Nikkei Asian Review wrongly reports “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports”. Corrected after protest, but misreported text still proliferates


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Hi Blog. Check this article out, put out by the Nihon Keitai Shinbun (Japan’s WSJ):

Japan to allow fingerprint authorization for visitors
Nikkei Asian Review, July 24, 2016
(Original text below courtesy of, and numerous other websites found by Googling the article title, demonstrating how reported misinformation proliferates across the media and becomes the narrative.)

Visitors to Japan will be able to use their fingerprints instead of passports to identify themselves at some hotels thanks to technology introduced by a Tokyo venture.

With financial help from the economy and industry ministry, Liquid will start offering a fingerprint-based authorization system by March in a bid to increase travel convenience. Some 80 hotels and Japanese-style inns in major tourist spots like Hakone and Atami, two hot spring resort areas not far from Tokyo, will be among the first to install the system. More inns and hotels will follow.

The ministry will cover part of the installation costs.

Visitors to Japan can register their fingerprints along with their passport information in their home countries or at registration spots at airports or elsewhere in Japan. Foreign travelers can then identify themselves at a hotel’s front desk by waving their fingers over a contactless device.

Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports. But the economy ministry and the ministry of labor have decided to treat “digital passports” as legitimate alternatives.
ENDS Reader XY found this article and wrote to the Nikkei for a correction. Their response, and his original post, follow:

From: NAR Customer Support <>
Subject: 00004389 – Editorial
Date: August 4, 2016 at 15:23:58 GMT+9
To: XY, XXXX University

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry. This is Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) Customer Support.

Please find our editorial team’s answer as follows.
Thank you.

Best regards,

Nikkei Asian Review
Customer Support

Thank you so much. We will check the Ryokan Law and see if we need to change the sentence.

Your inquiry:
This article contains an incorrect statement: “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports.” In fact, Japanese law requires hotels to check the passports of foreigners who don’t have an address in Japan:

For details, including a quote of the relevant Japanese law go to

The most important point is that the law does not apply to all foreigners but to foreign tourists who do not have an address in Japan. This is a matter of concern to many who live in Japan and occasionally are asked for passports based on a misunderstanding of the law. A second point is that keeping copies of passports is not mentioned in the law — it is a directive from the police. The law only calls for keeping records.

Would you consider correcting the article?

XY, XXXX University

COMMENT: As you can see by following this link to the new article, Nikkei corrected it to remove the last paragraph entirely — and that’s about as close as we’ll ever get to them admitting they made a mistake. But as we’ve written here many times before, the National Police Agency and its branches keep lying about their lawgiven powers regarding tracking foreign guests at Japanese hotels. XY wonders if somebody at the NPA wasn’t involved in creating this misinformed article. It wouldn’t be the first time, and a recent (and very funny) article came out over the weekend describing how the Japanese Police have historically stretched laws to outlaw public behavior they basically just personally disliked. Just another example of how Japan is actually a mild (or sometimes not) police state.  And that’s even before we get to the whole issue of re-fingerprinting NJ and the flawed reasoning behind it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


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Japan Center for Michigan Universities (Hikone, Shiga Pref.) sponsors July 23 lecture by Japan’s first Muslim lawyer Junko Hayashi, on Islam and issues faced by Muslims in Japan


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Hi Blog. Passing this information and flyer along upon request as a matter of record. Attend the talk.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, is proud to welcome Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Ms. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being watched by the Japanese government for no reason other than they are Muslims. The surveillance of these Japanese citizens came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked on the Internet. Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any privacy right held by the plaintiffs.

Muslim culture is an important part of Michigan culture, making JCMU the ideal place to host this event. JCMU is also a place where people from many different cultures come together to learn about culture and language while exchanging ideas that make our world a better place. It is JCMU’s hope that the Islamophobia gripping much of the Western world can be avoided in Japan through education and mutual understanding.

Ms. Hayashi will present at JCMU (1435-86 Matsubara-Cho, Hikone-Shi, Shiga-Ken 522-0002) on July 23, 2016 in both English and Japanese. People interested in attending the lecture can register by email at The English language lecture will start at 17:00, with the Japanese lecture following at 19:00. Admission is free.  For further information about JCMU and its programs please see our website English website at and our Japanese website at

As the requester notes:  “Thank you so much for helping us get the word out. With the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh I fear the worst for the rise of Islmaophobia in Japan. The Japan Times just posted an article about the Muslim surveillance case last night. It would be great if we could get the Japan Times down here to hear the lecture.”

Flyer:Islam in Japan Flyer072316


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Overseas online info site’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”


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Hi Blog. Here we have an online information site called, which apparently reserves its services “for Japanese Only living abroad”. This is another permutation of Japanese corporate practices erecting arbitrary firewalls between people due to their nationality, ethnicity, etc., or, in’s case, “having a name that does not appear to be Japanese”. I wonder how “Arudou Debito” would fare.  And as MT says below, why can’t anyone who can read and write Japanese be allowed equal access and service? Reader MT sends this report. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Date:  June 27, 2016
From: MT
Hi Debito,

I am thinking of suing site because they closed and banned my account right after I informed them of my name ([MT]), which is not Japanese.

In the email below, the reason I was refused service is that “your name does not appear to be Japanese”.  Our correspondence, in reverse order:

From: トラベロコ <>
To: [MT]
Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 09:14
Subject: ご登録解除のご連絡(トラベロコ)


日本人の方ではないようです。 [emphasis added]

[emphasis added]




> —– Original Message —–
> From: トラベロコ <>
> To: [MT]
> Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 01:27
> Subject: Re: ロコ応募について
> お返事ありがとうございます。
> トラベロコです。
> ご連絡遅くなり、申し訳ございません。
> お問い合わせの件について、
> 具体的には、プロフィール情報のお名前欄などの項目が
> 正しく登録されておりませんので、正確にご登録
> いただいてから、ご応募頂けますでしょうか。
> プロフィール情報
> Travelocoは匿名でご利用いただけるサイトになりますが、
> ロコへの登録にあたっては、最低限の個人情報を登録する
> ことは、皆様に安全にご利用頂くための必要条件とさせて
> 頂いております。
> なお、ロコの応募審査上、正しい情報の登録が確認できるまでは
> 一部機能は停止させていただいておりますので、ご了承下さい。
> どうぞよろしくお願い致します。
> ————————————-traveloco
> トラベロコ
> mail:
> URL:
> 2016年6月25日 15:12 :
>> 私の説明をちゃんと詠んでください 問題の原点、教えたでしょう。
>> 情報の一部に不備 は、回答となってない。
>> どの部分か、正確に教えなさい。どうやってなおせるか ということをちゃんと説明するのは、サポートの仕事でしょう?
>> テンプレートの回答を出すよりちゃんとした回答を作ってください。
>> 其の一 まずは、私の説明を読む。
>> その二 内容を理解する
>> その三 内容を理解した上、内容に沿って解決案を出す
>> 上記が常識でしょう。
>> ロコのサービスの二十%取って、こんな最悪なサポートをするつもり?冗談でしう。
>> 私はナニをすればいいか、ステップバイステップで教えなさい。


MT: Their terms of use do not mention such a thing, nothing like “our services are meant to be used only an exclusively by persons holding a Japanese passport” or something similar, nothing. They just kick out those who has a western name, based on the NAME itself.

Terms of use of their services: (from

4. 当社は、登録申請者が、以下の各号のいずれかの事由に該当する場合は、登録および再登録を拒否することがあり、またその理由について一切開示義務を負いません。

Note that there is no mention of anything that refers to this funny “Japanese only” policy though (only in the QA section:, but this is nothing to do with legal terms, since the terms of use are not mentioning it explicitly), so I gave it a try with registering, since I had some interesting ideas for them and some services to share with those Japanese who would be interested in my country or would be coming to [my country of origin].

The whole correspondence started via their website so the first part when I was asking why I cannot register my page and services (at first, it was a technical question but they failed to reply in details, instead they sent me some template bullshit to send me off – so, understandably, I got very upset), is missing since it was not done via email but via a form on their site on my account page – and I have no access to that any more.

I would like to ask The Japan Times to track this down, and ask them publicly why are they doing this in the 21st century, where human and personal rights should be taken very seriously? Even in Aichi, Nagoya, where they are located.

I would like an official apology from the company’s main rep, Mr. SHIIYA Yutaka (椎谷豊, facebook: via Japanese mass media. And I want them to review their policies, so that everyone (regardless of race) who is capable to communicate in Japanese could use the site with no discrimination against them – especially not based on their western-like names (if it is not a “Japanese” name)!

My correspondence above with them speaks for itself. And these are young entrepreneurs, not just some old folks, but the Y-generation!!! This sentiment and notion of Japaneseness is routed very very deeply even in these young men, who are brainwashed (or getting on some nationalist waves to make big money, maybe?). They are getting their foot in the door of the start-up world.

In the meantime I am seeking legal help, because I want others to know this. This site is “only for Japanese”, the online version of “Japanese only” bars, “Japanese only” onsens, etc…

Of course, you have my permission to make a report on your own site about this. In case I sue them, I will keep you updated.

Thanks a lot, Debito, and pls keep up the good work. I have just read about your book, Embedded Racism, and will get my copy soon. Sincerely, MT



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Shibuya Police asking local “minpaku” Airbnb renters to report their foreign lodgers “to avoid Olympic terrorism”. Comes with racialized illustrations


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Hi Blog. Buzzfeed News’s Hatachi Kouta wrote up a report dated June 26, 2016, where he found the following Shibuya Police poster in a residential area:

Courtesy of Hatachi Kouta of Buzzfeed.
Courtesy of Hatachi Kouta of Buzzfeed.

The poster reads:



“Minpaku” is defined as the service of offering paid accommodation using empty rooms etc. from individual homes.

To prevent terrorism and for the success of the Olympics, we need information from everyone.

We are especially asking for information from individually-standing homes doing Minpaku.

Please call the Shibuya Police Department, Head of Crime Prevention, at 3498-0110 ext 2612.


That’s the literal translation of the text.  Note how there is no reference whatsoever textually about foreigners.  However, contextually, in the margins there are illustrations of eight racialized “foreigners” of ostensibly European, African, and Middle-Eastern extractions complete with differentiated eye color, hair color, skin color, and facial hair.  Note how there is no representation of “Asian” foreigners, even though they make up the majority of Japan’s tourists.  I guess they’re not the type that Shinjuku cops are looking for.

My comments about this are seasoned to the point of predictably:  1) Once again, Japan’s police are using racial profiling to determine who is a foreigner as well as a terrorist.  2) Japan’s police are rallying the public to do their bidding on unlawful activities (i.e., scaring them with the threat of terrorism into reporting their foreign lodgers to the police, which neither minpaku nor actual hotels are required to do).  3) The use and proliferation of racialized caricature seems to be normalized standard operating procedure with Japan’s police.  (Why not?  Nobody’s going to stop them when they keep Japan’s public constantly afraid of foreigners to the point of normalized targeting.)  And 4), as I have written before, Japan is not mature enough as a society to host these international events, for the National Police Agency whips everyone up into a frenzy about foreign crime, hooliganism, and/or terrorism.  And then the NPA uses the events to clamp down on civil liberties for everyone.  Thus there is insufficient check and balance to keep these bunker-mentality bureaucrats from exaggerating their mandate.

The Tokyo Olympics are still more than 4 years away.  Expect even more of this embedded racism to surface into full-blown state-sponsored xenophobia in the meantime.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

PS:  The Buzzfeed article in itself is interesting, as the author tries to hold the Shibuya Police accountable for their poster, and (citing inter alia his lack of membership in the Press Club) they evaded answering written questions about the poster’s contents, intent, or how it reflects police attitudes or official policy towards foreigners.  (As they did with me here when they were taking urine samples for drug tests only from foreign-looking customers on the streets in Roppongi back in 2009.)  According to the article, Shibuya Police also denied any ill-will towards foreigners, claiming that the foreign caricatures appeared “so foreigners can also have more relaxed stays too” (gaikokujin no katagata mo, anshin shite taizai shite itadaku shushi de, gaikokujin fuu no irasuto o mochiita mono).  Oh, so being racially profiled is for NJs’ own peace of mind?  Makes perfect sense — in NPA Bizzarroworld.

Read the article for yourself here.


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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 98, “Ibaraki Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth”, June 6, 2016 (UPDATED with links to sources)


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Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth
Repeat-offender Ibaraki force called to account for backsliding on the issue of hotel snooping
By Debito Arudou.  Column 98 for The Japan Times Community Page, June 6, 2016 Version updated with links to sources.

Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law.

A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.

But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.

What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago.

The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.

It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005:

“After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”

Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold?

Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…

But back to Onur, who also took action. He stayed an extra day in Mito and raised the issue with local authorities:

“I went to Mito City Public Health Department (Hokensho), who were very helpful, and confirmed that as a resident I need not show ID at hotels. Then I showed them the poster from the Ibaraki police department. Surprised, they said they had never seen this poster before, and the police had not contacted them about it. They said it is clearly different from the real law, especially the bit about ‘every foreign guest.’

“The Hokensho added that the police have become stricter because of the G-7 (Ise-Shima) summit and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They said they would check the hotel and inform me of the result.”

But Onur wasn’t done yet: “Then I talked with two officers at the Mito City Police Department’s Security Division. They listened without making any comments. I showed them an official announcement from the Health Ministry and said that their poster is clearly different.

“The police read the ministry announcement and took notes like they were unaware of the law, asking questions like ‘Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask for your ID card?’ and ‘Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?’ I offered the contact number at Health Ministry for more information, but they said it wasn’t necessary. Finally, I asked them to fix their poster. They said they would check the law and behave accordingly.”

Shortly afterwards, Onur got a call from the Hokensho: “They checked my hotel and saw the poster was now changed. It seems the Ibaraki police had printed a new one and distributed it to all hotels within a few hours! The Hokensho said the new poster clearly states ‘foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan,’ which follows regulations. They said the police warned the hotel not to make the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.”

Well done. It’s satisfying to have others retrace our steps and get even better results. It’s just a shame that he should have to.

However, two issues still niggle. One is that photocopying requirement, which, according to The Japan Times’ own legal columnist, Colin P. A. Jones, may also be questionable:

“According to the Personal Information Protection Act (Kojin Joho Hogo Ho), the hotel should explain to you why they are collecting personal information from you, which is what they are doing if they take a copy of your passport,” Jones said in an email. “So if they can confirm that you are a resident of Japan by looking at your residence card or driver’s license, they do not need to take a copy because they have confirmed that the Hotel Act no longer applies. If they take a copy they are collecting personal information beyond what is necessary for the expressed purpose. In my experience, once you point this out, hotel staff then start mumbling about ‘their policies,’ but of course those don’t trump the law.”

Second issue: Ibaraki.

Ibaraki is where cops take local grumps seriously when they report a “suspicious foreigner” standing near JR Ushiku Station — seriously enough to arrest him on Aug. 13, 2014, for not carrying his “gaijin card.” Well, that “foreigner” turned out to be a Japanese, and Japanese are not required to carry ID. Whoops.

Ibaraki is also the site of a mysterious and under-reported knife attack on Chinese “trainee” laborers (the Japan Times, Feb. 23, 2015), which resulted in an as-yet-unresolved[*] murder. (Funny that. Imagine the media outcry if foreigners had knifed Japanese!)

Do Ibaraki police have anything to do with this? Actually, yes.

Ibaraki police have posted in public places some of Japan’s most militantly anti-foreign posters. I mean this literally: Since 2008, at least three different versions have depicted cops, bedecked in paramilitary weaponry, physically subduing foreigners. The slogan: “Protect (Japan) by heading (foreigners) off at the shores.”

Ibaraki police have also offered the public online information about “foreign crime infrastructure,” as if it’s somehow separate from or more ominous than the yakuza. They claim that foreigners are responsible for drugs, illegal medical activities, underground taxis, false IDs — and paternity scams to get Japanese citizenship. And, conveniently, the National Police Agency argued within its 2010 white paper that foreign crime infrastructure “cannot be grasped through statistics” (see “Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism,” JBC, July 8, 2013). It’s enough to make the public paranoid.

And Ibaraki is a strange place for such militancy. It does not have a particularly high concentration of foreigners. Except for, of course, those behind bars at Ibaraki’s Ushiku Detention Center.

Japan’s infamous immigration detention centers, or “gaijin tanks,” are where foreign visa overstayers and asylum seekers are left to rot indefinitely in what Amnesty International in 2002 called “secret detention facilities.” Gaijin tanks don’t get the oversight governing Japan’s prisons because the former do not officially qualify as “prisons.” They’re pretty bad places to be.

And Ushiku’s gaijin tank is notoriously bad. It has made headlines over the past decade for drugging and subjecting detainees to conditions so horrendous that they have gone on hunger strikes, committed suicide or died having received improper medical care and under other mysterious circumstances.

Therein lies the point I keep banging on about in this column: What happens when racial discrimination is left unrestrained by laws? It just gets normalized and embedded.

Treating people badly without official checks and balances eventually makes abuse tolerated and ignored — like background radiation. And, fueled by the innate fear of The Outsider, the abuses just get worse and worse. Because they can.

In this case, the unfettered xenophobia radiating from the Ushiku Detention Center, Ibaraki’s fast-breeder reactor of foreigner dehumanization and abuse, has clearly corroded Ibaraki police’s judgment — to the point where they feel they can outright lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce, and have their propaganda irradiate hotels, street-corner busybodies and the general public.

It’s time for people to realize that Japanese police’s free rein to maintain our allegedly “safe society” has limits. For officially treating an entire people as potentially “unsafe” is dangerous in itself.

Ibaraki Prefecture thus offers a fascinating case study. Of what happens to a neighborhood when xenophobia goes beyond the occasional international summit or sports event, and becomes regularized into official extralegal standard operating procedure.


Debito’s latest project is the mockumentary film “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin,” which is now being funded on Kickstarter. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send all your comments and story ideas to


[*]  Correction:  According to Chinese media translated into Japanese, the abovementioned knife attack and murder of Chinese “Trainees” has resulted in the arrest of 5 Vietnamese nationals:





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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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Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled


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Hi Blog.  As is a forum for voices that might not otherwise be heard, let me turn the keyboard to Reader Nate Nossal, who shares his experiences at being an entrepreneur in Japan.  As somebody who has also done the arduous task of founding his own company in Japan, I am simpatico.  Over to Nate.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


By Nate Dossal Ph.D., Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Exclusive to, March 25, 2016

Japan is a country which is largely opposed to free enterprise. As one who has studied economics and subscribes to the notion that the ability for individuals to do business is integral to a society’s wealth and commerce, as well as that society’s ability to solve problems generally, I find this condition amusingly shortsighted. As one who is living in and attempting to do business in Japan I find this condition depressing. After all, what is it that individuals can do best as entrepreneurs? We stand to make money by solving problems for other people. I will discuss some extraordinary barriers to business created by just a few layers of legal or bureaucratic excess which discourage or disable free enterprise in two examples of personal experience. It is assumed that there is some reason that people have gone through such troubles to erect these legal barriers, and I can only speculate what some of those possible reasons might be. On the microeconomic level, the effects of the clearly anti-business atmosphere created by those specific barriers are devastating. Businesses which could and should be thriving, multiplying, growing, and revolving multiples of yen back out into the local economy are stopped dead. Theoretically, all money gets spent somewhere, but inevitably some of that money which would have been spent in the local Ishikawa ken economy (where these stories take place) gets saved, sent away, or spent elsewhere and the greater Ishikawa ken economy suffers for this.

Case 1: Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) Souvenir Goods classic failure of lost opportunities on several levels… This writer did soon after beginning his graduate studies in a national Japanese university discover that something was missing. Despite searching high and low throughout the dingy offices and one store on campus, there was a peculiar, complete absence of any commercially available souvenir goods from that university. Not a shirt, not a cap, a notebook or a pencil with “JAIST” written on it was for sale. It was especially noticeable just for one very personal reason: I wanted to be able to send my dad in the U.S. a t-shirt. I always sent him a t-shirt from the companies or the universities of which I became a member. Indeed, this may seem very peculiar to any person who may have ever worked in the marketing office of any-sized university. The sale of such school “pride” items can be profitable in itself, but at any rate is costless to the university, even after taking into account the price of design and production, maintaining stock and administration for the sale of goods. Even a small market makes up for all of this since the target market is highly invested in the product, the supplier is decidedly monopolistic by nature, and the turnover from new staff and students assures some consistent demand for the products. All of that is of course aside from the main point–schools need name recognition and the sale of pride products is a major source of free advertising in this aspect.

As a graduate student I mistakenly saw this as a great opportunity to accomplish three related good deeds, and get a JAIST golf shirt made for my dad too: I would design and have produced several items that would surely be of interest to students and staff of the university, market and sell them–which would satisfy that same demand which I myself sensed. With no commitment from or involvement of the university required at all, except for their permission to do so, I could single-handedly increase my university’s name recognition in the community, and presumably around the world to some small degree. Finally, I could make some small profit as a reward for my efforts, which I would surely need to help support my research and living expenses. This was to be a slam-dunk. A no-brainer. BANG! What a bonanza, I thought. I engaged the staff I knew in this conversation, and a meeting was arranged for me to discuss this radical new idea being offered to them free of charge. I spent a couple of days researching suppliers for this kind of goods, and had some mock-ups of the proposed goods made, which I included with a bi-lingual proposal for a license to use the university’s existing logo and images. Six men and women came to hear my awkwardly foreign Japanese presentation, but they were all visibly impressed. At the end I was told that although no firm decision could be made by such a group of self-described office functionaries, they assumed that the benefits I was offering, and the price I was asking (zero) would make it a good idea for the university. Mere days later, I received an email from one of the lowest level office workers that the vice president of the university said “no.” I would be better off focusing my energies on my research rather than trying to help them solve the problems of the university.

After also having noticed that no student council had existed, three years later, I established one with the political assistance of my professor. Among the many reasons for establishing a student council, one of them would be to re-assess this weird lack of JAIST shirts and coffee mugs. The road to market was a barrage of nay-naying from surprising sources: a very provincial type woman belonging to the management of the single university store deigned to meet with me to discuss the possible placement of our Student Council brand official JAIST Goods in the store. I was expecting some discussion of division of profits and liabilities, a contract, some discussion of their standard business practices and process, maybe the need for some assurances or money. The first thing this lady said to me though was, irrelevantly enough, that she didn’t think Japanese students would buy those goods. In fact they did buy, and large quantities of goods were requested. Orders from Japanese professors and administrators of 20 and 100 came. The university president (Japanese, of course) wanted a golf shirt, a cap and a mug. But none of this would be made available with any help or assistance from the university store, or the university itself whatsoever. In fact, the Council received a threatening email from someone in the “labor management section” about infringing on the JAIST copyright. That person had been alerted to our proposed activities by none other than the anti-business store manager! Is it possible? That people would be so steadfastly in opposition to me making a few hundred yen while serving their own needs? Anyway, we enlisted the student body in a competition to design our own logo, to avoid any trouble with the now rabidly anti-business office staff. Even still, we received truly unending innocuous-seeming requests for increasingly invasive information (including financial information of the proposed private business, the names, contact information and prices of my suppliers, and my own personal financial information) from the office of student affairs apparently aimed at infringing upon or discouraging our entrepreneurship. It seems the university office workers were quite keen on ensuring that no student ever makes any kind of profit from any kind of sales of any kind of product on any national university grounds…Like, it was more abhorrent to them than the thought of consuming cherry vodka fanny bangers at a faculty disciplinary hearing. In the end, even our advisor and protector, the Dean of the school was disparaged, and we were kindly requested NOT to attempt to address this problem of no-JAIST-goods for them anymore. It was a mixed success: We managed to design, produce, market and distribute exactly one cycle of a much desired product, and I broke even on the venture. It would be the last time ever for this want-to-be capitalist at that institution, however. That was fine, anyway I would graduate soon and had bigger ideas to entertain.

Case 2: A friend of mine, a German pilot and safety officer for EU pilots would fly into Komatsu International Airport a couple times of year and stay for two or four days while his plane was prepared to fly again. During those days, he complained, he would have nothing much to do except hang around his hotel room, roam the streets in search of any intelligible (English) communication and inevitably drink copious quantities of hotel bar alcohol. What he and his company needed was some local person who could provide the kind of guidance I could give, and take the pilots to the beach or the mountains, maybe offer a bicycle rental. In fact though, it wasn’t just the pilots flying in and out of Komatsu. Since Kanazawa opened up its first Shinkansen train line last year, literally thousands of foreign, mostly non-Japanese speaking, illiterate and largely lost and out-of-place tourists have been wandering through the well-preserved feudal-era narrow streets of this place. I know this is true because I routinely hear the laments of my Kanazawa Hotel and Inn Association English students–they are so busy now; their rooms are always full; they need more staff; they need to hurry up and try to learn more English to cope with the many language problems that have resulted. The real test though is the Starbucks test. Not the economic barometer of disposable income, but this: ten years ago, it was often possible, but not at all guaranteed to encounter even one other foreigner at Starbucks. This year, Kanazawa Station Starbucks and M-za Starbucks are packed almost exclusively with foreign clientele of European descent. I am sure that none of these people live here, either. They’re all carrying cameras and backpacks, and most are of retirement age. These people desperately need no-nonsense, English speaking tour guides, and I am willing to bet that many of them would be happy to pay money for that privilege.

Over the last several months, I carefully developed a website to address this need and to help to those tourists who may want a little more help to navigate this unforgivingly non-English speaking corner of the north. They could also use my help parting with some of their much-needed money while they are temporary participants in this local economy. To do that, I need only impart a sliver of the bounty of knowledge of this place which I have amassed in 13 years of research, learning and teaching. They also need transportation, some equipment in case of going kayaking, skiing, or mountain climbing, for example, and of course oodles of accident and life insurance. I expected that much. What I didn’t expect was this: about the time I was really feeling ready, in fact overdue to launch that exact business, I was sternly warned by my wife who informed me of recent news reports of Chinese nationals in the Tokyo area who were arrested for operating a similar-type business without a license. While living in a country where I am aware that a license for serving tea exists, it quite honestly never for a moment occurred to me (or maybe to those Chinese business operators) that I could need a license to show people around my hometown. After being juggled around on the phone between several Japan legalese-only speaking tourism offices, I dutifully arranged an in-person meeting with my prefectural travel and tourism bureau.

I was welcomed by the panel of three officers–two from tourism and one from legal. The three were not personally difficult or offensive in any way. They even apologized for the fact that none of the the three of them, and no one in the national tourism offices ANTA and JATA could speak English. Pretty soon though, the air sucking through teeth began. “Mmmm, muzukashii…” That is the beginning of almost every un-scripted conversation foreigners have with Japanese standing behind a service counter. It is the calm but firm discouragement I suffer at every mention of trying to improve my station, assume a level-appropriate role in almost anything, or help to fix even the most obvious of problems. “It would be easier if you had a Japanese partner,” one said bluntly. I told him that while I appreciated his suggestion, I came to get the information on doing it myself, or with my wife. “Umm…” he stammered until the lawyer could help out “Well your wife has a job,” the lawyer said, “so it would be against her working conditions to engage in any outside business activity.” Which although it is true enough, if completely aside from the point. Let me tell this to you straight: after 13 years of working in Japanese schools and companies, there is no possibility of me having an equal partner. No matter what I do or how good I may be, I will always be held in lower regard than, and held back by my Japanese counterpart. They nodded in apparent understanding without need for example, and bit by bit laid out the separate processes as best as they themselves understood them. If I could do it, they said, I would be a pioneer.

The news they had for me was not good: I need not merely to prove my financial worthiness to the state and present insurance certificates. I need to pass a national test for a travel agency. It’s only offered in Japanese of course, and full of Japanese legal jargon. Maybe I can get some help for this, but the test is offered only once per year! Once. That’s pretty bad. On top of that, if I am actually thinking of transporting people in my car (um, I thought that was what cars were FOR) then I can’t do that with just a regular passenger car license. I need a taxi driver’s license, which the tourism agency told me would be practically impossible for (a foreigner) to accomplish. “Oh, so all of those hotel van drivers have taxi licenses?” I asked. The panel of three gave each other those uncomfortable Japanese glances and the lawyer said no, that was different. Be that as it may, I thought how this touches directly on another issue, Japan’s reinterpretation of the Geneva Convention covering international driving privileges. I had a commercial 10 ton license with air brakes certification, and the chauffeur and taxi license when I came here, but I just didn’t have the extraordinary resources of time required for transferring all those licenses and testing and re-testing individually for each one of them after all I went through just to get my regular car and motorcycle licenses back. OK, so in order to take foreign people to the beach and get paid for it, I need a travel agent’s license and a taxi driver’s license, and I need to register my business (no kidding, a 14 part process) which includes depositing no less than 100,000 yen (about $9,000) cash with the Japanese government, presumably interest free, or maybe with negative interest. I also need to show and maintain a similar balance in my company account. No doubt, this is an extraordinary, if not cock-blockingly prohibitive set of artificial barriers to free enterprise. Some of this is understandable, as I said. Companies need insurance. If I were in a position to do harm to the environment or local population, some financial assurances (though probably not a “deposit” like as with some shyster landlord) would be expected. On top of all this, though, and I really don’t think I could ever invest 200,000 yen in licensure before ever even getting a company started to be honest, but on top of all this, at the end of my meeting in the Ishikawa ken cho I was asked in all seriousness where my office would be located. This is significant, the lawyer said, because for the lowest level of licensure (the 200,000 yen one) I could only do business within one municipality’s distance from my home office. After going the processes outlined already, and they are extreme, I would get a license that wouldn’t even include Kanazawa. The license for the type of small business I envisioned requires an 18 million yen commitment.

I go deadpan. I search in vain for the hidden cameras, wait hopelessly for the comedian in the yellow suit and giant bow tie to jump out laughing. This is real though. This is the anti-business environment they have created. It kills any small businesses before they could ever get started, and for what? What does all this process and licensure get for Japan? A few badly-needed interest-free loans? Probably that is an emergency of their own making. Is it enough to make up for the multiplied effects of dampening the business spirit? John Maynard Keynes wouldn’t say so. Does it prevent ill-intentioned or unqualified players from entering the market? Surely it must, since this condition would seem to prevent MOST players, qualified or not from entering the economy. With my PhD, my Global Human Resources doctoral certificate, and my advanced Japanese credential from a national university, as well as years of volunteer and professional service in the field which I would like to work independently, probably no one would say I am at all unqualified to take foreigners on local side trips, even for money.

I am not saying I was singled-out or unfairly discriminated against for being a foreigner necessarily. While this is a positively horrible set of conditions, and terrible treatment of a prospective entrepreneur who should be met with open arms, Japanese law and government treats its own citizens just as badly. The outright hostility of the Japanese government towards small businesses like these assure larger market share to larger entities–or else they just assure that some markets will simply never be, for lack of active, qualified and viable suppliers. The people at my former university will continue to want, and not get university logo-emblazoned items to send back home. The local citizens will continue not knowing what JAIST is, or even that it exists at all–possibly the most hilarious marketing failure in the country. And foreign tourists will sip a few coffees and walk themselves around downtown for a day or two and go on to Kyoto or home. Many of them will say how wonderful and enigmatic that dusty old Kanazawa town was, but it might be better. If they could have had a locally-educated English speaking guide to show them the most beautiful and meaningful places in the Ishikawa countryside, I would at a minimum explain the history of the Farmers’ Rebellion, the importance of the Shirayama Hime Jinja, Bassho’s passage, or the City of Temples. They also would be sure to spend more money while they were here, and that money could support not only me and my family, but the people I would have employed in the company that I fear now will never be.

-Nate Nossal Ph.D., Ishikawa Prefecture


Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!


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Hi Blog. Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact. Read on:

April 12, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

I have some news on the passport copy rule in the hotels, which shows the role of the local police in the unnecessary checking and copying of ID cards of foreigners living in Japan. Last weekend I stayed at Mimatsu Hotel in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form during check-in.

However, the reception asked for my passport. I said I don’t carry my passport and they said any ID card like driver’s license is OK. Although showing is not necessary, I showed them my residence card with my address and permanent resident status on it. They said that they must copy the card. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I was surprised to hear that also the hotel has such rule in addition to the law of Japan! I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy.

They showed me a poster on the wall. The poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department Security Division was saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that the real law is different and showed them the copy of . After seeing the document, they reluctantly allowed me to stay.

I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. The next day during the check-out I asked the receptionist of the hotel to take a photo of the poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department to check it in detail. The receptionist gave permission so I took the photo of the poster and printed it at an Internet Cafe. I am sending the poster as an attachment.


[CAPTION COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Note the three official lies in this official poster issued by the Ibaraki Police:  1) Japanese law requires every foreign guest to present their passport (no:  every foreign tourist without an address in Japan); 2) the requirement of photocopying (which is stated nowhere in the law), and 3) their citation of the Hotel Business Law, which states none of this.]

It was Sunday and all public offices were closed, so I cancelled my bus reservation by paying cancellation fee and stayed one more day in Mito, which cost me lots of money. In Monday morning, I went to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), because when I had called the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry to learn more about the law, they had told me to inform the Public Health Department of the city in case a problem occurs in a hotel.

The officers at Public Health Department were very helpful. They said that as I have an address in Japan, I do not have to present my ID to the hotel. I showed them the poster of the police department. The officers were very surprised. They said that they have never seen this poster before and also the police did not contact the Public Health Department regarding the poster. They said that the explanation in the poster is clearly different from the real law, especially the English translation which says “every foreign guest”. They commented that the police is becoming more and more strict since last year because the G7 Summit and Tokyo Olympics are approaching. Finally, they said that they will check the hotel and inform me about the result.

As a final step, I went to the Mito City Police Department. I said I want to learn more about their poster. Two police officers from the security division came. I told them the incident at the hotel and informed them about the result of my call to Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry and my visit to Public Health Department regarding the law. They listened without making any comments. I showed them the official announcement of the ministry at and said that their poster is clearly different. They took notes like the number of the law as if they are not aware of the law and they read the announcement of the ministry. They asked questions like “Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask your ID card? Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?” I answered their questions and asked them to contact the ministry for detailed information. I said I called the ministry, so I can give the phone number of the ministry if they want. They said it is not necessary. Finally, I said please fix your poster. They said they will check the law and behave accordingly.

In the afternoon, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.

[REQUEST FROM DEBITO:  Any readers near or in Mito who can drop by a hotel and take a picture of the new notice for us?  Thanks.]

In short, if you ever encounter such a problem with a hotel, go to the local Public Health Department (保健所). They were very helpful and quick. If the problem is due to the police (not a misunderstanding of the hotel management), do not hesitate to go to the police department.

Regards, Onur


COMMENT:  Ibaraki sure seems to have it in for foreigners.  Check out these past notices from their police forces:

From “Update: Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster”, July 29th, 2009


From “Ibaraki Pref Police put up new and improved public posters portraying NJ as coastal invaders”, November 20th, 2008



And how about these entries?

Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article (UPDATED with news of another underreported NJ death),  Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Nikkei: Another Japanese nabbed for being like a “suspicious foreigner” in Ibaraki. Adding it to the collection, Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Oh that’s right.  Ibaraki is home to a really mean foreign detention center:

AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki, Monday, May 24th, 2010

Japan Times on Ibaraki Detention Ctr hunger strikers: GOJ meeting because of UN visit?, Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Japan Times & Sano Hiromi on violence towards NJ detainees at Ibaraki Detention Center, hunger strike, Friday, March 12th, 2010

There’s also a mention of a death in detention in Ibaraki at that detention center, mentioned in the following Reuters expose.

Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged, Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Ibaraki Police have also notified the public about how “foreign crime groups” behave, courtesy of

NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs, Thursday, June 20th, 2013, which included the following racialized illustration:


It would seem the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep in Ibaraki.  Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center in an area, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese).  Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people?  Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study.

Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work.  I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago.  Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


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Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!


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Hi Blog. Another letter below from a Reader talking about how Japanese hotels are continuing to racially profile their customers at the behest of the police, and in a way actually against the law. More on this here. Reprinted with permission of the author.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

March 3, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am a foreigner living in Japan. Your “WHAT TO DO IF” page has a column about “…you are asked for your passport number at a hotel, despite having an address in Japan.” and “…you are refused service at a hotel.”, which is very informative. I would like to share my experience.

I travel often, so I stay in many business hotels in Japan. Not all but many of them caused many problems due to the passport copy rule. Of course I carry only my residence card, not my passport. In the past I used to allow them when the hotel wants to copy my residence card. I remember that a hotel in Asakusa ward of Tokyo even asked me to copy my residence card by myself! The woman at the reception pointed the coin operated photocopier in the hall and told me to copy my residence card and bring it to the reception. I said it is coin operated, not free and she said pay the money to the machine. I paid the money, copied my residence card by myself and gave the copy to the reception. Even though it was hotel’s photocopier, they did not pay the money back!

Later I learned that as I have an address in Japan, hotels do not have the authority to ask my residence card and started to reject them when they asked to copy it. Still I was showing the card when they asked. Two years ago I had a bad experience at Inuyama Central Hotel in Aichi Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form, but two old male receptionists asked my passport. As I don’t carry it, I showed them my residence card and my address on it. They wanted to copy it, but I said no. They said that they must copy my residence card according to the law of Japan. I said copying is not necessary and they did not allow me to check-in! We had a long argument, but they refused me service. I was extremely tired and exhausted, it was late at night and it would be hard to find a place stay at that time, so I decided to resolve it the next day and allowed them to copy my residence card.

The next day I checked out and tried to find some help. Unfortunately it was Sunday and public offices were closed. I went to the the police center but they were not knowledgeable about the law. Then I went to the local Tourism Association. They called the hotel but the hotel said they are sure that the IDs of all foreigners must be copied. The association called other hotels to confirm and other hotels said that that law applies only to the tourists.

The association called again the Inuyama Central Hotel to inform, but the hotel said that they also checked it and learned that only the passports of tourists must be copied! I said I want to get the copy of my residence card back and went to the hotel. In the hotel I saw only a young female receptionist. She gave the copy and just said sorry (moushiwakegozaimasen). I said “I lost half a day and had many problems because of your hotel’s fault and is that all you say?”. She said moushiwakegozaimasen only and got rid of me. You can read my review and their reply on Rakuten travel at

This problem is widespread in Japan, not limited hotels in the rural places, which are not familiar with foreign guests. Even Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku in Tokyo, which is a big hotel full of foreigner guests wanted to copy my residence card. My review is at

Later I called the department related to the hotel law at Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) by phone 03-5253-1111(ext: 2437)and asked the law. They said “The foreigners living and having an address in Japan do not have to show their ID to hotels. It is enough to write the address in Japan to the guest registration form. If the guest is living in Japan, the hotels do not have to copy IDs, or ask to see the IDs or check whether the address written to the guest registration form is correct”.

It seems like copying IDs of all foreigners is being enforced by the police. Recently I reviewed another hotel which asked to copy my residence card and as a reply they said that copying the residence cards is requested by the police. My review and their reply is on the page

I did a search on the Internet and saw that a Zainichi Korean had the same problem at Yonaga City in Tottori Prefecture and called the police station to clarify the rules. It is written in detail on the page In short, the police accepted that they are forcing the hotels to check and copy the IDs of all foreigners! Police is even asking the hotel to call the police if a foreigner does not show his ID! At the same time they say that showing the ID is voluntary and a foreigner has the right to refuse showing it. A big dilemma!

Arguing with the hotels on this residence card check and copying is very annoying. Refusing to allow copying the card may not be enough as the hotel may continue asking it to other foreigners. Recently, when I stay in a hotel that asked to copy residence card, I am writing a review on Rakuten hoping that the hotel and checks and learns the real law. I also give a low rating to those hotels in the review. Average rating in on-line reservation sites is somewhat important in Japan, so probably many hotels would take it into account. If many foreigners people do the same thing, more hotels may abide the law.

Regards, Onur

JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven


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Hi Blog. One particular topic has not touched upon enough is activism in general by liberal-minded students, in particular the group attracting much attention called Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). I have only mentioned them here and in my year-end round up of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2015 for the Japan Times (I placed them at #6), where I wrote:

“On the other hand, the most high-profile youth group against the Abe Cabinet’s right-wing push (and darling of the international media), the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), decided to flame out with flair. At an news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, SEALDs leaders announced that with their impending graduation from college, they wouldn’t just be stepping down in 2016 as organizers — they would disband the group without a transition to a younger generation.

“Coming off as more concerned with their own short-term individual interests than the larger movements within Japanese society, SEALDs seemed to show that even Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists (which matters, as this year the voting age will drop from 20 to 18) are nonetheless intimidated by power, and treat human rights advocacy as a temporary hobby.”

While I am not changing my position regarding the cravenness of SEALDs organizers, let’s be fair. They have been overtly threatened by authority. Check out this article from last August. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Should SEALDs student activists worry about not getting hired?

Summer 2015 — 70 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition have rammed two security bills through the Lower House that overturn decades of interpretation of the Constitution by enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense. Now he hopes to do the same in the Upper House.

Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.

SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.

This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.”

But if these youths were only thinking of themselves, would they really be engaged in a collective social movement like SEALDs? Also, the idea that not wanting to go off to war is “selfish” is itself a serious attack on individual thought and freedom of conscience. It reminds me of the totalitarianism that prevailed before the war, and I was shocked to hear a modern-day politician utter such a comment. I assumed he must be some old fogey, so when I discovered it was 36-year-old Takaya Muto, I was flabbergasted.

The fact that a lawmaker would use such extremist language perhaps offers some insight into the extent of panic within the LDP at SEALDs’ growing strength. The comment caused quite a stir. That and some alleged financial shenanigans led to Muto’s resignation from the LDP on Aug. 19.

For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”

“When companies scout for students,” he elaborated, “they look at the name of the university. They don’t look at the students themselves. All the power lies in the side that selects. … Since the corporation is the one that selects, everything must follow the company’s rules and interests. This is reality.

“To give a specific example, say a sports club becomes involved in a rape scandal. The university’s reputation is damaged and it affects all students. The rapists’ reputations are of course damaged, but the university is also seen as ‘that kind of university.’ The fellow students who were unable to prevent such a scandal become tainted as people who would be likewise unable or unwilling to protect the reputation of the company. So there would be no reason to hire such a student.

“The university’s reputation was not built by the current student body. Since it was not acquired by current students, they have no right to protest. … This reputation was a gift given to current students from their seniors who have already graduated and gone out into the world, making a name for the university. If they damage the reputation of the university to which they belong, it’s obvious how things are going to play out. We should do everything possible to eliminate the risk of this. A corporation should not be asked to shoulder such a risk to its reputation.

“Careers begin with an offer from a corporation, but it’s already too late for that. The result is that they will all be shot down. Some students are at prestigious schools such as Waseda or Keio University. These students are probably OK since many famous politicians, police and bureaucrats are from there. Selection takes precedence in all cases, so the impact on these students will only be slight. However, students at universities with little power, history or tradition won’t be so lucky. They will not be selected and as a result, all will be eliminated. I have even heard of cases where the professors join the demos and egg on their students.”

To sum up, Kotsubo says: 1) Corporations have all the power over whether to hire; 2) when hiring, corporations place great weight on the reputation of an applicant’s university and don’t really look at the students themselves; 3) if the university’s brand name is hurt, all students attending that university lose credibility; 4) students engaged in social movements are damaging the brand value of their universities; 5) the risk for students at prestigious colleges like Waseda and Keio is slight, but students at less prestigious schools are a write-off (i.e., They will never get a job); and 6) I am saying all this for the benefit of students, but the most guilty are the professors who encourage students to protest without warning them of the risks.

Let’s examine Kotsubo’s rant from the perspective of labor law…

Rest of the article at

JT: Anti-war student organization SEALDs to disband after Upper House poll in 2016


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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. Now here’s something I find profoundly disappointing. One bright outcome of Japan’s Right-Wing Swing was the reenergizing of the Grassroots Left, with regular public demonstrations promoting anti-racism and tolerance. However, one group that attracted a lot of attention for opposing PM Abe’s policies, the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), made an announcement (at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, no less) last October that their leadership wasn’t just stepping down due to graduation from university — they were disbanding the entire group within a year.

That makes the leadership comes off as human-rights hobbyists. There is no need to make what should be a handing over of the reins to the next generation into a public spectacle of disbandment. Alas, they’re quitting, and taking the brand name with them. Abe must be grinning in great satisfaction. From eroding Japan’s democratic institutions to making investigation of government chicanery illegal to marching Japan back to its martial past (while decimating Japan’s Left in formal Japanese politics), Abe is truly winning this fight. He’s even got these brave kids running scared.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Anti-war student organization to close shop after Upper House poll

A pro-democracy student group behind this summer’s massive youth protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security legislation plans to dissolve after next year’s Upper House election, members said Wednesday.

Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) gained widespread attention over the summer for a series of anti-war rallies held near the Diet building to protest the administration’s push to allow the nation’s military to fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II.

Known for its unconventional demonstrations, which included rap-influenced music and stylish placards, the group was hailed for leading a resurgence in youth activism that sparked hopes in society that the nation’s politically apathetic youngsters may be changing.

“Since we started our activities as an ‘emergency action,’ and many of our members are slated to graduate from universities soon, SEALDs will dissolve after next summer’s Upper House election,” group member Mana Shibata, 22, revealed during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

“After that, if individual persons want to take action or create another movement, they are free to do so.”

Before their movement became SEALDs, many members protested the state secrecy law — contentious legislation championed by Abe that many said would impinge on people’s right to know or discover crucial government information. That group called itself SASPL, or Students Against Secret Protection Law.

After the security bills were rammed through the Diet last month, SEALDs will now focus its activities on gearing up for next summer’s Upper House election, members said. Its newest mission: to call on opposition parties to form a united front against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Noting that the passage of the bills signals Japan’s democracy is “on the verge of collapse,” member Takeshi Suwahara, 22, said: “What is happening is a crisis. I know opposition parties have their own conflicting interests. But they must listen to voices of the public and cooperate with each other.”

Dismayed at an ever-decreasing voter turnout among the young, SEALDs will also ramp up efforts to encourage younger people to vote in elections.

The nation’s 18- and 19-year-olds will now for the first time be allowed to cast ballots in accordance with a legal revision in June.

Aside from making continued efforts to organize related rallies and symposiums, members will try to establish voting booths in places such as train stations, shopping malls and universities, they said.

“Demographically speaking, young people in Japan are underrepresented and as a result it’s difficult for their voices to be reflected in politics and fulfill their needs for education and social welfare. I believe this election is a chance to change such a trend,” Suwahara said.


Asahi & Mainichi: “No Hate” “No Racism”, “Refugees Welcome” say protesters at Tokyo anti-discrimination rally. Bravo.


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Hello Blog. As has been pointed out by a number of Readers, this development is a positive one, both in that it happened (as an annual rally, no less), and that it was reported in the news. Read on. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

First watch this:

東京大行進:ヘイトスピーチに抗議、「差別反対」アピール  (Mainichi Shinbun)


Refugees welcome’ say protesters at Tokyo anti-discrimination rally
Asahi Shinbun, November 23, 2015 By MIAKO ICHIKAWA/ Staff Writer

“Refugees welcome” was a rallying cry among 2,500 or so Tokyo Democracy March demonstrators who paraded through the capital’s Shinjuku district on Nov. 22 following the recent Paris terror attacks.

The crowd, protesting all forms of discrimination, urged Japan to welcome those fleeing danger with some waving a banner displaying the asylum seeker-friendly slogan.

“Behind the vigorous rhetoric which says ‘We do not yield to terrorism,’ refugees could lose a place to live,” said one 42-year-old worker from Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward who joined the event.

Causes on the agenda included the prejudice experienced by ethnic Korean residents in Japan, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and people with disabilities.

The third annual demonstration also focused on asylum seekers amid concerns over anti-refugee sentiment in and outside Japan after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.

The fears stem from the idea that terrorists could masquerade as refugees to enter the country.

The event was first organized in 2013 chiefly as a protest against groups which staged a number of hate speeches targeting the numerous ethnic Korean residents in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district.

The demonstration has so far drawn on various themes, including the display of a discriminatory banner declaring “Japanese Only” at Saitama Stadium during a J.League football match on March 8, 2014.

“We participate in this event because of our desire to improve our society,” said a 30-year-old organizer of the protest.


Japanese version:
「差別いらない」反ヘイトデモ、新宿で 「難民歓迎」も
朝日新聞 2015年11月22日22時27分



3回目の今年は、難民が柱の一つになった。「REFUGEES WELCOME(難民歓迎)」などの横断幕を掲げたりした。デモの運営メンバー(30)は「根っこにあるのは、民主主義を肯定し、社会を良くしようという当たり前の気持ち」という。

「難民歓迎 『テロに屈しない』はこれだ」と書いた手作りのプラカードを掲げて歩いた東京都世田谷区の会社員(42)は「『テロに屈しない』という威勢のいい言葉の裏で、難民は行き場をなくす。社会に広がる空気に対し、自分の気持ちを示した」と話した。



Photo Journal: Marching against hate
November 23, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK and Jair

Members of the 2015 Tokyo Democracy March hold signs and shout slogans condemning discrimination during a march in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 22, 2015. Organizers announced that some 2,500 people participated. The annual march began in 2013, mainly composed of people opposed to repeated hate speech demonstrations. This year’s democracy marchers voiced opposition to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability, and called for quick passage of an anti-racial discrimination bill under debate in the Diet. (Mainichi)

Japanese version:

毎日新聞 2015年11月22日 19時45分(最終更新 11月22日 20時36分)






See also (courtesy of Jair):


UPDATE: Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon Japan tour “Japanese Only” registration is sanitized to include NJ residents, but “Japanese Citizenship” remains requirement on actual registration page


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Hi Blog.  This is an update to the previous post, but it deserves a separate blog entry for the deceitfulness.  Thanks to Readers contacting the organizers in Hong Kong, the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon made it clear to their Japan tour organizers ( that restricting applications “exclusively for Japanese people” is unacceptable, as the event is open to all nationalities:


Case Ref No. FEED-VRSUP2-20151112-0378054 (BaCh/FiCh)

Dear Alex,

Thank you for contacting the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) on 10 November 2015, letting us know the comments posted on Dr. Arudou Debito’s website in regard to the registration requirements for the “2016 Hong Kong Marathon tour package” sold in Japan.

After receiving your email, we have immediately communicated with the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), who is the organiser of Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon. According to HKAAA, all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour. They have already advised the tour operator “Kinki Nippon Travel” to amend relevant wordings on the registration site . 

Once again, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Should we could be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me or send me an email. 

Best Regards,

Fion Cheng
Senior Executive, Visitor Services
Hong Kong Tourism Board

Direct line: +852 2807 6108
Direct fax: +852 2807 6581



This has resulted in changes to the website wording, from

“This tour is designed exclusively for Japanese people.  
Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”



“This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. 
Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”


Sounds better.  Gone is the assumption that foreign nationals living in Japan are not residents of Japan.

However, if you actually go to the website registration page (, the requirement for applicants of Japanese citizenship (item six in the bullet points: 私は日本国籍を有しています) is still there:


(screen capture as of November 14, 2015 JST)

So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, the “secret code for domestic consumption only” that is the Japanese written language is maintaining the same “Japanese Only” rules. It is very hard to see this as a mere oversight.

And as written, NJ resident applicants still face refusal and then a non-refund of their deposit payments. It’s gone from mere exclusionism to the potential for misleading applicants into corporate theft. How duplicitous and unprofessional of the Japan-side organizers. Imagine the internet uproar if a Japanese company made a mistake this big for its Japanese customers.  Again, its seems, foreign customers in Japan don’t matter.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Was tweeted this picture in regards to the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon registration desk for Japanese in Bangkok, Thailand.  Seems to be more systematic than just Japanese organizers within Japan.  More like the organization is excluding foreigners everywhere in the world, including in those nations where Japanese are foreigners themselves.


More tweeted details from the same source were: “November 12, 2015 in Bangkok Thailand. Registration for the Standard Chartered BKK marathon. they also had their own ‘bib boards’ i.e. Names and bib numbers not with the rest of the marathon runners, but ‘separate'”.

Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi


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Hi Blog.  One person I have kept some track of over the years is the leader of SoftBank, Son Masayoshi.  While I don’t really see his sensitivity towards minorities in Japan translating into flexibility towards NJ residents in SoftBank’s business practices (SoftBank, like NTT DoCoMo, demands a deposit from its NJ customers (to the tune of 100,000 yen) in order to get an iPhone subscription (something not mentioned on its Japanese site).  I also have a friend from overseas who, during his monthlong journeys around Japan, had his phone hacked into, and was saddled with a $1400 internet bill on his credit card when he went back; protests to the company were met with a, “You’re a foreigner, so you must have misunderstood how to use our phone; you’re just trying to skip out on paying your bill,” reception from SoftBank.  This despite SoftBank having him on record renting the very same phone five times before and paying without incident.), Son is being interviewed below as a discrimination fighter.  This is the first I’ve heard of him doing this (and I hope this article also came out in Japanese), so let’s hope he continues in this vein.  And that SoftBank knocks off its hypocritically discriminatory business practices.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


SoftBank’s Son stands up to anti-Korean bigotry in Japan
Nikkei Asian Review August 27, 2015 12:00 am JST, Courtesy of AA

TOKYO — SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has long been discriminated against by Japanese because he is ethnically Korean.

Even in his early childhood, he was attacked verbally and physically by Japanese classmates. In kindergarten, he was jeered at for being Korean. Once, another child cut his head open with a stone.

Today, he finds himself the target of malicious comments on the Internet. In a recent interview, Son talked about his experiences and his decision to be open about his background.

Q: Why did you choose to use your Korean family name instead of your Japanese one?

A: I used to go by Masayoshi Yasumoto before I went to the U.S. at the age of 16.

After I returned from the U.S. and decided to start a business, I had a choice before me — whether I should go with the Japanese family name Yasumoto, which all my family and relatives use, or the ancestral surname Son.

It is undoubtedly easier to go by Yasumoto when living in Japanese society. A number of celebrities and professional athletes use Japanese family names in their chosen professions. It is not my intention to criticize such a practice. But I decided to go against the tide and become the first among my relatives to use Son as my family name.

I won’t go into the reasons and the origin of this issue, but if you are born into one of those families of Korean descent, you are subject to groundless discrimination. There are many children who undergo such hardship.

When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was in agony over my identity so much that I seriously contemplated taking my own life. I’d say discrimination against people is that tough.

Then you might ask why I decided to go against all my relatives, including uncles and aunts, and started to use the Korean family name, Son.

I wanted to become a role model for ethnic Korean children and show them that a person of Korean descent like me, who publicly uses a Korean surname, can achieve success despite various challenges. If my doing so gives a sense of hope to even just one young person or 100 of them, I believe that is a million times more effective than raising a placard and shouting, “No discrimination.”

Q: Your coming out as an ethnic Korean risked involving the rest of your family, right?

A: I met with fierce objections from my relatives, who had hidden their real family name to live their lives in a small community. One of my relatives said, “If you come out as a Son from among us, that will expose all of us.”

People would start saying things like “They are ethnic Koreans” or “Your nephew is a Son, not a Yasumoto. So, you, too, are part of the kimchee clan.” That’s why they tried to dissuade me. But I told them: “What I will do may disturb you all, uncles and aunties. If so, you don’t need to say that I am a relative of yours. Just pretend that I am not related to you.”

Q: I hope there will be more success stories like yours in Japan. What do you think is necessary for that to happen?

A: Currently, many Japanese companies are losing confidence. They are losing out to competition and have collectively become introverted. In such circumstances, even if we are the only one, SoftBank has risen to the occasion and taken on much bigger rivals in the U.S. And if we survive … that will create a ripple effect and inspire even one company or 10 companies. I think that’s a form of social contribution.

Son speaks before an audience. The slogan in the background says, “Challenge yourself and new horizons will emerge.”
Not just us, but Mr. Tadashi Yanai (chairman and president of Fast Retailing) and Mr. Shigenobu Nagamori (chairman and president of Nidec), and Rakuten, DeNA and other companies are working hard to challenge themselves. If young business leaders can set a couple of successful precedents, that could give a much-needed boost and help revive the Japanese economy.

While it is important to oppose a move toward widening the wealth gap and put in place a social safety net, I think there is no need to stand in the way of other people’s success. It is unnecessary to gang up and lash out at those who are successful.

Successful people can serve as a light of hope for others. Personally, I think it is important to create a society where we can praise success and successful people. That will help keep alive Japanese dreams and create Japanese heroes.

Interviewed by Nikkei Ecology staff writer Takahiro Onishi; Nikkei Business Online Editor-in-Chief Shintaro Ikeda contributed to this story.


Yomiuri: More Japanese public baths OK tattooed visitors (particularly NJ) for 2020 Olympics: suddenly it’s all about showing “understanding of foreign cultures”


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Hi Blog. I have just emerged from several weeks of proofing and indexing my upcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. It will be out in 5-8 weeks. I will keep you updated on where you and your library can get a copy.

With that amount of busy-ness (sorry for the delay in posting to, please let me turn the keyboard to Reader JK:


Hi Debito: It looks this has grown legs and started walking, so if you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I’ll provide some overdue commentary:

More baths OK tattooed visitors; stickers needed
The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 25, 2015

Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country.

A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos.

With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences.

At Ofuro cafe utatane, a bathing facility in Kita Ward, Saitama, which is visited by about 250,000 people annually, the management decided to allow tattoos that can be covered with 12.8-centimeter by 18.2-centimeter stickers.

The new policy was started on a trial basis from Aug. 1. If no problems arise by the end of the month, the facility will officially implement the policy.

The manager of the facility, Toshiki Yamasaki, 32, is also director of the Nippon Ofuro Genki Project, an association of young managers of baths and other facilities.

“The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture,” he said.

Hoshino Resort Co., which manages 33 luxury hotel resorts and other facilities in Japan and abroad, has also decided to exempt customers from bathing restrictions if their tattoos can be covered by an eight-centimeter by 10-centimeter sticker starting from October.

A midsize hot spring resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, lifted restrictions on tattoos this spring.

The local ski resort is popular with foreign tourists because of the good snow quality.

“I believe we need to understand cultural differences with other countries,” the hotel manager said, adding that restrictions on gang members were still in place.

Baths, resorts and other facilities began banning all tattoos, including full-body irezumi tattoos, after the Antigang Law went into effect in 1992, though in practice some places admit tattooed customers.

The Japan Tourism Agency surveyed about 3,700 facilities nationwide in June to learn how the restrictions were affecting foreign travelers.

Tsuru University Prof. Yoshimi Yamamoto, an expert on tattoo issues, said: “The circumstances are such that facilities have no choice but to change their response. Easing restrictions can help shake up conventions.”




1) Having a tattoo in Japan while being foreign AND not being a yakuza is an idea that is just now gaining traction?!

2) The (faulty) underlying assumption at work is that all yakuza have tattoos.

3) Suppose an NJ has several tattoos, or tattoos that cannot be covered by a single sticker, or even a full-body tattoo (surprise — just like yakuza, NJ get these too!), then what? More stickers? If so how may? Is ‘good enough’ coverage acceptable, or is perfection mandatory?

4) Despite the lack of a link to a Japanese translation, the idea being conveyed is that NJ with tattoos are outside of societal norms (read: betsuwaku), and so should not be treated as a yakuza since money can be made off them — this notion is beautifully illustrated by Mr. Toshiki Yamasaki who says, “The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture”.

5) Does the Antigang Law of 1992 actually have wording in it to the effect that onsen / sento operations are not permitted to admit persons with tattoos?

a) If not, then in the name of ‘understanding cultural differences with other countries’, let me into the Niseko hotel without requiring my tattoos to be covered!

b) If so, then put up a sign saying ‘No Japanese Gangsters Allowed’ and let me in with my tattoos uncovered — it’s not like such a sign would be breaking the law — to the contrary, it would be upholding it!!

6) Allowing the operator of a onsen / sento to determine someone’s ‘kakuzaness’ is akin to allowing them to determine ‘foreignness’ — in other words, the door is left open to abuse. -JK



During the Otaru Onsens Case, where “Japanese Only” bathhouses were excluding customers because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough, one issue that was raised was, “Well, what about tattoos, then?” — and then conflated the two issues to muddy the debate with relativity (not to mention conflate the treatment of “foreigners” with the treatment of organized crime in Japan). has always seen tattoos as a different issue from skin color and other features determined from birth, as tattoos are something a person decides to put on themselves.  That said, this sudden “change of heart” (dressed up as a “respect for” and “understanding of” foreign cultures) is ahistorical and purely motivated by economics — i.e., the need for Japan to put on a good show for international events without the embarrassment of having bigots continue to cloak their exclusionary behavior with the specter of potential criminal activity (and there has been at least one case where “respect for foreign culture” involving tattoos didn’t matter one whit).

I conclude:  What’s at play here isn’t fair-mindedness.  It’s merely the phenomenon of “not in front of the foreigners”, especially since pretty soon there will be millions of them watching Japan.  I bet that once the Olympics pass, those open-minded rules will be rescinded and managers will revert to banning customers (particularly NJ) at whim all over again.  This isn’t the tack that JK is taking above, but that’s what I see.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services


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Hi Blog. Submitted for your approval (cue Twilight Zone theme):

Date: September 3, 2015
From: TH

Hi Dr Debito, I thought you might be interested in my experience of trying to get an appointment at the top hospital for neurology in Japan. Basically they refuse to see me unless I pay for a specialist medical interpreter – they won’t even see me with a third party volunteer hospital interpreter.

I have a problem with a nerve at the base of my spine. It may or may not be caused by an accident I had early last year in which a taxi hit me when I was riding my bicycle.

I got a referral to the 国立精神・神経センター from my clinic because my research said they were the best in Japan for neurology.

I called them up to organize an appointment. My Japanese isn’t great so they told me in Japanese that I need a Japanese speaker to call on my behalf to make an appointment. I guess this is because they couldn’t get all the info needed to set up the appointment.

I had my Japanese teacher call during a lesson of mine and set up the appointment for me. They told her that I couldn’t come alone because of my language level. If I did come without a Japanese speaker they would cancel my appointment on the spot and not see me. I was surprised at this and as I was put on the spot, I said that’s ok, I’ll get a friend to come with me.

I thought about it and as the appointment time is this Monday at 9:45 am none of my friends could come with me. I searched out a group that organizes a free medical interpretation service telephone line staffed by trained professionals. They were a great help. They have to be engaged from the hospital side so I called the hospital and said in Japanese that I couldn’t get a friend to come so I will need to use this volunteer service.

The lady from the hospital called the volunteer service. The lady from the volunteer service called me back and said that the hospital refused to allow telephone based interpretation during my appointment. I must have a person come with me. I said ok. The lady from the volunteer service organized a volunteer to go with me and then called the hospital to confirm.

The hospital said they would not accept a layperson as a volunteer to accompany me. The hospital said that I must engage a professional medical interpreter. I thought this strange – they initially said that I need to come with a friend. A friend would undoubtedly be a layperson as well, so their refusal of a lay volunteer seems contradictory and petulant.

At this point it is too much hassle and will become prohibitively expensive to go to this hospital.

Is it legal to treat me like this?

Kind regards, TH

COMMENT: It is NOT illegal in Japan, and that is the problem. We have discussed numerous times on about awful NJ hospital treatment (such as saying aloud that your NJ client should die; see here too) and outright NJ refusals (see here, here, and here, for example).  They call into question how well-regarded (or even enforced) the Hippocratic Oath is in Japan.

Moreover, claiming a language barrier as grounds of refusal is a common tactic amongst discriminators in Japan (it adds more plausible deniability than an overt “Japanese Only” sign), and it looks like that is happening in this event too.  But in the case of medical treatment, it is a much more serious issue, as it can be a matter of life and death.

Comments and assistance from Readers is welcome below, and TH can respond with more details there as he sees best. Dr. ARUDOU Debito

Asahi: Supreme Court backs stripping children of Japanese nationality if parents lapse in registering their births abroad


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Hi Blog.  I just found this in my “drafts” folder, and I apologize for not getting to it sooner. has mentioned before how creative judicial interpretations of Japan’s Nationality Law Article 12

(which states, in toto: “A Japanese national who was born in a foreign country and has acquired a foreign nationality by birth shall lose Japanese nationality retroactively as from the time of birth, unless the Japanese national clearly indicates his or her volition to reserve Japanese nationality according to the provisions of the Family Registration Law (Law No.224 of 1947))

are a) systematically stripping children born to mixed-nationality couples of their Japanese citizenship simply for bureaucratic expedience (for if both parents were Japanese nationals, Article 12 did not apply); and b) effectively absolving Japanese men from taking responsibility for sowing their wild oats abroad (item 8).

Now according to the ruling reported to below, it looks like Article 12 now does apply even if both parents are Japanese nationals — you have three whole months to get registered, otherwise you clearly aren’t a real Japanese.  Except that in the case cited, the exclusionism is again being enforced on mudblood kids simply because their parents slipped up with proper procedure.

It remains unclear if a Japanese mother who gives birth overseas (and would hitherto automatically retain Japanese nationality for her child) and does not register her child would void the Japanese citizenship, but the intent of the interpretation below is basically to prevent dual nationality, not honor jus sanguinis ties under the law.  So this looks to be an affirmation and expansion of the 2012 Tokyo District Court case, a reversal of the 2008 Supreme Court case, moreover expanded to both parents regardless of nationality.

This is what can happen if you dare give birth outside of the motherland and legally acquire a suspicious second passport.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Top court backs repeal of Japanese nationality due to parents’ lapse abroad
Asahi Shinbun March 11, 2015 By TAKAAKI NISHIYAMA/ Staff Writer

The Supreme Court confirmed that authorities can revoke the Japanese nationality of children born outside Japan whose parents fail to submit the proper paperwork within three months of their babies’ births.

The top court’s ruling on March 10 said Article 12 of the Nationality Law, which defines the procedures to maintain Japanese nationality, does not violate the Constitution.

As a result of the ruling, 15 female and male children born in the Philippines to Japanese fathers married to Filipino mothers have lost their Japanese nationality. They had argued that the article was irrational and discriminatory against Japanese born abroad.

The Nationality Law stipulates that if either parent of a baby born outside Japan is a Japanese national, the child will automatically acquire Japanese nationality and can also obtain the nationality of the country of birth.

But the parents must submit a notification to a Japanese administrative institution within three months of the baby’s birth to maintain the Japanese nationality, according to Article 12 of the law.

In the top court’s first ruling on the constitutionality of the provision, Takehiko Otani, presiding justice of the court’s Third Petty Bench, said, “The legislative purpose (of Article 12) designed to avoid dual nationality is rational and constitutional.”

According to the plaintiffs, their Japanese nationality was revoked because their parents did not know about the provision and failed to submit the documents to Japanese authorities within the designated three-month period.

The Supreme Court said Article 12 is “not irrational nor discriminatory against people born overseas” because it gives the parents three months to submit the notification.

The top court also noted another provision in the law, which allows such children to obtain Japanese nationality before they reach 20 years old if they notify authorities that have a permanent address in Japan.


Thoughts: How does a society eliminate bigotry? Through courts and media, for example. Not waiting for it to “happen naturally”. Two case studies.


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Hi Blog. One of the age-old debates about how to eliminate racial discrimination in Japan is a matter of process. Do you wait for society to soften up to the idea of people who are (and/or look) “foreign” being “Japanese”, or do you legislate and force people to stop being discriminatory? Critics of anti-discrimination activists often recommend that the latter apply the brakes on their social movement and wait for society in general to catch up — as in, “You can’t force people by law to be tolerant.”

Well, yes you can. History has shown that without a law (be it a US Civil Rights Act, a UK Race Relations Act, etc.)  and active media campaigns to force and foment tolerance, it doesn’t necessarily occur naturally. As we have seen in the Japanese example, which is approaching the 20th Anniversary of its signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination without keeping its promise to pass a law against racial discrimination.

I submit to Readers two interesting case studies of how tolerance towards a) same-sex marriage, and b) transgender issues have been promoted in the American example. The speed at which LGBT tolerance and legal equality in many areas of American society has been breathtaking. Why have walls come tumbling down so fast? One case is with the US Supreme Court, which earlier this year found itself in a position to rule same-sex marriage constitutional because any other position would have been bigotry. Excerpt from a National Public Radio interview, dated July 2, 2015, on Fresh Air with Terry Gross:


Was This Past Supreme Court Session ‘A Liberal Term For The Ages’?
NPR Fresh Air July 02, 2015

Full transcript at
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you’re just joining us, my guest is Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times. And we’re talking about the term that just wrapped up. Now, we’ve been talking about the marriage equality decision. And something that you wrote I found so interesting about this, which is that a lot of law firms wouldn’t touch the anti-marriage equality side. Why not?

LIPTAK: Among a large number of Americans, and certainly Americans on the coast and certainly Americans who come from, call it elite backgrounds – you know, from the fancy colleges and law schools – and certainly what Justice Scalia in a memorable phrase called lawyers who work in high-rise buildings, this issue is done. There’s only one side to it, and the other side is pure bigotry. So that told you something about where at least the legal culture – the mainstream legal culture – was on this question. And, you know, that’s a contrast to, say, Brown V Board of Education, where the leading appellate lawyer of his day, John Davis, one of the founders of the prominent New York firm Davis Polk, argued in favor of segregated schools – or at least that the court should not stop them. So that was a change in the culture that was yet another indication that the court was going to come out the way it did.

GROSS: And it sounds like it was a business decision too – because you write that a lot of law firms were afraid if they took the position against marriage equality that they would lose clients, and they would have a difficult time attracting good lawyers to their firm. Those are business decisions.

LIPTAK: So that is absolutely true as a factual matter. The firms would say this is a matter of principle for them, and they didn’t take account of business realities. But we do have, you know, one example from just a few years ago, where quite possibly the best Supreme Court advocate of our day, Paul Clement, agreed to represent Congress – shouldn’t be a particularly controversial client – in defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples. His firm essentially fired him for agreeing to represent Congress in trying to persuade the court to uphold a duly enacted law signed by President Clinton. So that tells you that this is – this is something where the firms were not inclined to take these cases.

GROSS: So do you think that the marriage equality decision lays the groundwork to opening up gay rights in other areas where it is still in question?

LIPTAK: It’s a huge and important and transformative victory. But in some ways, it’s symbolic and partial because much of the nation still doesn’t have laws against discriminating against gay and lesbian people. So in much of the nation, you can get married in the morning and fired in the afternoon from your job for being gay – and then denied housing because you’re gay. So the court decision only does so much and is limited to marriage. And unless legislatures act to impose general laws against sexual orientation discrimination, the work of the gay rights movement is not yet done. It’s a funny thing, that you get to marriage first and job discrimination later. […]


COMMENT: The point is that the proponents of marriage equality (sic — note the terminology) managed to frame the debate in such a way that eventually there was no choice but to support one side (people arguing formerly-normal positions even lost their job), and nobody COULD support the other side without looking bigoted. And that came through in the formal interpretation of the law.  In Japan, however, as proven time and time again by the bigots who cloak their bigotry in nationalism and “culture” (see here and here for example), bigotry is still a tenable position.

The other item of interest is from Entertainment Weekly (which may seem to some a laughable source, but they write very good articles on the power and flow of media). Consider the process they describe in their special LGBT issue that came out last June:


The transition will be televised
Subtitle: In an era of increasing inclusiveness, TV proves once again to be media’s most effective agent of social change, this time by sharing rich stories about the transgender community
By Mark Harris
Entertainment Weekly Magazine, June 12 2015 (excerpt)
Full article at

A sports figure comes out as transgender, and the general public is riveted by her story, which is met with everything from bigotry to curiosity to empathy. All at once, the subject seems to be everywhere from op-ed pages to dinner-table conversations. Transgender stories – this time fictional – start to gain a toehold in popular culture. The highest-rated sitcom on network TV takes some tentative steps toward exploring the fluidity of gender identity by having a gay cross-dressing performer as a recurring character. A popular medical drama wins an Emmy nomination for a two-part episode about a doctor who undergoes gender-reassignment surgery.

The year is 1976. Transgender Americans are, for the first time, having a moment. And then interest subsides. The caravan moves on. And the moment is over. How did it take 39 years for us to get all the way back to the starting line?

Minority representation on TV has always come in phases. Phase 1 is absence – or worse, stereotype. In Phase 2, minorities appear briefly, usually to teach majority characters life lessons or allow them to demonstrate tolerance, and then recede again. In Phase 3 – where we are now – they finally start to get their own stories told. Phase 4 – the characters stick around just because we’re interested in them – is on the near horizon. Phase 5 – we don’t have to write stories like this anymore – is farther off.

It’s not a shock that most of the trans narratives we’re seeing in 2015 are filtered through (or at least share screen time with) the perspective of non-transgender characters. Transparent and Becoming Us are as much about the kids as the parents, and as refreshing as it is to see trans characters woven into the ensembles of Orange Is the New Black and Sense8, there’s no escaping the fact that a large part of why they’re there is specifically to promote understanding – they’re a vehicle for communicating. That’s great, and essential, but it shouldn’t be confused with the finish line—which would be a pop cultural world in which trans people are simply part of the fabric and not used as devices. If you doubt how hard that goal is to reach on TV, consider that gay people, who outnumber trans people by roughly 10 to 1 in the national population, are still struggling for that kind of representation, and that a host of ethnic minorities (particularly Asians and Latinos) continue to fight for the day when they can turn on the TV and routinely see people who look like them.

In that regard, who’s behind the camera may matter at least as much as who’s in front of it. It’s not a coincidence that the most racially diverse prime-time lineup on any network – ABC’s Thursday-night roster of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder – is overseen by a black woman, or that Will & Grace was co-created by a gay man, or that fictional Ellen’s coming-out was tied to real Ellen’s desire to tell her own truth. There’s no substitute for having someone in the room to whom the subject matters – it’s a corrective, it’s an incentive, and it’s a truth detector.

The 1976 flicker of interest in trans issues didn’t last because it was, though well-intentioned, not strong enough to combat an immense set of prevailing prejudices. This time, it might take root, not just because attitudes have changed, but because the current approach is less touristic and more firsthand. One of the creators of Sense8, Lana Wachowski, is trans. Transparent’s writer-director-creator Jill Soloway has a trans father. If Sophia seems like an exceptionally multidimensional trans character, that’s in part because Laverne Cox is on the scene. As she has noted, “It’s really important that trans folks are in positions of power in terms of creating our stories. I think that’s vital.” Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan has argued that a good writer should be able to write any character with truth and depth, and she’s right. But it’s an important breakthrough that there are now a handful of people in positions of power with a deep and personal investment in making sure TV gets this right. Four decades ago, we got off to a false start. Now, better late than never, we’re off to a good one. ENDS


COMMENT:  The lesson here is that there are stages of “softening up a society”, but what’s crucial is that people who can best promote the tolerance, as in those affected by the intolerance, must be in a position of power within the media structures in order to get their message out.  As I have argued elsewhere, NJ and Visible Minorities are so shut out of Japanese media that they simply cannot do that.  They are seen as basically nonexistent entities in Japanese society both within and without (including outside scholarship on Japan).

All of these things will be discussed in greater detail in my forthcoming book, Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan, out November.  Stay tuned.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Mainichi: Unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims? Supreme Court decision due Sept. 8


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Hi Blog. Continuing with historical reflection on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific and the dropping of the atomic bombs, let me turn the keyboard over to Reader JK for an interesting insight, this time quite germane to the aims of  Let’s see what ruling gets handed down next month.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


August 11, 2015
JK: Hi Debito. Here’s something you may not have considered — unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims.  From the article below:

“But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers.”

And this:

“Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.”


“I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

There’s obviously plenty of fodder here for a blog entry on, but putting that aside for the moment, there’s something subtle I noticed when reading the article, specifically, this:

2014年6月の大阪高裁判決は、援護法について「国の責任で被爆者の救済を 図る国家補償の性格がある。国外での医療費を支給対象から除外するこ とは合 理的ではない」などと認定。

In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.”

Did you catch it?

It’s this: reasonableness / unreasonableness as the basis for legal opinion (i.e. unreasonable exclusion of foreign medical expenses).

Does this ring a bell for you? I sure hope so!

If not, you may recall the legal opinion of a one Mr. Keiichi Sakamoto with regard to unreasonable discrimination

Now, I am no lawyer, but the problem I see with using the notion of reasonableness / unreasonableness in this way is that it leaves the door open to abuse (e.g. there may be a scenario where excluding medical expenses incurred abroad by foreign A-bomb victims is, in the opinion of the court, reasonable, or discrimination by an onsen refusing to admit NJ *is* reasonable, etc.)

At any rate, here are the references. Regards, JK

Supreme Court likely to rule in favor of Korean A-bomb sufferers over medical costs
The Mainichi Shinbun, August 11, 2015

The Supreme Court has decided to rule Sept. 8 on a lower court decision revoking the 2011 Osaka Prefectural Government’s decision not to cover the medical costs of South Korean survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who received medical treatment in South Korea.

The Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court is likely to uphold the Osaka High Court’s decision on the case as it has not held any hearings necessary to review the high court’s ruling that Japanese authorities must cover all medical expenses for A-bomb sufferers residing abroad.

The plaintiffs are a Korean who returned to South Korea after surviving the Hiroshima atomic bombing and relatives of two other now-deceased Korean A-bomb sufferers. Although the South Korean A-bomb survivors had received an Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Handbook, the Osaka Prefectural Government turned down their applications for provision of medical expenses incurred in South Korea. The plaintiffs have demanded that the Osaka Prefectural Government scrap its decision to refuse to pay them the medical costs, among other requests.

In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.” The Osaka High Court upheld the October 2013 Osaka District Court’s decision that called for payment of all medical costs and turned down an appeal from the Osaka Prefectural Government.

The state has been covering all medical expenses for A-bomb sufferers residing in Japan under the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law. But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers. Such being the case, A-bomb sufferers living abroad have argued that the government’s support for them is not enough.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were about 4,300 A-bomb sufferers living abroad who had an Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Handbook as of the end of March 2015. Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.

The South Korean plaintiffs are likely to win the lawsuit being fought in Osaka over whether the provision for medical expense coverage stipulated in the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law applies to A-bomb sufferers living abroad. Supporters for A-bomb sufferers abroad said A-bomb victims and their bereaved families overseas had felt relieved after hearing the news. But because the district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki handed down opposite rulings over similar lawsuits, supporters for foreign A-bomb victims are calling for quickly removing the disparity in medical support between the victims in Japan and those abroad considering the years passed since the atomic bombings.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Osaka are Lee Hong-hyon, a 69-year-old South Korean man, and relatives of two other South Korean A-bomb sufferers who already passed away. They filed applications with the Osaka Prefectural Government to receive medical expenses incurred in South Korea. But the prefectural government turned down their applications, saying that medical expenses incurred overseas cannot be covered. Therefore, the South Koreans decided to file the lawsuit.

Junko Ichiba, 59-year-old chair of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, conveyed the latest development to the South Korean plaintiffs on the evening of Aug. 10. Ichiba quoted Lee Hong-hyon as saying, “I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

People concerned with the lawsuits in Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed hope that the Osaka case would have a positive effect on the cases in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Keizaburo Toyonaga, a 79-year-old A-bomb sufferer who heads the Hiroshima branch of the “Citizens’ Association for Helping Korean A-bomb Survivors,” said, “I am very pleased. The Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law should be revised as soon as possible.” Nobuto Hirano, co-representative of a Nagasaki-based liaison support group for A-bomb victims overseas, said, “It is good news. The state should revise the system promptly.” The group provides support to plaintiffs in the Nagasaki case.











Supreme Court rules hibakusha overseas are entitled to full medical expenses

Mainichi: “Not Japanese Enough?” Bog-standard article about Miss Japan Miyamoto Ariana’s fight against racial discrim in Japan, not in Japanese for J-audience


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Hi Blog.  I’ve been withholding comment on the very good news about Miyamoto Ariana’s ascension to the role of Miss Japan (I’ve only brought it up on here so far), and for the role that she is taking on of her own volition to fight “racial discrimination” (yes, explicitly jinshu sabetsu — something that the J-media generally refuses to even acknowledge exists in Japan).  What I’ve been waiting for is how the J-media (as opposed to the predictable reaction from the J-xenophobes) would react to her activism.  And here’s a good example from the Mainichi Shinbun (comment follows article):


Not Japanese Enough? Miss Universe Japan looks to fight prejudice
July 25, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK

TOKYO (Kyodo) — At first glance, Ariana Miyamoto does not look like an ordinary Japanese woman. But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age. In March, she became the first mixed race contestant to be crowned “Miss Universe Japan,” but not everyone cheered the result.

Because of her darker skin she was criticized online for “not being Japanese enough” and there were those who wanted to know why a “pure” Japanese had not been chosen.

Even Ariana had her doubts when she was declared the winner out of 44 finalists. “Is it really all right that it’s me?” was her first reaction. She admits she worried a lot about what people thought.

But when she came to see that there were far more people supporting her than putting her down, she became brighter about the future and the kind of role she could play. “I’d like to participate in movements that fight against racism and stereotypes,” she says.

“My mother is Japanese and my father is African-American. Probably that’s why I got so much attention,” Ariana says with a laugh. Some of her classmates in Sasebo, Nagasaki, used to bully her, saying things like, “Don’t swim in the same pool ’cause your skin will rub off on me.”

As a biracial child wondering where she should fit in, Ariana would frequently turn to her mother, who would encourage her by saying, “Everyone envies you for your beauty.”

Ariana’s parents divorced when she was very young. When she went to the United States to visit her father, she felt comfortable because she found people of many different ethnicities.

After attending a local high school in Arkansas for two years, she returned to Japan. Arriving at Narita airport, she said she was shocked to discover how really Japanese she felt. Every Japanese sign she saw made her feel she was back home.

In a world where racial discrimination and hate speech show no signs of abating, whether in Charleston, South Carolina where nine African-Americans were gunned down in a church, or streets in Shin-Okubo in Tokyo where discrimination is aimed at ethnic Koreans, she wants to make a difference.

Taking advantages of her new fame as Miss Universe Japan, she hopes in the future to campaign for a Japan and a world without prejudice. “I think Japan is showing some signs of change. We see more and more ‘haafu’ (biracial) TV personalities coming onto the scene. I think we can really change,” Ariana said.

Ariana is still unsure about the exact role she will play.

“Now I’m concentrating to be fully prepared for the Miss Universe world event which will take place sometime in 2015. I wish I can participate in some activities to raise awareness and fight against racial discrimination after that.”

The date for the Miss Universe contest, the international beauty pageant owned by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who himself is embroiled in controversy over racially insensitive remarks he made about Mexican immigrants, has not yet been decided.

Hopefully, Ariana’s victory in Japan is a signal that Japanese society is opening to accept more diversity. An added bonus is the pride she will feel by representing her country in the same light when she steps on the world stage.



COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Okay, a few points:

1) The opening paragraph, where the article says, “But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age.”  Well, she IS a native speaker of Japanese, and she IS a typical Japanese her age.  Because she IS a Japanese.  100%.  Even she says so.  Front-loading the articles to reinforce the narrative that she isn’t a Japanese because she has mixed roots is one major problem in this unnecessary debate about Miyamoto-san’s identity.

2) The article is better than many (for example this one or this one) because it doesn’t have the “Duhhhh, duhhhh, she’s just soooo beautiful…!” fawning objectification that a lot of the stunned (male) reporters do when discussing her role and her future.  However,

3) The article is basically bog-standard in terms of talking about Miyamoto, with no new news that hasn’t been reported elsewhere.  One might say that it’s good that her voice is making a Japanese newspaper.  But it really didn’t.  This article didn’t appear in the Japanese version of the Mainichi.  There is no link provided to the Japanese version like it is for other articles on the site (well, it is a Kyodo wire services article, not done by Mainichi reporters; and that’s also indicative).  A search of the Mainichi revealed that it was basically sequestered to a foreign-language-reading audience.  Once again, it’s basically showcase boilerplate for the Gaijin without making a domestic dent.

Anyway, wishes Miyamoto-san well.  I hope that she doesn’t get ground down by the boredom of the same questions over and over again, by the nasty people who police her identity, or by the frustration she may soon feel when she realizes that her optimism about Japan changing was just her being youthful.

Given that her narrative about fighting racial discrimination is basically only showing up in the foreign-language media, the only way I see her really making a change is if she wins Miss Universe.  Then of course Japan and the media will fall all over themselves to claim her as “Japanese” (as they do Nobel Prize winners who move overseas and take foreign nationalities).  And then she’ll have greater leverage.  For that reason, among others, I hope she does win.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Discussion: Abe rams through Japan’s new security guidelines: How will this affect NJ and Visible Minorities in Japan?


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Hi Blog. What’s happening these days in Japan under PM Abe, i.e., the ramming of new security guidelines through the Diet, will have ripple effects for years, particularly in terms of Japan’s legislative practices and constitutional jurisprudence. Not since the days of Abe’s grandfather doing much the same thing, ramming through the US-Japan Security Treaty more than five decades ago (which also did remarkable damage to Japan as a civil society), have recent policy measures been given the potential to undermine the rule of law in Japan. And I say this with all the disappointment of a Japanese citizen, voter, and Japanophile. The Japanese Government has truly shamed itself as a proponent of its own civilization, and its short-sighted voting public has done too little too late to prevent a self-entitled single-minded person as awful as Abe being given a second crack at governance (this time with a majority in both parliamentary houses, no less)., with its focus on life and human rights in Japan as relates to NJ and Visible Minorities, isn’t really in a position to comment on this until it becomes clear how these policy outcomes will affect them. Right now, all can say is that I told you this would happen. Consider my record in real time in my previous Japan Times columns on the rise of Abe and Japan’s looming remilitarization (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Meanwhile, I’m not one to speculate further without more concrete evidence.

Speculation, however, can be your job. What do Readers think the future is for NJ and Visible Minorities under this new Japan where fundamentally-pacifist policy underpinnings are being undermined and circumvented? (We can see the forthcoming attitudes within LDP propaganda very sharply critiqued by Colin P.A. Jones recently in The Japan Times.)

Your turn to crystal-ball. Opening this up for discussion. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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


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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 not 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

“Gaikokujin ja arimasen: An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan”, an academic paper by Dr. Cade Bushnell analyzing the conversation I had with Yunohana management during Otaru Onsen Case


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Hi Blog.  The landmark Otaru Onsens Case of “Japanese Only” signs continues to reverberate more than a decade later.  Dr. Cade Bushnell of the University of Tsukuba kindly sent me the following notification of a research article he wrote, based upon a taped conversation I had with exclusionary management at Onsen Yunohana back in 2000, which precipitated the famous lawsuit.  Please have a read, especially if you are interested in the field of Conversation Analysis.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


July 2, 2015

Dear Dr. Arudou,

Just a note to inform you that my paper featuring your interaction at the bath house has gone public:

Thank you again for your understanding and kind cooperation in allowing me to use the data.

Cade Bushnell
University of Tsukuba


Gaikokujin ja Arimasen (I’m Not a Foreigner):
An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan
Cade BUSHNELL University of Tsukuba, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Associate professor
Journal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, University of Tsukuba, Vol. 7, March 2015

Abstract:  Participants of talk-in-interaction may make various categories and collections of categories relevant to their talk (Hester & Eglin, 1997; Sacks, 1992; Schegloff, 1992, 2007). From an ethnomethodological perspective, such categories are understood not as static possessions, but rather as being assembled by the participants on a moment to moment basis as they co-construct their interaction (Hester & Eglin, 1997; Nishizaka, 1995, 1999; Psathas, 1999; Watson, 1997). Additionally, the participants’ co-construction of, alignment to, or contestation of categories may reflexively affect the sequential organization of their talk (Watson, 1997).

In the present research, I examine a service encounter between a Caucasian Japanese national, his two friends, and the racially Japanese staff of a public bath house in Japan. In the analysis, I use conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis to examine the specific ways in which the participants co-construct the categories of Japanese and foreigner, how they constitute the category Japanese as being bound to differential sets of attributes, rights, legal statuses, and so forth, and how they treat these mutually different categorical constitutions as being problematic for assembling the real-world activity of using the bath house facilities. I also consider how the sequential and categorial aspects of the talk jointly work to make the interaction visible as being a dispute as the participants align to or contest categories in their interaction.

Keywords: Conversation Analysis, Membership Categorization Analysis, Dispute Talk, Discrimination, Nationality

Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada


eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog.  Got an interesting story to tell.


Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada.  My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course.  That’s all I have.

The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport.  You don’t look Japanese.”

I said, “Let’s not go there.  Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager.  When the manager appeared, I indicated that his employee had made an untoward comment about my physical appearance and legal status.  “How would you like it,” I said to the teller, “if I said to you, ‘It’s funny you have a Canadian passport.  You don’t look Canadian.’?”  (It it important to add at this juncture that the teller was a Korean-Canadian immigrant — I know because I requested his name from the manager later.*)

The manager ascertained that the teller had said what he had said, and then was told that this behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws.  He was then sent home for the day, presumably without pay.

The bank manager and I then sat down in his office where he offered his sincere apologies.  And he told me over the course of a relaxed and empathetic discussion that he understood very well where I was coming from.  He himself is Metis, a minority in Canada of mixed First-Nations and settler peoples, but he apparently doesn’t “look Metis” to Canadians.  This becomes an issue whenever he, for example, bargains for a car at an automobile dealership, but has his identity policed by the dealer whenever he indicates that his indigenous status in Canada exempts him from Canadian taxes.  “I produce my First-Nations ID card, of course, but I hate it when people doubt my identity just because I don’t ‘look Indian’ to them, especially when they say so carelessly out loud.  This is unacceptable behavior for them, and it’s unacceptable for my employees too.”

That’s the way it’s done.  None of these crappy “cultural/linguistic misunderstandings” excuses, no shallow apologies and then everyone gets back to work undisturbed, and zero tolerance for assuming that people have to “look” a certain way to be a “real” member of a people or nation/state.  Justice was commensurate, swift, and public.  Well done Canada.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

(*CLARIFICATION JULY 3, 2015:  I also deduced that the teller was a landed immigrant because a) he worked in this local branch of a Canadian bank, and you would probably need landed status in Canada in order to get that kind of job, and b) based on his Korean accent, English wasn’t his first language.  However, I made no issue of these assumptions whatsoever during our exchange.  I only asked for his empathy by putting the shoe on the other foot, saying, “How would you like it if…”.)



Hello. I would like your readers to know that I was also there as an eyewitness, and the blog post doesn’t really tell what I think to be the whole story. It’s important that you see that there was more to this case than Debito quickly typed up while on vacation, because some people are really misunderstanding what happened.

Reveal: I am a Canadian who has lived here for more than 40 years. I’ve also lived in Japan and the United States, and, for the record, I am a white woman. I can’t reveal any more than that because Debito has stalkers.

Debito’s recounting of the story is correct until the part where he writes that, “The manager had ascertained that the teller had said what he had said.” What happened was this:

The teller asked for Debito’s ID in order to complete our requested transaction. Debito showed his Japanese passport. The teller verified his ID, looked back and forth at Debito’s face and the passport, and then made the comment, “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

Debito said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Note that Debito did NOT raise his voice, nor did he accost anybody. MY reaction was one of shock, disappointment, and embarrassment to be a Canadian. I said to the teller, “I’m sorry, but we have laws against this sort of racial discrimination in Canada. You shouldn’t be saying that.”

The teller then apologized. “You are right, I should not have said that.”

And then we asked to speak with the manager. This was NOT about this issue, but a separate one regarding the original transaction. But the teller then proceeded to tell us that we didn’t NEED to speak to the manager. The transaction was complete.

I then requested, “I WANT to speak to the manager.” He again told us again that we didn’t need to, the transaction was complete.

It was at that time where the manager, whose office was within earshot of the teller’s booth, came to our assistance. I asked the manager about the original transaction issue, and he gave us an answer. But because I was so agitated by the terrible customer service, we THEN brought the other ID issue up with the manager. And I said to the manager, “This kind of comment is against Canadian law.” And the manager AGREED and apologized on behalf of the teller, himself, and the bank.

We then exited the bank, but when we got to the car, I said to Debito, “You know, that was weird. As a member of this bank for more than 35 years, I’d like to go back and get the name of the teller and the manager so I can write the bank about this.”

When we re-entered the bank, the manager greeted us. It was THEN that we were told that because the teller’s behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws, the manager had sent him home for the day. (Note that we did NOT request that the teller be sent home for the day. We had no idea about what would occur. If we hadn’t gone back, we wouldn’t even know that that had happened, and it wouldn’t be part of this discussion. We also still don’t know anything about pay deduction, official reprimand, etc. After all, we did not request anything like that.)

The manager then invited us to sit down in his office, where he took the time to relay his own story about his identity being policed as a First-Nations person, as Debito wrote. He also told us that he too had been to Japan and had to deal with a lot of ID policing as well.

In fact, the manager ENCOURAGED us to write a letter about this employee to bank headquarters. He gave us the teller’s card and his own.

Now I want to make clear what everyone seems to be getting wrong about Debito: At NO time did he have a temper tantrum, threaten or attack anyone, push anybody around, or even raise his voice. He had a very graceful, calm discussion at all times. This kind of myth that you have about Debito, going in and bullying people do to things, is TOTALLY unfounded. If you’ve never personally been with Debito in a situation like this, then you shouldn’t make comments or assumptions like these.

I left the situation feeling proud a) to be a Canadian, and b) that we have this type of system. Unlike what I’ve experienced many times in situations in Japan, I left this humiliating bank situation FEELING LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

I’ve grown up with various Visible Minorities in Canada — Asians, Africans, First Nations, etc. — where I was not in the majority. I have never experienced this kind of blatant policing of identity in Canada. Never in Canada – not even at the Canadian border – has anyone so blatantly questioned Debito’s passport or policed his identity like what I witnessed at this bank.

What’s even more appalling to me is not what happened at the bank, but the way you all have judged Debito, and seeing the teller, who broke the law, as the VICTIM. The law in Canada is set up to protect people from this situation, and it’s one of the reasons why Canada is an easier place to live. But why are many of you, particularly when you’re living in Japan as second-class residents, seeing the teller who started all this as the victim here?

This is not how our customer service industry behaves. It’s not the teller’s naivete. It’s his own personal stuff that he’s pushing on us. The teller personally took a risk in making that comment. If the roles were reversed, and I made a comment like that, the same punishment would befall me. It should.

Happy Canada Day!


Looking for substantiation of change in editorial bent at Japan Today etc. after acquisition by right-wing Fuji Media Holdings


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Hi Blog.  On the road at the moment, got a quick question for you:

Following the recent acquisition of GPlus Media by right-wing media conglomerate Fuji Media Holdings, I’ve been hearing murmurs about changes in editorial policy over at Japan Today (and Gaijin Pot) of deletion of comments that are critical of the Japanese government etc.

Let’s try to go beyond murmur.  I have a reporter who would like some substantiation for an article.  Has anyone saved copies of their critical comments that were deleted?  Or if you comment there from now (keep your comments sane, please), could you keep an eye on it? (Screen captures would be nice.)  Please let know.  Thanks.

Brief entry for today.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE JUNE 29, 2015:  Proof of Fuji Media Holdings’ editorial bent:

Fuji TV apologizes for subtitles inaccurately quoting South Koreans


Fuji TV apologized Monday for running subtitles during a show earlier this month that inaccurately described South Koreans interviewed on the street as saying they “hate” Japan.

The apology came after online criticism mounted over the weekend, with people saying the major broadcaster may have fabricated the subtitles to breed anti-Korea sentiment among the Japanese public.

When contacted by The Japan Times on Monday, Fuji TV denied such an allegation, explaining that the subtitles were simply a result of human error during the editing process and that there was absolutely no malice intended.

The show, “Akira Ikegami Kinkyu Special,” which translates as “Akira Ikegami Emergency (or Urgent) Special,” aired on June 5, a few weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea.

Moderated by popular freelance journalist Akira Ikegami, the program featured a segment about “why Koreans hate the Japanese so much.”

Among people interviewed on the streets of Seoul was a high school girl, who, according to the subtitles, said, “I hate Japan because it tormented Korea.”

However, she can be heard saying in Korean: “(South Korea) has a rich culture. I think that’s why many foreigners visit us.”

Another, a man in his 30s, was also misrepresented. According to the subtitles, he expressed “hatred” for this country, when in fact he was only criticizing what he called Japan’s lack of remorse for its wartime atrocities.

Rest at

スポーツ報知 6月30日(火)7時4分配信, courtesy of BM

フジテレビは29日、5日に放送された特別番組「池上彰 緊急スペシャル!」で韓国人へのインタビューを放送した際、字幕と実際の映像が異なっていたと発表しおわびの文章を公式サイトに掲載した。番組では、韓国の女性が自国について語っている映像に合わせて「(日本のことが)嫌いですよ」などという字幕を付けて放送。同局は、編集作業のミスが原因だとしている。








2015年6月29日13時41分 スポーツ報知

フジテレビは29日、5日放送の番組「池上彰 緊急スペシャル!」で、日本についての韓国人へのインタビューを放送した際、「嫌いですよ」などとする字幕と実際の映像が異なっていたとして、おわびの文書を公式サイトに掲載した。




Honolulu Weekly Feb 9 1994: “Prints of Darkness”: Ronald Fujiyoshi, Hawaiian fighter of GOJ fingerprinting of NJ, 20 years ago says prescient things about future Japan


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
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Hello Blog.  Sorry for the delay — latest book revisions taking up a lot of time.  I thought we’d go back to the archives today and look at a twenty-year-old article that appeared in Honolulu’s late, great alternative newspaper (which folded only recently), that has as much to say about the present situation of human rights for NJ residents of Japan as it did when it came out about a generation ago.  In retrospect, it’s amazing how little has changed. Have a read.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito



When civil-rights activist/missionary Ronald Fujiyoshi refused to be fingerprinted in compliance with Japan’s Alien Registration Law in 1981, he launched a personal attack on the Japanese government which still hasn’t ended.  

February 9, 1994. Honolulu Weekly magazine, by David Flack

For Ronald Fujiyoshi, the Japanese government’s abusive fingerprinting requirement for foreign residents is only part of a vast matrix of institutionalized racial discrimination and totalitarian social control.

PHOTO: Fujiyoshi holds a press conference during his 25-day hunger strike.

Perhaps few people in Hawaii are watching Japan as closely as Ronald Fujiyoshi. His primary interest is the way the new government is officially dealing with racism. On this issue Fujiyoshi is fervently and outspokenly critical of Japan, and he speaks from experience. Living there for 15 years, working as a missionary in Osaka in the Korean-Japanese community, he engaged in an act of civil disobedience when he refused to be fingerprinted — as all foreign residents were then required by the government to do. Compelled to leave Japan in 1988, he is allowed to return only to attend court hearings for his trial, which is still in progress.

Last summer Japan embarked on what may be its most important transition period in recent history. Fed up with the “business as usual” tactics that have led to rampant corruption in Japan’s political circles for the last several years, on July 18 the country’s voters deprived the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of its majority in the Japanese Diet for the first time since World War II. The resulting coalition, a curious collection of opposition parties from both the left and right of the political spectrum, took the helm of the world’s second largest economy with little more than high hopes as its guide. Many experts predict the alliance’s demise before the end of 1994.

Fujiyoshi is keeping his fingers crossed that real change is in the air. After waging his own personal battle against the Japanese government for the greater part of the last two decades, the 53-year-old Hilo resident is hopeful that the recent change in government is a sign that the Japanese people have at last begun to fight back against what he contends is a sinister system which has been unjustly subjugating them for centuries.

Fujiyoshi’s personal beef is Japan’s latent racism, which he maintains is knowingly cultivated by the country’s ruling circles in order to foster an “us vs. them” mentality. Japan’s alien-registration laws are widely known to be among the most rigid and strictly enforced in the world. It has long been a complaint among non-Japanese immigrants in Japan that the laws are also part of a greater government scheme to prevent them from feeling completely at ease in their adopted homeland, withhold full citizenship rights and relegate them to positions of permanent underclass status in the overall economic tapestry of the nation.

Especially onerous to Fujiyoshi was the Japanese government’s longstanding policy of insisting that all foreign residents and criminal suspects in Japan submit fingerprints for identification purposes.

Being grouped with criminals and thus treated as undesirables created acute resentment in the Korean-Japanese community, over 700,000 strong and representing roughly four out of five of Japan’s foreign residents. Many of them have lived in Japan for several generations; their relatives were originally brought there forcibly during World War II as military conscripts or factory workers. They are still treated as outsiders, and their “alien” status frequently denies them jobs, housing and scholarships. Fujiyoshi contends that the fingerprint policy is both unconstitutional by Japan’s own admitted standards and an abhorrent violation of the United Nations International Covenant of Human Rights, to which Japan is a signatory.

Bowing to pressure which Fujiyoshi helped to apply, the Japanese Diet finally dropped the controversial fingerprinting clause for those non-Japanese who were bom and raised in Japan.

Despite being widely recognized as a front man for the grass-roots movement to have the law overturned, Fujiyoshi is hesitant to claim much credit personally for the Diet’s decision to repeal the statute. “You must remember that I was not the only person who refused to be fingerprinted,” he says. “Since 1980 nearly 15,000 people have done it.” Neither was he the first to disobey the law; several Japanese of Korean ancestry preceeded him. Most will agree, however, that among those who did protest, Fujiyoshi was certainly among the most energetic — and, as a result, emerged as a leader and spokesman for the movement.

Fujiyoshi has long been involved with civil rights. Bom in Los Angeles and raised on Kauai, he moved to the Big Island with his family when his father was transferred to Hilo by his chuch. As a young man in his 20s, Fujiyoshi left Hawaii in 1963 to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary, the same institution that Jesse Jackson would join a year later. The two became good friends; Jackson visited him in Japan in 1986. Fujiyoshi spent much of his seminary service in Chicago working in a black ghetto on the city’s west side. “Can you imagine me,” he says, “a local boy fresh off the Big Island, going from here to a Chicago ghetto? That was a real baptism.”

Fujiyoshi first journeyed to Asia in 1968 on a fellowship in Singapore with the World Council of Churches. He remained in Southeast Asia for five years, working as a lay missionary and slowly gaining notoriety for his activist, hands-on approach to organizing and helping groups of industrial workers in economically distressed communities. “The Church was saying all the right things on Sunday mornings,” he says, “but the world was not changing. I became more interested in learning the skills necessary to actually solve some of the problems.”

His reputation for problem solving in the real world grew. In 1973 the Korean Christian Church asked him to relocate to Japan to help improve the living conditions of the sizable Korean population there. He took up residence in Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, home of Japan’s largest Korean community, where he spent the next 15 years living and working, voluntarily subjecting himself to the same long hours and low wages of the people he had come to help. Eventually he was able to earn their trust.

Fujiyoshi’s first open clash with the Japanese government came in 1981. Claiming that it was a violation of his basic human rights, he refused to comply with the fingerprinting requirement of Japan’s Alien Registration Law. He was indicted in 1982 and embarked on a civil-rights campaign within Japan’s court system which soon became a twisted game of cat-and-mouse. Four years after his initial indictment, Fujiyoshi was found guilty by the Kobe District Court but fined a mere $70. He faced another token fine after his appeal was rejected at the Osaka High Court. “It was just a slap on the wrist,” Fujiyoshi says of the fines, which were deliberately set at levels low enough for him to be able to afford. “They wanted to make sure that the decision was ‘guilty’ but also give the impression that the Japanese government is very benevolent.”

This face-saving charade was finally abandoned when the Japanese government refused to grant Fujiyoshi a permit that would have allowed him to re-enter Japan after returning to the U.S. to visit his ailing father-in-law. He responded to this action by embarking on a 25-day hunger strike aimed at publicly embarrassing the intransigent Japanese officials. He has since been given a special visa which allows him to return to Japan — but only to attend his own court hearings. Though he has been back in Hawaii since 1988, it is clear that his thoughts still lie in Japan. “I don’t feel like I ever left,” he says. “As long as my case is still being tried by the Japanese courts, I cannot separate myself from Japan.” Fujiyoshi has appealed his case to the Japanese Supreme Court, where it currently sits in quiet and secret deliberation. The process can take years, and a decision can come unannounced at any time. Feeling certain that his appeal will eventually be rejected by Japan’s highest court, he is already planning his next move. “If I lose this appeal,” he says, “then I will conclude that the Japanese judicial system cannot give me the justice I deserve. It is then my right to appeal the decision to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.” This might prove to be Fujiyoshi’s most powerful weapon. At a time when Japan is struggling with itself and the rest of the globe to find its appropriate niche in the world community, Fujiyoshi’s charges of racism and his refusal to be silenced could be a severe embarrassment to the Japanese government.

Those in power in Japan attempted to render the entire issue moot after the Showa emperor Hirohito’s death. In his honor an Imperial pardon was promulgated which granted amnesty to most of the defendants of fingerprinting cases still in litigation. It was purely a political move, Fujiyoshi asserts, a feeble effort to diffuse the issue before it could gain a measurable amount of publicity outside the country. With Fujiyoshi’s assistance and encouragement, other fingerprint refusers declined the offer and instead called a press conference to denounce the pardon. “The court’s acquittal of the refusers presumes that they are guilty and should be judged,” Fujiyoshi points out, “when it is the government and the emperor’s system that need to be examined.”

Fujiyoshi’s disdain for Japan’s governing institutions extends beyond the fingerprinting issue. The system in place in today’s Japan, he asserts, is the direct descendant of the nationalistic bodies that evolved following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the country emerged from a prolonged period of political chaos with a reinvigorated sense of national identity and a perceived “divine right” to culturally convert other Asians and make them loyal citizens of Japan.

Fujiyoshi characterizes Japan’s approach to its minority peoples as one of “assimilation and control.” He has argued in court that the Alien Registration Law is part of a larger Japanese government policy of controlling other Asian and Pacific peoples by forcibly “Japanizing” them: compelling them both directly and indirectly to conceal their ethnicity. This system of assimilation and control results directly in the exploitation of Asians by relegating them to the lowest echelon of the country’s economic caste system, he contends. He sees it as a continuation of repressive prewar policies which forced colonial subjects to adopt Japanese names, speak Japanese exclusively in public, wear Japanese clothing and worship only at Shinto shrines.

Fujiyoshi lambasts the myth painstakingly cultivated by the government that the Japanese are descendants of a pure race. “The people in authority perpetuate the myth that Japan is a homogeneous society,” he claims. “It provides strong socialcohesiveness, and people can then be more easily controlled. And by keeping the people controlled, the government can also keep control of the economy.”

Therein lies the import of Fujiyoshi’s thesis, that the core issue is not merely a dispute between the central government and its peripheral minorities; the policy affects all of Japan’s citizens in equally disastrous ways. The Japanese nation can be compared to a crowded boat, the theory goes, and if too many more are allowed on board, the boat will capsize and everyone will drown. It stands to reason that the few who are permitted on board will be those whom the Japanese government deems to be of little threat to its fostered image of Japan as a single-race country. “Discrimination against the Korean people is not just a holdover of some misunderstandings of history, and it’s not a part of a modem ideology to control non-Japanese people,” Fujiyoshi warns. “It is an attempt to control the Japanese people themselves.”

For Fujiyoshi, state-sanctioned racism is bad enough, but even more repugnant is the denial of its existence by most Japanese. He maintains that the power structure, for its own purposes, is using its tremendous control over the media (and consequent influence on public opinion) to perpetuate the traditional notion that there are only three major races in the world. “According to this view, all there are are Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid stocks,” says Fujiyoshi, recounting the argument he has heard more times than he cares to remember. This belief is worse than oversimplistic: It makes it possible for the Japanese government to exclude from the category of racial discrimination its dealings with other Asian and Pacific peoples living in the country. Japan can safely perceive itself as a country of only one race and sincerely believe that the racial conflicts plaguing the rest of the world can’t happen there.

According to Fujiyoshi, the primary flaw in this reasoning is that it completely disregards ethnicity: vast differences in culture, language and religion among peoples of the alleged three major racial stocks. And in the process it allows Japan to impose a bureaucratic system for other Asians living within its borders which, practically anywhere else in the world, would be denounced as institutionalized racial discrimination.

The Japanese government is a manipulative entity, Fujiyoshi asserts, which must be forced to confront the falsehoods it has been knowingly (and unknowingly) propagating. Sadly, the problem did not go away with the change in the country’s fingerprint laws. Now that Japan’s resident Koreans have had their burden partially lifted, the recent trend in the country has been to target South Asian peoples whose appearance is more easily discernible from their Japanese hosts. With the current economic slowdown proving to be stubbornly resilient, Fujiyoshi fears that these newer immigrants will become the scapegoats of the recession. “The assimilation and control policy attempts to stamp out the identity of long-term Asians and replace it with Japanese identity,” he says. “Until the Japanese government’s policy is ended, no real solution is in sight. Until their internal economic colony is eliminated, the other Asian and Pacific people in Japan will continue to be exploited because they are considered inferior. Until the national state ideology is exposed for what it is, the Japanese people will continue to be indoctrinated with a hidden racism toward other Asian and Pacific peoples.”

The coalition that assumed control of Japan a few months ago has the potential to effect profound changes rather than mere cosmetic modifications to enhance the government’s image. Fujiyoshi fears that even if his motives are genuine, the newly elected prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, may not be powerful enough to make a real difference. But his early actions show some promise. In an attempt to distance himself from past LDP bungles, Hosokawa has already delivered several sincere apologies for Japan’s controversial actions in World War II. Specifically mentioned were the “comfort women” of Asia who where forcibly conscripted and supplied to Japanese soldiers on the front lines during World War II. “Up until now the Japanese government wouldn’t admit its complicity,” Fujiyoshi says. “With the comfort women, once they admit what they are capable of, an entire can of worms is opened. Any official statement that relates to their attitude toward foreigners is significant. After that their treatment of all foreigners can then be called into question.” Now that the fingerprinting requirement has been abolished for permanent alien residents of Japan, does Fujiyoshi see a fundamental shift in the Japanese government’s way? “If the government was halfway repentant,” he says, “they would have done away with fingerprinting entirely.

If they were truly repentant, they would do away with the entire policy of assimilation.” Fujiyoshi’s brightest hope is the Japanese people. Now that Japan has emerged as one of the world’s most affluent nations, the Japanese are traveling abroad in record numbers. Young people are venturing overseas and experiencing other cultures. Many become exchange students. Fujiyoshi predicts severe conflict in the years ahead as the Japanese people become more accepting of other cultures on the one hand, and the government continues to espouse its hard-line stance on the other. “To be honest, I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out,” Fujiyoshi admits, “but if this new coalition can hold together, it will be very significant.” The leadership of the country, after all, will still be in control of education and the media. “Japanese history books refer to Korea as a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan. Just think how different it would be if Korea was instead viewed as a bridge connecting Japan to the wealth and riches of other Asian cultures.”

Now that he has all but exhausted his options in Japan’s legal system, Fujiyoshi’s passions are turning toward the recently formed United States-Japan Committee for Racial Justice, which assigned to itself as one of its first missions the daunting task of formulating a set of guidelines to help prevent potential future racist confrontations between the two countries from erupting into uncontrollable conflagrations of hate.

Despite these recent changes, Fujiyoshi still remains cautiously pessimistic about long-term prospects for United States-Japan relations. Racism is alive and well in both countries, he declares, evidenced by the lack of sensitivities on both sides of the Pacific during the 50th-anniversary observations of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. America exploited the anniversary as an opportunity to boost patriotism at a time when the U.S. government and economy had both come down with symptoms of terminal gridlock. Japan used the occasion to further alienate itself from America and the rest of Asia by not only refusing to apologize for the attack but even suggesting that Japan may not have been entirely responsible for the war in the Pacific. Fujiyoshi sees the possibility of an alarming increase of similar misunderstandings in the future as the once-solid friendship between the United States and Japan is further taxed by the economic slowdowns currently sapping both countries. “We need to adjust to the changes that are occurring,” he says, “and to join with others in dealing with some of the fundamental contradictions that remain in our societies. Only when people feel proud of what they are can they work well with others.”


Postscript:  Ronald Fujiyoshi now lives on Big Island and continues his human rights work there.

Film record of Debito in action negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment in Shinjuku: excerpt from documentary “Sour Strawberries” (2009)


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
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Hi Blog. As a follow-up to the previous blog entry, where I cited somebody who (ironically) accused me of dealing with people by “launch[ing] immediately into angry, confrontational accusations“, here’s an actual movie record of me in action.

This is part of a documentary by Daniel Kremers and Tilman Koenig named “Sour Strawberries: Japan’s Hidden Guest Workers” (2009), talking about how Japan’s NJ, as a labor force and a resident population, are being treated in Japanese society. It is an excellent film that touches upon many important subjects, and it can be previewed and purchased here.

I appear for about five minutes within negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment, one of the dozens upon dozens I have talked with over the years, to confirm the facts of each case (recorded for posterity at the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments) and investigate the firmness of the exclusionary policy. See it for yourself:

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

AOL News: J-League soccer ref speaks English to, then denigrates Japanese-German player, denies anything discriminatory. But then official protests from club!


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
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Hi Blog.  Read this article and then I’ll comment:


Japan Soccer League 2: Did referee Takayama use discriminatory language towards Avispa Fukuoka’s Sakai Noriyoshi? Outrage on the Internet.
AOL News, June 10, 2015, courtesy of MMT, article below, translation by Debito

In the June 6 J2 match between teams Avispa Fukuoka and Tokushima Vortis, it has come to light in a club statement that Referee Takayama Hiroyoshi used discriminatory language against Fukuoka player Sakai Noriyoshi.

Sakai Noriyoshi is the younger brother of Japan soccer representative Sakai Goutoku, who is half-Japanese, half-German. In the 35th minute of the second half during a foul, Referee Takayama asked in English “Are you OK?”, to which Sakai answered in Japanese, “Daijoubu desu”. Takayama then apparently said, “What the… you [using omae, a masculine, informal, often disparaging or belligerent way to say “you”], you can speak Japanese after all.” To which the bystanding players protested.

At that time Referee Takayama promised that he would apologize after the game, but no apologies were forthcoming. The club protested to the commissioner, but during investigations Takayama denied that there was any discriminatory statement made.

Although some on the Internet held the opinion that “This was a simple misunderstanding”, many more were critical of Takayama, saying “Even if a mistake had been made, the problem is this attitude afterwards of denying anything discriminatory was said at all”, “Above all else, this very discourse of ‘omigod you can speak Japanese’ is tantamount to an insult, isn’t it?”, “After 10 years of blowing whistles for the J-League, it’s incredible that [Takayama] wouldn’t know who Sakai is”.

Working as a J-League referee from 2002, Takayama is a veteran international ref. After this incident the J-League fans’ comments turned to criticisms of Takayama’s past mistaken calls. The club itself sees this incident as something serious, and Avispa Fukuoka plans to issue a statement on this to the J-League.


COMMENT:  Did you just see what I saw?

1) A ref basically dealt with a player in a racialized manner (assuming that a player who to him looked “foreign” had to be spoken to in a foreign language; English of course — what else do “foreigners” speak?).

2) The ref made a sarcastic statement of surprise about someone looking foreign speaking Japanese (a common microaggression).

3) Bystanding players made an issue of it.  (Amazing in itself, given how people who suffer from these types of microaggressions are usually told to grin and bear them.)

4) The ref broke his promise to apologize, in fact denied the fundamental fact of the case.

and… this is the most important bit:

5) The club stood by their player and made an issue of it too.  They’re not just sweeping this under the carpet and telling Sakai that he has to grow a pair and be less sensitive.  They are telling Takayama (and Sakai, and the authorities, and the public) that this is irresponsible and unprofessional behavior.

One more pleasant surprise was how the Internet reacted (or was reported to have reacted — often the reporters themselves buy into the microaggression and write a biased article misrepresenting the issue).  They saw the microaggression for what it is — a means to police someone’s identity into a disempowered place.  It also helped that the Takayama misjudged how his reflex to deny everything would only make the problem worse.  Great call.

As far as sees things, this is definite progress, and hopefully the arc being traced since the J-League punished the “Japanese Only” J-League exclusionism in March 2014.  Bravo to the players, the reporter, and the club for doing something about this. As FIFA themselves say, racism has no place in sports, and cracking down here even on a seemingly minor (but significant in terms of zero tolerance) incident makes for a rare positive precedent in Japan’s egregiously racialized sports leagues (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Let’s see if Takayama actually grows a pair of his own and apologizes.  Perhaps if this issue leaks into the foreign-language media (this guy is an international ref, after all), he might.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Original Japanese:

AOLニュース 2015年6月10日 12時00分 (2015年6月11日 10時03分 更新)


酒井宣福は、日本代表・酒井高徳の弟で日本人とドイツ人のハーフだが、試合後半35分のファールの際に主審が「Are You OK?」英語で質問したところ日本語で「大丈夫です」と返した酒井に「なんだ、お前、日本語を話せるんだ」と応じ、居合わせた選手から抗議を受けていたという。





Similar Sports Nippon article:

日独ハーフのMF酒井に主審が差別的発言 J2福岡が意見書提出へ
スポニチ 2015年6月10日 06:30


問題のシーンは後半35分、接触プレーで倒れ込んだ福岡のMF酒井宣福(のりよし=22)に「Are you OK?」と英語で質問。「大丈夫です」と日本語で返されると「なんだ、お前、日本語を話せるんだ」と嘲笑しながら応じたという。やり取りを見ていたチームメートから「審判それはないでしょ」と突っ込まれると「後で謝る」と約束したが、謝罪はなかった。



J Times Kingston on Abe’s intimidation of media: You know it’s getting bad when even apologist bigot Gregory Clark complains about Rightists targeting him


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Hi Blog. Now here’s a wonderful turn of events that I can’t help feeling a bit karmic about.

Gregory Clark, columnist for the Japan Times and xenophobic perpetual denier of racism in Japan (he’s even had a JT column entitled “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people“!), has gone beyond petty whines about, say, how he couldn’t enforce his White Privilege and make Roppongi police arrest some “African touts” because they were “hecklers”.  Now he’s complaining about something far more serious — about being targeted by Japan’s right wing. Check out this excerpt from Jeff Kingston’s most recent commentary in the Japan Times:


From “Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan”, by Jeff Kingston, Japan Times, May 16, 2015

JT: “[Government officials] have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” [US-based journalist Ayako Doi] says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.” […]

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Full article at

COMMENT: That’s how bad it’s getting for NJ in Japan — even the worm has turned. But it’s pretty rich for Clark to say this given the past fabrications and intimidations, not to mention decades of profiteering from pandering to those forces that have now turned against him. As for claims of “defamation”, how about the long-standing vituperative (okay, I’ll use his favorite word: “ugly”) criticism doled out towards anyone who questioned the system and its unfairness to anyone else in a similar position as a long-term resident (and in my case, a citizen) of Japan?

I’m not sure you have a leg to stand on here, Greg.  After all, isn’t discriminating against you a right for Japanese people?discriminating against you a right for Japanese people?

I’ll let Reader JDG conclude this blog entry:


JDG:  Please spare a moment’s thought for the plight of Gregory Clark. Even though this has happened to him (and seriously, see how low an opinion of him is held in the article ‘Our Other Man in Japan’), I have to say that such intimidation and discrimination, EVEN against Gregory Clark, is deplorable (in fact, when you or I are discriminated, we get the whole apologist slapdown. When it happens to Clark, suddenly it’s ‘The Forces of Darkness’! I mean what is this? Lord of the Rings?). I just wish that he’d used all his years of access to policy makers to work to improve the lot of NJ in Japan, rather than for his own personal gain, and IMHO, vain pride and sense of self-entitlement.

Anyhow, starting with that time he got annoyed with the police because they didn’t care who he was, and therefore didn’t arrest some black guys for him, he seems to have just gone downhill. What’s next? Black vans outside his house, and bullets from the uyoku in the post?

Since I read in previous articles about Gregory that he was loaded and flush with cash from property deals and public speaking, I won’t be asking readers to donate any money to get Gregory off the street, nor will I be asking any of you to ‘adopt an Australian’ for $5 a month (or anything like that).

Dear Greg,
If you’re reading this, you always have a home here with us (maybe. I dunno, after all, it’s Dr. Debito’s page, and you’ve been kind of critical of him in the past. Just sayin’.). What I mean is, now that you’ve seen Japan ‘through the looking glass’ as it were, had your bubble burst, and have experienced the kind of discrimination that you always said didn’t exist for NJ in Japan, anytime you want to pitch in and lend a weighty hand in this struggle for human rights, we (well, I guess ‘I’, after all, I can’t speak for the others) would welcome you, and your past sins would be forgiven, as it were (again, that’s an ‘I’ statement).

Yours sincerely, JDG (the kind of NJ you wouldn’t have given the time of day to).



Online media outlet Japan Today acquired by right-wing Fuji Media Holdings, meaning Japan Times is last E-media news organization independent of J-media conglomerates


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Hello Blog.  Something rather important happened within Japan’s English-language media landscape last month, and it’s only now starting (after some prodding) to come to light:  Another NJ media voice has been absorbed by Japanese conglomerates:  Japan Today, an online media outlet founded in 2001 by NJ (and — full disclosure — for whom I worked for two years as one of their founding columnists until they stopped paying me properly).

This matters.  Back in the 1990s we had a number of other outlets employing NJ reporters and offering a degree of news that served and spoke to the NJ communities in Japan (those that read English, anyway).  Since then almost all of them have withered or winked out.  Left-leaning Mainichi Shimbun succumbed to economic pressures and made its English-language daily into an online-only outlet that is a mere shadow publication (moreover succumbed to the pressure of online trolls by crucifying their reporters who dared translate scandalous Japanese tabloid media for their popular WaiWai column).  The Centrist-Right Asahi Evening News, to bust their unionizing NJ employees, fired all of their reporters and now merely offers a translation service for what they write in Japanese (their presses closed down completely in 2010).  Rightist Yomiuri Shinbun whitewashed itself by recently changing its name of its English-language publication from Daily Yomiuri to the anodyne and root-free The Japan News, and since it takes any criticism of Japan by a NJ as a personal affront, it basically marginalized its English-langauge staff into writing book reviews and fluff pieces before Asahi-ing them into proofreaders also.  The last major national news outlet, the Sankei Shinbun, never bothered projecting their farther-right views into English.  Until now, when it bought up Japan Today.

That just leaves the Japan Times as a serious news outlet outside of Japanese conglomerate control.  I am proud to be amongst their ranks as a columnist pushing for media independence from a current political milieu under PM Abe increasingly intolerant of criticism.  But even they have seen their Community Pages drop from four days per week to two.  So support your Japan Times however and whenever you can, everyone.  They’re all that are left, and if they get absorbed, it’s pretty clear that they’ll just become a mouthpiece for the Japanese corporate narrative all over again.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


The Japan Times, NATIONAL
Japan Today says it will retain foreign perspective despite acquisition by conglomerate Fuji Media

Japan Today, a popular news website bought by a Fuji Media Holdings group company last month, will stick to its motto of presenting news “through the perspectives of foreigners” despite the change in ownership, the media conglomerate says.

Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings, Inc., announced April 7 that it had acquired GPlus Media Co., which runs several English-language websites, including Japan Today and classifieds ads site GaijinPot.

GPM, founded in 2001 by two expat entrepreneurs, is now headed by Tadashi Tokizawa, president and CEO of Fuji TV-Lab, a website production company under the Fuji Media group. GPM’s founders will stay on as directors, an FMH spokeswoman said in an email to The Japan Times.

“GPM will enhance its reporting ability and its entertainment information by joining the FMH,” the spokeswoman said. “The firm also will seek tie-ups with other companies under the FMH media conglomerate. . . . The (GPM) founders Peter Wilson and Erik Gain will continue to provide comprehensive advice from the perspectives of foreign entrepreneurs.”

In the month since the acquisition by the Fuji group, which has the Fuji Television Network under its wing and the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun as an affiliate, no drastic change has been observed on the Japan Today website, which provides a wide variety of news on Japan in English mostly via foreign wire services and in-house articles citing vernacular media.

Since late March, articles citing Fuji TV and Sankei — mostly about crime and other social news — seem to have become more conspicuous, though the site still uses other news sources.

The Sankei Shimbun is known for its often hawkish take on politics. In February, it drew fire when it ran an Op-Ed piece by conservative writer Ayako Sono, who called for immigrants of different ethnic groups to live in separate places — a statement widely taken as endorsing racial segregation.

Fuji TV, meanwhile, has been somewhat neutral in its editorial stance, with its strengths lying in entertainment and cultural content.




GPlus Media acquired by Fuji Media Holdings group company
April 7, 2015

Fuji TV-Lab, LLC (President & CEO: Tadashi Tokizawa, Fuji TV-Lab), a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings, Inc. (President & COO: Hideaki Ota, FMH), has announced the acquisition of GPlus Media Co., Ltd. (GPM).

[Prestige English media in Japan]
GPM, a pioneer media company targeting the international community in Japan and abroad, operates several leading English websites such as Japan Today, which covers breaking news from Japan, and GaijinPot, which offers job and lifestyle information for foreigners in Japan and global readers who are interested in Japan.

[Matching needs]
The Japanese government has set an annual target of 20 million foreign visitors to Japan in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympics Games and GPM expects this will increase the demand for media targeting foreign residents and visitors to Japan at an accelerated pace.

[Future Strategies]
In the context of this trend, GPM joins the FMH group to strengthen its ability to connect foreign residents and visitors to Japanese companies and people.

Going forward, GPM will make the best use of the FMH group’s prestige and marketing know-how and resources in order to enhance existing GPM businesses as well as Fuji TV-Lab’s web-based business and the FMH group’s human resources, real estate and advertising businesses, and to develop new business fields such as health, education, food and entertainment.

In addition, GPM will focus on a diversification of its business through a solution service including marketing support and production of contents for Japanese companies which are engaged in the ever-growing inbound business, holding events for foreigners and the possibility of collaboration with the MICE / IR business.

GPM co-founders, Peter Wilson and Erik Gain, will continue being engaged in the new management team, and strive to help GPM enhance the FMH group’s corporate value.

[About GPM]
Company Name:  GPlus Media Co., Ltd.
Address:  Minotomi Bld. 3F, Shiba Koen 3-1-1, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Nature of Business:  Operation of branded websites for the foreign community in Japan.
Founded:  2001

[About Fuji TV-Lab]
Company Name:  Fuji TV-Lab, LLC
Address:  2-4-8, Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Nature of Business:  Operation of web-based service, production of contents, etc.
Founded:  2006

[Press Contact]
GPlus Media Co., Ltd.:Yagishita / Iwama
TEL:03–5403–7781 FAX:03–5403–2775



株式会社フジ・メディア・ホールディングス傘下への 移行のお知らせ


GPM社は、英字ニュースサイト「Japan Today」や、求人情報を中心とした生活情報全般を提供する「GaijinPot」など外国人にとって重要なサービスを2001年から提供し続けており、日本で生活する外国人からの圧倒的な支持と高い認知度を誇っております。




企業名 株式会社ジープラス・メディア
所在地 東京都港区芝公園3–1–1 美濃富ビル3階
事業内容 英字ニュースや外国人向け生活情報などを提供するウェブサイトの運営
設立年 2001年

企業名 フジテレビラボLLC合同会社
所在地 東京都港区台場2–4–8
事業内容 WEBサービスの運営、コンテンツの制作、システムの開発など
設立年 2006年

株式会社ジープラス・メディア 広報室 担当:柳下 岩間
TEL:03–5403–7781 FAX:03–5403–2775


Tokyo sushi shop Mizutani, with 2 Michelin stars, refuses NJ customers; awaiting Michelin Guides’ response


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Hi Blog. Thanks to everyone who submitted these articles. Here’s yet another place in Japan that refuses NJ customers entry, and once again giving a reason against the group based upon the alleged actions of a select few (Japanese never renege on their reservations, after all, right?). And of course bring in the boilerplate language barrier (which was not an issue in these refusals in the first place).  Anyway, what makes the Sushi Mizutani case particularly noticeable is that Michelin has recommended this place, and so far Michelin have not commented on whether these kinds of exclusionary policies are grounds for removing that recommendation. But given the relativism and exceptionality that pervades the world’s treatment of Japan (giving it a free pass for some pretty egregious examples of racism), I would be rather surprised if Michelin took their stars away. They have been advised of this situation, so let’s wait and see. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Michelin restaurant in Ginza refuses reservations by foreigners
The Tokyo Reporter, By Kenji Nakano on April 26, 2015, courtesy of lots of people
Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu finds the policy of Sushi Mizutani to be ‘discriminatory’

On April 8, the secretary for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu telephoned Sushi Mizutani, a 10-seat restaurant located in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district, to make a reservation for four people.

The reservation was on behalf of Bangfu, who was hosting three guests from the Communist nation. The secretary, a Japanese female, was told that seats were available on the requested day.

However, once the course of conversation revealed that the party would in fact consist of foreigners she was informed that the restaurant has a policy of refusing reservations from non-Japanese.

Mo, a 30-year resident of Japan, then telephoned the restaurant himself and received the same information. “It was disappointing,” Mo told evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (April 26).

With Sushi Mizutani having received a two-star ranking in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2015, the paper finds the policy disturbing as Japan is continuing a push to attract more visitors from overseas.

In a phone conversation with the head of the restaurant, whose typical meals runs around 20,000 yen, Nikkan Gendai learns that issue involves problems that occurred in the past.

“In order to preserve the atmosphere of the restaurant, we try to maintain that the total number of guests are split between Japanese and foreigners,” says the representative. “Since we’ve had foreigners make reservations and not show up and other problems, we only take reservations through a hotel concierge or (through a service provided by) a credit card company.”

Mo’s status as a permanent resident is irrelevant, according to Sushi Mizutani.

“Whether one is a tourist or not cannot be determined over the phone,” the representative says. “So this is an across-the-board policy.”

The appeal of Japanese cuisine has been one factor in the recent rise in travelers from overseas coming to Japan. Earlier this month, the Japan National Tourism Organization said that the 1,526,000 tourist arrivals for March set a record.

That record will likely fall again soon. For the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the government expects 25 million foreigners to arrive in Japan. By comparison, last year the figure stood at 13 million.

Perhaps ironically, Mo works as a tourism adviser for Yamanashi and Kagawa prefectures. He finds the behavior of Sushi Mizutani baffling, though he does have some sympathies regarding problems that may have taken place in the past.

“However, I, a permanent resident, find the conscious separation of foreigners and Japanese to be discriminatory,” he says.

The matter is not just a problem just for Sushi Mizutani, the journalist continues.

“For the betterment of the entire image of Japan for visitors, conscious change may be necessary,” he says. (K.N.)

Source: “Sabetsu? Yoyaku kyohi sa reta gaikoku hito ga ikidoru mishuran sushi-ten no taio,” Nikkan Gendai (April 26)


Michelin-star sushi restaurant in Tokyo defends foreigner rules
Japan Today NATIONAL APR. 28, 2015 – 03:50PM JST ( 133 ), Courtesy of lots of people
TOKYO —A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer.

Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an “across-the-board policy” of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers—unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.

“Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations,” a member of the staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons.

“We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don’t show up.

“We don’t think it is anything discriminatory,” he said.

The confirmation came after a report that the restaurant, located in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district, had refused to take a reservation for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu.

Mo, a resident of Japan for 30 years who is fluent in Japanese, intended to host three guests at the high-end restaurant, where prices start at 20,000 yen per person, the Nikkan Gendai tabloid reported.

The magazine said that as soon as his secretary—a Japanese woman—told the restaurant Mo’s name and contact number, the person taking the booking suddenly changed his attitude and said “some arrangements were necessary”—indicating the reservation was not acceptable.

“We have an increasing number of cases in which people are abandoning their reservations,” a restaurant worker told AFP, adding Japanese-speaking customers are called for reconfirmation a few days before their reservation.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Japan has rocketed in recent years as the value of the yen has fallen and as tensions have eased between Beijing and Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants to attract 20 million foreign visitors a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Despite decades of exposure to non-Japanese tourists, many facilities, even in cosmopolitan Tokyo, have difficulties dealing with people who they assume cannot speak the language.

Tokyo has a huge selection of top-class eateries, and regularly tops the global list for Michelin-starred restaurants.

No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.


And as for the ability for NJ clients to get around this exclusion by using a concierge service:
Wes Thorpe: I called trying to make a reservation tonight, and was told that because I was a foreigner I would need to make a reservation through my hotel or my credit card’s concierge service. I explained (in Japanese) that I’ve lived in Japan for 23 years and am a permanent resident, and that as I don’t have a platinum card I’m unable to use Visa’s concierge service. They told me I’m out of luck. Truly despicable.


Sushi Mizutani
8-7-7 Ginza Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061
Sushi Restaurant
Today 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 5:00 – 9:30 pm


差別? 予約拒否された外国人が憤るミシュラン寿司店の対応

日刊 ゲンダイ 2015年4月26日

ショッキングな話である。2015年の「ミシュランガイド東京」で2つ星を獲得した銀座の「鮨 水谷」が、予約をしようとした外国人に差別的な対応をしたという。実際に店側とやりとりし、「がっかりした」と話すのは、在日30年の中国人ジャーナリスト・莫邦富氏だ。


「水谷」はカウンター10席で、夜のおまかせコースが2万円からという超高級店。常連客によると「金持ちの白人がしょっちゅう来て、大声でしゃべっている」という。外国人を受け入れている店なのに、莫氏へのヒドい対応は何なのか? 莫氏の電話を受けた店の担当者に取材すると、こんな言い分だった。









Kyodo: Summary Court overturns fine levied on Filipino-Japanese man after Osaka police botch assault probe — that punished him for defending himself against drunk Japanese assailants!


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Hi Blog. Check this article out, followed by a comment by Reader and submitter JDG:


Filipino-Japanese exempt from fine after Osaka police botch assault probe

OSAKA – The police investigation into a street brawl in Osaka in 2013 that resulted in a fine for a Filipino-Japanese man was superficial and should never have caused charges to be filed, a court in Osaka has ruled.

In a rare ruling, the Osaka Summary Court decided to exempt the 23-year-old defendant from punishment despite finding him guilty of assault, after hearing that the police failed to provide him with a Tagalog interpreter. The man can only speak limited Japanese.

According to the ruling, two drunken men began a quarrel with the defendant on a street in Osaka in June 2013. When one of them grabbed his collar, the Philippine-Japanese man punched him in the face, causing a broken bone.

Neither of the drunks was indicted. But the court initially ordered the Filipino-Japanese man to pay a ¥300,000 ($2,500) fine in January 2014. The defendant filed a complaint and sought a formal trial, leading to a ruling that effectively canceled the fine on Feb. 26.

The ruling was finalized on March 13 after the appeal period expired.

“This is de facto innocence,” said Masanori Matsuoka, the defendant’s lawyer. “It’s an excellent ruling that criticized the investigation of a man who cannot speak Japanese sufficiently.”

Judge Akinori Hatayama said it is unfair to punish only the Filipino-Japanese man, given that the drunken man was not indicted for assault.

The judge criticized the prosecutors for charging the defendant without properly considering the case and based purely on the degree of physical injury that resulted from the scuffle.


JDG: Well, this is an interesting case. Now, if we take the poor reporting to mean that ‘Filipino-Japanese’ = naturalized Japanese citizen of NJ descent, this story is quite telling.

Naturalized Japanese citizen is stopped in Osaka by two drunk Japanese guys, who grab his shirt collars whilst shouting at him. The naturalized Japanese punches one in the face in self-defense and is arrested, charged, goes to court, and is fined.

The Japanese assailants, since they are ‘victims’ of their own victims self-defense, are not apprehended, and win compensation from their victim!

Thankfully, this was over-turned at a [summary] court. But the fact that it played out like this clearly shows the intense institutional racism of the Japanese police and legal system. In effect, if you are Japanese, you can commit assault (by western standards) on NJ (well, anyone who was not born Japanese), and the legal system recognize you as the victim if you are injured whilst attempting assault!


Quite.  And, I might add, if he hadn’t taken it outside the criminal justice system (I assume) into Summary Court, he would have never gotten this ruling on the record either.

Clearly somebody had to go down for this incident in the cops’ eyes.  And since they saw what they considered to be a NJ involved (naturalized or not), they charged and convicted him.  Wrongly so, as this court ruling demonstrates — nearly two years later!  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Kyodo: Ryukoku U exchange student denied “No Foreigner” Kyoto apartment in 2013; MOJ in 2015 decides it’s not a violation of human rights!


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Hi Blog. I’m sorry for taking some time to get to this: I’ve been rather busy recently, and I was hoping that an English-langauge article would take this issue up and save me the need to carve out some time translating from the vernacular press. Found a couple references (a passing one here and a more elaborate contextualizing in the Japan Times here), but they’re missing a couple of important nuances, so here goes: (article below) reports that the Ministry of Justice Legal Affairs Bureau has refused to acknowledge a “No Foreigners” apartment as a violation of human rights.  This is the outcome of a case back in 2013, where an exchange student at Ryuukoku University was denied a flat despite going through the Student Union, and he took it to the Bureau of Human Rights for the official word on the subject.  Now more than two years later (presumably the poor chap wasn’t living on the street in the interim), the MOJ determined that the foreigner-averse landlord had not violated anyone’s human rights, refusing to elaborate further.  Great.  Job well done and great precedent set, BOHR.

Two things of note before I get to the article:  One is a media bias.  Note how once again the article portrays the issue incorrectly in its sidebar illustration:


(from, March 30, 2015)

It’s not “Foreigner Discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu no jirei). It’s racial discrimination, because the first case they cite (the Otaru Onsens Case in 1999) eventually has a Japanese being refused too.  Yet the Japanese media will almost always refuse to undermine the incorrect narrative that racial discrimination never happens in Japan.

Second thing is that Japan’s generally ineffective Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu) has a long history of blind-eyeing the very thing it’s charged with protecting against.  As further evidence of its ineffectuality – even complicity with discriminators – here is an example where the Sapporo BOHR advised a local government (Otaru) that it has no legal obligation to pass ordinance against racial discrimination, only suggesting that the city make such an ordinance if it considers it necessary.  This from my book “Japanese Only:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten) , pg. 347 in the English version:


(Annotations within the document by the Sapporo BOHR.)  Further, the BOHR has denied information to claimants on the pretext of protecting claimants from their own privacy, so I wholeheartedly agree with the exchange student’s complaints about the lack of transparency.  So this latest event of saying a blanket exclusionary policy as not a violation of human rights is but one more example to record on for posterity.

Translation of the article without footnotes follows, with full article in Japanese. Any errors are mine.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


(Foreigner Apartment Refusal) Ministry of Justice on “No Foreigners” apartments:  not acknowledged as a violation of human rights.  Student Union that introduced the apartment apologizes to student., from Kyodo, March 30, 2015, provisional translation by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

A European exchange student in his twenties who wished to rent an apartment in Kyoto could not get a rental contract because the apartment was “No Foreigners”.  He asked for recourse from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Affairs Bureau in Kyoto for discrimination against foreigners, but the Legal Affairs Bureau refused, stating, “We cannot determine that the facts constitute a violation of human rights.”

The Student Union at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, who acted as the interlocutor to the realtor, apologized to the student, and has ceased introductions to places that refuse foreigners.  The university has advised the Student Union to improve its services.  The student’s supporters have voiced the need for seeing how the Legal Affairs handled the issue as a problem.

Lack of Transparency

The Ministry of Justice has called for the end of street demonstrations expressing discrimination against foreigners that may be called hate speech [sic].  On its online home page it introduces a case of “a barber who refused customers on the basis of them being foreigners” as a violation of human rights.  As to this case of the refused student, the Ministry of Justice refused to explain further why this was not acknowledged as the same.  The student criticized the situation, saying “the Legal Affairs Bureau’s handling lacks transparency.”

The student attempted to rent the apartment in Kyoto through the Student Union in January 2013, but was told at the Union that the landlord refused. In September 2014, the Bureau notified him that “We decided that it was unclear that there had been a violation”.  “We admonished (keihatsu, or “enlightened”) the Student Union.”  According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, even in cases where there has not been a violation of human rights, admonition can be carried out.  

However, the exchange student raised the question, “Wouldn’t most Japanese think that this is discrimination?  Would only admonishing without any legally-binding force actually stop this from happening again?”  He repeated, “I had the chance to learn and grow from learning Japanese culture, but I was quite hurt by this problem.”

Easing the Unease

Ryuukoku’s Student Union leader Doumen Yuuko sees that this landlord’s refusal to rent to foreigners is but a “vague feeling of unease” (bakuzen to shita fuan).  Thanks to this case, the Student Union no longer refers students to renters that have “no foreigners” policies.  She said that recently the Union is politely explaining to landlords that the former will handle any troubles that result from unpaid rents and differences in lifestyles.  Ms. Doumen added, “As a university, we accept many kinds of people.  It’s important that we see diversity not only in regards to foreign exchange students.”

When contacted by Kyodo News for a comment, the representative for the Bureau, a Mr. Ohyama Kunio, responded, “We cannot comment on that case, or on whether we took up that case.”  For the sake of preserving privacy, the Bureau does not publicly speak as a matter of principle on cases that have been raised for relief.

Ms. Moro-oka Yasuko, a lawyer that takes on cases of foreigner discrimination, suggested, “They probably are thinking that because the landlord refused the exchange student before it got to the contract stage, that’s why it didn’t become an explicit violation of human rights.”  

The Japanese Government, a signatory to the UN Convention for the the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has the duty to forbid discrimination.  However, Japan’s human rights organs have a deep-rooted image of having “insufficient enforcement power”.  Ms Moro-oka charged, “As agreed to in the treaty, Japan must make a law to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”

MAIN ARTICLE ENDS.  (Footnotes untranslated.)


【外国人入居拒否】 法務局、人権侵犯認めず アパートの「外国人不可」 仲介の大学生協は謝罪 2015/03/30 Courtesy of HT





龍谷大生協の 堂免裕子 (どうめんゆうこ) 専務理事は、家主側は部屋を外国人に貸すことに「漠然とした不安」を感じているとみている。今回の問題をきっかけに、「外国人不可」の賃貸住宅の仲介をやめた。最近は、未払い家賃の補償制度や生活習慣をめぐるトラブルへの対応を、家主側に丁寧に説明しているという。堂免さんは「大学はいろいろな人を受け入れる。留学生に限らず多様性(ダイバーシティ)という観点が重要だ」と話す。

法務省人権擁護局は共同通信の取材に対し「そうした事案を取り扱ったかどうかも含めてお答えできない」( 大山邦士 (おおやま・くにお) 調査救済課長)と答えた。同省はプライバシーの保護などを理由に、人権救済の申し立てへの対応は原則として公表していない。

外国人差別問題に取り組む 師岡康子 (もろおか・やすこ) 弁護士は「留学生に対し家主が契約の段階で断るといった行為がないと人権侵犯には当てはまらない、と考えているのではないか」と推測する。

日本政府は「人種差別撤廃条約」に加入し、政府は差別を禁止し終わらせる義務を負っている。だが人権団体の間では「実行が不十分」という見方が根強い。師岡氏は「条約に合致するよう、あらゆる差別行為を禁じる『人種差別撤廃法』をつくるべきだ」と訴えている。 (沢康臣)


人種差別撤廃条約 人種差別をなくすため、日本を含む170カ国以上が結んでいる。あらゆる人種差別を撤廃する政策をとり、差別を禁止することを義務付けている。1965年に国連総会で採択され、69年に発効。日本は95年12月に批准した。しかし留保条件を付け、人種差別思想の流布や差別の扇動を罰する法律をつくる義務については、憲法の表現の自由との関係で履行しない余地を残した。

人権侵犯 各地の法務局は差別などの訴えを受け付けると、「人権侵犯(侵害)」に当たるかどうか調べ、救済や再発防止をはかる。調査や救済措置に強制力はない。人権侵犯があったと認定した場合、加害者を対象にした「勧告」「説示」や、関係機関への「要請」などの救済措置をとる。悪質な場合は警察に告発する。人権侵犯がなければ「不存在」、有無を確認できなければ「不明確」と決定する。

FCCJ’s Number One Shimbun on how GOJ is leaning on critical foreign correspondents (incl. accusing them of being on Chinese payroll!)


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Hi Blog. Further along the lines of how the Japanese Government is pressuring overseas historians to toe a GOJ-approved ideological line, here is an example of how they’re doing the same to foreign journalists. While Gaijin Handling is not a new activity (it even happened to Dave Barry back in the day — clearly they didn’t know he was a humor columnist), under PM Abe it is becoming more paranoid and insidious, with implications that criticism of Japan must somehow be linked to Chinese influence.  In other words, criticism = shilling if not spying for the Chinese! This is a significant change in attitude, as the author points out below, and it will influence Japan PR’s ability to persuade (as opposed to threaten) the outside world. Wonder how long it’ll be before they drop by the Japan Times to lean on them too about my critical JBC columns. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


On My Watch
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Number One Shimbun, Thursday, April 02, 2015
Confessions of a foreign correspondent after a half-decade of reporting from Tokyo to his German readers
by Carsten Germis, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Courtesy of Marcus

My bags are packed, as the song goes. After more than five years as the Tokyo correspondent for the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I will soon leave Tokyo for home.

The country I’m leaving is different from the one I arrived in back in January 2010. Although things seem the same on the surface, the social climate – that has increasingly influenced my work in the past 12 months – is slowly but noticeably changing.

There is a growing gap between the perceptions of the Japanese elites and what is reported in the foreign media, and I worry that it could become a problem for journalists working here. Of course, Japan is a democracy with freedom of the press, and access to information is possible even for correspondents with poor Japanese language skills. But the gap exists because there is a clear shift that is taking place under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – a move by the right to whitewash history. It could become a problem because Japan’s new elites have a hard time dealing with opposing views or criticism, which is very likely to continue in the foreign media.

The Nikkei recently published an essay by their correspondent in Berlin about the February visit to Japan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He wrote: “Merkel’s visit to Japan was more conducive to criticism of Japan than friendship. With Japanese experts, she discussed her country’s policy to end nuclear power. She talked about the wartime history when she visited the Asahi and when she met with Abe. She also talked with Katsuya Okada, president of the DPJ, the largest opposition party. . . . Friendship was promoted only when she visited a factory run by a German company and shook hands with the robot Asimo.”

That seemed harsh. But, even accepting the premise . . . what is friendship? Is friendship simply agreement? Is not true friendship the ability to speak of one’s beliefs when a friend is shifting in a direction that could cause him harm? And surely Merkel’s visit was more complex than just critical.

Let me make my own stance clear. After five years, my love and affection for this country are unbroken. In fact, thanks to the many fine people I’ve met, my feelings are stronger than ever. Most of my Japanese friends and Japanese readers in Germany have told me they feel my love in my writing, especially following the events of March 11, 2011.

Unfortunately, the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Tokyo see things completely differently, and it seems some in the Japanese media feel the same way. To them I have been – like almost all my German media colleagues – a Japan basher capable of only delivering harsh criticism. It is we who have been responsible for, as the Nikkei’s man in Berlin put it, the two countries’ bilateral relations becoming “less friendly.”

Changing relations

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is politically conservative, economically liberal and market oriented. And yet, those claiming that the coverage of Abe’s historical revisionism has always been critical are right. In Germany it is inconceivable for liberal democrats to deny responsibility for what were wars of aggression. If Japan’s popularity in Germany has suffered, it is not due to the media coverage, but to Germany’s repugnance at historical revisionism.

My tenure in Japan began with very different issues. In 2010, the Democratic Party of Japan ran the government. All three administrations I covered – Hatoyama, Kan and Noda – tried to explain their policies to the foreign press, and we often heard politicians saying things like, “We know we have to do more and become better at running the country.”

Foreign journalists were often invited by then Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, for example, to exchange views. There were weekly meetings in the Kantei, the PM’s residence, and officials were willing to discuss – more or less openly – current issues. We didn’t hesitate to criticize the government’s stance on certain issues, but officials continued to try to make their positions understood.

The rollback came soon after the December 2012 elections. Despite the prime minister’s embrace of new media like Facebook, for example, there is no evidence of an appreciation for openness anywhere in his administration. Finance Minister Taro Aso has never tried to talk to foreign journalists or to provide a response to questions about the massive government debt.

In fact, there is a long list of issues that foreign correspondents want to hear officialdom address: energy policy, the risks of Abenomics, constitutional revision, opportunities for the younger generation, the depopulation of rural regions. But the willingness of government representatives to talk with the foreign press has been almost zero. Yet, at the same time, anyone who criticizes the brave new world being called for by the prime minister is called a Japan basher.

What is new, and what seems unthinkable compared to five years ago, is being subjected to attacks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – not only direct ones, but ones directed at the paper’s editorial staff in Germany. After the appearance of an article I had written that was critical of the Abe administration’s historical revisionism, the paper’s senior foreign policy editor was visited by the Japanese consul general of Frankfurt, who passed on objections from “Tokyo.” The Chinese, he complained, had used it for anti-Japanese propaganda.

It got worse. Later on in the frosty, 90-minute meeting, the editor asked the consul general for information that would prove the facts in the article wrong, but to no avail. “I am forced to begin to suspect that money is involved,” said the diplomat, insulting me, the editor and the entire paper. Pulling out a folder of my clippings, he extended condolences for my need to write pro-China propaganda, since he understood that it was probably necessary for me to get my visa application approved.

Me? A paid spy for Beijing? Not only have I never been there, but I’ve never even applied for a visa. If this is the approach of the new administration’s drive to make Japan’s goals understood, there’s a lot of work ahead. Of course, the pro-China accusations did not go over well with my editor, and I received the backing to continue with my reporting. If anything, the editing of my reports became sharper.

The heavy handedness has been increasing over the past few years. In 2012, while the DPJ was still in power, I took a junket to South Korea, interviewing former comfort women and visiting the contested island of Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans). Of course it was PR, but it was a rare chance to see the center of the controversy for myself. I was called in by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meal and discussion, and received a few dozen pages of information proving that the island was Japanese.

In 2013, with Abe’s administration in charge, I was called in once again after I wrote about an interview with three comfort women. This also included a lunch invitation, and once again I received information to help my understanding of the prime minister’s thoughts.

But things seem to have changed in 2014, and MoFA officials now seem to openly attack critical reporting. I was called in after a story on the effect the prime minister’s nationalism is having on trade with China. I told them that I had only quoted official statistics, and their rebuttal was that the numbers were wrong.

My departing message

Two weeks before the epic meeting between the Consul general and my editor, I had another lunch with MoFA officials, in which protests were made of my use of words like “whitewash history,” and the idea that Abe’s nationalistic direction might “isolate Japan, not only in East Asia.” The tone was frostier and, rather than trying to explain and convince, their attitude was angrier. No one was listening to my attempts to explain why German media are especially sensitive about historical revisionism.

I’ve heard of an increase in the number of lunch invitations from government officials to foreign correspondents, and the increased budgets to spread Japanese views of World War II, and the new trend to invite the bosses of foreign correspondents deemed too critical (via business class, of course). But I would suggest the proponents tread carefully, since these editors have been treated to – and become inured to – political PR of the highest caliber and clumsy efforts tend to have an opposite effect. When I officially complained about the Consul’s comments about my receiving funds from China, I was told that it was a “misunderstanding.”

So here’s my departing message: Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not see a threat in Japan to freedom of reporting. Though many critical voices are more silent than during the DPJ administration, they are there – and perhaps in larger numbers than before.

The closed-shop mentality of the Japanese political elite and the present inability of the administration leaders to risk open discussion with foreign media doesn’t really affect press freedom; there are plenty of other sources to gather information. But it does reveal how little the government understands that – in a democracy – policy must be explained to the public. And the world.

It doesn’t strike me as funny any more when colleagues tell me that the LDP doesn’t have anyone in the press affairs department who will speak English or provide information to a foreign journalist. Nor does the fact that the present prime minister, who claims to be well traveled, has declined to make the short trip to speak to us at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. In fact, I can only be saddened at how the government is not only secretive with the foreign press, but with its own citizens.

In the past five years, I’ve been up and down the Japanese archipelago, and – unlike in Tokyo – I’ve never had anyone, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, accuse me of writings that were hostile to Japan. On the contrary, I’ve been blessed with interesting stories and enjoyable people everywhere. Japan is still one of the most wealthy, open nations in the world; it’s a pleasant place to live and report from for foreign correspondents.

My hope is that foreign journalists – and even more importantly, the Japanese public – can continue to speak their minds. I believe that harmony should not come from repression or ignorance; and that a truly open and healthy democracy is a goal worthy of my home of the last five great years.

Carsten Germis was the Tokyo correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 2010 to 2015 and a member of the Board of Directors of the FCCJ.


Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”


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Hi Blog.  Last week I offered Japan Times readers an abridged version of an interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler, historian at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, on Japanese Government pressure to censor all mention of Japan’s official sexual slavery during WWII (the “Comfort Women” issue).  The full text of the interview is now available at The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus‘s website (a very valuable resource, in case you haven’t heard of it before).  An excerpt that did not make the cut in The Japan Times due to space limitations:


Dr. Ziegler:  I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit.  I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books.  And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like.  So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks.  So she asked if she could go through them and look at them.  And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.”  Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now:  This was started some time ago, perhaps.  I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?


Go to for the rest.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


PNS: Deaths of unknown persons in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police: At least 5 in past year


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Deaths of unknown persons in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police
Edwin Stamm, Progressive News Service, Tokyo, March 9, 2015
Special to
A troubling pattern of deaths of suspects in police custody is emerging in Tokyo, Japan. At least five people have died in police custody in the last year, with little publicity or investigation. The names of the victims have not apparently been released, which puts Japan at odds with international norms of transparency and police accountability.
  • Unknown man arrested May 12, 2014 in Meguro Ward
A 37 year-old male in a state of mental confusion was subdued in a hotel room at about 2:35 a.m. after reports that he was shouting and throwing things. He soon had a heart attack and was transported to a hospital, where he was confirmed dead at about 10:55 p.m. Police suspect drugs were involved.
精神錯乱状態の男性、警官保護後に死亡 都内ホテル、室内に粉末も
産経ニュース2014.5.12 18:54 [Sankei News]*
Original story appears to be gone, but is reproduced here:
  • Unknown man arrested May 25, 2014 in Shinjuku
A 30 year-old man who was found lying on the street in Nishi Shinjuku at about 6:30 p.m. having convulsions was taken to a police station instead of to the hospital. His hands and feet were bound and his entire body was wrapped in a mat. After about 30 minutes “his condition worsened” so an ambulance was called. He died at the hospital on May 27th at about 5:30 p.m.
TBS系(JNN) 528()623分配信
Original story is gone, but is reproduced here:
  • Unknown man arrested May 31, 2014 in Konan
In response to reports of a man yelling and running around without clothes, at about 4 p.m. police from the Takanawa Police Station arrested a 37 year old, unemployed man. He was restrained and wrapped in a protective sheet. He was then held in a patrol car for about 25 minutes. Just before being placed into a “special detention room”, police noticed that the man had gone limp and stopped breathing. He died at around 7:40 p.m. that evening.
Original story appears to be gone, but is reproduced here:
  • Unknown man arrested August 25, 2014 in Shinagawa
An unemployed 47 year-old man was arrested at a supermarket by four police officers. He was bound hand and foot, wrapped in a sheet, and transported face down to the Osaki Police Station. When the prisoner arrived in the interrogation room, it was discovered that he was unconscious and he was taken to the hospital, where he died on September 3, 2014.
2014.9.4 18:21 傷害容疑で逮捕の容疑者死亡 危険ドラッグ店のカード所持 警視庁、死因など調べる
  • Unknown man arrested February 11, 2015 in Akasaka
Police were called when a “violently agitated foreigner” was observed in Akasaka. Six police officers from the Akasaka Police Station subdued the man, who then went into cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital, where he remained in a coma until he died on March 1, 2015. Police say there was no evidence of any physical trauma. He was 29 years-old American citizen employed as an English teacher who lived in Setagaya Ward. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and U.S. Embassy have not responded to requests for additional information.
same story reproduced by Wall Street Journal – Japan edition:
English news sources:
Tokyo Reporter:
Tokyo Weekender:

Suspicious recent death of NJ after being “restrained” on the street by Tokyo Police in daytime warrants more investigation and attention


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Hi Blog. As several Readers have been digging around and submitting to this forum under the aegis of a similar but separate event (start from here), there has been a suspicious death of a Non-Japanese (NJ) that warrants more investigation and attention. So let’s promote it to its own blog entry.

First, the Tokyo Weekender of March 5 reports tersely:


English Teacher Dies after Being Restrained by Police
Tokyo Weekender, News & Views – March 5th, 2015

A short article reporting the death of a 29-year-old English teacher who fell into a coma after being restrained by the police raises more questions than it answers.

The Jiji Press reported that the teacher, who was from the US, died in a hospital following a February 11 incident in the Akasaka area of Minato Ward. The Jiji article, reprinted on the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, is scant on details, aside from the following: At around 5:30 pm on the Foundation Day holiday, police received a call about a foreigner behaving violently . When police approached the man, who was reported as a resident of Setagaya Ward, he responded violently. A total of six officers restrained the American by his arms and legs. In the struggle, the man went into cardiac arrest and was taken to a nearby hospital.

The man did not regain consciousness after the incident, and died on March 1. Police stated that the man did not seem to have suffered any external injuries.

No other information —- the man’s name, his home town, employer, or additional details about the conflict—has been provided thus far.  ENDS


Here are the quoted sources in Japanese, also glib:


Wall Street Journal Japan 2015 年 3 月 2 日 16:30 JST 更新






This has occasioned much cynical comment and even public protest. But we still don’t know much more than this.

However, we can speculate with some certainty on the following:

  1. This happened on a Wednesday afternoon before it was fully dark, meaning the chances of this person being drunk and disorderly were pretty low.
  2. This happened in a part of Tokyo that sees NJ as a public-security threat, with cops trained to racially-profile potential perps and carry out legally-questionable search activities.
  3. This happened on National Foundation Day, a day where there were nationalistic demonstrations by Japanese celebrating the accession of Japan’s first emperor.  While demonstrations on a day like this are not newsworthy enough to indicate that there was a concurrent demonstration in Akasaka, it is not a stretch to imagine this person being targeted by violent xenophobic elements, and the NPA taking the side of the rightists and targeting the NJ.
  4. The NPA not only has a record of lethally subduing NJ in custody, but also of covering it up.
  5. We don’t even have the basic information on who he is or even if international officials have gotten involved in the investigation. All we have is the deceased’s age, nationality, and occupation. That is insufficient, and the fact that more details are not forthcoming suggests a mishap or a coverup on the part of the NPA.  (It’s happened before.  Many times.)
  6. There have been cases of police arresting people for looking “suspicious”, but whose only apparent crime was standing around looking foreign in the eyes of local busybodies who called the cops (we know about this because these involved cases where persons arrested were Japanese citizens who just looked “foreign”).  So the accusation of violence on the part of the NJ is also not taken when Japanese cops have a history of overreaction towards NJ (those six cops sure got there in a hurry).

We simply don’t have enough information for a more informed assessment.  And we should.  Were there no witnesses?  With this much commotion and no doubt an ambulance called, didn’t anyone see anything in this densely-populated part of Tokyo?  Or is this just another case of another unknown fungible NJ winding up as the Dead Gaijin on a Gurney?

One speculation is that the lack of press investigation and scrutiny is because this case has somehow come under Japan’s newly-enacted Special Secrecy Law.  Seems a bit of a stretch, as this doesn’t seem to be something that ought to be fodder (how does the case one dead NJ qualify as an issue of national security?).  But if it did, this would really be the acid test that demonstrated just how far this law will be abused, and thus warrants further investigation.

If you have any friends in the Japan news media, point them towards this site and see if we can pique their interest and get them investigating.  I will too.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Good JT article on historically-ignorant blackface on Japanese performers and “modern-day minstrel shows” in Japan


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Hi Blog.  I had heard about this issue of blackface in Japan (a la other racialized “gaijin” characteristics in Japan, including blond wigs and stuck-on big noses) but wasn’t sure how to raise it ( was embroiled enough in the Japartheid issue enough over the past few days).  However, Baye McNeil does it instead, and better than I could.  The part of the article I like best is about the lack of historical research these performers (such as Rats & Star) who profess to love the people they so carelessly imitate:

Doo-what?: An image that went viral on the Internet shows members of male doo-wop group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z blacked up backstage during the filming of a show for Fuji TV scheduled for broadcast on March 7. | THE JAPAN TIMES


McNeil: All of which speaks directly to this racist bullsh-t — I mean, this cultural misunderstanding — one that could have been avoided in the 30-some-odd years this band [Rats & Star] has existed if, while they were researching the music, costumes and other aspects of black music and performance, they had simply taken a second to see if what they wanted to do with blackface had ever been done before. You know, just a little proactive research about the industry they would spend the next three f-cking decades profiting handsomely from.

But alas, when I saw this story on the Net the other day — that they were going to be on Fuji TV alongside popular girl group Momoiro Clover Z, who would be similarly blacked up — all I could say was, “Mata ka yo?” (“Jeezus! Again?”), suck my teeth and click away. To me, it’s not shocking to see blackfaced bands here. With the attitudes and ignorance encountered here regularly, the only shocking thing is that there aren’t more of these groups. A Ku Klux Klan-themed idol group wouldn’t even surprise me here.

I’m still, however, pleasantly surprised when non-Japanese people in Japan get worked up over something important. They’re a beautiful sight to see! Like when Julien Blanc was spreading his misogynistic garbage about Japanese women. Remember how the Japanosphere responded? They damn near shut down the Internet with their furor over his antics. Of course, everything he said could be heard in any gaijin (foreigner) bar in Tokyo or Yokohama on any given day, but it was still great to see people get activated for a good cause. Not to mention that, let’s say, inappropriate ANA advert that got a lot of people upset and resulted in Japan’s biggest airline re-editing a television commercial advertising new flights.

And even Japanese get worked up when they want to. Like back in 2011, when the Japanese Embassy in London sent a letter to the BBC complaining about A-bomb jokes on an episode of a British TV comedy quiz, leading the BBC to apologize for offending Japanese sensibilities. And very recently, conservative Netizens in Japan campaigned to keep Angelina Jolie’s biographical movie about a former American POW from opening in theaters here because of its depictions of Imperial Japanese Army brutality. All beautiful acts of activism, right?

Well, I say, if ANA and the BBC can be made to change their tunes, and if Blanc can be shut down, so can these guys…

Read the entire article at Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine)


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Hi Blog.  Sorry to have gotten to this so late (projects loom), and thanks to all of you to sending me this information.

Have a look at this.  A Japanese doctor in Shizuoka, Iwata City General Hospital (shiritsu sougou byouin), is extremely unhelpful and disrespectful towards his Brazilian patients (not to mention refuses treatment).  It has made the news.  Unlike, say, this “Japanese Only” hospital reported on back in 2012, which wound up being ignored by the local media.  It pays to video these things — they go viral, and force apologies.  Not sure how this will stop it from happening in future, but glad that somebody is paying attention this time.

Portuguese videos first, then Portuguese article, Google translated English version, and finally Japanese articles.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

(NB:  I do not endorse the quality of the commentary given by vlogger Gimmeaflakeman.  I am not a fan.  I include it here only because it is cited in the Portuguese article below.)


Vídeo de suposta discriminação em hospital repercute entre internautas japoneses
ComunidadeJapãopor Paulo Sakamoto – IPC Digital 26/01/15
Courtesy of lots of people.
O vídeo que mostra um brasileiro acusando um médico de ter recusado o atendimento e ofendido a sua filha com xingamentos, desejando a sua morte (Kuso, Shine), repercutiu em fóruns de discussões e blogs japoneses.

Dezenas de postagens em blogs do e outros fóruns, destacaram o acontecimento com o título:(ブラジル人が子供の病態悪化のため夜連れて行った病院先で、日本人医師が子供に「クソ、死ね」という暴言を吐く) “Brasileiro leva filha doente ao hospital durante a noite e médico japonês diz “morra,****” para a criança”. A grande maioria dos comentários foram contra a suposta discriminação.

Alguns internautas japoneses destacaram que, mesmo diante da aparente exaltação do pai, o médico deveria ter atendido o pedido de transferência e que jamais deveria ter usado essas palavras com a criança.

Mesmo em fóruns anônimos, onde não é necessário se identificar para postar um comentário, a maioria dos internautas mostraram indignação com a suposta atitude do médico, dizendo que “certamente, deveria ser despedido” e que “a universidade deveria ser responsável pelas atitudes erradas dos médicos”.

O canal do YouTube Gimmeaflakeman, de cultura e língua japonesa, usou o vídeo como tema para uma aula de japonês. O autor do vídeo usa as palavras ditas pelo brasileiro e pelo médico como exemplos. Confira o vídeo abaixo:


(Google Translate version follows)

Video of alleged discrimination in hospital resonates with Japanese Internet
Community Japan by Paul Sakamoto – 01/26/15, IPC Digital

The video shows a Brazilian accusing a doctor of refusing care and offended her daughter with curses, wishing his death (Kuso, Shine), reflected in forums of discussions and Japanese blogs.

Dozens of posts in blogs and other forums, highlighted the event with título: (ブラジル人が子供の病態悪化のため夜連れて行った病院先で、日本人医師が子供に「クソ、死ね」という暴言を吐く) “Brasileiro takes sick daughter to the hospital overnight and Japanese doctor says “die, ****” for the child. ” The vast majority of comments were against the alleged discrimination.

Some Japanese netizens pointed out that, despite the apparent exaltation of the father, the doctor should have attended the transfer request and that should never have used those words with the child.

Even in anonymous forums where it is not necessary to identify to post a comment, most Internet users showed outrage at the perceived attitude of the doctor, saying that “certainly should be fired,” and that “the university should be responsible for the wrong attitudes of physicians. “

The YouTube channel Gimmeaflakeman , culture and Japanese language, used the video as the theme for a Japanese class. The author of the video uses the words spoken by the Brazilian and physician as examples. Check out the video below:

[as above]


The Asahi:

医師がブラジル人患者家族に「クソ、死ね」 静岡・磐田
朝日新聞 2015年1月28日22時47分





The Sankei via Yahoo:

産経新聞 1月28日(水)7時55分配信










ブラジル人が娘を病院へ連れて行き日本人医師が”クソ 死ね”と発言して問題に

日本人医師が患者に向かって”クソ 死ね”と発言したことがネット界を騒がせている



Medico Japones Humilha Filha de Brasileiro(日本人医師がブラジル人の娘を侮辱、クソ死ねと発言)

動画の中では問題の”クソ 死ね”発言の瞬間は映ってはいないが、医師たちが皆頭を下げて謝罪している様子がうかがえる







Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”


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Hi Blog. A discussion about the following article has already started here, so I thought it prudent to promote it to its own blog entry for proper discussion. First the article, then my comment.  (N.B.: people who commented before who wish to repost their commment here, go ahead.)


Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
RocketNews, January 23, 2015
Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
Courtesy of lots of people

In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.

Although Nakamura praised the Japanese culture of cooperation, hard work and honesty, he called out the education system for focusing too much on the limited goals of exams and getting into big companies. He pointed out that it is failing to give young people the English skills they need to function on a global level.

“Zero incentive”

“In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.”

He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government.

Nakamura slammed Japan for failing to ensure that inventors are fairly compensated for their work, something that stifles innovation and provides “zero incentive” for employees to be creative.

Article 35 of the patent law says that patent rights belong to the inventor, but in practice, companies dictate the terms of compensation to their employees. In fact, Nakamura’s former company paid him the equivalent of just US$180 for his Nobel-winning invention. Nakamura sued in 2001 and a Tokyo court determined that his patent had generated about US$1 billion in revenue. Nakamura settled with the company for US$8 million.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and…see Japan from outside the country.”

Since the litigation, many companies have switched from giving employees a flat fee for patent rights to a percentage of royalties, but the Japan Business Federation has also begun lobbying the government to clarify the law and place patent rights squarely with companies. Prime Minister Abe has hinted that he would like to do so.

“If the Japanese government changes the patent law, it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors]. In that case, I recommend that Japanese employees go abroad,” said Nakamura.

In general, Nakamura encouraged young Japanese to leave, whether to get a better education, to expand their world view or to be better compensated for their work. Despite his criticisms, he is not advocating a wholesale abandonment of Japan either. Rather, a more internationalized population could be the key to meaningful reforms.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and they can see Japan from outside the country. And they understand, …oh, now I can understand bad thing of Japan. That’s the most important thing, no? Japanese people have to wake up about Japanese bad things, you know. I think that’s very important.”


COMMENT:  Wow.  “Slave” Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan’s corporate behemoths (yes, he sued — millions of people do in Japan every year — and he won!), but also he wouldn’t settle for life in Japan as it is.  He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan’s insularity (and governmental mind control!?).  Pretty brave and bracing stuff.  Bravo.

It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan’s intelligentsia.  How many readers remember the “Tonegawa Shock” of 1987?

When the 1987 Nobel Prize was given to [Susumu] Tonegawa, who had moved to the US so he could be inspired and free to carry on his research, Japanese academics took notice and some were humiliated. Tonegawa had asserted that if he had remained in Japan, he would have had to spend years courting favor with mentors and dealing with disinterested colleagues, lagging unchallenged and unmotivated, certainly never to attain Nobel laureate. The press labeled the phenomenon as “Tonegawa Shock” which described the actions of similar Japanese scientists, such as Leo Esaki, a 1973 laureate in physics, who left Japan to work at IBM in the US. [Source]

The Tonegawa Shock set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to “enliven” (kasseika) Japan’s education system by doing away with tenure.  Sounds great to people who don’t understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure — the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) — in what was called the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan’s prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat.  It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying “Academic Apartheid” of Japan’s higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for when it was established in 1996.

With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus?  Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan.  But if there is more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you’ll probably hear about it on  That’s what we’re here for.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign


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Hi Blog. Here’s something for the Shoe on the Other Foot Dept.: A “No Japanese Passengers” taxi in Thailand, refusing to take all “Japanese” passengers. There’s even a sign (courtesy of Khaosod English):


Naturally, condemns all exclusionism of this type, and encourages people to challenge it and have these signs and rules repealed.  We have devoted much cyberspace to recording and archiving the converse, “Japanese Only” signs that exclude all “foreigners” (that unfortunately have gone largely unchallenged in Japan), not to mention the occasional “Japanese Only” establishment run for Japanese clientele outside of Japan (that excludes all “foreigners” in their own country, natch).

What’s important is how swift and decisive the challenge from society is, and whether it is effective.  In the Thai taxi case below, according to media, the taxi driver (rightly) lost his license to do business at the airport, and quite a furore happened both online and in print media denouncing this act as wrong-headed, even racist.  Good.  A similar furore also happened when a hotel in India had “Japanese Only” rules (the Indian authorities did not brook this kind of discrimination either).

Now, if only the Japanese authorities would be so decisive about this kind of exclusionism in Japan (as has demonstrated over these past twenty years, they generally aren’t; they even deny racial discrimination ever happens in Japan, quite counterproductively).

Of course, some hay has been made about this Thai taxi on Japanese social media, with rightly-deserved (but unironic) condemnations of the “discrimination” against Japanese overseas.

One last point:  Koki Aki, the Japanese gentleman who set this issue in motion by complaining online after being ripped off by a Thai cabbie (prompting the cabbie to exclude), subsequently defended himself against trolls who said he must not like Thailand:  “I criticize Thailand, but I don’t hate Thailand.”  Well put.  Now, if only other debaters in Japan’s debate arenas would be so cognizant.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign
Khaosod English
21 January 2015, Last update at 12:17:00 GMT
Courtesy of MS and SH

BANGKOK — A taxi association at Bangkok’s international airport has condemned a cabbie who is reportedly refusing to take Japanese passengers, one day after a Japanese man made headlines with his rant against a driver who refused to turn on his meter at the airport.

A photo widely shared on social media this morning shows a sign posted on a taxi window in English, Japanese, and Thai. The Thai text reads: “No picking up of Japanese passengers.”

The notice ends with the text, “From: Association of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s Taxi Drivers.”

The photo surfaced a day after airport authorities fined a taxi driver 1,000 baht and banned him from picking up passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport for trying to overcharge a Japanese man. The punishment was carried out after the Japanese man’s harsh rebuke of the cab driver, who reportedly demanded a flat-rate of 700 baht for a ride to Bangkok’s Saphan Kwai district, went viral on social media.

However, Sadit Jaitiang, director of Association of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s Taxi Drivers, told Khaosod in a phone interview that he had nothing to do with the notice, and only found out about the sign from social media today.

“I have not seen the sign with my own eyes, but I have seen photos of it. Let me stress that the Association is not related to such notice in any way,” Sadit said. “Taxi drivers cannot be picky. We cannot choose to take or refuse passengers of certain nationalities. If we do that, we won’t have any money. We have to take care of our families.”

Sadit said he is looking into who is responsible for sign, and will hold that person accountable if he or she is a member of the airport taxi association.

“As the director of the Association, I condemn this action. The Association wholeheartedly disagrees with it. We are working to find out which driver put up the sign. If we discover that one of our members indeed put up the sign, that person will be held responsible,” Sadit said.

Hundreds of Thai internet users have vented anger at the “No Japanese” sign, with some accusing the taxi driver of racism, discrimination, and refusing to obey the regulation. Others have jokingly commented that the driver should stop using a Japanese car.



Online Complaint Prompts Ban of BKK Airport Cab Driver
Khaosod English
20 January 2015, Last update at 15:48:00 GMT

BANGKOK — A taxi driver has been suspended from picking up passengers at Bangkok’s international airport after a Japanese tourist’s complaint about the driver’s refusal to use a meter went viral on social media.

Koki Aki posted on Facebook, in Japanese and Thai, on Sunday that the cab driver assigned to him at Suvarnabhumi Airport refused to use a meter and demanded a flat-rate of 700 baht for a ride to Saphan Kwai district in Bangkok.

Aware that a usual fare for the trip would not cost more than 350 baht, Koki reportedly asked the driver to use the meter, but the driver refused. Koki said he complained to the staff managing the airport’s taxi kiosk system, but was told that it was normal for passengers to negotiate fares with drivers for a long distance trip.

Airport staff say they instructed Aki to file a formal complaint, but that he declined to do so. However, Aki wrote in his Facebook post that it was he who requested to file a complaint, only to be ignored by the staff who “acted like they don’t care about my concern and don’t want to do their job.”

“This is the international airport of Thailand, and this is the place to take cabs from the airport, but there are even scams here,” Aki wrote. “They don’t care about the passengers at all. What can we foreigners do?”

Aki’s complaint came at a time when many Bangkokians have been airing grievances about taxi drivers who refuse to pick up them up in downtown Bangkok, preferring to take tourists who can be duped into paying extortionate fares. Tapping into this grief, Aki’s Facebook status soon went viral on Thai social media accounts, garnering more than 15,500 “shares.”

Prapon Pattamakijsakul, the director of Suvarnabhumi Airport, said he has already launched an investigation into the incident and punished the taxi driver who tried to overcharge the Japanese tourist.

According to Prapon, the driver, Chaiyan Charoensopha, has been stripped of his license to pick up passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s taxi queue, in accordance with the airport’s regulation and penalty codes.

“Taxi drivers must always use their meters in their service,” Prapon said, adding that passengers who encounter any problems should keep the tickets issued by the taxi kiosks as evidence for filing complaints to officials. Complaints can be filed by calling 02-132-9199 at any time of day, he said.

Prapon also told reporters that there are 35 complaints about taxis at Suvarnabhumi Airport on average per month, which amounts to 0.01 per cent of all rides.

“Nevertheless, if the airport authorities investigate these complaints and discover that the drivers are guilty, we punish every one of them strictly without any exception,” Prapon said. “Therefore, the airport would like to ask everyone to file a complaint if they ever see a taxi driver behaving inappropriately, such as refusing to use meters, being rude, or refusing to take passengers.”

Teerapong Rodprasert, director of the Department of Land Transport, said Chaiyan, the taxi driver, confessed to the allegation and was fined 1,000 baht for violating the department’s taxi regulation.

“We didn’t suspend his driving license because he committed the offence for the first time,” Teerapong said. “So we recorded his wrongdoing into the database and sent him to participate in a lecture about service mentality for four hours.”

After his complaint was publicized by a number of Thai media outlets, Aki wrote yesterday that he was “very surprised” to see such a reaction. He explained in another Facebook post that he has been regularly visiting Thailand for the last 10 years and even knows how to write in Thai.

“Many Thais sent messages to my inbox … Most of the comments say “I apologize on behalf of my fellow Thai,” or “Please don’t forget that not all Thais are bad,”” Aki wrote. “These comments, I feel that they are comments from the Thai people with sincere hearts. I am very glad to hear them. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I criticize Thailand, but I don’t hate Thailand.”


BTW, more on the case and who Koki Aki is (somebody with quite a lot of experience in Thailand) courtesy of the Bangkok Post at

My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014


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By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 83 for the Japan Times Community Page
Published January 1, 2015 (version with links to sources)



Hate, muzzle and poll: a top 10 of issues for 2014

BY DEBITO ARUDOU, The Japan Times, January 1, 2015

As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the top 10 human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:

10) Warmonger Ishihara loses seat

This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012). All the while, we gritted our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship.

However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, Ishihara resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater.

About time. He admitted last month that he wanted “to fight a war with China and win” by attempting to buy three of the disputed Senkaku islets (and entangling the previous left-leaning government in the imbroglio). Fortunately the conflict hasn’t come to blows, but Ishihara has done more than anyone over the past 15 years to embolden Japan’s xenophobic right (by fashioning foreigner-bashing into viable political capital) and undo Japan’s postwar liberalism and pacifism.

Good riddance. May we never see your like again. Unfortunately, I doubt that.

9) Mori bashes Japan’s athletes

Japan apparently underperformed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (no wonder, given the unnecessary pressure Japanese society puts on its athletes) and somebody just had to grumble about it — only this time in a racialized way.

Chair of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics committee Yoshiro Mori (himself remembered for his abysmal performance as prime minister from 2000 to 2001) criticized the performance of Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed: “They live in America. Because they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.” This was factually wrong to begin with, since through their Japanese mother, the Reeds have always had Japanese citizenship. But the insinuation that they weren’t good enough because they weren’t Japanese enough is dreadfully unsportsmanlike, and contravenes the Olympic charter on racism.

Mori incurred significant international criticism for this, but there were no retractions or resignations. And it isn’t the first time the stigmatization of foreignness has surfaced in Mori’s milieu. Since 2005 he has headed the Japan Rugby Football Union, which after the 2011 Rugby World Cup criticized the underperforming Japan team for having “too many foreign-born players” (including naturalized Japanese citizens). The 2012 roster was then purged of most “foreigners.” Yet despite these shenanigans, Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup right before the Tokyo Olympics.

8) ‘Points system’ visa revamp

In a delicious example of JBC SITYS (“see, I told you so”), Japan’s meritocratic Points-based Preferential Treatment for Highly Skilled Foreigners visa failed miserably in 2013, with only 700 people having even applied for the available 2,000 slots six months into the program.

JBC said its requirements were far too strict when it was first announced, predicting it would fail (see last year’s top 10, and “Japan’s revolving door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” JBC, March 6, 2012). Policymakers arrogantly presumed that NJ are beating down the door to work in Japan under any circumstances (not likely, after Japan’s two economic “lost decades”), and gave few “points” to those who learned Japanese or attended Japanese universities. Fact is, they never really wanted people who “knew” Japan all that well.

But by now even those who do cursory research know greater opportunities lie elsewhere: Japan is a land of deflation and real falling wages, with little protection against discrimination, and real structural impediments to settling permanently and prospering in Japanese society.

So did the government learn from this policy failure? Yes, some points requirements were revamped, but the most significant change was cosmetic: The online info site contains an illustration depicting potential applicants as predominantly white Westerners. So much for the meritocracy: The melanin-rich need not apply.

Good luck with the reboot, but Japan is becoming an even harder sell due to the higher-ranking issues on our countdown.

7) Ruling in Suraj death case

This is the third time the case of Ghanaian national Abubakar Awadu Suraj has made this top 10, because it demonstrates how NJ can be brutally killed in police custody without anyone taking responsibility.

After Suraj was asphyxiated while physically restrained during deportation in 2010, for years his kin unsuccessfully sought criminal prosecutions. Last March, however, the Tokyo District Court ruled that immigration officials were responsible for using “illegal” excessive force, and ordered the government to pay ¥5 million to Suraj’s widow and mother.

The case is currently being appealed to the Tokyo High Court. But the lesson remains that in Japan, due to insufficient oversight over Immigration Bureau officials (as reported in United Nations and Amnesty International reports; four NJ have died in Immigration custody since October 2013), an overstayed visa can become a capital offense.

6) Muslims compensated for leak

In another landmark move by the Tokyo District Court, last January the National Police Agency was ordered to compensate several Muslim residents and their Japanese families, whom they had spied upon as suspected terrorists. Although this is good news (clearly noncitizens are entitled to the same right to privacy as citizens), the act of spying in itself was not penalized, but rather the police’s inability to manage their intelligence properly, letting the information leak to the public.

Also not ruled upon was the illegality of the investigation itself, and the latent discrimination behind it. Instead, the court called the spying unavoidable considering the need to prevent international terrorism — thus giving carte blanche to the police to engage in racial profiling.

5) ‘Japanese only’ saga

If this were my own personal top 10, this would top the list, as it marks a major shift in Japan’s narrative on racial discrimination (the subject of my Ph.D. last year). As described elsewhere (“J.League and media must show red card to racism,” JBC, March 12, 2014), the Japanese government and media seem to have an allergy when it comes to calling discrimination due to physical appearance “discrimination by race” (jinshu sabetsu), depicting it instead as discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, “descent,” etc. Racism happens in other countries, not here, the narrative goes, because Japan is so homogeneous that it has no race issues.

But when Urawa Reds soccer fans last March put up a “Japanese only” banner at an entrance to the stands at its stadium, the debate turned out differently. Despite some initial media prevarication about whether or not this banner was “racist,” J.League chair Mitsuru Murai quickly called it out as racial discrimination and took punitive action against both the fans and the team.

More importantly, Murai said that victims’ perception of the banner was more important than the perpetrators’ intent behind it. This opened the doors for debate about jinshu sabetsu more effectively than the entire decade of proceedings in the “Japanese only” Otaru onsen case that I was involved in (where behavior was ruled as “racial discrimination” by the judiciary as far back as 2002). All of this means that well into the 21st century, Japan finally has a precedent of domestic discourse on racism that cannot be ignored.

4) Signs Japan may enforce Hague

Last year’s top 10 noted that Japan would join an international pact that says international children abducted by a family member from their habitual country of residence after divorce should be repatriated. However, JBC doubted it would be properly enforced, in light of a propagandist Foreign Ministry pamphlet arguing that signing the Hague Convention was Japan’s means to force foreigners to send more Japanese children home (“Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents,” JBC, Oct. 8). Furthermore, with divorces between Japanese citizens commonly resulting in one parent losing all access to the children, what hope would foreigners have?

Fortunately, last year there were some positive steps, with some children abducted to Japan being returned overseas. Government-sponsored mediation resulted in a voluntary return, and a court ruling ordered a repatriation (the case is on appeal).

However, the Hague treaty requires involuntary court-ordered returns, and while Japan has received children under its new signatory status, it has not as yet sent any back. Further, filing for return and/or access in Japan under the Hague is arduous, with processes not required in other signatory countries.

Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, and JBC hopes that respect for habitual residence continues even after international media attention on Japan has waned.

3) Ruling on welfare confuses

Last July another court case mentioned in previous top 10s concluded, with an 82-year-old Zainichi Chinese who has spent her whole life in Japan being denied social-welfare benefits for low-income residents (seikatsu hogo). The Supreme Court overturned a Fukuoka High Court ruling that NJ had “quasi-rights” to assistance, saying that only nationals had a “guaranteed right” (kenri).

People were confused. Although the media portrayed this as a denial of welfare to NJ, labor union activist Louis Carlet called it a reaffirmation of the status quo — meaning there was no NJ ineligibility, just no automatic eligibility. Also, several bureaucratic agencies stated that NJ would qualify for assistance as before.

It didn’t matter. Japan’s xenophobic right soon capitalized on this phraseology, with Ishihara’s Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in August announcing policies “based on the ruling” that explicitly denied welfare to NJ. In December, in another act of outright meanness, Jisedai made NJ welfare issues one of their party platforms. One of their advertisements featured an animated pig, representing the allegedly “taboo topic” of NJ (somehow) receiving “eight times the benefits of Japanese citizens,” being grotesquely sliced in half.

You read that right. But it makes sense when you consider how normalized hate speech has become in Japan.

2) The rise and rise of hate speech

Last year’s list noted how Japan’s hate speech had turned murderous, with some even advocating the killing of Koreans in Japan. In 2014, Japanese rightists celebrated Hitler’s 125th birthday in Tokyo by parading swastika banners next to the Rising Sun flag. Media reported hate speech protests spreading to smaller cities around Japan, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered little more than lukewarm condemnations of what is essentially his xenophobic power base. Even opportunistic foreigners joined the chorus, with Henry Scott Stokes and Tony “Texas Daddy” Marano (neither of whom can read the Japanese articles written under their name) topping up their retirement bank accounts with revisionist writings.

That said, last year also saw rising counterprotests. Ordinary people began showing up at hate rallies waving “No to racism” banners and shouting the haters down. The United Nations issued very strong condemnations and called for a law against hate speech. Even Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto confronted Makoto Sakurai, the then-leader of hate group Zaitokukai (which, despite Japan’s top cop feigning ignorance of the group, was added to a National Police Agency watch list as a threat to law and order last year).

Unfortunately, most protesters have taken the tack of crying “Don’t shame us Japanese” rather than the more empowering “NJ are our neighbors who have equal rights with us.” Sadly, the possibility of equality ever becoming a reality looked even further away as 2014 drew to a close:

1) Abe re-election and secrets law

With his third electoral victory in December, Abe got a renewed mandate to carry out his policies. These are ostensibly to revitalize the economy, but more importantly to enforce patriotism, revive Japan’s mysticism, sanitize Japan’s history and undo its peace Constitution to allow for remilitarization (“Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2013).

Most sinister of all his policies is the state secrets law, which took effect last month, with harsh criminal penalties in place for anyone “leaking” any of 460,000 potential state secrets. Given that the process for deciding what’s a secret is itself secret, this law will further intimidate a self-censoring Japanese media into double-guessing itself into even deeper silence.

These misgivings have been covered extensively elsewhere. But particularly germane for JBC is how, according to Kyodo (Dec. 8), the Abe Cabinet has warned government offices that Japanese who have studied or worked abroad are a higher leak risk. That means the government can now justifiably purge all “foreign” intellectual or social influences from the upper echelons of power.

How will this state-sponsored xenophobia, which now views anything “foreign” as a security threat, affect Japan’s policymakers, especially when so many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (even Abe himself) have studied abroad? Dunno. But the state secrets law will certainly undermine Japan’s decades of “internationalization,” globalization and participation in the world community — in ways never seen in postwar Japan.

Bubbling under:

a) Jisedai no To’s xenophobic platform fails to inspire, and the party loses most of its seats in December’s election.

b) Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Japan’s biggest drugmaker, appoints Christophe Weber as president despite the Takeda family’s xenophobic objections.

c) Media pressure forces Konsho Gakuen cooking college to (officially) repeal its “Japanese only” admissions process (despite it being in place since 1976, and Saitama Prefecture knowing about it since 2012).

d) All Nippon Airways (ANA) uses racist “big-nosed white guy” advertisement to promote “Japan’s new image” as Haneda airport vies to be a hub for Asian traffic (“Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad,” JBC, Jan. 24, 2014).

e) Despite NJ being listed on resident registries (jūmin kihon daichō) since 2012, media reports continue to avoid counting NJ as part of Japan’s official population.


Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced


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Hi Blog. Some interesting news here. According to the Grauniad (article below), hate group Zaitokukai (which has been part of a group publicly advocating the killing of Japan’s generational Korean residents, the Zainichi) has been placed on a National Police Agency “watchlist” as a threat to law and order.

That is good news.  However, I wonder if it will deter Zaitokukai’s bullying activities, where they can verbally abuse, knock down, and even punch (watch the video to the end) an old man who counterdemonstrates against them:

Where were the police then?  (Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or within the movie Yasukuni?)

As has argued before, the Japanese police have a soft touch for extreme-rightists, but take a hard line against extreme(?) leftists.  So placing this particular group on a watch list is a good thing.  As having laws against violence and threats to law and order is a good thing.  Alas, if those laws are not enforced by Japan’s boys in blue, that makes little difference.  We will have to wait and see whether we’ll see a softening of Zaitokukai’s rhetoric or Sakurai Makoto’s bullying activities.

Meanwhile, according to the Mainichi Shinbun at the very bottom, local governments (as opposed to the foot-dragging PM Abe Cabinet) are considering laws against hate speech (well, they’re passing motions calling for one, anyway).  That’s good too, considering that not long ago they were actually passing panicky resolutions against allowing Permanent Residents (particularly those same Zainichi) the right to vote in local elections.  Methinks that if the world (e.g., the United Nations) wasn’t making an issue of Japan’s rising hate speech (what with the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all), this would probably not be happening.  In other words, the evidence suggests that it’s less an issue of seeing the Zainichi as fellow residents and human beings deserving equal rights, more an issue of Japan avoiding international embarrassment.  I would love to be proven wrong on this, but the former is a much more sustainable push than the latter.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist
Ultra-nationalist group, which claims to have 15,000 members, deemed a threat to law and order
By Justin McCurry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Thursday 4 December 2014 10.29 EST

Police in Japan have placed a rightwing extremist group on its watchlist for the first time amid growing international pressure to crack down on a rise in hate speech against the country’s Korean community.

In its annual security report published this week, the National Police Agency said Zaitokukai, an ultra-nationalist group that claims it has 15,000 members, should be considered a potential threat to law and order.

Zaitokukai calls for the end to welfare and other “privileges” afforded to about half a million non-naturalised members of Japan’s ethnic Korean community, including the descendants of labourers brought over from the Korean peninsula to work in mines and factories before and during the second world war.

It frequently holds demonstrations, often in parts of cities such as Tokyo and Osaka with large Korean populations. Its supporters have described ethnic Koreans as “criminals” and “cockroaches” and called for them to be killed. Police said Zaitokukai and other far-right groups had held more than 100 rallies in the first 10 months of this year.

The police agency report – which usually targets members of Japan’s vast network of yakuza gangs – warned Zaitokukai was a potential threat to the public due to its “extreme nationalist and xenophobic” ideology.

Zaitokukai’s inclusion in the security watch list is unprecedented and comes months after Eriko Yamatani, who as minister for public security is Japan’s most senior police official, failed to publicly condemn the group.

Yamatani was invited to distance herself from Zaitokukai this October after a 2009 photograph emerged of her with Shigeo Masuki, then a senior member of the group. She told journalists she did not recall the photograph being taken, adding that it was not appropriate to comment on the policies of individual groups.

“Japan has a long history of placing great value on the idea of harmony and respecting the rights of everyone,” she said.

In July, a court in Osaka ruled that a Zaitokukai demonstration held near a school in Kyoto with links to a North Korean residents group amounted to racial discrimination.

In October, Osaka’s mayor, Toru Hashimoto, confronted Zaitokukai’s then leader, Makoto Sakurai, during a one-on-one debate, labelling him and his supporters racists who were not welcome in the city. The debate ended after just a few minutes, with both men hurling insults at each other and, at one point, appearing on the verge of physical violence.

The UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination has called on Japan to address hate speech and incitement to racist violence during demonstrations, and to punish public officials and politicians who disseminate hate speech. This week South Korea’s national assembly adopted a resolution urging Japan to take similar measures.


ヘイトスピーチ:法規制求める意見書 地方議会続々採択

毎日新聞 2014年12月20日 15時00分, courtesy of BS.









“Japanese Only” nightclubs “W” in Nagoya and newly-opening “CLUB Leopard” in Hiroshima


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Hi Blog.  Two more places to add to the roster of “Japanese Only” Exclusionary Establishments in Japan, and this time, they are places that Japan’s youth frequent:  nightclubs (nothing like catching them when they’re young and possibly more open-minded…)

1) Nightclub “W”
名古屋市中区栄3-10-13 Wビル 6F&7F
TEL 052-242-5705
IDX グループ 株式会社IDXのHP
Official FaceBookページ
Twitterアカウント @w_052

It’s a pretty big place:

and it has this sign, courtesy of SM and MS, as of October 25, 2014:

Funny, that, because one of the the first images that currently greets you when you go to their webpage ( is this:

SM adds: Hello Debito, on MS’s wall you asked for a bit of background re: this photo I had posted on my own wall today. Last night I was in downtown Nagoya (Sakae) and I saw this sign posted at the entrance of a large dance club called “W.” There was a very buff bouncer beside the sign. I approached him and asked if I’d be allowed to go in. He apologized and said no. I asked if it was because of dress code or because I was foreign. (I was in a nice outfit, having gone out for dinner with my husband earlier.) He said it was because I was foreign. I asked why this was a policy. He said it was the rule of management, and he had to enforce it. I took some photos (although he had said no photos allowed.) He didn’t try to stop me from taking the photos, we said good night, and went on our way.


2) CLUB Leopard in Hiroshima (opening December 5)

住所 広島市中区流川町7-6
第五白菱ビルB1F TEL 082-569-7777
It also has a pretty impressive website:

And an equally impressive set of rules to follow, courtesy of GH:

Look at the very bottom for the “DO NOT ENTER NON-JAPANESE”.
(Love how they render a “foreigner” in silhouette: That tuft of hair, so “foreign”! Ironic given how much time you see the J-guys who frequent nightclubs spend on THEIR hair…)

Interestingly enough, that set of rules has now been amended, according to their website as of today:

That’ll keep out those darn pickpockets!

So will they, or won’t they, let in NJ patrons? Somebody in Hiroshima, go on down and check out DJ Kaori (of American Idol fame) on December 6!  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


As of November 17, the “Japanese Only” restriction is on CLUB Leopard’s advertising trucks, courtesy of GH:


What a fun-sounding place.  Advertising yourself so prominently based upon what you can’t do when you’re there!

Japan Procter & Gamble’s racialized laundry detergent ad: “Cinderella and the Nose Ballroom Dance”


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Hi Blog.  Readers VW and TO have just submitted the following ad campaign from P&G Japan (as in Procter & Gamble), with the following comment:

Dear Dr. Arudou, Thank you for your continued work raising awareness on issues of race here in Japan.

Have you seen this latest ad campaign for Bold detergent?

Full video:
Campaign website:

There’s also a mini, 20 second ad on YouTube that is being promoted right now when people load other, unrelated videos (which is how I ran across this). I hope it may be of interest to you or your readers.

Thank you. First, let’s embed the ad with stills:

Synopsis: In a 3 1/2-minute retelling of the Cinderella story, a flower-sniffing Prince Charming announces to his Queen mother that he wants to find a woman to be his bride (hanayome).


This announcement is sent throughout the land that there will be a royal ball (butoukai) to accomplish this, and a message arrives at Cinderella’s home, where she expresses a wish to go.


But her nasty stepsisters and stepmother saddle her with a heap of laundry (done in a modern Japanese-style washing machine) and go instead.


Fortunately, the Fairy Godmother comes by with Bold detergent in a gel form, which enables her not only to escape the drudgery and go to the ball, but also become perfumed, in a way that makes her nose grow longer and twitchy.

P&GCinderellanosetwitch P&GCinderellanoserainbow

Cut to the evening gala, where all the women are trying to make their noses longer.

P&Gnoselengthen3 P&Gnoselengthen2 P&Gnoselengthen1

When Prince Charming asks why, she says that PC wanted a nose (hana) ball. No, says PC, he was referring to flowers (hana).


No matter, in walks Cinderella, and her fragrant clothes entrance the Prince and make their noses mutually longer and flappier.



They have their flappy nose dance until midnight, when suddenly she has to leave (no carriage, but a mama-chari bicycle).  But she leaves behind a fragrant article of clothing which the Prince finds and flaps his nose at.

P&Gprincecharmingbeforesniff P&Gprincecharmingaftersniff

At the end of the ad, the Prince commands his kingdom to “Find Cinderella!!” And now the viewer is left with the question: “Is this a chance for you also to become Cinderella!?”


And an accented voiceover tells the viewer to go to P&G’s website for more (complete with exaggerated “Western” facial features, and a Cinderella with a flappy nose).


COMMENT:  It’s a clever ad.  Procter & Gamble Japan clearly spent a lot of money on it, with elaborate costumes and many extras, all very milk-white and European, and most quite well trained (especially the Queen) in speaking phonetic Japanese without obnoxious katakana subtitles (Cinderella herself speaks without accent, although the transitional voice-overs have a Japanese native narrator speaking in a foreignized accent).  And the reason I say it’s clever is because it’s making clever puns with flower/nose and retelling the old tale quite afresh (the product itself is very much subsumed to the plot-line).

But it’s still a racialized telling of the tale, what with those damned elongated and flappy noses. has brought up other examples of racialized marketing in Japan (see archive at, particularly in terms of nose imagery, and how obnoxious it can get:

nagasakitabinetto ANAHanedabignose vibesumadara3 toshiba2013suipanda6 toshiba2013suipanda1 MandomAd2 gaijinmask082112 090813mrjamesfull

After ANA airlines got pretty badly stung for its “change the image of Japan” (into a long-nosed Caucasian Robert Redford lookalike) ad earlier this year, Toshiba got slapped for their racialized bread maker ad (see here), and McDonald’s Japan faced enough pressure that they terminated their “Mr. James” burger campaign early, one wonders whether Japan’s advertisers will ever learn their lesson that grounding their product in racialized stereotypes is pretty bad form.

Imagine if you will some overseas company marketing an “Asian” product that was so delicious, it made your incisors go all “Asian buck teeth” reaching out to eat it?  No doubt Japan’s patrol of internet PC police would soon start howling racism and lobbying the company (and Japan’s missions abroad) to send out protests and orders to withdraw the ad campaign.  People making fun of Asian “slanted eyes” has been criticized before, and withdrawn with apologies.

So what about this?  What do Readers think?  Do you think Procter & Gamble HQ in the US would approve of this?

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times JBC 81, Nov 5 2014, “Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?”


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Hello Blog.  Here’s my latest JT column  posted as a question, not an answer this time.  Any answers?  Please post in the Comments Section below and/or at the JT website.  Thanks as always for putting this column once again in the Top Ten Most Read on the Japan Times online this month! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?


This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?

By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.

By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.

Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course. For top-down, I have seen many rules decided by decree. How about the steadily encroaching anti-smoking rules in public places? It’s no longer just train platforms; you can’t even have a lit cigarette on many Tokyo streets anymore. Some movements were instituted after government awareness-raising drives, like the nōshi wa hito no shi (“brain death is a person’s death”) campaign deployed in the 1990s to overcome apparently religious-based objections to organ donation.

These and many more examples of social engineering and official consensus-manufacturing have resulted in people changing their outward behavior, if not their outright belief in a previous system. (Who remembers that brain death was ever an issue?) And it happens pretty quickly (as in weeks or months), especially if these moves are backed up by criminal penalties. Remember when drunk driving was much less harshly punished? (I do, and thanks to Draconian penalties for even one glassful, we have the world’s only decent-tasting zero-alcohol beer.)

Bottom-up, however, takes a lot longer — years or decades — but it can be just as irresistible a social force. For example, I have seen the slow death of “old maid” bashing (remember “Christmas cakes” referring to women over age 25?), the loss of faith in overwork as proof of a person’s worth, and the stigmatization of power-based bullying (e.g., sexual and power harassment) to the point of achieving court victories. The progress of this genre of social change can be quite imperceptible, but when backed up by a media campaign after a social shock (such as a huge scandal or a horrific crime — stalking, for example), bottom-up change can happen much faster.

But these are relatively small fry. For really significant social changes, such as the abolition of racial discrimination and/or hate speech in Japan, both methods have been tried, and have failed.

Advocates (yes, including myself) have tried the top-down approach for decades, asking all levels of government and the bureaucracy to outlaw discrimination as blatant as “Japanese only” signs and rules. Their most common response is, “It’s too early; we have to change the public’s mind first.” For them, the bottom-up approach is the chicken before the egg.

But starting at the grass roots has been tried too. In fact, that’s where we started, working as hundreds of advocates for decades. I personally have spoken at hundreds of gatherings to thousands of people — even one-on-one to the discriminators themselves, calmly (yes, calmly) coaxing them to treat people with dignity and equality, as they themselves would want to be treated in a similar situation.

But in this case, the problem isn’t as simple as asking individuals to give up something like smoking on a train platform; this is an issue of excluders worrying aloud that “foreigners” are a threat to their cultural integrity in general, if not their business specifically. It may even be a matter of them saying, “I just don’t like those people, so sod you.”

Moreover, unaffected bystanders can be quite sympathetic to excluders who fear for their livelihoods (even if they are excluding a neighbor). Besides — cue vicious circle — there’s no law against them doing it. And then we return to the top-down approach: the egg before the chicken.

I admit that I lean towards the top-down approach. There are plenty of historical examples of bottom-up not working when it comes to the big changes. America’s Susan B. Anthony, for example, campaigned tirelessly at the grass-roots level for women’s suffrage throughout the 1800s but failed to get the vote in her lifetime. Or in Japan’s case, the foremost grass-roots movements in Japan right now — protests against the state secrets law, remilitarization and the restarting of nuclear reactors — are gaining little traction in the face of the government’s relentless top-downism.

Moreover, many of the great grassroots successes in history got lucky. Mahatma Gandhi’s grass-roots achievement of Indian independence was aided by the fact that the grip of the British Empire had been weakened by two world wars. Nelson Mandela was lucky not to meet the same fate as Steve Biko, and to see a more liberal South African government in his lifetime. Thus, change happened because leaders made sage decisions — and there is an enormous amount of top-down inherent in that.

Personally, I have witnessed significant social change — most notably, the flowering of America’s civil rights movements after 1964. Very much a grassroots effort, it still took more than a century for equal rights to be enforceably guaranteed by top-down policymaking and criminal penalties. But I remain convinced that the social change was top-down.

As a child growing up in New York state in the 1970s, I vividly remember African-American classmates (there were a significant number in my elementary schools) feeling empowered, even adopting the swagger and proud demeanor of hero boxer Muhammad Ali, without being accused of being “uppity Negroes.” Instead, there was enormous opprobrium from teachers and other influential people for anyone who dared, for example, use racist language, such as the N-word. Even observing that somebody might be “different” because they had different skin color was simply “not done” anymore.

Why? I believe the new top-down rules set the agenda and terms of debate in a more tolerant direction. You had to accept that the “old ways” were “backwards” and no longer appropriate.

Obviously, it wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of holdouts, disobedients and overt racists in the American example. The U.S. was still two generations away from an African-American president, and to this day a huge number of minorities are disenfranchised just because they are minorities.

But back then it was made very clear that somebody was going to get it in the neck “from above” if there were any violations of the new narrative. That’s why as kids, our overt behavior and eventually our attitudes changed — maybe not immediately into good habits, but certainly away from reinforcing bad habits.

Of course, this is the American example, with limited application to Japan. Japanese society has very different attitudes towards the outward appearance of “difference” and expression of dissent. The national narratives of inclusivity and community construction are arguably polar opposite to America’s.

Even the power of the Japanese grass roots is purported to be different. Political science professor Jiro Yamaguchi recently wrote (“Perilous spirit of the times,” The Japan Times, Oct. 28) about Japan’s “deep-seated tendency of conformism”; fellow professor Koichi Nakano has described the business of governing Japan as an “elite-driven process rather than a society-driven process.” Some even argue that a traditional, unchanging world view is what makes Japanese into Japanese, so why would anyone expect any major change?

But, again, all societies have bad habits, and racial discrimination is a doozy. How could a more positive environment be created so that the children of immigrants (many of the latter of whom are here at the bidding of the Japanese government) and international marriages will not be treated as “foreign” and sometimes be denied equal treatment?

So I ask readers: On balance, is unequal treatment to be legislated away, with people catching up through the carrots and sticks of a new legal and social regime? Or is it something that people will cotton on to eventually, as they push for reforms because it just “makes sense” to treat people (especially fellow Japanese) equally?

Is a bad social habit to be thrown out the second-floor window, or patiently cajoled down the stairs and out the front door? Discuss.
Debito Arudou’s co-authored bilingual “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon as a paperback and e-book, see Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas:

Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image


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Hi Blog.  I’m hoping to finish off this metathread about Japan’s Right-Wing Swing soon, but good articles keep on coming (thanks to Readers for pointing them out).

These two are from the JT, one from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat’s charm.  But he’s recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration.  Excerpt:

Does right-wing extremism threaten Japan’s democracy?

Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here.

On Oct. 22 it was reported that Sanae Takaichi, the minister for internal affairs, had given an enthusiastic endorsement of a book praising Adolf Hitler. The explanations and denials issued have been contradictory and unconvincing.

If any British minister were to say anything that even by implication supported a criminal who had been instrumental in instituting the Holocaust, there would be a public outcry and the minister concerned would be forced to resign.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s alleged statement in April that convicted war criminals were “martyrs” was regarded here as unacceptable. I wrote to the Japanese Embassy in London asking whether Abe had in fact made such a statement. I said that any such statement was highly offensive to British people whose relatives had suffered so much at the hands of some members of Imperial Japanese forces during World War II. As no reply to my letter was received, I have to assume that Abe had indeed made this remark.

On Oct. 18 it was reported that NHK, in a notices to journalists on its English-language services, had banned any references to the Nanking massacre and to the Japanese use of “comfort women,” the euphemism used for sex slaves.

NHK is supposed to be like the BBC and to be both politically neutral and objective. Under the direction of Katsuto Momii it seems to have been turned into a tool of the Japanese government. As professor Koichi Nakano has apparently said it looks “increasingly like a mirror of CCTV,” China’s state broadcaster.

There have been many reports here suggesting that Abe’s right-wing ministers want to rewrite history to provide academic support for their attempts to exculpate Japan’s wartime leaders.

Western historians, basing themselves on unimpeachable evidence, have no doubt about the atrocities committed by Japanese forces not only in Nanjing but elsewhere in China. That Chinese forces, nationalist and communist alike, also committed crimes against civilians is also true, but Japan was the aggressor and Chinese behavior was no excuse for the deliberate policies of oppression adopted by the Japanese high command.

There can be no doubt that members of the Japanese Army not only were responsible for many rapes but also forced women, not only Koreans, in occupied territories to become sex slaves.

The facts about the activities of the Japanese biological warfare unit 731 in Manchukuo are so horrific that its existence and experiments tend to be buried and, if possible, forgotten. This “amnesia” is at least in part due to American connivance; American investigators were told the results of the “experiments” in return for not pursuing the Japanese perpetrators.

The maltreatment, to use an understatement, of the civilian populations in occupied territories including Singapore cannot be denied except by the willfully blind. Nor can historical revisionists justify the way in which allied prisoners of war were mistreated.[…]

In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[…]

It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights.

Full article at

Quite strong language, as I said, from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It’s even stronger:

Perilous spirit of the times

Female lawmakers given ministerial posts in the reshuffle of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet last month in the hope that more women on the team would shore up popular support for his Cabinet have turned out to be liabilities. Two of them have resigned after being accused of breaking basic rules in the Public Offices Election Law while two others are under the spotlight for their suspected ties to ultra-rightist groups.

It is inexcusable for Cabinet ministers to provide financial and material benefits to voters in their home constituencies. Neither former Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi nor former Justice Minister Midori Matsushima was qualified to assume Cabinet positions in the first place.

Even more serious are the reported ties of Sanae Takaichi, internal affairs minister, and Eriko Yamatani, head of the National Public Safety Commission, to ultra-rightist organizations that are accused of engaging in acts of racial discrimination. One of these groups has repeatedly threatened and harassed Korean residents in Japan, and some of its members have been accused of criminal offenses.

Yamatani has been photographed with one such offender. When she spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Yamatani avoided giving her opinion when asked by members of the foreign press what she thought of the Zaitokutai group’s activities.

Political leaders in a democracy bear an obligation to maintain the fight against terrorism, which threatens freedom and diverse values. If lawmakers like Takaichi and Yamatani are committed to protecting freedom and democracy, they need to condemn the activities of ultra-rightist groups like Zaitokukai or Neo-Nazis. If lawmakers exhibit stances that allow such groups freedom of speech and recognize their existence within the realm of value relativism, such lawmakers could, under the common sense of Western countries, be viewed as enemies of freedom.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption.

The permanent members of the UNSC are an exclusive club comprising the victors of World War II. It is hardly possible that they would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[…]

What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire.

It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects.

Entire article at

It’s nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like “the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism”, because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan’s media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan’s Postwar Era, it’s time for denunciations to happen. Because they’re not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times JBC 80 October 8, 2014: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions


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Hi Blog. Thanks to readers once again for putting this article into the #1 spot at the Japan Times Online for two days!  Debito

Pamphlet on Hague Treaty on Child Abductions displays slanted mindsets favoring the Japanese side of disputes
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Column 80 for Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, October 8, 2014
After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April.

That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith.

These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties.

We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, March 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men).

It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese and English, it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son.

The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy. After I blogged about it last month on, many annoyed left-behind parents overseas said they would forward it to their national elected representatives. After a South China Morning Post article cited blog commenters calling it racist, Huffington Post Japan and Al Jazeera picked up the story, engendering predictable relativism about differing cultural interpretations.

For the record, I never wrote that the MOFA pamphlet was “racist.” That term, if not used carefully, tends to dull analysis, especially since the pamphlet is more subtle than that. In fact, it provides valuable insights into MOFA’s slanted mind-set towards the child abduction issue.

First, consider the visuals. In three cartoons (on the cover, and pages 4 and 10) we see a foreign-looking man (never a woman) being physically violent towards his child, with two of those showing the child longing to return to Japan and be with mother.

Violent Dads: First and 3rd illustration are used twice, so three.


Reinforcing that in five more places (cover, pages 1, 7, and 9 (twice) — see C and D) are illustrations where the child expresses dismay at being abducted from Japan; only once (page 4) is there dismay at being abducted overseas. On the other hand, pages 2 and 7 show children displaying no dismay at being abducted to Japan, or instead showing shock (pages 2 (twice) and 3 — see E) at not being allowed to return to Japan. The clear inference: Japan is, on balance, the natural place for the child, regardless of factors such as primary language or time spent living abroad.

Dismay at being abducted from Japan. Cover and pg 9 repeat illustration twice, so five.


(text context clarifies that the third illustration above is an abduction from Japan)

Dismay at being abducted overseas (one image only):


No dismay at being abducted to Japan:


Dismay at not being allowed to return to Japan:


This implicit fear of the outside world is reinforced by images of uneasy children facing unfamiliar rules, customs and languages (pages 1, 4 and 5 (twice)). More subtle is the picture on the cover and page 1, where foreign (adults) surround, frown and stare at the nervous Japanese child as though she really doesn’t belong. (She’s sent back to her Japanese mother’s loving arms by the next panel — phew.) Only once (page 3) is there a happy child sent back to his foreign dad.

Uneasy children facing the unfamiliar:




Being stared at by adults:


Sole image of happy child being returned to NJ father (plus katakana-speaking father not in English version, referred to below):


Then consider the manga storyline. The Japanese father protagonist experiences a child abduction when the French mother abducts their son to France. Fortunately, according to the pamphlet, because Japan signed the Hague, Japan’s authorities can have French authorities track down the child, get mediation and (as the conflict resolution of this story) return the son (and the mother) to live happily ever after in Japan (page 6).

That is the central and tacit argument of the MOFA pamphlet: Japan signing the Hague isn’t about returning children to their habitual residence (whether it be Japan or overseas); it is about giving Japan greater leverage overseas to bring its children home to Japan. Where they belong.

Moreover, for some mysterious reason we spend the first page developing the relationship between the Japanese father and son protagonists, with father comically put off-balance by a barrage of questions from son, then negotiating with him to finish his dinner before answering. By page 3, the pamphlet mysteriously succumbs to another case of the cutes, as an anime figurine appears to praise the son’s intelligence (revealing father as an anime fetishist).

Irrelevant curlicues:


Why these irrelevant curlicues? Because by page 6, we learn why the French mother abducted the son: She accuses father of spending all his time watching anime and not paying attention to them. This is of course made dubious after all the space spent portraying the father’s caring, explaining, hugging, even cooking for his son. So clearly she’s just being hysterical. Of course, she returns to Japan with them after negotiations, so nothing fatal to the relationship.

On the other hand, when it’s a Japanese woman abducting, her reasons are more serious than hubby’s anime fetish. She has to deal with domestic violence, poverty (cover), unsympathetic or unpredictable foreign courts (pages 2, 3, 4, and 5), and even the unlikely scenario of begging frowning foreign strangers on the street to help her missing child overseas (page 2). Conclusion: The Japanese side is generally being victimized, while the foreign side is subtly depicted as violent and overreacting.

Other images referred to above. Frowning foreign strangers on the street:


This is where MOFA is most disingenuous: In no fewer than four places (pages 1, 2 (twice) and 5) are unsympathetic courts, “cultural differences,” “legal procedures” and “language barriers” cited as hurdles for the Japanese spouse overseas.

Japan’s unsympathetic courts, legal procedures and cultural presumptions allowing child abductions to happen here on a regular basis — even between Japanese couples — are never mentioned. Japan, remember, has no joint custody or guaranteed child visitations.

In fact, taking the issue to a court overseas may afford both parents more rights — as it did in the Savoie case, where, despite the pamphlet’s claims, a Tennessee court gave Noriko Savoie permission to leave the U.S. for Japan (whereupon she abducted Christopher Savoie’s children). This is where the pamphlet morphs from guide to screed.

No doubt some MOFA representatives will be reading this critique, so let me point out two more inaccuracies unbecoming of a government agency attempting an impartial review of the issue.

First, almost all of the international marriages in the pamphlet are portrayed as between (katakana-speaking, in the Japanese version) white men and Japanese women. In fact, most international marriages in Japan are between Japanese men and Asian women. That is where the pamphlet is an easy target for accusations of racism. Not all “foreignness,” especially in this case, is so visually identifiable.

Then there’s the biased terminology. It is inaccurate in the English version to frame child abductions as “children’s removal” — after all, this is not the Hague Convention on Child Removals. Just as inaccurate as the term it was translated from, tsuresari (literally, “accompanying and disappearing”), meant to semantically soften the act of kidnapping — especially when another appropriate word, rachi, is used for abductions of Japanese by North Koreans.

On the plus side, there have already been good outcomes from Japan’s joining the Hague. Left-behind parents including Christopher Savoie and U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Toland (who have successfully pushed for the Goldman Act, as well as several U.S. congressional resolutions decrying Japan’s status as a haven for child abductions) have recently had their Hague applications accepted by the Japanese government, which has promised to locate and provide access to the Americans’ children in Japan. In effect, this is official acknowledgment that their children were in fact abducted from their lawful custody. Two abducted children have also been returned to their habitual residences in Japan.

NB:  There are at least 3 US resolutions mentioning Japan Child Abduction: House Resolutions 125 and 1326 and Senate Resolution 552.  Savoie Case, letter from MOFA dated September 8, 2014, accepting his case as a Hague Case, meaning the GOJ recognizes his legal custody:


Very good. But will all this eventually result in Japan actually returning a child to a parent overseas — something which, according to activists, has never happened as a result of Japanese government or court action?

Let’s wait and see, of course. But at this juncture, I doubt Japan will enforce the Hague with much verve. Doing so, as Colin P.A. Jones has pointed out on these pages, would in fact give more rights to those in international marriages than it would domestic couples! If the Japanese government’s past behavior towards inconvenient international treaties is any guide, it will find caveats to ensure international divorce does not become another way for Japan’s depopulation to accelerate.

Thus, MOFA’s pamphlet is little more than subtle propagandizing meant to reassure the Japanese public that they haven’t lost the power to abduct by signing the Hague. In fact, MOFA is portraying the Hague as a means to bring more Japanese children back home. With that mind-set as strong as ever, I anticipate that foreign parents will continue to get a raw deal from the Japanese system.


Debito Arudou recommends that officials at MOFA and everyone else understand this issue better by watching “From The Shadows,” a documentary available at Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas:


SCMP (Hong Kong) on MOFA Hague Pamphlet: “‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists”, cites (UPDATE: Also makes Huffington Post Japan in Japanese & Al Jazeera)


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Hi Blog.  I am happy to say that our last blog post generated another news article.  Thanks very much to Julian for drawing attention to the issue.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE, courtesy of Reader Oliver:  The pamphlet can be found on the MOFA website, so it is genuine. PDF is here:
(link from this page:

And there is even an English language version!
(link from this page:


‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists
Pamphlet issued by Tokyo to Japan’s embassies in response to Hague convention is criticised for depicting a foreign man beating his child

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 1:44am
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong,), by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
The cartoon showing a white man beating his child has drawn condemnation from human rights activists.

Human rights activists in Japan have reacted angrily to a new pamphlet released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they claim is racist and stereotypical for depicting Caucasian fathers beating their children.

The 11-page leaflet has been sent to Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in response to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction going into effect in Japan on April 1.

Tokyo dragged its feet on ratifying the treaty, which broadly stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent but without the consent of the other parent.

But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.

“It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist.

“After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.

“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.”

Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women.

“It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.

The rest of the pamphlet takes the form of a conversation between a cartoon character father and son, but with the storyline showing the difficulties of a Japanese woman living abroad with her half-Japanese son.

Arudou says the publication then “degenerates into the childish” with the appearance of an animated doll that is the father figure’s pride and joy, but also dispenses advice.

“As well as promoting all these stereotypes, why are they not talking about visitation issues for foreigners whose half-Japanese children have been abducted by their ex-wives?” asked Arudou.

Several foreigners who have been unable to see their children for years have already contacted Arudou to express their anger, with a number of US nationals saying they would pass the document onto lawmakers.

Arudou’s post on the issue on his website has also attracted attention, with commentators describing the pamphlet as “racist propaganda”.

“This is disgusting,” one commentator posted. “Pictures are powerful, more powerful than words. And the only time I’ve ever seen anything remotely like this is when I did a search for old anti-Japanese propaganda.

“Of course, that was disgusting too, but it was wartime!”

Another added, “What a pathetic advert for an ‘advanced’ country.

“As for the text – not wasting any more bandwidth on such utter racist, xenophobic, patronising, paranoid nonsense.”



外務省作成の「ハーグ条約」小冊子は人種差別 人権活動家が指摘
The Huffington Post
投稿日: 2014年09月17日 16時34分 JST 更新: 2014年09月19日 14時17分 JST PAMPHLET WHAT IS THE HAGUE CONVENTION





(サウスチャイナ·モーニング·ポスト「’Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists」より 2014/09/16 23:14)
pamphlet what is the hague convention




pamphlet what is the hague convention

pamphlet what is the hague convention

pamphlet what is the hague convention





Al, September 18, 2014

Japanese ministry’s child abduction pamphlet shows white father hitting child

Rights activists criticise cartoon from Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs after country signs child abduction convention.

Screenshot of Japanese Foreign Ministry publication. MOFA JAPAN.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry pamphlet depicting white fathers abusing children has drawn criticism from human rights activists who say it perpetuates(link is external) racist stereotypes.

The pamphlet(link is external) reportedly was sent to Japanese embassies and consulates to explain the implications of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The booklet features manga-style cartoons and is also available in English via the ministry’s website.
Japan’s years of refusal(link is external) to sign the Hague Convention drew significant pressure from critics in the US and Europe, who argued(link is external) that Japan had become a “safe haven” for parental child abductors…

Read the rest at

Quoted in BBC Brasil (original Portuguese & machine E translation): “Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets”


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Hi Blog. Got quoted (and some of’s “Japanese Only” signs posted) in BBC Brasil today (thanks Ewerthon for the link). I’ll paste the article below with the Google machine translation in English afterwards. Corrections welcome.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Japão recebe críticas da ONU após onda de xenofobia nas ruas
Ewerthon Tobace
De Tóquio para a BBC Brasil

Atualizado em 10 de setembro, 2014 – 07:44 (Brasília) 10:44 GMT
Placa contra estrangeiros no Japão / Crédito: Arquivo Pessoal

“Estrangeiros só poderão entrar se estiverem acompanhados de um japonês”, diz a placa
Uma recente onda de casos de xenofobia tem causado grande preocupação no Japão e levou a ONU a pedir que o governo do primeiro-ministro Shinzo Abe tomasse medidas concretas para lidar com o problema.

As principais vítimas nesse incidentes têm sido comunidades estrangeiras como a de coreanos e chineses, além de outras minorias chamadas de “inimigas do Japão”.

Um exemplo dos abusos é um vídeo que se tornou viral e circula pelas redes sociais. Mostra um grupo de homens da extrema-direita com megafones em frente a uma escola sul-coreana em Osaka.

Eles insultam os alunos e professores com palavrões, fazem piadas com a cultura do país vizinho e ameaçam de morte os que se atreverem a sair do prédio.

Um relatório do Comitê de Direitos Humanos da ONU encaminhado ao governo japonês, destaca a reação passiva dos policiais em manifestações deste tipo.

As autoridades têm sido criticadas por apenas observarem, sem tomarem nenhuma atitude efetiva para conter os abusos.

No final de agosto, o Comitê das Nações Unidas para a Eliminação da Discriminação Racial solicitou que o país “abordasse com firmeza as manifestações de ódio e racismo, bem como a incitação à violência racial e ódio durante manifestações públicas”.

Desde 2013, o Japão registrou mais de 360 casos de manifestações e discursos racistas.
A questão ganhou os holofotes da mídia e está sendo amplamente debatida pelo partido governista, o Liberal Democrático.

Um caso que está sendo visto como teste para a Justiça japonesa nesta área é a ação movida, no mês passado, por uma jornalista sul-coreana, Lee Sinhae, contra Makoto Sakurai, presidente do grupo de extrema-direita Zaitokukai, por danos morais.

Ela quer uma indenização depois de ser “humilhada” por textos discriminatórios na internet.
“O que me preocupa é que muitos destes discursos estão deixando o anonimato da internet e já chegaram às ruas”, disse Lee em uma coletiva de imprensa.

A jornalista alertou que várias crianças estão tendo contato com este tipo de pensamento e replicam no ambiente escolar, gerando casos de bullying.

No Japão, não há uma lei que proíba discursos difamatórios ou ofensivos. Para os opositores, banir os discursos de ódio pode acabar interferindo no direito das pessoas à liberdade de expressão.

Mas o país é signatário da Convenção Internacional sobre a Eliminação de Todas as Formas de Discriminação Racial, que entrou em vigor em 1969, e que reconhece expressões discriminatórias como crime.

Pela Convenção, os países seriam obrigados a rejeitar todas as formas de propaganda destinadas a justificar ou promover o ódio racial e a discriminação e tomar ações legais contra eles.

Segundo as Nações Unidas, o governo japonês ainda tem muito para fazer nesta área. O comitê da ONU insistiu para que o Japão implemente urgentemente “medidas adequadas para rever a sua legislação”, em particular o seu código penal, para regular o discurso de ódio.

Exclusão dos estrangeiros
Para o escritor, ativista e pesquisador norte-americano naturalizado japonês Arudou Debito, “(essas atitudes discriminatórias) têm se tornado cada vez mais evidentes, organizadas e consideradas ‘normais'”.

Debito coleciona, desde 1999, fotos de placas de lojas, bares, restaurantes, karaokês, muitas delas enviadas por leitores de todo o Japão, com frases em inglês – e até em português – proibindo a entrada de estrangeiros.

A coletânea virou livro, intitulado Somente japoneses: o caso das termas de Otaru e discriminação racial no Japão.
Debito se diz ainda preocupado que, com a divulgação cada vez maior dos pensamentos da extrema-direita, a causa ganhe cada vez mais “fãs”.

“No Japão ainda há a crença de que é pouco provável haver o extremismo em uma ‘sociedade tão pacífica'”, explicou.

“Eu não acredito que seja tão simples assim. Ignorar os problemas de ódio, intolerância e exclusivismo para com as minorias esperando que eles simplesmente desapareçam é um pensamento positivo demais e historicamente perigoso.”

Placa: “Somente japoneses” / Crédito: Arquivo Pessoal

Aviso em um hotel de águas termais alerta que estrangeiros não podem entrar 


A comunidade brasileira no Japão também é alvo constante de atitudes discriminatórias. Quarto maior grupo entre os estrangeiros que vivem no país, os brasileiros estão constantemente reclamando de abusos gerados por discriminação racial e o tema é sempre levantado em discussões com autoridades locais.

O brasileiro Ricardo Yasunori Miyata, 37, é um dos que foi à Justiça depois que o irmão foi confundido com um ladrão em um supermercado de uma grande rede, na cidade de Hamamatsu, província de Shizuoka.

“O problema foi a abordagem. O segurança chegou gritando, como se ele fosse bandido e, mesmo depois de provado que tudo não passou de um engano, ele (o segurança) justificou que faz parte da índole do brasileiro roubar e que não poderíamos reclamar pois deveríamos estar acostumado com este tipo de coisa”, contou o rapaz, ainda indignado.

O caso aconteceu há quatro anos, mas até hoje Ricardo divulga a história para que outros não passem pelo mesmo constrangimento pelo qual ele e a família passaram.

“Acionamos a polícia, fizemos a reclamação na matriz da rede, procuramos um advogado e, por semanas, os gerentes do supermercado tentaram nos convencer a não entrar com processo”, lembra.

Depois de três meses, foi feito um acordo. “A rede trocou a empresa que faz a segurança local, pagou todas as despesas com advogados e exigimos ainda que os gerentes pedissem desculpas em público”, contou Ricardo.

Há 20 anos morando no Japão, o brasileiro lembra que antigamente a situação era bem pior. “Quando entrava brasileiro em supermercados, por exemplo, geralmente tocavam uma música brasileira. Era um sinal para avisar os funcionários de que havia estrangeiro na loja”, contou.

Ricardo já foi barrado em bares e também sofreu todo tipo agressão verbal. “Esse tipo de discriminação existe, é visível e constante. Enquanto as autoridades e a própria mídia não tomarem uma posição, esses abusos vão continuar acontecendo”, destacou.


Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets
By Ewerthon Tobace
Tokyo for the BBC Brazil
Updated on September 10, 2014 – 07:44 (GMT) 10:44 GMT

Plate against foreigners in Japan / Credit: Personal Archive
“Foreigners may only enter if accompanied by a Japanese,” says board

A recent spate of incidents of xenophobia has caused great concern in Japan and led the UN to ask the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take concrete measures to deal with the problem.

The main victims in this incident have been foreign communities such as Korean and Chinese, and other minorities called “enemy of Japan.”

An example of abuse is a video that went viral and circulates through social networks. Shows a group of men on the extreme right with megaphones in front of a South Korean school in Osaka.

They insult the students and teachers with profanity, make jokes with the culture of the neighboring country and threaten death to those who dare leave the building.

A report of the UN Human Rights Committee referred to the Japanese government, highlights the passive reaction of the police in demonstrations of this kind.

The authorities have been criticized for only observe, without taking any effective action to curb abuses.

In late August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the country “firmly approached the manifestations of hatred and racism and incitement to racial hatred and violence during public demonstrations.”

Since 2013, Japan has registered more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches.

The issue has gained the media spotlight and is being widely debated by the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic.

A case that is being seen as a test for the Japanese Justice in this area is the lawsuit filed last month by a South Korean journalist, Lee Sinhae against Makoto Sakurai, chairman of the far-right Zaitokukai for moral damage.

She wants compensation after being “humiliated” by discriminatory texts on the Internet.
“What worries me is that many of these speeches are leaving the anonymity of the internet and has already reached the streets,” Lee said in a press conference.

The journalist warned that several children are having contact with this type of thinking and replicate in the school environment, generating instances of bullying.


In Japan, there is no law prohibiting defamatory or offensive speeches. To opponents, banning hate speech they can interfere in people’s right to freedom of expression.

But the country is a signatory of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which entered into force in 1969, and recognizes that discriminatory expressions as crime.

By the Convention, countries would be forced to reject all forms of propaganda designed to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination and to take legal actions against them.

According to the United Nations, the Japanese government still has much to do in this area. The UN committee insisted that Japan urgently implement “appropriate measures to review its legislation,” particularly its criminal code to regulate hate speech.

Exclusion of foreigners

For the writer, activist and American-born researcher naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, “(such discriminatory attitudes) have become increasingly overt, organized, and normalized.”

Debito collects, since 1999, pictures of signs of shops, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, many of them sent in by readers from all over Japan, with English phrases – and even in Portuguese – prohibiting the entry of foreigners.

The collection became a book entitled Japanese Only: The Otaru case of spa and racial discrimination in Japan. [NB:  Not quite right, but my clarification was ignored by editors.]

Debito is said still worried that with the increasing dissemination of the thoughts of the extreme right, the cause get more and more “fans”.

“Japan still has the belief that extremism is less likely to happen in its ‘peaceful society'”,” he explained.

“I do not think it’s that simple. Ignoring the problems of hatred, intolerance and exclusivism towards minorities hoping they simply disappear too is a positive and historically dangerous thought.”

Board: “Japanese Only” / Credit: Personal Archive
Notice in a hotel hot springs warning that foreigners can not enter


The Brazilian community in Japan is also a constant target of discriminatory attitudes. Fourth largest group among the foreigners living in the country, Brazilians are constantly complaining of abuses generated by racial discrimination and the issue is always raised in discussions with local authorities.

The Brazilian Ricardo Yasunori Miyata, 37, is one of those who went to court after brother was mistaken for a thief in a supermarket of a large network in the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

“The problem was the approach.’s Security came screaming, like he was crook and even after proven that it was all a mistake, he (the security guard) explained that part of the character of the Brazilian steal and we could not complain because we should be accustomed to this kind of thing, “said the boy, still indignant.

The case happened four years ago, but until today Ricardo discloses the story so that others do not go through the same embarrassment in which he and his family went through.

“Switch-police, made the claim in the network matrix, seek a lawyer, and for weeks, supermarket managers tried to convince us not to enter the process,” he recalls.

After three months, an agreement was made. “The network changed the company that makes local security, paid all the expenses of attorneys and even demand that managers asked apology in public,” said Ricardo.

20 years living in Japan, Brazil recalls that once the situation was much worse. “When I came in Brazilian supermarkets, for example, one usually played Brazilian music. Was a sign to warn employees that the store was abroad,” he said.

Ricardo has been barred in all bars and also suffered verbal aggression type. “This kind of discrimination exists, is visible and constant. Whilst the authorities and the media itself has not taken a position, these abuses will continue happening,” he said.