are not hyperbole.  They’re history.  

DEATH BY “KARMIC DISEASE” IS NOT ENOUGH

Ishihara died at age 89 of recurring pancreatic cancer.  I’m told it’s a painful way to go.  Good.  But no amount of pain he would ever feel would make up for the suffering he caused out of purely personal animus and spite.  He was a cruel man who spent his life persecuting people not only because they crossed him, but also simply because they were born a certain way.

So this is my obit:  Shintaro Ishihara was a monster and now he is dead.  May he rot in hell.

ENDS
======================
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Japan Govt’s “Kizuna” magazine: “Beyond Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Leading the Way towards an Inclusive Society”, Winter 2021: Govt propaganda whitewashing history & rewriting exclusionary narratives

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Getting to this one a bit late, sorry. (Got two more new classes this semester; just starting to get into a semester groove now.)

Have a look at this Japanese Government article in their “Kizuna” Magazine trying to present the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a liberalizing force, allowing Japan to embrace “inclusivity”.

Of course, we here at Debito.org are all in favor of inclusivity.  But when even the data it presents below doesn’t substantiate the headline, you know even the Japanese government is indulging in propagandizing clickbait based on incomplete social science.  No surprises there, I guess, but let’s parse.  My comments interspliced within the article:

/////////////////////////////////////////////

PORTRAITS OF JAPAN
BEYOND TOKYO 2020: LEADING THE WAY TOWARD AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY

Kizuna Magazine, Winter 2021
https://www.japan.go.jp/kizuna/_userdata/pdf/2021/winter2021/beyond_tokyo_2020.pdf

The Tokyo 2020 Games, which reached a safe conclusion even under the difficult circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, made a significant step toward the realization of an inclusive society—one in which everyone respects one another regardless of gender, age, or ability.

(Comment:  So the inclusivity is restricted to gender, age, and ability?  Not nationality, minorities (who were in fact shut out of the Games), or other racialized characteristics for Visible Minorities in Japan?  Granted, those three items are good ones, but it’s a narrower scope for “inclusivity” than should be possible or laudable.)

It was precisely because the world had been facing great difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic that Japan determined to fulfill its responsibility as host country to hold the Tokyo 2020 Games, even without spectators, and to provide the world with a sense of solidarity and to offer hopes and dreams, especially to children, who hold the future in their hands. Firmly intent on making this happen, many people throughout Japan worked in unison, striving to implement measures for safety and security to ensure that Japan bring the Games to a safe conclusion.

(Comment:  Trope check:  We hardworking Japanese should take a bow for “working in unison” (echoing the wartime sentiment of all Japanese hearts beating in unison without exception) making everything safe and secure for providing the world with hopes and dreams and solidarity.  Especially the children.  And according to the first sentence, Japan did this for the world?  I think more for its sponsors, both foreign and particularly domestic.)

The Tokyo 2020 Games not only moved and inspired many people through sports, but also advanced the Games’ core concept of “Unity in Diversity,” serving to promote the further growth of this movement. The percentage of female athletes participating in the Olympic Games was a record 48.8. Moreover, the number of athletes who identified themselves as LGBTQ+ was reportedly over 180—-more than triple that of the Rio 2016 Games—-and they won more than 55 medals among them. In order to promote gender equality, the number of mixed-gender events was doubled to 18. Seeing men and women teaming up to compete for their country was like a breath of fresh air. The Paralympic Games, which was held in Tokyo for the second time, served as an opportunity to convey to the world and cultivate the “barrier-free mindset” that is at the foundation of an inclusive society, in which everyone, with or without impairments, can lead a vibrant life.

(Comment:  Ah yes, the “Unity in Diversity” trope that I critiqued for SNA last August.  I will excerpt that below and show how ironic that trope actually was.  But look at how the article categorizes “diversity”:  Females.  LGBTQ+.  Mixed-gender.  Paraolympics.  Nothing about, for example, Visible Minorities.

But again, this has nothing to do with Japan, and more to do with the Olympic-sponsored events themselves.  Claiming this as something that we Japanese created is like claiming that Japan promoted better chocolate because Japan hosted a chocolate festival that somebody else created and sponsored.  And that that better chocolate somehow created mindsets throughout society to make them more inclusive of chocolate, even for those who hate chocolate.  There’s simply no data to support this assertion that any mindsets changed here, there, or anywhere.  Then we actually get to their dataset for their claims:)

Supporting the success of the Games from behind the scenes were more than 70,000 Games volunteers, who ranged in age from 19 to 91. These volunteers, regardless of age, gender, or disability, played the vital role of actuating the concept of “Unity in Diversity” by providing hospitality and supporting athletes and staff from around the world. MIURA Hisashi, who has a hearing impairment, was one of these volunteers. Wanting to contribute in some way to this historic event, he performed reception and maintenance duties, among others, at the residential buildings and fitness center at the Olympic and Paralympic Village. “As I actively offered my own opinions and shared sign-language skills, my teammates also naturally started to communicate more openly, showing their care for one another using both spoken words and sign language. Ultimately, I felt that we made an excellent team, and were able to fulfill our role. It was also unforgettable to have the chance to communicate with players and staff visiting from all around the world using gestures and body language. I’m glad that I was able to support them, even if only in a small way”, says Miura.

(Comment:  Wow, Miura got a lot of space.  One guy with a hearing impairment who performed “reception and maintenance duties” leads the way with gestures and body language.  A diverse sample size of one proves the point that society’s mindsets are changing.  And that’s basically the meat of the article.)

Respecting and supporting one another regardless of differences is crucial to the realization of an inclusive society. At this year’s Games, this notion was reiterated to many people throughout the world. Miura says, “The Tokyo 2020 Games offered an opportunity to make great progress in terms of ‘Unity in Diversity.’ I am thankful that I was able to make my personal contribution as a volunteer at the Games, and I believe it is important to continue building up such experiences, not just at the Olympics and Paralympics.”

(Comment:  Even more space for Miura.  That’s lazy journalism.  And it repeats that trope that we Japanese unified to somehow welcome more diverse people, whoever they are.

Note there’s not even a mention of the truly diverse people involved, notably tennis champ Osaka Naomi lighting the Olympic Cauldron in the Opening Ceremonies.  I guess that’s not the diversity they’re looking for:  It doesn’t fall into the “gender, age, and ability” point they’re trying to prove, then don’t.)

Each of us embracing diversity will create a vitality that will lead to the realization of a world where everyone can live comfortably. The Tokyo 2020 Games were a sure, significant step in that direction.

ARTICLE ENDS

ARTICLE PHOTOS: Some 11,000 athletes from 205 countries and regions and the Refugee Olympic Team participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, giving inspiring performances and setting numerous records. (Photo: Closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, August 8) AFLO SPORTS

Top: MIURA Hisashi (left), who has a hearing impairment, participated in the Games as a volunteer. Through the assistance of the Nippon Foundation Volunteer Support Center, which provides support to volunteers with impairments, he worked on a team together with an individual (right) who was able to offer sign-language interpretation at the venue to support the athletes. THE NIPPON FOUNDATION VOLUNTEER SUPPORT CENTER

Bottom: With the help of volunteers, Slovenian sprinter Anita Horvat exits the venue after the competition. Volunteers offered their assistance to athletes and Games personnel not just at the competition venues, but also at various locations around the country. XINHUA/AFLO

Left: Tom Daley (foreground), an openly gay athlete who won the gold medal for Great Britain in the men’s synchronized 10-meter platform, told the press, “I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m a gay man and also an Olympic champion.”
PICTURE ALLIANCE/AFLO

Top: The Japanese duo of MIZUTANI Jun and ITO Mima won the gold in a new event, mixed doubles table tennis. REUTERS/AFLO
ENDS

===============================

As mentioned above, here’s an excerpt of my SNA column of August 16, 2021 critiquing that “Unity in Diversity” trope:

===============================

SNA Visible Minorities;  Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem (excerpt)

By Debito Arudou

…That’s why I had some pretty low expectations for Tokyo’s Opening Ceremonies on July 21. Scandal after scandal had erupted over Japan’s Olympic Committee abysmal leadership choices, including the creative head cracking fat jokes about a female entertainer, the composer of the ceremony bragging about his history of abusing disabled people, the director of the ceremony making wisecracks about the Holocaust, and, of course, Yoshiro Mori, the octogenarian chair, resigning after sexist remarks.

After this, how would Japan introduce itself to the world?

Surprisingly, as a land with some degree of diversity. In prominent positions were people in wheelchairs and Visible Minorities, including hoopster Rui Hachimura as Japan’s flag bearer, Zainichi Taiwanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh on the torch relay, and of course tennis champ Naomi Osaka having the great honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron. This caused much media buzz about how Japan was finally changing, coming to terms with the reality of its own diversity.

Sadly, I disagree. I would say this represents less a contradiction of Japan’s “monoethnic society,” more an affirmation of the power of tokenism.

Remember how Tokyo got these Games in the first place: By wheeling out French-Japanese TV announcer Christel Takigawa to give a fluent gaijin-handling presentation about Japan’s mystical prowess in omotenashi hospitality. Once her purpose as a token of diversity was served, she essentially disappeared from the Games, and the old guard took over and reverted to its scandalous form.

The thing is, tokenism isn’t acceptance. At best it’s a way station to your acceptance as an exceptional individual, successful DESPITE your background, and even that depends on whether you’ve fulfilled your assigned purpose. For the Olympics, if we’re putting you center stage, you’d better do your job and win Gold for the nation.

Unfortunately, the tokens didn’t win. Osaka was defeated in her third tennis match. Hachimura’s basketball team placed eleventh. Despite Japan’s record haul of medals, as far as I can tell only two Visible Minorities (Aaron Wolf in judo and Kanoa Igarashi in surfing) made it to the podium.

And Igarashi, US-born resident of Huntington Beach, CA, indicatively promotes himself on his Olympics website entry in classic Olympic “thoroughbred-ism”: “I have so much support here in the USA and America will always be part of who I am. But I’ve grown up with a lifestyle and in a generation where things can seem a bit borderless. And so representing Japan felt like a solid, comfortable decision. My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.”

Good for his bloodline, I guess. But for mongrel non-medalists like Osaka, as the New York Times noted, Japan’s social media pounced, contesting her Japanese language ability, her standing to represent Japan, and even her Japaneseness, all of which mattered much less when she was winning.

The final straw was when The Daily Beast reported August 4 that Yoshiro Mori had lobbied against Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron in the first place, in favor of a “pure Japanese man.” With her lackluster performance, no doubt many bigots feel Mori has been vindicated.
EXCERPT ENDS

===============================

“Unity in Diversity” indeed.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

The article itself is available as a screen capture here (click to expand):

======================
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Ruminations on Ishihara Shintaro’s death: Good riddance to an evil man.

mytest

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Hi Blog. It was with some measured amount of joy that I saw that a quintessentially awful man, Former Tokyo Governor and Political-Resident Racist Ishihara Shintaro, recently died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 89.

Predictably, the eulogies and hagiographies have minced their words about what an awful man this was, watering down their modifiers to call him a “brash” “hawk” “firebrand”, a ‘fiery nationalist” with “controversial views” etc.  (Check out the utter gloss job the NY Times Obits did here.)  Even after some admit that he deliberately used his political power to try to start a war with China over some island scraps, and to publicly denigrate and persecute people not only because they crossed him, but also because they were born a certain way. Simply saying he was not a force for good is to have a fundamental misconception of what evil is.

Debito.org has commented on Ishihara’s evil activities umpteen times (most famously here), so I see no need to dwell further. I think Kaori Shoji writes an excellent obit in the Japan Subculture Research Center (aptly titled “A Farewell To Japan’s King of Toxic Masculinity: Shintaro Ishihara“) where she sums up:

The man was a rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig. I hope I didn’t leave out anything.

But even she winds up succumbing to a begrudging admiration for a person in power who was granted even more power and wielded it. That’s a pity.  Yes, Ishihara had power — the power of yet another racist toxic masculinist born into rich privilege who did everything he could to make sure that privilege is perpetuated for his ilk. And his ilk have caused (and then denied) things like genocides, and should never be allowed to come near power and public service. Alas, an early showing with a prestigious literary award catapulted Ishihara into fame, and people are suckers for celebrities.

Returning to my opening, I say “measured amount of joy” because my joy was restrained by the fact that a recurrence of pancreatic cancer took Ishihara. I hope it hurt real bad in your final days, Ishihara. But no amount of pain you would ever experience would be enough payback for all the pain and suffering you caused other people.

Rot in hell, you monster. Arudou Debito, Ph.D.

======================
PS. Other Debito.org Readers have already commented on Ishihara’s demise in a separate blog post here.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 30: “US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia”, i.e., counteract apparent Japanese media disinformation about their bases’ Covid policies (Jan 24, 2022)

mytest

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Visible Minorities Column 30: US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, JAN 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/01/24/visible-minorities-us-military-should-combat-japans-xenophobia/

SNA (Tokyo) — Shingetsu News Agency has reported for two years on how the Japanese government and media have gone out of their way to blame foreigners for the domestic spread of Covid. Each time we’ve gone out of our way to point out that Covid was usually brought in by Japanese citizens disobeying lenient quarantines.

The government’s exclusionary border policies, treating people without Japanese passports as somehow more contagious, is routinely supported neither by logic nor science.

The latest mutation of this narrative has been the blame targeted at US military bases in Japan for community spread.

For example, Japan Times reported on January 8, stitching together wire reports from Jiji Press and Kyodo News, that “US military personnel are believed to have triggered a coronavirus resurgence in [Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima]. Many people in the three prefectures live in close proximity to American bases. Infection prevention measures taken by the US forces, which some have criticized as being too lax, are thought to be behind that explosion of cases.” […]. But this is contradicted by what the US Forces Japan say are their actual policies, claiming 92-98% vaccination rates and limitations on movement.

So is the blame game grounded in facts and science? Or are these reactions to people trying to find another foreign scapegoat for the latest Covid spike? We don’t know because US Forces Japan aren’t making their practices sufficiently loud and clear. As usual.

The upshot: How US Forces Japan are yet again ignoring being used for domestic political capital is irresponsible. USFJ has the duty to recognize that what they do affects Visible Minorities in Japan, whether it be inspiring “Japanese Only” bigots to slam shop doors in their faces, or giving more ammunition to reactionaries who seek to seal off Japan’s borders.

Full article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/01/24/visible-minorities-us-military-should-combat-japans-xenophobia/

Page with more sources at https://www.debito.org/?p=16964.

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Combating xenophobic rumors and media: Debito.org asks US Forces, Japan for clarification on their COVID testing and vaccination policies

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From: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Subject: From Debito.org: Questions regarding US Forces, Japan vaccination procedures.
Date: January 13, 2022
To: indopacom.yokota.usfj.mbx.pao@mail.mil (courtesy of this site)
Cc: Shingetsu News Agency <shingetsunewsagency@gmail.com>

To Whom It May Concern,
US Forces, Japan

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Debito Arudou, Ph.D., coordinator for Debito.org (www.debito.org), an award-winning online archive for life and human rights in Japan for more than 25 years. We address issues that affect Non-Japanese Residents of Japan, particularly Visible Minorities, and have acted as a launching pad for hundreds of journalistic and academic articles, government and NGO reports, and actions that have changed the course of national narratives and public policies. I am also the author of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, Second Edition 2022), and am a columnist for the Shingetsu News Agency.

Debito.org has some questions we would like to ask about the policies of US Forces, Japan.

In recent weeks, the Japanese media has portrayed US Forces in Japan as a major vector for infection in Japan, portraying the US military presence in Japan as a leak in their otherwise tight border policies. Consider:

============================
“Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters on Thursday that ‘U.S. military bases are one of the major causes of the spread of infections,’ while Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka said, ‘The fact that (military personnel) were not tested before departure from the United States had a big impact.’ Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki also called the U.S. military’s measures ‘extremely regrettable.’”
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/01/07/national/anti-us-base-sentiment/
“U.S. military personnel are believed to have triggered a coronavirus resurgence in the three prefectures. Many people in the three prefectures live in close proximity to American bases. Infection prevention measures taken by the U.S. forces, which some have criticized as being too lax, are thought to be behind that explosion of cases.”
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/01/08/national/japan-coronavirus-january8/
============================
with a public advertisement in Okinawa published by Kyodo News in the Japan Times, showing a Westerner (not an Asian) sneezing:

From https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/01/08/national/japan-coronavirus-january8/

As you know, Japan’s border policies for most of the past two years have refused entry to most foreigners, including foreign residents regardless of visa status, while letting in Japanese under often lax quarantine conditions to spread Covid anyway. Yet media and policymakers in Japan have frequently portrayed Covid as an exogenous, “foreign” disease, with the highly problematic interpretation of seeing foreigners as more likely to spread Covid than Japanese.

The World Health Organization last month noted the lack of good science behind that claim, stating that “Epidemiologically, I find it hard to understand the principle there. Does the virus read your passport? Does the virus know your nationality or where you are legally resident? Our concern here is that we apply public health principles, not political principles, to selecting measures that are used to control the spread of diseases. The idea that you can put a hermetic seal on most countries is frankly not possible.” (https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/12/28670f8f00db-urgent-kishida-hints-at-review-of-japans-re-entry-restrictions-over-omicron.html)

My point is that the US Military in Japan has a responsibility to dispel rumors and reports that are playing a part in potentially increasing xenophobic attitudes towards foreign residents of Japan.

I understand that you have made an attempt to do so with announcements on your US Forces, Japan, website dated January 5 and 9, 2022:
https://www.usfj.mil/Media/Press-Releases/Article-View/Article/2889890/us-forces-japan-increases-to-health-protection-bravo/and
https://www.usfj.mil/Media/Press-Releases/Article-View/Article/2893181/us-japan-joint-committee-statement-on-measures-to-address-the-spread-of-covid-19/

But please permit me to ask some clarifying questions, for publication on Debito.org:

==================================
1) Pursuant to President Biden’s order that all federal employees and military be vaccinated and tested by February 15 (“as of early December, 92 percent of federal employees and military personnel had received at least one dose”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/11/biden-federal-coronavirus-mandate-testing-rules-unvaccinated/), does this mean that all US Forces in Japan, both incoming and resident, have been vaccinated and boosted, and tested for Covid, including the Omicron variant?

2) What happens when members of the US Military test positive for Covid? If in Japan, are they quarantined within the base? If outside Japan, are they denied entry into Japan and quarantined overseas?

3) Do you have any response to the claims within the following reportage in the Japan Times:

“It was revealed in December that U.S. forces had been lax in their border measures against the virus… But it was found that the U.S. side was not conducting pre-departure and post-arrival testing, as required by Japan, and that it had shortened the period of restrictions on arriving personnel’s movement from 14 days to 10. It also allowed people in the restriction period to move freely within U.S. bases.” https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/01/07/national/anti-us-base-sentiment/
==================================

I have heard unsubstantiated reports from American military members on social media that US Forces must be properly vaccinated and tested before they arrive in Japan. This would be at odds with what the Japanese media is saying.

Debito.org would welcome your clarifications for the record.

Thank you for reading and responding.

Sincerely, Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Debito.org
Columnist, Shingetsu News Agency (https://shingetsunewsagency.com)
ENDS

UPDATE JANUARY 23, 2022:  We received no answer.

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Why COVID keeps being seen as a “foreign” disease in Japan: Uncritical reportage in the Mainichi of Shizuoka Mayor blaming Omicron on “foreign nationals at work”, claiming it’s not “community transmission”. Wait, let’s parse that.

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has talked about how Japanese officialdom keeps trying to construe COVID as something “foreign”, i.e., something exogenous that affects foreigners more than Japanese people (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for example).  To the point where there’s even a research institute (Riken) speculating that Japanese are genetically less susceptible to COVID.  Seriously.

And that unscientific attitude is reflected in Japanese government policy that treats anyone with a Japanese passport as somehow less contagious than somebody with a foreign passport, regardless of individual vaccination status. (That of course means that a porous border and more lax quarantine rules for VIPs and “Japanese” entrants — including those without Japanese citizenship but WITH Japanese blood — get in and spread the disease anyway.  Omicron is in Japan to stay, brought in by Japanese, no matter how much you’re trying to blame it on, for example, the US Military.)

It’s gotten to the point where even the WHO has decried these policies as unscientific:

(Kyodo News Dec 2, 2021):  Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said of Japan’s ban on new entries of foreigners, “Epidemiologically, I find it hard to understand the principle there. Does the virus read your passport? Does the virus know your nationality or where you are legally resident?  Our concern here is that we apply public health principles, not political principles, to selecting measures that are used to control the spread of diseases. The idea that you can put a hermetic seal on most countries is frankly not possible.”

But one other factor in all this gaijin-bashing is an uncritical media, even from foreigner-friendly media outlets like the Mainichi Shinbun. Where they report unconfirmed statements from a local mayor that people had contact “with foreign nationals” (“kaigai no hito“, or “overseas people” in the original Japanese), and scare the public all over again.

Article follows, then my comment:

//////////////////////////////////////
Central Japan prefecture’s 1st omicron case linked to contact with foreigners at job: mayor
December 28, 2021 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20211228/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

SHIZUOKA — Following the first confirmed coronavirus omicron variant case in the central Japan city of Shizuoka in Shizuoka Prefecture on Dec. 27, Mayor Nobuhiro Tanabe said at a press conference, “He (the patient) is confirmed to have had contact with foreign nationals at work, and community transmission is unlikely.”

According to the Shizuoka Municipal Government, the patient was earlier confirmed infected with the coronavirus and has mild symptoms. Genome analysis by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases revealed he was positive for the omicron variant. Two people who had had close contact with the man tested negative for the virus.

The patient has no recent history of overseas travel, and came into contact with foreign nationals at work. The city’s public health center explained that it determined the route of infection was strongly suspected to have been via contact at work.

The man received his second coronavirus vaccine by August. He developed symptoms on Dec. 23, was tested the following day, and hospitalized on Dec. 25. He was confirmed positive for the omicron variant the next day.

Other than the two people deemed close contacts, 12 of the 13 people involved in the same work tested negative. One still awaits their results.

(Japanese original by Hideyuki Yamada, Shizuoka Bureau)

静岡市でオミクロン株初確認 海外から来た人と接触 市中感染は否定的
毎日新聞 2021/12/27
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20211227/k00/00m/040/344000c
新型コロナウイルス感染症の変異株・オミクロン株への静岡県内初感染が静岡市で確認された27日、田辺信宏市長は記者会見で「業務上、海外の人と接点が確認されている。市中感染の可能性は低い」と説明した。患者は男性で軽症、市保健所で感染経路を調べている。
市によると、男性は新型コロナの感染が既に確認されていた。国立感染症研究所のゲノム解析でオミクロン株陽性と判明。濃厚接触者2人は陰性だった。
男性患者は海外渡航歴はなく、海外から来た人と業務で接触があった。市保健所は感染経路について「業務上の接触の方を強く疑う状況と判断している」と説明。8月までにワクチンの2回目接種を終えていた。23日に発症、24日に検査を受け、25日に入院。26日にオミクロン株の陽性と分かった。
濃厚接触者以外の仕事関係者13人のうち12人の陰性を確認。1人は検査結果を待っている。【山田英之】

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT: A few more simple questions needed to be asked of Mr. Mayor before his speculation got passed through by the Mainichi editors, and allowed to filter into the public sphere:

  • Were these “overseas people” freshly-arrived in Japan from overseas despite a near-blanket ban on any foreigners at the border?
  • Were these “overseas people” in fact foreign residents who were here anyway, therefore those people are in fact part of “the community” (meaning, yes, “community transmission”).
  • Is there any evidence that these individual “overseas people” were in fact COVID-positive? Were they tested? Was there any other vector testing of other people in the community? Or are we just simply assuming that foreigners are more likely than Japanese to have COVID and leaving it at that?

We should know.  But we don’t.  Why not?  Because the constant and uncritical assumptions that foreigners a) are vectors, and b) are not part of the “Japanese community” at large anyway, are precisely what I mean when I refer to Japan’s Embedded Racism. Presumptions like these are so normalized as to be embedded and unquestioned in Japan, even by media professionals who are supposed to be asking these questions before they let these racist ideas infect and spread throughout society.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My annual “Human Rights Top Ten for 2021” countdown now at Shingetsu News Agency, VM 29 Dec 27, 2021

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Hello and Happy Holidays to all Debito.org Readers! Here’s my annual Top Ten, this year moved to the Shingetsu News Agency because The Japan Times isn’t in the market for articles like these anymore. Excerpt:

//////////////////////////////
Visible Minorities: Human Rights Top Ten for 2021
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, DEC 27, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

SNA (Tokyo) — Since 2008, I have always devoted my end-year columns to counting down the Top Ten human rights issues as they pertain to Non-Japanese residents of Japan. This year I’m moving this feature to the Shingetsu News Agency. Let’s get started:

10) Debito.org Turns 25 Years Old…
9) Tourism to Japan Drops 99% Since 2019…
8 ) Vincent Fichot Hunger Strike against Japan Child Abduction…
7) Tokyo Musashino City Approves, Then Defeats, Inclusive Voting Proposal…

Full countdown with write-ups at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/12/27/visible-minorities-human-rights-top-ten-for-2021/

Enjoy!  More to come in 2022!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Debito’s SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2022), fully revised and updated, now on sale

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Hi Blog. The new SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books, 2022), completely revised and updated with 100 extra pages of new material, is now on sale.

Information site outlining what’s new, with excerpts and reviews, and how to get your copy at a discount at

https://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html

(Or you can download a flyer, take it to your library, have them order the book, and then borrow it for free at EmbeddedRacism2ndEdFlyer)

Read a sample of the book on Amazon here.

Front Cover:

Full cover with reviews:

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

My SNA Visible Minorities 25: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem, where I argue the Games failed its goals of “Diversity and Inclusion” predictably and by design

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Visible Minorities: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, AUG 16, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN (excerpt)
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/

SNA (Tokyo) — The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are now past. This is a postmortem.

Last month’s column talked about the “evil” of the Japanese government and International Olympic Committee (IOC) in forcing an unpopular Olympics upon Japan’s residents, all the while as Tokyo’s cases spiked during a global pandemic. But I also argued how host Japan in particular is trained by national narratives to see “outsiders” (including residents who don’t “look Japanese”—our Visible Minorities) specifically as terrorists, hooligans, criminals, and vectors of disease.

These fault lines have predictably exacerbated the endemic social disease of racial discrimination. International events just give people more excuses to create “Japanese Only” signs and rules.

That’s not to say that I boycotted the Olympics. In fact, given my background, I should be a superfan. […] But thanks to my background in political science, I’m trained to view nationalism with a critical eye: How governments convince people to live, fight, and even sacrifice their lives for their country. The Olympics are rooted precisely in these attitudes, and forever filter athleticism through the lens of national representation and superiority.

So despite all their promises to showcase “Diversity and Inclusion,” the Tokyo 2020 Olympics shirked that opportunity — predictably and by design…

//////////////////////////////////

Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/. Go read it before it goes behind paywall. Or better yet, support independent progressive journalism and subscribe to SNA for as little as a dollar a week!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My SNA Visible Minorities 24: “The Tokyo Olympics Trap”, on how these Games are harming Japan’s minorities, and how the IOC is harming Japan

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column 24 is about the fiasco the Tokyo 2020 Olympiad has become. Introduction:

//////////////////////////

Visible Minorities: The Tokyo Olympics Trap
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, July 19, 2021

SNA (Tokyo) — On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, let’s talk about the mess.

Much space has been devoted to the idiocracy behind spending record amounts of money on infrastructure that is not built to last, or even if it is, it often winds up abandoned. Further, holding a superspreader sports meet during a global pandemic is a surefire path to social discord and preventable death.

But it matters that Japan is hosting this mess. This column as usual will first focus on the Olympics’ impact on our minorities, and then talk about the IOC’s responsibility for scamming Japan…
//////////////////////////

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/07/19/visible-minorities-the-tokyo-olympics-trap/

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My SNA Visible Minorities column 22: “Interrogating the Discriminatory Covid Self-Quarantine Scandal”, May 17, 2021

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Hi Blog. Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. This month’s SNA Visible Minorities column 22 updates us on how Japan’s discriminatory border policies disproportionately punish Non-Japanese residents, even when things that are going wrong are due to government mismanagement. Paraphrased excerpt:

==============================
Visible Minorities: Interrogating the Discriminatory Covid Self-Quarantine Scandal
By Debito Arudou, May 17, 2021 (condensed intro)

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometimes government-designed policies lack sense. Or, in places where the government is as unaccountable as Japan’s, policymakers ignore cautions—-or don’t get cautioned at all because a docile mass media is mobilized behind a national goal. So when things go wrong, very bad things can happen, especially when punishments for noncompliance only go one way and hurt innocent people.

That is what’s in the cards yet again with Japan’s Covid border controls. The current policy is that if you are a resident of Japan returning from overseas, you face a mandatory self-quarantine system. Everyone, regardless of nationality, signs must notify the authorities of their current location each day. If not, authorities will contact them via Skype, WhatsApp video call, or by voice cell phone number.

If you are found to be breaking quarantine as a Japanese, you get your name exposed to the public. However, foreign residents will lose everything—their lives, livelihoods, and anything they ever invested in Japan—by getting deported. So with punishments this disproportionate, the government had better make sure nothing goes wrong. Guess what? Things are going wrong, and it’s the government’s fault…
==============================

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/05/17/visible-minorities-interrogating-the-discriminatory-quarantine-scandal/

Links to sources cited in the full article:  Kyodo News May 1, Japan Times May 12, MOFA self-quarantine pledge.

Enjoy! Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
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SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

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SNA — I’ve been involved in activism in Japan for many years. Indeed so many that my online archive of work, Debito.org, just turned 25 years old last week. With that in mind, I’d like to devote this column to a retrospective of the past quarter century: What, if anything, has Debito.org contributed to help make conditions for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities better?

Debito.org first went live on April 15, 1996, during the earlier days of the World Wide Web, as a means to respond to online bulletin board critics. When topics came up over and again, I’d just archive a previous essay on Debito.org and send a link. After a couple hundred essays were organized into general information sites, Debito.org became a platform for issues involving foreign residents of Japan.

The first major issue I took up was “Academic Apartheid” in Japan’s universities. This is where all Japanese full-time faculty were granted contract-free tenure from day one of employment, while all foreign academics, despite many being better qualified than their Japanese counterparts, got perpetual ninkisei contracts (some of them term-limited) without the opportunity for tenure.

I discovered a “smoking gun” one day in my university mailbox: A paper directive from the Ministry of Education encouraging national and public universities to fire their older foreign professors by not renewing their contracts. I scanned it, archived it, and sent a link to prominent advocates like Ivan P. Hall (author of Cartels of the Mind) for further exposure. It turns out that a government demanding their universities axe all their foreigners over forty is state-sponsored discrimination, and it blew up into an international issue that even then-US Ambassador Walter Mondale took up.

All of that information is still up on Debito.org today, and it turns out that a permanent archive that is searchable, citable, with context and without paywall, is a valuable resource, especially as many unscrupulous people would rather have a history of their actions and policies disappear into the ether. Once archived on Debito.org, it didn’t. Soon other issues on Debito.org garnered national and international attention, even generating public policy movements…

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/04/19/visible-minorities-retrospective-on-25-years-of-activism/

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My SNA VM column 20: “The World’s First ‘Japanese Only’ Olympics?”, on how Japan’s new ban on “overseas spectators” may lead to banning all foreigners (out of linguistics and force of habit) (UPDATED)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s an excerpt of my latest Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 20. Have a read before it goes behind paywall, and please subscribe if you want to see the rest of their articles — it’s but a dollar a week, and it supports progressive journalism. Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

/////////////////////////////////////////

Visible Minorities: The World’s First “Japanese Only” Olympics?
Shingetsu News Agency, March 15, 2021, By Debito Arudou

SNA (Tokyo) — Reuters and Kyodo recently reported that Japan is banning “foreign spectators” (or “overseas spectators”) from the Tokyo Olympics: “The government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad is not possible given concerns among the Japanese public over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries.”

Blogging about this at Debito.org, I worried aloud that excluding all “foreign spectators” would be interpreted to mean all foreigners, including Non-Japanese living in Japan. But commenters (some of whom already have tickets or will be volunteering to help) were quick to stress that the “overseas” wording meant only foreign tourists, not them.

But I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

Granted, the original wording in Japanese is kaigai kara no ippan kankyaku (regular spectators from overseas), not “foreigners” (gaikokujin). But words matter, especially when you’re categorizing people, and doing it wrong will lead to discrimination.

I think Japan will do it wrong, due to linguistics and force of habit…

Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/03/15/the-worlds-first-japanese-only-olympics/

(Read a rough draft of the contents of this article before it became my SNA column at https://www.debito.org/?p=16480)

/////////////////////////////////

UPDATE MARCH 20, 2021: The NYT reports that it’s a done deal now. The IOC has approved the exclusion of all “spectators from overseas”. And it’s just being passed off as a “concession to the realities of the pandemic”. Its possibly problematic enforcement in terms of NJ Residents is not touched upon — more focus is on the plight of overseas ticket holders. — Debito

=============================

Spectators From Overseas Are Barred From Tokyo Olympics
The move, announced Saturday, is a significant concession to the realities of the pandemic, even as organizers remain determined to hold the Games this summer.

By Motoko Rich and Ben Dooley
New York Times, March 20, 2021
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/20/world/asia/tokyo-olympics-spectators.html

=============================

JOC’s official statement on this:

ABOUT THE GAMES
Statement on Overseas Spectators for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020
Japan Olympic Committee 20 MAR 2021, courtesy of BM
https://tokyo2020.org/en/news/statement-on-overseas-spectators-for-the-olympic-and-paralympic-games-tokyo-2020

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Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

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Hi Blog.  Richard Lloyd Parry, a very respected journalist and author, has come out with a sensibly-argued Op-Ed in The Times London in favor of cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (which, for the record, Debito.org was never in favor of Japan getting in the first place).  Full text below.

But even then he words things carelessly when he writes:

“[…] Japan […] compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world [has] been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.”

COMMENT:  Portraying Japan’s apparent success at lower case numbers as due to an almost complete ban on “foreign visitors” is neither helpful nor accurate.

As Mr. Lloyd Parry surely must have known (since the ban affected him too as a Japan resident), this ban included foreign residents, not just visitors.  Not to mention that the British Covid variant was verifiably brought into Japan by Japanese.

Implicitly framing Covid as a “foreign virus” brought in by “foreign visitors” makes Japan seem to be a hermetically-sealed environment until the foreigners came in; and now “the government threatens to sacrifice these gains” from its apparent isolationism.  This rhetoric isn’t that far removed from calling Covid the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu“.  And we’ve seen the dreadful results of that kind of carelessness. (Including Japan.)

A moment’s reflection (which probably would have happened if Lloyd Parry were talking about minorities in Britain, especially at the editorial stage) would have brought about the realization that these are people we’re talking about, and how issues are couched in the media affects them, particularly if they’re Japan’s disenfranchised minorities.

If it were my article, I would have said “Japan strongly limited international travel“, which doesn’t zero in on foreigners in specific.

I’ll let others comment on the possible comparative issues of “good hygiene” (implying the rest of the rich world has bad hygiene?), and other factors that might lead to Japan undercounting actual virus cases (such as a lack of reliable contact tracing, and not testing the asymptomatic for Covid).

But in my view, keeping the Covid case numbers low was a matter of politics, not science:  to keep the Olympics on track.  Now even despite all that, Lloyd Parry makes a convincing argument for canceling the Games.  Fine.  But let’s be more careful how we point fingers, shall we?  We’ve seen enough of how foreign correspondents succumb to Japan-style racialized narratives just as soon as they talk about “foreigners” and Japan.  (Japan Times column on this implicit racism also here and here.)  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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It’s time to cancel this year’s Olympic Games
The risk to the world, not just Japan, of a super-spreading event in Tokyo this summer is too great
Richard Lloyd Parry
Wednesday March 03 2021, 12.01am GMT, The Times London, courtesy of RW
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/its-time-to-cancel-the-2021-olympic-games-3pb6sq9w9

All but the most fanatical music lovers would accept that, this summer at least, Glastonbury had to go. For the second year in a row the 50-year-old festival has been cancelled because of the pandemic. The disappointment is hard to overestimate: for plenty of people, Glastonbury should have been a moment of release after months of demoralising lockdown. But, as Sir Paul McCartney observed, “a hundred thousand people closely packed together with flags and no masks. Talk about super-spreader.”

Similar feelings of frustration, sadness and resignation are being experienced over cultural and sporting experiences around the world, from closed theatres and cinemas to empty football stadiums to the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not that anyone personally objects to gardening enthusiasts but as a matter of common sense, and for the good of all of us, this is not the time for 157,000 of them to converge.

Consider then another international event, the grandaddy of them all. It will bring together more than 15,000 young participants from more than 200 countries plus several times that number of judges, sponsors, journalists and hangers-on. More than 11 million tickets are to be sold; tourists are supposed to pour in from across the globe.

If far smaller and shorter festivals are to be sacrificed in the interests of global public health, it seems obvious that such a massive event, spread over four weeks in the biggest city in the world, should also be cancelled. And yet officially, at least, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, postponed since last summer, are going ahead.

As Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said the other week, “I am determined to achieve the games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage around the world.”

The Olympic custodians like to talk about courage, humanity and other abstract virtues; in reality, they have more hard-headed reasons for pressing ahead regardless. The vast sums of money already spent on the games are only the most obvious, inextricably tangled up with other investments of prestige and power that make the prospect of cancelling them heart-sickening to a lot of very powerful and determined people.

Tokyo’s will be the most expensive Olympic Games ever mounted — even Japan’s government auditors put the cost at £18 billion or more, and the cost of postponement from last year has added £2 billion to that. No one seems to know, or is willing to say, how much has already been spent. But to call it off now would directly hurt some of the world’s biggest companies, including Coca-Cola, Visa and General Electric, and lead to years of legal arguments about who owes what to whom.

It would represent a withering humiliation for the Japanese government. It would be crushing to the young athletes who have spent years training for the world’s most prestigious sporting event. Money, power and glamour say that the Olympics have to go ahead whatever happens; they are the runaway train that cannot be stopped. The question of public health has been officially ruled out as a consideration. As Yoshiro Mori, the former Tokyo Olympic boss, said, “no matter what situation with the coronavirus, we will hold the games.”

This matters to people in Japan because, compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world, they have been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.

The Japanese authorities and the International Olympic Committee insist that they will do everything possible to Covid-proof the games. Details are far from clear. (More may emerge from a high-level meeting this week, but they are likely to include repeated testing of athletes who will essentially be locked down in their Olympic “village”.) Spectators, it seems, will be allowed, although it is not clear whether these will include foreign visitors.

The effect of all this will be to take the fun out of the Olympics without eliminating the risk that they will serve as a super-spreader event. It might work out, and if any country can pull off such a feat of regulation and enforcement it is Japan. But nobody can be sure. Pandemic trends may improve dramatically between now and July or there may be new surges in emerging variants of the virus that will make the Olympics a crucible of infection that will set the world back weeks or months.

There is one factor that should be decisive in all this: the views of ordinary Japanese people. About this there is no room for argument. Poll after poll has consistently shown that a majority of not only individual Japanese but even businesses oppose the holding of the games this summer.

This is not an expression of sour anti-Olympic sentiment but the reluctant acknowledgment of a grim truth. Whatever precautions the authorities take, people will sicken if the Tokyo Olympics go ahead. Some of them will die. That is not a price that anyone should be asked to pay.
ENDS

======================
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SNA VM 19: “Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance”, Feb 15, 2021, on how the former Japan Olympics Chair melded misogyny with racism — for decades!

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Hi Blog. My latest Shingetsu News Agency column recounts former Prime Minister and professional bigot Mori Yoshiro’s tenure as Japan representative, and the mystery behind Japan’s consistent waste of talent in favor of hopelessly incompetent and elitist old men. Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities 19: Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, February 15, 2021
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/02/15/visible-minorities-yoshiro-moris-overdue-comeuppance/

SNA (Tokyo) — When I started writing this month’s column, Yoshiro Mori, an 83-year-old fossil of Japanese politics, was still president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee, where he had come under fire for comments claiming that women in leadership positions “talk too much,” cluttering meetings with competitive chatter. He has since resigned, but in the wake has come much media commentary about Japan’s sexism and women’s disenfranchisement.

Photos appeared showing meetings of top-level Japan business organizations (such as Keidanren) that look like old-boy clubs. Pundits noted that Japan has slipped in the World Economic Forum’s gender-empowerment index to 121st place out of 153 countries measured (the lowest amongst the developed countries, behind China, Zimbabwe, Brunei, and Myanmar). And my favorite: Japan idiotically sending a man (Kono Taro) to the world’s first meeting of women foreign ministers in 2018.

All this has occurred despite former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-touted policy of unlocking the women workforce as the “greatest potential for the growth of the Japanese economy.” He would create “a society in which women can shine.” Mori’s sexist comments make clear that hasn’t happened.

So let’s focus on what Mori himself represented: the worst of Japan’s politics, melding misogyny with racism…
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Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/02/15/visible-minorities-yoshiro-moris-overdue-comeuppance/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column’s point is this: Even after political leadership has finally shed Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government has found new ways to discriminate against foreign residents of Japan. This is no accident, as NJ were in no way protected, considered, or involved in this policymaking that profoundly affects them.  Soon, any foreign resident of Japan may be under threat of immediate deportation. Excerpt follows, full article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/01/18/visible-minorities-latest-visa-rules-could-purge-any-foreigner/  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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“Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner”

Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 18, January 18, 2021

[…] New year, new salvo of foreigner bashing: Last week, the Suga administration unveiled re-entry rules that permit non-Japanese residents to re-enter the same as Japanese, as long as they completed the same paperwork and fourteen-day quarantine.

Good, but here’s the wrinkle: If you are found in violation of any quarantine regulations, you don’t just get in trouble like Japanese by, err, having your name made public. You may lose your visa status and get deported from the country. You read that right.

This policy was in reaction to the discovery of the United Kingdom mutation of Covid within Japan this month. But like most policy created in times of shock, it has hasty assumptions: that a foreign variant meant that foreigners were somehow responsible. In fact, the Patient Zeroes who came back from England and went out partying instead of quarantining were Japanese.

This new policy is ironic. In addition to the past year of Japanese media blaming foreigners for creating “foreign clusters,” it also ignores the lazy government response to Covid. Nobody at the national level wanted to take the responsibility for declaring a blanket state of emergency. But since infections have now reached record numbers, here comes the crackdown—and once again foreigners are being disproportionately targeted.

Granted, the government is now threatening to mete out jail time and fines for Japanese who don’t cooperate with measures to reduce Covid’s spread. This has occasioned the perfunctory hand-wringing about the effectiveness of punishment in curbing infections and “infringing too much on personal freedoms” for Japanese. I see that as part of the healthy give-and-take of political debate, to make sure things don’t go too far. But where is the parallel debate about the “freedoms” of non-Japanese residents who are receiving unequal treatment under the law?

A Japanese getting a fine or a spell in the clink is one thing, but it’s incomparable to a foreigner losing their legal status gleaned after years or decades of residency, followed by deportation and permanent separation from their lives, livelihoods, and families in Japan.

We know that one of the reasons Covid became a pandemic is because of asymptomatic transmission. So what if a person who doesn’t know they’re sick and hasn’t left the country gets linked to a cluster by contact tracing? If that somebody happens to be a foreigner, his or her life in Japan may well be over…

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/01/18/visible-minorities-latest-visa-rules-could-purge-any-foreigner/
======================
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My Japan Times JBC 119: Top 5 Human Rights Issues of 2020: “A Watershed Year for Japan’s Foreign Residents” (Dec. 31, 2020)

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======================
Hi Blog.  Happy New Year!  As has happened at the Japan Times for more than a decade, here is my annual countdown of the top human rights issues for the past year in terms of their impact on NJ Residents in Japan.

I usually do a Top Ten, but since I only had 1000 words this year, it became a Top Five with a few “bubble unders” snuck in.  Enjoy!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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justbecauseicon.jpg

2020 was a watershed year for Japan’s foreign residents
By Debito Arudou, The Japan Times, Just Be Cause, Dec 31, 2020

“May you live in interesting times,” goes the famous curse. By that standard, 2020 was captivating. One thing affected everyone worldwide: COVID-19. And in Japan, our international community was hit particularly hard by public policy regarding its containment.

There were many other issues worth mentioning, however. For example, the Education Ministry announced an increased budget for language support in schools for non-Japanese children next year — a promising sign. However, Japan’s continued mistreatment of those kept in immigration detention centers, and an officially acknowledged incident of “hate speech” in Kitakyushu that went unpunished, were also steps backward from the goal of an inclusionary society.

We don’t have space for them all, so below are the top five issues I feel were of greatest impact to Japan’s non-Japanese residents in 2020, in ascending order.

5) Black Lives Matter in Japan…

Read the rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/12/31/issues/japan-2020-foreign-resident-issues/

/////////////////////////////////////////

The issues that bubbled under (with links to sources):

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 17: NIKE JAPAN Advertisement on Japan’s Visible Minorities does some good (Dec 21, 2020)

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Hi Blog. As promised in a previous blog entry, I would be giving my opinion on a recent advertisement from Nike Japan that got a lot of attention. We’ve already debated the ad itself on Debito.org here. Thanks for your feedback. Now here’s my take, as part of my latest Shingetsu News Agency column. Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Nike Japan Does Some Good
Shingetsu News Agency, DEC 21, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/12/21/visible-minorities-nike-japan-does-some-good/

SNA (Tokyo) — Nike’s television advertisement depicting a multiethnic Japan stands out as a bright spot to close out the dreadful year of 2020.

Entitled “We Will Continue Moving: Myself and the Future,” the two-minute ad depicts a series of diverse Asian youths pensive about their lives in Japan.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G02u6sN_sRc

Some are running about and kicking soccer balls while musing about their identity and their abilities. A voiceover has them wondering if they’re “normal,” or living up to expectations. One girl, shown in closeup in a school uniform, is clearly a Japanese with African roots. Another boy, after eating a Korean meal with his family, looks up the Zainichi issue late at night on his cellphone. Tennis champ Naomi Osaka’s photo makes a fleeting appearance, with a question about whether she’s American or Japanese. A girl finds Japan’s culture of cuteness doesn’t resonate with her, and wishes she could just ignore it all. Another girl gets glares for going out in public in her Korean school uniform. After more cuts to kids practicing their sports skills, scenes follow of school crowds staring and group-bullying minorities. One lad, drawn attention to by the teacher in class as a new transfer student, feels pressure to be liked by everyone. Another isolated kid feels pressure to tolerate her ostracisation, and then the African-Japanese girl reappears, trying to ignore the other kids who are making a fuss about her kinky hair in a school bathroom. As the music swells, these kids then seek solace in sports, becoming appreciated by their peers for their talents as star athletes—to the point where one girl tapes “KIM” over her Japanese name on the back of her jersey.

The takeaway message in a final montage of voices is the treatment they’re getting is not something they should have to tolerate. They shouldn’t have to wait for a world where they can live “as is,” without concealing themselves.

Now, before I say why this advertisement is important, let’s acknowledge some caveats. One is that this is from Nike Japan, and like all corporations their motivation is to make money. It is a stunt to attract attention and sell products.

Moreover, Nike taking a high road with social justice issues is a bit ironic, given their history of child labor and sweatshops. Above all, human rights and business do not always mix well, and businesspeople are essentially opportunists. So let’s first not delude ourselves to think Nike is primarily motivated by altruism.

The other point worth mentioning is the attention that the ad got: 11 million views so far on YouTube. Naturally, internet trolls, xenophobes, and haters got triggered. Unfortunately, even responsible media (such as the AFP and BBC) gave them oxygen by reporting their overblown calls for a boycott, then fumbled the issue by getting soundbites from unqualified “experts” with no real training in Japan’s history of civil rights, social movements, or race relations issues. These rubes missed the mark by denouncing Nike Japan as a “foreign brand,” or dismissing these kids as “outside voices.”

This is worse than just lazy journalist hackery. This fumble was a missed opportunity to highlight issues that have long been ignored in Japan’s media—the existence of a growing number of visible minorities. So let’s make up for that in this column by acknowledging that Nike Japan’s ad was a big step in the right direction.

First, let’s recap how big 2020 was for minorities in Japan sports:

Rest of the article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/12/21/visible-minorities-nike-japan-does-some-good/

Read it before it goes behind a paywall on Friday.

======================
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NIKE JAPAN ads featuring Japan’s Minorities and Visible Minorities taking solace and courage from doing sports

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Hi Blog. Reader JK sent me this link to the following NIKE JAPAN advertisement for discussion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G02u6sN_sRc

Entitled “動かしつづける。自分を。未来を。” (Lit: We will continue moving. Myself. And the Future.”, which is a bit different from the official title of “The Future Isn’t Waiting”), the subject is of Japan’s school-age Minorities and Visible Minorities facing social othering in Japan, and finding solace and courage in themselves by becoming good at sports.

It’s dated November 27, 2020, and been viewed nearly 10 million times as of this writing. According to the Japan Times, it’s inspired a “fiery online response”: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/02/national/social-issues/japan-nike-ad/

The BBC adds, a bit disingenuously: “Many Japanese do not like to be told by outside voices to change their ways,” said Morley Robertson, a Japanese-American journalist. “But if a foreigner demonstrates a deep understanding of Japanese culture or Japanese rules, then those same Japanese who would otherwise take offence will gush forth with praise.”

[NB:  Morley Robertson is listed in his Japanese-only Wikipedia entry as a “タレント、DJ、ラジオパーソナリティ、ミュージシャン、ジャーナリスト、コメンテーター”. “Journalist” seems a bit of a stretch.]

Steve McGinnes, the author of Surfing the Asian wave: How to survive and thrive in the new world order, believes the advert is an “own goal”. “Endemic racism is going to be a sensitive topic in any culture. But Nike should not think, as a foreign brand, that it is appropriate for them to point it out to their hosts. “They are crudely putting a spotlight onto a subject that many feel should be off-limits to guests. It’s a huge own goal for Nike.”… “In 2020, should America or an American brand be taking the high ground on racism and telling the rest of the world what they are doing wrong?” adds Mr McGinnes. “Clearly, a lot of Japanese people think they shouldn’t.” https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55140846

Despite the pretty flawed English translation in the CC function, I think it’s worth critique by our Readers. JDG has already said: Interesting comment reported by JT:Nowadays, you often see one or two people of different nationalities going to school perfectly peacefully. The one that’s prejudiced is Nike,” wrote one user named “hira1216.” No, ‘hira1216’, those ‘one or two people’ aren’t ‘different nationalities’, they are JAPANESE! I guess hira1216 doesn’t understand what racism is, so they can’t see it, and are responsible for perpetuating it.

I’ll reserve my comment for later.  But I don’t believe this is an “own goal” for Nike.  And how self-assured can these pundits be that these are “outside voices”?  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED).

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Hi Blog.  Long-time readers of this venue know that I surrender to no-one in terms of criticizing the GOJ in its handling of NJ residents, especially in how they treat taxpaying long-term residents on par with (or even value less than) foreign tourists.

That said, an image sent to me by a number of people has been this:

Now, I’m not sure where this screenshot is coming from (Debito.org Reader MF has noted that it came from the Fuji TV network itself), but the chyron would indicate that this government panel is saying that “Foreigners have different languages and customs, so we can’t thoroughly enforce policies against the spread of [Covid] infections.”  By implication, this means that foreigners are being seen as an obstacle to the safety of Japanese society because of their differences.  This image is starting to multiply around the media sphere, for example https://www.facebook.com/memesugoi/posts/1032954460504017, which is why people are sending it to me.

However, news network FNN has a different take. Debito.org Reader JLO submitted the following video:

FNN says, at minute 1:30, “Bunkakai de wa, kurasutaa e no taiou ya, kotoba no chigai de soudan ya jushin ga okureru gaikokujin no tame ni ichigenteki na soudan madoguchi o setchi suru koto ni tsuite giron shiteimasu.”
Or (my translation):
“At this panel, they are debating about whether to set up a unified consultation center to deal with clusters and with foreigners and who face delayed medical consultations and treatments due to language differences.”  Screen capture:

#新型コロナウイルス

“第3波”感染拡大止まらず クラスター・外国人支援など協議

2,864 views Nov 11, 2020

That’s quite a different take from that other chyron!  According to FNN, this panel seems to be trying to assist, not exclude or blame.

I welcome others who find more clarifying media about this event.  Meanwhile, my point is to be careful.  Foreigners have been so perpetually offset and treated as exceptions from the regular population that this could reflexively feel like a repeat performance.  But let’s be careful that this reflex does not lead to disinformation.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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UPDATE NOV 14:

Ph.D. Candidate Anoma van der Veere has kindly tweeted out his research indicating some media sensationalism is going on here.  Access the thread beginning at https://twitter.com/anomav/status/1327117586249568256?s=21&fbclid=IwAR0gIPlDs9K6X8tH87UWEuafZDYEM9XrgLobf7LI2luRRJgnStztEdka9n4

(Courtesy of JLO).  Screen captures follow, for the record.  Debito

THREAD ENDS

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My latest SNA VM column 14: “Visible Minorities: Weaponizing the Japanese Language”, on how Foreign Minister Motegi’s discriminatory treatment of Japan Times reporter Magdalena Osumi is part of a bigger phenomenon, Sept 21, 2020

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Hi Blog. My latest Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 14 discusses how Japan weaponizes its language to require “perfect Japanese” from non-native speakers only, and when they can’t speak it perfectly, they get discriminated against. Consider this:

===================================
Visible Minorities: Weaponizing the Japanese Language
Shingetsu News Agency, SEP 21, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/09/21/visible-minorities-weaponizing-the-japanese-language/

On August 28, Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, was giving an official press conference to reporters in Japanese. A foreign reporter for Japan Times, Magdalena Osumi, asked some questions in Japanese. When Osumi followed up on a point he left unclear, Motegi responded to her in English.

Osumi then retorted in Japanese, “You needn’t treat me like I’m stupid. If we’re talking in Japanese, please answer in Japanese.” Damn right.

How many times has this happened to you? You ask a question in Japanese of a shop keep, clerk, passerby, or somebody on the other end of a telephone, and they flake out because you got some words in the wrong order, had an accent, or just have a foreign face? Many automatically assume that because you’re foreign-looking or -sounding, you must be able to speak English. So they reply in English.

Or how many times, as a budding Japanese language learner, were you told that what you just said “is not Japanese,” not “it’s not correct Japanese”? Just a flat-out denial, as if your attempt is in some alien tongue, like Klingon.

This phenomenon, where it’s either “perfect Japanese” or you get linguistically gaijinized, is odd. It’s also based upon a myth…
===================================

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/09/21/visible-minorities-weaponizing-the-japanese-language/

The video of that Motegi press conference is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdlt9n5FDUU (watch from around minute 2 onwards)

Other sources within the SNA article:

Japan Times: In case you missed it: Trump’s awkward response to a Japanese reporter:
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/08/world/politics-diplomacy-world/in-case-you-missed-it-trumps-awkward-response-to-a-japanese-reporter/ 

Mainichi: Minister under fire for questioning foreign journalist’s Japanese at press conf.
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200902/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

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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.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  A recent article in Reuters portrays Japanese-Haitian-American tennis star Osaka Naomi as “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. Article first, then my comment:

//////////////////////////////////////////

Osaka ‘a Jesse Owens of Japan’ for racial injustice stand
Reuters, September 12, 2020 By Jack Tarrant

Courtesy https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-race-japan-tennis-osaka-featur-idUSKBN2630F4

TOKYO (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka has been the dominant storyline of the 2020 U.S. Open, both for on-court performances that mean she will be playing in Saturday’s final and for her vocal support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Before each match, Osaka has worn a mask bearing the name of a different Black American in a powerful symbol of her support for the fight against racial injustice in the United States.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, may represent Japan but she lives in Los Angeles and has joined several BLM protests across the country this year.

Although her focus has been on racial injustice over the last few months, the 23-year-old has long been a symbol for change in Japan.

Osaka is one of the country’s most recognised personalities and has become the face of a changing Japan coming to terms with challenges to its self-image as a racially homogenous society.

Baye McNeil, a prominent Japan-based African-American author and activist, sees Osaka as the next in a line of great Black athlete activists such as boxer Muhammad Ali and sprinter Jesse Owens.

“Muhammad Ali… put his career on the line in order to protest things that he thought were unjust or just wrong. And I think Naomi is on that path,” McNeil told Reuters from Yokohama.

“She is joining a community that has a history, has a legacy, going all the way back beyond Jesse Owens. In fact, what she is doing is very in line with Jesse Owens. Not necessarily for her impact on America but on Japan.

“I kind of think of her as a Jesse Owens of Japan.”

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

McNeil, who moved to Japan 16 years ago, believes Osaka and other biracial athletes like basketball player Rui Hachimura and Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish can be catalysts for change just by competing.

“It doesn’t even require them to say anything, you just look at them and say ‘Oh my God, this is a Black woman representing Japan,’” he said.

“This is something Japan has never faced before and I am not sure how exactly they are going to resolve this, or how they are going to modify the narrative, but some modification is required.”

Jaime Smith, who helped organise June’s BLM protest in Tokyo, thinks many Japanese people do not see Osaka’s activism as relating to their own country.

“They see it from the viewpoint that she is a Black American woman, even though she’s half Japanese, and she is speaking out about an American problem, so I still think there’s some wilful ignorance there,” Smith told Reuters.

“That’s … the kind of mindset we are trying to change.”

Smith, who moved from the U.S. to Japan three years ago, sees Osaka as the perfect person to push through this change.

“She is at a point where she is huge worldwide and people can’t help but listen to her,” she said.

“I think this is the perfect time to do what she is doing.”

JAPANESE SPONSORS

Following her 2018 U.S. Open triumph, Osaka attracted a large number of sponsors, many of them big Japanese brands, and became the world’s highest paid female athlete, according to Forbes.

These sponsors have not always been supportive of Osaka’s campaigning against racial injustice, however.

A report in Japanese newspaper Mainichi on Friday [see below] cited unnamed sources at one of her sponsors as criticising her BLM stance, saying they would prefer her to concentrate on tennis.

If some in Japan are struggling to come to terms with Osaka’s activism, this was not apparent at Tokyo’s Godai tennis club on Saturday morning.

“With the face masks, I perceive a kind of determination that she is facing her matches with these thoughts,” said Chika Hyodo.

“I think she is trying to fulfil the role she was given as an athlete and I feel awesome about it. I support her.”

Osaka was a hot topic of conversation at the club as the younger members had their weekly lessons and there was no sign that her activism was having any impact on her popularity.

“She is a Japanese, strong female tennis player,” said 10-year-old Ai Uemura.

“I think it’s great that she entertains people.”
ENDS
///////////////////////////////////

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: What a way to end an article: With an interview with a ten-year-old and some unqualified stranger at some tennis club, as somehow representative of “Japan’s reaction”. That’s some lazy research and poor social science there, Reuters.

Now, as far as Osaka’s activism is concerned, I support the fact that she is bringing to light racial injustice, and is willing to take a stand in public to do so.

However, remember that 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 herself 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 (as long as she keeps winning) if she so chooses.

It’s still unclear she will ever choose to. The last big opportunity she had, when her sponsor Nissin “whitewashed” her in one of their ads, she declined to make an issue of. (Imagine the reaction, however, if an American advertiser had done something so stupid.) That’s an enormous disappointment, but indicative of her priorities. And a bit ironic in light of how Japanese society treated her multiethnic family.

Finally, comparisons with Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali? I’ll let others who are more qualified to shape that narrative speak more to that. But just consider Jesse Owens’ history: a person who protested the segregation and lack of sponsorship he received in his home country of America (to the point of repeatedly, and poignantly, pointing out that Hitler acknowledged his achievements more than President Roosevelt did).  However, his legacy has been portrayed more in my history books as a counternarrative to White Supremacism in Nazi Germany. That in itself, of course, is very welcome, but it’s not quite the whole story.

As for Muhammad Ali, there’s a lot to unpack there because he did so much, but remember that he was suspended from boxing during the best years of his career for protesting the Vietnam War and refusing to be drafted. Again, protesting racial injustice in his country of sponsorship. That’s real sacrifice and heroism.

My point is that the more one tries to apply their cases to Osaka’s case, the more inapt the comparisons become. Being in a position of “it doesn’t even require them to say anything” is not what happened in either Owens’ or Ali’s case.  Especially when you consider that Owens’ and Ali’s protests were more directed towards their country of sponsorship. That’s not what Osaka is doing here.

Again, I praise Osaka Naomi for taking a public stance against racism in the United States. But let’s keep things in perspective, and not let praise become unqualified gush.

And let me suggest she speak out on behalf of her fellow Visible Minorities in Japan too.  Not just dismiss racism in Japan as an issue of “a few bad apples” (which can be — and has been — applied to any society as an excuse for racist behavior). Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

//////////////////////////////////////

The Mainichi article cited by Reuters above:

Japanese sponsors of tennis star Naomi Osaka not 100% on board with anti-racism actions
September 11, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200911/p2a/00m/0na/023000c

TOKYO — The anti-racism stance taken by tennis player Naomi Osaka on the courts of the U.S. Open has drawn widespread attention from the public and elicited differing responses from her sponsors in Japan and elsewhere.

Starting with her first match, Osaka entered the court wearing a black mask with the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed at the hands of police, on it as a call for an end to racial discrimination.

“I don’t think she needed to do that while she’s fighting her way to the top. If possible, we’d like her to attract more attention with her tennis skills,” said a source linked to a Japanese corporate sponsor of Osaka’s. “She’s taken on a leadership role as a Black person, and what she’s doing is great as a human being, but whether that will help raise the value of a corporate brand is another thing. There hasn’t been any impact in particular, but it’s not something we’re openly happy about.”

Another source linked to a different Japanese corporate sponsor said, “I think it’s wrong to bring the issue of racial discrimination and her trade, tennis, together.”

Meanwhile, one of her other sponsors, an American corporation, has reacted very differently. A person involved with the company said that in the U.S., it’s riskier not to say you take a stand against racial discrimination, because if you don’t say anything, you could be seen as being accepting it. They said that there are a lot of companies that uphold diversity and inclusion and also agree to help stop discrimination as part of their corporate principles.

After Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in late August, NBA teams boycotted games in protest of the incident, and MLB games were postponed due to players refusing to play. Naomi Osaka announced she was withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open semifinals — a qualifier for the U.S. Open — in protest. Soon thereafter, the tournament decided to postpone the match by a day in solidarity with the protesters, and Osaka decided she would play the next day, sending a strong message to the world.

In the NBA, where the majority of players are Black, actions taken to demand an end to racial discrimination are not uncommon. An official from a management company that has a contract with a Black NBA player explained that the top athletes have the strongest awareness that they must take the initiative to act as a representative of the Black community. And Black children, they said, dream of getting into the NBA, watching those top-tier athletes.

There are some compromises that Osaka, who was born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, and grew up in the U.S. since she was three, is not willing to make.

“If I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” she wrote in her now-famous tweet.

Osaka arrived at the U.S. Open with seven masks, one for each round of the tournament, and each emblazoned with the name of a Black person who had been a victim of police violence. She’s worn six now.

What drives Osaka is her hope that people will get to know the victims better, and do what she can to prevent younger people from suffering from racial injustice.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

Japanese Version
なおみの人種差別抗議に国内外で温度差 スポンサーの微妙な事情
毎日新聞2020年9月11日 (excerpt)
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200910/k00/00m/050/300000c
テニスの全米オープン女子シングルスで、人種差別への抗議を続ける大坂なおみ(22)=日清食品=の行動が、大きな反響を呼んでいる。1回戦から黒人差別による被害者の名前が書かれた黒いマスクをつけてコートに入場し、差別撤廃へのメッセージを発信しているが、大坂を支援する国内外のスポンサー企業では受け止め方に温度差がある。その事情とは?【浅妻博之】

「上まで勝ち上がっている時にやらなくてもね。できればテニスのプレーでもっと目立ってほしいんですけど……」。そう話すのは大坂を支援する日本企業の関係者だ。「黒人代表としてリーダーシップをとって、人間的にも素晴らしい行為だとは思うが、それで企業のブランド価値が上がるかといえば別問題。特に影響があるわけではないが、手放しでは喜べない」と複雑な心境を打ち明けた。また別のスポンサー企業関係者からは「人種差別の問題と本業のテニスを一緒にするのは違うのでは」との声も聞こえてきた。

一方でスポンサーの一つである米国系企業の反応は違う。この…
Full article at https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200910/k00/00m/050/300000c

======================
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“A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 12 on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020

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Visible Minorities Column 12: A Despotic Bridge Too Far
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, July 20, 2020

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/07/20/visible-minorities-a-despotic-bridge-too-far/

SNA (Tokyo) — How bad does it have to get? I’m talking about Japan’s cruelty and meanness towards its Non-Japanese residents. How bad before people think to step in and stop it?

I think we now have an answer to that due to Japan’s recent policy excluding only foreigners from re-entry at its border, even if they’ve lived here for decades, as a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese re-entrants get let in after testing and quarantine; no other G7 country excludes all foreigners only.

Consequently, many Non-Japanese residents found themselves stranded overseas, separated from their Japanese families, lives and livelihoods, watching their investments dry up and visa clocks run out without recourse. Or perhaps found themselves stranded within Japan, as family members abroad died, and the prospect of attending their funeral or taking care of personal matters in person would mean exile.

However, protests against this policy have been unusually mainstream, including institutions who have been for generations largely silent regarding other forms of discrimination towards foreigners in Japan. Consider these examples of how institutionalized and embedded racism is in Japan:

You’re probably aware that Japan has long advertised itself as a “monocultural, homogeneous society,” denying that minorities, racial or ethnic, exist within it. But did you know that Japan still refuses to include Non-Japanese residents as “people” in its official population tallies? Or to list them on official family registries as “spouses” of Japanese? Or that Japan’s constitution expressly reserves equality under the law for Japanese citizens (kokumin) in its Japanese translation? This complicates things for all Non-Japanese residents to this day.

Consider how Japan’s law enforcement system still willfully targets “foreigners” for special treatment and racial profiling, encouraged by a system of registration and random street identity checks that apply to Non-Japanese residents only.

With prosecutorial presumptions of guilt and lack of human rights for foreigners, more have been incarcerated as a percentage of the population than Japanese. That is what you get when a criminal justice system has a separate track for detention, incarceration, interrogation, and jurisprudence against foreigners, one so rigged that even a foreigner as powerful as former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, despite a weak case against him, couldn’t buy, bully, or lawyer his way out of.

Then we get to Japan’s mass media, which still more often portrays “foreigners” at best as quirky outsiders and guests, at worst as terrorists, criminals, and vectors of disease. That’s before we get to the random expressions of racism and “othering” that are rife and largely unproblematized in Japan. Rarely does mainstream media salute Non-Japanese residents for their contributions to Japanese society, even as taxpayers.

Yet Japan still wants people to come work on temporary revolving-door visas, including so-called “trainees” hired without any labor rights. But when Non-Japanese residents stick it out and devote their lives to Japan, they get little encouragement to stay on permanently, naturalize, or otherwise become “Japanese.” The general expectation remains that foreigners are in Japan for a period of time to profiteer before they “go home.”

This happens despite foreigners being consigned to jobs on the margins of society, such as menial workers, entertainers, non-executive bureaucrats, healthcare workers, small-time businesspeople, and non-tenured educators. Where are the Non-Japanese licensed professionals in more influential fields like doctors or lawyers?

A handful of foreigners get promoted with great fanfare, but they remain statistical asterisks, not mainstream influencers. Positions of real power are reserved for Real Japanese, and foreigners are second-class subordinates. If not, suddenly it’s Nippon ja nai mitai (Japan is not the Japan we know). Quite.

So back to the opening question: Even with all this, how bad does it have to get before the mainstream begins to cry discrimination? The answer: Covid-19 bad.

Thanks to the re-entry ban last April, many Non-Japanese residents found themselves stranded overseas, separated from their Japanese families, lives and livelihoods, watching their investments dry up and visa clocks run out without recourse. Or perhaps found themselves stranded within Japan, as family members abroad died, and the prospect of attending their funeral or taking care of personal matters in person would mean exile.

Granted, the US government recently tried something similar when, on July 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement unilaterally decided that all foreign students taking online classes only would have their student visas cancelled.

That lasted about a week. Prominent universities (such as Harvard and MIT), organizations of higher education, corporations, and individual state governments cried foul or filed lawsuits to moot this move. It worked. Even for a Trump administration this bigoted, the policy was dropped on July 14.

So who similarly advocates on behalf of foreigners in Japan, besides the usual activist groups and human rights agencies who get routinely ignored? It’s hard to imagine a Japanese university filing a lawsuit against the government.

This time, however, Japan’s mainstream media did speak up. For example, the Asahi Shinbun on June 8 ran an editorial calling the current policy “unreasonable” and “discriminatory.”

The Japan Association of National Universities, representing Japan’s flagship educational institutions like Tokyo University, also stepped in. It recently petitioned the Ministry of Education to promptly allow both old and new students and researchers to enter their universities after proper quarantines, and to resume issuing visas.

And in a blistering critique, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan issued public statements for Japan to repeal the policy. This is quite a step, since the ACCJ in my experience cares more about unperturbed access to Japanese markets than messy issues of human rights. The ACCJ’s words are worth quoting at length:

Foreign nationals actively and positively contribute to Japan’s economy and society, and do not pose any greater risk than Japanese citizens re-entering Japan. The ACCJ statement expresses concern among our international business community that the prohibition currently in place is detrimental to Japan’s long-term interests… Such individuals, especially those with permanent residency (eijuken) and their accompanying family members or those who are immediate family members of Japanese nationals, and those with long-term working visas and their accompanying family members, need to be allowed to enter Japan under the same conditions as Japanese citizens to continue living and working in this country. Such foreign nationals are actively and positively contributing to Japan’s economy and society, and do not pose any greater risk than Japanese citizens re-entering Japan… At minimum, Japan should adopt the approach of other G7 countries to allow foreigners with established residency status and their immediate family members to depart and enter the country on the same basis as Japanese nationals.

So what was the tipping point? Perhaps it was when the Japanese government broke its own rules by unilaterally revoking the status of its lawful permanent residents; when it showed the world that it cares naught for the people it even grants permanent status to. Even with all the institutionalized discrimination for generations, a move this despotic shows just how much of an outlier Japan is among developed nations.

This might even be a bellwether. In recent years, we’ve seen a move towards authoritarianism in the world’s developed liberal democracies. As I have argued elsewhere, this systemic intolerance has its roots in Japan, which to overseas xenophobes represents a model ethnostate. Ethnic cleansers have in fact been copying many of Japan’s strategies and policies.

But even when an outlier like Japan, with a society so deferential to power and profoundly oblivious towards the treatment of its minorities, is seen to have gone too far, perhaps authoritarianism has finally crested.

We might be seeing the pendulum swinging back towards liberalism at last. It’s just a shame it had to go this far before it did.

======================
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American Chamber of Commerce in Japan calls on J govt to cease “double standard restricting [Foreign Japan Residents’] travel, economic, and familial opportunities based on nationality” in Coronavirus policy

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Hi Blog.  Now the ACCJ has spoken out against the Japanese government’s coronavirus policy treatment of NJ Residents that you see nowhere else in fellow developed countries.

As Debito.org concurs with a resounding cheer (as it’s what we’ve been saying all along), the ACCJ notes in its second statement:

“Such individuals, especially those with permanent residency (eijuken) and their accompanying family members or those who are immediate family members of Japanese nationals, and those with long-term working visas and their accompanying family members, need to be allowed to enter Japan under the same conditions as Japanese citizens to continue living and working in this country. Such foreign nationals are actively and positively contributing to Japan’s economy and society, and do not pose any greater risk than Japanese citizens re-entering Japan… At minimum, Japan should adopt the approach of other G7 countries to allow foreigners with established residency status and their immediate family members to depart and enter the country on the same basis as Japanese nationals.”

Bravo.  This is in addition to the recent Japan Association of National Universities’ similar call on behalf of international students.  Courtesy of TJL.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

////////////////////////////////////////

THE AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN JAPAN CALLS ON GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN FOR EQUAL TREATMENT OF ALL RESIDENTS

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5eb491d611335c743fef24ce/t/5f0c1ed4aee1c9281ab07fc0/1594629845288/200713+PR_English.pdf

JULY 13, 2020 [TOKYO] – The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) today issued a second statement [included below] in response to re-entry travel restrictions placed on residents of Japan who are not Japanese citizens and called on the Government of Japan to provide fair and equal treatment for all residents regardless of nationality.

“Foreign residents of Japan who have made a decision to build a life here and contribute to the Japanese economy should not be subject to a double standard restricting their travel, economic, and familial opportunities based on nationality,” said Christopher J. LaFleur, ACCJ Chairman. “While we applaud and support the Japanese government’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis, a resident’s nationality provides no basis on which to assess risk or assign travel privilege in relation to COVID-19.”

Foreign nationals actively and positively contribute to Japan’s economy and society, and do not pose any greater risk than Japanese citizens re-entering Japan.

The ACCJ statement expresses concern among our international business community that the prohibition currently in place is detrimental to Japan’s long-term interests, in particular as to Japan’s attractiveness as a place to invest and station managerial employees with regional responsibility.

The ACCJ requests that the Japanese Government establish a re-entry permit or process whereby travelers entering Japan under the ‘humanitarian’ exception can receive an assurance that they will be admitted to Japan before they board flights outside of Japan.

The ACCJ also requests that any measures taken to permit Japanese nationals to travel for business, or, in the future, travel for other purposes, also apply equally to foreign nationals with proper permanent residency as well as their spouses and children, foreign nationals who are spouses or children of Japanese nationals, long- term visa holders and their accompanying family members, and foreign nationals residing in Japan under a Japanese working visa.

Finally, the ACCJ would like to see the Japanese government announce clear timelines for the resumption of travel and implement clear policies with the minimum documentation necessary. This will enable those properly desiring to return to Japan to make plans free of anxiety and continue their contributions to Japan’s economy, society, and international relations.  ENDS

About ACCJ

page2image3443582304

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) was established in 1948 by representatives of 40 American companies. Over its 72-year history, the ACCJ has positioned itself as one of the most influential business organizations in Japan. The ACCJ has approximately 3,000 members who together represent over 600 globally minded companies with offices in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. Working closely with the U.S. and Japanese governments, business organizations and others, the ACCJ engages in activities that advance its mission of further developing commerce between the U.S. and Japan, promoting the interests of U.S. companies and members, and improving the international business environment in Japan including the commitment to demonstrating responsible corporate citizenship. The ACCJ’s more than 60 committees represent a variety of industries and make policy recommendations through advocacy tools such as viewpoints, public comments, and white papers. The ACCJ holds on average 500 events and seminars a year, many of which focus on government policy and economic trends. The ACCJ is also committed to promoting charitable and CSR activities.

PRESS CONTACT: ACCJ Communications (comms@accj.or.jp)

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FULL ACCJ STATEMENT

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5eb491d611335c743fef24ce/t/5f0433e6e9c21e3821625bca/1594110951359/200707+Second+Statement+on+re-entry+travel+restrictions.pdf

July 7, 2020

Second Statement on Re-entry Restrictions Placed on Permanent Resident and Visa Holders

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) expresses our concerns regarding Japan’s immigration authorities’ limitations on the entry of non-Japanese nationals residing in Japan during the COVID-19 crisis.

The ACCJ understands and supports Japan’s efforts to protect itself from further spread of the virus, including Japan’s decision to enforce a mandatory 14-day quarantine on those returning to Japan from countries where the risk is greatest. We also recognize the progress in clarifying the conditions and criteria for, and the process under which, foreign residents of Japan may receive permission to re-enter Japan for humanitarian reasons.

We are concerned, however, that the prohibition currently in place on the entry into Japan of foreign nationals who have a permanent abode, family, and work base in Japan is detrimental to Japan’s long-term interests, in particular as to Japan’s attractiveness as a place to invest and station managerial employees with regional responsibility.

Such individuals, especially those with permanent residency (eijuken) and their accompanying family members or those who are immediate family members of Japanese nationals, and those with long-term working visas and their accompanying family members, need to be allowed to enter Japan under the same conditions as Japanese citizens to continue living and working in this country. Such foreign nationals are actively and positively contributing to Japan’s economy and society, and do not pose any greater risk than Japanese citizens re-entering Japan.

We would also note that through the payment of local and national taxes, the consumption of goods and services from the local economy, and the support for companies both local and international, Japan’s foreign residents and workers play an important role in ensuring Japan’s economic growth and good relations with global partners. Their contributions will be all the more important as Japan looks to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful that the Government of Japan treated the foreign community in Japan on an equal basis by designating duly registered foreign residents as eligible for the recent COVID-19 stimulus payment.

More immediately, we respectfully request that the Japanese Government establish a process whereby travelers entering Japan under the ‘humanitarian’ exception can receive an assurance that they will be admitted to Japan before they board flights outside of Japan. This is because airlines are generally obligated to return, at their own expense, travelers rejected entry to a country. For this reason, we understand that many airlines are refusing to board any non-Japanese nationals on flights to Japan because of the regulatory uncertainty. This process could be notionally similar to the current re-entry permit application system, and it could be thought of as a “coronavirus re-entry permit” granted at the time the traveler leaves Japan or by special application to a designated Japanese Embassy, Consulate or other designated entity.

We respectfully request that, as the government’s Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters considers which further steps it might take to ease restrictions on travel and measures taken to permit Japanese nationals to travel for business, or, in the future, travel for other purposes, any decisions also apply equally to foreign nationals with proper permanent residency as well as their spouses and children, foreign nationals who are spouses or children of Japanese nationals, long-term visa holders and their accompanying family members, and foreign nationals residing in Japan under a Japanese working visa. At minimum, Japan should adopt the approach of other G7 countries to allow foreigners with established residency status and their immediate family members to depart and enter the country on the same basis as Japanese nationals. In the event that is not done, any guidance provided should be based on objective standards and any advance clearance provided should be in writing and should be recognized as an official approval at the point of entry into Japan.

We hope that the Japanese government will announce clear timelines for the resumption of travel and implement clear policies with the minimum documentation necessary. This will enable those properly desiring to return to Japan to make plans free of anxiety and continue contributing to Japan’s economy, society, and international relations.

We respectfully request that the Japanese government considers these concerns and suggestions as critical work continues to protect Japan from the effects of the pandemic and encourage its recovery. ENDS

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NHK TV’s racist video explaining Black Lives Matter for a children’s news program: Why their excuse of “not enough consideration made at broadcast” is BS

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Hi Blog.  A couple of weeks ago, we covered on Debito.org a flap about TV network NHK (“the BBC of Japan“) broadcasting a racialized anime to Japanese kids explaining the Black Lives Matter movement in America.  It portrayed African-Americans as scary, angry, thieving, sinewy stomping and guitar-strumming urban folk.  With a few more stereotypes thrown in.  (And note that there wasn’t even a mention of George Floyd.)

Here is the video in question, with translation version afterwards:

With translation:

According to the Mainichi,

==========================

On June 9, NHK apologized for the video, saying, “There was not enough consideration made at broadcast, and we apologize to those who have been offended by it.” The program was removed from its online streaming services, and the tweet sharing the video also deleted.

Regarding its response, [a letter submitted by academics in Japan and the United States to NHK on June 12] says NHK has not clearly elucidated what was problematic about the program, and criticized the broadcaster strongly for “trivializing the matter as a case of viewer interpretation.” It went on to ask that NHK clarify both its understanding on the issue and the events that led to the problematic content being broadcast and tweeted.

==========================

The reason why NHK hasn’t made that clear is because they’re lying about “not giving enough consideration made at broadcast”.  In fact, NHK hired this production crew BECAUSE they are famous for creating these outlandish videos.

They’re the same people who did sequences for legendary TV show “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin” some decades ago.  (More on this here, page down.)

Consider the similarity in style between the above NHK sequence and this segment, as analyzed by Kirk Masden (in Japanese, but you’ll get the point from the visuals).  Courtesy of Kirk Masden:

Also witness the tone of this “Koko Ga Hen” segment from February 28, 2001.

Given that “Koko Ga Hen” routinely racialized and othered its foreign panelists for the purposes of entertainment and maintaining the constant Japanese media narrative of foreigners as scary outsiders, I aver that NHK knew exactly what it was doing when it subcontracted out to “Koko Ga Hen’s” producers.  NHK just didn’t expect to be called out on it.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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SNA Visible Minorities Column 11: Advice to Activists in Japan in general (in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Japan Movement), June 22, 2020.

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Visible Minorities: Advice to Activists in Japan
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 11, June 22, 2020
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/06/22/visible-minorities-advice-to-activists-in-japan/.

SNA (Tokyo) — Sparked by the George Floyd murder by police in America last month, street protests against official violence towards minorities and disenfranchised peoples have sprung up worldwide.

Japan has been no exception. Within recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a wider range of people are finally decrying, for example, the Japanese police’s racial profiling and violence towards visible minorities.

I’ve talked about these and other issues for years, devoting significant space both on Debito.org and in my book Embedded Racism: Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. That said, it should be noted that my position in Japan as a white male with naturalized Japanese citizenship has provided me significant privilege; in all humility I am not in the best position to offer advice to people who have the right (nay, obligation) to create their own identities, narratives, and agendas as they see best.

Nevertheless, this column would like to point out some of the pitfalls that activists may face in Japanese society, based upon my experience fighting against racial discrimination here for nearly thirty years. Please read them in the helpful spirit they are intended:

1) Remember that, in Japan, activists are seen as extremists

Japan has a long history of activism and protest. However, the historical narrative generally portrays activists (katsudouka) as radical, destructive elements (kagekiha), most famously the Japanese Red Army; the Revolutionary Communist League, National Committee (Chukakuha); the Japan Revolutionary Communist League, Revolutionary Marxist Faction (Kakumaruha); or even just labor unions like the Japan Teachers’ Union (Nikkyoso). If you’re out there protesting, you’re automatically seen by many Japanese as angry, unapproachable, and unable to be reasoned with.

Furthermore, public demonstrations are treated with undue alarm. They’re not, for example, normalized as a phase college kids go through and grow out of. In fact, youth might become unemployable if they carry on beyond college. That’s why high-profile student group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) disbanded as soon as their leaders approached the job market.

Additionally, the government has a long history of suppressing voices from the left more than the racket from rightwing conservatives and reactionaries, as seen in their regular rounds of unfettered sound trucks. It’s not an even playing field for human-rights advocates. That’s why there arguably isn’t a successful example of leftist protests ever decisively changing the course of government in Japan. (Contrast that with, say, the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s, so romanticized in Western media, which even undermined presidents overseas.)

The result is that the average person in Japan, especially your employer, will need to be convinced that what you’re doing is at all necessary, not to mention has a snowball’s chance of succeeding. Be prepared to do that.

2) Keep the debate focused on how discrimination affects everyone in Japan

One problem with protests for equal rights for “foreigners” is an assumption that the problem must be exogenous. It runs deeper than the sentiments of a) “foreigners are only ‘guests’ here, so they shouldn’t be rude to their ‘hosts’ by protesting,” or b) “if only you weren’t here disrupting our homogeneous society, your problem would just go away.” It’s again a problem with narrative.

Discrimination, particularly “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu), is generally taught in Japanese schools as something other countries do towards people with different skin color, notably US Segregation and South African Apartheid. Thanks to the daily mantras about our alleged monocultural, monoethnic “island society” closed off from the world for a zillion years, Japan generally doesn’t see how “race” could be a factor here. The logic is that homogeneous Japan has no races, therefore no “race relations” problems like other countries. The Japanese government has made precisely this argument to the United Nations.

That’s one reason why Japanese media reflexively deflects the issue into terms like “foreigner discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu), “ethnic discrimination” (minzoku sabetsu), or merely “cultural differences” (ibunka no chigai). All of these concepts miss the point that racial discrimination is in fact a longstanding domestic issue.

So refocus the issue back on the process of racialization. Reiterate at every opportunity that this is “racial discrimination,” and stress how, thanks to generations of naturalization and international marriage, there are plenty of Japanese citizens with diverse roots. Thus discrimination against “foreigners” also affects hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.

After all, Japanese society gloms onto “racial discrimination” against Japanese citizens abroad with a surprising amount of passion. So point out that it’s happening here too. And you’ll have to do it again and again, because you will have to convince a surprising number of people who refuse to believe that racism even exists in Japan.

3) Be wary of being fetishized

Remember that a certain degree of social resonance you may be feeling in your crowd is likely not the feeling of acceptance you might want; it is not equal footing with Japanese citizens. People often join in since protesting is “cool” because “foreigners are cool” or “pitiable” (kawaisou).

There is plenty of scholarly research (read Marvin D. Sterling’s Babylon East, for example) on how Japanese adopt “foreign cultures” only on a topical level, meaning without much interest in the actual mindset or experience of being a visible minority in Japan.

Collaborate with whoever shows up, of course. Just don’t get your hopes up too far. Some people who seem like supporters might only be fair-weather groupies. So don’t rely on them too much when it comes time for them to commit their names or faces in public.

4) Be ready for the long haul

Success, of course, requires not only widespread support in Japan, but also assistance from fellow Japanese human-rights activists. They are very practiced and determined, having done this sort of thing for decades. But remember: Activist groups in Japan are very cliquey. Often the barriers for entry and being accepted as “one of us” are pretty high.

Even though, at first, being seen as “pitiable” works in your favor, remember that the default attitude towards people seen as “foreigners” is “someone here only for the short-term.”

What I mean is “foreigners” are often treated like exotic birds, as something to study because you alighted on their balcony and have interesting plumage to look at. So they give you their attention for as long as you’re around. But once it seems you’ve flitted off, you’re quickly forgotten as merely a phase or a pastime. Then things reset back to the ingrained narratives of Japan as homogeneous and foreigners as temporary.

The only way you can defy that is by showing how deeply you’ve committed yourself to this issue for as long as possible, as people in those activist groups have. They’ve made this rallying cause a life mission, and they’ll expect you to as well. Otherwise, you’re just a fickle foreign hobbyist and doors slam.

Moreover, be careful of the “get in line” attitude that one (rightly) receives from other minorities in Japan (such as the Zainichi Koreans). They have been here much longer, fought much harder, and sacrificed more simply to exist in Japan. Avoid the one-upmanships over “who’s the bigger victim here?”

Instead, focus on what you all have in common: perpetual disenfranchisement, and how you have to work together to overcome that to make Japan a better place for everyone. Remember that power surrenders nothing without a fight, so dissolving into disagreeing leftist factions is precisely what the powerful want. The status quo wins by default that way.

5) Control your own narrative

Finally, don’t rely on people who aren’t in your position to understand or promote your narrative. Do it yourselves. Organize your own press conferences. Make sure that everything you release to the public and media is also in Japanese, and have some prominent public spokespeople who are minorities. It’s your voice. Don’t let even the best-intentioned interpreters and interlocutors inadvertently dilute it.

For example, last month, the people of diverse roots who spoke out fluently against the Shibuya police roughing up a Kurdish person were excellent examples of how to do it right. They were very effective in getting the message out both to print and broadcast media. More of that, please.

There you go: five pitfalls I might suggest you avoid. I hope you find them useful, even if I have a very limited understanding of what you’re going through. In any case, it’s your time and your social movement. I wish you success, and thanks for reading.  ENDS

For breaking news, follow on Twitter @ShingetsuNews

======================
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Mainichi: Japan, US academics demand NHK explain offensive BLM anime. And how about all the others (including NHK) in the past?

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Hi Blog.  Japanese TV has once again put their foot in it for racist stereotyping.  We’ve already covered here on Debito.org:

Now we see NHK (“the BBC of Japan“) commenting on Black Lives Matter in perhaps the most insensitive way possible. Submitter JK comments, then I comment:

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JK:  Hi Debito.  Looks like NHK is actually getting heat for their understanding (or lack thereof) of the world now:

Japan, US academics demand NHK explain editorial choices behind offensive BLM anime
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200613/p2a/00m/0na/011000c

June 13, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) Japanese version follows.

PHOTO CAPTION: An NHK animated explainer on Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. which was widely condemned as racist and subsequently removed by the broadcaster, is seen in this screen capture. (Mainichi)

With translation:

TOKYO — Academics in Japan and the United States submitted a letter to NHK on June 12 demanding the Japanese public broadcaster clarify why it broadcast an anime explainer of Black Lives Matter protests that was subsequently condemned as racist, and that it also outline its views on the matter and possible preventive measures.

【Related】Japan’s NHK apologizes for clip on US BLM protests after racism accusations
【Related】Black Lives Matter goes mainstream after Floyd’s death
【Related】Tennis star Naomi Osaka all-in on Black Lives Matter movement: Reuters

In their five-page letter to the NHK, the experts in U.S. studies describe the video as “including content that cannot be overlooked.” Among its 13 signatories are professor Fumiko Sakashita of Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo and professor Yasumasa Fujinaga of Japan Women’s University, also in the capital. The letter is addressed to the NHK president, as well as the heads of the international news division and the News Department. The writers say they will recruit supporters in both the U.S. and Japan.

The around 1-minute-20-second animated video that the letter discusses was originally shown on NHK news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima” (Now I Understand! The World Now) and shared on the broadcaster’s official Twitter account on June 7. It was intended as an explanation for the demonstrations that began in the U.S. after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. It features a muscular, vested black man shouting about economic inequality in the U.S., and makes no reference to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

The letter to NHK described the depiction of the man as stereotypical, saying, “He is given an excessively muscular appearance, and speaks in an emphatically coarse and violent way.” It added that in the U.S., “This stereotype has a history of being used to legitimize lynching of black people and the loss of their lives from police brutality.”

It also criticized the program itself for suggesting that one cause of violence by police toward black people is “a fear of black people,” and for offering a “completely insufficient” explanation of issues around “the historic background of police brutality, from slavery to the modern prison industrial complex.”

It then mentioned that by the time the NHK show was aired on June 7, rioting and looting had already waned, and that the mostly peaceful protests were also being joined by many white people. Referring to this, the writers said the content of both the program and the animated explainer were “not an accurate reflection of the current state of protests.”

The letter also says the program didn’t give enough consideration to anger toward systemic racism as one of the causes of the protests. It also puts forward questions as to why the content wasn’t checked internally and corrected.

On June 9, NHK apologized for the video, saying, “There was not enough consideration made at broadcast, and we apologize to those who have been offended by it.” The program was removed from its online streaming services, and the tweet sharing the video also deleted.

Regarding its response, the letter says NHK has not clearly elucidated what was problematic about the program, and criticized the broadcaster strongly for “trivializing the matter as a case of viewer interpretation.” It went on to ask that NHK clarify both its understanding on the issue and the events that led to the problematic content being broadcast and tweeted.

(Japanese original by Sumire Kunieda, Integrated Digital News Center)

黒人差別の解説動画「看過できない内容」 NHKに米国研究の学者らが検証求め る要望書
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200612/k00/00m/040/247000c

黒人差別の解説動画「看過できない内容」 NHKに米国研究の学者らが検証求める要望書

NHKがニュース番組「これでわかった!世界のいま」などで発信した米国の抗議デモに関する解説について、日米の米国研究者が12日、「看過できない内容が含まれている」として、問題認識や経緯、再発防止策を明らかにするよう求める要望書をNHKに送付した。【國枝すみれ/統合デジタル取材センター】

要望書は全5ページ。坂下史子・立命館大教授や藤永康政・日本女子大教授ら日米の大学に所属する研究者13人が呼びかけ人となり、NHKの会長、国際部部長、報道局長宛てに送付した。今後、日米で賛同者を募るという。

要望書が問題としたのは、白人警官による黒人男性暴行死事件への米国の抗議デモについてNHKが解説した6月7日の放送内容と、公式ツイッターの発信内容。番組は、デモの背景を解説するアニメ動画を放映し、ツイッターにも同じ動画を投稿していた。

要望書はこの動画について、黒人が「過度に筋肉質な外見で、乱暴で粗野な言葉づかいが強調された男性」というステレオタイプで描かれているとし、米国では「これ…

(rest behind paywall).

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NHK responded (full text available here in Japanese and here in Tokyo Weekender translation):

////////////////////////////////////////////////

“We at NHK would like to sincerely apologize for a computer animation clip posted on our Twitter account. The clip was part of a segment in the program “Kore-de-wakatta Sekai-no-ima” broadcast on Sunday, June 7th. The 26-minute segment reported that the protests in the US were triggered by the death of George Floyd after he was pinned to the ground by a white police officer. It also reported the background on how many people are angered by the case, handling of the matter by the Trump administration and criticism against it, as well as division in American society. The one-minute-21-second clip aimed to show the hardships, such as economic disparity, that many African Americans in the US suffer. However, we have decided to take the clip offline after receiving criticism from viewers that it did not correctly express the realities of the problem. We regret lacking proper consideration in carrying the clip, and apologize to everyone who was offended.” 

////////////////////////////////////////////////

DEBITO COMMENTS:  Apology not accepted.  As I said, this is well within history and character for Japanese media, and the fact that it appeared on NHK (on a children’s program, no less) makes it all the more mainstream.  It’s not even Embedded Racism.

I will note that the people that produced this anime are the same ones (in terms of inflammatory style, caricature, and even voice talent) that produced the racialized imagery used in landmark TV show “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin” some decades ago (which we also appeared in during the Otaru Onsens Case).  Witness this segment from February 28, 2001.

So in my view, for all NHK’s claims that it “lacked proper consideration”, I call BS.  They knew full well what these subcontracted segments are like.  That’s what that subcontractor has done for years.  They just expected that this would be for “domestic consumption only” and the Gaijin wouldn’t see it (because after all, “foreigners” don’t watch Japanese TV because Japanese is too hard a language for them to understand).  That’s also BS.  NHK (not to mention most of Japan’s other media) still hasn’t learned their lesson after all these decades.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
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Debito’s SNA column: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, VM9, April 20, 2020 (archived full text)

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Hi Blog. My regular monthly Visible Minorities column is out at the Shingetsu News Agency, where I talk about how Japan is reverting to exclusionary type (egged on by an unaccountable ruling elite) when dealing with minorities in pandemic times. People in Japan are generally “live and let live” and “keep calm and carry on” when it comes to treating each other. It’s Japan’s incompetent leaders (notably a self-hating haafu American-Japanese politician named Onoda Kimi) who normalize discrimination in the name of shifting blame, I’m arguing. Here’s the column’s full text, archived for the record:

////////////////////////////////

Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese
By Debito Arudou
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column, April 20, 2020

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/04/20/visible-minorities-pandemic-releases-antibodies-toward-non-japanese/

SNA (Tokyo) — Pandemics can bring out the best in people. Newton came up with theories on calculus, optics, and gravity while in quarantine. Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays, and Edvard Munch created iconic paintings in isolation. Even today, we’re seeing heroes in the health care industry, volunteers sewing and distributing basic personal protective equipment, neighbors checking up on each other, and leaders stepping up their organizational skills. When the daily normal becomes a struggle between life and death, we see what people are really made of.

In Japan, we’re seeing much of the “keep calm and carry on” mettle found in a society girded for frequent natural disasters. But that grit hasn’t trickled upward to Japan’s political elite, which has ruled largely without accountability for generations, and at times like these appears particularly out of touch.

More concerned about the economics of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics than about the safety of the general public, Japan’s policymakers haven’t conducted adequate Covid-19 testing, exercised timely or sufficient social distancing, or even tallied accurate infection statistics.

As happened in prior outbreaks, such as SARS and AIDS, leaders have deflected blame onto foreigners. First China, then outsiders in general, starting with the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship (which, despite a third of its passengers being Japanese citizens, was even excluded from Japan’s coronavirus patient tallies).

But treating outsiders like contagion has consequences: Society develops antibodies, and Japan’s already-normalized discrimination intensifies.

Consider the case of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House Diet Member from Tottori, who tweeted on April 4 that taxpaying Non-Japanese Residents should not receive the same financial support from the Japanese government as citizens. Supporting them should be the responsibility of their respective foreign countries. To her, being a registered resident and taxpayer is not enough to qualify.

Never mind that Japanese living abroad as residents and taxpayers aren’t being similarly treated. And never mind that this violates, for example, the principles behind totalization agreements, ensuring that Japanese and other nationalities can still receive a retirement pension despite straddling countries and tax homes during their working lives.

Of course, Sugita is famous for her stupid comments, including anti-LGBT statements in 2018 against government policies for “unproductive” same-sex couples because they don’t bear children. But the fact that a person like Sugita can be elected and remain in office is indicative of Japan’s pathological attitude towards minorities.

You can see how deep the pathology runs in Kimi Onoda, LDP Upper House Diet Member from Okayama. She similarly insinuated on March 30 that government subsidies should be denied Non-Japanese residents. But this is stunningly ironic because she was born in America to an American father. She even held American nationality until 2016 (when she was ratted out and gave it up), meaning she too was a foreigner in Japan.

That’s how deep Japan’s dehumanizing antibodies run — where even a self-hating haafu would effectively deny equal treatment to her own father! What immense psychological scars from childhood bullying have prompted her to deny any ties to her minority origins, and to pander for the approval of majority whim that Non-Japanese Residents belong on a separate and unequal tier in society?

Now, while sophists like Onoda might point out that there are issues of legal registration that complicate things, it’s not complicated at all. Simply put, Japan’s default mode is exclusion and minority discrimination.

It took 60 years of activist pressure before Japan allowed foreigners to be officially counted as Japan residents and family members (and to this day, foreigners are not included as spouses on family registries). The media still routinely excludes foreigners from national population tallies — as if only REAL Japanese count. And it trickles down into daily practice: Landlords, realtors, and shopkeepers at whim can refuse service to anyone who appears “foreign” with no real blowback. That’s in the best of times.

But these aren’t the best of times. In pandemic conditions, having politicians carelessly say that foreigners don’t deserve equal treatment justifies all sort of dehumanization.

For example, Japan’s inhumane official policy is that Non-Japanese, including Permanent Residents, who leave the country (even if they have to attend a funeral) won’t be let back in. Period. What’s next? Hospitals refusing entry to foreigners (which happens anyway)? Triage by nationality? Reserving ventilators for Japanese only? It all logically follows.

Pandemics can bring out the best in people. But they generally force people to decide who deserves to live. And in Japan, it’s ever clearer that, to many people in power, Non-Japanese don’t count as fellow human beings.

////////////////////////////////

======================
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Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Instead of me writing an essay, this time I’d like to hear how life during pandemic is going in Japan from you.

After all, I can talk all I like about what officialdom is up to, but in the end, we are a community, and hearing about how government policy and civil society affects Debito.org Readers is just as important.

Let me open the floor for discussion in the Comments Section by asking a few prompt questions:

1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)?  How would you gauge their effectiveness?

2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet?  How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic?  Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)?  Is there any resistance to working from home?  If so, what and why?

4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of?  Any pet theories as to why?

5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic?  Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?

Again, these are just prompts.  Answer as many questions as you like.  Or tell us something else about COVID Life in Japan if you’re inspired.  And if you’re not in Japan, please tell us where you are and what’s going on around you, too (and if you can, compare it with Japan).  Of course, in all cases, be comfortably vague about your whereabouts.

Thanks.  We’re looking forward to your stories.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt

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Hi Blog.  I hope all Debito.org Readers and their loved ones are safe and well during this time of pandemic.

It’s time to talk about the politics of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how Prime Minister Abe has put Japan at risk for the sake of a sports meet.

Dr. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan has posted a salient article today about the politicking between Abe’s minions and and the International Olympic Committee, and how Abe may exploit any crisis he exacerbated for his own political benefit.  It’s very much worth a read:

=======================================

Kingston Abstract: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been widely criticized for ineptitude in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keen to host the Olympics in 2020, he put public health at risk. Strong international criticism finally forced the IOC and Abe to accept the inevitable and defer the Olympics until 2021. Now both parties are now trying to claim credit for making this decision. The Japanese policy of limiting testing kept policymakers and citizens in the dark and handicapped responses to the outbreak. As the number of infections surges, the government is playing catch up. The combination of an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in Japan and imminent global economic recession will hit Japan hard and could lead to Abe’s ouster. For now, there are growing concerns that he may exploit this crisis to advance his political agenda of constitutional revision.

Read the whole article at:

https://apjjf.org/2020/7/Kingston.html

=======================================

COMMENT:  It bears articulating here that Japan (despite a number of premature “rosy” reports bordering on the typical “Japan is unique, special, and immune to world trends“) is now probably going to see its infected cases ramp up and people die.  For much the same reason that Trump initially called the pandemic a “hoax” (buying some time for him and his buddies to sell off their stock before the market crashed), Abe forewent systemic and widespread infection testing to make sure case numbers stayed low (even excluding the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers, who were largely Japanese, from the national tally).  All because the people who have money would rather risk the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) than let any economic impacts of postponing an Olympics reduce their political power or their already-stuffed wallets.

If the rich and powerful are so concerned about the economic well-being of the people who actually man and power national economies, they should re-seed much of their money back into subsidizing the incomes of people who can’t work during lockdown (while governments should pass national policies to temporarily suspend rents, mortgages, and rents on commercial properties).  So that people can all get through this crisis faster by hunkering down in place.  Not make things worse by being forced to work, contaminating each other in clusters, getting sick all at once and dying of insufficient care after overloading hospitals.  Tycoons could also drop a few hundred million on scientific research facilities and production of various PPEs to keep our health-care professions functional on the front lines.  (I’m sure they can get along just fine with their remaining few hundred millions.)

The short-sightedness and greed of people richer than God who won’t subsidize consumers and taxpayers (who have long subsidized THEIR lives) is astonishing.  Especially since a dead consumer/taxpayer and their remaining resentful kith and kin is of no use to them either.  This should be pointed out at every opportunity.

Instead (and this where the Debito.org subject matter comes in), we have Japanese media trying to blame foreigners again.  We’ve already seen the regular knee-jerk reaction (seen in health scares ere: e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown).  Or even just portraying it as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers (including NJ residents who haven’t been abroad, but not Wajin who have).  But since we can’t blame foreign tourists anymore (world tourism has screeched to a halt), we’re now seeing regular media portraying it as a “returnee” virus (where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized).

Anything but blame the government for their political decision not embarrass or disrupt by testing widely and bringing on the lockdown. People will die for this.  Again, all for the sake of a sports meet.  Read Kingston above for more.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

======================
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BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration

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Hi Blog.  Here we have another one of those hopefulJapan is changing” articles we get from time to time (and from long ago; for example here and here and here and here).  This time from the BBC, where the reporter takes up a number of issues we’ve been dealing with for decades here on Debito.org.  Reporter Okazaki clearly starts from a tack (e.g., “there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things”), and then works backwards to find evidence to support it.

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” as 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.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Is Japan embracing diversity?
By Eri Okazaki, BBC, 24th February 2020, courtesy of FB
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200131-is-japan-embracing-diversity

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.”

Leitch went on to say, “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.” [Ed:  My, how the worm turns.]

The game wasn’t about the individual players

The home team – made up of players from South Africa, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Korea and of course Japan – whipped up a frenzy of passion throughout the country and across the world by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in the history of Japanese rugby.

PHOTO: Pieter Labuschagne, originally from South Africa, is one of several foreign-born players on Japan’s national rugby team (credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News)

The fervour surrounding the games on Japanese soil, and the success of the Japanese team, was unprecedented. But beyond sport, there was another conversation bubbling underneath the surface. About what it means to “be Japanese” in modern day Japan.

And how does this fit into Japan’s ostensibly homogenous narrative?

Who am I?

Some people in Japan still view their society as a mono-ethnic. Japan’s sense of national identity and what it means to “be Japanese” is deeply engrained.

This comes from layers of historical context; sakoku – an isolationist policy that lasted for over 200 years, which massively limited both migration and imports – as well as assertions from Japanese politicians’ over the years that they are a “homogenous society” and that the distinct nature of the country comes from being “one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race.”

PHOTO: In March every year, Japanese students attend career seminars and submit job applications as part of shūshoku katsudō (credit: Alamy)

And at first glance, it might seem like that on the surface. Take the traditional job-hunting practice of shūshoku katsudō for instance. In early April every year, thousands of university students dressed in ubiquitous black suits and carrying a briefcase can be seen traipsing the streets in search of jobs at the most reputable firms in the country. You can see why some still accuse Japan of homogeneity.

But that’s not actually the case.

Japan has several minority communities in addition to their foreign residents. The indigenous Ainu who have only been officially recognised by the Japanese government since 2019 as well as the Ryūkyūans or Okinawans. There are also the Burakumin or so-called “hamlet people” once considered the lowest caste in Japan’s now-abolished feudal.

And then there are groups who are considered to be foreigners despite being long-term residents over several generations such as the zainichi. The word simply means “living in Japan” but is most commonly used to refer to ethnic Koreans and their descendants who remained after being brought to Japan during the occupation of Korea from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945.

PHOTO:  New policies will see Japan welcoming more foreigners (credit: Alamy)

While the majority of these Koreans left Japan when the war ended, some 600,000 remained but over time, lost “imperial citizenship” that original settlers were given. The first generation were long-term residents of Japan without Japanese citizenship. As time went on, some of the next generation did apply and receive naturalisation.

In Japan, citizenship is determined by jus sanguinis or the nationality of your parents as opposed to place of birth. For that reason, Japan-born zainichi are counted as foreign residents in government figures.

With a rapidly ageing population, Japan has opened up its immigration policies to fill an acute labour shortage. In 2018 the government signed a bill to allow for hundreds of thousands of workers to come to Japan to work in specific sectors such as construction, nursing and farming.

But how will Japan deal with the changing face of its population?

Half or whole?

Japanese people of mixed heritage have long been known in Japan as hafu (meaning, half). Coined in the 1970s, some believe it’s a divisive term which on the one hand means multi-ethnicity while on the other means “not whole.” In fact, another term – daburu – meaning double began to be used in the 1990s as a way emphasising what is gained by being mixed race rather than what is missing. But in practice hafu is a more widely used term.

There have been several high-profile Japanese people of mixed race in the spotlight in recent years which has highlighted that there are still issues to be addressed.

Former Miss Japan, Ariana Miyamoto, knows first-hand the struggles of a perceived sense of “being Japanese”.

Miyamoto, 25, represented Japan at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant. She was born in Nagasaki, in southern Japan, to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. As a child growing up in Japan, she says she was bullied because of her dark skin. And when she became the first woman of mixed parentage to be chosen as Miss Japan, she was targeted by online abuse from those who claimed she “isn’t Japanese”, and “isn’t fit to represent Japan”.

PHOTO: Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto has spoken out about the racial abuse she has received (credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

But Miyamoto used her new-found fame to become a champion for others like herself, who are of mixed heritage.

And when Priyanka Yoshikawa of Japanese and Indian parents was chosen as Miss Japan for the Miss World pageant the following year, she credited her win to Miyamoto, saying she had helped show “mixed girls the way”.

And Miyamoto says things changed dramatically for her personally when Naomi Osaka won the US Tennis Open and by association, people’s attitude towards her changed completely.

It’s obvious, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious – Naomi Osaka

Japan’s leading tennis player was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and brought up in the US. Osaka is now ranked number three in the world but her success and visibility in the public eye has highlighted a perception that to “be Japanese” you must look and talk a certain way. The Japanese media often pointedly asked Osaka in post-game press conferences to “reply in Japanese” even though she is not fluent in the language.

PHOTO: Tennis player Naomi Osaka’s success has helped to change attitudes around multiculturalism in Japan (credit: Getty Images)

Japanese food company, Nissin, was also accused of “whitewashing” after it depicted Osaka with white skin and brown hair in an animated advert. Osaka responded by saying, “It’s obvious, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious.” The company, a sponsor of the Japanese tennis team apologised, saying it had meant no offence and vowed to “pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”

It was reported in October 2019 that Osaka has chosen Japanese nationality and gave up her US citizenship. Under Japanese law, those with dual citizenship must choose one before their 22nd birthday.

Osaka, for her part, is bemused by it all saying in an interview: “People start saying I’m American ’cause I live in America or I’m Haitian because my dad is Haitian, I’m Japanese ’cause my mom’s Japanese. I don’t know, I’d rather they just focus on the tennis.”

Living in harmony

Shahran Ishino first travelled from Tehran to Tokyo in 2002 as a student, and now holds Japanese citizenship. He runs a consulting firm that promotes the creation of a working environment conducive to both Japanese and foreign nationals.

Ishino believes Japan’s rugby team actually achieved a state that Japanese society has aspired to for centuries. And it was because of the team’s diversity, not in spite of it.

“The game wasn’t about the individual players,” he says, “it was about the team as a whole. That’s very Japanese. It was the very epitome of the Japanese virtue of wa (harmony).”

PHOTO: Iranian-born Shahran Ishino now works with companies to promote multi-cultural workplaces in Japan (credit: BBC)

The concept of wa could be argued as the very essence of the Japanese character. It denotes a sense that group values are more important the individual and therefore conformity to social norms is needed to achieve this state.

But Ishino takes a more nuanced view: “I believe the Japanese spirit of ‘wa’ is a truly wonderful thing. In the rugby team, the Japanese players accept the foreign players, and the foreign players are eager to do well along with their Japanese teammates. They performed well together as a team, everyone pulling together. Of course, they win or lose as the Japanese team, because that’s what they are.”

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.
ENDS
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