Japan Today feature on how media focus on crime negatively impacts upon NJ


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. I talked yesterday how silly programs like NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps NJ looking perpetually neophyte and ignorant, here’s another feature from Japan Today on how the media keeps NJ looking threatening.

Debito.org has of course talked about this in the past. Check out a few links here, here, and here. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese urged to take pride in their safe society
Japan Today, Thursday 25th June, 11:19 AM JST

Courtesy JK, MMT and AW.

When the media report on violent crime, juvenile delinquency and other social problems, it’s common to see such terms as “kyuzo” (rapidly increasing), “kyoaku-ka” (becoming more vicious) and “teinenrei-ka” (occurring from an earlier age) appearing in headlines.

But such assertions don’t coincide with the statistical data, writes Koichi Hamai, a professor of law at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University in the biweekly magazine Sapio (July 8). Hamai’s essay is one of several that take up the theme “Nihonjin de Yokatta” (it’s good to be Japanese).

Hamai is convinced the print and broadcast media are responsible for advancing a growing perception that Japan’s public order is on the decline. As an example he cites a “Yoron Chosa” survey by the Prime Minister’s office taken in 2006, in which 84.3% of the respondents voiced belief that law and order had declined from 10 years earlier.

That high figure, Hamai believes, was inflated by two major incidents in the mid-1990s: the toxic nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by members of the Aum religious cult in March 1995, and the arrest of 14-year-old serial killer “Sakakibara Seito,” who terrorized Kobe in the spring of 1997. The former raised the awareness that anyone might be vulnerable to crimes against the person; the latter persuaded the public that crimes by juveniles were becoming increasingly vicious and occurring from an earlier age.

Nevertheless, Hamai points out using eight graphs and tables, statistical data provide no evidence that Japan’s law and order situation is deteriorating. Take homicides, which in Japan in 2006 had declined to 1.1 per 100,000 people, from 1.2 two years previously. The corresponding rates are 3.2 in France, 3.0 in Germany, 2.6 in the UK and 5.7 in the U.S.

Rates for crimes by juveniles are not increasing as a percentage of overall crimes; nor do they show any tendency to occur from an earlier age.

Hamai also points out that rates for crimes by non-Japanese—most of which involve violations of the immigration laws or misdemeanors—are “extremely low” relative to the total number of crimes, and there’s nothing to suggest they are increasing.

How then, can the public’s view be so out of whack with the official figures? Hamai lays the blame squarely on overdramatization by the mass media. In Hamai’s own research conducted in 2006, 50% of his subjects agreed that “crime has increased nationwide over the previous two years”; but when asked if they felt crime had increased in their own neighborhood, only 4% replied yes.

Rather than confine reporting to the particulars of specific incidents, the media provoke a sense of crisis through shrill remarks about “the decline of morals (among youth)” or how “Japan is being targeted (by foreigners)” —treating specific incidents as symbolic of the overall malaise pervading Japan.

Hamai concludes with a plea for society to devote efforts that better reflect social changes, such as through proactive measures to discourage crimes by the elderly due to poverty and alienation.


NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Anyone seen an NHK show called “Cool Japan”? It’s a 45-minute show on late Tuesdays and Saturdays. Here’s the writeup from its website, courtesy of JB:

COOL JAPAN – Discovering what makes Japan cool! COOL JAPAN is a term that describes the growing international interest in Japan. From the worlds of fashion, anime, architecture to cuisine, the cultural aspects of Japanese society that have long been left undiscovered are starting to make a strong impact on global trends. COOL JAPAN is a television show that illustrates the quickly changing Japanese culture and how it is perceived by the international community that have recently made Japan their home.


What gets my goat is:

We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.
(「COOL JAPAN」では出演してくれる来日して1年未満の外国人の方を募集しています。)

And why pray tell is there a limitation on their NJ guests like this? I say they’re getting impressions from people who don’t know their ketsu from a doukutsu yet. Which means their guests about Japan don’t speak much, or any, Japanese. How throughly can you know Japan in less than a year, for crissakes? And their guests are mostly late-teens/early-twenties on top of that — with little to go on to comment about much at all. And they’re acting as cultural emissaries for “their own countries” and giving cross-cultural comparisons running on fumes? Sorry, that’s 3-Blind-Mice Ignorance. And it’s all by design. Through that one-year cap on experiences.

Why not issue a public call for commentators, who actually have some deeper experience living in Japan, to contribute to the debate? Because “cool” is as deep as we want to go. Great social science, NHK. And I believe it adds to the lore within the Japanese viewership (that is who will mostly be watching this program, natch) that our society is impenetrable to the unfortunate hapless foreigners. But that’s still not their fault — they’re starry-eyed newcomers who’ll say something positive about Japan because they still feel like they’re guests. Feel-good broadcast pap TV funded by Japan’s most entrusted TV network.

But then again I’m probably being a bit harsh. What do others who have seen the show think?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NPR’s Geoff Nunberg on semantics and their control over public debate


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Lemme do my weekend tangent a little earlier this week. It does relate to something I’ve discussed recently.

Pursuant to my Japan Times’ JUST BE CAUSE column earlier this month (June 2, “The issue that dares not speak its name“), where I talked about how the domestic media and GOJ deliberately refrain from couching the debate on racial discrimination in those exact terms — “racial discrimination” — and how that affects public awareness in Japan of the issue.

Here’s an excerpt of a June 3, 2009 US National Public Radio “Fresh Air” interview with UC Berkeley linguist Geoff Nunberg (June 4 podcast, from minute seven) which explores exactly the same topic, regarding the American media’s treatment of the debate on “torture”:


TERRY GROSS: I’m sure you’ve been keeping up with not only the debate about torture, but also the debate over what word to use to describe the interrogation techniques that were used. Some people have been using “torture” for a long time. Some publications say you can’t use the word “torture” because there’s a legal definition of “torture”, and that when they were doing it, they had a different definition of it courtesy of John Yoo and others in the Office of Legal Counsel. So, what are you hearing when you hear the debate about whether or when it’s appropriate to use the word “torture”, and if not that word, what word should be used?

GEOFF NUNBERG: Well, what’s interesting is that right after the Abu Ghraib story broke five years ago, all the European papers right away were using the word “torture”. The British, German, French press, left and right — not just The Guardian but Rupert Murdoch’s The Times were calling it “torture”. And the American press then and now have been very reluctant to use that word. And they have this idea that, well, this is a legal category. That’s because the [Bush II] Administration insists that it’s a legal category, and have defined it in a way such that these things won’t count as “torture” in the legal sense. The Administration’s definition obviously doesn’t have any broader legal significance even beyond the Administration, much less on a world scale.

And more to the point, it’s an English word. And the moral judgment that attaches to “torture” doesn’t have to do with its legal status. It has to do with looking at these acts, and describing them as “torture”. So that somehow, if the Administration was talking as if, “If we can keep that word at bay, we can keep at bay the moral disapproval that comes with it.” So you got all these terms like, “alternative sets of procedures”, and “vigorous questioning”, and of course, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, which people are still trying to use. And with that came this word “professionals” that Bush kept using. He said, “These are professionals; we want our ‘professionals’ to know that they can to this in a professional–.” Which suggests that not simply that they know what they are doing, but also that they are not taking any pleasure in it.

So I think this a perfect example of the way in which the words you choose determines whether you think something is alright or not. Not the thing itself, but the way you choose to name it. It’s something you see not just with torture, but with “suicide” for example. If you ask people in a poll, “Is it okay for doctors to help terminally-ill patients end their lives?”, you get a lot more people saying “yes” than if you ask them if it is okay for doctors to help terminally-ill patients “commit suicide”. Again, this is a semantic debate. But the important thing to realize is that this is not merely semantic.

Yes, quite. So if we can keep the word “racial discrimination” (as defined under UN treaty) at bay in Japan — call it “foreigner discrimination”, “discrimination by physical appearance”, or even “cultural differences” and “misunderstandings” — we can keep at bay the moral disapproval that comes with it. We can also keep the plausible deniability in the public arena that something very bad (as opposed to just “bad” or “misunderstood”) is going on, one that requires legislation to prevent it. This sort of thing happens everywhere when people play with words to dull or obfuscate debate.

Be aware of how this works. And be prepared to correct people who wish to shift the terms of debate away from the cold, hard truth. That discrimination against foreigners can be, or is in most cases, the same as discrimination by race. Even UN treaty that Japan signed says so.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS: And BTW, if you have any doubts that “torture” actually went on at Abu Ghraib, I recommend my two dinnertime movies this week:

1) “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” (Rory Kennedy, director)
2) “Standard Operating Procedure” (Errol Morris, director)

Both excellent. And both proof positive that Stanley Milgram’s experiments really got to the cold, hard truth.

Tokyo Trip June 2-5 overview, plus report on NJ nurses and caregiver program talks at DIJ


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


Hi Blog.  Thought I’d tie up loose ends by writing a bit about the past few days.  

I just got back from Tokyo, where I had a very relaxing time for a change.  Came down to attend an academic conference sponsored by the German Institute for Japanese Studies, on Japan’s demographic crisis, and attended a number of interesting lectures (interesting in the sense for what some didn’t say, as I wrote about in yesterday’s blog entry).  It was also relaxing because I saw a lot of friends (and made new ones), and didn’t have to give any speeches.

Well, I tell a lie.  I gave one shortly after landing in Tokyo on the morning of June 2.  There was a sit-in demonstration against the new proposed IC Chip Gaijin Cards (as there will be every Tuesday morning, contact Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Ijuuren)’s (http://www.jca.apc.org/migrant-net/) Takaya-san at fmwj AT jca DOT apc DOT org for more information).  Since they said anyone could attend any time between 9:30AM and 12:30 PM, I made it by 12:15.  I was handed a mike.  Anything I’d like to say to Japan’s Dietmembers, whose offices were in front of us with their windows open?

Sure did.  I gave five minutes in slow Japanese (fast doesn’t work on megaphones well) about Japan’s future depending on immigration, how increasing the policing is counterproductive, how Japanese wouldn’t tolerate the same measures being foisted upon them, how cards will only increase the likelihood for Japanese of color such as myself getting racially profiled for not being remotely checkable, and the like.  It was fun and good practice.  And a bit scary as I hadn’t anything prepared (and people had recording devices and even a camera ready).

Never mind.  Speaking is not obligatory, so readers, choose a Tuesday soon to attend.  The Diet has extended it’s deliberation period for this session by nearly two months, and rumor has it that the IC Chip Gaijin Card bill just might pass the Lower House (which means that even if it doesn’t pass the Upper, it will probably become law with the Lower House overruling).  Do what you can about this, people.


Afterwards came the German Institute of Japanese Studies Symposium presentations over the course of three days.  I mentioned the gist of most of them yesterday:  Speeches on the demographics of nations are pretty standardized:  Show the audience what you know in the intro with graphs of population movements, aging over time, and bar charts of births and deaths (that population pyramid that looks like a nematode is so burned into memory it appears in my nightmares).  Then some original research, about health care, about dealing with geriatrics, about the options before us (putting more women and elderly to work, raising the pension qualifying and retirement age, a bit about robotics, and even less about immigration or even migration), etc.  

The best presentations were about the depopulation of the Japanese countryside and public policy to try to bring people back, with case studies of three towns and how their methods didn’t seem too effectual (and Mr Takahashi in yesterday’s blog entry worries about overcrowding??).  I confirmed during the Q&A that they still haven’t come up with the idea of the Welcome Wagon, to make newcomers (of any nationality) feel welcome for moving out to the countryside (how to overcome the “gaijin” syndrome’s application to Japanese too, since any outsider has to wait ten years or so before they have a voice in rural communities…)

The other ones were by a Dr Vogt and a Dr Kingma who talked about migration trends in general.  International migration has produced 195 million migrants.  They now number as a proportion of population 1 in 10 in industrialized countries, and 1 in 35 of the world labor force.  There are now 195 million migrants, 50% of them now women.  When it comes to the proposed import of nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines, as per bilateral agreements with Japan under “Economic Partnership Agreements”, the goal is, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, of 1.5 million NJ caregivers in Japan by 2040.  But the program has gotten off to an inauspicious start.  

Only in its second year, the EPAs have had goals of only 1000 total NJ health care workers imported.  They would be trained in Japanese for six months (at the hiring company’s expense, of around 600,000 yen, then work the remaining four and a half years in the health sector getting their skills and standards up to speed.  The course is harsh, as it is a “tenure system”, as in “up or out”.  If they don’t pass the same caregiver and nurse tests that Japanese natives pass within five years, they lose their visas and get sent back home.  This test, by the way, has a 50% fail rate for native Japanese.  And salaries are not all that great for anyone working the severe hours required in this business sector (which may account for why there is a shortage of nurses and caregivers in Japan in the first place).

The number of applicants reflect the harshness of the program.  In 2008, only 300 NJ applied for the 1000 available slots.  And not all employers stepped up to the plate as planned to hire them.  Dr Vogt showed us a segment from NHK contrasting an Indonesian health care worker (who was not interviewed) with a laid-off Japanese salaryman (who, interviewed, said he was grateful to get the work), with the point that we really don’t need NJ to take the place of Japanese when domestic labor can fill the demand. 

Great.  Yet another bloody mess of a GOJ program.


Back to the personal stuff.  The evenings were just as special, meeting old friends such as Isabelle, Hippie Chris and Naoko, Dave G, and making new ones such as Joseph T, Alfie, Dave P, Dave S, Honor, and others in passing who stopped by to share some thoughts on what’s bugging them either about what’s going on or what I’ve written recently.  Particularly pleasant was an event at the Pink Cow in Shibuya (where owner Tracy has the nicest greetings), where Ken Worsley and Garrett DiOrio gave an open-mic live “Seijigiri” political commentary for their organization, Trans-Pacific Radio (http://www.transpacificradio.com).  TPR has some great podcasts on current events, business, and even baseball trends.  Well worth subscribing to, especially since their content is not only informed, their banter is very college-roommate style, where they bounce ideas off each other with verve and humor.  And it was even better live with a good Pink Cow meal.  Look for their podcast this weekend.  I break the ice with a question about Aso’s economic stimulus packages….

This was probably the most relaxing trip to Tokyo ever.  And I’ll be there next Sunday (June 14) for a speech and a movie showing of SOUR STRAWBERRIES at Tokyo University all over again.  Details to follow.  Mark your calendars for now.

Arudou Debito back in Sapporo


DIJ Tokyo Symposium 2009: Japan’s Demographic Science overtaken by anti-immigration politics


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  I’ve been in Tokyo the past couple of days attending a symposium sponsored by the German Institute of Japanese Studies (DIJ), which has, as always, provided much food for thought.

This year’s theme is “Imploding Populations:  Global and Local Challenges of Demographic Change“, and I’ve seen presentations on health care, migration (both internal and external), geriatric treatment in the media, retirement options, and the like.  Good stuff, if a little tangental to what I research.

How it dovetails with Debito.org is how the conclusions shared by all — that Japan needs to do something now about its demography — are studiously being ignored by the Japanese scientific representatives in attendance.

June 2’s series of talks by Japanese researchers was particularly enlightening.  Everyone concluded that Japan is facing a demographic juggernaut, given its aging society with low birthrate, depopulating countryside, and ever more populating cities.  Japan is not only greying, but also losing its economic prowess.

Yet these conclusions suddenly become null once you bring in the topic of immigration.

One speaker, a Mr Takahashi Shigesato, rendered in the program as “deputy director general at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research” (kokuritsu shakai hoshou – jinkou mondai kenkyuujo fuku shochou — a big cheese), so glibly skipped over the issue that I just had to raise my hand at the end for a question.

Sez I:  “Thanks for your presentation.  You mention the entry of foreigners into Japan as an option only briefly in your presentation.  You also use the term ‘gaikokujin roudouryoku jinkou no katsuyou‘ (active use of the foreign working labor population) without any mention of the word ‘immigration’ (imin).  Why this rhetoric?”

Mr Takahashi gave a noncommittal answer, citing that Japan is (now suddenly) a crowded place, that immigration was not an option for our country, and that inflows must be strictly controlled for fear of overpopulation.  A follow-up with him one-on-one got him claiming there is “no national consensus” (he used the word in English) on the issue.  When I asked him whether or not this was a vicious circle (as in, no discussion of the issue means no possible consensus), he dodged.  When I asked him if this term was a loaded one, one political instead of scientific regarding demography, he begged off replying further.

This dodging also happened with every other Japanese speaker on the issue (one other person in the audience raised the same question with a second speaker, and he gave a begrudging acknowledgement that foreigners might be necessary for Japan’s future — although he himself couldn’t envision it).

This does not give me hope for the future.  There is a definite “deer in the headlights” attitude happening here, where we know that Japan’s population will drop no matter what (Mr Takahashi even extrapolated in his powerpoint that Japanese would go extinct by the year 3000).  Yet extinction is still preferable to letting in people to stay.  This is why I’m having trouble seeing any public policy (from the health-care givers from Indonesia and the Philippines on down) as anything more than a revolving-door labor exploitation effort:  offering the promise of a life in Japan in exchange for intensive labor, revocable after a few years either due to the vicissitudes of world economics, or if you don’t pass some kind of arbitrary and difficult test that even natives would find challenging.

It also does not give me hope for this branch of Japanese science.  As a doctor of demographics (a fiery researcher  to whom I could really relate) stated in a later conversation with me that day:

“Demographics is the study of population changes:  births, deaths, inflows and outflows.  How can the Japanese demographers ignore inflows, even the possibility of them, in their assessments?”

Because once again, science is being riddled with politics.  Immigration is another one of those issues which one must not mention by name.  Especially if you want to be a member of a national government thinktank.


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


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

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

The issue that dares not speak its name

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

By ARUDOU Debito

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Japan Times May 20, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards


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

Hi Blog.  Here’s the JT version of my article yesterday, with links to sources. Enjoy!  Debito in Sapporo

IC you: bugging the alien

New gaijin cards could allow police to remotely track foreigners


When the Japanese government first issued alien registration cards (aka gaijin cards) in 1952, it had one basic aim in mind: to track “foreigners” (at that time, mostly Korean and Taiwanese stripped of Japanese colonial citizenship) who decided to stay in postwar Japan.

Gaijin cards put foreigners in their place: Registry is from age 16, so from a young age they were psychologically alienated from the rest of Japanese society. So what if they were born and acculturated here over many generations? Still foreigners, full stop.

Even today, when emigrant non-Japanese far outnumber the native-born, the government tends to see them all less as residents, more as something untrustworthy to police and control. Noncitizens are not properly listed on residency registries. Moreover, only foreigners must carry personal information (name and address, personal particulars, duration of visa status, photo, and — for a time — fingerprints) at all times. Gaijin cards must also be available for public inspection under threat of arrest, one year in jail and ¥200,000 in fines.

However, the Diet is considering a bill abolishing those gaijin cards.

Sounds great at first: Under the proposed revisions, non-Japanese would be registered properly with residency certificates (juuminhyou). Maximum visa durations would increase from three years to five. ID cards would be revamped. Drafters claim this will “protect” (hogo) foreigners, making their access to social services more “convenient.”

However, read the fine print. The government is in fact creating a system to police foreigners more tightly than ever.

Years ago, this column (“The IC You Card,” Nov. 22, 2005) examined this policy in its larval stage. Its express aims have always been to target non-Japanese in the name of forestalling crime, terrorism, infectious diseases and the scourge of illegal aliens. Foreigners, again, are trouble.

But now the policy has gone pupal. You might consider helping chloroform the bug before it hatches. Here’s why:

The “new gaijin cards,” or zairyuu kaado (ZRK), are fundamentally unchanged: The usual suspects of biometric data (name, address, date of birth, visa status, name and address of workplace, photograph etc. — i.e. everything on the cover of your card) will be stored digitally on an embedded computer chip. Still extant is the 24/7 carrying requirement, backed by the same severe criminal punishments.

What has changed is that punishments will now be even swifter and stricter. If you change any status recorded on your chip and don’t report it to the authorities within 14 calendar days, you face a new ¥200,000 fine. If you don’t comply within three months, you risk losing your visa entirely.

Reasonable parameters? Not after you consider some scenarios:

• Graduate high school and enroll in college? Congratulations. Now tell the government or else.

• Change your job or residence? Report it, even if your visa (say, permanent residency or spouse visa) allows you to work without restrictions anywhere.

• Get a divorce, or your spouse dies? Condolences. Dry your eyes, declare the death or marital mess right away, and give up your spouse visa.

• Suffering from domestic violence, so you flee to a shelter? Cue the violins: A Japanese husband can now rat on his battered foreign wife, say she’s no longer at his address, and have her deported if she doesn’t return to his clutches.

Foreigners are in a weaker position than ever.

Now add on another, Orwellian layer: bureaucratic central control (ichigen kanri). Alien registration is currently delegated to your local ward office. Under the new system, the Ministry of Justice will handle everything. You must visit your friendly Immigration Bureau (there are only 65 regional offices — not even two per prefecture) to stand in line, report your changes and be issued with your card.

Try to get there within what works out to be a maximum of 10 weekdays, especially if you live in a remote area of Japan (like, say, Hokkaido or an Okinawan island). Then try to explain away a lost workday in this corporate culture.

Now consider refugees. They don’t even get an ID card anymore. They won’t be able to open a bank account, register to attend schools, enter hospital, or qualify for social insurance anymore. No matter; our country accepts fewer than a few dozen refugees every year; they shouldn’t have come here anyway, thinking they could impose upon our peaceful, developed country.

That’s still not the worst of it. I mentioned that embedded computer chip. The ZRK is a “smart card.” Most places worldwide issue smart cards for innocuous things like transportation and direct debit, and you have to swipe the card on a terminal to activate it. Carrying one is, at least, optional.

Not in Japan. Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

In other words, the IC chip is a transponder — a bug.



Now imagine these scenarios: Not only can police scan and detect illegal aliens, but they can also uncover aliens of any stripe. It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning — as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?”

I called the Immigration Bureau last week to talk about these issues. Their resident experts on ZRK security said that data would be protected by PIN numbers. The bureau could not, however, answer questions about how police would enforce their next-generation gaijin card checkpoints. Those police are a different agency, they said, and there are no concrete guidelines yet.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

One question lingers: Why would the government scrap the current alien policing system? For nearly six decades, it effectively kept foreigners officially invisible as residents, yet open to interrogation and arrest due to a wallet-size card. What’s broke?

Local government. It’s too sympathetic to the needs of its non-Japanese residents.

Remember Noriko Calderon, whose recently deported parents came to Japan on false passports? Did you ever wonder how she could attend Japanese schools and receive social services while her parents were on expired visas?

Because local governments currently issue the gaijin cards. At their own discretion, they can even issue ID to visa overstayers. Rendered as zairyu shikaku nashi (no status of residence), the card can be used to access social services. They can live relatively normal lives, as long as they avoid police gaijin-card checkpoints.

Why are local governments so sweet? With high concentrations of non-Japanese residents, many see foreigners as human beings needing assistance. After all, they keep local factories humming, pay taxes and add life to local infrastructure. Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokkaichi, in Mie, have long petitioned the national government for improvements, such as facilitating foreign access to public services and education, and easing registry and visa applications.

After years of deaf ears, the central government took action. Under the rhetoric of “smoking out illegal aliens,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005 pledged to “make Japan the world’s safest country again” by halving the number of visa overstayers by 2010.

Never mind that the overall trend in Japan is toward devolving power to the provinces (chiho bunken); Japan now wants to rein in local governments because they poke holes in their dike. It’s still a shame the proposed plugs make life impossible for refugees, and harder for any law-abiding non-Japanese resident with a busy life.

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that — police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

This is counterproductive. As we’ve said in this column many times before, an aging Japan needs immigration. These new gaijin cards will make already perpetually targeted foreigners (and foreign-looking Japanese) even less comfortable, less integrated members of society.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

The coalition group NGO Committee against Resident Alien Card System (www.repacp.org/aacp) has as its banner “Less policing, more genuine immigration policy that promotes multiethnic co-existence.”

On Sunday afternoon, there will be a demonstration in Tokyo against the new gaijin cards. Do attend if so inclined.


A public assembly against the new IC-chip gaijin cards will take place Sunday, May 24, 2-5 p.m. at the Koutsu Building, Shimbashi 5-15-5, Tokyo. For further information,see www.repacp.org/aacp/pdf/MultiLang/20090420LeafENv01.pdf or contact Amnesty International Japan via www.amnesty.or.jp or by mail at ksonoko@amnesty.or.jp. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

GOJ shuts down NJ academic conference at Josai University due to Swine Flu


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

Hi Blog.  Turning the keyboard over to a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.  Debito

Dear Debito,

I’m an avid reader of your blog — thanks for all your hard work! I thought I’d pass this information along to you in the event you are hearing about similar cases.

A friend of mine was supposed to come to Tokyo from the U.S. for an academic conference next week. There would be around 800 mostly North American participants — good business for hotels and lots of tourism money in general in these tough economic times. Last week, the GOJ started pressuring the host university to cancel the conference. The host, Josai University, managed to negotiate the following conditions to have the conference:

1. Detailed location/contact info for participants during conference and 10 days after
2. Temperature taken every day of the conference; those with 100.4 F given additional test and possibly quarantined
3. Fill out health declaration every day
4. Wear masks every day
5. Participants are required to pay all quarantine and medical costs

Needless to say, many did not want to attend under these strict conditions, and the conference ended up being canceled:


So the GOJ in the end got its desired result.

Anyway, while I think that of course diligence is required in containing the flu epidemic, I find it a little disconcerting that the GOJ is coming down so strictly on NJs, especially in academic activities. I’m not even sure how legal it is for the GOJ to dictate terms and conditions of their private conference.

Perhaps this one case isn’t worth mentioning, (or perhaps I’m just upset because now I don’t get to see my friend!!) but if many things like this start to happen, it might be worth examining.




Dear Colleagues:

It is with a very great regret that we are announcing the cancellation of the SCMS conference in Tokyo scheduled for May 21-24, 2009.

Late last week we learned that the Government of Japan and the Chiyoda District Government had requested that Josai International University cancel the conference due to concerns about containing the H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) virus.  That request, and the conditions that were subsequently imposed under which the conference might occur, resulted in daily discussions among the officers of SCMS, members of the Board of Directors, the Society’s legal counsel, and representatives of Josai.

We have determined that proceeding with the conference under the conditions ordered by the government presents too many risks for our members and the Society.  These include the personal risks to individual members (including possible quarantine, additional expense, and considerable stress), potential liability to SCMS, as well as pressures on the Society’s small infrastructure.  Moreover, the survey conducted yesterday (564 of 748 registrants replied) indicated that almost one-third of those responding chose to withdraw from the conference.  Many of those who said that they would still attend indicated that they would do so out of a sense of obligation or said that they would spend minimal time at the conference.  It was also clear that some registrants who did not respond to the survey, but who communicated in other ways, were waiting for more information before making a decision.

We are extremely grateful for the efforts of JIU, on behalf of SCMS, for negotiating with the national and local governments to create conditions under which the conference could move forward.  But it is clear that members felt that those conditions would not be conducive to a satisfactory conference experience.  The high cancellation rate – with more likely – presented us with a depleted program rather than the robust intellectual and social experience our members have come to expect of the SCMS conference.

  1.     You are urged to cancel your hotel reservations and flights immediately, unless you plan to travel to Japan for pleasure.  You should contact your airline to arrange for credit on your airfare.  We will be working with Japan Travel Bureau to reduce or eliminate hotel cancellation penalties.

  2.     Conference fees will be refunded, or individuals may request that their registration fee be used for the 2010 conference in Los Angeles.  More details will follow.

  3.     We are working on plans to retain as much of the Tokyo conference as possible as a part of our Los Angeles conference.  We will provide more information as soon as possible.   

  4.     We will be creating a forum on the SCMS website for individuals to register their comments.

  5.     If you have already arrived in Japan and need assistance, please contact the SCMS office staff as soon as possible.  Others can expect their e-mail messages and phone calls to be answered in the order that are received as soon as the staff can respond.

This has been a severe trial for the SCMS leadership, and we realize that the uncertainty caused by this global health situation has created great confusion and anxiety among our members.

We are extremely disappointed that we have had to make this decision, especially in light of the tremendous amount of planning and work that our members, the SCMS staff, and our exhibitors committed to this conference.  Again, we offer our heartfelt gratitude to the Chancellor of Josai and Josai International Universities, MIZUTA Noriko, Dean EN Fukuyuki, SHINOZAKI Kayo and the rest of the staff at JIU who generously offered his or her services above and beyond any duties, responsibilities, or obligations and on top of their already considerable responsibilities at JIU.

We are saddened that we will not be able to meet in Tokyo, but when the dust settles, we look forward to a combined Tokyo/Los Angeles conference to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, which will represent the very best of who we are and what we do.


Patrice Petro, President

Anne Friedberg, President-Elect

Stephen Prince, Past-President

Eric Schaefer, Secretary

Paula Massood, Treasurer

Scott Curtis, Member of the Board

F. Hollis Griffin, Graduate Student Representative

Michele Hilmes, Member of the Board

Priya Jaikumar, Member of the Board

Victoria Johnson, Member of the Board

Charles Wolfe, Member of the Board

Michael Zryd, Member of the Board


Thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Just a few thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi program “TV Tackle”.

It was, in a word, disappointing.

Maybe that’s par for the course in a 55-minute (minus commercials) show edited for content, and it did try to take on some serious issues.

Eight commentators participated: three academics — a Korean, a Brazilian, and a Chinese — plus two media pundits and three politicians — LDP’s Kouno Taro, plus Koumeito, and DPJ. All people of Asian background (save an overlong and as incomprehensible as ever commentary from Koko Ga Hen TV show bomb-thrower Zomahoun Rufin), all reasonably informed, but all clipped for airtime before much of substance came out.

The show had four segments: 1) the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips, 2) The historical issue of the Zainichis and other Permanent Residents and their right to vote in local elections, 3) the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and 4) the new Tourism Agency and the new tightening of Immigration controls (fingerprinting etc.)

The show gave good backgrounds on the issues (lots of data, historical facts), but what the panelists did with the show was what disappointed.

1) The IC Gaijin Cards was far too short, and fumbled the issue when talking about why NJ have to carry cards 24/7 or face arrest and criminal charges. Nikkei Brazilian Angelo Ishi showed his card for the cameras (thanks; surprisingly few Japanese know NJ have to carry them, or even have them), but there was not enough reportage on why these cards are so controversial (heavy fines and jail time, for example), and why the new cards are even more so (potential remote tracking of IC Chips and and heavier penalties for delayed reporting of changes of status). Even the DPJ rep there admitted he had no problems with the Cards, despite the official party line of opposing them. So much for the debate. Where’s Tanaka Hiroshi when we need him?

There was a decent bit on the Calderon Noriko Case, fortunately, but the hardliners held sway: If her parents hadn’t come in on someone else’s passport, then maybe they could have stayed here together as a family. End of debate.

2) We then got bogged down in the historical issues of the Zainichi Koreans, and how historically they’ve been here for generations yet have no right to vote. Kouno Taro disappointed by saying that if you want the right to vote, naturalize. Even though, as we’ve said time and time again (and I have to him directly), the process is not all that easy and is quite arbitrary. It is not a kirifuda. This segment wound up a waste of time with the Korean academic getting hot under the collar and appearing to talk too much.

3) The best bit was on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, where just about everyone there agreed that bribing workers to go home was a national disgrace. Kouno again took a hard line and said that we shouldn’t have imported people because they were Nikkei, but rather because they speak Japanese well (as if people working this hard in factories could have done much about it; you want perfection before entry?). Angelo Ishi got in good points that Japanese companies actually went overseas to RECRUIT Nikkei, with all sorts of false promises about income and conditions, and others pointed out that Japan’s special ties with Nikkei overseas actually did choose people based upon blood and little else. It was portrayed rightfully as a failed policy, but hands were wrung about how to keep the NJ here, sigh.

4) Last bit was on tourism and the fingerprinting issue. Much fearmongering about the Koreans in particular and their ability to come over without visas, and one case of falsified fingerprints was portrayed as the evils of Koreans, not as flaws in the system. No mention at all was made of how it’s NOT MERELY TOURISTS being fingerprinted, but EVERY NJ WHO IS NOT A ZAINICHI.  And that includes Regular Permanent Residents, who too have to suffer the humiliation of being treated like tourists and suspected terrorists.

Therein was the great flaw in the program. Nobody was there who could represent the “Newcomers”. No naturalized Japanese. No non-Asian Permanent Residents. Nobody who could give a perspective (except Angelo, and he did well, but he’s halfway in The Club anyway) of somebody that has been a pure outsider both by race and by face, and show the cameras that Japan is in fact changing with these new kinds of people who are here to stay as immigrants.

Pity. The show meant well. But it fell back into old hackneyed paradigms with few eyes opened.

This synopsis has been written over the 20 minutes since the show ended, all from memory. If people find segments of this show on YouTube, please send this blog entry a link. Keeps me honest. Thanks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Revamped article on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe


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

Hi Blog.  A few weeks ago I was invited to retool my recent Japan Times article on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe for an academic website.  After doing so (and integrating a point I had neglected about the bribe being one way to save on pension monies), they decided that I had enough outlets (what with this blog and the JT) and thought it wasn’t quite original enough.  Ah well.  I like how it turned out anyway, so I’ll post it here as the outlet.  Thanks for reading it.  Debito in Sapporo



By Arudou Debito.  Debito.org May 8, 2009

One cannot read the news without hearing how bad the world economy has become, and Japan is no exception. Daily headlines proclaim what was once considered inconceivable in a land of lifetime employment: tens of thousands of people fired from Japan’s world-class factories. The Economist in April referred to Japan’s “two lost decades”, suggesting that modest economic gains over the past five years will be completely wiped out, according to OECD forecasts for 2009.

Cutbacks have bitten especially deeply into the labor market for non-Japanese workers. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reports that in the two months up to January 2009, more than 9,000 foreigners asked “Hello Work” unemployment agencies for assistance — eleven times the figure for the same period a year earlier. The Mainichi Shinbun reported (April 7, 2009) that 1,007 foreign “trainees”, working in Japanese factories, were made redundant between October 2008 and January 2009 alone.

In the same report [1], the labor ministry asserts that non-Japanese are unfamiliar with Japan’s language and corporate culture, concluding that (despite years of factory work) they are “extremely unre-employable” (saishuushoku ga kiwamete muzukashii).[2] So select regions are offering information centers, language training, and some degree of job placement. Under an emergency measure drawn up by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in March, the Japanese government began from April 1 offering workers of Japanese descent (nikkei) working here on “long-term resident” visas — a repatriation package. Applicants get 300,000 yen, plus 200,000 yen for each family dependent, if they return to their own country. If they take up the offer before their unemployment benefit runs out, they get 100,000 yen added to each sum for each month outstanding.

This sounds good. After all, why keep people here who cannot find a job? But read the small print of the proposal: The retraining measures only target 5,000 people, a tiny fraction of the 420,000-plus nikkei already in Japan. Of course, the offer extends to none of the 102,018 “trainees” (mostly Chinese) that Japan’s factories received in 2007 alone. Hundreds of thousands of people are on their own.

From this, it is clear the government is engaging in damage control by physically removing a small number of people from Japan’s unemployment rosters – the nikkei – and doing a dramatic U-turn in imported-labor policies. A twenty-year-old visa regime, based on economic and political contradictions, official and unofficial cross-purposes, unregulated corrupt programs, and a mindset of treating people as mere work units, is coming to a close. This is an enormous policy miscalculation by the Japanese government thanks to a blind spot of using racially based paradigms to create a new domestic workforce.

First, let’s return to the “repatriation offer” and consider its implications. Although the sum of 300,000 yen may appear magnanimous, it comes with two built-in ironies. One is the sense that history is repeating itself. These nikkei beneficiaries are the descendents of beneficiaries of an earlier scheme by the Japanese government to export its unemployed. A century ago, Japan sent farmers to Brazil, America, Canada, Peru and other South American countries. Over the past two decades, however, Japan has brought nikkei back under yet another scheme to utilize their cheap labor. This time, however, if the nikkei take the ticket back “home,” they can’t return — at least not under the same preferential work visa. The welcome mat has been retracted.

The other irony is the clear policy failure. Close to half a million nikkei are living in Japan, some for up to twenty years, paying taxes, social security, and nenkin retirement pensions. They have worked long hours at low wages to keep Japan’s factories competitive in the world economy. Although the nikkei have doubled Japan’s foreign population since 1990, minimal seniority and entrenchment has taken a heavy toll on these long-termers; books have been written on how few foreigners, including the Nikkei, have been assimilated.[3] Now that markets have soured, foreigners are the first to be laid off, and their unassimilated status, even in the eyes of the labor ministry, has made many of them unmarketable.

Put bluntly, the policy is: train one percent (5,000) to stay; bribe the rest to go and become some other country’s problem. In fact, the government stands to save a great deal of money by paying the nikkei a pittance in plane fares and repatriation fees, while keeping their many years of pension contributions (usually about 15% of monthly salary). By using this economic sleight-of hand, offering desperate people short-term cash if they foresake their long-term investments, this anti-assimilation policy becomes profitable for the government, while beggaring foreigners’ retirements.

Now consider another layer: This scheme only applies to nikkei, not to other non-Japanese workers such as the large number of Chinese “trainees” also here at Japan’s invitation. How has a government policy for a developed country disintegrated into something so ludicrous, where even officially sanctioned exclusionism has a hierarchy?

The background, in brief, is this: Japan faced a huge blue-collar labor shortage in the late 1980s, and realized with the rise in the value of the yen and high minimum wages, that its exports were being priced out of world markets.

Japan’s solution, like that of many other developed countries, was to import cheaper foreign labor. Of course, other countries with a significant influx of migrant labor, also had problems with equitable working conditions and assimilation.[4] However, as a new documentary, Sour Strawberries: Japan’s hidden “guest workers” vividly portrays, what made Japan’s policy fundamentally different was a view of foreign labor through a racial prism. Policymaking elites, worried about debasing Japan’s allegedly homogeneous society with foreigners who might stay, maintained an official stance of “no immigration” and “no import of unskilled labor”.

However, that was tatemae — a façade. Urged by business lobbies such as Nippon Keidanren, Japan created a visa regime from 1990 to import foreign laborers (mostly Chinese) as “trainees”, ostensibly to learn a skill, but basically to put them in factories and farms doing unskilled “dirty, difficult, and dangerous” labor eschewed by Japanese. The trainees were paid less than half the minimum wage (as they were not legally workers under Japanese labor law) and received no social welfare.

Although some trainees were reportedly working 10, 15 and in one case even 22-hour days, six to seven days a week including holidays, they received wages so paltry they beggared belief — in some cases 40,000 yen a month. A Chinese “trainee” interviewed in Sour Strawberries said he wound up earning the same here as he would in China. Others received even less, being charged by employers for rent, utilities, and food on top of that.

Abuses proliferated. Trainees found their passports confiscated and pay withheld, were denied basic human rights such as freedom of association or religious practice, were harassed and beaten, and were even fired without compensation if they were injured on the job. One employer hired thugs to force his Chinese staff to board a plane home. But trainees couldn’t just give up and go back. Due to visa restrictions, requiring significant deposits before coming to Japan (to put a damper on emigration), Chinese took out travel loans of between 700,000 to one million yen. If they returned before their visas were up, they would be in default, sued by their banks or brokers and ruined. Thus they were locked into abusive jobs they couldn’t complain about or quit without losing their visa and livelihoods overseas.

As Zentoitsu Worker’s Union leader Torii Ippei said in the documentary, this government-sponsored but largely unregulated program made so many employers turn bad, that places without worker abuses were “very rare”. The Yomiuri Shinbun (April 11, 2009) reported a recent Justice Ministry finding of “irregularities” at 452 companies and organizations involving trainees in 2008 alone, including hundreds of cases of unpaid overtime and illegal wages. Cases have been remanded to public prosecutors resulting in the occasional court victory, such as the 2008 landmark decision against the Tochigi strawberry farm that became the sobriquet for the documentary, have resulted in hefty (by Japanese standards) punitive judgments.

But these “trainees” were not the only ones getting exploited. 1990 was also the year the “long term resident” visa was introduced for the nikkei. Unlike the trainees, they were given significantly higher wages, labor law protections and unlimited employment opportunities — supposedly to allow them to “explore their heritage” — while being worked, in many cases 10 to 15 hours a day, six days a week.

Why this most-favored visa status for the nikkei? The reason was racially based. As LDP and Keidanren representatives testified in Sour Strawberries, policymakers figured that nikkei would present fewer assimilation problems. After all, they have Japanese blood, ergo the prerequisite cultural understanding of Japan’s unique culture and garbage-sorting procedures. It was deemed unnecessary to create any integration policy. However, as neighborhood problems arose, visible in the “No Foreigner” shop signs around nikkei areas and the Ana Bortz vs. Seibido Jewelry Store (1998-9) lawsuit, the atmosphere was counterproductive and demoralizing for an enthusiastic workforce.[5] A nikkei interviewed in the documentary described how overseas she felt like a Japanese, yet in Japan she ultimately felt like a foreigner.

Under these visa regimes, Japan invited over a million non-Japanese to come to Japan to work — and work they did, many in virtual indentured servitude. Yet instead of being praised for their contributions, they became scapegoats. Neighborhoods not only turned against them, but also police campaigns offered years of opprobrium for alleged rises in crime and overstaying (even though foreign crime rates were actually lower than domestic, and the number of visa overstayers dropped every year since 1993). Non-Japanese workers were also bashed for not learning the language (when they actually had little time to study, let alone attend Japanese classes offered by a mere handful of merciful local governments) — all disincentives for settling in Japan.

This is what happens when people are brought into a country by official government policy, yet for unofficial purposes at odds with official pledges. Japan has no immigration policy. It then becomes awkward for the government to make official pronouncements on how the new workforce is contributing to the economy, or why it should be allowed to stay. So the workforce remains in societal limbo. Then when things go wrong — in this case a tectonic macroeconomic shift — and the policy fails, it is the foreigners, not the government, who bear the brunt.

And fail the policy did on April Fools’ Day 2009, when the government confirmed that nikkei didn’t actually belong in Japan by offering them golden parachutes. Of course, race was again a factor, as the repatriation package was unavailable to wrong-blooded “trainees,” who must return on their own dime (perhaps, in some cases, with fines added on for overstaying) to face financial ruin.

What to do instead? In my view, the Japanese government must take responsibility. Having invited foreigners over here, it is necessary to treat them like human beings. Give them the same labor rights and job training that you would give every worker in Japan, and free nationwide Japanese lessons to bring them up to speed. Reward them for their investment in our society and their taxes paid. Do what can be done to make them more comfortable and settled. Above all, stop bashing them: Let Japanese society know why foreigners are here and what they have contributed to the country.

Don’t treat foreigners like toxic waste, sending them overseas for somebody else to deal with, and don’t detoxify our society under the same racially-based paradigms that got us into this situation in the first place. You brought this upon yourselves through a labor policy that ignored immigration and assimilation. Deal with it in Japan, by helping non-Japanese residents of whatever background make Japan their home.

This is not a radical proposal. Given the low-birthrate of Japan’s aging society, experts have been urging you to do this for a decade now. This labor downturn won’t last forever, and when things pick up again you will have a younger, more acculturated, more acclimatized, even grateful workforce to help pick up the pieces. Just sending people back, where they will tell others about their dreadful years in Japan being exploited and excluded, is on so many levels the wrong thing to do.

[1] Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labour report at http://www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/2009/03/dl/h0331-10a.pdf
[2] Original Japanese reads in the above report 「日本語能力の不足や我が国の雇用慣行の不案内に加え、職務経験も十分ではないため、いったん離職した場合には、再就職が極めて厳しい状況にあります。]
[3] See Takeyuki Tsuda, Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland.[add source information]
[4] For examples of issues of migrant labor and assimilation in Spain, South Korea, and Italy as well as Japan, see Takeyuki Tsuda, ed. Local Citizenship in Recent Countries of Immigration: Japan in Comparative Perspective. Other examples, such as the Turks in West Germany, Poles in the British Isles, Algerians and Moroccans in France, and Africans throughout Western Europe, have warranted significant media attention over the decades, but the labor mobility created by EU passports have arguably made the counterarguments against migration less “homogeneous-society” and “racially-based” in origin than in the Japanese example. [recheck and revise last sentence]
[5] For a description of the Ana Bortz and other cases of Nikkei exclusionism, see https://www.debito.org/bortzdiscrimreport.html

Arudou Debito, Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University, is a columnist for The Japan Times and the manager of the debito.org daily blog. The co-author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, and author of Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (Akashi Shoten, Inc.), Arudou is organizing nationwide showings of Sour Strawberries around Japan late August-early September; contact him at debito@debito.org to arrange a screening. You can purchase a copy of the documentary by visiting http://www.cinemabstruso.de/strawberries/main.html

A briefer version of this article was published in The Japan Times on April 7, 2009

Wash Post on GOJ border controls of Swine Flu, Mainichi/Kyodo on hospitals turning away J with fevers or NJ friends


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Sooner or later we’re going to have to discuss the issue of Swine Flu (which looks ultimately to be rated as a Pandemic), as it feeds into the (universal, but particularly strong in Japan) mentality of keeping the country safe at the border.

A reporter from the Washington post, on a return flight from DC to Narita, gives us a thorough eye-witness account. If I had been on that flight, I would probably have filed a grumpy report too. But my critique of this might seem out of character. I’ll put that below the article.

And after my critique, just when I thought I could say something nice, the Mainichi and Kyodo report that hospitals, of all places, are overreacting; again, with a foreign dimension involved.


Japan Inspecting Airliners for Flu Victims
Gowned, Goggled Officials Hold Passengers Aboard Flight From Dulles for 70 Minutes
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Videotaping of the proceedings by the reporter on the scene (worth watching) at:


TOKYO, May 4 — Armed with thermographic guns, Japanese health inspectors in surgical gowns, goggles and masks boarded United Flight 803 from Washington Dulles. They prowled the aisles, pointing their fever-seeking machines at jet-lagged faces.

The nonstop flight had taken 13 1/2 hours. Toddlers were crying. Adults were wilting. Everyone was under strict orders to stay in his or her seat.

Exhausted-looking flight attendants handed out surgical masks, gifts from the government of Japan, which has yet to find a single confirmed case of swine flu but is diligently seeking feverish suspects.

Passengers could not leave the aircraft until they had filled out a form the government had hurriedly printed. “The Questionnaire of Heath [sic] Status” asked if travelers had been to Mexico lately, if they had a runny nose, if they were taking medication to mask a fever.

As long as the threat of a flu pandemic persists, anyone who flies into this country from North America with flulike ailments will not be allowed to walk off an airplane and infect the country. Last week, inspectors began boarding every flight from Mexico, Canada and the United States. They take the temperature of about 6,000 passengers a day. Near Tokyo’s Narita airport, 500 rooms have been secured by the Health Ministry to quarantine infected passengers.

Asia was stung in 2003 by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people and caused temporary harm to the economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia. As a result, governments and health bureaucracies across the region are ready and willing to move aggressively against swine flu.

China suspended flights from Mexico on Saturday, after the first confirmed case of the virus was found in Hong Kong. At the Hong Kong hotel where the swine flu victim stayed, about 200 guests and 100 workers were confined to the premises for a week. In South Korea, which has two probable cases of swine flu, all passengers pass in front of thermographic cameras. Those found to be feverish are held for testing that takes about six hours.

Even though it has yet to find one confirmed case of swine flu, Japan has opened 684 “fever clinics” across the country. Officials installed thermographic imaging devices at the world table tennis championships in Yokohama after a local high school student was admitted to a hospital with what turned out to be a seasonal strain of the flu. On Monday, a woman who had just returned from the United States tested positive for influenza A and was experiencing symptoms, news agencies reported, but more tests were needed to determine whether she was in fact the island nation’s first swine flu victim.

“It’s not a short-term fight, and we need to brace ourselves for what will likely take a considerable time,” Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters Friday.

For jumbo jets arriving from North America, a shortage of health inspectors has meant that considerable time is being spent by passengers in parked airplanes. Thousands of travelers have waited for hours in their seats before inspectors could clear them to pass through immigration.

“We’re just about managing to handle the situation with a limited number of inspectors,” a government official told the Yomiuri newspaper. “But I wonder what will happen if more outbreaks occur in other countries.”

Inspectors boarded United Flight 803 a few minutes after it landed at Narita. They completed their work in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Although everyone was sick of sitting in the airplane, no was found to be feverish.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Actually, I think Japan has improved on its techniques since the last outbreak scare. Again, remember SARS back in 2003? I do. I was being refused entry into some hotels just because I had foreign roots (I hadn’t even left Japan in many years, let alone visit a SARS-infected country). SARS back then merely exacerbated the same government-promoted fear phenomenon that wound up painting foreigners in general as potential criminals and social destabilizers. And the MHLW has specifically said that border controls were specifically for “effective prevention of infectious diseases and terrorism.”

That so far hasn’t really happened this time. Instead, we have everyone being tested regardless of nationality. Contrast this with the differing treatment found in one confirmed case a few years ago, from a 2005 Japan Times article I wrote:

I see. Then it naturally follows that on May 8, 2005, after a Caucasian passenger became ill on a Cathay Pacific flight from Bangkok to Fukuoka via Hong Kong and Taipei, all Caucasians, according to a passenger, were given yellow quarantine forms at Fukuoka Airport. Japanese, she alleges, were not. When called on this, Fukuoka Quarantine Station did acknowledge on May 18 that not all passengers were given the yellow forms–just to those originating in Thailand (even though some recipients boarded at Hong Kong). The question remains: Why weren’t all passengers, after so much time in a contained environment, screened for contagious diseases?

Compared to this, the latest Washington Post article shows that the GOJ is learning something from past procedures. Japan is using relatively unobtrusive procedures for screening (skin-surface scanners for body temperatures) and scanning everyone, which of course I support. I’m not vouching for the effectiveness of these procedures (I really have doubts whether goggles and masks actually stop viruses effectively), but I understand the need to do something. Doing nothing means the LDP will definitely fall in the looming elections. I’m just glad the politics here so far aren’t being enforced by nationality, when disease knows no citizenship.

Pity some hospitals don’t know that:


Paranoid hospitals turning away those with fever, or with a foreign friend

(Mainichi Japan) May 5, 2009, Courtesy of M-J


As hospitals step up their precautions against swine flu, those in the Tokyo area are starting to refuse examinations to those suffering from fever and other potential influenza symptoms, or even those with a foreign friend, it’s been learned.

Between Saturday morning and Monday morning, 63 people were turned away, according to the metropolitan government. All have no recent history of visiting countries where infections have been confirmed, and the new closed door policy could constitute a violation of the Medical Practitioners Law.

Patients are now being referred to public health centers for preliminary diagnoses, and a worker at Narita International Airport was refused on the spot. One patient was denied an examination for mentioning that they had a foreign friend.

Local governments are asking patients suffering from fever and who have recently traveled to Mexico, the U.S. or other high-risk countries to immediately contact their local Fever Consultation Center, rather than their local hospital.

“If the number of hospitals refusing examinations increases, there’s the danger of people believing it’s better to report false symptoms,” said the metropolitan government’s Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health.

新型インフルエンザ:感染国に渡航歴ないのに…発熱患者の診察拒否 東京で63件


毎日新聞 2009年5月5日 東京朝刊










Increasing number of patients with fever rejected by Tokyo hospitals

TOKYO —An increasing number of patients with fever have been rejected by hospitals in Tokyo even though their risk of being infected with a new type of influenza is low, given that they have never been to any of the countries affected by the new flu, a Tokyo metropolitan government survey showed Tuesday. The number of cases in which Tokyo hospitals refused medical examinations for such patients totaled 92 from Saturday morning to Tuesday noon, according to the survey.

‘‘We want hospitals to respond calmly even if they fear that patients infected with the new flu may appear or that other patients will get infected,’’ a Tokyo metropolitan government official said. In many cases, patients with fever were told to visit ‘‘fever clinics’’ set up solely to treat people suspected of being infected with the new strain of the H1N1 influenza A virus, according to the survey.

Some patients were rejected by hospitals after telling them, ‘‘I work at Narita airport’’ or ‘‘I have a foreign friend,’’ the survey showed.

In some cases, those who were told by fever clinics to go to general hospitals were then rejected by them.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to conduct a nationwide survey on such rejections by hospitals, ministry officials said.

The Tokyo metropolitan government’s division in charge of infectious diseases said hospitals’ refusal to conduct medical examinations could be a violation of the medical practitioners’ law.

‘‘We will consider some sort of measures against malicious refusals to conduct medical examinations by hospitals,’’ a division official said.



How unprofessional.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo (not panicky — relatively pristine in this crisis — Chitose isn’t even on the media maps as an international airport taking measures)

Economist.com blog piles on re Nikkei Repatriation Bribe


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Here’s a brief from The Economist, also questioning the wisdom of the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, as similar influential media in yesterday’s blog entry did. Courtesy of Norik. Feel free to comment there as here. (Not sure if I’ll have access to my blog during the weekend, so please be patient with comments, sorry.) Arudou Debito in Sapporo


April 23, 2009
And don’t come back
Posted by: Economist.com | NEW YORK

Categories: Immigration

PROTECTIONISM is rearing its ugly head again, in unusual ways. Japan is offering money to unemployed low-skill immigrants if they leave the country and do not return. Well, they can come back as tourists, but they give up the right to live and work in Japan again (unless they transform into high-skill professionals).

Low-skilled workers are an odd target for Japan. The country has so few immigrants to begin with; they make up less than 2% of the population. (Most immigrant labourers are ethnic Japanese coming from Latin America.) Given the demographic pressures facing Japan, the government should be begging immigrants to come. Perhaps they have plans to counteract this policy with a programme to encourage Japanese women to have more babies.

Japan’s policy results from a perception that the stock of jobs is fixed, so if you remove the foreign population more jobs go to natives. But low-skill immigrants often do jobs natives will not. Some argue that without immigrants these undesirable jobs would pay more and then natives would take them. But that simply encourages employers to outsource these jobs to another country (which means the wages are spent elsewhere). When it comes to jobs that can physically not be sent abroad, it raises the costs of production which can mean fewer high-skill, well-paid jobs.

Low-skill foreigners also provide cheap services to natives, such as childcare and care for the elderly (something Japan needs). This frees up family members to pursue other work that pays more than what a low-skill immigrant demands, but less than the market wage if only natives did the job.

The Czech Republic and Spain have also bribed foreigners to leave, but at least they will let them come back. Japan is pursuing this policy because its concerned about rising unemployment, but presumably it will need immigrants when the economy improves. Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party explains:

“Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said. “Japanese taxpayers would ask, ‘What kind of ridiculous policy is this?’”

It’s a good question.


From the archives: How criminals fool the police: talk like foreigners!


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Friend MS was cleaning out his files and found this. Mainichi Daily News July 19, 2000. This is not the first time I’ve found cases of NJ being blamed for J crime. Check out three cases (Mainichi 2004 and 2006). where 1) biker gangs told their victims to blame foreigners, 2) a murderer and his accomplice tried to say a “blond” guy killed his mother, and 3) an idiot trucker, who overslept late for work, tried to claim that a gang of foreigners kidnapped him!

How many other crimes have been pinned on foreigners in this way, one wonders. Arudou Debito in Sapporo



The definition of “Gaijin” according to Tokyu Hands Nov 17, 2008


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  Writing to you from Nagoya, had a lovely evening with Andrew, Michael, and John eating spicy tebasaki, and a great discussion with all manner of labor union activists at Nagoya University before that.  Next stop, documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES showings tomorrow at Shiga University and Osaka at the Blarney Stone.  Stop by and see this truly excellent movie, and snap up a DVD and a book (never had such a successful selling tour:  Nearly 50 DVDs, nearly 40 books!)

Meanwhile, let me do a quick one for tonight, with the definition of “gaijin” not according to me (a la my Japan Times columns), but rather according to the marketplace.  Here’s a photo sent in by an alert shopper, from Tokyu Hands November 17, 2008:

Very funny.  Note what makes a prototypical “gaijin” by Japanese marketing standards:  blue eyes, big nose, cleft chin, and outgoing manner.  Not to mention English-speaking.  Yep, we’re all like that.

Anyone for buying some bucked-tooth Lennon-glasses to portray Asians in the same manner?  Naw, that would get you in trouble with the anti-defamation leagues overseas.  Seems to me we need leagues like that over here…  Arudou Debito in Nagoya

Ichihashi, suspect in Hawker murder case, officially charged with “abandonment of corpse” on NPA wanted posters


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

Hi Blog.  Something interesting I found last week:  An NPA wanted poster for murderers, put up in banks, post offices, and police boxes nationwide, offering tidy rewards for information leading to their arrest.


Snap taken March 3, 2009, by the ATMs of Hokuyou Ginkou Ebetsu Branch.  Sorry it’s a bit hard to see, but all of them are wanted for murder (satsujin).

Actually, sorry, I fib.  One isn’t.  The fourth one from the left.  Closeup.


Recognize the name and that face?  That’s Ichihashi Tatsuya, the suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, former NOVA English teacher, found beaten, suffocated, and buried in a tub of sand on his apartment balcony back in 2007.  Police bungled their investigation, and he escaped on foot down a fire escape without even his shoes.  He’s still at large.  Hence the wanted poster.  Sources:


Funnily enough, unlike everyone else on that poster, Ichihashi is not wanted on a charge of “murder”.  It’s rendered as “abandonment of a corpse” (shitai iki).  Even more funnily enough, that’s the same charge levelled at Nozaki Hiroshi (the dismemberer of a Filipina in 2000, who got out after only 3 years to stow more Filipina body parts in a locker in 2008), and at Obara Jouji, convicted serial rapist and dismemberer of Lucie Blackman.  Seems like these crimes, if they involve NJ, are crimes to their dead bodies, not crimes of making them dead.


My next Japan Times article is on this, in part (due out Tuesday, March 24).  So as part of my research, today I called the Chiba Police number provided on the poster above to ask why Ichihashi wasn’t accused of murder. The investigator, a Mr Shibusa, said he couldn’t comment in specific on the case. When I asked how one distinguishes between charges of murder vs. abandonment, he said that it depended on the details of each case, but generally if the suspect admits homicidal intent (satsu-i), it’s murder. However, how the other suspects on the poster were so cooperative as to let the police know their will to kill before escaping remains unclear.  I’m still waiting for an answer to my request for further clarification on why Ichihashi’s charge was rendered differently.

I’ll be making the case in the JT article that Japanese jurisprudence and criminal procedure, both in the prosecution of criminals and as criminals, differs by nationality, with the NJ getting a raw deal.  The wanted poster above is but one piece of evidence.  Stay tuned.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NPA on foreign-infiltrated organized crime: NJ crime down 3rd straight year, but not newsworthy in J-media


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

Hi Blog.  Two topics today for the price of one:  The NPA spending our tax monies to target the bad guys (if they’re NJ) again, and how the J media is not reporting crime rates properly, again.

Hang on to your hats. folks. It’s the NPA “Foreign Crime Report” time of year again.  Yes, twice a year, we get appraised of what our boys in blue are doing to stem the hordes and save the country.  (We get little of this NPA assiduity for domestic crime; after all, the sociology of crime means that police get blamed if domestic crime rises, but get encouraged budgetwise if foreign crime rises.)

So this time the biannual deluge is buried within an NPA “soshiki hanzai jousei” general report released this week.  Despite the “general”-sounding title, the dirt on the NJ crooks starts from page eight, and continues throughout the total 47 pages.  

Conspiring foreign crooks are everywhere, it seems.  With so little focus on the pure Yamato yakuza, it looks like organized crime is the most international thing about Japan.  Lots of stories and case studies of NJ evildoers (with a special focus on money laundering from page 13; maybe this is why banks are targeting NJesque accounts and transactions recently).

For example, here an illustration of the web of intrigue that NJ get up to, from the NPA report page 31.  Note how the Japanese criminals (usually not included at all in any police-published visual specs of foreign crime, see page 22) are only involved in two stages of the game.


(Love the NJ kingpin’s 1990’s cellphone.)

But oh oh for the NPA:  For the third straight year, foreign crime is, er, um, down.  However will they justify their budgets for the NPA’s Kokusai Taisaku Iinkai?

Don’t worry.  You’re not going to hear that good news in the Japanese media. At least, not in an unadulterated form.  Because when it comes to foreign crime, good news is no news.  Short AP article, then comments follow:


Number of crimes by foreign visitors down for 3rd year
Associated Press Feb 26 2009, courtesy MJ


TOKYO, Feb. 27 (AP) – (Kyodo)—The number of crimes committed by foreign visitors in Japan fell in 2008 for the third consecutive year to 31,280, down 12.6 percent from the previous year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The number of foreign criminals, excluding permanent residents, also dropped in 2008 for a third straight year to 13,872, down 12.8 percent, it said.

Both figures peaked in 2005, according to the NPA.

Of the 31,280 cases detected by police, 23,229 involved violations of the criminal code, while 8,051 involved immigration and other violations, the NPA said.

Chinese people accounted for 35 percent of the detected crimes, or 4,856, followed by South Koreans at 1,603 and Filipinos at 1,486.

Meanwhile, 633 foreign suspects fled abroad, the NPA said.



Well, good.  But look what a Google News Search turns up:  No articles in the Japanese media, which in the past fell over themselves to scream alleged foreign crime rises (see examples in the Yomiuri, Sankei, and the Asahi).  Or in the case of the Mainichi, crime rate falls were headlined as falls in English but as rises in Japanese).  Evidence:  Screen capture today, current as of Midnight February 28:


You’d expect that if the overseas media has reported this, the domestic news certainly would have by now.  And it would no doubt would quite assiduously (if the past is any guide) if it had been a crime rate rise.  

So if it bleeds it leads, sure.  But if it bleeds and it’s foreign, it had better be BAD news or else newspapers aren’t going to break their stride, and give society any follow-ups that might paint a rosier picture of Japan’s immigration.  What negligence and public disservice by a free press.

I’ll include below the text of Mainichi article featured in the Google News search above.  It’s also instructive of bent reporting.  Note how the headline does mention the crime rate did drop, but of course tempers the cheers by following up with assiduous reportage on how it’s also rising — in the provinces, as group crime increases.  The body of the text also tempers any fall with a rise, zeroing on Chinese perps (same as the above 47NEWS article), making sure the last thought you’re left with after reading a paragraph is how crime is increasing.


外国人犯罪:3年連続で減少 組織化進み、地方に広がる





毎日新聞 2009年2月27日 10時34分


I wonder how they’ll translate this for an English-reading audience (if they ever do; they haven’t as of this writing).  Hopefully they won’t sweeten it for tender NJ eyes like last time.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

GOJ claims victory in “halving overstayers” campaign, maintains myth that NJ fingerprinting did it


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

Hi Blog. The GOJ has patted itself on the back for being about to reach its goal of halving the number of overstaying NJ by the target date of 2010.

Congrats. But piggybacking on this cheer is the lie that fingerprinting NJ at the border helped do it.

Wrong. As we’ve discussed here before, fingerprinting and collecting other biometric data at the border does not result in an instantaneous check. It takes time. In fact, the first day they raised a cheer for snagging NJ at the border, it was for passport issues, not prints. And they have never publicly offered stats separating those caught by documentation and those fingered by biometric data (nor have we stats for how many were netted before the fingerprinting program was launched, to see if there is really any difference). So we let guilt by associated data justify a program that targets NJ regardless of residency status and criminalizes them whenever they cross back into Japan. Bad social science, bad public policy, and now rotten interpretations of the data. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Number of foreigners overstaying visas in Japan nearly halves in 5 yrs

Feb 16 2009, Associated Press. Courtesy of Japan Probe.

(AP) – TOKYO, Feb. 17 (Kyodo)—The number of foreign nationals who stayed in Japan after their visas expired nearly halved to around 113,000 from 219,000 in the five years to Jan. 1, according to a survey by the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau released Tuesday.

The number of those who entered Japan illegally in the same period also fell, to around an estimated 15,000-23,000 from 30,000, the bureau said. The estimates are based on information given by foreign nationals caught by law-enforcement authorities, it said.

In December 2003, the government came up with a plan to halve the number of people staying illegally in Japan in five years. The latest figures suggest the goal has more or less been achieved.

The number of people overstaying their visas began rising sharply in the 1990s, peaking at around 300,000 in 1993. The number has gradually been declining since.

The Immigration Bureau said it has stepped up its efforts, jointly with police, to crack down on those overstaying their visas — especially since 2004, when the government’s plan was put into effect.

The introduction of a biometric system has helped immigration officials stem the re-entry of those who have been deported, the bureau said. In the year since it was introduced in November 2007, 846 people have been refused entry on the basis of biometric verification.

By nationality, South Koreans topped the list of those staying longer than allowed as of Jan. 1 at around 24,000, followed 18,000 Chinese, 17,000 Filipinos, 6,000 Thais and 5,000 Taiwanese, according to the survey.








(2009年2月17日10時43分 読売新聞)


Full four pages of Feb 17 2009 SPA! article on “Monster Gaikokujin” scanned


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  For your discussion are the full four pages of the SPA! magazine article on how NJ (rendered “monster gaikokujin”, abbreviated to “Monga” to save space) are coming to Japan and doing bad bad things.  Have a read.

A brief synopsis of the article starts (predictably) at Tsukiji, giving the reader a picture of the disruptive behavior of NJ fish-kissers and the like, flitting onwards to onsens (boy, that dead horse never gets tired), then on to “Monga” of monstrous sexual desire, propositioning Maiko as if they were prostitutes (and libidinous Chinese photographing their lap-dancers), drunk black people with video cameras terrifying a chaste Akiba Maid (who wasn’t too shy about posing maidly for the article), Koreans fouling hotel refrigerators with kimchee, etc.  Of course, the nationality or the race is always identified and linked with the behavior (we are, after all, talking about breeds of NJ).

Then you turn the page for more detailed case studies of NJ depravity:  An Australian who assaults a taxi driver (the latter just wants to tell the world that “it’s not only the evil-looking foreigners that are frightening — even the likes of White people who look like they work for world-class companies will do this”).  A Turk who uses his looks and language skills to become a sexual predator.  And a Filipina overstayer who plans to use her feminine wiles to land a life here.  

Two bonus sidebars blame Lonely Planet guidebooks of encouraging NJ “eccentricities” and give you a Binaca Blast of Benjamin Fulford.  Benjamin, safe behind sunglasses, asserts that 1) Caucasians let the natural “effeteness” of the Japanese people go to their head, and that 2) he’s being targeted by the yakuza and how Mossad is involved and… er, dunno what this point is doing here.  Holy cow, the shuukanshi got hijacked for Ben’s personal agenda!  (BTW, not mentioned is how Ben is now a Japanese citizen.  I guess now he feels qualified to pontificate from the other side of the mirror glasses how “Doing as the Romans do” is universal…)

See for yourself.  Here are scans of the pages (click to expand).  Comment from me follows:


QUICK ANALYSIS FROM DEBITO:  This article is far less “brick through the window” than the “GAIJIN HANZAI” magazine a couple of years back.  It acknowledges the need for NJ to be here, and how they’re contributing to the economy (not “laying waste” to Japan as the very cover of GH mag put it).  They even mozaic out the NJ faces.  From the very title, SPA! even mostly avoids the use of the racist word “gaijin” in favor of “gaikokuijn” even as it tries to mint a new epithet.  And it’s trying to get at least some voice of the “foreign community” involved (even if it’s Benjamin Fulford, who can find a conspiracy in a cup of coffee).  It’s an improvement of sorts.

That said, it still tries to sensationalize and decontextualize (where is any real admission that Japanese do these sorts of things too, both domestically and internationally?), and commits, as I keep saying, the unscientific sin of ascribing behavior to nationality, as if nationalities were breeds of dogs with thoroughbred behaviors.  Again, if you’re going to do a story on foreign crime (and it should be crime, not just simple faux pas or possible misunderstandings), talk about the act and the individual actor (yes, by name), and don’t make the action part of a group effort.  Doing so just foments prejudice.  

But I’m sure the editors of SPA! are plenty sophisticated to know that.  They’re just pandering to sell papers.  I’m just glad it’s not worse.  Perhaps after all these years I’m getting jaded.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan Today on Spa! magazine’s expose of “Monster Gaikokujin” (tourists and residents)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  It seems the “NJ blame game” I mentioned earlier this year is still continuing in the Japanese media.  Japan Today reports tabloid magazine Spa! coining a special word to describe “monster gaikokujin” wreaking havoc and laying waste to Japan.  Of course, Japanese tourists are ever so well behaved, and they don’t do things like deface a world heritage site and the like.  And Japanese overseas don’t commit crime.  Never ever.  But imagine the howls of protest in the J media (and the J embassies) should the Italian media decry “mostruoso niapponese“.  Ah well.  More bad social science by media that seems convinced that the Japanese language is some kind of secret code unintelligible to the outside world.  Twits.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


‘Monga’ in our midst

Japan Today, February 11, 2009.  By Magda Lupescu.  Courtesy of SH, MS, and many others.


“They get into jacuzzis at onsens still covered with body soap, punch out taxi drivers and so on. Here we pursue the mode of life of the foreigners who swagger in our faces during Japan’s recession!”

This week’s issue of Spa! (Feb 17) then proceeds with a four-page polemic against foreign tourists and residents titled “Report of Monster Foreigners on the Rampage.”

Spa! employs the word “monga” for this phenomenon, a neologism of created by combining “monsutaa” (monster) and “gaikokujin” (foreigner).

The article’s opening page is topped with a dorsal view of the British tourist who went skinny dipping in the Imperial Palace moat last October, just seconds prior to his arrest. How ironic, the magazine notes, that the same month the gentleman took his swim the Japanese government established a new Tourism Agency under the umbrella of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The first half of Spa’s article is devoted to mutterings over the misadventures of foreign tourists, whose irritating peccadilloes range from utilizing their flashes (which is prohibited) at Tsukiji’s early morning fish auctions to haggling tenaciously over the prices of optional extras in an erotic massage parlor.

One “maid” employed by a shop at Akihabara relates her own tale of woe: While distributing flyers on the street she was pursued by a group of five or six cackling black males, exclaiming “Meido-san! Meido-san!” as they recorded her image with video cameras.

“I was terrified, fled for my life,” she shudders.

A kaiten-zushi shop owner, meanwhile, is convinced the plastic bottles of water from which South Korean patrons sipped while seated at his counter really contained shochu (grain spirits) that they had “ripped off” from somewhere.

An accompanying sidebar titled “What is the source of the increase in foreigners who wander off the beaten track?” complains that foreign-language guidebooks fail to instill proper decorum and frequently guide readers to places that are irrelevant, while downplaying spots that foreign visitors are likely to enjoy—such as the Mitsuo Aida Museum in Yurakucho and Museum of Swords (Token Hakubutsukan) in Yoyogi, Shibuya Ward. (Neither museums’ websites however, provide maps in English and it appears the latter’s has not been updated for about one year.)

The same sidebar also complains bitterly that in its introduction to Yanaka Cemetery in Nippori, the Michelin guide mentions Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Tokugawa Shogun, in the same breath with Oden Takahashi, a notorious murderess who was the last woman to be executed by decapitation — while completely overlooking other famous individuals interred therein.

The second half of the article swivels its guns toward foreigners living in Japan, featuring such “monga” as a satyric Turk who reveled in enticing local women to participate in his Roppongi orgies, and Filipinas who have overstayed their entertainer’s visas by a decade or longer.

Vernacular articles focusing on misbehavior by foreigners have regularly appeared in Sapio, a bimonthly magazine with a strong nationalistic slant published by Shogakukan. But Spa!, until fairly recently at least, has been largely indifferent to foreigners here, preferring to cover behavior by the natives. As such, its entry into the fray came as something of a surprise.

Spa!, known as Shukan Sankei until 1989, is published by Fusosha, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fuji TV. The Audit Bureau of Circulation put its weekly sales at 113,397 copies in the first half of 2008.

NYT on “The Trolls among us” and measures against trollery


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

Hi Blog.  Here’s an excerpt of an excellent (if overlong) article from the NYT about Internet trolls, the world they inhabit, and the logical games they employ.  For many, this will be a rude awakening, for if they tried to deal with trolls like this reasonably (when trolls had no intention of ever being reasonable) or (heaven forbid) empathize with them, this is what they got for their trouble.  For the trolls themselves, it’ll be more like, “WTF, it’s your own fault for ever taking us seriously!  What took you so long to figure us out?”  It’s a good read and will convince people who care overmuch about what other people think to stop doing so if the other person is anonymous or pseudonymous.  It’s about time the earnest people on the Internet took some measures against the intellectual gamers and malicious life wasters.  Article courtesy of  Norik.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  After I indicated recently that malicious comments will not be approved on Debito.org, they have completely dried up.  It works.  All trolls crave is an audience and a reaction.  Don’t give them one.


New York Times August 3, 2008

The Trolls Among Us

Courtesy of Norik.

One afternoon in the spring of 2006, for reasons unknown to those who knew him, Mitchell Henderson, a seventh grader from Rochester, Minn., took a .22-caliber rifle down from a shelf in his parents’ bedroom closet and shot himself in the head. The next morning, Mitchell’s school assembled in the gym to begin mourning. His classmates created a virtual memorial on MySpace and garlanded it with remembrances. One wrote that Mitchell was “an hero to take that shot, to leave us all behind. God do we wish we could take it back. . . . ” Someone e-mailed a clipping of Mitchell’s newspaper obituary to MyDeathSpace.com, a Web site that links to the MySpace pages of the dead. From MyDeathSpace, Mitchell’s page came to the attention of an Internet message board known as /b/ and the “trolls,” as they have come to be called, who dwell there.

/b/ is the designated “random” board of 4chan.org, a group of message boards that draws more than 200 million page views a month. A post consists of an image and a few lines of text. Almost everyone posts as “anonymous.” In effect, this makes /b/ a panopticon in reverse — nobody can see anybody, and everybody can claim to speak from the center. The anonymous denizens of 4chan’s other boards — devoted to travel, fitness and several genres of pornography — refer to the /b/-dwellers as “/b/tards.”

Measured in terms of depravity, insularity and traffic-driven turnover, the culture of /b/ has little precedent. /b/ reads like the inside of a high-school bathroom stall, or an obscene telephone party line, or a blog with no posts and all comments filled with slang that you are too old to understand.

Something about Mitchell Henderson struck the denizens of /b/ as funny. They were especially amused by a reference on his MySpace page to a lostiPod. Mitchell Henderson, /b/ decided, had killed himself over a lost iPod. The “an hero” meme was born. Within hours, the anonymous multitudes were wrapping the tragedy of Mitchell’s death in absurdity.

Someone hacked Henderson’s MySpace page and gave him the face of a zombie. Someone placed an iPod on Henderson’s grave, took a picture and posted it to /b/. Henderson’s face was appended to dancing iPods, spinning iPods, hardcore porn scenes. A dramatic re-enactment of Henderson’s demise appeared on YouTube, complete with shattered iPod. The phone began ringing at Mitchell’s parents’ home. “It sounded like kids,” remembers Mitchell’s father, Mark Henderson, a 44-year-old I.T. executive. “They’d say, ‘Hi, this is Mitchell, I’m at the cemetery.’ ‘Hi, I’ve got Mitchell’s iPod.’ ‘Hi, I’m Mitchell’s ghost, the front door is locked. Can you come down and let me in?’ ” He sighed. “It really got to my wife.” The calls continued for a year and a half.

In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups. The trolls employed what the M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who would rise to the bait. The game was to find out who would see through this stereotypical newbie behavior, and who would fall for it. As one guide to trolldom puts it, “If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”

Today the Internet is much more than esoteric discussion forums. It is a mass medium for defining who we are to ourselves and to others. Teenagers groom their MySpace profiles as intensely as their hair; escapists clock 50-hour weeks in virtual worlds, accumulating gold for their online avatars. Anyone seeking work or love can expect to be Googled. As our emotional investment in the Internet has grown, the stakes for trolling — for provoking strangers online — have risen. Trolling has evolved from ironic solo skit to vicious group hunt.

“Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.

Another troll explained the lulz as a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel: “You look for someone who is full of it, a real blowhard. Then you exploit their insecurities to get an insane amount of drama, laughs and lulz. Rules would be simple: 1. Do whatever it takes to get lulz. 2. Make sure the lulz is widely distributed. This will allow for more lulz to be made. 3. The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.”

/b/ is not all bad. 4chan has tried (with limited success) to police itself, using moderators to purge child porn and eliminate calls to disrupt other sites. Among /b/’s more interesting spawn is Anonymous, a group of masked pranksters who organized protests at Church of Scientology branches around the world.

But the logic of lulz extends far beyond /b/ to the anonymous message boards that seem to be springing up everywhere. Two female Yale Law School students have filed a suit against pseudonymous users who posted violent fantasies about them on AutoAdmit, a college-admissions message board. In China, anonymous nationalists are posting death threats against pro-Tibet activists, along with their names and home addresses. Technology, apparently, does more than harness the wisdom of the crowd. It can intensify its hatred as well.


Why inflict anguish on a helpless stranger? It’s tempting to blame technology, which increases the range of our communications while dehumanizing the recipients. Cases like An Hero and Megan Meier presumably wouldn’t happen if the perpetrators had to deliver their messages in person. But while technology reduces the social barriers that keep us from bedeviling strangers, it does not explain the initial trolling impulse. This seems to spring from something ugly — a destructive human urge that many feel but few act upon, the ambient misanthropy that’s a frequent ingredient of art, politics and, most of all, jokes. There’s a lot of hate out there, and a lot to hate as well.

So far, despite all this discord, the Internet’s system of civil machines has proved more resilient than anyone imagined. As early as 1994, the head of the Internet Society warned that spam “will destroy the network.” The news media continually present the online world as a Wild West infested with villainous hackers, spammers and pedophiles. And yet the Internet is doing very well for a frontier town on the brink of anarchy. Its traffic is expected to quadruple by 2012. To say that trolls pose a threat to the Internet at this point is like saying that crows pose a threat to farming.

That the Internet is now capacious enough to host an entire subculture of users who enjoy undermining its founding values is yet another symptom of its phenomenal success. It may not be a bad thing that the least-mature users have built remote ghettos of anonymity where the malice is usually intramural. But how do we deal with cases like An Hero, epilepsy hacks and the possibility of real harm being inflicted on strangers?

Several state legislators have recently proposed cyberbullying measures. At the federal level, Representative Linda Sánchez, a Democrat from California, has introduced the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, which would make it a federal crime to send any communications with intent to cause “substantial emotional distress.” In June, Lori Drew pleaded not guilty to charges that she violated federal fraud laws by creating a false identity “to torment, harass, humiliate and embarrass” another user, and by violating MySpace’s terms of service. But hardly anyone bothers to read terms of service, and millions create false identities. “While Drew’s conduct is immoral, it is a very big stretch to call it illegal,” wrote the online-privacy expert Prof. Daniel J. Solove on the blog Concurring Opinions.

Many trolling practices, like prank-calling the Hendersons and intimidating Kathy Sierra, violate existing laws against harassment and threats. The difficulty is tracking down the perpetrators. In order to prosecute, investigators must subpoena sites and Internet service providers to learn the original author’s IP address, and from there, his legal identity. Local police departments generally don’t have the means to follow this digital trail, and federal investigators have their hands full with spam, terrorism, fraud and child pornography. But even if we had the resources to aggressively prosecute trolls, would we want to? Are we ready for an Internet where law enforcement keeps watch over every vituperative blog and backbiting comments section, ready to spring at the first hint of violence? Probably not. All vigorous debates shade into trolling at the perimeter; it is next to impossible to excise the trolling without snuffing out the debate.

CONTINUES AT http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html?_r=3&hp&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

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


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

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

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


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

(used with permission of The Australian Magazine)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



Tsukiji Fish Market reopens, the NJ blame game continues


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Good news in that Tsukiji Fish Market, closed due to “unmannerly foreigners” (according to the Japanese-language press), has reopened to the public with more security (good), with intentions to move to a location more accessible to visitors (good again, in retrospect).  The bad news is that the J-media (even NHK) has been playing a monthlong game of “find the unmannerly foreigner” (even when Japanese can be just as unmannerly) and thus portray manners as a function of nationality.  It’s a soft target:  NJ can’t fight back very well in the J-media, and even Stockholm-Syndromed self-hating bigoted NJ will bash foreigners under the flimsiest pretenses, putting it down to a matter of culture if not ill-will.  Bunkum and bad science abounds.  Japan Times article and a word from cyberspace follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009


Tsukiji reopens tuna auctions to the public

By MARIKO KATO, Staff writer, Courtesy of AW


The Tsukiji fish market, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions, reopened its early morning tuna auctions to the public Monday after a monthlong ban.  

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which runs the gigantic wholesale market in Chuo Ward, temporarily banned onlookers, 90 percent of whom are foreign tourists, from the tuna trading floor Dec. 15, citing visitors’ bad behavior among other reasons. The ban ended Saturday, and the first auctions took place Monday.


“We decided to reopen because we had said we would only close for a month,” said Yoshiaki Takagi, deputy head of the venue, officially called the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market.

Even after the ban was imposed, a few dozen people a day continued to show up in hopes of catching a glimpse of the bidding, Takagi said. Before the temporary closure, as many as 500 people would watch the auctions.

“We were so lucky that we were able to see the auctions today,” said Danish visitor Rikke Grundtvig, who was one of a group of international MBA students on a study visit from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership at Steinbeis University Berlin.

“We have many nationalities in our group, South African, Brazilian, American, and we all wanted to see the fish this morning before we started studying,” she said.

The central observation area, which measures about 30 sq. meters and has room for about 60 people, opened at 5 a.m. with the auctions starting at 5:30 a.m.

Security guards were deployed on the auction floor and handbills in five languages outlining acceptable behavior were distributed to observers.

According to Takagi, media reports that cited visitors’ poor behavior as the main reason for the tentative ban were not entirely accurate.

“We closed mainly because around the New Year’s period the auctions get very busy. More trucks pass through the market and it gets dangerous,” he said, adding it is difficult for the auctioneers to walk around the observation area.

But Takagi acknowledged that onlookers were causing a hygiene risk and disruptions.

“Some tried to touch the fish and used flash photography, which made it difficult for the auctioneers to see the buyers, who signal by hand,” he said.

Last April the market established rules urging visitors to voluntarily “refrain from coming.” But, Takagi said, “these measures weren’t very effective.”

“It’s shocking that tourists would try to touch the fish. If I were running the market I would have shut it down, too,” said a visitor from Los Angeles who identified himself only as David. “But it would have been a real shame if the auctions had been closed today, as it’s been the highlight of my Japan trip so far.”

Tsukiji market did not set out to be a tourist attraction, Takagi said. “It’s first and foremost a place of work,” he said, though adding he wants tourists to watch because “it reflects Japanese food culture”.

The metro government announced Thursday that Tsukiji market will move to a new location in Koto Ward in 2014. The next venue will be more welcoming to visitors, Takagi said.


From:   Paul
Subject: Problem with ill-behaved NJ campaign, in Kyoto and elsewhere
Date: January 20, 2009
To:  debito@debito.org
Dear Dave,
Last night I saw a feature story during the NHK evening news about ” マナーの悪い外国人”, an aspect of which (not to mention the title) I found quite disturbing.  I had seen an article a few days earlier in the Japan Times discussing the problem of foreign visitors to Kyoto basically acting like paparazzi and chasing down maikos to get a pictures of them, so this may just be a topic of the day.  The NHK segment was more encompassing, however, and showed in addition, scenes of foreigners reaching down while smoking, posing like they were going to lift up one of the tuna in the Tsukiji market, and another decrying poor manners of NJ in bathhouses.  A lot of the scenes of these crass behaviors were admittedly that, evidence of bad manners, and it was troubling to watch.
The one about the bathhouse, however, I found a bit odd. It showed an NJ in the bath with a minor amount of sweat on his brow, which he wiped off with his shibori, accompanied by the announcer’s comment of astonishment, “Ase o fuite. Furo no naka ni?!!”  I can’t really grasp why that’s a bad behavior.  After all, I’ve seen countless Japanese in baths with their shibori over their heads, or nearby, which they use from time to time to wipe themselves off with while bathing.  If one develops sweat on the brow while in the bath, there’s not really much to be done about it, as it will drip down into the bath anyway unless you get out.  Wiping it away, even if the towel then dips down into the water, really has no affect on accumulation of sweat in the bathwater.
I’m not really sure if this makes an appropriate post for your site, but I wondered if you had some knowledge of whether wiping parts of one’s body (in particular the face) with a bath towel while in the bath can even be considered a bad practice.  People often have no control over when and where they sweat.  The segment seemed to be picking on one poor guy, who’s behavior was otherwise unremarkable, simply because he was sweating at the brow a little bit.  It seems like an intentional dig, with visual cues, tailored to make Japanese think, “Oh my God, just look at how unhygienic these sweaty NJ are.  How can we allow them in our baths?”
This may well have been the show in question: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/hensei/program/k/20090119/001/21-2100.html
(観光立国日本・外国人のマナー 各地の悩み)

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


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

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

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

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

Still tracing his arc to irrelevancy, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Sankei: manual to help NJ “illegal overstays” evade police: 「不法滞在者向け職質逃れマニュアル出回る」


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Mark in Yayoi sends me his translation of an article (entitled below via Google Search as 「不法滞在者向け職質逃れマニュアル出回る」) regarding some mail-in manual regarding “illegal overstaying” NJ evading police inquisition. I include his report in full below and the original Japanese article at the very bottom.

MY QUICK COMMENT: This kind of guidebook is inevitable. We already have manuals for all manner of screwing over other people (most notably in my researches I found manuals for exploiting the very nasty divorce system in Japan so that ex-wives can squeeze the most money out of their ex-husbands).  Not much mention, however, about how the police have created the market for this manual thanks to their Instant Police ID Checkpoints and self-indulgent Bicycle Checks.

It’s also annoying that the Sankei has this persistent habit of whipping up fear of NJ (such as exaggerating crime statistics on their front pages; the Sankei exclusively publishes Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s inflammatory “Nihon Yo” column, after all, which had two segments talking about “ethnic DNA” and the Chinese propensity to commit crime) and taking unprofessional and cheap ethnic shots at them as well. They are, after all, in my view farther-right than even the Yomiuri in terms of daily papers, so that’s par for the course.  It’s sad, however, that this newspaper is encouraging police to view even “polite” NJ as suspicious. Can’t win, can we?

Thanks for the translation, Mark. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


From: Mark in Yayoi. Subject: Sankei article, 1/13, “Fuhou Taizaisha ni ‘Yami no Shinan’ (A ‘Secret Orientation’ for Illegal Aliens)” Date: January 14, 2009 11:33:19 PM JST To: debito@debito.org

Finished the translation! I added the original Japanese in brackets wherever I thought it might be useful.

Interestingly, the word “gaikokujin” isn’t used at all (except in one imagining of a police officer’s thoughts). The illegal aliens are called “fuhou taizaisha”. Feel free to change this to “illegal overstayers” if you like; I wasn’t sure which to use, since someone who came to Japan with no visa at all isn’t actually ‘over’-staying; but then on the other hand, ‘fuhou taizaisha’ doesn’t actually specifically state the the “stayer” is foreign.

I also like how they call the streetside police interrogations “voluntary”; we all know what happens when you express a disinclination to talk with a police officer!


“Carry a bag, don’t stint on hairstyling, and report your alien card as ‘lost’!”

— A Secret Orientation for Illegal Aliens —

[the word for ‘secret orientation’ is ‘yami no shinan’, where ‘shinan’ is an old Chinese device that would show people which direction was south. Ninety degrees away from the eastern direction to which English speakers “orient” themselves.]

SANKEI SHINBUN January 13, 2009. Original Japanese at very bottom

Translation by Mark in Yayoi

“We’ll teach you how to get away when the police stop you on the street!”

This is the catch copy for a manual that is now circulating, instructing illegal aliens on how to escape from police questioning. Supposedly it was sold through newspapers and free magazines aimed at Chinese and Koreans in Japan. Organized Crime Bureau No. 1 of the National Police Agency has obtained this manual, and is sending warnings to each police station. The police are strengthening their vigilance as these newspapers, carrying illegal advertisements, are becoming breeding grounds for crime [hanzai no onshou].

—– [Sidebar text:] Police questioning: Voluntary questioning [nin’i no shitsumon] carried out by police officers, calling out to and stopping people who have the possibility of being connected with a crime. In many cases, this leads to sudden arrests of suspects, and early resolutions and deterrence of crime. [Response is] not mandatory [kyouseiryoku wa naku], and [the person being questioned] can maintain silence. —–

* Making use of psychology

The manual obtained by the bureau is entitled “Techniques to Preserve Your Safety: Keep Yourself Safe!” [“jibun no anzen o mamoru technique: jibun no anzen wa jibun de mamorou!”]. Buyers send e-mail to an address listed in the newspaper advertisement and transfer Y3800 to a specific bank account, and the manual is e-mailed back.

The return e-mail advertised “methods derived from loopholes in the law [hou no fubi no sukima] and human psychology”.

“It’s important to always carry a bag. If you’re going to play the part of a salaryman, play it completely. Have you ever seen a Japanese salaryman without a bag?”

“Next is your hairstyle. Japanese salons are expensive, but this is an investment in yourself. You should spend the money and not skimp.”

The manual begins with one’s outward appearance, and continues on to how to escape when a police officer asks to ‘see your Alien Registration Card’.

“Go to the police box in an area you pass through frequently and file a ‘lost item report’ [funshitsu todoke], saying, ‘I lost my entire wallet. I’ve also filed a report at that [other] police box.’ This will make it look not like you have no visa, but that you’ve merely lost [your papers].”

“Here is another interesting technique. File a ‘lost item report’ at all the police boxes in the area. Then, on the same day, go to one of them and get the report erased, saying that ‘the person who found my wallet got in touch with me’. In the evening, when you pass that police box, greet them [aisatsu] yourself and say ‘my wallet has been returned’. By saying hello to them three times a day, they’ll think of you as one of the area’s ‘polite foreigners [reigi tadashii gaikokujin da na]’, and you’ll be able to walk by without fear.”

The Bureau has circulated an internal memo to police stations warning that illegal aliens are using these methods to escape detection, and have advised the police to take care in questioning people [shokumu shitsumon jou no chuui o yobikaketa]. There is no applicable law, however, making sale of this manual a crime.


That’s the end of the part about overstayers/illegal aliens. The article then goes on to discuss an advertisement for non-approved drugs appearing in one of these papers, with the drugs being sold without permission, and how two Chinese people (one man and one woman) were arrested. Managers at this and six other papers were later questioned, and saying that they didn’t know that this was against the law. The papers were forced to write letters of apology. A spokesman for the bureau then goes on to say that ‘there must be other no-good advertisements [akushitsu na koukoku] in these papers’, and that he would like to proactively [sekkyokuteki ni] find the illegal cases.

I don’t normally read the Sankei and just stumbled upon this one coincidentally. Does this paper have a consistent position on the police, their approaches to foreigners, or on foreigners in general?

[Answer: Yes it does, See my comment preceding this article.]

Mark in Yayoi


Original Japanese:

産經新聞 2009.1.13 01:01





Japan Times Zeit Gist followup on Dec’s Otaru Onsen lawsuit analysis


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Last month the Japan Times put a cat amongst the pigeons last December with a Zeit Gist column about the Otaru Onsens Case, decrying the court ruling against racial discrimination as something undermining Japanese society.

It caused quite a stir, according to my editor, with most of the comments coming in critical of the thesis.  Some of the responses were worth a reprint as a follow-up column, and that came out last Tuesday.  Have a read.  And yes, I briefly responded too (although only on this site as a comment), which I paste at the very bottom below.  Love the illustration, as always.  Arudou Debito

News photo

Otaru ruling beats ‘mob rule’
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009
Dan O’Keeffe defends court’s 2002 decision in ‘onsen’ case

Paul de Vries’ treatise on group accountability in Japanese society (“Back to the baths: Otaru revisited,” Zeit Gist, Dec. 2) offered a new take on the now familiar story of the court case between Japan’s naturalized enfant terrible, Debito Arudou, and the managers of the Yunohana public bath in Otaru, Hokkaido. De Vries presented a “thin edge of the wedge” argument for the ultimate unraveling of Japanese society if certain groups are no longer allowed to practice overt discrimination in the name of making Japan “cohesive and safe.”

However, by using the crutch of group discrimination to prop up the old utilitarian bulwark that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, De Vries simply makes the case that the prejudices of the majority outweigh the rights of the minority. Call it “group accountability,” call it “might means right,” call it “mob rule” — whichever way you spin it, it is simply a form of institutionalized bullying that limits Japan’s ability to create a dynamic, enlightened society for the 21st century.

De Vries’ primary objection to the Arudou judgment is that “the case was fought and won on the issue of racial discrimination when the policy being employed by the Yunohana onsen could more accurately be described as the racial application of ‘group accountability.’ “

“Racial application of group accountability” sounds so much nicer than boring old “racial discrimination,” doesn’t it? The question is whether there really is any difference between the two. Sadly, De Vries offers no logical reasons why we should see his preferred version of these two (identical) concepts as being anything other than a new name for the same old discredited idea. To deny access to public facilities to an innocent individual because of the color of their skin is simply wrong, regardless of who is doing it or what their motives are.

The judge in the Arudou case rightly recognized that the managers of the bath were using race as their sole means of determining who would be able to access their facility. That Arudou, a Japanese citizen, was denied entry shows that the management of the facility was not interested in denying entry to non-Japanese per se, they were in fact trying to exclude people on the basis of how they look. To find for the defendant, the judge in this case would have had to be convinced that it is acceptable to deny access to a public facility to an individual not based on the way he or she behaves, their capacity to pay, or even their nationality, but solely on the way they look.

Leaving aside the morally reprehensible aspects of this idea, there is also the farcical notion of who gets to decide just what constitutes “Japanese-looking.” Black hair and brown eyes are in plentiful supply in many parts of the world, as are epicanthic folds (where a fold of the upper eyelid covers the inner corner of the eye). In the popular mind, Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi looked “Japanese enough” to play Sayuri in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” but would she be Japanese enough to make it past the sentries at Yunohana onsen? How about Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh? How about Mickey Rooney dressed as Mr. Yunioshi from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”?

Clearly, there is no objective basis for deciding who looks Japanese, just as there is no basis for using racial features as a pretext for a denial of rights. How one looks doesn’t determine how one will behave. The management at Yunohana onsen was using a ridiculous standard to tackle their problem and the judgment against them reflected that.

De Vries tells us that individuals should be prepared to sacrifice certain freedoms in the name of social cohesion. It all sounds very nice and honorable and somewhat in the vein of great social thinkers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, but only superficially. Where Rousseau saw individual submission to a “general will” as an essential part of the social contract in a civil society, he also saw the need for individual liberty to be enshrined in the fabric of a community. In his 1762 “Of The Social Contract,” Rousseau wrote that the group must “receive each individual as an indivisible part of the whole.”

Under De Vries’ model, individuals are forced to offer the same submission to the will of the dominant, but they must do so without the protections and privileges of individual rights and freedoms. Irrespective of cultural differences, group accountability has largely been rejected in the West because it is intellectually lazy and it doesn’t work. Just because it’s common here doesn’t make it right.

De Vries tells us that we needn’t worry when Japanese apply such group accountability, even on a blatantly racial basis, because they do so with a benevolently “even hand.” Despite the scant comfort this brings to those on the receiving end, even this turns out to be little more than wishful thinking.

De Vries wonders at the lack of comment from the foreign community regarding the introduction of women-only carriages on commuter trains since 2002. He cites a lack of outcry as evidence that men understand that such a case of group accountability is reasonable. What De Vries has failed to take into account is that women-only carriages do not prevent anyone from accessing a public utility: Men simply redistribute themselves among the remaining carriages, an act which would not be considered a sanction or punishment by any reasonable person. De Vries draws a long bow in arguing that this is an example of group accountability when no one is punished. Presumably one could use the same confused logic to rail against women’s toilets, single-sex schools and the WNBA. Moreover, moving the potential victims rather than actually tackling the problem of molestation hardly holds anyone to account, group or otherwise.

Tellingly, De Vries was silent on the matter of how it came to be that there are so many “chikan” (gropers) on Japanese trains, especially since he goes to great lengths to tell us that “the fear of random violence is relatively low” in Japan.

De Vries again fires wide of the mark with his reference to the mandatory fingerprinting and photographing of foreign nationals upon entry to Japan. Given that the actions of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese Red Army and various politically motivated assassins have shown that any terrorist threat against Japan is far more likely to be a homegrown one, can the targeting of foreign nationals for fingerprinting really be legitimized by the concept of group accountability? Further, where is the group accountability of Japanese themselves in these cases?

It is clear that De Vries thinks it perfectly rational for Japanese authorities to lump all non-Japanese, be they Chinese or Chilean, American or Armenian, Irish or Amish, into one enormous clade and treat them as equally prone to criminality and violence, as opposed to peaceful, law-abiding Japanese. This is patently absurd, as if all Japan’s troublemakers come from elsewhere.

As with the Yunohana onsen case, simply banning or punishing a whole group of people on racial grounds fails to target only those who break the rules (drunken bathers, terrorists) but succeeds in impinging on the rights of a large number of innocent people. If you want to prevent drunken people from ruining your onsen, then deny entry to people who are intoxicated — a simple breathalyzer test will suffice. Similarly, if you want to catch criminals entering the country via an airport, fingerprint everyone arriving: You’ll catch a lot more criminals that way and no one will be discriminated against.

The reality is, however, that the Japanese government would not insist on fingerprinting all arriving passengers regardless of nationality because of the uproar it would cause among Japanese people — Japanese people who can vote. This is the crux of the argument against group accountability: It allows the powerful to dictate to the weak. By singling out foreigners for fingerprinting, the authorities were imposing a regulation on a section of the community that had no means of voicing its displeasure other than the various petitions and forums that De Vries found so “unbelievable.”

As De Vries also points out, group accountability circumvents the rule of law. This encourages mob rule and bullying. In Japan, this manifests itself in ways ranging from the violent hazing of military personnel and the trauma of “park debut” for young mothers, to “karoshi” (death through overwork). Group accountability isolates, divides and discriminates. None of this helps Japan progress and develop as a cohesive society.

The history of human societies is a litany of division and stratification, be it on ethnic, caste, religious or economic lines. Time and again, the one thing that has brought about positive change and integration has been a respect for individual rights and a rejection of group accountability. It is the lesson of Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King.

By protecting individual rights and demanding corresponding individual responsibilities, societies offer each and every member the chance to live their lives productively and with dignity. If De Vries’ forthcoming book discusses what Japan can teach the world, the lesson may well be how not to do it.

Dan O’Keeffe is a faculty member at Osaka Electro-Communication University. Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

Back to the baths: readers responses

Following are a couple of responses to “Back to the baths: Otaru revisited” (Zeit Gist, Dec. 2).

Substitution speaks volumes

I often think it is useful to substitute alternative racial groups when someone writes something, to see whether it is a racist statement or not. Here we go for the final paragraph of Mr. De Vries’ article:

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

Some people may complain about my use of the example of Jews in Nazi Germany, but would the story be significantly improved if we used another group, another injustice? How about African-Americans in pre-civil rights movement America, or blacks in South Africa under apartheid, or Aborigines in Australia, or something even simpler and closer to home, like the continuing struggle for equal rights for women in almost every country in the world?

One wonders just what Mr. De Vries is afraid of from his fellow man. I am not afraid. Arudou-san is apparently not afraid. No, Mr De Vries is simply using an imaginary perceived threat to justify the subjugation of the rights of one group by another.

Not all discrimination is wrong. We all discriminate for and against people for a variety of reasons — we can’t help it; it’s built into our brains. We instinctively make patterns linking people to events, both positive and negative, even when those associations are false. However, that doesn’t make it right to allow or promote legal discrimination on the basis of something so arbitrary as race or sex. It is important to remember what laws are there for — to protect the weak from the strong, the minorities from the majorities, and even occasionally the majorities from themselves.

Louis J. Irving


Article made me rethink ideas

What a great article! I have been giving some thought to Westerners’ reaction to what I now know — thanks to you — as “group accountability.” I’ve tried to take sides — for or against the Japanese government — but I hadn’t been able to come to a clear conclusion.

Sure, the Japanese demonstrate a certain amount of xenophobia, but if I take a second to look at my nation of origin (Quebec, Canada), we are quite the same in our own way. Immigrants in Canada are supposedly widely accepted, but they’re still labeled as “immigrants” anyway, and I had to come and live here to realize that.

One perennial hot topic is Japan’s past “war efforts.” It took me six years to start reconsidering some firm opinions that I held (the horrors committed were very “Japanese”; their arrogance was unique to them; their occupation of other countries and the use of forced labor in factories and brothels are unforgivable, etc.), but then I realize that my very own country did just as bad in its own time, and so did our neighbors.

Your article clarified many things for me. I look forward to reading your book.

Pierre Nadeau 
Shimizu, Wakayama Pref.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009


Debito here. How I responded to the De Vries article some weeks ago:

Hi Blog. Sorry to keep you waiting. A few opinions in addition to yours (thanks to everyone for commenting on Debito.org):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


AP/Guardian on Japan’s steepest population fall yet, excludes NJ from tally


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s a bit of a sloppy article from the AP that the Guardian republished unusually without much of a fact-checking (don’t understand the relevance of the throwaway sentence at the end about J fathers and paternity, or of homebound mothers). Worse yet, it seems the AP has just accepted the GOJ’s assessment of “population” as “births minus deaths” without analysis. Meaning the population is just denoted as Japanese citizens (unless you include of course babies born to NJ-NJ couples, but they don’t get juuminhyou anyway and aren’t included in local govt. tallies of population either). Er, how about including net inflows of NJ from overseas (which have been positive for more than four decades)? Or of naturalized citizens, which the Yomiuri reported some months ago contributed to an actual rise in population?  Sloppy, unreflective, and inaccurate assessments of the taxpayer base. Arudou Debito
Japan sees biggest population fall

Japan‘s population had its sharpest decline ever last year as deaths outnumbered births, posing an escalating economic threat to growth prospects amid a global recession.

With low birthrates and long lifespans, Japan’s shrinking population is ageing more quickly than any other economic power.

Health ministry records estimated the population fell by 51,000 in 2008. The number of deaths hit a record of 1.14 million … the highest since the government began compiling the data in 1947, and the number of births totalled 1.09 million.

Japan’s births outnumbered deaths until 2005, when the trend was reversed. About one-fifth of Japan’s 126 million people are now aged 65 or over.

Japanese increasingly marry at a later age, and working women wait to have children. The survey showed the number of births last year increased by just 0.02% from a year earlier.

The ministry forecast that Japan’s fertility rate – the average number of children born to a woman aged between 15 and 49 – would rise slightly to 1.36 in 2008 from 1.34 in 2007. Exact figures for 2008 were unavailable. The country’s fertility rate is far lower than that of the US, 2.10, and France, 1.98.

In recent years, the government has tried to encourage women to have more babies. But it is rare for fathers to take paternity in Japan, where traditional values tend to keep mothers at home.

Pet peeve: How media casting choices based upon ethnicity contribute to cultural ignorance.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I thought I’d write today about one of my pet peeves: people substituting ethnicity for skills, and adding to the general public’s ignorance about Japan.

What pulled my chain this time: I watched an hourlong Discovery Channel program early last Sunday morning at midnight (a show called “Japan Revealed” in a series entitled “Discovery Atlas”), and on it they had a show full of stereotypes. From where I started watching, we went for a dive amongst some underwater ruins off Yonaguni Island which are purportedly older than the Egyptian Pyramids. Then suddenly we were jerked across the archipelago to attend a series about robots fighting (along with some hooey about how Japanese religion sees souls in everything, therefore Japanese like robots more). Then next we veered into a segment about Ama pearl divers and their dying tradition, and then careened into a bit about some fisherman trying to catch his once-or-twice-a-year big tuna “by tradition” (including “traditional” radar fish tracking, of course; with little time devoted to the majority of thousands of tuna actually brought to Tsukiji by “less traditional methods” — like imports). Then we coasted into a tattoo artist’s parlor for a lowdown on how radical one master artist has become by defying tradition — mixing seasons on his Yakuza body canvasses. At this point, I said, “What’s next? Geisha?” Yup. We skimmed a few stones over a fan dance, and then concluded how Japan’s special appreciation for nature and tradition and modernity makes it a special place (oh, brother).

I wish they’d just stuck with the underwater ruins off Yonaguni (which the show claimed could “rewrite world history”), and stopped retreading the same old hackneyed (and, crucially, unrevealing) images about Japan.

But what really got me revved up were the production values. Every time they had somebody talking in Japanese, the English voiceover came across as Hollywoodesque Ah-so-istic (think Mr Moto, Mr Miyagi, Grasshopper, or a few notches below Tokyo Rose in skill level). Moreover, who was the narrator? Masi Oka, one star of TV show “Heroes“, who showed his inability to speak Japanese reflecting even a rudimentary knowledge of Japan (saying words like “YaKUUza” and “Two-ki-ji”). He was hired not only for star power, but also ethnicity. Only Asians can talk about Asia, I guess.

You might be able to justify this kind of casting for comedy or satire, I suppose. Hire a token Asian and you can get away with poking more fun at Asia. But there are limits. People like Gedde Watanabe and Sab Shimono narrated the famous Simpsons’ “Mr Sparkle” episode (where Hokkaido soap factories, natch, were prominently featured 😉 ). Fine. But their Japanese was terrible, and I mean lousy (not even “Kitchen-Japanese” level). At least King of the Hill hired native speaker Matsuda Seiko (albeit to say one word: “Dansu!”) for their controversial (and, I have to admit, very funny) “Returning Japanese” Tokyo Trip episode. And even taboo-humor South Park shows a lot of moxie (and surprising depth: obviously they were coached both in terms of content and vocals by a native, I think Trey Parker’s boyfriend) in their episodes about video games and the marketing of Pokemon (“chinpoko-mon“: Love it).

But the Discovery Channel should be held to higher standards, especially if they’re doing a documentary to help people somehow “discover” a country in an hour. Instead, the program rankled, as though I was watching a condensed version of equally-irritating “Karate Kid” (indicatively retitled “Besuto Kiddo” for the Japanese market), or, put in a different light, (British) Robin Hood being played by (a very American) Kevin Costner (which caused no end of consternation in the UK). Let’s at least have less poetic license in nonfiction, please.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll give one more inside reason why this irks me: In 1991, as I was about to graduate from grad school, I did a lot of job interviews for American companies (particularly the kitchen-sink importers around San Diego, since at the time that was where I wanted to stay, not work in Los Angeles, Chicago, or the East Coast). Since I was trained in doing business in Japan, and spoke Japanese, I was hopeful that I would be on an equal footing with other job candidates. However, the Nikkei Americans in my classes, some of whom spoke no better (or, in some cases, worse) Japanese than I did, were making the case in their interviews and cover letters that their Asian roots were an asset. “Asians don’t like negotiating with foreign faces. Wouldn’t you prefer to hire a person with the right face for the job?” wrote one in paraphrase. The (non-Asian) employers bought into it. And I lost out to the Nikkei. So for the record: Japan has no monopoly on racism; it’s just a shame that the Americans couldn’t see beyond theirs when their “culturally-relativistic” weak spots got manipulated thusly.

I wound up coming back to Japan and getting much better employment in the end, so all’s well in retrospect. But I still dislike seeing casters with high public exposure choosing people not according to skill or knowledge level, instead rather whether or not they “look Asian”. Ethnicity should not be seen as a skill, or viewed as some kind of ideological conveyer belt into “The Ethnic Mind”. It’s not. Especially when those people haven’t even bothered to learn “The Ethnic Language”. That’s a personality quirk I have which comes out every now and again, when I see just how much this dynamic contributes to further stereotyping and ignorance towards Japan, videlicet this deeply-flawed Discovery Channel documentary.

Let’s have better-informed commentary about cultural issues, shall we, by choosing properly-qualified people? End of rant. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS: “Japan Revealed”‘s official website at http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/atlas/japan/japan.html

Letters to the Japan Times regarding Otaru Onsens Case article


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

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


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

Accountability must be narrowed


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

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

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

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



A notion dangerous at the core

San Diego, Calif.

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

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

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



Arguments aren’t good enough


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Kyodo: MOJ announces it snagged 846 NJ since reinstituting fingerprinting


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

Hi Blog. One thing I’ll give the GOJ: They’re predictable when under pressure. After one year of fingerprinting NJ at the border in the name of anti-terrorism and anti-crime, the MOJ decided to announce the number of NJ they netted, no doubt to claim that all the effort and money was somehow worth it. Problem is, as Sendaiben pointed out when submitting this link, that there is no comparison with how many people get snagged on an annual basis even BEFORE fingerprinting was reinstituted.  

To me that’s another predictability:  you just know if the information was in the GOJ’s favor, they would have released it as well.  But this glaring omission I bet means there’s not much statistical difference.  Besides, the GOJ similarly congratulated themselves last year when announced their catch the first day after fingerprinting was instituted, even though the fine print revealed those NJ were snagged for funny passports, not fingerprints.  And we’ll throw in data about visa overstayers (even though that’s unrelated to the fingerprinting, since fingerprinting is a border activity, and overstaying is something that happens after you cross the border) just because the media will swallow it and help the public make a mental association.

Likewise, there is no ultracentrifuging of the data below to see how many were done for passports or fingerprints again.  And of course, predictably, the J media is not asking analytical questions of their own.  The closest we get is the admission that the GOJ is collecting these fingerprints to submit to other governments.  Which is probably the real intention of this, Japan’s “contribution to the war on terror”.  

What a crock.  Arudou Debito in Morioka

846 refused entry into Japan under revised immigration rule


TOKYO, Nov. 28 2008 (AP) – (Kyodo)—A total of 846 foreign nationals have been refused entry to Japan since the country began fingerprinting and photographing foreign nationals at airports and seaports nationwide in November last year, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

Most of the refusals were due to arriving passengers’ fingerprints matching those of people deported in the past while, in several cases, they matched those of wanted people, according to the ministry’s Immigration Bureau.

Of the total refused entry, 297 were South Korean, 155 Filipinos and 90 Chinese.

Some carried other people’s passports.

Under a revised immigration law enforced in November 2007 as part of an antiterrorism measure, foreign nationals aged over 16 are required to be fingerprinted and photographed.

The scanned fingerprints and other biometric data of those entering Japan are stored in a computer. Japanese investigative authorities can access the information and share it with foreign immigration authorities and governments.

It is believed the new rule not only blocks the reentry of deportees at airports and seaports but also discourages such attempts at reentry, ministry officials said.

The number of foreign nationals overstaying visas in Japan came to some 7,500 in the year that ended in October, down 35 percent year on year, according to the ministry.


Yahoo News: 政府の世論調査: 外国人客増、5割強が「不安」GOJ survey: More than 50% fear NJ tourist influx


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

Morning blog.  We have an interesting little quickie article here in Japanese, describing how 53% of respondents to a government survey “are worried about public safety, and want some policy measures taken” with the proposed increase of NJ tourism.  Nice of the GOJ to anticipate public fear and public need for security measures against NJ.  Some more leading questions, please?  Hey, the NJ are fair game in GOJ surveys, it seems.  See what I mean here, here, and here.  Debito

11月23日2時52分配信 時事通信
Courtesy of Getchan and Dave Spector



Negative survey of NJ employers by J headhunting company “Careercross” to make “employers see their own bias”


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

Turning the keyboard over to member of The Community, about an issue recently uncovered:


Date: November 6, 2008 12:35:18 AM JST
From BCD at The Community


Below is a survey I just saw on Careercross.com, which, if you don’t know it, is a job placement site.

CareerCross provides information on bilingual employment in Japan for bilingual Japanese and English speakers, plus an invaluable resource for non-Japanese Living and Working in Japan.

Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive or something, but something about these questions, targeted at foreign employers of Japanese seems wrong.

I can only imagine that if a similar survey were asked in any other country, where any racial group as asked to rate and compare another racial group, it would cause a hell of a fuss. Pick any two racial groups… the kinds of questions asked here seem to be in really poor judgment.

What do you guys think? Is there an unsavoury form of cultural insensitivity being displayed here or am I seeing something that isn’t there?

The questions are as follows:

1. How comfortable are you working with Japanese subordinates?
Somewhat comfortable
Neither comfortable, nor uncomfortable
Somewhat uncomfortable

* This question requires an answer.

* 2. Can you rely on Japanese subordinates?
I can rely on them
I can rely on them somewhat
I can not rely on them so much
I can not rely on them

* This question requires an answer.

* 3. Do you have occasions where you are not able to understand what
Japanese subordinates really think?

* This question requires an answer.

* 4. Please compare Japanese subordinates with those of your
nationality. Please choose 1 answer from each of the following questions.
* 4a. Work Speed
Somewhat faster
Neither faster, nor slower
Somewhat slower

* This question requires an answer.

* 4b. Quality of work
More careful
Somewhat more careful
Neither more careful, nor more careless
Somewhat more careless
More careless

* This question requires an answer.

* 4c. Creativity
More creative
Somewhat more creative
Neither more, nor less creative
Somewhat less creative
Less creative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4d. Logicality
Somewhat logical
Neither more, nor less logical
Somewhat less logical
Less logical

* This question requires an answer.

* 4e. Risk taking
Accepts challenges
Somewhat accepts challenges
Neither accepts, nor avoids challenges
Somewhat avoids challenges
Avoids challenges

* This question requires an answer.

* 4f. Attitude in discussions
Unafraid of conflict
Somewhat unafraid of conflict
Neither unafraid, nor afraid of conflict
Somewhat afraid of conflict
Afraid of conflict

* This question requires an answer.

* 4g. Negotiation skills
Better at negotiating
Somewhat better at negotiating
Neither better, nor worse at negotiating
Somewhat worse at negotiating
Worse at negotiating

* This question requires an answer.

* 4h. Problem solving skills
Better at problem solving
Somewhat better at problem solving
Neither better, nor worse at problem solving
Somewhat worse at problem solving
Worse at problem solving

* This question requires an answer.

* 4i. Leadership skills
More willing to take leadership
Somewhat more willing to take leadership
Neither more, nor less willing to take leadership
Somewhat less willing to take leadership
Less willing to take leadership

* This question requires an answer.

* 4j. Effectiveness
More effective
Somewhat more effective
Neither more, nor less effective
Somewhat less effective
Less effective

* This question requires an answer.

* 4k. Cooperativeness
More cooperative
Somewhat more cooperative
Neither more, nor less cooperative
Somewhat less cooperative
Less cooperative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4l. Adapts to change
More flexible
Somewhat more flexible
Neither more, nor less flexible
Somewhat less flexible
Less flexible

* This question requires an answer.

* 4m. Assertiveness
More assertive
Somewhat more assertive
Neither more, nor less assertive
Somewhat less assertive
Less assertive

* This question requires an answer.

* 4n. Communication skills
Better communication skills
Somewhat better communication skills
Neither better, nor worse communication skills
Somewhat worse communication skills
Worse communication skills

* This question requires an answer.

* 5. What do you find difficult in working with Japanese subordinates?
Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples please
write them below.
Slow work
Careless work
Lack of creativity
Lack of logic
Avoids challenges
Afraid of conflict in discussions
Poor at negotiating
Poor at problem solving
Lack of leadership
Lack of flexibility (Poor at adapting to change)
Lack of assertiveness
Poor communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 6. If you were to hire Japanese subordinates what qualities would you
look for? Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples
please write them below.
Fast work
Careful work
Accepts challenges
Unafraid of conflicts in discussion
Better at problem solving
Flexibility (Adapts to change)
Good communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 7. If you had to hire one candidate from 2 who had the same
competency, which would you hire: a Japanese candidate with fluent
English ability or a non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability?
Definitely the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
Preferably the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
No preference
Preferably the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability
Definitely the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability

* This question requires an answer.

8. Please tell us the reason for your answer of the previous question.
* 9. Do you think Japanese business people would do well globally?
Yes, they would.
They probably would.
Cannot say either way.
They probably would not.
No, they would not.

* This question requires an answer.

10. What do you think is necessary for Japanese business people to do
well globally in the future?
* 11. Finally, do you feel threatened by Japanese business people taking
your position?
Yes, I feel threatened.
Yes, I feel somewhat threatened.
No, I don’t feel very threatened.
No, I don’t feel threatened.



Totally agree this survey is very biased, especially question 5 as BCD pointed out. I have two Japanese subordinates – Kondo-kun tends to be a little slow in reporting changes and Adachi-kun tends not to express any opinions at meetings, but I couldn’t say anything about Japanese subordinates in general from that.  Kaoru



After having slept on it, and seeing your comments, I’m a little more convinced that the questions are inappropriate and Careercoss should probably be called on it.

Two main reasons: If such a survey were conducted in Japanese by employers of foreigners, we’d be up in arms about it. And the fact that the tone is overwhelmingly negative. Question 5 does not offer any way of opting out of a negative impression of Japanese employees, and is chock full of stereotypes.

I don’t know how to find the survey online if you are not a member. It was offered to me via email because I’ve had a resume on Careercross for a while.

The link they sent me was:

I’m considering getting in touch with them to make known that their survey is poorly executed and has the impression of bias against Japanese. If anyone has suggestions on what might be said, or what parts pointed out, please let me know.



Thank you for the link, because that helped me look for something that seems to me to be very important when sending out any survey — what is the purpose of the survey. I don’t see any reason given for the survey on either page.

As for Q5, what really concerns me is there is no place to check a block which is a positive response. 

“What troubles do/did you have …?” — How about allowing us the opportunity to check a box that indicates, “None.” 

All the answers are negative, unless one were to put a positive answer in “other”. I would think a “positive box” should go at the very top as a first choice. Otherwise, we get the impression that it’s a foregone conclusion that us non-Japanese folks always have negative views of our Japanese subordinates.

Okay, that’s my take on Q5, but I have other concerns about this survey, so I just called their offices about ten minutes ago. The lady I eventually spoke with indicated that the person responsible for the survey was not there to answer my question about what the purpose of the survey is and why there is no positive answer available for Q5, so I gave her an email address to let the person send me an answer. I declined the offer of a phone call. The lady seemed to understand my questions just fine, but we may yet have some problem with my questions being communicated through her to the person having to answer. *If* that person will answer.

Is that a practical good first step — some kind of initial contact with two basic questions, and then we can decide if and how to go further? I suppose it’s a bit late to ask, as I’ve already done it.

By the way, I think going much “further” is going to be necessary. For one thing, if one is to send out a survey that is essentially only going to cover negative aspects of an issue the introduction to the survey must explain why.

Let’s say I send out a survey titled, “What Don’t You Like About GM.” I think I should preface that survey with some reason why I assume all of you don’t like GM.



date: Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 1023 AM

subject: CareerCross survey

To: GM

Thank you very much for contacting us on Friday and for taking part in our survey.
This survey is an important part in understanding the attitudes and perceptions of foreign employers as it applies to their Japanese hires. Actually the survey is, as you had pointed out, slightly on the negative side which we feel is important in getting straight answers about negative perceptions that a foreign boss may have. We do not think that a “fell good” survey would not bring out information of value.

Please not that it was myself and our Japanese staff, with the help of our foreign staff, that came up with these questions. We hope this survey will be useful for both employers to see their own bias as well as Japanese working at companies for a foreigner.
Thank you again for participating in our survey.  Best regards,

Masayuki Saito
Director COO
C.C.Consulting K.K.
Tel: 03-5728-1861 Fax: 03-5728-1862




Points that I think need to be addressed in a response to the CareerCross CEO:

1. A “feel good” survey is not the only alternative to a negative one. It is entirely possible to create a merely objective survey.

2. Any market researcher knows that asking leading questions gets the answers that the respondents were led to. If they want genuine and meaningful result, then they necessarily should allow clear options for both positive and neutral responses, not only negative.

3. The old “Japanese think so too” argument is as tired as ever. Just because the boss had some Japanese people work on the survey doesn’t justify anything about it. Not only is it unclear whether or not the Japanese or non-Japanese involved honestly felt the freedom to construct the survey differently than what their higher ups wanted, in any country and culture one will find attitudes of criticism of local norms that can be exploited. Just because I can find a Canadian that says Canadians suck doesn’t make it a more accurate description of Canada.

I could rip apart this guy’s justification of this survey even more, but I’m a little tired right now.

GM, this time, before firing off any more responses to CareerCross, maybe wait a bit until we’ve had time to flesh out some consistent points. The whole advantage of a group like this is the collective wisdom.


Okay, Debito.org readers, time for some collective wisdom… Comments please.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

“TALK A LOT” textbook (EFL Press) has a rotten caricature of a “strange foreigner” for an English lesson


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s a little something from a friend in Saitama.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi Debito. This comes from the book Talk a Lot: Book One. Second Edition.
(c) 2003 David Martin

Published by EFL Press
1-10-19 Kita
Okegawa City
Saitama 363-0011
(048) 772-7724

email: eflpress@gol.com


Feedback also to to:


I guess this is supposed to be funny, but it’s not. I don’t know what country this foreigner is supposed to be from, but I don’t know of any where a lot of what he is doing would be alowed at school, let alone in a STRICT Japanese one. What really makes me angry though is the damn katakana Japanese. Of course, no non-Japanese can speak Japanese well, so anytime a foreigner speaks, it ALWAYS has to be written in katakana. Also, gaijin are all very scary.

A little more background. At my high school, we get a lot of free books sent to us by publishers. One of my co-workers was looking through one a saw that page and showed it to the rest of the NJ staff. I took it and sent it to you. It’s hard to believe that the author is, I believe, from Hawaii.

On another page of the same book textbook, there is a list of adjectives for people with drawings to go with them. The people look European or Asian with words like skinny, tall, etc…. Out of all of them (there are 20 or so) there is one dark skined person and the word underneath is “black”. That’s a bit odd. I can scan the page on Monday if you’re interested.

Greg in Saitama




Here is the scan of the page I mentioned earlier.  I do think it’s a bit strange that “black” is the only adjective used to describe skin colour.  There is no “white” or “brown” or what have you.  Greg


From: [private email redacted upon request]
Date: November 10, 2008 2:53:49 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org
Cc: eflpress@gol.com
Subject: Re: Fwd: SUPPORT FORM
Mr. Debito,

Thank you for your email regarding the “stereotype” in Talk a Lot,
Book 1. I have had a look at your website and read the comments.
I want to explain this, not to defend myself or my actions but
just so you know. First of all, it’s NOT meant to be a stereotype
in any way whatsoever. Foreigners who live in Japan are not like this,
and everyone knows it. It’s done comically like this and is a gross
overexageration in order to motivate students to use a normally
dull grammar points.

For your information, very few people, students nor teachers have been
offended by this. Yes, if you think too hard and are too critical, it may
offend someone. Please relax, enjoy life and stop thinking too much.
Look at it in a different light and you may not be so upset. Also, keep in
mind that I, myself, am a foreigner and am poking fun at myself so
why would it be offensive. Offensive to whom?

By the way, what does it matter where I live now? It seems that you are
trying to stir up trouble for no reason. I do not live in Hawaii, by the way,
so your information is wrong.

Thank you and I hope I have not offended you but I am a bit upset at
your brusque style of writing.

Best Regards,

David Martin
EFL Press


From: [private email redacted upon request]
Date: November 10, 2008 7:56:00 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org
Cc: eflpress@gol.com
Subject: Re: Fwd: SUPPORT FORM

Mr. Debito,

Hello again. I forgot to mention that we do have a note in the Teacher’s Guide
for the activity which you mentioned. This is what is written there:

Page 62, The Strange Foreigner

This scene is obviously fantasy. It is exaggerated to increase student interest in an otherwise dull (but useful) grammar point.

I put this note just in case a few people might think we were trying to look down on
or stereotype foreigners, which is not the case.

Thank you,

David Martin
EFL Press

— Thanks for the replies, Mr Martin. I am sorry to have gotten your location (Hawaii) wrong (your IP indicates you are in Thailand). I am also sorry that you find my brusque style of writing “upsetting”. I find it a tad amazing how you can be upset by brusquely-worded letter of complaint (you might consider taking your own advice, and “look at it in a different light and you may not be so upset”, but never mind), yet have a thick skin regarding something put in a textbook destined for impressionable young people, portraying “gaijin” as people carrying weapons, drinking while driving, and being overtly “scary” and “strange”. I guess there’s no accounting for taste. Or for editorial rectitude when you’re on the publishing and profiting end, as opposed to the millions of “gaijin” being portrayed in proxy… Anyway, thanks for your replies. Arudou Debito in Sapporo



From:   [private email redacted upon request]
Subject: infringement of copyright on your website
Date: November 13, 2008 11:01:57 PM JST
To:   debito@debito.org
Cc:   eflpress@gol.com

Hi again,

I have nothing against you including criticisms of my book, Talk a Lot,
Book One on your website. That is up to you and is perfectly fine and
perfectly legal. But I was shocked when I first had a look at your website
to find you had allowed the posting of two pages from my book which had
been scanned. This is clearly an infringement of copyright since you have
not asked for our permission. Please take these two pages off of your
website as soon as possible!

I do not ask you to do this because of the possible damage you are causing
us. That is not the reason at all. I am asking you to do this for two reasons:

1. It’s illegal and thus bothers me.
2. We, as a rule, do not put PDFs or any images of our books on our website
because we want teachers to see our books as a whole and not just a part
because we feel they will be convinced to use our books if they see the whole book.

I hope you understand my thinking on this and will take them off. The criticism can
go on and you can even explain in detail what is on those two pages if you want.
I’m not against that at all..but you cannot legally copy pages from a book and
post them without prior written permission.

Cheers, David Martin EFL Press

– Mr Martin, I suggest you do some research on Japanese laws governing Fair Use.

Mainichi: Japan would help children of international marriages by signing child abduction convention


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

Hi Blog. Addendum to yesterday’s entry, complete with little needles in the article trying to poke holes in the NJ case… Wonder where Mr Onuki got the figure of 90%.  Debito in Tokyo, listening to Dalai Lama speech at FCCJ.


Japan would help children of international marriages by signing child abduction convention

(Mainichi Japan) November 1, 2008


Japanese women from collapsed international marriages who bring their children to Japan without their partner’s consent are facing charges of abduction — an issue that has highlighted a convention covering international child abduction.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has been signed by about 80 countries, including in Europe and the United States. Under the convention, it is illegal for one parent to take a child away from his or her country or residence without first settling issues such as custody and visitation rights.

Signatory countries have a responsibility to return children who have unilaterally been taken out of the country by one of their parents. (There are some exceptions, such as when the child refuses to go back.) Japan, however, has not signed the convention, so this rule of returning the child does not apply. This has raised strong dissatisfaction among foreigners who cannot see their children because they have been taken to Japan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice are giving favorable consideration to signing the convention, but the opinions of experts are split.

Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer familiar with the issue, is opposed to Japan signing the convention, based on the viewpoint of Japan protecting its own citizens.

“In over 90 percent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse,” Onuki says. He says that when the Japanese women come back to Japan, they don’t bring with them evidence of domestic violence or other problems, making their claims hard to prove, and the voice of the man saying, “Give me back my child,” tends to be heard louder.

Mikiko Otani, a lawyer who specializes in family law, supports Japan participating in the convention. The first reason she gives is a connection with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.N. committee that monitors how the Convention on the Rights of the Child is implemented advises each country to ratify the Hague convention as a pact that is integrated with the convention on child rights.

Otani adds that joining the convention does not provide only disadvantages. There are now cases in which former foreign husbands refuse to let their child see their mother, saying that if they let their child go to Japan, he or she won’t come back. There are also cases of mothers setting aside a security deposit of 100,000 dollars (about 10 million yen) to bring their children over to Japan.

When couples divorce in Japan, only one side has custody rights, and the family view that the child should be handed over to the mother is prevalent. Under the Hague convention, however, joint custody is maintained as long as domestic violence is not involved, and the party not living with the children has visitation rights. This stance shakes up the Japanese view of the family, but I think Japan should join the convention.

There are the reasons given by Otani, but in addition to that, the shape of Japanese society and families is changing largely. For example, the rate of men who are taking child-care leave is still at a low level but increasing, figures by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare show. Division of housework and child-rearing between the husband and wife is natural. It is not an age in which one parent takes complete responsibility for a child.

If children in international marriages can freely go between the two countries of their mother and father, their lives will surely be greatly enriched. (By Megumi Nishikawa, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日グローバル・アイ:続・国際結婚と子の親権 ハーグ条約に加盟を


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

グローバル・アイ:続・国際結婚と子の親権 ハーグ条約に加盟を=西川恵

毎日新聞 2008年11月1日 東京朝刊











毎日新聞 2008年11月1日 東京朝刊

Govt websites don’t include NJ residents in their tallies of “local population”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Mark in Yayoi pointed out a singular thing to me the other night — that the Tokyo Nerima-ku website lists its population and households in various municipal subsections.  Then puts at the top that “foreigners are not included”.  

Screen capture (click on image to go to website) from:


etc. We already saw in yesterday’s blog entry that NJ workers are not included in official unemployment statistics.  Now NJ taxpayers are also not included as part of the “general population”?

So I did a google search using the words “人口 総数には、外国人登録数を含んでいません” and found that other government websites do the same thing!  It is, in fact, SOP.

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=人口 総数には、外国人登録数を含んでいません。&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

The Nerima-ku page, BTW, does not even mention anywhere on the page I captured above that foreigners even exist in Nerima-ku — you have to go to a separate page, a separate enclave, for the gaijin.

Pedants (meaning the GOJ) will no doubt claim (as is worded at the top) that “we’re only counting registered residents, and NJ aren’t registered residents, therefore we can’t count them“.  But that doesn’t make it a good thing to do, especially when you’re using the context of “人口総数” (total population).  What a nasty thing anyway to do to people who pay your taxes and live there!  It also becomes a tad harder to complain about “Japanese Only” signs on businesses when even the GOJ also excludes foreigners from official statistics.

And it’s also harder to believe the GOJ’s claim to the UN that it has taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination”.  How about measures like counting (not to mention officially registering) foreigners as taxpayers and members of the population?  

(I bet if any measure actually does get taken in response to this blog entry, the only “conceivable” one to the bureaucrats will be to change the terminology, using the word “juumin” instead of “jinkou sousuu”.  Solve the problem by futzing with the rubric, not changing the law.  Beyond conception.)

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


UPDATE:  And of course, don’t forget this, from Debito.org too…

Population rises 1st time in 3 years The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 1, 2008 http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20080801TDY01306.htm

The nation’s population grew for the first time in three years to 127,066,178 in the year to March 31, up 12,707 from a year earlier, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Thursday.

The figure was based on resident registrations at municipal government offices and does not include foreign residents…


Excerpts and critique of the Japanese Govt’s “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Periodic Report” to UN HRC


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I last reported on this issue in a blog entry last August 30, when the Japan Times covered it.  Sorry to have taken so long to get around to digging deeper.

Long-time readers may find the following entry guffaw-worthy, from it’s very title: “The third, fourth, fifth and sixth combined periodic report” to the United Nations Human Rights Council” [Japanese pdf, English pdf] — indicating just how late the GOJ is filing a report, on what it’s doing towards the promotion of human rights in Japan, that is actually due every two years.

Then get a load of the bunkum the GOJ reports with a straight face. More on the rather antigonistic relationship the GOJ has with the UN here. To me, it’s indicative — when you have a government “seeking input from human rights groups”, but not really (when they allowed right-wingers to shout down a meeting last year), you aren’t going to get a report that reflects what’s going on amongst the shomin.

Finally, just a point of logic: If the GOJ had taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination”, as it claims below, that would naturally include a law against it, wouldn’t it?  Like South Korea did in 2007.  But no. And look what happens as a result. Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Full text here:  [Japanese pdfEnglish pdf]


International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination

(Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Periodic Report)

MARCH 2008  Submitted by the Government of Japan

I. Introduction

1. Based on the provisions of Article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (hereinafter referred to as the “Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”), the Government of Japan hereby submits its Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This is the updated version of the Initial and Second Periodic Report (CERD/C350/Add. 2) submitted in January 2000. This report also describes the measures that the Government of Japan has taken to eliminate racial discrimination from the time when the Initial and Second Periodic Report was submitted to March 2008.

2. Japan has taken every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination. The Constitution of Japan, the supreme law of Japan, guarantees equality under the law without any form of discrimination, as is evidenced by the provision laid down in Paragraph 1 of Article 14 that ‘all of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin’. Based on this principle of the Constitution, Japan has striven to realize a society without any form of racial or ethnic discrimination, and will continue to make efforts to achieve a society in which each person is treated without any discrimination and respected as an individual and can fully develop his or her own personality….


COMMENT:  Just suck on the opening admissions.  Six years overdue on a report due in 2002, updating one that was already two years overdue to begin with.  And does “taking every conceivable measure” include an anti-discrimination law?  South Korea passed one in 2007.  For Japan, the answer is no, the GOJ once again will not pass a law, for justifications we shall see below.


17. The ‘Ninth Basic Plan of Employment Measures’ was adopted by the Cabinet in August 1999. The plan espouses the following principle regarding the acceptance of foreign workers: “From the perspective of further promoting the rejuvenation and internationalization of the Japanese economy and society, the acceptance of foreign workers in professional and technical fields should be more actively promoted. On the other hand, with respect to the matter of accepting workers for so-called unskilled labor, there is a concern that the Japanese economy and society as well as people’s livelihood may be adversely affected by such an action. For example, problems may break out in the domestic labor market as a result of accepting unskilled workers. At the same time, accepting unskilled foreign workers may also adversely affect themselves as well as their countries of origin. For these reasons, the idea of accepting unskilled workers requires careful consideration, while taking into account of a consensus among the Japanese people”.

COMMENT:  Gotta love the logic.  Migration hurts Japan (even though the GOJ has a had a visa regime for nearly 20 years, bringing in unskilled labor with a backdoor system and doubling the registered NJ population, at the very behest of the Keidanren business lobby to prevent the “hollowing out” (kuudouka) of Japanese industry with a labor shortage)?.  It’s what factories wanted.  Now we’re claiming it hurts us, and might even hurt workers and their home countries!  Please don’t make such policy that hurts everyone, including yourself, GOJ.

And to finish up, we’ll appeal to a phantom “Japanese public consensus”.  Have your cake and eat it too.  Just don’t give Trainee Visa workers any Japanese labor law rights protections and the cake has icing.  Who’s hurting whom?


20. The Basic Plan for Promotion of Human Rights Education and Encouragement (See Part VII (Article 7) of this Report) takes up the problems concerning the human rights of foreigners as one of the human rights issues to be addressed. The human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice expands and strengthens their promotion activities to disseminate and enhance the idea of respect for human rights with the view to fostering a human rights awareness as appropriate for the age of globalisation by eliminating prejudice and discrimination against foreigners, holding an attitude of tolerance towards and respect for diverse cultures, religions, lifestyles and customs that people of different origins practice.

COMMENT:  The Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougobu) organ of the Ministry of Justice is a pretty much useless organization, with no sanction or enforcement powers.  It exists merely to be wheeled out at opportune times like this for window dressing.


24. Japanese public schools at the compulsory education level guarantee foreign nationals the opportunity to receive education if they wish to attend such school by accepting them without charge, just as they do with Japanese school children.

COMMENT:  Oh?  In fact, compulsory education only applies to citizens, under the Kyouiku Kihon Hou.  And there are cases of students being refused entry to schools.  “We have no facilities” (setsubi ga nai), is the reported excuse.

The GOJ is, in a word, lying.

In addition, a school subject called “sogo-gakushu” (general learning), which primarily aims at developing children’s learning ability beyond the borders of conventional subjects, allows conversational foreign language classes and opportunities to study traditional cultures, to be provided as part of the education for cultivating international understanding. In the case of children of foreign nationalities, they can even receive education in their native tongues (minority languages) and learn about their native cultures, according to local circumstances and situation of school children such as the number of children of a particular nationality and their command of Japanese.

COMMENT:  Gosh, I’d like to know where those schools are and how widespread this subject is. I’ve never even heard of it.  Instead, we hear of 20-40% of all Brazilian children are not attending school at all because they find it so hard to fit in. I smell Potemkin system.

Furthermore, when these foreign children enter school, maximum attention is given to ensure that they can receive, without undue difficulty, the education in Japanese normally taught to Japanese children. Toward this end, they are provided with, among other things, guidance in learning Japanese and are supported by their regular teachers as well as by others who can speak their native language….

COMMENT:  See above two comments.  Again, “setsubi ga nai”…  And little to no support for ethnic schools in Japan, either. “Maximum attention”??  Hogwash!


55. Regarding the treatment of foreign children in Japan in relation to their education in public schools at the compulsory education level (elementary schools and lower secondary schools) and upper secondary schools in Japan, see Paragraphs 138 to 140 of the Initial and Second Periodic Report.

Those foreigners who wish to attend public schools for compulsory education may do so free of class fee , including the free supply of textbooks and school expense subsidies, thus guaranteeing the same educational opportunities as for Japanese citizens. In addition, Japanese language teachers are dispatched to schools, providing parents with a guidebook on schooling, and conducting meetings with experts on policies to enhance education for foreigners.

Also, in order for foreigners to become accustomed to the living environment in Japan and to be able to receive the same residential services as members of Japanese society, a Program to Accelerate Foreigners’ Adaptation to the Life Environment in Japan was formed in 2007.

This program covers the establishment of language classes for foreigners of Japanese descent, teacher training for foreigners who speak Japanese, consultations with the governments of the children’s country of origin, as well as model programs to support the school enrollment of foreign children and to set up a Japanese language instruction system.

Some schools for foreigners, such as international schools, are approved as miscellaneous schools by prefectural governors, and their independence is respected.

COMMENT:  Just saying they can attend doesn’t mean they can under the same circumstances, see comments in previous section, particularly the question regarding the programs’ widespreadness.  As for that 2007 program, this is a local-level initiative, not a national one, something demanded by the Hamamatsu and Yokkaichi Sengens for nearly a decade now (and duly ignored by the national govt; how nice of them to claim it as their own).

Finally, “their independence is respected” is another way of saying, “They’re on their own.  We don’t even officially recognize them as schools, and we won’t fund them with public money” like “real Japanese schools”. Students (often from low-income families, such as Brazilian workers) don’t even qualify for student discounts for bus passes!


25. Most of the Korean residents who do not wish to be educated in Japanese schools attend North/South Korean schools established in Japan. Most of these schools have been approved by prefectural governors as ‘miscellaneous schools’.

COMMENT:  And again, they don’t get Ministry of Education funding, meaning they pay a heck of a lot more in tuition etc. just for the privilege.  Miscellaneous means separate but unequal.


28… Data on the refugee recognition administration from 1982 to the end of December 2007 are as follows:

Applications accepted 5,698
Results Approved 451
Denied 3,608
Withdrawn and others 584

COMMENT:  This is a pretty shameful ratio, don’t you think?  Look at the timeline — a total of 451 people granted refugee status over 25 years!  More than 90% of a pretty negligible number to begin with rejected or withdrawn.  As I wrote for the Japan Times last December:

“Japan even refuses to fulfill simple obligations as a developed nation–not only because it won’t pass a law against racial discrimination.  It won’t even take people who would come here no matter how poorly they’re treated.  Despite being the third-largest donor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Japan accepted only 34 asylum-seekers in 2006 (compared to 23,296 in the US and 6,330 in Britain that year), and a total of only 1,975 since it signed the Refugee Convention back in 1951!  Take our money, keep your aliens.”


The things you can say with a straight face…


34… The Human Rights Protection Bill, which was repealed in October 2003 and is under further elaboration by the Ministry of Justice, expressly prohibits any unfair treatment or discriminatory acts based on race, ethnicity and other criteria. It provides that the independent human rights committee take redress measures in a simple, quick and flexible manner against these human rights abuses, thereby creating a human rights redress system that is more effective than the existing system.

COMMENT:  This is “Vaporware“, or “unrealized gains”.  You’re talking about the good a law does even though it doesn’t even exist — in fact, was repealed?  What a sorry excuse of a spin.


35. Given that the police becomes deeply involved in human rights issues when it performs its duties such as investigating crimes, the ‘Rules Governing Police Officer’s Ethics and Service’ (National Public Safety Commission Rule No. 1 of 2000) prescribe ‘Fundamentals of Service Ethics’, which rests upon respect for human rights as one of its pillars. The Government also proactively implements human rights education for police since it considers education on service ethics as the top priority among the various themes covered by the education of police officers.

Newly hired police officers and those who are about to be promoted are educated at police academies with regard to human rights through classes of jurisprudence including the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure and service ethics.

Police officers who are engaged in crime investigations, detainment operations, and assistance for victims are thoroughly educated to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure appropriate execution of duties that takes into consideration the human rights of suspects, detainees, crime victims, and others. Such education is offered using every possible occasion such as police academy classes and training sessions provided at police headquarters and police stations.

COMMENT:  Given police’s rights of search, seizure, lack of habeas corpus, and official policy targeting of NJ as potential criminal suspects, terrorists, and carriers of contagious diseases, it’s hard to argue this human rights training is having much effect.


37. Regarding the reservations made by Japan on Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, see Paragraphs 72-74 of the Initial and Second Periodic Report.

38. The concept laid down in Article 4 may cover an extremely wide range of acts carried out in various situations and in various manners. Restricting all these acts with punitive laws that go beyond the existing legal system in Japan may conflict with what the Constitution guarantees, including the freedom of expression that strictly demands the necessity and rationale for its restrictions, and with the principle of legality of crime and punishment that requires concreteness and clarity in determining the punishable acts and penalties. It is on the basis of this judgment that the Japanese Government made its reservations about Article 4 (a) and (b) of the Convention.

In addition, the Government of Japan does not believe that in present-day Japan racist thoughts are disseminated and racial discrimination are fanned to the extent that would warrant consideration of enactment of laws to administer punishment by retracting the above reservation even at the risk of unduly stifling legitimate speech.

COMMENT:  So once again, for the second decade now, we have Japan saying that we’ll sign the CERD but we won’t enforce it through any anti-discrimination laws.  We don’t need laws (after all, we don’t have racist thoughts being disseminated — never mind GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine — or racial discrimination being fanned) — actually, those laws may even be unconstitutional!  The UN does not agree, as they GOJ says immediately following:

Japan was advised to retract the reservation it made about Article 4 (a) and (b) in the concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in consideration of the Initial and Second Periodic Report. However, for the reasons given above, Japan does not intend to retract the said reservation.


Right to utilize Places or Services Intended for Use by the General Public

56. In terms of equal treatment in using the services at hotels, restaurants, cafes, and theaters, the Law Concerning Proper Management and Promotion of Businesses related to Environment and Hygiene provides that measures should be taken to safeguard the benefit for users and consumers at such services. For instance, Centers for Environment and Sanitation Management Guidance ensure proper response to complaints from the consumers.

COMMENT:  Sure.  How many of these places fall under these laws have JAPANESE ONLY signs and policies up and in practice?  Those measures are supposed to work, no?  They didn’t in the Otaru Onsens Case, when we were told by the Hokensho and other administrative bodies that laws only covered sanitation and environment, not racial discrimination.

This is another GOJ lie.

In particular, the Hotel Business Law prohibits hotels from refusing a customer merely on the basis of race or ethnicity. Likewise, the Regulations for the Enforcement of the Law for Improvement of International Tourist Hotel Facilities prohibit discriminatory treatment according to the nationality of guests, such as charging different rates depending on guests’ nationality for services such as accommodation and meals provided by registered inns and hotels.

COMMENT:  And this is why we have hotels with JAPANESE ONLY signs up, and why even local government tourist boards (such as Fukushima Prefecture) provides online advertising to hotels that refuse foreigners?  Having it on the books does not mean it gets enforced.


40. With regard to ‘acts of violence … against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin’, Japan’s position remains unchanged from the last report. Meanwhile, the amendment of the Penal Code in 2004 established the crime of gang rape as an act of violence (Article 178-2), and increased the severity of the punishment for a number of crimes, including that of homicide (Article 199), bodily injury (Article 204), and robbery (Article 236).

COMMENT:  Read the above carefully.  The GOJ is asked about racially-motivated violence, and it answers saying that punishments have been made more severe.  But not pertaining to racially-motivated violence.  Because there is no specific law banning racially-motivated violence in Japan.  The UN is asking a pineapple question and getting a banana answer.


42…In particular, the ‘Guidelines for Defamation and Privacy’, which were adopted by the Telecommunications Carriers Association as a code of conduct for Internet service providers (ISPs) and similar businesses, at the same time of the enforcement of the Provider Liability Limitation Law, were revised in October 2004. The revision introduced a procedure for fighting serious human rights abuse cases, in which the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice are authorized to request ISPs to delete information that infringes on the rights of others. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has supported efforts to widely disseminate awareness of these guidelines.

Furthermore, since August 2005, the Government has convened the ‘Study Group on Actions against Illegal and Harmful Information on the Internet’ comprised of academics and members of industry associations to examine the voluntary measures taken by ISPs against illegal and harmful information on the Internet and to discuss effective ways to support those measures.

COMMENT:  Thanks for discussing.  But that’s just more Vaporware.  Meanwhile, online libel still continues apace, and offenders are not being prosecuted for ignoring court orders because contempt of court in Japan is too weak to convert civil court cases into criminal offenses.


66. Below are examples of civil cases which are recognized as ‘racial discrimination’ cases.

(a) Sapporo District Court Decision on November 11, 2002

A community bathhouse proprietor refused to allow foreign nationals or naturalized citizens to bathe in his bathhouse because they were “foreigners”. The proprietor’s act was judged as constituting an illegal act of racial discrimination that violated Paragraph 1, Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan, Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the spirit of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Recognizing the tort liability of the defendant, the court granted the plaintiffs right to claim compensation for damages from mental suffering etc.

COMMENT:  Nice way to tell half the story (our story, the Otaru Onsens Case) to your apparent advantage.  For one thing, the court did NOT rule that racial discrimination was the illegal activity; “discriminating too much” was, so that’s a lie.

Also not told is that the local government of Otaru was also sued for violating the UN CERD and let off the hook:  The Supreme Court of Japan did not consider this adjudged case of racial discrimination (Sapporo District and High Courts, and this GOJ report) “a Constitutional issue”.  And the case took four years plus to wend its way through court (2001-2005), hardly an effective means of eliminating racial discrimination that isn’t illegal anyway.


71. During the course of 2007, there were 21,506 human rights infringement cases for which remedy procedures were commenced, 115 of which were cases where foreigners were unfairly discriminated against because they were foreigners.

Below are two typical cases of discrimination against foreigners based on race and ethnicity that human rights organs disposed of in 2007.

(a) A rental apartment agent refused to act as an agent for two visitors solely because they looked like foreigners. The human rights organ of the Ministry of Justice investigated and concluded that the agent did not have any reasonable grounds for the refusal and gave a warning to the agent. (The result of the disposition was ‘warning’.)

(b) A food products company canceled the informal dicision [sic] to employ a job applicant solely because he is a Korean resident in Japan. The human rights organ of the Ministry of Justice investigated and concluded that the company did not have any reasonable grounds for the cancellation and gave a warning to the president of the company. (The result of the disposition was ‘warning’.)

COMMENT:  Yes, warnings.  No suspension of business licenses.  No arrests.  Nothing else that would actually stop racial discrimination effectively.  So much for the claims above that the Human Rights organs within the Ministry of Justice mean anything.

It’s not worth the time and energy to take these issues up, for many people — think cosmetic and milquetoast measures from the GOJ if not years in court.  No wonder there were so few cases actually filed in 2007 for NJ discrimination.  What difference would it make?  Dig through the report, and you’ll find self-evident weaknesses and contradictory claims throughout.


AP article proffers cultural reasons for keeping Internet denizens anonymous


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

Hi Blog. Here’s an article about a subject I hold a bit dear (as I’ve been a target of Internet libel in the past, including a victorious but unrequited lawsuit): a valuable source of information and even social movement being subverted into a source of bullying and character assassination.

At the heart of it is the denial of a fundamental right granted in developed fora such as courtrooms and (until now) the court of public opinion: the right to know who your accuser is. But by allowing near-absolute online anonymity, it makes the arena for discussion, fight, or whatever you want to call the interaction, unfair — when people become targeted by irresponsible anons who can say what they want with complete impunity. I’ve faced that firsthand these past three months just dealing with the snakepit that is a Wikipedia Talk Page.

In the article below, we’re having justifications for it being dressed up on the guise of “Japanese culture” and increased communication “without worrying about whoever’s talking”. That’s all very well until you’re the one being talked about. That issue is very much underdeveloped in the article about Mixi et al. below, even though it applies to Japan (and to other online societies, such as the one connected to the recent celebrity suicide in Korea) as well. Knock off the silly argument that infers that “Japanese are naturally shy so they need a cloaking device in order to speak freely”. That’s precisely the argument that BBS 2-Channel’s Nishimura makes as he self-servingly promotes his own impunity.  Culture being used as a shield here, bollocks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, who has never used an online pseudonym to mask his identity in his life, and takes the slings and arrows for it.


THE JAPAN TIMES Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081002f3.html

Web society opts to stay anonymous

The Associated Press

Like a lot of 20-year-olds, Kae Takahashi has a page on U.S.-based MySpace, and there is no mistaking it for anyone else’s.

News photo
Clash of cultures: In this Web site image, Kae Takahashi shows her picture, bottom left, on her U.S.-based MySpace page where her photos and personal details can be viewed by anyone. But she reveals little about herself on similar Japanese Web sites. AP PHOTO

It’s got pictures of the funky Tokyoite modeling the clothes she designs in her spare time, along with her name, plus personal details and ramblings in slightly awkward English about her love life.

Switch to her site on Mixi, Japan’s dominant online hangout, and her identity vanishes.

There, Takahashi uses a fake name and says she is an 88-year-old from the town of “Christmas.” Her profile is locked to outsiders.

Takahashi is far from alone: The vast majority of Mixi’s roughly 15 million users don’t reveal anything about themselves.

It’s not just Mixi. It’s Japan.

YouTube is wildly successful here, but rare is the user who follows the site’s enticement to “Broadcast Yourself.” Posting pet videos is far more popular, and has bred a generation of animal celebrities.

On large matchmaking sites like Match.com, the whole point is to open up and meet strangers. But fewer than half of Match’s paying members in Japan are willing to post their photos, compared with nearly all members in the United States.

Welcome to Japan’s online social scene, where you’re unlikely to meet anyone you don’t know already. The early promises of a new, open social frontier, akin to the identity-centric world of Facebook and MySpace in the U.S., have been replaced by a realm where people stay safely within their circles of friends and few reveal themselves to strangers.

“There is the sense that, ‘My face just isn’t that interesting, or I’m not attractive — there is nothing special about me to show people,’ ” says Tetsuya Shibui, a writer who has long followed the Internet in Japan.

Indeed, the Japanese virtual world has turned out just like the real one.

People rarely give their first names to those they don’t know well. Spontaneous exchanges are uncommon even on the tightly packed trains and streets of Tokyo. TV news shows often blur the faces of those caught in background footage and photos to protect their privacy.

Takahashi, who joined Mixi three years ago, keeps her profile hidden so that only users she specifically invites can see it. That list of online friends has expanded to nearly 300 people, only a few of whom she didn’t first meet in person, but she has removed personal details and scaled down past postings.

“If I say too much, the wrong people will read it — it could get ugly,” she said.

The penchant for invisibility has made it hard for Western social networks to establish themselves. Belated forays into the Japanese market by Facebook Inc. and News Corp.’s MySpace, for instance, have failed to generate much of a buzz.

Google Inc., which operates YouTube, has tried to convince the Japanese to loosen up, running events in Tokyo in which girls in miniskirts roam the streets with giant picture frames and video cameras, soliciting pedestrians to frame themselves and record a clip for the site.

But it has since eased back on such efforts. YouTube’s latest campaign involves people uploading pictures of their pets.

“We can’t change the mind-set of Japanese people,” said Tomoe Makino, in charge of partner development at YouTube’s Japan site. “It’s the uniqueness of Japanese culture — anonymous works in Japan.”

It wasn’t always like that. When Mixi was launched in early 2004, many people registered with their own names and photos.

“It was all friends, or friends of friends, so you could easily search using real names, and it was easy to be found,” Shibui says.

But Mixi quickly grew in popularity, and was heavily featured in the media as it sped toward a public stock offering in 2006. New members can join only with invitations from existing users, but some people began to send out invites randomly. The circle-of-friends concept was broken, and existing users began to lock their profiles and withdraw behind anonymous user names.

Naoko Ito is a typical denizen of Japan’s online scene.

The office worker’s video clips of her cats running amok at her house are among the most popular on YouTube Japan. Her blog features daily pictures of the feline antics and is popular enough to have spawned a book deal. But she doesn’t post her name and in five years of uploading images has only rarely shown her face.

She says Japanese are just not used to putting themselves in the spotlight, and in the rare cases she has uploaded her picture it has been to show she is like everyone else.

“I want people to feel that I’m a very normal person, nothing special, just someone who likes cats,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The reluctance to reveal oneself online is coupled with a general distrust of those who do, and foreign sites like Match.com have had to adjust. The site has had a local office since 2004, and has added Japan-only features like identity certification to generate an atmosphere of trust.

“When we did research on Japanese consumers, we found that the No. 1 reason for not using online dating is that they don’t know if people are real or not,” says Match.com’s Japan president, Katsu Kuwano.

Match has increased its paying users in Japan by tailoring its approach to better fit marriage-minded women, timing advertising campaigns with national holidays when they travel home and face pressure from parents to find a mate.

But Kuwano says even among the women hunting for a spouse on the site, only 40 percent are willing to post a picture of themselves, and men are far less likely to respond without getting a glimpse first.

The company hopes to make more people show themselves online by defining itself in a less Web-centric way, latching onto the broader “konkatsu” movement, in which people actively seek out marriage partners. Match has also held offline events at Tokyo restaurants.

Even if the Japanese Internet isn’t a place to meet new people, the fixation with anonymity still has led to an explosion in self-expression — a sea change in a culture where strong opinions are usually kept to oneself.

Anonymous bulletin boards like the massive 2channel are highly popular, with active forums popping up to discuss news events just minutes after they occur.

As is true elsewhere in the world, Japan’s online anonymity can bring out the uglier side of human nature, but observers like the writer Shibui find that it is also freeing people to speak their minds.

“In using the Internet to anonymously talk about their troubles, or show off their strong points, or make people laugh, people in Japan can now interact based on what is actually being said, without worrying about who is talking,” he said.


Citizendium, the more responsible replacement for Wikipedia, does better article on Arudou Debito


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Last August I began taking on Wikipedia’s heavily-biased (even by its own standards) entry on Arudou Debito, pointing out some systemic flaws in the media:  among other things, how all manner of anonymous people can launder quotes and alleged criticisms by citing websites as if they were genuine publications (and their authors as if they were established authorities in the field), yet omit published third-party sources and comments by true authorities just because they were archived on Debito.org (or just because they don’t fit in as “Criticisms”, wink).  It was a good discussion, but now that it’s died down, the Wikipedia entry is just steadily reverting back to the same old biased and laundered references, and losing impartiality all over again.  (And I’m not even bothering with the Japanese version of the entry — there’s no saving it from anonymous net denizens without even an inkling of integrity.)  So forget it.  Wikipedia as a medium is probably unredeemable in its present form.

Meanwhile, arising is an alternative — Citizendium, where contributors must have verified identities. and articles cannot be so easily defaced at whim.  I like how the article on Arudou Debito has come out so far there.  Reproduced below.  I suggest readers start switching to Citizendium particularly when it comes to information on contentious topics and people.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Arudou Debito

Image:Statusbar1.png Main Article Talk Related Articles  [?]  Bibliography  [?]  External Links  [?]   

This is a draft article, under development. These unapproved articles are subject to a disclaimer.

© Photo: Arudou Debito Arudou Debito is a Japanese teacher, author and activist.       

© Photo: Arudou Debito 
Arudou Debito is a Japanese teacher, author and activist.

Arudou Debito (有道出人; born 1965) is a Japanese human rights activist, teacher and author. Arudou was born and brought up in the United States and became a naturalised Japanese citizen in 2000.




Arudou was born in California in 1965. As a U.S. citizen, his name was David Aldwinckle; he went to Cornell University and visited Japan in 1986 on an invitation from his future wife. He graduated in 1987, having studied Japanese in his senior year, and spent a year teaching English in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo. On his return to the United States, Arudou entered the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He deferred from the programme to return to Japan to get married and spend a year on an internship at theJapan Management Academy in NagaokaNiigata prefecture. He returned to the U.S. in 1990, completing his Masters of Public and International Affairs (MPIA) degree the following year.

In 1991, Arudou joined a small company trading in Sapporo, but working conditions and unhappy experiences there led him to leave after 15 months. In 1993, he obtained a position at the Hokkaido Information University, a private higher education institution, teaching courses in Business English and debate.[1]

Japanese citizenship

Arudou became a permanent resident of Japan in 1996. By 2000, Arudou was established in Japan, with family and a full-time job as an associate professor; he paid taxes, but had no right to vote as a foreigner. For these reasons, Arudou chose to seek Japanese citizenship, which he obtained in 2000.[2] He later changed his name to Arudou Debito,[3] which is formed through selecting the Japanese characters 有道出人 and their appropriate pronunciations. In 2002, Arudou gave up his U.S. citizenship.[4]

Publications and citations

See also: Arudou Debito/Bibliography

Arudou’s first book, in Japanese, was Japaniizu Onrii – Otaru Onsen Nyuuyoku Kyohi Mondai to Jinshu Sabetsu (ジャパニーズ・オンリー―小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別 ‘Japanese Only – Otaru Hot Spring Bathing Refusal Problem and Racial Discrimination’; 2003). The book documented Arudou and two others’ experiences of litigation against aJapanese hot spring business which denied entry to non-Japanese, and the City of Otaru (小樽市 Otaru-shi) itself.[5][6]Arudou published a second book in English on the matter, Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (2004; updated 2006),[7] which included new material and different emphases; this appeared to generally positive reviews,[8] with the Japan Times calling it “an excellent account”[9] and the non-profit Japan Policy Research Institute (JPRI) also recommending it.[10]

Arudou’s third work, with administrative solicitor Akira Higuchi (樋口彰 Higuchi Akira), was Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (2008), which gives information on living in Japan for the medium to long term, including advice on the procedures for entry to the country, taxes, marriagedivorce, going to court, tackling discrimination, and so on.[11] The book appeared to positive reviews,[12] the Japan Times naming it as the best guide to such issues.[13] The content of the book is printed twice, with English and Japanese on opposite pages.

Arudou has also extensively published in academic journals, particularly the peer-reviewed Japan Focus, and penned columns for newspapers such as the Japan Times. He is a regular interviewee in various news publications, radio programmes and podcasts,[14] and is cited frequently in academia, the media and on the internet.[15] His website,debito.org, contains a substantial amount of information about living and working in Japan, details of Arudou’s activities, and campaigning pages such as a ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ of establishments which appear to restrict or deny entry to non-Japanese.[16]


Arudou founded a group called ‘The Community’ in 1999 to raise awareness of human rights issues in Japan, such as discrimination in employment and denial of services to people of non-ethnically Japanese appearance.[17] In 2008, he co-founded ‘FRANCA’ (Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association) in the wake of the Japanese government‘s implementation of fingerprinting all foreigners on every entry to the country, regardless of status. Among this forming NGO‘S aims are ensuring non-discriminatory treatment for foreign residents and naturalised citizens, eliminating stereotypical images, and promoting the benefits of immigration and a multicultural society.[18] His website and Japan Times columns have focused on cases involving discrimination.[19]

Otaru hot springs case

Arudou’s best-known discrimination case, the subject of his two books on the subject,[20] is the six-year-long Otaru onsens (hot springs) case. In September 1999, Arudou went to three hot springs in Otaru, Hokkaido, which displayed ‘Japanese Only’ notices. Members of Arudou’s group of families and friends who were white (caucasian) were denied entry. In February 2001, one of the hot springs was taken to civil court for racial discrimination, along with the City of Otaru, which was accused of violating the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), to which Japan acceded in January 1996.[21] The hot spring lost the case in the Sapporo District Court (札幌地方裁判所 Sapporo Chihoo Saiban Sho) in November 2002, and the Sapporo High Court (札幌高等裁判所 Sapporo Kootoo Saiban Sho) in September 2004; the latter rejected the hot spring’s appeal against the district court’s order that they pay Arudou and the other plaintiffs ¥1,000,000 each.[22] However, both courts also ruled in favour of the City of Otaru on the matter of violating the UN CERD treaty, and in April 2005, the Supreme Court of Japan (最高裁判所 Saikoo Saibansho) ruled that constitutional issues were not involved in the case.[23]


  1.  See debito.org for more information.
  2.  Debito.org: ‘Arudou Debito’s website: Japan Today Columns 1-3‘.
  3.  Japanese use family name first, given name second.
  4.  Debito.org: ‘Essay: how to lose your American passport‘.
  5.  Debito.org: ‘The Otaru lawsuit information site‘.
  6.  Japan Times: ‘City off hook over bathhouse barring of foreigners ‘. 8th April 2005.
  7.  Debito.org: ‘Book ‘Japanese Only’‘.
  8.  Debito.org: ‘Reviews of book “Japanese Only”, full text‘ (archive of reviews).
  9.  Japan Times: ‘Bathhouse pushes a foreigner into the doghouse‘. 30th January 2005.
  10.  JPRI: ‘JPRI’S recommended library on Japan‘ (‘politics’ section).
  11.  Debito.org: ‘Information site for ordering “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan”‘.
  12.  Debito.org: ‘“Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan”: ordering options‘.
  13.  Japan Times: ‘Helping newcomers settle in Japan ‘. 20th April 2008.
  14.  e.g. Trans-Pacific Radio: ‘Debito.org Podcast for April 5, 2008‘. 5th April 2008.
  15.  Debito.org: ‘Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle’s publications‘.
  16.  Debito.org: ‘“The Rogues’ Gallery”: Photos of places in Japan which exclude or restrict non-Japanese customers‘.
  17.  Debito.org: ‘The Community‘ and ‘“The Community”: Issues and proposals concerning non-Japanese in Japan.’
  18.  Debito.org: ‘Press Release: First NGO FRANCA meetings Sendai Mar 15, Osaka Mar 25‘.
  19.  For example, see the Japan Times columns ‘Twisted legal logic deals rights blow to foreigners‘, 7th February 2006, and ‘Abuse, racism, lost evidence deny justice in Valentine case ‘, 14th August 2007.
  20.  Arudou (2003; 2004).
  21.  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: ‘Status of ratifications of the principal international human rights treaties: as of 09 June 2004‘.
  22.  About US$9,500 in September 2008.
  23.  Debito.org: ‘The Otaru lawsuit information site‘.


The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. As AdamW sent yesterday, the Aso Cabinet is already starting to show the shortsightedness of a “thoroughbred” cabinet (no fewer than four cabinet members are related to former Prime Ministers!)–with a standard comment about Japan’s monocultural nature being taken to task at last (in the bad old days, i.e. last year, this would probably be let slide without much comment).

Looks as though there is a good legacy happening here for a change. PM Obuchi left us with an anthem and flag which is used to beat the Left over the head and enforce patriotism. Koizumi left us with increased surveillance of NJ. Abe left us with an education system which legally requires people to be taught to love their country. But Fukuda has left us with a resolution that works in our favor for a change… Read on. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

LEAD: Nakayama apologizes over gaffes, opposition demands dismissal+
Sep 26 2008 02:30 AM US/Eastern
Courtesy http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D93E84O00&show_article=1
TOKYO, Sept. 26 (AP) – (Kyodo)—(EDS: RECASTING, ADDING INFO)New transport minister Nariaki Nakayama on Friday apologized over his controversial remarks that included calling Japan “ethnically homogenous,” in face of criticism triggered not only from opposition parties but from ruling party members.While Nakayama denied resigning over his verbal gaffes, made just a day after he assumed the post under Prime Minister Taro Aso, opposition parties called for his dismissal and said they will question Aso’s responsibility for appointing the minister. Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, called the remarks extremely rude, telling reporters a mere retraction of them is not enough and that Nakayama “needs to give up his post, not the remarks.”

Similar previous remarks by lawmakers that Japan is a mono-racial society drew protests mainly from the Ainu indigenous people in Japan.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?” referring to the parliamentary resolution that urged the government to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people and to upgrade their status as they have led underprivileged lives under the past assimilation policy.

Fukushima said her party will pursue Aso’s responsibility for appointing a person who is insensitive to human rights to the Cabinet.

Nakayama offered an apology in a news conference Friday, saying, “My recognition is that the Ainu are an indigenous people with various distinctive points.”

He also apologized for another remark in media interviews about those who have engaged in years of struggle against the construction of Narita airport, calling them “more or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are (the product) of bad postwar education.”

“I’m very sorry for causing much trouble. I retract the comment,” he told a press conference Friday, while refusing to step down to take responsibility over the remarks.

Members of the New Komeito party, the coalition partner of Aso’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also complained about the remarks, with Diet affairs chief Yoshio Urushibara saying, “They are not something that a minister should say.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a regular press conference that he told ministers during an informal session following the day’s official Cabinet meeting “to be careful not to make remarks that would cause misunderstanding among the public.”


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Debito Arudou

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Arudou Debito)
Debito Arudou

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

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

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




[edit]Early life

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

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

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

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

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

[edit]Japanese naturalization

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

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

[edit]Family and divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[edit]Otaru onsen lawsuit

The original problematic sign             

The original problematic sign

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

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO:  Poor summary of the events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Archive: 2006 Course on how to “slavedrive” your “gaijin” workers


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

    Oh yes, I remember this… How an email and online campaign got some school (Rock Bay Inc, an apparent transliteration of the boss’s name) advertising English for Shachous (“slavedrive your gaijin, don’t let them diss you–diss them back!” etc.), including a lesson on how to deny a raise to “John” despite his doubling your sales and nearly tripling your profits!  Yow. Talk about widening the divide between J and NJ!  Archiving the series now. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    APRIL 8, 2006

    Here’s a lovely little site, courtesy of a friend, of some company named Rock Bay in Tokyo.

    It advertises English language courses with an interesting edge:

    Salespoint: Learning English to exploit your gaijin underlings.

    As it says on the site:


    “Amerikajin ni akogareru na! Kokitsukae!
    “Gaijin ni nameareru na! Name kaese!”


    Or not-very-loosely translated:

    “Don’t feel beneath Americans! Use them up!
    “Don’t get dissed by the gaijin! Diss them back!”


    That’s just the titles. It just goes on from there….

    Have a look for yourself:


    It’s next seminar is Saturday, March 22, in Shibuya, BTW. Anyone want to attend?

    Well, this is one way to approach kokusaika, I guess. Bests, Debito in Sapporo


     皆様こんにちは。有道 出人です。今朝友人からいただいたウェブサイトですが、いまでもびっくり仰天しています!





    11.来月、外国で英語でのプレゼンがある! どうしよう! のあなた。
    13.いきなり海外出張、駐在言い渡された! どうする!?なあなた。



    有道よりクイック コメント:

     宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

    WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?  Rest of the issue at 


    From the archives: 2005: Economist on robotizing J health care, contrast with what’s happening nowadays


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

    Hi Blog.  Since it’s the summer and I’m trying to take some time off (and have a number of duties what with my students here in California), I’m going to start archiving old newsletters and mailings.  Here’s something I wrote back in December 2005 — a wistful article by The Economist about automating Japanese health care.  In light of all the recent articles on importing workers for Japan’s nursing industry, this comes off as quite antiquated — and it’s only two and a half years old!  My original comments precede article, and current articles follow in the Comments section.  Arudou Debito in the Bay Area


    Debito.org mailing December 26, 2005
    Subject: Economist on robotics and culture in Japan

    Hi All. From The Economist’s Christmas special. Tries to find a cultural basis for Japanese nonantipathy towards robots, and cites Tetsuwan Atomu (whose name in Japanese “refers to its atomic heart”; huh?), a country “lucky to be uninhibited by robophobia” (when compared to the awkwardness and riskiness of employing Filipina nurses), and how Japanese are loath to ask for directions (not to mention deal with other humans in linguistic honorifics)…

    Am I the only one finds this article annoying? I think the author, not to mention the robotic researchers who paint Japanese society so oddly, should get outside more and have more human interaction. Could be that Japan is good at robotics simply because Japanese industry is world class at complex electronics, and this is merely the next outlet? Moreover, I doubt robots will ever effectively replace the human touch when it comes to health care, especially for the sick and the elderly–call me a Luddite. Bests, Debito in Sapporo


    Japan’s humanoid robots
    Better than people
    Dec 20th 2005 | TOKYO
    From The Economist print edition


    Why the Japanese want their robots to act more like humans

    HER name is MARIE, and her impressive set of skills comes in handy in a nursing home. MARIE can walk around under her own power. She can distinguish among similar-looking objects, such as different bottles of medicine, and has a delicate enough touch to work with frail patients. MARIE can interpret a range of facial expressions and gestures, and respond in ways that suggest compassion. Although her language skills are not ideal, she can recognise speech and respond clearly. Above all, she is inexpensive . Unfortunately for MARIE, however, she has one glaring trait that makes it hard for Japanese patients to accept her: she is a flesh-and-blood human being from the Philippines. If only she were a robot instead.

    Robots, you see, are wonderful creatures, as many a Japanese will tell you. They are getting more adept all the time, and before too long will be able to do cheaply and easily many tasks that human workers do now. They will care for the sick, collect the rubbish, guard homes and offices, and give directions on the street.

    This is great news in Japan, where the population has peaked, and may have begun shrinking in 2005. With too few young workers supporting an ageing population, somebody–or something–needs to fill the gap, especially since many of Japan’s young people will be needed in science, business and other creative or knowledge-intensive jobs.

    Many workers from low-wage countries are eager to work in Japan. The Philippines, for example, has over 350,000 trained nurses, and has been pleading with Japan — which accepts only a token few — to let more in. Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.

    Japan certainly has the technology. It is already the world leader in making industrial robots, which look nothing like pets or people but increasingly do much of the work in its factories. Japan is also racing far ahead of other countries in developing robots with more human features, or that can interact more easily with people. A government report released this May estimated that the market for “service robots” will reach エ1.1 trillion ($10 billion) within a decade.

    The country showed off its newest robots at a world exposition this summer in Aichi prefecture. More than 22m visitors came, 95% of them Japanese. The robots stole the show, from the nanny robot that babysits to a Toyota that plays a trumpet. And Japan’s robots do not confine their talents to controlled environments. As they gain skills and confidence, robots such as Sony’s QRIO (pronounced メcurioモ) and Honda’s ASIMO are venturing to unlikely places. They have attended factory openings, greeted foreign leaders, and rung the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange. ASIMO can even take the stage to accept awards.

    The friendly face of technology

    So Japan will need workers, and it is learning how to make robots that can do many of their jobs. But the country’s keen interest in robots may also reflect something else: it seems that plenty of Japanese really like dealing with robots.

    Few Japanese have the fear of robots that seems to haunt westerners in seminars and Hollywood films. In western popular culture, robots are often a threat, either because they are manipulated by sinister forces or because something goes horribly wrong with them. By contrast, most Japanese view robots as friendly and benign. Robots like people, and can do good.

    The Japanese are well aware of this cultural divide, and commentators devote lots of attention to explaining it. The two most favoured theories, which are assumed to reinforce each other, involve religion and popular culture.

    Most Japanese take an eclectic approach to religious beliefs, and the native religion, Shintoism, is infused with animism: it does not make clear distinctions between inanimate things and organic beings. A popular Japanese theory about robots, therefore, is that there is no need to explain why Japanese are fond of them: what needs explaining, rather, is why westerners allow their Christian hang-ups to get in the way of a good technology. When Honda started making real progress with its humanoid-robot project, it consulted the Vatican on whether westerners would object to a robot made in man’s image.

    Japanese popular culture has also consistently portrayed robots in a positive light, ever since Japan created its first famous cartoon robot, Tetsuwan Atomu, in 1951. Its name in Japanese refers to its atomic heart. Putting a nuclear core into a cartoon robot less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki might seem an odd way to endear people to the new character. But Tetsuwan Atom — being a robot, rather than a human — was able to use the technology for good.

    Over the past half century, scores of other Japanese cartoons and films have featured benign robots that work with humans, in some cases even blending with them. One of the latest is a film called “Hinokio”, in which a reclusive boy sends a robot to school on his behalf and uses virtual-reality technology to interact with classmates. Among the broad Japanese public, it is a short leap to hope that real-world robots will soon be able to pursue good causes, whether helping to detect landmines in war-zones or finding and rescuing victims of disasters.

    The prevailing view in Japan is that the country is lucky to be uninhibited by robophobia. With fewer of the complexes that trouble many westerners, so the theory goes, Japan is free to make use of a great new tool, just when its needs and abilities are happily about to converge. “Of all the nations involved in such research,” the Japan Times wrote in a 2004 editorial, “Japan is the most inclined to approach it in a spirit of fun.”

    These sanguine explanations, however, may capture only part of the story. Although they are at ease with robots, many Japanese are not as comfortable around other people. That is especially true of foreigners. Immigrants cannot be programmed as robots can. You never know when they will do something spontaneous, ask an awkward question, or use the wrong honorific in conversation. But, even leaving foreigners out of it, being Japanese, and having always to watch what you say and do around others, is no picnic.

    It is no surprise, therefore, that Japanese researchers are forging ahead with research on human interfaces. For many jobs, after all, lifelike features are superfluous. A robotic arm can gently help to lift and reposition hospital patients without being attached to a humanoid form. The same goes for robotic spoons that make it easier for the infirm to feed themselves, power suits that help lift heavy grocery bags, and a variety of machines that watch the house, vacuum the carpet and so on. Yet the demand for better robots in Japan goes far beyond such functionality. Many Japanese seem to like robot versions of living creatures precisely because they are different from the real thing.

    An obvious example is AIBO, the robotic dog that Sony began selling in 1999. The bulk of its sales have been in Japan, and the company says there is a big difference between Japanese and American consumers. American AIBO buyers tend to be computer geeks who want to hack the robotic dog’s programming and delve in its innards. Most Japanese consumers, by contrast, like AIBO because it is a clean, safe and predictable pet.

    AIBO is just a fake dog. As the country gets better at building interactive robots, their advantages for Japanese users will multiply. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a robotocist at Osaka University, cites the example of asking directions. In Japan, says Mr Ishiguro, people are even more reluctant than in other places to approach a stranger. Building robotic traffic police and guides will make it easier for people to overcome their diffidence.
    (Contactable at ishiguro@ams.eng.osaka-u.ac.jp)

    Karl MacDorman, another researcher at Osaka, sees similar social forces at work. Interacting with other people can be difficult for the Japanese, he says, “because they always have to think about what the other person is feeling, and how what they say will affect the other person.” But it is impossible to embarrass a robot, or be embarrassed, by saying the wrong thing.
    (Contactable at kfm@ams.eng.osaka-u.ac.jp)

    To understand how Japanese might find robots less intimidating than people, Mr MacDorman has been investigating eye movements, using headsets that monitor where subjects are looking. One oft-cited myth about Japanese, that they rarely make eye contact, is not really true. When answering questions put by another Japanese, Mr MacDorman’s subjects made eye contact around 30% of the time. But Japanese subjects behave intriguingly when they talk to Mr Ishiguro’s android, ReplieeQ1. The android’s face has been modeled on that of a famous newsreader, and sophisticated actuators allow it to mimic her facial movements. When answering the android’s questions, Mr MacDorman’s Japanese subjects were much more likely to look it in the eye than they were a real person. Mr MacDorman wants to do more tests, but he surmises that the discomfort many Japanese feel when dealing with other people has something to do with his results, and that they are much more at ease when talking to an android.

    Eventually, interactive robots are going to become more common, not just in Japan but in other rich countries as well. As children and the elderly begin spending time with them, they are likely to develop emotional reactions to such lifelike machines. That is human nature. Upon meeting Sony’s QRIO, your correspondent promptly referred to it as “him” three times, despite trying to remember that it is just a battery-operated device.


    What seems to set Japan apart from other countries is that few Japanese are all that worried about the effects that hordes of robots might have on its citizens. Nobody seems prepared to ask awkward questions about how it might turn out. If this bold social experiment produces lots of isolated people, there will of course be an outlet for their loneliness: they can confide in their robot pets and partners. Only in Japan could this be thought less risky than having a compassionate Filipina drop by for a chat.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hardy har. Now let’s rephrase:

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

    Answer: “Gaijin”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sources for ancient texts and dictionaries concerning the word Gaijin:

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

    GOJ announces J population rises. But excludes NJ residents from survey.


     Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
     Hi Blog.  Here’s something quite odd.  We have the GOJ saying that the population of Japan is rising (ii n ja nai?).  Then they make it clear that the figures doesn’t include foreign residents.  Now why would any government worth its salt decide to exclude taxpayers thusly?  Aren’t registered foreign residents people too, part of a “population”?  Arudou Debito


    Population rises 1st time in 3 years

    The nation’s population grew for the first time in three years to 127,066,178 in the year to March 31, up 12,707 from a year earlier, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Thursday.

    The figure was based on resident registrations at municipal government offices and does not include foreign residents.

    Over the period, there was a fall in the natural population–the number of births minus the number of deaths in the year through the end of March–of 29,119. However, the figures showed an increase of 41,826 due to social factors such as the rise in the number of repatriates and newly naturalized citizens.

    The survey also showed that the population in Tokyo increased by 100,460, breaking the 100,000 mark for the first time since the government began taking such surveys in 1968 and reflecting the trend toward a concentration of the population in large cities.

    The number of births increased for two consecutive years to 1,096,465, but was offset by the number of the deaths, which went up by 44,410 to 1,125,584. The natural decline was the second for the nation, following the 2006 survey.

    Meanwhile, the so-called social population, which saw a decline of 12,297 in the year through March 31, 2007, rose by 41,826 for this year. The ministry believes that the social population increase can be attributed to an increased number of people returning home after their companies closed their offices overseas. Officials noted therefore that the overall trend of a declining population had not changed.

    (Aug. 1, 2008)



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


     きのうの読売によると、「人口3年ぶり増加」という。おめでとう。が、なぜ「人口」を言うのに外国人住民(つまり外国人登録者数)は入らないのでしょうか。国内に住居であり、納税して、社会の貢献者やメンバーではないかと思います。総務省はそうやって人を加算しないメリットはありますか。今後、「人口」を測るなら「人」を測りましょう。有道 出人









    (2008年8月1日02時14分  読売新聞)

    Tangent: Why I don’t debate outside of Debito.org


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Every now and then (actually, practically every day) I get word that somebody is taking up an issue on another list/blog/what have you and debating something on Debito.org.  Great.  That’s exactly what I want.

    But I rarely ever go on those blogs and answer the claims made (often erroneous — the product of people who either haven’t read what I said thoroughly, or think that nobody will follow up and actually read what I said in context).  Even when they email me individually to say, “C’mon, we’re talking aboutcha.”  

    Thanks for the invites, but I have a very specific reason for not doing that.  I as I wrote in my book, JAPANESE ONLY (pg 298-299), after our announcement that we were going to be suing Yunohana Onsen in Otaru for racial discrimination:

    Olaf:  “I’m being bombarded with emails.  How about you?”

    Debito:  “As usual.  A couple hundred per day.  About two-thirds, actually, are supportive.  The Account I opened for the lawsuit has already collected enough donations to pay for our legal fees, and then some.  Very generous people out there.”

    Olaf:  “But how do we answer the critics?”

    Debito:  “That’s the thing.  We don’t.  There are lots of them and one of you.  If you try to answer them all, or even try to engage in a debate on a list, you’ll find yourself tangled up in shouting matches with a Peanut Gallery that will never see things our way.  They diss people like us for sport. Ultimately you get tired out from all the reading and writing, unable to concentrate on what really matters — keeping the message clear and focused.  So sit back, let the critics weigh in, see what kinds of arguments are out there, and only answer the ones who are earnest or from people whose opinions personally matter to us.

    “This is not an unusual strategy.  Even the Reverend Martin Luther King used it.  In his ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ (April 16, 1963), where one of his protests was characterized as ‘unwise and untimely’ by local White liberal clergymen, he opened his letter with: 

    ‘Seldom, if ever, do I ever pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas… But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.’

    “I will issue a long answer over the Internet and on the website fairly soon.  After that, let that be our statement on the case. Send queries and a link and don’t bother saying much more.”

    That was a decision I came to back in 2001.  Nowadays, given that there are whole groups of attack blogs (i.e. people united by a common interest of wasting potentially productive lives attacking me) out there who have no problem whatsoever with issuing outright lies (no longer even deliberate misquotes, not even misreadings due to sloth or political bent), I follow this policy even more so, I’m afraid.  Thanks to the inverse proportion of anonymity and responsibility, the Internet has only gotten nastier over time.

    And even when a particular BBS has a more balanced (and literate) readership who can be bothered to take on the dolts, the debate goes on in circles because the dolts can’t admit they’re wrong and inject sophistry, or else latecomers don’t bother to read all the previous posts in the debate and it goes around in circles.  No thanks.  I think everyone has a better use of their time.

    Here’s an example.  For an entertaining read and seriously good debate (my thanks to the posters who actually bother to read what I write), here is a recent one from Big Daikon on the Hokkaido Police racial profiling issue I brought up last month:


    The point is that even when the debate is enjoyable, when earnestly confronted with errors and facts of the case, critics still would not acquiesce and instead obfuscated.  Sorry, there’s no winning or truth-seeking on most online debate arenas.  I like games that come to a conclusion, thanks.  That’s why I basically confine my comments and thoughts to this blog and my Newsletters.  

    To those who bother to read and quote me accurately, my thanks.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Japan Times July 8 2008 45th Zeit Gist Column: Gaijin as Public Policy Guinea Pig


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi All. This came out yesterday in the Japan Times, thought you might find it interesting. Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Non-Japanese, with fewer rights, are public policy test dummies
    By ARUDOU Debito
    Column 45 for the Japan Times Zeit Gist Community Page
    Draft Seventeen, “Director’s Cut”, with links to sources
    Published July 8, 2008, available at

    Anywhere in the world, non-citizens have fewer legal rights than citizens. Japan’s Supreme Court would agree: On June 2, in a landmark case granting citizenship to Japanese children of unmarried Filipina mothers, judges ruled that Japanese citizenship is necessary “for the protection of basic human rights”.

    A shortage of rights for some humans is evident whenever police partake in racial profiling–for example, stopping you for walking, using public transportation, even cycling while gaijin (Zeit Gist Jul. 27, 2004). Japanese citizens are protected against random questioning by the “Police Execution of Duties Act”; requiring probable cause of a crime. But non-citizens, thanks to the Foreign Registry Law, can be questioned at any time, any place, under penalty of arrest (with some caveats; see SIDEBAR below).
    Source: https://www.debito.org/japantimes072704.html

    The societal damage caused by this, however, isn’t so easily compartmentalized by nationality. Denying legal rights to some people will eventually affect everyone, especially since non-Japanese (NJ) are being used as a proving ground for embryonic public policy.

    Let’s start with the racial profiling. Mark Butler (a pseudonym), a ten-year Caucasian resident of Japan and Tokyo University student, has been stopped by police a lot–117 times, to be exact. He cycles home at sunrise after working in the financial night markets.

    Never mind that these cops see Mark every night. Or that the same cop has stopped him several times. Or that they sometimes make a scene chasing him down the street, and interrogate him in the cold and rain like a criminal suspect.

    Why do they do this? Cops generally claim a quest for bicycle thieves, never making clear why Mark arouses suspicion. When pressed further they admit: “Sure, we know you’re not a crook, but Chinese gangs are causing trouble, and if we don’t crack down on foreigners, the public thinks we’re not doing our job.”

    But at stoppage #67, at a police box that had checked him more than forty times already, a nervous junior cop admitted that this was his “kunren” (training).

    “It seemed the older officer there remembered I wasn’t a thief,” said Mark, “and saw an opportunity for some on-the-job training–without the risk of dealing with an actual criminal.”

    Mark concluded, “I’d be happy to serve as a paid actor who rides past police stations and cooperates (or not, as directed) with the trainees. But these are officials making use of innocent people–and foreigners at that–for their kunren, with small and large risks forced upon the innocent party.”

    No larger risk imaginable was recently forced upon a gaijin gimp by Narita Customs.

    On May 26, a Customs official planted 124 grams of cannabis in a NJ tourist’s bag. Why again? To train the sniffer dog.

    Unbelievably, the bag got lost. Customs later tracked down the tourist and his bag at a Tokyo hotel, then publicly blamed one bad egg, and one bad dog, for not being up to snuff. Even though Kyodo (June 30) now reports that Narita has laced bags 160 times since last September. The Mainichi in English even called it “common practice”.
    Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=1774

    Never mind that anyone else Trojan-Horsing dope would be committing a crime. And if the bag got on a connecting flight to, say, Singapore, the unwitting possessor would be put to death.

    Japan also has stiff penalties for drug possession, so imagine this being your bag, and the police on the beat snagging you for questioning. Do you think “how’d that get there?” would have sufficed? It didn’t for Nick Baker, arrested shortly before World Cup 2002, and sentenced to fourteen years despite evidence he was an unwitting “mule” (ZG Oct. 28, 2003).
    Source: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20031028zg.html

    And it didn’t suffice for a Swiss woman, arrested in October 2006 on suspicion of smuggling meth from Malaysia. Despite being found innocent twice in Japanese courts, she still hasn’t been released (because NJ have no right to bail in Japan, either). Thus being arrested under any pretense in Japan will seriously ruin your day–or the rest of your life.
    Source: https://www.debito.org/?p=1447

    Narita Customs said reprimands would be issued, paychecks docked, but nobody fired. That’ll learn ’em. But still the lack of transparency, such as whether Mr. Bad Egg knew the suitcase owner’s nationality from the bag tag, is indicative. It’s not inconceivable that his bag selection was judicious: If he’d egged a Japanese, think of the lawsuit. Non-tourists have plenty of time to hire a lawyer, and no language barrier.

    Mr. Bad Egg, who according to Kyodo had spiked bags 90 times, seems a systematic fellow. Apparently determined not to follow what Customs claims is standard procedure (such as stashing the contraband in a dummy bag; although common-sense precautions, like including a GPS locator or labeling the box “Property of Narita Customs”, apparently are not), it seems logical that he would target a gaijin guinea pig and safely hedge his bets.

    But why should citizens care what happens to NJ? Because NJ are crash-test dummies for policy creep.

    For example, systemic full-time contract employment (“ninkisei”) first started with the foreigners. In Japan’s universities (and many of its workplaces), if a Japanese was hired full-time, he got lifetime employment–unable to be sacked unless he did something illegal or really stupid (like, um, plant drugs?).
    Source: https://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkisei

    However, NJ educators and employees were given contracts, often capped at a certain age or number of renewals. And they didn’t get “fired” in legal terms–their contracts were merely “nonrenewed”. There was no legal recourse, because you agreed to the poison pill by signing the contract. Thus nationality and job stability were correlated, in a practice long derided as “Academic Apartheid”. Who cared? NJ were supposed to “go home” someday anyway.

    However, in the 1990’s, with the low birthrate and declining student numbers, Japan’s universities found themselves in trouble. So in 1997, a new law was passed enabling full-time Japanese educators to be hired on contracts like foreigners. Hey, it had kept the gaijin disposable for the past century–why not use it to downsize everyone?

    Eventually the entire job market recognized how “temping” and “freetering” everyone empowered the bottom line. Now contract employment is now universal–applied, according to Louis Carlet of the National Union of General Workers, to 20% of Japanese men, 50% of Japanese women, and 90% of NJ workers!

    Another example: Back in 2003, the government tried “Gaijin Carding” the entire population with the Juki-Net System. However, it faced a huge (and rare) public backlash; an Osaka High Court Judge even ruled it unconstitutional in 2006 as an invasion of privacy. Oddly, the judge died in an apparent suicide four days after his ruling, and the Supreme Court reversed his decision last March 6. Now the decks are legally cleared to track everyone.
    Source: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20061204a6.html

    Meanwhile, new, improved, centralized Gaijin Cards with IC Chips (ZG Nov. 22, 2005) are in the pipeline to keep the policing system evolving.
    Source: https://www.debito.org/?p=1431

    Even more examples: 1) Police stopping Japanese and rifling through their backpacks (vernacular articles have even started advising readers that this is in fact still illegal).

    2) More public surveillance cameras appearing nationwide, after Japan’s first neighborhood “foreign crime” cameras were installed in Kabukicho in February 2002. According to NHK (July 1), Tokyo is getting 4000 new ones for the Summit; temporarily, we hope.
    Source: https://www.debito.org/opportunism.html

    And of course, as readers know full well by now, 3) the G8 Summit security overkill, converting parts of Japan into a temporary police state for the sake of catching “terrorists” (foreigners, natch) (ZG Apr 22).
    Source: https://www.debito.org/?p=1639

    What’s next? How about fingerprinting everyone, and forcing them to carry RFID tracking devices? Hey, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear from extra surveillance, right? Besides, the gaijin have already set the precedent.

    The moral here is as below, so above. Our fellow native residents should not think that they won’t be “gaijinized” just because they are citizens. No matter what the Supreme Court writes about the power of citizenship, when it comes to the erosion of civil rights, non-citizens are the canaries in the coal mine.
    1320 words

    SIDEBAR (180 words)
    Checks and balances in ID Checks

    According to Mark Butler’s consultations with the police, without probable cause of a crime, police cannot stop and demand ID from citizens (see full article). However, “probable cause” goes grey when, for example, you are on a bicycle (“I need to check it’s not stolen”) or you look foreign (“is your visa valid?”).

    That’s why their first question is about your nationality. If not Japanese, they can apply the Foreign Registry Law and demand your Gaijin Card. If Japanese, legally they have to let you go.

    But cops are now finding excuses to stop Japanese: Backpackers might be carrying drugs or knives, high schoolers tobacco or alcohol, etc. That’s how they’ve been circumventing the law for Summit security overkill.

    Imagine interrogating a non-Asian who turns out to be naturalized or with NJ roots. With no Gaijin Card, and no way to prove he’s Japanese. If there’s no “bike or backpack” excuse, and an audio recording of the proceedings hits the media, this extralegal harassment may be unmasked as racial profiling.

    We’re waiting for that test case. Or rather, I am.


    American tarento Pakkun bullies eager language learners at G8 Summit Site


    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Saw something on NHK last night (General, 11PM) that made me see red.

    International comedy team Pakkun and Makkun (Pakkun is the American, Makkun the Japanese) were part of a comedy troupe who descended on the G8 Summit Site to test people’s language ability.

    Perhaps this is part of their act (I have avoided Pakkun in particular for quite some time–so far I have only found him humorlessly obnoxious), but NHK was exploring how Hokkaido locals around Toyako had spent years preparing for the G8 Summit beefing up their English language ability.

    First bit I saw (I came in late and left early) was a roundtable with a group of Japanese locals acting as a model UN, all speaking English to each other in the guise of several countries.  They were doing a decent job, had been learning from native volunteers (the TV show said) for about seventeen years.  Nice try, anyway, but Makkun told the Japanese woman to speak with her chest like a “typical American” (yeah, right); that’s pretty ignorant, but Pakkun told the guy posing as a Russian to learn a Russian accent–and essentially misled him into a German accent…!  Yeah, I’m sure that’ll help these people communicate.

    It went on in this vein–Pakkun telling people that if they make a mistake in English, they’ll cause an “international incident” (yeah, sure).  Pakkun putting a hotel owner (who had studied English language tapes in his car for two years) on the spot and in his place by using a complicated English question (about whether he was using English geared for the workplace or general conversation–or something like that–it was pretty mumbled) and occasioning a “pardon”?  And Pakkun walking into an onsen area with slippers and a towel, and acting dumb about being cautioned (“Uh… take off your slip…” “I’m not wearing a dress.” “Um… your shoes, take to locker…” “You want me to go back to my locker and take my shoes in there?”, and so on) in particular showed incredible insensitivity and ignorance, particularly given Hokkaido’s past difficulties with NJ in places like Otaru onsens.

    I had had enough.  I switched it off.  Way to go, Pakkun.  Japanese people in general have glass jaws when it comes to foreign languages in the first place.  And your going up there to nameru people with your native tongue, and doing it incorrectly and insensitively (it went beyond IMO a simple playfulness–it was making sport of them), did nobody any favors.  Least of all those earnest people who were trying so hard after so many years to cope with NJ.  Hardy har har.  Go to hell.  Arudou Debito in transit

    Kyodo says foreign crime down in 2007, yet NPA stresses need for further crackdown (UPDATED)


    Hi Blog. Quick article with comment following:


    No. of crimes committed by visiting foreigners down

    Courtesy of COJ

    TOKYO, Feb. 28 (AP) – (Kyodo)—The number of crimes committed by foreigners visiting Japan dropped for the second straight year to 35,800 last year, down 10.8 percent from the previous year, after hitting a peak in 2005, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

    However, the number of crimes detected by police during the five-year period from 2003 to 2007 increased some 70 percent from the period of with an NPA official stressing the need for further crackdown on them.

    Of the 35,800 cases, 25,753 cases were violations of the criminal code, down 6.2 percent from the previous year, while 10,047 cases were violations of special law, such as immigrant control and refugee recognition act, down 20.7 percent, according to the NPA.

    The number of foreign criminals arrested, excluding permanent residents in Japan, in the reporting year fell 15.6 percent to 15,923, of whom Chinese constituted 5,346, South Koreans 2,037, Filipinos 1,807, Brazilians 1,255 and Vietnamese 806.

    For nine criminals, Tokyo asked their home countries to punish them as they fled from Japan after committing crimes, bringing the number of such criminals to 48 since 1999.

    COMMENT: Pretty lousy social science. Not sure what “foreigners visiting Japan” refers to. Tourists? As opposed to “foreigners living in Japan”? Rainichi gaikokujin I assume is the original Japanese (that’s the word frequently used in this context by the NPA). That means residents.

    And what an odd sentence to make it through the editing process:

    “However, the number of crimes detected by police during the five-year period from 2003 to 2007 increased some 70 percent from the period of with an NPA official stressing the need for further crackdown on them.”

    From the period of what? From the period of the NPA official stressing the need for a further crackdown between 2003-7? No, that doesn’t make sense. It makes more sense that there’s an NPA official commenting for this article, meaning once again the NPA stresses a need for further crackdown. That’s illogical given this news.

    Which means the press is once again merely parroting without analysis. And we really need some better translators at Kyodo.

    The point is: the NPA will say anything, even make bad news out of good, to keep budgetary monies flowing in… Debito in Okinawa


    Here’s the original Japanese (and yes, it’s rainichi gaikokujin, and it does not include Permanent Residents. That still doesn’t mean “visitors”–there are hundreds of thousands of people who live here without PR as residents, not tourists.)

    外国人犯罪、2年連続で減 警察庁「高止まりの状態」



    (Literally: “On the other hand, when looking at the number of cases committed within five year periods, comparing the number of crimes committed between 2003-2007 and 1993-1997, there has been been a 70% rise. The NPA says, “Although there have been some rises and falls, in recent years it’s ‘been stopped at a high point’. From now on it’ll be necessary to for us to strengthen our crackdown even more.”)




    FURTHER COMMENT: So how many more years are we going to back up and say crime has increased? Why not go back to a time when there were a lot fewer NJ and look at crime stats back then? Calculating this way will always give you a higher number. Then you get perpetual justification for cracking down in the face of falling crime.

    Under this method, when can the police say, “We’ve done enough, we don’t have crack down any more on foreign crime”? Answer: Never. Because even if foreign crime fell to zero, they could still say that their past crackdowns have brought that about and we’ll have to continue cracking down.

    This is no longer anything even approaching a scientific method. Or even a logical method. It’s clearly just a political method.  And the Japanese press swallows it whole.  Debito in Okinawa