Jeff Korpa on Diet debates regarding Anti-Terrorism


Hi Blog. Busy day today, so I’m not going to do much with the blog today, sorry. Here’s a message from Jeff Korpa, regarding the Japanese Diet ever rescinding or tempering the anti-terrorism putsches which have resulted in our upcoming fingerprinting laws (but have recently become hung up on whether or not Japanese ships should refuel coalition ships in the Indian Ocean).

As Jeff notes, even if the LDP is stymied at the moment, anti-terrorism moves in future will probably not be deep-sixed, even if the DPJ were to somehow assume power. Forwarding with permission. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi Debito:

In a previous message I said: “Regarding the Anti-terrorism Law, my belief is that reports of its demise are premature. Despite Ozawa having the power to snuff out the legislation, and his rhetoric about how the change in the LDP leadership would not change DPJ’s resolve on the issue, Ozawa has long supported lifting restrictions on Japan’s security forces. For instance, in 1998 he remarked that it only required a reinterpretation of the constitution to allow Japanese defense forces to take part in overseas combat operations. And less than a year later, Ozawa warned that the SDF needed strengthening.”

Well, even though Fukuda has been unable to get support from Ozawa in order to attain upper house approval for an extension to the Anti-terrorism Law, I *still* don’t this is the end of the road for this legislation — as long as Fukuda can secure two-thirds of the lower house in a subsequent vote (which he can since the lower house is controlled by the LDP), the Anti-terrorism Law (and the controversial refueling missions) will live to see another day.

OK, so why aren’t the two boys playing nice together? I have two theories — Small Politics and Big Politics:

Small Politics: Ozawa is playing games trying to capitalize on the MSDF refelling issue so he steal back some popularity that Fukuda won in the aftermath of Abe’s resignation.

Big Politics: With regard to Japan’s military future, the long-term goals of the DPJ and LDP are the same, but the two men are at odds as to what role the United States should play.

Ozawa (once an LDP member himself mind you), has long accused the LDP of being too closely tied to the U.S. for Japan’s own defense. He has also been a strong voice for Japan taking part in international peacekeeping operations (albeit by reinterpreting the constitution), which would be a step toward redefining Japanese military capabilities and actions. For instance, in 1999, Ozawa called for deployment of Japanese peacekeepers to East Timor. And more recently, he said Tokyo should send peacekeepers to Sudan. In fact, he has gone further than that — in 2003 he said that should China become too “conceited,” the Japanese could grow “hysterical,” and that, “If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads.”

So Ozawa’s vision is a strong, independent Japanese military. It seems to me that he and his supporters want Japanese military development to occur under the guise of international cooperation — the country should participate in U.N. missions but keep from being drawn into U.S. conflicts.

In contrast, I believe that Fukuda and the rest of the LDP brain trust are of the opinion that hooking up with the U.S. is the quickest and easiest road to realizing a militarily independent Japan. It looks like the LDP wants to let Washington continue to provide for Japan’s security so that they can focus on building up the nation’s defense capabilities (e.g. taking advantage of technology transfers and joint development of defense systems with the U.S.).

At any rate, another reason why I think the Anti-terrorism Law will be back sooner or later is because of outside pressure from the U.S. in the form of Defense Secretary Robert Gates who will arrive in Tokyo during the week of November 4th. By an amazing coincidence, Mr. Gates’ visit is due to come a week after the MSDF finished refueling their last customer (a Pakistani navy destroyer) under the Anti-terrorism Law.

It will interesting to see what the two boys do after Gates has come and gone.

Regards, Jeff Korpa

J Times on new Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio


Hi Blog. Just ran across this in the Japan Times. Decent profile by Jun Hongo on new Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio.

I enclose the entire article, but boldface the bits pertinent to Comment follows article.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007
Hatoyama a hawk on death penalty, illegal immigrants

By JUN HONGO, Staff writer

When he appointed Kunio Hatoyama as justice minister Aug. 27, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested that the veteran lawmaker help Japan regain its recognition as one of the world’s safest countries.

Facing reporters later that day, Hatoyama was quick to display his determination to heed Abe’s call, quickly supporting capital punishment and pointing to the threat of crimes committed by foreigners.

“The death penalty embodies preventive functions against crimes. I disagree with abolishing the system,” the 58-year-old stated in his first news conference at the Justice Ministry. “Cutting the number of illegal immigrants in half is also a goal for this administration. We must tighten up immigration management to achieve that,” he said, referring to the growing perception that more crimes are being committed by foreign nationals.

Hatoyama, a conservative hawk who makes frequent visits to Yasukuni Shrine, hails from a prominent political family. His grandfather, Ichiro, was a prime minister, and his father, Iichiro, a foreign minister. Hatoyama’s older brother, Yukio, is secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan.

The Tokyo native began his political career as a secretary to his father and the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka before winning a seat in the 1976 Lower House election.

Hatoyama later went through a period of turbulence, leaving the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993 and helping form the DPJ in 1996, only to resign as a lawmaker three years later and run for Tokyo governor in 1999. When that failed, he ran on the LDP ticket and won a Lower House seat in 2000.

Although Hatoyama has served as both education and labor minister, the tasks he faces at the Justice Ministry require trickier decision-making, especially authorizing hangings. But he pledged to make advancements during his stint in office.

In an interview Friday, he said the death-row population, reduced to 103 after Hatoyama’s predecessor, Jinen Nagase, sent three to the gallows last month, is still “a large number.”

“One must be extra careful in approving death penalties because it is about ending human life,” Hatoyama said, but added that failure to authorize capital punishment runs against the nature of the legal system.

“Executions should be carried out aptly” under the Constitution, he said.

Regarding long-term policies for accepting overseas workers, Hatoyama said the government could add more job categories for which foreign nationals with skills and expertise can apply.

But he disagreed with some of Nagase’s proposals to open the market and accept manual laborers and unskilled workers.

“Considering Japan’s culture, I must question whether that is a good idea,” Hatoyama said. “This may not be the right thing to say, but that could provoke an increase in crimes by foreign nationals.”

Asked if he intends to reject Nagase’s proposal, Hatoyama simply stated, “I am the justice minister (now).”

A close friend to LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, Hatoyama promised not only to “become a good justice minister” but also support Abe and his Cabinet in the wake of the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc’s loss of its majority in the July Upper House election.

“This Cabinet is facing a difficult time, but I believe it’s healthy for Cabinet members to feel pressure and tension,” he said. “I will make use of my connection with my brother if that is required anytime in the future.”

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007
Other JT Cabinet Member profiles (August 2007 – )

COMMENT: I don’t think the JT article has it quite right regarding former Justice Minister’s stance on guest workers. It’s not a complete “opening up of the market”–Nagase supported a program in which people would be sent back within three years, regardless of any experience they gained under Japan’s two-decade old “trainee etc” program. It’s not an open-door policy; it’s a revolving-door policy.

I agree with Hatoyama that we need to create a brain drain into Japan with encouragement of skilled labor. But he’s barking up the wrong tree (as is the JT article’s claim of a “growing perception” of rising foreign crime, which is unsubstantiated and debatable given last season’s quietly-announced drop in NJ crime) when it comes to claiming that bringing in foreigners will result in more illegals and proportionally more crime. The historical record suggests the opposite.

The onus must also be placed upon the employer to make sure they are passing skills and employing NJ laborers as they promised to. Up to now, the “researcher” and “trainee” visas have had widespread examples of just employing people (even in violation of even Japanese labor laws) to (famously) pound sheet metal and clean pig sties at ridiculously low wages. In other words, an “unskilled guest worker” program is already in place without calling it as such. Nagase just wanted to call it as such, and cap the contracts.

Sorry, neither plan will work properly and to Japan’s long-term benefit (demographically and fiscally) until you give people a stake in living here. And that is called immigration.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Archives: Report Aug 1, 2006 on Diene, MOFA mtg, and Kouno Taro


Hi Blog. Somehow this never got archived last year, but it’s an important report. And since I’ve got a follow-up article to blog here after this, let me add this to the blog out of turn and refer to it in my current report. Arudou Debito in Tokyo.


From: Arudou Debito
Subject: [] Taro Kono and MOFA Tokyo mtgs update, Aug 1, 2006

Hello All. Arudou Debito here emailing you from near Todai in Tokyo. Two more mailings to send you before summer break. The first is an update on some things that happened during my current Tokyo trip. As follows:


Preliminary report dated August 1, 2006. Freely forwardable.


Monday, July 31, 2006, 12PM-1:30PM

Attending as a guest of a FCCJ member, I listened to Lower House Dietmember, Senior Vice Justice Minister, and Prime Ministerial hopeful KOUNO Tarou give his thoughts at a luncheon on the future of Japan.

Kouno, 43, comes from a family of politicians. His father, current Dietmember Kouno Youhei, is a former cabinetmember and long-respected political powerhouse himself. A graduate of Georgetown University in the US and former employee of Fuji Xerox, Tarou is bilingual in English and gave his speech in that language. Now in his fourth term, Tarou was the first to announce his candidacy for the Prime Minister’s job back in May because, he said in the press conference, he was disturbed by the next-likely Prime Minister, Abe Shinzou, stating that the latter had stated the current pension system was financially sound despite the clear demographics of a shrinking Japanese population. His website can be found at

His ideas have made some media waves (particularly his proposed 3% cap on the foreign population), and I have critiqued his proposed immigration policy plan in one of my Japan Times columns (July 11, 2006, see

He opened with his platform on energy, education, taxation, and pension policies, which I will skip for the purposes of this newsletter. When he opened the floor for questions, his answers were fortunately very indicative.

When asked about where he had gotten the “3% foreign population cap” (when if the population is projected to drop to 100 million by 2050, this means that the foreign population can only increase by another million–from the current population of 2 million–by then). He said that the 3% “is a cap but is not a cap”, stressing the need for the population to increase gradually. “When it reaches 3%, then we can talk about it again. The foreign population will increase, just not to the levels of 5% or 7% like we see in Europe in one step. It’s too early for Japan.”

He was especially critical of the “lying” he sees behind Japan’s immigration policy. “The front door is closed, yet the back door is open–for Nikkei workers and foreign trainees.” He called the early-1990’s policy to import Nikkei workers, ostensibly because they are “Japanese” by blood but in reality because they were simply cheap labor, “the biggest mistake”.

He favors a work environment where women and senior citizens can work to a more elderly age, but since even that will not make up the shortfall, there must be a national policy regarding immigration. The local governments should not have to suffer financially for hosting an unassimilated community of minorities which have grown big enough to become a self-sufficient language subculture. Rather, the national government should take it upon itself to take steps to assimilate these people in ways he outlined in my Japan Times article linked above.

However, if the national government is to try harder to assimilate immigrants, then the potential immigrant has to do the same. He stressed that there must be quantifiable language ability before arrival and improvement afterwards. “Give them three to five years to learn the language”, with tutelage and evaluation in ways not elaborated upon. As the situation for foreign residents stands right now, he called it “very sad”, as Nikkeis came over and found things different than they expected.

When asked whether or not he would favor the establishment of a racial discrimination law (no, it wasn’t me asking–I’m not a working journalist and thus not allowed to raise any questions), Kouno Tarou said that he was not: “Even if there is a law, the attitudes of society will not change.” He cited an example which is not even covered by international treaty (as it is an interaction between individuals): “If a foreigner asks for a date and is refused, is that racial discrimination?” He concluded with the importance of culture and nature before codifying change.

There were other points raised and questions asked, but for our readership these are the bullet points. I went up to him after the luncheon ended, gave him a copy of my book JAPANESE ONLY in Japanese (, and said this might help him understand why we need a racial discrimination law.



Last Friday, I attended an 2-hour “iken koukan kai” (the second in what will hopefully be a series) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Around eighty people and dozens of human-rights groups (we don’t know precisely who-the MOFA wouldn’t release the guest list) attended, to discuss how the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, should be implemented.

More specifically, our meeting would discuss Japan’s follow-up to the UN Reports of 2001 (see, now many years overdue, and to the Diene Reports of 2005 and 2006 where racism in Japan was reported as “deep and profound” and “practiced undisturbed” (see Several ministries, namely the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the Transportation Ministry [due to public works interfering with Ainu lands], and the Education Ministry, were in attendance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted.

We had a pre-meeting at 1PM with our network of 30 NGOs and 5 concerned individuals (including volunteers, lawyers, businesspeople, students, and group representatives). Convocating and organizing was the group International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR, see ), fronted by the very capable and young Mr Morihara (a person I see as a probable historical figure), who was largely behind UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s visits to Japan these past two years. Although the contents of this meeting are not something I can release to the public at this time, be it known that there was some trepidation expressed at the possibility of opponents attending to deliberately throw sand in the negotiations…

At 3PM the meeting started. The bureaucrats attending were almost all juniors in their twenties and thirties, except the chair of the meeting who was of kachou class (as usual, so nobody could speak on behalf of their ministries). After some preliminary remarks on the good works each ministry is doing in the name of human rights, we went person by person, row by row, with attendees making their stump speeches of being done wrong and how the government is in fact not helping out. We were told to limit our comments to one minute, though nobody did (it was impossible anyway), then the bureaucrats would respond after each row was finished. Six rows and three and a half hours later, we were done. Highlights:

I made a speech on how each ministry has ignored or overlooked human rights: Justice Ministry not even mentioning the possibility of an anti-racial discrimination law, Police targeting foreigners through campaigns and even DNA racial profiling (, Education Ministry talking about educating people about foreigners and foreign cultures instead of telling people how foreigners are residents too, and how the judiciary is not protecting us (Steve McGowan, losing plaintiff in the Osaka Eyeglass Exclusion Case,, was in attendance, and sat next to me as I made the speech).

Others talked about problems with housing, health insurance, juuminhyou residency certificates, and the fact that the Diene Reports are were generally going ignored or justified out of existence. (Foreign Minister Aso Tarou spoke of the Diene report, in Gaikou Bouei Iinkai Meeting of May 18, 2006, to say essentially “that Diene’s visit was done as an individual, therefore the report is not binding as a UN report” (kankoku wa kojin no shikaku ni yoru no de, kokuren no kouteki kenkkai de wa naku houteki kousoku ryoku wa nai), and how Japan’s government would simply argue against it (nihon seifu to shite hanron bunsho o teishutsu suru). In the same month, leaders within the Foreign Ministry dismissed historical claims made by the Ainu, Zainichi Koreans, etc. as no longer modern (gendai teki keitai) enough to matter anymore to the discussion.

The right wing did indeed attend, with three old fogies (who mumbled their last names and refused to disclose their affiliations) waffling on about how it was all very well to talk about minority rights, but what of the majority of Japanese being “exploited” (sakushu) and Japan’s mythology (jinwa) no longer being taught in schools? After all, they said, what good is learning about foreigners if Japanese don’t learn about themselves properly? That was quickly shot down by one of our party who said, “Mythology and the CERD are unrelated, so can we move on?” We did.

At the end we did our standard practice of going up to shake hands with the bureaucrats, thank them for coming, and exit for a postmortem at a follow-up meeting. That meeting’s particulars are not something I can make public again, except to say that we established a specific network to deal with this situation. Not entitled “Coexistence with Foreigners” or some other such othering guff. It was a group (official title TBD) to fight against *racial discrimination*–because race, not nationality, is the issue here, and enough people now recognize it as such. This, above all, is the big victory of this trip.


Enough for now. More good news to follow in a few days. Thanks for reading.

Arudou Debito
Nezu, Tokyo
August 1, 2006



Hello Blog. Here’s a briefish essay with my thoughts on the results of the recent Upper House Election in Japan:





By Arudou Debito (, in Sapporo, Japan

Released August 1, 2007


I am not a political insider by any means–just an opinionated writer with a degree in Government and an armchair interest in Japanese elections (both as a citizen and a hobbyist). All information contained in this writeup has been gleaned from Japanese sources (particularly the figures and some interpretations are from the Yomiuri July 30, and the Asahi July 30 and 31, 2007), and is geared to those who do not necessarily have access to similar sources. This isn’t really news to most, so I hope to hold your interest with some interpretations:

Table of Contents:








Most of you know this, but of the half of the 242 seats in the House of Councilors (the “Upper House”) up for grabs this election, the majority went to the opposition parties (Minshutou/Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Kyousantou/Japan Communist Party, Shamintou/Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kokumin Shintou/New People’s Party, Nippon Shintou/New Japan Party (NJP), plus independents. A total gain of 31 seats.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition–Jimintou/Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) (which has mostly run Japan since the WWII), and Koumeito (the Souka Gakkai’s pseudo-Buddhist party) lost a total of 30 seats, and control of the Upper House. Altogether, the ruling coalition have 103 seats, the DPJ 109, and the remainder (30 seats) are with parties or with independents that have questionable or no inclinations towards the LDP.

In terms of vote totals, the DPJ got more than 18 million compared to the LDP’s 10, and the seat shifts (thankfully we have no US-style Electoral College) properly reflect that. In fact, according to the Asahi (July 30, page 5), there has never been a time in Japan’s postwar history where ONE opposition party has ever gained, or held, so many seats at once in the Upper House. This is historic.


(Click on the image to see it full-screen. This is as much as I could fit into the scanner. Couldn’t fit the Yoshida Administrations in, sorry.)

Although the Upper House is clearly the weaker side of the legislature (the Lower House can override any Upper House veto later), it certainly will as a check to any further LDP ramming through of laws, and a clear sign to the LDP that the halcyon days of Koizumi-created LDP domination are over for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, looking at the political maps, there has been a tectonic shift in prefectural party affiliation. According to page 20 of July 30’s Yomiuri, ten one-seat rural prefectures that were straight LDP strongholds for the past two elections (Yamagata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Tottori, ALL four Shikoku prefectures, Saga, and Kumamoto), all went DPJ (one more, Shimane, went Kokumin Shintou, which is not friendly to the LDP either). The opposite, DPJ going LDP, happened nowhere. In 15 other prefectures (Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Aichi, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Saitama, Nagano, Tochigi, Fukushima, and Hokkaido), the previous top vote-getter switched from an LDP candidate to a DPJ one. And I haven’t even touched upon the places that were DPJ last election already. As I said, it was a rout.



This loss isn’t incomprehensible–in fact it’s almost precisely how the polls predicted it would come out. And no wonder.

Abe’s cabinet has been a disaster. Witness:

1) The embarrassment of a Health Minister calling women “birth machines”,

2) Ditto for a Minister of Defense insinuating the WWII bombings were “a matter or course”,

3) An Agriculture Minister committing suicide,

4) His replacement covering up his political expenses by making his home into his political support group’s office, even fudging his receipts; then showing up with his face all covered in bandages and not coming clean about what happened in either case (he finally got fired today–too little, too late),

5) His Foreign Minister making light of people with Alzheimer’s Disease,

6) A slight economic recovery being interpreted as a reason to let a tax regime lapse, lowering everyone’s paychecks noticeably by hundreds of USD a month right before the election campaign period,

7) Unannounced plans to raise taxes yet again, which Abe refused to come clean on for obvious reasons,

8) “Forgiving” several ousted LDP members booted out during the postal-savings election two years ago by bringing them back into the LDP (which begged the question why we went through that election in the first place),

9) Plus the much-touted (turned out to be the biggest issue in polls) unregistered pension issues (which the LDP tried to blame on DPJ’s Kan Naoto),

10) The relatively-unnoticed issues (but a bigger influence on the Left in Japan): the December 2006 revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education (now requiring patriotism be instilled in students), the denial of the WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slaves issue (resolution conveniently passing the US H of R just after the election), Abe’s Minister of Education saying we have too many human rights in Japan (comparing the situation to butter and Metabolic Syndrome), and even an (unfairly-criticized) first speech by Abe in which he used too many katakana loanwords…

11) And the final nail in the coffin: Former PM Koizumi, the IMHO third-most influential PM in postwar Japanese history (behind Yoshida and Tanaka), being a hard act to follow.




1) Finnish-born naturalized Japanese citizen Tsurunen Marutei was re-elected by a comfortable margin (242,742 votes) on the Proportional Representation ticket. Last time he just bubbled under, and got in when a different DPJ candidate (Ohashi Kyosen) resigned his seat in disgust a short time after the election. This time he got in with a much clearer vote of confidence from the electorate (coming in 19th, out of 48 elected). Congratulations.

2) HIV-infected candidate Kawada Ryouhei was elected in Tokyo in his own right (683,629 votes), running on a ticket of anti-corruption (the Health Ministry in the 1990’s had covered up HIV-tainted blood products and infected a huge number of Japan’s hemophiliacs; this was exposed by DPJ’s Kan Naoto in his short stint as Health Minister, during the former Socialist Party’s short stint as the ruling party back then). Also congrats.

3) Perpetual political iconoclast (former Nagano Prefectural Governor, confirmed and eccentric bachelor, who enclosed his office in glass walls, and stopped local porkbarrel dam projects) Tanaka Yasuo, for whom I have a soft spot (he’s shown some friendly inclinations towards Japan’s internationalization), formed his own party (the Nippon Shintou) and got a PR seat for himself (coming in eighth with 458,211 votes).



4) Former Peruvian Prez and wanted criminal suspect Alberto Fujimori, running under the Nihon Hanzaisha Tou, excuse me, the Kokumin Shintou, did not even come close to getting a seat. He did, however, glean 51,612 votes. Not bad for a crook who couldn’t campaign ‘cos he’s under house arrest in another country. But that doesn’t make him as good a crook (i.e. good enough to convince enough people that he’s not a crook) as he (and party kingpin Kamei Shizuka) seems to think he is.

5) Ainu candidate Tahara Kaori, running under convicted crook (his case is on perpetual appeal; that’s why he’s still in office) Suzuki Muneo’s Shintou Daichi Party, advertised herself as the “Female Muneo” and still lost by nearly 136,000 votes.

6) Party turncoat and former Dietmember from Hokkaido (and our former lawyer in the Otaru Onsens Case) Itou Hideko, who will do anything to get back into office, lost yet again in Hokkaido’s PR race, gleaning a measly 19,289 votes, thank goodness. (She has been formally warned by Japan’s Bar Association for misinforming and overcharging her clients, yours truly included; it took me 17 months for me to get my lawsuit damages, and it happened only after the Hokkaido Bar Association intervened on my behalf and ruled in my favor in January 2006. Remind me to tell you that story some time…)

7) And revanchist candidate Tojo Yuuko, granddaughter of Tojo Hideki (yes, THAT Tojo, for you History Channel buffs), who wants the proper respect restored to WWII Class-A War Criminals, lost badly with 59,607 votes in Tokyo, coming in twelfth out of twenty Tokyo candidates. As did far-right party “Shinpuu” (New Wind), the only party bringing up issues of “recovery of the social order” (read: fear of foreigners–which was not at all an issue in this campaign) and “restoration of Japan”, never came out of the bottom three (of eleven political parties) in any electoral district. Suggests the perceptible lurch to the right in Japanese society may be confined to the political, policymaking, and law enforcement sectors…



8) In Shimane Prefecture, on the tail end of Honshu above LDP stronghold Yamaguchi Prefecture (where PM Abe is from), the LDP fell to Kamei Shizuka’s Kokumin Shintou (which was formed by people kicked out by former PM Koizumi during the postal savings reform issue a couple of years ago, who refused to return when PM Abe offered the abovementioned amnesty back into the LDP). This further weakens the LDP’s standing to be sure, but the person elected, Kamei Akiko, just happens to be Kamei Shizuka’s daughter. I am not a fan of political families becoming dynasties in Diets (since it fosters a political class, with privileges gleaned over generations making representatives far removed from the average voter), especially when a huge number of people in Japan’s Diet are already of that status. And Kamei Akiko is yet another example.

9) Social commentator and Class Brain Masuzoe Youichi, after receiving the most votes of any candidate in the last cycle of UH elections, saw his vote tally (470,571) plummet by more than half this time, and his standing from first place in the PR rankings drop to seventh. I watched him carefully from friends Mark and Minas’ apartment as he tried to explain away the LDP’s crushing defeat–saying little of substance and hoping that would do. My, how being a politician muzzles you. He’s a cautionary example, and one reason why I doubt I’ll ever enter politics. I like to speak my mind too much…



I think I’ll change my tune. It’s better for our side of the fence if Abe stays on as PM. He’s shown abysmal communication skills (watch his eyes go all shifty when he’s under pressure; very unprofessional in terms of nonverbals), and will have a hard time extricating himself from the political basement (he even seems to make DPJ leader Ozawa, whom even I don’t trust given his past with Kanemaru money politics, look better!). He’s caused many a discontented person within the LDP (some of whom, including prototypical LDP Gorilla Katayama Toranosuke of Okayama, blame him for losing their seats). And the longer he continues to ride his more obscure hobby horses (reforming the Constitution, enforcing patriotism, creating this “Beautiful Country Japan”–whatever that means) instead of looking at issues that the general public sees as important (pension reforms, high taxes and reduced disposable income, the fact that politicians can write off their expenses invisibly unlike any business in Japan, etc.), the more likely he’s going to run the LDP into the ground in time for the next election (in the more-powerful Lower House) in two years.

For however hapless the DPJ seems at capitalizing on issues and setting the agenda, Abe’s Administration often seems to look worse in comparison. Instead of appealing to the public, it seems the LDP can only achieve their goals by ramming bills through one after another, regardless of how it looks on the evening news. Now it’s not going to be so easy to keep ramming, with the Upper House in opposition control by a wide margin. If this trend continues, it’s entirely possible we could either see another loss for the LDP in the next Lower House election, or even a revolt within the LDP itself (with people joining in to vote “No Confidence”) causing a snap election.

Not implausible. But it becomes more and more possible the longer Abe refuses to change HIS tune and learn some public appeal skills. And it’s not at all clear to me at this stage that he will.


That’s enough armchair politico. Thanks very much for reading!

Arudou Debito

Sapporo, Japan,


TPR: Election Day Prognostications by Arudou Debito


Hi Blog. Trying to make this as timely as possible:

Trans Pacific Radio put up last night an audio interview with me about how I think today’s Japan Upper House election will turn out.

In sum: I think Abe will have to resign over the poor performance of the LDP in this election. He’s had one of the worst cabinets in Japan’s postwar history, and he’s definitely become a political liability (to the point where at least one poll indicates a majority believe we should have a snap election in the Lower House now too).

(I am of course an armchair observer, not a true politico, but for what it’s worth. You can of course throw Internet raspberries at me within 24 hours if I’m wrong…)

Have a listen at:

How it’s written up at TPR follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Seijigiri #29: Seijigiri’s Election Day Special with Debito Arudou

For our election day special release, Garrett and Ken sat down with Debito Arudou for a quick and dirty discussion (just under 20 minutes) of elections in Japan, what the voting process actually involves, the difference between voting for a party and voting for a candidate, and some speculation on what results we may see from today’s election.

Discussed in this edition of Seijigiri is a recent article by Adam Richards (Upper House Prediction at the Mutant Frog Travelogue.

Seijigiri will be back soon with a rundown and discussion of the election results, as well as the usual analysis into what we should expect to see in Japan’s political scene for the upcoming months…


TPR “Last Word” essay on “Why I love Japanese Elections”


Hi Blog. Got inspired on my way down to Tokyo yesterday, and wrote this on the fly for Trans Pacific Radio. I also read it for TPR as part of its news segment (trying my hand at podcasting there for the first time) for July 27, 2007. Have a listen at

Some interviews we did for them also coming up (one due out tomorrow on some crystal balling for the elections), so have a look at their site. Arudou Debito in Tokyo.


The Last Word

Hello Trans Pacific Radio listeners. Arudou Debito from here. Okay, I’m going to give you another one of my outlandish opinions. Wouldja expect anything less from me? Here it comes:

I love Japanese elections.

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot to be sick of. Sound truckery full of meaningless platitudes at high volume. Cookie-cutter candidates in thrall to money politics. And an electorate that never seems to throw the bums out.

But I say it again, I love the stuff.

I admit a natural bias. I was a government major in college, and I always found the science of popular appeal to be fascinating. How can you be a man (usually a man) for all seasons, saying as little as possible as many times as possible, and not alienating any potential votes by tailoring your talks to the audience? Especially in other systems (not enough in Japan, I admit) where the press tags along more, to hold candidates’ feet to the fire whenever there are contradictions in their platform.

But the main reason I love hanging around Japanese elections is because I can vote. I’ve voted four times now in national and local elections, and always love to hang around candidates during the only times they’re out of their bolt holes, and want anything to do with you. I mean when they’re speaking, or out cupping hands with the public.

Witness my sociological experiment:

You can’t see me, but I’m a six-foot white boy, aged 42, who is learning how to wear more colorful clothes as I get older. Anyway, whenever I come onto the scene, the reactions are always indicative of what kind of campaign is being run.

Up in Hokkaido, where I’m from, I’ve watched three candidates speak this election. One from the far-right “Shinpuu”, or “New Wind” party. They don’t like foreigners much, as they are the only party out there this election that even mentions public safety as part of their platform. Their handlers, who pass out pamphlets around the trucks, wouldn’t give me one, even after I asked for one. Within character. Burn in hell.

I also saw Ms Tahara, the fabled Ainu candidate, this morning in her sound truck. She’s running under convicted felon Suzuki Muneo’s splinter party. Her handlers gave me a good wave, but she saw me, she quickly averted her glance, and focused her bows and smiles on people she though would be more worth the extra second or two.

Pretty stupid, really, since even if I couldn’t vote (which I can), I might just have family here which I might influence with a bit of bad-mouthing. Bad-mouthing politicians over booze in this country is a national sport, so she’s obviously not professional enough to avoid alienating people.

Then just before I got on the train to the plane down to Tokyo this morning, there was the Social Democratic Party’s Mr Asano stepping down from his sound truck and catching the tail-end of the morning rush. He’s quite left wing, has a clear and emotive campaign stump, and basically hasn’t got a hope in this election.

Ah, so what. I like underdogs, especially when they are on my side of the fence, and actually happened to vote for him yesterday during absentee balloting. So I went up and told him so.

He turned out to be very friendly, especially after I told him I was on facetime terms with party leader Fukushima Mizuho. But more to my liking was that he even knew about the “Japanese Only” Otaru Onsens Case, and recognized me after that. He then said all the things I wanted to hear without a whiff of irony. Five minutes later out of his busy schedule we had exchanged meishi and seen each other off with waves. Godspeed. Glad I wasted my vote on him.

Anyway, the lesson to be learned here: Elections are as inevitable as taxes, and when they’re not, the country is in trouble. So if you have to learn to live with them, learn how to enjoy them.

One thing I suggest you do is to actually wave at the sound trucks. As a veteran of sound trucks myself, I speak from personal experience when I say we really appreciate it. Somebody is paying attention to us. Even if you can’t vote–or rather, especially if they think you can’t vote, the reaction you get is usually priceless.

‘Cos if they don’t wave back, don’t even deign to treat you like a human being, then let others know. Politicians of all people have gotta learn that foreigners are people too. And that some of them, no matter how they look, have got the vote now.

Listen Now:


Yomiuri: Nikkei defecting from DPRK are stateless, have trouble becoming J citizens


Hi Blog. Here’s another interesting angle to Japan’s funny nationality laws. First we get a person like Alberto Fujimori, who parachutes into Japan on the lam from international law, essentially claims asylum (leaping over the thousands of candidates waiting in line for years to naturalize or become refugees), does a runner to another country on another passport, and gets brought back to run in absentia in this current Japanese election as a candidate. All because of his Japanese blood.

Yet here we have a situation where people also have the same legitimate claim (Japanese blood) and are being denied citizenship anywhere, let alone Japan. All due to the politics of the region. Anyone find any consistency in Japan’s citizenship law application, please try to explain it to me.

Looking forward to this weekend’s election results. If Fujimori actually gets elected, I will, er, well, I don’t know what I will do. Perhaps be speechless for once. Debito in Sapporo


24 defectors from DPRK still stateless / Prejudice rife in catch-22 situation
The Yomiuri Shimbun Jun. 13, 2007
Courtesy Jeff Korpa

At least 24 defectors from North Korea living in Japan remain stateless, largely due to the lack of clear government guidelines on how to determine the nationalities of such defectors, it has been learned.

The statelessness of the 24 people also is a result of each local government having been left to its own devices regarding how to deal with the registration of the foreign defectors.

Observers have pointed out that the North Koreans face discrimination in finding employment and encounter difficulties earning a regular income as long as they remain stateless, hampering their efforts to become naturalized Japanese.

While the number of North Korean defectors living in Japan is rapidly increasing, the government has virtually no support system in place for them, they said. North Koreans have been defecting to Japan since the late 1990s. Many of them fled to China overland, before seeking shelter in the Japanese Consulate General in Shengyang, China.

The government permits Japanese wives of former pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan and their descendants to live in Japan, as they are seen to have relatives here. Many pro-Pyongyang residents emigrated to North Korea in the resident repatriation project from 1959 to 1984. Under the scheme about 93,340 pro-Pyongyang residents in Japan, their Japanese wives and children left for North Korea.

By the end of last year, about 130 defectors were living in Japan, with nine people having entered the country this year, government sources said.

A support group for the defectors interviewed 82 defectors residing in Japan in February and confirmed 24 children and grandchildren of the Japanese wives remain stateless, the group’s official said.

Among the remaining 58 defectors, some Japanese wives reobtained Japanese nationality after they became naturalized citizens. Others gained Korean nationality and later changed to South Korean nationality in most cases.

In 1966, the Justice Ministry issued a notice to municipal governments to describe the nationality of North and South Koreans as Korean when they made their initial application for a foreign registration card. In a 1971 precedent, the nationality of those who were born on the Korean Peninsula stated on foreign registration cards was Korean.

The immigration authorities insist that every municipal government is supposed to follow this precedent. But some municipal government officials said such defectors are recognized as stateless as they do not have passports or any identification documents.

Under the current Nationality Law, Japanese wives of former pro-Pyongyang Korean residents can reobtain Japanese nationality easily, but their children and grandchildren face difficulties in naturalization unless they have sufficient income to support themselves.

(Jun. 13, 2007) ENDS

Asahi and JT on Alberto Fujimori’s J Diet candidacy, with commentary


Hi Blog. The Asahi of July 12 has run an editorial on Alberto Fujimori, wanted by Interpol on suspicion of murder and kidnapping, and his incredible candidacy for the Japanese Diet. The JT of July 18 reports that Fujimori intends to return to Japan if elected. Comments from cyberspace follow articles:


EDITORIAL: Fujimori’s candidacy
07/12/2007 The Asahi Shinbun
Courtesy of Claire Debenham

It is no longer unusual today for show-biz personalities and professional athletes to stand in elections for public offices. But we are surprised at the news that a former president of a foreign country will run for the Upper House election. Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, 68, decided to run as a proportional representation candidate of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) for the July 29 election.

“I would like to show my gratitude to Japan, the home of my parents, by making use of my presidential experiences,” Fujimori explained.

A son of Japanese immigrants from Kumamoto Prefecture, Fujimori was born in Peru, where his parents registered him as a Japanese citizen at the Japanese Consulate. Fujimori holds dual citizenship, but this in itself poses no problem legally.

Shizuka Kamei of the Kokumin Shinto noted: “Including myself, Japanese lawmakers have become a pretty useless bunch. I want Fujimori to be ‘the last samurai’ who will whip them into shape.”

Fujimori was president at the time of the 1996 hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima. We presume Kamei and his party were impressed by Fujimori’s decisive handling of the crisis.

But we definitely do not think this is a good enough reason for anointing him as the party’s Upper House candidate.

In 1990, Fujimori became the first Peruvian president of Japanese ancestry. He rehabilitated the nation’s near-bankrupt economy and settled a century-old border dispute with Ecuador. These achievements are held in high regard by many. However, in the course of his long administration, a spate of scandals surfaced–corruption by his aide and repression of dissidents and human rights abuses by the military.

Yusuke Murakami, an expert on Latin American politics and associate professor at Kyoto University, said: “Fujimori was ensnared in Peru’s history of authoritarian rule by a handful of strongmen, and became part of that history himself.”

While visiting Japan on his way home from an international conference in Brunei in 2000, Fujimori was forced into resignation. He remained in Japan where he sought asylum. His exile, coupled with people’s memories of the hostage crisis four years before, made him a big name in Japan.

We presume this was what made Fujimori an attractive choice for Kokumin Shinto, a minor entity overshadowed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan).

But Peruvian authorities have an arrest warrant for Fujimori for his alleged embezzlement of public funds and involvement in the massacre of civilians during his presidency.

Fujimori was detained in Chile when he moved there two years ago in preparation for a political comeback. He is now under house arrest. The Peruvian government is demanding his extradition, and the case is currently being deliberated by the Chilean Supreme Court.

Fujimori is in no state whatsoever now to conduct an election campaign in Japan. There is even speculation in Peru that Fujimori is running for the Japanese Diet in order to escape extradition.

Even if he should win the election, he will hardly be in a position to attend Diet sessions. There will arise the question, too, of whether he should be allowed to keep his dual citizenship.

Fujimori ought to be seeking the trust of Peruvian voters, not Japanese. And we believe that he should show his gratitude to Peru, not Japan.

–The Asahi Shimbun, July 11 (IHT/Asahi: July 12,2007)

Click on article to see entire scan

COMMENT: Sloppy editorializing by the Asahi. Lots of topics glazed over here, and it’s not merely a matter of editorial constraint. A couple of examples that weaken their otherwise correct conclusions:

1) Fujimori wasn’t just “forced into resignation”. He quit quite flippantly, famously faxing his resignation from a Tokyo hotel room. That’s part of the lore of this man’s history, and it shouldn’t be portrayed with any possible “kawai-sou” bent.

2) Fujimori didn’t just “move to Chile”. He did an overnight runner. He went there surreptitiously and opportunistically, applying for a Peruvian passport in advance (and getting it, contravening Japan’s dual nationality issues), and then was arrested for his trouble at the Santiago airport:

Fujimori was arrested Monday, a day after leaving Tokyo. The 67-year-old former president secretly left Tokyo on a chartered plane, apparently seeking to prepare for a political comeback in Peru. Japanese Ambassador to Chile Hajime Ogawa claims Japan only learned of Fujimori’s passage to Chile via media reports. But Santiago believes Tokyo must have known about his plans before his arrival. Lagos also urged Japan to explain its position on protecting Fujimori as a Japanese national, with the former fugitive having entered Chile on a Peruvian passport.
“Diplomats visit Fujimori in Chilean jail”, The Japan Times, Friday, Nov. 11, 2005

I think Claire and Dave raise some other points well. From the Life in Japan list:

The editorial in this morning’s English-language Asahi criticizing Alberto Fujimori’s candidacy in the Upper House elections says in passing that

“Fujimori holds dual citizenship, but this in itself poses no problem legally.”

Is that because he was born before 1985, when the revised nationality law came into effect? I thought that strictly speaking, according to the letter of the law, even people born before then were obliged to choose one nationality and renounce the other, and that the Ministry of Justice was just turning a blind eye. If Fujimori is allowed to have dual nationality and run for the Diet, what’s the problem with dual nationality for people like our children?

Claire Debenham

You raise a good question, and one that I have been pondering a lot recently for various reasons.

A recent link posted either here or on “The Community” list (sorry, I can’t find it at the moment) provided an essay by someone who had researched dual nationality. In it, it said that there was no law strictly forbidding dual citizenship. Unfortunately, the essay was not complete, and so it lacked more detail.

But ultimately it means that there is a difference between criminal law, and rules and regulations about citizenship and immigration. Laws are codified and testable. Rules are at the discretion of the body making them.

One thing you have to keep in mind, and it is written in various places on various forms you see at the immigration office, is that the ministry in charge of nationality and immigration issues ultimately has the authority to decide who gets and doesn’t get citizenship or visas.

It’s like the sign on a restaurant door that says “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. 99.99% of the time there are rules applied that can be readily understood by watching them in practice. But, there is also an undercurrent of discretion that can be applied at any time, to suit the needs of the management.

The bottom line is that Fujimori has been given special exception, and it does expose a lot of unfairness in the current rules.

However, his existence is also an opportunity, in that we can hold him up as an example to say “why is it that someone who is wanted for questioning in massive human rights abuses allowed dual citizenship, and yet I am not?”

The trick is knowing where and how to ask that question. Dave M G

Which means the Asahi editorial has left a major stone unturned–what the Fujimori Case means for definitions of citizenship in Japan. If anything, his should be the case which says that Dual Nationality is okay.

More feedback:
Jens wrote:
Let me actually make a
slightly controversial proposal, though I’m really
just wondering. We all know that Fujimori is a
controversial figure – he’s accused of human rights
violations and corruption. But from a positive point
of view, Fujimori seems to be an example of how
bicultural children can rationally share loyalty in a
way that many seem to think can’t exist. He acted as
president of Peru, and apparently worked hard in
defense of his new country (as well as for his own
pocket, obviously). But he also seems very capable of
taking a “Japanese perspective”. So maybe he should be
used as an argument in favor of allowing double
nationality. . .

That was my first reaction, too. Permitting dual nationality actually benefits nations, in terms of nurturing people who can create social, economic, and cultural ties. Not that Fujimori would be my personal poster boy, but still…

There’s a website here that has both the Japanese and English text of the Nationality Law, just for reference.

The crunch clauses seem to be Articles 12, 14, and 16.


Article 12
A Japanese national who was born in a foreign country and has acquired a foreign nationality by birth shall lose Japanese nationality since the time of birth, unless the Japanese national clearly indicates her/his volition to reserve Japanese nationality according to the provisions of the Family Registration Law (Law No. 224 of 1947).

Article 14
A Japanese national having a foreign nationality shall choose either of the nationalities before s/he reaches 22 years of age if s/he has acquired both nationalities on and before the day when s/he reached 20 years of age, or within 2 years if s/he acquired such nationality after the day when s/he reached 20 years of age.

Article 16

A Japanese national who has made the declaration of choice shall endeavor to deprive her/himself of the foreign nationality.

In the case where a Japanese national who has made the declaration of choice but still possesses a foreign nationality has voluntarily taken public office in the foreign country (excluding an office which a person not having the nationality of such country is able to take), the Minister of Justice may pronounce that s/he shall lose Japanese nationality if the Minister finds that taking such public office would substantially contradict her/his choice of Japanese nationality.


Fujimori’s parents registered his birth in their Japanese family register, so he meets the criteria of Article 12. But he neither chose a nationality by his 22nd birthday nor endeavored to deprive himself of the foreign nationality, AND he took public office in another country. So it looks as if, strictly speaking, the Ministry of Justice has sufficient grounds to deprive him of Japanese nationality.

My fear, I guess, is that if Fujimori were to get into the Diet his dual nationality would become an issue, and he’d be forced to renounce his Peruvian passport. At least that might open a debate on the issue, but if it ultimately resulted in a crackdown on other dual nationals that would be quite a negative outcome. Claire Debenham

Then the voice from the sky:


The Japan Children’s Rights Network website also has a section on citizenship that may have some additional information.

There is info and links to some MOJ descriptions of the choice requirement also. Does seem to be a requirement….

Even some historical info on amendments, courtesy of the Japan Supreme Court:

And finally another copy of the law itself in English. (Ill update the Japanese version soon after seeing your link Claire – very nice, thank you.) Mark Smith

Last word from me. More on what I dislike about the antics of Alberto Fujimori archived at, starting from:
Arudou Debito in Sapporo

J Focus on PM Abe’s Fundamental Education Law reforms


Hi Blog. Let me post this before I put up my July 17, 2007 Japan Times article, since it has bearing on Japan’s fundamental attitude towards education.

Japan online academic site has just put up (July 9) an excellent analysis of PM Abe’s “teach primary students patriotism and love of Japan” reforms to the Fundamental Law of Education, passed December 2006.

Entitled, “Hammering Down the Educational Nail: Abe Revises the Fundamental Law of Education”, by Adam Lebowitz and David McNeill, the conclusion of the article is the most excerptable part:

Changes to the Fundamental Law of Education: From Citizens to National Subjects?

Much criticism of the amended education law has focused on statements clearly privileging the state over the individual; that is, statements affirming civil liberties still appear, often unchanged, from the original version, but are often undercut and diluted by new language. Perhaps more importantly, however, what makes the amended version of the law appear less a legal document than an expression of authoritarian will is not so much what is said, but how it is said. That is, the language of mystique and belief makes the very notion of individual rights seem anachronistic at best. For this reason the amended version is not a reflection of a democratic and constitutionally law-driven society but resembles in content and in intent the Edict, a product of a wartime regime.

The article contains an unofficial translation of the changes to the Fundamental Law of Education, side-by-side with the original 1947 document, at

Of course, left out of the article (as it is tangental) is the issue of how Japan’s children of international roots–including both the children of immigrant workers and the children of international marriages–will be affected by these revisions.

Even from the change in the word “we” (meaning Japan’s residents/citizens–still not completely overlapping), I see great problems in interpretation and exclusion. Excerpting again:

Old: Warera

Amended: Wareware Nihon Kokumin [We the Countrymen of Japan]


Warera is a non-partisan and generalized grammatical subject written phonetically. The new form in kanji is long and bombastic, and most notably conceptualizes “Japan” in an essentialist manner eliding a legalistic framework. The Constitution is not mentioned until the third paragraph. In short, the “we” of the old law were citizens of a constitutionally based body politic; now, “we” are in effect national subjects.

Thanks to PALE’s Robert Aspinall for notifying me. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

TPR on Kyuuma WWII remark, Cumings on DPRK, and Tawara on PM Abe’s Education Reforms


Hi Blog. Not necessarily NJ-rights related, but here are three recent podcasts I got a heckuva lot out of, and I think you might too.

One was released this very morning at online media station Trans Pacific Radio. Garrett DiOrio gave an editorial on the former Defense Minister Kyuuma’s remark about the atomic bombing at the closing of WWII (which led to his resignation). A remark, it might surprise you, I actually agree with.

So does Garrett. But it’s rare when I agree 100% with somebody’s writing, as I did Garrett’s editorial. At times I felt as if Garrett had put a tape recorder under my bed and listened to me talk in my sleep about this issue.

An excerpt:

Victimhood, though, is central to the denial argument. Claiming that the War was terrible and all who lived through it were victims together and that they should just try to move on is the only way the fact that it was the government of Japan that was primarily responsible for all of that suffering can be pushed into the background.

This Japan-as-victim mantra is so often repeated that it is as firmly a part of the canon of political correctness as more legitimate things such as the unacceptability of nuclear war and racism.

Back when much to-do was made over Minister Yanagisawa’s unfortunate “birth-giving machines” remark, I should have seen this dark side of political correctness rearing up its ugly head in Japan. Had people called for his resignation over his being part of a Cabinet with a deep disconnect with and disregard for the people of this nation, it would have made sense, but that wasn’t what happened. He said the wrong thing and it could have been sexist. That’s unforgivable.

Fumio Kyuma said something reasonable, if disagreeable. It could have been insensitive, though. More important, it violated the Japan-as-victim image Abe and other Diet members had worked so hard to maintain. After all, if the atomic bombs were unavoidable, that means something led up to them, which means the fact that those bombings were preceded by over thirteen years of war, in which Japan was the aggressor, would be dragged up all over again. That is not what the kantei wants, especially in the run-up to an important election.

This makes so much sense it’s scary. 20 minutes. Listen to, or read, the entire editorial at


Another talk I got a lot out of is a February 11, 2004 talk by Bruce Cumings, a scholar of Korean history, entitled
“Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth about North Korea, Iran, and Syria”.

An excerpt:
…as the Iraq war was unfolding. One of the curiosities of the commentary about the occupation of Iraq is that the [Bush] Administration wanted to compare what was going on to our occupations of Japan and West Germany. Democracy was going to flower in Iraq just as it did in Japan and West Germany. The opponents of the war constantly referred back to the quagmire that was the war in Viet Nam, and with the exception of a couple of editorials that I wrote, I saw nobody ever refer to the occupation of South Korea. Many Americans don’t realize that well before the Korean War, the United States set up a military government in South Korea, and ran it from 1945 to 1948. It had a very deep impact on Postwar Korean history. There are many things about the Iraq Occupation that are directly comparable to our occupation of Korea…

It goes on to talk about how things went very, very wrong on the Korean Peninsula, the emergence of the DPRK, and how and why things to this day are pretty sour in the region (with some interesting KimJongilogy within). This issue matters to greatly, as the GOJ uses the spectre of the DPRK on practically a daily basis to among other things justify its mistrust of the NJ community, denying the Zainichis the regular rights of multigenerational residency in Japan (such as voting in local elections).

45 minutes. You can download it from the U Chicago CHIASMOS website at:


The final podcast I’d like to point out to you is another CHIASMOS one: Tawara Yoshifumi, author and Japan Left commentator, on “Japan’s Education and Society in Crisis”, delivered May 17, 2007. As Secretary General of the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, Tawara delivers an excellent first half (the second half gets a bit bogged down in leftist boilerplate and education minutia) on what the Abe Administration is angling for with the LDP’s educational reforms: the resurgence of a militarized Japan, able to fight wars and project hard power onto the international scene.

Great food for thought, and there was even a question from the audience on the school grading of patriotism even for Japan’s ethnic minorities (which the questioner unfortunately assumed would only mean Koreans); the answer was, everyone who attends Japanese primary and secondary schools enforcing patriotic guidelines will get graded on love of Japan regardless of nationality or ethnicity; Tawara mentions to a case of a Zainichi Korean getting graded down.

An excerpt:
A source document of Mr Abe’s education reform is a report put out in December of 2000 by the National Alliance, of which the head is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, Ezaki Reona. And what Professor Ezaki says is that the question of schoolchildren’s abilities is a question of innate ability. It’s determined already for each child at the time of birth. It is something transmitted genetically. Consequently, a rational school policy would have all children’s blood tested upon their entry at school. And those who show genes which predispose them to learning effectively should be given the appropriate elite education. And the other children should be given an education that will promote their sincere attitude towards life…

2 hours and change. In Japanese with excellent consecutive English translation as always from Professor Norma Field. Download from:

Enjoy. I did. This is one of the advantages of cycling about 12 hours and 200 kms a week with an iPod on my shoulder. Listen while you exercise and give your mind a workout, too. Debito in Sapporo

Asahi Editorial: Tanaka Hiroshi on treatment of NJ workers


Hello Blog. Here’s one of the most important writers regarding NJ issues (particularly the Zainichi), Tanaka Hiroshi, getting an article in the most prominent public Op-Ed column in the Japanese press (although I can’t find the Japanese version of it anywhere–little help?).

Good. Again, it’s what we’ve been saying all along. More voices the merrier. Debito in Sapporo

POINT OF VIEW/ Hiroshi Tanaka: Japan must open its arms to foreign workers
Courtesy of Hans ter Horst

Japan, with its aging workforce, is facing a serious labor shortage that can only be solved by bringing in foreign workers. Even so, the country’s laws do not safeguard the human rights of these guest trainees and interns.

The government is attempting to change this situation, but in my view, its efforts lack focus.

Three arms of the government are making separate moves in this area.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare wants to treat foreign trainees as interns, so Japanese labor laws will cover them.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposes strengthening the screening process and penalties for maltreatment of foreign trainees and interns to improve working conditions and prevent human rights violations.

And Justice Minister Jinen Nagase seeks to establish a system whereby foreign workers can work only a maximum of three years.

To begin with, it is ridiculous to have three branches of government working separately to solve the same problem. This will only result in a tug of war over control.

What needs to be done is to establish a central policy office within the Prime Minister’s Office or the Cabinet Office, with its leader reporting directly to the prime minister.

In reality, there is a wide gap between how Japan deals with its foreign workers and the principles stated in official policy.

With the Japanese labor force in decline, the economy cannot be maintained without an influx of foreign labor. Despite this fact, the government is sticking with an outdated policy that limits the entry of unskilled foreign workers on grounds the practice could lead harm job security for Japanese workers.

At the same time, however, the government opened a back door into the job market, offering a fast track to visas for foreigners of Japanese descent and trainee and technical internship programs for foreigners.

These two loopholes enable unskilled foreigners to work in Japan. To date, about 350,000 foreigners of Japanese descent have come to Japan from Brazil, Peru and elsewhere to work in the automotive industry. Many are employed by subcontractors to the major automakers and other parts makers.

Instead of dealing squarely with them, the government has stuck with its “deceptive” policies. As a result, there are no protections in place to guarantee their human rights and labor rights. Since foreign workers are usually hired by brokers and dispatched indirectly, many employers fail to provide them with proper social insurance coverage.

Some workers even are illegally forced to hand over their passports to their employers, and others have been cheated of due wages. Such mistreatment has been reported in case after case, but nothing is done to prevent it.

I am working to resolve the educational problems faced by the children of foreign workers in Japan. Despite the rise in numbers of children attending Brazilian schools in Japan, these schools remain unaccredited. As such, they receive no government subsidies.

When revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education were discussed last year, not a word was heard about the right of immigrant children to an education or the government’s obligation to guarantee that education.

The government must squarely face these problems and create sincere policies to make the lives of our guest workers better.

Since the Japanese population is declining, the government needs to come out and make clear that we do need and value foreign workers. Once that is recognized, the government should examine which areas are lacking and estimate how many workers we need. It also should pass legislation to enable immigrants who complete Japanese-language training programs and vocational training courses to enter the workforce as full-fledged workers.

Some people worry that too many foreign workers would lead to lower wages for Japanese workers or steal jobs away.

If a foreign worker is more competent or better trained than a Japanese, then naturally they will get hired first.

But to assume that a foreigner should work for less than a Japanese is outright discrimination. And as long as the principle of “equal pay for equal work” is observed, the situation will not adversely affect the labor market.

The government’s passive attitude toward foreign workers shows how it remains unable to shake off its insular, Cold-War era mindset, one that pits people of one nation against another merely because they hold a certain citizenship.

This thinking leads us to set Japanese apart from foreigners.

We must accept people from other countries as “residents” and create a system to encourage them to participate in our society. Giving foreign residents the right to vote in local elections would be a step in the right direction.

For that, we need a system that encourages foreigners to settle in Japan, instead of one that treats them as temporary labor.

Japan needs to abandon its selfish attitudes and open up its closed society with firmly rooted policies.

* * *

Hiroshi Tanaka is professor specializing in the history of Japan-Asia relations at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University and a representative of a citizens’ group that works to support schools for foreign residents in Japan.(IHT/Asahi: July 3,2007)

Foreign Policy Mag etc. on GOJ and Constitutional Reform


Hi Blog. May seem only tangental to the bent of, but Constitutional Reform (and the processes thereof) underpins everything, particularly the processes through which we work in Japan’s civil society, we try to get done here.

Constitutional reform has since gotten bogged down in the whole pensions scandals, and Abe’s decreasing popularity affecting late-July elections, so sawaranu kami. But if the Abe Administration continues, we should see more of what’s described below. Related articles follow. Debito

2007 June 1, Foreign Policy Magazine
Japan’s Revolution Is Far Too Quiet

By Bruce Ackerman, Norikazu Kawagishi
Posted May 2007
Courtesy of a reporter friend

Japan is on the cusp of a constitutional revolution. To an overstretched West, a newly muscular Tokyo promises stability in a rapidly shifting region. Yet, in its rush to overturn six decades of official pacifism, the Japanese government is stifling the serious national debate required in a modern democracy. Is anyone paying attention?

Japan’s pacifist Constitution has been frozen in time, unchanged since it was enacted during the occupation of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. But with little opportunity for debate, the Japanese parliament recently passed a bill that opens the door to major constitutional revisions. Western governments, overwhelmed by their security commitments around the world, have honed in on one preferred outcome-amendment of Article Nine, which prohibits Japan from participating in war and restricts the size and scope of its military. Their nearly exclusive emphasis on this point has obscured the deeply flawed process by which the changes are to be made.

The new law, pushed by the inexperienced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, allows the government to hold a national referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. Rammed through parliament on a party-line vote, the Abe initiative has serious flaws.

Most importantly, it imposes drastic restrictions on freedom of speech. No political advertising will be permitted on radio or television during the two-week run-up to the referendum on proposed amendments. Worse yet, the law bans the nation’s schoolteachers from speaking out on the matter-as if a little learning were a dangerous thing when the nation contemplates its constitutional future. These restrictions have no place in a system based on the rule of the people.

But the government may have something else in mind. The new law fails to require a minimum turnout before any constitutional referendum becomes valid. By tolerating massive political passivity and imposing silence on broad sectors of civil society, the law sets the stage for a parody of democratic politics. The Constitution should not be amended by minorities marching to the polls under the guidance of entrenched political elites.

Some checks on abuse will remain. The Constitution inherited from the MacArthur era requires a two-thirds vote from both legislative houses before an amendment can be placed before the voters. This supermajority rule will necessitate a consensus from the political elite before any basic constitutional change could occur. But democratic principles require something more-a full and fair test of the consent of ordinary citizens. By restricting free speech and not mandating a minimum voter turnout, the referendum law falls short of this key requirement.

Western policymakers will find it easy to ignore this point. With NATO’s resources desperately overstretched, they are increasingly concerned with the revision of the famous “peace clause” of Article Nine. As they contemplate China’s rising power, a growing number of Western governments will be tempted to support the repeal of the peace article without serious questioning.

This would be a grievous mistake. Any attempt to repudiate Article Nine would generate large anxieties in the region, even if it is accompanied by flawless democratic procedures. But an effort by elites to ram repeal through a defective process will justifiably generate larger concerns about the future of Japanese democracy. It is one thing for a democratic Japan to return to the world stage as a normal military power; it is quite another for it to create a precedent for future assaults on its fragile constitutional heritage. In a fiercely nationalistic region with long historical memories, such a move could be extremely dangerous.

Abe is right about one thing: Japan’s move toward popular sovereignty is essential if the Japanese people are to take ownership of their own political destiny. The existing Constitution was largely drafted by American military lawyers and was never put up for approval by the people. Sixty years later, it is past time for modern Japan to move beyond the U.S. occupation and build a constitution worthy of its two generations of democratic practice. But this new law is the wrong way to start.

The referendum law does not come into effect for three years-time enough for public opinion, both inside and outside the country, to have an impact. Intent on repealing the peace article, the Abe government has pressed forward without a broad discussion of its larger constitutional implications. But it would be shortsighted for friends of the country to allow this silence to continue.

Bruce Ackerman is professor of law and political science at Yale University.
Norikazu Kawagishi is professor of law and political science at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.


Abe’s political problems mount as approval ratings sink
By Takehiko Kambayashi
THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published June 8, 2007

TOKYO — With his approval ratings sinking, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is embroiled in political and pension scandals and his Cabinet minister’s suicide.

Before heading to Heiligendamm, Germany, where he is attending the Group of Eight summit, Mr. Abe announced a plan to cut worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2050. The prime minister, however, may need to prepare for a more impending firestorm: the upper-house elections next month.

Mr. Abe took office in September with popularity ratings of about 70 percent, but that number has steadily declined. An opinion poll released last week by the major daily Asahi Shimbun found that Mr. Abe’s approval rating hit a record 30 percent, while his disapproval rating reached a record 49 percent. Unlike his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, Mr. Abe has failed to attract independent voters.

Analysts attributed the drop to Mr. Abe’s weak leadership and to his handling of a string of political, financial and pension scandals.

In late May, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who was accused of bid-rigging and misuse of public funds, hanged himself before he was to face questioning in parliament. Mr. Abe consistently defended the minister while the opposition parties asked him to fulfill his responsibilities to make a full explanation.

“The responsibility of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appointed Mr. Matsuoka as Cabinet minister and who defended him after suspicions were pressed, is not small,” the conservative Sankei, a paper usually sympathetic to Mr. Abe, said in an editorial. “This is a major blow to the Cabinet with upper-house elections around the corner.”

The public also was angered by the health ministry’s loss of records related to about 50 million pension cases. The beleaguered ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) and New Komeito steamrolled a pair of bills intended to resolve the problem.

Akikazu Hashimoto, a senior research associate at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said, “The pension scandal has only begun.”

“I would say that is a state crime,” said Mr. Hashimoto, who is a visiting professor at J.F. Oberlin University. The scandal “exposed the vulnerability of Japan’s bureaucracy and the fragility of its democracy, which has experienced virtually no transfer of power.”

Mr. Abe and some LDP members blamed Naoto Kan, former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, for the disappearance of the records because Mr. Kan once served as a health minister. Even other LDP members criticized the deflection of blame.

“It is the ruling LDP that had the responsibility to supervise the ministry,” Mr. Hashimoto said. “Mr. Abe lacks academic ability and the qualities of a leader.”

Meanwhile, the scandals have continued to unfold. On Wednesday, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa said in parliament that the Social Insurance Agency has yet to enter 14.3 million pension cases into its computer system.

The Rise of Japan’s Thought Police
By Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
The Washington Post | August 27, 2006 ons/articles/ 2006/the_ rise_of_japan_ s_thought_ police
Courtesy of Pat O’Brien

Anywhere else, it might have played out as just another low-stakes battle between policy wonks. But in Japan, a country struggling to find a brand of nationalism that it can embrace, a recent war of words between a flamboyant newspaper editorialist and an editor at a premier foreign-policy think tank was something far more alarming: the latest assault in a campaign of right-wing intimidation of public figures that is squelching free speech and threatening to roll back civil society.

On Aug. 12, Yoshihisa Komori — a Washington-based editorialist for the ultra-conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper — attacked an article by Masaru Tamamoto, the editor of Commentary, an online journal run by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The article expressed concern about the emergence of Japan’s strident, new “hawkish nationalism, ” exemplified by anti-China fear-mongering and official visits to a shrine honoring Japan’s war dead. Komori branded the piece “anti-Japanese, ” and assailed the mainstream author as an “extreme leftist intellectual. “

But he didn’t stop there. Komori demanded that the institute’s president, Yukio Satoh, apologize for using taxpayer money to support a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, in defiance of Chinese protests that it honors war criminals from World War II.

Remarkably, Satoh complied. Within 24 hours, he had shut down Commentary and withdrawn all of the past content on the site — including his own statement that it should be a place for candid discourse on Japan’s foreign-policy and national-identity challenges. Satoh also sent a letter last week to the Sankei editorial board asking for forgiveness and promising a complete overhaul of Commentary’s editorial management.

The capitulation was breathtaking. But in the political atmosphere that has overtaken Japan, it’s not surprising. Emboldened by the recent rise in nationalism, an increasingly militant group of extreme right-wing activists who yearn for a return to 1930s-style militarism, emperor-worship and “thought control” have begun to move into more mainstream circles — and to attack those who don’t see things their way.

Just last week, one of those extremists burned down the parental home of onetime prime ministerial candidate Koichi Kato, who had criticized Koizumi’s decision to visit Yasukuni this year. Several years ago, the home of Fuji Xerox chief executive and Chairman Yotaro “Tony” Kobayashi was targeted by handmade firebombs after he, too, voiced the opinion that Koizumi should stop visiting Yasukuni. The bombs were dismantled, but Kobayashi continued to receive death threats. The pressure had its effect. The large business federation that he helps lead has withdrawn its criticism of Koizumi’s hawkishness toward China and his visits to Yasukuni, and Kobayashi now travels with bodyguards.

In 2003, then-Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka discovered a time bomb in his home. He was targeted for allegedly being soft on North Korea. Afterward, conservative Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara contended in a speech that Tanaka “had it coming.”

Another instance of free-thinking- meets-intimidati on involved Sumiko Iwao, an internationally respected professor emeritus at Keio University. Right-wing activists threatened her last February after she published an article suggesting that much of Japan is ready to endorse female succession in the imperial line; she issued a retraction and is now reportedly lying low.

Such extremism raises disturbing echoes of the past. In May 1932, Japanese Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was assassinated by a group of right-wing activists who opposed his recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Manchuria and his staunch defense of parliamentary democracy. In the post-World War II era, right-wing fanatics have largely lurked in the shadows, but have occasionally threatened those who veer too close to or speak too openly about sensitive topics concerning Japan’s national identity, war responsibility or imperial system.

What’s alarming and significant about today’s intimidation by the right is that it’s working — and that it has found some mutualism in the media. Sankei’s Komori has no direct connection to those guilty of the most recent acts, but he’s not unaware that his words frequently animate them — and that their actions in turn lend fear-fueled power to his pronouncements, helping them silence debate. What’s worse, neither Japan’s current prime minister nor Shinzo Abe, the man likely to succeed him in next month’s elections, has said anything to denounce those trying to stifle the free speech of Japan’s leading moderates.

There are many more cases of intimidation. I have spoken to dozens of Japan’s top academics, journalists and government civil servants in the past few days; many of them pleaded with me not to disclose this or that incident because they feared violence and harassment from the right. One top political commentator in Japan wrote to me: “I know the right-wingers are monitoring what I write and waiting to give me further trouble. I simply don’t want to waste my time or energy for these people.”

Japan needs nationalism. But it needs a healthy nationalism — not the hawkish, strident variety that is lately forcing many of the country’s best lights to dim their views.

Peru’s Fujimori Update: Running in J elections! (UPDATED)


Uh… Blog, I checked the date on this to make sure the article isn’t dated early April. It’s probably the most ludicrous thing I’ll see all year. (JUNE 28 UPDATE BELOW)

Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru and wanted by Peru to stand trial for suspected crimes during his corrupt administration (which he resigned from by faxing his resignation from a Tokyo hotel room, then spent five years in Japan as a sudden citizen (in a country which rarely even grants refugee status, let alone citizenship easily) evading extradition, then ran back to Chile to try and stand election again in Peru (writing his citizenship down as “Peruvian” when he deplaned, even though Japan doesn’t allow dual nationality) where he’s currently under house arrest, using the Chilean court system to mark time in South America), has now…

are you ready for this?…

been asked by Kamei Shizuka (one of the more fatheaded former LDP gorillas, now clearly even more so) to stand for election in Japan!!

I had to rub my eyes quite a few times this morning, but the Mainichi reports as such below.

It’s times like these I wish oak staves were part of the political process, so we could pound one through the heart of these political vampires and keep him properly undead.

See what I have against Fujimori (not the least a bypasser of the quite difficult procedure of naturalization, which I went through; it took years) starting from this link:

The Mainichi article follows. Thanks to David Anderson for notification. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori asked to run in Japan elections
Mainichi Daily News, June 19, 2007

A Japanese opposition party has asked former Peruvian President Albert Fujimori, who also has Japanese citizenship, to run in coming parliamentary elections, media reports said Tuesday.

Fujimori is currently in Chile, where he is under house arrest.

Peru wants to try the 68-year-old Fujimori on charges including bribery, misuse of government funds and sanctioning death squad killings during his decade-long rule that ended in 2000.

The People’s New Party, a minor Japanese party with 10 lawmakers, asked Fujimori earlier this year to run in elections for the upper house of parliament, to be held in July, Kyodo News agency reported.

An aide to Shizuka Kamei, one of the party’s senior lawmakers, went to Chile on Monday to meet Fujimori but the former president has not made his position clear, the agency said. Nippon Television Network carried a similar report.

Officials at the party as well as the Peruvian Embassy in Tokyo could not immediately confirm the report.
Fujimori spent five years in exile in Japan after fleeing Peru as his government collapsed under a corruption scandal. The Japanese government determined in 2000 that the ousted leader holds Japanese citizenship after Tokyo confirmed Fujimori’s birth was registered with a local Japanese consulate in Peru and he had never renounced his Japanese citizenship.

Despite the allegations, he is well received among the Japanese for his handling of a 1996 hostage crisis in Peru. As president, he ordered the daring raid that freed 24 Japanese captives from the hands of guerrillas who had taken over the Japanese ambassador’s residence.

In November 2005, Fujimori flew to Chile as part of an apparent bid to launch a political comeback in neighboring Peru. Chile has held Fujimori under house arrest for six months.

Fujimori was freed last year on the condition he not leave Chile, but earlier this month he was put back under house arrest after a Chilean prosecutor recommended his extradition to face charges of human rights abuses and corruption in his home country. (AP)



UPDATE JUNE 28, 2007


Fujimori to run in Japan elections
CNN.COM, POSTED: 0232 GMT (1032 HKT), June 27, 2007
Thanks to Chad for notifying me.

TOKYO, Japan (AP) — Disgraced Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori has decided to run for Japan’s upper house of parliament in July despite being under house arrest in Chile, the head of a Japanese party said Thursday.

Shizuka Kamei, head of the People’s New Party, said Fujimori told him in a phone conversation that he had accepted a request from the party to run in the elections.

“I will run as a proportional representational candidate for the People’s New Party to work for Asian diplomacy, the North Korea problem and the safety of the Japanese public,” Kamei quoted Fujimori as saying.

Kamei said he wanted Fujimori — who holds Japanese citizenship — to make use of his “knowledge, rich experience and reputation for our country’s politics.”

“I strongly hope Mr. Fujimori, as the last samurai, to add vigor to today’s Japanese society, which lacks courage, confidence and benevolence,” he said.

It was not immediately clear what constituency he would run for or whether he would be eligible as a candidate.

Fujimori, 68, is under house arrest in Chile after flying there in November 2005 as part of an apparent bid to launch a political comeback in Peru. Peru wants him to stand trial on charges including bribery, misuse of government funds and sanctioning death squad killings during his decadelong rule that ended in 2000.

The PNP plans to ask the Foreign Ministry and the Japanese government to help ensure Fujimori can engage in electoral activities, Kamei said. Kamei added that he did not see any problem with Fujimori running in the race.

No regulations under Japan’s Public Offices Election Law prohibit a candidate under house arrest overseas from running in an election in Japan, Internal Affairs Ministry official Tetsuya Kikuchi said.

The PNP, a minor Japanese party with 10 lawmakers, asked Fujimori earlier this year to run in the parliamentary elections, to be held July 29. He had been expected to give his answer later in the week.

Peruvian Congressman Juan Carlos Eguren of the opposition National Unity party accused Fujimori of trying to escape Chilean and Peruvian justice.

“The judicial process must continue and we think that the extradition process will end with a ruling forcing Fujimori to return to Peru,” he said.

Fujimori spent five years in exile in Japan after fleeing Peru as his government collapsed under a corruption scandal. The Japanese government determined in 2000 that he holds Japanese citizenship after Tokyo confirmed Fujimori’s birth was registered with a Japanese consulate in Peru and he had never renounced his Japanese citizenship.

Despite the allegations, he is well-received in Japan for his handling of a 1996 hostage crisis in Peru. As president, he ordered the daring raid that freed 24 Japanese captives held by guerrillas who had taken over the Japanese ambassador’s residence.

Fujimori was freed last year on the condition he not leave Chile, but earlier this month he was put back under house arrest after a Chilean prosecutor recommended his extradition to face charges of human rights abuses and corruption in his home country. (Full story at

The nonbinding recommendation must still be ruled on by the judge, a process that could take several months.

Dietmember Hosaka critical of “thought screening” in new J jury system


Hi Blog. Excerpting an excellent article from Chris Salzberg at Global Voices Online on Japan’s upcoming jury system (from May 2009). He translates Lower House Dietmember Hosaka Nobuto‘s questioning of the Justice Minister et al regarding their proposed screening of applicant citizen jurors in the new and upcoming jury for criminal cases.

I don’t want to cut and paste in Chris’s entire blog entry, so see it here. But I will paste below his and his partner’s translation of Hosaka’s blog entry (Japanese original here or up at the abovementioned Chris blog link).

This is very important, since for once Japan’s judiciary is trying to open the sacerdotal system of judicial decisionmaking to more public input and scrutiny. And here they go all over again trying to screen jurors to make sure they are sympathetic towards (i.e. trusting of) the police. The police and prosecutors have enough power at their disposal to convict people (to the point of raising hackles at the UN Committee Against Torture) without proposing to stack the jury too.

Again, it’s best written up at Chris’s blog, so also take a look at that. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Written by Chris Salzberg and Tokita Hanako)

…It is only against this backdrop of the chronic problem of forced confessions that Hosaka’s blog entry can really be understood. The blog entry is called “The hidden ‘trap’ of the citizen judge system: thought checking in citizen judge interviews“, and begins:

Yesterday, in the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs, I questioned [the government] for 40 minutes over a legal revision of criminal proceedings to institutionalize “Participation in the Judicial Action of Crime Victims”. In exchanges between the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry, a state of affairs was revealed in which the legal system would be swayed from its foundation by a “wide range of views from a group of citizens chosen by drawing lots”, part of the [new] citizen judge system. When a police officer is called by the prosecution to testify as a witness, it is permissible to ask the citizen judge candidates and the court of justice: “Do you have trust in the investigation of this police officer?” If you answer: “No, I do not trust this police officer”, then the prosecutor can judge that “A fair trial cannot be guaranteed” and can instigate a procedure in which, without indicating any reasons, a maximum of 4 candidates can be disqualified.

The 6 members of the citizen judge system, acting as “representatives of the people”, under this filtering by the prosecution, becomes a group of only “well-intentioned citizens without any doubts about the police”; this in turn has a huge influence in court battles in which the prosecution argues with the defence over the “voluntariness of confessions” [extracted by the police]. The investigation has the authority to perform a “thought check” on these delegates of the citizen court system, chosen by “drawing lots”, related to issues such as their “degree of confidence in the police investigation” and their “view on the death penalty”, and, without stating any reason, can carry out a “challenge” procedure to eliminate up to 4 candidates. I am shocked that this scheme has been hidden. For the “bureaucracy”, this very convenient “well-intentioned citizen without doubts about the bureaucracy”, chosen from the entire population by drawing lots, is nothing more than a disguise under the name of “participation in the legal system”. If the three elements of the judicial community have concocted these “unacceptable questions” which could impinge on the freedom of thought and creed, we cannot ignore this. Below I have presented a tentative record [of the proceedings]. Starting next week, I will try to put the brakes on this reckless degeneration of justice. Please have a look at the exchange that took place in the Committee of Judicial Affairs, reproduced below.

The rest of the blog entry consists of the proceedings of the Diet session, translated here in their entirety:

There was an article in yesterday’s newspaper about the finalization of the essentials of a supreme court outline relating to procedures for the court of justice’s new citizen judge system. In this article, it was explained that the citizen judges would be questioned in an oral consultation or interview. In these consultations or interviews, “investigator testimony” — i.e. in cases in which the police officer (witness) is scheduled to testify — if there is an appeal by the person concerned (prosecution), then the presiding judge can ask: “Are there any circumstances in which you would be able to trust this investigation conducted by the police and others? Or, alternatively, are there any circumstances about which you do not have particular confidence?” In cases in which the answer is “no”, no further questions are asked [of the candidate citizen judge]. In cases in which the answer is “yes”, the citizen judge is asked: “What kind of circumstances are these?” Depending on the answer to this question, if necessary, the candidate citizen judge is then asked: “Do you think you can consider the contents of the police officer’s testimony and render a fair judgement?” The citizen is assessed on the basis of the existence or nonexistence of doubts about the fairness of the trial. What is the meaning of this? We are all acutely aware of the fact that there are cases, such as the Shibushi incident, in which police investigations have gone much too far. One of these citizen judge candidates might for example say: “Police investigations sometimes do things behind closed doors, so in this sense perhaps they go too far.” What is the intention of this questioning?

(Detective Superintendent of the Secretariat of the Supreme Court) Ogawa
I will answer the question. In cases in which there are arrangement procedures preceding the public trial, when it becomes known either that applications are being processed for an investigator witness, or that an investigator is scheduled to appear, in cases in which the party concerned has made a request, in order to assess whether or not there is any possibility that judgement about the “confidence in the verbal testimony of the investigator witness” will be dealt with in an unfair manner, we are right now considering questions indicated by the committee member (Hosaka) so that we can use it as one reference. In a practical sense, the court makes the decision, so how things will turn out, in concrete terms, is really a judgement to be made by the court.

I am asking this question to the Detective Superintendent of the Justice Ministry. In cases such as you just mentioned, in which the investigator appears as a witness, probably a confession has been made. However, what about cases in which, after the [confession], the person switches their position and issues a denial, and raises doubts about the voluntariness of the “recorded confession”? I believe that there are many cases of this kind. The court is asking questions: “Do you have trust in the investigation of the police officer?” If a candidate answers in an interview: “I have no trust at all. I think that it is strange, all these things going on behind closed doors recently,” then the investigator is able to challenge the candidacy of the citizen judge. Could this be a reason for disqualification?

(Someone from the ruling party [LDP] exclaims:
They can do that? Hosaka’s explanation to this ruling party member: “Yes, they can issue challenges. Without giving a reason, they can disqualify up to 4 candidates. How will the prosecution judge people who have doubts in their mind about the police officer?”)

(Detective Superintendent of the Secretariat of the Supreme Court) Ogawa
On the question of under what circumstances an investigator can, without indicating any reason, challenge [the candidacy of a citizen judge], we really haven’t done any concrete investigation on this. I think it is up to the judgement of the investigator in each individual case.

I request that the Minister of Justice share his thoughts on this. The citizen judges are chosen by drawing lots. From a list of registered voters in the Lower House elections. However, in this process, in cases in which [the candidate citizen judge] says: “I have a bit of trouble placing my trust in this police investigation”, the prosecution can declare that “We challenge [the candidacy of] this citizen judge”. The citizen judge may then be excluded. ……if citizen judges become the object of such challenges, I wonder if we can really say that this is a system which draws on an even distribution of representative views of people from the entire country? I am extremely concerned. What do you think about this situation?

Justice Minister Nagase
I remember that there were various views expressed when the citizen court system was being set up. “If this is in there, then won’t everybody be judged innocent?”, “No, everyone will be sentenced , right?”, I remember that there were arguments like this. The concerns that you are expressing now are I believe related to those earlier arguments. However, in the three branches of government, in an appropriate manner, we are working toward a citizen judge system that reflects the good sense of the average citizen, not some kind of legal debate in which people quibble over every insignificant detail.

My intention is not to quibble over every insignificant detail. What we have to debate about, in a broader sense, is the participation, in the court of justice, of the “victim” within the citizen judge system. As we now understand the meaning of the “challenge” [of candidates], I want to have a thorough debate on this issue.



ブロク読者の皆様おはようございます。有道 出人です。


「どれぐらい警察官を信じるのか」をチェックしてから陪審員として取り入れるかどうかを決心するようです。衆議院法務委員会で表面化したことを転送します。長勢法務大臣の返答も入っています。これはGlobal Voices OnlineのChris Salzbergさまからいただいたお知らせです。感謝いたします。

早速記載しますが、宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

保坂展人衆議院議員 著
裁判員制度を問う / 2007年05月26日



保坂 昨日の新聞に裁判所の裁判員制度の手続きに関する最高裁規則の要綱がまとまったという記事が出ています。そこで、質問を裁判員について口頭諮問というか面接でするわけですが゛、この中に「捜査官証言」、つまり警察官等(※証人)が予定されている事件において、当事者の求めがあった場合(※検察側)、裁判長が口頭で「あなたは警察等の捜査が特に信用出来ると思う事情がありますか。あるいは、逆に特に信用出来ないという事情がありますか」と質問をし、「いいえ」と回答した場合は、何も質問しない。「はい」と回答した場合は、「それはどのような事情ですか」と質問する。その回答によって必要がある時には、「警察官等の証言の内容を検討して公平に判断することが出来ますか」と質問をし、不公平な裁判をするおそれの有無を判断する、とある。どういう意味ですかね。我々は志布志事件などで警察の捜査も行き過ぎがあるということを随分認識しています。たとえば裁判員の候補者がですね、「警察の捜査も時々、密室で行われているから行き過ぎがあるかもしれません」と言うかもしれません。どういう意図でこの設問があるのですか。

小川最高裁事務総局刑事局長 お答えします。公判前整理手続きをやっていく際に、捜査官証人が申請される、また予定される事件があるとわかりました時に、当事者の方から求めがあった場合に「捜査官証人の証言の信用性」について不公平な裁判をするおそれがあるかないかという点を判断をするために、今、委員の御指摘のような質問をさせていただく、ひとつの判断資料となろうかと思います。実際には、裁判体が判断されますから具体的どうなるかというのは裁判体の判断となります。

保坂 法務省刑事局長に聞きたいのですが、今のような捜査官が証人として出てくる場合には、おそらく自白はしている、しかし、その後に否認に転じて、「自白調書」の任意性に疑いがある場合、こういうことが多いんではないかと思います。裁判所が設問していますよね。「警察官の捜査等にどれだけ信用性を置いているかどうか」と。「私は全然信用していないんだ。最近は相当密室でおかしいと思う」と面接で言っていたら、検察官はこの裁判員候補者を忌避出来るんですね。忌避する理由になりますか。

(そんな事が出来るのか? と与党席からの声。「忌避出来るんですよ。理由を示さずに4人まで忌避出来るんです。警察官はどうかなあという人に対して検察側がどう判断するかどうか」と保坂議場の与党議員に説明)

小津法務省刑事局長  この件、検察官がどのような場合に理由を示さないで忌避するかどうかということは、私どもで何も具体的に検討しているわけではないわけで、個々の事件における検察官の判断ということになろうかと思います。

 保坂 法務大臣に感想を求めたいんですよ。裁判員というのはくじで選ばれるんですよね。衆議院選挙の有権者名簿で。しかし、その中で、「警察の捜査はちょっと私は信用出来ないですよ」と言った場合には、検察側から「この人、忌避」と出るかもしれない。……忌避の対象になってくると、本当に国民全体の意見を代表して、まんべんなく汲み上げた制度になるのかどうか、大変不安になってきたんですね。その点、どうですか。

長勢法務大臣 裁判員制度を創設する時、当時は色々な御意見があった事を思い出します。片一方は、「こんなのが入るとみんな無罪になってしまうんじゃないか」「いや、みんな重罪になってしまうんじゃないか」という議論があったことを思い出します。

保坂 重箱のスミをつつくような議論をしているつもりはありません。これは裁判で裁判員制度の中で「被害者」の方が参加されるというトータルなパッケージとしての議論をしなければならない。この「忌避」ということも今、わかってきたわけなので、トータルに議論したい。

保坂展人衆議院議員 著
裁判員制度を問う / 2007年05月27日



第三十三条  裁判員等選任手続は、公開しない。
2  裁判員等選任手続の指揮は、裁判長が行う。

第三十四条  裁判員等選任手続において、裁判長は、裁判員候補者が、職務従事予定期間において、第十三条に規定する者に該当するかどうか、第十四条の規定により裁判員となることができない者でないかどうか、第十五条第一項各号若しくは第二項各号若しくは第十七条各号に掲げる者に該当しないかどうか若しくは第十六条の規定により裁判員となることについて辞退の申立てがある場合において同条各号に掲げる者に該当するかどうか又は不公平な裁判をするおそれがないかどうかの判断をするため、必要な質問をすることができる。
2  陪席の裁判官、検察官、被告人又は弁護人は、裁判長に対し、前項の判断をするために必要と思料する質問を裁判長が裁判員候補者に対してすることを求めることができる。この場合において、裁判長は、相当と認めるときは、裁判員候補者に対して、当該求めに係る質問をするものとする。
3  裁判員候補者は、前二項の質問に対して正当な理由なく陳述を拒み、又は虚偽の陳述をしてはならない。
4  裁判所は、裁判員候補者が、職務従事予定期間において、第十三条に規定する者に該当しないと認めたとき、第十四条の規定により裁判員となることができない者であると認めたとき又は第十五条第一項各号若しくは第二項各号若しくは第十七条各号に掲げる者に該当すると認めたときは、検察官、被告人若しくは弁護人の請求により又は職権で、当該裁判員候補者について不選任の決定をしなければならない。裁判員候補者が不公平な裁判をするおそれがあると認めたときも、同様とする。













Petitions re Comfort Women US Congress House Res. 121


Hi Blog. I blog this as a matter of record, received from overseas activist lists. Now, while I don’t agree with all sentiments expressed below, I do believe that the US Congress resolution on this is important, since the GOJ would otherwise refuse to settle this issue in my view properly. It will also serve as an update on what’s happening at the grassroots level vis-a-vis this movement. Give the below as due consideration as you see fit. Arudou Debito in Tokyo



The H.Res121 calls on the government of Japan to formally acknowledge and
apologize for its role in the coercion of women into sex slavery.
(introduced by Mike Honda, and now has more than 120 co-sponsors)

May 17, 2007


It has been more than 60 years of the women forced into sexual slavery by
the Japanese Imperial government and justice has yet to be seen. A clear
position of the United States (country to whom Japan, esp. the current Abe
regime, is REALLY beholden to, as we know) via Congress will mark the
perhaps the biggest blow to the Japanese government which has stepped up
public efforts to re-legitimatize revisionist history and push forward an
agenda for militarization, war and aggression (sound familiar?) in lockstep
with (and arguably, FOR,) its bigger, stronger partner, the United States.
Peoples already occupied/colonized by Japan and the US are seeing
intensification of that oppression already on the ground, while “old” issues
aren’t even yet accounted for. This has got to stop! And helping STOP the
tears from flowing of the survivor halmonis, grandmothers, and lolas and
more is an important, critical step towards that end.

The resolution calls for what many of the survivors have been demanding for
years. And yet, such a minimal demand has been shunned if not openly
confronted and retaliated with accusations of lying, even profiteering, by
those who represent the Japanese government (i see such comments appearing
in mainstream press so frequently, it’s even “normalized”). Furthermore,
Japan’s legal system aids in protecting Japan’s impunity by dismissing or
ruling against the demands of the many many survivors from various countries
who have courageously brought on lawsuits.

It’s been long recognized in Japan that an international or external
pressure is a critical political force in order to delivery justice to this
issue, and now it seems that the House Resolution 121 has gained so much
momentum, we need to keep it up….and get it PASSED!

And what can those of us in CA’s districts of Tom Lantos (san mateo and
sunset) and Nancy Pelosi (SF) and every one else can do to make sure they
know we’re TOTALLY DOWN with their support? Here’s how:

Congresspersons care what constituents think, and letters are by far the
most effective way of letting them know what you think. Please, take 10
minutes, and draft a letter which contains only the following 4 short

To Congressman Tom Lantos:
1) I live in your district.
2) I have read and support H. Res. 121
3) This resolution is very important to me (because….)
4 )I urge you to move quickly to mark-uop and allow a vote in the Foreign
Affairs Committee on H.Res. 121

To Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
1) I live in your district.
2) I have read and support H.Res.121
3) This resolution is very important to me (because…)
4) I urge you to move quickly to allow a full vote on the House Floor on H.Res.121.

*It’s important to write down YOUR ADDRESS so that they know your district
(or that you live in theirs).

Fax or email the letter to:
Congressman Tom Lantos: (202) 226-4183 or email thru his website:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (202) 226-8259 or email:

Get together with a small group of friends, family or colleauges, and book
an appointment with them. Let them know face to face your concern over this

Lantos’ District Office
San Mateo Office
400 S. El Camino Real, Ste., 410
San Mateo, CA 94402
(650) 342-0300
or in SF: (415) 566-5257

Pelosi’s District Office
450 Golden Gate Ave., 14th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 556-4862

And furthermore,
1) Sign the ONLINE petition, Gabriela Network our ally and long time
participant in the larger effort to deliver justice to the Lolas, has sent
this around, add your name, spread the word!
2) Get your organization or group to sign the COMMUNITY LETTER: circulate
your draft for organizational endorsement.
3) See if your local/ethnic papers would be willing to publish an “open
letter” supporting the statement to Lantos and Pelosi next week. If you’re
interested in signing on together and get one published in NoCal
Nikkei/Japanese media, please contact me!

We note that this is a very dangerous trend for the world and all of us,
which isn’t entirely even healed from japan’s first attempt around, when
japan invaded its neighbors and on the other hand was its ally the nazi
regime – creating lots of legitimate, justified hate and religious,
ideological rationale for racist imperialist oppression. Many of those in
power in Japan are comprised of direct descendants and disciples of the very
people who committed atrocious war crimes against humanity during WWII. This
House Resolution could be a HUGE blow and a formidable political force to
actually mitigate the efforts of Japan to roll back the “Peace” article of
the Constitution, or continue colonial and racist policies domestically,
with such legitimacy and impunity. The most significant thing right now is
the voice of every each one of us right now. Please let yours be one that
counts at this critical moment!

Thanks to Gabriela Network ( and the “121 Coalition” ( for their 411 & support.
Also, see their URLs for more info.

Asahi: Update on NJ Trainee Worker program: reform or abolition? (UPDATED)


Hi Blog. I’m heading down to Tokyo tomorrow to give a speech at a human-rights retreat for some major Japanese corporations (Kirin, Mitsubishi etc), so I’m not sure when’s the next time I’ll be online. But anyway, here’s an update on what the Japanese government is thinking about the much-abused “Trainee Visa” program for NJ workers (more on the abuses blogged here). Debito in Sapporo

ADDENDUM: Original memos from Nagase included below article, courtesy of an insider friend. (長勢法務大臣のメモ「外国人労働者受入れに関する検討の指示について」、平成19年5月15日付)原文は記事の下です。)


Nagase enters foreign-worker feud

Justice Minister Jinen Nagase proposed that Japan move to accept unskilled foreign workers, a “personal idea” that has startled bureaucrats and complicated debate on reforming a problem-ridden trainee-intern program.

Nagase’s proposal was broached on Tuesday amid a tug-of-war between the labor and industry ministries over their conflicting reform plans released over the past week on the foreign trainee-intern program.

The labor ministry wants to end unlawful labor practices associated with the program, while the industry ministry wants to help smaller companies that are having a tough time finding workers.

Nagase entered the fray Tuesday with a plan that called for the program’s abolition, rather than reform. The plan would, in effect, pave the way for unskilled workers to enter Japan under certain conditions.

Specifically, a limited number of foreigners will be allowed to work up to three years under the supervision of government-sanctioned entities. These workers should not stay after that period, and their wages and working conditions must be safeguarded, according to Nagase’s proposal.

The plan surprised mandarins of both the labor and industry ministries.

“We’ve never expected such a bold plan to come out,” one official said.

The government introduced the trainee-intern program in the early 1990s to help workers from developing countries learn industry skills here.

In their first year, they learn work skills as “trainees.” In the second and third years, they work as “interns” at companies under labor contracts.

Critics say, however, that companies are using them as low-wage workers to make up for labor shortages.

According to Justice Ministry figures, cases of unlawful practices involving foreign trainees and interns shot up to 229 in 2006, from 92 in 2003. In many cases, the foreigners worked overtime hours beyond the limits or were not paid in full.

Some of the workers have taken their problems to court.

To remedy the situation, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare proposed scrapping the “training” part of the program and integrating it into the internship part.

Under the current system, trainees are not subject to labor law protections, including minimum wages, which allowed businesses to exploit them.

But officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said the labor ministry’s plan would weaken the program’s intended purpose of technical transfers.

Instead, the industry ministry plans to beef up the program with tighter controls and penalties, and allow interns to work two additional years at small as well as major companies.

The labor ministry’s plan will allow an extension only at major firms.

Japan’s tightening labor market, which has hit smaller companies especially hard, is behind the calls for the program’s review.

In 2006, 41,000 foreign trainees went on to internships, a jump from 11,000 for 1999. Most of the employers were small companies.

To cope with the shortage of workers, business circles are calling on the government to lift the ban on unskilled foreign workers under certain conditions.

But the government has so far maintained its position to keep out unskilled workers for social security and other reasons. The labor ministry insists that accepting them could negatively affect wages and other working conditions for Japanese workers.

Related ministries reconfirmed this stance last June, but Nagase nonetheless came out with his proposal.

Hidenori Sakanaka, director at the nongovernmental Japan Immigration Policy Institute, welcomed Nagase’s idea and urged debate on the issue.

“The current system is an epitome of problems because foreigners are forced to work at low wages in the name of training or internship,” he said. “As Japan’s population shrinks, we need full debate with their (foreign workers’) settlement and permanent residence in view.”

(IHT/Asahi: May 17, 2007)


YouTube on the Uyoku (Right Wing) in Japan


Hi Blog. Here is a recently-added series of YouTube videos about the Right Wing (Uyoku) in Japan. It’s an hourlong TV show for broadcast on the commercial networks (meaning five 10-minute parts) put online by a Japanese (who by his YouTube record is archiving a lot of visual history).

The show was produced by Fuji TV. It has a somewhat sympatheic bent towards the Uyoku (i.e. the interviewers even get rides inside the soundtrucks, and they depict the rival Sayoku (Extreme Left–in this case only the Chuukakuha is mentioned) as monolithic, militant, and unclear in ideology). I still found it a fascinating insight into the people behind the black windows and steering wheels of the sound trucks.

It’s not made clear when this show was broadcast (it mentions twenty years since Mishima Yukio’s suicide, the recent institution of the Heisei Emperor, and the collapse of Soviet Communism creating a loss of mission for the Uyoku), so let’s say the early 1990’s. Given we are now in Heisei 19 it may be a bit dated.

It opens with a branch of Uyoku lecturing NJ in Roppongi on how to behave in Japan (even if they’re saying “Obey Our Laws, Gaijin”, not “Yankee Go Home” sorts of things, I still find this attitude quite rich…). As this show was filmed long before official GOJ campaigns to depict and target foreigners as criminals, it’s not clear how the Uyoku would behave in the same situation nowadays.

The archiver also insinuates (below) that most people (especially the “gaijin”) are uninformed, in that the Uyoku are somehow misunderstood as “militant racists”. But this show hardly sets the record straight for me; it remains clear that even with all the splinter groups, the common thread is still deification of the Emperor, purity as ideology, and having all Japanese share a common mindset of birthright. Given that I saw the Dai Nippon Aikoku Tou speak yesterday in Odori Park, Sapporo, for more than an hour by their big blue bus (slogan on the back: “Give us back Karafuto [Sakhalin] and Chishima Rettou [the Kuriles]” (i.e. not just the Northern Territories), it’s not clear how they would treat the racially-separate peoples on those islands (or within Japan itself, given all the children of international marriages with Japanese citizenship). I remain doubtful that they would be accepting, which by definition would lead to militant racism.

In sum: As I believe Japan is lurching rightward in recent years, this is worthy of a viewing to get an idea what the extreme version wants. In Japanese with very good English subtitles. Somebody put a lot of work into making this series accessible to the outside world. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Here is the write-up on the series from the person who YouTubed the series:


Added May 09, 2007
From oniazuma

1990-The Uyoku are a flamboyant, more hard line faction of Japan’s Right Wing Movement. NOT to be confused with the traditional, regular right wing conservatives.

Also note that the Uyoku is not a single united entity, rather there are many factions voicing many opinions on almost all issues. Some uninformed Japanese and almost all gaijin will just see the surface of the movement and assume they are all militant racists.

This documentary covers the various factions of Uyoku, and their transition from a united front of Anti Communism as Communism dies out, to a shaky future without a ultimate goal. What is the new path for the Uyoku?

Kodo (Action) Uyoku——————————-
We see the Great Japanese Vermillion Light Association, who looks for a new objective. They believe that the Uyoku should change from a feared organization with a violent gangster stereotype to one that is loved by the people. They have taken up the environment as their primary concern, and voice that they are a Human Rights Organization.

Ninkyo (Yakuza) Uyoku—————————–
We see the Japan Youth Society, backed by the Sumiyoshi Yakuza Family. We see that the Yakuza Culture is a Culture of itself. This group may possibly have the strongest mobilization and manpower of them all. They are guided by the old code of gangster honor, and they are not afraid to let anyone know that.

New Uyoku———————————– ——
Characterized by Writer Mishima Yukio, who slit his stomach and had his comrade behead him after a failed coup. The New Uyoku Group we meet, The Issui-Kai (One Water Association) wears casual clothing, appeals to the youth and has a new philosophy of Anti Americanism through popular culture – manga, punk rock etc. The Anti-Americanism directly conflicts with the Original Uyoku, who are very much Pro-American.

Original Uyoku———————————– –
After Senator Akao Bin passed away, his Great Japanese Patriotic Party still lives on. Its members still continue the Anti Communist Stance, “Until it completely dies out.” They lead a humble lifestyle, supported by a small but loyal following. They do not seem to be changing anytime soon.

The Great Japanese Patriotic Union’s leader Asanuma Michio is a hard core old school Uyoku to the end. He firmly still believes that terrorism is right, and that one day a Japan with the Imperial Majesty as the leader will be constructed.

All-Japan Patriot’s Conference Chairman of the Board of Directors Kishimoto Rikio is another old school Uyoku, from before the war. A staunch Shintoist, he seems to be more of a religious old man than a gangster or a fanatic. He seems to not believe in taking over the nation, or making Japan Uyoku. He sees Japan as already having changed too much, that possibly he and his movement are a product of a different time.

Westernized (?) Uyoku—————————–
Nationalist Philospher Nomura served 17 years in the penitentiary for various violent political crimes. Now, he is seen as the leading spokesperson for the Uyoku. Media friendly and immaculately dressed not in Traditional Japanese clothing but in Italian Fashion, he may be the New Face of a Laid back, Informal, Westernized Uyoku.

What is the new path for the Uyoku?

Japanese Uyoku 1

Japanese Uyoku 2

Japanese Uyoku 3

Japanese Uyoku 4

Japanese Uyoku 5

Anthony Bianchi reelected to Inuyama Assembly


Hi Blog. Good news. Naturalized citizen gets a second lease on his public career. Congratulations! Debito in Tokyo


U.S.-born Bianchi reelected in Aichi
Japan Today, Monday, April 23, 2007 at 06:56 EDT
Courtesy of Ben at The Community

NAGOYA — Anthony Bianchi, originally from Brooklyn, New York, was reelected Sunday as an assembly member in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.

Bianchi, 48, had resigned as an assembly member to run in the city’s mayoral election in December. After losing the mayoral bid, he ran again for an assembly seat in the city, which has a population of around 75,000. Bianchi first came to Japan in the late 1980s and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2002. After working as an English teacher in Inuyama, he won a seat in the city assembly in April 2003 with the largest number of votes ever cast for a candidate in the election of 3,302. (Kyodo News)


More on Anthony here:

Anthony’s official website here:

On a tangentally related issue, my ex-wife lost her Nanporo Town Council seat, very narrowly. Sorry to hear. Debito

Irish Times on Nagasaki Mayor Assassination and reemerging ultrarightism in Japan


David McNeill forwards me his latest article for the Irish Times. Not exactly a NJ issue, but an interesting round-up of one symptom of Japan’s re-emerging ultrarightism (which will by its nature affect NJ in future).

One thing that David did not bring up–how this case is depicted not as an “assassination” (ansatsu), but a “gun attack” (juugeki) in the J media. Not quite. If it looks like a duck… Wonder why it’s being dressed up as such. Arudou Debito in Mitaka, Tokyo


Letter: Japan’s murderous fringe forces politicians to keep their heads down
A political assassination in Nagasaki resonates with murky undertones.
By David McNeill
The Irish Times, Monday April 23, 2007

Religion, ideology, corruption…there is no shortage of excuses for murdering politicians, but Japan may have come up with the strangest one yet: failure to fix potholes. A Yakuza gangster killed Nagasaki mayor Itcho Ito last week because the city refused to pay him for damage to his car inflicted by a dodgy road.

The mobster, Tetsuya Shiroo, harangued the city for three years, demanding two million yen compensation (12,390 Euro) for what one official called a “dented fender.” Shiroo then sent TV broadcaster Asahi a note saying he couldn’t forgive the mayor – who he had never met – and pumped two bullets into his back last Tuesday.

The killing could of course have been the result of a murderous grudge, and it may be just coincidence that the Mayor was a staunch critic of nuclear weapons, Constitutional change and the military alliance with the US. What is not in doubt is Japan’s long history of political intimidation by gangsters and right-wing thugs, a tradition that seems to be reigniting.

Last year, for example, an ultra-rightist firebombed the offices of the Nikkei newspaper after it published private diaries about Emperor Hirohito. Another attacked the family home of politician Liberal Democratic (LDP) bigwig Koichi Kato, who had spoken out against then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

The attacker was found by police bleeding from the gut following a botched hara-kiri suicide attempt with a pair of scissors.

In 2002, reformist minister Koki Ishii was stabbed to death by an ultra-nationalist who told police he was angry that the politician had “refused to pay his rent.” Mr. Ishii was Japan’s leading critic of financial corruption in the banking and construction industries, the real reason why he was targeted, believes his family.

Then there was former Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motojima, shot in the back when he called for a debate on the war responsibility of Emperor Hirohito in 1990; Communist Party boss Kenji Miyamoto, almost killed in 1973; Socialist Party Chairman Inejiro Asanuma, stabbed to death by a sword-wielding rightist in 1960. Thousands more journalists, union leaders and academics have been threatened or harmed over the years.

The oddest part of this massive organised intimidation is that despite occasional clampdowns, there has never been any real attempt to smash its source.

As foreign visitors to Tokyo know, ultra-right wingers are still allowed to drive their black sound trucks with impunity around the city, blaring martial music and patriotic homilies at ear-shredding volume. The Yakuza, meanwhile – with whom there is much overlap, still have offices in large cities equipped with nameplates and business cards.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Mayor Ito’s murder, which took place in the middle of an election, “a threat to democracy” and said the police needed to come down hard on gun crime. They know exactly where to go: The mobster who killed him is affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate which maintains a plush compound in an upper-class neighbourhood of Kobe.

Once a month a whispering fleet of Mercedes, Lexus and BMW cars passes through the driveway, ferrying local crime bosses from across the country to a regular conference.

Observers struggle to explain why this fringe army of extremists and criminals is allowed to survive on the margins of Japanese society. One reason is that in a country where order and discipline are prized, the last thing anyone wants is disorganized crime. But it is also obviously true that the army provides, for some, the useful function of reinforcing the margins of tolerable political criticism.

Politicians, journalists and editors must think long and hard before they pronounce publicly on a range of taboo issues, from Yasukuni to the Emperor, a fact noted by Mr. Kato, whose 97-year-old mother was lucky not to have been killed in the attack on his home. “Fear of violence and intimidation has silenced many liberal-leaning journalists, lawmakers and academics,” he said. “Many people are now keeping their months shut. The Diet (parliament) is not an exception.”

Or as the famous Japanese proverb goes: “The nail that sticks up is hammered down.”

Gyaku Website: Accenture, JAPAN-VISIT, future Immig surveillance of NJ


Hello Blog. Got something very interesting to impart. In a new website entitled GYAKU, which offers in-depth reportage about lesser-known stories, we have the eye-opening story about the future of electronic surveillance of foreigners entering Japan.

I have reported in the past about how Japan’s new Immigration powers will now reinstate fingerprinting for all foreigners who cross Japan’s borders:

Mainichi Daily News, Dec 5, 2004: “Japan seeks foreigners’ fingerprints, photos, lists to fight terror”

Japan Times May 24, 2005: “Here comes the fear: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents”

Japan Times November 22, 2005: “THE NEW “I C YOU” CARDS: LDP proposal to computer chip foreigners has great potential for abuse”

Even though Japan’s NJ residents have fought long and hard (and successfully, until the police took advantage of the fear of terrorism) to end fingerprinting as part of Immigration procedure.

So here’s how it’s playing out. According to GYAKU, company without a country (which to some constitutes a security risk in itself) ACCENTURE (which created the digital mug-shot and fingerprint scans seen at US Immigration nowadays) has not only acted as consultant to Japan’s upcoming version, but also has been awarded the contract to develop Japan’s system for a song. This means that Japan becomes the second country to institute one of these systems in the world, in a bid to get a toehold in Asia and profit from the fear of terrorism.

The issues involved, the political backrooming, and links to all the necessary documents to make the case for concern are available at

Here’s an excerpt from the article. Debito in Sapporo

Accenture, JAPAN-VISIT, and the mystery of the 100,000 yen bid
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
By gyaku (

The story first came to light nearly one year ago, on April 21, 2006, during questioning at the House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs in the Japanese National Diet. Hosaka Nobuto of the Japan Social Democratic Party, a former journalist active in educational issues and one of the leaders in the fight against wiretapping laws in Japan, launched a barrage of questions at government officials over revelations that a contract for a new biometric immigration system had been awarded to Accenture Japan Ltd., a corporation previously hired in the role of “advisor” for the same project. For many years a thorn in the side of the ruling party coalition, Hosaka in 2000 was ranked by the Japanese newspaper Asahi shimbun as the most active member of the House of Representatives, with a record 215 questions, a number that rose to over 400 by 2006 [1]. The questions Hosaka put to the government on April 21st were undoubtedly some of the most important of his career, and yet, now nearly a year later, the story that he fought hard to publicize has barely made a ripple in the Japanese media, and remains virtually unknown to the outside world.

The background to the story reads as follows: Accenture Japan Ltd., the Japanese branch of the consulting firm Accenture, active in the Japanese market as far back as 1962 but only incorporated in Japan in 1995, received in May 2004 a contract to draft a report investigating possibilities for reforming the legacy information system currently in use at the Japanese Immigration Bureau. The investigation was requested in the context of government plans, only later made public, to re-implement and modernize a certification system to fingerprint and photograph every foreigner over the age of 18 entering the country, replacing an earlier fingerprinting system abandoned in the year 2000 over privacy concerns after prolonged resistance from immigrant communities.

Earlier the same year, against the backdrop of a post-9/11 society anxious about the threat of vaguely-defined dark-skinned “terrorists”, the U.S. had begun taking fingerprints of foreigners with visas entering the U.S. at international airports and other major ports. A program entitled US-VISIT (Visitor and Immigrant Status Information Technology) was initiated in July of 2003 with the intention to secure nearly 7000 miles of borders along Mexico and Canada, including more than 300 land, air and sea ports [2]. Described as “the centerpiece of the United States government’s efforts to transform our nation’s border management and immigration systems”, planners envisioned “a continuum of biometrically-enhanced security measures that begins outside U.S. borders and continues through a visitor’s arrival in and departure from the United States” [3].


Read the rest of the article at:

Takahashi speech at U of Chicago: “Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”


Hi Blog. Great speech (available as a podcast from the link below) from the University of Chicago’s International and Area Studies Multimedia Outreach Service (CHIASMOS) (Thanks to Fiona for notifying me):

“Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”
by Professor Tetsuya Takahashi, University of Tokyo
March 6, 2007

Professor Takahashi’s writings, including his 2005 bestseller, The Yasukuni Issue, make unmistakably clear that the role of the Shrine is antithetical to democratic values in Japan and to reconciliation with Asia, which requires acknowledgment of the harms inflicted through colonialism and war. The subject of his lecture is Japan at a crossroads today, its hard-won postwar democratic values at stake as never before.

Professor Takahashi teaches philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo.

Available as a podcast and/or video at:

Delivered in Japanese, with excellent translation by Dr. Norma Field (author, “In the Realm of a Dying Emperor”), there are no excuses for not listening on either side of the linguistic fence!

EXCERPT (minute 120):
“At the outset of my talk, I referred to the Tomita Memorandum as having been used by those who wanted to criticize the Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. However, I think that in the medium future, it is possible that that memorandum could be used in the opposite way–i.e. to clear the way for official visits by the Emperor himself. This past summer, in 2006, Foreign Minister Aso, an extremely influential politician, proposed that in order to revive the path for Imperial worship, the [Yasukuni] Shrine should be nationalized again. Such a proposal by such an influential politician is one we can not afford to overlook.

“It is the case that between 1969 and 1974, the LDP proposed legislation that would remove Yasukuni Shrine from its non-special status and make it again subject to State support. However, in that period, from 1969 to 1974, there was too strong a worry that this would lead to the revivial of militarism, and this legislation was not enacted. However, now, thirty years later, influential politicians in the LDP are stating that the State should remove, according to its own judgment, the Class-A War Criminals from Yasukuni Shrine, secure the understanding of China and Korea, and then make it possible to nationalize Yasukuni Shrine, make it possible for Yasukuni Shrine to have regular visits from the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I think that what I laid out earlier is that Triadic System stands a very good chance of being revived now. Namely, with the revision of Article 9, and the establishment of a force that is openly recognized to be an army, with the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education already effected in December of 2006 building in patriotic education. And then, the possibility of nationalizing Yasukuni Shrine–so that if there are deaths on the battlefield that occur, given the newly-established army, then these people will be enshrined in the national shrine and honored by the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I hope that you can understand now why I cannot accept that the problem of Article 9 is merely a problem with the Class-A War Criminals. I should have added that all these things could be happening according to this scenario with no objections coming from China and Korea–because the Class-A War Criminals have been disposed of.”
(Transcript by Arudou Debito)

Asahi: Naturalized Korean-J runs as minority for Osaka Pref Seat


Hi Blog. Here’s a campaign I was not aware of (again, Sapporo is a long, long way from Tokyo and Osaka). Read on to hear about a naturalized Korean-Japanese’s campaign for a prefectural seat in Osaka, campaigning his Korean roots overtly. I’m not going to spoil the surprise and tell you how it turned out until the end of the article….


Asahi Shinbun 04/06/2007
By Hiroshi Matsubara, Staff writer

TAKATSUKI, Osaka Prefecture–Lee Kyung Jae has repeatedly urged Korean children in Japan to cherish their ethnic roots. He has arranged festivals that promote Korean culture and long battled discrimination directed at Korean communities.

But to take his efforts to the next level, Lee, a 53-year-old second-generation Korean resident of Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, did what had been considered unthinkable: He gave up his long-cherished Korean nationality.

Members of Korean communities have argued that one’s nationality is essential to their identities. Yet when they seek voting rights for foreign residents in Japan, they are met with the legal provision that only Japanese citizens can cast ballots.

So Lee and others decided to take an ironic method. They obtained Japanese nationality to bring the voices of foreign residents to local and national politics.

“As I have spent all my life as a minority, I am keenly aware of the rights of the elderly, the disabled and others who are regarded as socially weak,” he told passers-by at JR Settsu-Tonda Station recently.

“I would like to ask voters to sympathize with the sentiments of foreign residents and allow me to become the first Korean-Japanese assembly member in Osaka,” he said.

Lee is running for a seat in the Osaka prefectural assembly election Sunday.

He is the first candidate of foreign origin who has run in a local or national election on a campaign to represent the interests of an ethnic group, according to the Korean Residents’ Union in Japan (Mindan).

To become eligible to run, Lee, an operator of a nursing-care organization, obtained Japanese nationality in June last year.

He stands in front of train stations every morning, calling for the “conscience” of Japanese people to hear the voices of foreigners and other social minorities and to turn Japan, with its growing foreign population, into a truly multicultural society.

Lee’s parents immigrated to Japan and worked at a military warehouse during World War II. After graduating from high school, Lee set up a citizens group to teach Korean children about their ethnic roots and to organize cultural festivals. He was also involved in human rights movements for non-Japanese, including the campaign aimed at abolishing the mandatory fingerprinting of foreigners for their alien registration.

In addition, he has joined the movement for foreign residents’ suffrage in local elections since the early 1990s.

Although Lee has won praise for his work, his campaign faces a serious problem: Many members of his main support base are not allowed to vote.

At the end of 2005, Osaka had 142,712 people with Korean nationalities, or 24 percent of 598,687 Koreans nationwide.

Lee is now counting on Koreans who have obtained Japanese nationality, whose number may exceed those who have maintained their Korean nationalities.

“Many ethnic Koreans apparently opt to live as Japanese by hiding their ethnic origins, and I hope my campaign will be an opportunity for them to solidify their ethnic identity or to openly express it to their Japanese neighbors,” Lee said.

A 61-year-old second-generation Korean resident of Takatsuki said she has been waiting for a long time for someone like Lee to take such action. However, she regrets that she is unable to vote.

“We no longer face overt discrimination, but we have yet to live completely free from concerns about our neighbors’ potentially negative looks or words,” said the woman, a supermarket worker.

The woman uses a Japanese name, but has asked her Japanese neighbors, including those who do not know her background, to vote for Lee.

Two of the woman’s four children, who have obtained Japanese nationality to avoid discrimination, live in Takatsuki and are thrilled to have Lee as a voting option, she said. “By having a representative in local government, I may feel more attached to the local community,” she said.

Lee estimates that his electoral district of Takatsuki and the town of Shimamoto have several thousand Korean-Japanese who are eligible to vote. He said he will need about 13,000 votes to win a seat on the prefectural assembly. That means he needs votes from the Japanese as well.

“I am still worried that Japanese society will again reject me in the form of scarce votes,” Lee said. “But even if my campaign ends in failure, I hope it will encourage future generations to aspire to become political representatives of their ethnic group.”

During a preliminary campaign for the Upper House election in July, Kim Jeong Ok, a second-generation Korean in Tokyo, recently visited local chapters of Mindan. He asked Mindan members to collect votes from Japanese members of their families, as well as neighbors and ethnic Koreans who have obtained Japanese nationality.

“I decided to run for the election because the relatively homogeneous composition of the Diet is the primary cause of the rapid nationalistic swing of politics today,” Kim, 51, said.

Kim, who works at a nonprofit organization that supports disabled people, obtained Japanese nationality in December 2005 in a bid to campaign in the Upper House election. He will run on the ticket of opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) in the proportional representation part of the election.

But Kim said his campaign will not be easy. Even his relatives, including five siblings, who use Japanese names will not openly support him for fear of revealing their ethnicity.

“Representing these voices in national politics will be the way to achieve an equal partnership between the majority and minority residents, including foreigners of all ethnicities,” he said.(IHT/Asahi: April 6,2007)


Mr Lee lost. Badly. There were five seats to fill, six candidates. Here are the numbers:

自民党         吉田 利幸 30,385 1
公明          林 けいじ 27,921 2
民主          大前 英世 26,980 3
共産党         宮原 たけし 20,342 4
社民党         小沢 福子 19,475 5

無所属         い 敬宰 2,543

合計 127,646
He’s at the bottom. Not even close. Ouch.

Rumor had it (from–where else–2-channel etc.) that he wanted to discriminate against Japanese after he got elected (“nan to shite mo Nihonjin o sabetsu shite shinitai”). Hard to believe he would be so stupid to say something like that.

But I can’t seem to find a website dedicated to his campaign telling his own story and combatting those rumors. That’s pretty odd too.

Anyway, thanks for trying. Debito in Sapporo

JT: Shiga governor backs antidiscrimination law


Hi Blog. This just turned up when I was searching my files for something else. A Japan Times article from last August I missed because I was doing one of my cycletreks. Better late than never:

There are indeed people in the government, particularly at the local level, who see sense and speak it: Japan needs a law to ban racial and other forms of discrimination. They are doing things in their own way which shouldn’t be overlooked:

Some local governments are abolishing the Nationality Clause”. Tottori Prefecture even passed its own anti-discrimination law (before it was UNpassed months later). Several city governments around Gifu and Shizuoka Prefectures themselves have been working since 2001 (starting from a signed declaration called the Hamamatsu Sengen) to get the national govenment to take specific measures to secure better systems re education, social security, and registration for their NJ residents. (I have heard some updates on this recently from a student doing his dissertation on this very subject. Should have a brief from him presently.)

Anyway, the JT article. Within it are the typical “chicken-and-egg” arguments which keep derailing the debate: Change society before changing the law. Sort of like asking rapists and stalkers nicely to desist their naughtiness before you pass a law against rape and stalking.

It’s ludicrous, but, I might add, historically not unique to Japan. Read some of the arguments raised in the Lincoln-Douglas Slavery Debates of 1858 or by the US South supporting segregation in the 1950s, and you’ll see remarkable similarities in the points raised by people on the wrong side of history. Debito in Sapporo


Shiga governor backs antidiscrimination law
The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
Courtesy of The Community and Steve Silver

OSAKA — Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada said Wednesday [August 23, 2006] she generally supports the creation of a national law to ban racial discrimination.

“Yes, at first glance, I support such a law,” Kada said. “But Shiga Prefecture still needs more hard data on the condition of foreign residents before deciding what policies to support.”

In May, nearly 80 human rights groups around Japan, and the United Nations, urged the country to enact legislation to guarantee the rights of foreigners and to show people thinking of moving here that the government will protect their legal rights.

However, many people in the central government and business who are pushing for more foreign labor oppose legislating against discrimination. Some say it would be better to change the attitude of society to be more tolerant of foreigners.

Speaking at the Kansai Press Club, Kada, who last month became the nation’s fifth female governor, said her prefecture is lagging behind others in integrating non-Japanese, especially foreign laborers, into the community.

Shiga has about 30,000 foreigners, including about 14,000 Japanese- Brazilians. In the Kansai region, it has the largest ratio of foreign residents who have moved there in the last two decades to Japanese.

Many of them came to work in auto-parts factories.

“Compared with Gunma and Shizuoka prefectures, which also have large populations of Japanese-Brazilians, the debates and policy measures for integrating foreigners into the community have not advanced very far in Shiga,” she said.




Hi Blog. This comes a bit late (school started today, and I decided to take a nap to be fresh before writing), but here are some

by Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan

April 10, 2007

FOREWORD: This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive record, offering the deep insights of a long-time Japanese politico. The information I am pulling apart can be found in any Japanese newspaper (I researched five) the morning after the elections. It is specifically geared towards the needs and bent of Moreover, I wish to present viewpoints that few can offer (such as how to vote as a naturalized citizen), speaking as a two-decade resident and three-election veteran of Hokkaido. For those who want more analysis of Tokyo Guv Ishihara, sorry–I am in terms of politics a long, long way from Tokyo. One word: Google.

That understood, today’s lineup:




I’m not going to get into international comparisons (when I’ve only voted in three other places: Upstate NY, Ithaca NY, and San Diego CA), so let me just try to put you in my shoes as a Japanese citizen going to vote.

a) The Run-Up

Anyone who lives in Japan knows there is an election afoot about a week or two beforehand, for the sound trucks come out and zip down every street they can cover in the unduly short (or thankfully short, depending on your point of view) Election Campaign Period (senkyo kikan)–saying as little as possible as many times as possible. I’ve written about this phenomenon before (I’ve even campaigned in one of those sound trucks, see, so enough said. Let me just add that I feel for those people waving those white gloves while leaning out of those cars. Experience is a great empathizer–it’s hard work! So every time I see a sound truck, I wave. Try it. It makes their day.

Sapporo this time struck it lucky, with FOUR elections (city mayor, city assembly, prefectural assembly, and governor). About ten days before election day, I got a post card which enabled me to do what millions of Japan residents can’t: vote. After all the trouble I went through to become Japanese, the proof is in the end pretty unobtrusive: A scrap of paper with a bar code and my name, with information about where to cast, when, and what to vote in. I had it tacked up on my refrigerator next to other images that matter: photos of my kids and photocopies of gym weight statistics. That postcard is the symbol of how far I’ve come in my 20 years here. Yet a burglar probably wouldn’t even think it worth stealing.

b) The Vote–Saturday, April 7, 2007

I went a day early in absentee balloting (I told them I had work–so did hundreds of thousands of others in Sapporo, according to the news), and had you followed me up to the second floor of the Nishi Kumin Center, this is what you would have experienced:

It was a large room (the two other places I voted were gymnasiums), and you walk clockwise around a cordoned-off donut which will draw you in, walk you from table to table, and deposit you afterwards where you came in. You don’t even have to take off your shoes. All I had to do was appear down the hall before a student greeter (arubaito are very well paid to man election booths, usually getting about 1000 yen an hour) gave me a cheery aisatsu and, without thinking a White voter odd, asked if I had filled out my name and address on my vote postcard. I had. (If you hadn’t, you would have been directed to go to another table behind some screens to sit down and fill out your card. People who needed help filling in their own name had at least two staff assigned behind the screens anticipating.)

As I said, there were four stations (for four ballots), and a way station in between each. The first way station had computers and bar-code scanners, so that your postcard is beeped and if necessary your identity confirmed. (The young lady with braces manning the computers, who barely looked old enough to vote herself, admittedly considered a moment of Zen with me standing there with an odd face to an odder name. She asked me how to read it. Complied. When she repeated it a little incredulously, I asked if she wanted ID . (I had readied four different pieces–driver licence, juuminhyou, koseki touhon, and passport, dammit.) She laughed and said no, beeping me through.

The second way station had an older lady seated behind a table greet, take my postcard, check off with red pencil the square which said “chiji sen” (governors’ race), and hand me a ballot (about the size of a postcard again) with instructions to write down whom I wanted for governor. There were three choices, and I walked to a booth (a standing walled off-on-three-sides desk-cubicle, four yawning for the voter, two more where elderly voters could sit and write) with the full names of all three candidates, a few pencils, and a magnifying glass for the sight-impaired. I was to write in one name with a pencil (the ballot is specially laminated to soak in graphite marks, but not smudge or crease when you fold it).

Write it carefully, in hiragana or the kanji represented in your booth, for any divergence from the pattern will result in your vote being binned. (I once counted votes as rep for my ex-wife’s successful campaign for Nanporo town council ( see part two), and know that if you cross something out or add any stray symbols (such as heart marks), the vote will be flagged and probably counted as spoiled. Not to mention write-in balloting does not exist in Japan, as those votes are also voided. Only registered candidates can officially run.) Then fold it lengthwise and walk over to a steel sealed ballot box standing alone and slip it in one of two top slots. The folded ballot, by design, will automatically unfold once inside for easy counting.

I repeated this step for three more ballots, enjoying every minute of the super-smooth procedure, and took as much time as I liked to look around the room and watch Japanese democracy in action. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would NOT want to take a few minutes out of their day to exercise their right to vote (even if the voter only inserted blank ballots), especially since I could not imagine it any more conveniently done. (Polling stations are open from 8AM to 8PM, and mail-in ballots are also possible.) I hung around the station (anyone can, discretely–even non-citizens; I did before I naturalized–so give it a try) to watch to see whether people shared the thrill or viewed it as a chore. Based upon voter turnout (see below), I think chore was in the minority.



Probably people who have been watching the news already know the major results: Tokyo Governor Ishihara won in yet another landslide. More on that via Google and Matt Dioguardi’s blog:

(In case you were wondering, I am not an Ishihara fan. See several reasons why:)

So let me focus on some lesser-observed facts about the election that are if anything more indicative:

a) Voter Turnout

averaged for all races at about 52.3% (Asahi page 5) was about the same as last time (52.5%, but still down from the 56.7% two elections ago).


For the gubernatorial races, 13 prefectures averaged 52.6% turnouts of eligible voters, with lower turnouts in 7 prefectures (compared to the 2003 election). The highest turnouts were in Hokkaido and Iwate, and if laggard prefectures such as Fukuoka and Kanagawa (both in the 40-percents) had gotten out the vote, we would have had better-than-half turnouts in all prefectures. The Tokyo Guv election showed the most significant rise in turnout, by nearly 10%. Hokkaido’s Guv voter turnout (65%) was the first rise since 1983 (Mainichi page 17).

For the mayoral races (four), all but one had higher turnouts than previous elections, all more than 50%.

The prefectural assembly elections were all ho-hum, with similar 52.5% turnouts (i.e. throw in a ballot on the way), but drops in the voter rate in the vast majority of races (30 out of 44).

The mayoral races were also low-turnouters, with the average at 47.7%. Of the fifteen cities up for election, six showed drops. Only Hokkaido showed strong turnouts across the board (always above 60%). They must be reading…

b) Political Barometering

Of the 2544 seats up for grabs this election (prefectural and local), 1208 went to those supported by the ruling LDP, a drop from the 1309 up for grabs before. The strongest opposition party (which I support), DPJ, captured 374 seats, a rise from 205 last time. Souka Gakkai Koumeitou captured two more than last time to wind up with 180. The Communist Party just keeps on dwindling, dropping ten to 97. Same with Socialist-Party remnants Shamintou, losing big (from 73 to 52). Surprising was that the nonaffiliated (mushozoku) also dropped significantly, from 687 to 580 seats. And this in an election with no proportional representation (hireiku) vote, meaning political parties enjoyed no advantage of a second vote.

There is a caveat. Due to political restructuring and consolidation of local governments, the number of seats up for election also dropped, from 2634 to 2532. So any gains at all (when the pie is shrinking enough to mean potential losses across the board) is significant. On this scale, the DPJ (despite the mixed fanfare and the high-profile LDP-equivalent Guv victories in Tokyo and Hokkaido) quietly had the rosiest results of all the parties.

c) The Power of Incumbency

In the major races (Guvs and Mayors), for the most part it wasn’t even close. Ishihara and Takahashi (Hokkaido) Guv victories were called by NHK within minutes of the poll’s closing at 8PM (for reasons that I still cannot grasp). Landslides (meaning votes close to or more than double the second-place candidates) happened in all the gubernatorial races: Hokkaido, Iwate, Tokyo (with Ishihara accruing more than a million more votes than second-place Asano), Fukui, Mie, Nara, Tottori, Shimane, Tokushima, Shizuoka, Saga, and Oita. Only four of the 13 prefectures got new blood (Nara, Tottori, Iwate and Shimane); the rest were incumbent re-elections. None of them had any express political party ties (although they did enjoy unofficial support, the newspapers note; LDP/Koumei nine, DPJ two, LDP/DPJ together two). Point is, there were no upsets.

And in over half of the Guv races–eight–it was basically uncontested. Only the Communists ran against the powers that be (I presume the DPJ decided to save money and not field candidates). Good Old College Tries notwithstanding, the only place the JCP came close was in Nara, where they got a little under half the winner’s total vote. It’s amazing these people don’t just throw in the towel… (Personally, I’m glad they don’t.)

The Mayor races were more exciting. Shizuoka and Hamamatsu had close races, where the incumbent won in the former and lost in the latter. Sapporo and Hiroshima kept their mayors by a wide margin. Score card: LDP one (Shizuoka), DPJ one (Sapporo), and unaffiliated two (Hamamatsu and Hiroshima).



In terms of bellwethers for internationalization, from what I could see all the way up here in Hokkaido, issues of multiculturalization were not campaign issues anywhere (not even in Tokyo, despite Asano’s playing to the FCCJ at No wonder. Foreigners, not even the generational Zainichi foreigners, can vote; and as history demonstrates (it was not until the Civil Rights Movement chipped away at the voter disenfranchisement laws in the US South, and then only after huge numbers of African-Americans registered to vote in the 1950s, that electoral candidates–even Governor Wallace–changed their tunes in the 1960s), politicians by design only care about keeping their jobs. It’s one of those aggravating no-brainers: Can’t vote, can’t get much respect in a democracy. Don’t see that trend changing any time soon, unless…

Anyway, some trends of note:

a) The Bigots Begat

We know Ishihara kept his seat, and we know he’s probably the most expressly xenophobic elected official out there. But remember the “sneaky thieves” comment made by Kanagawa Guv Matsuzawa Shigefumi in November 2003?

“All foreigners are sneaky thieves (koso doro). Because (Tokyo) Gov. (Shintaro) Ishihara is clamping down (on crime in the capital), they are flooding into Kanagawa.”
He retracted it a couple of days later
but I’m notoriously unforgiving.

Anyway, he got re-elected easily this time, with more votes than the other candidates combined. Surprisingly enough, he seems to have strong ties to the DPJ…

b) The Good Guys Lose

The incumbent mayor of Hamamatsu, Kitawaki Yasuyuki, poured his heart into trying to improve conditions for NJ residents around his area. He was the coordinator of the Hamamatsu Sengen (

Background: After Japan’s first court victory citing international treaty in a racial discrimination case (Ana Bortz vs. Seibido Trading, 1999), which just happened to take place in his city, Mayor Kitawaki in October 2001 convened a meeting of 13 cities from six prefectures with high foreign worker populations. Issuing a historical document entitled the “Hamamatsu Sengen” (Hamamatsu Declaration), these government heads demanded the national government create policy guaranteeing foreigners the modicum of social welfare (education, welfare services, smooth alien registration) entitled to every worker and resident of Japan. Kitawaki and company submitted this proposal to Tokyo Mandarinland Kasumigaseki in November 2001, where it was duly ignored. He and many other mayors and city officials have since persevered. More on that in a separate post later.

Anyway, Kitawaki lost by 11,000 votes to Suzuki Yasutomo, a former Upper House Dietmember with DPJ ties. Given the fact that the DPJ has people in it as left as the DSP and as right as the LDP, I doubt this is a good thing.

c) Don’t You Dare Pass Any Crazy Anti-Discrim Laws

The former Guv Katayama Yoshihiro in Tottori decided not to run for some reason (I guess it might be the exhaustion incurred from the stress of having Japan’s first anti-racial-discrimination ordinance passed, then UNpassed, last year–see His vice-guv, Hirai Shinji, ran and won handily. Again, I’m not sure if this is a good thing. (He has the support of the LDP and Koumeitou.)

d) The Anger Vote and How to Swing it

And in an unrelated aside, I reported two newsletters ago about Toyama Kouichi, the anarchist candidate who had great success with viewerage on YouTube:
(Now with new, excellent E subtitles and several parody versions.)

Well, he managed to garner 15,059 votes (despite offering nothing but destruction and telling people not to vote at all), putting him in 8th place (out of 14 candidates). But it brings to light one problem with Japan’s over-restrictive election laws.

From this morning’s Terrie’s Take:

-> Youtube videos breach election law

What happens when control over the local media is subverted? You get political candidate videos posted to YouTube, in contravention of but impervious to Japanese laws on unfair campaigning. This just happened in the Tokyo metropolitan elections, where earlier TV comments by one of the more radical candidates appeared on the service. The election management committee asked YouTube to delete the video.

***Ed: We think that Japan’s rules on limiting electioneering are a noble ideal but in practice are also very impractical. While it is reasonable to want all candidates to get equal broadcast coverage, in effect this means that the advantage is always with the incumbent. A person like Ishihara knows how to manipulate the media so well, that without breaching any rules, he can be on TV most nights. It’s no wonder that voters really only know and feel comfortable with him. While no one wants money politics, the existing system is also quite unfair.**

(Source: TT commentary from, Apr 6, 2007) ( (TT 416)

I would concur. The media equivalent of arriving on Air Force One certainly sways people.

Moreover, here’s an essay describing how a local Senkyo Kanri Iinkai (Election Steering Committee) did its best to stop candidates from debating each other in a citizens’-sponsored forum, and how Japan’s election rules actually stifle debate and direct questioning of candidates:

e) Manifesto Destiny

Something also came up on the news this morning (Tokudane), where people were talking about how “manifestos” (A4-size political-promise sheets) are now commonplace amongst candidates, and how they make policies clearer than the regular soundtruckery.

I would agree that manifestoing is indeed a positive development, and have said so in a column in the Japan Times (Nov 18, 2003):

But here we see the Senkyo Kanri Iinkai stepping in to overregulate again. You can indeed produce a Manifesto. But they must be one page A4 and front and back only. And you can only produce up to 300,000 of them. No more. Too bad if your electoral base is larger than that: You cannot mail them out or include them as fold-in advertisements in newspapers–you must hand them out on the street or let people come to your offices to get one. They even frown on them being electronically displayed on the Internet!

I suppose this is to avoid ramping up money politics. But the result is that some people didn’t even know their candidates’ manifestos existed. Myself included–I based my votes on the newsprint policy statements which came through my mailslot courtesy of the Senkyo Kanri Iinkai.

To be sure, I’m not sure how I’d run an election better (and the US system is certainly no template!!). But the chokehold the Senkyo Kanri Iinkai has over information dispersal certainly errs far too much on the side of caution. I have to admire to some degree the moxie of those who dare to defy.



I don’t think this election was much of a midterm referendum at all. The LDP did not really lose clearly or big anywhere. Nobody’s going to be able to point to a race and say that Abe is to blame for the outcome. Some of the newspapers are in fact interpreting Ishihara’s victory as a “boost” for Abe.

Not sure I agree: “Boost” seems a bit of a boosterism in itself. So let me end this report inconclusively for now and see what happens in the even bigger elections this July.

For the time being, let me compensate with some referential links. As I have an undergraduate degree in Government, I have an abiding interest in Japanese politics, and have written copiously on the subject before. A few examples:

A report about the first time I voted in a Japanese election (2001):

Japan’s “Rap Election” of 1996 (a humorous study of ancient campaign strategies):

A case study of how we unseated a corrupt mayor:
And how we got elected:

Our lobbying efforts with each political party:

And even a humor piece on Suzuki Muneo:

Dave Spector even sent me his comments on the election in the J press:

Enjoy. Only a few more months before the real referendum on Abe.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan

Irish Times: “Abe unleashes the deniers of history”, NYT on textbook revisionism


Hello Blog. Thought this would happen. It’s business as usual as Japan Inc. takes on the world’s political arenas with spin doctoring over “Comfort Women” etc., to feint with the left hand while fiddling with the right. Distract with snow jobs while whitewashing the historical record. Only this time I think we’ve got enough people on the ground over here who know what our government is doing for a change. David McNeill releases an excellent article for the Irish Times, while Norimitsu Onishi, on an incredible roll these days, continues unearthing for the New York Times (who’da thunk it, considering Nori’s articles when he first got here…?) Debito in Sapporo

Abe unleashes the deniers of history
David McNeill
Irish Times, April 2, 2007

One of the Japanese TV networks recently pointed out that some of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ministers no longer stood up when he walked into the Cabinet meeting room. Even worse, fumed one observer, they kept chatting as he tries to start the meeting. Such disrespectful behavior in a political culture where small acts carry enormous symbolic weight could only mean one thing, most concluded: Mr. Abe had lost the respect of his troops.

The unruly Cabinet coincides with a period of plummeting approval ratings for the government, which started last year at 63 percent and now speed inexorably toward the low thirties as elections loom. After a string of scandals and six months in office compared unfavorably to the rocket-fuelled years of Mr. Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, that shuffling of ministerial feet may be the harbinger of a prime-ministerial lynch mob.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mr. Abe is taking shelter under a political umbrella he has always found comfortable: nationalism. The man who coined the election slogan “beautiful Japan” and who will, if nothing else be remembered for re-injecting patriotism into the nation’s schools (in an education law approved Friday) is also unleashing the historical deniers and whitewashers who have long been kept tied up in the dungeons of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The deniers offer a startling historical counter-narrative: Japan was not the aggressor in the Pacific War but the liberator, fighting to defend itself from the U.S. and European powers and free Asia from the yoke of white colonialism; Imperial troops were not guilty, as most historians suggest, of some of the worst war crimes of the 20th century but the “normal excesses” of armies everywhere.

Mr. Abe’s cabinet is dominated by such revisionists. Even as the prime minister was trying to put out the diplomatic fires sparked by his assertion in March that the Japanese wartime state did not round up thousands of sex slaves, his No.3 minister, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura was again denying the military was involved. “It is true that there were “comfort women” said Mr. Shimomura. “I believe some parents may have sold their daughters. But it does not mean the Japanese army was involved.”

Foreign Minister Taro Aso claims a proposed US House of Representatives resolution demanding Japan apologise for the abuse of the women is “not based on the facts.” Mr. Abe himself still says there was no coercion of the women “in the narrow sense of the word.”

As one observer said, what part of “coercion” does Mr. Abe not understand? “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,” wrote Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor of Japanese History at the Australian National University.

The ground zero of the revisionist movement is Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and the attached museum, which offers the same Alice-in-Wonderland version of history. For decades, Yasukuni has generated controversy because among the 2.5 million ordinary troops enshrined there are the men – officially branded war criminals — who led Japan’s disastrous 1931-45 campaign. The government has always said that it had nothing to do with the decision by Yasukuni’s Shinto priests to honour the men but evidence released this week suggests this is a lie.

Papers released by Yasukuni and compiled in a new book claim the government was “closely involved” in the campaign to enshrine hundreds of A, B, and C-class war criminals, going back to 1958. The campaign was of course done in secret. “How about enshrining them in a way that would be hard to discover,” wrote one Welfare Ministry bureaucrat. The conservative Yomiuri newspaper concluded Thursday that the government and the shrine “shared the view” that war criminals should be honoured.

Mr. Abe is a well-known supporter of prime ministerial visits to the shrine. Confronted with evidence that successive governments had shredded Japan’s Constitutional ban on the separation of state and religion, however, he reverted to type by denying any such thing. “I don’t think there is any problem,” he told incredulous reporters, those big teddy-bear eyes darting nervously from side to side.

So far the prime minister has swatted away speculation that he will visit Yasukuni this year, but this is clearly a case of damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. If he goes, he will torpedo Japan’s slowly healing ties with China and South Korea; if he doesn’t his nationalist supporters will cry foul.

The fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Japan early next month makes this political hire-wire act that much more fascinating for political watchers. Will the leaders of one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships discuss Japan’s undigested history? Will Mr. Abe continue to insist that politics and economics be kept separate? And will he keep the political forces he has helped unleash from destroying the hard-won respect Japan has earned since 1945?



April 1, 2007
Japan’s Textbooks Reflect Revised History

TOKYO, March 31 — In another sign that Japan is pressing ahead in revising its history of World War II, new high school textbooks will no longer acknowledge that the Imperial Army was responsible for a major atrocity in Okinawa, the government announced late Friday.

The Ministry of Education ordered publishers to delete passages stating that the Imperial Army ordered civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, as the island was about to fall to American troops in the final months of the war.

The decision was announced as part of the ministry’s annual screening of textbooks used in all public schools. The ministry also ordered changes to other delicate issues to dovetail with government assertions, though the screening is supposed to be free of political interference.

“I believe the screening system has been followed appropriately,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long campaigned to soften the treatment in textbooks of Japan’s wartime conduct.

The decision on the Battle of Okinawa, which came as a surprise because the ministry had never objected to the description in the past, followed recent denials by Mr. Abe that the military had coerced women into sexual slavery during the war.

The results of the annual textbook screening are closely watched in China, South Korea and other Asian countries. So the fresh denial of the military’s responsibility in the Battle of Okinawa and in sexual slavery — long accepted as historical facts — is likely to deepen suspicions in Asia that Tokyo is trying to whitewash its militarist past even as it tries to raise the profile of its current forces.

Shortly after assuming office last fall, Mr. Abe transformed the Defense Agency into a full ministry. He has said that his most important goal is to revise the American-imposed, pacifist Constitution that forbids Japan from having a full-fledged military with offensive abilities.

Some 200,000 Americans and Japanese died during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the most brutal clashes of the war. It was the only battle on Japanese soil involving civilians, but Okinawa was not just any part of Japan.

It was only in the late 19th century that Japan officially annexed Okinawa, a kingdom that, to this day, has retained some of its own culture. During World War II, when many Okinawans still spoke a different dialect, Japanese troops treated the locals brutally. In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan — a starkly different view from the Yasukuni Shrine war museum, which presents Japan as a liberator of Asia from Western powers.

During the 1945 battle, during which one quarter of the civilian population was killed, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa’s defense and safety. Japanese soldiers used civilians as shields against the Americans, and persuaded locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. With the impending victory of American troops, civilians committed mass suicide, urged on by fanatical Japanese soldiers.

“There were some people who were forced to commit suicide by the Japanese Army,” one old textbook explained. But in the revision ordered by the ministry, it now reads, “There were some people who were driven to mass suicide.”

Other changes are similar — the change to a passive verb, the disappearance of a subject — and combine to erase the responsibility of the Japanese military. In explaining its policy change, the ministry said that it “is not clear that the Japanese Army coerced or ordered the mass suicides.”

As with Mr. Abe’s denial regarding sexual slavery, the ministry’s new position appeared to discount overwhelming evidence of coercion, particularly the testimony of victims and survivors themselves.

“There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide,” Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, said in an angry editorial. “There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers” to blow themselves up.

The editorial described the change as a politically influenced decision that “went along with the government view.”

Mr. Abe, after helping to found the Group of Young Parliamentarians Concerned About Japan’s Future and History Education in 1997, long led a campaign to reject what nationalists call a masochistic view of history that has robbed postwar Japanese of their pride.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former prime minister who is a staunch ally of Mr. Abe, recently denied what he wrote in 1978. In a memoir about his Imperial Navy experiences in Indonesia, titled “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23,” he wrote that some of his men “started attacking local women or became addicted to gambling.

“For them, I went to great pains, and had a comfort station built,” Mr. Nakasone wrote, using the euphemism for a military brothel.

But in a meeting with foreign journalists a week ago, Mr. Nakasone, now 88, issued a flat denial. He said he had actually set up a “recreation center,” where his men played Japanese board games like go and shogi.

In a meeting on Saturday with Foreign Minister Taro Aso of Japan, South Korea’s foreign minister, Song Min-soon, criticized Mr. Abe’s recent comments on sexual slaves.

“The problems over perceptions of history are making it difficult to move South Korean-Japanese relations forward,” Mr. Song said.

Mr. Aso said Japan stuck by a 1993 statement acknowledging responsibility for past sexual slavery, but said nothing about Mr. Abe’s denial that the military had coerced women, many of them Korean, into sexual slavery.


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