My Japan Times JBC 115: “Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb” (Apr 17, 2019)


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Hi Blog.  Here’s and excerpt of my latest Japan Times Just Be Cause Column 115, on NJ check in at hotels and Airbnb.  Reports to are already coming in that police are willfully misinterpreting the law, so be prepared if necessary to produce the law and stand your ground.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.



Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb

Last year, the government passed a law covering minpaku, which is when people rent out space on their properties to travelers (a la Airbnb). The law is part of an effort to regulate accommodations amid a tourism boom ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

One issue for non-Japanese travelers, though, has been whether they must show ID such as a passports at check-in.

For hotels, which fall under the Hotel Business Law, the regulation has always been this: For any adult, Japanese or non-Japanese, who has an address in Japan, ID is not required. You just write your contact details in the guest registry. However, for guests who don’t reside in this country, displaying ID (i.e., your passport) is required.

Seems straightforward so far, right? But as has been reported several times over more than 10 years of this column, the police (and occasionally the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) have confused things. Some hotels have been instructed that all “foreign guests” must show ID, specifically their passports…

Rest at

More information at

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Senaiho Update 2: School Bullying in Yamanashi JHS: How people who file complaints for official harassment get harassed back.


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Hi Blog. Here’s a second update from “Senaiho”, who has given important updates (previous ones here and here) about overzealous enforcers of school rules in Japan’s compulsory education system acting as what has long called “the Hair Police“. This phenomenon particularly affects NJ and Japanese of diverse backgrounds, who are forced by officials to dye and/or straighten their naturally “Non-Asian” hair just to attend school.

Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)  As reported on at the beginning of this year, after months of playing by the rules established by the local Board of Education, Senaiho finally lodged a formal criminal complaint against his daughter’s school officials, and it’s smoking out hidden documents.

The update is that The BOE is simply engaging in obfuscation and coverup. After attracting some (domestic) press attention (which didn’t itself cover the racial-discrimination aspect of this happening to a child of international background, for having the wrong natural hair color/texture), the local government has decided (as you can see below) to investigate not the case (to prevent something like this from ever happening again to another student), but rather how not to get sued. Official transcripts are also indicating testimonies grounded in rumor, not fact, without direct input from the victimized family.  And for good measure, we now have the time-worn bureaucratic tactic of smothering claimants with documents to consume all their free time. All while Senaiho is attempting to take this out of local lackluster investigative hands and into criminal court, by filing a criminal complaint.

The interesting news is that according to a recent article in Japan Today (full text after Senaiho’s dispatches) is that forcible hair cutting like this is seen as (generally distasteful) corporal punishment (taibatsu) elsewhere (in conservative Yamaguchi Prefecture of all places, home constituency of PM Abe).  In that case, apologies were forced by the students, top-down pressure put on the teacher to reform, and the teacher being relieved of some of his duties.  Let’s keep an eye on Senaiho’s case, for if his criminal complaint succeeds, it will be a template for others on how to take cases of abusive teachers out of the hands of evasive, “see-no-evil” Boards of Education, and protect diverse children from the cookie-cutter conformity of Japan’s JHSs and SHSs.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

From: Senaiho
Subject: officials meeting transcripts
Date: March 25, 2019
To: Debito Arudou <>
Hello Debito,

On the way to the prosecutors office yesterday we picked up a copy of all the documents the city office has concerning us. We made the disclosure request about a month ago. We have gone over most of it and I can report to you and your readers about the contents.

I have to begin by saying that we are only allowed to see documents that relate to us directly, so in the picture I sent, you can see we have the minutes of meetings between elected officials and heads of departments and their staff. Everything that does not relate to us is redacted, however if you hold the copies under a strong light, it is readable. I won t dwell on any of that for now. What I can say without a scientific survey, is that about 90% of the discussion about us in these meetings discussed how to avoid being sued. There was never anything discussed about how to make things right, or how to do anything properly, it was all a discussion on how to avoid, confuse, delay, and obfuscate. There was a small discussion on who might be personally responsible if a suit occurred, and the impression I got was they were all out to minimize their own personal responsibility by shifting the blame to some other department or person other than themselves. There was some discussion on the effect of the mass media, again trying to strategize a way to make themselves look better in some light. The remainder of the discussion was about a rumor some official had heard from someone in our neighborhood that we requested the teacher to cut our daughter’s hair and that we were in fact glad that they cut it. How ludicrous! We now know who the source of this non fact is.

Since some of these comments were made by elected officials, we have the right to demand clarification from these officials on the exact meaning of some of their statements which we will soon do.

So anyone who has ever wondered what these well paid officials do with some of their employed hours, now you know. Senaiho

From: Senaiho
Subject: council meeting transcripts
Date: March 27, 2019
To: Debito Arudou <>

Hello Debito,
We got another major data dump from the city office yesterday and are trying to sort through that now so have several balls to juggle. I think this might be a little difficult for your readers to grasp, so I will try to explain what these meeting transcripts are about and the issues we have with it.

1. There is an elected official on the town council by the name of Takei Toshihisa, you can find his name in the documents. He states several times in meetings that he has heard a “rumor” that he keeps repeating that my wife gave permission to the teacher and in fact asked her to cut our daughters hair. This is an outright lie. At first they tried the narrative that my daughter gave permission to the teacher to cut her hair, but now they are trying to make my wife the trouble maker by supposedly asking the teacher to cut our daughters hair. This is the tactic of shifting the blame from the perpetrator, i.e. the teacher and trying to place the focus of the cause of the trouble onto the victims, or in other words blame the victim for the accident. This was the strategy from the beginning by the B. of E. and the town council member is just following that line.

2. This town council member also tries to change the language of the incident and insists on downgrading the title of it from a “school accident” to something less serious, like “school incident”. By doing this he thinks it will lessen the seriousness and their liability in case they are sued. Just calling something by what it is not, will make it go away or lessen the impact of it. Here he shows that he has no understanding of what his job is as a member of the town council. Their job is oversight of the functions of the city government. When the B. of E. was not doing their jobs and following the law we petitioned the town council to oversee them and make them do it. You can see by these transcripts they are in fact not doing it.

3. Its not in these transcripts, but another member of the town council who happens to support our cause told us that she heard from this Takei san regarding us as people; “These people are a problem.” I suppose he has some deep seated hatred of mixed marriages and their offspring residing in “his” town. We plan on filing a complaint petition about what he says and the job he is doing which is our right as a citizen. I hope more people will do the same in their area.

If our case is taken up by the prosecutor it will be because of the fact that we have mountains of evidence showing what we claim. As you may know most cases get dismissed because of a lack of evidence. We started collecting it from the day we suspected our daughter was being bullied. We have recordings, pictures, statements from witnesses, documents, many bytes of stuff all on google drive. Without it we would be nowhere today. I cant stress this enough. Senaiho

Japan Today article:

High school teacher in hot water after forcibly giving male student a buzz cut
Apr. 4, 2019, courtesy of JDG
By Koh Ruide, SoraNews24 TOKYO

Not too long ago, teachers from a Japanese school made media headlines when they went to the extreme of cutting off 44 students’ hair for not meeting the dress code. And it appears a similar incident has happened again, this time in Kudamatsu Technical High School in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

In late autumn last year, a male teacher in his forties allegedly grabbed an electric hair clipper and gave one of his first-year male students a buzz cut, causing the boy take a leave of absence from school shortly after.

When approached by the principal in December, the teacher claimed he did it because his hair was too long.

But it seemed the problem ran deeper, as the educator had often hurled verbal abuse at his homeroom class, calling them “morons”, “idiots” and “stupid”, earning him a stern reprimand from the principal. When classes resumed in January after the New Year holidays, the teacher’s personality had apparently changed for the better, an improvement the principal thought not important to warrant reporting to the local Board of Education.

But all 40 pupils of that class and their parents had not forgotten that the educator forcibly cut someone’s hair, and furiously launched a petition to the board in February this year calling for his disciplinary dismissal.

In an effort to appease them, a meeting between school, Board of Education, students and parents was held on March 15, where the teacher officially apologized for his mistakes.

“Forcibly cutting students’ hair amounts to corporal punishment,” a board spokesman said firmly.

The educator’s role has now been shifted from homeroom teacher to assistant teacher, away from tasks that involve student-teacher interactions. “The current situation is still under investigation, and we will consider the feelings of the parents and students with regards to the teacher’s future,” said the principal.

“I deeply regret that it has come to this. I failed to report to the Board of Education because I thought the issue was solved with the teacher correcting his behavior, but I should have done so,” the principal apologized.

Source: Nikkan Sports via My Game News Flash


Nikkan Sports original article, courtesy of AnonymousOG:

教諭が生徒の髪を丸刈り 保護者らが懲戒免職を嘆願
[2019年3月25日 日刊スポーツ]





その後、今年1月に入り、同教諭の生徒指導が「人が変わったくらい」(同校長)改善されたように見えたため、教育委員会へ一連の事態について報告しなかったが、2月に嘆願書が出された。学校側は15日に教育委員会同席の上で生徒、保護者と分けて説明会を行い、教諭は謝罪したという。高橋校長は「子どもたちにとって12月までの言動、考えが変わったのだろうか? と疑問があったのでは」と説明した。



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MC on new Minpaku Law and NJ check-ins: Govt. telling AirBnB hostels that “foreign guests” must have passports photocopied etc. Yet not in actual text of the Minpaku Law. Or any law.


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Hi Blog.  It seems the GOJ is up to its old tricks:  Reinterpreting the law to pick on “foreigners” again.  This was seen previously on to encourage racial profiling at hotel check-ins, and now with the new Minpaku Law affecting AirBnB-style private homes opened for public accommodation (minshuku), it’s more of the same.  Read on from Reader MC:


From: MC
Subject: An experience with the new minpaku law that might interest your readers
Date: February 11, 2019

Hi Debito,

This might interest you and your readers. Feel free to post it if you think it might be appropriate. Sorry for the length, but it’s a bit of a complicated story.

I had an experience recently that raises a new aspect of the recurrent hotel registration problems that some people have. I have to admit I’ve rarely had problems at Japanese hotels, and on the few occasions I’ve been asked for ID, my polite refusal (aided by Debito’s very useful legal information -thanks Debito) has always been accepted. However the recent experience was a little different.

I was catching an early flight from Kansai, too early for the trains from home, so I decided to stay the previous night at a minpaku close to the airport, PLUS 9 Station Inn in Izumi Otsu, booked through booking dot com. They emailed information before check-in, among which they said “This is a staff-less guest house. You have to get your key at the accommodation and check in yourself.” No problem. The instructions for getting the key were clear. A later email, though, told me that there was an ipad in reception, and could we please scan and send copies of our passports, or in the case of Japanese people, driving licences (no mention of resident foreigners). Obviously realising that not everyone carries a driving licence, they asked for people without photo ID to photograph themselves on the iPad and upload the photo.

It was close to our departure day, and not having time to argue and possibly be asked to find somewhere else, I decided to simply ignore this. Arriving there, we retrieved the key from the key box, and stay went fine, with no contact from the company to ask why we hadn’t checked in through the iPad.

Afterwards I wrote to them with an explanation of the problematic nature of their system in regards to Non-Japanese customers. I also put a similar comment on their booking dot com page. First, they had no right to ask for photographs of anyone, resident or not, Japanese or not. The idea of requiring guests to upload a scan of a driving licence or passport, or even just a face shot, is just asking for identity theft, and is certainly illegal.

I explained the law on this as follows:  The Japan Hotel Laws are quite clear on this: If the guest is NOT a resident of Japan you DO have the right to ask for a passport number (not a copy of the passport). But if the guest IS a resident of Japan, on the other hand, whatever the nationality, they have no responsibility to provide any kind of copy of an official document or any photograph. It’s a gross invasion of privacy.”

They replied, saying that the new Minpaku Law of 2018 allowed for online check-in, and required photographic ID. The former is true, but I didn’t think the latter was. However, I checked out the wording at the Minpaku system portal on the MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) site, and it looks to me as though there is some cause for worry.

I’m not sure whether these pages quote the actual law, or whether they are simply guidance for owners regarding the effects of the law.  The main MLIT portal site is here:
(The page links to an English translation, but only of part of this section.)

[Ed:  For the record, the MLIT portal page is a reinterpretation of the legal writ in plain language.  For example, one of the main subject headers from MLIT is(1)本人確認の方法, or “Method for Confirming Identity”. Yet nowhere in the actual text of the law did I find the word “本人確認”.  To check for yourself, here’s the actual text of the Minpaku Law in Japanese, word-searchable here online and here as a .txt file.]

Section 4 of the MLIT reinterpreted version deals with the requirement on minpaku owners to keep a register and to be able to provide it to the police on request. There’s no ambiguity in the first paragraph. Owners have to keep a record of the name, address, occupation and dates of stay for all guests. If the guests do not have a Japanese address, the owner also needs to record the nationality and passport number. All good so far.

Part (1) of this section, though, is a bit more worrying. First (A and B) it says that a photograph of the guest’s face or passport should be clearly confirmed to be accurate, and that this photograph should be identifiable as having been taken at or close to the premises. It suggests that a video phone or tablet in the minshuku could be used for this. There’s no mention here of Japan residency. Or of what sort of ID would be suitable for ALL guests (not just foreign guests), since not all guests carry passports.

A 宿泊者の顔及び旅券が画像により鮮明に確認できること。
B 当該画像が住宅宿泊事業者や住宅宿泊管理業者の営業所等、届出住宅内又は届出住宅の近傍から発信されていることが確認できること。

Then (Part (1), 2) is where it seems to require, or at least suggest, photographing the passports of non-resident foreigners. (Here it does specifically mention residence.) It even suggests that this photograph can be submitted as an alternative to filling in the guest register columns relating to nationality and passport number. (Part (1), 3) says that in cases where the guest refuses to provide a copy of their passport, they should be told that this is a government requirement, and if they still refuse it is possible that they do not have the passport on them, and therefore the police should be informed. 

1 宿泊者に対し、宿泊者名簿への正確な記載を働きかけること。
2 日本国内に住所を有しない外国人宿泊者に関しては、宿泊者名簿の国籍及び旅券番号欄への記載を徹底し、旅券の呈示を求めるとともに、旅券の写しを宿泊者名簿とともに保存すること。なお、旅券の写しの保存により、当該宿泊者に関する宿泊者名簿の氏名、国籍及び旅券番号の欄への記載を代替することもできます。
3 営業者の求めにも関わらず、当該宿泊者が旅券の呈示を拒否する場合は、当該措置が国の指導によるものであることを説明して呈示を求め、さらに拒否する場合には、当該宿泊者は旅券不携帯の可能性があるものとして、最寄りの警察署に連絡する等適切な対応を行うこと。

[Ed:  Which means that if a NJ resident of Japan (who is not required to carry a passport; that’s why Gaijin Cards exist) shows up without a passport, under these directives he’s likely to have the cops called on him by careless or overzealous clerks.  And as the Carlos Ghosn Case shows quite plainly, you do not want to be detained for questioning by the Japanese police.

[Moreover, after doing a word search of the actual text of the law, I CANNOT find the word 本人確認, or the words passport パスポート/旅券 or even photo/image 写真/画像.  What section of the Minpaku Law (or of any law — the Japanese police have lied about the nonexistent photocopying requirement before) is the MLIT-reinterpreted version referring to?]

MLIT’s official English translation of the law is:

Private lodging business operators need to verify identity according to the following contents:
1. Keep an accurate record of guests on the guest list.
2. For foreign guests who do not have an address in Japan, accurately record the name, nationality and passport number in the appropriate column for each guest, request that each guest present their passport and save copies of each passport together with the guest list. By saving a copy of the passport, you can accurately record the name, nationality and passport number on the guest list.
3. If a foreign guest who does not have an address in Japan refuses to present their passport despite the request of the private lodging business operator, explain that the measures are based on national government regulations. If the guest continues to refuse, and there is the possibility that the guest is not carrying a passport, take the appropriate action such as contacting the nearest police station.

More worryingly, there is a link from this page to a model of a guest register. It’s here:

The model has a list of categories that need to be filled in: name, date etc. The last two are ‘nationality’ and ‘passport number’. Under ‘passport number’, it clearly says “If the nationality is other than Japanese, passport number must be entered.” There’s nothing, though to say a) that Japanese nationality does not need to be recorded, and b) that neither does nationality for foreigners with Japanese addresses.

[Ed:  As MC notes, this is misleading. In the opening part of Section 4 of the MLIT-reinterpreted version, it says, as is proper, that “lodgers that are foreigners without addresses in Japan need to give nationality and passport number”: 宿泊者が国内に住所を有しない外国人であるときは、その国籍及び旅券番号.  So why is this not continuously pointed out in this section?  Again, as before, this encourages racial profiling of all guests who look “foreign”.]

So there are several inconsistencies here. On the one hand the guidance (if that’s what it is) confirms the requirement of the hotel law to date, namely that passport numbers (not copies) are required from non-resident foreigners, and only from them. On the other hand since they clearly want to allow for places to operate without any check-in staff, the distinction between providing a passport number and providing a copy of the passport, and the distinction between resident and non-resident gets blurred, and it’s easy to see how owners trying to keep up with this legislation will not be too conscientious about it.

I haven’t yet replied to the minshuku about this. I’d appreciate any advice, or any information anyone has about the new law, that I might have missed or misinterpreted.

Sincerely, MC


COMMENT:  Interestingly enough, and on the plus side, there’s a special section in the Minpaku Law that specifically says that minpaku accommodations must aim for the comfort and convenience of “foreign tourists”.  Clearly, none of these damned refusals of NJ reservations on the grounds of “we only have futons, not Western-style beds” or “we don’t speak any foreign languages” (as has happened to me on various occasions, even when I’m speaking Japanese).


第七条 住宅宿泊事業者は、外国人観光旅客である宿泊者に対し、届出住宅の設備の使用方法に関する外国語を用いた案内、移動のための交通手段に関する外国語を用いた情報提供その他の外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定める者を講じなければならない。

Now, on the MLIT plain-language site, this is reinterpreted more clearly as follows:


Boldface added to item (3) because it includes information from a different clause (such as the one just before it on disaster information):

第六条 住宅宿泊事業者は、届出住宅について、非常用照明器具の設置、避難経路の表示その他の火災その他の災害が発生した場合における宿泊者の安全の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定めるものを講じなければならない。

which says nothing about rendering it in a foreign language.  Commonsensibly, this would be nice to do.  But portraying translation as something required by law is another stretch.

So this seems to be a freewheeling interpretation of the law being made by MLIT (as keeps happening by Japanese officialdom, particularly the Japanese police, over-interpreting the law for their convenience to target foreigners).  Again, I’m not sure where MLIT is getting the bit about passport numbers (and by extension and hotel interpretation, passport copies and mugshots).

But where is this going?  Towards more rigmarole, policing, and official harassment of NJ-resident customers who just want to get a berth for the night.  And I have been hearing (thanks SC) of other Japan-lifers now finding it harder to check-in while foreign.

Bottom line:  The new Minpaku Law hasn’t fundamentally changed anything in regards to NJ resident customers.  You are still not required to show ID, passport, or photo if you have an address in Japan.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.


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Senaiho on criminal complaint against Jr High School “Hair Police” in Yamanashi


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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. We are still hearing about Japan’s overzealous enforcers of Japan school rules, particularly when it comes to hairstyles, in what has long called the “Hair Police“. This phenomenon particularly affects NJ and Japanese of diverse backgrounds, who are forced by officials to dye and/or straighten their naturally “Non-Asian” hair just to attend school and get a compulsory education.

Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)

It’s happened in Yamanashi to Submitter Senaiho, who after many months of fruitless investigation has lodged a formal criminal complaint against his daughter’s school officials.  Read on for his report.  This issue has appeared in about 45 articles in Japanese media.  Here’s hoping this blog entry helps attract attention from the English-language media too.  Dr. Debito Arudou


December 17, 2018
By Y&D Senaiho

Everyone’s child is unique, at least most parents think and rightly so. All children are all unique in their own way. We felt no different when our fourth child was born. A beautiful baby girl who took the most honored place among three older brothers and we were constantly filled with joy as we watched her grow into a young woman. Little did we suspect after putting three boys through the difficult early-teen years of middle school in Japan, what we were going to experience when our little bundle of joy began her middle school enterprise.

Her first year of middle school began pretty much as her elementary school years in the Japanese public educational system finished, she would wake up every day more or less eager and looking forward to the days activities of classes, meals, meeting and playing with friends, and she would come home in the late afternoon bubbling with stories of the days events and happenings. We began to notice a dramatic change when she was no longer looking forward to going to school, or would leave reluctantly with a dire look on her face. Inquires about what was wrong only got short answers: “Nothing” or ominous silence.

We finally discovered the reason for her distress from her home room teacher. The cause was that she was being teased by a group of female classmates on account of her “Gaijin smell” or what we later came to know as “body odor”. I put it down to active hormones caused by puberty. Being the child of an Asian and western marriage, there was the scientific fact that she most likely has a larger than average (for Japan) number of sweat glands that secrete the proteins that causes body odor. No big deal, I thought, nothing a little deodorant would t fix, right! How naive I was.

We requested and got a C.A.R.E. package from my mother in the US in short order, filled with a wide assortment of feminine deodorants and fresheners. Along with these, daily baths, regular changes of underwear, and any other regimen we could think of, we tried. I have to say I never noticed any remarkable body odor in her presence, just the usual teen aroma that wasn’t any more or less fragrant than some of the odors I have noticed while teaching large groups of university pupils, and early adults. Our efforts were apparently not sufficient enough to relieve the offense of those in her class who were so nauseated. The teasing and complaints apparently continued for several months and into my daughter’s second year of middle school. She became less and less careful about things in general, and began showing signs of depression. Professional counseling seemed to help a little, but didn’t alleviate the root cause; Bullying for being a smelly half-gaijin!

Things seemed to have gotten out of control about the middle of the first semester of her second year, in order to try to reduce the teasing, her teacher decided that she needed to have her hair cut. We made an attempt in the evening of that day’s request by the teacher, but the next day on arriving to school my daughter’s haircut was deemed insufficient. The teachers decided to take matters into their own hands and decided to cut her hair in full view of other students and without our consent or even contacting us to ask permission.

That evening our daughter came home so traumatized that all I can say is that she has not been to school since that event. It was hard for me to understand how having ones hair cut could be so traumatic, but combined with all the other harassment that had been going on up till that point, it seemed to be the last straw. This was when the big cultural divide between the Japanese school system and my upbringing in the American school system came into full raging view. I vividly remember being in the third grade of elementary school and for some reason one day decided I wasn’t going to go to school anymore. My mother who happened to be an elementary school teacher herself, told me about the wonderful Truant Officer who would pay us a visit and force me to go to school. “He might even put your father and me in jail if you don’t go to school” she said. I decided I really didn’t want to see my parents go to jail; it would affect meals, Christmas presents and so on, I reasoned thankfully. The next day I reluctantly announced that for the good of all I will agree to return to school. I expected the same outcome with my daughters truancy. How could anybody just refuse to go to school? ‘This will not continue’ I remember thinking, after all it is “compulsory education” right? How wrong I was.

When my daughter’s absence went from a few days to several weeks I became alarmed. I got quite an education on where the burden of an education lies within Japanese society. Suffice it to say that it seems the entire burden is on the legal guardians of the child as to what constitutes an acceptable educational environment as far as the school system is concerned. On the other hand there are all kinds of educational laws on the books as to what and how the school system in obligated to make a safe and acceptable learning environment, especially with regard to compulsory education up through middle school. Cutting a child’s hair is not acceptable, as is allowing an environment of bullying and/or harassment, physical or mental. We spent the next year and six months trying to get the school to accept the responsibility for the trauma my daughter has suffered and to make a safe environment for her to return to her studies. All to no avail. Not only would they not even consider our issues, they branded us “Monster Parents” and tried to ignore that they had any responsibility whatsoever. However according to Guidebook of School Dispute Resolution by Kamiuchi Satoru, pg 216-217, The legal responsibilities of compulsory education in Japan are:

There shall be:

1. No provision of reasonable consideration based on developmental disability support law, disability discrimination prevention law

2. No response to bullying, contrary to the ordinance such as bullying prevention measure promotion law, Yamanashi city bullying countermeasure contact council, etc.

3. No School accident judgment incompatible and not pursuant to the “Ministry of Education, Culture, Administration” guidelines on response to school accidents.

What this legalese means in real life, is that the onus is legally completely on the school to make it safe and secure for every student to attend, including making any accommodations for special needs like attention deficit disorder, special training, or bullying awareness, really anything that would hinder any student from being able to participate in their education. In actuality, at least as far as the school system in our part of Yamanashi is concerned, they are still operating according to pre-Meiji era standards of education. According to Sakata Takashi (School Legal Mind: p. 3) This system assumed that the parents, neighborhood, and school would work together informally to solve any disputes. In fact, what has happened is that Japanese society has changed, within the past couple decades or so, so quickly and completely that Japanese compulsory education has failed to catch up. In fact modern Japan with the collapse of the economic bubble and dramatic decline in the number of child bearing couples finds itself at odds with an educational system stuck in the past. Parents are bucking heads with school officials demanding more and better legal responsibility and dispute formal resolution on the part of the schools their children attend.

For the parents of children born and/or being raised in Japan, who come into educational issues with school officials, this will require a willingness to choose a more legalistic route in settling disputes with school officials and even on occasion, parents of classmates. Changes come to all eventually, even Japanese education.

Satoru Kamiuchi, “Guidebook Of School Dispute Resolution” (Nihon Kajo Publishing, 2016) 216-217.
Takashi Sato, “School Legal Mind,” (Gakuji Publishing 2015) Introduction.


Update January 9, 2019

Since writing this article in the spring of last year, there have been several developments in our case. At the end of 2017, we submitted a petition to the Yamanashi board of education requesting they do an investigation into the bullying, and reasons for the trauma experienced by our daughter. As a result of this experience she has been absent for almost the entire last two years of her middle school education.

Over the course of 2017 with the help of our local Ombudsman, we managed to collect over 1500 signatures requesting that the school board do an internal investigation into the causes and responsibilities of the incidents regarding our daughter. The school board agreed to do an investigation. At the end of 2018 after reports of monthly meetings of the school board (in which we were not allowed to participate), we were informed that the results of this investigation completely exonerated the teachers and any public officials of any misdeeds or responsibility regarding the treatment of our daughter. It was all our fault as incompetent parents that our daughter was bullied and suffered such trauma that she was not able to attend school. Shame on us. We have requested to see a copy of this report, but have been informed that will not be allowed. The reason given is that it contains the names of private individuals involved whose privacy must be protected. Bullspit! We tried to be civil and it got us nowhere.

As of January 8, 2019, we have filed with the Yamanashi Pref. Police a criminal complaint naming the school principal and three teachers as defendants. Later that afternoon we also held a press conference. As of this writing articles regarding our case have appeared in several newspapers across the country. Since it is still early in the criminal case, I am sure there will be many developments over the next several weeks and months. I will strive to keep you informed as these occur.Y&D Senaiho

(January 8, 2019, Yamanashi Nichi Nichi Shinbun.  Click on image to expand in browser.)

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SendaiBen on “Anytime Fitness” Sports Gym Gaijin Carding him, and how he got them to stoppit


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an instructive post from Reader and Contributor SendaiBen.  He was told (like so many people are) that he had to surrender his Zairyuu “Gaijin Card” in order to register for service.  But as he (and many other veterans of this silliness) know, you only have to present it when asked by a member of Japan’s policing or Immigration officials to do so.  Otherwise, any form of ID (such as a Japanese driver license) that works for Japanese should work for NJ too.  

But some companies don’t know or don’t care, so they push NJ around.  Here’s how SendaiBen successfully pushed back, in the case of a sports gym (a notorious business sector towards NJ members) called Anytime Fitness.  And so can you.  Follow his footsteps.  Dr. Debito Arudou (still getting used to the new WordPress format, so please pardon some formatting creakiness).


Date: November 24, 2018
From: SendaiBen

A few of my friends joined Anytime Fitness recently. They are a gym franchise that allows 24-hour access via a key card and have decent facilities and reasonable fees. They are expanding rapidly in Japan.

I went to check them out with my wife. There were a lot of things I liked, including the fact that you can work out in your street shoes (so no need to bring special shoes just for the gym), the fact they had two squat racks (very rare in Sendai), and the reasonable fees and ability to use other Anytime Fitness gyms in Japan and worldwide.

As we were going through the explanation of how to join, the guy showing us around said that my wife would need ID and her bank card to sign up, and (after confirming I was not a Japanese national — which was a nice touch, I thought) said I would need my ID, zairyu card, and bank card.

My wife gasped slightly (she knew what was coming).

I asked whether I could sign up with my driver’s license instead, and the guy said no, foreign nationals needed to provide their zairyu card.

We left soon after that without signing up. I was a bit put out as I don’t like it when companies make up unnecessary discriminatory rules. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think it is important to push back in these situations to prevent this kind of thing from spreading.

I went home and sent an email to the Anytime Fitness main office. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get it checked, so it is in my fairly poor Japanese:

It basically says ‘I went into the local Anytime Fitness today and was told I need to present a zairyu card as well as other ID to sign up. I presume the staff member I talked to is working off your manual, so didn’t want to argue with them. I have three questions:
Is it actually necessary for me to present my zairyu card (cannot sign up with driver’s license)?
If it is true what is the reason? A zairyu card is an important document that can only be demanded by the police or immigration. It contains important personal information.
If it is true for what purpose will you use this personal information and how will it be managed?

I got a reply back the next day that was basically a cut and paste: we’re sorry you had an unpleasant experience and the local branch will be in touch to explain:

I replied saying that my questions were not about how the branch handled things but rather regarding their policies for signing up for membership. I then got the following the next day:

Basically it says that in order to sign up for membership you need to have one form of ID from the list (driving license, passport, health card, zairyu card, copy of jyuminhyo, my number card) and your bank card. Some bank accounts can’t be used (this actually happened to me, they were unable to use my Shinsei account so I used another one instead).

I then got an email from the gym itself:

This basically says that ‘it is not absolutely necessary to present the zairyu card’ but they use it to check the names of people that break the rules so that they can’t sign up for membership after they have been kicked out.

Of course this doesn’t make much sense as they could use a driver’s license to do the same thing, eh? 😉

I then emailed back asking if I could sign up with just my driver’s licence after all:

And got this reply shortly afterwards:

This very short email says ‘yes, you can sign up with your driver’s license’ (and doesn’t say, but I guess includes the sentiment ‘please don’t send me any more emails’).

Today I went back to the gym to sign up. I talked to a different guy and not once did the zairyu thing come up (although I noticed the first guy was in the office so presumably was instructing his colleague not to trigger the argumentative customer). I filled in some forms, showed my driving license, scanned my bank card (Shinsei didn’t work so used a different one), got my key, worked out, and went home.

Hopefully in the future they will be more careful how they phrase things. I have heard from friends in other areas of Japan that they have also run into the zairyu card thing with Anytime Fitness, so hopefully this post will give some ideas of how to push back in a calm and constructive fashion.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting the gym to back down, so I am kind of impressed with how they dealt with the situation. Obviously it would have been better if they had just taken my driver’s license in the first place, but failing that listening to my complaint and changing their stance was the best outcome I could have hoped for.

It seems more and more companies are becoming aware of the zairyu card, not just as another form of acceptable ID, but sometimes as the only form of ID they will accept from non-Japanese citizens. I personally believe that is unacceptable, so will continue to push back in this way to prevent it from spreading. I don’t want to be asked for my zairyu card by random companies as I go about my daily life. — SendaiBen

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Excellent Japan Times feature on dual citizenship in Japan: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy leaves many in the dark


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Hi Blog. This lengthy feature from The Japan Times conducts original research on dual nationality in Japan, and gives vital insights into the game of legal chicken played by the Japanese Government to get people to forfeit their dual nationality (and by extension, part of their identity), all for mere allegiance to the fiction that Japan is monocultural and homogeneous. This suppression of diversity must stop, but few are taking notice. That is, until recently, when it’s become clear that “Japan-Claiming” of diverse Japanese such as Osaka Naomi helps with the other thing the insecure Japanese Government craves: respect and recognition for excellence on the world stage.

That’s why it’s worth revisiting this older JT article below.  The takeaway is this: As the JT has also recently reported, there is no real penalty from the Japanese Government for not surrendering your non-Japanese nationality:  “There have been no reported instances of dual nationals by birth having their citizenship revoked.” So as has always advised: Declare Japanese nationality and quietly keep renewing your foreign passport. The foreign government will not tell the Japanese authorities (it’s none of their business), and the Japanese authorities cannot strip you of a foreign nationality (or even confiscate a foreign passport–it’s the property of the foreign government). Only you can give one up. So don’t. Dr. Debito Arudou


Dual citizenship in Japan
A “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy leaves many in the dark
By Sakura Murakami and Cory Baird
The Japan Times, Feature, Undated, Mid-2018
Start from

INTRO: Seeking elusive answers to a big question

Forfeiting your citizenship might seem like a strange way to better connect with your country, but Hana Dethlefsen was compelled to make such a decision after getting caught up in the complicated legal web of Japan’s Nationality Act.

“I had to give up my Japanese nationality in order to qualify for the JET Programme, which I did at age 21. My understanding was that I would have to give it up at age 22 anyway, so giving it up one year earlier wouldn’t have made a difference,” Dethlefsen said. JET is a state-sponsored program that invites non-Japanese college graduates to work mainly as language teachers at local schools.

“(But) in my discussions with other half-Japanese friends, I’ve come to understand that we all have different understandings of what is acceptable,” said Dethlefsen, who now has German and Canadian citizenship.

Confusion about the legality of holding dual nationalities stems from the opaqueness of the law and the difficulties surrounding its enforcement, causing some to forfeit one of their nationalities while others live in fear of a day when they are forced to choose between their citizenship, identity and family ties.

The nationality law officially obliges those who have multiple citizenships by birthright to choose one by the age of 22.

But in fact, possibly hundreds of thousands have maintained multiple nationalities and to date the government has never cracked down on any of them.

In response to questions over the number of dual nationals, the Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times that some 890,000 people were or are in a position to have dual nationality. This figure is based on official family registries maintained by local municipalities between 1985 and 2016, and includes people who have declared or forfeited Japanese citizenship, as well as people assumed to have multiple nationalities based on their birthright.

“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon.”

According to a survey conducted by The Japan Times of 1,449 people with dual nationalities, 76.8 percent maintain dual citizenship while 23.2 percent decided to forfeit one of their passports.

The same survey showed that 39.5 percent of multiple passport holders “always” switch passports depending on the country they enter, while 37.3 percent “sometimes” switch passports.

With the government’s official position becoming more divorced from a globalizing society where a large number of people maintain dual nationalities, many have to rely on word-of-mouth for information on what they see as an important, life-changing decision regarding their citizenship.

“We had received different information about what is and isn’t acceptable, and therefore, some of us had dual nationality and some of us had given up our Japanese citizenship when we came of age,” Dethlefsen said.

May, who declined to give her real name for this article, citing privacy concerns, has both Japanese and Australian citizenship. She told The Japan Times that years ago when she was unsure about what to do with her dual nationalities, she often relied on internet forums and social media websites such as Mixi to connect with others in similar situations.

“We would talk about what we would do with our dual citizenship, we would try to give each other anecdotal advice. This is still the same now. These topics come up all the time and nobody knows the answer,” she said.

“When I renewed my passport most recently — two years ago — I had a massive meltdown because there was a new section where I had to report whether I had dual nationality. I bawled my eyes out. … I was worried I would have to give up one of my citizenships,” she continued.

“We had received different information about what is and isn’t acceptable, and therefore, some of us had dual nationality and some of us had given up our Japanese citizenship when we came of age.”
Like May, many dual citizens are surprised to see that passport renewal forms include a section regarding dual nationality. This is in order to confirm whether the applicant has naturalized as a citizen of another country, which under the law would automatically mean the revocation of their Japanese passport, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

But having multiple passports does not mean that the ministry won’t issue a Japanese passport, the official added, since the Foreign Ministry does not track dual citizens.

While the murkiness over the law has left those with multiple nationalities anxious about their status and has prompted many to take steps to hide it, many dual nationals spoke of experiences that seem to indicate the government has been quick to look the other way when it comes to enforcing the law.

“I remember I once stupidly handed in the wrong passport — my American one instead of my Japanese one — at the immigration desk for Japanese passports,” Chris, who also requested anonymity when talking to The Japan Times, said of an experience when entering Japan.

“There was a moment of panic but the Japanese immigration agent just said, ‘No sir, the other passport.’ I handed in my Japanese passport and he took it, stamped it, and let me pass. … It was as if he had experienced this kind of situation multiple times, and saw this particular episode as a nonissue,” he said.

Yet, there appear to be some cases where dual nationals have experienced pressure from local government officials to choose between one of their nationalities.

That was the case for James, who requested he be identified by his first name only. During a visit to his local government office, he was informed, much to his surprise, that he also was a Japanese national. Since James had already registered as a foreign resident at the same local government office, it was obvious to the local officials that he, in fact, possessed multiple nationalities.

When he decided to register as a Japanese citizen, the local city officials appeared to be agitated by the decision.

“Because I was already registered as a foreigner, it caused quite a stir at the city office. … An employee told me that I needed to turn in my American passport to the city office and sign a document saying that I give up my American citizenship,” James recalled.

“I said that I’m not comfortable doing that (giving up my American citizenship), and that I’d like to consult a lawyer familiar with this type of issue. … (The official) said that I was just unwilling to do things that were inconvenient. I left after that, feeling pretty bad about the experience.”

“I strongly connect with my Japanese heritage, but I don’t feel welcomed by Japan. Having to choose a nationality at age 22 was the first formal instance of feeling as though I was ‘not Japanese enough.’ ”

One factor behind the confusion over the law is that it fails to specify any penalties against dual nationals who do not pick a nationality. It instead only states that the justice minister reserves the right to “warn” them to choose a nationality. If a dual national does not make a choice within a month of receiving the warning, their Japanese nationality is automatically revoked.

However, this right to warn such nationals under the 1985 revision of the nationality law has never been exercised, a Justice Ministry official confirmed earlier this month, partly because the act of tracking down citizens with multiple nationalities and encouraging them to make a choice would be a bureaucratic nightmare.

“We actually cannot be sure about who has multiple nationalities,” Kei Kurayoshi, then the ministry official in charge of nationality issues, told a parliamentary session in 2008.

“Given that uncertainty, sending reminders to those we just happen to know have multiple nationalities by chance is a questionable practice,” Kurayoshi said. “There are a lot of opinions about this, but we have not sent out any reminders due to such reasons.”

That is not to say that the law itself is completely ineffective, because in theory Japanese citizenship could be revoked if a dual national does not make a choice. Its very existence serves as a threat, said Yasuhiro Okuda, a law professor at Chuo University who specializes in the Nationality Act.

Even if it may be only on paper and not in practice, the official stance that one can have just a single citizenship sends a powerful message to those with multiple nationalities.

“I strongly connect with my Japanese heritage, but I don’t feel welcomed by Japan. Having to choose a nationality at age 22 was the first formal instance of feeling as though I was ‘not Japanese enough,’ ” Dethlefsen said.

This sentiment was echoed by Chris.

“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon,” he said. “I think of that decision as emotionally charged.”

Michiko, who asked to be identified only by her first name, was born to a Japanese mother and a German father but never lived here and only received her Japanese passport at the age of 22 on a visit to Japan. She was unaware of the intricacies of having dual nationalities in Japan, yet she could tell that something didn’t feel quite right when her mother took her to the local municipality to get her first Japanese passport.

“When we got the passport in Japan at the local city hall, it didn’t feel legal to me,” she said. “It felt a little weird. I never researched it or anything … but I just had this feeling that it was illegal to have a second passport.

This climate of fear is creating a vicious cycle of negativity, said Teru Sasaki, professor of sociology at Aomori Public University.

“For some, nationality is the final stronghold of the Japanese identity. The very notion of dual nationality challenges that and creates fear for those who are unfamiliar with the concept,” said Sasaki.

Regardless of whether dual nationality is tacitly approved or not, “the idea of single nationality also tied in with, and reinforced, the Japanese postwar belief in a pure, homogeneous nation-state,” said Atsushi Kondo, a professor at Meijo University in Nagoya. “The wording of the current law shows a very strong hope in maintaining that ideal.”

“For some, nationality is the final stronghold of the Japanese identity. The very notion of dual nationality challenges that and creates fear for those who are unfamiliar with the concept.”
Sasaki noted that this climate of fear became especially prominent during last year’s media frenzy over whether Renho, who at the time was leader of the Democratic Party, held both Japanese and Taiwanese citizenship.

“The recent public backlash over whether Renho had dual nationality created an atmosphere of fear for the individual,” he said.

As multiple citizens languish under this cloud of uncertainty, any hopes of spurring momentum on the issue within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been lost in the wake of the Renho furor. In addition to the already entrenched beliefs about identity, this lack of political momentum has contributed to the inertia surrounding the law.

“The question of nationality is an issue of great significance to nationalists, as well as some politicians,” said Kondo, who expressed his skepticism that any changes to the nationality law would come about.

He added that Renho’s case is an example of the reluctance to change the political climate, saying that “Some politicians made a big fuss about the possibility that she was a dual national, despite the fact that none of the facts were confirmed.”

Even politicians once in favor of changing the law appear to be avoiding commenting on what has become a politically charged issue.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono — who was once a vocal champion of changing the law and even published a proposal that allowed dual citizenship under certain conditions — has taken a noticeably softer stance on the issue.

When asked earlier this month by The Japan Times whether the Nationality Act was outdated, Kono was curt in his answer, refusing to champion a cause he once served.

“You should ask the Justice Ministry,” he said.

Rest at

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TJ on “Doing a Debito”: Gaijin Carded at Nagoya Airport and Airport Comfort Inn


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Hi Blog.  Every now and again I hear from people how has been helpful in dealing with daily life in Japan.  Here’s one such example.  After more than twenty years of the Archive, and ten years of the Blog, things like this make it all worth it.  Thanks for writing in, TJ.  Dr. Debito Arudou


From: TJ
Date: August 12, 2018
Subject: Well, I put on my Debito hat today!

I’m an American married to a Japanese, and we’re on an adventure doing standby flights from Japan to overseas. However, unluckily we got bumped at Nagoya Airport. So we checked into a Comfort Inn at the airport in my (Japanese) spouse’s name.

He filled out the card for our twin room. But the receptionist looked at me and said that she needed to photocopy my passport. But I know from that she doesn’t have the legal obligation to photocopy my passport, or even see any ID, when I have a Japanese address as a Japanese resident, and I told her so. So she said she needed to copy my “Gaijin Card”, or Zairyuu Residence Card.

I gave her a chotto matte kudasai… and dug out that nifty Japanese paper you posted on years ago and I held it up to her to read, showing her the letter of the law that says that ID is only required for tourists, not for residents of Japan, including foreign residents.


Another receptionist came over to investigate, and I repeated that I live in Japan permanently. Basically, the other woman’s attitude was since my Japanese spouse was with me, I didn’t have to hand any ID to be photocopied. Because I’m “one of the good ones”. Not a win, but I don’t think she expected me to stand my ground the way I did.

I cannot understand why they need my most intimate and personal information photocopied. What is done with it later? How is it disposed of? It seems like a waste of paper, toner, etc., and because of identity theft, it makes me really nervous.

So… fresh off this experience, we went out to dinner at Nagoya Airport. The hotel is connected so we went back over. My spouse popped into a shop to get toiletries and I sat down in a public chair to wait.

A security guard — I wasn’t sure if he was a police officer, but my spouse later thinks he was — came up and said he was randomly checking passengers’ passports.

Well, I answered in fluent Japanese, which I think he did not expect and threw him off. I explained I am staying at a hotel at the airport and am with a friend who is in the shop over there and we are having dinner. I didn’t have a passport, so I flashed my Zairyuu Residence Card.

But that wasn’t enough. He said he needed me to remove it from my wallet so he could make a written “memo”.

Now, I’m a pretty easygoing person. But at this point my aggressive alter ego, I call him “Pinky”, came out and refused to comply. Pinky told him he was targeting only foreigners, and that wasn’t right, even from a legal standpoint. And at that point my spouse walked up, but could see Pinky had taken over and stepped back to let us handle it.

The security guard eventually backed down, but again, I know it’s because a Japanese was with me. He tried to compliment my Japanese but Pinky wasn’t having it. Pinky told him that I have lived in Japan longer than he has. He was some 20 year old kid who has a tin badge and hat, and thinks he can boss people around and invade their privacy without just cause.

So, I went over to a comment box for Nagoya Airport and wrote a lengthy complaint. It probably won’t even get read, but it made me feel better. The point is, thousands of other people, including foreigners were in the vestibule, and I was basically getting targeted for “sitting while being a foreigner.” So much for kokusaika ahead of the Olympics. Geez. Not very welcoming.

These instances immediately took me back to the time some years ago when we invited you to speak at our university, and how you handled that hotel clerk who Gaijin-carded you. You knew the law and your ground. So did I. And Pinky.

Debito-sensei, arigato! — TJ.

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My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 112: “What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?” (July 16, 2018)


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What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?

These are troubling times for human rights activists.

For 27 years I’ve been writing about civil, political and human rights for non-Japanese (NJ) and other minorities in Japan. And I’ve never been more confused.

Not least because the United States, the putative paragon of human rights, has been flouting them.

Remember, this is a country so cocksure about its own record that its State Department offers annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for each United Nations member.

Yet President Donald Trump has been undermining international norms of law, justice and society — and with the glee of a super-villain.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, recently we’ve seen U.S. leadership abrogate numerous treaties, erode well-established security and trade regimes (such as NATO and the G7), cozy up to the world’s most authoritarian regimes and mimic their tactics, invoke the language of white nationalism to dehumanize minorities, and foment a culture of fear, loathing and vindictive reprisal towards anyone not in their ideological camp.

Speaking of camps, who would have ever imagined that the U.S. would put foreign children in cages? Create “tender-age” internment centers for toddlers separated from their families at the border? Force 3-year-olds to represent themselves in American immigration courts?

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented migration and asylum seekers is so cruel that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced it as “unconscionable” and “illegal” under international law.

Hours later, the U.S. petulantly withdrew from the Human Rights Council, of which it had been a charter member since 1947.

In Just Be Cause’s view, the worst thing about these rapid-fire shocks to the system is not the confusion but the distraction. Presidential historian Jon Meacham, author of “The Soul of America,” pointed out how Trump “owns our mind space” in what he calls “the world’s longest hostage siege.” We are prisoners of a self-promoting celebrity so adept at managing news cycles that he sucks the oxygen from other issues.

So this is where we arrive at the big question of this column: How can JBC focus on human rights in Japan given the distractions in America?…

Read the rest of the column at:

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Good news: Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!


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Hi Blog. Good news. Until now, if you wanted to qualify for any retirement payout under the Japanese National Pension System (Nenkin), you had to contribute 300 months, or 25 years, of your salary in Japan.

This was an enormously high hurdle for many NJ residents, who would pay in but not always elect to stay the bulk of their working life in Japan. That meant that aside from getting back a maximum of three years’ worth of contributions upon request (see also here), you’d effectively lose your retirement investment as an enormous exit tax.  (Incidentally, that was one of the quiet incentives for the racist Nikkei South American Returnee Worker “repatriation bribes” from the government back in 2009 — take the airplane fare home, leave behind your accrued pension.  Big win for Japan’s government coffers.)

It made it so that the longer you stayed in Japan, the more of a pension prisoner you became, since if you left the country to work elsewhere, you’d lose, because you hadn’t paid into pension schemes in other countries and wouldn’t qualify.

Totalization Agreements (where countries agree that years worked in Country B count towards working in Country A as well) have eased that burden somewhat. But now the threshold for qualifying at all in Japan has fortunately been reduced.  From 25 to 10 years, as of August 2017. Hurrah.

Now still remaining is the issue that the number of Japanese pensioners is increasing due to Japan’s demographically aging society, meaning that by the time you retire you’ll be receiving a smaller piece of the overall pension pie (to the levels where pensioners will live in penury; Japan is already above the OECD average poverty rate (pg. 75). And the minimum retirement age will likely be further increased to make it harder to retire younger. But at least you don’t have to invest most of your working life in Japan just to get something back.  Thus, Japan is becoming more aligned with international norms.  Good.

Much more information from the OECD on this issue at Dr. Debito Arudou

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One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist


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Hi Blog. Coming out of’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news:

Long-time readers of know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.

And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. As they say, pictures or it didn’t happen:

I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.

As for people who still think Duran Duran peaked in the mid-1980s, I challenge you to listen to my iPod’s “Damn Good Duran Duran” playlist. (And in terms of musicality, I also challenge you to listen to John Taylor’s bass line on the song “Rio” as an isolated track, and tell me it doesn’t rank up there with Geddy Lee or Tina Weymouth.)

Here’s the playlist, songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:

  1. Last Chance on the Stairway
  2. Serious
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Late Bar (2010 Remastered Version, from the Deluxe Version of their first eponymous album)
  5. Too Late Marlene
  6. My Own Way (Night Version)
  7. Khanada
  8. Come Undone
  9. Breath after Breath
  10. Point of No Return
  11. Land
  12. The Flame (as Arcadia)
  13. What Happens Tomorrow
  14. Reach Up for the Sunrise (Ferry Corsten Dub Mix)
  15. Girls on Film (16 Millimeter Mix)
  16. Only in Dreams
  17. Box Full o’ Honey
  18. Winter Marches On
  19. All You Need is Now
  20. First Impression
  21. Do You Believe in Shame?
  22. Anyone Out There?
  23. Late Bar (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 17 December 1981)
  24. New Religion
  25. Before the Rain
  26. Still Breathing
  27. The Chauffeur
  28. Ordinary World
  29. The Man Who Stole a Leopard
  30. Watching the Detectives
  31. Is There Something I Should Know?
  32. Last Night in the City
  33. Playing With Uranium
  34. Be My Icon
  35. Shadows On Your Side
  36. Crystal Ship
  37. Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For
  38. El Diablo (as Arcadia)
  39. Lady Ice (as Arcadia)
  40. The Universe Alone

Very few of these were chart material.  Many are deep album cuts, very rewarding to fans.  But at 3 hours 15 minutes you have a lot of good stuff from a band you’ve probably thought was merely fashion and hair.  Give them a listen.  And maybe you’ll know why I’m such a devoted fan after nearly 40 years of their existence (and 52 years of mine).  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Tangent: NPR: journalist Tom Ricks and how Western society operates best when it assumes an objective reality, and values facts over opinions


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Hi Blog. Tangent today on something that made me think.  I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the following segment from NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “Churchill, Orwell And The Fight Against Totalitarianism”, dated May 22, 2017.  Gross interviewed Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks, who said the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell still resonate today, and who discussed the caliber of the generals serving in the Trump administration.  Ricks, the author of the new book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom”, and writer of the blog The Best Defense for Foreign Policy magazine, had this to say at the very end of the interview.  Gross sets up the question:


GROSS: I want to quote something that you write in your book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom.” And again, this is a book – it’s a kind of dual biography and looking at how their political views evolved and how it was reflected in their writing and their hatred of both fascism and Stalinism.

So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.

RICKS: That’s the last line in the book. And if – I’m glad you read it because if there’s anything I have to say I learned from this experience of reading and re-reading thousands upon thousands of words by Churchill and Orwell over the last three and half years, it’s that. That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.

And it’s – you can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.


COMMENT:  The point of this exchange was to conclude with how this fact-based (as opposed to opinion-based) dynamic has broken down over time, especially in current American politics.  And having lived in a society for an extended period where the search for the truth is less important than understanding power, and the existence of an objective reality is constantly doubted if not outright dismissed, I think it’s a good idea to keep this segment in mind on a personal level.  Periodically renew your commitment to fact-based inquiry towards an objective reality, and undertake decision-making with the flexibility to change your mind when presented with the facts.  Dr. Debito Arudou


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Asahi: Joe Kurosu MD on ineffectually low doses of medicine for NJ patients and bureaucratic intransigence


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Hi Blog. In our previous blog entry, Reader StrepThroat brought up the issue of Japanese medical prescription doses being too low to be effectual for some larger patients, particularly larger NJ patients used to larger doses overseas. Some respondents recommended taking double the dose and going to the doctor again for refill of the prescription, while others self-medicated with overseas supplements, and still others mentioned falling through the system entirely (particularly when it came to painkillers).

Joe Kurosu MD, who runs a clinic in Shimokitazawa, adds to this discussion in a January 2010 series of opinion pieces in the Asahi Shinbun, by saying:


Asahi:  “For reasons that are unclear, however, the indicated maximum dose is often significantly lower than that which is standard in other parts of the world. Difference in physical frame and incidents of side effects are some of the purported reasons, but a scientifically convincing basis is lacking.

“A significant number of resident foreign nationals currently receive health care through the Japanese national health insurance system, but are ill-served because of these dosage standards.

“The maximum daily doses indicated on package inserts of standard medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, for example, are one-quarter to one-half of the standard doses in other countries for the identical drug. […]

“In any case, if the government requires foreign nationals to join the [National Health Insurance] system, it must be willing to provide services appropriate to that population. If this is not possible, then buying in the system should be voluntary […] I urge the government and relevant authorities to return autonomy to the physicians so the medications can be prescribed appropriately for the patient, whether or foreign or Japanese, based on science and clinical judgment, rather than [mechanically applying the dosage levels indicated on the package inserts].”

Here are scans of Dr. Kurosu’s articles in English and Japanese, courtesy of Dr. Kurosu himself ( and RJ.

PDF versions here (click on link):

There was another question as to whether Japanese medical testers screen for Japanese as an ethnicity (or “race”) when it comes to clinical trials.  Well, yes they do — as demonstrated here in Hawaii when I saw an ad in our campus newspaper back in 2012 calling for “Japanese” people to volunteer for a series of clinical trials “to help Japanese people”, sponsored by Covance.  I inquired (as a Japanese citizen), but was told that they were only interested in “ethnic Japanese” (including those who didn’t have Japanese citizenship, but had “Japanese blood”).  Oh well.  Missed out on my body mass.

Many thanks to everyone for helping make a valuable resource and forum. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing:  Helping NJ help each other.  Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one.  Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes.  It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any.  Fine, but that’s not helpful at all.  Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Group drawing on long-term foreign residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer
The Japan Times, Jan 10, 2017 (excerpt)

Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS).

In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed.

Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

For its part, APFS has organized a series of lectures and workshops that are currently taking place every other Saturday in a community hall in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, in which experts from many different fields discuss topics important to foreign residents. The issues covered include visa problems, labor laws, the welfare system and translation problems. […]

Particularly thought-provoking, she said, was a lecture on Japanese school education, which taught the class that the government essentially discriminates against foreign pupils by not making their enrollment compulsory, but merely “allowing” them to go to public school on a voluntary basis.

“This is the root of many problems, I think,” she said.

Further details are available at

Full JT article at

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Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)


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Hi Blog.  First have a read of this article, and then I’ll comment:


Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business
The Japan Times Community Page, DEC 4, 2016

The last column of the year starts off with a problem regarding buying JR train tickets in Kyushu. Reader A writes:

I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka.

Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered.

I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options. My wife actually emailed JR Kyushu, but just got back a standard, “Thank you for your email.”

I spoke to a representative in JR Kyushu’s PR department. After some investigation, he confirmed that this situation still exists with some of the ticket machines once the foreign language option button (for English, Korean and Chinese) is pressed. It seems that there are two types of ticket machines, and while it isn’t a problem for the “two-ticket option” for shorter distances (kin-kyori), it does affect those for machines for longer distances (shitei kenbai). As our reader pointed out, this could result in non-Japanese customers paying quite a bit more if they purchase tickets through the machine.

“While JR Kyushu isn’t in a position to change the machines immediately, we will take this opportunity to discuss the situation and see how we can improve things for our foreign customers,” said the rep. He thanked the reader and Lifelines for bringing the problem to the department’s attention.

Has anyone encountered a similar problem with JR tickets in other parts of Japan? JR Kyushu’s spokesperson said it is possible the same situation could be happening in other areas, too.


COMMENT:  Two things:  One is that we have proof positive in a national newspaper of separate pricing schemes based upon language.  And this at one of Japan’s flagship companies (Japan Railways), no less.  Consider the parallels:  A restaurant with menus with cheaper prices for customers if they can read Chinese (something frowned upon as discrimination elsewhere).  Or travel agencies that reserve cheaper plane tickets for Japanese citizens only (see here too). Japan’s train network in Kyushu is filtering customers by language ability and charging Japanese-illiterates a premium.  This must stop, obviously, because it’s discriminatory.

And this is a great example to bring up point two:  How people still defend the practice, no matter what.  I waited a few days to post this, and sure enough, the Japan Times article predictably collected a few comments from guestists and denialists.  They decried anyone calling this practice “racist” (even though it is, under modern definitions of racial discrimination being a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination).  They instead went to the extreme of calling the decriers “racist”, or conversely the practice of selling discounted train fares to foreign tourists “racist” (actually, they can be sold to Japanese-citizen tourists as well as long as they don’t live in Japan), despite all the government campaigns to promote foreign tourism these days.

The point to stress is Japan’s subtle racism is particularly devious because of its plausible deniability.  People will seize on any excuse to justify discriminatory treatment.  Want equal rights or treatment in Japan?  Become a Japanese citizen.  Want equal access to cheaper train fares?  Learn Japanese.  You see, discrimination is the fault of those being discriminated against — because they didn’t take every measure to evade the discrimination.  Its an acceptance of a differentiated and othered status, used to justify the subordination — which deflects discussion of why this discriminatory system exists in the first place.

Why can’t customers just be treated as customers, and their money for access be valued the same way, regardless of their language ability? Well, I’ll tell you why.  Because to JR, it’s not a matter of fairness or equality.  It’s a combination of setsuyaku and mendokusai.  Making discounts multilingual would be costly, and then there’s the factor of profiteering from the extra fares.  The incentive system is clear:  Why pay more for a system that brings in less revenue?  And besides, the foreigners won’t realize it (because foreigners obviously don’t read Japanese), won’t complain (because they’re so powerless, with no voice in Japan except, ahem, the Japan Times), or they aren’t organized in numbers big enough for a meaningful boycott (plus, as seen above, anyone calling for organized action will be called racist even by their own side).

This is one reason why discrimination is so hard to get rid of in Japan.  It’s subtle enough at times for people to naysay it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


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Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!


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Hi Blog.  Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka.  The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins.  Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse:  Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious.  Given the recent report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests“, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6, 2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic.  Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or the local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Read on for Onur’s latest.  Well done.   Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Date: Nov. 17, 2016
From: Onur
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am Onur, who sent the poster that Ibaraki Police distributed to the Hotels. I had a similar experience in Fukuoka. I stayed in S.B Hotel Hamanomachi. I saw the attached poster on the reception desk. I asked permission and took a photo it. It clearly says that they ask every foreigner to present his/her passport.


However, I just wrote my Japanese address to guest registration form during check-in and the reception did not ask me to show a passport or a card. The check-in was smooth.

Later I stayed in Hotel New Gaea Hakata-Eki Minami. The reception asked my passport. I said I don’t carry it. Then they asked my residence card. I don’t have to show it but I showed my residence card to reassure them. Then the receptionist took my card and went to another room without saying anything. I was shocked. I asked what are you doing? He said he is copying my residence card. I said no. According to the law as I am a foreigner with an address in Japan, no copying is necessary. Then the receptionist was shocked when I said no. He did not say anything and gave my card back to me.

I decided to solve this problem by contacting the people in charge. At the bottom of the poster, it is written “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefectural Police”. Therefore, first, I went to Central Health Center (中央保健所) in Fukuoka City. I talked with the person in charge for the hotels. He was very friendly and helpful. I showed the poster in the first hotel and told the incident in the second hotel. He said that even though the poster says “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture” at the bottom of the poster, the poster is not prepared by the health center and he has never seen this poster before. He said the information in the poster is definitely wrong and the poster may have been prepared by the hotel. He said they will contact to those two hotels and warn them.

Then I went to Fukuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters. I showed the poster and asked to talk with the officer in charge. As the prefectural headquarters is very big, it took a long time to find out the officer in charge. Three officers came. They were friendly and willing to solve the problem. First I showed the poster. They accepted that the police printed the poster and distributed to the all hotels in Fukuoka prefecture. I showed the official announcement of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry at and said that their poster is clearly different. They were very surprised. It seems that they did not know the details of the hotel law and regulations well. They could not understand what is wrong in their poster. I gave a long speech about the law and the guidelines of the ministry. They finally understood the problem and apologized. They said they will check it in detail and fix the poster.

A few days later I got a phone call from the police. They apologized again. They said they will print a new poster, but it may take a long time to replace all the posters in the prefecture. They said they will ask the hotels to check only the residence card without copying it to verify the address, if the foreigner guest says he has an address in Japan. I said it is wrong again. I said “I called the ministry and they told me that there is no need to check the residence card or passport if a foreigner says he is living in Japan and writes the Japanese address to check-in form. Please call the ministry for the details and follow their guidelines exactly”. Later the Central Health Center in Fukuoka called me. They said they talked with those two hotels and also the police headquarters and warned them about following the rules. They said please call us if you experience such a problem again.

In short, if you experience such a problem in a hotel, I think the best way to solve is to contact the local Health Center, which is the local authority over the hotels, and also the police headquarters if they are involved.

Best Regards,


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CG on increased exit taxes on health insurance and residency when you change jobs and domiciles in Japan


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Hi Blog.  I just wanted to put this one out there as a general query.  Anyone else experienced this and gotten an explanation why?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

June 17, 2016
From: CG
Hello Dr. Arudou:

First, I just wanted to say “Thank You” for all the writing you’ve done. I purchased your handbook a while ago and it was a big help when applying for permanent residency here (successfully!)

I was hoping to ask you a question. I’ve done a fair amount of searching online and haven’t found an answer, and the people directly involved in the issue can’t (or won’t) give a plausible answer either. Recently I switched jobs and moved to a new town here after over ten years working for the previous town’s 教育委員会 [BOE]. When I received my final paycheck, they deducted twice the normal tax amount for 社会保険 [shakai hoken; health and pension insurance] and three times the normal amount for 住民税 [juuminzei; local residency taxes]、helping themselves to an extra over 8万円 [80,000 yen]。 Have you heard of such a situation before? The fact that I can’t find any information about such a “moving tax” or get clear answers strikes me as very strange.

If you have a moment, I’d be very glad to know your thoughts. Best, CG
MY THOUGHTS: Not sure. Anyone out there with this experience who figured out what was going on? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uni profs).


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Hi Blog. This is an update to the Ninkisei Issue within Japan’s Academic Apartheid Education System, where foreign educators are given perpetual contracts. A contracted position may not sound bad to Western ears, but Japan’s tertiary education system (the second largest in the world) generally does not contract full-time Japanese educators. Since most full-time Japanese enjoy permanent tenure from day one of hiring, a contract becomes a term limit only for foreigners. Abuses of the system include “The Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994, where most foreign faculty above the age of 35 in National Universities (kokuritsu daigaku) found their contracts were not being renewed — in a successful attempt by the Ministry of Education to bring in younger, cheaper foreigners. Since these veteran teachers had not paid into overseas pension plans (and decades of Japanese pension payments are nonrefundable), they could not simply “go home”. They got stuck with part-time work with no benefits to pay house loans, fund kids’ college tuition, or fulfill pension plans.

According to Ivan Hall’s CARTELS OF THE MIND (WW Norton, 1998), there are more full-time foreign faculty with permanent tenure in one American university than in all of Japan! Not to mention a systemwide disdain (“academic apartheid”) towards foreign educators regardless of qualification, seeing them merely as cheap disposable labor. See the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions with breathtakingly unequal employment policies, at

Now for the update.  Let’s see what happened to the survivors a quarter century on. The upshot is that their turn to be fired is now coming. According to labor union expert CF:

“I have given it a nickname – the “2018 Cliff” If you have been working from (April) 2013 continually on renewable contracts, then (March) 2018 will be 5 years of employment, therefore on April 1 2018, if you demand permanent employment, the company must keep you on as permanent – until retirement (albeit on the pre-2018 conditions) from April 2019. To avoid this, companies will be dumping staff before the end of March 2018 to avoid the transfer to permanent status (無期転換). For better or worse, universities and research facilities deadline is 2023, so employees have an extra 5 years’ grace. The Cliff is coming, and many will be pushed off.

COMMENT: So this is what NJ who persevered and contributed the bulk of their working lives to Japanese society, get at the end: An unceremonious dumping onto the job market, with no new place to go, and skills that will not easily transfer to their country of origin. And often before their MINIMUM 25 years (yes!) of required Japan-pension contributions are fulfilled.

People seeking to make a life in Japan: Beware! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

What follows is a discussion that transpired on a labor-rights listserv I subscribe to. Posts are used and redacted with permission:


Date: April 4, 2016
From: AB

Now going on three years, I was forced to resign in protest from a ’tenured’ position as an Associate Professor at [Honey Badger Japan] Jr. College. Going on 32 years, over half my life, living continuously in Japan – most of which was spent running from college to college as a hijokin adjunct, a graduate degree in T.E.S.O.L., research and publications, community out-reach work and international volunteer activities … phht … all gone.

How did HB Jr. College. do it? Or more importantly for fellow readers of this listserv, Easy. Here’s how it went down in my case.

Even after 11 years as a tenured full time member of the faculty, my department (only 8 full-timers at most) pretty much excluded me from any decision making processes at the required weekly meetings — and unlike my ethnic Japanese colleagues behavior towards each other, presumed to have the right to micro-manage my classes down to what language I should use in the classroom or in open campus activities, what materials are too easy, too difficult, or too unconventional for ‘my’ classes, and what pedagogic approaches I should use. A colleague (same age, became full-time when I did) opined that even on my weekends, I should first get departmental permission to use my English for volunteer activities … even in support of other departments at HBJC. I had no idea what they did on their weekends, could have been pachinko or Kabukicho for all I knew.

After some years of just shucking and jiving while bearing it all, I finally complained to the Gakucho (Dean), who reassured me that I was hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai. Of course, how could he have said anything other?

I reported this back to my gakka’s shunin (Head of Department) who said:

1 – The current Dean of the school is wrong.
2 – I was hired while under the administration of a previous Dean with different policies, and those unstated policies were still in effect.
3 – The Department will not include volunteer activities in its curricula this year, so I am forbidden to use my office or resources for community outreach activities with the local city government (I was on the board of directors of XXXXX City government’s Kokusai Koryu Kyoukai) and other volunteer activities … four trips (at my own expense) to [an impoverished Asian country] with students from my own school as well as students from other Tokyo colleges, accompanying my students to a local kindergarten to teach English … as well as XXXXX in-house high school, working with Soup no Kai supporting the homeless in Shinjuku, collaborating with an NGO supporting the severely handicapped, and so on. Things that I thought would have been expected for promotion in U.S. universities were expressly forbidden by two successive department chairmen.

I reported the Department Chairman’s opinion to the Dean, particularly comment 3 which seemed contradictory to the school’s raison d’être as stated on their glossy homepage. The Dean disagreed with the department opinion, and once again, reassured me that I am an equal among equals, and it is up to me to just ‘try harder’ to communicate with my colleagues.

I requested a meeting between the Dean and my Department Chairman to decide my status … whatever that might be … along with its attendant rights and obligations. No such meeting was forthcoming, and neither did either indicate any willingness to discuss, much less settle, the issue.

Informed by the Gakubucho (Dean of the Jr. College and also a member of my department) that I was entitled and eligible to take my one year research sabbatical, I parlayed my volunteer activities in [the impoverished Asian country] with [a local institute] to serve as my sponsor, I quit my one part-time job at XXXXXXX University, and just prior to preparing for a year abroad, was presented by the Dean with a one page document, in Japanese, drawn up specifically for me. No other teachers who had taken sabbaticals in HBJC’s over 120 year history had ever been required to sign such a document requiring me to obey ALL school wide rules and attendant obligations, as well as ALL departmental rules and attendant obligations.

I pointed out that those rules and obligations were contradictory and problematic … and that they, themselves, have as yet to have agreed upon my status and obligations. In that meeting with the Gakucho and Gakubucho, I told them that if I sign such a document, according to department rules, I was explicitly forbidden by my department to voluntarily help even my own seminar student prepare for the XXXXXXXXX Speech Contest.  I had been the only one in the school since even before becoming tenured who took personal responsibility for speech contestant preparation.  Her speech was about her first hand experience at a seaside community during the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I asked the Gakucho and the Gakubucho that if I signed the document forbidding me from helping that student, if they would take personal responsibility for that student’s still embryonic speech. I still have a digital recording of that meeting, and the only response you will hear is an awkward silence.

Pressed again to either sign, or not sign, at the risk of losing my sabbatical … I had to make a choice on the spot, either support the student, or support my ‘career’. With no family depending on me to bring home the bacon, I had the luxury of choice, so I refused to sign. Meeting ended. Research sabbatical immediately revoked.

A day or so later, I made a phone call to XXXXXX University explaining my sabbatical had been canceled and inquired whether I might retain my 3 koma one-day a week schedule. ‘Sorry, that position has already been filled’ was the courteous reply.

Later I received a letter from the head of the Board of Directors of HBJC Inc. telling me that as I have demonstrated no willingness or capacity to follow BOTH the school and the department rules, as of the following academic year, I was to be relieved of all rights to teach classes, and report to my office and await forthcoming orders to be later more clearly specified.

In the meantime, I joined a local union, showed up to a few larger union meetings, and talked with a lawyer — who said I would likely win a case against the school, but it would be a long, emotionally costly, pyrrhic victory at best. A year and a half later, a couple of meetings between the school lawyer and my labor union reps, and my allotted medical leave of absence had expired, leaving me with no choice but to either return to the school under the same conditions (no classes, no research sabbatical) … or resign.

In effect, fellow listserv readers, ignore this cautionary tale at your own peril. When push comes to shove, your ‘contract’ is not worth the paper it’s written on.  Thinking that at age 60, with half a life-time experience, I could just start all over again and go back to life as an itinerant hijokin, living year by year. Ha. Can not even get beyond the faceless intercom voice at the new pre-school next door to my apartment to offer my services as an English volunteer (and here I am being led by mass media to believe the day care centers are in crisis mode) — much less even get a single koma of part-time work in Japan.

I will end this post with [this thought]: Earlier tonight, I saw on NHK 7 pm news that Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Dean gave the opening ceremony speech in English … ‘Be positive. Take chances’. What a crock. A goddamn Kabuki show. And followed at 7:30 pm by more Olympics-inspired panem et circenses in place of my beloved Hiroko Kuniya in prime-time ’Close Up Gendai’ … as if a bevy of ambitious cute young things in the late night CUG ‘plus’ will make up for her once or twice in a generation journalistic integrity. Sincerely, AB.


Date: April 14, 2016
From: CD

AB, it sounds like you were put through hell and back. I’m really sorry to hear it!

I’ve advised a number of people in labor situations over the years, including six people over the last twelve months. To be honest, there seems to be a recent upswing in these kinds of cases, almost to the extent of the great “gaikokujin kyoushi” purge of the 90s. While I have my own theories, I’d be interested in reading other opinions about whether and why this may be happening.

I have a pretty good track record with labor cases, not to mention negotiating experience on both sides of the table. From this perspective, let me offer some general advice:

1) Regardless of the provocation, don’t ever quit (unless of course you have a great new job lined up). Let them fire you instead–being terminated gives you advantages later.

2) While certain things can be required of joukin (aka “tenured”) university faculty–to include both the submission of syllabi and the wording used in said syllabi–many of the things listed in AB’s post (e.g., language of instruction, specific pedagogical approaches and materials) usually cannot be demanded of university joukin. (Part-timers can have less protection.) The only exceptions to this that I know of would be where the language and pedagogical requirements were either known to the applicant before hire or represent standards developed and agreed to by all (to include AB) the joukin faculty responsible for these classes–situations seen mostly with intensive language programs or English-medium instruction (EMI) departments/institutions.

3) Given #2, and assuming that AB really was joukin (hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai), many of the issues described at his workplace fit the government’s definition of Power Harassment (パワハラ).

4) There are several legal remedies available to people in such situations, some expensive and some not so expensive. Regarding the latter, on February 13 in a post to this listserv, I described in detail a FREE (albeit slow) process where the city will fight your employer to stop the Power Harassment (to include even unlawful termination). Again, this process is SLOW–typically, it takes four months to a year to conclude a case. However, I have found it reasonably effective (they usually can negotiate better treatment/employment terms and/or buyouts)… and again it’s free.

5) As alluded to in #2, #3 and #4, the laws here are, to a surprising extent, designed to protect the employee. Moreover, even as a foreign contract worker, you sometimes (e.g., occasionally even in the case of contract non-renewal) have legal protections/recourses available to you that are not available in your home country. Failing to utilize them when wronged is… silly.

6) That said, join a union and try to prepare BEFORE trouble starts. Unions tend not to look favorably upon those who join only after something bad happens. Some will refuse outright to help, while others may be lukewarm in their support. In addition to joining a union, always keep everything (including the advertised copy of your job description and all pertinent emails) and document everything related to your job duties and work performance. While most likely you will never need them, the sad reality in this country is that you never really know. I personally have known foreigners who have had no problems for YEARS–sometimes over twenty years–only to come to work one day and suddenly find that they are no longer wanted.

7) If you need action/results quickly, use a lawyer–preferably one either contacted through your union or specializing in labor issues–and prepare to go to court. Remember that Japanese people DO sue their employers, and such lawsuits are not so rare. At my current university (and department…), there have been three (!) such lawsuits over the last eight years.

8) Know that, regardless of the strength of your case, your lawyer will never promise victory. (Typically, the best they’ll give you is a 50-50 chance if it goes to court.) That said, as I’ve posted numerous times before, your employer almost always does NOT want to go to court–because of the stigma involved in such cases, even winning represents bad publicity. Given this, employers in my experience will almost invariably seek to settle before going to trial.

9) Your employer will most likely lowball you with their first settlement offer and/or try to intimidate you into taking nothing. Now, the amount of settlement you can (should?) receive depends on many factors, including your hiring status (e.g., “joukin” or “ninki-tsuki”), years employed, the strength of your case and employer perception of your ability/willingness to fight. (I have personally found the last to be the most important factor.) That said, with regards to termination and contract nonrenewal cases, while every situation is different (and assuming you are not simply reinstated to your position), I’ve generally seen settlement ranges from four months to twelve months of salary.

Hope this helps! Sincerely, CD


Date: April 14, 2016
From: EF

At this point I would advise against teachers to stay here after age 50 or even after 45, unless you have tenure. I met a teacher who is 57 and lost his job at [a National University] after 8 years. Seven other teachers were gotten rid of too. He has a Ph.D. in education but can only get part-time work now. I know another teacher in [a city near Tokyo] who has no job and he must be about 58 or 59 now.

At my new job in XXXXX City the form asked whether I want to get paid or even be paid for commuting.  I guess they hope I will work for free. What do they want, retired teachers to just volunteer.  This could be because of money problems. At a national university in Tokyo, with a deficit of 400 million yen, the university decides that the tea machine in the part-time teachers’ room has got to go. This is in Chofu. Sincerely, EF


Date: April 15, 2016
From: GH

I would be wary of the idea that universities have an exemption to the five-year rule. There was a big discussion at my university about this last year, and the head of HR and one of the rijis told me that the wording of the exemption is not very clear (surprise surprise!) and that even among national universities, there was disagreement about what it actually means. Apparently, some universities are now taking the limit to be ten years whereas others are playing it safe and assuming it to be five. Wherever you work, it might be a good idea to find out how they are interpreting it.

My grasp of the legislation is not at the level of some of the posters here, but as I understand it, this new law comes with a number of loopholes anyway. For example, universities will still be able to cut part-timers if they are no longer needed because of “changes to the curriculum” regardless of how long they have worked there. A change to the curriculum could be something as minor as a tiny alteration to the name of a class (“the class that teacher taught is no longer offered at our university, so his/her services are no longer required”) so it seems to me that universities could still get rid of someone quite easily if they wanted to.

I think that in a perverse way, the situation will only become clear when the first person takes their institution to court. If / when that happens, all the other institutions will panic and there will be a huge cull. If it never happens, I guess universities will gradually forget about it. As I say, I am most certainly not an expert on this, but this is the situation as it was explained to me by the people in charge at my university. Sincerely, GH


Date: April 15, 2016
From: AB

To: ARUDOU, Debito

Hello Debito san,

Maybe you remember our recent exchange in an e-mail saying I was working on my own writing chops to add to the ‘Great Dialog’ of culture … what it means to be a human, what do we mean by ‘education’, and so on. I have been doing so on Quora, and many times, have posted links to your web page to substantiate my more anecdotal arguments. I am grateful for your critical eye and sheer doggedness in providing a much needed source of information that deserves a wider audience.

I am now 60, and apparently locked out of a career track in academia … failing to gain even one koma of part-time work after two years of submitting resumes and showing up for interviews, failing to gain permission to resume doctoral studies at XXXX Japan, and even failing to gain admission to an on-line Master’s Degree course at XXXXXXXX University in the US. As such, I do not have the financial safety-net of any institution at my disposal, and neither do I have the presumption that I will some day regain such institutional protection. And being kanji illiterate, I don’t even know how much I don’t know about Japanese law and what obligations and rights to which I am entitled (similar to my being kept running circles in the dark at HBJC Inc.). Feeling the full force of the Dunning-Kruger effect here.

Despite an abundance of information from your website (and book – bought, but not yet read), and some well-considered and well-meant advice from listserv members, Facebook ‘buddies’, Quora, and even family back in the states … my day to day survival, even my sanity, is sustained by only three things:

1 – A small community made up primarily of a close circle of friends, mostly Japanese — and mostly here in Japan. I think the constraints of Dunbar’s Number has more than a little to do with this.

2 – The new found leisure to read from the great works of the liberal arts tradition as well as more recent STEM oriented material … and write — as therapy. It helps to have at my disposal more than a lifetime’s worth of books, music, movies, and a wall full of video lectures from The Great Courses series.

3 – A stubborn tenacity to stand by the values and beliefs I have gained from the above two.

Kind regards, Debito san. And keep up the good fight.  Sincerely, AB.


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Tangent: McNeill in No.1 Shimbun: “Into the Valley of the Trolls”: Is ignoring them really an effective strategy?


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Hi Blog.  Excellent potential for discussion being broached with the following article, long overdue.  Excerpt and my comment follows.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Into the Valley of the Trolls
Is growing online harassment just part of the job or should it be confronted? And when does it cross the line?
by David McNeill
No. 1 Shimbun, Sunday, December 27, 2015

For most correspondents, it has become an unpleasant morning ritual: opening the laptop and wading through abusive tweets and mail. One of my recent articles, on Japan’s plunging press-freedom rankings provoked this response: “You’re anti-Japanese scum. Japan grows weaker because left-wing traitors here mix with the likes of you. Get out, moron.”

That’s mild compared to the slurs that percolate on the Twitter feeds of star reporters. Hiroko Tabuchi, former Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, recalls a stream of invective laced with sexual and ethnic smears (see sidebar).Justin McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian has been branded an “ultra-leftist North Korean spy” and repeatedly invited to “Fack off.”

Many reporters trudge the path taken by McCurry, from engagement to frustration, and resignation. “I have tried several different ways to deal with trolls, from snapping back to taking the time to dream up what, in my mind at least, is a rejoinder so withering that it will surely be the final word on the matter. It never is, of course.” Increasingly, he says, he reaches for the Twitter mute button: When trolls send an abusive message now “they are simply pissing into cyberspace.”

But McCurry says it’s important to understand the difference between legitimate criticism and trolling. “I’ve had my share of critical emails, tweets and Facebook postings,” he says. “When the point is made in a temperate manner and, more importantly, with a real name attached, I take in what has been said and, if necessary, respond. But I regard this as reader feedback, not trolling.”

Cyber abuse is a serious issue, notes a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review. “There’s far from any kind of consensus on how to deal with it and what journalists’ roles are,” says author Lene Bech Sillesen. Law enforcement struggles to deal with the proliferation of anonymous online harassment. Platform providers often “suck” at dealing with trolls, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo memorably admitted this year.

Increasingly, the consensus seems to be shifting toward confrontation. The Review cites a growing genre of stories about unmasking trolls. In the Swedish TV show Troll Hunters, journalist Robert Aschberg tracks down and confronts offenders on camera. “It’s a huge problem,” says Aschberg, “and it’s no different from exposing, let’s say, corrupt politicians, or thieves.”

THE RISE OF THE troll, and the shifting terrain it represents in our networked society, is a particular dilemma for journalists. For decades, virtually the only rejoinder available to print readers was the carefully moderated letters page, but the internet has opened up multiple channels of feedback. Many bloggers view journalists as fair game because they are public figures.

Inevitably, the result is a steady river of bile, but most journalists are understandably wary of trying to block it. As Martin Fackler, a former Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Times notes: “You’re walking a fine line. Journalists dish out criticism, and need to take it with the same grace. Otherwise, we look hypocritical. And we need to support freedom of speech, even for our critics.”

In practice, most journalists follow Fackler in not feeding the trolls, and many don’t even block them to avoid the providing the veneer of cyber-street cred. Fackler, who says he has yet to block any troll accounts, advocates only shutting down those that cross boundaries of decency. “Short of that, I think everyone deserves the same freedom of speech that we demand in our own work.”

Where, however, do these boundaries lie? Perhaps the only line everyone agrees on is the one dividing incivility from threats of violence….


The rest is at

I did leave a comment at the article:

January 29, 2016
Thanks for the article. One thing I might add, as a longtime veteran of being targeted by trolls, is that it’s worse for some of us than you mentioned above. For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I’ve endured death treats for decades, and I can’t conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they’ll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative.

I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me.

So after realizing that being ignored still works in their favor, now they are going after journalists, which brings into the debate issues of freedom of the press. Plus journalists have a more amplified public soapbox and credibility to advocate for change than we activist-types do. I hope you will continue to research and speak out against this, and not fall into the mindset that anonymous threats and stalking are simply part of being a public figure.

Thanks again for broaching the subject. Arudou Debito


Ben Shearon on RetireJapan, helping people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, readying for retirement


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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Introducing a valuable project by a friend up in Sendai.  I’ve known him for well over a decade and he is on the level, one of the most trustworthy people I’ve met in Japan.  I am pleased to give you more information here on one of his projects.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Greetings Readers! I’d like to thank our host for being kind enough to agree to let me introduce my website and community here.

Ben Shearon

My name is Ben Shearon, and I’ve been living in Japan for fifteen and a half years working as an English teacher. A few years ago I became interested in personal finance, and in December 2013 I started a website called RetireJapan.

RetireJapan logo

RetireJapan exists in order to help people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, and getting ready for retirement in English.

Personal finance can seem complex and intimidating, and there are a lot of companies that would love to take your money. The only way to make good choices is to learn as much as you can.

RetireJapan includes information about Japan-specific resources, including NISA tax-sheltered investing accounts, kyoshutsu nenkin ‘J401k’ accounts, and the national pension scheme, as well as more general personal finance topics such as how to find money to save and what to do with it once you have some.

As well as the website and blog I also conduct seminars and workshops around Japan. Check out the site and get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group. You can also send me questions via the site.

Sincerely yours, Ben Shearon


RetireJapan link to:

Eleven touristy articles of mine about touring Sapporo, Hokkaido, and environs, published by Netmobius


Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at
If you like what you read and discuss on, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  It has been a busy past few months.  August and September were spent proofing and indexing my new book Embedded Racism.  But while doing that, I was working for a group called Netmobius who asked me to do some touristy writeups on Sapporo and environs.  Since I’ve lived in the area for more than two decades and already written three chapters for Fodor’s Japan Travel Guides, I was happy to do it.  Here are the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them:

Sapporo New Chitose Airport — how it’s run like airports everywhere should be.

Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo

Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016)

History of Sapporo Station — From Meiji to the Present

Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities

Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu)

Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower)

Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey)

Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines

Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa

Getting Off the Beaten Track: JR Hokkaido Train Lines Accessible from Sapporo (Asahikawa/Furano, Obihiro/Kushiro)

About my sponsor: Netmobius is an online media company developing quality websites since 1995. The company is based in Singapore and specializes in travel and transportation guides. I look forward to writing for them again.

You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Update to Canada bank racism issue: Fascinating FB conversation gets me to capitulate


eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at
If you like what you read and discuss on, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
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Hi Blog. A couple of weeks ago, shortly before bedtime when I was tired and on vacation, I tossed off a blog entry on about my recent experience with what I considered to be racism towards me at a Canadian bank for not having a passport that matched the bank teller’s expectation of phenotype. In other words, the teller said my having a Japanese passport was “funny” to him, as I didn’t “look Japanese”.

This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.).  In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home.  The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks.

I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face.

So much so that I had to add an addendum to the post from a person accompanying me to that bank, filling in a number of things I hadn’t bothered to mention — such as the fact that we called the manager because we had a separate issue of business that needed a manager’s attention, and the teller in fact interfered with that request, and more. (I encourage people who haven’t read the original blog entry to go here and do so before reading further.  In fact, sorry to do this:  since I don’t want to just rehash the debate below, comments that don’t reflect a careful reading of that post and the subsequent text will not be allowed through.)

This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by this blog entry.

The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:

  1. Support for what I did.
  2. Criticism for my overdoing it — surely this could have been handled better by me, e.g., by deflecting it with a quick explanation of my background or a bit of humor.
  3. Disbelief at my inability to use common sense:  To them, of course I don’t “look Japanese” (especially in a society with so few Caucasian Japanese), so my apparent expectation of the teller’s lack of surprise is unreasonable.
  4. Anger (especially from Canadians) of my acting like a typically-loud and conflict-encouraging American in Canada.
  5. Disgust at my acting so atypically Japanese that I no longer qualified as a Japanese in that person’s eyes (and that was it for us:  Unfriended. Anyone who says I’m not “Japanese” because I don’t look or act “Japanese” in their view is neither a friend nor a person I care to talk to again.  That’s taking the identity policing too far.  After all, I could have committed a murder, and that would not have disqualified me — since some Japanese people murder, and don’t lose their “Japanese” status; my objecting to a teller’s inappropriate statement is somehow worse than that?)
  6. Outrage towards my victimizing the teller (who as, I pointed out in my blog post, I deduced to be of native Korean background).  To them, I was oblivious towards my White Privilege in a White-majority and White-dominated society.

The most articulate proponent of Camp 6 was a person I will call JG, and he posted a comment so well-argued that I thought it worth archiving in full at   I answered it after a few days (again, I had a number of other commitments while on vacation, and didn’t want to just toss something off again), but here it is:

(N.B. There is one more bit at the very end, after JG’s and my exchange, where I essentially capitulate and agree that I overdid it this time.  Do read to the bottom if you’re convinced that I never admit I’m wrong.)


Debito:  Hi Everyone. At long last, here is my reply to JG essay. I am sorry for taking so long — these things take time to compose, so thank you for your patience. For completeness’ sake, I will quote it in full with my answers after each one of his paragraphs:

JG: Sorry, this smells of white-privilege, dude! You get to be white AND Japanese! You’ve taken this TOO far! […] I mentioned in another sub-thread that your actions smacked of “white-privilege”, but I think that you missed my point, or choose to ignore it, which is a very symptom of said privilege. What I mean by “white-privilege” in this context is that when one speaks about discrimination, one cannot ignore the part that power plays in the situation. In this case, you are in Canada, NOT in Japan, so the context of power changes. In Canada, you are perceived as WHITE, which in North America is the gold-standard (it is also the case in Japan, but that is another discussion). People who are perceived as White have certain advantages that others who are not perceived as White. Please note that I am not talking about ethnicity or culture here, but the socially-constructed notion of RACE that is defined primarily by stereotypical physical attributes and phenotypes interpreted through the lens of the observer. So while you may “feel” that you are Japanese, others will see you as WHITE; and this is especially salient in the North American context where being labeled as WHITE affords you privileges not afforded to others, even though they may be citizens through birth or naturalization.

Debito: I do not dispute either in concept or form the existence of White Privilege. I acknowledge that being White has assisted and does assist me and others who look like me from society to society, and that the treatment of people deemed to be “White” by society provides systemic advantages in societies that are both White-majority and Non-White-majority dominated. And I acknowledge that people will see me as “White” anywhere I go.

Where you and I part company in this paragraph is my wish to be White AND Japanese. I do not believe that they are (or should be) mutually exclusive. Just as Japanese themselves in Apartheid South Africa successfully lobbied to be Japanese AND “Honorary Whites” under the law. And this was not a case of naturalization in the ASA example, either. My being naturalized as a Japanese gives me even more standing to claim that I am Japanese AND White; I’ve earned this qualification through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, time spent in and contributions to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American passport and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes. I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it.

Moreover, I am not willing to have my identity policed by others, unaware of this degree of dedication, into being Japanese BUT White anywhere I go. I am a Japanese, full stop. As are my Japanese children, full stop. As are yours, full stop. Regardless of how our children look, anywhere in the world, they are ALSO Japanese. It is up to us to claim that for ourselves and them, and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere. Otherwise we’d still have people saying in other societies that they were not “real” members of (insert society here). This must stop, as borders nowadays with international migration and immigration are porous like never before. I believe that introducing White Privilege into the mix here distracts and detracts from the main issue, which is: self-identification. I believe that a person has the right to shape and control their own identity, and claim it when necessary without being unduly accused of an abuse of social power.

JG: Now, in consideration of the above, can you see how YOU were the one with the power in this exchange? Sure, the statement that the guy made may have been insensitive or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have not experienced a “white” person who identified himself as part of a group that has been historically “non-white”, especially when identifying as “white” affords so much advantage and social capital. Also, considering that he himself was a visible minority, might take a bit of offense to someone with such obvious social advantage, identifying himself as a part of the Asian community. In other words, “Why is this White guy trying to be like us? Is he trying to appropriate our culture like the other whites in the past took the land, culture, and livelihood during colonization?”

Debito: Yes, now let’s talk about the power relations here in this particular case regardless of self-identification. You made the case that I, as a White person, had the power in this relationship. That could very well be the case, and I won’t deny it as a possible factor. (Not mentioned is that I also had the power in this relationship as an account holder and a customer.) He was no doubt surprised by a person like me having a passport like that (I don’t blame him for that — it’s an understandable reaction). And his reaction was probably innocuous and not ill-intentioned. All agreed so far.

That said, the issue in this situation I believe is the remark he made. If the teller had also been identifiable and self-identified as “White”, I would have reacted the same way to this social othering. It doesn’t matter what the teller’s background is: It’s an inappropriate remark.

Where we part company further is in seeing everything revolving around a person socially-identified as “White” as riddled with White Privilege that is actually being enforced consciously or unconsciously. My existing as a White Japanese possibly (as you argued) being seen as an appropriator of his culture is his baggage. And if he wants a job dealing with people in a customer-client relationship, he must lose that baggage, or at least not act or remark on it — just as anyone “White” who has to deal with any Visible Minority must lose their personal baggage, as part of company policy as a company representative.

Whether or not that baggage can ever be properly “loseable” is something we can debate (I also concur that racialization processes make that impossible to reduce to zero), but I don’t think its existence should be used as an excuse to empower hypocrisy. By that I mean, if I can’t do it to him, he can’t do it to me. And to imply that he can just because I’m apparently White and he’s not is unduly switching the victimization. That goes for anywhere that has any claims (including the Non-White majoritarian societies) to having anti-discrimination rules and practices.

(Further, if legacies of colonization that you brought up were an issue for this gentleman, the Japanese colonized Korea, so Whiteness is quite probably not a factor in this.)

If the very sight of me somehow, as you put it, “offends” him (which I think is unlikely, but that’s how you couched this issue), I don’t think he should be doing this particular job. But anyway, I really don’t think that’s what happening here. I’m sure he’s a fine teller that just let his tongue slip and vocalized the first thing that popped into his head. You can make the case that I overreacted to it (and I’m fine with that interpretation), but to say that I victimized him just because I happened to be White and he didn’t is in my opinion, in this case, a stretch.

JG: Regardless of what was going on in his head (because it is impossible to know), the facts as you have stated yourself, are that despite his initial shock of finding out that you were “Japanese”, he STILL provided you with service and did not challenge your identity in any meaningful or legal way that denied you anything; which is what TRUE discrimination is. As we understand it, you were not refused or denied service, you were not suspected of misrepresentation or of being a criminal, and the authorities were not called. It only seems that your feelings were hurt because this guy could not immediately recognize from your appearance that you were Japanese (or part of the larger imagined Asian community). And your response to this, instead of using this opportunity to educate him of the larger, diverse, growing imagined Asian diaspora to which you seem to be laying claim; and maybe making an ally in the process; you go for the nuclear option and call his boss on him, claiming “racism”!

Debito: Quite so. This is the better case to make that I overreacted, and, again, that interpretation is quite solid. He did not deny me service (although, as my accompanying eyewitness attested, he did interfere with us seeing the manager — but this information came later and you couldn’t have known it; you later still doubted I my second eyewitness was telling the truth, but more on that later).

However, let’s at least admit that he did deny me a comfortable space for doing business as a customer by socially-othering me. People may say that they wouldn’t react in the same way (that’s their prerogative, of course). Maybe that comment wouldn’t even make them personally uncomfortable. But again, I say, how much of this do you tolerate before you say enough?

One of the issues I have had to deal with just about every day no matter where I go in the world is the natural curiosity about my background turned into vocalized judgment. Where are you from? “Japan.” (Or, “Born in the US, but lived in Japan” if I’m feeling chatty.) Common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.” Or, “Interesting last name, where’s it from?” “Japan.” (Or some more elaborate variant.) “But you don’t look Japanese.” Customs official whenever I cross a border (except, amazingly, in Canada or Japan): “What’s with this Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” “But you don’t look Japanese.” And that’s the milder version (at the Jamaican border they actually took my passport to their back room and had a laugh at it), before the Americans in particular render me to Secondary for a few hours’ of wait and inquisition until I miss my flight. I’m serious. Just saying “It’s a long story,” just doesn’t cut it, having to “school” everyone on a daily basis gets tiring, and having to bite my lip through a number of these intrusive and humiliating situations leaves a psychological mark after a while. It causes “triggers”, and that’s what I think was at play with this teller in Canada. That’s why I’m such a big fan of microaggressions as a social diagnosis — I face them every day and know the signals for my situation inside and out.

You might say I got myself into this situation by naturalizing into a country where there are few Non-“Asian”-looking citizens. Fine. But I’m not a unique case. What do you do when it starts happening to your Japanese kids who don’t look so-called “Asian”? How will you react the hundredth time (or the fifth time in a day): “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” And will you stand by when people doubt your kids’ identity as they grow older and start dealing with society’s veto gates? Alienating comments like these between individuals are not something you can do much about. But these alienating attitudes being expressed in a corporate or official capacity should not happen. To anyone.

Further, as I have said before, I was not in the bank that day to school the teller. That’s not my job. Just like it was not my job to correct everyone’s English everywhere, anyplace, when I was an English teacher. My job is to complete the transaction and get on with my day, and I’d like that to happen without having to deal with vocalized prejudice.

JG: Please do not get me wrong, as a permanent resident of Japan for almost 18 years with a Japanese wife and child, as well as considering Japanese citizenship myself, I understand that if this happened in JAPAN, one MIGHT understand the desire to call the boss in. However, this happened in CANADA, NORTH AMERICA! Why would you hold the same standard of being treated as a Japanese to a person who is not Japanese, in a place that is NOT Japan?

Debito: Sorry, we’re not going to agree on this, but I don’t believe this should happen anywhere regardless of whatever humans we’re dealing with, or what “race/ethnicity/group/etc.” is dominant in a society. That includes Japan, Canada, wherever. When it happens to you as a Japanese citizen enough times, you might react differently. I don’t know you and I’m sure, of course, but you don’t know me either, and I wouldn’t be so summarily dismissive of my position (and just put it down to “White Privilege”) when you’re not in it yet.

JG: The most critical point to my argument is this: YOU were the transgressor in this situation, NOT the teller. I am sure that the boss took your complaint seriously, openly scolded the teller, and summarily dismissed him in your presence; but guess what? It wasn’t because you were JAPANESE, it was because you were WHITE! You were in a bank in North America, where white people have social advantage due to physical attributes that are interpreted by the majority as being advantageous, where the system is tilted more to the side of said people, and where visible minorities have historically (and are still) at a disadvantage.

Debito: You might be right that I got preferential treatment because I’m White, I don’t know. But I rather doubt it in this case. Remember, you’ve got the facts of the case wrong (and wouldn’t believe further testimony): 1) the teller was not dismissed in our presence (he was after we left the building the first time), 2) we didn’t ask for the sanctions that he got (in fact, we didn’t ask for any sanctions at all), and 3) we would not have even KNOWN that those sanctions had happened if we hadn’t gone back and talked to the manager (meaning his sanction was not done for our benefit to curry favor with the White privileged). Moreover, 4) if White Privilege was a factor, wasn’t the fact that the manager was a minority himself in a position of power have any bearing here? Might one not be able to make the argument that since both the teller AND the manager were minorities in Canada, that they might have banded together to protect each other against the White Privilege? I don’t know. But I can’t conclude definitively that White Privilege was at play here, and I hope that you won’t simply say, “You can’t conclude because you’re White.” The evidence just isn’t conclusive either way.

JG: I notice that you have fallen in love with the term “microaggression” in your writings and I would like to say that your understanding of the term falls extremely short, and this situation is stark evidence of it! Again, as as WHITE person, no, better yet, a WHITE MALE in North America, who (whether you are aware of it or not) has social capital and power afforded to him by his physicality, you basically bullied a visible minority Korean-Canadian into accepting the way YOU see the world and you possibly endangered his carreer and future job prospects! How can you call yourself a crusader for visible minorities when you used your WHITE-PRIVILEGE to take the livelihood of a person with less power than you over a simple comment?!?

Debito: I think the bank was the one who told the teller how the company sees the world and how he should represent the company, not us. I know, you’ll couch it as the bank trying to appease the Dominant Whites, but I think this would have happened to any teller of any background who said this. Agree to disagree.

Also, I somewhat doubt this teller’s career is in danger, and I base this on a conversation I had with another Canadian manager friend I consulted with two days ago who has experience in these customer-service situations. Although my friend would not have taken the measure of sending the teller home (and he doubts that it involved a day without pay, either), he said that after a reprimand and a promise not to do it again, this would be seen as a teachable moment and forgotten shortly thereafter as long as it didn’t happen again. He strongly doubts that there would be any career endangerment.

Of course, this is all speculation. But so is the speculation about career endangerment, as is the speculation that White Privilege was involved here. We simply don’t have enough data about the event to say definitively what power relations were at play.

JG: And since you tend to use personal anecdotes as “facts” for your arguments, allow me to follow suit: I am a Irish-Scottish-Chickasaw-Chotaw-Jamaican-African American. I am most often identified as “black” by others (although I have been called Indian, Arab, Mexican, or just “foreigner” in my time in the US) mainly due to skin color. When I go back to the US to visit, I shop with my Japanese credit card and sign the card in Japanese because that is the name I use in Japan. I almost ALWAYS get looks when I do this, just as I do here in Japan. Both here and in other countries I sometimes even get, “Are you SURE this is your signature?” and I simply reply with a matter-of-fact, “Yes” or “Sou desu”, for whichever the situation calls. I do not call for a manager and complain as it is not necessary. I know that you are more Japanese than I am, but from my understanding, the prevailing culturally appropriate attitude for most Japanese is to avoid conflict when at all possible.

Debito: Okay. That’s how you deal with it; I respect that. Not necessarily how I would always deal with it. Perhaps you think we have different coping strategies because you are seen as “black” and I am seen as “white”. Perfectly feasible. But saying that I can’t react a certain way because I’m seen as “white” is a bit disempowering when facing discrimination. I’d rather deal with discrimination using ways granted to us as human beings within a society by the law, regardless of my (or anyone’s) skin color.

JG: Now imagine that I, as a “black” person, reacted the way YOU did at the bank in Canada. Do you honestly believe that I would be treated with the same respect? Well, in Canada, maybe. But in the US, it could very well turn into a story on the evening news! Let me give YOU a teaching point that you failed to give the Canadian teller: Visible minorities go through this ALL THE TIME! When a black person experiences and awkward moment or a “mistake” happens, we always have to question whether it was just an innocent misstep or was there actual discrimination going on. Where the PRIVILEGE comes in is that you, as a WHITE MALE, you have the freedom to question and complain, while a black person risks being called “ghetto”, “uncivilized”, or “an angry black man”! Your white-privilege shelters you from this reality. I am not blaming you for it, but as a so-called social activist you should be aware of it!

Debito: I see your point very well. I am aware that Visible Minorities have had (and still have) it pretty rough in various societies, and that Whites have had it pretty damned good for centuries. I would hope that if a person identified as Visible Minority in any society had this happen to her/him, that they too would stand up for themselves as I did, regardless of the social opprobrium and unfair facile labeling that frequently befalls them. That they have done so bravely for so long is inspiring and instructional, not to mention progressive. But clearly the “White Privilege” really hasn’t shielded me this time, in this discussion. Nor has it shielded me over the years, as people have seen me as the “outraged man tilting at windmills” etc., and assumed that just about everything I do is something I do with anger and out of anger etc. (See examples of criticism at, and proof of my style of activism at Anyway, your point about having to question whether it was an innocent misstep or actual discrimination going on is well taken.

JG: It is natural for people culturally, socially, and economically “double-dip” if it is advantageous and if they can get away with it, but PLEASE do not insult the intelligence of the people here by telling us that you are “doing it for the greater good” and “doing it for us”!

Debito: Did I tell you that? Are you quoting me? I’ll answer that: No. I did not say that. Please do not cite things I did not say as some kind of evidence.

JG: I know by telling you all of this, I run the risk of being blocked and unfriended, as you have demonstrated by doing it to others who disagree with you. This is why I find your earlier comment about how society and the law agrees with you very ironic, since you quite liberally exercise your power to divorce yourself from dissenters. However, I hope you choose not to, as I hope that we can learn more from one another though this exchange.

Debito: No, you did not run the risk of being blocked for telling me all this (in fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a very thoughtful, well-crafted, earnest essay; thanks for it). What I do block people for is for being abusive. You were not abusive here. You were abusive later, which is why I eventually blocked you, long after you refused my request for retracting the angry comments you made later:

(For the record, what I requested of JG: “I would like you to retract the statements you make above basically accusing me of lying about having another eyewitness to this issue, not to mention bad faith and profiteering. These: “Even if your “eyewitness’s” account of what happened is accurate”,” “dodge the issues by posting a mysterious anonymous eyewitness account and advertising your book”. “conveniently-timed “anonymous” eyewitness who refuses to be identified because you have “stalkers”” (I do have stalkers, JG). All of those statements are grounded in anger, not reason. If you cannot retract them, I cannot engage in discussion with you, as you seem unable to fundamentally trust me. Usually when somebody becomes this abusive towards me, I block and unfriend them. But your essay on White Privilege was earnest and thoroughly-argued enough to warrant a response, so I didn’t unfriend you. But after this subsequent unfair indictment of my character, motives, and my friend’s testimony, I do not feel as inclined to discuss until these are retracted. I want a civil discussion. These accusations are not civil. So please retract, or end of discussion with me.”)

If someone wants to forward this response to JG, go ahead. But I don’t think there is any room for discussion between him and me as individuals. As to the points he raises, I hope my attempt to answer them to all of you in a calm, reasoned manner will be seen as earnest and well-intentioned on my part. I apologize in advance for any blind spots I may have due to my personal background being raised and living in several racialized societies, but I hope that, as JG said, we can all learn from one another through this exchange. I know I feel I have. Thank you for reading and discussing. Debito


Final thoughts from Debito:

One of the reasons I like having discussions like these, even those that sometimes bruise the Ego, is that they make me think and self-reflect, even help me lose some bad habits.  The best comment came from a person whose tone of criticism proved his very point. From SMC:


SMC: You presuppose a lack of empathy on the teller’s part. But an awkward, inappropriate remark is not the same thing as a lack of empathy. I wasn’t there, so I cannot say anything about the tone, volume, etc., of the teller’s remark that might give me a better idea of the nature of the exchange between you and him.

But it would appear that you chose to respond to a perceived (and probably unconscious) lack of empathy by being consciously non-empathetic, and dealt with the situation in a legalistic, self-validating way.

The Buddhists have an interesting concept called “skillful means”; in other words, having the wisdom to know how to adjust one’s tactics to make one’s point in the most effective way possible.

In a legal/juridical context the kind of approach you took would be appropriate, but in this case it appears that you missed the chance to help educate and enlighten a fellow human being with a few well-chosen words. You’ll probably do better next time, friend.

Respect, SMC

Yep, quite so. I admit that I overreacted, and in an unproductive way.  I capitulate. Thanks to everyone who explained that to me so patiently. It eventually sunk in. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014


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Hi Blog. I want to say thank you to everyone who read this and made it the the #1 most-read article at the JT Online for two days, and again for a number of days later!  Dr ARUDOU, Debito:


By Debito Arudou
JBC 82 for the Japan Times Community Page
December 4, 2014


I want to open by saying: Look, I get it.

I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. You might even have believed that people are governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan.

You don’t. Unless you marry an elite whose family funds your whims, you’ll discover that as you get older, opportunities narrow and doors close.

The first major life stage might be getting married — so easy to do here. Then you’d better lose the Peter Pan lifestyle and find a way to support your sudden kids. Or you’ll never see them again after the divorce.

Then you finally land that steady job that might lead to a career. But it’s hard enough nowadays for Japanese in their 20s and 30s to land secure employment (let alone climb the corporate ladder), so why should Johnny Foreigner cut in? Even if you manage to, people often assume tokenism and don’t take you seriously. The bamboo ceiling is pretty impenetrable.

But what about your trusty Genki Gaijin shtick? You’ll look jolly silly doing it as a geriatric, playing the perpetual dancing monkey, never the organ grinder.

Finally, as is true for everyone in Japan, the older you get, the less wriggle room you have in your career. Good luck comfortably changing jobs in your 40s or 50s. Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders. NJ OBs in powerful positions? Unlikely.

Part of that is by design: Enough NJ live the life of Riley and assume the future will take care of itself. After all, for their fellow unambitious and unobtrusive Japanese corporate drones, it will; except that they will likely live a pre-designed, boring and “normal” workaday life taken care of by the state.

But for NJ, given the recent court decision about their welfare benefits, the perpetual weakness of their contract employment, and employers not paying into their pension systems with impunity, a “normal” career is not at all guaranteed. NJ have to be vigilant at an age when everyone else seems to be partying.

Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.

This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them. After all, what self-respecting Japanese wants some NJ as their senpai (senior) in the workplace? Suddenly, despite following all the rules, NJ didn’t get the same rewards.

So, after a quarter-century in Japan, I get it. And here’s what you oughta get by now:

If NJ don’t do something outside the bubble they’ve lived in so far, they might end up as some anonymous dead gaijin on a gurney, unremembered and unmourned, merely cremated and disposed of by authorities unsure of your next of kin. I’ve seen it happen — an accelerating number of times.

Why? Parables such as the one about “boiled frogs” come to mind (i.e., the frog who never noticed the temperature of the water around him rising until it was too late to jump out), but more insightful is what Pierre Bourdieu called the “illusio,” i.e., the belief that the great lifetime “game” we all agree to play is worth playing, and the fiction we collectively choose to follow is reality.

The fiction we have been accepting as reality is: Japan will treat NJ equally as long as they play the game by Japanese rules. This shows a sore lack of self-reflection about the NJ’s place in Japanese society, where those rules are stacked against them properly assimilating. It’s not because NJ always elect to be treated like guests. Guest treatment is in fact the default.

For example, have you ever noticed how difficult it is for NJ to become established in Japan’s essential, respected and licensed jobs — e.g., as doctors (and nurses), lawyers, engineers, administrative-level bureaucrats, etc.? Instead, where are they consigned? Factories, education, tenuous entrepreneurship, contracted tech, as nonadministrative corporate drones, and in entertainment. These jobs are basically fungible and expendable. And they are the default.

That’s why NJ must learn how to become “hosts.” By this I mean that they must offer Japan something that cannot be dismissed as a mere trifle or token effort.

That skill must be precious enough that NJ residents can choose to deny it to Japan, should they ever want to reclaim their power, self-respect and dignity. The NJ who exclusively do what Japan needs, and who cannot be replaced with a Japanese substitute (for example, people acting as indisposable ambassadors of Japanese knowledge — e.g., Ed Reischauer, Donald Richie or Donald Keene), can hold their skills hostage and become secure, respected, even immortal.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but face reality: What do you have to offer Japan? I’m not asking if there is something you do well; I’m asking: After all these years, is there something that you can do that Japan positively cannot live without? If not, then Japan can easily live without you, and you could be headed for the gurney.

No doubt people will decry this column. Look, I “get” that too, for it’s a natural part of illusio maintenance. People trapped in their bubbles will fight to their last breath to avoid having them burst. Facing the reality of their perpetual second-class caste status would force them to admit that they made a mistake by submitting to Japan’s default subordination processes — that they traded their entire life for something that they ultimately found no stake in.

Criticize away if that makes you feel better. It’s more comforting to play the game and party on. For now. But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble. Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.

Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas:


Read the rest in the Japan Times at And this will be the anchor site for the article, so comment both below and at the JT if you like. As always, thanks for reading! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than has reported before (correctly)


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Hi Blog. Hokay, let’s go over this issue one more time on (the previous times from here): the ability of J-cops to racially profile and subject any “foreigner” to arbitrary Gaijin Card ID-checks. I offered advice about what to do about it (print and carry the actual laws around with you and have them enforced).

Last time I talked about this (in my Japan Times column last April), I noted how laws had changed with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law, but the ability for cops to arbitrarily stop NJ has actually continued unabated. In fact, it’s expanded to bag searches and frisking, with or without your permission (because, after all, NJ might be carrying knives or drugs, not just expired visas).

Well, as if doubting the years of research that went into this article (and affirmed by Japanese Administrative Solicitor Higuchi Akira in our book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), the JT put up a “featured comment” saying that my article was wrong and a source for misinformation:


MM333:  I’m sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason ‘whenever’ is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning.

As specified in Article 23 of the ‘Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act’ (see below), a police officer may demand to see a passport or residence card if it is in the execution of his/her duties, in other words only when s/he is doing what s/he is empowered to do by the ‘Police Duties Execution Act’ or other relevant acts.

The main duties of the police are specified in the ‘The Police Duties Execution Act’ (see below). The duties of the police are of course very wide ranging but they are not unlimited. In a nutshell, the police may question someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime or the person may have information about a crime.

Also, the police must offer assistance if they believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others (this is why the police may stop someone when they are riding a bicycle without a light at night even though the police may have other motives for the stop).

They may also stop you if they believe you might be a victim of a crime (As when they stop you on your bicycle and ask if you have registered it in light of all the thefts in the area) or if your acts may endanger anyone with a view to preventing any crime from occurring. The police also have additional duties imposed on them by other laws. For example, executing warrants under the ‘Code of Criminal Procedure’ or issuing fines under the ‘Road Transportation Act’.

Therefore, the police in Japan are not legally permitted to randomly stop anyone whether Japanese or foreign and demand to see their passport or residence card. The reason for this is quite simple and obvious. If the police randomly stop someone, they cannot have reasonable grounds to suspect that any crime has been committed, whether that be overstaying a visa or any other crime.

There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60).

I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.

(Article concludes with cited laws.  See the bottom of the JT article at the top of the comments section.)

Well, I’m not a lawyer (I can just read the laws; but naturally that doesn’t count in the face of an anonymous commenter of unknown credentials), so the JT was probably just thinking it should cover its glutes. However, eventually the JT DID consult a lawyer and ran the following article — where it’s even worse than I argued:

The lawyer is essentially suggesting that you had better cooperate with the police because the laws will not protect you — especially if you’re in a “foreigner zone” of Tokyo like Roppongi. Excerpt:


Legal hurdles are high when it comes to seeking redress
Limits on ‘stop and frisk’ open to interpretation by Japan’s police and courts
BY AKIRA ISHIZUKA, The Japan Times, July 20, 2014
Full article at

JT:  In short, the police are permitted to:

1) stop a person for questioning, and, if they try to escape, to seize them (although the officers are not allowed to restrain or arrest them).

2) question them (although they have no obligation to answer these questions).

3) request (but not force) them to accompany the officers to a nearby police station or police box for the questioning.


4) frisk them with or without consent. (This is not written in the act, but precedents have established this. Basically, the frisking is limited to patting down over their clothing.)

Legal precedents in these cases have tended to stress the importance of balancing the public’s right to privacy with the necessity and urgency of the specific investigation and the public interest in preventing the crime the individual stopped by the police was suspected of being involved in. […]

Regarding the profiling, considering it was in Roppongi, which has a bit of a reputation for crime involving foreigners, the police officials could probably come up with a number of explanations for why they stopped [a NJ named P], such as a suspicion that he was carrying or selling drugs. It is unlikely that any judge would rule that this was a case of profiling and that the questioning was illegal.

As for the frisking, it was legal for the officers to pat P down over his clothes and bag, even without his consent. However, it would be illegal if an officer searched inside P’s pockets or clothing without consent or intentionally touched his genital area, even over his clothes. […]

So, in conclusion, what can you do if you are approached and questioned by police officers? Cooperating may be the smartest option and the fastest way to get the whole ordeal over as quickly as possible, but if you don’t feel like being cooperative, you can try asking the police officers what crime they are investigating and attempt to explain that you are not doing anything illegal, clearly express the will to leave and then do just that. Don’t touch the police officers, don’t run and don’t stop walking — and don’t forget to turn on the recorder on your smartphone in front of the officers, thus making it clear that you have evidence of any untoward behavior.

You cannot be forced to turn the recorder off, no matter what the police officers yell at you. Best of luck!

Akira Ishizuka is an attorney with the Foreigners and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Questions:


COMMENT: You know there’s something seriously wrong with a system when legally all you have is luck (and a cell phone recorder) to protect you from official arbitrary questioning, search, seizure, and racial profiling by Japanese cops. Even a lawyer says so. So that’s definitive, right?

Now, then, JT, what misinformation was being spread here by my previous article? How about trusting people who give their actual names, and have legal experience and a verified research record (several times before in past JT articles)? And how about deleting that misinformative “featured comment” to my column?


Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito


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Hi Blog.  For the second edition in a row, here is my latest publication:

Two full chapters on tourism in Hokkaido and Tohoku

FODOR’S Japan 2014 Travel Guide

Pp. 707-810. ISBN 978-0-8041-4185-7

Available from (for example) here.


Here are some excerpts (click on image to expand in browser). Get a copy, or advise your touring friends to get a copy! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito




My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 74, Apr 3, 2014: “Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops”, updating the NJ Spot ID Checkpoints issue


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Hi Blog. My latest Japan Times column is out now. Excerpt:

Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops

Long-time readers of The Japan Times will already be aware of some of the information in today’s column. But within is an important update, so press on.

As you no doubt know (or should know), non-Japanese residents are required to carry ID 24/7 in the form of wallet-size “gaijin cards,” nowadays known as zairyū kādo (resident cards). (People without those cards — i.e., tourists here for less than three months — must instead always carry a passport.) Don’t leave home without yours, for you could face detention and a criminal penalty if a police officer suddenly demands it.

Which they can do at any time — underscoring the weakened position of non-Japanese under domestic law and social policy. According to the former Foreign Registry Law, any public official empowered by the Ministry of Justice may demand ID from a non-Japanese person, whenever. Inevitably, this encourages racial profiling, as cops with systematic regularity target people who “look foreign” (including naturalized citizens, such as this writer) for public shakedowns that are intimidating, alienating and humiliating…

Exacerbating this is social policy (see Community pages passim), with the National Police Agency and other ministries expressly portraying non-Japanese as agents of crime, terrorism, hooliganism and infectious diseases. They have also encouraged the general public to pile on, unlawfully demanding that hotels and other public facilities, taxation agencies and non-Japanese employers also carry out gaijin-card checks.

Note that this sort of thing cannot be done to Japanese. Even the prospect of creating standardized IDs (let alone being forced to carry one at all times) has caused public outrage (recall the scandal over the Juki Net system). No wonder: Citizens are in fact shielded by the Police Execution of Duties Law, which states that police officers can ask personal questions only if there is probable cause — that is, adequate suspicion that a crime has been or is about to be committed. Although there are cases of Japanese being similarly harassed by police, the attitude of those on the receiving end of such treatment — at least according to numerous videos on YouTube (search for shokumu shitsumon, or 職務質問) — generally seems to be alarm over capricious invasions of privacy.

Not so for non-Japanese. Last month I received reports that police officers in Roppongi have recently included searching bags and sticking their hands down the pockets of non-Japanese, heightening the invasiveness. (This is the same police branch, remember, that came up with non-Japanese urine checks — until The Japan Times questioned its legality. See “Cops crack down with ‘I pee’ tests,” July 7, 2009.)

Moreover, as general awareness has increased that non-Japanese must carry gaijin cards, I have received reports that weirdos posing as police (most recently in Kichijoji, Tokyo) are coming up to non-Japanese (particularly women) and demanding their personal information.

One might think things changed for the better when the Foreign Registry Law was abolished in 2012 — after all, non-Japanese can finally be registered as residents with their Japanese families — but no: The section that permits spot ID checks was incorporated into the revised Immigration Control Act (Article 23).

Fortunately, so were safeguards against cop masqueraders. So here is a revised version of your legal rights:

  • If someone who purports to be a police officer (some prowl in plainclothes) asks for your ID, ask if this is shokumu shitsumon (literally, a professional inquiry; download a dialog you can put in your wallet at If he says yes, ask if there is probable cause of a crime. If he says no, ask if you may leave. Repeat as necessary. This should stop some ID checks, especially if you start videoing it with your phone. (Legally you can, as YouTube demonstrates.)
  • If the police officer responds that as non-Japanese, you are required by law to display ID upon request, counter that by law, cops are also required to display badges upon request. Say “• Keisatsu techō o misete kudasai• ” and take a picture of both the badge and the hologram ID on the back. (Beware of fake badges; see an image at This will stop most abuses. Then show your gaijin card.
  • If the officer refuses to show his techō (pointing to the number on his uniform lapel — or, according to one account, patting his gun — is insufficient), then head to the nearest kōban • (police box). That should send imposters scurrying away. Once there, by law, you will have to show your gaijin card, but try to get a techō from somebody, because you will need all the information (on front and back) for future reference.
  • If the officer demands a bag or pocket search, ask if he has a warrant, and that you won’t comply until he gets one. Say “Reijō ga arimasu ka? Reijō ga nai to dekimasen.”
  • If you feel as though you have suffered abusive treatment, then contact the Public Safety Commission (kōan iinkai) in your prefecture (Tokyo’s is at with the exact details of the officer’s badge. You can file a formal complaint in English — they have translators. Admittedly, these are wolves policing other wolves, but do something and you might get an answer; do nothing and there is no possibility of a check or balance on abusive cops or cosplay stalkers.

Remember: Only police and other officials of the Justice Ministry (such as immigration officials) may demand to see your gaijin card specifically. When necessary, you can choose to show other ID, such as a driver’s license or health insurance card, like any Japanese.

The point is, be aware of your rights. Like anywhere, Japan has people with foreigner fixations (such as killers Joji Obara and Tatsuya Ichihashi), and they prey on the weakened position of non-Japanese in Japanese society. Empower yourself.


ARUDOU, Debito is the author of the “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” ( A discussion of this issue is at Send comments and story ideas to

YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply)


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Hi Blog. Just got this one from RS, where he writes about something that happened last night in Shibuya:

March 3, 2014:
Debito-san, Thanks for your work. This incident happened tonight and we’ve already put it up on Youtube. Please have a look.

Because I’ve read your articles, I knew that I did not have to comply, and did not. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Well done. Although the video is a bit incomplete (it’s not clear how this started or how it ended), it’s clear that the police certainly do not want to be filmed, and it’s a good guess that BECAUSE it was filmed that the police showed restraint, if this video is any guide:

Anyway, what RS is referring to is this section here on which says that the Japanese police cannot ask you personal questions (let alone passports, as in above) without probable cause. Except if you’re a NJ, under the Foreign Registry Law. But the NJ can also ask for the cop’s ID before showing his, so ask for it first, has been the point.

However, with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law in 2012, it remains unclear under what law in specific the Japanese police are empowered to ask NJ without probable cause. I have consulted informally with legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones (of Doshisha and The Japan Times), and he too has had trouble finding anything in specific codified in the laws that now empowers cops in this manner. Nevertheless the institutional practice is in place, encouraging racial profiling, as last night’s performance indicates. I’ll give Colin a nudge to see if he will cover this in a column, if he hasn’t already. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE MARCH 5: has received word that there is at least one case of somebody in mufti flashing badges and asking select NJ (what appears to be visibly-NJ women, in Kichijouji, Tokyo) for their ID. In all cases, check the police badge (keisatsu techou o misete kudasai), as you are legally entitled to. What to look for:

Courtesy of Reddit.
The creep in question:

Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”


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Hello Blog.  In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!!  To “ensure they behave” (those rapscallions!) and “avoid embarrassments” (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?).  Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction:  Book JAPANESE ONLY) — thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information).  Again, it’s not news.  It’s in fact recycling news from 2010.

This is another reason that Japan’s obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb — the domestic media has to reinforce the “Island Society” narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world.  At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all “foreigners” on sight as potential “hooligans” (World Cup 2002) or “terrorists” (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys).

Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive.  As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate “Gaijin Bath” at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers.  Good.  But again, Kyodo, do some research.  Arudou Debito


Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave
DEC 30, 2013

Bathhouses in Tokyo are taking greater steps to welcome foreigners visiting the capital by preparing a guidance manual and poster in several languages to help them understand the proper etiquette for communal bathing so they can avoid embarrassments.

“We would like to receive foreigners with warm hospitality so they can enjoy the culture of ordinary Japanese,” said Kazuyuki Kondo, who runs a bathhouse in Ota Ward.

Public bathhouses, or “sento,” which originally became popular during the Edo Period (1603-1868), are still in use, especially by people who do not have bathing facilities in the home.

After bathhouse operators in Ota and the municipal government completed the manual and poster, they distributed them to about 50 sento in the ward in March, with a view to attracting more foreigners visiting Tokyo for business or leisure, as the ward is home to Haneda airport.

The illustrated manual, written in English, Korean and both traditional and simplified Chinese, is intended for use by sento staff to communicate with foreigners.

It contains expressions such as, “The fee is ¥450,” “I’m sorry, but please remove your undergarments before entering the bathing area,” and “Please be mindful of other customers and enjoy yourself quietly.”

The poster, which shows a typical bathhouse layout and a flow chart for using it, also helps customers understand the sometimes complicated system.

Kondo, owner of Hasunuma Onsen, said the signs are effective and foreign customers are having no problems. He said many visit after learning about his bathhouse over the Internet or from acquaintances.

The Tokyo Sento Association followed suit and provided the same contents in manuals and posters to all bathhouses in the metropolitan area in November, and is considering spreading them nationwide in the near future.

“More and more foreigners will come to Tokyo as Haneda airport will increase its slots for international flights. What’s more, we have to prepare to welcome them ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020,” said Kondo, who previously headed the association’s Ota branch.

Every sento usually has several large baths over 50 cm deep. The temperature of the water is usually kept at around 42 degrees, and some even tap hot natural spring water, technically making them “onsen.”

Besides the basic function of bathing, sento are also community gathering venues that cross generational lines.

As of November, there were 709 sento in the capital, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. There are more in areas with many old detached houses and apartment blocks, some of which have no bathing facilities.

Sento have been closing by the dozens in recent years, due largely to the aging of the owners, a lack of successors and rising maintenance costs.

But now they are being re-evaluated as a kind of spa facility in cities and towns where people can relax inexpensively, according to the association.

“I don’t expect a surge in the number of foreign users, but I am sure sento have gradually become popular with them,” Kondo added.

“Sento can be a good tourism resource, as there must be foreigners who are looking forward to bathing in them, especially among repeat visitors to Japan,” said Masaru Suzuki, a professor at Obirin University in Tokyo.

“What is important is how to promote them to travelers. A useful way would be to ask foreigners who are living Japan to help us,” said Suzuki, whose specialty is tourism marketing.

He suggested that foreigners studying or working in Japan be asked to introduce sento through social-networking sites, such as Facebook.

Setting up a “free-of-charge day” for foreigners would also help them seek out their first bathhouse experience in Japan, he added.


Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!


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Hi Blog. Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:


Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:

Here’s the cover:


Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from at

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

Good news: Japan Times Community Pages expanding from two-page Tuesdays to four days a week


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Hi Blog.  Good news.  With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week.  The JT explains in more detail below.  Proud to be part of this writing crew.  We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space.  Bravo.  Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen.  — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times




Growing Community: the JT’s most talked-about section is about to get larger

From Thursday, Oct. 17, the Community pages will be expanding to four days a week from the present double-page spread on Tuesday and single Saturday page in the print edition. Here’s a taste of what to expect from mid-October:


Recognizing that a huge number of our readers work in the education sector, Monday’s main feature, Learning Curve, will focus on aspects of the teaching profession in Japan, from eikaiwa to JET and higher education.

Louise George Kittaka will continue to answer readers’ questions for Lifelines, with lawyers from the Tokyo Public Law Office’s Foreigners and International Service Section addressing legal issues on the second Monday of the month.

Learning-related listings and letters will also run Mondays.


Writers including David McNeill, Jon Mitchell and Simon Scott will continue to tackle the big issues for The Foreign Element.

Opinion pieces that in the past would have been published here will shift to Thursday’s page.

Views From The Street will be staying put, tapping the views of people around the country about everything under the rising sun.

Free listings related to causes and campaigns will feature on Tuesdays, as will feedback about the previous week’s columns.


Debito Arudou’s Just Be Cause will appear on the first Thursday of the month, with Hifumi Okunuki’s Labor Pains on week two.

Oct. 17 will see the debut of Law Of The Land, a new column by legal expert Colin P.A. Jones.

Fourth (and fifth) Thursdays will offer an open space for opinion, to be called Foreign Agenda.

Readers will still have a forum to vent in Hotline to Nagata-cho.

Listings related to shared pursuits — from discussion groups to sports clubs — will run on Thursdays.


Japan Times stalwarts Amy Chavez (Japan Lite) and Thomas Dillon (When East Marries West) will alternate week by week, offering their wry observations about life in Japan from the wilds of the Seto Inland Sea and Tokyo, respectively.

Saturday will continue to be the place to find out more about the diverse range of individuals that make up the foreign community of Japan, with personality profiles, reports on events and organizations, and the occasional embassy profile in Our Man/Woman In Tokyo.

Mixed Matches will focus on multicultural relationships, while Saturday’s listings will cover social and religious events.


Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 67 Sept 10 2013 “If you’re jozu and you know it, hold your ground”


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( Readers please note: is technically still on break, and I will be slow once again to approve comments.  Please be patient.  Thanks.  Debito)

JBC 67 for the Japan Times Community Page, September 10, 2013
By ARUDOU Debito

It’s been a long, hot summer, so time for a lighter topic for JBC:

A non-Japanese (NJ) friend in Tokyo recently had an interesting experience while out drinking with coworkers. (For the record – and I only say this because how you look profoundly affects how you are treated in Japan – he is a youngish Caucasian-looking male.)

His Japanese literacy is high (which is why he was hired in the first place), but his speaking ability, thanks to watching anime in America from childhood, is even higher — so high, in fact, that his colleagues asked him whether he is part-Japanese!

That kinda harshed his buzz. He wondered how he should respond. Should he abide by Japanese manners and deferentially deny his jouzu-ness? Or accept the praise with a “thank you” and a smile?

I commented that he should not only say thank you and accept the accolades, but also claim the part-Japaneseness. Yes, lie about it.

Why? Because this simple-looking interaction involves several issues, such as social hierarchy, bad science and privacy. And if not handled well, this episode could end up eroding his standing within this group

First, hierarchy: Long-time readers of this column are by now aware that I see most social interactions in terms of power relationships.

Especially in Japan, where just about everything from politeness levels to porn is a matter of power. There is almost always some element of social stratification, e.g., by age, gender, educational level, kohai/senpai status etc. involved.

One’s social standing naturally affects expectations of how people should behave, and what manners one should adopt. But manners get really screwy if NJ are involved.

For example, consider the expectations behind international communication strategies. It’s pretty much axiomatic that NJ who don’t “look Japanese” can’t possibly speak Japanese. NJ must speak and be spoken to English!

Which means that if somebody has the courage to address an NJ (overcoming the group psychosis of English instruction in Japan; see “Don’t blame JET for Japan’s bad English,” JBC Sept. 8, 2010), he will often take it as a personal affront if the NJ defies expectations by clicking into Japanese.

Even if no umbrage is taken, the Japanese-speaking NJ is still treated as deviant. You see that in frequent microaggressive behavior like “hen na gaijin” snipes, or the occasional public figure candidly wishing that “gaijin” weren’t fluent (see “Newscaster regrets anti-foreigner quip”, Asahi Shinbun, Dec. 21, 2006).

That’s one issue. The second is the bad science. Do people seriously believe that having Japanese ancestry makes you better at Japanese?

Actually, many do. But that’s quite unscientific. Admittedly, growing up where people are speaking Japanese around you is helpful for learning what I call “Kitchen Japanese,” i.e., unaccented speech but limited literacy. However, not all people with Japanese blood grow up in a Japanese-language environment, so the connection remains tenuous.

In any case, bloodline doesn’t account for my NJ friend’s Japanese literacy, which rarely happens without structured and disciplined study. He accomplished it, hence the compliments. But the praise is still entangled within a “blood = ability” narrative.

Fact is, Japanese language is a skill, which means it can be learned by anyone able to learn a foreign language, regardless of bloodline or background.

Which leads us to the third issue: privacy. What business was it of my friend’s co-workers to ask about his background?

That’s why he should feel free to lie about it. After all, everyone else in Japan lies about things that are nobody’s business.

Consider the single young lady with the ring on her finger. Ask her where she got it and she’ll probably say she bought it for herself. Even if her kareshi gave it to her last night at the love hotel. Why? Because personal matters are kept private.

Lying is nothing controversial. I’ve talked before about how not telling the truth is a standard practice of adult life in Japan (see “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit,” JBC Nov. 1, 2011).

But in this case, lying might actually do some good. By confounding expectations.

Confounding expectations erodes stereotypes. And an excellent way to do this (as comedians and satirists throughout the ages have done) is by poking fun through absurdity.

Naturally, there will be some resistance. Critics of this column essentially believe that Japanese society can never be satirized, i.e., using humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to criticize societal stupidity and folly. That’s what this column has done for years, engendering howls of “cultural insensitivity” etc.

They’re missing the point of irony and satire within social commentary. Since Japanese humor doesn’t have much sarcasm, avenues are limited for pointing out foibles. Fortunately, you can still be absurd and get your point across.

Let’s play this out. Consider what would happen if my visibly-Caucasian friend were to (falsely) claim Japanese lineage in this setting.

The dogmatists will be pleased to have their expectations confirmed – quite possibly bloodline is the only explanation they’ll accept.
The critical thinkers may pause and say to themselves, “Hang on, really?” And maybe, just maybe, a few will realize that the question is patently absurd, and that blood is irrelevant to learning skills.

But what if my friend instead went the route of humility and showed deferential manners? He’d lose. Because, again, Japanese manners are not applied equally to NJ.

For example, even if a Japanese says, either as a response or a disclaimer, “My language ability is no good,” it is usually taken as pro forma humility. People pretty much know “he’s just saying that” and don’t take it all that literally.

However, if a NJ does it, it reaffirms the narrative and expectation that NJ don’t speak Japanese.

But there are knock-on effects for NJ, especially if they have acted deferentially to their juniors: They’ve cut themselves off at the knees and taken themselves down a rung on the social hierarchy.

Never do that. As I’ve written before (“Toot your own horn – don’t let the modesty scam keep you down,” ZG Sept. 2, 2012), once you drop down a peg, the group is probably not going to give it back. Hierarchy is not only something you earn. It’s something you claim.

After all, most native speakers of Japanese cannot appreciate what non-natives have gone through to reach fluency. As I’ve said before, communicating in Japanese is not all that difficult. What’s difficult is communicating with Japanese people.

You have to get over the Catch-22: People not speaking to you in Japanese because it’s not good enough, yet it’s not getting good enough because people won’t speak to you in Japanese. All the power relations and ingrained prejudices accompanying just about every social interaction work both as a barrier and a subordinator for NJ.

So when complimented, say thank you. You’ve earned it, so own it. And if they ask you to play to their expectations, only do so in a way that is to your advantage. Because it’s only going to get more difficult as you get older, and all the young pups who have trouble accepting NJ as senpai will happily enforce stereotypes, and police you back into the Dumb Gaijin category. Then you will languish as a permanent subordinate, unrecognized for your herculean efforts.

Defy disempowering expectations, or ultimately it will be your expectations – of equal and respected treatment in Japan after all your investments and sacrifices – that are defeated.

Yomiuri on “Points System” visa: “Too strict”, few takers, under review by Justice Ministry (which institutionally will never be able to fix it)


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Hi Blog.  An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai).  I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times here.

The failure has officially happened.  Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.

But to me it’s no wonder it failed.  It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants.  We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned:  Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.

This is what happens when you put a people-handling policy solely in the hands of a policing agency (i.e., the Justice Ministry):  Those people being perpetually treated as potential criminals.  There is automatically less focus on what good these people will do and latent suspicion about what harm they might.  It doesn’t help when you also have an administrative regime trying to find any excuse possible to shorten visas and trip immigrants up to “reset the visa clock” for Permanent Residency, through minor administrative infractions (not to mention the fact that changing from your current visa to this “Points System” visa resets your “visa clock” once again).  It’s official ijiwaru, and without a separate ministry (i.e., an Imincho) specifically dedicated configuring immigration or integration into Japanese society, things will not be fixed.  Arudou Debito


Few foreigners tempted by points system
August 7, 2013. The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of JK

A points-based preferential immigration system expected to attract 2,000 highly skilled foreign professionals to Japan annually accepted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months, a dismal result that has prompted the government to review the criteria experts have blamed for the low number, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The system was adopted by the government last May to encourage skilled foreigners to take up residence in Japan and help boost Japanese economic growth. It gives these specialists privileges such as a shorter minimum-required period of stay for obtaining permanent residence.

Foreigners doing research at universities and other institutions, those with professional skills and corporate managers are eligible to use the system. They are given points in accordance with such criteria as academic credentials, professional and scholastic achievements and promised annual income.

For instance, a researcher with a doctorate who will work at an academic institution is awarded 30 points, while one with a master’s degree gets 20 points. Applicants who get at least 70 points in total are recognized as “highly skilled professionals” and can receive preferential immigration treatment including the right to acquire permanent residence within five years instead of the normal 10; permission for a spouse to work here; and permission to bring a parent to Japan to help look after the professional’s children.

However, only 17 foreigners were admitted to Japan under the point system between May 2012 and early April this year. This number rose to 434 when foreigners who were already in Japan and successfully applied for the system are added. The total includes 246 from China, 32 from the United States, 19 from India and 16 from South Korea.

In April and May, an expert panel at the Justice Ministry discussed reports that the current criteria were too strict.

One criticism was that the yearly income guideline was based on the salary of company workers, making it difficult for researchers at universities with lower yearly incomes to gain high points. Another was that only applicants with a yearly income of at least 10 million yen are allowed to have a parent accompany them to Japan.

After hearing these reports, the goverment began considering the easing of the criteria. Some possibilities include raising the points given for research papers submitted or patents obtained from the current ceiling of 15 points, shortening the minimum-required period of stay from five years to three for applying for permanent residence, and allowing foreigners on lower yearly incomes to bring an accompanying parent.

These issues will be worked out among the Justice, Foreign and Health, Labor and Welfare ministries, with the government planning to amend the system by year-end.

The government’s policy of increasing the number of foreigners to be admitted into Japan via the points system was specified in its growth strategy compiled in June.

“To help our country win in the global competition for excellent manpower, we’ll review the system and call on universities and companies to make better use of it,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of immigration control.


2012 revisions to immigration and registry laws shaking down NJ for Pension & Health Insurance back payments


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Hi Blog. This entry is more of a query than a conclusive essay. I raise the question because we’re seeing the intended aftereffects of the 2012 revisions to the Immigration law (which allowed for NJ to be properly registered as residents on the Juuminhyou, but also centralized control of IC-Chipped Gaijin Cards in the national government) emerge. And allegedly more targeting of NJ in terms of social welfare schemes.

A friend of mine writes in (edited):


Don’t know if you’ve heard about the latest moves by the GOJ to milk foreign residents of their hard-earned cash. They are looking into NJ with the help of that new IC chip torokusho card and making people pay for the kokumin hoken health insurance AND nenkin pension they have never paid into.

I know several people who have been hit with this and it has drained their bank accounts.  They can’t even afford the plane ticket to go back home and see ailing parents. They said a lien would be put on their account/pay checks if they didn’t pay.

A teacher I know (in his 40s) has been here some 10 years and has NEVER paid into the health insurance scheme nor nenkin. He called up city hall inquring about this and they said yes indeed he is delinquent will have to pay up all those missed years! They asked his name and he said thank you and hung up the phone! 

Another friend of mine got zapped for back payments. Every month he was being charged fines/penalties for late payments. So even if he negotiated returning to a monthly fee he would still have to pay a huge amount in extra fees. So he paid it off lump-sum and has depleted all of his savings.

The health insurance is important as one needs that to ensure treatment here, but having NJ pay into the nenkin scheme if they feel they will not be here forever to pay into it is ridiculous.  Any advice on how to get around this? I’d love to hear what you think on the matter.


COMMENT: We talk about Japan’s social welfare systems in detail in HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (and my eBook GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN). Personally, I take the side of everyone paying in. I believe that everyone in a society should support the national umbrella insurance systems, because opting out by saying, for example, “I’m not sick now so I don’t need it; I’ll only sign up when I get sick,” is fair-weather freeloading, as if you’re expecting a return on an investment when you need it but you didn’t make the investment in the first place.  (National systems can’t remain solvent like that. These issues were developed and ironed out during the Obamacare debates.)   Also, saying that “I can’t see myself retiring in Japan so I shouldn’t have to pay into Japanese pension” is also bad logic, especially given Totalization Agreements Japan has arranged with a number of societies (also covered in HANDBOOK/GUIDEBOOK) for pensions to be started and completed in different countries.

That said, there are a couple of issues that affect NJ differently here.  One is that one of the reasons why some J have not paid in is because their employer (who is responsible to pay in half of their employees welfare benefits if they work 30 hours a week and up, i.e., full time) didn’t pay in their half.  This is often unbeknownst to the NJ employee and a tax dodge by the employer.  Yet the person who gets chased down for the back payments is the NJ employee.

Another issue that affects everyone is that Japan’s pension system basically requires 300 months (25 years) of work before you qualify for any pension (although I have heard that might be changing to 10 years’ minimum investment).  That’s the longest minimum pension investment for any industrialized society.  But since that affects everyone, that’s part of the price you pay to live in Japan.

The difference is that for the Japanese public you get a nicer attitude and less draconian enforcement.  Japanese just get official posters nicely cajoling them to pay into the social welfare schemes, but there is no real enforcement unless they want future pension payments (or to avoid public shame, as was seen in 2004 when Japanese politicians were caught not paying in).  But for NJ, now that all of their visa and registry issues have been consolidated behind Central Control, their very visa renewals are contingent upon paying into social welfare, and they’re being chased and shaken down for the money.  It’s a very different approach, and the newfound dragnet further encourages bureaucrats to scrutinize and treat NJ as potential social deadbeats.  It’s one more official way to treat NJ as “different”.

Anyone else out there being officially shaken down?  And for how much?  Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 63, May 14, 2013: “Police, media must consider plight of those caught in linguistic dragnet”


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Police, media must consider plight of those caught in linguistic dragnet
Racialized terms thrown about by cops and parroted by news outlets have consequences

The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE Column 63, May 14, 2013
By ARUDOU Debito
Version with links to sources

A national media exerts a powerful influence over the lives of members of its society. For example, rumors or untruths disseminated through print or broadcast can destroy livelihoods and leave reputations in ruins.

This is why judiciaries provide mechanisms to keep media accountable. In Japan, laws against libel and slander exist to punish those who put out misleading or false information about individuals.

But what about broadcasting misleading or false information about groups? That’s a different issue, because Japan has no laws against “hate speech” (ken’o hatsugen). Consequently, Japanese media get away with routine pigeonholing and stereotyping of people by nationality and social origin.

An example? The best ones can be found in Japan’s crime reportage. If there is a crime where the perpetrator might be a non-Japanese (NJ), the National Police Agency (and by extension the media, which often parrots police reports without analysis) tends to use racialized typology in its search for suspects.

The NPA’s labels include hakujin for Caucasians (often with Hispanics lumped in), kokujin for Africans or the African diaspora, burajirujin-kei for all South Americans, and ajia-kei for garden-variety “Asians” (who must somehow not look sufficiently “Japanese,” although it’s unclear clear how that limits the search: aren’t Japanese technically “Asian” too?).

Typology such as this has long been criticized by scholars of racism for lacking objectivity and scientific rigor. Social scientist Paul R. Spickard puts it succinctly: “Races are not types.”

Even hard scientists such as geneticist J.C. King agree: “Both what constitutes a race and how one recognizes a racial difference are culturally determined. Whether two individuals regard themselves as of the same or of different races depends not on the degree of similarity of their genetic material but on whether history, tradition, and personal training and experiences have brought them to regard themselves as belonging to the same groups or to different groups . . . there are no objective boundaries to set off one subspecies from another.”

The NPA has in recent years gotten more sophisticated with its descriptors. One might see tōnan ajia-jin fū for Southeast Asians, chūtō-kei for Middle Easterners, indo-kei for all peoples from the Indian subcontinent or thereabouts, or the occasional chūgokujin-kei, firipin-kei, etc., for suspects involved in organized crime or the “water trade.”

But when the suspect is of uncertain ethnic origin but somehow clearly “not Japanese,” the media’s default term is gaikokujin-fū (foreign-looking).

[For example, do a search for 外国人風 at]

Lumping suspects into a “Japanese” or “not Japanese” binary is in fact extremely unhelpful during a search for a suspected criminal, because it puts any NJ, or visible minority in Japan (including many Japanese citizens), under the dragnet.

Not only does this normalize racial profiling; it also encourages the normalization and copycatting of stereotypes. I have seen cases where people assumed that “foreigners” were involved in a crime just because they saw people who “looked different” or “acted different” (which has in the past encouraged criminals to adopt accented speech, or blame fictitious foreign perps to throw cops off their trail).

[See for example]

There are two other bad habits reinforced by publicly racializing criminality. One is the creation of a public discourse (discussed many times on these pages) on how “foreigners” in particular are a source of crime, and thus destabilizing to Japanese society.

The other is that any careless typology winds up associating nationality/phenotype/social origin with criminal behavior, as in, “He’s a criminal because he’s Chinese.”

Both habits must be stopped because they are, statistically, damned incorrect.

How should the NPA remedy this?

Easy, really. They should amend, if not outright abandon, any race-based typology when reporting crime to the media. The police and the media should try this instead:

1) When there is a suspect on the run, and the public is being alerted to be on the lookout, then give phenotypical details (e.g., gender, height, hair color) — the same as you would for any Japanese fugitive. Do not reveal any nationality (or use the generic word “foreign”). Why? Because nationality is not a matter of phenotype.

2) When there is a suspect in custody for interrogation (as in, not yet charged for prosecution), then it is not necessary to give phenotypical or nationality details. Why? Because an accusation without charge is not yet a crime statistic, so those details are irrelevant to the case. It is also not yet a fact of the case that this particular crime has been committed by this particular person — innocent before proven guilty, remember.

3) When there is an arrest, giving out details on specific nationality is permissible, as it is now a fact of the case. Pointing out phenotypical details, however, is unnecessary, as it may draw undue attention to how criminals supposedly “look.” (Readers will have their curiosity sated by seeing the inevitable photograph, now also a fact of the case.)

4) When there is a conviction, refer to 3 above. But when there is an acquittal, the police and media should mention the nationality of the former suspect in a public statement, to counteract the social damage caused by any media coverage that may have inadvertently linked criminality to a nationality.

Remember that at any time during criminal procedure, it is never necessary to use the generic word “foreign,” what with all the potential for overgeneralization and stereotyping. In addition, the police should repeatedly caution the media against any tone associating nationality with criminality.

Now, why am I devoting a column to this? Because the media must not only watch the watchers; it must watch itself. I also know that policymakers read the Japan Times Community pages and this column, because they have changed their policies after withering criticisms here.

Remedial actions inspired by this space include the Takamadonomiya All Japan Junior High School English Speech Contests amending their rules to disqualify “native English speakers” instead of just “all foreigners” (Zeit Gist, Jan. 6, 2004), NTT DoCoMo repealing their “security deposit” for all foreigners only (ZG, Aug. 29, 2002), the Cabinet’s human rights survey rewriting questions that once made human rights “optional” for foreign humans (ZG, Oct. 23, 2007) and, most significantly, the National Research Institute of Police Science discontinuing its racist “foreigner DNA” research scheme for crime scenes (ZG, Jan. 13, 2004).

Here’s hoping that the police and media realize what careless reportage does to NJ residents, and start monitoring themselves better. It’s time to make amends for all the social damage done thus far.

After all, both are generally more careful if the suspects are Japanese. Anyone ready to say in public “He’s a criminal because he’s from Osaka”? Thought not. Consistency regardless of nationality or social origin, please.


Arudou Debito’s “Japanese Only: The Otaru Onsens Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” is now on sale as a 10th anniversary e-book on Amazon for ¥975. See Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send comments and ideas to

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now


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Hello Newsletter Readers. This month’s Newsletter is a little late due to a press holiday on May 7, the date my Japan Times column was originally to come out. So this month you get two editions that are chock full of important announcements. As a supplement, here is information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:


1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99


Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide).

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at




It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at


3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

In Appropriate cover

My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at


Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito


eBook GUIDEBOOK for RELOCATION and ASSIMILATION to JAPAN now on sale, US $19.99 or local currency equivalent


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Hello Blog.  I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest downloadable eBook:

Arudou Debito’s GUIDEBOOK for RELOCATION and ASSIMILATION into JAPAN (eBook for Amazon and NOOK, 2013)


Price: $19.99 or local currency equivalent at Amazons worldwide (available also from Amazon Japan here currently for JPY 1979).  Also at Barnes & Noble for NOOK.

Here’s GUIDEBOOK’s synopsis:
Are you interested in living in Japan? Not visiting as a tourist — actually living in Japan with a secure visa and a stable job. Would you like to set up your own business and found your own corporation? Or understand how Japan’s salary system or health insurance works? What Japan’s minimum labor standards are, and the legal differences between part-time and full-time employment? How to write a Last Will and Testament in Japan, or hold a culturally-sensitive funeral? Or would you like to give something back to Japan’s civil society by founding your own non-profits or NGOs?How about getting some advice on how to deal with some unexpected problems, such as handling workplace disputes, dealing with police, going to court, even going through a divorce? 

Would you like to become a Permanent Resident or even a Japanese citizen?

GUIDEBOOK will offer information on all this and more. Written by 25-year resident and naturalized Japanese citizen Arudou Debito, GUIDEBOOK’s information has been called “the fullest and consequently the best” by Japan Times Book Reviewer Donald Richie, and garnered praise from other Japan specialists such as John Lie, Jeff Kingston, and Alex Kerr.

GUIDEBOOK has been newly updated for 2013, to include the 2012 reforms to Japan’s Immigration Laws. Now for the first time in eBook format, GUIDEBOOK is here to help you with nuts-and-bolts advice to establish a good life in this wonderful country, Japan!

GUIDEBOOK has been completely updated for 2013.  Similar information is available in English and Japanese at

Get a copy if you’re interested! On sale from yesterday, it’s already at this writing #9 on Kindle nonfiction eBooks on Japan.  Thanks everyone!  ARUDOU Debito

Tangent on Sexual Minorities: Gay marriage trends worldwide, and how Japan’s Douseiaisha do it: Donald Keene’s marriage by Koseki adoption


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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to take readers on a bit of a tangent, as this blog tends to focus on minorities in Japan in terms of “race”, social, or national origin.  We don’t talk much about Sexual Minorities, such as the LGBT communities in Japan (particularly the Douseiaisha, Japanese for Homosexuals), and how they are missing out on the wave of legalized gay marriage worldwide.  Consider this from The Economist:


Daily chart
Altared states
Apr 22nd 2013, 14:40 by
More countries legalise gay marriage

TENS of thousands of people thronged the streets of Paris at the weekend to protest against a gay-marriage bill that is set for a second reading in the National Assembly on April 23rd. They are unlikely to stop its passage. The bill, which is an election pledge by the Socialist president, François Hollande, was passed by a large majority at its first reading in February despite fierce opposition organised by conservative and Catholic groups. France is not the only country where gay marriage has been on the legislative or judicial agenda in recent weeks. On April 17th New Zealand became the 12th country to legalise gay marriage, though the law will not come into effect until August. Uruguay, too, has passed a similar bill that awaits the signature of the president before it becomes law. And in late March the American Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case on the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to a man and a woman. In all these countries—and indeed in much of the West—opinion polls show public support for same-sex marriages.
==================================== applauds this trend of legalizing gay marriage.  Meanwhile Japan, as you can see above, to its credit has no law criminalizing homosexuality.  It, however, does not permit gay marriages due to the vagaries of the Family Registry (Koseki) System.  In short, only a wife and a husband by gender can create a married family unit.

But as has been pointed out here on before, people find ways to get around this.  Gay couples, in order to pass on inheritance rights, adopt each other into the same family unit on the Koseki.  The problem is for international couples that non-citizens cannot be listed on a Koseki as husband or wife.

So here is how LGBT foreigners can get around it:  Naturalize and adopt.  As previously suggested might be the case, famous naturalized Japanese Donald Keene has done it, and recently gone public about it:

ドナルド・キーンさんが養子縁組 三味線奏者の上原さんと
Sports Nippon, April 30, 2013, courtesy of Mumei






Congratuations, Don.  Seriously.  May you accomplish all the goals that remain before you in the years left to you.  My only requests, as I have made several times before, are that 1) you do not make a pandering show of it as some kind of “solidarity with the Japanese” kinda thing; and 2) you do not denigrate others (i.e., NJ, by insinuating statistically incorrectly that NJ are less likely to be loyal to Japan (as “Flyjin”) or more likely to be criminals).  Clearly the real reason you naturalized was a lot less selfless than you portray (which is fine, but let’s have a bit less public self-aggrandizing and self-hugging, please).  It is unbecoming of a person of your stature in Japan-related academia.

Anyway, that’s the template for how you do it.  Gay NJ who wish to marry Japanese and get the same inheritance rights should naturalize and adopt one another.  Or else, barring naturalization, go overseas to a society more enlightened about Same-Sex Marriage and get married.  Bonne chance.  Arudou Debito

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

More reviews at

Proposal: Establishing a YouTube Channel?


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Hi Blog. There has been discussion within a previous blog entry about establishing a YouTube channel that can screen information videos/vlogs/etc. on topics is concerned about. This is not unusual, as many advocacy groups have their own YouTube channels (such as Sakura TV, dedicated to disseminating far-rightist and historically revisionist views).

My vision for a would be information that NJ in Japan could use for improving their lives in Japan, such as What to do if… a cop stops you for an ID check — filming some Shokumu Shitsumon proceedings as has happened with Japanese citizens here, here, and here (my favorite). As submitter MJ wrote in to me privately (he has taken videos of cops who have backed off from harassing him once they realized they were being filmed):

– I’ve never had to follow through on threat to upload to youtube because they backed off without me showing ID.
– uploading video is relatively straightforward; a youtube/vimeo/etc. account will come with instructions
– edited versions are best, the shorter the better while leaving in the salient action
btw, you could make a youtube Debito channel…
(yes, a dedicated, Debito-supporting, internet-techie volunteer would be a nice thing ;-))

In other words, filming these proceedings in action may act as at least a primary information source, at best a deterrent.  The threat of accountability stops many a bureaucratic abuse.

For the record, my level of commitment to this project is lending the brand to support pre-screened videos. But I sadly have neither have the time nor the expertise to establish or maintain a Channel (maintaining by itself is a full load). Sorry. So let me open this blog entry up to comments about interest, expertise, and commitment, and if people wish for me to get them in touch with one another off list, let me know. (If you wish to maintain your privacy, please use a pseudonym when communicating with each other, and please use a dedicated email address for this project.)

Alright, what say everyone? I personally think it’s a great idea and I’ll do what I can to help. Arudou Debito

Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)


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At Home Abroad: The Contemporary Western Experience in Japan“, by Adam Komisarof. Reitaku University Press, 2012. 251 pages, ISBN: 978-4-892025-616-1


(Publisher’s note:  On sale in Japan through Amazon Japan, in North America through Kinokuniya USA)
Review exclusive to, January 20, 2013
By ARUDOU DEBITO (updated version with errata corrected and Robin Sakamoto’s photo added)

At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan” (Reitaku University Press 2011). However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.

The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.

The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie (photos below).

As Komisarof acknowledges in his section on caveats (pp. 11-2), these people have a “Western cultural heritage” (as nine are from the US) and are mostly Caucasian; he notes that he confines his analysis to “Westerners”, and does not “presume to address the experiences of Korean permanent residents of Japan or people from developing countries,” as “both deserve to have entire books written about their experiences, which are in many ways quantitatively different from non-Japanese who have moved here by their own volition from affluent nations” (ibid). To counter this, Komisarof taps into “other types of diversity among the interviewees in terms of ethnicity, profession, and gender” (ibid) (e.g., Anton is African-American, Murphy-Shigematsu and Fukushima are of Japanese descent, and Yoshida is a Japanese raised abroad; three — Sakamoto, Arudou, and Murphy-Shigematsu — were naturalized Japanese at the time of their interview).

Being self-aware of these caveats salvages the science, but the interviews (despite good questions from Komisarof) are uneven and do not always speak to the point. Donald Keene comes off as patrician and supercilious about his position in Japan (not to mention out of touch with the way that most NJ live in Japan) when he says: 

There is still a hard core of resistance to Japanese culture among foreigners living in, say, Minato-ku. […] All of their friends are non-Japanese — with the exception of a few Japanese friends who speak English fluently. They live in houses that are completely Western in every detail. They read the English newspaper, The Japan Times, and they know who danced with whom the night before. They are still living in a colony. But I think that colony has grown smaller than ever before and has been penetrated by new people who want to learn about Japan. If you read about Yokohama in 1910, it would have been a very strange family that thought it was a good idea to let their son or daughter to go to a Japanese school and learn anything about Japan. They would never think in terms of living here indefinitely. They would think, “When we finish our exile here, we will go to a decent place.” (23)

Donald Keene, courtesy of NHK

No doubt, this may have been true in Yokohama back in 1910. But that is over a century ago and people thought even interracial marriage was very strange; nowadays it’s not, especially in Japan, and I doubt many NJ residents see Japan as a form of “exile”. Keene remains in character by depicting himself as a Lawrence of Arabia type escaping his colony brethren to get his hands dirty with the natives (somehow unlike all the other people interviewed for this book; I wonder if they all met at a party how Keene would reconcile them with his world view).


Patrick Harlan also comes off as shallow in his interview, mentioning his Harvard credentials more than once (as wearers of the Crimson tend to), and claims that he is sacrificing his putative entertainer career income in America by “several decimal places” for “a good gig here”.  Despite his linguistic fluency to be a stand-up manzai comic, he makes claims in broad strokes such as “Ethnic jokes don’t even exist [in Japan]. People are treated with respect.” (36)  He also talks about using his White privilege in ways that benefit his career in comedy (such as it is; full disclosure: this author does not find Pakkun funny), but makes assertions that are not always insightful re the points of assimilation/integration that this book is trying to address. Clearly, Dave Spector would have been the better interview for this research (although interviewing him might be as difficult as interviewing Johnny Carson, as both have the tendency to deflect personal questions with jokes).

(L-R) Karen Hill Anton, courtesy of her Linkedin Page; Robin Sakamoto, courtesy of Robin Sakamoto; Paul Snowden, courtesy of the Yomiuri Shinbun;Glen Fukushima, courtesy of

Other interviews are more revealing about the interviewee than about the questions being broached by the book.  Both Karen Hill Anton and Robin Sakamoto, despite some good advice about life in Japan, come off as rather isolated in their rural hamlets, as does a very diplomatic Paul Snowden rather ensconced in his Ivory Tower. Glen Fukushima, although very politically articulate, and highly knowledgable about code-switching communication strategies to his advantage in negotiations, also sounds overly self-serving and self-promoting.

Daniel Kahl’s interview is the worst of the book, as it combines a degree of overgeneralizing shallowness with an acidulous nastiness towards fellow NJ.  For example:

I can read a newspaper and my [TV] scripts… I know about 2000 kanji, so I’m totally functional, and I think that’s a prerequisite for being accepted.  I hate to say it, but there are a lot of foreigners who complain, “I’m not accepted in society!”  That’s because you can’t read the sign that explains how to put out your garbage.  And people get mad at you for mixing cans with bottles.  Simple as it may seem, those are the little things that get the neighbors angry. (206)

Poster of Daniel Kahl courtesy of Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights, caption courtesy of Japan Probe back in the day.

Especially when Kahl says:

I think that a foreigner who comes here and makes the effort can definitely be accepted. If you feel that you are not, then you’ve already got a chip on yours shoulder to begin with. […] For example, do you remember the incident in Hokkaido when the Japanese public bath owners had a “No Foreigners” sign up in front of their buildings? I guess two or three foreign folks got really upset about that, and they sued the place. Why would you sue them? Why don’t you go talk to those people? Tell the, “Look, I’m a foreigner. But I’m not going to tear your place up. Could you take down that sign?” Then the Japanese might have explained that they weren’t doing it to keep out all foreigners, but to keep out the drunk Russian sailors who were causing all the trouble in the first place. I don’t know all of the details, but these foreigners thought that they were making a political and legal statement. It could have been made very effectively, though, without embarrassing that city or the public bath owners. The foreigners were trying to change the law, but it was a pretty confrontational way to do so. I can almost guarantee that those foreigners are going to have a hard time being accepted by the Japanese in general. (100)


Kahl is exactly right when he says, “I don’t know all of the details,” since just about everything else he says above about the Otaru Onsens Case is incorrect. For example, it was more than “two or three foreign folk” getting upset (Japanese were also being refused entry, and there was a huge groundswell of support from the local community); one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit mentioned is not foreign. Moreover, as Arudou mentions in his interview, they did “go talk to those people”: they spent more than fifteen months talking one-on-one with all parties to this dispute, until there was no other option but to go to court (which millions of Japanese themselves do every year).  Moreover, at least one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Olaf Karthaus, is very well assimilated into his community, having graduated two children (with a third in junior high) through Japan’s secondary schooling, becoming Director at the Department of Bio- and Material Photonics at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, and participating daily in his Sapporo church groups.  In any case, Kahl’s lack of research is inexcusable, since he could have easily read up by now on this case he cites as a cautionary tale:  There are whole books written in English, Japanese, or even free online in two languages as an exhaustive archive available for over a decade as a cure for the ignorant. There’s even, as of 2013, an updated Tenth Anniversary Edition eBook downloadable for Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK, moreover for a very reasonable price of $9.99 or yen equivalent.  One can safely conclude that Kahl chooses to be ignorant in order to preserve his world view.

(L-R) Michael Bondy courtesy of his Linkedin Page; Tomoko Yoshida courtesy of Keio University; Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu courtesy of Stanford University.

The best interviews come from Bondy (who offers much practical advice about getting along in a Japanese-hybrid workplace), Yoshida and Murphy-Shigematsu (both of whom have some academic rigor behind their views of the world, and express their measured views with balance, deep thought and intuition). But the best of the best comes last with Donald Richie, who shows that old people do not necessarily become as curmudgeonly as Keene. Just selecting one nugget of insight from his excellent interview:

If I could take away the things that I don’t like about Japan, then it wouldn’t be Japan anymore. So I’ve always made an attempt to swallow Japan whole — not to discriminate so much between what I like or don’t. This is not as important as, “Does this work or not?” or “Does this serve a wider purpose or not?” These are more important questions than whether I like them or not. I’ve never paid too much attention to what I don’t like and conversely what I do like about Japan. […] But what I do like is the sense of interconnectiveness. […] When workmen used to try to make a wall and a tree would get in the way, they would make a hole in the wall to accommodate the tree instead of the other way around. This used to be seen on a regular basis. Alas, it is no more. A lot of the things which I like about Japan have disappeared. If this symbiotic relationship was ever here, it is not here anymore. The Japanese have down terrible things physically to their country. That would be something which I do not like about Japan. But if I dice it into likes and dislikes, and I have difficulty doing that, there wmust be a better way to see differences. Indeed, in my wriitng, I try not to rely on like and dislike dichotomies. I rely more on what works and doesn’t work. (172)

Donald Richie still courtesy of his film anthology

That said, Richie does careen into Keene territory when he carelessly compares NJ in Japan with autistic children in a kindergarten:

If an autistic child goes to a kindergarten, he becomes a legal member of that class, but he’s still an autistic child.  So he has double citizenship.  That is very much me — like any foreigner here.  He is put in a special class for autism, but at the same time,  he is given all of the honors and securities of belonging to this particular class.  He gets a double dose.  And if he is smart, then he recognizes this. (224)

This is not a good comparison, as it likens extranationality to a mental handicap.  And it also ignores the racialized issues of how somebody “looks” in Japan (as in “looks foreign”) with how somebody is treated (as a “foreigner”), when autism is not a matter of physical appearance.  It also assumes that people can never recover from or overcome a birth-based “autism of national origin” (this author’s paraphrase), becoming acculturated enough to “become a Japanese” (whereas autism is, as far as I know, a lifelong handicap).  This clearly obviates many of the acculturation strategies this book seeks to promote.  Richie may stand by this comparison as his own personal opinion, of course, but this author will not, as it buys into to the notion of surrendering to a racialized class (in both senses of the word) system as being “smart”.

In the last third of the book, Kamisarof takes these interviews and incorporates them into the following questions, answered with balanced input from all participants:

  1. When do Westerners feel most comfortable with Japanese people?
  2. How does Westerners’ treatment in Japan compare to that of immigrants and long-term sojourners in their home countries?
  3. Is there discrimination against Westerners in Japan?
  4. How does discrimination in Japan compare to that in Western countries?
  5. Is it right to play the Gaijin Card?
  6. Are Westerners accepted more by Japanese people if they naturalize to Japan?
  7. Can Westerners be accepted in Japan, and if so, what do they need to do to belong?
  8. Can popular public ideas about who belongs in Japanese society move beyond nationality?
  9. How are Japanese perceptions of Westerners changing?

After this remix of and focus upon individual strategies, Komisarof devotes his final chapter to bringing in academic discussions about general “acculturation strategies”, based upon attitudes and behaviors (both on the part of the immigrant and the native), putting them into a classic four-category strategy rubric of “Integration” (i.e., the “multicultural salad”), “Assimilation” (i.e., the “melting pot”), “Separation” (i.e., segregation into non-mixing self-maintaining communities), and “Marginalization” (i.e., segregation from mainstream society with self-maintenance of the non-mainstream community discouraged). In an attempt to choose the “best” acculturation strategy, Korisamof then builds upon this rubric into a sixteen-category “Interactive Acculturation Model” that may lose most non-academic readers. He concludes, sensibly:

“Merely increasing the non-native population in Japan without improving acculturation strategy fits is insufficient and may cause further problems. Instead, it is critical that a sense of BELONGING and PARTICIPATION, rather than mere coexistence, be shared between Japanese and the foreign-born residents in their midst… ” (237, emphases in original). “The underlying message of this book for all nations wrestling with unprecedented domestic diversity is that the inclusion of everyone is essential, but only through mutual efforts of the cultural majority and minorities can such inclusion become a reality. Creating living spaces where people can feel a sense of belonging and share in the benefits of group membership is an urgent ned worldwide, and it is happening, slowly, but surely, here in Japan. (239)

This has been a perpetual blind spot in GOJ policy hearings on “co-existence” (kyousei) with “foreigners”, and this book needs a translation into Japanese for the mandarins’ edification.

If one could point to a major flaw in the book, it would not be with the methodology.  It would be with the fieldwork:  As mentioned above, the interviews do not ask systematically the same questions to each interviewee, and thus the answers do not always speak to the questions about assimilation strategies Komisarof later asks and answers.  For example, Arudou’s typically rabble-rousing interview style offers little insight into how he personally deals with the daily challenges of life in Japan.  (For the record, that information can be found here.)  As is quite typical for people in Japan being asked what Japan is all about and how they “like” it, the interviewees answer in individually-suited ways that show myopic views of Japan, redolent of the fable about the Blind Men and the Elephant.  Not one of the respondents (except for, in places, Arudou) talks about the necessity for a sense of community building within NJ groups themselves, i.e., unionizing, creating anti-discrimination or anti-defamation leagues, or fostering the organizational trappings of the cultural self-maintenance that may be essential or is taken as a given within other non-Westerner transplant communities (although disputed by Ishi, 2008).  Instead, all we hear about (due to the lines of questioning within the fieldwork) are how atomistic people create their own psychological armor for “dealing with Japan”.

Another important issue remains fundamentally unaddressed by Komisarof:  How one must assume “good faith” and “reciprocity” on the part of Japanese society bringing in NJ to work, and how these assimilation strategies being offered must one day bear fruit (as the interviewee proponents claim they will.  Harlan:  “True acceptance comes when you are contributing to society as fully as anyone else.” (200)).  But what if your full contributions to Japan are not being fully recognized, with long-term friendships, promotions, equal access to social welfare, and even senpai status over Japanese?  As the links to each of these topics attest, this is not always the case.  Under Komisarof’s assimilation strategies, what do you do then?  Give, give, and give for many years and then just hope society gives something back?  What guarantees should there be for reciprocity?  There is only so much a mentally-healthy individual can contribute, sacrifice, and offer to “assimilate” and “integrate” into a society before feeling used and used up.

That said, if you want an insightful, thoughtful book that will introduce you to the global academic debate on transnational migration, assimilation, and integration, moreover tailored to the peculiar milieu of Japan, Komisarof’s “At Home Abroad” is it.


SOURCE:  Ishi, Angelo Akimitsu (2008), in David Blake Willis and Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Eds., “Transcultural Japan:  At the borderlands of race, gender, and identity.”  New York:  Routledge, pp. 122-5.

Copyright ARUDOU Debito 2013.  All rights reserved.

US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen


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Hi Blog.  Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy.  As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant.
Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

But consider how he was able to do this, as pointed out by submitter PKU:
President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the “Go For Broke” regiment), saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Ultimately, the draft was instated to obtain more Japanese–Americans from the mainland and these made up a large part of the 14,000 men who eventually served in the ranks of the 442nd Regiment.

Now this is important.  Even as least AS FAR BACK AS FDR (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to disentangle race/national or social origin from nationality.

This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status).  Nor is Japan really trying.  I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”).  This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as people of color and diversity.  But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see herehere and here).

As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States!  She was born in Japan.

Now, you might say that, well, Finland-born Caucasian Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei has also been elected to high office in Japan, so big deal.  But Tsurunen has been at his post for more than a decade now, and he’s squandered the opportunity by settling into it like a sinecure — doing just about nothing for the rights of NJ in Japan (such as not even bothering to attend or send a rep to a UN CERD meeting at the Diet on May 18, 2006).  In fact, Tsurunen has even gone so far as marginalize and gaijinize himself!  If one gives him the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but if), such are the effects of constant pressure of being socially “Othered” in Japan, despite his legal duty to uphold his constitutional status as a Japanese citizen and an elected official.

In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable.  Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat.  Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator.  Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.

My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future.  Given its demographics, especially Japan.  Arudou Debito


November 6, 2012, 10:59 PM JST
Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan
By Yoree Koh

Associated Press, Courtesy of CC

UPDATE: U.S. Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press. Ms. Hirono becomes the Aloha State’s first woman senator as well as the first Japan-born immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

As Japan’s politicians jockey over when to hold the next general election, one of Japan’s own is on the cusp of making U.S. election history.

Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono is favored to win the open Senate seat in Hawaii when voters cast their ballots Tuesday. If successful, Ms. Hirono will usher in a wave of firsts. She will be the first Japanese immigrant to be elected senator. She will also be the first Buddhist and Asian-American woman. She will be the first woman senator to represent the Aloha State, and is already the first foreign-born woman of Asian ancestry to be sworn into Congressional office.

The 65-year-old congresswoman was born in Fukushima, the northeastern prefecture where the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. When she was 8 years old, her mother moved the family to Hawaii. Ms. Hirono once said the immigrant experience and being raised by a single mother in economically difficult circumstances made her a “feisty and focused” lawmaker. She became a naturalized citizen in 1959, the same year Hawaii became a state.

Regardless who wins, Hawaii will get its first woman senator. Ms. Hirono, currently serving her third term in the House of Representatives, is up against former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican and long-time political rival to whom Ms. Hirono lost the 2002 gubernatorial race. The two women are chasing the seat opened up by Hawaii’s 88-year-old junior senator, Daniel Akaka, a Democrat. After a 36-year career, Mr. Akaka, the Senate’s only Chinese American, announced his retirement last year.

Scores of Americans of Japanese descent have been elected to public office since World War II. Case in point: If Ms. Hirono wins, both senators from the Aloha State will be of Japanese descent. Senior senator Daniel Inouye, who is also a Democrat, made his own imprint on Asian American history as the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later, the Senate. The 88-year-old Mr. Inouye has been a senator since 1963, making him the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.

There have been only five Asian American senators until now. Four have represented Hawaii and one has represented California.

But no Japanese-born–or any Asian-born for that matter–has been elected to the Senate. According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, of 1,931 senators who have been sworn in since 1789, there have been 58 born outside the U.S. Most immigrated from Ireland (16), England (12) and Canada (10). One each came from Cuba, Mexico, Antigua and Sweden. People who have been U.S. citizens for at least nine years are eligible to be senator.

Ms. Hirono is a familiar face among Hawaii’s Democratic establishment. Since returning from the mainland after earning a law degree from Georgetown University, she served for 14 years in the state legislature, eight years as lieutenant governor and is currently in her fifth year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her one election failure was her bid to become governor in 2002. But it raised her profile, both at home and in Japan. State broadcaster NHK covered her campaign extensively and had plans to televise the 2002 election live, according to a Chicago Tribune story.

Ms. Hirono, whose immigrant story seems to resonate with Hawaii’s diverse voting population, has campaigned fully backing President Barack Obama’s platform, casting her opponent as a Republican lackey. The Hawaiian-born president recently recorded a radio ad for Ms. Hirono, noting that she once worked with his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

“So Mazie isn’t just a reliable partner of mine in Washington; she is part of my ohana at home in Hawaii. Now, I need Mazie’s cooperative style and commitment to middle-class families in the U.S. Senate,” said the president in the ad released Saturday. “Mazie is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education. A staunch defender of Medicare and Social Security.”

Ms. Lingle’s campaign challenges Ms. Hirono’s past claims of support for the middle class. “Contrary to her rhetoric and her efforts to portray herself as caring about working people, Mazie Hirono’s actions clearly illustrate either that her words are just talk or that she simply does not understand the impact of her votes,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Ms. Lingle’s campaign manager, in a statement on Oct. 23.

In the final days of campaigning, polls indicated Ms. Hirono breaking away from her opponent with as much as a 22-percentage-point lead.


2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated


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Hi Blog. I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012.

A table of contents, excerpt, and more details on what’s inside and how you can get the book here. Those rave reviews here.

Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Arudou Debito

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it


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Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito


‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

Japan as we know it is doomed.

Only a revolution can save it.

What kind of revolution?

Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

“Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

Sakanaka claims to have found one.

Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Full article at

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”


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Hi Blog. My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective.  Have a read and a think.  Arudou Debito

In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 for the Community Page
By ARUDOU Debito

Last month the Japanese government took baby steps toward an official immigration policy. Ten ministries and several specialist “people of awareness” (yūshikisha) held meetings aimed at creating a “coexistence society” (kyōsei shakai) within which non-Japanese (NJ) would be “accepted” (uke ire).

This is a positive change from the past two decades, when Japan cultivated an unofficial unskilled labor visa regime that a) imported NJ as cheap work units to keep Japanese factories from going bankrupt or moving overseas, and then b) saw NJ as an inconvenient unemployment statistic, fixable by canceling visas or buying them tickets home (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009).

Yes, we’ve seen this kyōsei sloganeering before. Remember the empty “kokusaika” internationalization mantra of Japan’s ’80s bubble era?

But this time the government is serious. Sponsored by the Cabinet, these meetings are considering assimilationist ideas suggested by local governments and ignored for a decade.

Why? Attendees acknowledged that Japan needs NJ to revitalize its future economy.

Unusually, their discussions were open to public scrutiny ( Thank you. And here scrutiny comes . . .

The good news is that the meetings’ heart is in the right place. A fuller analysis of the materials can be found at, but what they’re getting right includes:

• State-supported Japanese language education for all NJ.

• State-supported education for all NJ children (so they don’t wind up as an illiterate unskilled underclass).

• More multilingual information online and in public access areas.

• Proper enrolment for NJ in Japan’s health, unemployment and social welfare systems.

• More assistance with finding NJ employment and resolving unemployment.

• Some attention to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” issues (not just the one-way gripe of “how NJ inconvenience us Japanese on garbage day”).

• Better coordination between all levels of government for more comprehensive policies, etc.

Bravo. But there are some shortcomings:

First, definitions. What do “coexistence” and “acceptance” mean? Just letting people across the border? Gated communities? Official recognition of ethnic minorities and domestic “foreign cultures”? Acceptance of ethnic differences as “also Japanese”? Or repressing and overwriting those “foreign cultures” (a la the Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans and Taiwanese in Meiji Japan). Without making the terms of discussion clear, we can’t see ultimate intentions.

Second, hard-wired in the proceedings is a narrative that “offsets” and “others” NJ. We have the standard embedded policy invective of “our country” (wagakuni — but isn’t Japan the country of all its residents?), with the issue couched negatively as “the foreign laborer problem” (gaikokujin rōdōsha mondai). If NJ are not treated as intruders, then they are “guests” (as opposed to just human beings) being indulgently granted something from above.

Third, the ministries are considering vague “environmental preparations” (kankyō seibi) before more NJ get here. (But wait, aren’t NJ already here? Or are we somehow wiping the slate clean?)

OK, fine — semantics. But then you read how each ministry’s proposal further betrays an odd predisposition toward NJ:

The Justice Ministry complained that they can’t “administer” (kanri) NJ properly once they cross the border. But with upcoming reforms to NJ registration systems ferreting out more visa miscreants, that’s fixed, they added. Phew. Not much else was proposed.

The health ministry suggested making some important improvements to welfare and employment systems. But nothing too legalistic — after all, discrimination against NJ as workers is already forbidden (kinshi) by law (as if that’s made much difference so far). They also heralded the preferential treatment for “high-quality” (shitsu no takai) NJ from now on through a new “points system” (critiqued as problematic in my March 6 column).

The Cabinet talked exclusively about assisting nikkei — NJ of Japanese descent. Never mind residents from, say, China or the Philippines; bloodlines take priority.

The education ministry recycled old ideas, saying that we need to teach NJ the Japanese language and, er, not much else — not even any antibullying proposals.

Nothing at all from the attending ministries of foreign affairs, finance, trade and industry, transport and tourism, or forest and fisheries.

The most useless report was from the National Police Agency, who, with a single page of statistics cooking up a NJ crime rise (despite a dramatic fall across the board (JBC, April 3)), advocated more policing, much like the Justice Ministry did. (Funny thing, that: Are the police invited to every policy meeting on the treatment of Japan’s residents, or only for policies concerning those inherently untrustworthy NJ residents?)

The biggest problem was the lack of diversity. As this article went to press, all attendees were older Japanese men (OK, two women), with approximately the same socioeconomic status and life experience. Not one NJ attended.

Thus everyone relied on third-party “reports from the field” (genba de), as if NJ are exotic animals studied from binoculars in their habitat. Not even the token Gregory Clark (who never misses an opportunity within these pages to claim how open-minded the Japanese are because they plonk him on blue-ribbon panels) was shoehorned in.

If the people for whom this policy is being created are not present at the agenda-setting stage, the inevitable happens: blind spots.

Here’s the major one: Where is the legal apparatus (hō seibi) to back up those “environmental preparations”?

For example, where is a proposed amendment to the Basic Education Law (to remove the conceit of kokumin, or Japanese national) to ensure that Japanese schools can no longer refuse NJ children an education?

Where is a proposed punishment for the employer who treats his NJ workers unequally, such as by not coughing up their required half of social insurance payments?

What about that law against racial discrimination? Again, these meetings are a well-intentioned start. But I think the outcome will still be policy failure. For there is still no discussion about making NJ feel like they “belong,” as “members” of Japan.

Academic Yumiko Iida (a Japanese, so no claims of cultural imperialism, please), in her award-winning research about Japanese identity (see, argued that there are four things any viable nation-state must create to make its people feel like “members”:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all.

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations attached to it.

3) A world view that makes sense.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Consider how NJ are denied these things:

1) NJ have little presence in Japan’s history (remember the old saw, “Japan merely borrows ‘things’ from overseas and then uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them”) so, as these meetings indicate by their very attendance roster, NJ are forever an exogenous force to Japanese society.

2) As discussed on these pages (JBC, June 5), NJ are systematically othered, if not completely ignored as even a minority community within Japan, and that will naturally discourage a feeling of moral obligation to Japan.

3) A world view that does not acknowledge the existence of entire minority peoples cannot possibly make sense to those peoples.

4) Hope for the future in a Japan in decline is a hard sell even for Japanese these days.

The point is, if this policy discussion is to go beyond political theater, the GOJ must now use the dreaded word “immigration” (imin). It must also prepare the public to see immigrants as members of Japanese society — as minority Japanese.

This committee has not. It had better start.

In this era of unprecedented opportunities for world labor migration, Japan must be more competitive. Above all, it must lose the arrogant assumption that people will want to come to Japan just because it’s Japan.

Japan must seriously think about how to be nice — yes, nice — enough to NJ so that they’ll want to stay. And that means making them feel equal in terms of importance and inclusion — as though they belong — with everyone else.

So you want to create public policy that reflects, not dictates, what NJ need? Then listen to those of us already here. The government has admitted you need us. Treat us as an exogenous force at your peril.


Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send your comments to For readers’ views on last month’s column, please visit

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre


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Hi Blog. Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them“, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. It’s taken a while to report on this since The Cabinet took their time putting the meeting’s materials online, but here is the cover page for proceedings, courtesy of

(click to expand image)

Once again, let’s walk through the materials provided. First up, the people (the yuushikisha “people of awareness” experts, presenting their views to the GOJ.  Here are the links:

  • 鈴木康友氏 (静岡県浜松市長)
  • 中山弘子氏 (東京都新宿区長)
  • 田村太郎氏 (多文化共生センター大阪代表)
  • 坂本久海子氏(NPO法人愛伝舎理事長)
 資料1 鈴木氏提出資料
 資料2 中山氏提出資料
 資料3 田村氏提出資料
 資料4 坂本氏提出資料
 参考資料1 第2回検討会議(6月1日)における主な発言
 参考資料2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料3 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料4 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料5 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

As noted in my June 10 post, these are the backgrounds of the presenters:

Mr Suzuki Yasutomo is Mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories; here’s his “manifesto” linked, with emphases on NJ children’s education, proper communication between Hamamatsu gaikokujin shimin (thank you) and the regular sort, and facilities).  Ms Nakayama Hiroko is the Kuchou of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where the famed “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; however, here’s her very well organized and readable “manifesto” for the next four years, which has decent mentions of, yes, “multicultural coexistence” and some proposals to back them up (see policies 51-53)).  Mr Tamura Taro is representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues).  Ms Sakamoto Kumiko is head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.).  They all seem informed and on the level, albeit there is weighting towards dealing with Nikkeis rather than just NJs.  Now let’s look at what they presented to the GOJ:

ITEM ONE:  Hamamatsu Mayor Suzuki’s powerpoint:

Mayor Suzuki opens with an overview of the major changes in the makeup of NJ since 1990, with the doubling of the NJ population and then the drop after the “Lehman Shock” and Fukushima.  Particularly noted was the drop in their (local) Brazilian population (which makes the GOJ’s focus on Nikkei NJ all that more puzzling, given the absence of the Chinese and Filipinas/nos, as the other top NJ (and growing, unlike the Brazilians) at this forum).  Suzuki makes the salient point that cities around Hamamatsu have been cooperating for more than a decade now to create policies helping their NJ residents (e.g., The Hamamatsu Sengen, up to now studiously ignored by the GOJ).  He gives the demographics of his NJ, particularly how long they’ve been here (nearly half for more than 15 years [!]), and that nearly half of them have Permanent Residency (and 83% have long-term visas).  He talks inter alia about Hamamatsu’s measures taken (e.g., Japanese language teaching, in which 89% of teachers are “volunteers” not assisted by the GOJ), and laments that there is no compulsory education for NJ children guaranteed by law [!!].  He also talks about the “lack” (ketsujo, the same word used when decrying a lack of common sense) of unified policy or promotion on the part of the GOJ (particularly singling out the Cabinet for treating NJ as “a laborer problem” and over-focusing on Nikkei [!!!] concerns), and an overall “lack of aim to accept NJ” (gaikokujin no uke ire houshin no ketsujo).  He proposes a) that a joint integrated social policy be created and promoted at the national level; b) that teijuu (Long-Term Residency, a quasi-PR visa hitherto reserved for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians) policies be expanded to all NJ; c) that a “NJ Bureau” (kyoku) be created in the short term, a “NJ Agency” (gaikokujin chou) be created in the medium term; d) that this “coexistence” series of meetings be made continuous; e) that a research council be established with more yuushikisha and people who have experience in education (gakushoku keikensha), and f) that a non-partisan politician group be created within the Diet to debate more on how to accept (uke ire) NJ. [!!!!]

(COMMENT:  Wow.  Let me just interject bowdlerized Hendrix here:  “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy!”)

ITEM TWO:  Shinjuku-ku Head Nakayama’s powerpoint:

Ms. Nakayama opens with a view “from the field” (genba de) of how NJ live their lives (I guess that’s somehow better than having NJ actually there at the meeting).  Her 14-page but very readable powerpoint goes through the statistics of the NJ under her mandate:  11% of all residents (appropriately now worded as juumin) are NJ, with the top three quarters  (37% each) Koreans and Chinese; fewer PRs than the national average (far more people, particularly close to half of all the Chinese, are there on “student” visas (ryuugaku; shuugaku) due to the local J language schools and Waseda), along with a jump (more than doubling) in the number of PRs; a quarter of all NJs live in the (traditionally Korean district) of Ohkubo, and a fifth are young, in their twenties.  Interesting stats, but….  Just when you think this presentation will end as a show-and-tell, we get a few slides on Shinjuku-ku’s attempts at multicultural coexistence policies:  Japanese language training (taught again by volunteers) at their Tabunka Kyousei Plaza, with a paid course (1500-4000 yen per semester) once or twice a week in ten locations, and a multilingual “consultation corner” in English, Korean, Chinese, Burmese, and Thai.  There is some Japanese language teaching for Grade and Jr. High schoolers both at the Ku-level and at some Ku-ritsu schools.  There some “guidelines” handbooks for life and disaster prevention in Korean, Chinese, English, and Japanese, and finally rah-rah the end of the presentation, where she says that we at the local level are doing lotsa stuff to help people, but there’s a limit to what they can do:  We have to come up with a unified philosophy (ri’nen) for how we’re going to systematize social welfare, employment, education, children’s upbringing, and lifestyles for NJ, etc., etc.  There were no grounded proposals beyond that, making Ms Nakayama’s presentation a definite anticlimax to Mayor Suzuki’s suggestions.  In the end, this felt like a bureaucratic presentation justifying budgets.

ITEM THREE:  Multicultural Center Osaka Head Tamura’s powerpoint:

Tamura also opens with the “genba de” view (sorry, must just be the title they were given by the bureaucrats, but Suzuki above shirked it), first introducing his NPO and what it does (promoting daibaashiti; okay, that sounds better to me than the hackneyed and misunderstandable “coexistence”) though its five centers nationwide.  Tamura was deeply involved in the volunteer efforts for relief and recovery in Tohoku area over the past year.  Comes off as a good egg.  Then he gets to his points about NJ residents:  He pointed out three “weak spots” (3 tsu no zeijaku sei) in how NJ live their lives as J residents:  1) a language and customs barrier (i.e., lack of instruction and access to policy), 2) legal recourse (little to no translation systems or personnel, or guaranteed access to education or boards of education), and 3) misunderstandings and prejudices on the part of Japanese society (e.g., “Hey, they came here of their own accord so they can fend for themselves”, or “the increase in NJ threatens our public safety”).  This results in their being excluded from education, employment, accommodation, and welfare.  NJ should not be seen as “weak” in themselves, but rather as in a weakened position in society.  He advocates inter alia that 1) NJ be seen by society not as “temporary stayers” but as “permanent citizens” (eijuu suru shimin — with an effective chart comparing the rise of PR Newcomers over the PR Oldcomers on page 4); 2) gentle and sophisticated (teinei) policies for coexistence be created reflecting the diversity in NJ based upon their specific areas of residence (with four sophisticated models proposed for a) major cities, b) places with high NJ populations, c) suburbs, and d) provinces, quite specific in detail; page 5); 3) four groupings for dealing with the major parties to this issue — the local governments, the national government, the local Japanese residents and industry, and — yes — the NJ communities (finally, an acknowledgment of a sense of domestic ethnic community without it being construed as a threat to Japan); again, quite detailed on page 6); 4) consider the future Japan with one million NJ PRs (nearly at that point already), and what should be done about it — inter alia:  a) consultations with NPOs and local governments, b) not seeing problems as specifically “foreign problems”, c) public acknowledging the good that NJ do for Japanese society, d) social workers that include NJ residents, and e) laws to back up any policies.  [!!!!!]  Very, very good stuff indeed!

ITEM FOUR:  NPO Aidensha Head Sakamoto’s powerpoint:

Sakamoto gave a very thick and academic series of essays that probably put the bureaucrats to sleep, opening with an organizational chart of how NPOs and NGOs relate to society at large in their activities.  She gave an over-detailed laundry list of the activities her NGO has carried out (including how find free computer courses and how to register e-messages; filter, Ms. Sakamoto!).  Amidst some very meaningful jobs Aidensha does (e.g., assisting people out of DV situations, finding housing, assisting with visa and social insurance issues, etc.) was the overwhelming chaff of giving case studies and telling stories about their hard work, when all the audience merely wanted was conclusions and advice.  Her points, when filtered of chaff, useless stats, and photographs were inter a lot of alia, 1) helping non-native speakers of Japanese get around and fend for themselves, 2) educating NJ children, 3) resolving employment and unemployment problems, 4) finding stable lives and residences, and, er… f) we should be nice and respectful to one another.  When we get into what I call “Kumbaya Territory”, you lose the bureaucrats.  I hope somebody patted her on the back for all her hard work, since that’s what it seemed like she wanted.

The other five items at the links above were recap:  Items 1) and 2) were the Minutes and Attendees from the previous meetings (which I covered in my blog entry here), 3) was the schedule of meetings previous and future (the next one will be July 3, with more yuushikisha, and the fifth one will be at a later date and feature interim thoughts on what concrete policies to pursue).  Item 4 tells us who are the scheduled yuushikisha for the July 3 meeting (including — gasp! — an actual NJ, or rather, former NJ, naturalized former Brazilian Angelo Ishi of Musashi University, along with three other regular Japanese academics from Tsukuba, Keio, and Dokkyou Universities).  The final Item 5 was a summary of the points under consideration so far regarding realizing a “Coexistence Society with Foreigners” all over again.  The problems listed therein were also recaps of ones covered in my previous blog entry.

COMMENT:  Alright, this is a positive series of developments, with inputs much better than the first two meetings (it’s a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions, such as Angelo Ishi, thrown in later down the line as an afterthought.  Nevertheless, it’s a good Third Act in this political theatre, where people who contributed to the June 15 Meeting have made their points, two of them saying things I would have said (down to the semantics).  Good.  Still, however, no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

More on the July 3 Meeting when it goes online no doubt in a few weeks.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Japan Times LIFELINES guest columnist Dr Berger on “Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan”. Seems grounded in stereotypes.


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Hi Blog. Reader Giantpanda sent the following as a blog comment, but let me open it up for discussion as a post of its own:

The Lifelines column in the Japan Times today features what could be an extremely interesting question – NJ dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan. However, the writer [psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Berger of the Meguro Counseling Center] seems to place all the blame on NJ who end up developing depression or other psychological problems as a result of social exclusion on the NJ themselves. General message seems to be: Can’t cope? It’s not any fault of Japanese society. You are just nuts, or not ‘resilient’ enough. Can’t make friends? Hang in there for a few more years and “keep your expectations in check”. Oh, and get yourself a girlfriend. Those are much easier to come by than Japanese friends.

Did anyone else get the sense this was patronising to the extreme, and blames the victims for their own predicament?

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I’m afraid I did a bit. There seemed to be too much generalization of interaction based upon stereotypes of Japanese people (and the presumption that the inmates have not in fact taken over the asylum). I think the good Doctor has read too much Reischauer or Jack Seward (he lost me when he brought in the “saving face” cultural chestnut).  I know, I’ve commented at length before on friendships in Japan, but I hope I came off as a bit more sophisticated than Dr. Berger’s analysis.

What do others think?  I’m genuinely curious.  Opening this up for Discussion (meaning I moderate more loosely, remember), Arudou Debito


The Japan Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan

Q: As mental health professionals dealing chiefly with native English-speakers in Tokyo, do you often have to deal with people who feel isolated and excluded in Japan, e.g. long-termers who have failed to “fit in” here, as in they lack Japanese friends, despite knowing the language, culture and so on?

A: Anyone who has been in Japan for a while has met other foreigners who have been in the country a long time. Some of these people do well socially and psychologically over the years and some do not. Some of these individuals may indeed come to our clinic, and while the people we see usually have either had a depression from before coming to Japan or experienced a worsening of their depression while here, there are certainly others who have a general social isolation but are not necessarily depressed. What might separate those who do well from those that do not?

First, we can look at psychiatric illnesses like anxiety or depression. Those with such conditions often have an inability to enjoy things, low energy and concentration, and their sleep and appetite may be disturbed. These problems often run in families. While social success may help mitigate them, they may still affect anyone regardless of their length of stay in Japan, number of friends, or other aspects of social success. People with these conditions require some kind of intensive psychiatric intervention.

Among those who do not have a specific mental illness, some seem to do well generally being alone, while others seem desperate to connect with people. This may relate to attachment needs that everyone has and that are probably innate. We have all seen some toddlers who are happy to explore their environment and others who cry whenever they are separated from their mother. Attachment needs do not completely disappear in adults.

Getting back to being a foreigner in Japan, those people with high attachment needs who see that Japanese readily group together and seem to make close friendships with each other may be disappointed if they then have an expectation that they will also easily form these kinds of social circles, particularly if they do not first understand Japanese social structure and modify their interactions and expectations accordingly. This is because Japanese social structure works on a group-affiliation basis where formality, saving face and etiquette are valued highly, especially with guests. People who grew up together, who went to the same school or entered a corporation at the same time, or who have family ties, etc., have a basis to affiliate easily.

It is extremely difficult for a non-Japanese to fit into this social structure as few non-Japanese have these close affiliations and, by definition, none are in the superset group of being Japanese. It is very common to hear how well someone was treated at a welcome party or on a short trip to Japan and then later hear that they felt excluded. This is because they confused politeness and formality with deep warmth. Deep warmth and close friendship will require the person to engage with their Japanese circles for a long time.

Rest at

Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”


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Hi Blog. Reader Aly Rustom has taken the trouble to write this up for critique and debate.  I think it deserves some.  Putting this up with the reminder that this is under the “Discussions” category (where I moderate more loosely), and that I don’t necessarily agree with all or even any of it.  Have a think.  Arudou Debito


March 8, 2012
Ways to fix Japan
By Aly Rustom


It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done.

There are those who will attempt to paint me as a Japan basher. Let me respond to this accusation early:

1. I am married to a Japanese and have lived here for over a decade. Most of my friends are Japanese, and I do speak as well as read and write the language.

2. Criticism is not bad unless it simply takes the form of negative complaining. Constructive criticism is good and it shows that I care enough to write out my thoughts and observations that I have accumulated for over a decade and am willing to share them with everyone.

So without further ado, let’s start:


A. Sales Tax, Health Insurance and Public Education

While everyone doesn’t want to pay higher taxes and the debate about raising the sales tax is a sensitive issue, there would be an easier way to sell the idea. Instead of raising sales tax from 5 to 10% and upsetting everyone, why not raise it to 20% with the promise that health care and education becomes completely free. People would be far less apt to complain if their trips to the doctor and their children’s education becomes free and guaranteed. This will also help the Japanese government compete with the private health insurance companies and most people probably will opt for the public option since they are already paying the taxes for it. Also this will ensure that foreigners will be in the system as well since it is included from the very beginning in our taxes. Also, our public schools have problems with parents who don’t pay for the school lunches or uniforms which forces the schools to shoulder the cost. Raise the taxes and include all these costs into the inescapable tax system, and these problems will be solved.

B. City and Ward Taxes

First, the ward and city taxes should be calculated and taken out from people’s salaries along with the income tax. Second , Increase ward and city taxes on residents and companies based in Tokyo and other large cities, while offering companies and residents tax breaks for moving outside of the cities. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka should have extremely high living taxes in order to encourage more migration to the countryside, and companies should also have to pay hefty taxes for having offices and factories in these major cities.

Taxes should be significantly lower taxes for relocating outside the big cities, and residents and companies alike should be given big tax breaks and benefits for relocating to towns (machi) instead of small cities (shi). The government can invigorate these towns by having more funds be allocated to building train stations and train lines in towns without them and not to fixing roads that don’t need fixing. If the government invests in better and more convenient transportation, companies might be more apt to relocate outside the major cities and spread the population around a bit more, breathing some life in these dying costal towns.

C. Pachinko and Hostess club taxes

The government should more heavily tax the pachinko parlors. Their profit margin is huge, and much of it is sent to North Korea as many of the owners are North Korean. It would be extremely prudent to propose a hefty tax on all parlors, say about 20-25% of all their profits. Let us not forget that recently, tax authorities have stated that about 40 corporate groups running pachinko parlors across Japan have not declared over ¥100 billion in total taxable income with back taxes amounting to several billion yen. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t the government apply more scrutiny to these establishments and not only force them to pay their taxes, but also raise their tax rate?

The hostess clubs are another type of establishment that should also be taxed heavily. That money can then also be used to fund more government social programs that would benefit the public instead of encouraging more vice.

D. Fast Food Tax

Another business sector that should be taxed is the fast food industry. The government needs to tax fast food restaurants more. Fast food should not be this cheap. The problem is that it is encouraging young as well as older people to eat more unhealthy food. As the economy stagnates more and more people flock to cheaper venues. Unfortunately most of the cheapest venues are fast food restaurants which serve unhealthy food. They need to be taxed heavily to become less attractive price wise to people, and to let the family restaurants in Japan enjoy a resurgence in popularity.

Working hours

The working hours MUST be strictly defined and implemented. The nation cannot continue to overwork its people, because fathers are becoming estranged from their families. Why not implement a system similar to France , where when an employee works overtime one week, they get those hours in off time the following week. Somewhere between 35-40 hours a week maximum should be the working norm. Companies should also be heavily fined for overworking their employees. If a company is forcing its employees to work overtime, that usually means that company is suffering from inadequate manpower and therefore should hire more employees. Companies could also get tax breaks for hiring more workers a particular year and pay more tax for laying off workers. One of Japan’s main reasons for its economic decline is the lack of domestic demand and and over reliance on exporting it’s goods and products overseas. Why is there no domestic demand? Because everyone is working all the time, and no one is out spending money to stimulate the economy. Why is that? Oh, because they have no free time. People who work all the time don’t spend money. People who don’t spend money don’t stimulate the environment.

Minimum Wage and the working class

I would strongly urge the government to raise the minimum wage to 1000¥ an hour, and set the basic starting wage to no less than 250,000¥ per month regarding full time workers. This would certainly boost public spending and give people some measure of financial stability. The companies can easily afford to do this. Japan should learn from the US’s mistake and salvage its middle class. If it doesn’t, the nation will collapse financially, as America surely will. If Japan does not find a way to stimulate domestic spending it will be doomed. The only way to secure Japan’s future is to ensure that even people on minimum wage can afford to contribute financially to society which along with less working hours would greatly contribute to the increase of domestic demand.


A. Summer and Winter

Why not have a Winter vacation for two weeks and Summer vacation two weeks so that people can recharge their batteries twice a year?Also people should have the option of combining their two weeks into one month to allow them to a take longer vacation once a year. It’s common knowledge that countries with a high rate of productivity also allow lots of off time for their citizens. Longer vacations would also mean that people would not be so apt to kill themselves every year. Overworked people develop a sense of hopeless, because they see their lives as nothing except work. The meaning of life becomes lost to them, and they become jaded. Walking around the forests near Mt Fuji and trying to stop suicides isn’t going to do it. Changing the system will. Also, lets not forget another important point: people on holiday tend to spend their money which in turn stimulates the economy’s domestic demand.

B. Public Holidays

The first thing that should be done is the following: when a national holiday falls on a Thursday, that Friday should also be a day off. If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday, that Monday should also be a paid holiday, and that should be the case regardless of whether or not the employee is part or full time.


Many of the rules and regulations regarding renting apartments in Japan are bizarre and draconian. Some of these ancient ways of doing business really need to change. One of the things that really needs to change regarding housing is this stupid idea of key money (reikin). This is nothing more than a form of legalized bribery given to a landlord by a prospective tenant, and it should be stopped. This key money issue is causing problems in society. For example, many employees are finding it difficult and expensive to move closer to work, because key money is very expensive . So instead they remain in their previous dwellings and commute up to two hours one way to work. This in turn affects their productivity, makes them more tired, and less happy in life generally . It’s also just simply not good for society and the economy of this country for people to be less mobile and less able to change their living quarters.


Another thing that really needs to be stopped is fees on late payments. The reason for this is very simple: these fees then sink people more deeply into debt and they are less able and less likely to pay off their debts which leads to suicide. There’s no doubt that these late fees are a huge contributing factor to suicide as people list debts as one of the main reasons for their suicides. The government and landlords have a right to demand their taxes and rent, but they have no right to place any additional fees on people who already are struggling to pay. It’s stupid to force people more into debt and then spend lots of money and resources trying to stop them from killing themselves when the government itself is partially to blame.

Hay fever

The hay fever affliction is a problem that is severely overlooked in Japan. It is amazing to see the amount of hype that has been given in the media to the Swine Flu pandemic while complete and utter indifference has been displayed toward a far more widespread pandemic: hay fever. And yet, the remedy is staring everyone right in the face: start cutting down all the various birch trees that cause the different types of hay fever.

A. Suffering population
We have a nation of red eyed, runny nosed sneezers whose productivity is ebbing due to this condition. And every year, the people’s condition gets worse. People are suffering, the nation’s productivity rate is dropping, and the healthcare cost is rising from this condition. In addition to that, a third of all children are afflicted with this condition.

B. Weakened military
Lets also not forget about national security. What happens if the nation finds itself in a situation where it has to defend itself without warning all of a sudden? Imagine a coughing swollen eyed SDF…

C. Creating jobs and income through better use.
Cutting down all these useless trees which make people sick and planting, shall we say, various fruit trees like apple, orange, and banana trees etc. which are healthy for people would get rid of the hay fever problem as well as provide a source of income and nutrition for the nation. In addition to that, if the government subsidizes this endeavor instead of whaling which is causing Japan diplomatic problems it could generate record profits, create more jobs, save money otherwise that would be spent importing fruit, and give Japan some measure of independence. Imagine the number of farming jobs that can be created through an endeavor like that, not mention some degree of national security in being able to grow your own food to feed your population as opposed to spending money importing it.

D. Domestic supply of wood
All these useless trees could be an excellent source of wood for a number of years and temporarily save Japan a lot of money on wood imports, not to mention the number of logger jobs that would be created by that industry.


Anti-smoking laws should be enacted in Japan more vigorously. Currently, North America, Australia and Europe all have strict anti-smoking laws and the Middle East is starting to follow in their footsteps. It is embarrassing that Japan still is so far behind and backward in that respect. Japanese smokers are becoming less and less prevalent in society these days . The Japanese government estimates that less than 20% of the population are smokers. It is imperative for Japan to enact antismoking laws to protect the children and pregnant women from secondhand smoke which is even more dangerous than direct smoking. Add to that the point mentioned beforehand regarding hay fever, and you have a major health hazard that will deeply affect adults and children alike.

A. Public Places
First, a law that prohibits smoking in any public place including restaurants and bars is desperately needed. We need a smoke free public area society.

B. Vending Machines
Second, the nation must do away with the cigarette vending machines. The less convenient it is to buy cigarettes the less people will be apt to smoke. It makes it so much easier for people who are trying to quit smoking to quit when they don’t see these vending machines in their faces every day.

C. Tobacco Tax
Finally, introduce a very hefty tobacco tax to further discourage people from taking up or continuing to smoke. A pack of Marlboros shouldn’t cost less than 1000 yen. In fact, they cost closer to 2000 yen through the increased taxes. It is incredible that in a country as expensive as Japan a pack of cigarettes would only cost 400 yen. And let’s not forget that these are imported cigarettes.


This has always been a sensitive topic in Japan. There are ways to slowly bring the population to a stable count.

A. Born in Japan
First, allow all people born in Japan to have Japanese citizenship. Zainichis and children of LEGAL immigrants should be allowed to become citizens automatically.

B. Parents 0f Japanese nationals
Second, foreign parents of Japanese citizens should also have the right to become citizens. If your own flesh and blood is Japanese, shouldn’t you be recognized as one as well?

C. Investors
Third, people who buy a house or bring a certain amount of money into the country should also be allowed to become citizens. They are, after all, stimulating the economy.

D. Employers of Japanese nationals
Finally, people who start a business and employ Japanese nationals as well people with a lot of money who invest in the country should also be given that right. People who give their money to Japan should be rewarded with its citizenship. All of this would increase the number of Japanese nationals without actually opening up immigration just yet. A slight liberalization of the rules might help soften the Japanese people to the prospect of immigration in the near future.

Government sponsored programs

A. Free or cheap English Day Care centers
One of the reasons the Japanese women are refusing to marry is that many of them fear not being able to go back to work due to the lack of public facilities that can accommodate their children. Well, how about the government funding a new version of the JET program in which foreigners can be brought to Japan to simply be day care center nannies. They would just play with the kids and watch cartoons with them in English and other things like that. The toddlers would learn English naturally through games and come to like it because they wouldn’t be studying, just playing with the language. They would shed their fear of foreigners because they would be exposed to them at an early age. That would also allow the mothers to go out and work or pursue a hobby, which would certainly encourage them to have more babies since the government is finally stepping in and helping them. Why not make all day care centers in Japan English speaking? This would ensure all Japanese children would grow up with very good English speaking skills and give young women encouragement to have more children.

B. Government run Japanese language programs.
It would very prudent of the local governments to hold daily language classes in a public facility that aid foreigners in understanding and learning the Japanese language and culture. This would help foreigners assimilate better in the society which would benefit Japanese people as much as foreigners. The government should also declare that employers of foreign nationals cannot forcibly overwork their foreign employees to the point where they cannot attend these language classes thereby making their integration into Japanese society more difficult and more time consuming. The companies must allow employees to attend these classes.


In a perfect world, this would happen. However, I am not optimistic. I know the Japanese system too well.

The Japanese politicians will never implement such drastic measures to save their country. None of them have ever shown themselves to be mavericks. This is the really sad part. There are ways to fix this country. It’s just that no one will stand up and do it. People just sit and discuss and pretend they are concerned, but no one really is. The Japanese today are a far cry from the Japanese of long ago who would die for their country. Those before thought nothing of committing suicide for their country. However, today’s politicians are not even willing to take a few political risks for a better future for Japan. What future is left for the Japanese people?


Debito writes the Hokkaido Section in FODOR’S Guidebook on Japan, 20th Edition, out now


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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. I’m happy to announce that more than a year after writing my piece within (and what with major disasters in Japan naturally setting back the publication date), FODOR’S has just released their JAPAN Guide, 20th Edition (of which I got a copy yesterday, thanks!).

I was privileged to be allowed to write their Section on Hokkaido, so if you can’t get enough of my writing, get yourself a copy!

Scans of the cover, Table of Contents, and my opening essay on what’s so nice about Hokkaido are below. Enjoy! Arudou Debito

(Click images below to expand in browser)


Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito


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

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Hi Blog.  About a month ago Japan Times reporter Masami Ito contacted me for information about GOJ naturalization procedures (I’m honored; there are many other people out there who have done the same, and my information, more than a decade old, is by now probably a bit out of date).  It appeared December 27, 2011 as the year’s last FYI Column.  Excerpt follows.  I enclose the original questions I was asked as well as my answers since they may be instructive.  Arudou Debito


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011



Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship

Staff writer

Nationality has long been a controversial issue in Japan. For most, it is something they are born with; for others, it is something they had to fight for. For some, nationality may be a source of pride, while for others, it may be the cause of discrimination.

News photo
Going for the glory: Comedian Neko Hiroshi, who obtained Cambodian nationality in a bid to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, takes part in the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia on Nov. 16. AP / KYODO PHOTO 

Meanwhile, citizenship may be something that they have to sacrifice in order to pursue their goals or dreams — like comedian and runner Neko Hiroshi, who made headlines last month after announcing he had obtained Cambodian nationality in the hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.

What are the conditions for obtaining Japanese nationality?

According to the Nationality Law, a foreigner seeking Japanese nationality must have permission from the justice minister. He or she can become a naturalized citizen after clearing several conditions, including being at least 20 years old, residency in Japan for at least five consecutive years, a history of “upright conduct,” and no plans to join groups interested in overthrowing the Constitution or the government.

To file for naturalization, you must submit many documents to the local legal affairs bureau detailing your relatives, your livelihood, job or business, your motive for wanting to become a Japanese citizen, your tax payments, and an oath.

The Justice Ministry says the whole process takes about six months to a year, but some naturalized Japanese have noted it took about a 18 months to get the final seal of approval.

Activist Debito Arudo, who was granted citizenship in 2000, said the process took a couple of years.

“It was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life,” he recalled.

Are most requests approved?


Rest of the article at


Questions asked (in boldface), then my answers:

> 1. When and why did you decide to obtain Japanese
> nationality? Did you have second thoughts about losing
> your original U.S. nationality?

I decided to apply for Japanese nationality back in 1998, after I bought a house and took out a 30-year mortgage.  I realized I lived in Japan like every other citizen, with a family paying taxes and gainfully employed.  So I decided to actually be a citizen, with the right to vote as well.  It was granted in 2000.  And given what I felt about the President Bush II Administration, no.

> 2. Was it easy to get Japanese nationality?

No, it was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life.  More at

> 3. In what ways did it change your life in Japan? (the
> good side and/or the bad)

It made me feel Japanese and gave me more respect from my neighbors, more rights and better treatment by the authorities.  However, those have been steadily eroded over the past decade as the media has turned more overtly racist and scaremongering (Masami, see my FCCJ No.1 Shimbun article on this at, or for your readers shorter link at, and the government has enacted policies criminalizing foreigners in Japan; as a Caucasian I have been naturally snagged by the dragnets of racial profiling, and this defies my newfound expectations as a citizen.

> 4. From your view, do you recommend foreigners in Japan to seek nationality
> or just keep their permanent status? (I guess this depends on what
> sort of life you are trying to build in Japan…)

Yes it does.  If you want to vote, run for office, effect change in Japan, and “feel like a Japanese”, then naturalize. If you want to lead a quiet life and a hermetic existence here, PR is perfect.  Although I’m hearing that the rigmarole for PR is now becoming comparable with citizenship (Masami, see and


CRN: Left Behind Parents launch expert witness, consulting services to prevent International Parental Abduction


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

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

Hello Blog.  Here we have news of people, who have lost their children to the Japanese system of no joint custody/no guaranteed visitation rights after divorce, helping each other out.  Good news indeed, and a development I am happy to support.  Arudou Debito


Left Behind Parents launch expert witness and consulting services to assist parents in preventing International Parental Abduction.

Left Behind Parents who have been dealing with Government, and Judiciary decide to help those with ongoing cases of parental abduction:


Parental Abduction Support Services (PASS) (R)

Now offering assistance to those with cases of Parental Abduction.  Over 50 years combined experience.

PASS provides testimony in order to educate the courts, and put “safe-guards” into place to protect children from being wrongfully removed from the USA.  Effective testimony can assist parents in their court cases by educating attorneys and judges about the risks of parental abduction and the dangers associated with it.   PASS assists you in making sure that high risk cases are carefully examined by the courts. When needed PASS assists the courts in implementation of supervised visitation and port closure to protect at risk youth. 

Testimony includes –

★ Training courts on the factors that indicate an individual is likely to commit an international child abduction

★ Assisting Judges in assessing the degrees of the risk of international child abduction 

★ Presenting arguments regarding the sufficiency proposed custody order in preventing a potential international child abduction

★ Supplying Data on the likelihood that a foreign country will return an abducted child, and / or allow continued visitation 

Parental Abduction Support Experts…

More information at


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


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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. In line with the current thread on sexuality in Japan, what follows is a testimony by a NJ female, Sexylass, about how she got into (and got out of) a sexless marriage. She also talks about “The Douzo Effect” — the chilling effect that forced sexuality has on a relationship. Have a read. Arudou Debito


The Douzo Effect
By SexyLass
September 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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