German journalism on Japan Govt’s COVID policy: Tohoku’s Dr. Oshitani: Foreigners (not Japanese) brought it in. And that’s why govt policies specifically exclude only foreigners, even NJ Permanent Residents.

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org has reported on Japan’s policies from April of excluding all “foreigners” from reentry, including residents of Japan with valid visas and Permanent Residents with lives and families in Japan, barring them even from the regular two-week quarantine that Japanese reentrants get.  That hasn’t been the scandal it should have been.  So when the Japanese media observes omertà on how Japan’s policymakers engage in racist politics, it’s sometimes up to overseas media to expose it.

Debito.org Reader Maximilian Doe offers a full report from German media:  How even Japan’s scientists (particularly a Dr. Oshitani at Tohoku University) couched COVID as an overseas contagion, not something also brought into Japan by Japanese (such as the cruise ship Diamond Princess).  However, there is a pattern here.  Foreigners, as we’ve seen from the days of AIDS, SARS, and even the Otaru Onsens Case, are more likely to be seen as riddled with contagion, and treated as such by policymakers either with benign neglect or these overt reactionary policies.  However, instead of having governments and civil society that rightfully point out that associating disease with citizenship leads to racism, in Japan we get blanket exclusion, unlike any other G7 country.

And it’s even backed up by Japan’s scientists.  Let me now turn the keyboard over to Maximilian Doe for the report.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From: Maximilian Doe
Subject: Two interesting German news articles about how virologist and government advisor Prof Dr Oshitani Hitoshi is involved in the entry restrictions
Date: June 28, 2020
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>

Hi Debito,

This is Maximilian Doe. I’m contacting you because I’ve found something interesting related to Japan’s strict entry restrictions against non-Japanese. It’s two German news articles that point at a certain Dr. Oshitani Hitoshi, professor of virology at Tohoku University and leader of the health advisors to the Japanese government.

Especially the first of the two I’m posting below explicitly states how the government closed the border based on reports by Prof Oshitani’s team. There are also multiple articles in English and Japanese on the website of his institute (http://www.virology.med.tohoku.ac.jp/). Here is a recent interview – an English translation of a Japanese interview – with him, which is also linked at his institute’s website: https://www.japanpolicyforum.jp/diplomacy/pt20200605162619.html

[NB:  In this interview, Oshitani couches the contagion as an exogenous force, transmitted by foreigners, not by Japanese travelers who weren’t subject to quarantine. Excerpt:

Oshitani:  Spread of COVID-19 in Japan had two major waves so far. The first wave was originated by people with travel history to Wuhan and other places in China. From January to early February, the number of cases from China found in Japan was 11. Of course, there were considered to be more imported cases from China in reality, but it was likely somewhere around several tens to about a hundred. These people traveled to Japan for sightseeing or other purposes, and later, through places where people congregate, such as sports gyms and small concert houses, transmissions spread across the country including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, and Osaka. This first wave had come under control by mid March with number of cases relatively low, but the second wave came as the first wave was calming down.

Second wave was originated by infected people from a wide range of countries, such as Europe, US, Southeast Asia, and Egypt. We confirmed about 300 cases who had entered Japan from such countries, so the actual number of cases who entered Japan is estimated to be around 1,000 ~ 2,000. Although local transmissions of the second wave in Japan began in early February, infected people from abroad were coming to Japan and able to move around the country almost without any restriction, until the government put restrictions on travel at the end of March. This resulted in a large outbreak. The delay in action during that time is regrettable.]

Doe:  In the following I’m posting English translations of the two German articles mentioned above. The translations are by me, so the English may be slightly off because it’s a from native to foreign translation. I’ve linked Wikipedia articles about the newspapers in question, as well as the links to the original articles. (The first article is freely readable if you have no ad blockers turned on. The second one is behind a paywall. The 0 Euros button there leads to a free one month test subscription that will turn into a regular one if you don’t opt-out in time, so don’t click if you can’t read German. I can provide you with the original text later if requested.)  The first one is from “Zeit Online”, the web portal of the famous weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Zeit).

[NB:  The text in question that readers should focus upon is underlined.]

/////////////////////////////////////////////////
Role Model or Problem Child
Japan does little virus testing; the number of infections is low. However, the fear that the official numbers do not match reality is growing stronger.
By Felix Lill
June 9, 2020, 16:49 / edited June 12, 2020, 8:12 / Die Zeit
No. 25/2020, June 10, 2020 / 193 comments [at the time of translation]
https://www.zeit.de/2020/25/japan-coronavirus-tests-infektionen/komplettansicht

“The Europeans misunderstand this virus”, says Hitoshi Oshitani. If you hear the voice of that professor of virology on the phone, you also can imagine him shaking his head. He claims he had explained it many times. “The attempt of finding every infected person is futile, a mission impossible.” Broad testing of everybody is just a waste of money and personnel. “Many infected persons only have just mild or no symptoms and don’t see a doctor. In order to find every infected person, as it is tried in Europe, you’d have to test almost the entire population.”

In his home country of Japan, the 61 years old Oshitani became famous. In order to reach the office of the Prime Minister fast, the virologist of Tohoku University in the northeastern Japanese city of Sendai moved into a hotel in central Tokyo. Oshitani is the leading health expert in the crisis management group of the Japanese government. He says: “Japan is pursuing a completely different strategy than Europe. We conduct intensive testing only at places, where an outbreak was already confirmed.” This is the smartest [method, according to him].

Is Oshitani right? Experts of multiple disciplines are arguing whether the East Asian country is a role model or a problem child. In February, when the virus was spreading broadly, Japan was the second most affected country of the world after China. However, when the virus quickly spread inside multiple European countries, the number of confirmed cases in Japan stayed low. The number of registered sick doubled per week between the end of March and the middle of April, but it reached only about 10,000.

Until now about 18,000 sick were registered – a tenth of the number of Germany, which population is smaller by one third. To Hitoshi Oshitani, this success is not because of strict rules of hygiene or the wearing of masks which is widespread in the country, but because of the crisis management. “We have started early to find contacts of infected persons with questionnaires, in order to test them and send them into quarantine. In case of the northern island of Hokkaido we could find out most routes of transmission and infection clusters this way.”

With this so-called theory of cluster infections Oshitani’s team found out that the fast growth of cases since the end of March were imported by persons who entered the country from abroad. The government swiftly ordered entry bans towards multiple countries.

Currently the crisis manager in charge thinks that they have control over the situation. In the middle of May Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for 39 of the 47 prefectures that was implemented one month earlier. By now the easing of measures is applied to the entire country. Shinzo Abe announced that now it is the time to get used to a “new normality”.

In the meantime, there is also much encouragement from Germany. Virologist Cristian Drosten recommended during an interview, that the “Japanese way” should serve as the model. That includes Japan’s current start of concentrating on superspreading events. In such a case, contact persons get send into quarantine immediately without waiting for tests. The curve of infections flattens. About 30 new infections per day were registered during the last weeks.

Despite all this: The population of Japan does not trust the peace. A survey by news agency Kyodo in mid-April found out: 80 per cent of asked people think that the government reacted to the crisis too late and thus delayed it. A comparative study among 23 countries conducted by the Singapore based institute Blackbox Research found out, that the Japanese are the least satisfied with the crisis management of their government.

“In Japan we are cruising through this crisis blindly”

One of the most prominent critics is Kenji Shibuya. To the virologist and director of the School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences at King’s College London, the officially low number of cases is no wonder. “If we hardly test, we of course can’t know our true status”, says Shibuya on the phone. “In Japan we’re cruising through this crisis blindly.”

Japan really has only conducted about 200,000 quick tests with samples from mouth and throat between mid-March and mid-April. Government advisor Oshitani, who is, among others, responsible for that low number, claims that most of the infected would not transmit the virus anyway. That is one more reason why less testing is okay, because many infections end without much consequences.

Furthermore, Oshitani is convinced that the low number of tests does not lead to overlooking an especially large number of sick people. He says: “If the number of sick people would be significantly higher than detected, our rate of fatalities must have been significantly higher, too.” However, this rate is very low when compared internationally. Around 900 of the detected 18,000 infected people fell victim to the virus in Japan.

Nonetheless, during the last weeks more and more health experts demanded that Japan significantly increases the number of tests. “The claim made by the crisis management group that most sick people do not transmit the virus does not convince me,” says Kenji Shibuya. “To know that we must test more.” Shibuya also does not agree to the argument of the low fatality rate. “If we don’t know how many people are sick, we can’t say if their deaths are caused by Covid-19 or not.” Japan’s crisis management group does not only overlook the sick, but also the dead.

Based on a comparison with other countries, Shibuya estimates that the true infection rate could be higher by a factor of 10 or 20. The reason why this is not verifiable is not just the lack of data, but also lack of transparency: “I’ve contacted the national center for infectious diseases and asked for their calculation method, but the answer was: we can’t explain it. Isn’t that curious?” said Shibuya. An inquiry by us to the institute about this stays unanswered.

Do Japanese institutions want to hide something? Kenji Shibuya assures that he does not want to do such accusations, but he adds, that in crisis management political interests are also always on the table. Those [political interests] are questioned by a critical populous in Japan. Since the nuclear disaster of Fukushima in spring 2011, during which officialdom and companies were trying to play down the danger, the trust in the institutions is damaged, when a crisis exceeds the scale of the familiar earthquakes and typhoons.

Koichi Nakano also looks skeptical at the government’s Corona strategy. The political scientist of renowned Sophia University in Tokyo believes that the health of the population is just not top priority to the government. “Prime Minister Abe was elected into office because he had promised economic growth to the people”, says Nakano on the phone. “Until now that hasn’t really taken off. That’s why it’s so important that the economy doesn’t stop entirely amidst this crisis.” The handling of the Olympic Games also shows that. They should have taken place in Tokyo this summer and were expected to bring multiple millions of tourists to Japan. For a long time, the organizers and the Prime Minister insisted that “Tokyo 2020” would start as scheduled in July. After national committees of multiple countries had declared at the end of March that they would not send athletes to the Games this year, Abe decided to delay them by one year.

The crisis management group continues to keep its strategy. “They probably don’t want to admit that they failed,” said Nakano. Virologist Kenji Shibuya says that it is actually a must to shift the strategy to broad testing. If he is right with his assessment that the fatality rate is also significantly higher? Death statistics will answer that. A large increase compared to previous years would indicate that many people died from Covid-19. Initial numbers for Tokyo during the first three months of 2020 do not show such a trend. Data for April, the month an exponential growth of cases, can only be expected this summer.

About the author: https://www.zeit.de/autoren/L/Felix_Lill
Felix Lill is a journalist and writer. For over ten years he is reporting from more than 40 countries with a focus on Japan and East Asia since the end of 2012. He has published articles in “Die Presse”, “NZZ am Sonntag”, “Tagesspiegel”, and “Spiegel” as well as for English and Spanish publications like “Al Jazeera”, “Narratively”, “El País”, or “Vice España”.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////////

Doe:  The second article is from “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, abbreviated “SZ” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%BCddeutsche_Zeitung), one of Germany’s daily newspapers most widely read among academics. There is only one paragraph about Oshitani in it. The main topic is the stance of the German Chamber of Commerce in Japan towards this entry ban.  Again, the section of interest has underlined text.

/////////////////////////////////////////////
Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 15, 2020, 18:35    Japan
The country stays closed
Since weeks foreigners are not allowed to enter Japan. This is going to become an endurance test for the economy.
By Thomas Hahn, Tokyo

http://sz.de/1.4936421

Marcus Schürmann apologizes. This is because before the director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Japan (AHK Japan) starts to talk about the consequences of the entry ban, he has to haul off a little bit. A clear summer day has dawned over the hills of Roppongi, and the scenery of commerce surrounding the Hyatt Hotel looks as rich and polished as if the pandemic couldn’t do anything to the metropolis that is Tokyo. Schürmann starts with praising the place. 2019 was a good year for German companies and their Japanese branches. 94 per cent of them reported profits before tax according to a survey by the AHK Japan and “KPMG Deutschland”, an auditing company. 63 per cent of them were involved in projects with Japanese partners in third party markets. 99 per cent of them praised the reliability of the Japanese business world. “The German economy is seeing Japan as an anchor of stability more than ever”, says Schürmann. This is something to value in an otherwise unsafe global situation.

Until he says at some point: “And now to the topic of entry restrictions.” His face darkens. “That is a different story.”

This is because the entry ban, that Japan inflicted upon 110 countries because of the Coronavirus, has turned into an endurance test for the diplomatic and economic relationships. Even EU citizens who live in and pay taxes to Japan are not allowed to enter the island nation since April 3, when they previously were in their home countries. No other G7 member introduced such a strict border closure. For example, Japanese with a visa are allowed to enter Germany – and also return to Japan, because the entry ban is only bestowed upon foreigners, as the Ministry of Justice in Tokyo confirms.

At least on Friday the government of Japan finally explained, under what circumstances it is ready to grant exceptions: For example, when families are separated, children would miss school, or because someone had to leave for the death of a relative. However, in principle nothing has changed for citizens of the affected countries: Japan is closed. The German embassy in Tokyo announced that they “are talking with our Japanese partners”. An EU spokesperson said that after an EU-Japan-Online-Summit at the end of May they have “stressed once more the importance of a fast solution of the problem”. Without success.

Wolfram Schimpf, principal of the German School in Yokohama, is worrying whether new teaching staff can enter Japan as scheduled with the beginning of the new [German] school year in August. “At the high school we have a staff fluctuation of about 20 per cent, so that we would miss a fifth of our teaching staff, unfortunately some subjects could not be taught [under these circumstances].” The Goethe Institute in Tokyo has cancelled all cultural events with German guests. Finally, Marcus Schürmann has to talk about the consequences for the economy. Schürmann is a friendly man with a Japan pin on his lapel, but when he talks, the German economy is talking and that is Japan’s most important EU partner. According to Schürmann ten of the 100 largest investors to Japan are from Germany and those are creating 35,000 jobs. His dissatisfaction has to do with hard economic realities. To show that he has the most recent AHK-Japan survey in his hands: “78 per cent of businesses state that they are massively affected by the entry ban and that this severely damages their activities.”

A plan for the globalized economy with the Coronavirus is necessary

Among the 450 German companies with business in Japan many are engineering companies. They have to postpone projects because the parent company cannot send specialists for commissioning new machines. Other companies cannot fill in gaps in their staff as planned. At the same time, they have to continue to pay taxes and social security for their employees who are stuck in Germany. “A third of these businesses are expecting tax reduction to compensate for this situation that the Japanese government has forced upon them”, says Schürmann.

From the beginning, the fight against the Coronavirus was special in Japan. Instead of tracing the virus with as many tests as possible like in most other countries, Japanese bureaucracy concentrated on controlling cases of so-called clusters of infections of the respiratory disease Covid-19. Only people with severe symptoms and their close contact persons were tested – based on the finding that only certain infected people were posing a severe threat for transmissions. Virologist and government advisor Hitoshi Oshitani says: “The data clearly shows that Japan’s measures were more effective than those of Western countries.” No G7 country has so few Covid-19 fatalities as Japan. The high standard of hygiene of the Japanese is also claimed as an additional reason for this. Now the government of the right-wing conservative Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants to make sure that foreigners will not cause the next wave.

Schürmann understands that. However, the world continues to spin, and the pandemic is here to stay. A plan for the globalized economy with the Coronavirus is necessary. Schürmann sees solutions by the state with chartered flights and hygiene measures for “a minimal amount of business travel” in China and South Korea. Not so much in Japan. Schürmann has stayed in Japan for 31 years. He can lead the negotiations in Japanese on his own with those Japanese bureaucrats in charge of the economy. The reactions? “Talks with Japanese officials are always very nice, but nothing happens afterwards.”

The Germans are so frustrated that they are asking the question about the future. Among entrepreneurs, Abe’s Japan has lifted the image of the slightly weird island nation that fights with itself. Japan has involved itself in world trade more than never before and showed signs of openness with hosting events like the Rugby World Championship and the Olympic Games. “Regarding the many global challenges, the time for engaging with Japan is actually very good”, thinks Schürmann. But now? “In principle Japan threatens regained trust and its position as a global key player.” He does not see German companies leaving the world’s third largest economy. “But if this inflexibility continues, Japan will become less interesting for them. Because they say: If Japan doesn’t react now, what will happen next, when the second or third Corona-wave comes?” They could relocate some of their business to neighboring countries like South Korea.

The opposite side of Japanese reliability is clearly visible now: Necessary changes in policy are not Nippon’s strength. Someday ways will lead to Japan once more, but no one knows when.

Thomas Hahn [about the author]
After high school in 1991 he did an internship at the SZ local editorial department of Starnberg. Civilian service at the municipal hospital of Fürth as male nurse at the department of internal medicine. Study of theater science in Munich and Canterbury. Internship at the SZ editorial office for sports news in 1995. After that working as freelance journalist, especially for the SZ. Regular SZ editor since January 1, 1999. He was at the sports news department in Munich for more than 15 years, after that correspondent for northern Germany in Hamburg. Since September 1, 2019, he is correspondent for Japan and South Korea.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT FROM DOE:  It’s no hard proof, whether Dr. Oshitani is actively okay with shutting out even legal residents or not, but in combination with the Japanese and English articles published on the website of Oshitani’s lab I get the impression that he and his team of other advisors had a very strong influence, if not the most critical influence, on the government implementing this current entry ban. I also think that it’s enough evidence that he at least doesn’t care about the problem for stranded NJ residents. A curious behavior for an academic or one of Japan’s national apex universities, since universities are those “businesses” disproportionately affected by this. Besides this he’s clearly responsible for the – let’s say – special testing policy Japan has implemented. I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.

Best regards,
Maximilian Doe

ENDS

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SNA Visible Minorities Column 11: Advice to Activists in Japan in general (in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Japan Movement)

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Visible Minorities: Advice to Activists in Japan
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 11, June 22, 2020
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/06/22/visible-minorities-advice-to-activists-in-japan/.

SNA (Tokyo) — Sparked by the George Floyd murder by police in America last month, street protests against official violence towards minorities and disenfranchised peoples have sprung up worldwide.

Japan has been no exception. Within recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a wider range of people are finally decrying, for example, the Japanese police’s racial profiling and violence towards visible minorities.

I’ve talked about these and other issues for years, devoting significant space both on Debito.org and in my book Embedded Racism: Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. That said, it should be noted that my position in Japan as a white male with naturalized Japanese citizenship has provided me significant privilege; in all humility I am not in the best position to offer advice to people who have the right (nay, obligation) to create their own identities, narratives, and agendas as they see best.

Nevertheless, this column would like to point out some of the pitfalls that activists may face in Japanese society, based upon my experience fighting against racial discrimination here for nearly thirty years. Please read them in the helpful spirit they are intended:

1) Remember that, in Japan, activists are seen as extremists

Japan has a long history of activism and protest. However, the historical narrative generally portrays activists (katsudouka) as radical, destructive elements (kagekiha), most famously the Japanese Red Army; the Revolutionary Communist League, National Committee (Chukakuha); the Japan Revolutionary Communist League, Revolutionary Marxist Faction (Kakumaruha); or even just labor unions like the Japan Teachers’ Union (Nikkyoso). If you’re out there protesting, you’re automatically seen by many Japanese as angry, unapproachable, and unable to be reasoned with.

Furthermore, public demonstrations are treated with undue alarm. They’re not, for example, normalized as a phase college kids go through and grow out of. In fact, youth might become unemployable if they carry on beyond college. That’s why high-profile student group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) disbanded as soon as their leaders approached the job market.

Additionally, the government has a long history of suppressing voices from the left more than the racket from rightwing conservatives and reactionaries, as seen in their regular rounds of unfettered sound trucks. It’s not an even playing field for human-rights advocates. That’s why there arguably isn’t a successful example of leftist protests ever decisively changing the course of government in Japan. (Contrast that with, say, the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s, so romanticized in Western media, which even undermined presidents overseas.)

The result is that the average person in Japan, especially your employer, will need to be convinced that what you’re doing is at all necessary, not to mention has a snowball’s chance of succeeding. Be prepared to do that.

2) Keep the debate focused on how discrimination affects everyone in Japan

One problem with protests for equal rights for “foreigners” is an assumption that the problem must be exogenous. It runs deeper than the sentiments of a) “foreigners are only ‘guests’ here, so they shouldn’t be rude to their ‘hosts’ by protesting,” or b) “if only you weren’t here disrupting our homogeneous society, your problem would just go away.” It’s again a problem with narrative.

Discrimination, particularly “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu), is generally taught in Japanese schools as something other countries do towards people with different skin color, notably US Segregation and South African Apartheid. Thanks to the daily mantras about our alleged monocultural, monoethnic “island society” closed off from the world for a zillion years, Japan generally doesn’t see how “race” could be a factor here. The logic is that homogeneous Japan has no races, therefore no “race relations” problems like other countries. The Japanese government has made precisely this argument to the United Nations.

That’s one reason why Japanese media reflexively deflects the issue into terms like “foreigner discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu), “ethnic discrimination” (minzoku sabetsu), or merely “cultural differences” (ibunka no chigai). All of these concepts miss the point that racial discrimination is in fact a longstanding domestic issue.

So refocus the issue back on the process of racialization. Reiterate at every opportunity that this is “racial discrimination,” and stress how, thanks to generations of naturalization and international marriage, there are plenty of Japanese citizens with diverse roots. Thus discrimination against “foreigners” also affects hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.

After all, Japanese society gloms onto “racial discrimination” against Japanese citizens abroad with a surprising amount of passion. So point out that it’s happening here too. And you’ll have to do it again and again, because you will have to convince a surprising number of people who refuse to believe that racism even exists in Japan.

3) Be wary of being fetishized

Remember that a certain degree of social resonance you may be feeling in your crowd is likely not the feeling of acceptance you might want; it is not equal footing with Japanese citizens. People often join in since protesting is “cool” because “foreigners are cool” or “pitiable” (kawaisou).

There is plenty of scholarly research (read Marvin D. Sterling’s Babylon East, for example) on how Japanese adopt “foreign cultures” only on a topical level, meaning without much interest in the actual mindset or experience of being a visible minority in Japan.

Collaborate with whoever shows up, of course. Just don’t get your hopes up too far. Some people who seem like supporters might only be fair-weather groupies. So don’t rely on them too much when it comes time for them to commit their names or faces in public.

4) Be ready for the long haul

Success, of course, requires not only widespread support in Japan, but also assistance from fellow Japanese human-rights activists. They are very practiced and determined, having done this sort of thing for decades. But remember: Activist groups in Japan are very cliquey. Often the barriers for entry and being accepted as “one of us” are pretty high.

Even though, at first, being seen as “pitiable” works in your favor, remember that the default attitude towards people seen as “foreigners” is “someone here only for the short-term.”

What I mean is “foreigners” are often treated like exotic birds, as something to study because you alighted on their balcony and have interesting plumage to look at. So they give you their attention for as long as you’re around. But once it seems you’ve flitted off, you’re quickly forgotten as merely a phase or a pastime. Then things reset back to the ingrained narratives of Japan as homogeneous and foreigners as temporary.

The only way you can defy that is by showing how deeply you’ve committed yourself to this issue for as long as possible, as people in those activist groups have. They’ve made this rallying cause a life mission, and they’ll expect you to as well. Otherwise, you’re just a fickle foreign hobbyist and doors slam.

Moreover, be careful of the “get in line” attitude that one (rightly) receives from other minorities in Japan (such as the Zainichi Koreans). They have been here much longer, fought much harder, and sacrificed more simply to exist in Japan. Avoid the one-upmanships over “who’s the bigger victim here?”

Instead, focus on what you all have in common: perpetual disenfranchisement, and how you have to work together to overcome that to make Japan a better place for everyone. Remember that power surrenders nothing without a fight, so dissolving into disagreeing leftist factions is precisely what the powerful want. The status quo wins by default that way.

5) Control your own narrative

Finally, don’t rely on people who aren’t in your position to understand or promote your narrative. Do it yourselves. Organize your own press conferences. Make sure that everything you release to the public and media is also in Japanese, and have some prominent public spokespeople who are minorities. It’s your voice. Don’t let even the best-intentioned interpreters and interlocutors inadvertently dilute it.

For example, last month, the people of diverse roots who spoke out fluently against the Shibuya police roughing up a Kurdish person were excellent examples of how to do it right. They were very effective in getting the message out both to print and broadcast media. More of that, please.

There you go: five pitfalls I might suggest you avoid. I hope you find them useful, even if I have a very limited understanding of what you’re going through. In any case, it’s your time and your social movement. I wish you success, and thanks for reading.  ENDS

For breaking news, follow on Twitter @ShingetsuNews

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 22, 2020

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. First, my latest SNA column out today talks about BLM Japan protests, offering advice for avoiding pitfalls when advocating for minorities in Japan:

==========================
Visible Minorities: Advice to Activists in Japan
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 11
By Debito Arudou (excerpt)

SNA (Tokyo) — Sparked by the George Floyd murder by police in America last month, street protests against official violence towards minorities and disenfranchised peoples have sprung up worldwide. Japan has been no exception. Within recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a wider range of people are finally decrying, for example, the Japanese police’s racial profiling and violence towards visible minorities. This column would like to point out some of the pitfalls that activists may face in Japanese society, based upon my experience fighting against racial discrimination here for nearly thirty years. Please read them in the helpful spirit they are intended.

1) Remember that, in Japan, activists are seen as extremists
2) Keep the debate focused on how discrimination affects everyone in Japan
3) Be wary of being fetishized
4) Be ready for the long haul
5) Control your own narrative

Full writeup at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/06/22/visible-minorities-advice-to-activists-in-japan/
Anchor site on Debito.org for comments at http://www.debito.org/?p=16123
==========================

Now on with the Newsletter.

Table of Contents:

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JAPAN OFFICIALDOM SHOWS ITS XENOPHOBIC COLORS

1) Dejima Award #8: NJ resident returnees from abroad officially treated like contagion, barred from reentry unlike Japanese returnees. And unlike any other G7 country.
2) Discriminatory govt financial assistance for students: All Japanese can apply, but foreign students must be in top 30% of class. MEXT’s rationale: “Many NJ students go home anyway and don’t contribute to Japan’s future.”
3) Online petition: Oppose Japan’s generic reentry ban on Foreign Residents even after essential travels since April 3, 2020

SO DO JAPAN’S UNDERCOVER RACISTS
4) Mainichi: Japan, US academics demand NHK explain offensive BLM anime. And how about all the others (including NHK) in the past?
5) Info on Black Lives Matter demos in Japan in response to excessive police force towards a Kurdish Resident; also the backlash of right-wing Tokyo Katsushika-ku Assemblyman Suzuki Nobuyuki: “expel any foreign demonstrators”.

And finally…

6) My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)

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By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters are as always freely forwardable.

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JAPAN OFFICIALDOM SHOWS ITS XENOPHOBIC COLORS

1) Dejima Award #8: NJ resident returnees from abroad officially treated like contagion, barred from reentry unlike Japanese returnees. And unlike any other G7 country.

JT: “The coronavirus pandemic has prompted authorities worldwide to introduce entry restrictions on border traffic. But regulations in Japan have sparked a particularly strong reaction from its international community, as it is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents and has set no clear criteria for their return. The approach has left many foreign nationals in limbo — those who had headed overseas in earlier stages of the pandemic are now stuck abroad and face uncertainty about their careers and lives in Japan, whereas those who remain here fear that leaving the country would jeopardize their future as well…

“As the virus continued to spread, causing more than 4 million confirmed infections, some countries such as India have even banned their own citizens from returning home in hopes of limiting transmission. But most developed countries, while urging locals to refrain from nonessential travel, have exempted legal residents alongside citizens from their travel bans, albeit under mandatory quarantine. In contrast, under Japan’s regulations imposed April 3, all foreign nationals, including those with permanent residence status and their non-Japanese spouses, and those who are married to Japanese nationals, will be subject to the measure if they try to return to Japan from any regions affected by the pandemic…”

COMMENT: For this reason, Debito.org awards a coveted “Dejima Award” (only its eighth so far) to the Ministry of Justice (particularly Justice Minister Mori Masako). Dejima Awards are reserved for only the most eye-blinkingly obvious and inexcusable examples of racism perpetrated by Japan’s racists and authorities. Thanks for deciding once again that foreigners’ lives simply don’t matter to you. Only foreign residents have to make the choice between exiting Japan and losing their livelihoods here or staying in Japan missing a life event there. How callous and inhumane. And oh so very typical of the cold-blooded Japanese bureaucracy.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16095

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2) Discriminatory govt financial assistance for students: All Japanese can apply, but foreign students must be in top 30% of class. MEXT’s rationale: “Many NJ students go home anyway and don’t contribute to Japan’s future.”

Debito.org Reader TJL forwards a message from an Indian exchange student in Tokyo. It seems that making sure no foreign resident leaves Japan (because only foreigners won’t be let back in, even if they’re Permanent Residents) isn’t enough hardship — now Japan is making it more difficult for them to live here. Jobs are disappearing with the pandemic, affecting the arubaito economy and students in particular. So the Ministry of Education (MEXT) has launched a program to assist all students in Japan in financial distress, with up to 200,000 yen cash paid out. That is, unless they’re ryuugakusei (foreign exchange students). Even though foreign students already face enough hurdles to their success and stability of life in Japan, MEXT has decided only the NJ who are in the top 30% of their class qualify. (Naturally, Japanese slacker students need not worry — they’re all part of the tribe.)

MEXT’s justification, according to the Kyodo article below, is “いずれ母国に帰る留学生が多い中、日本に将来貢献するような有為な人材に限る要件を定めた”, or “In any case, what with many exchange students returning to their home countries, we decided to limit applications only to those promising people of talent who will be contributing to Japan’s future.” Boy, that’s full of presumptions. Read on for a letter from the Indian exchange student, a MEXT opinion portal, and other materials in Japanese.

UPDATE: More conditions have come to light thanks to Kyodo News’s investigative journalism:
“According to the ministry, requirements for program eligibility include a reduction of over 50 percent in the monthly income from part-time jobs used to support tuition fees and, in general, a yearly allowance of less than 1.5 million yen from family. The student must also be living outside of home.

“In addition, foreign students must be achieving high marks and have attained a grade point average of at least 2.30 in the past academic year. This accounts for the top 25 to 30 percent of students, the ministry said. Foreign students must also have a monthly attendance rate of over 80 percent, receive less than an average 90,000 yen allowance per month excluding registration and tuition fees, and not be a dependent of someone in Japan earning more than 5 million yen a year. On top of the conditions, those “deemed by their institutions as unable to continue their studies due to financial difficulties” will be eligible for the handouts, the ministry said.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=16086

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3) Online petition: Oppose Japan’s generic reentry ban on Foreign Residents even after essential travels since April 3, 2020

SK: I am Sven Kramer, a scholar of Japanese studies based in Japan. Today, I would like to focus your attention on a private initiative I have started: a Japanese-English bilingual online petition against the de facto complete generic denial of reentry to foreign residents of Japan (including permanent residents and eminent relatives of Japanese citizens). On April 3, 2020, the government of Japan has implemented an almost complete closure of her borders to foreign residents on valid long-term visas (only the “special permanent residents” are exempt), while every Japanese citizen regardless of actual residency is allowed in.

This regulation affects more than 2,000,000 foreign residents of Japan, who cannot reenter Japan for the foreseeable future even after traveling abroad for a very good reason (e.g. the death of a family member in the country of origin), and are thus in danger of using their livelihoods here. I anticipate that among those affected, a significant number should be scholars based at Japanese universities receiving this mailing list. According to my current knowledge, Japan is the only country on Earth with a liberal democratic constitution, that has implemented such a nonsensically discriminatory reentry restriction, which in my opinion cannot be justified even with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a significant difference to the policy of India, which reportedly has implemented an entry ban on all people regardless of citizenship/nationality. Furthermore, we don’t need to get into deflections of about how dictatorial countries currently behave in this crisis.

I have watched the situation silently but with an uneasy feeling for almost two months, but after reading this article by „Tōyō Keizai Online“ that quotes some of the outrageous things going on behind the scenes without leading to any progress, I had enough. As a long-term foreign resident of Japan I could not keep silent any longer, so on May 28 I have started the following online petition at “change.org”: http://chng.it/GN9Wp2Sj
– Please sign, if you share my opinion that the government of Japan immediately should allow reentry of returning foreign residents of Japan under the same quarantine regulations that are applied to Japanese citizens.
– Please help me spreading the word, if you agree with me on this.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16103

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SO DO JAPAN’S UNDERCOVER RACISTS

4) Mainichi: Japan, US academics demand NHK explain offensive BLM anime. And how about all the others (including NHK) in the past?

Mainichi: Academics in Japan and the United States submitted a letter to NHK on June 12 demanding the Japanese public broadcaster clarify why it broadcast an anime explainer of Black Lives Matter protests that was subsequently condemned as racist, and that it also outline its views on the matter and possible preventive measures. In their five-page letter to the NHK, the experts in U.S. studies describe the video as “including content that cannot be overlooked.” Among its 13 signatories are professor Fumiko Sakashita of Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo and professor Yasumasa Fujinaga of Japan Women’s University, also in the capital. The letter is addressed to the NHK president, as well as the heads of the international news division and the News Department. The writers say they will recruit supporters in both the U.S. and Japan.

The around 1-minute-20-second animated video that the letter discusses was originally shown on NHK news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima” (Now I Understand! The World Now) and shared on the broadcaster’s official Twitter account on June 7. It was intended as an explanation for the demonstrations that began in the U.S. after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. It features a muscular, vested black man shouting about economic inequality in the U.S., and makes no reference to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. The letter to NHK described the depiction of the man as stereotypical, saying, “He is given an excessively muscular appearance, and speaks in an emphatically coarse and violent way.” It added that in the U.S., “This stereotype has a history of being used to legitimize lynching of black people and the loss of their lives from police brutality.”

NHK: “We at NHK would like to sincerely apologize for a computer animation clip posted on our Twitter account. […]. The one-minute-21-second clip aimed to show the hardships, such as economic disparity, that many African Americans in the US suffer. However, we have decided to take the clip offline after receiving criticism from viewers that it did not correctly express the realities of the problem. We regret lacking proper consideration in carrying the clip, and apologize to everyone who was offended.”

DEBITO: I call BS. NHK knew full well what these subcontracted segments are like, as this subcontractor been hired before for other Japanese TV programs (example below). That’s what that subcontractor has done for years. NHK just expected that this would be for “domestic consumption only” and the Gaijin wouldn’t see it, (because after all, “foreigners” don’t watch Japanese TV (because Japanese is too hard a language for them to understand). That’s also BS. And NHK (not to mention most of Japan’s other media, see a list in this blog entry) still hasn’t learned their lesson after all these decades.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16111

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5) Info on Black Lives Matter demos in Japan in response to excessive police force towards a Kurdish Resident; also the backlash of right-wing Tokyo Katsushika-ku Assemblyman Suzuki Nobuyuki: “expel any foreign demonstrators”.

As you know, following the George Floyd et al. killings by police in America, there is an international wave of condemnation towards institutionalized racism and brutality in law enforcement. Japan is not exempt from this (in fact, institutionalized embedded racism is one of the reasons Debito.org exists, and the Japanese police are notorious for their normalized racial profiling), and a recent case (see Reuters article below) of a Kurdish man being assaulted by police during a traffic stop has made news. Given this flashpoint, a Black Lives Matter movement of protecting minorities against state-sponsored unchecked violence has taken wing around Japan. Please join in if you’re interested. Information website here: https://blacklivesmattertokyo.carrd.co/

Bravo. Meanwhile, as SNA has pointed out, certain elements within Japan have a problem with any Non-Japanese trying claiming their rights in Japan even through peaceful public protest: “Veteran anti-foreign rightwinger Nobuyuki Suzuki, currently a Katsushika Ward assemblyman, demands that any foreigner who engages in a street protest should be tracked down by the police and expelled from the country.” After all, according to the Suzukis of Japan, foreigners don’t belong here. They aren’t kokumin, and because they are only here by permission of the government, by definition they should not protest; they should be just good little Guests or get out. Japan for the Japanese. You know the mantra. Even though public demonstrations (for example, by NJ workers in labor unions) are perfectly legal, and have been going on for decades. That’s why social movements should crest and clean these exclusionary bigots out of government. And Debito.org will add its voice in support.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16105

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And finally…

6) My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)

SNA: In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?”

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, Donald Keene, and Oussouby Sacko…
Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/05/18/visible-minorities-the-guestists-and-the-collaborators/ (paywall)

Anchor site for comments at http://www.debito.org/?p=16075

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!
Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 22, 2020 ENDS

======================
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Mainichi: Japan, US academics demand NHK explain offensive BLM anime. And how about all the others (including NHK) in the past?

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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Hi Blog.  Japanese TV has once again put their foot in it for racist stereotyping.  We’ve already covered here on Debito.org:

Now we see NHK (“the BBC of Japan“) commenting on Black Lives Matter in perhaps the most insensitive way possible. Submitter JK comments, then I comment:

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JK:  Hi Debito.  Looks like NHK is actually getting heat for their understanding (or lack thereof) of the world now:

Japan, US academics demand NHK explain editorial choices behind offensive BLM anime
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200613/p2a/00m/0na/011000c

June 13, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) Japanese version follows.

PHOTO CAPTION: An NHK animated explainer on Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. which was widely condemned as racist and subsequently removed by the broadcaster, is seen in this screen capture. (Mainichi)

With translation:

TOKYO — Academics in Japan and the United States submitted a letter to NHK on June 12 demanding the Japanese public broadcaster clarify why it broadcast an anime explainer of Black Lives Matter protests that was subsequently condemned as racist, and that it also outline its views on the matter and possible preventive measures.

【Related】Japan’s NHK apologizes for clip on US BLM protests after racism accusations
【Related】Black Lives Matter goes mainstream after Floyd’s death
【Related】Tennis star Naomi Osaka all-in on Black Lives Matter movement: Reuters

In their five-page letter to the NHK, the experts in U.S. studies describe the video as “including content that cannot be overlooked.” Among its 13 signatories are professor Fumiko Sakashita of Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo and professor Yasumasa Fujinaga of Japan Women’s University, also in the capital. The letter is addressed to the NHK president, as well as the heads of the international news division and the News Department. The writers say they will recruit supporters in both the U.S. and Japan.

The around 1-minute-20-second animated video that the letter discusses was originally shown on NHK news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima” (Now I Understand! The World Now) and shared on the broadcaster’s official Twitter account on June 7. It was intended as an explanation for the demonstrations that began in the U.S. after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. It features a muscular, vested black man shouting about economic inequality in the U.S., and makes no reference to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

The letter to NHK described the depiction of the man as stereotypical, saying, “He is given an excessively muscular appearance, and speaks in an emphatically coarse and violent way.” It added that in the U.S., “This stereotype has a history of being used to legitimize lynching of black people and the loss of their lives from police brutality.”

It also criticized the program itself for suggesting that one cause of violence by police toward black people is “a fear of black people,” and for offering a “completely insufficient” explanation of issues around “the historic background of police brutality, from slavery to the modern prison industrial complex.”

It then mentioned that by the time the NHK show was aired on June 7, rioting and looting had already waned, and that the mostly peaceful protests were also being joined by many white people. Referring to this, the writers said the content of both the program and the animated explainer were “not an accurate reflection of the current state of protests.”

The letter also says the program didn’t give enough consideration to anger toward systemic racism as one of the causes of the protests. It also puts forward questions as to why the content wasn’t checked internally and corrected.

On June 9, NHK apologized for the video, saying, “There was not enough consideration made at broadcast, and we apologize to those who have been offended by it.” The program was removed from its online streaming services, and the tweet sharing the video also deleted.

Regarding its response, the letter says NHK has not clearly elucidated what was problematic about the program, and criticized the broadcaster strongly for “trivializing the matter as a case of viewer interpretation.” It went on to ask that NHK clarify both its understanding on the issue and the events that led to the problematic content being broadcast and tweeted.

(Japanese original by Sumire Kunieda, Integrated Digital News Center)

黒人差別の解説動画「看過できない内容」 NHKに米国研究の学者らが検証求め る要望書
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200612/k00/00m/040/247000c

黒人差別の解説動画「看過できない内容」 NHKに米国研究の学者らが検証求める要望書

NHKがニュース番組「これでわかった!世界のいま」などで発信した米国の抗議デモに関する解説について、日米の米国研究者が12日、「看過できない内容が含まれている」として、問題認識や経緯、再発防止策を明らかにするよう求める要望書をNHKに送付した。【國枝すみれ/統合デジタル取材センター】

要望書は全5ページ。坂下史子・立命館大教授や藤永康政・日本女子大教授ら日米の大学に所属する研究者13人が呼びかけ人となり、NHKの会長、国際部部長、報道局長宛てに送付した。今後、日米で賛同者を募るという。

要望書が問題としたのは、白人警官による黒人男性暴行死事件への米国の抗議デモについてNHKが解説した6月7日の放送内容と、公式ツイッターの発信内容。番組は、デモの背景を解説するアニメ動画を放映し、ツイッターにも同じ動画を投稿していた。

要望書はこの動画について、黒人が「過度に筋肉質な外見で、乱暴で粗野な言葉づかいが強調された男性」というステレオタイプで描かれているとし、米国では「これ…

(rest behind paywall).

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NHK responded (full text available here in Japanese and here in Tokyo Weekender translation):

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“We at NHK would like to sincerely apologize for a computer animation clip posted on our Twitter account. The clip was part of a segment in the program “Kore-de-wakatta Sekai-no-ima” broadcast on Sunday, June 7th. The 26-minute segment reported that the protests in the US were triggered by the death of George Floyd after he was pinned to the ground by a white police officer. It also reported the background on how many people are angered by the case, handling of the matter by the Trump administration and criticism against it, as well as division in American society. The one-minute-21-second clip aimed to show the hardships, such as economic disparity, that many African Americans in the US suffer. However, we have decided to take the clip offline after receiving criticism from viewers that it did not correctly express the realities of the problem. We regret lacking proper consideration in carrying the clip, and apologize to everyone who was offended.” 

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DEBITO COMMENTS:  Apology not accepted.  As I said, this is well within history and character for Japanese media, and the fact that it appeared on NHK (on a children’s program, no less) makes it all the more mainstream.  It’s not even Embedded Racism.

I will note that the people that produced this anime are the same ones (in terms of inflammatory style, caricature, and even voice talent) that produced the racialized imagery used in landmark TV show “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin” some decades ago (which we also appeared in during the Otaru Onsens Case).  Witness this segment from February 28, 2001.

So in my view, for all NHK’s claims that it “lacked proper consideration”, I call BS.  They knew full well what these subcontracted segments are like.  That’s what that subcontractor has done for years.  They just expected that this would be for “domestic consumption only” and the Gaijin wouldn’t see it (because after all, “foreigners” don’t watch Japanese TV because Japanese is too hard a language for them to understand).  That’s also BS.  NHK (not to mention most of Japan’s other media) still hasn’t learned their lesson after all these decades.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
======================
Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or if you prefer something less complicated, just click on an advertisement below.

Info on Black Lives Matter demos in Japan in response to excessive police force towards a Kurdish Resident; also the backlash of right-wing Tokyo Katsushika-ku Assemblyman Suzuki Nobuyuki: “expel any foreign demonstrators”.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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https://www.facebook.com/BookInAppropriate

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Hi Blog.  As you know, following the George Floyd et al. killings by police in America, there is an international wave of condemnation towards institutionalized racism and brutality in law enforcement.  Japan is not exempt from this (in fact, institutionalized embedded racism is one of the reasons Debito.org exists, and the Japanese police are notorious for their normalized racial profiling), and a recent case (see Reuters article below) of a Kurdish man being assaulted by police during a traffic stop has made news.  Given this flashpoint, a Black Lives Matter movement of protecting minorities against state-sponsored unchecked violence has taken wing around Japan.  Please join in if you’re interested.  Information website here:

https://blacklivesmattertokyo.carrd.co/

More on what BLM Kansai has been doing is also at SNA here:

 

Bravo. Meanwhile, as SNA has pointed out, certain elements within Japan have a problem with any Non-Japanese trying claiming their rights in Japan even through peaceful public protest:  Veteran anti-foreign rightwinger Nobuyuki Suzuki, currently a Katsushika Ward assemblyman, demands that any foreigner who engages in a street protest should be tracked down by the police and expelled from the country. (MP)”

 

After all, according to the Suzukis of Japan, foreigners don’t belong here.  They aren’t kokumin, and because they are only here by permission of the government, by definition they should not protest; they should be just good little Guests or get out.  Japan for the Japanese.  You know the mantra.  Even though public demonstrations (for example, by NJ workers in labor unions) are perfectly legal, and have been going on for decades.

That’s why social movements should crest and clean these exclusionary bigots out of government.  And Debito.org will at least add its voice in support.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Reuters article:

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REUTERS WORLD NEWS, JUNE 6, 2020
Kurdish case becomes rallying cry for Japan protest against police
By Mari Saito
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-minneapolis-police-protests-japan/kurdish-case-becomes-rallying-cry-for-japan-protest-against-police-idUSKBN23D0JG

PHOTO CAPTION: A demonstrator wearing a mask holds an ”Antifaschistische Aktion” flag during a protest march over the alleged police abuse of a Turkish man, in echoes of a Black Lives Matter protest, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, in Tokyo, Japan June 6, 2020. 

TOKYO (Reuters) – The case of a Kurdish man who says he was stopped and shoved to the ground by Tokyo police became a rallying cry for protesters marching in solidarity with Black Lives Matter on Saturday.

Several hundred people chanting “I can’t breathe” to invoke the death of George Floyd in the United States marched through the trendy Shibuya district on a sultry afternoon, saying that police abuse – particularly against foreigners – was a problem at home as well.

“I feel very sad,” said Tomohiko Tsurumi, 43, who joined the march with his wife. “I always thought of this country as very safe and I realized that there is so much (police action) we cannot see.”

The 33-year-old Turkish man of Kurdish origin, who asked not to be named, told Reuters this week that he was stopped by police driving in downtown Tokyo on May 22 – three days before George Floyd died in Minneapolis when a police office knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

When the man would not allow police to search his car, two officers shouted at him and shoved him to the ground, the man said. A friend in his car filmed part of the incident.

Police declined to comment, saying they have not made anything public about the incident.

The video, seen by Reuters, includes the officers yelling at him to sit and not make trouble. One of the officers can be seen kicking the man in the leg before making him crouch on the ground.

That officer can be seen with his arms around the man’s neck, telling him to be quiet.

“I couldn’t breathe. If my friend hadn’t been filming I don’t know what would have happened,” the man said, adding the encounter left him with bruises on his neck and back.

“This was in the middle of the day and I was on the way to my dentist,” said the man, who said he has lived in Japan for 15 years and was not at Saturday’s protest due to what organizers said was fear of being arrested. “That’s what’s so upsetting.”

The man filed an assault suit against the two officers with Tokyo prosecutors on May 27, said his lawyer, Yasuaki Nara.

An African man at the demonstration with a friend said their appearance got them more scrutiny from Japanese police.

“I feel what George Floyd was feeling,” he said, declining to give his name or his country of origin. “We feel what his family is feeling.”
ENDS

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Online petition: Oppose Japan’s generic reentry ban on Foreign Residents even after essential travels since April 3, 2020

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Hi Blog.  I mentioned this petition in my previous post, but it was subsumed under the Dejima Award headline.  It deserves its own blog entry, so here it is.  Sign the petition.  I did.  Courtesy of TG.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From: Sven Kramer 
Date: June 3, 2020 
To: eajs-l@listserv.shuttle.de
Subject: EAJS-L: Online petition against Japan’s generic reentry ban on foreigners living in Japan even after essential travels that is in effect since April 3, 2020

Dear fellow EAJS members,

I hope this finds you well, and that you are getting through the current public health crisis well and healthy. I am Sven Kramer, a scholar of Japanese studies based in Japan. Today, I would like to focus your attention on a private initiative I have started: a Japanese-English bilingual online petition against the de facto complete generic denial of reentry to foreign residents of Japan (including permanent residents and eminent relatives of Japanese citizens). On April 3, 2020, the government of Japan has implemented an almost complete closure of her borders to foreign residents on valid long-term visas (only the “special permanent residents” are exempt), while every Japanese citizen regardless of actual residency is allowed in.

This regulation affects more than 2,000,000 foreign residents of Japan, who cannot reenter Japan for the foreseeable future even after traveling abroad for a very good reason (e.g. the death of a family member in the country of origin), and are thus in danger of using their livelihoods here. I anticipate that among those affected, a significant number should be scholars based at Japanese universities receiving this mailing list. According to my current knowledge, Japan is the only country on Earth with a liberal democratic constitution, that has implemented such a nonsensically discriminatory reentry restriction, which in my opinion cannot be justified even with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a significant difference to the policy of India, which reportedly has implemented an entry ban on all people regardless of citizenship/nationality. Furthermore, we don’t need to get into deflections of about how dictatorial countries currently behave in this crisis.

I have watched the situation silently but with an uneasy feeling for almost two months, but after reading this article by „Tōyō Keizai Online“ that quotes some of the outrageous things going on behind the scenes without leading to any progress, I had enough. As a long-term foreign resident of Japan I could not keep silent any longer, so on May 28 I have started the following online petition at “change.org”: http://chng.it/GN9Wp2Sj

Why an open online petition? Because the Japanese government, and also other officialdom at other levels, just show ignorance when addressed directly.

I sincerely want to ask you for your support of this petition for the reasons stated in the bilingual text of the petition, especially if you are a Japanese citizen or an expat with his/her livelihood in Japan.

This is – as mentioned above – an entirely private initiative on my behalf as a long-term foreign resident of Japan with Japanese family. This is the reason why I did not do any statements referring to my current professional situation, neither in this letter, nor in the petition. Please understand. If you want to know more about my background, please feel free to ask me directly.

Here is a short summary of my request:
– Please sign, if you share my opinion that the government of Japan immediately should allow reentry of returning foreign residents of Japan under the same quarantine regulations that are applied to Japanese citizens.
– Please help me spreading the word, if you agree with me on this.

If a significant number of people sign (ideally at least some tens of thousands) I will try to get the petition to the Government of Japan.

Thank you very much!

Best regards,
Sven Kramer, PhD

P.S.: Further articles in English dealing with this topic:
Japan Times: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/19/national/social-issues/japan-foreign-residents-stranded-abroad-coronavirus/ 
Japan Today: https://japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/the-line-should-be-drawn-between-foreigners-on-short-stay-visas-and-those-who-stay-in-japan-based-on-other-statuses-of-residence.-those-whose-lives-are-based-in-japan-need-to-be-able-to-return

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