Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”


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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Aly Rustom has taken the trouble to write this up for critique and debate.  I think it deserves some.  Putting this up with the reminder that this is under the “Discussions” category (where I moderate more loosely), and that I don’t necessarily agree with all or even any of it.  Have a think.  Arudou Debito


March 8, 2012
Ways to fix Japan
By Aly Rustom


It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done.

There are those who will attempt to paint me as a Japan basher. Let me respond to this accusation early:

1. I am married to a Japanese and have lived here for over a decade. Most of my friends are Japanese, and I do speak as well as read and write the language.

2. Criticism is not bad unless it simply takes the form of negative complaining. Constructive criticism is good and it shows that I care enough to write out my thoughts and observations that I have accumulated for over a decade and am willing to share them with everyone.

So without further ado, let’s start:


A. Sales Tax, Health Insurance and Public Education

While everyone doesn’t want to pay higher taxes and the debate about raising the sales tax is a sensitive issue, there would be an easier way to sell the idea. Instead of raising sales tax from 5 to 10% and upsetting everyone, why not raise it to 20% with the promise that health care and education becomes completely free. People would be far less apt to complain if their trips to the doctor and their children’s education becomes free and guaranteed. This will also help the Japanese government compete with the private health insurance companies and most people probably will opt for the public option since they are already paying the taxes for it. Also this will ensure that foreigners will be in the system as well since it is included from the very beginning in our taxes. Also, our public schools have problems with parents who don’t pay for the school lunches or uniforms which forces the schools to shoulder the cost. Raise the taxes and include all these costs into the inescapable tax system, and these problems will be solved.

B. City and Ward Taxes

First, the ward and city taxes should be calculated and taken out from people’s salaries along with the income tax. Second , Increase ward and city taxes on residents and companies based in Tokyo and other large cities, while offering companies and residents tax breaks for moving outside of the cities. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka should have extremely high living taxes in order to encourage more migration to the countryside, and companies should also have to pay hefty taxes for having offices and factories in these major cities.

Taxes should be significantly lower taxes for relocating outside the big cities, and residents and companies alike should be given big tax breaks and benefits for relocating to towns (machi) instead of small cities (shi). The government can invigorate these towns by having more funds be allocated to building train stations and train lines in towns without them and not to fixing roads that don’t need fixing. If the government invests in better and more convenient transportation, companies might be more apt to relocate outside the major cities and spread the population around a bit more, breathing some life in these dying costal towns.

C. Pachinko and Hostess club taxes

The government should more heavily tax the pachinko parlors. Their profit margin is huge, and much of it is sent to North Korea as many of the owners are North Korean. It would be extremely prudent to propose a hefty tax on all parlors, say about 20-25% of all their profits. Let us not forget that recently, tax authorities have stated that about 40 corporate groups running pachinko parlors across Japan have not declared over ¥100 billion in total taxable income with back taxes amounting to several billion yen. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t the government apply more scrutiny to these establishments and not only force them to pay their taxes, but also raise their tax rate?

The hostess clubs are another type of establishment that should also be taxed heavily. That money can then also be used to fund more government social programs that would benefit the public instead of encouraging more vice.

D. Fast Food Tax

Another business sector that should be taxed is the fast food industry. The government needs to tax fast food restaurants more. Fast food should not be this cheap. The problem is that it is encouraging young as well as older people to eat more unhealthy food. As the economy stagnates more and more people flock to cheaper venues. Unfortunately most of the cheapest venues are fast food restaurants which serve unhealthy food. They need to be taxed heavily to become less attractive price wise to people, and to let the family restaurants in Japan enjoy a resurgence in popularity.

Working hours

The working hours MUST be strictly defined and implemented. The nation cannot continue to overwork its people, because fathers are becoming estranged from their families. Why not implement a system similar to France , where when an employee works overtime one week, they get those hours in off time the following week. Somewhere between 35-40 hours a week maximum should be the working norm. Companies should also be heavily fined for overworking their employees. If a company is forcing its employees to work overtime, that usually means that company is suffering from inadequate manpower and therefore should hire more employees. Companies could also get tax breaks for hiring more workers a particular year and pay more tax for laying off workers. One of Japan’s main reasons for its economic decline is the lack of domestic demand and and over reliance on exporting it’s goods and products overseas. Why is there no domestic demand? Because everyone is working all the time, and no one is out spending money to stimulate the economy. Why is that? Oh, because they have no free time. People who work all the time don’t spend money. People who don’t spend money don’t stimulate the environment.

Minimum Wage and the working class

I would strongly urge the government to raise the minimum wage to 1000¥ an hour, and set the basic starting wage to no less than 250,000¥ per month regarding full time workers. This would certainly boost public spending and give people some measure of financial stability. The companies can easily afford to do this. Japan should learn from the US’s mistake and salvage its middle class. If it doesn’t, the nation will collapse financially, as America surely will. If Japan does not find a way to stimulate domestic spending it will be doomed. The only way to secure Japan’s future is to ensure that even people on minimum wage can afford to contribute financially to society which along with less working hours would greatly contribute to the increase of domestic demand.


A. Summer and Winter

Why not have a Winter vacation for two weeks and Summer vacation two weeks so that people can recharge their batteries twice a year?Also people should have the option of combining their two weeks into one month to allow them to a take longer vacation once a year. It’s common knowledge that countries with a high rate of productivity also allow lots of off time for their citizens. Longer vacations would also mean that people would not be so apt to kill themselves every year. Overworked people develop a sense of hopeless, because they see their lives as nothing except work. The meaning of life becomes lost to them, and they become jaded. Walking around the forests near Mt Fuji and trying to stop suicides isn’t going to do it. Changing the system will. Also, lets not forget another important point: people on holiday tend to spend their money which in turn stimulates the economy’s domestic demand.

B. Public Holidays

The first thing that should be done is the following: when a national holiday falls on a Thursday, that Friday should also be a day off. If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday, that Monday should also be a paid holiday, and that should be the case regardless of whether or not the employee is part or full time.


Many of the rules and regulations regarding renting apartments in Japan are bizarre and draconian. Some of these ancient ways of doing business really need to change. One of the things that really needs to change regarding housing is this stupid idea of key money (reikin). This is nothing more than a form of legalized bribery given to a landlord by a prospective tenant, and it should be stopped. This key money issue is causing problems in society. For example, many employees are finding it difficult and expensive to move closer to work, because key money is very expensive . So instead they remain in their previous dwellings and commute up to two hours one way to work. This in turn affects their productivity, makes them more tired, and less happy in life generally . It’s also just simply not good for society and the economy of this country for people to be less mobile and less able to change their living quarters.


Another thing that really needs to be stopped is fees on late payments. The reason for this is very simple: these fees then sink people more deeply into debt and they are less able and less likely to pay off their debts which leads to suicide. There’s no doubt that these late fees are a huge contributing factor to suicide as people list debts as one of the main reasons for their suicides. The government and landlords have a right to demand their taxes and rent, but they have no right to place any additional fees on people who already are struggling to pay. It’s stupid to force people more into debt and then spend lots of money and resources trying to stop them from killing themselves when the government itself is partially to blame.

Hay fever

The hay fever affliction is a problem that is severely overlooked in Japan. It is amazing to see the amount of hype that has been given in the media to the Swine Flu pandemic while complete and utter indifference has been displayed toward a far more widespread pandemic: hay fever. And yet, the remedy is staring everyone right in the face: start cutting down all the various birch trees that cause the different types of hay fever.

A. Suffering population
We have a nation of red eyed, runny nosed sneezers whose productivity is ebbing due to this condition. And every year, the people’s condition gets worse. People are suffering, the nation’s productivity rate is dropping, and the healthcare cost is rising from this condition. In addition to that, a third of all children are afflicted with this condition.

B. Weakened military
Lets also not forget about national security. What happens if the nation finds itself in a situation where it has to defend itself without warning all of a sudden? Imagine a coughing swollen eyed SDF…

C. Creating jobs and income through better use.
Cutting down all these useless trees which make people sick and planting, shall we say, various fruit trees like apple, orange, and banana trees etc. which are healthy for people would get rid of the hay fever problem as well as provide a source of income and nutrition for the nation. In addition to that, if the government subsidizes this endeavor instead of whaling which is causing Japan diplomatic problems it could generate record profits, create more jobs, save money otherwise that would be spent importing fruit, and give Japan some measure of independence. Imagine the number of farming jobs that can be created through an endeavor like that, not mention some degree of national security in being able to grow your own food to feed your population as opposed to spending money importing it.

D. Domestic supply of wood
All these useless trees could be an excellent source of wood for a number of years and temporarily save Japan a lot of money on wood imports, not to mention the number of logger jobs that would be created by that industry.


Anti-smoking laws should be enacted in Japan more vigorously. Currently, North America, Australia and Europe all have strict anti-smoking laws and the Middle East is starting to follow in their footsteps. It is embarrassing that Japan still is so far behind and backward in that respect. Japanese smokers are becoming less and less prevalent in society these days . The Japanese government estimates that less than 20% of the population are smokers. It is imperative for Japan to enact antismoking laws to protect the children and pregnant women from secondhand smoke which is even more dangerous than direct smoking. Add to that the point mentioned beforehand regarding hay fever, and you have a major health hazard that will deeply affect adults and children alike.

A. Public Places
First, a law that prohibits smoking in any public place including restaurants and bars is desperately needed. We need a smoke free public area society.

B. Vending Machines
Second, the nation must do away with the cigarette vending machines. The less convenient it is to buy cigarettes the less people will be apt to smoke. It makes it so much easier for people who are trying to quit smoking to quit when they don’t see these vending machines in their faces every day.

C. Tobacco Tax
Finally, introduce a very hefty tobacco tax to further discourage people from taking up or continuing to smoke. A pack of Marlboros shouldn’t cost less than 1000 yen. In fact, they cost closer to 2000 yen through the increased taxes. It is incredible that in a country as expensive as Japan a pack of cigarettes would only cost 400 yen. And let’s not forget that these are imported cigarettes.


This has always been a sensitive topic in Japan. There are ways to slowly bring the population to a stable count.

A. Born in Japan
First, allow all people born in Japan to have Japanese citizenship. Zainichis and children of LEGAL immigrants should be allowed to become citizens automatically.

B. Parents 0f Japanese nationals
Second, foreign parents of Japanese citizens should also have the right to become citizens. If your own flesh and blood is Japanese, shouldn’t you be recognized as one as well?

C. Investors
Third, people who buy a house or bring a certain amount of money into the country should also be allowed to become citizens. They are, after all, stimulating the economy.

D. Employers of Japanese nationals
Finally, people who start a business and employ Japanese nationals as well people with a lot of money who invest in the country should also be given that right. People who give their money to Japan should be rewarded with its citizenship. All of this would increase the number of Japanese nationals without actually opening up immigration just yet. A slight liberalization of the rules might help soften the Japanese people to the prospect of immigration in the near future.

Government sponsored programs

A. Free or cheap English Day Care centers
One of the reasons the Japanese women are refusing to marry is that many of them fear not being able to go back to work due to the lack of public facilities that can accommodate their children. Well, how about the government funding a new version of the JET program in which foreigners can be brought to Japan to simply be day care center nannies. They would just play with the kids and watch cartoons with them in English and other things like that. The toddlers would learn English naturally through games and come to like it because they wouldn’t be studying, just playing with the language. They would shed their fear of foreigners because they would be exposed to them at an early age. That would also allow the mothers to go out and work or pursue a hobby, which would certainly encourage them to have more babies since the government is finally stepping in and helping them. Why not make all day care centers in Japan English speaking? This would ensure all Japanese children would grow up with very good English speaking skills and give young women encouragement to have more children.

B. Government run Japanese language programs.
It would very prudent of the local governments to hold daily language classes in a public facility that aid foreigners in understanding and learning the Japanese language and culture. This would help foreigners assimilate better in the society which would benefit Japanese people as much as foreigners. The government should also declare that employers of foreign nationals cannot forcibly overwork their foreign employees to the point where they cannot attend these language classes thereby making their integration into Japanese society more difficult and more time consuming. The companies must allow employees to attend these classes.


In a perfect world, this would happen. However, I am not optimistic. I know the Japanese system too well.

The Japanese politicians will never implement such drastic measures to save their country. None of them have ever shown themselves to be mavericks. This is the really sad part. There are ways to fix this country. It’s just that no one will stand up and do it. People just sit and discuss and pretend they are concerned, but no one really is. The Japanese today are a far cry from the Japanese of long ago who would die for their country. Those before thought nothing of committing suicide for their country. However, today’s politicians are not even willing to take a few political risks for a better future for Japan. What future is left for the Japanese people?


40 comments on “Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

  • Jim Di Griz says:


    I appreciate the effort. I disagree with most of the measures you out line (for example, it’s just too late for a 20% tax hike; the IMF is recommending 40%), and Japanese politicians ‘None of them have ever shown themselves to be mavericks.’? Really? Doesn’t saying things like ‘the Nanking massacre never happened’ make someone a maverick in your book? I have to ask you about this; ‘Those before thought nothing of committing suicide for their country.’ Yes, due to brainwashing. Modern Japanese are still largely complicit in this kind of ‘hallucination by consensus’ in the rather laissez-faire attitude to nuclear disaster, and over-blown sense of Japan’s global importance and pre-eminence, don’t you think?
    I think your key comment is this; ‘all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen’.
    There is no chance of this happening. Japanese politicians are expert in the art of putting off a decision for so long that it becomes irrelevant.

  • Netherlander says:

    Are you fracking kidding me?! I’ve been a long time reader of Debito’s site, but, what the hell was that?! Debito, why would you post this? I had real trouble getting through this. It was so painful. I began writing my response here until I realized it would literally take all day to explain line by line that this person’s comments are completely full of sh#t. There is no data to back up her claims, just a percentage thrown here and there. Where does she get these numbers from? If she made the effort to even do some research, she might realize that Japan already has many of the programs she is advocating for. I was so overwhelmed with how many points I wanted to rip, I eventually just gave up.

    — Aly is a he.

  • I have two sets of thoughts.



    Pachinko and Hostess club taxes

    I would offer the thought that taxes are an imperfect solution.

    Pachinko parlours do send money to the DPRK, and that should be stopped.

    DPRK (North Korea) is a deeply inhumane regime, and should receive no financial support whatsoever.

    Hostess clubs are clearly aligned with organised crime, and that too should be prevented through more strict reguation.

    Regarding immigration proposals provided, they are unclear.

    Most of the proposals are silent as to whether the citizenship would be provided to those who actually reside in Japan, such as the investors, people born in Japan, foreign parents, etc.

    My own view is that citizenship should be far more readily available to those who reside in Japan.

    However, I do not believe it to be reasonable to state that

    “people who buy a house or bring a certain amount of money into the country should also be allowed to become citizens.”

    Purchase of a home or investment of a large amount should not be the criterion for citizenship.

    Citizenship should be for those who personally commit themselves — through residence in Japan — to a future for themselves and their descendants in Japan.

    Mere purchase of a home, even a very expensive home, or those who employ Japanese citizens should not be viewed as Japanese.

    Japan ought not to create a class of new expatriate citizens.

    That cure would be as bad as the current disease.

    2) with the exception of immigration, there are really no thoughts here regarding human rights.

    Yet it is the issue of human rights that concern many NJ in Japan.

    The goal should not be a mere re-tuning of Japan’s social contract.

    Rather, I believe that a whole new social contract is needed, that fully embraces human rights for all.

    As such, I find this proposal sadly disappointing.

  • I like some of these ideas. However, “The government should more heavily tax the pachinko parlors. Their profit margin is huge, and much of it is sent to North Korea as many of the owners are North Korean.” made me raise an eyebrow. Proof?

  • The epilogue left me with an uneasy feeling. It is fine to make a bunch of proposals for solutions to real or possibly imagined problems. Some of your proposals I like, some I don’t and some I haven’t formed an opinion about. Without actually doing any analysis of these proposals, though, I can imagine that it is at least possible that
    (i) some of your proposals might not work (not solve the problems)
    (ii) some might be very expensive (i.e. create other larger problems), and
    (iii) some might be very unpopular.

    Thus, I am not convinced that but for the “Japanese system” that you know all too well and the lack of maverick politians, these proposals would be immediately adopted and Japan would be saved. I mean, “In a perfect world, this would happen”, taken literally, is an incredible claim.

  • I think it’s a fine thing to engage in public discourse about the appropriate policy, but I wouldn’t support very many of those listed in this post. Below please find my take.
    A. Sales Tax, Health Insurance and Public Education
    Relative to say, the US, Japan’s health insurance is close enough to free already. Whether to raise sales tax to 20% or cut services is ultimately a distributional concern, I could go either way. To the above commenter who cited to the IMF as a source for what is “too late” or the right policy, LOL. When has the IMF been right about anything other than after it already happened? The IMF is a joke. Japan has its own currency which has experienced steady appreciation for decades now, and I don’t think that’s going anywhere without some kind of fundamental policy shift at the BOJ, despite profligate spending that can’t keep up with demand for Japanese goods and services.

    Minimum wage – unemployment. Pick your poison.

    National holidays – agree with the idea, disagree with the implementation. Your way is the way Japan does it now – mandatory holidays at specified times. That leads to Golden Week syndrome, where plane tickets skyrocket and everybody spends days in traffic. How about minimum national vacation weeks, no time period specified? 4 weeks per year, workers’ / employers’ choice.

    B. City and Ward Taxes
    No thanks! This is a great way to cut tax revenue from high-income individuals who can just as well work in Singapore or Hong Kong, but it is not a great way to raise net revenues. It would hollow out big cities, but the people wouldn’t immediately decide to become lumberjacks and farmers, and Hitachi would move its global HQ to Singapore about 100 choices before it would think about Tottori-ken. This is just wild, unreal thinking. We live in a global economy now, and 60+% marginal income tax rates means no high-income people will stay, Japanese or foreign.

    C. Pachinko, horse-racing, etc. are ways of taking money from poor people just like any kind of gambling. I’m not sure taxation solves the problem, but running gambling out of the country might. I prefer that as a remedy, but neither am I opposed to taxation on gambling in general.
    As for hostess clubs, I don’t fully understand what need they serve, but they are one of the few ways for low-income women to supplement their income in exchange for services that consist of pouring whiskey for men with too much money and time on their hands, which seems like a progressive tax to me. I don’t know that we should disincentivize this, since it may keep a significant number of women off seikatsuhogo for all I know.

    D. If fast food wasn’t cheap nobody would go, so you want to ban fast food. That’s a pretty extreme position that again would have a negative impact on lower income groups, who predominately frequent such establishments because their two part time jobs do not afford them the time to cook or the money to eat well. Fast food isn’t as good as home-made or healthy food, but it’s better than forcing poor people to starve or work less, I think.

    Working Hours
    Again, global economy – people who work 30 hours a week, of which 60% is efficient work and 40% is goofing off in a typical job, will get steamrolled by workers in countries where workers work a serious amount and are legitimate experts. Needless overtime / facetime should be curtailed and telecommuting encouraged, but maximum hours per week? Seems like a terrible idea for the skills of the workforce, economic prosperity, etc., particularly in a country that already faces a shortage of workers. Also, every global professional working 60+ hours a week will have to move to HK / Singapore, which will really break the economic system. If we want to revert to an agrarian developing economy type scenario, this works, otherwise I think this is tantamount to national suicide at a time when Japanese companies are fighting for their life against other Asian competitors.

    Housing – reikin makes sense since you can’t kick out tenants in Japan hardly at all. You need to get a bunch upfront to make sure you are getting someone with economic wherewithall, and in case they later fall on hard times so that you at least got some cash. If you want to ban reikin, allow evictions. I prefer reikin and no evictions, but I think those are the choices.

    Fees – not sure what you are referring to in particular, but late fees in consumer credit are a way to keep people’s attention so they pay on time. If we ban them, interest rates will increase, but the economic result will stay the same. I don’t think your solution solves the problem you reference.

    Hay Fever – 大賛成. Your idea is crazy, but maybe crazy like a fox?

    Smoking – agree that public policy should limit it, but again poor people smoke more, so a tobacco tax is a regressive tax, keep in mind.

    Immigration ideas – uniformly so offensive to most political forces in Japan that they will never have a hope of implementation. Also, they are prone to massive fraud and could actually make the right’s concerns about immigration come to resemble reality. That said, C. and D. (Investor and Employer) is already a visa that provides a path to citizenship, so looks like the government beat you to the punch.

    Government sponsored English and Japanese – I totally agree with the idea, and although it already exists to some extent (what are ALTs but English speaking baby-sitters), it could be implemented in a much better and more robust manner that reaches a greater swath of the population. I’m all in favor. To make it affordable, probably have to hire a bunch of Indians and Philipinos and other people from lower-income English speaking countries and get them visas to do it, which has political issues, but might not be insurmountable in the context.

  • fireroads says:

    you have some interesting ideas here. however, sorry, but at this stage i feel that it isnt really any better than your average pub chat opinion.

    in addition, these two points seem in contradiction to me:
    “Increase ward and city taxes on residents and companies based in Tokyo and other large cities, while offering companies and residents tax breaks for moving outside of the cities. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka should have extremely high living taxes in order to encourage more migration to the countryside, and companies should also have to pay hefty taxes for having offices and factories in these major cities.”

    “For example, many employees are finding it difficult and expensive to move closer to work, because key money is very expensive . So instead they remain in their previous dwellings and commute up to two hours one way to work. This in turn affects their productivity, makes them more tired, and less happy in life generally . It’s also just simply not good for society and the economy of this country for people to be less mobile and less able to change their living quarters.”

  • All of this is well-meaning, no doubt, and some suggestions are very sensible indeed.  Others rather less so (it is cedars 杉, not birch trees that are the source of the pollen and they grow in the mountains which are most definitely not suited for replanting as orchards).

    The main problem I see with this piece is the failure to address the larger problems that Japan faces such as: i) Fukushima; ii) the govt. fiscal situation; iii) energy insecurity; and iv) food insecurity. There are more and many are not unique to Japan but Japan has been dealt a particularly difficult hand and the response to the Fukushima accident inspires little confidence of an adequate response being mounted on any front.

    On a personal note, I had lived most of my adult life in Japan since 1975 but left last year saddened and not a little frightened by what the Fukushima catastrophe had made of Japan and the Japanese.

  • I see some real problems with the proposals here. “Tax pachinko parlors heavier as they are run by North Koreans sending money to North Korea”. First, Japan amended its banking laws a few years ago to specifically combat this. As a result it has been pretty widely reported that North Korea is hurting for cash since they don’t have those remittances flowing in from Japan as they used to.

    Secondly, wouldn’t taxing a particular business based on the nationality of its owners be discriminatory? How would one get such a law through without Chosen Soren raising holy hell? And even if Japan did pass such a law, what do you do when the owners switch to ROK passports? Pass a law with higher taxes for any business owned by foreigners, or which sends more than x% of its profits overseas? That would go over well….

    Tax “pachinko parlors” exclusively, at a punitive rate, regardless of the nationality of the owner? The Pachinko Assosciation will not like that, and they have a lot of political pull and a lot of Japanese members. Tax all “gambling centers”? JRA won’t like that, and they have political pull too.

    “Punitive tax on fast food” – define “fast food”, please. Is Sukiya or Yoshinoya fast food? How about Kappa Sushi? If not, why not? If so, why? On what basis? Average time a customer spends eating (that will hit the soba stands at train stations…), % calories from fat in menu items (what do you do when Burger King serves salads, or a supermarkets sells frozen french fries?)? Whether or not there is a drive-through window (close the window and dodge the tax!)?

    Finally (I will stop with this, but I can find a lot more problems) the citizenship section: Persons in groups B, C and D can already become citizens. In fact, people not in any of those groups can become citizens. There is no barrier there, as long as they have been law-abiding. What does Aly want? A foreign national has a child with his Japanese partner, and when they register the birth at city hall someone from the Justice Ministry leaps out and says “Congratulations, Mr. Smith! As the proud parent of a member of the Yamato race, here’s your new Japanese passport!”

    Oh, by the way, there are a couple of countries out there already that offer citizenship to anyone who comes to their country and makes a large enough “investment” in cash. They have nicer climates than Japan, no extradition treaties with anyone, and are not terribly popular with certain countries whose former nationals are now living there, sitting on the beach instead of sitting behind bars. So you might want to be careful with folks in group “C”.

  • GoodOnYou says:

    Good on you Aly,
    It’s easy for folks to be armchair critics, but I don’t see any of your detractors coming up with decent alternative proposals.
    Keep the faith

  • Some of these issues could certainly benefit from debate, but I would not want to participate in any debate that uses this piece as the starting point. This is very surface-level analysis, or as Fireroads puts it, “average pub chat opinion”. With a year of research put into it, I would expect more than “we should do this” and “this is really unhealthy” justifications. I don’t feel like going through each point one-by-one, but for example:

    “It would be extremely prudent to propose a hefty tax on all parlors, say about 20-25% of all their profits. Let us not forget that recently, tax authorities have stated that about 40 corporate groups running pachinko parlors across Japan have not declared over ¥100 billion in total taxable income with back taxes amounting to several billion yen”

    Why 20-25%? Why not 50%? Why not 10% What makes 20-25% right, other than it sounding like a reasonable number to you? And why pick on pachinko parlors anyway? Because it’s an easy target, and you think the average person would be agreeable to it? We can’t just arbitrarily tax any kind of business that you dislike or don’t use. As for back taxes amounting to “several billion yen” (I have no idea if that’s true or not, because there are no citations), that’s several tens of millions of dollars, right? Several tens of millions of dollars isn’t going to make a dent in Japan’s public debt, which was more than 13 trillion dollars in 2011 (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2011/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2009&ey=2016&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=158&s=GGXWDG_NGDP&grp=0&a=&pr1.x=79&pr1.y=17).

    I’m all for serious debate about the above issues, but I do not believe any debate inspired by this piece is going to make a difference.

  • I feel very strongly that your ideas or anyone’s ideas for raising taxes is the wrong road to go down. Giving the government more money insures that they will waste more money. It makes more sense to make the bureaucrats and politicians cut spending and the size of government first before we even discuss ways to raise revenue.

    I would like to counter your proposals about taxes with this: Eliminate all income taxes, including corporate taxes and replace it with a reasonable level national and local sales tax mix. Reward people for investing and saving. When people/companies spend their money they can spend it on what they want and what they need. This will create a need for the government to eliminate unfundable programs and create market competition for all previously provided government programs, which will then lower the prices for these goods and services thru market competition.

    The idea is to minimize the importance and reach of government and let people take care of themselves and live their lives how they want to. Obviously it makes sense to have a safety net for the very unfortunate among us that need help, but honestly some of the things that the government does now are totally not necessary, and everything that the government does is inefficient.

    On a personal note I still cannot figure out why the police come to the intersection in front of my apartment daily and direct traffic with a whistle, when there is a freaking traffic signal there. Couldn’t they do something more useful with their time? Why do we need to pay for the traffic signal and the police man’s salary.

    I will end with this: If doctors had to compete on price and service, because national health care didn’t exist, how much better would the service and price get? My guess is there would be a serious level of improvement.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ GoodOnYou #9

    ‘I don’t see any of your detractors coming up with decent alternative proposals’.

    Yeah, let’s all indulge in over-simplistic fantasy, shall we? My bad all along….the Japanese ARE prepared to make the massive social and structural changes needed to save the economy, whilst the vested interests have a sudden bout of ‘brother-love’. There you go, easy. Don’t know what all the fuss was about. Only took me 2 mins. While we’re at it, maybe we should add that wouldn’t it be good if suddenly ‘magic moonbeams’ were being released from Fukushima instead of uranium, cesium, and all that?

    While I am typing, I don’t understand this;
    ‘I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.’
    You’ll have to pardon me, but what exactly is unique about this?

  • Interesting ideas. However, I would try to keep taxes lower and make the government more accountable for their wasteful spending. Then we would have more money to spend or invest in the economy. We all know that governments do whatever they want so becoming more efficient would be a dream. National Defence, Freedom/liberties should only be looked after by the Feds. The prefectures should be responsible for things like education, healthcare etc. People would have far more control over their ken government than the powerhouse in Tokyo.
    Honestly, it just comes down to eliminating corruption in the system, not treating people like cattle, and focusing on a family-friendly lifestyle.

  • JP @ 11: Given the choice between national health care in Japan’s price and service, and the abysmal price and abysmal service people receive in free-market USA, I don’t think any fully-informed person other than the most ideological and wealthy conservative would choose the free-market system. Free markets make sense for most goods and services, but for health care they are a terrible failure: >60% of US bankruptcies are from the unconscionable cost of “free market” health care. http://articles.cnn.com/2009-06-05/health/bankruptcy.medical.bills_1_medical-bills-bankruptcies-health-insurance?_s=PM:HEALTH Even excluding the socially unacceptable and economically inefficient consequence of roughly tripling the rate of personal bankruptcy and attendant disruption to the property rights of creditors ranging from banks to recipients of child support to small business employees, the medical results of this free market health care are not much to brag about – higher rates of deaths in labor than most industrialized countries despite higher expenditures, relatively low life expectancy – not an enviable record.

    Why are free markets broken for health care? Consumers aren’t doctors, are not equipped to know what goods are worth how much money, and the doctors / hospitals / whoever can tell you there is a 5% risk of XYZ and take all of your money if they scare you enough (conjecture). Payers and consumers are often different, since everybody uses insurance, leading to skewed incentives. Insurance companies own/cooperate with hospitals, further skewing incentives. Stationary stores and restaurants generally aren’t in this situation so the free market works better there. Japan’s health care system has its faults, but it’s still better than any alternative I am aware of.

    9 GoodOnYou: I made several constructive proposals in my above writeup, which I understand from your post you consider to be not a decent alternative proposal, making you guilty of the crime you would pin on the rest of us.

    More importantly, are we the people best able to propose and implement complex national policies in all fields ranging from health care to tax, gambling and forestry? I don’t have the expertise to make nuanced, well-considered proposals in each of these fields, and really neither does any single other person. That’s one reason why we need experts/bureaucrats/researchers, and may also be why so many implemented policies seem counter-intuitive and wrong on the surface but, given thought and knowledge, can make a great deal of sense in many cases.

  • @ Bob #14

    I think that your assumption that the US system is a free market health care system is incorrect. I would have to write a book to explain why the market is so distorted and therefore NOT free. The market IS distorted and the best way to see that is to look at procedures that are not covered by insurance or other health care schemes, like HMO’s, etc. Lasik eye surgery gets better and cheaper every year. Plastic surgery gets better and cheaper every year. So you have to ask yourself, why does everything else get more expensive? (Which of course you alluded to in your post)

    So yes, I agree the US system is terribly broken but it is not a free market.

    I also agree that Japan does a good job, but that doesn’t mean that there is not room to improve.

    — Thank you for relating it back. I don’t want the discussion to get too far into the competing ideologies justifying the flawed US health care system, so let’s draw it to a close.

  • I join with the other posters in questioning why Debito posted their puerile, jejune and hopelessly off-the-mark piece. Despite the “unique” perspective granted him by his “astonishing” 10 years in Japan, the only point that Aly gets right is the fact that Japanese politicians aren’t about to make far reaching changes. Obviously, Aly doesn’t like smoking and finds hostess bars to be morally objectionable, but he shouldn’t confuse his personal feelings with real political insights. This would have been better titled “Things I wish Japan would change because I don’t like them.”

    What I find truly amazing is how Aly missed the most gapingly obvious problems with Japan that must be fixed to prevent the country from falling into outright backwardness and poverty. The most pressing problem is the political structure: Japan, while claiming to be a democracy, is run the unelected bureaucrats in the ministries who have their full working lives to make shady deals with industry. The ministries create 90% of the laws in Japan and dictate the budget for the nation. The ministries are the reason Japan cannot and will not stop its needless, wasteful and environmentally destructive construction projects that are responsible for a lot of the nation’s vast national debt. How Aly can write his article and not mention this wasteful construction makes me wonder what he’s been doing during his incredible span of 10 years in the country.

    Next, how can anyone seriously discuss fixing Japan without discussing the country’s lamentably poor educational system, which I discussed at some length in my post on “giving up on Japan.” I don’t want to get into the details here, but unless Japan totally revamps its educational system to produce dynamic graduates who can think for themsevles and speak English (rather than passive monolingual sheep), then the country is doomed.

    Next, there is the issue of immigration. Frankly, I don’t think of immigration as a cure-all for Japan. The country is so culturally opposed to immigration that it’s better not to bring in large numbers of immigrants. But, it should certainly learn from immigrant-friendly countries like Canada, Australia and Singapore. It should make its system fully transparent, with avenues for appealing decisions, with all information online and in English, and the possibility of permanent residence from the start for talented individuals and entrepreneurs (this system exists for Canada and Australia, among others).

    Lastly, how can anyone in post-311 Japan not discuss the energy situation. Japan should have used 311 as a catalyst to become the world’s leader in alternative energy. The country is rich in potential hydroelectric energy, geothermal energy and tidal power, and it’s already got lots of companies that are capable of becoming world leaders in photovoltaics.

    I agree with Aly that Japan could save itself if it had the political and cultural willpower to do so. Unfortunately, when the place is run by a gang of corrupt unelected ministers profiting from keeping things as they are and a population that is poorly informed, poorly educated and extremely passive, real change seems highly unlikely. Oh, and let’s not forget that the right wing and organized crime in Japan keep the country prisoner and resist significant change and are happy to assassinate anyone who really rocks the boat. As I’ve said elsewhere, 311 showed that Japan is almost immune to change. The only thing that could change the country would be another country coming in and forcing real change. Given a few decades, China might do this, but the change won’t benefit Japan: it will benefit China.

  • Steve King says:

    Ugh. This is a tediously spurious laundry-list of misinformed pet theories, amateur Dinosaur Japanology and ‘the West knows Best’ proselytizing.

    Rustom writes, “It is not my intention to tell Japan or it’s people what to do”, and then promptly tries to, er… tell Japan and it’s people what to do. “The working hours MUST, etc etc”. He sounds like a drunk guy in a pub who’s had a bad day.

    Also, I’m not clear as to why this guy’s perspective is ‘unique’. There are tens, hundreds of thousands of people who have got married in Japan and stayed in the country for as long as he has.

    No doubt Mr. Rustom will be reading this and to him I say sorry, but this is laughable.

  • Nice suggestions Aly.
    Though, in regard to “Government sponsored programs –
    A. Free or cheap English Day Care centers”
    As sensible as it may sound, I recall some of Debito’s articles and posts that touch on the topic of the seeming xenophobia/racism that exists in parts of Japanese society which may make it difficult for some Japanese parent’s to entrust their beloved children to the NJs.

    English might be an advantage indeed, but it may make the parents uncomfortable or feel estranged especially if they are not as fluent in the language. Conversely, those “day care nannies” also need some language training in Nihongo, to function in their daily lives and to allow kids that have totally no exposure to English yet.

    Finally, it may be difficult and costly to import trained daycare workers/nannies from the more industrialized(read:rich) countries of the world (ala Au Pair)to work in Government sponsored programs that may not pay so well. It would also be sad if there would be prejudice towards fluent English speaking Nannies not coming from Native English countries(US,UK,Australia,Canada,etc.).
    Day care workers from India, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. may be discriminated based on their appearance, as they do not look ‘English’ enough, as the case in some language schools in Tokyo who just hire any Caucasian, even if they do not have the teaching competency or even the proficiency in English.

    Nevertheless, I must say that some of your other points sounds nice. Hopefully, things will change for the better here in Japan. If not, maybe their robots will become advanced enough to ‘take care’ of things in the future.
    Peace 🙂

  • Dear Mr Rustom,

    While the discussions at debito.org page have become more and more difficult to post at, due to the tone of many of the posters and my lack of English skills to follow them up, as well as the selection of topics, some of which I disagree with, your essay did raise some interesting questions about the current affairs in Japan. Although I’m not quite sure solving these problems will “save” Japan, they are interesting to be considered. I, however, find it difficult to agree or disagree with anything you say, simply because the way you present your suggestions. If you intend to improve and present your work further at other media, and this is just a draft you’ve put to a discussion, I’d find some time and write down some suggestions, but if your essay is just an attempt to take what bothers you in your daily life off your chest, then I won’t discuss any further.

  • Thank you for exposing your thoughts, but I have to disagree with most of the points you make. Many of these points might make the problems worse by increasing government intervention. The last 30 years have shown that massive Keynesian economic stimulus, government programs, etc. do not work. Massive redistribution efforts and increased taxes won’t help either. Also, many of the points do not concern the main problems I see in the country (but this is my personal opinion):
    – a bloated and relatively inefficient bureaucracy (and powerless politics)
    – a very unhealthy concentration of the economic activity in only a few major centers (Tokyo, Osaka mainly), while the countryside is for the most part dead economically
    – a relatively rigid job market
    – high transportation costs
    – a surprising tolerance to systemic inefficiencies and conflicts of interest

    I believe some of the following reforms might help:
    – a radical reform of the administration. It should be smaller, more efficient, using modern technologies in order to cut costs. (with Singapore or Hong Kong as a model).
    – promote the development of businesses (startups, etc…) outside major urban centers by cutting business taxes in struggling areas.
    – instead of deducting social costs automatically to the salary, let the people choose their own social system (public or go to private providers) and pay manually
    – market-driven reforms, liberalize the domestic markets (there shouldn’t be protected markets: agriculture, banks, big businesses)
    – ensure civic and business freedoms through a fair and efficient legal systems, proper checks and balances, independent authorities.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Aly

    I think that Eric C #17 is right. Maybe you are talking about ‘fixing’ the symptoms of Japan’s problems, whereas Eric C is talking about fixing the causes.

  • Anonymous says:

    Aly, nevermind the people who say “That solution is wrong” unless they have posted “Here, THIS solution is right!”

    “Let’s NOT do what you proposed” is not constructive, “Let’s do THIS, here’s a better proposal!” is constructive.
    Meaning, it’s all too easy to state what action is “wrong” but it is a challenge to state what action is “right.”

    In life, I think the only time one should shoot down someone’s idea, is if one has an even better idea to offer.
    When looking at the responses to your ideas, notice that most people don’t have better ideas to offer. Remember that.

    It’s like saying to a starving tribe of hunter-gatherers, “Let’s walk south” and a bunch of them reply “No, let’s not do that.”
    Well, naysayers, just sitting here will result in starvation, so WHICH direction do you propose we walk in search in food?
    “No direction. We would rather just shoot down every proposal. We’ve decided to change nothing, do nothing, give up, and die.”
    “The ‘assuredly-bad that we know’ seems safer than ‘possibly-bad/possibly-good that we don’t know’: so ANY change seems risky.”

    Aly, you deserve respect from humanity for having the intelligence and courage to create and share a solution proposal.

    Just as you successfully did in the past, when you proved to awake readers that reason-less gaijin-checks can be refused.

    You said, “If you have a reason, I’ll show you my card, but if you have no reason I refuse to show it to you.”
    And you made the officer show HIS I.D. to keep the officer accountable, resulting in the officer admitting,
    “OK. You can go. I asked to see your ID, and you refused: I can’t make you show it to me. You are free to go.”

    You proved that ARC Law says they can only demand proof of visa when “in the performance of Police Duties 職務執行”.
    And the Police Duties are clearly defined and limited by “The Police Duties Law, Article 2 職務執行 法 第二条”.
    The Police Duties Law states Officers are ONLY able to stop a person for questioning in THREE specific cases:
    #1 If the Police Officer makes a reasonable judgment that a crime is being committed.
    #2 If the Police Officer has enough reason to suspect that a person will commit a crime.
    #3 If the person has acknowledged that he knows about a crime that will be committed.

    So Aly, thank you for the contribution you made to Debito before, and for the contribution you have made to Debito now. 🙂

    Much gratitude to you, and to all people around the world creating, sharing, and trying, new actions for better living. 🙂

  • Edward J. Cunningham says:

    I’d like to make a suggestion of my own, although since I have never been to Japan it will be easy to laugh at or dismiss my idea. It by itself will not “fix” Japan, but I think it is nonetheless necessary for fixing Japan’s problems.

    Japan needs to lower their language barrier between themselves and the rest of the world. That means the Japanese have to get serious about learning English and teaching foreigners their language. I think Japan has used the language barrier as an excuse for keeping up the walls to Fortress Japan, and also that their fear of foreigners has also prevented them from doing something about it. From what I have read, most certified English teachers in Japan are native Japanese who aren’t fluent in English. The obvious solution is to bring in native speakers, but Japan doesn’t want to bring too many in, and they don’t want those who come to stay for very long. Is it any wonder most Japanese don’t speak English?

    In another post, Debito went ballistic when somebody posted something along the lines of “Why should I have to learn Japanese? I can get by with English.” because the progress he made in gaining acceptance by the Japanese was directly a result of him learning the language. I don’t think the powers that be in Japan really want outsiders to learn their language. I think that they feel comfortable if foreigners stay in their own little ghettos dependent on the few Japanese able to communicate with them in English. If Japan needs to open up—and from I have seen from this blog this country really does—it’s not enough to wag their fingers at foreigners who don’t know Japanese. Japan needs to be proactive and teach outsiders their language. I will go farther and say they also should consider writing reform which will not only make this process easier for outsiders, but also for the Japanese themselves. On another thread, I saw sombody write that as a Japanese, that person felt very proud after graduating from high school because finally they could read a newspaper. It’s possible I’m remembering that wrong and it was a Chinese citizen who wrote that, but if that was true and it really takes Japanese ten or more years of schooling to become literate enough to read a newspaper, that in and of itself is enough reason to change the system.

    Finally, I’m fully aware of the apparent hypocrisy of somebody from a country where 90% of the citizens are monolingual and have never visited a foreign country to criticize Japan for not being an open society. Americans do need to learn more foreign languages, but for all its faults, my country cherishes the ideal that you don’t have to be of one race or one culture to be accepted as an American. Japan has yet to do so. I believe that my suggestion is one step in moving toward this larger goal which is necessary for Japan to solve her problems.

  • Sorry, Edward, but that last statement just doesn’t pass the smell test.

    The US has increasingly shown continued othering of people of color. Especially since 9/11 people of Middle Eastern descent are more often than not considered non-Americans, and despite huge populations of legal Hispanic immigrants living throughout the SW, states like Arizona actually passed laws that would make it acceptable to card ‘random’ people to make sure they were legal.

    Keep the topic on Japan and avoid the comparisons to countries where race relations are faltering on practically every level.

  • Edward J. Cunningham says:

    @ Icarus

    I’m fully aware of racism in my country. I’m also fully aware of successful FIGHTS against racism, fights which Debito is carrying on in his new home. But for all the racism in my country, you will find it hard to get Americans to say on record that America is a country of whites, by whites, and for whites, that notable Americans of different races or ethnic backgrounds “don’t count” because they can’t trace their ancestry back to Jamestown or Plymouth. But from I’ve seen on this blog, it seems that most Japanese honestly believe that to be Japanese, that you have to be Yamato. In another blog entry, Debito wrote about how schoolkids honestly believed a notable Japanese actress wasn’t really Japanese because she had mixed ancestry. I believe that this belief is widespread in Japan, and it is killing the country.

  • @ Edward

    Surely you must be kidding. Some of the top people in politics have tried to argue President Obama wasn’t American because A) He was black, B) His father wasn’t American, or even C) He went to school outside of the country. It’s all a bunch of conspiracy nonsense, but that is also at the upper echelons of public dialog. Donald Trump was just on CNN *TODAY* saying the exact same thing. Consider how “He’s a Muslim” has become synonymous with “He’s not American,” and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

    But again, this is getting too far off topic.

    If you need examples from Japan, you could probably talk about the frequent use and popularity of mixed-race personalities – are they accepted as Japanese or not? That’s not something I could personally answer because I am neither Japanese, nor am I in that situation. I can, however, look at examples I see in the media: For example, there was controversy and anger over an TV personality calling newscaster Crystal Takegawa a gaijin. Becky has frequently had her foreign parentage showcased, but she seems generally accepted as Japanese.

    Alternatively, if you really wanted to analyze the situation further, you could possibly talk about the heavy hitters like the extremely famous performer Wada Akiko, prolific baseball player Sadaharu Oh, gold medalist Koji Murofushi, radio broadcaster John Kabira, or Softbank founder Masayoshi Son.

    Son is the second wealthiest person in Japan and 127th in the world, and very few people are going to point out or care about his foreign beginnings. In Oh’s case, there is even controversy related to his home run record with Hawks batting coach saying, “I just didn’t want a foreign player to break Oh’s record,” as for why they pitched balls to contenders for the record. Considering Oh is of mixed-nationalities and still registered as a citizen of Taiwan, I think that says a lot.

    Essentially what I’m saying is that being of mixed races is going to effect you equally (both problematic and not) almost everywhere you go. Japan is neither unique nor exceptional in this matter at all. In terms of Japan, the impact of being multiracial will probably be more apparent when you in an area where there is not a large population of other mixed-raced kids. It’s also probably going to be more of an issue when the child has a non-Asian parent.

    To wind up, and bring it back to the main topic, maybe English isn’t where Japan should be looking. Chinese is becoming more and more important both politically and economically in many countries in Asia, so perhaps the focus should start there.

    — Related to your claims of acceptance of (or resistance towards) people with foreign roots in Japan who can “pass” as Japanese, two articles of note regarding their treatment, FYI:

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 27, “Last Gasps of Japan’s Dying Demogogues”, concerning Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s Witch Hunt for Japanese politicians with foreign roots, and how he’s gone too far this time. (May 4, 2010)

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 24, “NJ Suffrage and the Racist Element”: on xenophobic Dietmember Hiranuma’s racist statements towards Dietmember Renho, and how it lays bare the lie of the xenophobic Rightists saying that naturalization ever matters. (February 2, 2010)

    Don’t confuse fetishization of foreignness (expressed in your terms as “popularity”) with “acceptance as a Japanese”. They are not necessarily the same. Nor is the phenomenon of “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.” Now back on topic.

  • Edward J. Cunningham says:

    Thank you, Debito. I thought that my suggestion that if the Japanese actually did a better job of learning other languages (especially but not exclusively English) would help open up the country would be controversial. What I did not think would be controversial would be stating the problem of Japanese xenophobia, which has been a running theme in your blog. Icarus is ducking the question by trying to shift the focus on American racism. I’m all in favor of fixing that problem, but that isn’t going to help Japan which is what this thread is about.

  • Anonymous says:


    Surely YOU must be kidding. If you’re going to try to post here at Debito’s blog denials-of-japanese-racism (Japanese don’t do that!), and excuses-for-japanese-racism (Whites are doing it more!), please use the same username here that you use over at Tepido.

    Your first claim: totally wrong.
    Americans don’t say President Obama isn’t American “because A) He was black, B) His father wasn’t American, or even C) He went to school outside of the country.”

    You either don’t understand, or are purposefully mis-stating the issue: what some Americans (like Trump, etc.) are saying is that President Obama isn’t a NATIVE-BORN-AMERICAN because (drum-roll) he isn’t a NATIVE-BORN-AMERICAN. You see, Hawaii is currently still, strangely, refusing to release the original birth certificate proving whether or not Obama is a NATIVE-BORN-AMERICAN.

    You tried to say “Look, Americans are questioning the president’s legality because he’s BLACK, that’s RACIST, my Japanese team doesn’t do that kind of thing!” but your whole argument was totally incorrect: no question of RACISM there, it’s a question of PLACE-OF-BIRTH-ISM (because the Constitution states you must be a NATIVE-BORN-AMERICAN to be president.)

    Now what you SHOULD have brought up, is how even though Renhō Murata was born in Japan: since she was genetically a “a half breed”, and since the genetic “half-gaijin-ness” came from her father, and since Japan’s Nationality Law did NOT allow Japanese nationality to be passed to “half-breed” children of “gaijin-fathers” until 1985 (until 1985, only Japanese-fathers could pass along Japanese nationality to their “half-breed” children, Japanese-mothers couldn’t Source Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renhō) because of this Renhō Murata was called “not a real Japanese” EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS BORN IN JAPAN.

    And about Wada Akiko, again, your claim that “Japanese aren’t racist” falls on its face. Most Japanese don’t REALIZE Wada Akiko doesn’t have pure Japanese blood, which is why they aren’t usually racist towards her.

    When I tell Japanese people that Wada Akiko is not pure-blooded Japanese, most Japanese react like this, “Really? That’s hard to believe. I never heard that before. The media didn’t alert us. Are you sure? Wow, she was hiding that from us. That’s sneaky. I don’t like that. Hmmm, I always knew there was something strange about her. Come to think of it, I don’t really like her. Especially now that you’ve told me the truth about her.”

    And when I told my Japanese students that Masayoshi Son doesn’t have any Japanese blood, that he really “has 100% Korean blood” and “merely naturalized to Japanese citizenship”, again they reacted like this, “Really? That’s hard to believe. I never heard that before. The media didn’t alert us. Are you sure? Wow, he was hiding that from us. That’s sneaky. I don’t like that. Hmmm, I always knew there was something strange about him. Come to think of it, I don’t really like him. Especially now that you’ve told me the truth about him.”

    About Becky, again, Japanese don’t treat her like a Japanese person, they treat her like an outsider. When they ask Becky’s opinion, it is exactly the same as when they ask Dave Spector’s opinion, they want to know how a gaijin, an outsider, perceives things, with the full implication that the opinion will be different from a real Japanese person’s opinion. Let’s ask a gaijin, in this case a “half-gaijin” Becky, what she thinks about the subject.

    Even if you are using an internet cafe to hide your IP address, Icarus, your denial of racism in Japan, and your claim that Japan does this less than America, is loud and clear.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @Edward and Icarus

    You have touched an interesting topic;
    Becky and ‘how dare you call her a gaijin (!)’ Crystal are regarded as ‘the good NJ/haafu’ because they act the way that J society expects them to act (wide-eyed and barmy clown, or overly polite and submissive) whereas other NJ with ‘normal’ lives are the ‘gaijin threat’ because we are not conforming to perceived norms and expectations (Tsk, tsk!).

    — Let’s end this tangent soon.

  • I would again note that the proposed cures offered in “Ways to fix Japan” there are really none that deal effectively with human rights issues, yet common allergy issues and wood supply issues are offered.

    The immigration ideas offered are inadequate and would still not resolve human rights issues for many such immigrants.

    More than one-half of all Japanese (the women) are subject to significant and persistent levels of economic, social and legal discrimination, and no mention of that.

    Non-Yamato citizens are similarly subject to such treatment, and no measures there.

    J gays are subject to such treatment, and no mention.

    J disabled are subject to such treatment, and no mention,

    NJ residents are subject to such treatment, and no mention.

    This manifesto is absurd.

  • @Anonymous

    No where did I deny Japanese racism and xenophobia. It exists, there are millions of examples of it (both apparent and not so apparent) and to deny it would be foolish. But at the same time, there’s no way in hell I’m going to let someone in the year 2012 hold the US up as some bastion of racial harmony like Edward did — ESPECIALLY as an example of a direction Japan should head in:

    “Americans do need to learn more foreign languages, but for all its faults, my country cherishes the ideal that you don’t have to be of one race or one culture to be accepted as an American. Japan has yet to do so.”

    This is just patently false, and increasingly more so in recent years as we have an entire party of racist nutjobs trying to clump all Mexicans as illegals, all Muslims as foreigners, and literally ‘other’ the President of the United States in an effort to invalidate his presidency. And you’re wrong about the issue with Obama. If it was simply a question of whether he was natural born or not, then the Republican governor of Hawaii’s recognition of the birth certificate would have been more than enough to quash that nonsense. If you didn’t hear the ‘born in Kenya’ meme, then you just weren’t paying attention.

    Proof Birthers are Idiots:

    Proof That This is an Issue of Extremist Othering:

    However, I definitely find it hilarious that you would clump yourself in with the birthers because those are the very people (e.g. Ishihara) that we’re trying to get rid of in Japan. That’s readily apparent via your your Renho Murata example.

    Now, as for Edward’s second claim:

    “But from I’ve seen on this blog, it seems that most Japanese honestly believe that to be Japanese, that you have to be Yamato.”

    Again, there ARE people like that. It’s without question. But do I need to give Edward another pass because he used a weasel word like ‘most’? No. And to prove that, I gave multiple examples of people who have succeeded on an extraordinary level despite being born foreign or having a foreign nationality. Debito is totally correct in that Japan has a tendency to be more accepting of foreign born people when they are successful, but in almost all of the cases I mentioned above, their foreignness is clearly apparent.

    And Anonymous, you are 100% lying in your personal anecdotes, because in particular Mayayoshi Son’s (孫) last name is a common Korean last name, and as such, it identifies his roots. The same would be applicable if his last name was Kim (金). Wada Akiko’s history is no secret as well, and you would be entirely mistaken if you think she could make it this far in her career without that being known (although maybe not by young people). Even Sadaharu Oh’s last name (王) marks his roots as being foreign. These people have reached the pinnacle of Japanese-ness (for lack of a better term), despite not being entirely Japanese or Japanese AT ALL!

    This post is clearly off topic, and I apologize for that. I’ve had spats with Anonymous on this site before, but it’s extremely frustrating to me when people make ignorant blanket statements about an entire people — and for god’s sake Anonymous, this applies everywhere (and I’m certainly guilty of it in certain cases). I wouldn’t want someone thinking I was some kind of racist psychopath like Michele Bachmann just because I was an American, and in the same vein, I’d like to give those progressive Japanese people who actually care about foreigner rights to get the benefit of the doubt before I start condemning them like Edward did.

    In fact, one way of improving foreigner rights in Japan might be to start finding allies among the Japanese population that can assist in this matter. People like Anonymous have already made it clear that all Japanese are racist to the core, but if that’s the case, the fight is already lost. Anyone looking at this problem logically would see how important it is to separate the wheat from the chaff to build up any kind of positive forward momentum.

  • Icarus #33

    I agree with your sentiment:

    “In fact, one way of improving foreigner rights in Japan might be to start finding allies among the Japanese population that can assist in this matter.”


    “Anyone looking at this problem logically would see how important it is to separate the wheat from the chaff to build up any kind of positive forward momentum.”

    I would suggest that one group of such potential allies is other marginalised groups in Japan that are not foreigners.

    — Yep, and I’ve certainly tried that over the years. With mixed results (the critics would say due to my personality flaws, but other people in my position have tried and not done much better at unifying everyone). Long story that would fill a book, but just understand that the GOJ is very skilled at tactics of divide and conquer.

  • Anonymous says:


    Your point: there are some progressive Japanese people who actually care about foreigner rights.

    My point: most (not all) MOST Japanese people are NOT progressive people who care about foreigner rights.

    I see you built a strawman, “Anonymous says “ALL” (not true), “all” can’t be true, thus what Anonymous says can’t be true.”

    You know that I have never said ALL Japanese. Not ALL tigers are dangerous. When we say tigers are dangerous, we mean MOST.

    More than 51% of tigers are dangerous, so we say “Tigers are dangerous.” More than 51% of Japanese label people without Yamato-DNA as: gaijin, outsiders, not a part of their circle, so we honestly say “Japanese are racist = Most Japanese are racist.”

    When the percentage of Japanese who label people without Yamato-DNA as: gaijin, outsiders, not a part of their circle, someday becomes 49% or LESS, then finally we will honestly be able to say “Japanese are not racist = Most Japanese are not racist.”

    PS – You wrote “you are 100% lying” about Son and Wada, nope, you are incorrect about that. Go ahead and take a poll of your students, as I have: most Japanese people do NOT realize that Son and Wada carry “gaijin blood”, most Japanese people ARE surprised to learn this fact. Maybe YOU know which kanji “mark” someone as being a covert-gaijin, but the average Japanese person doesn’t know which kanji “mark” someone as being a covert-gaijin.

  • Anonymous says:

    Most Japanese currently believe that DNA is what determines whether or not you are Japanese.
    Most Japanese currently believe that a white citizen of Japan like Debito is still not Japanese.

    Most Americans currently believe that Citizenship determines whether or not you are American.
    Most Americans currently believe that a non-white Citizen of America is definitely an American.

    (The clause about presidency place-of-birth is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural-born-citizen_clause)
    (That clause is clearly birth-ist, but until it is changed, presidents most show their original birth certificate.)

    It’s interesting that to you Icarus, the word MOST is “a weasel word”. It’s absolutely the opposite.
    The word “some” is a weasel word: most people in Japan believe X, but you weaselly reply “SOME don’t believe X!”

    MOST of readers of Debito’s blog understand the following 2 statements currently remain true:
    #1) MOST Japanese currently believe that DNA is what determines whether or not you are Japanese.
    #2) MOST Japanese currently believe that a white citizen of Japan like Debito is still not Japanese.

  • Fight Back says:

    I agree with Anonymous. I personally have never met a Japanese person who cares about my rights but I have met hundreds who insist I have none. I am always looked at as a visitor and am assumed to be non-Japanese just because I was born in America.

    I don’t think the arguement that there may be some ‘friendly’ Japanese out there really holds water. As I mentioned in another comment it’s common enough for a Japanese spouse to put country and culture before family and given the experiences we’ve all had I don’t think it’s a blanket condemnation to say that the Japanese are racist.

  • Anonymous says:

    But, but, there are SOME Japanese landlords who treat gaijin applicants the same as Japanese applicants.

    But, but, there are SOME Japanese presidents who treat gaijin employees the same as Japanese employees.

    But, but, there are SOME Japanese police officers who treat gaijin walkers the same as Japanese walkers.

    But, but, there are SOME “progressive” Japanese people who treat gaijin people the same as Japanese people.

    The argument the reality-deniers keep trying is, “Not ALL Japanese commit racist acts, here are a few examples we found of SOME Japanese who don’t commit racist acts. A campaign against racist acts in Japan is unneeded, the campaigners dislike Japanese, the campaigners want to damage Japan, to harm future generations.”

    The simple fact the reality-speakers keep saying is, “MOST Japanese commit racist acts (e.g. saying that white Japan-born citizens of Japan, and black Japan-born citizens of Japan, ‘still aren’t really Japanese’), and the pitifully small percentage of “progressive” Japanese exceptions prove the rule. A campaign against racist acts in Japan is needed, the campaigners dislike racist acts, the campaigners want to improve Japan, to benefit future generations.”

  • Anonymous says:

    “What do you call a black or white man,
    who was born in Japan with Japanese citizenship,
    whose parents were also born in Japan with Japanese citizenship,
    whose grandparents (both sets) were also born in Japan with Japanese citizenship,
    whose great-grandparents (all 4 sets) became naturalized citizens of Japan in 1920,
    a black or white man who was born and raised in Japan 100% immersed in Japanese language and culture,
    with a PhD from Tōdai?”

    “A gaijin.”

    “A gaijin” does NOT mean a person with “outside country birth”.
    Japanese-DNA holders with “outside country birth” aren’t called gaijin.

    “A gaijin” does NOT mean a person with “outside country citizenship”.
    Japanese-DNA holders with “outside country citizenship” aren’t called gaijin.

    “A gaijin” does NOT mean a person with “outside country language/culture”.
    Japanese-DNA holders with “outside country language/culture” aren’t called gaijin.

    “A gaijin” is merely a person with “outside country DNA” genetically doomed to be an outsider.
    Regardless of birthplace, citizenship, language/culture: Non-Japanese-DNA holders are called gaijin.

    Someday, when ALL citizens of Japan are called 日本人 without regard to race, the racist word 外人 will change meaning.
    Currently, since black/white citizens of Japan are called 外人 due to race, the racist word 外人 means: Non-Japanese-DNA holder.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    @ Anonymous:

    Just remember “the word ‘gaijin’ is not racist”, say the appologists. “It’s just a contraction.”
    Just don’t get caught using the contraction “Jap” within earshot…

    Incidently, I’ve noticed a kind of revival of the dreaded g-word in the last 4~5 years. It seemed to have hit a low at the end of the 1990’s but is making a comeback. No-one being taken to task for using it? Hell, school teachers use the frigging word. I wonder what would happen if I used the J-word in class.


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