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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After decades of international exposure, embarrassment, broken treaty promises, xenophobic and racist tropes, and deprived children, Japan finally changes its laws to allow joint custody of children after divorce, taking effect in 2026.

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org has been quiet on these developments until they actually came to fruition, and now that they have, it’s time to cheer.  Japan has finally gotten around to fixing one of its worst-kept secrets:  Child Abductions after divorces.  After years of international pressure (and all manner of racist justifications of the status quo, including even the Foreign Ministry accusing foreigners of being naturally violent, and Japan offering safe haven for international child abductions despite signing an international treaty against it), the Diet has just passed legislation allowing for joint custody after divorce.  Meaning both parents now have the ability to have a say in raising a child even if the relationship falls apart.  It comes into effect in 2026 and will be reassessed five years later.

Debito.org has talked about this issue for decades (since I too lost all contact with my children after my divorce, which is in fact the norm in Japan, thanks to the Koseki Family Registry system forcing split couples to sever all legal family ties and thus all rights to any contact).  Not only because NJ are particularly vulnerable to becoming “Left Behind Parents” in intercontinental relationships (since the J spouse can either make off with the child back to Japan or deprive you of a Spouse Visa), but also because this situation affected ALL divorces in Japan, regardless of nationality. It left all children in Japan vulnerable to being used a pawn used to punish one parent out of spite. And that would often carry on into adulthood, with the adult offspring hating the LBP parent without ever hearing both sides of the story or knowing the LBP cares about them.  This is not normal even in peer countries.  As the Mainichi notes below, “Japan had been the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nation with no joint custody system, according to a Justice Ministry survey of other countries released in 2020.”

Anyway, this is an extremely positive and long overdue development, and it’s another example of Japanese domestic law not changing without international shame and pressure.  It’s just a shame it couldn’t have happened decades ago when it would have made a difference to me and my divorced friends. Let’s hope this brings more reality to future relationships.  Divorces are complicated.  Adding more child abuse into the mix (and by this I mean the child abuse that is inherent in an automatic severance of custodial ties) just made it worse.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(PS:  I even wrote a novel on this subject, if you’re interested.  Details here.)

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JAPAN / Crime & Legal
Japan changes law to allow joint custody after divorce
Legislation that allows the option of joint custody of children after divorce is passed at the Upper House plenary session on Friday.
AFP-Jiji/Japan Times, May 17, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/05/17/japan/crime-legal/japan-revises-law-to-allow-joint-custody/

Japanese lawmakers enacted legislation Friday that allows the option of joint custody of children after divorce.

For decades in Japan, one parent — almost always the mother — has been granted legal custody when a marriage ends, a rule seen by its supporters as a safeguard against domestic violence and child abuse.

But concerns have been raised that it can cause meaningful contact to be cut off between the other parent and their child.

Long-simmering frustrations of noncustodial parents — often fathers — over lack of access to children have helped build pressure for change.

A U.N. committee in 2019 recommended that Japan “allow for shared custody of children when it is in the child’s best interests, including for foreign parents.”

The new bill stipulates that sole custody be maintained if both parents agree it is the best option, or in court-recognized cases of domestic violence or child abuse.

One parent will also be able to make decisions without consulting the other on issues like schooling or health in “emergency circumstances.”

No official tallies exist for the number of minors cut off from a parent in Japan, but even so, campaigns both for and against the changes have been loud.

A 2022 survey carried out by a support group for single mothers found that 80% of single parents in Japan were against or disinclined toward joint custody.

“Even in cases of domestic violence, failure to prove it in court due to insufficient evidence can lead to joint custody being established,” campaigners against the move said in January. ENDS

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Japan passes a revised law allowing joint child custody for divorced parents for the first time
Japan’s parliament has passed a revision to the country’s civil code that will allow divorced parents the option of joint child custody, a change that brings the nation in line with many other countries
By MARI YAMAGUCHI Associated Press, May 17, 2024
https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/japan-passes-revised-law-allowing-joint-child-custody-110330983

TOKYO — Japan’s parliament on Friday passed a revision to the country’s civil code that will allow divorced parents the option of joint child custody, a change that brings the nation in line with many other countries.

The revision, the first to custody rights in nearly 80 years, is to take effect by 2026. It will allow divorced parents to choose either dual or single custody while requiring them to cooperate in ensuring their children’s rights and wellbeing.

Under the current law, child custody is granted to only one divorced parent, almost always the mother.

The change comes as divorces are increasing in Japan and a growing number of divorced fathers hope to stay in touch with their children. A number of high-profile allegations made by divorced foreign fathers who blamed their former partners for abducting their children and returning to Japan also encouraged the change.

The revision requires the sharing of child rearing costs by the parent who is not the main custodian. Currently, most divorced mothers, who often are part-time workers with low incomes, do not receive financial support from their former husbands.

In cases in which domestic violence or abuse by either parent is suspected, the other person will have sole custody, according to the revision.

Supporters of joint custody say it allows both divorced parents to play a role in child rearing. Opponents, including rights groups and some victims of domestic violence, have raised concern that the new system could make it harder for parents to cut ties with abusive spouses and that they may not be allowed a real say in custody decisions.

The concerns prompted some modifications to the legislation during parliamentary debate to require authorities to make sure the custody decision was not one-sided.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that the revisions address concerns raised by domestic violence victims and their families. But the improvements don’t go far enough and the risk remains high for vulnerable members in the families, said Kazuko Ito, a lawyer who has campaigned against the revision.

Under the revision, divorced parents who choose joint custody must reach a consensus on their children’s education, long-term medical treatment and other key issues, and will need to seek a family court decision if an agreement cannot be reached.

Either parent can make decisions about their children’s daily activities, such as private lessons and meals, or emergency treatment.

The revision is to be reviewed five years after it takes effect. ENDS

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Japan’s Diet passes bill to allow joint custody after divorce

The House of Councillors passes a bill during a plenary session in parliament in Tokyo on May 17, 2024, to introduce joint custody for divorced couples with children. (Kyodo)

May 17, 2024 (Mainichi Japan)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20240517/p2g/00m/0na/008000c

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s parliament on Friday passed a bill to introduce joint custody for divorced couples with children, in a landmark change that paves the way for the adoption of a practice widely used in other nations.

In the first law change regarding parental authority in 77 years, Japan’s Civil Code will permit divorced parents to choose either sole custody or joint custody, a shift from the current system that has only allowed custody by one parent — usually the mother.

The change comes as family relationships diversify in Japan amid a rise in couples splitting and eagerness by both parents to play a role in child-rearing. The current system has also posed challenges for foreign citizens seeking to maintain ties with their children if their divorced partners return to Japan with them.

About 160,000 minors in Japan experienced the divorce of their parents in 2022 alone, double the figure in 1950.

The revised law will enter into force within two years of its promulgation and be applied retroactively to those who have already divorced.

Under the revised Civil Code, parents will generally determine between themselves whether to opt for sole or joint custody, but if there is a dispute, a family court will intervene and decide on custody arrangements.

In cases where domestic violence and abuse by one of the parents is suspected, the other parent will have sole custody.

Proponents of the joint custody system say the revision allows both divorced parents to take part in child-rearing, but victims of domestic violence have voiced concern that the new system could hinder them from severing ties with their abusers as it would maintain connections to their former spouses.

Some also fear such victims may not be able to negotiate single custody or joint custody on an equal footing.

To address such concerns, the bill was modified during parliamentary deliberations to add a clause that calls for considering measures to “confirm the true intention” of each parent, but critics argue the government measures to protect domestic violence victims are too vague.

The new system will be reviewed five years after the revision come into force.

Under joint custody, consensus between parents is not required in making decisions on day-to-day matters, such as what to feed children and whether to vaccinate them.

Parents must reach consensus on important matters such as education and long-term medical treatment, but if they cannot do so in time in an urgent situation, one of the parents can decide on their own.

To avoid ambiguity in what would constitute an urgent situation, the government plans to provide clear examples.

The revision also includes measures against unpaid child support that will oblige a parent to provide minimum payments even if no agreement is reached upon divorce.

The new custody system is expected to increase the burden on family courts in Japan as they will play the role of ultimate arbiter for parents in complex situations in terms of child custody, such as judging whether domestic violence is involved.

Critics question whether family courts possess enough manpower to handle additional duties, with the number of cases filed with family courts rising to about 1.14 million in 2022, up nearly 300,000 from 2012, according to judicial statistics.

Prior to the revision, Japan had been the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nation with no joint custody system, according to a Justice Ministry survey of other countries released in 2020.

Discussion of Japan’s sole custody system emerged partly in response to global criticism over parental abduction cases involving Japanese spouses who took children away from foreign partners after the failure of marriages and made it difficult for the foreign parent to see their children in Japan.

Japan joined in 2014 an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes. But in 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging Japan to improve its child custody rules, under which European parents in Japan have little recourse in the event of domestic child abduction by a Japanese spouse. ENDS

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Reuters: Biden calls ally Japan ‘xenophobic’ along with rivals China and Russia (May 2, 2024). Bravo Biden!

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Hi Blog.  The next significant development over the past couple of weeks is POTUS Biden sounding off on xenophobia in Japan (and fellow ally India, as well as Russia and China), citing Japan’s inability to accept immigrants and harness their potential as a key issue in Japan’s longstanding economic doldrums.

(Reuters article on this below.)

COMMENT:  Debito.org says “Bravo Biden!”, for obvious reasons we’ve covered on Debito.org since its beginning back in 1995.  For generations now Japan has gotten a free pass on its racial discrimination (about which I’ve written entire books) simply because it’s an ally.  It’s about time somebody in leadership chided things in the right direction.  Unfortunately, geopolitics and human rights do not mix, and the latter has taken a back seat to the former for too long.

The response will be predictable and obvious.  There will be the requisite handwringing from the diplomats and media, and the knee-jerk reactions from the ethnostatists defending Japan’s putative ethnic purity or sovereignty in various comments sections (although human rights supersede pat claims of sovereignty if you’ve signed the CERD, which Japan did nearly 30 years ago and still has not passed any laws against racial discrimination).

Whatever.  It’s long overdue to state the fact that Japan as a polity simply will not keep its international promises, and Debito.org agrees with Biden that Japan’s lack of any official immigration policy hurts Japan as a society both economically and demographically.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Biden calls ally Japan ‘xenophobic’ along with rivals China and Russia
BY JUSTIN SINK AND ISABEL REYNOLDS, BLOOMBERG
Reuters/Japan Times, May 2, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/05/02/japan/politics/biden-china-japan-india-xenophobia/

U.S. President Joe Biden included ally Japan along with rivals China and Russia in a list of countries he called “xenophobic” on Wednesday, in a speech at a campaign fundraising event in Washington.

Biden reiterated remarks he made last month linking China’s economic woes to its unwillingness to accept immigration. This time he added Russia, but also longstanding ally Japan, whose Prime Minister Fumio Kishida he welcomed for a summit and state dinner in Washington just three weeks ago.

“You know, one of the reasons our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden told Asian American and Pacific Islander donors Wednesday. “The reason — think about it — why is China stalling so bad economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia, why is anyone? Because they’re xenophobic, they don’t want immigrants.”

His criticisms and the fact that Japan was mentioned alongside two major U.S. rivals could raise hackles in Tokyo. The U.S. and Japan announced a “significant upgrade” to their defense ties last month, citing the need to counter China’s “dangerous” actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The April summit in Washington was overshadowed by Biden’s stance on a plan for Japan’s Nippon Steel to buy United States Steel, after he said the firm should remain U.S.-owned.

Japan’s government acknowledges its aging and shrinking population is a source of concern, with Kishida himself saying the issue threatens society’s ability to function.

The country is also gradually opening the door to more immigrants, many of whom are filling jobs in sectors where there are shortages of workers.

The number of foreign residents in Japan rose to a record high of 3.4 million in December 2023, up 10% on the previous year and representing about 2.7% of the population of about 124 million.

A survey by the Asahi newspaper published last month found 62% of respondents said more foreign workers should be accepted, compared with 44% in a similar poll in 2018. ENDS

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(Prior comments from Debito.org Readers on the Biden statement starting here.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My answer was this:

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

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

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

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

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

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MISS JAPAN SHIINO KAROLINA LOST HER CROWN, INEVITABLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then came the backlash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS
======================
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Happy 2024: Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

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Hi Blog. HNY and AkeOme. Last month was a year-end break for the Shingetsu News Agency and my Visible Minorities column, so let me open 2024 with yesterday’s JT article showing just how much things have not changed for the past quarter century. Article first, then my comment:

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Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100: panel
The Japan Times. BY KAZUAKI NAGATA, STAFF WRITER, Jan 10, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/01/10/japan/society/population-proposal/

PHOTO CAPTION: Akio Mimura, honorary chairman of Nippon Steel and head of a private panel focused on depopulation, submits the group’s proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

(Ed: This actually made a pretty big domestic news splash.  See all the headlines via Google here: 人口戦略会議. You can also see word about this even on the PM’s official website, but in the true spirit of government openness it only offers photo-ops with no way to actually read the proposal or see who’s on the panel.)

Amid concerns over rapid depopulation, a private panel has proposed that Japan should aim to have a stable population of 80 million by 2100 in order to maintain economic growth.

Last April, the government released an estimate that the population would be reduced by half to about 63 million in 2100, with 40% of people expected to be 65 or older.

Japan has wrestled with the issue of a declining birthrate for decades, but the situation is about to “change drastically,” with the country now entering a serious phase of population decline, the panel, headed by Nippon Steel honorary chairman Akio Mimura and consisting of 28 members including prominent academics and business leaders, said Tuesday.

The country’s population in 1930 was about 63 million, but the proportion of those 65 years or older was just 4.8% then, according to the panel, which submitted its proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the same day.

To avoid such a future, Japan needs to slow down the pace of the decline and eventually stop it, the panel said, adding that government strategy should focus on stabilizing the population at around 80 million by 2100. As of last month, Japan’s population was estimated to be 124 million.

The panel carried out several simulations and argued that if the country raised the total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.6 by around 2040, 1.8 by around 2050 and eventually 2.07 by 2060, it could maintain a population of around 80 million by 2100.

In 2022, Japan’s fertility rate fell for the seventh straight year to a record-tying low of 1.26. A rate of 2.07 is considered to be necessary to keep the population stable.

“This is not an easy task, but it is by no means impossible if full-scale efforts are launched to fight the declining birthrate,” the panel said, highlighting that it would take decades for such a strategy to start to bear fruit and that it was inevitable for the population to be smaller than it is today.

Still, if Japan can maintain a population of 80 million and also boost productivity, then the country would be able to see annual economic growth of about 0.9% from 2050 to 2100, according to the panel.

In tackling the issue, the government should establish a new committee of experts directly under the prime minister that would oversee the planning and implementation of the population strategy, the panel suggested.

The panel said one major problem was that the government and the private sector had failed to share sufficient information with the public about the gravity of rapid depopulation and the importance of preventing it.

“It is unfoundedly optimistic to say that ‘The population may be dwindling, but Japanese society will continue as before,’” the panel said.

Measures implemented by the government up until now to combat the declining birthrate may have produced some results, but they have been mostly “one-off and stopgap,” so they have not been enough to turn around the trend, the panel added.

Kishida has made tackling the country’s plummeting birthrate a top policy item and pledged to introduce “unprecedented steps” to head off the severe long-term economic impact. He has said that the government will raise the budget for child care-related policies over the next three years, with an extra ¥3.6 trillion ($24.8 billion) to be spent each year. ENDS

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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: There is nothing new under the sun when you have the same old people retreading the same old shinola to the same perpetually-elected party in power.  Getting all these people together to wish for a skypie solution of increasing birthrates (while somehow also boosting productivity) is silly, as it has already been proposed multiple times over the decades without success.  This is no way to craft public policy that actually solves a problem.

Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration, despite both the UN and then-PM Obuchi agreeing as far back as the *YEAR 2000* (see below) that immigration is inevitable to keep the economy going.  But as we saw afterwards in 2009, xenophobic politics intervened, and even Japan’s demographers are forbidden to mention foreign inflows as part of Japan’s domestic demographic science. (See My JT column on that here.)

A further note:  Whenever you have business interests involved (as if they’re any experts on demographic engineering), the primary concern will be about business interests, i.e., profits and cheap labor.  Now remember what the likes of elite business lobby Keidanren wrought by bringing in foreign labor on exploitative revolving-door visa regimes since 1991 (the “Trainee” slave-labor program, for example).  Allowing the grubby little hands of Japan’s business lobbies any more input into future policy drives only guarantees more inhumanity, because with population drops and an elderly society come labor shortages.  Who will fill them?  Robots; but robots don’t pay taxes into the rickety national pension system.  So foreigners.  Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.  Just keep on saying the same old shinola and watch as Japan’s demographic juggernaut bankrupts the country.  As long foreseen.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

UPDATE:  Members of the Jinkou Senryaku Kaigi, courtesy of JK.  (Source is here, pg. 14)

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Excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” (Second Edition 2022) on this subject, Chapter 10, including footnotes:

Figure 10.1 was data from the First Edition, which indicated Japan’s economy had, from the bursting of its economic “bubble” in 1993 through the year 2011, shrunk by nearly half a percent every year on average compared to its developed-country or regional brethren. As of this Second Edition, now incorporating 26 years of data from 1993 to 2019 (before the Covid Pandemic hit), Figure 10.2 shows that Japan is no longer in an average economic contraction, but its GDP per capita has grown on average by less than a percent per year, still easily underperforming most of the same select countries. (I surmise that Japan’s major growth industry, tourism to Japan, has significantly affected these numbers; as noted in Chapter Eight, tourism’s contribution to Japan’s total GDP has expanded from 1.7 to 2 percent since 2010. This underscores Japan’s need to avoid “Japanese Only” signs and rules.)

It is not clear that even these low growth rates are sustainable, given Japan’s perpetual demographic crisis. According to the most recent GOJ figures as this book went to press (June 30, 2021), Japan’s population continues to decrease, as its birthrate has long been below replacement levels, reaching the lowest on record in 2019 before being further worsened by the 2020 Covid Pandemic.[i] The number of (Japanese citizen—sic) children under age fifteen has dropped to record lows for 40 consecutive years, representing the lowest population percentage amongst major countries with populations of at least 40 million.[ii] Japan’s population has also been shrinking since 2011, and from the current level of 125.3 million (including the rising number of foreign residents), [iii] dropping by close to one million per year; at this rate it is projected to drop below 100 million by 2049.[iv]

Meanwhile, Japan’s working-age population is forecast to fall by nearly half from 81.7 million in 2010 to 44.2 million by 2060.[v] In terms of people above a “reasonable working age” of 65, the projected elderly but not yet infirm (ages 65-74) are projected to be at around 22% of Japan’s population; if you include all elderly and infirm (65 and up), this will comprise nearly 36% of Japan’s total population by 2050.[vi] Thus, with Japan’s demographic pyramid being top-heavy and projected to have one of the world’s highest median ages,[vii] the elderly and pensioners will soon outnumber young pension contributors, putting the solvency of Japan’s social security pension plans into jeopardy.[viii](Note that this is not unexpected: the GOJ and the UN both forecast this happening as early as the year 2000, when the UN advised Japan to immediately start bringing in more than a half million foreign residents per year.)[ix]

[i] “An uphill battle to reverse the falling birthrate.” Japan Times, June 4, 2020; “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[ii] “Japan’s child population falls to record low 16.17 million.” Japan Times/Jiji Press, May 4, 2015; “Japan’s child population hits record low after 40 years of decline.” Kyodo News, May 4, 2021.

[iii] www.stat.go.jp/english/data/jinsui/tsuki/index.html.

[iv] “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[v] “Japan Cabinet minister wary of opening ‘Pandora’s Box’ of immigration.” Japan Times, May 13, 2015; “Japan’s Population Falls for Ninth Straight Year.” Nippon.com, April 30, 2020.

[vi]Kōreisha jinkō (65-74, 75 ijō) to sono wariai” [Population and proportion of elderly (65-74, 75+)]. Shūkan Ekonomisuto, January 15, 2008: 16.

[vii] “A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions.” Washington Post, October 27, 2012, particularly the graphic “As Japan’s population ages, optimism wanes.” More current statistics show that South Korea may overtake Japan in terms of highest median age by 2050, but Japan will still remain in second place. Seewww.statista.com/statistics/673014/top-ten-countries-with-highest-projected-median-age/ (accessed June 2, 2021).

[viii] One often-touted solution to the demographic crisis is automation, i.e., getting robots into fields that require elderly care, such as hospitals and care centers. See for example GOJ policy trial balloons floated at “Better than people: Why the Japanese want their robots to act more like humans.” Economist (London), December 20, 2005; “Government tackles population decline.” Yomiuri Shinbun, August 26, 2014, archived at www.debito.org/?p=12609; “Aging Japan: Robots may have role in future of elder care.” Reuters, March 27, 2018; et al. However, robots do not pay taxes, so without young people paying into pension plans for the current elderly, I do not see how automation will make up the financial shortfall when the young taxpayers reach retirement.

[ix] Arudou 2006c, which notes, “As far back as 2000, under the Obuchi Administration, ‘The Prime Minister’s Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century’ (as well as the UN) famously advised Japan to import around 600,000 people per annum. This would maintain Japan’s tax base and ameliorate the effects of record-high longevities and record-low birthrates contributing to an aging population.” [Emphasis added.]

“EMBEDDED RACISM” EXCERPT ENDS

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Here’s one domestic news article not behind paywall on this:

人口「8000万人」維持を、2100年に向けて戦略会議が提言…「安定的で成長力のある国家」
読売新聞 2024/01/09 17:28
 民間有識者らで作る「人口戦略会議」(議長=三村明夫・日本製鉄名誉会長)は9日、人口減少を食い止めるための提言「人口ビジョン2100」を発表した。2100年の日本の目指すべき姿として、「安定的で、成長力のある8000万人国家」を掲げた。
新成人は過去最少の106万人…2005年生まれ、前年より6万人減
 日本の総人口は08年の1億2808万人をピークに急速な減少傾向にあり、国立社会保障・人口問題研究所の長期推計では、2100年には約6300万人に半減すると予測されている。
 提言では、人口減に歯止めがかからない場合、「どのような重大な事態が起きるか正確に理解することが重要」として、「超高齢化や地方消滅で(社会の)進歩が止まる」と深刻さを強調。2100年の人口を8000万人で安定させる「定常化戦略」と、小さい人口規模でも多様性と成長力を確保する「 強靱きょうじん 化戦略」の一体的な推進を訴えた。
 定常化戦略は、人口が維持できる合計特殊出生率2・07を達成する時期を60年に設定し、具体策に〈1〉若者の雇用改善〈2〉女性の就労促進〈3〉総合的な子育て支援制度の構築――などを挙げた。強靱化戦略では、生産性の低い産業の改革や人への投資の強化が重要だとした。
 これらの戦略を進める体制として、内閣への「人口戦略推進本部(仮称)」設置のほか、勧告権を持つ首相直属の強力な審議会、各界各層に議論を呼びかける国民会議の創設を提起。国会に常設組織を設けて超党派の合意を目指すよう要請した。
 岸田首相は9日、首相官邸で三村氏らから提言を受け取り、「官民で連携して社会の意識改革に取り組んでいきたい」と述べた。三村氏は東京都内で記者会見し、「現役世代には次の世代の未来に対する責任がある」として、社会全体での意識共有を求めた。
 人口戦略会議は昨年7月に発足し、元総務相の増田寛也・日本郵政社長や人口問題担当の山崎史郎・内閣官房参与らが参加している。提言は10日発売の「中央公論」2月号に掲載される。ENDS

======================
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Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

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Hi Blog. First this article, then a comment:

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Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional
Yuri Kondo (center), the plaintiff of a dual nationality case, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in the city of Fukuoka after the Fukuoka District Court handed down a ruling on her case.
BY ANIKA OSAKI EXUM, The Japan Times, Dec 6, 2023
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/12/06/japan/crime-legal/dual-nationality-fukuoka-ruling/
Courtesy of lots of people, including Dave Spector
Discussion already underway on Debito.org in an earlier blog post Comments section here.

FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American.

Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution.

While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

Hayashi also touched on the fact that since the nationality law was last revised in 1984, the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide, reflecting a change in global attitudes.

“It is worth considering allowing individuals to remain dual nationals and giving them a certain period of time to choose a nationality, as proposed by the plaintiffs,” said Hayashi.

Born and raised in Japan, Kondo spent nearly four decades working and raising a family in the United States. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

After traveling back and forth between her home countries with both nationalities for years, she was flagged as being a dual citizen in 2017 — first at a passport office in Tokyo, where her passport was confiscated and her application rejected, and then by airport immigration officials when they realized she was exiting Japan with an American passport that had no entrance stamp.

Today, Kondo only has an American passport. She hasn’t reapplied to renew her Japanese one, fearing it would be denied again. However, she still retains her Japanese family registry and she also hasn’t received any follow-ups from the government asking her to formally withdraw one of her nationalities.

Kondo returned in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained in Fukuoka ever since. She feared she might not be able to return to Japan if she left and now fears that she’ll face punishment for overstaying while her citizenship status remains in limbo.

During her time as a lawyer in the U.S., Kondo was consulted by many Japanese people living overseas facing similar situations. So, in hopes of advocating not only for herself but for many others too, she filed the lawsuit in 2022 questioning the constitutionality of the nationality law, its lack of procedure and the harm it’s caused to people who have Japanese roots.

After hearing the Fukuoka court’s ruling Wednesday, Kondo admitted she felt a bit deflated.

“In a way, I thought ‘Again?’” she said, referencing a recent ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the dismissal of another dual nationality case filed in Tokyo.

Kondo questioned the part of the ruling where it was stated that Japan permits the opportunity to choose a nationality. Many people — including those from whom she receives emails for consultation — are unaware that choosing another citizenship means they will automatically lose their Japanese citizenship, as in her case, she said.

Japanese law prohibits citizens from having more than one nationality after the age of 20. But when it comes to the requirements and enforcement surrounding those rules, the process is murky at best.

In September, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on a separate dual nationality case, involving eight plaintiffs currently living in Europe, which questioned the law’s constitutionality.

The Supreme Court rejected the basis of the appeal, upholding the original district court dismissal of the case that stated the law works to prevent “friction” that could arise from having dual nationality. The lower court ruling also noted that Japan still allows the freedom to change nationality.

Lawyers, some of whom are also working on Kondo’s case, said that the Supreme Court’s dismissal didn’t include a sufficient rationale behind the decision and requested a retrial.

With the Fukuoka court ruling though, Kondo’s lawyers felt there was significant progress in the court’s choice of words, as it mentioned the significance of Japanese nationality being the basis of one’s human rights and identity.

“For the first time, (the ruling) clearly stated that an individual’s intention must be respected to the fullest extent possible if they were to lose their citizenship,” lawyer Teruo Naka said. “I believe this is tremendously significant and this verdict signals significant progress in certain areas.”

There are currently multiple ongoing lawsuits against the government concerning Japan’s dual nationality law. Other cases include one filed in Tokyo that involves a child who was stripped of Japanese citizenship after the child’s parents applied for the child’s British passport, and another in Kyoto by a Japanese person who obtained Canadian citizenship. ENDS
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Crafting public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide“), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives.  Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.  And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality.  Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality.  And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic.  It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From Arudou, Debito, “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2nd Edition, pp 117-122, plus footnotes)

Legal Renunciation/Revocation of Japanese Citizenship and Wajin Privilege

Japan’s Nationality Law also allows for renunciation and unilateral revocation of citizenship, which may happen, for example, because dual nationality is not permitted. According to Articles 14 through 16, if a child has two nationalities, the child must have surrendered one of them with written proof to the Ministry of Justice by age 22). If not done promptly and correctly, the Law states that criminal penalties, including revocation of Japanese citizenship, can apply. Also, according to the Law, kokumin who take out (or choose) another citizenship must also declare it to the Government of Japan (GOJ) and renounce Japanese citizenship.[i]

            However, people who can claim blood ties to Japan’s Wajin majority enjoy significant privilege under the Nationality Law. Notwithstanding the entitlement-by-blood privileges that are the definition of a jus sanguinis system, Nikkei persons of Japanese descent get a faster track for obtaining nationality (Article 6), and even former citizens get special Wajin privileges after renunciation (Article 17, neither of which happen, for example, under United States’ nationality laws).[ii] Moreover, Wajin children of international marriages often keep dual nationality beyond the age of 22 due to unenforced regulations.[iii]

That said, the GOJ has been given more latitude in recent years to put Japan’s international children on legal tenterhooks: In 2015, the Supreme Court creatively interpreted Article 12 to allow the unilateral revocation of Japanese citizenship for clerical errors in cases where Japanese children were born overseas; and in 2021, a lower court ruled that citizens discovered with dual passports beyond the age of 22 can be stripped of their Japanese nationality at the GOJ’s discretion.[iv] Naturally, this incentivizes adults with international backgrounds to suppress their diversity in favor of Japan’s pure-blooded monoethnic narrative.[v]

An Example of Wajin Privilege and Politics under the Nationality Law: The Alberto and Aritomi Fujimori Cases

An instructive case of Wajin privilege under the Nationality Law is that of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori,[vi] born in Peru to two Japan-born émigré Wajin parents. Fujimori was reportedly a dual citizen of Japan and Peru due to his parents registering him in Kumamoto from within Peru as a child (more on Japan’s registry systems below). In 2000, after a decade in office laden with allegations of corruption and human rights abuses,[vii] Fujimori infamously resigned his presidency via a Tōkyō hotel room fax and declared himself a Japanese citizen. Despite holding public office overseas, in contravention of Nationality Law Article 16.2, Fujimori received a Japanese passport weeks later (when most applications can take a year or two to process).[viii] Then, despite international arrest warrants, Fujimori was not extradited, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle with his fellow naturalized brother-in-law Aritomi[ix] in Tōkyō’s high society until 2005.[x] Although the media assigned cause to political connections, e.g., “favorit[ism] among conservative politicians… enamored with the idea of a man with Japanese ancestry reaching political heights abroad,”[xi] Fujimori’s case is nevertheless one of privilege.[xii] This is in contrast to scenarios under Japan’s nationality regime where even half-Wajin children caught in bureaucratic registration dilemmas (such as being born of one North Korean parent)[xiii]have been rendered stateless due to geopolitical conceits, with legal protections of no country.

Supreme Court 2008 Interpretation of the Nationality Law: Human Rights in Japan Predicated upon having Japanese Citizenship

Other recent developments have made clear that human and civil rights in Japan are connected to having Japanese citizenship. Japan’s Supreme Court, in a landmark decision in June 2008, declared unconstitutional a clause in Article 3 requiring acknowledgment of Wajin paternity through marriage. That is to say, enforcement of the Nationality Law could no longer deny Japanese nationality to a child of a non-citizen woman and a Wajin man who had been born out of wedlock (or else had not been properly registered before birth). The Supreme Court’s express legal reasoning behind declaring this situation unconstitutional was, inter alia, that a lack of Japanese nationality is the cause of discrimination, and that obtaining Japanese nationality is essential for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan.[xiv] This systematic linkage between rights and citizenship has also been reaffirmed in pinpoint examples, such as the GOJ’s biased Prime Ministerial Cabinet surveys of human rights in Japan;[xv] and, famously, a police prosecutor in Saga Prefecture bravely admitted in 2011, “We were taught that… foreigners have no human rights” when under police detention and interrogation.[xvi]

At this juncture, it is important to emphasize the embedded discourse behind the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning here: Human rights in Japan are not linked to being human; they are linked to holding Japanese citizenship.[xvii] That is the crux of this research. That means the process of granting, restricting, or denying citizenship to select people is the gatekeeping mechanism any nation-state has over the enforcement of civil and political rights and privileges. However, as will be described below, the systemic granting of special privileges to people with Wajin blood ties also embeds a racialized framework behind equal protection under the law. It is the essential ideology justifying a structurally unequal treatment of non-kokumin at all other levels of society.

Japan’s Nationality Law from an International Comparative Perspective: Becoming An Outlier

Although the gatekeeping mechanism of naturalization is available to any nation-state through its citizenship laws, Kashiwazaki (2000) offers a comparative perspective of structural inequality in Japan’s citizenship rules:

In the 1980s and 1990s, laws regulating nationality and citizenship were revised in immigrant-receiving countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, where nationality transmission was mainly based on jus sanguinis (by parentage). These revisions eased criteria for acquiring nationality by first-generation, long-term resident aliens as well as by the second and subsequent generations. Major types of legal administrative changes include introduction or expansion of the as-of-right acquisition of citizenship [i.e., Japan has no “as-of-right acquisition” system; anyone who was not attributed Japanese citizenship by birth must go through the process of naturalization]; double jus soli, by which the third generation obtains citizenship automatically; and toleration for dual nationality… [On the other hand], there is no unified, coherent policy that could be called the Japanese citizenship policy (436-7).

Kashiwazaki also cites five characteristics of how Japan is distinctive in restricting access to citizenship: 1) Jus sanguinisonly for nationality transmission, with no concession made for former “Commonwealth”-style colonial historical ties, 2) tight border control, 3) strict naturalization rules that only go through the Ministry of Justice, 4) a close relationship between nationality and family registry, and 5) restrictive access to Permanent Residency status (437-47).

Now that we have established the barriers to becoming a kokumin, let us proceed to the second hurdle for national membership as a national: how kokumin are officially registered as citizens, and, conversely, how non-citizens have been officially excluded as residents of Japan.

FOOTNOTES

[i] Independent researcher and translator William Wetherall disputes this research’s interpretation of “renunciation” on his website (www.wetherall.sakura.ne.jp/yoshabunko///nationality/Dual_nationality.html), writing as of 2017 that the converse, dual nationality, is “not forbidden, unpreventable, and tacitly permitted,” because the GOJ works under a “pragmatic recognition of its inability to force Japanese nationals to renounce other nationalities.” He disputes the GOJ’s power of revocation under the Nationality Law between the semantics of “abandoning” (hōki) versus “revoking” (ridatsu) versus “choosing” (sentaku) Japanese nationality. In other words, in Wetherall’s reading, as far as the GOJ is concerned, the only issue is the “choice” or “revocation” of Japanese nationality, not the “revocation” or “abandonment” of foreign nationalities, so the GOJ has no power to force dual nationals to “abandon” foreign and “choose” Japanese.

That said, the Nationality Law nevertheless officially demands the “choice” of Japanese nationality only, and does not allow citizens to “choose” other nationalities without (in principle) “losing” (sōshitsu) Japanese nationality. Parts of this law are backed up by criminal penalties for noncompliance (Article 20), direct permissions and punishment by the Minister of Justice (e.g., Article 16), and recent court decisions mentioned in this chapter further empowering the GOJ’s ability to punish dual citizenship holders. My read is that whether or not the GOJ chooses to enforce the Nationality Law remains at their discretion; as we shall see below in this chapter, Japan’s administrative branch has great extralegal power to “clarify” laws through ministerial directive (see also Asakawa ibid). This enables bureaucrats, acting on behalf of the Minister of Justice, to activate or strengthen formerly dormant sections of the law given the exigencies of current political policy.

[ii] United States Department of State, personal communications, January and March 2011.

[iii] Furthermore, under Nationality Law Article 2.3, babies born in Japan whose nationality is unknown, or whose parents are unknown, are by default Japanese nationals (which leads to a conundrum when Non-Wajin babies are left in hospital “baby hatches” for abandoned children; incidentally, this loophole is the only way Japanese citizenship may be acquired by jus soli. See “Foreign baby left at ‘baby hatch’.” Kyodo News, September 8, 2008; “Akachan pōsto ni gaikokujin no kodomo: Kumamoto-shi no Jikei Byōin.” [Foreign baby left in “baby hatch” at Kumamoto clinic], 47News.jp, September 8, 2008. Vaguely, the media determined the “foreignness” of the baby as due to the unknown parents reportedly being Zainichi. More at www.debito.org/?p=1900.

[iv] “Top court backs repeal of Japanese nationality due to parents’ lapse abroad.” Asahi Shinbun, March 11, 2015, at www.debito.org/?p=13144; “Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality.” Mainichi Shinbun, January 21, 2021, at www.debito.org/?p=16393.

[v] “Dual citizenship in Japan: A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy leaves many in the dark.” Japan Times, feature undated, mid-2018.

[vi] Sources for this section include: “Ex-President Fujimori should face Justice.” Japan Today, July 16, 2001; “Fujimori dismisses Interpol notice.” Japan Times/Associated Press, March 30, 2003; “Fujimori gets Peru passport, eyes return.” Japan Times, September 15, 2005; “Japan ‘uncooperative’ in Fujimori probe.” Kyodo News, November 19, 2005; “Fujimori tied to $300,000 in ‘hidden’ bank account.” Kyodo News, November 30, 2005; “Ending Impunity: Pinochet’s involuntary legacy.” The Economist, December 13, 2006; “Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori asked to run in Japan elections.” Mainichi Daily News, June 19, 2007; “Editorial: Fujimori’s Candidacy.” Asahi Shinbun, July 12, 2007; “Diet seat eludes absentee Fujimori.” Kyodo News, July 31, 2007; “Fujimori returns to Peru to face trial.” Associated Press, September 23, 2007; “Fujimori convicted.” Associated Press, December 11, 2007; “Peru’s Fujimori gets 25 years for death squad.” Associated Press, April 8, 2009; Debito Arudou, “Fujimori gets his; Japan left shamed.” Japan Times, May 5, 2009.

[vii] See for example “Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru.”  BBC News, July 24, 2002; et al.

[viii] The GOJ expedited the process by claiming the “Master Nationality Rule”, an interpretation of Article 4 of 1930’s League of Nations Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, where a state has the option to recognize a dual national as a sole national if it so chooses, as long as the person in question has the nationality of that state. The Japanese government chose to recognize only Fujimori’s “Japanese nationality,” based upon childhood family registration in Kumamoto from abroad, which is also in contravention of Japan’s Nationality Law. The GOJ also claimed that under the 1985 revision of the Nationality Law, which permitted citizenship to pass through the Japanese mother’s blood as well as the father’s, that children with multiple nationalities had until the end of 1986 to declare or forfeit Japanese nationality; those who declared nothing would be assumed to have retained Japanese nationality and forfeited all others. Since Fujimori had not declared either way, he was reportedly grandfathered in. See “The many faces of citizenship.” Japan Times, January 1, 2009. See also Anderson & Okuda (2003: 334-289). They conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was legally binding, as he had never notified the Japanese government of his intent to give it up, and the Japanese government had declined to notify him that he had lost it.

[ix] Anderson & Okuda (2003: 310-8); see also “Fugitive Fujimori relative is shielded by Japan,” New York Times, July 19, 2001, regarding the case of Fujimori’s brother-in-law, and former Peruvian Ambassador to Japan, Victor Aritomi Shinto’s expedited naturalization into Japan. Although Anderson & Okuda conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was not necessarily a politically-motivated move (albeit one of government “discretion” not to a priori notify Fujimori of his lost citizenship), since he legally retained it by not giving it up, the authors also conclude that Aritomi’s example was of dubious legal standing, since it was a naturalization procedure (not a latent holding of Japanese citizenship). Moreover, a) it took only six months, much less time than average, and b) it was awarded despite an outstanding international arrest warrant, in violation of the Nationality Law’s abovementioned requirement for “upright conduct.”

[x] See for example “Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece.”  Japan Times, February 12, 2015, which mentions Sono opening her home to Fujimori. There is an even more curious epilogue to the Fujimori Case. Reportedly bored with his Tōkyō lifestyle (Sims, ibid), Fujimori renewed his Peruvian passport and flew to Chile in 2005 to stand for election in absentia in Peru, whereupon he was immediately put under arrest pending extradition. He lost the Peruvian election, but was able to run for election in Japan in absentia in 2007 (where he lost again). Then Chile extradited Fujimori to Peru, where he was ultimately sentenced to prison in 2009 for 29 years for human rights violations, including abuses of power, murder, and kidnapping. After being pardoned by the President of Peru in 2017, Peru’s Supreme Court reversed the pardon and put Fujimori back in prison in 2019.

[xi] Ibid, Associated Press, March 30, 2003.

[xii] This is not the only case of an alleged criminal facing extradition for criminal charges overseas taking refuge in Japan’s naturalization processes. Delfo Zorzi, aka Hagen Roi, despite accusations of neo-fascist terrorism and mass murder by the Italian judiciary for allegedly taking part in a massacre in Milan in 1969, was also granted Japanese citizenship even though government officials had been aware for years that he was a convicted criminal under extradition proceedings. The GOJ refused extradition, and Zorzi currently directs an import-export business in Aoyama, Tōkyō. See“Zorzi got citizenship despite criminal past”, Mainichi Daily News, June 2, 2000.

[xiii] “24 defectors from DPRK still stateless: Prejudice rife in Catch-22 situation”, Yomiuri Shinbun, June 13, 2007.

[xiv] “Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional,” Kyodo News, June 4, 2008. See alsoIwasawa (1998: 303), and Bryant (1991-2). Bryant’s discussion of how the very definition of “Japanese citizenship” (official koseki family registration) creates discrimination towards children born out of wedlock or insufficiently registered is particularly informative.

[xv] More on this below, but the abovementioned Bureau of Human Rights survey asked leading questions casting doubt on foreigners’ grounds to have human rights, and consequently got responses indicating that a majority of the Japanese public “does not believe that foreigners should have the same human-rights protections as Japanese.” See “Human rights survey stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science.” Japan Times, October 23, 2007.

[xvi] Debito Arudou, “For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake”, Japan Times, December 6, 2011; Colin P.A. Jones, “Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion”, Japan Times, November 1, 2011; “‘Yakuza to gaikokujin ni jinken wa nai to oshierareta’, moto kenji ga bakuro shita odoroku beki ‘shinjin kyōiku’ no jittai” [“We were taught that foreigners have no rights”: A former prosecutor confesses how new entrants are educated in surprising ways], Niconico News, May 23, 2011.

[xvii] Dōshisha Law School Professor Colin P.A. Jones (ibid) concurs: “[T]he Japanese Constitution speaks of defining equality and ‘fundamental human rights’ as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.”

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

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Memory-holing the “Japanese Only” signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

======================
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My SNA col 48: “Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism”, on how conservative movements worldwide are using racist “real citizens” tropes to reserve power for themselves and create minoritarian governments (Aug 22, 2023)

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Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism
Shingetsu News Agency, August 21, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/08/21/visible-minorities-citizenship-and-authoritarian-racism/

Subtitle: Authoritarians are once again trying to racialize citizenship. In Asia, that’s quite normal. The problem is that conservative movements worldwide are similarly trying to shore up their dwindling popularity by undemocratically disenfranchising the very immigrants they had once invited over.

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: On August 1, 2023, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, tweeted his thoughts on multiracial immigration: “It is normal for migrants wishing to become citizens of any country to identify themselves linguistically and culturally with the definitive people of their adopted country. They would break off and reject their links with their countries of origin. Certainly, the children and grandchildren of the new citizens would have forgotten their previous languages and culture.”

https://twitter.com/chedetofficial/status/1686205569806536704

This tweet from a world opinion leader isn’t just wrong-headed, it’s dangerous.

Not only is it trying to disenfranchise entire peoples through racialized attitudes towards citizenship, it’s actually threatening democracy itself.

Can’t see it? You’re not alone. The lack of public outcry is part of the problem. I put this down to a world largely untrained in civics. Racialized attitudes towards immigration and citizenship are normal in Asia, and conservatives worldwide are trying to popularize them in their own societies too. Citizenship is the gateway to political enfranchisement in society, and messing with it means reviving old racist policies all over again.

Let me explain from the perspective of a political scientist.

First, it’s surprisingly difficult to get people to see Dr. Mahathir’s tweet for what it is: racist hate speech.

It would be nice if people could see the long-term implications of this proposal without a long, elaborate explanation. But many people dismiss political science as a science at all, one that develops a skill set and a trained eye. Instead, they throw up their hands and see any political opinion as fair dinkum, or too complicated to deal with due to freedom of speech. That blinds them to the fact that Dr. Mahathir is floating a policy trial balloon to willfully exclude people.

Consider the practical application of this proposal: newcomer residents (and their Visible Minority children) must prove their loyalty to a country by giving up the multicultural and multiethnic sides of themselves.

This isn’t just a dick move by some politician taking political pot shots by saying, “You come here, you speak our language.” When Dr. Mahathir demands people become “full Malay” (with arbitrary goalposts determined, naturally, by Malays), that’s a pretty convenient way to keep all the power in the family.

Then we get to the historical revisionism…

Rest of the article at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/08/21/visible-minorities-citizenship-and-authoritarian-racism/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 45: “Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens”, on the unjust Aigi Country Club decision (Apr 24, 2023) (full text)

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Hi Blog.  My blog post from yesterday has become a full-blown column at the Shingetsu News Agency. Have a read, and lament for Japan’s future if horrible legal precedents like this are allowed to stand. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

//////////////////////////////////////////
Visible Minorities: Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens
Shingetsu News Agency, April 24, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/04/24/visible-minorities-judges-strip-equal-protection-from-naturalized-citizens/

The website archiving and substantiating all of the claims below is at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17240

SNA (Tokyo) — It’s the next stage of evolution in Japan’s variant of racial discrimination: a naturalized Japanese citizen was last year denied membership at a golf course—explicitly for being a former foreigner. He sued. This month a district court in Mie Prefecture ruled that this was not an illegal act of discrimination.

You read that right: not illegal. Follow me down this rabbit hole.

Aigi Country Club in Kani city, Gifu Prefecture, refused a former Zainichi Korean with Japanese citizenship. Their justification, according to the Asahi Shinbun, was that “our club has a quota for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have become naturalized Japanese and restricts new memberships. We currently have no vacancies in that quota.”

In court, Aigi Country Club duplicitously denied outright racism by claiming that they refused him for more reasons than foreign roots. It didn’t matter. The judges acknowledged that the plaintiff was refused for being foreign and they still ruled against him. They accepted that this was an instance of discrimination, but it wasn’t enough discrimination.

The judges ruled that a golfing club by design is a “closed and private organization with strong personal ties among its members” and that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees “freedom of association.” In their reading, private groups are free to decide their membership criteria and, at any rate, playing golf is “not indispensable for social life.”

In sum, it wasn’t an instance of discrimination “beyond socially acceptable limits.”

Really?

Exclusionism is rampant at Japan’s golf courses. Last May the Asahi Shinbun provided an excellent overview of how Japan’s country clubs routinely refuse not only membership but also entry to foreign golfers. Some have even refused women. According to interviews, they have “nationality clauses” (i.e. Japanese Only rules) because “the atmosphere slightly changes when there are foreigners around.”

To them, these are just their rules, established long ago. In its case, the Aigi Country Club started in 1964. They won’t change without outside pressure, such as when the International Olympic Committee forced changes in a few Japanese clubs before they were permitted to host international competitions. Without such international scrutiny, they are content to preserve their discrimination in amber.

This Aigi ruling clearly empowers golf bigots to stay the course.

Legal Logic of the Ruling

There are two elements of the logic behind the ruling that deserve to be highlighted.

First is the “beyond socially acceptable limits” reasoning, which has been circulating for generations within Japan’s jurisprudence. It holds that some discrimination is inevitable (for example, separating bathrooms by gender). So as long as institutions or individuals don’t go beyond the “socially acceptable level” of discrimination, there is no legal sanction.

A problem with this approach is that “social acceptance” is determined entirely by the subjective impressions of individual judges. There is no hard data or social science involved. It’s all in the eyes of the judges.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized Japan for this kind of reasoning (especially its legal corollary of “rational discrimination”).

In this case, even prior Japanese court precedent disagrees. In a similar golf club suit brought in 1995 by a Zainichi Korean plaintiff, the Tokyo District Court ruled that a denial of membership on the grounds of nationality was unconstitutional under Article 14—all people are equal under the law. The Tokyo court also previously dismissed some other bits of the Aigi decision—ruling that golf is a leisure activity and thus a necessary place to socialize. It also noted that, since golf memberships can be purchased on the market, they aren’t really all that exclusive.

Unfortunately, a separate lawsuit in 2001 by another Zainichi Korean against a golf course ruled against him, affirming the primacy of private corporations to choose their members, even if that includes excluding foreigners.

This brings us to the second big issue: the plaintiff in the Aigi case was not a foreigner.

What’s even the point of naturalizing and taking Japanese nationality if the legal status conveyed offers no equal protections?

We’ve already seen this occur within the Japan Sumo Association, which also limits the number of foreign wrestlers in sumo stables. Even if they become Japanese citizens, they are still counted as “foreigners.” Nobody has yet challenged this practice as unconstitutional.

The plaintiff in the Aigi Country Club Case effectively did challenge it, and yet the Aigi judges accepted the argument that Japanese citizens with foreign roots are not equally protected under the law. They will forever remain “Japanese” with an asterisk.

Open Season on Foreign Roots

If the Mie ruling stands, there will be nothing preventing–at least at the formal legal level–almost any private enterprise from putting up a “Members Only” sign and enforcing “nationality clauses.” Many institutions could conceivably argue for keeping memberships exclusive in order to “preserve the atmosphere” at their venues.

It’s not even unprecedented. During the 2002 World Cup, coordinated “Members Only” signs went up on restaurants and bars throughout Sapporo’s party district; other “Members Only” places like public bathhouses can be found on the Debito.org Rogues’ Gallery of “Japanese Only” Exclusionary Establishments. What’s next? Sports clubs? Hotels? Hospitals? Schools? In fact, all of these kinds of institutions have been found to possess formal and informal “Japanese Only” rules.

Thanks to the Aigi Country Club case, bigots are being offered stronger legal grounds to maintain and extend discrimination.

Naturally, this means that not only first generation immigrants, but also those born in Japan may discover that they are not equal under the law.

With all of Japan’s international marriages, there are hundreds of thousands of Japanese children with a foreign parent or relative. The ruling of Aigi Country Club case means that if some children “look foreign” and due to their presence the “atmosphere slightly changes,” then they can be excluded by organizations because it is “socially acceptable” to do so.

Of course, it is remarkably easy in many cases to spot any mudblood whose kin or relative has a katakana or odd kanji name. Through this ruling, children can be regarded as biologically radioactive and refusable. Citizenship will not protect them.

The Signposts Along the Way

Finally, let’s put things in a larger context. This decision is actually part of a broader trend eroding all civil protections for “foreigners” (however defined) within the Japanese judiciary.

Consider this arc of precedents:

1) The Ana Bortz case of 1998-1999 found that foreigners in Japan were protected by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) against being turned away by private enterprises open to the public (in this case a jewelry store). The court awarded Bortz ¥2 million.

2) The Otaru Hot Springs case of 1993-2005 found that two foreigners and one naturalized Japanese citizen (yours truly) were not allowed to be turned away from a private enterprise (in this case a public bathhouse). The courts eventually whittled the award down to ¥1 million yen each. However, the courts undermined the Bortz Case by ruling that, a) the CERD offered no actual protection against racial discrimination—it was merely a guideline without the force of law; and, b) racial discrimination did happen, but that was not necessarily illegal. Discrimination only becomes illegal when it goes “beyond socially acceptable limits.” Sound familiar? To cap things off, the Supreme Court also summarily dismissed the case as involving no constitutional protections—not even Article 14, which also explicitly forbids racial discrimination.

3) The Steve McGowan case of 2004-2006 undermined the Bortz and Otaru precedents further, finding no protection for his denial by a private enterprise (an eyeglass store). Instead, the ruling found that any discrimination that occurred was essentially due to a misunderstanding. McGowan, as a non-native speaker, allegedly didn’t understand enough Japanese to portray his case correctly. This ruling was handed down in spite of the fact that the defendant was caught on tape explicitly saying that he refused McGowan because he “hates black people.” The initial ruling was overturned on appeal, but McGowan’s court award was also whittled down to only ¥350,000, insufficient even to cover his legal fees.

4) The Aigi County Club case potentially drops rights down to near zero. It finds that: a) there are no inherent protections for foreigners; b) even if they have Japanese citizenship; c) and even if everyone admits that the discrimination was nationality or ethnicity-based. It’s not a legal problem to discriminate because golf clubs are designed to be exclusive, by whatever standards they choose to employ. This is “socially acceptable” and thus legally permissible.

I hope I’m not the first one telling you this, but Japan has no national law against racial discrimination, despite treaty promises back in 1995 to pass one “without delay” when it ratified the CERD.

At a UN hearing in 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially claimed that “the Constitution of Japan stipulates not only guarantee of being equal as Japanese nationals under the law but also guarantee of equality of all rights as Japanese nationals. Therefore, there is no discrimination at all for civil, political, economic, and cultural rights under the legal system.”

The Aigi County Club case demonstrates openly that this was a lie.

The case is on appeal. I hope the plaintiff prevails.

(UPDATE:  He does.  Read the comments to this blog entry.)

ENDS

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

The SNA article is at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/04/24/visible-minorities-judges-strip-equal-protection-from-naturalized-citizens/

The website archiving and substantiating all of the claims above is at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17240

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

======================
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RIP Ivan P. Hall (1932-2023), author of “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled”, and one of the last major postwar scholars of Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It is with great sadness that I heard this morning of the passing of an old friend, Ivan Hall, aged 90, scholar of Japan and the world, and author of “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled“.  (Brief Wikipedia entry here.)

Notice of his death came from his nephew, and I will pass on his redacted announcement below.

I just want to say that Ivan and I spent a lot of time in Honolulu together in his last years, coming over to visit twice a year, and his work on Academic Apartheid in Japan got me into activism in Japan in the first place.  He’s one of the few people in my life I can call a mentor who took his mentoring seriously.

Now for the family notice:

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

Friday, February 3, 2023

Hi all.  My uncle, Ivan P. Hall (“Vani”), the last surviving member of my mother’s family, died yesterday in Hoenow, a remote suburb of what was once East Berlin, after a professional life spent primarily in Japan.

I’m Vani’s nephew. Though he lived overseas my entire life, he being childless and I being the only child of his only sibling, we were close. He would visit the U.S. every year at Christmas and we’d eat Indian food on the Lower East Side (he had served in the U.S. Information Service in the 1950s in Pakistan and in the future Bangladesh and taught me to love egg curry) and superannuated formal meals in the Princeton Club dining room. He supported me enthusiastically in my first career as a playwright – he acted in the first play I ever saw, as a five year old: a community theatre production of Arsenic and Old Lace in the Idaho mountains. (From a production of that farce he’d directed in South Asia in 1961, two of his then-college-aged actors went on to become Ambassadors and serve as Foreign Secretary, and a third became Foreign Minister and the drafter of Bangladesh’s Constitution.)

Vani and I had innumerable adventures together, traveling in New England, the American South and West, in Asia, and in South America. He contributed to adventures he didn’t even participate in – when my mother was taking my best friend and I skiing as 15-year-olds, before we set out Vani bought us a case of beer and helped us stash it in the trunk of my unsuspecting mother’s car. When I went to Indiana for a three-year MFA program, he gave me a cash gift that covered the shortfall between my fellowship and expenses.

When my mother was dying in 1996, Vani traveled from Japan to be with me by her side. He and I took a sleeper train together across the U.S. to bury her ashes in California.

Vani took delight in following our Noa exploits, though his favorite family member may have been my cat Shekhina, with whom he seemed to share some special plane of existence. (A family member said, “if we know for certain that anyone went to heaven, it’s Vani. He may be alone there. With Shekhina.”)

Vani was like no one anyone would ever meet, anywhere (unless they time-traveled or worked in a wax museum), a trilateral cultural Lawrence of Arabia; an anti-colonial colonialist, always aspiring to benevolence. A sweet, emotionally armored, voluble, lonely intellectual who today would probably be diagnosed as being on the spectrum. A seemingly effortless linguist, fluent in Japanese in addition to Continental languages, who, after retiring, took the opportunity to teach in China – in Chinese – in part “to buff up my Chinese.” Author of histories and politico-cultural criticism published in journals like The National Interest and in books published by university presses, W.W. Norton, and A.E. Sharpe, he wore many professional hats – cultural diplomat, university professor, U.S. Government official, journalist, cross-cultural impressario, musician. He recurred on a detective procedural on Japanese television in the 1970s.

Vani was brave, risking ostracization in his small world of Western Japan hands by publishing books calling out the Japanese for their persisting racism and cultural and intellectual xenophobia, and the West for its persistent myopia, naivete, and ignorance.

He engaged politically in multiple countries – bringing a landmark civil rights lawsuit in Japan and, after half a lifetime as a Rockefeller Republican, resigning loudly from his federal position in protest of Reagan policies.

His sense of humor was impish, at the end kiddingly upbraiding himself for his performance as a 90 year old: “would the Queen be behaving like this?!”

I miss him and I’m grateful I was able to know such a unique, loving man.  — Ivan Hall’s Nephew

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

So do I and so am I.

People who wish to pass their condolences or share their memories below of Ivan can put them in Comments below.  The family has given me permission to pass this information on to you, and will be sent a link to this blog entry.

Thank you again, Ivan, for being someone to so many of us.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

 

 

Ivan and me in Honolulu, Nov 4, 2014.

A rendering I did of Ivan in June 2020.  Acrylic on canvas.

Ivan in a former life.

======================
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My latest SNA Visible Minorities column 42: “Japan’s Remilitarization is a Bad Idea” (Jan 23, 2023), on why Japan is simply not the country to represent the world’s liberal democracies as a revived military power

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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column on recent geopolitical developments and the bad habits they may revive.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities 42: Japan’s Remilitarization is a Bad Idea
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, JAN 23, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/01/23/visible-minorities-remilitarization-is-a-bad-idea/

SNA (Tokyo) — News item: Cheered on by the United States for its “bold leadership,” last month “Japan unveiled a dramatic revamping of its security strategy and defense policy, including a plan to acquire long-range weapons–a so-called counterstrike capability–that can target and hit enemy bases” (Japan Times, January 14).

Doubling its defense spending to 2% of GDP within five years, Japan will soon have the world’s third-largest military budget, behind only the United States and China.

Pushing Japan to remilitarize was never, and still is not, a good idea.

This is not just because an arms race in Asia is the last thing the region needs. But also because Japan, consistently unable to face up to its own history, is simply not the country to represent the world’s liberal democracies in Asia, especially as a military power.

Let’s start with that history…

Read the rest at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/01/23/visible-minorities-remilitarization-is-a-bad-idea/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

======================
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Debito.org post #3000: SNA Visible Minorities 38: Visible Minorities: “Queen Elizabeth, Monarchies, and Progressivism” (Sept 19, 2022), on whether royals should still be allowed to exist

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As I am inundated with classes this fall (it’s my busiest semester ever), I decided to write about what was on my mind with the passing of a historical figure.  Should monarchies still be allowed to exist when millennia have showed that there are much better forms of government out there?  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(PS:  This is the 3000th post on the Debito.org Blog since it started more than 15 years ago.  This doesn’t of course include the posts made on Debito.org proper before this blog was started, since 1995.  Long may we run.)

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

Visible Minorities: Queen Elizabeth, Monarchies, and Progressivism
Shingetsu News Agency, Sept 19, 2022, by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/09/19/visible-minorities-queen-elizabeth-monarchies-and-progressivism/

SNA (Tokyo) — On the death of Queen Elizabeth II, let’s talk about monarchies. Why do they still exist, and should they still be allowed to exist?

Monarchies are as old as civilization. Kings and hereditary power were once the norm worldwide, as they were the means to control land and offer protection for farming peasants, exchanging food supply for protection from invaders—when the system worked as promised.

But it often didn’t. “Good” kings were relatively rare and their legacies unsustainable. Sooner or later, the people got unlucky under some ruler whose only claim to power was divine right, suffering under a king or queen who had gotten a God Complex, or was being manipulated by an unscrupulous elite.

Either way, their regimes cared naught about the welfare of most people in their kingdom, forcing them to pay treasure to corrupt systems, sending them to die in meaningless wars, and leaving them dirt poor at the best of times or starving in the worst.

That’s the reason why today very few absolute monarchies remain in the world. You simply can’t trust kings and queens to look out for any interests but their own. It took a couple of millennia, but people eventually realized that a monarch, or any leader unaccountable for their actions, had to be reined in.

Most countries acknowledge that the best of all flawed systems is a government where people can choose their leaders. That’s why even one-party autocratic states have elections. Replacing leaders bloodlessly on a regular basis, under a franchise that expands suffrage to as many people as possible, on average produces a better minimum standard of living for all.

So why do so many stable advanced democracies, such as the United Kingdom, retain their monarchies?

Rest is at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/09/19/visible-minorities-queen-elizabeth-monarchies-and-progressivism/

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

mytest

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

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

Here is the video footage that started it all.

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

mytest

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

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

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

The JT article is excerpted below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[History of Sentos redacted]

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

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

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

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

mytest

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

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

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

Here are some essay writing prompts.  Discuss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, good job, Onoda Kimi.  Mission accomplished.

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

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

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

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

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

mytest

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

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

Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider a few examples of the latter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise history will continue to exact its revenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

COMPARISON AND CONTEXT

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

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

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

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

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

WHITEWASHING THE RECORD THROUGH WEASEL WORDS

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

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

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

What we lost was a legitimizer of hatred.  

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

INSTEAD, MEMORIALIZE ISHIHARA’S HATEFUL DEEDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STOP EULOGIZING A HITLER PROTOTYPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEATH BY “KARMIC DISEASE” IS NOT ENOUGH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article follows, then my comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Japanese original by Hideyuki Yamada, Shizuoka Bureau)

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

======================
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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022: Tokyo Asakusa “Suzuya” theatrical prop store bars “foreign customers” to “prevent COVID infection”. (Plus Momosaku, another repeat offender in Asakusa.)

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Hi Blog. Happy New Year 2022! May this be a healthy and happy one for all Debito.org Readers.

Let me open the year inauspiciously with a post about new “Japanese Only” signs.

The first one is from a store called “Suzuya Buyou Kodougu” (Suzuya Traditional Dance Props) in Asakusa Kouen Nishisandou. Courtesy lots of people, but notably SD, RO, and MW.

Entertainment Goods 浅草公園西参道
有限会社すずや舞踊小道具店
電話 03-3844-3798
〒111-0032 東京都台東区浅草2-7-13
営業時間 am10:00~pm6:00(火曜日定休)
お問い合せ、ご注文はお電話でお願いいたします。
http://asakusasuzuya.co.jp/shop.html
Mapped at https://itp.ne.jp/info/133487635100000899/

Feel free to contact them and tell them what you think about their sign, particularly since no foreign tourists (and very few foreign residents) are being allowed into Japan to spread Covid. Yet that doesn’t stop racist signs depicting foreigners already here (who like regular Japanese residents probably haven’t travelled abroad) as more infectious than Japanese from appearing on stores (again).  Because (again) there’s no law against racial discrimination in Japan stopping anyone from putting up a “Japanese Only” sign for any reason whatsoever.

Meanwhile, eagle-eyed Debito.org Readers are sending in other exclusionary signs they’ve discovered:

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

From: XY
Subject: Discriminatory posting spoted in the wild
Date: December 27, 2021
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>

Hi Debito,

Since you post things like this from time to time, I thought I’d send over a photo of a sign I saw tonight when I was out looking for a place to grab a bite. It’s an izakaya in Asakusa called Momosaku.

Why post that you only have service/menus in Japanese when you can reach straight for the discrimination, I guess, eh? — XY.

Name: 100 (izakaya) (Momosaku 百作)
Address: 4 Chome-7-12 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032
http://tinyurl.com/yb9uv3tz

[Japanese version: None of our staff at this establishment speak foreign languages, so we refuse entry to all overseas people (kaigai no kata)].

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

No “overseas people” could possibly speak Japanese to their staff, of course.

The funny thing is, we featured Momosaku on Debito.org back in April 2018.  Back then, the submitter pulled down that sign, and it was replaced a day later.  Clearly Momosaku’s managers don’t like foreigners, Covid or no Covid.

Feel free to drop by and let them know how you feel about their “Japanese Only” sign.  Perhaps pull it down again.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My SNA VM28: “Japan’s Fast Breeder Reactor of Racism.” Summarizes book “Embedded Racism” First and Second Editions, Nov 22, 2021

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Hi Blog.  my Second Edition of “Embedded Racism in Japan” (Lexington Books, 2022) has just come out, and I summarize both editions in my latest Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” column.

Since the First Edition is probably well-known by frequent readers of Debito.org, let me excerpt the new arguments of the Second Edition.  Read the whole SNA column for the full context.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities: Japan’s Fast Breeder Reactor of Racism
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, NOV 22, 2021 by Debito Arudou
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/11/22/visible-minorities-japans-fast-breeder-reactor-of-racism/

(Excerpt) In my new Second Edition of Embedded Racism (2022), I’m now arguing that Japan’s long-ignored racial discrimination undermines the rest of the world, especially its liberal democracies, because Japan is in fact a fast-breeder reactor of radioactive racism.

Since the end of World War II, the capitalistic side of the world, particularly the United States, willfully ignored and indulged Japan’s explicit expressions of racial and ethnic superiority. After all, the conservatives of the world would rather Japan be right-of-center and anti-communist. So they funded conservative governments and offered favorable access to international markets, ensuring that Japan got rich and deferential.

For what do the conservatives care if Japan violates its human rights treaties or inflames regional tensions, through historical denialism and the arrogance of racial superiority? As long as Japan keeps hosting the bases, buying the weapons, and acting as America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in Asia, they have in them a harmless and controllable ally.

Except that it’s not. Here’s where the chickens come home to roost.

One axiom in this field of study is that if you ignore racism, it spreads. Bigots exist in every society, and if they realize they can get away with discriminating against people, they’ll gleefully do it, especially if they have templates to follow.

Japan offers those templates… In short, embedded racism has made Japan into the world’s template “ethnostate.”

That is to say, to numerous white supremacists worldwide, Japan is the model for a society organized along beliefs of its own ethnic purity. As one of the richest and most-respected countries in the world, Japan, unlike other rich countries, has prospered while keeping minorities and migrants to a minimum…

The conclusion is that my second edition of Embedded Racism is a clarion call for liberals and progressives to wake up, and get ready to defend democracy from the ethnocentrists. Fight with all your might the fiction that the way to deal with a race problem is to exclude and cleanse races from your society. That’s the Japan template. Don’t let it be yours.

Again, if you leave discrimination alone, it spreads. Leaving Japan alone to practice its embedded racism has finally reached the point of blowback. It’s time for a new set of templates to fight racial discrimination in the world, including and especially Japan’s.

Overseas policymakers should also be ready to make Japan take responsibility for what it’s wrought upon the world. It’s time to pressure the Japanese government to observe its treaty promise to the United Nations more than 25 years ago—passing a law against racial discrimination—and begin the process of enfranchising its minority voices.

That includes doing more than just scolding or issuing strongly worded letters. I suggest putting pressure where Japan’s elites care—limiting access to overseas markets. Or else Japan will remain a fast breeder reactor of racism irradiating the rest of the democratic world.

EXCERPT ENDS.  Full article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/11/22/visible-minorities-japans-fast-breeder-reactor-of-racism/

If you are interested in reading the fully revised and updated Second Edition, please download this publisher promo flyer (with discounts), take it to your local library, and have them order a copy. Then you can borrow and read it for free.

http://debito.org/EmbeddedRacism2ndEdFlyer.pdf

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

Read a sample of the book on Amazon here.

Front Cover:

Full cover with reviews:

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

My SNA Visible Minorities 26: “The ‘Inconceivable’ Racial Discrimination Law”: Japan’s human rights reports to the United Nations are a case study in official dishonesty

mytest

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Visible Minorities: The “Inconceivable” Racial Discrimination Law
Japan’s human rights reports to the United Nations are a case study in official dishonesty.
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, September 20, 2021

SNA: The signature function of the United Nations is to promote world peace, and one way to do that is to encourage ethical standards of behavior from its member countries. They get people to agree on those norms and standards through signing international treaties.

One of the standards that matters most is human rights practices. After all, countries which want to belong to the respected club of “civilized” countries are expected to sign the treaties covering a whole host of noble issues: the elimination of torture; the protection of women, children, and people with disabilities; and the protections of people in general in terms of economic, political, social, civil, and political rights. Signatories are expected to submit periodical reports (usually about every two years) to UN Committees to demonstrate how they are progressing.

Japan has signed most of those treaties. My favorite one, of course, is the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which protects people, especially our Visible Minorities, against discrimination by “race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.” But getting Japan to actually abide by CERD is one of the hobby horses I’ve been riding for decades.

When Japan signed the CERD in 1995, it explicitly agreed to “prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination,” and they were to do it “without delay.” Yet more than a quarter century later, Japan still has no national law against racial discrimination…

So when called upon to justify its record of nasty treatment of its foreign, ethnic, historical, and visible minorities, how does Japan get away with it? By delaying, of course. Let’s take a look at the last time Japan submitted its Periodic Report on the Implementation of the CERD, and reveal its pattern of reporting in bad faith…
///////////////////////////////////

Rest is at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/09/20/visible-minorities-the-inconceivable-racial-discrimination-law/

Read it before it goes behind paywall later this week, or subscribe and support your local progressive journalism for about a dollar a week!

All reports mentioned in this article can be found at

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2018 United Nations CERD Report (CERD/C/JPN/10-11) still mentions Debito.org’s works: “Foreign nationals and individuals with a foreign appearance have reportedly been denied entry to and services of certain privately owned facilities like hotels and restaurants that otherwise serve the public, including through the posting of signage reading ‘Japanese only’.”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that makes me smile.  The 2018 United Nations CERD Report (CERD/C/JPN/10-11) includes something that might not otherwise be there — had Debito.org not taken up the task of describing and cataloging discrimination for the past 25 years (back when people were even denying that racial discrimination actually happened in Japan!).

Everything mentioned in the UN excerpt below is covered in my book Embedded Racism in Japan (Lexington Books, 2015).  But especially close to my heart is the text enlarged below.

One of my lifetime goals is leaving the planet a better place than when I arrived. This feels like proof that we at Debito.org have done something positive. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

/////////////////////////////////
United Nations
CERD/C/JPN/CO/10-11
International Convention on the Elimination of A ll Forms of Racial Discrimination
Distr.: General
26 September 2018
Original: English
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Concluding observations on the combined tenth and eleventh periodic reports of Japan

1.The Committee considered the combined tenth and eleventh periodic reports of Japan (CERD/C/JPN/10-11), submitted in one document, at its 2662nd and 2663rd meetings (CERD/C/SR.2662 and 2663), held on 16 August and 17 August 2018. At its 2676th meeting, held on 28 August 2018, it adopted the present concluding observations.

[skip down to page seven]

Situation of non-citizens

33.The Committee is concerned that:

(a)Non-citizens have reportedly been denied housing and employment because they are foreign nationals;

(b)Foreign nationals and individuals with a foreign appearance have reportedly been denied entry to and services of certain privately owned facilities like hotels and restaurants that otherwise serve the public, including through the posting of signage reading “Japanese only”;

(c)Non-citizens, in particular Koreans, continue to be excluded from the national pension scheme because of the age requirement;

(d)The State party has not yet amended its legislation to allow non-citizens to be eligible for basic disability pensions;

(e)Non-citizens and long-term foreign residents and their descendants remain excluded from public positions that engage in the exercise of public authority or public decision-making because they do not have Japanese nationality;

(f)Some permanent residents must obtain a permit to re-enter the country prior to departing, even if they are only leaving for one day, while others do not need such a permit.

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

34. Bearing in mind the Committee’s general recommendation No. 30, the Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Ensure access to housing and employment to non-citizens and foreign nationals without discrimination ;

(b) Create and enforce legislation against the posting of discriminatory signs and the practice of excluding public services by privately owned facilities, such as hotels and restaurants, to persons on the basis of being a foreigner or of foreign appearance;

(c) Ensure that non-citizens are included in the national pension scheme ;

(d) Amend legislation to allow non-citizens to be eligible for basic disability pensions ;

(e) Allow non-citizens, especially long-term foreign residents and their descendants, to have access to public positions that engage in the exercise of public authority or public decision-making ;

(f) Eliminate the permit requirement prior to departure for some permanent residents so that they may enter and exit the country in the same manner as other permanent residents ;

(g) Consider ratifying the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

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

Full report downloadable in several languages at:
https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CERD/C/JPN/CO/10-11&Lang=En

ENDS

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Igarashi Kanoa, California-born athlete who won Silver for Japan in 2020 Olympics, rates himself worthy of representing Japan because “My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.” Dangerous old-school Olympian thoroughbred-ism.

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Hi Blog. Just a follow-up on my Shingetsu News Agency column of this week. When I was talking about the roots of the Olympics, I made the case there that the Games are less about athleticism than national demonstrations of power, particularly in the vein of racial superiority and thoroughbred-ism.  In my summary of their history, I wrote:

/////////////////////////////////
SNA: Thanks to my background in political science, I’m trained to view nationalism with a critical eye: How governments convince people to live, fight, and even sacrifice their lives for their country. The Olympics are rooted precisely in these attitudes, and forever filter athleticism through the lens of national representation and superiority.

Remember that the Olympics were first framed as a way for the ancient Greeks to assert their superiority over neighboring city-states.

When the Games were resuscitated by aristocrats in 1896, in spirit they were still grounded in contemporary attitudes equating national strength with physical strength. Thanks to the racialized social theories in currency at the time, including Social Darwinism and eugenics, the Games soon became a public demonstration of the social engineering of supermen, which depended on how racially “thoroughbred” an athlete and a society was. It’s not difficult to draw a straight line from the geneticist attitudes promoted by the prewar Olympics to The Final Solution.

Even in the postwar Games, despite all the emphasis on individual athleticism and sportsmanship, the legacy of national superiority still exists. You easily find it in the schlong-measuring national medal tallies, and the enormous pressure put on athletes to prove themselves worthy of all the national attention and hype they’re getting.

Japanese athletes in particular must get Gold (especially in sports Japan thinks it owns, such as judo or karate) or publicly apologize for taking Shameful Silver or Despicable Bronze. This culture of self-sacrifice for the sake of nationalism is one reason why, as I have written elsewhere, Japanese athletes live surprisingly shorter lives, and why I constantly wince at the nasty nationalistic coverage in NHK and Japan’s sports newspapers.

Full article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/
/////////////////////////////////

I want to highlight how one athlete, who won Silver for Japan in Surfing, decided to depict himself. Again, as I wrote for SNA above:

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

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

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

His statement in context, courtesy of https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/surfing/athlete-profile-n1316618-igarashi-kanoa.htm#addInformation.

 

His bio in brief, courtesy of

https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/surfing/athlete-profile-n1316618-igarashi-kanoa.htm

COMMENT:  Now that’s playing to type. Blood type, in fact.  As I responded in my column:

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

SNA:  Good for his bloodline, I guess. But for mongrel non-medalists like Osaka Naomi, as the New York Times noted, Japan’s social media pounced, contesting her Japanese language ability, her standing to represent Japan, and even her Japaneseness…

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

In sum, I wanted to highlight one of the main arguments of my column:  how The Olympics also brings out racist attitudes not only in its governments but also in its athletes.

Again, you can self-identify with and play for whatever country will have you.  But a person like this who has benefited from both systems does not deserve respect for this throwback-Eugenicist attitude, and it should be challenged appropriately in public. Doing so here.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

UPDATE:  According to the Japan Times, Igarashi faced online hate during the Olympics. While I feel for Igarashi’s situation when it comes to online hate and racism, he doesn’t seem to have reflected on how his express pure-blood-ism further encouraged by Japan’s blood-oriented nationalism and Olympic attitudes encourages those hateful and tribal attitudes as well. Excerpt from the JT article in Comments Section below.

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

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Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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Visible Minorities: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, AUG 16, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN (excerpt)
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating 15 Years of the Debito.org Blog (June 17, 2006-2021)

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Hi Blog.  Today celebrates 15 years since the Debito.org Blog went live.  (The Debito.org Website as a whole, however, went live in 1996, and we celebrated that quarter-century of online activism earlier this year on April 15 with this post.)

The Debito.org Blog was created in addition after a friend named Jim suggested that a WordPress template would make things a lot easier for me to respond to and archive daily events in real time. He was right.

The Blog’s first post was the Debito.org Newsletter of June 17, 2006, with the headlines:

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
1) “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION LAW” MANGA TRANSLATED
2) “ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABOR MONTH” SIGNS UP AGAIN IN SHINAGAWA STN
3) TOKYO PRESS CONF JUNE 22: HAMAMATSU MAYOR KITAWAKI
4) JT ON REINSTITUTION OF FINGERPRINTING, AND RESPONSE
5) KOFI ANNAN ON JAPAN’S NEW IMMIGRATION LAW
6) KOFI ANNAN ON MIGRANTS
7) JOHN EDWARD PHILIPS ON ACADEMIA AND MONOCULTURALISM IN JAPAN
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

This might give you some idea of how much things have and have not changed over the past decade and a half.

As of today, in addition to the Debito.org original Website (which is still up, of course; artery site here), as of this morning the Blog alone has 2,935 individual posts by me (amounting to 16,703 pages) and 34,737 individual comments (of which only 862, or less than 2.5%, are mine).

That’s about one post every two days on average, and about 12 comments per post. That’s an active blog by many definitions, and still going strong. And materials archived here been cited in various newspapers, journals, and books.  People take it seriously.

Long may it continue.  While I’m limiting myself to posting here about once a week (I’ve got other writing projects, one big one due by the end of this month), I don’t see myself giving up the Debito.org project anytime, ever.

By now, it’s just what I do.

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.

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Hi Blog. I’m pleased to announce that Debito.org is celebrating its 25th birthday today!

Yes, as far back as April 15, 1996, Debito.org first went live as an archive of my essays written for a long-dead open listserv called the “Dead Fukuzawa Society”, founded by acolytes of the late Chalmers Johnson who believed, like Fukuzawa Yuukichi, of the “Fukoku Kyouhei” (Rich Country, Strong Military) slogan, that Japan had a lot to learn from overseas practices to make one’s country stronger (as did Chalmers Johnson, who believed that the US needed to learn from Japan’s Industrial Policy and mercantilist practices).  Much debate ensued at DFS, and when I realized that my some of my responses to critics were retreading ground I’d written before, I archived them on Debito.org and just sent links.  Some of my most interesting (and fresh) early essaywriting is still up on Debito.org (the website, not this blog section, which will incidentally also be celebrating its 15th birthday on June 17th), including “Issues of Education for Young Families“, “Debunking Myths about Japan,” “Cultural Quirks and Esoterica“, “Dai-san Sector and corruption in my little town“, “Driving in Japan“, “Japan Cycletreks“, and even funny essays (yes, humor from Debito!).

Things have changed for better and for worse, and I’d like to think Debito.org had a hand in promoting the “for better”.  We’ve broken major international news stories, including the Otaru Onsens Case, Trade Barriers and the Dr. Tanii Suicide, the embedded racism of the 1995 Kobe EarthquakeNinkisei Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, Japan’s Racial Discrimination covered by the United Nations, Ministry of Justice foreigner “Snitch Sites“, discrimination at Japan World Cup 2002, racist “foreign DNA” crime research at the National Police Agency, “Tama-chan” sealion and the Juuminhyou, and more listed at our “Activists’ Page“. Debito.org’s archives have also been a launching pad for books, hundreds of newspaper articles and columns, and cited research papers.  Thanks in part to Debito.org (as opposed to all the other information in the academic canon dismissing Japan’s racial discrimination as “ethnic discrimination”, “foreigner discrimination”, and “cultural misunderstandings”), Japan is no longer claiming with a straight face that racism doesn’t exist. Some are even coming to the conclusion that we need actual laws against racial discrimination (now more than 25 years after signing UN international treaty promising to eliminate it).

In fact, look at this Asahi Shinbun article, dated April 11, 2021, courtesy of KM:

Quick, rough translation by Debito (amendments welcome from Debito.org Readers):

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

THE LACK OF A COMPREHENSIVE LAW FORBIDDING DISCRIMINATION

Asahi Shinbun, April 11, 2021

The UN, recognizing that ignoring human rights leads to the barbarity of war, issued proclamations guaranteeing human rights and the elimination of discrimination in its UN Charter (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).  Other agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (1981) also demands that signatories pass laws forbidding discrimination.

Japan has also looked back on its wartime past, and established in the Japanese Constitution that basic human rights are inviolable rights, and all Japanese people (kokumin) are equal before the law and should not suffer discrimination.  However, despite specific definitions about discrimination outlined in various UN treaties, Japan still has not made a law with comprehensive definitions against discrimination.

Instead, Japan has put into effect full-scale laws against discrimination against the forceful assimilation of minorities and worked towards the improvement for conditions of Burakumin enclaves.  It has also worked towards the education and enlightenment of the public in order to resolve psychological abuse.

Under the Abe Administration, instead of addressing all forms of discrimination, it took a case-by-case approach with the Law to Eliminate Discrimination against the Handicapped (2013), and laws against hate speech and Burakumin discrimination in 2016.

However, the three laws above do not include penalties for carrying out discrimination, stopping at the idealistic “this cannot be done” and “it will not be permitted”. This is due to exceptions being made under guarantees of freedom of speech in the Constitution, given a background of reservations expressed by constitutional experts about “arbitrary restrictions by government regarding speech and expression in places like public demonstrations.”

Editorial Department, Kitano Shouichi

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

COMMENT:  I would argue that this dialog in a major newspaper, acknowledging the need for a “comprehensive law” against discrimination with penalties, would not have been possible in the 1990s before Debito.org. We constantly pointed out that racial discrimination was happening to Visible Minorities in Japan, and a landmark court case (the above mentioned Otaru Onsens Lawsuit) firmed up judicial precedent that racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu), as rendered, would appear in court documents as an incontrovertible fact of the case. Granted, no mention was made of Non-Japanese and Visible Minorities in Kitano’s essay.  But the word “comprehensive” (houkatsuteki) would arguably include that.

That’s where the work of Debito.org lies for the next 25 years — getting a law against racial discrimination, with penalties, on the books.  I hope you will join us in keeping the record alive and updated as we keep pushing for a Japanese society more tolerant and accepting of diversity.  Japan’s inevitable multiethnic future depends on it.

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Founder, Debito.org 

PS. Debito.org Readers, would you put something in the Comments Section about how Debito.org has been of use to you?  Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

But I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOC’s official statement on this:

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

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Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.

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

Hi Blog. Making waves in Japan Studies recently is Harvard Prof. J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent academic publication in the March 2021 issue of the International Review of Law and Economics on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. He claims, in a companion article in right-wing Sankei media group’s Japan Forward, “pure fiction”.  Quote:  “But the claims about enslaved Korean comfort women are historically untrue. The Japanese army did not dragoon Korean women to work in its brothels. It did not use Korean women as sex slaves. The claims to the contrary are simply ー factually ー false.”

While this issue is a contentious one (and my standpoint on it is visible in the way I phrased it), I will leave it up to the experts to opine on what’s wrong with Ramseyer’s claims, his extremely flawed research, and its implications for the field in general. The Asia-Pacific Journal–Japan Focus is a good place to start. Quoting Prof. Dudden, with my comments after that:

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

“Four Letters – edited by Alexis Dudden”

https://apjjf.org/2021/5/ToC2.html

In December 2020, Harvard Law School Professor J. Mark Ramseyer circulated his new article “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War” that was accepted for publication in the March 2021 issue of the International Review of Law and Economics. In January 2021, Ramseyer subsequently published an op-ed in Japan Forward describing the “comfort-women-sex-slave-story” as “pure fiction.” In both publications, Ramseyer ignored the extensive literature by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Anglophone authors, and the documentary record detailing the Japanese military’s wartime system of military sexual slavery.

An Internet search reveals the international uproar that has ensued in recent weeks, and this Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus special issue publishes an initial four essays to rebut the Ramseyer article. The authors document serious violations of scholarly standards and methods that strike at the heart of academic integrity.

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus holds academic freedom as a core value. We also prize adherence to truth and social justice. – Alexis Dudden

  1. The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue, Freedom of Speech, and Academic Integrity: A Study Aid
    – Tessa Morris-Suzuki
  2. Letter by Concerned Scholars Regarding J. Mark Ramseyer, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War
    – Amy Stanley, Hannah Shepherd, Sayaka Chatani, David Ambaras, Chelsea Szendi Schieder
  3. Statement – Andrew Gordon and Carter Eckert
  4. The Abuse of History: A Brief Response to J. Mark Ramseyer’s ‘Contracting for Sex’
    – Alexis Dudden

UPDATE:  FEB 25, 2021: According to the Yonhap News Agency, Ramseyer has done it again in a separate new academic paper, claiming that the Ethnic Koreans massacred during the Japan 1923 Kanto Earthquake were in fact marauding gangs who “torched buildings, planted bombs, poisoned water supplies” and murdered and raped people.

=================
Harvard professor Ramseyer to revise paper on 1923 massacre of Koreans in Japan: Cambridge handbook editor
Yonhap News Agency, All News February 20, 2021
By Song Sang-ho
https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210220002400325 

or
https://www.debito.org/?p=16435&cpage=1#comment-1800438

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

COMMENT:  Prof. Morris-Suzuki’s Study Aid is very clear and that is where you should start.

Instead, what I CAN talk about is how J. Mark Ramseyer and I have butted heads (in a sense) in the past. When scholar Ivan P. Hall released his landmark book “Cartels of the Mind” in 1997, exposing Japan’s “intellectual closed shops” in the fields of academic faculty (“Academic Apartheid“), legal practices, journalism, and higher education in general, it sent shockwaves throughout US-Japan Relations (and really launched my activism in earnest).  You can read all about the issues raised as pertain to unequal treatment of Japan’s NJ academics here.

Somehow, the reputable Journal of Japanese Studies published a hatchet-job review (including typos) by Prof. Ramseyer in 1999 (fresh from getting his new job with tenure at Harvard Law) that was dismissive, snarky, and even poorly researched (self-acknowledging that his impressions are “haphazard”; one source is a sample size of one from a Christmas card!).  According to Debito.org’s Archives from 1999, Ramseyer wrote (as reproduced on the Dead Fukuzawa Society, an internet listserv of the time):

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

JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES
VOL 25, NO 2, SUMMER 1999, pp 365-8

(retyped from subscription copy received three days ago)

_Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop_. By Ivan P. Hall.
W.W. Norton, New York, 1998. 208 pages. $25.00.

Reviewed by
J. MARK RAMSEYER
Harvard University

Catchy title, this “cartels of the mind.”

[Short sentence deleted to avoid future claims of copyright infringement. You’ll see why later.]

Japanese manage to ward off, it seems to imply, all thoughts that are foreign and all sentiments alien. Not only do they close their markets to Harleys and Napa Chardonnay, they close their minds to American ideas themselves. Most of us who read this journal regularly can probably add our own anecdotes: about economics departments mired in 1920’s-vintage Marxism; about law departments staffed with 30 professors sporting nearly identical educational vitae; about history departments wedded to quaint chronological approaches; about anthropology departments–well, what about anthropology departments?

We could go on endlessly, of course, but whom are we kidding? More insular than American intellectuals? Shall we compare the number of translated books in Japanese and American bookstores? Or the number of professors fluent in a foreign language? What about the university syllabi with foreign-language materials? Japanese intellectuals may be insular to be sure, but at least on that score we can match them measure for measure.

Catchy title and occasional grand claims notwithstanding, this book is not about “cartels of the mind” anyway. Despite its accusations of cultural and nationalistic parochialism, it is a book about (in truth, a polemic against) the putative trade barriers towards foreigners in a few relatively high-IQ service industries. Thus, chapter 1 explores the plight of foreign lawyers in Japan, chapter 2 examines the barriers foreign correspondents face, chapter 3 deals with foreign professors, and chapter 4 discusses foreign researchers and students and access to scientific research.

On the foreign lawyers dispute (chap. 1), Hall is accurate enough. Unfortunately for his grander claims, the basic barrier is not there to exclude foreign competitors at all (as Hall himself acknowledges, p. 20). It is there to exclude all competitors–but primarily domestic ones: it is the bar-exam equivalent that flunks all but one to four per cent of all would-be Japanese lawyers. For most of the postwar period, foreign lawyers have been a trivial sideshow, if even that. Never mind, implies Hall. Only if (among other things) Japan lets Wall Street lawyers circumvent that exam can we “hope to have a genuinely open and effective dialogue with the Japanese people” (p. 18). It is, I confess, the first time I have heard us lawyers accused of facilitating “open and effective dialogue.”

Hall’s complaints on behalf of foreign correspondents (chap. 2) mostly concern access to press briefings. In Japan, foreign correspondents regularly find themselves barred from briefings. Hall suggests that this has something to do with their being foreign. As in the legal services market, however, foreign competitors are not the only ones prejudiced. Instead, the reporters for the weekly and monthly magazines routinely find themselves in just the same spot (again as Hall rightly acknowledges, p. 50).

Hall could not plausibly argue that Japanese universities discriminate against foreign researchers or students–and to his credit he does not much try. Instead, he primarily complains about differential access to scientific information (chapter 4) and bases his complaints on two facts. First, far more Japanese students and researchers come to U.S. universities than Americans go to Japanese universities. Second, Japanese scientific research disproportionately occurs in coroporate laboratories, while more U.S. research occurs in universities. As corporate research is necessarily more secretive everywhere, U.S. research is necessarily more open than Japanese research.

True enough, one might respond, but so what? For most of the century and maybe still, U.S. science has outpaced Japanese science (as Hall notes, p. 132). Consequently, one would not expect the bilateral flow of researchers to be anything but lopsided. Furthermore, universities in the United States may be better funded (relative to corporate labs) than in Japan, but no one (least of all Hall) has shown that this is a good thing. Should scientists feed at the public trough? Almost ot a T we academics praise government subsidies to universities. But given our self-interest one should wonder. Dairy farmers and undertakers can argue passionately that subsidies to cows and morturaries promote the common weal too.

What will most interest JJS readers are Hall’s claims about foreign professors (chap. 3): put simply, that Japanese schools treat foreign teaching staff abysmally. What triggered this attack, it seems, was a 1992 memorandum from the Ministry of Education urging national universities to fire their senior-most foreign lecturers. These foreigners earned higher salaries than their tenured Japanese professorial counterparts (p. 92), and the ministry wanted them replaced with younger (and therefore cheaper) instructors. At about the same time Hall’s private university refused to renew his year-to-year contract, and when it did he sued.

Hall calls this all “academic apartheid” (chap. 3), and to justify the charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he never explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have compared–but did not–the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly work on a year-to-year basis. At least some of the law faculties I know, they teach a significant portion of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education did not urge universities to fire them, to be sure, but probably because they collected a pittance.

Hall might also have compared the foreigner [sic] instructors in Japan to the army of lecturers teaching undergraduates. Similarly hired on temporary terms, they work for miserly pay and often collect no benefits. Dave teaches at “Freeway U,” explained the wife of a Los Angeles friend of mine on a recent Christmas card. For several years now, my friend Dave has cobbled together part-time pay from a number of southern California universities to make ends meet. At least when Hall sued his Japanese university, it paid him a full year’s salary to settle (p.35). Had my friend sued one of his schools for not renewing a year-to-year contract, the university general counsel would probably have told him to go ahead and make his (or her) day.

Or Hall might have compared the foreigners in Japan to the Japanese who teach language courses in American universities. After all, many (if not most) Americans teaching in Japanese universities probably teach U.S.-related courses–most commonly English. Although foreign-language professors in the United States often do have tenure, my impression (haphazard to be sure) is that research universities now increasingly hire their lower-level language instructors on year-to-year contracts.

But no, not Hall. He would compare the foreign instructors discharged by the Japanese universities to their tenured Japanese professional peers. Yet the tenured professors in Japan are the stars: exceptions notwithstanding, they are the men and women with the best qualifications. Alas, Hall gives us no systematic data showing that the tenured Japanese and the discharged foreigners had comparable talents or qualifications. The might have been comparable, or might not. Hall simply does not provide the evidence. Before we call the firings “academic apartheid,” however, we need to know whether the universities treated the foreign instructors worse than their Japanese counterparts–and we need to make that judgment on a systematic basis after *holding constant* [emphasis in original] teaching ability, scientific publications, and other indices of IQ, effort, and pedagogic and reasearch effectiveness.

Hall gives us none of that information. Instead, he gives us only anecdotes. At that level, this degenerates into a my-anecdote’s-better-than-your-anecdote free-for-all. Most of us know several talented U.S. scholars at fine Japanese universities who have few if any complaints. Most of us could also name some Americans at Japanese schools who are not as talented as most of their Japanese peers. If the Ministry of Education urged those universities to fire the latter, it might be mean–but it would hardly be ethnic discrimination.

The problem (to be utterly tactless about it about it all) is that Hall never shows us whether (as a group) the discharged foreign scholars were as good as their tenured Japanese counterparts. Suppose, hypothetically, that the discharged foreigners were generally not as good as the tenured Japanese, that the foreign salaries were higher than the Japanese salaries, and that the existing foreigners could be replaced with younger, cheaper foreigners who could teach the material as effectively. If all this were true, then their termination was not “apartheid.” It may have been harsh. It may have been cruel. And many of us may find the use of a crude proxy such as citizenship an offensive way to sort teachers. But all that said, their termination would also have been prudent personnel management.

Seemingly anticiptaing [sic] reviews of this sort, Hall concludes by impliedly attacking the reviewers in advance. Quoting another observer, he posits a “strange propensity among American Japanologists to feel one-sidedly positive about Japan… [because] if you’re a foreigner who is too critiical about Japan, your sources of information, funding, or friends dry up” (p. 169). Some of us who sometimes defend Japan, it seems, do so simply to survive. “To perform his or her own work effectively,” claims Hall, “the typical foreign Japanologist has to join and play the game by Japanese rules that eschew ‘unacceptable’ areas or degrees of criticism” (p. 169). And those of us who are not disingenuous, apparently, are perhaps just to insulated to know better: the Japanese treat us well because “we enjoy the independent leverage of a strong institutional affiliation” (p. 169), and that treatment blinds us to the plight of our less fortunate countrymen.

Maybe. Lord knows Japan (and especially the Ministry of Education) can be insular and parochial. But that some Japanese are sometimes xenophobic does not mean every case of bad treatment against a foreigner reflects xenophobia–any more than a case of rudeness in a U.S. restaurant against an African-American refects racism. Just as U.S. waitresses can ignore hungry white professors, Japanese organizations can shaft Japanese professionals too. Hall shows us several sets of foreigners who may have been treated rottenly in Japan. Yet many Japanese professionals are treated rottenly as well, and the foreigners Hall cites may or may not have been equal to their Japanese colleagues. As a result, Hall never really shows us that the foreigners were treated that way *because* [emphasis in original] they were foreign.

———————————–
J. MARK RAMSEYER is the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard University. He is coauthor of _Japanese Law_ (Chicago, 1998) and author of _Odd Markets in Japanese History_ (Cambridge, 1996). He is currently working on empirical studies of judicial independence in Japan. (Courtesy JJS Notes on Contributors)


I responded to this piece back then (under my former name at the time) on DFS as follows:

Dave Aldwinckle:  I talked to Dr Hall about this two nights ago, and we agree that for an academic journal this piece shows a surprising lack of academic tone, “systematic data”, or even sufficient substantiation (citing “law faculties I know” without giving names, the reviewer’s own “haphazard” impressions, Christmas cards from “Dave”?). This will not do when addressing an issue this hot. Hence it reads like a screed, as if the reviewer set out do a hatchet job on this book, and even in places deliberately distorts the point.

One example of this is where Professor Ramseyer writes:

===========================
Hall calls this all “academic apartheid” (chap. 3), and to justify the charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he never explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have compared–but did not–the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly work on a year-to-year basis. At least some of the law faculties I know, they teach a significant portion of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education did not urge universities to fire them, to be sure, but probably because they collected a pittance.
===========================

The comparison Dr Hall makes is in fact approprate. One must compare *full-time* (joukin) foreign faculty to *full-time* (joukin) Japanese faculty. This is because full-time foreigners have been, and even today generally still are, hired effectively as part-timers, with contracts exclusively designed and reserved for foreigners in both function and title: “gaikokujin kyoushi” and “gaikokujin kyouin” by definition do not apply to Japanese, and these titles offer demonstrably inferior working conditions. On the other hand, full-time Japanese faculty have been, and even today almost always still are, hired from day one with tenure, i.e. without contracts. Professor Ramseyer’s suggestion that full-time foreigners be compared to, say, adjunct part-time (hijoukin) Japanese (who, by definition, are on contract as they are term-limited) is inappropriate, not to mention offensive, as it buys completely into the assumption that foreign academics are, or ought to be, temporary. Dr Hall made this distinction between part- and full-time conditions quite plain in his book, and for a reviewer to leave that so egregiously unclear, even unmentioned, in an academic journal suggests to me at least sloppy and untoward research, at worst subterfuge.

What really can be called a low blow is the conclusion to that paragraph about “pittance”s. The reviewer makes it sound as though the dismissed foreigners, because they were receiving a higher wage than their tenured Japanese counterparts (not always true–because contracted foreigners often receive no bonus, cutting their salaries per annum by a third), had it coming. Because the foreigner dared to earn a comparable wage that would let them buy a home, raise a family, and enjoy the job security that other full-time Japanese academics do and should enjoy, the Ministry and the universities apparently are “hypothetically” justified in “prudent personnel management”. I would like to see Professor Ramseyer come over here and try to make a living, like my contracted and frequently-dismissed foreign academic friends do, under these conditions.

For the reviewer to conclude that Dr Hall “never really shows us that the foreigners were treated that way *because* they were foreign” reminds me of students I have to nudge when they doze in class. Hall in fact makes a very lucid critique that other reviewers have had no trouble understanding (for a second opinion, see Richard Samuels’ review in The Far Eastern Economic Review, March 12, 1998, reprinted in JALT’s Journal of Professional Issues and viewable at https://www.debito.org/PALE898.html#ivanreview). For Professor Ramseyer to assert in essence that, say, the titles “gaikokujin kyoushi/kyouin” have never indicated a different job status by nationality is just horribly wrong.

One other point that must be addressed is the insinuation about the lack of qualification in foreign academics, where for hypothetical administrative mental calculus the reviewer assumes that “the discharged foreigners were generally not as good as the tenured Japanese”. This is an odious presumption. For example, JALT, Japan’s foremost organization of language teachers, has just lost her leading presidential candidate, Dr Jill Robbins. She has a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University (and more–see The Language Teacher, Sept 1999, p.50), which made her as qualified, if not more, than the tenured Japanese professors who apparently are, in Professor Ramseyer’s words, “the stars”. Nevertheless, Dr Robbins told me she had her contract terminated two weeks ago, “on flimsy grounds”, and consequently will have to leave JALT and Japan entirely. This may be dismissed by Professor Ramseyer as another one of these “anecdotes”, but enough anecdotes eventually complete a pattern. For she is not an isolated case. Visit any academic conference in Japan and you will find graduates of some of the world’s foremost overseas universities. A simple question to a roomful of those foreign academics, about having frequent dismissal experiences due to contracts, will produce a show of hands in the majority.

If this still not credible, I submit the following web pages (most of which have been documented after Dr. Hall’s seminal work) as further substantiation of the situation over here:

1) Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s publication The PALE Journal of Professional Issues, devoted to documenting cases of academic discrimination. All issues since 1997 are up at:
https://www.debito.org/PALEJournals.html

2) On the Gwen Gallagher/Asahikawa Daigaku case (mentioned in Dr. Hall’s book)
https://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkiseigallagher
and
https://www.debito.org/PALE898.html

3) List of Japanese universities which discriminate by nationality in job hiring status, with full substantiation:
http://www.www.debito.org/blacklist.html

4) On the Prefectural University of Kumamoto (two special issues, where the university created an unprecedently low job status for foreign academics in Japan–on the level of custodial staff)
https://www.debito.org/PALE1298.html
and, more insightfully,
https://www.debito.org/PALE499.html

5) On the Timothy J. Korst case at the University of the Ryukyus
https://www.debito.org/PALE498korst.html

6) Also two germane articles on working conditions in JALT’s “The Language Teacher” magazine:
a) Aldwinckle, “Ten Plus Questions for Your Next University Employer”, July, 1999
b) Fox, Shiozawa, and Aldwinckle, “A New System of University Tenure: Remedy or Disease?”, August, 1999.

The final point I would like to make is that Professor Ramseyer should get out more. If he thinks that America and Japan can be matched “measure for measure” in their degree of insularity, he ought to read the article, excerpted below, from the Economist (London) weekly newsmagazine, issue dated 21 August 1999, which talks about the huge number of foreign researchers in American academia. Can one seriously make a case that foreign academics would reach numbers and levels like these in America if they didn’t have job security? More importantly, does Japan even remotely have an up-or-out system for foreigners–the only full-timers excluded from receiving tenure at entry level in Japan–to receive tenure? And has America ever had a Ministry of Education effectively create a nationwide policy for their prestigious institutions to fire their academics merely because they are foreign and too well-paid? None of these factors hold in America (or any other OECD country, for that matter), and none should be so easily dismissed by any academic who has done any substantial research, either about or in the Japanese university system, especially in a review of a book that very seriously tries to address decades of institutionalized discrimination.

Dave Aldwinckle
Sapporo

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THE ECONOMIST NEWSMAGAZINE
DATE 21-Aug-99

Imported brains
Alien scientists take over USA!

GIVE her your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to do post-docs and patent drugs galore; the wretched refuse of your teeming labs shall find funding on this golden shore. Since the 1970s, a lot of the immigrants coming to the United States have arrived with PhDs burning holes in their pockets. As a study published in this week’s Science magazine shows, America has incorporated this influx of talent so well that the top ranks of its scientific establishment are now replete with foreign-born workers.

Sharon Levin of the University of Missouri and Paula Stephan of Georgia State University took a look at more than 4,500 top-rate scientists and engineers who practise their craft in the United States. After checking how many of these had been born or educated abroad, they reckon that the most accomplished scientists in America are disproportionately foreign.

The two economists began by consulting the membership rolls of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering–America’s top scientific and technological clubs–for the past 20 years. They also included the authors of the papers and patents cited most frequently in scientific literature. Lastly, they culled lists of scientists from the boards of selected American biotechnology firms.

This dream team of researchers is one that befits a nation of immigrants. In almost all of the above categories, across almost all disciplines, the proportion of foreigners is greater than it should be considering their proportion of the scientific community as a whole. For instance, in 1980 only about a fifth of the scientists in America (those with doctorates, at any rate) had been born abroad. Over the subsequent decade, 60% of the American-based authors of the most-cited papers in the physical sciences were foreign-born, as were nearly 30% of the authors of the most-cited life-science papers. Almost a quarter of the founders or chairmen of the biotechnology companies that went public in the early 1990s also came originally from outside the country. (rest of article snipped)

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FINAL COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I never heard a response from Ramseyer himself for his unprofessional review.  There was an online debate about this afterwards (on reviewer ethics and the proper way to do a review here), and JJS sent me (and DFS) a message saying that my reproducing Ramseyer’s article was a violation of copyright.  They even sent me a letter saying the same by snail mail.  Very thorough.  In other words, JJS didn’t address what Ramseyer did.  They went after what I did.

I didn’t take the article down.  And I didn’t renew my subscription to JJS.

It appears they remembered this event, for years later, when I submitted an article to JJS related to my doctoral research on Japan’s Embedded Racism back around 2013, I received a desk rejection and letter from scholar and editor Prof. Marie Anchordoguy with a refund of my application fee.  After similar results from other major US Japanese Studies journals (I did get published elsewhere), I concluded I had been blackballed.  This is how academics get their own back. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

PS:  What would a good book review have looked like?  One that is factual in its criticisms and lacking in scorn and intemperance.  Citing an Economist book review, I argued:

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

Dave Aldwinckle (1999):  I am not saying that critiques of CARTELS should not be countenanced. But it should be better done, especially given the background of the social critique in this case. When a work like CARTELS is politically-powerful enough to warrant reviewer blacklisting by the domestic Japanese mass-komi (hardly anyone has dared touch the Japanese translation), one gets the notion that people have it in for this book. Now it would seem that that phenomenon has leaked overseas into respectable academic journals. That should be questioned and perhaps revealed in the marketplace of ideas, not perpetuated and justified by irresponsible reviews. Just to say that a reviewer has no responsibility to provide data, only to point out flaws, does not excuse the reviewer from demonstrating that he or she has insights into the data as well.

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

EXCERPTED FROM THE “MOREOVER” SECTION IN THE ECONOMIST NEWSMAGAZINE
DATE 9-Oct-99

Pius XII, the wartime pope, is the century’s most controversial pontiff. A new biography will further fan the flames

HITLER’S POPE : THE SECRET HISTORY OF PIUS XII. By John Cornwell. Viking;
430 pages; $29.95 and L20.00 UK

WHILE Jews were dying all over Nazi-occupied Europe, the man in the Vatican kept his silence. Why Pius XII chose to do so has never been properly explained, either by his critics or his defenders. Now those defenders, led by Pope John Paul II, are campaigning for his beatification and elevation to sainthood. John Cornwell’s book is meant to throw a spanner in the works.

Mr Cornwell did not set out to prosecute the pontiff; his earlier writings led the Vatican to believe he would be a safe pair of hands, and he was given unprecedented access to Vatican papers. Yet his campaign against Pius XII begins right on the cover. The provocative title, “Hitler’s Pope”, is one thing; the photograph quite another, though this has hardly been remarked on. It [published in original] shows Eugenio Pacelli, as he was then known, gliding down the steps of the presidential palace in Berlin, respectfully flanked by soldiers of the Wehrmacht. The dust-jacket gives the year as 1939; immediately the picture has a smell of complicity, of papal easiness in the company of brutes. Yet this picture is in fact from much earlier, as is evident, on closer inspection, from the age of the pope and the lack of Nazi insignia. It is 1927, and Pacelli, recently appointed papal nuncio in Munich, has just presented his credentials to President Hindenburg.

Mr Cornwell may not wittingly have made this mistake. Perhaps it was his picture researcher. Yet the same tendency to make exaggerated, even false, connections colours an otherwise fascinating book. This is dangerous, because the subject of the Catholic Church and the Holocaust–the burden of his study–is one that needs dispassionate handling. And it is a pity, because Mr Cornwell, a professional historian, thoughtful Catholic and vivid writer, has a solid case that he spoils by intemperance. In effect, he blames one man for events in which, though he played a major role, he could scarcely have exercised control.

Mr Cornwell says in the introduction that he could not help it. As his work went on he became progressively horrified, until he ended up “in a state of moral shock”. Intermittently through the book, he explodes in disgust at his subject or in appeals for Catholics to apologise for what happened to the Jews. It is with a sort of relish, in the end, that he describes Pius XII’s imperfectly embalmed body farting and eructating in its coffin, turning grey-green, the blackened nose at last falling off, as if finally reflecting the years of inveterate political corruption.

His first indictment is simply stated. As the Vatican’s secretary of state in the 1930s, Pacelli went to great lengths to negotiate a Concordat with Germany. Under the terms of the Concordat, finally struck with Hitler in 1933, the rights of the Catholic Church were to be preserved and respected. In return, the Catholic Centre Party, which held the balance of power in the Reichstag and had voted for the Enabling Act giving Hitler decree power, was “voluntarily” to disband itself.

This is a fair summary. But Mr Cornwell spoils it by greatly overmagnifying Pacelli’s role. By agreeing to the silencing of German Catholics, Mr Cornwell charges, Pacelli removed the only effective focus of German opposition to the Nazi regime and, eventually, to the policy of wholesale extermination of the Jews. There is something in this. Hitler wanted the Concordat because he needed the Catholic Church in Germany on his side and politically neutered; Pacelli wanted it to assert the rights of the Church, especially over episcopal appointments and religious education, which had been in jeopardy since Bismarck’s day. Both men were pleased with what they got, and believed they had won. Pacelli was doubtless impressed, as others were, with the Nazi regime’s orderliness, its stridency against communism and the new hope it was giving to Germans: its neo-paganism was awkward, but still to be preferred to the red tide to the east. Dealing with this regime was not in itself (to use papal language) an occasion of sin.

Yet Mr Cornwell thinks it left German Catholics unable to resist the increasing evil of the regime, which therefore triumphed. Certainly it silenced their party in the Reichstag. To claim it did more, though, is to make the astonishing assumption that German Catholics were completely unified and would have opposed Hitler en masse. Plainly, they did not. The country was one-third Catholic; many fell for Hitler’s speeches with their onslaughts on communists and Jews. Mr Cornwell himself notes that by 1939 a quarter of the SS were Catholic: not merely reluctant voters or followers-on, but thuggish enthusiasts.

Mr Cornwell’s second indictment is that, as the Jews were first victimised and then liquidated across German-occupied Europe, the pope said nothing. His predecessor, Pius XI, in his encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” (With Burning Anxiety) of 1937, had condemned in the most general terms the excesses of the Nazi regime. Pius XII–perhaps seeing how much that mild rebuke had angered the Germans–did not even go as far as that.

Pius XII never condemned either Hitler or the Nazis by name. Even more strikingly, he never mentioned specifically the sufferings of the Jews, though he was perfectly aware of them and though many people, both clergy and lay diplomats, pleaded with him constantly to issue a public condemnation. In October 1943, the Jews were rounded up in Rome itself; the cattle trucks drove past St Peter’s, the tiny shivering hands of the incarcerated children hanging through the slats, so that the SS officers who had been drafted in could see the sights of the Eternal City. The pope, safe in St Peter’s, still said nothing at all.

How can this crime be explained? For it was a crime, whether of culpable omission or deliberate blindness. Popes assert a special authority on matters of right and wrong derived from God. Pacelli knew better than anyone the universal claims of the Church and its moral authority; his family had been Vatican lawyers for generations, and he himself had worked all his life to increase the influence of the Holy See. After the war, he mobilised his forces like an army to take on communism; prayers were said from one end of the world to the other for the conversion of Russia. Against evil dictators on the right, though, he seemed to have no weapons but subterfuge and silence.

Mr Cornwell explains this in two ways. First, Pacelli, an authoritarian himself, relished and respected the authoritarianism of Hitler. The book puts side by side pictures of the Fuhrer and the pope at rallies, reveling in the adulation of the faithful: an irresistible pairing, though scarcely a fair one. At the time of the negotiation of the Reich Concordat, Mr Cornwell portrays the two men as bride and fiance, with the bride (Pacelli) rather haplessly trying to hold her husband to the previously agreed terms. The other reason for his silence was not unconnected. Pacelli, Mr Cornwell insists, was an anti-Semite, not merely believing that the Jews should help themselves but sympathising, at a deep level, with their removal from the scene. As proof of this he cites an account written by Pacelli in 1919 of a left-wing uprising in Munich led by Max Levien, “Russian and a Jew. Pale, dirty, with drugged eyes, vulgar, repulsive, whining repeatedly that he was in a hurry and had more important things to do.”

This is the only direct evidence Mr Cornwell offers. It is not good enough; not merely because it was recorded from someone else’s first-hand observations, but because it is the standard, universal racism of those years, the sort of thing that T.S. Eliot and Graham Greene would write without a second thought. To detach remarks like this from the death-camps is now impossible; but in 1919, though despicable, they carried no such weight. Bolsheviks and socialists–many of them Jews–were seen by conservatives as a rootless threat to public order all over Europe. Pacelli doubtless also felt the anti-Judaism of his Church: a prejudice so routine and so long established that a lost encyclical “against” racism, drafted just before the war, continued to assert that the Jews had reaped “worldly and spiritual ruin” from the killing of Christ. Pacelli was an anti-Semite in that sense; there was scarcely a member of his Church who was not.

As the book proceeds, it is clear that partisanship–on either side–is too blunt a tool to be used for this story. Faced with perhaps the most evil regime the world has seen, many decent men behaved in ways that seem inexcusable in retrospect. Pacelli–one of these–evidently thought his first duty was to preserve and enhance the power of the Church, not to jeopardise it. He was aware that the Germans had reacted furiously to “Mit brennender Sorge”, mild as it was. The Catholics of Europe were his concern; the Jews were not, and it was probably unconscionable for him to intercede for them in public (though not, as some Jewish leaders have recognised, to encourage help for them in secret). Pacelli’s apparent excuse (he did not quite state it explicitly) was that he feared reprisals against Catholics if he condemned the Final Solution. This hardly exonerates him in modern eyes; but it would have been more than good enough for him.

(final two paragraphs snipped)

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REVIEW EXCERPT ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

======================
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Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.

mytest

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Hi Blog. President of the 2020 Japan Olympics Committee (JOC), former abysmally unpopular PM, and professional geriatric grouch Mori Yoshiro has put his foot in it again. He’s gone off on the women allegedly cluttering his committees (he even got the number of them wrong), after there was a suggestion from somewhere that the gender imbalance on the committee be addressed. Articles follow, then comments:

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Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Games meeting – newspaper
Reuters, Wed, February 3, 2021, courtesy of MG

https://sports.yahoo.com/tokyo-2020-chief-mori-makes-144553091.html

TOKYO (Reuters) – The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee told a meeting on Wednesday that female directors talked too much, which was “annoying”, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, made the comments, some of which were greeted with laughter, at a meeting with members of the Japanese Olympic Committee, the Asahi reported.

Tokyo 2020 could not be immediately reached for comment.

“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori said, according to the report from the Asahi, one of Japan’s leading daily papers. “We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”

The JOC board has 25 members, of whom five are women.

According to the committee’s governance code, established in 2019, it should be aiming to make sure that 40% seats on the board are filled by women.

The 83-year-old Tokyo 2020 chief was already facing criticism for comments he has made about the Games, amid growing public opposition in Japan to holding the postponed event this summer while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging.

On Tuesday, Mori had told a meeting with Japan’s Sports Research Commission that “we will hold the Olympics, regardless of how the coronavirus (situation) looks”.

In response to those comments, Japanese comedian Atsushi Tamura, who was set to be an Olympic torchbearer, said he would decline to run in the torch relay due to begin March 25.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Mari Saito; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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ABC News adds (excerpt):

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Tokyo Olympics chief apologizes for sexist comments that women talk too much in meetings
“I deeply regret it,” he told reporters Thursday.
By Anthony Trotter and Morgan Winsor
ABC News (USA), February 4, 2021, Courtesy of the Author
https://abcnews.go.com/International/tokyo-olympics-chief-apologizes-sexist-comments-women-talk/story?id=75677674

Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan, made the remarks during an executive meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that was held online Wednesday. When giving his “private opinion” about the committee’s goal of increasing the number of female board directors from 20% to more than 40%, Mori expressed concern about how that would affect the length of meetings, according to a report by The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers. […]

“A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time,” Mori was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak too. That is why they all end up making comments.” […]

Speaking at a hastily-prepared press conference on Thursday, Mori confirmed he made the comments and offered an apology.

“It was an inappropriate remark that went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “I deeply regret it and would like to sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”

When asked about the calls for his resignation, Mori told reporters: “I’m not considering resigning.” […]
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Rest of the article with more contextualizing information than the Reuters’ piece at
https://abcnews.go.com/International/tokyo-olympics-chief-apologizes-sexist-comments-women-talk/story?id=75677674

COMMENT from Submitter MG: “Just wanted to send another bit of good Debito fodder from our ol’ buddy Mori Yoshiro. Just another reminder of what a terrible choice it was to hire this jerk to head an Olympics that really should just never have been handed to Japan in the first place when there was still a ruined Tohoku that needed rebuilding. Were it not for the long-term economic consequences that will follow my beloved adopted home country due to folly of these Games, I would surely enjoy the schadenfreude of a group of elites getting egg all over their face.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Let me explain why this is a Debito.org Issue. First, Debito.org came out against Japan holding the Olympics because a) international events bring out the worst in Japan’s media and policing tendencies, and b) Japan played dirty pool to get them (including racist comments about fellow contender Istanbul being unsuitable as a venue because it is “Islamic”).  Because beating out other candidate countries, and getting reaffirmation that Japan still matters on the world stage, is what Japan’s leaders care about, not sports.  Heck, Japan can’t even play fair when there are “foreign competitors” within its DOMESTIC sports (see here, here, and here).

But then we get to Mori. We’ve covered him quite a bit on Debito.org for his racist comments (for example, about Japanese Olympians Chris and Cathy Reed, where he attributed their inability to medal because they were “naturalized”, not Real Japanese). Then we get to his bigoted statements about how Japan (aka the “Kokutai”) is the “Land of the Gods” (Kami no Kuni), a sentiment that belongs in the rhetoric of Prewar Japan leaders destined for defeat.

I called this entitled old man “a mould for gorilla cookies” long ago because even then I saw him as a waste of space.  He’s the type of Japan elite dinosaur zombie politician (in the same vein as equally useless Former PM Aso Taro) who feels like he can say whatever pops into his “shark brain” and not be held accountable for it.  Because he never really has.  Despite being a lousy leader, he just keeps on getting jobs leading things — in his case, high-profile sports committees (such as the Rugby World Cup in 2019) that turn into international embarrassments.  As it has again today.

To Japan, tolerating Mori Yoshiro is like tolerating gaffes from the UK’s Prince Philip.  But Mori is not royalty, endured only because his position is essential upholding an apparently sacrosanct system.  He should be retired from public service immediately even if he refuses to resign.  It’s obviously long overdue.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Kyodo: Japan developing GPS tracking system for foreign travelers as “anti-virus measure”. So Covid is now another international event, justifying more policing of foreigners only?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In a development that Debito.org has been anticipating for quite some time (see, for example, the remotely-trackable RFID chipped Zairyuu Kaado ID cards the Government rolled out in 2012 to keep better tabs on NJ Residents), according to a Kyodo article below the Government is using the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as an excuse to enact programs digitally tracking all foreign tourists.  Read on:

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Japan developing tracking system for travelers from overseas as anti-virus measure
Kyodo News/Japan Today Dec. 27, 2020
https://japantoday.com/category/national/Japan-developing-tracking-system-for-travelers-from-overseas-as-anti-virus-measure

TOKYO (KYODO) — Japan is developing a system aimed at keeping track of travelers from overseas as part of efforts to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus within its borders, a senior government official said Sunday.

“There will be no point if we don’t implement it, so you will not be allowed to enter the country unless you use it,” Takuya Hirai, digital transformation minister, said on television.

Hirai said the government wants to complete the development of the monitoring system by the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, due to be held next summer.

Without providing in-depth detail, he said it will function by using global positioning system technology.

His comments on Fuji TV’s “The Prime” news program came a day after Japan said it will ban nonresident foreign citizens from entering the country, which has been seeing record daily numbers of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

The measure, which will take effect from Monday through January, was announced following Japan’s detection of a new and seemingly more contagious variant of the virus.

Among other measures to tighten its borders, Japan will require its nationals and foreign residents to quarantine for two weeks, show proof of a negative coronavirus test result within 72 hours of departure for the country and undergo another test upon arrival.
ENDS

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COMMENT:  Nothing quite like being forced to wear the equivalent of a GPS criminal tracker for your entire stay.  And it’s not a stretch to see it being applied beyond tourists to NJ Residents after that, as Covid is providing a pretense to “track and trace” those “foreign clusters“.  As CNN notes, “If visitors are allowed [to attend the Olympics], their experience will likely be high-tech. The government is developing a contract tracing app for attendees using GPS that will reportedly link visas, proof of test results, tickets and other information, authorities said.”

Visas? So we’re getting Immigration involved? As Submitter JDG notes, “Obviously, it’s just a matter of time until the Japanese demand all NJ are 24/7 tracked legally in real time with an automated alert popping up on some koban monitor the minute their visas expire. That ought to end that nefarious den of crime right there!  Whew.”

Finally, note how this proposed contract tracing and tracking is only being applied to foreigners, not Japanese:

“In doing so, [Kanagawa] prefecture would spend much less time pursuing contact history for what it described as the second most cluster-prone demographic — namely, kindergarten, day care and school teachers — and would completely stop investigating others. With the announcement, Kanagawa became the nation’s first prefecture to forge ahead with such a drastic scaling down of contact-tracing, which had been the linchpin of Japan’s battle against the pandemic.” (Japan Times, Jan 19, 2021, courtesy of JDG, emphasis added)

So with the advance of technology, the dragnet further tightens on “the foreign element” in Japan. As we have seen with the G8 Summits, the 2002 soccer World Cup, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, “Visit Japan” tourism campaigns in general, and now the 2020 Olympics, international events in Japan serve to inflame its knee-jerk “safety and security” reflexes, and justify all manner of bad overpolicing habits. They essentially become an excuse to invite foreigners in, then police them further.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

mytest

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

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“Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mytest

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

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

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justbecauseicon.jpg

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

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

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

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

5) Black Lives Matter in Japan…

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

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

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it before it goes behind a paywall on Friday.

======================
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United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I wrote back in January in my Shingetsu News Agency column that Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan’s gaijin gulag was the right move — not least because Japan’s heavy-handed prosecutorial powers and treatment of criminal suspects is in itself a violation of human rights.  Now it turns out the United Nations would agree.  An AP article follows, courtesy of lots of people.  As Debito.org Reader JDG points out, “How’s that effort to turn Tokyo into an international financial hub going, BTW? Attracting much elite foreign talent? I guess Japan will be back in touch with the U.N. when it wants some more UNESCO listings…”

Given that Japan has been shamed for decades over its human rights record, and still has not passed a criminal law against racial discrimination as promised under international treaty it signed a quarter century ago (yes, way back in 1995!), I doubt this will mean much. But at least it’s a delicious vindication for our advocacy camp. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Crime
Human rights panel: Japan was wrong to detain Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation
Associated Press/Japan Today, Nov. 24, 2020
By JAMEY KEATEN
Courtesy https://japantoday.com/category/crime/Human-rights-panel-Japan-was-wrong-to-detain-Carlos-Ghosn-owes-him-compensation

GENEVA — A panel of human rights experts working with the United Nations said Monday that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was wrongly detained in Japan and has urged “compensation” for him from the Japanese government.

The Japanese government denounced the report as a “totally unacceptable” viewpoint that will change nothing in the country’s legal process.

In its opinion published Monday, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 and early 2019 was “arbitrary” and called on Japan’s government to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Ghosn without delay.” A determination of whether detention is arbitrary is based on various criteria, including international norms of justice.

While Ghosn is no longer in Japan, having fled in a dramatic operation that drew headlines worldwide, the opinion could weigh on minds in courtrooms in the country and beyond. It could affect, for example, the possible extradition of two Americans, Michael Taylor and his son Peter, whom Japanese prosecutors say helped the executive sneak out of Japan.

Ghosn, a 66-year-old with French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese automaker Nissan for two decades, rescuing it from near-bankruptcy. He was arrested in November 2018 on charges of breach of trust, in misusing company assets for personal gain, and violating securities laws in not fully disclosing his compensation. He denies wrongdoing.

In December, he fled Japan to Lebanon while out on bail awaiting trial, meaning his case will not go on in Japan. Interpol has issued a wanted notice but his extradition from Lebanon is unlikely.

The five-member working group, which is made up of independent experts, called on Japan to ensure a “full and independent investigation” of Ghosn’s detention, and asked the government “to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.”

The working group said that “the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr Ghosn an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

The opinions of the working group are not binding on countries but aim to hold them up to their own human rights commitments. Among its past rulings involved the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was likewise deemed to have had his human rights violated.

The panel, which is independent from the United Nations, noted a string of allegations from Ghosn and his representatives, such as that he was subjected to solitary confinement and long interrogations at day or night, and denied access to court pleadings. His team claimed that interrogations of Ghosn were aimed to extract a confession.

Japan’s system has been repeatedly criticized by human rights advocates. The panel cited previous concerns about Japan’s so-called daiyo kangoku system of detention and interrogation that relies heavily on confessions and could expose detainees to torture, ill-treatment and coercion.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the government had applied “appropriate procedures” in the case, and it could not provide full information to the working group before a trial had begun. For that reason, the ministry added, it would be inappropriate for the working group to make a decision on the Ghosn case “based on limited information and biased allegations” from him and his team.

“The opinion is totally unacceptable, and is not legally binding,” the ministry statement said. It also warned that the opinion could set a dangerous precedent, and “encourage those who would stand criminal trial to entertain the idea that flight can be justified and prevent the realization of justice and the proper functioning of the criminal justice system in each country.”

“Japan can by no means accept the opinion of the Working Group regarding the case of the defendant Carlos Ghosn,” it added.

Ghosn lawyer Jessica Finelle welcomed the “brave” decision by the panel and said its members had been “hard on the Japanese legal system” and the way that Japanese authorities treated Mr Ghosn, “specifically, violating numerous times his presumption of innocence, presenting him as guilty, orchestrating two of his arrests with the media…”

Ghosn was “very happy” and “relieved” about the opinion, she said.

“He is somehow is getting back his dignity because he’s been humiliated during this time that he was held in Japan,” she said.

Ghosn has accused Nissan and Japanese officials of conspiring to bring him down to block a fuller integration of Nissan with its French alliance partner Renault SA of France.

Ghosn’s lawyers filed a petition with the working group in March last year, appealing to its role to look into cases in which governments are alleged to have wrongly detained individuals under agreed international human rights conventions.

Its members declined to speak to reporters about the opinion, the U.N. human rights office said.
ENDS

======================
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My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society, Nov. 16, 2020

mytest

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Visible Minorities 16: US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, November 16, 2020

SNA (Tokyo) — The US elections captured the world’s attention. No wonder. Given America’s hegemony as an economic, political, cultural, and military power, the results underpin the future of geopolitics and world order.

But here’s another angle: This election offers the world some insights into how countries painfully evolve into multiethnic, post-racial societies. It even demonstrated how enfranchised people would rather destroy their governing system than relinquish power.

Fortunately, they didn’t win. Let’s recount some important facts.

The contest between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was indeed, as depicted in campaign slogans, a battle for the “soul of America.”

At stake was whether Trump’s nepotistic, corrupt administration—one that shamelessly used whatever means they could to perpetuate their power, punish political enemies, and undermine democracy both domestic and worldwide—would get four more years; or whether America’s place as a world leader, for better or worse, would be restored to less capricious leadership, with policymaking sane enough to keep its own citizens alive in a self-inflicted pandemic.

Clearly American voters chose the latter course; Biden won. He got five million more votes in an election where more people voted for a president than ever before, with voting rates on track to be among the highest in modern US history. […]

[There are of course some caveats, and] given the current status of Trump refusing to concede the election, and his lackeys interfering with a transition to the presumptive winner, it’s clear that no matter who wins, Republicans feel they are the only ones entitled to run the country. They view cheating, sabotage, soliciting foreign interference, and spreading unscientific conspiracy theories as fair play. The United States’ 233-year experiment in democracy be damned; 73 million voters in this election agreed with Trump’s authoritarianism. The intractable polarization of American politics is complete.

Still, the fact remains that this election was a repudiation of Trump, and, in retrospect, it’s a textbook example of democracy in action. […]

Ultimately, the history books will remember this about the past four years: Trump was the worst president in American history—the only one who was impeached, served only one term, and lost the popular vote. Twice.

Well, good for the United States. But there are also lessons here for Japan, particularly its minorities: how countries make slow and painful transitions to a post-racial society…

Read the rest on SNA at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/11/16/visible-minorities-us-elections-repudiate-trumps-japan-style-ethnostate/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

mytest

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

Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” column 15.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

=========================
Visible Minorities: New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist
OCT 19, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometime during your life in Japan, you will probably feel a chilling attitude in Japan’s bureaucracy: as a foreign resident, you don’t really matter. To Japan’s policymakers, you’re at best an existence to be tolerated, at worst an unpredictable element that needs constant policing.

You’ll see it in things like Japan’s special foreign registry systems, or the “Gaijin Cards” that must be carried 24-7 and leave you vulnerable to random street ID checks by racist cops.

But you might not have realized until recently the most dehumanizing tenet of all: That foreigners should have no legal expectation to belong here.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)

That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters. You cross the border, you’re out.

Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.

Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary.

So foreign residents found themselves stranded overseas apart from their Japanese families, or watched helplessly from Japan as their overseas kith and kin died. This heartless and explicit racism attracted significant international attention, so from October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions.

But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban…. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.

Read the entire article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

======================
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Dejima Award #9: Again to Japan Rugby Football Union, for classifying naturalized Japanese players as “foreign”, in violation of Japan Nationality Law.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Consider this litmus test of “Japaneseness”:  Are you “Japanese enough” to play for the national team?  Not if you naturalized.  Read on, then I’ll comment:

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

Japan Rugby Football Union
JRFU rules certain Japan passport holders will be regarded as non-Japanese
Sep. 26 2020 By Rich Freeman. Courtesy of lots of people.
https://japantoday.com/category/sports/rugby-jrfu-rules-certain-japan-passport-holders-can’t-be-treated-as-locals
Also https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2020/09/26/rugby/rugby-team-japanese-citizens-rights

TOKYO (Kyodo) Three naturalized Japanese citizens found themselves on the wrong side of a decision that essentially restricts their ability to work as professional rugby players in their adopted homeland.

The Japan Rugby Football Union on Friday confirmed that the three, including two who are eligible to play for Japan in the Olympics, will continue to be denied Japanese status within the Top League simply because they are not eligible to play for Japan’s national rugby 15s side, the Brave Blossoms.

The purpose of the rule passed in 2016 to restrict Japanese status to those eligible to play for the Brave Blossoms was, according to Top League Chairman Osamu Ota, to bolster the strength of the national team. The argument that it discriminates against Japanese citizens was not enough to sway the JRFU.

The ruling leaves former All Black Isaac Ross, ex-New Zealand sevens player Colin Bourke and former Australia sevens player Brackin Karauria-Henry to be treated in the Top-League as ‘non-Japanese.’

Both Karauria-Henry and Bourke are being considered for Japan’s Olympics sevens team because the Olympic Charter defines a different set of eligibility conditions for naturalized citizens.

Ota said that the ruling could not be changed immediately as “it was not possible for teams to change their budgets and contracts ahead of the new (Top League) season,” which is set to start in January 2021.

The only thing the union did agree to change, for now, was the names of the player categories to remove any discriminatory terms such as Japanese, foreigner and Asian, and replace them with Category A, B, C etc.

“This does not affect the eligibility of the players and is nothing more than a cosmetic change,” said a source who had knowledge of the meetings between the players and the union.

Ota said the rule would be reviewed before Japan’s new league kicks off by early 2022, but that did not appease Ross. The 35-year-old became a citizen in 2017, having started the process in 2015 before the rule took effect.

The eight-time All Black was recently released by NTT Communications Shining Arcs after nine seasons, in part because his continued status as a non-Japanese means he only got limited playing time.

He is particularly upset that clubs are making use of the “eligible to play for Japan” status, even though many of those to whom it applies have no intention of playing for the national team.

World Rugby regulations state that a previously uncapped player must reside in a country for at least three years before they can play for it. But the JRFU deems anyone who has not played for another test team eligible for Japan.

“We had a player at NTT who was in Japan for just two years. He kept a Japanese player out of the starting team even though he himself was never going to play for Japan,” said Ross. “And yet someone who has shown their commitment to Japan like me has shown loyalty and benefited the Japanese game is being punished.”

Hideki Niizuma, a lawmaker in the House of Councilors, said the ruling was wrong.

“It is unreasonable that a player with Japanese nationality due to naturalization must be registered as a foreign player just because he has a history of representing a foreign country,” he told Kyodo News by email.

The 50-year-old Komeito party member, who played rugby at the University of Tokyo, said he would be seeking the opinion of “specialized agencies and experts such as the Japan Sports Law Association and the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency.”

While Bourke and Karauria-Henry look set to carry on in a league run by a union that, as Bourke puts it, “sees me as a foreigner but at the same time Japanese enough” to play for the hosts at the next Olympics, Ross is forced to continue his career overseas.

“The JRFU’s motto of ‘One Team’ and the Top League’s ‘For All’ aren’t consistent with their actions,” he said.
ENDS

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

COMMENT:  All this hair-splitting aside, the line to draw is simple:

Do you have legal Japanese citizenship or don’t you?

If yes, then you are a Japanese, and you are to be treated as one like everyone else, regardless of whatever career path you take (or how many “real Japanese” get shut out of NTT).

That’s what the Japanese Nationality Law says.  And any further caveats or qualifiers render the status (and the entire point) of naturalization in Japan meaningless.

Moreover, it is extremely disrespectful towards the naturalized, who are compelled by the Nationality Law to give up any other citizenships.  What is the point of that sacrifice if naturalization performatively does not award equality?

Sadly, this decision is not surprising for the Japan Rugby Football Union, given their long history of outright racism.  In 2011, they blamed a poor showing in the 2011 Rugby World Cup on “too many foreign-born players on the team”and then ethnically-cleansed their ranks.  Japan JFRU former president Mori Yoshiro, an unreconstituted racist (and extremely unpopular former Prime Minister) who considered the Reid Olympic figure-skating siblings to be “naturalized” (despite having Japanese citizenship since birth) and therefore unworthy to represent Japan, just happens to also head up Japan’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic efforts.  I have little doubt he had a hand in this.  Gotta protect the Kokutai of the “Kami no Kuni” (not to mention “bolster the strength of the national team”) from foreign impurities, after all.  (As seen above, JRFU already had the Apartheid system of classifying athletes as “Japanese, foreigner and Asian”, performatively preserved as “Category A, B, C etc.” Phew, that’s much better!)

So once again, we are in a position to award a rare “Debito.org Dejima Award“, reserved only for the most head-spinningly obvious examples of racism in Japan, to the JRFU.  This is only our ninth awarded, but it’s the second time the JRFU has received it.  And four of the nine Dejimas have been for official racism within Japanese sports.

Might it not be time for Japanese-Haitian-American tennis champ Osaka Naomi (already quite vocal over BLM) to consider speaking up against discrimination against her fellow Visible Minorities in Japan’s athletics?  Would be nice.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Reuters: Tennis star Osaka Naomi “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. I don’t think the comparison is apt, yet. She should also speak out for Japan’s Visible Minorities.

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAPANESE SPONSORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, remember that this is a stand against racial injustice in another country. Not in Japan. This is an easier target because a) Japan has long taught about racism in other countries (particularly America’s) as part of a narrative that racism “happens elsewhere, not here”, so this unfortunately plays into Japan’s grander deflection strategy; and b) this protest doesn’t imperil her sponsorship in Japan, where her money is coming from.

Yet racism, as this blog and my research have covered for more than a quarter century, is alive and “practiced undisturbed” (according to the United Nations) in Japan. That’s worth protesting. So is racism in America, of course. But there are plenty of high-profile voices involved in that already. What is sorely needed is someone standing up for the equal and nondiscriminative treatment of, for example, Japan’s Visible Minorities (a group Osaka herself is a member of).

Others have tried, such as VM Japanese beauty queens Miyamoto Ariana and Yoshikawa Priyanka, and their careers in Japan suffered as a result. Osaka Naomi, as Debito.org has argued before, has a stronger immunity card to criticize Japan (as long as she keeps winning) if she so chooses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mainichi article cited by Reuters above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s one reason why Japanese media reflexively deflects the issue into terms like “foreigner discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu), “ethnic discrimination” (minzoku sabetsu), or merely “cultural differences” (ibunka no chigai). All of these concepts miss the point that racial discrimination is in fact a longstanding domestic issue.

So refocus the issue back on the process of racialization. Reiterate at every opportunity that this is “racial discrimination,” and stress how, thanks to generations of naturalization and international marriage, there are plenty of Japanese citizens with diverse roots. Thus discrimination against “foreigners” also affects hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.

After all, Japanese society gloms onto “racial discrimination” against Japanese citizens abroad with a surprising amount of passion. So point out that it’s happening here too. And you’ll have to do it again and again, because you will have to convince a surprising number of people who refuse to believe that racism even exists in Japan.

3) Be wary of being fetishized

Remember that a certain degree of social resonance you may be feeling in your crowd is likely not the feeling of acceptance you might want; it is not equal footing with Japanese citizens. People often join in since protesting is “cool” because “foreigners are cool” or “pitiable” (kawaisou).

There is plenty of scholarly research (read Marvin D. Sterling’s Babylon East, for example) on how Japanese adopt “foreign cultures” only on a topical level, meaning without much interest in the actual mindset or experience of being a visible minority in Japan.

Collaborate with whoever shows up, of course. Just don’t get your hopes up too far. Some people who seem like supporters might only be fair-weather groupies. So don’t rely on them too much when it comes time for them to commit their names or faces in public.

4) Be ready for the long haul

Success, of course, requires not only widespread support in Japan, but also assistance from fellow Japanese human-rights activists. They are very practiced and determined, having done this sort of thing for decades. But remember: Activist groups in Japan are very cliquey. Often the barriers for entry and being accepted as “one of us” are pretty high.

Even though, at first, being seen as “pitiable” works in your favor, remember that the default attitude towards people seen as “foreigners” is “someone here only for the short-term.”

What I mean is “foreigners” are often treated like exotic birds, as something to study because you alighted on their balcony and have interesting plumage to look at. So they give you their attention for as long as you’re around. But once it seems you’ve flitted off, you’re quickly forgotten as merely a phase or a pastime. Then things reset back to the ingrained narratives of Japan as homogeneous and foreigners as temporary.

The only way you can defy that is by showing how deeply you’ve committed yourself to this issue for as long as possible, as people in those activist groups have. They’ve made this rallying cause a life mission, and they’ll expect you to as well. Otherwise, you’re just a fickle foreign hobbyist and doors slam.

Moreover, be careful of the “get in line” attitude that one (rightly) receives from other minorities in Japan (such as the Zainichi Koreans). They have been here much longer, fought much harder, and sacrificed more simply to exist in Japan. Avoid the one-upmanships over “who’s the bigger victim here?”

Instead, focus on what you all have in common: perpetual disenfranchisement, and how you have to work together to overcome that to make Japan a better place for everyone. Remember that power surrenders nothing without a fight, so dissolving into disagreeing leftist factions is precisely what the powerful want. The status quo wins by default that way.

5) Control your own narrative

Finally, don’t rely on people who aren’t in your position to understand or promote your narrative. Do it yourselves. Organize your own press conferences. Make sure that everything you release to the public and media is also in Japanese, and have some prominent public spokespeople who are minorities. It’s your voice. Don’t let even the best-intentioned interpreters and interlocutors inadvertently dilute it.

For example, last month, the people of diverse roots who spoke out fluently against the Shibuya police roughing up a Kurdish person were excellent examples of how to do it right. They were very effective in getting the message out both to print and broadcast media. More of that, please.

There you go: five pitfalls I might suggest you avoid. I hope you find them useful, even if I have a very limited understanding of what you’re going through. In any case, it’s your time and your social movement. I wish you success, and thanks for reading.  ENDS

For breaking news, follow on Twitter @ShingetsuNews

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