Otaru Onsens Case 10th Anniv #4: J Media reportage of the Feb 1, 2001 Lawsuit Filing in Sapporo District Court


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Hi Blog.  In Part Four of this retrospective on the Otaru Onsens Case a decade on, I talk about how the J media received and reported on our filing of the lawsuit against Otaru Onsen Yunohana on February 1, 2001.  The answer:  Not well.  Comment from me follows embeds:



By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, debito@debito.org)

4) HBC NEWS (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001) on the OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FIRST HEARING (3 minutes).  Otaru City claims impunity from CERD responsibilities due to local govt. status, while Yunohana Onsen tries to claim it was the victim in this case.

5) VARIOUS NEWS AGENCIES (Dosanko Wide, Hokkaido News, STV, and HBC) with various angles on OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FILING (Locally broadcast February 1, 2001) (15 minutes total).  NB:  HBC contains the only public interview given by Defendant Yunohana Onsen owner Hashimoto Hiromitsu.  This interview was given live (the only way Hashimoto would agree to be interviewed, so that his comments would not be edited, according to reporter sources), where he states that he has never met us (of course; he always refused to meet us; the only time we would ever cross paths would be November 11, 2002, in the courtroom, when the Sapporo District Court came down in Plaintiffs’ favor).

COMMENT:  By parroting the views of racists (such as the owner of Yunohana) and the completely negligent City of Otaru (which claimed on record, as you will see in the broadcasts above, that the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination does not apply to local governments; a complete lie obviated by a cursory reading of the CERD (Article 2 1(c))(*), they wound up perpetuating the dichotomy and convincing some that it’s perfectly okay to discriminate.  Hey, it’s not illegal, is it?

This is one more, less obvious, reason why we need a law against racial discrimination in Japan.  Because if this is not criminal activity, you wind up promoting the racist side as well for the sake of “balance”.  For example, when lynchings were not illegal in the US South, you’d get reporters having to “tell both sides”, as in, “that black man looked at that white woman funny” or “he was getting too uppity, had to make an example”.  And it becomes an example.  However, if it’s illegal, then it’s a crime, and you don’t have to “give the other side” when the other side is already criminalized.  Thus you nip promoting further racism in the bud.  This does not happen in the broadcasts above, alas. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(*) Regarding Otaru City’s assertion of exemption under the CERD, they had a good reason to be confident:  Unbeknownst to us until April 15, 2002, during cross-examination in court, it turns out the City of Otaru had been coached by the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights, Sapporo Branch, on November 29, 1999, that they need not take any measures to comply with the CERD.  See original document in JAPANESE ONLY page 347.  Why a GOJ agency entrusted with protecting human rights in Japan would coach a fellow government administration not to bother following the CERD remains one of the more disingenuous things I’ve ever seen in my life.


Otaru Onsens Case 10th Anniv #3: “KokoGaHen” Feb 28 2001 and their critique of us plaintiffs


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By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, debito@debito.org)

3) TV ASAHI tabloid show “KOKO GA HEN DA YO NIHONJIN”, on exclusionism in Wakkanai, Monbetsu, and Otaru (Nationally broadcast Feb 28, 2001) (16 minutes).  Complete with brickbats for the Plaintiffs for filing suit from the screaming foreign panelists.

If you would like to download and watch this broadcast in mp4 format on your iPod in one part, click here: http://www.debito.org/video/kokogahen022801.mp4. (NB: if you want it to download as a file, not open up in a different browser: right-click for Windows users, or Control + Click for Macs)

There is also a complete transcript and English translation at http://www.debito.org/KokoGaHen1.html
Comment follows video embed (part one):

COMMENT: I remember clearly three things about that evening:

1) That ALL the panelists (the half-baked comment from Terii Itoh notwithstanding) on the Japanese side of the fence were very supportive — in fact, they wished us luck and success in the lawsuit.

2) That ALMOST ALL of the panelists on the NJ side did the same. In fact, it looked in danger of becoming a boring debate because it seemed so cut and dried. It was a tiny minority who stood up to offer brickbats. They were there, at least two of the panelists told me later, because they were chosen precisely because they had strong views antipathetic towards the case. Hence the emphasis, on foreigners who would oppose the lawsuit, as it would make for better television.

3) That Konishiki, sitting next to me, was goddamn HUGE! His chair, custom-made, needed four people to carry it on stage. We had a few words. Nice guy.

Quite honestly, I miss the show. Nowhere else offers opinions from NJ, however raw and ill-conceived, in their own words on a regular basis. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Otaru Onsens Case 10th Anniv #2: HBC award-winning broadcast Mar 27, 2001 creates contentious dichotomies


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All TV shows in Japanese (no subtitles or dubbing) with amateur editing
By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, debito@debito.org)


2) HBC TV award-winning documentary on OTARU ONSENS CASE (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001). Gives the most thorough rundown of the issue and expresses the issue from a more “Japanese point of view” (i.e. the issue less in terms of racism, more in terms of cultural differences).

Starts here, then has a playlist that goes to the next part. Six parts, runs about 50 minutes total.  If you would like to download and watch this broadcast in mp4 format on your iPod in one part, click here:  http://www.debito.org/video/HBC032701.mp4. (NB:  if you want it to download as a file, not open up in a different browser:  right-click for Windows users, or Control + Click for Macs)

Comment follows imbedded video:

COMMENT:  We have a decent establishment of the issue in part one, then in subsequent parts we have a whole bunch of pundits claiming this is a “cultural issue” (meaning misunderstandings of our unique J culture make refusals of NJ inevitable to some).  Or somehow that it’s a Hobson’s Choice between “human rights of the NJ” and “the survival rights of the business” (which was always a false dichotomy — borne out in retrospect that none of the onsens have gone bankrupt since taking their signs down; quite the opposite in the case of Defendant Onsen Yunohana).

What happens is that the show becomes a”Japanese vs Non-Japanese” thing, where we get lots of old J men and women etc. saying how much they dislike NJ, vs NJ bleating about their rights despite having allegedly different and disruptive bathing rules.  We even have Tarento Daniel Carr coming off all sycophantic — blaming NJ for their plight and pointing out their foibles.  Teeth begin to itch before long.

Nowhere in the show is there anyone J saying, “Look, all you have to do is kick out those who don’t follow the rules.  It’s not a matter of nationality at all.  Just a matter of ill-mannered people, which is an individual matter, not a cultural matter.”  But no.  That would remove the drama that TV news reports are such suckers for, alas.

Of course, HBC gave this a good, earnest try, the best of all the shows that would come out, but it still winds up convincing the viewer that “East is East” in the end.  I see this pattern constantly in J news reports — most resort to portraying Japanese as somehow victims, while few ever portray NJ as residents with as much right to life here in Japan as anyone else.  And never, but never, is the issue shown as something as simple as stubborn and bigoted people butting heads as individuals regardless of nationality.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Otaru Onsens Case 10th Anniv.#1: News Station Oct 12, 1999 on Ana Bortz Verdict YouTubed


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All TV shows in Japanese (no subtitles or dubbing) with amateur editing

By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, debito@debito.org)

Total time:  2 hours 20 minutes.  Recorded on one VHS tape in 3X format.


1) TV ASAHI NEWS STATION on ANA BORTZ DECISION (Nationally broadcast October 12, 1999) (10 minutes).  National broadcast.  Describes the first court decision regarding racial discrimination in Japan, citing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the fact that Japan has no law against racial discrimination.

Imbedded video follows.  If you would like to download and watch this broadcast in mp4 format on your iPod, click here:  http://www.debito.org/video/anabortz101299.mp4 (NB:  if you want it to download as a file, not open up in a different browser:  right-click for Windows users, or Control + Click for Macs)

COMMENT:  What’s remarkable about this broadcast is how thoroughly it describes the Bortz Case and the UN CERD.  Also the videotape, from Sebido Jewelry Store security cameras in Hamamatsu, showing the owner refusing Ana quite forcefully.  It is the most sympathetic broadcast to come out during the Otaru Onsens Case, and unfortunately it would come at the very beginning, before the media really lost the point.

(Shortly after being YouTubed, there was a complaint from a viewer in Japanese that this report wasn’t balanced because it didn’t give the store’s perspective.  Actually, the store refused to comment for this broadcast.)

The Ana Bortz Lawsuit would inject new energy into the Otaru Onsens Case (which first started in earnest on September 19, 1999, about a month before), offering positive legal precedent for the onsens to take their signs down.  Shortly afterwards, one did (Onsen Panorama).  The other two, Onsen Osupa, would take until March 2000 and a lot of beers and making friends with the owner.  The last one (in Otaru, at least), Onsen Yunohana would take until January 2001, nearly fifteen months and a lot of events later, on the day that we announced that we would be suing them.  Then, and only then, and Yunohana only replaced it with a new set of exclusionary rules.  It would take several years to prove this, but these moves would be a losing formula for them in court.  More in my book JAPANESE ONLY.

Next up, the broadcasts which painted this issue as a matter of “cultural misunderstandings” and lost the point — that this discrimination is a matter of race, not culture.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

OTARU ONSENS 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Index of online study aids of media on the event


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Good morning Blog, and happy holidays to readers in Japan. This week I will continue a retrospective on the Otaru Onsens Case, with links to media I collected nearly a decade ago, charting the course of the debate, and how it went down a path that in fact ultimately encouraged people to discriminate. The full arc in my book JAPANESE ONLY, but here is a list of primary sources for your viewing pleasure.

If possible (my friend KM is also supposed to be on holiday, but he’s the one who has kindly converted my analog recordings into digital and YouTubed it), I will put up a link to each media every day, the first one this evening. There is also a DVD I can burn for those who wish to use this for educational purposes (contact me at debito@debito.org).

Here’s an outline of the media I have when I first offered this as a study aid three years ago.  After that, the playlist, courtesy KM, on YouTube.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



All TV shows in Japanese (no subtitles or dubbing) with amateur editing

By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, debito@debito.org)

Total time:  2 hours 20 minutes.  Recorded on one VHS tape in 3X format.


1) TV ASAHI NEWS STATION on ANA BORTZ DECISION (Nationally broadcast October 12, 1999) (10 minutes).  National broadcast.  Describes the first court decision regarding racial discrimination in Japan, citing the UN CERD Treaty, and the fact that Japan has no law against racial discrimination.

2) HBC TV award-winning documentary on OTARU ONSENS CASE (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001) (1 hour 2 minutes).  Gives the most thorough rundown of the issue and expresses the issue from a more Japanese point of view (i.e. the issue less in terms of racism, more in terms of cultural differences).

3) TV ASAHI tabloid show “KOKO GA HEN DA YO NIHONJIN”, on exclusionism in Wakkanai, Monbetsu, and Otaru (Nationally broadcast Feb 28, 2001) (16 minutes).  Complete with brickbats for the Plaintiffs for filing suit from the screaming foreign panelists.  NB:  Panelists were apparently chosen depending on whether they had strong views about the case.  A special emphasis, according to media sources, was given foreigners who would oppose the lawsuit, as it would make for better television.

4) HBC NEWS (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001) on the OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FIRST HEARING (3 minutes).  Otaru City claims impunity from CERD responsibilities due to local govt. status, while Yunohana Onsen tries to claim it was the victim in this case.

5) VARIOUS NEWS AGENCIES (Dosanko Wide, Hokkaido News, STV, and HBC) with various angles on OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FILING (Locally broadcast February 1, 2001) (15 minutes total).  NB:  HBC contains the only public interview given by Defendant Yunohana Onsen owner Hashimoto Hiromitsu.  This interview was given live (the only way Hashimoto would agree to be interviewed, so that his comments would not be edited, according to reporter sources), where he states that he has never met us (of course; he always refused to meet us; the only time we would ever cross paths would be November 11, 2002, in the courtroom, when the Sapporo District Court came down in Plaintiffs’ favor).

6) UHB SUPER NEWS Beginning of the new year special on THE YEAR 2001 (Locally broadcast January 3, 2002) (15 minutes).  Discourse on the nature of internationalization.  Also brings in the spectre of foreign crime and terrorism, first brought up from April 2000 with the “Ishihara Sangokujin Speech”, and later used to justify further exclusionism towards foreigners.

7) NHK CLOSE UP GENDAI on FOREIGN CRIME (Nationally broadcast November 7, 2003) (26 minutes).  The fix is in:  Foreigners and the crimes they bring is now publicly portrayable as fearful, with no comparison whatsoever made to stats of crimes by Japanese (except those connected again with foreigners).  A PSA posing as a news special, to warn Japanese about foreigners and their specific methods of crime.

Apologies that there is no footage of the actual District Court Decision of November 11, 2002.

All details and transcripts of many of these and other shows are available for students and scholars in books:


●   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(単行本 明石書店2004年改訂版 ISBN: 4-7503-9011-9)

Ordering details at www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

Original documentation and articles in English and Japanese at www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html

Other bilingual interviews and radio broadcasts/podcasts available at


More Japan Times articles on issues connected with rights of non-Japanese residents at


Thank you for your interest in this case and in this issue!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan

THE OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT, TEN YEARS ON: Article for Japonesia Review


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Hi Blog.  Today is the tenth anniversary of our visit, on September 19, 1999,  to “Japanese Only” Yunohana Onsen et al in Otaru, a life-changing event that to this day has not been fully resolved — mainly because we still don’t have a law against racial discrimination in Japan.  This situation remains more than 13 years after Japan effecting of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, where it promised to take “all measures, including legislation” to effectively eliminate all forms of RD.  And it deserves comment and reflection after years of protests, two books, countless articles, and successful lawsuits against the onsen (albeit not against the negligent City of Otaru).

I wrote this article by invitation for the Japonesia Review last January and submitted it in February.  After more than seven months’ wait, I see no reason not to publish it here in advance on Debito.org on this auspicious occasion.  Written in a simpler style for a non-native audience, there are some anachronisms within (such as regarding FRANCA’s founding).  Enjoy.

My thoughts on this day are bittersweet.  I know we did the right thing (as Olaf noted, when I called him today, people are still talking about the case), and we had a good outcome in court.  But I judge things like this based upon whether or not they could ever happen again.  The answer is, unfortunately, yes.  After all, all Yunohana Onsen has to do is put up another “Japanese Only” sign and we’d have to take them to court all over again just to get it down.  There is no law to stop it, nothing for authorities to enforce.  Ten years later, it feels more overdue now than in 1999.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo




What has and has not changed regarding human rights for Non-Japanese in Japan.



Photo Caption:  The author in front of Yunohana Onsen, Otaru.

(Photo courtesy Shouya Grigg of Kookan.com)

For publication in Japonesia Review 2009, Submitted February 3, 2009 and still not published.



On September 19, 1999, a group of seventeen people went to take a bath at a “super sento” (public bathhouse) named Yunohana Onsen (www.yunohana.org) in Otaru, Hokkaido.  All seventeen were Japanese, except for three Caucasian males (including the author) from America and Germany, and one Chinese woman from Shanghai.  She, like the non-Japanese (NJ) men, was married to a Japanese and came to Yunohana as an international family.  We had heard over the Internet that Yunohana, Otaru’s largest bathhouse, was not only refusing entry to NJ, they were even openly displaying a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign on their front door in three languages (Japanese, English, and Russian).


Caption:  Yunohana Onsen’s exclusionary sign, 1999

As soon as everyone had entered and bought tickets, we were told that the three Caucasian males in our group (your author included) were not allowed inside.

Consulting with the manager on duty, we heard Yunohana’s justification:  Russian sailors (who at the time were frequent visitors to and traders with Otaru) had a history of not following bathhouse rules, therefore were not allowed in because they might cause trouble and inconvenience Japanese customers.  When we made it clear that we were neither Russian sailors nor troublemakers, Yunohana said it did not matter:  “Refusing only Russians would be discrimination.  So we refuse all foreigners equally.”

All foreigners?  All.  “How about our Chinese friend you allowed in?”  As soon as they realized their mistake, management showed her the door.  We asked them further about their criteria for determining who was “Japanese”, since it was clear by this example that it was whether somebody looked “Asian” enough.  So my wife at the time asked about our daughters, both of whom were born and raised in Japan, spoke Japanese as their first language, and have Japanese citizenship.


One looks more Asian, with black hair and brown eyes, while one looks more Western, with brown hair and bluish eyes.  How would they be treated under Yunohana’s rules?

“The Japanese-looking one can come in.  But the younger one who looks like a gaijin will be refused entry.”

This made it clear to everyone, nationwide, that “Japanese Only” signs and rules would affect Japanese citizens too.


If you want to know more about what happened next in the Otaru Case, please read (in English or Japanese) Arudou Debito, “JAPANESE ONLY” — The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan[1] (Akashi Shoten Inc, 2003 and 2004, both books revised 2006).  The books describe the worldwide debate on the issue; the months of extralegal efforts made to get “Japanese Only” signs down at Yunohana, at other onsens, in other business sectors, and in other cities around Japan; and the successful lawsuit filed against Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

September 19, 2009 marks ten years since we visited Yunohana.  Here is a survey of how things have changed, or not changed, in the past decade regarding human rights for NJ in Japan:

1) A spread of “Japanese Only” signs and rules around Japan.[2]

A website devoted to businesses with exclusionary signs and rules called “The Rogues’ Gallery” (www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html), coordinated by the author, has collected photographic evidence on over 150 places, in 29 cities and towns across Japan, with “Japanese Only” signs and rules.  Some places (such as Yuransen bathhouse in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, and bars in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture) directly copied the very substance and style of Otaru’s “Japanese Only” signs.


Bathhouse “Osupa”, Otaru, 2000.   Hands holding up newspaper substantiating the date are the author’s.


Bar “Globe”, Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, 2002.  Note capital “J”, small “o”, font style of “a”, and “y” with a tail.

The language of “Japanese Only” has clearly become established as a “meme” (learned cultural behavior), as a concise and comprehensive way of saying “stay out” to undesirable customers — who just happen to lack (or look like they lack) Japanese citizenship.[AD1]


Hotel “Tsubakuro”, Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 2003.


Internet café “Dragon BOZ”, Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, 2006.


B-Ball billiards hall, Uruma, Okinawa, 2006


Bar “Santa Monica”, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 2004.  Manager confirming author’s Japanese passport before telling him to leave the premises, as the bar is “Japanese Only”.

Cause:  Despite signing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1995 (effected 1996), and despite Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution banning discrimination by “race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin”, Japan still has no law against discrimination by race.  This means that if a “Japanese Only” sign goes up, there is no law in the Civil or Criminal Code for police or authorities to enforce, demanding that signs come down and rules change.  To the present day, as in 1999, there are no legal means, outside of a courtroom, for people who are discriminated against to stop it.

Effect:  If there are no means to stop this kind of discrimination, it spreads, because it is a “quick fix”.  It is convenient for vigilantes (who dislike, fear, or do not want to be bothered with NJ) to put a sign barring them.  A “Japanese Only” sign up in public lends legitimacy to the exclusion, and encourages copycatting.  Numerous interviews carried out by the author of exclusionary establishments have demonstrated a theme of, “We’re not the only ones with the sign up, so why pick on us?”  Like any “tipping point”, enough occurrences can lead to a threshold where isolated instances become legitimized by numbers and precedent, leading to an established practice.  That is how discrimination spreads:  strength in numbers.

2) The rubric of “Japanese Only” is still based upon physical appearance.

The author of this essay is a naturalized Japanese citizen.  However, as the reader can see from his photo at the very beginning, a change of passport has not led to a change from Caucasian to Asian.  In the majority of interviews I have had with exclusionary businesses, they have said that even after seeing proof of my Japanese citizenship (my passport or driver license), I would still be excluded from the premises.  “You don’t look Japanese.  It’ll cause misunderstandings,” was the standard reason.

Cause:  Japan still makes a strong association with face/race and nationality, i.e. Japanese people look “Japanese”.  Indubitably part of the reason is that Japanese society and media have had limited exposure to “non-Asian Japanese”, such as soccer star Ramos Rui, tarento Konda Bobbi (ne Bobby Ologun), and Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei, to name but a few.  There has, however, been copious exposure to international Japanese children Miyazawa Rie, Umemiya Anna, Rebecca Eri RayVaughan (aka “Bekkii”), and also to naturalized citizens with more Asian faces like sumo wrestlers Konishiki and Akebono.  However, it is unclear that the public eye has done a complete connect between “Japanese citizenship through roots” and “Japanese citizenship by legal application”, which would mean that “Japaneseness is a legal status”, not a blood status.  Reinforcing this disconnect are Japan’s nationality laws, currently under consideration for revision, which explicitly say that Japanese status is something inherited.  The laws are jus sanguinis, meaning you must have a Japanese blood relative in order to automatically get Japanese citizenship.

Effect:  Many Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese” will be treated as NJ — not only this author, but also many hundreds of thousands of children of international marriages.  Japan’s international marriages are currently about 40,000 per year, up substantially from about 30,000 in 2000, and the number of “mixed children” born annually to be about 21,000[3].  Like the “tipping point” mentioned above that encourages the spread of “Japanese Only” signs, I anticipate that there will be a similar “tipping point” where people realize that racial admixtures are still Japanese.  “Conditional Japanese” (as in “half”, “quarter”, “double”, “mix”) have been in the lexicon for quite some time.  I think the qualifiers will fade as the numbers increase.  Accepting naturalized “non-blood Japanese” will take longer.  However, without laws against racial discrimination, one’s face will still not save many “people of mixture” from capricious or ignorant treatment as apparent NJ.

3) “Monocultural, monoethnic Japan” is officially no longer.

Japan’s public policy is also surprisingly exclusionary.  Postwar Japan has had public speech at the highest levels (most famously former Prime Minister Nakasone in 1986) extolling “ethnic homogeneity” and “racial purity” as a strength.  The Japanese government has repeatedly reported to the UN that the CERD treaty was not applicable to Japan.  Japan apparently has no racial minorities (moreover that all people who were in fact racially different were not citizens, therefore also not covered)[4].  This is reinforced in public policymaking.  When one reads white papers and laws, the rubric is that the policy is for the benefit of “citizens” (kokumin)[5], as opposed to “taxpayers” (nouzeisha) or “residents” (juumin).  Thanks to the vagaries of the Residency Certificate (juuminhyou) system[6], NJ are still not officially listed or counted as “juumin“.  Local governments (such as Tokyo Nerima-ku[7]) also do not include NJ in their tally of “residents”.  Nor does the National Census (kokusei chousa) survey residents for ethnicity (minzoku) — only nationality (kokuseki).  Nor does the Ministry of Health always include NJ (or even newly-naturalized citizens) in its tally of population growth or shrinkage:  preferring to use a simple calculation of “births minus deaths”[8].

That said, in June 6, 2008, the Diet for the first time unanimously passed a resolution stating that the Ainu aboriginal people of Hokkaido were a “indigenous people with a distinct language, religion, and culture”.  For the first time, Japan’s government did not ignore an ethnic minority in its public policy, and in fact had set up a government panel to study remedial actions.

Cause:  It was good timing.  As was discussed in this forum (Ota Masakuni, Japonesia Review No. 5, 2008), both the confluence of a UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review on Japan in May, and the Hokkaido G8 Summit (where Hokkaido minority issues were gaining attention and traction) in July that same year, contributed to a push the Fukuda Administration to offer this showcase for human rights.  A multi-partisan “Concerned Diet Members’ Group for the Rights of the Ainu” spearheaded the drive.

Effect:  On September 28, 2008, new Transport Minister Nakayama Nariaki resigned over various gaffes (including calling Nikkyouso schoolteacher union “a cancer”) that reflected older-school thinking:  Speaking on behalf of Japan’s new tourism agency, he mentioned that Japan was “ethnically homogeneous” and in general “Japanese don’t like foreigners”.  He was roundly criticized, notably by Social Democratic Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, who said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?”[9] Thus began an ignominious start to the 2008 Aso Cabinet, which helped set the tone for the rest of his unpopular administration.  This is the first time a resignation has resulted from a “homogeneous” remark, a far cry from the days of Nakasone.

That said, Ota notes that without a supplemental change in historical perspective in the Japanese public, the consequences for Ainu and other (unrecognized) minority rights may be “inconclusive” (the abovementioned government panel, after all, only has one Ainu member).  Similarly, it is probably too early to draw conclusions or show undue pessimism at this time.  Wait and see.

4) Japan’s economics and demographics are making immigration inevitable.

Japan is still the second-largest economy by GDP and by most measures larger than all other Asian economies combined.  The current worldwide economic downturn notwithstanding, Japan has for three decades had a labor shortage.  The government recognized this in 1990 and, at the behest of the industrial lobby, inaugurated a backdoor “Trainee”, “Researcher”, and “Returnee” (teijuusha for overseas Nikkei) working visa program.  This regime brought over millions of cheap Asian and South American laborers, more than doubled the NJ population of 1990 from one million to two, and fundamentally shifted the top three NJ ethnicities from 1) Korea (North and South), 2) China, and 3) The Philippines[10] to 1) China, 2) Korea, and 3) Brazil.  Industrial towns in Shizuoka, Gifu, and Aichi Prefectures showed NJ population percentages in the double digits, and for the first time mayors of these towns were demanding the national government secure equal rights and enhanced access to social services for their NJ residents[11].  NJ were coming to Japan, being welcomed, and put to work.

They were filling a gap.  Thanks to the low birthrate and long life expectancies of the Japanese public, the UN and the Obuchi Administration in 2000 jointly recognized that the Japanese population was aging, and would decrease by the late 2000s if Japan did not import 600,000 NJ per annum[12].  Japan has, on average this decade, imported a net total of 50,000 NJ per annum.  Sure enough, by 2007, Japan’s population was first officially announced as dropping.  If trends continue, by 2050, according to Shuukan Ekonomisuto (January 15, 2008, pg 16), the percentage of Japanese over retirement age (65) is projected to be more than half of the entire population.  Who will man the factories, pay in taxes, and maintain social security pension payments?  NJ keep Japanese society young and the birthrate from falling further.  The government is currently deliberating scrapping the current backdoor-labor visa regime, and establishing an official immigration policy.


The author and two other plaintiffs sued both Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru for racial discrimination and negligence under the CERD.  Yunohana lost both in Sapporo District and High Court, and was ordered to pay plaintiffs one million yen each for “unrational discrimination”.  The City of Otaru won in Sapporo District Court, High Court, and the Supreme Court; the District and High Courts grounded their arguments in “separation of powers” arguments (as in, the judiciary cannot force a government body to pass laws against discrimination, and cannot hold one accountable for not doing so).  The Supreme Court ruled that this contravention of Article 14 was “not a Constitutional issue”[13].

Yunohana Onsen took their “Japanese Only” sign down shortly before the lawsuit began, but never apologized for its action.  It took advantage of the publicity from the lawsuit to open new branches.  Yunohana is now a chain with outlets in Otaru Temiya, Otaru Asari, Sapporo Jozankei, and Ebetsu.  Other places and business sectors around Hokkaido and Japan still have their “Japanese Only” signs up.

The Japanese government made it clear to the UN again in March 2008 that it has no intention of creating a law against racial discrimination, reiterating that it has an active judiciary for grievances, therefore no laws are necessary.  It stressed in the indicatively-named “Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth combined periodic report to the UN HRC”[14] that it had taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination” (begging the question why passing a law is “inconceivable”).  Several draft bills have been submitted to the Diet and to the Otaru City Government, but all have died in deliberation.

Author and plaintiff Arudou Debito still works as a university educator at Hokkaido Information University in Ebetsu.  Author of two books on the Otaru Onsens Case, Arudou, 44, has recently co-authored another book to help NJ make more secure lives in Japan:  Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2008, English and Japanese).  He also is setting up an NPO called FRANCA[15] to better lobby for rights of NJ in the political sphere.  He sees the Ebetsu branch of Yunohana every day on his drive to work.


2600 WORDS

[1] www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

[2] More information on this in Japanese in「『外国人』入店禁止という人種差別」(有道 出人 著)、単行本『日本の民族差別 人種差別撤廃条約からみた課題)』p218ー229、岡本雅享先生監修・編著、明石書店(株)2005年6月出版

[3] “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity”, Christian Science Monitor, January 18, 2008, www.debito.org/?p=933

[4] The text of the debate between Japan and the United Nations may be found at www.debito.org/japanvsun.html

[5] See example at “Forensic Science Fiction:  Bad science and racism underpin police policy.”  Japan Times, January 13, 2004, at www.debito.org/japantimes011304.html, particularly sidebar at bottom.

[6] www.debito.org/activistspage.html#juuminhyou

[7] www.debito.org/?p=1972

[8] “Japan sees biggest population fall”, Associated Press, printed in the Manchester Guardian, January 2, 2009, www.debito.org/?p=2117

[9] www.debito.org/index.php/?s=Ainu+resolution+June

[10] www.stat.go.jp/data/chouki/02.htm

[11] See for example the Hamamatsu Sengen at www.debito.org/hamamatsusengen.html

[12] Arudou, Debito, “The Coming Internationalization:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants”.  Japan Focus, January 12, 2006, www.japanfocus.org/products/details/2078

[13] www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html

[14] www.debito.org/?p=1927

[15] www.francajapan.org

[AD1]To Hikaru:  Play with the layout and put these signs around the article as you like.  More at www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html

Sapporo Source DEBITO Column 1 June 2009 on Hokkaido Winters


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. A new “free paper” came out last week in Sapporo. Called SAPPORO SOURCE (get a copy in pdf format at http://www.sapporosource.com), it contains the first of my regular monthly columns, where I talk about offbeat topics (meaning non-human-rights stuff; we got government sponsors). The first one is about the weather. Yes, the weather.

And let me add that it’s taken some time for Japan’s #5 City to come up with a free paper of this quality (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka have all had their own for quite some time). The longstanding paper, “What’s On In Sapporo?“, is a milquetoast flyer put out by Sapporo City Government bureaucrats (who can’t even spell “calendar” correctly). SAPPORO SOURCE’s predecessor, XENE, gave it a good go — until it succumbed to market temptations that contradicted its mandate as an international paper: 1) putting out damage-control advertising (see my protest letter here), sponsored by the Otaru City Government, that denied that the Otaru Exclusionary Onsens Issue actually existed, and 2) translating exclusionary signs for xenophobes in the Susukino party district, for the 2002 World Cup (some are still up to this day), that effectively said “JAPANESE ONLY” (which XENE decided to render as “MEMBERS ONLY” in five languages, but not Japanese, as if that made things all better; their letter of apology here). XENE folded a couple of years ago, and not before time. It really had no idea how to serve an NJ audience.

Now it’s SAPPORO SOURCE. I had a read of it, and it’s a professional job with a good tone and a lot of useful information. See for yourself.

Oh yes, my column. Cover page and scan of my article follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Column one for publication in Sapporo Source June 2009

If you’ve ever read any of my writings (www.debito.org), this column will be a bit of a departure. I’m going to try writing about something more banal. Nothing’s more banal, of course, than the weather. Except if it’s the weather in Hokkaido.

Japan likes to chatter on about its distinct four seasons. But Hokkaido, I’ve noticed after more than twenty years here, has only three: Winter, Summer, and two half-seasons — I’ll call them “Pseudo-Spring” and “Pseudo-Autumn” — that act as short transitions between the two. Let’s chatter here about Winter first, since it’s the most memorable of them all.

At the end of Pseudo-Autumn, you tear October from your calendar and watch The Revolution from your window: the first flakes of snow infiltrating the air and occupying cracks in the road. The time is ripe for change — all Hokkaido’s verdure has collapsed into a uniform brown, with skeleton trees and evil-dead spooky forests clawing their way up from the newly-frozen ground. Nights are long, dark, and brutish throughout November, the worst month — as you can neither ski nor even go outside without wincing, as the winds whip up and blow December closer. Just hunker in your bunker and accept the inevitable: the Siberian snows are yet again crashing in, like a sociopath shadowing your door whom you will eventually have to go outside and face.

Then the snows come. And come. And bury you. Overcome, you coin words like “Tropical Snow Forest”, as thirty centimeters at a time almost every day accumulate to a meter, then two, then three or more as you try to shift it around. At least under The Occupation the long nights are brighter now, and Hokkaido’s odd weather pattern of “dump, then clear” means that you can enjoy sunshine on fresh white snow a couple of times a day. If you’re not happy with the current weather, wait half an hour.

Unfortunately, collaborating with rotations of flurry and dazzle becomes tiresome by mid-January, as Winter overstays its welcome. Everywhere becomes an obstacle course. Sidewalks challenge you to sashay your way through ten centimeters of sublimated ice. Side roads demand you merge into traffic by peering around two-meter drifts, sticking your car’s nose in front of oncoming cars. Hokkaido Winter takes your life into its hands, as you learn how to skate in your shoes or on your car’s snow tires. You wonder if that innocuous-looking crossroads on your commute is going to yield a fatality this year. You begin to watch the forecasts avidly, because at any time the weather may turn foul.

Eventually you come round to seeing why Japan’s nanny state exists. Local NHK broadcasts devote at least a third of their airtime to the weather, what roads have been freshly blocked, and where pileups have occurred. You take heed, or else you too might lose the road and find yourself in a potentially fatal situation.

But Hokkaido’s fatalism is what makes us special. Sure, people down south get seasonal spurts of storms when typhoons barrel through. But they don’t compare with our daily dump that whallops, then envelops, for three solid months. So we learn to live with it. Contrast that with Tokyo, when you scoff at their panic at a whole three centimeters accumulated. Their trains and school systems are in chaos! Bah! They’re rich, but they’re softies! By February, snow has even occupied our economy, as the Japanese military tames it into snow sculptures to attract and bedazzle the rich tourists.

Fortunately, Winter officially turns a corner by the end of the Snow Festival, when you get a miraculous day or two above freezing. At the start of March, you wonder if the snow and ice will ever begone. Fear not, it will. Hokkaido has no glaciers, and within three weeks, you can emerge from your bunker to kick over the retreating snow walls on the sidewalks, and smash the cages of icicles on nearby roofs. There is a joy in shoveling dying ice in front of oncoming cars. The Resistance has prevailed. Open the window and savor the victory of outlasting yet another Occupation.

That’s how we suddenly arrive at the dazed and confused brown grasses of Pseudo-Spring — not sure if it’ll rain or shine, but at least it won’t snow and stick. Then you can enjoy Golden Week for one more important reason: it’s as far away from Winter as possible.

It is also mere footfalls from Summer, the reason why everyone in the world should live in Hokkaido. I’ll get to that next column.



Japanpodshow: Tokyo Podcast on Arudou Debito by Joseph Tame


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Joseph Tame. Thanks Joseph! Debito


Hi Debito,

It was a pleasure to meet you recently. 🙂

Your interview is now live online.

I’ve made it available in a couple of formats, as:

– in its entirety as an MP3

– In its entirety as a streaming video on Vimeo.com

– In 6 parts as You Tube videos

– In six parts as downloadable mp4 video files.

In this interview Debito talks about:

The first few years of his life in Japan

    The Otaru Onsen Case
    The new Gaijin cards and associated human rights issues, and what you can do to stop their introduction
    Foreigners who defend discrimination against other foreigners claiming that ‘We are guests in Japan’
    Has the situation improved for foreigners in Japan in recent years?
    His public image, and new beard, Arthur.

I have also created a page just for you on my site, which should help get the interview to the first page when people do Google searches on you.

The page can be found at



Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Jun 2 2009: “The issue that dares not speak its name”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest.  Enjoy!  Debito in Tokyo

The issue that dares not speak its name

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

By ARUDOU Debito

A few columns ago (“Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates,” March 3), I discussed how foreign apologists resuscitate dead-end discussions on racial discrimination. Promoting cultural relativity for their own ends, they peddle bigoted and obsolescent ideologies now impossible to justify in their societies of birth.

This would be impossible in Japan too, if racial discrimination was illegal. And it would be nice if people who most need a law passed would unite and demand one.

But that’s not why getting that law is tough. It’s more because the domestic debate on racial discrimination has been dulled and avoided due to rhetorical tricks of the Japanese media and government. After all, if you can’t discuss a problem properly, you can’t fix it.

How it works: In Japanese, “racial discrimination” is jinshu sabetsu. That is the established term used in official translations of international treaties (such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD) that Japan has signed up to.

However, the Japanese media won’t couch the discussion in these terms. This was visible during the nationwide debate generated by the Otaru onsen case (1999-2005), where public bathhouses refused entry to customers because they didn’t “look Japanese.” If you read the oodles of non-tabloid articles on this case (archived at www.debito.org/nihongotimeline.html ), you’ll see the debate was conducted in milder, misleading language.

For example, it was rendered in terms of gaikokujin sabetsu (discrimination against foreigners). But that’s not the same thing. The people being discriminated against were not all foreign (ahem).

Or else it was depicted as gaiken sabetsu (discrimination by physical appearance). But that’s not “race,” either. Nor is “physical appearance” specifically covered by the CERD.

This term particularly derails the debate. It actually generates sympathy for people afraid of how others look.

Think about it. If, say, some old fart is standoffish towards people who are tall, big, dark, scary-looking, foreign-looking, etc., oh well, shikata ga nai — it can’t be helped. We Japanese are shy, remember.

Fortunately, there are limits: “Looks,” sure, but few Japanese would ever admit to disliking people specifically by race, even though one is a factor of the other.

That’s because racial discrimination, according to the Japanese education system, happens in other countries — like America under segregation or South Africa under apartheid. Not in Japan.

Then things get really wet: Remember, We Japanese admire certain types of foreigners, so we’re obviously not prejudiced. And We Japanese have been discriminated against in the past for our race, like, for instance, those American World War II internment camps. And how about the time we got ripped off for being naive, trusting Japanese last time we ventured overseas? So it works both ways, y’see?

Welcome to the Never-Never Land of Self-Justification and Victimization. If We Japanese are doing something discriminatory, so what? Everybody else is doing it. So we’ll keep on keeping on, thank you very much. There the debate dies a death of a thousand relativities.

Back to the media, which stifles more intelligent debate through its rhetoric of avoidance. They rattle on about minshuteki sabetsu (discrimination by ethnicity), even though it wasn’t until last year that Japan even admitted it had any minorities.

Or else it’s not portrayed as a form of discrimination at all: It’s a matter of cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, microwaves and sun spots, whatever — anything but calling a spade a spade. That’s why only one article out of the 100 or so on the Otaru onsen case actually deemed it — flat out, without quoting some radical-sounding activist — jinshu sabetsu. Not a misprint. One. And that was a Hokkaido Shimbun editorial at the very end of the case.

Pity it only took five years of debate for them to get it, and more pity that the media has since mostly gone back to claiming discrimination by nationality, looks, ethnicity, culture etc. all over again.

The Japanese government’s fingerprints are also all over this rhetorical legerdemain. When the U.N. CERD Committee first accused Japan of not doing enough to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2000 ( www.debito.org/japanvsun.html ), double-talk was in fine form.

First, the government argued back that Japan has no ethnic minorities, and therefore anyone who was a citizen was a member of the Japanese race. Thus citizens were not covered by the CERD because any discrimination against them couldn’t be by race.

Then they admitted that foreigners in Japan might indeed be victims of discrimination. But that’s too bad. They’re foreigners. They don’t have the same rights as citizens, such as the right to vote or run for office. Even the CERD acknowledges that. Oh well. If foreigners want the same rights, they should naturalize.

Never mind those half-million or so former foreigners who have naturalized, such as this writer, who don’t all fall into this neat dichotomy. Somehow they don’t count.

Essentially, the government is arguing that the CERD covers nobody in Japan.

That’s why domestic debate on racial discrimination is so carefully worded. If somebody gets denied something ostensibly because they’re a foreigner, or foreign-looking, it’s not a matter of race. It might be discrimination by nationality, or by face, or by culture, or not even discrimination at all.

Just don’t dare call it jinshu sabetsu, the scourge that dares not speak its name. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, you can’t legislate against it.

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  Happy Saturday.  Word from Kirk Masden at The Community, regarding a dead but not forgotten controversial TV show called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin”.  Keyboard’s his:


Hi Community!

I posted a critique of Koko ga hen da yo (particularly one of the opening sequences they used) on YouTube:


It’s getting a stronger response than anything I’ve posted to YouTube thus far.  Much of the commentary is negative but the first three ratings it received were five stars.  Since then somebody who hates my  view of the show gave it a low rating so now the average is four  stars.  People seem to either love my critique or hate it — not much middle ground so far.

At any rate, if you’re interested in this show, please have a look —  and feel free to tell others with an interest in media critique about  it. Kirk



Thanks Kirk.  I watched the YouTube entry last night and was very intrigued by it, especially given our own experience being on the show, re the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit:

Transcript of the show at:


and my positive critique of the show in retrospect:

(page down to essay 8 )

I was also impressed with Kirk’s flawless accentless spoken Japanese, as always.  Gnash.



Hi everyone!

In regard to the timing of my post . . .

Actually, I’m posting to YouTube now because I didn’t have the
technical know-how to do so when I first recorded the show and started
showing parts of it in my comparative culture class.  I was
particularly bothered by the opening but lacked the ability to slow it
down appropriately to give people a chance to think about it.  Since
then, I’ve learned a bit more about video editing and so when I was
going through some old VHS tapes and found the Koko ga hen da yo
video, I could resist the temptation to make that kind of critique I
had been meaning to make for years.

What was interesting to me was the immediacy of the response.  There
must be a significant number of people who periodically search for
segments of that show on YouTube because my little video was found
immediately by a significant number of people.  Those who have rated
my critique on the five-star scale have, for the most part, been quite
generous but those who first found it and wrote comments were
decidedly negative.  I guess that had been searching for more videos
of their favorite show and didn’t appreciate negative comments about it.

So, in short, the show has been off the air for a long time but there
still seem to be a lot of people want to watch it on the web.  Kirk


What do others think?  Debito


Sunday Tangent: Economist on Japan buying LNG from Sakhalin (finally!) and Hokkaido’s missed opportunities


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog. I spotted this recent Economist article (I have a paper subscription; call me retro) over lunch last week, and was surprised to see that Japanese industry, after decades of wait (see article below), has finally bought Russian fuel. About time.

Living in Hokkaido for more than twenty years now has given me a number of insights by osmosis regarding our extremely proximate Russian neighbor (in three places — Wakkanai, Nemuro, and Rausu — mere kilometers away), and how that affects business.

First, Japanese and Russians tend not to get along. We still have no peace treaty (merely an armistice) with Russia after the 1945 seizure of the Northern Territories (and the big loss of southern Sakhalin, still called by its prewar name “Karafuto” by not a few Hokkaidoites). We also get occasional articles in the Hokkaido Shinbun reminding the public of pre-surrender Soviet submarine raids off Rumoi, and the impending invasion of northern and eastern Hokkaido before McArthur stepped in. Old people still remember postwar Russian concentration camps and forced repatriations from lands they feel they rightfully settled. And even today, the rough-and-tumble nature of the Russian that Hokkaidoites most frequently come in contact with (the sailor) was at the heart of the exclusionism behind the Otaru Onsens Case. The Japanese military, excuse me, “Self Defense Forces” still have a very strong presence up here (even building our snow sculptures) to ward off possible Soviet invasions, and keep us from getting too friendly with (or receive too many Aeroflot flights from) the Rosuke.

Second, Hokkaido has for years been unable to take advantage of the goldmine just off their shores. Potential deals with Sakhalin have not only been stymied by foot-dragging government bureaucrats (and the occasional businessman who, according to business contact Simon Jackson of North Point Network KK, cite business deals gone sour with the Soviets around three or four decades ago!). The most ludicrous example was where overseas energy interests were considering opening offices in Sapporo in the early 1990s (for Sapporo’s standard of living was far higher than that of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk). But they took one look at the toolshed that was essentially the Hokkaido International School back then and decided their relocated families needed better educational opportunities. The Hokkaido Government has since rectified that with a much nicer building for HIS, but it remains in the annals of bungled policy and opportunities. Thus Sapporo missed out on all the gobs of riches that oil money provides anywhere (viz. Edmonton or Calgary) as the end of the era of cheap petroleum makes exploration and development economically feasible just about anywhere.

Third, as the article demonstrates below, Tokyo seems to be skipping over Hokkaido again with its first LNG deal. If we had set up the infrastructure when we had the chance, we could be getting some of that value-added. Granted, doing business in Russia (what with the shady elements posing as dealers and administrators) is pretty risky. But it seems in keeping with the historical gormlessness of Hokkaido (what with all the crowding out of entrepreneurial industry through a century of public works), and the maintenance of our island as a resource colony of the mainland. See an essay I wrote on this way back in 1996, and tell me if much has changed.

In fact, it seems the only reason Japan has come round to dealing with Sakhalin at all is because increasingly mighty China is squeezing them out of the market, according to The Economist below.

Enough comment from me. Here’s the article. It reflects none of the background I give above, sadly. Hokkaido’s perpetual non-player status means we’re skipped over again. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Energy in Japan
Raising the stakes

Apr 8th 2009 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition


Low prices and a strong yen give Japanese firms an opportunity to buy abroad

WHEN Energy Frontier, an enormous tanker, glided into Tokyo Bay on April 6th from Sakhalin Island, she was not just carrying the first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a problematic Russian venture, under a deal signed 15 years ago. She was also bearing the symbolic weight of Japan’s aspirations to greater energy security. Lacking natural resources, Japan imports more than 95% of its energy. Almost all its oil and a quarter of its LNG come from the Middle East. To reach Japan ships must travel for 20 days, passing near pirate-infested waters. Sakhalin, by contrast, is just three days away.

In 2006 the Japanese government called on industry to increase its ownership of foreign energy projects to cover 40% of Japan’s energy needs, up from 15% at the time. The idea was to make the country less dependent on the spot market in case of trouble by taking stakes in various energy projects around the world. But as prices soared and China became a keen buyer, slow-moving Japanese firms found themselves being shut out of deals.

Today, however, many energy projects are starved of capital because of the credit crunch, energy prices are low and the yen is strong. Since mid-2008 the price of crude oil has fallen by two-thirds and the yen had at one point appreciated by as much as 20% against the dollar. This has given Japanese energy firms a window of opportunity to make foreign acquisitions.

In January Nippon Oil bought rights to oilfields in Papua New Guinea. Inpex, Japan’s largest oil-development company, has acquired rights to oil in South America and Australia. A consortium that includes Nippon Oil and Inpex is vying for rights to a project in southern Iraq. And this month Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, visited Tokyo to sign energy deals.

“We have been very quietly shifting the gravity of our strategy from exploration and ‘greenfield’ projects to acquisitions and exchange deals,” says Tadashi Maeda of the Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC), a state-backed lender for foreign projects. Deals rather than digging lets Japan obtain resources faster, he says. JBIC can put around $12 billion a year towards energy acquisitions.

The Japanese government’s 40% target is immaterial, Mr Maeda asserts. Instead, JBIC’s aim is to ensure that the market functions smoothly and that the fuel can be transported to Japan if necessary. A stake in an oilfield does not always entitle the owner to a share of its output, rather than a share of the revenue when the oil is sold on the open market. But ownership helps absorb the shock of sudden price increases or tight supply. And some contracts do specify that in the event of a crisis, output is reserved for the owners.

So far the Japanese firms’ deals have been small, raising concerns that they may be missing their chance to buy at a favourable time, says David Hewitt of CLSA, a broker. Yet the hesitation is understandable. Lower energy prices means certain projects are no longer viable. Some firms, including Mitsubishi and Mitsui, are expected to have to write off portions of recent investments, making them wary of new deals. Even when capital is available, taking on debt can jeopardise a firm’s credit rating. And the recession has reduced Japan’s energy use by 10-20%.

Japanese executives also complain that Chinese firms, which have plenty of capital from state-run banks and face less pressure to show profits, are overpaying and driving up prices. JBIC encourages Japanese firms to form consortiums to increase their heft. In February Toshiba, Tokyo Power and JBIC took a joint 20% stake in Uranium One of Canada—a deal that suits everybody’s interests but which no party could have achieved on its own.

The shipment of LNG that arrived in Tokyo this month came from the giant Sakhalin II project, set up in the 1990s by Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil giant, in partnership with Mitsubishi, Mitsui and other Western firms. At the time it was the only big energy project in Russia that did not involve a local partner. That changed in late 2006 when Shell and its Japanese partners reluctantly agreed to sell a 50% stake to Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas giant. This highlighted the political risks involved in the pursuit of energy security—and why having the government represented, via a state-backed lender like JBIC, is not a bad idea.

The Sakhalin II project will produce as much as 9.6m tonnes of LNG a year, 60% of which will go to Japan, accounting for about 7% of its LNG imports. For Japan, the project’s proximity is its main appeal. Parts of Sakhalin were Japanese territory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and were ceded after Japan’s defeat in the second world war. Today’s commercial battles are less bloody, but no less intense.


Gregory Clark argues in Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Y’know, life is never boring. Here’s yet another piece about the Otaru Onsens Case in yesterday’s Japan Times.  This time from that person with a demonstrably bad record of dealing with the facts, Gregory Clark.

Clark provides no surprises as he rides his “bathhouse fanatics” hobby horse once again, and gets (as he has since 1999) the same old facts wrong. Actually, he gets even more facts wrong this time:  despite calling himself “closely involved” in the case, he gets the very name of the exclusionary onsen wrong.  He even forgets once again (after repeated past public corrections that were even printed in the Japan Times) that there was more than one plaintiff in the successful lawsuit. And that one of those plaintiffs is a Japanese.

The rest is self-hating anti-gaijin invective with errors and illogic galore.  If the Japan Times isn’t bothering with fact checks anymore, they should just put this bigoted old fool out to pasture.  Clark is not worth the trouble to print or debate with anymore.

Still tracing his arc to irrelevancy, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Excerpt follows.  Full article (new updated link 2015) at:


The Japan Times Printer Friendly Articles
Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people (excerpt)



“Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here. If someone handing out Japanese-language flyers assumes they cannot read Japanese and ignores them, they cry racial discrimination. If they are left sitting alone in a train, they assume that is because the racist Japanese do not want to sit next to foreigners. If someone does sit next to them and tries to speak to them in English, they claim more discrimination, this time because it is assumed they cannot speak Japanese….

Recently they have revived the story of how they bravely abolished antiforeigner discrimination from bathhouses in the port town of Otaru in Hokkaido. Since I was closely involved, allow me to throw some extra light on that affair.

An onsen manager who allegedly had earlier been driven to near bankruptcy by badly behaved Russian sailors had decided this time to bar all foreigners from his new enterprise. The activist [sic] then filed a suit for mental distress and won ¥3 million in damages. In the Zeit Gist and letter pages of this newspaper, some have criticized these excessively zealous moves by the activists. These critics in turn have been labeled as favoring Nazi-style discrimination and mob rule. Maybe it is time to bring some reality to this debate.

Otaru had been playing host to well over 20,000 Russian sailors a year, most arriving in small rust-bucket ships to deliver timber and pick up secondhand cars. I visited the wharves there, and as proof I harbor no anti-Russian feeling let me add that I speak Russian and enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language. Even so, the idea of them demanding freedom to walk into any onsen bathhouse of their choice, especially to a high-class onsen like Yunohara [sic], is absurd…

It is time we admitted that at times the Japanese have the right to discriminate against some foreigners. If they do not, and Japan ends up like our padlocked, mutually suspicious Western societies, we will all be the losers.

Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University. A Japanese translation of this article will appear onwww.gregoryclark.net.
The Japan Times: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009

Letters to the Japan Times regarding Otaru Onsens Case article


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  The Japan Times Zeit Gist Community Page recently featured an article critical of the plaintiffs (okay, well, of one plaintiff:  me) in the Otaru Onsens Case.  I’ve blogged that article (and comments from readers) here.  Letters to the Editor on it were recently published in the Japan Times.  I’ll blog those below for discussion.  Thanks to everyone for their concern and energies to this issue.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(presented in the order they appeared in the JT, December 7, 2008)


Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008
By LANCE BRAMAN, Sano, Tochigi
See Tepido Lance Braman’s response, which essentially asserts that since we are in Japan (not America or Europe) by our own choice, then it is incumbent upon us to assimilate and follow Japanese rules, at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20081207a4.html

Accountability must be narrowed


Every mountain has more than one slippery slope. While Paul de Vries (”Back to the baths: Otaru revisited”) is concerned with the worrying precedent of Debito Arudou’s onsen lawsuit, de Vries sets an equally worrying precedent by implying that restrictions on “group accountability as a social conditioner” are inherently harmful. Group accountability can be employed fairly when it is narrow and rational.

If the problem is drunken foreigners unaware of bathing rules, the rational solution is to ban drunks and those unable to follow the rules. It is not to ban people associated with the problem group by virtue of some immutable characteristic like ethnicity. Indeed, Arudou has pressed public businesses to change from a “No Foreigners” policy to a “No Troublemakers,” or even “Must Understand Japanese” policy, and many have happily obliged.

Even women-only train carriages — a broad solution to a broad problem — have been limited in number and placed at one end of the train so as to cause minimal inconvenience to most male passengers. A man can simply walk a few meters and board the next carriage. It is hard to compare this to one’s exclusion from a public business that has few convenient alternatives.

The other slippery slope — that of group accountability as an unchecked excuse — has led to some of the greatest atrocities in human history. De Vries and, for that matter, the Japanese government would be well advised to keep this snowball from falling down either slope. Narrow and rational accountability is the only sustainable way to maintain both liberty and security.



A notion dangerous at the core

San Diego, Calif.

Paul de Vries‘ attempt to defend group accountability behavior is rather bleak and ridiculous. Perhaps de Vries did not read The Japan Times enough, as he surely would’ve seen that quite a few men, both foreign and domestic, ridicule the women-only train cars. I also stand against the policy, as it hardly equates to the need for men-women restrooms.

It was because of group accountability that hundreds of thousands of Japanese were ripped from their homes and sent to camps in the United States during World War II. These individuals had done nothing but be Japanese, yet they were punished. Insistence on group accountability, at its core, is largely seen as leading to horrible experiences, but apparently not if the group in question are foreigners in Japan today.

Well, then, why don’t we take things a step further? Since Japan attacked the U.S. on U.S. soil, why don’t we just remove all Japanese currently living in the U.S. and ban Japanese citizens from entering the U.S. — to guard against another possible attack in the future? Rather ridiculous, I’d say, but this is how dangerous the notion of group accountability can be.



Arguments aren’t good enough


I am afraid Paul de Vries has not done his homework; furthermore, he is comparing apples and oranges. For instance, you can’t label women-only cars as a form of acceptable discrimination in an argument about whether xenophobic actions are justified.

Molesting a woman is a crime. Given the number of available police officers and the number of trains and commuters each day, one can see that it is impossible to protect most women from gropers in packed mixed cars. The more vulnerable need to be protected, so roughly half of the commuters need to be slightly inconvenienced. It’s not as if men are being punished by not being allowed to board the trains!

Police are nearby and can always be called if there’s trouble at an onsen. While gropers on trains know that they have committed a crime, unruly bathers simply may not know the customs. They need to be told, not banned.

De Vries’ biggest blunder is to endorse punishing people of a group for what other members did. There is good reason that this is banned by the Geneva Conventions in war situations. Even in the pretense of preventing crime — as with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s past suggestion that some foreigners be detained after a big earthquake in Tokyo — it is questionable.

Although de Vries may find arguments to support his case, he cannot explain why a Japanese-speaking German university professor like myself, with a Japanese wife and kids, should be grouped together with Russian sailors when we want to use an onsen. We have nothing in common but face color. With that, refusals of entry to an onsen remain as they are: racism.

Finally, my response, not sent to the Japan Times or published anywhere but here.  Blogged last night amidst all the comments during the discussion of the original article.  Reprinting here for the sake of completeness:

Hi Blog. Sorry to keep you waiting. A few opinions in addition to the analysis offered above (thanks to everyone for commenting):

I’ll start with my conclusion. Look, as Ken said above, this article is basically incoherent. We have a flawed academic theory (which somehow groups people into two rigid ideological categories — 2.5 categories if you slice this into “American standards” as well) regarding social sanction and control, and proceeds on faith that this pseudo-dichotomy actually exists. As evidence, we have citations of women-only train carriages and border fingerprinting — both fundamentally dissimilar in content, origin, and enforcement to the onsens case. And presto, the conclusion is we must maintain this dichotomy (and condemn the Japanese judiciary for chipping away at it) for the sake of Japan’s safety and social cohesion.

Get it? Sorry, I don’t. That’s why I’m not going to do a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on what is essentially ideological nonsense.

But I will mention some glaring errors and omissions in the article:

1) “Pushed to the brink of ruin… by the behavior of Russian sailors”. Not quite. Earth Cure KK’s original sauna did go bankrupt (shortly after it opened Yunohana in 1998), but it’s not as if the Russian sailors descended on the former. The sauna in fact courted Russian business, and according to sources in Otaru offered information to them at portside. The sauna’s location was, quite simply, bad, being on the higher floor of a bar district, and went bankrupt like plenty of other decrepit bathhouses are around Japan. And as other bathhouses around Otaru noted, “Why did Yunohana [which never let in any foreigners and thus never, despite the claims of the article, suffered any damage] feel so special as to need signs up? We didn’t put up signs and still stayed in business.” Because it’s easier to blame the foreigner for one’s own business problems; as was the fashion for some at the time.

Proof in hindsight: Now the signs are down, Yunohana as a franchise has profited enough to open three more branches around this part of Hokkaido, so nuts to the idea the company was ever in any danger of going bankrupt due to rampaging NJ. There are simply some people who do not like foreigners in this world, and some of them just happen to be running businesses. That’s why other developed countries have actual laws to stop them, unlike Japan. It had nothing to do with grandiloquent theories like “group accountability”.

2) This theory assumes the “group” being held accountable has clearly-defined dichotomous borders that are easily enforced. The article neglects to make clear that other members of the “group”, as in Japanese citizens, were also being turned away from places like Yunohana — and I’m not referring only to myself. I’m referring to other Japanese children (and not just one of mine). Hence given the overlap of internationalization, the theory, even if possibly correct, is in practice unenforceable.

3) And it is moot anyway. There is no mention of international treaty (the ICERD) which Japan effected in 1996, where it promised to enforce standard UN-sanctioned international norms and rules to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. These are not “American” standards, as the article claims. These are world standards that the GOJ has acknowledged as the rules of play in this situation. The end.

4) The court decisions (there were in fact two, plus a Supreme Court dismissal) in any case does a) admit there was racial discrimination, but b) that RD was not the illegal activity. It was c) “unrational discrimination” based upon the judges’ interpretation of Japanese Civil Law, not the ICERD per se. Thus the standards being applied are in fact Japanese. Read the court documents. Everything is online. And in book form. In two languages.

There are more errors, but never mind. If the writer were to do a bit more homework about the facts of the case at hand, instead of trying to squash a landmark legal case into his own ideological framework, I think we might have had a more interesting discussion. But working backwards from a conclusion (especially when it’s a dogma) rarely results in good science, alas. Maybe his advertised book will offer something with better analytical power.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me) (Now UPDATED with comment)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s an article that came out in the Japan Times this morning about the Otaru Onsens Case, critical of what happened. I’ll refrain from comment (readers, go first), as I’m in transit. What do you think? Arudou Debito, returning from Iwate
(UPDATE: See my commentary in Comment #32 below)

News photo

Back to the baths: Otaru revisited

Paul de Vries sees worrying precedent for Japan in 2002 landmark court ruling

The Japan Times Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

The story is familiar to regular readers of Zeit Gist. Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from America, was living in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and had heard of the Yunohana public bath’s policy of denying entry to foreigners. In 1999, media in tow, he decided to put that onsen’s policy to the test. Sure enough, entry was denied, with the accompanying explanation that foreigners often “cause trouble” and, as such, the regulars “dislike sharing the facilities with them.”

The origin of this controversy is the behavior of Russian sailors. The Yunohana “onsen” is located in Otaru, the main port between Japan and the Russian Far East. Otaru attracts over a thousand Russian vessels and more than 25,000 sailors a year on stays of varying lengths. In the mid-1990s, Russian sailors were frequently showing up drunk at the city’s various onsen and jumping into the tubs with soap on their bodies, thus rendering the facilities unusable.

Prior to taking on the Yunohana onsen, Earth Cure, the management company against whom Arudou’s court action was taken, was running one of the city’s other onsen facilities. It had been pushed to the brink of ruin after its regular clientele had been driven away by the behavior of Russian sailors. When that problem reappeared at Yunohana, Earth Cure opted for an uncompromising stance: Anyone who did not immediately appear to be Japanese was turned away at the door.

To give Arudou his due, he didn’t rush to the courts. In accordance with the accepted customs of his adopted Japan, he attempted to reach an accord by working with Otaru city officials, and through consultations with the Yunohana onsen and a couple of other like-minded facilities. These efforts were successful with all but Yunohana, and it was that particular onsen against which Arudou and two other plaintiffs made a claim for ¥6 million for the “mental distress” that the self-inflicted ordeal had put them through. The case was won in November 2002 with a judgment awarding the plaintiffs half of what they had sought.

A responsible individual was barred from a facility to which the general public is entitled to enter upon presentation of an entry fee. His rights were upheld by the courts. The facility was forced to back down. So what’s the problem with that? The problem is that the case was fought and won on the issue of racial discrimination when the policy being employed by the Yunohana onsen could more accurately be described as the racial application of “group accountability.”

Group accountability is a process within which all of the members of a group are punished for the indiscretion of one of that group’s members. It is a process that seeks to take the onus of policing away from law enforcement professionals and place it in the hands of society at large. The upside of group accountability is high levels of public safety and the scarcity of rogue individuals. A downside occurs when the innocent are prejudiced or punished for behavior and deeds they did not commit.

There is nothing particularly Japanese about this process. It is commonly used in the West by parents and in schools, and is most notably employed in the battle against soccer hooliganism. In “adult” Western society, however, group accountability is incompatible with the cherished Western ideal of individual rights. Officially, in the West, group accountability is not to be employed. But is it?

In the West, are people prejudged by the actions of others from the same race, color, neighborhood or region? In the West, are preconceptions based on a history of behavior of others from the same sex or religion? The answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “Yes.” The reality for the West is that it gets the worst of both worlds: Individuals are still prejudged on the basis of group association, yet society does not benefit from the restraining force that peer pressure can provide.

While the most controversial applications of group accountability for foreigners within Japan are those that are based on race, it is a mistake to think that group accountability is not applied by the Japanese with an even hand. Consider, for example, the designation of women-only train carriages.

The women-only carriage initiative was first carried out on certain commuter lines during 2002, but was confined to late-night services. The stated rationale was to provide protection against lewd behavior by drunken male passengers — a rationale against which few could object. The ante was upped in 2005 when the service was extended to morning commuter trains, thus effectively conceding for the first time that “chikan” (gropers) and not alcohol was the primary cause of the problem.

In the weeks after the women-only carriages were introduced on morning services, there was a certain amount of guttural male rumbling, yet the measure has been widely accepted. This is clear proof that the Japanese are not above applying group-based discrimination within their own ranks.

It is also quite notable that the foreign male population of Japan does not appear to be particularly upset about being excluded from these train carriages. There has been no mention of any discontent in columns such as Zeit Gist, not a single word from Debito Arudou, and the silence in Readers in Council from non-Japanese has been deafening.

A subject on which the foreign (but most vociferously, Western) population did manage to find its voice was the regimen of photographic registering and fingerprinting that was introduced in November 2007. Under the justification of countering terrorism, the Japanese government decided to require that visitors to its shores be photographed and have their fingerprints scanned at immigration — a policy with both precedent and reasonable justification in that it was also being carried out by the U.S. and was in the process of being set up in Britain. But what a reaction followed! Online petitions, protests, letter after letter to The Japan Times, U.N.-sponsored seminars. It was unbelievable!

Women-only train carriages and fingerprinting/photographing are both applications of group accountability. On both of these issues, a section of society (men and foreigners) is being asked to undergo a measure of inconvenience in order to counter a threat that comes from within their ranks (chikan and al-Qaida). The attitude of the Japanese toward these two issues is consistent. The attitude of the Western population is not. The Western population of Japan clearly draws a distinction between racial and nonracial applications of group accountability. Or perhaps more accurately, between applications that are primarily directed toward Westerners and those that are not.

The use of group accountability as an instrument of social control in Japan has not historically been racial in application.

It became an accepted societal tool during a time when this nation was — for all practical purposes — a mono-racial society. It has therefore been traditionally applied on a basis of criteria other than race.

This contrasts sharply with the history of group-based discrimination in Arudou’s America. “White America” has always been racial to the core, with “the other” always being a member of another race (the same being largely true for Australia, New Zealand, Canada or any of the other landmasses that “whites” succeeded in colonizing). As such, group accountability is a far touchier subject in the West than it is in Japan and much of Asia.

But surely that’s the West’s problem. Why should the social benefits of group accountability be denied to the Japanese simply because of the history of entrenched Western racism, especially given that the Japanese employ it with an even hand? The concept enjoys a broad level of acceptance within Asia as a whole, and the majority of non-Japanese residing on Japanese shores are Asian nationals. It makes little sense for the Western attitude to prevail.

It is more than appropriate that Debito Arudou ultimately got to take his bath at the Yunohana facility, but the ruling that was handed down was misguided. In truth, the case should not have even gone to court. At a pre-trial hearing the judge should have addressed Earth Cure with something like the following:

“Look, I understand your concerns. You have clearly suffered from the behavior of Russian customers, and as you were driven out of business at a former facility, it is not unnatural that you are the final remaining holdout. But enough is enough! Considerable efforts have been made in good faith to resolve this problem at a multitude of levels. It is time for you to give some ground.”

And if that didn’t work, the judge should have either asked Arudou to come to him with something other than a racial discrimination claim, or have issued a judgment that addressed the issue of group accountability directly. But that was not to be. The judgment that was made placed negligible weight on the preamble to the claim, thereby laying the legal groundwork for the demise of group accountability as a social conditioner within Japan.

Debito Arudou has embraced the precedent set in the Yunohana onsen case and sought to make the “right of entry” something of an “inalienable human right.” Precedent in hand, he has spent much of the past few years confronting unwelcoming Japanese “businesses” — the vast majority of which no self-respecting person should want to be seen anywhere near. This crusade is essentially geared toward having Japan conform with American (as distinct from Western) standards.

I am no regular rider on the anti-American bandwagon. America is a truly wonderful country with some particularly obvious virtues, but these do not include its level of safety and social cohesion. While the rights of the individual are certainly more strongly upheld in America than in Japan, the presence of rogue individuals within America is disproportionately high. America is unquestionably a more dangerous place than Japan.

And this brings us to the point that Arudou ignores or simply fails to see. Group accountability is not employed in Japan simply for the sake of pushing people around. It is employed for the purpose of making Japan cohesive and safe. It is a major reason why Japan, unlike the U.S., is a nation in which the fear of random violence is relatively low. If Arudou succeeds in his quest, Japan will become one more nation in which the individual is to be feared. That is an outrageously high price to pay for the occasional racial, national, generational or gender-driven slight.

Paul de Vries is putting the finishing touches to a book about what the world can learn from Japan. Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

Japan Focus runs translation of Asahi Oct 5 2008 article on discrimination


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Academic website JAPAN FOCUS ran my translation of the October 5 2008 Asahi article earlier this week.  Now it’s got an international audience.  Good.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan’s Entrenched Discrimination Toward Foreigners
The Asahi Shimbun October 5, 2008
Translation by Arudou Debito

Japan Focus, October 25, 2008


Will Japan ever overcome its distrust of foreigners?  This question has been forcefully posed in various guises, most notably perhaps by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights Doudou Diene.  In 2005 he concluded after a nine-day investigation in Japan that the authorities were not doing enough to tackle what he called Japan’s “deep and profound racism” and xenophobia, particularly against its former colonial subjects.  The report appeared to vindicate the work of campaigners such as naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, who argue that Japan needs, among other things, an anti-discrimination law. 

Now, unusually perhaps for a major national newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun has waded into the debate with a major article on the issue.  Titled, “Opening the nation: Time to make choices,” the article recounts tales of discrimination by long-term foreign residents before looking at how Japan compares to other nations, including perhaps its nearest equivalent, South Korea.  A lively illustration helps makes the point that foreigners sometimes feel like second-class citizens.  The Asahi concludes that the dearth of laws here protecting the livelihoods or rights of non-Japanese makes the country somewhat unique.  “In other countries…there is almost no example of foreigners being shut out like this.”  Interestingly, the Asahi did not translate the article for its foreign edition. David McNeill


Apartments, hospitals…even restaurants

“They’re judging me on my appearance.  They suspect me because I’m not Japanese.”  Pakistani national Ali Nusrat (46), a resident of Saitama Prefecture, was stopped near his home by a policeman and asked, “What’s all this, then?”  He soon lost his patience.  This is his twentieth year in Japan and he has a valid visa.  However, since last year, he has gotten more and more questions about his identity and workplace, to the point where he was stopped by police every day for seven days.  He was aware that security was being tightened because of the G8 Summit of world leaders [which took place in Hokkaido in July 2008], but still thought it over the top. 

Nusrat has admired Japan since childhood.  There are lots of nice people here, he says.  But after the terrorism of 9/11, he feels that local eyes have grown more suspicious towards non-Japanese.  Realtors have told him, “We don’t take foreign renters.”  When he took a Brazilian friend to a hospital, they refused to treat him:  “Sorry, we don’t take foreign patients.”  

Recently, an American male (44) who has lived in Japan 23 years took his visiting American friend to a yakitori shop in Tokyo.  Nobody took their order.  When he eventually asked in Japanese for service, a woman who appeared to be the head manager said, “No gaijin” [the epithet for “foreigner”].  It was a shock.  “If this were the US, the first thing we’d do is report it to the police.  But there is no law against discrimination in Japan, so there’s nothing the cops will do about it.”

In Otaru, on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, there were public bathhouses with signs saying “we refuse entry to foreigners” back in 1998.  A court determined that this “qualified as discrimination”, handing down a verdict ordering one establishment to pay compensation.  However, non-Japanese making a life in Japan still to this day face various forms of discrimination (see illustration).  “Japanese Only” signs have still not disappeared, and some establishments charge non-Japanese entry fees many times higher than Japanese customers.  


“If you’re worried about people’s manners, then make the rules clear, and kick out people who don’t follow them,” is the advice offered to these businesses by Arudou Debito, a native of the United States with Japanese citizenship and an associate professor at Hokkaido Information University. He was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against an exclusionary bathhouse.  “These days, when Japan needs labor from overseas, properly protecting foreigner rights sends an important message that people are welcome here.” 

What about other countries?  While there are punitive measures, there are also moves to encourage communication.

From July 2007, South Korea began enforcing the “Basic Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in Korea”.  It demands that national and local governments “strive towards measures to prevent irrational cases of discrimination,” proclaiming in Article 1:  “Foreigners will adapt to South Korean society in a way that will enable them to demonstrate their individual abilities.”  South Korea’s aging society is outpacing Japan’s, and international unions now account for over 10 percent of all marriages.  Forty percent of South Korean farmers and fishermen have welcomed brides from China, Southeast Asia, and other countries.  The acceptance of foreign laborers continues apace.  This law is the result of strong demands for improvements in the human rights of foreigners, who are propping up South Korean society and economy.

In Western countries, in addition to punitive laws against racial discrimination, there are very powerful organizations backing up foreigners’ rights, such as Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has a staff of 500 people.  Public-sector residences doled out to white residents only; a child denied entry into a school “because he’s a Gypsy;” job promotions slow in coming — many of these types of cases and claims flow into the offices of the Commission, which carries out redress against discrimination by race, gender, and disability.

After investigating a bona fide case of discrimination, the Commission proposes all parties talk to each other.  If mediation fails, then the organization issues an order for parties to improve their behavior.  In the event of a lawsuit, the Commission provides legal funding and offers evidence in court.  In recent years, as more people have emigrated from Eastern Europe, as well as from Africa and Asia, it has become harder to argue that discrimination is simply between “Whites” and “non-Whites”.  According to [Patrick] Diamond, head of a government policy and strategy division within the Commission, “There are new duties concerning the prevention of antagonisms between ethnicities within communities.”

It is not only a matter of cracking down on discrimination after the fact, but also how to prevent it happening in the first place.  France has begun trying out a procedure where application forms for public housing, as well as resumes for employment, are made anonymous; this way, people do not know by an applicant’s name if the latter is from an ethnic minority or a foreign country.  In England, local governments are supporting events where immigrants and long-term residents cook each other food.  By methods including trial and error, they are breaking down deeply-held insecurities (kokoro no kabe), creating “a leading country of immigration” (imin senshinkoku).

Creating anti-discrimination laws in Japan — the debate stalls

Saitama Prefecture, 2007:  A non-Japanese couple in their seventies had just begun renting an upscale apartment, only to find the day before moving that they would be turned away.  The management association of the apartment found that bylaws forbade rental or transfer of their apartments to foreigners.  The couple’s oldest daughter called this a violation of human rights and appealed to the local Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights.  The Bureau issued a warning to the association that this was “discriminatory treatment, conspicuously violating the freedom to choose one’s residence”.  However, the association refused to revise its decision, and the couple had to look elsewhere.  

Nationwide, the Bureau of Human Rights took on 21,600 cases of rights violations in 2007, including cases of violence or abuse towards women or the elderly, invasions of privacy and bullying.  But there were also 126 cases of discrimination towards foreigners, a figure that is increasing year on year, with numerous cases involving refusals of service by renters, public baths, and hotels.  However, even in cases determined to involve discrimination, the Bureau only has the power to issue “explanations” (setsuji) or “warnings”, not redress measures.  Many are deterred by lawsuits and the enormous investment of time, emotional energy, and money they demand.  In the end, many people just put up with it.

Japan still has no fundamental law protecting the livelihood or rights of non-Japanese.  A bill for the protection of rights for handicapped and women, which also covers discrimination by race and ethnicity, was defeated in 2003.  Debate is continuing within the government and ruling party on whether to resubmit it.  Still, a “Human Rights Committee”, entrusted with the duties of hearing and investigating violations of human rights, has engendered great criticism from conservatives on the issue of appointing foreigners as committee members.  The government eventually did a volte-face, saying that “only residents who have the right to vote for people in the local assemblies” are allowed, thus limiting appointments to Japanese.

In other countries, where organizations protect foreigners from discrimination, there is almost no example of foreigners being shut out like this.  Even people within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been critical:  “The very organizations that are supposed to help foreigners in all manner of difficulties, such as language barriers, are in fact putting up barriers of their own.  Their priorities are truly skewed” (honmatsu tentou).

This article first appeared in The Asahi Shimbun morning edition, October 5, 2008 in the ashita o kangaeru (With Tomorrow in Mind) column. The original text of the article is archived here. Posted at Japan Focus on October 25, 2008.

ARUDOU Debito is an Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University. A human rights activist, he is the author of Japaniizu Onrii–Otaru Onsen Nyuuyoku Kyohi Mondai to Jinshu Sabetsu and its English version, “JAPANESE ONLY”–The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (Akashi Shoten Inc) and coauthor of a bilingual Guidebook for Immigrants in Japan. 

With thanks to Miki Kaoru for technical assistance in rendering the cartoon in English.

My problems with Wikipedia: Its biased entry on “Arudou Debito”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  I’ve been meaning to get to this for years now. I’m refreshed from my vacation.  Let’s get to it now.

In my most recent Japan Times column (JUST BE CAUSE August 5, 2008), I intimated that I feel rather negatively about Wikipedia (I call it “that online wall for intellectual graffiti artists”).  As much as I don’t think I should touch how historians render my history, Wikipedia’s entry on me has been a source of consternation.  Years of slanted depictions and glaring omissions by anonymous net “historians” are doing a public disservice — exacerbated as Wikipedia increasingly gains credibility and continuously remains the top or near-top site appearing in a search engine search.  

Controversial figures such as myself may naturally invite criticism, but when a couple of “guardian editors” take advantage of the fundamental weakness of Wikipedia (which, according to their interpretation of the rules, means the entry gives priority towards towards third-party opinions, whoever they are, rather than quoting the primary source) with the aim of distorting the record, this must be pointed out and corrected.  Otherwise it is harder to take Wikipedia seriously as a general source.

The issues I have with the “Arudou Debito” Wikipedia entry are, in sum:  

  1. A “Criticism” section not found in the Wikipedia entries of other “controversial figures”, such as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama — meaning there is overwhelming voice given to the critics and no voice given any supporters for balance.
  2. An avoidance of quoting primary source material just because it is archived on my website, Debito.org — even though it is often archived third-party material published by other authors.
  3. Omissions of books I published months and years ago.
  4. Other historical inaccuracies and misleading summaries of issues and cases.
  5. Privacy issues, such as mentioning my children by name, who are still minors and not public figures.
  6. “Criticism” sources overwhelmingly favoring one defunct website, which seems to be connected to the “editors” standing guard over this entry.
  7. Other information included that is irrelevant to developing this Wikipedia entry of me as a “teacher, author, and activist”, such as my divorce.

In other words, this page comes off less as a record of my activities as a “teacher, author, and activist”, more as an archive of criticisms.  I go into more specifics below, citing the most recent version of the “Arudou Debito” Wikipedia entry below.  My problem with each section is rendered as COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO below.

I will put a “neutrality” tag up on the site and let this blog entry be the anchor site for a call for improvements.  Let’s hope the Wikipedia system as it stands can right itself.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Debito Arudou

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Arudou Debito)
Debito Arudou

Debito Arudou
Born David Christopher Aldwinckle
January 131965 (age 43)
Flag of the United States California U.S.
Residence Flag of Japan Sapporo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Home town GenevaNew York[1]
Known for Activism

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  The picture is more than a decade old, taken 1996.  Many more recent ones are available.

Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito?), a naturalized Japanese citizen, is a teacher, author, and activist.




[edit]Early life

Arudou was born David Christopher Aldwinckle in California in 1965.[2] 

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  That was not my birth name.  And the reference made to my essay on the subject jumps to that conclusion following unrigorous research practices.

He attended Cornell University, first visiting Japan as a tourist on invitation from Ayako Sugawara (菅原文子 Sugawara Ayako?) [3] [4][5], his pen pal and future wife, for several weeks in 1986. Following this experience, he dedicated his senior year as an undergraduate to studying Japanese, graduating in 1987.[6] Aldwinckle then taught English in SapporoHokkaidō, for one year, and “swore against ever being a language teacher again, plunging instead into business.”[2] After returning to the United States to enter theGraduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Aldwinckle deferred from the program in order to return to Japan, whereupon he married in 1989 and spent one year at the Japan Management Academy in NagaokaNiigata Prefecture. In 1990, he returned to California to complete his Masters of Public and International Affairs (MPIA), and received the degree in 1991.[7]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  The above is accurate.  However, why is the sentence about my swearing “never to be a language teacher again” included?  It is irrelevant.

Aldwinckle then joined a small Japanese trading company in Sapporo. It was this experience, he recounts, that started him down the path of the controversial activist that he would later become. “This was a watershed in my life,” Arudou writes. “… and it polarized my views about how I should live it. Although working [in Japan] made my Japanese really good — answering phones and talking to nasty, racist, and bloody-minded construction workers from nine to six — there was hell to pay every single day.”[2] Arudou said that he was the object of racial harassment.[2] Aldwinckle quit the company. In 1993 he joined the faculty of Business Administration and Information Science at the Hokkaido Information University, a private university in Ebetsu,Hokkaidō, teaching courses in English as a foreign language. As of 2007 he is an associate professor.[8]
COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  I wrote these sentiments down on my website, yes.  But why is this section essentially the only one which assiduously cites Debito.org, while other sections below refrain (as the Discussion page notes, where “editor” “J Readings” states,we really need to stop quoting Arudou’s homepage so much and instead rely much, much more on what journalists and academics are publishing about Arudou and his activities in reliable third-party sources“) from doing the same?  Given that there are plenty of journalists and academics citing and publishing “about Arudou and his activities” (see final paragraph below), why are they not included?
Finally, the year I was promoted to associate professor is incorrect.  Moreover, my university courses are in Business English and Debate.

[edit]Japanese naturalization

Aldwinckle became a permanent resident of Japan in 1996. He obtained Japanese citizenship in 2000, whereupon he changed his name to Debito Arudou (有道出人 Arudō Debito?), whose kanji he says have the figurative meaning of “a person who has a road and is going out on it.” To allow his wife and children to retain their Japanese family name, he adopted the legal name Arudoudebito Sugawara (菅原有道出人 Sugawara Arudōdebito?)[5] — a combination of his wife’s Japanese maiden name and his new transliterated full name.[9]As reasons for naturalization he cited the right to vote, other rights, and increased ability to stand on his rights;[2] he later chose to renounce his U.S. citizenship.[10]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  My motivations for changing my citizenship are not primarily these, as these and other sources on Debito.org indicate.  Selectively misquoted to make it seem as though I became a Japanese merely in order to stand on my rights.  That is incorrect.

[edit]Family and divorce

Ayako Sugawara gave birth to two children, Amy Sugawara Aldwinckle (Ami Sugawara (菅原 亜美 Sugawara Ami?) in Japanese), and Anna Marina Aldwinckle (Anna Sugawara (菅原 杏奈 Sugawara Anna?) in Japanese).[11] [3][12][13] Aldwinckle described Amy as “viewed as Japanese because of her looks” and Anna as “relegated to gaijin status, same as I” because of physical appearances. [14] 

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Why are my children mentioned by name?  They are not public figures, and they are minors.  In this day when there are lots of Internet crazies out there, this shows an errant disregard for their privacy and safety.  They have indicated to me that they do not want to be included by name in this Wikipedia entry.  Their names should be removed.

According to Arudou’s writings, when he took his family to the Yunohana Onsen to test the rules of the onsen, the establishment allowed for Amy to enter the onsen and refused entry to Anna on the basis of their appearances. [12][13]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  This summary of the case and the interpretations of our motivations are glaringly inaccurate and misquoted.  To wit: it was not only my family who attended our trip to take a bath at a facility open to the general public.

In 2000 he lived in NanporoSorachi DistrictSorachi SubprefectureHokkaidō with his family. [5]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  In 1983 I lived in Ithaca, NY, and in 1988 I lived in San Diego, California… etc.  Why include a historical address?  Especially after giving out the names of my children.  Delete.

Arudou said that he divorced his wife in September 2006. Following the divorce[15], Arudou petitioned the Sapporo Family Court to delete his ex-wife’s Japanese maiden family name from his koseki, or Family Registry, thus officially changing his name to Debito Arudou in November 2006.[16]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Why is discussion of my divorce necessary in my Wikipedia entry?  What bearing does it have on my life as a “teacher, author, and activist”?

[edit]Otaru onsen lawsuit

The original problematic sign             

The original problematic sign

Arudou was one of three plaintiffs in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Yunohana Onsen in Otaru, Hokkaidō. Yunohana maintained a policy to exclude non-Japanese patrons; the business stated that it implemented the policy after Russian sailors scared away patrons from one of its other facilities. After reading an e-mail posted to a mailing list digest complaining of Yunohana’s policy in 1999,[17]Arudou visited the hot spring (onsen), along with a small group of Japanese, White, and East Asian friends, in order to confirm that only visibly non-Japanese people were excluded.[18]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Poor summary of the events.

Arudou assumed that when he returned in 2000 as a naturalized Japanese citizen, he would not be refused. The manager accepted that Arudou was a Japanese national but refused entry on the grounds that his foreign appearance could cause existing Japanese customers to assume the onsen was admitting foreigners, i.e drunk Russian sailors which were causing problems in that locality, and take their business elsewhere.[19]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Again, poor summary of the events.

Arudou and two co-plaintiffs, Kenneth Lee Sutherland and Olaf Karthaus, in February 2001 then sued Yunohana on the grounds of racial discrimination, and the City of Otaru for violation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty which Japan ratified in 1996. OnNovember 112002, the Sapporo District Court ordered Yunohana to pay the plaintiffs 1 million JPY each (about $25,000 United States dollars in total) in damages.[20] The court stated that “refusing all foreigners without exception is ‘unrational discrimination’ [that] can be said to go beyond permissible societal limits.” [21]The Sapporo High Court dismissed Arudou’s claim against the city of Otaru for failing to create an anti-discrimination ordinance; the court ruled that the claim did not have merit.[22] The Sapporo High Court upheld these rulings on September 162004[23] and the Supreme Court of Japan denied review on April 72005.[22]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Again, poor summary of the case.  Everything on the case is in my book, JAPANESE ONLY, and on Debito.org, with hundreds of third-party and published references.  Note how fact-confirmed published books in two languages, JAPANESE ONLY, are cited in this Wikipedia entry only once, despite being primary-source materials.

[edit]Kyōgaku no Gaijin Hanzai Ura File – Gaijin Hanzai Hakusho 2007

In February 2007, Arudou commented on Kyōgaku no Gaijin Hanzai Ura File – Gaijin Hanzai Hakusho 2007(Secret Foreigner Crime Files) a mook (magazine/book) published by Eichi Suppan on January 31. The mook contains images and descriptions of what the magazine says are crimes committed in Japan by non-Japanese, including graphs breaking down crimes by nationality. The magazine includes a caption describing a black man as a “nigga“, an article entitled “Chase the Iranian!” and calls Tokyo a “city torn apart by evil foreigners.”[24] Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting against “discriminatory statements and images about non-Japanese residents of Japan.”[25]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Not only is this this a poor summary of the case, the fact remains that I have taken up plenty of other cases like these; this case in particular was not all my efforts alone.  If the Wikipedia entry includes this case, it should include others (such as Tama-chan, published in several newspapers in two languages), archived on Debito.org, which do have third-party published sources as well.

Note how our works from a group I founded, The Community in Japan, are also completely ignored.  If this is in fact an entry about my activism, as opposed to a page archiving criticisms, these are significant omissions.


Arudou has written a book about the 1999 Otaru hot springs incident. Arudou originally wrote the book in Japanese; the English version, Japanese Only — The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (ISBN 4-7503-2005-6), was published in 2004 and revised in 2006. Jeff Kingston, reviewer for The Japan Times, described the book as an “excellent account of his struggle against prejudice and racial discrimination.”[26]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  There are lots more reviews on this book, many published and listed on Debito.org.  How about the Tom Baker review of the book, published in the Daily Yomiuri?  Also, why are these reviews not given more than a short sentence excerpt?  Considering how assiduously Criticisms are cited below, why are positive reviews not?  This is an editorial bias.  It’s not as if there are necessarily such strict space constraints in the wiki world.

Moreover, as mentioned above, I have written more than one book.  Why is the Japanese version with ISBN not listed?

Arudou has also written several textbooks on business English and debating in addition to many journalistic and academic articles.[27]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  How about listing some of them, from Source 27?  Again, why downplay the subject’s works, “up-play” the criticisms? 

Most glaring is that since March 2008 I have had a co-authored book, HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN, on the market. Yet several months and plenty of updates by the “guardian editors” later, this publication is still not listed.  This omission clearly undermines the accuracy and credibility of this entire Wikipedia entry.


COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Why do we have a “Criticism” section at all?  The Wikipedia entries for other controversial figures, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, do not.  Activist and author Michael Moore’s “controversies” get a separate entry, and there is as of this writing a “disputed neutrality” tag attached to that.  

And why not a “Supporters” section for balance? Because the “editors” standing guard (i.e. “J Readings”, whose name appears constantly in the Discussion Section justifying keeping the current entry), say inter alia The criticism section (not page) is supposed to be about criticism, hence the name; it’s not about “adding more balance to this section.  The “editors”, however, later argue against citing other “Supporters” even though they fit their qualifications of, as they put it, “notable author or organization related to Japan or human rights gave their unconditional support for Arudou’s confrontational tactics, writings, etc. in a publicly verifiable newspaper, letter-to-the-editor, academic journal, or peer reviewed non-fiction book (i.e., no vanity press)”.  

The problem is that many of these words of support, even if they are independently published, are only archived on Debito.org (since other newspapers, such as the Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Kyodo, remove their archives from public view).  This becomes the blanket excuse for not including them on this Wikipedia entry.  

Finally, people cited below as critics do not arguably meet the same criteria for inclusion above:

People, including me, are fascinated by Debito Arudou because we wonder why he wanted to become Japanese in a country where he finds so many wrongs.
—Robert C. Neff [28]

Anna Isozaki, one of Arudou’s former colleagues who was initially active in the BENCI (Business Excluding Non-Japanese CustomerIssho) project (unconnected to Arudou’s “Community in Japan” project), said that Arudou has an unwillingness to co-operate within a larger organization and that Arudou felt resentment against being told to separate “the apparent center of activity from himself.” [29]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Who is Anna Isozaki?  Is this a notable author?  Is this a notable organization?  Issho Kikaku is a defunct group.  And this is a person who merely wrote a letter to defunct website JapanReview.net (see source 29), itself not a notable organization, nor a publicly-verifiable source, academic journal, or peer-reviewed non-fiction book.  Including this quote does not fall under Wikipedia or even the “editors” guidelines, and enters the territory of weasel words, cherry-picking opinions to suit an editorial bent.

Bob Neff adjacent, although an author of one book on onsens, is not noted for writing about discrimination issues in Japan.  And the source again is JapanReview.net.  See how many of these criticisms below come from one source, JapanReview.net, run by Yuki Honjo and Paul Scalise, which may indicate the “guardian editors” identities (and their editorial bents, given their highly-biased review of book JAPANESE ONLY)

Alex Kerr, author of Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan (ISBN 0-8090-3943-5), believed that Arudou’s tactics are “too combative.” Kerr said that he was doubtful “whether in the long run it really helps.” According to Kerr, “in Japan… [the combative] approach fails.” Kerr said that “gaijin and theirgaijin ways are now part of the fabric of Japan’s new society,” and feared that Arudou’s activities may “confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.”[30] On 7 April 2007, Arudou publicly criticized Kerr’s comments on his personal blog and mass e-mail newsletter lists. Following Arudou’s public criticisms, Kerr responded in an open e-mail posted by Arudou elaborating on his initial impressions of Arudou’s tactics, his current impressions of Arudou’s newsletter and website, and Kerr’s own distinct techniques for being critical in the field of “traditional culture, tourism, city planning, and the environment” — “to speak quietly, from ‘within.’” Respecting Arudou’s “undoubtedly combative” tactics, Kerr now concluded by stating: “I wholly support [Arudou’s] activities and [his] methods.”[31]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  If one reads the original Japan Times interview with Alex Kerr, it is clear that his comments were in fact about two-thirds supportive of my works.  But only the critical one-third is cited.  Later, when Alex clarifies his comments on Debito.org (see first comment on site) and acknowledges that he has been misquoted, it is, once again, highly abridged.  And it is tucked away into the Criticisms section as a footnote, as opposed to creating a separate “Supporters” section that qualifies under the “guardian editors'” own guidelines.

Responding to Arudou’s statements regarding the United States Department of State in the Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA), Alec Wilczynski, Consul General, American Consulate General Sapporo, said that Arudou’s statements contain “antics,” “omissions,” and “absurd statements” as part of an attempt “to revive interest in his flagging ‘human rights’ campaign.” On his website Arudou responded with the statement “A surprising response from a diplomat,” and posted commentary from an associate regarding the renunciation of Arudou’s United States citizenship.[10]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Why should Wikipedia readers care what a Mr. Alec Wilczynski said?  Is he a published author or notable person regarding human rights in Japan?  Moreover, note how editorial constraints are suddenly relaxed to allow Debito.org to be cited — because it is a criticism.  But the counterarguments also listed on that cited website are not listed in any detail.  Again, the editorial bent is stress the criticism, downplay the counterarguments from supporters.

Gregory ClarkAkita International University Vice-President, views the lawsuit as the product of “ultrasensitivity” and “Western moralizing.”[32][33] Yuki Allyson Honjo, a book critic at JapanReview.net, criticized Clark’s statements and referred to him as one of a group of “apologists.” [34] Clark responded to Honjo’s criticism, believing that Honjo mis-characterized his statements. Honjo responded by saying that her use of the word “apologist” applied to Clark’s particular stance on Arudou’s case and not as a sweeping generalization of Clark’s character. Honjo maintained her stance regarding Clark’s statements. [35]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  This Wikipedia entry is about Arudou Debito, not about “book critic” Yuki Allyson Honjo’s debate with Gregory Clark (again, all cited from defunct and non-peer-reviewed website JapanReview.net).  Look at all the detail given this debate, and how little is accorded other debates which involve detractor and supporter?  To me it makes it clear precisely who “guardian editor” “J Readings” is.

Arudou has been criticized as “fishing for trouble”, and that he “distort[s] the facts”. “If there is insufficient media scrutiny, it is of Arudou’s outlandish claims.”[36]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Same style, same bent, and this time nobody cited by name for verification.  There are plenty of other people who say the opposite (see below).  Why not include them somewhere on this Wikipedia entry?

Robert Neff, author of Japan’s Hidden Hot Springs (ISBN 0-8048-1949-1), believes that much of Arudou’s campaign is divisive, stating: “I think much of his campaign is faux because most of the places he is going after are in Hokkaido trying to protect themselves from drunken Russians. I have bathed and/or stayed at well over 200 onsen establishments and been stopped only once.”[28]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: Again, the source is defunct and non-peer-reviewed JapanReview.net.

Arudou and his family should not have been excluded from the onsen in Otaru, but I suspect I am not alone in objecting to the way this unpleasant, but essentially trivial incident has been parlayed into a career opportunity.
—Peter Tasker [37]

Peter Tasker, author of numerous non-fiction and fiction works on Japan, argues that in “attempting to monster [Japan] into George Wallace‘s Alabama, [Arudou] trivializes the real-life brutal discrimination that still disfigures our world and the heroic campaigners who have put themselves on the line to fight it.”[37]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: Again, the source is JapanReview.net.  And is this novelist a published authority on human rights in Japan?

Alexander Kinmont, a former chief equity strategist of NikkoCitygroup, does not believe that a collection of bath-houses, “soaplands,” massage parlors, and nightclubs is representative of Japan’s civil rights situation in any meaningful sense.[38] 

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: Again, the source is JapanReview.net.  And why is the opinion of a stockbroker cited?  Is he an authority published in the field of human rights?  

Tasker and Kinmont object to Arudou’s statements comparing the institutionalized racial discrimination historically exhibited in the segregated American south with the examples that, according to Arudou, show racial discrimination in Japan.[37][38]

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: Again, the source is JapanReview.net.  Kinmont and Tasker misquote me and the facts of the cases anyway.

That’s the end of the Wikipedia entry.  Sources are available on Wikipedia, so I won’t list them here.  Look how much JapanReview.net is cited despite the expressed editorial guidelines.

Finally the REFERENCE LINKS section not only does not mention Debito.org, but also includes yet another link to Yuki Honjo at JapanReview.net.  Even though there are lots more reference links out there (many have been included, then deleted in the past by editors) by published third-party sources.  Why only these?  And why, when there are errors in the articles (such as in the Rial article and the Honjo review), aren’t sources listing these errors mentioned as well?

  • Comparative Review of Japanese Only and My Darling is a Foreigner by Yuki Allyson Honjo
  • Patrick Rial,”Debito Arudou: Evangelic Activist or Devilish Demonstrator?,” JapanZine (December 2005)
  • The first of a three-part interview with Arudou Debito onYamato Damacy (February 2006)
  • Interview with Debito Arudou on Trans-Pacific Radio’s Seijigiri(March 82007)
  • ========================================

    FINAL COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  In sum, where are the (positive) quotes from the people and published authors who actually have something verifiably meaningful to say about Japan and social issues, such as Donald Richie (here and here), Ivan Hall, Chalmers Johnson, John Lie, Jeff KingstonRobert Whiting, Mark SchreiberEric Johnston, Terrie LloydBern Mulvey, Lee Soo Im, and Kamata Satoshi?  More citations from academic sources here.

    Omitting the comments and sentiments of these people make the Wikipedia entry sorely lacking in balance, accurate research, and respect for the facts of the case or the works of the person biographied.  Again, this page comes off less as a record of my activities as a “teacher, author, and activist”, more as an archive of criticisms.

    For these reasons, I will put a “neutrality disputed” tag on the “Arudou Debito” Wiki entry and hope Wikipedia has the mechanisms to fix itself.  


    Otaru Onsens Lawsuit 2002 Sapporo District Court decision translated into English


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Thanks to Tim for sending me this!   Arudou Debito

    Hi Debito-san,

    I just wanted you to know that the [Otaru Onsens Lawsuit] Sapporo District Court decision of 11/11/02 is now available in English for the Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal Vol 9:2. Please feel free to set up a link to the following url on your own website:


    Thanks and keep up the good work.  Yours, Tim Webster

    Japan Times 4th JUST BE CAUSE column on “Good Grass Roots” June 3 2008


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    By Arudou Debito
    Japan Times June 3, 2008
    Draft ten with links to sources.

    Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080603ad.html

    Reader Rodney in Vancouver recently emailed:  “I’ve often found your articles informative and useful, but they tend to take a tone of complaint.  Please tell us about some face-to-face, grassroots efforts that have helped make Japanese more considerate and respectful of those who are different.”

    Thanks.  Yes, my essays sound like “complaints” because I focus on ongoing issues that need redress.  That doesn’t mean I don’t see the good news too.  Here are 700 words to prove that (apologies for leaving out anyone’s favorite topic):

    First up, the labor unions (i.e. the ones that let non-Japanese join, even help run).  Their annual Marches in March, for example, have made it clear to the media (and nasty employers like NOVA) that non-Japanese workers are living in and working for Japan–and that they are ready to stand up for themselves, in both collective bargaining and public demonstrations.

    These groups have gained the ear of the media and national Diet members, pointing out the legal ambiguity of Trainee Visas, and systematic abuses of imported labor such as virtual slavery and even child labor. For example, Lower House member (and former Prime Ministerial candidate) Taro Kono in 2006 called the entire work visa regime “a swindle”, and opened ministerial debate on revising it.

    In the same vein, local NGOs are helping NJ workers learn Japanese and find their way around Japan’s social safety net.  Local governments with high NJ populations have likewise begun multilingual services; Shizuoka Prefecture even abolished their practice of denying Kokumin Hoken health insurance to NJ (on the grounds that NJ weren’t “kokumin”, or citizens).

    These governments are holding regular meetings, issuing formal petitions (such as the Hamamatsu and Yokkaichi Sengens) to the national government, recommending they improve NJ education, social insurance, and registration procedures.

    Still more NGOs and concerned citizens are petitioning the United Nations.  Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene has thrice visited Japan on their invitation, reporting that racial discrimination here is “deep and profound” and demanding Japan pass laws against it.

    Although the government largely ignored Diene’s reports, United Nations representatives did not.  The Human Rights Council frequently referenced them when questioning Japan’s commitment to human rights last May.  That’s how big these issues can get.

    More successes from the grassroots:  Separated/divorced NJ parents with no custody (or even access) to their Japanese children have drawn attention to Japan’s unwillingness to abide by international standards against child abduction.  After international media coverage and pressure, Japan announced last month it would finally sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions by 2010.

    Decades of civil disobedience by “Zainichi” Korean Permanent Residents led to the abolition of all NJ fingerprinting in 1999.  Although claims of “terrorism and crime” led to Japan reinstating NJ fingerprinting at points of entry into the country in November, the Zainichis were granted an exception.

    Last year, a viciously racist magazine on foreign crime entitled “Gaijin Hanzai” found its way into convenience stores nationwide (Zeit Gist March 20, 2007).  Internet mail campaigns and direct negotiation with store managers occasioned its withdrawal from the market–even helped bankrupt the publisher.

    And of course, there is the perennial campaign against “Japanese Only” establishments, which often exclude any customer who doesn’t “look Japanese”.  Following Brazilian Ana Bortz’s 1999 court victory against a Hamamatsu jewelry store, I was one plaintiff in another successful lawsuit (2001-2005) against a public bath.  The Otaru Onsens Case has become, according to law schools, a landmark lawsuit in Postwar Japan.

    It’s a long story, but here’s the “face-to-face” for Rodney:  Only one Otaru bathhouse got sued because we went to each one (and a number of others around the country) for long chats.  One owner even became my friend, and, heartsick at what he was doing, took his “no foreigner” signs down.  As did many other places when persuaded politely by us. (More in my book Japanese Only.)

    These are the butterflies flapping up a storm, sweeping down barrier after barrier.  Things are indeed getting better in many ways for NJ residents.

    And that’s partly because we have shed our “cultural relativism” and “guestism”, pushing more for our due in a society that needs us.

    People are listening.  Some steps forward, some back.  But we shall proceed and succeed, as the above examples demonstrate.


    HANDBOOKcover.jpgArudou Debito is co-author of Handbook For Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan. A version of this essay with links to these issues at www.debito.org/japantimes060308.html

    720 words


    中日新聞:千曲市で外国人差別など講演」ハンドブックツアー中で有道出人スピーチ報道 Chuunichi Shinbun article on speech during HANDBOOK Tour


    Chuunichi Shinbun article on speech during HANDBOOK Tour…

    当日使ったパワーポイントをここでダウンロードできます。どうぞご覧下さい。宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

    交流を広げるために 国際住民からのアドバイス
    有道出人(あるどう でびと)氏の座談会を終えて
    千曲市国際交流協会 著

    3月22日(日曜日)亀清旅館にて、米国カルフォルニア州出身の日本国籍取得者「有道出人(あるどう でびと)」氏を囲んだ座談会が「聞きたい!知りたい!シリーズ第2弾 湯ったりトーク」と銘うって開催されました。



     文末ではありますが、この度、開催時間の変更により、多数の皆様にご迷惑をおかけしたことをお詫び申し上げます。また、参加された方やご協力頂いた亀清旅館、中日新聞社、有道出人さんおよび関係者の皆様に感謝いたします。(屋代支部 荻原)

    Italian TV SKY TG24 on Sapporo Yuki Matsuri… and racial discrimination in Japan


    Hello Blog. Here’s a pleasant surprise… Pio d’Emilia of Italian channel SKY TG24 interviewed me last week regarding the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit, racial discrimination, and life in Japan as a naturalized Japanese citizen, with the 59th Sapporo Snow Festival as a backdrop. Broadcast nationwide in Italy on February 9, 2008.

    Although the entire 8 1/2 (no connection to Fellini) minute broadcast is, naturally, entirely in Italian (I felt like Clint Eastwood in reverse, dubbed back under Sergio Leone’s direction), you can still get the flavor of the matsuri and an inkling of one perspective in Japan. They even got an associate of the Mayor of Sapporo, a Mr Nakata (whom I’ve known in Sapporo since 1987!), to say for the record that the issue of racial discrimination is a thing of the past and solved! Not likely.

    It’s a fat file, but download it from

    Enjoy! Transcript follows, translated by Emanuele Granatello. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    It took 3000 m3 of snow, 385 trucks and more than 3000 people to realize this huge snow sculpture dedicated to ancient Egypt`s splendours.

    This year Yuki Matsuri, the “Snow Festival”, has been dedicated to culture and friendship with the African Continent, and this is the statue launching the festival.

    We are in Sapporo, capital city of Hokkaido island, the northernmost Japanese region. In the past this place had been inhabited by Ainu, a people of caucasian origin, now almost extinct because of various vicissitudes and, above all, because of a still existing discrimination problem.

    The Snow Festival involves all the city of Sapporo, from Odori Central Park, where the gigantic snow structures are realized, to Susukino mall, where the competition for the best ice sculpture is held, and Satorando, located at city doors, where sport and entertainment events are held.

    This year, 59th edition, the greatest attractions are the White Labyrinth, and this free, open to everybody breathtaking kamikaze-style rubber dinghy slide.

    The Festival was born in 1950, from the idea of some Sapporo boys who, accused by teachers and parents to not know how to use their time, began to make big snowmen throughout the city, the festival grew year by year until it became an international event that in 2008 will attract more than 2 million people, as many as Sapporo`s inhabitants.

    The City of Sapporo is modern and organized to the point that, because of the huge amount of snow covering her for 6 months a year, Municipality and Citizens have made a quite original agreement: Municipality will keep roads clean, while citizens will plough the sidewalk. However this is not a binding agreement, nor fines are provided for, so the result is that every now and so sidewalks are ice covered, thus causing many accidents and forcing people to walk very carefully.

    Obviously, the main characters of the Event are children. Not only Sapporo and Hokkaido`s schools come to the Festival, but also of many other schools scattered across the archipelago. Moreover, many families use one of the many extended holidays they get in this period, to go to see, maybe for the first time, snow. This kid, committed in her first reportage, comes from Shikoku island, more 1000 km from here.

    It`s her first time on the snow.

    “For what TV are you working for?”

    “For my mom, we were coming together, but suddenly she had some problems at work.” “So?”

    “So I came with granny, she`s got a camera, and we decided to do a nice reportage, so mom won`t miss a thing”.

    In July in Hokkaido will be held the G8 summit, dedicated this time to global warming.

    This is the huge statue that Sapporo`s boys, helped by army, have built for the summit. The Earth is hugged by children surrounded by animals and architectural symbols of participating nations. Tower of Pisa has been chosen for Italy.

    The 8 heads of state will meet on the shores of Toya Lake, one hour by car from Sapporo, and if on a side there are big expectations for the advertisement the island will receive from the event, there are also many worries, says Hiroyuki Nakata, Sapporo`s vice-mayor.

    Arudou Debito, 42, from California, [20] years ago after marrying a Japanese woman and settling in Sapporo, obtained Japanese citizenship. He teaches Information Science at Sapporo University

    Since then he has been fighting a long and difficult battle against a society suspicious and sometimes cruel towards diversity, be it real or perceived.

    “Arudou, could you tell us briefly the story that made you somehow famous?

    “It`s quite simple. On a 1999 day I went with my family to onsen, Japanese-style spa. But the manager turned me away. < > he said.

    The funny part is that even after showing him my Japanese passport he refused letting me enter. < > he told me. I did a very long lawsuit to be in the right, but he didn`t give up. Instead of letting me in after the verdict, he preferred to close the shop. [NB: This is inaccurate. This refers to another sento in Wakkanai. I think there might have been an edit here.]

    About this incident Arudou also wrote a book, and he is always trying to change the mind of a people that has just begun to deal with the idea of multi ethnicity and with the fact that there could be white and black Japanese citizens as well.

    While I was interviewing him, a group of kids approached us. Their teacher sent them hunting for foreigners signs.

    “We are from Sapporo`s Elementary School, can we have your signature?”

    “What do you need it for?”

    “We have been told to gather foreigners`s signs”.

    “Oh really? Do you know that I am not a foreigner? Yes, I am white, but I am a Japanese like you.”

    “Can you sign anyway”?

    Government officially denies the presence of ethnic minorities in Japan, but what`s the real situation? “So who I am? I also represent an ethnic minority. A white-skinned Japanese man. Japan must put up with multi ethnicity idea. They must put up with the fact there are now one million of naturalized foreigners and hundred of thousands people living here legally, with the right to not being inflicted any kind of discrimination. They are not guests, but citizens.

    “For example when they search for a house?”

    “Exactly, there are a lot of land agencies specifying they won`t accept pets or foreigners. Would you believe it? We are being considered like animals. In some cases discrimination is more specific. No Chinese, but no problem if you are American or European. Sure, in every country you have that kind of discrimination, but it happen offstage. Here everything is done in broad daylight, there is not any law that forbidding and sanctioning that kind of behaviour.”

    “A binding question: why are you doing it? Why did you become a Japanese citizen defying the Empire and its laws?”

    “Lots of people ask me that. It`s because I love this country. It is beautiful, amazing places, fantastic food. It`s just because I decided to live here that I want to contribute to make life easier”.

    “Rolan Barthes” in his unsurpassed essay about Japan `Empire of Signs`, defined this country a labyrinth, but sure he didn`t mean to make any reference to foreigners, but to the Japanese people. According to the Japanese man Arudou Debito, what`s the recipe to decipher this labyrinth?”

    “Trial and error. You take a road and find a wall, take another one and crash against another wall, until you learn to recognize walls and realize that they are not impossible to pass after all. It`s my recipe for life.”


    Permanent Resident protests US Embassy’s inaction towards protecting human rights of own citizens


    Morning Blog. Got this letter last night from a friend who’s gotten disgusted with the US Embassy’s inaction towards protecting the human rights of its citizens. Myself, I think the USG has long forgotten it’s primary duty to its taxpayers/citizens, and sees its main duty as selling weapons and maintaining military bases and regional interests. Even though it has plenty of wherewithal (especially vis-a-vis Japan) to take on issues that affect the NJ residents here under their purview. The Canadian Govt. does, what with the Murray Wood Case, for one example. They even commented personally during the Otaru Onsens Case. (The USG did comment on its Country Reports on Human Rights, which I appreciate very much, but it was essentially too little, too late) Here’s the letter. Debito in Sapporo


    [Kyushu Permanent Resident, reproduced with permission and anonymized by Debito.org] January 10, 2008

    Dear U.S. Embassy,

    I just finished reading your January newsletter. In it, like the previous two, you mentioned the new Japanese immigration control law without comment.

    What I have not read in recent newsletters – what I and probably many other permanent-resident Americans in Japan are wondering – is what you have done to protest the new law. Regrettably, I have not heard a peep from the embassy regarding this discriminatory law. In case you don’t know, many permanent-resident Americans are upset about it.

    I know you diplomats are exempt from the humiliating experience of having to be fingerprinted and photographed. But, what about those of us who have lived her many years (34 in my case), have been good, tax-paying, contributing residents? I am not talking about time or inconvenience. I am talking about being separated from Japanese spouse and kids upon return from abroad, singled out as a potential criminal or terrorist. This, in spite of having already been thoroughly investigated, fingerprinted, etc. to obtain permanent-resident status.

    The U.S.A. does not require Japanese who are permanent residents in the U.S. to be fingerprinted when they return to the country. This is grounds enough for a protest to the Japanese government. It is often “gaiatsu” that gets things changed here.

    More than just consular services and benign announcements, we Americans expect you to stand up for our rights here. Did the Japanese government ask the Embassy for comment on a law that affects thousands of Americans here, and if so what did you do/say?

    Fifteen years ago, Ambassador Walter Mondale fought for the rights of over 100 U.S. citizen teachers at Japanese national universities (I was one.) who were slated to be released because they were in the high pay brackets and close to getting retirement benefits. He met personally with a representative group of affected teachers at the Embassy, and he took the matter to the highest levels of Japanese government and did not give up until they relented and reversed the policy. One point he made was that such an indignity would not happen to the many Japanese academics employed at American universities.

    I hope you can so something about this fingerprinting issue; at the very least inform the Japanese government that most Americans resent this new requirement. If you are not sure about the depth of feeling on this issue, you could invite U.S. citizens to write in with feedback/comments on the law.

    If your answer is simply that the law is a matter of Japanese internal policy, then you are not serving us well at all.

    Thank you,

    [Name Withheld]

    U.S. Citizen


    Manitoban: NJ FP etc. “The Land of the Rising Shun”


    Hi Blog. An article in The Manitoban (Canada) using lots of information from Debito.org, dispersing what’s been going on in Japan vis-a-vis NJ in Japan legally, socially, and logistically over the past 50 years throughout the Canadian steppes. Mottainai. Best to also put it on Debito.org for a wider audience.

    Article courtesy of the author, thanks. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    THE MANITOBAN (Canada), November 14, 2007
    By Trevor Bekolay

    If you or anyone you know is planning to go to Japan, be advised that beginning Nov. 20, all non-Japanese people will be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering Japan.

    Unlike other fingerprinting laws, such as the U.S.’s, Japan requires permanent residents (the equivalent of Green Card holders in the U.S.) to be fingerprinted and photographed every time they re-enter the country. Those fingerprints and photographs are kept on file for 70 years and can be made available to the police and other government agencies.

    While one could argue that permanent residents should just apply for Japanese citizenship, obtaining citizenship is a long and arduous process, which requires residents to give up their current citizenship. Unless you are willing to make those sacrifices, you are a foreigner, and you must give up your biometric information every time you cross the Japanese border.

    History of the fingerprinting law

    This Japanese fingerprinting law is an updated version of a fingerprinting program implemented in 1952, after the American occupation of Japan following the Second World War. The original fingerprinting law met with firm opposition from foreign residents in Japan, especially the Zainichi. The Zainichi are ethnic Korean and Chinese people born and raised in Japan. Despite living most or all of their lives in Japan, and despite 90 per cent of Zainichi adopting Japanese names, the Zainichi must go through the same application process as other foreign residents to obtain citizenship.

    The 1952 law was opposed on the grounds that it was an official expression of mistrust for all things foreign. It was an unnecessary humiliation and alienation of residents who had lived their whole lives alongside their Japanese peers — Zainichi children were often not aware that they were of a different ethnic background than their schoolmates until they were contacted at their school to have their fingerprints taken. Further, it associated all non-Japanese people with crime. By law, a Japanese person may only be fingerprinted if officially charged with a crime.

    Eventually, people started refusing to submit to fingerprinting; first the Zainichi, then other foreign residents. Since this refusal meant jail for some, the number of legal battles skyrocketed — enough so that overseas media like Time Magazine and the New York Times picked up the story. In 1989, under heavy pressure, the government of Japan granted general amnesty, and by 1998 the law was completely abolished.

    After the dust had settled, Immigration Bureau officials said that “the fingerprinting system appears to be ineffective in stopping or reducing the growing number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays in Japan.” The Ministry of Justice noted that “the practice could be construed as a violation of human rights.” Then why is this law being reinstated?

    Fears of terrorism and foreign crime

    Japan’s Ministry of Justice explains the motivation for reinstating the fingerprinting law: “By collecting personally identifying data, such as fingerprints and facial photos of visitors to Japan, we will be able to identify persons considered to pose security risks, such as terrorists, and persons travelling with passports that are not their own. This will help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

    If Japan wishes to fight terrorism, then history tells us that it is the Japanese population that should be policed. The Sarin gas attack that took place on the Tokyo subway in 1995 was perpetrated by members of the Japanese religious group Aum Shinrikyo. In the 1970s, two Japan Airlines flights were hijacked by a terrorist group called the Japanese Red Army. There have been no terrorist attacks in Japan by non-Japanese in recent history.

    The public support for the fingerprinting law could also be attributed to a fear of foreign crime among the Japanese. Since 2000, the National Police Agency (NPA) has been releasing updates on foreign crime every six months with detailed press releases. The media has been quick to report on these releases, and further support this with unbalanced reporting of foreign crime compared to Japanese crime. One study found that crimes by foreigners were 4.87 times more likely to be covered than crimes by Japanese. Even more frustrating is the way the NPA twists the statistics.

    The semi-annual press releases note increases in foreign crime without a comparison to the state of Japanese crime. The increases in foreign crime do not take into account the increase in the foreign population; while the Japanese population has remained relatively static, the foreign population has been growing steadily over the past decade. Foreign crime is inflated by including visa overstays (a crime that a Japanese person cannot commit) with harder crimes. When proper statistical practices are used, foreign crime is rising in proportion to the rate of population increase, while Japanese crime has doubled within the past 10 years.

    It is interesting to note that in 1999, before the first press release detailing foreign crime statistics, the NPA established the “Policy-making Committee Against Internationalization.” Would such a committee receive taxpayer money if foreign crime was on the decline?

    If fears of terrorism and foreign crime are unfounded, then what is the main issue that surrounds the fingerprinting debate? It’s the same issue that has been the subject of many recent legal battles: racism and xenophobia.

    Racism and xenophobia

    By most accounts, since the Second World War, Japan has a good international record as a modern industrialized nation. Japan has the third largest economy in the world, manufacturing and designing goods for a worldwide market. Despite claims of homogeneity, Japan is home to over 2.5 million residents of non-Japanese ethnic backgrounds. Japan is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Yet walking through Tokyo, you can find buildings with “Japanese only” signs posted on the front door. “Japanese only” signs have been found at bathhouses, bars, stores, hotels, restaurants, karaoke parlors, and pachinko parlors. How is this legal?

    The unfortunate answer is that Japan has no law against racial discrimination. It is unconstitutional — article 14 of the Japanese Constitution states that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of race. Further, Japan signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1996. So, in theory, racial discrimination should not be tolerated; in practice, the lack of a law forbidding racial discrimination allows discriminatory behaviour, such as the “Japanese only” signs, to continue.

    And these signs are unarguably discriminating on the basis of race. Social activist Arudou Debito became a naturalized citizen in 2000, after being denied entrance to a public hot springs in Hokkaido. Upon returning to the establishment a Japanese citizen, he was still refused entry to avoid confusion from the other customers. He sued the owner of the hot springs for racial discrimination and was met with moderate success. While he won some judgments, he lost an important decision when his appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed for “not involving any constitutional issues.” The story of the incident at the hot springs and the ensuing legal battle is chronicled in his book Japanese Only.

    Debito is not the only person to take these matters to the courtroom. In 1997, Brazilian Ana Bortz was asked by a jewelry store’s owner to leave his store, which had a strict no-foreigners policy. The store owner accused Bortz of planning a robbery. Bortz sued the store owner for violating her human rights, using the security camera footage as evidence. The judge ruled in Bortz’s favour, sentencing the store owner to pay 1,500,000 yen (approximately C$12,300) in damages and legal fees. The judge cited two articles of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, setting a good legal precedent for future discrimination cases.

    Or did it? In 2004, Steven McGowan, a 41-year-old black man residing in Kyoto, was refused entry to an eyeglasses store in Osaka. Steve claims that the store owner said, “Go away. I hate black people.” Steve lost his case in a lower court because the judge did not believe that Steve’s Japanese language ability was good enough to accurately determine what the store owner said. Even after further investigation by McGowan’s Japanese spouse, the judge was not convinced that Steve was discriminated against because of his race, rather than his foreign status (the Japanese words for black person and foreigner are very similar). McGowan appealed to a higher court and was awarded 350,000 yen in damages; yet even at the high court, the judge remarked that the store owner’s remarks were “not enough to be considered racially discriminatory.” These decisions set the dangerous precedent that testimony by non-Japanese cannot be trusted if they are not completely fluent in Japanese. It also demonstrates the power one judge can have in Japan’s juryless court system.

    A plea to Japan

    In discussing these issues, it may seem that I have some disdain for Japanese culture. This can’t be farther from the truth — it is my fascination with and interest in Japanese culture that compels me to bring these issues to the forefront. It is only through open dialogue that conditions will improve for both Japanese and non-Japanese residents.

    If Japan does not change its immigration policies, and birth rates continue at the current rate, Japan’s population will plummet from today’s 127 million to 100 million in 2050. It will become very difficult to maintain economic strength with such a reduced work force. Immigration is the easiest and most sustainable answer to Japan’s population crisis.

    With increased immigration, there will have to be widespread changes in media and education. Though this seems prohibitively difficult at the moment, Japan’s rapid industrialization is proof that it is possible. By working together with its new generation of international citizens, I foresee Japan having a modernization of culture that will rival its rise to economic greatness.

    Trevor Bekolay studied Japanese language, history and culture at Tokyo’s Kokugakuin University in 2005.

    Asahi: Kurashiki hotel refuses foreigners


    Hi Blog. This just came through this morning on the Asahi. They haven’t bothered to translate it for the IHT, so I will:

    THE ASAHI SHINBUN May 17, 2007

    Translated by Arudou Debito. Thanks to about ten people for notifying me.
    Original Japanese blogged at

    KURASHIKI, Okayama Pref: In April, a Chinese man (45) living in Hiroshima was refused lodging in a Kurashiki business hotel. The reason given was that he was a foreigner.

    According to Japan’s Hotel Management Law, refusals may only take place if there is a clear risk of infection from a patient, or the suspicion that illegal activities will occur, such as gambling [tobaku]. [sic]

    The City Government of Kurashiki apologized for causing discomfort to the refused man. They added that they will redouble their efforts to ensure that every hotel in the area is informed not to refuse non-Japanese.

    The Chinese man first went to a Kurashiki hotel on the evening of April 3, which was full, so management phoned around and found another hotel with rooms available.

    Unfortunately, they were told by the management there that “we don’t allow foreigners to stay here”.

    When the Chinese man went to the other hotel to find out more, he was told by the manager (70) that “our rule is to not give foreigners accommodation”, and was refused a room.

    A few days later, a friend of the man contacted the Kurashiki Tourism Convention Bureau, which followed up on the issue. Kurashiki’s Desk for Promoting International Peace and Communication then called the Chinese man in late April to apologize, saying “We’re sorry for the discomfort caused you by our city, which is promoting itself as a a place for international tourism.”

    The same bureau sent a letter of warning (chuui kanki) and guidance to its affiliated members dated May 7.

    The Chinese man works in Japan and has no problems communicating in Japanese. He fumed, “This is outrageous. How would Japanese feel if the same thing happened to them? It must stop.”

    The management of the hotel refusing foreigners, on the other hand, said, “We can’t deal with all the language issues regarding foreign lodgers, so that’s why we refuse them.” They indicated that they would continue doing so.

    COMMENT: Not mentioned in the article is that the hotel in question is

    (Kurashiki Miwa 1 chome 14-29, phone 086-423-2600), website http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~apoint/

    I called the Kurashiki City Government (particularly the Kankou Convention Bureau, 086-421-0224, Mr Ono), and a few other places today to find out more about the case.

    Finally calling the hotel, I talked to a Mr Kawakami, who said that they saw the error of their ways (thanks to administrative guidance from the city government), and would no longer be refusing foreign guests.

    Good, but this is quite a U-turn, on the very day an Asahi article comes out saying that they would continue. Guess it remains to be seen. I have notified my friends in Kurashiki to keep an eye out.

    In the end, thanks are owed the Kurashiki City Government (unusually; see other cases of government inaction in the face of clear and signposted racial discrimination archived at the ROGUES’ GALLERY OF EXCLUSIONARY ESTABLISHMENTS) for actually doing something about the problem.

    They were, of course, legally bound to, since the Ryokan Gyouhou (Hotel Management Law) Article 5 requires hotels to keep their doors open to anyone, unless there is a health issue involving contagious disease, a clear and present endangerment of public morals, or because all rooms are full. (See Japanese original of the law here.) [No mention of “gambling” as one of the endangerments, despite what the Asahi article says above.]

    Which is what makes hotels a relatively refusal-free haven for NJ in Japan (on the books, anyway). One of the issues brought forth in the Otaru Onsens Case was that the Otaru City Govt’s hands were tied because the bathhouses were private-sector, therefore outside of any legal control vis-a-vis discrimination. As I keep saying, racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.

    But hotels in particular are specifically-governed by a law preventing wanton refusals, including those based upon race or nationality. See more here.

    Still, the law is only as good as those who enforce it. Tokyo Shinjuku-ku, for example, has a business hotel named TSUBAKURO (Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Hyakuninchou 1-15-33, Tel 03-3367-2896, website here.).

    TSUBAKURO has been refusing foreigners for years (see their signs at http://www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html#Shinjuku) and have been called and visited a number of times (last time by Debito and friends in February 2005).

    I have even told the local Hyakuninchou Police Box about this, shown them the law, and photos of the sign. They told me to take it up with the Shinjuku Police HQ. Great job, boys.

    Meanwhile, the signs and exclusionary rules stay up at Tsukaburo. Anyone want to take this up with the authorities? (I’m too far away to make any visits to police HQ.)

    In any case, thanks Kurashiki City Govt.! Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Otaru Onsens “Japanese Only” sign incorporated into video game


    Well, here’s a surprise. Incorporated into an online video game (a first-person shoot ’em up called “Counter Strike, Condition Zero”, one of the most popular, with customizable characters, weapons, and backgrounds), here is a scene where our hero gunman faces a door with a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign.

    Believe it or not, that is a copy and paste from the Otaru Yunohana Onsen sign (up between 1998 and 2000), defendant in a lawsuit for racial discrimination between 2001 and 2004 (which it lost). More on that here. (I was one plaintiff in that case.)

    Here’s a screen capture of the scene (click thumbnail for larger image):

    Here’s a picture of the original Japanese Only sign, for comparison’s sake:

    BTW, the scene apparently didn’t make the final cut.
    (Japanese text)

    Amazing to think how far this case and lawsuit has entered the popular culture. Not only has it been featured on entrance and final exams for law degrees in Japan, I’m told it also has been cited as one of the twenty most influential postwar law cases in a Waseda University law publication, not to mention overseas textbooks studying Japanese law.

    Now it’s been slipped into a video game? I wonder if as the gunman character I could have used the gun to shoot the sign up. Oh, well, I can dream, can’t I?

    Thanks to Dan for notifying me. I wonder what’s on the other side of that doorway… Not me I hope. 🙂 Debito in Sapporo

    MDN Waiwai: J bad bath manners :-)


    Another humorous diversion, while I’m at it…

    Here’s another historical gem from the Waiwai page. The translator advised me not to take the article too seriously, so bring out the salt shakers.

    Still (and not to pour cold water on the humors here, but), assuming truthiness, I await the onsen notice saying “No amorously moist couples allowed!” next to the “JAPANESE ONLY” sign… Ironies and hypocrisies indeed. Debito in Sapporo


    Randy young couples play scrub-a-dub at rural hot springs
    Mainichi Waiwai Page, October 6, 2005

    “Our inn has a large common bath, plus four smaller private spas that can be rented by guests,” says the ‘kami’ female proprietor at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in Shizuoka’s Atagawa Onsen. “The private baths are available for rental on a round-the-clock basis. Of late, they’ve been taken over by young couples, who are quite … noisy, if you know what I mean.”

    Gracious old rural inns, traditionally, have been places where Japanese go to relax in natural surroundings while soaking away their aches and pains in mineral hot springs. But, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (10/13), inns’ clientele of late seem to have other ideas.

    “The idea of 24-hour bathing was to let you get up early, and soak in the tub while watching the rising sun burn off the morning mist,” continues the kami. “Or, you could go late there at night and gaze at the starry sky. It made things all the more relaxing. But when you’ve got to worry about families bathing within hearing range of these noisy young couples, it’s really vexing.”

    The inn’s proprietor describes such amorous sound effects as a staccato “picha-picha” of water sloshing in the tub, accompanied by a moaning female voice.

    “Then you might hear a strained male voice muttering something like, ‘Keep it down, people can hear!’ followed by a woman saying, ‘Ahhhh this is too much!’ It sets off a chain reaction and inflames their passion even more.”

    “We certainly want couples who come here to be able to enjoy a romantic interlude,” the kami at another rural spa tells Shukan Jitsuwa. “But they get pretty messy in their lovemaking. Employees have told me when they go into the bathing areas to clean up, they can see obvious traces that sex took place. Since other people use the baths too, they should at least be considerate enough to wipe up after they finish.

    “Japan’s traditional hot spring culture regards this kind of behavior as absolutely disgraceful!” she complains.
    Japan’s ryokan industry, unfortunately, is in the throes of an unprecedented recession, and as such is hardly in the position to turn away business. But still …

    Take this story of three “office ladies” in their 20s employed at Tokyo trading company, who caroused over too many cups of sake with their evening meal and got completely plastered.

    “They went lurching down the corridor towards the bath, the fronts of their robes hanging open, exposing their naked breasts, and completely oblivious to the other patrons,” complains the operator of a ryokan in Hakone, near Mt. Fuji. “Then they staggered naked into the men’s bath by mistake. There was just one old man in there alone, and when he saw these three completely naked young women walk in, he nearly freaked out. To make things worse, one of the drunk girls said to him, ‘Gyaaaa — what’re you doin’ in here? This is the women’s bath!” as if he were the guilty party. Outrageous!”

    Each autumn, just before the beginning of the tourist season, hotels at the Kusatsu spa in Gumma Prefecture invite bus drivers and female bus guides to an orientation. These bus guides used to be fairly serious young women. But those days, sighs Shukan Jitsuwa, are long gone. According to one witness account, after the inn’s customers have turned in for the night, the drivers and bus guides head for the bath and engage in wild orgies.
    Likewise, the notion that the custom of mixed bathing is an “innocent” practice with no sexual overtones is rapidly — no pun intended — being laid to rest.

    “These days I’ve seen women, even those who come here with their husbands, pair off with other men,” says a kami at a bed & breakfast spa in Tochigi Prefecture. “What’s more, couples interested in swapping are using the Internet to seek other enthusiasts, and then meeting up at our place. They’re using mixed bathing for the kinds of things that go on in ‘happening bars,'” she says, referring to clubs in Tokyo and other major cities where patrons engage in intercourse on a stage while other customers look on.

    “People living in rural areas don’t have those kind of opportunities, so spas like ours — which are the one type of place where nobody takes notice when men and women bathe together — are becoming the perfect venues for these kind of sensual encounters.”

    The inns’ determination to preserve their country’s proud tradition of hot spring bathing, sighs Shukan Jitsuwa, may be a losing battle. (By Masuo Kamiyama, contributing writer.)
    October 6, 2005

    J Times Letter re Gregory Clark’s Ideological Laundry


    Hi Blog. Bit of a surprise to find this Letter to the Editor regarding old Gregory Clark and his ranting ways. Especially since I’ve been such a target of them in the past (as the letter alludes). I promise I had nothing to do whatsoever with this letter. Still, glad somebody out there is ready with a critical eye to draw attention to the ironies and hypocrisies (see links below letter) of a man who should long have been retired from writing any column for the Japan Times. Debito in Sapporo

    Japan Times
    Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006
    As alike as they are different

    By A.E. LAMDON, Nishinomiya, Hyogo

    Regarding Gregory Clark’s Nov. 20 article, “Ideological laundry unfurled“: While Yoshihisa Komori’s ideological bullying is deplorable, it is ironic that Clark complains about it. “Rightwing,” “right-leaning,” “besmirch,” “notorious,” “snide,” “sinister,” “fulminating,” “atrocities” — such flaming rhetoric lights up yet another Clark column as he rails against yet another target of his. Clark regularly uses his column (and letters to the editor) to verbally firebomb those targets, a good and ironic example being the case of Debito Arudou.

    It is ironic because Clark’s fulminations about Arudou’s campaign against a “no-gaijin” bathhouse were noted by certain circles of Japanese society and resulted in unpleasant consequences for Arudou and his associates — the same sort of consequences that Clark claims he is the victim of now.

    Although of opposite wings, Clark and Komori are essentially alike: They use their journalistic billets as bully pulpits to rant against those with whom they disagree. It was just a matter of time before they were exchanging fire.


    More on this mysterious and extremely stripey character:

    SPECIAL REPORT: Issho Kikaku Deletion of the Historical Record



    By Arudou Debito
    December 23, 2006

    (NB: The title is not meant to be sensational–merely a pun on the 1978 movie title, “Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?” The movie was a comedy. This report is, unfortunately, deadly serious. It is an update of a Dec 7 report, archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=108, because yet another mailing list has since been deleted.)




    We open this report with a newspaper article:

    ========= ARTICLE BEGINS ================
    Newscaster regrets anti-foreigner quip


    Atonement, it seems, can never come too late. Newscaster Hiroshi Kume has apologized for a disparaging remark he made 10 years ago about foreigners speaking Japanese.

    The comment offended a number of foreign residents in Japan, prompting some people to formally complain to TV Asahi Corp. that aired the remark. At the time, Kume was a presenter on TV Asahi’s evening news program, then called News Station.

    The program aired in October 1996 and featured a report on India in which an Indian spoke fluent Japanese, according to Debito Arudou, 41. Arudou, who was born in the United States as Dave Aldwinckle and is now a naturalized Japanese, is active in efforts to protect the rights of foreigners.

    Kume blurted out on the program, “Isn’t it better to see a foreigner speaking in broken Japanese?”

    Arudou and others complained to the TV station that many foreign nationals are studying Japanese and trying to integrate into society.

    He posted details of the protest on his Web site. Kume did not respond at the time, according to Arudou.

    But on Dec. 1, Kume sent an e-mail message to Arudou, saying, “Thinking deeply, I realize this was quite a rude remark and I regret this as being narrow-minded.”

    Kume told The Asahi Shimbun: “I recently learned on the Internet about the protest. I didn’t know 10 years ago.”

    Arudou, in turn, said, “I was surprised but happy that an influential individual such as Kume did not neglect what he said in the past and tried to make things right.”

    ========= ARTICLE ENDS ================
    (See what Kume saw at http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#kume)

    Very happy to see this happening. As I said above, I’m elated when somebody in authority displays a conscience. And I’m also glad the media has taken this up to show that amends can be made.

    But what this brings to light is the power of Internet archives. If I had not archived this on debito.org, Kume would never have seen it…. Which is why maintaining a record of the past is a serious matter.



    Information about the Kume Hiroshi Gaffe was also archived elsewhere–on a site called Issho Kikaku (http://www.issho.org). This domain is run and webmastered by Tony Laszlo, currently well-known as the star of the best-selling manga series “MY DARLING IS A FOREIGNER” (Daarin Wa Gaikokujin), created and rendered by wife Oguri Saori.

    However, the Issho Kikaku archives, once open to the public, have been closed to the public since December 4, 2005, more than a year ago.

    This is tragic. These archives contained the volunteer efforts of and reports from hundreds of researchers, essayists, and activists. These archives also had great historical value, as they charted the change in awareness in the mid-1990’s of the English-speaking foreign community in Japan. With the development of Japan’s Internet, foreigners went online, mobilized, and worked to change their status in Japan from “mere misunderstood guest who should shut up and behave” to “taxpaying resident with enforceable rights”.

    Portions of this record can also be found in the archives of the seminal but now dead “Dead Fukuzawa Society”. (http://www.mail-archive.com/fukuzawa@ucsd.edu) Good thing these archives still exist.

    However, the Issho Kikaku Mailing List archives, once a part of yahoogroups, were deleted several years ago. Information on and evidence of the list’s existence at http://www.debito.org/enoughisenough.html

    When asked about moribund Issho.org in December of this year, Tony Laszlo said, in his final mail to the Shakai Mailing List (also an Issho Kikaku project), quote: “ISSHO Kikaku’s website is still in renewal… Tending to a new baby boy is keeping the webmaster busier than he had expected.” (December 10, 2006)

    (That email–courtesy of a former Shakai member deeply troubled by these developments–is archived here:
    I archive it on debito.org because, since then, the Shakai Mailing List archive has also been deleted.)

    Congratulations on the birth. But this is an unsatisfactory excuse. The average gestation period of a human being is a little over nine months, not a full year. And as a poster to the NBR mailing list pointed out:

    “…Tony can take months, years, decades, whatever to work on a “revamp” of ISSHO.org if he wants to. But there is no reason to REMOVE ALL THE CONTENT that was previously there while doing this work. Keep the old site running until the work is done, and then make the switch by simply changing the URL of the top page. It’s a simple task, and something that just about any website does while working on improvements.”

    What’s more, despite all the busyness (and a millionaire’s income from the manga, meaning financially he can devote all his time to househusbandry, if not webmastering), Tony Laszlo is finding time to write articles again for the Shukan ST, not to mention appear in public as “Representative, Issho Kikaku” at a November 26, 2006, meeting of new NGO “No-Borders”: (See http://www.zainichi.net Click under the left-hand heading “nettowaaku ni sanka suru soshiki, kojin” . If that archive has also mysteriously disappeared, refer to http://www.debito.org/noborders120706.webarchive)

    So that means there have been three archives done away with: Shakai, Yahoogroups Issho, and Issho.org–all under the aegis of Issho Kikaku. What’s next–the older yahoogroups archive for Shakai (May 2000 to Oct 2003)? Go visit it while it’s still there:

    What’s going on?



    I worked in tandem for years with Tony Laszlo and Issho.org, particularly in a Issho subgroup called BENCI (I’d send you more information on it, but, again, the Issho.org files have disappeared). I created, wrote, and maintained the BENCI webarchive. We had a falling out. I left the group.

    Meanwhile, I had long since been archiving the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit website on debito.org. (http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html) To this day it is still up there, along with its Japanese equivalent, serving as a citeable record for academics, lawyers, media, activists, and other interested parties as consistently one of the top twenty (of thousands) of accessed sites on debito.org.

    Laszlo then told me to take related materials on debito.org down due to “violation of copyright”. Even though I never signed a waiver of my copyright, nor agreed in any way to waive it, nor received any remuneration for my writings. Yet according to Issho Kikaku former Co-Moderator Bern Mulvey, an eyewitness to this case, Laszlo was considering a lawsuit against me for “appropriation and misuse of Issho documents”:

    December 13, 2006:

    I was a member of ISSHO from the late 90s. Like Debito
    and several other people, I was a also a member of the
    Benci Project–the action group within ISSHO Kikaku which
    took action against businesses with discriminatory
    practices. Finally, I was co-moderator of the ISSHO
    KIKAKU forum until June of 2001; hence, I have a pretty
    good grasp of the details regarding Tony’s threatened
    lawsuit (and other actions) against Debito.

    Tony’s “issues” with Debito came out long before JAPANESE
    ONLY was published first in Japanese (2003). Even when I
    was co-moderator, there was a push from Tony to have
    Debito removed from the ISSHO list because of his
    “redundant” website and “misuse” of ISSHO documents. The
    talk of suing Debito began then as well–ostensibly to
    protect the accessibility and sanctity of the archived
    materials, ironic given that said materials have
    apparently been erased completely and permanently.

    Much of the criticism directed at Debito from ISSHO and
    Benci members was over how the collected documents and
    other evidence–the fruits of a number of people’s
    efforts–were being “appropriated” by Debito for his
    supposedly “selfish” ends. The book was ostensibly just
    another example of this–e.g., how dare Debito even
    reference the ISSHO/Benci information?! (Note that there
    was also a more legitimate anger over Debito’s use of
    internal correspondence in the book.)

    Of course, what Tony and others conveniently overlooked
    was that much (80%?) of the archival information had been
    gathered by Debito himself. I was one of Debito’s few
    defenders when all this came down, and helped scuttle
    Tony’s lawsuit (supposedly “on behalf of” BENCI members,
    of which I was one). Indeed, I wonder, now that Tony has
    taken down all documentation of 6 years of often
    successful activism–almost all of it the results of
    INTENSE effort he “ordered” but did not assist in–how his
    former defenders live with themselves. Two of the most
    vicious, at least, owe Debito a public apology.

    For a long time, Tony justified his attacks on Debito
    partly by asserting the need to ensure the archival
    resources we created would remain open to everyone. Now,
    they are gone, and I do not understand why. I am glad,
    however, that Debito stood his ground and kept whatever
    archives he could up at debito.org.
    Bern Mulvey

    We (Bern, Olaf Karthaus, Ken Sutherland, and myself) dispute the claims Laszlo made. Please see this historical website, written in 2001, and released for the first time today with updates for this report at:

    It contains the remaining record of what went on in the Issho Kikaku Mailing list. It may also offer some insights on why these archives might want to disappear.

    Then in 2004, my publisher was contacted by Laszlo’s lawyer. According to a letter dated August 13, 2004:

    Laszlo, through a very famous TV lawyer named Kitamura Yukio, was formally threatening me with a lawsuit, claiming, quote, “violation of copyright, invasion of privacy, and libel” for the publication of my book “JAPANESE ONLY”.

    In a face-to-face meeting we had at Kitamura’s offices in late August, he demanded that sales of the book cease.

    What’s ironic, given Laszlo’s claims, is that Tony Laszlo, a journalist by byline, has himself taken materials verbatim from an Internet mailing list (Issho’s), without permission from or notification of the source. Then used them for personal remuneration in a Nihongo Journal article, dated December 1999. Archive at:

    He was also not above using his journalist byline in a published journal (Shuukan Kin’youbi, April 18, 2003) to put out a clarion call for help to deal with “a recent publication using copyrighted materials without permission”.

    Anyway, the lawsuit came to naught. And we got on with our lives. Until now.



    Note that I wrote the above “enoughisenough” website above more than five years ago. Why didn’t I release it then?

    Because I was worried that this would just be construed as a personal squabble. Seen as a petty dispute between two alpha males who just can’t get along, or who are somehow jousting for the pole position of “Mr Kokusaika” etc. Or, as time went on and the DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN turned him into a media superstar, seen as sour grapes for him getting rich and famous on his wife’s talents.

    So I let things go. I just thought that he could do his thing, I could do mine. Even after he threatened me with a lawsuit for me doing my thing and writing books. Let it go, life’s too short, I thought.

    Unfortunately, once the above decisions were made to delete whole archives and begin a process of whitewashing over history, I realized that this was going too far.

    The destruction of public records is verifiable public damage. First he threatens to sue people over information he claims is copyright Issho.org. Then that information becomes unavailable to the public anyway.

    The sad thing is that, even if Webmaster Laszlo eventually decides to let the Issho.org archives come back to life, the yahoogroups Issho and Shakai mailing list archives are gone forever.

    This is irreversible. It is unforgivable. And should be known about.

    Arudou Debito
    Sapporo, Japan
    December 23, 2006

    Previous report of this matter (Dec 7, 2006) available on this blog at



    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 (http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html) 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 http://www.debito.org/?p=88

    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 (http://www.sakura-house.com) 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 http://www.debito.org/?p=86

    Alisa even took the trouble to print up copies of the law regarding these instant checkpoints for the benefit of fellow residents
    (see http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#gaijincard)
    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 debito.org:

    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 http://www.debito.org/?p=69

    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 http://www.debito.org/?p=87

    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
    By HIDESATO SAKAKIBARA, Jamaica, New York
    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” (http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html). 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 (http://www.debito.org/?p=48) 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 http://www.debito.org/?p=83

    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 (http://www.debito.org/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 http://www.debito.org/?p=80

    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 http://www.debito.org/?p=84

    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 (http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html) 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.

    J Times Nov 10 06 on tourism promotion, with great Letter to the Ed Nov 19


    Hi Blog. Here is an article about another promotion to bring more foreigners over to Japan to spend money as tourists (remember Koizumi’s “Yokoso Japan” campaign?), specifically mentioning onsen as one of the places they want more foreigners to frequent.

    Funny they should mention onsens. Friend Hidesato Sakakibara makes a great rejoinder in a Letter to the Editor, questioning the effectiveness of such a campaign when there is no law to protect their rights from racial discrimination once tourists get here.

    For the record, the article, Hidesato’s rejoinder, and a comment from me with some links follow.


    Japan works on a makeover to attract more Europeans
    The Japan Times, Friday, Nov. 10, 2006

    LONDON (Kyodo) In an effort to woo younger European travelers, Japanese tourism officials launched a campaign highlighting the country’s contribution to contemporary arts and culture.

    Staff at the Japan National Tourist Organization are also hoping to attract spa-lovers by promoting Japan’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’s exhibit also highlights the country’s fashion designers and high-tech gadgetry. The information has been compiled into a booklet in association with the Time Out magazine, which has a young readership.

    With Japan, however, it’s not all about what’s new and trendy.

    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.

    Kylie Clark, public relations manager at JNTO in London, said the campaign was launched “to make people aware that Japan is much more than geisha, sumo, gardens, temples and Mount Fuji.”

    “Through the campaign we wish to highlight that Tokyo, along with New York, Paris and London, is now one of the world’s leading cities when it comes to trends in foods, fashion and popular culture.”

    Clark said the aim of the campaign was to “diversify” the types of travelers going to Japan. Currently, the main market is couples over 50 with an interest in Japanese traditional culture such as gardens and temples. JNTO hopes to attract more young couples, singles and families with this year’s promotion. It has already been running an “underground” ad campaign for several weeks.

    And in an effort to attract the younger market, JNTO is also promoting the country’s ski resorts. After a series of good reviews by British journalists who tested Japan’s slopes, several tour operators are offering holidays to Japan next year.

    JNTO is also keen to encourage more visits by British students and will soon be releasing a booklet they hope will make it easier to set up exchanges between educational institutions in the two countries. (The Japan Times)


    Obstacle to increased tourism

    Jamaica, New York
    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’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?” (The Japan Times)



    Well done, Hidesato. We need more people pointing this fact out as often as possible. I keep on doing it, but to some I say it so often (and alone) I probably sound like a warning about cancer 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 out in the wilderness).

    I encourage everyone to keep pointing out the elephant in the room thusly. Thanks again, Hidesato! Debito



    The “Yokoso Japan” Campaign, official site

    Essay for Miyakodayori (May 23, 2003) on Japan’s nacent tourism drive

    Identical irony pointed out by The Guardian (Manchester):
    “Suspicious minds: Japan is hoping to boost foreign investment and tourism by promoting the country as a land of hospitality. However, institutional racism and the media’s tendency to blame foreigners for rising crime means many visitors find themselves less than welcome?”
    THE GUARDIAN By Justin McCurry Wednesday March 10, 2004

    Otaru Onsens Case

    Photo gallery of places which refuse foreigners entry:



    debito.org NEWSLETTER OCT 24 2006

    Hello everybody. Arudou Debito here, emailing you during a layover at Narita Airport. Just got finished with my travels (Oct 4-22), so here’s an update on what’s transpired:

    Debito.org newsletter dated October 24, 2006
    Freely Forwardable


    This article comes from Japan Times Reporter Eric Johnston specially for this newsletter and debito.org. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are his, and not necessarily those of The Japan Times. I enclose his article in full, because you won’t get this degree of analysis anywhere else:

    ——————–ARTICLE BEGINS————————–
    Special to Debito.org

    On Oct. 18th, the Steve McGowan case ended with a partial victory, when the Osaka High Court awarded him 350,000 yen. McGowan had sued Takashi Narita, the owner of an eyeglass store [G-Style, see http://gs-gstyle.jp ] in Daito, Osaka Pref. for racial discrimination, after Narita barred him from entering his store and told McGowan he didn’t like black people.

    The court’s decision was welcomed by McGowan and his lawyers were, if not completely satisfied, at least relieved that the High Court did not simply repeat the District Court ruling which, as Debito has detailed so well elsewhere on this site (http://www.debito.org/mcgowanhanketsu.html), can be summed up as: McGowan “misunderstood” Narita and there is no evidence of racial discrimination.

    But many of those who followed the case, especially human rights activists, remained worried. The High Court avoided ruling whether or not Narita’s words and actions constituted racial discrimination, a point that both McGowan’s lawyer and some of his supporters hammered home to reporters in the post-verdict press conference.

    So what was the verdict? It was a very, very carefully, vaguely worded ruling that said Narita’s words and deeds were an illegal activity outside social norms. But, and this is the crux of the problem, it cited no written precedents. The phrase “outside social norms” smacks of paternalism, of a stern father privately scolding the bully. What social norms are we talking about, Dad, and could the court please provide all of us a list of the ones that are legal and illegal?

    Furthermore, the phrase used in ruling about the social norms, “fuhou koui” can mean both “illegal activities” or “activities not covered by the scope of current laws on the books.” In this case, given the overall tone of the ruling and because the court ordered Narita to pay, the closer meaning in spirit is “illegal activities “.

    But anybody familiar with the way Japan works can see the potential problem ahead. What is going to happen when the next person, Japanese or not, is barred entry into a store whose Japanese owner tells them to leave and then says they don’t like the color of their skin? Using the McGowan High Court ruling as a precedent, some future High Court can simply decide what the “social norms” are based only on what the judge or judges feel the norms are. They then have the power to decide, in the absence of clear, written precedents, whether or not those social norms have been violated to the extent that–even though there is nothing on the books–somebody should be punished.

    In fact, using the logic of the Osaka High Court, the decision could have just as easily gone the other way. In other words, the High Court could have simply chosen to use the second possible definition of “fuhou koui”, and say that, although Narita’s comments may have been outside social norms, there is nothing on the books. Therefore, we cannot say that what happened was “illegal”. Therefore, plaintiff’s motion denied.

    It is to the eternal credit of the Osaka High Court that their judges made a decision far more moral and ethical than the District Court. However, good intentions often make bad law. By avoiding ruling on the crux of McGowan’s complaint, that Narita’s remarks were, in fact, a form of illegal discrimination, the more fundamental issue remains unaddressed. Namely, whether or not the McGowan case constitutes racial discrimination in a written, legal sense, as opposed to unwritten “social norms” where determination about their violation, and authority for their punishment, is controlled by the whims of a few judges.

    The McGowan ruling simply reinforces the importance of having a national, written, easily understandable law banning racial discrimination, a point made by a range of people from McGowan, to 77 human rights groups, to the United Nations itself. As of this writing, it appears unlikely that McGowan will appeal to the Supreme Court to push for a clear ruling on the question of racial discrimination. Many of his supporters pushing for a national law banning discrimination don’t appear to be eager to take his case further and are, rather, content to let McGowan remain a symbol of the need for such a law. In the meantime, the basic question about what constitutes racial discrimination in Japan and what does not remains unanswered.
    ——————–ARTICLE ENDS—————————-


    Agreed. As I argued in my Japan Times article of Feb 7, 2006
    the previous Osaka District Court ruling was made by a cracked judge. He established (deliberately or inadvertently) a precedent which would effectively deny any foreigner his right to sue for racial discrimination in Japan. Fortunately, this High Court reversal sets things back on kilter, but lowers the market value for suing for this kind of thing (it was 1 to 1.5 million yen; McGowan’s award of 350,000 yen, or about $3500 US, won’t even cover his legal fees!) while ignoring even the existence of racial discrimination

    That’s a shame. But it’s better than before, and far better than if McGowan did not appeal. Just goes to show that if you want to win one of these things, you’d better have a completely watertight case. Default mode for Japanese judges is siding with the alleged perpetrator.

    Thanks to Steve for keeping up the fight! Send best wishes to him at



    2-Channel, the world’s largest online BBS, and a hotbed for freedom of speech gone wild to the point of libel, is facing hard times. With owner and administrator Nishimura Hiroyuki refusing to even show up in court, let alone pay court-awarded damages for libel (see my court win against him at http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html), he’s apparently dangerously close to declaring bankruptcy, even disappearing from society altogether. Ryann Connell translates an article for the Mainichi. Excerpt follows:

    —————-EXCERPT BEGINS————————-
    Operator of notorious bulletin board lost in cyber space

    …Nishimura has been reported by Japan’s tabloid media as “missing” — with the strong implication that he’d run away from massive debts brought on by a huge number of lost lawsuits that he consistently refused to contest by showing up in court. But the women’s weekly says it has managed to track him down and find out about the rumors of his disappearance.

    “I’m just hanging out like I always do,” Nishimura tells AERA with a blog posting that serves as answers to its e-mailed questions.

    Nishimura defends his decision not to contest the myriad of lawsuits filed against Ni-Chaneru.

    “I’ve been sued in the north as far as Hokkaido and the south as far as Okinawa. It’s simply not possible to attend every court case where I’ve been named as a defendant. I figure if I can defend myself in every case, it’s exactly the same as not turning up in my defense,” he tells the weekly indirectly.

    [ED’S NOTE: Huh???]

    Nishimura also strongly denies suggestions that he’s gone bankrupt, which many have speculated may be the main reason nobody seems able to find him now….

    The plaintiff took the drastic step because Ni-Chaneru has consistently refused to pay up when courts have declared it a loser in court cases. It has already been ordered to fork out more than 20 million yen over lost lawsuits.

    “If they put the Ni-Chaneru domain up for auction, it’d reap tens of millions of yen for sure… There’s bound to be a company out there that would buy it.”
    —————–EXCERPT ENDS————————–
    Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=48

    QUICK COMMENT: I’m beginning to think that Nishimura’s pathological aversion to responsibility has nothing to do with his self-proclaimed role as a guardian of Japan’s freedom of speech (http://www.ojr.org/japan/internet/1061505583.php). More as the story unfolds. Thanks to Mark as always for keeping me informed.



    I have reported on police random ID checks of foreign-looking people (justified by the authorities as a means to curb illegal aliens, terrorism, and infectious diseases) at length in the past. Cycling, walking, appearing in public, staying in a hotel, even living in a place for any amount of time while foreign have been grounds for spots ID Checks and police questioning in Japan. More at:

    One of my pet theories is that Japan has a habit of “guinea-pigging the gaijin” with policy proposals. In essence, before you institute a new national policy, foist it on the foreigners–since they have fewer rights guaranteed them by law. Then propose a new-and-improved version for the nationals. It worked for increasing surveillance cameras for the general public (first Kabukichou, then onwards), and for undermining tenure with contract employment in tertiary education (http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkisei). It didn’t work for universal ID cards (remember the moribund Juki-Net system?). Now the police are working on expanding their authority further, to include Japanese citizens in their random ID checks.

    I’ve come to see Japan as a benign police state. Remember–this is the land of the prewar Kempeitai thought police, “katei houmon” home visits by school teachers (with the express aim to snoop on students’ lifestyles, see http://www.debito.org/kateihoumon.html), and neighborhood watch systems still visible as the defanged “chounaikai”. Well, this new police putsch is receiving news coverage with advice. Excerpt follows:

    —————-EXCERPT BEGINS————————-

    Police shakedowns on the rise
    Original article appeared in Weekly Playboy (Oct. 16)
    Translation appeared in The Japan Times: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006

    Last January, I was rushing past the koban [police box] at the west exit of Shinjuku Station en route to a meeting and suddenly this cop halts me, saying, ‘Will you please submit to an inspection of what you’re carrying on your person?’ ” relates editor Toshikazu Shibuya (a pseudonym), age 38. “I happened to be carrying this Leatherman tool, a pair of scissors with a 3-cm-long folding knife attachment in the handle. The next thing I knew, he escorted me into the koban.”

    Shibuya vociferously argued that he used the tool for trimming films and other work-related tasks. “There’s no need for that gadget, you can find something else,” the cop growled, confiscating it.

    Several weeks later Shibuya was summoned to Shinjuku Police Station to undergo another round of interrogation. After an hour, he was let off with a stern warning that possession of such scissors was illegal, and made him liable to misdemeanor charges.

    Weekly Playboy reports that police have been conducting these shakedowns of the citizenry as part of an “Emergency Public Safety Program” launched in August 2003. In 2004, the number of people actually prosecuted for weapons possession misdemeanors uncovered during these ad hoc inspections, referred to as shokumu shitsumon (ex-officio questioning), reached 5,648 cases, double the previous year, and up sixfold from 10 years ago.

    “I think you can interpret it as an expansion of police powers,” says a source within the police. “They are taking advantage of citizens’ unfamiliarity with the law to conduct compulsory questioning.”

    In principle, police are not empowered to halt citizens on the street arbitrarily. The Police Execution of Duties Law, Section 2, states that an officer may only request that a citizen submit to questioning based on reasonable judgment of probable cause, such as suspicious appearance or behavior.

    Moreover, Weekly Playboy points out, compliance to such a request is voluntary, i.e., you have the right to refuse….

    What should you do if you’re stopped? Weekly Playboy offers several suggestions, including recording the conversation and carrying a copy of the relevant passage of the law to show you know your rights. Since cooperation is voluntary, you can refuse; but an uncooperative attitude might be regarded with suspicion. Raising a ruckus in a loud voice might cause a crowd to gather and convince the cop you’re more trouble than it’s worth….
    —————–EXCERPT ENDS————————–
    Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=47

    Hm. Good advice. Exactly the advice I’ve been giving for close to a decade now on debito.org, as a matter of fact. See
    But I wouldn’t recommend you raising a ruckus if you’re a foreigner. I’ve heard several cases of people (foreigners in particular) being apprehended and incarcerated for not “cooperating” enough with police, so beware. Point is it’s getting harder to argue racial profiling when Japanese are also being stopped and questioned. However, the difference is that the article’s advice doesn’t apply as well to foreigners–all the cop has to do is say he’s conducting a Gaijin Card search and you’re nicked.

    Enjoy life in Japan. Keep your nose clean and short.

    Finally, put last because this is the most personal part of the newsletter…


    This was my second excursion abroad to talk about issues in Japan (last March was the first, at U Michigan Ann Arbor, NYU, Columbia Law et al), and on this eighteen-day journey I gave a total of seven presentations (two of them papers), at Temple University Japan, Tokyo University, Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops, Canada), University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies. You can see what I said where on this trip, along with other links to older speeches, powerpoint presentations and papers (now totalling 100 since 1995) at
    They all went really quite smoothly–well-attended, full of questions and comments, accompanied by great hospitality from all my hosts (and I had hosts and places to stay in every port of call; thanks forthcoming to them individually).

    Of particular note was the atmosphere at the Japan Studies Association of Canada (JSAC) annual meeting in Kamloops. Despite some initial trepidation, people turned out to be welcoming of an activist (I guess it made a difference from often bone-dry academia); I sold more books there (more than thirty) than ever before. Also, in addition to presentations on “communities within communities in Japan (my aegis), JSAC hosted sections on demography and future welfare, education, security issues, history, and artsy-fartsy stuff. It was enjoyable to coast between presentations and feel the different atmospheres depending on disciplines: Luddite handouts and OHPs with the “continuous-retread touchy-feeley” cultural studies, cloak-and-dagger “what if” theories of the security hawks (North Korea, after all, had just been confirmed as nuclear), and the “See I’m telling you so! Here comes the brick wall” portentous presentations of the demographers. Kudos to friend (and host) Joe Dobson and company for putting this thing on.

    The best part of JSAC for me was the fact that the Canadian Ambassador of Japan, Joseph Caron, not only put in an appearance–he stayed two nights and even chaired two sessions at the conference! (Imagine the American Ambassador doing that!) Ambassador Caron proved himself a true gentleman at our farewell dinner, where I got to ask a question and got an impressive answer. But first a segue for context:


    When I first arrived in Vancouver on October 8, I was met by Murray Wood, his partner Brett, and two cameramen. They were all here to film a documentary on the Murray Wood Case, a cause celebre gathering steam in Canada as a major human rights case.

    I have mentioned this case briefly in previous newsletters, but let me synopsize again: The Murray Wood Case started when Murray and Ayako Maniwa met, married, and had two children. A former flight attendant at Air Canada, Ayako was by all accounts (Murray’s family was most open with their criticisms as we enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in front of the cameras) unconcerned with the welfare of her children–so much so that even the Supreme Court in British Columbia awarded Murray custody of their kids after they split up. However, Ayako, under a ruse to visit her family in Saitama, abducted the children and severed all contact with their father. This is not a matter of he-said she-said: The Canadian police have a warrant out for her arrest if she ever comes to Canada again.

    Given Japan’s unenforcable or nonexistent child-custody and visitation laws after divorce, and the dubious honor of being the only G7 country not to sign the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child, Japan has become a safe haven for international abductions. However, what makes this case interesting is that Murray actually tried to work through Japan’s judicial system to get custody back. However, Saitama’s Family District and High Courts were unaccommodating. They ignored Canadian court judgments in their entirety and awarded Ayako custody–essentially because a) the children should not be uprooted from their present surroundings, and b) “fairness”. Judges claimed in their ruling (which I read but cannot provide a link to at this time) that Ayako had not said her piece in Canadian court (she never showed up to give it); but since she appeared in Japanese court, the judges ruled that their opinion (in her favor) more adequately reflected both sides! The Government of Canada is not happy with this outcome, and Murray has gotten a lot of press across Canada. As so he should. More substantiation on all these claims from
    Murray Wood reachable at amw@telus.net.

    The case has garnered enough attention for two cameramen, one named David Hearn (reachable at david@ghosty.jp), to come all the way from Los Angeles and Tokyo to film it. Over the course of three days, they interviewed more than a dozen people of authority, family members, and friends (even me) on what happened and what this meant to them. We have a good feeling about what got captured on video, and I’ll keep you posted on any developments. In the age of the powerful documentary, this could be a good thing indeed.

    ————————–SEGUE ENDS—————————–

    Back to JSAC’s final dinner with Ambassador Caron speaking. The Consul General of Japan at Vancouver and his staff were there (I happened to be seated next to Consul Assistant Keith Fedoruk, a rather chinless local hire, and we talked, however briefly and uncomfortably, about the Otaru Onsens Case and racial discrimination in Japan. He said, “Can’t you use your language abilities and position as a citizen in Japan more constructively?” as he broke off conversation.) It was clear that people wanted things to remain nicely, nicely. Perfect timing for one of my questions. Something like:

    “Thank you Ambassador Caron. As you know, it is my job to raise the difficult issues, so let me not act out of character. The Consul General mentioned in his earlier speech tonight about the communality between Canada with the high regard for human rights and the rule of law. I would like to raise the issue about the Murray Wood Case. Given that this case involves Canadian court decisions ignored to deny custody to Canadian citizens, I would like to know if your office will continue to pursue this. Your government has been very publicly supportive or human rights. Your predecessor, Ambassador Edwards, kindly gave us a strong letter of support during the Otaru Onsens Case. Child abductions after divorce are a serious problem which affects the rights of both of your countries’ citizens. What will you do in future to promote human rights between your countries?”

    Yes, it was a long question, and I had no time to develop Murray’s Case. I expected a standard answer of “We know nothing. We’ll look into it.” But no!

    Ambassador Caron actually knew Murray’s case, and even took time to describe it in more detail to the audience! He mentioned how important he considered it in particular and the issue in general, and he said that he would continue pushing Japan to sign the Hague Convention!

    Breathtaking. When the party ended, chinless wonder sitting next to me (who had earlier agreed to at least show my donated J and E JAPANESE ONLY books to the Consul General for consideration for the Vancouver Japan Consulate library) simply walked away, leaving the books behind on the dinner table. Bit of a shock, but again, not out of character. I sold them later that night anyway. Ambassador Caron (who also knew the Onsens Case) gladly took a copy as well.

    Let’s hope the Murray Wood Case continues to build up steam, since like the Otaru Onsens Case, it’s a watertight representation of a problem with all other alternatives at resolution exhausted.


    Lots more happened during this trip, but that was the highlight which is germane to this debito.org newsletter. If you want me to spin a few stories for the Friends’ email List (I still haven’t written out what happened on last March’s World Tour I), let me know at debito@debito.org. Always helpful to know if people out there are enjoying what they read.

    Enough for now. I hear my plane back to Sapporo revving its engines.

    Arudou Debito
    Narita, Japan
    October 22, 2006

    NB: If you wish to receive updates in real time on important issues and articles, you can view and/or subscribe to my blog at http://www.debito.org/index.php Newsletters will necessarily lag as they collate important information for the general public and media.






    Back issues, archives, and real-time updates at
    This post is freely forwardable.



    These are some important developments in the future of immigration to Japan. Some proposals are quite sensible, if done properly. Article excerpts with comments follow:

    “Foreigners to need ‘skills’ to live in Japan
    Justice panel takes aim at illegal aliens”
    Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006

    A Justice Ministry panel discussing long-term policies for accepting overseas workers said Friday the government should seek out those with special skills and expertise to cope with the shrinking labor force in Japan….

    The proposal by the panel headed by Kono also claimed that reducing the number of illegal foreign residents will help the country regain its reputation as “the safest country in the world,” ultimately creating an environment where legal foreign workers can become a part of society. As suggested in the panel’s interim report released in May, the panel said foreigners who want to work in Japan, including those of Japanese descent, must have a certain degree of proficiency in the Japanese language to be granted legal status.
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–

    COMMENTS: I am largely in favor of these proposals, as long as the government (as I said in previous writings) keeps the language evaluation independently certifiable–not letting it become another means for labor force abuse (by allowing bosses to wantonly decide whether or not workers are “jouzu” enough).

    Also glad to see they dropped the hitherto proposed “3% foreigner population cap” as unworkable. Inevitably they would end up kicking foreigners out as the Japanese population dropped. See the original proposal and a critique at

    Also, got this comment from a friend:
    Did you see the results of the public comment drive for the Kono report? According to the report (available on the Justice Ministry website at http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan51-2-1.pdf), they got 437 responses (well, that they officially validated, but that’s another plate of sushi).

    Of these, 426, or 98 percent, were opposed to expanding the number of foreign workers. Even those few who wanted to expand the the number of foreign workers apparently said that solving the problem of “public safety” was a condition for their agreeing. Proof, as if we need more, that the foreigners-as-dangerous-criminals-propaganda over the past five years or so has been chillingly effective.

    I’d be curious to learn how many people you know or know of wrote in. If it was more than a dozen, I think a fair question to Mr. Kono would be whether the opinions of resident foreigners were included in the survey.

    Did anyone else respond to the MOJ request for info?
    Please let me know at debito@debito.org.

    Now for the next article concerning immigration:

    “Govt to check foreign staff situation
    Plans to have firms report worker details”
    The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept 23, 2006

    By making it obligatory for companies to report foreign workers’ details, the government hopes to keep track of people on an individual basis, and to enhance measures for clamping down on those working illegally. In addition, it is hoped the measures will encourage foreign workers to take out social insurance, and allow central and local governments to offer better support to workers who have to change jobs frequently due to unstable contracts.

    The government’s three-year deregulation program, finalized in March, discusses making it mandatory for firms to submit reports on their foreign employees and whether reports should include detailed information such as workers’ names and residence status. The policy is likely to prove controversial in light of the protection of foreign workers’ privacy and the impact of the new system on the economy.
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–

    COMMENT: Quite honestly, I am of two minds on this proposal. Depends on who the true target of this policy is: The employer (to force them to employ legal workers, and force them to take responsibility when they don’t? It would be about time.), or the foreign employee? (in another attempt to “track” them constantly, an extension of the proposed “Gaijin Chip” IC Card system? See my Japan Times article on this at
    http://www.debito.org/japantimes112205.html )

    It’s a wait-and-see thing for me, as there is no way to determine how it will be enforced until it is enforced. Witness the April 2005 revisions of hotel laws, requiring passport checks of tourists, which gave the NPA license to order hotels nationwide to demand passport checks of ALL foreigners (regardless of residency):



    Story about frustrated player making anti-gaijin remarks about his coach, our own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Trey Hillman, who has had a simply incredible season (and may take the pennant for the first time for this new team). Excerpt follows:

    At this stage of the season, the only thing any player should be thinking about is winning the pennant…

    However, that was vastly overshadowed by the actions of Fighters starter Satoru Kanemura, who threw a major hissy fit due to being pulled by manager Trey Hillman in the fifth inning needing just one out to become the first Nippon Ham hurler to rack up five straight ten win seasons since Yukihiro Nishimura.

    After the game, he told the press that. yanking him was “absolutely unforgivable” and then took a racial shot at Hillman, grumbling that, “because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t care about players’ individual goals.” He then challeneged reporters to print his remarks. “I don’t even want to look at him,” Kanemura said of Hillman.

    [Original Japanese: “Zettai ni yurusanai. Gaikokujin wa kojin kiroku wa dou de mo ii n deshou. Shinユyou ga nai tte iu koto. Kao mo mitakunai.”) (Doshin Sept 25)
    http://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/Php/kiji.php3?&d=20060925&j=0034&k=200609254200 ]

    In addition, he accused the former Rangers farm director of being more indulgent with Iranian-Japanese righthander Yu Darvish than him. In the context of this little explosion, that also has a racial tinge to it. Kanemura also beefed that he didn’t think Hillman trusted him….

    Kanemura… was immediately taken off the roster for the duration of the playoffs and told to not even show up at practice Monday…
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–
    Entire article at

    Funny to hear a Japanese accuse a foreigner holding the group in higher regard than the individual…

    Where this went next:

    Kanemura suspended, fined Y2 million for criticizing Hillman
    Japan Today, Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    TOKYO Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said. Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day…. (Kyodo News)
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–

    COMMENT: While I support the sanctions meted out (for “criticizing the manager’s decision”, not for a “gaijin coach slur”, note), why am I not surprised by this development? Is it a given or a natural law that sooner or later, somebody’s foreignness is inevitably made an issue of here? I know Japan isn’t alone in this regard by any means, but one can hope that things can improve. Especially given the degree of fan service and overall relaxedness that the Fighters under Hillman have displayed–and still look likely to win the pennant! Nice guys can finish first. It’s just a shame that in the heat of the moment, the race card (or gaijin card, whichever interpretation you prefer) has to surface.

    Bravo to showing zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Kanemura apologized on his blog (not for the “foreign coach” thingie, however–see http://satoru-kanemura.cocolog-nifty.com), and the apology was accepted by Hillman.

    But let’s go deeper. There are plenty of books and articles out there talking about how foreign players, umpires, even coaches are treated in Japan without the due respect they deserve, suffering great indignities due to their “gaijin” status.

    And it wasn’t just Hillman last week. During the September 25 high school draft picks for professional teams, one of the stars, Ohmine Yuuta, got his hopes up to be picked by Softbank Hawks. It was supposed to be a done deal, but Bobby Valentine, coach of Chiba Lotte, put in a bid as well for him. As is the established precedent, both Softbank and Lotte drew from a lottery, and Lotte by chance won. Suddenly. Ohmine declined to join Lotte, which is quite a scandal in itself.

    But you just gotta pick on the gaijin. The HS coach of Ohmine’s team, a Mr Ishimine Yoshimori, refused to even meet with Valentine on September 26, citing the following reason:

    “Americans won’t comprehend our words or feelings.”
    (amerikajin to wa, kotoba mo kimochi mo tsuujinai)

    Thus Coach Ishimine publicly rebuked Valentine due to some kinda foreign “language barrier”. What an example to set in front of his students! Courtesy Sports Houchi September 27, 2006:

    Amazing. Major coaches with worldwide reputations, like Valentine, are thus in the end still just gaijin, shown rudeness unthinkable between Japanese in this context. Remember who Valentine is: He brought Lotte to its first pennant win last year in a generation–31 years–the first foreign coach ever to do so.
    It looks like Trey Hillman may be the second, two years running.

    Final word: Shortly after I posted about Hillman, a friend brought up the argument that he didn’t see anything particularly racist or xenophobic about Kanemura’s comments. I answer that on my blog at

    If the World Cup 2006 can explicitly make “no racism” an official slogan, isn’t it time for Japan’s sports leagues to stop sweeping this issue under the carpet, and make an official statement banning it as well?



    This matters to this newsletter because enforced patriotism (particularly in the ways emerging under the creep towards the right wing in Japan) is anathema to multiculturalization and multiethnicity. What are the children of immigrants to say when asked how much they love their country, and be graded on it? (As is happening in grade schools in Saitama and Kyushu.) The “Kimigayo” Issue, where here people are exposed to punishment and job dismissal if they don’t stand and sing the national anthem, is a bellwether. Fortunately, some people are willing to stand up for themselves. Consider some Tokyo educators:

    “City Hall to appeal ‘Kimigayo’ ruling”
    Japan Times, Sept 23, 2006
    Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060923a2.html

    In Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo school board cannot force teachers to sing “Kimigayo” before the flag or punish them for refusing to do so, because that infringes upon the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution…

    Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday that City Hall will appeal Thursday’s 12.03 million yen district court ruling against the “Kimigayo” directive, which obliges Tokyo’s teachers to sing the national anthem before the national flag at school ceremonies.

    He also said punishing teachers for not obeying the directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government board of education was “only natural because they neglected their duties as teachers.”
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–

    COMMENT: Quite a blow — Tokyo District Court, usually quite conservative, actually ruled against the government. Bravo. No word, however, on whether this ruling actually reinstates the suspended teachers or reverses their punishments (I suspect not).

    More on this issue in the LA Times at



    The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Businesses, excluding customers by race and nationality (or a salad of the two), has just had an update. Joining the 19 cities and towns with a history of exclusionary signs is:

    “Pub Aliw”, Iida-Chou, Ohta City, three blocks from JR Ohta:
    This in a town full of Japanese-Brazilians, and a Filipina pub to boot (looking for foreign arubaito, according to a notice on the lower part of the door–in English!). No foreigners allowed–unless they work here!

    Nice lettering on the exclusionary sign, though. Nothing like being told “Get lost Gaijin!” in a nice font.

    But all is not bad news replete with irony. Also added a photo of a yakiniku restaurant in egregious excluder Monbetsu City last summer (“Mitsuen”–Monbetsu Ph 01582-4-3656). You can see a picture of me tip-top condition (having cycled 800 kms to get there) getting a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign down from there. You can also see a cat posing with me, as she had just been fed by the owners. Cats welcome, foreigners not.

    Luckily, when we asked owners to take the sign down, they quickly complied! Pity it only took six years and a personal coaxing from us.

    Also, and I might have mentioned this before, but what the heck: It’s irony that works in our direction…

    An exclusionary sign also technically came down in egregious excluder Wakkanai City as well. Actually, public bath Yuransen (which not only illegally refused foreign taxpayers entry–it opened a segregated “gaijin bath” with a separate entrance, and charged foreigners more than six times the Japanese price to enter!) technically took its sign down because it went out of business. Photo at

    So much for the claim by the management that letting foreigners in would drive them bankrupt…



    The Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions of higher learning which refuse to provide permanent tenure to their foreign full-time faculty, has been revised again for the time being. It is a good indicator of how language instruction in Japan is being even further ghettoized in Japan’s tertiary education.

    Joining the crowd of 98 Blacklisted universities is world-famous RITSUMEIKAN UNIVERSITY, which is upping its own ante to show the world how rotten they can make things for their foreigners. According to their most recent job advertisement, they are disenfranchising their foreign faculty further (with “shokutaku” positions), adding more languages to the roster of disenfranchised positions, and even cutting their salary (compared to a job ad of few years ago) by nearly a third!

    KYOTO SANGYO UNIVERSITY is doing much the same thing, with contract positions containing a heavy workload and unclear extra duties:

    Finally, long-Blacklisted KITAKYUSHU UNIVERSITY has arguably improved things, revising its job description to offer longer contract terms, with the possibility (they say) of permanent tenure for foreign faculty.

    We’ll just have to wait and see, as the programs were inaugurated in April 2006. Fortunately, according to foreign faculty at the school, KU does currently have tenured foreigners, which means that it has also been moved to the Greenlist.

    If you want an example of how things could be done more equitably in Japan’s university system, go to the GREENLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES at

    A good example of a nice job offer can be seen in the job advertisement for AIZU UNIVERSITY, which joins 31 other Greenlisted schools.

    Bravo. Submissions to either list welcome at debito@debito.org.
    Submission guidelines available on the lists.
    (It may take some time for me to get to listing things, sorry. Volunteer work is like that.)



    Got some spare time on Saturday, October 7? Come to the Tokyo University Komaba Campus and see me and others speak on language issues. The Japan Times even covered it last weekend:

    Personality Profile–Frances Fister-Stoga and Linguapax Asia
    Japan Times Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006

    The Linguapax Institute, located in Barcelona, Spain, is a nongovernmental organization affiliated with UNESCO. Linguapax Asia, associate of the Linguapax Institute, carries out the objectives of the institute and of UNESCO’s Linguapax Project, with a special focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. The objectives cover issues ranging over multilingual education and international understanding, linguistic diversity, heritage and endangered languages, and links between language, identity, human rights and peace. Frances Fister-Stoga, lecturer at Tokyo University, is director of Linguapax Asia…

    This is the third annual international symposium organized by Linguapax Asia. It is open to the general public as well as to those with professional interest. Registration is not in advance, but at 8:30 a.m. on the day, Oct. 7, in building 18 of the Komaba campus of Tokyo University. The fee is 1,000 yen. The session will begin at 9 a.m.

    Keynote speaker in the morning session will be Charles De Wolf, professor at Keio University, translator, writer and expert on East Asian and Oceanic languages. He will discuss multilingualism and multiculturalism. The afternoon keynote speaker will be Arudo Debito, a professor at Hokkaido Information University and author on human rights issues. He will discuss the question of language and nationality. A dozen other distinguished speakers and two workshops will round out the day.

    Web site: http://www.Linguapax-Asia.org
    ————-ARTICLE EXCERPT ENDS———————–

    For those who are unable to make it, you can download my paper (still in draft form) in Word format at

    Download my accompanying Powerpoint Presentation at

    My paper’s abstract:
    ============ABSTRACT BEGINS=============================
    In Japan, a society where considerations of “nationality” and “language possession” seem to be closely intertwined, the author finds from his personal experience that having Japanese citizenship is an asset to communicating in Japanese to native Japanese. More indicative is the author’s survey of over two hundred Japanese college students on “What is a Japanese?” over the course of ten years. His findings are that people who have Japanese language ability are more likely to be viewed as “Japanese” than if they do not–even if the fluent do not have citizenship. The author feels this non-racially-based construct for determining inclusion in a society is a very hopeful sign for Japan’s future as a multicultural, multiethnic society.
    ===========ABSTRACT ENDS================================

    I think that’s about enough for today. Thanks as always for reading! I will be slower to respond while I’m on the road for the next three weeks…

    Arudou Debito
    Sapporo, Japan




    Arudou Debito in Sapporo here. Welcome back from summer break, everyone. Got quite a backlog of articles for this newsletter.

    Let me briefly open with my summer break: Two weeks cycling 940 kms (Sapporo to Wakkanai to Abashiri), averaging around 100 kms a day, and a trip average of 16.9 kms an hour, on a mountain bike. Friend Chris accompanied me for the entire trip, and he’ll soon have a site up with a report and photos. And yes, I as usual lost no weight on this cycletrek (my third, see my first at http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#cycletreks), but I feel great, and wish I lived in a climate with no winter so I could do this all year round.

    On to the updates. As I said, there’s a backlog, so apologies if you have seen some of these articles before:

    … and finally… NEW DEBITO.ORG BLOG

    September 10, 2006, Freely forwardable.
    Full text of all articles below blogged at


    The reason I opened with our cycletrek is to segue nicely into this topic: Upon reaching northern cities Wakkanai and Monbetsu, Chris and I did the rounds of “Japanese Only” signs on public establishments. Photo archive, eyewitness reports, and links to newspaper articles international and domestic available at:

    Chris and I went by public bath “Yuransen”. An egregious entry in this gallery, Yuransen for years has violated the Public Bath Law to refuse all foreigners (including foreign taxpayers) entry. Then it built a separate “gaijin bath” with separate entry and separate prices (2500 yen, six times the entry fee of 370 yen, and without male and female sections). This attracted international attention, even making the New York Times in April 2004:

    Well, guess what. Yuransen went bankrupt in March 2006. So much for its claim that letting foreigners in would drive them out of business. Meanwhile, its rival onsen some miles away, Doumu, does a brisk trade. And it has never refused foreigners. Does anyone else see a lesson here? Current photo of Yuransen’s storefront at the above Rogues’ Gallery link.

    has also had “Japanese Only Store” signs up since the previous century. Despite demands from the Ministry of Justice for them to be taken down in July 2000, some signs (we counted four) are still up to the present day, with the city government turning a blind eye to repeated requests and petitions for resolution.

    Well, Chris and I dropped by a yakiniku restaurant and got the manager to take one of the signs down. It took less than a minute! Photos up soon at the Rogues’ Gallery. Bonus: if you’d like to hear me in action negotiating the sign down, courtesy of Chris’s mp3 player/recorder, download a soundfile at

    Best part: Hear me stuttering in surprise at how easy it was, and Chris giggling at the very end.

    Y’know, we’re going to win this battle. Not least because this issue has legs:



    In a similar vein, somebody has been filching photos from the Rogues’ Gallery, to create a YouTube photo gallery entitled “Do you like Japan? Japan doesn’t like you!” Japanese national anthem included. A two-minute vid, it has been viewed as of this writing about 25,000 times, with more than 700 comments, and the dubious honor of being one of the top ten most accessed “Travel and Places” videos in YouTube history.


    And before you ask: No, I didn’t have any part in creating this video, and knew nothing about it until a friend notified me a few weeks ago.



    Newsweek Japan this week has two articles (English and Japanese each) entitled “The New Face of Japan–Foreigners are not only coming–They’re staying”. Friends Kaoru and Kiichi (formerly Coal and Jayasinghi), are featured on the very cover. Get a copy of both issues quickly while they’re still on the newsstands!

    For those who cannot, text at

    Excerpt (included not because it quotes me, but because it luckily encapsulates the spirit of the article nicely):

    Meanwhile, so-called permanent residents–foreign born people who have chosen to live in Japan for the long term–are steadily growing. “It shows that immigrants, not generational foreigners, are now becoming the more common permanent residents in Japan, meaning they’re not going to leave,” says human-rights activist Debito Arudou, a former American turned Japanese citizen. “I used to say half of the foreigners in Japan were born here. Now it’s more like a quarter.”

    And the fundamental consequence, says Arudou, is clear. “We’re going to see people who don’t look Japanese being Japanese. That’s undeniable.”

    (NB: Those who would like to see some substantiation for this sea change in Permanent Residency, see my essay on this last January at http://www.debito.org/japanfocus011206.html )

    A couple of quick corrections to the article, if I may: The figure of 15,000 people cited as the total number ofnaturalized people in Japan is the rough estimate of the YEARLY intake of naturalized citizens. According to the Minister of Justice, around 300,000 foreigners (mostly the Zainichis) took citizenship between 1968 and 2000. Update the number by 15K per year and you’re closing in on 400,000 newly-minted Japanese of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

    And former Finn Tsurunen Marutei is not the only naturalized Japanese in the Diet. As friend Chris pointed out, “Renho, formerly of Taiwanese nationality, and Shinkun Park, formerly of Korean nationality, are two other naturalized Dietmembers.”

    Newsweek has told me they will be issuing corrections in short order. Speaking of Tsurunen:



    Reporter friend Oscar did a bang-up job of an article on Tsurunen for Metropolis Magazine last August. Article available at

    Soon up for re-election, Tsurunen gives his views on Yasukuni, foreign crime, assimilation, education, nationalism, and constitutional changes. Highlight:

    Tsurunen’s more than 30 years of naturalized citizenship–if not books he’s penned in Japanese with titles such as “I Want to be a Japanese,” “Here Comes a Blue-Eyed Assemblyman” and “Blue-Eyed Diet Member Not Yet Born”–speak to his vested interest in foreigner acceptance. But he’s no longer as optimistic as when he took office in 2002.

    “Well, it is still my goal–or wish [to get suffrage for foreigners]–but I’m not sure I have been able to do much. For example, I am for the right of permanent foreign residents to vote,” he says of a bill now on ice that would allow them to do so in local elections. “But our party is not united on this issue. Last year, I was the leader of a committee that dealt with the issue of accepting more foreign laborers and we made some progress. But I’m not sure if it’s the best solution now. Japanese people are not ready to live with foreigners. There will be problems such as discrimination. We have some cities where 10% of the population is foreign and they already have these kinds of problems.”… “For foreigners this is not a very friendly country–it can be very cold. I’m one of the lucky ones.”

    COMMENT: I’ve met Tsurunen on several occasions, even had a chance to talk to him one-on-one (see my October 2003 interview with him at http://www.debito.org/tsuruneninterview.html ). I personally like the guy. I also understand that he’s trying to make his mark as a politician trumpeting more than just ethnic-rights issues (one of his biggest policy pushes is for recycling), and as a politician, he’s not in a position to please everybody.

    However, I have qualms about the degree of his distancing. For example, when UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene came to Japan for a second time, talking about racial discrimination and the need for legislation to combat it (see http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html ), Diene attended a 2PM meeting at the Diet’s Upper House on May 18, 2006. A few Dietmembers attended, and some of their offices sent secretaries to at least leave their office’s meishi business card behind as a sign of awareness or interest. Tsurunen’s office did neither. I find this deeply disappointing. This is, after all, a meeting with the United Nations–and on foreigner and ethnic issues. If Tsurunen’s office can overlook this, what kind of example does this set for the rest of Japan’s politicians?



    Elephant-minded readers of Japan’s media might remember the “Pinocchio” Case of 2003–where a grade-school teacher had a “thing” about the mixed racial background of a child in his class. He would pull on the boy’s nose until it bled, calling him “Pinocchio”, do the same thing with his ears with a “Mickey Mouse”, and devise all sorts of public punishments (even demanding he die for having “stained blood” (chi ga kegareta)) until the child became mentally unstable.

    On July 28, 2006, Fukuoka District Court ruled positively that the PTSD the boy suffered deserved compensation–awarding 2.2 million yen (continuing to push up the “market value” of racial discrimination lawsuits from the generally-accepted 1 million yen or so).
    Full report at
    Original Japanese at

    The downside to this case is that the teacher only received a suspension from teaching for six months, and is now back on the job with full responsibilities. The man deserves, in my view, incarceration, if not institutionalization.

    Moreover, this is not the first case of racially-motivated power harassment between teacher and student I am aware of by any means. I will soon be reporting on a future Kawasaki court decision regarding a Chinese-Japanese in similar straits. For now, info site at http://www.debito.org/kawasakiminzokusabetsu.htm (Japanese).



    Friend and legal expert Colin has done an excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle on another one of my hobby horses: Child custody after divorce in Japan, the weakness of courts to enforce their own decisions, and the “Who dares, wins” attitude behind many of the officially-mediated battles.

    Imagine discovering you have been living in an artificial world with rules designed to mask a terrible reality. This is, of course, the premise of “The Matrix,” but it is also an analogy I use to explain child custody and visitation in Japan, a subject in which I do research (and have had personal experience). Japan’s family courts have rules and procedures that hide a sad truth: They are powerless to protect the parent-child relationship when a divorce turns hostile… Child custody litigation is always sad, but particularly so in Japan. For starters, there is, quite literally, no law…

    Those who seek cultural (as opposed to institutional) explanations for this state of affairs should be wary. In a recent book in Japanese on visitation, a widely published expert on family problems explained why visitation was different in Japan than in the United States or Europe. The book said Japan is a Confucian society where children are important for continuing the bloodline (but only within marriage), while Western countries had gun cultures, long histories of incest, and frequent cases of parents abducting, raping and even killing their children.

    Colin also talks about about the dynamic behind judicial decisionmaking–where judges who don’t toe the official current in their decisions are denied promotion and reappointment. It adds up to a horrifying state of affairs where children (especially those in international or intercontinental divorces) are the big losers, being technically kidnapped by one parent to Japan with no recourse whatsoever.

    Fortunately, this issue is finally gaining some attention internationally. See report at Children’s Rights Network Japan about a recent protest at a Los Angeles film screening on the “Megumi Yokota Story”, drawing (stretched, but effective) comparisons between kidnappings to North Korea and child kidnappings to Japan:

    A primer on this issue available from the Japan Times at:



    You may have seen on the news a new slew of programs on “foreigner crime”. It’s periodical. The National Police Agency spoon-feeds the media every six months or so with new “foreigner crime” statistics, and special “tokushuu” shows doubling as public-service announcements appraise the public on how to avoid becoming victims of hordes of foreign criminals.

    Some historical examples of how the NPA has finagled statistics and manufactured crime waves at

    This time around, however, there’s been a snag–in that “Chinese Criminal DNA” proponent Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s former deputy chief has even come forward to call all the grandstanding an exaggeration.

    The text of the article available on my blog (no other extant link available) at

    Aug 24, 2006 Kyodo: “Ex-deputy of Tokyo Gov. Ishihara cries foul over ‘safe town’ campaign”

    Hiroshi Kubo, who released a book titled ”Is Public Safety Really Deteriorating?” in June, said such measures could make people excessively wary, encourage prejudice against foreigners and benefit those in authority like the police…

    Some analysts say these concerns are entirely reasonable and have urged authorities to work harder to get rid of factors threatening public order, such as the widening income disparity, instead of simply telling people to brace themselves for possible crimes.

    Kubo, 59, was a senior bureaucrat in the Tokyo government. He led various crime prevention projects as a division chief in charge of public safety in the governor’s headquarters from August 2003 to March 2005, when he quit the municipality.

    Kubo said he felt ”embarrassed” when he involved himself in or led projects he said were aimed at prompting people to think the community was becoming more and more dangerous and to rely on the authorities, especially the police, to deal with the situation.

    Finally, a voice of reason, even at the top…



    Calling all naturalized Japanese readers:

    Naturalized Chinese-Japanese Professor U Hoden, of Japan Women’s University, and myself will be collaborating on a new book over the next few months. We aim to feature the views of life in Japan from a “newcomer citizen” perspective, with essays in Japanese from those who have naturalized. This will be in their own words. We have a basic outline of questions ready, so if anyone is interested (Kaoru, Kiichi?), please let me know at debito@debito.org.

    Meanwhile, my friend and I have just finished the fourth draft of our new GUIDEBOOK TO LIFE IN JAPAN, which we think should be coming out in the next six months or so. More on that later…


    And finally, let me announce here my new blog at debito.org, to more easily archive these newsletters. Go to
    to see what’s going out. There is also RSS capability, for those who want to sign up for reports in real time, before I collate into an update. I’m still getting used to the technology, but I hope you like what you see.

    As always, thanks for reading, and welcome back for what promises to be an eventful autumn!
    Arudou Debito
    Sapporo, Japan
    Sept 10, 2006




    Somebody has been filching photos from the Rogues’ Gallery, to create a YouTube photo gallery entitled “Do you like Japan? Japan doesn’t like you!” Japanese national anthem included. A two-minute vid, it has been viewed as of this writing about 25,000 times, with more than 700 comments, and the dubious honor of being one of the top ten most accessed “Travel and Places” videos in YouTube history.


    And before you ask: No, I didn’t have any part in creating this video, and knew nothing about it until a friend notified me a few weeks ago.




    The reason I opened with our cycletrek is to segue nicely into this topic: Upon reaching northern cities Wakkanai and Monbetsu, Chris and I did the rounds of “Japanese Only” signs on public establishments. Photo archive, eyewitness reports, and links to newspaper articles international and domestic available at:

    Chris and I went by public bath “Yuransen”. An egregious entry in this gallery, Yuransen for years has violated the Public Bath Law to refuse all foreigners (including foreign taxpayers) entry. Then it built a separate “gaijin bath” with separate entry and separate prices (2500 yen, six times the entry fee of 370 yen, and without male and female sections). This attracted international attention, even making the New York Times in April 2004:

    Well, guess what. Yuransen went bankrupt in March 2006. So much for its claim that letting foreigners in would drive them out of business. Meanwhile, its rival onsen some miles away, Doumu, does a brisk trade. And it has never refused foreigners. Does anyone else see a lesson here? Current photo of Yuransen’s storefront at the above Rogues’ Gallery link.

    has also had “Japanese Only Store” signs up since the previous century. Despite demands from the Ministry of Justice for them to be taken down in July 2000, some signs (we counted four) are still up to the present day, with the city government turning a blind eye to repeated requests and petitions for resolution.

    Well, Chris and I dropped by a yakiniku restaurant and got the manager to take one of the signs down. It took less than a minute! Photos up soon at the Rogues’ Gallery. Bonus: if you’d like to hear me in action negotiating the sign down, courtesy of Chris’s mp3 player/recorder, download a soundfile at

    Best part: Hear me stuttering in surprise at how easy it was, and Chris giggling at the very end.

    May 27, 2006: Police patrols, Diene, immigration and foreign workers


    Hi All. Arudou Debito here. Updates:

    8) and finally… THE COMPLIMENT OF THE YEAR
    May 27, 2006, freely forwardable


    I received this information earlier this week from a friend in Tokyo, who said cops patrolling her area came to her door asking for personal information about her and her wherewithal in Japan.

    Entitled the “Junkan Renraku Caado” and issued by the police forces, this A4-sized paper reads, in English (as this form is clearly designed for English-reading foreigners):

    “This police officer is assigned to work in your area. His duties require him to establish rapport and maintain positive contact with community residents of his beat. As such he will occasionally call at your place of residence. These visits have a long history in the Japanese community and is [sic] not meant to be intrusive in nature. The activity is intended to provide the public with the best crime prevention and traffic awareness services the police can offer. We would also like to hear your difficulties, complaints, and opinions on community affairs, thereby helping us to serve our community better. On his first visit, the patrolman will be asking you to fill out this form. Information provided by you will be mainly used for communication purposes, should you suffer from crime, disaster, or traffic accident. Necessary precaution [sic] will be taken to maintain your privacy. Information provided by you will not be affected [sic] nor disclosed to third parties. We request your assistance in this matter. Thank you for your understanding.”
    See a scanned copy of it here

    Above this section are boxes in Japanese only asking for “Head of Household” (setai nushi) and patrolman details.

    Below it are boxes in English and Japanese for filling out Home Address (in Japan) with phone number, Nationality, and Period of Stay. There are several rows for FAMILY MAKE-UP, with Name in Full, Relationship, Sex, Occupation/School, Alien Registration Certificate Number.

    The bottom half has:
    a) POINTS OF EMERGENCY CONTACT (Name and address of Householder’s business, Name and address of Householder’s School, Name and address of close friend or next of kin)

    b) TENANTS OTHER THAN FAMILY (with the same information required as the above FAMILY MAKE-UP SECTION


    Then finally,

    Okay, here are some things I would write in this section:
    1) Why are you asking me for this information?
    2) What bearing does this information have on the stated goals of public prevention of crime, disaster relief, and traffic awareness?
    3) Is filling out this form optional?
    4) Do you gather all of this information from Japanese residents too?
    5) If foreigners were allowed to have juuminhyou residency certificates, like all other residents of Japan who happen to be citizens, would you police need to come around to my house and collect it yourself?

    Actually, in the time period spanning twenty years I have had contact with the Japanese police, I never once have had them come to my door and ask for anything like this. Yet I have heard so far that this has happened to two foreigners residing in Tokyo Nakano-ku and Shinjuku-ku. Anyone else? Let me know at debito@debito.org.

    I will pass this on to one of my lawyers and ask whether or not filling this out is mandatory. Given that answering the Japan Census Bureau is completely optional, I have a feeling that filling this out would be optional too, at least for Japanese. (Ask your cop directly yourself: “Kore o ki’nyuu suru no wa nin’i desu ka?”)



    Since a major overseas magazine will soon be doing a large article on foreign labor in Japan, I finally sat down and webbed something I keep referring to in my Japanese writings on immigration and foreign labor in Japan: Fifteen pages of a special report in Shuukan Diamondo (Weekly Diamond) economics magazine, concerning the importance of Immigration to Japan, which ran on June 5, 2004. All scanned and now available at:


    Cover: “Even with the Toyota Production style, it won’t work without foreigners. By 2050, Japan will need more than 33,500,000 immigrants!! Toyota’s castle town overflowing with Nikkei Brazilians. An explosion of Chinese women, working 22 hour days–the dark side of foreign labor”

    Page 32: “If SARS [pneumonia] spreads, factories ‘dependent on Chinese’ in Shikoku will close down”.

    Page 40-41: Keidanren leader Okuda Hiroshi offers “five policies”: 1) Create a “Foreigners Agency” (gaikokujin-chou), 2) Create bilateral agreements to receive “simple laborers” (tanjun roudousha), 3) Strengthen Immigration and reform labor oversight, 4) Create policy for public safety, and environments for foreigner lifestyles (gaikokujin no seikatsu kankyou seibi), 5) Create a “Green Card” system for Japan to encourage brain drains from overseas.

    Remember that powerful business league Keidanren was the one lobbying in the late 80’s and early 90’s for cheap foreign workers (particularly Nikkei Brazilians) to come in on Trainee Visas, working for less than half wages and no social benefits, to save Japanese industry from “hollowing out”.

    Now that Keidanren boss Okuda has stepped down in favor of Mitarai Fujio (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20060525a3.html), it’s time to see what Keidanren’s new tack on foreign labor, if any, will be. At 7:50 AM yesterday morning, NHK interviewed Mitarai, and made much of his 23 years living overseas with foreigners (and his comments were, sigh, directed towards “understanding foreign culture and traditions”; when will we outgrow that hackneyed and sloppy analytical paradigm?). The interview made no mention of foreigners within Japan, however. Do I hear the sound of hands washing?



    Last update, I gave a synopsis of Doudou Diene’s trip last week to Tokyo, Osaka, and Okinawa, sponsored by IMADR (available at http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#May2006. I received a response from Trevor Bekolay, student at Kokugakuin University and University of Manitoba, who was at a meeting with Diene which I could not attend. Forwarding with permission:

    Just to add to your email about meeting with UN Special Rapporteur
    Diene, I as well had the opportunity to meet him at the public meeting
    on May 13th at IMADR’s building. The meeting consisted of but 20
    people [due to the short notice of the schedule]. Most of the points
    that he made you already included in your email…

    The three-hour meeting included statements from IMADR, the NGO
    representative, Dr. Diene himself, then about half of the time was
    allotted to questions from those who attended. Here are the notes I
    made on what I heard:

    “Dr. Diene received a fair amount of negative media coverage after the
    initial UN report due to the possibility of omissions which are
    believed to be added to Diene’s report. IMADR attempted to address
    these problems in their open letter to Dr. Diene, but the purpose of
    the meeting really, was for Diene to receive feedback on the report,
    especially of issues that were omitted in the original report. He
    stressed that one does not have to be in a group, any individual can
    inform the Special Rapporteur of individual cases of racism and
    discrimination which will immediately be acted upon. Basically, the
    UN is starting to police Japan’s government more closely, to determine
    if they should remain in Human Rights groups in the UN.

    [Inform the Special Rapporteur via sr-racism@ohchr.org
    (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)]

    “The report’s goal is to be the first step in starting social change,
    not just a report on the current situation. The responsibility of
    activist groups like IMADR is to inform Diene of new developments.
    Give as much information as possible so he can give a good report to
    the UN. Consider how the report can be used as part of the fight
    against racism in Japan.

    “Question Period: Mainly specific issues, such as pension issues for
    disabled Zainichi Koreans. However, a representative for the Civil
    Liberties Union seemed to be there to defend the Japanese right to be
    racist. He mentioned the issue of freedom of expression vs. racial
    discrimination. He claimed that freedom of expression isn’t well
    protected in Japan, so only public servants are punished for making
    racist remarks in public forums. He gave two examples of problems
    with freedom of expression: one in which public servants who were
    distributing political leaflets were arrested, and one in which
    environmentalists were arrested by SD forces while distributing
    political leaflets.”…

    Well and good. Especially since the conservatives are now feeling threatened by Diene enough to start organizing and publishing: Witness this:



    A friend who studies conservative politics in Japan called me up just before dinner tonight, to inform me of the “emergency publication” of a new book by “right-wing nutjobs” decrying the spread of human rights in Japan.

    Entitled, “Abunai! Jinken Yougo Houan, Semari Kuru Senshinkoku kei Zentai Shugi no Kyoufu”
    (“Warning! The Human Rights Protection Bill: The Imminent Terror of the Totalitarianism of the Developed Countries”, or somesuch), it was just published April 27 and is visible at:

    Complete, my friend notes, with manga (what else?) lots of Chinese living in an apartment on top of each other in violation of housing contract, being found out by the landlord, and taking action against him “to defend their own human rights”. Or of a “gaijin” picking a fight with a Japanese in a bar, getting turfed out, then taking action against the bar for “violating his human rights”. Hoo boy.

    It zeroes in on the Diene report in specific. Not quite sure how (as I haven’t gotten a copy of the book yet), but will let you know. I ordered two copies today and will send one to Diene at the UN for his perusal.



    Last week I forwarded you an article from the Yomiuri entitled:
    New ID card system eyed for foreigners
    The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2006, still up temporarily at:

    Well, here’s a letter I sent to the Yomiuri shortly afterwards:

    Sir, Your article, “New ID card system eyed for foreigners” (May. 14, 2006), makes an unfortunate omission and even an error.

    In its haste to portray the change in the Alien Registration system as little more than a centralization and rationalization of power, your article neglects to mention the new “Gaijin Cards” will have imbedded IC computer chips.

    These chips will be used, according to government proposals, to track even legal foreigners in Japan through swiping stations nationwide. [*1] This is an unomissible change.

    Your article errs when it reports, “an increasing number of foreigners do not register themselves at municipalities after gaining admission at the bureau or fail to report an extension of their stay”. In fact, according to Immigration, the number of illegal foreigners has gone down every year uninterrupted since 1993. [*2] Even the figure cited within the article, “at least about 190,000 illegal aliens as of January”, is still lower than the 2003 figure of 220,000 overstays.

    In this era of exaggeration of foreign crime, please endeavor to provide us with accurate reportage.
    Arudou Debito
    Sapporo, Japan


    [Note 1 for editors: Source, Japan Times, “Computer-chip card proposals for foreigners have big potential for abuse”, November 22, 2005.
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?appURL=fl20051122zg.html ]

    [Note 2 for editors: Source: http://www.debito.org/crimestats.html , very bottom for an orange bar chart indicating the number of illegal aliens in Japan (courtesy of Immigration)]

    Well, AFAIK it didn’t get published. Ah well. To be expected.



    For the Diene visit, I put together a tape of media (TV shows and news broadcasts) concerning the Ana Bortz Case, the Otaru Onsens Case, and NHK’s portrayal of foreign crime. (Synopsis of the tape’s contents at http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#video ).

    If you would like a copy sent to you (for a nominal fee of, say, 1000 yen to cover tape, postage and handling, see http://www.debito.org/donations.html), please be in touch with me at debito@debito.org. Quite a few teachers are using this as classroom educational material on the subject of human rights. Be happy to help.



    What is shaping up to be the last and best bilingual interview of the bunch just came out yesterday on Yamato Damacy.
    Touching upon survival strategies in Japan, the future, and a special appearance of Tama-chan–probably the most successful issue we ever took up on The Community!


    8) and finally… THE COMPLIMENT OF THE YEAR

    When I was having dinner with M. Diene on May 17 in Osaka, in attendance was a former vice-rector of a major Japanese university who paid me a wonderful compliment:

    “I am in fact a quarter French. When I was younger, I really disliked the three-quarters of the Japanese side of myself that ridiculed my foreign background. But now no longer ashamed of my French roots. I’m even proud to be a Japanese. Because we have Japanese now like Arudou Debito who say the things I could never say.”

    That was a tearjerker. Here I am just doing my thing, and it somehow helped an elderly gentleman overcome longstanding hurts he’d had for decades…

    Arudou Debito