CHE on measures against Japan’s historical amnesia


Hi Blog. As a corollary to the issue of Japan’s historical amnesia (particularly the Abe Administration’s need to deny the Comfort Women issue and reinstitute “Beautiful Country Japan” though enforced patriotism and a selective retelling of history), here’s an example of civil society and disappearing war veterans at work to preserve the record. Debito in Sapporo


War Museum Resists Japan’s Historical Amnesia
The Chronicle of Higher Education April 27, 2007

Link for subscribers:
Courtesy of the author

The photographs are sickening, a gallery of horrors from a war in which the casualties were counted in the millions: decapitated and disemboweled bodies, dead babies discarded in ditches, skulls staring from a pile of human bones.

After five minutes, the mind starts to numb; 10 minutes and the air in this converted warehouse in a northern suburb feels still and heavy, the weight of history seeping through the doors.

In the newly opened Chukiren Peace Museum, the 80-year old curator, Fumiko Niki, is among a small group of activists and academics who have spent years compiling a depository of records that they say proves the enormity of the imperial army’s war crimes before and during World War II. The effort to remember that history is being lost in a growing revisionist tide, she fears.

“We are in a very dangerous period,” says Ms. Niki. “Awareness of Japan’s role in wartime is fading.”

The main purpose of the museum, she says, is to provide “facts and evidence to history scholars” who want to learn the truth of Japan’s war in China from the early 1930s to 1945. “It is a unique collection,” says the curator. “The repatriated survivors used to be rank-and-file soldiers, which means they were in the front line of the most murderous activities.”

Some other Japanese museums discuss the Nanjing massacre and other war crimes, but typically in a way that minimizes or whitewashes the brutalities committed. The most famous example is the museum attached to Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo, which is dedicated to the spirits of soldiers who died in combat, including some convicted of war crimes. That museum essentially argues that Japan was forced into the Pacific war by Western colonialism.

‘Lid on a Stinking Pot’

The core of the Chukiren museum’s collection is the testimony of 300 Japanese army veterans who, while in custody in China in the 1940s and 50s, confessed to atrocities there, including rape, torture, and infanticide. Photographic evidence is held in the archives. Ultranationalists have threatened to burn down the museum, prompting the elderly staff members to look into the unfamiliar world of high-tech security.

The firsthand accounts and more than 20,000 books were donated by Chukiren, an association founded in 1957 by 1,100 veterans who had been held prisoner in China after the war. Many of them had believed that they would be executed as a result of war-crimes trials in China in 1956. But only 45 were indicted, and all of the veterans were repatriated by 1964.

Some became academics and teachers and spent the rest of their lives writing and speaking about what they had done as soldiers. Their testimony was fueled by atonement, compassion, and the need to fight what they saw as Japan’s historical amnesia. When they were not being ignored, however, they were objects of scorn, vitriol, and mistrust. Many critics said the returned veterans had been brainwashed by Chinese Communist propaganda.

“You won’t find these things in school textbooks,” says one of the veterans, Tsuyoshi Ebato, who helped compile the archive.

The accounts include that of a sergeant major who had raped and killed a Chinese woman, and then actually joined other members of his unit in eating her flesh. Mr. Ebato says he himself trained recruits to use captured Chinese for bayonet practice.

“Terrible things like this happened all the time,” he says. “Now people are saying that they never happened. Japan wants to keep a lid on a stinking pot.”

The opening of the Chukiren museum has been hailed by progressive scholars.

“As a historian of that war, I find the testimony consistent with both the documentary record and my own interviews with Chinese villagers,” says Mark Selden, a senior fellow in the East Asia program at Cornell University, in an e-mail message. “Like their American counterparts who returned home to tell of their own destructive acts in Vietnam, the Chukiren soldiers have braved opprobrium from super patriots to tell the truth about the war and their own part in it.”

The collection also includes almost all of the writings of Masami Yamazumi, a former president of Tokyo Metropolitan University and a well-known critic of Japanese education.

Mr. Yamazumi linked his own efforts to preserve evidence of war crimes with his political activism. He fought a long battle to keep official displays of the controversial hinomaru (rising sun) flag out of official school ceremonies. Today, four years after his death, the flag flutters in schools across the country.

Peace as a Global Language calls for submissions by May 31


Hi Blog. Friend Albie Sharpe asked me to pass this along to you. I submitted a proposal for four different talks this morning–we’ll just let them choose which one (or two, perhaps) they want. Debito in Sapporo


Call for Presentations

6th Annual Conference

Peace as a Global Language Conference

Cultivating Peace, in association with a Model United Nations ‘Imagine Peace’
Date: Saturday, October 27 – Sunday October 28.
Venue: Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. 6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558.

Submissions related to education and research in the following areas are invited:
– peace, the environment, human rights and other global issues,
– intercultural communication, values, health, gender and media literacy,
– foreign language education focusing on global issues.

Presentations may be in English or Japanese, or bilingual. The following presentation formats are possible:
– panel discussion (50 110 minutes)
– workshop (50 minutes)
– research presentation (50 minutes)
– poster sessions (no limit)
– other (please specify clearly).

Presenters may be teachers, students, researchers, journalists, activists and others interested in education for a better world.

Submissions should be no more than 100 words, with a 30 word abstract, and accompanied by the following information:
– Name & contact details of each speaker
– Format (Please also indicate if you are willing to give a poster presentation instead of another format.)
– Presentation language (English, Japanese or bilingual)
– Equipment required (please be very specific)
– Preferred date of presentation (November 12 or 13)
Applications may be rejected if the information provided is insufficient.

Submissions should be sent by e-mail to:

Submissions may also be sent by post to the following address:
Craig Smith, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies
6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558

Deadline for Submissions: May 31, 2007

Notification of Decisions: On/around June 30, 2007 via e-mail

Please note: Our budget is very limited. We regret that we cannot provide funding for transport and other expenses. We do not provide guarantees or other documents for visa applications. We are unable to send volunteers to meet presenters at the airport or provide assistance with accommodation (although homestay might be available for a limited number of presenters applying from overseas). Those unable to meet the above requirements are discouraged from submitting proposals as it may result in somebody else losing the opportunity to present. Please be sure to let us know of any change in your details such as e-mail address.

Further information will be posted on our website soon:


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)

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.




ブロクのみんなさま、以降は株式会社 スリーエーネットァークという出版社への抗議文です。NPO 多民族共生人権教育センターからの依頼で、手紙の下で当グループからいただいた文書と関連記事をご参考まで。宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人


株式会社 スリーエーネットァーク
社長 高井 道博 様

北海道情報大学 助教授
有道 出人


冠省 私は日本の国際化を研修している北海道情報大学助教授有道 出人(あるどう でびと)と申します。帰化した日本人として、単行本「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店07年改訂)の著者です。詳しくはwww.debito.orgをどうぞご覧下さい。


既に様々な改善要請が御社に届いたと思いますが、ご存知の通り、図書館のスタッフは要求する立場にはありません。法律上(外国人登録法 第十三条 第二項)では「入国審査官、入国警備官、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員」に限り、要求することができます。図書館員は該当者になりません。




〒… 北海道情報大学
有道 出人



NPO 多民族共生人権教育センターより昨年の抗議文:

株式会社 スリーエーネットァークの社長 高井 道博氏からの返答(2006年5月26日付):



上記の毎日新聞の記事によると「返答を検討する」と言ったものの、1年間が経ってから当社一切譲りませんね。回答書で挨拶なく、「宜しくお願い致します」などさえない言い方などで、多少疑問が残ります。この出版社は外国人のニーズについて充分な認識がありますかね。有道 出人

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

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


Asahi Column: Tokyo JH school refuses education to NJ child


Hi Blog. What a shock for the parents, not to mention the child who is being refused Secondary Education in Tokyo just because she is foreign. Not to worry, as friend Matt noted elsewhere–I’m sure our Education Minister Mr Ibuki is hard at work on it, given his melting concern with human rights, bullying, etc. Thanks to the Asahi for providing a venue for exposure. Debito in Kurohime, Nagano.


POINT OF VIEW/ Daisuke Onuki: Fundamental flaw remains in education law

The people shall all be given equal opportunities of receiving education according to their ability, and they shall not be subject to educational discrimination on account of race, creed, sex, social status, economic position, or family origin. Thus, the Fundamental Law of Education guarantees the equal opportunity of education to all people of Japan.

However, it is necessary to note that the word “people” is the translation of the word “kokumin,” which literally means “nationals.”

Currently, the most important law on education in Japan, as well as the very Constitution, does not guarantee the right to education for children with foreign nationalities.

Our eldest daughter, who has only Brazilian nationality, was once denied entrance to a public junior high school in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, when trying to transfer from a school in Brazil at the age 15 in the ninth grade.

Officials said our daughter was a year older than the proper age for obligatory education. They explained that exceptions cannot be made because the obligatory education system does not apply to a child without Japanese nationality.

Our daughter started primary school at the age of 7 due to her special needs of having to learn both her mother’s and father’s tongues, rather than at 6, which is the usual age for Japanese children. She went to Brazil after attending school for three years in Japan and returned here at the age of 15.

“If the child is a Japanese who had reasons to be enrolled in a grade lower than the appropriate one, obviously he or she needs extra year(s) to finish his or her ‘obligatory education’ and will be granted an exception. However, obligatory education does not apply to you,” they said.

I certainly hope that such an outright denial to school is rare in this country. There are already too many children of foreign nationalities, perhaps numbering in the tens of thousands, who are dropping out or are not attending school.

Legally, the blame for foreign children staying out of school does not fall on any officials or on the parents for that matter. That is because there even does not exist credible statistics concerning the problem.

Both the prime minister and the education minister clarified in the Diet last spring that while the proposed revision of the Fundamental Law of Education does not refer specifically to foreigners, those who wish so will continue to be treated in the same way as Japanese concerning the right to obligatory education.

I understand those words as meaning that when the guardians do not seek education for a child with foreign nationality, it is not the government’s problem and that, when they do seek education for their children, the government will not take the responsibility to treat them according to their special needs.

The Diet approved the revised version of the Fundamental Law of Education on Dec. 15. The use of the word “kokumin” continues in the revised law.

I find it a “fundamental flaw” of the Fundamental Law of Education not to guarantee the right to education of all children residing in Japan.

Issue overshadowed

The Japanese don’t notice the difference unless it is pointed out by those who suffer from it. For myself, I needed a family member without Japanese nationality to notice this flaw.

The problem has not been sufficiently raised by either the conservatives or the liberals. The argument has been overshadowed by the heated debate over the inclusion of “nurturing patriotic attitudes” as a purpose of education in the revised law.

Two years ago, when the population of Japan started to decrease, the number of foreign nationals registered here surpassed 2 million. More than half are so-called newcomers who stay in Japan for the purpose of work. The number of people from Brazil, the country of origin of my wife and daughters, now exceeds 300,000.

They started coming to Japan when the immigration law was revised in 1990 to allow Japanese descendents to visit and live in Japan without restriction in the activities they may engage in. While the government, and society, of Japan are undecided about whether to accept unskilled foreign workers, Brazilians are the ones “experimentally” filling the needs for manpower in all corners of Japan.

Brazilians coming to Japan for work are called “seasonal workers” both in Japan and in Brazil. Quite contrary to the image of the term, and possibly contrary to their original intentions, Brazilian workers often end up staying for 10 or more years in Japan, bringing their families and bearing children here.

Those people are usually called “immigrants” in other countries–a word hardly used here. The immigrant children in Japan, at least those with Brazilian nationality, tend to suffer from difficulties at school.

A survey six years ago estimated that 3,000 Brazilian children between 6 and 15 in Japan had never been enrolled in school. More recent estimates indicate that more than 10,000 Brazilian children never entered school or dropped out.

Somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Brazilian children are currently out of primary education. These figures do not include the 25 percent of children who go to expensive Brazilian schools that are not officially recognized as “schools” by the Japanese government.

Japan has enough problems with Japanese children dropping out. Official figures show that 3.3 percent of all ninth-grade students refuse to go to school.

Efforts to care for the dropouts and recluses in special programs, or “free schools,” are playing an increasingly important role. Some free schools have become officially recognized as “private schools” and have received government funding since 2005.

However, the 48 Brazilian schools in Japan that are officially recognized by the Brazilian government, and 50 or so that are not recognized, do not receive any private-school funding from the Japanese government.

The situation in which possibly tens of thousands of foreign children are out of school, mostly watching TV at home alone or roaming shopping malls with friends, must be recognized as “child neglect” on the part of society.

Neglecting the child’s right to education is one of the most aggressive threats to the physical, mental and social integrity of the individual. Children with Brazilian nationality have been three to five times more likely to be put in detention centers than the general population over the past six years. This situation has the making of a new form of “ethnic crisis” taking place right in front of our eyes.

In the bicultural family where our children grew up, the refusal to let our eldest daughter attend school was a blow to the effort to “nurture love” of the children for the Japanese culture and country.

I decided not to fight Setagaya Ward, and possibly worsen the situation, and instead chose to live in another city where our child was accepted at school.

How many Brazilian families would know how to handle a similar situation so that their children could continue to study in and to like this country?

A first step

In recent years, many European countries have seen a rise in extreme rightist movements. Our country should not wait for that to happen before taking serious actions.

Guaranteeing foreign children’s right to education in other education-related laws to be revised in the following years will be important steps to take. It has been 16 years since this problem started in Japan’s Brazilian community.

Another year lost in the childhoods of tens of thousands of immigrant children will require an incredible amount of work in the future to undo the damage done to the children, society–and the hopes to build a healthy internationalist Japan.

* * *

The author is an associate professor of international relations at Tokai University and a member of the Alliance for Multiculture Childhood.(IHT/Asahi: February 12,2007)

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


















J Times quotes UN’s Doudou Diene re Ibuki comments


Hi Blog. Writing this between speeches. Got Eric Johnston of the Japan Times on the phone yesterday to UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene for some exclusive responses about Education Minister Ibuki’s quotes (and PM Abe’s defense of them). Ibuki compared paying (too much?) attention to human rights to Metabolic Syndrome, like ingesting too much butter. Huh?

I’ve been slow on the uptake recently (I have averaged about two speeches a day this week), but I’ll add Ibuki’s comments later for the record to this blog with a link from here.

Anyway, glad we got Diene on the record giving this administration the criticism it deserves. I made sure to get Kyodo and Japan Times articles on Ibuki and Abe into his hands. (As well as the Gaijin Hanzai Mag, of course, which he promised will go into his next report.) Great timing by these fools in the Abe Administration all around.

Got a speech in an hour to the Roppongi Bar Association, so signing off here. Sorry to be so slow recently. Debito in Roppongi Hills.


U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer

The U.N. special rapporteur on racism countered Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s claim over the weekend that Japan is a homogenous country.

“There is no such thing as pure blooded or a pure race. Where do the Ainu fit in to Japanese society? Or the Chinese and Koreans?” Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Japan Times.

“I am absolutely shocked at his remark. Here is the education minister, the person who in charge of educating Japan’s children about their history, saying something that is so outdated.”

Diene is in Tokyo to follow up on last year’s U.N. report on racial discrimination in Japan.

On Sunday, Ibuki told the Liberal Democratic Party’s Nagasaki chapter that Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato — Japanese — race and that Japan is an extremely homogenous country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Ibuki’s comments, which have also drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Abe said he thought there was no problem with Ibuki’s remarks as he believed the education minister was referring to the fact that Japanese have gotten along with each other well so far.

The special rapporteur said Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese history scholars should work together through the United Nations to resolve historical issues.

By doing this, he said, not only historical tensions but also the deeper racism in East Asia that has led to those tensions can be addressed in an atmosphere free from domestic politics.

Diene said Ibuki’s remarks and Abe’s comments about them will likely be included in the new report he will submit to the U.N. later this year.


Amnesty lashes out
Kyodo News

Amnesty International Japan on Tuesday harshly attacked education minister Bunmei Ibuki for saying too much respect for human rights would give Japan “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

In a letter sent to Ibuki, Amnesty demanded he retract his remarks, saying they “ignore the human rights of citizens.”

“It is true that exercising rights carries with it obligations,” the human rights group said. “But it is states and governments which undertake obligations to guarantee citizens their rights.”

Through the remark, Ibuki has neglected his obligations and is trying to restrict human rights, Amnesty said.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

Asahi column on “Broadening definition of ‘Japanese'”


Hi Blog. Watashi no Shiten column on what to do about immigration–offering the inclusive view and how to make people accepted as Japanese. Article starts off slow, but builds up to conclusions I agree with. Hope to see these views become more common currency in the policymaking arena. Thanks to Colin and LIJ for notification. Debito in Sapporo


POINT OF VIEW/ Takashi Miyajima: Time to broaden the definition of ‘Japanese’

Some people say Japan keeps its doors closed to foreign labor. But that is not an accurate description. Excluding foreigners staying in Japan illegally, there are already about 600,000 foreign nationals working in this country. Japan’s doors are not closed to foreign labor.

The problem, however, lies in the gap between the government’s official policy and the reality of accepting foreign laborers. The Japanese government has been sticking to the principle of not accepting unskilled foreign workers mainly out of concerns that a sharp increase in the number of foreigners could cause cultural conflict and a deterioration of public safety.

But, in the face of an increasingly acute labor shortage in manufacturing and some other industries, the government in the 1990s created schemes to bypass immigration laws and allow unskilled foreign workers into the country. A system was established to allow South American nationals of Japanese descent to work in Japan without imposing any restrictions on the types of jobs they could do.

A special on-the-job training program was created to enable companies to hire foreign workers as “trainees.” These schemes should be criticized as disguised ways to accept low-skilled foreign laborers.

The foreign nationals of Japanese ancestry who come to Japan through these backdoor channels tend to have children and stay for the long term. Despite being aware of the situation, the government has been making no serious effort to establish a system to accept immigrants under an official national policy. The decision to ignore these immigrants has been made on the grounds that there is no national consensus on becoming a country of immigration. The government’s inaction is now beginning to produce serious consequences.

The most serious problem is that the children of these foreign workers are not receiving a proper education. About 30 to 40 percent of the children of foreign workers of Japanese descent are not attending Japanese schools due to a number of problems but mainly because of the learning difficulties they face. Our survey shows many of these children give up the idea of going on to high school during the second half of their second year in junior high school. Consequently, they begin to feel unsure about their future.

One factor that is often behind this situation is their parents’ vagueness on how long they are going to stay in Japan. But most of the blame rests on the government’s failure to take specific steps to provide detailed assistance for these children–such as reducing the number of students per class and adjusting school curricula to the new international environment.

Accepting a larger number of foreign workers, including unskilled laborers, would be a realistic way to deal with the problem of labor shortage due to the nation’s aging population. Even if they are allowed to work in Japan only for a limited period of time, however, many of them would develop a desire to settle down in this country as they get used to their workplaces here and establish strong ties with the communities.

It would be better if Japan decides to become an immigration society that accepts foreign workers as new members and starts developing necessary systems to deal with this. For instance, the government should consider granting foreign nationals born and raised in Japan the right to obtain Japanese nationality on the grounds of jus soli, the principle that a person’s citizenship is determined by the place of birth rather than by the citizenship of one’s parents.

But systems alone would not solve the problems. We can draw some important lessons from the riots that broke out in Paris and other parts of France in 2005.

The youths who torched vehicles were mostly the children of immigrants of north African origin. Many of these second-generation immigrants face discrimination in employment even after they become adults with French nationality.

The widespread unrest underscored the fact that children of immigrants are treated as second-class citizens in French society, which takes pride in its egalitarianism. Frustration among these youngsters with foreign roots over the gap between what they were taught at school–there is no discrimination–and the reality, ignited the violent acts of protest.

In Japan, the children of the foreign workers of Japanese ancestry will soon start to come of age. The nation must undergo some social changes to prevent them from becoming isolated.

One inevitable change is broadening of the concept of “Japanese.”

In the United States, there are various hyphenated terms for citizens of foreign origin, such as Italian-Americans or Chinese-Americans. But there are no corresponding terms in Japan. There are a number of criteria that narrow the generally accepted definition of “Japanese,” from the color of hair and eyes to the ability to speak Japanese without accent or with proper use of honorifics.

People who don’t fulfill these criteria are alienated, classified as “foreigners” even if they have Japanese nationality. As a result, they feel a strong sense of discrimination.

Japan should now create a society where people with various cultural backgrounds are accepted as Japanese, called “Chinese-Japanese,” for instance, without any discriminatory connotations and be treated fairly as equal and important members of society.

* * *

The author is a professor of sociology at Hosei University.(IHT/Asahi: February 20, 2007)

Japan Today: “Blond Hair Blue Eyes” Eikaiwa job ad


Hi Blog. The issue I was notified of and posted about last November has finally hit the national press. Background on that issue here:

Japan Today reports the following:
English school condemned for limiting teachers to blond hair, blue eyes
Monday, February 12, 2007 at 07:16 EST Courtesy Kyodo News

KOFU — An English-language school in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, had publicly posted a recruitment poster limiting instructors to those with “blond hair, blue or green eyes,” leading activists to file complaints, people involved said Sunday.

The poster for recruiting instructors the school sends to kindergartens was posted at the Yamanashi International Center for six months until November, when the center removed it after receiving the complaints and apologizing for its “lack of consideration.”

“Linking appearance and qualifications of English educators is questionable. It encourages discrimination on appearance and race,” according to the complaints filed with the center by the activists, including American-born Japanese citizen Debito Arudou.

Arudou, associate professor at Hokkaido Information University, who is working on human rights for foreign residents in Japan, also filed written requests with the school, kindergartens and the Kofu Regional Legal Affairs to promote human rights.

According to people related to the school, several kindergartens in Kofu have asked it to send English instructors so their children can get accustomed to “foreigners,” attaching such conditions as “blond hair” and “blue eyes.”

The school “was aware that it was an old discriminatory idea, but couldn’t resist customers’ needs,” one related person said, noting that the school now regrets it.

It’s pretty late, and I’m too tired right now to comment meaningfully at the moment; will do so later on today. Watch this space. Debito in Kurashiki



 ブロクの皆様こんばんは。倉敷市内にて宿泊している有道 出人です。いつもお世話になっております。







センターが掲示した。ポスターには条件として英語で「Blonde hair
 blue or green eyes」などと書かれていた。










Video link for windows media:

ありがとうございました!有道 出人



英会話講師求人ポスター:「差別助長」指摘で撤去−−甲府 /山梨
2月14日12時1分配信 毎日新聞

 同校が昨年5月に掲示を希望し、センターを管理する財団法人県国際交流協会が許可。指摘を受けた同11月まで張り出され、ポスターには「Blonde hair blue or green eyes」などと採用条件が明記されていた。同協会も「今後は差別につながる表現は掲載しないようしっかりチェックしていく」と話した。

Ivan Hall Speech text JALT Nov 3 06


Hi Blog. Dr. Ivan P. Hall is author of seminal work CARTELS OF THE MIND (Norton 1997), which described the systematic ways Japanese “intellectual cartels” in influential sectors of thought transfer (the mass media, researchers, academia, cultural exchange, and law) shut out foreign influences as a matter of course.

It was he who coined the important phrase “academic apartheid”, he who inspired a whole generation of activists (myself included) to take up the banner against imbedded “guestism” in the gaijin community, and he who has been a great personal friend and encourager in many a dark hour when all seemed hopeless in the human rights arena.

Now in his seventies and entitled to rest on his laurels, we at JALT PALE proudly invited him to speak and bask in the glow of the next generation of activists.

He gave a marvellous speech in Kitakyushu on November 3, 2006. It is my pleasure to premiere the full text to the general public on

Choice excerpts:
[By writing CARTELS] I wanted to advertise the striking parallel to Japan’s much better known market barriers. In an era of incessant trade disputes, the foreign parties seeking to open Japan’s closed market were for the most part unaware of this complementary set of “softer” intellectual barriers that powerfully reinforce those ‘harder’ economic barriers. They do so by impeding the free flow of dialogue and disputation with the outside world, and through their encouragement of a defensive, insularist attitude on the Japanese side…

What about the attitude involved here? The way of thinking behind the exclusionary system of 1893 was best stated by Inoue Testujiro, the well-known Tokyo University philosopher and Dean of the Faculty of Letters in the 1890s, reflecting back on that time:

“In principle…professors at Japanese universities should all be Japanese. Accordingly, we managed to dismiss the foreign instructors from the Faculties of Medicine, Law, and Science, so that there was not one of them left.” “…every field should be taught exclusively by Japanese staff…the number of foreigners should gradually be reduced and ultimately eliminated altogether.” [Cartels of the Mind, p. 102]

Foreigners, Inoue continued, were to be hired only for the one thing they presumably could do better than the Japanese – to teach their own native languages…

One university trend clearly in sync with Japan’s rightward ideological swing is the now well-advanced barring of native speakers from the decades-long practice in many places of having them — as enrichment to their language instruction — convey some substantive knowledge about their own countries and cultures as well.

One of the leaders of university English language instruction in Japan is the Komaba campus at Todai, where there is great distress about the way PhD-holding foreign scholars are now strictly forbidden to digress from the new textbook. I have a copy here — it’s called On Campus — and it’s full of lessons on subjects like “Walking off Your Fat,” “Coffee and Globalization,” or “Why is Mauna Kea Sacred to Native Hawaiian People?” Not only are these teachers being forced to serve up something close to intellectual pap, but, more significantly, a pap that is devoid of any reference to the history, society, or culture of the English-speaking countries themselves– matters which I understand are deliberately downplayed if not off limits…

There is one area, however, where those of us fighting these issues are constrained only by our own lack of intellectual resourcefulness, honesty, and courage—and that is precisely this crucial arena of ideas and public persuasion. This means, more than anything else, writing – and, above all, the writing of books, for the simple reason that only books can be so thorough, so long-lasting, and so widely disseminated and reviewed (as long as you and/or your publisher work hard to promote it)…

In a word, what I am urging here is a much more active “protesting against the protest against protest” – if you follow me! That is to say, a much more active counter-attack on the apologia for continued discrimination – including all those special pleadings, culturalist copouts, and wacky non-sequiturs (some of them even from the judicial bench) that have gone without challenge for so long as to have gained the status of common wisdom – thereby inflicting real damage to the cause….


Read it all to see how the history of thought unfolded towards the foreign community in Japan, afresh from a world-class scholar and an eyewitness. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


Asia Pacific University Blacklisted


Hi Blog. Have just updated the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a website which warns the public about limited employment opportunities in Japanese academia. Joining the 99 universities up there is the following entry:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Asia Pacific University (a division of Ritsumeikan University, also blacklisted) (Private)
LOCATION: 1-1 Jumonjibaru, Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, 874-8755
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Contract employment with caps. And they will enforce them in court. Let’s quote the university:

“In relation to the demand for a preliminary injunction in order to preserve the position outlined in the employment contracts of former full-time Japanese language lecturers originally hired in April of 2002 and who had fulfilled their 4 year period of employment, the Oita District Court (presiding judge: KAMINO Taiichi) handed down its verdict on November 30th, unequivocally dismissing the suit launched by the former lecturers.

The Court in its ruling confirmed that Ritsumeikan, in its efforts to improve language education at APU, was both reasonable and had cause in abolishing the positions within the lecturer system in order to plan for the creation of a new lecturer organization. As to whether the decision to halt the employment of the lecturers was fair and just, the Court ruled that:

1. There was no truth to the allegation that Ritsumeikan, at a Japanese language workshop held in 1999, had indicated that it would endeavor to allow full-time Japanese language lecturers to extend their period of employment should they wish to do so.
2. That it was possible to infer that expectations for a continuation of employment stemmed from the 1999 Japanese language workshop, yet there was no reason for such expectations.
3. That the employment contracts in question (for full-time lecturers) outlined an employment period of 4 years (the period of guaranteed employment), that the contracts provided a period of employment of 1 year, and that although this touched upon Article 14 of the former labor standards law, it was appropriate in this case.
4. That in accordance with the completion of the period of employment, the decision to halt the employment of the former lecturers did not constitute abuse of the right to dismissal.

The Court acknowledged that the response of Ritsumeikan was fair, and thus summarily rejected the former lecturers’ demand.”

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Gloating announcement from the university Vice President on the APU website, dated December 25, 2006, indicating that they had vanquished the “former full-time” employees in court. Merry Christmas to you, too. Original link here. In case that disappears, downloadable webarchive here.


Asia Pacific U gloats over its court injunction victory over dismissed workers


Hello Blog. Nice how the school is so up-front about how total the victory over its employees is. Sounds like a real pleasant place to work. Yet another case of labor rights being chipped away… Debito in Sapporo

From the Asia Pacific University website:
Notices : Dismissal verdict for the demand for a preliminary
injunction on the preservation of status launched by former full-time
Japanese language lecturers.:

2006/12/25 9:48:00 (325 reads)

In relation to the demand for a preliminary injunction in order to
preserve the positions outlined in the employment contracts of former
full-time Japanese language lecturers originally hired in April of
2002 and who had fulfilled their 4 year period of employment, the
Oita District Court (presiding judge: KAMINO Taiichi) handed down its
verdict on November 30th, unequivocally dismissing the suit launched
by the former lecturers.

The Court in its ruling confirmed that Ritsumeikan, in its efforts to
improve language education at APU, was both reasonable and had cause
in abolishing the positions within the lecturer system in order to
plan for the creation of a new lecturer organization. As to whether
the decision to halt the employment of the lecturers was fair and
just, the Court ruled that:

1. There was no truth to the allegation that Ritsumeikan, at a
Japanese language workshop held in 1999, had indicated that it would
endeavor to allow full-time Japanese language lecturers to extend
their period of employment should they wish to do so.

2. That it was possible to infer that expectations for a continuation
of employment stemmed from the 1999 Japanese language workshop, yet
there was no reason for such expectations.

3. That the employment contracts in question (for full-time
lecturers) outlined an employment period of 4 years (the period of
guaranteed employment), that the contracts provided a period of
employment of 1 year, and that although this touched upon Article 14
of the former labor standards law, it was appropriate in this case.

4. That in accordance with the completion of the period of
employment, the decision to halt the employment of the former
lecturers did not constitute abuse of the right to dismissal.

The Court acknowledged that the response of Ritsumeikan was fair, and
thus summarily rejected the former lecturers’ demand.

December 2006
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Vice President

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



ブロクの皆様こんばんは。有道 出人です。11月末、甲府市にあるER English School 英会話学校「碧眼金髪外人を求ム」公募の件ですが、掲示した(財)山梨県国際交流協会と甲府地方法務局人権擁護課に抗議文を郵送しました。文は
E.R. English School Sign


宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

Yamanashi English school want ad: “blonde hair blue or green eyes and brightly character” (with updates)


Hi Blog. Just got this information from Alberto and David in Yamanashi. It’s a want ad for “E.R. English School” (motto: “Be All That You Can be” [sic]) in Kofu, Yamanashi-ken, saying, quote:


E R English School needs a native speaker. Blonde hair
blue or green eyes and brightly character. [sic]
Please contact E R English School immedietly. [sic]

Ph: 055-241-4070
Yuji and Jocelyn Iwashita
E.R. English School Sign

Photo courtesy David Markle. Thanks. Click on thumbnail for larger image.

It’s pretty clear that Jocelyn hadn’t proofread the ad, and I was intrigued as to why the Yamanashi International Assocation (Yamanashi Ken Kokusai Kouryuu Kyoukai, website, phone 055-228-5419) had approved of such a thing.

So I gave the ER English School a call this afternoon and talked to a Mr Sata, the person in charge of all of this.

We had a nice conversation and a frank exchange of views. His points were:

1) The person wanted for this ad would be hired to teach kids at a local kindergarten (youchien). The principal (enchou) specifically wanted to acclimatize their kids to people who speak English, and to the principal’s mind, that meant somebody that had blond hair and blue or green eyes.

2) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that not all squash is zucchini, and that not all English speakers have blond hair and blue and green eyes. His school, after all, even employs Thais and Indians as English-speaking staff. But this is what the school principal wanted, so as this is their school’s job, they have to oblige. He did not feel as though this was a matter of discrimination.

3) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that this is a similar argument that a realtor might make–that “no pets, no gaijin” rules are merely at the behest of landlords, and that shifting the blame to the customer and his needs doesn’t let either party off the hook vis-a-vis discrimination. But this is business, and this is what the customer needs.

4) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that educational institutions in particular have an obligation not to promote prejudices and stererotypes. However, This is Japan and Japanese culture, he said. This is the image that Japan has of foreigners, so shikata ga nai.

5) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that there are plenty of children out there with gaijinesque pigmentation, Japanese and non-Japanese, in Japanese schools. Yes, they might be adversely affected by this “eigojin” syndrome and get socially othered. He, after all, has “half” children (as he put it) of his own. But anyway.

6) No, Mr Sata didn’t feel as though my calling the Kindergarten principal and directly explaining the problems with promoting these stereotypes would do any good. No need to confront the principal. Better to give the customer what they want and work with them later to change their mind.

7) No, Mr Sata didn’t feel as though the job advertisement was discriminatory. Yes, people with other phenotypes would not be refused the job, regardless of what the ad might say. Yes, they would consider rewording the ad. But still, those are the job specifications as per what the customer wants, and we have to stay in business. Even if it means selling asbestos or other toxic, damaging elements into society (okay, so we didn’t really get into this argument…)

And that was that. I enjoyed the talk. We stayed friendly throughout. Dunno if I changed any minds, however, particularly his. As the Corelone family would say, this is just business.

Feel free express your opinion to E R English House yourself. It doesn’t seem to have a website or an email address, but it’s regular address according to the phone book is Yamanashi Ken Koufu Shi Ushiroya-chou 323-4

055-241-4070 山梨県甲府市後屋町323-4

If I have time, let’s see what the Yamanashi International Association has to say about this. They approved this ad, after all. Debito in Sapporo


Just sent out a letter to the appropriate authorities and human rights lists in Japanese. See the text at


According to local human-rights sources, the Yamanashi International Association will be taking this issue up. More when I know more.


Got the following letter from the Yamanashi International Association, saying that they were sorry and would be more careful in future. No word from the local Bureau of Human Rights, of course. I guess this is the best we can hope for. Case closed?



UPDATE FEB 3, 2007
from newsletter of the same date

I reported to you last November about that Eikaiwa “E R English School” in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture

which had a Want Ad posted on bulletin boards in the Yamanashi International Association ( saying:
E R English School needs a native speaker. Blonde hair
blue or green eyes and brightly character. [sic]
Please contact E R English School immedietly. [sic]
Ph: 055-241-4070
Yuji and Jocelyn Iwashita


I reported then that I called the school, where a manager (a Mr. Sata) there tried to justify the policy as just giving the customer the service he wants (i.e. some Kindergarten boss wanted to “acclimatize” his young ‘uns to real bonafide “gaijin”–see Sata’s arguments at Thus their hands were tied.

I then sent a letter on November 30 to the Yamanashi International Association, and to the local Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu–Japanese text of that letter at, asking for some assistance in this matter.

I did get an answer from the YIA on December 12. Letter (Japanese) scanned at:
They said sorry, and would be more careful to not let this happen again on their bulletin boards.

Okay, so I called it a day there. But the story doesn’t end yet.

Yesterday, I got a call from Kyodo Tsuushin (Japan’s powerful wire service) who wanted some quotes from me for an article about this issue. They also wanted to know if I had heard from the Bureau of Human Rights on this. I hadn’t, so the reporter said he would start making a few inquiries.

Hours later, I received a call from E R English School’s Mr Iwashita, who asked who I was, what I was after, and if I now understood the company’s true intention behind their advertisement. He hoped there would be no further misunderstandings.

I replied that I felt it interesting that more than two months had gone by before he felt the need to explain his company policies further, and that it seems very conveniently timed with him getting a call from a Kyodo reporter. He agreed that it was indeed so.

But it wasn’t just Kyodo. It turned out (I saw a draft of the article last night, should have gone out today–anyone find it?) that E R English School had also been contacted by the Bureau of Human Rights that very day too, after the latter had been phoned for some quotes by Kyodo.

Nothing like a little press attention to finally set some wheels in motion….

Mr Iwashita said that he understood my feelings about this. I then mentioned that as educators we have a responsibility not to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices, particularly in this internationalizing society. He agreed and we left it at that.

This afternoon I got another call from E R’s Jocelyn this time, who left a message on my cellphone and didn’t call back… Wonder what’s cooking. Anyway, if anything more comes of this, I’ll let you know.




Good evening all. Recent articles on my blog have reached saturation point, so here’s a roundup:

This post is organized thusly:

and finally…

This and future material available in real time by subscription at


The Otaru Onsens Case ( refuses to fade into obscurity, thank goodness. Still, the facts of the case are being increasingly bleached out as time goes on. Witness how in this English teaching book discussing the case for educational purposes:

From “Shift the Focus”, Lesson 4: “Discrimination, or Being Japanese…?” pp 18-21, on the Otaru Onsens Case. Sanshusha Pubilshing Co., Ltd. February, 2006. Written by Colin Sloss.

After developing the case to make it appear as if I was doing this all on my own, the dialog continues:

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Some foreigners who had been living in Japan for a long time, lets [sic] call them “old Japan hands,” objected to the claim that this was discrimination and should be stopped. Their argument, as I understand it, was that trying to make Japan like other countries would, in fact, make Japan less distinct and more ordinary. Japan, as it is now (regardless of any problems it may possess, such as discrimination and racism), should be appreciated because of its uniqueness. Ultimately, this argument is romantic, condescending and resistant to the globalization of Japan. Lafcadio Hearn could be said to represent an extreme of this kind of thinking. During the late Meiji Period, Hearn was strongly against the Westernization of Japan, which he feared would destroy the charms of old Japan. Such hopes, though understandable, tend to be disappointed with the changing times.
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Entire dialog at

While I am happy that the issue has been condensed and replicated for future discussion in an educational setting, I wish the author could have gotten a little closer to the facts of the case. Perhaps included the fact that there was more than one Plaintiff in the case (Olaf and Ken), not just me alone.

I also think he should take less seriously the intellectual squirrelling afforded those postulating pundits he calls “old Japan hands”, found chattering away on places like NBR. They are hardly representative of the foreign resident community in Japan, the proprortionally-shrinking English-language community in Japan, or of anything at all, really. Except perhaps old grouches and bores.



Received a mail (I get a lot of these, especially on weekends) from people wanting some advice. This time, a person named Alisa told me about how cops keep hanging out outside the “gaijin guesthouses” of Sakura House ( essentially to snare foreigners (this is not the first time I’ve heard about this, by the way):

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Anyway this morning I was stopped by three men in black jackets (windbreakers) and one of them flashed me a badge. They asked me if I had my “card”. Even though I had read your article, I was running late for work and was extremely frazzled at being approached like that. I could feel my Japanese fumbling but did manage to ask “nan de desuka?”. They told me that they had heard that some sakura house people had overstayed their visa and were “just checking”. They went to far as to ask my room number and whether I lived alone. They made double sure to check the address on the back of my card and sent me on my way. I was very insulted and humiliated at being stopped like that…
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Entire email at

Alisa even took the trouble to print up copies of the law regarding these instant checkpoints for the benefit of fellow residents
and to contact Sakura House about the harassment.

Well, let the hand-washing preclude any hand-wringing. Response from Sakura House:

======== SAKURA HOUSE RESPONSE BEGINS ===============
Dear Ms. Alisa West
Thank you very much for your staying at Sakura House.

In fact, Japanese police officer or imigration [sic] officer has a right to check your passport, visa status and alien registration card. If they ask you to show your passport, you have to show it to them. This is a leagal [sic] action. They do that kind of inspection without informing.

With best regards,
Takuya Takahashi
======== SAKURA HOUSE RESPONSE ENDS ===============

Pity Mr Takahashi doesn’t know the law better. It’s not quite that simple. So much for helping out his renters.

As I’m sure I’ll get nitpickers with short memories or attention spans thinking this is much ado, a few reminders from the record accumulating on

Re the developing tendency towards racial profiling in Japan:
“Here comes the fear: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents”
Japan Times May 24, 2005

“Justice system flawed by presumed guilt
Rights advocates slam interrogation without counsel, long detentions”
The Japan Times: Oct. 13, 2005

An excellent summary from the Japan Times on what’s wrong with Japan’s criminal justice system: presumption of guilt, extreme police powers of detention, jurisprudential incentives for using them, lack of transparency, records or accountability during investigation, and a successful outcome of a case hinging on arrest and conviction, not necessarily on proving guilt or innocence. This has long since reached an extreme: almost anything that goes to trial in a Japanese criminal court results in a conviction.

Point: You do not want to get on the wrong side of the Japanese police, although riding a bicycle, walking outside, renting an apartment etc. while foreign seems more and more to incur police involvement.



At the beginning of this month, I told you about a restaurant in Kitakyushu which refuses service to foreigners. I was tipped off by a victim at a JALT national conference, and sure enough, I too was initially refused service as well. More details at

Well, after sending letters on November 9 to the Kitakyushu Mayor, the tourism board, the local Bureau of Human Rights, the local newspaper, and JALT Central, I am pleased to report that I have had official responses.

The City International Affairs Desk (kokusai kouryuu bu) called me on November 20 to tell me that they had called the restaurant in question and straightened things out. No longer, they were assured, would foreigners be refused there.

The Bureau of Human Rights also called me on November 19 to get some more facts of the case. They would also be looking into them. “Go give them some keihatsu,” I urged them. They said they would.

Now, all we need is a letter from the Mayor’s Office and/or from JALT Central and we have a hat trick. I appreciate the concern given this matter (I have known many Bureaus of Human Rights, such as Sapporo’s, which couldn’t give a damn–even if it’s something as clearly discriminatory as the Otaru Onsens Case). Probably should write this up as a website later on to give people templates on how to work through administrative channels to deal with discrimination. Sure would help if we had a law against this sort of thing, though…

On that note:



On November 10, Kyodo reported that Japan is going to add to Koizumi’s “Yokoso Japan” campaign to bring over more tourists from Europe:

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Staff at the Japan National Tourist Organization are also hoping to attract spa-lovers by promoting Japanユs many “onsen” (hot springs) and Buddhist retreats.

The campaign “Cool Japan–Fusion with Tradition” officially kicked off at this week’s World Travel Market in London, an annual trade fair that attracts more than 5,000 exhibitors. This year, 202 countries will be there.

The latest promotion follows the successful “Visit Japan Campaign” in Europe in 2003, which helped boost number of tourists traveling to Japan. Britain currently sends the most visitors to Japan from Europe, followed by Germany and France.

As part of the “Cool Japan” campaign, staff are sending out brochures on “manga” (comic books) and animation-related attractions, along with information on Japan’s cutting-edge architectural sights…

This year, representatives from a ryokan are on hand to advise travel agents and tour operators on how to promote traditional forms of leisure. Many Europeans do not think of Japan as place to relax and staff at JNTO are keen to change that.
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Rest of the article at

That’s fine. But as a friend of mine pointed out in a letter he got published in the Japan Times:

============== LETTER BEGINS ====================
Obstacle to increased tourism
The Japan Times, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006

Regarding the Nov 10 article “Japan works on a makeover to attract more Europeans”:

While it is admirable to see the the Japan National Tourist Organization making efforts to draw more foreign tourists, our government officials are omitting one important thing–the promulgation of a law making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race or nationality.

The article states that JNTO staff are “hoping to attract spa-lovers by promoting Japanユs many onsens (hot springs) and Buddhist retreats.” But what about the many onsen that refuse entry to those who don’t look Japanese (including Japanese citizens)? What impression will “young tourists” get when they seek to enter discriminatory bars, hotels, discos, pubs (izakaya) and other spots only to be greeted with the words “Japanese Only?”
============== LETTER ENDS =====================

Well done. We need more people pointing out this fact as often as possible. I keep on doing it, but I say it so often (and alone) that to some I probably sound like a health warning on a cigarette box. If others say it as well, it makes the message come from more quarters, and increases credibility (i.e. I’m not just a lonely voice in the wilderness).

I encourage everyone to keep pointing out the elephant in the room thusly. Thanks for doing so, Hidesato.



No, it’s not what you might think. I reported last newsletter that TBS noontime program “Pinpon” would be doing a segment on Nov 18, regarding Internet BBS and frequent host of libel “2-Channel” ( Thought the issue had reached a saturation point. Hell, they even flew up a producer and hired a camera crew on a moment’s notice all the way up to Sapporo just for an interview.

Well, guess what–the story got bumped for extended segments on Clint Eastwood’s new movie on Iwo Jima and supermodel Fujiwara Norika’s on-again/off-again engagement to some dork, er, nice guy.

Anyhoo, I called up the producer again ten days later. She says that the network wants a response from 2-Channel’s Administrator Defendant Nishimura Hiroyuki before airing. They’re still waiting for a response, unsurprisingly.

Ah well, that’s it then. Nishimura communicates with the press only by blog, as a recent story in AERA ( indicates. He’s not going to make a TV appearance on this.

Meanwhile, the story cools, by design. S o might as well assume the TV spot is cancelled. Sigh. Sorry to inflict lunchtime TV on you, everyone.



This was sent to me by a reporter friend which caused bewilderment in both him and me.

Japan will be reinstituting trial by jury (they had it before between 1928 and 1943, according to Wikipedia entry for 陪審制) in 2009. This will be for criminal cases, and there will be six laypeople and three judges on the jury (given the GOJ’s nannying instincts, you can’t trust the people with too much power, after all).

Kyodo reported extensively on Nov 23 about a mock trial to test the system. But what an intriguing test case to use:

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Citizen judges on Thursday came out with a mixed verdict on a Briton, who was indicted for bodily injury resulting in death, at a mock trial in Osaka.

Paul Lennon, 36-year-old English teacher, stood trial at the mimic court, sponsored by the Osaka Bar Association, on the assumption that he kicked a Japanese man because he thought the man had assaulted a woman, although the man was just caring for his drunken girlfriend. The man died after falling down on a street and hitting his head…

Some citizen judges argued the defendant’s act was excessive as he should have realized its danger as a karate master, while others said it was not excessive, based on testimony of the witness that the victim collapsed dizzily, arguing that he would have fallen fast if the karate grade-holder had kicked him hard.

While the citizen judges did not reach a consensus, Takashi Maruta, a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University law school, said after observing the conference, “The mock trial showed ordinary citizens can develop reasonable and persuasive debates.”
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Rest of the article at

I don’t know what the Osaka Bar Association is anticipating by putting a foreigner on mock trial like this, but there you have it. My reporter friend writes:

“Not sure what to make of this. Should I be disappointed that they chose a foreigner as the defendant in their mock trial or pleased that the jury didn’t necessarily lock him up and throw away the key just because he wasn’t Japanese?”

Quite. A real head scratcher. Anyway, what odd things make the news. With all the events jockeying for your attention, why so much space devoted to this highly-contrived fake court case? And I fail to see how this is any harbinger of the future of Japanユs upcoming jury system. Surely they could have come up with a more average case to test a jury with?



I mentioned the JALT meeting above. Our interest group PALE ( held a roundtable on Nov 3 to discuss future employment issues in Japan’s academia. Panelists were Jonathan Britten, Michael “Rube” Redfield, Pat O’Brien, Evan Heimlich, and Ivan Hall. Introduction to a collation I made of the event:

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Continuing the Roundtable forum that packed the hall at JALT 2005, five PALE members paneled a meeting to discuss a variety of issues relevant to the conference’s theme of “Community, Identity, and Motivation”. All presentations touched in some way upon employment issues, including issues of job security, union representation, the relationship of nationality to job description and employment terms, and the growing role of dispatch teaching arrangements in Japanese universities. They dealt explicitly or implicitly with the proper roles and responsibilities of PALE and JALT in managing these issues.
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Full writeup at

and finally…



This article is making the rounds of the communities out there (at least three people have sent me the link), so I’ll forward this on to fill the gaps.

Yes, the Japanese Government will be establishing a bonafide committee to police the quality and authenticity of Japanese food restaurants overseas.

======== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
TOKYO – On a recent business trip to Colorado, Japan’s agriculture minister popped into an inviting Japanese restaurant with a hankering for a taste of back home. What Toshikatsu Matsuoka found instead was something he considered a high culinary crime–sushi served on the same menu as Korean-style barbecued beef.

“Such a thing is unthinkable,” he said. “Call it what you will, but it is not a Japanese restaurant.”

A fast-growing list of gastronomic indignities–from sham sake in Paris to shoddy sashimi in Bangkok–has prompted Japanese authorities to launch a counterattack in defense of this nation’s celebrated food culture. With restaurants around the globe describing themselves as Japanese while actually serving food that is Asian fusion, or just plain bad, the government here announced a plan this month to offer official seals of approval to overseas eateries deemed to be “pure Japanese.”…

A trial run of sorts was launched this summer in France, where secret inspectors selected by a panel of food specialists were dispatched to 80 restaurants in Paris that claimed to serve Japanese cuisine. Some establishments invited the scrutiny, while others were targeted with surprise checks. About one-third fell short of standards–making them ineligible to display an official seal emblazoned with cherry blossoms in their windows or to be listed on a government-sponsored Web site of Japanese restaurants in Paris.
======== EXCERPT ENDS ===================
Rest of the article at

I think you can imagine where I’ll be going with my comment on this, but anyway:

Certification as “real” and “pure Japanese”, hmmm? Sort of like the beauty contests in the Japanese community in Hawaii I read about a decade ago open only to people with “pure Japanese blood”?

Anyway, I know Japan is a nation of foodies, but fighting against overseas restaurants tendency towards “fusion food”? Especially since, as the article notes, so much of Japanese food is from overseas, anyway? Tenpura, castella, fried chicken (“zangi” where I come from), even ramen!

And what if J restaurants innovate, and want to offer something from another country on the menu (such a Chinese or a Vietnamese dish)? Will it have to be offered in J restaurants first in Japan before it can be offered in J restaurants overseas as “authentic Japanese cuisine”? Silly, silly, silly.

This culinary Balkanization seems to be yet another way to give some retired OBs some work after retirement. What better way than for them to take money from either the restaurants or the J taxpayer than by offering the good ol’ “certifications”?

Anyway, food for thought. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)


That’ll do it for this newsletter. Thanks for reading.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan

Otaru Onsens Case published as English teaching material


Hello Blog. The Otaru Onsens Case ( refuses to fade into obscurity, thank goodness. Still, the facts of the case are being increasingly bleached out as time goes on. Witness how in this English teaching book discussing the case for educational purposes. Thanks to Bert for sending me this. Comment at the bottom.

From: Sloss, Colin; Kawahara Toshiaki; Grassi, Richard: “Shift the Focus”, Lesson 4: “Discrimination, or Being Japanese…?” pp 18-21, on the Otaru Onsens Case. Sanshusha Pubilshing Co., Ltd. February, 2006. ISBN 4-384-33363-3.


Lesson 4
Discrimination, or Being Japanese…?

Having lived some twenty years in Japan, I have not often felt I was facing negative discrimination for being a foreigner. On the other hand, I have often felt conscious of positive discrimination and of being given special treatment because I am a foreigner. However, like everything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to being a foreigner in Japan.

This is why there are varying opinions regarding the Otaru Onsen Case amongst foreigners living in Japan. To explain the case, a few years ago a foreign university professor who had lived a long time in Japan and who spoke Japanese fluently was denied entry to a hot spring, because the hot spring had a “no foreigners” policy. The foreign professor then received Japanese citizenship and went back to the hot spring. Once again he was stopped for being a foreigner, but he showed the people at the hot spring proof that he was now a Japanese. However, he was still refused entry because the owner said that Japanese people at the hot spring would still think he was a foreigner because of his appearance. So, the professor filed a court suit against the owner of the hot spring for discrimination and he won the case. There is more to this story than this brief summary, but I was interested in the reaction of the English-language-speaking foreigners to this incident.

Some foreigners who had been living in Japan for a long time, lets [sic] call them “old Japan hands,” objected to the claim that this was discrimination and should be stopped. Their argument, as I understand it, was that trying to make Japan like other countries would, in fact, make Japan less distinct and more ordinary. Japan, as it is now (regardless of any problems it may possess, such as discrimination and racism), should be appreciated because of its uniqueness. Ultimately, this argument is romantic, condescending and resistant to the globalization of Japan. Lafcadio Hearn could be said to represent an extreme of this kind of thinking. During the late Meiji Period, Hearn was strongly against the Westernization of Japan, which he feared would destroy the charms of old Japan. Such hopes, though understandable, tend to be disappointed with the changing times.

Many foreigners, particularly those who have been hurt by real or perceived discrimination in Japan, supported the man’s case against the hot spring. They were interested in the legal implications of the incident and the need to establish that open discrimination should be illegal in Japan. To some extent, I agree with them.

Nevertheless, if you look hard enough it is possible to find, or to imagine, discrimination everywhere. Once, I was at my local station and some women were handing out leaflets to people. However, they did not give anything to me. Inside my head a voice shouted “discrimination against foreigners.” So I walked back to the people who were handing out the leaflets and demanded one for myself. Then I read the leaflet and I felt embarrassed. The leaflet was asking young women to step forward to enter a “Miss Hyakumangoku” competition. What I had assumed had been racial discrimination was, in fact, sexual discrimination!

C.S. (Colin Sloss, author).

While I am happy that the issue has been condensed and replicated for future discussion in an educational setting, I wish the author could have gotten a little closer to the facts of the case. Perhaps included the fact that there was more than one Plaintiff in the case (Olaf and Ken), not just me alone.

I also think he should take less seriously the intellectual squirrelling afforded those postulating pundits he calls “old Japan hands”, found chattering away on places like NBR. They are hardly representative of the foreign resident community in Japan, the proprortionally-shrinking English-language community in Japan, or of anything at all, really. Except perhaps old grouches and bores.

JALT PALE Roundtable of Nov 3 06 Report re Japan’s future academic work


Friday, November 3, 2006, 1:15-2:50 PM, Room 21A, Kitakyushu International Hall
Full details on both organizations respectively at and
By PALE Members, collated by Arudou Debito

Continuing the Roundtable forum that packed the hall at JALT 2005, five PALE members paneled a meeting to discuss a variety of issues relevant to the conference’s theme of “Community, Identity, and Motivation”. All presentations touched in some way upon employment issues, including issues of job security, union representation, the relationship of nationality to job description and employment terms, and the growing role of dispatch teaching arrangements in Japanese universities. They dealt explicitly or implicitly with the proper roles and responsibilities of PALE and JALT in managing these issues.

PALE Program Chair JONATHAN B. BRITTEN ( moderated. He introduced the goals and current projects of PALE, and spoke briefly on the growing role of PALE as the primary means for JALT members to obtain advice and assistance with employment problems and other labor-related issues.


MICHAEL “RUBE” REDFIELD ( developed a history of the “academic ideas” behind the use of dispatch teachers, i.e., the idea that Japanese linguists teach the language, and non Japanese basically function as native-speaking “informants”. This shift away from content-based teaching for “native speakers” is an unwelcome trend. He surveyed the ‘foreign experts’ use in Meiji, went thru Harold Palmer and the Coleman Report (20’s), AS Hornsby and Structural Linguistics (30’s), Fries, Lado and the Ford Foundation (50’s) in bringing us up to the present. He showed how historically Japan has welcomed foreign ideas (when deemed relevant) but not foreign people. He finished up with a discussion on how the past has influenced the present, and then compared foreign academics to lab animals; when they have been sufficiently abused or have mastered the maze, it is time to bring in a “fresh specimen”.


PATRICK O’BRIEN ( echoed this with his case of academic substitution, where non-Japanese are being taken out of content courses. Despite having a PhD in American Studies, he has been deprived of any classes in his workplace (Hokkai Gakuen University) dealing with his field, and confined to teaching ESL only thanks to his “native speaker” status. His classes have instead been to Japanese instructors. The statistics bear this out: According to the Japan Association for American Studies, 98.5% of positions devoted to teaching US culture are taught by Japanese. When Pat brought this situation up with the American Studies Association, they showed a remarkable incuriousness.

Pat also had a situation where elements within his school launched a campaign to get him fired. Trumped-up sexual harassment charges against him, which even made the local newspapers, fortunately came to naught, but the question lingers: When communication breaks down within the department or university, to whom might the individual educator turn? Is a Japanese union the best choice? Is a professional association such as JALT tasked to represent members in such disputes? To what extent is pressure from outside Japan (gaiatsu) a realistic option? (The American Studies Association, for example refused to help.) What worked for Pat was standing his ground, getting a lawyer involved to negotiate on his behalf, and ultimately, joining a Japanese labor union.

Pat further summarized his speech as follows:
As a foreign instructor in Japan, I’ve lately felt part of the PALE community, which now, I feel, includes Dr. Ivan Hall. Hall’s “Cartels” and “Bamboozled” provide the intellectual framework for our efforts on employment in higher education here. Due to the lack of interest in the academic credentials of Westerners, Japan ends up employing only a low number of content instructors, giving such classes to Japanese professors. Unfortunately, the identity politics so prevalent in today’s academic circles in America makes it difficult for me to appeal to them for support (the white male still being seen as a colonizer and hegemonist). Two additional challenges facing us here in Japan are 1) Brian McVeigh may be right that “daigaku” is not the equivalent of “university” and 2) thus far the Ministry of Education (Monkashou) has been absent from any discussions on foreign content instructors. Though PALE is part of JALT, foreign content teachers can turn to PALE for support.

EVAN HEIMLICH, a Specially Appointed Foreign Associate Professor of Cross-Cultural Studies, was brought to Japan from the US by Kobe University in 1997, but whom–with its entire contingent of five foreign professors–the Faculty of Cross-Cultural Studies is now purging. He requested JALT support teachers, especially foreign language teachers, by defending their professional interests against such systemic abuses, which are becoming much too common.

Japan’s cultural nationalism, Heimlich argued, is unacceptedly disciplining Japan’s language teachers, whose professional interests have almost no collective defense politically, legally, diplomatically, nor even from the labor movement. While politically teachers in Japan no longer have a very powerful voice, foreign teachers, if noncitizens, do not have any political representation at all; and most faculty councils ban them. The embassies, Heimlich added, hardly regard teachers as a significant constituency. Legally, Heimlich claimed, many foreign teachers cannot retain legal representation either–partly because employers label about ninety percent of them as “temporary workers,” exploiting manifold loopholes to evade legal protections on language teachers’ employment.

Trade unions–the main shield of employment–Heimlich said must be joined and strengthened. Yet he argued that teachers’ professional interest as ‘intellectual workers’ tends to make a poor fit with the goals of the labor unions. Labor unions focus on retaining employment for all members, rather than on the tourniquets banning the promotion of foreigners from “special” or “ALT” status to the same status as their Japanese colleagues.

Meanwhile professional associations command some respect in Japan–and some, notably the dentists’ association, have dramatically advanced members’ professional interests—so Heimlich concluded that JALT can help protect its members against the worst, systemic abuses against language teachers. He identified these as follows: the revolving-door policies of employment; the tourniquet-policies blocking foreign language teachers from joining the main body of the teaching profession; and the periodic, categorical purges safeguarding professional segregation.

In answers to questions from the floor, Heimlich mentioned legal action against the national government, such as a civil lawsuit which Arudou Debito is organizing ( to raise awareness; and international lobbying both through other professional associations, as well as through the ILO and the United Nations, which Stephanie Houghton and others have been researching. Finally, Heimlich pointed to a website,, an FAQ on criticism of Japan’s institutional racism.


Finally, IVAN P. HALL, invited guest speaker for PALE this year, and author of the influential book CARTELS OF THE MIND, rounded out the roundtable with concluding comments. He mentioned “the sixth cartel”, referring to the five “intellectual cartels” shutting out foreign ideas from the Japanese polity, particularly in the fields of journalism, academia, and law. The sixth cartel he called the “enfranchisement of the overseas cocktail circuit”, where embedded academics and policymakers overseas, often chairing institutions with Japan-sourced grants, themselves turn a blind eye to the problems on the ground over here, and with the help of US-Japan cultural-bridge associations (which Dr. Hall is a veteran of), do a very good job at keeping the US out of understanding Japan.

Dr Hall also gave a two-hour speech later on in the day on the issues he calls “Academic Apartheid” in Japan’s academia. We hope to make a transcript of that speech public in the near future.




Hello All. Time for another

and finally

freely forwardable
blogged in real time at


I had an interview yesterday morning with one of Japan’s major networks, TBS (the network which brought you “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin”, and still brings sunlight and subliminal musical jokes to Sunday mornings with “Sunday Japon”).

It’ll be a brief segment on the 2-Channel libel lawsuit, with me speaking as one of the many victorious plaintiffs which BBS administrator Nishimura Hiroyuki refuses to pay, despite court rulings.

The attention this issue is getting in recent weeks is very welcome. The more the better, as it may prod the creation of some legislation. Japan should at least strengthen “contempt of court” punishments for court delinquents, making evasions of this type a criminal offense prosecutable by police.

As it stands right now, a thwarted Plaintiff in Japan has to chase down the Defendant for payment, at his or her own time and expense.

As I found out two weekends ago, you can’t even “serve papers” to a Defendant (notifying him of his legal obligations and eliminating plausible deniability) yourself, say, in a pizza box or at a public event. I refer to Nishimura’s blythe speech at Waseda (more on that in the next section), where my lawyer said I could approach the podium with papers, but it would be a publicity stunt, not a legally-binding action. “Serving” must go via the court through registered post; and all the deadbeat has to do is not retreive his mail!

But I digress. The show will be broadcast as follows:
Thursday, November 16, 2006 (as in tomorrow)
I’m told sometime between 12 noon and 1PM.
However, the show starts at 11AM, so set your VCRS.
TV network: TBS (HBC in Hokkaido)

Final thought: Quite honestly, I find appearing on TV terrifying. It’s like dancing (which I can’t do either–I think too much to have any rhythm). It takes all my brainpower just to manage my thoughts digestably, and then worrying about how to manage my face and eyes and all overloads the system… Anyway, tune in and see how I did.



Scandal paper Yuukan Fuji (and its online feed ZAKZAK) has been doing a series on Nishimura and 2-Channel, mentioning my case by name as well (which is what occasioned TBS coming up north to talk to me yesterday).

You can see two of the articles from last week translated into English by Adamu at Mutant Frog (thanks!) at

Don’t mess with 2ch: ZAKZAK, Sankei Sports report

The rupo on the Waseda speech deserves excerpting:

———————- EXCERPT BEGINS ——————————–
The focus was, as could be expected, the issue of Nishimura’s litigation-related disappearance. Last month, in a suit brought by a female professional golfer (age 24) alleging she was slandered and harmed by the bulletin board seeking deletion of the posts and damages etc, Nishimura was ordered to delete the posts and pay 1 million yen in compensation. However, he ignored the call from the court to appear in this case, and never showed up in court even once.

As to the reasons for that, Nishimura admitted, “Actually, there are similar cases going on from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south.” He bluntly explained, “Well, lawyer fees would cost more than 1 million yen. Hey, I’ll go if I get bored.”

He explained that “I deleted the problem section (from the site),” but added his horrifying assertion that “there is no law to make me pay compensation by force, so it doesn’t matter if I win or lose in court. It’s the same thing if I don’t pay (the compensation).” When asked about his annual income, he boasted “a little more than Japan’s population (127 million).” So he’s not having money issues.

In response to Nishimura’s assertion that “there is no law forcing me to pay compensation,” Nippon University professor of criminal law Hiroshi Itakura points out, “a court’s compulsory enforcement (kyousei shikkou) can be used to ‘collect’ compensation.” He says that running from compensation is impossible. Also, if someone hides assets etc. for the purposes of avoiding compulsory execution, then “that would constitute the crime of obstructing compulsory execution,” (kyousei shikkou bougai zai). Itabashi wonders, “It is strange that the courts that ordered the compensation have not implemented compulsory enforcement. It’s not like Nishimura doesn’t have any assets.”
———————- EXCERPT ENDS ———————————–

Originals in Japanese at

2ちゃんねるの西村ひろゆき:早稲田にて「強制的に(賠償金を)払わせる法律がない」(追加:ZAKZAK 記事)

Two more ZAKZAK articles in Japanese which came out this week at


(Adamu, feel free to translate again, thanks!)

And an article photocopied (literally) and sent from Dave Spector while shinkansenning (thanks!), from Tokyo Sports, Nov 9, 2006. Headline notes how the police are starting to get involved:

I wonder how long Nishimura thinks he’s going to be able to get away with this…



Professor Noriguchi at Kitakyushu University is becoming a regular pundit on English language education in Japan.

After saying not two months ago in the Asahi Shinbun’s prestigious “Watashi No Shiten” column, that one problem with non-Japanese teachers is that they stay in Japan too long (, he’s back again with a response to his critics (or, as he puts it, his supporters).

Article is archived at

Kitakyudai’s Noriguchi again in Asahi on English teaching (Nov 4, 2006, with updates)

Let me rewrite a few of Noriguchi’s points and weave in comment and interpretation. He essentially asserts this time that:

So much energy devoted to the study of English (as opposed to other languages) is not only unneighborly, it is a reflection of a Japanese inferiority complex towards the West.

One consequence of this much focus on English is a lot of swindling and deception of the Japanese consumer, with bogus advertising about the merits and the effects of English language education.

In any case, English is hardly necessary for life in Japan, so why require it on entrance exams? Especially after all the trauma that Japanese go through learning it.

This is no mystery. Japanese have a natural barrier to learning English, given the “Japanese mentality”, the characteristics of the language, and the homogeneity of the country.

More so than other Asian countries, he mysteriously asserts. (Koreans, for example? And won’t the same barriers apply to other Asian languages if the Japanese are indeed so unique?)

Meanwhile, let’s keep the door revolving on foreign English-language educators by hiring retired teachers from overseas, who not only will bring in more expertise and maturity, but also by design (and by natural longevity) will not stay as long in Japan and have as much of an effect.

(NB: The last point is not his, but it’s symptomatic of Noriguchi’s throwing out of ideas which are not all that well thought through in practice. After all, nowhere in his essay does he retract his previous assertion that part of the problem is foreign teachers staying here too long.)

As before, Professor Noriguchi is reachable at
He says that far more people support his views than not, so if you want to show him differently, write him.

Meanwhile, those two Watashi No Shiten articles seem to be having an effect on domestic debate. As a friend of mine (who is in academic admin) said earlier today on a different mailing list:

============== BEGINS ====================
[Noriguchi’s] articles are not merely “problematic”–they are DEVASTATING to the cause of foreigners here. I’ve had to discuss his crackpot ideas (given a kind of pseudo authority because they appeared in the Asahi and because the author is Japanese) on two occasions over just the LAST WEEK–once with a university president, and once with the head of this city’s board of education. Both see in these articles justifications for firing experienced foreign faculty and bringing in cheaper newbies. After all, as Noriguchi … [has] made clear, we are only language “polishers” and “cultural ambassadors,” not teachers.

Some unintentional humor from [The Ministry of Education]. On my desk right now is a document [entitled Gaikokujin Chomei Kenkyuusha Shouhei Jigyou].

The plan as described: Bring in NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS to accelerate (and elevate) the pacing and quality of academic research here. The catch? These stars will be on contracts capped on principle at 1-3 years!

Wouldn’t want these “cultural ambassadors” to become stale….
============== ENDS =====================

Concluding thoughts: There is a large confluence of events in recent weeks which makes me wonder whether the Ministry of Education is gearing up for another cleanout of foreign faculty in Japanese universities (as happened between 1992 and 1994, see Hall, CARTELS OF THE MIND). I’ll develop that theory a bit more if you want in my next newsletter.



I mentioned last newsletter about an addition to the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Enterprises: An exclusionary restaurant, discovered in Kitakyushu on November 3, had an owner so fearful of foreign languages that he turned people away that maychance speak them.
If he can’t greet customers because of his own complexes, perhaps he’s in the wrong line of work?

Well, I sent a letter on this dated November 9, in English and Japanese, to the Kitakyushu Mayor’s Office, the City Bureau of Tourism, the local Bureau of Human Rights, the local Nishi Nihon Shinbun newspaper, all my Japanese mailing lists, and JALT Central. Text available at

Letter to Kitakyushu authorities re exclusionary restaurant, Nov 9 06

No responses as of yet. Few things like these are taken care of overnight. Wait and see.



One of the advantages of doing what I do is that I get very interesting emails from friends. The other day, I got a report from a friend who paid a visit to a Japanese prison, to offer moral support to someone incarcerated. I don’t really know much about what the incarcerated has done to justify his imprisonment, but that’s not the point of the story. Interesting are the bureaucratic tribulations he (the author, not the prisoner) had to go through just to get a short audience (limited to 15 minutes), worth recording somewhere for the record. In the end, I couldn’t help thinking: Is all this rigmarole necessary? What purpose could it possibly serve?

Read the report at

Eyewitness account of a visit to a Japanese prison (with comment)



A friend notified me of a blog entry (not exactly the most trustworthy source, I know) about German woman who wants to marry a Japanese man. The problem is, he’s a policeman, and apparently he was told by his bosses that Japanese police who want a future in the NPA cannot marry foreigners. There’s a security issue involved, it would seem.

Hm. Might be a hoax, but had the feeling it warranted further investigation. After I reported this to The Community mailing list (, I got a couple of responses, one saying that international marriage is in fact not forbidden by the NPA (and this supervisor bullying should be reported to internal affairs).

But the other response said that somebody married to a former member of the Japanese Self Defense Forces also had to quit his job because of it. He was involved in a “sensitive” area, apparently.

Hm again. I know that certain jobs (such as Shinto Priests) are not open to foreigners, due to one of those “Yamato Race” thingies. (Buddhism, however, seems to be open, as I know of one German gentleman on my lists who has an administrative post within a major Japanese sect.)

But imagine the number of people in, for example, “sensitive” jobs in the US State Department who would have to make a choice between their job and a foreign spouse?

I’m blogging this issue for the time being at

Blog entry: J police cannot marry non-Japanese? (with update)

with comments and pings open for a change.

Any information? Let us know. Thanks.

and finally:



For those of you under still under rocks: Our home team is unstoppable!

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, after reaching the top in Japan last month, on Sunday won the Asian Series, 1-0, vs Taiwan.

This makes them the best team in Asia this year. Our first baseman Ogawawara was just made MVP for the Pacific League, too! (Pity it looks as though we’re going to lose him to the rich but insufferably arrogant Tokyo Giants…)

Now if only we’d create a REAL world series, so the North Americans can’t lay claim to the title of “World Champion” every year!

Some articles of interest:
On Hillman and Fighers’ team spirit
On Ogasawara
Wrapping up the season

As always, thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
November 15, 2006

Kitakyudai’s Noriguchi again in Asahi on English teaching (Nov 4, 2006, with updates)


Professor Noriguchi at Kitakyushu University is becoming a regular
pundit on English language education in Japan. After saying not two
months ago that one problem with non-Japanese teachers is that they
stay in Japan too long (,
he’s back again with a response to his critics (or, as he puts it,
his supporters).

Let me rewrite a few of Noriguchi’s points and weave in comment and
interpretation. He essentially asserts this time:

So much energy devoted to the study of English (as opposed to other
languages) is not only unneighborly, it is a reflection of a Japanese
inferiority complex towards the West.

One consequence of this much focus on English is a lot of swindling
and deception of the Japanese consumer, with bogus advertising about
the merits and the effects.

In any case, English is hardly necessary for life in Japan, so why
require it on entrance exams? Especially after all the trauma that
Japanese go through learning it.

No wonder–Japanese have a natural barrier to learning it, given the
“Japanese mentality”, the characteristics of the language, and the
homogeneity of the country.

More so than other Asian countries, he mysteriously asserts (Koreans,
for example?–and won’t the same barriers apply to other Asian
languages if the Japanese are indeed so unique?).

Meanwhile, let’s keep the door revolving on foreign English-language
educators by hiring retired teachers from overseas, who not only will
bring in more expertise and maturity, but also by design (and by
natural longevity) will not stay as long in Japan and have as much of
an effect.

(NB: The last point is not his, but it’s symptomatic of Noriguchi’s
essays which throw out ideas not all that well thought through in
practice. After all, nowhere in his essay does he retract his
previous assertion that part of the problem is foreign teachers
staying here too long…)

Professor Noriguchi is reachable at
He says that most people support his views than not, so if you want
to show him differently, write him.

Now for the article:


POINT OF VIEW/ Shinichiro Noriguchi: Why the focus on English as a language skill?

I unexpectedly received a number of responses to my Sept. 15 article in this column on English education in Japan. About seventy percent of the comments were favorable, 20 percent critical and 10 percent neutral. Thus emboldened, I wish to expand and clarify my views, focusing on three points: foreign language education in Japan, the English language and its relation to the Japanese people, and how I personally went about learning English.

As regards foreign language education in Japan, I wish to make two points. First, in addition to English, Japanese students should be learning Asian languages such as Chinese, Korean, Hindi, and Russian. It is imprudent as well as simply unneighborly for the Japanese government to neglect the teaching of these languages. Japan is a part of Asia, but it has devoted its teaching resources almost exclusively to English.

English is originally the language of a country that is geographically distant from Japan. The fact that we have made English the central focus of foreign language education is, I would suggest, a reflection of a Japanese inferiority complex toward Western cultures and, in particular, English-speaking cultures.

In this vein, I think the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology should offer Chinese, Korean and Russian as well as English as compulsory subject in the seventh grade. From the eighth grade onward, these classes would be electives depending on students’ talents and personal preferences. It is neither fair nor reasonable, given the political and economic changes which have occurred over the past decade, to expect students to learn only English as a foreign language for six years until they enter universities.

Second, I believe that English should be eliminated as a subject from entrance examinations for public high schools and national universities. According to scientific tests on human memory, people generally recall only 12 percent of what they were forced to painfully memorize. However, people remember 55 percent of what they did for the fun of it and 33 percent for curiosity. Very few students are really happy about taking examinations of any kind. For this reason, English education geared to preparing students for entrance examinations can never be effective and, indeed, it represents an enormous loss of time, money and energy for students and teachers alike.

In reality, most Japanese can live comfortably in this country without any knowledge of English. It is simply unreasonable to continue making English a central subject in entrance examinations, which remain key determinants of a student’s choice of university and ultimate career.

Because English has become not only a de facto official language for international transactions but also a global language, we should, of course, not ignore English, and Japan should continue to give thought to the most effective strategies to achieve the best possible results in English education. It is not necessarily bad for Japanese elementary school pupils to be exposed to English, but they should not be compelled to learn it.

Having said that, I would argue that perhaps about 15 percent of Japanese should be trained to become highly competent users of English, with skills approaching those of native speakers.

Fluency difficult to acquire

Without question, Japan must remain in a position where it interacts economically and politically with other nations. The need for communication in English will increase as economies and societies continue to internationalize, and indeed it will probably become more important as a world ruled by trade and finance replaces an order based on military force and weaponry.

I am frequently asked whether Japanese are by nature adept at becoming proficient speakers of English. My answer is no. It is very difficult for us to become fluent speakers of English. There are three reasons for this; the Japanese mentality, the characteristics of the Japanese language and the homogeneous nature of this nation.

In Japan, a man of few words is still considered to be the model gentleman. When I was in elementary school, my father once told me to look at myself in the mirror. He explained that heaven created me with two ears and two eyes, but only with one mouth, merely because heaven intends that I should listen to and observe others twice as much as I speak.

This sort of mentality has kept Japanese from believing that active participation in communication is a necessary social skill. Can we break through this barrier? It would seem easy, given the long process of modernization, but it is not because the Japanese mentality has changed little in spite of this country’s Westernization.

Another difficulty is the huge difference between the Japanese and English languages. The structure of the Japanese language, spelling, pronunciation and intonation are completely different from those of English. In this respect, compared with other Asians, we are handicapped. And yet, it is not impossible for any highly motivated Japanese to master English. It requires constant effort. There is no easy way to learn English in spite of what some advertisers of language learning methods, texts and devices suggest.

It is, in fact, simply a swindle for newspapers or magazines to insert such deceptive advertisements. In the case of canned foods, buyers can sue a company when the picture on a can and its content are different.

Why can such exaggerated advertisements be freely issued? We often fool ourselves that we are learning English. For eight years, I listened to the NHK radio English conversation program each morning without recording it. Why? Once we record the programs we tend to think that we can listen to it at any time. That is a common mistake, which simply leads to piles of recorded tapes which we never listen to. Once we make up our mind to listen to this program, we should do so when it is really broadcast. After the program we should read the textbook aloud, often and repeatedly, until we have completely memorized it. Finally, we should be able to write the texts and dialogues without errors. This, I believe, is an effective teaching aid.

But probably the most effective way of learning English is to practice the language with native speakers. The government should accept many more ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers), but it should change its policy and not employ so many young people fresh from universities and colleges in English speaking countries as it does today.

Let’s use retired teachers, too

Instead, retired teachers would be more beneficial for Japan due to their teaching experience and maturity. I have the impression that some young ALTs have actually made a mistake in deciding to come to Japan. They are reasonably well paid and treated with much respect, but in fact they are simply having fun and postponing important decisions regarding their lives and careers.

Let me summarize my suggestions as follows:

・Basic Asian language classes should be provided for all seventh graders, and after that these courses should be taught as electives.

・English should be eliminated as a required subject on entrance examinations for public high schools and national universities.

・About 15 percent of Japan’s population should be well trained to be highly competent in English, which is to say, approach native-speaker fluency.

・Businesses with deceptive English education materials should be reprimanded.

・More retired teachers from English speaking countries should be employed as ALTs for the benefit of Japan.

* * *

The author is professor of English at the University of Kitakyushu.(IHT/Asahi: November 4, 2006). Email him at

Agree or disagree with his opinion? Send him your view at
He says that most people support his views than not, so if you want
to show him differently, write him.

Conclusion: I guess some people just don’t seem to get it, and think
that because people apparently agree with them they must be saying
the right thing. Alas, life is not quite so simple. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


(From a major professor in academia, anonymized upon request)
November 15, 2006

Hi Debito-san, How time flies! Got your latest just as I lamenting to friend with a degree in language teaching. He agreed with my “common-sense” view that if there were a vastly more effective method for teaching or learning languages, someone would have found it a long time ago. Then coming back from buying ink for my printer, I saw along the way back up to this office a poster advertising a foreign lady who claims that she can improve English-learning skills with jazz rhythms. A female colleague in another department happened by and saw me looking at it. I went into a bit of a tirade and told her what fraud that is. Our abysmally ignorant students need remedial liberal arts (history, philosophy, literature…); they *don’t* need another scam…She listened with an air of politeness mixed with fear at being in the company of a lunatic.

Anyway, let me comment on this Noriguchi idiot with a little devil’s advocate playing:

The trouble with these guys is that there is often at least a kernel of truth in what they say. Much of what goes on the classroom in which English is supposedly being taught *is* a waste of time. The vast majority of students *never* learn to speak English with the kind of fluency that would allow them to carry on a genuinely meaningful conversation. Those who can “manage” typically sound so stereotypically Japanese (in what the say more than in how they say it) that no one takes them seriously anyway.

It would obviously be a disaster if English teaching were drastically reduced. But for whom? For the eikaiwa industry and those who work in it. But I suspect that those with sufficient interest and talent could learn English pretty much on their own. I myself am anti-eigo-suuhai, but it’s, of course, the *Japanese* not the “foreigners” who are promoting that silly cult. The depressing thought I often have is that the reason the Japanese as a whole are very bad at English is not that they are bad linguists but rather that anything [+foreign] triggers verbal gibberish – even in Japanese.

I’m a great admirer of Ivan Hall and was myself involved in the movement to protest the way the fascist Monbu-kagakushou treated foreign language teachers, but I think the weakest part of Cartels of the Mind is about education. Ivan himself was treated shabbily, but he also knows perfectly well that there is an enormous difference between himself, a fluent Japanese speaker with impressive scholarly knowledge, and the eikaiwa teacher who happens to land a job in a university. Many of them are not themselves terribly “knowledgeable” (let alone “scholarly”), and I always found it embarrassing to discover how many of them could not speak Japanese even after five or ten years here. I see nothing immoral or cruel about limited contracts for such people. American universities have *always* distinguished between language teachers and academics. Those who want to be treated in the latter category have to jump through the right hoops. Its’s a simple as that. Japan has *no* obligation to provide a meal-ticket for a person who back in his or her own country would be lucky to be a high-school teacher.

The problem with the Japanese system is not that it’s harsh but rather that it’s vague, wishy-washy, inefficient, and hypocritical. Furthermore, what *I* worry about is not the elimination of eikaiwa but rather a more plausible move toward eliminating foreigners who do anything else, the argument being that such should be performed by Japanese. I teach linguistics in Japanese. My non-native Japanese ability aside, I think I am better able and qualified to teach linguistics than *any* of my colleagues, including the so-called linguists. But what the Noriguchi types really want is grinning foreign flunkies for the “real” professors. *That* is what has to be resisted.

Well, anyway, stay in touch. It was great seeing you for the symposium. Your presentation was excellent. Hey, you could have been on TV! COMMENT ENDS



Hi Blog. Just got finished translating the following for a friend. Debito in Sapporo


Writeup based on Japanese original dated July 20, 2006, available at
Translation by Arudou Debito (,

PLAINTIFF: U HODEN (Faculty, Japan Women’s University (Nihon Joshi Daigaku)

“The results of the Board of Education Survey are as follows: For approximately one year starting from April 2000, a third-grade female student, who has a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, was the victim of bullying of both a violent and insulting nature, grounded in ethnic discrimination (minzoku sabetsu). We recognize that this bullying, even taking into account all other cases in our district (zenshi teki ni mite mo), is rare and extremely malicious example. We are deeply aware of how great the responsibility of the school board has to show guidance both in the case of schools in their district in general, and the Kawasaki City Minamisuge Primary School in specific.”

The above is a paragraph from “RE Bullying Connected to Ethnic Discrimination: Statement of awareness and what schools should do from now on”, which was announced by Kouno Kazuko, Director of the Kawasaki City Board of Education, and directed at the principal of Kawasaki City Minamisuge Primary School.

One of the perpetrators was a male classmate of the Plaintiff’s daughter, who began taunting the victim in first and second grade with calls of “Chinky” (chuugokujin, or “Chinese”). In third grade, this boy was put in her class, and led a gang of three boy and three girl classmates to taunt her. They carried out this bullying in the open, in front of the teacher. From around May 2000, on a daily basis they began calling her “dimwit” (noroma) and “shithead” (unko), and held their noses whenever they came close to call her “stinky” (kusai). Moreover, the ringleader of this bullying gang (“A-kun”) began to inflict repeated violence, such as hitting her head, kicking her legs, and pulling on her hair. Even in class, when the victim stood up to answer a question, A-kun would heckle her, and terrorize her with public comments like “Everyone in this class hates an asshole like you!” (omae wa minna kara kirawarete iru).

Thus from the tender age of eight, Plaintiff’s daughter was plagued with thoughts such as, “Does the Chinese blood I have flowing inside of me make me such a bad person? Am I a sullied person (kitanai ningen) because of it?” During the first year of bullying, the victim’s body stopped growing and developing. Her health deteriorated from the fear she felt, and she regressed mentally back to an infantile state and became isolated and withdrawn (kankaku shougai). A doctor diagnosed her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and prescribed her with daily tranquilizers to help her sleep, which she still takes to this day.

The bullying and mental duress the victim received did not affect her alone–it affected her family as well profoundly. Her father, a university professor, felt from all the stress as if something was lodged in his throat, and became unable to speak properly. Her mother was unable to keep her mind on her cooking, and her siblings were unable to get a good meal for so long that they ended up receiving medical treatment. Eventually the father decided to move his family away. Afterwards, however, Defendants steadfastly refused to cooperate with Kawasaki City Board of Education investigations to confirm the facts of the case, even though the Defendants confirmed for the record (see Affidavit) that their son’s bullying drove the father to distraction.

The parents of the victim have since brought suit against the parents of A-kun and also against the parents of a female classmate, “A-chan”. However, they have never acknowledged the existence of bullying. Also, rumors have been flying around the school that the victim was a problem child and thus deserved the bullying, that the victim’s father is violent, that her siblings also got bullied [and thus she hasn’t been singled out], and that the victim’s family is doing this for money. Plaintiffs also suffered from phone call harassment at the workplace and the new Yokohama apartment. This kind of malicious and anonymous protest towards the victims has continued to this day without letup.


What makes this case particularly egregious is not only the malicious nature of the ostracization by A-chan, nor the behavior of the bullies, but rather the fact that this happened repeatedly in front of the teacher. When the bullying began in the spring of 2000, the teacher was aware that bullying was going on, but just passed it off as “playfulness” (fuzake ai) or “a snit” (kenka). Whenever the bullying happened, the teacher either just told them to knock it off, or worse yet, turned a blind eye. When the victim told the teacher that she was feeling unwell, the teacher halfheartedly said, “What, again?” “Okay, go to the nurse’s office,” and thus further encouraged the abuse.

The parents of the victims filed complaints about the teacher’s negligence, and in December the issue was talked about in a school meeting. However, the mother of A-chan said “Doesn’t the problem somehow lie with your daughter, not mine?” This statement had no basis in fact, and just confused things further. The school’s administrators used this argument as justification for avoiding further responsibility.

Even after the school administration said it was aware of the bullying, it did not officially inform their schoolteachers about what was going on, nor did they caution the parents of the bullies what they should do about it. Because of this delay in formally dealing with it, the abuse continued. The Board of Education’s notice to the principal of Minamisuge Primary School opened with the following:

“A school must be a place where all children can have a relaxing, healthy, fun, and secure lifestyle. However, this time, the school’s teachers and staff did not take appropriate measures, and did not take care of the mental state of the victim. Also, the fact that the school did not caution the children in question made the bullying lengthy and repeated. As a result, the victim’s mental state deteriorated to the point where she could not come to school, and the parents had to move out of the school district. There is no possible way to explain away these facts of the case.”


In May 2001, the principal of Minamisuge Primary School reported the bullying to the Board of Education, and the BOE launched an investigation into who was responsible.

The investigation centered on the victim’s classmates, questioning the faculty, and asking for the cooperation of other classmates to back up the victim’s testimony. However, the parents of the bullies vigorously objected, saying, “The victim may have suffered, but so have the children around her. This investigation will only reopen old wounds.” They tried to drive a wedge between the BOE and the children, with some teachers’ support. However, the BOE’s investigators faced up to the difficulties, continued their investigations tenaciously, and managed to get testimony from classmates who witnessed several cases of bullying. They also managed to get written diaries about the events from the bullies, which led to reinvestigation and the eventual outing of all of the facts of this cruel, unbelievable case.

The investigation was launched in 2001, but thanks to the obstruction of schoolteachers and parents to the bullies’ diaries, it was not until September 2002 before it was concluded.

On January 19, 2003, the Director of the Kawasaki City BOE sent the results of the investigation to the Minamisuge Primary School principal and the BOE. On January 28, the Director apologized in a press conference. On March 11, the BOE issued a punishment (shobun) to the teacher involved, but ironically he had by now already quit the school and moved on to a private-sector job.


Even though the bullies’ parents caused great harm to the victim, and even after the victim had changed schools, the vicious rumors and the obstruction to investigations continued. Although the school and the BOE apologized to the victim and her family, the bullies and their parents steadfastly refused to. This is why we took the step of launching a Civil Court lawsuit against two of the families.

At the press conference announcing the start of our lawsuit, the lawyers of the parents said, “Bullying is a problem lying with the bullies, and something they should not evade responsibility for. We will make it clear that there is no possible way to justify bullying.” The father of the victim added his opinion: “The head of the BOE and the school apologized, but not the bullies or their parents. This is unbelievable and not something I will just forgive and forget. I want a fast resolution to this situation for my daughter who suffered so much.” The mother: “The ethnic discrimination (which is the undercurrent of this bullying) is something I as a Japanese wish to appeal to society.”

What the Plaintiffs want out of this is: A society and a legal system which conscientiously tries to root out the causes of bullying. A society where parents who will not teach their children right from wrong are made to take responsibility and stop their children bullying. A society where bullying is justifiable under no circumstances.

Parents of the bullying children are still trying to twist and cover up the facts of this case, and claim that the BOE’s investigation represents only one side of the story–the Plaintiffs’. They also refuse to believe that the victim’s PTSD has anything to do with bullying, and have demanded the Plaintiffs make public her medical records. Defendants even deny the very existence of violence or verbal harassment. They claim in court that the problem lies with the bullied victim. But there is a contradiction between those classmates’ parents who claim that the teacher did enough to stop this bullying, and those who say the bullying did not exist at all. These divisions are causing the court case to be drawn out, and the victim and her family to face even more social opprobrium.

It is now 2006, and the phone calls still keep coming in. Plaintiff’s place of employment receives anonymous calls saying “Fire that guy.” “He has the evil character of an foreign country.” (hidoi kokuminsei da).

However, on the other hand, after we filed suit, we now have a support group with 120 names listed. Also, our standing up for ourselves has helped others do the same, and we meet with other bullied families to share our grief and solidarity. This case, which seeks to protect the dignity of the human spirit, is being widely watched.

yuxinghong AT

Ninkisei: Bern Mulvey on new ways to kill permanent tenure in J academia


Hi Blog. Reposting this with permission of the author. He says he will write something more thorough in future, but for now, in time for our upcoming PALE Conference at JALT Kitakyushu this weekend (,, here is a new development in Japan’s academia worth considering:

QUICK BACKGROUND: Japan’s teritary education has always been unfriendly to foreign academics. From Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo’s firing at Tokyo Imperial University in favor of a “real Japanese English teacher” Natsume Souseki a century ago, foreign academics have always been on precarious terms vis-a-vis job security. Until 1997 (when laws changed), full-time foreign faculty almost always received contract employment (“ninkisei”, of several years in duration, but dismissable as soon as the contract came up for review) in Japanese universities, while Japanese would from day one have lifetime employment (“permanent tenure”) until retirement if hired full time. This was dubbed in the 1990’s “academic apartheid”, and full background can be found at , with the Blacklist of Japanese Universities (places which contract full-time foreign faculty) at

After 1997, however, with the falling birthrate and shrinking student numbers, the government (particularly the Ministry of Education) sought to find ways to make Japanese as easily fireable as foreigners, so they slowly encouraged the institution of term-limited contract employment (ninkisei) for full-time Japanese academics as well. This hasn’t caught on as quickly as many university bean counters would like, so the MoE (Monkasho) is at it again with a new schtick, as Bern writes below. END QUICK BACKGROUND

By the way, the granddaddy of this issue, Dr. Ivan Hall, author of the classic book CARTELS OF THE MIND, will be speaking at JALT Kitakyushu next weekend. Details are:

Presentation #662: Ivan Hall: Communities, or Cartels of the Mind?
Presenter(s): Ivan Hall, Jonathan Britten
Content & Format: Universal; Administration, Management and Employment Areas (PALE); Forum
Scheduled: Friday, November 3rd, 16:45 – 18:20 (4:45 PM – 6:20 PM); Room: MAIN HALL

Now for Bern’s essay. Bern can be reached at


As some of you know, I’m currently Dean of Faculty at Miyazaki
Kokusai Daigaku–hence, all correspondence from Monkasho relating to
this issue has gone to me, and all relevant responses by this
university has been/will be directly from me.

As others have mentioned, the change in names is coming from
Monkasho. It’s actually been discussed in chamber for at least one
year, with the official mandate announced July 18 in (among other
places) a document titled “Kyouin Soshiki no Kaizen to Koutou
Kyouiku Seisaku no Doukou.” Another 40-page document,
titled “Daigakutou no Kyouin Soshiki no Seibi ni Kansuru Shitsugi
Otoushuu” is easier to understand, however, so my page references
will be to this one.

First, there is no reference in these documents to a mandatory loss
of “tenure”–e.g., depending on the university, even the new Jokyou
(despite being ranked just about joshu) could conceivably be tenured
(see pg. 4 in the second section). However, and this was most
interesting for me to learn, the Sennin Koushi [the position of those
regularly-employed, including foreigners] position, apparently,
was originally never intended to be an “official” rank
and/or “tenured” position (e.g., see pgs. 1 & 18 in the first
section). Accordingly, there are indeed only THREE official ranks
currently–Kyouju, Jokyouju, and Joshu (assistants), with “Koushi”
being a somewhat nebulous term for everyone else.

[Kyouju = Full Professor, Jokyouju = Associate Professor,
Koushi = Assistant Professor, Joshu = something below that]

This will now change to FOUR official ranks: Kyouju, Junkyouju,
Jokyou and Joshu. In other words, “Sennin Koushi”–used by almost
all Japanese universities and often translated as “assistant
professor”–still will not be an “official” rank (pg. 1 & 18 in the
first section), though the assumption is the rank will still
continue to be used by many (most) Japanese universities.

Jokyou and Joshu are to be almost equal in rank–i.e., both are
technically assistants–though the slightly more qualified Jokyou
can teach their own classes (pgs. 3-5 in the second section). None
of the documents, however, make it really clear why it was necessary
to add this new category of assistant…not to mention
change “Jokyouju” to “Junkyouju.” However, the Sennin Koushi
discussion, not to mention the repeated mentions that Jokyou need
not be “tenured,” suggest that one possible motivation IS to give
universities an out/excuse for dumping current Sennin Koushi and/or
hiring even Japanese as contract Kyoujo. (E.g., while before it
was “impossible” to get rid of bad Sennin hires, now this name
change, and the additional clarification regarding the nature of
these positions included with the announcement, schools seem to have
an excuse and/or window of opportunity to make changes….)

Bern Mulvey, Miyazaki, Kyushu

THE POINT: MoE is beginning to play with the language to make positions below Full Professor (kyouju) now non-permanently tenured. The noose just keeps on tightening for academics in Japan.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
October 29, 2006

Abe Cabinet: MOE Minister possible reverse course on J Primary School English education?


(Submitted to the Life in Japan yahoogroups list, which kicked off some debate. Subscribe to LIJ via

Hi LIJ. Thought I’d throw another bale of info onto the bonfire of debate on English education in Japan:

Wide Show Toku Da Ne this morning had a long segment (about 15 minutes, between 8:25 and 8:40 Sept 29) on the new Abe Cabinet’s change in attitude (and possible change in policy) towards educating Japan’s grade schoolers in English.

In a reverse course, the new Monkashou Minister Ibuki apparently opposes English education in primary schools–which has been going on in Japan for about ten years now, according to the program.

The reasoning is that Ibuki (as do many conservatives) believe that students’ Japanese language abilities are going down. They should work on their native language, hone that to a good level, then work on English. Studying a foreign language at such an early age a) apparently confuses the kids, and b) takes class time away from good, honest study of our language.

I don’t buy this (neither did the panelists on Toku Da Ne, especially anchor Ogura, who made it clear he wishes he had more English education at an earlier age), because:

a) I don’t believe that learning a foreign language at an early age has the effect of “crowding out” the mother tongue mentally. I cite the fact that many countries (Holland and India, for example, as I found out this morning from friends) learn two or three languages in primary school simultaneously along with their mother tongue, and do pretty well with it.

b) I don’t think that English, if taught and learned properly, is a waste of time or deleterious to a child’s education.

c) Catch them younger, not older, when language learning is easier. Duh.

On this point, the show compared two grade schools–one with a native speaker of English coming in to teach along side a Japanese teacher, and the other with the school’s kokugo (Japanese) teacher doing everything without any English language teaching training. The show made clear that students’ attitudes and abilities were far better in the school with a native helping out and a trained teacher. The other school’s teacher said she was afraid to teach and didn’t much like doing it. No real surprise there.

Finally, the show showed some pie charts (I’m typing this whole thing out from memory), courtesy of Monkashou. When it comes to teaching English in grade schools, 70% of parents surveyed were for it. However, 54% of Japanese teachers were against it. Disconnect. It was clear to me that teachers didn’t want to have to teach it, but also they didn’t want foreigners coming there either (either to take jobs away or just plain disrupt the status quo–which was clear to me and to the show panelists as part of the problem).

The final point of the show was that there is a paucity of native English teachers in Japan at the elementary school level, and that should probably change. But it might go in the opposite direction given the recent change in PM and Cabinet.

Comments? Debito in Sapporo

(Submitted to the Life in Japan yahoogroups list, which kicked off some debate. Subscribe to LIJ via



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, )
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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:

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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, )
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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:

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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, )
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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

Asahi Sep 15 06: Kitakyushu prof discusses problems with English language education


COMMENT: For archival purposes: Kitakyushu University Prof argues (in one of Japan’s premier opinion columns) that one problem with English education is that foreigners stay here too long. Quote: “…native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teachers–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students.”

I assume that this means we should not give tenure to foreigners, and that the Gwen Gallagher vs Asahikawa University Case (fired after more than a decade of service for no longer being, quote, “fresh” enough, see is moot.

POINT OF VIEW/ Shinichiro Noriguchi:English education leaves much to be desired

More than 100 years ago Natsume Soseki, a great writer in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), wrote, “These days young people studying abroad and coming back to Japan speak English fluently, but the content is shallow, almost nothing. Why? They do not possess the spiritual backbone–Chinese classics.”

This situation seems not to have changed since then; indeed, it may have become worse, because the number of shallow-minded youths is ever increasing.

Why has this happened? Who is responsible? What should we do to correct what is clearly a deplorable situation?

Based upon my 40 years of experience as an English teacher I would like to make some suggestions about the teaching of English at both the high school and university levels.

First, let me clearly say that Japanese society has been completely duped by the idea that the TOEIC test and the development of “communicative” skills in English will finally solve the long-standing problem of inept English education.

Japan’s higher education is helplessly caught in the trap of the TOEIC and “communicative English” diseases. TOEIC is simply another version of the university entrance examination, a form of assessment that has been severely criticized in the past. The TOEIC has simply been skillfully masked by corporations to appear up-to-date. The content is shallow and does not present any real challenge to the test-taker. Students can achieve higher scores by taking TOEIC-focused classes and cramming. It is for this reason that Japanese English instructors can do a better job teaching TOEIC classes than native-speaking English teachers.

Second, many teachers have been corrupted by the lax attitude toward teaching the English language in Japan. Since not much is expected of students, teachers expect little of themselves. They have created and perpetuated an unhealthy situation in which students who are eager to better their English have in fact little opportunity to improve their skills.

The government, in particular the education ministry, together with Japanese corporations, have been accomplices in creating this lamentable situation. They are blindly intoning the mantra of “communicative English” and the benefits of TOEIC, which is now in fact established as the standard by which English ability is measured. Many have come to believe that “communication” simply means the ability to speak English.

They no longer think that reading and writing in English are a true means of communication. As a result, a strange phenomenon has occurred. Our society has once more revealed its weakness as a homogeneous society, swinging from one extreme to the other. The companies that create and cater to the TOEIC test probably can’t stop laughing at this situation from which they derive great profit.

We should recall the now-forgotten fact that it was through the ability to read English that Japan was able to catch up with Western culture and technology in the Meiji and Taisho (1912-1926) eras. Many university English teachers have been complicit in these developments. They do not spend sufficient time and energy testing what students have learned in class or correcting what they have written in English.

We should fully grasp the extent of the change that has taken place and acknowledge that there is a clear difference between spoken and written English.

There are many people who, despite errors and despite the frivolous subjects about which they talk, can speak English with reasonable fluency, but they cannot write even a few sentences in correct English. The point here is that if we can write our ideas in English correctly, we will become skilled communicators.

The best way to correct this problem is to have our writing in English corrected by native English teachers, but this is not always possible. They must earn a living. Many are part-timers teaching a large number of classes at various universities, where they often simply go through the motions of teaching. But blame should not be placed upon the native speakers, because our society has allowed them to take advantage of Japan’s lax attitudes toward English education.

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 teachers–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students. Some of these teachers are not aware of this.

It is, of course, Japanese university teachers of English who are most responsible for the depressing results of university-level English instruction.

It is a fact, however odd, that some university teachers of English failed the public junior and senior high school English teacher’s examinations, and then entered post-graduate schools only as a second choice.

Within a few years, however, they start teaching English at universities and are qualified to issue credits to students studying for the high school English teacher’s license. University teachers, of course, do not need a license of any sort to teach at universities. The education ministry often creates rules and standards that defy common sense.

The English ability of English-teaching staff is, frankly speaking, often poorer than that of capable students, especially when it comes to speaking and listening comprehension. Regardless of their academic fields–American or English literature, transformational grammar, phonetics, cultural studies–university instructors should possess thorough knowledge of the language and solid practical English skills. To improve university English education, I would propose the following:

・English teachers should have passed the first grade of STEP or achieved a score of over 600 on the TOEFL test;

・Teachers should study abroad, for at least one year, in an English-speaking country;

・The university English curriculum should place far greater emphasis on the reading and writing of English;

・English teachers should spend at least three years teaching English in high schools or prep-schools;

・The education ministry should devise a licensing system for university English teachers.

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The author is professor of English at the University of Kitakyushu.(IHT/Asahi: September 15,2006)