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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

COMMENT: I remember clearly three things about that evening:

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Comment follows imbedded video:

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

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

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

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

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


●   ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別(単行本 明石書店2004年改訂版 ISBN: 4-7503-9011-9)

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

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

Other bilingual interviews and radio broadcasts/podcasts available at


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


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

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


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

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

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

Arudou Debito in Sapporo




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



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

(Photo courtesy Shouya Grigg of Kookan.com)

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



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


Caption:  Yunohana Onsen’s exclusionary sign, 1999

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


B-Ball billiards hall, Uruma, Okinawa, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


2600 WORDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] www.francajapan.org

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

CSM’s Kambayashi on Japan’s “hereditary candidates” and new voter attitudes


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  On this election eve, I thought I’d just send one reporter’s opinion about how Japan is shaping up towards one important issue (that affects both the leaders of the LDP and DPJ):  inherited seats.  Courtesy of the author.  Moreover, keep an eye out tomorrow night for coverage of the old LDP gorillas who could very well lose their seats (according to the J media):  Former PM Mori in Ishikawa, Former PM Abe in Yamaguchi, Takebe in Hokkaido… Arudou Debito in Kurashiki

Christian Science Monitor July 09, 2009
In election season, Japan’s voters more skeptical of ‘hereditary’ candidates
Amid recession woes, some politicians see an opening in a system long tipped toward political families.
By Takehiko Kambayashi | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Shimonoseki, Japan
Just a few years ago, it would have been unimaginable for a political neophyte like Takako Tokura to try to crack into politics.

But today, Ms. Tokura, a vivacious mother of three, is on the stump. Her goal: to represent Yamaguchi Prefecture’s 4th District in the House of Representatives in an election that is expected to be held in late August or in early September.

It’s a gutsy move for an unknown. For one thing, her audience in the venerable city of Shimonoseki, where she is contesting the seat, has a long tradition of supporting the next generation of well known political families. Indeed, her opponent is former prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose father, Shintaro, was a foreign minister, and grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, also held the prime ministership.

But Tokura – whose candidacy is seen as a long shot – is convinced that the country is ready for fresh blood.

The political climate has changed since former Prime Minister Abe and his successor, Yasuo Fukuda (whose father also served as premier) abruptly stepped down under pressure. And their woes, analysts say, have contributed to growing skepticism about both the qualifications of hereditary politicians and the merits of giving certain families such a strong grip on power.

“This could mark the beginning of a permanent shift, and it is a shift that could ultimately help shake up Japanese politics,” says Akikazu Hashimoto, a political science professor at J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo. “This is probably the first time we’ve seen the pendulum swing against them.”

The image of hereditary politicians has been further aggravated by policy flip-flops and weak leadership from Mr. Aso – himself the grandson of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, and the son-in-law of Zenko Suzuki, also a former premier. Major polls show 60 to 70 percent of those surveyed don’t support Aso’s cabinet.

Tokura is running for office in one of Japan’s most conservative regions, a stronghold of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the hometown of Mr. Abe and Yoshimasa Hayashi, a newly appointed minister of economic and fiscal policy and a fourth-generation lawmaker.

But even here, Tamotsu Tomoda, who is close to Abe, was defeated in the March race for Shimonoseki mayor, while, last month, in the nearby city of Ube, Kimiko Kubota, who rose from a citizen group leader, won the mayoral poll and will become the first woman mayor in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

“Many people are asking us to change [Japanese politics],” says Tokura, a member of the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Ruling party’s hereditary tradition

While political dynasties have held sway in the United States – think the Kennedys and the Bushes – in Japan they exert more influence in the nation’s politics.

“If you include those whose grandfather was a local assembly member, the total number of hereditary politicians makes up about 50 percent of LDP lawmakers,” says Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University in Tokyo.

Moreover, politicians invest in forming support groups. The koenkai, which are usually backed by local business leaders, connects the politicians to constituents.

The local organization provides votes and money, while, in return, politicians give them things like business licensing, regulatory approvals, and public works projects.

“The koenkai is an organization that keeps a patronage system,” says Mr. Iwai. “Given their money, name recognition, and organizational power, it is easier for hereditary politicians to win. But that prevents a capable person from running in that seat.”

I’m a reformer – but want my son to get my seat

The institution of a political dynasty is so entrenched that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, known as a top reformer, is now working to help his son Shinjiro “inherit” his seat after announcing his retirement from politics.

“The times have changed. But [politicians] still succeed using old ideas and old styles of politics. They cannot breathe new ideas into the political system,” argues Mr. Hashimoto of J. F. Oberlin University.

Even so, in Yokosuka, the hometown of Mr. Koizumi that lies just south of Tokyo, incumbent Ryoichi Kabaya lost to 33-year-old Yuto Yoshida in the June mayoral election – despite Koizumi’s endorsement.

The DPJ puts some limits on candidates whose parents or close relatives were lawmakers. The LDP tried, but could not.

In Yamaguchi, candidate Tokura, who helped her husband run a small business in Shunan, an industrial town 450 miles west of Tokyo, is critical of second- and third-generation politicians like Abe.

Tokura, whose father works as a fisherman, has witnessed a number of contractors going under, while more locals have been forced to shutter their businesses, she says.

She emphasizes that hereditary politicians like Abe, who grew up and went to a private school in Tokyo, are out of touch with local struggles. She is proud to say all her family members, including their three children, have attended local public schools.

“Many here are finding it hard to make ends meet,” says Tokura, who led a local team in plans to revitalize the area and also spearheaded the sales of blowfish – a local delicacy – at a nationwide exhibition. “The government budget proposal is just for the haves. We have to invest in education and social-security services.”

Hisatsugu Ishimori, a first-time DPJ candidate, also faces formidable challenges as he tries to defeat Hajime Funada, a third-generation LDP lawmaker in the Tochigi 1st District, about 60 miles north of Tokyo, which sits on the buckle of the nation’s conservative belt.

Mr. Ishimori, a burly brain surgeon and former champion rugby player, has witnessed the breakdown of the medical care system.

“Even though there’s an excessive burden being imposed on medical staff, the patients still aren’t getting adequate care,” he says.

Ishimori says he wants to get into politics to repair a damaged system. He’s already visited nearly 30,000 households in the district.

“Japan has a lot of potential,” he says. “We should invest in people.”

Takehiko Kambayashi

Sunday Tangent: Fascinating DaiTouA WWII propaganda


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Hi Blog. As nothing more meant to this than an interesting historical diversion on a rainy Sunday, here are some screen captures sent to me by friend Martin, who recently asked me to look over a screenplay for a movie about WWII Japanese pilots and the Pacific War. Interesting stuff.

Japanese WWII propaganda, from children’s textbooks explaining the purpose of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (DaiTouA), and from psychological warfare leaflets to undermine the morale and sanity of the enemy.

Courtesy of http://www.2bangkok.com/wwiipropaganda.shtml

The old Japanese writing style at times makes for slow reading. And does anyone know — were contemporary Japanese school children first instructed in reading in katakana before hiragana? Or is the script designed for non-native eyes? Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Here is a line up of all the children who ware brought under the Japanese Imperial umbrella. What I find interesting is that the writing is from left to right, even though in contemporary Japanese publications I’ve seen if the writing was not vertical, it was rendered right to left.

(click on any image to expand in your browser)


Here we have the Western powers exploiting the East Asian lands for their own ends. Love the caricatures of the machinating Brits and Yanks.


Now here we have them at a loss as the Japanese Empire liberates the lands and receives the cheers of the inhabitants. Asia has finally “kicked out” the white race.  (Note how present-day Indonesia and Malaysia don’t get independent flags of their own.)


Here are the benefits accrued to the Asian peoples at last. An independent Burma and Philippines. An expanded Thailand. An India finally rid of the British, a Nationalist China (rendered as “Chuukuo”,) allied with Japan, a prosperous Manshukoku (not Manchukuo). And happy Malays and Javanese (who seem to get happiness out of this, but unlike the others not their own country).


This somehow doesn’t feel like it’s from the same book, because the level seems truly grade-school. We have the regular rhetoric deferential to authority (even the horse is granted an honorific), and how the “Butaichou” (squad leader) is so nice.


More of the images of walking in lockstep, with everyone with one heart. Of course, by the logic of reading from right to left, it’s clear who’s in charge. And note how the crowds are still separated between Japanese and colonized. One heart, two systems. Seems the natural order.


Next comes the educational opportunities. Learn Japanese, come to Japan, become fluent in the language and you will do well. Is that possibly Tokyo Imperial University (today’s Toudai) in the background of the (white) Japanese and (colored) Indonesian (?) students?


Here we have the slogan of “Co-existence, Co-prosperity” (kyouzon kyouei) and the benefits therein of being freed (namely happiness). A multilingual Asia linked together, from Indonesia and Oceania to South-East Asia to beyond the Gobi Desert. Interesting how Australia, India, and Siberia (which looks submerged) mark the natural boundaries of DaiTouA.


Now it gets interesting, as the rhetoric (from a different publication) leaves the comfort zone of Japanese linguistics and tries to demoralize English readers. Themes of being surrounded, impending death, and mockery of weakness are regular tactics of psychological warfare. But the interesting logic regarding being too busy to bother with dead people is an interesting twist and tack. If you were in the jungle, particularly in the Philippines for years on end, waiting for MacArthur’s uncertain return, would this affect you?


Last image for this blog entry. This may seem a bit silly until you realize that this leaflet may be all these people have to read in the jungle. When you’re starving for reading material to stave off the combat mixture of terror and boredom of waiting for sudden attack, this may well get to you. You have lots of time to monitor and overthink your bodily functions.

I wonder where the English came from, too. I can scarcely imagine many Japanese educated under the current Monkashou system who can write at this level.


Sunday Tangent: Stray thoughts on Rbt. McNamara’s timely passing


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Hi Blog. As a tangent this Sunday, I thought I’d say a few words on the timely passing (hell, he was 93, and outlived most of his compatriots of this generation) of former US Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara — one of the most promising boffins of the 20th Century, and the so-called primary architect of the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Disclaimers first: I of course did not know McNamara. I am not a scholar of his life, his generation, or his books (although I do have a Bachelor’s in Government from Cornell, where I was once studying to be a Kremlinologist mere months before Gorbachev came along and rendered that science obsolete). I did not grow up in the generation that called the war “McNamara’s War” (after all, born in January 1965 I missed the Baby Boomer Generation by 13 days). I do not have the bred hatred of him or what he stands for carried forth by millions of protesters (I consider Nixon, Kissinger, Haig, Rumsfeld, and Cheney to be far worse people than McNamara).

But I do see McNamara as a person who was too smart for his own good. As one of the “Golden Boys” within the Kennedy Administration Intelligentsia (carried on through to the end of Johnson in 1968), here was a man seen as able to take on all of the world’s problems with a slide rule and a command of statistics. As long has he had enough information, I believe (and so did many others believe) that he thought he could solve anything.

But even he, as his books and interviews revealed, realized that that wasn’t good enough. He put it down to the incredibly complicated calculus (or “Fog”, to use his term) of War that nobody could figure out (even though people far less bright than he could figure it out — Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Patton, Petraeus, Eisenhower –even his successor Clark Clifford to some degree managed to). So he spent the second half of his life disinterring the past, going over and over the data until he arrived at “Eleven Lessons” that he hoped people would listen and take to heart, so that the same mistakes wouldn’t be made yet again.

I laud that sentiment, in the sense that one must learn to avoid repeats. And I’m sure he would make the case that war in the Cold War Era and Nuclear Age offered unprecedented challenges (and I would agree). But the funny thing is, I sense through listening to him speak, give presentations, and answer questions, that he really wasn’t, despite his best efforts, listening to people. I believe that his fatal shortcoming was that he, for all his protestations, believed that nobody else had quite thought about things as deeply as he had, or had been exposed to as much information as he had, or shared the background he had. He was prone to interrupting questions with answers (even though the question was proceeding in a different direction than he was anticipating), and spent so much time anticipating and preempting others that he shut himself off to absolutely new viewpoints (such as the fact that the Vietnamese were simply not going to fight in ways that people, least of all the astoundingly culturally-ignorant American soldiers, were able to anticipate). He locked himself and his perceptions so far into the Bunker Mentality of the Superpower Nuclear and Space Race for years that he was simply unable to extricate himself from that mindset. I believe he brainwashed himself not into infallibility or invulnerability, but into the belief that the Americans were going to get their way, or some semblance of it, one way or another simply because they were so powerful.

This is a textbook definition of hubris. And it was McNamara’s undoing.

The reason why I don’t lump McNamara in with other felons of his generation (again, for example Nixon, Kissinger, Haig, Rumsfeld, and Cheney) because he was trying to go back and take issue with himself. Nixon, as the Frost Interviews demonstrated, still believed he was right, however “sorry” he said he was. Kissinger has written whole books justifying himself, and wants everyone to believe he’s still a credible source and not a war criminal. H, R & C are so self-assured and blindly hubristic they kept seeking office (they wanted to be entrusted with power yet again?!), without much of an urge to explain themselves. And they managed it, too, sadly.

McNamara tried to explain himself, run some self-diagnostics, show some contrition, and admit mistakes. That is very praiseworthy. He also created a written record of the era (the Pentagon Papers) so that others could look at the era more objectively (an impulse the Bush II Admin, full of Nixon and Ford Admin veterans, actively worked against; they learned exactly the opposite lessons from Watergate). We need more impulses like that, so that, again, we can learn from history.

Final word: McNamara still comes off in his interviews as disingenuous, and even a little contradictory at times. He has that hint of Nixon’s attitude of being “sorry, but still right”. Consider this: His concept of apologies, as expressed in a 1995 NPR interview with Terry Gross, when asked about his recently-published book:

MCNAMARA: Some people have used ‘redemption’ and ‘apology’ [regarding my book]. Forget ‘redemption’ and ‘apology’. I’d say that those of us, assuming for a minute that I’m correct — as I say in the preface I believe that it was an error, a tragic error — assume for a minute that my judgment is correct — then I think that we owe an explanation. To future generations. Of what happened, and how to avoid that in the future. That’s the purpose of the book.

TERRY GROSS: To explain.

MCNAMARA: To explain, and more than explain, to draw lessons, and suggest how to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

TERRY GROSS: To you think an apology is appropriate?

MCNAMARA: Well, if you want me to apologize, of course. But that’s not the issue. The issue isn’t apology. You don’t, I’ll call it ‘correct a wrong’ by apologizing. You can correct a wrong only if you understand how it occurred, and take steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

And afterwards I’m here shaking my head at how intelligent, yet how inept, this comes off. Sure, the lessons are what’s important. But when you get down to the basic human impulses of making up for wrongs, it’s not just a matter of learning your lesson. You MUST ALSO APOLOGIZE. From your heart. Because you want to. Not because others want you to — because that sounds worse than disingenuous — it’s insincere, and has exactly the opposite of a healing effect. You are responsible for the deaths of millions. If you are going to show any contrition at all, do it properly.

But a person as dry and trained to be intelligent as McNamara, who has long since been desiccated of the milk of human kindness, will always fall short of actually doing what he intends to do — convince people at the gut level that doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons is still the wrong thing. He will always fall short of his historical potential as a great man offering lessons because of that.

Again, McNamara deserves to go down in history as the man who was too smart for his own good. What a waste. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

AP on resuscitating discriminatory Buraku historical maps on Google Earth


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a bit of history that some would rather be left undisturbed:  the historical locations of Japan’s historical underclass, the Burakumin.  To me it’s existential historical fact.  To corporate employers and marriage suitors, it could be grist for discrimination.  Am of two minds about the issue, but if if the BLL comes out against it, so shall I.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Old Japanese maps on Google Earth unveil secrets
• By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press – Sat May 2, 2009 

Courtesy Steve H, MS, and Paul G

TOKYO -When Google Earth added historical maps of Japan to its online collection last year, the search giant didn’t expect a backlash. The finely detailed woodblock prints have been around for centuries, they were already posted on another Web site, and a historical map of Tokyo put up in 2006 hadn’t caused any problems.

But Google failed to judge how its offering would be received, as it has often done in Japan. The company is now facing inquiries from the Justice Ministry and angry accusations of prejudice because its maps detailed the locations of former low-caste communities.

The maps date back to the country’s feudal era, when shoguns ruled and a strict caste system was in place. At the bottom of the hierarchy were a class called the “burakumin,” ethnically identical to other Japanese but forced to live in isolation because they did jobs associated with death, such as working with leather, butchering animals and digging graves.

Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan’s sprawling metropolises. Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country’s 127 million people.

But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived. Moving is little help, because employers or parents of potential spouses can hire agencies to check for buraku ancestry through Japan’s elaborate family records, which can span back over a hundred years.

An employee at a large, well-known Japanese company, who works in personnel and has direct knowledge of its hiring practices, said the company actively screens out burakumin job seekers.

“If we suspect that an applicant is a burakumin, we always do a background check to find out,” she said. She agreed to discuss the practice only on condition that neither she nor her company be identified.

Lists of “dirty” addresses circulate on Internet bulletin boards. Some surveys have shown that such neighborhoods have lower property values than surrounding areas, and residents have been the target of racial taunts and graffiti. But the modern locations of the old villages are largely unknown to the general public, and many burakumin prefer it that way.

Google Earth’s maps pinpointed several such areas. One village in Tokyo was clearly labeled “eta,” a now strongly derogatory word for burakumin that literally means “filthy mass.” A single click showed the streets and buildings that are currently in the same area.

Google posted the maps as one of many “layers” available via its mapping software, each of which can be easily matched up with modern satellite imagery. The company provided no explanation or historical context, as is common practice in Japan. Its basic stance is that its actions are acceptable because they are legal, one that has angered burakumin leaders.

“If there is an incident because of these maps, and Google is just going to say ‘it’s not our fault’ or ‘it’s down to the user,’ then we have no choice but to conclude that Google’s system itself is a form of prejudice,” said Toru Matsuoka, a member of Japan’s upper house of parliament.

Asked about its stance on the issue, Google responded with a formal statement that “we deeply care about human rights and have no intention to violate them.”

Google spokesman Yoshito Funabashi points out that the company doesn’t own the maps in question, it simply provides them to users. Critics argue they come packaged in its software, and the distinction is not immediately clear.

Printing such maps is legal in Japan. But it is an area where publishers and museums tread carefully, as the burakumin leadership is highly organized and has offices throughout the country. Public showings or publications are nearly always accompanied by a historical explanation, a step Google failed to take.

Matsuoka, whose Osaka office borders one of the areas shown, also serves as secretary general of the Buraku Liberation League, Japan’s largest such group. After discovering the maps last month, he raised the issue to Justice Minister Eisuke Mori at a public legal affairs meeting on March 17.

Two weeks later, after the public comments and at least one reporter contacted Google, the old Japanese maps were suddenly changed, wiped clean of any references to the buraku villages. There was no note made of the changes, and they were seen by some as an attempt to quietly dodge the issue.

“This is like saying those people didn’t exist. There are people for whom this is their hometown, who are still living there now,” said Takashi Uchino from the Buraku Liberation League headquarters in Tokyo.

The Justice Ministry is now “gathering information” on the matter, but has yet to reach any kind of conclusion, according to ministry official Hideyuki Yamaguchi.

The League also sent a letter to Google, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press. It wants a meeting to discuss its knowledge of the buraku issue and position on the use of its services for discrimination. It says Google should “be aware of and responsible for providing a service that can easily be used as a tool for discrimination.”

Google has misjudged public sentiment before. After cool responses to privacy issues raised about its Street View feature, which shows ground-level pictures of Tokyo neighborhoods taken without warning or permission, the company has faced strong public criticism and government hearings. It has also had to negotiate with Japanese companies angry over their copyrighted materials uploaded to its YouTube property.

An Internet legal expert said Google is quick to take advantage of its new technologies to expand its advertising network, but society often pays the price.

“This is a classic example of Google outsourcing the risk and appropriating the benefit of their investment,” said David Vaile, executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

The maps in question are part of a larger collection of Japanese maps owned by the University of California at Berkeley. Their digital versions are overseen by David Rumsey, a collector in the U.S. who has more than 100,000 historical maps of his own. He hosts more than 1,000 historical Japanese maps as part of a massive, English-language online archive he runs, and says he has never had a complaint.

It was Rumsey who worked with Google to post the maps in its software, and who was responsible for removing the references to the buraku villages. He said he preferred to leave them untouched as historical documents, but decided to change them after the search company told him of the complaints from Tokyo.

“We tend to think of maps as factual, like a satellite picture, but maps are never neutral, they always have a certain point of view,” he said.

Rumsey said he’d be willing to restore the maps to their original state in Google Earth. Matsuoka, the lawmaker, said he is open to a discussion of the issue.

A neighborhood in central Tokyo, a few blocks from the touristy Asakusa area and the city’s oldest temple, was labeled as an old “eta” village in the maps. It is indistinguishable from countless other Tokyo communities, except for a large number of leather businesses offering handmade bags, shoes and furniture.

When shown printouts of the maps from Google Earth, several older residents declined to comment. Younger people were more open on the subject.

Wakana Kondo, 27, recently started working in the neighborhood, at a new business that sells leather for sofas. She was surprised when she learned the history of the area, but said it didn’t bother her.

“I learned about the burakumin in school, but it was always something abstract,” she said. “That’s a really interesting bit of history, thank you.”


Sunday Tangent: Obama’s March 8, 2008 speech on race, full text


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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday Tangent, here is the speech which probably sealed Obama’s image as a serious thinker and candidate:  his 2008 remarks on race.  

To me it is a very sophisticated version of MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech — few speeches have taken such a complex issue, i.e. race in America, and dealt with it with such insight, balance, and disarmingness. We need more of this insight in discourse about race in Japan. Unfortunately, too many people would prefer to think that there is NO issue of race in Japan. We’ll get to that. Meanwhile, read and savor the full text of Obama’s speech on race, and glean what you can about the approach to the issue. Ultimately, I believe, this got him elected.

Although it’s impossible to lift any part of this speech out of context and apply it universally as a lesson, one portion of particular merit is in boldface.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(CBS)  The following are the remarks prepared for delivery by Democratic presidential candidate Sen.Barack Obama on March 18, 2008 in Philadelphia.



“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations. 

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren. 

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story. 

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. 

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one. 

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans. 

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn. 

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike. 

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. 

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. 

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way. 

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. 

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality. 

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. 

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us. 

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. 

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding. 

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. 

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change. 

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. 

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. 

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. 

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time. 

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together. 

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit. 

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned. 

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election. 

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. 

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. 

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. 

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.” 

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Energy in Japan
Raising the stakes

Apr 8th 2009 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday Tangent: NPR interview with late scholar John Hope Franklin: feel the parallels


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  Here’s Sunday’s tangent.  On March 27, 2009, NPR replayed a 1990 interview with the late  John Hope Franklin, historian of racism within the United States.  He died at age 94 on March 25.  The Economist ran this as part of their obituary on April 2:

…Academia offered no shelter. He excelled from high school onwards, eventually earning a doctorate at Harvard and becoming, in 1956, the first black head of an all-white history department at a mostly white university, Brooklyn College. Later, the University of Chicago recruited him. But in Montgomery, Louisiana, the archivist called him a “Harvard nigger” to his face. In the state archives in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was confined to a tiny separate room and allowed free run of the stacks because the white assistants would not serve him. At Duke in 1943, a university to which he returned 40 years later as a teaching professor, he could not use the library cafeteria or the washrooms.

Whites, he noted, had no qualms about “undervaluing an entire race”. Blacks were excluded both from their histories, and from their understanding of how America had been made. Mr Franklin’s intention was to weave the black experience back into the national story. Unlike many after him, he did not see “black history” as an independent discipline, and never taught a formal course in it. What he was doing was revising American history as a whole. His books, especially “From Slavery to Freedom” (1947), offered Americans their first complete view of themselves…


Now read this excerpt from the NPR interview, which I transcribed, and see if you get what I did from it:

Terry Gross:  In some of your essays in your new book, you talk about some of the obstacles that you faced as a Black scholar, and you wrote that you faced discrimination that goes beyond any discrimination you faced in the field itself.  For example, when you were chairman of history at Brooklyn College [New York City, in 1956], one of the problems you had was finding an apartment you wanted to live in, because a lot of neighborhoods refused to sell to you.  

JHF:  That’s right.  I spent more than a year trying to find a place I wanted to purchase.   My appointment was so spectacular that news of it with my picture was on the front page of the New York Times.  But when I set out to find a house near my college — I hoped to be able to walk to work — almost none of the real estate dealers in the area would show me any of the houses that they were widely advertising.  And when I finally found one being sold by the owner, I then had the problem of trying to find the money so I could purchase the house.  And that was another round of excruciating experiences.  I finally found it, but I could have spent this time so much better.

TG:  Let me ask you kind of a stupid question.  Did you ever take that New York Times article around to the real estate agents and say to them, “Look, don’t you know who I am?”

JHF:  No, I don’t believe in that.  I’m a human being, and that ought to be enough.  I’m well-mannered, I think I’m well-dressed, and I think that my conduct is above reproach.  I think that that should commend me.  And if it doesn’t, well, then I think they’re not interested in hearing anything about who I am.  I have no doubt that many of these people knew who I was.  And yet, I was still rejected.

COMMENT:  These sorts of things are mostly seen nowadays as unpleasant historical anachronisms, approached  and reflected upon with the attitude of “How could people do this sort of thing?  What were we thinking back then?”  And rightly so.

However, just try to rent as a foreigner in Japan, and get credit as a foreigner in Japan.  Bonne chance.  You simply are not going to resolve these situations until you make what happened to JHF illegal.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

WWII war flag with signatures: Looking for people they belong to


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. A rather unusual request from overseas today. I received word from some Americans that have a Japanese World War II artifact they would like to repatriate. Here’s their communique, forwarded with permission, altered for privacy. Debito


Hello Mr. Arudou:
Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are friends of LA Times reporter Leslie Helm from the time we all lived in Yokohama, Japan.
He recommended you as a person who can help with a flag that belonged to a Japanese soldier who died in the Philippines during WW2.
Briefly, here is the story:
A colleague’s father died recently and among his belongings was a flag he had found in the battlefield in Luzon during WW2. We were asked to read the writing on the flag (attached herewith).
It belonged to a Japanese soldier named Niimi Atsuyuki. The signatures of many well-wishers are on the flag, among them the Chief of the Otaru Municipal Hospital at that time. Mr. Niimi was a staff member of this hospital when he was drafted and sent to the Philippines.

As I mentioned, the flag belongs to my colleague. When his father died, the flag was brought to their home for safe keeping. Julie and I were asked to translate the writing on the flag (with the help of Julie’s Japanese friends), during which time we had the honor of keeping the flag in my home for a few days. Julie’s Japanese friends knelt in front of the flag and prayed for the repose of the soldier, while I played a Japanese KOMORI UTA on my flute. The moment had a profound impact on all of us.
When I related this scene to my colleague and her boyfriend, they agreed with me that the right thing to do would be to return the flag to the soldier’s family.
We contacted kokusai-koryu@city.otaru.hokkaido.jp (a stab in the dark) where a very helpful staff member, Mr. Hoshina Eiji, researched and located two living descendants of the WW2 soldier: Mrs. XXXXX (wife of the soldier’s brother, now 84 years old, and XXXX-san’s daughter, Mrs. XXXX (niece of the soldier). Their address is [deleted].
The colleague will ultimately return the flag to the soldier’s family, but he also hopes that the publicity you create in Otaru may bring forward the descendants of the people whose well-wishes and signatures are on the flag. The colleague’s wish is to make an impact, in honor of the WW2 soldier, on the descendants of all the people who were in his brief life of only 22 years before he died.
Mr. Arudou, would you publicize this story in honor of two WW2 soldiers, one an American in whose safekeeping this flag survived all these years, and one a Japanese whose life and medical career were cut short?
Thank you in advance for your help. Julie and Tyler

Tangent: 1940 Herblock cartoon on inaction towards Hitler


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  Little tangent on a Saturday.  My travel reading was HERBLOCK:  A CARTOONIST’S LIFE, by Herbert Block.  He’s that cartoonist who caricatured presidential administrations from Hoover to Clinton.  I loved his work for its prescience and insight.

My favorite cartoon out of the 200 in the book was one about Hitler in 1940.  Have a gander:


The reason I love this so much is because it demonstrates that inaction towards the inevitable, justified by self-convincing sophistries, is timeless.  We learned this history in retrospect, where Americans apparently took up arms promptly against a clearly evil foe, came to Europe’s aid, vanquished the Axis Powers and saved the world.  Not so.  As this cartoon illustrates brilliantly, it took nearly a decade of dithering (practically until 1945 before people even believed Nazi Germany had extermination camps!) before people finally did what they had to do.  Meanwhile, they came up with all sorts of intelligent-sounding arguments to justify doing nothing.

How does this relate to Debito.org?  Because we get the same sort of arguments for doing nothing, say, against the evil of clear and present racial discrimination in Japan.  We say it’s some kind of misunderstanding, language, or cultural barrier.  Or that foreigners brought it upon themselves.  Or that Japan’s unique culture or long history of being a closed island society makes it special or blind to the issue.  Or that once the older generation dies out or people travel more or get used to foreigners things will change.  Or that fundamental attitudes won’t change even if we make a racial discrimination law illegal.  Or that Japan actually is a fundamentally thoroughbred pure society and should be kept pristine.  Or that people are imposing outsider values on the poor put-upon Japanese people.  Or that international treaty is not binding enough to justify a law when we have an adequate judiciary…  

There, that’s eight intelligent-sounding pseudo-scientific arguments, just like in the cartoon above.

But they’re all bullshit.  There is no getting around the fact we need a law against racial discrimination.  Now.

But people, as history shows, will even make arguments for doing nothing against Hitler.

They are on the wrong side of history.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tangent: Debito.org has citations in 37 books, according to Amazon


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

Hi Blog.  I’m going to be on the road from tomorrow showing documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES across Japan, so indulge me this evening as I talk about something that impressed me today about the power of the Internet.

It started during a search on Amazon.com this evening, when I found an amazing avenue for researching insides of books for excerpts.  Check it out (click “Excerpt”).

I realized I could go through and see just how often Debito.org is being cited as a resource in respectable print publications.  I soon found myself busy:  37 books refer in some way to me by name or things archived here.  I cite them all below from most recent publication on down.

Amazing.  Debito.org as a domain has been going strong since 1997, and it’s taken some time to establish a degree of credibility.  But judging by the concentration of citations in recent years, the cred seems to be compounding.

So tonight I’m realizing the reach of the Internet into print media, and the power of an online archive.  Mukashi mukashi, you young whippersnappers, it was truly time-consuming to find stuff in places like microfiche and Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature.   Now we can find what we need in seconds online.  Likewise, damn those who destroy history by deleting online archives — as you can see in book citations below regarding “Issho Kikaku”).

The following is tonight’s update to part of Debito.org’s PUBLICATIONS PAGE.  Have a look at the other stuff up there if you’re interested.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



  1. Haffner, John; Klett, Tomas Casas i; Lehmann, Jean-Pierre.  “JAPAN’S OPEN FUTURE:  An Agenda for Global Citizenship“. Anthem Press March 2009, pg 194, regarding Gaijin Hanzai Magazine. Also cited in bibliography is Arudou Debito’s Japan Focus article of March 2008 on “Gaijin Hanzai Magazine and Hate Speech in Japan.”  ISBN 978-1-84331-311-3.
  2. Johnson, David T., and Zimring, Franklin E, “Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia (Studies in Crime and Public Policy)” February 2009.  Bibiography page 456, citing Arudou Debito, “The Myopic State We’re In“, Japan Times December 18, 2007. ISBN 978-0195337402.
  3. Graf, Arndt, “Cities in Asia and Europe (Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia)”, Routledge, January 2009.  Bibliography page 154, citing Otaru Onsens Case Sapporo District Court testimony.  ISBN 978-0710311832.
  4. Minear, Richard H., “THROUGH JAPANESE EYES“, junior high/high school textbook on Japanese society.  Apex Press, Fourth Edition, July 2008.  Pp 285-288 cites a rewrite of Arudou Debito’s Japan Focus article 176.  ISBN: 0-938960-53-9.
  5. Winterdyk, John, and Georgios Antonopoulos, “Racist Victimization“.  Ashgate, July 2008. Citation of Debito.org as “helpful website” on page 183. ISBN 978-0754673200.
  6. Sorensen, André:  “Livable Communities in Japan?”  Japan Focus February 1, 2008.
  7. Chan, Jennifer, “Another Japan Is Possible: New Social Movements and Global Citizenship Education“.  Reference section page 289 (in chapter dealing with nonexistent “NGO” ISSHO Kikaku) and bibliographical references page 368 cite Arudou Debito’s book “‘JAPANESE ONLY‘: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan”.  ISBN 978-0804757829.
  8. Ertl, John, Tierney, R. Kenji, “Multiculturalism in the New Japan: Crossing the Boundaries Within (Asian Anthropologies)”. Berghahn Books, November, 2007.  Introduction page 25 cites Arudou Debito’s book “‘JAPANESE ONLY‘: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” as reference. ISBN 978-1845452261.
  9. 単行本「グローバル時代の日本社会と国籍」、李洙任と田中宏 著。明石書店2007年5月10日発行、ISBN 978-4-7503-2531-6, pg 45-47.
  10. Willis, David Blake; Murphy-Shigematsu, Stephen, Eds., “Transcultural Japan (Asia’s Transformations)”  Routledge, January 2008.  Page 34 bibliography cites Arudou Debito’s Japan Focus article “Japan’s Coming Internationalization: Can Japan Assimilate its Immigrants?” (2006).  ISBN 978-0415368902.
  11. Chapman, David, “Korean Identity and Ethnicity (Routledge Contemporary Japan Series)”.  Routledge, November 2007.  Cites activities of The Community promoting multicultural awareness on page 121. ISBN 978-0415426374.
  12. Pence, Canon, “Japanese Only: Xenophobic Exclusion in Japan’s Private Sphere“. New York International Law Review, Summer, 2007, pages 1-73.
  13. Heyden, Carmen: “Gaijin!  Welcome to Japan…  Japan auf dem Weg in eine mulikulturelle Gesellschaft.” PRAXIS GEOGRAPHIE (German), Preisliste Nr. 30 vom 1. April 2007.  Bildungshaus Schulbuchverlage Westermann Schroedel Diesterweg Schoeningh Winklers GmbH, publishers.
  14. Burgess, Chris:  “Multicultural Japan? Discourse and the ‘Myth’ of Homogeneity“. Japan Focus March 2007.
  15. West, Mark D, “Sex, and Spectacle:  The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States“.  University of Chicago Press, January 2007.  Page 356 footnote 116, citing Arudou Debito book “‘JAPANESE ONLY‘: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. ISBN 978-0226894089
  16. 「英語の新しい役割:アジアを結ぶリングア・フランカ」李洙任(Lee, Soo im)著。龍谷大学経済学論集(民際学特集)2007年記載予定。
  17. 第6回移住労働者と連帯する全国のフォーラム・北海道 報告集 第6回北海道実行委員会2007年1月10日発行。42〜48ページ、「分科会報告:外国人の人権基本法、人種差別禁止法を制定しよう」はここでご覧下さい
  18. Caryl, Christian, and Kashiwagi, Akiko:  “This Is the New Japan: Immigrants are Transforming a Once Insular Society“. Japan Focus October 2006.
  19. Zielenziger, Michael, “Shutting Out the Sun:  How Japan Created its Own Lost Generation“. Nan A Talese, September 2006.  Page 316 footnote 16,on Otaru Onsens Case and Debito.org. ISBN 978-0385513036
  20. Talmadge, Eric, “Getting Wet: Adventures in the Japanese Bath“.  Kodansha International, August 2006.  Interview pp 149 – 155, regarding Otaru Onsens Case and racial discrimination in Japan. ISBN 978-4770030207.
  21. Milhaupt, Curtis J.; Ramseyer, J. Mark; and West, Mark D.: “The Japanese Legal System:  Cases, Codes, and Commentary”. Foundation Press, June 2006, ISBN 1-599-41017-6.  Citing Arudou Debito’s book “‘JAPANESE ONLY‘: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2006).
  22. Gottlieb, Nanett, “Linguistic Stereotyping and Minority Groups in Japan (Contemporary Japan)”.  Routledge, February 2006.  Page 96 talks about Kume Hiroshi Case and his use of the word “gaijin” during a 1996 live broadcast. Back references page 142 cite Debito.org on the Kume Case, and what remains of the deleted ISSHO archives on Debito.org on page 146.  ISBN 978-0415338035.
  23. Sloss, Colin; Kawahara, Toshiaki; Grassi, Richard: “Shift the Focus“, Lesson 4:  “Discrimination, or Being Japanese…?” pp 18-21, on the Otaru Onsens Case. Sanshusha Pubilshing Co., Ltd. February, 2006. ISBN: 4-384-33363-3.
  24. Lee, Soo im; Murphy-Shigematsu, Stephen; and Befu, Harumi, eds., “JAPAN’S DIVERSITY DILEMMAS“.  iUniverse Inc. 2006.  ISBN 0-595-36257-5.  Two citations, in Chapter 4 (Murphy-Shigematsu, “Diverse Forms of Minority National Identities in Japan’s Multicultural Society”, pp. 75-99) and Chapter 5 (Lee, “The Cultural Exclusiveness of Ethnocentrism:  Japan’s Treatment of Foreign Residents”, pp. 100-125).
  25. Hayes, Declan, “The Japanese Disease: Sex and Sleaze in Modern Japan“. iUniverse Inc., September 2005.  Page 54, citing the Otaru Onsens Case, and page 311 footnote 14, with thanks for assistance.  ISBN 978-0595370153.
  26. Spiri, John, “Japanese at Work–a look a the working lives of Japanese people”, interview pp. 35-37.  Japan Association for Language Teaching pubs, Special Interest Group for Materials Writers, 2005.  ISBN 4-931424-20-1. More information at http://www.globalstories.net.
  27. Philips, Cathy, Ed. “Time Out Guide to Tokyo“, 4th Edition, Time Out Publishing June 2005.  Page 301, regarding the usefulness of Debito.org. ISBN 978-1904978374.
  28. Anholt, Simon, “Brand New Justice, Second Edition: How Branding Places and Products Can Help the Developing World“.  Butterworth-Heinemann, January 2005.  Citing as footnote 18 on page 167 my very off-topic research paper from 1996,  “New Zealand’s Economic Reforms–Were They Worth It?”,  ISBN 978-0750666008.
  29. Close, Paul, and Askew, David, “Asia Pacific And Human Rights: A Global Political Economy Perspective (The International Political Economy of New Regionalisms)”. Ashgate Publishing, December 2004.  Debito.org cited as reference in bibliography.  ISBN 978-0754636298.
  30. Asakawa, Gil, “Being Japanese American: A JA Sourcebook for Nikkei, Hapa . . . and Their Friends“.  Stone Bridge Press, June 2004. Citing Debito.org as a site of interest in resources, page 134. ISBN 978-1880656853.
  31. 聖学院大学 政治経済学部 政治経済学科 2004年度 推進入学審査 小論文問題として記載:有道 出人著の朝日新聞「私の視点」欄から「『外国人お断り』人種差別撤廃へ法整備を」(SARSによるホテルの恐怖感と一律外国人客お断りの方針)。2003年6月2日朝刊 pg14(聖学院大学の問題用紙はこちらです。引用された記 事へのリンクはこちらです)(学研(株)出版)
  32. Let’s Go Inc., “Let’s Go Japan 1st Ed“.  Let’s Go Publications, December 2003.  Page 690 on favorite restaurant Ebi-Ten, pp 696-697 sidebars, interview with Olaf Karthaus and Arudou Debito on Otaru Onsens Case.  ISBN 978-0312320072.
  33. Belson, Ken, and Bremner, Brian, “Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon”  Wiley, November 2003.  Citation page 136 of Kyodo News March 19, 2003 article translation by Arudou Debito, regarding “Tama-Chan” protests.  ISBN 978-0470820940.
  34. Arnould, Eric J; Price, Linda; Zinkhan, George M, “Consumers” McGraw-Hill/Irwin, March 2003.  Page 76 cites Otaru Onsens Case as “Cultural Category Confusion”. ISBN 978-0072537147.
  35. Mclelland, Mark, “Japanese Cybercultures (Asia’s Transformations)”, Routledge, February 2003. Page 171, citing Debito.org as an example of online activism. ISBN 978-0415279185.
  36. Fujimoto, Etsuko, “Japanese-ness, Whiteness, and the ‘Other’ in Japan’s Internationalization”.   Essay from book Transforming Communication About Culture (2002), edited by Mary Jane Collier.  Sage Publications, Inc; 1st edition (December 15, 2001), ISBN-13: 978-0761924883.
  37. Picardi, Richard P, “Skills of Workplace Communication: A Handbook for T&D Specialists and Their Organizations“.  Quorum Books, September 2001. Pp 29-30 cites Otaru Onsens Case and Ana Bortz Case, as part of New York Times November 15, 1999 article, as cases of battles against ethnocentrism in Japan.  ISBN 978-1567203622.
  38. ENDS

JT JUST BE CAUSE Column Mar 3 2009 on “Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates”


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

Hi Blog. Here’s this month’s JT JBC column. I think it’s my best yet. It gelled a number of things on my mind into concise mindsets. Enjoy. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Column 13 for the Japan Times JBC Column, published March 3, 2009

By Arudou Debito
DRAFT TWENTY THREE, as submitted to the JT


If there’s one thing execrable in the marketplace of ideas, it’s “zombie debates”. As in, discussions long dead, yet exhumed by Dr. Frankensteins posing as serious debaters.

Take the recent one in the Japan Times about racial discrimination (here, here, here, here, and here). When you consider the human-rights advances of the past fifty years, it’s settled, long settled. Yet regurgitated is the same old guff:

“We must separate people by physical appearance and treat them differently, because another solution is inconceivable.” Or, “It’s not discrimination — it’s a matter of cultural misunderstandings, and anyone who objects is a cultural imperialist.” Or, “Discrimination maintains social order or follows human nature.”

Bunkum. We’ve had 165 countries sign an agreement in the United Nations defining what racial discrimination is, and committing themselves to stop it. That includes our country.

We’ve had governments learn from historical example, creating systems for abolition and redress. We’ve even had one apartheid government abolish itself.

In history, these are all fixed stars. There is simply no defense for racial discrimination within civilized countries.

Yet as if in a bell jar, the debate continues in Japan: Japan is somehow unique due to historical circumstance, geographic accident, or purity of race or method. Or bullying foreigners who hate Japan take advantage of peace-loving effete Japanese. Or racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, so there. (Actually, that last one is true.)

A good liberal arts education should have fixed this. It could be that the most frequent proponents — Internet denizens — have a “fluid morality.” Their attitude towards human rights depends on what kind of reaction they’ll get online, or how well they’ve digested their last meal. But who cares? These mass debaters are not credible sources, brave enough to append their real names and take responsibility for their statements. Easily ignored.

Harder to ignore are some pundits in established media who clearly never bought into the historical training found in all developed (and many developing) multicultural societies: that racial discrimination is simply not an equitable or even workable system. However, in Japan, where history is ill-taught, these scribblers flourish.

The ultimate irony is that it’s often foreigners, who stand to lose the most from discrimination, making the most racist arguments. They wouldn’t dare say the same things in their countries of origin, but by coupling 1) the cultural relativity and tolerance training found in liberal societies with 2) the innate “guestism” of fellow outsiders, they try to reset the human-rights clock to zero.

Why do it? What do they get from apologism? Certainly not more rights.

Well, some apologists are culture vultures, and posturing is what they do. Some claim a “cultural emissary” status, as in: “Only I truly understand how unique Japan is, and how it deserves exemption from the pantheon of human experience.” Then the poseurs seek their own unique status, as an oracle for the less “cultured.”

Then there are the toadies: the disenfranchised cozying up to the empowered and the majority. It’s simple: Tell “the natives” what they want to hear (“You’re special, even unique, and any problems are somebody else’s fault.”) — and lookit! You can enjoy the trappings of The Club (without ever having any real membership in it) while pulling up the ladder behind you.

It’s an easy sell. People are suckers for pinning the blame on others. For some toadies, croaking “It’s the foreigners’ fault!” has become a form of Tourette’s syndrome.

That’s why this debate, continuously looped by a tiny minority, is not only zombified, it’s stale and boring thanks to its repetitiveness and preposterousness. For who can argue with a straight face that some people, by mere dint of birth, deserve an inferior place in a society?

Answer: those with their own agendas, who care not one whit for society’s weakest members. Like comprador bourgeoisie, apologists are so caught up in the game they’ve lost their moral bearing.

These people don’t deserve “equal time” in places like this newspaper. The media doesn’t ask, “for the sake of balance,” a lynch mob to justify why they lynched somebody, because what they did was illegal. Racial discrimination should be illegal too in Japan, under our Constitution. However, because it’s not (yet), apologists take advantage, amorally parroting century-old discredited mind sets to present themselves as “good gaijin.”

Don’t fall for it. Japan is no exception from the world community and its rules. It admitted as such when it signed international treaties.

The debate on racial discrimination is dead. Those who seek to resurrect it should grow up, get an education, or be ignored for their subterfuge.


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

Japan Times FYI column explaining Japan’s Bubble Economy


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

Hi Blog.  On this snowiest of snowy days in Hokkaido, let me send out an excellent writeup from the Japan Times regarding the Japan I first came to know:  The Bubble Economy.  I first arrived here in 1986 as a tourist, and came to look around for a year in 1987.  It was one great, big party.  By the time I came back here, married, to stay and work, in 1991, the  party was winding up, and it’s been over (especially up here in Hokkaido) ever since.  Surprising to hear that it only lasted about five years.  Eric Johnston tells us about everything you’d ever want to know in 1500 words about how it happened, how it ended, and what its aftereffects are.  If you’re stuck inside today, have a good read.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Lessons from when the bubble burst
The Japan Times January 6, 2009
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer

With the current global financial crisis, there is much talk in the international economic communities about how to prevent the kind of prolonged slump that hit Japan after the end of the bubble economy years.

News photo
Reliving the good times: Women dance on a stage at a one-day revival for Juliana’s Tokyo held at Differ Ariake in Koto Ward, Tokyo, in September.YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

The period between roughly 1985 and 1990 was a time of unparalleled prosperity in Japan. But it was also a gilded age defined by opulence, corruption, extravagance and waste. When the bubble economy years ended, Japan entered a prolonged slump from which it has yet to fully recover.

When did the bubble economy begin and when did it end?

Economic historians usually date the beginning of the bubble economy in September 1985, when Japan and five other nations signed the Plaza Accord in New York. That agreement called for the depreciation of the dollar against the yen and was supposed to increase U.S. exports by making them cheaper.

But it also made it cheaper for Japanese companies to purchase foreign assets. And they went on an overseas buying spree, picking off properties like the Rockefeller Center in New York and golf courses in Hawaii and California.

By December 1989, the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average had reached nearly 39,000. But beginning in 1990, the stock market began a downward spiral that saw it lose more than $2 trillion by December 1990, effectively ending the bubble era.

What was the cause of the bubble economy?

The dollar became cheaper just as Japan was reaching the height of its economic prowess in manufacturing and at a time when most Japanese had huge amounts of personal savings.

The Bank of Japan had lowered interest rates from 5 percent in 1985 to 2.5 percent by early 1987.

Japanese banks, which had previously lent mostly to corporations, now had ample funds to lend at a time when their major corporate customers were flush with cash thanks to their trade surpluses and the availability of worldwide equity markets, which competed directly with Japanese banks.

So the banks began freely lending to Japanese firms and individuals, who purchased real estate, which increased the paper value of land assets. This created a vicious cycle in which land was used as collateral to obtain further loans, which were then used to speculate on the stock market or to purchase more land. This drove up the paper value of land further, while the banks continued to grant loans based on the overvalued land as collateral.

There was little questioning by either the government or the banks themselves over how the loans would be repaid or what would happen once land values started dropping.

What was Japan like during those years?

For many people, it was one big, expensive party.

The frugality and austerity that defined the country during the postwar era gave way to extravagance and conspicuous consumption. Stories of housewives in Nara sipping $500 cups of coffee sprinkled with gold dust or businessmen spending tens of thousands of dollars in Tokyo’s flashy restaurants and nightclubs were legion.

One nightclub in particular, Julianna’s Tokyo, become the symbol for the flashy, party lifestyle of the entire era.

Japan’s inflated land prices made global headlines.

The Imperial Palace was reported to be worth more than France. A ¥10,000 note dropped in Tokyo’s Ginza district was worth less than the tiny amount of ground it covered.

It was also a period of increased international travel, as Japanese went to the United States, Europe and Oceania in record numbers, shopping for Louis Vuitton and Gucci handbags, Seville Row and Armani suits, and the finest wines.

Trips were often made after dropping millions of yen at English conversation schools in posh buildings with fake Van Gogh paintings on the walls and fish tanks in the lobbies.

The bubble economy attracted Westerners by the planeload, who made fortunes at foreign banks and brokerages, or at least good money teaching English.

Changes in the immigration law in 1990 also allowed Brazilians of Japanese descent to settle in Japan and work in the factories that were facing a labor shortage as younger workers sought higher paying white-collar jobs in Tokyo or Osaka.

What happened after the party ended?

After the crash in late 1990, economic growth stalled and newspapers were filled with stories of businesses going bankrupt.

Corrupt deals involving the yakuza and senior executives at Japan’s largest, most venerable banks and brokerages came to light. Corporations essentially stopped investing and consumers curbed their spending. Housing loan corporations, known as “jusen,” started to go bankrupt, and then the larger banks were forced to merge to consolidate their mounting bad loans.

Various government-sponsored fiscal and economic stimulus measures, including trillions of yen in failed public works projects, did nothing to revive the economy. This led to what has been dubbed Japan’s lost decade, starting roughly in 1991, when the effects of the stock market crash became clear. The carnage lasted until around 2000 or 2001, after the banks had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, much corporate restructuring had taken place and the growth of the Chinese economy provided manufacturers some relief.

How is the bubble era seen today?

Nostalgically by those who remember when they had money to burn, with embarrassment by those who reflected on the attitudes and policies, or lack thereof, that led to it, and with anger by those who see the period as the moment in Japan’s history when the country abandoned it’s traditional moral, social, cultural values and became greedy in an allegedly Western or American sense.

Abroad, economists and bankers see the bubble era and its aftermath as a warning.

In the U.S. over the past few months, media and academic attention has focused on the bubble economy and how it compares with the current situation.

Much of the discussion is on how to avoid the mistakes Japan made that led to its lost decade. Economists in Japan and overseas agree the failure by the BOJ and the Finance Ministry to act quickly in the early 1990s, when it was clear the banks were in trouble, is a major reason for the lost decade.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays (Wednesday in some areas). Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to National News Desk
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009

The Australian Magazine 1993 on Gregory Clark’s modus operandi in Japan


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. At the start of this decade, I republished an article in the JALT PALE Journal (Spring 2001) regarding Gregory Clark, his business acumen regarding language teaching in Japan, and his motivations for being who he is in Japan.

Gregory Clark has recently called attention to himself with a bigoted Japan Times column, questioning our legitimacy to have or even demand equal rights in Japan.  As people debate his qualifications and motives all over again, I think it would be helpful to reproduce the following article in a more searchable and public venue. Like here.

I have heard claims that this article in The Australian was met with threat of lawsuit. Obviously that came to naught.  Since The Australian has given me direct permission to reproduce this article in full, let me do so once again here.  Still more on his disregard for facts of cases here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Courtesy of The Australian Magazine
16th October 1993, Edition 1. pp 26-41

(used with permission of The Australian Magazine)

He isn’t our ambassador, but he’d like to be. Invariably, Gregory Clark is the Australian the Japanese turn to for advice about themselves and other issues.
What riles him is that Australians don’t.


FULL PAGE PHOTO shows Clark smiling and standing in a park, with a young Japanese girl in full Seijinshiki-style kimono in the background taking a photo of something off-camera.

Caption: “Embittered expatriate Gregory Clark: ‘Even allowing for the vast amounts of ego, it’s just absurd that an Australian who has made it in Japan, and who sits on government committees, gets ignored.'”

Gregory Clark beams: “Just pulled in a biggie!” he tells me as he puts down the phone. We are at Tokyo Airport about to jump on a plane for Osaka where Clark is giving a lecture to a group of Japanese executives. The “biggie” is an invitation to give another talk–to one of Japan’s big business bodies. It’s nice to see him smiling, because he can be fearsome when he’s not.

Once, in the middle of a cordial argument while having a drink, I suggested he stop complaining about one of the many decades-old issues that still obsess him. That evening, it was the way he was run out of the Australian Foreign Affairs department for opposing the Vietnam war. It was as though someone had just shot puce-colored dye into his veins. His neck bulged, and he slammed the table. But a few mintues later, he was his charming self. Clark can be like that–especially when you get him on the subject of Australia.

Ex-Canberra bureaucrat, ex-journalist and ex-diplomat, Clark, 57, has lived in Japan in a sort of self-imposed exile from Australia since the late seventies. He teaches advanced Japanese to foreigners at a university in Tokyo, which is nice because it allows him to put the title of Professor in front of his name. It helps that he speaks advanced Japanese, too. He writes for up-scale newspapers and magazines in Japan and around the world, including an occasional column for The Australian; is setting up a management centre on 12 hectares of land he owns on the edge of Tokyo; and, a few times a week, gives lectures telling the Japanese in their own language about their unique “tribal” or “village-like” culture, at anything from $2500 to $6500 a time.

Clark has still had time over the years to pen the odd short book on different topics, sit on a range of Japanese government committees, and collect the rent on a residential property he owns in the heart of Tokyo, where even in the middle of a calamitous collapse, prices are embarassingly high by world standards. Prices are relative, of course, depending on when you get into the market and when you get out, but Clark got in early–well before the boom.

Add that to the proceeds from the occasional tickle on the Tokyo stockmarket — “the best way is to watch it, and short it,” he confides, referring to the practice of selling stock in anticipation of a price fall before buying again. And you can see that Japan has been good to him.

So Gregory Clark is rich and successful, and by a long-shot the most famous Australian in Japan. But is he happy? Not really, which is where Australia comes in.

Greg Clark is the first of nine children sired by Sir Colin Clark, a famous economist and statistician who is credited with measuring and describing concepts in the thirties that are part of everyday economic jargon these days. While working with one of the centuries most influential economists, John Maynard Keynes, at Cambridge University, Colin Clark coined and refined such terms as gross national product, and primary, secondary, and tertiary industry.

He came to Australia in 1937 and worked in a variety of government jobs, most priminently as head of the Treasury in the Queensland Government. He had stints back at Oxford and at Chicago University before returning to Australia where he died in 1989. “He became a Santamaria fanatic–you know, 25 acres and a pig and that sort of thing,” says his son. “Except he had 10 acres and nine children.”

Colin Clark was also the subject of a thesis just after the war by a young Japanese economist called Kiichi Miyazawa, who then rose through the bureaucratic and political ranks to become prime minister, a connection that hasn’t hurt his son since he arrived in Tokyo. Japan’s leading conservative daily, The Yomiuri Shimbun, also listed Clark as an academic contact of the country’s new Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa.

Greg Clark joined the department of Foreign Affairs in 1956, studied Mandarin Chinese as part of language training in Hong Kong, and was later posted to the then Soviet Union where he remembers Canberra “made me go to explain to them all the time what terrible atrocities the Vietcong were committing”. This period, plus later study in Japan, has given him three foreign languages–Russian, Mandarin, and Japanese–which he speaks and reads in varying degrees of skill. In Japanese, he is virtually fluent.

These days, Australia is a subject you ohnly have to prod Clark with very lightly to get him going. He has a list of grievances which goes on and on: starting with victimisation when he opposed the Vietnam war and China policy, to the mistreatment he says he recevied while working as a bureaucrat in the Whitlam government, and finally, worst of all in his eyes, the way he claims he has been ignored by the academics and sometimes blackballed by diplomats in charge of the Japan industry in Australia.

“I just think it’s a tragedy–it’s a tragedy for me, and a tragedy for Australia,” he says. “Even allowing for the vast amounts of [his own] ego, it’s just absurd that an Australian, who has made it in Japan, and who sits on Government committees, and who would be known by every second person, gets ignored. It’s just totally ratshit.”

Clark’s big falling out with those around him was over his opposition to the Vietnam war. “The establishment turned the big guns on me,” he says, including, he claims, the pioneer of post-war Australia-Japan trade, Sir John Crawford. That was followed by a stint at the Australian National University in Canberra, where he aborted his Ph.D with only a few months to go to take up a job as this newspaper’s correspondent in Tokyo in 1969. Clark’s patron at this time was John Menadue, then general manager of News Limited, who got him the job in Tokyo, and then brought him home to work with him when Menadue became head of the Prime Minister’s department in the Whitlam government.

The Canberra experience ended badly. Clark felt he was sidelined by Menadue and let down by Whitlam. After the government fell, he burnt his bridges by penning an article for the National Times savagely critical of the Whitlam government, and returned to Japan to join his long-time partner, Yasuko Tano, and their two chldren and to rebuild his career as a writer and teacher.

Two years later, Menadue was back in Tokyo as Australian Ambassador, and according to his friends, was shocked at Clark’s reaction. “When John became ambassador, that sent Greg into a real frenzy whenever you’d mention him, and he wrote several articles disparaging the embassy because nobody in the diplomatic part of it could speak Japanese,” says one man who knows both Clark and Menadue. Clark maintains he never attacked Menadue personally. Menadue declined to comment for this article.

Clark’s relationship with the Foreign Affairs establishment was soured even further by an episode that occurred when he launched his book about Japan’s “tribal” society in the late seventies. As an example of Japan’s “tribalism” and “groupism”, he recounted how Japanese journalists based in Australia had collectively ignored a report published in local newspapers in the mid-seventies about how our intelligence agencies were eavesdropping on Japanese diplomatic traffic out of Canberra.

“By the way,” Clark recalls telling a Newsweek reporter in Tokyo when he was promoting the book, “you might want to look at the bottom of page 138” –where the incident was briefly mentioned. The result was a large story in the international news magazine, with a headline about an “ex-diplomat” revealing that Australia spied on its largest trading partner. Canberra was not amused, and Clark was put on the Australian Embassy’s black list in Tokyo.

“It was humiliating and degrading to have these ASIO types sitting in the embassy–these are uneducated people who don’t speak Japanese–deciding that I was a threat to Australian security,” he says. A former intelligence officer who served in the embassy in Japan confirmed that Clark had been put on a loose sort of “black list” restricting formal contacts because, the officer says, “of the narrowmindedness and sheer bastardry of senior officers in Canberra.”

At the same time, Clark was steaming over getting what he says was the cold shoulder from an organisation he says he helped set up in the early seventies, the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the ANU. The centre, which is important and influential in Japan studies and policy in Australia, was just beginning to flourish under its founder, Professor Peter Drysdale, who still heads it today. “I have never had any disagreement with Drysdale,” says Clark, “but I was completely excluded, and at the time, it hurt. Universities are not set up to do this sort of thing. Drysdale is not known in Japan, but I have sat on all these committees. I mean, what the hell is going on!”

Drysdale and Clark are a study in contrasts. The former, a low-profile mainstream academic who speaks only a little Japanese but has good contacts in the country, has been crucial in formulating Australia’s regional trade and Japan policies. Clark, an outspoken maverick with few self-censoring mechanisms, has been eagerly, but not always easily, ignored by Canberra’s policymakers.

Professor Drysdale, contacted in Canberra, declined to respond to Clark’s comments, but the Emeritus Professor of Economics at the ANU, Heinz Arndt, who supervised Clark’s Ph.D at the ANU until his student quit “to my utter disgust” just before he finished, remembers the problem this way. “Drysdale and the whole group were not happy about bringing him into the project, partly because he was in Tokyo, and partly because of differences in approaches and temperament. In other words, he is an extremely difficult person who thinks that anybody who disagrees with him is a complete idiot.”

Professor Arndt is not the only one who puts Clark’s problems down to his temperament. “Greg is a peculiar bloke–he has a knack of rubbing people up the wrong way,” says one person who knows him well. “That’s not something that just blossomed when he went back to Japan, and it’s always made it difficult to make people feel loyal to him. Greg does not have many loyal friends because he does not earn them. His assessment of himself is not a universally accepted one either. It would be difficult to mention any job from prime minister of the world down that Greg does not feel he could admirably fill.”

“Anyone who competes on the same turf is a bit of a hate figure,” says another friend of Clark’s.

But just as a chill set in for Clark in Australia, a new day dawned in Japan. Clark’s theories about Japan’s “village-like” society proved to be a big hit when delivered in Japanese by a foreigner. The lucrative speaking circuit opened up, and for the past 15-odd years he has toured the country giving different and updated versions of a similar lecture to business, industry and community associations. In a society with the depth, organisation and thirst for information of Japan, there is a rich vein to be mined–he has been to the city of Nagasaki, for example, about 16 times to talk to different groups.

Give up to 150 to 200 lectures a year, as he does, and it becomes a rewarding occupation. The fee depends on whom he is addressing, he tells me as we get on the plane to take us to Osaka where he is going to speak to executives from the iron and steel industries. Today rates as a middle-ranking engagement–an afternoon’s work for Y400,000 plus expenses, or about $5,500. “The people you screw are the companies, who are putting it on for the benefit of their customers,” he says. “the whole thing is purely commerical, so there is no hesitation in insisting on the full fee.”

The speech I hear him deliver to the steel executives group in Osaka is witty, fluid and delivered with a practiced panache and a stream of punch lines. The audience loves it. His host, Shizuka Hayashi of Daido Steel, tells me later that Clark’s “tribal” theories make lots of sense. “Professor Clark said the Japanese tend to cooperate when they are working in small groups. This was particularly good to hear because this is exactly what we are trying to do in our companies and workplaces,” he says. And what did he think of the Y400,000 price tag? “Well, to tell the truth,” he sayss, “it was more than we expected, but it was worth it.”

As any foreigner who comes to Japan realises, there is a fortune to be made in telling the Japanese about themselves. “I should have got in on this racket before,” Clark remembers thinking when he first realised what he had tapped into. “I would get up in the morning and pinch myself about what was happening. Suddenly, I was in a situation where nobody can touch me. It was night turned into day.”

Clark says later: “For a nation not to have any fundamental guiding principle–that’s what a tribe is. I am telling them you have to get rid of the kabuki and ikebana shit. You have to get people involved in this society, and people will get to appreciate Japan for what it is.” He continues: “The gaijin [foreigner] who comes here, and can speak with authority, gets far more attention than he deserves–because in this society, people can’t get up and say all sorts of things.”


Clark can get violently indignant about how people in Australia don’t recognise his achievements in Japan, including sitting on numerous special government advisory committees–the so-called shinigikai [sic]. Last year, for example, he was nominated by then prime minister Miyazawa to sit on a shinigikai on the future of the Japanese economy, but complains that nobody in the embassy ever contacted him to tap into what he had learnt. But in the next breath, he can drip with cynicism about the same same system, and the opportunities it offers people like him. “They are not inviting you [onto these committees] for your wisdom, you know,” he tells me at one stage. “They are asking you because of your celebrity status, so you have to keep it up.”

Clark’s message is especially value-added for a Japanese audience because his message is that Japan is unique is what many Japanese love to hear. “Unique?” he says. “I happen to agree with them. It does not do any harm [to be invited to speak], but I happen to believe it.”

Other see Clark’s proselytising of his “tribal” theories in a much more insidious light. One sharp critic is Dutch journalist Karel van Wolferen, the author of the iconoclastic 1989 best-seller The Enigma of Japanese Power. Van Wolferen’s book says ordinary Japanese are rendered powerless by something he calls “The System”, which consists of a raft of unofficial social controls not regulated by law, or subject to genuine political discussion. When the book came out, Clark said it was full of errors, and denounced it in a magazine as being venomously anti-Japanese and Eurocentric to the point of almost being racist.

Clark, van Wolferen responded, is a “foreign servant of The System” and the committees he serves on are there just to give an “illusion of democracy”. “Whether intentionally or not,” he wrote in the Gekkan Asahi magazine, “Mr Clark reassures Japanese readers all the time that it is true what they have always been told; that they are unique in a special way because of having constructed an advanced civilisation on ‘primary group’ values. This is certainly the kind of thing that Japanese occupying high positions in the institutions that share power want everybody to hear. I write many Japnese do not like to hear because it is the opposite: that consensus is, in fact, rare and difficult to achieve, that there is much intimidation in Japanese society, that it is much less cosy than the village-type society imagined and idealised by Mr Clark. So he reassures Japanese people that a Westerner like me who says such things is Western-centric and hates Japan… Another reason why I say that Mr Clark serves The System is that what he writes is only for Japanese consumption.

“No-one among those many foreigners who are interested in Japan, but who cannot read Japanese, has been able to consider his ideas in detail, because the book that has made him famous in Japan has never come out in any other language.” Ouch! Being a Japanese specialist is a bruising business. But if Clark is a “foreign servant of The System”, then not all of the bureaucrats realize it. Clark has enraged the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, for example, by pursuing a campaign critical of its claim against Russia for the return of the four small islands to the north of Japan seized by Stalin at the end of the war. Clark’s assertion in numerous articles in the Japanese and international media that Tokyo gave up its claim years ago has been highly effective, something that can be gauged from how apoplectic some Japanese diplomats go at the mention of his name.

These battles get Clark attention in Japan, but they are not the ones closest to his heart. They remain at home. The mismanagement of the Australian economy and industry policy is one recurring theme. Canaberra’s fatal attraction to free trade is another. Both, of course, allow him to target the hated Canberra bureaucrats who he says forced him out. But many of his pet issues are still the same bureaucratic battles he fought in the sixties and seventies.

Going home is the only way to exorcise these bitter demons. Clark says he tried to return to the Australian mainstream by taking up an offer to become scholar-in-residence at the Foreign Affairs department in the mid-eighties, but claims the then minister, Bill Hayden, vetoed it. A spokeswoman for the now Governor-Genneral confirms he rejected, in April 1986, a suggestion that Mr Clark should get the position.

He also applied for the job of trade commissioner to China in the mid-eighties. “That would have been quite a comedown for me,” he says. “My idea was to take a loss of income for three to four years, and ideally use the job to get back into the bureaucracy.” He didn’t get the job. John Menadue, then head of the deapartment, is understood to have made his opposition clear. One member of the selection committee was Stephen Fitzgerald, Australia’s first ambassador to Beijing in 1972, and an old colleague of Clark’s from university in Canberra in the sixties, when both were studying Mandarin. Fitzgerald said he didn’t oppose Clark, but when Fitzgerald’s name comes up, Clark splutters: “He owes his position to me–the little bastard.”

It turns out that his complaint is nothing to do with the trade job, but goes all the way back to the sixties. Clark claims credit for getting Fitzgerald started in Chinese studies, but feels the favour was never returned. It is another demon.

“Ah, Greg, he’s a funny guy,” says Fitzgerald when I relay this comment. “I have a great respect for Greg — it was only a couple of years ago when we were talking about doing something between Japan and Australia. But he’s a kind of captive almost to this day of reliving the fights of the sixties as though he can’t escape them. It’s weird. When I was strting the Journal of Australian Chinese Studies, I wrote to him suggesting he write an article about Japan-China relations. He wrote back that it would be much more interesting to write about what happened in Foreign Affairs in 1965-66.” Clark’s obsession with the past makes it difficult to contribute in the present, even when he knows as much as any Australian about Japan and China, and much of Asia, and their languages.

“To be an oracle,” says Fitzgerald, “you must have an element of the protean. It’s all very well to be messianistic, but even messianics have to be manipulative. You have to adapt to people’s personalities. It requires a lot of crafting. You must suppress ego, and also your sponteneous tendency to be contemptuous of other people.” Clark gramaces when I tell him what Fitzgerald has said. Fitzgerald is right in a way, he admits. He should leave these things behind, but he still wants to stress that these are important issues. We have a beer and I leave. Wating for me when I come into my office early next morning is a three-page, densely typed fax. It contains a detailed account of what Clark calls the “main event” straining his ties with the Labor Party–a debate in the bureaucracy about the need for a treaty between Australia and Japan. It was a debate Clark lost. “I was left swinging in the wind, again,” he says. It is a remarkable document–full of fascinating insight, personalities, bitchiness and self-pity. It could be part of a great book about Clark’s life and times. He should write it himself. Put it all on the record. Let it all hang out.

Then, perhaps, he can get on with the rest of his life.


I received a photocopy of this article from a person who has had professional contact with Clark. The sender enclosed a short memo saying the following:

“Dave, I have the dubious distinction of inviting him to lecture. A Y600,000 fee & airfares for a two-hour, not a second more, dated speech. I know, because we had a taped one from 8 years given previously. And he had the nerve to ask us to sell his books at the door. No question time, either.”



Happy New Year: Retrospective: 10 things that made me think in 2008


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


Hi Blog.  Happy New Year.  To open 2009, here’s my annual essay where I note ten things that caused me to think quite a bit last year.  Some things I partook in (books and media and whatnot) might also be interesting for you to delve into as well.  For what they’re worth, and in no particular order, here goes:


10) IIJIMA AI’S DEATH:  It’s not something that I would admit to Japanese female friends (who pretty much uniformly dislike Ai for what she represents — a porn star that somehow escaped into regular TV land — and for, I might add, her power over men), but I am a fan.  Have been for most of my years here in Japan.  It’s not just because I followed her from her days exposing her backside on the successor to TV show “11PM” (there’s a blast from the past for you readers here from the bubble years!), “Gilgamesh Nights”, enjoying the contrast between her and pneumatic Hosokawa Fumie (who appealed to the J-men who liked their women less spicy).  It’s not just because she was to me pretty all over.  I really liked her personality (yes, the singular):  unafraid of men — unafraid of just about anything, apparently.  I enjoyed her stints as a regular tarento on shows like “Sunday Japon” (where lucky devil Dave Spector sitting behind her got to smell her hair on a weekly basis) even after it did not involve disrobing:  She had an unabashed charm that was both abrasive and funny; you never knew what she was going to say next (or write next:  she had a decent blog and a surprise bestseller in “Platonic Sex”).  She was somebody I would have liked to have had a conversation with.  Now with her death from an apparent suicide near Xmas, that’s impossible, and I’m saddened.  She was too young (36), and I doubt she found much contentment in life aside from money and media attention; I wonder if it was the wrong kind of attention that did her in in the end.


9) CYCLING FROM MIYAZAKI TO KURASHIKI:  Every Golden Week I embark on my get-back-in-shape-after-the-long-Hokkaido-winter sojourn, where I go somewhere warm and cycle to a big airport.  This year, starting from Miyazaki for the second year in a row, I jumped on my mountain bike and went up the northern shore, getting close to Oita before taking a ferry to that funny little peninsula reaching out from Shikoku, then cycled along the coast to Matsuyama, took the odd series of bridges (which have bike paths!) comprising the Shimanami Kaidou to near Hiroshima, then pedaled the odd coast of southern Okayama to Kurashiki, where showers, booze with good friends (who I think still don’t believe I really cycled from that far south), and Scrabble galore awaited.  The biggest shock (for me):  I cycled an average of 100 kms a day for six days.  It was easy.  Yes, easy.  I’m about to turn 44 and as long as my kiester is properly padded, I can pedal all day.  Just plug in the iPod, alternate between podcasts and pump-up music, and I feel like I can go anywhere.  Let’s hope that I don’t get a heart attack on one of these trips when age finally catches up with me.


8) FRANCA:  Stands for Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (www.francajapan.org), and the idea came forth when long-term NJ residents, furious at being fingerprinted again from November 2007, asked to form a group that would represent their interests.  We’ve been taking it slow over the year and building up awareness and interest, but this year I realized (with the Tohoku region in particular) after a series of speeches that I don’t need to tow this movement along (as I have with other projects I’ve taken up, such as the Kunibengodan).  There is a critical mass of people here who don’t see themselves as “guests”, and are ready to stand up for themselves and claim their due as taxpayers and contributors to Japanese society.  Next step:  formally registering the group as an NPO with the Japanese government.  Readers out there who are used to running businesses (I’m not) are welcome to step forward and help make this organization a paying job for them.


7) TOYOKO G8 SUMMIT:  Yes, it could have been a bonanza for Hokkaido.  Yes, it could have put us on the map like the 1972 Olympics did.  But a G8 Summit is not designed for popular participation or investment in infrastructure like an Olympics.  Summits are events where Secret Service Sherpas parachute in, seal off the entire community, and make sure the riff-raff (as in the electorate, who might have something to say as part of the democratic process) don’t get in and spoil the world leaders’ elaborately-crafted dinner and publicity parties and junkets for their entourages.  What was the payoff for Hokkaido?  Not much:  The media center they built was soon knocked down (“ecologically recycled”), and people like me couldn’t even get a job as a local-hire interpreter (the Sherpas bring their own; again, it’s a hermetic system), and by the grace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs those allowed in (the media) stayed in officially-approved hotels (who raised their prices appreciably to gouge reporters:  More on life behind the Summit walls in by reporter Eric Johnston at https://www.debito.org/?p=1812). 

Worst of all was Japan’s bad habit of using international events to convert bits of Japan into a police state, spending far more money than anyone else in the G8 on policing and security.  (See my Japan Times article on this at https://www.debito.org/?p=1767)   And with a racial-profiling element to their “anti-terrorist” activities.  I (as well as lots of other people) discovered that when walking through Chitose Airport while non-Asian.  In sum, the G8 Summit inconvenienced thousands of people, and wasted millions of dollars on something that could have been done with a conference video call.  Made me doubt the efficacy of world leaders meeting at all, especially when the Summit didn’t prevent the financial meltdown months later. 


6) CALIFORNIA TRIP 2008:  I spent all of August and two weeks of September on tour both for business and book promotion.  Not only did I get back to see what even the bluest state in America had become under 8 years of Bush II (one mixed-up place, abandoning Gov. Gray Davis for Schwartzenegger thanks to Enron; more below), I also managed to plug back into what could have been my life had I stayed a California Boy in the Bay Area.  It wasn’t my choice to begin with (I was born near Berkeley, and moved to the US East Coast at age five when my mother remarried), but I’m still not sure which would have been the better life.  More at https://www.debito.org/?p=1905


5) DVDS:  ENRON — THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, and MICHAEL MOORE’S “SICKO”.  These are the two most powerful movies I saw all year.  ENRON doesn’t just talk about the fall of a company — it even manages to show how business gone wild through true laissez-faire (not to mention outright tolerance of lying) destroys economies and people.  It is also the most interesting movie about accounting I have ever seen (just edging out Itami Juzo’s MARUSA NO ONNA movies).  SICKO is the other side of that coin on a more interpersonal level, since similar unethical pricing and qualification schemes and unfettered management of inelastic demand (be it electric power or medical care) destroys lives all the same.  One documentary was an excellent postmortem, the other was a harbinger, singlehandedly putting universal health care back on the US political agenda.  Watch them and think about how markets and government should work.


4) BOOKS:  Francis Wheen’s KARL MARX and HOW MUMBO-JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD.  Francis Wheen writes like the smartest kid in the class (I never thought anyone could summarize Marx’s Das Kapital in one paragraph), and makes you want to read more of anything he writes.  He puts a very human face on Marx, as well as on the actors creating the Grand Illusion of free-market capitalism and equitable societal development.  (The biggest dupe of the Postwar Twentieth Century:  “the trickle-down effect”.)  Wheen is as lucid as Bertrand Russell at times (and more amusing) as he traces the arc of economic, political, and social theory for the past forty years.  It’s a wonderful debug.  But don’t expect a mentoring from this author (I doubt he himself would welcome the role), for he prescribes little in return.  Wheen has that veddy British tendency to whale on people by criticizing them intelligently, if not a bit cuttingly, but not offer much ideology of his own for others to criticize back.  It isn’t until you get to the very end, where in a couple of succinct paragraphs he reveals his dogma:  Put reason above emotion and non-science in all respects (even when he gets a bit emotional himself).  He has faith that “truth is great and will prevail”.  Provided that people can be educated enough to think for themselves, and not be duped by the world’s ideological snake-oil salesmen.  Reading Wheen is a valuable antidote to them.  I still think, in the end, Bertrand Russell did it better, but Wheen does it more accessibly and practically for today’s marketplace of ideas.


3) JAPAN TIMES COLUMN:  Last March, my JUST BE CAUSE monthly column started with a focus on human rights.  So far, so good:  Not running out of topics and it’s amazing just how much debate a mere 700 words can spark (viz. the “gaijin” trilogy of essays over the summer).  I also felt like people looked at me differently once this column started going — not just a “blogger” anymore, but an actual pundit in a national newspaper.  If that’s a complimentary status to have, I’ll try to earn readers’ respect over the next few years.  I hope I’m serving well enough now.  Next column out January 6.


2) “HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS”, co-authored with Akira Higuchi.  This was where it all fell into place.  No longer was I just being labeled a “troublemaker” who sues people at a drop of a hat, and writes books about lawsuits as some form of catharsis.  No such dismissal could be made about HANDBOOK, a bilingual bestseller (in the small human-rights book market), clearly written as a means to help people make better lives here in Japan.  It garnered not a single mixed or negative review.  As a person who seems cause controversy just by exhaling, I’m just not used to the unqualified positive.  I hope the book serves well in future too.

And at the end (again, this list was in no particular order):  The Booby Prize for biggest disappointment mediawise of the year:


1) KEN BURNS’ “THE WAR” DOCUMENTARY:  I will watch anything by Ken Burns, the director who revolutionized the historical documentary with his daylong THE CIVIL WAR some decades ago.  I own everything he’s got out on DVD (and yes, there are a few turkeys:  THE CONGRESS is one).  But my appetite was whetted when NPR reviewer David Bianculli called THE WAR (about World War II from an American perspective) “his best”.  I watched it after viewing the even longer British-produced (and now History Channel staple) THE WORLD AT WAR series, made nearly forty years ago. 

I understand Burns’s production was about how a world war affected the US domestically, but his presentation rankled for the first time ever.  Not only was the music and tone of the documentary in places quite inappropriate (upbeat contemporary songs for wartime scenes, for example), but the feeling was cloying, even jingoistic at times, as if boostering for Americana in the face of an international war (TWAW only pandered to its British audience once:  it’s overuse of “Banzai” as Japan invaded British territories in South East Asia.)  Unforgivable was the closing line of the final episode:

“This film is dedicated to all those who fought and won that necessary war on our behalf.”

I see.  Well, maybe I’ve been too influenced by Japan’s need to see everyone (even the aggressor nations, such as itself) as the victims of war.  But a film about a world war should not just herald those who won it.  It should salute those who died in it, who suffered in it, regardless of side.  History already overwhelmingly favors the victors of war.  Why would a historian like Burns repeat that error by just honoring one side, as if those who suffered the historical accident of being on the wrong side do not deserve a modicum of respect for doing what many simply had to do?  There is the victimization, the tragedy of group madness and legally-enforced conformity that leads to war anyway.  It’s not all winners vs. losers, good vs. evil, is it?  Let’s be a bit more sophisticated in our paid tributes, shall we?


Alright, these are the things that made me think quite a bit this year.  Thanks for reading those thoughts, and have a Happy New Year 2009.  Arudou Debito

History tangent: Japan Times FYI on Hokkaido development


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

Hi Blog. I’m on the road for a couple of days (we’ve been whalloped with snow, and I anticipate a long drive to the Okhotsk Sea Coast tomorrow), so let me send you a little something interesting.  A nice concise history of Hokkaido from the Japan Times.  Fills in quite a few blanks about how and why we up in Japan’s Great White North got here in the first place.  Arudou Debito traversing this spine of Hokkaido to Monbetsu




Japan’s last frontier took time to tame, cultivate image

Staff writer
Japan Times Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hokkaido, where the Group of Eight summit is taking place in Toyako, is known for its hot springs, ski resorts, seafood and magnificent scenery.

News photo
Dual roles: A family of “tondenhei” farmer-soldiers pose in front of their house in Akkeshi, Hokkaido, in the late 1880s. COURTESY OF HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY LIBRARY PHOTO

Only 140 years ago, when Japan jumped on the modernization bandwagon, the prefecture was the new frontier.

Following are some questions and answers about the history of Hokkaido:

When did the development of Hokkaido begin?

The Meiji government started promoting cultivation in Hokkaido in 1868, when it took over power from the Tokugawa shogunate. Cultivation was deemed necessary as part of the government effort to modernize all of Japan and amid awareness that Russia appeared to have designs on the territory, large areas of which had not yet been explored.

The government allocated 4 percent to 5 percent of the national budget for developing Hokkaido over 10 years starting in 1872, according to “Hokkaido no Rekishi” (“The History of Hokkaido”), published in 2000.

What was the situation in Hokkaido before the Meiji Restoration of 1868?

Hokkaido had been inhabited by the Ainu for centuries. They had a separate culture from the Japanese, and lived by fishing, hunting and trading.

The region had been called Ezochi, meaning “the land for people who did not obey the government,” until the name was changed into Hokkaido (“northern sea route”) in 1869.

During the Kamakura shogunate (1185-1333), a penal colony was established at the southern part of the Oshima Peninsula and samurai warriors were stationed there to oversee the prisoners.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Matsumae domain ruled the southern area, and the shogunate officially entitled them to monopolize trade with the Ainu. In the late Edo Period, ordinary Japanese, some from the Tohoku region, started moving to coastal areas outside the Matsumae-regulated area to fish for herring.

When the shogunate ended its 220-year closed-door policy in 1854, under pressure from Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United States and Russia, Hakodate became one of the first two ports to open to the West.

The port was also spotlighted when Tokugawa rule ended in 1868. Some 2,800 people faithful to the shogun, led by naval officer Takeaki Enomoto, arrived at the port with eight ships from Edo, now Tokyo. After occupying Goryokaku fortress in Hakodate, he declared Hokkaido an independent country, but the rebels were defeated by Meiji government forces in 1869.

How did the Meiji government develop Hokkaido in the 19th century?

The government promoted immigration there from Honshu to farm land.

It also created industries, building beer breweries and plants to make miso, soy sauce and silk. Coal mining also started in Horonai, now the city of Mikasa, in 1881. Railways were also built to transport coal to ports, including Otaru.

To promote agriculture and other industries, dozens of Western engineers and researchers were invited to teach advanced technologies and educate young Japanese.

One notable foreigner was William S. Clark, president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, who was invited in 1876 to be vice president of Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.

Many of the foreigners were Americans, probably because Japan tried to learn from the U.S. about developing its frontier, experts say.

Ainu were forced to work as farmers and abandon their culture and lifestyles for assimilation by Japanese society, further increasing the discrimination against them.

How many people moved to Hokkaido?

The first group of 500 settlers arrived there in September 1869 from Tokyo, followed by thousands of people, including farmers, samurai descendants and gentry.

About 1.9 million people moved to Hokkaido between 1890 and 1936, according to the prefectural government. Many were from the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions.

How did the early Japanese settlers fare on the island?

Nearly half engaged in farming vegetables, including potatoes, and buckwheat for “soba” noodles, and soy beans.

But farming in the cold forested north was not easy. People had to clear the land by logging. It sometimes took several years to harvest sufficient crops to make a living.

Rice planting began to spread in the 1880s after strains were improved to grow in the local soil.

There were 7,337 households, or 39,901 people who migrated as “tondenhei,” who worked as farmer-soldiers, or their family members, from 1875 and 1899 under a government system established in 1873.

Housing, food and farm implements were provided. The tondenhei also underwent military training and were deployed to various places to maintain order and prepare for a Russian invasion.

Other immigrants engaged in fishing, trading and other industries.

What major postwar events occurred in Hokkaido?

After Japan’s surrender, some 17,000 Japanese who lived on small islands off Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets — were expelled after the islands were seized by Soviet forces.

Tokyo still claims the Russian-held islands as part of Japan, and the territorial row still tops its diplomatic agenda with Moscow. The dispute has prevented the two nations from concluding a peace treaty to end the war.

After the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s, Hokkaido saw tough times.

The failure of Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in November 1997 hit the local economy hard. The regional bank, which was founded in 1900, went under mainly because it extended loans to ailing companies recklessly during the bubble economy between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Last year, the Yubari Municipal Government was designated by the government as officially bankrupt. This ended its autonomy and the central government is now managing its rehabilitation efforts.

Yubari has a population of 13,000, which is roughly one-tenth of its peak when it prospered as a coal mining town. The city is also known for its film festival and pricey melons.

It was the first time in 15 years the government declared a municipality bankrupt.

However, with the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, in which Japan won gold, silver and bronze in the 70-meter jump, Hokkaido became a tourist draw.

In July 2005, a 70,000-plus-hectare area straddling the towns of Shari and Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula was designated as a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Asahiyama Zoo drawn many tourists from around the nation, thanks to its unique animal displays.

Ski resorts and hot springs in Hokakido have become popular attractions for foreign tourists from Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays (Wednesday in some areas). Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to National News Desk


Economist.com: Bilateral agreements to give US servicemen immunity from Japanese criminal procedure


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I’ve covered this case on Debito.org before, but here’s something with a little more depth from The Economist Newsmagazine. Seems that some perpetrators are more privileged than others. Greenpeace activists get zapped while American servicemen, according to the article below, get off lightly in Japanese police work and jurisprudence. By bilateral geopolitical agreement. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Dec 10th 2008
From Economist.com, Courtesy AW


Crime without punishment in Japan

THIS story is of no material importance to Japan. It is the story of Jane. And it is a story of a very small, dark sliver of 20th century geopolitics that festers still.

Jane is an attractive, blonde 40-something Australian, resident for many years in Japan and a mother of three boys. She is also the victim of a rape. Jane is not her real name.

She is actually the victim of two violations. The physical one was committed on April 6th 2002 near the American naval base at Yokosuka by Bloke T. Deans, an American serviceman. He violently raped her in her car.

What Jane refers to as her “second rape” happened afterwards, when she reported the crime to the Kanagawa prefectural police. There, she alleges that she was interrogated for hours by six policemen, who mocked her. At a later meeting, they laughed and made crude sexual comments. She was initially denied medical treatment, water and food. Jane was denied a receptacle to keep a urine sample—key forensic evidence in a rape. After four hours, all she could do was relieve herself on a cold police toilet and cry. The police made no attempt to preserve sperm or DNA on her body.

Her torment at the hands of the police so amplified the trauma of the evening that she actually tried to dial emergency services to report that she was being held against her will at the station, but an officer ripped the phone from her hand. Ultimately she was kept in custody for some 12 hours following the crime, before having to drive herself home.

The police located the assailant, Mr Deans, of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, but for reasons that remained unclear, no charges were filed against him.

Jane, however, filed and won a civil case against him: a Tokyo court ordered him to pay ¥3m (around $30,000) in November 2004. But unbeknownst to Jane or the court, soon after the suit was filed, the American navy had quietly discharged Mr Deans, who returned to America and disappeared. Later, she received compensation from Japan’s Ministry of Defence, out of a discreet fund for civilian victims of crimes by American military personnel.

In Jane’s view, the first rape went unpunished: Mr Deans remains at large. So she turned her attention to the “second rape”. She sued the Kanagawa police for a bungled investigation that denied her proper justice. In December 2007 the court ruled against her, stating that the police had fulfilled their responsibilities. She appealed the decision.

Jane’s ordeal underscores the clumsiness of Japan’s police force. In several recent high-profile cases, the police have coerced confessions from suspects. It also highlights the lack of a tradition of individual rights in the country, and the often thinly reasoned rulings of Japanese courts. And it fits the pattern that in many crimes by American servicemen, the Japanese authorities fail to press charges.

But the reason why cases like Jane’s are not prosecuted may have less to do with incompetent police and more because of a secret agreement between America and Japan in 1953 that has recently come to light.

In September 2008, Shoji Niihara, a researcher on Japanese-American relations, uncovered previously classified documents in the U.S. National Archives. They show that in 1953, soon after Dwight Eisenhower assumed the presidency, John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, embarked on a massive programme to get countries to waive their jurisdiction in cases of crimes by American servicemen.

On October 28th 1953, a Japanese official, Minoru Tsuda, made a formal declaration to the United States (not intended for public disclosure), stating, “The Japanese authorities do not normally intend to exercise the primary right of jurisdiction over members of the United States Armed Forces, the civilian component, or their dependents subject to the military law of the United States, other than in cases considered to be of material importance to Japan.”

In other words, Japan agreed to ignore almost all crimes by American servicemen, under the hope that the military itself would prosecute such offences—but with no means of redress if it did not.

This helps explain the perplexing, toothless approach of the Japanese police and prosecutors even today in cases of crimes by American military personnel. When Mr Niihara first made the documents public in October, a senior Japanese official denied any such agreement, but in words so mealy-mouthed that it raised suspicion.

Japan’s landmark accord with the United States over troops stationed in the country, called the Status of Forces Agreement, was signed in 1960. Article XVII.1b states: “The authorities of Japan shall have jurisdiction over the members of the United States armed forces, the civilian component, and their dependents with respect to offences committed within the territory of Japan and punishable by the law of Japan.”

But in practice the Japanese do not exercise their authority. Jane’s case was just one of many in which the Japanese authorities opted to look the other way. This has nothing to do with the specifics of her case; it stems from an intergovernmental security protocol negotiated a half-century earlier.

Why did America fight so hard in 1953 to maintain control of criminal cases involving its boys? The documents do not say, but provide a clue: in numerous settings, American officials express unease that American servicemen commit roughly 30 serious crimes each month. Having 350 soldiers sent to Japanese jails each year would have been bad for America’s image. According to a separate document, America struck similar, secret agreements with the governments of Canada, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

When Jane talks to reporters, she wears stylish, bug-eyed, mirrored sunglasses that seem more shields than fashion statement. It is futile protection—a tangible symbol of her quest for anonymity, akin to her pseudonymity.

On December 10th 2008, the Tokyo High Court ruled on Jane’s appeal in the suit against the Kanagawa police. Judge Toshifumi Minami entered the court, told her “You lost. And the financial burden of the case lies with you,” and then left. A 20-page ruling, considered short, sheds little insight into how the court reached its decision. Jane plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. “I lost—but they lost too,” she said.

Jane will always bear indelible, invisible scars. But this is of no material importance to Japan. Or America.

JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities


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

Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice short 500-word summary of one issue I’ve been covering for more than ten years now:  Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities.  Reprinted with permission of the author.  Arudou Debito in transit


Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle
James McCrostie
Published in the April 2007 issue of JALT’s The Language Teacher
in the Job Info Center column (p. 45 – 46).

Working at Japanese universities resembles musical chairs. Every year the music starts and instructors with expiring contracts run around looking for a new job. Most universities hiring foreigners full-time offer one-year contracts, renewable three or four times. Contrary to popular belief, universities don’t cap renewals at three or four because if a teacher works long enough they can’t be fired. Schools remain safe as long as they state the number of renewals and a few have contracts renewable up to ten years.

To most thinking people, forcing instructors to leave every few years appears short sighted. Yet, university and government officials have their own reasons for preferring term-limits.

Keeping costs down is one reason. The penny pinching began in December 1992 when Ministry of Education officials phoned all the national universities and warned them against keeping foreign teachers in the higher pay brackets. Schools soon sacked foreigners over the age of 50 (most had been promised a job until retirement), replaced them with teachers on capped contracts, and refused to hire anyone over the age of 35 or 40 (Hall, 1994). Yet, despite a 1997 law allowing universities to employ Japanese faculty on term-limited contracts, the use of capped contracts to economize, while increasing, remains largely limited to foreign staff (Arudou & McLaughlin, 2001).

Attitudes towards foreign teachers reveal the more important reason for the caps. University and Ministry of Education bureaucrats regard foreigners as models of foreign culture with expiry dates stamped on their foreheads rather than real teachers who have a long-term role to play. For example, Niigata University’s president admitted wanting foreigners “churning over constantly” (JPRI Staff, 1996). In an Asahi Shimbun editorial, Shinichiro Noriguchi, a University of Kitakyushu English professor, contends “native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than ten years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teachers” (Noriguchi, 2006).

Ministry of Education officials justified firing older foreigners from national universities by arguing younger instructors would be better examples of American culture (Hall, 1998). Nearly a decade later, Ministry bureaucrats justified term-limits by contending they “encouraged the movement of teachers to other universities which was of benefit to both teachers and the universities” (Cleary, 2001). Exactly how they benefited anyone was left unsaid.

If nothing else such attitudes are at least consistent, changing little since the Meiji Era. Viewing foreigners as disposable goes back to the 1903 sacking of Lafcadio Hearn from what is now Tokyo University.

Are the caps discriminatory? While nearly every Japanese instructor receives tenure from the day they are hired and nearly every foreigner is shown the door after a few years the Supreme Court, with a little legal legerdemain, ruled that such hiring practices don’t violate the Labor Standards Law which applies only after someone has been hired (van Dresser, 2001).

Luckily, some universities do appreciate that employing foreigners permanently can benefit a school. So what’s a foreigner in search of job stability to do? Getting a doctorate couldn’t hurt but the key is Japanese fluency. According to activist Arudou Debito “you’ve simply got to understand what’s going on around you” (Arudou, personal communication). Then again, neither provided much protection during the purge of the 1990’s.


Arudou, D. and McLaughlin, J. (2001). Employment conditions in the university: Update autumn 2001. JALT Kitakyushu Presentation. Retrieved January 20, 2007 from https://www.debito.org/JALTninkisei112401.html

Cleary, F. (2001). Taking it to the Ministry of Education: Round three. Pale Journal. 7(1). Retrieved January 20, 2007 from https://www.debito.org/HELPSpring2001.html#kumamoto

Hall, I. (1994). Academic Apartheid at Japan’s National Universities. JPRI Working Paper No. 3. Retrieved January 21, 2007 from http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp3.html

Hall, I. (1998) Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop. New York: W. W. Norton.

JPRI Staff. (1996). Foreign teachers in Japanese universities: An update.
JPRI Working Paper, 24. Retrieved January 20, 1997 from http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp24.html

Noriguchi, S. (2006). English education leaves much to be desired. Asahi Shimbun, Sep. 15, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2007 from http://www.asahi.com/english/Heraldasahi/TKY200609150129.html

van Dresser, S. (2001). On the employment rights of repeatedly renewed contract workers. PALE Journal, 7(1). Retrieved January 20, 2007 from https://www.debito.org/HELPSpring2001.html#vandresser

Kyodo: SDF’s Tomogami revisionist history shows cosiness between J military and right-wing nationalists


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

Hi Blog.  Here’s an issue that is being fleshed out in a well-written, informative Kyodo article:  that of historical revisionism within Japan’s military, and its cosiness with the right-wing.  We had a general write a prize-winning essay (received from right-wingers, see below) denying that Japan waged a war of liberation against Asia during WWII.  How Japan treats or is treated by its neighbors is of import to Debito.org, albeit tangentially, so let me reproduce Kyodo’s recap of the debate so far.  

I was asked for my opinion earlier this month in the Comments section of my blog.  In brief, this is how I answered:

–- Tamogami was forced to resign. Good. He did not capitulate. Fine with me (it is his opinion). But the media I’ve seen so far skirts the issue. It’s not a matter of whether what he said was appropriate for his position within the SDF. It is an issue about whether what he says is historically accurate. (It is not.) And until these historical issues are finally laid to rest (through, as UN Rapporteur Doudou Diene suggested, a history book of the region written and approved by scholars from all countries involved), this is just going to keep happening again and again. Exorcising the elephant in the room, i.e. the ghost of Japan’s wartime past (particularly as to whether it was a war of aggression or liberation), must be done sooner or later. It is still not being done and debunked, and that means the SDF person can just use “freedom of speech” as his cloaking device and compare Japan to the DPRK (as he has done) and just gain sympathy for the Rightists. There. Debito 

Unfortunately, I don’t see any diversion from this path even as the debate, as Kyodo reports below, goes to the Diet.  The debate has gone into issues of civilian control (meaning, to freedom-of-speechers on both sides of the political spectrum, mind control), and Tamogami is setting himself up to become a martyr to the right wing.  Again, the tack should also include, is what he saying historically accurate?  Again, it is not.  

The honest study of the history of any country is going to reveal things that a nation is ashamed of, and one must include that as part of the national narrative.  The Tamogamis, Obuchis, Abes, and Asos are just going to have to live with that.  And part of the process is bringing historical fact of Japan’s conquering, Imperialist past into the debate.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


FOCUS: Unapologetic ex-general’s testimony fuels civilian control concern

TOKYO, Nov. 11, 2008 KYODO, Courtesy of the Club


     Sacked air force chief Toshio Tamogami testified in parliament Tuesday over his controversial war essay but his unapologetic rhetoric only highlighted a large difference in perception with the government regarding Japan’s role in World War II.

     His testimony also posed a question even among Self-Defense Forces officers about whether the 60-year-old former general was ever fit for the post of Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff and prompted politicians to have second thoughts about the effectiveness of their efforts to maintain civilian control of the defense forces.

     ”Did I do such a bad thing at the end of my career?” the outspoken Tamogami told reporters after pressing his case over the essay as an unsworn witness during a 160-minute session before the House of Councillors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.

     Tamogami offered no apology or remarks that he would take a hard look at the release of the essay in which he denied Japan waged a war of aggression in other Asian countries before and during the war.

     ”I’m feeling good,” Tamogami said to TV camera crews and photographers on entering the parliament building earlier in the day for the testimony session.

     ”Mr. Tamogami has learned nothing (from this controversy),” a senior official of the Defense Ministry said. ”I cannot help doubting Mr. Tamogami properly understands the gravity of what he did as a top SDF officer.”

     The Chinese and South Korean governments have expressed their displeasure over Tamogami’s essay although the dispute has yet to develop into a major diplomatic problem.

     Adm. Keiji Akahoshi, the chief of staff of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, questioned Tamogami’s remarks in the upper house committee, telling a press conference, ”Again I recognized the gravity of the problem and that his releasing the essay was inappropriate.”

     Tamogami was dismissed as ASDF chief Oct. 31, the same day as his essay, which the government says clearly contradicts the position of successive governments, was made public.

     In the essay, Tamogami denied that Japan had waged a war of aggression in other Asian countries and challenged legal restrictions on SDF activities such as limits on the use of weapons overseas under the U.S.-drafted Constitution.

     Setting aside the essay’s content, the issue also shed light on whether politicians can properly control the expression of opinions by SDF personnel while being mindful of freedom of speech.

     Tamogami was known for his straight talk after becoming ASDF chief in March 2007 and wrote an article later that year in a magazine circulating only within the ASDF on the war and historical issues that contained views similar to those in the essay.

     Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, a legislator, admitted that the then leadership of the ministry missed the article ”because that was an in-house magazine.”

     This time, the essay Tamogami wrote while ASDF chief was made public as the winner of the 3 million yen top prize in a competition.

     But an SDF officer tried to defend Tamogami saying, ”I heard it was well-known in the ASDF that Mr. Tamogami held such views on the history of the war as he expressed opinions to that effect on various occasions without being clearly advised not to do so.”

     ”He may be puzzled, feeling, ‘Why am I being criticized so strongly only this time?” the officer said.

     Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, known as a military wonk, has said that more SDF officers should come forward to express opinions from the viewpoint of defense experts to support the defense minister.

     Tamogami has also come under fire for his failure to notify civilian officials in the ministry in writing of his plan to publicize the essay, breaking an intra-ministry rule on the expression of opinions by ranking SDF officers.

     But Tamogami said, ”That should not constitute a violation of any rules,” arguing that writing the essay was not part of his official duties and that it was a product of his private studies on history.

     At the beginning of the session Tuesday, Committee Chairman Toshimi Kitazawa from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan urged members of the committee as well as Tamogami to be aware that sloppy civilian control over the old Imperial Japanese military forces resulted in the loss of more than 3 million lives in the war.

     The ministry is set to pay Tamogami a retirement allowance worth around 60 million yen. He was dismissed as ASDF chief but allowed to leave the ministry with a status enabling him to receive the benefit.

     ”I’ll use the allowance because I will have difficulty making a living,” Tamogami said, brushing off mounting calls to voluntarily return all or part of the money to the state coffers.

     But a top official of the ministry blasted Tamogami, saying, ”I hope he will better understand how much trouble he has caused for the ASDF for which he served for 30 something years and how seriously the already damaged confidence in the SDF has been lost.”

     The top official, who asked not to be named, also said that Tamogami was unfit for the top post in the air force and his behavior could suggest problems in the education programs at defense academies.

     ”We know there are some junior SDF personnel who don’t want to easily follow government policies on various matters. It’s OK. They have freedom of thought. But we do not usually expect a four-star-general-class officer like Mr. Tamogami to challenge the government in public,” the official said.

     Revelations about Tamogami’s cozy links with a nationalist real estate businessman who organized the competition was also among topics taken up by the committee.

     The essay contest was organized by hotel and condominium developer Apa Group and its head Toshio Motoya, a friend of Tamogami. Apa Group is also known for its support of hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

     On top of that, an orchestrated submission of essays by ASDF personnel is also suspected.

     Tamogami also denied in the parliamentary session that he received any inappropriate benefits from Motoya’s side and that he had played a role in the organized submission of essays.

     But the ministry has found that in addition to Tamogami, 94 of the 235 essay submissions came from the ASDF.

     Another senior official of the ministry questioned the fairness of the essay contest saying, ”It must have been fixed.”





Japan Times Zeit Gist on PM Aso’s connection to WWII forced labor


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

Hi Blog.  If people want to become world leaders, it’s only natural that they will have their past investigated.  But according to the article below which came out yesterday in the Japan Times, PM Aso hasn’t exactly come clean about his family’s wartime past using forced labor.  Fascinating article follows from, where else, the Japan Times Zeit Gist Column.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008




WWII forced labor issue dogs Aso, Japanese firms

Special to The Japan Times

After evading the issue for more than two years, Taro Aso conceded to foreign reporters on the eve of becoming prime minister that Allied POWs worked at his family’s coal mine in Kyushu during World War II.


News photo
Labor pains: Prime Minister Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, in the 1970s. Hundreds of Allied POWs and thousands of Koreans conscripts were forced to work for the firm during the war. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO


But Aso’s terse admission fell far short of the apology overseas veterans’ groups have demanded, while refocusing attention on Japan’s unhealed legacy of wartime forced labor by Asians and Westerners.

Calls for forced labor reparations are growing louder due to Prime Minister Aso’s personal ties to the brutal practice, as well as his combative reputation as a historical revisionist. The New York Times recently referred to “nostalgic fantasies about Japan’s ugly past for which Mr. Aso has become well known.” Reuters ran an article headlined “Japan’s PM haunted by family’s wartime past.”

Three hundred Allied prisoners of war (197 Australians, 101 British and two Dutch) were forced to dig coal without pay for Aso Mining Co. in 1945. Some 10,000 Korean labor conscripts worked under severe conditions in the company’s mines between 1939 and 1945; many died and most were never properly paid.

Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, during the 1970s and oversaw publication of a 1,000-page corporate history that omitted all mention of Allied POWs. Aso’s father headed Aso Mining during the war. The family’s business empire is known as Aso Group today and is run by Aso’s younger brother, with the prime minister’s wife serving on the board of directors. The company has never commented on the POW issue, nor provided information about Aso Mining’s Korean workforce despite requests from the South Korean government.

Newspapers in Australia and the United Kingdom vigorously reported Aso Mining’s use of POWs in 2006. But with Aso then at its helm, Japan’s Foreign Ministry cast doubt on the overseas media accounts and challenged journalists to provide evidence.

Last year The Japan Times described how, in early 1946, the Japanese government presented Allied war crimes investigators with the Aso Company Report, detailing living and working conditions for the 300 prisoners. Yet Foreign Minister Aso continued to sidestep the POW controversy even after his office was provided with a copy of the report, which is written on Aso Mining stationery and bears company seals.

Courts in Japan and former Allied nations have rejected legal claims by ex-POWs, so the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway have all compensated their own surviving POWs. Hundreds of British and Dutch POWs and family members have made reconciliation-style visits to Japan in recent years as part of the Tokyo-sponsored Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative. Stiffed by the U.S. government, American POWs have also been excluded from Japan’s reconciliation schemes — a situation they say Prime Minister Aso has a special responsibility to correct.

Some 700,000 Korean civilians — including teenage girls — were brought to Japan to work for private firms through various means of coercion. Hundreds of thousands of other Koreans were forced to perform harsh labor elsewhere in Japan’s empire or conscripted into the Japanese military.

South Korea’s 85-member Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism began work in 2005. Legislation passed last year will provide national payments of up to $20,000 to former military and civilian conscripts and family members. The measure also calls for individually tailored compensation based on unpaid wages, pension contributions and related benefits owed to Korean workers but now held by the Bank of Japan.

Seoul needs Japanese cooperation in the form of name rosters and details about the BOJ financial deposits in order to fully implement its compensation plan. Repatriating the hundreds of sets of Korean remains currently stored in Japan, many of them belonging to military and civilian conscripts killed during the war, is another key aim of ongoing reparations work. Company records would greatly aid the process of identifying remains that have been located in temples and municipal charnel houses around the country.

The Japanese government has been cooperating fitfully on “humanitarian grounds” in the case of military conscription, supplying Korean officials with some wartime records and returning the remains of 101 Korean soldiers to Seoul last January. But the Japanese side is mostly stonewalling on civilian conscripts like those at Aso Mining.

Japanese officials contend, rather implausibly, that they do not know how many Korean civilians were conscripted or how many died in the custody of private companies because the state was never directly involved. South Korea’s truth commission criticized Aso Group and Foreign Minister Aso in 2005 for failing to supply information.

“I have no intention to explain,” Japan’s chief diplomat told a Japanese reporter at the time. Earlier this month, Diet member Shokichi Kina asked Prime Minister Aso whether any data about Aso Mining was ever given to South Korea. Aso replied that his administration will not disclose how individual corporations have responded to Korean inquiries.

Noriaki Fukudome of the Truth-Seeking Network for Forced Mobilization, a citizens group based in Fukuoka, has been centrally involved in advancing the South Korean truth commission’s work within Japan.

Aso Group, says Fukudome, “has an obligation to actively cooperate with returning remains and providing records because it was one of the companies that employed the most forced laborers. But Japanese companies are keeping a lid on the whole forced labor issue. In the unlikely event that Prime Minister Aso was to direct Aso Cement (now Aso Lafarge Cement since its merger with a French conglomerate) to actively face the forced labor problem, it would have a huge effect on all Japanese companies.”

Fukudome pointed to Japan’s conformist corporate culture as one reason why very few of the hundreds of companies that used Asians and Allied POWs for forced labor have taken steps toward reconciliation. “Even if one company has a relatively positive attitude regarding reparations, it will not take action out of deference for other companies,” he said.

Chinese were the victims of the third class of forced labor in Japan. While Aso Mining was not involved in Chinese forced labor, lack of progress for the especially compelling redress claim highlights Japan’s weak commitment to settling wartime accounts.

Postwar records secretly compiled — and then purposely destroyed — by the Japanese government and 35 companies state that 38,935 Chinese males between the ages of 11 and 78 were brought to Japan between 1943 and 1945. More than one out of six died.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the 1972 treaty that restored ties between Japan and China bars Chinese forced labor survivors from filing legal claims. Yet the court found that plaintiffs had been forcibly transported to Japan and forced to toil in wretched conditions, and suggested they be redressed through non-judicial means. Having previously declared that the “slave-like forced labor was an outrage against humanity,” the Fukuoka High Court earlier this month similarly urged “voluntary measures” to remedy the injustice.

Kajima Corp., one of the world’s largest construction companies, set up a “relief fund” in 2000 to compensate survivors of its Hanaoka work site, where 418 out of 986 Chinese perished and an uprising took place. The move prompted expectations that Japan’s industrial sector and central government might establish a redress fund for all its victims of forced labor, similar to the “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” Foundation enacted in Germany that same year. The $6 billion German fund eventually compensated 1.6 million forced labor victims or their heirs.

Such hopes for corporate social responsibility in Japan were dashed. On the contrary, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. defended itself in a Fukuoka courtroom in 2005 by rejecting facts about Chinese forced labor routinely recognized by Japan’s judiciary and insisting only voluntary workers were used — despite death rates of up to 31 percent at its Kyushu mines. Mitsubishi openly questioned whether Japan ever “invaded” China at all and warned judges that compensating the elderly Chinese plaintiffs would saddle Japan with a “mistaken burden of the soul” for hundreds of years.

Taro Aso, in fact, is not the Japanese prime minister most closely connected to forced labor. Wartime Cabinet minister Nobusuke Kishi was in charge of the empire’s labor programs and was later imprisoned for three years as a Class A war crimes suspect. Kishi went on to become a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 and Japan’s premier from 1957-60. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is Kishi’s grandson.

Foreign Ministry files declassified in 2002 revealed that Kishi’s administration conspired to deceive the Diet and citizens’ groups about the state’s possession of Chinese forced labor records. Kishi’s intent was to block Japanese activists from returning remains to China and publicizing the program’s true nature, as well as to head off state reparations demands from Beijing. In 2003, the Foreign Ministry searched a basement storeroom and found 20,000 pages of Chinese forced labor records submitted by companies in 1946, despite decades of denials that such records existed.

Millions of Asians performed forced labor outside of Japan during the Asia Pacific War, very often for the benefit of Japanese companies still operating today. The so-called comfort women represent a uniquely abused group of war victims forced to provide sex for Japan’s military. Last year governments in North America and Europe urged Japan to do more to right the egregious comfort-women wrong.

The Dutch foreign minister renewed that call last week, prior to a visit to Japan set to include a stop at the Commonwealth War Cemetery where hundreds of Allied POWs are buried, including two Australians who died at Aso Mining.

Days after assuming Japan’s top post, Aso apologized “for my past careless remarks” in a speech before Parliament. “From now on,” he pledged, “I will make statements while bearing in mind the gravity of the words of a prime minister.” Many are waiting for the words “I’m sorry” for forced labor.


William Underwood completed his doctoral dissertation at Kyushu University on forced labor in wartime Japan. His past research is available at www.japanfocus.org and he can be reached atkyushubill@yahoo.com. Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column on how “gaijin” concept destroys Japan’s rural communities


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

THE JAPAN TIMES Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008
Gaijin mind-set is killing rural Japan

JUST BE CAUSE Column 8  DIRECTOR’S CUT, with deleted paragraph reinstated and links to sources.  Article inspired after several lengthy conversations with James Eriksson of Monbetsu, Hokkaido, quoted below.

‘Gaijin’ mind-set is killing rural Japan

Allow me to conclude my trilogy of columns regarding the word “gaijin” this month by talking about the damage the concept does to Japanese society. That’s right — damage to Japanese society.

I previously mentioned the historical fact that “gaijin” once also applied to Japanese — to “outsiders” not from one’s neighborhood. But as Japan unified and built a nation-state, it made its “volk” all one “community,” for political and jingoistic reasons. Anyone considered to be Japanese became an “insider,” while the rest of the world became “outsiders,” neatly pigeonholed by that contentious term “gaijin.”

However, old habits die hard, and “outsiderdom” still applies to Japanese. Even if not specifically labeled “gaijin,” the effect is the same: If Japanese aren’t from “around here,” they don’t belong, and it’s destroying Japan’s rural communities.

You don’t choose your ‘hood

Here’s the dynamic: Postwar Japanese society has been surprisingly mobile. Japan’s high-speed growth and corporate culture sucked people to the cities and overseas. Afterward, people found themselves unable to return to their rural hometowns because they no longer “belonged” there.

(Referential links here and here)

Consider this phenomenon in microcosm at the school level. Pluck a kid out of class awhile, then witness the trouble “fitting back in.” The readjustment problems of Japanese students who leave the fold, then find themselves socially isolated, are well-reported (there’s even an established term: “kikoku shijo“). And that’s after only a year or two’s absence.

It’s worse for adults. Whole classes of occupations do round-robin transfers throughout Japan. If they take their families along (called “tenkin zoku”), their kids speak of solitary childhoods unable to make friends. To avoid this, fathers often choose “tanshin fu’nin,” where the husband lives apart from his wife and children for years, so as not to disrupt the kids’ schooling. Thus transplanting in Japan is so painful a prospect that people break up their families.

People also move around later in life. Some want that quiet country home away from the rat race. Others want to be closer to their grandchildren, or have their grown-up kids closer to them during retirement. Yet after moving in they often find the locals distant.

“I know some ‘newcomers’ who have waited 20 years for someone to make them feel welcome,” says James Eriksson, a 16-year resident of Monbetsu, a remote seaport city in eastern Hokkaido. “It’s tough in Japan. There’s no Welcome Wagon. In Canada, when my parents moved to a small town 40 years ago, within two days somebody dropped by with flowers and coupons. Then once a month for a year Welcome Wagon had meetings for them to make contacts. People also invited them out. Thanks to that, my parents still live there.

“But imagine a new arrival in Hokkaido being invited to the local Rotary or Lion’s Club. Not likely. Newcomers need to feel welcomed, be included, invited to take part in things — not feel like the perpetual stranger in the room.”

Eriksson concluded, “You can always tell the tenkin zoku here in Monbetsu. They don’t tend their gardens. It’s a great metaphor for how they don’t feel like investing in their community. But without newcomers relocating here, Monbetsu will continue to shrink.”

Monbetsu is but one example.  As business and industry has concentrated in the urban areas (called “ikkyoku shuuchuu”), all of Japan’s rural prefectures are watching in alarm as they lose people to the big cities:  Since 2000, Tokyo’s population has risen by 3%, Nagoya by 2.5%, while the Kansai region stays at equilibrium.  However, rural regions like Hokkaido (-1%), Tohoku and Shikoku (-2%) are watching people flee, and property values drop by double digits (Hokuriku by a stunning 35%).

Can’t even give it away

In fact, according to the New York Times (June 3), Hokkaido towns Shibetsu and Yakumo are offering land for free if people build and live on it. Yet takers are few. Why bother if “outsiders” have to ingratiate themselves like stray cats, having no say for decades in how locals run things? No wonder people favor urban communities where everyone else is “from somewhere else.”

I know this firsthand because I once lived in a small Hokkaido farming town of 10,000 souls. It was only possible to make friends and get politically involved because 40 percent of the population were bed-town newcomers. Woe betide if you lived in the surrounding towns, however.

Here’s how bad it’s getting: The Economist (Aug 24, 2006) mentioned the village of Ogama, Ishikawa Pref., where everyone is above retirement age, and people are too elderly even to farm. The plan is — after everyone moves out and takes their ancestral graves with them — that Ogama’s beautiful valley will become a dump for industrial waste. Thus, in a nation where 40 percent of rural residents are older than 65, whole histories are winking out of existence, fine old structures are collapsing from lack of maintenance, and arable land is going fallow. Or worse.

Treating Japanese as ‘gaijin’

People are trying to reverse the trend, but again, exclusionary Japanese communities are strangling themselves. I witnessed this last July at a Hokkaido forum I emceed near Niseko, the site of a tourism and property boom thanks to Australian skiers and developers.

The forum launched Takadai Meadows ( www.takadainiseko.com ), an organic farm run by Japanese and non-Japanese (NJ). T.M.’s aim is to revitalize the local economy, bringing urbanites out to the countryside for fresh air, healthy locally-grown food — and perhaps even a pastoral home and lifestyle.

Attendees, including dozens of local farmers, were receptive but leery. I realized it wasn’t due to the “foreigner factor.” It was the generic “outsider factor.” During the Q&A, a newcomer Japanese farmer who had retired here many years ago said he still felt unwelcome. Why? Because despite all those years and investments he was still an “outsider.” A Japanese “gaijin.”

This must stop, for Japan’s sake. And believe it or not, the “real gaijin” are in the best position to show the way.

Save us from ourselves

Some of the most culturally fluent and conservation-minded individuals in Japan are not from “around here.” They are immigrants.

Consider author Alex Kerr, who preserves old houses and warns against public works concreting over Japan’s rich past. Or naturalist C.W. Nicol, columnist for this newspaper, who buys up Nagano forests before the loggers arrive. Or viticulturist Bruce Gutlove, who has helped revitalize rural Tochigi by running Coco Farm and Winery. Or Tyler Lynch, of Kamesei Ryokan in Chikuma, Nagano Prefecture, who seeks to save his local onsen town from crapulence and decrepitude. Or Sayuki, Japan’s first Caucasian geisha, who wants to preserve geisha traditions while opening things up to the modern world. Or Anthony Bianchi, twice-elected city councilor in Inuyama, Aichi Pref., who wants people to discover his under-promoted city, which is steeped in history.

Newcomers they all are, but they are also die-hard fans-cum-curators of things Japanese, trying to save ancient structures and cultures from public-pork-barrel, cookie-cutter “modernizers.” Many come from societies where centuries-old buildings are commonplace, so they know the value of their upkeep. They don’t fall for the scam of recycling homes and mortgages every 20 years, and have an innate appreciation of time-worn wood and stone over sterile concrete kitsch.

Non-Japanese as net gain

Best of all, NJ newcomers represent two absolute pluses. The first is as a repopulater. A native Japanese moving from one place to another is zero-sum: one community gets, another loses. Bring in an immigrant, however, and the entire country net-gains a new taxpayer.

The other boon is cultural. NJ aren’t necessarily culturally hidebound by the notion that “newcomers should shut up and wait to be invited in.” They’re also less likely to swallow the excuse of lack of precedent, i.e. “it can’t work because we’ve never done it here before.” Fortunately, NJ aren’t always expected to be familiar with or follow “the rules” anyhow.

These opportunities, plus the “can-do,” “make-do,” and “muddle-through” attitudes of many immigrants, make them invaluable for revitalization.

Friends must help friends break bad habits. Your friendly neighborhood “gaijin” should speak out against the word and the concept itself. “Gaijin,” in the sense of “outsiders who don’t belong,” is hurting Japan, because it ultimately affects Japanese too. Create the Welcome Wagon, not the Gaijin Cart.

Readers, lead the charge. Don’t accept “gaijin” outsider status. Open Japan and its communities to newcomers, regardless of where they’ve come from. Otherwise this very rich society, in every sense of the word, will continue to wither despite itself.


Debito Arudou is co-author of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan.” Send comments and story ideas tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

Tangent: Metropolis Mag (Tokyo) on the annual August Yasukuni “debates”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to yesterday’s thoughts on the movie YASUKUNI, here’s an article that came out in August regarding the “debate” between Right and Left at the shrine.  Bit of a tangent to Debito.org, but worth a read.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Text & photos by Brett Bull

Metropolis Magazine Aug 8, 2008, Issue #750


Face Off
Each year on August 15, downtown Tokyo turns into a riot zone as right-wing militants clash with antiwar protestors. Metropolis gives you a ringside seat to all the action

Illustration by Kohji Shiiki

With his broad shoulders rippling beneath his dark blue jumpsuit, Shinichi Kamijo has taken a sidewalk position on Yasukuni Dori, not far from Jimbocho station in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

It is 2pm and, given that he is about to engage in battle, Kamijo is surprisingly calm. “We must stop them from advancing to the shrine,” implores the 38-year-old member of Gishin Gokoku-kai, an uyoku dantai (right-wing group) that he founded when he was 26.

Kamijo’s target is the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, a sayoku (left-wing) organization that is about to begin a protest march through Kudanshita and toward Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial Shinto monument that effectively serves as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. The group of 150 members is assembling at nearby Nishi Kanda Park, a small concrete and gravel square about a kilometer east of the shrine. Before the protest begins, the leader announces that the group’s battles with the uyoku are a usual occurrence. “But we are doing this for the people of Japan,” he says.

As Kamijo waits, convoys of his brethren in black trucks descend upon the area, their presence reinforced by the imposing grilles welded to their fronts, the gold-painted chrysanthemum crests upon their sides and, of course, the unmistakable nationalist jingles booming from their sound systems.

Thirty minutes later, hundreds of riot police officers materialize on the streets. Each trooper is outfitted with a shield, heavy black boots, shin guards and a helmet—the equipment needed to oppose the throng of rightists now stationed on the pavement.

“I want to show the strength of the uyoku power,” Kamijo says, readying his stance, “but we are under the control of the police.”


The above scene unfolded just prior to last year’s pacifist demonstration in Kudanshita on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. The protest, which will be repeated next week and preceded by various other marches near the shrine, highlights the one day of the year where downtown Tokyo could nearly be confused for Pakistan or Tibet during times of political unrest—the city literally turns into a riot zone as right- and left-wing groups stand off against one another.

Shinichi Kamijo, founder of Gishin Gokoku-kai

Perhaps Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment, Yasukuni confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its honoring of roughly 2.5 million military men, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit would be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the emperor. For South Korea and China, two countries that suffered most heavily at the hands of Japan’s military over a half-century ago, a crucial point of criticism is the enshrinement of 14 Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. A heated debate on an average day, Yasukuni and its surrounding area is like a spark landing in a tinderbox on the anniversary.

Last year, the morning saw a separate one-hour demonstration in the streets west of the shrine’s grounds led by the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which assembled in front of Hosei University in Ichigaya.

“On the anniversary, the uyoku begin working from early in the morning,” says the committee’s 64-year-old representative, Misumi Tadashi. “Not only around Yasukuni, but all throughout Tokyo, they blast their messages from speakers mounted atop their trucks. This is the most appropriate day of the year for them to appeal their existence to the public. The police cannot control them, and we cannot let them continue with these harsh activities. We have to do something.”

The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which is funded through the sale of publications and plans on marching again this year, was established in 1992 to oppose the dispatch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Cambodia. Today, the war in Iraq is one of the group’s raisons d’etre.

The procession left the Hosei campus and moved up towards Iidabashi and back down Sotobori Dori to Sotobori Park, near Yotsuya. All through the route, police officers walked pace for pace with the over 100 protesters as uyoku members attempted to physically disrupt the march.


“It seems like the police are trying to stop them, but in reality it is very easy for the uyoku to break through,” believes Tadashi. “We can’t rely on the police, and the uyoku know that we have the skills and power to fight back—so that is why they don’t attack so aggressively.”

The proceedings were decidedly more subdued inside the shrine’s compound. Kamijo, the right-winger, paid his respects at Yasukuni just before noon. As he faced the memorial’s imposing façade, a hinomaru flag proudly stitched on the back of his clothes, beads of sweat poured down from his shaven skinhead on this mercilessly muggy day. He performed a few bows, tossed some coins, and clasped his hands in remembrance of Japan’s fallen soldiers.

Behind him, veterans sporting camouflage military uniforms and tourists, cameras in hand, emptied from tour buses onto the baking concrete.

Afterwards, as the burly Kamijo made his way back to a few rows of shaded tables filled with members of other right-wing groups, he explained that he founded Gishin Gokoku-kai because of the way Japan’s neighbors view the country. 

“China and South Korea educate their children to hate Japan. They don’t want the younger generation to stop being angry and want to continue receiving money from the Japanese government,” he says of the Official Development Assistance program, whose work has included a subway project in Seoul and programs to improve the environment and public health in China. “I am tired of their complaints. They do not appreciate our efforts.”

By midday, most of the right-wingers had, like Kamijo, completed their patriotic duties at the shrine and returned to their fortress-like vehicles for the eventual move down the road to Kudanshita for the clash with the pacifists.

In Kudanshita, the tension is increasing. Cordons of police officers are now lined up face-to-face with the uniformed rightists. Kamijo, however, won’t be intimidated.

“Japanese have been way too quiet,” he explains. “And since we don’t have a nuclear weapon, they [China and South Korea] can be aggressive.”

Kamijo admits that he’s not in top form since having dropped 11kg following an illness, but there is little doubt that he means business. As a warning to foreigners, the word “DEATH” is tattooed on the back of his neck, as is the numeral 4, whose kanji (pronounced “shi”) has the same morbid meaning. Appearing on his meishi are the lyrics to “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem.

A carpenter by trade, Kamijo says that his history of brawling with mobsters and foreigners in Roppongi while a member of a bosozoku motorbike gang is so extensive that he suggests we have a separate meeting so he can convey all the gory details. Certainly, on this day, his actions make such claims seem extremely plausible.

Carrying large red balloons, colorful flags, and painted banners—including one featuring the image of Che Guevara—the Anti-Emperor Activities Network makes the turn toward Kamijo’s corner. Their chants are loud and clear: “We are completely against all the people who go to Yasukuni!”

As if rushing a quarterback, Kamijo tries to wedge his massive frame between a pair of police shields to get at his enemies. When rebuffed by the officers, he stabs his right index finger to the sky and screams.


Unbowed, Kamijo quickly follows the crowd down the street with one of his cohorts. Together, they leap over a flower bed yet find themselves pushed back by a flurry of helmets and forearms. Amid the chaos, Kamijo winds up getting flipped onto his back, with planters being dumped and their contents spilled. Advertising flags fall to the sidewalk.

Reports of uyoku-sayoku clashes commonly claim that the police firmly side with the right. But on this day, the sayoku are generally being protected. As the procession moves along, right-wingers with portable loudspeakers blast their righteous messages as their bolder brothers continue to make attempts at breaking the police lines. Each time, however, the protestor is tackled, dragged off or pushed away by Tokyo’s finest.

Confused onlookers stand by as the sidewalks and the center of the street become a swirling display of swaying flags, mashing bodies and deafening noise.

In spite of Kamijo’s claims of wanting to display the spirit of the uyoku, much of the violent activity appears staged, which matches with the observations of Tadashi from the Ichigaya demonstration. Though visually surreal, many of the punches seem feigned, and the multiple clenched fists merely come across as elaborate street theater. Further, given the clear planning on the part of the police, it is clear that the protest route, starting time and participants have been coordinated well in advance.
The opposition continues to show relentless zeal, yet the chants from the marchers do not stop: “We are not going to forgive the government at all! No more war! No more Yasukuni!”

In the surrounding area, right-wing groups have parked their trucks at police barricades established at many of the large intersections. The cops hold their ground as the members stand by and scowl outside their vehicles, whose sound systems are still smothering the area with the military anthems at ear-splitting volume.

By the time the mob comes within view of Yasukuni’s gates, an atmosphere of hatred permeates the entire scene. Standing outside of shops and offices, a few salarymen and older women have decided to join in and verbally condemn the lefties for their presence.


The march then turns up Mejiro Dori—not onwards toward the shrine—which most certainly was the plan all along. The protesters file into a small brick smoking area that includes a bathroom. Many right-wingers surround the premises and continue their screaming and pushing routines.

Down narrow side streets, a few overly aggressive rightists can be seen getting hauled away by small groups of police. It is now clear that the ranks are thinning, and when a caravan of right-wing trucks breaches one of the police blockades and makes a final sonic blitz past the assembled protesters, it almost signals a last gasp.

The atmosphere should be no less heated on the anniversary this year. This spring anger raged over the release of Yasukuni, a documentary by Chinese director Li Ying that multiple theaters in Japan refused to screen following threats from right-wing groups, who saw the film as being “anti-Japan.”

Kamijo, who was not arrested last year, expects a similar scene in Kudanshita, and once again he is excited. “We have to stop them,” he says bluntly. “We must force them to cancel the demonstration.”
The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, too, sees the scene unfolding much as it did 12 months earlier, and promises to be ready. “We have confidence to fight back,” Tadashi says. “We have guts and pride, and I am sure they will be coming after us.”


The Kundanshita demonstration will get underway along Yasukuni Dori on August 15, just after 2:30pm. Access via Jimbocho station (exit A1 or A2) or Kudanshita station (exit 5 or 6). The Ichigaya demonstration will start from Hosei University at 9am. Nearest stn: JR Ichigaya. Due to police activity, routes and times may change without notice.

A panel of journalists and other interested parties will be holding a meeting about the Yasukuni issue at Sendagaya Kumin Kaikan on Aug 15 at 5:45pm. 1-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3402-7854. Nearest stn: Harajuku or Meiji-Jingumae. Seehttp://tinyurl.com/senkumin for map.

For more information about the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, see www.ten-no.net. For more information about the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, see www.anti-war.jp/english/index_e.htm.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor atletters@metropolis.co.jp


Thoughts after seeing Li Ying’s movie “Yasukuni” at PGL


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I had the opportunity to see Li Ying’s movie YASUKUNI at the Peace as a Global Language Conference yesterday. It’s a truly thought-provoking piece, and here are some of my thoughts:

In case you haven’t heard of it until now (when it came out some months ago, a number of theaters received angry and threatening phone calls demanding they cancel the screening; this only served to add publicity, and the screenings went ahead), YASUKUNI talks about Yasukuni Shrine in Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, a place for recording, enshrining, and praying for Japan’s war dead. The movie focusses upon how it has become a focal point for both the left and the right regarding Japan’s wartime past. One question raised is should people, including Class-A war criminals and ancestors of people (including former citizens of empire) who don’t want their relatives listed there, be enshirined, as former PM Koizumi put it, in paraphrase, “to honor their memory of sacrifice and pray that war never happens again”? And should politicians, in their official capacity (PM Koizumi and Tokyo Gov Ishihara both appear in the movie), worship at this shrine, and not fall foul of issues of the separation of church and state?

But those issues are interwoven into the human drama that is allowed to unfold upon the screen subtly. The arc of the movie watches Yasukuni-sponsored samurai-style swords (the object of worship, as they contain the spirits under State Shinto) being forged by a ninety-year-old master, who spends a lot of the movie not really answering questions (due to age or to avoidance, the viewer must decide), but who shows plenty of spark when creating swords and talking about their use (he’s admittedly aware that they are designed, through tests, to cut through bone etc.). The documentary does not have pointed Michael-Moore-style narration — it is a constant juxtaposition of images and scenes, and thus effectively (and properly) avoids charges of propagandizing. In fact, most of the dialog is from people on site themselves, with cinema verite camerawork capturing their speeches, their styles, their thoughts, their attitudes, and a lot of jingoism.

But it is the scenes that linger in memory:

The scenes of a fiery indigenous Taiwanese woman who wants her relatives disenshrined, and the Buddhist priest (who acts as interpreter) who similarly lost his father in the war and wants the same. Their requests are denied; the war dead are for the State to keep and honor, as it was in the Emperor’s name that they died.

The scene of an attention-seeking American real estate agent from Nevada (I say attention-seeking because he mentions twice how much he wishes Bush would come to Yasukuni so he could meet him) who holds up a sign in Japanese saying he supports PM Koizumi’s visits, along with an American flag, outside the Torii gate. He is first received with thanks for the support, then increasingly angry questions about whether the American flag should be here, then furious demands that he remove himself from the grounds because he’s not a real worshipper. Finally the police intervene tell him to take the flag down, and then turf him outside the entire grounds. The arc of the discussion demonstrates how even supporters get alienated.

The scene that stands out most for me is the 60th anniversary of the end of the war speeches (where Tokyo Gov Ishihara mysteriously hijacks a quote from Napoleon regarding China, which talks about a sleeping lion, and pastes it onto Japan, calling for Japan to wake up and rise). When they play the Kimigayo national anthem, two protestors with posters run out in front and disrupt the proceedings. At first escorted off the public view, once they get hustled off to the sidelines they’re knocked to the ground and roughed up by a crowd (one rightist kid grabs a protester by the neck and puts him in a chokehold; I feared for his well-being). Then after some feeble attempts to break them up, they’re pushed out by a crowd that, thinking they’re Chinese (it comes out later that at least one of them is not), screams over and over that they should go back to China. By the time one of them, face badly bloodied, gets to the police (who intervene as effectively as referees in pro wrestling matches), the police try to bundle him off into an ambulance and then, after he refuses, force him into a police car. The police do not visibly try to find out who assaulted him; they first check whether or not he’s Japanese, then try to whisk him away from the scene. My read: The police were there to keep the peace, but were working in favor of those holding the party, trying to keep people from spoiling it.

My take-home lesson from this movie:

Even though there will be violence on both Right and Left (although there were no scenes of leftist-instigated violence in the movie), the non-violent peace protestors (imagine the hypocrisy hay that would be made if somebody filmed the peaceniks assaulting the Rightists!) put themselves at a disadvantage. In the sense that violence is not an option for the non-violent segment of the Left. It remains an option, as witnessed in this movie, for the Right. There’s the fundamental difference.  And unless you get enough people witnessing just how unfair a fight this is (one of the most fundamental elements for non-violent protest to work, as per King and Gandhi, is for everyone to *SEE* just how brutal one side is and become sympathetic towards the other), it’s just going to continue. I feel very lucky to have seen a movie which made me realize that, and recorded for all to see (what serendipitous camerawork!) just how mean and irrational the side that resorts to violence actually is.

In sum, go see YASUKUNI. It’s a job well done. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Debito Arudou

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Arudou Debito)
Debito Arudou

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

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

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




[edit]Early life

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

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

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

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

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

[edit]Japanese naturalization

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

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

[edit]Family and divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[edit]Otaru onsen lawsuit

The original problematic sign             

The original problematic sign

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

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Poor summary of the events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 6: The case for “Gaijin” as a racist word


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

    By Arudou Debito
    Tuesday, August 5, 2008
    DRAFT TEN–version submitted to the Editor, with links to sources.

    Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080805ad.html

    Gaijin“. It seems we hear the word every day. For some, it’s merely harmless shorthand for “gaikokujin” (foreigner). Even Wikipedia (that online wall for intellectual graffiti artists) had a section on “political correctness“, claiming illiterate and oversensitive Westerners had misunderstood their Japanese word.

    I take a different view. Gaijin is not merely a word. It is an epithet. About the billions of people who are not Japanese. It makes attributions to them that go beyond nationality.

    Let’s deal with basic counterarguments: Calling gaijin a mere contraction of gaikokujin is not historically accurate. According to ancient texts and prewar dictionaries [see Endnote], “gaijin” (or “guwaijin” in the contemporary rendering) once referred to Japanese people too. Anyone not from your village, in-group etc. was one. It was a way of showing you don’t belong here–even (according to my 1978 Kojien, Japan’s premier dictionary) “regarded as an enemy” (tekishi). Back then there were other (even more unsavory) words for foreigners anyway, so gaijin has a separate etymology from words specifically meaning “extranational”.

    Even if you argue modern usage conflates, gaijin is still a loaded word, easily abused. Consider two nasty side effects:

    1) “Gaijin” strips the world of diversity. Japan’s proportion of the world’s population is a little under 2%. In the gaijin binary worldview, you either are a Japanese or you’re not–an “ichi-ro” or a “ze-ro”. Thus you indicate the remaining 98% of the world are outsiders.

    2) And always will be: A gaijin is a gaijin anytime, any place. The word is even used overseas by traveling/resident Japanese to describe non-Japanese, or rather, “foreigners in their own country”. Often without any apparent sense of irony or contradiction. Japanese outside of Japan logically must be foreigners somewhere! Not when everyone else is a gaijin.

    Left unchallenged, this rubric encourages dreadful social science–ultimately creating a constellation of “us and them” differences (as opposed to possible similarities) for the ichiro culture vultures to guide their sextants by.

    For those hung up on gaijin’s apparently harmless kanji (“outside person”), even that is indicative. The “koku” in gaikokujin refers specifically to country–a legal status you can change. The epithet doesn’t, effectively making classification a matter of birth status, physical appearance, race. Meaning once you get relegated to the “gaijin” group, you never get out.

    Allow me to illustrate that with a joke from the American South:

    Question: “What do you call a black man with a PhD in neurobiology from Harvard, who works as a brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins, earns seven figures a year, and runs one of the world’s largest philanthropies?”

    Answer: “N*gg*r” (rhymes with “bigger”).

    Hardy har. Now let’s rephrase:

    Question: “What do you can a white man with degrees from top-tier schools, who has lived in Japan for more than two decades, contributes to Japanese society as an university educator, is fluent in Japanese, and has Japanese citizenship?”

    Answer: “Gaijin”.

    As a naturalized citizen I resemble that remark. But nobody who knows my nationality calls me a gaikokujin anymore–it’s factually incorrect. But there are plenty of people (especially foreigners) who don’t hesitate to call me a gaijin–often pejoratively.

    Thus gaijin is a caste. No matter how hard you try to acculturalize yourself, become literate and lingual, even make yourself legally inseparable from the putative “naikokujin” (whoever they are), you’re still “not one of us”.

    Moreover, factor in Japan’s increasing number of children of international marriages. Based upon whether or not they look like their foreign parent (again, “gaijin-ppoi“), there are cases where they get treated differently, even adversely, by society. Thus the rubric of gaijin even encourages discrimination against its own citizens.

    This must be acknowledged. Even though trying to get people to stop using gaijin overnight would be like swatting flies, people should know of its potential abuses. At least people should stop arguing that it’s the same as gaikokujin.

    For gaijin is essentially “n*gg*r”, and should be likewise obsolesced.

    Fortunately, our media is helping out, long since adding gaijin to the list of “housou kinshi yougo” (words unfit for broadcast).

    So can we. Apply Japan’s slogan against undesirable social actions: “Shinai, sasenai” (I won’t use it, I won’t let it be used.)
    690 words

    Arudou Debito is co-author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan. A fuller version of this article at www.debito.org/kumegaijinissue.html

    Sources for ancient texts and dictionaries concerning the word Gaijin:

    1)言海(大正14年出版)pg 299: 「外人:外(ホカ)ノ人、外国人」(Courtesy 北海道立図書館)
    2)A. Matsumura (ed.), Daijisen (大辞泉), (p. 437, 1st ed., vol. 1). (1998). Tokyo: Shogakukan. “がいじん。【外人】② 仲間以外の人。他人。「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ」〈平家・一〉”
    3)”外人”. Kōjien (5). (1998). Iwanami. ISBN 4000801112. “がいじん【外人】① 仲間以外の人。疎遠の人。連理秘抄「外人など上手多からむ座にては」② 敵視すべきな人。平家一「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ」”
    4)A. Matsumura (ed.), Daijirin (大辞林), (p. 397, 9th ed., vol. 1). (1989). Tokyo: Sanseido. “がいじん【外人】② そのことに関係のない人。第三者。「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ/平家一」”
    5)「外人もなき所に兵具をとゝのへ」 (Assembling arms where there are no gaijin) 高木, 市之助; 小沢正夫, 渥美かをる, 金田一春彦 (1959). 日本古典文学大系: 平家物語 (in Japanese). 岩波書店, 123. ISBN 4-00-060032-X.
    6)「源平両家の童形たちのおのおのござ候ふに、かやうの外人は然るべからず候」(Since the children of both Genji and Heike are here, such a gaijin is not appropriate to stay together.) 鞍馬天狗
    (All courtesy of source footnotes in Wikipedia entry on “Gaijin”, retrieved August 1, 2008.)

    Tangent: The Economist on how the Internet is turning nasty


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Continuing with a recent theme on Debito.org, regarding how nasty the Internet has become (with cyberanonymity allowing people to make accusations without any accountability or sense of responsiblity to either the truth or to fair play), we have an excellent article from The Economist on how blogs and online media are in fact disseminating hatred and even racism worldwide. FYI. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    The brave new world of e-hatred
    Jul 24th 2008 From The Economist print edition
    Social networks and video-sharing sites don’t always bring people closer together

    “NATION shall speak peace unto nation.” Eighty years ago, Britain’s state broadcasters adopted that motto to signal their hope that modern communications would establish new bonds of friendship between people divided by culture, political boundaries and distance.

    For those who still cling to that ideal, the latest trends on the internet are depressing. Of course, as anyone would expect, governments use their official websites to boast about their achievements and to argue their corner—usually rather clunkily—in disputes about territory, symbols or historical rights and wrongs.

    What is much more disturbing is the way in which skilled young surfers—the very people whom the internet might have liberated from the shackles of state-sponsored ideologies—are using the wonders of electronics to stoke hatred between countries, races or religions. Sometimes these cyber-zealots seem to be acting at their governments’ behest—but often they are working on their own, determined to outdo their political masters in propagating dislike of some unspeakable foe.

    Consider the response in Russia to “The Soviet Story”, a Latvian documentary that compares communism with fascism. If this film had come out five years ago, the Kremlin would have issued an angry press release and encouraged some young hoodlums to make another assault on Latvia’s embassy. Some Slavophile politicians would have made wild threats.

    These days, the reaction from hardline Russian nationalists is a bit more subtle. They are using blogs to raise funds for an alternative documentary to present the Soviet communist record in a good light. Well-wishers with little cash can help in other ways, for example by helping with translation into and from Baltic languages.

    Meanwhile, America’s rednecks can find lots of material on the web with which to fuel and indulge their prejudices. For example, there are “suicide-bomber” games which pit the contestant against a generic bearded Muslim; such entertainment has drawn protests both in Israel—where people say it trivialises terrorism—and from Muslim groups who say it equates their faith with violence. Border Patrol, another charming online game, invites you to shoot illegal Mexican immigrants crossing the border.

    From the earliest days of the internet the new medium became a forum for nationalist spats that were sometimes relatively innocent by today’s standards. People sparred over whether Freddy Mercury, a rock singer, was Iranian, Parsi or Azeri; whether the Sea of Japan should be called the East Sea or the East Sea of Korea; and whether Israel could call hummus part of its cuisine. Sometimes such arguments moved to Wikipedia, a user-generated reference service, whose elaborate moderation rules put a limit to acrimony.

    But e-arguments also led to hacking wars. Nobody is surprised to hear of Chinese assaults on American sites that promote the Tibetan cause; or of hacking contests between Serbs and Albanians, or Turks and Armenians. A darker development is the abuse of blogs, social networks, maps and video-sharing sites that make it easy to publish incendiary material and form hate groups. A study published in May by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human-rights group, found a 30% increase last year in the number of sites that foment hatred and violence; the total was around 8,000.

    Social networks are particularly useful for self-organised nationalist communities that are decentralised and lack a clear structure. On Facebook alone one can join groups like “Belgium Doesn’t Exist”, “Abkhazia is not Georgia”, “Kosovo is Serbia” or “I Hate Pakistan”. Not all the news is bad; there are also groups for friendship between Greeks and Turks, or Israelis and Palestinians. But at the other extreme are niche networks, less well-known than Facebook, that unite the sort of extremists whose activities are restricted by many governments but hard to regulate when they go global. Podblanc, a sort of alternative YouTube for “white interests, white culture and white politics” offers plenty of material to keep a racist amused.

    Tiny but deadly
    The small size of these online communities does not mean they are unimportant. The power of a nationalist message can be amplified with blogs, online maps and text messaging; and as a campaign migrates from medium to medium, fresh layers of falsehood can be created. During the crisis that engulfed Kenya earlier this year, for example, it was often blog posts and mobile-phone messages that gave the signal for fresh attacks. Participants in recent anti-American marches in South Korea were mobilised by online petitions, forums and blogs, some of which promoted a crazy theory about Koreans having a genetic vulnerability to mad-cow disease.

    In Russia, a nationalist blogger published names and contact details of students from the Caucasus attending Russia’s top universities, attaching a video-clip of dark-skinned teenagers beating up ethnic Russians. Russian nationalist blogs reposted the story—creating a nightmare for the students who were targeted.

    Spreading hatred on the web has become far easier since the sharp drop in the cost of producing, storing and distributing digital content. High-quality propaganda used to require good cartoonists; now anyone can make and disseminate slick images. Whether it’s a Hungarian group organising an anti-Roma poster competition, a Russian anti-immigrant lobby publishing the location of minority neighbourhoods, or Slovak nationalists displaying a map of Europe without Hungary, the web makes it simple to spread fear and loathing.

    The sheer ease of aggregation (assembling links to existing sources, videos and articles) is a boon. Take anti-cnn.com, a website built by a Chinese entrepreneur in his 20s, which aggregates cases of the Western media’s allegedly pro-Tibetan bias. As soon as it appealed for material, more than 1,000 people supplied examples. Quickly the site became a leading motor of Chinese cyber-nationalism, fuelling boycotts of brands and street protests.

    And then there is history. A decade ago, a zealot seeking to prove some absurd proposition—such as the denial of the Nazi Holocaust, or the Ukrainian famine—might spend days of research in the library looking for obscure works of propaganda. Today, digital versions of these books, even those out of press for decades, are accessible in dedicated online libraries. In short, it has never been easier to propagate hatred and lies. People with better intentions might think harder about how they too can make use of the net.

    First Zainichi resident to refuse fingerprinting in 1980 dies at 79


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

    Hi Blog. We’ve just lost a hero. Here’s a quick obit for the person who started the end of fingerprinting in Japan–at least permanently for Special Permanent Residents (the Zainichi).

    My great thanks to Mr Han for his great work. We all benefit when somebody stands up and refuses to cooperate with an irrational system. Arudou Debito.


    First foreign resident to refuse fingerprinting dies at 79
    Japan Today/Kyodo Friday 25th July, 02:17 PM JST

    Courtesy of Mark MT

    TOKYO — The first foreign resident in Japan to reject alien fingerprinting, Han Jong Sok, died of respiratory failure at a Tokyo hospital on Thursday, his family said Friday. He was 79. Han, a Korean resident in Japan, in 1980 rejected the fingerprinting required under the then alien registration law, and was the first foreign resident to do so.

    He was convicted over the violation of the law at lower courts. But in 1989, the Supreme Court dismissed the charge against Han, invoking imperial amnesty that was declared on the funeral of Emperor Hirohito. Han was known as a symbolic figure in an anti-fingerprinting movement that spread among foreign residents in Japan during the 1980s. Japan’s fingerprinting requirement for foreign residents, which drew international fire for infringing upon human rights, was lifted in 2000 after the alien registration law was revised in 1999.

    More on the 1999 abolition here.

    More on the 2007 resurrection of fingerprinting for all NJ except a select few with political power here.

    Economist.com: Interesting business time capsule book published by Asahi Shinbun in 1958


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


    This is Japan

    Jul 23rd 2008 
    From Economist.com


    What a 50-year-old periodical tells about how the country has changed—and how it has not

    THE cover is a cliché: a frothy crested wave with Mount Fuji in the background. Emblazoned on the image of Hokusai’s woodblock print from the 1830s are the words “This is Japan” and “1958”. At a hefty two kilos and 420 pages, the oversized coffee-table book was published annually by the Asahi newspaper between 1954 and 1971. Early editions came nestled in a wooden box.

    The book was designed to present the emerging country to foreigners, largely to drum up business. The articles cover the spectrum of all that a Western reader might associate with Japan, from rice and kimonos to sake and shrines. Their very titles stand as totems of an earlier era: “Japan’s Ports—Past and Present”; “Iron and Steel: A Success Story”; “American Girl Finds Japan.” But while the articles appear self-conscious, the advertisements offer a more candid account of where the country was headed.


    Fifty years ago Japan was still a developing country; exactly a decade later it would emerge as the world’s second-largest free-market economy after America (a position it still holds—for now). Full-page ads trumpeted Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Asahi Glass, Mitsubishi Shipping, Toyota, Mitsubishi Electric—companies that accounted for the country’s postwar prosperity. The industries in smaller ads are evocative of the transformation: steel companies, paper mills, makers of pumps, valves, electrical wires, drill bits, bicycle chains, pens and yarn. Banks had modest advertisements. Together, it is a testament to a bygone age.

    Today, Japan can look back half a century with nostalgia and pride, yet look ahead with concern. Mitsubishi and other conglomerates still dominate. Toyota, then a small car maker, is now close to becoming the world’s largest. Yet the past 50 years have sown the difficulties the country will face in the next 50. In 1958 the country had just begun a period of rapid economic growth that it would never see again. Between 1956-73 the country grew at 9.2%; in the period from 1975-91 the growth rate would be 4.1%; from 1991-2001 it barely eked out 1%.

    The very factors that led to Japan’s brilliant success—political stability from a one-party state; manageable labour relations; lifetime employment; stakeholder capitalism—are now the central source of its undoing. Its most cherished industries are crumbling. Paper firms are barely profitable and glass firms need to merge. Steel companies are renewing cross-shareholdings so that Arcelor Mittal of India or Chinese firms don’t gobble them up. And the business of pumps, valves, electrical wires, drill bits, bicycle chains, pens and yarn have all gone to China.

    The pages of “This is Japan” offer a chance to relive a seemingly gentler time, with quaint photo spreads of bento boxes, tea pots and kabuki theatre. The biggest advertisers are camera makers. Their names represented Japan’s technical might: Fuji Film, Canon, Konica, Mamiya, Petri, Yashica, Nippon Kogaku (later known as Nikon), Leotax, Takane, Minolta. One article basically foretold the onslaught in technology trade that was to come: Japanese camera exports increased a staggering nine-fold between 1954-56. Imports to America grew 49% in a year, while those from Germany grew only 1.5%, reported “This is Japan”.

    Soon thereafter, the entire range of consumer electronics was dominated by the Japanese, decimating American and European brands. Now those same Japanese firms are sweating as South Korean rivals push them aside, and Chinese companies are coming up quickly. Indeed, the country that invented the walkman has seen Apple unleash its digital counterpart. And the nation that pioneered advanced wireless usage can barely sell mobile phones abroad. Sony Ericsson is the only Japanese firm in the top five, shipping around 100m handsets a year—about five times fewer than Nokia.

    Today Japan faces a demographic crisis, as the population both ages and declines. This puts a burden on economic growth since the numbers of workers shrink annually. And it creates a pension time-bomb, because there are fewer and fewer workers to support more and more old people. In 1958 about 5% of the population was over 65; today it is around 20% and by 2058 it is expected to be creeping towards 40%.

    Yet 50 years ago Japan faced a demographic crisis of another sort: a population explosion. This was in part due to a public-health campaign by the American occupational army, and later the Japanese government, which cut the infant mortality rate in half in ten years. Whereas the fertility rate is now below replacement, the problem in the past was a spike in unwanted pregnancies. Between 1947 (when abortion was legalised) and 1957, the birth rate was cut in half due to abortions. Indeed, it reached a high in 1955 of 1.2m abortions to 1.7m live births.

    Of course, such data did not appear in “This is Japan”. Like all propaganda, it is a sanitized version of oneself. And things were not as tranquil as the book’s photo spreads suggest. Nearly a million demonstrators would mob the streets of Tokyo within the year, to protest against the government and American imperialism. Students scrambled to the Diet and urinated on the doors.

    In 1960 Ikeda Hayato, the prime minister, unveiled his “Income Doubling Plan”, which unleashed the doken kokka or the “construction state”. Thenceforth, Japan would gash its countryside with roads to nowhere and bridges to nothing. Who could predict from the lone advertisement for a cement company that the construction industry would become the central mechanism for delivering political pork to the hinterland? These days, the construction industry accounts for 20% of Japan’s economy, which is twice as much as in American or Britain. One percent of workers are employed in construction in America compared with 12% in Japan.

    In 1957, Edwin Reischauer, a respected scholar who later became America’s ambassador to Japan, noted: “the economic situation in Japan may be so fundamentally unsound that no policies, no matter how wise, can save her from slow economic starvation and all the concomitant political and social ills that situation would produce.” The very opposite occurred, of course.

    So were one to publish “This Is Japan—2008” a degree of optimism is called for. No matter how discouraging Japan’s problems may seem today, the country may indeed work its way out of its difficulties before a new edition appears in 2058.


    Some woes with the Koseki (Family Registry) system for NJ and others in Japan


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

    Hi Blog.  We’ve had a couple of good comments recently from a couple of mailing lists I belong to, concerning the Family Registry System (koseki) in Japan (not to mention the Juuminhyou Registry Certificate, equally problematic; more on that here).  It affects a lot of people adversely, not just NJ, so let’s devote a blog entry to the issue.  We’re considering making the Koseki System a lobbying issue at forming NGO FRANCA, especially since South Korea, with its similar hojeok registry system, abolished it this year.  

    Here are some of the problems as far as NJ are concerned:


    This may be common knowledge, but it wasn’t for me (admittedly due to my own failure to properly research the issues), the lesson being that you should never take anything for granted — not even something as simple as your child’s last name.

    My wife and I have separate last names; she kept her maiden name when we married. Yesterday, we took the Notification of Birth form for our recently-born daughter to the city hall to file it. Naturally assuming that our daughter would take on my last name, we filled it out with my last name and her chosen name. Fifteen minutes later, we were waved over to be told that because my wife’s maiden name is still on her koseki — and as we all know, my name is just a footnote on her koseki — we cannot use my last name, and our daughter would have my wife’s last name. The only way around this is to have my wife file for a change of name at court, whereupon her name will officially be changed to mine, and thus our daughter will be able to take on my last name.

    While it’s a quick fix for the time being, the horrendous legal and familial limitations put on foreigners by the koseki system finally really hit home. I’ve never felt my existence was negated quite so much as the instant where we were informed of this rule. I guess I’m just offering this anecdote as a warning to people considering marrying/having children because this is what you will face if you opt to go with different last names, and as an example of why the koseki system needs a serious overhaul, particularly with respect to foreigners. 

    To see an example of this (i.e. a real koseki after an international marriage in Japan, where the NJ is not listed as a “spouse”), go to:


    Isn’t it astounding that the koseki system, developed from temple registries by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the early 1600s to locate and persecute Christians, should continue to exist in 21st century Japan? Many countries have central registries of marriages, births and deaths. Japan alone developed the intrinsically discriminatory koseki system, which it forced on Taiwan and Korea to maintain colonial control.

    But, just like secret Christians, NJ keep coming up with ways to bend the system. If a man named Lennon marries a Japanese woman named Ono and has a child named Sean, the child can be registered in the koseki as Ono Lennon Sean. Japan will issue a passport in the name of Shoonu Rennon Ono, but there is a provision for listing a second spelling (“betsumei heiki” is the magic phrase) along the lines of Sean Lennon Ono. The Ministry of Foreign affairs has regulations on listing of a second spelling, but whether the regulations are enforced to the letter, whether you can assign your chosen name, or whether you can’t get a second spelling at all depends on the clerk assigned to you. At least in a big city, if the clerk is uncooperative, take back your paperwork, come back the next day and try again.

    Most foreign nations will register the above child according to the desires of their citizen, for example as Sean Lennon, and issue a passport in that name.

    A foreign parent could of course forget about Japanese nationality for their child and try to register the child under a foreign name in the foreign parent’s immigration registry, but think long and hard about that one. This might lead to a denial of family social benefits for which NJ also pay taxes, and possibly make life harder for the child. Under current law, the child can wait until his/her 22d birthday to choose between Japanese nationality and the foreign parent’s nationality, and can keep both in the meantime. But a baby needs a koseki in order to get a Japanese passport.

    If you are looking for allies against the koseki system, try posting on a board for Japanese professional women. They are often angry that, because the koseki can only have one family name, they have to drop the maiden name under which they have their M.D., M.B.A., Olympic medal, etc. in order to be recognized as married. They don’t mind using their husband’s name in private society, but in professional society they may want to continue using their maiden name. No can do in Japan. The alternative, for the husband to take the wife’s name, happens when the wife’s family is rich but has no son, but is not appealing to many financially independent men.

    It pays to take the long view on discrimination in Japan: another of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s 17th century creations, the government monopoly on tobacco and salt, didn’t die until 1985.

    More on the woes for NJ (and others) with the Koseki system here:

    And also how the Koseki System puts NJ at a serious disadvantage when it comes to divorce:


    What makes this situation especially difficult for international, and especially intercontinental, divorces is that foreign partners have extreme difficulty being granted custody of children in Japan. In a March 31, 2006 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, lawyer Jeremy D. Morely, of the International Family Law Office in New York, stated:

    “Children are not returned from Japan, period, and it is a situation that happens a lot with children of international marriages with kids who are over in Japan. They do not get returned. Usually, the parent who has kept a child is Japanese, and under the Japanese legal system they have a family registration system whereby every Japanese family has their own registration with a local ward office. And the name of registration system is the koseki system. So every Japanese person has their koseki, and a child is listed on the appropriate koseki. Once a child is listed on the family register, the child belongs to that family. Foreigners don’t have a family register and so there is no way for them to actually have a child registered as belonging to them in Japan. There is an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, and Japan is the only G7 country that is not a party to the Hague Convention.”



    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Japan Timesコラム和訳:「魔のG8サミット接近中:7月のG8長談義は日本で悪いことばかり目立ち、ホスト北海道には何の利益もないだろう」


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

    Hi Blog.  Translation by a journalist of one of my Japan Times articles on the G8 Summit for domestic consumption.  Many thanks.  Pass it around to readers of Japanese.  Debito


    Summit Wicked This Way Comes
    The G8 Summit gives nothing back, brings out Japan’s bad habits

    Original English at https://www.debito.org/?p=1639.


    有道出人(Debito Arudou)(www.NikkanBerita.comの木村嘉代子氏 訳)





    その良い例が2002年のサッカーワールドカップで、警察とマスコミの過剰行動を直接(札幌でのイングランド対アルゼンチンの試合のとき) 私は目撃した。何ヶ月間もメディアは「反フーリガン」キャンペーンを行い、本州から渡ってきた警官の数え切れないほどの大騒動があり、繁華街のあらゆる場所に夜警の検閲所が設けられた。警察はシステム的に、いかがわしそうな人(私のような)を立ち止まらせ、出身地や滞在の目的について職務質問した。「日本人以外お断り」という表示(いくつかはまだ残っている)が店先に掲げられた。










    しかし、誰が地方の田舎者が必要とするものを気にするというのか? 遠いホテルで世界のリーダーたちが仲良くして、潜在的な不愉快な事件で中断されることなくディナーを楽しんでいるときに。


    公式発表として、北海道経済連は、サミットにより、今後5年間で379億円の経済効果があると見積もっている(関係のないニセコのスキーブームも含んだ数値だということは疑いもない)。しかし、真面目に考えてみて、「G8饅頭」などというものを買うために、洞爺湖に大勢の人がやってくるだろうか。ここ5年間のサミットの開催地を誰が覚えているというのか? さあ答えてみよう。これで私が言いたいことがわかるだろう。

    ヤフー・ニュースによると、首脳たちの3日間のサミットの密会に、185億円(1億8000万ドル)かかるという。小さな注意書きには、そのうちの140億円を「警備」に回す、とある。だとしたら、誰が利益を得るのか? 予算の大部分を配分される警察と、疑わしい民間人を取り締まることでさらなる先例を作り出そうとしている政府。


    サミット前症候群の苦しみに関係なく、日本は穏健な警察国家風の兆候がある。司法システムにおいて、捜査、逮捕、尋問、拘留、有罪判決での過剰な力が、すでに検察側に認められているのだ。さらに、(憲法で保障された権利である)市民の集会といった民主主義の根本のようなものには、警察や地域ビジネスの許可が求められるのである。(Zeit Gist、2003年3月4日)。








    ポイントは、国際イベントは日本に悪い習慣をもたらす、ということである。それでは、2016年オリンピック開催の候補地に名乗りを上げている東京はどうなる? 一般市民を押さえつける、さらなる騒々しい公式の恐怖と取り締まりキャンペーンのきっかけになり、この幼稚な国家で最も得をするのは、警察なのだ。




    Economist obit on Mildred Loving, defeater of US anti-miscegenation laws



    Hi Blog.  Here’s an interesting article on two people who just did what they did, but with conviction and perseverance, and managed to overturn a horrible legal situation in the US which I would find hard to believe ever existed in post-Meiji Japan (from Lafcadio Hearn’s marriage on down, to our credit!)–a legal ban on interracial relationships and marriage!  Read on–it’s hard to believe a lot of this happened within my lifetime!  Debito


    Mildred Loving, law-changer, died on May 2nd, aged 68
    May 15th 2008
    From The Economist print edition

    THEY loved each other. That must have been why they decided to get their marriage certificate framed and to hang it up in the bedroom of their house. There was little else in the bedroom, save the bed. Certainly nothing worth locking the front door for on a warm July night in 1958 in Central Point, Virginia. No one came this way, ten miles off the Richmond Turnpike into the dipping hills and the small, poor, scattered farmhouses, unless they had to. But Mildred Loving was suddenly woken to the crash of a door and a torch levelled in her eyes.

    All the law enforcement of Caroline county stood round the bed: Sheriff Garnett Brooks, his deputy and the jailer, with guns at their belts. They might have caught them in the act. But as it was, the Lovings were asleep. All the men saw was her black head on the pillow, next to his.

    She didn’t even think of it as a Negro head, especially. Her hair could easily set straight or wavy. That was because she had Indian blood, Cherokee from her father and Rappahannock from her mother, as well as black. All colours of people lived in Central Point, blacks with milky skin and whites with tight brown curls, who all passed the same days feeding chickens or smelling tobacco leaves drying, and who all had to use different counters from pure whites when they ate lunch in Bowling Green. They got along. If there was any race Mrs Loving considered herself, it was Indian, like Princess Pocahontas. And Pocahontas had married a white man.

    The sheriff asked her husband: “What are you doing in bed with this lady?” Richard Loving didn’t answer. He never said much for himself, being just a country bricklayer with a single year of high school behind him. Mrs Loving had known him since she was 11 and he was 17, a gangly white boy who took her out for years and did the decent thing when he got her pregnant, by asking her to marry him. She thought he might have known that their marriage was illegal—a strange marriage, driving 80 miles to Washington, DC, to be married almost secretly by a pastor who wasn’t theirs, just picked out of the telephone book, and then driving back again. But they hadn’t talked about legalities. She felt lucky just to have him.

    She told the sheriff, “I’m his wife.” And Mr Loving, roused at last, pointed to the framed certificate above the bed. “That’s no good here,” Sheriff Brooks said.

    Mrs Loving had said the wrong thing. Had they just been going together, black and white, no one would have cared much. But they had formalised their love, and had the paperwork. This meant that under Virginia law they were cohabiting “against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth”. It was a felony for blacks and whites to marry, and another felony to leave Virginia to do so. Fifteen other states had similar laws. The Lovings had to get up and go to jail. “The Lord made sparrows and robins, not to mix with one another,” as Sheriff Brooks said later.

    In separate cars
    Faced with a year in jail or exile, they chose to go to Washington for 25 years. Mrs Loving hated it. She was “crying the blues all the time,” missing Central Point, despite the fact that they would slip back there in separate cars, first she and the children, then Richard, casually strolling from opposite directions to meet and embrace in the twilight. Only Sheriff Brooks cared that they were married, and they avoided him.

    But Mrs Loving wanted to return for good. When the Civil Rights Act was being debated in 1963, she wrote to Robert Kennedy, the attorney-general, to ask whether the prospective law would make it easier for her to go home. He told her it wouldn’t, but that she should ask the American Civil Liberties Union to take on her case. Within a year or so, two clever New York lawyers were working free for the Lovings. By 1967 they had obtained a unanimous ruling from Earl Warren’s Supreme Court that marriage was “one of the basic civil rights of man”, which “cannot be infringed by the state”. The Lovings were free to go home and live together, in a new cinder-block house Richard built himself.

    The constitutional arguments had meant nothing to them. Their chief lawyer, Bernard Cohen, had based his case in the end on the equal-rights clause of the 14th amendment, and was keen that the Lovings should listen to him speak. But they did not attend the hearings or read the decision. Richard merely urged Mr Cohen, “Tell the court I love my wife.” For Mildred, all that mattered was being able to walk down the street, in view of everyone, with her husband’s arm around her. It was very simple. If she had helped many others do the same, so much the better.

    She had never been an activist, and never became one. When June 12th, the day of the ruling, was proclaimed “Loving Day” as an unofficial celebration of interracial couples—who still make up only 4% of marriages in America—she produced a statement, but she was never a public figure. She lived quietly in Caroline county, as before. Her widowhood was long, after Richard was killed in a car accident in 1975, but she never thought of replacing him. They loved each other.


    More on America’s anti-miscegenation laws here.  Particularly surprising is the history back and forth within Louisiana regarding banning and unbanning interracial relations–including reinstatement of ban by American authorities in 1806 after the Louisiana Purchase!


    Burma/Myanmar junta’s connection to Japanese Imperial Army


    Hi Blog. It’s been a mystery to me for years now why Burma (now Myanmar basically by military junta whim) has become such a basket case–moving from being the richest country in SE Asia to the poorest over two generations–and one that cares more about putting down protesting monks than helping out its cyclone-ravaged people.

    Here’s one reason hinted at by a journalist: historical connections to the Imperial Japanese Army–and how it got its template to suppress a citizenry from Wartime Japan.

    It may also be another reason why the GOJ is still surprisingly cosy with the Burmese junta, to the point of muting criticism even when a Japanese journalist gets shot by the Burmese military (imagine what would happen if that had occurred in, say, China or North Korea!). Comment follows article:

    Why Burma has been trashed for 46 years
    The Japan Times: Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    LONDON — The Burmese regime is not to blame for the powerful cyclone that struck the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon early this month, killing up to a hundred thousand people. But it certainly will be to blame for the next wave of deaths if aid does not soon reach the survivors.

    A hundred years ago, the victims of such a catastrophe were on their own, but there are now well-established routines for getting help in quickly from outside. We saw them at work in the same region during the tsunami that killed at least twice as many people in 2004. Nothing could be done for those who died in the first fury of the event, but relatively few died from disease, injuries, exposure or sheer hunger or thirst in the days and weeks that followed.

    Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India — the nations worst hit by the 2004 tsunami — are reasonably well-run countries that were able to help their own citizens, and they had no hesitation in welcoming international aid as well. Burma (which got off lightly in 2004) is very different. The question is: why?

    What sane government would block the entry of foreigners bringing exactly the kind of help that is needed — people whose professional lives are devoted to disaster relief — when at least a tenth of the country’s people are living in the open, with little access to food or clean water?

    The short answer is that the generals who rule Burma are ill-educated, superstitious, fearful men whose first priority is protecting their power and their privileges.

    They almost lost both during the popular demonstrations led by Buddhist monks last year, and they are terrified that letting large numbers of foreigners in now might somehow destabilize the situation again. They are sitting atop a volcano, and they know it.

    But that is not really a complete answer, for it begs the question: Why has Burma fallen into the hands of people like that not just for a few years, but for 4 1/2 decades? Thailand has the occasional short-lived military coup, Indonesia had its problems with Sukarno and Suharto, and Cambodia had the horrors of Year Zero, but no other country in the region has been misgoverned so badly for so long.

    It seems incredible now, when neighboring Thailand has four times Burma’s per capita income, that at independence in 1948 Burma was the richest country in Southeast Asia. With huge resources, a high literacy rate, and good infrastructure by the standards of the time (due to the British Empire’s obsession with railways and irrigation projects), it seemed fated to succeed. Instead it has drifted steadily downward, and is now the poorest country in the region.

    The problem is the army, obviously, but why is the army such a problem? Perhaps it is the legacy of the “Thirty Comrades.” Rarely has such a small group of people dominated a whole country’s history for so long.

    The Thirty Comrades were a group of young Burmese students (average age 24) who went abroad in early 1941 to seek military training so they could come home and launch a rebellion against British rule. Most of them were more or less Communist in orientation, and their original intention was to get training from the Chinese Communists.

    By chance they fell in with the Japanese instead. They returned under the wing of the Japanese invaders at the end of the year as the “Burma Independence Army,” but switched sides in 1944 when it became clear that the Japanese would lose the war. They combined the authoritarian traditions of the Imperial Japanese Army with the ruthless ideological certainty of militant Marxism, and they dominated the army of the new republic from its independence in 1948.

    It was this army, the nastiest behavioral stew imaginable, that seized power in 1962 and has ruled Burma ever since. The last of the Thirty Comrades, Ne Win, only retired in 1988, and continued to exercise great influence from behind the scenes until only 10 years ago.

    Whatever ideology the army once had is long gone. It has become so corrupt that Burma ties with Somalia for last place on Transparency International’s corruption index. The country exists merely to serve its armed forces, which have never shown any hesitation in shooting citizens who question their right to rule.

    Its commanders are fully aware that most Burmese hate their rulers, and fear that the presence of a large number of foreigners might serve as a spark for another popular uprising. Even if another million and a half lives depend on the rapid delivery of emergency aid to the desperate survivors in the delta, as Oxfam fears, the army will severely restrict the entry of foreign aid personnel as long as it can resist the international pressure to let them in.

    Hundreds are probably dying each hour who could be saved if the food, shelter, water purification equipment and medical teams could pour in as they usually do after a disaster, but the army is half a million strong, so nobody is going to fight their way in. The Burmese, as usual, are on their own.

    Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
    The Japan Times: Wednesday, May 14, 2008


    COMMENT: Regarding GOJ cosiness, according to the Japan Policy Research Institute:

    While the Japanese Foreign Ministry claims to be engaged in a “quiet dialogue” with the junta to promote democratization, business interests have turned a blind eye to politics and lobbied for full economic engagement, including new aid. As early as June 1994, Keidanren, the powerful Federation of Economic Organizations, sent a special fifty-man mission headed by Marubeni chairman Kazuo Haruna to Rangoon to meet with the junta’s top brass. In the wake of the mission, many Japanese companies, especially banks, opened branch offices in Rangoon. Two years later, in May 1996, Keidanren upgraded its informal study group in Burma to a “Japan-Myanmar Economic Committee.” The timing was less than opportune, for SLORC was then in the middle of a crackdown on the NLD about which the Japanese government expressed great concern….

    “In a special year-end issue of Asiaweek (December 1997), [economic pundit Ken’ichi ] Ohmae disparaged Suu Kyi’s 1990 election victory, again linking her to the United States: “The West knows Myanmar through one person, Aung San Suu Kyi. The obsession with Suu Kyi is a natural one if you understand the United States. Superficial democracy is golden in the U.S.: Americans love elections. Just as Myanmar is Buddhist, and Malaysia is Islamic, America has a religion called democracy.”
    JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999, Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime, by Donald M. Seekins

    This is a tangent to Debito.org, but an interesting one to follow. People with more knowledge on this (since it also offers some insight into the GOJ’s general attitude towards human rights) are welcome to comment. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Historical artifact: NJ Jobs in 1984 (Tokyo Shinbun)


    Here’s a little something friend Mark S sent on to me after cleaning off his bookshelves:


    Yep, according to some magazine in Feb 88 citing Tokyo Shinbun January 8, 1988, the most popular jobs for foreigners in 1984 were:

    1. Entertainers and Pro Sports
    2. People working in regular companies
    3. Foreign-language educators
    4. Cooks of foreign foods
    5. Artists and artisans
    6. Academics in higher education
    7. Technical specialists
    (a mere 13 counted)

    The article also mentions the concurrent Eikaiwa boom (with a snipe at why Japanese foreign language abilities seem to be going down).

    It doesn’t mention the hundreds of thousands of Zainichi generational foreigners (probably by only counting “zairyuu gaikokujin”, even though only doing that still gives a very slanted account of how many foreigners are here), or the trades they engage in (entertainment, pachinko, regular corporate, and the olive-oil-style front businesses). And even if you total the numbers given, less than 15,000 people still seems artificially low. I guess either this is within Tokyo-to itself, or else bad social science isn’t only the province of the present day.

    In any case, those were the days, for some. Now with the NJ population more than doubled since then, and most NJ residents are not from Anglophone countries (so lose the big gaijin noses whenever you try to depict a foreigner), I bet the highest number of NJ in one job sector would be factory worker.

    Any other insights out there on the numbers then and now? Go for it. Debito in Sapporo

    Economist on “When Japan was a Secret”


    Hi Blog. Debito.org is following the template set by The Economist Newsmagazine, where the journalists digress from the usual serious stuff and put out a holiday issue of tangents.

    In this year’s Economist holiday issue, we have a three-pager on how people (particularly whalers and other merchant marines) were trying to open up Japan before Commodore Perry. It’s a long one, so here are some excerpts:

    Japanese sea-drifters
    When Japan was a secret
    The Economist Dec 19th 2007

    Long before Commodore Perry got there, Japanese castaways and American whalers were prising Japan open

    IF THAT double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold.
    Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”, 1851

    The first English-language teacher to come to Japan landed in a tiny skiff, but before he did so, Ranald MacDonald pulled the bung from his boat in order to half-swamp her, in the hope of winning over locals with a story that he had come as someone who had fled the cruel tyrannies of a whale-ship captain and then been shipwrecked. The four locals who approached by boat, though certainly amazed, were also courteous, for they bowed low, stroked their huge beards and emitted a throaty rumbling. “How do you do?” MacDonald cheerily replied. This meeting took place in tiny Nutsuka Cove on Rishiri Island off Hokkaido on July 1st 1848, and a dark basaltic pebble from the cove sits on this correspondent’s desk as he writes, picked up from between the narrow fishing skiffs that even today are pulled up on the beach….

    Far from fleeing a tyrant, MacDonald had in fact had to plead with a concerned captain of the Plymouth, a whaler out of Sag Harbour, New York, to be put down in the waters near Japan. MacDonald had an insatiable hunger for adventure, and the desire to enter Japan—tantalisingly shut to the outside world—had taken a grip on him. Both men knew of the risks, but the captain was less inclined to discount them. For 250 years, since the Tokugawa shogunate kicked Christian missionaries and traders out, only a tightly controlled trade with the Netherlands and China was tolerated in the southern port of Nagasaki, with a further licence for Koreans elsewhere. Though British and Russian ships had from time to time prodded Japan’s carapace, an edict in 1825 spelled out what would happen to uninvited guests “demanding firewood, water and provisions”:

    The continuation of such insolent proceedings, as also the intention of introducing the Christian religion having come to our knowledge, it is impossible to look on with indifference. If in future foreign vessels should come near any port whatsoever, the local inhabitants shall conjointly drive them away; but should they go away peaceably it is not necessary to pursue them. Should any foreigners land anywhere, they must be arrested or killed, and if the ship approaches the shore it must be destroyed.

    Two decades later the despotic feudalism of the Tokugawa shogunate was under greater strain. At home the land had been ravaged by floods and earthquakes, and famines had driven the dispossessed and even samurai to storm the rice warehouses of the daimyo, the local lords. Abroad, Western powers were making ominous inroads. After the opium war of 1840-42 China ceded Hong Kong to Britain. Meanwhile, thanks to a growth in whaling and trade with China, the number of distressed Western vessels appearing along Japan’s shores was increasing. Moderate voices made themselves heard within the government. A new edict was softer:

    It is not thought fitting to drive away all foreign ships irrespective of their condition, in spite of their lack of supplies, or of their having stranded or their suffering from stress of weather. You should, when necessary, supply them with food and fuel and advise them to return, but on no account allow foreigners to land. If, however, after receiving supplies and instructions they do not withdraw, you will, of course drive them away.

    …The most famous sea-drifter is known in the West and even Japan as John Manjiro. Two days after Melville set off in early 1841 from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, on the whaling adventure that provided the material for “Moby Dick”, Manjiro, the youngest of five crew, set out fishing near his village of Nakanohama on the rugged south-western coast of Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands. On the fourth day, the skipper saw black clouds looming and ordered the boat to be rowed to shore. It was too late. Over two weeks they drifted east almost 400 miles, landing on Torishima, a barren volcanic speck whose only sustenance was brackish water lying in puddles and nesting seabirds. In late summer even the albatrosses left. After five months, while out scavenging, Manjiro saw a ship sailing towards the island.

    The castaways’ saviour, William Whitfield, captain of the John Howland, a Fairhaven whaler, took a shine to the sparky lad. In Honolulu he asked Manjiro if he wanted to carry on to Fairhaven. The boy did, studied at Bartlett’s Academy, which taught maths and navigation to its boys, went to church and fell for local girls. He later signed on for a three-year whaling voyage to the Pacific, and when he returned, joined a lumber ship bound round Cape Horn for San Francisco and the California gold rush. He made a handsome sum and found passage back to Honolulu.

    By early 1851—the year of “Moby Dick” and two years before Commodore Perry turned up—Manjiro was at last back in Japan, and things were already changing. He and two of the original crew had been dropped in their open sailing boat by an American whaling ship off the Ryukyu Islands. They were taken to Kagoshima, seat of the Satsuma clan. The local daimyo, Shimazu Nariakira, grilled Manjiro, but the tone was inquisitive more than inquisitorial: please to explain the steamship, trains, photography, etc. In Nagasaki, Manjiro had to trample on an image of the Virgin and child. He was asked whether the katsura bush could be seen from America growing on the moon. He described America’s system of government, the modest living of the president and how New Englanders were so industrious that they used their time on the lavatory to read. Amazingly, he dared criticise Japan’s ill-treatment of foreign ships in need of wood and water, and made a heartfelt plea for the opening of Japan, going so far as to put the American case for a coal-bunkering station in Japan to allow steamships to cross the Pacific from California to China.

    Rather than being kept in prison, he was freed to visit his mother—in Nakanohana she showed him his memorial stone—and was even made a samurai. In Tosa (modern-day Kochi), he taught English to men who were later influential during the overthrow of the shogunate and the establishment of constitutional government in the Meiji period, from 1860. During negotiations in 1854 with Perry, Manjiro acted as an interpreter. Later, in 1860, he joined the first Japanese embassy to America. But as Christopher Benfey explains in “The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics and the Opening of Old Japan” (Random House, 2003), if the terror of being lost at sea was the defining experience of Manjiro’s life, then his greatest gift to the Japanese was his translation of Nathaniel Bowditch’s “The New American Practical Navigator”, known to generations of mariners as the “seaman’s bible”.

    As for Ranald MacDonald, though he was handed over by the Ainu and taken by junk to Nagasaki for interrogation, he was treated decently. With a respectable education and a gentle presence, he was clearly a cut above the usual rough-necked castaway, and he was put to teaching English. Some of the students who came to his cell later flourished as interpreters and compilers of dictionaries. The most notable, Einosuke Moriyama, served as the chief translator in Japan’s negotiations with Perry, as well as interpreter to America’s first consul to Japan, Townsend Harris…


    The article gives a lot of interesting information, even if it strikes me a bit as if it’s from the perspective of overseas sources only. The labeling of Japanese ships as “junks”, for example, (junks are Chinese) is a bit of an indicator. And it concludes oddly. Read the final paragraph to the piece:

    As for whaling around Japan, vestigial echoes reverberate. Every northern winter, Japan faces barbs for sending a whaling fleet into Antarctic waters. And why, asks the mayor of Taiji, a small whaling port, should Japanese ships have to go so far, suffering international outrage? Because, he says, answering his own question, the Americans fished out all the Japanese whales in the century before last.

    Kerplunk. Er, so the whole article was leading up to justify this contention? It’s like putting a reggae conclusion on a classical piece.

    Anyway, the whole article is worth a read as a holiday indulgence. See it at http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10278660

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Gregory Hadley on “Field of Spears”, re US POWs in Japan during WWII


    Remembering those who fell in a ‘field of spears’
    By ANGELA JEFFS, Contributing writer
    The Japan Times: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007

    Courtesy of Gregory Hadley

    A survivor of the B-29 crew is led from the village hall after being captured and tortured. PHOTO COURTESY OF VAL BURATI/GEORGE McGRAW

    Greg Hadley — or professor Gregory Hadley, as he’s known in academic circles — is on his way home to Niigata. He has just completed the weekend JALT conference at Tokyo’s National Olympic Center.

    “I go to the conference every year, this time seeking to recruit a new teacher for Niigata University. There’s a lot of talent out there, and it’s a good place to scout. Yes, I made contact with several highly qualified people. Now it’s a case of following them up.”

    Hadley, who teaches American and U.K. cultural studies at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, says he normally spends his free time gardening and cooking meals for his Japanese wife.

    He had absolutely no idea when he made a trip with a friend through the English Cotswolds in the summer of 2002, that he’d be asked the question that would lead him to write a book, “Field of Spears: The Last Mission of the Jordan Crew,” published this year by Paulownia Press.

    “My friend asked why Niigata had been taken off the U.S. list of potential A-bomb attack sites in 1945. I’d lived in the city for years, and while remembering local stories about a B-29 bomber seen burning in the sky, this was news to me. Being the inquisitive, compulsive type, when I got back I asked around.”

    What Hadley learned was that Niigata had been on the list until 10 days before the attack on Hiroshima. It was deleted because of its geographical location. Being surrounded by hills, the effects of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were contained to some degree. With Niigata sitting among rice paddies, the effects would have spread far and wide.

    Kyoto (as well as the arsenal at Kokura) was originally on the list; it was thought that striking at the heart of Japanese history and culture would swiftly demoralize the population. But it was saved by the intervention of U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who had honeymooned in the city several years before.

    “Having settled that, I became fascinated by that legendary B-29. Had it existed? If so, where had it come down? And what had happened to the crew? Fifty years had passed. Given the taboo of Japan not liking to talk about those dark days, would it be possible for me, a foreigner, to learn anything?” So began a three-year quest — a search that took him into small Japanese farming communities, dusty archives and mid-American townships, and to meet what he describes as “the quite exceptional members” of a POW support group in Japan.

    “Initially I thought of my investigation as an academic exercise. But the narrative element took over, and I found myself seeking to portray the two very human sides to the story: those of the Japanese — mostly women, children and the elderly — who were exhausted and brutalized by the war effort, and the young American crewmen who were lost so far from home.”

    Greg Hadley, a professor at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, spent three years uncovering the fate of the crew of a B-29 that crash-landed in Niigata in 1945. ANGELA JEFFS PHOTO

    What he learned was that a B-29 Superfortress bomber attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 6th Bombardment Group, with a crew of 11 and under the command of Capt. Gordon Jordan, took off from Tinian in the Mariana Islands on a routine night-mining mission to Niigata on the night of July 19, 1945.

    “We know it was hit by antiaircraft fire, then crashed-landed in potato fields between the former villages of Yokogoshi and Kyogase. After that, the story becomes less clear.”

    The Jordan crew’s last mission marked a number of firsts: the first time a B-29 was shot down over Niigata; the first time anyone parachuted into the prefecture; the first time for Japanese women, trained by the military to fight with bamboo spears, to use them against armed American soldiers.

    “Bamboo spears were the military’s last desperate means of fighting off invasion. Remember that these women has lost husbands, sons and grandsons; some had lost all the men in their family. They were basically in deep trauma. Of course, nothing forgives what happened, but it does help explain it.”

    What happened mirrors what happens in any war when enemy fall into the hands of terrified overwrought civilians. Echoes of Iraq indeed, Hadley confirms.

    Though born in north Texas — “the panhandle” — Hadley has spent the last 15 years in Japan, with time out at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., where he studied the sociology of English language teaching and acquisition. As a result his accent has flattened out to such an extent that “often I’m mistaken for Canadian.”

    What he likes about living and working here is that you can so easily meet like-minded people and contribute to different fields. Although you hit the glass ceiling of any one profession pretty quickly, you can spread outward, broaden your sphere of influence and activity.

    “Right now I have no interest in returning to the States. I don’t like the country it has become. But that’s not to say I’m not interested, that I don’t care. I do.”

    He came to care very much for the fate of the Jordan crew, four of whom died. When Hadley began his research five years ago, five survivors were still alive, in scattered communities throughout the States. All were suspicious of his initial approaches. One chose not discuss what were still painful memories. The son of one victim, a toddler when his father died, supplied his father’s wartime diary.

    “I was also enabled to locate photographs of the incident, taken for a local newspaper. One shows the bodies of two crew members. “We’ll probably never know what really happened to them, but by piecing together statements I have a good idea.”

    Quote: “Pandemonium broke out with the arrival of these two bodies. The keibodan tried to keep the villagers back, but such was their frenzied rage that they began to beat and abuse the bodies in various ways, such as those who pulled down the pants of Adams and put a sweet potato in his crotch.”

    Another photograph (shots of captured U.S. servicemen are rare) shows a survivor — tied and blindfolded — being led from the village hall where he and his colleagues were kept that first night. Two more pictures show six survivors in the back of a truck, being taken to a POW camp in Niigata; a sheet covers what is most probably the body of a seventh airman who did not survive the night.

    “Four men, including one who refused to leave the plane, died. While small in number, their fate mirrors many such incidents all over Japan. As for the rest, yes they survived, but the experience — and their treatment once they were taken to Tokyo — left scars which could never be erased.”

    Encouraging local people to talk about what happened required great patience. As Hadley recalls: “It was easier to obtain declassified information and dig in the mud to still find pieces of the aircraft. Villagers were ashamed. ‘We were rice farmers,’ they told me, ‘but that night we saw our dark side, we became the war. ‘ ”

    Those U.S. airmen who gave in to fear, trying to shoot their way out of trouble, signed their death warrants. Those who took the beatings and the indignities heaped upon them — such as the captain, who was tied to a post, then urinated and defecated upon — survived. It was an elderly Japanese who chased away the women and youngsters, and protected him until the Japanese military came to the rescue.

    Hadley cannot thank enough all those who helped him put together the story of the Jordan crew. To see the book in print, receiving critical acclaim from the popular press and academic circles alike, and available through Amazon.com makes all the effort worthwhile.

    “Before I began ‘Field of Spears,’ I spent three years debunking the myth about 300 POWs being dynamited in gold mines on Sado Island, as proposed by a New Zealand writer. Next I want to properly investigate POW Camp 5B in Niigata.”

    On the flyleaf of the copy of the classy paperback Hadley so kindly gave me, it reads: Dedicated to those who made it back alive, but never survived the war. Below this, penned in ink: “In reading this book we become part of its history.”

    A select number of signed copies of “Field of Spears” can be obtained from the author at hadley@nuis.ac.jp
    The Japan Times: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    History of the fingerprinting law

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

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

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

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

    Fears of terrorism and foreign crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Racism and xenophobia

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

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

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

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

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

    A plea to Japan

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

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

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

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

    Protest Sept 29 re Monkashou’s Okinawa History Revisionism, Okinawa Convention Center


    Hi Blog. Just got word of this from friend Gene van Troyer, regarding a protest tomorrow in Okinawa over WWII history revisionism from the Ministry of Education. Details below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    Perhaps Japanese are complacent when it comes to MEXT rewriting the history textbooks about Comfort Women and the Nanking Massacre during WWII, but what about here at home? It seems that there is no rest for the revisionists. Earlier this year (1) the GOJ through MEXT ordered all references to military-encouraged mass suicides in Okinawa to be expunged and replaced with less controversial and damning phrasing like “many people committed suicide.” Okinawans are in an uproar over this slap in their collective face (2), (3).

    Coming up tomorrow, Saturday, Sept 29, from around 3:00 P.M. there is to be a general protest (kyoukasho kentei shuudanjiketsu) staged at the Okinawa Convention Center over MEXT’s attempt to rewrite history regarding the Japanese military’s policy of encouraged civilian “mass suicides” during the Battle of Okinawa. MEXT is pushing the view that it never happened. Scores of Okinawans who were there and witnessed it say it did (4), (5).

    (1)***Okinawa Outcry Grows Over Japan Textbook Revision on WWII Suicides

    http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

    (2)***1,000 Protest in Okinawa at Gov’t View on Military Role in War Suicide

    http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

    (3)***Okinawans Outraged by What They Say is a Cover-up of Military-urged Mass Suicides During WWII Battle

    http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

    (4) Ryuukyuu Shinpo article (Japanese) http://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/storyid-27569-storytopic-1.html

    (5) Okinawa Times article (Japanese) http://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/day/200709281300_03.html

    Mainichi Waiwai: Tokugawa ancestors face their own sakoku


    Hi Blog. The ancient Tokugawa Clan (which as daimyo closed off Japan for 250 years to foreign influences, known as the “sakoku” [closed country] period) are facing their own sakoku. Their heir apparent has married a foreigner!

    Read on, from the Mainichi Waiwai Page, translated by Ryann Connell. Arudou Debito


    Tokugawa clan looks to slam the gate on future chief’s marriage to foreigner
    Mainichi Waiwai Page, Sept 18, 2007

    Courtesy of MS and Doc

    Modern day members of the Tokugawa clan — the xenophobic dynasty of Shoguns that shut Japan off from the world for centuries — are up in arms because the man set to one day become head of the family has married a non-Japanese, according to Shukan Shincho (9/20).

    Iehiro Tokugawa, who is poised to one day become the 19th head of the clan that ruled the country as Shoguns from 1603 to 1868 and maintained a rigid ban on foreigners entering Japan, has tied the knot with a Vietnamese woman.

    But his father, Tsunenari, the current clan chief, is among the members of the family who are supposed to be outraged that the most Japanese of non-Imperial families is about to receive an injection of non-Yamato blood.

    Iehiro Tokugawa graduated from posh Keio University before completing a doctorate of economics at Michigan University. He went off to work for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, spending time at its Rome headquarters before being transferred to its Hanoi branch. The 42-year-old heir apparent of the Shogun’s dynastic name now works as a translator.

    “He met the Vietnamese woman about 10 years ago,” a close pal of Tokugawa’s tells Shukan Shincho. “He was working at the FAO’s Vietnam office at the time and met her through his work. She comes from a good family. She’s petite and pretty. She’s a complete contrast to Iehiro, who is only 174 centimeters tall but weighs 105 kilograms. She’s 11 years younger than him, too. And she looks even younger still. Iehiro said he fell in love with her charms.” Iehiro apparently set his mind on marriage not long after he started dating, and he soon let his parents know of his intentions.

    “Iehiro knows that he is a member of the Tokugawa clan and fully realizes exactly what that status entails. He told his parents he spent three years in elementary school in the United States and that he has very liberal ideas about marriage. On top of that, she is the woman he chose,” the buddy says. “But Tsunenari, important as head of the clan, and his mother were bitterly opposed. They said they didn’t mind if their son dated a foreigner, but there was no way they were going to let him marry one.”

    Over the past few years, Iehiro’s Vietnamese partner traveled back and forth between her country and his before finally settling down together in his home.

    “He’s got a photo of when they went on a trip together to Kamakura displayed prominently in his study. They’ve visited the Tokugawa family in Gotenba and have also been on trips together to Hakone and Karuizawa. Iehiro has often gathered his friends at his home and let them taste her delicious Vietnamese cuisine. They’re having a great time no matter how much his parents may oppose their bond,” the future clan head’s friend tells Shukan Shincho.

    The opposition of the clan boss to the union has not deterred the loving couple.

    “They actually registered their marriage a year ago,” the friend says. “They’ve tried countless times to get his parents to approve their marriage, but the parents have steadfastly refused. It’s more convenient for her to be married if she’s in Japan, so they formalized their bond. Iehiro has often said he’s going to have a big wedding ceremony in the spring of next year.”

    Even if the couple is actually married as the friend claims, Iehiro Tokunaga’s worries don’t stop there.

    “Only a few very close friends and relatives actually know about the marriage. And they haven’t reported it to anyone in the Tokugawa clan. He’s gonna face huge problems if their marriage goes public,” the friend says.

    Meanwhile, Iehiro remains dignified about the situation.

    “I’m going to do exactly what I have been doing until now,” the future head of the once xenophobic Tokugawa clan tells Shukan Shincho. “I’ll keep trying again and again. I believe in the end they will approve my marriage.” (By Ryann Connell)

    September 18, 2007

    Fun Facts #8: Stuff gleaned from Seidensticker’s “Tokyo Rising”


    Hi Blog. Been stampeding through the late Edward Seidensticker’s book TOKYO RISING (borrowed from FCCJ library, but two weeks is simply not long enough for me to get through a book; I like to suck on them over months and am never faithful to one tome unless it’s really good), and these are some things that popped up for Debito.org:

    One powerful force in the workings of the city and the prefecture is not entirely under the control of the prefectural government: the police. The chief of the Tokyo prefecutral police is appointed by a national police agency with the approval of the prime minister and upon the advice of a prefectural police commission, which is in effectual. None of these agencies is under the control of governor and council. Tokyo becomes a police city when it is thought necessary to guard against the embarrassment of having someone shoot at a president or a queen or a pope [or a Beatle; see more about the concert gone so badly in 1966–3000 police seated to make sure 10,000 Budoukan spectators didn’t even stand up during the concert–that the Beatles never returned to Japan as a group to perform]. It has more than twice as many policemen as Osaka, though it is less than twice as large in population. The problem of police excesses is by no means limited to Tokyo–it was in Kanagawa Prefecture that a case of illegal eavesdropping was uncovered in 1986–but it is most conspicuous in the prefecture in which national embarrassments are most likely to occur. (page 169)

    This might be one reason why the Tokyo Police (keishichou) seem to be much more assiduous in their Gaijin Card Checkpoints than anywhere else in the country…

    There was in those days [during the Occupation] the problem of the “third nationals” [sangokujin]. It was conspicuous in the underworld and in gang squabbling. Third nationals were for practical purposes Chinese and Koreans resident in Japan [i.e. the Zainichis]. The expression put them in their place, distinguishing them both from Japanese and from the Occupation, which favored them, treating Chinese as allies and Koreans as quasi allies (enemies of the enemy). It is hard to deny that they took advantage of their position.

    If the police couild not intercede in behalf of Japanese gangs that thought of themselves (or at any rate advertised themselves) as Robin Hoods and defenders of the Japanese spirit, there is much evidence that they managed to aid them surreptitiously. In the “Shimbashi Incident” of 1946, American military police and Japanese police intervened to prevent an armed battle between Chinese and Japanese gangs for control of the market. The nonbattle was in effect a victory for the Japanese. It showed the Chinese, who were progressively weaker, that they could not have everything their way even in that day of confusion and demoralization. Across the bay in Chiba, later in 1946, the police seem to have actualy encouraged a showdown between Japanese and third-national gangs. It would be the occasion, the Chiba police and the American military police agreed, for rounding up gangsters of whatever natioanlity. The Japanese police told the Japanese gangs what was to happen and invited their cooperation. The Americans do not seem to have accorded the same favor to the third nationals. The encounter took place, a few minutes of gunfire in which several men were wounded but no one was killed, and in the end only third nationals were rounded up. (page 154-155)

    The most powerful force in getting [the postwar Japanese economy] moving again came fairly late. The Korean War broke out in June 1950, almost exactly at midpoint thorugh what we may call the decade of the rebuilding. For Korea it was a terrible happening, for Japan a momentous one, with little sense of the terrible… It was perhaps natural in an occupied country that had no foreign policy save to get rid of the Occupation and export things wherever possible…

    Momentous the event certainly was for all that. Japanese profits from the Korean War were massive and they went into rebuilding city and land, and bring them back somewhat near, in material terms, the position that had been theirs before the folly of the forties. Procurement contracts in the remaining months of 1950 ran to $180 milion, and before the Korean War was over they ran to $2.3 billion. Production returned to and passed prewar levels. Direct Ameircan aid, which had been necessary in the immediate postwar years, now ceased to be. Brave beginnings had already been made towards putting things together again, but it was in the early fifties that matters went forward with speed and purpose… Yet it is ironic that the prosperity of a country which has renounced war (see Article IX of the postwar constitution) is founded on a war. (page 155-156)

    All-in-all, in TOKYO RISING Seidensticker has created a book that is okay for those who really know something about Tokyo or Japan already (it’s a work that would thrill academic specialists in the field, but if they assigned it to their students with only incipient knowledge of Japan it would leave them nonplussed). For me, after 20 years here, it’s a decent read–it fills a lot of holes and answers a lot of lingering questions. For anyone else, it would probably be a head-scratcher. It would merely promote Japan as a land of impenetrable exotica (which is the wont of this generation of Japan specialists anyway, IMO), instead of as a land of quirks working under a mostly rational system. It takes a lot of experiences before people see the rationality. I’m sure Seidensticker himself saw it too, but he really doesn’t communicate that at all well. Too much reliance on novelists (with largely boring or uncontexted excerpts from their writings) as primary sources of information as well.

    This is one of the reasons I refused to read “specialist” books on Japan for so long, until I had built up my own set of experiences from which to get the hang of this place. Now that I have gotten the hang, I find it amazing how so many books on Japan are written by those who don’t have the hang, or can’t communicate that they do.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Hiroshima Peace Foundation Director Steven Leeper’s odd views on NJ in Japan


    Hi Blog. Normally I would shout “congratulations” from the rooftops at the news: The momentous appointment of a non-Japanese to be director of an important Japanese institution.

    Particularly when said institution is tasked with keeping the faith on with an important international issue–one the GOJ brings up constantly in its untiring quest for uniqueness in the world stage (“the only country in history ever bombed by nuclear weapons”). As well as for world peace.

    But Steven Leeper, the newly-appointed director of the Hiroshima Peace and Culture Foundation, is proving to be a historical curator with an odd attitude not only towards history (see KTO August 2007 and Steve Silver article below), but also towards non-Japanese in Japan (a category he still falls into, of course).

    Cited recently in several media, including the International Herald Tribune, the Asahi Shinbun, the Japan Times, and the Kansai Time Out, Leeper rings hollowly at the end of the KTO article (full article scanned at the bottom of this blog entry):

    “I’m afraid I don’t see much of a role for foreigners in the Japanese government. It would never have occurred to me to pursue the position that I am in. I did absolutely nothing to pursue it, and I would not recommend that anyone pursue such a path. From what I have seen and experienced, foreigners who make a commitment to Japan and are willing to give what they can over a very long term get utilized in ways their communities need, and they get rewarded more than fairly for what they give.

    In general, though, I see Japan as being a place where Japanese people can go about the business of being Japanese. Those of us who are not Japanese but enjoy living in Japan can learn from them and help them to relate to the outside world. But our influence is and should be rather limited. I personally hope the Japanese will remain quite Japanese. In fact, I wish they would get back to being more Japanese than they are today. For those who like diversity, which I also enjoy, we have the U.S. I truly enjoy both cultures, but I want them to stay different.

    I see. So whatever “going about the business of being Japanese” means (it’s obviously automatically “different” from what foreigners do, even from what “today’s Japanese” do), it’s clear to Leeper that foreigners (and their Japanese children, one assumes) being in our country somehow sully that and should be constrained. Never mind that some “foreigners” have been here for a “very long term” indeed (generations), and many have not reaped the ultimately forthcoming “fair rewards” he assures us of. And then there’s the hundreds of thousands of others (like guess who) have even naturalized, and still have to fight for an equal shake in this society.

    But if these intruders aren’t somehow “Japanese enough” to qualify for GOJ jobs (or aren’t fortunate enough to have one fall into their laps through no fault of their own), they should go someplace more diverse, like America? (which will surely grant them all visas)

    How odd. I’m trying really hard to see this as a “you stand where you sit” sort of attitude made by a person bound by his job. But it’s square-pegging a round hole. I understand why Leeper might take a 100% Pacifist line–for example, that nuclear weapons should never be used, moreover eliminated from the face of the earth given the damage they do.

    But Leeper is clearly out of bounds when he says that NJ should have no role in the decisionmaking processes of Japan. NJ should merely settle for whatever scraps Japanese society might deign to throw them (as opposed to pushing for more equal treatment)? Why this ironic disposition to pull up the ladder behind him?

    If Leeper feels this strongly, why accept this job? Oh, because it was a scrap thrown him due to circumstances beyond his control. Congrats, you won the lottery. But now that you’ve been included, why go out of your way to make exclusivist arguments?

    Here’s hoping Leeper wises up a bit, and remembers his own position in society both before and after his appointment. Otherwise he’s going to come off as an Uncle Tom, echoing the more xenophobic and conservative elements of Japan (some of whom led Japan down the road culminating in the extreme acts of war he curates), damaging his own reputation and credibility in the process.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Steven Leeper’s email address:


    Excellent article from Steve Silver on other aspects of Leeper’s views:

    (click on images to expand in your browser)


    J Focus on PM Abe’s Fundamental Education Law reforms


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

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

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

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

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

    The article contains an unofficial translation of the changes to the Fundamental Law of Education, side-by-side with the original 1947 document, at http://japanfocus.org/products/details/2468

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

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

    Old: Warera

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

    An excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Petitions re Comfort Women US Congress House Res. 121


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



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

    May 17, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fax or email the letter to:
    Congressman Tom Lantos: (202) 226-4183 or email thru his website:
    Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (202) 226-8259 or email: sf.nancy@mail.house.gov

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

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

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

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

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

    Thanks to Gabriela Network (http://labanforthelolas.blogspot.com) and the “121 Coalition” ( http://www.support121.org) for their 411 & support.
    Also, see their URLs for more info.

    CHE on measures against Japan’s historical amnesia


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


    War Museum Resists Japan’s Historical Amnesia
    By DAVID MCNEILL in Tokyo
    The Chronicle of Higher Education April 27, 2007

    Link for subscribers: http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i34/34a05401.htm
    Courtesy of the author

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ‘Lid on a Stinking Pot’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fun Facts #4: Indicative Postwar “Child’s Play”


    Hi Blog. This will be my last blog entry for at least a week (if not until around May 7), as I will be cycling around Kyushu with friend Chris without email or probably web access.

    So let’s break on a more pleasant note: From one of my favorite books on Japan (John Dower, EMBRACING DEFEAT, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning tome on the strategies Post-WWII Japanese society used to cope with losing a war), my favorite section (pp. 110-112). Brief comment follows:


    Children’s games can provide a barometer of their times. With consumers of any sort still in the distant future, youngsters were thrown back on their imaginations, and their play became a lively measure of the obsessions of adult society. Not long before, boys in particular had played war with a chilling innocence of what they were being encouraged to become. They donned headbands and imagined themselves piloting the planes that would, in fact, never return. They played at being heroic sailors long after the imperial navy began to be decimated. Armed with wooden spears and bayonets, they threw themselves screaming at mock-ups of Roosevelt and Churchill and pretended they were saving the country from the foreign devils [48]. In defeat, there was no such clear indoctrination behind children’s games. Essentially, they played at doing what they saw grownups do. It was a sobering sight.

    There were not many commerical toys in this world, although the first popular one after the war was revealing. In December 1945, a toy maker in Kyoto produced a jeep not quite 10 centimeters long that sold for 10 yen. The stock of one hundred thousand quickly disappeared from store shelves, heralding the modest revival of the toy industry. The quintessentially American nature of the product was appropriate, for the child’s world was defined, in generally positive and uncritical ways, by an acceptance of the fact of being occupied. Jeeps were associated with the chocolate and chewing gum handed out by cheerful GIs, and thus with the few delicious amenities imaginable in these war-torn lives. “Hello,” “goodbye,” “jeep,” and “give me chocolate” were the first English words most youngsters learned. They also learned to fold newspapers into soft GI-style hats rather than the traditional samurai helmets of the past. To older, nationalistic Japanese, a good part of child’s play seemed to involve finding pleasure in being colonized.

    The games *were* happy–that was the point of playing, after all–but in ways that almost invariably tended to sadden grownups, for they highlighted so clearly and innocently the pathos that war and defeat had brought into their lives. Early in 1946, for example, it was reported that the three most popular activities among small boys and girls were yamiichi-gokko, panpan asobi, and demo asobi–that is, holding a mock black market, playing prostitute and customer, and recreating left-wing political demonstrations.

    Black-market games–hawkers and their wares–might be seen in retrospect as a kind of school for small entrepreneurs, but to grownups at the time they were simply another grim reminder of the necessity of engaging in illegal activity to make ends meet. Panpan asobi, prostitution play, was even harder for parents to behold, for panpan was a postwar euphemism for freelance prostitutes who catered almost exclusively to the GI trade. A photograph from early 1946 shows laughing youngsters in shabby clothes reenacting this–a boy wearing a soft GI hat, his arm hooked into that of a little girl wearing patched pants. In the demo game, children ran around waving red paper flags. As youngsters grew older, play shaded into practice. The press took care to note when roundups of prostitutes included girls as young as fourteen, while schoolboys as well as orphans and runaways quickly learned how to earn pocket money as pimps by leading GIs to women. “You like to meet my sister?” became, for some, the next level of English after “give me chocolate.”

    As time passed, the playtime repertoire expanded. In mid-1947, a teacher in Osaka reported that his pupils seemed absorbed in playing “train” games, using the teacher’s platform at the front of the classroom as the center of their activities. In “repatriate train,” children put on their school knapsacks, jammed together on the dais, shook and trembled, and got off at “Osaka.” “Special train”–obviously a takeoff on the railway cars reserved for occupation personnel–allowed only “pretty people” to get on. A “conductor” judged who was favored and who wasn’t. A button missing? Rejected. Dirty face? Rejected. Those who passed these arbitrary hurdles sat in leisure on the train. Those rejected stood by enviously. In “ordinary train,” everyone piled on, pushing and shoving, complaining about being stepped on, crying out for help. Every so often, the conductors balancing on the edges of the platform announced that the train had broken down and everyone had to get off. It was, the teacher lamented, a sorry spectacle to behold: from playing war to playing at utter confusion.

    Well into 1949, children continued to turn social disorders into games. In runpen-gokkothey pretended to be homeless vagrants. The game took its name from teh German word lumpen, which had come to Japan earier as “lumpenproleteriat” and then acquired the everyday meaning of being an unemployed vagrant. The atmosphere of lawlessness was reenacted in “to catch a thief” (dorobo-gokko) and “pretending handcuffs” (tejou-gokko). “Catch a thief,” it was said, had replaced hide-and-seek in popularity. Desire to strike it rich was captured in a lottery game. Predictably, child’s play also included kaidashi-gokko, pretending to leave home to search for food [49].


    COMMENT: This marvellously-written and researched account by Dr Dower, in parts guffaw-inducing, in others depressing, is something rarely considered in historical accounts: The barometer of social suffering as absorbed and reflected in its children doing what kids do: trying to have fun.

    The photo accompanying the text (and referred to within), concerning panpan asobi is priceless:
    (Click on image to see whole photo)

    I especially love the expressions on the girls’ faces. And I can see why people in most societies shield their children’s eyes from what happens next when the couple repairs elsewhere.

    On a more serious note, this play wouldn’t be quite so beneficial to society if it wasn’t seen as fun by the children. More like trauma. And given that Tokyo Guv Ishihara Shintaro was about to turn 15 by the time the war ended, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he couldn’t see the brighter side of the Occupation, and became the very stripey character (particularly regarding non-Japanese) that he is.

    Arudou Debito in Yoyogi-Uehara, Tokyo