Kume Hiroshi reads his decade-old gaffe on debito.org, apologizes! And why archives matter (contrast with dead and deleted archives at Tony Laszlo’s ISSHO Kikaku)


Hello Blog. Got some great news regarding some unfinished business over a decade old:


This post is structured thusly:


December 7, 2006


I realized the value of a maintaining an archive all these years, when I got a letter out of the blue last Friday night (Dec 1) from a certain individual named Kume Hiroshi.

This is significant. Kume Hiroshi is a very influential person–for more than a decade he was Japan’s most popular (and controversial) news anchorman, hosting NEWS STATION on the TV Asahi network throughout the 1990’s. Much of his controversy stemmed from his glib editorial comments about news during the broadcast, found caustic or offensive by some viewers.

One thing that friends and I found offensive was his flippant use of the word “gaijin”, already becoming a “housou kinshi gotoba” (word not for broadcast, at least officially) on the networks at the time.

A gaffe he made in October 1996, questioning the efficacy of “gaijin” speaking fluent Japanese, caused a huge debate on mailing lists such as the Dead Fukuzawa Society and ISSHO Kikaku (both now moribund). It also occasioned my seminal essay on why “gaijin” is in fact a racist word (https://www.debito.org/kumegaijinissue.html).

Anyhow, this was one of the first human-rights issues ever I took up publicly in Japan, becoming a template for how to use “proper channels” for protest. Now, ten years later, those efforts have finally come to fruition!

What happened back then in more detail: On October 17, 1996, I emailed the following letter to TV Asahi (Japanese original):

============ MY 1996 LETTER TO TV ASAHI BEGINS =================
To Mr Kume Hiroshi:

(opening salutations deleted) On Monday (10/14)’s News Station broadcast something happened which troubled me. In the middle of a broadcast from India about the Maharaja burger in McDonald’s, some Indian apparently spoke very good Japanese.

But after that, Mr Kume apparently said:

“But it’s better if foreigners talk broken Japanese, right?”
(shikashi, gaijin wa nihongo ga katakoto no hou ga ii)

What does this mean? Maybe this was no more than an offhand comment, but I am greatly troubled. The next day, it became an issue on the the Fukuzawa internet group, and some “foreigners” felt very uncomfortable. The reason why was because foreigners both inside and outside Japan [sic] have taken great pains to become bilingual, and even if they try to fit into Japanese society, is it good for you to tell the whole country that “after all, it’s better if they remain unskilled like children”?

And then, I called TV Asahi directly and was connected to a gentleman at News Station. After I explained the above, he [replied]:

“‘Baby talk’ isn’t a bad word, I think. It’s just you who thinks so”, among other things. In other words, it seems he doesn’t take seriously the opinions of his viewers.

Even after I asked him, he wouldn’t give me his name, nor would he write down mine. “I’ll tell him” was all he said. But I really don’t have the confidence that he will pass the word along, so I am sending you this directly by email.

Afterwards, I called TV Asahi again and got hold of the Shichousha Center and talked to Mr Sekimoto. He said friendily, “That won’t do” and “I’ll talk to News Station”. However, that was around noon and I haven’t heard anything from them, so I don’t know what happened.

Anyway, Mr Kume, couldn’t you please take care of your terminology when addressing people who aren’t Japanese? If you take care about how you talk about Burakumin [Japanese Underclass], Zainichi Kankokujin [Japan-born Koreans], and “cripples” (bikko), please also do the same for the “gaijin”. (closing salutations deleted)

============ 1996 LETTER ENDS ======================
Japanese original at:

(The entire issue, related articles, and the debate on Fukuzawa is archived at

The issue then took off, hitting the Washington Post and the Daily Yomiuri twice. Finally, on November 28, News Station devoted an 11-minute segment on the word “gaijin” itself (a digression from the real issue of the “appropriateness” of their fluency–see my write-up of the telecast at https://www.debito.org/kume5tvasahibroadcast.html).

Alas, Kume topped the whole thing off by calling the reporter who anchored the story, award-winning novelist Dave Zoppetti, a “gaijin” all over again. Would he ever learn?

Yes, he would.



Fast forward more than ten years. Kume-san is now no longer on the air (except for a radio program one day a week), and is apparently considering becoming a politician.

This is what I received last Friday:
(Japanese original, available at https://www.debito.org/?p=106
Translated by Arudou Debito):

============ LETTER FROM KUME BEGINS ======================
Subject: Mr. David Aldwinckle
Date: December 1, 2006 7:32:40 PM JST
To: debito AT debito.org
Aldwinckle sama:

Please excuse this sudden email. My name is Kume Hiroshi. I appeared three years ago on News Station.

This is something more than ten years old, but on my program I said something about “I find it weird when foreigners (gaikokujin) are good at Japanese.” Recently I found out that you sent in a letter of protest about this.

I remember this happening. That person who came on the show had such incredible Japanese that I was blown away. My memory was that I remarked with the nuance that foreigners (gaikoku no kata) who speak Japanese should speak it like they knew that they were foreign (gaikokujin).

However, after a good think about this, I realize that this is a pretty rude thing to say. I’m thinking about how this reflects the narrow viewpoint of someone with an island mentality (shimaguni konjou).

I’m not sure how you feel about this nowadays, but if you took offense to this, I apologize from my heart for it.

============ LETTER FROM KUME ENDS ======================

(Note how careful he is even to avoid using the word “gaijin” throughout his letter. Good.)

Now, given the nature of the Internet, I of course had doubts about the veracity of this email. So I asked the author nicely for some more proof. He answered to give me the contact details of his agency (I checked with Dave Spector to make sure it is legit) and the cellphone of his agent, and would let them know I would be calling. I called on Monday and confirmed that yes, Kume Hiroshi really was the author. I have already made this information public to my Japanese lists, to show that Kume really is a person with a conscience.

I also send this to you to show that it really does pay to protest.

Make your thoughts known calmly and earnestly, and minds might change even at the highest levels!

However, this incident brings a more serious issue to light:



Now bear in mind that if these Kume letters were not up and searchable on debito.org, the entire issue would have been lost to the sands of time.

Which creates a clear irony. Another letter regarding the Kume “Gaijin” Gaffe up on my website is from ISSHO Kikaku, a formerly active Internet action group which promoted diversity in Japan (http://www.issho.org), headed by Tony Laszlo, now a millionaire and public figure. Tony Laszlo became very rich and famous in the 2000’s as “Tony-chan”, the amusing foreign husband of an international couple, thanks to the magical depiction by his wife, the very talented manga artist Oguri Saori, in the DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN multi-million-selling comic-book series. (Japan Times article “Drawing on Love: A publishing marriage made in heaven” at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20041017x1.html)

Anyway, the thing is, you can’t find that ISSHO Kume letter up at issho.org anymore. In fact, you can’t get any information whatsoever from the ISSHO Kikaku domain, despite all the years of work by hundreds of volunteers (myself included) creating that archive and information site. Issho.org also contained information on other important issues, such as foreign academics in Japan, the Azumamura Pool Exclusions Case, and the Ana Bortz Lawsuit.

Fact is, the ISSHO archives have been down for more than a year now (all you get when you access issho.org is “Site renewal – please wait a while. Submitted by issho on Sun, 2005-12-04 11:39.”) According to others doing net searches said: ” I just hope [information on the Ana Bortz Case] wasn’t solely on the issho.org site, because according to the Wayback Machine), ‘access to http://www.issho.org has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.’ Which means whoever controls that domain has purposely blocked any attempts from outside to access information from it.” “To be more specific, the robot directed all search engines not to create their own archive. Also, there was a text message in the file, it read: ‘Go away!'”

I don’t know any real human rights group which would do a thing like this. Collate all this information and then not let people access it?

Similarly, the archive for the former issho mailing list at yahoogroups, likewise under the administration of Tony Laszlo, was also deleted several years ago.

Why does this matter? Because ISSHO Kikaku’s archives were an important historical record of how the foreign community in Japan fundamentally changed its awareness in the 1990’s. Foreigners began to refuse being merely seen as “guests”. They began asserting themselves online with a newfound confidence as residents and taxpayers, demanding attention, due recognition, and commensurate human rights.

I also tried to chart the rise of foreign resident awareness in my books JAPANESE ONLY. However, I received a letter, dated August 13, 2004, from Tony Laszlo’s lawyer, the famous TV lawyer Kitamura Yasuo, accusing me of infringement of copyright, libel, and invasion of privacy. Kitamura’s letter is available at https://www.debito.org/letterlazlawyer.html”>https://www.debito.org/letterlazlawyer.html

On August 30, 2004, my publisher and I had a meeting with Tony Laszlo and his lawyer, where he demanded that my publisher halt publication of both my English and Japanese versions of JAPANESE ONLY. We didn’t.

I bring all this up now because there has been more than a year of dead issho.org archives, many years of dead yahoogroups archives, and an attempt to silence another published account of the times in two languages. Why is there so much suppression and/or deletion of the historical record?

The biggest irony is that Tony Laszlo is once again appearing in public as “Representative, ISSHO Kikaku”, according to a November 26, 2006, meeting of new NGO “No-Borders” (http://www.zainichi.net Click under the left-hand heading “nettowaaku ni sanka suru soshiki, kojin” in the blue field, fourth from the top. His is the fifth name on the list. If that archive also mysteriously disappears, refer to https://www.debito.org/noborders120706.webarchive)

With no clear membership, no accessible information site, and no archives to show whatever ISSHO Kikaku has ever done, it seems that this is a Potemkin group indeed.


The bottom line: It is precisely because of archives that Kume Hiroshi apologized. Without a record, we are writing sand messages on the wind. Let history be judged in retrospect without denial of access or mass deletion. If we’re ever going to get anything done for ourselves in this society, we need to know what to continue building upon.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
December 7, 2006


Drawing on love

The “Da-rin” books detailing a couple’s quirky ways are a publishing marriage made in heaven
By TOMOKO OTAKE, Staff writer

THE JAPAN TIMES Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004
Courtesy (and with photos and book excerpts at)

She is a Japanese manga artist with a piercingly sharp eye for human traits and foibles. He is an American writer and language buff who can chat with equal ease in four languages. Together, they make for a magnetic — not to say a “mangaetic” — couple.

That’s because for Saori Oguri and Tony Laszlo (above), their life together has also spawned a side-splitting comic-book series which, in two volumes, has recently topped the million-sales mark.

In the first of the books, “Da-rin wa Gaikokujin” (which means, “My Darling Is a Foreigner”), 37-year-old Oguri turned her life with 44-year-old Tony into a hilarious read.

Published in December 2002, “Da-rin” depicts Tony as a sensitive, naive and reflective guy with markedly chiseled features.

In one episode, bearded Tony is so emotionally affected by seeing a bus fly through the air off the middle of a broken highway in the action film “Speed” (only to miraculously land on the unbroken other side) that he has to get up and lean against the wall for a while “to soften” the shock. Meanwhile, Saori comes across as an articulate, no-nonsense type — a spouse Tony had no chance of shifting when she’d decided to buy two luxurious 200 yen buns at a bakery, despite him urging her to just get one 100 yen bag (with two buns in it) to save money.

“But what if we died tomorrow?” she retorts, her eyes narrowing into fiery slits. Next moment, she’s morphed into a woman on her deathbed, a worn-out futon — whispering feebly from between sunken cheeks: “I . . . wanted to eat that 200 yen bun . . . ”

Talking recently with the couple at a trendy cafe near their home in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, that same comical chemistry came to life from the pages of their book, with Tony waxing lyrical and reflective while his wife, in total contrast, cut straight to the chase.

Their first encounter dates back to 1995, when Saori volunteered to help at an event organized by a nongovernmental group that Tony had founded. Which one of them first had a crush on the other is a bone of contention, with each claiming the other was the first to look him/her in the eye.

Tiffs over ‘subtleties’
But anyway they clicked, started dating, and eventually got married. Although the book describes their budding relationship humorously, it was rocky at first, Saori said. That wasn’t just because Tony hails from the United States and has Hungarian and Italian parents, or just because Saori grew up in Japan. The tiffs came from differences in “subtleties” — like feeling that the efforts you’ve made to adjust to the other went unrecognized.

It was Noriko Matsuda, an editor at the Tokyo-based publisher Media Factory, who persuaded Saori, her older sister’s friend, to create a comic book based on the couple’s life. Matsuda had been a longtime fan of Saori, whose style before “Da-rin” had been relatively low-key, often allied to serious story lines and with dramatically different graphics from “Da-rin,” featuring lots of gorgeous girls and guys.

After she agreed to rise to Matsuda’s challenge, Saori drew the first volume of the book in just six weeks — from October 2002 — after taking time off from a series she was doing for a comic magazine.

Riding the success of the first “Da-rin,” whose total print run is now up to 550,000 copies, Saori came up with a sequel, simply titled “My Darling Is a Foreigner 2,” which was published in March.

Initially, the books were targeted at cross-culturally married couples. But they have turned out to have a much wider public appeal.

Nonetheless, the scale of the books’ success — with a combined 1.03 million copies printed so far (for which Saori receives 10 percent royalties for every one sold) raises the question of whether its popularity is connected to the rising number of Japanese getting hitched to non-Japanese (36,039 in 2003, up from 26,657 a decade ago, according to official statistics). Or does it mean that more Japanese are finally embracing multiculturalism — or at least feeling obliged to tune into the English-speaking world?

According to Matsuda, the book’s success has little to do with any of that.

“Whether you marry a Japanese or a foreigner, marriage, at the end of the day, is about living with someone else,” she said. “And readers probably resonated with the author’s message, which is, if you try to understand each other better, it makes life so much more enjoyable.”

Saori agrees that it’s not the theme of “international marriage” that has fueled the “Da-rin” boom. In fact more than 70 percent of the 60 to 100 postcard responses she gets from readers every month are from Japanese married to Japanese, she said — or from Japanese who are single.

Long after the book’s publication, there was one significant other whose opinion Saori was denied. Tony stopped himself from reading it, because he didn’t want to get caught up in all the hype.

Characteristically, though, when he did recently delve between its covers, he minutely examined its every detail. That was after contracts were signed for an as yet untitled English-Japanese bilingual version of the first book — and Tony was assigned as the translator. Now, he faces the daunting task of ensuring that all its many jokes and entertaining nuances equally successfully bridge the linguistic — and cultural — divide.

“I trust him,” Saori said. Then she turned to him with just a hint of intimidation in her tone, and said: “I’m counting on you, really.”

Keys to cohabitation
So just what are the keys to enjoying living with someone else?

“Talk a lot with each other, but don’t meddle in the other’s business,” Oguri replied directly and without hesitation. “I want him to clean up his stuff, but I don’t tell him persistently.”

I asked for Tony’s input. He paused, then started talking — in impeccable and soft-spoken Japanese — about the limitations of space in big cities and how it is important for a couple to secure enough living space to avoid needless conflict with each other.

“To overcome the shortage of space, you should learn how to put things upward, instead of sideways,” he said. “It’s been some 15 years since I came to Japan, but it’s still hard to master that. In Japan, stereos and other electronic appliances are all stacked up . . . ”

“Everyone is doing it,” Saori cut in. “You’re trying to justify your inability to clean up, aren’t you?”

“And it’s important not to interrupt someone when they’re speaking,” he continued.

Saori sighed, as Tony went on to stress at length the importance of community support in a disaster-rich nation like Japan. Eventually, though, his orbit brought him back to the area of relationships.

“It would be nice if you could be flexible so that you can adjust to your partner, while at the same time retaining your solid, individual self,” he opined.

“Yes, flexibility is necessary,” Saori concurred in an ever-so-slightly un-“Da-rin” way.

The Japan Times: Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004

3 comments on “Kume Hiroshi reads his decade-old gaffe on debito.org, apologizes! And why archives matter (contrast with dead and deleted archives at Tony Laszlo’s ISSHO Kikaku)

  • — Forwarding with permission from Bern Mulvey, the author. Debito


    I was a member of ISSHO from the late 90s. Like Debito
    and several other people, I was a also a member of the
    Benci Project–the action group within ISSHO Kikaku which
    took action against businesses with discriminatory
    practices. Finally, I was co-moderator of the ISSHO
    KIKAKU forum until June of 2001; hence, I have a pretty
    good grasp of the details regarding Tony’s threatened
    lawsuit (and other actions) against Debito.

    Tony’s “issues” with Debito came out long before JAPANESE
    ONLY was published first in Japanese (2003). Even when I
    was co-moderator, there was a push from Tony to have
    Debito removed from the ISSHO list because of his
    “redundant” website and “misuse” of ISSHO documents. The
    talk of suing Debito began then as well–ostensibly to
    protect the accessibility and sanctity of the archived
    materials, ironic given that said materials have
    apparently been erased completely and permanently.

    Much of the criticism directed at Debito from ISSHO and
    Benci members was over how the collected documents and
    other evidence–the fruits of a number of people’s
    efforts–were being “appropriated” by Debito for his
    supposedly “selfish” ends. The book was ostensibly just
    another example of this–e.g., how dare Debito even
    reference the ISSHO/Benci information?! (Note that there
    was also a more legitimate anger over Debito’s use of
    internal correspondence in the book.)

    Of course, what Tony and others conveniently overlooked
    was that much (80%?) of the archival information had been
    gathered by Debito himself. I was one of Debito’s few
    defenders when all this came down, and helped scuttle
    Tony’s lawsuit (supposedly “on behalf of” BENCI members,
    of which I was one). Indeed, I wonder, now that Tony has
    taken down all documentation of 6 years of often
    successful activism–almost all of it the results of
    INTENSE effort he “ordered” but did not assist in–how his
    former defenders live with themselves. Two of the most
    vicious, at least, owe Debito a public apology.

    For a long time, Tony justified his attacks on Debito
    partly by asserting the need to ensure the archival
    resources we created would remain open to everyone. Now,
    they are gone, and I do not understand why. I am glad,
    however, that Debito stood his ground and kept whatever
    archives he could up at debito.org.


    Bern Mulvey

  • Network group for foreigners in Japan to hold conference in Tokyo
    Kyodo News Monday November 20, 2006 4:48 PM

    (Kyodo) _ (EDS: WEB SITE FOR CONFERENCE: http://www.zainichi.net/ )

    A group of volunteers who have formed a network for foreign residents in Japan of different ethnic backgrounds is planning to stage a round-table conference in Tokyo on Sunday to share experiences and problems on such issues as conflicts with local Japanese communities, a group member said Monday.

    The group, No Border 2006, was formed earlier this year after some members conceived the idea in January. It consists of about 30 members including educators and students of different ethnic backgrounds.

    The conference, the group’s first, is scheduled to be held at Hosei University’s Ichigaya campus in Chiyoda Ward, and will feature reports on the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, known to be host to the largest community of Brazilians in Japan, as well as on the Okubo district in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward known for its ethnic Korean restaurants and shops.

    The event will also feature a performance from KP, a rap music group of two Korean residents in Japan, and Tensai’s MC’s, a hip hop music group singing in Japanese and Portuguese.

    No Border 2006 hopes about 100 people will attend the conference, said Brazilian national Angelo Ishi, who teaches about immigration issues at Musashi University in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, adding that anyone can come without the need for a reservation.

    Another member, Junko Tajima, a Hosei University professor specializing in immigration, said, “We also want Japanese people to get to know about the lives and rich cultures of those who tend to be isolated here.”

    The group’s members include people from China, the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Peru, Italy and Argentina.


    Non-Japanese take up school system woes
    Kyodo News/Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006

    Japanese and Foreign residents discuss problems with children’s education during a forum at Hosei University in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

    About 120 people, including non-Japanese residents, discussed and shared problems related to the education of their children, including bullying in schools and language troubles, at a Tokyo forum Sunday.

    Guest speakers reported that about 20 percent to 30 percent of children of so-called “newcomer” foreigners who have arrived in Japan in recent years do not go to school. Participants in the forum included people from China and Iran as well as permanent Korean residents of Japan.

    Journalist Eder Hashizume urged public schools to improve the language curriculum for non-Japanese students, saying, “Brazilian children are only halfway to speaking fluent Japanese and Portuguese.”

    Hashizume is from Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, which hosts a large community of Brazilians.

    Tearful women from Brazil and Myanmar called for help to eradicate the bullying of their children at school and criticized teachers for failing to help non-Japanese students in trouble.

    Lawyer Yasuko Morooka, who handles violations of foreigners’ human rights, told the forum that Japanese authorities “need to ensure the rights of non-Japanese children to receive (a proper) education and authorize more schools for foreigners.”

    The event was organized by No Border 2006, a group of volunteers who have formed a network for foreign residents in Japan from different ethnic backgrounds.

  • Hiragana Times on Daarin wa Gaikokujin (Undated, but after March 2004)
    (with great photos)

    International Marriage
    Darling, Our Life Became a Bestseller!

    Most couples are content to just live each day, go to work, feed the cat, raise kids and grow old together. So it is certainly unusual when a couple are featured in a book, and even stranger when it becomes a bestseller and sells over 1,000,000 copies!

    Yet this is exactly what has happened with the extremely popular “Darling wa Gaikokujin” (“My Darling is a Foreigner”) series written and illustrated by talented manga artist Saori OGURI about her relationship with her husband Tony LASZLO. Together, the pair of books have been flying off bookshelves all over Japan as readers discover the interesting, quirky and downright funny side of an international relationship.

    Modest hopes before book became bestseller
    Tony, the ‘Darling’ in the series, first set foot in Japan in 1985 when he came to follow work pursuits. “I lecture at university and run an NGO, but am essentially a media person,” says the half Hungarian, half Italian Tokyo-based writer. Having written two plays and been involved in other artistic work, Tony has a lot in common with his creative mangaka (manga artist) wife.

    “My prince is not here!”
    “We first met when Saori auditioned for a staff position in a theatrical production I was organizing in 1995,” Tony says. “My first impressions were not so romantic. I just wanted to know whether she would be suitable for the job. It was all very businesslike,” he says with a smile. Saori’s first impressions of her future husband were “My prince is not here! He wasn’t displaying his private side — I
    saw him as a leader,” she recalls.

    The idea to write the books was born when Saori sat down with an editor and described some of the interesting aspects of her life with Tony. “The editor liked what she heard and suggested I make a book out of it,” Saori says.

    When the couple talked with the publisher, they discussed an initial sales target of 50,000 copies. “I thought that perhaps other people in international marriages would buy the book and read it,” Saori says. To her delight, she was completely wrong. Japanese by the thousands have been buying her books, Tony has appeared on TV, and magazines have been clamoring to feature the couple. The first book, originally printed in December 2002, is now in its 28th reprint, and the second, released in March 2004, is in its 12th, a remarkable achievement for a story about an international relationship.

    Tony has never read them cover-to-cover
    While Saori has been taken aback by the books’ stunning success, she believes it is due to the fact that there is quite a lot in common between international and same-culture marriages. Tony on the other hand, believes their success is due to his wife’s creative talents and the way her personality shines through in every page. “I think we are seeing a demand in society for information about lifestyles and relationships, and she happens to be meeting that demand,” Tony says.

    Even though Tony is one of the co-stars in the book, he admits he has never read them cover-to-cover. “Before the books were published, I wanted to give Saori a freer rein in her work. I didn’t want my comments to lead her to make changes to any parts of her books,” he says. “And I didn’t read them after they were published so as to limit any influence they might have on my way of living.”

    Do people recognize them in the street? “If I walk around alone, no one approaches me,” Saori says, “but if we walk around together, people will often come up and say they have read the books. It is very different from the past.”

    Does Saori have any plans to write another book? “The publisher is suggesting we do, but I need to ask Tony if it is OK,” she says with a smile.

    “Darling wa Gaikokujin” books 1 and 2 are published by Media Factory, Inc. Both books are written in Japanese. Book 2 has hiragana printed beside all kanji.


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