New eBook: “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Onsens Case”, 10th Anniv Edition with new Intro and Postscript, now on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook $9.99

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Hi Blog.  I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.

The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc.  A synopsis of the new book is below.

You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:

Price:  $9.99 (a bargain considering JO is currently on sale on Amazon Japan used for 3100 yen, and at Amazon.com used for $390.93!), or the equivalent in local currency on all other Amazons (935 yen on Amazon Japan).

If you haven’t read JO yet (as clearly some media presences, like TV Tarento Daniel Kahl or decrier of “bathhouse fanatics” Gregory Clark, have not; not to mention “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo would rather you didn’t), now is a brand new opportunity with additional context.  Here’s the Synopsis:

SYNOPSIS OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF eBOOK “JAPANESE ONLY”

If you saw signs up in public places saying “No Coloreds”, what would you do? See them as relics of a bygone era, a la US Segregation or South African Apartheid? Not in Japan, where even today “Japanese Only” signs, excluding people who look “foreign”, may be found nationwide, thanks to fear and opportunism arising from Japan’s internationalization and economic decline.

JAPANESE ONLY is the definitive account of the Otaru Onsens Case, where public bathhouses in Otaru City, Hokkaido, put up “no foreigners allowed” signs to refuse entry to Russian sailors, and in the process denied service to Japanese. One of Japan’s most studied postwar court cases on racial discrimination, this case went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, and called into question the willingness of the Japanese judiciary to enforce Japan’s Constitution.

Written by one of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit, a bilingual naturalized citizen who has lived in Japan for 25 years, this highly-readable first-person account chronologically charts the story behind the case and the surrounding debate in Japanese media between 1999 and 2005. The author uncovers a side of Japanese society that many Japanese and scholars of Japan would rather not discuss: How the social determination of “Japanese” inevitably leads to racism. How Japan, despite international treaties and even its own constitutional provisions, remains the only modern, developed country without any form of a law against racial discrimination, resulting in situations where foreigners and even Japanese are refused service at bathhouses, restaurants, stores, apartments, hotels, schools, even hospitals, simply for looking too “foreign”. How Japan officially denies the existence of racial discrimination in Japan (as its allegedly homogeneous society by definition contains no minorities), until the Sapporo District Court ruled otherwise with Otaru Onsens.

JAPANESE ONLY also charts the arc of a public debate that reached extremes of xenophobia: Where government-sponsored fear campaigns against “foreign crime” and “illegal foreigners” were used to justify exclusionism. Where outright acts of discrimination, once dismissed as mere “cultural misunderstandings”, were then used as a means to “protect Japanese” from “scary, unhygienic, criminal foreigners” and led to the normalization of racialized hate speech. Where even resident foreigners turned on themselves, including Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark’s repeated diatribes against “bathhouse fanatics”, and future “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo’s opportunistic use of activism to promote his own agenda at the expense of the cause. Where the plaintiffs stay the course despite enormous public pressure to drop the lawsuit (including death threats), and do so at great personal risk and sacrifice. Remaining in print since its first publication in 2003, JAPANESE ONLY remains a testament to the dark side of race relations in Japan, and contains a taut story of courage and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Now for the first time in ebook format, this Tenth Anniversary Edition in English offers a new Introduction and Postscript by the author, updating the reader on what has changed, what work remains to be done, and how Japan in fact is reverse-engineering itself to become more insular and xenophobic in the 2010s. Called “a reasoned and spirited denunciation of national prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry” (Donald Richie, legendary Japanologist), “clear, well-paced, balanced and informative” (Tom Baker, The Daily Yomiuri), “a personal and fascinating account of how this movement evolved, its consequences and how it affected those who participated in it” (Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times), and “the book of reference on the subject for decades to come and should be required reading for anyone studying social protest” (Robert Whiting, author of You’ve Gotta Have Wa), JAPANESE ONLY is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Japan’s future direction in the world and its latent attitudes towards outsiders.

More reviews at https://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html
ends

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone who read my article, as it has been trending within the most-read articles within the past couple of days once again this month.  Here it is on the blog for commentary with links to sources.  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

justbecauseicon.jpg
Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class
BY ARUDOU Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause Column 62, published April 2, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/02/issues/tweak-the-immigration-debate-and-demand-an-upgrade-to-denizen-class/
Version below with links to sources

Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.

One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.

In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.

The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.

Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijūsha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijūsha (special permanent resident, for the zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).

Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen.

Denizenship,” as discussed by Tomas Hammar of Stockholm University, is a mid-step between migrant and immigrant, foreigner and citizen — a “quasi-citizenship.” In his 1990 book “Democracy and the Nation State,” Hammar talks about three “entrance gates” for migrants to become citizens: 1) admission to the country, 2) permanent residency, and 3) acquisition of full citizenship.

Denizens have passed the second gate, having become resident aliens who have been granted extensive civil and social citizenship rights — including national and/or local suffrage in some countries.

Although denizens lack the full political rights of a citizen, scholars of international migration note that countries are increasingly giving denizens faster tracks to full citizenship, including relaxation of blood-based nationality (e.g., in Sweden, Holland, Switzerland and Germany), official guidance in naturalization procedures after obtaining permanent residency (e.g., United States), greater tolerance for dual citizenship (e.g., Mexico) and some electoral rights (e.g., European Union). [all claims within books by scholars below, but some quick references here]

A similar discussion on denizenship has taken place in Japanese academia, thanks to Atsushi Kondo (1996), Chikako Kashiwazaki (2000) and Akihiro Asakawa (2007) et al., all of whom rendered the term in katakana as denizun, translating it as eijū shimin (permanent “citizens,” so to speak).

Perhaps this will come as no surprise, but their extensive research highlighted the comparatively closed nature of Japanese immigration policy. Japan has been an outlier in terms of citizenship rules, going against the trend seen in other advanced democracies to enfranchise denizens.

For example, Japan has an intolerance of dual nationality, high hurdles for achieving permanent residency, arbitrary and discretionary rules for obtaining full citizenship, few refugees, and strict “family” blood-based citizenship without exception for future generations of denizens (which is why Japan is still home to hundreds of thousands of zainichi “foreigners” 60 years after their ancestors were stripped of Japanese citizenship).

Essentially, Japan does not recognize denizenship. This was underscored during recent debates on granting local suffrage rights to permanent residents (gaikokujin sanseiken). Opposition politicians stated clearly: If foreigners want the right to vote, they should naturalize.

Sadly, steps to humanize the debate, by incorporating the perspectives of long-term residents themselves, were not taken, creating a tautology of disenfranchisement. The antireformers eventually won the debate, retrenching the binary between “foreigner” and “citizen” and obscuring the gray zones of long-term residency.

There are long-standing systemic issues behind this entrenchment. As Kashiwazaki notes: “The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.”

As discussed on these pages numerous times, the firewall keeping foreigners from ever becoming settlers is maintained by Japan’s revolving-door visa regimes, strict punishments for even slight administrative infractions that “reset the visa clock,” and a permanent “police the foreigners” credo from a Justice Ministry not configured for immigration or integration.

This has a long history. As Japan’s “Immigration Bureau” has argued repeatedly after it designed the postwar rules on any foreign influx (here in 1959): “Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. Particularly because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.”

After a high water mark of “internationalization” in the 1990s, Japan’s conservatives in the 2000s (backed up by periodic official “foreign crime” and “visa overstayer” campaigns to scare the public) managed to stem the tide of liberalization seen in other advanced democracies, turning Japan into an immigration Galapagos increasingly reactionary towards outsiders — even as demographics force Japan’s decline.

Like the people it represents, denizenship as a concept remains invisible within Japan’s public discourse, oblivious to how foreigners actually live in Japan. Categorically, people are either gaikokujin or nihonjin. Rarely if ever are the former termed eijūsha, eijū shimin, imin or ijūsha (immigrants).

Let’s tweak the terms of debate. If you’re planning on living in Japan indefinitely, I suggest you get your neighbors warmed up to the fact that you as a non-Japanese (let’s at least avoid the dislocated, transient trappings of the generic word “foreigner”) are not merely gaikokujin. You are jūmin (residents). And as of 2012, most of you now have a jūminhyō (residency certificate) to prove it.

Then spread the word through the grass roots, such as they are. Upgrade your status and mollify the binary. Or else you’ll just be stuck in a rhetorical limbo as something temporary and in transit. Not good for you, not good for Japan.

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

Debito’s most recent publication is “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance” in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (japanfocus.org/site/view/3907) Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Pages of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp.

My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

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Hi Blog. Here’s my latest publication, which came out last Sunday, elaborating more on the historical arc of Japan’s rightward swing I have already talked about journalistically in three recent Japan Times columns:

Here is how I see the build up to what came to fruition with PM Abe and his cadre’s reinstatement to power last December.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////////////////
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
日本の右傾化と鳥取県人権条例

By Arudou Debito

ABSTRACT
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.

This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.

Keywords: Japan, human rights, Tottori, racial discrimination, suffrage, minorities, Japanese politics, elections, xenophobia, right wing

Introduction

As has been written elsewhere (cf. Arudou 2005; 2006a; 2006b et al.), Japan has no law in its Civil or Criminal Code specifically outlawing or punishing racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu). With respect to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which Japan adopted in 1996), Japan has explicitly stated to the United Nations that it does not need such a law: “We do not recognize that the present situation of Japan is one in which discriminative acts cannot be effectively restrained by the existing legal system and in which explicit racial discriminative acts, which cannot be restrained by measures other than legislation, are conducted. Therefore, penalization of these acts is not considered necessary.” (MOFA 2001: 5.1)

However, in 2005, a regional government, Tottori Prefecture northwest of Ōsaka, did pass a local ordinance (jōrei) explicitly punishing inter alia discrimination by race. What happened to that law shortly afterwards provides a cautionary tale, demonstrating how public fear of granting any power to Non-Japanese occasioned the ordinance to be rescinded shortly afterwards. This article describes the defeat of a similar bill on a national scale, the public reaction to Tottori’s ordinance and the series of events that led to its withdrawal. The aftermath led to the stigmatization of any liberalization favoring more rights for Non-Japanese.

Prelude: The Protection of Human Rights Bill debates of the mid-2000s

Throughout the 2000s, there was a movement to enforce the exclusionary parameters of Japanese citizenship by further reinforcing the status quo disenfranchising non-citizens. For example, one proposal that would have enfranchised non-citizens by giving them more rights was the Protection of Human Rights Bill (jinken yōgo hōan). It was an amalgamation of several proposals (including the Foreign Residents’ Basic Law (gaikokujin jūmin kihon hō)) that would have protected the rights of residents regardless of nationality, ethnic status, or social origin.

Read the rest at http://japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito/3907

Other Japan Focus articles by Arudou Debito at http://japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito

3907 Arudou Debito

Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance

2708 Arudou DebitoA. Higuchi

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan

2559 Arudou Debito

Japan’s Future as an International, Multicultural Society: From Migrants to Immigrants

2386 Arudou Debito

Gaijin Hanzai Magazine and Hate Speech in Japan: The Newfound Power of Japan’s International Residents

2078 Arudou Debito

The Coming Internationalization: Can Japan assimilate its immigrants?

1743 Arudou Debito

JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against “Foreigners” in Japan

Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm

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Hi Blog. Something I came across during my readings. Thought you might find it interesting.

Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.

Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year).  This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).

Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm.

These are excerpts from Kashiwazaki Chikako (Associate Professor of Sociology at Keio University). 2000. “Citizenship in Japan: Legal Practice and Contemporary Development.” In T. Alexander Aleinikoff, and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds., From Migrants to Citizens: Membership in a Changing World. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pp. 434-74.

Regarding trends in immigration policies for Japan’s developed-country brethren:

Comparative research suggests that citizenship policies might be effectively employed for the integration of immigrants in a democratic society.  Citizenship policies in a broad sense include rules for not only the attribution of full, formal citizenship but also the admission of legal migrants and the extension of “partial” citizenship for resident aliens.  The Japanese case is similar to other advanced industrial countries in that recent labor migration represents south-north migration or migration from developing countries to developed countries.  Experiences of Western European countries in particular provide useful points of comparison when studying the case of Japan, because Japan in its modern national state form was constructed by an indigenous majority group rather than by immigrants, as in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Contemporary debates about citizenship policies in Western European countries have their roots in immigration in the post-WWII era.  In response to sharp increases in the immigrant population, governments of these countries restricted admission and encouraged return migration in the 1970s.  The result was the settlement of former “temporary” workers and an increase in family reunification.  As immigrants were becoming a permanent feature of the society, host countries in Western Europe turned increasingly toward incorporation.  Over time, foreign workers and their families obtained a greater scope of citizenship rights.  Referred to as “denizens”, resident aliens with permanent status enjoy extensive civil and social citizenship rights, if not electoral rights on the national level. 

Denizens, however, do not possess full citizenship, notably full political rights.  For fuller integration of immigrants into a democratic political community, it becomes important to give them the opportunity for them to obtain full citizenship, not just denizenship.” (435-6)

Regarding the claim that Japan is “not an outlier” in terms of conferring nationality by blood ties, and the frequent defense that “other rich countries, such as Germany, also do it”, consider this:

“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 [Japan has no “as-of-right acquisition” system; i.e., 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)

Regarding the GOJ’s intolerance of dual nationality:

“The current international trend in coordinating nationalities is to have a greater degree of tolerance for the incidence of multiple nationality than for statelessness. The principle of “one nationality for everyone” is therefore increasingly understood to mean at least one nationality, rather than “only one,” for each person. Furthermore, migrant-sending countries have tended to support dual nationality, which would allow their nationals to retain close relationships with their country of origin while enjoying full rights and protection in the host country. Outside Europe, Mexico’s recent move to allow dual nationality for those who became naturalized U.S citizens is another example. Insisting on the desirability of “only one” nationality, the official stance of the Japanese government, therefore deviates from the current international norm.” (451)

Regarding official policy for migration and integration:

“The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.” (443)

The justifications, when proffered by the Ministry of Justice all the way back in 1959, still resonate today as current:

“Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. This is all the more so because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.” (MOJ Shutsunyuukoku Kanri, 1959, pg. 3) (441).

So there you have it, from another researcher. It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay.  So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”.

In any case, it’s not a matter of being “socially accepted” by our peers — friendships on the individual level can happen.  The problem is more a matter of allowing NJ to take our place in the hierarchy — allowing for NJ and former NJ to have some transference of power and rights to them (such as letting them become sempai) in Japan beyond alien status, beyond mere “partial citizenship” and “Denizenship” through increasingly-tougher Permanent Residency, but into granting full citizenship with extensive civil and social citizenship rights while allowing them to keep their ethnic identity.  But no.  NJ are not to be trusted, because they might, unlike Japanese, commit crime or engage in immoral conduct.  As Kashiwazaki indicates above, those systematic and persistent exclusionary attitudes are outliers amongst Japan’s developed-country brethren.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  Okay, one more researcher weighs in, pithily.  From the same book, Part Four Introduction, pp. 383-5, by Aristide R. Zolberg, who writes in comparative perspective:

“Japan and Israel surely stand out as the ‘odd couple’ of the comparative citizenship project, each of them being an outlier in which one element of citizenship policy has been extrapolated into a dominant feature.  In short, Japan comes closer than any other economically advanced constitutional democracy to retaining a fundamentalist version of jus sanguinis, and the ‘blood’ involved is the immediate and concrete one of family or lineage, rather than merely the usual ‘imagined’ national community.” (385)

ends

Wash Post: US teacher in Japan under attack from Internet bullies for lessons on Japan’s history of racial discrimination

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Hi Blog. Here we have a case of cyberbullying by Japan’s nasty Internet denizens who do not wish the inconvenient truth of Japan’s racism (a subset of the stripe found in every country and every society) to be discussed or thought about. It made the Washington Post.  Comments by me follow the article:

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

American teacher in Japan under fire for lessons on Japan’s history of discrimination

Posted by Max Fisher on February 22, 2013 at 6:00 am

Courtesy http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/02/22/american-teacher-in-japan-under-fire-for-lessons-on-japans-history-of-discrimination/ and Medama Sensei

Miki Dezaki in his Okinawa classroom. He says very few students raised their hands at first. (Screenshot from YouTube by Washington Post)

Miki Dezaki in his Okinawa classroom. He says very few students raised their hands at first. (Screenshot by Washington Post)

Miki Dezaki, who first arrived in Japan on a teacher exchange program in 2007, wanted to learn about the nation that his parents had once called home. He taught English, explored the country and affectionately chronicled his cross-cultural adventures on social media, most recently on YouTube, where he gained a small following for videos like “Hitchhiking Okinawa” and the truly cringe-worthy “What Americans think of Japan.” One of them, on the experience of being gay in Japan, attracted 75,000 views and dozens of thoughtful comments.

Dezaki didn’t think the reaction to his latest video was going to be any different, but he was wrong. “If I should have anticipated something, I should have anticipated the netouyu,” [sic] he told me, referring to the informal army of young, hyper-nationalist Japanese Web users who tend to descend on any article — or person — they perceive as critical of Japan.

But before the netouyu put Dezaki in their crosshairs, sending him death threats and hounding his employers, previous employers and even the local politicians who oversee his employers, there was just a teacher and his students.

Dezaki began his final lesson with a 1970 TV documentary, Eye of the Storm, often taught in American schools for its bracingly honest exploration of how good-hearted people — in this case, young children participating in an experiment — can turn to racism. After the video ended, he asked his students to raise their hands if they thought racism existed in Japan. Almost none did. They all thought of it as a uniquely American problem.

Gently, Dezaki showed his students that, yes, there is also racism in Japan. He carefully avoided the most extreme and controversial cases — for example, Japan’s wartime enslavement of Korean and other Asian women for sex, which the country today doesn’t fully acknowledge — pointing instead to such slang terms as “bakachon camera.” The phrase, which translates as “idiot Korean camera,” is meant to refer to disposable cameras so easy to use that even an idiot or a Korean could do it.

He really got his students’ attention when he talked about discrimination between Japanese groups. People from Okinawa, where Dezaki happened to be teaching, are sometimes looked down upon by other Japanese, he pointed out, and in the past have been treated as second-class citizens. Isn’t that discrimination?

“The reaction was so positive,” he recalled. For many of them, the class was a sort of an a-ha moment. “These kids have heard the stories of their parents being discriminated against by the mainland Japanese. They know this stuff. But the funny thing is that they weren’t making the connection that that was discrimination.” From there, it was easier for the students to accept that other popular Japanese attitudes about race or class might be discriminatory.

The vice principal of the school said he wished more Japanese students could hear the lesson. Dezaki didn’t get a single complaint. No one accused him of being an enemy of Japan.

That changed a week ago. Dezaki had recorded his July classes and, last Thursday, posted a six-minute video in which he narrated an abbreviated version of the lesson. It opens with a disclaimer that would prove both prescient and, for his critics, vastly insufficient. “I know there’s a lot of racism in America, and I’m not saying that America is better than Japan or anything like that,” he says. Here’s the video:

Also on Thursday, Dezaki posted the video, titled “Racism in Japan,” to the popular link-sharing site Reddit under its Japan-focused subsection, where he often comments. By this Saturday, the netouyu had discovered the video.

“I recently made a video about Racism in Japan, and am currently getting bombarded with some pretty harsh, irrational comments from Japanese people who think I am purposefully attacking Japan,” Dezaki wrote in a new post on Reddit’s Japan section, also known as r/Japan. The critics, he wrote, were “flood[ing] the comments section with confusion and spin.” But angry Web comments would turn out to be the least of his problems.

The netouyu make their home at a Web site called ni channeru, otherwise known as ni chan, 2chan or 2ch. Americans familiar with the bottommost depths of the Internet might know 2chan’s English-language spin-off, 4chan, which, like the original, is a message board famous for its crude discussions, graphic images (don’t open either on your work computer) and penchant for mischief that can sometimes cross into illegality.

Some 2chan users, perhaps curious about how their country is perceived abroad, will occasionally translate Reddit’s r/Japan posts into Japanese. When the “Racism in Japan” video made it onto 2chan, outraged users flocked to the comments section on YouTube to attempt to discredit the video. They attacked Dezaki as “anti-Japanese” and fumed at him for warping Japanese schoolchildren with “misinformation.”

Inevitably, at least one death threat appeared. Though it was presumably idle, like most threats made anonymously over the Web, it rattled him. Still, it’s no surprise that the netouyu’s initial campaign, like just about every effort to change a real-life debate by flooding some Web comments sections, went nowhere. So they escalated.

A few of the outraged Japanese found some personal information about Dezaki, starting with his until-then-secret real name and building up to contact information for his Japanese employers. Given Dezaki’s social media trail, it probably wasn’t hard. They proliferated the information using a file-sharing service called SkyDrive, urging fellow netouyu to take their fight off the message boards and into Dezaki’s personal life.

By Monday, superiors at the school in Japan were e-mailing him, saying they were bombarded with complaints. Though the video was based almost entirely on a lecture that they had once praised, they asked him to pull it down.

“Some Japanese guys found out which school I used to work at and now, I am being pressured to take down the ‘Racism in Japan’ video,” Dezaki posted on Reddit. “I’m not really sure what to do at this point. I don’t want to take down the video because I don’t believe I did anything wrong, and I don’t believe in giving into bullies who try to censor every taboo topic in Japan. What do you guys think?”

He decided to keep the video online, but placed a message over the first few sentences that, in English and Japanese, announce his refusal to take it down.

But the outrage continued to mount, both online and in the real world. At one point, Dezaki says he was contacted by an official in Okinawa’s board of education, who warned that a member of Japan’s legislature might raise it on the floor of the National Diet, Japan’s lower house of parliament. Apparently, the netouyu may have succeeded in elevating the issue from a YouTube comments field to regional and perhaps even national Japanese politics.

“I knew there were going to be some Japanese upset with me, but I didn’t expect this magnitude of a problem,” Dezaki said. “I didn’t expect them to call my board of education. That said, I wasn’t surprised, though. You know what I mean? They’re insane people.”

Nationalism is not unique to Japan, but it is strong there, tinged with the insecurity of a once-powerful nation on the decline and with the humiliation of defeat and American occupation at the end of World War II. Japan’s national constitution, which declares the country’s commitment to pacifism and thus implicitly maintains its reliance on the United States, was in some ways pressed on the country by the American military government that ruled it for several years. The Americans, rather than Japan’s own excesses, make an easy culprit for the country’s lowered global status.

That history is still raw in Japan, where nationalism and resentment of perceived American control often go hand-in-hand. Dezaki is an American, and his video seems to have hit on the belief among many nationalists that the Americans still condescend to, and ultimately seek to control, their country.

“I fell in love with Japan; I love Japan,” Dezaki says, explaining why he made the video in the first place. “And I want to see Japan become a better place. Because I do see these potential problems with racism and discrimination.” His students at Okinawa seemed to benefit from the lesson, but a number of others don’t seem ready to hear it.

ENDS
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COMMENT BY DEBITO: Miki Dezaki contacted me last week for some advice about how to deal with this (I watched the abovementioned video on “Racism in Japan” and found it to be a valuable teaching aid, especially since it reconnected me with “Eye of the Storm“, the original of which I saw in grade school four decades ago); the only major problem I have with it is that it neglects to mention current stripes of racism against immigrants and Visible Minorities in Japan), and told him to stand his ground. Now the “Netouyo” (Netto Uyoku, or Internet Right-Wing, misspelled throughout the article above) have stepped up their pressure and attacks on him, and authorities aren’t being courageous enough to stand up to them. Now that his issue has been published in the Washington Post, I can quote this article and let that represent the debate.

The focus of the debate is this:  a perpetual weak spot regarding bullying in Japanese society.  We have loud invisible complainants cloaked by the Internet, who can espouse hateful sentiments against people and shout down historical and current social problems, and they aren’t simply ignored and seen as the cowards they are: anonymous bullies who lack the strength of their convictions to appear in public and take responsibility for their comments and death threats. People in authority must learn to ignore them, for these gnats only get further emboldened by any attention and success they receive.  The implicit irony in all of this is that they take advantage of the right to “freedom of speech” to try and deny the same rights to those they merely disagree with.  I hope that sense prevails and the debate is allowed to proceed and videos stay up.  Miki has done admirable work making all this information (including translations into Japanese) on uncomfortable truths accessible to a Japanese audience.  Bravo, Miki.  Stand your ground.  Debito.org Readers, please lend your support.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE MARCH 3: MIKI DEZAKI RESPONDS TO CRITICS, REFUSES TO TAKE HIS VIDEOS DOWN. BRAVO

Donald Richie passes away at age 88. Saluting one of our pioneering Japanologist brethren

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Hi Blog. I just want to say a brief word of thanks to Donald Richie for a life well lived on the occasion of his passing (thanks AS for the notification) yesterday at age 88. We’ll add articles as they come out in commemoration, but here’s the first brief one from Yahoo News/Asahi Digital:

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http://dailynews.yahoo.co.jp/fc/entertainment/movie/?1361296907

ドナルド・リチーさん死去 黒沢・小津らを海外に紹介
朝日新聞デジタル 2月19日(火)20時2分配信
黒沢明、小津安二郎、溝口健二ら日本映画の質の高さを海外に紹介した米国出身の映画評論家ドナルド・リチーさんが、19日午後1時26分、東京都内の病院で死去した。88歳だった。

米オハイオ州生まれ。1946年に来日し、米軍機関紙スターズ・アンド・ストライプスの記者に。コロンビア大進学のため帰国し、54年に再来日。英字紙ジャパンタイムズなどで映画評を執筆した。59年、外国語による最初の体系的日本映画論「ザ・ジャパニーズ・フィルム」(共著)を発表。カンヌ国際映画祭の溝口特集に企画協力するなど、欧米での日本映画への関心を高めることに貢献した。

68~73年には米ニューヨーク近代美術館の映画部長を務め、日本映画の大規模上映を実現した。主な著書に「映画のどこをどう読むか」「黒沢明の映画」「小津安二郎の美学」など。83年、第1回川喜多賞。実験映画作家の顔も持ち、舞踏の土方巽、作曲家の武満徹らの協力で前衛的な作品を制作した。

朝日新聞社
最終更新:2月19日(火)22時58分

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The era of the pioneering Immediate Postwar hands-on Japanologists is truly and inevitably coming to an end. First Edwin Reischauer (long ago in 1990; I managed to meet him and host a talk by him and his wife Haru at UCSD in 1989), then Edward Seidensticker (2007), now Donald Richie (for whom Debito.org has had praise for in the past for his healthy attitude of “swallowing Japan whole”; I met him about ten years ago and had a very good conversation; he also kindly lavished praise on HANDBOOK). Of the very famous ones, Donald Keene is basically the last one standing.  And I don’t think I will be able to eulogize that Donald in the same way.

I will miss Donald Richie. Feel free to append articles and your thoughts below. Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 60, Feb 4, 2013: “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer”

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Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer
By ARUDOU, Debito
The Japan Times, February 4, 2013
Column 60 for the Japan Times Community Page
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/02/04/issues/keep-abes-hawks-in-check-or-japan-and-asia-will-suffer, version with links to sources below

On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.

I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.

So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time.

Recall how Abe fluffed his first chance between 2006-7 — so badly that he made it onto a list of “Japan’s top 10 most useless PMs” (Light Gist, Sept. 27, 2011) on these pages. The Cabinet he selected was a circus of embarrassments (e.g., after his corrupt agriculture minister claimed ¥5 million for “office utility expenses,” the replacement then claimed expenses for no office at all, and the next replacement only lasted a week), with gaffe after gaffe from an elitist old-boy club whittling away Abe’s approval ratings.

Abe himself was famously incapacitated with diarrhea (spending hours a day on the john) as well as logorrhea, where his denials of wartime sexual slavery (i.e., the “comfort women”) were denounced even by Japan’s closest geopolitical allies. Finally, after the LDP was trounced in a 2007 Upper House election, Abe suddenly resigned one week after reshuffling his Cabinet, beginning a pattern of a one-year tenure for all subsequent Japanese PMs.

However, Abe did accomplish one important conservative reform in 2006: amending the Fundamental Law of Education. The law now clearly states that a right to education in Japan is restricted to “us Japanese citizens” (ware ware Nihon kokumin — i.e., excluding foreigners), while references to educational goals developing individuality have been removed in favor of education that transmits “tradition,” “culture” and “love of nation.”

In other words, building on Japan’s enforced patriotism launched by former PM Keizo Obuchi from 1999 (e.g., schoolteachers and students are now technically required to demonstrate public respect to Japan’s flag and national anthem or face official discipline), vague mystical elements of “Japaneseness” are now formally enshrined in law to influence future generations.

That’s one success story from Abe’s rightist to-do list. He has also called for the “reconsideration” of the 1993 and 1995 official apologies for wartime sexual slavery (even pressuring NHK to censor its historical reportage on it in 2001), consistently denied the Nanjing Massacre, advocated children’s textbooks instill “love” of “a beautiful country” by omitting uglier parts of the past, and declared his political mission as “recovering Japan’s independence” (dokuritsu no kaifuku) in the postwar order.

Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”

Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents).

Abe alone is a prominent leader (if not a charter member) of almost all the ultra-rightist groups mentioned. Whenever I read rightwing propaganda, Abe’s face or name invariably pops up as a spokesman or symbol. He’s a big carp in a small swamp, and in a liberal political environment would have been consigned to a radical backwater of fringe ideologues.

But these are dire times for Japan, what with decades of stagnation, insuperable natural and man-made disasters, and the shame of no longer being Asia’s largest economy. The glory of Japan’s regional peerlessness is gone.

That’s why I have little doubt that the LDP saw this perfect storm of 3/11 disasters (which, given how corrupt the unelected bureaucracy has been after Fukushima, would have led to the trouncing of any party in power) as perfect timing to reinstall someone like Abe. Why else, except for Abe’s thoroughbred political pedigree (grandson of a suspected Class-A war criminal turned postwar PM, and son of another big LDP leader whose name is on international fellowships) and sustained leadership of back-room interest groups, would they choose for a second time this jittery little man with a weak stomach?

Why? Because LDP kingpins knew that people were so desperate for change last year they would have elected a lampshade. After all, given the nature of parliamentary systems, people vote more for (or, in this case, against) a party, less for an individual party leader. Moreover, Abe, at first glance, does not seem as extreme as the “restorationists” (Shintaro Ishihara et al) who wish to take Japan back to prewar glories by banging war drums over territorial sea specks. So, the lesser of two evils.

But look at the record more closely and these “liberal democrats” and restorationists are actually birds of a feather. Now more powerful than ever, they’re getting to work on dismantling postwar Japan. Abe announced on Jan. 31 that he will seek to amend Article 96 of the Constitution, which currently requires a two-thirds Diet majority to approve constitutional changes. That’s entirely possible. Then the rest of Japan’s “Peace Constitution” will follow.

So I end this month’s column with a caution to outside observers:

The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.

One of the basic lessons of chess is that if you allow your opponent to accomplish his plans, you will lose. If Abe is not kept in check, Asia will lose: Japan will cease to be a liberal presence in the region. In fact, given its wealth and power in terms of money and technology, Japan could become a surprisingly destabilizing geopolitical force. Vigilance, everyone.

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

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012′s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp .

ENDS

Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few Debito.org-esque comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

genderpaygapasia2005
Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito

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Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: January 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/beate-gordon-feminist-heroine-in-japan-dies-at-89.html
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
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In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10060 https://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
https://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=9265
https://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: https://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10010
https://www.debito.org/?p=10497
https://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10414
https://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips https://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
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After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=9745
https://www.debito.org/?p=9756
https://www.debito.org/?p=10706
https://www.debito.org/?p=10428
https://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10055
https://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid.  As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down!  They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan.  And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.

That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.

Immediately below is the article I’m referring to.  Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots.  According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants.  Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan.  But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.”  This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted!  Why?  As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…  Arudou Debito

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

Japan to receive no Myanmar refugee this year
via NHK
Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012
http://www.houseofjapan.com/local/japan-to-receive-no-myanmar-refugee-this-year

All 16 people on a list of Myanmar refugees preparing to enter Japan have dropped out of the program. They have decided to remain in a camp in northwestern Thailand.

The 16, from 3 families, said they were worried about life in Japan. They had already quit studying Japanese language and culture.

The Japanese government started the program 2 years ago to help refugees who escaped from conflicts and persecutions in their home countries.

45 people from 9 families have used the program to move to Japan.

One of those leaving the program this year said he wanted his children to study technology in Japan, but was concerned that he had no support network in the country.

He had planned to move to Japan with his wife and 4 children.

Myanmar’s democratization has convinced some refugees to return home.

The Japanese government says it plans to continue the program next year.

ENDS

Now for the political intrigue:

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

JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999
Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime (excerpt)
by Donald M. Seekins
http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

Japanese people often claim that their nation has a “special relationship” with Burma. Most older Japanese think of Michio Takeyama’s novel Biruma no tategoto (translated by Howard Hibbett as Harp of Burma), the story of Private Mizushima, a good-hearted soldier who is separated from his comrades and dons the robes of a Buddhist monk. When his unit is repatriated to Japan after the war, he refuses to go with them, staying behind to take care of the remains of the Japanese war-dead. As many as 190,000 Japanese soldiers died in Burma in 1941-1945, and groups of veterans regularly visit the country to relive old memories and pray at the graves of fallen comrades.[…]

The most important legacy of the Japanese occupation was the establishment of a powerful national army, Tatmadaw in Burmese, which grew out of the BIA and was largely modeled on Japanese rather than British lines. Many of its officers studied at Japanese military academies during the war. Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, a leading member of the military junta that has ruled Burma since September 1988, commented in November 1988, “We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our struggle for national independence” and “We will remember that our Tatmadaw [army] was born in Japan.”1 Ethnic minorities like the Karens and Shans who have experienced the Tatmadaw’s counterinsurgency campaigns in the border areas claim that its brutal behavior was inspired by the Imperial Japanese Army.[…]

Postwar Economic Ties

Postwar relations between Japan and Burma were primarily economic in nature. Official ties began in 1954, after Tokyo and the U Nu government signed a peace treaty and a war reparations agreement, which brought the struggling young state some US$250 million in Japanese goods and services, supplemented by “quasi-reparations” amounting to US$132 million between 1965 and 1972. Tokyo allocated these additional “quasi-reparations” (jun baisho) on the grounds that the original funds were insufficient compared to those given other Asian countries.

During this period, many Japanese who went to Burma as diplomats or technical advisers fell in love with the country. Back home, they were called biru-kichi (Biruma-kichigai, “crazy about Burma”), a remarkable attitude given the condescension with which most Japanese officials regarded their poor Asian neighbors. Japanese were impressed by the professionalism and honesty of Burma’s civil servants, who used reparation funds conscientiously, in contrast to some other recipient governments.

Many Japanese also identified with the country because of shared Buddhist values, although the schools of Buddhism (Theravada in Burma, Mahayana in Japan) are different. Their social ethics are similar, however, stressing respect for elders and educated people, strong family ties, and a sense of mutual obligation. But while Japan had rapidly modernized and is losing many of these traditional values, Burma seemed to have preserved them uncorrupted by modernity.

According to the well-known business guru Ken’ichi Ohmae, who visited Burma in 1997 with a Japanese business delegation and was a quick convert to the biru-kichi mindset, “Even I, with much contact with many Asian countries, have seen no other country in Asia whose morality is so firmly grounded in Buddhism.”2 Ohmae compares Burma favorably with China where allegedly “they do everything for money.” Burma also evokes his nostalgia for Japan’s rural past: “Seeing the lives of the people in Myanmar [Burma], I remembered Japan in previous years. I was raised in the countryside in Kyushu, where children always walked around barefoot, the lights were not electric, and the bathrooms had no running water. The current Myanmar mirrors these memories of farming villages in Japan.” While biru-kichi is a refreshing alternative to the insular Japan-is-unique worldview, it is not unmixed with other motives, as the title of Ohmae’s November 26, 1997, article in Sapio (magazine) suggests: “Cheap and Hardworking Laborers: This country Will Be Asia’s Best.” […]

Many inside Japan’s business world–and their supporters in academia and the media–seem to share a common goal with the junta: discrediting Aung San’s daughter. Given her central role in the struggle for democracy, it is not an exaggeration to say that if she could be marginalized and lost the support of the international community, big corporations in Japan and elsewhere would find it easy to get their governments to snuggle closer to the junta. Without Suu Kyi, full economic engagement and recognition would surely follow swiftly.

Kazushige Kaneko, director of an obscure Institute of Asian Ethnoforms and Culture in Tokyo, repeats the junta’s racist charges that Aung San Suu Kyi sold out her country by marrying a foreigner, the late Oxford professor Dr. Michael Aris. He writes, “For example, if Makiko Tanaka [the daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and today a member of the Diet] stayed in America for thirty years and returned with a blue-eyed American husband and children, do you think we Japanese would make her our prime minister?” (The Asia 21 Magazine, Fall 1996).

Nor is the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi confined to fringe figures. In an April 1995 article published in Bungei Shunju, Yusuke Fukada claims that Burmese are sending out a “love call” (rabu kooru) to Japan for economic assistance and that Suu Kyi is the only real obstacle to better relations. The reason she is so uncompromising with the military regime, Fukada argues, is her marriage to an Englishman. “If she had married a Japanese, she would have made quite different decisions.” In the June 1996 issue of Shokun, Keio University Professor Atsushi Kusano expresses amazement that Suu Kyi has become a figure of international stature, attributing it to a campaign by the mass media.8 […]

Two factors seem to account for Japan’s ambiguous Burma policy. One is the strength of its business interests, counterbalanced by pressure from Japan’s Western trading partners who take a less indulgent stance toward the junta. Some observers cynically suggest that Western governments, especially Washington, act as Tokyo’s “superego” on human rights, inhibiting it from pursuing its usual economics-first policies. But Liberal Democratic Party cabinets cannot ignore business interests, which have been stepping up pressure for full engagement since 1989, using means both fair and foul. The best of both worlds for policymakers in Japan would be a transition to civilian rule, either involving Aung San Suu Kyi or someone else. This could legitimize more active aid policies as well as greater investment by Japanese companies. But given the political situation, this is unlikely to happen soon.

Second, if Tokyo strongly supported the democracy movement in Burma, this would inevitably reflect on its policies toward other countries such as China and Indonesia, where the stakes for Japan are much higher. Some Americans have criticized their own government’s inconsistency on this matter: the Clinton Administration maintains sanctions on little-known Burma but maintains full economic engagement with the regime in Beijing.

Japanese elites are not used to and do not like open debate, especially on foreign policy. Some members of the Diet are interested in Burma, both pro- and anti-junta, but the issues are rarely discussed, even the junta’s misuse of debt relief funds for the procurement of weapons. Bureaucrats and LDP bigwigs keep policy initiatives to themselves, which means that their actions often appear incomprehensible or arbitrary to outsiders, including Japanese citizens. The flap over so-called humanitarian aid for Rangoon’s airport is an example of this. In a way, Tokyo’s Burma policy, deeply influenced by the sentimental Orientalism of the business world and its allies, says as much about the limitations of Japanese-style democracy as it does about the lack of democracy in Burma.

Full article at http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

ENDS

Archiving Tottori’s 2005 Jinken Ordinance (the first and only one ever passed, then UNpassed, penalizing racial discrimination in Japan) to keep it in the historical record

mytest

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Hi Blog. Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record.

On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders.  Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010.  It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3.

However, the counterattack was immediate.  The major local newspaper in the neighboring prefecture, the Chūgoku Shimbun (Hiroshima), claimed in its October 14 editorial entitled, “We must monitor this ordinance in practice,” that the ordinance would “in fact shackle (sokubaku) human rights.”  Accusations flew that assemblypersons had not read the bill properly, or had supported abstract ideals without thinking them through. Others said the governor had not explained to the people properly what he was binding them to.  Internet petitions blossomed to kill the bill.  Some sample complaints (with my counterarguments in parenthesis, for brevity):  a) The ordinance had only been deliberated upon in the Assembly for a week (though it was first brought up in 2003 and discussed in committees throughout 2005); b) The ordinance’s definitions of human rights violations were too vague, and could hinder the media in, for example, investigating politicians for corruption (even though the ordinance’s Clause 31 clearly states that freedom of the press must be respected); c) Since the investigative committee was not an independent body, reporting only to the Governor, this could encourage arbitrary decisions and cover-ups (similar to the Bureau of Human Rights, which reports only to the secretive Ministry of Justice); d) This invests judicial and policing powers in an administrative organ, a violation of the separation of powers (which means that no oversight committee in Japan is allowed to have enforcement power — but this calls into question the many other ordinances in Japan, such as those governing garbage disposal, mandating fines and incarceration).

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren) sounded the ordinance’s death knell in its official statement of November 2, 2005: Too much power had been given the governor, constricting the people and media under arbitrary guidelines, under a committee chief who could investigate by diktat, overseeing a bureaucracy that could refuse to be investigated.  This called into question the policymaking discretion of the committees that had originally drafted it, and the common sense of the 35 Assemblymembers who overwhelmingly passed it.  The government issued an official Q&A to allay public concern, and the Governor said problems would be dealt with as they arose, but the original supporters of the ordinance, feeling the media-sponsored and internet-fomented pressure, did not stand up to defend it.  In December and January 2006, the prefecture convoked informal discussion groups containing the Vice-Governor, two court counselors, four academics, and five lawyers (but no human rights activists), where arguments to rescind the bill included how appointed untrained public administrators ostensibly cannot act as judges.  On March 24, 2006, less than six months after passing the ordiance, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly voted unanimously to suspend it indefinitely.  “We should have brought up cases to illustrate specific human rights violations.  The public did not seem to understand what we were trying to prevent,” said Mr. Ishiba, a representative of the Tottori Governor’s office.  “They should have held town meetings to raise awareness about what discrimination is, and created separate ordinances for each type of discrimination,” said Assemblywoman Ozaki Kaoru, who voted against the bill both times.  Governor Katayama resigned his governorship in April 2007, saying that ten years in office was enough.  The ordinance was later resubmitted to committees in 2007, where it was voted down for the last time. As of this writing, the text of the ordinance, Japan’s first legislation explicitly penalizing racial discrimination, has been removed entirely from the Tottori Prefectural website.

The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan.  So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable:

Courtesy http://web.archive.org/web/20080329214102/http://www.pref.tottori.jp/jinken/jorei-kyusai.html

とりネッ ト >  人権局 > 鳥取県人権 侵害救済推進及び手続に関する条例

鳥取県人権侵害救済推進及び手続に関する条例

目次

  • 第1章  総則(第1条−第3条)
  • 第2章  人権侵害救済推進委員会(第4条−第15条)
  • 第3章  人権侵害に対する救済手続(第16条−第28条)
  • 第4章  適用上の配慮(第29条−第33条)
  • 附則

第1章 総則

  • (目的)
    第1条  この条例は、人権の侵害により発生し、又は発生するおそれのある被害の適正かつ迅速な救済又はその実効的な予防に関する措 置を講ずることにより、人権が尊重される社会の実現に寄与することを目的とする。
  • (定義)
    第2条  この条例において「人権侵害」とは、次条の規定に違反する行為をいい、行政機関による同条の規定に違反する行為を含むもの とする。
    2  この条例において「虐待」とは、身体に外傷が生じ、若しくは生じるおそれのある暴行、心理的外傷を与える言動若しくは性的いや がらせをし、又は養育若しくは介護を著しく怠り、若しくは放棄することをいう。
    3  この条例において「人種等」とは、人種、民族、信条、性別、社会的身分、門地、障害、疾病又は性的指向をいう。
    4  この条例において「社会的身分」とは、出生により決定される社会的な地位をいう。
    5  この条例において「障害」とは、継続的に日常生活又は社会生活が相当な制限を受ける程度の身体障害、知的障害又は精神障害をい う。
    6  この条例において「疾病」とは、その発症により日常生活又は社会生活が制限を受ける状態となる感染症その他の疾患をいう。
  • (人権侵害の禁止)
    第3条  何人も、次に掲げる行為をしてはならない。
    (1) 人種等を理由として行う不当な差別的取扱い又は差別的言動
    (2) 特定の者に対して行う虐待
    (3) 特定の者に対し、その者の意に反して行う性的な言動又は性的な言動を受けた者の対応によりその者に不利益を与える行為
    (4) 特定の者の名誉又は社会的信用を低下させる目的で、その者を公然とひぼうし、若しくは中傷し、又はその者の私生活に関する事実、肖像そ の他の情報を公然と摘示する行為
    (5) 人の依頼を受け、報酬を得て、特定の者が有する人種等の属性に関する情報であって、その者の権利利益を不当に侵害するおそれがあるもの を収集する行為
    (6) 身体の安全又は生活の平穏が害される不安を覚えさせるような方法により行われる著しく粗野又は乱暴な言動を反復する行為
    (7) 人種等の共通の属性を有する不特定多数の者に対して当該属性を理由として不当な差別的取扱いをすることを助長し、又は誘発する目的で、 当該不特定多数の者が当該属性を有することを容易に識別することを可能とする情報を公然と摘示する行為
    (8) 人種等の共通の属性を有する不特定多数の者に対して当該属性を理由として不当な差別的取扱いをする意思を公然と表示する行為

第2章 人権侵害救済推進委員会

  • (設置)
    第4条  第1条に規定する目的を達成するため、人権侵害救済推進委員会(以下「委員会」という。)を設置する。
  • (委員会の職務)
    第5条  委員会は、人権侵害による被害の救済及び予防に関する職務を行う。
  • (組織)
    第6条  委員会は、委員5人をもって組織する。
    2  委員は、非常勤とする。
    3  委員会に委員長を置き、委員の互選によりこれを定める。
    4  委員長は、委員会の会務を総理し、委員会を代表する。
    5  委員長に事故があるとき、又は欠けたときは、委員長があらかじめ指名する委員が、その職務を代理する。
  • (任命)
    第7条  委員は、人格が高潔で人権に関して高い識見及び豊かな経験を有する者のうちから、議会の同意を得て知事が任命する。
    2  委員のうち男女いずれか一方の数は、2人以上となるように努めなければならない。
    3  委員のうちには、弁護士となる資格を有する者が含まれるように努めなければならない。
  • (任期)
    第8条  委員の任期は2年とし、再任されることができる。
    2  委員の任期が満了したときは、当該委員は、後任者が任命されるまで引き続きその職務を行うものとする。
  • (身分保障)
    第9条  委員は、次の各号のいずれかに該当する場合を除いて、在任中その意に反して解任されない。
    (1) 禁錮以上の刑に処せられたとき。
    (2) 委員会により、心身の故障のため職務の遂行ができないと認められたとき、又は職務上の義務違反その他委員たるに適しない非行があると認 められたとき。
  • (解任)
    第10条  知事は、委員が前条第1号に該当するときは、その委員を解任しなければならない。
    2  知事は、委員が前条第2号に該当するときは、議会の同意を得てその委員を解任することができる。
  • (委員の責務)
    第11条  委員は、公平かつ適切にその職務を遂行しなければならない。
    2  委員は、職務上知ることができた秘密を漏らしてはならない。その職を退いた後も、同様とする。
    3  委員は、在任中、政党その他の政治的団体の役員となり、又は積極的に政治運動をしてはならない。
  • (委員会の会議)
    第12条  委員会の会議は、委員長が招集し、その議長となる。
    2  委員会の会議は、委員の3分の2以上の出席がなければ開くことができない。
    3  委員会の議事は、出席者の3分の2以上の多数により行う。
    4  委員会は、必要があると認めるときは、事案の当事者その他の関係者、学識経験者等の出席を求め、その意見を聴くことができる。
  • (委員の除斥)
    第13条  委員は、次に掲げる場合には、その職務の執行から除斥される。
    (1) 委員又はその配偶者若しくは配偶者であった者が、事案の当事者であるとき。
    (2) 委員が、事案の当事者の四親等内の血族、三親等内の姻族若しくは同居の親族であるとき、又はあったとき。
    (3) 委員又はその配偶者若しくは二親等内の血族が、その従事する業務について事案の当事者と直接の利害関係があるとき。
    2  前項に規定する除斥の原因があるときは、委員会は、職権又は申立てにより、除斥の決定をする。
    3  除斥の申立てがあったときは、その申立てについての決定が確定するまで当該事案に係る職務の執行を停止しなければならない。
  • (報告)
    第14条  委員会は、第21条若しくは第24条第1項の規定による措置を講じたとき、又は同条第3項の規定による公表を行ったとき は、当該措置又は公表の 内容を、知事を経由してその日以降の最初の議会に報告しなければならない。
    2  委員会は、毎年度、この条例に基づく事務の処理状況について報告書を作成し、知事を経由して議会に提出しなければならない。
    3  前項の報告書には、第24条第1項の規定により行った県の機関に対する勧告について、その具体的内容を明記するものとする。
  • (事務局)
    第15条  委員会の事務を処理させるため、委員会に事務局を置く。
    2  事務局に事務局長その他の職員(以下「事務局の職員」という。)を置く。
    3  第11条及び第13条の規定は、次条第2項の規定により同条第1項の相談を行う事務局の職員及び第18 条第4項の規定により同項の調査を行う事務局の 職員について準用する。

第3章 人権侵害に対する救済手続

  • (相談)
    第16条  委員会は、人権侵害に関する問題について、相談に応ずるものとする。
    2  委員会は、委員又は事務局の職員に前項の相談を行わせることができる。
  • (救済の申立て等)
    第17条  何人も、本人が人権侵害の被害を受け、又は受けるおそれがあるときは、委員会に対し救済又は予防の申立てをすることがで きる。
    2  何人も、本人以外の者が人権侵害の被害を受け、又は受けるおそれがあることを知ったときは、委員会に対しその事実を通報するこ とができる。
    3  第1項の申立て又は前項の通報(以下「申立て又は通報」という。)は、当該申立て又は通報に係る事案が次のいずれかに該当する 場合は、行うことができ ない。
    (1) 裁判所による判決、公的な仲裁機関又は調停機関による裁決等により確定した権利関係に関するものであること。
    (2) 裁判所又は公的な仲裁機関若しくは調停機関において係争中の権利関係に関するものであること。
    (3) 行政庁の行う処分の取消し、撤廃又は変更を求めるものであること。
    (4) 申立て又は通報の原因となる事実のあった日(継続する行為にあっては、その終了した日)から1年を経過しているものであること(その間 に申立て又 は通報をしなかったことにつき正当な理由がある場合を除く。)。
    (5) 申立て又は通報の原因となる事実が本県以外で起こったものであること(人権侵害の被害を受け、又は受けるおそれのある者が県民である場 合を除 く。)。
    (6) 損害賠償その他金銭的補償を求めるものであること。
    (7) 現に犯罪の捜査の対象となっているものであること。
    (8) 関係者が不明であるものであること。
    (9) 前各号に掲げるもののほか、その性質上、申立て又は通報を行うのに適当でないものとして規則で定めるものであること。
    4  知事は、前項第9号の規則の制定又は改廃をしたときは、これを議会に報告しなければならない。
    5  申立て又は通報は、文書又は口頭ですることができる。
  • (調査)
    第18条  委員会は、前条第1項の申立てがあったときは、当該申立てに係る事案に関して必要な調査を行わなければならない。
    2  委員会は、前条第2項の通報があったときは、当該通報に係る事案に関して必要な調査を行うことができる。
    3  委員会は、人権侵害の被害の救済又は予防を図るため必要があると認めるときは、職権により調査を行うことができる。
    4  委員会は、委員又は事務局の職員に調査を行わせることができる。
    5  調査は、犯罪捜査のために認められたものと解してはならない。
  • (関係者の協力等)
    第19条  委員会は、前条に規定する調査に関し必要があると認めるときは、当該調査に係る事案に関係する者に対して、事情の聴取、 質問、説明、資料又は情 報の提供その他の必要な協力を求めることができる。
    2  前項の規定による協力の要請を受けた調査に係る事案の当事者は、法令で特段の定めがある場合その他正当な理由がある場合を除 き、当該調査に協力しなけ ればならない。
    3  第1項の規定による協力の要請を受けた関係行政機関は、当該協力の要請に応ずることが犯罪の予防、鎮圧又は捜査、公訴の維持、 刑の執行その他公共の安 全と秩序の維持(以下「公共の安全と秩序の維持」という。)に支障を及ぼすおそれがあることにつき相当の理由があると当該関係行政機関の長が認めるとき は、当該協力の要請を拒否することができる。
    4  第1項の規定による協力の要請を受けた関係行政機関は、当該協力の要請に対して事実が存在しているか否かを答えるだけで公共の 安全と秩序の維持に支障 を及ぼすおそれがあるときは、当該事実の存否を明らかにしないで、当該協力の要請を拒否することができる。
  • (調査結果の通知等)
    第20条  委員会は、第18条に規定する調査を行ったときは、当該調査に係る事案の当事者に対し、その調査結果の内容を書面により 通知するものとする。
    2  委員会は、前項の規定による通知をするときは、通知の相手方に対し、調査結果の内容について再調査を申し立てることができる旨 及び申立てをすることが できる期間を教示しなければならない。
    3  第1項の規定により通知を受けた者は、当該調査結果の内容について不服があるときは、当該通知を受けた日から2週間以内に、そ の理由を記載した書面に より、委員会に再調査を申し立てることができる。
    4  委員会は、前項の規定による申立てに理由があると認めるときは、再度第18条に規定する調査を行わなければならない。
  • (救済措置)
    第21条  委員会は、第18条に規定する調査の結果に基づき、人権侵害による被害を救済し、又は予防するため必要があると認めると きは、次に掲げる措置を 講ずるものとする。
    (1) 人権侵害の被害を受け、又は受けるおそれのある者及びその関係者(以下「被害者等」という。)に対し、必要な助言、関係公的機関又は関 係民間団体 等の紹介、あっせんその他の援助をすること。
    (2) 人権侵害を行い、若しくは行うおそれのある者又はこれを助長し、若しくは誘発する行為を行う者及びその関係者(以下「加害者等」とい う。)に対 し、当該行為に関する説示、人権尊重の理念に関する啓発その他の指導をすること。
    (3) 被害者等と加害者等の関係の調整を図ること。
    (4) 犯罪に該当すると思料される人権侵害について告発すること。
  • (調査及び救済手続に当たっての配慮)
    第22条  委員会は、第18条に規定する調査を行い、又は前条に規定する措置を講ずるに当たっては、当該調査に係る事案の当事者に よる自主的な解決に向け た取組が促進されるよう十分配慮しなければならない。
  • (調査及び救済手続の終了等)
    第23条  委員会は、調査を開始した後において、当該調査に係る事案が第17条第3項各号のいずれかに該当することが明らかになっ たときは、調査又は救済 措置を中止し、又は終了するものとする。
    2  委員会は、調査を開始した後において、人権侵害による被害が確認できず、又は生ずるおそれがないことが明らかであるときは、調 査又は救済措置を中止 し、又は終了することができる。
    3  委員会は、前2項の規定により調査又は救済措置を中止し、又は終了したときは、理由を記載した書面により、その旨を申立人又は 通報者に通知しなければ ならない。ただし、通報者の所在が匿名その他の理由により分からないときは、この限りでない。
  • (是正等の勧告等)
    第24条  委員会は、生命若しくは身体に危険を及ぼす行為、公然と繰り返される差別的言動、ひぼう若しくは中傷等の重大な人権侵害 が現に行われ、又は行わ れたと認める場合において、当該人権侵害による被害を救済し、又は予防するため必要があると認めるときは、第21条に規定する措置を講ずるほか、次に掲げ る措置を講ずるものとする。
    (1) 加害者等に対し当該人権侵害をやめ、又はこれと同様の行為を将来行わないよう勧告すること。
    (2) 加害者等に対し人権啓発に関する研修等への参加を勧奨すること。
    2  前項第1号に掲げる勧告を受けたときは、当該加害者等は、委員会に対し、当該勧告に関して行った措置を報告しなければならな い。
    3  委員会は、第1項第1号に掲げる勧告を行ったにもかかわらず、当該加害者等が正当な理由なく当該勧告に従わないときは、その旨 を公表することができ る。
    4  委員会は、第1号及び第2号に該当するときは申立人、通報者及び被害者等に、第3号に該当するときは申立人、通報者、被害者等 及び加害者等に通知する ものとする。ただし、通報者の所在が匿名その他の理由により分からないとき、その他正当な理由があるときは、この限りでない。
    (1) 第1項の規定により措置を講じたとき。
    (2) 第2項の規定により加害者等から報告があったとき。
    (3) 前項の規定により公表したとき。
  • (弁明の機会の付与等)
    第25条  委員会は、前条第1項第1号の規定による勧告又は同条第3項の規定による公表を行うときは、あらかじめ当該加害者等に対 し、弁明の機会を与えな ければならない。
    2  弁明は、委員会が口頭ですることを認めたときを除き、弁明を記載した書面(以下「弁明書」という。)を提出してするものとす る。
    3  弁明をするときは、証拠書類等を提出することができる。
  • (弁明の機会の付与の通知等)
    第26条  委員会は、弁明書の提出期限(口頭による弁明の機会の付与を行う場合は、その日時)までに相当な期間をおいて、当該加害 者等に対し、次に掲げる 事項を書面により通知するものとする。
    (1) 原因となる事実
    (2) 弁明書の提出先及び提出期限(口頭による弁明の機会の付与を行う場合には、その旨並びに出頭すべき日時及び場所)
  • (訴訟援助)
    第27条  委員会は、第18条に規定する調査に係る人権侵害の被害者等若しくはその法定代理人又はこれらの者から委託を受けた弁護 士から委員会が保有する 当該人権侵害に関する資料の閲覧又は写しの交付の申出を受けた場合において、当該人権侵害に関する請求に係る訴訟を遂行するために必要があると認めるとき は、申出をした者に当該資料(事案の当事者以外の者の権利利益を不当に侵害するおそれがある部分を除く。)の閲覧をさせ、又は写しを交付することができ る。
    2  委員会は、前項の規定により資料の閲覧をさせ、又は写しの交付をした場合において、当該被害者等が当事者となっている当該人権 侵害に関する請求に係る 訴訟の相手方若しくはその法定代理人又はこれらの者から委託を受けた弁護士から当該資料の閲覧又は写しの交付の申出を受けたときは、申出をした者にその閲 覧をさせ、又は写しを交付しなければならない。
    3  前2項の規定により資料の写しの交付を受ける者は、当該写しの作成及び送付に要する費用を負担しなければならない。
  • (罰則)
    第28条  第11条第2項(第15条第3項において準用する場合を含む。)の規定に違反して秘密を漏らした者は、1年以下の懲役又 は50万円以下の罰金に 処する。
    2  正当な理由なく第19条第2項の規定に違反して調査を拒み、妨げ、又は忌避した者は、5万円以下の過料に処する。

第4章 適用上の配慮

  • (人権相互の関係に対する配慮)
    第29条  この条例の適用に当たっては、救済の対象となる者の人権と他の者の人権との関係に十分に配慮しなければならない。
  • (不利益取扱いの禁止)
    第30条  何人も、この条例の規定による措置を求める申立てをしたことを理由として、不利益な取扱いを受けない。
  • (報道の自由に対する配慮)
    第31条  この条例の適用に当たっては、報道機関の報道又は取材の自由その他の表現の自由を最大限に尊重し、これを妨げてはならな い。
  • (個人情報の保護)
    第32条  この条例の適用に当たっては、個人情報の保護について配慮しなければならない。
  • (委任)
    第33条  この条例に定めるもののほか、この条例の施行に関し必要な事項は、規則で定める。

附則

  • (施行期日)
    1  この条例は、平成18年6月1日から施行する。ただし、次の各号に掲げる規定は、当該各号に定める日から施行する。
    (1) 第7条第1項中議会の同意を得ることに関する部分  公布の日
    (2) 第2章(第7条第1項中議会の同意を得ることに関する部分を除く。)及び第28条第1項の規定  平成18年4月 1日
    (3) 第28条第2項の規定  平成18年10月1日
  • (この条例の失効)
    2  この条例は、平成22年3月31日までに延長その他の所要の措置が講じられないときは、同日限り、その効力を失う。
  • (この条例の失効に伴う経過措置)
    3  この条例の失効の際現に第18条に規定する調査を行っている事案については、同条から第27条までの規定は、前項の規定にかか わらず、同項に規定する日 後も、なおその効力を有する。この場合においては、同日に在任する委員が、その任期にかかわらず、引き続きその職務を行うものとする。
  • 4  委員又は事務局の職員であった者が職務上知ることができた秘密については、第11条第2項及び第15 条第3項の規定は、附則第2項の規定にかかわら ず、同項に規定する日後も、なおその効力を有する。
  • 5  この条例の失効前にした行為及び前2項の規定によりなおその効力を有することとされる場合におけるこ の条例の失効後にした行為に対する罰則の適用につ いては、なお従前の例による。ENDS

BBC: Japan’s pseudoscience linking personality traits to blood types. I say it dumbs society down.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s something that’s been on my mind for years, and probably on other Readers’ minds too: The emphasis on blood in Japan in determining one’s status in society.

The BBC below talks about the hegemony of discourse in Japan linking personality traits to blood types. Most of the developed world with any social science training has debunked this. There is of course other quackery of the same ilk (horoscopes/palmistry etc.), but they are hardly taken seriously (they don’t matter in, for example, job interviews). But “blood”-based conceits encourage much more dangerous habits.  As noted below, they have historical connections with eugenics, Master-Race theories and Social Darwinism (i.e. that people can be sorted into personality “types” based upon birth-determined genotypical markers) which, in extreme cases, have led to pogroms and genocide.

Yet in Japan, blood-based theories of social behavior hold significant sway. In my opinion (based upon my current research), a conceit with “blood” not only legitimizes a lot of bad science (both physical and social), but also converts a lot of latent racializing tendencies into “old-school racism” (I say “old school” because most social scientists nowadays acknowledge that racism is a social construct, not a biological one).  In some cases, for example, one has to be “pure-blooded” in order to be, for example, a “real” Japanese. Thus it doesn’t just allegedly determine personality — it determines one’s legal standing in society. More on that from me some other time.

In any case, in society such as Japan’s that has this amount of weight put on hierarchy, having a quack science like this (so normalized that people can profit handsomely from it) avails people with poor analytical skills of one more factor to “sort, categorize, typify, and even stigmatize” people for things that are simply not their fault. It’s one more way of taking the individual out of the equation for personal behavior.

Simply put, this pseudoscience fosters horrendously bad habits. For in Japan, once the “blood type” equation is expanded beyond the allegedly “uniform and homogeneous society” trope, people become more susceptible to engaging in racial profiling towards “foreigners” — once the invisible genetic markers get expressed as visible phenotypical ones.

In sum, dumb ideas with common currency dumb down an entire society. And personality typing by blood is one of the dumbest. Arudou Debito

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

OPENING SIDEBAR

A minister quits

In July 2011, Minister for Reconstruction Ryu Matsumoto resigned after being criticised for making insensitive remarks. He blamed his blood type.

“I would like to offer my apologies for offending the people in the disaster-hit areas. I thought I was emotionally close to the disaster victims, but I lacked sufficient words and my comments were too harsh.

“My blood’s type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don’t always come across.

“My wife called me earlier to point that out. I think I need to reflect about that.”

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

Japan and blood types: Does it determine personality?
By Ruth Evans Courtesy of DK
BBC News 4 November 2012

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20170787

Are you A, B, O or AB? It is a widespread belief in Japan that character is linked to blood type. What’s behind this conventional wisdom?

Blood is one thing that unites the entire human race, but most of us don’t think about our blood group much, unless we need a transfusion. In Japan, however, blood type has big implications for life, work and love.

Here, a person’s blood type is popularly believed to determine temperament and personality. “What’s your blood type?” is often a key question in everything from matchmaking to job applications.

According to popular belief in Japan, type As are sensitive perfectionists and good team players, but over-anxious. Type Os are curious and generous but stubborn. ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable, and type Bs are cheerful but eccentric, individualistic and selfish.

About 40% of the Japanese population is type A and 30% are type O, whilst only 20% are type B, with AB accounting for the remaining 10%.

Morning television shows, newspapers and magazines often publish blood type horoscopes and discuss relationship compatibility. Many dating agencies cater to blood types, and popular anime (animations), manga (comics) and video games often mention a character’s blood type.

A whole industry of customised products has also sprung up, with soft drinks, chewing gum, bath salts and even condoms catering for different blood groups on sale.

Blood types, however, are simply determined by proteins in the blood. Although scientists regularly try to debunk these beliefs, they remain popular in Japan. One reason often given is that in a relatively uniform and homogenous society, it provides a simple framework to divide people up into easily recognisable groups.

“Being the same is considered a good thing here in Japanese society,” says translator Chie Kobayashi. “But we enjoy finding little differences that distinguish people. On the other hand, it can also lead to bad things being said about the minority B and AB types.”

It was only in 1901 that the ABO blood group system was discovered by the Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner. His Nobel prize-winning work made it possible to identify the different blood groups, paving the way for transfusions to be carried out safely.

Theorists of eugenics later hijacked his research during the inter-war years, with the Nazis using his work to further their ideas of racial supremacy.

It was also adopted by Japan’s militarist government in the 1930s to train better soldiers, and during World War II, the Imperial Army is reported to have formed battle groups according to blood type.

The study of blood types in Japan gained mass appeal with the publication of a book in the 1970s by Masahiko Nomi, who had no medical background. More recently, his son Toshitaka went on to promote it further through a series of popular books – he also runs the Institute of Blood Type Humanics. He says his aim is not to judge or stereotype people, but simply to make the best of someone’s talents and improve human relationships.

Between them, father and son have published dozens of books on the subject, not just the handful of bestsellers.

These beliefs have been used in unusual ways.

The women’s softball team that won gold for Japan at the Beijing Olympics is reported to have used blood type theories to customise training for each player. Some kindergartens have even adopted methods of teaching along blood group lines, and even major companies reportedly make decisions about assignments based on employees’ blood types.

In 1990 the Asahi Daily [sic] newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Electronics had announced the creation of a team composed entirely of AB workers, thanks to “their ability to make plans”.

These beliefs even affect politics. One former prime minister considered it important enough to reveal in his official profile that he’s a type A, whilst his opposition rival was type B. Last year a minister, Ryu Matsumoto, was forced to resign after only a week in office, when a bad-tempered encounter with local officials was televised. In his resignation speech he blamed his failings on the fact that he was blood type B.

Not everyone sees the blood type craze as simply harmless fun.

It sometimes manifests itself as prejudice and discrimination, and it seems this is so common, the Japanese now have a term for it – bura-hara, meaning blood-type harassment. There are reports of discrimination against type B and AB groups leading to children being bullied, the ending of happy relationships, and loss of job opportunities.

Despite repeated warnings, many employers continue to ask blood types at job interviews, says Terumitsu Maekawa, professor of comparative religion at Tokyo’s Asia University and author of several books about blood groups. He’s critical about sweeping popular beliefs about blood types.

“We can point out some general tendencies as a group, but you can’t say this person is good or bad because of their blood type.”

His own research, he says, is based more on empirical research rather than popular superstition. In his books he explores the theory that predominant blood types may determine religious beliefs and societal norms.

In the Western world, O and A types make up almost 85% of people, but in India and Asia, B types predominate. Japan, he says, is unusual in Asia in that it has more variety of blood types.

“A type societies tend to be characterised by monotheism such as Christianity and Judaism, with one fundamental analysis of human beings and a strong sense of societal norms. But societies dominated by B types are more prone to polytheism – like Buddhism and Hinduism – with lots of gods, and they think people are all different.”

Professor Maekawa, himself type B, says in Japan his blood group is often criticised for being too individualistic and selfish.

“It isn’t very nice. But it doesn’t annoy me or hurt me, because it has no scientific basis at all.”

In a smart state-of-the-art clinic busy with lots of people donating blood, director Akishko [sic] Akano says he’s not aware that the negative image of certain blood types has an impact on their work, or dissuades minority B and AB types from coming forward. A bigger problem in Japan’s rapidly ageing society, he says, is persuading enough young people to volunteer as blood donors.

In the next room, I find Masako, lying on a bed strapped to a quietly purring machine as a nurse takes samples. This is the eighth time she’s given blood. Her blood type is AB, which is rare as it accounts for only 10% of people in Japan.

“People sometimes don’t like me,” she tells me. “They think I am weird and strange. Lots of people tell me they don’t understand what I am thinking about.”

Although Masako laughs as she tells me this, it seems that in Japan, no amount of scientific debunking can kill the widely held notion that blood tells all.

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


CLOSING SIDEBAR
What’s your blood type?

The main blood group system is ABO, with four blood types: A, B, O, AB
Rhesus system, for which you can be positive or negative, is the second most important with regard to blood transfusions.

In total there are 32 recognised blood group systems, which all have either positive or negative indicators.

The discovery of the latest two blood types – Langereis and Junior – were announced by researchers from Vermont earlier this year.

Four books describing the different blood groups characteristics became a huge publishing sensation, selling more than five million copies.

ENDS

Wash Post: A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions (including Ezra Vogel!) — as Japan is eclipsed by an ascendant China

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan does a very good article summarizing what it was once like for us “Bubble Era” veterans, and how views of Japan were once either Japan as the perfectible society to be emulated or as the irresistible wave of the future (as in, in addition to the pop-culture economic bellwethers listed below, Michael J. Fox’s boss in BACK TO THE FUTURE II being a Japanese).  Remember?

Now, as the article indicates below, it’s all collapsed, and former boosters have now become pessimists (with even Japan championer Ezra Vogel now turning his attention to China!).  Here in Hawaii, the Chinese consumer is ascendant (look how empty most of the “Japanese Only” trolleys are nowadays in Waikiki), with the likely domination of Chinese over Japanese language on store signs fairly soon.  In this year’s remake of TOTAL RECALL, the exotic language being used in the background was no longer Japanese (a la BLADE RUNNER), but rather Chinese.  Check out the dominant kanji in this greeting card:  Mainland Chinese (with Japanese far receding).

I think this trend will continue as Japan is eclipsed not only by China but even South Korea (Gangnam Style on last week’s episode of SOUTH PARK anyone?  It’s Japan with more color and better pronunciation of diphthongs…) in terms of economics, politics, and visions of the future.

Ah well, Japan, you had your chance.  You blew it.  Arudou Debito

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

A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions
By Chico Harlan. Washington Post, October 27, 2012.  Also republished in The Japan Times.  Courtesy of WDS
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-declining-japan-loses-its-once-hopeful-champions/2012/10/27/f2d90b2e-1cea-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_story.html

TOKYO — Jesper Koll, an economist who’s lived in Japan for 26 years, says it’s not easy for him to keep faith in a country that’s shrinking, aging, stuck in protracted economic gloom and losing fast ground to China as the region’s dominant power.

“I am the last Japan optimist,” Koll said in a recent speech in Tokyo.

Indeed, the once-common species has been virtually wiped out. It was only two decades ago that Japan’s boosters — mainly foreign diplomats and authors, economists and entrepreneurs — touted the tiny nation as a global model for how to attain prosperity and power.

But the group has turned gradually into non­believers, with several of the last hold­outs losing faith only recently, as Japan has failed to carry out meaningful reforms after the March 2011 triple disaster.

The mass turnabout has helped launch an alternative — and increasingly accepted — school of thought about Japan: The country is not just in a prolonged slump but also in an inescapable decline.

There’s frequent evidence for that in economic data, and in the country’s destiny to become ever-smaller, doomed by demographics that will shrink the population from about 127 million today to 47 million in 2100, according to government data.

The current doom is a sharp reversal from several decades ago, when Japanese companies bought up Columbia Pictures and Rockefeller Center, and Americans argued whether Japan was to be feared or envied.

Like a separate but related group, known as “Japan bashers,” the optimists were bullish about Japan’s future as an economic powerhouse. But unlike the bashers, who viewed Japan as a dangerous challenger to the United States, the optimists saw Japan as a benevolent superpower — rich but peaceful, with a diligence worth emulating.

Now, when Japan is discussed, it’s instead for its unenviable fiscal problems — debt, rising social security costs, flagging trade with China because of an ongoing territorial dispute.

China, not Japan, is mentioned in U.S. presidential debates and described as the next threat to American supremacy. Japan’s government has announced record quarterly trade deficits while some of its iconic companies — Sony and Sharp — have announced staggering losses.

By 2050, Japan “will be the oldest society ever known,” with a median age of 52, according to the recent book “Megachange,” published by the Economist magazine. Even over the next decade, Japan’s aging population will drag down the gross domestic product by about 1 percent every year. That will further strain Japan’s economy, which in 2010 lost its status as the world’s second-largest, a position now claimed by China.

“If you speak optimistically about Japan, nobody even believes it,” Koll said. “They say, ‘Oh, in 600 years there will be 480 Japanese people left. The Japanese are dying out and debt is piling up for future generations.’ Japan is an easy whipping boy.”

Now a pessimist

Japan optimism became a mainstream movement with the 1979 publication of “Japan As No. 1,” an international bestseller that described the way a country the size of Montana had come to make cars as well as the Germans, watches as well as the Swiss and steel as well as the Americans — in more efficient plants. Japan’s people worked hard, its government guided the economy, and its streets were clean and crime-free.

“Japan has dealt more successfully with more of the basic problems of post­industrial society than any other country,” wrote author Ezra Vogel, a sociologist at Harvard.

But Vogel, who has lived for several periods in Japan, and has traveled here at least once a year since 1958, says he, too, has become a pessimist. Most Japanese still have a comfortable life, he says, but the political system is “an absolute mess,” juggling prime ministers almost every year. The youngest generation, its expectations sapped by years of deflation, “doesn’t have the excitement about doing things better.”

Even the promise of lifetime employment and tight cooperation between government and corporations has backfired, leaving a bureaucracy-enforced status quo that makes it hard for established companies to reform and for smaller, more creative companies to emerge.

“What I did not foresee is that the slowdown would be such a challenge — that many of the things that worked so well on the way up . . . would be so difficult on the way down,” Vogel said.

Vogel, still a professor emeritus at Harvard, says he has switched his focus in the past five years to China.

A disturbing trend

For more than a decade after Vogel’s book was published, his predictions seemed prescient. Between 1980 and 1990, Japan’s national wealth nearly tripled. Real estate prices in downtown Tokyo skyrocketed so high that analysts said the land under the Imperial Palace was worth more than the state of California. Japanese companies bought up American landmarks, and some policymakers feared Japan was challenging U.S. supremacy, particularly by using protectionist trade policies that blocked American products.

Vogel credited Japan’s success in part to its willingness to study others. He described a nation obsessed with overseas travel: Students went to American universities, national sports coaches studied the training programs in other countries, trade ministry bureaucrats went on missions to Europe to hone policies. Japan even had programs in five foreign languages available on its national television networks.

But today, former Japan optimists see a disturbing trend. Fewer Japanese, they say, want to interact with the rest of the world, and undergraduate enrollment of Japanese students at U.S. universities has fallen more than 50 percent since 2000. The generation now entering Japan’s job market is described by older workers here as risk-averse and unambitious, with security and comfort their top priorities.

“They have just given up trying to be number one” said Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative. “People think you just cannot beat China, so don’t even try. But that’s bad, because if you don’t train yourself on the international scene, you don’t . . . sharpen your edge. And you become more inward-looking. There’s a sense in Japan that we are unprepared to be a tough, competitive player in this global world.”

Japan is famous among historians for its sudden transformations, re-engaging with the world in the mid-19th century after two centuries of isolation, later moving toward the militarism that helped launch World War II. After the mega-disaster last year, Japanese hoped for another transformation, with the reconstruction of a tsunami-battered region prompting a broader political and economic overhaul.

But Japanese increasingly feel that hasn’t happened, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Just 39 percent now say that last year’s disaster has made Japan a stronger country, compared with 58 percent in a similar survey taken right after the earthquake and tsunami. (According to the same survey, released in June, 93 percent of the Japanese public describe the current state of the economy as bad.)

Preference for self-criticism

Global sentiment has swung so far against Japan, the last few optimists now relish the chance to make a case on Japan’s behalf.

Although Japan is commonly thought to be a “Detroit-like zone” with little chance for economic growth, former Sony chief executive Nobuyuki Idei said in an interview, the country still has a chance to prosper if it can tap into Asia’s booming economies as a trade partner or investor. Tokyo-based venture capitalist Yoshito Hori said that Japan’s many strengths are often overlooked, because Japanese prefer self-criticism to self-promotion.

“The value of Japan is, even when we do something good, we rarely say it,” Hori said.

“When the Chinese achieve something, they say, ‘We have done this.’ ” Japanese must learn to do the same, Hori said, “otherwise, we will lose our position globally.”

That’s partly why Koll, a ­JPMorgan Japan manager, decided this summer to give a TED talk — the common name for a series of pop-education ­speeches — in which he described his reasons for being the last optimist.

Japan has the world’s most competent financial regulator, Koll said, and a per capita GDP several times that of China. Real estate prices are back down to 1981 levels — “wealth destruction has been tremendous,” he said — but Japan has weathered this while still retaining its social cohesion and relative quality of life, with an unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent.

But Koll also admitted in his speech that being bullish on Japan is tantamount to saying Elvis is still alive.

“Things have changed,” he said. “When I first got here, I had conversations with people who said, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky to speak Japanese, because we’ll all be working for the Japanese soon.’ You know, those are the things they’re saying about China now.”
ENDS

Shuukan Kin’youbi: Protests against NJ businesses in Tokyo turn ugly, yet J media compares Chinese protests against J businesses to Kristallnacht

mytest

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Hi Blog. Something came up over the past month that deserves mention on Debito.org when it comes to putting all the “violent Chinese etc. protests against Japan” into some perspective. Something that was not given much audience in the Japanese media — far-rightists targeting domestic minorities in Japan due to the recent flap over some offshore rocks.

Yes, people say “both sides are guilty of saber rattling and banging nationalist drums.”  But one thing I like to remind people is:  Who picked this most recent fight over the Senkakus? And who keeps perpetually stirring things up by having what I would consider a denialist view of history when it comes to being an aggressor and colonizer over the past hundred years? Sorry, but many of Japan’s prominent leaders do. And they (deliberately, in this case) serve to stir up passions overseas. Then when people overseas protest this, who then suddenly claims that the foreigners are overreacting or Japanese are being targeted and victimized? Japan’s leaders. And Japan’s media, to rally the rest of the public.

However, Japan’s victimization trope is being overplayed.  Japanese media, according to the Japan Times, is turning up the invective to compare Chinese protests to Kristallnacht. See here:

============================
The Japan Times, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012
BIG IN JAPAN
Tabloids return fire, urge China business pullout

By MARK SCHREIBER
On Sept. 29, the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Sankei Shimbun editorial writer Ryutaro Kobayashi asked how it would be possible for Japan to continue discussions with a China that had “lost its national dignity.”

Kobayashi was referring to the sometimes-destructive renhai (human wave) demonstrations in over 100 cities in China protesting Japan’s nationalization of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which resulted in billions of yen in damages to Japanese-owned businesses.

Scenes of angry mobs trashing stores and factories have led, not surprisingly, to viscerally emotional reactions in Japan’s media. One common response has been a palpable sense of victimhood, of which perhaps the most extreme example appears in a 98-page “mook” (a short book in glossy A4 magazine format) from Shukan Asahi Geino devoted entirely to China, under the headline “Chugoku, fuyukai na shinjitsu” (“China: The unpleasant facts”). Superimposed over a photo of the ransacked branch of the Heiwado supermarket in Changsha, Hunan Province, is a caption that reads, “Sept. 16, 2012 will be inscribed in history as China’s version of the Kristallnacht” (a reference to the notorious pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria on Nov. 9, 1938).

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20121007bj.html
============================

Well, consider the following domestic actions by Japanese far-rightists against not just foreign business communities overseas, but actual NJ residents of Japan who have been living in Japan for generations (who, by all reasonable standards — including fighting and dying for the Japanese Empire — should be Japanese citizens by now). Are we seeing the same comparisons to Krystallnacht? And will we see those comparisons in the media once we get glass in the gutter and bloodied faces? If the standard for violence in Japan is also “verbal” (as in kotoba no bouryoku), then we’re on our way.

Stop it, everyone, before you do something you might regret later. (Then again, perhaps not, if Japan’s revisionist attitudes towards history continue to hold sway.) Arudou Debito

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

Nationalists converge on Shin-Okubo’s Koreatown
JapanToday.com KUCHIKOMI SEP. 18, 2012
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/nasty-nationalists-converge-on-shin-okubos-koreatown

Sandwiched between two major streets running parallel, the “Shin-Okubo Koreatown” in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district is home to dozens of Korean-style restaurants and retail shops proffering goods that range from Korean cosmetics to items appealing to fans of “Hanryu” dramas.

Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 14) reports that on Aug 25, a large demonstration of rightists—who are upset over South Korea’s territorial claims to Takeshima island (referred to as Dokdo in Korean)—marched through the neighborhood. The demonstration, whose organizers had tabbed “The Citizens’ Great March to Subjugate South Korea,” consisted of an estimated 500 demonstrators, many of who waved the militaristic “kyokujitsuki” (rising-sun flag), and who chanted such slogans as “Kankokujin wa kaere” (South Koreans go home) and “Chosenjin wa dete yuke!” (Koreans get out).

Things got even nastier after the march ended, when the marchers broke off into smaller groups of around 10 and moved from the main drag to the neighborhood’s many small lanes, where they confronted shopkeepers with even more hostile remarks, such as “Chon-ko wa karere” (Go home, you Korean bastard”) or “We’ll kill you.” They also intimidated compatriots they encountered with veiled warnings like “If you’re a Japanese, then don’t come to this area.”

“It’s very aggravating,” a worker of a street stall selling confections is quoted as saying. “Some young visitors from South Korea got harangued by the protesters. Since that day, the number our customers has tapered off.”

“It appears that the Zaitokukai (short for Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai or group opposed to special rights for Koreans in Japan) thinks it can build momentum for its movement by harping on the Takeshima and Senkaku issues,” says journalist Koichi Yasuda, who authored a book titled “Pursuing the ‘darkness’ of Internet patriots, the Zaitokukai” (Kodansha), about the noisy group that has been boosting its membership through skillful use of the Internet.

“While I don’t see any signs yet that they are increasing their influence, they still bear watching,” Yasuda adds. “As far as they are concerned, discriminating against the ‘zainichi’ (Koreans in Japan) is everything, and they aren’t terribly concerned about what will become of the disputed territories in the future. But they can use the timing of the dispute as a pretext for pushing their own agenda.”

Some rightists also provoked clashes in the Chinese enclave adjacent to the north exit of JR Ikebukuro station, resulting in police being summoned.

When such run-ins occur, however, Shukan Kinyobi notes that it has been rare for Japan’s mainstream media to devote much coverage. And even those who are confronted by the rightists tend to refrain from seeking sympathy from society, perhaps out of fears that any negative publicity will drive away their customers.

When the Shin-Okubo Merchants’ Association was approached by Shukan Kinyobi for a comment, it declined on the grounds that “We haven’t grasped the details.” The Shinjuku branch of the Zainichi Korean Association replied, “There’s nothing to discuss.” The Chinese in Ikebukuro were also reluctant to speak to reporters.

A staff member at one Korean firm in Shin-Okubo confided to the magazine, “The South Korean embassy here sent out a warning advisory to Korean businesses and groups to the effect that from Aug 25, we should not approach demonstrators or make inflammatory remarks. ‘Refrain from any activities that would put your safety at risk,’ it advised.

“If trouble were to break out, nothing good would come from it, as far as we’re concerned,” he added.

As long as this country has no statute against hate crimes, Shukan Kinyobi opines, this kind of ethnic and racial discrimination will remain out of control. Sixty-seven years since the end of the Pacific War, the issue of “territorial disputes” is being used as a new pretext to abet what are long-term trends.

ENDS

The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?

mytest

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Hi Blog. Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2 (see it here), I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door:  How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads  to diversity getting subsumed.  And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.

Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.

But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it? Arudou Debito

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ON SANCTIONED REALITY, MAJORITARIANISM AND JAPAN’S DEMOCRACY
By ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published October 2, 2012
DRAFT SIXTEEN – version submitted for edits and rejected for publication

I recently attended an interesting talk. It discussed Japan’s cultural conceit with the “real,” “genuine,” and “legitimate” as governed by the kanji “hon.” For example, genuine articles are “honmono,” the home of a famous product “honke”, one’s genuine feelings, intentions and character include “honki”, “honne,” “honshō” and “hongoshi,” you get the idea.

That made me think: What makes something legitimately “genuine” or “real” in Japan? Public acknowledgment of authenticity, of course. Certification could be an official government document, strong media attention, or even positive word of mouth.

For example, an artist or writer instantly becomes worthy of attention and accolade after becoming a “Living National Treasure” or an Akutagawa Prize winner. (Remember, this is how future Tokyo Governor Ishihara got his start.)

Of course, by definition one needs public support to become popular, and popularity begets more recognition as celebrity.

But Japan takes the “popularity = recognition” concept one step further, to “popularity = more trustworthy.” Unrecognized things tend to be seen as less legitimate in terms of quality or as a source of information.

For example, a restaurant without a write-up in the local tour guidebook can’t be any good. If something’s apparently unpopular, there must be something wrong with it. This is why tourist traps overseas pay big bucks to be featured in the Japanese “Hato Bus” media circuit.

So what is this column’s epiphany? If popularity means something is more “real” and “legitimate,” sole individuals and their opinions will have less influence over reality. This has a profound effect on Japan’s democracy. Seriously.

Start with an everyday interaction: Remember when you asked a group their opinion (particularly in classrooms). What’s the first thing most respondents do? Turn to their neighbors for affirmation.

Few are brave enough to immediately offer their “own opinion” because it might “not be commonly acceptable” (tsūyō shinai). There has to be a “consensus” before anyone declares anything definitive.

One exception, of course, is an opinion about Japanese behavior or culture. Ever notice how answers like, “because we’re an island nation” or “we have a long history of being a closed society” are immediate and standardized? Because they are the “consensus responses” – commonly-held, thus legitimate. This is one reason why Japanese society is so susceptible to talking in stereotypes.

Point is, people here have to “read the air” (kūki o yomu) first to determine reality, which takes time, energy, and guesswork to concoct. Moreover, people who buck the trend with an unpopular opinion merely look like troublemakers. This tedious dynamic forces people to default into silence.

The exception to the silent default is when someone has enough power in the group to be a sempai. Or a bully. Both will if necessary browbeat people into their mode of thinking.

Thus, reality depends on the dominant group hierarchy maintaining the dominant discourse.

One problem with a “certified reality for mass consumption” is that minority views are unacceptable. By definition, if a majority does not support a minority view, then tsūyō shinai. After all, if enough people don’t say or do it, it’s not “The Real Japan.” This majoritarianism acts as a natural brake on Japan’s diversity.

But the bigger problem is the brake on dissent.

If people are more likely to “take seriously” a fact or opinion (and, due to a lack of training in critical thinking, people often have trouble telling the difference) just because they saw that fact or opinion on TV or in a newspaper, then people who control media outlets can create “consensus” by “changing the air.”

This means that Japanese society, whose most trusted and ubiquitous media outlet is government-run, becomes more easily manipulated by officialdom.

Of course, the media manufactures public consensus in all societies. But in Japan’s case, a hierarchical social dynamic enforced at all levels of society makes people particularly susceptible to top-down decision making.

This can be taken too far. We’ve witnessed a decade of “rampant foreign crime” grounded in police media campaigns instead of careful statistical analysis (Zeit Gist Oct. 7, 2003).

But now consider the current claims that a few faraway “islands” are sufficient reason to hate the local ethnic shopkeeper. Volume has shouted down reason.

Now add one more thing to the mix: “koe.” In Japan, disembodied voices are often taken as legitimately as official voices. That’s how Japan’s media justifies rumor through anonymous sources, and how officials justify public policy by saying “koe ga atta” (there has been talk of…). This is further amplified by Japan’s anonymous Internet culture, a bullying and outrage industry in its own right (JBC Feb. 3, 2009).

Eventually any bubble of commonly-held lies and distortions will pop. But when it pops in Japan, there is little denouement. Rarely are the brave individuals who initially offered dissent commended. Most dissenters realize it’s too mendōkusai (bothersome) to pipe up and so in future just pipe down.

In sum, this social dynamic helps the ruling elite keep control of the status quo. And it’s one reason why conservatives have spent their lives dismantling liberalized education (yutori kyōiku) – for heaven forbid that Leftist teachers ever indulge in critical thinking or encourage students to question authority!

There are consequences: Every now and then Japan’s debate arenas fall into an echo-chamber “reality trap,” where circular logic based on bad social science becomes mutually-reinforcing. We’ve seen the logical excesses in public outrages about, say, human rights, gender equality, foreign suffrage, and now Japanese territorial integrity with the Senkakus and Takeshima.

Once mired in this “reality trap,” the most effective way to adjust the prevailing “reality” (aside from total defeat in a war) is by appealing to Japan’s legitimacy overseas.

Since the Meiji Era, Japan has always wanted be taken seriously by the club of powerful countries. Due to the enormous cultural value placed upon hierarchy, Japan has aspired to join the club in a superior, respected position.

Yet most people know Japan as the “fragile superpower,” and Japan’s ruling elites know well that there is much to lose by creating trouble: Not only in terms of hard-won (and paid for) international esteem, but also economic resources if bullies and zealots irritate the neighbors.

Bully celebrities and zealots have gained much ground these past decades, legitimizing jingoistic interpretations of history in mainstream media. But I think the browbeaten public is betting that reason will soon prevail amongst ruling elites.

Why? Because Japan never wants to be seen as the aggressor in any conflict, or the bad guy in any situation.

Consider the dominant discourse in postwar Japan: We didn’t engage in military conquest during WWII – a rapacious military leadership inflicted great suffering on all Japanese. Then we were subjected to horrific atomic bombings. After that, we had decades of miraculous prosperity generated from our own hard work. But then things slowed down even though we did our best. It’s not our fault: Even our current mess was caused by force majeure – our volcanic archipelago, against which we stoically persevere. We are all victims.

What about dissenting opinions to this discourse, including the public’s complicity in rooting out prewar Leftists, the wartime responsibility of the Showa Emperor, the granting of favorable terms of trade for reconstruction, and generations of government-industrial corruption through unaccountable bureaucratic rule? All drowned out under Japan’s majoritarianism, delegitimizing unpopular opinions in favor of perpetual victimhood.

But not this time. It’s pretty difficult to justify Japan’s victim status with the Senkakus and Takeshima. The rocks are just an official distraction from the irradiating food chain and accelerating economic tailspin.

Back to the concepts of “genuine” and “legitimate.” What good is this “islands” dispute if the other rich countries, looking increasingly to China as Asia’s leader, won’t see Japan as a “genuine” victim with a “legitimate” grievance?

Sooner or later the ruling elites, perpetually looking over their shoulder at world opinion, will tell the jingoists to tone it down — for business’ sake. It’s the effect of gaiatsu, or outside pressure.

Gaiatsu is basically the only way that Japan, once it gets into these ideological bully-pulpit spirals, will be calmed down. Because Japan’s general public, structurally defanged by a culture of being unable to say or think anything is “real” or “legitimate” without certified permission, cannot stop itself when domestic bullies get too powerful. It needs somebody else to put the jingoism genie back in the bottle.

Outside world, it’s nigh time to do it again.
1396 WORDS
ends

Mainichi: Japan’s only human rights museum likely closing after Osaka Gov Hashimoto defunds, says doesn’t teach Japan’s “hopes & dreams”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something quite indicative about the conservatives in Japan.  As I will be alluding to in my next Japan Times column (due out October 2), there is an emphasis on making sure “hopes and dreams” are part of Japan’s future.  Fine, but for Japan’s conservatives, fostering “hopes and dreams” means obliterating things like the shameful bits of Japan’s past (which every country, doing an honest accounting of history, has).

For Osaka Mayor Hashimoto (who just launched his ominously-named “Japan Restoration Party”), that means killing off Japan’s only human-rights museum (which, when I visited, had a corner devoted to the Otaru Onsens Case).  Because talking about how minorities in Japan combat discrimination against them is just too disruptive of Japan’s “dreamy” national narrative.  Read on.  Arudou Debito

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

Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan’

By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Recommended citation: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan,’” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 36, No. 1, September 3, 2012.)

Hopes and Dreams
They exist all over Japan, like tiny sparks of light, flickering and fragile, but somehow surviving against the odds: the peace museums, the reconciliation groups, the local history movements that work to address problems of historical responsibility neglected or denied by national politicians. As Kazuyo Yamane notes, according to a UN survey, Japan has the highest number of peace museums of any country in the world (Yamane 2009, xii). But the heritage created at the grassroots by ordinary Japanese people is constantly under threat from the hostility of nationalist politicians and sections of the media: and never more so than today (see Chan 2008; Morris-Suzuki, Low, Petrov and Tsu 2012).

Among the sparks of light is Osaka’s Human Rights Museum, also known as Liberty Osaka.

Founded in 1985, Liberty Osaka is Japan’s only human rights museum. It features displays on the history of hisabetsu buraku communities (groups subject to social discrimination), the struggle for women’s rights, and the stories of minority groups such as the indigenous Ainu community and the Korean minority in Japan. An important aspect of the museum is its depiction of these groups, not as helpless victims of discrimination, but rather as active subjects who have fought against discrimination, overcome adversity and helped to create a fairer and better Japanese society. By 2005 more than a million people had visited the Liberty Osaka. (See the museum’s website (Japanese) and (English).)

Today, the museum faces the threat of closure. The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of themuseum’s funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012)

Rest of the article at:
http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

A message to that effect from Liberty Osaka, then the Mainichi Shimbun articles being referred to, follow for the record:

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

お知らせ

4月末から大阪市長は8月から当館への補助金打ち切りを表明し、皆様方にはご心配をおかけしています。大阪市は6月2日の公開ヒアリングにおいて、来年度の補助金打ち切りを前提としつつ、8月から約20%削減して補助金を組む方針を示しました。たいへん厳しい状況ではありますが、当館は来年3月まで事業と運営をおこなってまいります。来年4月からの事業と運営のあり方については関係諸機関・団体と協議してまいりますので、引き続きご支援・ご協力いただきますよう、よろしくお願い申し上げます。

2012年6月8日

大阪人権博物館

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

大阪人権博物館:存続の危機 府市の補助金打ち切り 問題知る場なくせば差別は消える?
毎日新聞 2012年07月25日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/feature/news/20120725dde018040097000c.html

国内で唯一の人権に関する総合展示施設、大阪人権博物館(リバティおおさか、大阪市浪速区)が、存続の危機に直面している。年間1億4000万円の収入のうち約85%を占めていた大阪府・市の補助金が、今年度で打ち切られるためだ。行政が人権問題についての施設費用をまかなう意味と、補助金打ち切りの背景を、識者らの言葉から探った。【鈴木英生】

同博物館は、1985年開館。部落差別を筆頭に、アイヌ▽在日コリアン▽沖縄▽女性▽ハンセン病▽薬害エイズ−−など、さまざまな問題を取り上げる。展示資料は約2000点。文書やパネルを並べるだけでなく、実物大で再現したアイヌのチセ(家)、沖縄や朝鮮半島などの民族衣装が着られるコーナーなどもあり、多面的だ。

橋下徹・大阪市長と松井一郎・大阪府知事は今春、展示が「差別と人権に縛られている」「子供が夢や希望をもって将来像を描く施設になっていない」などとして、補助金打ち切りを決めた。

博物館の関係者らは、補助金打ち切りを「人権教育の危機」と憤る。以前は橋下市長自身、「僕は、人権という教育は絶対必要だと思ってますので、ここはもう崩さず」(府知事時代の2009年に博物館リニューアルを求めた際の府議会での発言)などと語っていた。

そもそも人権問題の展示施設を、行政が支えてきたのはなぜか。人権博物館の元理事長でもある元木健・大阪大名誉教授(社会教育学)は「『社会教育法』で説明ができます」と話す。

一般的に、博物館の設置運営は、同法に基づく社会教育の一環とされる。同法は、国や地方公共団体が「市民の自主的な社会教育活動のための環境醸成」をしなくてはならないとする。「同法は、博物館など施設の設置運営どころか、集会の開催や資料の作成・配布までも、行政の責務としています」(元木さん)

ENDS

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

大阪人権博物館:存続の危機 府市の補助金打ち切り 問題知る場なくせば差別は消える?
毎日新聞 2012年07月25日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/feature/news/20120725dde018040097000c3.html

在日コリアン2世でもある姜尚中・東京大教授(政治学)は「橋下氏がターゲットとする施設に、人権博物館と、住友財閥の寄付で戦前に建った府立中之島図書館が入っているのは象徴的だ。さまざまなマイノリティーやマジョリティーが形作ってきた複雑な世の中全体を否定して、競争原理だけに基づく社会をつくりたいという思考が、背景にある気がする」と話している。

◇反対署名など展開
人権博物館は今後について「来年4月からの博物館のあり方は、関係諸機関・諸団体と協議する」としている。

部落解放同盟大阪府連などは「リバティおおさかの灯(ひ)を消すな全国ネット」を設立し、補助金打ち切り撤回を求めて運動している。同ネットは署名活動のほか、昨年度より2割削減された今年度の補助金を穴埋めするためのカンパ活動も展開中だ。
ENDS

NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up.  Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land.  The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not).  Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.

It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan:  Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down).  Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.”  This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).

And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back?  Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there?  It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc.  have been  Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy.  The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history.

It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.  Arudou Debito

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A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands
By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times
Published: June 10, 2012, courtesy lots of people

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504EED81639F933A25755C0A9649D8B63

CORRECTION APPENDED
CHICHI JIMA, Japan — Every morning, as the sun rises over this remote Pacific Island and its tiny port with typically Japanese low-slung concrete buildings, John Washington commits a quiet act of defiance against the famously insular Japan: he hoists an American flag over his inn.

Mr. Washington, 63, whose white skin and blond hair, which is turning white, mark him as something of an outsider, is a great-great-grandson of the island’s founding father, an American sailor named Nathaniel Savory who set sail in 1830 with a band of adventurers for this island, which was known as a lawless natural wonder.

These days, Mr. Washington’s attempt to evoke that history seems increasingly like an act of desperation. His community — descendants of those settlers — is vanishing as young people leave this isolated outpost, a 25-hour ferry ride from Tokyo in a chain once known as the Bonins, or assimilate, dropping the Anglican religion and English language of their forebears.

”I feel it will all die out with my generation,” Mr. Washington said. ”They don’t teach the history of the Bonin Islands to kids, don’t teach about Nathaniel Savory. The Japanese hide these things.”

And what they are hiding, he says, is a tale as colorful and lurid as it is disputed.

Since it was settled by Mr. Savory’s American and European followers — fortune seekers, deserters, drunkards — and their Hawaiian wives, the island has been pillaged by pirates, gripped by murder and cannibalism, and tugged back and forth between Japan and the United States in their battle for supremacy in the Pacific. There was a brief revival of the island’s Western culture after World War II, when it was ruled by the United States Navy.

Even the island’s V.I.P. visitor list seems outsized for a spit of land just five miles long. It includes Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who stopped here on the 1853 voyage in which he opened Japanese ports at gunpoint, and Jack London, who visited as a 17-year-old deckhand and later wrote about the Bonins.

Today, the island is a sleepy place. Its rhythms are set by the arrival once every six days of the ferry that makes the 600-mile journey from Tokyo, which has administered Chichi Jima as part of what are now known as the Ogasawara Islands, after the United States returned them to Japan in 1968.

About 2,000 people live here, mostly Japanese from the mainland who came after the transfer. Over time, they have overwhelmed the descendants of the original settlers — known here as Obeikei, or the Westerners — who are now estimated to number fewer than 200.

Most of the Obeikei are Japanese citizens. Most of those who still speak English and retain distinctly Western or Polynesian features are over the age of 50.

In a country that prides itself on its homogeneity and avoids tackling uncomfortable situations directly, many of Chichi Jima’s Japanese residents profess to having little knowledge of or interest in the Westerners. They instead focus on running the whale-watching and diving tours for the tourists drawn to a pristine island chain that last year was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Some Japanese residents say the Westerners have made their own lot by being standoffish, using both Western and Japanese names, and pining to return to the ”Navy time” after World War II, when they had the island virtually to themselves.

An old graveyard with Christian tombstones is one of the few visible traces of the Westerners’ history. And the official account of the island’s history, presented at the village-run visitor center, plays down the Westerners’ role in settling the island.

It says the island chain was discovered in 1593 by a samurai named Sadayori Ogasawara, for whom the chain was later named. The ”Euro-American natives” are presented as little more than squatters who occupied what officials say was already Japanese territory, despite a consensus among modern Japanese and Western historians that Ogasawara never visited the islands.

”They are not the same as indigenous natives who have been here for hundreds of years,” said Kazuhiko Ishida, the island’s vice mayor. He said that while no efforts are being made to preserve the Westerners’ culture, they are not mistreated, either.

Westerners agree, but even some of those with close Japanese friends and spouses say feeling marginalized is not much better.

”They call me foreigner,” said Sutanrii Minami, 64, a tour guide who also goes by Stanley Gilley and who looks Polynesian. ”I’m not a foreigner. I was born on this island.”

What is undisputed is that the island was left largely to rule itself until 1875, when Japanese settlers and officials took over in what the historian Daniel Long calls the first act of territorial expansion by a budding Japanese empire.

”Chichi Jima was probably the only case where the island was claimed by an Asian power and the natives were English-speaking Westerners,” said Mr. Long, who has written several books on the island.

It is also agreed upon that the island was untouched when sailors’ tales of an ”uninhabited paradise” drew the 35-year-old Mr. Savory and about 20 settlers. They eked out a living selling provisions to passing Yankee whalers and British warships.

Many visiting captains remarked on the lawlessness of the island, recording tales of murder and polygamy. It also proved vulnerable to pirates, who in 1849 made off with Mr. Savory’s gold — and his wife. Witnesses later told a passing captain that the abduction was a tall tale: they said the woman, who was much younger than Mr. Savory, eagerly joined the marauders, leading them to his hidden wealth.

Islanders say that such raids may have led the settlers to peacefully accept the Japanese as rulers, who treated them with benign neglect.

That changed with the approach of World War II. Although they were not interned, the Westerners were forced to take Japanese names and were watched as possible spies. In 1944, most were evacuated along with the Japanese residents to the mainland, where they say they suffered discrimination.

”We are loyal Japanese, but they treated us as enemies when they saw the color of our faces and our eyes,” said Aisaku Ogasawara, 81, an Anglican pastor who also goes by Isaac Gonzales.

During the war, some of the Western men entered the Japanese Army, joining the garrison that defended the island. They witnessed a different horror, historians say, when eight captured American airmen were beheaded and then eaten by the starving Japanese defenders.

After the war, the United States Navy used the island for a submarine base. The Navy allowed the Western-descended settlers to return in 1946, but Japanese former residents were barred from coming back — possibly because of the nuclear warheads that historians say were stored on the island.

When the island was returned to Japan in 1968, the Westerners were given a choice of becoming either Japanese or American citizens. Many left for the United States.

Some wish that Japan and the United States had allowed them to decide the island’s future themselves.

”This island was returned without our control,” said Rokki Sebori, 52, who also goes by Rocky Savory and runs the island’s cooperative supermarket. ”We still feel in our hearts that this is our island.”

ENDS
Correction: June 17, 2012, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A picture caption last Sunday with an article about the vanishing community of Americans on Chichi Jima, a remote Pacific island that was founded by an American sailor but turned over to the Japanese in 1968, misstated the given name of a Westerner who served in the American Navy and now runs a bar in the island. He is Rance Ohira, not Lance.
ENDS

Commemorating the Japan Times Community Page’s 10th Anniversary, a brief column by Arudou Debito, May 8, 2012

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Hi Blog. As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us. Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 8, 2012
THE ZEIT GIST

A decade serving the community

Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002.

Here, an editor, columnist and writer who helped make the section what it is today reflect on the first decade of the Community section.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120508zg.html

The Columnist’s section:

The columnist: ARUDOU, Debito

I remember my first article on the Community Page back in June 2002, after I jumped ship as a columnist at the Japan Today website.

Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront).

It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.

Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”

Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?

For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.

I have been honored to not only have had more than a hundred of my articles featured here since 2002, but also to have the ideas debated in a venue that people, including academics and Japanese policymakers, take seriously.

For example, my favorite Community Page memory is the reaction from “Forensic Science Fiction: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (Jan. 13, 2004), where I critiqued the National Research Institute for Police Science’s highly unscientific “DNA tests for foreigners.”. They claimed that you could examine biotic evidence at crime scenes and tell whether the suspect was foreign or not. They sold this snake oil to us taxpayers for years by claiming that “foreign proteins are different than Japanese.”

When I telephoned NRIPS on different business shortly afterwards, the person on the other end immediately knew me by name, and with no invitation launched into a defense of the policy as “having nothing to do with foreigners.”

I then pulled up the policy and read it back to him. “The very title says, ‘Developing an index using biological materials in order to expose foreign crime.’ In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I can read Japanese. Can you?” I got a gasp and then a delicious silence. Plus, in a country where the police ignore media scrutiny and even get away with murder (ZG, Nov. 1, 2011), the NRIPS still felt obligated a month later to send the JT a flaccid letter of denial. Gotcha.

In sum, I have observed three definite stages in the development of the NJ “community” since I got to Japan. In the 1990s, communities were forming during the influx of foreign labor, with some regions reaching double-digit population percentages of NJ. In the 2000s, NJ communities came under attack by xenophobes and chauvinist politicians who firmly believe the fiction that more foreigners means less Japan. And now, in the 2010s, we’re watching the NJ communities attacking themselves, cleaving into one-upping camps over who is “more dedicated to Japan” in this era of perpetual stagnation, rollover disasters and seemingly endless self-sacrifice.

The Community Page, despite all of that, stands as our outlet, and our legacy. Long may it run.

ARUDOU, Debito is the Just Be Cause columnist for The Japan Times
=============================

Bryant in UCLA Law Review on oppressiveness of Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou)

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Hi Blog.  One of my research readings is Taimie Bryant, “For the Sake of the Country, for the Sake of the Family:  The Oppressive Impact of Family Registration on Women and Minorities in Japan” (39 UCLA Law Review Rev. 1991-1992).

You can read it from this link as a pdf here:

Tamie Bryant.Family Registries

While this is more than two decades old now, it still resonates, with just about everything you need to know about the subtle (but very definite) “othering” processes found in Japan’s Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou) Systems.  It gives the history of each (the koseki’s historical role in rooting out Christians, the juuminhyou’s role in census taking and tracking people), and then gives us some vagaries that arise from it:

  • The doctor who temporarily lost his license to practice medicine because he offered pregnant women an alternate means to register their children rather than have them   aborted to avoid the shame and stigma of illegitimacy.
  • The woman professor who wished to continue using her maiden name professionally after marriage despite her university telling her that she could only be identified as per her husband’s koseki.
  • The women who sued Nissan for discrimination because they were denied standard corporate allowances just because as women they were not registered as “head of household” (setai nushi).

It also very neatly unpacks:

1) the genealogical tracing of family for generations by corporations and prospective marriage families to see if the person was a Burakumin, or had aberrant behavior from other family members,

2) the hierarchical structure of Japan as a remnant of the prewar ie seido and how upper-class family values and structures were officially foisted upon the rest of Japanese society,

3) the power of the normalization of labeling, and how the state’s attitudes towards anti-individualism (as these are dossiers on the family, not just the individual) as seen in this system creates a socially-constructed reality of constant subordination,

4) the difficulty in fighting or reforming this system because of its normalization (although people have been trying for generations), as it is difficult to prove discriminatory intent of a system with no targetable individual discriminator (and with a plausible deniability of unintended consequences). 

5) How ethnic minorities in Japan are excluded and invisible because they simply aren’t listed as “spouse” or even “resident” on either form (Debito.org has talked about this at length in the past).

What the article does not get into is unfortunate:

1) How other nationalities (as in, foreigners in general) are also left out; this paper is still in the era of seeing excluded foreigners as Zainichi, whereas all other foreigners are merely temporary; this was before the boom in the number of Ippan Eijuusha (Regular Permanent Residents, the “Newcomers”) that surpassed the Zainichi “Oldcomers” in number in 2007. 

2) How divorce under this system means one parent loses all title to his or her children (since after divorce they can only go on one koseki);

3) How people get around this system by gaming it.

One game is how gay couples get linked to one another for inheritance and other family-dependent purposes.  Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Japan.  However, people CAN adopt each other, something Bryant does discuss in her article, and those ties are just about as dissoluble as a marriage.

This is one other (unmentioned, of course) reason why I believe Donald Keene recently naturalized.  If he remained a foreigner in Japan, he could be adopted, but his name would not be listed properly on the koseki and juuminhyou and no rights or benefits would accrue either way.  However, if his partner adopts him after he becomes a Japanese citizen, then all the benefits accrue.  Good for Don, of course (and my beef, remember, is not with him making these life choices, which he should do, but with him portraying himself as somehow morally superior to other NJ, something the Japanese public, according to a recent fawning Japan Times article, seems to buy into).  But wouldn’t it be nice if Don, who seems to be speaking a lot in public these days about how things aren’t to his liking, would also speak out about these vagaries of the Family Registry System?

Anyway, Bryant writes an excellent paper.  Read it.  Arudou Debito

Levin: J citizens of empire stripped of Japanese nationality in 1952, made into Zainichi by bureaucratic fiat — by a simple MOJ office circular (kairan)!

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  While doing research two days ago, I ran across this curious footnote in journal article (Levin, Mark, “Essential Commodities and Racial Justice”; Journal of International Law and Politics (NYU, Winter 2001) 33:419, at 500, footnote 288), which tells us a lot of something quite remarkable about how much extra-parliamentary legislative power is invested in Japan’s bureaucracy:  The power to strip entire peoples of their Japanese citizenship (despite their colonial contributions and experience, including fighting and dying in the Imperial Army) by fiat.  By kairan, even.  Read on:

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

288. The involuntary de-naturalization [of hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Taiwanese persons resident in Japan] was accomplished by administrative fiat, interpreting the Nationality Lw under an implicit association with the 1951 Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers.  “In 1952, nine days before the Peace Treaty came into force, the Director-General of the Civil Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Justice issued a Circular Notice [an internal government document] to the officials concerned, announcing that all Koreans, including those residing in Japan, were to lose their Japanese nationality.” IWASAWA, [“International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law” 52, 299 n. 35 (1998)], at 130-31…; see also MORRIS-SUZUKI [“Reinventing Japan: Time, Space, Nation” 11 (1998)], at 190; Foote, [“Japan’s ‘Foreign Workers’ Policy: A View from the United States”, 7 Geo. Immigr. L.J. (1993)] at 724-25.  Although Japanese courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently upheld the legality of this act, Iwasawa persuasively argues that the court rulings were analytically unsound, that Japan’s action violated international standards regarding nationality, and that the action was unconstitutional because the act “runs counter to Article 10 of the Constitution, which provides, ‘The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by hōritsu [statutes].’ The question should have been settled by a statute enacted by the Diet.”  See IWASAWA… at 131-34; see also cases [Port, “The Japanese International Law ‘Revolution’: International Human Rights Law and Its Impact in Japan”, Stan. J. Int’l. L. 139 (1991)].  Iwasawa’s work is not scholarship from the radical fringes.  Professor Iwasawa belongs to the law faculty at Tokyo University and is one of the leading authorities on international public law in Japan.

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

This degree of extralegal power — to the point of a simple office memo to disenfranchise for generations an entire minority in Japan — shows just how abusive and capricious Japan’s mandarins can be.  And the judiciary will back them up!

Another more recent (and no less capricious) example of this, once again involving a very elderly Zainichi (with implications for denying all foreigners in Japan their right to seikatsu hogo, a basic living allowance), can be found here and here (item 6 in my January Japan Times column).  As a procedural note, look how the judiciary once again tried to correct their mistake in favor of the mandarins again within weeks by reversing a lower court decision supporting the Zainichi plaintiff.  If the plaintiff hadn’t stayed alive long enough and taken it to another court, the bureaucrats would have won and there would have been legal standing to deny NJ their welfare payments because it would have been, insultingly, “a form of charity“.

Another interesting anecdotal case of bureaucratic attitudes to the laws that should be governing them (“That’s just a law,” my correspondent claims the bureaucrats said when arbitrarily denying him Permanent Residency under “secret guidelines”), can also be found here.

Be aware.  As evidenced above, the rule of law in Japan is quite weak, especially regarding the control by and the control of Japan’s bureaucracy.  This will not be news to any Japanese lawyer, but for laypeople thinking that Japan (and the treatment of NJ) is not in fact governed by anonymous bureaucrats, FYI.  Arudou Debito

Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues.  Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place.  He’s not alone.  The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.

There may be a political dimension.  As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.”  Interesting if true.  Let’s have that investigated.

A little academic expostulating, if I may:  One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron).  Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis.  Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.

And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.  Arudou Debito

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

Nagoya mayor repeatedly denies Nanjing massacre

Mainichi Shimbun, February 23, 2012, courtesy of JK.

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120223p2g00m0dm019000c.html

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura said Wednesday that no incident in which hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Nanjing, China, in 1937 took place, defending his earlier remarks in which he doubted the Japanese military’s massacre and rape of civilians there.

“Since I became a lawmaker I’ve said there was no massacre of hundreds of thousands” in Nanjing, Kawamura told a press conference in Tokyo. “It is better to say so openly, rather than saying it secretly.”

Asked why he doubts a massacre took place, Kawamura said, “The crucial reason is that there were no witnesses.”

His remarks about the 1937 massacre during the Sino-Japanese war have already had repercussions, with Chinese media reporting that Nanjing decided to suspend its exchanges with its sister city of Nagoya, and his latest statement could draw further fire from China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday morning that Nagoya and Nanjing should settle the dispute by themselves.

“It isn’t a matter for the state to interfere in as they have sister-city relations,” Fujimura said at a news conference. “The issue should be settled appropriately by the local governments of Nagoya and Nanjing.”

Fujimura added that Tokyo has not changed its view on the Nanjing Massacre, saying, “It cannot be ruled out that the killing of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred” following the advance of Japanese troops into the Chinese city.

China says the number of victims was more than 300,000, but Japanese academics cite various estimates ranging from 20,000 to 200,000.

The 63-year-old Nagoya mayor on Monday told Liu Zhiwei, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Nanjing City Standing Committee, he believes that only “conventional acts of combat” took place there, not mass murder and rape of civilians.

His comments immediately prompted Nanjing, which established a sister-city relationship with Nagoya in December 1978, to announce the suspension of exchanges on Tuesday.

Emphasizing that the Japanese city shares the same view on the Nanjing Massacre as the central government, a Nagoya government official said, “They were the mayor’s personal remarks and it is very regrettable if they are affecting the friendship” between Nagoya and Nanjing.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura on Wednesday called on Kawamura to correct his comments as soon as possible, saying, “It has become a diplomatic issue.”

Nagoya is the capital city of Aichi Prefecture in central Japan.

(Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012

ENDS

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

The Japan Times Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Nagoya mayor won’t budge on Nanjing remark

By JUN HONGO Staff writer (excerpt), courtesy of CG

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura on Wednesday refused to retract his contentious comments about the veracity of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and said he is ready to visit the city to explain his views.

News photo
Takashi Kawamura

Speaking Monday to a group of Chinese Communist Party members from Nanjing, Kawamura said he was skeptical about whether the Imperial Japanese Army actually raped and slaughtered thousands of Nanjing residents during the war.

The city of Nanjing responded by suspending exchanges with Nagoya, while Beijing assured him it had “solid evidence” proving the massacre took place…

Disputes over the Nanjing Massacre are a constant source of friction in Sino-Japanese relations, and Kawamura’s comments are merely another example of the skewed perceptions held by Japan’s politicans.

In May 1994, then Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano, a former chief of the Ground Self-Defense Force, said the Nanjing Massacre was a “fabrication.” Nagano, who played a key role in having references on the sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial army deleted from history textbooks, resigned after the comment caused outrage in China.

Three months later in August 1994, then Environment Agency chief Shin Sakurai stepped down after stating Japan “did not intend to invade” Asia.

Similarly in 1995, then Management and Coordination Agency chief Takami Eto said Japan did “some good deeds” during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, resulting in the veteran lawmaker being booted from the Cabinet.

However, Kawamura’s comments come at a crucial time in bilateral relations as the two sides prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties this year…

With Xi Jinping expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s new leader later this year, Tokyo is eager to avoid sparking any controversy with Beijing so it can present an amicable relationship.

Kawamura said Monday that only “conventional acts of combat” took place in Nanjing and that the likelihood that mass murder took place there was doubtful.

Nanjing, the former capital of China, fell to the Imperial army on Dec. 13, 1937. Beijing says 300,000 soldiers and civilians were slaughtered during the invasion.

But loss of historical records in both Japan and China has made the task of determining the number of victims elusive to this day. Most Japanese experts claim Beijing’s figure is off, but their estimates range from at least 10,000 to more than 200,000.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120223a5.html

ENDS

Holiday Tangent: Seidensticker in TIME/LIFE World Library book on Japan dated 1965. Compare and contrast with today’s assessments.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Happy holidays.  Today I offer you some historical perspective regarding overseas dialog on Japan, in this case policy towards Japan by the United States.  The year is 1965 (first edition 1961), an excerpt from a book about my age offering Edward Seidensticker, famous translator and interpreter of things Japanese for the English-reading outsider.

This is a “WORLD LIBRARY” monthly library book on Japan (published by Time Life Inc.).  As the book says about the author:

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

In the text of this volume, Edward Seidensticker gives an interpretation of Japan based on more than 13 years of residence in the country, where he won a reputation as a sensitive intepreter of the Japanese people and as an incisive commentator on the contemporary scene.  His knowledge of the country dates from 1945, when he served for a time as a Marine officer with the U.S. Occupation Forces.  Mr. Seidensticker, who was born in Colorado, returned to Tokyo in 1948 for two years’ service with the Department of State and then did graduate work at the University of Tokyo.  A noted translator of Japanese literature, he contibutes to general and scholarly publications in the United States and Europe.  He is now a professor of Japanese literature at Stanford University.

============================
Okay, time out.  After I read this, I blinked and said, “Only 13 years in Japan and he gets this much credibility?  What’s with that?”  The Table of Contents offered me little solace (The Crowded Country, The Heritage of a Long Isolation, Storm and Calm in Politics, A Resilient and Growing Economy, Upheavals in Family and Society, Traces of Spirit, Diversions Borrowed and Preserved, The Tolerant Believers, Powerful Molders of Young Minds, and A Nation in the Balance), all broad strokes all in a slim volume of only about 150 pages including voluminous photos.

But let me type in the concluding chapter.  Let’s see what you think about Seidensticker’s insights then and consider how much has or has not changed, both on the ground and in overseas discourse on Japan, fifty years later.  My comments follow.

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

Chapter 10, A Nation in the Balance, pp. 145-151
By Edward Seidensticker

There is an imaginary border line skirting the ridges of Tokyo, which thrust eastward towards the bay like fingers.  In the days when the city’s predecessor, Edo, was a fishing village, the ridges came down to the water’s edge.  The shogunate later filled in the shallow fringes of the bay to provide a mercantile center for the city and a place for the merchants to live.  The line between the eastern “downtown'” of the flats and the western “uptown” of the ridges therefore became the line between the easygoing, slangy, pleasure-loving townsmen and the austere members of the warrior class.  Today it may be taken to symbolize the political division of the country.  East of the line, in the flats, is the world of the Japanese who works hard, does not trouble himself much with transcendental thoughts and loves to have a festival now and then.  Although he may not be deliriously happy with things as they are, he generally accepts them.  In the hills to the west is the world of the professional and white-collar classes, of commuter trains, drab middle-class housing, the huge Iwanami Publishing Company and the influential and somewhat highbrow newspapers.  Suspicious of the West and wishful, if at the moment confused, about the Communist bloc, this is the articulate half of the country, and it can be generally relied on for opposition to suggestions for an expansion of the American alliance.  It is not from the poor low-lying districts east of the imaginary line but rather from the hilly white-collar districts to the west that Communists are elected to the Tokyo City Council.

Badly divided, with one half willing to accept fundamental principles that the other half wants only to ignore, Japan as yet finds it difficult to come forward as a nation and answer the question that is put to it:  Which side is it on?

The Japanese should not be pushed for an answer, but they may not be ignored. They have accomplished too much during the last century and particularly the last two decades, and their position in the world is too important   Until a few years ago, Japan’s economic stability was heavily dependent on the American economy.  Today the dependence has been so reduced that some economist think Japan could weather a fairly severe American recession, though not a full-scale depression.  If the resourcefulness of the Japanese stays with them, even the rising monster across the China Sea need not be as threatening a competitor as one might think it.

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

The Japanese economy is one of the half dozen most powerful in the world.  Any transfer of such an economy to the other side in the cold war would be an event of tremendous moment.  By tipping a delicate balance in Asia, it could, indeed, be the jolt that would send the whole precarious complex of world politics crashing into disaster.

Of all the great industrialized peoples of the world, the Japanese are the least committed, and so perhaps among those most strategically placed for administering that final push.  It could be argued that France, with its own kind of polarization and its disaffected intellectuals, in an equally good position; but when the French underwent a crisis in 1958, they turned to help not to a Marxist but to a conservative and a Roman Catholic, General de Gaulle, and so back to the very sources of the western tradition.  A shift to the other side would be for them a shattering revolution.

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

In the middle years of the 1960s, the Japanese, industriously building, and even occasionally hinting that they might like to assist the U.S. foreign-aid program, gave a surface impression of having allowed old uncertainties to recede into the background.  Certainly the country leans to the West at present; yet only a relatively few observers would make the definite assertion that it would be impossible for Japan to shift to the other side.  A few more years of prosperity, of Red Chinese truculence and of freedom from rankling incidents in relations with the United States might see the old uncertainties buried forever.  The future, will tell, and it may be significant that the Left was unable in 1964 to make visits of American nuclear submarines to Japan into the issue that had been made over revising the Security Treaty with the United States in 1960.  For the present, the wise ally ought still to be aware of a certain suspicion of U.S. motives on the part of some Japanese.

It is difficult to blame the Japanese for their lack of firmness.  They are part of the western alliance not because they are part of its tradition but because they lost a war with its strongest member  Material prosperity has not ended a feeling of restlessness.  No number of washing machines can really substitute for a sense of mission.  When Eisako [sic] Sato became Japan’s 10th postwar prime minister in 1964, almost his first words were:  “Japan’s international voice has been too small”.  What that voice will say is as yet unclear.  Obviously, dreams of empire are gone, but the Japanese government apparently does wish to take a more active role in the free world’s fight for peace.  The country is already giving $600 million in aid to underdeveloped nations.  It would like a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and there have been proposals in Japan that the country contribute a peace-keeping force to the U.N.  But Japan as a whole remains ambivalent about playing a strong international role.

By and large, the Japanese still dread the prospect of rearmament.  Many Japanese — in a general way, those from east of the symbolic Tokyo line — are able to sink themselves into their work and so to accept the chiefly negative attractions of the American alliance.  Others look to the Chinese or the Russians or waver between them.

United in fear of war and the atom bomb, to which they alone have offered victims, the Japanese are in a difficult position.  The observer pities a country that cannot make up its mind to defend itself but cannot really make up its mind to have others defend it; that cannot live with armaments (especially nuclear ones) but cannot live without them.  The observer can even understand, so emotion-ridden is the question, why those who resolve the dilemma by dismissing defenses and defenders show a strong tendency to try to eat their cake and have it too.

It is the articulate intelligentsia that does so, and in a way this is a new twist to the venerable Japanese institution of blithely accepting contradictory beliefs.  The policy approved by the intelligentsia means, in effect, that a country can have security without paying for it.  The policy in question is disarmed neutralism, and it has the support of the second largest party in the country, the Socialist party.

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

There are two cynical but logical ways of defending such a policy.  One is the position of the few who have followed their Marxist assumptions through to a conclusion:  that neutralism is a device for preparing to switch sides in the world conflict.  The other is the hardheaded position held by such operators as President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt:  that the two sides can be played off against each other.

For most of its supporters, however, disarmed neutralism is simply a matter of wishfulness and self-deception.  Its advocates assume that an economically powerful country, situated far from the nearest help, would be safe if disarmed, because any invasion or fifth-column subversion would start a major war.  In other words, it assumes that the United States, even if it were restricted to its own side of the Pacific, would come to the aid of the Japanese in an attack.  Hence a self-deception arises that verges on willful duplicity:  the West is simultaneously condemned and looked to for protection.

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

Yet intolerable though this attitude may seem to an American, it is after all one which might have been anticipated.  The stronger party must accept it in good humor and hope that there will one day be an awakening.

The chances of an awakening certainly seem better than they were a few years ago. Although it is still far from victory, the Socialist party creeps a little closer to it with every election.  In its eagerness to make the last push, it may turn to wooing the essentially conservative voter east of that imaginary downtown-uptown line.  It cannot do so unless it stops talking revolution and tones down its hostility toward the United States, a country which continues to be popular east of the line.  So far the talk has been ambiguous, with one clause contradicting the next in the same sentence.  The whole argument apparently leads to the conclusion that there will be a revolution, but not quite yet, and a revolution that will not necessarily have to be achieved by forceful means.

However domestic politics alone might have altered its position, the Socialist party has recently been exposed to winds from abroad.  The Chinese nuclear test and the belligerent position of Peking on revolution by force, as well as its attack on the nuclear-test treaty concluded between the Soviet Union and the United States early in 1964, have driven the Socialists into the arms of Moscow and to an acceptance of Moscow’s line of peaceful coexistence.  By backing the treaty, the Socialists, for the first time since the Occupation, have taken a position in international affairs that is openly at odds with that of the Japanese Communist party.  The Russians may move toward the West, and the Japanese Socialists may move with them, but on that possibility one can only speculate.

If the Russians, the Chinese and the Japanese themselves can influence this left-wing Japanese pole, possible influence on it from the United States must be listed as a poor fourth.  Yes U.S. influence in Japan is not negligible, as witness the fact that the Security Treaty was, after all, accepted in 1960 despite all the fulmination from the the Left, and by the fact that successive postwar governments have affirmed their support for the U.S. alliance.  In 1965 Premier Sato, on a visit to the United States, declared that Japan and the U.S. were bound by ties of “mutual interdependence.”

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

So many forces shaping the future of Japan are nevertheless out of Japanese hands, and therefore beyond the power of anyone to influence, that no country can afford to be unmindful of them.  This can be said of any country, but it is particularly true of a country that remains divided.

For the West, and particularly its most powerful nation, a pair of injunctions would seem to be an apt conclusion to what has been said:  Be quiet, and be strong.

Be quiet.  If the troubles the United States had with Japan in 1960 taught a lesson, it was that the Japanese must not be pushed to a decision about their responsibilities in the world.  They may eventually come to a decision by their own devices, but as things stand today, nothing should be done that might give the impression that the United States is applying pressure.

Proposals which demand of the Japanese more positive cooperation than they are now offering are still more dangerous.  It may seem that every nation has an obligation to defend itself, particularly if on occasion its international monetary problems seem of less moment than those of its chief ally.  Yet the Japanese are too important to the western world and too vulnerable to be left wandering unprotected, and today there are elements in Japan itself which seem to have reached that conclusion.  There are even some important factions in Prime Minister Sato’s own conservative party that not ony recognize the necessity of U.S. nuclear defenses but also see a need for Japan to have nuclear weapons of its own.  That is not a widely shared view; any proposal for adequate defenses flies squarely in the face of the American-drafted Japanese Constitution, and any effort to alter the Constitution would provoke violent opposition.  So the disagreeable but undeniable fact, not likely to change for a long time, is that the United States must be responsible for the defense of Japan and expect considerable vituperation in return.

And the United States and the West must be strong.  There is yet another important element in Japanese neutralism.  In addition to being in some measure cynical, in some measure pro-Communist and in some measure wishful, neutralism is based on fear and opportunism, in this case closely intertiwned. There are Japanese who simply want to be on the winning side, and they think they see which side it will be.  Hence, whether or not they have any convictions, they say favorable things about China.

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

It is possible to understand and even to sympathize with such people.  The United States is across the Pacific, but the Soviet Union is within sight of the northernmost Japanese island, and across the China Seas lies the newest of the nuclear powers, larger in terms of manpower than all the others put together.

On a practical level, the strength of the American economy is important.  Although Japan is not as dependent on the United States as it once was, it is nevertheless more dependent on the United States than on any other country.

A serious recession in America is the thing most certain to disturb the solid voting habits of the Japanese.  To remain prosperous is perhaps the best thing the United States and the West can do for Japan.  Economic stability may not answer all the questions, but economic disaster would be quite certain to produce all the wrong answers.

ENDS
///////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Seidensticker attempts what all good scholars try to do with the society they have devoted their lives to:  Convince everyone else that they should be paying attention to it as well.

In this case, we have the classic Western assessments of a fragile Japan in balance, at the time teetering between the contemporary poles of Free World and Communist Bloc; an ignorant nudge from the United States just might send it crashing down on the wrong side and throw world politics into “disaster”. (Clearly the USG is the intended audience here, as it reads more like a policy prescription in Foreign Affairs than an exotic travelogue; I am reminded of George Kennan’s “X” Soviet containment article.)

So Seidensticker’s advice?  Be quiet and strong.  Leave Japan alone to develop along its own ways, but be mindful of which direction it’s going.  Shouldn’t be too hard, he suggests — if the US just keeps its economy chugging along its merry way, dependent Japan’s will too. Thus the paternalism of the United States, in this article’s case towards Japan in its position as a Cold-War pawn, still in my view colors US-Japan Relations today.

Don’t get “pushy” with this “badly divided” and society mired in its “confused” exoticism?  Clearly this is a much better route than getting involved in Japan’s minutia like the US was doing in Vietnam (later soon Cambodia and Laos), if this indeed is how dipolar the choices were seen back then.  But if so, is there any wonder why Japan’s intellectuals showed such mistrust of the US?

In sum, this is a thoughtful article, and in 2000 words Seidensticker acquits himself well when it comes to knowledge and sensitivity towards Japan.  But it’s clearly dated (not just because of smug hindsight to see how many predictions he got wrong); it’s clearly in the Edwin Reischauer camp of “poor, poor, misunderstood Japan, let’s not be ignorant or mean towards it”, meaning protecting the status quo or else someday Japan will attack us.

Yet now, fifty years later, Japan has essentially gotten everything it wanted from the West in order to develop and prosper.  Yet I believe it’s heading back towards insularity today due to structures and habits that were NOT removed from Japan’s postwar bureaucracy and education system.  Such as a weak investigative press, an economic system not geared beyond developmental capitalism, a lack of solid oversight systems that encourage rule of law rather than allow bureaucratic extralegal guidelines or political filibustering, a lackluster judiciary that cannot (or refuses to) hold powerful people and bureaucrats responsible, a public undereducated beyond a mythological and anti-scientific “uniqueness” mindset, able to understand equality and fairness towards people who are disenfranchised or who are not members of The Tribe, etc.

These are all essential developments crucial to the development of an equitable society that were stalled or stymied (starting with the Reverse Course of 1947) under the very same name of maintaining the delicate balance of Japan’s anti-communist status quo.  Well, the Cold War is long over, folks, yet Japan still seems locked into unhealthy dependency relationships (unless it is able to lord it over poorer countries in cynical and venal attempts to influence world politics in its own petty directions; also unhealthy).  Only this time, for the past twenty years and counting, Japan simply isn’t getting rich from it any longer.

Further thoughts, Debito.org Readers?  Arudou Debito

Japan Times: Colin Jones on schizophrenic J constitution regarding civil and human rights of NJ residents

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times Community Page does it again! Legal scholar Colin P. A. Jones on the loopholes and contradictions within the Japanese postwar Constitution, how they came about, and what they mean in practice in terms of NJ (and Japanese) civil and human rights. This is one of the most enlightening pieces I’ve read all year, connecting a lot of dots and answering questions I’ve had building up for years. What are you waiting for? Read it! Several times. Until it sinks in. Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
THE ZEIT GIST
Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion
By COLIN P. A. JONES
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101a1.html

… After Japan’s defeat in 1945, the country was occupied by American military authorities who, over the space of a week in early 1946, prepared the first draft of the current Constitution. The Americans were adamant that the new charter should unequivocally state that sovereignty rested with the people, not the Emperor.

This was nothing short of revolutionary; popular sovereignty was a concept that amounted to lese majeste for many Japanese, who had been raised on prewar propaganda perpetuating the idea of Japan as a national family headed by an emperor whose lineage could be traced directly back to the founding deities…

Of course, the real Pandora’s box of constitutional paradoxes involves the rights of non-Japanese […]. The first paradox is presented by Chapter 3 of the charter, which in Japanese is titled “Rights and Duties of the Japanese People.” The clear linkage of rights to citizenship is missing from the official English version; to read it properly, you need to understand that where it says “the people,” the Japanese term used is kokumin, which clearly refers to Japanese nationals. In some places the term used is “person,” which lacks any nuances of citizenship, but it still appears in a chapter whose title appears to limit all rights to citizens.

This subtle but important discrepancy is the result of what historian John Dower calls “language games” on the part of the Japanese government team when it rendered the Americans’ English draft into Japanese. This form of passive resistance, together with another modification that the Americans inexplicably accepted (the elimination of “nationality” as a prohibited category of discrimination under the equal protection provisions of Article 14), has resulted in a Constitution that seems schizophrenic insofar as it speaks of defining equality and “fundamental human rights” as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.

Granted, the Japanese were understandably trying to avoid being foisted with a charter that on its face might have entitled anyone just getting off a plane to demand the right to vote, but the result is a Constitution that is extremely vague as to the rights of non-Japanese, even those born and raised in the country.

So what rights do foreign residents have under the Constitution? Well, according to the Supreme Court, they are entitled to all the same rights as Japanese people, except for those which by their nature are only to be enjoyed by Japanese people. Does that help?…

Another result of the uncertainty over the rights of foreigners is that they are apparently less free to leave the country than Japanese people. When I made a similar statement in a past article, a reader expressed his disappointment that The Japan Times was allowing me to perpetuate misinformation, since it is well established in treatises that foreigners in Japan are free to leave. This is true, of course, if you don’t care about coming back. But that is like talking about the right to eat and drink as though it has nothing to do with the right to use the toilet. For non-Japanese who have businesses, homes and families in this country, however, just the right to leave does not count for much if it only means a one-way trip.

Take the case of Kathleen Morikawa, an American resident in Japan who was fined for refusing to be fingerprinted as part of the alien registration process of days gone by. When she applied for a re-entry permit for a short trip to South Korea, her application was denied and she sought recourse in the courts. In 1992 the Supreme Court declared that foreigners had no constitutional right to enter or re-enter Japan, and that the Justice Ministry’s refusal to issue a re-entry permit was an acceptable exercise of administrative discretion in light of her refusal to be fingerprinted.

“Ignore the law and pay the price” is a fair comment here, but what I find noteworthy about the Morikawa case is that it did not seem to matter that she had a Japanese spouse and Japanese children. That the Justice Ministry can punitively strip Japanese nationals of their ability to travel or even live with a family member would seem to be at least as important constitutionally as whatever rights foreigners may or may not have.

The fact that many of us may be willing to live in Japan essentially at the sufferance of the government does not mean that our Japanese spouses, children and other kin should not have their own independent constitutionally protected rights to a family life free from arbitrary bureaucratic caprice. Article 13 of the Constitution refers to a right to the “pursuit of happiness,” but meaningful court precedents tying this provision to a right to family life are thin on the ground.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101a1.html
ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 45 Nov 1, 2011: “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit”

mytest

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Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE
The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101ad.html

There is an axiom in Japanese: uso mo hōben — “lying is also a means to an end.” It sums up the general attitude in Japan of tolerance of — even justification for — not telling the truth. (sources here and here)

First — defining “telling the truth” as divulging the truth (not a lie), the whole truth (full disclosure) and nothing but the truth (uncompounded with lies) — consider how lies are deployed in everyday personal interactions.

Let’s start with good old tatemae (charitably translated as “pretense”). By basically saying something you think the listener wants to hear, tatemae is, essentially, lying. That becomes clearer when the term is contrasted with its antonym, honne, one’s “true feelings and intentions.”

Tatemae, however, goes beyond the “little white lie,” as it is often justified less by the fact you have avoided hurting your listener’s feelings, more by what you have gained from the nondisclosure.

But what if you disclose your true feelings? That’s often seen negatively, as baka shōjiki (“stupidly honest”): imprudent, naive, even immature. Skillful lying is thus commendable — it’s what adults in society learn to do.

Now extrapolate. What becomes of a society that sees lying as a justifiably institutionalized practice? Things break down. If everyone is expected to lie, who or what can you trust?

Consider law enforcement. Japan’s lack of even the expectation of full disclosure means, for example, there is little right to know your accuser (e.g., in bullying cases). In criminal procedure, the prosecution controls the flow of information to the judge (right down to what evidence is admissible). And that’s before we get into how secretive and deceptive police interrogations are infamous for being. (source here)

Consider jurisprudence. Witnesses are expected to lie to such an extent that Japan’s perjury laws are weak and unenforceable. Civil court disputes (try going through, for example, a divorce) often devolve into one-upmanship lying matches, flippantly dismissed as “he-said, she-said” (mizukake-ron). And judges, as seen in the Valentine case (Zeit Gist, Aug. 14, 2007), will assume an eyewitness is being untruthful simply based on his/her attributes — in this case because the witness was foreign like the plaintiff.

Consider administrative procedure. Official documents and public responses attach organizational affiliations but few actual names for accountability. Those official pronouncements, as I’m sure many readers know due to arbitrary Immigration decisions, often fall under bureaucratic “discretion” (sairyō), with little if any right of appeal. And if you need further convincing, just look at the loopholes built into Japan’s Freedom of Information Act.

All this undermines trust of public authority. Again, if bureaucrats (like everyone else) are not expected to fully disclose, society gets a procuracy brazenly ducking responsibility wherever possible through vague directives, masked intentions and obfuscation.

This is true to some degree of all bureaucracies, but the problem in Japan is that this nondisclosure goes relatively unpunished. Our media watchdogs, entrusted with upholding public accountability, often get distracted or corrupted by editorial or press club conceits. Or, giving reporters the benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to know which lyin’ rat to pounce on first when there are so many. Or journalists themselves engage in barely researched, unscientific or sensationalistic reporting, undermining their trustworthiness as information sources.

Public trust, once lost, is hard to regain. In such a climate, even if the government does tell the truth, people may still disbelieve it. Take, for example, the Environment Ministry’s recent strong-arming of regional waste management centers to process Tohoku disaster ruins: Many doubt government claims that radioactive rubble will not proliferate nationwide, fanning fears that the nuclear power industry is trying to make itself less culpable for concentrated radiation poisoning by irradiating everyone (see https://www.debito.org/?p=9547)!

Apologists would say (and they do) that lying is what everyone in positions of power does worldwide, since power itself corrupts. But there is the matter of degree, and in Japan there is scant reward for telling the truth — and ineffective laws to protect whistle-blowers. It took a brave foreign CEO at Olympus Corp. to come out recently about corporate malfeasance; he was promptly sacked, reportedly due to his incompatibility with “traditional Japanese practices.” Yes, quite so.

This tradition of lying has a long history. The Japanese Empire’s deception about its treatment of prisoners of war and noncombatants under the Geneva Conventions (e.g., the Bataan Death March, medical experiments under Unit 731), not to mention lying to its own civilians about how they would be treated if captured by the Allies, led to some of the most horrifying mass murder-suicides of Japanese, dehumanizing reprisals by their enemies, and war without mercy in World War II’s Pacific Theater.

Suppressing those historical records, thanks to cowardice among Japan’s publishers, reinforced by a general lack of “obligation to the truth,” has enabled a clique of revisionists to deny responsibility for Japan’s past atrocities, alienating it from its neighbors in a globalizing world.

Even today, in light of Fukushima, Japan’s development into a modern and democratic society seems to have barely scratched the surface of this culture of deceit. Government omerta and omission kept the nation ignorant about the most basic facts — including reactor meltdowns — for months!

Let me illustrate the effects of socially accepted lying another way: What is considered the most untrustworthy of professions? Politics, of course. Because politicians are seen as personalities who, for their own survival, appeal to people by saying what they want to hear, regardless of their own true feelings.

That is precisely what tatemae does to Japanese society. It makes everyone into a politician, changing the truth to suit their audience, garner support or deflect criticism and responsibility.

Again, uso mo hoben: As long as you accomplish your goals, lying is a means to an end. The incentives in Japan are clear. Few will tell the truth if they will be punished for doing so, moreover rarely punished for not doing so.

No doubt a culturally relativistic observer would attempt to justify this destructive dynamic by citing red herrings and excuses (themselves tatemae) such as “conflict avoidance,” “maintaining group harmony,” “saving face,” or whatever. Regardless, the awful truth is: “We Japanese don’t lie. We just don’t tell the truth.”

This is not sustainable. Post-Fukushima Japan must realize that public acceptance of lying got us into this radioactive mess in the first place.

For radiation has no media cycle. It lingers and poisons the land and food chain. Statistics may be obfuscated or suppressed as usual. But radiation’s half-life is longer than the typical attention span or sustainable degree of public outrage.

As the public — possibly worldwide — sickens over time, the truth will leak out.

Debito Arudou’s novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

ENDS

— UPDATE: On a more personal note of thanks, I see that as of Midnight November 5, 2011, this column is in its fifth day after release still placing in the top ten “most read stories” on the Japan Times website (go to the story, look down the right-hand column at the Poll, and click on the upper tab that reads “Most read stories”). I think, other than my column last year on the JET Programme, this is the first time one of my columns has been read this much this long. I want to thank everyone for reading! Debito

History: Witness the GOJ’s negotiating tactics during WWII with its allies, according to W.L. Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich”. Not much different today.

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Hi Blog. I have just spent the past six months getting through one of perhaps the more weighty tomes in the English language: William L. Shirer’s THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH — about Nazi Germany and Hitler’s campaigns before and during WWII. This 1150-page tombstone/doorstop of a book will sit proudly on my shelf as something read cover-to-cover with as much information absorbed from it as possible. I of course wrote a book review in the back cover (if you’re interested in hearing it, readers, let me know, and I’ll append it to the Comments Section), but the thing that I’d like to focus this blog entry upon today is Japan’s historical actions and negotiating tactics (including the Japanese government’s penchant for vagueness, obfuscation, and completely masked intentions) mentioned within the book, and how remarkably similar they remain today.

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

Let’s start with page 870 of the Simon & Schuster paperback version. The year is 1941, where by the end Hitler is getting bogged down in the Soviet Union (just reaching the suburbs of Moscow only to soon be beaten back). By December, Hitler is asking his ally, Japan, to open a second front and attack the USSR from the East. Shirer writes:

“The next day, Sunday, December 7, 1941, an event occurred on the other side of the round earth that transformed the European war, which he had so lightly provoked, into a world war, which though he could not know it, would seal his fate and that of the Third Reich. Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day Hitler hurried back by train to Berlin… He had made a solemn secret promise to Japan and the time had come to keep it — or break it.”

According to Shirer, Hitler had but a rudimentary understanding of the United States (thinking it basically governed by Jews and cosseted elites), but knew that he wanted to keep the Americans out of the war until the USSR, and then Britain, were finished with. “Japan was the key to Hitler’s efforts to keep America out of the war until Germany was ready to take her on.” (pg. 871). However, in February of 1941, before Germany would attack the USSR (on June 22), Shirer writes that Germany wanted Japan to join in against Britain, who during the Battle of Britain was showing more resistance to Hitler’s advances than anticipated.  German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop received “hot-tempered” Japanese Ambassador to Berlin, General Oshima Hiroshi, who impressed Shirer as observer as “more Nazi than the Nazis”. Oshima was urged to attack the British Empire’s interests in Asia, such as Singapore, but to leave American holdings alone. The Americans’ turn would come, but action in on that side of the globe would distract the Americans away from their support of the Allies in Europe.  In sum, “the center of gravity of the interests of the United States will be diverted to the Pacific…” (pg. 873).

There was an important caveat in Nazi plans:  If it were perceived that “the entry of the United States into the war cannot be prevented”, then American holdings would be fair game for Japanese attack as well. The US fleet at that time was seen by Hitler as “inferior” to the Japanese, and it was thought the campaign would be easy. However, Japan had a caveat as well: Japan would attack, say, Singapore, only if Germany breached the beaches in Britain. But Hitler basically ignored that, since a) he wasn’t ready for a land campaign in Britain since he was fixated on attacking the USSR, and b) he could not let on yet to Japan that he was going to attack the USSR at all.

This entire negotiation between uneasy allies would, in my opinion, eventually devolve into a comedy of errors, with Hitler’s characteristic intolerant hubris conflicting with the Japanese government’s penchant for vagueness, obfuscation, and completely masked intentions. On March 27th, 1941, we had von Ribbentrop impressing upon then-Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yousuke that “it is only a question of time before England admits … the war has already been definitely won by the Axis.” (pg. 874). Here’s how Shirer depicts the meeting next, based upon its recovered minutes:

“In the next breath, [von Ribbentrop] was urging ‘a quick attack upon Singapore’ because it would be ‘a very decisive factor in the speedy overthrow of England’. In the face of such a contradiction the diminutive Japanese visitor did not bat an eye. ‘He sat there inscrutably,’ [meetings minutes recorder] Schmidt later remembered, ‘in no way revealing how these curious remarks impressed him.” (ibid).

But Hitler also had this assessment of America that Matsuoka expressed agreement towards:

“America was confronted by three possibilities: she could arm herself, she could assist England, or she could wage war on another front. If she helped England she could not arm herself. If she abandoned England the latter would be destroyed and America would then find herself fighting the powers of the Three-Power Pact [Germany, Japan, and Italy] alone. In no case, however, could America wage war on another front… [N]ever in the human imagination could there there be a better opportunity for the Japanese to strike in the Pacific than now. Such a moment would never return. It was unique in history.” (pg. 875)

What happened next is crucial in the designs that would develop when Matsuoka took this message back to the Japanese government — which was increasingly having its foreign policy dictated by the military (and by October 16 would hand over all governing powers to General Tojo Hideki in order to wage total war).

Matsuoka reminded Hitler that he “did not control Japan. at the moment he could make no pledge on behalf of the Japanese Empire that it would take action.”

But Hitler did absolutely control Germany and could make a pledge.  And this he did.  Shirer writes:  “If Japan got into a conflict with the United States, Germany on her part would take the necessary steps at once…”.  Matsuoka “did not quite grasp the significance of what the Fuehrer was promising, so Hitler said it again: ‘Germany, as he had said, would promptly take part in case of a conflict between Japan and America.'” (pg. 876)

This degree of rashness and obfuscation on both sides essentially settled everyone’s hash. The next stop on Matsuoka’s current trip to Europe was Moscow, where Japan, unbeknownst to Germany, thereby negotiated its OWN treaty of neutrality and nonaggression with the Soviet Union on March 28. After all, the Nazis had done one of their own (and Matsuoka himself had mentioned to von Ribbentrop only “in a superficial way” (pg 876) that he had met with the Russians regarding this on his way to Germany this trip). And the Nazis had made no intimations that they were about to break theirs. This would throw a spanner into Hitler’s ultimate plans for opening a second front with the USSR, as the Russo-Japanese treaty was in fact kept until the final days of WWII, when the USSR attacked Japan and took Sakhalin and the Northern Territories. And although personally, according to Shirer, Matsuoka remained in favor of attacking the USSR, the Tokyo government did not agree (their attitude seemed to be, “if the Germans were rapidly defeating the Russians, as they claimed, they needed no help from the Japanese” (pg. 877)), and Matsuoka was soon forced out of the cabinet.

Although still allies, the Japanese then employed stalling tactics towards the Germans that would frustrate Hitler no end.  Observe how these are observed essentially intact in Japanese diplomacy today.  I will quote Shirer’s footnote on page 878 in full:

“Ribbentrop kept trying all that fall and several times during the next two years to induce the Japanese to fall upon Russia from the rear, but to each the Tokyo government replied, in effect, ‘So sorry, please.’

“Hitler himself remained hopeful all through the summer.  On August 26 he told [Grand Admiral] Raeder he was ‘convinced that Japan will carry out the attack on Vladivostok as soon as forces have been assembled.  The present aloofness can be explained by the fact that the assembling of forces is to be accomplished undisturbed, and the attack is to come as a surprise’.

“The Japanese archives reveal how Tokyo evaded the Germans on this emarassing questions. When, for instance, on August 19 [German Ambassador to Tokyo] Ott asked the Japanese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs about Japan’s intervention against Russia, the latter replied, ‘For Japan to do a thing like attacking Russia would be a very serious question and would require profound reflection.’  When on August 30 Ott, who by now was a very irritated ambassador, asked Foreign Minister Admiral Toyoda, ‘Is there any possibility that Japan may participate in the Russo-German war?’ Toyoda replied, ‘Japan’s preparations are now making headway, and it will take more time for their completion.'”

Even Nazi Germany’s world-class negotiator Hitler, Shirer concludes, “had been bested at his own game by a wily ally” (pg. 878).

Again, why I’m writing about this:  I’ve dealt with and witnessed the actions of the GOJ for decades now. Although now more than seventy years later, none of this seems out of sync with the way Japanese bureaucrats or politicians talk or act today.  And once anyone overseas thinks they have a handle on and an avenue into the political situation, the cabinet changes and then you have to start again. Someday people are going to have to learn how the GOJ works internationally.  Arudou Debito

Peter Tasker in Foreign Policy Magazine: “Japan will rebuild, but not how you think”. Takes opportunity of Japan’s worst postwar disaster to re-advance outmoded Chrysanthemum Club-ism.

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Hi Blog.  To take us through the holiday weekend (and shortly before I vacation this blog for the summer), let’s have a discussion about this article by Peter Tasker which achieved a prominent spot in a prominent policymakers’ magazine.

The article offers hope that Japan will rebuild.  But it also cherry-picks economic statistics to show that Japan isn’t as bad economically as all that (he even dismisses the “Lost Decade(s)”; does Mr. Tasker get out of Tokyo much?).  And, more oddly, he takes the opportunity of Japan’s worst postwar disaster to swipe at the “Revisionists” (the contrapose to the “Chrysanthemum Club”), particularly the late Chalmers Johnson.  The C-Club, a group of scholars with great sway in US-Japan Relations for just about the entire Postwar Era, generally tends to explain away most of Japan’s disinclination to follow international rules and norms by citing their own conjured-up sacerdotal cultural oddities and esoterica (or, less charitably, “intellectual chicanery” and “uncritical apolog[ism] for Japan”).  It preys on the fact that it knows more Japanese words and concepts than most Western readers do, and cites them even if they aren’t grounded in much.  And woe betide any competing point of view to come in and spoil the US-Japan Relationship love-in.

True to form, in the best rewarmed Reishauer, Mr. Tasker acclaims the country’s “extraordinary social cohesion and stoicism” in the name of “social stability” and “national self-respect”, thanks to “mutual respect, not victory in competition”, and of course, “gaman” and “shimaguni konjo“.  This overseas school of thought once again portrays poor, poor Japan as perpetually misunderstood by the West, not as a corporatist state that serves its citizenry at times pretty poorly and seeks little consent from its governed.  As Japan’s per capita incomes keep dropping, people (particularly new employment market entrants) find themselves less able to advance or improve their lives, while the flaws of the state have come ever more into stark relief thanks to Fukushima.

For this time, Fukushima’s increasing radiation exposure is not something that can wait like a regular disaster (such as the slow recovery efforts after the Kobe Earthquake of 1995).  Meanwhile, the ineffectual state keeps covering up information, shifting safety standards for radioactivity, and exposing more people and the international food chain to accumulating toxin.  Yet it’s this much-vaunted public “stoicism” (as opposed to feelings of powerlessness and futility) that is precisely what will do people in.  Mr. Tasker’s citing of the alleged common belief that “the janitor in your apartment building is not a representative of ‘the other’. He is you.” may be something the Japanese are being told to tell themselves (although I can’t find any sources for that), but I don’t believe this attitude is going to be a constructive source for recovery this time.  Fukushima will, however, eventually become a source of “grand-mal victimization”, as a substitute for solution and revolution, as the malcontents who might do something will give up and/or just flee.  We will quite possibly see an exodus (if there isn’t an unreported one going on already) of Japanese (which has happened periodically before during the other times Japan’s economic system broke down; hence the immigrant Japanese communities in places like South America, Hawaii, and California) from this system which quite simply cannot fix itself, and the people feel powerless to demand better even as they get slowly poisoned.

The difference this time is that the breakdown in the state is spreading toxins beyond its own borders, unabated four months later, with no end in sight.  I wonder if Mr. Tasker would offer any revisions to his article now.  But I doubt it.  His politics come through pretty clearly below.

Finally, in contrapose to the media’s much vaunted “Japanese earthquake without looting” canard, I enclose at the very bottom two articles for the record substantiating ATM machine and convenience store theft in the earthquake areas.  A friend also noted a Kyodo wire entitled “684 million yen stolen from ATMs in hardest-hit prefectures” that made the July 16 Japan Times but he says can’t be found archived anywhere.  “Stoicism and social cohesion”?  People are people.  Shit happens and people react.  Let’s not obfuscate this with cultural canards aiming at advancing the outdated politics and analytical rubric of the Chrysanthemum Club.  Arudou Debito

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

The Island Nation
Japan will rebuild, but not how you think. And 20 years of misread history holds the clues.

BY PETER TASKER | Foreign Policy MARCH 24, 2011
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/24/the_island_nation

“When my mother was 10, she was evacuated to Sendai and saw the whole town get bombed flat. My father experienced the big air-raids on Yokohama. Their generation started out when there was nothing left of Japan but smoking ruins. Don’t worry about us — we’ll definitely recover this time too.”

So read an email I received a few days ago from a family friend, a professor of literature at a prestigious Japanese university. It served as further confirmation that the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 may have shifted the land mass of the main island by six feet, but the country’s extraordinary social cohesion and stoicism haven’t budged an inch.

In a sense, Japan has been waiting for a crisis just such as this to show its inherent strengths. The foreign media have been hyperventilating over the question of whether Japan can rebuild (and improve upon) its economy. This misconceived idea stems from the frenzy of the 1980s, when foreign writers and academics lauded and feared Japanese industrial might. But when the Japanese economy stagnated, the praise and warnings turned to lectures and self-congratulation, as the West patted itself on the back for having bested the Japanese threat. But this analysis of the rise and fall of Japan’s economy misses the point. In my three decades of residence here, Japan’s underlying reality has changed a lot less than volatile foreign perceptions.

The Japanese economic miracle had nothing to do with competitiveness or the supposed omniscience of Tokyo’s elite bureaucrats; it had everything to do with the resilience of ordinary Japanese people and the country’s deep reservoir of social capital. And when Japan’s economy faltered during the “lost decades,” this likewise had nothing to do with a stodgy growth model or Tokyo’s elite bureaucrats having dug their heads into the sand. Japan was urged to make radical economic reforms by many foreign observers, who were then disappointed by Tokyo’s glacial progress in making them. But economic efficiency was never the end goal, whether Japan’s economy was rising or falling. It was social stability. And this foundation has survived two tough decades and is now a national insurance policy being paid out in the aftermath of the recent disaster.

Japan will rebuild its economy, probably with impressive speed. But don’t expect to see a plethora of Japanese billionaires emerging, along the U.S. or Chinese model, or the adoption of hostile takeovers, Reagan-Thatcher-style supply-side reforms, and the rest of the neoliberal agenda. Instead Japan will dig deep into its own values to forge a 21st-century version of the “rise from the smoking ruins.”

If modern Japan has a common ethic, it’s based on mutual respect, not victory in competition. The most potent symbols of this Japanese sense of social cohesion are the dowdy blue overalls worn by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his ministers at news conferences and other public appearances since the earthquake. The idea is to express solidarity with the workers at the front line and reduce the sense of separation between rulers and ruled. This was a strategy also employed by the legendary business leaders of Japan’s 1960s golden era. Soichiro Honda, for example, attended meetings with bankers in his overalls.

Indeed, the Japanese public looks back on the 1960s not primarily as a time of rapid growth, but as one of shared purpose and real equality. The 1980s, on the other hand, when Japan became a huge player on the world stage, is viewed with ambivalence. Justifiably so, as it led to the inflation of the “bubble economy,” a period of manic speculation that makes America’s subprime housing disaster look tame by comparison. Japan does gaman (endurance) superbly. It copes with the challenges of success less well.

This point was deeply misunderstood in the 1980s, when Japan inspired a mixture of respect and dread on the global stage, particularly in the United States. A group of academics and writers, most prominently the late Chalmers Johnson of the University of California, came up with the idea that the Japanese industrial challenge was so formidable that it required “containment,” just as Soviet communism had.

Almost everything these experts said turned out to be spectacularly wrong. They had misread the causes of Japan’s postwar success. The supposedly farsighted technocrats praised by Johnson in his 1982 book, MITI and the Japanese Miracle, were the same people who tried to stop Honda from getting into the auto market, poured public money into sunset industries, and built nuclear power plants on a tsunami-prone coast at sea level.

The biggest mistake was to overlook the Japanese social consensus that interpreted international economic competitiveness not as an end in itself, but as an indication of national self-respect.

The generation of Japanese brought up amid the postwar devastation was driven by a hunger to reconstruct everything — their lives, their society, their country’s standing in the world. Once Japan was strong enough to be left alone, the target had been achieved.

After the collapse of the bubble economy in 1990, Japan did indeed descend into stagnation and banking crisis. At the time it seemed as if Japan’s policymakers and bankers were uniquely incompetent in their fumbling attempts to tackle the problems. With the hindsight offered by the global financial crisis, it is clear that there are no easy fixes to the damage caused by the implosion of a large-scale bubble. And the United States is not one to judge: Washington has refused to make Wall Street take the harsh medicine it urged on Japan a decade earlier.

By the early years of this century, however, Japan had largely worked through its post-bubble malaise, and its economic performance started to improve. The Japanese corporate sector returned to record margins. The percentage of Japanese exports going to the emerging world soared to much higher levels than those from the United States and Europe. And corporate Japan’s spending on research and development was 50 percent higher (as a percentage of sales) than U.S. and European competitors.

There are two reasons that this went largely unremarked. First, economists usually discuss GDP without reference to currency markets, but this can obscure what’s really going on. Japan’s tight monetary policy has caused the yen to strengthen significantly against the dollar and dollar-linked currencies — which raises the global purchasing power of Japanese households and corporations. In comparison, U.S. growth looks impressive when denominated in dollars, but not so much when taking into account the weak dollar policy followed by Messrs. Greenspan and Bernanke. If denominated in Japanese yen, U.S. GDP has been stagnant for the past 10 years.

Second, Japanese economic output per worker actually ran ahead of U.S. levels in the 2003-2008 period. Sure, U.S. GDP growth has been boosted — but largely by the rising total number of workers, itself a result of population increase, mainly caused by immigration. This obscures what’s really happening to living standards. If the well-being of the mass of citizens is the goal of policy, Japan’s performance this century does not justify the “lost decade” sound bite.

Foreign observers often see mass immigration as a cure-all for Japan’s demographic problem. It hasn’t happened and it isn’t likely to: In the Japanese hierarchy of needs, social cohesion ranks higher than top-line growth. Japanese opinion tends to focus on the potential downsides of large-scale immigration: Inequality would probably rise; the wages of low-earning native workers would likely be deflated by the new competition, while the upper-middle class would benefit from the services of inexpensive cleaners, handymen, and baby sitters. The Japanese also fear a dilution of shimaguni konjo, the “island nation spirit” that has helped them cope with a series of disasters of apocalyptic proportions.

The quiet strength of today’s Japan is that the janitor in your apartment building is not a representative of “the other.” He is you. In fact, there are thousands of janitors in apartment buildings across Japan who cut the same rumpled figure as Kan in his blue overalls. It is this Japanese narrative of a shared suffering and renewal against all odds that will drive Japan’s post-quake development. We may wish the Japanese to become more like us, but that isn’t going to happen. As they set about the task of recovery, they will become more like themselves.

===========================
Peter Tasker is a Tokyo-based investor and commentator.
ENDS

SUPPLEMENTAL ARTICLES:

700 M. Yen Stolen from ATMs in 3 Prefs Hardest Hit by March Disaster
http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2011071500046

Tokyo, July 14 (Jiji Press)–Some 684.4 million yen in total was stolen from automated teller machines between March 11, the day of the major earthquake and tsunami, and the end of June in three prefectures hardest hit by the disaster, Japan’s National Police Agency reported Thursday.

The number of thefts targeting ATMs at financial institutions and convenience stores reached 56, while the number of attempted such thefts stood at seven in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the agency said.

Fukushima Prefecture accounted for 60 pct of the number of cases and the amount stolen, with the impact of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant being blamed for the high figure.

No similar cases were reported in March-June 2010. ATM thefts rose sharply after the disaster, but the situation in the prefecture is now under control, the police said.

Some 750 police officers are patrolling areas around the nuclear power plant.
(2011/07/15-05:01)

No. of crimes in 1st half down for 9th straight year

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/archive/news/2011/07/15/20110715p2g00m0dm003000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The number of criminal cases reported to or detected by police in Japan in the January-June period fell 7.1 percent from a year earlier to 711,837, the ninth straight year of decline for the first half of the year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The number of crimes for which suspects were questioned totaled 223,662, down 7.2 percent, involving 146,585 suspects, down 5.2 percent. The ratio of the number of crimes in which suspects were questioned remained unchanged at 31.4 percent.

In the wake of the March 11 earthquake-tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, many thefts and property crimes were reported in the hardest hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the NPA said.

Some 684 million yen was stolen from March to June at convenience stores and automated teller machines in evacuated areas.

The number of burglaries also increased, jumping 109.1 percent to 481 cases in Fukushima Prefecture alone. Burglaries at empty stores rose 35.7 percent to 19 cases in Iwate, by 75.8 percent to 225 cases in Miyagi, and by 57.4 percent to 107 cases in Fukushima.

However, the overall number of offenses violating the Penal Code in the three prefectures dropped in the March-June period. Overall the number dropped by 16.3 percent to 6,895 in Miyagi, by 15.1 percent to 2,135 in Iwate and by 21.4 percent to 5,058 in Fukushima.

Throughout Japan, a total of 51 cases of fraud and criminal business scams involving donations for the March disaster victims were also registered, with damage amounting to about 12.6 million yen, the police said.

(Mainichi Japan) July 15, 2011

ENDS

Reuters Expose: Japan’s ‘throwaway’ nuclear workers, including NJ “temporary temps”

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Hi Blog.  Here is a deep article from Reuters this month on how deep the rot goes in Japan’s labor market and safety practices regarding nuclear power.  It’s germane to Debito.org because even NJ workers have been hired and exposed to radiation in Japan — without proper recordkeeping.  Guess that’s one of the advantages of utilizing NJ laborers — they are the “temp temps” (my term) that escape any official scrutiny because imported labor “sent home” after use is somebody else’s problem.  Courtesy JV. Arudou Debito

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

Japan’s ‘throwaway’ nuclear workers
REUTERS/IAEA/Handout
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/AS/pdf/jpnuclear_2506mv.pdf
Incomplete article online at
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/06/27/japan-nuclear-re-idUKL3E7HR05220110627

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami revealed the heroism of Japanese workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. But it also exposed something else — a legacy of lax safety standards for nuclear workers.

Reuters, June 2011,special report
By Kevin Krolicki & Chisa Fujioka
FUKUSHIMA, Japan, June 24, 2011

A DECADE and a half before it blew apart in a hydrogen blast that punctuated the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was the scene of an earlier safety crisis.

Then, as now, a small army of transient workers was put to work to try to stem the damage at the oldest nuclear reactor run by Japan’s largest utility.

At the time, workers were racing to finish an unprecedented repair to address a dangerous defect: cracks in the drum-like steel assembly known as the “shroud” surrounding the radioactive core of the reactor.

But in 1997, the effort to save the 21-year-old reactor from being scrapped at a large loss to its operator, Tokyo Electric, also included a quiet effort to skirt Japan’s safety rules: foreign workers were brought in for the most dangerous jobs, a manager of the project said.

“It’s not well known, but I know what happened,” Kazunori Fujii, who managed part of the shroud replacement in 1997, told Reuters. “What we did would not have been allowed under Japanese safety standards.”

The previously undisclosed hiring of welders from the United States and Southeast Asia underscores the way Tokyo Electric, a powerful monopoly with deep political connections in Japan, outsourced its riskiest work and developed a lax safety culture in the years leading to the Fukushima disaster, experts say.

A 9.0 earthquake on March 11 triggered a 15-metre tsunami that smashed into the seaside Fukushima Daiichi plant and set off a series of events that caused its reactors to start melting down.

Hydrogen explosions scattered debris across the complex and sent up a plume of radioactive steam that forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents near the plant, about 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Enough radioactive water to fill 40 Olympic swimming pools has also been collected at the plant and threatens to leak into the groundwater.

The repeated failures that have dogged Tokyo Electric in the three months the Fukushima plant has been in crisis have undercut confidence in the response to the disaster and dismayed outside experts, given corporate Japan’s reputation for relentless organization.

Hastily hired workers were sent into the plant without radiation meters. Two splashed into radioactive water wearing street shoes because rubber boots were not available. Even now, few have been given training on radiation risks that meets international standards, according to their accounts and the evaluation of experts.

The workers who stayed on to try to stabilize the plant in the darkest hours after March 11 were lauded as the “Fukushima 50” for their selflessness. But behind the heroism is a legacy of Japanese nuclear workers facing hazards with little oversight, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former nuclear workers, doctors and others.

Since the start of the nuclear boom in the 1970s, Japan’s utilities have relied on temporary workers for maintenance and plant repair jobs, the experts said. They were often paid in cash with little training and no follow-up health screening.

This practice has eroded the ability of nuclear plant operators to manage the massive risks workers now face and prompted calls for the Japanese government to take over the Fukushima clean-up effort.

Although almost 9,000 workers have been involved in work around the mangled reactors, Tokyo Electric did not have a Japan-made robot capable of monitoring radiation inside the reactors until this week.

That job was left to workers, reflecting the industry’s reliance on cheap labor, critics say.

“I can only think that to the power companies, contract workers are just disposable pieces of equipment,” said Kunio Horie, who worked at nuclear plants, including Fukushima Daiichi, in the late 1970s and wrote about his experience in a book “Nuclear Gypsy”.

Tokyo Electric said this week it cannot find 69 of the more than 3,600 workers who were brought in to Fukushima just after the disaster because their names were never recorded.

Others were identified by Tepco in accident reports only by initials: “A-san” or “B-san.” Makoto Akashi, executive director at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences near Tokyo, said he was shocked to learn Tokyo Electric had not screened some of the earliest workers for radiation inside their bodies until June while others had to share monitors to measure external radiation.

That means health risks for workers – and future costs – will be difficult to estimate.

“We have to admit that we didn’t have an adequate system for checking radiation exposure,” said Goshi Hosono, an official appointed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to coordinate the response to the crisis.

BROAD ROAD TO DESTRUCTION

Fujii, who devoted his career to building Japanese nuclear power plants as a manager with IHI Corporation, was troubled by what he saw at Fukushima in 1997.

Now 72, he remembers falling for “the romance of nuclear power” as a student at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University in the 1960s. “The idea that you could take a substance small enough to fit into a tea cup and produce almost infinite power seemed almost like a dream” he said.

He had asked to oversee part of the job at Fukushima as the last big assignment of his career. He threw himself into the work, heading into the reactor for inspections. “I had a sense of mission,” he said.

As he watched a group of Americans at work in the reactor one day, Fujii jotted down a Bible verse in his diary that captured his angst: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.”

The basis for nuclear safety regulation is the assumption that cancers, including leukemia, can be caused years later by exposure to relatively small amounts of radiation, far below the level that would cause immediate sickness. In normal operations, international nuclear workers are limited to an average exposure of 20 millisieverts per year, about 10 times natural background radiation levels.

At Fukushima in 1997, Japanese safety rules were applied in a way that set very low radiation exposure limits on a daily basis, Fujii said. That was a prudent step, safety experts say, but it severely limited what Japanese workers could do on a single shift and increased costs.

The workaround was to bring in foreign workers who would absorb a full-year’s allowable dose of radiation of between 20 millisieverts and 25 millisieverts in just a few days.

“We brought in workers from Southeast Asia and Saudi Arabia who had experience building oil tankers. They took a heavier dose of radiation than Japanese workers could have,” said Fujii, adding that American workers were also hired.

Tokyo Electric would admit five years later it had hid evidence of the extent of the defect in the shroud from regulators. That may have added to the pressure to finish the job quickly. When new cracks were found, they were fixed without a report to regulators, according to disclosures made in 2002.

It is not clear if the radiation doses for the foreign workers were recorded on an individual basis or if they have faced any heath problems. Tepco said it had no access to the worker records kept by its subcontractors. IHI said it had no record of the hiring of the foreign workers. Toshiba, another major contractor, also said it could not confirm that foreign workers were hired.

Hosono, the government official overseeing the response to the disaster, said he was not aware of foreign workers being brought in to do repair work in the past and they would not be sent in now.

Now retired outside Tokyo, Fujii said he has come to see nuclear power as an “imperfect technology.”

“This is an unfortunate thing to say, but the nuclear industry has long relied on people at the lowest level of Japanese society,” he said.

PAY-BY-THE-DAY

Since the late 1960s, the Kamagasaki neighborhood of Osaka has been a dumping ground for men battling drug and alcohol addiction, ex-convicts, and men looking for a construction job with few questions. It has also been a hiring spot for Japan’s nuclear industry for decades.

“Kamagasaki is a place that companies have always come for workers that they can use and then throw away,” said Hiroshi Inagaki, a labor activist.

The nearby Lawson’s store has a sign on its bathroom door warning that anyone trying to flush a used syringe down the toilet will be prosecuted. Peddlers sell scavenged trash, including used shoes and rice cookers. A pair of yakuza enforcers in black shirts and jeans walks the street to collect loans.

The center of Kamagasaki is an office that connects day laborers with the small construction firms that roll up before dawn in vans and minibuses.

Within a week after the Fukushima disaster, Tepco had engaged Japan’s biggest construction and engineering companies to run the job of trying to bring the plant under control. They in turned hired smaller firms, over 600 of them. That cascade brought the first job offers to Kamagasaki by mid-March.

One hiring notice sought a truck driver for Miyagi, one of the prefectures hit hard by the tsunami. But when an Osaka day laborer in his 60s accepted the job, he was sent instead to Fukushima where he was put to work handling water to cool the No. 5 reactor.

The man, who did not want to be identified, was paid the equivalent of about $300 a day, twice what he was first promised. But he was only issued a radiation meter on his fourth day. Inagaki said the man was seeking a financial settlement from Tokyo Electric. “We think what happened here is illegal,” he said.

Nearby, several men waiting to be hired in Kamagasaki said they had experience working at nuclear plants.

A 58-year-old former member of Japan’s Self Defense Forces from southern Japan who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Jumbo, said he had worked at Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant for a two-month job. He knows others who have gone to Fukushima from are starting to come back as workers far from home seek the company of bar girls.

“It’s becoming like an army base,” said Shukuko Kuzumi, 63, who runs a cake shop across from the main rail station. “There are workers who come here knowing what the work is like, but I think there are many who don’t.”

Each morning, hired workers pile into buses and beat-up vans and set out from the nearly abandoned resort. More men in the standard-issue white work pajamas pour out of the shipping containers turned into temporary housing at the Hirono highway exit where residents have fled and weeds have overgrown the sidewalks.

They gather at a now abandoned soccer complex where Argentina’s soccer team trained during the 2002 World Cup to get briefed on the tasks for the shifts ahead. They then change into the gear many have come to dread: two or three pairs of gloves, full face masks, goggles and white protective the hiring line at Kamagasaki, he said.

THE ABANDONED SPA

In Iwaki, a town south of the Fukushima plant once known for a splashy Hawaiianthemed resort, the souvenir stands and coffee shops are closed or losing money. The drinking spots known as “snacks” are starting to come back as workers far from home seek the company of bar girls.

“It’s becoming like an army base,” said Shukuko Kuzumi, 63, who runs a cake shop across from the main rail station. “There are workers who come here knowing what the work is like, but I think there are many who don’t.”

Each morning, hired workers pile into buses and beat-up vans and set out from the nearly abandoned resort. More men in the standard-issue white work pajamas pour out of the shipping containers turned into temporary housing at the Hirono highway exit where residents have fled and weeds have overgrown the sidewalks.

They gather at a now abandoned soccer complex where Argentina’s soccer team trained during the 2002 World Cup to get briefed on the tasks for the shifts ahead.

They then change into the gear many have come to dread: two or three pairs of gloves, full face masks, goggles and white protective suits. More than a dozen Fukushima workers have collapsed of heat stroke, and the rising heat weighs more heavily on the minds of workers than threat of radiation.

“I don’t know how I’m going to make it if it gets much hotter than this,” a heavyset, 36-year-old Tokyo man said as he stretched out at Hirono after a day of spraying a green resin around the plant to keep radioactive dust from spreading.

The risks from the radiation hotspots at Fukushima remain considerable. A vent of steam in the No. 1 reactor was found earlier this month to be radioactive enough to kill anyone standing near it for more than an hour.

Tokyo Electric has been given a sanctionfree reprimand for its handling of radiation exposure at Fukushima. Nine workers have exceeded the emergency exposure limit of 250 millisieverts. Another 115 have exceeded 100 millisieverts of exposure. The two workers with the highest radiation readings topped 600 millisieverts of exposure.

For context, the largest study of nuclear workers to date by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found a risk of roughly two additional fatal cancers for every 100 people exposed to 100 millisieverts of radiation.

But several Fukushima workers say they have been told not to worry about health risks unless they top 100 or near 200 millisieverts of exposure in training by contractors.

Experts say that runs counter to international standards. The International Atomic Energy Agency requires workers in a nuclear emergency to give “informed consent” to the risks they face and that they understand danger exists at even low doses.

Tokyo Electric spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said the utility could not confirm what kind of training smaller firms were providing. “The subcontractors have a responsibility as well,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of briefing they are getting.”

Kim Kearfott, a nuclear engineer and radiation health expert from the University of Michigan who toured Japan in May, said authorities needed to ensure that safety training was handled independently by outside experts.

“The potential for coercion and undue influence over a day laborer audience is high, especially when the training and consent are administered by those who control hiring and firing of workers,” she said.

Tokyo Electric has been challenged before on its training. Mitsuaki Nagao, a plumber who had worked at three plants including Fukushima, said he was never briefed on radiation dangers, and would routinely use another worker’s dosimeter to finish jobs. Some doctors worry that the same under-reporting of radiation could happen at Fukushima as well.

Nagao sued Tokyo Electric when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, in 2004. His lawsuit, one of two known worker cases against a Japanese utility, was rejected by a Tokyo court, which ruled no links had been proven between his radiation and his illness. He died in 2007.

Some doctors are urging Japan’s government to set up a system of health monitoring for the thousands of workers streaming through Fukushima. Some also want to see a standard of care guaranteed.

“This is also a problem of economics,” said Kristin Schrader-Frechette, a Notre Dame University professor and nuclear safety expert. “If Japan wants to know the true costs of nuclear power versus the alternatives, it needs to know what these health care costs are.” (Editing by Bill Tarrant)

ENDS

M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall academic paper on “Shattered Gods” and the dying mythology of “Japaneseness”

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Hi Blog. What follows (and will take us up through the weekend) is an academic paper that changed my world view about Japan earlier this year. Written by friend M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall, and presented at the Association of Asian Studies annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 3, 2011, it talks about how Japan’s culture is dysfunctional and, put more metaphysically, unable to fill the need of a people to “deny death“. This will on the surface be difficult to wrap one’s head around, so read on, open the mind wide, and take it all in.  Reprinted here with permission of the author and revised specially for Debito.org.

A word of advice to those not used to reading dense academic papers: I suggest readers immediately skip down to the latter half of the paper (I suggest starting from the heading “A personal meditation on the “metaphysical malaise” of desymbolized postwar Japan”), and only go back and read the whole thing after that (even most academics don’t read the whole thing — they just want all ideas grounded in something and read deeper if they need the sources).  Read the conclusion, in any case, and then work backwards if your interest is piqued.

Concentrate. It’s like a dense episode of the X-Files. And it will raise fundamental questions in your mind about whether it’s worth one’s lifetime doing service to and learning about a dying system, which is ascriptive and exclusionary in nature, yet essentially serving nobody.  I have some comments at the very, very bottom.  Arudou Debito

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Shattered Gods: The Unresolved Cultural Consequences of Japan’s Post-1945 Desymbolization Crisis

M.G. Sheftall, Shizuoka University

Overview

In this paper, I will discuss the state of the “cosmological health” of modern Japanese culture. As I employ the term here, a “cosmology” is the formal symbolic codification of a culture’s core beliefs regarding “the nature of the universe, human society, and the individual’s (proper) relation to them” (Charton [undated website]). Throughout history, cosmologies have tended to be theologically canonized or at least to some extent mythologically framed.[1] In terms of pragmatic function, a cosmology legitimates authority structures within a given culture and, in return, rewards its constituents (i.e., those whose “consent of the governed” legitimizes those authority structures) with existential equanimity in the form of a “transcendent ethos to provide appropriate sense of purpose…(symbolic) anchorages that can provide stable meanings…” (Bell 1976: xcix). For obvious psychological reasons, it will behoove the constituents of any given culture to believe that their cosmology is firmly grounded in ontological authority and metaphysical validity, and to have faith that it affords them access to (if not outright exclusive proprietorship of) ultimate truths about the nature of the universe and their own proper individual and collective place in it. Accordingly, when faith in a cosmology’s authority and validity is compromised, for whatever reason, the affected cultural constituents will experience this development with psychological stress in the form of what theologian Paul Tillich called “spiritual anxiety” (1952) or, to use my preferred term, “existential dread”.

From the late 19th century until Imperial Japan’s defeat in the Second World War in 1945, the native constituents of Japanese culture inhabited a reassuringly secure and intensely Emperor-centric symbolic universe I call “the Meiji cosmology”, after the historical and political circumstances of its origin (i.e., Meiji Era Japan, 1868-1912). Tokyo-based British academic Basil Hall Chamberlain, writing as a contemporary eyewitness to the earliest official mass proselytization of the Meiji cosmology, claimed that the ideological campaign he had observed constituted an “invention of a new religion” created almost entirely from scratch with the two-birds-with-one-stone aim of 1) restoring existential equanimity to the general populace, whose centuries-old traditional native cosmology the Meiji founding fathers had essentially demolished in the zealous modernizing/industrializing/militarizing pursuit of their nation-building project; and 2) legitimating and rallying popular support for Japan’s new centralized Imperial regime (Chamberlain 1912).

Whether or not this cosmology formally qualified as a “religion”, per se, is an issue beyond the scope of our present discussion. Nevertheless, across the roughly six decades during which it was still functioning “as designed” – i.e., providing its constituents with a robust sense of individual and collective purpose in life and a sense of transcendent connection to (some never more than vaguely circumscribed formulation of) the eternal and divine – the Meiji cosmology certainly displayed many of the classic hallmarks of a religion (Fujitani 1996). First of all, it clearly possessed the ability to compel its constituents (its “faithful”) to extremes of devotion and self-sacrifice, largely through the manipulation of mythology, sacred symbols, and Imperial rescripts and edicts handed down “from on high” with all the pious ceremony and heavy portent of Papal bulls (perhaps stone tablets from Mount Sinai are a more apt metaphor). In addition, it held jurisdiction over the rigid circumscription of sacrosanct “off limits” areas of political discourse. It also provided public facilities and employed clergy-like professionals for the administration of cosmology-proselytizing/legitimating rites and devotional ceremonies (e.g. Shinto shrines and their administrators constructed and salaried, respectively, with public funds) (Garon 1997). Lastly, it oversaw the “policing of the ranks” of its cosmological constituency through frequent and very public excoriation of “heretics” and “apostates” (particularly during the early Shōwa Era, e.g., the harsh professional fate and personal trauma suffered by eminent prewar political scientist Minobe Tatsukichi, who had dared to define the Emperor’s political raison d’etre as “an organ of the state” earlier in his career [Bix 2000] ).

At the peak of its metaphysical centrality in the symbolic lifeworld (Habermas et al) of the general populace – arguably, and ironically, during the years of mobilization for, and prosecution of, the “total” war of 1937-1945 that would eventually result in its catastrophic invalidation – the Meiji cosmology possessed a firm enough “claim to definitive truth and unalterable moral certainty” (Lifton 1998: 11) to compel its constituents to great extremes of individual and collective self-sacrifice in its defense. The operant constituent mindset is clearly evident in virtually any sampling of textual artifacts of contemporary Japanese establishment rhetoric, as in this example from an essay by Shintō ultranationalist Kakehi Katsuhiko published in a 1938 issue of Chuō Kōron:

 

No matter how much of a wrongdoer, no matter how evil, a Japanese subject may have been, when once he has taken his stand on the field of battle, all his past sins are entirely atoned for and they become as nothing. The wars of Japan are carried on in the name of the Emperor and there they are holy wars. All the soldiers who participate in these holy wars are representative(s) of the Emperor; they are his loyal subjects. To put the matter of what kind of person he may be, (he) possesses the inherent capacity of becoming a loyal subject and of being empowered to put that loyalty into operation. The matchless superiority of the Japanese national life lies just here…(quoted in Skya 2009: 205).

 

Minus the Japan-specific cultural signifiers, the reader would be forgiven for mistaking Kakehi’s words for quotations from modern day Jihadist recruiting copy. The fact that text as metaphysically ambitious as this appeared in a respected organ of national intellectual debate demonstrates just how compelling – even to the point of “magical thinking” – the Meiji cosmology had become by this point in Japan’s modern history. And as that history also shows, this cosmology – in its most fanatic 1930s-1940s militarist-ultranationalist incarnation – was underscored and reified in the Japanese military’s resort to kamikaze attacks and other forms of suicide tactics in the final year of the 1937-1945 war (Sheftall 2008). However, ostensibly unbeknownst to its original crafters – and perhaps only first suspected by its custodians and constituents three generations later as it neared the effective end of its ideological life in 1944-45 – the Meiji cosmology harbored a congenital flaw of extreme sensitivity to falsification by worldly events. In the end, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, the Meiji cosmology turned out to be “a faith which could not survive collision with the truth”.

 

Theoretical framework of my concept of “cosmology”

According to the (relatively) new socio-psychological field of Terror Management Theory (TMT) (Greenberg et al 1986), from the ultimate reductionist perspective of evolutionary benefit, we human beings need cosmologies to protect ourselves against the potentially pathological existential dread that would otherwise assail us as sentient, intelligent beings conscious of our inevitable mortality and ever aware (on some level of conscious) of the possibility that the ostensibly “heroic” personal strivings and dramas of our lives may be, all things said and done, essentially “inconsequential in the cosmic scheme of things” (Raymo 1998: 110). Accordingly, when people find themselves in a position where they are unable to access a sufficiently robust cosmology – either because of individual mental health and/or philosophical crisis issues or, collectively, because their cosmology itself is for some reason no longer able to function “as designed” to provide its constituents with existential equanimity – the psychological consequences can be dire. As Sigmund Freud once wrote to one of his (many) acolytes, “The moment one inquires about the sense or value of life, one is sick” (quoted in Jones 1957: 465). When a cosmology is working “as designed”, it is supposed to inoculate its constituents against just this “sickness” Freud identifies here, which we are referring to in our present discussion as “existential dread”.

TMT marked the opening of an important new field in social psychology when it first appeared during the 1980s as the brainchild of (then) doctoral candidates Sheldon Solomon, Jeffrey Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski. Originally inspired by the work of late cultural anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Becker (1924-1974), and since validated in hundreds of psychology and other social science discipline studies around the world (including Japan, cf. Mukai 2003; Kashima et al 2004; et al), TMT holds that a culture provides its constituents with existential equanimity by means of two mutually-supporting structural elements (which I subsume under the term “cosmology”). One of these is the culture’s “worldview” – a “social construction of ‘reality’” (Berger & Luckmann 1967) which is usefully thought of as providing a “stage” in symbolic space upon which the cosmology’s loyal constituents play out their lives in (what most cultures frame as) a fundamentally just universe where things happen for valid reasons and where virtue is rewarded. The second element in the cosmological dyad is the culture’s “hero-system(s)”, which – sticking to our dramaturgical metaphor – can be thought of as the “script” or “stage directions” for the playing out of those “meaningful” lives on their respective “worldview stages”. If all goes well, all involved in the production, performance and audience participation of this cosmological theater (if you will) will receive social feedback-reinforced self-esteem and thus a form of symbolic immortality as diligent participants in the (its constituents hope) immortal narrative of the grand cultural project itself (cf. Freud 1930, Rank 1932, Becker 1962, 1973, 1975, et al).

Regarding the taxonomic hierarchy of these terms, it is useful for our purposes to envision “hero-systems” as functioning within the context of their venue-providing “worldviews”, with both of these elements, in turn, subsumed (again, in my taxonomy) within a “cosmology”. This taxonomy reflects what I see as the relative affective scale of the respective components, and thus their relative importance to a culture. To wit, I believe that cultures can and do survive frequent “adjustments on the fly” to their respective hero-system(s) and cultural worldviews, as dictated by the constant flow of incoming new environmental information that behooves such adjustments (lest the culture “lose its grip on reality”, so to speak). Moreover, in all but the most rigid and isolated cultures, a cycle of constant hero-system and (in moderation) worldview tweaking and readjustment is the normal state of affairs, as the culture’s mores and standards of value naturally shift to accommodate social, economic, and technological changes emerging from generation to generation (e.g. the turbulent but not necessarily catastrophic effect of the decade of the 1960s on American and European middle class hero-systems and worldviews). Certainly, throughout its history, Japanese culture has repeatedly proven itself to be highly adaptable and flexible in this regard. But as both history and anthropology show us, the delegitimization of a cosmology – the ideological and ontological functions of a culture that gives its constituents’ lives meaning – is an ontological catastrophe that can have the direst consequences for the health of a culture (Wilson 1981, Mitscherlich & Mitscherlich 1975, Schivelbusch 2002[2001]). The reason for this is that when a cosmology is threatened, the normally culturally provided illusion of immortality, either symbolic (e.g., fame, glory, lasting achievements, membership in an “immortal” cultural project, etc.) or literal (as in belief in an “afterlife”, etc.) that is the basis of its constituents’ main psychological defense against existential dread is also threatened.

As long ago as Thucydides, students of human conflict have recognized that “human hopes…for immortality tend to overwhelm human fears, even of violent death” (Ahrendorf 2000:579). It is precisely these hopes that a cosmology’s concomitant array of worldview and hero-system(s) function to fulfill (immortality aspirations, after all, merely being mortality fears more heroically and romantically rephrased). Of course, in any era and culture, there will be certain individuals who will have attained the status of “heroes” in the most literal sense, both validating their respective cosmologies (and thus winning the gratitude and adulation of the constituencies of those cosmologies) through their personal glories and achievements and, in so doing, securing a level of symbolic immortality most of us can only dream about. That is all fine and well for such “immortals”, but what, one may ask (perhaps not without some trepidation), are all the rest of us “mere mortals” to do about our own existential equanimity needs? Denied even the Warholian “fifteen minutes of fame” that was supposed to be our birthright in this age of mass communications (YouTube and Facebook notwithstanding), what are we supposed to do about securing our own modest shred of symbolic immortality to leave our mark on this world before departing it forever?

“For the more passive masses of mediocre men”, in Ernest Becker’s rather blunt formulation (1973:6), the only symbolic immortality game left for us to play is diligent loyalty to the respective cosmologies into which we are born. We essentially live out our entire lives in this cultural bubble, utterly unaware that we are essentially ontological prisoners in the closed systems of our native cosmologies, each of which is itself merely one among a myriad of equally cosmologically valid culture-specific ideological modelings of reality enjoying the devoted loyalty of countless other human beings around the world and throughout history. Barring neurotic breakdown and/or catastrophic worldview invalidation by external agency (as per the case under examination in this study), most of us remain blissfully ignorant of our participation in the evolutionarily beneficial cosmological theater of worldviews and hero-systems, confident that our lives have meaning and cosmic significance simply because an accident of birth afforded us automatic congenital constituency in the one, single cosmology that just happens to possess exclusive interpretational rights to absolute truth and the ultimate secrets of meaningful human existence. Simultaneously emboldened and blindered by this illusion, we wake up every morning thanking the heavens for our good luck and pitying (while doing our best to mock, convert, kill, or just ignore) the benighted “infidels” in other cultures who are either too perverse, misguided, or just plain stupid (the poor saps!) to realize, as we do, that they live under bogus cosmologies.

While we are on the topic of effective ways of dealing with rival cosmologies, this is a good place to begin a discussion on the dangers of the mutually-reinforcing triangular relationship of: 1) cosmologies; 2) violence; and 3) the human need to feel significant. Becker terms the human need to feel significant “the problem of heroics”, an issue that is:

 

the central one of human life…it goes deeper into human nature than anything else because it is based on organismic narcissism and on the child’s need for self-esteem as the condition for his life. Society itself is a codified hero system, which means that society everywhere is a living myth of the significance of human life, a defiant creation of meaning (1973:7).

 

Unfortunately for past and current conditions – and future prospects – of the human species, the fighting of (and vigilant preparation for) war has spectacular utility in terms of addressing this “problem of heroics.” After McLuhan (1964), Gellner (1983) and Hobsbawm (1990), I would add that the traditional centrality of warfare in human cosmologies has attained a new urgency since the development of mass communication technologies and the increased lethality of industrialized armaments production facilitated the advent of new populist constructions of national subjectivity (with ideologically appropriate supportive cosmologies) in Western Europe and North America during the 18th century, followed by East Asia approximately one century later. This understanding of modern societies at war as superlative producers (as well as rabid consumers) of mass-disseminated, martially-valorized hero-systems darkly underscores Becker’s original formulation of “society” as “a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules for behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism” (1973:4). Now that an ever-increasing number of mutually antipathetic cosmological projects around the world are girding their loins with nuclear weaponry, humanity faces the ultimate irony that what must have seemed a great design solution for the problem of existential dread for our deity-inventing ancient ancestors now poses the ever-present risk of wiping us out. In other words, our cosmologies now pose the very real threat of someday ending up being the death of us all. In the next section, let us examine the background conditions and consequences of modern Japanese culture’s near-miss experience with such a fate.

 

A brief history of the Meiji cosmology

After many decades of postwar national psychoanalysis of Japan by scholars and public intellectuals both domestic and foreign, (by the way, I concur with historian Harry Harootunian in considering Japan’s “postwar period” to still be an ongoing condition), it is almost an academic truism to observe that Japanese culture has suffered two catastrophic cosmological upheavals in its modern history. The first of these was the Meiji “Restoration” of 1868, which itself had been triggered by the earlier crisis of the “opening” of Japan to the West in the 1850s. Although this development has tended to be glossed as a cultural triumph both in establishment interpretations and in popular consciousness of modern Japanese history, many astute pre-1945 Japanese observers – Meiji contemporary author Soseki Natsume, cultural anthropologist and folklorist Yanagida Kunio, and the thinkers of the pre-war “Kyoto School” of philosophers spring to mind as famous examples – were sensitive to the vast cosmological disruption the willfully-imposed chaos of the Restoration left in its wake, as have many postwar Japanese observers, as well (Kishida 1977, Oketani 1996, et al). The second of these upheavals – and one with a far more complicated (and still very much psychologically raw) presence in both establishment and popular consciousness – is the cosmological collapse Japanese culture experienced as a consequence of Japan’s 1945 defeat in the Second World (Asia-Pacific) War and during seven years of culturally intrusive postwar military occupation by the American-led Allied Powers (Kitahara 1984).

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, in his frequent writings on Japan, refers to the post-1868 and post-1945 cosmological upheavals as “historical dislocations”, times:

 

when (cultural) change is too rapid and extreme to be readily absorbed; it then impairs symbol systems having to do with family, religion, social and political authority, sexuality, birth and death, and the overall ordering of the life cycle…There is a loss of a sense of fit between what individuals feel themselves to be and what a society or culture, formally or informally, expects them to be…. At such times, our psychological viability as the cultural animal, or what might be called the “immortalizing animal” (they are virtually the same), is under duress – until new combinations can reanimate our perceived place in the great chain of being (1993: 14-15)

 

It is ironic to appreciate that the Meiji Restoration of 1867-1868 – the event generally recognized as marking the birth of modern Japan (Maruyama 1963[1956], Reischauer 1970, Gluck 1985, Morris-Suzuki 1998, Buruma 2003, Gordon 2003, et al) – and one that also gave birth to the superlatively compelling (but also immeasurably destructive and fatally falsifiable) Meiji cosmology – was itself a direct consequence of Japanese response to an earlier ontological/cosmological crisis, namely, the forced “opening” of Shogunate Japan by United States warships in 1853-1854. This American intrusion resulted in Japan’s abrupt emergence from two and a half centuries of self-imposed and near-total cultural and diplomatic isolation from the outside world, subjecting Japanese culture to what Lifton (1979) refers to as a crisis of “desymbolization” – that is, a period during which, in my terminology, a culture’s cosmology ceases to function properly and thus cannot provide its constituents with symbolic immortality robust enough to stave off existential anxiety.

The American interventions of 1853-1854 set in motion a fifteen-year-long chain of events that saw the collapse of the 265-year-old Shogunate regime in 1868 and its replacement by a centralized national bureaucracy (later joined by a legislature) that wielded sovereign authority under the tutelary aegis of the young Emperor Meiji (1852–1912). The society the new Imperial regime inherited from its Shogunate predecessors was one that was still, in many senses of the term, medieval. By any measure, Japan was at this point still woefully unprepared – socially, economically, culturally, and militarily – to interact from anything but the most humiliatingly obsequious subaltern position (one certainly not conducive to robust symbolic immortality provision!) with the dominant Western powers (rekkyō) that were so feared yet also so enthusiastically emulated by Japan’s new leadership (LaFeber 1997, Oguma 2002 [1996]).

Accordingly, from the outset of the great Meiji Era nation-building project, the ex-samurai running the new regime saw the correction of this unacceptably weak strategic position as Japan’s most urgent national goal. One major obstacle to this agenda was the fact that the largely uneducated rural proletariat  (Gordon 2003) that was the overwhelmingly dominant demographic cohort of this still medieval society inhabited pastoral, animistic, microscopically localized cosmologies that afforded little concept of national subjectivity beyond a catalogue of vague cultural foundation myths passed down through oral tradition by troubadours and local wise men. It is doubtful that many of the Emperor’s new subjects in 1868 even had a clear conception of the institution of the Imperial throne. But long years of huge national investment in educational policy eventually bore fruit. The Emperor’s new national subjects were given an almost entirely new cosmology for their new existence as “Japanese”, replete with a robust, internationally-aware, and pride-inspiring worldview and a network of compelling hero-systems mutually supportive of one another and, most importantly of all, of and for the greater glory of the new Imperial project.

The symbolic lynchpin of the Meiji cosmology – the careful crafting of which was indelibly marked by the influence of arch-conservative Imperial Japanese Army figures such as ex-samurai Field Marshal Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922) (Norman 1943, Smethurst 1974, Humphreys 1995, Yoshida 2002, et al) – was the notion of divinely ordained Japanese cultural infallibility manifest in the august person of the Emperor himself, from whose immortal ancestral bloodline all Japanese were descended, regardless of social station, and to whom all owed as a sacred debt their entire existence, being, loyalty, and destiny, both physical and symbolic. Proselytized with stunning efficacy by Meiji Japan’s national education system (cf. Gluck 1985, Morris-Suzuki 1998, et al) and the army (cf. Smethurst 1974), the Meiji cosmology embraced a hero-system ethos that valorized self-sacrifice for the national/cultural project as the pinnacle of symbolic immortality to which any loyal subject of the Emperor might ever hope to aspire – a somewhat more earthbound and figurative Japanese equivalent to the literal “afterlife” immortality aspired to by believers in the “revealed” faiths of Christianity and Islam. As subsequent overseas military ventures would soon prove, this was a supremely efficient ethos for the mobilization of a society in toto for the era of industrialized total war these Meiji ideologues foresaw – with a certain self-fulfilling prescience – as mankind’s glorious and terrible fate in the upcoming 20th century (Peattie 1975).

Prevented by native religious tradition and cultural pride from access to the ontological safety net (so hated by Nietzsche!) of the “revealed” (and thus unfalsifiable) theologically-based cosmologies (i.e., Christianity) animating the worldviews of Japan’s Western counterparts, the Meiji ideologues instead fashioned a self-reverential “god” out of their new formulation of Japanese national subjectivity itself. This formulation provided the theological mortar for the structure of their new cosmology. And as history would eventually prove (and as we have already observed), the new “god” of an infallible and invincible Japan these ideologues created turned out to be tragically vulnerable to falsification by worldly events – namely abject military defeat and the aforementioned humiliating and immeasurably traumatic experience of a lengthy and culturally intrusive Allied occupation that changed the political, cultural and psychological landscape of the nation forever. This fundamental flaw not only nearly pushed Japan to national extinction in 1944-45 as the culture’s constituents resorted to extreme measures to shore up their faltering cosmology in the face of impending collapse, but moreover, it left the Japanese people unprotected when that collapse finally came. The structure of the Meiji cosmology being what it was, the Japanese people had to absorb the full shock of shattering defeat without the back-up ontological “safety net” of a robust native religious tradition (having had that taken away after 1868) equipped with theological rationalizations for worldly human setbacks. The psychological aftershocks of this cosmological failure still rumble both beneath and above the surface of Japanese national subjectivity today (cf. Etō 1974, Katō 1995, Oketani 1996, Nathan 2004, et al).

 

Post-Meiji cosmology collapse Japan

The combined shocks of Imperial Japan’s defeat, surrender, and subsequent occupation by Allied forces proved fatal for the continued metaphysical validity of the Meiji cosmology, rendering it unable to provide for the metaphysical/spiritual needs and existential/psychological equanimity of its constituents. Nevertheless, despite (or perhaps, from a more sinister perspective, possibly because of) the Meiji cosmology’s broken condition, the Allied Occupation forces allowed its comatose body to retain a central symbolic position in the political domain of postwar national subjectivity, kept alive on a kind of ideological artificial life support system administered in turn by Occupation authorities, conservative Japanese establishment figures and institutions, and even yakuza right-wing underworld elements (Kodama 1951).

This aspect of Occupation policy was the consequence of a concatenation of several circumstantial exigencies. First was the strategic utility of promising the postwar continuation of the Imperial institution as a way of convincing hard line Japanese military leaders to accede to the Emperor’s decision to surrender to the Allies in August 1945. Another was the political consideration of the Allies appreciating the utility of the Imperial institution as an instrument of Occupation policy (including the prevention of Japan emerging from the ashes of its postwar cosmological collapse reincarnated as a communist state – a scenario which, in the Cold War era context of the times, it was in the interest of both the Imperial institution and the Allies to prevent being realized) (Matsuda 2007). Lastly, apparently, was a cultural and historical misinterpretation on the part of the Allied authorities – in large part a result of input from Japanese establishment figures in the confusion of the initial stages of the Occupation – that the basic structure of the Meiji cosmology was of such ancient and hallowed origins (as opposed to its actual late 19th century origins) that its retention would be central and indispensible to any formulation of national subjectivity that could possibly be psychologically acceptable to the Japanese populace (Dower 1999, Frank 1998, Bix 2000, Matsuda 2007)). That said, this “misinterpretation” may very well have been one of convenience, as these same Allied authorities were determined to see that while the postwar incarnation of the Meiji cosmology would of course be useful in preventing Japan from ever drifting into the Communist orbit, it would also never again be robust enough to inspire its constituents to become warriors against the West capable of the level of fanatic combat ferocity the American military had encountered on battlefields across the Pacific during the war. Appropriate measures were undertaken to ensure that the necessary ideological changes (or, as many postwar Japanese commentators have put it, ideological emasculation [Nonaka 1997]) would take place. Ostensibly, Japanese political authorities were so overcome with relief and gratitude at their country’s new occupiers’ decision to spare the central signifier of the dysfunctional Meiji cosmology – i.e., the Imperial institution – and so desperate to believe that all had not really been lost in defeat, that they failed to foresee the severe cost in terms of the metaphysical validity of Japanese culture (especially in terms of existential equanimity) this decision would end up exacting from both contemporary and later generations of Japanese.

Under pressure from Japan’s Allied occupiers, the effective metaphysical dismantling of the Meiji cosmology was personally acceded to and overseen by its primary custodians, i.e., the Emperor himself and his various relevant advisors and governmental ministries, through: deed (e.g., the infamous photograph of the Emperor visiting Occupation commander General Douglas MacArthur, published in all major national daily newspapers in September 1945) (Watanabe 1977); proclamation (e.g., the Emperor’s ningen sengen official announcement denying Imperial divinity, radio broadcast to the nation on January 1, 1946); policy (changes in national educational curricula, et al); and legislation (the largely American-written 1947 Constitution). Consequently, the Japanese populace as a whole appears to have effectively abandoned the cosmology’s more overt claims to metaphysical validity (Field 1993, et al) – a rejection motivated no doubt by the populace’s overall post-defeat psychological state of ressentiment and cultural disenchantment, but also motivated, it can probably be safely assumed, by a measure of disgust over the facility with which these custodians of the Meiji cosmology had accommodated the policies and wishes of the nation’s culturally alien Occupation Forces (Watanabe 1977).

In the aftermath of this rejection, however, the vast majority of postwar Japanese do not seem to have adopted any new cosmology to replace the dysfunctional Meiji variant they abandoned after their nation’s defeat. Although there are strong arguments (Reischauer 1970, Garon 1997, McVeigh 1997) that the phenomenal postwar popularity of the so-called “new religions” (shin shūkyō) of Sōka Gakkai, Perfect Liberty, etc., constitute just such an adoption of a form of “replacement cosmology” at the populist level, it cannot be claimed that these “new” religions – even in terms of their overall combined influence – come anywhere close to “filling the metaphysical shoes”, if you will, of the discredited Meiji cosmology.

Although most participants in Japanese political discourse from the far right-wing fringes continue to champion the metaphysically empty shell of the Meiji cosmology, it is very telling of its postwar condition of ideological impotence that these right-wing elements almost never make the cosmology’s metaphysical tenets a central element of their propaganda anymore. This is ostensibly because these discursive participants are astute enough to realize that doing so – in today’s Japanese discursive environment – would be both a waste of rhetorical airtime as well as counterproductive to their political agenda. The truth of the matter is that the dysfunctional Meiji cosmology simply is no longer capable of providing the great masses of Japanese culture’s constituents with any metaphysical benefit beyond its recognizability as a cultural signifier and the thin existential consolation of cultural/historical continuity inherent in the longevity of the Imperial institution itself. But even that thin comfort comes at the steep cultural price of successive generations shouldering the burden of various unhappy items of historical baggage associated with the tainted legacy of the Meiji cosmology’s complicity in war responsibility and/or the cultural humiliation of the 1945 defeat.

Nevertheless, the Meiji cosmology’s symbolic position in Japanese political space is still so salient, central, and sacrosanct that it prevents the emergence of any rival new cosmology to, again borrowing Lifton’s wording, “reanimate…a perceived place in the great chain of being” for the modern day constituents of Japanese culture that might serve as the foundation for a more metaphysically robust formulation of postwar Japanese national subjectivity. Moreover, the centrality and sanctity of the Meiji cosmology’s position has been regularly and spectacularly enforced by right-wing violence during Japan’s long postwar (e.g., the assassination of Japan Socialist Party chairman Asanuma Inejiro in 1960, the attempted assassination of the mayor of Nagasaki in 1989, regular violent attacks against staff of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other liberal rhetors, etc.) to the point where public discourse over the cosmology’s continuing validity (or lack thereof) would appear to have been effectively crushed by the weight of the so-called “chrysanthemum taboo” (Sugimoto 2010). It is my opinion that the resultant “metaphysical lacuna” in postwar Japanese culture has been kept frozen in place by fear, inertia, lack of imagination, sentimentality, and historically misinformed cultural loyalties. It is also my opinion that the resultant cultural condition has had, and is continuing to have, negative repercussions vis-a-vis the ability of modern Japanese culture to provide for the existential equanimity of its constituents over the six-decades-long postwar era, with commensurate negative effects on the ability, again, of postwar Japanese culture to serve as a framework for a more robust formulation of national subjectivity (Nosaka 1997, Kang 2008). Moreover, I believe that the inertia behind this stasis will not be budged as long as the Meiji cosmology maintains its privileged position of ideological political centrality. Any proposal for national revitalization coming from the Japanese establishment that does not take this into account will fail to accomplish anything beyond a rearrangement of the same old ultimately shallow and unconvincing postwar cultural window dressing.

 

A personal meditation on the “metaphysical malaise” of desymbolized postwar Japan

One afternoon in 2003, approximately one year into an ethnographic study of Japanese survivors of the wartime Kamikaze Corps that eventually became my book Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze (2005), I was reading a slim but engaging volume on modern day Japanese culture by film critic Donald Richie titled The Image Factory (2003). As is usually the case with Richie’s work, much of the book is comprised of observations of the many absurdities and oddities of Japan today, replete with the expected riffs on hikikomori, kosupure, pachinko, etc., all written with the author’s characteristic “Quirky Old Japan Hand” mixture of acid wit, vast expertise, and sharp eye for capturing the unique pathos of modern day life in our mutual adopted home country. However, toward the end of the book, I came upon a passage that literally took my breath away – not because it revealed something to me I had never thought of before, but rather, because it encapsulated so perfectly something I had been thinking about for a very long time.

In a single paragraph of brutal candor, Richie verbalized a certain metaphysical malaise in the Japanese condition that I had been vaguely aware of since arriving in the country in 1987. Outside of the jeremiads and diatribes of right-wing pundits, this metaphysical malaise (or lacuna, as I have referred to it above) is generally kept politely hidden – like an embarrassing family secret jealously protected – although I had caught many glimpses and snippets of it here and there during my long years in Japan, most often and vividly in the sake-lubricated lamentations of older Japanese men (especially those old enough to remember life when the Meiji cosmology was still vibrant and functional). Moreover, it explained the grievously conflicted belief systems (i.e., torn between lingering loyalty to the Meiji cosmology vs. necessary adjustments to the undeniable realities of the postwar present) I had observed to more or less of a degree among virtually all of the Japanese war veteran subjects of my ethnographic project. My subjects had gradually revealed their lingering emotional turmoil over the collapse of the Meiji cosmology to me over our months and years of acquaintance with displays ranging from self-deprecating humor and passive resignation on some occasions, to painful and unrestrained expressions of profound grief, humiliation, and snarling hinekuri resentment on others. But it was not until I encountered Richie’s passage – which is worth quoting at length here – that I could really grasp the “pathology”, if you will, of this “metaphysical malaise”:

 

Richie:  “In the decades following the war Japan has vastly improved in all ways but one. No substitute has ever been discovered for the certainty that this people enjoyed until the summer of 1945…Japan suffered a trauma that might be compared to that of the individual believer who suddenly finds himself an atheist. Japan lost its god, and the hole left by a vanished deity remains. The loss was not the emperor, a deity suddenly lost through his precipitate humanization. It was, however, everything for which he and his whole ordered, pre-war empire had stood. It was certainty itself that was lost. And this is something that the new post-war world could not replace”(120-121).

 

Richie’s words haunted me for months (they still do today), becoming a central theme in my book about kamikaze survivors. But even as I was finishing writing the book, I realized that these words had, in the end, really left me with far more questions than answers. What, I wondered, does it mean for a culture to “lose its god”? What would be the psychological effect on someone who had been existentially cradled by a robust (even if eventually proved false) cosmological “certainty” in the early phases of his/her life, then be forced to live the remainder of that life bereft of that certainty? What multigenerational ramifications would be involved for a culture that loses “certainty itself”? How could such a culture provide its constituents with the “necessary illusion” of literal and/or symbolic immortality human beings in any culture need to maintain existential and psychological equanimity (Williams 1983: 221)?

Arriving as I did at the peak of the Bubble Era of the Japanese economy, it seemed to me at the time that the primary modern Japanese cultural solution to the existential issues of its constituents was to bang incessantly on the drum of the gaman/gambaru “nobility of suffering” Japanese cultural trope that psychologist George De Vos has termed “moral masochism” (1973). As far as I could tell, this cultural strategy appeared to function primarily by keeping its constituents so busy and exhausted all the time that they had neither the time nor the mental energy to expend consciously brooding over their postmodern angst. I am sure that this “quick and dirty” method of existential dread suppression will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent any portion of their life in military uniform.

During these days of my earliest first-hand experiences of Japanese culture, I was also aware of a secondary and somewhat more consciously ideological network of existential support. This was to be found lingering amidst the mass-produced, commercial, self-indulgent and even self-reverential immersion in kitschy cultural nostalgia I seemed to see every time I turned on the TV or opened a magazine or newspaper here or walked through a public space. This second, more consciously ideological support network seemed to be based on: 1) what Peter Dale (1986) termed “the myth of Japanese uniqueness” (which Freud would have recognized as a supreme example of his concept of “the narcissism of minor differences”); and 2) the illusion of cultural-historical continuity, homogeneity and connectedness provided by simple celebrations of “Japaneseness” for its own sake. Coming under the latter category would be the daily mass media fare of endless re-hashings of oddly self-Orientalizing cultural nostalgia tropes like samurai dramas, travel shows searching out “unspoiled pockets” of pristine natsukashii rural Japaneseness. More recently, a new trope in this rhetorical genre has been the (at least what I experience as) profoundly forlorn nostalgia boom for postwar Shōwa Era Japan (cf. Harootunian, Yoda et al 2006). Recent Japanese discourse along these lines often seek to evoke comforting Camelot-like nostalgic sentimentality even over the plastic kitsch-fest of the Osaka International Expo of 1970 – an event I actually see instead as iconic of the very postwar desymbolization crisis that is the topic of this paper. Recently, a somewhat bizarre variant of the Shōwa nostalgia genre is the so-called kōjō kengaku (“factory tour”) boom, which is characterized by sentimental waxings over the rusting hulks of 1950s-1970s industrial plant – reassuring iconography, it is assumed, of the last era in living memory when the majority of the residents of this archipelago experienced a (relatively) compelling sense of collective purpose (even as the hero-systems that sustained their existential equilibrium thusly poisoned their bodies with smog and mercury and assaulted their physical senses with some of the ugliest urban and suburban landscapes in the economically developed world).

Another key element of this “commodified cultural nostalgia” omnipresent in Japanese semiotic space today is the conspicuously ironic use of “traditional” and Edo Period (i.e., pre-Meiji desymbolization crisis)-evocative cultural signifiers in print and broadcast visual advertising copy. This very “postmodern”-flavored commercial usage of traditional cultural signifiers tends to vary in stance between unabashed self-reverence and self-parodying kitsch – and is perhaps at its most postmodern and hip when it can express both stances simultaneously.

But are these celebrations of Japaneseness a form of triumphalist cultural exclusivism, as so many critics of the Nihonjinron genre have charged over the years (Dale 1986, Van Wolferen 1989, Befu 2001)? Or are they more akin to camouflage – something to paper over and keep people’s minds off the very postwar “loss of certainty” Richie has identified?  Perhaps both of these functions are not mutually exclusive, and might even actually constitute one and the same cultural/psychological defense mechanism.

I have long suspected that the “celebrations of Japaneseness”/”commodified cultural nostalgia” angle must have a particular appeal for older Japanese (either consciously or unconsciously) confronted with two mutually reinforcing negative trains of thought: 1) the specter of the supposedly timeless Japanese cultural project to which they have contributed their whole lives now framed as faltering under the unstoppable forces of globalization – a message which is pounded into their minds by Japanese mass media day in and day out;[2] and 2) the unwelcome reality of their own rapidly approaching individual mortality. It seems a natural enough reaction in such a predicament to desire some conservative cultural champion to appear magically and, in William F. Buckley’s famous phrase, “stand astride history and yell ‘Stop!’” (citation needed). Perhaps one of the secrets of Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō’s electoral successes over the years is that he is the most visible Japanese today willing to take such a romantic hero-like stance in public, regularly bellowing reactionary opinions about the state of Japan and Japanese culture today that many of the governor’s compatriots apparently harbor in their hearts but are afraid to utter themselves.

Moreover, the “mortality salience” (Greenberg et al 1986) issues both generated by and, in turn, motivating and sustaining such discourse must no doubt be particularly relevant for those Japanese – certainly a substantial majority in today’s Japan – who are unable to avail themselves of the additional existential support of more robust religious faith as part of their psychological arsenal in their double-edged confrontation with the specter of a (possibly) faltering cultural project and (indubitably and inexorably) impending personal mortality. What, after all, are all those “culture centers” and kōminkan full of retirees taking up bonsai, tea ceremony, nagauta singing or buyō dancing if not facilities for the provision of some measure, however modest, of palliative existential reassurance – places where people can gather to be comforted by the idea of their culture surviving their own individual mortality with a reassuring catalogue of recognizable cultural signifiers and identity markers still in place? Such an arrangement might not afford the rock hard existential security – the literal immortality – of a belief in an afterlife in the “Heaven” or “Paradise” of other cultures’ unfalsifiable “revealed” religions, but it can nevertheless provide its patrons with a tepid sort of consolation prize symbolic immortality that is, after all, ostensibly better than having no faith in anything at all as one contemplates one’s own personal mortality.

But what is the broken postwar incarnation of the Meiji cosmology doing for young Japanese people? Can a cosmology bereft of more heroically transcendent claims to cosmic connection and significance – in other words, one bereft of a more compelling formulation of symbolic immortality – be vigorous enough to provide the younger constituents of Japanese culture with a sense of purpose in life and hopes and dreams for the future? From my personal perspective in dealing with Japanese young people (especially males) on a daily basis, it seems that they have precious little access to any cosmology more heroically compelling than video games, manga fantasies, online chat rooms, mindless consumerism, and exam-cramming for a now virtually non-existent job market. Under the circumstances, is there any wonder that so many of them seem to be tuning out, turning off, and dropping out of society, preferring the bleak sanctuary of their broadband-connected bedrooms rather than facing the world beyond their doorsteps? Is there any wonder the national birthrate is plummeting to all time lows? Who can be blamed for not bubbling over with enthusiasm at the prospect of bringing into the world new constituents of a cosmological project whose predominant milieu seemed to be one giant, mass repository for the mothball storage of the cultural signifiers and artifacts of a defunct cosmology – a national milieu that historian Harry Harootunian has recently termed “a vast theme park of bad cultural memory” (2009: 108)? I would like to think that this lack of youth engagement with the ongoing fortunes of the national project constitutes a passive-aggressive rejection of the Meiji cosmology on their part, rather than a complete loss of hope in their culture – or even in life itself. But I cannot say this is so with any confidence.

 

Conclusion

In recent years, I have been thinking a lot about Freud’s concept of libidinal economy in the context of Japan’s present impoverished cosmological condition. In Freud’s understanding of the self, “libido” – the life force behind not only sexual drive but also our greater natural organismic urge to self-expansiveness under which our reproductive drive is subsumed – is modeled somewhat like the hydraulics and thermodynamics of live steam in a closed network of pipes. When the pressure of the “steam” builds up beyond the ability of the “pipe network” to safely contain it, the “steam” must be “blown off” – action which in the organismic case corresponds to the expenditure of libidinal energy in the service of both reproductive and, in turn, destructive urges. But this “steam energy” is not a constant; it has a half-life, and it can be frittered away or, ultimately, it can just dissipate and die out on its own.

Regarding the condition of Japanese culture today from the standpoint of Freud’s libidinal economy model, it would appear that what we are looking at is a pipe system with decidedly low steam pressure. But the potential energy of this system has not been depleted through expenditure toward any cultural “organismic self-expansiveness”. Rather, it seems more the case that the “steam” has just fizzled, leaked away or recondensed into liquid water through a process of mature, melancholy, almost mellow cultural disenchantment that since 1945 has seen the Japanese cosmology abdicate any claim to ultimate truths about the human condition. Instead, outside of the well-regulated physical routines of their jobs and daily lives, the constituents of postwar Japanese culture seem to have been left to their own devices to carve some sense of transcendent meaning out of their existences (an existential vacuum skillfully exploited by the Japanese mass media and the primary beneficiaries of the Japanese consumer economy). There will be no culturally provided cosmological certainty “from on high” forthcoming as long as the defunct Meiji cosmology remains in place.

A reader familiar with postwar Japanese economic history might at this point be thinking “Well what about the kōdō keizai seichōki (“period of rapid economic growth” from 1955 to 1973) and the rocket sled economy of the Bubble Era? What about all those years when Ezra Vogel was telling us about “Japan as Number One”? What were those, if not great exertions of cultural libinal energy – great cultural manifestations of collective effort that put to shame even the self-expansive prowess of Imperial Era Japan? To such questions, I would answer that these were not “exertions” of cultural energy. Rather, they were evasions and denials; evasions of the culture’s unfinished “grief work” over the effective death of the Meiji cosmology and the subsequent cultural loss of existential certainty after 1945, and denials that Japanese culture and national subjectivity – in their postwar incarnations – need any functioning cosmology at all. But in the end, these evasions and denials have provided no cultural solutions to the existential issues faced by the constituents of Japanese culture today – people in need of existential equanimity just as much as humans anywhere are. The Meiji cosmology is both there and not there, sitting atop Japanese subjectivity today like a bitter old Dowager on her throne long past what should have been her natural lifespan (which should have ended in 1945) – and long past her usefulness (which did end in 1945), no longer able to generate cathexis-levels of loyalty in its constituents (certainly not its younger ones). The continued existence of this essentially libidinally dead cosmology has various implications for both current and future possible formulations of Japanese national subjectivity. For example, what historian David Williams has called Japan’s postwar “evasion of sovereignty” (2006) – an evasion which, as I have already argued, is unavoidable as long as the recognizable symbolic framework of the Meiji cosmology remains in place – will continue for the foreseeable future to severely constrain the range of Japan’s interactional possibilities in the community of other cultures/nations. I believe the ramifications here are particularly salient regarding Japanese national security policy; not even the most optimistic Japanese patriot today – certainly not one involved at present in the planning of national security policy – harbors even in his/her wildest dreams the expectation that the current formulation of Japanese national subjectivity could ever see this country – and this culture – mobilizing for war again, marching its young men off to die with brass bands and banzai cheers. Despite the most earnestly embraced fantasies of right-wing Japanese pundits today, the possibility of the Meiji cosmology ever being revalorized to the point where it could compel its constituents to such levels of devotion and self-sacrifice is effectively zero.

But then, I do not think that we necessarily have to regard this as an entirely negative development. As the constituents of a culture that in its recent history has experienced coming very close to being destroyed by its own cosmology, the Japanese people since August 1945 have perhaps been more painfully aware than anyone else of the existential conundrum posed by our survival as a species hanging on the Damoclean thread of the ability of 1) nuclear weapons and 2) cosmologies which valorize the pursuit of warfare as a means of securing symbolic immortality coexisting on this small planet. Ironically, conservative pundit Fujiwara Masahiko may be right; Japanese culture may just end up saving humanity from itself after all (Fujiwara 2006). Japan’s horrific experiences of August 1945 can sound a warning tocsin for all of us that our species has outgrown the violence-validating traditional formulations of cosmology we have depended on for our existential equanimity in fundamentally unchanged structure and function probably since the dawn of humanity, when our first existentially-challenged hominid ancestor realized that killing someone else can be a very effective way of making oneself feel heroic and immortal when one does not have any more compelling narratives to do the same existential trick. Considering that humanity no longer has the luxury of continuing to indulge such existential naiveté, maybe it would behoove all of us – not just the Japanese – to experience some “desymbolization crisis” of our own and bid farewell to cosmologies capable of compelling us to kill and die over. I believe that our descendents will have a much better chance of seeing the 22nd century if we can follow modern Japanese culture’s lead in making the mature commitment to learning to live with higher levels of existential uncertainty than our species has been accustomed to tolerating until now.

 

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[1] Several major cultural cosmologies adjusted to accommodate Marxism–Leninism during the 20th century have been notable exceptions to this.

[2] Of late, I have increasingly come to think that the incessant nature of this “cultural tocsin-sounding” is actually counterproductive, sowing more dismay and resignation among its audience than it motivates them to vigilant cultural defense.

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COMMENTS FROM ARUDOU DEBITO AFTER FIRST READING THIS:

Arudou Debito February 28 at 8:42am
Well done, Bucky. Thanks for summarizing what I needed to know about the cosmology of cultures and the denials of death in less than 500 pages. Your paper read like one of those “mythology” episodes of X-Files, where you really had to concentrate to see where this was going, but the payoff was there all along.

Two comments:

 

1) Not enough time was spent on how the cosmology is not only inclusive and demanding of acolytes, but exclusive as well, demanding those acolytes not only adhere to certain beliefs, but also that they be of a certain blood. The resurgence I am feeling of Japanese be actual wajin in order to expect any benefits of the system (something I recently experienced when I was denied my sabbatical. Again. Despite having more than three times the workplace seniority of the person who did get it, and the added kicker of him lying about his letters of invitation) has always been a particular tenet of the system (from academic apartheid on down). This will doom the system in the end, as the best religions expand and cross borders, and as the Japanese economy and society goes to seed and collapses upon itself.

2) I felt you were trying to be a little too hopeful at the end. The need for cosmology in a society is very well taken. How the lack of one is making Japan act all funny for decades now is also well taken. A society losing its god is a very important point. But I don’t see it as a possibly useful alternative to cavemen hitting each other on the head to feel immortal. I see it, now that I’m really browned off at all the broken promises over the years simply on racial grounds, as an illness, not a template. I don’t think Japan is on the road to finding its way out of this existential uncertainty. I think other societies are doing a far better job shedding the need for a belief in a divinity and finding out, through encouraging individual choice, personal empowerment, and self-actualization, that it is possible for people psychologically, and not necessarily socially psychologically, to discover what they believe is their order and role in the universe without the need for national-goal-manipulated crutches. In sum, Japan is not a template. It is a society that is rotting from the inside out because individuals are being trained, even more so now than even in the Bubble Era, that the system is more important than the individual and nothing can or should change that; for the sake of national identity, knuckle under. The difference is that there is no longer a financial benefit even to back that up. So the system promises nothing except stability — although not mental stability. That is the fundamental promise of a social cosmology. In that sense, Japan’s permutation of existentialism is the biggest broken promise around. We know because we have been outside the fishbowl.

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America

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Happy Weekend, Blog.  Today I’d like to write about something that came to mind when I was listening to National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” podcast of February 21, 2011, which interviewed author and Columbia University professor Eric Foner for his book “The Fiery Trial:  Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. (NPR information site on this show, excerpt from the book, and link to audio recording here.)

It was an excellent interview, shedding insights on just how entrenched unequal treatment towards people was in a system that on paper and in its very declaration of independence proclaimed that all men are created equal.  I found similarities in the attitudes that people have towards foreigners in Japan, based not only on recent confessions by a public prosecutor that criminal jurisprudence training seeks to systematically deny human rights to foreigners, but also consequent twitter comments that justified the status quo of unequal treatment for foreigners.  It shows just how far Japan as a society (not to mention the GOJ’s Bureau of Human Rights, which itself misunderstands the very concept of human rights in its surveys and awareness raising efforts; see my Japan Times article, “Human Rights Survey Stinks:  Government effort riddled with bias, bad science”, of October 23, 2007) has to go before it understands that concepts of human rights are universal, not based upon citizenship.

Now for the disclaimers:  I am aware that apparently linking the treatment of NJ in Japan to slaves in America is not an apt comparison (although Japan’s “Trainee/Researcher” system for importing cheap NJ labor has encouraged widespread labor abuses, child labor, and, yes, even slavery).  I am aware that most NJ are in Japan of their own free will (if one ignores the forced labor of many Zainichi ancestors), whereas slaves were brought to the US by force.  Et cetera.  But the two concepts are related if not co-joined, as racial discrimination and justified unequal treatment is common to them both.  What I want you to think about as you read the interview is how the contemporary debate arena and concepts of fundamental equality were blurred in both Pre-Civil-War USA and are still being blurred in contemporary Japan, tying the hands of even someone as able and firm in his convictions as Abraham Lincoln.

Excerpt of the interview follows, transcribed by me.  Errors mine.  Quick comment from me below.  Arudou Debito

INTERVIEW BEGINS

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

TERRY GROSS:  Did Lincoln always believe that slavery was unjust?

ERIC FONER:  […]  The problem arises when you ask the question, “What do you do about slavery, given that it’s unjust?”  Lincoln, like many many other Americans, took a long time to figure out exactly what steps ought to be taken…

GROSS:  I want you to read a statement that he made in Peoria in 1854, and let’s start with the significance of this speech.

FONER:  1854 is when his great rival, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas forced the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress, which [repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and] opened up a good portion of the Midwest to the possible expansion of slavery… He comes out as a leading proponent against the westward expansion of slavery.  He talks about the evil of slavery in and of itself… Lincoln says,

“This declared indifference, but as I must think covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate.  I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.  I hate it because it deprives our republic of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions to a plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real allies of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the declaration of independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self interest.”

That little paragraph somehow condenses Lincoln’s thinking about slavery.  “Slavery is a monstrous injustice.”  That’s the language of abolitionists, not politicians… But then he goes on to more practical issues:  It makes the United States look ridiculous in the world.  We claim the American Revolution to be the exemplar of freedom and justice in the world.  And yet, we have this giant slave system.  And it enables the enemies of democracy to say, “These Americans are just hypocrites.  They don’t believe in their own founding principles.

GROSS:  So when hearing this you might think that Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery.  But as you pointed out he wasn’t yet an abolitionist.  And in another paragraph in the same speech he says some things that I think will surprise many Americans.

FONER:  Well, he goes on to say that slavery is wrong, but what should we do about it?  Here he candidly admits that he doesn’t know what to do about it… and Lincoln is thinking through his own position on slavery here.  Lincoln:

“If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution.  My first impulse would be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.  But a moment’s reflection would convince me that however high hope there may be in this, in the long run its sudden execution is impossible.  What then?  Free them all and keep them here among us as underlings?  Is this quite certain that this betters their condition?  Free them and make them politically and socially our equals?  My own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would we all know that the great mass of White people will not.  Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question if indeed it is any part of it.  A universal feeling, whether well- or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded.  We cannot, then, make them equals.  It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted, but for their tardiness in this I will not undertake to judge our brethrens of the South.”

Again, here are some remarkable comments by Lincoln which epitomize views until well into the Civil War.  Slavery really ought to be abolished but he doesn’t really know how to do it.  He’s not an abolitionist who criticizes Southerners… for not taking action.  His first impulse is to free them and send them back to Liberia.  At this point Lincoln does not see Black people as an intrinsic part of American society.  They are kind of an alien group who have been uprooted from their own society and unjustly brought across the ocean.  Send them back across the ocean.  This was not an unusual position at the time.

GROSS:  …I wonder how Lincoln interpreted the Declaration of Independence when it said, “All men are created equal”?  Did he think it meant all White men?

FONER:  No, Lincoln always insisted that that phrase meant everybody.  The question is, “What does it mean when you say they are created ‘equal?'”  And during the great Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Douglas is constantly badgering Lincoln, saying, “Lincoln is a believer in Negro equality.”  That was like the nuclear weapon of politics back then.  And Lincoln had to deny it.  And he did deny it.  The statements that most disturb Lincoln’s admirers come out of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, where he explicitly denies believing in Blacks having the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to intermarriage with White people.  What then did “equality” mean?  Lincoln is very specific about it:  Equality means the right to improve your condition in life.  As he had, of course, growing up in very modest circumstances.  Black people, he always insisted, should have the rights to the fruits of their own labor, the right to improve their condition in society.  That’s why slavery is wrong, and on that ground he says that they are equal to everybody.  But these other rights — political rights, civil rights, are conventional rights, which the majority of society has the right to regulate.  Women, for example, do not have the right vote, but that does not mean they should be slaves.  Lincoln makes that distinction.   To us, that sounds like an untenable decision.  How can you improve your condition in life if you lack all the legal rights?… And Lincoln had not yet thought that through.  It isn’t until the middle of the Civil War that Lincoln begins thinking seriously about the future role of Black people in American society.  But on this question of Black equality, he’s walking a tightrope — between his belief in a basic equality for all people, and on the other hand the unwillingness to challenge the racist views of his state [Illinois], which was a deeply racist state…

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

COMMENT:  Let’s consider the similarities.  Here we have the status quo in pre-Civil War USA interfering with both conscience and practice of promoting universal equality.  We have the status quo in Japan today asserting both in practice and in debates interfering with the promotion of universal equality by nationality (and by extension, race).  For example, if any Japanese politician were to say, more so now than ever, that certain NJ should have the right to vote in local elections, they would most likely lose their seat.  If we have people protesting that criminal prosecution treats NJ less fairly, even denies them fundamental human rights, we have people shouting them down online — with no exceptionalists piping up — with assumptions that NJ have criminal association.

The rest of the developed world has mostly moved on to accept universal human rights (as has Japan, both under its constitution and under the international treaties it has signed).  But public awareness of the issue, as Mark in Yayoi said yesterday, is sorely lacking:

“The Twitter comments that follow [yesterday’s article] are dispiriting — nobody seems to notice the fundamental incongruousness of discussing members of a criminal organization and people who happen to have different nationalities in the same breath. And then there are the other commenters who support the idea of certain people not having human rights. Others claim that foreign embassies should be the ones to guarantee the rights of immigrants. They miss the fundamental meaning of ‘human’ rights: rights are inherent aren’t handed down by the government! The government can restrict certain people’s rights, but the default state is not ‘zero rights’.”

In the United States, it took a war to get rid of institutionalized slavery, and more than 100 years to get equal treatment by race before the law.  I am not sure what it will take for Japanese society to realize that fundamentally unequal treatment towards NJ has to stop. Arudou Debito

Columnist Dan Gardner: “Why Japan took the nuclear risk”: Quick-fix energy during 1973-4 Oil Shocks

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Hi Blog. Here’s a very thoughtful article from Ottawa Citizen newspaper columnist Dan Gardner on why Japan took its nuclear route. Dunno why this guy knows so much about a topic otherwise so esoteric on the other side of the world (but good research should make that irrelevant anyway). People who know more about this subject are welcome to comment, of course, but Gardner answered a number of questions I had.  Give it a read.  Note the citation of our new Japanese citizen applicant Donald Keene (now literally one of the movers with the shakers; sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) on Japan’s economic and emotional fragility.  Arudou Debito

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

Why Japan took the nuclear risk

When making choices about energy, there are no danger-free, cost-free solutions

BY DAN GARDNER, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 18, 2011
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Japan+took+nuclear+risk/4462688/story.html#ixzz1HQsajk53

The Japanese government undertook a rapid expansion of nuclear power after the oil shocks of the early 1970s to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy, despite the high earthquake risk in the region.

Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. Now this. Within hours of the first reports of trouble at Japan’s nuclear power plants, calls for abolition could be heard around the world. “Time to shut down this nation’s nuclear energy program” wrote American pundit Keith Olbermann. Greenpeace and other environmental groups mobilized. “The nuclear risk is not a risk that can really be controlled,” said a French Green party politician. Nuclear power must go.

With Japan’s plants suffering explosions and officials struggling to avoid meltdowns, it’s hard not to agree. Nuclear power is a demonstrable hazard. In Japan, a land constantly rattled by seismic activity, where a disaster like Friday’s was literally just a matter of time, nuclear power is downright dangerous. Why risk it?

People who say that seldom mean it as a question. It’s a conclusion in drag. But let’s treat it instead as a genuine question. Why risk it? Why should we build and operate nuclear power plants knowing that they do pose real dangers, whatever the magnitude of those dangers may be?

And why, in particular, would Japan build nuclear power plants on land that so often buckles and heaves? The answer to this second question lies in recent history. It’s worth having a look because it’s also a pretty good answer to the first question.

As recently as the 1950s, Japan was a poor country with a huge and growing population. Some far-sighted experts looked ahead and saw misery and mass starvation.

But in the 1960s, Japanese manufacturing grew rapidly. Its success was based on keeping things cheap. Cheap labour. Cheap prices. Cheap quality. In the United States, the main Japanese market, “Made in Japan” meant the product cost little and was worth what it cost.

Japan got wealthier. Living standards improved.

In the late 1960s, the American economy stumbled and in 1971 the dollar was devalued. The yen shot up. But the quality of Japanese goods had improved and so Japanese manufacturing thrived despite the rising cost of its goods.

Nothing less than a miracle was underway. A nation was rising from poverty to the ranks of the wealthiest people on Earth. Some even imagined a day when Japan would lead.

Then, like an earthquake, the Arab oil embargo struck.

The Japanese miracle was built on a foundation of cheap energy -mostly oil, mostly from the Middle East. The oil embargo of late 1973 plunged the world into the frightening recession of 1974, and no one suffered worse than Japan.

“The recent period of Japanese glory, from 1969 to 1973, when it seemed a small, distant country would overtake the giants of the West, lasted longer than a dream, but it has ended with dramatic suddenness,” wrote Donald Keene, an American professor of Japanese culture, in the New York Times. It was March 3, 1974. “The same people who only a few months ago were talking and acting as if the future held unlimited possibilities of economic expansion now gloomily announce, not without a touch of masochism, that they live in a country completely at the mercy of others for survival.”

Many Japanese were sure their country would sink back into poverty. The old fears of mass starvation and environmental ruin returned. “Prophecies of disaster abound,” Keene noted.

The Japanese government responded with a sweeping, multi-pronged campaign to reduce Japan’s dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Conservation and energy-efficiency was a major component. So was a rapid expansion of nuclear power.

Of course the Japanese knew their seismological reality.

Indeed, Japanese earthquake science and engineering is the best in the world. But the Japanese also knew the danger of the status quo. It was a trade-off.

The transition worked. Japan’s rise resumed and within a decade it was one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It was also one of the most energy-efficient. And one of the top producers of nuclear power, with onequarter of its electricity coming from the plants the world is watching now. This story does not demonstrate that nuclear power is right for Japan, or anyone else. But it does show, I believe, that choices about energy always involve trade-offs.

Which risks are acceptable? How much risk? And what are we prepared to pay to avoid or mitigate threats? There are costs and hazards associated with every choice and so these questions are unavoidable. There are no risk-free, cost-free solutions.

Some deny this basic reality. Certain environmental groups claim to have plans which would allow us to do away entirely with coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power over the next several decades. Renewable energy would replace them all. The cost would be minimal. Indeed, it would spur innovation and produce millions of new jobs.

It would be wonderful if it were possible. Unfortunately, it’s not. One of the world’s leading energy experts, Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, has called these claims “not just naive [but] profoundly irresponsible.”

But Smil also criticizes those at the other extreme, who see nothing undesirable about the status quo and believe any significant shift to renewable energy would be prohibitively expensive.

We can do better. But it requires that we first understand basic realities, including the most basic: There are costs and risks in everything.

ENDS

The Nation.com on Tohoku Earthquake has shaken Japan Inc.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As Debito.org starts to emerge from vacation mode, I think the focus will be on something very much within this blog’s purview:  How the events since 3/11 have affected NJ residents of Japan.  But before that, here is an interesting piece on a topic that I take up in part in my most recent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out today, read it here):  How the quakes and the aftermath have exposed the flaws of Japan’s corporatist governance.  Arudou Debito

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

Naoto Kan and the End of ‘Japan Inc.’

By Tim Shorrock, Courtesy of TTB

http://www.thenation.com/article/159596/naoto-kan-and-end-japan-inc

On March 13, forty-eight hours after Japan’s Tohoku region was rocked by a catastrophic earthquake, a ferocious tsunami and partial meltdowns at several nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked his citizens to unite in the face of “the toughest crisis in Japan’s sixty-five years of postwar history.” Emperor Akihito underscored the gravity of the situation by announcing his “deep concern” for the nation in his first public speech since ascending the throne in 1990. His address brought back sharp memories of his father, Emperor Hirohito, who ended World War II in a famous radio address in August 1945 that asked Japan to “endure the unendurable.”

But even as Japan was reeling from the disaster’s death toll—which is expected to surpass 20,000—and growing increasingly frightened by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor complex, there was growing unease at the lack of straight information from both the government and Tepco, a utility with a troubled history of lies, cover-ups and obfuscation dating back to the late 1960s.

The information gap became an international issue on March 16, when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko openly contradicted the Japanese government by declaring that water in one of Tepco’s reactors had boiled away, raising radiation in the area to “extremely high levels.” He recommended evacuation to any Americans within fifty miles of the site—nearly double the evacuation zone announced by the Japanese government (which immediately denied Jaczko’s assertions). TheNew York Times piled on the next day with a major article that pilloried the Kan government. “Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more—and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed,” the reporters declared.

To be sure, Tokyo’s response to the disaster has been erratic, and the paucity of information about Fukushima was one of the first complaints I heard about the situation from my friends in Japan. But much of the criticism poured on Japan has obscured the many ways its political system has shifted since a 2009 political earthquake, when the ruling  Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept out of power for the first time in fifty years. The changes, particularly to people who remember the government’s pathetic response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed nearly 6,500, have been striking.

Back then, “the central government was paralyzed, and the city, prefectural, and national police, fire brigades, water authorities, highway authorities, and Self-Defense Forces were shown to be unreliable,” the Australian historian Gavan McCormack wrote in his seminal 1996 book  The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence. McCormack, who has lived in Japan for decades, documented that only twenty of sixty-two offers of foreign assistance were accepted; a US offer to dispatch an aircraft carrier as a floating refugee camp was refused; foreign doctors were initially rejected because they lacked proper registration; and “sniffer” dogs that could have been searching for victims were held for days in airport quarantine. Japan’s bureaucratic response was “cold and more concerned with the preservation of its own control” than with humanitarian relief, McCormack concluded.

Kan, who rose to fame as an opponent of Japan’s turgid bureaucracy, has been far more decisive. After a few days of delay and confusion—not surprising, given the magnitude 9.0 quake, the largest in Japanese history—his government moved swiftly on many fronts. Military relief helicopters and ships were dispatched to the worst-hit areas. A US Navy armada was welcomed to the coastal areas hit by the tsunami (although the ships have since moved far away to avoid fallout from the radiation). Foreign offers of resources, including medical and relief teams, were welcomed and teams dispatched within days. Kan’s spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has constantly been on the air, briefing reporters and the public (including on  Twitter). Kan himself flew by helicopter to view the stricken reactors and took personal charge of the nuclear crisis.

As the situation at the reactors deteriorated and Tepco’s explanations became increasingly opaque, Kan quickly lost patience. “What the hell is going on?” he was overheard asking on the phone to Tepco after one frustrating briefing. On March 16 Kan shifted responsibility for the crisis from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Tepco to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Tepco “has almost no sense of urgency whatsoever,” he complained. By this time, too, many Japanese had grown weary of the alarmist warnings of foreign governments and journalists. One group even posted an online “Wall of Shame” to document the “sensationalist, overly speculative, and just plain bad reporting” from foreign journalists.

* * *

That reporting, and the fact that so many media organizations had to fly journalists to Japan, underscores how much that country has disappeared from our political discourse since the early 1990s, when Japan’s economic juggernaut was halted by a financial and banking crisis that led to two decades of stagnation. At the same time, some of the US criticism of Kan seems to stem from nostalgia for the years when the LDP ruled supreme through a system in which—in the Times reporters’ words—“political leaders left much of the nation’s foreign policy to the United States and domestic affairs to powerful bureaucrats.”

That is extremely misleading. Beginning in the early 1950s, the LDP was financed heavily by the CIA as a bulwark against the once-powerful Japanese left, and successive LDP governments acted as a junior partner to the United States in the cold war. While Washington provided the weapons (and the soldiers) to fight communism, the Japanese elite provided military bases and profited by funneling economic aid and investments to US allies in South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

At home, the LDP and its corporate backers fought ferociously to suppress labor unions and civic groups that organized to protect workers, human rights and the environment. The end result was an LDP-created “Japan Inc.”—an undemocratic, corporatist state in which bureaucrats blessed and promoted nuclear power and other industries they were supposed to regulate, and then received lucrative jobs in those industries upon retirement—a system known as  amakudari.

But during the ’90s the LDP-style of governing came crashing down. A key turning point—and the one that brought Naoto Kan to prominence—came in 1996 over a notorious scandal over tainted blood. The scandal began in the early ’80s, when the US government, warning that blood supplies were corrupted by HIV, licensed the production of heat-treated blood (which killed the virus) for use in transfusions. The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare learned of the contamination problem as early as 1983 but publicly dismissed the threat to the public. As a result, hundreds of people, primarily hemophiliacs, received transfusions of unheated, corrupted blood; more than 500 died. The Japanese public later learned that the Health Ministry deliberately refused to license heated blood for several years, not out of health concerns but because it was available only from foreign companies (“To have licensed its use before domestic firms had set up production would have significantly affected market share,” the London Independent reported at the time). Worse, the ministry’s chief adviser on blood transfusions and HIV received large sums of money from Green Cross, one of the companies that supplied unheated blood. And, in a classic form of amakudari, Green Cross hired several former high-ranking ministry officials in senior positions while the tainted blood was still an issue.

These facts were unearthed in 1996 by Naoto Kan when he was minister of health and welfare in a brief coalition government of the LDP and several small parties. Outraged by the scandal, Kan forced ministry officials to release documents showing that they had allowed public use of HIV-tainted blood, and he publicly apologized to the victims. As a result, Kan became wildly popular and at one point was dubbed “the most honest man in Japanese politics.” I was working as a journalist in Tokyo at the time and vividly recall how his embrace of accountability and sharp critique of the bureaucracy surprised and delighted the Japanese public.

But Kan, who became prime minister in June 2010, is also unusual because he isn’t part of a political dynasty. Unlike many Japanese politicians, he emerged from a middle-class family and (like President Obama) first made his mark as a civic activist for progressive causes. In 1997 he was elected to lead the Democratic Party, an amalgam of disillusioned LDP members, trade unionists and the remnants of the left-wing Social Democratic Party. As the party leader in 2003, he took on LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for sending military forces to back up President Bush in Iraq, at one point calling Bush’s war “mass murder.”

Kan’s Democratic Party finally took control of Japan when it scored a landslide victory over the LDP in the August 2009 parliamentary elections. That contest was won by then–party leader Yukio Hatoyama, who campaigned on a plan to strike a line in foreign policy more independent of the United States. His first order of business was to scrap a 2006 agreement with the Bush administration to relocate Futenma, a US Marine Corps air base in Okinawa, to another site on the crowded island, and to send a large contingent of the Marines to Guam. By a wide majority, the people of Okinawa, home to about 75 percent of US bases in Japan, backed Hatoyama’s counterproposal to Washington, which involved removing the Marine base from Japan altogether.

To the Pentagon, however, Hatoyama’s initiative was a nonstarter. As soon as Obama took power, US officials launched a full-court press to dissuade Japan’s new ruling party from scrapping the 2006 agreement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued relentlessly that the Marine presence in Okinawa (which has been continuously occupied by US forces since 1945) was critical, not only to Japan’s security but to US global strategy as well, and insisted it was particularly important in repelling threats from North Korea and China. Last May, Hatoyama gave in. He withdrew the proposal, reaffirmed the agreement with slight modifications and apologized to Okinawa for failing to remove the base. That cost him the leadership of his party and allowed Kan—who’d resigned as party leader in 2004—to take his place.

Kan has taken a softer line on the US bases, declaring that security agreements with the United States will remain a cornerstone of Japanese policy. But the difficulties of the US–Japan relationship were underscored a few days before the Tohoku earthquake when Kevin Maher, head of the State Department’s Japan desk, was quoted in a speech denouncing the people of Okinawa as “masters of manipulation and extortion”—apparently for their strong opposition to US bases. Maher was quickly removed from his post (he remains at State). But the incident is a sad illustration of America’s Big Brother approach to Japan and symbolizes a bilateral relationship that the lateChalmers Johnson once compared to the servile ties between the Soviet Union and East Germany. With the formerly compliant LDP out of power, US policy-makers are still trying to understand that they’re in a whole new ballgame.

But it’s unclear how Kan and his party will pull through. Just before the quake, Kan’s popularity had sunk to below 20 percent, largely as a result of a scandal involving illegal campaign donations from foreigners and stalled parliamentary negotiations over Japan’s budget; there had even been talk of new elections. In a poll published on March 27, however, Kan’s numbers rose to 28 percent, while a hefty 58 percent approved of his government’s handling of the disaster (but the same percentage disapproved of Kan’s handling of the nuclear crisis, and an astonishing 47 percent urged that atomic power plants be immediately abolished).

Meanwhile, the triple disaster continued to unfold as the smoldering reactors spewed high amounts of radioactivity into the environment and Japan began a rebuilding process that will continue for years. Despite the suffering, the Japanese press on, just as they did after World War II. A week after the earthquake and tsunami struck, my Japanese stepmother, Yasuko, who lived in Tokyo during the war, reminded me that her parents had met as Christian relief workers after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which almost wiped Tokyo off the map. “If it wasn’t for that earthquake, I wouldn’t be here today,” she told me. “Out of darkness, you know, there’s always hope.”

ENDS

JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido

mytest

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Hi Blog. What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this. Arudou Debito

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The Rita Taketsuru Fan Club
The romantic story of a woman still toasted by some as the Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry
By JON MITCHELL
The Japan Times Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, courtesy of MMT

(conclusion:) As it turned out, she would never set foot again in the country of her birth. In January 1961, Rita Taketsuru passed away after a long struggle with liver disease. Masataka was devastated. He blamed her sickness on the war and Yoichi’s harsh winters, and he lamented the fact that they hadn’t chosen to stay in Britain. For two days after her death, he locked himself in his room and, on the day of her funeral, too heartbroken to visit the crematorium, he begged for her bones to be brought to him in a bowl so that he could lie next to his beloved forever.

Masataka outlived his wife by 18 years, and today the two are interred together on a hillside near the distillery. Walking through the town, I’m delighted to discover that the woman who’d once been ostracized as a potential enemy of the state has since left her indelible mark on the landscape — Yoichi’s main thoroughfare is named “Rita Road” and a kindergarten she helped to establish still bears her name.

After 15 minutes, I arrive at the Taketsurus’ grave. The gray lozenge of stone is lit pink by the setting sun, some fireflies flare brightly and the air smells of freshly-mown grass. In the valley below, I spot the red rooftop of the distillery.

In the years since his death, Masataka’s genius at Scotch whisky production has finally been recognized: In 2007, a bottle of “Taketsuru” was voted the world’s best blended malt; followed in 2008 by 20-year-old “Yoichi” winning the best single malt in the world award.

The “Yoichi” orbits out of my price range, so it’s a miniature bottle of the blended that I’ve brought for Masataka — and for Rita, a packet of Scottish shortbread. Clasping my hands together in a quiet prayer, I think about what I’ve learned during my trip here: About the Taketsurus’ love and loss, their determination and persecution, and the leap of faith it must have taken Rita to follow the man she married halfway around the world in pursuit of an improbable dream.

I wonder whether these qualities were what attracted those three men on that wintery train to her life story in the first place. I’m not sure. But as I lay my offerings on the grave, there’s one thing about which I am certain — the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club has a new member.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101128x1.html

My college mentor, Chalmers Johnson, dies at 79

mytest

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It is with great sadness today that I blog about Chalmers Johnson, who died yesterday at age 79.  I was one of those students mentioned below that he mentored at the University of California, San Diego.  I last saw him at his home for dinner back in 2006.  I’m very unhappy to hear that we won’t be able to do that again.  Arudou Debito

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OBITUARY:  CHALMERS JOHNSON
The Atlantic Monthly, November 21, 2010

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/11/chalmers-johnson/66853/
BY JAMES FALLOWS

I have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few hours ago, at age 79, at his home near San Diego. He had had a variety of health problems for a long time. (Photo source here.)

cj_7355.jpg

Johnson — “Chal” — was a penetrating, original, and influential scholar, plus a very gifted literary and conversational stylist. When I first went to Japan nearly 25 years ago, his MITI and the Japanese Miracle was already part of the canon for understanding Asian economic development. Before that, he had made his name as a China scholar; after that, he became more widely known with his books like Blowback, about the perverse effects and strategic unsustainability of America’s global military commitments. Throughout those years he was a mentor to generations of students at the UC campuses at Berkeley and San Diego.

Johnson and his wife and lifelong intellectual partner Sheila were generous and patient with me, as I was first trying to understand the world they had studied and analyzed. I vividly remember spending an afternoon in the early 1990s on the sunny patio at their house in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, north of the UCSD campus. I’d moved back from Japan, was working on a book about it, and spent hours writing notes as fast as I could as Johnson described Douglas MacArthur’s mistakes and (occasional) successes during the U.S. Occupation of Japan, and why Japan’s economy was unlikely to open itself on the Western model, even if U.S. or British economists kept giving lectures about the importance of deregulation. I have never concentrated harder as I tried to be sure to capture his bons mots.

Johnson would have been about 60 at the time. Even then he suffered from a rheumatoid or gout-like condition that caused him swelling and pain. “It all goes so fast,” I remember him saying. He made good use of his time. Sympathies to Sheila Johnson and their many friends.

ENDS

Referential website of note: Asia Pacific Memo at UBC

mytest

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Hi Blog. One of my hosts at the University of British Columbia turned me on to a website I thought deserved a bit more attention: their “Asia-Pacific Memo”. Although not all about Japan (Japan in overseas academia is losing out big time these days to China, (sadly) understandably), it has a lot of food for thought about how to interpret current events in Asia. Have a look:

http://www.asiapacificmemo.ca/

Japan-specific topics here:

http://www.asiapacificmemo.ca/category/japan

Some recent topics, according to their RSS:

China’s Directed Public Receives Nobel Peace Prize
Asia Pacific Memo
Saturday, 7:37 AM
Memo #28 (Text and Video)

North Korean Leadership Succession: What Does the First Party Conference in 44 Years Tell Us?
Asia Pacific Memo
Oct 8, 8:17 AM
Memo #27

Islands Crisis between Japan and China: Power Shift and Institutional Failure
Asia Pacific Memo
Sep 29, 8:18 AM
Memo #24

65 Years After The Asia Pacific War: The End of History Politics?
Aug 26, 2010
Memo #15

Arudou Debito

Weekend Tangent: My great grandmother’s veal turkey stuffing recipe

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This is some serious business for me, although a tangent for others (but not so as Canadian Thanksgiving is mere days away; American readers, stock up!).

This here’s a family recipe, handed down through now four generations, for the thing I miss the most about the US:  turkey stuffing.  As any aficionado of turkeys knows, if the stuffing is subpar, then the turkey also comes out dry and bland (this is one of the reasons why so many Japanese I believe find turkey underwhelming, and don’t know what the fuss is about).

I grew up on this, but since I can’t get it here (turkeys cooked here are often killed by a soy sauce, not a butter, base; they are smoked up here in Hokkaido rather than baked as well, which to me is underwhelming), there’s no reason why I shouldn’t propagate this recipe worldwide.  It’s very simple.  The only thing you have to do is convert Imperial to metric, and Bob’s Your Uncle.  From my great grandmother Appolonia Mendis Cypcar, born in Southern Poland, emigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th Century, survivor of one of the world’s biggest nautical disasters (the capsizing of The Eastland in Chicago harbor on July 24, 1915), survivor of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (my great grandfather Mendis did not survive it), survivor of the Great Depression, who died at the age of 96 in the 1980s.

APPOLONIA MENDIS CYPCAR’S TURKEY STUFFING
From Arudou Debito, great grandson, Debito.org

(for a 13-14 lb turkey)

  1. 1 lb ground veal
  2. 1/2 box of saltines (box 1 1b size) ground coarsely
  3. 1 pint whole milk
  4. 1/2 lb butter
  5. 4 eggs beaten
  6. salt and pepper to taste

And that’s it. Mix together and stuff family turkey as normal.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

Japan will apologize for Korean Annexation 100 years ago and give back some war spoils. Bravo.

mytest

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Hi Blog. In another big piece of news, Japan is taking another step closer to healing the wounds around Asia of a cruel colonial past by saying sorry to South Korea. Good. Bravo. Sad that it took a century for the apologies and return of some war spoils, but better now than never. Let’s hope it further buries the ahistorical revisionist arguments that basically run, “We were invited to Korea, and did them a favor by taking them over.” — arguments that help nobody get over the past or help with neighborly Asian cooperation. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Japan To Voice Remorse Tues. Over Annexation of Korea 100 Years Ago
Kyodo World Service in English 1211 GMT 09 Aug 10 2010, courtesy Club of 99.

http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=516523

Tokyo, Aug. 9 Kyodo — Prime Minister Naoto Kan is scheduled to release a statement for South Korea on Tuesday regarding the centenary later this month of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, ruling party lawmakers said Monday.

The statement will include a phrase expressing deep remorse and apologizing for Japan’s colonial rule, stating also that Japan will return cultural artifacts taken from the peninsula that South Korea has been demanding, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The expressions used closely follow those of past prime ministerial statements — one by Tomiichi Murayama in August 1995 and another by Junichiro Koizumi in August 2005, the sources said.

The government told the Democratic Party of Japan that Kan is planning to release a statement in connection with the centenary after securing approval from the Cabinet on Tuesday, Goshi Hosono, acting secretary general of the DPJ, told reporters after attending a ruling party meeting.

While apologizing for the annexation, the statement will also be aimed at deepening future-oriented ties with South Korea, the sources said.

Kan is hoping to turn the page on bilateral historical issues, while enhancing cooperation with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s government in addressing challenges related to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its past abduction of foreign nationals, the sources said.

On the transfer of cultural artifacts, the items in question are believed to be held by the Imperial Household Agency, including the Joseon Wangsil Uigwe, a meticulous record of Korean royal ceremonies and rituals.

The statement to be released Tuesday will only be directed at South Korea, whereas the Murayama statement apologized to Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression, the sources said.

The statement does not refer to Japan-North Korea relations, the sources said.

The release will take place before Aug. 15, when South Korea celebrates its liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Kan’s Cabinet had been considering releasing the statement either before Aug.15 or Aug. 29, the day the annexation treaty was proclaimed 100 years ago.

Kan is slated to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to explain his reason for issuing the statement.

Opposition to releasing such a document remains among conservative lawmakers within and outside the DPJ, with some expressing concern over renewed claims for financial compensation for the suffering inflicted during Japan’s colonial rule in some Asian countries.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano said at a news conference that the party did not make any special request regarding the release.

Edano also said he has no concerns about reigniting the issue of compensation in Asia because of the release.

ENDS

Holiday Tangent: My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As today is a holiday, here’s a Holiday Tangent of a completely personal nature:

About six weeks ago I received out of the blue two fat books from a distant relative.  Information on the Schofill Clan, hand-collated from family history and lore.

I have gone through four name changes in my life:  I was born 1965 as David Christopher Schofill, was adopted after divorce by my stepfather around 1971 to become David Christopher Aldwinckle, became Sugawara Arudoudebito (due to koseki woes) when I naturalized into Japan 2000, and then had the Sugawara legally removed from my koseki in 2006 by Japanese court weeks after my divorce to become Arudou Debito.  Hiya.

But I have been so far removed from family, any family, my entire life (birth father, step father, and mother all moved far away from their birth roots, and my mother severed almost all contact with the Schofill Clan after the divorce; I’ve furthermore been excommunicated by my parents since my naturalization) that receiving these fat books of family lore was a very pleasant surprise and unprecedented experience for me.

So here’s what I’ve gleaned:  I have a picture of Philip Schofill, my great great great great grandfather, born March 31, 1803 in Lexington, South Carolina.

This is of course a photo of him (undated) at an advanced age, when photography was possible.  He died March 3, 1891 at the age of 88 (quite an accomplishment for that era).  It seems male longevity runs in the family (happy to see), but so does, from what I’ve also heard, alcoholism, violence, and ill-temper (the last one I can understand:  I’ve felt the spiral of rage plenty of times; why do you think I write so much?)  If bad habits don’t get you first (my major vice is high-fat foods), looks like I come from good stock for a long life.  But Philip above, from his visible demeanor and also family lore, was a nasty-sounding cuss.  The family, from the American South (and England before that), has plenty of Southern predispositions, including slaves (Philip was apparently “mean” towards them, to put it mildly), deaths in the Civil War, and possible KKK connections.  Not something I’m particularly proud to be related to.  But it’s history, and should be acknowledged.  Philip also has a history of remarriage, getting his second wife at age 83!  I’m not sure I’ll wait that long.

The oddly-spelled name of Schofill (often confused with Schofield), according the materials I received, “was found to be spelled Schofield, Schofill, Scofil, Scoldfield, Scovel, Scovill, Coffell, and others.  The different spellings were noted on wills, land records, census reports, etc.  Since many people could not read or write, whoever was doing the writing spelled names as they were sounded.”  Hence I’ve gone through life with a name that nobody will ever quite get without a spelling, be it Schofill, Aldwinckle, Arudoudebito, or Arudou.  It also makes me very sensitive towards spelling and pronouncing other people’s names correctly (my favorite so far is Dimagmaliw, a Filipine name).

What’s also an interesting find is that Philip Schofill’s father was, according to family legend, a Cherokee Indian by the name of Red Feather, before marrying a settler and taking the name Reese Busbee.  Here’s a photo (undated):

So that means that I’m 1/128th Cherokee, which translates to about a pound and a half of my flesh; better not diet).  Might matter in Canada.

Every family has some interesting stuff within, good and bad.  It’s history.  And I want to thank the senders of those lovingly hand-crafted family history books for clueing me in after close to a half-century of my lifespan.  Tangent ends.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”

mytest

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Hi Blog. In one of the best articles I’ve ever read in the Japanese media, here we have legal scholar Colin Jones finally connecting the metadots, laying bare how things work in Japanese jurisprudence and law enforcement.  It’s an excellent explanation of just how powerful the police are in Japanese society.  God bless the Japan Times for being there as an available forum (I can’t imagine any other English-language paper in Japan publishing this) for this research. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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The Japan Times Tuesday, June 29, 2010
THE ZEIT GIST
No need to know the law, but you must obey it
Colin P.A. Jones tells us why it’s hard to get clear answers when dealing with Japan’s legal system (excerpt)
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100629zg.html
By COLIN P.A. JONES (excerpt) courtesy of the author and John in Yokohama

A few months ago I met with some Western diplomats who were looking for information about Japanese law — in particular, an answer to the question, “Is parental child abduction a crime?” As international child abduction has become an increasingly sore point between Japan and other countries, foreign envoys have been making concerted efforts to understand the issue from the Japanese side. Having been told repeatedly by their Japanese counterparts that it is not a crime, some diplomats may be confused by recent cases of non-Japanese parents being arrested, even convicted for “kidnapping” their own children. I don’t think I helped much, since my contribution was something along the lines of “Well, it probably depends on whether the authorities need it to be a crime.”

Of course, the very question “Is x a crime?” reflects a fairly Western view of the law as a well-defined set of rules, the parameters of which people can know in advance in order to conduct themselves accordingly. However, there is a Confucian saying that is sometimes interpreted as “The people do not need to know the law, but they should be made to obey it.” This adage was a watchword of the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose philosophy of government was based in part on neo-Confucian principles.

It is also a saying that could provide some insights into why it sometimes seems difficult to get a clear answer about what exactly the law is in modern Japan. I am not suggesting that Japanese police and prosecutors have Confucian platitudes hanging framed over their desks, but knowing the law is a source of power. Being able to say what the law means is an even greater one, particularly if you can do so without being challenged. In a way, clearly defined criminal laws bind authority as much as they bind the people, by limiting the situations in which authorities can act. Since law enforcement in Japan often seems directed primarily at “keeping the peace,” laws that are flexible are more likely to serve this goal…

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100629zg.html
ENDS

Sunday Tangent: excellent Mark Schreiber article on crime terms in J media

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday Tangent, here’s a lovely little lesson in Japanese from a person who’s collated all this information the hardscrabble way — through years of experience in Japan.  Mark Schreiber has been here about as long as I’ve been alive (he came to Japan in 1965 shortly after I was born; no connection, of course), and I love it when we have shortcuts like this to useful linguistic knowledge.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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The Japan Times, Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BILINGUAL
Get the sukūpu on crime terms in Japanese (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20100324a1.html

By MARK SCHREIBER

Sometimes I’m asked how I came to be interested in crime in Japan. I guess it began in my early days here as a student and lowly paid salaryman in the late 1960s.

Before I could afford a newspaper subscription, I never lacked for sensational reading matter. All I had to do on my morning train commute was gaze upward at a 吊り広告 (tsurikōkoku, hanging advertisement) for a magazine. That finished, I would peer over the shoulders of fellow commuters poring over sports tabloids with huge red or blue headlines, often accompanied by supplementary words like スクープ! (sukūpu, scoop), ズバリ (zubari, no punches pulled), 暴露する! (bakuro suru, to disclose or lay bare) and 新事実 (shinjijitsu, new revelations).

My surreptitious 盗み読み (nusumi-yomi, theft-reading) was an economical way to keep abreast of current events — although sometimes I put Japanese coworkers on the spot when asking them to explain a particularly lurid term I’d picked up from the tabloids.

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20100324a1.html

ENDS

Guardian on benefits of immigration to UK, NW on GOJ’s history promoting anti-racism 90 years ago at League of Nations!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  NW sent me two poignant articles some time ago.  Sorry for the delay.  Here they are.  One is germane to the recent comments here about whether immigration offers economic benefits to societies (an article in The Guardian in 2007 citing a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study indicates that it has for the UK).  Another is an evergreen letter to the editor (which went unpublished) about Japan’s historical record advocating anti-racism 90 years ago in the League of Nations.   Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Hi Debito.  Two things for you to blog:

1. Merits of immigration
2. What should the GOJ give to make Japan more attractive for immigrants?

1. Merits of immigration

The UK experience – PricewaterhouseCoopers 2007 Report
Migrants have lifted economy, says study
· Influx of labour ‘has kept interest rates down’
· British-born workers have not been disadvantaged

Angela Balakrishnan, The Guardian, Tuesday 27 February 2007
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/feb/27/interestrates.workandcareers

The flow of migrant workers into the UK has boosted economic growth and helped keep a lid on inflation without undermining the jobs of British-born workers, according to a study released yesterday.

The report by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers enters a vigorous debate about whether immigration has a positive impact on the UK economy.

Britain was one of three nations that allowed free movement of labour after eight countries entered the EU in 2004, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia. Most of the migrants from all of these new EU countries – estimated at half a million – have moved to the UK, although evidence suggests half of them have since returned home.

PwC’s research found that the new arrivals had pushed growth above its long-term trend and helped keep inflationary pressures and interest rates lower by increasing the supply of labour relative to demand.

Average earnings growth has been relatively subdued recently, at just under 4% excluding bonuses, and PwC said migrant workers had contributed to this. This finding supports the view of Professor David Blanchflower of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, who has voted to keep interest rates on hold on the basis of slack in the labour market.

The Treasury has also increasingly focused on the impact of migration, citing expected net migration as a key reason for raising its estimate of future economic growth to 2.75% from 2.5% in last December’s pre-budget report.

The PwC report found that although migrant workers had increased the supply of labour in the UK, there had not been any adverse effects on the employment prospects of British-born workers. “[Migrant] workers tend to be relatively productive and have filled important skills gaps in the UK labour market rather than just displacing UK-born workers,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

The public finances have also not suffered as a result of the influx of migrant workers, the study finds. Most migrants are aged between 18 and 34 years, with high employment rates compared with their UK equivalents, and therefore benefit payments are low. They also receive comparatively low wages despite their good education and skills levels. Younger workers have fewer dependants and so are unlikely to be an additional burden on public services, the report says.

But Mr Hawksworth said the extra pressures on transport and housing might offset this slightly and should be taken into account in the forthcoming government spending review.

“Public spending projections do not appear to have been revised up in the pre-budget report to reflect higher future assumed migration, which suggests that on a per capita basis the squeeze on public spending growth pencilled in for the next spending review period may be even tighter than earlier projected,” he said.

The benefits highlighted by Mr Hawksworth contrast with comments from Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI. The head of Britain’s leading employers’ organisation said last year that the government should be wary of introducing an open-door policy to new workers from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU this year. Mr Lambert warned that depending on migrant labour could mean skill levels of UK citizens would not be raised sufficiently and could risk damaging social cohesion.

ENDS

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2. What should the GOJ give to make Japan more attractive for immigrants?

Give us the vote – below is an unpublished letter I submitted to the Japan Times in December 2009:

A Missed Anniversary

It seems an anniversary went unnoticed in 2009. Ninety years ago, in the aftermath of the blood-soaked trenches of the First World War, the ill-fated precursor of the United Nations, the League of Nations, was founded, with the hope of securing lasting peace. Established at the behest of the Paris Peace Conference, the League’s Covenant was signed by 44 states on 28 June 1919.

Discussions for what should be included in the Covenant were not without controversy, notably the following proposal: “The equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord, as soon as possible, to all alien nationals of states members of the League, equal and just treatment in every respect, making no distinction, either in law or fact, on account of their race or nationality.”

Unsurprisingly, Great Britain and its Dominions of Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand saw the proposal as a threat to “white” colonial power and swiftly engineered its rejection – an act of superpower sabotage not unknown to today’s UN conferences.

Perhaps surprising, especially to letter writers whose advice to foreign residents with complaints about their lives here is to put up, shut up, or leave, is that the proposal was put forward by Japan’s Foreign Minister Nobuaki Makino.

What the League had failed to recognize, the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 declared in Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are created free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The League of Nations held its first council meeting January 1920. Ninety years on, perhaps we can look forward to Baron Makino’s plea being at last realized – for foreign residents in Japan to be accorded “equal and just treatment in every respect”. The right to vote would be a start.

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

All the best…   NW

ENDS

Mark in Yayoi comments on Futenma affair: grant Okinawa its independence from Japan!

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Hi Blog. After yesterday’s events, I feel my column on former PM Hatoyama and Okinawa Futenma was probably the best-timed one I’ve ever done, unfortunately. That said, I left a big stone unturned in it (happens when you have less than 1000 words): How Okinawa has been abused by both sides — Japanese and American — and how they deserve their independence from forced dependence. Mark in Yayoi, a scholar of Okinawan languages and dying/extinct cultures, offered an excellent perspective this morning that shouldn’t be buried within another post. So here it is for independent discussion. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Mark In Yayoi Says:
June 2nd, 2010 at 11:56 pm

In context at https://www.debito.org/?p=6820#comment-196385

Debito, when reading your essay, I was surprised to find that I agreed with you, but for almost totally opposite reasons. I’m sure I’ll be torn to shreds by other posters, and again by the nationalist anti-Debito crowd on other blogs who might be reading this, but it needs to be said.

The American occupation of Okinawa, unjust as it might be, is a net benefit to the mainland Tokyo government, which gets protection while simultaneously pretending that it’s “Japan” bearing the burden when in fact it’s Okinawa that suffers — they’re the people putting up with the loud airplanes and unruly soldiers. And these people bearing the cost of the protection were never seen as equals by Tokyo — they were used as human shields in a hopeless defense of Japan in 1945, and used as tax-paying slaves in the decades before that.

The US bases need to leave, and Okinawa needs to be free. Not free from the US, and not free to be Japan’s 47th prefecture (both chronologically and on the status totem pole), but free to be its own independent nation.

Exactly what “sovereignty” can the Tokyo government legitimately claim over the people of Okinawa, if we’re trying to redress past wrongs?

In 1609, the Satsuma clan invaded Okinawa, forced the Shuri king to sign humiliating treaties, and taxed the people (first lightly, then very, very onerously) to the point that they were virtual slaves. By the 19th century, ordinary people in the Yaeyamas were forced to labor to the point where 86% of their productivity was siphoned off by the Satsuma, and local authorities were forcing pregnant women to abort their babies so that there would be fewer mouths to feed.

(See Toshiichi Sudo’s 1944 book 南島覚書 Nantou Oboegaki for exact figures on the taxes, and, if you don’t mind slogging through archaic Japanese, 南島探検 Nantou Tanken by Gisuke Sasamori 笹森儀助 for more info on the impoverished lives of Meiji-era Okinawans.)

The “head tax” continued until 1903 and monuments commemmorating its abolition still stand today.

The mainland rulers also treated Okinawans’ language with disrespect. Americans who refuse to learn the culture or language? They’re not half as bad as the mainlanders who came to Okinawa to administer the island before the war. Did they learn to speak Shuri (or any other Okinawan language)? Certainly not, and they even punished Okinawan children who had the audacity to speak their own languages rather than Japanese by making them wear big wooden “dialect tags” (hougen-fuda) around their necks.

And the Tokyo overlords did such a good job of eradicating the Okinawan languages that today you’re hard-pressed to find people who can still speak them.

So when it comes to oppressing Okinawans, the US military has nothing on the mainland Japanese.

Now, we can insist that the treatment of Okinawans by the mainland government before WWII is less relevant than how Tokyo has treated them since the reversion in 1972, and obviously the murderous taxes of rice and fabric and livestock have been dialed down quite a bit.

Still, the mainland government’s “have their cake and eat it too” position — whine about America being the big bad bully for domestic consumption while simultaneously accepting American protection from worse aggressors — needs to be addressed. As does the issue of what will happen with the bases when the US leaves. Surely Hatoyama wasn’t planning to just move the JSDF into all those fully-operational, ready-made installations, now was he?

I know that thia is pie-in-the-sky idealism, but what I really want to see is an independent Okinawa, with free-trade and free-entry agreements with Japan (and whatever countries they choose to deal with), and no national or consumption taxes paid to Tokyo whatsoever. At the very least, some kind of Hong Kong or Taiwan-like partial autonomy. I fervently hope that a solution can come about that respects not just the desires of residents near the bases, but also all those elderly folks who have been putting up with other disrespects and abuses since long before the first US base was built. The US is using those people, sure, but the Tokyo government has an even worse track record. An autonomous Okinawa is the only way.

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column June 1, 2010: Okinawa Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy

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JUST BE CAUSE
Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy
The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 1, 2010
By DEBITO ARUDOU

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100601ad.html

Times are tough for the Hatoyama Cabinet. It’s had to backtrack on several campaign promises. Its approval ratings have plummeted to around 20 percent. And that old bone of contention — what to do about American military bases on Japanese soil — has resurfaced again.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100430a1.html

The Okinawa Futenma base relocation issue is complicated, and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has devoted too much time to a battle he simply cannot win. If the American troops stay as is, Okinawan protests will continue and rifts within the Cabinet will grow. If the troops are moved within Japan, excessive media attention will follow and generate more anti-Hatoyama and anti-American sentiment. If the troops leave Japan entirely, people will grumble about losing American money.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100526a1.html

So let’s ask the essential question: Why are U.S. bases still in Japan?

One reason is inertia. America invaded Okinawa in 1945, and the bases essentially remain as spoils of war. Even after Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972, one-sixth of Okinawa is technically still occupied, hosting 75 percent of America’s military presence in Japan. We also have the knock-on effects of Okinawan dependency on the bases (I consider it a form of “economic alcoholism”), and generations of American entrenchment lending legitimacy to the status quo.

Another reason is Cold War ideology. We hear arguments about an unsinkable aircraft carrier (as if Okinawa is someplace kept shipshape for American use), a bulwark against a pugilistic North Korea or a rising China (as if the DPRK has the means or China has the interest to invade, especially given other U.S. installations in, say, South Korea or Guam). But under Cold War logic including “deterrence” and “mutually assured destruction,” the wolf is always at the door; woe betide anyone who lets their guard down and jeopardizes regional security.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsinkable_aircraft_carrier

Then there’s the American military’s impressive job of preying on that insecurity. According to scholar Chalmers Johnson, as of 2005 there were 737 American military bases outside the U.S. (an actual increase since the Cold War ended) and 2.5 million U.S. military personnel serving worldwide. What happened to the “peace dividend” promised two decades ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Part of it sunk into places like Okinawa.

http://www.alternet.org/story/47998/

But one more reason demonstrates an underlying arrogance within the American government: “keeping the genie in the bottle” — the argument that Japan also needs to be deterred, from remilitarizing. The U.S. military’s attitude seems to be that they are here as a favor to us.

Some favor. As history shows, once the Americans set up a base abroad, they don’t leave. They generally have to lose a war (as in Vietnam), have no choice (as in the eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines), or be booted out by a dictator (as in Uzbekistan). Arguments about regional balances of power are wool over the eyes. Never mind issues of national sovereignty — the demands of American empire require that military power be stationed abroad. Lump it, locals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pinatubo

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072902038.html

But in this case there’s a new complication: The Futenma issue is weakening Japan’s government.

Hatoyama has missed several deadlines for a resolution (while the American military has stalled negotiations for years without reprisal), enabling detractors to portray him as indecisive. He’s had to visit Okinawa multiple times to listen to locals and explain. Meanwhile, the opposition Liberal Democratic Party claims Hatoyama is reneging on a promise (which is spoon-bitingly hypocritical, given the five decades the LDP completely ignored Okinawa, and the fact that Hatoyama has basically accepted an accord concluded by the LDP themselves in 2006). And now, with Mizuho Fukushima’s resignation from the Cabinet, the coalition government is in jeopardy.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100525a6.html

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20100530a1.html

Futenma is taking valuable time away from other policies that concern Japan, such as corruption and unaccountability, growing domestic economic inequality, crippling public debts, and our future in the world as an aging society.

As the momentum ebbs from his administration, Hatoyama is in a no-win situation. But remember who put him there. If America really is the world’s leading promoter of democracy, it should consider how it is undermining Japan’s political development. After nearly 60 years of corrupt one-party rule, Japan finally has a fledgling two-party system. Yet that is withering on the vine thanks to American geopolitical manipulation.

We keep hearing how Japan’s noncooperation will weaken precious U.S.-Japan ties. But those ties have long been a leash — one the U.S., aware of how susceptible risk-averse Japan is to “separation anxiety,” yanks at whim. The “threatened bilateral relationship” claim is disingenuous — the U.S. is more concerned with bolstering its military-industrial complex than with Asia’s regional stability.

In sum, it’s less a matter of Japan wanting the U.S. bases to stay, more a matter of the U.S. bases not wanting to leave. Japan is a sovereign country, so the Japanese government has the final say. If that means U.S. forces relocating or even leaving completely, the U.S. should respectfully do so without complaint, not demand Japan find someplace else for them to go. That is not Japan’s job.

Yet our politicians have worked hard for decades to represent the U.S. government’s interests to the Japanese public. Why? Because they always have.

The time has come to stop being prisoners of history. World War II and the Cold War are long over.

That’s why this columnist says: Never mind Futenma. All U.S. bases should be withdrawn from Japanese soil, period. Anachronisms, the bases have not only created conflicts of interest and interfered with Japan’s sovereignty, they are now incapacitating our government. Japan should slip the collar of U.S. encampments and consider a future under a less dependent, more equal relationship with the U.S.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues “

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The Japan Times Tuesday, May 4, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE Column 27
Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues
By DEBITO ARUDOU

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100504ad.html

Tally ho! The hunt is on for “fake Japanese” in Japanese politics.On March 17, at a meeting of opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara not only criticized the ruling coalition for their (now moribund) bill offering permanent resident non-Japanese (NJ) the vote in local elections. He even accused them of having subversive foreign roots!

https://www.debito.org/?p=6564

“How about those Diet members who have naturalized, or are the children of parents who naturalized? Lots of them make up the ruling coalition and are even party heads.”

https://www.debito.org/?p=6564

https://www.debito.org/?p=6564#comment-194104

He argued that their support for NJ suffrage arose from a sense of “duty to their ancestors.”

We then had the standard Ishihara brouhaha: One person who felt targeted by that remark, Social Democratic Party leader and Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, denounced it unreservedly as “racial discrimination.” She stressed that she was in fact a real Japanese and demanded a retraction. Ishihara, as usual, refused. Cue coda.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100424a7.html

But something’s different this time. Ishihara is not just toeing the “foreigners cannot be trusted” line he’s reeled out ad nauseam over the past decade to justify things like targeting foreigners and cracking down on Tokyo’s alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.”

He is now saying foreigners will always be foreigners, even if they have been naturalized Japanese for generations.

He also assumes even “former foreigners” will always think along tribal bloodlines, and axiomatically vote against Japanese interests.

Take that in: A leader of a major world city is stating that personal belief is a matter of genetics. The problem isn’t only that this ideology was fashionable about 130 years ago. Look where it ultimately led: putsches, pogroms and the “Final Solution.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism

What’s with Ishihara’s foreigner fetish? Author and scholar M. G. Sheftall of Shizuoka University, whose Waseda doctoral thesis was on the psychological consequences of Japan’s defeat in World War II, notes this might not be limited to one demagogue.

Ishihara’s “Showa Hitoketa generation” (1926-1935) was “completely immersed, from birth until late adolescence/early adulthood, in prewar Japanese ideology at its most militantly militaristic, chauvinistic and xenophobic. It is unsurprising many never quite recovered from the trauma they suffered when their ideology was suddenly and catastrophically delegitimized in August 1945.”

Indeed, Ishihara is not alone. Splitting off from the LDP last month was the new Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), founded by xenophobes including Takeo Hiranuma and Ishihara. Hiranuma, you might recall from my Feb. 2 column, similarly questioned the legitimacy of Japanese lawmaker Renho because [he believes] she naturalized.

http://www.tachiagare.jp/

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100502x1.html

But Ishihara’s Japan is dying — or just plain dead. Demographic and economic pressures are making a multicultural Japan inevitable. These psychologically crippled old men are merely raging against the dying of their light. The average age of Sunrise Party founders is around 70; Ishihara himself is 77. Mortality is a blessing, as they won’t be around to see the Japan they can’t envision anyway.

http://japanvisitor.blogspot.com/2010/04/tachiagare-nihon-new-sunrise-party-of.html

But like I said, it’s different this time, because Ishihara has made a fatal mistake. Before, he picked on foreigners with impunity because of their political disenfranchisement. Now he has expanded his sights to include Japanese citizens.

A lack of focus kills causes. For example, during the 1950s American “Red scare,” a senator named Joseph McCarthy launched an anticommunist crusade to uncover people with undesirable political sympathies. But then he tried to target President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He overdid it, and it was his undoing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy

Likewise, Ishihara is trying to unearth foreignness in very enfranchised Japanese people, and his movement is already coming undone. Only the extreme right buys into “racial purity means ideological purity,” and after shouting down the NJ suffrage bill it has lost momentum. All the fading “Sunset” set can do is rehash anti-Chinese and Korean rhetoric while attaching tangents so loopy (e.g., claiming the ruling coalition controls Japan’s entire debate arena) that they just seem paranoid.

Meanwhile, with the departure of immensely popular Diet member Yoichi Masuzoe from the LDP, the only viable opposition party just keeps on sputtering and splintering.

https://www.debito.org/?p=6509

To repeat what I wrote in February: Those calls for NJ to naturalize if they want to be granted suffrage are just red herrings, because for people like Ishihara, Japanese citizenship doesn’t matter. Once a foreigner — or once related to a foreigner — you’ll never be a “real Japanese,” even if you are generations removed.

It’s a Trojan horse of an argument, camouflaging racism as reason. Now that it is also targeting international Japanese, it will fail.

Again, grant NJ the vote, and accelerate the multiculturalization process already under way. Don’t fall for the last gasps of a lunatic fringe grasping for a Japan more than a century behind the times.

Furthermore, those accused of being “foreign” must call Ishihara’s bluff and stop the witch hunt. Reply: “So what if I were to have NJ roots? I am still as Japanese as you. You have a problem with my nationality? Take it up with the Ministry of Justice. They will side with me.”

Ishihara and company: Game over. Time for you to resign and get out of our way.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

ends

Sunday Tangent: NJ and Abandoned Konketsuji Negishi Cemetery in Yokohama; photos included

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Hi Blog. Most of us long-termers have heard about (if not visited) Aoyama Gaijin Bochi (as still written on the signs) foreign cemetery in downtown Tokyo (see here and here). Debito.org CF writes about a less-known pair of NY cemeteries in Yokohama — Negishi and Hodogaya — that might be worth a look for history preservers.  His photos are included below.

First, some background.  The Japan Times (bless ’em, again!) has an article on Negishi from 1999. Excerpting:

=====================
Headstones mark Yokohama haunt for the unknown
By MICK CORLISS Staff writer (excerpt)
The Japan Times: Wednesday, Aug. 25, 1999

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn19990825a9.html

Welcome to Yokohama Negishi Gaikokujin Bochi, also known as the Negishi Foreign Cemetery. Only a few hundred meters from Yokohama’s Yamate Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line, its obscure location and ambiguous past have helped keep it out of the spotlight.

While its diminutive size and inconvenient location have relegated this burial ground to near anonymity, its simple appearance, scattered headstones and wooden crosses belie a complicated past.

More than a 1,000 people are buried here and most are foreigners (“gaikokujin”) and infants.

Negishi was the poor foreigner’s cemetery. “Those who died of infectious diseases, sailors and those without money were mostly buried here. Of course there are some famous people, but it is basically a cemetery for poor people,” said Yasuji Tamura, a local teacher who has studied the cemetery for more than 15 years.

This continued until the end of World War II — when the graveyard’s most controversial residents were buried. After the war, Tamura and others believe that more than 800 infants were buried here.

“It is said that 824 babies, some the offspring of American soldiers who became close with Japanese women, were buried here,” Tamura said. “But there are no documents.”

“After the war there were many children born between Japanese women and soldiers stationed here,” Sawabe said. “There were no abortion facilities so women would have the babies and then abandon them.”

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn19990825a9.html
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That article from a decade ago talks about a revival of Negishi as a historical site. Doesn’t look like it happened.  (Even the above-linked Wikipedia entry in E or J doesn’t mention the babies.)  As Debito.org Reader CF, who submitted the photos below, writes:

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Debito:  Here are some more places of interest I have found in Yokohama. One is a cemetery in Negishi used by Japanese women after WW2 who had affairs with American solders and were ashamed of the outcome and buried them here, so it is told. Over 800 babies buried here supposedly but the place is in disarray, most of the markers gone. The Japanese police at that time asked no questions I guess. You don’t see one American flag or upkeep from anybody and there is a base right up the street there in Negishi. Same deal with the cemetery in Hodogaya.

Also, the British commonwealth cemetery, in Yokohama. Very interesting place, maintained by the British I guess. Some Americans in a urn are there as well, killed by the Japanese. CF

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Thanks.  Here are some photos, thanks CF.  Click on an image to expand in browser.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

ENDS

Saturday Tangent: Historian Howard Zinn, author of “People’s History of US”, dies at 87

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Hi Blog. It is with great sadness that I write to you about the death of one of my personal heroes, Howard Zinn. A person who departed from historical orthodoxy to write history books from the minority point of view. His “People’s History of the United States” is a must-read.  Good man. Already missed. Obits below.

That’s one less of the ideological lions out there who have made an impression on me, speaking up for the little guy as much as possible, and narrating against the grain with tireless activism no matter how ripe the age. Including Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Ralph Nader…

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
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HOWARD ZINN

FILE – This 2006 picture shows Howard Zinn in New York. Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist “A People’s History of the United States” sold millions of copies to become an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. He was 87. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh) (Dima Gavrysh, AP / June 26, 2006)
HILLEL ITALIE AP National Writer
January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, author of ‘People’s History’ and left-wing historian, dies at 87 in California

Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist “A People’s History of the United States” sold a million copies and became an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.

Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said. The historian was a resident of Auburndale, Mass.

Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, “A People’s History” was — fittingly — a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including “Voices of a People’s History,” a volume for young people and a graphic novel

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, “A People’s History” told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

Even liberal historians were uneasy with Zinn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once said: “I know he regards me as a dangerous reactionary. And I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.”

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one. He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter — not the last — of a new kind of history.

“There’s no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete,” Zinn said. “My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times.”

“A People’s History” had some famous admirers, including Matt Damon and Affleck. The two grew up near Zinn, were family friends and gave the book a plug in their Academy Award-winning screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.” When Affleck nearly married Jennifer Lopez, Zinn was on the guest list.

“He taught me how valuable — how necessary dissent was to democracy and to America itself,” Affleck said in a statement. “He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally and I will carry with me what I learned from him — and try to impart it to my own children — in his memory.”

Oliver Stone was a fan, as well as Springsteen, whose bleak “Nebraska” album was inspired in part by “A People’s History.” The book was the basis of a 2007 documentary, “Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind,” and even showed up on “The Sopranos,” in the hand of Tony’s son, A.J.

Zinn himself was an impressive-looking man, tall and rugged with wavy hair. An experienced public speaker, he was modest and engaging in person, more interested in persuasion than in confrontation.

Born in New York in 1922, Zinn was the son of Jewish immigrants who as a child lived in a rundown area in Brooklyn and responded strongly to the novels of Charles Dickens. At age 17, urged on by some young Communists in his neighborhood, he attended a political rally in Times Square.

“Suddenly, I heard the sirens sound, and I looked around and saw the policemen on horses galloping into the crowd and beating people. I couldn’t believe that,” he told the AP.

“And then I was hit. I turned around and I was knocked unconscious. I woke up sometime later in a doorway, with Times Square quiet again, eerie, dreamlike, as if nothing had transpired. I was ferociously indignant. … It was a very shocking lesson for me.”

War continued his education. Eager to help wipe out the Nazis, Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and even persuaded the local draft board to let him mail his own induction notice. He flew missions throughout Europe, receiving an Air Medal, but he found himself questioning what it all meant. Back home, he gathered his medals and papers, put them in a folder and wrote on top: “Never again.”

He attended New York University and Columbia University, where he received a doctorate in history. In 1956, he was offered the chairmanship of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, an all-black women’s school in then-segregated Atlanta.

During the civil rights movement, Zinn encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries and helped coordinate sit-ins at downtown cafeterias. Zinn also published several articles, including a then-rare attack on the Kennedy administration for being too slow to protect blacks.

He was loved by students — among them a young Alice Walker, who later wrote “The Color Purple” — but not by administrators. In 1963, Spelman fired him for “insubordination.” (Zinn was a critic of the school’s non-participation in the civil rights movement.) His years at Boston University were marked by opposition to the Vietnam War and by feuds with the school’s president, John Silber.

Zinn retired in 1988, spending his last day of class on the picket line with students in support of an on-campus nurses’ strike. Over the years, he continued to lecture at schools and to appear at rallies and on picket lines.

Besides “A People’s History,” Zinn wrote several books, including “The Southern Mystique,” ”LaGuardia in Congress” and the memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn that Damon narrated. He also wrote three plays.

One of Zinn’s last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.

“I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

“I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”

Zinn’s longtime wife and collaborator, Roslyn, died in 2008. They had two children, Myla and Jeff.
ENDS
=============================

Howard Zinn dies at 87; author of best-selling ‘People’s History of the United States’
Activist collapsed in Santa Monica, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture.

By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-howard-zinn28-2010jan28,0,5610858.story

Howard Zinn, a professor, author and social activist who inspired a generation on the American left and whose book “A People’s History of the United States” sold more than 1 million copies and redefined the historical role of working-class people as agents of political change, died Wednesday. He was 87.

Zinn apparently had a heart attack in Santa Monica, where he was visiting friends and scheduled to speak, said his daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn. He lived in Auburndale, Mass.

Zinn’s political views were shaped, in part, by his experiences as a bombardier for the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.

“My father cared about so many important issues,” Kabat-Zinn said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I think the one he was really most eloquent about is that he thought there was no such thing as a just war.”

Indeed, in a 2001 opinion piece published in The Times, Zinn wrote about being horrified by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and equally horrified by the response of U.S. political leaders, who called for retaliation.

“They have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity,” he wrote.

“A People’s History” was published in 1980 and had an initial printing of 5,000 copies. But largely through word of mouth, the book attracted a major following and reached 1 million sales in 2003.

The work, which hails ordinary Americans such as farmers and union activists as heroes, accused Christopher Columbus of genocide and criticized early U.S. leaders as proponents of the status quo. “A People’s History” has been taught in high schools and colleges across the nation.

The book was the basis for a History Channel documentary called “The People Speak” that aired in the fall.

The executive producer was actor Matt Damon, who was raised in Boston near Zinn.

“From the moment we had any influence in this town, we’ve been trying to get this project off the ground,” Damon told reporters in July. “It demonstrates how everyday citizens have changed the course of history.”

Zinn was born in 1922 to a working-class family in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was one of four sons whose father worked as a waiter, window cleaner and pushcart peddler.

In his 1994 memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” Zinn recalled that his parents used discount coupons to buy the complete works of Charles Dickens. The novelist “aroused in me tumultuous emotions” about wealth, class and poverty, Zinn wrote.

Zinn received his doctorate from Columbia University.

He was a professor emeritus at Boston University, where he was a familiar speaker at Vietnam War protests. He also taught at a number of institutions, including Brooklyn College, the University of Paris and Spelman College in Atlanta in the late 1950s and early ’60s as the civil rights movement was taking hold in the South.

Former California state Sen. Tom Hayden recalled meeting Zinn while he was at Spelman, then an all-black women’s school.

“He was basically integrating himself into the world of black students,” Hayden said Wednesday.

Hayden said Zinn became actively involved in the movement as an advisor and leader. The two later protested the war in Vietnam and worked on other social justice issues, Hayden said.

“He had a profound influence on raising the significance of social movements as the real forces of social change in our country,” Hayden said. “He gave us our heritage and he gave us a pride in that heritage.”

Zinn was scheduled to speak Feb. 4 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art for an event titled “A Collection of Ideas . . . the People Speak.”

On its web page, the museum said that it was “deeply saddened” by Zinn’s death and that the event would go on as a tribute to Zinn’s life as a social activist.

Paramedics responded to a 911 call about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and took Zinn to Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Trisler.

Zinn was in a hotel when rescuers arrived, according to his daughter.

In addition to his daughter, Zinn is survived by his son, Jeff Zinn, and five grandchildren, according to his family. His wife Roslyn died in 2008.

robert.lopez@latimes.com

ENDS

Mutantfrog’s Joe Jones’s excellent discussion of rights and wrongs of divorce in Japan; causes stark conclusions for me

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog.  Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan.  I won’t quote it in full (let’s give the hits to Mutantfrog), but here’s the link and an excerpt:

http://www.mutantfrog.com/2009/10/08/all-thats-wrong-with-international-divorce-in-japan/

Here’s Joe’s conclusion:

I don’t have a wife or kids yet. Debito, who has written extensively about his own divorce and loss of children (a dreadfully sad story, but an excellent overview of how the system works here), chided me in a Facebook comment thread for daring to state my opinions while I lack skin in the game. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I respect Debito, who gave me, Roy and Curzon the privilege of hearing his story in person a good year before he made it public. But where I come from, having no skin in the game is called “objectivity,” and does not by any means disqualify an opinion.

For what it’s worth, I do have some skin in the game, as I am engaged to get married early next year. While I have given up on my farcical plans to transfer my kids to an offshore investment vehicle, I am still very cognizant that the law (even as I think its mechanics should work) may bite me in the rear someday if my marriage ever breaks down.

Sadly, a lot of the discussion surrounding these issues, whether regarding particular cases or the system in general, devolves into parental narcissism, envy and finger-pointing. The whole framework of marriage, divorce and custody is ultimately not about what Mom or Dad wants: it’s about protecting children and giving them a chance to inherit the world as capable individuals. So, as I see it, we have to approach it from that perspective regardless of which side we occupy on the wedding cake.

Of course.  So from a more neutral perspective, I conclude this:

NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.

NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.

Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce.  This is not good for the children.

Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898!  (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan)  Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.

Some reforms necessary:

  1. Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one parent or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
  2. Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.
  3. Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.
  4. Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  5. Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.
  6. Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.  See why here.
  7. Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.
  8. Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (“people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).
  9. Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).

There are plenty more suggestions I’m sure readers could make, but chew on that for awhile, readers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Letter to Prime Minister Hatoyama regarding Child Abductions and legislative lag, from a Left-Behind Parent

mytest

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Forwarding, courtesy of EK. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

What Are We Bargaining For?

Dear Prime Minister Hatoyama,
It’s important that left-behind parents understand what the Japanese Government mean when they say they “will need at least two more years before it will sign an international treaty (Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction) designed to settle child custodial disputes” and that “relevant legislative measures are unlikely to be submitted to the Diet until 2011 at the earliest”. The Yomiuri Shimbun article “Govt. unlikely to Sign Child Custody Pact for 2 Years” dated October 19, 2009 goes on to state that it will take “some time until the country is able to facilitate such a move by addressing the necessary domestic laws”.

Left-Behind parents have been denied access to their children for one second too long, now you’re asking us to be patient for two years. Well, What are we bargaining for? Will the process take only two years? and How will the process be carried out?

I’ll get straight to the point. There are those in the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry that know very well the article written by Dr. Hans van Loon “The implementation and Enforcement of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in Comparative Perspective: It’s Japan’s Move!” and the related article by Professor Yuko Nishitani. (Tohoku University 21st Century COE Program, Gender Law and Policy Annual Review, Vol.2 2004) Dr. Hans van Loon suggested seven (7) measures were necessary for Japan to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. I will only remind you of the second, which states:

a high level Central Authority should be designated, equipped with a small but highly competent staff with broad international experience, excellent knowledge of the convention and its operation in other States Parties and expertise in conciliation and mediation. However, conciliation and mediation should not hold up legal proceedings.

In another article, The Judges Newsletter, Enforcement and Return of Access Orders, National Report by Fourteen (14) States and The Conclusion of the Noordwijk Judicial Seminar Vol. VII Spring 2004 Professor Yuko Nishitani writes the following:

A working group of Japanese scholars have proposed a draft statute to implement this Convention in view of Japan’s possible accession in the future. In this draft, the Foreign Minister is appointed as “Central Authority,” acting through the Minister of Justice, who further delegates his duties to other institutions (e.g. police and the youth welfare office) which are to be appointed separately. The “judicial authority” is the Family Court, which has the necessary resources to carry out the required investigations and order the return of child. However, in order to comply with the obligations prescribed by the Convention, the Family Court must be provided with authority to ensure expeditious procedures and coercive enforcement, even if this represents a tough challenge for the Japanese legislature as well as for judges and practitioners. This is also crucial for other Contracting States so that they will be able to trust and rely on the Japanese judicial system for securing the return of a child abducted to Japan.

Apparently the draft statute is here, 119-2 Minshô–Hô Zasshi 302-311 (1998), but I haven’t been able to find it. It appears the administrative duties will be carried out by the Foreign Ministry, while the Family Court under the Justice Ministry will carry out the implementation and enforcement. Professor Nishitani, along with Professor Colin P.A. Jones in his research, In the Best Interest of the Court What American Lawyers Need to Know About Child Custody and Visitation in Japan, has pointed out quite clearly how joining the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will favor Japan. As they say, the elephant in the room is how will Japan implement and enforce the treaty? The Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court Justices, the Judicial Review Council (JRC), and possibly the Japan Federation Bar Association (JFBA) will play a critical role in crafting any new legislation required to implement and enforce the treaty. What can we expect this time from the Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court Justices?


In Japan’s first Judicial Reforms of the 21st century the Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court Justices chose not to address parental rights issues directly, but instead chose to try and deal with the issue by expanding the jurisdiction of the Family Court and relying on the courts so called “expert knowledge” in dealing with human relationships. The Judicial Review Council’s Initial Report, The Points at Issue in the Judicial Reform was created December 21, 1999. The Personal Status Litigation Law was approved by the Diet on July 9, 2003 and went into effect April 01, 2004 nearly five years after the process began. The Family Court was granted authority to legislate contested divorces after they failed mediation. It was clear that Family Court Judges had the authority to award visitation based on their preference, but it was also widely known any award of visitation was unenforceable. Previously contested divorces were legislated in District Court by District Court Judges, but now they are being handled by Family Court judges. This means the Supreme Court swept parental rights issue under the rug and relied heavily on the Family Courts to deal with these issues. The Diet has to take some responsibility as well because they passed the Personal Status Litigation Law without any assurances that it would protect parental rights.


The Mediators, Investigators, and Councilors (Sanyoin) which the Supreme Court and the nation put so much trust in to uphold Japanese family values let down the Justices and embarrassed the country’s international reputation in dealing with parental rights. Professor Colin P.A. Jones’ research points out the ineptitude of Family Court Mediators and Family Court Investigators. The Family Courts have failed miserably in protecting parental rights and the Supreme Court Justices have been so wishy-washy on the issue they’ve left the non-custodial parent with no choice but to take self-help measures when the custodian of the child refuses any meaningful access. Professor Colin points out that up until the Abduction for the purpose of performing an obscene act, murder and abandonment of corpse, case number: 2000 (Kyo) No.5 of the year 2000 the lower courts’ interpretations of parental rights were widely held views that he narrowed down as the following:

(i) an inherent right arising naturally from the parent-child relationship; (ii) an aspect of physical custody; (iii) a right arising in connection with physical custody; (iv) a right of children to develop emotionally through contact with their parent; and (v) a right of both parent and child.

After the 2000 ruling parental rights came down to a right to demand versus a right to request, with the right to request becoming the de facto meaning of Parental Rights. It seems that up until the 2000 ruling some of the lower court judges were determining the meaning of rights as those similar to what is proscribed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. One significant point, the Supreme Court Judges that made the 2000 ruling, Justice FUJII Masao, Justice ENDO Mitsuo, Justice IJIMA Kazutomo, Justice OHDE Takao, and Justice MACHIDA Akira are no longer on the bench. If a similar case is brought before the Justices today we could get a different ruling. Of course, you remember the Judicial Reforms that began in December of 1999, in my opinion the Justices were aware of how their ruling would affect The Personal Status Litigation Law that was being drafted at the time.


By reviewing the work of Nishitani, Colin, Han van Loons, Bryant, the Judicial Review Council, and others I’ve been able to create a timeline that could give the left behind parents some idea as to when Japan will start to implement and enforce parental rights. I’ve compared the time it took Japan to implement and enforce the Jury System with the Personal Status Litigation Law because both legislations have a profound affect on the nation, as will the implementation and enforcement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction along with the enforcement of Parental Rights of Access.

Jury System Personal Status Litigation Law
• December 21, 1999 Initial Report from the JRC 1. December 21, 1999 Initial Report from the JRC
• November 12, 2000 Sixty Five (65) Page Interim Report by JRC 2. November 12, 2000 Sixty Five (65) Page Interim Report by JRC
• June 12, 2001 Final Recommendations to the Cabinet by JRC 3. June 12, 2001 Final Recommendations to the Cabinet by JRC
• May 28, 2004 Approved by the Diet 4. July 09, 2003 Approved by the Diet
• June 01, 2009 Law went into effect 5. April 01, 2004 Law went into effect
• 9 Years 6 months to enact 6. 4 Years 5 months to enact

For simplicity, I’ve rounded the number of years and concluded it will take between 5 to 10 years before implementation and enforcement of the treaty or parental rights of access will be legally enforceable. From the article in the Yomiuri Shimbun one can assume the reform process will be carried out similar to the Judicial Reform process that started in December 1999 and took two (2) years before it actually reached the Diet.
While I believe you, Prime Minister Hatoyama, are sincere about resolving this issue, the facts lead me to distrust the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Ministry. The Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court knew about these problems in the first Judicial Reforms that began 10 years ago but chose not to face the tough issue of Parental Rights head on. Now, Mr. Hatoyama, are you relying on these same bureaucrats again? Why, is it that Professor Nishitani refers to a draft statute created by Japanese Scholars that would have paved the way for Japan to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the bureaucrats are sounding as though we have to start from scratch? If the Judicial Reform Council is drafting this legislation then who are the current members? I hope it is not any of the retired Supreme Court Justices that made the 2000 ruling. Furthermore, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Manifesto states the cabinet will be the center of policy-making. What happens if the DPJ loses power in the next election, which will be in two years, do we start from scratch again? Let’s see what Professor Yuko Nishitani and the Japanese Scholars proposed; maybe the cabinet can start from there. If the government wants the international community and all left-behind parents to cooperate while reforms are being created we need to know, What Are We Bargaining For?

Sincerely,
IGOTCHU

Economist.com BANYAN column on DPJ moves to right historical wrongs

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s The Economist’s Asia-focus “Banyan” column last week, on the DPJ’s attempt to try and redress the historical running sores that pass for diplomatic relations between Japan and the rest of Asia.

As I voted in the most recent Debito.org blog poll, the DPJ keeps surprising me with their progressive plans and policies.  The proposal for a definitive joint-edited history book of the Asian region is precisely what UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene recommended as a salve years ago.

The Economist is right to express a certain degree of skepticism:  so many hopes for countries to act like adults, and own up to the bad parts of history (viz. former PM Abe’s call for official whitewashing in the name of promoting Japan as “beautiful” — i.e. shame about the past just gets in the way of training Japanese to love their country), have been dashed time and time again.  But as long as the DPJ can maintain the momentum of “not quite business as usual, folks”, I think we just might see decades of regional rhetorical logjam broken, and Japan discovering that international goodwill might be worth as much as good trade relations.   Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Banyan

History wars

Oct 15th 2009
From
The Economist print edition

http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14660487

JAPAN’S nearest neighbours have long been less ready than has the rest of Asia to forgive and forget the country’s aggressive past: a brutal colonisation of Korea in 1905-45 and a creeping occupation of China from 1931 leading to total war. Both projects were pursued ruthlessly and entailed civilian massacres, torture and slavery in factories, mines and military brothels.

So Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s new prime minister, has pleased the neighbours by promising that rule by his Democratic Party of Japan would transform Japan’s relations with them. He made the pledge in both Seoul, where he met South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, on October 8th, and then in Beijing at a three-way summit with China’s leaders. Unlike the weasel-worded Liberal Democratic Party, which long ran the country, Mr Hatoyama’s new government, he says, “has the courage to face up to history.”

Both Mr Lee and China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, were delighted. Dealing honestly with historical matters, they affirmed, would make it much easier to tackle contemporary challenges together—notably, getting North Korea to give up its nukes, and deepening economic co-operation. Mr Lee said Mr Hatoyama had opened the way for “future-oriented relations”. The talk now is of reviving old plans for an undersea tunnel linking South Korea and Japan. Emperor Akihito may visit South Korea, a first. Both South Korea and China have applauded Japan’s proposal for a jointly compiled history textbook.

If only it were so simple. For all the bonhomie now, past hopes for “future-oriented” relations have often been frustrated. One problem is disputed territory (see map). Japan contests Dokdo, a rocky outcrop controlled by South Korea, while China claims the Senkaku, held by Japan. In addition, Japan contests Russia’s control of four northern islands seized in August 1945. Over the years Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and Russian diplomats have all berated The Economist over our maps.

Japan insists Dokdo should be called “Takeshima”. The South Koreans insist on the “East Sea” in place of the Sea of Japan. Over Dokdo/Takeshima, the websites of Japan’s and South Korea’s foreign ministries wage a virtual war, with pop-up cyber “history halls” and the like (in South Korea’s case, in nine languages). Yet both sides look merely ridiculous. Japan’s justification glides over the fact that its 1905 claim marked a first step in imperial annexation. South Korea argues that Dokdo has been “Korean” since 512, but uses the name for a country that did not exist until 1948. Competing for legitimacy with North Korea, the South also insists on the “East” rather than the “Chosun” Sea, since “Chosun”, a much more common reference in old Korean documents, is these days associated with the North. Empty specks of rock do duty as stand-ins for wider and even touchier historical issues.

Things would be better if Japan were now readier to call a slave’s spade a spade. It has apologised many times for its brutal past, but only in vague terms, expressing “remorse” for ill-defined damage. Most apologies, including the one that has since become a template, by the then prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, at the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, appear to say sorry to the Japanese people first. Mr Hatoyama does not call for the imperial family to break the so-called chrysanthemum taboo by admitting guilt on behalf of the wartime emperor, Hirohito. Nor does he suggest that the Diet (parliament) pass a law expressing national contrition instead of merely making statements. So, on this, he does not look like a mould-breaker. But then the leaders of South Korea and China may not want him to be. Being able occasionally to beat Japan for its lack of remorse is not all bad.

But Alexis Dudden of the University of Connecticut points out* that as vague apologies proliferate, the human victims of imperialism, though winnowed by old age, are ever less ready to accept them. The many wartime “comfort women”, or sex-slaves for the army, of whom South Koreans made up the biggest number, for example, want individual apologies and redress from the state. Despite abundant and harrowing testimony, Japan admits only general responsibility. The foreign ministry refers not to the women, but to “the issue known as ‘wartime comfort women’”.

When America’s Congress called on Japan in 2007 to apologise for the comfort-women system, Ichiro Ozawa of the DPJ, now the party’s secretary-general, threatened a Diet resolution damning the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His demeaning of the comfort women was grotesque but symptomatic: even today, many Japanese believe the atomic horror washed away any guilt for devastation in other parts of Asia.

Small comfort
But then the South Korean government gets more worked up about Japanese claims on a guano-flecked rock more than it does about the comfort women. After all, many of the men sending women to the front were, well, Koreans, working for the colonial authorities. Later, from 1948, the instruments and executors of Japanese repression were hitched to the new South Korean state—under American military tutelage to boot. That is all too inconvenient to highlight today.

So official versions of history tend to veer away from the truth, not towards it. You only have to look at the Chinese history on display at the extravaganzas for last year’s Beijing Olympics or this month’s National Day celebrations. The first (traumatic) 30 years of the Communist Party’s 60-year rule were airbrushed out. History, as Simon Schama, a master of the craft, says, should be the instrument of self-criticism, not self-congratulation. Not just in dictatorial China, but also in democratic South Korea and Japan, history still has far to go if it is to serve that aim.

* “Troubled Apologies: Among Japan, Korea and the United States”, Columbia University Press, 2008

Economist.com/blogs/banyan

ENDS

Otaru Onsens 10th Anniv #6: How the J media whipped up fear of foreign crime from 2000 and linked it with lawsuit

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog.  In Part Six of this retrospective on the Otaru Onsens Case a decade on, I talk about how the J media misinterpreted the issues revolving around the “JAPANESE ONLY” signs up at Otaru Onsen Yunohana et al., and how they wound up fanning the fires of exclusionism by spreading fear of foreigners (particularly vis-a-vis foreign crime).

As I chart in book “JAPANESE ONLY“, when we first started this case in September 1999, NJ were seen as “misunderstood outsiders”, impaired by “culture” as their monkey on their back.  But following GOJ policy putsches by politicians like then-PM Koizumi and Tokyo Gov Ishihara (who in April 2000 famously called upon the Nerima SDF to prepare for “foreigner roundups” to prevent riots in the case of a natural disaster), NJ became a public threat to Japan’s safety and internal security (even though NJ crime was always less than J crime both as a proportion and of course in terms of absolute numbers).  Then more doors slammed shut and more signs barring NJ from entry went up — some of them direct copies of the signs in Otaru.  Hey, as those onsens indicated, exclusionary signs are not illegal.

Thus, although we made progress in the first six months of the Otaru Onsens Case, getting signs down in two of Otaru’s three exclusionary onsen, we could not compete with the national government and media saturation, and lost all the ground we gained and then some.  The media’s overfocus on NJ crime to this day affects the debate regarding assimilation.

Embedded videos of how the media could not escape linking NJ rights with foreign crime follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo.

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

OTARU ONSENS TAPE (1999-2003) PART FOUR

INDEX OF PREVIOUS PARTS HERE

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

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

(Part Two features me trying to explain “kokusaika” in terms of immigration and tolerance; love how the commentators then struggle to square the circles:)

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

Part One of Three:


ENDS

Otaru Onsens 10th Anniv #5: How the debate still rages on, article by TransPacific Radio

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Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog.  In their own commemorative-edition article, TransPacific Radio last night came out with a synopsis of how the Otaru Onsens Case is very much alive and well today as an issue, at least in terms of the NJ community and a few NJ pundits in particular (one of whom obsesses over it to the point of distraction and inaccuracy).  Excerpting TPR:

In the ten years since the case, much has changed and debate over Arudou’s goal and tactics continues apace. As with any heated issue (and human rights issues are always heated), the disagreements range from perfectly legitimate concerns to objections that are, to put it nicely, based on misinformation or incorrect assumptions.

It is no secret that Arudou has many critics (in the interest of disclosure, it is worth it to point out that while we here at TPR pull no punches with the man and feel it necessary to play Devil’s Advocate at the least, we do know him sociably and will say that, politics aside, he’s a likable guy – just exercise caution before bringing up the topic of Duran Duran.) It is also no secret that, for a variety of reasons, his most vocal critics are almost entirely non-Japanese.

Among the most high profile of those critics is Gregory Clark, whose column in the Japan Times gives him perhaps a wider audience than most other writers on the topic. On January 15th of this year, Clark wrote a risible and deeply disingenuous column for the paper headlined “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”.

In the column, Clark tries to paint a picture of a contemptible rabble-rousing jerk that he very clearly hints is Arudou (it’s not. As far as we can tell, there is no such person as the one Clark is writing about.) Wondering at Clark’s vitriol and some of his more outlandish statements, this observer settled on the following paragraph:

(…)

TPR article continues here:
http://www.transpacificradio.com/2009/09/24/otaru-10-years/
Have a read and a comment there if you like.  More TV media from the case blogged on Debito.org tomorrow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo