PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already


Hi Blog. Trace the Arc of Abe, from denial to hair-splitting to no comment to deflection to apology through his cabinet. Previous articles archived here

However, belated apologies like this (just by simple human nature, apologies tend to mean less when they come after being demanded, especially over a long duration) will have the irony of a similar debate:

Just how much “coercion” was there behind Abe’s apology? And how does this affect the sincerity of the act?

Anyway, it’s a step in the right direction (was there any other direction realistically to step?). The media from the Mainichi etc. leading up to this included below. Debito in Sapporo


Abe apologizes to sex slaves
March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a new apology Monday for the front line military brothels.

“I apologize here and now as prime minister,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, according to his spokesman Hiroshi Suzuki.

Thousands of Asian women — mostly from Korea and China — worked in the brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say the Japanese military forced them into the brothels and held them against their will.

Earlier this month, Abe denied there was any evidence the women had been coerced into sexual service, reflecting the views of conservative Japanese academics and politicians who argue the women were professional prostitutes and were paid for their services.

Abe’s denial drew intense criticism from Beijing and Seoul, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for it’s wartime invasions and atrocities.

The issue has also stirred debate in the United States, where a committee in the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution calling on Tokyo to fully acknowledge wrongdoing and make an unambiguous apology.

Abe previously said he would not apologize because Tokyo expressed its remorse in a 1993 statement on the matter by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. (AP)

March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun


Shinzo Abe’s Double Talk
He’s passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea — and blind to Japan’s own war crimes.
Washington Post, Saturday, March 24, 2007; A16

THE TOUGHEST player in the “six-party” talks on North Korea this week was not the Bush administration — which was engaged in an unseemly scramble to deliver $25 million in bank funds demanded by the regime of Kim Jong Il — but Japan. Tokyo is insisting that North Korea supply information about 17 Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by the North decades ago, refusing to discuss any improvement in relations until it receives answers. This single-note policy is portrayed as a matter of high moral principle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has used Japan’s victims — including a girl said to have been abducted when she was 13 — to rally his wilting domestic support.

Mr. Abe has a right to complain about Pyongyang’s stonewalling. What’s odd — and offensive — is his parallel campaign to roll back Japan’s acceptance of responsibility for the abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II. Responding to a pending resolution in the U.S. Congress calling for an official apology, Mr. Abe has twice this month issued statements claiming there is no documentation proving that the Japanese military participated in abducting the women. A written statement endorsed by his cabinet last week weakened a 1993 government declaration that acknowledged Japan’s brutal treatment of the so-called comfort women.

In fact the historical record on this issue is no less convincing than the evidence that North Korea kidnapped Japanese citizens, some of whom were used as teachers or translators. Historians say that up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries were enslaved and that Japanese soldiers participated in abductions. Many survivors of the system have described their horrifying experiences, including three who recently testified to Congress. That the Japanese government has never fully accepted responsibility for their suffering or paid compensation is bad enough; that Mr. Abe would retreat from previous statements is a disgrace for a leader of a major democracy.

Mr. Abe may imagine that denying direct participation by the Japanese government in abductions may strengthen its moral authority in demanding answers from North Korea. It does the opposite. If Mr. Abe seeks international support in learning the fate of Japan’s kidnapped citizens, he should straightforwardly accept responsibility for Japan’s own crimes — and apologize to the victims he has slandered.


The analogy – fair or otherwise – between the Japanese abductees and second world war ‘comfort women’ and forced labourers of other types, seems to get very little attention in the Japanese press.

However, this article in the Washington Post was reported in this morning’s Asahi Newspaper (This is an onlilne article from yesterday) which accuses the Japanese prime minister of “double talk” about abductions.

BTW todays’ printed asahi article uses “ni mai jita” (forked tongue?) as a translation for “double talk” in the original, but yesterday’s internet version of the Asahi uses “gomakashi” (fudging) as a translation of the same article.

Abe’s talk is double, it is claimed, since he takes a severe, high moral against the North Koreans for abducting Japanese, but seems to be attempting to play down the abduction of Asians as sex slaves, claiming that there is no documentary evidence for abductions by the Japanese government. I am sure that at least the North Koreans have been drawing this analogy.

Indeed one Japanese abductee – who claims not to have been abducted – visited Japan and returned to North Korea saying things like (not accurate quote but something along the lines of ) ‘you don’t understand your past at all’ to this mother before he left. The mother thought he had been indocrinated. His story was reported in a back page Asahi article but I can’t find any mention of him on the net. Does anyone know his name?

Still less attention is the analogy between the Japanese abductees and the abduction of children – at least under non-Japanese law – by Japanese parents as mentioned in the life in Japan list previously on these threads.,28171&p=1174878464 Tim

South Korean activist enters Japanese Embassy to protest World War II sex slaves
March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

PHOTO CAPTION: A South Korean protester Oh Sung-taek, left, runs away from a police officer, right, after he climbs over the walls of the Japanese Embassy compound in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women, including some Australians, were coerced into prostitution. He later said Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” The Korean read “History Distortion.” (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL — A South Korean activist scaled a wall of the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday, and staged a brief protest atop an embassy building against Japan’s denial of responsibility for forcing women to work as sex slaves during World War II.

Oh Sung-taek, a member of a vocal civic group, stomped on a Japanese flag and shouted anti-Japanese slogans for 10 minutes before he was removed by police, according to witnesses and a police officer. He wore a placard with a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that read: “Destroy History Distortion.”

Police could not immediately enter the embassy to detain Oh because they needed permission from the embassy, the officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

Oh was among 100 protesters gathered outside the embassy for a rally that has been held every Wednesday since 1992 to demand that Japan apologize and compensate World War II sex slaves — who were also called “comfort women” — for Japanese troops.

“Japan who forgets her past cannot create a peaceful future,” read a banner held by one protester.

The turnout was larger than usual because Japan recently insisted there was no evidence its military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels.

On Friday, Japan’s Cabinet issued a formal statement that no such proof existed, repeating a similar claim by Abe. The declaration was seen as a slap in the face of Asian nations already outraged over Abe’s remarks.

Historians say about 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

Japan ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony in 1910-45 before it was divided into the South and North. Many Koreans still harbor resentment toward Japan’s occupation. (AP)

March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan tries to calm furor over WWII sex slaves
March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan tried to calm an international furor Wednesday over its forcing Asian women to work in military brothels during World War II, saying the government stands by an earlier landmark apology for the practice.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered a barrage of criticism throughout Asia by saying last week there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. He said Monday Japan will not apologize again for the so-called “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers.

“The prime minister’s recent remarks are not meant to change this government’s position,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said, referring to a breakthrough 1993 apology made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

“The government continues to support the Kono statement,” Shiozaki said.

Historians say thousands of women — as many as 200,000 by some accounts — mostly from Korea, China and Japan worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s.

Documentary evidence uncovered in 1992 showed the Japanese military had a direct role in running the brothels. Victims, witnesses and even former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses. The government has also questioned the 200,000 women figure.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution demanding a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.

But on Wednesday, Shiozaki also reiterated earlier comments by Abe that the prime minister would not apologize again even if the measure passes.

“The U.S. resolution is not based on objective facts and does not take into consideration the responses that we have taken so far. Therefore, we will not offer a fresh apology,” Shiozaki said.

Abe’s recent comments about the military brothels have spurred a backlash across Asia, with critics in China, South Korea and the Philippines demanding Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing denounced the use of sex slaves as “one of the serious crimes committed by Japanese militarists during the second World War.”

Li also urged the Japanese government to “stand up to this part of history, take responsibility and seriously view and properly handle this issue.”

Shiozaki tried to downplay criticism that Japan was reneging on past apologies.

“I think we should not continue these discussions in an unconstructive manner for much longer,” Shiozaki said. “Japan’s stance is clear.”

The 1993 apology was not approved by the parliament. It came after a Japanese journalist uncovered official defense documents showing the military had a direct hand in running the brothels — a role Tokyo until that point had denied. (AP)

March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Abe says LDP to conduct fresh investigation into WWII military brothels
March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that ruling party lawmakers will conduct a fresh investigation into the Japanese military’s use of brothels during World War II.

The government is ready to cooperate with the investigation, Abe told a group of reporters, amid calls for a review from conservatives who question many of the claims by victims and others who say the government kidnapped the women and force them into sex slavery.

“I was told the party will conduct an investigation or a study, so we will provide government documents and cooperate as necessary,” he said.

Last week, Abe triggered outrage across Asia by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. On Monday he said Japan will not apologize again for the Japanese military’s “comfort stations.”

Earlier Thursday, Japan’s top government spokesman said that Japan’s position on the coercion of women into sex slavery on the front-line during WWII has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by the U.S. media, and Tokyo will soon issue a rebuttal.

Abe’s remarks came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding a formal apology from Japan for its wartime use of the women.

Japanese leaders apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the apology was not approved by the Diet. Japanese officials have said the government will not issue a fresh apology and that the issue has been blown up by the U.S. media.

“Our view is that the media reports are being made without an appropriate interpretation of the prime minister’s remarks,” chief Cabinet spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. “We are considering appropriate measures, such as putting out a rebuttal to reports or comments that are not based on facts or that are based on incorrect interpretations.”

He did not cite any specific reports.

“My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas which further invites misunderstanding,” Abe said. “This is an extremely unproductive situation,” he said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women — mostly from Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Japan — worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

Abe said Thursday that he “basically stands by the 1993 apology.” The apology, made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged government involvement in the brothels, and that some women were coerced into sexual service.

But Abe’s remarks appeared to step away from the government’s previous position.

Defense documents uncovered in 1992 showed the military had a direct role in running the brothels, a charge the government had previously denied. Victims, witnesses and former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

Abe’s comments have incensed critics in China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines who have demanded Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

The fallout from the remarks continued to build.

The coercion of women into prostitution was “one of the key, serious crimes committed by Japanese imperial soldiers,” Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

“We hope that Japan can show courage, take a responsible attitude toward history,” he said during a regular news briefing.

“This once again strips bare his true colors as a political charlatan,” North Korea’s official news agency said Wednesday. (AP)

March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan’s Cabinet says no evidence establishing coercion of ‘comfort women’
March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

The Japanese government has found no evidence that the military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels, Japan’s Cabinet said Friday.

The Cabinet presented its assessment in a response to an opposition lawmaker’s question over its stance on a 1993 apology for the government’s role in setting up brothels.

The lawmaker, Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Social Democratic Party, posted the documents on her Internet home page.

“The government has not come across anything recorded in the materials it has found that directly shows so-called ‘coercion’ on the part of the military or constituted authorities,” the document said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women, most of them Asians, worked in Japanese military brothels across the region in the 1930s and ’40s.

Japanese defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

A senior Japanese official apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the Diet did not approve the apology.

Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution.

The remark came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding that Japan formally apologize for its wartime use of women.

Abe later said that he stands by the 1993 apology, and that Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” (AP)

March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Former Japanese leader Nakasone denies setting up sex slave brothel in World War II
March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

A Japanese former prime minister and elder statesman Friday denied setting up a military brothel staffed by sex slaves during World War II, despite writing a memoir that critics say shows he did so while in the navy.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1987 and was known for his friendship with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, described the facility he set up as a place for civilian engineers to relax and play Japanese chess.

“I never had personal knowledge of the matter,” Nakasone told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan when asked about wartime sex slaves, known in Japan euphemistically as “comfort women.”

“I only knew about it from what I read in the newspaper,” he said, adding that such enslavement was “deplorable” and that he supported the Japanese government spokesman’s 1993 apology to victims.

Historians say thousands of women — most from Korea and China — worked in the frontline brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution that calls on Japan to make a full apology for the brothels, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stirred criticism earlier this month when he denied there was evidence the women were forced into service.

A Nakasone memoir published in 1978 said that members of his 3,000-man navy unit in wartime Philippines and Borneo “began attacking women, while others took to gambling.”

“At one point, I went to great pains to set up a comfort station” to keep them under control, he wrote. The essay was in an anthology of war accounts, “The Eternal Navy — Stories to Hand Down to the Younger Generation.”

In the 1990s, former Philippine sex slaves cited the memoir as further proof Nakasone was involved with enslavement, bolstering their demands that Tokyo compensate the victims. The Japanese government in 1995 set up a private fund for the women, but never offered direct government compensation.

A Nakasone spokesman in 1997 told The Associated Press that the brothel was operated by local business people and that the prostitutes worked there voluntarily and had not been forced into sexual slavery.

But on Friday, Nakasone was vague about the activities at the facility, skirting a question about whether prostitutes were active there.

“The engineers … wanted to have a facility to relax and play ‘go,’ so we simply established a place so they could have that,” Nakasone said, explaining that the men — civilian engineers — needed someplace for rest and entertainment.

Nakasone’s government, as all Japanese governments until the 1990s, denied any official involvement with the wartime brothels.

The former prime minister is known in Japan for his nationalist stance. In 1985, he was the first Japanese prime minister to visit a Tokyo war shrine after it began honoring executed war criminals. (AP)

March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun



ヤフーニュース 3月21日21時1分配信 時事通信



Aso says Japanese better diplomats due to hair and eye color


Hi Blog. More Japanese-elite social science at work. Foreign Minister Aso offers his well-thunked-out theories as to why Japanese would do better than Westerners in the Middle East diplomatically.

Wonder how much of this has to do with how well Japan gets along in parts of Asia diplomatically. Oh yeah, must be the color of Japanese eyes and hair getting in the way… Race engenders trust, you see.

Courtesy of the Mainichi, NYT/Reuters/CNN, Jerusalem Post… thanks to several people for notifying me.

Followed by an article from the FCCJ website last June talking about Aso’s lack of a lack of a past himself, and a NYT Editorial of Feb 13, 2006 demonstrating his lack of diplomatic tact. Couldn’t be due to the shape of his mouth, now could it? It might, if you follow Aso Logic. Debito.


Japan’s FM: Japan doing what US can’t

Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 22, 2007 Article%2FShowFull

Japan’s outspoken foreign minister said “blue-eyed, blond” Westerners probably would not be as successful as the Japanese in Middle East diplomacy, media reported Thursday.

Taro Aso made the remarks Wednesday during a speech in southwestern Japan, business daily Nikkei reported. National newspaper Mainichi carried a similar report.

“Japan is doing what the Americans can’t do. The Japanese are trusted. It’s probably no good with blue eyes and blond hair,” he was quoted as saying by the papers, referring to projects in Jordan River Rift Valley initiated by Japan.

“Luckily, we have yellow faces. We have no history of exploitation there or … fired a machine gun for once,” Aso said, according to the reports.

Takashi Sasaki, one of Aso’s aides, confirmed the minister gave a speech to a group of local assembly members in Nagasaki on diplomacy including Japan’s policy on Middle East, but refused to confirm the exact wording of the speech.

Japan, which wants to deepen its engagement with the Middle East, hosted a confidence-building conference in Tokyo earlier this month attended by officials from Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

The conservative minister is known for making gaffes. Aso has irked China with provocative remarks such as calling the country a military threat and attributing Taiwan’s high educational standards to Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.


Aso hints Westerners not as good as Japanese in Mideast peace initiative
The Mainichi Shinbun March 22, 2007

NAGASAKI — Foreign Minister Taro Aso caused a stir Wednesday by commenting in a speech on a Middle East peace initiative that “blue eyed, blond” Westerners would be “no good.”

Speaking during a lecture in Nagasaki Prefecture, Aso referred to a Japanese peace initiative, saying, “Japan is doing what the Americans can’t do. You can trust Japanese. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair.”

The minister added, “Fortunately, we have yellow faces. We have never at all been involved in exploitation there (in the Middle East) or been involved in fights or fired machine guns.

Aso’s comments related to projects in the Jordan Valley connected with a Japanese peace initiative. (Mainichi)
March 22, 2007

Still searching for the Japanese versions…

Japan Minister Raps “Blond” Diplomats in Mideast
Published: March 22, 2007 Filed at 8:22 a.m. ET
New York Times
Also CNN at

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) – Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can’t be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their “yellow faces,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.

“Japan is doing what Americans can’t do,” the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.

“Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it’s probably no good,” he said.

“Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.”

Foreign Ministry officials were unable to comment on the report, which said Aso elaborated by saying Japan had never exploited the Middle East, started a war there or fired a shot.

Aso, seen in some circles as a contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if the Japanese leader runs into trouble in a July election for parliament’s upper house, is known for verbal gaffes.

He offended South Korea with remarks in 2003 that were interpreted in Seoul as trying to justify some of Japan’s actions during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.

He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where “rich Jews” would want to live.

Aso said then he had not intended to be discriminatory.

Japan has long felt it has a special role to play in the Middle East because it lacks much of the political baggage of the United States, allowing for warmer ties with Arab nations.

Last week Tokyo hosted four-way talks aimed at working toward peace in the Middle East, involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories as well as Japan.

Abe’s government has been battered by a series of problematic remarks by cabinet ministers this year, including the health minister’s reference to women as “birth-giving machines” and Aso’s own description of Washington’s occupation strategy in Iraq as “immature.”



Aso amnesia
by Christopher Reed
Courtesy of the FCCJ website.

Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, has made so many embarrassing and asinine remarks, several betraying racist-colonial attitudes, that he was attacked in a New York Times editorial as “inflammatory.”

But he is connected to a much nastier ghost from Japan’s imperial past.

Unmentioned by the NYT and deliberately under-reported in the Japanese media is the story of the aristocratic Aso’s connection, through his family coalmining firm, with the cruel and degrading exploitation of thousands of Korean laborers in slave-like conditions. Indeed this scandal, together with Japan’s reluctance to confront other past atrocities, remains its primary foreign policy obstacle.

In other countries, a link with slave labor would be intolerable for an important government official. The Korean pit workers were systematically underpaid, overworked, underfed and confined in penury.

They suffered chronic ill health, frequent death from unsanitary conditions or work accidents and were under 24-hour watch by brutal police. Their release came only with Japan’s 1945 defeat. Neither the survivors nor their families have received a penny in personal reparations, despite pleas from both Koreas.

Aso, 65, cannot plead generational separation. From 1973-79, when he entered politics, he ran the family company in Fukuoka Prefecture. He did not then address its history of peonage labor nor has he since. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to my inquiries.

The Aso company changed its name more than once and in 2001 entered a joint venture with Lafarge Cement of France, with Aso’s younger brother, Yutaka, remaining president of Lafarge Aso Cement Co. In December, the French ambassador in Tokyo awarded Yutaka the Legion d’Honneur at a champagne reception.

Guests of honour were Taro Aso and his wife, Chikako.

It seemed a fitting tribute to a family steeped in Japan’s recent aristocratic traditions. The Aso line includes a noble samurai, one of five who led the 1868 overthrow of the centuries-old shogunate that ushered in the modern era.

His great grandfather, Takakichi, founded the Aso mining firm in 1872. At one time it owned eight pits in Kyushu’s rich Chikuho coal fields and was the biggest of three family corporations mining an area producing half of Japan’s “black diamonds.”

As the scion of landed gentry, Taro Aso graduated from the university that traditionally educates Japan’s imperial family, spent time at London University, joined what was then Aso Industries, and quickly became a director. Completing the aristocratic tradition, he joined the Japanese rifle shooting team in the 1976 Olympics.

A grandfather was Shigeru Yoshida, prime minister of Japan five times between 1946 and 1954, and an autocratic conservative who, conveniently for the Aso family, conducted a 1950s purge of “reds” in the coal mining unions. Aso’s wife adds to family influence as the daughter of Zenko Suzuki, prime minister from 1980–82.

There is even a royal link. Aso’s sister, Nobuko, married Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, recently in the headlines over his opposition to a woman occupying the chrysanthemum throne. Tomohito suggested continuing the male line through concubines, an imperial tradition that would move Japan back several centuries.

The Aso connection to forced labor — unmentioned in its official website history — has been catalogued by three amateur historians in Fukuoka assisted by a Korean living in Japan. The four present a shocking picture with local library references, and documented in their books.

Tokyo’s National General Mobilization Law that forced all colonial subjects to work wherever it suited Japan, was not passed until 1939, but the historians found that before then, Korean laborers were shipped to Aso Mines. Precise numbers are unknown, but it was several thousands, especially after an Aso Mine strike of 400 miners in 1932. After 1939, the historians calculate, the number of Koreans in Japan’s labor force swelled to over a million; their figure is 1,120,000. Tokyo’s official number is 724,287.

The 12,000 Aso miners were paid a third less than equivalent Japanese labourers to dig coal to fuel Japan’s war.

It amounted to ¥50 a month, but less than ¥10 after mandatory confiscations for food, clothes, housing and enforced savings that often remained unpaid. All workers toiled underground for 15 hours a day, seven days a week, with no holidays at all.

“Housing” was cramped, dirty dormitory huts with six to seven tiny rooms in each. Single men lived and slept on a single tatami mat. There was no heating or running water. Lavatories were in earthen pits. A three-metre high wooden fence topped with electrified barbed wire ringed the outside. Workers were prisoners, guarded by police.

They kept statistics, however. In March 1944, Aso Mines had a total of 7,996 Korean laborers of whom 56 had recently died. A staggering 4,919 had escaped. Across Fukuoka, total fugitives amounted to 51.3 percent but at Aso Mines it was 61.5 percent because conditions there were “even worse,” said Noriaki Fukudome, one of the historians.

Most workers suffered malnutrition with no meat or fish provided. Early last year in Seoul the government-appointed Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism began inquiries, toured 16 Korean provinces, conducted hearings, and took evidence from witnesses. Its chairman, Dr Jeon Ki-ho, also visited Japan to clarify what he boldly called its “atrocities.”

The Korean commission compiled a list of hundreds of Japanese companies that exploited forced Korean labour, and likely would have knowledge of remains of the dead. One firm prominently on the list: Aso Mines. But a spokesman said the firm could not investigate the whereabouts of remains as no records were available.

The commission continues to press for information.

As if this record was not bad enough, Aso has continued to offend Japan’s neighbors — and the world — with a series of offensive and inaccurate remarks.

Fundamentally he seems to share Japan’s racial supremacy ideology of the 1930s, encapsulated in his remark last October at a museum opening, that Japan was “one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one race, the like of which there is no other on earth.”

This ignored the presence of the indigenous Ainu in Hokkaido, and the natives of Okinawa, both of whom have their own languages, and the Ainu, different racial characteristics. But Aso-style genealogical mythology was scientifically discredited decades ago. It remains the currency only of the racist inclined.

Aso also suggested that Koreans “voluntarily” changed their names to Japanese ones, thus ignoring a Tokyo law compelling them to do so. Above all he remains a Yasukuni enthusiast, but his remark that the emperor should visit the shrine and its sanctified war criminals — he has conspicuously avoided doing so — was too much for the LDP establishment.

Aso’s blunder was belittled. But is he just a political loudmouth of the kind many nations occasionally produce? His continued presence in office suggests he may be more than this. What the New York Times’s editorial described as “inflammatory statements about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War,” runs contrary to the new Old Right version of those events.

In this scenario Japan was a pitiful victim of western imperialist aggression and the war was merely defensive. Is this now the accepted version, and is Aso merely its stalking horse? If so, the Japanese (again) embark on a self-destructive foreign policy.

The whole issue should be opened for debate, but here the media are lamentably deficient. Two Japanese media scholars, Takesato Watanabe of Doshisha University in Kyoto and Tatsuro Hanada of Tokyo University, identified the cause as the dead hand of Japan’s kisha clubs.

The closely-knit journalist specialists of the kisha clubs conspire to keep out of the news anything they think will embarrass their department, and thus make their jobs more difficult. In this they abnegate the prime requirement of the press: to report without fear or favour.

As Hanada said: “As Aso is a candidate for prime minister, his attitudes and behaviour are a political issue with the question of his qualifications an important subject that should be open to the Japanese public.” As for Aso himself, Watanabe came briskly to the point.

“He should be replaced,” he said.

Posted by Martyn Williams on Sat, 2006-07-15 22:31

That NYT Editorial:

Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister
NEW YORK TIMES Editorial: February 13, 2006
(Thanks to Gen Kanai’s weblog)

People everywhere wish they could be proud of every bit of their countries’ histories. But honest people understand that’s impossible, and wise people appreciate the positive value of acknowledging and learning from painful truths about past misdeeds. Then there is Japan’s new foreign minister, Taro Aso, who has been neither honest nor wise in the inflammatory statements he has been making about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War.

Besides offending neighboring countries that Japan needs as allies and trading partners, he is disserving the people he has been pandering to. World War II ended before most of today’s Japanese were born. Yet public discourse in Japan and modern history lessons in its schools have never properly come to terms with the country’s responsibility for such terrible events as the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement of Korean young women, the biological warfare experiments carried out on Chinese cities and helpless prisoners of war, and the sadistic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in the city of Nanjing.

That is why so many Asians have been angered by a string of appalling remarks Mr. Aso has made since being named foreign minister last fall. Two of the most recent were his suggestion that Japan’s emperor ought to visit the militaristic Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are among those honored, and his claim that Taiwan owes its high educational standards to enlightened Japanese policies during the 50-year occupation that began when Tokyo grabbed the island as war booty from China in 1895. Mr. Aso’s later lame efforts to clarify his words left their effect unchanged.

Mr. Aso has also been going out of his way to inflame Japan’s already difficult relations with Beijing by characterizing China’s long-term military buildup as a “considerable threat” to Japan. China has no recent record of threatening Japan. As the rest of the world knows, it was the other way around. Mr. Aso’s sense of diplomacy is as odd as his sense of history.

JT: Tokyo Gov. candidate Asano slams Ishihara’s NJ bashing


Hi Blog. Good news. We have a rival for Ishihara’s job who explicitly sees his foreigner bashing as a campaign issue, and is willing to offer an alternative. He’s even making our arguments! Excellent! Get out the vote if you and yours are voters in Tokyo! Debito


Asano waxes friendly, slams Ishihara’s slurs
The Japan Times March 20, 2007

Shiro Asano, a candidate in next month’s Tokyo gubernatorial election, promises that if elected, he will work to make the capital a place that is friendly to the elderly, children, disabled — and even foreigners.

At a press conference Monday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Asano criticized the incumbent, Shintaro Ishihara, for his repeated discriminatory remarks against people of different nationalities, particularly Chinese and Koreans.

“It’s a big problem that the governor of Tokyo pointed the finger at specific nationalities and (suggested) the majority of them are criminals,” said Asano, a former Miyagi governor.

“Many foreign nationals live in Tokyo because they love Japan. They also pay taxes here, and we shouldn’t ignore that,” he said. “What will be important is to come up with ways in which we can provide opportunities for them to make full use of their strength for Tokyo and Japan.”

Making remarks in both English and Japanese, Asano said he decided to run for the gubernatorial race to stimulate voter interest in politics again.

“They say there’s strong political apathy, but I don’t think it means people are not interested. It’s the result of people feeling powerless and having distrust (of) politics, and I want to change that,” he said, adding he intends to run a grassroots campaign that individuals and groups will be welcome to participate in.

Currently teaching local administration policy at Keio University, Asano said he wants more people to get involved in local politics by at least going to the polls.

“A prominent British scholar once said that ‘local administration is the school of democracy,’ so people should participate,” Asano said, adding that getting active in local politics will lead to interest in national politics.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Keidanren pushing for more foreign IT workers


Hi Blog. Excerpting from Terrie’s Take Issue 413, March 19, 2007.

All data and commentary is theirs. I’ll just add that Keidanren is displaying the typical work-unit mentality one finds in any organization only thinking of the bottom line, not the welfare of their workers. With that undercurrent, the policy will create more social problems than you think. Hasn’t Keidanren learned anything from its problematic Researcher and Trainee Visa experiments from 1990? Oh, yeah–just make the foreigner pass a language test. That’ll fix everything. Right. Debito


-> Relaxed engineer visas

The Japanese Business Federation, Keidanren, has
recommended to the government that the immigration
requirements for foreign engineers’ visas be relaxed, to
encourage a larger number of people to come work here,
particularly in IT. They suggest that engineers coming in
under the experience category be allowed in after just 4
years of relevant work experience, versus the current 10
years. But before you think that Keidanren is going soft,
they are also looking at recommending Japanese-language
requirements on future worker intakes, to alleviate
problems typically associated with a surge of foreign

***Ed: Hmmm, we doubt that they’ve thought this
through too much. Imposing Japanese language skills will
add at least 3-5 years on to the supply curve, and given
the choice of English or Japanese, most Chinese and Indian
engineers are going to pick the global language. Japan
needs to understand that internationalizing may in fact
mean accepting English as a second language, as has
already happened in Europe and in most of the rest of
Asia. This is not heresy, just pragmatism.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Mar 18, 2007)

Excellent article on “Comfort Women” on Japan Focus


Hi Blog. Here’s a pretty much perfect article on the “Comfort Women” Issue at Japan Focus, which ties everything we need for this debate together: The USG and GOJ’s reaction to the issue, the UN’s reports, the background of the primary agents in the process of denial, and all contextualized within a comparison of Nazi Germany’s and Imperial Japan’s wartime behavior and postwar followup.

Japan’s “Comfort Women”: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)
Japan Focus Article 780
Some select quotes:

Reading these remarks [from Abe and Aso regarding “coercion” and “facts”], I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word”. I also found myself in particular imagining how the world might react if one of the German ministers most actively engaged in this denial happened (for example) to be called Krupp, and to be a direct descendant of the industrial dynasty of that name….

Many people were involved in the recruitment of “comfort women” – not only soldiers but also members of the Korean colonial police (working, of course, under Japanese command) and civilian brokers, who frequently used techniques of deception identical to those used by human traffickers today. Forced labour for mines and factories was recruited with the same mixture of outright violence, threats and false promises…

To summarise, then, not all “comfort women” were rounded up at gunpoint, but some were. Some were paid for “services”, though many were not. Not all “comfort stations” were directly managed by the military. None of this, however, negates the fact that large numbers of women were violently forced, coerced or tricked into situations in which they suffered horrible sexual violence whose consequences affected their entire lives. I doubt if many of those who, “suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” have spent a great deal of time worrying whether these wounds were the result of coercion in the “broad” or the “narrow” sense of the word.

And none of this makes the Japanese system any different from the Nazi forced labour system…

In 1996, a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a detailed report on the “comfort women” issue. Its conclusions are unequivocal:

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that most of the women kept at the comfort stations were taken against their will, that the Japanese Imperial Army initiated, regulated and controlled the vast network of comfort stations, and that the Government of Japan is responsible for the comfort stations. In addition, the Government of Japan should be prepared to assume responsibility for what this implies under international law”. [11]

This denial [from members of the LDP] goes hand-in-hand with an insistence that those demanding justice for the “comfort women” are just a bunch of biased and ill-informed “Japan-bashers”. An article by journalist Komori Yoshihisa in the conservative Sankei newspaper, for example, reports that the US Congress resolution is “based on a complaint which presumes that all the comfort women were directly conscripted by the Japanese army, and that the statements by Kono and Murayama were not clear apologies.” [15]

Komori does not appear to have read the resolution with much attention…

What purpose do Abe’s and Aso’s denials serve? Certainly not the purpose of helping defeat the US Congressional resolution. Their statements have in fact seriously embarrassed those US Congress members who are opposed to the resolution. [18] The main strategy of these US opponents of Resolution 121 was the argument that Japanese government had already apologized adequately for the sufferings of the “comfort women”, and that there was no need to take the matter further. By their retreat from remorse, Abe and Aso have succeeded in neatly cutting the ground from beneath the feet of their closest US allies.

Well done that researcher! Debito in Sapporo

More on Ibuki “butter” Bunmei from Matt Dioguardi



On Feb 28, 2007, at 1:12 PM, Kirk Masden wrote:

I don’t know if Abe will be made to regret it but he should be.

Abe’s defense strikes me as more problematic than the original

gaff. Abe is equating homogeneity with getting along well. By this

logic, diversity (more foreigners in Japan, etc) leads to acrimony.

It also implies that whatever peace and good human relations have

characterized Japan thus far have been in spite of minorities such as

Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, etc. This is a very problematic way for

Japan’s leader to defend a remark.

[Education Minister] Bunmei Ibuki’s comments continue to trouble me.

Some things to think about:

1. I’ve found at least two places where Ibuki specifically basically

says, “though there are exceptions such as the Ainu and the Zainichi

people, Japan is fundamentally, one ethnos, one culture, one ethnic

rulership, one language, one belief system” (As Kirk says above, this

is a very exclusivist attitude. He’s basically *excluding* the Ainu

and the Zainichi from participation in the successes of Japanese

rulership, culture, language, and beliefs.)

2. Ibuki also states in more than one place, practically like a

refrain, that because of the post-war constitution and Fundamental

Law of Education are western they emphasize rights over duty, private

over public. This is one reason why Japanese society is falling into

decadence. The examples given again and again are Livedoor and

Murakami funds. Ibuki will say, of course, rights and privacy are

very important, *but* … then he launchs into the problems they cause.

3. The solution suggested is to revise the constitution and the

Fundamental Law of Education to include more values of the Japanese


Has this not already happened somewhat? Article 2 of the Fundamental

Law of Education has been revised from what was previously an

emphasis on individuality and personal development, to a list of

values that perhaps are intended to reflect the values of the

Japanese ethnos.

So because there is a *perceived* majority, and the *perception* that

the *perceived* majority have certain supposedly *shared* values,

those values must now be imposed on *everyone*?

Good grief!

The one positive element here, is that I am gradually finding very

active and vocal Japanese citizens on the net who see through all

this nonsense. But so far not enough to stop the steamroller …

This is a really terrible price to have to pay for Koizumi’s economic


As far as Ibuki’s statements I’ve been blogging some of them here:


Matt Dioguardi


Abe denies existence of “Comfort Women”, overseas media and US Congress react, Abe backpedals, then clams up. Media pounces


Hi Blog. Here we go. Now the Western media has their peg to unzip the Abe Adminstration’s overt right-wing historical revisionist bent. Newsweek did a puff piece on Abe’s wife (comparing her to Jackie O) not too long ago, sigh. Now Abe undoes her image control with these revelations. NYT and Time Magazine articles (with updates from CBS News, showing Abe suddenly backpedalling, plus Kyodo and NYT again, plus links to US Congressional hearings by Mike Honda and actual victims on this issue) follow.

A quick note beforehand: Remember that Abe tried this on NHK in 2001 before he was PM, forcing NHK to re-edit a historical piece involving the Comfort Women some years ago. Sources:

NHK stung by censorship suit appeal
Court links politics with deletion of Hirohito verdict in sex-slave program

The Tokyo High Court on Monday… ordered NHK and two production companies to pay damages to a women’s rights group for altering the content of a documentary on a mock tribunal over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery… The suit has been closely watched because the NGO claimed NHK censored or otherwise altered part of the 2001 program after being pressured by heavyweights in the Liberal Democratic Party, including Shinzo Abe, who is now prime minister, and Shoichi Nakagawa.
(Japan Times Jan 30, 2006)

The political pressure put, in 2001, on NHK, the national broadcaster, by the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to excise portions of a program that would imply imperial responsibility for war crimes. Add to this the government ordering NHK in 2006 to broadcast information about the North Korean abductions in the service of the country.
(Japan Times Jan 7, 2006)

That event was basically ignored by the foreign media, sadly. Not this time.

(And yes, given that these “Comfort Women” (ianfu), better known as sexual slaves, were almost all foreign, this is definitely germane to the focus of this blog.) Debito in Youga, Tokyo


Japan PM Denies WWII Sex Slavery
Time Magazine Thursday, Mar. 01, 2007,8599,1595375,00.html

TOKYO—Yasuji Kaneko, 87, still remembers the screams of the countless women he raped in China as a soldier in the Japanese imperial army in World War II. Some were teenagers from Korea serving as sex slaves in military-run brothels. Others were women in villages he and his comrades pillaged in eastern China.

“They cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died,” Kaneko said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Tokyo home. “We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.”

Historians say some 200,000 women—mostly from Korea and China—served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops, and the top government spokesman acknowledged the wrongdoing in 1993.

Now some in Japan’s government are questioning whether the apology was needed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday denied women were forced into military brothels across Asia, boosting renewed efforts by right-wing politicians to push for an official revision of the apology.

“The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said.

Abe’s remarks contradicted evidence in Japanese documents unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.

The comments were certain to rile South Korea and China, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for wartime atrocities. Abe’s government has been recently working to repair relations with Seoul and Beijing.

The statement came just hours after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun marked a national holiday honoring the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule by urging Tokyo to come clean about its past.

Roh also referred to hearings held by the U.S. House of Representatives last month on a resolution urging Japan to “apologize for and acknowledge” the imperial army’s use of sex slaves during the war.

“The testimony reiterated a message that no matter how hard the Japanese try to cover the whole sky with their hand, there is no way that the international community would condone the atrocities committed during Japanese colonial rule,” Roh said.

Dozens of people rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to mark the anniversary, lining up dead dogs’ heads on the ground with pieces of paper in their mouths listing names of Koreans who allegedly collaborated with the Japanese during its 1910-45 colonial rule. Protest organizers said the animals were slaughtered at a restaurant; dogs are regularly consumed as food in Korea.

Roh’s office said late Thursday it did not immediately have a direct response to the Japanese leader’s remarks. In Beijing, calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry seeking comment on the remarks were not immediately returned.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not comment on Abe’s statement. “I’ll let the Japanese political system deal with that,” he said.

Abe’s comments were a reversal from the government’s previous stance. In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized to the victims of sex slavery, though the statement did not meet demands by former “comfort women” that it be approved by parliament.

Two years later, the government set up a compensation fund for victims, but it was based on private donations—not government money—and has been criticized as a way for the government to avoid owning up to the abuse. The mandate is to expire March 31.

The sex slave question has been a cause celebre for nationalist politicians and scholars in Japan who claim the women were professional prostitutes and were not coerced into servitude by the military.

Before Abe spoke Thursday, a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers discussed their plans for a proposal to urge the government to water down parts of the 1993 apology and deny direct military involvement.

Nariaki Nakayama, chairman of the group of about 120 lawmakers, sought to play down the government’s involvement in the brothels by saying it was similar to a school that hires a company to run its cafeteria.

“Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs, and set prices,” he said.

“Where there’s demand, businesses crop up … but to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark,” he said. “This issue must be reconsidered, based on truth … for the sake of Japanese honor.”

Sex slave victims, however, say they still suffer wounds—physical and psychological—from the war.

Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.

“The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities,” said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. “I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history.”

“I was so young. I did not understand what had happened to me,” she said. “My cries then still ring in my years. Even now, I can’t sleep.”

AP writer Burt Herman contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.



Abe Rejects Japan’s Files on War Sex
NEW YORK TIMES: March 2, 2007

TOKYO, March 1 — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied Thursday that
Japan’s military had forced foreign women into sexual slavery during
World War II, contradicting the Japanese government’s longtime
official position.

Mr. Abe’s statement was the clearest so far that the government was
preparing to reject a 1993 government statement that acknowledged the
military’s role in setting up brothels and forcing, either directly or
indirectly, women into sexual slavery. That declaration also offered
an apology to the women, euphemistically called “comfort women.”

“There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support
it,” Mr. Abe told reporters. “So, in respect to this declaration, you
have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.”

The United States House of Representatives has begun debating a
resolution that would call on Tokyo to “apologize for and acknowledge”
the military’s role in wartime sex slavery.

But at the same time, in keeping with a recent trend to revise Japan’s
wartime history, a group of conservatives in the governing Liberal
Democratic Party is stepping up calls to rescind the 1993 declaration.
Mr. Abe, whose approval ratings have been plummeting over a series of
scandals and perceived weak leadership, seemed to side with this
group. A nationalist who has led efforts to revise wartime history,
Mr. Abe softened his tone after becoming prime minister last fall. In
fact, he first said he recognized the validity of the declaration,
angering his conservative base.

“Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias
run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure
foodstuffs and set prices,” Nariaki Nakayama, the leader of 120
lawmakers who want to revise the declaration, said Thursday.

“Where there’s demand, business crops up,” Mr. Nakayama said,
according to The Associated Press. “But to say women were forced by
the Japanese military into service is off the mark. This issue must be
reconsidered, based on truth, for the sake of Japanese honor.”

Historians believe some 200,000 women — Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese,
Filipinos, as well as Japanese, Dutch and other European women —
served in Japanese military brothels. For decades, Japan denied that
its military had been involved, calling the brothels private
enterprises and the women prostitutes.

But in 1992, a Japanese historian, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, outraged by
government denials, went to the Self-Defense Agency’s library and
unearthed, after two days of searching, documents revealing military
involvement in establishing brothels. One was titled “Regarding the
Recruitment of Women for Military Brothels.” Faced with this evidence,
the government acknowledged its role and issued the declaration.

But the response angered people across the political spectrum. The
women and their supporters said that the government was not fully
acknowledging its responsibility because the declaration was issued by
Yohei Kono, then chief cabinet secretary, and not adopted by
Parliament. It is known inside Japan simply as the “Kono Statement.”

What is more, supporters accused the government of evading direct
responsibility by establishing a private, nongovernment fund to
compensate the women. Many former sex slaves have refused to accept
compensation from this fund.

But conservatives said the declaration went too far in acknowledging
the military’s role in recruiting the women. While the documents
showed that the military established the facilities, Mr. Yoshimi did
not find documentation that the military had forcibly recruited the
women. Conservatives have seized on this distinction to attack the

Supporters of the women say that the Japanese authorities famously
burned incriminating documents or kept them hidden.

At the same time, many former sex slaves have stepped forward in
recent years with their stories. Three testified in the United States
Congress recently, saying that Japanese soldiers had kidnapped them
and forced them to have sex with dozens of soldiers a day.



COMMENT: Abe has apparently decided not to work to repeal Kouno’s apology (the “Kono Statement”) made back in 1993 after all.

Japan PM to Stand by Sex Slaves Apology
Japan PM will stand by apology over forcing Asian women to have sex with troops
CBS NEWS March 5, 2007 12:12am

(AP) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will stand by Japan’s apology over forcing Asian women to have sex with Japanese troops in the last century, an aide said Sunday, after the leader’s denial that Tokyo used coercion caused an international uproar.

“Though there are many definitions of coercion, Prime Minister Abe has said … that he will stand by the Kono statement,” said Hiroshige Seko, special adviser in charge of Abe’s public relations, referring to a 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing to the victims of sex slavery.

The Kono statement also acknowledged many women were forced into prostitution and that the military government was involved in some cases.

“He has not denied the statement,” Seko told a TV Asahi talk show. He did not attempt to explain the apparent discrepancies between the statement and Abe’s denial that coercion was involved.

“The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said on Thursday.

South Korea later lodged an official protest, accusing the leader of “glossing over the historical truth.” Rights activists in the Philippines also slammed Abe for labeling the slaves as common prostitutes.

Historians say that about 200,000 women _ mostly from Korea and China _ served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Accounts of abuse by the military have been backed up by witnesses, and even former Japanese soldiers.

Abe’s statement contradicted evidence in Japanese documents, unearthed in 1992, that historians said showed that military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for the abuses.

Statement of
The Honorable Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress

Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing on
Protecting the Human Rights of “Comfort Women”
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Now, nearly nine years after the passage of AJR27, I stand united with several of my colleagues in the House, from both parties, in support of H.Res.121 and the surviving Comfort Women who are here with us today. The urgency is upon this Committee and the Congress to take quick action on this resolution. These women are aging and their numbers dwindling with each passing day. If we do not act now, we will lose a historic opportunity to encourage the Government of Japan to properly acknowledge responsibility for the plight of the Comfort Women.

Elected officials of Japan have taken steps to address this issue, and for that they are to be commended. In 1993, Japan’s then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued an encouraging statement regarding Comfort Women, which expressed the Government’s sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal. Additionally, Japan attempted to provide monetary compensation to surviving comfort women through the Asia Women’s Fund, a government initiated and largely government-funded private foundation whose purpose was the carrying out of programs and projects with the aim of atonement for the Comfort Women. The Asia Women’s Fund is to be disbanded on March 31, 2007.

Recent attempts, however, by some senior members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to review and even possibly retract Secretary Kono’s statement are disheartening and mark Japan’s equivocation on this issue. Additionally, while I appreciate Japan’s creation of the Asia Women’s Fund and the past prime minister’s apologies to some comfort women, which accompanied this Fund’s disbursal of monetary compensation from this fund, the reality is that without a sincere and unequivocal apology from the government of Japan, the majority of surviving Comfort Women refused to accept these funds. In fact, as you will hear today, many Comfort Women returned the Prime Minister’s letter of apology accompanying the monetary compensation saying they felt the apology was artificial and disingenuous.

More Congressional Record on this, courtesy of Matt Dioguardi’s Blog:



More replies. Making a bigger hash of things as they go along… Now it’s time to blame the media for miscommunication….? Debito


Japan tries to calm outrage on sex slave issue, says
no new apology

Courtesy of Club of 99

Japan’s top government spokesman on Wednesday
reiterated that there will be no new apology regarding
wartime sex slaves in response to a resolution pending
in the U.S. Congress and that discussions on the
”comfort women” issue should not continue any
further in an ”unconstructive” manner.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sparked an
international outcry recently by saying there was no
proof that the Japanese military had coerced women
into sexual servitude during World War II, said,
”What we say in parliament on this issue is not
always conveyed (by the media) accurately. It
magnifies and spreads, and foreign countries react to

”The longer we continue this discussion, the
more misunderstanding there is going to be,” Shiozaki
told a morning news conference. ”I think it better
not to go on with this kind of discussion in a rather
unconstructive manner.”

Shiozaki again stressed that the government
continues to uphold a 1993 statement that acknowledged
and apologized for the forced recruitment of so-called
”comfort women.”

In an interview with Japanese media, Abe
reiterated that he stands by the statement and added,
”The U.S. resolution is based on a mistake of fact.
It contains the misunderstanding that there was
coercion, as in abductions carried out by the
(Japanese) authorities. There was no such thing and I
was just stating the fact that there have been no
documents or witnesses of proof.”

”The U.S. Congress bill is not based on
objective facts and does not take into consideration
the (Japanese) government’s handling of the issue so
far,” spokesman Shiozaki said. ”Therefore, no new
apology will be made in response to such a resolution
should it be passed.”

Shiozaki insisted that Abe’s recent remarks did
not contradict the so-called Kono statement, which was
issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in
1993 and represents the government’s official stance.

The statement acknowledges that women from the
Korean Peninsula, which Japan had annexed at the time,
and other places, were in many cases ”recruited
against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, et
cetera, and that at times, administrative/military
personnel directly took part in the recruitment.”

Abe, however, reignited decades-old anger,
especially in Asian countries that suffered under
Japanese wartime aggression, when he said last
Thursday that there was no evidence that the military
was directly involved in forced recruitment.

This week, Abe further explained that there was
coercion ”in the broad sense” of the word, referring
to private traders who recruited the women, but
insisted that there was no coercion ”in the strict
sense,” as in military personnel taking women from
their homes and putting them in brothels.

The more Abe and his spokesman Shiozaki try to
explain the premier’s hair-splitting over the broad
and strict definitions of ”coercion,” the deeper it
seems they find themselves bogged in a quagmire.

Cornered by reporters’ questions at an afternoon
news conference, Shiozaki effectively retracted his
remarks in the morning that the Kono statement
stipulates ”both the strict and broad sense” of

”As the prime minister has said many times in
parliament, it was possible (the victims) felt
pressure in the broad sense,” he said. ”Issues in
the narrow sense were by no means written in the Kono

The hawkish premier, who declared immediately
after taking office last September that his
administration will stand by the Kono statement, was
once part of a group of lawmakers opposed to the 1993

Some historians estimate that up to 200,000 women
from the Korean Peninsula, China, Taiwan, the
Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere were forced into
sexual servitude by the Japanese military before and
during World War II.

Although Abe said there is no evidence to prove
there was physical coercion by the Japanese military,
some surviving former ”comfort women” and even
former Japanese soldiers have testified that girls and
women were abducted.

Earlier on Wednesday, Abe praised the work of a
semiofficial relief organization for former World War
II sex slaves and said it ”conveyed (to the world)
the feelings of Japan and the Japanese people.”

The premier also told reporters the government
does not plan to get involved in setting up any
organizations to carry on the activities of the Asian
Women’s Fund after it is disbanded at the end of this

The fund, launched in 1995, disbursed a total of
1.7 billion yen to support foreign women who were
forced into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese
Army during wartime. It has been criticized as being
an attempt by the government to avoid responsibility
for state redress.

Denial Reopens Wounds of Japan’s Ex-Sex Slaves
N Y Times March 8, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia, March 7 — Wu Hsiu-mei said she was 23 and working as a maid in a hotel in 1940 when her Taiwanese boss handed her over to Japanese officers. She and some 15 other women were sent to Guangdong Province in southern China to become sex slaves.

Inside a hotel there was a so-called comfort station, managed by a Taiwanese but serving only the Japanese military, Ms. Wu said. Forced to have sex with more than 20 Japanese a day for almost a year, she said, she had multiple abortions and became sterile.

The long festering issue of Japan’s war-era sex slaves gained new prominence last week when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied the military’s role in coercing the women into servitude. The denial by Mr. Abe, Japan’s first prime minister born after the war, drew official protests from China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines, some of the countries from which the sex slaves were taken.

The furor highlighted yet again Japan’s unresolved history in a region where it has been ceding influence to China. The controversy has also drawn in the United States, which has strongly resisted entering the history disputes that have roiled East Asia in recent years.

Ms. Wu told her story on Wednesday outside the Japanese Consulate here, where she and two others who had been sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women, were protesting Tokyo’s refusal to admit responsibility for the abuse that historians say they and as many as 200,000 other women suffered.

All three — Ms. Wu, who is now 90; a 78-year-old South Korean from Seoul; and an 84-year-old Dutch-Australian from Adelaide — were participating in an international conference for Japan’s former sex slaves here. Now, just days after Mr. Abe’s remarks, the three were united in their fury.

“I was taken away by force by Japanese officers, and a Japanese military doctor forced me to undress to examine me before I was taken away,” said Ms. Wu, who landed here in Sydney on Tuesday night after a daylong flight from Taipei. “How can Abe lie to the world like that?”

Mr. Abe, a nationalist who had built his career partly on playing down Japan’s wartime past, made his comments in response to a confluence of events, beginning with the Democratic victory in the American Congressional elections last fall. That gave impetus to a proposed nonbinding resolution in the House that would call on Japan to unequivocally acknowledge and apologize for its brutal mistreatment of the women.

Even as Mr. Abe’s closest allies pressed him to soften a 1993 government statement that acknowledged the military’s role in forcing the women into sexual slavery, three former victims testified in Congress last month.

On Monday, Mr. Abe said he would preserve the 1993 statement but denied its central admission of the military’s role, saying there had been no “coercion, like the authorities breaking into houses and kidnapping” women.

He said private dealers had coerced the women, adding that the House resolution was “not based on objective facts” and that Japan would not apologize even if it was passed.

The resolution calls for Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.”

“Prime Minister Abe is in effect saying that the women are lying,” Representative Mike Honda, the California Democrat who is spearheading the legislation, said in a telephone interview. “I find it hard to believe that he is correct given the evidence uncovered by Japanese historians and the testimony of the comfort women.”

Japanese historians, using the diaries and testimony of military officials as well as official documents from the United States and other countries, have been able to show that the military was directly or indirectly involved in coercing, deceiving, luring and sometimes kidnapping young women throughout Japan’s Asian colonies and occupied territories.

They estimate that up to 200,000 women served in comfort stations that were often an intrinsic part of military operations.

Yet although Mr. Abe admitted coercion by private dealers, some of his closest allies in the governing Liberal Democratic Party have dismissed the women as prostitutes who volunteered to work in the comfort stations. They say no official Japanese government documents show the military’s role in recruiting the women.

According to historians, the military established the stations to boost morale among its troops, but also to prevent rapes of local women and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among soldiers.

Japan’s deep fear of rampaging soldiers also led it to establish brothels with Japanese prostitutes across Japan for American soldiers during the first months of the postwar occupation, a fact that complicates American involvement in the current debate.

In 1995 a private fund was set up to compensate the women, but many refused to accept any money because they saw the measure as a way for the government to avoid taking direct responsibility. Only 285 women have accepted money from the fund, which will be terminated at the end of this month.

The most direct testimony of the military’s role has come from the women themselves.

“An apology is the most important thing we want — an apology that comes from the government, not only a personal one — because this would give us back our dignity,” said Jan Ruff O’Herne, 84, who testified to a Congressional panel last month.

Ms. Ruff was living with her family in Java, in what was then the Dutch East Indies, when Japan invaded in 1942. She spent the first two years in a prison camp, she said, but Japanese officers arrived one day in 1944. They forced single girls and women to line up and eventually picked 10 of them, including Ms. Ruff, who was 21.

“On the first night, it was a high-ranking officer,” Ms. Ruff said. “It was so well organized. A military doctor came to our house regularly to examine us against venereal diseases, and I tell you, before I was examined the doctor raped me first. That’s how well organized it was.”

In Japan’s colonies, historians say, the military worked closely with, or sometimes completely relied on, local people to obtain women.

In Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, Gil Won-ok said, she lined up outside a Japanese military base to look for work in her early teens. A Korean man, she said, approached her with the promise of factory work, but she eventually found herself in a comfort station in northeast China.

After she caught syphilis and developed tumors, Ms. Gil said, a Japanese military doctor removed her uterus.

“I’ve felt dead inside since I was 15,” said Ms. Gil, who was 16 when the war ended.

Like many comfort women, Ms. Gil was unable to bear children and never married, though she did adopt a son. She now lives in a home with three other former comfort women in Seoul.

Ms. Wu married twice, each time hiding her background. Somehow the husbands found out, and the marriages ended unhappily. Her adopted daughter is now angry with Ms. Wu for having spoken in public about her past, she said.

As for Ms. Ruff, she returned to the prison camp in Java after her release from the comfort station. Her parents swore her to silence. A Roman Catholic priest told Ms. Ruff, who had thought of becoming a nun: “My dear child, under these circumstances it is wise that you do not become a nun.”

It was at the camp that she met her future husband, Tom Ruff, one of the British soldiers who had been deployed to guard the camp after Japan’s defeat. She told him her story once before they were married — long before they had two daughters and migrated to Australia.

“But I needed to talk about it,” Ms. Ruff said, sitting at the kitchen table in her daughter Carol’s home here. “I could never talk to my husband about it. I loved Tom and I wanted to marry and I wanted a house. I wanted a family, I wanted children, but I didn’t want sex. He had to be very patient with me. He was a good husband. But because we couldn’t talk about it, it made it all so hard.”

“You could talk to Dad about it,” said her daughter Carol, 55.

“No, this is what I keep saying,” Ms. Ruff said. “I just told him the story once. It was never talked about again. For that generation the story was too big. My mum couldn’t cope with it. My dad couldn’t cope with it. Tom couldn’t cope with it. They just shut it up. But nowadays you’ll get counseling immediately.”

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Carol said.

“You don’t know how hard it was to carry this enormous burden inside you, that you would like to scream out to the world and yet you cannot,” Ms. Ruff said. “But I remember telling Carol, ‘One day I’m going to tell my story, and people will be interested.’ ”


…The beat goes on… With the government saying one thing in the morning and another thing in the afternoon. Keep buffeting them, media! Debito

JAPAN TIMES Friday, March 9, 2007
Abe endorses LDP probe into wartime sex slaves

The government will provide documents to aid a new investigation by the Liberal Democratic Party into Japan’s wartime sexual slavery, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

The move comes after Abe’s denial last week that the Japanese military coerced the “comfort women,” as Japan euphemistically called them, sparked a storm of criticism.

Earlier in the day, an LDP lawmaker quoted Abe as saying the government would open a new investigation into the issue. The remark was made at a meeting of LDP lawmakers who adopted a resolution claiming that neither the wartime government nor the Imperial Japanese Army was responsible for “forcibly bringing” women to frontline brothels in the 1930s and ’40s. Abe was previously a director general of the LDP group.

But when asked if the government plans to take another look at the issue, Abe said: “I heard the party is going to study and investigate the issue. As for the government, we will cooperate in providing documents as requested by the party.”

Abe repeated that his government will continue to stand by the 1993 statement made by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that admitted and apologized for the military’s involvement in forcing women into frontline brothels.

Abe declined comment on what kind of documentation or evidence the government would submit. “I don’t know about details yet,” he said.

In the resolution adopted Thursday, the LDP lawmakers’ association claimed its investigation showed that, despite the 1993 government statement, only private agencies forced women to work at the “comfort stations.”

The group admitted in a written statement that private-sector agencies did kidnap some women and forced them to work at their brothels, but it denied the government and army’s involvement in the process of “forcibly bringing” women to the military brothels.

Abe last week claimed there was no evidence that the army coerced women into sexual slavery, which drew fire from across Asia and provoked U.S. lawmakers to demand Japan’s apology on the issue.

The association, headed by former education minister Nariaki Nakayama, consists of 130 lawmakers, or nearly one-third of the 417 LDP lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet. The group handed the resolution to Abe Thursday afternoon.

Abe was once the director general of the association, which has long campaigned to push the education ministry to remove descriptions of “comfort women” from public high school history text books.

After becoming prime minister in September, Abe slightly changed his position and has repeatedly said he accepts the 1993 government statement as the official view.

The 1993 Kono statement was issued after the government examined historic government documents and interviewed 16 women who claimed they were forced into sexual slavery.

The government did not find documents that directly proved the involvement of the government or army, but in combination with the interviews and circumstantial evidence from state documents, Kono admitted the official involvement and extended a formal apology.

A number of wartime government documents have been discovered to suggest the Japanese army did order the creation of military brothels for soldiers, played a role in managing the brothels, and even transported women to those brothels in China and other parts of Asia.

But the association claimed the Japanese authorities did not forcibly take those women to the military brothels, most of which were run by private-sector agencies for the sake of the army.

Now Abe plays the blame game, blames media for misconstruing him, and clams up…

Abe won’t explain sex slave remarks, accuses media of being inaccurate
Japan Today/Kyodo News Friday, March 9, 2007 at 19:41 EST

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday declined to give further explanation of his recent remarks on wartime sex slavery, saying such discussion would be ‘unproductive” and accusing the media of being “inaccurate.”

“At this very sensitive time when it is difficult to have my remarks conveyed correctly, I believe discussion here will only become extremely unproductive,” said Abe, referring to criticism at home and abroad since he denied last week evidence of physical coercion by Japanese military in forcing women into sexual servitude.

“Last time I answered questions on this issue, my remarks were not conveyed or reported accurately, so I believe it to be the right political judgment not to spread this any further,” Abe told reporters at his office when asked if he intends to provide an easier-to-understand explanation.

The premier, a conservative hawk who seeks a bigger global role for Japanese troops and aims to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, has repeatedly said his government will stand by a 1993 statement that acknowledged and apologized for the military’s involvement in the forced recruitment of the so-called “comfort women.”

But Abe sparked an outcry when he said there was no proof of physical coercion by the military, namely soldiers kidnapping women and putting them in brothels.

The New York Times issued an editorial on Tuesday harshly criticizing Japan’s “efforts to contort the truth” and published a front-page article on the experiences of survivors in its Thursday edition.

Former comfort women, as the victims are euphemistically referred to in Japan, and even former Japanese soldiers, have testified that girls and women were coerced by the military. (Kyodo News)



No Comfort
THE NEW YORK TIMES Editorial March 6, 2007

What part of “Japanese Army sex slaves” does Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have so much trouble understanding and apologizing for?

The underlying facts have long been beyond serious dispute. During World War II, Japan’s Army set up sites where women rounded up from Japanese colonies like Korea were expected to deliver sexual services to Japan’s soldiers.

These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993. The unofficial fund set up to compensate victims is set to close down this month.

And Mr. Abe wants the issue to end there. Last week, he claimed that there was no evidence that the victims had been coerced. Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.

Mr. Abe seems less concerned with repairing Japan’s sullied international reputation than with appealing to a large right-wing faction within his Liberal Democratic Party that insists that the whole shameful episode was a case of healthy private enterprise. One ruling party lawmaker, in his misplaced zeal to exculpate the Army, even suggested the offensive analogy of a college that outsourced its cafeteria to a private firm.

Japan is only dishonored by such efforts to contort the truth.

The 1993 statement needs to be expanded upon, not whittled down. Parliament should issue a frank apology and provide generous official compensation to the surviving victims. It is time for Japan’s politicians — starting with Mr. Abe — to recognize that the first step toward overcoming a shameful past is acknowledging it.




Following is the text of the statement in English translation from the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

Original Japanese (included below) at

“The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime “comfort women” since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.

“As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.

“As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc. were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion etc.

“Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

“It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment.

“We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.

“As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private research related thereto.”

Original Japanese, for the record:




Now fellow LDP legislators are going to the US to fight Abe’s battles… Article courtesy of the author. Debito

Japanese Prime Minister angers victims of wartime sex slavery
By David McNeill in Tokyo
Published: 09 March 2007

Once a week, anger and the call of the past drags Gil Won-ok from her bed in a suburb of Seoul to the Japanese embassy in the South Korean capital. The frail 78-year-old is haunted by memories of what happened to her as a teenage girl when she was raped daily by Japanese soldiers in a Second World War “comfort station”. “I was in so much pain. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”

For 15 years, the Korean “comfort women” have stood outside this embassy to demand recognition from the Japanese government. Now, instead of an apology, they have heard another official denial. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week there was “no evidence” to prove the women were coerced. The statement has enraged the women. “They can’t make this go away by lying about it,” Gil Won-ok said.

Yesterday Mr Abe said the government stood by a 1993 admission that Japan had forced women into sexual slavery. But he also suggested that it would “reinvestigate” the comfort-women issue, a demand from about 120 politicians on the right of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who demand the admission be reversed.

Elderly women across Asia tell stories similar to the treatment of the Seoul pensioner. In the Chinese province of Shanxi, Guo Xi-cui was just 15 when she held in a comfort station for 40 days. She said Japanese soldiers stood watching as “two or three men” held her legs. “They spread them until I was injured and then they raped me,” she said. “When they sent me home I was not able to sit properly.”

Jan Ruff-O’Herne, an Adelaide grandmother, and her friends were taken from a Japanese concentration camp in Java to a comfort station. “We were given flower names and they were pinned to our doors,” she told Australian television. Then aged 21 and planning to become a nun, Ms O’Herne was raped by an officer.

According to Amnesty International, thousands of women from across Asia – some as young as 12 – were “enslaved against their will and repeatedly raped, tortured and brutalised for months and years” by the Japanese military. Thousands died in painful silence after a lifetime of torment until a group of Korean victims began to speak out in the early 1990s. Ms O’Herne remembers watching the women on television: “I thought, now is my time to speak out.”

But the issue has galvanised the Japanese right, who deny government involvement. “The women were legal prostitutes in brothels,” Nobukatsu Fujioka, a revisionist academic, said. He is one of the leading figures in a movement that aims to overturn much of the accepted wisdom about what took place during Japan’s rampage across Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

Twelve out of 18 members of Japan’s cabinet belong to a political forum that wants to “rethink” history education and backs many of Professor Fujioka’s views. His Society for History Textbook Reform has sold 800,000 copies of a revisionist history book that denies war crimes such as the comfort women and the Rape of Nanjing. Before coming to power, Mr Abe was one of the society’s supporters.

The revisionist denials are refuted by many Japanese historians. “The military decided when, where, and how ‘comfort stations’ were to be established,” Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of history at Tokyo’s Chuo University, said.

Former Japanese soldiers have also testified to their involvement in the wartime rape of Asian women. Hajime Kondo, who was stationed in China from 1940-44, recalled kidnapping a woman in Shanxi Province and taking turns with his comrades in raping her. He said the thought that gang rape was wrong “never occurred” to him until he had his own family.

The deniers, however, have grown stronger since a 1993 statement by chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono that the military was directly involved. That statement has never been accepted by the right. Now, with the prospect of a US Congressional resolution calling on Tokyo to “formally apologise and accept historical responsibility” for the comfort women, a delegation of LDP politicians is to travel to the US to lobby for the resolution to be quashed.

Mr Abe’s supporters say his plummeting approval ratingshave forced him to go for broke. “If he is true to his beliefs and says what he feels, his popularity will rise,” Professor Fujioka said.

Another article of note sent to me as a letter to the blog, talking about how the J media is turning this international issue into a domestic political one: Philip Brasor in the Japan Times March 11, 2007:



Japan can’t dodge this shame

‘Comfort women’ were forced to work in brothels during World War II; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says there’s no proof that ever happened.
By Dinah L. Shelton, professor of law at George Washington University.

IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, it is a punishable offense to deny the Holocaust. In contrast, Japanese war crimes have never been fully prosecuted or acknowledged, nor have most victims been afforded redress. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exploited this lack of accountability by asserting that there is “no proof” that women were forced into sexual bondage to serve the Japanese military during World War II, in effect labeling as prostitutes or liars all the thousands of victims of this abhorrent practice. After international outrage erupted, Abe stepped back, but by then the survivors had once more been victimized by his denial of an overwhelming historical record.

The prime minister’s revisionist statement contradicts abundant evidence that has come to light despite the government’s efforts to conceal or minimize the mistreatment of thousands of women in about 2,000 wartime brothels run by or with the cooperation of the Japanese military. Although no one knows exactly how many girls and women were conscripted to provide sex to Japanese soldiers, most historians estimate the number at between 100,000 and 200,000. Most were Korean and Chinese, though they also included other Asians and Europeans from Japanese-occupied areas. Many were kidnapped and raped, others were tricked or defrauded; some were sold by their families.

Japanese soldiers have come forward during the last 15 years to admit to forcibly taking girls and women on orders of the military. In 1992, documents found in the archives of Japan’s Defense Ministry indicated that the military was directly involved in running the brothels. The Japanese government formally apologized to the women in 1993. Since then, Japan’s official position has been one of admitting moral but not legal responsibility. A private fund was set up to compensate the former “comfort women,” and two Japanese prime ministers wrote formal letters of apology to women who received the payments. Some victims claimed that this ambiguity was unacceptable and refused to accept compensation.

The Japanese government claims that even if the women were held involuntarily, there was no law against it at the time; alternatively, if coerced sexual relations were illegal, the laws did not apply in militarily-occupied territories. A third prong of the Japanese defense is that any misconduct that did occur was settled by the peace treaties at the end of the war. Human rights activists in Japan and abroad have sought to prove this wrong, but so far they have been unable to secure redress for “comfort women” who have come forward in recent years.

In 2000, the Tokyo District Court dismissed a case brought by 46 former sex slaves from the Philippines who accused Japan of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court wrongly decided that “crimes against humanity” were not part of international law at the time. In 2001, a reparations claim by South Korean women who had been held as sex slaves failed in the Hiroshima High Court on the similarly erroneous grounds that coerced sex wasn’t illegal at the time.

However, there is a strong case to be made that the Japanese government does owe the women damages. Rape and kidnapping were crimes in Japanese law at the time and should have led to prosecutions of soldiers committing them. Moreover, despite the ruling in Tokyo District Court, the notion of crimes against humanity goes back to 1904, and such crimes were indicted after World War I and successfully prosecuted after World War II. On top of that, Japan had joined in four international treaties that barred sexual trafficking in women and forced labor: the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (1921), the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (1904), the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic of 1910 and the Agreement on the Abolition of Forced Labor (1930). In 1999, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions invoked these treaties and requested the International Labor Organization to rule that the women held by Japan in official brothels constituted forced laborers. The ILO Committee of Experts upheld the claim, despite Japanese contentions that the agreements did not apply to “colonial territories” such as occupied Korea. But the ILO had no power to order relief.

The Japanese government cannot be sued outside Japan because it has immunity from prosecution as a foreign state. Attempts by surviving women to sue in U.S. courts were dismissed on these grounds. Even if the victims were to surmount this “sovereign immunity” defense, they might run into problems with the peace treaties that ended World War II. For example, the 1951 U.S.-Japan peace treaty “recognized that the resources of Japan are not presently sufficient, if it is to maintain a viable economy, to make complete reparation” for damage and suffering. Japan has argued that this provision and others in peace treaties with some of its Asian neighbors and European powers closed the door on reparations claims by former prisoners of war, “comfort women” and other victims of Japanese atrocities and that nothing is owed anyone today. However, several provisions in the peace treaties suggest that reopening the issue of reparations might be possible, and advocates should look carefully at the texts. Still, it seems no court is likely to cure the injustice; Japan has a moral and legal obligation to do so.


UNREDRESSED GRIEVANCES have a habit of resurfacing, and sometimes burst forth in uncontrollable conflict, as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Already, Japan is facing increasing demands from several countries, including China, South Korea and the Philippines, that it more directly acknowledge its wartime misconduct and compensate its victims. Japan’s long-term interests in peaceful relations with its neighbors, not to mention its moral standing in the world, call for it to do so.

The problem that Japan — and its neighbors — have today stems from the lack of an equivalent of the Nuremberg trials to establish a complete and irrefutable record of the war crimes in Asia. Moreover, the Japanese government burned many of its own records, and others fell into private hands. This historical vacuum provides the opening for statements like Abe’s that there is “no proof” that women were coerced into sexual bondage. Those who oppose the International Criminal Court should be mindful of this pitfall. Meanwhile, Japan owes far more than an apology to the comfort women. Redress is legally and morally required.



Japan has atoned for transgressions
LA Times Letter to the Editor March 11, 2007,1,5857043.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
Re “The shame Japan can’t dodge,” Opinion, March 6

Let me set the record straight.

In 1993, the government of Japan acknowledged the involvement of former Japanese military authorities in the “comfort women” issue and expressed apologies and remorse to those who endured immeasurable pain and incurable wounds.

In 1995, the Asian Women’s Fund, which extended payments to women as a form of atonement and implemented medical and welfare projects, was established with the cooperation of the government and the Japanese people.

Since then, payments have been accompanied by letters from prime ministers saying: “We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future. I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that there has been no change in the position of the government of Japan.

Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles

(thanks to NHK 7PM news March 12, 2007, for notifying me)


No comfort for Abe
Mar 8th 2007
From The Economist print edition
Japan’s prime minister picks a shameful fight over the organised rape of thousands of women

SIX months ago Japan, whose leaders have often been dull political ciphers, celebrated an unaccustomed transition: the handover of power from a confident, reforming prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to an assertive, seemingly capable successor, Shinzo Abe. Mr Koizumi had pulled the economy out of its slump, and built up respect abroad. Japan may have failed last year to win the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council that it covets, but its diplomats, aid workers and (in modest but useful numbers) its soldiers, sailors and airmen are now ever more routinely deployed—and appreciated—in troublespots and disaster zones from Asia and Africa to the Middle East. Mr Abe has talked about his fellow citizens taking new pride in their “beautiful country”.

So they should. But sadly for those who expected better from Mr Abe, he seems to think he can build pride in the future on untruths about Japan’s past.

Mr Abe started promisingly enough. By adopting a more subtle approach towards China and South Korea he undid much of the damage Mr Koizumi had caused by his stubborn visits to the Yasukuni shrine honouring Japan’s war dead (where the souls of some convicted war criminals have also been “enshrined” at the request of their families). Then last week he squandered all the goodwill. Planting his own feet in the mire of imperial Japan’s wartime history, he questioned whether the 200,000 or so “comfort women” (from Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Burma and elsewhere) herded into the system of brothels run by the Japanese Imperial Army had really been coerced into their sexual servitude. Strictly speaking, Mr Abe said, there was no evidence of that.

Is he deaf? The first-hand evidence has mounted since some of the women courageously started breaking their silence, after decades of shame, in the early 1990s. More testified recently at hearings in America’s House of Representatives, where efforts are under way to pass a resolution calling on Japan to make a full apology, and where some of the victims explained, painfully, just how wartime sex slavery was for them. There would be more evidence too, if successive Japanese governments had not buried it in closed files or destroyed it.

Why pick this shameful fight? Other blunders have left Mr Abe dependent on his party’s noisy ultra-conservatives (see article). Resentful even of Japan’s past carefully parsed apologies for its wartime aggression, a group is now campaigning to overturn a 1993 statement by a cabinet official, noticeably unsupported by the parliament of the day, that for the first time accepted the army’s role in setting up the brothels.

The past is your country too

What the brothel survivors want is that full apology from Japan; they refuse to be fobbed off with offers of money instead from a private fund. By questioning their testimony—in effect, calling them liars—Mr Abe has instead added modern insult to past injury. But the damage goes wider. It revives distrust among Japan’s neighbours. And it belittles the efforts of those admirable Japanese working alongside others in the world’s dangerous places to help rebuild communities where people have sometimes suffered the same wartime traumas as the “comfort women”—victims of organised rape, in any other language than prime-ministerial Japanese.

Japan is not unique in its reluctance to confront a grim past. Though China lambasted Mr Abe for his statement, its Communist Party has never accepted responsibility for the 30m deaths from Mao’s self-inflicted famines of the 1950s, for example. But six decades on, deliberate amnesia is unworthy of modern, democratic Japan. Shame on you, Mr Abe.


Here’s a pretty much perfect article on the “Comfort Women” Issue at Japan Focus, which ties everything we need for this debate together: The USG and GOJ’s reaction to the issue, the UN’s reports, the background of the primary agents in the process of denial, and all contextualized within a comparison of Nazi Germany’s and Imperial Japan’s wartime behavior and postwar followup. Well done that researcher! Debito in Sapporo

Japan’s “Comfort Women”: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)
Japan Focus Article 780
Some select quotes:

Reading these remarks [from Abe and Aso regarding “coercion” and “facts”], I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word”. I also found myself in particular imagining how the world might react if one of the German ministers most actively engaged in this denial happened (for example) to be called Krupp, and to be a direct descendant of the industrial dynasty of that name….

Many people were involved in the recruitment of “comfort women” – not only soldiers but also members of the Korean colonial police (working, of course, under Japanese command) and civilian brokers, who frequently used techniques of deception identical to those used by human traffickers today. Forced labour for mines and factories was recruited with the same mixture of outright violence, threats and false promises…

To summarise, then, not all “comfort women” were rounded up at gunpoint, but some were. Some were paid for “services”, though many were not. Not all “comfort stations” were directly managed by the military. None of this, however, negates the fact that large numbers of women were violently forced, coerced or tricked into situations in which they suffered horrible sexual violence whose consequences affected their entire lives. I doubt if many of those who, “suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” have spent a great deal of time worrying whether these wounds were the result of coercion in the “broad” or the “narrow” sense of the word.

And none of this makes the Japanese system any different from the Nazi forced labour system…

In 1996, a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a detailed report on the “comfort women” issue. Its conclusions are unequivocal:

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that most of the women kept at the comfort stations were taken against their will, that the Japanese Imperial Army initiated, regulated and controlled the vast network of comfort stations, and that the Government of Japan is responsible for the comfort stations. In addition, the Government of Japan should be prepared to assume responsibility for what this implies under international law”. [11]

This denial [from members of the LDP] goes hand-in-hand with an insistence that those demanding justice for the “comfort women” are just a bunch of biased and ill-informed “Japan-bashers”. An article by journalist Komori Yoshihisa in the conservative Sankei newspaper, for example, reports that the US Congress resolution is “based on a complaint which presumes that all the comfort women were directly conscripted by the Japanese army, and that the statements by Kono and Murayama were not clear apologies.” [15]

Komori does not appear to have read the resolution with much attention…

What purpose do Abe’s and Aso’s denials serve? Certainly not the purpose of helping defeat the US Congressional resolution. Their statements have in fact seriously embarrassed those US Congress members who are opposed to the resolution. [18] The main strategy of these US opponents of Resolution 121 was the argument that Japanese government had already apologized adequately for the sufferings of the “comfort women”, and that there was no need to take the matter further. By their retreat from remorse, Abe and Aso have succeeded in neatly cutting the ground from beneath the feet of their closest US allies.


Abe’s ‘comfort women’ remarks: What was he thinking?

Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman
Star-Journal (Honolulu, Hawaii) March 18, 2007

WHAT WAS he thinking? That is the question most Japan-watchers grappled with following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fumbled questions about the imperial Japanese government’s role in recruiting “comfort women” during World War II. His responses came close to undoing the progress he had made in restoring relations with China and South Korea and threatened to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington.

The controversy began March 1 when Abe was asked about a Liberal Democratic Party group that wanted the government to revisit the 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. Kono acknowledged that the “Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women” and that “in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion , etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.”

Conservatives object to two related points: the role played by the military and the degree to which it actually “coerced” women. Abe said that the meaning of coercion was unclear and the accuracy of the statement depended on how the word was defined. (Ignored was his comment that either way, his government stood behind the 1993 statement.)

The readiness to challenge the conclusion that the government had “coerced” the women unleashed a firestorm of controversy, not least because the U.S. House of Representatives — during hearings on a resolution that called on Japan to apologize for its actions — had days before heard testimony from former comfort women that seemed to confirm the charge. Abe’s response sparked fierce condemnation from leading U.S. and foreign newspapers and seriously undercut those arguing against the resolution.

Why did Abe fan the flames, especially when it threatened to undercut diplomacy that promised “a new start” for Japanese foreign policy and had offered such promise for the new administration?

First, it should be noted that Abe wasn’t volunteering for controversy; he was responding to questions triggered by the actions of others (the LDP group and the U.S. hearings). This does not excuse or fully explain the response, however.

One explanation is that Abe, like many other conservatives, genuinely believes that the Kono statement was wrong. They challenge the factual basis for the conclusion that the government was involved in coercion. This argument rests on the definition of the word “coercion,” a legal distinction that is jarring given the long-standing insistence that Japan is not a “legalistic culture” and operates according to more flexible principles. It also attempts to trump a moral argument with a legal one. Whether the army actually coerced the women or left that job to independent contractors (as one legalistic argument asserts), there is little doubt that women were forced into servitude at the army’s behest.

This argument also rests on a sense of nationalism. Many conservatives still chafe at the judgment of the Tokyo Tribunals. The Kono statement implies that Japanese behavior was somehow different from that of other countries and Tokyo must apologize for things that other governments have not.

Underlying that conclusion — and obliging Abe to defend it — is domestic politics. The prime minister believes that Japan should be a more assertive country, one that is judged by its record of the last 60 years rather than for the sins of its forefathers. His domestic political base agrees, and they both resent being told what to do by any country.

Ironically, many in the United States and Asia agree that it is time to stop dwelling on the past, that today’s Japan should be judged by its postwar history. Unfortunately, Abe’s comments — like his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine — make it impossible for even Japan’s supporters to move past the history debate.

The phenomenon drives home the rising significance of domestic politics in Northeast Asia and the transition that all countries are experiencing as the international environment evolves and a new generation comes to power. While the U.S.-Japan relationship has been strengthened in recent years, both countries must still be acutely sensitive to developments in the other and ready to challenge assumptions about how the relationship works.

FOR EXAMPLE, the presumption that a House of Representatives judgment on Japanese history would be above challenge is plainly wrong. Gaiatsu (outside pressure) no longer works, even when it comes from Tokyo’s closest ally.

Yet the Japanese assumption that the alliance would counterbalance domestic politics in the United States is equally mistaken. The usual group of alliance handlers didn’t — or couldn’t — quash this tempest.

Abe is not the first politician to put the need to appeal to his domestic base above his country’s international image or long-term national interest, but it could not come at a worse time. As the first Japanese prime minister to be born after the war, Abe had an opportunity to pursue a forward-looking agenda. Instead, he and his more conservative colleagues have forced us once again to dwell on the past. Does this really serve Abe’s — or Japan’s — interest?


Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman are president and executive director, respectively, of the Pacific Forum CSIS (, a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and senior editors of Comparative Connections, a quarterly electronic journal.


Ibuki & Abe on human rights & butter, plus reactions from media and UN


Hi All. Sorry to be slow on this issue, but for the record, let me blog a few articles and reactions on this issue without much time right now for comment (will include comments from others). Debito in Youga, Tokyo


Ibuki: Japan ‘extremely homogenous’
The Japan Times Feb 26, 2007

NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Education minister Bunmei Ibuki said Sunday that
Japan is an “extremely homogenous” country, a type of comment that in
the past has drawn criticism.

In 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
“homogenous race” nation and faced strong criticism, mainly from Ainu
indigenous people.

Speaking at a convention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Ibuki said, “Japan has been
historically governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an
extremely homogenous country.

“In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way,” Ibuki said in a 40-minute speech on education
reform. Ibuki is minister of education, culture, sports, science and

QUICK COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Just like, “In it’s long, multifaceted history, America has been governed by the Americans all the way.”?

Or how about Japan’s postwar SCAP? Oh, that doesn’t count, I guess. The issue is too silly to dwell upon any further. Let’s get to what makes this more problematic:


Abe sees no problem in education minister calling
Japan ‘homogeneous’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed
criticisms over his education minister’s remarks a day
earlier and said there was nothing wrong with the
minister calling Japan an ”extremely homogenous”
”I think he was referring to the fact that we
(the Japanese public) have gotten along with each
other fairly well so far,” Abe said when asked to
comment on the remarks by education minister Bummei
Ibuki. ”I don’t see any specific problem with that.”
Abe, who has been hit by a series of gaffes by
members of his Cabinet recently, added, ”Of course
there have been battles in our history, as in the
Sengoku (warring states) era, but it was rare that one
side would completely wipe out their opponents, so I
believe we’ve cooperated well with each other through
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the
top government spokesman, also said he did not find
the remarks ”specifically problematic” but warned
that ”Cabinet ministers must be responsible for their
own words.”
Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki
Prefecture that ”Japan has been historically governed
by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”
Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn
criticisms in the past, such as in 1986 when then
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
nation with a ”homogenous race.” He faced strong
criticism mainly from Ainu indigenous people.
In his 40-minute speech on education reforms,
Ibuki, who is minister of education, culture, sports,
science and technology, also said, ”In its long,
multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way.”
Ibuki also issued a warning about paying too much
respect to human rights, illustrating his remark by
pointing out what happens if one eats too much butter.
”No matter how nutritious it is, if one ate only
butter every single day, one would get metabolic
syndrome,” he said. ”Human rights are important, but
if we respect them too much, Japanese society will end
up having human rights metabolic syndrome.”


Abe fine with ‘homogeneous’ remark
The Japan Times Feb 27, 2007

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed criticism of remarks
by his education minister the day before and said there was nothing
wrong with Bunmei Ibuki calling Japan an “extremely homogenous” country.

“I think he was referring to the fact that we (the Japanese public)
have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” Abe said. “I
don’t see any specific problem with that.”

Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture that “Japan has been historically
governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”

Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn criticism in the past. For
instance, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone faced a strong backlash,
mainly from Ainu indigenous people, when in 1986 he described Japan
as a nation with a “homogenous race.”





Bunmei Ibuki’s comments were *worse* than I realized. If this isn’t
big news, in my opinion, it *should* be. If I have time I will blog
on this tomorrow. I hope others do as well.

The Japan Times articles did *not* report on other comments that
*did* get reported in the Japanese press. Searching around I did find
that some of these comments got reported in at least one English
newspaper, the Telegraph.

Ibuki makes comments that show on a fundamental basis he
misunderstands constitutional government.

He seems to view rights as entitlements sort of handed out by the
government. However, these rights can be overemphasized and to the
detriment of the minzoku.

Minzoku translates as folk, but it’s code words for *race*, as in
Yamato Minzoku.

Ibuki’s opinion is that rights should not be overemphasized at the
expense of the minzoku. And he explicitly identifies the Yamato Minzoku.

This is the *same* minzoku that so many Japanese lost their lives
over during WWII.

This is sort of like saying, yes, it’s nice to have rights, but don’t
forget that the heart and soul of Japan is the Yamato minzoku, our
homogenous race heritage.

This is really unbelievable and stunning. The fact that Abe does not
see a problem with these comments is also political miscalculation he
hopefully will suffer for.

Ibuki should resign and Abe should profusely apologize.

Because of the importance with which I see this issue, I’m posting
the entire Telegraph article:

Minister’s human rights rant shocks Japan
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
Last Updated: 6:39am GMT 27/02/2007

Japan’s education minister has stunned the country with a gaffe-
strewn speech in which he claimed that too much emphasis has been
put on human rights.

Bunmei Ibuki, 69, also said that Western-style individualism is
damaging Japan, while he praised Japan’s racial homogeneity and
appeared to denigrate minorities.

Japanese newspapers reported yesterday that Mr Ibuki, a veteran
politician who worked at the Japanese embassy in London for four
years in the 1960s, implied in his speech in Nagasaki that problems
with Japan’s education policy stemmed from the fact that it was
imposed by the US occupation authorities after the Second World War.

“Japan has stressed the individual point of view too much,” he
said. He also argued that a society gorged on human rights was like
a person with an obesity-related illness.

“If you eat butter everyday you get metabolic syndrome. Human
rights are important but a society that over indulges in them will
get ‘human rights metabolic syndrome’,” he said.

The speech raises questions about Tokyo’s commitment to concepts
such as human rights and democracy, which Japanese commentators
note were brought to Japan by defeat in the war rather than created
independently by domestic reforms.

It is unclear whether Mr Ibuki’s choice of the word “butter” was
intentional or unfortunate, but it echoes an old disparaging
Japanese expression for Western ideas: “stinking of butter”.

The term came about because Westerners traditionally had a far
higher dairy content in their diet than Japanese and hence were
thought to smell of butter.



Here is a link to his comments in Japanese:

Some of his comments:
1. 人権だけを食べ過ぎれば、日本社会は人権メタボ
ningendake wo tabesugireba, nihonshakai wa ninken metaborikku shoukougun
“If we (eat) partake too much of human rights, our society will
degrade as the human body does when it partakes of unhealthy food.”

2. 権利と自由だけを振り回している社会はいずれだ
kenri to jiyuu dake wo furimawashite iru shakai wa irzure dame ni
naru. kore ga konnkai no kyouiku kihonn houkaisei no ichiban no pointo
“If we only brandish our desire for freedom and rights, then society
becomes useless. That is the number one point of our educational

The idea that there is some kind of trade off between rights and a
“good” society is completely misconstrued. A good society is one
where people have rights and those rights are protected, period.

If we allow that rights can be curbed at the needs of *society* we
introduce a random variable that can be interpreted however one wants
to interpret it. We *all* have different views on what a *good*
society would be. This is why we have democracy.

Moreover, Ibuki doesn’t seem to grasp that freedom in a political
sense *only* means freedom from (physical) coercion. The government
cannot grant freedom in any other sense of the word. We accept that
the government will have to use a limited amount of (physical)
coercion to carry out its job, this is why we recognized the
fundamental danger inherent in governmental power.

Shall we allow more government physical coercion in in order to
support the Yamato minzoku. This is absurd. And its coming from the
minister of education!

The primary function of government is not to create a utopian
society, be it the Yamato minzoku, or some extreme form of Islam or
Christianity. The *fundamental* function of government is to
*protect* our rights. Through the exercise of those rights, we might
be able to help society, physical coercion should not shape those

I’ll note that at least one politician has a nice come back to Ibuki.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto stated:
nihon wa ninken ishiki ga tarinai kuni da to kokusaiteki ni mirarete
iru. metaborikku dokoro ka eiyou busoku da.

“As from an international perspective Japan does not have enough of a
human rights sense of consciousness, I’d say as far as human rights
rather than having a human rights syndrome, we’re undernourished.”



Beating the Yamato drum
The Japan Times March 1, 2007

With health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa’s gaffe remark that women are “childbearing machines” still fresh in people’s memory, yet another Cabinet member has put his foot in his mouth. This time, education minister Bunmei Ibuki has voiced objectionable ideas on the general character of the Japanese state and human rights issues.

In his speech about “education resuscitation” in a meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Mr. Ibuki said the Yamato race has ruled Japan throughout history and that Japan is an extremely homogeneous country. He also expressed the idea that there should be limits to the enhancement of human rights. Likening human rights to butter, he said, “However nutritious butter is, if one eats only butter every day, one acquires metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important. But if they are respected too much, Japanese society will end up with human rights metabolic syndrome.”

Mr. Ibuki’s comment is ideological. It is known that Japan’s ancient culture, the foundation of Japan’s present culture, was an amalgamation of various roots. No one single race formed Japanese culture. Referring to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s remark in 1986 that Japan is a nation with a “homogeneous race,” Mr. Ibuki said, “I did not say homogeneous race.” Even so, his mentioning the homogeneous character of Japan shows he does not altogether accept Japanese society as a composite also of Korean, Chinese and other foreign residents as well as Japanese nationals who do not identify themselves as members of the Yamato race — Ainu people, for example.

His human rights comment is also troublesome. It is clear that Japan has many human rights problems that must be addressed. Mr. Ibuki should remember that various rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are the basis of a healthy democracy. Strangely, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended Mr. Ibuki, saying his statements are not problematic. Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader.


EDITORIAL/ Ibuki in the dark on rights
Asahi Shinbun 02/28/2007

Addressing at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture on Sunday, education minister Bunmei Ibuki said: “If you eat only butter every day, you develop metabolic syndrome. If Japanese overindulge themselves on human rights, the nation will develop what I’d call ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.'”

Metabolic syndrome’s telltale symptom is abdominal obesity, which could cause strokes and other diseases. Ibuki used this medical case to voice his view that society will become “diseased” if human rights are overemphasized.

Speaking on the present and future of educational revival, he also asserted: “Any society that goes hog-wild for rights and freedoms is bound to fail eventually. For every right, there is obligation.”

Perhaps Ibuki wanted to point out the mistake of asserting one’s rights without accepting the obligations that go with them.

However, although “rights” and “human rights” can overlap each other in some areas, they are not completely interchangeable concepts.

The very fact that Ibuki coined the expression “human rights metabolic syndrome” revealed his insensitivity to human rights issues. Is there truly a glut of human rights in Japan today?

In the education world in which Ibuki has the top administrative responsibilities, suicides among bullied children continue because they are unable to cope with the torment.

Elderly people are increasingly becoming victims of abuse. There are also endless cases of domestic violence and threats from spouses. Foreigners and people with disabilities continue to face discrimination.

Last week, a Kagoshima District Court ruling condemned the persistent police practice of using heavy-handed interrogation tactics to force “confessions” out of crime suspects and making up investigation reports.

The situation in Japan is alarming not because of human rights excesses, but rather because there are too many human rights issues that are being ignored by our society.

The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents constituted a grave violation of human rights. Therefore, the Japanese government submitted a United Nations resolution condemning Pyongyang’s violations of human rights. The resolution was adopted by the world body.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated in his policy speech last month that he would work closer with nations that share such basic values as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law. But what we don’t understand is that the same Abe sees “nothing wrong” with Ibuki’s comment.

Human rights issues are among the primary concerns of the world today. It is surely Japan’s role to continue upholding democracy and human rights in the fast-evolving international community and situation in Asia. Japan will be held in higher esteem only if it strives to become a “human rights nation” where every individual is respected as a person.

It is all the more regrettable that Ibuki, the very minister in charge of Japanese education and culture, has uttered remarks that revealed his lack of respect for human rights. The last thing we want the education minister to do is give the rest of the world the wrong message–that the Japanese people are quite satisfied with the present state of human rights.

Where human rights are concerned, Japan is nowhere near developing any disease from overindulging. It is still undernourished.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 27(IHT/Asahi: February 28,2007)

人権メタボ 文科相のひどい誤診だ


















Transcript of FCCJ luncheon w. UN’s Doudou Diene, Feb 26, 2007 (UPDATED)


Transcript of Press Conference with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene and Debito Arudou at Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan
Feb. 26th, 2007, 12:30 to 2PM

(photo with Doudou Diene and Kevin Dobbs courtesy Kevin)

Note: This is an unofficial transcript with some minor editing for repetition, taken from a recording of the event. It is not an official FCCJ transcript.

PIO: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. My name is Pio d’E,millia, and I’m moderating today. Let me introduce our guests for today’s professional luncheon.

On my right, are the uyoku, Debito Arudou, probably the first time in his life he has been called uyoku…

DEBITO: I’ve been called worse.

PIO: . . . but I’m sorry for this discrimination. And then Doudou Diene, who is the UN Rapporteur on Racism, Xenophobia and Racial Discrimination. I think it’s a good idea that we organized this without knowing that, because today, as some of you may have noticed from the wires, we have another, probably historical statement by the minister of the government, of Education, Mr. Ibuki, who stated in Nagasaki that, thanks to the homogeneous society, Japan “has always been governed by the same race.’’
Now, I think this is a good starting point for today’s debate, because I was going to ask Mr. Diene, who has a very hectic schedule this week. He’s under the invitation of several groups in Japan, namely IMADR, the bar association of Japan, the University of Osaka, and excuse me if I’ve forgotten any others. Anyway, he’s on a lecture tour. He has been invited as Rapporteur to talk on racism in Japan. But, he’s also back from two other reports that he just finished. One is about Italy, and the other is about Switzerland. So, since I see other Italian press here, I’m sure Mr. Diene will be happy to answer questions on the other side of Europe. I’m sure that we will find out we’re far from being an innocent society.

Anyway, without further ado, I will leave microphone to Arudou Debito, the very famous initiator of a historical suit called Otaru Onsen suit. I asked him to be very, very brief because, by now, everybody knows that issue and you can take nice bath in Otaru. Please update recent us on not only the issues of the onsens but that of the “Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files.’’ It’s a magazine I’ve here. It’s become a collector’s item, and is selling on E-bay for 40,000 yen. So, I’m sorry, if you didn’t get by now, you won’t get it any more, and I’m sure Arudou can explain what is behind this. Just for the record, the FCCJ Professional Activities Chairman did try to contact both the publisher and editor of this magazine. The editor seemed to be interested in coming here to make his case. He did an interview with Japan Today, but he was stopped from coming by the omnipotent publishers in Japan. So, he’s not here. Arudou, please try to fill in both sides and be very objective.

DEBITO: Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be back here. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you very much. First of all, I have a handout for everybody.

It’s three pages, starting with the report to Special Rapporteur Dr. Doudou Diene, on his third trip to Japan, February 2007. These are the contents of a folder I’m going to be giving him, along with several articles and several books, including the Gaijin Hanzai file, of course. I’m not going to be focusing on this. This is for you to take home. There’s lots of information, too much to get into within 10 minutes.

So, let me go over the visuals. Take a look at the screen.

Is anything changing? That’s what I was asked and I’m going to fill you in on a few things that might interest you. This is, for example, a Japanese Only sign in 2000. These things still exist in Japan. In fact, they’re spreading. And that’s what I’m going to make the case to you today.

All right, moving on. First of all, why does this matter? For one thing, 40,000 international marriages in Japan. In 2000, it was 30,000 marriages. It’s going up, and quite dramatically. And, children of these registered marriages do not show up as foreigners. Because they’re not foreigners, they’re Japanese citizens. Therefore, children of these marriages are coming into our society as Japanese, even though they might not necessarily look Japanese. That will make for a sea change in Japan’s future.

And, you’ll never see where they are because they are invisible statistically. Japan’s census bureau does not measure for ethnicity. If you write down your nationality, in my case “Japanese’’, there is no way for me to write that I am a Japanese with American roots. That’s a problem. You have to show ethnicity because Japan is diversifying. It is a fact, and one reason is international marriages.

And Japan needs foreigners. They are not here by accident. One reason: record low birthrates and record high lifetime expectancy. The United Nations now says Japan will soon have the largest percentage of elderly in the world. That’s old news. As of 2006, the Health Ministry says Japan’s population is actually decreasing, and will fall to 100 million in 50 years, actually 43 years. So, that means the number of foreigners who came in 2005 actually plugged the hole. We have a net annual of 50,000 foreigners per year influx. Now keep in mind that 50,000 for a minute because it’s important. Both the United Nations and the Obuchi Cabinet in 2000 said that Japan must import 600,000 workers per year.

How many are we now importing? 50,000, or less than 1/10th of what we need in order to maintain our current standard of living. That is a fact. Even our government acknowledges that. Japan is already importing workers to make up for the labor shortage and alleviate the hollowing out of domestic industries. We’re not going to let our factories go overseas. We’ll hire cheap workers, and give them trainee and researcher visas. One result of that is, between 1990 and 2007, we now have more than 300,000 Brazilians. They are now the third largest minority, and the numbers are increasing.

Given that there is this many foreigners here, more than 2 million total, without legal protections against discrimination, will foreigners want to stay in Japan and contribute? Japan’s government says we need them. So, help make it easy for them to stay. Well, let’s talk about problems with that. For example, and this isn’t a problem per say. This is Newsweek Japan from September of last year. All of these three people in the picture? They’re Japanese citizens, just like me. We are the future. Japan’s media is also talking about this as well. Look at that. Imin Rettou Nippon. Without foreigners, the Toyota system won’t work. This is the cover of Shukan Diamond, June 5th, 2004. Why is Toyota at number two in the world now? Foreigners. Cheap labor. Working for half the pay of their Japanese counterparts and no social benefits. However, Japan is the only major industrialized nation without any form of a law against racial discrimination.

And it shows. For example, the Otaru Onsens case. Pio said we all know it, so I’m going to skip it. Well, if you want information on it, here are my books, in English and in Japanese. And you can go to my website at for all the information you’ll ever need.

Let’s take a look at one case study. Who are these two here? Can I have a little bit of reaction here? An “awwww” Those are my kids, 10 years ago, maybe a little more. They were born and raised in Japan and are native speakers of Japanese and are Japanese citizens. Now look at this. They’re actually a little bit different-looking, aren’t they, even though they have the same parents –as far as I know! We went to one particular onsen in Otaru. What do you think happened? They said, “This one can’t come in.’’ Ha-ha-ha. Your daughter looks foreign. We’ll have to refuse her entry, even though she’s a Japanese citizen.

I’m summarizing the case to the bare fingertips, all the way down to the cuticles. That’s the best I can do in 10 minutes. We have another case here where I got Japanese citizenship in 2000. And there I am in front of the onsen. A nice big onsen, not a mom-and-pop place. I went back there on October 31st, and what do you think they said? Not “Take off your mask.’’ They said, “We accept that you have citizenship (I showed them proof)’’. But they said, “You don’t look Japanese, therefore in order to avoid misunderstandings, we’ll have to refuse you entry.’’

So, it’s no longer a matter of foreigner discrimination. It’s a matter of racial discrimination. They refused one of my daughters and they refused me. There’s a couple of signs there saying `Japanese Only’. Also, in Mombetsu, Wakkanai, there are signs, including in the middle of the mountains, where people say, “Russian sailors, this. . .’’ There are no Russian sailors in the middle of the mountains. Even in Sapporo. There are signs up in every language but Japanese for the 2002 World Cup. Those signs are still up today, except for the ones in Otaru. The moral of this tale is if you don’t have the legal means to stop this sort of thing, it spreads nationwide. Misawa. Akita. Tokyo. Saitama. . . here’s a few signs. Is the point becoming clear? Nagoya. Kyoto. Hamamatsu. Kurashiki. Hiroshima. Kitakyushu. Fukuoka. Okinawa. All of this information in on the website.

It’s getting worse, it’s nationwide. “Japanese Only’’ signs have been found at bathhouses, discos, stores, hotels, restaurants, karaoke lounges, pachinko parlors, ramen shops, barber shops, swimming pools, an eyeglass store, a sports store, and woman’s footbath establishment. Huh? “Japanese Women Only’’ They said they would not allow foreign women in because their feet are too big. (sounds of audience laughter) That is quote. “Because their feet are too big.’’ Give them a call, ask them.

Conclusions? It’s difficult to establish who is Japanese and who is not just by looking at their face. Which, as for “Japanese Only’’ signs, means let’s get out of the exclusivity thing. Things that happen to foreigners only affect foreigners? You’re wrong. Because of Japan’s internationalization, we’re going to have situations where even Japanese citizens get refused. A more profound conclusion is that “Japanese Only’’ signs are unconstitutional. They also violate international treaties, which Japan affected in 1996. They promised over 10 years ago to pass a law, but they never did.

These “Japanese Only’’ establishments are unconstitutional, but they are not illegal because there is no law to enforce the constitution. We took it to the streets and did what we could. The Hokkaido Shimbun agreed that refusing bathing was racial discrimination. We also took it to the courts. To summarize it, even the Supreme Court dismissed the case against the city of Otaru, saying it’s not involving any constitutional issues, which is ludicrous. It touches on article 14.

Here’s what everybody wants to know. We still have no form of law against racial discrimination in Japan. “Japanese Only’’ signs are still legal. We have official policy pushes against foreigners, and shadowy propaganda campaigns against any bill protecting their rights. For example, Shizuoka’ policy agency had a crime pamphlet in 2001. “Characteristics of Foreign Crime’’. It was put out by the police and distributed to shopkeepers. There were also NPA notices against foreign bag-snatchers and knifers. You can find such signs at bank ATMs and subways. You have a darkie guy speaking in katakana to a pure white Japanese, speaking in Japanese. So, the message is that foreigners are off-color and carry knives. These are put out by police.

Also, the NPA decided to deputize every hotel in Japan. How? If you take a look here. “Japanese legislation makes it mandatory that you, as a non-resident foreign guest, present your passport and have it photocopied. It says that all non-resident foreigners must show their passport. But the notice that the customers see is this one: “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest for a passport.’’ That’s willful misinterpretation of the law. I’ve been asked for my passport even though I’m a Japanese citizen.

Now, we talked about this a minute ago. Here’s the Gaijin Underground Crime Files. It says on the cover that “everyone will be a target of foreign crime in 2007.’’ It further says, “Will we let gaijin lay waste to Japan?’’ That’s how foreigners are portrayed in this magazine. It is by Eichi Shuppan. Cheap. No advertising. The publisher is Mr. Joey H. Washington. Who is Joey H. Washington? I’ve asked, but have not gotten an answer. No advertising at all.

Who is funding this? We don’t know. There’s been no answer. Sold it in convenience stores nationwide. You can see the whole thing on-line for free at this address. Now, Pio is giving me the time thing. Gotta go. As far as the United Nations is concerned, it says that in the ICERD that “all dissemination of ideas on racial superiority, hatred, and incitement to racial discrimination shall be a declared offense punishable by law, including the financing thereof’’. A little bit more succinct is the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which Japan affected in 1979. “Any advocacy, etc. etc.’

Moving on, let’s talk about incitement to hatred. . . “You bitches! Are gaijin really that good?’’ This is from the crime magazine. Is this a crime? Groping might be a crime, stalking might be a crime. But kissing on the street? It’s not crime. And here, they’re talking about male member size. This is not exactly friendly stuff. “Hey, nigger! Get your hands off that Japanese girl’s ass!’’ Then there is the manga, where a Chinese drowns a Japanese wife, and says, “right, that’s put paid to one of them. I wonder where they got the evidence that he smiled as he drowned this person? And to conclude it, the manga says, “Can they kill people this way, in a way that is unthinkable to Japanese? Is it just because they’re Chinese?’’ Is this encouraging brotherly love? How we doing on time, Pio? Let me cut it off there.

PIO: If you lose your job as a professor, you can go around the world and do presentations. You’re really good at presentations. Doudou Diene has been waiting for a long time. Thank you for your patience and please go ahead.

DIENE: Thank you very much. I will be brief. I very much enjoyed this encounter. Anytime I come to Tokyo, and I would like to share with you two points. One, my main observation worldwide and after my visit to Japan and my follow up visit, on the world scene, there are three points that are strongly indicated in my report. One is the increase of violence, violent acts and killings due to racism. . .[garbled] In Russia, I was there to investigate racism. People had been killed in the streets of Moscow. Second, and more serious, is what I call the democratization or legislation of racism which is expressed by two things. One, is the way the racist political platforms are slowly but deeply infiltrating the democratic system and political parties under the guise of debating illegal immigration, asylum seekers, and now terrorism. When you analyze the program of political parties in many countries, you will see the rhetorical concepts, views being banalized. But more serious than the concept of banalization, is that you’re now seeing more and more governments composed of democratic parties and extreme right parties. You have it in Denmark, Switzerland, and we’ll know by May if we have it in France.

But when you analyze it more carefully, you see that extreme right party leaders were getting into government, to the center of power, and occupying strategic posts like the Minister of Justice. They are then in a position to implement their agenda. We are witnessing this development. It is a very serious one.

More serious, but in the same dynamic, is the fact that extreme right parties are advocating a xenophobic agenda, and they are being elected because of this agenda, especially in regional parliaments. Berlin elected seven representatives of extreme right parties. In the European Parliament, the extreme right has enough seats to constitute a parliamentary group.

So, the point is democratization and banalization of racism and xenophobia. Third point is the emergence of development of the racism of the elites, especially the upper class, intellectual and political. We are seeing now more and more books and studies being published by intellectuals, like Samuel Huntingdon’s “Who are We?’’ The central point of the book was that the increasing presence of Latinos was a threat to America’s identity. You’re seeing more and more crude expressions of racism in publications by university publishers. But the racism of the elites is also expressed by the birth of uncontrolled sensitivities? One French author said Africans were undeveloped because of their penis size. He added that they should be sterilized. So, he has crossed two red lines. One is an old racial stereotype about Africans and sex, and bestiality of Africans. It was largely forgotten, but is being revived by people like this man. Why did he call for sterilization? Historically, this has been the first step to advocating genocide, because sterilization means elimination of a group. This opinion was expressed by a key member of the French public on television.

Another example, also in France, [garbled] a local politician said there were too many black people on the French national soccer team, and that there should be more white people. It was a member of the Socialist Party, not an extreme right-wing party that said this. I provide these examples to show that we are seeing these statements by a growing number of elites.

You may ask why. I think that from this racism of the elites, which is coming strongly. . . because of the banalization, the opening of the door, anti-Semitism and racism are now coming back, being legitimized, despite very strong opposition in Europe. My role is not to denounce or to only present a dark picture of racism worldwide but also to share with the international community and the UN General Assembly the attempts to understand why it is happening internationally. Here, I’m trying to get something more positive. Postive in the sense that I really believe it, behind the increase of violence and killings due to racism, this verbal increase in racism by the so-called elites, I think we are witnessing something deeper, which is one of the causes of what I call a crisis of identity. The fact that in Europe, Africa, and Japan, the national identity, as it was framed by the elites, as it was put into the Constitution, disseminated through education, appeared in literature, and then in the minds and psyche of people, the national identity in the form of a nation-state is no longer conformed to the multi-cultural dynamic of societies.

The societies are becoming more pluralistic, multicultural. This trend contradicts the national identity as it was once defined, and still being promoted. It is precisely this clash which is being politically used by extreme right wing groups, penetrating the programs of political parties, whenever the issue of foreigners is concerned, especially in the debates on immigration and asylum seekers and their integration.
Indeed, if you take the debates on immigration in many countries, it’s what I call and “integration strip-tease’’. It’s a strip-tease in the sense that what governments are asking is for foreign immigrants to “undress’’ at the border. To undress their cultural, religious, and ethnic specificity. This discourse is being discussed and put into law. One discussion we here in the EU is on Turkey. Fundamentally, the issue of identity is at the core of the development of racism. The way the elites and, indeed, societies themselves, are facing their multiculturalization. The refusal to accept this reality is one of the sources of racism. It expressed by the elites because they are the ones who construct national identities, and they feel threatened. Now, what is the dynamic behind it? This means that the combat against racism and violent acts associated with racism has to be linked to the construction of truly multicultural societies, democratic, interactive, multicultural, and equal.

This point leads me to Japan. As you know, my report was submitted to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly last November. Three points on this report. One, I think there were many interesting developments after my report. The issue of racism is now a key issue here in Japan. It has been for a while. But my report has contributed in a way to help the issue be discussed. Second, my report had a very important consequence, which I’ve been advocating in all countries I visited. This is the mobilization of civil society and human rights organizations on the issue of racism. Japan has been advancing the issue, I must say. Japan’s civil society has organized around my report and created a network of minority communities and human rights organizations, and are acting by helping victims of discrimination, publishing reports, and drawing the attention of the media.

For me, this is central. Combating racism is not the exclusive domain of government. Civil society has to be involved and a key actor. This is happening now in Japan. The last consequence of last November’s report on Japan is that the way my report was received by the Japanese government. As you know, the initial reaction was very negative. Indeed, the Foreign Ministry told me they were not happy.
One key point the Japanese government made to the Human Rights Council in Geneva was to say that I had gone beyond my mandate in touching upon the role of history in racism. I put it as one sample point. Racism does not come from the cosmos. Racism is a historical construction. You can retrace how racism was born and developed, and how it manifests itself. This means that history is a sin for which communities have been demonized and discriminated. So, I did make that point in my report, referring to both the internal discrimination in referring to Japanese communities like the buraku community and the Ainu, and it is indeed linked to Japanese history and society. And the racism against Koreans and Chinese is part of the history of Japan from which all this racism eminated.

One of my conclusions was, beyond calling for the adoption of national legislation against racism and all forms of discrimination, I did invite the Japanese government to cooperate with regional governments like China to start cooperating on a general history of the region. And I did propose in my report, and we’ve done this elsewhere, a group of international historians to develop a report. I said that by drafting this history, it will help touch on the deeper issue of racism and discrimination against Koreans, Chinese here. Japanese may also be discriminated elsewhere. The process may lead to a more profound re-encounter and reassessment of the old linkages and legacies. I pointed out that if you read Japanese history books, the picture given of the history of Japan, China, and Korea is that of the short-term. I did say that if the Japanese government decides to teach the longer-term histories of the relations of these countries, Japanese will remember that Korea and China are the mother and father of Japan, for language and religion, and whatever else. The Japanese make it original, something Japanese. But the deeper source is more profound and comes from China and Korea, but this is forgotten. I did say that if you teach this clearly, Japanese will realize this, and realize that discrimination is occurring against Koreans and Chinese.

There is something going on in the Japanese government, I think the fact that the accepted my visit was an indication that they place the human rights issue of some importance. It is never pleasant for a government to invite a special Rapporteur. You are considered a nuisance. But, they did invite me to come, so I came. This means that, somehow, they recognize there is an issue here. I take it that sense. So, on the historical issue, after having negatively reacted in Geneva last summer to my conclusions by saying I’d gone beyond my mandate with regards to bringing up historical issues, in November, at the UN, the Japanese delegates informed the UN that the process has started of contacts between Japanese, Chinese, and Korean historians. I say excellent. But my recommendation was that this process of drafting historical revisions to get to the deep root causes of these issues should be coordinated by UNESCO, as UNESCO has done it in the past. They can give it a more objective framework, and can eliminate the political tensions which may come from this process.

So, I think this is a demonstration that something is going on. Now, in conclusion, my visit to Japan is not a one-time, final act. It is a beginning of a process for which Japanese racism will be monitored as we monitor it other countries: Russia, or my own country, Senegal. Each and every year, I will come back to the situation in Japan as follow-up. I will inform the international community of whatever developments occur, negative or positive, to bring the issue to the attention of the United Nations where it can be discussed. Tonight, there is a debate at the Japanese Bar Association from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on racism. So, the mobilization of legal establishment to engage in the combat against racism is a fantastic step. I am now ready to answer any questions you might have. Thank you.

PIO: Thank you, and the next time you come to Japan, I hope you can meet with the Education minister, Ibuki.

DIENE: I do hope so. But I will quote him in my next report.

Q: Stefano XXXX, Italian Daily News [garbled] What were your findings in Europe and Italy, especially compared to Japan? For Debito, I have a question. There is no way to raise the interest of my foreign desk editor in the magazine you mentioned (Gaijin Hanzai File) because they will say, “Well, it’s not on the front page of the Yomiuri Shimbun’’. Why is it important to raise this issue, even if there are, in other countries, garbage press saying some bad things, especially in Europe?

DIENE: On Italy, I visited Italy in October. My demand to visit Italy dated from a year and a half ago when Berlisconi was Prime Minister. I was concerned of the policies I’d been informed of and wanted to check the reality with the new government. In my report, I formulated three recommendations and conclusions. One, racism is not a profound reality in Italy.

But, my second conclusion was that there was a dynamic of racism and xenophobia. There is no deeply-rooted racism. At least I did not find it in my investigations. But there is dynamic of racism caused by two developments. One is the legacy of the previous government. The government was composed of democratic parties and extreme right parties.

This agenda influenced the previous government’s policies towards immigration and was translated into law. That government, by their policies and programs, have created this dynamic. The second reason was that Italy was confronted in the past few years with a very dramatic migration and immigration process. You know, all of these boats coming from Africa, north and south. The dying of hundreds on the sea, and camps being established in Italy and Sicily, and these were shown in the media every day. Certainly, showing this in the media every day had an impact. Lastly, the political manipulation by the extreme right parties and Italy was also facing an identity crisis because the national identity of Italy is no longer framed to the process of multiculturalization. This created a tension. There is a dynamic. If it is not checked, racism will become rooted in Italy. So these are my main conclusions.

DEBITO: All right. I think the root of your question is, what is the peg for the Italian press? If it’s not on the cover of the Yomiuri, who cares? Well, why should you let the Yomiuri decide what you report in Italy? That seems illogical to me to begin with.

You’re looking for a peg? Here’s your peg: we got the book off the shelves. That book right there is a screed. You think it’s only going to affect non-Japanese? Well, it’s going to affect Japanese, too. We’re talking about the incipient racist reaction to Japan’s internationalizing society. That is news, and it’s not reported on enough. Look, the fact that we got the book off the shelves is pretty remarkable. I mean, as I wrote in my rebuttal to Mr. Saka when he said, “Hey, we just published this because it’s freedom of speech about a taboo subject’’. Wrong.

As I wrote here, it’s not like this is a fair fight. We don’t have an entire publishing house at our disposal with access to every convenience store in Japan so we can publish a rebuttal side-by-side. And the fact that the Japanese press has completely ignored this issue is indicative of how stacked the domestic debate is against us. You think the domestic press is going to go to bat for us and naturally restore balance to the national debate on foreign crime and on internationalization? The domestic press completely ignored this. There’s a reason for that. Real, naked racism is not something that people want to discuss. The fact that we actually stood up for ourselves and said, “Look, we might be foreigners but we do count. We do have money.’’ Myself, I said that, OK, I’m not a foreigner but this kind of thing is going to affect me, too.

And we’re going to exercise the only invaluable right we have in this country: the right where to spend our money. If you sell it at this place, we’re not going to buy anything at this place. Take it off your shelves. We actually took the book off the shelves, and said, “Look, it says `nigger’ here. Look, it shows Chinese killing people and smiling about it. This is gutter press. Do you really want to sell this sort of thing?’’ And they said, “No, we don’t really.’’ And every single place eventually took it off the shelves. This happened only because the strength of our conviction. The press didn’t shame anybody into doing that. We did that. That’s news, because we count now. We are not going to be ignored. We’re going to stand up for ourselves. And that, I think, is a peg.

PIO: The problem is the peg is now sold on e-bay for 40,000 yen. But, OK.

Q: My name is {garbled} I’m from the economic and political weekly of India. I have two questions, one for Dr. Diene and one for Mr. Arudou. For Dr. Diene: do you think your report will have any reprocussions on Japan entering the Security Council? Or should it have any reprocussions on Japan’s entry? Can a nation that practices racism so avidly be a member of the Security Council? For Mr. Arudou, I’ve followed your efforts. I believe the legal route is one route to go in attacking this problem. The other way is hitting them in the pocketbook. Japanese are great exporters of their tourist sites, and there is nothing like the Japanese tourist industry. How should we hit them there?

DEBITO: We meaning who?

Q: Us, and the press. Because I think that once you have frontally faced them through the press. There are a lot of cyberworkers from India who come here. I think we can do something by petitioning the Indian government through our journals and writings.

DIENE: On the first question. It was raised the last time I was here. I did say it was a very dangerous question for me to answer. The Japanese government is going to monitor my answer very closely. But I will give you my reading of it. I don’t think that the existence and the relative presence of racism should be one of the criteria for a country to get to the Security Council when racism is not an official policy or position of the government in question. Indeed, I did not say anywhere in my report that racism is the official policy of the [Japanese] government. This is contrary to South African apartheid. If the simple existence of racism was one of the criteria, the Security Council would be emptied. No country would be there. What should be part of the criteria is they way the Japanese government accepts the international rules of human rights and accepts the international instruments it has signed.

And I do think, indeed, that they are doing so because they accepted my visit. Some governments don’t. For example, I’m still waiting for the Indian government to accept my visit. I’ve been waiting for two years. They told me, “come’’ but don’t touch on the [garbled]. So, the fact that the Japanese government has accepted my visit is a very positive sign. And I do think that in the coming years they are going to implement some of my recommendations. I have no guns, armies or weapons of mass destructions to make them oblige.

But my reports keep going to Human Rights Council and General Assembly. I do think we are in the process of change. I don’t want to isolate, punish, or condemn any government. Racism is a deeply rooted reality in whatever form, whatever society. It exists everywhere. My role is to contribute to its recognition and the way it is being fought. I’m interested in cooperating with Japanese government and Japanese society in helping face these deeply rooted issues. Now, just before Arudou, you touch on something that is often forgotten when combating racism, the role of tourism. People don’t realize that tourism is the most fantastic dynamic of human encounter. Tourism, the way it is practiced now, is only on the economic dimension. It’s not helping promoting a deeper human encounter and interaction. I’ve been launching a program in UNESCO, my Silk Road. We are trying to develop a new concept of intercultural tourism. Tourism should promote a more profound knowledge.

DEBITO: Thank you. I almost got what I was looking for here right now on the Internet, but the connection in this room is a little slow. To answer the question about tourism. Why is the Japanese government doing the `Yokoso Japan’ tourism campaign? Because our exports aren’t doing so hot, and our imports aren’t doing so hot and we ought to do something about our economy. So, let’s bring in more tourists. Well, what are you doing to make it a bit more welcoming? That’s what they want. Well, what about those “Japanese Only’’ signs that are up? What about the fact that every time you check into a hotel you’re going to be treated like a criminal?

The Japanese embassy in Washington is telling foreigners they’ll have their passports checked when the check into a hotel for “effective control of infectious diseases and terrorism”(audience laughter). Now, infectious diseases? Japanese don’t carry infectious diseases, do they? Of course not. And terrorism? The biggest terrorist attacks we’ve had in this country have all been carried out by Japanese. There’s an air of hypocrisy in saying “come here, we’ll take your money. But we’re not going to welcome you in the same standard you’d be welcomed overseas.

DIENE: Just to contradict a little bit my friend Arudou. On the issue of passports and checking in at hotels. As an African, I travel quite a bit and in most of the countries I visited, I’ve been asked the same question. Not only at the border but also at the hotel. Since 9/11, it has become a general reality that a foreigner is suspect. When the foreigner is ethnically or religiously different, he is more suspect. This is the reality.

DEBITO: Just a caveat, though. As I said earlier, they are corrupting the law to say all foreigners must show their passports. That is against the law and should be pointed out. It’s happening in Japan to all foreigners.

PIO: I sympathize with you. Because even Italy checks with Italian citizens in hotels.

Q: My name is Lewis Carlet from the National Union of General Workers and I’d like to follow up on the gentleman from the Italian press about his comment that it’s not front-page news on the Yomiuri. I’d like to point out that, between January 30th and Feb. 6th, Asahi Shimbun ran a series called “Africans of Kabuki-cho’’. Several articles, though not quite as vicious as the magazine we saw up on the screen, portrayed stereotypical images of Africans as criminals, that they only marry Japanese for a visa, that they force young Japanese women into their bars. I’d like to give these articles to Doudou Diene and Debito for your reference.

Q: Yuri Nagano, freelance. I have a question for Dr. Diene. You’ve seen racism all around the world. How would you compare Japan against the United States? There’s a lot of hate crimes in the U.S., so if you could give me, in a nutshell, an idea of the differences. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is Japan’s racism compared to other countries, especially compared to countries with genocide, where they are killing off people?

DIENE: My position is to avoid any comparisons. Because I learned that I am mandated on something that is very complex and each country has its own specificities. There is no possibility, now, when racism is not an official policy of any government, but it is a practice that is culturally rooted.

My reports have three purposes. One, it is a contribution to society. I put what I’m told by the governments and civil societies I meet with in my report and the governments are welcome to correct the report with regard to laws I got wrong. So, my report’s first objective is to mirror society, to say that this is what I’ve seen. Is it true? That’s for you to decide. The second dimension of my report in which we try to describe the policies of the government, what kind of laws have been approved and what kinds of mechanisms have been put in place to combat racism and to describe them as precisely as possible. And to describe what the communities told me.

Internationally, my reports are a comparison between governments. When a government elsewhere reads my report on Japan, they may find a practice that interests them. They are trying to frame their policy against racism. Internally, most of my reports are part of the public debate once they are published. Like in Brazil, I issued a critical report. Racism is deeply rooted in Brazil. I expressed the strong political will of the Brazilian government to combat the problem. So, I want to help the different countries share their practices. I cannot give a scale. I try to take each case on its own reality and complexity.

Q: [garbled] Sato, a stringer for German television. I have a question for Arudou-san. According to the front page of the magazine “Gaijin Hanzai Ura File’’, it seems to rather target Korean, Chinese, maybe Arabs and those faces. I can’t see any Caucasian, so-called “gaijin’’ in Japanese. I’m interested in learning who funded the magazine and if you’re investigation uncovered them. Who are they? Also, you are American and Caucasian. . .

DEBITO: No, I’m not. I’m Japanese.

PIO: Don’t give me more information for Mr. Diene! (nervous laughter from Sato)

Q: In appearance. You enjoy kind of reverse discrimination. Do you take it as discrimination also, or do you enjoy it?

DEBITO: I’m not sure what you mean. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean by reverse discrimination in this situation.

Q: Well, Japanese people, I think, generally speaking, like Caucasians, so-called gaijin people.

DEBITO: Not the publishers of this magazine.

Q: Well, they have something of an inferiority complex, all very complex feelings. Sometimes, you are treated very specially. So, how do you deal with it?

PIO: She’s talking about two different types of approaches. One is against the sankokujin, as Ishihara Shintaro would say, and then the trendy gaijin.

DEBITO: Well, let’s start with “Gaijin Hanzai’’ There’s plenty of stuff in there about the so-called gaijin, or white people. That’s your definition. I don’t buy it, but even on the cover, you can see a white-looking guy. Before you comment on the contents, look at the contents please.

Now, about me getting special treatment as a Caucasian, I’m not really sure that’s the case. I generally live my life like anybody else in this society. I don’t pay attention to my own race except when it’s pointed out to me. And it is, of course, often pointed out to me. It happened yesterday when I was asked yesterday what country I was from. I said “Japan’’. That’s generally where the conversation stops because they think I’m a weirdo. But the point is still that I don’t really pay much attention to it and I don’t consider my status to be anything special, except that I’m a rare citizen. That’s the best way I can answer your question.

[ADDENDUM FROM DEBITO: In hindsight, I would have answered that even if there is differing treatment based upon race in Japan, there shouldn’t be. Race shouldn’t be an issue at all in human interaction. Also, the conversations I have about nationality with people do continue to flesh out that I am naturalized, and after that, we communicate as normal, with race or former nationality becoming a non-issue.]

Q: Bloomberg News. Mr. Diene, when you were talking about criteria for Japan entering the Security Council, you did make the distinction as to whether or not Japan has a policy of racism in the government or whether it just exists. But, just a question. How do you distinguish a pamphlet from the National Police Agency or the lack of a law outlawing discrimination, how can you distinguish that state of affairs with the government’s policy on racism? And just as a clarification. When you said that in Europe the racism comes in some way from immigration or globalization, does that also apply to Japan based on what you’ve seen?

DIENE: It’s a good question. What I meant by distinguishing government policy and social and cultural deep reality of racism in the society is to compare with the situation of South Africa’s apartheid when racism was officially advocated. Japan does not have that policy. It is true that in my work I have found institutions practicing racism. I denounce this in my reports. But whenever this reality is identified, the governments either deny it or recognize it and take steps to settle the issue. I have to look at my mandate in a long-term perspective. Getting out of racism is the permanent work of all governments.
Even the most democratic institutions have the reality of racism. Often, you find silence and invisibility contributing to racism. The invisibility factor is important to remember. In Sweden, you have five members of Parliament from immigrant community. The realities are different. I have not found any official policy of racism from the Japanese government. I’ve found many practices and manifestations, deep rooted in the history and culture of the country. It’s deep within the psyche of Japan.

Q: Edwin Karmol, Freelance. I don’t know if there are any Japanese journalists representing Japanese media here, but there weren’t any questions asked. It’s even more surprising that you don’t get front-page coverage.

DIENE: I must say that the issue was raised when I came, just a few months ago. I would have liked to have been invited by the Japanese press. But, at the end of my visit, I did meet the Japanese press at a university. There was a press conference and they came. Indeed, I had an interview from the Asahi Shimbun. But, certainly, I profoundly regret. I am not just down from the cosmos. I come based on the international convents a country has signed. Indeed, my work is ineffective if the society is not informed of my visit. If the media is not reflecting on my visit known. . . In other countries, the first thing I do –I did not do this in Japan –but I organize a press conference to say I’m here for this and this. So, the public will not. At the end of my visit, I have a press conference. And I do regret that here in Japan such coverage didn’t come. But I think it may come.

PIO: Have you ever asked, formally, the Nihon Shimbun Kyokai for a press conference?

DIENE: No, I usually don’t ask. I usually don’t ask. I let the media freely decide if they want to invite me.

PIO: Well, we can do a swap with the Kyokai. We’ll give them Diene and we can get Bush or Chirac. Thank you very much.


(photo with Doudou Diene and Kevin Dobbs courtesy Kevin–click on image to see whole photo, not just me. Sorry, could not create thumbnail)


Endgame on GOJ push for UNSC seat?


Hi Blog. I have the feeling that Japan may be approaching checkmate on getting its permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Using the appointment of Ban Ki Moon as the new UN Secretary General as an opportunity to put some wind behind their sails, the GOJ has gotten their ducks lined up: the major world powers (sans China) are falling for Japan’s arguments of quid pro quo.

Opening with a primer article from Drini at Inter Press. Then Japan Times on Europe’s and Bolton’s support. Comment from me follows.


Japan’s eyes still on UN seat
Asia Times January 3, 2007

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO – Half a century ago, Japan, defeated by Western Allied forces at the end of World War II in 1945, was admitted to the United Nations, marking an end to its violent past and beginning anew in world politics with a clean slate.

Since then, Japan has not disappointed the world. The country now boasts a record of working hard to rise from the ashes of war to become the world’s second-largest economy and international aid donor.

But in December, as Japan celebrated the 50th anniversary of its admission to the United Nations, top policymakers and politicians were reiterating a deep-rooted national desire to gain a permanent place in the UN Security Council with the coveted veto power.

“Japan, for its part, is determined to take up its full responsibilities through gaining membership in the Security Council,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a solemn ceremony at United Nations University in Tokyo, attended by the Japanese emperor and empress as well as international diplomats and top academics.

Analysts contend that the resumption of the drive for Security Council reform this year, which follows the disastrous rejection in 2005, reflects several important developments in Japanese diplomacy after the election of former leader Junichiro Koizumi and Abe, both conservatives.

“Abe and Koizumi represent a generation of postwar politicians in Japan who want an active role in global politics. They believe this position is long overdue for Japan that is now rich and confident and totally different to country that was defeated in World War II,” explained Professor Akihiko Tanaka, an expert on UN diplomacy.

Indeed, Abe, along with conservative policymakers, argue that Japanese contributions to the UN are almost 20% of the annual budget, second only to the United States, which should make a permanent seat in the Security Council along with the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, which pay lower fees, totally natural.

In addition, wrote the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan’s largest daily, Japan has also contributed in the way of calling for arms reduction, improvement of the UN Secretariat’s functioning, and a fair calculation of contribution of ratios for member fees.

“But,” noted the newspaper pointedly, “such sensible recommendations have never been implemented. The Security Council’s special privilege, the UN’s unique structure and the difficulty of multinational diplomacy are behind Japan’s inability to get its voice heard.”

The statement also refers to Japan’s failed Security Council aspirations, a hurdle the government has called as difficult as “getting a camel through the eye of a needle”.

Japan forged an alliance with aspirants India, Brazil and Germany in 2005 to gain a permanent position in the Security Council, but was unsuccessful. Yet other experts do not agree with the stance that Japan is not influential in the UN.

Professor Ichiro Kawabe, a UN expert at Aichi University, based in Nagoya, points out that Japan’s economic clout has certainly allowed the country to yield strong influence in the UN, such as in last July when the Security Council adopted a resolution under the direction of Tokyo protesting North Korea’s missile launches.

“Moreover, Japan has won the position in the Security Council on a revolving basis nine times in the past, allowing its participation and vote in several crucial debates,” Kawabe said. He added that such chances were never seized by Japanese diplomats to spotlight a unique global vision.

One reason for the inability of Japan to achieve its Security Council aspirations is the complexity of developing a multilateral diplomacy that demands dealing with issues such as human rights and racism along with the organization’s 109 members.

Those intricacies are not easy for Japan, the experts say, explaining that Tokyo has been content to develop its postwar foreign relations under the umbrella of the US-Japan Security Pact that has only gotten stronger these past few years.

Under Koizumi and Abe, this pro-US foreign policy has gained a stronger standing, with beefed-up new agreements such as a joint missile-defense plan last July.

“While Japan remains a trusted UN member and a leader in development issues, there is still the notion of the country bowing to US interests rather than having its own world vision,” said Professor Monzurul Huq, a Bangladeshi national teaching international relations at Yokohama University.

Yet another trend of thought among some academics is the use of a permanent position in the Security Council by Abe to foster narrow domestic interests.

“Under the new thrust of promoting human security in the world, the UN peacekeeping forces, for example, and with its image of building peace in conflict zones, Abe is promoting the changing of Japan’s peace constitution to have a military,” said Kawabe.
(Inter Press Service)

Japan deserves permanent UNSC seat, Bolton says
Japan Times January 17, 2007

By ERIC PRIDEAUX Staff writer

Japan should be granted a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, as more than two-thirds of General Assembly states would support this despite expected opposition from China, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said Tuesday.

“I think Japan still has overwhelming support in the General Assembly,” said Bolton, an outspoken foreign-policy conservative and advocate of the U.S. invasion of Iraq who stepped down as ambassador in December amid accusations from liberals, and some conservatives, that his approach to foreign policy was heavy-handed.

But as someone with the ear of many conservatives in Washington, Bolton remains closely watched by analysts.

A guest of the government, Bolton arrived Saturday for a weeklong visit during which he is meeting with officials and the public to share his views on U.S. policy.

Speaking to students and others at the University of Tokyo, Bolton said Japan’s strategy of allying with fellow UNSC aspirants Brazil, Germany and India — collectively known as the Group of Four — ultimately failed because each country met resistance from neighboring rivals.

“I think many of the other members of the G4 felt that if Japan became a permanent member and the U.N. went through this lengthy exercise of amending the charter, then there would never be another chance,” he said. “I don’t see why you can’t amend the charter — because Japan clearly qualifies as a permanent member — and then take each subsequent case on an individual basis.”

Bolton argued that as the second-largest contributor to U.N. finances after the U.S., and as a participant in peacekeeping operations around the world, Japan possesses more than enough clout to ask the General Assembly to vote for the charter revision needed to give it a permanent Security Council seat.

As one of five countries currently holding permanent seats, China — which has misgivings about Japan having a permanent UNSC seat — can veto Japan’s bid, a fact Bolton readily acknowledged. That, however, should not be a deterrent, he added.

“(Japan) needs to put that case to China and see if China is really prepared to stand in the way,” he said.

Separately, Bolton also hailed the appointment of South Korean diplomat Ban Ki Moon as the new U.N. secretary general and successor to Kofi Annan. “We find ourselves now in a situation where the United States has, we all have, a secretary general who is a former foreign minister of a treaty ally of the United States — something that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War, to be sure, and that is really quite remarkable even in the circumstances that we face today,” Bolton said.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007


Well, given this editorial in the JT (which gives the information we need but surprisingly doesn’t give an opinion on it), I think we’ve just about lost the battle on this issue.

============EXCERPT BEGINS==================
Mr. Abe’s bold security agenda
The Japan Times Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007

…The new thinking underlying Mr. Abe’s trip was signaled on the day of his departure with the elevation of the Japan Defense Agency to become the Ministry of Defense. That move sets the stage for a shift in defense planning as Japan attempts to take on new international responsibilities. Central to that new role is permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council: Mr. Abe made that case in meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Jacques Chirac and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and won support from them all. Of course, much remains to be done before that goal can be realized — meaningful U.N. reform encompasses much more than just expanding the size of the Security Council. Mr. Abe focused his efforts on building a coalition that supports Japanese ambitions.
============EXCERPT ENDS==================
Rest at

Why do I oppose Japan’s bid for the UNSC? Because Japan has a nasty habit of signing treaties and not following them: Two shining examples: The Convention on Civil and Political Rights and The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Or not signing treaties at all, such as the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (more on this at the CRN Website).

The UN CCPR Committee and the UN in general, most recently UN HRC Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene in 2005 and 2006, has cautioned Japan about this for well over a decade. Yet Japan continues to ignore the findings or do anything significant to change the situation (such as pass a law against racial discrimination, now eleven years overdue).

The ace in the hole for the human rights activists is the UNSC seat, which is all the GOJ really cares about here. Its sense of entitlement is to me more due to a matter of national pride and purchasing power. Less about acting like a developed country keeping its promises as a matter of course. Give this seat to Japan, and there is no incentive for the GOJ do anything at all regarding its human rights record (quite the opposite–the GOJ will probably feel further justified in continuing doing nothing since it got this far anyway).

Probably should send the leadership of the supporting countries some of these newspaper articles, for what they’re worth. Any citizens out there willing to contact their embassy or national offices overseas? Help yourself to these links. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan Times column: “PULLING THE WOOL: Japan’s pitch for the UN Human Rights Council was disingenuous at best” (November 7, 2006)

Japan Times column: “RIGHTING A WRONG: United Nations representative Doudou Diene’s trip to Japan has caused a stir” (June 27, 2006)

Japan Times column: “HOW TO KILL A BILL: Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a case study in alarmism” (May 2, 2006)

Japan Times column: “TWISTED LEGAL LOGIC DEALS RIGHTS BLOW TO FOREIGNERS: McGowan ruling has set a very dangerous precedent” (February 7, 2006)

Japan Times column: “TAKING THE ‘GAI’ OUT OF ‘GAIJIN’: Immigration influx is inevitable, but can assimilation occur?” (January 24, 2006) (Adapted from a longer Japan Focus academic article of January 12, 2006)

Japan Times column: “THE “IC YOU CARD”: Computer-chip card proposals for foreigners have big potential for abuse” (November 22, 2005)

Japan Times column: “MINISTRY MISSIVE WRECKS RECEPTION: MHLW asks hotels to enforce nonexistent law” (October 18, 2005)

Japan Times column: “HERE COMES THE FEAR: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents” (May 24, 2005)–with UPDATE including Mainichi Shinbun article of February 8, 2006, demonstrating that the article’s claims are indeed coming true.

Japan Times column: “CREATING LAWS OUT OF THIN AIR: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners” (March 8, 2005)

Japan Times column: “RACISM IS BAD BUSINESS: Overseas execs tired of rejection, ‘Japanese Only’ policies are turning international business away from Japan” (January 4, 2005)

Japan Times column: “VISA VILLAINS: Japan’s new Immigration law overdoes enforcement and penalties” (June 29, 2004)

Japan Times column: “DOWNLOADABLE DISCRIMINATION: The Immigration Bureau’s new snitching Web site is both short-sighted and wide open to all manner of abuses.” (March 30, 2004)

Japan Times column: “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004)

Asahi Shinbun English-language POINT OF VIEW Column, “IF CARTOON KIDS HAVE IT, WHY NOT FOREIGNERS?” (Dec 29, 2003) A translation of my Nov 8 2003 Asahi “Watashi no Shiten” column.

Japan Times column: “Time To Come Clean on Foreign Crime: Rising crime rate is a problem for Japan, but pinning blame on foreigners not the solution” (Oct 7, 2003).

Japan Times column on Japanese police abuse of authority: “WATCHING THE DETECTIVES: Japan’s human rights bureau falls woefully short of meeting its own job specifications” (July 8, 2003)


Dejima Award: Setaka Town approves foreigner-free university


Hi Blog. This Letter to the Editor appeared in today’s Japan Times. Thanks to G for the tip. Comment from me follows:

Town opts for isolation policy
The Japan Times, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

By CHRIS FLYNN in Fukuoka

As the new year begins, we are approaching the “awards” season: the Academy Awards, Grammies and my favorite, the Darwin awards (given to people who improve the human-gene pool as part of the natural-selection process by accidentally killing or sterilizing themselves during a foolish or careless mistake). I would like to propose a new award: the “Dejima Awards,” given to those in Japan who actively try to shield themselves from foreigners and foreign influence, culture and ideas.

I would like to nominate the Setaka Town Assembly (Fukuoka Prefecture) for this year’s award. The town was trying to attract a university to establish a campus in town, and in the process asked for comments from the townsfolk.

A group of residents submitted a deposition opposing a campus that did not reject foreign students. They were worried about the crime such students would bring. That’s right — the residents wanted a university as long as there were no foreign students. The town assembly voted to accept the proposal without debate.

COMMENT: I assume the Japan Times checks its facts before publication, and Chris Flynn is somebody I know and trust from his days at radio station Love FM in Fukuoka. So I doubt the story is bogus.

Anyway, I like his idea of creating this kind of award as a form of raspberry. Too many times these stupidities and rustic paranoia seize the zeitgeist and create idiotic policy. The option of exposure for what this action clearly constitutes–xenophobia–is a viable one.

Thus may I award (if that would be alright with Chris) the first Dejima Award to the Setaka Town Assembly for its foresight in anticipating the criminal element in all foreign students.

Debito in Sapporo

Economist/Japan Times on J Basic Education Law reform


Hi Blog. Launching a series on what I see as a very serious issue (training people to be “patriotic” at the early stages of education, with “love of country” tests already happening in Kyushu and Saitama grade schools), here is an introductory article from The Economist (London) on Japan’s reform of its Basic Education Law (Kyouiku Kihon Hou).

I don’t quite share its analytical framework or its rosy conclusions, but it’s a decent primer on the issue. Further links to this issue on included after the article. Further links to this issue on included after the article.

Below that follow two more Japan Times articles showing the most recent policy push in its genesis, back in 2002 and 2003.

I’m sure I’ll be saying this many times in the course of analysis and argument from now on, but what of the international community and mixed-roots children getting their education in Japan? Will they have to make a choice about their national identity (one, not both?), or just be excluded altogether?

Moreover, given Japan’s history of so much emphasis on Yamatoism as part or national identity, what sorts of guarantees do we have that this will not fall back into old patterns which ultimately devastated this country a world war ago? Might sound a bit alarmist at this stage, but public indifference is what permits policy creep.

Debito in Sapporo

Japanese education
The wrong answer

Dec 19th 2006 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition

Instilling love of country is not the main challenge for Japan’s schools

SOMETHING has gone terribly wrong with Japanese education—or so say the Japanese. They fret that Japan has slipped down the international rankings for high-school literacy, mathematics and science. In the OECD’s last assessment of 15-year-olds in 41 countries, Japan remained a healthy second in science, but had fallen from first to sixth in maths and from eighth to fourteenth in reading ability.

Parents are also worried about the resurgence of bullying and suicides among schoolchildren. Facing probable defeat in next summer’s upper-house election, the fledgling government of Shinzo Abe has been casting around desperately for something—anything—to prove that it really is listening to people’s concerns. Education is seen as a handy distraction.

The kind of reforms the government has in mind, however, are not designed to help young people make critical judgments in a fast-changing, information-driven, global environment. Instead, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito, have rewritten Japan’s post-war education law with the aim of boosting patriotism among the young.

Bunmei Ibuki, the education minister, also believes elementary schools have no place teaching foreign languages such as English. The first requirement, he insists, is that pupils acquire what he calls a “Japanese passport”—ie, a thorough grasp of the country’s history and culture, and perfection in their own language.

Parliament’s lower house has approved legislation which, besides stressing the importance of parental guidance, requires schools to instil “a love of one’s country” in children. The opposition parties boycotted the recent lower-house vote, but the ruling coalition’s majority in the upper chamber has allowed the bill to scrape through and become law.

Because it was used in the past to fan the flames of militarism, teaching patriotism has long been taboo in Japan. With its heavy emphasis on morality and nationalism, the new legislation bears some resemblance to the Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890. In the decades up to the end of the second world war, children were forced to memorise the rescript and recite it, word for word, before a portrait of the emperor. Following Japan’s surrender, the allied occupiers ended the practice, appalled by its demands for juvenile self-sacrifice in the name of the emperor.

The paradox is that Japan does need serious education reform. The school system and curriculum were designed 60 years ago, when a generation of children from farming communities were being trained for long, uncomplaining hours on production lines. In the intervening years the economy has changed out of all recognition. Yet the education system—with its continued emphasis on facts and figures and drilling of mental arithmetic—has remained stubbornly rooted in the past.

Its continued economic success suggests that Japan’s teenagers are paying less heed to all this, as they quietly master the creative skills needed to prosper in a modern world. In this context, perhaps those perplexing slippages in formal grades, mirrored in other post-industrial countries, ought actually to raise a cheer.

Attitudes of LDP Kingpin Machimura on Education Law’s reform
Witch hunts for educators who don’t follow patriotism directives
Enforced patriotism ruled unconstitutional:



‘Love of country’ curriculum hit

By GARY SCHAEFER The Associated Press
The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Few schools in Japan are complying with government guidelines suggesting that students be graded on how patriotic they are — and those that have face opposition from teachers, parents and citizens’ groups.

“Fostering love of country” was added as a curriculum goal for sixth-grade social studies classes under guidelines first approved by the education ministry for the school year that ended last month.

Patriotism here is often associated with the jingoism trumpeted by Japan’s militarist government and forced upon students in the decades leading up to this country’s defeat in World War II.

The nonmandatory guidelines suggested that teaching patriotism would encourage children to take pride in their history and culture.

But according to a recent survey by a Japanese newspaper, less than 200 of Japan’s 24,000 public elementary schools are complying. Parents and citizens’ groups are protesting, and a spokesman for the nation’s largest teachers union said in an interview that he questioned the constitutionality of the guidelines.

“The freedom of belief is guaranteed by the Constitution and applies to children as well,” said Shinji Furukawa, a spokesman for the Japan Teachers’ Union. “We think it is very serious that this language has been included in the guidelines before the matter was debated by the Diet.”

Japan’s Asian neighbors, which bore the brunt of its past military adventures, have frequently criticized Tokyo for allowing wartime atrocities to be whitewashed in officially sanctioned textbooks.

Officials have defended the patriotism guidelines.

“The advisory council’s view was that it was important in international society for students to develop a sense of identity as Japanese,” education ministry official Yuiichi Sakashita said. “The idea is to teach kids to understand and appreciate their country and its history and traditions.”

The old curriculum for sixth graders called on teachers to foster a “love of Japan’s history and traditions.” The new version adds “love of country” to that list, Sakashita said.

A board of education official in the city of Fukuoka, where 51 elementary schools started giving grades for “love of country” in the last school year, said the decision had “nothing to do with nationalism.”

“We’re not grading students on how much they love their country,” Mamoru Shibata said. “It’s basically about how much interest they’re showing in their studies about Japanese history and culture.”

Such explanations have done little to placate critics.

“I think students are already taught enough about taking pride in their history and culture,” said Noriyoshi Mukoyama, principal of Tokyo’s Seisho Elementary School, one of the many schools that hasn’t added “love of country” to its report cards.

“I didn’t see any need to give a grade for that,” he said.

Schools implementing the grades have significant leeway in deciding what constitutes patriotism, since the ministry guidelines provide few specifics.

The very idea of having such classes is upsetting some parents.

“Who’s to say what patriotism is? How do you grade it?” asked Hiroaki Nakane, 49, whose daughter is a fifth-grader in Fukuoka. “The whole thing sounds like a return to the militaristic thinking in this country before the war.”

The matter is particularly complex for minorities, particularly the large Korean community. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, and many ethnic Koreans in Japan descended from workers brought here forcibly as laborers.

“How is a Japanese teacher supposed to grade a Korean on love for country?” said Lee Han Eun, 32, who runs a Korean citizens’ group. “We’re worried that this is part of a broader trend toward nationalism — not just a question of report cards.”

The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Contrived crisis in education
The Japan Times: Monday, Dec. 23, 2002

Educational reform is becoming a political issue in Japan. At the center of the controversy is the Education Basic Law, which took effect in 1947 when the Constitution was established. Earlier this year the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, published an interim report calling for a revision of the law.

The reform groundwork was laid last year when the National Conference on Educational Reform, a private advisory group to former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, released its final report saying the law should be rewritten. The central council is set to issue its own final report next spring. The education ministry plans to send a revision bill to the 150-day regular Diet session that opens in January.

The education charter, established during the U.S. Occupation, has been criticized by conservative politicians and educators as being out of touch with the “domestic situation.” This is the first time, however, that the government has moved toward amending it.

Conservatives say the fundamental education law, already more than 50 years old, should be updated. In my view, though, there is no need whatsoever to change it now or in the foreseeable future.

Revisionists include former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who told the Yomiuri Shimbun Sept. 10, 2000, that the law had been enacted integrally with the Constitution, noting that the Imperial Rescript on Education and the Meiji Constitution also had been closely intertwined.

The debate on constitutional revision has only just started. Rewriting the basic education act at this stage is like putting the cart before the horse. The argument that a revision to the act, unlike a constitutional amendment, is procedurally simple ignores the historical background.

The interim report stresses “love for one’s birthplace and country” and “voluntary participation in public affairs.” In terms of defining noble goals, these expressions pale in comparison with the preamble to the education law, which calls for the “development of people who respect individual dignity and desire truth and peace.”

The emphasis on individual dignity reflects Japan’s militaristic past when millions of young men were forced to sacrifice their lives for a reckless war. The education rescript urged the Japanese people to “come to the aid of the country in a time of crisis and promote the prosperity of the Imperial Throne.” Those men were taught to memorize every word of it.

After the end of World War II, Japan adopted the Western idea of respect for individuals, but this principle is not yet fully observed in this nation. Bureaucracy continues to wield potent power. Promotions are still based more on seniority than merit. Employees are transferred with little regard for their wishes. And they put in a lot of “service overtime” without pay. Neighbors are bound by old customs and rules that stress “group spirit.” The interim report, however, is oriented toward the state, not the individual.

In the early postwar years, there was, to my recollection, more individual freedom than now. In my high school days, when the education system was overhauled, voluntary student activity was encouraged. I enjoyed a pleasant campus life, although Japan at the time was a poor country. Students were free to organize various clubs as well as self-governing bodies. School trips were decided by vote. Few students attended cram school to enter college.

In subsequent years, however, the freewheeling mood on campus began to disappear. High schools appear to have become an “examination treadmill” with students cramming day and night to get into name universities. Vigor also seems lacking in college life, if what I observed during my three years as an instructor (till March 2001) at a newly established university is any indication.

Students there were unable, or unwilling, to set up a self-governing council. They couldn’t start up a campus festival without the help of a teacher appointed by the faculty for the occasion. Almost no students asked questions in class. They were lazy, I thought, compared with exchange students from Asia.

In recent years the government has been tightening its grip on education. In 1999, a law governing the showing of the national flag and the singing of the “Kimigayo” anthem went into effect. Since then the education ministry has been urging public schools to hoist the flag and sing the song at entrance and graduation ceremonies. According to a ministry survey, the flag and anthem guidelines were observed by public schools in 40 of the 47 prefectures at graduation ceremonies last spring. Teachers who have refused to comply have been punished.

“Patriotism” is a new item for grading in reports from an elementary school in Fukuoka City. Teachers there evaluate each student in terms of “affection for the country and identity as a Japanese.” This item, which was inserted beginning this fiscal year, has been criticized by Korean residents as a human rights violation.

School authorities say they are merely abiding by the ministry’s curriculum guidelines. But promoting patriotic education under these nonstatutory guidelines is going to an extreme because it is still undecided whether to include the idea of patriotism in the Education Basic Law.

Fanning nationalism in such a way goes against worldwide moves to expand activity across borders amid the globalization of national economies and enlargement of the European Union. There is no convincing reason why Japan should encourage hoisting the rising-sun flag and singing Kimigayo.

The interim report gives a range of reasons for educational reform, such as loss of self-confidence among students, erosion of moral values, violent crime among the young and lack of discipline in the classroom. In other words, the report sees Japanese society and education as facing a serious crisis.

The real crisis, however, lies in the government’s inability to pull the Japanese economy out of its protracted slump. It appears that politicians are trying to talk up a “crisis in education” as a way of easing the pent-up stresses of a recession-wary public. I think they are pursuing a nationalistic policy in order to deflect the public’s mistrust of politics.

People are also frustrated that the government and the ruling parties have not taken any effective action to prevent political corruption. In recent years quite a few politicians have been forced to resign over money scandals, including misuse of their public secretaries’ pay.

The interim report calls for an education that encourages students to develop a good sense of morality and ethics — a desire to observe the established norms of behavior. The urgent need, however, is to root out corruption in the political world and collusion in the public sector. That will have a far greater educational effect on the students.

Kiroku Hanai, a former editorial writer for a vernacular newspaper, writes on a wide range of issues, including international relations.
The Japan Times: Monday, Dec. 23, 2002





では、記事(2ページ分)以降の通りです。久保さまに大感謝!有道 出人。



Sunday Mainichi on Foreign Crime Fearmongering as NPA policy


Hi Blog. SITYS. See I told you so. As far back as 2000 (when this whole thing started, really–Check out Chapter Three of my book JAPANESE ONLY), I was saying that foreign crime was being artificially generated by policymakers in order to justify more budgetary outlay. Well, here’s an article on it from the Mainichi Daily News. Courtesy of Ben at The Community (thanks). Debito in Sapporo

Author dismisses government’s fear mongering myth of crime wave by foreigners

MAINICHI DAILY NEWS December 21, 2006

Translating Sunday Mainichi article dated Dec 31, 2006, original version blogged here.

For years, people like Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara have been up in
arms about rising crime rates among foreigners and juveniles in Japan,
but one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety experts
has come out to say the claims are groundless, according to Sunday
Mainichi (12/31).

Ishihara and his ilk have long laid the blame on foreigners for a
perceived worsening of public safety standards that has allowed the
powers that be to strengthen and crack down on non-Japanese and teens.

But Hiroshi Kubo, the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government’s Emergency Public Safety Task Force, says they’ve got it
all wrong.

“Put simply, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety policy
involves telling people that public safety standards have worsened and
police groups need strengthening to protect the capital’s residents,”
Kubo tells Sunday Mainichi. “But I’ve realized there’s something
unnatural about this ‘worsening.'”

In his newly released book, Kubo goes through the statistical data
being used to justify taking a hard line on foreigners and kids and
argues that maybe it’s not quite all there. For instance, the growing
crime rate in Tokyo is based on reported crimes, not actual crime
cases. This means the count includes cases where people who have been
scared into believing their safety is under such a threat they contact
the police for any trifling matter only to be sent away with no action

And taking a look back over the past 40 years shows that violent
crimes by juveniles has actually declined. Current worries about how
youths are becoming more criminally inclined — and at a younger age
— sound like a recording of similar cries dating back to the ’60s.

Crimes by foreigners have long been highlighted, but there’s little to
suggest that Tokyo or Japan is in the midst of a violent crime spree.
In 2002, there were 102 non-Japanese arrested in Tokyo for violent
crimes including murder, armed robbery, arson and rape. The following
year, that number jumped to 156, fell back to 117 in 2004 and was just
84 in 2005. And the number of violent crimes foreigners are committing
in Tokyo is not a patch on the Japanese, who account for about 1,000
cases a year.

Kubo says authorities are merely fear mongering, taking statistics
that work in their favor and molding them to suit their purposes.
National Police Agency data is used the same way as authorities are
doing in Tokyo, spreading fear nationwide.

“There’s an underlying current of anxiety throughout society. People
have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, they’re worried
about employment and pay and declining living standards and somebody
who’s going to openly talk about the reason for their anxieties is
going to attract their interest,” the public safety expert tells
Sunday Mainichi. “Say somebody comes out and says ‘foreigners’ violent
crimes are all to blame’ then anxious people are going to go along
with that. And the national government, prefectural governments,
police and the media all jump on the bandwagon and believe what’s
being said.” (By Ryann Connell)

December 21, 2006

More on how the police fudge the stats at

Mysterious Asahi translation: “IC cards planned to track ‘nikkeijin'”


Hello Blog. Here’s something odd. My lawyer today told me about an Asahi article which came out two days ago regarding proposals to IC Chip all foreign workers.

Funny thing is this. The English version (enclosed below) is entitled “IC cards planned to track ‘Nikkeijin'”. The Japanese version is entitled “Gaikokujin ni IC kaado–touroku jouhou no ichigen kanri he seifu gen’an” (“IC Cards for Foreigners–a proposal before the Diet to unify all registered data for administrative purposes”). Sounds quite different, no?

And the J version focusses much more on how it’s going to affect “gaikokujin roudousha” (foreign workers), including any foreigner registered and/or working for a company in Japan. The Japanese version doesn’t even mention “Nikkeijin” until well into the third paragraph, let alone the headline. Odd indeed.

Both articles blogged on for your reference. Japanese version at
Or on this blog at

What do you think is going on here? Is this a way to keep the members of the foreign elite that can’t read Japanese from protesting when hobnobbing with the Japanese elite? Debito in Sapporo


IC cards planned to track ‘nikkeijin’

The government plans to enhance its system of tracking foreign nationals of Japanese descent by issuing new IC cards containing information controlled by the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, sources said Tuesday.

The electronic information will include name, date of birth, nationality, address in Japan, family members, and duration and status of stay, the sources said.

The cards will be issued by immigration offices when they grant visas to the foreigners of Japanese ancestry, or nikkeijin.

With the information under its control, the Immigration Bureau will be able to follow changes in the foreign residents’ addresses when they present the IC cards to municipal governments in reporting that they are setting up residence there.

The Justice Ministry will also consolidate information on private companies and municipal governments that hire foreign workers, the sources said.

The moves are part of the government’s efforts to expand the scope of legal systems to prepare for a growing number of foreigners working in Japan, the sources said.

The IC cards will be issued mainly to nikkeijin and their family members who came to Japan in the 1980s and thereafter.

The nikkeijin have been practically exempted from the government’s policy of refusing entry to unskilled workers. Their whereabouts and duration of stay are often difficult to grasp, sources said.

Special permanent residents, including those from former Japanese colonies, such as the Korean Peninsula, and their descendants, as well as travelers and others here for a short period, will be exempted from the IC card program, the officials said.

Those who opt for the IC cards would not have to obtain an alien registration card from their municipal office. But they would have to present the IC cards when they register at new municipalities, the officials said.

The draft proposal was compiled by a working group of a government council on crime-fighting measures. The council, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, received the working group’s proposal Tuesday, they added.

A working group of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 2005 proposed that all foreigners be required to carry such IC cards, much like alien registration cards issued by municipal governments.

But the move was quashed after opponents said such action could lead to excess supervision.

For the new IC card plan, the government plans to submit a bill to revise related laws to the ordinary Diet session in fiscal 2008, the sources said.(IHT/Asahi: December 20,2006)

朝日:外国人にICカード 登録情報の一元管理へ政府原案


ブロクの皆様こんばんは。この朝日新聞の記事の和英訳はかなり異なります。英語は「IC cards planned to track “Nikkeijin”」(ICカードは日系人のトラッキングをする企画)、そして、「外国人労働者らの居住地などを正確に把握するため、外国人登録情報を法務省入国管理局が一元管理する新制度」のことは控えめに言っている。どうぞ英文と比較して下さい。決して対訳ではありません。なぜでしょうか。有道 出人

外国人にICカード 登録情報の一元管理へ政府原案
朝日新聞 2006年12月19日19時18分






LDP Kingpin Machimura speaks at my university


Given at Hokkaido Information University, Monday, December 18, 2006. 10:50AM-12:15PM
By Arudou Debito
December 19, 2006

Machimura is now a big cheese in the LDP and in the ruling cliques. Born into a rich family of farmers based in Ebetsu, Hokkaido (“Machimura” is a very famous brand for milk and dairy products), he has been elected to the Diet seven times, first from 1983 (albeit almost losing his last election in 2003–see page down to the end). He has a very effective political machine–I even got tricked into donating to his political campaign some years ago (see previous link). Not that it mattered…

Machimura is a thoroughbred elite. We received a resume at the door with a big glossy color pamphlet to prove it: Machimura’s grandfather studied farm science under Dr. William Clark, a legendary Hokkaido historical figure, and according to the promo is called the “Father of Japanese Dairy Farming”. His father was a Hokkaido Governor, a former Lower House Dietmember, and Speaker of the Upper House. Thus born into Kennedy/Rockefeller/Bush Silverspoondom, Machimura, a 1969 graduate of Tokyo U’s Economics Department, has served stints at MITI, JETRO, Monbudaijin, Gaimudaijin, and of course many, many more places we should take note of. Machimura now has his own faction–the largest in the LDP (, which he took over from his rugby buddy, former PM and mould for gorilla cookies Mori Yoshiro (probably Japan’s least popular PM in history). The pamphlet also kindly included photos from Machimura’s life: his lavish baby photo (taken in 1944, when the rest of the country was undergoing extreme wartime hardship), his stint as exchange student at Wesleyan (standing next to–literally–a Token Black person named “Tom-kun”), his violin “keiko” discipline under the Suzuki Method, and his “gallant” (ririshii) high school portrait. For good measure were photos of him with designer Hanae Mori, actress Mori Mitsuko, various prime ministers, Yassir Arafat, and various bridges and public works projects (including a bridge near my old hometown which conveniently took years to construct).

Machimura represents my workplace’s electoral district and is a primary patron of my university (he helped it get set up). Thus his speaking here was essentially like welcoming royalty. I was asked to give my students the day off classes so they could help fill the auditorium (I obliged). As the crowd handler at the podium–a pro imported for just this purpose dressed in one of those spotless starched politician’s outfits–gestured students to come out of the back rows and down in the front for the cameras (“This is not yarase” (staging for effect), she openly said before the cameras started rolling), I could see that this was going to be a memorable day.

After suitable warming up of the crowd (with a video showing brick dominoes being knocked over; bricks, you see, are the symbol of this area), Machimura strode in with entitlement and set to work speaking to consume his hour. He opened with a meandering history lesson of how his family is intertwined with Hokkaido history, then threaded in points about how his uncle’s farm makes products people here should eat, how he has a long history of service to our beautiful country, and how we ought to respect our ancestors. They wisely knew to avoid entanglements with what was going in in China pre-Meiji Era, citing a word (and trying to describe the kanji, unsuccessfully) that apparently was a slogan for the Meiji Restoration (he noted it should be “Meiji Revolution”): “fuki honpou” (不覊奔放), to help us understand how learned he is. (Quite. The word is not even in my Koujien.)

Machimura also talked about how proud he is that Japan has finally reformed its Basic Education Law–finally, after no revisions since the end of the war. When he first entered the Diet more than 20 years ago, he wondered why this document foisted upon us after defeat could go so long without changes to reflect our country’s current situations. Now, thanks to his efforts as Education Minister, he saw one of his life’s goals fulfilled two days ago when the Diet passed the bill. Now people can be properly educated about the beauty of and love for our country.

He also tossed out a few gems of advice for our students. My favorite: How we should know Japan’s history or else we won’t be able to talk to foreigners overseas. After all–thanks to his stint being traumatized by classes in English and conversations with people at Wesleyan–he indicated his belief that once Japanese go overseas, they must represent Japan as cultural ambassadors. Anything less is “shameful” to our beautiful country.

He finished up with a riff on why Japan deserves a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. After all, Japan is the second-largest donor to the UN, and the Security Council is essentially a cabal of the victors of WWII. Fellow unfortunates Brazil, India, and Germany all banded together last time to try and remedy this situation. Alas, woe is us: Brazil was opposed by Argentina, India by Pakistan, and we Japanese opposed by that anti-Japan campaigner China. But anyway, we shouldn’t just throw money at situations and expect to be respected. We must get our hands dirty on the world stage.

He then opened the floor for questions. My hand was the first one up. In an ideal world, my questions would have been (unabbreviated, to give readers here context):

1) I saw on TV last week your comments as chair of the taxation committee that your proposals were “tax cuts on parade” (genzei no on-pareido). These are tax breaks for business (, not for regular folk. Please tell us what’s happening to Consumption Tax or Income Tax? Please try to avoid answering, “Wait and see until the next election”, as happened next time.

2) You mentioned about the reform of the Basic Education Law. Will this now include evaluations and grading of “love of country” (, as has been instituted in Kyushu and Saitama? Please tell me, then, how non-Japanese children, or Japanese children of international marriages, will fare?

3) You mentioned the seat on the Security Council. Could one credibility problem possibly be Japan’s inability to sign treaties (such as the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction), or to follow the treaties Japan does sign (such as the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, or the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination)? Would you support, for example, the establishment of a law against racial discrimination in Japan, now ten years overdue?

But I have the feeling the Imported Crowd Handler knew who I was, and said, “Questions for students only”. A couple of hands went up, one asking what he thinks is great about Japan (Machimura: We have an unbroken line of Imperial dynasty. And that Japanese are a people who speak their minds subtly, not directly.), the other asking what he felt was easy or difficult about being a politician (Machimura: The fact that the Russians attacked Karafuto and the Northern Territories after Japan ceased hostilities [not true], and killed about 3000 Japanese. It was tough, but I got the relatives over there for respects to the dead. Last year, the group which does this disbanded due to the advanced ages of the widows, but they sent me a nice letter thanking me for all that I have done for them.).

There was a little time left, so Imported Handler asked what books Machimura-sensei would suggest the students read. He said any book about Hokkaido history. And as a matter of fact, Machimura wrote a book last year, oh look, the Imported Handler just happens to be holding up a copy of at the podium. “I’ll donate a few to the library.” Then a couple of students on cue brought him bouquets of flowers, and off he went.


I asked my students later (I had two classes afterwards) what they thought of this whole thing. A show of hands indicated that a majority thought it a snoozefest. A few others said they disliked the clear egotism and book pushing. One even laughed and said, “The guy’s a botchama” (Brahmin son of a Brahmin family) . It was clearly to all of us, at this school where no elite would otherwise ever cast his shadow over, the first time they had ever met one with this degree of attitude.

But the surprise of the day was when one student asked me about my questions (basically everyone in the auditorium saw my hand go up first). “We were contacted and told to ask questions by the organizing committee. Those two students who were spoke up were assigned the job.” Well… that’s one way to keep someone like me in check.

“Welcome to adult society,” I sighed. “This is a good study of politicians. Get to know them. You soon will have the right to vote. Understand who and what you’re voting for.”

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
December 19, 2006

Kyodo: Anthony Bianchi running for Inuyama Mayor


Hello Blog. Friend Anthony Bianchi, after winning a seat in the Inuyama City Assembly with the highest number of votes in the city’s history, is now running for mayor. Very impressive indeed. Not only did he avoid getting burned out, or chewed up and spit out by Japanese politics, he’s going for the next step in the ladder! Power to him! I mention him briefly at Debito in Sapporo


New York-born ex-city assemblyman runs for mayor in Aichi city
Japan Today/Kyodo News Monday, December 11, 2006 at 07:39 EST
Courtesy of Arturo at The Community

INUYAMA — A former local city assemblyman of New York origin and seven others officially filed their candidacy Sunday to run in a mayoral election in Inuyama in Aichi Prefecture slated for Dec 17.

In the race, voters will choose a successor to Yoshihiro Ishida, 61, who quit as city mayor after serving for more than 11 years to run in the prefecture’s gubernatorial election scheduled for next February.

If elected, Anthony Bianchi, a 48-year-old former Inuyama city assembly member originally from Brooklyn, New York, will be the first person born in the West to become a Japanese municipality head, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Bianchi has pledged to further promote education reforms and to ensure greater participation of citizens in municipal politics.

Bianchi and the seven others are all independent candidates. If no one garners at least one-fourth of total valid ballots cast on the day of the election, the city will hold a new election by late February, Inuyama city officials said.

The city known for Inuyama Castle, built in 1537 and a national treasure, has a population of about 75,000 and around 59,000 eligible voters.

The other candidates are former city assembly members Takuro Yamada, 33, and Kayoko Kawamura, 64; former prefectural assemblyman of the Liberal Democratic Party Yukinori Tanaka, 48; Keiko Murata, 65, backed by the Japanese Community Party; former McKinsey & Company consultant Taichi Sakabe, 35; former company executive Hideo Maeda, 53; and former company employee Iwao Inagaki, 63.

Bianchi, whose wife is Japanese, became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2002 and won a seat in the Inuyama assembly in April 2003 with the largest number of ballots ever cast in the city assembly election of 3,302.

Speaking to supporters at his election office on Sunday morning, Bianchi said in Japanese, “This election is a turning point for Inuyama to move forward or step back. I want the city’s future to be in the hands of people, not of a few specific people” belonging to certain groups.

Bianchi has said that he is running as a completely independent candidate to provide “a legitimate alternative” to voters to meet the “real needs of people.”

As a foreign-born candidate, Bianchi said, “I don’t have the same kind of ‘shigarami’ (obligation or indebtedness). Maybe other people have it.” He also said his other strength is that people tolerate his behavior which is “a little bit more direct” than that of native-born Japanese.

But on the fact that he may become the first Westerner to govern a Japanese municipality, Bianchi said, “I don’t think that is such an important thing…It’s just a footnote.”

Bianchi said that if he becomes Inuyama mayor, he would be able to better promote the city abroad and increase the number of visitors to boost the tourism industry in Inuyama. (Kyodo News)



Hi All. Arudou Debito in Sapporo here. Lots been going on recently. Another newsletter to fire off to you:

Table of Contents:
(freely forwardable)


Let me start with this since it’s the briefest entry:

My latest article in the Japan Times Community Page will be coming out today, as in a few hours. Teaser summary:

Now that the UN’s corrupt Human Rights’ Commission has been replaced with the “Human Rights Council”, with more accountability for its members vis-a-vis their own human rights record, the Japanese government got elected last June as its richest member. Interestingly, I was able to obtain a copy of Japan’s submission to the UN when it declared its HRC candidacy. In it, Japan pulls the wool over the UN’s eyes, with half-truth claims regarding Japan’s willingness to comply with international standards of human rights (with prominent treaties left unsigned and signed treaties left unfollowed). Moreover, nowhere mentioned in the sales pitch is any form of commitment towards improving the rights of Japan’s international residents.

Maybe this ability for unqualified candidates to get elected is what’s causing writers on the UN, such as James Traub (author, “The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power”) to call the Human Rights Council “a failure” (NPR Fresh Air, October 31, 2006) already, mere months after its birth…

Anyway, pick up a copy of the Japan Times today and have a look.



These sorts of things just seem to keep on happening whenever I attend a JALT conference ( Last year, it was me finding out how the Japanese police were bending newly-revised hotel laws, by misrepresenting the law to make it seem as though all foreigners (residents of Japan or not) must show their passports at check-in. (Wrong–it only applies to tourists.) See the Japan Times (“Checkpoint at Check In”, October 13, 2005) article that came out of that at

This year, the following happened:


Kokura, Kitakyushu City (Fukuoka Pref)
Restaurant “Jungle”
Kitakyushu-shi Kokura Kita-ku Kajimachi 1-7-4, Kajimachi Kaikan 3F
Ph: 093-512-7123, FAX 093-512-7124
Photo of storefront available at

On November 3, 2006, during the JALT National Conference at Kitakyushu, a JALT member was refused entry to the above restaurant. Reason given was that the establishment was full, even though to the refusee it visibly had open tables. The person who was refused informed Rogues’ Gallery moderator Arudou Debito at the conference after one of his presentations, and volunteer Jessica tracked down the site.

On November 4, at around 9PM, Arudou Debito, Jessica, and four other friends (including Ivan Hall, author of CARTELS OF THE MIND) went to the restauant in question. Arudou first went in alone and the manager, a Mr Matsubara Tatsuya, indeed tried to refuse him entry by claiming the restaurant was full. A quick walk around the restaurant confirmed that the establishment, with at least eight large tables plus counter space, was in fact almost completely empty. When it was clear that Arudou and Matsubara could communicate in Japanese, Matsubara then switched tacks and offered him counter space. Arudou then brought in his friends and confirmed that they could now have a table.

Arudou and friends then confirmed (after being seated and ordering drinks) that a) Matsubara did refuse foreigners entry, b) because he cannot communicate in English–he finds it his “nemesis” (nigate), c) and because he finds foreigners frightening (kowai). When asked if he had ever had any bad experiences or altercations with non-Japanese customers, Matsubara said no. He just (for reasons never made very clear) did not want to have to deal with them.

When Arudou and friends softly and calmly pointed out that a) non-Japanese are customers too, with money, not to mention language abilities (or at least forefingers to point to items on the menu), b) refusing them entry hurts their feelings, as it did the person refused the previous evening, c) that welcoming customers was part of the job description of his line of work (kyaku shoubai), he apologized and said he would try harder not to refuse non-Japanese customers in future.

The irony of the situation was that at the end of our drinks, one of the waiters who attended us (a student at the local technical college) talked to us in very good English. Why couldn’t Matsubara just have passed any customer with whom he was unable to communicate on to his staff?

We look forward to future reports from readers of this website who might wish to investigate this restaurant in future to see if Matsubara keeps his promise.

I should think that if I find some time, I should write a letter on this case to JALT, the Kitakyushu Mayor’s office (after all, he did officially welcome us in the JALT brochures), the local Bureau of Human Rights, and maybe the local newspaper, and let them know that this sort of thing happened and should not anymore. JALT is like a mountain in that it is big enough to influence the weather–with a couple thousand attendees surely a windfall for the local economy. Might as well ask to use the authority if we have it.



Here’s an article I stumbled across while reading back issues of The Economist, left fallow on my desk due to all my travels:

Iva Toguri, a victim of mistaken identity, died on September 26th, aged 90
From The Economist (London) print edition, Oct 5th 2006

=================== EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
MANY years after the end of the war in the Pacific, a former tail-gunner who had been stationed in New Guinea wrote a letter to a veterans’ magazine. He wished to share his memories of a voice. Every night in the spring of 1944, huddled in a tent with his comrades, he would hear a woman speaking behind the crackle and whistling of the Halicrafter radio. “Hi, boys!” she would say, or sometimes “Hi, enemies! This is your favourite playmate.” She would play swing and jazz, introduce “some swell new records from the States” and then, almost as an afterthought, mention that a Japanese attack was coming: “So listen while you are still alive.”

They listened happily, as did American troops all over the Pacific. It was rare and good to hear a female voice, even through several layers of interference and even with the sneer of death in it. Whether it was one woman, or many different women, did not matter. They could picture her: a full lipstick smile, ample curves, perfect skin, part Hedy Lamarr and part the sweetheart left at home. She was a temptress and a vixen, and her name was Tokyo Rose. For even myths must have names and addresses…
=================== EXCERPT ENDS =======================
Rest of the article also at

Economist Oct 5 Obit: “Tokyo Rose” dies (with replies)

COMMENT: I think the author of article tries a little too hard to let Ms Toguri off the hook. Unwilling or subversive participant perhaps, the fact that she still participated is something that should be discussed. The author should have dealt with her motivations a little more, and instead of merely dismissing “incriminate Tokyo Rose” campaigner Walter Winchell as a “populist ranter”, brought up more of his claims and counterargued them better. Her popularity with the troops and celebrity status does not in my view exonerate her participation in the propaganda, and she herself should have told us a bit more about what went on before she died. If there is any “mistaken identity”, as the article claims in the title, I feel it is in part because she did an insufficient amount to correct it herself.

The Economist has done this sort of thing before, by the way. In an article on the Emperor Hirohito death in 1989, there was a Leader (editorial) dismissing British newspaper claims that he was “truly evil”. The Economist instead made the case that “Hirohito was one of the people in the 20th Century who delivered us” (IIRC–it’s been 18 years). I had trouble buying it then, and, given the revelations of Shouwa Tennou’s wartime involvement (see Herbert BIX’s book on it), I buy it even less today.

Contrast these with what passed as an Obit in The Economist for Leni Riefenstahl, another woman with wartime complicity. Also available at

Economist Oct 5 Obit: “Tokyo Rose” dies (with replies)

Maybe this is just something The Economist does: Focus on the output and not on the motivations of the artist. Pity it means glossing over archetypal historical figures in retrospective. I say: Less gush for people with possible complicity in wartime, please. There are issues here which should be discussed.



Shortly before writing this newsletter, I was interviewed tonight by “Bicyclemark’s Communique”, an introduction through ResPublica’s Lee-Sean Huang, by Mark, a Portuguese-American activist blogger, podjournalist, and vlogger living in Amsterdam. He asked me about Governor Ishihara, a topic I have probably B-minus knowledge about, and the emerging right-wing shift in Japan’s internationalist future. I’m pretty tired, so I made a couple of goofs, but have a listen anyway. I think it came out quite alright:


Thanks as always for reading!





Back issues, archives, and real-time updates at
This post is freely forwardable.



These are some important developments in the future of immigration to Japan. Some proposals are quite sensible, if done properly. Article excerpts with comments follow:

“Foreigners to need ‘skills’ to live in Japan
Justice panel takes aim at illegal aliens”
Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

A Justice Ministry panel discussing long-term policies for accepting overseas workers said Friday the government should seek out those with special skills and expertise to cope with the shrinking labor force in Japan….

The proposal by the panel headed by Kono also claimed that reducing the number of illegal foreign residents will help the country regain its reputation as “the safest country in the world,” ultimately creating an environment where legal foreign workers can become a part of society. As suggested in the panel’s interim report released in May, the panel said foreigners who want to work in Japan, including those of Japanese descent, must have a certain degree of proficiency in the Japanese language to be granted legal status.

COMMENTS: I am largely in favor of these proposals, as long as the government (as I said in previous writings) keeps the language evaluation independently certifiable–not letting it become another means for labor force abuse (by allowing bosses to wantonly decide whether or not workers are “jouzu” enough).

Also glad to see they dropped the hitherto proposed “3% foreigner population cap” as unworkable. Inevitably they would end up kicking foreigners out as the Japanese population dropped. See the original proposal and a critique at

Also, got this comment from a friend:
Did you see the results of the public comment drive for the Kono report? According to the report (available on the Justice Ministry website at, they got 437 responses (well, that they officially validated, but that’s another plate of sushi).

Of these, 426, or 98 percent, were opposed to expanding the number of foreign workers. Even those few who wanted to expand the the number of foreign workers apparently said that solving the problem of “public safety” was a condition for their agreeing. Proof, as if we need more, that the foreigners-as-dangerous-criminals-propaganda over the past five years or so has been chillingly effective.

I’d be curious to learn how many people you know or know of wrote in. If it was more than a dozen, I think a fair question to Mr. Kono would be whether the opinions of resident foreigners were included in the survey.

Did anyone else respond to the MOJ request for info?
Please let me know at

Now for the next article concerning immigration:

“Govt to check foreign staff situation
Plans to have firms report worker details”
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept 23, 2006

By making it obligatory for companies to report foreign workers’ details, the government hopes to keep track of people on an individual basis, and to enhance measures for clamping down on those working illegally. In addition, it is hoped the measures will encourage foreign workers to take out social insurance, and allow central and local governments to offer better support to workers who have to change jobs frequently due to unstable contracts.

The government’s three-year deregulation program, finalized in March, discusses making it mandatory for firms to submit reports on their foreign employees and whether reports should include detailed information such as workers’ names and residence status. The policy is likely to prove controversial in light of the protection of foreign workers’ privacy and the impact of the new system on the economy.

COMMENT: Quite honestly, I am of two minds on this proposal. Depends on who the true target of this policy is: The employer (to force them to employ legal workers, and force them to take responsibility when they don’t? It would be about time.), or the foreign employee? (in another attempt to “track” them constantly, an extension of the proposed “Gaijin Chip” IC Card system? See my Japan Times article on this at )

It’s a wait-and-see thing for me, as there is no way to determine how it will be enforced until it is enforced. Witness the April 2005 revisions of hotel laws, requiring passport checks of tourists, which gave the NPA license to order hotels nationwide to demand passport checks of ALL foreigners (regardless of residency):



Story about frustrated player making anti-gaijin remarks about his coach, our own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Trey Hillman, who has had a simply incredible season (and may take the pennant for the first time for this new team). Excerpt follows:

At this stage of the season, the only thing any player should be thinking about is winning the pennant…

However, that was vastly overshadowed by the actions of Fighters starter Satoru Kanemura, who threw a major hissy fit due to being pulled by manager Trey Hillman in the fifth inning needing just one out to become the first Nippon Ham hurler to rack up five straight ten win seasons since Yukihiro Nishimura.

After the game, he told the press that. yanking him was “absolutely unforgivable” and then took a racial shot at Hillman, grumbling that, “because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t care about players’ individual goals.” He then challeneged reporters to print his remarks. “I don’t even want to look at him,” Kanemura said of Hillman.

[Original Japanese: “Zettai ni yurusanai. Gaikokujin wa kojin kiroku wa dou de mo ii n deshou. Shinユyou ga nai tte iu koto. Kao mo mitakunai.”) (Doshin Sept 25) ]

In addition, he accused the former Rangers farm director of being more indulgent with Iranian-Japanese righthander Yu Darvish than him. In the context of this little explosion, that also has a racial tinge to it. Kanemura also beefed that he didn’t think Hillman trusted him….

Kanemura… was immediately taken off the roster for the duration of the playoffs and told to not even show up at practice Monday…
Entire article at

Funny to hear a Japanese accuse a foreigner holding the group in higher regard than the individual…

Where this went next:

Kanemura suspended, fined Y2 million for criticizing Hillman
Japan Today, Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TOKYO Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said. Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day…. (Kyodo News)

COMMENT: While I support the sanctions meted out (for “criticizing the manager’s decision”, not for a “gaijin coach slur”, note), why am I not surprised by this development? Is it a given or a natural law that sooner or later, somebody’s foreignness is inevitably made an issue of here? I know Japan isn’t alone in this regard by any means, but one can hope that things can improve. Especially given the degree of fan service and overall relaxedness that the Fighters under Hillman have displayed–and still look likely to win the pennant! Nice guys can finish first. It’s just a shame that in the heat of the moment, the race card (or gaijin card, whichever interpretation you prefer) has to surface.

Bravo to showing zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Kanemura apologized on his blog (not for the “foreign coach” thingie, however–see, and the apology was accepted by Hillman.

But let’s go deeper. There are plenty of books and articles out there talking about how foreign players, umpires, even coaches are treated in Japan without the due respect they deserve, suffering great indignities due to their “gaijin” status.

And it wasn’t just Hillman last week. During the September 25 high school draft picks for professional teams, one of the stars, Ohmine Yuuta, got his hopes up to be picked by Softbank Hawks. It was supposed to be a done deal, but Bobby Valentine, coach of Chiba Lotte, put in a bid as well for him. As is the established precedent, both Softbank and Lotte drew from a lottery, and Lotte by chance won. Suddenly. Ohmine declined to join Lotte, which is quite a scandal in itself.

But you just gotta pick on the gaijin. The HS coach of Ohmine’s team, a Mr Ishimine Yoshimori, refused to even meet with Valentine on September 26, citing the following reason:

“Americans won’t comprehend our words or feelings.”
(amerikajin to wa, kotoba mo kimochi mo tsuujinai)

Thus Coach Ishimine publicly rebuked Valentine due to some kinda foreign “language barrier”. What an example to set in front of his students! Courtesy Sports Houchi September 27, 2006:

Amazing. Major coaches with worldwide reputations, like Valentine, are thus in the end still just gaijin, shown rudeness unthinkable between Japanese in this context. Remember who Valentine is: He brought Lotte to its first pennant win last year in a generation–31 years–the first foreign coach ever to do so.
It looks like Trey Hillman may be the second, two years running.

Final word: Shortly after I posted about Hillman, a friend brought up the argument that he didn’t see anything particularly racist or xenophobic about Kanemura’s comments. I answer that on my blog at

If the World Cup 2006 can explicitly make “no racism” an official slogan, isn’t it time for Japan’s sports leagues to stop sweeping this issue under the carpet, and make an official statement banning it as well?



This matters to this newsletter because enforced patriotism (particularly in the ways emerging under the creep towards the right wing in Japan) is anathema to multiculturalization and multiethnicity. What are the children of immigrants to say when asked how much they love their country, and be graded on it? (As is happening in grade schools in Saitama and Kyushu.) The “Kimigayo” Issue, where here people are exposed to punishment and job dismissal if they don’t stand and sing the national anthem, is a bellwether. Fortunately, some people are willing to stand up for themselves. Consider some Tokyo educators:

“City Hall to appeal ‘Kimigayo’ ruling”
Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

In Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo school board cannot force teachers to sing “Kimigayo” before the flag or punish them for refusing to do so, because that infringes upon the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution…

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday that City Hall will appeal Thursday’s 12.03 million yen district court ruling against the “Kimigayo” directive, which obliges Tokyo’s teachers to sing the national anthem before the national flag at school ceremonies.

He also said punishing teachers for not obeying the directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government board of education was “only natural because they neglected their duties as teachers.”

COMMENT: Quite a blow — Tokyo District Court, usually quite conservative, actually ruled against the government. Bravo. No word, however, on whether this ruling actually reinstates the suspended teachers or reverses their punishments (I suspect not).

More on this issue in the LA Times at,1,314185.story?ctrack=1&cset=true



The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Businesses, excluding customers by race and nationality (or a salad of the two), has just had an update. Joining the 19 cities and towns with a history of exclusionary signs is:

“Pub Aliw”, Iida-Chou, Ohta City, three blocks from JR Ohta:
This in a town full of Japanese-Brazilians, and a Filipina pub to boot (looking for foreign arubaito, according to a notice on the lower part of the door–in English!). No foreigners allowed–unless they work here!

Nice lettering on the exclusionary sign, though. Nothing like being told “Get lost Gaijin!” in a nice font.

But all is not bad news replete with irony. Also added a photo of a yakiniku restaurant in egregious excluder Monbetsu City last summer (“Mitsuen”–Monbetsu Ph 01582-4-3656). You can see a picture of me tip-top condition (having cycled 800 kms to get there) getting a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign down from there. You can also see a cat posing with me, as she had just been fed by the owners. Cats welcome, foreigners not.

Luckily, when we asked owners to take the sign down, they quickly complied! Pity it only took six years and a personal coaxing from us.

Also, and I might have mentioned this before, but what the heck: It’s irony that works in our direction…

An exclusionary sign also technically came down in egregious excluder Wakkanai City as well. Actually, public bath Yuransen (which not only illegally refused foreign taxpayers entry–it opened a segregated “gaijin bath” with a separate entrance, and charged foreigners more than six times the Japanese price to enter!) technically took its sign down because it went out of business. Photo at

So much for the claim by the management that letting foreigners in would drive them bankrupt…



The Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions of higher learning which refuse to provide permanent tenure to their foreign full-time faculty, has been revised again for the time being. It is a good indicator of how language instruction in Japan is being even further ghettoized in Japan’s tertiary education.

Joining the crowd of 98 Blacklisted universities is world-famous RITSUMEIKAN UNIVERSITY, which is upping its own ante to show the world how rotten they can make things for their foreigners. According to their most recent job advertisement, they are disenfranchising their foreign faculty further (with “shokutaku” positions), adding more languages to the roster of disenfranchised positions, and even cutting their salary (compared to a job ad of few years ago) by nearly a third!

KYOTO SANGYO UNIVERSITY is doing much the same thing, with contract positions containing a heavy workload and unclear extra duties:

Finally, long-Blacklisted KITAKYUSHU UNIVERSITY has arguably improved things, revising its job description to offer longer contract terms, with the possibility (they say) of permanent tenure for foreign faculty.

We’ll just have to wait and see, as the programs were inaugurated in April 2006. Fortunately, according to foreign faculty at the school, KU does currently have tenured foreigners, which means that it has also been moved to the Greenlist.

If you want an example of how things could be done more equitably in Japan’s university system, go to the GREENLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES at

A good example of a nice job offer can be seen in the job advertisement for AIZU UNIVERSITY, which joins 31 other Greenlisted schools.

Bravo. Submissions to either list welcome at
Submission guidelines available on the lists.
(It may take some time for me to get to listing things, sorry. Volunteer work is like that.)



Got some spare time on Saturday, October 7? Come to the Tokyo University Komaba Campus and see me and others speak on language issues. The Japan Times even covered it last weekend:

Personality Profile–Frances Fister-Stoga and Linguapax Asia
Japan Times Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006

The Linguapax Institute, located in Barcelona, Spain, is a nongovernmental organization affiliated with UNESCO. Linguapax Asia, associate of the Linguapax Institute, carries out the objectives of the institute and of UNESCO’s Linguapax Project, with a special focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. The objectives cover issues ranging over multilingual education and international understanding, linguistic diversity, heritage and endangered languages, and links between language, identity, human rights and peace. Frances Fister-Stoga, lecturer at Tokyo University, is director of Linguapax Asia…

This is the third annual international symposium organized by Linguapax Asia. It is open to the general public as well as to those with professional interest. Registration is not in advance, but at 8:30 a.m. on the day, Oct. 7, in building 18 of the Komaba campus of Tokyo University. The fee is 1,000 yen. The session will begin at 9 a.m.

Keynote speaker in the morning session will be Charles De Wolf, professor at Keio University, translator, writer and expert on East Asian and Oceanic languages. He will discuss multilingualism and multiculturalism. The afternoon keynote speaker will be Arudo Debito, a professor at Hokkaido Information University and author on human rights issues. He will discuss the question of language and nationality. A dozen other distinguished speakers and two workshops will round out the day.

Web site:

For those who are unable to make it, you can download my paper (still in draft form) in Word format at

Download my accompanying Powerpoint Presentation at

My paper’s abstract:
============ABSTRACT BEGINS=============================
In Japan, a society where considerations of “nationality” and “language possession” seem to be closely intertwined, the author finds from his personal experience that having Japanese citizenship is an asset to communicating in Japanese to native Japanese. More indicative is the author’s survey of over two hundred Japanese college students on “What is a Japanese?” over the course of ten years. His findings are that people who have Japanese language ability are more likely to be viewed as “Japanese” than if they do not–even if the fluent do not have citizenship. The author feels this non-racially-based construct for determining inclusion in a society is a very hopeful sign for Japan’s future as a multicultural, multiethnic society.
===========ABSTRACT ENDS================================

I think that’s about enough for today. Thanks as always for reading! I will be slower to respond while I’m on the road for the next three weeks…

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan


J Times Sept 23 2006: Tokyo Court rules against “forced patriotism” in schools


COMMENT: A blow against the tendency (especially in Tokyo, as you can see in Ishihara’s comments below) towards (re-)enforced patriotism in schools. Tokyo District Court, which is usually quite conservative, actually ruled against the enforced (with noncompliers punished) standing and singing the Japanese national anthem etc., calling it “a violation of the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution”. Bravo. No word, however, on whether this ruling actually reinstates the suspended teachers or reverses their punishments (I suspect not). More in the LA Times at,1,314185.story?ctrack=1&cset=true — Arudou Debito

City Hall to appeal ‘Kimigayo’ ruling
Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

KYODO PHOTO Tokyo teachers face the media with their lawyers Friday after filing a request for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to retract disciplinary actions them, based on a court decision that confirms are not obliged to sing the national anthem while facing the national flag. KYODO PHOTO

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday that City Hall will appeal Thursday’s 12.03 million yen district court ruling against the “Kimigayo” directive, which obliges Tokyo’s teachers to sing the national anthem before the national flag at school ceremonies.

“We will appeal as a matter of course,” the well-known nationalist said at a regular press conference. “The judge should see what the situation is like at places such as metropolitan high schools.”

He also said punishing teachers for not obeying the directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government board of education was “only natural because they neglected their duties as teachers.”

Having students and teachers “pay respect to the national flag and anthem is one way to restore discipline” to the schools, the governor said.

Meanwhile several ministers said they were surprised by the ruling.

Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura said Friday that it was “unbelievable” a lawsuit could be filed over the raising of the national flag and the singing of the anthem.

While saying it was his “personal view as a lawmaker,” the justice minister told a news conference that “Kimigayo” and the Hinomaru have been accepted as Japan’s national anthem and flag since the 1868 Meiji Restoration.

The Hinomaru did not officially become the national flag until 1999, when “Kimigayo” became the official anthem.

Referring to the part of the ruling that said, “The Hinomaru flag and ‘Kimigayo’ anthem were the spiritual backbone that supported imperialism and militarism until the end of World War II,” the minister said the flag and anthem have nothing to do with events that led to the war.

Sugiura, who is also a member of the House of Representatives from the Liberal Democratic Party, also said that Britain’s national flag is called “the bloodstained Union Jack” but that the British people have never changed it.

In recent years, the government and politicians have been making steady efforts to promote patriotism.

Education minister Kenji Kosaka said at a separate news conference that the court’s decision was unexpected, given past rulings in similar lawsuits.

Kosaka declined to comment on the disciplinary action Tokyo metes out to teachers who refuse to obey the directive. “It is up to the judicial authorities to decide whether it is legal,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 50 of the 401 plaintiffs in the lawsuit and their lawyers went to the metro board of education Friday to demand it repeal punishments imposed on 345 teaching staff. They also asked the board not to appeal the district court ruling.

In Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo school board cannot force teachers to sing “Kimigayo” before the flag or punish them for refusing to do so, because that infringes upon the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Japan Times: Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006



Good evening all. Arudou Debito in Sapporo here, with a roundup of recent articles I’ve been blogging recently:

Table of Contents:

Newsletter dated September 23, 2006
Freely forwardable



I updated you last week ( ) about my lawsuit against Japan’s largest Internet BBS, 2-Channel. Although they lost a libel suit to me last January, Owner and Adminstrator Defendant Nishimura Hiroyuki still hasn’t paid the court-ordered damages, moreover has ignored another series of paperwork my lawyers have filed to enforce the decision. Full details on the lawsuit at

The news is that I just heard that Nishimura, with his invisible income, numerous personal blogs and online columns, and books published by the likes of Kodansha and Asukii, has made himself invisible. Yes, he’s just plain disappeared. Witness this newspaper article (translation mine):

============== BEGINS ==================
On September 22, it was established that Nishimura Hiroyuki (29), aka “hiroyuki”, administrator and operator of giant Internet BBS “2-Channel”, has disappeared (shissou joutai). This BBS is being run by Nishimura as an individual. Even after government organs have demanded that inappropriate posts be removed, and posters have their whereabouts revealed, [Nishimura] has let these things slide and not responded to orders to appear before courts. The worst case scenario is that “2-Channel”, an emblematic site to Internet industries, may even be shut down.
=============== ENDS ===================

I don’t know in what newspaper this appeared (it looks like a screen capture from a TV news show), but it is the genuine article, and visible at

I have also heard rumors that Nishimura was about to declare personal bankruptcy, and has a gaggle of lawsuits following him to zap any above-board income (royalties etc.) he might legally receive. However, he’ll never be able to open and register a real company. If he does resurface (if he’s even still in the country) and declare himself bankrupt, he’ll apparently even lose the right to vote.

For the record, I do not support closing 2-Channel down (it is for millions a very valuable network). I only want it to take responsibility for filling the media with irresponsible information, so bad that even Japan’s cautious courts have determined in several cases to be libelous. Continuous evasion of these responsibilities as a member of the media may mean Nishimura gets his in the end. Keep a weather eye on this story…



Reporter Eric Johnston has done it again–another prescient scoop on what may become a pressing domestic issue in future: How a probable influx of foreign labor may cause frictions between foreigners themselves, i.e. the “Oldcomers” (the Zainichi generational foreigners) and the “Newcomers” (overseas-born immigrants, whose numbers are rising as the Zainichis’ fall). Excerpt:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
“I don’t think you’d see a level of violence between different ethnic groups that you see in other parts of the world because Japanese authorities and society would not tolerate it,” said former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief Hidenori Sakanaka. “But it’s likely that established foreign residents would discriminate against groups of new foreigners, barring them from apartments, restaurants, or jobs.

“It’s already happening in cities like Tokyo, but it could become a much bigger problem nationwide in the future,” he said.

And newcomers facing job discrimination in particular, be it from long-term foreign residents or from Japanese, could find that groups like labor unions that have often been at the forefront of protecting the rights of foreigners may change their attitude if they begin to see foreign labor as a threat.

“I can see a large influx of foreign workers sparking opposition from Japan’s labor unions,” Sakanaka said.

“Compared to the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, opposition within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to large numbers of foreigners is quite strong, and much of this opposition reflects the opposition that exists in labor unions.” (Japan Times, Sept 12, 2006)
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

It also addresses issues such as education, discrimination, public policy, and a lingering ostrich mentality even amongst “progressive” (and Prime-Ministerial-aspiring) Dietmembers such as Kouno Taro. Blogged in full at

Speaking of internationalization tensions:



Here’s a harbinger of future foreign entrepreneurialism:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
The Toyama prefectural government has instructed two businesses
targeting foreign residents to improve their business practices after
discovering they had disregarded the city planning law, The Yomiuri
Shimbun has learned.

The prefectural government intends to issue similar instructions for
seven other businesses in the near future. If the conditions of the
instructions are not met, the businesses will be ordered to cease
operations. If the orders are again ignored, the prefectural
government will file criminal complaints against them.

The Construction and Transport Ministry is demanding the prefecture
also investigate the about 170 such businesses in the area that are
believed to be on the edge of the law as part of a clampdown on
businesses encroaching on the countryside…

The nine businesses for which the guidance has been issued or
scheduled comprise five used-car dealerships, a mosque, a real estate
office targeting foreigners, a money exchange business and a
used-appliance store. The operators of the locations include Japanese,
Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, among others…

[And of course, the perfunctory allusion to foreign crime…]

In the neighboring areas, there are a large number of robberies,
burglaries and traffic violations committed by foreigners….

(Yomiuri Sept 13, 2006, )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Goes without saying, but I would expect any businessman regardless of nationality to follow Japan’s zoning laws. But based upon the number of these “shack businesses” I see springing up in the Hokkaido countryside (where our foreign population is miniscule), I can’t help but think that crackdowns and criminal procedures wouldn’t be so considered without the foreign element. Let’s hope these proceedings also target places without mosques and Russian customers…

Now for a man who really wants foreigners to come to his town–as long as it’s for the Olympics…



Yes, the man who never misses an opportunity to slag somebody off (how dare the Fukuoka mayor put in an Olympic bid and compete with Tokyo, the center of the universe!) has decided to run for a third term as Tokyo Governor. Expressly so that he can shepherd his plans through for the 2016 Tokyo Olympics: Tokyo won the bid to be Japan’s champion on August 31.

That’s fine. But then Ishihara decided to punch below the belt when a critic just happened to be “foreign”:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
However, Ishihara’s trademark volatility came to the fore when Fukuoka supporter Kang Sang Jung, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo–and a second-generation Korean born and raised in Japan–criticized Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

In his pre-vote speech, Kang provoked Ishihara’s ire by asking, “Can we win over world competitors with an Olympics of the rich, by the rich and for the rich?”

Ishihara replied in his speech, saying: “A scholar of some foreign country said earlier Tokyo has no philosophy. I do not know why.”

The governor then went on to make his displeasure clear later at a celebratory party, when he dismissed Kang as both “impudent” and an ayashigena gaikokujin (dubious foreigner).

(Asahi Sept 1, 2006, )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Aim high, shoot low. This caused quite a furor with human rights groups, since Ishihara promised to stop making these types of discriminatory remarks in 2000 after the firestorm wreaked by his “Sankokujin” (basically meaning “lesser-nation foreigners” in vernacular use) Speech to the Self Defense Forces (where he called for foreigner round-ups in the event of a natural disaster). For good measure, on September 15, Ishihara then talked about illegal immigration from the, quote, “sankokujin” all over again.

People have filed complaints, for what they’re worth (links in Japanese):

Can hardly wait to see how Ishihara assesses all the foreigners who come to spend money here during the Olympics… Given Japan’s overreaction to world-class sporting events, viz. the World Cup in 2002, I’m not optimistic.

I’m also not all that optimistic about Ishihara getting the boot in the next election. But one can dream.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on with people blaming foreigners for their ills:



It’s quite a famous case up here in Hokkaido, where a kid from a broken family in Wakkanai, Japan’s northernmost city, apparently tried to get his friend to help kill his mom. It’s a pretty sad case, covered assiduously by the Wide Shows, of yet another example of Japan’s apparent decline in morals. It’s further complicated (as far as this newsletter is concerned) by the following fact:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
The victim’s son had initially told investigators that he saw a man with blond hair running away from his home, and the first-floor living room appeared to have been ransacked. Investigators suspect that the two attempted to cover up their involvement.

(Mainichi, Aug 29, 2006, )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Fortunately, the police saw through this. But given the NPA’s long history of targeting foreigners (got lots of links, but I’m not going to include them all in this already long-enough post), I’m happy that they didn’t jump to conclusions (especially given the often-sour relationship between Japanese seaports and disembarking Russians, which I have also catalogued in great detail in the past).

The point I’m trying to make is this: This is yet another attempt to pin Japanese crime on foreigners. It didn’t work this time, but how many crimes in Japan which are suspected to be committed by “foreigners” are thusly red-herringed? Does wonders for the foreign crime rate. And this is not alarmism–I have archived two other cases in 2004 of “gaijin nasuri tsuke”, one involving a youth gang attack, the other an indolent trucker:

By the way, an interesting note about this article. The original Japanese at
does NOT mention the blond man at all. It only says that the suspect saw “an unknown man” (mishiranu otoko) running away from the house’s genkan. Well, maybe both the media and the police are becoming more careful about how they investigate things nowadays. Good.

Now, how about some specious research from our intellectual best and brightest?



Professor Noriguchi Shinichiro of Kitakyushu University (whom I have on very good authority is a very progressive individual) does himself few favors, with one of those navel-gazing essays on how bad Japan’s English-language education is.

After lashing out at unqualified Japanese teachers, Noriguchi then lumps in foreign instructors as a factor–not for any qualifications they lack, but rather because of qualifications they apparently lose over time:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
In particular, native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teacher–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students.

(Asahi, Sept 15, 2006, )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

I see. A foreigner who is less adjusted is axiomatically more effective. Hmm. Damn those foreigners for becoming used to the system, getting their bearings, and “Japanizing” themselves. How dare they? It’s even unprofessional.

I guess we can also assume that this means we should not give permanent tenure to foreign faculty in Japanese Universities, because they have a shelf life (instead of a learning curve). It certainly is logic that would happily be used by unscrupulous university employers (I have a list of them at

This argument, by the way, is quite similar to the one used by Asahikawa University in a famous precedent-setting lawsuit called the Gwen Gallagher Case (who was fired after more than a decade of service for no longer being, quote, “fresh” enough, see I wonder if Noriguchi would enjoy being lumped in this kind of company.

So it’s one prof’s opinion, BFD. Unfortunately, Noriguchi’s essay appeared in one of Japan’s most influential, well-read, and prestigious columns called “Watashi no Shiten” in the Asahi.

I think he should issue a retraction. You can encourage him to do so via email at

Speaking of universities:



The Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of tertiary-educational employers who refuse to employ full-time foreign faculty on permanent-tenure terms (i.e. without contract–unlike most universities, which tenure full-time Japanese from Day One of hiring), has just gotten one addition.

It’s AIU–which has Gregory Clark as its Vice President. More on Clark at

It’s a bit of a surprise. Akita International University was opened a couple of years ago to offer “a radically new approach to education in Japan”–with classes entirely in English, overseas immersion, and other progressive educational strategies.

Which is sad because it seems to have lapsed back into bad old systemic habits:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Akita International University (Private)
LOCATION: 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Yuwa, Tsubakigawa, Akita-City, Akita

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Despite wanting PhDs (or the equivalent) for faculty, AIU offers 3-year contracted positions with no mention of any possibility of tenure, plus a heavy workload (10 to 15 hours per week, which means the latter amounts to 10 koma class periods), a four-month probationary period, no retirement pay, and job evaluations of allegedly questionable aims. In other words, conditions that are in no visible way different from any other gaijin-contracting “non-international university” in Japan. Except for the lack of retirement pay.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dated September 2, 2006. (or visit

Other unofficial sources of dissent available on the Chronicle’s forums at

There will be more additions to make to my lists (including the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Businesses) when there’s time. They’ll be on my blog first, of course. Again, to receive things in real time, subscribe at

All for today. Thanks very much for reading!

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan

J Times Sept 12 06: Johnston on conflicts between “oldcomers” and “newcomer” foreigners


Trouble looms as foreign labor floods in

Integration issues, conflicts between older, newer arrivals a challenge
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer


OSAKA — It’s 2030, and Japan is facing an unprecedented social problem. For the past quarter-century, ever since the population began declining, the government has encouraged the hiring of foreign laborers. But measures to control immigration have failed, and in some towns and villages foreigners now make up more than half the population.

Long-term foreign residents, who are more prosperous and politically connected than recent arrivals, worry the government is ignoring them and focusing only on the influx of newcomers, while labor unions complain foreign laborers are stealing their jobs.

As the problems mount, the public and media have begun asking why these problems weren’t anticipated in the first decade of the 21st century, when it became apparent Japan would need foreign workers.

For the past several years, politicians, bureaucrats, human rights activists and business leaders have been thinking about how to avoid the scenario described above. With Japan’s population now in decline and the need for more foreign labor becoming increasingly apparent, the issue of how to deal with newcomers has become a concern not just for Japanese but for long-term foreign residents, especially Koreans.

“There’s been much discussion on how to deal with the newcomers, which means those who have come to Japan mostly over the past few decades, and of creating policies for bringing in more foreign laborers,” says Bae Joong Do, a Kawasaki-based Korean rights activist. “But Japan has failed to adequately care for it’s ‘oldcomer’ foreigners who came during, or before, World War II and are now growing old.”

In March, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry announced a plan to create a society in which Japanese people can coexist with those from other cultures.

To integrate foreigners into society, both those who are here now and those who may come in the future, the ministry recommends that the central government provide foreign-language information at the local level; offer language classes and courses on Japanese culture and society; provide funding for housing, education, medical care and social welfare; and take steps to improve the work environment for overseas workers.

In May, a team of experts led by Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono published a report calling for a new immigration policy, one that limits foreigners to 3 percent of the total population and includes language proficiency requirements for foreign workers and their families.

The report emphasizes the need for skilled foreign labor — people trained in specific technical areas and fluent in Japanese — suggesting that such workers be subject to language testing before being allowed to enter Japan.

Both reports were generally welcomed by Japanese human rights activists as a first step toward ensuring better treatment of foreign workers, although the Kono report was criticized by some for imposing overly strict conditions for allowing in overseas workers.

But the reports, and the general tone of recent government discussions on the future of foreign labor, have been a cause for concern among long-term foreign residents.

Many long-term Korean residents have a special type of permanent residency. But their numbers are declining as they age and as more of their children take Japanese citizenship. In 2001, there were about half a million special permanent residents. Last year there were 452,000.

On the other hand, the number of more recently arrived foreigners who have become permanent residents is at a record high. There were 184,000 such residents in 2001; by 2005 that figure had climbed by more than 90 percent to 350,000.

“The balance between older and newer foreigners is shifting rapidly. But those with the most experience in fighting for the human rights of foreigners are often the older ones” says Osaka-based Song Jung Ji, who heads the Multi-Ethnic Human Rights Education Center. “They have long-established relationships with local authorities and worry a large influx of newcomers who don’t understand Japanese or Japan will destroy the progress they’ve made.”

Is a confrontation between these older and newer arrivals coming?

“I don’t think you’d see a level of violence between different ethnic groups that you see in other parts of the world because Japanese authorities and society would not tolerate it,” said former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief Hidenori Sakanaka. “But it’s likely that established foreign residents would discriminate against groups of new foreigners, barring them from apartments, restaurants, or jobs.

“It’s already happening in cities like Tokyo, but it could become a much bigger problem nationwide in the future,” he said.

And newcomers facing job discrimination in particular, be it from long-term foreign residents or from Japanese, could find that groups like labor unions that have often been at the forefront of protecting the rights of foreigners may change their attitude if they begin to see foreign labor as a threat.

“I can see a large influx of foreign workers sparking opposition from Japan’s labor unions,” Sakanaka said.

“Compared to the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, opposition within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to large numbers of foreigners is quite strong, and much of this opposition reflects the opposition that exists in labor unions.”

Then there is the issue of education. At the local government level, especially in the Chubu region, where many South Americans live and work, concerns are mounting that the children of foreign laborers are growing up without access to a proper education because they don’t speak Japanese.

In addition, there are fears such children, as well as the children of foreign laborers who come to Japan in the future, will end up without basic language skills, further isolating them from Japanese society.

“Today, many children of foreign laborers only speak Spanish or Portuguese. This will make it extremely difficult for them to fit into Japanese society, and lead to all sorts of social problems later on. Education, especially Japanese-language education, is vital,” Vice Justice Minister Kono said at a news conference in late July.

“The reality is that all foreigners currently in Japan, and any future foreign workers, will find themselves isolated and marginalized by both Japanese and long-term foreign residents who are fluent in Japanese if they cannot speak and read Japanese,” said human rights activist Song.

“How Japan addresses the issue of language and cultural education for new foreigners will determine whether the future of foreign labor is a bright one or a nightmare,” he added.

But before official discussions on foreign labor go much further, national legislation to outlaw all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination is needed, according to the United Nations and nearly 80 Japan-based human rights organizations, many of which work to protect long-term foreign residents.

Without such a law, they argue, Japan will have serious problems with new arrivals, regardless of the restrictions on them, their Japanese-language skills or efforts to educate their children.

But the central government is not seriously considering such legal protections at the moment. In a comment reflective of the views of many senior policymakers and ordinary Japanese, Kono said he did not think such a law would be useful.

“Even if we were to pass such a law, Japanese attitudes toward foreigners wouldn’t change. It’s more important to change the culture of Japanese society to one that is accepting of foreigners,” Kono said.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006

Asahi: Tokyo Gov. Ishihara to run for third term Sept 1 2006


Ebullient Ishihara to seek 3rd term

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has made clear he will seek a third term to help prepare Tokyo for its bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Ishihara, 73, declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial race next spring after Tokyo beat out Fukuoka on Wednesday to be Japan’s candidate to host the Summer Games in 10 years. The capital will likely compete with Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and other cities.

“I am the one who initiated the bid (to host the Games) so I’m responsible,” an apparently elated Ishihara said when asked if he would run again.

“I’ve made up my mind,” he said.

The second of Ishihara’s four-year terms will end April 22, 2007. The city to host the 2016 Games will be picked in the fall of 2009.

On Thursday, Ishihara met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and called for “all-out Cabinet support” for Tokyo’s bid.

Abe is the frontrunner in the Sept. 20 race to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, although he has yet to officially declare his candidacy.

“If you win the (Liberal Democratic Party’s) presidential race, please appoint a minister in charge” of the Olympic issue, Ishihara said.

To prepare for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the administration of then Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda appointed a Cabinet minister to take charge of the operation.

Abe pledged government support for Tokyo’s efforts, although on the actual proposed portfolio, he simply said, “the next Cabinet will study the issue.”

Tokyo’s victory over Fukuoka had been expected due to the capital’s superior fiscal strength and name-recognition value.

In his presentation prior to the Japanese Olympic Committee’s selection panel vote, Ishihara suddenly floated the idea of converting a closed Tokyo high school into a national training center for athletes.

He also underscored Tokyo’s resolve to host the Olympics for a second time by saying it would stand again for 2020 should its current bid fail.

However, Ishihara’s trademark volatility came to the fore when Fukuoka supporter Kang Sang Jung, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo–and a second-generation Korean born and raised in Japan–criticized Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

In his pre-vote speech, Kang provoked Ishihara’s ire by asking, “Can we win over world competitors with an Olympics of the rich, by the rich and for the rich?”

Ishihara replied in his speech, saying: “A scholar of some foreign country said earlier Tokyo has no philosophy. I do not know why.”

The governor then went on to make his displeasure clear later at a celebratory party, when he dismissed Kang as both “impudent” and an ayashigena gaikokujin (dubious foreigner).

Ishihara was first elected governor in 1999, and went on to win 3.08 million votes in the 2003 re-election.



Arudou Debito in Sapporo here. Welcome back from summer break, everyone. Got quite a backlog of articles for this newsletter.

Let me briefly open with my summer break: Two weeks cycling 940 kms (Sapporo to Wakkanai to Abashiri), averaging around 100 kms a day, and a trip average of 16.9 kms an hour, on a mountain bike. Friend Chris accompanied me for the entire trip, and he’ll soon have a site up with a report and photos. And yes, I as usual lost no weight on this cycletrek (my third, see my first at, but I feel great, and wish I lived in a climate with no winter so I could do this all year round.

On to the updates. As I said, there’s a backlog, so apologies if you have seen some of these articles before:

… and finally… NEW DEBITO.ORG BLOG

September 10, 2006, Freely forwardable.
Full text of all articles below blogged at


The reason I opened with our cycletrek is to segue nicely into this topic: Upon reaching northern cities Wakkanai and Monbetsu, Chris and I did the rounds of “Japanese Only” signs on public establishments. Photo archive, eyewitness reports, and links to newspaper articles international and domestic available at:

Chris and I went by public bath “Yuransen”. An egregious entry in this gallery, Yuransen for years has violated the Public Bath Law to refuse all foreigners (including foreign taxpayers) entry. Then it built a separate “gaijin bath” with separate entry and separate prices (2500 yen, six times the entry fee of 370 yen, and without male and female sections). This attracted international attention, even making the New York Times in April 2004:

Well, guess what. Yuransen went bankrupt in March 2006. So much for its claim that letting foreigners in would drive them out of business. Meanwhile, its rival onsen some miles away, Doumu, does a brisk trade. And it has never refused foreigners. Does anyone else see a lesson here? Current photo of Yuransen’s storefront at the above Rogues’ Gallery link.

has also had “Japanese Only Store” signs up since the previous century. Despite demands from the Ministry of Justice for them to be taken down in July 2000, some signs (we counted four) are still up to the present day, with the city government turning a blind eye to repeated requests and petitions for resolution.

Well, Chris and I dropped by a yakiniku restaurant and got the manager to take one of the signs down. It took less than a minute! Photos up soon at the Rogues’ Gallery. Bonus: if you’d like to hear me in action negotiating the sign down, courtesy of Chris’s mp3 player/recorder, download a soundfile at

Best part: Hear me stuttering in surprise at how easy it was, and Chris giggling at the very end.

Y’know, we’re going to win this battle. Not least because this issue has legs:



In a similar vein, somebody has been filching photos from the Rogues’ Gallery, to create a YouTube photo gallery entitled “Do you like Japan? Japan doesn’t like you!” Japanese national anthem included. A two-minute vid, it has been viewed as of this writing about 25,000 times, with more than 700 comments, and the dubious honor of being one of the top ten most accessed “Travel and Places” videos in YouTube history.

And before you ask: No, I didn’t have any part in creating this video, and knew nothing about it until a friend notified me a few weeks ago.



Newsweek Japan this week has two articles (English and Japanese each) entitled “The New Face of Japan–Foreigners are not only coming–They’re staying”. Friends Kaoru and Kiichi (formerly Coal and Jayasinghi), are featured on the very cover. Get a copy of both issues quickly while they’re still on the newsstands!

For those who cannot, text at

Excerpt (included not because it quotes me, but because it luckily encapsulates the spirit of the article nicely):

Meanwhile, so-called permanent residents–foreign born people who have chosen to live in Japan for the long term–are steadily growing. “It shows that immigrants, not generational foreigners, are now becoming the more common permanent residents in Japan, meaning they’re not going to leave,” says human-rights activist Debito Arudou, a former American turned Japanese citizen. “I used to say half of the foreigners in Japan were born here. Now it’s more like a quarter.”

And the fundamental consequence, says Arudou, is clear. “We’re going to see people who don’t look Japanese being Japanese. That’s undeniable.”

(NB: Those who would like to see some substantiation for this sea change in Permanent Residency, see my essay on this last January at )

A couple of quick corrections to the article, if I may: The figure of 15,000 people cited as the total number ofnaturalized people in Japan is the rough estimate of the YEARLY intake of naturalized citizens. According to the Minister of Justice, around 300,000 foreigners (mostly the Zainichis) took citizenship between 1968 and 2000. Update the number by 15K per year and you’re closing in on 400,000 newly-minted Japanese of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

And former Finn Tsurunen Marutei is not the only naturalized Japanese in the Diet. As friend Chris pointed out, “Renho, formerly of Taiwanese nationality, and Shinkun Park, formerly of Korean nationality, are two other naturalized Dietmembers.”

Newsweek has told me they will be issuing corrections in short order. Speaking of Tsurunen:



Reporter friend Oscar did a bang-up job of an article on Tsurunen for Metropolis Magazine last August. Article available at

Soon up for re-election, Tsurunen gives his views on Yasukuni, foreign crime, assimilation, education, nationalism, and constitutional changes. Highlight:

Tsurunen’s more than 30 years of naturalized citizenship–if not books he’s penned in Japanese with titles such as “I Want to be a Japanese,” “Here Comes a Blue-Eyed Assemblyman” and “Blue-Eyed Diet Member Not Yet Born”–speak to his vested interest in foreigner acceptance. But he’s no longer as optimistic as when he took office in 2002.

“Well, it is still my goal–or wish [to get suffrage for foreigners]–but I’m not sure I have been able to do much. For example, I am for the right of permanent foreign residents to vote,” he says of a bill now on ice that would allow them to do so in local elections. “But our party is not united on this issue. Last year, I was the leader of a committee that dealt with the issue of accepting more foreign laborers and we made some progress. But I’m not sure if it’s the best solution now. Japanese people are not ready to live with foreigners. There will be problems such as discrimination. We have some cities where 10% of the population is foreign and they already have these kinds of problems.”… “For foreigners this is not a very friendly country–it can be very cold. I’m one of the lucky ones.”

COMMENT: I’ve met Tsurunen on several occasions, even had a chance to talk to him one-on-one (see my October 2003 interview with him at ). I personally like the guy. I also understand that he’s trying to make his mark as a politician trumpeting more than just ethnic-rights issues (one of his biggest policy pushes is for recycling), and as a politician, he’s not in a position to please everybody.

However, I have qualms about the degree of his distancing. For example, when UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene came to Japan for a second time, talking about racial discrimination and the need for legislation to combat it (see ), Diene attended a 2PM meeting at the Diet’s Upper House on May 18, 2006. A few Dietmembers attended, and some of their offices sent secretaries to at least leave their office’s meishi business card behind as a sign of awareness or interest. Tsurunen’s office did neither. I find this deeply disappointing. This is, after all, a meeting with the United Nations–and on foreigner and ethnic issues. If Tsurunen’s office can overlook this, what kind of example does this set for the rest of Japan’s politicians?



Elephant-minded readers of Japan’s media might remember the “Pinocchio” Case of 2003–where a grade-school teacher had a “thing” about the mixed racial background of a child in his class. He would pull on the boy’s nose until it bled, calling him “Pinocchio”, do the same thing with his ears with a “Mickey Mouse”, and devise all sorts of public punishments (even demanding he die for having “stained blood” (chi ga kegareta)) until the child became mentally unstable.

On July 28, 2006, Fukuoka District Court ruled positively that the PTSD the boy suffered deserved compensation–awarding 2.2 million yen (continuing to push up the “market value” of racial discrimination lawsuits from the generally-accepted 1 million yen or so).
Full report at
Original Japanese at

The downside to this case is that the teacher only received a suspension from teaching for six months, and is now back on the job with full responsibilities. The man deserves, in my view, incarceration, if not institutionalization.

Moreover, this is not the first case of racially-motivated power harassment between teacher and student I am aware of by any means. I will soon be reporting on a future Kawasaki court decision regarding a Chinese-Japanese in similar straits. For now, info site at (Japanese).



Friend and legal expert Colin has done an excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle on another one of my hobby horses: Child custody after divorce in Japan, the weakness of courts to enforce their own decisions, and the “Who dares, wins” attitude behind many of the officially-mediated battles.

Imagine discovering you have been living in an artificial world with rules designed to mask a terrible reality. This is, of course, the premise of “The Matrix,” but it is also an analogy I use to explain child custody and visitation in Japan, a subject in which I do research (and have had personal experience). Japan’s family courts have rules and procedures that hide a sad truth: They are powerless to protect the parent-child relationship when a divorce turns hostile… Child custody litigation is always sad, but particularly so in Japan. For starters, there is, quite literally, no law…

Those who seek cultural (as opposed to institutional) explanations for this state of affairs should be wary. In a recent book in Japanese on visitation, a widely published expert on family problems explained why visitation was different in Japan than in the United States or Europe. The book said Japan is a Confucian society where children are important for continuing the bloodline (but only within marriage), while Western countries had gun cultures, long histories of incest, and frequent cases of parents abducting, raping and even killing their children.

Colin also talks about about the dynamic behind judicial decisionmaking–where judges who don’t toe the official current in their decisions are denied promotion and reappointment. It adds up to a horrifying state of affairs where children (especially those in international or intercontinental divorces) are the big losers, being technically kidnapped by one parent to Japan with no recourse whatsoever.

Fortunately, this issue is finally gaining some attention internationally. See report at Children’s Rights Network Japan about a recent protest at a Los Angeles film screening on the “Megumi Yokota Story”, drawing (stretched, but effective) comparisons between kidnappings to North Korea and child kidnappings to Japan:

A primer on this issue available from the Japan Times at:



You may have seen on the news a new slew of programs on “foreigner crime”. It’s periodical. The National Police Agency spoon-feeds the media every six months or so with new “foreigner crime” statistics, and special “tokushuu” shows doubling as public-service announcements appraise the public on how to avoid becoming victims of hordes of foreign criminals.

Some historical examples of how the NPA has finagled statistics and manufactured crime waves at

This time around, however, there’s been a snag–in that “Chinese Criminal DNA” proponent Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s former deputy chief has even come forward to call all the grandstanding an exaggeration.

The text of the article available on my blog (no other extant link available) at

Aug 24, 2006 Kyodo: “Ex-deputy of Tokyo Gov. Ishihara cries foul over ‘safe town’ campaign”

Hiroshi Kubo, who released a book titled ”Is Public Safety Really Deteriorating?” in June, said such measures could make people excessively wary, encourage prejudice against foreigners and benefit those in authority like the police…

Some analysts say these concerns are entirely reasonable and have urged authorities to work harder to get rid of factors threatening public order, such as the widening income disparity, instead of simply telling people to brace themselves for possible crimes.

Kubo, 59, was a senior bureaucrat in the Tokyo government. He led various crime prevention projects as a division chief in charge of public safety in the governor’s headquarters from August 2003 to March 2005, when he quit the municipality.

Kubo said he felt ”embarrassed” when he involved himself in or led projects he said were aimed at prompting people to think the community was becoming more and more dangerous and to rely on the authorities, especially the police, to deal with the situation.

Finally, a voice of reason, even at the top…



Calling all naturalized Japanese readers:

Naturalized Chinese-Japanese Professor U Hoden, of Japan Women’s University, and myself will be collaborating on a new book over the next few months. We aim to feature the views of life in Japan from a “newcomer citizen” perspective, with essays in Japanese from those who have naturalized. This will be in their own words. We have a basic outline of questions ready, so if anyone is interested (Kaoru, Kiichi?), please let me know at

Meanwhile, my friend and I have just finished the fourth draft of our new GUIDEBOOK TO LIFE IN JAPAN, which we think should be coming out in the next six months or so. More on that later…


And finally, let me announce here my new blog at, to more easily archive these newsletters. Go to
to see what’s going out. There is also RSS capability, for those who want to sign up for reports in real time, before I collate into an update. I’m still getting used to the technology, but I hope you like what you see.

As always, thanks for reading, and welcome back for what promises to be an eventful autumn!
Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
Sept 10, 2006



Foreign-born lawmaker puts Japan’s acceptance of outsiders to the test

By Oscar Johnson

Marutei Tsurunen stands in front of the Diet. PHOTO BY TSUTOMU FU
TOKYO — Marutei Tsurunen relentlessly clawed at the doors of the Diet for a decade with two goals in mind: to get the inside scoop on politics and offer an outsider’s perspective in a land he says is far from ready to accept its foreign residents. It’s a task that Japan’s first and only foreign-born parliamentarian likens to a mission from God — literally. In fact, he left North Karelia, Finland, 40 years ago as a Lutheran lay missionary bent on helping Japan see the light.

“Of course, I’m a Christian and I still say I’m a missionary, not as a churchman but as a politician,” says Tsurunen, 67, whose mission has always been more about social practice than religious preaching. Having graduated from Finland’s Social Welfare College, he was a caseworker for a children’s home in Kyushu before forgoing his church ministry to head an English-language school. In 1992, he was elected as the nation’s first foreign-born assemblyman in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

“Originally I had no interest in politics,” he confesses. “I had been wondering why I left the church and why I was here. There was very little I could do to affect society as a foreigner. Then suddenly it hit me like lightening: maybe I should try it. It took a long time but I finally found my calling.”

To be sure, the House of Councilors seat that fell to him in 2002 can be seen as nothing short of a miracle. Having made three failed bids (and another for the House of Representatives), it came only after former television celebrity Kyosen Ohashi stepped down, dramatically declaring politics too lowbrow for his own tastes. The job automatically went to Tsurunen, fellow Democratic Party of Japan member and runner-up in the 2001 election, whose close-but-no-cigar defeat he and everyone else considered the end of his political career.

Tsurunen is an unabashed Japanophile who, in addition to rendering his Finnish name, Martti Turunen, into its current Japanese form, has translated “The Tale of Genji” and other local classics into his native language. His populist tactics brought him tantalizingly close to victory in each race, and upon finally taking office he touted protecting the environment and “internationalizing” the nation as his priorities. These days, he’s homed in on sustainable agriculture as a member of the Diet’s Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and founder and secretary-general of the Parliamentarian’s League for the Promotion of Organic Agriculture. But he says his mission is not confined to these.

Task is to improve Japanese lifestyles

“I feel this society is sick in many ways,” says Tsurunen, an amiable and soft-spoken vegetarian with a grandfatherly demeanor. He lays much of the blame for today’s social ills on an increasingly popular “law of the jungle,” which he says rewards selfish ambition and ignores the less fortunate.

“Morale is down and there are many things that are unhealthy about Japanese lifestyles today. There are more than 30,000 suicides every year and maybe five times as many attempts. Many people drink a lot and eat too much. Environmentally, more chemicals are used in Japan than anywhere else. Sixty percent of our food comes from other countries — one of the highest rates in the world. That’s because we eat a lot of meat. My task is to improve our lifestyles, to make them healthier.”

That’s not to say that the nation’s self-styled “blue-eyed lawmaker” hasn’t spied a number of recent political trends that put foreigners who are in — and in close proximity to — Japan on edge. There’s an ominous rightwing shift toward deepening nationalism, he concedes. It’s one that includes fingerprinting foreigners, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s insistent public homage at Yasukuni Shrine and an education bill that mandates patriotism.

“It is a shift,” Tsurunen says, “and a very dangerous one. I’m very worried about it. It’s mainly in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, not its junior coalition partner New Komeito.” True to his calling, he broaches such issues with caution.

“A few years ago we stopped fingerprinting foreigners and I thought it was a good idea,” he explains. “In some ways it’s good now because of terrorism. But maybe 1% of foreigners entering the country are criminals, while 99% are not. To fingerprint all of them, I think, is counter to basic human rights.” Yet, it comes as no surprise to the member of a government wont to fault foreigners for its crime woes — to the extent of mulling a legal cap on their residency to 3% of the population.

Tsurunen’s more than 30 years of naturalized citizenship — if not books he’s penned in Japanese with titles such as “I Want to be a Japanese,” “Here Comes a Blue-Eyed Assemblyman” and “Blue-Eyed Diet Member Not Yet Born” — speak to his vested interest in foreigner acceptance. But he’s no longer as optimistic as when he took office in 2002.

Goal is to get right to vote for foreigners

“Well, it is still my goal — or wish — but I’m not sure I have been able to do much. For example, I am for the right of permanent foreign residents to vote,” he says of a bill now on ice that would allow them to do so in local elections. “But our party is not united on this issue. Last year, I was the leader of a committee that dealt with the issue of accepting more foreign laborers and we made some progress. But I’m not sure if it’s the best solution now. Japanese people are not ready to live with foreigners. There will be problems such as discrimination. We have some cities where 10% of the population is foreign and they already have these kinds of problems.”

Tsurunen says he and his views as an outsider are welcome in the upper house, but admits it wasn’t always so in the Yugawara assembly, a post he resigned to run for the Diet. After spending two-thirds of his life here with his Japanese wife Sachiko and two adult children, he’s “hopeful” but makes no promises.

“For foreigners this is not a very friendly country — it can be very cold. I’m one of the lucky ones.” The key, he insists both by word and example, is to learn the language and avoid retreating to the bubble of gaijin communities. “If they want to get inside Japanese society, they should try to work for this society, not just for their rights. Japanese must learn to live with foreigners, but foreigners must also learn to live with Japanese,” he says. That may also mean living with an increasingly nationalistic worldview fostered by public education.

On plans to revise the 60-year-old Fundamental Education Law to mandate “loving the nation,” Tsurunen defers to the Democratic Party line. The ruling LDP bill, which is widely expected to prevail over opposition alternatives, plays on a conservative-posited notion that occupation-era education reforms are behind national woes ranging from declining academic performance to surging juvenile crime. Critics fear it could turn back the clock to a time when loving the nation meant nosediving fighters into battleships, occupying neighboring countries or rationalizing sexual slavery for a war effort deemed unpatriotic to question.

“This Fundamental Education Law bill is very difficult,” Tsurunen says. “In our (DP) bill we say patriotism should be encouraged but not mandatory. Maybe this trend has something to do with the law on the national anthem in Tokyo,” he says of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s popular nationalist reforms. They have punished well over 300 teachers — and reportedly some parents — in the metropolis for not standing before the flag and singing the anthem, or for not encouraging students to do so, at school events.

“They’re very strict about it. In Japan the history of the flag and the anthem, which pays homage to the emperor, is unique,” he says. “I’m afraid if this new education bill gets through in its present form, then when you look at students’ records you’ll be able to say, ‘You love the government this or that much.’ That’s not good.” Recent media reports have noted that 40 to 50 schools in Saitama — citing the Ministry of Education’s current guidelines for social studies — have already started to assess sixth-graders on their demonstrated “love of the nation.”

As for Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which memorializes Japan’s war dead including convicted Class-A war criminals, Tsurunen offers a measured but candid view.

“Yasukuni Shrine very much relates to China,” he says of Japan’s emerging rival in terms of regional power and resources. “I’m a little afraid of China because it wants to control the region. The prime minister should not go to Yasukuni now — but not because of China’s protests. We must find a good solution.”

He notes that controversy still swirls over the convictions of the criminals enshrined at Yasukuni and says building a new national memorial to bypass them is untenable. “I think it would be best if we could remove them from Yasukuni. But solving this issue will not solve all our problems with China.”

Japan’s relationship with China is not the only one that gives Tsurunen pause. “I think there should also be less emphasis on our relations with the United States,” he says. It’s a recurring theme in his thoughts on diplomacy.

In July, a week after North Korea lobbed seven Scud, Nodong and Taepodong-2 missiles into the Sea of Japan, Nagatacho rang with the bullhorns of right-wing protestors calling for an attack on the Stalinist state. Tsurunen dismissed the caravan of black vans with the wave of a hand. “They’re here all the time,” he says. “I’m not worried about North Korea. If they do anything, it would be suicide. To tell you the truth, I’m more worried about what the United States will do. Japan cannot act alone. If North Korea continues to aggravate the situation too much, the United States may attack them. That would destroy them and a lot of people would die.”

Tsurunen developed a distaste for war at the tender age of 4, when his family was one of a few in their small Finnish village to escape an attack by Soviet soldiers. “Our house was in the middle of the forest so they didn’t notice we were there,” he recalls. “Yes, you could say I am a pacifist. I don’t believe war can solve anything; it just makes things worse. Of course, sometimes it’s unavoidable, such as if we are attacked and must defend ourselves.”

War-renouncing Constitution is outdated

As director of the Diet’s Research Commission on the Constitution, this informs his position on whether and how to revise war-renouncing elements of a constitution the U.S. imposed on Japan during its occupation. He says the document is outdated, and polls show 60 to 70% of the nation believes some kind of amendment is in order.

“I think under certain conditions it’s needed,” Tsurunen says. “The first article should be changed so that it mentions the Self-Defense Forces, their task to defend the nation and to help with international humanitarian efforts at the United Nations’ request. Right now, it doesn’t,” he says of the missions that Japan’s quasi military have already undertaken.

But he stresses SDF deployment overseas should only be at the behest of the U.N., not the United States, as was the case with sending troops to Iraq. He also notes that similar to the fate of the education law, there’s a need to be on guard against LDP hawks that might seek to expand the SDF’s international role.

“Our party’s idea is quite different than the LDP’s,” Tsurunen says. “They may have ideas about making Japan stronger, more independent or nationalistic but they cannot change the constitution alone. Still, we must be careful when the LDP makes their proposals.”

In this case, his faith is not so much in his party’s ability to stop such tactics as it is in the need for a referendum to change the constitution. But he’s also hopeful the day will come when the Democratic Party of Japan will break the near half-century grip the conservative LDP has had on government.

“Because there is so much corruption many people are finally anticipating a shift in power,” he says, adding it’s the most significant change he’s seen in politics since he’s been in Japan. “During the last election the opposition actually won the most votes. The LDP won the election but that was because of the proportional electoral system. For the first time, more than 50% of the voters want change.”

To that end, Tsurunen is putting the faith he has in his political calling to the test one last time in a bid to retain his seat in the 2007 upper house election. It could be his first and only outright victory in a Diet election before reaching retirement age. “The people are very interested in me,” he says of his two-hour early morning glad-handing sessions with locals at train stations. “I believe I can get it.” The result may also say a little something about how truly ready Japan is to accept their “blue-eyed Diet member”— or any other foreigner.

August 9, 2006

COMMENT: I’ve met Tsurunen on several occasions, even had a chance to talk to him one-on-one (see my October 2003 interview with him at ). I personally like the guy. I also understand that he’s trying to make his mark as a politician trumpeting more than just ethnic-rights issues (one of his biggest policy pushes is for recycling), and as a politician, he’s not in a position to please everybody.

However, I have qualms about the degree of his distancing. For example, when UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene came to Japan for a second time, talking about racial discrimination and the need for legislation to combat it (see ), Diene attended a 2PM meeting at the Diet’s Upper House on May 18, 2006. A few Dietmembers attended, and some of their offices sent secretaries to at least leave their office’s meishi business card behind as a sign of awareness or interest. Tsurunen’s office did neither. I find this deeply disappointing. This is, after all, a meeting with the United Nations–and on foreigner and ethnic issues. If Tsurunen’s office can overlook this, what kind of example does this set for the rest of Japan’s politicians?