Tangent: Metropolis Mag (Tokyo) on the annual August Yasukuni “debates”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to yesterday’s thoughts on the movie YASUKUNI, here’s an article that came out in August regarding the “debate” between Right and Left at the shrine.  Bit of a tangent to Debito.org, but worth a read.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Text & photos by Brett Bull

Metropolis Magazine Aug 8, 2008, Issue #750


Face Off
Each year on August 15, downtown Tokyo turns into a riot zone as right-wing militants clash with antiwar protestors. Metropolis gives you a ringside seat to all the action

Illustration by Kohji Shiiki

With his broad shoulders rippling beneath his dark blue jumpsuit, Shinichi Kamijo has taken a sidewalk position on Yasukuni Dori, not far from Jimbocho station in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

It is 2pm and, given that he is about to engage in battle, Kamijo is surprisingly calm. “We must stop them from advancing to the shrine,” implores the 38-year-old member of Gishin Gokoku-kai, an uyoku dantai (right-wing group) that he founded when he was 26.

Kamijo’s target is the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, a sayoku (left-wing) organization that is about to begin a protest march through Kudanshita and toward Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial Shinto monument that effectively serves as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. The group of 150 members is assembling at nearby Nishi Kanda Park, a small concrete and gravel square about a kilometer east of the shrine. Before the protest begins, the leader announces that the group’s battles with the uyoku are a usual occurrence. “But we are doing this for the people of Japan,” he says.

As Kamijo waits, convoys of his brethren in black trucks descend upon the area, their presence reinforced by the imposing grilles welded to their fronts, the gold-painted chrysanthemum crests upon their sides and, of course, the unmistakable nationalist jingles booming from their sound systems.

Thirty minutes later, hundreds of riot police officers materialize on the streets. Each trooper is outfitted with a shield, heavy black boots, shin guards and a helmet—the equipment needed to oppose the throng of rightists now stationed on the pavement.

“I want to show the strength of the uyoku power,” Kamijo says, readying his stance, “but we are under the control of the police.”


The above scene unfolded just prior to last year’s pacifist demonstration in Kudanshita on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. The protest, which will be repeated next week and preceded by various other marches near the shrine, highlights the one day of the year where downtown Tokyo could nearly be confused for Pakistan or Tibet during times of political unrest—the city literally turns into a riot zone as right- and left-wing groups stand off against one another.

Shinichi Kamijo, founder of Gishin Gokoku-kai

Perhaps Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment, Yasukuni confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its honoring of roughly 2.5 million military men, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit would be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the emperor. For South Korea and China, two countries that suffered most heavily at the hands of Japan’s military over a half-century ago, a crucial point of criticism is the enshrinement of 14 Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. A heated debate on an average day, Yasukuni and its surrounding area is like a spark landing in a tinderbox on the anniversary.

Last year, the morning saw a separate one-hour demonstration in the streets west of the shrine’s grounds led by the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which assembled in front of Hosei University in Ichigaya.

“On the anniversary, the uyoku begin working from early in the morning,” says the committee’s 64-year-old representative, Misumi Tadashi. “Not only around Yasukuni, but all throughout Tokyo, they blast their messages from speakers mounted atop their trucks. This is the most appropriate day of the year for them to appeal their existence to the public. The police cannot control them, and we cannot let them continue with these harsh activities. We have to do something.”

The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which is funded through the sale of publications and plans on marching again this year, was established in 1992 to oppose the dispatch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Cambodia. Today, the war in Iraq is one of the group’s raisons d’etre.

The procession left the Hosei campus and moved up towards Iidabashi and back down Sotobori Dori to Sotobori Park, near Yotsuya. All through the route, police officers walked pace for pace with the over 100 protesters as uyoku members attempted to physically disrupt the march.


“It seems like the police are trying to stop them, but in reality it is very easy for the uyoku to break through,” believes Tadashi. “We can’t rely on the police, and the uyoku know that we have the skills and power to fight back—so that is why they don’t attack so aggressively.”

The proceedings were decidedly more subdued inside the shrine’s compound. Kamijo, the right-winger, paid his respects at Yasukuni just before noon. As he faced the memorial’s imposing façade, a hinomaru flag proudly stitched on the back of his clothes, beads of sweat poured down from his shaven skinhead on this mercilessly muggy day. He performed a few bows, tossed some coins, and clasped his hands in remembrance of Japan’s fallen soldiers.

Behind him, veterans sporting camouflage military uniforms and tourists, cameras in hand, emptied from tour buses onto the baking concrete.

Afterwards, as the burly Kamijo made his way back to a few rows of shaded tables filled with members of other right-wing groups, he explained that he founded Gishin Gokoku-kai because of the way Japan’s neighbors view the country. 

“China and South Korea educate their children to hate Japan. They don’t want the younger generation to stop being angry and want to continue receiving money from the Japanese government,” he says of the Official Development Assistance program, whose work has included a subway project in Seoul and programs to improve the environment and public health in China. “I am tired of their complaints. They do not appreciate our efforts.”

By midday, most of the right-wingers had, like Kamijo, completed their patriotic duties at the shrine and returned to their fortress-like vehicles for the eventual move down the road to Kudanshita for the clash with the pacifists.

In Kudanshita, the tension is increasing. Cordons of police officers are now lined up face-to-face with the uniformed rightists. Kamijo, however, won’t be intimidated.

“Japanese have been way too quiet,” he explains. “And since we don’t have a nuclear weapon, they [China and South Korea] can be aggressive.”

Kamijo admits that he’s not in top form since having dropped 11kg following an illness, but there is little doubt that he means business. As a warning to foreigners, the word “DEATH” is tattooed on the back of his neck, as is the numeral 4, whose kanji (pronounced “shi”) has the same morbid meaning. Appearing on his meishi are the lyrics to “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem.

A carpenter by trade, Kamijo says that his history of brawling with mobsters and foreigners in Roppongi while a member of a bosozoku motorbike gang is so extensive that he suggests we have a separate meeting so he can convey all the gory details. Certainly, on this day, his actions make such claims seem extremely plausible.

Carrying large red balloons, colorful flags, and painted banners—including one featuring the image of Che Guevara—the Anti-Emperor Activities Network makes the turn toward Kamijo’s corner. Their chants are loud and clear: “We are completely against all the people who go to Yasukuni!”

As if rushing a quarterback, Kamijo tries to wedge his massive frame between a pair of police shields to get at his enemies. When rebuffed by the officers, he stabs his right index finger to the sky and screams.


Unbowed, Kamijo quickly follows the crowd down the street with one of his cohorts. Together, they leap over a flower bed yet find themselves pushed back by a flurry of helmets and forearms. Amid the chaos, Kamijo winds up getting flipped onto his back, with planters being dumped and their contents spilled. Advertising flags fall to the sidewalk.

Reports of uyoku-sayoku clashes commonly claim that the police firmly side with the right. But on this day, the sayoku are generally being protected. As the procession moves along, right-wingers with portable loudspeakers blast their righteous messages as their bolder brothers continue to make attempts at breaking the police lines. Each time, however, the protestor is tackled, dragged off or pushed away by Tokyo’s finest.

Confused onlookers stand by as the sidewalks and the center of the street become a swirling display of swaying flags, mashing bodies and deafening noise.

In spite of Kamijo’s claims of wanting to display the spirit of the uyoku, much of the violent activity appears staged, which matches with the observations of Tadashi from the Ichigaya demonstration. Though visually surreal, many of the punches seem feigned, and the multiple clenched fists merely come across as elaborate street theater. Further, given the clear planning on the part of the police, it is clear that the protest route, starting time and participants have been coordinated well in advance.
The opposition continues to show relentless zeal, yet the chants from the marchers do not stop: “We are not going to forgive the government at all! No more war! No more Yasukuni!”

In the surrounding area, right-wing groups have parked their trucks at police barricades established at many of the large intersections. The cops hold their ground as the members stand by and scowl outside their vehicles, whose sound systems are still smothering the area with the military anthems at ear-splitting volume.

By the time the mob comes within view of Yasukuni’s gates, an atmosphere of hatred permeates the entire scene. Standing outside of shops and offices, a few salarymen and older women have decided to join in and verbally condemn the lefties for their presence.


The march then turns up Mejiro Dori—not onwards toward the shrine—which most certainly was the plan all along. The protesters file into a small brick smoking area that includes a bathroom. Many right-wingers surround the premises and continue their screaming and pushing routines.

Down narrow side streets, a few overly aggressive rightists can be seen getting hauled away by small groups of police. It is now clear that the ranks are thinning, and when a caravan of right-wing trucks breaches one of the police blockades and makes a final sonic blitz past the assembled protesters, it almost signals a last gasp.

The atmosphere should be no less heated on the anniversary this year. This spring anger raged over the release of Yasukuni, a documentary by Chinese director Li Ying that multiple theaters in Japan refused to screen following threats from right-wing groups, who saw the film as being “anti-Japan.”

Kamijo, who was not arrested last year, expects a similar scene in Kudanshita, and once again he is excited. “We have to stop them,” he says bluntly. “We must force them to cancel the demonstration.”
The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, too, sees the scene unfolding much as it did 12 months earlier, and promises to be ready. “We have confidence to fight back,” Tadashi says. “We have guts and pride, and I am sure they will be coming after us.”


The Kundanshita demonstration will get underway along Yasukuni Dori on August 15, just after 2:30pm. Access via Jimbocho station (exit A1 or A2) or Kudanshita station (exit 5 or 6). The Ichigaya demonstration will start from Hosei University at 9am. Nearest stn: JR Ichigaya. Due to police activity, routes and times may change without notice.

A panel of journalists and other interested parties will be holding a meeting about the Yasukuni issue at Sendagaya Kumin Kaikan on Aug 15 at 5:45pm. 1-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3402-7854. Nearest stn: Harajuku or Meiji-Jingumae. Seehttp://tinyurl.com/senkumin for map.

For more information about the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, see www.ten-no.net. For more information about the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, see www.anti-war.jp/english/index_e.htm.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor atletters@metropolis.co.jp


Thoughts after seeing Li Ying’s movie “Yasukuni” at PGL


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I had the opportunity to see Li Ying’s movie YASUKUNI at the Peace as a Global Language Conference yesterday. It’s a truly thought-provoking piece, and here are some of my thoughts:

In case you haven’t heard of it until now (when it came out some months ago, a number of theaters received angry and threatening phone calls demanding they cancel the screening; this only served to add publicity, and the screenings went ahead), YASUKUNI talks about Yasukuni Shrine in Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, a place for recording, enshrining, and praying for Japan’s war dead. The movie focusses upon how it has become a focal point for both the left and the right regarding Japan’s wartime past. One question raised is should people, including Class-A war criminals and ancestors of people (including former citizens of empire) who don’t want their relatives listed there, be enshirined, as former PM Koizumi put it, in paraphrase, “to honor their memory of sacrifice and pray that war never happens again”? And should politicians, in their official capacity (PM Koizumi and Tokyo Gov Ishihara both appear in the movie), worship at this shrine, and not fall foul of issues of the separation of church and state?

But those issues are interwoven into the human drama that is allowed to unfold upon the screen subtly. The arc of the movie watches Yasukuni-sponsored samurai-style swords (the object of worship, as they contain the spirits under State Shinto) being forged by a ninety-year-old master, who spends a lot of the movie not really answering questions (due to age or to avoidance, the viewer must decide), but who shows plenty of spark when creating swords and talking about their use (he’s admittedly aware that they are designed, through tests, to cut through bone etc.). The documentary does not have pointed Michael-Moore-style narration — it is a constant juxtaposition of images and scenes, and thus effectively (and properly) avoids charges of propagandizing. In fact, most of the dialog is from people on site themselves, with cinema verite camerawork capturing their speeches, their styles, their thoughts, their attitudes, and a lot of jingoism.

But it is the scenes that linger in memory:

The scenes of a fiery indigenous Taiwanese woman who wants her relatives disenshrined, and the Buddhist priest (who acts as interpreter) who similarly lost his father in the war and wants the same. Their requests are denied; the war dead are for the State to keep and honor, as it was in the Emperor’s name that they died.

The scene of an attention-seeking American real estate agent from Nevada (I say attention-seeking because he mentions twice how much he wishes Bush would come to Yasukuni so he could meet him) who holds up a sign in Japanese saying he supports PM Koizumi’s visits, along with an American flag, outside the Torii gate. He is first received with thanks for the support, then increasingly angry questions about whether the American flag should be here, then furious demands that he remove himself from the grounds because he’s not a real worshipper. Finally the police intervene tell him to take the flag down, and then turf him outside the entire grounds. The arc of the discussion demonstrates how even supporters get alienated.

The scene that stands out most for me is the 60th anniversary of the end of the war speeches (where Tokyo Gov Ishihara mysteriously hijacks a quote from Napoleon regarding China, which talks about a sleeping lion, and pastes it onto Japan, calling for Japan to wake up and rise). When they play the Kimigayo national anthem, two protestors with posters run out in front and disrupt the proceedings. At first escorted off the public view, once they get hustled off to the sidelines they’re knocked to the ground and roughed up by a crowd (one rightist kid grabs a protester by the neck and puts him in a chokehold; I feared for his well-being). Then after some feeble attempts to break them up, they’re pushed out by a crowd that, thinking they’re Chinese (it comes out later that at least one of them is not), screams over and over that they should go back to China. By the time one of them, face badly bloodied, gets to the police (who intervene as effectively as referees in pro wrestling matches), the police try to bundle him off into an ambulance and then, after he refuses, force him into a police car. The police do not visibly try to find out who assaulted him; they first check whether or not he’s Japanese, then try to whisk him away from the scene. My read: The police were there to keep the peace, but were working in favor of those holding the party, trying to keep people from spoiling it.

My take-home lesson from this movie:

Even though there will be violence on both Right and Left (although there were no scenes of leftist-instigated violence in the movie), the non-violent peace protestors (imagine the hypocrisy hay that would be made if somebody filmed the peaceniks assaulting the Rightists!) put themselves at a disadvantage. In the sense that violence is not an option for the non-violent segment of the Left. It remains an option, as witnessed in this movie, for the Right. There’s the fundamental difference.  And unless you get enough people witnessing just how unfair a fight this is (one of the most fundamental elements for non-violent protest to work, as per King and Gandhi, is for everyone to *SEE* just how brutal one side is and become sympathetic towards the other), it’s just going to continue. I feel very lucky to have seen a movie which made me realize that, and recorded for all to see (what serendipitous camerawork!) just how mean and irrational the side that resorts to violence actually is.

In sum, go see YASUKUNI. It’s a job well done. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Linguapax Conference Symposium Univ of Tokyo Sun Oct 26


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Just to let you know that there’s a free conference at the University of Tokyo Komaba Campus at the end of October. Called Linguapax Asia, they’re an annual event on media, language, semantics, and their effects on society; well worth your time.  And yes, I’ll be speaking there, about propaganda in Japan’s media as concerns NJ in Japan. (I’ll be my second speech for them — Download the paper I did for them in Word format here, and the Powerpoint presentation here.)  Do consider attending if you have time that Sunday. Just register in advance at the links below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Linguapax Asia

Symposium 2008, Oct. 26 (Sunday) 
University of Tokyo
Language & Propaganda
Program: Word  PDF

Working Session 2007
University of Tokyo
Language, Religion, and Ethnicity
 PDF  Word

Symposium 2006
University of Tokyo
Who Owns Language?

Symposium 2005
Embassy of Canada, Tokyo
Language in Society/Classroom
Proceedings (PDF)

Symposium 2004
United Nations University
Language Diversity/Language Ecology

Linguapax Asia works in partnership with the Linguapax Institute, a non-governmental organization affiliated with UNESCO and located in Barcelona, SpainIn its role as the Asian associate of the Linguapax Institute, Linguapax Asia carries out the objectives of both the Linguapax Institute and UNESCO’s Linguapax Project with a special focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. These objectives are:

  • Promoting bilingual and multilingual education

  • Elaborating new approaches to language instruction that facilitate intercultural understanding

  • Fostering respect of linguistic diversity and linguistic heritage

  • Supporting initiatives to preserve and revitalize endangered languages

  • Raising awareness of the links between language, identity, human rights, and the quest for peace

Participation in Linguapax Asia activities is open to the general public as well as to those engaged in academic research. 

                                  Direct inquiries to info@linguapax-asia.org


First Aso Cabinet member resigns — tripped up (inter alia) by comments regarding Japan’s ethnic mix


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Well, well, what surprising news tonight.  Ministry of Transport etc. resigned today over comments he made, among others, about Japan’s ethnic homogeneity.  As I wrote two days ago, I’m pleased that comments like these aren’t allowed to pass any more.  

Then again, it’s probably not so surprising — given a litany of comments this twit has a habit of making, such as calling Japan’s largest teacher’s union a “cancer for Japanese education”.  See second article below.

In the longer view, however, this resignation isn’t all that earth-shattering.  This first Aso Cabinet was always meant to be a stopgap measure until the next election in a month and change.  But it can’t help the LDP’s image to have this much “thoroughbredness” (or, in my view, inbredness, the media has talked a lot about Aso and company’s relatives as political giants) — and it will (hopefully) convince the voters that the Tired Old Party needs a break from power.  Debito in Haneda


New Japanese minister steps down

Nariaki Nakayama  

Mr Nakayama had made a series of controversial remarks

Japanese Transport Minister Nariaki Nakayama has resigned, just four days after taking the job.

BBC News, Page last updated at 08:19 GMT, Sunday, 28 September 2008 09:19 UK


The resignation will be seen as a setback for new Prime Minister Taro Aso, who took office on Wednesday.

Mr Nakayama was criticised over a series of controversial remarks. He called Japan’s largest teachers’ union a “cancer” in the education system.

He also angered Japan’s indigenous Ainu people last week, when he described the country as ethnically homogeneous.

The remark was seen as particularly insensitive because Japanese parliament passed a landmark resolution in June recognising the Ainu as “an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture”.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the controversy of Mr Nakayama had been “damaging”.

“We must show the people how hard the Aso government is working, and try to win back the public’s confidence. That is all that we can do,” he told a news conference.

‘Birth machines’

Mr Nakayama is no stranger to controversy, having previously angered China by saying that reports of Japanese wartime atrocities, including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, were exaggerated.

He joins a growing line of Japanese ministers who have risked their jobs by sharing unguarded opinions.


Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York (25/09/2008)  

Mr Aso is under pressure to call a general election

Earlier this month, farm minister Seiichi Ota resigned after admitting that his ministry had known about a rice contamination scandal but that he had seen no need to make “too much of a fuss over it”.

Fumio Kyuma resigned as defence minister in July 2007 after implying that the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 was inevitable.

And in January 2007, former health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa was sharply criticised for referring to women as “birth-giving machines” during discussions about Japan’s low birth rate.

Mr Nakayama, a former minister for education, had said he would “stand at the forefront to destroy the Japan Teachers’ Union, which is a cancer for Japanese education”.

Defending his comments, he said he had “meant to stir the interest of the Japanese people that distorted education is now conducted in schools”.

“If my remarks have made any impact on parliamentary proceedings, it would not be what I had intended,” he said.

The union’s secretary general said he was “flabbergasted” by the comments” and questioned Mr Nakayama’s judgement.

Low support

Pressure is growing on Mr Aso to call a snap election in a effort to shore up his authority.

His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has dominated Japanese politics for more than 50 years, but is now facing a resurgent opposition.

The latest newspaper opinion polls show public support for Mr Aso at lower than 50% and the country is facing stormy economic conditions.

Last week, Japan announced its sharpest fall in economic output in almost seven years.

The last prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, resigned earlier this month after less than a year in office, frustrated by the ability of the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament to stymie his legislative plans.



LEAD: Nakayama calls schoolteachers’ union ‘cancer,’ dismissal calls to rise+
Sep 27 05:07 AM US/EasternCourtesy of Dave Spector  

New transport minister Nariaki Nakayama, already embroiled in fallout from a series of comments seen as verbal gaffes he made since his appointment this week, called the nation’s biggest school teachers’ union “cancer” on Saturday and said it should be disbanded.


The latest remark, combined with others he made earlier, is expected to prompt opposition parties to intensify calls for Prime Minister Taro Aso to dismiss him.

His possible dismissal would deal a blow to Aso’s Cabinet as the prime minister is seeking to dissolve the House of Representatives at an early date for a general election.

At a meeting in Miyazaki organized by the prefectural chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nakayama said, “I’ve been thinking Nikkyoso should be disbanded.”

Nikkyoso refers to the Japan Teachers Union, the nation’s largest union of schoolteachers and staff members.

“I have things to say about Nikkyoso. The biggest problem is that it opposes ethics education. Some of the people in Nikkyoso have taken actions that are unthinkable to me,” he said, in apparent reference to the demonstration union members staged around the Diet buildings in Tokyo in 2006.

At the time, lawmakers were deliberating revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education in an extraordinary session of parliament.

The revisions that passed the Diet and were enforced in December 2006 were aimed at instilling patriotism in classrooms and nurturing respect for the public spirit.

After Saturday’s meeting, the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister told reporters, “I will stand at the forefront to destroy Nikkyoso, which is a cancer for Japanese education.”

He also said of his ministerial post, “I don’t mean to cling to my post saying, ‘I will never resign.’ I want to see what happens.”

In media interviews this week, Nakayama, a former education minister, said the union is to blame for the bribery scandal involving the Oita prefectural board of education.

“The woeful state of Oita Prefecture’s board of education boils down to Nikkyoso. Nikkyoso (members’) children can become teachers even if their grades are bad. That’s why the aptitude levels in Oita Prefecture are low,” he said.

In the media interviews, Nakayama also referred to the government’s policy to attract foreign tourists to Japan and called Japan “ethnically homogenous,” a description that drew protests in 1986 from the Ainu indigenous people when then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone made a similar remark.

Nakayama also said that those who have engaged in years of struggle against the construction of Narita airport near Tokyo are “more or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are (the product) of bad postwar education.”

The series of controversial remarks have drawn complaints from lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties, with the opposition camp calling for his immediate dismissal from the Cabinet post.

Nakayama has retracted the series of remarks in the media interviews and apologized.





UK now considering introducing Gaijin Cards


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

Hi Blog.  Here’s another brick in the wall, alas.  The UK is also proposing the introduction of Gaijin Cards.  Just when you thought you could point to other countries and say, “Look, they don’t do something like this, so let’s not do it here,” they go ahead and do it too.  Sigh.  

It’s not absolutely the same system at this point — not all foreigners have to get this card.  Yet.  But I like how the counterarguments to the scheme are similar to ones I’ve made in the past — about how guinea-pigging a segment of the population is the thin edge of the wedge to introducing the scheme for everyone.  And no mention as yet in this article as to whether it’ll be a criminal offense, warranting arrest and interrogation after instant street spot checks, if you are not carrying the card on your person 24-7.  Meanwhile, let’s wait and see what Japan does with its long-announced intention to Gaijin Chip all NJ with new improved RFID.  In the club of developed countries, I don’t think Japan will be outdone in its policing of its foreigners.

Two more links of interest related to this topic.



Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Foreign national ID card unveiled

UK ID card from pilot scheme 

ID cards for British nationals will begin to be introduced next year

The first identity cards from the government’s controversial national scheme are due to be revealed.

BBC News.  Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 08:14 UK


The biometric card will be issued from November, initially to non-EU students and marriage visa holders.

The design – containing a picture and digitally-stored fingerprints – is a precursor to the proposed national identity card scheme.

Critics say the roll-out to some immigrants is a “softening up” exercise to win over a sceptical general public.

The card, to be unveiled by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, will also include information on holders’ immigration status.


Students and marriage applicants first
Others to follow over coming decade
50,000 cards by next April
Costs £311m to 2018
Visa charges to cover costs

The Border and Immigration Agency will begin issuing the biometric cards to the two categories of foreign nationals who officials say are most at risk of abusing immigration rules – students and those on a marriage or civil partnership visa.

Both types of migrants will be told they must have the new card when they ask to extend their stay in the country.

The cards partly replace a paper-based system of immigration stamps – but will now include the individual’s name and picture, their nationality, immigration status and two fingerprints.

Immigration officials will store the details centrally and, in time, they are expected to be merged into the proposed national identity register.


 The Home Office is trying to salami slice the population to get this scheme going in any way they can 
Phil Booth, No2ID

The card cannot be issued to people from most parts of Europe because they have the right to move freely in and out of the UK.

Ministers say the cards will combat illegal immigration and working because officials, employers and educational establishments will be able to check a migrant’s entitlements more easily.

The Conservatives say they support modern biometric cards for immigrants – but they say a national identity register remains unworkable.

Phil Booth, head of the national No2ID campaign group, attacked the roll-out of the cards as a “softening-up exercise”.

“The Home Office is trying to salami slice the population to get this scheme going in any way they can,” Mr Booth told the BBC.

“Once they get some people to take the card it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“The volume of foreign nationals involved is minuscule so it won’t do anything to tackle illegal immigration.

“They’ve basically picked on a group of people who have no possibility of objecting to the card – they either comply or they are out.”


The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. As AdamW sent yesterday, the Aso Cabinet is already starting to show the shortsightedness of a “thoroughbred” cabinet (no fewer than four cabinet members are related to former Prime Ministers!)–with a standard comment about Japan’s monocultural nature being taken to task at last (in the bad old days, i.e. last year, this would probably be let slide without much comment).

Looks as though there is a good legacy happening here for a change. PM Obuchi left us with an anthem and flag which is used to beat the Left over the head and enforce patriotism. Koizumi left us with increased surveillance of NJ. Abe left us with an education system which legally requires people to be taught to love their country. But Fukuda has left us with a resolution that works in our favor for a change… Read on. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

LEAD: Nakayama apologizes over gaffes, opposition demands dismissal+
Sep 26 2008 02:30 AM US/Eastern
Courtesy http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D93E84O00&show_article=1
TOKYO, Sept. 26 (AP) – (Kyodo)—(EDS: RECASTING, ADDING INFO)New transport minister Nariaki Nakayama on Friday apologized over his controversial remarks that included calling Japan “ethnically homogenous,” in face of criticism triggered not only from opposition parties but from ruling party members.While Nakayama denied resigning over his verbal gaffes, made just a day after he assumed the post under Prime Minister Taro Aso, opposition parties called for his dismissal and said they will question Aso’s responsibility for appointing the minister. Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, called the remarks extremely rude, telling reporters a mere retraction of them is not enough and that Nakayama “needs to give up his post, not the remarks.”

Similar previous remarks by lawmakers that Japan is a mono-racial society drew protests mainly from the Ainu indigenous people in Japan.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?” referring to the parliamentary resolution that urged the government to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people and to upgrade their status as they have led underprivileged lives under the past assimilation policy.

Fukushima said her party will pursue Aso’s responsibility for appointing a person who is insensitive to human rights to the Cabinet.

Nakayama offered an apology in a news conference Friday, saying, “My recognition is that the Ainu are an indigenous people with various distinctive points.”

He also apologized for another remark in media interviews about those who have engaged in years of struggle against the construction of Narita airport, calling them “more or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are (the product) of bad postwar education.”

“I’m very sorry for causing much trouble. I retract the comment,” he told a press conference Friday, while refusing to step down to take responsibility over the remarks.

Members of the New Komeito party, the coalition partner of Aso’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also complained about the remarks, with Diet affairs chief Yoshio Urushibara saying, “They are not something that a minister should say.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a regular press conference that he told ministers during an informal session following the day’s official Cabinet meeting “to be careful not to make remarks that would cause misunderstanding among the public.”


Some thoughts on former PM Koizumi as he resigns his Diet seat


Hi Blog. Don’t know if you heard the news, but former PM Koizumi Junichiro announced last night that he won’t seek reelection for his Diet seat in the upcoming election. NHK called it a retirement, although the Yomiuri podcast this morning quoted him as saying he’ll still be involved in politics, albeit not as a Dietmember. “I’ve already been PM”, he was quoted as saying.

My thoughts: As always, Koizumi shows what a master of timing he is, be it calling an election on one issue (Postal Savings) and sweeping in for a landslide victory (one of the few world leaders in history most anywhere who enjoyed his political honeymoon his last year in office), or knowing when to quit — after becoming one of the few PMs in history to serve a full five-year term. Calling it quits right now is just about the right time in his lifetime (as opposed to people like former PM Nakasone, who was being reelected into his eighties, and had to be told to quit, along with former PM Miyazawa, after being barked at by the media and public opinion at the time that octogenarians can’t represent a younger generation of Japan effectively; I agree, but how ignominious an end after being such political giants).

I consider Koizumi to be the third most effective PM, after 2) Tanaka Kakuei (the architect of our current corrupt LDP porkbarrel system) and of course, 1) Yoshida Shigeru (the person who gave dignity and reasonable credibility back to Japan’s postwar parliamentary system after many, many militarist years, followed by the Occupation). Whatever your politics, these people shaped the future of Japan’s political landscape and established the primacy of their political party, which is ultimately (in this kind of system) their job.

With Koizumi, however, we have had two PMs who have not been able to build upon that. We had Abe, who backtracked on K’s reforms (even welcoming back anti-reformers back into the LDP fold; why the hell did we have the Postal Savings election in 2005 in the first place?) then went nuts. Then Fukuda, whose heart was in the right place regarding issues relating to Debito.org (the Ainu ethnic minority recognition thing was unprecedented, and a stark contrast to Abe’s idiotic treatment of the Comfort Women Issue, not to mention Abe’s reform of the Basic Law of Education which still only guarantees compulsory education to citizens, moreover enshrines love of country as a graded subject), but was saddled with the destruction Abe wrought — after probably the most disastrous election result ever which lost the Upper House and created a year of logjam; Fukuda resigned before he himself went nuts.

Now Aso is in charge. He inherits the legacy of an ineffective LDP that actually still wants Koizumi back (how many times have we ever seen in opinion polls that people want the old guy back in Japan?). According to the Yomiuri podcast this morning, Aso has a cabinet rating (at 49%) lower than Fukuda did at his start (although Aso is still far and away more popular than opposition DPJ’s Ozawa). I expect we’ll see that climb a bit, provided he keeps looking presidential and doesn’t gaffe. But I think Aso’s biggest liability is the impression that people just don’t trust the LDP. The LDP can still claim Koizumi as part of their legacy (as the GOP in the US keeps claiming Lincoln), but the LDP is the TOP (Tired Old Party), and that will be his albatross if he doesn’t strike out and do something charismatically Koizumiesque.

As I mentioned yesterday, Aso is doing better, as far as debito.org is concerned, by not pandering to the rightists and bureaucrats (diddling on about Yasukuni or bashing foreigners on allegations of crime and terrorism), at least in formal policy speeches so far. But now Koizumi’s gone, and is little more than a living Lincoln for many — meaning the LDP has lost an asset. Still, I think the Aso administration is going to make Japanese politics interesting all over again after a couple of lousy years. Or else, he’ll be the one known as the person who handed the reins over to the DPJ. As always, wait and see.

Prognostications on a Friday morning, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Too busy to add links to sources right now, will try to get to it later. Apologies.)

Glimmers of hope: New PM Aso does not single out NJ as potential terrorists or agents of crime


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. As everyone no doubt knows by now, we have a new PM, Aso Taro. And it was with great interest I watched his inaugural press conference last night (I thought he came off looking very presidential and organized).

But the good news as far as Debito.org is concerned is how he sketched his new administration’s goals and cabinet profiles. Full text here (Japanese).

I was pleased how he approached items such as “terrorism” and “crime”, often portrayed as something that NJ (within and without) get up to. That’s not how Aso portrayed it at all yesterday: Excerpts:


(my translation) “As for Minister of Defense, Hamada Yasukazu. People connected to our defense departments have done quite a bit fighting against terrorism already, as has the rest of the world, but I don’t think that we can say that we’re completely disconnected from this problem. We had the Sarin Subway Gas Attacks, etc, and although that seems to be slowly forgotten, that’s an act of terrorism. With that in mind, in many ways I consider fighting against terrorism important, and that’s why I chose Hamada-sensei.”


(my translation) “Head of National Public Safety Commission, Okinawa, the Northern Territories Issues, and Disaster Prevention [too busy right now to find out official English translations of these offices] Satou Tsutomu. Regarding prevention of heinous crimes: It is said that amongst the developed countries Japan has a very low crime rate. But I believe it’s a fact that these are times where clearly unusual things happen, so in that regard the responsibilties of the head of the NPSC are heavy. Not to mention that at the same time we have natural disasters, if not typhoons, then heavy rains in many quarters etc… [digression about the weather and the importance of Okinawan issues]

There was one more mention of terrorism during the Q&A and its connection with Afghanistan and imports of oil through the Indian Ocean. But nowhere was there an express interest in linking terrorism to foreigners.

Contrast that with the 2003 PM Koizumi Cabinet, where stomping on foreign crime was explicitly stated as a national goal (and its alarmism even played down in the English-language media).

And that included Aso making statements about foreign crime as Public Management Minister in that cabinet. See “Time to come clean on Foreign Crime”, The Japan Times October 7, 2003, authorship unbilled.

Perhaps Aso read the JT article? He does read English. In any case, this is progress — at least compared to Koizumi’s cabinet statements.  Wait and see what comes next, shall we?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tanya Clark reviews HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS very favorably.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Another nice review of HANDBOOK this time from Tanya Clark (niece of Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark, BTW). See other reviews (including the Japan Times, the Daily Yomiuri, etc.) here. FYI. Thanks Tanya. Debito



Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan – A Review

Courtesy http://www.tanya-clark.com/2008/09/handbook-for-newcomers-migrants-and.html

I first visited Japan thirty years ago and have since lived, studied and worked in the country; as well as reported on it extensively, so I can say with absolute certainty that gems like the Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan by Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira (Akashi Shoten: 2008) are way too rare.

BI (Before the Internet) I, and anyone with more than a passing interest in Japan, would have to scour bookstores and libraries looking for clues as to how to navigate our way through life in Japan. New publications would elicit [internal] squeals of glee – even if closer examination would, all too often, lead one to suspect the author may have only travelled from Narita Airport to Roppongi [the area of Tokyo where foreigners tend to congregate] — and gone no further. At least, perhaps, I would silently hope, some glimmer of useful, new fact would find its way through the dross to help inform the daily challenges of life in Japan. And, on those rare occasions, a real jewel revealed itself, the joy was genuine.  

Post internet, of course, research into life in Japan is so much easier. But, it is not all that straightforward. The language challenge remains. And while many of the more basic details (how to get a tourist or working holiday visa, how to find a hotel etc.) are fairly well documented; the deeper details are not. The nitty gritty of a life lived in Japan is barely revealed.

So, it was with my [mental] fingers tightly crossed that I first opened Arudou and Higuchi’s book. I have interacted with Arudou off and on over the years as his editor and as someone who paid passing attention to his activities as a Japan-based activist for foreigners’ rights. Arudou had taken the challenging path of adopting Japanese nationality (he was an American citizen) and creating a life for himself in Hokkaido, itself a frontier-esque northern island in Japan. Knowing Arudou knew his subject had raised my hopes. But, he and his writing partner pulled it off?

Indeed they had. The two of them (Higuchi is a Hokkaido-based lawyer) had summarised the nuts and bolts of life for people whose Japan stay is extended. Whether it is maintaining a funeral plot in Japan, buying a car, joining a union or tips on divorcing a troublesome partner — life’s essential tips and tricks are covered.

Their approach is straightforward. The brass tacks of a life lived anywhere have some pretty common themes — and they adopt these as the core chapter topics.

· Arriving and establishing a home
· Stabilizing employment and lifestyles
· Starting a business
· What to do if…(life, work, court, family)
· Retirement and planning for the future
· Giving something back

The book is written in English and Japanese, the Japanese text is on the obverse and English on the verso. The English used is not grammatically complicated (a deliberate move by the authors to allow for easier access to readers whose English is a second language) but not so simplistic as to annoy your average English speaker. The Japanese text adopts a similar approach.

Should you be curious, the first three chapters were written by Higuchi and the others by Arudou.

There is a Japanese-ness to the layout and structure, even to the tone, of the Handbook. Their approach is sparse, grey; a touch bureaucratic. Each topic is broached directly, then broken down into its core elements; explained and ticked off; as the authors rapidly move on to the next huge life issue. This helps to create an easy to read and accessible volume; despite the breadth and depth of their goal.

A typical example of this approach would be their coverage of Japan’s salary system.

Now let’s talk about how people get paid in Japan. As the Labor Standard Law only requires payment of salary (kyuuryou 給料, rendered as kyuuyo 給与 on documents) at least once a month, most companies pay once a month (usually on the 25th); few companies pay fortnightly.

The next paragraph breaks down the contents of a typical pay check, the next discusses the biannual bonus system. After that they examine deductions and taxes and then look at the different insurances covering workers in Japan.

The authors make no commitment to provide an exhaustive fount of information on any one topic. Their goal was to create a concise and affordable reference book to help people find information efficiently. And they do so. Where possible, they provide information on additional sources (including websites). The section on the salary system concludes with links to four useful English language resources.

One key difference between this book and nearly everything else out there is that the authors assume their readers are looking to make a permanent life in Japan.

Most guides to living in Japan, rightly or wrongly, tend to focus on life as a foreigner, as someone who only plans to be living in that country for a set period of time (even if it is ten years).

Arudou and Higuchi write for an audience that views its move to Japan as permanent (even if it is for ten years).

This is a big theme in terms of Japan’s relations with its foreign residents. Personally, I would argue Japan is one of the few developed countries that does not try particularly hard to assimilate foreigners into its society. There are others who would agree.

Arudou has been particular active in this arena; seeking to bring Japan’s attention to some of the more exclusionary practices he has come across. [See Arudou DebitoJapanese Only–The OtaruOnsen Refusals and Racial Discrimination in JapanAkashi Shoten: 2006.]

The authors’ approach confronts some time-honoured “Japan’s myths” as well. In the coverage on ‘Going to Court’ they write:

Japan is thought of as a “non-litigious” society, where going to court is viewed as “un-Japanese”. We do not agree. In 1998 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, there were 5,454,942 court cases in all levels of Japan’s justice system. … People in Japan do sue. We recommend that readers view the Japanese judiciary system as just one more alternative for conflict resolution. The Japanese courts exist for a reason. Use them. 

The authors are also realistic.

…taking things to court is risky. There is no trial by jury in Japan … so one or three judges will decide your case over several years. If you can wait and have patience and money … then go to court.

Intentionally or otherwise, these excerpts sum up life in Japan all too well. Yes, living in Japan is just like living in most other places (pretty much) — but there is a twist. This Handbook is an excellent guide to set you on the way to learning all those twists (and a few turns).

In brief, Arudou and Higuchi have put together an essential handbook covering the key topics and questions anyone living in Japan (or intending to) needs to address.

Query to Debito.org readers: Items for next Poll (Oct 1)


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

I’m designing our next Debito.org poll (due out Oct 1), thanks to a suggestion this afternoon from a commenter.  Regarding problematic words…

Here’s how I’ve phrased the question so far:

“Terms describing people in any language can be controversial. In your opinion, which one, if any, of these words still in common use do you think are offensive and should be obsolesced out over time?”

It’ll be a poll where people can choose multiple answers, and the answers so far I’ve come up with are:

  • Gaijin,
  • Gaikokujin
  • Haafu
  • Shina
  • Sankokujin
  • Shintai Shougaisha
  • I don’t find any of these words offensive
  • Can’t answer


Any other options people feel I should include? Please leave a suggestion in the comments section below.  We have six days. Thanks very much for your assistance!  Debito

The Japan Times Community Page on the JBC “Gaijin Debate”, part two.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. The JUST BE CAUSE Columns I wrote these past two months on the word “Gaijin” have inspired a lot of debate. Again, good. Thanks everybody. Here’s another salvo from The Community Page yesterday. I’ll have a Part Three on this issue out in The Japan Times on October 7, talking about how the strict “insider-outsider” system here (of which “Gaijin” is but a subset of) also affects Japanese, and hurts Japanese society as a whole. Thanks for reading and commenting. And I love the illustration below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Readers get last word on ‘gaijin’ tag 

The Japan Times Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

News photo

The Community Page received another large batch of e-mails in response to Debito Arudou’s followup Sept. 2 (Sept. 3 in some areas) Just Be Cause column on the use of the word “gaijin.” Following is a selection of the responses.

Don’t live in denial like U.S.

Here in America, we hear about the word “gaijin,” but its significance is not clear to us. However, when your writer connects it to the N-word . . . well, that is, as Frank Baum would say, “a horse of a different color” — we get the impact immediately.

Hence, as an African-hyphen-American, and one that has living relatives of three other ethnicities, I say, “Well done.” I hope your Japanese readers will not live in denial like their American counterparts. Slavery has now been dead some 200 years and its cousin, segregation, over 40. But the stench from both of them lingers like unventilated raw sewage.

I am hoping to live and work in Japan one day. I hope to find a land far more tolerant than the one in which I now reside.

A distant but regular reader

Can’t defuse this bombshell

“Once a ‘gaijin,’ always a ‘gaijin’ ” definitely raised some eyebrows. That said, I’m going to comment on one particular aspect — the N-word (I’m going to actually spell the word out, so don’t be too shocked when you see it). In full disclosure, I’m a black American.

OK, so the use of “nigger” and “gaijin” to Mr. Debito Arudou seem to be one and the same. I have to disagree. The reality is that “nigger” is a far more loaded word than “gaijin” will ever hope to be, and that is societal fact. Anyone can joke with “gaijin” — Americans, Europeans, Africans, even other Asians. The term can be defused quite easily. Of course we can also infuse the word with hatred and xenophobic overtones. That said, I think it is used largely in the defused sense.

Now, go to east Los Angeles or Southside Chicago and try using “nigger” jokingly — see what kind of response you get. Go to the Deep South, and say the word in whatever crowd — you might become “strange fruit” overnight.

People talk about defusing the word, but it never seems to stick. You simply can’t defuse that kind of bombshell. History has given “nigger” a weight to bear and it must be respected. Hip-hop and rap artists from the United States have talked about “owning” the word, and yet it still causes uproar throughout the community.

The word is heavier than any one person, or group of people, can bear. It takes a certain sensitivity, cultural understanding, and a host of other variables that I can’t even describe before being able to say, “Let’s approach the word.” If you can say that about “gaijin” then I stand corrected. But somehow I doubt it.

The article by Mr. Debito Arudou definitely raises some issues with regards to Japan and how Japanese people deal with foreigners, all of which need to be tackled by Japanese and gaijin alike, but to equate the use of “gaijin” to “nigger” is, as another respondent said, “hyperbolic,” and, I would say, 180 degrees off target.

Wayne Malcolm, Akita City

Both bad, but one’s worse

From the Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary’s “gaijin” entry: “a foreigner in Japan.” From the N-word’s entry: “. . .now ranks as perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English.”

No one alive today who has been called the N-word has ever been beaten as a slave in a state-supported system. No one alive today who has been called the G-word has ever been beaten, nor stolen from their homelands in a state-sponsored system of oppression.

That being said, let’s take a look at the definition of “discriminate”: “recognize or perceive the difference.” Right there is the rub: It denotes a difference between “this kind of people” and “that kind of people.” As such, it has no place in the polite lexicon.

Another important point of the modern discussion of the N- vs. G-words is, in my opinion, the fact that their roots are almost exactly the same. The French word for “black” has been mispronounced by Americans for years, leading to the commonly vulgar “n—er,” or the modern,”embraced” term “n—a.” It is a mispronunciation of a word. Similarly, the shortening of “gaikokujin” could be looked at as a mispronunciation, albeit of a native word. In short, “you people aren’t worth my time” is the subtext; “I’ll just call you all this” is the action.

One word has its roots in slavery (and mispronounced French), the other has its roots in wanting to save time when discriminating against others. One’s worse, but they’re both pretty bad.

As a student of Japanese, I also understand that often words are “shortened,” such as “rajiokase” for “radio/cassette player.” However, each of our languages is rich enough to use positive terms to describe everyone, even if we must point out our differences in these descriptions.

I hope we can move forward to a more positive, kindhearted world by no longer relying on such catch-all terms for “us” and “them.”

Michael Giaimo, El Cerrito, Calif.

You don’t speak for us

With all due respect, Mr. Arudou, your assertion that there is any sort of comparison between the word used to address the slaves and children and grandchildren of your former compatriots and “gaijin” are strained and, at best, ill-informed.

Your stated desired outcome is to have your Japanese status acknowledged. And what would that look like? At a social event, would a recent acquaintance mistakenly call you Taro Arudou instead of Debito? The nation of Japan has issued you your passport, you have your health care card, and you are entitled to all the benefits the nation offers. Clearly the state has given you what you want. What is it you want from me and from the readers of this newspaper, then?

I appreciate that you play at fighting the good fight, but in this instance, sir, you have seriously offended me. Because, let’s face it, you don’t speak for the “n—ers” living in Japan. When you make such lazy comparisons, you’re not a champion of the rights of the Filipina sex workers that are brutalized here in Okinawa. You’re not the defender of the Chinese or third-generation Koreans that still aren’t Japanese. You’ve simply appropriated a term whose mere presence in this debate serves only to sell advertising space on the (Japan Times) Web site and does not further the prospects of the people you claim to be defending.

You want to champion the rights of newcomers to Japan, but what we need, Mr. Arudou, are not your ham-fisted and ugly similes; we need words that can nourish the imagination of the reader — words that speak to every human being’s basic need to be a part of a community predicated on mutual benefit. In your own, American tradition we can look to the poet Robert Frost for the kinds of words we need. In his poem “The Mending Wall,” we read that good fences make good neighbors. It is in these supposed boundaries — our cultural differences, which at once seem to cut us off from each other — that we find the very source of our mutual strength. That we are different and the inheritors of rich cultural traditions mean that we are better able to meet and surpass the needs of our communities, because within these vast repositories of cultural knowledge we find the stories of those who have been as bridges between cultures and communities.

Paul Boshears, Uruma City, Okinawa

Glad Arudou is out there

Since he is a controversial figure, I imagine Debito Arudou’s latest piece has produced more disagreement than agreement. I want to be onboard as saying that I think his point about differentiating different types of Japanese people with a “hyphenated term” (e.g., “Amerika-kei Nihonjin”) is a well-received one, at least by this reader.

Until a term exists which allows those who do not obviously appear to be Japanese to be referred to as Japanese citizens, a mentality that accepts that you can look “non-Japanese” but still be Japanese will not develop. The language has to be present first in order to give citizens a way in which to express a way of thinking which is currently alien to them. If they start to hear the hyphenated terms on television or read them in newspapers, a new pattern of thinking will develop.

While I don’t always agree with everything Debito Arudou says, I’m very glad that he’s out there saying it. He’s the first bona fide activist for foreigners in Japan and as such he sometimes is extreme because it’s the only way he can shake people’s thinking and wake them up to the problems in Japan. Activists who are attempting to get equal rights have always been criticized for bucking the status quo by people who are sufficiently satisfied that they would rather passively accept inequality and prejudicial treatment than “rock the boat.” They’re also often treated as objects of hate or scorn by the very people they’re laboring to help.

I applaud The Japan Times for giving him a platform from which to speak and hope that it will continue to give him a more public and widely read voice.

Shari Custer, Tokyo

Gaijin, and proud of it

Those of us who are “gaijins” don’t all agree with the opinion of Mr. Arudou. The word “gaijin” is not the same as the English word “n–ger” in meaning, and there is no common effect on diversity.

Gaijin is a Japanese word meaning “foreigner” or “outsider.” The word is composed of “gai” (“outside”) and “jin” (“person”), so the word can be translated literally as “outside (foreign) person.” The word can refer to nationality, race or ethnicity.

The word “gaijin” does not have the same effect as “n–ger,” and nor will it ever. Mr. Arudou may be a Japanese in the legal sense, but neither Mr. Arudou nor I will ever be true Japanese. To be a true Japanese you must be born and raised as a Japanese. Anyone else is just not genuinely Japanese, regardless of what your passport says.

I’m sorry, Mr. Arudou, but you do not think like a Japanese and, judging by your writings, you will never assimilate into the Japanese way of life. You are like so many other Americans, who want everyone to change and accept you instead of you changing and accepting them.

Let’s all agree that “gaijin” is just a word. Making it into a bad word is just wrong. I am a gaijin and damn proud to be one, and the Japanese accept me for what I am, not what I want to be called.

Denny Pollard, San Francisco

Equality of censorship

Thanks for both of these columns, which I fully identify with. I agree that “gaijin” is a painful word, and the fact that the word engages debate proves it.

I have one comment, though. If you write “n–ger,” why not use “g–jin”? Let’s find some “katakana” transcription. If someone could start the trend, this has to be you, Debito! This may bring awareness about the deeply unpleasant undertones.

Michel Vidal-Naquet, Tokyo

No one said Japan was easy

Poor Debito Arudou, arguing the cause of foreigners in Japan about the term “gaijin.” Every generation of long-term residents in Japan has faced the insular nature of “us versus them” living in Japan. I did during my 8 1/2 years in Japan (1985-92).

Some of us choose to feel slighted by the word and make mountains out of mole hills, trying in futility to change Japanese thinking by writing books and verbose essays in English, appealing to those of a similar mind set, while others choose to get on with their lives and recognize that you can’t be accepted by all those in Japanese society. It is far easier to make peace with yourself and the close circle of friends and family that you have than it is to tear apart the psychology of the Japanese group and individual identity.

People who live in Japan for a long period of time do gradually lose sight of the reality in their home countries as well, on how immigrants are often treated at home.

There are some good and negative points to all countries. Some people might be a bit more accepting of immigrants than others when they have taken the time to learn the language. There are a quite a few Westerners who have become legal Japanese citizens, even local politicians. The fact is, if you who have chosen to live in Japan but cannot come to grips with the fact that you are not going to be considered “Japanese” even if you naturalize, then maybe it is better for you to move on before this becomes a psychosis.

No one ever said that living in Japan would be easy. You would probably find the insularity in some other Asian countries like China and Korea even more disconcerting, carrying that chip on your shoulder all the time.

Kerry M. Berger, Bangkok

Chip on your shoulder

Racial and ethnic prejudice is present globally, not just in Japan. My parents were Americans of Japanese ancestry. Dad served in the segregated U.S. Army during World War II in Italy fighting Germans. He couldn’t get a job in America because “japs” weren’t hired. He served in 442nd RCT/100th Battalion, themost decorated unit in the history of the U.S. Army.

If you don’t like living in Japan, move. People like you walk around with a chip on your shoulder.

Norman Matsumura, Tucson, Ariz.

‘Sorry, gaijin’

People in the US use the term “foreigner” to describe people not from America in pretty much the same way Japanese use “gaijin” to describe people not from Japan. Some people use that term to hurt others. Some people are hurt by it. But if there are a handful of foreigners in the U.S. who feel offended by its usage, does that mean that it is suddenly a bad word?

About 99 percent of the citizens of Japan would say that Mr. A. does not look like a native of this country. If that is a priority for him, I would recommend moving to the U.S. or Canada. I have immense respect for the fact that Mr. A became a Japanese, but it is silly to think that just by becoming Japanese suddenly 125 million native Japanese citizens will start to think of a white person as a Japanese. How would the average Japanese know that Mr. A. (a) has citizenship here and (b) is of “American descent” and therefore should be addressed as “amerika-kei nihonjin” instead of “gaijin,” which applies to the vast majority of white people here?

Even the suggestion that gaijin are stripped of their ancestral identity in the way Africans were when they were forcibly taken from their homes and sent to America is an enormous affront to peoples who lost their ancestral identity in the process, least of all due to language. It is particularly absurd to think that happens to gaijin who freely emigrate to Japan. Quite the contrary. No one seems to forget the ancestry of Korean-Japanese (who often did not freely emigrate), and I am often asked, “Are you German? American?” Japanese are sensitive to these distinctions despite the label. In any event, how is “gaijin” any more culture-erasing than “gaikokujin”?

Regarding the broadcasters, using the more formal “gaikokujin” keeps things nice and diplomatic, and awkward. I would encourage anyone who considers Japanese broadcasters to be the moral standard for this fine country to watch a little late night TV (any night, any station). Is this the moral compass of the Japanese people? Sorry ace, try looking somewhere else.

No matter how much I adapt to Japanese ways, I’ll always be a gaijin here, and the better I understand this the more easily I will be able to live in my adopted country. When I hear a noisy foreigner complaining about how things here should be more like they are back home, all I really can say is, “Sorry, gaijin.”

JG, Zushi, Kanagawa Pref.

When natives are the outsiders

I for one don’t think “gaijin” is as bad a term as people make it out to be. For instance, what about Americans calling their native peoples “Indian?” We are not Indian, and yet we are referred to as such. Why?

Indians are outsiders (from another country) — who does that mean the natives are?

I know Columbus thought he landed in/near India, but that was in the 1400s. I think some people take the term “gaijin” too seriously.

Eledore Massis, Long Branch, N.J.

Like trying to grasp water

As a 31-year resident of Japan, it seems to me that the intonation of the speaker who utters this word matters a great deal, as does the situation in which its use takes place. It still irritates me to hear “gaijin,” but then language is a living thing, so attempts to control it are largely futile — it’s rather like trying to grasp water.

Jeff Jones, Tokyo

Singled out, lumped together

Just wanted to say thanks for a stellar read. I’ve spent the better part of the last six months trying to tie words with emotions on what it’s like to be singled out, then lumped together, all at the hand of one little word.

Would love to see more of this debate continuing in the future.

Zach P, Okayama

Author is discriminating

I like how the author complains of discrimination when his article does the exact same thing back to the Japanese. He makes broad generalizations about how Japanese perceive foreigners, with absolutely no evidence to back his obviously biased observations. In addition,his comparison to term “n–ger” is ludicrous considering all the perks and opportunities foreigners often enjoy in Japan. My heart breaks for poor, suffering foreigners such as Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony. And by the way, if you don’t have to guts to print the full word, you shouldn’t put it in your article.

My experience living as a foreigner in Japan has always been pleasant, and I have found that Japanese people, while often not very knowledgeable of other cultures, are genuinely interested in hearing about other countries, and the U.S. in particular. So I wonder what the author’s complaint is? Is it the often unfair career advantages foreigners enjoy here or the extra attention and curiosity you receive as someone who looks different? In either case, I can imagine things far worse to complain about.

And I wonder what the author’s position is on the large number of ethnic Koreans who were born in Japan and are virtually indistinguishable from ethnic Japanese? Or how he feels about labeling foreigners as “aliens” in the U.S., and its strict immigration policies.

If anything, an article highlighting the very real problem of prostitution and exploitation of foreign women would have been far more informative and worthy of attention. But I hardly think Debito has much to personally complain about in that regard. Overall, this was a very poorly thought-out article with the same biases and prejudices it complains about. I give it a -1 on a 1-to-10 scale.

Tae Kim, Seattle

Be known as the best gaijin

I always like to read what Debito Arudou has to say. The word “gaijin” may seem strange or misused.

Despite the fact I was born here, I’ve heard it all my life. If you are called by a name all your life it becomes your identity. It would feel strange to change what I’m called mid-stream.

Even a funny name on a good person changes the feeling of the name to a good name for that person. I don’t worry about it at all. Just be known as the best “gaijin” with a Japanese passport around. Enjoy life, know who you are, people who really know you will know you for who you really are. No worries.

Loyd, Kobe

‘Gaijin-san’ proves point

I always try to avoid using the word “gaijin,” but it’s not because I think the word may sound more offensive than “gaikokujin” or other terms that are used to refer to non-Japanese people. I just do so because it would be preferable to call them Americans, Russians, Brazilians, etc, if possible.

Whatever historical study suggests, “gaijin” has no more a negative implication than “gaikokujin.” In fact, some Japanese use the term “gaijin-san” to make it sound polite. This single fact shows that “gaijin” has no discriminatory connotation.

Satoru Yoshikura, Tokyo

Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

Speaking this Saturday at Peace as a Global Language Conference, Seisen University, Tokyo


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Just wanted to call your attention to a conference this coming weekend at Seisen University, Tokyo.  The Peace as a Global Language Conference.  I’ve been to (and spoken at) more than half the conferences since they started earlier this decade, and I think they’ll be worth your time.

Sat Sep 27, 11AM-11:50, Peace as a Global Language Conference 2008:  Arudou Debito speaks on ”NJ:  From Visitor to Resident”, Seisen University, Tokyo.  More details:

7th Annual Conference

Peace as a Global Language
September 27-28, 2008

‘Imagining Ourselves in a World of Peace!

Seisen University,

Tokyo, Japan

Welcome to the website for the 7th Annual Peace as a Global Language Conference. We are delighted once again to be invited back to Seisen University – the third time that the conference has been held in this location.

PGL conferences began in 2002, and have quickly become an established part of the yearly calendar for students, teachers and activists. We encourage anyone interested in the following areas to join us as presenters, participants or conference volunteers.

  • peace
  • the environment
  • human rights
  • global issues
  • intercultural communication
  • values,
  • health
  • gender
  • media literacy,
  • foreign language education focusing on global issues.

The theme of this year’s conference will be:

Imagining Ourselves in a World of Peace!


Please do join us in celebrating PGLVII and share in the joy of contributing to peace and the advancement of global studies.

Presentation Schedule 2008  

Sat. Sep.27

9:00-  Registration

9:30-9:45  Opening


  • Human Rights
    • Presenter: Matthew Sanders (Room.1)
  • Break through of that Critical Barrier…Peace Education
    • Presenters: Hanaoka, Kusube (English/Japanese) (Room.2)
  • Poetry and Pedagogy
    • Presenter: Hugh Nicoll (Room.3)


  • Presumptous Pronouns: Examining Our Way of Life
    • Presenter: Philip Adamek (Room.1)
  • From Visitor to Resident
    • Presenter: Arudou Debito (Room 2)
  • Hidden Language: Hatha Yoga (M Lounge)
    • Presenter: Moira Izatt (Room 3)

12:00-12:50 Lunch Break (with poster sessions) for both days

            Poster session I

  • “Perigo Minas!” – Taking a Stand at Our School Festival
    • Presenter: Kirk Johnson and students from Kanda University of International Studies

13.00-14.50: Keynote I

Peace Boat: Sailing for a New World
Tatsuya Yoshioka


  • Stereotypes Everywhere
    • Presenter: Nicholas Degrego (Room 1)
  • Gender and Japanese Language”
    • Presenter: Barry Kavanagh (English/Japanese) (Room 2)
  • EFL Topics with Tibet
    • Presenters: Itoi, Inose (English/Japanese) (Room 3)
  • Using Cross-Cultural Idioms and Literature to Introduce Peace Studies”
    • Presenter: Charles Montgomery (Room 4)
  • The Global Nine Campaign” (English/Japanese)
    • Presenters: Meri Joyce and others (Room 5)


  • Danger: Patriotism
    • Presenter: John Spiri (Room 1)
  • Combining Peace Education with Business English
    • Presenter: Anthony Torbert (Room 2)
  • Global Issues in EFL around the World”
    • Presenter: Kip Cates
  • Am I Japanese or American?
    • Presenter: Yujiro Shimogori (Room 4)
  • The PGL 2007 Conference: A Report on the PGL Committe-Student-University Staff Collaboration
    • Presenters: Craig Smith, Yuiki Takenoshita, Junichiro Kawaguchi, and Albie Sharpe


17:30-19:30 PARTY!


Sun. Sep.28 

9:00- Registration


  • Using Student Activation and Social Awareness
    • Presenter: Kirk Johnson (Room 1)
  • Rm.2 The Wiki As A Collaborative Tool for teaching Global Issues
    • Presenters: Daniel Douglas, Barbara Stein


  • Promoting International Understanding through Asian Youth Forum
    • Presenter: Kip Cates (Room 1)
  • Using Songs in Language Class for a Global Understanding
    • Presenter: Mercedes Castro Yague (Room 2)
  • Support freedom of speech on NORTH-WEST of the Russia
    • Presenter: Rebrov Alexei (Room 3)
  • Citizens Initiatives for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education with an ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) Perspective”
    • Presenters: Kazuya Asakawa / Motohiko Nagaoka (Room 4)


12:00-12:50 Lunch Break (with poster sessions) for both days

            Poster session II

  • War Violence in the Media
    • Presenter: Josef Messerkliger

13:00-14:50: Keynote II

“Yasukuni” Documentary
directed by Li Ying


  • Panel Discussion on Yasukuni (Room 1)
  • Daitobunka University Education Dept. Fujita (Room 2)
  • Peace Pilgrim (Video & talk)
    • Presenter: Charles Kowalski (Room 3)
  • Art, social responsibility and activism
    • Presenter: Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (Room 4)


  • Light from the Shadows, Hiroshima Nagasaki Film
    • Presenter: Robert Kowalczyk (Room 1)
  • Daitobunka University British & American Literature
    • 2 graduate students (Room 2)
  • Peace Pilgrim (Video & talk)
    • Presenter: Charles Kowalski (Room 3)
  • “Video message project building a bridge between the Philippines and Japan”
    • Presenter: Naoko Jin(BRIDGE FOR PEACE) (Room 4)




More details, including information on how to get there, at http://www.pgljapan.org/


Japan Times FYI on Supreme Court


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Here’s a primer courtesy of the Japan Times on Japan’s Supreme Court (JSC).

I’m not a big fan of the JSC, as my experience with it was when they summarily ruled that the Otaru Onsens Case (which involved racial discrimination, Japan Constitution Article 14) was “unrelated to constitutional issues”.  This after only a couple of months of deliberation (it usually takes many years for rulings to come down).

It also refused to hear the case for Gwen Gallagher vs. Asahikawa University case, where she was fired for not being “fresh” (their words) enough to teach.  And also, given Japan’s lower court rulings, because she’s a woman.

Yes, the JSC does sometimes issue miraculous rulings, such as this recent one regarding international children and J citizenship laws (causing some speculation that the JSC is in fact becoming more liberal; a bit premature IMO).  But given the odd conservatism seen otherwise (such as the Chong-san case a few years back, ruling that denying a Zainichi the right to sit Tokyo medical administrative exams, merely because she’s a foreigner, is constitutional), that’s why they’re miraculous.

Anyway, read on.  My favorite bit is at the end on how we can vote on Supreme Court justices.  (I’ve done so when I voted.)  It’s not much of an indicator–abstaining from voting for someone is counted as a “yes” vote (yes, I asked), meaning it’s not a majority of “yes” vs “no” votes, it’s “yes and no vote” vs “no” votes, meaning it’s highly unlikely the public could ever turf out a Robert Bork type.  In other words, it’s a sham.  And it’s never denied a JSC appointment, as the article indicates.

Garbage in, garbage out, in Japan’s quite bent judiciary, atop which sits this Supreme Court.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The Japan Times, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008


Supreme Court place of last judicial resort 

When parties in lawsuits aren’t satisfied with district and high court decisions, they appeal to the top

By SETSUKO KAMIYA Staff writer

In 1889, Japan took its first step toward forming a modern constitutional state by promulgating the Meiji Constitution, dividing power among the legislature, or Diet, the executive branch, or Cabinet, and the judiciary, with the Supreme Court at the top.

News photo
Judicial power: The Supreme Court is located in Hayabusa-cho in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Under the Meiji Constitution, sovereignty resided with Emperor Meiji. The courts handed down decisions on his behalf and in his name.

Under today’s Constitution, promulgated in 1946 and enforced in 1947, sovereignty resides with the people and the courts exercise judicial power to secure the people’s rights.

Following are basic questions and answers about the Supreme Court:

How many justices work for the Supreme Court and how are they chosen?

The Supreme Court has 15 justices, including Chief Justice Niro Shimada.

While the chief justice is appointed by the Emperor upon nomination by the Cabinet, the others are appointed by the Cabinet and certified by the Emperor.

Their backgrounds vary, from high court judges, prosecutors, lawyers, bureaucrats and legal scholars. This is to reflect various views when they interpret the law as the top court.

Among the current members, only Justice Ryuko Sakurai, a former labor ministry bureaucrat who was appointed Thursday, is female.

Justices must be over 40 years old upon appointment and their retirement age is set at 70. The average age of the current justices is 66.6.

Occasionally, some resign upon request. Sakurai’s predecessor, Kazuko Yokoo, stepped down at age 67 earlier this month. Yokoo was a former labor ministry bureaucrat and head of the Social Insurance Agency, which has been attacked for mishandling of pension records.

Where is the top court?

The Supreme Court is in Hayabusa-cho in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, not far from the Diet Building and the prime minister’s office in Nagata-cho, Japan’s political nexus.

Before the current structure was built in 1974, the Supreme Court stood in the Kasumigaseki administrative district where the Tokyo High Court and District Court stand today.

Upon relocation, a major public competition for designing a new Supreme Court building took place. Architect Shinichi Okada’s design was chosen out of 217 entries. This is still considered one of the biggest open design competitions for national institutions in the postwar period.

What are the Supreme Court’s judicial functions?

The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal where questions of law are decided.

A court case is first filed and tried at the district court level and moves on to a high court if one or both sides opposes the lower court decision.

If the parties involved are again dissatisfied with the high court decision, they file a petition of final appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court consists of the Grand Bench, where all 15 justices preside, and three Petty Benches, each composed of five justices. Every case is first sent to one of the three. But if a case involves a constitutional issue, the Grand Bench makes the judgment.

In 2007, the Supreme Court received about 4,700 civil and 2,600 criminal appeals.

What are its administrative functions?

Being at the top, the Supreme Court plays various administrative roles.

It is responsible for determining the rules of judicial administration, as well as compiling and submitting its annual budget to the Cabinet.

It also nominates lower court judge candidates who must then be appointed by the Cabinet. It is also authorized to decide the assignments of judges to courts around the country.

Because of this, critics say judges tend to hand down conservative rulings to avoid upsetting the Supreme Court.

The top court is also responsible for running the Legal Training and Research Institute, where people who have passed the National Bar Examination are trained for 16 months. While attending the institute, trainees receive practical training from the judges, prosecutors and lawyers. They must pass the final qualifying exam to obtain their licenses to practice law.

Does the top court have the power to perform judicial reviews?

Lower courts hold the authority to review whether certain laws and regulations passed by the Diet are constitutional, but the Supreme Court is where the decision is finalized.

If the Supreme Court determines a law is unconstitutional, that law is invalidated.

Are the performances of Supreme Court justices reviewed?

Yes. Article 79 of the Constitution stipulates that justices are subject to a national review by voters at the first general election after their appointment. They are reviewed again after 10 years.

A judge who engages in misconduct can be discharged if the Court of Impeachment, composed of 14 Upper House and Lower House members, deems it appropriate.

Only Supreme Court justices are subject to national reviews.

At the next general election, which is expected to take place later this year, six justices will be subject to a popular vote for the first time.

They can be dismissed if the majority of voters reject them. A justice has never been dismissed under the review system, which was started in 1947.

The national review is one of the few chances for the public to have a direct say against authority. But some question whether it is serving its purpose to watch and evaluate justices because many people vote without much knowledge of what sort of decisions the justices have supported.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays (Wednesday in some areas). This time it is published on Wednesday (Thursday in some areas) because Monday was a press holiday. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to National News Desk

Tangent: In Niseko, playing Cricket!


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Morning Blog.  Writing this as I wait for the copious amounts of water to take effect on my compact little hangover…

Have spent the weekend in Niseko (courtesy of RidgeRunner development Inc) getting more insight into just how the Australian-led building and skiing boom here is fundamentally changing this small ski town into an international resort area.  Property values are soaring, very nicely designed buildings are going up, multilingual parties are on tap every night… even the Hilton recently opened a hotel here.  More boosterism at http://www.powderlife.com/.

But the reason I dropped by this time (last time I emceed a forum in July 6, talking about the launch of organic farm Takadai Meadows run, again, mostly by NJ, and with speakers Alex Kerr, Bruce Gutlove, and Honma Yasunori) was to play Cricket!

Yes, Cricket, where you find that Baseball training (I played Little League) gets in the way of knowing how to hold the bat and how to catch that undeservedly hard ball (no gloves allowed; I have very bruised fingernails this morning, and am pleased I can type without broken phalanges).  I actually had fun (fielded, bowled my first over and managed to do it with only three wides, and even got four runs after about twenty minutes at bat).  Our pick-up team still managed to beat two teams, one with its own uniforms even (by ONE run at the last bowl–game couldn’t have been closer), and they take on the very serious Pakistani team today (which I shall give a miss; I need a Sunday at home for the first time since July).

It’s an event with charity auctions and large parties (of course), sponsored by organizations such as Metropolis/Jap@n.Inc/Crisscross, the Hokkaido International School, and various companies and government agencies.  And attended by cricket heroes whose names I’ve never heard of, of course.  More information at


Again, one of the fruits of multiculturalization.  Who would have thunk I’d have gotten to know why people worldwide enjoy playing Cricket in the backwoods of Hokkaido!  Long may a healthy development of Niseko continue.

Arudou Debito in Niseko

Japan Times on worries about Post-Fukuda immigration policies


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Nice little article here from Masami Ito about some worries now that Fukuda (who not only recognized the Ainu as an ethnic minority for the first time, but also had pleasant predispositions towards immigrations, see more below) has resigned, that the next probable PM, Aso, might not be quite so inclined. Speculation at this stage, but forewarned… Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Will open-door immigration plan die after Fukuda?

The Japan Times Friday, Sept. 19, 2008

By MASAMI ITO Staff writer

Japan isn’t exactly known as an open country to foreigners, but there was a recent brief ray of hope in June.

News photo
Open-door advocate: Diet lawmaker Hirohiko Nakamura of the Liberal Democratic Partyis interviewed this month in Tokyo. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOT

The hope was provided by a group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who drafted a bold proposal to create a new immigration policy that would raise the population of foreigners in Japan to 10 percent of the overall population in the next 50 years.

The proposal was handed to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, but his sudden resignation announcement Sept. 1 is raising concerns the proposal will be buried by the next prime minister.

“I am disappointed,” said lawmaker Hirohiko Nakamura, who helped draft the proposal. In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Nakamura said Fukuda was instrumental in getting the proposal off the ground.

“We got this far because it was Fukuda. . . . Fukuda was willing to listen to the proposal and it was about to move forward.”

Japan’s immigration policy largely depends on its leader, but when the prime minister keeps changing, consistency goes out the window.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was known for his hawkish views, but his successor Fukuda was relatively open-minded. He even wanted to increase the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000 by 2020.

The LDP will choose its new leader Monday. The front-runner is LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, who also is known for his hawkish diplomatic views. The new party president will almost certainly become the next prime minister.

“There is no way of knowing what will happen to the proposal,” Nakamura said. “Of course, we will keep pushing the proposal no matter who the next leader is. But I am concerned.”

The group’s report is titled “Proposal For a Japanese-style Immigration Policy.” It aims to address the problem of Japan’s shrinking population by raising the number of foreign residents. Nakamura was secretary general of team, which was was chaired by former LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa.

“The only effective treatment to save Japan from a population crisis is to accept people from abroad,” the proposal says. “For Japan to survive, it needs to open its doors as an international state passable to the world and shift toward establishing an ‘immigrant nation’ by accepting immigrants and revitalizing Japan.”

The group’s definition of “immigrant” is consistent with that of the United Nations: individuals who have lived outside their home countries for more than 12 months. This includes people on state or corporate training programs, exchange students and asylum seekers.

One major aspect of the proposal, Nakamura explained, is protecting the rights of foreigners in Japan so they can work safely and securely.

“Japanese people are pretending not to see the human rights situation of foreign laborers,” Nakamura said. “In a world where even animal rights are protected, how can we ignore the human rights of foreign workers?”

According to data from the Immigration Bureau, the number of registered foreigners in Japan hit a record high of about 2.08 million in 2006. Among them, permanent residents have been increasing, reaching 837,000, or 40 percent, of all registered foreigners.

The LDP proposal says having 10 million foreigners in Japan “is no longer a dream,” stating the necessity of providing more education and training opportunities.

Nakamura stressed that not only is the overall population on the decline, the number of working people will shrink dramatically in the near future.

He explained that the 10 percent figure comes from a calculation of how big a labor force Japan will need in 50 years.

“What are politicians doing to solve this problem?” Nakamura asked. “They are at the beck and call of the bureaucrats who are just trying to protect their vested interests.”

Nakamura faulted the bureaucrats for not creating a warmer society for foreigners. For example, they don’t bring up the poor labor conditions for foreign workers, but when a foreigner is suspected of a crime, the information is spread immediately, Nakamura said.

“Bureaucrats don’t want (many foreigners in Japan),” Nakamura said. “Otherwise, it would be so easy (for bureaucrats) to start an educational campaign on living symbiotically with foreigners.”

Admitting that lawmakers have also dragged their feet, Nakamura said the key to breaking the vertically structured bureaucrat-led administration is to establish an official “immigration agency” to unify the handling of foreigner-related affairs, including legal issues related to nationality and immigration control.

Those problems are currently managed by various ministers. For example, anything related to immigration goes to the Justice Ministry, labor issues to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and livelihood in general to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

“We need to integrate all of the power, and that is why an immigration agency” is necessary, Nakamura said. “If the power is scattered around, we can’t move forward.”

If this ambitious proposal is to take shape, Japan will need a strong leader, he said.

But he expressed disappointment that none of the five candidates in the LDP presidential election fits the bill.

“The political leaders of the 21st century will be those who can destroy the bureaucrat-led government,” Nakamura said.




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


Hi Blog. This is a special Newsletter to tell you all how my recent six-week trip went between Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Berkeley, Mountain View, Hamamatsu, Inuyama, Osaka, Nagoya, Saitama, Nagano, Sendai, and Kitakami, Iwate. Here goes:



This was my second time in Santa Cruz (see report on first trip at https://www.debito.org/californiatrek2005.html) with a group of students (sixteen in all, mostly guys, all raring to learn and get some experiences, if not some language abilities), and as ever my Hokkaido Information University students didn’t disappoint. At a program sponsored by UC Santa Cruz’s Extension, we joined a record number of students from places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and other European countries to toss a true salad of cultures with the same aim. Our students huddled around the lower levels (HIU, an information science and computer school, has no English majors), but what they lacked in ability they made up for in spirit. In fact, I heard from ELI coordinators that they jockey to get the HIU students every year because they’re so much fun. I could understand why. They were not from an elite school; they came from relatively lower-income families, and 1) had no elite school reputation to maintain in public, and 2) weren’t there to blow off classes and waste their hard-earned money. So they never cut class, instead staying up late doing homework in groups, and whenever possible clumped into travelling phalanxes with and without native speakers to explore nearby San Francisco, points around Santa Cruz, even play cards with me (Daifugou and Euchre) on main street around the mumbling but harmless homeless people. Everyone found them a joy to be around, as they were unabashed and full of humor (each person joining our groups every day became a new and original array of humor, in two languages) and I was glad to be their mediator for the first two weeks of their monthlong stay (which may be the last for our school — budget cuts have just killed the Santa Cruz ELI Program — see my letter of protest to Governor Schwarzenegger and the UC Board of Regents at https://www.debito.org/?p=1870).

After they recovered from jetlag (I helped by keeping them up for the first few nights in our dorm until 11PM; cards and Yahtzee and American television–particularly the heavily-influenced by Anime Cartoon Network–did the trick; so did Mountain Dew), they went off to do homestays and I found myself in a lovely Victorian-style house-hotel called the Hinds House (http://www.hinds-house.com/); highly recommended if you want a stay of over a week in a self-catering environment), walking three blocks to work, watching the fog burn off every morning (it was a summer without a summer for me–San Francisco and southern coastal environs has a climate comparable to Kushiro). I found a number of things to love: those amazingly fat and munchable American cucumbers at the local weekly farmer’s market (Americans found it hard to wrap their heads around why I was so excited to see things like English muffins, fig newtons, chocolate milk, and pop tarts; not to mention roast beef and ham which actually tasted like something). I made sure to eat as much Mexican, pizza, and fat burgers until I was sick of them (it took longer with Mexican). And I stocked up on shoes (I can’t get my size in Japan) all over again until my suitcase would be overweight (carrying books for me to sell overseas was weight enough, and I was planning to replace stocks with other goodies as the trip wore on).

Comparisons with Japan and America are unavoidable, especially for a person in my position of choosing one society over another. Quite frankly, I found very few things to be preferable in America over Japan (like, for example, the fact I no longer stood out as a different race, the cheap cornucopia of fruits and vegetables in California markets, the wider variety of soups and salad styles in America, and a people that don’t need convincing that discrimination is a bad thing). In fact, many things made my teeth itch about the States: 1) the horribly unhygienic and sparse public toilets (Americans must have enormous bladders if they spend the day shopping), 2) the run-down state of public transportation (trains and subways are also sparse and actually pretty difficult to ride — none have routes and lines as clearly signposted as Japan’s rail and subway lines), 3) the overreliance on personal automobiles (in Japan, even if trains and busses don’t go a certain place, you can always somehow snag a cab) — I certainly don’t expect the US to kick its reliance on petrol anytime soon, 4) the Americans’ exceptional tolerance of lousy food and unbalanced meals (I had a donut that was so sweet I got a headache and thought my teeth would shatter; cookies/brownies should not be a staple of airline meals). The mania for soft drinks over plain old tapwater (at least in this part of the US) seems to have subsided; but again, that’s because (I believe) the drinks manufacturers have found a way to get people to pay for something they can get for free from any tap (same bottle, different wine, if you will). Altogether, when it comes to the day-to-day essentials of getting around and getting fed, life in Japan is in my view far superior.

But the most amazing thing for me regarding America was how expensive things were getting. Prices are rising in the developed world — as a matter or course. It’s called inflation. Meanwhile, Japan has had next to no inflation (in fact, in many markets, deflation), meaning prices of many consumer items bought on a daily basis have not changed much in the twenty years plus I’ve been in Japan. However, notwithstanding all the cheaper inputs costs, cheaper labor costs, and the weak dollar, I found dining out in America to be surprisingly expensive. Prices nearly equivalent or even pricier to Japan after conversion. And that’s, of course, before you pay the goddamn tip (which regular readers know I find to be little more than a way to foist more employer wage costs onto the consumer; in other words, a 10%-15% bribe to somehow “ensure” better service when in fact it largely winds up being an insurance policy against bad service… anyway, end of rant). It’s cheaper to eat fast food, sure, but I’m getting too old for it and want to believe that American dining can do better. It can, if you pay more. Substantially more. In terms of cost performance, lose the long-held stereotype that Japan is expensive. You can get better quality at a lower price here than in California (especially when you take into account that food should be better on average in the gourmet capital of the US, San Francisco). Given many years of inflation, American prices have, quite simply, caught up with Japan’s.

But I’ll give the Americans this — they know (or knew) how to build houses to last — and upkeep them. Santa Cruz’s three avenues of Victorianesque old houses (complete with gardens and gorgeously painted wood trim) had me aching for better architecture in Japan (not much hope, given the housing industry cartels, the high labor costs, the high barriers against architects, materials, and know-how, plus the scam of keeping the Japanese consumer rebuilding and renewing their mortgages on worn-out houses every twenty years or so). Many places reminded me of homes in my childhood, where you could cut a lawn and watch trees grow unmolested, all built with symmetry, taste, and culture. But that’s my inevitable bias — that’s one of the choices you make when you move anywhere from a rural background into an urban setting, and not necessarily America or Japan’s “fault”.



We all have probably heard the joke (erroneously attributed to Mark Twain) about the coldest winter spent during a summer in San Francisco. The climate belts shrouding wherever I was in fog, lowering temperatures ten to twenty degrees cooler than areas a few hours’ cycle away, did not disappoint. But when I had my old college friend Rod pick me up and take me into what felt like a John Carpenter movie set (think ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, complete with a drug-related brawl in the toilet stall next to mine when I was camping out with an ill-timed BM), I was wondering if visiting this town was going to be much fun at all. First impressions deceive. If you just get around the fact it’s not sunny (people were amazed I found things temperate enough to walk around in shorts and a jacket; they haven’t lived through twenty Hokkaido winters), and not go out in the early morning or late afternoon when the fog turns into a slowly-drenching mist, you can find SF a nice place to walk around (I walked from one end of Golden Gate Park to the ocean, a couple of miles as the crow flies, a lot longer due to windy paths and things to see). Plus I had distractions — friends with cars.

Jeff, a SF native who always meets me on my sojourns and kindly drives me to unusual places, took me for one of the ten best meals of my life in the Napa Valley (cost: about 80 dollars with a paired glass of wine), and also to a winery for a private primer on wine tasting and the procedure. Jeff also took me to Alcatraz (yes, you can go there with sufficient advance reservation), only a mile and change away from Fisherman’s Wharf, and take an amazing audio tour and get a unique view of the SF skyline. He also drove me out to some warmer places for a sit by an unfogged lake, and an animated discussion about Bush’s America (yes, he voted for him, twice — and in a blue state, even), reminding me, as I pondered how anyone could still support the Republicans in this failed presidency, that America still has a summer somewhere.

My favorite part of my stay was of course with friend Rod, who lost his partner to AIDS a few years back and has never quite recovered from the shock. Plunging into his work instead, I offered him some memory lane walks (he loves to cook, and I prefer to wash dishes; we’re a good team), some moral support for the odd pangs of survivor guilt he felt about why his partner and not him, and a lot of games of Scrabble (he not only went out with seven-letter words about four times, he delighted in putting down dirty words we’d have to spend the rest of the game staring at; best I could manage was “gonad”), which we use, at two games to two each, as somehow competing testament to our own superior intelligence. He also was a portal into another dimension; if I were gay, I’d be with him.

In fact, much of this trip felt like trips into alternate universes. I was born (in all places) in Walnut Creek, California, just across the hills interior from Berkeley (in fact, the first five years of my life were in Berkeley, during some of the hottest student radicalism around; I still remember watching a library burn). I met up with a family that knew my birth father (more about him at https://www.debito.org/americatrekthree.html), and who offered me insights into a life once upon a time for me in California. Friend Charles, my birth father’s contemporary, even drove me down to the house I spent the first five years of my life in. I remembered it; the (now impossibly small) back yard of concrete, with a wooden porch and a redwood interwoven fence I would climb upon as a toddler and pick up slivers from. The next door neighbor’s house I remember had a rose garden, and I somehow got into there to rip off a rose (anyone who as tried it knows they have tough stems and roses; my hands obviously suffered) and give it to my mother. The backdoor loft/converted bedroom (that would have been incredibly cold if Berkeley had winters) gave me my first exposure to a fear of the dark (I watched numerous “monster movies” made in Japan, as well as the Fay Wray KING KONG with the scene of KK looking through skyscraper windows to find his maiden; I kept thinking KK would do the same thing, peeping through my windows at night). And the thing that would trigger my fear every night would be the sound of trains letting fly their whistles in the night along the bayside. It would be the signal that King Kong or Godzilla was coming ashore.

There was that lingering feeling as I peered around the place I hadn’t been for about forty years. That feeling of one possible path not taken, of staying in the Bay Area for my entire lifetime, not knowing there was a world out there, taking a pole position in the now expensive California lifestyle before the crowds really began rolling in with the Dotcom Bubble and the Post Summer-of-Love Exodus West. Never suffering through a real winter, never learning a foreign language (except maybe Spanish, but I don’t have a natural aptitude for languages anyway), never becoming the person who loves daily adventure and busting barriers, and instead just being blissfully ignorant as a Golden California Sunshine Slacker in Sandals. I’m sure I wouldn’t want my life any other way than it is now, to be sure. But every time I heard that train whistle, that odd lingering feeling of “this is a parallel universe” just kept coming back.

Meanwhile, I got to work. I had three speeches for various groups — one local human rights, one Japan-interest in Silicon Valley, and one at Cal Berkeley for the academics. All went well and were delightfully hosted. But my hosts kept on getting anonymous phone calls and emails from 2-Channelers (yes, that nice anonymized BBS which still owes me libel lawsuit money, see https://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html) who demanded they cancel my speeches and disinvite me. They were ignored. It’s ironic how people who enjoy freedom of speech to the point of even masking their identities will try to use it to deny those same freedoms to others…



Despite four weeks outside of Hokkaido, I didn’t return with my students once we got to Narita (I instead sent many parcels back north once I got off the plane using Yamato Takkyuubin — savoring how cheap and easy it all was compared to the US — which doesn’t even offer Surface Mail anymore), and instead immediately shinked to Hamamatsu. Never mind jetlag: I was put up on newfound friend Adam and Miyoko’s house (I hate air conditioning, but soon found it a necessary evil given how hot it was around Honshu — especially after summerless San Fran), gave a speech, and then trained over to Inuyama, to be hosted in a hotel beside the Kiso River (which had never even HEARD of the word “Internet”. They offered famous Comorant fishing as an alternative) and get to know one of Japan’s naturalized city councilors, Anthony Bianchi (now in his fifth year of office, reelected by huge margins). Then it was three days in an Osaka flophouse named Chuo Hotel near Japan’s most desperate slum, Airin Chiku (actually, at 2600 yen per night for a 3-tatami room, TV, air conditioning, clean facilities, and omnipresent wireless Internet, I recommend it. It’s run by Osaka Prefecture, see http://web.travel.rakuten.co.jp/portal/my/info_page_e.Eng?f_no=16328), readying myself for a speech for Osaka gaiben lawyers (who got University of California credit for my speech, yet told me at the end they wouldn’t pay me; that sucked).

Then it was four days in Nagoya in a delightful wooden house with Edward and Aki, who got me down for a three-day intensive course on Media Professionality (it was the best class I’ve ever taught; I even raved about it online in real time, see https://www.debito.org/?p=1898), with a class that was TWO THIRDS non-native speakers! (I anticipate multiculturalism making Japan’s colleges more collegiate, at last!). After a speech for forming NGO FRANCA Osaka (http://www.francajapan.org/), the schedule kicked up into high gear. It was the “If this is Tuesday” syndrome, with stops over with Aly in Saitama, Tyler Lynch in Nagano (with the very pleasant Kamesei Ryokan, now with new backpacker rates, see http://www.kamesei.jp/), Ben in Sendai (with Sendai FRANCA drawing very good crowds, http://sendaifranca.terapad.com/), and finally a nice packed speech in Kitakami, Iwate with Susan and her friends.

That was enough. After six and a half weeks on the road, one of the longest trips I’ve ever taken alone, and over a dozen speeches, I was ready to go home at last. The lag remains; I still don’t feel as though my home shower is mine yet, or that I’m finished living outside of my suitcase. There are indeed still more speeches to do this year (see them at https://www.debito.org/?page_id=1672), but I’ll take a breather while I can. Thanks to everyone for reading and helping out, and for making the trip a most memorable and successful one.

Arudou Debito
Back in Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, https://www.debito.org

Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Last day on the road, I’m finally heading home today after more than six weeks of living out of a suitcase.  It’s been a long and very productive trip (with well over a dozen speeches), but I can honestly say that I’m ready to be a homebody for a little while, and don’t want to look at a plane or shinkansen for at least a month.  Meanwhile, here’s an article that Tony Kehoe sent me this morning (thanks!), about the continuing adventures of the GOJ and the international child abduction issue.  It happens often enough in Japan between Japanese after divorce.  Here’s hoping that international attention will make things better for Japanese children of torn parents regardless of nationality–this system as it stands must not, for the children’s sake.  More referential links below.  Arudou Debito in Morioka


Family: Custody battle in Japan highlights loophole in child abduction cases

· Girls taken from UK on pretext, claims father 
· Courts ‘habitually’ side with Japanese parents


By Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Monday September 15 2008

Shane Clarke had no reason to be suspicious when his wife took their two children to Japan to see their ill grandmother in January.

The couple had married four years earlier after meeting online, and settled down with their daughters, aged three and one, in the west Midlands. Clarke, they agreed, would join his family in Japan in May for a holiday, and they would all return together.

Last week, however, he faced his wife and her lawyer in a Japanese courtroom, uncertain if he would ever see his children again. When his wife left the UK, Clarke now believes, she never had any intention of returning with him, or of letting her children see him.

“From the moment I met her at Narita airport I knew something was wrong,” Clarke told the Guardian before a custody hearing in Mito, north of Tokyo. “I soon realised she’d played me like a grand piano. The whole thing had been orchestrated,” he claims.

Clarke, a 38-year-old management consultant from West Bromwich, has gone to great lengths to win custody. The Crown Prosecution Service said his wife could be prosecuted in the UK under the 1984 child abduction act.

However, he can expect little sympathy from Japanese courts, which do not recognise parental child abduction as a crime and habitually rule in favour of the custodial – Japanese – parent.

Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of child abduction, which requires parents accused of abducting their children to return them to their country of habitual residence. He is one of an estimated 10,000 parents, divorced or separated from their Japanese spouses, who have been denied access to their children. Since the Hague treaty came into effect, not a single ruling in Japan has gone in favour of the foreign parent.

Campaigners say Japan’s refusal to join the treaty’s 80 other signatories has turned it into a haven for child abductors.

The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.

Japanese courts prefer to leave it to divorced couples to negotiate custody arrangements, Takase said. Officials say the government is looking at signing the Hague treaty, though not soon.

“We recognise that the convention is a useful tool to secure children’s rights and we are seriously considering the possibility of signing the convention, but we’ve yet to reach a conclusion,” said Yasuhisa Kawamura, a foreign ministry spokesman.

“We understand the anxieties of international parents, but there is no difference between the western approach and ours.”

Clarke’s two custody hearings this week did not go well. An interpreter arranged by the foreign office failed to materialise. The British embassy in Tokyo provided him with a list of alternative interpreters but said it could offer no more help.

The judge was forced to postpone his ruling, but Clarke is convinced he will never see his daughters again.

“We are talking about two British citizens, and no one will help me. The message our government is sending out to foreign nationals is that it’s perfectly all right for them to commit a crime on British soil, and as long as they leave the country quickly enough, they’ll get away scot-free.”


The rise in the number of parental child abductions has been fuelled by a dramatic increase in marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals. According to the health and welfare ministry, there were 44,701 such marriages in 2006, compared with 7,261 in 1980, the vast majority between Japanese and Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. An estimated 20,000 children are born to Japanese-foreign couples every year. Though Japan does not keep an official count, there are 47 unresolved cases of US children being taken to Japan – only Mexico and India are more popular destinations – and 30 involving Canadian citizens. British officials are dealing with 10 cases, a foreign office spokeswoman told the Guardian, including that of Shane Clarke.




More cases at the Children’s Rights Network Japan.

Good roundup of the issue at Terrie’s Take (issue 469, May 18, 2008)

ABC News on what’s happening to abducted children of American citizens. (Answer=same thing:  “Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.”)

What’s happening to Canadians:  The Murray Wood Case and Japanese courts ignoring Canadian court custody rulings in favor of the NJ parent.

And it happens to Japanese citizens too, thanks to the lack of joint custody and unenforceable visitation rights.


Archive: ディエンと右翼派反応、「日本移民列島」、外国人200万人突破 (June 1, 2006)


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

皆様こんにちは。有道 出人です。いつもお世話になっとおります。きょうのアップデートは:


Debito.org Newsletter J June 1, 2006  (転送歓迎)



 2006年5月13日から18日まで、「現代的形態の人種主義、人種差別、外国人嫌悪/排斥および関連する不寛容に関する特別報告者」のドゥドゥ・ディエン氏は、昨年7月の訪問かつ本年1月の国連へ日本国内差別の現状の報告のフォローアップをしました。招待者の人権擁護団体「反差別国際運動日本委員会」(IMADR-JC) の案内サイトは

 琉球新聞06年5月17日:「基地集中は差別 政府に是正再報告へ」

 東京と大阪訪問に関するニューズ報道(毎日、読売、共同通信のサイトではアーカイブを長期間的に検索する機能を設けてくれない)は持っていないので、すみません、英語のみの共同、Japan Times とVoice of Americaの記事は:

 私も大阪と東京での集会と記者会見に出席させていただきました。私の報告をもっと詳しく英語で記録したが (https://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#mayfollowup ) 、約言すると、ディエンのスピーチらのポイントは

 ● 人種差別と排外主義は一回対処法を採って放置するものではない。絶えず対処しないといけないものである。差別はそもそも突然「変化」する現象である。
 ● 人種差別と排外主義は全世界に更に拡散している。「反テロ措置」として最新の変化の現しである。
 ● 最大の政府レベルからも適切な対処法は撤廃の法整備のみではなく、差別などを指摘、賠償かつ罰則する整備も不可欠。
 ● 差別の現しはそもそも氷山の一角である。よって潜在的な排外主義の原因、差別の由来を対処するも不可欠。例えば、差別意識と意図はよく歴史から由来する。解決するために国連は援助ができる。例えば、UNESCOは以前アフリカ、中央アジア、及び中途アメリカの各国の歴史専門家を集めて、各国が認められる地方の歴史の本を発行し、国家間の摩擦の緩和ともなったようだ。同様に日中韓などの外交にとって役に立つのと思う。国連にそう推薦する。
 ● 取りあえず、ディエン氏は国連特別報告者として世界中の差別の実情を報告する。日本のみではなく、他国数カ国にも訪問し各国の締約した条約などの通りをどれくらい守っているのかを調査して報告する。よって、今回日本にてフォローアップを。





「曖昧なメ人権モ概念によって不自由社会を招来する亡国法案をメッタ斬り!これまでの運動の全記録と法案の思想的背景を徹底批判した待望のブックレット。ある日突然、人権擁護委員会から出頭命令。礼状なしの立ち入り調査。「人権侵害」と決め付けられたら氏名を公表、文句あるなら裁判しろ& …こんな恐ろしい法律がつくられようとしている。迫り来る先進国型全体主義の恐怖。」






1)日本の民族差別 人種差別撤廃条約からみた課題(明石商店)

2)多国籍ジパングの主役たち 新開国考(共同通信/明石書店)

3)知の鎖国 外国人を排除する日本の知識人産業(毎日新聞社)

4)「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)




外国人登録者:200万人突破 昨年末現在
毎日新聞 2006年5月27日 東京朝刊





毎日新聞 2006年5月31日








「最前線レポート 外国人に依存する地方都市の窮状」
「在日中国人女性が暴露!1日22時間働く 外国人就労の『暗部』」
















以上です!宜しくお願い致します!有道 出人
June 1, 2006



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

Hi All. Arudou Debito here. Yet another set of updates:


June 6, 2006


Well, guess what, it happened: Registered foreigners last year passed a benchmark. Pre-2000, this would have been heralded with media fireworks and ruminations on how international Japanese society is becoming. Nowadays however, since foreigners are constantly being portrayed as a source of social discord by the media and the profiting police forces, well… we’ll instead whisper the inevitable:

Mainichi Shinbun, Tokyo morning edition, May 27, 2006
(translation by Arudou Debito, not reported in English)

According to Immigration statistics released on May 26, as of the end of 2005 the number of registered foreigners was 2,011,555 (a 1.9% rise over 2004), the first time it has broken 2 million. This was a rise of 0.02%, to 1.57% of the total Japanese population. By nationality, North and South Koreans were at the top, with 598,687 people. There are also 519,561 Chinese, 302,080 Brazilians, 187,261 Filipinos, 57,728 Peruvians, and 49,390 Americans.

COMMENT: Notice that the largest growth in the foreign community is Brazilian. Rising from 286,557 souls last year to break 300,000, this means close to half of last year’s net increase of foreigners (15,523 of the 37,808) were Brazilians. As this is largest increase of Brazilians since 2001, the trend is accelerating.

And I don’t see it stopping on its own. Reported a friend on another list, who heralds from near Nagoya:
[The foreign population] is already over 3% in at least 6 cities in Aichi, and Toyohashi (until the recent mergers,usually the 2nd largest city in Aichi) is pushing close to 5%. Okazaki’s population is growing at about 300 a month, very little of it from natural increase, and 20% of the growth from new foreign arrivals.
The % of foreigners dropped below 3% due to a merger, but should be reached again well within 12 months. At least 4% by 2012.

Brazilian (and other foreign born) factory workers in Okazaki, Toyota and Toyohashi cities usually earn 33-380,000 a month including overtime, lower tier manufacturers simply cannot find native born workers willing to do these jobs in sufficient numbers.

Which makes a recent statement by one of the allegedly “more left-wing LDP members”, Kouno Taro, who is currently in the running to be then next Prime Minister, all the more ironic:



Mainichi Daily News, May 31, 2006 (English original)

A Justice Ministry panel studying an overhaul of Japan’s immigration administration is set to propose that the proportion of foreign residents to the nation’s population should be kept at 3 pct or below, Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday.

The proposal will be included in a draft package of immigration policy reform measures to be drawn up shortly, Kono, who heads the panel, told a press conference.

According to the ministry, foreign residents accounted for 1.2 pct of Japan’s population at the end of 2005.

By contrast, the proportion stood at 8.9 pct in Germany in 2001, at 11.1 pct in the United States in the same year and at 5.6 pct in France in 1999.

The panel is also considering requiring foreign nationals of Japanese ancestry to be fluent in Japanese and have regular jobs as conditions for their residency in Japan, Kono said.

Such people are currently allowed to live in Japan if they have relatives in the country.

The panel now believes it necessary to toughen the criteria because the number of problems caused by such residents has been increasing. (Jiji Press)

I see. So I guess it begs the question how this is going to be enforced. Compulsory birth control for the increasing number of foreign worker couples who decide to have children? Just kidding. I’m sure Mr Kouno just wants to man the barricades, for whatever reason (though I would like to know what these “increasing problems by such residents” are).

Pity he (and his ministry, which should know better) gets the figure for the percentage of the foreign population wrong. It hasn’t been 1.2 percent since around 1998! Worse yet is that the Mainichi Shinbun (which should also know better, as it reported the accurate figures not four days before), just parrots the incorrect information all over again. Shame on them. I’ve already sent a scolding through my Japanese mailing lists.

You can make your feelings known to Dietmember Kouno in four languages (see how “progressive” he is?) through his flash website at http://www.taro.org . One would hope, though, that somebody aspiring for international leadership would at least make policy pronouncements grounded on accurate information.

Still, I wonder how Toyota, Suzuki, Yamaha, Nissan, et al would feel about this proposed labor force cap. Close to two decades of “Foreign Trainee” workers, working for less than less than half wages, no social benefits, and no job security, are what’s keeping Japan’s labor costs down, stopping many of Japan’s major industries from relocating overseas. How about Toyota? In its national-pride push to finally overtake GM as the word’s leading carmaker, it’ll need even more cheap labor for the foreseeable future…

Anyway, back to the “increasing problems” chestnut:



Forwarded to me by a reporter friend, here is one of the most laughably fatheaded pieces on foreign crime I’ve ever read. Entitled “Sorimachi Speaks: Japan’s Criminal Justice System and Crimes Committed by Foreigners”, Sorimachi writes some pretty amazing social science (and in English too, perfect for forwarding to the UN). Some choice excerpts:

“The substantive and procedural laws of Japanese criminal justice presuppose a monolingual nation. It is axiomatic that this kind of nation will be very lenient towards offenders… However, Japan’s criminal justice system is on the verge of a crisis, faced with the internationalisation of crime and the underworld activities of foreign criminals resident in Japan brought about by globalisation…

“Examining the crime of theft, bold methods hitherto unimagined by Japanese offenders and not out of place in an action movie stand out. These include the widespread and systematic use of lock picking tools in theft following breaking and entering (so that access is gained in seconds), the use of cranes to steal automatic vending machines…”

[I guess that means the newly-imaginative Japanese also committing these crimes have been inspired by the more creative foreigners. How a rote-memorization education hitherto pacified an entire society!]

“It is not possible to get a grip on these cases using the investigative methods based on presumptions about fellow Japanese. New legislation has become necessary. It is desirable that the Wiretapping Law passed in August 1999 be made particular use of in the investigation of crimes committed by foreigners in Japan…”

[Yes, you read that right.]

“Japanese justice is said to be precise justice… It is doubtful whether this kind of process is entirely appropriate for the crimes of foreigners in Japan whose culture, code of conduct and standard of living are completely different… It is impossible to avoid the impression that, whilst in Japanese justice we see a model with a deep and rare lenient tinge, it is more and more the case that this precise justice is far removed from the prevention of recidivism in and rehabilitation of foreign offenders in Japan… Japan’s penalties are amongst the lightest in the world. This is because we have assumed offenders in Japan will be fellow Japanese.

“…The reality of crime committed by foreigners in Japan, which incurs waste in terms of time and money of Japan’s human and material capital is precisely that, activity interfering with the enjoyment of the nation. To put it in the extreme, it may be appropriate to classify all crime committed by foreigners in Japan as crime relating to the national legal interest.”

Grab a coffee and read the rest at:

Who is this guy? Some pundit in a policy thinktank/private-sector quasi-university, who according to a Google search seems to have the ear of quite a few people. Sorimachi’s profile in English:

Giving Sorimachi’s thesis its due, he essentially maintains that Japan’s “precise” justice system is not suited to dealing with foreigners. He then proposes that the policing and incarceration of them be toughened up, and that repatriation for trial back in their home countries be required as an adequate deterrent (as Japan’s jails are too sweet on their inmates).

Yow. Where to start. Okay, here: The major blind spot of these types of people people who wish to single out foreign crime for special attention is, well, what do you also say about the corresponding (and far higher numerically) rises in Japanese crime? Are foreigners to blame for that too? Alas, Sorimachi offers no insight or comparison, except to say that Japanese can be rehabilitated (it’s axiomatic, remember), while foreigners are incorrigible, and thus a threat to the “enjoyment of the nation” at large.

I’ve seen to it that the UN’s Dr Diene gets a copy of this screed, of course.



Last update I wrote about the “emergency publication” (kinkyuu shuppan) of a book on why Japan should have no human rights law, or a human rights committee to enforce it. Well, I had a better look at it. The authors’ thesis is one of garden-variety alarmism, that giving foreigners and general malcontents any power would lead to abuse.

For example, according to a quite well-rendered manga within, if you create any means for people to enforce their constitutional rights, you will get:

  • a) foreigners getting kicked out for picking fights in bars and then siccing the Human Rights Committee on the barkeeps,
  • b) colored foreigners forcing companies to hire them, then lying down on the job and getting away with it because of the HRC,
  • c) yakuza forcing their way into bathhouses, extorting money in the name of the HRC,
  • d) bigoted landlords being forced to rent their apartments to Chinese [yes, you read that right],
  • e) politicians (quoting another PM hopeful Abe Shinzou) unable to criticize Kim Jong-Il anymore…

It even compares the UN Diene Report (pg 154-155) to Iris Chang’s RAPE OF NANKING, and calls upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to buck up and combat this insult to “our country” and “our people”.

I should have a translation of the pertinent bits (maybe even a parody of the manga, a la Chibi Kuro Sanbo) out relatively soon. But for now, for you Japanese readers, scanned pages with comments at:

I’ve already passed the information on to my Japanese lists, with a list of books they can present policymakers as a counterweight to this propaganda.



I’ve written a number of articles in the past about the new proposed regulations for fingerprinting and registering foreigners (in the name of terrorism and disease prevention, natch). For example:

There’ll also be a pro-and-con article on this in today’s (Tuesday) Japan Times Community Page.

Well, now that the proposal has become law as of three weeks ago, here’s how things are starting to shape up. Forwarding from a friend who has Permanent Residency:

Check out these overviews of recently passed amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Apparently people like me and other registered aliens will be able to pass through automated gates on the basis of having complied with specific prior to departure. This is related to introduction of smart alien reg cards. Such automated gate passing has already been initiated in some other countries for nationals who apply and qualify.

律(平成18年5月24日法律第43号)」について (Japanese)

Law for Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee
Recognition Act (Law No. 43 of May 24, 2006) Enacted at the 164th Diet

I haven’t given these documents a thorough going-over yet, but there’s the information out there for those who need it.



Through March and April, friends exposed domestic travel agents (such as No.1 Travel and HIS) and their “Japanese Only” tickets and different pricing structures based upon nationality.

One thing suggested by some Internet BBSes was to make reservations with them, then cancel out of protest of this policy.

I’m wondering if this hasn’t caused some sort of reaction within the industry. I just tried to get an official travel estimate from Twinkle Plaza in Sapporo Station (I think it’s a member of the JTB group). And they tried to charge me 2000 yen just to put something on paper. I took my business elsewhere, of course, but is this happening to anyone else?



I wrote last time about the “Police Patrol Card” (junkai renraku caado), where cops visit your home and ask detailed questions about the occupants, their work and legal status, etc.

I got quite a few answers back from people who had experienced the same thing. Most, however, said they cooperated with the survey, seeing it as a valuable service (in case of emergency), or the mere expression of Japan as a “benign police state”. It tended to happen most often in the Kantou Area around Tokyo, less in the provinces. It’s never happened to me or any of my friends AFAIK up here in Sapporo.

However, the Japanese who responded, if they had been asked, refused to cooperate. Now, given my audience (mostly socially-conscious people) this is not a representative sample. Still, they found this procedure just as intrusive as I would, and said many of the details they would and should not be bound to divulge.

I talked to a lawyer. Responding to this police request for information is in fact optional. Which means: If the police show up at your door and you don’t feel like divulging this information, just take the card and say you’ll get back to them someday. Rinse and repeat. That’s what my Japanese respondents did, FYI.


All for today. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo



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

Hi All. Arudou Debito here. Updates:


May 27, 2006, freely forwardable


I received this information earlier this week from a friend in Tokyo, who said cops patrolling her area came to her door asking for personal information about her and her wherewithal in Japan.

Entitled the “Junkan Renraku Caado” and issued by the police forces, this A4-sized paper reads, in English (as this form is clearly designed for English-reading foreigners):

“This police officer is assigned to work in your area. His duties require him to establish rapport and maintain positive contact with community residents of his beat. As such he will occasionally call at your place of residence. These visits have a long history in the Japanese community and is [sic] not meant to be intrusive in nature. The activity is intended to provide the public with the best crime prevention and traffic awareness services the police can offer. We would also like to hear your difficulties, complaints, and opinions on community affairs, thereby helping us to serve our community better. On his first visit, the patrolman will be asking you to fill out this form. Information provided by you will be mainly used for communication purposes, should you suffer from crime, disaster, or traffic accident. Necessary precaution [sic] will be taken to maintain your privacy. Information provided by you will not be affected [sic] nor disclosed to third parties. We request your assistance in this matter. Thank you for your understanding.”
See a scanned copy of it here

Above this section are boxes in Japanese only asking for “Head of Household” (setai nushi) and patrolman details.

Below it are boxes in English and Japanese for filling out Home Address (in Japan) with phone number, Nationality, and Period of Stay. There are several rows for FAMILY MAKE-UP, with Name in Full, Relationship, Sex, Occupation/School, Alien Registration Certificate Number.

The bottom half has:
a) POINTS OF EMERGENCY CONTACT (Name and address of Householder’s business, Name and address of Householder’s School, Name and address of close friend or next of kin)

b) TENANTS OTHER THAN FAMILY (with the same information required as the above FAMILY MAKE-UP SECTION


Then finally,

Okay, here are some things I would write in this section:
1) Why are you asking me for this information?
2) What bearing does this information have on the stated goals of public prevention of crime, disaster relief, and traffic awareness?
3) Is filling out this form optional?
4) Do you gather all of this information from Japanese residents too?
5) If foreigners were allowed to have juuminhyou residency certificates, like all other residents of Japan who happen to be citizens, would you police need to come around to my house and collect it yourself?


Actually, in the time period spanning twenty years I have had contact with the Japanese police, I never once have had them come to my door and ask for anything like this. Yet I have heard so far that this has happened to two foreigners residing in Tokyo Nakano-ku and Shinjuku-ku. Anyone else? Let me know at debito@debito.org.

I will pass this on to one of my lawyers and ask whether or not filling this out is mandatory. Given that answering the Japan Census Bureau is completely optional, I have a feeling that filling this out would be optional too, at least for Japanese. (Ask your cop directly yourself: “Kore o ki’nyuu suru no wa nin’i desu ka?”)



Since a major overseas magazine will soon be doing a large article on foreign labor in Japan, I finally sat down and webbed something I keep referring to in my Japanese writings on immigration and foreign labor in Japan: Fifteen pages of a special report in Shuukan Diamondo (Weekly Diamond) economics magazine, concerning the importance of Immigration to Japan, which ran on June 5, 2004. All scanned and now available at:


Cover: “Even with the Toyota Production style, it won’t work without foreigners. By 2050, Japan will need more than 33,500,000 immigrants!! Toyota’s castle town overflowing with Nikkei Brazilians. An explosion of Chinese women, working 22 hour days–the dark side of foreign labor”

Page 32: “If SARS [pneumonia] spreads, factories ‘dependent on Chinese’ in Shikoku will close down”.

Page 40-41: Keidanren leader Okuda Hiroshi offers “five policies”: 1) Create a “Foreigners Agency” (gaikokujin-chou), 2) Create bilateral agreements to receive “simple laborers” (tanjun roudousha), 3) Strengthen Immigration and reform labor oversight, 4) Create policy for public safety, and environments for foreigner lifestyles (gaikokujin no seikatsu kankyou seibi), 5) Create a “Green Card” system for Japan to encourage brain drains from overseas.

Remember that powerful business league Keidanren was the one lobbying in the late 80’s and early 90’s for cheap foreign workers (particularly Nikkei Brazilians) to come in on Trainee Visas, working for less than half wages and no social benefits, to save Japanese industry from “hollowing out”.

Now that Keidanren boss Okuda has stepped down in favor of Mitarai Fujio (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20060525a3.html), it’s time to see what Keidanren’s new tack on foreign labor, if any, will be. At 7:50 AM yesterday morning, NHK interviewed Mitarai, and made much of his 23 years living overseas with foreigners (and his comments were, sigh, directed towards “understanding foreign culture and traditions”; when will we outgrow that hackneyed and sloppy analytical paradigm?). The interview made no mention of foreigners within Japan, however. Do I hear the sound of hands washing?



Last update, I gave a synopsis of Doudou Diene’s trip last week to Tokyo, Osaka, and Okinawa, sponsored by IMADR (available at https://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#May2006. I received a response from Trevor Bekolay, student at Kokugakuin University and University of Manitoba, who was at a meeting with Diene which I could not attend. Forwarding with permission:

Just to add to your email about meeting with UN Special Rapporteur
Diene, I as well had the opportunity to meet him at the public meeting
on May 13th at IMADR’s building. The meeting consisted of but 20
people [due to the short notice of the schedule]. Most of the points
that he made you already included in your email…

The three-hour meeting included statements from IMADR, the NGO
representative, Dr. Diene himself, then about half of the time was
allotted to questions from those who attended. Here are the notes I
made on what I heard:

“Dr. Diene received a fair amount of negative media coverage after the
initial UN report due to the possibility of omissions which are
believed to be added to Diene’s report. IMADR attempted to address
these problems in their open letter to Dr. Diene, but the purpose of
the meeting really, was for Diene to receive feedback on the report,
especially of issues that were omitted in the original report. He
stressed that one does not have to be in a group, any individual can
inform the Special Rapporteur of individual cases of racism and
discrimination which will immediately be acted upon. Basically, the
UN is starting to police Japan’s government more closely, to determine
if they should remain in Human Rights groups in the UN.

[Inform the Special Rapporteur via sr-racism@ohchr.org
(Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)]

“The report’s goal is to be the first step in starting social change,
not just a report on the current situation. The responsibility of
activist groups like IMADR is to inform Diene of new developments.
Give as much information as possible so he can give a good report to
the UN. Consider how the report can be used as part of the fight
against racism in Japan.

“Question Period: Mainly specific issues, such as pension issues for
disabled Zainichi Koreans. However, a representative for the Civil
Liberties Union seemed to be there to defend the Japanese right to be
racist. He mentioned the issue of freedom of expression vs. racial
discrimination. He claimed that freedom of expression isn’t well
protected in Japan, so only public servants are punished for making
racist remarks in public forums. He gave two examples of problems
with freedom of expression: one in which public servants who were
distributing political leaflets were arrested, and one in which
environmentalists were arrested by SD forces while distributing
political leaflets.”…


Well and good. Especially since the conservatives are now feeling threatened by Diene enough to start organizing and publishing: Witness this:



A friend who studies conservative politics in Japan called me up just before dinner tonight, to inform me of the “emergency publication” of a new book by “right-wing nutjobs” decrying the spread of human rights in Japan.

Entitled, “Abunai! Jinken Yougo Houan, Semari Kuru Senshinkoku kei Zentai Shugi no Kyoufu”
(“Warning! The Human Rights Protection Bill: The Imminent Terror of the Totalitarianism of the Developed Countries”, or somesuch), it was just published April 27 and is visible at:

Complete, my friend notes, with manga (what else?) lots of Chinese living in an apartment on top of each other in violation of housing contract, being found out by the landlord, and taking action against him “to defend their own human rights”. Or of a “gaijin” picking a fight with a Japanese in a bar, getting turfed out, then taking action against the bar for “violating his human rights”. Hoo boy.

It zeroes in on the Diene report in specific. Not quite sure how (as I haven’t gotten a copy of the book yet), but will let you know. I ordered two copies today and will send one to Diene at the UN for his perusal.



Last week I forwarded you an article from the Yomiuri entitled:
New ID card system eyed for foreigners
The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2006, still up temporarily at:

Well, here’s a letter I sent to the Yomiuri shortly afterwards:

Sir, Your article, “New ID card system eyed for foreigners” (May. 14, 2006), makes an unfortunate omission and even an error.

In its haste to portray the change in the Alien Registration system as little more than a centralization and rationalization of power, your article neglects to mention the new “Gaijin Cards” will have imbedded IC computer chips.

These chips will be used, according to government proposals, to track even legal foreigners in Japan through swiping stations nationwide. [*1] This is an unomissible change.

Your article errs when it reports, “an increasing number of foreigners do not register themselves at municipalities after gaining admission at the bureau or fail to report an extension of their stay”. In fact, according to Immigration, the number of illegal foreigners has gone down every year uninterrupted since 1993. [*2] Even the figure cited within the article, “at least about 190,000 illegal aliens as of January”, is still lower than the 2003 figure of 220,000 overstays.

In this era of exaggeration of foreign crime, please endeavor to provide us with accurate reportage.
Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan


[Note 1 for editors: Source, Japan Times, “Computer-chip card proposals for foreigners have big potential for abuse”, November 22, 2005.
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?appURL=fl20051122zg.html ]

[Note 2 for editors: Source: https://www.debito.org/crimestats.html , very bottom for an orange bar chart indicating the number of illegal aliens in Japan (courtesy of Immigration)]

Well, AFAIK it didn’t get published. Ah well. To be expected.



For the Diene visit, I put together a tape of media (TV shows and news broadcasts) concerning the Ana Bortz Case, the Otaru Onsens Case, and NHK’s portrayal of foreign crime. (Synopsis of the tape’s contents at https://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#video ).

If you would like a copy sent to you (for a nominal fee of, say, 1000 yen to cover tape, postage and handling, see https://www.debito.org/donations.html), please be in touch with me at debito@debito.org. Quite a few teachers are using this as classroom educational material on the subject of human rights. Be happy to help.



What is shaping up to be the last and best bilingual interview of the bunch just came out yesterday on Yamato Damacy.
Touching upon survival strategies in Japan, the future, and a special appearance of Tama-chan–probably the most successful issue we ever took up on The Community!



When I was having dinner with M. Diene on May 17 in Osaka, in attendance was a former vice-rector of a major Japanese university who paid me a wonderful compliment:

“I am in fact a quarter French. When I was younger, I really disliked the three-quarters of the Japanese side of myself that ridiculed my foreign background. But now no longer ashamed of my French roots. I’m even proud to be a Japanese. Because we have Japanese now like Arudou Debito who say the things I could never say.”

That was a tearjerker. Here I am just doing my thing, and it somehow helped an elderly gentleman overcome longstanding hurts he’d had for decades…

Arudou Debito

NJ baby left at anonymous “baby hatch”. Kokuseki wa? Eligible for Japanese! Er, yes, but…


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

Hi Blog. Sorry I’m not updating daily recently. I’m changing my bedroom every night (two nights ago it was Nagoya, last night Saitama, right now again at the delightful Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano), and don’t often know if I’ll have email access or time to write (part of meeting people is engaging in conversation for many hours–always a joy with the people I meet–but the only time I have alone is to sleep these days). Speech tomorrow I’ve got to work on tonight. so let’s see if I can do better.

Meanwhile, a friend who wishes to remain anonymous posted me the following article. Mutantfrog travelogue took it up, so let me post both.


Kyodo News Monday September 8, 8:09 PM

Foreign baby left at ‘baby hatch


(Kyodo) _ A baby with foreign nationality was left at Japan’s first “baby hatch” at a Kumamoto hospital, according to a report on Monday by a panel examining the practice.The interim report, submitted to the Kumamoto prefectural government, also noted a handicapped baby was left at Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto.

Details of the two cases were not immediately available.

It has already been reported that a total of 17 infants were left anonymously at the baby hatch between its opening on May 10, 2007, and March 31 this year.

Reiho Kashiwame, a professor of child welfare at Shukutoku University who heads the panel, said, “We have decided to make our report public in order to stir debate (on the baby hatch).”

The panel will compile its final report next year.



The friend replies:


This kid should be eligible for the almost never used Article 2.3 acquisition of J-citizenship:

第2条 子は、次の場合には、日本国民とする。

COMMENT:  So, er, this means that if the baby was provably born in Japan, not of provable parents, and stateless, the baby gets Japanese nationality?

Great, but if news about this loophole gets out, I can see a lot of a strong incentive for NJ having an incentive to drop their babies off in the baby hatch now just to get their baby into Japan as a citizen.  This is how warped Japanese citizenship laws are.  Another issue earlier this year, involving a Supreme Court case and one Japanese spouse insufficiently acknowledging (as far as the law is concerned), even questions their constitutionality.

But I don’t see how item three above, which says (my translation), “in the case the child was born in Japan, but if one doesn’t know the parents, or if [the baby or the parents, unclear which] doesn’t have Japanese nationality, …then the baby becomes a Japanese national”, could ever be enforced.  Or even why this provision exists.

Turning the keyboard over to Joe Jones at Mutantfrog:


Don’t blame the hospital; blame the newswire

September 8th, 2008 by Joe Jones

Courtesy http://www.mutantfrog.com/2008/09/08/dont-blame-the-hospital-blame-the-newswire/


In the news today:

A baby with foreign nationality was left at Japan’s first “baby hatch” at a Kumamoto hospital, according to a report on Monday by a panel examining the practice.

baby hatch, for those of you who don’t know, is a place where people can essentially drop off children who are unwanted or who cannot be cared for, no questions asked.

I was a bit curious when I read this story, asking one question: How do you know the baby is of foreign nationality when someone anonymously left it somewhere? It wouldn’t be right to judge that based solely on physical appearance. In fact, under Japanese law, if a child is born in Japan and the identity of both parents is unknown (or if both parents are stateless), the child is considered a Japanese national—the only way to acquire nationality by jus soli here.

Then Asahi Shimbun added some clarity to the story. According to their report, there are ten cases of baby drop-offs in which the source of the baby was clear. In two of those cases, the mother came by herself and dropped the baby off. There were also cases “where both parents were zainichi gaikokujin,” i.e. special permanent residents of Korean/Chinese descent who are largely indistinguishable from Japanese nationals, “and where grandparents and males deposited [the child].”

So Kyodo was being a bit too vague for information’s sake: the kid was not visibly foreign, but rather they deduced the kid’s foreignness from the nationality of the parents. Now let’s see what happens when a really foreign kid gets dropped in one of these hatches…

Comments?  Arudou Debito in Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano

Reader AS voices concerns re Softbank regulations and Japanese Language Proficiency Test


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Finally got done with my marvelous class (a joy from start to finish, we went several hours overtime just discussing the issues), and been too busy to revise my blog every night revising my powerpoints to reflect the threads of our conversation. So let me forward this germane email and open a discussion about issues regarding Softbank and the JPLT.

Arudou Debito in Nagoya, tomorrow Saitama, then Nagano, Sendai, and Iwate on successive days…


Dear Mr. Debito Arudou,

Hello. My name is AS. Currently, I am living in Gifu Prefecture. I am long time reader of your blog and a great admirer of you and your work for the foreign community in Japan. I have two concerns that I would like to dicuss with you. If you want, you have my consent to publish these comments on your blog for an open discussion.

1) Questioning the request of the Japanese Proficiency Test to show a passport or a gaikokujin card as an ID. When a person applies for the JLPT, they recieve a manual regarding the way of applying for the test, how to take the test, and other various guidelines and rules that may apply to taking the test. One of these guidelines is that you must show either a passport or an alien registration card as a form of I.D. To quote the manual, under the topic of what to bring to the test.

  • 1. Test voucher
  • 2. Writing Instruments
  • 3. Lunch.
  • 4. Identification (passport or alien registration card)

I have no problems with numbers 1 to 3, but with number 4, I have a major problem. Why do they ask only for either a passport or an alien registration card? Why do I have to show either one of these to prove my identification? Isn’t either a Japanese driver’s license or a Japanese insurance card a form of valid I.D.? Also under Japanese law, isn’t illegal for someone to ask you for a alien registration card or a passport that isn’t a police officer or an immigration officer? I am just wondering about these questions because the JPLT is targeted to towards foreigners who want to measure their Japanese comprehension in form of a test. In my mind, it looks the NPA deputized another group of people (first one being hotels and their front desk) to gather information about foreigners. I am wondering what is your take on this and any advice to an individual that is more willing to show their insurance card instead of their passport or their alien registration card to the proctors of the test.

2) Questioning the policy at Softbank requiring long term foreign residents to pay a lump-sum payment for a cell phone if their period of stay in Japan is less then 27 months. Here is my story: Yesterday I want to a Softbank shop in order to get a new plan and cell phone. I wanted a new plan and cell phone for a while and current 2 year contract was about to expire. I want to shop and was looking at various cell phones. A sales associate came over to help with decide in choosing a new model. I choose a cell phone that I wanted to get and the sales assoicate with very helpful with decribing the current price structure for the phones. If I wanted a new phone, I would have a pay a x amount for over 24 months, the lenght of the contract. I said that was fine with me. She continued to laid out the cost of the phone over the 24 month period and the cost of the monthly phone bill in relation to my new plan with cost of the mobile phone. Up to this point, I was happy and pleased with the service of Softbank. When processing my order, the sales associate asked my lenght of my visa. I was surprised by this because I have been a customer with Softbank for over the lenght of stay in Japan ( a little over 4 years now) and I have never been asked once the length of my visa. So, I told here that my visa is going to expire next July. I have a currently a three year instructor visa that is going to expire next year in July. I am planning on renewing my visa next year and continue to live in Japan. At this point, I was surprised and little bit frustrated and angry at the sales associate. However, this is where things become surprising and frustrating for me. Before when discussing my the cost of my phone and the plan that I was going get, the sales associate informed that my cost cell phone is zero. It will cost me nothing. Howver now with the information of the current lenght of my visa, she informs that I will have to buy my cell phone for 40,000 yen. I was completely shocked and gobsmacked by this. She informed that since my visa is less then the lenght of my contract I will have to provide a lump sum payment of 40,000 payment in order to recieve my phone. I have never paid for my cell phones (currently 2 different models within 4 years and the last change happening about 2 years ago). I was not happy to put down 40,000 yen for a cell phone. It is a lot of money. At the end of the experience, I did not get a new cell phone but I got my plan.

My question to you: What can be done to make Softbank realize that their policies are downright racist and bias against foreigners that do not have a visa of 3 years or more? Of course I am assuming that marriage visas of any length are fine. Many of my friends and acquaintances have a visa of one year. My one friend who has been living in Japan for 3 years but is always getting a one year visa from immigration. What can my friend and I do in a situation in that we have to pay a lump sum payment for a cell phone now but in the past we could get a cell phone with no questions asked or paying for a cell phone? And also, when did Softbank (a company that has large long term foreign residents as customers) entacted a policy of asking the term of one’s visa lenght and requesting a lump sum payment for a cell phone if the customer a lenght of Japan under 27 months. Why 27 months and not 24 months (the lenght of the contract)? Why they have contract lenght of 24 months and not 12 months (the lenght of lot of visas issued by immigration)? What can be done about this?

Thank you for reading this lengthy e-mail.

Sincerely, AS, a 4 year long term foreign resident of Japan


Having a phenomenal experience at Nagoya University with multiculturalism


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

Hi Blog.  Just a quick word tonight, since I have to prepare for tomorrow’s classes.

I just wanted to write that I’m having a phenomenal experience at Nagoya University at the moment teaching an intensive course on media professionality and responsibility.  (This is the first time I’m teaching this course, from scratch, with lots of powerpoint slides.)

I have two Japanese, two Chinese, and a Mongolian student attending.  All of them are sharp, interested, engaging, and so lively in discussion that I have trouble sometimes getting a word in to steer the lesson back to the current point!  (That alone is phenomenal, given my two decades of teaching quiet classes.)  Six hours flew by without pause to look at our watches.

But even more breathtaking is that two-thirds of the class, myself included, are not native speakers.  And of course, we’re doing everything in Japanese, from newspaper articles to reading sections of UN treaties and government statements out loud.  We’re communicating at an extremely high level in a second language that many of us (well, me, actually, back in the haughty Bubble years when I first arrived here) were once told that foreigners could never learn to speak, read, or write in any useful facility.  Boy, were the naysayers wrong.  

Moreover, having the perspectives of other Asians in the classroom is marvelous given the collective experiences we all bring of overseas media perspectives and attitudes.  Creates a dynamic that is collegiate and international in the best sense.  I think it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever taught, and it’s only been the first day.

Makes me hopeful for Japan’s future as a multicultural, multiethnic, quite possibly even multilingual society.  It’s gonna happen.  I feel as though I’ve got a front-row seat watching it emerge.

Arudou Debito in Nagoya



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

Hi all. Tokyo Trip report:


May 23, 2006


I met M. Doudou Diene for the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth times over two days (May 17 and 18) in Osaka and Tokyo respectively. In Osaka, he attended a hearing of human rights groups and a dinner. In Tokyo, he gave a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ), and attended a hearing for Dietmembers in an Upper House conference room (BLL rep Matsuoka Tohru and Shamintou Party Leader Fukushima Mizuho attended, while several other Dietmember offices sent their meishi with regrets; no contact whatsoever, sadly, from Tsurunen Marutei’s office). There were also several other meetings I could not attend in his very busy six-day schedule, available at https://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#May2006

M. Diene listened attentively to all speakers, then comments about his role in the fight against racial discrimination worldwide. As Special Rapporteur, although he does represent the UN in name and ideal, Diene does not receive a salary from the UN or any interest group. He thus is not beholden to anyone and has the freedom to pick his sites of investigation. His procedure is to talk to both the members of civil society and the government (he formally requests to speak to the highest echelons of any local and national government; they can and do refuse), then give his recommendations based upon his findings. His reports to the UN, by the way, do not focus exclusively on Japan; his backlog of articles and movements elsewhere may be found on the United Nations website by typing “Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene” on their search engine, at

I did not audio record Diene’s speeches, but to paraphrase his points from memory:

1) Racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance is not something you deal with just once–it is something you keep combatting, as it is a mutating phenomenon. Which is one reason he returned to Japan this time on the invitation of rights group IMADR (www.imadr.org), to follow up on his July 2005 initial visit and January 2006 report.

2) Racism etc. is on the increase worldwide. More governments are using the new mutation of intolerance–i.e. the fear of terrorism–as a means of justifying increased discrimination and decreased civil liberties for peoples within their borders. Meanwhile, more politicians are bringing xenophobia out of the political fringes and using them for populist purposes during election campaigns. Even prominent intellectuals are using increasingly sophisticated arguments to justify what amounts to racist practices and increased intolerance (he cited Samuel Huntington’s book “Who Are We?”, an extension of Huntington’s earlier thesis that cultures inevitably clash, as an intellectual’s view of foreigners threatening an “American Creed’).

3) To combat racism, one needs the rule of law and policy measures at the highest levels of government to expose and deal with it (which is where Japan is particularly culpable, as it lacks a law forbidding racial discrimination). There must be a means to address, redress, and punish.

4) However, racism is merely the tip of the iceberg–one must also have an intellectual and ethical strategy. The expression of underlying attitudes and values in a society is what encourages negative reactions towards peoples on a grand scale. Education is essential to change those attitudes, along with a complete rewrite of history to remove bones of contention: problematic interpretations of the past along nationalistic lines. He proposed that UNESCO convene an assembly of the best historians from all countries within a region, and write an agreed-upon historical account to resolve future disputes and ameliorate potential frictions between countries and peoples. (UNESCO, he notes, has already done this on the genesis of Africa, Central America, and Central Asia.) Unless you deal with the deeper root causes of intolerance, there is little hope for a lasting resolution of it, he concludes.

5) Until then, Diene intends to file his reports with the UN in the considerations of the promises Japan has made to the international community, gauging how closely Japan is following the international instruments it has signed.

6) Now that Japan has been elected to the newly-formed UN Human Rights Council, with 46 other member states (see Kyodo brief at http://www.crisscross.com/jp/news/372161), Diene welcomes Japan’s increased responsibility and international scrutiny of its own internal human rights issues.
(More on this new Human Rights Council at:

http://www.un.org/ga/60/elect/hrc/ )


COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Frankly, I found M. Diene’s breadth, depth, and accomplishment of thought–on both the concept of discrimination and the strategy for securing human rights–to be breathtakingly inspiring. Now here is a man I am happy to have in a position of spokesman for our cause, not only because he knows what he’s talking about, but also because he actually *CARES* about the outcome for people around the world (and must be tirelessly processing an enormous amount of information during his travels!). He shows a tenacity of belief and action that I can only hope to emulate somehow. Although I don’t share (yet) his faith that Japan will actually feel any more compunction to create an anti-discrimination law by mere dint of being on the Human Rights Council, I am willing to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, and gear up to make the case later before the Council myself that Japan’s legislative, administrative, and judicial branches have little to no intention to follow the treaties it signs.

To that end, in addition to the folder and video of referential materials I gave him
(see https://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#may2006 for contents),

I also included a second folder with reports regarding, inter alia, Japan’s awful record vis-a-vis international divorce (and its status as extralegal haven for child abductions, see http://www.crnjapan.com), the potential further targeting of foreigners in specific under the proposed Conspiracy Law (“Kyoubozai Houan”, citing the al-Qaeda witch hunt of 2004 and the Himu Case, see https://www.debito.org/japantimes102305detentions.html ), and issues involving foreign educators and the parochial house renting “guarantor system”. Let’s hope it all means something in the end.

(For those who wish to contact M. Diene with a concern (he said several times that he is emailable), his email address care of the UN is sr-racism AT ohchr.org. Address it specifically to Doudou Diene. Mention my name if you want.)


Eric also attended the May 17 Osaka Meeting (although the Japan Times was sadly absent from the Tokyo venues). This is what how he portrayed the event:

Racism rapporteur repeats criticism
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer

The Japan Times: Thursday, May 18, 2006

OSAKA — The U.N. rapporteur on racism repeated Wednesday his strong criticism of the Japanese government’s attitude toward combating the problem, saying the country needs an antidiscrimination law.

“Japanese human rights groups and others, in linkage with the international community, can move toward creating an antidiscrimination law which will hopefully lead to addressing the deeper causes of racism and xenophobia,” said Doudou Diene, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Meeting in the afternoon with nearly three dozen human rights representatives, including foreigners’ rights activists, Diene heard about the discrimination faced by the Korean, Okinawan, and Japanese-Brazilian communities, as well as descendants of the former “buraku” outcast class, and about specific incidents of government and corporate discrimination against foreigners.

In a scathing report released in January, Diene said racism in Japan is deep and profound.

At Wednesday’s meeting, he repeated the call in his report for the government to protect its ethnic and cultural minorities through legislation outlawing racism.

Diene’s report pointed out that Japan is party to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, but has not yet ratified a U.N. convention to protect migrant workers.

The January report came nearly six months after Diene, at the invitation the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism Japan Committee, traveled around the country meeting with representatives of the Ainu, “buraku” descendants, and Korean communities as well as foreign migrant workers.

On this current unofficial visit, also arranged by IMADR, Diene came to Okinawa on Saturday and met local government officials and residents opposed to the U.S. bases.

After speaking Monday to people living near U.S. Kadena Air Base who have filed a lawsuit about the noise near, Diene told reporters he heard the noise from F-15s taking off from Kadena and better understood the situation after talking to them.

Diene also met people living beside the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and later toured the waters off the marines’ Camp Schwab near Nago, where a replacement facility will be built.

Diene was to have meetings with Foreign Ministry officials and human rights lawyers in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Diene report and his visits — last July and this week — have drawn a mixed reaction here.

Human rights activists have welcomed it for detailing the economic, social and political discrimination that various ethnic and cultural minorities face and for urging the government to adopt national antidiscrimination legislation.

Critics, however, have said the report is flawed because Diene is in Japan at the behest of a group with a political agenda.

They have charged that the Japan portrayed in his report reflects only the views of IMADR and its allies, and the paper is not an objective analysis of the situation for minority groups. As of this week, the Diene report and his recommendations have been endorsed by 77 groups in Japan, including human rights organizations, religious groups and unions.

“My report does reflect certain limitations. I am only in a given country for about 10 days, and I have not been able to meet everybody I would have liked to meet,” Diene said.

Kyodo’s take in English here:
Voice of America’s take, with a photo of Diene (and, ahem, yours truly):
The Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shinbun (Japanese), with headlines reading “The concentration of US bases, noise, and environmental destruction is discrimination towards Okinawa”:
(Finally, someone goes down there to survey the situation! Even former President Bill Clinton irresponsibly refused to accept former Okinawa Governor Ota’s invitation to visit in the late 1990’s.)

Final word on Diene for the moment: His trips have been an enormous boost for the human rights groups in Japan, and his statements have legitimized for the whole world to see the issues that Japan’s emerging civil society have been taking up for years. The government (there was AFAIK no Diene meeting with PM Koizumi or with Tokyo Gov. Ishihara. Again) and the Japanese media again generally turned a blind eye. But I have a feeling that with M. Diene, there will be more follow-ups. I hope to see him again, next time in Geneva, very soon.



Another highlight of this trip was meeting up with a reporter from the Italian press at the FCCJ, who had actually read my book JAPANESE ONLY (I want to hug anyone who does!), and who invited me to join him as a guest at the Japan Press Club for Kofi Annan’s hourlong press conference on May 18.

More on Annan’s trip to Japan and South Korea at:

Attended by all the major press, Annan gave a masterful presentation (would not expect anything less of a world leader of his calibre) with the appropriate gravitas, wit, and sincerity. He was excellent at avoiding pointing fingers at specific countries, explaining earnestly why he would not broach certain topics, and giving you the feeling that he was not dodging questions while necessarily doing so. I was aglow at how well he did it. Learned a lot.

Three examples (paraphrased from memory, not quotes; all rendering errors mine):

1) How to dodge a question effectively:

When asked about what was talked about with that day’s meeting with the Emperor, Annan said:

“If I were to disclose what is talked about every time I meet a monarch or emperor, it will get around. And the next time we meet, we will only talk about the weather or their grandchildren. I do not want this to happen. So I don’t want to go into details on this. I will say, however, that we did talk about important world issues of the day and that we had a very constructive conversation.”

2) How to rebuke criticism:

When asked about the illegality of the Iraq war and the irrelevance of the UN regarding unilateral action by “coalitions of the willing” led by the US:

“People are tending to see the UN as irrelevant. However, you must realize that it is not just something out in space like a satellite. The UN is made up of those countries, it IS those countries, even those critical of the UN, and they make the UN what they put into it. We are not a pacifist organization–we understand the use of force at the appropriate, agreed-upon juncture, and have used it from time to time as the record shows. We do not see coalitional action like this as constructive. The UN is doing the best job it can, but for it to work people have to be willing to work within it. Going outside of it when you do not get your way is not in my view the best path.” [or something to that effect–grand paraphrasing here]

3) Asking the question:

You know I was tempted to raise my hand–it’s not every day you could ask a question to the leader of the United Nations! However, only authorized journalists are allowed to raise their hand at these functions. Fortunately, my reporter friend did it for me:

Question: “Japan yesterday passed a law reinstating fingerprinting for foreigners (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060518a2.html). Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene is also here investigating the situation of racism and xenophobia within Japan. Do you have any comment concerning Japan’s election to the Human Rights Council and its domestic situation vis-a-vis xenophobia?”

Annan’s answer: “I was unaware that Japan had passed this law. I am aware that Diene is here but we have not met to discuss his trip or findings. I am distressed that many countries worldwide are increasingly legislating xenophobic tendencies in the name of fighting terrorism, and I would hope that people will understand that legislating away civil liberties for peoples within its borders is not the proper path to take.”

Best we could have hoped for in this situation. A seed is planted.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hello All. Let me just tie up some loose ends before the UN events get underway:

1) ROGUES’ GALLERY UPDATE MAY 2006: Ikebukuro, Hiroshima, and Okinawa

May 16, 2006

1) ROGUES’ GALLERY UPDATE MAY 2006: Ikebukuro, Hiroshima, and Okinawa

With the UN’s visit, people have been sending me more photos for inclusion on the Rogues’ Gallery
a website cataloging “Japanese Only” signs to demonstrate how discrimination unchecked by any law spreads nationwide.

The new total of twenty cities includes three new entries:

HIROSHIMA (allegedly a bar)

OKINAWA URUMA CITY (a billiards hall)
B-Ball Sutagio, Uruma-shi Midori Machi 4-8-10, ph 098-975-0205

Submitter of the sign Jeff Norman notes:
“I ran into the manager of this store and asked him about this policy… He stated that it wasn’t discrimination, just that no one was able to speak English there. When I asked him if there were a large number of foreign pool players, he said no and that there had never been a problem with any foreign patrons. He went on to add that he had spoken with an American relative by marriage and that relative had suggested to him that he do this to avoid any trouble. He claimed that he would consider my opinion on the matter. The amazing thing here is that there really doesn’t appear to be any need for this sign or discriminatory policy at all, but yet it exists. Lastly, the question that is always left in my mind is how can a ‘Japanese Only’ sign not be considered discriminatory?”

For good measure, I have also added to the very top of the Rogues’ Gallery a map of the Japanese archipelago, pinpointing the cities where “Japanese Only” signs and exclusionary policies have been found. That’s



I wrote over the course of April and early May about major Japanese travel agencies H.I.S. and No. 1 Travel (which make a good living off the foreign community in Japan) having “Japanese Only” fares, and large mark-up fares for non-Japanese customers.

H.I.S. said they would cease this practice. They still, however, maintain a site with different fares by nationality:

I have a feeling this story might have legs. So I created a bilingual information site with screen captures of “Japanese Only” fares on their website, an mp3 recording of an H.I.S. Iidabashi clerk explaining why foreigners are charged more than Japanese (courtesy of Jason and friend), and emailed correspondence from an H.I.S. customer service rep.


Already there is talk of people calling the agencies, creating an elaborate itinerary, then cancelling it later on to drive home just how distasteful and damaging discriminatory pricing is. For after all, apparently this is apparently not the first time these travel agencies have been caught offering differential fares, or promising to stop doing it…



Last month I passed on a April 17 Sankei Shinbun article in Japanese talking about the increase in international marriage (www.sankei.co.jp/news/060417/sha065.htm, although the link is now dead). I mentioned that I hadn’t tracked down the source of the Sankei’s stats. Well, friend Nakai-san found it:


In Japanese. There’s a lot there, including marriages, births, divorces, etc. for 2004. Something to print out and pore over (which I will do if and when I find some time). Anyone want to beat me to the punch and put out a report?



Very entertaining site Yamato Damacy keeps putting out weekly video podcasts, offering interviews of people on the street and cute harmless capers.

Then they interviewed me on rights issues in Japan for four hours last March (thanks), and so far have put out three fifteen-minute excerpts:


(NB:  Links are now dead:  now find them on You Tube)

Bilingual. Google video. I think these are a very good introduction to the issues, and to the potential of a multicultural, multilingual Japan.



I received this from friend Larry the other day. Now, while my focus is generally Japan human rights stuff, this article by the Boston Globe (April 30th), on the Bush Administration’s bypassing Congress in legislative enforcement, is stunning. I think the journalist should get a Pulitzer for this.

“President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.” Very thoroughly continued at

Interview on NPR’s Terry Gross with the reporter at
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5392733 (Click on the “LISTEN”)

It’s an amazing portrayal of the rot which ensues when one party pulls the levers.



A good primer on a very controversial law, the Kyoubouzai Houan, currently being debated in the Diet, which the media and the lawyers groups have been railing against for quite some time now. It’s another step in the direction of the police-power state, which with enough fears stoked of terrorism may indeed come to pass if we are not careful. Forwarding:

The return of ‘thought crimes’ in Japan
By Scott North
Asia Times May 12, 2006


Japan’s government is pushing for the passage of an anti-conspiracy law with potentially far-reaching consequences. Called the Kyoubouzai Hoan (conspiracy or collusion law), the legislation appears headed for passage in the diet (parliament) as soon as next week. In its present form, it could result in Japanese citizens being detained or punished for merely agreeing with one another.

In combination with another statute that permits detention without charge, the new law could have a chilling effect on civil liberties, including freedoms of speech and assembly and the right to organize. Domestic critics of the plan say it evokes comparison with the pre-World War II Peace Preservation Law, which made opposing the war a thought crime. The proposed statute is a vaguely worded, two-sentence amendment to an existing law. It defines “conspiracy” as an agreement, whether overt or tacit, fanciful or earnest, between two or more people that might be construed as planning to violate any statute for which the minimum sentence is four years or more. There are currently 619 such statutes, and more could be added by changing the minimum sentence guidelines.

Lawyers say that a husband and wife imagining nefarious ways to get back at their landlord for raising their rent fit the amendment’s definition of a “group” planning criminal activity. Labor-union members brainstorming ways to resist harsh workplace practices could be held for colluding to violate laws that prohibit interfering with business activity. Teens discussing how to hot-wire cars could be held on conspiracy charges even if they did not attempt to act on their knowledge.

Simply belonging to a group or being in the same room where such conversations take place could make a person subject to the new law. No crime need be actually carried out for the police to detain suspects. Failing to report overheard conspiratorial talk could be construed collusion.

In the postwar era, Japanese law has generally punished only crimes actually committed or attempted. In cases such as murder or arson, prison time is sometimes given to accomplices who knowingly provide weapons or gasoline. However, punishment for conspiracy alone has been limited to rare cases of sedition.

The statute promises co-conspirators who reveal plans to the police reduced sentences or immunity from prosecution. People fear the new law would encourage self-censorship or spying in non-profit organizations, churches, labor unions, and political groups. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, as well as protections against searches and seizures, could be rendered null. Various forms of cyber-communication could be mined for incriminating agreements.

Much would depend on enforcement. Japan’s police have a well-documented tendency to assume the guilt of those detained and have been known to conduct lengthy interrogations aimed at extracting confessions, rather than exerting themselves in pursuit of corroborative evidence. New detention facilities currently under construction give domestic observers pause to consider the government’s motives for bringing this law now. The ruling party’s smug reluctance to acknowledge the amendment’s shortcomings or extend debate on the matter is also cause for concern.

The rationale for the legislation is that Japan is a signatory to a United Nations treaty designed to stop international organized criminal activity. But the draft amendment makes no mention of the treaty, which Japan’s UN representatives originally opposed as unnecessary. A Kyoto student group used Japan’s version of the US Freedom of Information Act to get the transcripts of the committee that drafted the amendment. They reportedly received pages in which most of the text had been blackened out.

Japan already has domestic laws against organized criminal groups. The new conspiracy provision raises the specter that much daily speech and activity could be criminalized or made subject to police scrutiny, if not immediately, then at some time in the future.

Japan should reflect on the historical lesson that threats born of free thought and speech are nothing compared with the corrosive power of unchecked authority. One need look no further than Guantanamo Bay or Japan’s own history for persuasive examples of why this amendment is unnecessary.

Scott North PhD is associate professor, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University.


Speaking of policing:

(Quick comment at the end)
New ID card system eyed for foreigners

The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2006
Original Japanese at
Courtesy of Tony and Mark

In an attempt to make it easier to spot illegal aliens, the central government is likely to handle admission and registration services for foreigners, and issue identification cards that prove the holders are legal residents in Japan, sources said Saturday.

For that purpose, the government is likely to change the Alien Registration Law, which stipulates municipal governments must issue foreign residents with registration cards.

Under the new measure, the Immigration Bureau issues a different form of registration card for foreigners who wish to stay in the country for a defined period.

The government may submit a revision bill for the law to the ordinary Diet session in 2008 at the earliest. The revised law may be enforced in fiscal 2009.

The law stipulates that foreigners, after being admitted by the Immigration Bureau, are supposed to register with the municipal government where they are living within 90 days of their arrival in Japan, providing their name, nationality, address and other information. Foreign residents who wish to change the period of their stay or their residential status are required to report to their municipal office after getting permission from the Immigration Bureau.

As of the end of 2004, about 1.97 million foreigners–a record high–were registered. On the other hand, as an increasing number of foreigners do not register themselves at municipalities after gaining admission at the bureau or fail to report an extension of their stay, it has become increasingly difficult to spot illegal aliens. The Justice Ministry estimates there were at least about 190,000 illegal aliens as of January.

The Alien Registration Law, which covers all foreigners, except those who stay for a short period, does not forbid the issuance of foreign resident registration cards to illegal aliens. The government says banning the issuance of the card to illegal aliens would cause legal contradictions, such as seeing illegal aliens without the card not be defined as foreigners.

Municipalities issue identification cards to illegal aliens that describe their holders as having no right to stay in Japan. However, some companies have mistakenly hired illegal aliens with such cards.

To improve the situation, the Justice Ministry plans to set up a system to issue foreign residents with cards each time they renew their residential admission or extend their stay, so illegal aliens without a card can be more easily spotted.

On each card, the holder’s name, nationality, birthday, passport details, residential status, address, school or company name and other information will be shown. Under the new system, when foreign residents change their workplace or school, their new employer or school will be obliged to report to the bureau. The ministry expects the cards will make it clear their holders are not illegal aliens. Also, foreign residents will not have to visit both the government and municipality offices to go through procedures to get residential status.

The municipalities, which need to hold some information on their foreign residents, are likely to retain lists of foreign residents. The ministry will discuss the matter with the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and other related entities.

The government is likely not to issue the card for special permanent residents, such as South and North Koreans.

(May. 14, 2006)

COMMENT: Tony remarked to say that as written he didn’t see how this would change the current situation, except centralize the database, and plug a hole where illegal aliens could get Gaiijin Cards.

There is, however, no mention in the article of the IC Chip proposed to be imbedded in future Gaijin Cards, or swiping stations to track even legal foreigners as they move about within Japan, as I wrote about last November in the Japan Times:

This being the Yomiuri, inconvenient facts like that are often omitted.

Not to mention misreported. The section reading, “as an increasing number of foreigners do not register themselves at municipalities after gaining admission at the bureau or fail to report an extension of their stay” is blatantly untrue. See https://www.debito.org/crimestats.html , very bottom for an orange bar chart indicating the number of illegal aliens in Japan (courtesy of Immigration). The number has GONE DOWN EVERY YEAR UNINTERRUPTED since 1993. Even the figure cited within the article above, “at least about 190,000 illegal aliens as of January” is still lower than the 2003 figure of 220,000 overstays.

Sorry, sounds like there’s some sugar coating, atop a base of consensus manufacturing, going on. I’d expect nothing less from the Yom. Pity I can’t find a “letters to the editor” section on the Daily Yomiuri website to advise them of their error.


All for now. See you in Osaka and/or Tokyo this week!

Arudou Debito



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

5)「鳥取県人権侵害救済推進及び手続に関する条例」について私のJapan Timesコラム
May 7, 2006 転送歓迎

萱野茂さん死去 アイヌ文化を伝承 79歳、民族初の国会議員 
 2006/05/07 10:36
萱野 茂さん*まいた種どう育てるか(5月7日)







 再度ディエン氏は来日する予定です。反差別国際運動日本委員会(IMADR-JC)事務局長 森原 秀樹さまから緊急なお知らせを省略して転送させていただきます。(imadrjc@imadr.org)


 5月14日(日)午後   移動(東京→沖縄)
      19:00   那覇市内で集会に参加・アピール
 5月15日(月)AM    沖縄県知事訪問(調整中・非公開))
      PM    米軍基地視察
 5月16日(火)AM/PM   辺野古訪問、現地運動体訪問
      19:00- *ディエン報告書に関する集会(那覇市内)
 5月17日(水)AM     移動(沖縄→大阪)
      PM/夜  *ディエン報告書に関する意見交換会/公開集会
 5月18日(木)AM     移動(大阪→東京)
      12:00   日本外国特派員協会主催記者会見(非公開)
      PM    *院内集会/記者会見(予定)
        19:00  大阪経済法科大学アジア太平洋研究センター主催
 5月19日(金)AM/PM   主要各政党訪問(調整中・非公開)
      夜    *ディエン報告書に関する意見交換会/公開集会





 3月中旬、知り合いから聞いたことだが、旅行会社「HIS」渋谷と飯田橋、及び同じ系列に入っている「No. 1 Travel」は外国人・日本人向けの値段を見積もっているようです。知り合いの日本人友人は見積もりをもらって(成田空港<=>ロサンジェルス、5月出発)から、外国人の名前を行ってからHISの方は「外国人なら値段が違います」。外国人ならば元の見積もりの57,000円から70,000円に上乗せとなりました。知り合いは割り増しの理由を聞いたが、「そういう値段です」と言われたようです。提供している航空会社の全日空に問い合わせたが、ANAは国籍別で異料金は発行していないようです。

 私は国土交通省旅行振興の大崎さま(TEL03−5253−8111内 27313)に連絡しこの件を通報しました。やはり、国籍別の料金差は容認されていません。現在調査中。そのことをHISの相談窓口まで報告すると、後日こういう返答が届きました。


From: sodan@his-world.co.jp
Subject: 航空券販売条件について
Date: April 19, 2006 4:12:42 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org
有道 出人 様




                株式会社 エイチ・アイ・エス





「アメリカ人にあこがれる な!こき使え!」




当社としましては、誰かを傷つけるような意図は一切無く、日本人の皆さんに、国際 的に堂々と 活躍して欲しいとの願いだけで、作成したものでした。
 よって特定の外国の方に 敵意を見せたりなどということは、実際の教材、セミナー、など弊社の提供する 全てのコンテンツには、一切含まれておりませんでしたし、これからも含まれること は、 絶対にありえません。
 しかしながら、(日本人のお客様をひきつけるための)強すぎる表現のために、 不愉快になられた方へは、大変恐縮です。申し訳ありませんでした。



5)「鳥取県人権侵害救済推進及び手続に関する条例」について私のJapan Timesコラム




有道 出人
May 7, 2006

Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Pretty nasty situation here. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard of something like this going on.  Examples here and here.  Kudos to Zentoitsu again for offering a shelter and a means to get this reported. Debito in Hamamatsu

Foreign trainees injured in row with dry-cleaning firm over measly pay

(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2008, courtesy lots of people.

KOFU — Six Chinese female trainees at a dry-cleaning company in Yamanashi Prefecture got into a row with the company when they complained that they were being paid under the minimum wage, and three of them suffered injuries including a broken bone, it has been learned.

Trouble reportedly erupted when the company, located in Showa, Yamanashi Prefecture, tried to force the six to return to China after they complained about their wages. The three injured workers are considering filing a criminal complaint over their injuries.

The workers also plan to register a complaint against the company with a labor standards inspection office, accusing it of violating the Labor Standard Law by failing to pay them the difference between their wages and the minimum wage.

The trainees said that they came to Japan in December 2005 under a program for foreign trainees and apprentices. After a period of training they started working as trainees. Their working hours were between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and their monthly wage was reportedly 50,000 yen a month. On weekdays, they often worked overtime until midnight, and frequently worked weekends. However, their overtime pay was only 350 yen per hour. This spring, the overtime wage was raised to 450 yen per hour.

A company representative speaking to the Mainichi admitted the amount of overtime pay, but said, “We paid a monthly wage of 118,000 yen.” The amount of overtime pay was much lower than the prefecture’s minimum overtime pay, which works out at about 831 yen per hour.

The six workers submitted a written request for their wages to be revised on Aug. 20. The company’s president, Masafumi Uchida, promised that he would reply two days later. However, at about 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, the president joined about 10 people including company employees and tried to force the six workers, who were sleeping in a company dormitory, to get into a minibus he had prepared to take them to Narita Airport.

The trainees resisted, and plans to take them to the airport were abandoned, but one of the trainees was left with a broken leg after jumping out of a window on the second floor of the dormitory. Two others suffered bruises and scratches during the row.

The three injured workers were later taken into the custody of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which supports foreign trainees and apprentices. The remaining three were taken to Narita Airport by company officials and returned home.

Uchida visited the union on Monday and offered an apology.

“If they were Japanese I wouldn’t have done it (tried to force them to leave). I was asked for a high amount of unpaid cash and thought I couldn’t negotiate. I’m sorry for their injuries.”

A Justice Ministry official said there was a possibility the company could be punished.

“The failure to pay wages, the human rights violations and other actions constitute illicit behavior, and there is a possibility that this warrants banning the firm from accepting trainees for three years,” the official said.

(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2008




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


毎日新聞 2008年8月27日










Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. In lieu of writing something more substantial today (got a speech for lawyers in Osaka and Tokyo in a few hours. See my powerpoint presentation for this event here:  https://www.debito.org/CLEosaka090408.ppt ), let me give the keyboard over to Jon Dujmovich, who sponsored one of my recent speeches.  

Disclaimer:  This is Jon’s opinion and only Jon’s opinion, not mine or anyone’s affiliated with Debito.org.  I make a subsidiary comment at the end.  Have a read.  


Broadcast media silent on Fukuda, but not about foreigners.

A keen observation of two Japanese media sources over the past few days that has me scratching my head and thinking “Hmmm…”

24 hours after Japanese prime minister Fukuda announced his resignation to the nation (September 1), BS 1 news had nothing to say about the story. Nothing. I watched 4 consecutive broadcasts of the news at the top of each hour from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 am (September 2/3) and there was nothing. Oh sure, there was a story about a car slamming into a ramen shop in Nagoya, and even stories from the American G.O.P. convention, but no Japanese politics. In fact, the lead story was about two Russian sumo wrestlers, Roho and Hakurozan testing positive for marijuana in their urine.

Again, 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., Wednesday September 3rd nothing regarding Japanese politics, plenty on the U.S. elections and lead off story Roho and Haurozan. “Hmmmm…”

Compare this to the Japan Times Online (September 3) for which I subscribe and receive daily, and we see Aso’s bid to follow Fukuda as Prime Minister is the lead story, followed by a story on the G 8 summit, and one on Okinawa. To find the story on the sumo wrestlers one has to scroll down past the TOP STORIES section, NATIONAL NEWS, OTHER NEWS, BUSINESS, OPINION, FEATURES, and finally to SPORTS, where you will find the sumo story just before tennis, second to last. “Hmmm…”

Now comes the most interesting part. In the Japan Times article (Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, “Aso gets set for run at LDP presidency: Party election slated for Sept. 22” by Jun Hongo and Setsuko Kamiya) there is a line that reads “…senior members of the LDP scrambled from early Tuesday to control the damage in the wake of Fukuda’s hasty departure.”


Is this coincidence? Does “control damage” include media censorship? Hmmm…I wonder.

Now I am not qualified enough to speak officially on the subject, nor do suggest this is good social science, I am merely pointing out a very suspicious coincidence where smoke and mirrors seem to be employed to deflect media attention from the LDP and government woes, to an easy minority group target. For heaven’s sakes why does a story about two foreigners who may or may not have smoked pot trump a story (that is less than 48 hours cold I might add) about the nation’s prime minister resigning!?!

TBS 11:00 pm news (September 3) top story sumo wrestlers testing positive for THC, Fukuda’s resignation second. “Hmmm…”

Is back room coercion of broadcast media by politicians taking place? Something is very fishy, and I suggest we all keep a particularly close eye on media coverage of these events in the days to come.

Jon Dujmovich


SUBSIDIARY COMMENT:  I have been watching how the Sumo marijuana story has been covered by the media, and so far I’m very pleased to report that I found the court of public opinion to be quite fair.  Commentators have been very careful to note that there is no physical evidence of the wrestlers toking.  There is a presumption of innocence first.  Good.

And it has not been made into an issue of “foreigners”, either.  On this morning’s TV Asahi Super Morning Wide Show at 9:23AM, one of the younger male commentators tried to make a point about the rikishi being foreign, using the word “kokuminsei” (national/ethnic character) etc., but the anchor, Torisei Shuntaro, immediately cut him off, told him not to make it a “gaikokujin” issue, and bowed in apology to the camera.

Bravo.  That’s progress indeed (especially compared to the errant media speculation last year re the Sasebo gym murders). Thank you.  Arudou Debito in Osaka



Hi Blog. Just a couple more and we’re caught up with when this blog started back in June 2006. This is Week Five for me on the road (having a lovely time talking with naturalized citizen and twice-elected Inuyama city councilor Anthony Bianchi–don’t you dare call him a “gaijin” either 🙂 ), so let me stopgap for today’s blog entry.

Thanks, Debito in Inuyama, Aichi-ken (30 kms north of Nagoya, and a place brimming with history).


Hi all. Welcome back from the holidays. Here’s another update to keep your backlogged emails company:


May 8, 2006
Freely Forwardable


Kayano Shigeru, Japan’s first and only Ainu Dietmember, died of pneumonia in Nibutani, Hokkaido on May 6, 2006. He was 79.

Articles in English on the man have not appeared yet in the English-language press, so for those who want their news fresher in Japanese (and would like to telegram their condolences):

Hokkaido Shinbun editorial (May 7) on Kayano’s legacy:

A bit of background on where he came from and what he was trying to accomplish, in English at the Japan Times (free registration):

I have been friends with his son, activist Kayano Shiro, for close to a decade. I managed to meet his father for the first (and sadly, only) time last June when M. Doudou Diene visited from the United Nations.

Speaking of:



M. Doudou Diene, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, visited Japan last July 2005. He reported that “Japan is still closed, spiritually and intellectually centered” in a preliminary press conference. And in an official report to the UN in January, he said, “Racial discrimination is practiced undisturbed in Japan.” “It can hardly be argued that Japan is respecting its international obligations.”

More on what happened during his visit, the report we submitted to him, and links to his report to the UN at

Well, guess what. He’s coming back! And this time to visit Okinawa, Osaka, and Tokyo. His schedule, courtesy of Mr Morihara Hideki, of the group International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR-JC, imadrjc@imadr.org, http://www.imadr.org), I translate:


He is open for interviews with the press. Contact Mr Morihara at IMADR-JC at the details above.

Glad to have him back. I will try to attend in Osaka and Tokyo if possible.



I reported last April 20 that the “Slavedrive your gaijin! [sic]” (gaijin o koki tsukae!) “CEO English” website, which offers lessons on how executives can exploit their gaijin before they exploit back, adjusted its language with apologies (yet still kept a link to its lesson on denying a pay rise to a gaijin staffer who doubled the company’s profits and tripled its sales!). See all historical data as screen saves at:


Well, I just discovered, as I was writing the Japanese version of this report, that the site in question,
has been completely taken down, due to the level of protest.
There is a message in Japanese there to that effect.

Well and good. Thanks for your help, everyone.



I told you that HIS Travel (and No. 1 Travel, in the same keiretsu) has been offering differing airfares based upon whether the customer is foreign or not. The estimate in question, as I reported a little over a month ago to some lists, was NRT <-> LAX 57,000 yen for Japanese, 70,000 yen for foreigners, on ANA (NB: the airline denies that it offers different fares by nationality).

After contacting the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (Ryokou Shinkou Ka, Mr Ohzaki, Tel 03-5253-8111, ext 27313), I confirmed that this pricing structure was not permitted. They are looking into it.

I then called HIS’s Customer Service Center (Okyakusama Soudan Shitsu, Mr Kitahara) to tell him that MLIT had been appraised. He sent me the following email (my translation, original email at the very bottom of this report):

From: sodan@his-world.co.jp
Subject: About the sale of airplane tickets
Date: April 19, 2006 4:12:42 PM JST

Mr Arudou Debito. This is Kitahara of the Customer Service Center.

Regarding your recent inquiry, regarding the sale of airplane tickets from Narita Airport, and not allowing tickets to be sold to foreigners.

As a result of our company’s deliberations, we have gotten rid of that condition. We will be offering tickets to all customers regardless of nationality. HIS KK

Although this isn’t exactly the issue I brought up, HIS has been caught out in a lie. They still have on their website Tokyo <-> Paris tickets with requirements that purchasers hold Japanese nationality.

(Do a word search for “kokuseki” in Japanese. Courtesy Kirk M.)

If you’re going to do business with HIS or No. 1 Travel in future, I daresay you’d better ask a native Japanese speaker to make your ticket reservations for you if you want to get the best prices. FYI.



What follows is my JT article, in full. Enjoy.

Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a case study in alarmism
Column 30 for the Japan Times Community Page


On Oct. 12, 2005, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved Japan’s first human rights ordinance, a local law forbidding and punishing racial discrimination.

In a land where racial discrimination is not illegal, this is an historic occasion.

Even a clarion call: If even rural Tottori can pass this, what’s stopping the rest of the country?

But history pushed back. Five months later, Tottori Prefectural Assembly unpassed the ordinance.

What went wrong? This is a cautionary tale on how not to create landmark legislation.


The Tottori Prefecture “Ordinance Regarding Promotion and Procedure for the Restitution for Human Rights Violations” (“jinken shingai kyuusai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jourei”) looked very promising.

Drafted by a committee of 26 people nominated by a progressive governor, Katayama Yoshihiro, the bill reflected the input of those who would most want it: a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and even three foreign residents.

Its express goal is, “when violations of human rights occur or threaten to occur, to devise measures for the speedy and appropriate restitution or effective prevention of damages, and by doing so contribute toward the realization of a society which holds human rights in high regard.”

Ambitious in scope, it governs behavior related to abuse (physical, mental, and through negligence) and discrimination by race. By “race,” the ordinance includes “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation.”

It states, inter alia, that nobody may unduly (“futou”) racially discriminate against an individual or a group with shared racial characteristics, publicly defame another person, or even be the vehicle for the dissemination of defamation and discrimination.

The ordinance would establish a committee of five to hear cases, contact the perpetrator, and oversee conflict resolution. Committee members would be nominated by and report periodically through the governor.

Moreover, unlike other oversight groups of this ilk, the committee actually had teeth: It could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen.

It even had a built-in safety catch: Taking effect June 1, 2006, the ordinance would expire at the end of March 2010 unless specifically extended.

It looked good. Good enough to be passed by the Tottori Prefectural Assembly 35 to 3.

But after that, the deluge.


Almost immediately there was an alarmist blitz, even from neighboring prefectures. The Chuugoku Shinbun (Hiroshima), in its Oct. 14 editorial entitled “We must monitor this ordinance in practice,” claimed it would “in fact shackle (“sokubaku”) human rights.”

Accusations flew that assemblypersons had not read the bill properly — only voted for fluffy ideals without clear thinking. Others said the governor had not explained to the people properly what he was binding them to.

Internet petitions blossomed to kill the bill. Even Wikipedia, in its Japanese article on this ordinance, had more than twenty con arguments and not a single pro (and as such bears a “neutrality disputed” tag).

Some sample complaints (with counterarguments):

* The bill had been deliberated upon in the Assembly for only a week. (Even though it was first brought up in 2003 and discussed in committees throughout 2005? How long is sufficient?)

* Its definitions of human rights violations (such as “defamation” — “hibou”) — were too vague, and could hinder the media in, say, investigating politicians for corruption. (Even though it contains a clause that freedom of speech and press must be respected?)

* Since its committee was not an independent body, reporting only to the Governor, this could encourage arbitrary decisions and coverups. (Just like the currently-existing Bureau of Human Rights (“jinken yougobu”) reports only to the secretive Ministry of Justice, so why not do away with the BOHR too?)

* This might threaten the reputation of the accused, since the committee could legally make their names public. (As can the police, but is anyone suggesting cops should be denied policing powers because they might make a mistake?)

* This invests judicial and policing powers in an administrative organ, a violation of the separation of powers. (So no oversight committee in Japan is allowed to have teeth? And what of the many other ordinances, such as those governing garbage disposal, mandating fines and incarceration?)

And so on. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations sounded the death knell in its statement of Nov. 2: Too much power had been given the governor (as opposed to dispersing it within the police forces?), constricting the people and media under arbitrary guidelines, under a committee chief who could investigate by diktat, overseeing a bureaucracy that could refuse to be investigated.

If there were really so many holes in this bill, one wonders what anyone ever saw in it. Why had it not been shot down in committee? Before it could be put before the Prefectural Assembly and overwhelmingly passed as a law?


That remains unclear. Also unclear is what happened to the voices in support of this document. The government issued an official Q&A to allay concern, and the governor said problems would be dealt with as they arose. But supporters apparently got drowned out.

In December and January, the prefecture convoked informal discussion groups containing the vice-governor, two court counselors, four academics, and five lawyers (but no human rights activists). They offered handmade theories on how the constitution binds the people, how administrators cannot be judges, etc.

The result: A U-turn into complete defeat. On March 24, 2006, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly voted unanimously to suspend the ordinance indefinitely. Gov. Katayama shrugged and reportedly said in paraphrase, “We’ll get started immediately on fixing things. We wouldn’t need this ordinance if there were absolutely no human rights violations in our prefecture, but there are and we do.”


In the interests of full disclosure, your correspondent admits he wanted this ordinance to go through. It would be about time.

In 1996, Japan promised the United Nations it would take all effective measures, including laws, to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

More than a decade later, we still have no law, and instead policies encouraging exclusionism and racial profiling.

Moreover there is no law on the horizon. Twice now, in 2003 and 2005, the national Diet rejected bills that would safeguard more human rights for everyone in Japan.

As above, so below: A local legislature passing something, then unpassing it? Very bad form. Not to mention a bad precedent.

Yet, as this column has argued (“Watching the Detectives,” on July 8, 2003, https://www.debito.org/japantimes070803.html), the present administrative machinery to curtail discrimination, the BOHR, is essentially meaningless, precisely because it has only a limited investigative ability, and no policing or punitive powers.

It can only hopefully “advise and enlighten” discriminators.

That is what Tottori was apparently trying to improve upon. Yet, ironically, those improvements caused its undoing.

“We should have brought up cases to illustrate specific human rights violations. The public did not seem to understand what we were trying to prevent,” said Mr Ishiba, a representative of the Tottori governor’s office.

“They should have held town meetings to raise awareness about what discrimination is, and created separate ordinances for each type of discrimination,” said Assemblywoman Ozaki Kaoru, who voted against the bill both times.

Unfortunately, history demonstrates that bills specifically guaranteeing foreigners’ rights get trashed, not because of a lack of awareness, but rather because of intractable fears of North Korean residents getting any power.

It’s dubious whether a law outlawing racial discrimination alone will ever be passed.

The lesson of this case: If you wish to create landmark legislation, you better have your supporters ready to vocally defend it.

If not, unanswered alarmists will shout down any progressive action in favor of the status quo.

Tottori, meanwhile, is launching another drafting committee. When will it submit another rights bill? Unknown.

Send comments to: community@japantimes.co.jp
The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Alright, here’s the original email from HIS travel agency in Japanese:

From: sodan@his-world.co.jp
Subject: 航空券販売条件について
Date: April 19, 2006 4:12:42 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org
有道 出人 様




                株式会社 エイチ・アイ・エス

All for today. Thanks as always!
Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 7: Sequel to “Gaijin” as a racist word


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

JUST BE CAUSE Column Seven for the Japan Times
By Arudou Debito
Published September 2, 2008 as “The ‘gaijin’ debate: Arudou responds”
Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080902ad.html
DRAFT THIRTEEN, version as submitted to Japan Times editor

Last month’s column (JBC August 5) was on the word “gaijin”. I made the case that it is a racist word, one that reinforces an “us-and-them” rubric towards foreigners and their children in Japan.

It generated a lot of debate. Good. Thanks for your time.

Now let’s devote 700 more words to some issues raised.

Regarding the arguments about intent, i.e. “People use the word gaijin, but don’t mean it in a derogatory way”. The root issue here is, “Who decides whether a word is bad?” Is it the speaker using the word, or the person being addressed by it?

If usage and intent become the speaker’s prerogative, then speakers get too much plausible deniability. For example: Punch somebody in the arm. If he cries, “That hurts!” then say, “But I don’t mean to hurt you.”

So if you don’t give priority to the listener’s feelings, you give the speakers with genuine malice (however few) an excuse and a cloaking device. If the person you target doesn’t like being called something, just say you didn’t mean it in a bad way, and hey presto! You’re off the hook.

This logic has long been disavowed. In Japan, the debate on “ijime”, bullying in Japanese schools, favors the person being targeted. The person feels hurt, that’s enough. So stoppit.

Ditto for the word gaijin. People like me who have lived here for many years, even assimilated to the point of taking citizenship, don’t want to be called “gaijin” anymore. We can be forgiven for taking umbrage, for not wanting to be pushed back into the pigeonhole. Don’t tell us who we are–we’ll decide for ourselves who we are, especially in our own country, thanks. So stoppit.

Now for the more controversial claim: my linking “gaijin” with “n*gg*r”. Although I was not equating their histories, I was drawing attention to their common effect–stripping societies of diversity.

“N*gg*r”, for example, has deprived an entire continent of its diaspora. I love faces; I have gazed at many notable African-Americans and wondered about their origins. Is Michael Clarke Duncan a Nuban? Do Gary Coleman’s ancestors hail from the Ituri? How about the laser gaze of Samuel L. Jackson, the timeworn features of Morgan Freeman, the quizzical countenance of Whoopi Goldberg? Where did their ancestors come from? Chances are even they aren’t sure. That’s why Alex Haley had to go all the way to The Gambia to track down his Kunta Kinte roots.

The “non-n*gg*rs” are more fortunate. They got to keep closer ties to their past–even got hyphens: Italian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, etc. But Black people in the US just became “African-Americans”–a continent, not an ethnicity. Thanks to generations of being called “n*gg*r”.

“Gaijin” has the same effect, only more pronounced. Not only do we foreign-looking residents have no hope of hyphenation, we are relegated to a much bigger “continent” (i.e. anyone who doesn’t look Japanese–the vast majority of the world). Again, this kind of rhetoric, however unconscious or unintended, forever divides our public into “insider and outsider” with no twain.

I for one want the hyphen. I’m a Japanese. An American-Japanese, an Amerika-kei Nihonjin. After years of outsiderdom, I want my Japanese status acknowledged. But I don’t want my roots denied either. Being called essentially “foreign-Japanese” would lack something, so why not acknowledge, even celebrate, our diversity?

Words like gaijin don’t allow for that. They are relics of a simplistic time, when people argued with a straight face that Japan was monocultural and monoethnic. Untrue–there’s enough scholarly research debunking that; even our government this year formally recognized Hokkaido’s aboriginal Ainu as an indigenous people.

Moreover, as more non-Japanese reside here, marry, procreate, and bring the best of their societies into the amalgam, change is inevitable. Why force us to deny an essential part of our identity by outsidering us on a daily basis? Intentional or not, that’s what the word gaijin does.

The ace in the hole in this debate: I’m not the only one here advocating “gaijin”‘s obsolescence. Japan’s media has reached the same conclusion and officially declared it a word unfit for broadcast. Don’t agree with me? Talk to the TV.

So if you really must draw attention to somebody’s roots, and you can’t hyphenate or tell their nationality or ethnicity, it’s better to use “gaikokujin”. It’s a different rubric. At least there are ways to stop being one.

Arudou Debito is co-author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan.
730 words


Debito.org Poll (August 20-31): Do you think the word “gaijin” should be avoided (in favor of other words, like, say, gaikokujin)?

Get Japan Times today Tues Sept 2–sequel to my JUST BE CAUSE Column on “Gaijin as racist word”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Today (Tuesday, Wednesday in the provinces) sees my seventh Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column.  I’ll devote another 700 words on some of the points raised in an avalanche of letters (according to the Japan Times, mostly critical) to explain more about my contentious “gaijin” and “n*gg*r” linkage.  The debate so far at




(see Comments sections)

Debito in Hamamatsu

Results of our fourth poll: Do you think the word “gaijin” should be avoided (in favor of other words, like, say, gaikokujin)?


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

[poll id=”6″ type=”result”]

COMMENT: I followed this poll in particular with interest, given my August 5, 2008 Japan Times column on this issue and the heavy debate in August over it.

One thing I tried to do in this poll was 1) make options that everyone could answer, no exception, and 2) make them “bounded”, i.e. mutually exclusive so that people could only vote for one.

(What I mean:  A Japan Times poll on the subject, in contrast, doesn’t do that as well:

Poll results
The results of a Japan Times Online poll conducted August 6-12.


For example, you could choose all of questions one, two, and three if you felt, “Yes, I am offended, I prefer ‘gaikokujin’, but it depends on who is saying it and how.”  Not mutually exclusive.)

I also tried to show a clearer spectrum from top to bottom–avoid under all circumstances, it depends, don’t avoid, not sure.

The result was still that most people (but not an absolute majority) thought the word “gaijin” should be avoided, due to unwelcome connotations.  Perhaps par for the course for Debito.org types of readers.

It was an interesting poll to follow in real time.  For the first few days, the first choice, “Yes”, had an absolute majority of over 50%.  But as more voted, the “maybe, if derisive” and “no” responses whittled that down.  I was surprised at how few chose “maybe, depends on listener”.  Also interesting was how almost everyone had a clear opinion–almost nobody was neutral or unknowledgeable about the subject. 

Again, as disclaimers keep pointing out, this is hardly anything scientifically “significant”–just a survey of readers who wished to vote.  Still, ten days and 358 respondents later, it’s a pretty good number.  Let’s see if we can keep the numbers growing in future polls with interesting questions.

Next poll: Let’s try something less controversial.  Just got back from the US (coastal California), where the sun sets around 8PM or later most summer days.  Loved it.  And wish Japan would do the same (especially since Hokkaido is on the far east of our time zone, and we get sunrises at 4AM or so in June).  So what do you think about instituting Summer Time (DST) in Japan?  

Arudou Debito