Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect

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Hi Blog.  Posters on Debito.org have been champing at the bit to talk about Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s controversial statements on the GOJ WWII sexual slavery program (which also involved NJ and colonial slaves, making this a Debito.org issue).  So let’s have at it as a Discussion in a separate blog entry.

Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing:  He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.

Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing.  Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”.  This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste:  How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability.  Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit).  So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do.  Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made.  But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.

The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it.  In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.”  That is:  Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.

Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”.  And that is wrong both morally and factually.  It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism.  People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie.  Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.

But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect:  For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY.  That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.

At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down.  Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office.  But it is more “honest” than the alternative.

Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A.  After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers.  But an advance word of warning:  Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules:  Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources.  In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org.  Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources.  Go to it.  But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself.  Arudou Debito

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

Statement by Toru Hashimoto
Asahi Shimbun, Asia and Japan Watch, May 27, 2013, courtesy of JDG
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270012

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimioto issues a statement ahead of his press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

* * *

Ideals and values on which I stand:

Today, I want to start by talking about my basic ideals as a politician and my values as a human being.

Nothing is more regrettable than a series of media reports on my remarks with regard to the issue of so-called “comfort women.” These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context.

I attach the utmost importance to the universal values of human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, whose universality human beings have come to accept in the twenty-first century. As a constitutionalist, I also believe that the essential purpose of a nation’s constitution is to bind government powers with the rule of law and to secure freedom and rights of the people. Without such legal limitations imposed by the constitution, the government powers could become arbitrary and harmful to the people.

My administrative actions, first as Governor of Osaka Prefecture and then as Mayor of Osaka City, have been based on these ideals and values. The views on political issues that I have expressed in my career so far, including my view of the Japanese constitution, testify to my commitment to the ideals and values. I am determined to continue to embody these ideals and values in my political actions and statements.

As my ideals and values clearly include respect for the dignity of women as an essential element of human rights, I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.

What I really meant by my remarks on so-called “comfort women”

I am totally in agreement that the use of “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War 2 was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.

I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women. Our nation must be determined to stop this kind of tragedy from occurring again.

I have never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity and human rights of women as an essential part of the universal values in today’s world. It is extremely regrettable that only the cut-off parts of my remarks have been reported worldwide and that these reports have resulted in misunderstood meanings of the remarks, which are utterly contrary to what I actually intended.

We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women. What I intended to convey in my remarks was that a not-insignificant number of other nations should also sincerely face the fact that their soldiers violated the human rights of women. It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to the Japanese soldiers. This kind of attitude shelves the past offenses that are the very things we must face worldwide if we are truly to aim for a better world where the human rights of women are fully respected. Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Against this historical background, I stated that “the armed forces of nations in the world” seemed to have needed women “during the past wars”. Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that “I” tolerated it.

It is a hard historical fact that soldiers of some nations of the world have used women for sexual purposes in wars. From the viewpoint of respecting the human rights of women, it does not make much difference whether the suffering women are licensed or unlicensed prostitutes and whether or not the armed forces are organizationally involved in the violation of the dignity of the women. The use of women for sexual purposes itself is a violation of their dignity. It also goes without saying that rape of local citizens by soldiers in occupied territories and hot spots of military conflict are intolerable atrocities.

Please do not misunderstand, and think that I intend to relativize or justify the issue of comfort women for former Japanese soldiers. Such justification has never been my intention. Whatever soldiers of other nations did will not affect the fact that the violation of the dignity of women by the former Japanese soldiers was intolerable.

What I really meant in my remarks was that it would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world. It would suppress the truth that the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers not only existed in the past but also has yet to be eradicated in today’s world. Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of “sex slaves” or “sex slavery.”

If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.

While expecting sensible nations to voice the issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, I believe that there is no reason for inhibiting Japanese people from doing the same. Because the Japanese people are in a position to face the deplorable past of the use of comfort women by the former Japanese soldiers, to express deep remorse and to state their apology, they are obliged to combat the existing issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, and to do so in partnership with all the nations which also have their past and/or present offenses.

Today, in the twenty-first century, the dignity and human rights of women have been established as a sacred part of the universal values that nations in the world share. It is one of the greatest achievements of progress made by human beings. In the real world, however, the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers has yet to be eradicated. I hope to aim for a future world where the human rights of women will be more respected. Nevertheless, we must face the past and present in order to talk about the future. Japan and other nations in the world must face the violation of the human rights of women by their soldiers. All the nations and peoples in the world should cooperate with one another, be determined to prevent themselves from committing similar offenses again, and engage themselves in protecting the dignity of women at risk in the world’s hot spots of military conflict and in building that future world where the human rights of women are respected.

Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue. In April this year, the G8 Foreign Ministers in London agreed upon the “Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Based on this accomplishment, I expect that the G8 Summit to be held in this June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the UK, will become an important occasion where the leaders of G8 will examine how soldiers from nations in the world, including the former Japanese soldiers, have used women for sexual purposes, face and reflect upon the past offenses with humility, solve today’s problems in partnership with one another, and aim for the ideal future.

With regard to my remark in the discussion with the U.S. commander in Okinawa

There was a news report that, while visiting a U.S. military base in Okinawa, I recommended to the U.S. commander there that he make use of the adult entertainment industry to prevent U.S. soldiers from committing sexual crimes. That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of U.S. soldiers from committing crimes and strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the relations of trust between the two nations. In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark. I will elaborate my real intention as follows.

For the national security of Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the most important asset, and I am truly grateful to contributions made by the United States Forces Japan.

However, in Okinawa, where many U.S. military bases are located, a small number of U.S. soldiers have repeatedly committed serious crimes, including sexual crimes, against Japanese women and children. Every time a crime has occurred, the U.S. Forces have advocated maintaining and tightening official discipline and have promised to the Japanese people that they would take measures to stop such crimes from occurring again. Nevertheless, these crimes have not stopped. The same pattern has been repeating itself.

I emphasize the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and greatly appreciate the U.S. Forces’ contribution to Japan. Nonetheless, the anger of the Okinawan people, whose human rights have continued to be violated, has reached its boiling point. I have a strong wish to request that the U.S.A. face the present situation of Okinawa’s suffering from crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, and take necessary measures to alleviate the problem.

It is a big issue that incidents of sexual violence have frequently happened without effective control within the U.S. military forces worldwide. It has been reported that President Obama has shown a good deal of concern over the forces’ frequent reports of military misconduct and has instructed the commanders to thoroughly tighten their official discipline, as measures taken so far have had no immediate effect.

With all the above-mentioned situations, I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan” should be considered as one of all the possible measures. Even if there is no measure with an immediate effect, the current state of Okinawa should not be neglected. From my strong sense of crisis, I strongly hope that the U.S. army will use all possible measures to bring a heartless minority of soldiers under control. When expressing this strong hope, I used the phrase “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan.” When this phrase was translated into English, it led to the false report that I recommended prostitution–which is illegal under Japanese law. Furthermore, my remark was misunderstood to mean that something legally acceptable is also morally acceptable. Although the adult entertainment industry is legally accepted, it can insult the dignity of women. In that case, of course, some measures should be taken to prevent such insults.

However, I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology. In conclusion, I retract my inappropriate remarks to the U.S. Army and the American people and sincerely apologize to them. I wish that my apologies to them will be accepted and that Japan and the United States of America continue to consolidate their relationship of alliance in full trust.

My real intention was to further enhance the security relationship between Japan and the United States, which most U.S. soldiers’ sincere hard work has consolidated, and to humbly and respectfully ask the U.S. Forces to prevent crimes committed by a mere handful of U.S. soldiers. My strong sense of crisis led to the use of this inappropriate expression.

In the area of human rights, the U.S.A. is one of the most conscientious nations. Human rights are among those values accepted throughout the world as universal. In order for human rights of the Okinawan people to be respected in the same way as those of American people are respected, I sincerely hope that the U.S. Forces will start taking effective measures in earnest to stop crimes in Okinawa from continuing.

About the Japan-Korea Relationship

The Japan-Korea relationship has recently gone through some difficult times. Underlying the difficulty are the issue of comfort women and the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands. Ideally, Japan and South Korea should be important partners in East Asia, as they share the same values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that a closer relationship based on greater trust between Japan and South Korea would contribute to the stability and prosperity of not only East Asia but also the world.

One of the points of tension is that concerning wartime comfort women. Some former comfort women in Korea are currently demanding state compensation from the Japanese government.

However, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, both signed in 1965, have officially and decisively resolved any issues of claims arising from the war, including the right of individual persons to claim compensation. Japan has also performed its moral responsibility with the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund, and it paid atonement money to former comfort women even after the resolution of the legal contention with the treaties.

The international community has welcomed the Asian Women’s Fund. A report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations welcomed Japan’s moral responsibility project of the Asian Women’s Fund. Mary Robinson, the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the Fund a favorable evaluation. Unfortunately, however, some former comfort women have refused to accept the atonement money from the Asian Women’s Fund.

Japan has given significant importance to the Treaty on Basic Relations and the Agreement on the Settlement, both of which made final resolution of any legal contention in 1965, and Japan also sincerely faces, reflects on, and apologizes for its own wartime wrongdoings with feelings of deep remorse.

The whole situation poses a rending dilemma for us: how to make such a compensation that former comfort women would accept as our sincere remorse and apology, while also maintaining the integrity of the legal bilateral agreements between Japan and Korea.

The Korean government has recently claimed that interpretive disputes over the individual right of compensation for former comfort women in the Agreement on the Settlement still remain. I hope that the Republic of Korea, as a state governed by the rule of law, recognizes the legal importance of the above-mentioned agreements. If the Republic of Korea still believes that there exist interpretive contentions in the agreements, I think that only the International Court of Justice can resolve them.

One can hope that the same legal/rule-of-law stance is also observed in the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands.

I firmly believe that neither hatred nor anger can resolve the problems between Japan and Korea. I firmly believe in the importance of legal solution at the International Court of Justice, which arena would allow both sides to maintain rational and legal argument while both maintain both respect for each other and deep sympathy to former comfort women.

I wish to express sincerely my willingness to devote myself to the true improvement of the Japan-Korea relationship through the rule of law.

================================
Japanese version:
橋下徹氏:「私の認識と見解」 日本語版全文
毎日新聞 2013年05月26日
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130526mog00m010012000c.html

2013年5月27日

橋下徹

■私の拠(よ)って立つ理念と価値観について

まず、私の政治家としての基本的な理念、そして一人の人間としての価値観について、お話ししたいと思います。

いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する私の発言をめぐってなされた一連の報道において、発言の一部が文脈から切り離され、断片のみが伝えられることによって、本来の私の理念や価値観とは正反対の人物像・政治家像が流布してしまっていることが、この上なく残念です。

私は、21世紀の人類が到達した普遍的価値、すなわち、基本的人権、自由と平等、民主主義の理念を最も重視しています。また、憲法の本質は、恣意(しい)に流れがちな国家権力を拘束する法の支配によって、国民の自由と権利を保障することに眼目があると考えており、極めてオーソドックスな立憲主義の立場を採(と)る者です。

大阪府知事及び大阪市長としての行政の実績は、こうした理念と価値観に支えられています。また、私の政治活動に伴って憲法をはじめとする様々(さまざま)なイシューについて公にしてきた私の見解を確認いただければ、今私の申し上げていることを裏付けるものであることをご理解いただけると信じております。今後も、政治家としての行動と発言を通じて、以上のような理念と価値観を体現し続けていくつもりです。

こうした私の思想信条において、女性の尊厳は、基本的人権において欠くべからざる要素であり、これについて私の本意とは正反対の受け止め方、すなわち女性蔑視である等の報道が続いたことは、痛恨の極みであります。私は、疑問の余地なく、女性の尊厳を大切にしています。

■いわゆる「慰安婦」問題に関する発言について

以上の私の理念に照らせば、第二次世界大戦前から大戦中にかけて、日本兵が「慰安婦」を利用したことは、女性の尊厳と人権を蹂躙(じゅうりん)する、決して許されないものであることはいうまでもありません。かつての日本兵が利用した慰安婦には、韓国・朝鮮の方々のみならず、多くの日本人も含まれていました。慰安婦の方々が被った苦痛、そして深く傷つけられた慰安婦の方々のお気持ちは、筆舌につくしがたいものであることを私は認識しております。

日本は過去の過ちを真摯(しんし)に反省し、慰安婦の方々には誠実な謝罪とお詫(わ)びを行うとともに、未来においてこのような悲劇を二度と繰り返さない決意をしなければなりません。

私は、女性の尊厳と人権を今日の世界の普遍的価値の一つとして重視しており、慰安婦の利用を容認したことはこれまで一度もありません。私の発言の一部が切り取られ、私の真意と正反対の意味を持った発言とする報道が世界中を駆け巡ったことは、極めて遺憾です。以下に、私の真意を改めて説明いたします。

かつて日本兵が女性の人権を蹂躙したことについては痛切に反省し、慰安婦の方々には謝罪しなければなりません。同様に、日本以外の少なからぬ国々の兵士も女性の人権を蹂躙した事実について、各国もまた真摯に向き合わなければならないと訴えたかったのです。あたかも日本だけに特有の問題であったかのように日本だけを非難し、日本以外の国々の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について口を閉ざすのはフェアな態度ではありませんし、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざすために世界が直視しなければならない過去の過ちを葬り去ることになります。戦場の性の問題は、旧日本軍だけが抱えた問題ではありません。第二次世界大戦中のアメリカ軍、イギリス軍、フランス軍、ドイツ軍、旧ソ連軍その他の軍においても、そして朝鮮戦争やベトナム戦争における韓国軍においても、この問題は存在しました。

このような歴史的文脈において、「戦時においては」「世界各国の軍が」女性を必要としていたのではないかと発言したところ、「私自身が」必要と考える、「私が」容認していると誤報されてしまいました。

戦場において、世界各国の兵士が女性を性の対象として利用してきたことは厳然たる歴史的事実です。女性の人権を尊重する視点では公娼(こうしょう)、私娼(ししょう)、軍の関与の有無は関係ありません。性の対象として女性を利用する行為そのものが女性の尊厳を蹂躙する行為です。また、占領地や紛争地域における兵士による市民に対する強姦(ごうかん)が許されざる蛮行であることは言うまでもありません。

誤解しないで頂きたいのは、旧日本兵の慰安婦問題を相対化しようとか、ましてや正当化しようという意図は毛頭ありません。他国の兵士がどうであろうとも、旧日本兵による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が決して許されるものではないことに変わりありません。

私の発言の真意は、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題が旧日本軍のみに特有の問題であったかのように世界で報じられ、それが世界の常識と化すことによって、過去の歴史のみならず今日においても根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題の真実に光が当たらないことは、日本のみならず世界にとってプラスにならない、という一点であります。私が言いたかったことは、日本は自らの過去の過ちを直視し、決して正当化してはならないことを大前提としつつ、世界各国もsex slaves、sex slaveryというレッテルを貼って日本だけを非難することで終わってはならないということです。

もし、日本だけが非難される理由が、戦時中、国家の意思として女性を拉致した、国家の意思として女性を売買したということにあるのであれば、それは事実と異なります。

過去、そして現在の兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙について、良識ある諸国民の中から声が挙がることを期待するものでありますが、日本人が声を挙げてはいけない理由はないと思います。日本人は、旧日本兵が慰安婦を利用したことを直視し、真摯に反省、謝罪すべき立場にあるがゆえに、今日も根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題に立ち向かう責務があり、同じ問題を抱える諸国民と共により良い未来に向かわなければなりません。

21世紀の今日、女性の尊厳と人権は、世界各国が共有する普遍的価値の一つとして、確固たる位置を得るに至っています。これは、人類が達成した大きな進歩であります。しかし、現実の世界において、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙が根絶されたわけではありません。私は、未来に向けて、女性の人権を尊重する世界をめざしていきたい。しかし、未来を語るには、過去そして現在を直視しなければなりません。日本を含む世界各国は、過去の戦地において自国兵士が行った女性に対する人権蹂躙行為を直視し、世界の諸国と諸国民が共に手を携え、二度と同じ過ちを繰り返さぬよう決意するとともに、今日の世界各地の紛争地域において危機に瀕(ひん)する女性の尊厳を守るために取り組み、未来に向けて女性の人権が尊重される世界を作っていくべきだと考えます。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、徹底して反省しなければなりません。正当化は許されません。それを大前提とした上で、世界各国も、戦場の性の問題について、自らの問題として過去を直視してもらいたいのです。本年4月にはロンドンにおいてG8外相会合が「紛争下の性的暴力防止に関する閣僚宣言」に合意しました。この成果を基盤として、6月に英国北アイルランドのロック・アーンで開催予定のG8サミットが、旧日本兵を含む世界各国の兵士が性の対象として女性をどのように利用していたのかを検証し、過去の過ちを直視し反省するとともに、理想の未来をめざして、今日の問題解決に協働して取り組む場となることを期待します。

■在日アメリカ軍司令官に対する発言について

また、沖縄にある在日アメリカ軍基地を訪問した際、司令官に対し、在日アメリカ軍兵士の性犯罪を抑止するために風俗営業の利用を進言したという報道もありました。これは私の真意ではありません。私の真意は、一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪を抑止し、より強固な日米同盟と日米の信頼関係を築くことです。一部の在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の問題を解決したいとの思いが強すぎて、誤解を招く不適切な発言をしてしまいましたが、私の真意を、以下に説明いたします。

日本の安全保障にとって、米国との同盟関係は最も重要な基盤であり、在日アメリカ軍の多大な貢献には、本当に感謝しています。

しかしながら、多くの在日アメリカ軍基地がある沖縄では、一部の心無いアメリカ軍兵士によって、日本人の女性や子どもに対する性犯罪など重大な犯罪が繰り返されています。こうした事件が起きる度に、在日アメリカ軍では、規律の保持と綱紀粛正が叫ばれ、再発防止策をとることを日本国民に誓いますが、在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪は絶えることがありません。同じことの繰り返しです。

私は、日本の外交において日米同盟を重視し、在日アメリカ軍の日本への貢献を大いに評価しています。しかし、人権を蹂躙され続ける沖縄県民の怒りは沸点に達しているのです。在日アメリカ軍兵士による犯罪被害に苦しむ沖縄の現状をアメリカに訴え、何としてでも改善してもらいたい、という強い思いを持っております。

アメリカ軍内部において性暴力が多発し、その統制がとれていないことが最近、アメリカで話題となっています。オバマ大統領もアメリカ軍の自己統制の弱さに相当な危機感を抱き、すぐに効果の出る策はないとしつつ、アメリカ軍に綱紀粛正を徹底するよう指示したとの報道がありました。

このような状況において、私は強い危機感から、在日アメリカ軍司令官に対して、あらゆる対応策の一つとして、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」を利用するということも考えるべきではないかと発言しました。すぐに効果の出る策はないとしても、それでも沖縄の現状を放置するわけにはいきません。私の強い危機感から、ありとあらゆる手段を使ってでも、一部の心無い在日アメリカ軍兵士をしっかりとコントロールして欲しい、そのような強い思いを述べる際、「日本で法律上認められている風俗営業」という言葉を使ってしまいました。この表現が翻訳されて、日本の法律で認められていない売春・買春を勧めたとの誤報につながりました。さらに合法であれば道徳的には問題がないというようにも誤解をされました。合法であっても、女性の尊厳を貶(おとし)める可能性もあり、その点については予防しなければならないことはもちろんのことです。

今回の私の発言は、アメリカ軍のみならずアメリカ国民を侮辱することにも繋(つな)がる不適切な表現でしたので、この表現は撤回するとともにお詫び申し上げます。この謝罪をアメリカ軍とアメリカ国民の皆様が受け入れて下さいます事、そして日本とアメリカが今後とも強い信頼関係を築いていけることを願います。

私の真意は、多くの在日アメリカ軍兵士は一生懸命誠実に職務を遂行してくれていますが、一部の心無い兵士の犯罪によって、日米の信頼関係が崩れることのないよう、在日アメリカ軍の綱紀粛正を徹底してもらいたい、という点にあります。その思いが強すぎて、不適切な表現を使ってしまいました。

アメリカは、世界で最も人権意識の高い国の一つです。そして、人権は世界普遍の価値です。アメリカ国民の人権と同じように、沖縄県民の基本的人権が尊重されるよう、アメリカ軍が本気になって沖縄での犯罪抑止のための実効性ある取り組みを開始することを切に望みます。

■日韓関係について

日本と韓国の関係は現在厳しい状況にあると言われています。その根底には、慰安婦問題と竹島をめぐる領土問題があります。

日本と韓国は、自由、民主主義、人権、法の支配などの価値観を共有する隣国として、重要なパートナー関係にあります。日韓の緊密な関係は、東アジアの安定と繁栄のためだけでなく、世界の安定と繁栄のためにも寄与するものと信じています。

現在、元慰安婦の一部の方は、日本政府に対して、国家補償を求めています。

しかし、1965年の日韓基本条約と「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」において、日本と韓国の間の法的な請求権(個人的請求権も含めて)の問題は完全かつ最終的に解決されました。

日本は、韓国との間の法的請求権問題が最終解決した後においても、元慰安婦の方々へ責任を果たすために、国民からの寄付を募り1995年に「女性のためのアジア平和国民基金(略称アジア女性基金)」を設立し、元慰安婦の方々に償い金をお渡ししました。

このアジア女性基金を通じた日本の責任を果たす行為は、国際社会でも評価を受けております。国連人権委員会へ提出されたレポートもアジア女性基金を通じての日本の道義的責任を歓迎しています。また国連人権高等弁務官であったメアリーロビンソンさんも基金を評価しています。

しかし、残念ながら、元慰安婦の一部の方は、このアジア女性基金による償い金の受領を拒んでおります。

日本は過去の過ちを直視し、反省とお詫びをしつつも、1965年に請求権問題を最終解決した日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定も重視しております。

日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定を前提としつつ、元慰安婦の方々の心に響く償いをするにはどのようにすればいいのかは大変難しい問題です。韓国政府は最近、日韓基本条約とともに締結された「日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定」における元慰安婦の日本政府への請求権の存否の解釈が未解決だと主張しております。韓国も法の支配を重んじる国でしょうから、日韓基本条約と日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定という国際ルールの重さを十分に認識して頂いて、それでも納得できないというのであれば、韓国政府自身が日韓請求権並びに経済協力協定の解釈について国際司法裁判所等に訴え出るしかないのではないでしょうか? その際には、竹島をめぐる領土問題も含めて、法の支配に基づき、国際司法裁判所等での解決を望みます。

私は、憎しみと怒りをぶつけ合うだけでは何も解決することはできないと思います。元慰安婦の方の苦しみを理解しつつ、日韓お互いに尊敬と敬意の念を持ちながら、法に基づいた冷静な議論を踏まえ、国際司法裁判所等の法に基づいた解決に委ねるしかないと考えております。

法の支配によって、真に日韓関係が改善されるよう、私も微力を尽くしていきたいと思います。
ENDS

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

Hashimoto explains remarks in Q&A session at Tokyo news conference
Hashimoto denies ‘will of state’ in comfort women system
May 27, 2013
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201305270124

AJW
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 explained his views on “comfort women” and other issues during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Excerpts from the question and answer session follow:

***

Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?

Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.

We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.

Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.

I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don’t think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.

Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.

Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?

Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.

When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.

What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.

There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.

What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.

Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.

The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.

It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.

It is now time to begin discussing this issue.

I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.

Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.

The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.

Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women,” which indicates trafficking was involved?

A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.

However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.

You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.

The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.

The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.

The Kono statement should be made clearer.

Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.

The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.

Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.

The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.

It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.

Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?

A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.

Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.

Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.

Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.

Ishihara does have a different view of the past.

That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.

Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.

The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.

Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan’s responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.

However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.

Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?

A: I am not denying Japan’s responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.

I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.

I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.

However, such things also occurred at private businesses.

I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.

Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.

I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.

I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.

I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.

Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn’t that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?

A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.

In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.

We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.

***
ENDS

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

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART TWO

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

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

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

rsz_finished_book_coverB&N

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

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

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

2) Debito’s eBook “JAPANESE ONLY: THE OTARU ONSENS CASE AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN JAPAN” now available in a 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

japaneseonlyebookcovertext

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

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

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

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

In Appropriate cover

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

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

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

Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito

ENDS

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

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
japaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to take readers on a bit of a tangent, as this blog tends to focus on minorities in Japan in terms of “race”, social, or national origin.  We don’t talk much about Sexual Minorities, such as the LGBT communities in Japan (particularly the Douseiaisha, Japanese for Homosexuals), and how they are missing out on the wave of legalized gay marriage worldwide.  Consider this from The Economist:

====================================
economistgaymarriage042213

Daily chart
Altared states
Apr 22nd 2013, 14:40 by Economist.com
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/04/daily-chart-14?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/dc/altaredstate
More countries legalise gay marriage

TENS of thousands of people thronged the streets of Paris at the weekend to protest against a gay-marriage bill that is set for a second reading in the National Assembly on April 23rd. They are unlikely to stop its passage. The bill, which is an election pledge by the Socialist president, François Hollande, was passed by a large majority at its first reading in February despite fierce opposition organised by conservative and Catholic groups. France is not the only country where gay marriage has been on the legislative or judicial agenda in recent weeks. On April 17th New Zealand became the 12th country to legalise gay marriage, though the law will not come into effect until August. Uruguay, too, has passed a similar bill that awaits the signature of the president before it becomes law. And in late March the American Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case on the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to a man and a woman. In all these countries—and indeed in much of the West—opinion polls show public support for same-sex marriages.
ENDS
====================================

Debito.org applauds this trend of legalizing gay marriage.  Meanwhile Japan, as you can see above, to its credit has no law criminalizing homosexuality.  It, however, does not permit gay marriages due to the vagaries of the Family Registry (Koseki) System.  In short, only a wife and a husband by gender can create a married family unit.

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

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

====================================
ドナルド・キーンさんが養子縁組 三味線奏者の上原さんと
Sports Nippon, April 30, 2013, courtesy of Mumei
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/society/news/2013/04/30/kiji/K20130430005714360.html

日本文学研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(90)が、浄瑠璃三味線の奏者、上原誠己さん(62)と養子縁組したことが30日、分かった。キーンさんが29日、新潟市内で行った講演で明らかにした。

誠己さんによると、キーンさんが日本国籍取得を表明した2011年春ごろから養子縁組の話が持ち上がり、昨年3月に正式に「キーン誠己」となった。

06年11月、誠己さんが古浄瑠璃について教えを請うためにキーンさんを訪問して交流が始まった。大英博物館で台本が発掘された人形浄瑠璃「弘知法印御伝記」を09年、約300年ぶりに復活上演した際も、キーンさんの助言を受けた。

誠己さんは「五世鶴沢浅造」として長年公演に出演。1997年に故郷の新潟市に戻り、家業の酒造会社を手伝いながら、三味線の指導や奏者の活動を続けた。

現在は東京都内でキーンさんと同居し、スケジュール管理や食事作りなどに携わる。誠己さんは「健康管理をしっかりやり、多忙な先生を支えたい」と話している。
ENDS
====================================

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

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

Harbingers of further insularity: J international marriages way down, as are J students studying abroad

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Hi Blog. We have some more harbingers of Japan’s retreat into itself. International marriages are way down, and so are Japanese students studying abroad.

First, check out this significant stat about international marriage:  At last measurement, international marriage figures (in blue) have dropped by about 25% since their peak in 2006! (International divorce figures, in yellow, have crept up too.)

mofaintlmarriage19792010

(Courtesy the Foreign Affairs Ministry http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/pr/wakaru/topics/vol82/index.html. (I’ll talk a little more about the contents of this page shortly, as the focus is on international divorce and the probable consequences of Japan’s signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions.)

I call it significant because it removes one of the fundamental means to Japan’s increased diversity.  If Japan’s perennially low birthrate means fewer children, having fewer international marriages means probably fewer international Japanese children.  And this will quite possibly lead to further marginalization of the “half” population as a temporary “blip” in international coupling (last seen as a “social problem” with the Postwar konketsuji mixed-blood children, publicly stigmatized for being “bastard children of prostitutes”; see Fish, Robert A.  2009.  “‘Mixed-blood’ Japanese:  A Reconsideration of Race and Purity in Japan.”  Pp. 40-58 in Weiner, ed., Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity.  2nd ed.  Sheffield:  Routledge.)

As a tangent, note the normalized racialization of the GOJ’s illustration above, where the “foreigner” is male and blue-eyed.  Even though the majority of Japanese-foreign marriages are not “Western male” either in terms of marriages in general or even foreign husbands in specific, perpetually!  So says MHLW:

mhlwmarriagestatt19502009Courtesy http://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/saikin/hw/jinkou/suii09/marr2.html

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

Next up, consider how Japanese students are not going overseas much (according to the Japan Times, they are being significantly outdistanced by, for example, the South Koreans and Chinese):

Jstudentsstudyabroad8310Courtesy of http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/19/national/high-schoolers-dream-of-ivy-league/ and JJS.

That said, I’m a bit skeptical about whether this trend means a great deal, as I don’t think people who study abroad necessarily become more broad-minded or open to outside ideas (and Japanese society has structural mechanisms for marginalizing students who leave the system anyway).  Moreover, the domestic discourse nowadays is finding ways to rationalize away the need, for example, to study a foreign language at all.  Nevertheless, I would argue that these trends are not particularly good for Japan, as they are not only harbingers of insularity, but also encouraging even further insularity in addition to recent trends I have written about before.  Arudou Debito

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYNOPSIS OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF eBOOK “JAPANESE ONLY”

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

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

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

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

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

More reviews at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html
ends

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone who read my article, as it has been trending within the most-read articles within the past couple of days once again this month.  Here it is on the blog for commentary with links to sources.  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

justbecauseicon.jpg
Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class
BY ARUDOU Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause Column 62, published April 2, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/02/issues/tweak-the-immigration-debate-and-demand-an-upgrade-to-denizen-class/
Version below with links to sources

Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.

One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.

In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.

The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.

Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijūsha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijūsha (special permanent resident, for the zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).

Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen.

Denizenship,” as discussed by Tomas Hammar of Stockholm University, is a mid-step between migrant and immigrant, foreigner and citizen — a “quasi-citizenship.” In his 1990 book “Democracy and the Nation State,” Hammar talks about three “entrance gates” for migrants to become citizens: 1) admission to the country, 2) permanent residency, and 3) acquisition of full citizenship.

Denizens have passed the second gate, having become resident aliens who have been granted extensive civil and social citizenship rights — including national and/or local suffrage in some countries.

Although denizens lack the full political rights of a citizen, scholars of international migration note that countries are increasingly giving denizens faster tracks to full citizenship, including relaxation of blood-based nationality (e.g., in Sweden, Holland, Switzerland and Germany), official guidance in naturalization procedures after obtaining permanent residency (e.g., United States), greater tolerance for dual citizenship (e.g., Mexico) and some electoral rights (e.g., European Union). [all claims within books by scholars below, but some quick references here]

A similar discussion on denizenship has taken place in Japanese academia, thanks to Atsushi Kondo (1996), Chikako Kashiwazaki (2000) and Akihiro Asakawa (2007) et al., all of whom rendered the term in katakana as denizun, translating it as eijū shimin (permanent “citizens,” so to speak).

Perhaps this will come as no surprise, but their extensive research highlighted the comparatively closed nature of Japanese immigration policy. Japan has been an outlier in terms of citizenship rules, going against the trend seen in other advanced democracies to enfranchise denizens.

For example, Japan has an intolerance of dual nationality, high hurdles for achieving permanent residency, arbitrary and discretionary rules for obtaining full citizenship, few refugees, and strict “family” blood-based citizenship without exception for future generations of denizens (which is why Japan is still home to hundreds of thousands of zainichi “foreigners” 60 years after their ancestors were stripped of Japanese citizenship).

Essentially, Japan does not recognize denizenship. This was underscored during recent debates on granting local suffrage rights to permanent residents (gaikokujin sanseiken). Opposition politicians stated clearly: If foreigners want the right to vote, they should naturalize.

Sadly, steps to humanize the debate, by incorporating the perspectives of long-term residents themselves, were not taken, creating a tautology of disenfranchisement. The antireformers eventually won the debate, retrenching the binary between “foreigner” and “citizen” and obscuring the gray zones of long-term residency.

There are long-standing systemic issues behind this entrenchment. As Kashiwazaki notes: “The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.”

As discussed on these pages numerous times, the firewall keeping foreigners from ever becoming settlers is maintained by Japan’s revolving-door visa regimes, strict punishments for even slight administrative infractions that “reset the visa clock,” and a permanent “police the foreigners” credo from a Justice Ministry not configured for immigration or integration.

This has a long history. As Japan’s “Immigration Bureau” has argued repeatedly after it designed the postwar rules on any foreign influx (here in 1959): “Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. Particularly because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.”

After a high water mark of “internationalization” in the 1990s, Japan’s conservatives in the 2000s (backed up by periodic official “foreign crime” and “visa overstayer” campaigns to scare the public) managed to stem the tide of liberalization seen in other advanced democracies, turning Japan into an immigration Galapagos increasingly reactionary towards outsiders — even as demographics force Japan’s decline.

Like the people it represents, denizenship as a concept remains invisible within Japan’s public discourse, oblivious to how foreigners actually live in Japan. Categorically, people are either gaikokujin or nihonjin. Rarely if ever are the former termed eijūsha, eijū shimin, imin or ijūsha (immigrants).

Let’s tweak the terms of debate. If you’re planning on living in Japan indefinitely, I suggest you get your neighbors warmed up to the fact that you as a non-Japanese (let’s at least avoid the dislocated, transient trappings of the generic word “foreigner”) are not merely gaikokujin. You are jūmin (residents). And as of 2012, most of you now have a jūminhyō (residency certificate) to prove it.

Then spread the word through the grass roots, such as they are. Upgrade your status and mollify the binary. Or else you’ll just be stuck in a rhetorical limbo as something temporary and in transit. Not good for you, not good for Japan.

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

Debito’s most recent publication is “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance” in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (japanfocus.org/site/view/3907) Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Pages of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp.

Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig“, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners.  For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997.  More examples here.

Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at.  Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections.

Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody?  Again, deserves to be known about.  Arudou Debito

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

Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification
Asahi Shimbun AJW, March 16, 2013, courtesy of MP
By TAKUFUMI YOSHIDA/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303160063

Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth.

Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.”

The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The proposal was made by Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., and others.

Article 16 of the Labor Contract Law stipulates that there must be reasonable grounds for a dismissal. Employers are not permitted to sack workers unless they have valid reasons, such as poor performance, disciplinary offenses or reducing the work force as a result of financial trouble.

Hasegawa and other members suggested that the Labor Contract Law should be amended to allow employers to dismiss workers at their discretion.

They also called for the establishment of a system in which employers would be able to fire workers without a valid reason as long as they provide them so-called monetary re-employment support.

In addition, they said the Labor Contract Law should make it clear in what instances dismissals would not be permitted.

In many European countries, if a court determines that a dismissal is unlawful, the employer can still dissolve the employment relationship by paying the fired employee compensation–usually one to two years worth of salary.

But if a similar court decision was made in Japan, workers would have few options other than returning to their former workplaces.

The system the panel in Japan is pushing differs from the European labor practice in that employers would be able to freely sack workers without reasonable grounds as long as they pay compensation.

Panel members said the proposed system would not only increase liquidity in the labor market, but benefit workers, depending on the amount of compensation paid.

The panel includes 10 leaders from the private sector and is expected to come up with a proposed economic growth strategy by June.
ENDS

Donald Richie passes away at age 88. Saluting one of our pioneering Japanologist brethren

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Hi Blog. I just want to say a brief word of thanks to Donald Richie for a life well lived on the occasion of his passing (thanks AS for the notification) yesterday at age 88. We’ll add articles as they come out in commemoration, but here’s the first brief one from Yahoo News/Asahi Digital:

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

http://dailynews.yahoo.co.jp/fc/entertainment/movie/?1361296907

ドナルド・リチーさん死去 黒沢・小津らを海外に紹介
朝日新聞デジタル 2月19日(火)20時2分配信
黒沢明、小津安二郎、溝口健二ら日本映画の質の高さを海外に紹介した米国出身の映画評論家ドナルド・リチーさんが、19日午後1時26分、東京都内の病院で死去した。88歳だった。

米オハイオ州生まれ。1946年に来日し、米軍機関紙スターズ・アンド・ストライプスの記者に。コロンビア大進学のため帰国し、54年に再来日。英字紙ジャパンタイムズなどで映画評を執筆した。59年、外国語による最初の体系的日本映画論「ザ・ジャパニーズ・フィルム」(共著)を発表。カンヌ国際映画祭の溝口特集に企画協力するなど、欧米での日本映画への関心を高めることに貢献した。

68~73年には米ニューヨーク近代美術館の映画部長を務め、日本映画の大規模上映を実現した。主な著書に「映画のどこをどう読むか」「黒沢明の映画」「小津安二郎の美学」など。83年、第1回川喜多賞。実験映画作家の顔も持ち、舞踏の土方巽、作曲家の武満徹らの協力で前衛的な作品を制作した。

朝日新聞社
最終更新:2月19日(火)22時58分

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

The era of the pioneering Immediate Postwar hands-on Japanologists is truly and inevitably coming to an end. First Edwin Reischauer (long ago in 1990; I managed to meet him and host a talk by him and his wife Haru at UCSD in 1989), then Edward Seidensticker (2007), now Donald Richie (for whom Debito.org has had praise for in the past for his healthy attitude of “swallowing Japan whole”; I met him about ten years ago and had a very good conversation; he also kindly lavished praise on HANDBOOK). Of the very famous ones, Donald Keene is basically the last one standing.  And I don’t think I will be able to eulogize that Donald in the same way.

I will miss Donald Richie. Feel free to append articles and your thoughts below. Arudou Debito

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

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

athomeabroadcover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

donaldkeenenhk
Donald Keene, courtesy of NHK

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

pakkunmakkun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially when Kahl says:

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

 

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

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

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

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

donaldrichie
Donald Richie still courtesy of his film anthology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright ARUDOU Debito 2013.  All rights reserved.

Call for help from JALT PALE group for Publications Chair

mytest

PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING

Hey everyone.  Arudou Debito here.  I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.

The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair.  If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results.  It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go.  It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc.  We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT.  One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.

PALE has a long history of activism and assistance.  I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years.  An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at http://www.debito.org/PALE

So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at professor_goetz@yahoo.com.

Our latest project is to produce a PALE anthology.  But if our SIG is decommissioned at the next JALT EBM on February 2-3, or a later EBM, then access to PALE’s coffers becomes much more difficult and further subject to outside control.

Also, PALE needs new membership anytime, so please also contact Tom if you would like to become a member.

Please help out.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few Debito.org-esque comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

genderpaygapasia2005
Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito

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

Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: January 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/beate-gordon-feminist-heroine-in-japan-dies-at-89.html
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
News photo

In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10060 http://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=9265
http://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10010
http://www.debito.org/?p=10497
http://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10414
http://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips http://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
News photo

After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=9745
http://www.debito.org/?p=9756
http://www.debito.org/?p=10706
http://www.debito.org/?p=10428
http://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10055
http://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time

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Hi Blog.  I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies.  But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.

Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career.  I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals.  Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals).  Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste.  In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”.  Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.

This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras).  How about this for a research question:  Why else might The Don have naturalized?   I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice.  How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family.  Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims.  This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.

Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame:  Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it?  It’s called:  “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.”   Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.

(Then we get to a few semantic issues unduly unsophisticated for the NYT:  the old stereotypes within about Japan as “a racially homogeneous nation” — haven’t we gotten beyond that yet?  Well, there is a sop thrown in to qualify the reconfirmed Flyjin Myth with “many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country.”  Yes, EVEN Japanese left Japan.  Huh.  Of course, under normal circumstances, NJ would never stay and Japanese would never leave, even if the food chain is getting irradiated and the GOJ, as Martin has so assiduously reported in the past, has been unforthright about it.  But that’s me putting on my semantic “microaggression” cap; excuse the digression…)

Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan?  Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.”  Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.

Why is this not problematized?  Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”.  That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.  Arudou Debito

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

New York Times, November 2, 2012
Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them
By MARTIN FACKLER, courtesy of AH

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/asia/with-citizenship-japan-embraces-columbia-scholar.html

TOKYO — WITH his small frame hunched by 90 years of life, and a self-deprecating manner that can make him seem emotionally sensitive to the point of fragility, Donald Keene would have appeared an unlikely figure to become a source of inspiration for a wounded nation.

Yet that is exactly how the New York native and retired professor of literature from Columbia University is now seen here in his adopted homeland of Japan. Last year, as many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country for fear of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident that followed a deadly earthquake and tsunami, Dr. Keene purposefully went the opposite direction. He announced that he would apply for Japanese citizenship to show his support.

The gesture won Dr. Keene, already a prominent figure in Japanese literary and intellectual circles, a status approaching that of folk hero, making him the subject of endless celebratory newspaper articles, television documentaries and even displays in museums.

It has been a surprising culmination of an already notable career that saw this quiet man with a bashful smile rise from a junior naval officer who interrogated Japanese prisoners during World War II to a founder of Japanese studies in the United States. That career has made him a rare foreigner, awarded by the emperor one of Japan’s highest honors for his contributions to Japanese literature and befriended by Japan’s most celebrated novelists.

Dr. Keene has spent a lifetime shuttling between Japan and the United States. Taking Japanese citizenship seems a gesture that has finally bestowed upon him the one thing that eludes many Westerners who make their home and even lifelong friendships here: acceptance.

“When I first did it, I thought I’d get a flood of angry letters that ‘you are not of the Yamato race!’ but instead, they welcomed me,” said Dr. Keene, using an old name for Japan. “I think the Japanese can detect, without too much trouble, my love of Japan.”

That affection seemed especially welcome to a nation that even before last year’s triple disaster had seemed to lose confidence as it fell into a long social and economic malaise.

During an interview at a hotel coffee shop, Japanese passers-by did double takes of smiling recognition — testimony to how the elderly scholar has won far more fame in Japan than in the United States. A product of an older world before the Internet or television, Dr. Keene is known as a gracious conversationalist who charms listeners with stories from a lifetime devoted to Japan, which he first visited during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

BUT what is perhaps most remarkable about Dr. Keene is that Japan, a racially homogeneous nation that can be politely standoffish to non-Japanese, has embraced him with such warmth. When he legally became a Japanese citizen this year, major newspapers ran photographs of him holding up a handwritten poster of his name, Kinu Donarudo, in Chinese characters. To commemorate the event, a candy company in rural Niigata announced plans to build a museum that will include an exact replica of Dr. Keene’s personal library and study from his home in New York.

He says he has been inundated by invitations to give public lectures, which are so popular that drawings are often held to see who can attend.

“I have not met a Japanese since then who has not thanked me. Except the Ministry of Justice,” he added with his typically understated humor, referring to the government office in charge of immigration.

With the patient air of someone who has tussled with Japanese bureaucracy before, he listed what he called the absurd requirements imposed upon him to take Japanese citizenship, including documentation to prove his completion of elementary school in New York City. Still, in a nation that welcomes few immigrants, Dr. Keene’s application was quickly approved. To become Japanese, Dr. Keene, who is unmarried, had to relinquish his American citizenship.

His affection for Japan began in 1940 with a chance encounter at a bookstore near Times Square, where Dr. Keene, then an 18-year-old university student at Columbia, found a translation of the Tale of Genji, a 1,000-year-old novel from Japan. In the stories of court romances and intrigue, he found a refuge from the horrors of the world war then already unfolding in Europe and Asia.

Dr. Keene later described it as his first encounter with Japan’s delicate sense of beauty, and its acceptance that life is fleeting and sad — a sentiment that would captivate him for the rest of his life.

When the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy, where he received Japanese-language training to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. He said he managed to build a rapport with the Japanese he interrogated, including one he said wrote him a letter after the war in which he referred to himself as Dr. Keene’s first P.O.W.

LIKE several of his classmates, Dr. Keene used his language skills after the war to become a pioneer of academic studies of Japan in the United States. Among Americans, he is perhaps best known for translating and compiling a two-volume anthology in the early 1950s that has been used to introduce generations of university students to Japanese literature. When he started his career, he said Japanese literature was virtually unknown to Americans.

“I think I brought Japanese literature into the Western world in a special way, by making it part of the literary canon at universities,” said Dr. Keene, who has written about 25 books on Japanese literature and history.

In Japan, he said his career benefited from good timing as the nation entered a golden age of fiction writing after the war. He befriended some of Japan’s best known modern fiction writers, including Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe. Even Junichiro Tanizaki, an elderly novelist known for his cranky dislike of visitors, was fond of Dr. Keene, inviting him to his home. Dr. Keene says that was because he took Japanese culture seriously.

“I was a freak who spoke Japanese and could talk about literature,” he joked.

Japanese writers say that Dr. Keene’s appeal was more than that. They said he appeared at a time when Japan was starting to rediscover the value of its traditions after devastating defeat. Dr. Keene taught them that Japanese literature had a universal appeal, they said.

“He gave us Japanese confidence in the significance of our literature,” said Takashi Tsujii, a novelist.

Mr. Tsujii said that Dr. Keene was accepted by Japanese scholars because he has what Mr. Tsujii described as a warm, intuitive style of thinking that differs from what he called the coldly analytical approach of many Western academics. He said that this has made Dr. Keene seem even more Japanese than some of the Japanese novelists whom he has studied, like Mr. Mishima, an ultranationalist influenced by European intellectual fads.

“Keene-san is already a Japanese in his feelings,” Mr. Tsujii said.

Now, at the end of his career, Dr. Keene is again helping Japanese regain their confidence, this time by becoming one of them. Dr. Keene, who retired only last year from Columbia, says he plans to spend his final years in Japan as a gesture of gratitude toward the nation that finally made him one of its own.

“You cannot stop being an American after 89 years,” Dr. Keene said, referring to the age at which he got Japanese citizenship. “But I have become a Japanese in many ways. Not pretentiously, but naturally.”
ENDS

Resurrecting Gregory Clark’s embarrassingly xenophobic Japan Times column on “Global Standards” Nov 1, 1999, quietly deleted without retraction from JT Online archives

mytest

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Hi Blog.  When doing research last blog entry, on how Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark led the Apologist counterattack on criticism of Japan for institutionalized racism (as witnessed at the time by the Ana Bortz Case of 1998-9 and the Otaru Onsens Case of 1999-2005), I discovered that one of his most xenophobic columns, entitled “Problematic Global Standards” of November 1, 1999 (weeks after the Bortz verdict in Shizuoka District Court made clear that racism, none other, existed within these shores) has long been deleted from the Japan Times archive.  I think after reading it you might understand why a publisher would be embarrassed for ever publishing it, but deletion from a newspaper archive without a retraction is simply not on.  I happen to have a hard copy of it in my archives:

Let me also type it out in full now, so it becomes word-searchable by the search engines for posterity.  Bigots, media fabricators, and profiteers like Clark deserve to be hoisted by their own petard.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

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

PROBLEMATIC GLOBAL STANDARDS
By Gregory Clark
The Japan Times, Monday, November 1, 1999

The Japanese are preoccupied nowadays with something called “global standards.” Spelled out clumsily in “katakana” English, “gurobaru sutandaado” has every implication of a backward, inferior Japan rightly despised by the civilized world for its failure to reform itself in our Western image.

It is true there are some Japanese standards that need to be reformed. The apathy towards social evils like “yakuza,” bike gangs and tobacco is one. Corruption in conservative political and business circles seems endless.

The education system could learn much not just from the West, but also from Taiwan or Singapore, particularly at the tertiary level.

But for every Japanese minus there is usually more than a more-than-compsenating plus. Over the years, the Japanese have evolved a value system that for all its faults has created the advanced and reasonably stable society that most of us come here to enjoy.

Or, to put it another way, for all the global standards that Japan should be emulating, there is usually any number of Japanese standards that the rest of us should emulate — particularly the ones that say people should be honest and reasonably polite to each other.

Which is where the sad story of the Hamamatsu jewelry shop owner fined recently for racial discrimination becomes relevant.

That Japan is remarkable for its lack of organized theft is no secret. One result is that even jewelry merchants feel little need to take little precautions.

Another is that Japan has become a paradise for Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle-Eastern and Latin American gangs keen to exploit this lack of precaution. To date they have managed to pull off close to 100 major jewelry heists, not to mention any number of big-haul raids on pachinko parlors.

With jewelry thefts, one ploy is to have someone, often a female accomplice, visit the targeted store in advance and pretend to show a purchasing interest while checking out details for the planned theft later.

Another is for the accomplice to create a disturbance, and while Japan’s fuss-sensitive shop assistants have their attention diverted, others in the gang pretending to be customers empty the unlocked display boxes.

Needless to say, this gives Japan’s jewelry merchants something of a problem. That some may have decided that their best defense is to ban all foreign-looking would-be customers from their stores is not very surprising.

But that, precisely, is where the man in Hamamatsu came unstuck. His district has a large Latin American-origin workforce. Having already suffered two robberies, he saw fit to deny entrance to a woman of Latin appearance who turned out to be a Brazilian journalist.

She also happened to be legalistic (another “global standard” Japan need not rush to adopt) and since Japan did not have a relevant law, the shop owner was charged under a U.N. antidiscrimination convention that Japan had signed. Found guilty, he was fined Y1.5 million.

No doubt the judge involved saw the U.N. connection as the ultimate in global standards. Many in the media here were equally enthusiastic. Few seem to have considered the corollary, namely that from now on not just the jewelers but anyone in the merchandise business will have to embrace another “global standard” — the one that says they should regard all customers as potential criminals to be welcomed with guns, guards, overhead cameras, and squinty-eyed vigilance.

True, discrimination against foreigners can be unpleasant, and in Japan it includes refusals to rent property. But as often as not, that is because they do not want to obey Japan’s rules and customs.

Refusal to respect the culture of a host nation is the worst form of antiforeign discrimination.

This clash between “global standards” and Japanese standards leaves its detritus in other areas.

Japanese standards say that there are times when an economy functions better if rival companies can get together, sometimes with customers, to agree on prices and market share. Unfettered competition can easily lead not just to monopolies, but also to very damaging “over-competition” (“kato kyoso”) as Japanese firms, with their strong survivalist ethic, struggle to keep alive.

But the “global standards” imposed on postwar Japan say otherwise. They insist that competition has to be free and unfettered. All and any cooperation between companies — the dreaded “dango” phenomenon — is a crime.

So Japan compromises. Dango that happen to be exposed are evil. The others are OK. What it should be doing is preventing dango that aim simply to jack up prices, while encouraging those that bring order to markets and help customers.

A recent victim of this expose standard was a small group of cast-iron pipe makers that had colluded on prices, mainly to rescue a weak competitor from bankruptcy. For its generosity, the group had its executives arrested and paraded as criminals.

Curious, the United States, which helped impose this anti-dango standard also condemned Fujitsu’s famous Y1 bid for a large Hiroshima computerization contract. The bid was a typical result of what can happen in Japan when competition is free and unfettered.

Nagging Western demands for unfettered competition in Japan’s finance industry and an end to government control over the banking system also led indirectly to the bubble economy and Japan’s current economic plight.

The same standards also managed to wreck the Asian economies two years ago, and then endorsed strong criticisms of Malaysia and Hong Kong for the state interventions that were crucial for rescuing those two economies from the wreckage imposed on them by Western speculators.

It’s time Japan, and much of the rest of the world, worked out their own standards.

===================
Gregory Clark is president of Tama University
ENDS

Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

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Hi Blog. In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record.  And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
Courts back workers’ rock-solid right to strike (excerpt)
By HIFUMI OKUNUKI, professor of constitutional and labor law at Daito Bunka University and Jissen Women’s University
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

[…]

One large company recently lost its claim of ¥110 million in damages against its union and union executives (see “Berlitz Loses Suit Over Union Teacher Strikes,” Feb. 28, The Japan Times).

Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus.

The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes. While case law stipulates that prior notice must be given for a strike, it does not set a minimum time. Berlitz teachers often gave less than five minutes’ notice. This probably created a headache for management, because they had less time to send replacement teachers to cover the struck classes.

The school also claimed that a union executive, Louis Carlet (full disclosure: Carlet is the current president of Tozen Union), had admitted to wanting to damage the company in a Sept. 30, 2008, Zeit Gist column in The Japan Times (“Berlitz Strike Grows Despite Naysayers“).

Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan. The court rejected the company’s contention that the union was striking to destroy the company and agreed with the union’s assertion that the only purpose of the strikes was to realize its demands.

Management appealed the verdict and Tokyo High Court is currently overseeing reconciliation talks between the two sides.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

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

Related sites:

ENDS

NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up.  Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land.  The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not).  Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.

It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan:  Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down).  Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.”  This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).

And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back?  Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there?  It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc.  have been  Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy.  The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history.

It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.  Arudou Debito

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

A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands
By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times
Published: June 10, 2012, courtesy lots of people

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504EED81639F933A25755C0A9649D8B63

CORRECTION APPENDED
CHICHI JIMA, Japan — Every morning, as the sun rises over this remote Pacific Island and its tiny port with typically Japanese low-slung concrete buildings, John Washington commits a quiet act of defiance against the famously insular Japan: he hoists an American flag over his inn.

Mr. Washington, 63, whose white skin and blond hair, which is turning white, mark him as something of an outsider, is a great-great-grandson of the island’s founding father, an American sailor named Nathaniel Savory who set sail in 1830 with a band of adventurers for this island, which was known as a lawless natural wonder.

These days, Mr. Washington’s attempt to evoke that history seems increasingly like an act of desperation. His community — descendants of those settlers — is vanishing as young people leave this isolated outpost, a 25-hour ferry ride from Tokyo in a chain once known as the Bonins, or assimilate, dropping the Anglican religion and English language of their forebears.

”I feel it will all die out with my generation,” Mr. Washington said. ”They don’t teach the history of the Bonin Islands to kids, don’t teach about Nathaniel Savory. The Japanese hide these things.”

And what they are hiding, he says, is a tale as colorful and lurid as it is disputed.

Since it was settled by Mr. Savory’s American and European followers — fortune seekers, deserters, drunkards — and their Hawaiian wives, the island has been pillaged by pirates, gripped by murder and cannibalism, and tugged back and forth between Japan and the United States in their battle for supremacy in the Pacific. There was a brief revival of the island’s Western culture after World War II, when it was ruled by the United States Navy.

Even the island’s V.I.P. visitor list seems outsized for a spit of land just five miles long. It includes Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who stopped here on the 1853 voyage in which he opened Japanese ports at gunpoint, and Jack London, who visited as a 17-year-old deckhand and later wrote about the Bonins.

Today, the island is a sleepy place. Its rhythms are set by the arrival once every six days of the ferry that makes the 600-mile journey from Tokyo, which has administered Chichi Jima as part of what are now known as the Ogasawara Islands, after the United States returned them to Japan in 1968.

About 2,000 people live here, mostly Japanese from the mainland who came after the transfer. Over time, they have overwhelmed the descendants of the original settlers — known here as Obeikei, or the Westerners — who are now estimated to number fewer than 200.

Most of the Obeikei are Japanese citizens. Most of those who still speak English and retain distinctly Western or Polynesian features are over the age of 50.

In a country that prides itself on its homogeneity and avoids tackling uncomfortable situations directly, many of Chichi Jima’s Japanese residents profess to having little knowledge of or interest in the Westerners. They instead focus on running the whale-watching and diving tours for the tourists drawn to a pristine island chain that last year was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Some Japanese residents say the Westerners have made their own lot by being standoffish, using both Western and Japanese names, and pining to return to the ”Navy time” after World War II, when they had the island virtually to themselves.

An old graveyard with Christian tombstones is one of the few visible traces of the Westerners’ history. And the official account of the island’s history, presented at the village-run visitor center, plays down the Westerners’ role in settling the island.

It says the island chain was discovered in 1593 by a samurai named Sadayori Ogasawara, for whom the chain was later named. The ”Euro-American natives” are presented as little more than squatters who occupied what officials say was already Japanese territory, despite a consensus among modern Japanese and Western historians that Ogasawara never visited the islands.

”They are not the same as indigenous natives who have been here for hundreds of years,” said Kazuhiko Ishida, the island’s vice mayor. He said that while no efforts are being made to preserve the Westerners’ culture, they are not mistreated, either.

Westerners agree, but even some of those with close Japanese friends and spouses say feeling marginalized is not much better.

”They call me foreigner,” said Sutanrii Minami, 64, a tour guide who also goes by Stanley Gilley and who looks Polynesian. ”I’m not a foreigner. I was born on this island.”

What is undisputed is that the island was left largely to rule itself until 1875, when Japanese settlers and officials took over in what the historian Daniel Long calls the first act of territorial expansion by a budding Japanese empire.

”Chichi Jima was probably the only case where the island was claimed by an Asian power and the natives were English-speaking Westerners,” said Mr. Long, who has written several books on the island.

It is also agreed upon that the island was untouched when sailors’ tales of an ”uninhabited paradise” drew the 35-year-old Mr. Savory and about 20 settlers. They eked out a living selling provisions to passing Yankee whalers and British warships.

Many visiting captains remarked on the lawlessness of the island, recording tales of murder and polygamy. It also proved vulnerable to pirates, who in 1849 made off with Mr. Savory’s gold — and his wife. Witnesses later told a passing captain that the abduction was a tall tale: they said the woman, who was much younger than Mr. Savory, eagerly joined the marauders, leading them to his hidden wealth.

Islanders say that such raids may have led the settlers to peacefully accept the Japanese as rulers, who treated them with benign neglect.

That changed with the approach of World War II. Although they were not interned, the Westerners were forced to take Japanese names and were watched as possible spies. In 1944, most were evacuated along with the Japanese residents to the mainland, where they say they suffered discrimination.

”We are loyal Japanese, but they treated us as enemies when they saw the color of our faces and our eyes,” said Aisaku Ogasawara, 81, an Anglican pastor who also goes by Isaac Gonzales.

During the war, some of the Western men entered the Japanese Army, joining the garrison that defended the island. They witnessed a different horror, historians say, when eight captured American airmen were beheaded and then eaten by the starving Japanese defenders.

After the war, the United States Navy used the island for a submarine base. The Navy allowed the Western-descended settlers to return in 1946, but Japanese former residents were barred from coming back — possibly because of the nuclear warheads that historians say were stored on the island.

When the island was returned to Japan in 1968, the Westerners were given a choice of becoming either Japanese or American citizens. Many left for the United States.

Some wish that Japan and the United States had allowed them to decide the island’s future themselves.

”This island was returned without our control,” said Rokki Sebori, 52, who also goes by Rocky Savory and runs the island’s cooperative supermarket. ”We still feel in our hearts that this is our island.”

ENDS
Correction: June 17, 2012, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A picture caption last Sunday with an article about the vanishing community of Americans on Chichi Jima, a remote Pacific island that was founded by an American sailor but turned over to the Japanese in 1968, misstated the given name of a Westerner who served in the American Navy and now runs a bar in the island. He is Rance Ohira, not Lance.
ENDS

Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)

mytest

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Hi Blog. As I’ve been hitting the books these days in terms of theories of nation-state formation and concomitant creation of racialized societies, I found something I think readers of Debito.org might be interested in:

This is an excerpt from the late Dr. Iida Yumiko, from her book “Rethinking Identity in Modern Japan” (Routledge, 2002), pages 264-5. Plough through it, as it is written in the (often impenetrable) prose of academics (and don’t get derailed by words like “ontological”, please), and afterwards I’ll rewrite it in simpler language and tell you why it is germane to Debito.org:

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

Iida: “As a collective human organization, the nation necessitates a common set of functional rules articulated in the form of a narrative. […] Since individuals are born into a socio-cultural system that ontologically precedes them, they are predisposed to certain patterns of meaning and behavior operative in the existing symbolic system; their sensory experiences, emotional attachments, and sense of moral duty, all of which occupy an import an place in the social life of humanity and society, are built upon such cultural bases.

“State hegemonic power, thus, rests on its ability to weave the identity of its subjects into the reigning system of symbolic meanings, which the subjects in their everyday practices then embody. Further, the survival of the nation-state and the well-being of its subjects [sic] are dependent upon, and reinforced by, the existing symbolic system. Naturally, the form and intensity of such connections between the state and the subject varies from place to place; arguably, the linkage is much less significant in the advanced industrial societies of the West, where ‘culture’ appears less of an immediate issue and the state’s power to regenerate ‘hegemonic consensus’ is constituted more by the legal and institutional apparatus.

“The question of degrees not withstanding, however, the fact remains that the hegemonic reproduction of the nation is dependent upon its subject being provided with such socio-cultural foundations for shared memories of the past, as sense of communal moral obligation, a coherent vision of the world, and collectively articulated hopes.

If in the current global context the nation-state is indeed being dismantled [by the effects of multinational corporations, global migration of capital and labor, etc.], then the danger looms nigh that highly disruptive forces contained within the bounds of the nation-state will be unleashed, forces which at present are more or less circumscribed by the established symbolic links constituting, albeit hierarchically, the order and stability between a nation and its subjects.

Since the normal functioning of the nation-state is a necessary condition for the stability of the individual subjects whose everyday lives are integrated into hegemonic political-cultural institutions, contesting hegemony runs a number of risks, for ‘to battle the temporal constructions of power is to battle the self and to damage the readily available means of achieving comfort and assurance’.”  ENDS

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

Now leaving aside Iida’s problematic use of “subjects” (as opposed to “citizens” or “nationals”), let me rearticulate this passage for readers who aren’t used to academic writing and then comment:

TRANSLATION:  Every country has to convince the people who live within it to accept that a) there is a country that they are members of, and b) that there are rules they have to follow in order to be members (obeying the laws, paying taxes, potentially giving up one’s life to defend it, etc.).  When power becomes this unquestioned, it becomes (to use Gramsci’s word) “hegemonic”, in other words, normal enough to be invisible and generally unquestioned.  Almost all people on this planet, born into a nation-state, accept that they are members of one country of another (by dint of having a passport, a tax home, accountability before the law etc.) and play by the rules because that’s how they were socialized.

But there is a give-and-take here.  The nation-state must give its members four things in order for them to adopt the rules of play and pass them down to the next generation.  These are, according to Iida above:

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

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

3) A world view that makes sense,

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

COMMENT:  Fine.  Now, as this relates to Debito.org:  What do NJ in Japan get?

1) A shared memory of the past?  Not really, since what NJ generally hear in the national narrative (and replicated in ignorant overseas media and scholarship) is how foreigners, if any influence at all in Japanese society, are generally exogenous influences (Chinese writing, Perry, MacArthur, the gaijin du jour/baseball star revved up for mass consumption and soon forgotten, etc.).  NJ are not seen as part of Japan’s domestic past or legacies.  Japan takes any foreign influence and makes it “Japanese”, as we keep hearing, and that’s what makes Japan “unique”.  Any attempts to correct that ahistory are generally shouted down as not home-grown (by now by definition) or else ignored as just temporary (again, by definition, since the domestic media won’t appraise it either long-term or as something domestic; for example, look how much trouble I’ve had just getting the Japan Times to be the only media outlet giving simple Obituaries to long-term NJ residents and their legacies).

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations?  Not really. I’ve mentioned before (see my last blog post, for example) how NJ communities are not even acknowledged in Japan (Japan as a nation has enough trouble ever acknowledging that even domestic minorities exist).  If anything, NJ are (by default, only — something not actively generated by the nation-state) linked by who they are NOT (i.e., not Japanese), rather than by who they ARE; which, the record shows, is not much of a basis for a community (communities here have to link themselves, as the independent outsider Zainichi and Nikkei media demonstrate).

As for moral obligations, Rick Gundlach has written some very thoughtful posts on how NJ, as they rip at each other in public, do it beyond the regular moral bounds of Japanese society (his most recent: “a lot of what foreigners do in Japan is make up their own rules about what is and is not acceptable, or legal, or socially desirable, in Japan. They seldom rely on what is actually legal, or what the Japanese would themselves like to have the foreign community do“) — in essence, NJ are left out of being held accountable under domestic standards for their actions (as you’ll see when the Japanese police act so lackadaisically towards NJ-on-NJ crime).  That is perhaps the best evidence yet of just how outside the Japanese sense of community NJ are.

3) A world view that makes sense?  I don’t think even many Japanese would assert without reservation that Japan’s world view makes sense, especially after the Fukushima Disasters; it’s just that most Japanese are having trouble seeing any alternative (or seeing one but unsure how to get enough people on board to get it enforced) given how people are socialized towards nation-state power in Japan.

But in regards to NJ, since many CAN see an alternative, the oft-touted national narrative often makes even less sense.  Even before Fukushima, being told constantly, for example, that Japan is #1 at just about everything, that only Japan has the best stuff in the world (be it vegetables to consumer electronics — even crappy housing under generations of recycled mortgages are somehow justified) and has the safest classless most equitable society etc. (except when something that isn’t supposed to happen does happen — like theft, violence, discrimination, or clear class-based elite privilege — it comes as a great shock to many), and you foreigners are damned lucky to be here in our Japan — not contributing to it, of course, but somehow taking advantage of it (i.e., by getting paid for your labor).  Then one begins to wonder if the national narrative is not a form of group psychosis.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.  This was the biggest denouement after Fukushima, when a lot of people, seeing the lies and obfuscations that were coming out of the media essentially to protect the elite and corporatist sides of Japan, lost hope that Japan could ever fix itself.  Again, this loss of hope was not something that only affected the NJ, but when NJ began to be partially and specifically blamed (as “Flyjin“) for Japan’s troubles under the new post-3/11 national narrative, then what hope for the future was there for NJ to live normal lives as regular, untargeted, unaccused members of Japan’s domestic community?

In sum, one of the reasons I believe why NJ have little sense of “belonging” to Japan is not only that they are constantly “othered” and alienated (through the daily processes of “Microaggressions“, which happen in every society), but also that in Japan’s case they are by-and-large egregiously deprived of the four essential requirements that are incumbent upon a nation-state to make people accept that nation-state as something with hegemonic power over their lives.  And that’s why so many NJ in the end feel little affinity and will just pick up and leave.

Even if NJ do make the investment (family, home, loans, language and acculturation, even permanent residency/citizenship), they are generally not included in Japan’s national narrative.  This is a fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state engineering, and it will not keep people coming to and staying in a depopulating Japan if they will never feel “Japanese”, by design.  Arudou Debito

Commemorating the Japan Times Community Page’s 10th Anniversary, a brief column by Arudou Debito, May 8, 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog. As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us. Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 8, 2012
THE ZEIT GIST

A decade serving the community

Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002.

Here, an editor, columnist and writer who helped make the section what it is today reflect on the first decade of the Community section.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120508zg.html

The Columnist’s section:

The columnist: ARUDOU, Debito

I remember my first article on the Community Page back in June 2002, after I jumped ship as a columnist at the Japan Today website.

Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront).

It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.

Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”

Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?

For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.

I have been honored to not only have had more than a hundred of my articles featured here since 2002, but also to have the ideas debated in a venue that people, including academics and Japanese policymakers, take seriously.

For example, my favorite Community Page memory is the reaction from “Forensic Science Fiction: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (Jan. 13, 2004), where I critiqued the National Research Institute for Police Science’s highly unscientific “DNA tests for foreigners.”. They claimed that you could examine biotic evidence at crime scenes and tell whether the suspect was foreign or not. They sold this snake oil to us taxpayers for years by claiming that “foreign proteins are different than Japanese.”

When I telephoned NRIPS on different business shortly afterwards, the person on the other end immediately knew me by name, and with no invitation launched into a defense of the policy as “having nothing to do with foreigners.”

I then pulled up the policy and read it back to him. “The very title says, ‘Developing an index using biological materials in order to expose foreign crime.’ In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I can read Japanese. Can you?” I got a gasp and then a delicious silence. Plus, in a country where the police ignore media scrutiny and even get away with murder (ZG, Nov. 1, 2011), the NRIPS still felt obligated a month later to send the JT a flaccid letter of denial. Gotcha.

In sum, I have observed three definite stages in the development of the NJ “community” since I got to Japan. In the 1990s, communities were forming during the influx of foreign labor, with some regions reaching double-digit population percentages of NJ. In the 2000s, NJ communities came under attack by xenophobes and chauvinist politicians who firmly believe the fiction that more foreigners means less Japan. And now, in the 2010s, we’re watching the NJ communities attacking themselves, cleaving into one-upping camps over who is “more dedicated to Japan” in this era of perpetual stagnation, rollover disasters and seemingly endless self-sacrifice.

The Community Page, despite all of that, stands as our outlet, and our legacy. Long may it run.

ARUDOU, Debito is the Just Be Cause columnist for The Japan Times
=============================

Japan Times Community Page 10th Anniversary: Vote for your favorite article at JT by May 5

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. Let me commemorate a special event. The Japan Times Community Page, a forum for NJ issues etc. that comes out every Tuesday, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary next month. They are having a retrospective and competition (with prizes) for choosing the best article (I have had the honor of contributing about a hundred so far), and you can vote online at the JT from the link and article below.

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

A decade serving the community
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/community-anniversary.html
On May 8, the Japan Times will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002. To mark the occasion, we are asking readers to pick their favorite Zeit Gist article of the past decade, be it a memorable scoop, informative feature or scathing critique.

In return, The Japan Times is offering readers the chance to win a B4-size poster (above) illustrated by longtime Community artist Chris Mackenzie.

Alternatively, winners can opt for one of 10 copies of “3.11: One Year On,” a 64-page Japan Times Special Report bringing together JT articles from the past year about the triple disasters in Tohoku and their aftermath. Please state your preference on the form below. This offer ends at 5 p.m. JST on Friday, May 5.

The following are the Community editor’s picks of just some of the standout Zeit Gist articles of the last decade. Some were chosen because they help tell the story of of the last 10 years in Japan, others because the articles proved to be extremely popular – and in some cases simply because they are great reads.

Please feel free to pick another story from among the close to 500 Zeit Gists

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

Short list of the editor’s picks at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/community-anniversary.html

Debito has two of those articles listed, “Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese” (on skewed criminal jurisprudence by nationality), and “Demise of crime magazine historic” (on the GAIJIN HANZAI magazine and how we not only got it off the shelves, but also helped drive the slimy publisher bankrupt). Or you can see titles and links to all the Community Page articles I’ve ever written, with one-line synopses, at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#JOURNALISTIC

(The one I think I’m most proud of, for the record, is “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION:  Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004))

I will also be doing double-time next month when, in addition to my regular column, I’ll be offering a 600-word retrospective as the Community Page columnist and contributor from the beginning.

Anyway, The Community Page has been a good thing, giving not only a sense of NJ community but also of legacy, so let’s give it due commemoration. Thanks as always for reading both here and there. Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 50, April 3, 2012: Donald Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths

mytest

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

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The Japan Times Tuesday, April 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 50
Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths
(Original title:  “Let’s put some myths to rest”)
By ARUDOU, DEBITO
Courtesy of http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120403ad.html

Congratulations to Donald Keene, who was granted Japanese citizenship last month with great media fanfare. At 89 years young and after a lifetime contributing to world scholarship on Japan, he truly deserves it.

Unfortunately, while receiving all the kudos, Keene demonstrated that he had fallen for two of Japan’s media-manufactured myths about non-Japanese (NJ) residents: 1) that they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime in Japan, and 2) that they fled Japan (as “flyjin”) in disproportionate numbers due to the Tohoku disasters.

In media reports, both when he applied for citizenship last November and when he got it on March 7, Keene said repeatedly that he was naturalizing to “encourage,” “endure hardships” and “show solidarity” with the Japanese people as a Japanese — unlike, the media also repeatedly reported him as saying, the large number of foreigners who left Japan after the earthquakes.

He also joshed at a March 7 press conference, quote, “As a Japanese, I swear not to commit any crimes.”

Very funny. You know a public discourse has become hegemonic when you can joke about it. But when you have an iconic (former) NJ promoting falsehoods about NJ, we need to put them to rest.

First, about foreign crime: As has been discussed in these pages before (Zeit Gist, Feb. 20, 2007, Oct. 7, 2003, and Oct. 4, 2002), the National Police Agency has performed all kinds of statistical magic to inflate NJ crime figures. Hence the rise of foreign crime over the past decade has been, to put it mildly, disproportionately reported in both scope and degree. As always, 99 percent of crime in Japan is committed by Japanese.

Even more so now. According to the most recent NPA figures (www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai/H23_Z_RAINICHI_ZANTEI.pdf), foreign crime has dropped every year without pause since its peak in 2005. In fact, by more than half — so precipitously that the NPA includes crime numbers from 1982 (when there were far fewer NJ here anyway) to depict some kind of comparative rise.

Last year was no different, with crime falling by double-digit percentages in every major category, to below levels last seen in 1993! This matters because Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara infamously predicted in 2000 that in the event of a natural disaster (and 2011 had at least two), “bad foreigners” would riot and need rounding up by the Self-Defense Forces.

Clearly none of that happened. Yet the public discourse of NJ as criminal, as promoted by grumpy (or acidulously jokey) geriatrics, hasn’t changed.

Now let’s look at the renewed flyjin discourse, since Keene’s self-promotion as a paragon of virtue now threatens to similarly tar NJ as deserters.

I have talked about flyjin before (Just Be Cause, May 3, 2011), essentially arguing, “So what if NJ left? It’s not as if they were made to feel welcome and a part of Japan.”

But now that last year’s statistics are in we need an update — because it’s clear the whole flyjin phenomenon was a myth.

According to the Ministry of Justice (www.moj.go.jp/content/000094842.pdf), the NJ population registered with the government (so as to leave out NJ tourists, who must depart within three months anyway) dropped for the third straight year in 2011, by 55,671 souls, or 2.6 percent. This is little different than 2010’s drop of 51,970, or 2.4 percent — meaning this is an ongoing trend little changed by the disasters.

Moreover, look at the largest drop in terms of nationality: Brazilians, falling by nearly 9 percent, for more than a third of the total. Where are Brazilians clustered? Around Nagoya, nowhere near the disaster areas.

The point is, NJ migration (in a science riddled with caveats and complications) was happening anyway for two reasons unrelated to Tohoku: 1) because NJ are the first downsized whenever our labor market goes sour, and 2) because it is standard operating practice within Japan’s visa regimes to boot out unwanted NJ workers (JBC, March 6, 2012, and April 7, 2009).

Moreover, if this column does what the Japanese media steadfastly refuses to do (that is, compare Japanese with NJ numbers), we can see that according to the government Statistics Bureau (www.stat.go.jp/data/jinsui/pdf/201203.pdf), the numbers of “Japanese flyjin” last year (that is, those who actually left the country, as opposed to the indubitably higher numbers who moved away from the danger zones domestically) also increased: A net 24,889 Japanese left Japan in March and April 2011 alone.

And, as a brief but indicative tangent, consider the comparative migration patterns of “Japanese flyjin” during Thailand’s disastrous floods last October. Not only did Japanese not remain in Thailand “in solidarity,” they also took Thai workers with them (on one-time temporary six-month visas, of course) so as not to disrupt Japanese factory production schedules.

The hypocrisy is palpable. And from what I have seen, the Thai media did not bash either the Japanese fleers or the Thai temps as deserters.

The point is, Keene has made his life one of careful, disciplined research, and he should have tapped this wealth of knowledge and reactivated his critical faculties before shooting off his mouth like this.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to impugn Keene’s life choices — he can live where he likes and take out whatever citizenship he desires. But he should not be denigrating other people’s complex and personal life decisions (many made with careers to consider and families in tow) based upon flawed paradigms about NJ — paradigms fabricated by a sensationalist media and grounded in a discourse of prejudice and hypocrisy.

If he does, he should be called out on it like anyone else. And in that spirit, let’s consider a few inconsistencies:

Keene has said that he wants to live out his remaining years in Japan out of respect to the “resilient spirit of the Japanese people in a traumatic situation.” However, Kyodo reported on March 9 that this move was “partly because travel (between his homes in America and Japan) had become physically demanding.” At his advanced age, that’s understandable. But why so much public self-hugging for naturalizing?

Moreover, what sort of support in “solidarity” for the Tohoku victims will Keene be involved in? The Yomiuri on March 9 notes that this month he’s traveling by ship to India and Africa for vacation. As soon as he gets back, he said, “I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster.”

Like how? Collecting and driving supplies up to Fukushima? Volunteering to help out at gymnasiums sheltering displaced people? Organizing international fund drives? Moving rubble around, as so many NJ residents who did not “flee Japan” have already done?

Here’s one thing Keene could do: Publicly retract his denigrating statements with apologies, and acknowledge the good that NJ have done for Japan all along — working here for decades, paying taxes, raising families, and living lives that fly in the face of the hegemonic yet unquestioned discourse that “NJ disrupt Japanese society.”

People who rise to mythical status should not perpetuate myths themselves. For someone who’s spent his life helping the outside world understand Japan, it’s ignominious indeed that Keene would now do the opposite for outsiders in Japan.

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

Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Discussions on this issue on Debito.org at debito.org/?p=10017. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. I was going to write on something else today, but I got this letter as a post comment this morning. It’s considered and considerate — usually letters on this topic are nasty flames, criticizing me personally for ever doing what Debito.org has been doing for (as of next month) fifteen years now. And it’s also a useful exercise to think about why we do the things that we do.

I won’t answer it, for now. I’ll open it up for discussion here on Debito.org and see how other people think. Thanks for writing in, Eric. Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////
Eric C
Submitted on 2012/03/18
Debito:
Thank you on behalf of all NJ who have lived in Japan or are living in Japan. You are doing brilliant work. I agree with almost everything you say and do and I am in awe of your energy, perseverance and spirit.

However, the more I read your site and columns and learn about your story, the more I find myself wondering why you keep trying. I lived in Japan for years and I did what you did, but on a lesser scale: I fought discrimination, xenophobia and racism as hard as I could. I like to think I gave as good as I got, if not better. I caused a fair bit of hell at my local kuyakusho, at immigration, with the police and with various random racist folks. That’s not to say I went around with a chip on my shoulder: I had a lot of Japanese friends, spoke the language well and really tried to fit in. But, finally, I decided to leave Japan and I don’t regret it. Not for a second. Every day I’m out of there, I give thanks that I had the balls and foresight to leave.

My question to you is why do you keep trying? I don’t want to be negative, but I think even you have to admit that Japan and the Japanese are not really going to change. Not in any meaningful way. They are xenophobic to the core, perhaps even genetically so. The society is feudal, with only the flimsiest veneer of legality. There is no real law – power and connections are all that matter. Japan reached a highpoint of openness and internationalization in the early 90s, and it’s been rapidly closing and going backwards since then. As the country stagnates and gets poorer, it’s going to become less and less welcoming to foreigners. I mean, the mayors of the three main cities in Japan are all nationalists and, most likely, racists.

Frankly, I don’t even think it’s worth trying to change Japan. They’re not worth it. Let them go their own miserable way to stagnation and backwardness. Let the world pass them by. Japan is like a stubborn old geezer in your neighborhood who does something offensive (letting his dog bark all night, for instance). You know that arguing with him is a waste of time. The only sensible thing to do is move away. Fuck him, to be direct about it.

You’ve fought the good fight, Debito, and a lot of gaijin owe you a huge debt of gratitude. But, for your own peace of mind, why not let someone else take up the burden? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be best for all NJ to simply pack up and leave and let the Japanese do whatever it is they want to do? Let them sing the kimigayo morning, noon and night. Let them teach English so poorly that no one can speak it. Let them lobotomize their kids in the name of educating them. Let them claim that their actions in WWII were one vast charitable mission to spread peace and love throughout the world. Let them sink slowly into the swamp of their own bloody minded ignorance.

It’s not our job to “fix” their society. It’s not our job to educate them about how the world really works. It’s not our job to try to bring them into the modern world.

Sorry, this is a bit of a downer of a post, but anyone who knows Japan as well as you know it must surely realize that the defining characteristic of modern Japan is the inability to change. They’re so stubborn that if you ask them to change, they’ll consciously avoid changing just to spite you. I mean, why do you think they keep whaling and dolphin killing when it requires vast government support to keep doing it? They do it precisely because the world tells them to stop.

I say, leave them to it and live your own life.
ENDS

UPDATE:  The author has offered more lengthy and elaborate comments below here and here.  You might want to read them first before going on to everyone else’s.

Congratulations Donald Keene on getting Japanese citizenship. Now stop making yourself out to be somehow morally superior to NJ.

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. Good news.  Congratulations to The Don for getting his Japanese citizenship, and on what looks to be an expedited schedule (of only four months, according to the Yomiuri below.  Of course; the guy is in his ninetieth year!)  I think it’s good that an old man can realize his twilight dreams, and take advantage of opportunities that he has clearly earned as a contributor to Japan in the world.

Quoth Donald in the above press conference:  「日本人として犯罪を起こさないことを誓います」(As a Japanese, I swear not to commit any crimes.)  

That said, I don’t believe that gives him license to continuously bad-mouth other NJ, whom he yet again essentially accuses of desertion, according to the Asahi article trumpeting the news of his successful application below (translation mine):

“…[Keene] received Japanese Permanent Residency, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, knowing about the large numbers of foreigners that distanced themselves from Japan, he said, ‘I came to Japan, where I will always stay. I believe in Japan, is what I wanted to broadcast.'”

Well, if you really said this as reported (and you certainly seem to have done so in the past), then screw you, Donald. As I’ve said before here and here, not only are you buying into this whole J media-generated gaijin-bashing “Flyjin” phenomenon (in ways unbecoming a bona fide academic researcher), but your making yourself out to be more holier-than-thou than other foreigners is childish, pandering, and disrespectful of other people making their own life choices.

And it shows a remarkable naiveté regarding Japan and life in general, since will you never have to face a life in Japan as a non-elite NJ laborer in Japan; moreover, as I’ve said before, as a nonagenarian you won’t be around for any denouement.  Just shut up and take your kudos with grace, already, without denigrating others.  Do something to lose that “mean-old-man” stink you’re repeatedly and needlessly airing in public.  Arudou Debito

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

ドナルド・キーンさん、日本国籍取得 震災後永住を決意
朝日新聞 2012年3月8日  Courtesy of Mark in Yayoi
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0308/TKY201203080224.html

日本文学者のドナルド・キーンさん(89)が8日、日本国籍を取得し、記者会見した。約40年間、研究・著作活動で米国と日本を行き来し、日本の永住権も取得していたが、東日本大震災後、多くの外国人が日本を離れたと知って「私は日本に行き、ずっといる。(日本を)信じます、と知らせたかった」と話した。

キーンさんは1974年から東京都北区に暮らし、同区の宣伝役「アンバサダー」を務める。戸籍名は「キーン ドナルド」、通称で「鬼怒鳴門(キーンドナルド)」という漢字名も使う。栃木県の鬼怒川と、徳島県の鳴門からとった。

震災後の日本について、キーンさんは「率直に言って、がっかりしている」という。直後は東京からあかりが消えエレベーターも止まり「力を合わせて東北の人を助けている」と感じたが、「いまは明るく、必要のない(電光)看板がたくさんある。東京だけではない。もう忘れているのではないか」と辛口だった。
ENDS

More trappings of The Don’s legacy:

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

ドナルド・キーン記念館設立へ 新潟・柏崎で蔵書贈呈式
朝日新聞 2011年12月4日
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1203/TKY201112030538.html
米ニューヨーク市のハドソン川近くにあったキーンさんの自宅の書斎。柏崎の記念館内に居間と合わせてそっくり再現される=ブルボン提供

記念館に再現されるキーンさんの自宅の居間など。間仕切りや扉をそっくり柏崎に運んできた=ブルボン提供

記念館への思いを語るドナルド・キーンさん=柏崎市諏訪町
[PR]

日本文学研究で知られ、東日本大震災後に日本永住を決めたドナルド・キーンさん(89)の記念館が2013年秋、新潟県柏崎市にできることになった。3日にキーンさんが同市を訪れ、収蔵する書籍や家具の贈呈式が行われた。

キーンさんは07年、柏崎を舞台にした古浄瑠璃の復活を働きかけ、300年ぶりの復活公演に結びつけた。この縁を生かそうと菓子製造のブルボン(同市)が記念館建設を計画した。

同社研修センター2階の約360平方メートルを改装。キーンさんが約30年間暮らし、日本文化を世界に発信する拠点だった米ニューヨーク市の書斎と居間を再現する。寄贈された書籍約1700点、レコードとCD各約300点、家具や調度類約100点も展示する。

ENDS

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

「東北にも奇跡」永住決めたドナルド・キーンさん来日
朝日新聞 2011年9月2日
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0901/TKY201109010409.html

来日し、報道陣の取材に応じるドナルド・キーンさん=1日午後、成田空港第1ターミナル、長屋護撮影

日本文学研究で知られ、日本での永住を決めているドナルド・キーン米コロンビア大学名誉教授(89)が1日午後、成田空港に到着した。キーンさんは9月下旬に日本国籍取得の申請手続きをする予定で、「国籍を取得するとなると、今まではあまり読んでこなかった政治や経済についても、詳しく知る責任がある」と話した。

報道陣から東日本大震災について質問されたキーンさんは「希望があれば乗り越えることができる。終戦直後、私が訪れた東京は煙突しか残っていない街だったが、いまは立派な都会になった。東北にも奇跡は起こる」と話した。何度も訪れたことのある岩手県の中尊寺には近く、2~3泊の予定で足を運びたいという。(山田優)

ENDS

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

Here’s the Yomiuri’s take, with The Don not only bashing NJ and coming here for the sake of “enduring hardships with the Japanese”, but also traipsing off to Africa and India next month, like most Japanese can to escape their hardships.

Keene becomes Japanese citizen

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 9, 2012), courtesy of JK

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120308006608.htm

Donald Keene speaks to The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo on Thursday morning after learning he has been granted Japanese citizenship.

Donald Keene, a prominent scholar of Japanese literature and culture, has been granted Japanese citizenship, the Justice Ministry announced in a government gazette issued Thursday.

Keene, 89, decided to permanently live in Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A professor emeritus at Columbia University, Keene studied Japanese literature and culture after serving as an interpreter for U.S. forces during the Pacific War.

Regarded as an authority in the field, he received the Order of Culture in 2008.

He expressed his intention to obtain Japanese citizenship after the March 11 disaster.

“I love Japan,” Keene said, while explaining his decision to move to Japan at a press conference following his last lecture at Columbia University. He now lives in Tokyo.

===

Keene expresses gratitude

Keene expressed his joy over the news that he has been granted the Japanese citizenship in an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun at his home in Tokyo on Thursday.

“I’m so glad to finally be able to become Japanese,” a smiling Keene said.

“If my decision encourages the Japanese people, it’s a great joy.”

Keene was informed of the decision by phone by a Justice Ministry official on Thursday morning. He said he expressed his appreciation to the official, repeatedly saying, “Thank you.”

Right after the March 11 disaster, Keene saw the stoic suffering of people in the Tohoku region on TV.

Worried over the news that an increasing number of foreigners were leaving the country, Keene made up his mind to permanently live in Japan. “I wanted to endure the hardships with the Japanese, who had taken good care of me, at a difficult time like this,” he said.

Keene applied for Japanese citizenship in November last year.

He wondered how long it would take to obtain citizenship, but officials only told him it would take some time. He sometimes expressed his anxiety to people around him, saying, “As I’m already 89 years old, I don’t have much time left.”

In the end, he obtained his citizenship in only about four months.

“Donald Keene” became his pen name, and his Japanese name is now Kiin Donarudo.

Starting next month, he will travel by ship to India and Africa for vacation.

“[After returning to Japan], I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster,” he said with a smile.

ENDS
///////////////////////
Sankei:

「待っていた知らせ」 日本国籍取得のキーン氏 漢字表記は「鬼怒鳴門」

産經新聞 2012.3.8 20:22
日本国籍を取得し、記者会見するドナルド・キーン氏=8日午後、東京・北区役所日本国籍を取得し、記者会見するドナルド・キーン氏=8日午後、東京・北区役所

 海外における日本文学研究の第一人者、ドナルド・キーン米コロンビア大名誉教授(89)の日本国籍取得が認められ、8日付の官報で告示された。キーン氏は同日、名誉区民となっている東京都北区の区役所で会見し、「待っていた知らせで、非常にうれしい」と日本語で喜びを語った。

キーン氏は、これまで1年の半分を日本で過ごしてきたが、昨年1月ごろ永住を決意。東日本大震災後、多くの外国人が帰国する状況を知って、「日本を信じることを示したかった」と日本定住への意志をさらに強固にしたという。昨年9月に来日し、講演や執筆活動を精力的に行ってきた。

この日は北区から、自身で考えた「鬼怒(キーン・ド)鳴門(ナルド)」という漢字表記の名刺を贈られた。名刺の拡大コピーを手にしたキーン氏は、「(執筆などはカタカナ表記の名前を用いるため漢字の名刺は)人を笑わせるために使いたい」と述べ、周囲を笑わせた。

ENDS

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

The Yomiuri gives a picture of a possible Messiah Complex:

率直に言うとガッカリ…キーンさん、復興で苦言

(2012年3月9日08時54分  読売新聞)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20120309-OYT1T00135.htm

「率直に言うと、がっかりしています」――。日本国籍を取得した日本文化研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(89)は、8日の記者会見で「鬼怒」の雅号通り、震災後の日本の状況にあえて苦言を呈した。

「日本人は力を合わせて東北の人を助けると思っていました」。会見で終始朗らかなキーンさんだったが、震災の話になると表情が引き締まった。そして、「東京は(電気が)明るい。必要のない看板がたくさんある。東京だけではない。忘れているんじゃないか。まだやるべきことは、いっぱいあると思います」と語った。

「わたしは今まで、ある意味、日本のお客さんだった」と振り返ったキーンさんは、国籍取得を機に日本の現状に意見を言うことも考えている。「もしいいことができるとすれば、私のためでなく、日本人のためだと思います」と話した。

ENDS

Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future.  It went up last week.  While long-term readers of Debito.org might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito

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

INTERVIEW
Overcoming the ‘Japanese only’ factor
By Victor Fic.  Asia Times, January 12, 2012, courtesy http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/NA12Dh01.html

When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward. 

[…]

TO  David “foolish” Aldwinkle [sic]
GET OUT OF JAPAN
YOU ARE A FUCKING GAIJIN
NOT A JAPANESE
FUCK YOU!!
GAIJIN LIKE YOU ARE RUINING THIS COUNTRY
WE WILL KILL YOUR KIDS
YOU CALL THIS DISCRIMINATION?
YOU WANT MONEY THAT MUCH?
GO HOME YANKEE CUNT!
— Death threat in English and Japanese, postmarked February 5, 2001, from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, with a fake name that literally means “full of sperm”, and a fake organization called “Friends of Onsen Local 2”.  Reproduced in “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Akashi Shoten, Inc. 2006), page 305. [NB: This was the original opening to the interview that Mr. Fic filed with the Asia Times.  It was removed by the editors, which is a pity.  Racial discrimination is an ugly thing, and the content and tone of this death threat is but one symptom.]

Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen? 

Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog [1].

VF: The contrast with your earlier life is dramatic because you started life as an above average American guy in the northeast …

AD: How do you define “average?” I certainly had opportunities. I grew up in a good educational district and had high enough grades to get into Cornell University, where I earned a degree in government. I springboarded into a quality graduate program at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the UC San Diego, and availed myself of excellent Japanese studies programs, including a mentor relationship with the late East Asia expert Chalmers Johnson. I then did the hard slog of learning the language and culture and it set me up my life as an academic, writer, commentator, and educator about issues Japanese.

VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe? 

AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column [2] I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” [3]. Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement.

VF: When immigrants to the West naturalize, they hear “congratulations!” But when you became Japanese, you were greeted with another statement … what was it? 

AD: On October 11, 2000, I naturalized. And yes, I heard “congratulations”. But I was also visited at home by two representatives of Japan’s Public Safety Commission to tell me that they would now take action against the threats and harassment I had been getting during the Otaru Onsens case. They said clearly, “Now that you are a Japanese citizen, we want to protect your human rights.” Meaning rights to protect when I became a citizen – not before.

VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life? 

AD: Sure…

Interview continues at

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/NA12Dh01.html

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47: 2011’s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan

mytest

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE, Column 47

Kim to ‘flyjin,’ a top 10 for 2012

Illustrations by Chris Mackenzie
Version with links to sources

Here’s JBC’s fourth annual roundup of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s non-Japanese (NJ) residents last year. Ranked in ascending order of impact:

10.  Kim Jong Il dies

News photo

This might rank higher with the benefit of hindsight, but right now it’s unclear how things will settle after the succession. Still, potential regime change in Asia’s most wild-card country might improve things for NJ in Japan. The biggest counterargument to granting NJ more rights has been, “If resident Chinese or North Koreans get any power over Japanese, Japan will be lost.”

Kim’s demise may not silence the alarmists (China will still be seen as a threat, especially now; more below), but even a tamping down of the standard foaming-at-the-mouth invective was impossible while “Dear Leader” was still around.

9.  Child abductor Emiko Inoue nicked

News photo

Emiko who? You might not know this case because Japanese media have intentionally omitted her name (even pixelating out her face in photographs) — and the fact she is a convicted felon in America — in their reports. But Inoue is one of the many Japanese who, following a separation or divorce, have abducted and then attempted to alienate their children from their former spouse. In the case of international relationships (because Japan is still not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction), no child, according to activists, has ever been extradited from Japan and reunited with an NJ parent.

But check this out: After abducting daughter Karina in 2008 to Japan from husband Moises Garcia (who was then awarded custody in America), Inoue had the nerve to drop by Hawaii last April and try to renew her green card. Arrested and sent to Wisconsin to face trial, Inoue was given a choice in November by the court: spend a decade or so in jail, or return Karina to Garcia by Christmas. Inoue chose the latter, and Karina was back by Dec. 23 (the mother, incidentally, will remain in the U.S. with visitation rights — a better deal than NJ in Japan ever get in custody battles).

The Karina Garcia case brought further attention to Japan’s insane system of child custody (see Zeit Gists, Aug. 9, 2011Sept. 21 andSept. 28, 2010Jan. 26 , and Feb. 2, 2010; and Just Be Cause Oct. 6, 2009), and made it clear to Japanese abductors that outstanding arrest warrants will be enforced.

Unfortunately, the Japanese public is again getting the pixelated version (e.g., Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24): Poor Karina, who reportedly wants to live in Japan, is forced to live in America to “save her mother” (never mind that her irresponsible mother put everyone in this position in the first place). A victory for the rule of law is yet again spun into victimhood for Japanese.

8.  Olympus whistle-blowing

News photo

The slimy practices of Olympus Corp. garnered a great deal of press this year, thanks to former CEO Michael Woodford’s refusal to go quietly. After raising questions about odd corporate expenditures, Woodford was sacked in October for “a management style incompatible with traditional Japanese practices” — meaning Woodford, whose superhuman tenacity got him from entry level in 1980 to corporate head, was fired for not abdicating his responsibilities.

That an international company would immediately invoke culture to defend their criminality is testament to so much of what is wrong with Japanese corporations. But also consider the plight of NJ employees like Woodford, promised during the bubble years that fluency in Japanese, hard work, sacrifice and company loyalty would bring opportunities. Decades later, it turns out their contributions matter not one whit if they ever speak up with integrity; in the end, they’re just another gaijin out on their ear. “Tradition,” indeed.

As it is unlikely this scandal will lead to any cleanup of Japan’s tribal (and consequently corrupt) corporate culture, the unfortunate lesson is: Don’t work for a Japanese company as an NJ and expect equality and upward mobility.

7.  Death during deportation

News photo

Whatever you might think of visa overstayers, few would argue it is a capital offense. Yet the death of Abubakar Awadu Suraj (ZG, Nov. 1) in March 2010, while being bundled onto an airplane back to Ghana, raised eyebrows not only because of the brutality of his treatment by government officials, but also because of the predictable results when it went to court this year: The domestic media either downplayed or ignored it, foreign media were stonewalled, and investigations by both police watchdogs and the judiciary stalled.

This horrific event confirmed, along with the suspiciously unsolved deaths of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey (ZG, Sep. 6), that foreigners’ lives are essentially held in low regard by Japan’s police forces (ZG, March 24, 2009) and media (in contrast to the hue and cry when a Japanese is murdered overseas, or by a foreigner in Japan). The point is, once Japan’s unaccountable police get their hands on you, your very life is potentially in jeopardy.

6.  Oita denial of benefits overturned

News photo

In 2008, Oita Prefecture heartlessly rejected a welfare application from a 78-year-old Chinese (a permanent resident born in Japan) because she is somehow still a foreigner. Then, in a shocking ruling on the case two years later, the Oita District Court decreed that NJ are not automatically eligible for social welfare. Finally, in November, this stubborn NJ, in her 80th year, won a reversal at the Fukuoka High Court — on the grounds that international law and treaty created obligations for “refugees (sic) (to be accorded) treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”

What caused the confusion was that in 1981, the Diet decided that revising the public welfare law to eliminate nationality requirements was unnecessary, since practical application already provided NJ with benefits. Three decades later, Oita Prefecture and its district court still hadn’t gotten the memo.

Bravo for this NJ for staying alive long enough to prize her case away from xenophobic local bureaucrats and set congruent legal precedents for all NJ.

5.  Japan as No. 3

News photo

2011 was the year that China’s GDP conclusively rose to second place behind the United States’, meaning Japan had to deal with no longer being the largest, richest and apparently most attractive economy in Asia. Marginalization sank in: More NJ studying Mandarin than Japanese, world media moving offices to Beijing, rich Chinese starting to outspend Japanese worldwide, and the realization that a recessionary/deflationary spiral for two (yes, now two) full decades had enabled others to catch up, if not surpass Japan.

It was time for a rethink, now that Japan’s mercantilist economy, largely intolerant of any standards but its own, was being seen as an untenable modern Galapagos. But fresh ideas from long-ignored resident NJ weren’t forthcoming. For they seemed to be leaving.

News photo

 4.  NJ population drops, again

After an unbroken rise between 1961 and 2009, it was announced last June that the total population of registered foreign residents dropped again in 2010, by another 2.4 percent.

Brazilians, once the workhorses of Japan’s most competitive exporters, fell the most in raw numbers (more than 16 percent), while Chinese, already the largest NJ contingent in Japan, still managed to grow a smidge. But that was before the events of last March . . .

 

News photo

3, 2, 1.  The Fukushima nuclear disaster

A no-brainer, this. The chain reactions set in motion on March 11 illuminated so many things that are wrong with Japan’s current system.

Let’s start with the obvious examples: The unwillingness of TEPCO to come clean with their data, of politicians to forsake petty political games of interference, and of administrators to give proper guidance to people in danger- all of this devastated public faith and trust.

Then the abdication of accountability of people supposedly in charge reached new heights as irradiated land and water spread (e.g., Tepco claimed in court (Aera, Nov. 24) that it no longer “owned” the radiation, and was therefore not liable for decontamination).

Meanwhile, despite a huge amount of volunteer work at the grassroots, official relief efforts were so bungled and corrupted that reconstruction funds were even proposed for free tourist plane tickets and whaling!

Then we get to the outright nastiness and hypocrisy of Japan’s media (and the self-hating gaijin toadies) who accused NJ residents (aka “flyjin”) of deserting their work stations ( JBC, May 3). Never mind that under the same conditions Japanese do the same thing (even encourage others to do so; remember, Japan imported Thai workers during Bangkok’s floods), and that NJ contributions before and during the Tohoku disasters were insufficiently reported and praised.

But the most profound realization of 2011 — arguably the worst year for Japan in my lifetime — is how this society cannot fix itself. As I have argued before ( JBC, April 5 and Oct. 4), the culture of ganbatte (do your best), flippantly said to victims by people largely unaffected by the disaster, is once again giving way to expectations of their gaman (silent endurance). Backed up by a dynamic discouraging people from “spoiling things for everyone else” by daring to speak out or complain, activism gets hamstrung.

Meanwhile, the muzzling of investigative journalism, independent academic research and credible criticism outside of official channels further disempowers the public of their right to know.

Conclusion: Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.

Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.

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

2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider ( JBC, Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.

Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles, if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.

ARUDOU Debito’s novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Reuters on Olympus Japan corruption issue: It takes a NJ whistleblowing CEO to uncover it, yet he gets sacked for “cultural reasons”

mytest

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Hi Blog. This is still a growing issue, and there’s an excellent Reuters article below to hang this blog post on.

Consider the case of Michael Woodford, a Brit hired more than thirty years ago by Japanese firm Olympus, with the superhuman tenacity to work his way up to the post of CEO (not hired, as are many of the famous NJ executives in Japanese companies, as an international prestige appointment). The presumption is that his appointment was because Mr Woodford would be different — there are plenty of Japanese corporate drones who would have gladly not rocked the boat for a quiet life and comfortable salary. But when he actually does something different, such as uncover and question possible corporate malfeasance, he gets fired because “his style of management was incompatible with traditional Japanese practices“.

This of course, as further investigations finally gather traction, calls into practice the cleanliness of those traditional Japanese corporate practices. And it looks like the only way to get them investigated properly in Japan is to take the issue to overseas regulators (this is, after all, an international company, if only in the sense that it has international holdings, but now beholden to international standards). Not to mention the Japanese media (which, as the article alludes to below, is once again asleep at its watchdog position).  None of this is surprising to the Old Japan Hands, especially those let anywhere close to Japanese corporate boardrooms, who see this nest feathering as a normal, nay, an obvious part of Japanese corporate culture the higher and richer you go.

But woe betide the NJ whistleblower — perpetually in a vulnerable position for being of the wrong race and for not doing what he’s told like a good little gaijin. After all, there’s peer pressure behind membership in “Team Japan”, and as soon as it’s convenient, the race/culture card gets pulled by the crooks to excuse themselves. I’m just glad Mr. Woodford had the guts to do what he did. I doubt it’ll result in a system-wide cleanup (the rot is too systemic and entrenched in corporatist Japan, and few watch the watchers). But you gotta start somewhere, since exposure of corruption must be seen to be becoming commonplace in post-Fukushima Japan. Bravo Mr. Woodford, and expose away. Arudou Debito

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

TECHNOLOGY
Analysis: Japan, slowly, waking up to the mess at Olympus
Reuters, Wed, Oct 26 2011, courtesy of CB and The Club
Courtesy http://mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE79P0VJ20111026

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese media interest has been muted, regulators are mostly mum and many politicians seem unaware anything is amiss.

A scandal over questionable deals at Japan’s Olympus Corp has so far generated little domestic heat in a country where critics say corporate governance is lax, but signs are emerging that the wall of indifference might crack.

Olympus fired its British chief executive Michael Woodford on October 14, charging that he had failed to understand the 92-year-old firm’s management style and Japanese culture.

Woodford — who joined the company in 1980 — says he was sacked for questioning a massive advisory fee paid in a 2008 takeover as well as other deals.

“The implications for investor confidence in corporate governance in Japan are pretty severe,” said Jamie Allen, secretary general of the Hong Kong-based Asian Corporate Governance Association.

“What would be positive is if Olympus fronted up … and the regulators actually took some tough action. I think regulators can turn it around. Whether they will is another matter.”

A niche Japanese business monthly magazine broke the story of possible misdeeds at Olympus, a maker of cameras and medical equipment, but mainstream media have been slow to take it up even after Woodford was fired.

Explanations of the initial laid-back response range from cozy ties between media and corporate Japan, a tendency to await official leaks rather than dig and even fears that yakuza crime syndicates are somehow involved.

Signals that the tide might change, however, have begun to trickle out, following a pattern seen in the past when a domestic magazine unearths dubious deeds, foreign media pick up the tale and mainstream Japanese media finally jump in.

Asahi TV and the Nikkei Business magazine ran interviews with Woodford on Wednesday, and the mass circulation Mainichi newspaper, noting the many puzzling aspects to the case, called on Olympus to clarify the facts while urging regulators to take strict steps.

“This is a situation that is likely to hurt the image of Japanese firms,” the paper said, noting the high level of interest among foreign media. That followed a similar editorial in the Nikkei business daily the day before.

“MEASURED” REGULATORY RESPONSE

What action authorities take will be key to whether investors’ broader concerns are soothed.

“Companies make mistakes and corruption occurs. It’s the response that matters,” said Pelham Smithers, managing director of Pelham Smithers Associates in London.

“So far the response has been measured … there is nothing wrong with taking time for a conclusion to be reached,” Smithers said. But he added: “If the details of this continue to be covered up so that investors cannot make a rational decision about investing in Japanese companies, then we have a problem.”

The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) said on Monday it was urging Olympus on a daily basis to disclose more information and Financial Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi has said the watchdog would do its duty. In a heads-up to investors, the TSE said on Wednesday it had begun publishing short-selling data.

Woodford has written to Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) asking it to look into the matter. The SESC — like Britain’s Serious Fraud Office which the ex-CEO has also approached — has not commented publicly.

But two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday the SESC was looking into past Olympus M&A deals, focusing on whether Olympus made proper financial disclosures about them.

Woodford said on Tuesday he was in touch with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the advisory fee, most of which went to an obscure Cayman Islands firm.

Experts said more was doubtless afoot in Japan than met the eye. “I expect that authorities internationally will coordinate,” said Shin Ushijima, a prosecutor-turned-lawyer.

“I don’t mean that something illegal must have been done, but the authorities will be interested in finding out … Authorities including the SESC must definitely be interested. It is impossible that they are not.”

GOVERNANCE GAPS

The Olympus scandal could re-ignite debate on what critics say is a deep-seated weakness of Japanese management — a lack of strong independent oversight of boards that risks inefficient use of capital and gives shareholders’ rights short shrift.

“You don’t have to have fraud to have a corporate governance problem. The bigger problem is the lack of transparency on how the board is making decisions,” Allen said.

“The lack of outside independent directors is simply a symptom of the underlying issue that companies are run by a tight group of people who have been in the company for decades.”

That mind-set was also a factor behind a failure by Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) to take steps to prevent disaster at its tsunami-hit Fukushima atomic power plant in March.

A review of company and regulatory records has shown that the utility as well as the government repeatedly played down the danger and ignored warnings.

“The public ought to be screaming out loud that this (Fukushima) is a governance problem. It was a failure of oversight,” said Nicholas Benes, representative director of the Board of Director Training Institute of Japan.

Despite some improvements over the past decade, including a requirement by the TSE from this year that all companies have at least one independent director or auditor, many companies still appear unconvinced of the need for strong outside oversight.

“Companies themselves have been dragged into it. They haven’t bought into it,” said Darrel Whitten, managing director at Investor Networks Inc, an investor relations consultancy.

“The playing field has shifted … but corporations haven’t been able to keep up with the shifts.

Japanese institutional investors have long been criticized for not pressing management, although here too change is under way as more institutions seek good returns rather than simply buying shares to cement strategic business ties.

Nippon Life, Japan’s largest private insurer and Olympus’s biggest shareholder, last week joined foreign investors in calling for answers from Olympus, prompting the firm to announce it would set up an independent panel to investigate.

But many domestic institutions still tend toward silence on matters of corporate governance.

“Japanese institutional investors are not standing up and asking vocally for changes because in many cases they are conflicted,” Benes said. “They come from a background of cross-shareholding and it’s tied to their DNA not to rock the boat.”

DISTRACTED POLITICIANS

In some ways, corporate governance would appear a tailor-made topic for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which had pledged to take steps to foster better governance in its platform ahead of the 2009 election that vaulted it to power.

Senior Democratic lawmaker Tsutomu Okubo sounded the alarm on Tuesday, urging Olympus to provide an explanation and regulators to probe the affair to prevent investors from losing confidence in the company and corporate Japan.

“There’s a possibility that Japanese companies will be perceived as lacking corporate governance, so to prevent that from happening we need to re-examine our systems,” Okubo, the Democratic Party’s deputy policy chief, told Reuters.

But efforts by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who took office last month, to repair ties with the main business lobby Keidanren, which frayed under his predecessor Naoto Kan, could work against any efforts to put fire into the governance debate.

“The attempt to reconcile with Keidanren puts the DPJ on the wrong footing when they deal with issues like this,” said Sophia University political science professor Koichi Nakano.

“They don’t want to come across as anti-business unless public opinion, led by media, pushes in that direction.”

With politicians distracted by other policy problems including whether to join talks on a U.S.-led free trade initiative, how to combat a strong yen that is hurting exports and the need to tackle social security and tax reforms, they may not have much scope to take on another headache now.

“I don’t see this spreading as an issue for now,” said one political source. “Of course, that could change if Japanese TV broadcasters take up the case.”

ENDS

More GOJ greenmailing: JET Alumni Assocs call on 20 ex-JETs for all-expenses paid trip to tsunami areas, to “let people know what they experienced when they return to their home countries”

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog.  In a continuation of yesterday’s theme of the GOJ greenmailing away Japan’s negative images, here we have a more overt use of public funds to turn a frown upside down over a disaster:  The JET Programme calling on ex-JETs to come back and reprise their role as de facto cultural lobbyists overseas.  Except this time there’s an update — the clear aim of sexing up Japan’s image abroad in the wake of the March 11 disasters by dangling an all-expenses-paid trip to the stricken areas.

I have done research on the JET Programme’s role of producing cultural ambassadors before (and its role as a domestic educational force, which I came out in support of in this Japan Times column).  But this is the most overt (and in my view, cynical) demonstration I’ve seen yet unmasking the JET Programme’s fundamental intention of burnishing Japan’s image abroad at all costs.  As if this is a kind of aid package for the stricken areas:  Let them eat good publicity, as part of a program of “Kawaisou Japan”.

Kinda takes the air out of the argument of JET as a program first and foremost promoting domestic education.  Arudou Debito

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

[Sent June 28, 2011]

[Courtesy of an alumnus of the JET Programme, sent to JET Alumni Associations (JETAA) worldwide]

Hello JETAAs,

The Japan Tourism Agency, MOFA, and other local governments in Japan
want to sponsor 20 ex-JETs — who were placed in Iwate, Miyagi,
Fukushima or Sendai — to go back to Japan for one week in order to
see the damages in the afflicted areas, so that when they return to
their home countries, they can let people know what they experienced
there. All expenses are paid (food, travel, insurance, etc.), except
personal expenses.

Unfortunately, because the [redacted] Government still restricts
[redacted] nationals to travel to the regions within 80km of Fukushima
Daiichi, we can’t recommend any ex-JETs who were placed in these
cities or towns.

Applications must be mailed to the Consulate General of Japan in
[redacted] by July 8th, 2011.

Contact [JETAA] Executive for application forms.
[email address redacted]

For more information contact [redacted] at the Consulate.

Thanks!

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

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column July 5, 2011: “Lives such as Daniel’s deserve to be honored in these pages”

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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JUST BE CAUSE
Lives such as Daniel’s deserve to be honored in these pages
By DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110705ad.html

I had a shock in May with the death of a close friend, Daniel, a long-term Japan resident in his sixties who had been in bad health. We were close and I’ll miss him.

But my shock was less due to Daniel’s passing, more to the postmortem reaction of the people around him, and to how the system processed him. None of us even knew he was in hospital; I didn’t hear about his death for nearly two weeks. As Daniel had once invited me to be an executor of his estate, I would have hoped to have been one of the first told, since he had no wife, children or kin in Japan.

Instead — and this is only what I’ve managed to piece together — he went to a hospital after some troubling symptoms, fell into a coma, and died thereafter. His body was kept at the hospital for quite some time waiting to be claimed. His former employer, despite Daniel’s decades of service, has apparently not even acknowledged his passing. Moreover, although I do not suspect foul play, the cause of death has still not been made clear to us.

This is unacceptable. Daniel was a dedicated educator and activist for human rights, renowned for his involvement in groups such as Amnesty International. Generous with his time, he spent his final years visiting people wrongfully incarcerated in Japanese prisons or left to rot in Immigration detention centers. He cared about people, particularly non-Japanese, who were victims of abusive systems ignored by society. Yet in the end, he too was just a John Doe on ice in some hospital.

My point is, people should not be falling off the face of the Earth like this.

In last month’s column I talked about the lack of cohesiveness and social disempowerment within the English-speaking communities due to our lack of minority consciousness as a diaspora in Japan.

Related to this is another problem: the lack of awareness of non-Japanese legacies — of lifetimes devoted to making Japan a better place.

One problem with our NJ brethren who leave us — through returning to their native countries, finding opportunities elsewhere, or, in Daniel’s case, death — is the disappearance of institutional memory. With a constant recycling of people, we as a community often know little of what happened before us, and have to start again from scratch.

That is the ultimate disempowerment: the ability to erase someone’s life work by not recognizing it.

This is why, at least in the case of death, we have an obligation to honor and remember NJ lives and efforts. Otherwise what is the point of making those efforts in the first place?

So let me propose a corrective measure: obituaries in The Japan Times. We should offer, say, a “Legacy Corner,” where someone who knew a recently deceased NJ of note well can submit a eulogy for possible publication. This way a print record remains of what they contributed to Japan and to us.

Many overseas newspapers, including The Guardian, already have this system in place. So should the JT.

The JT already offers briefs on deceased Japanese politicians and assorted muckety-mucks (as well as interviews with perfectly healthy Japanese bureaucrats and international representatives). Yet there is scant print on the NJ who lived here and gave so much of themselves to our society (not to mention read this paper).

I think it is particularly incumbent on The Japan Times to do this. Rival English-language papers are less NJ-community-minded. After all, they have long purged most of their NJ full-time staff and reporters, and generally supplement whatever news they don’t import with translated in-house articles (replete with nativist and exclusivist Japan-centric editorial slants). The JT, the only independent English daily paper in Japan, is in the best position to continue providing information for the NJ community to live better, more informed lives here.

After all, the Japanese media rarely recognizes the efforts of long-term NJ in Japan. NJ are apparently just supposed to come here to work and then “go home.” Even if they live most of their lives and die here.

We should not support this attitude. Otherwise, all that remains of the NJ long-termer is a fungible gaijin on a gurney. As happened to Daniel.

We owe people like him more. We owe ourselves more. Let’s make space for eulogy and legacy, and help create a stronger institutional memory. Prove wrong the institutionalized fiction that only Japanese can change Japan.
=========================

Debito Arudou’s new novel, “In Appropriate,” is on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Mainichi: “American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer efforts”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s one that got lost in the shuffle between debates; was going to put it up around May 10.  My commentary is a bit old, but might as well put it up for the record:

In apposite to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT being “Fly-jin”.  Good.  Hope these cases have sunk in with the Japanese public by now.  Arudou Debito

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

American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer efforts
(Mainichi Japan) April 25, 2011

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110425p2a00m0na011000c.html

PHOTO CAPTION:  Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)

SENDAI — With the nuclear plant crisis and continuing aftershocks, many foreign assistant English teachers have left Japan to return to their home countries, but one assistant language teacher (ALT) here chose to stay behind and do what he could for volunteer efforts.

Greg Lekich, 31, is an American ALT who teaches English at a high school in Sendai. Together with around 10 others, he has been doing volunteer work such as shoveling mud and helping clean people’s debris-filled houses. He says that he has many friends and students he has taught in Japan, and has grown used to where he lives now. He says he does not have plans to leave the country any time soon.

Lekich was born in Philadelphia. He spent a year of college learning Japanese and came to the country in 2004. After teaching English in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and other locations, he started work as an ALT at Miyagi Hirose High School and Miyagiken Technical High School from 2007.

When the earthquake struck on March 11, Lekich was in the teacher’s room at Miyagi Hirose High School. It was his first experience of a large earthquake. Following the instructions of the school staff, he evacuated to the athletic field outside. After walking for three hours to return home, he used the Internet to check on the safety of his foreign friends.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was added to the list of disasters, many foreigners in Japan began leaving the country. However, Lekich stayed in Sendai. His father, a former nuclear plant safety engineer, told him that under the circumstances, he didn’t think his son needed to worry so much about the radiation. His mother said she was worried, but asked him to do what he thought was right.

Lekich decided to volunteer. Together with other teachers in the prefecture, he made the website “Teachers for Japan,” through which he and the others have posted English videos of the disaster-hit areas and collected money for those orphaned by the quake or tsunami. He also helps with relief work such as cleaning debris in houses three or four days a week in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai and the cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo.

He says that on the night of the earthquake, his Japanese girlfriend and her mother brought him food and water because they were worried. He says it made him feel strongly how people should help each other out in trying times.

Class at the high schools will start again at the end of the “Golden Week” break at the start of May. Lekich says that having class as always will help people return to their normal lives. He says he hopes the fact that he, an American, stayed where he was will bring courage to his students.

However, many ALTs have not stayed behind. According to the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), which every year mediates the contracts of around 4,000 ALTs at local authorities around the country, 44 ALTs quit their jobs after the earthquake. Over half of them were at schools outside of the hardest hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. At least one had been working in Kyushu.

From this spring, English will be a mandatory subject for fifth- and sixth-graders at elementary schools. Minato Ward in Tokyo, which employs ALTs at all of its schools, has been unable to secure a complete number of ALTs in April, which delayed the start of English class by a week.

At one ALT dispatching company in Tokyo, over 100 ALTs have returned to their home countries and not come back to Japan.

“We are searching for substitutes (for those teachers who left) 24 hours a day. Among teachers who have left Japan but want to come back, many seem to have been held back by family,” said a company spokesperson.

ENDS

Original Japanese story

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

東日本大震災:仙台を離れず 米国人ALT、支援に奮闘
毎日新聞 2011年4月23日 11時01分(最終更新 4月23日 12時39分)
http://mainichi.jp/photo/news/20110423k0000e040021000c.html

外国人の仲間たちとボランティアをするレキチさん(左端)=宮城県多賀城市で、本人提供
仙台市の県立高校で英語を教える米国人ALT(外国語指導助手)のグレッグ・レキチさん(31)は、被災地で英語教師ら約10人の仲間と一緒に家の片づけや泥かきのボランティア活動を続けている。「日本にはたくさんの友達や教え子がいる。住み慣れた街を離れようとは思いません」と話す。

レキチさんはフィラデルフィアの出身。大学4年で1年間日本語を学び、04年に来日した。静岡県沼津市などで英語教師をした後、07年から仙台市の県立宮城広瀬高と県工業高で指導助手を務めている。

3月11日の地震発生時は宮城広瀬高の職員室にいた。初めて体験する大きな揺れだったが、同僚が落ち着いて誘導してくれて、校庭に避難。3時間かけて歩いて自宅アパートに帰り、インターネットで外国人仲間の安否情報を集め始めた。

福島第1原発の事故も起き、日本に住む外国人は続々と脱出。しかしレキチさんは仙台にとどまった。原発の安全対策のエンジニアだった父から「今の状況なら、放射能のことはそれほど心配しなくていいと思う」、母親からも「心配だけれど、あなたが正しいと思うことをやりなさい」と言われ、被災者の支援に乗り出した。

県内の教師仲間と一緒にインターネットサイト「ティーチャーズ・フォー・ジャパン」(http://www.teachersforjapan.org/Japanese.php)を作り、震災遺児への寄付を募ったり、動画サイト「ユーチューブ」に、被災地の様子を撮影した動画を投稿して、英語で状況を伝えている。また、週3~4日間、同市若林区や石巻市、多賀城市で被災した家の片づけなどをしている。

地震の日の夜、日本人のガールフレンドと母親が心配して食べ物と水を持ってきてくれた。「彼女たちが落ち着いていたので、私もパニックにならずに済んだ。困った時に人間は助け合うものだという思いを強くした」

5月の大型連休明けには授業が始まる。レキチさんは「いつも通り授業をすることが、日常を取り戻す手助けになるはず。アメリカ人の私がここに残ったという事実が、生徒を勇気づけられるといいと思います」と語った。【中嶋真希】

◇帰国者多いALT 対応に追われる派遣元
ALTは英語の授業などで日本人の教員をサポートする。今春から小学5、6年生で外国語活動(英語)が必修化され、ALTの必要性が高まっている。一方で原発事故や余震を恐れて帰国するALTも多く、派遣元の企業や団体は対応に追われている。

全国の自治体に年間約4000人のALTをあっせんする財団法人「自治体国際化協会」(東京都千代田区)によると、震災以降44人が学校を辞めた。半数以上は東北3県以外の学校で働いていた人だ。勤務先が九州だった人もいる。補充を急ぐよう各地の教育委員会から要請があり、この夏からの就労予定者に前倒しでの来日を交渉しているという。

すべての区立小にALTを配置している東京都港区は、4月に必要な人数を確保できなかったため、新学期の英語の授業開始が1週間遅れた。

100人以上が帰国したまま戻らなかった都内のALT派遣会社は「24時間態勢で代わりを探しているが、本人が再来日したいと思っても、家族が引き留めるケースが多いようだ」と話している。【望月麻紀】

ENDS

Mainichi: “Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey”

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Related to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ deserting Japan in its time of need, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT wanting to be “Fly-jin”.  Good.

The problem is, it seems (after a short search) that this article has come out in English only — there is no link to the “original Japanese story” like many Mainichi articles have.  So this may sadly may not be for domestic consumption.  Or it may be available on Kyodo wire services (but again, not in Japanese for Mainichi readers).  Sigh.  Arudou Debito

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

Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey

Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)

Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)
(Mainichi Japan) May 7, 2011, Courtesy of JK

TOKYO (Kyodo) — More than 90 percent of foreigners studying or working in Japan expressed willingness to continue staying in the country despite the March 11 disaster, according to a recent online survey by a supporting group for them.

The International Foreign Students Association conducted the survey between March 22 and 26, to which 392 people responded. Of the respondents, 60 percent were students and the remaining 40 percent were graduates, while more than 90 percent of them were from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Those who are willing to stay in Japan said, “Because I like Japan,” or “At a time like this, I think I want to work together (with Japanese) to help the recovery,” according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.

The survey also showed that 73 percent of the respondents saw information gaps between Japan and their home countries on the earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear emergency, with some saying overseas news on the nuclear crisis was “excessive.”

Some respondents also pointed out that the Japanese government does not fully disclose information on the nuclear disaster.

Foreign volunteers help clear mud from a shopping street in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 14. (Mainichi)

Foreign volunteers help clear mud from a shopping street in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 14. (Mainichi)

Around 60 percent said they have not been preparing for disasters, while some voiced the need for multilingual information on disasters.

ENDS

Donald Keene to naturalize, in a show of solidarity with the Japanese people, at age 88.

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  A bit of a break from charting the arc of how the J media is bashing NJ as deserters:

Octogenarian scholar and Japan specialist Donald Keene has announced his intention to become a Japanese citizen, and move to Japan in light of the Tohoku Disasters.  Well, good for him.

Submitter JK notes, “While I respect Keene’s accomplishments as an academic, I can’t help but feel that his writings are a reflection of a person inhabiting a self-constructed bubble Japan whose universe is made up of haiku masters, poets, and scholars.”  There are also a few comments on Japan Probe that make light of his (in)decision given his advanced age.

A bit harsh, but I do find the logic — of linking a show of solidarity in the face of a crisis with a decision as personal as changing one’s nationality (and in Japan’s case, abrogating one’s former nationality) — a bit discomfiting.  As per Keene’s comments below, he’s basically falling into the ancient bad habit (a la Lafcadio Hearn’s day) of treating the Japanese people as monolithic.  Plus he won’t have to live quite as long with his (last-minute) decision compared to younger people who really plighted their troth here and naturalized.  A nice, but oddly-reasoned, gesture on Keene’s part.  Arudou Debito

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

‘I want to be with Japan’ / Donald Keene discusses plan to relocate, become citizen
Michinobu Yanagisawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
(Apr. 24, 2011) Courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20110423dy02.htm

NEW YORK–Renowned expert in Japanese literature and culture Donald Keene, who recently announced his intention to gain Japanese citizenship and move permanently to Tokyo, wants to “be with the Japanese people,” he told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Keene, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, said the Great East Japan Earthquake had inspired the decision.

“Japan will surely resurrect itself from the disaster to become an even more splendid country than before, I believe,” the 88-year-old, speaking in Japanese, said in an interview held Friday at his home in New York. “So I’ll be moving to Japan in a positive frame of mind.”

Keene said he will shift to Kita Ward, Tokyo, where he has owned a home for more than 30 years, by September.

Born in New York in 1922, Keene attended Columbia University, where he became fascinated with Japanese culture after reading an English translation of “The Tale of Genji.”

He later served as an interpreter during the Battle of Okinawa in the closing days of the Pacific War.

Keene has traveled through the Tohoku region many times, including some research trips for “The Narrow Road to Oku,” his English translation of the classic work of literature “Oku no Hosomichi,” by haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).

While studying in Japan, “I was surrounded by many people who warmly extended a helping hand to me,” Keene said.

By obtaining Japanese citizenship, “I’d like to convey my sense of gratitude to the Japanese people, which I’ve so far been unable to do,” he said.

Referring to reactions in the United States to the earthquake, tsunami and aftermath, including the nuclear crisis, Keene said, “Not a few people in the United States have been moved to learn Japanese people are doing their utmost to rebuild.”

Even Americans who had no particular interest in Japan before March 11 have been impressed by Japanese people’s composure in the wake of the disaster, he said.

“Americans have never felt such a strong affinity with Japan before,” Keene pointed out.

“I’ve made up my mind to become a Japanese citizen to be together with the Japanese people. I believe although words are important, of course, action is even more important,” Keene said.

“My decision to become a Japanese citizen is the manifestation of my expectations and convictions,” he said, explaining that he had a positive outlook for Japan.

“When I returned to Tokyo eight years after World War II, Japan had revived to become a far different country from what I’d seen just after the war’s end. I’m convinced Japan will become an even more wonderful nation by weathering the hardships of this disaster,” he said.

Keene recalled a tour of the Tohoku region in 1955 to research “Oku no Hosomichi.” “The view of a cluster of islets from the second floor of an inn in Matsushima [in Miyagi Prefecture] was unforgettably beautiful,” he said.

“I think there may be no structure in the world as beautiful as the Chusonji temple [in Iwate Prefecture], so I wonder why UNESCO has repeatedly failed to designate the temple as a World Heritage site,” Keene said.

“I think how terrible it is that the Tohoku region, full of such beautiful places and temples, has been hit so hard by the earthquake and tsunami,” he lamented.

Looking back on his interaction with Japanese poets and writers, Keene referenced the poet and author Jun Takami. Near the end of the Pacific War, Takami wrote in his diary of being deeply moved by the sight of people waiting patiently at Tokyo’s Ueno Station, trying to get to the safety of the countryside.

“I want to live together with these people and share death with them, as I love Japan and believe in Japan,” Keene said, quoting Takami.

“I now feel better able to understand Mr. Takami’s feelings,” he said.

Keene said his lawyer has already begun procedures for obtaining Japanese nationality.

He stressed that living in Japan would bring the most meaning to the rest of his life. He plans to spend time writing biographies of Hiraga Gennai (1728-1780), a scholar of Western studies in the Edo period (1603-1868), and Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912), a poet in the Meiji era (1868-1912).

In the 1950s, Keene studied at the postgraduate school of Kyoto University. He forged friendships with such literary giants as Yukio Mishima, Junichiro Tanizaki and Kobo Abe.

In 2008, Keene was given the Order of Culture by the Japanese government in recognition of his contributions to promoting Japanese literature and culture in Europe and the United States.
ENDS

Zakzak headlines that NJ part-time staff flee Yoshinoya restaurant chain, and somehow threaten its profitability

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. More on the Open Season on NJ. Here is Internet news site Zakzak headlining that Yoshinoya, famous beef bowl chain restaurant, is being affected by the “big-volume escaping of NJ part-timers”.  It apparently has lost a quarter of its NJ staff (over 800 souls) fleeing from the fears of radiation from the Tohoku Disasters. Then Zakzak gives us the mixed news that Yoshinoya is still profitable compared to its losses the same period a year ago, but is expected to take a hit to its profits from the Disasters.

Not sure how that relates, but again, the headline is that NJ are fleeing and that it’s raising doubts about whether the company is still “okay”. Even though Zakzak notes that the company is filling in the gaps with Japanese employees (er, so no worries, right?  The Disasters, not the alleged NJ flight, are the bigger threat to solvency, no?).  So… journalistically, we’ll hang the newsworthiness of a company’s profitability on the peg of “escaping NJ”?

If we’re going to have this much NJ bashing, how about an acknowledgement of how much NJ labor has meant to Japan and how we’re thankful for it, so please don’t leave?

Nah, easier to bash them.  Takes the heat off the company for their own variably profitable business practices, and creates more attractive headlines for the media.  It’s a win-win situation against the bullied and disenfranchised minority.  Arudou Debito

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

大量に逃げた外国人バイト…「吉野家」大丈夫か?
2011.04.15, Courtesy YK
http://www.zakzak.co.jp/society/domestic/news/20110415/dms1104151556016-n1.htm

こんなところにも震災ショックが!! 傘下の牛丼チェーン「吉野家」で働く首都圏の外国人アルバイトが、福島第1原発事故後の約1週間で約200人も退職した。放射性物質への不安から帰国した人が多かったとみられる。

吉野家ホールディングスの安部修仁社長が明らかにしたもので、退職したのは、首都圏で登録している外国人アルバイト800人強の4分の1に相当する。欠員はその後、新たに雇うことで補充しているという。

同社の2011年2月期の連結決算は、純利益が前年度の89億円の赤字から3億円の黒字に転じた。12年2月期の連結純利益予想は10億円で、震災がなければ22億円を見込めたという。こちらも震災の打撃を受けそうだ。
ENDS

NJ helping Japan during this crisis: James Gibbs on his Miyagi Rescue Efforts

mytest

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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog.  As I shift the focus of Debito.org to how NJ residents are being bashed in Japan post 3-11 despite their best efforts, it’s first prudent to start giving an example or two of how NJ are actually trying to help.  Others who are similarly helping out are welcome to submit their stories here either by email (debito@debito.org) or as a comment below.  Well done, James.  Debito

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

Report on the Miyagi trip this past Sunday after our Saturday fundraising efforts.
By James Gibbs. April 1, 2011

After holding a fundraising event on Mar.26, the following day we delivered donated items along with a fully-loaded van of food and clothes to Onagawa next to Ishinomaki City, which is just north of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. I’ve made the following brief report on the trip along with first-hand observations on the situation and suggestions for future assistance as I know everyone is wanting to do something to help.

We collected three boxes or donated items from guests. The food preparer, Paul, had stayed in the kitchen Saturday night rather than come to event and prepared 30kg of shephard’s pie meat/vegetable mix for the trip. We spent about Y60,000 on food, which was mostly crates of fresh vegetables, fruits, 10 cases of canned coffee, and 20kg of ready to eat meat including spiral hams along with other items and another Y15,000 on accessories like paper plates, bowls, chopsticks, plastic glasses, soap, cleaning alcohol, paper towels, toilet paper, plastic bags, etc.

Early Sunday morning I drove to Maple English School in Shinurayasu where the students had gathered about ten large boxes of clothes, diapers and other supplies. With the van loaded front to back all the way to the ceiling and riding low on the back tires from the weight, I set out for Miyagi with a long-time friend, Ian Cunnold, who runs Maple English School. Our destination was Onagawa Houiku Senta (Onagawa Public Health Center) in Onagawa, which is next to Ishinomaki City, in Miyagi Prefecture. This is a small fishing village that had been mostly destroyed. A Maple student, who was the main organizer of the school’s boxes, had a relative in that particular facility and had requested us to visit there. Thus, it was selected among the hundred or so evacuation facilities. Depending on their needs we were going to unload there or move on to another facility.

Upon arrival at about 5:00p.m., the administrators, who did not know we were coming, were very happy to see us and receive the supplies. They very warmly invited us in for dinner, which was very simple but sufficient and satisfying. They also asked us to stay the night before returning to Tokyo. Roads were a little bumpy and maybe lacking street lights so we were quite happy to accept their offer. It was very cold but we had brought sleeping bags and managed to get some sleep. Our Plan B had been to sleep in the van if necessary.

At 7:30 the following morning I was awakened by a rather rough earthquake and another tsunami warning. It was an eerie feeling while lying horizontal in a sleeping bag in an evacuation center on a hill overlooking total devastation in Onagawa on one side and Ishinomaki on the other side. Later I learned that there was a nuclear power plant almost around the corner, but it was not the one having trouble. Another irony occurred when I also later learned that Onagawa/Ishinomaki was home port to some whaling ships. Driving back it was a comforting thought that we were able to make a good impression of foreigners with these people. Personally I’m not a big fan of whaling, but I stop short of militantly telling people they have to stop their livelihood. I just hope for a more moderate gradual solution to that issue.

There were about 1,500 people in three buildings at that evacuation facility. All things considered the mood among the people we met was upbeat and cheerful, but we heard that some people were starting to get irritable as the situation would tax anyone’s spirits. One young lady we spoke with described having water rushing into her car and barely escaping with her life. Her family was all safe, but two of her friends were missing and two other friends had family members missing. At one point another lady in the office was having an emotional break down, crying and retelling her ordeal as an administrator held her in her arms.

About the supplies and the need for things: There was already plenty of food, water and clothes at this shelter along with lots of cooking equipment and several large human-size gas tanks. But the food was mostly rice, dried and canned items. The kitchen staff was very excited about every other box we opened. Some things were needed and others were not needed. They were particularly happy to see the fresh fruit and vegetables, hams, shepherd’s pie mix, orange juice, paper plates, chopsticks, etc. while they said they had plenty of rice, canned foods and most of the clothes they needed. We asked them to distribute the unneeded items to the other shelters and they said they would.

My overall impression of the situation was that very basic things were needed the first week, while at the two-week mark (when we arrived), those things were in supply while more fresh items like fruits, vegetables, meat, juices, milk, eggs, etc. were needed. With the roads open and gas shortages ending, supply lines should start flowing with no real shortage of things at the three-week mark. Therefore if you are thinking about sending anything by takyubin, please do so only after contacting one of the honbu centers and after confirming their specific requests. It seems that a surplus of things is starting to accumulate and cash donations to the Red Cross might be more useful as they can probably better manage distribution.

People were just barely starting to clean up with the removal of debris. Probably the next several months will involve clean up followed by the start of rebuilding this summer. Therefore my advice to people who want to help is to send cash donations (rather than items) to the Japan Red Cross and specifically to their fund for cash payments for survivors.

Volunteers will likely be needed for debris removal and rebuilding but please find an established group for such participation before going down there to volunteer. I am still looking for a proper organization that can introduce evacuees with people who can offer their apartments as I think this would be a very effective way for individuals to help. If anyone can recommend such a bulletin board or organization please let me know.

I would also like to add that I think the government deserves an A or an A- for their handling of the tsunami relief. There was about a 50km section of road around Fukushima that had been ripped apart in 30 or 40 places with quick spot paving done, which were minor speed bumps. The fast repair of these roads was short of a miracle. Gasoline was supplied and available on the highway with only moderate lines and in the tsunami area albeit with longer lines. The police and self-defense forces were everywhere and blocking people without proper business from entering. Without any documentation the police gave us a permit and let us enter after we said we were bringing supplies. There was no bureaucratic interference at all. There was no highway charge for the Tokyo to Sanriku trip when we exited the highway. On the way back we showed our permit from the police and again there was no highway charge. This was a very pleasant surprise as we had spent considerably more on the food than the money we collected. The roads were open, and even the neighborhood grids in the tsunami area had been cleared. The shelters had food, water and blankets, and people were being taken care of. It was very clear that a lot of people had been working very hard. Everything went as it should have. All of this was no small accomplishment for the government to manage, and it should receive some credit.

Please note that these are personal observations from the area we visited and the Onagawa shelter complex. The actual situation in different areas may vary.

There were four or five people who contributed extra money and a lot of supplies, which helped make the delivery possible. It really was a group effort with a lot of people coming together. The needs up north are massive, and our delivery on Sunday was only a drop in the bucket. But there tens of millions of people in Japan who are doing things and hundreds of millions, including overseas assistance. With everyone doing a little it will surely add up to make a big difference and help the people in Tohoku recover.

I know there are so many people out there who want to do something to help. I hope these personal first hand observations will help people in better directing their donations and assistance.

ENDS

JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this. Arudou Debito

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The Rita Taketsuru Fan Club
The romantic story of a woman still toasted by some as the Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry
By JON MITCHELL
The Japan Times Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, courtesy of MMT

(conclusion:) As it turned out, she would never set foot again in the country of her birth. In January 1961, Rita Taketsuru passed away after a long struggle with liver disease. Masataka was devastated. He blamed her sickness on the war and Yoichi’s harsh winters, and he lamented the fact that they hadn’t chosen to stay in Britain. For two days after her death, he locked himself in his room and, on the day of her funeral, too heartbroken to visit the crematorium, he begged for her bones to be brought to him in a bowl so that he could lie next to his beloved forever.

Masataka outlived his wife by 18 years, and today the two are interred together on a hillside near the distillery. Walking through the town, I’m delighted to discover that the woman who’d once been ostracized as a potential enemy of the state has since left her indelible mark on the landscape — Yoichi’s main thoroughfare is named “Rita Road” and a kindergarten she helped to establish still bears her name.

After 15 minutes, I arrive at the Taketsurus’ grave. The gray lozenge of stone is lit pink by the setting sun, some fireflies flare brightly and the air smells of freshly-mown grass. In the valley below, I spot the red rooftop of the distillery.

In the years since his death, Masataka’s genius at Scotch whisky production has finally been recognized: In 2007, a bottle of “Taketsuru” was voted the world’s best blended malt; followed in 2008 by 20-year-old “Yoichi” winning the best single malt in the world award.

The “Yoichi” orbits out of my price range, so it’s a miniature bottle of the blended that I’ve brought for Masataka — and for Rita, a packet of Scottish shortbread. Clasping my hands together in a quiet prayer, I think about what I’ve learned during my trip here: About the Taketsurus’ love and loss, their determination and persecution, and the leap of faith it must have taken Rita to follow the man she married halfway around the world in pursuit of an improbable dream.

I wonder whether these qualities were what attracted those three men on that wintery train to her life story in the first place. I’m not sure. But as I lay my offerings on the grave, there’s one thing about which I am certain — the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club has a new member.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101128x1.html

Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog. An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business. Arudou Debito

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German braumeister puts Otaru brewery on map
Specialized suds sell and speak of long pedigree, perfection
The Japan Times, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011
By ROB GILHOOLY

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110122a1.html

While Japan’s major breweries continue to report flat beer sales amid an ailing economy, there is one Hokkaido-based beer maker that’s brewing up a storm.

Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.

Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…

“The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”

This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.

Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…

Yet, Braun says this shift toward nonmalt “nonbeers” poses little threat to his brewery. Japan’s major beer producers have each attempted to mimic the kind of craft ales produced by the country’s 222 microbreweries, but invariably fail due to the distribution difficulties posed by yeast-based products.

“Every year, Asahi Breweries sends staff here for research purposes and they often say they would like to do what we do, but couldn’t get it to the customer in decent enough shape,” says Braun. “Neither could I, and that’s why I don’t try. What’s important for microbreweries is not to expand to other areas, but to brew decent beer that will lure more customers and improve understanding of what real ale is all about. By doing this, I believe we can change the beer culture here.”

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110122a1.html