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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further thoughts, Debito.org Readers?  Arudou Debito

Merry Xmas to those celebrating: How “religious” treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  Merry Xmas to those celebrating.  As a special treat, allow me to connect some dots between terms of public discourse:  How Japan gets kid-gloved in international debate because it gets treated, consciously or unconsciously, with religious reverence.

It’s a theory I’ve been developing in my mind for several years now:  How Japan has no religion except “Japaneseness” itself, and how adherence (or irreverence) towards it produces zealots and heretics who influence the shape and scope of Japan-connected debate.

So let me type in two works — one journalistic, the other polemic — and let you connect the dots as I did when I discovered them last November.  I hope you find the juxtaposition as insightful as I did.

I’ll do a couple more of these thinking pieces for the holidays as Debito.org enters 2012, its fifteenth year of operation.  Thanks for reading, everyone.  Arudou Debito

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Excerpted from “Rice, the Essential Harvest”, from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (USA) Vol. 185, No. 5, May 1994, pp. 66-72.  By Freelancer Robb Kendrick of Austin, Texas.

NB: This section comes after the author takes us on a journey of other rice-centered countries.  Watch the subcontextual treatment:  First photos from 1) India, where its caption portrays rice as a means of avoiding starvation; 2) Japan, whose caption immediately resorts to religious subtext: “Colossal strands of rice straw entwine over an entrance to the Izumo Shinto shrine, one of Japan’s oldest.  Denoting a sacred place, the rice-straw rope, — or shimenawa — is the world’s largest at six metric tons.  Grown in Japan for more than 2000 years [sic], rice is woven through culture, diet, even politics.  Small shimenawa often hang over doorways to ward off evil.  One evil the nation cannot stop:  skimpy harvests, which in 1993 forced Japan to ease its sacrosanct restrictions on rice imports.”; 3) Madagascar, seen as staving off hunger in the face of a dearth of harvesting technology; 4) The Philippines, where rice technology is supported under the International Rice Research Institute; and 5) China, where peasant children eat rice for breakfast in rice-growing Zhejiang Province.

Then we get two paragraphs of text talking about the religious symbolism of rice in Bali.  Then the intercontinental versatility of rice growing and usage (as it’s even used in Budweiser beer), plus the research being done in The Philippines to make it even more so.  Then mentions of low-tech production in The Philippines, with photos of rice being used in a Hindu wedding in India and in religious ceremonies in India and Bali.  Further paragraphs depict how the Balinese meld both ritual and routine in perpetual harvests.  Then we get into the history of rice’s migration from India through to China, and how China has been working on rice hybrids at the Chinese National Rice Research Institute.  Thus the focus of this article has so far been more on the history and ubiquitousness of rice as a staple in many societies.

Then we get to Japan, and the tone of the article shifts perceptibly:

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Next stop, Japan.  At the Grand Shrines of Ise, 190 miles southwest of Tokyo, the most revered precinct of Japan’s Shinto religion, white-robed priests cook rice twice daily and present it to the sun goddess, Amaterasu, who, they say, is the ancestor of the imperial family.

“The goddess brought a handful of rice from the heavens,” a senior priest tells me, “so that we may grow it and prosper.”  He adds that in the first ceremony performed by each new emperor, he steps behind a screen to meet the goddess and emerges as the embodiment of Ninigi no Mikoto, the god of the ripened rice plant.  Then every autumn the emperor sends to Ise the first stalks harvested from the rice field he himself has planted on the imperial palace gorunds.  All Japanese, says the priest, owe their kokoro — their spiritual essence, their Japaneseness — to the goddess, “and they maintain it by eating rice, rice grown in Japan.”

Japanese law, in fact, long restricted the importation of rice.  “Rice is a very special case,” explained Koji Futada, then parliamentary vice minister for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.  “It is our staple food, and so we must have a reliable supply as a matter of national security.  That is why we politicians favor sulf-sufficiency, the domestic growing of all the rice we eat.”

And also because the farmers exert disproportionate influence in elections?

“Yes,” he said, “that is also true.”

And so the government buys the rice from the farmers at about ten times international market prices. It also subsidizes part of the cost to consumers.  Still, Japanese consumers pay about four times as much as they would if they could buy rice in a California supermarket.  All this cost the government about 2.5 billion dollars in 1992.  One result is that land will stay in rice production that might otherwise be available for housing, which is in short supply.  About 5 percent of the city of Tokyo is classified as farmland, worked by 13,000 families.  That would be space enough for tens of thousands of new homes.  Does all this mean that Japanese rice farmers are rolling in money?

Thirty miles north of the capital, in the Kanto Plain, I visit the Kimura family in the town of Kisai — typical of most of Japan’s 3.5 million rice-farming households:  Rice is not a major part of their working life.  Grandfather Shouichi, 83, along with his son Take and Take’s wife, Iwako, both in their 50s, look after a prosperous gardening-supply business; grandson Masao, 25, commutes to an office in central Tokyo.  Three out of four rice-growing families hereabouts have become “Sunday farmers,” relying on income from other sources, mainly jobs in factories that sprang up nearby in the past ten years.

The Kimuras farm two and a half acres — this modest size is typical too — and they tell me the work is not arduous:  Excerpt for planting seeds in boxes in a shed, they do it all with machines — transplanter, tractor — in about ten working days for one person, plus a few hours for spraying fertilizer, insecticide, and herbicide.  “Harvesting is no work at all.  We hire a combine.”  What do the Kimuras get out of it?

“Enough rice for us to eat for a year,” says Shoichi.  “But no profit.  Zero.”  Expenses go up, rice prices don’t.  It’s the same for most farmers around here.  “We do this only because we inherited the land.”

But nature and international politics are forcing a change.  An unusually cold and rainy summer reduced Japan’s 1993 harvest by some 25 percent, so more than two million tons of rice will have to be imported before the end of this year.  And after that, a newly revised global treaty — the General Agreement on  Tariffs and Trade, or GATT — will oblige to allow annual imports of 4 to 8 percent of its rice requirement.  But will the domestic rice price drop?  Hardly.  The government still sets the wholesale price, and that’s likely to stay high.

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

That’s it.  The rest of the article deals with a) liberalization of the rice markets in Vietnam, b) rice economies in Europe, c) in Africa, d) in the United States, and finally e) the future of rice technology and how production will have to accommodate growing populations.

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Here’s my point:  No other country is treated in this National Geographic article with such reverence and deference as Japan.  Look:  A parroted religious introduction citing an obscure deity is channeled into a discourse on national identity, and an alleged political need for self preservation by excluding outside influences (everyplace else mentioned is seen as increasingly cooperative in developing a reliable food supply).  If anything, many other countries are seen as somehow less able to cope with their future because of their technological or economic insularity.  Not Japan.  It gets a free pass on cultural grounds, with a deference being accorded to “Japaneseness” as a religion.  (There is, by the way, one more picture of Japan in the article — that of sumo wrestlers doing “ritual shiko exercise”, with attention paid to the dohyo rice ring in this “honored Japanese sport”.  Cue the banging of gongs and the occasional shakuhachi flute…)

Granted, the article does offer up the hope of Japan’s rice market being liberalized, thanks to the disastrous 1993 rice harvest and pressure from GATT.  But now nearly twenty years later, how are those rice imports coming along?  Not so hot: According to the USDA in 2003, “Japan agreed to a quota on rice imports that now brings 682,000 tons of rice into the country annually. However, most of this rice is not released directly into Japan’s market. Instead, imported rice often remains in government stocks until it is released as food aid to developing countries or sold as an input to food processors.”  Meaning it didn’t work.  See a historical article I wrote on the misplaced propagandistic reverence (and GOJ dirty tricks) regarding rice imports here (and also apple imports, while I’m at it), so you can see how the discourse helps keep things closed.

Why does this keep happening?  My theory is that it is due to the politics of religiosity.  For when you treat Japanese culture as a religion, the terms of debate change, putting rationality, logic, and overall fairness on their back foot.

Consider this excerpt from Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, between pp. 20 and 23:

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A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts — the non-religious included — is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other.  Douglas Adams put it so well, in an impromptu speech made in Cambridge shortly before his death, that I never tire of sharing his words:

“Religion… has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever.  What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not.  Why not?  — because you’re not!’  If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it.  If somebody think taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it.  But on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘I respect that’.

“Why should it be that it’s perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative prty, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows — but to have an opinion about how the Universe… no, that’s holy? … We are used to not challenging religious ideas but it’s very interesting how much of a furore Richard creates when he does it!  Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you’re not allowed to say these things.  Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be.”…

[Dawkins continues further down:]  If the advocates of apartheid had their wits about them they would claim — for all I know truthfully — that allowing mixed races is against their religion.  A good part of the opposition would respectfully tiptoe away.  And it is no use claiming that this is an unfair parallel because apartheid has no rational justification.  The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification.  The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices.  But ask a religious person to justify their faith and you infringe “religious liberty”.

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This is why appeals to “Japaneseness” so many times take on a religious overtone.  Why does the National Geographic feel the need to interview a priest as some sort of source about world rice?  Allegedly, “because Japanese rice is as essential fundamental to the Japanese people as their kokoro“.  Presto!  It’s off the subject table for rational debate.  Because once you criticize Japan’s rice policy, apparently Japanese are hard-wired to take it as a personal affront.  After all, there IS so much pressure to somehow, somewhere, say something “nice” about Japan — especially if you’re being any way critical.  For balance, some might say, but I would say it is because we feel the pressure to treat Japan more kid-glovey than we would, say, China, Russia, or any other nation, really.  Why?  Out of reverence for how somehow “special” Japan is.

I believe Japan is neither exceptional nor special (no more special than any other society), and it should be exposed to the same terms of critique and debate as anyone else.  Yet it gets a free pass, as I saw during the Otaru Onsens Case, where for example many bought into the “foreigners must be excluded” thanks in part in reverence to some arguments being made, in paraphrase, were “Japanese baths are a very special place for Japanese people, and if they want those kept pristine and exclusive only for those who really understand Japanese bathing culture, then so be it.”  No need to treat people equally just because they’re people anymore.  Only those born with the sacerdotal kokoro need apply to bathe in these now holy waters.

This is my Xmas present to Debito.org Readers:  Look at Japan-related discourse now through the lens of religious discourse.  Watch the kid gloves come on.  It is a very careful and deliberate means to defang political debate and stymie change in this society which badly needs it.

Again, “Japaneseness” as a religion with all the trappings — an analytical thought process in progress on Debito.org.  Arudou Debito

Japan’s Broken System Pt 2: H-Japan cites AFP, Reuters, Yomiuri. NYT on how bad GOJ ineptness and obfuscation re Fukushima fiasco is getting

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  Dr. David Slater at Sophia U. once again delivers the goods (see his excellent post about how domestic activism is naturally stifled in Japan here).  This is how bad it’s getting in Post-Fukushima Japan, and believe it or not, it’s worse than I thought.

This is why we have press cartels in Japan to keep it quiet, since the ineptness of and obfuscation by the GOJ (with little apparent hope for things being fixed) makes for depressing reading.  This in a domestic media that wants the public and the world to think “nice things about Japan”.  Too bad.  What’s happening is not nice at all, and without a full and frank public assessment, as I have argued before, people are going to get hurt in the afterglow.

Might Japan be just a little too proud to ask for help with contamination and containment from outside?  Or isn’t the public’s safety the first priority in all this? The way public money earmarked for relief efforts is being spent, it seems not.  Arudou Debito

(Referential articles at very bottom.)

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From: H-Japan Editor
Date: 10 December, 2011
To: H-JAPAN@H-NET.MSU.EDU
Subject: H-Japan (E): More attempts at decontamination
Reply-To: H-NET/KIAPS List for Japanese History

H-JAPAN
December 10, 2011

Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2011
From: David H. Slater
Subject: More attempts at decontamination

As decontamination continues, here are a few recent articles.

“Residents exposed to high doses of radiation” in the Yomiuri:
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111209006244.htm
Here is the goverment’s review of radiation exposure for residents. “A
Fukushima prefectural government survey on residents’ external
radiation exposure showed those in government-set evacuation zones
were likely exposed to annualized radiation doses of up to 14
millisieverts, government sources said Friday.” The government-set
annual limit is 1 millisievert, which means relief workers must limit
their digging time.

“SDF battling with brooms, brushes”, the Yomiuri.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111209006358.htm
Here is a review of the SDF (Self-Defense Forces) and their uneven and
slow attempts to clear irradiated soil. It seems that they carry as
little protection as many of the ad-hoc volunteer groups. Some of the
work was outsourced to private companies, but all of the different
groups mostly work with shovels and buckets. “‘There’s no magical way
to decontaminate the areas instantly. Our job is to prove our
technology, even though it’s low-tech,’ said an official of the Japan
Atomic Energy Agency, which is jointly conducting the decontamination
project with the central government.” And “A dosimeter briefly
displayed radiation levels of seven to eight microsieverts per hour
during the cleanup. The central government has set a goal of lowering
the radiation level to 20 millisieverts per year and 3.8 microsieverts
per hour in the contaminated zones.”

Here is the New York Times article that gives a broader scope to the
issues, and problems, of decontamination. Fackler writes, “So far, the
government is following a pattern set since the nuclear accident,
dismissing dangers, often prematurely, and laboring to minimize the
scope of the catastrophe. Already, the trial cleanups have stalled:
the government failed to anticipate communities’ reluctance to store
tons of soil to be scraped from contaminated yards and fields.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/world/asia/japans-huge-nuclear-cleanup-makes-returning-home-a-goal.html

This is midst continuing reports of opposition by local communities to
allow radioactive soil to be relocated and dumped in their own area
.
The latest ideas include a “giant washer”
http://www.mysinchew.com/node/67283, or shipping it out sea
http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL3E7N815V20111208


David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University, Tokyo

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SEND MAIL TO
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SLATER POST ENDS

REFERENTIAL ARTICLES

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http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111209006244.htm

Residents exposed to high doses of radiation

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 10, 2011)

A Fukushima prefectural government survey on residents’ external radiation exposure showed those in government-set evacuation zones were likely exposed to annualized radiation doses of up to 14 millisieverts, government sources said Friday.

This is the first statistical data indicating external radiation exposure among people living around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The prefectural government sent questionnaires to about 29,000 residents from Iitatemura, Namiemachi and the Yamakiya area in Kawamatamachi, which are designated as in either a no-entry zone or expanded evacuation zone, between late June and mid-July, ahead of those in other areas. The survey covered the four months after the crisis began.

The figure is based on analysis of questionnaires from 1,730 people who responded early. The prefectural Fukushima Medical University and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences analyzed the results of the survey.

About half of the surveyed residents from the three municipalities are believed to have been exposed to external radiation of at least the government-set annual limit of 1 millisievert, according to the sources.

While the prefecture projected the annualized external radiation exposure would be up to 5 millisieverts for most residents, the figure was 10 millisieverts or higher for about 10 residents.

Among those examined, a Fukushima plant worker was estimated to have been exposed to a maximum annualized dose of 37 millisieverts, while the highest dose among non-plant workers was 14 millisieverts. The resident is suspected to have gone through a highly contaminated area at the time of evacuation, according to the sources.

The prefectural government has been conducting health surveys on those who lived in the prefecture when the crisis broke out at the plant.

The prefectural government plans to release the survey results by the end of December.

Meanwhile, the city government of Koriyama, also in the prefecture, announced Thursday four primary and middle school students’ cumulative radiation exposure exceeded 0.40 millisievert in the month from Oct. 5. The dose translates into an annualized dose of 4 millisieverts or more, city officials said.

The data was obtained from measurements by dosimeters that gauge cumulative radiation exposure. The city government distributed the dosimeters to 25,551 primary and middle school students. The cumulative radiation exposure levels among the students ranged between 0.01 millisieverts and 0.45 millisieverts, the city said.

“Experts told us the figures [for the four students] do not represent health problems, but we’d like to question the students to find out why their radiation exposure levels were high,” a city official said.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection sets the annual limit for radiation exposure at 20 to 100 millisieverts at the time of an emergency and 1 to 20 millisieverts after the disaster has been contained.

ends
////////////////////////////////////////////

SDF battling with brooms, brushes

Dai Adachi and Setsuko Kitaguchi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers (Dec. 10, 2011)

TOMIOKAMACHI, Fukushima–Self-Defense Forces members have begun decontamination work in the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones in Fukushima Prefecture, using only such low-tech implements as brooms, deck brushes and shovels.

The central government has commissioned private companies to do decontamination work in some areas on a trial basis, but they, too, lack sophisticated resources, and some Environment Ministry officials involved with the decontamination work are frustrated by its slow pace.

“The areas to be decontaminated are so wide. I wonder when the radiation levels will go down so residents can return home,” one official said.

As cold rain fell Thursday, decontamination work by SDF personnel was shown to the media in Tomiokamachi, about nine kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Some SDF members used brooms to gather fallen leaves, while others trimmed weeds growing under trees or shoveled mud from ditches.

At a first glance, it looked like a peaceful scene at a park. However, the about 300 SDF members were entirely covered by white protective suits, large surgical masks and green gloves.

On the third-floor balcony of the town office, several personnel used buckets and rope to lower bags of gravel taken from the office’s roof.

“We’ve no choice but to do this by hand,” an SDF official said.

SDF personnel also dug up soil in a 3,400-square-meter plot of grassland contaminated with radioactive substances, and carefully cleansed asphalt-covered areas such as a parking lot with high-pressure water sprayers.

A dosimeter briefly displayed radiation levels of seven to eight microsieverts per hour during the cleanup. The central government has set a goal of lowering the radiation level to 20 millisieverts per year and 3.8 microsieverts per hour in the contaminated zones.

SDF members will be engaged in the work for about two weeks.

“To attain the goal, we’ll have to make our personnel finish a substantial amount of work,” an SDF senior official said.

The central government asked the SDF to do the decontamination work as an advance party, with the aim of securing rest areas for private decontamination companies and bases to store materials before the government starts a full-fledged decontamination project in 12 municipalities in the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones from January.

About 900 SDF members currently are involved in that work at municipal offices in Tomiokamachi, Namiemachi, Narahamachi and Iitatemura of the prefecture.

“If we commissioned private companies to do the preparations, it would take about 2-1/2 months because we have to make an official notice and hold a bid. We wanted to secure at least storage bases by the end of this year,” said Satoshi Takayama, parliamentary secretary of the Environment Ministry.

At some places in the zones, the central government has commissioned private companies to do the decontamination, in model projects to find effective measures to rid the areas of radiation.

However, these model projects also lack high-tech equipment.

“There’s no magical way to decontaminate the areas instantly. Our job is to prove our technology, even though it’s low-tech,” said an official of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which is jointly conducting the decontamination project with the central government.

Some local governments in the zones still cannot start decontamination at all.

According to the agency, decontamination has begun at only five municipalities because it takes time to reach an agreement with local governments and residents over the establishment of temporary places to store removed soil and other matter.

Futabamachi, which hosts the nuclear power plant, has not yet agreed to hold an explanatory meeting on the decontamination work.

“It’s meaningless to hold [an explanatory meeting] at this stage as [decontamination] technology has yet to be established,” an official of the municipal government said.

Decontamination activities also are affected by the weather. If work is conducted in heavy rain, for example, removed soil will be washed away, which could spread radioactive materials.

Decontamination cannot be conducted if snow piles up because the snow will throw off radiation readings and workers might scrape away more soil than necessary.

The decontamination of roads and highways will be given priority and start in January, followed by residential areas including private houses.

However, a concrete operation schedule for the project has yet to be decided, as are specific instructions to private companies.

It still is not certain how long it will be before residents can return home.

“Not all the places have high radiation levels. There must be areas where people can return comparatively earlier. However, the targeted areas are large, so it will take a substantial time for some areas,” a ministry official said.

ends

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

Japan Split on Hope for Vast Radiation Cleanup
By MARTIN FACKLER
Published: December 6, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/world/asia/japans-huge-nuclear-cleanup-makes-returning-home-a-goal.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

FUTABA, Japan — Futaba is a modern-day ghost town — not a boomtown gone bust, not even entirely a victim of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that leveled other parts of Japan’s northeast coast.

Its traditional wooden homes have begun to sag and collapse since they were abandoned in March by residents fleeing the nuclear plant on the edge of town that began spiraling toward disaster. Roofs possibly damaged by the earth’s shaking have let rain seep in, starting the rot that is eating at the houses from the inside.

The roadway arch at the entrance to the empty town almost seems a taunt. It reads:

“Nuclear energy: a correct understanding brings a prosperous lifestyle.”

Those who fled Futaba are among the nearly 90,000 people evacuated from a 12-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant and another area to the northwest contaminated when a plume from the plant scattered radioactive cesium and iodine.

Now, Japan is drawing up plans for a cleanup that is both monumental and unprecedented, in the hopes that those displaced can go home.

The debate over whether to repopulate the area, if trial cleanups prove effective, has become a proxy for a larger battle over the future of Japan. Supporters see rehabilitating the area as a chance to showcase the country’s formidable determination and superior technical skills — proof that Japan is still a great power.

For them, the cleanup is a perfect metaphor for Japan’s rebirth.

Critics counter that the effort to clean Fukushima Prefecture could end up as perhaps the biggest of Japan’s white-elephant public works projects — and yet another example of post-disaster Japan reverting to the wasteful ways that have crippled economic growth for two decades.

So far, the government is following a pattern set since the nuclear accident, dismissing dangers, often prematurely, and laboring to minimize the scope of the catastrophe. Already, the trial cleanups have stalled: the government failed to anticipate communities’ reluctance to store tons of soil to be scraped from contaminated yards and fields.

And a radiation specialist who tested the results of an extensive local cleanup in a nearby city found that exposure levels remained above international safety standards for long-term habitation.

Even a vocal supporter of repatriation suggests that the government has not yet leveled with its people about the seriousness of their predicament.

“I believe it is possible to save Fukushima,” said the supporter, Tatsuhiko Kodama, director of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo. “But many evacuated residents must accept that it won’t happen in their lifetimes.”

To judge the huge scale of what Japan is contemplating, consider that experts say residents can return home safely only after thousands of buildings are scrubbed of radioactive particles and much of the topsoil from an area the size of Connecticut is replaced.

Even forested mountains will probably need to be decontaminated, which might necessitate clear-cutting and literally scraping them clean.

The Soviet Union did not attempt such a cleanup after the Chernobyl accident of 1986, the only nuclear disaster larger than that at Fukushima Daiichi. The government instead relocated about 300,000 people, abandoning vast tracts of farmland.

Many Japanese officials believe that they do not have that luxury; the area contaminated above an international safety standard for the general public covers more than an estimated 3 percent of the landmass of this densely populated nation.

“We are different from Chernobyl,” said Toshitsuna Watanabe, 64, the mayor of Okuma, one of the towns that was evacuated. “We are determined to go back. Japan has the will and the technology to do this.”

Such resolve reflects, in part, a deep attachment to home for rural Japanese like Mr. Watanabe, whose family has lived in Okuma for 19 generations. Their heartfelt appeals to go back have won wide sympathy across Japan, making it hard for people to oppose their wishes.

But quiet resistance has begun to grow, both among those who were displaced and those who fear the country will need to sacrifice too much without guarantees that a multibillion-dollar cleanup will provide enough protection.

Soothing pronouncements by local governments and academics about the eventual ability to live safely near the ruined plant can seem to be based on little more than hope.

No one knows how much exposure to low doses of radiation causes a significant risk of premature death. That means Japanese living in contaminated areas are likely to become the subjects of future studies — the second time in seven decades that Japanese have become a test case for the effects of radiation exposure, after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The national government has declared itself responsible for cleaning up only the towns in the evacuation zone; local governments have already begun cleaning cities and towns outside that area.

Inside the 12-mile ring, which includes Futaba, the Environmental Ministry has pledged to reduce radiation levels by half within two years — a relatively easy goal because short-lived isotopes will deteriorate. The bigger question is how long it will take to reach the ultimate goal of bringing levels down to about 1 millisievert per year, the annual limit for the general public from artificial sources of radiation that is recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. That is a much more daunting task given that it will require removing cesium 137, an isotope that will remain radioactive for decades.

Trial cleanups have been delayed for months by the search for a storage site for enough contaminated dirt to fill 33 domed football stadiums. Even evacuated communities have refused to accept it.

And Tomoya Yamauchi, the radiation expert from Kobe University who performed tests in Fukushima City after extensive remediation efforts, found that radiation levels inside homes had dropped by only about 25 percent. That left parts of the city with levels of radiation four times higher than the recommended maximum exposure.

“We can only conclude that these efforts have so far been a failure,” he said.

Minamisoma, a small city whose center sits about 15 miles from the nuclear plant, is a good place to get a sense of the likely limitations of decontamination efforts.

The city has cleaned dozens of schools, parks and sports facilities in hopes of enticing back the 30,000 of its 70,000 residents who have yet to return since the accident. On a recent morning, a small army of bulldozers and dump trucks were resurfacing a high school soccer field and baseball diamond with a layer of reddish brown dirt. Workers buried the old topsoil in a deep hole in a corner of the soccer field. The crew’s overseer, Masahiro Sakura, said readings at the field had dropped substantially, but he remains anxious because many parts of the city were not expected to be decontaminated for at least two years.

These days, he lets his three young daughters outdoors only to go to school and play in a resurfaced park. “Is it realistic to live like this?” he asked.

The challenges are sure to be more intense inside the 12-mile zone, where radiation levels in some places have reached nearly 510 millisieverts a year, 25 times above the cutoff for evacuation.

Already, the proposed repatriation has opened rifts among those who have been displaced. The 11,500 displaced residents of Okuma — many of whom now live in rows of prefabricated homes 60 miles inland — are enduring just such a divide.

The mayor, Mr. Watanabe, has directed the town to draw up its own plan to return to its original location within three to five years by building a new town on farmland in Okuma’s less contaminated western edge.

Although Mr. Watanabe won a recent election, his challenger found significant support among residents with small children for his plan to relocate to a different part of Japan. Mitsue Ikeda, one supporter, said she would never go home, especially after a medical exam showed that her 8-year-old son, Yuma, had ingested cesium.

“It’s too dangerous,” Ms. Ikeda, 47, said. “How are we supposed to live, by wearing face masks all the time?”

She, like many other evacuees, berated the government, saying it was fixated on cleaning up to avoid paying compensation.

Many older residents, by contrast, said they should be allowed to return.

“Smoking cigarettes is more dangerous than radiation,” said Eiichi Tsukamoto, 70, who worked at the Daiichi plant for 40 years as a repairman. “We can make Okuma a model to the world of how to restore a community after a nuclear accident.”

But even Mr. Kodama, the radiation expert who supports a government cleanup, said such a victory would be hollow, and short-lived if young people did not return. He suggested that the government start rebuilding communities by rebuilding trust eroded over months of official evasion.

“Saving Fukushima requires not just money and effort, but also faith,” he said. “There is no point if only older people go back.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 9, 2011

An earlier version of this article said the evacuation zone covered more than 3 percent of Japan’s landmass; in fact it is the area contaminated above an international safety standard for the general public that covers roughly 3 percent of the country’s landmass.

ends

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

Japan looks to giant washer to clean Fukushima debris

http://www.mysinchew.com/node/67283

 2011-12-02 14:16

TOKYO, December 2, 2011 (AFP) – Japan is looking to launder tsunami debris in a giant washing machine to get rid of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, a researcher said Friday.

In a scheme they hope will result in finally being able to dispose of contaminated waste left by the waves that crushed towns on the country’s northeast coast, a cleaning plant will be built near the Fukushima Daiichi power station.

Shredded waste — including the remains of houses and cars destroyed by the tsunami — will be put inside a huge water-filled drum where steel attachments will scrub away radioactive particles, the researcher told AFP.

The plan is a joint scheme between Tokyo-based construction company Toda Corp. and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

“We, as a general contractor, have experience of cleaning soil and hope that we will eventually be able to decontaminate soil as well as debris,” said a research at Toda Corp, who asked not to be named.

He said researchers will experiment with pure water and detergents to find the best way to decontaminate the waste and hope to be able to recycle the water using a series of filters.

In an initial test they will use a tub 120 centimetres (four feet) long and plan to install multiple washing drums three times larger than that once the project fully launches, he said.

Large areas around the Fukushima plant have been left contaminated with radiation since the tsunami of March 11 knocked out its cooling systems and sent reactors into meltdown.

The world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has not directly claimed any lives, but has left tens of thousands of people displaced and rendered whole towns uninhabitable, possibly for decades.

The radiation that has leaked from the crippled reactors has contaminated the waste left behind by the tsunami, complicating the clean-up operation.

The Japanese government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power have pledged to bring the reactors to a state of cold shutdown by the end of the year.

Government planners have said radiation-contaminated debris could be stored in a facility in Fukushima prefecture for at least 30 years until its final destination is determined.

ends

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Tepco may dump decontaminated water from Fukushima plant into sea

Reuters Thu Dec 8, 2011 4:18am GMT

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO Dec 8 (Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Thursday that it is considering dumping water it treated for radiation contamination into the ocean as early as March, prompting protests from fishing groups.

Tokyo Electric Power, (Tepco) the utility operating Fukushima’s Daiichi plant hit by a powerful tsunami in March in the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, said it was running out of space to store some of the water it treated at the plant due to an inflow of groundwater.

“We would like to increase the number of tanks to accommodate the water but it will be difficult to do so indefinitely,” Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters, adding the plant was likely to reach its storage capacity around March.

The admission is a setback for the utility which appeared to be making progress in its cleanup after building a cooling system that no longer required pumping in vast amounts of water. It also built a system, drawing on French, U.S. and Japanese technology, that decontaminates the vast pool of tainted runoff to supply the cooling system with water.

The company said representatives of a nationwide federation of fishing cooperatives on Thursday visited its Tokyo headquarters to protest.

Tepco said it is still assessing the potential environmental impact of releasing the accumulating water, but that if forced to do so it would discharge water expected to have the least effect the environment.

Tens of thousands tons of water contaminated with radiation have accumulated at the plant, 240 kilometres (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo after early on in the crisis Tepco tried to cool reactors that suffered nuclear fuel meltdowns by pouring in water, much of it from the sea.

“Our priority is also to look for ways to limit the inflow of groundwater into the buildings at the plant,” Matsumoto said.

The operator estimates that due to the inflow the amount of water requiring storage is increasing by 200 to 500 tonnes every day.

The utility released more than 10,000 tonnes of water tainted with low levels of radiation in April to free up space for water that had much higher levels of radioactivity, drawing sharp criticism from neighboring countries such as South Korea and China. (Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

ends

The System really is irredeemably broken: BBC: Tsunami relief funds diverted to GOJ whaling program

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog. A bit of a tangent, but an important one, as it’s a watershed moment. I saw some news three days ago that made me say out loud, “That’s torn it. The System is irredeemable.” According to the BBC and the SMH below, we have relief efforts that should be going towards helping its own citizens recover from a tsunami and botched corrupt nuclear disaster going towards a GOJ pet project, a corrupt one that essentially exists to thumb its nose at the world: whaling. Yes, whaling.

People might have excused the GOJ for botched relief efforts up to now because a) the scale of the disaster is unprecedented or facing too many unknowns, b) the infrastructure was too damaged for efficient cleanup and rescue, c) things just take time and money to fix. But there is NO excuse for diverting money away from relief efforts for this kind of vanity project. It’s porkbarrel at the expense of a slowly-poisoned public.

And do you think the domestic media would have exposed this if activists and the foreign media hadn’t? The System is broken, and the Japanese public, cowed by a forever-fortified culture of submission to authority that punishes people for ever trying to do something about it, will not fix it. As I have argued before, Japan has never had a bottom-up revolution. And I don’t see it happening at this time no matter how corrupt and poisoned things get.

As coroner, I must aver: The GOJ has bankrupted Japan morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably. Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  NB to Commenters:  Please avoid getting the discussion bogged down in the petty politics of whaling (this has been discussed on much better forums).  This is not a blog post about whaling per se, rather about GOJ corruption and money earmarked for disaster relief purposes being sunk into what is in this blogger’s opinion an unrelated industry.  If you wish to debate cogently whether or not this activity counts as corruption, go ahead.  But tangents and snipes about alleged ocean terrorism, Sea Shepherd tactics etc. will not be approved.

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BBC News 7 December 2011
Japanese tsunami fund ‘used for whaling programme’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16064002  Courtesy of JK

Japan has used funds from its tsunami recovery budget to subsidise its controversial annual whaling programme, environmental activists say.

Greenpeace says 2.3bn yen ($30m; £19m) is being used to fund extra security measures for the whaling fleet.

Japanese officials argued when they applied for extra funding that whaling helped coastal communities.

The whaling fleet reportedly headed for Antarctic waters this week, though Tokyo has not confirmed the reports.

There has been a ban on commercial whaling for 25 years, but Japan catches about 1,000 whales each year in what it says is a scientific research programme.

Critics say those claims are just a cover for a commercial operation, and accuse the Japanese of hunting the animals to the brink of extinction only for food.

Activists from the Sea Shepherd group have attacked the fleet as part of their campaign against whaling.

Last year Japanese abandoned its programme before it was completed, citing “harassment” from the group.

Earlier this year, the Japanese Fisheries Agency applied to the government for extra funding for its programme from the emergency budget aimed at helping communities recover from the devastating tsunami and earthquake.

The agency argued that some of the towns and villages affected relied on whaling for their livelihoods.

Activists say the agency’s funding request was approved and it has spent the money on extra security and covering its debts.

Junichi Sato, from Greenpeace Japan, told Australia’s ABC that there was no link between the whaling programme and the tsunami recovery.

“It is simply used to cover the debts of the whaling programme, because the whaling programme itself has been suffering from big financial problems,” he said.

The Australian and New Zealand governments have both criticised Japan’s decision to continue whaling.

They are both considering sending vessels to monitor the whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd activists have promised to carry on their campaign against the whaling fleet.
ENDS

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Japan uses $28.5m in disaster funds for whaling: claim
Sydney Morning Herald
Andrew Darby in Hobart December 07, 2011  Courtesy AJ
http://m.smh.com.au/environment/whale-watch/japan-uses-285m-in-disaster-funds-for-whaling-claim-20111207-1ohzc.html

A growing number of Japanese environmental and consumer groups are joining in protest against the use of disaster recovery funds to subsidise the loss-making whaling fleet.

The government recently gave the whalers 2.28 billion yen ($28.5 million) as part of a special budget for recovery from the March 11 triple disaster. Mr Kaz Inadome from the Japanese Consulate said no money from the disaster relief funds collected in Australia had been used. All that money had gone to the Red Cross in Japan.

Much of the extra funding will go towards security forces for the whaling fleet, which left Japan yesterday for the Antarctic, where conflict is expected with Sea Shepherd activists.

A total of 18 Japanese non-government organisations, including the Environmental Lawyers Federation and Consumers Union have signed on to a protest letter to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

“We demand the government not waste any more taxpayers’ money on the whaling program, but instead spend this money on projects that actually help the people, communities and region affected by the tragic March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis,” the letter said.

“It is clear that the Japanese government’s stated goal of resuming commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is unachievable. The whaling program cannot survive without taxpayer handouts.”

Greenpeace Japan distributed the letter, because, according to executive director, Junichi Sato: “This is a new low for the shameful whaling industry and the callous politicians that support it.”

However, the Fisheries Agency of Japan said the funding was necessary because some traditional whaling communities were devastated on March 11.

Senior Agriculture and Fisheries vice-minister Nobutaka Tsutsui told a review committee recently the government was determined to continue its research program until it led to the resumption of commercial whaling.

Mr Kaz Inadome from the Japanese Consulate said no money from the disaster relief fund had been used.
ENDS

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

JAPAN TSUNAMI FUNDS AID WHALING FLEET

Kieran Mulvaney
Analysis by Kieran Mulvaney 
DISCOVERY NEWS Thu Dec 8, 2011 01:50 PM ET 

http://news.discovery.com/earth/japan-uses-tsunami-funds-to-support-whaling-fleet-111208.html  Courtesy of CG

Japan’s Antarctic whaling fleet has left port on its annual hunt, seeking to kill 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales for what it claims are ‘scientific research’ purposes. (The meat from the hunt is sold commercially.)

The hunt, already controversial, has attracted greater ire from critics with an admission by the Japanese government that it is using funds earmarked for earthquake and tsunami reconstruction to subsidize the fleet’s operations.

Greenpeace accused the government of diverting 2.28 billion yen (US$30m) from the earthquake recovery fund to help pay for this year’s hunt.

“It is absolutely disgraceful for the Japanese government to pump yet more taxpayer money on an unneeded, unwanted and economically unviable whaling programme, when funds are desperately needed for recovery efforts,” said Junichi Sato, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, to The Guardian newspaper.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency stated that the money would be used for “stabilising whale research.” In the words of one official: “We will bolster measures against acts of sabotage by anti-whaling groups so as to stably carry out the Antarctic whaling research.”

That was a reference to the fact that last year’s hunt was called off a month early, with the fleet having caught only 172 whales, which the Fisheries Agency blamed on the attentions of Sea Shepherd. Japan’s Coast Guard stated that it would be sending an unspecified number of vessels to escort the whaling fleet. Some domestic news reports indicated that there would be two escorts.

Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku justified the use of funds by claiming that a successful whaling program would help ensure the recovery of some coastal towns devastated by this year’s tsunami. 

“The government will support the reconstruction effort of a whaling town and nearby areas,” he told AFP. “This program can help it reconstruct food-processing plants there… Many people in the area eat whale meat, too. They are waiting for Japan’s commercial whaling to resume.”

However, Greenpeace sources told Discovery News that as far as they could tell, 2 billion yen was being appropriated as a straight subsidy for the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), the body that runs Japan’s ‘research’ whaling program. This is on top of an existing 700 million yen subsidy. (Update: This Wall Street journal blog quotes a Fisheries Agency official as confirming that 1.8 billion yen is for “supporting whaling research.”)

They also expressed confidence that the fleet would not come close to reaching its publicly-stated quota, pointing out that, two years ago, the number of ‘catchers’ – or harpoon-equipped hunting vessels – in the fleet dropped from three to two, and last year it dropped further, from two to one. This year, as last year, just one catcher will be used. Within official circles in Tokyo, the sources said, the target quota is much lower, largely due to a recognition that there is not enough demand for the meat.

That view was supported by Patrick Ramage, Whale Program Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“As always, it’s important to pay attention, not to what is said but what actually happens,” he told Discovery News. “On the one hand, the Japanese government is finding the funds to continue with this money-losing enterprise. On the other hand, all the signals – for example, at the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission – are that this may well be the last hurrah for Japanese whaling in the Antarctic. The current Prime Minister is a long-time advocate for and supporter of the whaling industry. But the number of those supporters in the Diet, and particularly the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, is dwindling.”

ENDS

David Slater and Yomiuri on how activism re Fukushima is being stifled, contamination efforts stymied

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  This is an email written by an academic in Japan sent to a public Japan listserv.  It is a very indicative accounting of how protests and grassroots activism is systematically stifled and stymied in Japan (in the context of Fukushima), and how even local governments are given the wrong incentives and making weird (and wrong) decisions (e.g., the apparent public shame in decontamination).  Plus the terminology (i.e., kegare) that is shifting the blame from the perpetrator of the contamination to the victim.  Followed by an excellent conclusion that is worthy of print that the social effects of this disaster (particularly in terms of discrimination) will last a lot longer than anticipated.  The bits I found most enlightening I’ve rendered in boldface.  Arudou Debito

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

From: “David H. Slater”
Date: 29 November, 2011 
To: EASIANTH@LISTSERV.TEMPLE.EDU
Subject: Re: [jaws] reports of bullying Fukushima kids, and roaming cows
Reply-To: “East Asia Anthropologists’ discussion”

Just to follow up on an old thread–if anyone else has been working on these topics it would be interesting to share what we have…. dhs
Levels of contamination: kegare in official designations, in community activism, in young bodies

As the process of decontamination in Tohoku gets going, we see a range of often chilling representations and bad options, pollution and risk everywhere. “Contamination” today goes beyond the early reports of avoidance behavior and school bullying. Fear of this stigmatization is forcing some townships to forgo governmental relief and retarding local protest efforts. These fears and choices are being played out in municipalities, communities and individual images of life course.

Municipality Funding

In yesterday’s Yomiuri [full text below] there was an article about municipalities that have refused governmental help with the decontamination processes for fear of stigmatization. ‘”If the government designates our city [as subject to intensive investigation of radiation contamination], the entire city will be seen as contaminated. We decided to avoid such a risk,” a senior municipal government official said.” Another official is quoted: “If our town receives the designation, it may deliver a further blow to our image, already damaged by radiation fears.” This, despite the fact these townships have already received excessive radiation measurements. Usually, the townships are afraid of hurting tourism or exports of agricultural products, but often the cost of decontamination is too high for them to pay themselves. Here is the English version of the article: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111127003736.htm

In Community Activism

In a set of interviews that I have been doing among Fukushima women anti-nuke activists, one explained that it was very hard to enlist other women from her community for similar reasons. “It is sort of crazy–even though these women are afraid of radiation, and even though they actually know that areas all around [their children’s school] have high radiation, they do not want to say anything…. because they are afraid of the being singled out.” This activist was frustrated with the other mothers, angry because their reluctance to say anything weakened the voice of the community in taking a unified position. She also understood their reluctance, albeit with some impatience. “I know, I know. If you object, then you are also bringing attention to yourself and maybe worse, to your community, as dirty, as full of radiation. I know that story.” But she said, “If we do not say anything, are we really protecting our community or even our families?” Later in a more reflective moment in the interview, when she was acknowledging the ambiguous progress that activism has made, she said “We mothers know that activism might puts these ideas into other people’s heads sometimes, and this might hurt us, mark us, for years. It is a hard situation, knowing what to do.”

In Young Bodies

In my class on oral narrative of disaster, one group of my students at Sophia U. is interviewing another group of college students from Fukushima University, old high school friends now separated by radiation. The result is alarmingly direct, intimate interviews. (Besides being gifted interviewers, they are also of the same age, which seems to be important.) In one interview, a Fukushima college student addressed her own fears in a way that frightened my students. She resents those who call it the “Fukushima” disaster, marking everyone who lives in the prefecture. And yet, she also called herself contaminated, using the work kegare, a Shinto term meaning unclean, impure, defiled. She wondered, seemingly more to herself than to the interviewers, if she would ever marry or have children, knowing that this is how she will be thought of, knowing this is how she thinks about herself. Then she snapped out of it to explain the many active and constructive programs and events that the young people in her college relief and support club were doing, how they were looking ahead (mae muki) to a fresh start to the next year.

Not knowing how far to push this religious connection, my understanding is that usually kegare is the result of natural occurring contamination, unlike tsumi, which is more the result of human transgression. If radiation were considered tsumi would there be some transgressive agent who might be held responsible (Tepco)? In either case, is purification possible? If so, does it coincide with the on-going decontamination procedures? In any case, radiation is not just science nor just ritual pollution, but because now it involves official government designation and the transfer of funds (or not), these labels have consequences beyond the reports of random discrimination that occurred almost as soon as people began to evacuate. By linking contamination to official nomenclature and funding schemes, marks of contamination might last far longer than the excessive levels of radiation.


David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University, Tokyo

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

REFERENCED ARTICLE

Towns avoid govt help on decontamination
Keigo Sakai and Tomoko Numajiri / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
Yomiuri Shimbun Nov. 28, 2011
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111127003736.htm

MAEBASHI–Municipalities contaminated with radiation as a result of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are concerned that the central government’s plan to designate municipalities for which it will shoulder the cost of decontamination will stigmatize those communities, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

As early as mid-December, the government plans to begin designating municipalities that will be subject to intensive investigation of their contamination, which is a precondition for the government paying for decontamination in place of the municipalities.

Municipalities with areas found to have a certain level of radiation will be so designated. The aim of the plan is to promote the thorough cleanup of contaminated cities, towns and villages, including those outside Fukushima Prefecture.

However, many local governments are reluctant to seek such designation, fearing it may give the false impression that the entire municipality is contaminated.

Based on an aerial study of radiation conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in mid-September, municipalities in Tokyo and Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures were candidates for the government designation.

The aerial study examined radiation in the atmosphere one meter above the ground. Municipalities with areas where the study detected at least 0.23 microsieverts of radiation were listed as candidates. About 11,600 square kilometers of land, equivalent to the size of Akita Prefecture, reached that level, the ministry said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has asked municipalities in the prefectures–excluding Fukushima Prefecture–whether they would seek the government designation as municipalities subject to intensive investigation of radiation contamination. Fifty-eight of the cities, towns and villages that responded to the survey said they would seek the designation.

Almost all the municipalities in Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures had areas where radiation in excess of the government standard was detected. However, only 10 municipalities in Gunma Prefecture and 19 in Ibaraki Prefecture said they would seek the designation.

The figures represent only about 30 percent of the municipalities in Gunma Prefecture and about 40 percent of those in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Maebashi municipal government said it would not request the designation.

In late August, radioactive cesium exceeding the government’s provisional regulatory limit was detected in smelt caught at Lake Onuma, located on the summit of Mt. Akagi in northern Maebashi. The opening of the lake’s fishing season for smelt has been postponed.

Usually, the lake would be crowded with anglers at this time of year, but few people are visiting this season.

However, in most of Maebashi, excluding mountainous regions, the radiation detected in the September study was below the regulatory limit.

“If the government designates our city [as subject to intensive investigation of radiation contamination], the entire city will be seen as contaminated. We decided to avoid such a risk,” a senior municipal government official said.

The Maebashi government wants to prevent the city’s tourism and agriculture from being damaged further, the official added.

Daigomachi in Ibaraki Prefecture, a city adjacent to Fukushima Prefecture, said the city has also refrained from filing for the designation. Usually about 700,000 people visit Fukuroda Falls, the city’s main tourist destination, every year, but the number has dropped to half since the nuclear crisis began, the town said.

“If our town receives the designation, it may deliver a further blow to our image, already damaged by radiation fears,” an official of the town’s general affairs department said.

In recent months, citizens in the Tokatsu region of northwest Chiba Prefecture have held protests demanding local governments immediately deal with areas where relatively high levels of radiation were detected. All six cities in the region, including Kashiwa, said they would file requests for the government designation. The Kashiwa municipal government said it had already spent about 180 million yen on decontamination.

“People are loudly calling for decontamination. We hope that the designation will eventually lower the cost of decontamination,” an official of the municipal government’s office for measures against radiation said.

Observers have said one of the reasons the six cities decided to request the designation was their low dependence on agriculture and other primary industries that are vulnerable to fears of radiation.

Kobe University Prof. Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert on radiation metrology, said: “It will be a problem if decontamination activities stall due to local governments’ fears of stigmatization. To prevent misunderstanding of radiation, the government needs to do more to disseminate correct information.”

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Saturday Night Live skit on Japan-obsessed American youth; scarily accurate?

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, here’s Saturday Night Live poking fun at American kids obsessed with J-pop culture.  I found it very funny, and from what I’ve heard it’s scarily accurate (although I wouldn’t know — been out of the US for too long).  What do you think?

Here are some stills:

Clips are not viewable everywhere in the world, unfortunately; you might have to use a proxy, like I did.  If you can’t find it, Google SNL J-pop.  More elaborate write up and stills here.

UPDATE:  Just found a Russian server playing it outside of the U.S. without proxies.  Try here:  

http://rutube.ru/tracks/4914046.html?v=f07fb33ba9c6603f51cef4ffd7c1e09d

Arudou Debito

http://www.hulu.com/watch/289406/saturday-night-live-j-pop-talk-show

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2011-10-16/saturday-night-live-spoofs-j-pop-talk-show

ENDS

GOJ Ministry of Environment is dispersing Tohoku debris, including Fukushima nuclear debris, around Japan despite objections of prefectural govts

mytest

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

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

UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Here we have some more GOJ mischief in the works regarding the Fukushima debacle.  What follows is a primary-source document from the Minister of the Environment, Division of Waste and Recycle Policy, dated October 7, 2011, addressed to all prefectural waste management department heads.

It concerns disposing of debris from the Tohoku disaster areas in other prefectures, as a follow-up to their communication/”survey” of April 8, 2011, where they asked regional governments to pitch in in dispersing the rubble nationwide.  The Education Ministry acknowledges that several prefectures expressed trepidation at spreading radioactive refuse all over Japan.  Nevertheless, as Tokyo has started undertaking the disposal of the debris, it’s clear the GOJ considers it high time that others did their part (as per the “close cooperation” (genmitsu ni rentai shi) between the Minstry and the regional environmental agencies) to match that effort.  It is clear that by the fourth paragraph of the directive below, the Ministry will be moving forward with this policy full steam regardless of regional objections.

The results of the abovementioned April communication/”survey” where local governments balked will not be made public.  That is to say, those prefectures who balked at taking radiation into their area will not be named [after all, we don’t want NIMBY citizens rallying behind their local representatives that are clearly antipathetic towards GOJ policy].

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I had heard about this months ago (a rumor that toxic waste from Fukushima was being delivered to my nearby garbage incinerator in Hassamu, Sapporo), but lacked enough evidence to say much at the time.  Now we have documented proof that the Japanese government (the Environment Ministry, no less) is taking steps to pressure local governments nationwide into swallowing their fair share of the radiation.  Why does this debris have to be carted around the country?  Not only could it contaminate the entire nation, it will also shield the nuclear power industry from criticism and responsibility — as it will make it harder to link radiation to the cause of any future sickness or death if casualties are not limited to the Fukushima area.  Having the national government shove this down the local governments’ throats is one thing, but the sheer venality, nay, flat-out evil of this kind of policy is staggering.

Just in case you think this may be a hoax, see the Chunichi Shinbun of October 15, 2011 (reprinted below) acknowledging this dispersal is exactly what’s happening, with the local governments (in this case, Aichi-ken) refusing to make public how much debris they’re disposing of.  Arudou Debito

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

Courtesy https://sites.google.com/site/natrium100mg/ with commentary in English at http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2011/10/radioactive-debris-ministry-of.html

事務連絡

平成23年10月7日

関係都道府県廃棄物行政主管部(局)御中

環境省大臣官房廃棄物・リサイクル対策部
廃棄物対策課
東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の受入検討状況調査について

東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の広域処理については、本年4月8日付け事務
連絡「東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の広域処理体制の構築に関する調査につい
て(依頼)」により各地方公共団体における災害廃棄物の受入処理に関する調査を実施
し、多数の回答を頂きました。

しかしながら、放射性物質による災害廃棄物の汚染を心配する意見が全国各地で寄せ
られ、慎重な対応を余儀なくされていたところです。

環境省では、今般の東京都における広域処理のスタートを契機として、今後、広域処
理を加速するため、環境省本省と地方環境事務所が緊密に連携し、広域処理のマッチン
グを進めることとしています。

このため、各地方公共団体における災害廃棄物の受入検討状況を把握し、得られた情
報を用いて具体的なマッチングを実施することを目的として、別紙要領により調査を実
施いたします。

なお、本調査の結果について、個別の地方公共団体名は公表しないこととしています。
御多忙の折、大変恐縮ではございますが、御協力方よろしくお願いします。

連絡先
環境省大臣官房廃棄物・リサイクル対策部
廃棄物対策課  担当:敷田、青竹、播磨
TEL : 03-3581-3351(内線6857)
E-mail : hairi-haitai@env.go.jp

別紙

東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の受入検討状況調査要領
1. 調査方法
「災害廃棄物受入検討状況調査票」により、責管内市区町村分を取りまとめの上、
回答してください。
2. 回答提出先
別添の提出先に電子ファイルを提出願います。
3. 回答期限
平成23年10月21日(金)17:00

4. 記入上の留意点
① 検討状況
以下のA~Cから選択して記入してください。
A:既に受け入れを実施している
B:被災地への職員派遣や検討会議の設置等の具体的な検討を行っている
C:被災地への職員派遣や検討会議の設置等は行っていないが、受入れに向け
た検討を行っている
② 検討内容等
具体的な検討の内容や進捗状況を記入してください。
③ 受入れが想定される廃棄物
以下のような記載を参考にしてください。
○ 可燃性混合廃棄物(木くずやプラスチック等が混合した状態の廃棄物)
○ 不燃ごみ(割れたガラス等、埋立処分が必要な廃棄物)
○ 粗大ごみ(家具等で粉砕処理を必要とする廃棄物)
○ 燃え殻等(火災により発生した燃え殻等、埋立処分が必要な廃棄物)
④ 処理施設名(処理内容)
受入が想定される施設名と処理内容(焼却、粉砕、埋立等)を記入してください。
⑤ 1日処理可能量
処理余力を勘案し、1日の処理可能量を記入してください。
⑥ 年間最大受入可能量
処理余力・保管能力等を勘案し、年間最大受入可能量を記入してください。
※③~⑥については、受入れ可能となった場合に想定される処理能力等を可能な
範囲で記入してください。

回答提出先

●北海道地方環境事務所(北海道)
環境対策課
電話 011-299-1952
FAX 011-736-1234
電子メール REO-HOKKAIDO@env.go.jp

● 環境省現地災害対策本部(東北地方環境事務所)
青森県、秋田県、山形県
電話 022-722-2871
FAX 022-724-4311
電子メール REO-OHOKU@env.go.jp

●関東地方環境事務所
茨木県、栃木県、群馬県、埼玉県、千葉県、東京都、神奈川県、新潟県、山梨県及び静岡県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 048-600-0814
FAX 048-600-0517
電子メール HAIRI-KANTO@env.go.jp

● 中部地方環境事務所
富山県、石川県、福井県、長野県、岐阜県、愛知県及び三重県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 052-955-2132
FAX 052-951-8889
電子メール REO-CHUBU@env.go.jp

● 近畿地方環境事務所
滋賀県、京都府、大阪府、兵庫県、奈良県及び和歌山県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 06-4792-0702
FAX 06-4790-2800
電子メール REO-KINKI@env.go.jp

●中国四国地方環境事務所
鳥取県、島根県、岡山県、広島県及び山口県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 086-223-1584
FAX 086-224-2081
電子メール REO-CHUSHIKOKU@env.go.jp

● 高松事務所
徳島県、香川県、愛媛県及び高知県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 087-811-7240
FAX 087―822―6203
電子メール MOE-TAKAMATSU@env.go.jp

● 九州地方環境事務所
福岡県、佐賀県、長崎県、熊本県、大分県、宮崎県及び鹿児島県
廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
電話 096-214-0328
FAX 096-214-0349
電子メール REO-KYUSHU@env.go.jp
ENDS

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

愛知県、がれき受け入れ市町村 公表せず

中日新聞 2011年10月15日 09時03分

http://www.chunichi.co.jp/s/article/2011101590090305.html

 東日本大震災で発生した岩手、宮城両県のがれき処理で愛知県が県内市町村に受け入れ可能な量を再調査している問題で、環境省と県は14日、調査終了後も、受け入れ可能な自治体名や数、処分できるがれきの量を公表しない方針を示した。

がれき受け入れに関しては、環境省が4月に調査した後、福島第1原発事故による放射性物質の付着を懸念する住民感情が高まり、実施されなかった。このため、同省の再調査の要請を受け、愛知県が13日に市町村などの担当者を集めて情報連絡会を開き、21日までに環境省に回答を報告することにしていた。県環境部の担当者は、再調査の結果を公表しない理由を「県は国の調査を仲立ちするだけ。国の非公表の方針に従いたい」と説明した。

環境省は今回の再調査を、個別の地方公共団体名を公表しない前提で行っているという。同省廃棄物対策課は「今回はあくまで調査の段階。全国の受け入れ可能量など一定の情報は公表するが、県ごとの受入量までは出すつもりはない」と説明。「実際に受け入れる時は、市町村側が住民に説明することなどを検討したい」と話した。

全国市民オンブズマンの新海聡事務局長は「地域の安全と被災地支援のバランスをどう取るか難しい問題だが、がれきはどこかで処理しなければならない。困難な問題だからこそ、住民に情報を公開し、議論していくことが大切で、非公開にするのは、間違いだ」と国や県の対応に疑問を呈した。

(中日新聞)

Health and Education Ministries issue directive to place controls on research going on in Tohoku tsunami disaster zones

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  This is a very interesting development that has been uncovered and discussed on the H-Japan academic public listserv (which I include in full below to show the context).

The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare Ministry has issued a directive, written by the Education Ministry’s Department of Life Sciences, Bureau for the Promotion of Research, to all related research industries, universities, and tertiary-education associations regarding health surveys and research conducted within the Tohoku disaster area.

Dated May 15, 2011, a little more than two months after the tsunami, the directive (full Japanese text below) essentially tells academic researchers 1) there are “ethical guidelines” (rinri shishin) for epidemiologists to follow, and that research guidelines must be passed by ethics committees and approved by their research institution’s head; 2) these health surveys and research must also sufficiently (juubun) be run by the local governments (jichitai) in the disaster areas beforehand, and afterwards the results of the research (if I’m reading this odd and rather vague sentence right) must “take into due consideration” (hairyo) the disaster victims and the appropriate systems providing them health and welfare (better translations welcome); 3) in order to not to cause any undue stress to the disaster victims, health surveys and research must avoid repetition by “not surveying and researching in more detail than necessary”, and with sufficient understanding of the situation on the ground.

Well, it might sound sensible at first read.  But given the history of lack of accurate and timely information being issued by the Japanese authorities concerning the whole Fukushima debacle, there is another way to read this ministerial directive:  1) All research must be tracked and approved by somebody above you in the research workplace, 2) All research must be tracked by the local governments and health departments before and after, and 3) All research must not ask too many questions.

The point is, in the name of “ethics”, the government is inserting veto gates into what might become research independent of the GOJ, and making sure that information tracked before and afterwards stays under central control.  Which means, in practice, that if there are research lines or inquiries or results unpalatable to the GOJ, they might not be seen by the public.

My read of this document is that this is primary-source evidence of GOJ central control over the scientific method regarding a politically-sensitive issue.  And this will control the information flow out to the world regarding the effects and aftermath of Fukushima.  Arudou Debito

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Starts at
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-japan&month=1110&week=b&msg=Ya11YokM43QnkEetLjpOLw&user=&pw=

From: H-Japan Editor (j-edit@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU)
Editor’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): Teaching the Crisis: some reflections
Author’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): Teaching the Crisis: some reflections
Date Posted: Tue, 10 Oct 2011

H-JAPAN (E)
October 9, 2011

From: JFMorris (jfmorris@mgu.ac.jp)

Dear List Members

I would like to thank David Slater for his open call to bring together
people working on the disaster in Tohoku.

However, reading his proposal, I cannot help but feel a certain disquiet
about it. I think that this stems most directly from the fact that I
cannot find Tohoku involved in this proposal in any but a passive way. If
you want to reflect the voices of people from Tohoku, then why not get us
involved from the outset? Tohoku University had set up one of the major
world class interdiscipinary research projects on natural disasters some
years before this current disaster (we all knew that a big one was coming,
and were already gearing up for it): outside of Tohoku University,
numerous scholars within Tohoku are involved in dealing with it a
multitude of ways. One thing that has really bugged me watching reporting
on this disaster unfold is that we of Tohoku are there to be talked about,
but not to be seriously allowed to go much beyond eyewitness accounts, the
more heart-rending the better. If you want to deal with topics such as
trying to reframe Tohoku history (this requires you to reframe crucial
junctures of “Japanese” history…), interdisciplinary approaches to
studying disasters, experiences learnt from this disaster, then there is a
wealth of academic experience here. Is the problem that the overwhelming
portion of this is available in Japanese? This list was originally set up
with the high ideal of bringing Japanese and non-Japanese scholars
together in a truly bilingual list, where posting in 2 languages was meant
to be the norm… How many years is it since I saw anything on this list
written in Japanese, let alone any other language?

While on my high horse, I would like to add a little word of caution about
barging in and doing research here. I am as much aware of the need to do
this as anyone else. As IKEDA Ken’ichi pointed out in his posting of 3rd
October, (1) Japan does have ethical standards to be maintained in
conducting research, and (2) the Ministry of Education and Science has put
out effectively a blanket ban on doing research unless this is specifically
at the request of the local government of the relevant area: there are that
many people crawling through this area that this kind of restriction is
necessary (well, up to a point…).

I do not want to start a flame; that is furthest from my intention. From
his postings to this net, I am seriously impressed with David’s commitment
to acting both as a rank and file member of humanity, and as an academic,
to reacting in a constructive way to this disaster. However, if you want
to start some kind of a summing up, if you leave the major research
centres of the region out, then I think that you are going to miss
something very important. If I have misconstrued David’s posting, then I
apologise in advance.

Faithfully,
John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

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

From: H-Japan Editor (j-edit@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU)
Date: 12 October, 2011
Subject: H-JAPAN (E): Research ban?
Reply-To: H-NET/KIAPS List for Japanese History

On-line editor: Janet R. Goodwin (jan@cs.csustan.edu)

H-JAPAN (E)
October 12, 2011

From: gsjohnson@otsuma.ac.jp

From John Morris’ post appearing on October 9th :”(2) the Ministry of Education and Science has put out effectively a blanket ban on doing research unless this is specifically at the request of the local government of the relevant area: there are that many people crawling through this area that this kind of restriction is necessary (well, up to a point…).”

Could you provide more information about the research ban? Is it for certain designated districts or certain research subjects? I was surprised to read of a ban because the government has been encouraging tourism as a means of economic recovery. Recently, I caught a few seconds of an NHK clip showing students taking a boat on coastline tour of a tsunami hit area and snapping away with cameras. From what little I saw, this activity was being presented as an edifying experience. I hope that researchers do not interfere with recovery. However, it seems odd that the government would allow school children to visit an area from which it banned researchers.

Greg Johnson

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Courtesy http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Japan&month=1110&week=b&msg=hax2by/T5mqrCNF1EGBPlg&user=&pw=

From: H-Japan Editor (j-edit@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU)
Author’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E/J): Ban on Research?
Date Written: Wed, 12 Oct 2011 22
On-line editor: Janet R. Goodwin

H-JAPAN (E/J)
October 12, 2011

From: J.F.Morris

Dear Greg and List Members,

The directive issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Science and is as
follows. Please note that to display the rest of this mail on your screen, you
will have to set your “View” settings to display in either Japanese or
Universal font. It is not a total ban, but a very limiting one.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin

http://www.mhlw.go.jp/seisakunitsuite/bunya/hokabunya/kenkyujigyou/hisaichi/jimurenraku.html

被災地で実施される調査・研究について
事務連絡

平成23年5月16日

関係試験研究機関

大学等          御中

関係学協会

文部科学省研究振興局ライフサイエンス課

厚生労働省大臣官房厚生科学課

被災地で実施される調査・研究について
今般の東日本大震災による被災地域において、被災者に対する様々な健康調査・研究が実施されているが、これらの健康調査・研究の中には、倫理的配慮を欠き、被災者にとって大きな負担となっているもの、自治体との調整が十分図られていないもの等が見受けられ、関係学会等からも問題提起がなされているところである。

ついては、被災地における被災者を対象とした健康調査・研究を実施する場合には、下記について遵守されるよう留意されたい。

1 「疫学研究に関する倫理指針(以下、疫学指針)」が適用される疫学研究を実施する場合等においては、疫学指針等にのっとり、当該研究計画について、倫理審査委員会の審査を受け、研究機関の長による許可を得るなど、適切な対応を行うこと。

2 被災者を対象とする調査・研究は、当該被災地の自治体と十分調整した上で実施すること。また、調査・研究の結果、必要と考えられる被災者には、適切な保健医療福祉サービスが提供される体制を整備する等配慮すること。

3 対象となる被災者に過度な負担とならないよう、対象地域において行われている調査・研究の状況を十分に把握した上で、重複を避け、必要以上に詳細な調査・研究が行われることのないように配慮すること。

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

From: j-edit@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU
Date: 13 October, 2011
To: H-JAPAN@H-NET.MSU.EDU
Subject: Re H-JAPAN (E/J): Ban on research?

—————————- Original Message —————————-

On-line editor: Janet R. Goodwin

H-JAPAN (E/J)
October 13, 2011

From: gsjohnson@otsuma.ac.jp

Thanks. So the Health Ministry is restricting research on human subjects,

 被災地における被災者を対象とした健康調査・研究
not all research as I mistakenly assumed. The 対象となる被災者
refers to people in the 被災地, but I wonder if the Ministry
shouldn’t consider whether people displaced by the disasters and no longer
in 被災地 require a clause in this memorandum, however difficult it
would be to enforce. Even if the government is incapable of keeping tabs
on extra-district research, in the end the scholarly community has to
police its own research ethics.

2。。。必要と考えられる被災者には、適切な保健医療福祉サービスが提供される体制を
整備する等配慮すること。
Needless to say, I hope the responsible agencies are also giving those
被災者who do not become research subjects this consideration in
sufficient measure!

Greg Johnson

—————–End H-Japan message———————-

ENDS

Tangent: I’ve shed fifty pounds (23 kgs) since April 2011

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

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Hi Blog.  As a complete tangent for today, I just wanted to share what I consider to be very happy news.

I’ve been dieting with guidance since April 1, 2011.  Back then, I tipped the scales at a massive 265.3 pounds (120.6 kgs).  It was the product of a steady upcline of maybe 1-2 kgs a year, slow enough over the decades to be barely noticeable save for magically-shrinking belts and the occasional sore back.  After all, life was too short (and stressful) to forgo good meals (the norm in Japan just about anytime, anywhere).

But I had to draw a line somewhere.  People simply can’t keep gaining weight until they pop.  So from April 1, I went on a supervised diet of 1800 kcal per day (no more or else I won’t lose weight at a decent clip, no less because at my height and body type I will go into starvation mode, meaning my metabolism will drop and I won’t lose weight again).  A “decent clip” defined as about two pounds per week, I have manage to lose weight every week since then (except for a month I was travelling, and successfully managed to keep my net weight steady (as in, no gain) for that full month despite all the booze and culinary temptations of eating out).

So over time this has been a mathematical process.  And as of this week I’ve reached one milestone I’m very proud of.

I’ve shed a total of fifty pounds (22.7 kgs).  Actually, as of this morning I weighed in at 213.4 lbs (96.8 kgs), so more than that.

It’s uncanny how much better I feel.  I can get out of cars without feeling extra gravity.  I can sleep on my stomach (my preferred pose, thanks to months of outdoor Boy Scout camping in high altitudes) without getting a sore back.  I psychologically feel more empowered and in control of my life.  And I look significantly different:

BEFORE:  April 2011:

AFTER: September 2011:

I’m not going to say how I did it (since people will think I’m promoting a weight loss program), but the crux is that calorie counting with the assistance of a nutritionist worked for me.

I’m not done yet.  I still want to drop down to 190 lbs (86.4 kgs), meaning I still have more than 20 lbs to go (my high school weight was 183 lbs, but that’s overambitious), and then comes the unenviable task of KEEPING the weight off, of course.

But we’ll worry about that a bit later.  I’m just happy to know that someone with my decades of (former) dietary practices of meat and potatoes (and despite decent amounts of exercise) can reform and change himself to this degree.  It’s been one big shedding, both physically and mentally, and I think it shows.  I feel a lot happier about myself and life in general.  Arudou Debito

Japan Times guest column: “Top 10 most useless Japanese Prime Ministers” (I contribute Murayama)

mytest

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

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

Hi Blog. I was invited last week to contribute a bio of who I thought was one of Japan’s “most useless” Prime Ministers.  I was surprised to find that Murayama was not taken.  So here’s my writeup (#5, ordered by when they held office).  There are nine other biographies done by some very knowledgable writers and observers of Japan, so have a read of them here.  Enjoy!  (And if you think there are some even more useless PM notables, mention them in the Comments Section below — but give concrete reasons why, please!). Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2011
THE ZEIT GIST

No-nos for Noda: Japan’s top 10 most useless PMs

(excerpt, illustration by Chris Mackenzie)

5. Tomiichi Murayama (1994-96)

News photo

Short tenures, imprudent public statements, poor character judgment, weakness under pressure — when we think of useless prime ministers, all this seems like standard operating procedure. However, Tomiichi Murayama’s particular brand of uselessness was peerless. Essentially, everything he touched turned to sh-te.

It’s not as if Murayama had a hard act to follow. His predecessor, Tsutomu Hata, only lasted two months, and was most famous for arguing (when agriculture minister) that beef imports were unnecessary because Japanese have long intestines.

But Murayama was a case study in gutless leadership. His pattern of playing evasive games with the media and the Diet served him poorly during 1995’s Kobe quake, when it took him a day to recognize the disaster and send assistance — and several days more before he even visited the site.

Even potentially notable acts stunk. Murayama’s general apology for Imperial war atrocities was caveated into meaninglessness by both sides of the political spectrum, not to mention overseas observers. He barely developed a concrete platform beyond the perpetual narrow-focus leftist issues (the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution), while ironically giving even more power to the already very-powerful Japanese police (through the Anti-Subversive Activities Act, a reaction to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks).

He was the first Socialist Party prime minister, and the last. Having made a Faustian bargain to take the top job, he then proceeded to sell his party’s soul so blatantly that in his wake the Socialists were moribund and fractured. He proved to Japan’s voters that the left cannot govern, putting the corrupt Liberal Democrats back in power for 13 more years.

No other PM can be credited with setting back Japan’s development into a two-party democracy while killing his own party in the process. Yet. For that, he gets my vote not only as Japan’s most useless, but also its flat-out worst postwar prime minister.

Debito Arudou is the Just Be Cause columnist for The Japan Times
The other nine Most Useless Japanese Prime Ministers can be found on the Japan Times at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110927zg.html

ENDS

Discussion: JK on the oversimplistic panacea of slogan “Ganbare Nippon/Tohoku” etc.

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Submitter JK also wrote a brief essay on “Ganbare”, and how it seems more than just a bit facile for the times we live in. Food for thought. I’ll put this under “Discussions”, which means I’ll comment less and allow more comments through (as long as they do not go ad hominem and do stick to point, of course). What do Debito.org Readers think? Arudou Debito

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

September 17, 2011
From JK

Hi Debito: I wanted to share this with you on a side thread not connected to debito.org as it’s been on my mind for a while now.

I’ve been pondering the following question — “If I had to boil down the essence of what it is to be Japanese using a single expression, what would it be?”.

My answer is 「頑張れ」.

And the situation in 釜石市 epitomizes this.

Brief synopsis of 釜石市: it is 90% mountains and 10% flat land — the former is basically a glorified fishing village that was wiped out by the March tsunami.

I did some research, and it turns out that this place has been flattened by tsunami, not once, not twice, but three times prior to 2011 (specifically, 1896, 1933, and 1968).

The city council is floating various reconstruction plans, such as making the sea wall higher, raising the elevation of the land, better evacuation response and improved shelters, a ‘dual-layer’ approach, etc. The plans are either not feasible (project cost is too high and/or schedule cannot be met in time to prevent another tsunami disaster) or cannot guarantee the safety of the citizens and/or their property (people must be evacuated into shelters, not all will make it in time, those who do make it will survive, but their dwelling and belongings will be destroyed).

It appears to me that 釜石市 as a city is untenable unless the national government or fishing industry is going to do something to ensure that this city can last for more than 50 years at a time (e.g. shoulder the cost of a 10-meter high sea wall). If neither entity values the existence 釜石市 enough to make this happen, then in my opinion, the city need not exist.

But I have not seen or heard this point addressed. 「諦め」, it seems, is not an option on the table if certain conditions are not met to ensure the long-term survival of 釜石市. I have, however seen and heard a great deal of 「頑張れ東北!」 and 「頑張れ日本!」.

As you can see, 頑張れ is not always appropriate — it can only take you so far, and then that’s it. The key of course is to know when to 頑張れ and when to 諦め, and I don’t see much critical thinking along these lines taking place at the moment.

On a related note, 「頑張れ日本!」 and 「頑張れ東北!」come across to me as over-simplistic panaceas for Japan’s / Touhoku’s woes, and because of this, I resent the use of these expressions.

Cordial Regards, JK

P.S. Compare and contrast 「頑張れ」 with “La Joie de vivre”, the essence of what it is to be French IMO.

ENDS

“The Douzo Effect”: One case study of a sexless marriage in Japan, by SexyLass

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. In line with the current thread on sexuality in Japan, what follows is a testimony by a NJ female, Sexylass, about how she got into (and got out of) a sexless marriage. She also talks about “The Douzo Effect” — the chilling effect that forced sexuality has on a relationship. Have a read. Arudou Debito

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The Douzo Effect
By SexyLass
September 7, 2011

I have always had a penchant for the exotic or the different. It is not the ordinary Australian girl that marries a Japanese man. There are a few of us but the most commonly-held scenario is Western men marrying Asian women (even if more Japanese men in fact marry foreign women). I love Asian faces and even though I am separated now from my Japanese husband something inside me still gets very excited when I see a good looking Asian man.

I studied Japanese at university as a mature age student and then I moved to Japan when I was thirty so I could really immerse myself into the Japanese language. I was a very lonely Western woman shagging the local temple’s Japanese monk whenever he could ‘come over and see me’ type of thing.

I met my (future) husband on a Japanese dating website for other lonely types. He spoke to me in Japanese. This was refreshing as the sexy monk who knew English never spoke to me in Japanese. This new man, lets call him Ken, charmed me by speaking to me slowly in Japanese, the way that every person in Japan expected me to speak to them in English so I could surreptitiously teach them English. Instead Ken did this for me in Japanese. Though we could probably have very well conversed in English as he had lived in America for a year of his life.

I stopped shagging the local monk and Ken and I spoke on the phone every night for several months in Japanese. We developed a long distance relationship over the phone. We had a lot of phone sex. I really believed that he was into it and his libido seemed quite similar to mine, that is, that he needed to have sex a lot. I had more long distance phone sex with Ken than I could count. Things looked very promising though we hadn’t yet met.

Ken began sending me gifts. It started with boxes of English versions of Japanese comic books. He sent me the English version of The Parasite and a few others because he wanted me to read what he read. He also sent me an orange wallet and said he had bought two so we could be like a ‘real Japanese couple’ with matching wallets. The gifts got bigger and more extravagant as time went on. There was an ice cream maker, boxes of chocolates and cartons of Lotte and Meiji chocolates, about as much as a convenience store would sell in a week perhaps. He also used to send me lots of chilled packages of meat. There was a lot of lamb, as Ken wanted me to experience the taste of his region. There were also a lot of sausages and beef and potatoes.

After a few weeks Ken convinced me to delete my profile from the dating website where we had met. I wasn’t keen to do it, but I felt obliged to with all the gifts I was getting and accepting from him. The gifts seemed never ending. I deleted my profile from the dating website.

I decided that I didn’t want to live in the same town as the monk anymore and that the only way to really emotionally leave the monk was to also physically leave the town where we both lived. So I got a better job in another prefecture. No longer was I going to be the English Conversation school slave catching trains all over Matsuyama all day from 6 in the morning till 10 at night with classes interspersed throughout train trips each day. I was going to be a different kind of English slave, an 8am to 4pm English slave. I had got a job as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) for a dispatching company. I was happy as I was going to be in Japanese schools hearing Japanese all day and although I was employed to teach English, at least I was going to be immersed in a more Japanese atmosphere. I had not come all the way to Japan to be told I could only speak English all day every day. I had studied Japanese as my university major so I wanted some kind of cultural immersion. I was happy to be going to work as an ALT.

When I arrived in the new town there was one more phone call from the monk but I sent him an angry text saying not to contact me anymore as I could no longer provide him with the emotional support he needed. That is to talk to him on the phone every night when he would call me after he had drunk a bottle of whiskey. The monk had alcohol issues. He had drained me spiritually for too long.

In the new town, the phone relationship and the phone sex continued with Ken. And so did the presents, as Ken sent me presents to settle in. These presents were too extravagant and really should have been a warning bell about Ken’s personality. I should have had them returned but I was poor and lonely and I was in love with him.

So I accepted the brand new fridge, washing machine, TV, couch, bed, vacuum cleaner, and microwave. It was over the top but the presents kept arriving. I emailed my mum and my best friend in Australia and they suggested to me that it was a dubious situation and that I should suspect something was wrong with Ken. Really I should have, someone who I had never even met in person was furnishing my flat with brand new appliances. I had heard lots of outrageous stories of generosity in Japan from other non-Japanese and I thought it was just that, Japanese generosity. I didn’t have much money at the time and I welcomed the gifts.

I enjoyed my new job as an ALT in Nagoya, I was hearing Japanese every day and some teachers in some staff rooms would speak to me in Japanese. Six months went by and Ken came down south to meet me. He was everything I hoped for, tall, dark and handsome and he took me out and he kissed me passionately on the first day. That night we slept together but that should have been a warning sign too. Although we had kissed lots of times that day I had to seduce him to sleep with me. He had got me excited through the day with lots of kissing and I thought he wanted the same thing as I did, wild hot sex. I thought he was really into me like I was into him. Though it seemed I did all the work and it was over within a minute. Oh well I thought, must have been the ‘first time excitement’ for Ken and he will probably take more time as he becomes more relaxed with me.

The next day Ken surprised me with tickets to his hometown. I stayed a week in with him and also met his parents. The meeting with the parents went well. They were kind and accepting of me in the first instance. The rest of the time we drove around his prefecture exploring and staying in various Japanese inns. There was enough sex in that week of our meeting for me to be satisfied. Once per night, and though it was at my initiation it didn’t phase me as he seemed to enjoy it. I was so happy to have met such a lovely man like Ken. I felt I had found true love.

Another thing that really makes sense to me now in hindsight is that I didn’t mind the lack of sex so much then, or lack of initiation by Ken as I had had some Australian boyfriends that wanted it all night every night. At that time I was relieved to have found someone that didn’t need sex three or four times a night. Though at the time Ken was probably wondering about this woman that had him ‘working’ every night. He was probably just being too polite and Japanese to talk about the fact that he didn’t want to do it so much.

It was a gorgeous week spent in his part of Japan and I went back down south with love in my heart for Ken. Six months later I quit my ALT job and moved prefectures to be with Ken.

I remember the day I arrived in Ken’s town; it was cold, wet, slushy and snowy. There was another warning sign when I turned up at the family noodle shop where Ken worked. I turned up and he didn’t seem too phased, he just kind of said “hi” and gave me the keys to his LDK (one room flat). His dad was in the shop and he wasn’t overly friendly either, though I had met him before. Perhaps Ken hadn’t even told his parents I was moving there. I mean it could be possible they had been quite shocked to see me actually turn up to live with their son.

I got a job as an ALT on the JET Program and life began as a live-in couple. We weren’t even living together a few months and the affection from him began to noticeably diminish. I remember one occasion when he came home after work and took my pants off. Ken went down on me, but only for about a minute, it didn’t last long, and that was the only time Ken ever went down on me in the whole 10 years we stayed together. Just once for a minute. Could you imagine just having intimate oral sex only once in your defacto or married life?

You might wonder why I stayed with him. I loved him and didn’t pay too much attention to the lack of sex at the beginning. Though I thought it was unusual I didn’t realise it was going to be a very serious problem in our marriage. But as he started to refuse my affections it became an enormous source of angst for me. It was a puzzle that I couldn’t solve, something he refused to talk about and something that I just hoped would get better and not worse as time went by. He wanted to be together all the time, just never sexually. I persisted to try and talk to him about the sexlessness but every time I would try to discuss it he refused to talk about it coming back each time with the same answer “nan no hanashi o shiteiru?” (what are you going on about?). We were both in denial that the marriage was not a normal marriage. I even suggested divorce back then but he refused to talk about that too.

Despite the pain of continuous sexual rejection I believed he truly loved me and I loved him and wanted to marry him. He never agreed or proposed though I suggested it. One day he completely surprised me by taking me to his parents’ house and announced that we were going to get married. I was shocked. And his mother must have been too as she burst into tears and hugged me hard for ages. Such a great show of emotion from Ken’s Japanese parents was quite phenomenal. Twelve months later we went to Australia and got married in my hometown.

The night before I flew out to Australia to get married I met a friend downtown for a coffee. I told her I didn’t really want to get married but my mother and his parents had gone to great expense and that I felt I had to go through with it. Really I shouldn’t have been so stupid, and so dishonest. I should have been assertive enough to cancel the wedding and at least pay my mum back for any money she had spent. I should have been a runaway bride but I was delusional. There is no excuse really, obviously I just needed to learn a very hard lesson.

So we were married. After a short honeymoon in Australia we went back to Japan and we never had sex again unless I insisted on it or initiated it. It was demoralising. It was shameful. Even in the first week of marriage I found strange messages on his phone of meeting rendezvous arrangements between him and various people. I thought they were potential girlfriends but in hindsight I think they must have been prostitutes. I confronted him and said I wanted an annulment. I didn’t care anymore and even told his parents about it, his parents screamed at him and he never did it again. Looking back I should have relied on my instinct. If you feel something is wrong in your relationship, well it is. If you think your partner is playing up, they generally are, what you feel is not imaginary.

It was like a prison sentence, not a marriage. I felt like I was in a sexual prison. The life sentence was that I would never have sex again with my husband but not with anyone else either because in the hope that things could get better I chose to be faithful to this man. I would get angry about it, then I would argue with him, then he would do something nice for me, take me out or buy me a present or tell me that he loved me. Each time he convinced me to stay in the marriage with him for love. This pattern continued for years. I would get angry and confront him and he’d convince me to stay, then I would calm down for a while always hoping for the best, thinking that one day our marriage might become slightly sexually normal. By normal I mean possibly we might have sex once a year or once every six months. I know now that if things don’t start out as you’d like they are not going to change into what you would like. I really seem to need to learn the hard way.

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After five years I was tired of teaching English in Japan. And there weren’t many employment opportunities for non-Japanese where we lived. I wanted to broaden my employment prospects. Ultimately I planned to return to Australia and I hoped to get a job as a Japanese translator or interpreter. I thought I would try and get into an Australian university that offered the best course in translation and interpreting. I had to pay an invigilator and that person needed to be a lecturer working at a university in Japan. I didn’t know anyone so I took a chance and emailed a fairly well known teacher and writer. I will call him John. I emailed him and asked him to come over to my place and proctor me for a fee. John agreed.

And so John came over and invigilated me. I didn’t pass. My Japanese still wasn’t as good as I had hoped it was. Though John stayed for a cup of tea and a biscuit and we chatted. It was great to get to know John. He was divorced from a Japanese woman and as a matter of course we got talking about our Japanese marriages. I spilled over that I was in a sexless marriage with a great guy. How is that for an oxymoron, sexless marriage but great guy? “He doesn’t satisfy me or give me much affection, but he is a top guy, a good husband.” John identified too that his ex-wife had also given him years of sexless marriage. We made jokes about the ridiculousness of sexless marriages, and shared demoralising stories. Most importantly though I was given some comic relief to laugh at such a sad situation, being in a marriage when clearly one person didn’t want to be intimate with the other anymore. And possibly never had really wanted to.

One of John’s stories really stood out. He coined it the ‘Douzo Effect’. John recalled to me that similarly to me he had hounded his wife a fair bit as to when they would have sex again. To appease him, he told me that one night she got in the shower, dried herself off, then with a towel around her laid on their bed and said ‘douzo’. John was horrified and completely turned off. It was as though she was offering herself, her body but she was not actually interested in any of the sex that would take place. Literally offering herself for him to do with what he wanted to do with her, but she wouldn’t be there emotionally, just physically. As demoralising as it was we still laughed a lot about this story. And so the Douzo Effect was born. I never thought I would experience the Douzo Effect. John said another thing to me that day that really made sense too, “if you don’t like who you yourself are when you are with a person, it is time to get out of the relationship”. I listened and understood those words but didn’t act on them. I just kept hoping things would get better.

So life went on and I continued to check Ken’s phone. There was no sign of anything clandestine and in my denial I convinced myself Ken just wasn’t a sexual person. Ken got a spouse visa and came back to Australia with me and we moved in with my mother for 12 months. Later we moved into my townhouse which I had bought ten years previously. He got various jobs. He became mentally unstable. Countless times I tried to hug him and he would physically push me away. On the few occasions when I did initiate sex and we did it, his forehead would be all tight and frowning when we were in the act. It looked like he was physically repulsed by me. It was always with me on top and him on the bottom. He was too lazy to even make an effort to try any other positions. As long as he didn’t have to do anything and could just lay there he would ‘participate’.

It was a couple of years later when it happened to me. After years of very little sex and fruitless discussions (initiated by me) with Ken about the marriage the Douzo Effect became reality. I had all but given up trying to resolve the problem of our sexless marriage with Ken but I still mentioned it as a joke sometimes. I think I had already forgotten about it by the time he got back from his shower and laid on his bed (as we were sleeping in separate beds by then). I went into his room to say goodnight and he said to me ‘douzo’ as he lay there naked on a towel on his single bed. I couldn’t believe it, years later exactly the same thing that John had shared with me was happening to me. Needless to say I was completely turned off and didn’t take up the offer.

That was the last time I even talked about sex with him again. The Douzo Effect had turned me off so much I stopped even mentioning anything about our sexlessness. I began to completely give up on the marriage. I gave up trying to communicate with him about it and in my mind wondered how I could continue in a marriage with a man that never wanted to have sex with me ever again. I often wondered if I would experience mutual affection or sex again in this lifetime, before I died. I knew that my marriage was not a real marriage. By then I had even talked about my sexless situation with my family. My mother, my brothers and my sister-in-law knew about my sexless marriage. It was all so shameful for me. Before I had met Ken I had never spoken to my family about my sex life, that kind of thing did not feel right. But I had become so desperate and my self image was so distorted I couldn’t help sharing the details of my stupid situation with family and even workmates. In hindsight I think the sharing about it was the beginning of me emotionally leaving the marriage. By verbalising the situation I was beginning to clear a pathway out of the marriage. Though getting out was a long process.

Eventually there was no sex at all and by this point I no longer tried to have sex with him. After years of trying I no longer WANTED to have sex with him. We had not kissed for years. If he held my hand or sat next to me I would push him away, the same way he had physically pushed me off him for years. He had hurt me so much that I would not let him back in. I got fatter and ate more and more.

Despite Ken not wanting to have sex with me he desperately wanted a child and wanted me to go through the IVF process. He wanted an incubator. Thank goodness I was barren. I entertained this stupid thought and to cure my infertility I had an operation to get fibroids removed from my uterus. At the time I thought it would be my last chance at having a child. Funnily enough Ken’s grandmother had had the same operation. Her operation was so successful that she had produced four children after, one being Ken’s father.

After my operation when I was full of stitches and could barely walk Ken became mentally unstable and was in the end committed to a mental hospital for a few weeks. His family rang me and abused me and said that it was my fault that he had had his breakdown. That was interspersed with phone calls asking me to call the mental hospital and to interpret for them. After one too many abusive phone calls, I said to his mother that they would need to come to Australia to get him out and that they would need to do it through the Japanese consulate. They did, I didn’t hear from them much after that. They came and picked up Ken and took him back to Japan for lots of promised therapy.

Ken phoned me and mailed me from Japan as though nothing was wrong. In no uncertain terms I told him to stop calling me and in the emails I said I definitely didn’t want him in my life anymore. Ken was either angry or depressed before he finally broke down. He exhibited behaviours that didn’t correspond with friendship let alone marriage. He needed professional help. I did not like the person I had become in the marriage either. I had to begin to look after myself.

Unannounced, Ken turned up on my doorstep three months later. He said he was sleeping in his car. I felt sorry for him and took him back. He lived with me again for another twelve months. We never had sex again. We continued to sleep in separate rooms for those 12 months. I had become a mother figure to him. He wanted to stay in this mother-son marriage but again I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt that he was just using me for a place to live by then. He was also planning to set up a business despite being mentally unstable and having severe health problems related to his diabetes.

I suggested he find a share-house and so instead of calmly looking for a place online or in the paper he left in a wild rage. I did not throw him out, he chose to leave the way he did.

I heard from my sister-in-law who he had gone to visit and complain about me to, that he was sleeping in his car again. I was worried about him so I checked his mail. I know that is wrong but I was genuinely worried about him. I learnt that he had been sleeping in his car and emailing prostitutes and arranging meetings.

He had emailed a woman and arranged to buy her used knickers for the sum of $60 in a car park at night. Strangely though he had been coming back to my house during the day when I was at work and doing the dishes and putting the rubbish out. Buying used knickers at night and house chores by day.

After I discovered what he was up to, the proof that Ken still had sexual desires just not with me, I sent him a text asking for my key back. I also let him know that he wasn’t welcome in my house anymore. He returned my key and took the last of his things. I didn’t tell him I knew about the prostitutes, knickers or other strange mails. It was not going to resolve anything by this stage.

I have not seen him since and I don’t wish to. I still miss him, but I realise I am probably missing the Ken that I want him to be and not the Ken that he really is. I would rather be single and a bit lonely than to live in that lonely prison of a marriage. A marriage where I couldn’t have sex with my partner but I couldn’t have sex with anyone else either. I plan to have sex again with someone who mutually wants to have sex with me before I die at least. Now I have the freedom I should have granted myself long ago. I should have ended the relationship and not married but hindsight is only valuable if we treat it as a learning experience.

Basically Ken is a good person and despite everything that happened between us I wish him all the best. I hope he is ok but we don’t need to be married anymore, that is for sure. I think we are just two people that were getting older and got married for all the wrong reasons. We certainly aren’t the first and wont be the last.

—————————–

You might wonder why I stayed for so long, ten years with this man. I took my marriage vows seriously and tried to make the best of the marriage. I continuously hoped for the best, that things would get better. I even convinced myself at times that things could be worse and that I would be able to stay in a sexless marriage. Clearly the truth is that Ken didn’t desire me, he wanted a wife who played his mother. He is still interested in sex, just not with me.

It is really important that a couple agree about sex before they get married. No one is going to change and it is really important that your idea of marriage is the same idea of your partner’s idea of marriage, before you sign up. People get married for the wrong reasons. I did. I was lonely and I was worried about my age and finding someone. I also thought I had met the most wonderful man. He was kind, hardworking, funny, cooked well and always wanted to be with me. I ignorantly thought everything would work out for the best.

Being single now is great. I don’t plan on getting married again. I have a pretty good job and have interesting hobbies. I wouldn’t mind a sex friend or two but that’s all. I don’t want to live with anyone again. I am not holding out for Mr Right or even Mr Fantastic. I am not even searching for anyone. I am enjoying my life, my friends, my work and my hobbies. I like who I am and I will not stay in a relationship again because I think I have to.

EPILOGUE

Recently I took a risk and asked an acquaintance on a date. I didn’t expect anything to come of it but since I wrote my story I have had sex with this lovely man. He worships my body with his. Sleeping with him in the last few weeks has boosted my self-image and self-esteem more than thousands of dollars worth of therapy ever could. I don’t know where this relationship will go and am not worried either. I am enjoying the intimacy. The new man never directly or indirectly criticises my body. He accepts me and loves me for who I am. I did not realise how much the sexless marriage had damaged my self esteem until I finally had mutually desired sex again. The sex I am having now has done more for me than any therapy would ever do. I cannot emphasise that enough for anyone who is coming out of a sexless marriage. Hallelujah I am a woman again, a desirable beautiful woman.

ENDS

It’s time for the naysayers to capitulate regarding the Fukushima Crisis; referential articles

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.

But one other thing also has to be said.  Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”.  One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.”  That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).

Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.

The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months!  The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.

Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information).  We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell.  They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on.  Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part.  You know who you are.  It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong.  Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.

Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters.  Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved.  I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already.  Arudou Debito

REFERENTIAL ARTICLES

(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)

More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search

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Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands

NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST)
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH
A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.

The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.

A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.

Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.

Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
ENDS

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Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril

By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER
Published: August 8, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/world/asia/09japan.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate.

Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.

The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.

But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.

“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”

The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”

In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.

Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.

“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”

In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.

“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”

The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public.

Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.

Too Late

The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”

The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.

Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public.

“As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.

Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.

At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home.

“I want to play outside,” she said.

About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.

Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.

On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.

Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.

Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.

And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.

“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.

The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.

But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.

However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.

A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.

Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.

“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”

Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.

In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”

Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.

“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”

A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”

Seeds of Mistrust

Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.

Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.

“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”

In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.

After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.

“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.

The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.

But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.

“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”
ENDS

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

Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima

Kodama TatsuhikoProfessor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo

Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives

…In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.

What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.

In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb…

Rest of the article at: http://japanfocus.org/-Kodama-Tatsuhiko/3587

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Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid

, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)

After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Times termed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.

The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported the New York Times on Monday.

“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”

Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)

Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”

The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.

This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:

“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”

U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:

“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”

Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry

There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.

“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré.  “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”

——————————–

Continue reading on Examiner.com Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid (video) – National Human Rights | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/fukushima-forced-depopulation-japanese-plead-world-aid-video#ixzz1W3AdOlmn

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

More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
ends

Drunk interview with vlogger Tkyosam, Tokyo, July 27, 2011

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a complete tangent (and to show you how human a lot of glasses of beer/wine renders a person), here we have an interview with vlogger Tkyosam done at the FCCJ Tokyo July 27, 2011, with a bunch of friends.  It’s pretty silly, but dreadfully amusing, and it makes a good case for why humans need the outlet of booze.  Kanpai, everyone.  Debito

Part One:

Part Two:

Joel Legendre-Koizumi on the J media’s blackout on PM Kan’s proposals

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Reporter Joel Legendre-Koizumi of RTL France had this very poignant comment on Facebook on June 28, 2011, which he has nicely granted me permission to post on Debito.org (provided I don’t over-comment on it — which I won’t, so I’ll stop here). Have a read. It’s an insider’s view on how the Japanese media is getting in PM Kan’s policymaking. A complete tangent, but worthy of a wider audience.  Arudou Debito

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

Yesterday night 2215, at the Prime Minister Kan press conference at Kantei, Nagatacho, Tokyo. By Joel Legendre-Koizumi, RTL France reporter, informal Facebook comment

Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Courtesy http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=247905685224086&set=a.179594385388550.49429.100000139696684&type=1&theater

Unbelievable! Most questions were mere bullying and nothing concrete. Except the Mainichi and two free lance reporters the rest was on a hunt on the chief of the government. Media played themselves the Nagatacho’s game. I was shocked to see that the only of the 2 good questions asked to PM Kan was by Mr. Shimada, a free lance reporter. A good validated comment and question about actions since and after the triple catastrophes (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear contamination) and how Japan’s social aspect has changed since 3/11 and the implications in actions and behaviors of the society. Kan started to answer on his philosophy and his expectation regarding Japanese population and I really noticed he was continuing explaining and elaborating his ruling concrete plan. Fabulous. But then NHK TV suddenly cut the answers of Prime Minister Kan… very articulated ones. He offered a vision of the present and the future after these exceptional disaster circumstances, I was astonished by Kan’s words.

So now, it’s clear. One knows one cannot truly rely on kisha clubs press releases. Luckily but minor impact, Kan’s comment is available on the web page of the Kantei. Now !! Why on earth do the media shut up the prime minister when he is presenting the most important policy speech of reconstruction after Japan chaos of March 11? Would the US cut B. Obama at a major speech? Would France cut N. Sarkozy live talks on such issues? During a press conf? Unbelievable. Then I asked again and again. No-one dares to say a word. His political death as current prime minister is planned? I am told by a close friend of Kan that the Kantei kisha club never forgave Kan’s administration to open the kisha club to other members of the national and international press… One reason certainly to explain the DIVIDE between what Naoto Kan said and what the press prints!

Following is the kind of things which supports the nasty pressure against Kan’s administration that you can read in the local media after last night press conf’. quotes:

“Prime Minister Naoto Kan has named Ryu Matsumoto as reconstruction minister and Goshi Hosono as minister in charge of resolution to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. The additional cabinet posts were created on Monday. “The move is to assuage the heavy criticism Prime Minister Kan has received for his lack of leadership in handling the March 11 catastrophe.” (Said who?) Prime Minister Kan has gone so far as to agree to resign (pushed by who?) but only after Japan is on solid footing and the passage of budget bills and a renewable energy measure. “I’m aiming at stepping down after achieving those bills” said Kan on Monday. Hosono, (he is Kan’s successor in policies) who has been director of the nuclear task force, will be in charge of power conservation.” (At last a positive note of policy reported): “Kan explained that “the main purpose of the new appointments is to push for reconstruction from the disaster and to take steps to prevent another nuclear accident.” ” End of quotes.

I have to say that Akira was not uninformed when he commented with a certain passion yesterday on my fb wall about the way the media do the OMERTA on Kan’s policies. One word of advice, one friend told me again yesterday: “Just don’t! Just don’t trust national media* about Nagatacho and Japan’s politics, reporters report but editors CUT!”

* 5 main TV and 5 main newspapers.

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: The euphoria of collective attack and parental alienation syndrome

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, and a corollary to yesterday’s blog post about the debate on definitions of Domestic Violence in Japan, here is a discussion from a psychologist on what sort of person will probably be most likely to take advantage of “violence” that is not physically violent in nature: a bully, who uses collective attack and parental alienation as a means to extract revenge on a spouse.  Under Japan’s increasingly blurry definitions of serious matters of violent behavior, this means that bullies will also be able to enlist the authorities’ help in carrying out their bullying. Courtesy AS, excerpted from http://mensnewsdaily.com/2010/02/26/why-parental-alienation-is-the-act-of-an-emotionally-abusive-bully/ Arudou Debito

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

EXCERPT FOLLOWS

The emotionally abusive bully who engages in mobbing (or parental alienation) revels in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.”

Parental Alienation and Personality Disorders

People that have no compunction about using their kids to hurt their exes seem to fit the profile of the emotionally abusive Cluster B personality disorders (Borderline Personality DisorderNarcissistic Personality DisorderAntisocial Personality Disorder). These individuals play the professional victim as they emotionally bully anyone who confronts, challenges, or criticizes them. They don’t recognize appropriate boundaries, won’t accept personal responsibility for their actions—in fact, they blame you for the horrible things they do and always have an excuse to justify their indefensible behaviors.

If your ex is actively or passively alienating your child(ren)’s normal affection toward you, he or she was probably emotionally abusive while you were together. Parental alienation is her or his way of continuing to abuse and hurt you via remote access. Generally, most bullies don’t see themselves as such. If you confront your ex about this behavior, they’ll deny it and blame you for your deteriorating relationship with your child(ren), even as you make every effort to be a present and involved parent.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. As a Weekend Tangent, let’s take a look at this oldie but a weirdie article from Fox News, about child adoption in Japan Post-3/11. Even if we can overlook the as usual careless sourcing (shall we scan the nation’s juuminhyou for an “Ogaway”, anyone?), it’s hard to take at face value the assertion that, “Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives…”, and that Japan’s “extended family system is going to consider that child their child.” Tell that to the kids in orphanages across Japan (which I have had brief contact with) who generally stay there for their childhood (there is an odd antipathy towards adoption in general in Japan; the common feeling I’ve heard is, “It’s not my kid, so I can’t trust what I would get. What if I adopt somebody who turns out to be a murderer? I’d have to take responsibility!” But anyway, this is nothing more than a throwaway article (under the category of the “Three E’s” that are a staple of Western reporting on Japan — Economics, Exotica, and Erotica) from a generally US/domestic-agenda-only news source. FYI. Arudou Debito

/////////////////////////////////////
World
Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply
By Diane Macedo
Published March 22, 2011
FoxNews.com, courtesy of A.
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/21/foreigners-looking-adopt-japanese-earthquake-orphans-need-apply/#ixzz1HQpoHcfL

Foreigners looking to adopt a Japanese child orphaned by the recent earthquake may be surprised to know their help, in that respect, is not wanted at the moment.

“I have been receiving many strange emails, from mostly U.S., and was asked, ‘I want girl, less than 6 months old, healthy child,’ Tazuru Ogaway, director of the Japanese adoption agency Across Japan, told FoxNews.com. “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”

In the wake of the massive January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, countries around the world almost immediately began fast-tracking adoptions from the troubled country. The United States alone took in 1,090 Haitian children as part of a Special Humanitarian Parole granted immediately following the disaster, according to the State Department’s 2010 Annual Report in Intercountry Adoptions.

But Martha Osborne, spokeswoman for the adoption advocacy website RainbowKids.com, said Japan and Haiti couldn’t be more different when it comes to adoption.

“You see that in developing nations, there’s no outlet for these children and the people left in the wake of the disaster are completely impoverished and unable to care for them, and in that case even extended relatives often say that the best case for the child is to be adopted because there are no resources,” Osborne told FoxNews.com. “But in Japan that’s just not the case, it’s a fully developed nation that’s capable of caring for its own children.”

Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be a true orphan situation in Japan in the wake of this disaster. I do not believe that there are going to be children without any ties to relatives…that extended family system is going to consider that child their child,” she said.

Tom Defilipo, president of Joint Council on International Children Services, said that stress on lineage also makes the Japanese society “very averse to adoptions.”

“Very few adoptions take place in Japan domestically and only about 30-34 last year internationally” despite having “about 400 children’s homes in the country and about 25,000 children approximately in those homes,” Defilipo told FoxNews.com. “Bloodlines are exceptionally important, so the whole idea of adopting or raising a child that’s not your own or isn’t part of your extended family is relatively unheard of.”

Still, Ogaway, Osborne, and Defilipo all agree that the children whose parents died in the earthquake will likely be absorbed into extended families. It is, they say, far too early for any of the children to be considered for adoption because Japanese authorities are still searching to find which children’s parents are just missing, which are confirmed dead and which of those children have other family to care for them.

“We can’t just place children without [verifying] she or he is a complete orphan,” Ogaway said.
Those looking to help Japan are instead directed to donate to organizations that are providing direct emergency relief there.

“We all want to help in whatever way we can,” Osborne said. “But Japan is very capable, unlike many undeveloped nations, of caring for its own.”
ENDS

Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

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Hi Blog.  This is a bit of a tangent, but what affects citizens will also affect non-citizens as well (especially so, actually), so here goes:

The Mainichi reported yesterday that two men who were wrongfully committed of a crime were finally released.  The problem is that it was a 44-year ordeal for them, thirty years of it spent in prison.  And they are not the only examples of this lack of due process.  As the article says, “The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”

I’ve said before (after experiencing now six civil court cases that have all been riddled with absolute illogic) that the Japanese judiciary is pretty fucked up.  So this is an example of how fucked up the Japanese criminal justice system is.  This deserves to be known about. So know about it.  (You can also read about it in my novel IN APPROPRIATE.)

NB:  Before all you relativists start looking for examples of wrongful convictions in other countries that were later overturned, don’t even bother.  For a) it doesn’t justify it happening here, and b) How much of this rigmarole and unaccountability will happen in other healthy judiciaries?  Thirty years is a sizeable chunk of a person’s life lost!

Is the Japanese justice system more concerned about looking like it never makes mistakes than about rectifying past ones and avoiding future ones?  Arudou Debito

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

2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison
Mainichi Daily News, May 24, 2011, Courtesy of CP
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110524p2g00m0dm052000c.html

TSUCHIURA (Kyodo) — A district court in a retrial Tuesday acquitted two men convicted in a 1967 murder-robbery case who each served nearly 30 years in prison.

The Tsuchiura branch of the Mito District Court delivered a not guilty verdict for Shoji Sakurai and Takao Sugiyama, both 64.

They had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1970 for the August 1967 robbery and murder of Shoten Tamamura, a 62-year-old carpenter, and were freed on parole in 1996.

The case was dubbed the Fukawa murder case, after the crime site in the town of Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Daisuke Kanda said in the decision that there was no objective evidence to link the defendants to the crime, noting that hairs and fingerprints detected at the crime scene did not match those of the defendants.

The judge also said witness accounts placing the two men at the victim’s home lacked credibility.

The two were arrested in October 1967, indicted in December that year and sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1970 as suspects in the Fukawa murder case.

The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

Sugiyama, who earlier in the day spoke to reporters at his home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, said he was unhappy with a mere not-guilty decision and hoped the court would look into prosecutors’ effort to conceal evidence that may have helped acquit the defendants.

Sakurai said a not-guilty decision was natural.

The three-judge panel at the court’s Tsuchiura branch held six rounds of hearings in the two men’s retrial starting in July 2010, when the two pleaded innocent.

In the hearings, the defense counsel played a tape recording of investigators interrogating Sakurai and argued that the tape was found to have been edited. The defense contended that investigators apparently coerced Sakurai into confessing.

A 78-year-old woman, who saw a man on the day of the crime at the crime scene, testified in a retrial hearing that the man was not Sugiyama.

During the original trial, the two pleaded innocent to the charges, arguing that police investigators had forced them to confess.

But the district court’s Tsuchiura branch, citing their confessions and witnesses’ accounts, found the two men guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment in October 1970 — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 1973 and later by the Supreme Court in 1978.

They were released on parole in November 1996.

The two first filed for a retrial in 1983 when serving in prison but were rejected. They again filed for a retrial in 2001 after being freed.

In September 2005, the district court’s Tsuchiura branch accepted the two men’s second petition and decided to launch a retrial — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in July 2008 and then by the top court in December 2009.

In the retrial, prosecutors again sought life imprisonment for the pair, arguing that the defendants had confessed voluntarily and their depositions were credible, urging the court to find them guilty.

The prosecutors called for conducting a DNA test on four items of evidence including underwear found wrapped around the victim’s neck. But the court turned down the prosecutors’ request.

The court was initially scheduled to give its decision on March 16.

But the court put off the date to Tuesday in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and parts of the Kanto region and crippled railways and other mass transit in the region.

One of the two, Sakurai, worked as a volunteer at shelters in the quake-hit city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, after the March disaster.

Toshikazu Sugaya, also 64, who spent 17 years in prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing a kindergartener in 1960 and was acquitted in a retrial in 2009, was among the audience at the courtroom Tuesday.

Sugaya told reporters he would work with Sugiyama and Sakurai to wipe out unjust convictions.

(Mainichi Japan) May 24, 2011

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Sensationalistic U of Sheffield/Routledge academic book cover: “Japan’s International Relations” (pub Aug 2011)

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Faculty members at the University of Sheffield, a venerable British institution for Japanese studies, have released their third edition of an academic book on Japan’s International Relations with a rather sensationalistic cover.  I forward the letter of complaint from friend Amanda Harlow (used with permission):

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

From: Amanda Harlow
Subject: Japan’s International Relation book cover
Date: May 13, 2011
To: h.dobson@shef.ac.uk

Dear Professor Dobson,

I am writing to you to complain about the choice of cover design for the third edition of “Japan’s International Relations”.

http://www.amazon.co.jp/Japans-International-Relations-Economics-Sheffield/dp/0415587433

[This and past editions still available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk]

This cartoon panders to the worst stereotyping of Japanese people and I feel this is a surprising choice for a respected British institution such as the University of Sheffield. If this was a mob of Japan-bashers on the streets of China, or a crazy nationalistic website I would not be surprised. But the School of East Asian Studies? Really?

Is it meant to be ironic? If so, I think this illustration would be better as an inside picture and not used on the cover of a book that is supposedly about international relations.

Here in Japan (I live in Sapporo with my Japanese husband and family) there are endless gaijin-bashing images and Debito Arudou, a friend of mine, is a well known activator on discrimination issues – if he found this image of a non-Japanese on a Japanese book cover we would all shake our heads and groan.

Can you possibly think again before publication?

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Harlow
Sapporo, Japan

ENDS

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

PREVIOUS EDITION COVERS:

http://www.amazon.co.jp/Japans-International-Relations-Economics-Sheffield/dp/0415336384/ref=pd_sim_sbs_fb_1

http://www.amazon.co.jp/Japans-International-Relations-Economics-Sheffield/dp/0415240980/ref=pd_sim_sbs_fb_2

From Amazon:  Product Description

http://www.amazon.co.jp/Japans-International-Relations-Economics-Sheffield/dp/0415587433

内容説明

The latest edition of this comprehensive and user-friendly textbook provides a single volume resource for all those studying Japan’s international relations. It offers a clear and concise introduction to the most important aspects of Japan’s role in the globalized economy of the twenty-first century. The book has been fully updated and revised to include comprehensive discussions of contemporary key issues for Japan’s IR, including:

  • the rise of China
  • reaction to the global economic and financial crisis since 2008
  • Japan’s proactive role after 9/11 and the war on terror
  • responses to events on the Korean Peninsula
  • relations with the USA and the Obama administration
  • relations with Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East
  • changing responses to an expanding and deepening European Union

Extensively illustrated, the text includes statistics, maps, photographs, summaries and suggestions for further reading, making it essential reading for those studying Japanese politics, and the international relations of the Asia Pacific.

著者について

Glenn D. Hook is Professor of Japanese Studies in the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield.

Julie Gilson is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Birmingham.

Christopher W. Hughes is Professor of International Politics and Japanese Studies, University of Warwick.

Hugo Dobson is Professor in the International Relations of Japan, University of Sheffield.


Product Details

  • ペーパーバック: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 3 edition (2011/8/31)
  • Language: 英語, 英語, 英語
  • ISBN-10: 0415587433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415587433
  • Release Date: 2011/8/31

COMMENT:  Okay, I shake my head and groan.  Arudou Debito

Kansai Time Out Feb ’08 on “Power and the People: Masaki Hisane keeps watch on Japan’s nuclear industry”

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Masaki Hisane offers this sobering report in the now-defunct Kansai Time Out, February 2008, in an article on the horrible safety record of Japan’s nuclear power industry.  Reprinted here as a matter of record only, since it the KTO archives seem to have disappeared.  FYI.  Courtesy of JK.  Debito

Columnist Dan Gardner: “Why Japan took the nuclear risk”: Quick-fix energy during 1973-4 Oil Shocks

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Here’s a very thoughtful article from Ottawa Citizen newspaper columnist Dan Gardner on why Japan took its nuclear route. Dunno why this guy knows so much about a topic otherwise so esoteric on the other side of the world (but good research should make that irrelevant anyway). People who know more about this subject are welcome to comment, of course, but Gardner answered a number of questions I had.  Give it a read.  Note the citation of our new Japanese citizen applicant Donald Keene (now literally one of the movers with the shakers; sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) on Japan’s economic and emotional fragility.  Arudou Debito

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

Why Japan took the nuclear risk

When making choices about energy, there are no danger-free, cost-free solutions

BY DAN GARDNER, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 18, 2011
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Japan+took+nuclear+risk/4462688/story.html#ixzz1HQsajk53

The Japanese government undertook a rapid expansion of nuclear power after the oil shocks of the early 1970s to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy, despite the high earthquake risk in the region.

Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. Now this. Within hours of the first reports of trouble at Japan’s nuclear power plants, calls for abolition could be heard around the world. “Time to shut down this nation’s nuclear energy program” wrote American pundit Keith Olbermann. Greenpeace and other environmental groups mobilized. “The nuclear risk is not a risk that can really be controlled,” said a French Green party politician. Nuclear power must go.

With Japan’s plants suffering explosions and officials struggling to avoid meltdowns, it’s hard not to agree. Nuclear power is a demonstrable hazard. In Japan, a land constantly rattled by seismic activity, where a disaster like Friday’s was literally just a matter of time, nuclear power is downright dangerous. Why risk it?

People who say that seldom mean it as a question. It’s a conclusion in drag. But let’s treat it instead as a genuine question. Why risk it? Why should we build and operate nuclear power plants knowing that they do pose real dangers, whatever the magnitude of those dangers may be?

And why, in particular, would Japan build nuclear power plants on land that so often buckles and heaves? The answer to this second question lies in recent history. It’s worth having a look because it’s also a pretty good answer to the first question.

As recently as the 1950s, Japan was a poor country with a huge and growing population. Some far-sighted experts looked ahead and saw misery and mass starvation.

But in the 1960s, Japanese manufacturing grew rapidly. Its success was based on keeping things cheap. Cheap labour. Cheap prices. Cheap quality. In the United States, the main Japanese market, “Made in Japan” meant the product cost little and was worth what it cost.

Japan got wealthier. Living standards improved.

In the late 1960s, the American economy stumbled and in 1971 the dollar was devalued. The yen shot up. But the quality of Japanese goods had improved and so Japanese manufacturing thrived despite the rising cost of its goods.

Nothing less than a miracle was underway. A nation was rising from poverty to the ranks of the wealthiest people on Earth. Some even imagined a day when Japan would lead.

Then, like an earthquake, the Arab oil embargo struck.

The Japanese miracle was built on a foundation of cheap energy -mostly oil, mostly from the Middle East. The oil embargo of late 1973 plunged the world into the frightening recession of 1974, and no one suffered worse than Japan.

“The recent period of Japanese glory, from 1969 to 1973, when it seemed a small, distant country would overtake the giants of the West, lasted longer than a dream, but it has ended with dramatic suddenness,” wrote Donald Keene, an American professor of Japanese culture, in the New York Times. It was March 3, 1974. “The same people who only a few months ago were talking and acting as if the future held unlimited possibilities of economic expansion now gloomily announce, not without a touch of masochism, that they live in a country completely at the mercy of others for survival.”

Many Japanese were sure their country would sink back into poverty. The old fears of mass starvation and environmental ruin returned. “Prophecies of disaster abound,” Keene noted.

The Japanese government responded with a sweeping, multi-pronged campaign to reduce Japan’s dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Conservation and energy-efficiency was a major component. So was a rapid expansion of nuclear power.

Of course the Japanese knew their seismological reality.

Indeed, Japanese earthquake science and engineering is the best in the world. But the Japanese also knew the danger of the status quo. It was a trade-off.

The transition worked. Japan’s rise resumed and within a decade it was one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It was also one of the most energy-efficient. And one of the top producers of nuclear power, with onequarter of its electricity coming from the plants the world is watching now. This story does not demonstrate that nuclear power is right for Japan, or anyone else. But it does show, I believe, that choices about energy always involve trade-offs.

Which risks are acceptable? How much risk? And what are we prepared to pay to avoid or mitigate threats? There are costs and hazards associated with every choice and so these questions are unavoidable. There are no risk-free, cost-free solutions.

Some deny this basic reality. Certain environmental groups claim to have plans which would allow us to do away entirely with coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power over the next several decades. Renewable energy would replace them all. The cost would be minimal. Indeed, it would spur innovation and produce millions of new jobs.

It would be wonderful if it were possible. Unfortunately, it’s not. One of the world’s leading energy experts, Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, has called these claims “not just naive [but] profoundly irresponsible.”

But Smil also criticizes those at the other extreme, who see nothing undesirable about the status quo and believe any significant shift to renewable energy would be prohibitively expensive.

We can do better. But it requires that we first understand basic realities, including the most basic: There are costs and risks in everything.

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: NYT: “Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job” in Japan’s nuclear industry

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog. I have heard before about the migrant labor force in the nuclear industry worldwide. Here’s substantiation of Japan’s example. The nuclear industry is running out of excuses. Arudou Debito

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

Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job
The New York Times
By HIROKO TABUCHI
Published: April 9, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/world/asia/10workers.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

KAZO, Japan — The ground started to buck at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and Masayuki Ishizawa could scarcely stay on his feet. Helmet in hand, he ran from a workers’ standby room outside the plant’s No. 3 reactor, near where he and a group of workers had been doing repair work. He saw a chimney and crane swaying like weeds. Everybody was shouting in a panic, he recalled.

Mr. Ishizawa, 55, raced to the plant’s central gate. But a security guard would not let him out of the complex. A long line of cars had formed at the gate, and some drivers were blaring their horns. “Show me your IDs,” Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure. And where, the guard demanded, were his supervisors?

“What are you saying?” Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. He looked over his shoulder and saw a dark shadow on the horizon, out at sea, he said. He shouted again: “Don’t you know a tsunami is coming?”

Mr. Ishizawa, who was finally allowed to leave, is not a nuclear specialist; he is not even an employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled plant. He is one of thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation. Collectively, these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees last year, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry. These workers remain vital to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants.

They are emblematic of Japan’s two-tiered work force, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits. Such labor practices have both endangered the health of these workers and undermined safety at Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors, critics charge.

“This is the hidden world of nuclear power,” said Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry. “Wherever there are hazardous conditions, these laborers are told to go. It is dangerous for them, and it is dangerous for nuclear safety.”

Of roughly 83,000 workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 88 percent were contract workers in the year that ended in March 2010, the nuclear agency said. At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89 percent of the 10,303 workers during that period were contractors. In Japan’s nuclear industry, the elite are operators like Tokyo Electric and the manufacturers that build and help maintain the plants like Toshiba and Hitachi. But under those companies are contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors — with wages, benefits and protection against radiation dwindling with each step down the ladder.

Interviews with about a half-dozen past and current workers at Fukushima Daiichi and other plants paint a bleak picture of workers on the nuclear circuit: battling intense heat as they clean off radiation from the reactors’ drywells and spent-fuel pools using mops and rags, clearing the way for inspectors, technicians and Tokyo Electric employees, and working in the cold to fill drums with contaminated waste.

Some workers are hired from construction sites, and some are local farmers looking for extra income. Yet others are hired by local gangsters, according to a number of workers who did not want to give their names.

They spoke of the constant fear of getting fired, trying to hide injuries to avoid trouble for their employers, carrying skin-colored adhesive bandages to cover up cuts and bruises.

In the most dangerous places, current and former workers said, radiation levels would be so high that workers would take turns approaching a valve just to open it, turning it for a few seconds before a supervisor with a stopwatch ordered the job to be handed off to the next person. Similar work would be required at the Fukushima Daiichi plant now, where the three reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake shut down automatically, workers say.

“Your first priority is to avoid pan-ku,” said one current worker at the Fukushima Daini plant, using a Japanese expression based on the English word puncture. Workers use the term to describe their dosimeter, which measures radiation exposure, from reaching the daily cumulative limit of 50 millisieverts. “Once you reach the limit, there is no more work,” said the worker, who did not want to give his name for fear of being fired by his employer.

Takeshi Kawakami, 64, remembers climbing into the spent-fuel pool of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during an annual maintenance shutdown in the 1980s to scrub the walls clean of radiation with brushes and rags. All workers carried dosimeters set to sound an alarm if exposure levels hit a cumulative dose limit; Mr. Kawakami said he usually did not last 20 minutes.

“It was unbearable, and you had your mask on, and it was so tight,” Mr. Kawakami said. “I started feeling dizzy. I could not even see what I was doing. I thought I would drown in my own sweat.”

Since the mid-1970s, about 50 former workers have received workers’ compensation after developing leukemia and other forms of cancer. Health experts say that though many former workers are experiencing health problems that may be a result of their nuclear work, it is often difficult to prove a direct link. Mr. Kawakami has received a diagnosis of stomach and intestinal cancer.

News of workers’ mishaps turns up periodically in safety reports: one submitted by Tokyo Electric to the government of Fukushima Prefecture in October 2010 outlines an accident during which a contract worker who had been wiping down a turbine building was exposed to harmful levels of radiation after accidentally using one of the towels on his face. In response, the company said in the report that it would provide special towels for workers to wipe their sweat.

Most day workers were evacuated from Fukushima Daiichi after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out the plant’s power and pushed some of the reactors to the brink of a partial meltdown. Since then, those who have returned have been strictly shielded from the news media; many of them are housed at a staging ground for workers that is off limits to reporters. But there have been signs that such laborers continue to play a big role at the crippled power plant.

The two workers who were injured two weeks ago when they stepped in radioactive water were subcontractor employees. As of Thursday, 21 workers at the plant had each been exposed to cumulative radiation levels of more than 100 millisieverts, or the usual limit set for nuclear plant workers during an emergency, according to Tokyo Electric. (That limit was raised to 250 millisieverts last month.)

The company refused to say how many contract workers had been exposed to radiation. Of roughly 300 workers left at the plant on Thursday, 45 were employed by contractors, the company said.

Day laborers are being lured back to the plant by wages that have increased along with the risks of working there. Mr. Ishizawa, whose home is about a mile from the plant and who evacuated with the town’s other residents the day after the quake, said he had been called last week by a former employer who offered daily wages of about $350 for just two hours of work at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — more than twice his previous pay. Some of the former members of his team have been offered nearly $1,000 a day. Offers have fluctuated depending on the progress at the plant and the perceived radiation risks that day. So far, Mr. Ishizawa has refused to return.

Working conditions have improved over the years, experts say. While exposure per worker dropped in the 1990s as safety standards improved, government statistics show, the rates have been rising since 2000, partly because there have been more accidents as reactors age. Moreover, the number of workers in the industry has risen, as the same tasks are carried out by more employees to reduce individual exposure levels.

Tetsuen Nakajima, chief priest of the 1,200-year-old Myotsuji Temple in the city of Obama near the Sea of Japan, has campaigned for workers’ rights since the 1970s, when the local utility started building reactors along the coast; today there are 15 of them. In the early 1980s, he helped found the country’s first union for day workers at nuclear plants.

The union, he said, made 19 demands of plant operators, including urging operators not to forge radiation exposure records and not to force workers to lie to government inspectors about safety procedures. Although more than 180 workers belonged to the union at its peak, its leaders were soon visited by thugs who kicked down their doors and threatened to harm their families, he said.

“They were not allowed to speak up,” Mr. Nakajima said. “Once you enter a nuclear power plant, everything’s a secret.”

Last week, conversations among Fukushima Daiichi workers at a smoking area at the evacuees’ center focused on whether to stay or go back to the plant. Some said construction jobs still seemed safer, if they could be found. “You can see a hole in the ground, but you can’t see radiation,” one worker said.

Mr. Ishizawa, the only one who allowed his name to be used, said, “I might go back to a nuclear plant one day, but I’d have to be starving.” In addition to his jobs at Daiichi, he has worked at thermal power plants and on highway construction sites in the region. For now, he said, he will stay away from the nuclear industry.

“I need a job,” he said, “but I need a safe job.”
ENDS

NYT: Japan society puts up generational roadblocks, wastes potential of young

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Continuing with the recent theme of what reforms Japanese society needs to face the next century, here’s Martin Fackler from the NYT making the case about the structural barriers that waste the potential of youth in Japan.  Bit of a tangent, but not really.  Fresh ideas and entrepreneurial energy (regardless of nationality) should be welcomed as revitalizing, but as Fackler writes, the sclerotic is turning necrotic and people are seeking opportunities elsewhere. Arudou Debito

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

THE GREAT DEFLATION
Generational Barriers
This series of articles examines the effects on Japanese society of two decades of economic stagnation and declining prices.

In Japan, Young Face Generational Roadblocks
By MARTIN FACKLER
The New York Times: January 27, 2011, courtesy lots of people

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/asia/28generation.html

TOKYO — Kenichi Horie was a promising auto engineer, exactly the sort of youthful talent Japan needs to maintain its edge over hungry Korean and Chinese rivals. As a worker in his early 30s at a major carmaker, Mr. Horie won praise for his design work on advanced biofuel systems.
The Great Deflation

But like many young Japanese, he was a so-called irregular worker, kept on a temporary staff contract with little of the job security and half the salary of the “regular” employees, most of them workers in their late 40s or older. After more than a decade of trying to gain regular status, Mr. Horie finally quit — not just the temporary jobs, but Japan altogether.

He moved to Taiwan two years ago to study Chinese.

“Japanese companies are wasting the young generations to protect older workers,” said Mr. Horie, now 36. “In Japan, they closed the doors on me. In Taiwan, they tell me I have a perfect résumé.”

As this fading economic superpower rapidly grays, it desperately needs to increase productivity and unleash the entrepreneurial energies of its shrinking number of younger people. But Japan seems to be doing just the opposite. This has contributed to weak growth and mounting pension obligations, major reasons Standard & Poor’s downgraded Japan’s sovereign debt rating on Thursday.

“There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,” said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of “The Truth of Generational Inequalities.” “Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.”

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

Employment figures underscore the second-class status of many younger Japanese. While Japan’s decades of stagnation have increased the number of irregular jobs across all age groups, the young have been hit the hardest.

Last year, 45 percent of those ages 15 to 24 in the work force held irregular jobs, up from 17.2 percent in 1988 and as much as twice the rate among workers in older age groups, who cling tenaciously to the old ways. Japan’s news media are now filled with grim accounts of how university seniors face a second “ice age” in the job market, with just 56.7 percent receiving job offers before graduation as of October 2010 — an all-time low.

“Japan has the worst generational inequality in the world,” said Manabu Shimasawa, a professor of social policy at Akita University who has written extensively on such inequalities. “Japan has lost its vitality because the older generations don’t step aside, allowing the young generations a chance to take new challenges and grow.”

Disparities and Dangers

While many nations have aging populations, Japan’s demographic crisis is truly dire, with forecasts showing that 40 percent of the population will be 65 and over by 2055. Some of the consequences have been long foreseen, like deflation: as more Japanese retire and live off their savings, they spend less, further depressing Japan’s anemic levels of domestic consumption. But a less anticipated outcome has been the appearance of generational inequalities.

These disparities manifest themselves in many ways. As Mr. Horie discovered, there are corporations that hire all too many young people for low-paying, dead-end jobs — in effect, forcing them to shoulder the costs of preserving cushier jobs for older employees. Others point to an underfinanced pension system so skewed in favor of older Japanese that many younger workers simply refuse to pay; a “silver democracy” that spends far more on the elderly than on education and child care — an issue that is familiar to Americans; and outdated hiring practices that have created a new “lost generation” of disenfranchised youth.

Nagisa Inoue, a senior at Tokyo’s Meiji University, said she was considering paying for a fifth year at her university rather than graduating without a job, an outcome that in Japan’s rigid job market might permanently taint her chances of ever getting a higher-paying corporate job. That is because Japanese companies, even when they do offer stable, regular jobs, prefer to give them only to new graduates, who are seen as the more malleable candidates for molding into Japan’s corporate culture.

And the irony, Ms. Inoue said, is that she does not even want to work at a big corporation. She would rather join a nonprofit environmental group, but that would also exclude her from getting a so-called regular job.

“I’d rather have the freedom to try different things,” said Ms. Inoue, 22. “But in Japan, the costs of doing something different are just too high.”

Many social experts say a grim economy has added to the pressures to conform to Japan’s outdated, one-size-fits-all employment system. An online survey by students at Meiji University of people across Japan ages 18 to 22 found that two-thirds felt that youths did not take risks or new challenges, and that they instead had become a generation of “introverts” who were content or at least resigned to living a life without ambition.

“There is a mismatch between the old system and the young generations,” said Yuki Honda, a professor of education at the University of Tokyo. “Many young Japanese don’t want the same work-dominated lifestyles of their parents’ generation, but they have no choices.”

Facing a rising public uproar, the Welfare Ministry responded late last year by advising employers to recognize someone as a new graduate for up to three years after graduation. It also offers subsidies of up to 1.8 million yen, or about $22,000 per person, to large companies that offer so-called regular jobs to new graduates.

But perhaps nowhere are the roadblocks to youthful enterprise so evident, and the consequences to the Japanese economy so dire, as in the failure of entrepreneurship.

The nation had just 19 initial public offerings in 2009, according to Tokyo-based Next Company, compared with 66 in the United States. More telling is that even Japan’s entrepreneurs are predominantly from older generations: according to the Trade Ministry, just 9.1 percent of Japanese entrepreneurs in 2002 were in their 20s, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

“Japan has become a zero-sum game,” said Yuichiro Itakura, a failed Internet entrepreneur who wrote a book about his experience. “Established interests are afraid a young newcomer will steal what they have, so they won’t do business with him.”

Many Japanese economists and policy makers have long talked of fostering entrepreneurship as the best remedy for Japan’s economic ills. And it is an idea that has a historical precedent here: as the nation rose from the ashes of World War II, young Japanese entrepreneurs produced a host of daring start-ups that overturned entire global industries.

Entrepreneur’s Rise and Fall

But many here say that Japan’s economy has ossified since its glory days, and that the nation now produces few if any such innovative companies. To understand why, many here point to the fate of one of the nation’s best-known Internet tycoons, Takafumi Horie.

When he burst onto the national scene early in the last decade, he was the most un-Japanese of business figures: an impish young man in his early 30s who wore T-shirts into boardrooms, brazenly flouted the rules by starting hostile takeovers and captured an era when a rejuvenated Japanese economy seemed to finally be rebounding. He was arrested five years ago and accused of securities fraud in what seemed a classic case of comeuppance, with the news media demonizing him as a symbol of an unsavory, freewheeling American-style capitalism.

In 2007, a court found him guilty of falsifying company records, a ruling that he is appealing. But in dozens of interviews, young Japanese brought him up again and again as a way of explaining their generation’s malaise. To them, he symbolized something very different: a youthful challenger who was crushed by a reactionary status quo. His arrest, they said, was a warning to all of them not to rock the boat.

“It was a message that it is better to quietly and obediently follow the established conservative order,” Mr. Horie, now 37, wrote in an e-mail.

He remains for many a popular, if almost subversive figure in Japan, where he is once again making waves by unrepentantly battling the charges in court, instead of meekly accepting the judgment, as do most of those arrested. He now has more than a half-million followers on Twitter, more than the prime minister, and publicly urges people to challenge the system.

“Horie has been the closest thing we had to a role model,” said Noritoshi Furuichi, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Tokyo who wrote a book about how young Japanese were able to remain happy while losing hope. “He represents a struggle between old Japan and new Japan.”

Mr. Furuichi and many other young Japanese say that young people here do not react with anger or protest, instead blaming themselves and dropping out, or with an almost cheerful resignation, trying to find contentment with horizons that are far more limited than their parents’.

In such an atmosphere, young politicians say it is hard to mobilize their generation to get interested in politics.

Ryohei Takahashi was a young city council member in the Tokyo suburb of Ichikawa who joined a group of other young politicians and activists in issuing a “Youth Manifesto,” which urged younger Japanese to stand up for their interests.

In late 2009, he made a bid to become the city’s mayor on a platform of shifting more spending toward young families and education. However, few younger people showed an interest in voting, and he ended up trying to cater to the city’s most powerful voting blocs: retirees and local industries like construction, all dominated by leaders in their 50s and 60s.

“Aging just further empowers older generations,” said Mr. Takahashi, 33. “In sheer numbers, they win hands down.”

He lost the election, which he called a painful lesson that Japan was becoming a “silver democracy,” where most budgets and spending heavily favored older generations.

Social experts say the need to cut soaring budget deficits means that younger Japanese will never receive the level of benefits enjoyed by retirees today. Calculations show that a child born today can expect to receive up to $1.2 million less in pensions, health care and other government spending over the course of his life than someone retired today; in the national pension system alone, this gap reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Abandoning the System

The result is that young Japanese are fleeing the program in droves: half of workers below the age of 35 now fail to make their legally mandated payments, even though that means they must face the future with no pension at all. “In France, the young people take to the streets,” Mr. Takahashi said. “In Japan, they just don’t pay.”

Or they drop out, as did many in Japan’s first “lost generation” a decade ago.

One was Kyoko, who was afraid to give her last name for fear it would further damage her job prospects. Almost a decade ago, when she was a junior at Waseda University here, she was expected to follow postwar Japan’s well-trodden path to success by finding a job at a top corporation. She said she started off on the right foot, trying to appear enthusiastic at interviews without being strongly opinionated — the balance that appeals to Japanese employers, who seek hard-working conformists.

But after interviewing at 10 companies, she said she suffered a minor nervous breakdown, and stopped. She said she realized that she did not want to become an overworked corporate warrior like her father.

By failing to get such a job before graduating, Kyoko was forced to join the ranks of the “freeters” — an underclass of young people who hold transient, lower-paying irregular jobs. Since graduating in 2004 she has held six jobs, none of them paying unemployment insurance, pension or a monthly salary of more than 150,000 yen, or about $1,800.

“I realized that wasn’t who I wanted to be,” recalled Kyoko, now 29. “But why has being myself cost me so dearly?”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 28, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition.

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Economist.com compares GDPs of US states with whole countries

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, here is The Economist with a fascinating chart comparing GDPs of US states with whole countries.  Click on the Population button to do the same for country populations as well.  Just thought I’d throw this up, as it is an interesting concept.  Note that Japan (and China) are too big to included.  Let’s hope Japan stays that way.   Courtesy http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/01/comparing_us_states_countries Arudou Debito

Weekend Tangent: BBC show QI gets scolded by J media and embassy for insensitivity re atomic bombings

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent (for the record, I have no particular stance on this issue), here’s another bit following yesterday’s blog entry about official GOJ reactions to overseas media:  The BBC One show QI and its segment on the “unluckiest (or luckiest, depending on how you look at it) man in the world”:  a survivor of two atomic bombings who died recently at the age of 93.  It has engendered much criticism from the J media and cyberspace.  Here’s a comment from Debito.org Reader JS:

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

Hi, Dunno if you want to cover this, but NHK Newswatch 9 have just done a substantial piece on the coverage of a double A-bomb survivor on a BBC show called QI that involved the anchors lecturing us on the insensitivity, ending with “shame on them”. This is the offending clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dgzszWlG6c

And the coverage:

==========================================
Japan protests to BBC over treatment of ‘double A-bomb survivor’
(Mainichi Japan) January 21, 2011

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110121p2g00m0dm027000c.html

Tokyo (Kyodo) — The Japanese Embassy in London lodged a written protest against the BBC and a TV production agency, arguing that they insulted a deceased Japanese man who survived both the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, embassy and other sources said Thursday.

In a comedy quiz show broadcasted by the BBC on Dec. 17, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, whose international profile has been raised as a double hibakusha and who died at age 93 last January, was introduced as “The Unluckiest Man in the World,” with pictures of his face and atomic clouds presented in the studio.

A producer of the popular quiz show, “QI,” has already apologized to people who sent protest e-mails, noting “we greatly regret it when we cause offence” and “it is apparent to me that I underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers.”

But the producer added the program has often featured the tragic experiences of Americans and Europeans in a similar manner.

On the show in question, the host explained that Yamaguchi was badly burned by the atomic bomb when he was in Hiroshima on business and after returning to Nagasaki, he was atomic-bombed again.

One of the guests asked whether Yamaguchi got on a train to go to Nagasaki. The host said, “Even though the atom bomb fell, the trains were working. So he got on a train to Nagasaki and a bomb fell again,” drawing laughs from the show’s personalities and the audience.

According to the embassy, it sent the BBC and the production agency a letter on Jan. 7, saying it is inappropriate and “insensitive” to pick on Yamaguchi in that way.

In Japan, Toshiko Yamasaki, 62, Yamaguchi’s oldest daughter living in Nagasaki, expressed her anger about the issue, saying on Friday, “I cannot forgive (the quiz show) as it looked down on my father’s experiences when the world is moving toward nuclear disarmament.”

She added her family had laughingly talked about her father being unlucky, but “it is a different story when (my father) was treated in that way in Britain, a nuclear-capable nation.”

Such a problem happens due in part to “a lack of seriousness about nuclear reduction,” she said.

Born in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi suffered the A-bombing in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and another bombing in Nagasaki after returning home three days later.

ENDS

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

BBC 被爆者をコメディーに
NHK 1月21日 21時15分
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110121/t10013559161000.html

イギリスの公共放送、BBCが先月放送したコメディー番組の中で、広島と長崎で2度、原爆の被害に遭った被爆者の男性を「世界一不運な男」などとして取り上げたことに対し、ロンドンの日本大使館は「不適切で配慮を欠く」とBBCに対して抗議しました。

この番組は、BBCの人気コメディー番組「QI」で、クイズ形式をとりながら出演者がジョークを交え、番組を進めていきます。この番組の先月17日の放送の中で、広島と長崎で2度、原爆の被害に遭い、去年1月に亡くなった長崎市の被爆者、山口彊さんが「世界一運の悪い男」として取り上げられました。番組の中で、司会者は、仕事で広島に出張していた山口さんが被爆してやけどを負い、列車で長崎まで帰った経緯を説明して、「そこでもう一度原爆が落ちたんだよ」と言うと、スタジオから大きな笑いが起きていました。ロンドンの日本大使館は、番組を視聴していたイギリスに住む日本人から指摘を受け、今月7日にBBCと番組の制作会社に対して、「こういった形で被爆者を取り上げるのはまったくもって不適切で、日本国民の感情への配慮を欠いている」とする抗議の書簡を送りました。これに対して、番組のプロデューサーから、書簡が21日、日本大使館に届きました。この中では、「決して日本の方の気分を害する意図はなく、不快な思いをさせたことは極めて遺憾に思います。山口さんをからかう意図ではなく、彼のあまりに驚くべき経験を正確に伝え、そういった状況でもめげない日本の方々に敬意を表する趣旨でした。この件について、日本の方々がいかに敏感かを私たちが過小に見ていたことは明らかです」などと遺憾の意を表明しているということです。広島で被爆し、日本被団協=日本原水爆被害者団体協議会の代表委員を務める坪井直さんは「核兵器による被害の恐ろしさを分かっておらず、被爆者のことを何だと思っているのかと腹立たしくなる。被爆者たちが世界各地で核兵器の廃絶を訴えているのだから、海外でも理解してもらえたと思っていたが、それは間違いだった」と話していました。長崎原爆被災者協議会の山田拓民事務局長は「イギリスにも核兵器廃絶のために活動している人たちがいることを知っているので、そういう国ではないと思っていたが、被爆者を笑いの番組の対象にするなど信じられない。被爆者をなんと思っているのかと感じる。放送内容を確認したうえで、必要であれば私たちもきちんと抗議しなければならない」と話しています。山口彊さんの長女で、長崎市の山崎年子さんは「核保有国のイギリスで被爆体験を笑われるのは許せない。原爆の恐ろしさが、まだ世界には伝わっていないということだと思う。みたび原爆が落とされることのないよう、訴えていきたい」と話していました。

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

Japan protests to BBC over treatment of ‘double A-bomb survivor’
Kyodo News/Japan Today Friday 21st January, 05:34 PM JST

http://japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-protests-to-bbc-over-treatment-of-double-a-bomb-survivor

LONDON —The Japanese Embassy in London lodged a written protest against the BBC and a TV production agency, arguing that they insulted a deceased Japanese man who survived both the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, embassy and other sources said Thursday.

The Japanese Embassy received on Friday a letter of apology from a producer of the popular quiz show, ‘‘QI,’’ dated Monday, after the producer had apologized to people who had sent protest e-mails.

The content of the letter to the embassy was similar to the producer’s e-mail response to the people who protested, and said that ‘‘we greatly regret it when we cause offence’’ and ‘‘it is apparent to me that I underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers.’‘

In a comedy quiz show broadcast by the BBC on Dec 17, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, whose international profile has been raised as a double hibakusha and who died at age 93 last January, was introduced as ‘‘The Unluckiest Man in the World,’’ with pictures of his face and atomic clouds presented in the studio.

But the producer added in his message that “QI” is not the type of program that makes fun of featured subjects and it introduced Yamaguchi’s experience without misrepresenting it.

On the show in question, the host explained that Yamaguchi was badly burned by the atomic bomb when he was in Hiroshima on business and after returning to Nagasaki, he was atomic-bombed again.

One of the guests asked whether Yamaguchi got on a train to go to Nagasaki. The host said, ‘‘Even though the atom bomb fell, the trains were working. So he got on a train to Nagasaki and a bomb fell again,’’ drawing laughs from the show’s personalities and the audience.

The show prompted the Japanese Embassy to send the BBC and the production agency a letter on Jan 7, saying it is ‘‘inappropriate and insensitive’’ to present Yamaguchi in the way that it did, it said.

In Japan, Toshiko Yamasaki, 62, Yamaguchi’s oldest daughter living in Nagasaki, expressed her anger, saying on Friday, ‘‘I cannot forgive (the quiz show) as it looked down on my father’s experiences when the world is moving toward nuclear disarmament.’‘

She said her family had laughingly talked about her father being unlucky, but ‘‘it is a different story when (my father) was treated in that way in Britain, a nuclear-capable nation.’‘

This kind of problem occurs due in part to ‘‘a lack of seriousness about nuclear reduction,’’ she said.

Born in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi suffered the A-bombing of Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945, and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later after returning home.
ENDS
=====================================

For the record, QI is a general knowledge quiz show with liberal doses of humour (points are awarded not for being correct, but for being “quite interesting”). They were actually quite complimentary about Yamaguchi and the Japanese resolve in the face of adversity, but apparently it was enough to merit a formal complaint and prime-time news coverage. Oh, and apparently Yamaguchi used to call himself “the unluckiest man in the world”, and he and his family laughed about it. I would say, as a Brit, that they’re laughing at the irony of the situation, not at Yamaguchi personally.

There are lots of warm, understanding comments on YouTube… JS

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

The most interesting comment so far on Japan Today I think is this one:

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

Frungy: QI is dark, intelligent and biting, typical English humour. Textbooks in Japan are dark, simple and tragic, typical Japanese stories. There’s a fundamental mismatch between their approach to sensitising an issue. When dealing with something tragic the English will make a joke of it, allowing people to dispel the tension by laughing. When dealing with something serious the Japanese will tell the story simply and tragically, and then cry inside.

Of the two I find the English approach more healthy. It allows them to move on and discuss the difficult issue having approached it head on, removed the sting, and made it possible to deal with without constant pain.

The Japanese on the other hand bottle up the feelings and they simmer inside. That’s why it’s impossible to really discuss the atomic bombings in Japan, the issue simply makes most Japanese people feel too sad and miserable for words. They’ve never really removed the sting.

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

Conclusion for me: I think there is a strong case that can be made for nontransferability of humor, particularly irony, across cultures.  Arudou Debito

Weekend Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. As a Weekend Tangent, here is what I see as a glimpse of the future: Robots teaching foreign languages. We already have tape recorders. Why not embody them. Robots are cool enough. Anthropomorphize them and who needs to import foreigners you have to feed, pay, respect, be polite to, or fret about them adversely affecting domestic culture through numbers and immigration? South Korea shows it’s possible.  Arudou Debito

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

South Korea schools get robot English teachers | Raw Story
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, December 28th, 2010, courtesy TS

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/south-korea-schools-robot-english-teachers/

Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in a South Korean city, education officials said Tuesday, in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robot industry.

Engkey, a white, egg-shaped robot developed by the Korea Institute of Science of Technology (KIST), began taking classes Monday at 21 elementary schools in the southeastern city of Daegu.

The 29 robots, about one metre (3.3 feet) high with a TV display panel for a face, wheeled around the classroom while speaking to the students, reading books to them and dancing to music by moving their head and arms.

The robots, which display an avatar face of a Caucasian woman, are controlled remotely by teachers of English in the Philippines — who can see and hear the children via a remote control system.

Cameras detect the Filipino teachers’ facial expressions and instantly reflect them on the avatar’s face, said Sagong Seong-Dae, a senior scientist at KIST.

“Well-educated, experienced Filipino teachers are far cheaper than their counterparts elsewhere, including South Korea,” he told AFP.

Apart from reading books, the robots use pre-programmed software to sing songs and play alphabet games with the children.

“The kids seemed to love it since the robots look, well, cute and interesting. But some adults also expressed interest, saying they may feel less nervous talking to robots than a real person,” said Kim Mi-Young, an official at Daegu city education office.

Kim said some may be sent to remote rural areas of South Korea shunned by foreign English teachers.

She said the robots are still being tested. But officials might consider hiring them full time if scientists upgrade them and make them easier to handle and more affordable.

“Having robots in the classroom makes the students more active in participating, especially shy ones afraid of speaking out to human teachers,” Kim said.

She stressed the experiment was not about replacing human teachers with robots. “We are helping upgrade a key, strategic industry and all the while giving children more interest in what they learn.”

The four-month pilot programme was sponsored by the government, which invested 1.58 billion won (1.37 million dollars).

Scientists have held pilot programmes in schools since 2009 to develop robots to teach English, maths, science and other subjects at different levels with a desired price tag of five to eight million won.

Sagong stressed that the robots, which currently cost 10 million won each, largely back up human teachers but would eventually have a bigger role.

The machines can be an efficient tool to hone language skills for many people who feel nervous about conversing with flesh-and-blood foreigners, he said.

“Plus, they won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.”

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, let me direct your attention to an upcoming lawsuit (Japanese do sue too, as activists and awareness-raisers) regarding two issues that are dear to Debito.org:  1) issues of self-determination of personal identity, and 2) the evils of the Koseki system, which not only separate parent from child post-divorce, but also make a person’s name and family relationships and entitlements the domain of The State.  Other people find this objectionable too — enough to brave all the social opprobrium towards lawsuits in this society.  Good luck to them.  I hope they can stay alive long enough to outlast the slow machinations of the Japanese judiciary.  Arudou Debito

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

Japan government to face first suit on surnames
Reuters, Tuesday, January 11 2011, By Yoko Kubota, courtesy SR

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/22/20110111/tsc-oukoe-uk-japan-surnames-011ccfa.html

After nearly fifty years of persevering with a life under her husband’s surname, 75-year-old Kyoko Tsukamoto is taking the Japanese government to court so that she can at least bear her own name when she dies.

“My husband and I still love each other, but this and the issue of Tsukamoto are different,” she said.

The former teacher uses her maiden name, but due to Japanese civil law requirements she had to take her husband’s name when she married to make the union legal.

But debate over the surname issue, long a sore point with some women, has heated up as more women stay in jobs after marriage and juggle two names — their maiden name at work and their registered name on legal documents.

“I thought that I would get used to my husband’s name, but I could not, and a sense of loss grew inside me,” Tsukamoto said.

“Now I am 75 and I was shocked to realise that I can’t do things anymore that I used to be able to do last year. That’s when I thought that I am Kyoko Tsukamoto and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto.”

Tsukamoto is one of five people planning to file a lawsuit against the government and local authorities as early as February, saying the civil code that requires married couples to register under the same surname violates equal rights among married couples, as well as personal rights.

Men are allowed to take their spouses’ name, but it is rare.

The group will seek compensation for what it says is the legislature’s failure to enact change, the first such case to be debated in open court in Japan, the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialised nations with such a surname rule.

Hopes grew that the government would submit a bill to amend the civil code after the Democratic Party of Japan, which has advocated letting married couples keep separate names if they wish, took power in 2009. But opposition from a coalition ally caused the plan to stall.

“There were expectations that it could be enacted but unfortunately this did not take place. They do not want to wait any longer,” said Fujiko Sakakibara, lead lawyer for the group.

TRADITIONAL FAMILY

The rule is tied to Japan’s traditional concept of the family, which in the past ensured that property, businesses, and surnames were passed on to men within the family unit.

Some say it is outdated. In certain cases, couples repeat marriages and divorces between each other to avoid having to register their children as out of wedlock births, partly because the civil code limits inheritance rights for such children.

Tsukamoto, with her husband since 1960, is going through her second marriage with him after divorcing once in 1965 to get her maiden name back. They re-married when they had their third child but her husband has rejected requests for a second divorce.

Those against change say it’s a matter of family unity and are wary of the impact on children’s identities. They also warn of a possible increase in divorce.

Tsukamoto began studying women’s issues at the age of 63, after she was freed of duties to nurse her parents. She has since taken up an activist’s role.

“Others were getting by well in society and I have thought that perhaps I was stupid to insist on this … Now things are changing in a good direction, unimaginable in 1960,” she said.
ends

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

Japanese marital surname law faces legal challenge
A lawsuit against the government is being launched by five people who claim their constitutional rights are being violated
Justin McCurry in Tokyo, courtesy of the author’s Twitter feed
guardian.co.uk Tuesday 11 January 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/11/japan-marital-surname-law-challenge?CMP=twt_gu

Five people in Japan are poised to launch an unprecedented lawsuit against the government, claiming that a civil law forcing them to choose a single surname after marriage violates their constitutional rights.

If they succeed, married men and women will for the first time be able to retain their own surnames, dealing a blow to one of the few remaining legal obstacles to gender equality.

In the vast majority of cases, women are required to relinquish their maiden name after marriage, although a small number of men take their wife’s name.

Critics say the time has come to modernise the law in Japan, the only G8 nation with laws governing marital surnames.

The plaintiffs argue that the civil code’s requirement that a single surname be chosen contradicts articles of the constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equal rights to husband and wife. The five are also seeking ¥1m (£7,727) each in compensation from the government.

Kyoko Tsukamoto, who changed her maiden name in the family registry after marrying in 1960 but retained it in daily life, said the law had contributed to a “strong loss of self” and caused psychological damage.

“My husband and I still love each other, but this and the issue of Tsukamoto are different,” said the 75-year-old former teacher. “I thought I would get used to my husband’s name, but I couldn’t. I felt a strong sense of loss growing inside me.”

Opposition from conservative politicians delayed previous attempts to change the law. In 1996 the justice ministry devised an amendment that would give married women the right to retain their maiden names, but the move was blocked by MPs who said it would undermine the family unit.

The current government, led by the centre-left Democratic party, supports a change in the law but has yet to act amid opposition from a minor coalition ally.

“There were expectations that it could be enacted, but unfortunately this did not happen. They do not want to wait any longer,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Fujiko Sakakibara.

The law has forced some couples to take drastic action. Tsukamoto and her husband divorced in 1965 so that she could regain her maiden name, but remarried when she became pregnant because civil law can impinge on the inheritance rights of children born out of wedlock.

Critics say the civil code, enacted in 1896 and amended by the US occupation forces after the second world war, ignores dramatic postwar changes to the role of women in the home and workplace.

The movement for change gathered pace in the 1980s when more women entered the workplace. Many complained that changing their names after marriage was detrimental to their career prospects and affected relationships with colleagues.

Yet the Japanese are divided over the issue: in a 2009 survey 49% said they supported a change in the law, while 48% were opposed.

Women still have to use their registered surnames on official documents such as passports and health insurance cards.

Many companies allow married women to retain their maiden names at work, but for Tsukamoto, who married in 1960, unofficial acceptance is not enough.

“Now I am 75, and I was shocked to realise that I can no longer do the things I was able to do even last year,” she said. “That’s when I thought, I am Kyoko Tsukamoto … and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto.”
ends

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

Historical article on the issue (2004) showing how little the debate has changed in nearly a decade:

The Japan Times, Sunday, March 14, 2004, courtesy Justin McCurry
MEDIA MIX
The twisted terminology in Japan’s marriage system
By PHILIP BRASOR

…Marriage as a legal contract allows the state to regulate what goes on in the bedroom. This is basically the argument put forth by Sumiko Tanaka and Noboru Fukukita, a Japanese couple who live together without the state’s blessing and who have an 18-year-old daughter. Because Tanaka and Fukukita are not married, their daughter’s out-of-wedlock status was indicated in both their residence certificate (juminhyo) and family register (koseki). They have been fighting to have such designations changed since 1988, and while they’ve lost lawsuits in court, their efforts have moved the government to change these discriminatory terms. Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa announced last week that children born out-of-wedlock would be designated in family registers in the same way as children born to married couples, though nothing has really changed. Anyone who reads the family register will be able to tell if a child is born in or out of wedlock. The ministry has made the terms less discriminatory, but the register, which codifies parent-child relationships, is unchanged.

Because the United States sees itself as part of a Judeo-Christian heritage, it can couch the marriage debate in moral terms, even if it’s the authorities who decide who can marry. In Japan, the state is the only arbiter and the koseki the instrument of that arbitration. Immorality, therefore, is defined by the government, and has been since the Meiji Period, when the koseki was established for the purposes of census and tax collecting.

Many Japanese couples, therefore, bridle at the idea that they need the state’s permission to cohabit and have children. Some people may think that the controversy over separate names (bessei) is based on the same thing, but it isn’t. In 1996, the Justice Ministry proposed revisions to the Civil Code that would allow married partners to retain separate surnames. As it stands, a married couple must decide on one name (98 percent take the husband’s).

Conservative politicians have repeatedly shot down any effort to allow separate surnames, saying that bessei undermines the integrity of the family, even though it’s clear that the vast majority of Japanese couples will opt for one name even if they can have separate ones.

The irony is that more couples would get married if they were allowed separate names…

Rest of the article at:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20040314pb.html

Tangent: End of an era: Asahi Evening News presses to close

mytest

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

Hi Blog.  Weekend Tangent.  It’s the end of an era:  the demise of the Asahi Evening News.  This means one less daily media outlet covering domestic Japanese news in English.  And one less voice coming from and covering the NJ community in Japan.

Consider what happened to the alternatives this past decade:  the Mainichi Daily News went the way of the dodo some time ago.  The Daily Yomiuri still exists, but essentially offers translations of its articles of right-wing bent, mostly avoiding criticism of Japan — and they have severely cut back on their full-time NJ staff anyway (they have more translators than actual NJ reporters, and they are being steadily replaced by mere proofreaders).

Now it’s the Asahi’s turn.  You might say that this is the natural outcome of the drop in print media revenues.  But I think the Asahi had this in mind all along.  Not only did they engage in union-busting activities this past decade (successfully — they axed lots of full-time NJ journalists), but they also isolated (I tried more than once to contact a few NJ reporters who had bylines in the paper through the Asahi switchboard; switchboard said they had no actual AEN division to connect to) and bled their English division so dry that someday there would be no other alternative but to get rid of it.  And next month that’s what they’ll be doing.

Last man standing (in English) is the Japan Times.  And Kyodo News (as if there’s any comparison, as they also have few, if any, full-time NJ reporters).  Long may they run.

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

Japan Times, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Asahi to end English insert in IHT on Feb. 28
By MINORU MATSUTANI, Staff writer

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101208a6.html

The Asahi Shimbun Co. will stop printing on Feb. 28 its English section that currently occupies the last four pages of the International Herald Tribune’s Japan edition.

The Asahi Shimbun’s English news will only be available on its website as well as on Apple Inc.’s iPad and Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle services, the company said Tuesday. The IHT will be distributed without the Asahi section starting March 1…

The Asahi went on to say it doesn’t plan to stop providing news in English, but made the strategic decision to end the printed version to strengthen operations in delivering news to international readers.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101208a6.html

Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the last comic for the holidays, thanks for reading.  We’ll end with a sweet one.  “Lile Lizard” (I think it’s a name, not a misspelling of “little”), a reptilian reprise of Adam and Eve, rendered by me aged seven in Second Grade.  Created by god, Lile offers us a story with marriage, babies, family values, and even a mate sent by air mail!  I think the note it ends on is a good way to finish the year.  We’ll get back to the nitty-gritty hardcore human rights issues tomorrow.  Thanks to everyone for reading Debito.org daily blog as it rounds off its fifth year in operation.  Comments follow comic.

NOTES:  The cover still demonstrates I’m in my phase of putting funny faces on things in the sky, in this case a cloud, accompanied by a spider who can defy perspective.  Looking at the renderings of Lile as the comic went on, I don’t think the cover lizard was drawn by me.  The head, tongue, and left arm were probably added by awful fusspot art teacher at the time Miss Gee, who had temper tantrums at the kids if they didn’t draw things her way.  She would do things like hold people’s artwork up in front of a whole class of grade schoolers as examples of what not to do, and give them a public dressing-down (get her to a psychiatrist, someone!).  I think I completed the right arm, hind legs, and back spine afterwards.

Also telling of Miss Gee’s control freakiness is the cover’s original title (pencil erasers didn’t seem to work back then), which looks like “Mike mossicq”, perhaps my attempt to tell a story about a mosquito.  There is one on the cover, but then the metaphorical Lizard-Queen-cum-art teacher comes in and eats him, and hijacks the story.  I guess I thought I better tell the rest of the story sweetly to avoid Miss Gee’s wrath.  (Besides, mosquitoes are harder to draw, not to mention spell!)

Also, I like how god has some sort of halogen flare (not merely a halo) over his hat, not to mention the electrifying powers of Zeus.  And the globe of the world below him shows quite clearly the Old Faithful geyser, which I had seen back in August 1970.  Also, I like on the “falling in love” page how the air-mail pigeon returns to Heaven in the clouds as god seems to be watching TV.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten

mytest

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Hi Blog. Continuing the holiday tangents for two more days, here is my rather interesting attempt to combine disaster movie with horror flick. “The Meat Eaters”, drawn by me back in around Fifth Grade, circa 1975, when I was ten years old. Comment follows comic.

NOTES: Although at the time records indicate I was drawing a lot of battle-oriented comics (WWI, WWII, and some space alien stuff), this is perhaps my read of The Blob. Summer idyll disturbed by a bolt from the blue, and suddenly carnivorous tribbles begin to devour humanity. But of course a hero emerges, tries to save the day (especially given the do-nothing president; perhaps that’s what I thought of President Ford), and this time does NOT get what he deserves — a happily-ever-after Hollywood ending where justice is served. Oh oh, I’m starting to grow up, it seems… Arudou Debito

Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten

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Hi Blog.  For today’s comic effect, here’s an effort by me to assimilate the experiences I was having by age ten:  Travel around Europe with my stepfather (family in England, conferences around Europe, including Germany, Czech, and Poland), drinking in lots of British comics (still do, but at that time I was reading war comics like Warlord and Victor, not to mention Hotspur and Wizard; the Brits in the 1970s still loved reliving the glories of the World Wars, and British comic books over the decades quite possibly killed cumulatively more Germans in print than on the battlefield), and watching movies like Airport (I had a longstanding fear of flying, what with either paranoid disaster flicks at the time or hijackings to Cuba).

In this ten year old’s world, here’s what comes out in the wash:  A turboprop flys Heathrow to Russia, via Paris, and over Germany, where the Nazis of course attack and put the flight in jeopardy.  But of course, a hero emerges… and, well, read the comic.  At least they made it to Warsaw.  Enjoy.  There’s even a Christmas message at the end, meaning I made this as a present for my parents.  Arudou Debito

From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks for indulging me this holiday season with archiving things that feel more precious the more I look at them.  Here is something even older than the first two entries:  “Penny the Hamster”, named after our Second Grade class’s pet, who had a history of escaping (and inspiring me to write).  The comic is more primitive in drawing (thanks to the younger age — I mean, seven years old?), but the narrative structure is, once again, still there.  Dedicated to classmate Steve Chilbert (with whom I’ve gotten back in touch with after nearly 27 years thanks to Facebook) at the bottom of the cover (until, it seems, we had some kind of fight and I tried to erase him).  Let’s see what travails await this main character in young David Aldwinckle’s world.  Arudou Debito

Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Continuing the Holiday Tangents (I just don’t feel like doing anything downer-ish as we round out the year), here’s another comic drawn by me probably around November 1973. “Steve Seed”. It’s from a photocopy, alas, but even I’m a little surprised at how developed the spelling and narrative structure are at this age. Refers to the circle of life, safety, and even reincarnation. And it’s doggone cute, darn it. If I could stick my arm into a time machine, I’d reach back and pinch my cheeks. Brief notes at bottom.

NOTES: Surprisingly developed concept of how plants and seeds work. And how “spray” keeps pests away (to the point of killing off the birds — my stepfather probably still claims that there’s no clear scientific evidence against the use of DDT). Clearly the result of being raised by a plant pathologist in Upstate New York, watching things go on at an experiment station where spraying plants is the norm. Prelude to irradiated food being kept fresh forever? Finally, to a little kid, a sunflower probably does look 100 feet tall.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight

mytest

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Hi Blog. Happy Boxing Day. For the holiday season, let me put up some rilly, rilly old stuff. I got a boxful of old comic books I made when I was a little kid. What follows is “Fred Fish”, from 1973. I was in second grade, just turned eight years old, and was in Mrs. Joseph’s class in North Street School, Geneva, NY, USA. I had been reading since I was about two years old (a LOT of comic books), and within five years I was producing some of my own. Mrs. Joseph saw me as reading at a level far above everyone else, she said years later, so she gave me class time to create whatever I wanted. That’s what I did — I sat down with pencil, paper, and a stapler and created what would turn out to be a pile of these mostly derivative but kinda cute works that fortunately got saved. 38 years later, here’s something for the blog, as a present and a diversion I hope you enjoy. Quick notes follow the story gallery.

NOTES:  The story ends most abruptly because I always made the books (one ream) ready stapled before I made the stories, with no advance planning.  I realized I had plenty of pages left by the time our protagonist goes to bed, so I segued into a bully story.  But justice has to prevail by the last two pages, so all is returned to normal, the end, by the last corner.  Also, I recall that people said my eyes (hazel) changed color with the light and mood (like those Mood Rings so popular in the late seventies, it was later said).  It was on my mind, so I incorporated it into the story and gave Fred Fish my eyes.  I remember my mother (who was, shall we say, quite reserved in her praise of anything I did) reserving her praise for that page in particular.  Hence this is the first comic going up on the blog — it was my first success with my harshest critic.  Arudou Debito

Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here is what Robert Shapiro, former economic adviser to President Clinton, says about the positive financial impact of new waves of immigration, in this case to the United States:

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

(Courtesy Economist.com Podcast June 23, 2010, from minute 1:44; typos mine)

Economist: Even in the best of economic times, there are concerns about the fiscal impact of immigration: How they’re using services, what they’re contributing in taxation… that’s obviously become more of a concern given the recession. What can you tell us as far as what you know about the fiscal burden of immigration, and the fiscal benefits of immigrants?

Shapiro: Particularly in five or six states, where immigrants are highly concentrated, there’s a fiscal deficit. Much of that has to do with educating children of immigrants. That’s the single largest cost. But if you look at it more dynamically, immigrants tend to be aggressive about improving their conditions. Aggressive enough to leave their homeland. These are not the kinds of people who take life as it’s been given to them. They try to make the best of their lives, and so you would expect to see some income gains — whether they start out as a day laborer or as an entrepreneur. The whole issue of entrepreneurship is interesting, because we find that not only do you see a lot of entrepreneurship among educated immigrants, particularly from Asia — and this has been commented on: the large volume of Silicon Valley startups that were started by immigrants, particularly from India. You see this also among undocumented immigrants, who are generally low-skilled people. Now they’re different kinds of businesses they’re starting. But that’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s a software startup, or a small corner business…

[There is] another benefit of immigration — and a fiscal benefit. And that is, immigrants — and they generally come in early working age — they work their whole lives, if they stay here their whole lives, and then they retire. That’s the same as an American, except that the American working young worker has parents. Who claim social security and medicare. Immigrants come without their elderly parents, and in that sense we get a contribution to the labor force without having to pay out the benefits to the parent. When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s big money…

Economist…Is immigration responsible for holding down wages in the US, or for slow wage growth?

Shapiro: If you look at the aggregate, there is no evidence that shows that immigrants have had any depressive effect on the average wage in the United States.  However, there are winners and losers. Immigration actually appears to be responsible for gains in wages for higher-skilled Americans.  The reason for this is that you have large numbers of relatively low-skilled immigrants that allow the expansion of organizations — because they can hire more people because they are less expensive.  That expansion requires more higher-skilled people to manage it, for all the ancillary services, advance services associated with a large organization. And so it seems be associated with putting upward pressure on the wages of highly-skilled people.  It also puts downward pressure on the wages of low-skilled Americans.

EXCERPT ENDS

YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident

mytest

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Hi Blog.  More word from cyberspace today, courtesy of AT:

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

December 13, 2010

Hey Debito, you gotta check out this YouTube video showing a prime example of the incompetence of the Japanese police. A guy riding a bicycle gets stopped by a police officer for no reason, which happens a lot in Japan. As the officer is asking him questions (which the guy is under no obligation to answer), we can hear an obvious traffic accident take place in the background just around the corner, and both the police officer and the bicyclist hear it. A reasonable police officer would realize that that was a traffic accident and that people may be injured and need first aid, etc. But no, this cop continues to question the bicyclist as if nothing happened. At one point he even denies that it may be a traffic accident. After the bicyclist convinces him to do so, he notifies dispatch of the traffic accident, and then continues to question the bicyclist rather than tending to the possibly injured! This cop neglected to tend to a possibly serious and fatal traffic accident, all so he can perform 職務質問 (voluntary questioning) on a bicyclist!

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COMMENT:  Yes, it happens aplenty to those riding while foreign in Japan, but as I’ve argued before (in my Japan Times article Gaijin as Public Policy Guinea Pig), things foisted upon the NJ population to increase police powers are soon foisted upon the Japanese population as well.  This video is evidence of that.  Since the Keystones cannot stop people ostensibly without probable cause, stopping people with bicycles (using the excuse that they might have stolen them) or with bags (they might have knives etc.) is one way for the NPA to put the people in their place (i.e., if you can’t avoid cycling or carrying any luggage in public, too bad; suffer our suspicions).  Of course, the Keystones need no excuse to stop NJ: being foreign-looking alone in Japan is probable cause of suspicion for a visa overstay.  Again, this fortifies my theory of Japan as Mild Police State.  One that I believe is trying to increase its power in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again“.  Even if, in this case, the safety of others in first-aid cases is subordinated to an individual cop’s power trip.  A bit of a tangent today, but it’s germane to Debito.org.  Arudou Debito

Fiona Graham/SAYUKI speaks at Good Day Books Ebisu Sun Dec 5

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Forwarding by request of the speaker:

http://www.gooddaybooks.com/contents/Booknotes
GOOD DAY BOOKS EBISU NEXT SPEAKER
Speaker: Fiona Graham

Topic: “The Japanese Company, Then and Now”
When: Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, 05 December 2010
Admission: Buy a copy of A Japanese Company in Crisis or Inside the Japanese Company from our shop

Fiona Graham is an Australian anthropologist and a producer/director of anthropological documentaries. She has directed and produced programmes for NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster – and has also worked on programs for National Geographic, Channel 4, and BBC. She was the first white woman to graduate as a regular student from Keio University. Subsequently she worked for one of the top ten Japanese insurance companies. She took her MBA and doctorate at the University of Oxford, has lectured at the National University of Singapore, and is currently lecturing at Keio University. She has done fieldwork in both the UK and Japan, in Tokyo’s night world, in Japanese companies, with Japanese traditional sports teams, and in the world of anime and popular culture. Her current fieldwork is on geisha and traditional Japanese culture. In 2007, she became the first white woman to debut as a geisha and is now a working geisha in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

She is author of: A Japanese Company in Crisis: Ideology, Strategy, and Narrative (Routledge-Curzon, 2005); Playing at Politics: An Ethnography of the Oxford Union (Dunedin Academic Press, 2005); and Inside the Japanese Company (Routledge-Curzon, 2003).

ends

Weekend Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

mytest

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Hi Blog. We might have the image of the DPJ being too bogged down in politics to get much done. But as NHK reports below (be sure to watch video too from the link), we have some pretty impressive lawmaking being done by a more liberal government for one underprivileged segment of Japanese society — the handicapped.

The committee’s deliberations are saying the things we want guaranteed vis-a-vis human rights for human beings — including protections enshrined in law. With this precedent and degree of enlightenment, can we but hope that they could someday stretch it to include non-citizens? The linkage, however tenuous, is there. Have a read. Anyone espying these deliberations in English as well, please send link and article, thanks. Arudou Debito

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

障害者差別禁止法案を検討へ
NHK News 2010年11月24日 4時21分 courtesy AK
Video at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20101124/k10015410031000.html
政府の「障がい者制度改革推進会議」は、3年後の国会で、障害を理由とした差別の禁止と、被害を受けた場合の救済などを目的とした法律の制定を目指すとしており、有識者を中心とした専門の作業部会を設け、具体的な問題点の検討に入ることになりました。

政府は、ことし1月、障害者への支援策を障害者自身の視点から改める必要があるとして、障害がある人とその家族が委員の半数以上を占める「障がい者制度改革推進会議」を設け、今の障害者基本法の抜本的な見直しを進めています。そして、3年後、平成25年の国会で、障害を理由とした差別の禁止と、障害者がそうした被害を受けた場合の救済を目的とした法律の制定を目指すとして、「推進会議」のもとに大学教授や弁護士などが参加する専門の作業部会を設け、検討に入ることになりました。作業部会では、当面は2か月に1度の割合で会合を開き、諸外国の差別禁止法について、それぞれ、法律を制定するまでにどのような議論が行われたのかを調査したり、障害者差別に関する具体的な事例について、自治体や関係団体からヒアリングを行うなど、具体的な問題点の検討を進めることにしています。

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, here’s how China is handling their census, according to the LA Times.  What’s interesting as far as Debito.org goes is that, despite some claims of Chinese homogeneity thanks to the Han majority, the PRC apparently DOES survey for ethnicity.  Unlike the GOJ.  Again, that’s the hegemony of homogeneity in Japan.  Arudou Debito.

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

Chinese census takers have their work cut out for them
Evaded because of privacy concerns, they use the element of surprise.
THE WORLD
LA Times November 10, 2010, By Barbara Demick

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/10/world/la-fg-china-census-20101110

BEIJING — How do you count 1.3 billion or so people?

Here in China this week: Door-to-door.

Politely.

Covering your dirty shoes with plastic wrappers before entering homes as you provide reassurance that sensitive information — about residency permits or babies who violate China’s one-child policy — will not be shared with other authorities.

But beware of dogs.

China on Wednesday is completing the world’s largest census, one so big that it has required 6 million census takers, more than the entire population of many countries. This is the sixth nationwide census China has conducted, its first since 2000, and one with a few new wrinkles.

In an effort to tally China’s staggering migrant population, estimated at more than 200 million, census takers are seeking to count people where they live, rather than at the homes where they have their hukous, or residency permits. Until a decade ago, people who had moved to big cities without permits could be arrested and deported.

Census takers have also offered stronger assurances this time that the information they collect will remain confidential. Data on family planning, taxes, landownership and residency permits are all, at least in theory, kept private by the census.

“This is only about statistics, but people are worried that they could get fined for having an extra child and they’ll avoid the census,” said Duan Chengrong, head of the population department at Renmin University. “Like in the U.S., the Chinese these days are paying more attention to their privacy.”

Before the 10-day census, the Chinese government began a massive awareness — some might say propaganda — campaign. Large green banners garlanded across streets throughout the country read: “Conducting a census — establishing a harmonious society.”

In alleys near the Beijing South Railway Station, where migrants from the countryside live in housing not much larger than some American bathrooms, census takers make repeat visits at different times of the day, hoping to catch otherwise elusive residents by surprise.

“They come sometimes at 10 p.m. to find us,” said a woman from Anhui province who was washing clothes in an outdoor sink.

At a neighborhood committee office, a 64-year-old woman wearing a Mao Tse-tung button on her red jacket said that she had barely slept since the census started. “The population is so mobile. And some won’t open the door. We just keep going back until we find them,” she said.

The life of a census taker is not easy. Their pay is about $150 for a month’s work and many report being bitten by dogs. In one neighborhood in the southern city of Guangzhou, 11 of 32 workers had quit by the third day of the census, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper.

Difficulties in getting information are sometimes even greater in wealthy neighborhoods than in poor ones. A Chinese journalist who went out with census takers during a preliminary census in August reported that only one resident opened the door in a posh gated community of 39 villas in the suburbs of Beijing. Often nobody answered even though people could be seen behind closed curtains.

“The rich worry more about their privacy. They may have second or third homes or mistresses they’re hiding away,” said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at Renmin University. “But it’s true of ordinary people as well; they’re not willing to cooperate with the government the way they used to in the old China.”

Many say they have been reassured by the government’s declaration that information cannot be used to levy fines, which often run as high as six times an annual income for extra births.

Census methods have varied by location. Millions in Beijing received Short Message Service communications on their cellphones instructing them to cooperate. In some neighborhoods, census takers have offered towels or shopping bags as token gifts to coax people into answering the questions. Elsewhere, census takers have been allowed to call in the police if residents refuse to answer the door.

Similar to the census process in the United States, most people are given a standard form with a few basic questions: 18 of them centering on names, ages, occupation. Ethnicity is also asked, but not religion, that being a sensitive subject in a communist country that is officially atheist. One-tenth of the population, meanwhile, was selected for a longer, 45-question form that includes queries about income, savings, the type of water one drinks (tap or boiled) and the number of bathrooms in the house.

The census data are expected to be published in April. Among the questions of keenest interest to demographers: How many people have migrated from their homes in the countryside to work in the cities? How much has the male- female ratio been skewed by the traditional preference for sons with a one-child policy in place? How has the ethnic balance changed in sensitive areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang where minorities complain that an influx of Han Chinese is diluting their cultures?

And, in the end, the ultimate census question: Just how many Chinese are there, really? At the last count, a decade ago, the figure was 1.27 billion. United Nations estimates put China’s population today near 1.4 billion.

ENDS

ELT News and Daily Yomiuri columnist Mike Guest misrepresents not only the record, but also his own academic credentials

mytest

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

Hi Blog.  There is a person out there (one of many, no doubt) who takes a dim view of what we do here at Debito.org.  To the point of saying things in a published column we did not say.  Have a read of this.  Comment from me follows.

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

EFL News, October 29, 2010

The Uni-Files
A candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher’s perspective.
By Mike Guest, Miyazaki University

http://www.eltnews.com/columns/uni_files/2010/10/today_a_unifiles_interview_wit.html

An “interview” with controversial human rights activist Orudo Debiru
Categories:  Amusement/Fiction foreigners in Japan

Today- a Uni-files interview with the controversial activist and newspaper columnist Orudo Debiru

(For those who don’t know, Orudo Debiru is a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan. He is also wholly fictional and if he happens to resemble some actual person from say, Hokkaido, that’s because you, dear reader, made an unwarranted connection. Today he joins us with one of his most ardent, and equally fictional, supporters- Jay Newbie).

Uni-files: Debiru, in a recent newspaper article you argued that even non-Japanese living outside Japan, including those who have never set foot in Japan, should have the right to vote in Japanese elections. You also argued that they should be eligible for all the public and social services offered by the Japanese government, including pensions and welfare benefits. This seems to be a bit radical don’t you think?

Debiru: No. Otherwise you’re discriminating between Japanese people and non-residents. Why should only Japanese have access to the benefits of ‘Team Japan’?

Newbie: Japan owes something to the world. It can’t just always be take, take, take. Japan has to give in return.

Debiru: Japan is the only ‘developed’ county that doesn’t provide the vote for it’s non-citizens who live elsewhere.

Uni-files: Really? No country in the EU does that, nor do Canada, U.S., or Australia.

Debiru: What other countries do is irrelevant! What’s right is right! Are you saying that it is right for Japan to be discriminatory?

Uni-files: Debiru, you and your supporters often mention that some attitudes, policies, or states of affairs occur ‘only in Japan’ among developed countries. It seems that you buy into notions of Japanese uniqueness or exclusivity. Do you?

Debiru: Not at all! The notion of Japanese uniqueness is a nationalist myth!

Newbie: Of all developed countries, only the Japanese think of themselves as being unique. It seems to be part of the Japanese mentality. They believe whatever the government tells them. You won’t find this type of belief in Western countries anymore, only in Japan.

Uni-files: Ok. Let’s move on. You’ve also blogged about “how the Japanese authorities plan to incarcerate all foreign residents as a precaution against the foreign criminals”. I haven’t come across any such policy statements. Can you ground this?

Debiru: Well, I was scouring the internet looking for anything that might prove my preconceptions about the ulterior motives of the Japanese authorities when I came across another blogger who talked about how his upholsterer in Inaka Prefecture thought he had overheard a conversation at a vegetable stand about the local district council becoming more vigilant about registering foreigners for social services and helping them with securing housing. And I can substantiate it too- with a link to the blog. Anyway, to me, being told to ‘stay in your house’ in this manner is equivalent to incarceration. And the registration is clearly a way of rounding up the foreigners- just like a crminal [sic] dragnet.

Newbie: In any civilized country this would cause mass rioting in the streets. But because the Japanese are such compliant sheep, not to mention the blatant racism here, no one will stand up for us. The Japanese just pretend that foreigners don’t exist. They stare at us like we’re from another planet.

Uni-files: That must be tough for them to do, both ignoring your existence and staring at you at the same time!

Debiru: This is just the start of the whole racist process. Next thing you know, your pension is declared null and void and your ‘ha-fu’ kids are kicked out of school for not being Japanese enough.

Newbie: Wow, Debiru. That was your best answer yet!

Uni-files: Let me ask about these racism charges a bit. For example, I know that you oppose the fingerprinting of non-Japanese at airports but can this really be called racist? After all, it is based upon citizenship, right? For example, Debiru, you are racially Caucasian but, as a Japanese citizen, you don’t have to be fingerprinted. And someone who is racially ‘Japanese’- although Japanese isn’t even a racial category- but doesn’t hold a Japanese passport still has to be fingerprinted. So while it may be other things, how can you say it is ‘racist’?

Debiru: Don’t feed the troll, Newbie. Don’t feed the troll.

Uni-files: Ok, nect [sic] question. Regarding a specific recent blog entry of yours… You recently criticized the city of Sonzainashi for exploiting non-Japanese. Apparently, the city authorities had developed a ‘Welcome Foreign Guests’ plan in which selected hotels, hot springs, eateries, bars and so on offered English information and services and had started a promotional campaign that actively encouraged non-Japanese to visit. So, what was the thrust of your criticism?

Debiru: When they carry out this facile, deceitful put-on for non-Japanese they’re only doing it because they want their business. “Let’s take the foreigner’s money away from them” is the real motivation. ‘Yohkoso Japan!’- Yeah, right!

Newbie: I consider it a form of robbery; another way of victimizing us, the weakest members of this society.

Uni-files: You guys seem to be very negative about anything to do with Japan, even when Japan scores an apparent success.

Newbie: That’s because Japan places everyone into an us and them paradigm. They do it all the time. They have institutionalized the formula. They use it to justify oppressive policies. We would never do that in the U.S. We have laws that forbid it and an education system that teaches us not to do so.

Uni-files:So, given that Debiru is Japanese, would you put him among that number?

Newbie: Well, I mean, he’s not really a Japanese in the same way they are. (Debiru stares at Newbie). Well I mean, like, he’s not exactly Japanese like them. So to speak. He’s a different Japanese from all the other Japanese. (Debiru continues staring at him). Well, of course he’s just the same as them in that he’s a Japanese citizen. But Debiru is more…ummm… progressive. (Debiru smiles).

Uni-files: OK. Back to the point. Wouldn’t you at least agree that public order and efficiency here is quite excellent?

Debiru: Japanese public order is maintained by coercion and implicit threat. It’s fifty years behind most other countries in this regard.

Uni-files: OK. How about robotics? Or even toilet technology?

Newbie: Robotics here is 36 years behind every other country in the world. And Japan is 23 years behind as far as toilets go.

Uni-files: On what basis can you make such bold claims?

Newbie: Three months ago in the U.S., before I came to Japan, I visited another state for the first time. And their toilets were better than here. Not as xenophobic.

Uni-files: Ok. How about manga and animation? Surely Japan’s ranking in these…

Newbie: You sound like a Japan apologist, acting as if racism never occurs here. Like nothing ever happened in Nanjing!

Debiru: Speaking of which, China has overtaken Japan as the world’s #2 power so Japan can’t possibly be leaders in those fields and therefore must be on the decline in all catgories.[sic] And it is this frustration at being a washed up, has-been society that it causing Japanese to lash out at foreigners.

Uni-files: Really? How so?

Debiru: It happens all the time. Read my blog.

Uni-files: I don’t doubt that there are individual cases but I don’t see it as systemic.

Debiru: If it isn’t systemic, why would I have so many blog posts? That’s all the proof you need! Anyway, just on our way over to this interview the taxi driver spat at us, called us ‘Dirty foreigners’ and told us to ‘Get out!”.

Uni-files: Wow! In twenty years in Japan I have never even come close to experiencing anything remotely like that. Can you elaborate? He spat at you?!

Debiru: Well, he was making disgusting sucking sounds with his teeth so that you could hear the saliva washing around. To me that’s spitting.

Uni-files: I wouldn’t call that spitting…

Debiru: Stay on topic! The point is he would never have done that if the passenger was visibly Japanese.

Uni-files: I see. And he called you a ‘dirty foreigner’?

Debiru: Well he called us “gaikokujin no kata”.

Uni-files: But that’s a very polite way of just saying ‘foreigner’! Where’s the ‘dirty’ part?

Newbie: Well we already know that the Japanese are racist and xenophobic so we can safely assume what he must have been thinking.

Uni-files: And the ‘Get out!’ part?

Newbie: He asked us where we wanted to “get out”. (awkward silence). It’s semantics.

Debiru: Not only that but I am not a foreigner. I’m a Japanese citizen. (starts sniffling) I was… racially profiled!

Newbie: (patting Debiru’s slumping shoulders) There, there. Now you are a racial profiling survivor!

Debiru (brightening up): If Japan had an anti-discrimination law with any teeth he’d have his ass hauled off to jail.

Newbie: Exactly. And you know what, you’ll never see the weak-kneed Japanese media or the history textbooks pick up on stories like this either. They don’t want to hear about these high-octane truths.

Debiru: This is precisely why we need laws against racism, xenophobia, being opposed to immigration, questioning multiculturalism, and other wrong and hateful thoughts.

Uni-files: So you’re in favor of more state authority and policing over what people think?

Debiru: Are you kidding? The police and judiciary here are totally inept and corrupt. They should stay out of people’s lives… ummm…except for the lives of those people who hold unhealthy views.

Uni-files: One more thing about this case. You say that you were racially profiled because the taxi driver believed that you were a foreigner, which by the way, is a mistake that most non-Japanese would probably make as well. But how do you know that the driver was in fact Japanese. Couldn’t he have been ethnically Korean or Chinese? In other words, didn’t you profile him equally?

Debiru: (closes his eyes) Don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll.

Uni-files: Ok. Last question. I’m wondering how you chose your Japanese name.

Debiru: It’s the closest phonetic approximation to my previous name. In fact, I asked to have a different, more suitable name first but was refused by the [iyami deleted] Japanese authorities.

Uni-files: And what name was that?

Debiru: Martin Luther King.

Leave a comment (47)

http://www.eltnews.com/columns/uni_files/2010/10/today_a_unifiles_interview_wit.html

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

Author’s Profile at ELT News
Mike Guest is Associate Professor of English in the School of Medicine at the University of Miyazaki. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, he has been living, working, and researching in Japan (not to mention lounging in the professors-jacuzzi and taking lengthy, fully-funded research trips to 5-star beach resorts in Bora-Bora) for almost twenty years.

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

COMMENT:  What a card.  Well, for those unfamiliar with Mr Guest, he is a columnist at ELT News and the Daily Yomiuri (I even wrote about one of his DY columns here at Debito.org, favorably).  However, what inspired a column of this caliber and tone in the ELT News (under the heading of “a candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher’s perspective”) is a bit beyond me.  Its fallacious attributions (these statements are not quotes from me; if Mr Guest had critiqued actual quotes — and lordy knows there are years of my words online he could have referred to — that would have been better, no?  Better yet, why not just interview me?), the presumption that people who support or comment at Debito.org must be malinformed Newbies, the general mean-spiritedness of it all, et cetera — are quite unbecoming for a person aiming to be a respected opinionist by taking puerile pot-shots at people on professional educational fora.

Especially in the Comments section where, amongst other obnoxious ripostes, he had this to say:

Alright, since Mr Guest decided to compare academic credentials, I decided to research his.  Here’s what I found at his university website, where he has a one-year contract as an English teacher:

This looks okay, until you do some research.  Aston University is a distance learning school in Birmingham UK that does indeed offer his degree (probably this one here).  Fine.

However, Regent College is NOT the University of British Columbia, one of Canada’s top universities.  Regent College is a Christian Studies school next door to UBC.  As was confirmed with Regent College the other day:

=========================
Subject: RE: Degree
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010
From: Regent College Admissions

Thanks for your email. Regent College is a completely separate institution from UBC. We have some partnerships/affiliations with UBC, but a degree awarded from Regent College is solely from Regent and unrelated to UBC entirely. [emphasis added]

I hope this helps – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have further questions! If you are interested in receiving information about our MDiv degree, I’d be happy to send you our MDiv materials.

Blessings,
Amy Petroelje, Inquiries and Housing Coordinator
Regent College
5800 University Blvd Vancouver, BC V6T 2E4

phone 604.224.3245 toll.free 800.663.8664 fax 604.224.3097
www.regent-college.edu
www.facebook.com/regentcollege
www.twitter.com/regentcollege

=========================
email ends

So when I asked Mr Guest about his qualifications last week after his presentation at JALT Nagoya, here’s what he claimed:

SOUND FILE:  mikeguestUBC112010

Reconfirmed.  No possible misunderstanding about (putting UBC in parentheses) on his school katagaki.  He says UBC only, no mention of Regent College.  He has misrepresented his educational background.

Now, some might say that this might just be a form of shorthand, for an audience that might not know what Regent College is — as Mr Guest argued shortly afterwards:

SOUND FILE:  doctorguest112010

but as even his alma mater acknowledges, a degree from Regent College is not a degree from UBC.  It’s like saying somebody who graduated from Ithaca College, or Cornell College for that matter, graduated from Cornell University.  Not an ethical thing for an educational professional to do, especially when he wishes to establish himself as a credible critiquer of educational matters.

So if Mr Guest wants to scrutinize others, I hope he will accept the same public scrutiny.  Sadly, I’m not sure he will.  The following, written shortly after our first meeting at JALT Nagoya on a site called “Tepido.org” (an interesting choice of venue; it’s a website devoted *solely* to trashing me personally and people who contribute to Debito.org, run by blogger Mr Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson and toy store employee Mr Lance Braman), indicates that Mr Guest’s antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, and blame-shifting continue unabated:

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

Mike Guest Says:
November 21st, 2010 at 7:51 am

http://tepido.org/heterogeneous-responses/182#comment-1204

It’s funny that this discussion about credentials should come up here now. Yesterday, Debito attended my presentation at the JALT Conference in Nagoya and confronted me afterwards. I wasn’t really surprised. First, during the Q and A session, he asked what my credentials were. A left-field question to be sure and I knew that he was up to something. Later he came to the front as I was packing up, with a bit of a manic gleam in his eye, a voice recorder in his hand, looking like an intrepid young reporter who’s ‘gonna take yer ass downtown’, and began a prepared spiel, trying very hard to be intimidating (but looking me to me a bit more like a caricature).

He said (among other things) that I was a fraud because I had misrepresented my academic credentials (I imagine this will be up on his site soon if not already). For the record, the crux was this: I have a BA from Simon Fraser Univ. (Canada) in Philosophy, an MSc in Applied Linguistics from Aston U. (U.K.) and a Masters in Theology from the graduate theological seminary on the UBC campus, Regent College. Regent issues its own independent degrees because of its religious affiliation, despite sharing the UBC campus and facilities, some teaching staff, plus several credits and classes (many of which I took for classical languages and linguistics). I also did an ESL teaching certificate course at UBC but whatever….

Anyway, when I mentioned a ‘Master’s from UBC’ in answer to his credentials question, Debito reacted like he had just found a photo of me in a compromising situation with a goat, thererafter harping upon my misrepresenting myself as having graduated from UBC.

Of course, way back when the personnel at my current university wanted to know my academic background I naturally went into detail about the relationship between Regent (the theological seminary) and UBC. Why hide anything? But when some guy asks you this from a crowd at an ESL presentation you’re not going to go into great detail. People don’t know what the theological school at UBC’s name is. It’s like if someone abroad asks where you live in Japan- you live in Chiba but you work in Tokyo. So you say Tokyo. No one expects the interlocutor to start suddenly playing prosecutor.

Debito also added that “we” (who?) had contacted Regent in Canada to find out about its relation to UBC and had also checked out my U of Miyazaki database in advance. So this underscores what I wrote in my parody, about his habit of scouring about in search of ways to find any potential striking point in any perceived adversary and then blowing the results out of proportion as if this credentials quibble constituted a weighty riposte to my earlier criticisms of him.

The upshot of this seems to be that Debito took umbrage at a comment I made here on Tepido about us having the same credentials. My comment had been in response to someone on his site saying that Mike Guest is in an isolated university bubble (or words to that effect), arguing that if someone wants to devalue my opinion based upon the claim of being an out-of-touch egghead, the same must apply to Debito. Instead, Debito seemed to take this as an invitation to an academic pissing match, and when confronting me in Nagoya, duly informed of his Ivy League school pedigree, which apparently trumps all: “So, we don’t have the same credentials do we, Mike?”

Well, I guess that’s true in a sense. For example I have two masters degrees whereas… oh, wait a second. None of this has any bearing on the validity or non-validity of my original criticisms of Debito does it? It’s just a sad attempt at rank pulling- arguing from assumed authority. I don’t know where Regent ranks in terms of thological seminaries, but even if my education was limited to Uncle Peter showing me how to bait a hook, my criticisms of Debito remain. Fishing for quibbles in how I answer an awkward question on-the-spot from the audience at an ESL presentation is rather pathetic But you know he’s going to do stuff like this.

I tried to talk with him after this, seeing if he might pull out of Debito mode but what followed was basically stonewalling on his behalf (plus a few choice words aimed in my direction) and eventually I gave up. I just look at it this way- it’s Debito being Debito. I expected a reaction from him at some point- after all, I took a shot at him and he’s trying to take one back- but the fact is that I just lose interest in these kind of one-dimensional people. I’ve already spent too much time writing about him…

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

(NB:  I might add that Mr Guest suggested I “switch to decaf” during those four allegedly unantagonistic and disinterested attempts to talk with me.  Again, what a card.)

Clearly, Mr Guest doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he’s done.  I have no truck with someone’s right to hold opinions about someone and express them in public.  But there are limits, of course — as in, are those opinions accurate?  If not, there should be scrutiny to make those inaccuracies clear.  However, it’s hard to scrutinize someone hiding behind “parody” to claim somebody said something he never said (it absolves Mr Guest of the responsibility of providing evidence or doing verifiable research). Makes one question the professionality of the ELT editors, who should be offering better safeguards to preserve the integrity of their forum.

However, scrutinizing someone’s alleged professional background is much simpler.  You don’t say you graduated from a place you did not graduate from and expect to be treated as an honest professional.

And you don’t pick on people like this (misrepresentation of the record is definitely a pattern in Mr Guest’s world) without expecting some scrutiny yourself.  Now face the scrutiny.  Like an adult.

That’s why I decided to go ahead with this expose on Debito.org.  People can make their own decisions about what kind of future relationship they wish to maintain with Mr Guest as a columnist, scholar, and professional.  Arudou Debito

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

UPDATE NOVEMBER 27

The deceptions continue.  Mr Guest writes:

“Regent is a Theology School located on the UBC Endowment Lands. Many facilities are shared. If you want to do a Master’s degree in Theology you go to Regent, because UBC can’t offer Theology courses. Several credits I took as part of this Master’s I took at regular UBC classes (mostly linguistics) since some courses are cross-transferable. I also did an EFL teacher training course at UBC.”

http://www.eltnews.com/columns/uni_files/2010/10/today_a_unifiles_interview_wit.html#comment-1447

“Regardless, if you want to do a Graduate degree in Theology at UBC you have to attend Regent or Vancouver School of Theology. Both are on the campus but are required to issue their own degrees as religious institutions. At both you can take classes and get cross credits from the standard UBC curricula and have full access to all UBC facilities. I used this to take linguistics courses- which were not offered at Regent. I also did a further ESL certification course at UBC.”

http://tepido.org/more-handbags/187#comment-1288

COMMENT:  Let’s cut through the fog.  Nowhere on your degree from Regent College, the one you cite as part of your academic credentials, does it say “University of British Columbia”.  They are not the same institution.  Claiming UBC on your employer’s website and at JALT, and insinuating as such online, does not change that.

Charity Concert in Sapporo: “The Happy Prince”

mytest

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

//////////////////////////////////////////
November 20, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please.

Please mark December 9, 2010 6:30 pm on your calendars for a Christmas Charity Concert at the Sapporo Baptist Church.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” will be featured in a show that features music, narration, and dance. Doors open at 6. Show starts at 6:30. Tickets are 2,000. Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Project Santa Sapporo.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation reaches out to families with children who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And, as the name says, the child’s wish is granted. For many, it is a trip to the Tokyo Disneyland, but some from warmer climes want to make a snowman here in Hokkaido. And, sadly, a Make-A-Wish trip is often a child’s last best memory. So, please help make dreams come true for kids whose time is short and who could really use come cheer.

The Sapporo Project Santa is the work of Phred Kaufman. Each year he sequesters donations from various businesses to fill his Santa sacks. Project Santa serves four childrens’ group homes. Many of these children live in such homes because their parents cannot cope. Substance abuse, spouse abuse, and child abuse mixed with a slow economy make for a sad scenario for all too many children. So, please help to bring smiles to the faces of children who cannot be with their families this Christmas. Santa came last year, he is coming this year. Please help.

Please download the attachments to find out more about “The Happy Prince.” To reserve tickets, please contact:

Atsuki Koide: 090-2872-6855 or a2ki51de@yahoo.co.jp

The performance will be in Japanese.

Thank you very much and let’s sell out the hall!

Thomas Goetz

Weekend Tangent: Weird broadside from Japan Helpline’s Ken Joseph Jr. on Facebook

mytest

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

Hi Blog.  Last Monday morning I got a request for a friending on Facebook by a Ken Joseph Jr.  For those who have heard the name, he’s one of the advice columnists for the Japan Times Lifelines Page, and according to his website (email registry required), “Ken Joseph Jr. is an international columnist and speaker.  He appears regularly on CNN, Foxnews, BBC, ITN and numerous radio outlets worldwide to give commentary on the news of the day from a background of personal experience.  His columns regularly run in newspapers worldwide.”

So imagine my surprise when I get a broadside of this tone from a person of this standing, mere hours after I friend him.

(Screen captures of my Facebook page where he tries to hijack an unrelated thread; printed, names other than Ken’s and mine redacted, and scanned.)

BROADSIDE ENDS

COMMENT:  I’m not sure why KJJ has it in for me.  I met him just once (during the Kobe Earthquake of 1995) when I went down to Kobe from Sapporo on my own dime to volunteer under the auspices of Japan Helpline.  It wasn’t a long encounter, I doubt KJJ remembers me.  But during the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit he hit me with a similar broadside, claiming online that our refusal at Onsen Osupa in Otaru was a lie because he allegedly managed to wangle his way in (this has never been substantiated, although Osupa’s “Japanese Only” signs certainly were, as was Osupa’s refusal of us on September 19, 1999).  He also popped up from time to time on an old yahoogroups discussion list called “Shakai” (half deleted by Tony “Darling Foreigner” Laszlo) under a different name “Kenichi Suzuki” with similar broadsides.  That said, we never corresponded directly like this online until Monday, when he asked to be friended.

Don’t know what’s eating him, but a person who makes himself out to be this important should show more decorum in his comments.  Leaving a record of unprofessional broadsides (of questionable veracity to boot) like this is quite unbecoming.  And unconstructive, given that we should all be working towards the same goals.  Arudou Debito

Friend looking for tenant for his house in Yokohama

mytest

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

Hi Blog. A friend of mine is looking for someone to stay short or long-term in Yokohama (three months and up preferable). Happy to help get the word out. Details as follows. Arudou Debito

Beautiful furnished spacious modern 4-bedroom house for rent in Yokohama, near international schools, min. 3 months, ¥140,000 negotiable. Contact tpgill@yahoo.com

http://sabbaticalhomes.com/OfferedDetails.aspx?id=46015&i=Home_Rent_House_Rental_Yokohama_Japan

Weekend Tangent: Discovering how cheap, yes cheap, parts of Japan are becoming

mytest

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

Hi Blog.  I just finished a first draft of an update of the Hokkaido chapter in a famous travel guidebook (tell you more later after it hits the press), and thought I’d tell you what I noticed:

Japan is becoming surprisingly attractive for tourism.  One thing I’ve seen when traveling overseas is just how surprisingly expensive things are — like, say, dining out.  Inflation, Euro-currency-inflation, tips and service charges of ten to twenty percent, etc. have made eating in a sit-down restaurant a rather unattractive option (when traveling I usually self-cater, visiting overseas supermarkets where things are far cheaper).

In contrast, Japan’s currency sans inflation, a stable tax regime, and deflationary prices in many sectors have ultimately kept prices the same while they gradually rise overseas. After all these years of hearing about Japan as “the place where you goggle at hundred-dollar department store melons”, it’s finally reached a point where generally speaking, it’s now become cheaper in Japan.  While travel costs seem about the same (if not slightly higher in some cases due to fuel-cost-appreciation), once you get here, you’re able to predict costs, stick to budgets, and pay comparatively less without hidden fees creeping in.

Then look at Hokkaido, which is becoming a bargain destination.  It’s possible to get a relatively cheap flight up here (20,000-30,000 yen RT) if you plan accordingly and time it right.  Then once here (especially if you get a package tour subsidized by the Hokkaido government to include a few nights in a hotel), tourists make out.  As far as this guidebook went, just about every hotel I checked had reduced their rates (compared to the previous edition) substantially — some by half! Making them substantially cheaper than comparable hotels I saw overseas.  Further, dining out is very cheap (in Sapporo Susukino, for example, you can get a 2-hour tabe-nomi-houdai all you can eat and drink for about 3500 yen).  I can see why tourism is booming up here.  Good.  We’re no longer the poorest prefecture, IIRC.

That said, any economy increasingly being powered by tourism suffers from two major flaws:  1) a fickle market, and 2) residents may be enjoying an income, but in general the reason why things are getting cheaper here are because people are making less money themselves.  As they say:  Nice place to visit.  Wouldn’t want to live here.  Because the resident economy and the higher-income tourist economy is by nature fundamentally different in its buying and spending power.

I’m not speaking as an expert in any of these fields.  I just thought I’d comment on something I’ve observed over the past couple of days and open up the blog to discussion.  Anyone else noticing these trends?  Arudou Debito

Referential website of note: Asia Pacific Memo at UBC

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. One of my hosts at the University of British Columbia turned me on to a website I thought deserved a bit more attention: their “Asia-Pacific Memo”. Although not all about Japan (Japan in overseas academia is losing out big time these days to China, (sadly) understandably), it has a lot of food for thought about how to interpret current events in Asia. Have a look:

http://www.asiapacificmemo.ca/

Japan-specific topics here:

http://www.asiapacificmemo.ca/category/japan

Some recent topics, according to their RSS:

China’s Directed Public Receives Nobel Peace Prize
Asia Pacific Memo
Saturday, 7:37 AM
Memo #28 (Text and Video)

North Korean Leadership Succession: What Does the First Party Conference in 44 Years Tell Us?
Asia Pacific Memo
Oct 8, 8:17 AM
Memo #27

Islands Crisis between Japan and China: Power Shift and Institutional Failure
Asia Pacific Memo
Sep 29, 8:18 AM
Memo #24

65 Years After The Asia Pacific War: The End of History Politics?
Aug 26, 2010
Memo #15

Arudou Debito

New Book: “In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy” by Pekkanen and Kallender-Umezu

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Here are some excepts of a new book out from Stanford University Press on Japan’s space policy.  “In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy” by Pekkanen and Kallender-Umezu.  A complete tangent to what we do here at Debito.org, the book deserves an audience (reviewers have been a bit chary) given the subject matter:  how easy it would be for Japan to become not only a nuclear power, but a military superpower in space should the situation in Asian geopolitics grow ugly.  I happen to know one author (Paul, who gave me a copy) and the spouse of the other (Saadia, whose husband hosted me for a speech at UW years ago), and am happy to do them a favor and offer a little exposure here.

I haven’t read the book yet (received it Saturday, only gave it a thumb-through), but others might want to.  Cover, ISBN, blurbs, and scans of the first three pages follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Weekend Tangent: My great grandmother’s veal turkey stuffing recipe

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  This is some serious business for me, although a tangent for others (but not so as Canadian Thanksgiving is mere days away; American readers, stock up!).

This here’s a family recipe, handed down through now four generations, for the thing I miss the most about the US:  turkey stuffing.  As any aficionado of turkeys knows, if the stuffing is subpar, then the turkey also comes out dry and bland (this is one of the reasons why so many Japanese I believe find turkey underwhelming, and don’t know what the fuss is about).

I grew up on this, but since I can’t get it here (turkeys cooked here are often killed by a soy sauce, not a butter, base; they are smoked up here in Hokkaido rather than baked as well, which to me is underwhelming), there’s no reason why I shouldn’t propagate this recipe worldwide.  It’s very simple.  The only thing you have to do is convert Imperial to metric, and Bob’s Your Uncle.  From my great grandmother Appolonia Mendis Cypcar, born in Southern Poland, emigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th Century, survivor of one of the world’s biggest nautical disasters (the capsizing of The Eastland in Chicago harbor on July 24, 1915), survivor of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (my great grandfather Mendis did not survive it), survivor of the Great Depression, who died at the age of 96 in the 1980s.

APPOLONIA MENDIS CYPCAR’S TURKEY STUFFING
From Arudou Debito, great grandson, Debito.org

(for a 13-14 lb turkey)

  1. 1 lb ground veal
  2. 1/2 box of saltines (box 1 1b size) ground coarsely
  3. 1 pint whole milk
  4. 1/2 lb butter
  5. 4 eggs beaten
  6. salt and pepper to taste

And that’s it. Mix together and stuff family turkey as normal.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

What are the going rates for English private lessons in your neck of Japan?

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  I often get requests from people online who think about moving to Japan and supplementing their Eikaiwa income with “private lessons”, i.e. your own cottage industry of meetings with an individual or groups in an informal setting and at an hourly rate.  They inquire how efficacious that plan my be.

I usually caution people against that, since the Bubble-Era fees are long gone (I was pulling down JPY10,000 an hour once upon a time).  Moreover, the Post-Bubble “McDonaldization of Eikaiwa” (as I have heard it described on other listservs) by the NOVAs and ECs have driven average rates for English teaching down to hardscrabble levels, meaning people without a full-time job with health insurance and benefits will probably not be able to make a living on private lessons alone.

But that’s just what’ve I heard.  I haven’t done many privates for years now (Sapporo’s market rates, if you can get privates at all, appear to be around JPY2000-3500 an hour).  I thought I’d ask Debito.org Readers around Japan what they’re getting/can get for private lessons (in English or in any language you teach) in their local area.  Let us know.  Arudou Debito not in Sapporo

Tangent: American Soap Operas vs. Japanese Houmu Dorama

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Completely self-indulgent tangent, but I will relate it back to Japan, never fear.

I watched on a complete whim the very last episode of American soap opera “As the World Turns”.  It’s been going on for 54 years, with some characters apparently going on (according to Entertainment Weekly; it’s not as if I watch this stuff) for nearly forty.  It has even been parodied by the Carol Burnett Show as “As the Stomach Turns” (god I miss Carol’s comedy; what happened to her?); the soap opera has, however, outlasted her.  Until now.

I watched it and felt that the parody was appropriate.  Fascinating was that every scene (this was a final tie-up all the relationships, making them all “happy ever after”, no drama necessary) ended with a hug if not a hug and a kiss.  Every scene, seriously.  As if all conflict, inner or outer, was healed by the power of hugs.  In general, I find the more lower-market (as in, shooting for a larger, “average” audience, real or imagined) the American programs aimed for, the higher the hug frequency.  And the mantra of the ATWT’s last show was that “we all lead normal lives”, real or imagined.  Ewg.  (The commercials, aiming for a female audience of course, stressed family security and warmth of the hearth; it added to this different world of “normalness” I’ve never really been a party to.)  The last scene (there was no retrospective, no cast bows at the end saying goodbye like on some American farewell stage shows) showed the anchoring-character of the doctor leaving his office for retirement, switching off his light, and leaving a spotlight on this cheesy globe (out of place in the dark-panelled room) doing, you guessed it, a long spin…  Just in case you lack comprehension of metaphor.

Contrast that with the “home dramas” of Japan that I’ve managed to sit through.  Wataru Sekai ni Oni Bakari, a couple of Matsuda Seiko throwaway vehicles, and the second Fuyuhiko (Dare ni mo Ienai), which I actually kinda liked.  I haven’t tried the grandmaster of all dramas, Fuyu no Sonata, but that’s Korean (even if it’s probably a bigger hit in Japan).  My point is, if you can get past the interminably loooooong pauses for dramatic effect, Japanese dramas seem to me to have more fighting and less (in fact, NO) hugging, sappy music (especially in Wataru Sekai, my ex-wife’s favorite) to cover up the nastiness of the fight.  I feel there’s a nastier edge, of people never forgiving and alway collecting resentments and slights (sometimes making those slights incredibly contrived!) until somebody blows up like a grenade, and makes unretractable declarations in front of a whole family or crowd of onlookers.  It seems that drama without reconciliation (in such as self-avowedly “conflict-free society”; bullpucky) makes for better “dorama” in Japan.  Don’t know how they end the long-running ones for good (William Penn of the Yomiuri, feel free to comment), ‘cos I never last that long, but I have the feeling there might be a higher body count.

Anyhoo, I find this genre on either side of the Pacific to be pretty unwatchable (which is why my comments above are probably half-baked, apologies; feedback welcome) if only because they’re so cheesy and seem to claim that they’re not.  The only dramas I can watch with any semblance of self-mockery seem to be the Mexican ones (I can’t understand a word, but the over-the-top spitfire diction is hilarious; plus the people in it are way hotter than you get in the well-scrubbed, relatively averagely-beautiful faces found on American soaps).  Oh, and pro wrestling.  Vince McMahon, you are shameless, and we love to hate you.

Hey, this blog is about writing what’s on my mind, and at the moment, that’s it.  End tangent.  Arudou Debito in Calgary

Transit Tangent: Hell to pay at LAX

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Now in Calgary after one day (more than that, actually) flying from Narita to Los Angeles, then transferring to San Francisco and finally here.  Redeeming air miles gets you some pretty circuitous flights.

One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Now that you’ve given up your American citizenship for Japanese, what kind of reaction do you get from US Customs with a Japan passport?”

Well, actually, up to now, not all that bad.  First time I went back was in 2005 (I never left Japan once between 2000 and 2005; boy that’s hard core), and that was Newark on the way back to Japan after getting to Montego Bay via the Peace Boat.  (The Jamaicans, btw, were so amused by my passport that they took it to the back room for a quick guffaw amongst themselves before letting me pass.)  US Customs gave me a look, asked me what I did in Japan, how long I would stay, and that was it.  I thanked him for the painlessness of the procedure, and spent the night drinking with Rutgers law school grads Curzon and friends.

Second time was more interesting.  Went to San Jose with my university students in 2006, and the African-American gentleman manning Customs did do a double take, then talked to me in Japanese about where I was going and how long I was staying.  No altercations, no incidents with my students (who didn’t speak much English and were happy to meet that Customs officer), easy peasy.

Other times also, no real issues.  Taking the train from Vancouver to Seattle in October 2006 (I always wonder why American Customs is allowed to have their border check IN VANCOUVER STATION itself — the Americans certainly wouldn’t allow another nation to plant their Customs flags on US soil), the officer actually talked to me for about ten minutes about potential places to eat and see in Japan (he was going there with his Korean wife in a few weeks); had to break off conversation because the train was about to depart.  Other visits in 2007 and 2008 also passed by without interrogation.

But this time was different.  Landing at LAX yesterday, a buff tattooed officer did more than just a few double takes, and, in addition to the regular questions about how long, birthplace, and what I did for a living, wanted to know why I was coming in on a Japanese passport instead of an American one.  “Japan does not allow dual nationality,” I explained.  “So you have no other nationalities?”  No.  “Wait a minute, I’m going to have to talk to my supervisor.  I can’t let you in on this passport if you still are an American by birth.”  I let him check, but I’m not sure if he’d get the concept of an American actually renouncing.  He came back and gave me a smile (rare for these people, as you know), and said, “Anyway, welcome back.  Enjoy your stay.”

It was a nice welcome after all that, especially given the inauspicious beginning of this trip at Narita.  Let me back up a few hours:  When I first checked in at NRT, the ticket clerk asked, “Have you checked in with ESTA?”  What’s that?  “The Electronic System for Traffic Authorization.  Every non-citizen going to America has to check their passports in with the US Government before departure.”  Oh oh.  Er, no.  But I’m only transiting to Canada.  “Doesn’t matter.  Okay, go to the internet terminals down at the end of the hall and check in online.  Should be pretty quick.  You’ve got three hours.”

So we unpacked my computer, got a day pass for online use, and went to the ESTA site.  It requires name, address, passport, date of departure, airline (hell, there are lot of them, and United was far down the alphabetized list) and flight number, a list of questions you should answer “no” to, the address you will be staying at in the US (no option for people transiting).  And oh, fourteen USD for those who qualify for the visa waiver program.  Credit cards accepted.  Humph.  How convenient, for them.

I typed in all the info with middle finger raised and got a screen which said, “AUTHORIZATION PENDING:  …A determination will be available within 72 hours.  Please return to this web site…”  That’s where I began to get pretty antsy.  My passport still has my previous surname (Sugawara) on it, and four pages later an official amendment indicating that my surname is now Arudou.  But when we tried to use the automatic check in, “Sugawara” came up in the scanner, with a button to press saying “Is this the same as the name on your ticket?”  (It wasn’t.)  The MOFA hadn’t gotten around to updating their records after four years, I guess.  Maybe that was what snagged me with ESTA.

I took my computer screen back to the ticket clerk, where he said, “Hm, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.  Let me try to see… Oh, look, it’s just come up.  You’re cleared.  Here are your boarding passes.  Enjoy your near-heart-attack.”  Okay, I made that last one up.

So if the ticket clerk was Charon piloting me over the River Styx, the tattooed Customs officer at LAX was Cerebus at the gates of Hell.  And LAX was indeed a reasonable facsimile of it.  Consider this:  We have to get our baggage, of course, but they came to a different carousel than the one announced on the plane (and there was no sineage saying that the emerging bags were from our flight).  Then I saw a sign saying “Connecting Flights”, waited twenty minutes in line, and found out that it was actually lost baggage claims.  “No no, you go dere, dat line”, said the clerk.  “But that’s not what your sign says.”  “You go dere, dat line,” was the automated response.  So I joined everyone else in an enormous line to hand in the tickets that say, “We are not bringing in any fruits or vegetables or whatever into the US”, which required an individual passport check again with only two people on duty (took about another 45 minutes).  Then I followed the signs to Connecting Flights, got into another line, and was told after another fifteen minutes that I just needed to hand my bags to “dat guy over dere”, since they were already tagged through to YYC (then why the hell did I have to collect them myself, then?).

Bags stowed, I followed the CF (no longer “Connecting Flights”; more like “Cluster F*ck”) signs, and felt like I had been Barnumed (“Come see the Egress”), as I found myself out on the street!  Some friendly guy came up and asked if I was looking for CFs and directed me down the street and up the stairs.  Then he asked me for a donation (as an Official Airport Volunteer, with embossed name tag) to his orphanage.  I begged off and got upstairs, only to be told by another TSA officer to get into another 45-minute long line to go through Security scanning again!  Finally through that, I was back in the transit zone.  But the LAX lounges looked in a state of permanent decomposition, and the TSA people acted as if they were defending a fortress, and we would be damn lucky if we were let into their compound.  No thanks for our cooperation, no pleases when requesting.  Just, “We’re protecting you, so be grateful.  Or else.”

And what was the Or Else?  I got a glimpse of it when talking to my Calgarian seat neighbor on the last leg of my flights.  I was noticing how Canadian Customs forms for “Are you bringing any fruits in?” allow for families to write their names on one tag (no individual tags lengthening the line), and don’t even require a passport number!  He said, “Yes, my wife and I have separate surnames, and once we got to the head of the line the US Customs guy said we had to have separate tags.  So he crossed her name off and said, ‘Fill this out and get back at the back of the line.’  I reacted and said, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding.’  He didn’t like that.  ‘You sassing me?’, he said.  I tried to take it back, but he called for an officer to escort me to an interrogation room where I sat alone.  I couldn’t go anywhere — he had confiscated my passport!  So after twenty minutes or so he came in and asked me the standard questions again about where and how long, then let me go to find my wife on the other side.  I don’t say anything beyond ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’ to these people anymore.”  Wow, way to put travelers in their place.

Not ten hours out of Japan, and I was already missing it.  Customs people (not to mention Narita Cops and their random racial profiling) there can be pretty surly too, but at least things are signposted, and somebody is making an effort to be clear about where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do.  And the transit lounges, although Spartan, are still clean and reasonably airy.  LAX was, in a word, a shithole.

I’ve seen it before at other decrepit airports in the US (try JFK), but what a great impression to leave upon visitors to the US — one of decay.  Enough people have complained about Japanese airports (particularly Narita), and there have been improvements (Haneda, Chitose, Centrair, and KIX are all decent if not downright nice, and even Narita has have gotten better).  Japan takes very seriously its impression overseas and works on it.  America just doesn’t seem to care — hey, you’re lucky if we let you into our fortress.  I’m sure Ellis Island too was a shithole.  But at least you only had to go through it once — it’s not a major international hub for citizens too.  What kind of place takes more than two hours to allow people just to get on a connecting flight, and charges them for the privilege?  One that doesn’t deserve my ever going there again.  I got to YYC, got my bags, and was outside and all done within fifteen minutes.  Oh Canada!

Other American airport horror stories welcome.  Seems like the American airline industry is on a race to the bottom for standards of customer service.  Some airports have already essentially become bus stations.  I look forward to getting back to Japanese standards.  Arudou Debito in Calgary