Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids


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Hi Blog. Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”

The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified —  in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see herehere and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes.  It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.

Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments:  She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination.  (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)

That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article.  Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text (redacted to remove Stephanie’s last name).  Any translation errors are mine, and corrections are welcome. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!



Salutations.  We received your letter regarding the “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article in the December 2012 issue of Chagurin.  Thank you for your interest in our magazine.  We apologize for the delay in our answer.

Chagurin was created as a magazine to report on the importance of farming, food, nature and life, and cultivate the spirit of helping one another.  The goal of the article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” was not to criticize America.  It was to think along with the children about the social stratifications (kakusa shakai) caused by market fundamentalism (shijou genri shugi) that has gone too far.

Let us now answer the four criticisms that you pointed out, incorporating the answers of author Tsutsumi Mika:

1) Your point that “In any town you might go” you will find parks full of [homeless peoples’] tents being untrue:

Indeed, saying that “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” might be considered an exaggerated (kochou) way to put it.

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • It is a fact that after the Lehman Shock, with bankruptcies driving people out of their homes, the people living in tents has gone up dramatically (kyuuzou).  These are called “tent cities”, and they have been reported in major news media as well as in world media such as the BBC.
  • That said, tents aren’t only in parks, so the expression “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” I think is a mistaken way to put it. [sic]

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

  • “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” is a mistaken expression, so we amend it to “there are tents in various places”.

2) Your point that “At a dentists. a filling (tsumemono) costs 150,000 yen [approximately 1700 US dollars]” being untrue:

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • A bill for a tooth’s treatment will easily exceed 1000 dollars, especially in the cities.
  • Even if you are insured, there are cases where the insurance company refuses to pay.
  • If you are not insured, there are many cases where they take advantage of your weakened position (ashimoto o mirarete) and demand high prices.

[NB: With remarkable serendipity, I have a friend who just had dental work for a root canal for a cracked tooth and a cap on top.  The entire root canal came to about 1000 dollars, and the cap about 800 dollars.  So total that’s about what Tsutsumi claims is the market price for a filling, in a city like Honolulu.  And yes, fortunately, the insurance company paid for most of it.  So obviously your mileage may vary from Tsutsumi’s claims.]

In regards to points 1 and 2, the author did extensive on-site research, and this is grounded upon information with sources.  Saying it as an “everything and all” absolute beckons overstatement, and for giving rise to misunderstandings we apologize.

Regarding point three, about the the picture of the boy with cavities in fact wearing fake Hallowe’en teeth:


We checked with the photo agency from whom we borrowed this photo, and found out that they are fake teeth.  This was a mistake by our editorial department, and we apologize for putting up the wrong photo (ayamatta shashin o keisai shita koto).

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

“Regarding the photo of the image of the boy with bad teeth, these were not cavities, these were false teeth used as a costume, and we apologize and correct this error.”

4) Your point about the column being so negative:

Regarding that, the last page of the article states that it is calling for children to independently (jishuteki) choose data for themselves (jouhou no shusha sentaku), so as a project (kikaku) in itself we think this is a positive thing.  Author Tsusumi is of the same opinion.

There are many things in this world that we want children to learn.  Unfortunately with the way the world is now, there are many problems, not limited to poverty and social inequality, but also food supply, war, etc.  In regards to these problems, we would like to positively take up these issues and include Japan’s problems as well.

Thank you very much for your feedback.  We will take them under advisement in our upcoming articles, and not make mistakes like these again by paying attention to fine details.  We appreciate your reading our publication very much.  

Signed, Chagurin Editors Iwazawa Nobuyuki and Mogi Kumiko



chagurinreply1 chagurinreply2



COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  While both Stephanie and I appreciate the fact that the magazine admitted to some mistakes (let alone answered her at all; although Tsutsumi clearly didn’t budge from her claims), the fundamental points I raised in my November post on this article and the treatment of the issues remain unaddressed:

 – It is testament to our educations that we as readers with critical faculties can see that the points raised [within Tsutsumi’s article] are real social problems [in the United States]. The point of this blog entry, however, is how a) they are presented b) to a young audience without significant training in the critical thought the author is advocating, c) couched as a contrast to how Japan is (or is becoming) as a cautionary tale, and d) in a way unsophisticated enough to present these conditions with the appearance of unmitigated absolutes e) about a foreign society that isn’t going to answer or correct the absolutes. Then we get to the sensationalism (e.g., the allegedly fake teeth in the illustration and the misquoted prices) and the subterfuge (the odd linkage to international trade/TPP as the source of problems, etc.)…

Finally, consider the shoe on the other foot — if an article of this tone and content appeared in an overseas grade-school level newspaper funded by the farming lobby and endorsed by the PTA with the same type of content about Japan, the first people banging on the publisher’s door in protest would be the Japanese embassy.  Then the internet denizens will follow with accusations of racism and anti-Japaneseness. The fact that not a single poster on Debito.org has cited anti-Americanism as the author’s motive (in fact, a few comments I did not let through were explicitly anti-American themselves; moreover with no substantiation for claims) is testament again to the sophistication of our audience here: We can acknowledge problems in societies of origin without glossing over them with blind patriotism.

Stephanie herself added (dated January 15):

I received a response from the editor of Chagurin magazine. I sent them a letter in November and when I did not hear back I thought they would not respond. I was surprised when this letter arrived a few days ago. And to admit any kind of mistake or wrong…I think that is a big step. […]

Yes, I thought missing the core issue of this being a propaganda piece aimed at children is what happened in their response (my daughter translated the letter for me). I’ve lived half my life in locations that were not exactly warm to my being caucasian or my being American. With that I have learned the frustrations of not being able to “make” someone see a different viewpoint or a view beyond what they narrowly have allowed themselves. Growing up, “Where are you from?” I never knew quite what to answer, I’m a “third culture kid”. My mom is [a native of one European country] and my dad is [a native of another European country], I have dual citizenship.

Still, that Chagurin admitted anything wrong — was surprising. I’m still hoping that gradually, with people willing to write and speak out that there will be a change and an ability to focus on the true points of concern in these very important issues. And yes, if the shoe were on the other foot it would have been a huge deal!

I did follow the article and discussion after you posted it. I very much enjoyed the discussion and was glad that the majority of those sharing understood the overall concern –not, as you mentioned an anti-American issue. […]

I want to thank you again for the site you maintain that provides awareness and support for so many people — thanks.


Alright, Debito.org Readers: We have been formally encouraged to think independently by Chagurin and Tsutsumi, so let’s use some critical thinking about this publication, the author, the tack, and the points/evidence raised therein. Problem solved with this apology and retraction? Arudou Debito

30 comments on “Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids

  • A predictable outcome. The author and publisher continue to ignore the fact that it used worst case scenarios and fake photos to paint the US as a scary 3rd world country. Then taught it as fact to children.

  • Mika Tsutsumi is typical of her ilk. A self-serving know all/know nothing social commentator who has carte blanche to say as she pleases as she is unanswerable to any race discrimination laws in Japan. That’s because there are no actual race discrimination laws in Japan. She is one of many. Her husband’s political party supported fear mongering rallies against allowing suffrage for NJ permanent residents a few years ago. Shame on both of them. It’s commendable that Chagurin addressed the issue and actually replied to Stephanie’s email/letter. Many publications wouldn’t. However, until the author seriously addresses concerns made about her article by readers nothing here has been properly dealt with. Tsutsumi’s contentions support many xenophobic ideas people have about the world outside Japan. That’s the issue here. More mainstream debate and discussion is required that show contrary points of view that challenge widespread xenophobic ideas about all that is NJ.

  • I would like to hear what the “written so it must be so” teacher has to say. Perhaps she needs to ask her teacher again about the misinformation.

  • It also “scares off thoughts” of children who might think of going abroad for education, work, etc. Keeping them trapped here in Japan, the only “safe place.”

  • At least JA and the PTA responded. That is a step in the right direction and maybe it got some folks thinking about the content of the article

    As for Tsutsumi, I doubt she would change her way of thinking anyway based on some of the other things I have read.

    Now…..what about the hospital in Hokkaido refusing service? Did that ever get anywhere? Just curious.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    “In regards to these problems, we would like to positively take up these issues and include Japan’s problems as well.”

    Perhaps they could followup, in the name of balance, with some information and stats on the number of homeless people in Japan such as the ones that live in shacks along the Tamagawa river. A nice field trip would be enlightening…

    I would add that one of the prominent stories from this week was the reporting of the record number of people/families living on welfare in Japan.

    Too bad we couldn’t direct the “written so it must be so” teacher to The Onion…

  • This looks like a tactical success! Stephanie complained, Debito got the word out, and within a short time, the author/publisher backed away from some of their more atrocious claims… I congratulate you all for a job well done.

    I have found that many Japanese leaders and writers will first form an opinion, then look for data to support their position.
    With the partial retraction/apology above, they are sticking to the majority of the article being “factually true” position. If someone were to highlight a negative part of Japan, and insist that it was “factually true” (say, teenage prostitutes “abunai shumi” – you know, blow it out of proportion), you would immediately receive protesting calls and letters. THEN they might understand.

    Stay diligent, and keep up the great work!

  • I put on my critical thinking cap as I read through the comments. Unfortunately though, when I’m in Japan I often find it’s easier to survive if I take it off…I’ve traveled throughout North America, Latin America and Asia and have seen homeless and “tent cities” everywhere I’ve been…The largest collection of homeless I ever saw in one area was in Osaka’s Shinsekai/Airin-chiku neighborhood. Tokyo’s Sanya neighborhood is similar, though much smaller. For quite a while in the ’90s the largest train station in Japan (and the world), Shinjuku, had a large collection of homeless that would have been impossible for anyone to ignore…When I lived in Fuchu-shi, Tokyo in the ’90s/early 2000s, there was a noticeable collection of homeless that lived in a park, which was a ten minute walk from my apartment…Obviously, homelessness is an issue that should be addressed, but I believe Japanese society needs to have a look in the mirror before pointing fingers at anyone else…Here’s a link to a story I wrote after my first walk through Osaka’s Shinsekai neighborhood: http://donmaclaren.com/danse_macabre.html

    I hope my observations have a positive impact on this debate.


    Don MacLaren

  • I think it was well worth it, if only for Tsutsumi having had to defend her writing, and probably profusely apologise for the “trouble” she caused. I think she might now carry an even greater grudge against those troublesome foreigners, but if she takes more care from now on, regardless of the reason, it was a definite success.

  • Markus #9: Stephanie and Debito challenged Mika to be a better journalist.
    They let her know that if she and her publisher print inaccuracies and blatantly incorrect information (Halloween teeth) they will be challenged.
    Due to her low level of professionalism, her publisher had to apologize and print a retraction. This shows that she is an amateur. We know it. Her publisher knows it. She knows it. Essentially, the publisher is admitting they don’t know what they are printing, and they don’t fact-check stories.

    In the end, whether she likes, loves, or hates foreigners is irrelevant. If she is made a better (more objective, professional) journalist, she will be more careful with everything she writes. And this can only benefit all of us, NJ & J alike.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Take my hat off to Stephanie…and Chagurin editor for a thorough and proper response! Tsutsumi still seems to be defensive by re-stating her claim (which is not necessarily bad as long as she is willing to respond to her critic), but let’s see. This incident shows that she’s yet to be a full-fledged journalist. I think she would have been in a hot water right now, becoming a punching bag for readers and critics of journalism, should she published this article in English media.

    — Ah, but you see, she didn’t. And she hardly ever does. So she isn’t exposed to as much of the “critical thinking” that would show how flawed her science is. No need for her to — the incentives are there: “Sensei” says this about a field that people know little about (but are interested in because of the latent patriotism-based prejudices of societal comparisons), few people question its quality (hell, her snake-oil was being sold to grade-schoolers, for chrissakes!), and she sells hundreds of thousands of books to an insular domestic market. Ka-ching!

  • I don’t find that having experience living abroad opens up the minds of Japanese at all. Once they’ve been through the Japanese educational system, it’s pretty much already too late. I see this all the time. They would “live abroad” and develop this bipolar personality where they would switch between the 2 personalities, rather than averaging out 1 personality. Hell, I’ve even seen Japanese people living abroad and discriminating against the local residents, in their own country!

  • @Al:

    Yes, I have seen this also, that is Japanese discriminating or distinguishing themselves as different/superior when residing or visiting abroad. Ive seen them refer to the locals as “gaijin” or say derogatory comments on elevators about local people..all in Japanese of course. This all disqualifies the position that the word “gaijin” isnt a slur or not used to refer to somebody as inferior.

    — Let me just put the kibosh on: This blog entry is not about the epithet “gaijin”, so no comments discussing it in particular will be approved.

  • @#13
    Hearing my students talking about “all the foreigners[gaijin] in Australia” – when they’re just talking about regular Australian people – really blew my mind the first time I ran into it. Children here are conditioned from a scarily young age to ‘other’ all those not exactly the same as them, ie certified (the certification is important) full-blooded Japanese, and their viewpoint really becomes strangely skewed as a result.
    Sadly, articles like this thus further compound the problem. They’d have done a far better service as far as critical thinking goes had they examined these issues in Japan, doubly so because they wouldn’t be reinforcing the Japanese tendency to always compare Japan to America when the two countries could hardly be more dissimilar.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @Don, “Obviously, homelessness is an issue that should be addressed, but I believe Japanese society needs to have a look in the mirror before pointing fingers at anyone else…”

    Do you really expect a society in postmodern denial, living a daily fantasy, to look to itself first before blaming others?

    Japanese denial in terms of resistance to change predates postmodernism (eg. Perry and Gaiatsu as the only force of change pre Meiji) but postmodern media and rationalization processes have done so much in consolidating this trend.

    It is also connected to loss of “face”.

    The most positive thing I can say is that some Japanese might take this in the style of indirect presentation of criticism of homelessness as a whole, including in Japan, but generally I think it is just another classic case of trashy journalism falling into an easy nationalist agenda of diverting the J-masses from domestic problems with a SPECTACLE.

    And of course, the usual comeback “homelessness/racism/etc exists in all countries not just Japan”.

    Still, it is an improvement on the standard 80s line “There aren’t any poor/homeless people in Japan”- that one, along with “Safety Japan” post Fukushima is getting a bit too tarnished as a propaganda slogan or symbol of unique superiority, though I am sure there are still hold outs trotting it out from time to time. And it does not mean anyone will address the problem of homelessness, nevertheless.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    All of the NJ issues about this publication aside, why isn’t the local board of education questioning the fact that a farmers lobby group is sponsoring an anti-TPP brainwashing effort in elementary schools? After all, that’s what the purpose of all the bad journalism and social science therein was about; ‘Hey kids! Protect your local agricultural economy or become fat Americans!’ was the message. Since when were business groups allowed to preach to elementary school kids inside the schools?

    And a big well done to Stephanie!

  • The magazine acknowledged their mistakes – good for them. But the real issue was never the mistakes – even if the article was 100% factually correct, it should never have been published. The issue is “context.”

    Imagine A doesn’t like you for whatever reason and describes you to C. And let’s assume A does not lie and everything she says about you is factually ACCURATE. However, she cherrypicks her facts – choosing to describe ONLY your flaws, shortcomings, and negative traits. You could be a wonderful – albeit flawed – person, but C is never going to want to meet you after hearing a BIASED description of you. And if C is an impressionable child? You don’t have a chance.

    What Tsutsumi did was evil – she biased an entire group of impressionable young children against a country for purely spiteful reasons – I can’t think of any reason why someone would seek to paint such a biased picture of another country unless they had an axe to grind.

    What if a US magazine published an article for children entitled “Children in racist Japan” and focused SOLELY on Japan’s negatives but the article was completely factual? How would Japan respond??

    “Guess what kiddies, Japan is the ONLY developed country in the whole world where it is legally O.K. to discriminate based on race and national origin. So Jose, Tyron, and Johnny, if you grew up in that country, guess what, you might not be able to find a place to live on your own. And you might have trouble getting a job because it’s O.K. to turn people down based on race alone. And there isn’t a single thing you can do about it because there are no laws to protect you against discrimination.”

    And so on and so on…. How would Japanese feel?? What would American kids think of Japan if page after page they were presented with only Japan’s negatives? They would think, simplistically, “it’s a HORRIBLE country.” And since what you’re told as a kid tends to stick with you for a long time, I’m pretty sure few of these kids would ever want to study abroad in Japan. And so their one-sided negative image of Japan would remain unchallenged. Vicious cycle anyone?

    Simply evil. It’s not the facts – it’s the context.

    On a separate note, I was not in the least surprised to hear about the right-wing leanings of Tsutsumi’s husband Kawada. I know little about him but I remember thinking “that’s strange” when, a few years back after winning election he was interviewed on Furutachi’s Asahi news program and he seemed to show no empathy for HIV infected people overseas – only in Japan. It was a very strange interview. He brushed off Furutachi’s remark about contributing to progress on the HIV front internationally. While I feel very sorry for him that he contracted HIV through no fault of his own, I couldn’t help but think after seeing the interview that he feels “this is a foreign disease that those damn foreigners inflicted on me and other poor innocent Japanese – so who cares what happens to them we need to focus on ourselves.”

    A “right-wing, anti-foreigner HIV activist.” Maybe some things are unique to Japan…

  • Hello Baudrillard,

    Thank you for referencing my post in yours, in which you quote me (correctly) in writing:

    “Obviously, homelessness is an issue that should be addressed, but I believe Japanese society needs to have a look in the mirror before pointing fingers at anyone else…”

    Then, you write:

    “Do you really expect a society in postmodern denial, living a daily fantasy, to look to itself first before blaming others?”

    I don’t want to sound petty, given that we’re probably on the same wavelength (please tell me if I’m wrong), but I did not write, “…I expect…” but rather “…I believe…” I still do BELIEVE (quite strongly) that Japanese society needs to have a look in the mirror before pointing fingers at anyone else. I also BELIEVE many others with extensive experience in Japan agree with me on this. My statement is a hope, a desire, not necessarily an expectation that it’s likely to happen soon.

    I don’t understand what the point of these kinds of debates would be if there were not some hope or desire that the Japanese would examine themselves critically.

    I hope we’re not getting bogged down in semantics here, which (now having written this) may be partly my fault.

    Once again, thanks for the post.


    Don MacLaren

  • Bitter Valley says:

    So I think most fair-minded people would agree that one of the crucial issues with the piece is that you can slam-dunk a whole society with selective cherry picking of facts once you decide your narrative and ignore context, or bury or marginalize it so the overall impression you create is supportive of your partiality. Welcome to the world of journalism!

    Cynicism aside, and the appalling and many failures of U.S. society, the author ought to come to spend a few days in Shibuya, where she will find a society obsessed with mindless consumerism and brainwashed to become interested and obsessed with such dire and pathetic rubbish (J-pop, kiddies fashion, silly brands for adult adolescents ); flip across the road to find an enormous exploitative sex industry whose scale is staggering and confrontational if you enter the area; and homeless EVERYWHERE. Hundreds of homeless in the park and soup kitchen opposite my mansion driven out of “Nike Park.” Then those homeless tipped out along Meiji Dori. Then the homeless under the tracks of Shibuya Station. Then the homeless village in the far corner of Yoyogi park.

    Hey, Tsutsumi, when “guiding young minds about social issues,” why don’t you come and do something on Shibuya. There are many lessons to be learned closer to home.

    Of course Shibuya doesn’t represent Japan. But don’t let context get in the way.

  • #18 John: excellent idea. Why can’t someone do what you suggest, and post it on youtube, facebook, or some other site? Then people like me can send links out…

    Seriously, a serious discussion (in Japanese) of Japan’s unequal treatment of NJ would be AWESOME. There is certainly enough material.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ John #18

    It’s probably not spite or evil that made her write this, but the publicity it helps give her books off the back of the article she wrote, and more likely, the fee she was paid (?) by the agricultural lobby to write something on their behalf that would discreetly inform people that joining TPP and withdrawing subsidies to Japanese farmers/protecting Japanese agriculture from cheaper imports, would lead to an imagined US style ‘health crisis’. It’s straight up anti-TPP propaganda presented as educational facts for children.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Dude #22

    I agree with your publicity approach.

    I can see one flaw though…two if I’m honest.

    Revealing one’s face on the internet whilst critiquing Japan (remember, in Japanese culture this is seen as racist Japan-bashing) could lead to all sorts of unpleasentness if identified on the street by a disgruntled J-viewer. Who knows, perhaps it could affect visa renewal chances and employment opportunities?

    I would imagine that the apologists would lap up any extra information about the identities of those appearing in the videos, and make as much trouble for them as possible.

    Maybe much better for people who have left/are leaving Japan to do it, since we will be well beyond such victimization.

    Or people could just make videos whilst wearing masks, to protect their identities….a kind of ‘League of Gaijin’ secret society (although, clearly, not very secret now…like the name though…).

  • #24 Jim Di Griz:

    Totally agree with your concerns, so:

    1. I live in Hawaii. They can’t ‘get” me. Choose someone like me living outside Japan to make the youtube account. Then you can post to it as much as you like – or send content on CD’s, and someone like me can post them for you.
    2. Don’t show your face – make it a video about the facts, not the person. Use a computer to make a presentation, (with statistics, graphs, data, referencing articles, videos, news broadcasts, etc.) then film the presentation – no faces required.
    3. Make it in Japanese, with English subtitles (just my opinion).

    I know that many of you have the intellect and ability. You also have the facts. I really think someone should get the word out BEFORE NHK begins ‘managing’ the discussion.

    I would personally suggest a series, something similar to “Japan culture lab The Japanese tradition – nihon no katachi” – do a search on youtube for several examples. Reasons:
    You can focus on specific subjects, like discrimination in the workplace, or in University ‘circles’.
    You can expose Japan’s shameful human rights record.
    You can keep each segment short, so the viewer won’t get bored. Think bite-sized.

    This is so do-able. If you need/want help, just let me know.

    — Dude, contact me offlist at debito@debito.org.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Dude #25

    That is very good.
    I will have to work out how to make a video!

    — And I wonder if we can start up a Debito.org-supported YouTube video channel. Dude, what say you?

  • #26 Jim Di Griz: Is that a trick question? OF COURSE!!!!!
    Note: I have little talent with a camera (I’ve tried). But I think I am decent as a facilitator (keeping projects moving forward).

  • Odorikakeru says:

    I would like to jump on the bandwagon of this YouTube series idea, and help out in any way I can.
    I might be able to get some of my Japanese colleagues on board (the two behind the 「孤独のツバメたち」 documentary from last year).

    Debito, do you think we can move this discussion to its own thread so people can start discussing ideas?

    — Alright.

  • I wasn’t paying much attention to this thread, because I’m not American. But a few days ago something happened at work that made me think twice. The small college that I work for holds several public lectures every year, inviting various experts and university lecturers to give talks about their chosen fields of expertise. The most recent lecture was entitled “Civil Rights in the U.S.A.” and I willingly attended, expecting it to be a comparison of human rights movements in America and Japan. (The lecturer is a high-ranking professor at a national university, who claims to have taught in Chicago.)

    Instead, what I witnessed was basically a 90-minute diatribe about the moral depravity of America. I won’t go into detail, let’s just say that the lecturer managed to make the US look like the worst place on the planet when it comes to human rights. He packaged slavery, gay rights (or lack thereof), women’s lib, and gun ownership laws into one neat package as the epitome of American culture. He even managed to mention internment camps (oh how they love to squeeze that in, never mind the fact that most of the Japanese internees had emigrated to escape discrimination and poverty in their own land). At the end of the lecture he passed around newspaper articles showing American youths at shooting ranges, as though it were a rite of passage for all schoolchildren to get guns of their own. Throughout the lecture, most of the audience members around me were muttering “America is scary!” and “this would never happen in Japan.”

    After it was finished, I approached him to ask a few questions, and he was visibly shocked to see a non-Japanese face. He immediately asked me “where are you from?” and was relieved to discover that I wasn’t American. We entered into a brief and unsatisfying conversation in which I discovered that he doesn’t actually speak any English at all (how does he know so much about America when he can’t even communicate with its subjects?) and that the last time he ever visited the States was in 2001.

    I was shocked and disappointed at the end of the nasty lecture, and all I could think was how glad I was that my two American colleagues weren’t in attendance that day. Imagine if they had brought their kids?

    He’s a university professor, but he comes across as a fraud and an idiot. I hope that there aren’t too many people like him around, because if there are, Japan-America relations are in trouble.

  • @Becky #29

    Surprisingly, this kind of government/corporate-sponsored anti-foreign propaganda is not uncommon.

    While studying at one of the top national universities in Japan, I had to sit through 2 lectures by university professors that aimed to “inform” Japanese students of the “reality” outside Japan.

    One was about this professor’s exchange in the US a good 20 years ago. He went to an Ivy League University, yet the way he portrayed it was incredibly negative, highlighting how outdated American equipment is, how dangerous the cities are, and how overwhelmingly difficult it is for a Japanese to have to go through daily life in English (as someone taking university classes in Japanese, I couldn’t help but laugh). The ending note was something like “it’s worth it, but do think twice before going”.

    The other was by a professor that was prosecuted for espionage while in the US (a rather nasty case: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/U.S.+to+ask+Japan+to+extradite+alleged+spy…-a074493427), and that spoke at length how strict things are in America and how authorities will make your life miserable if you happen to “step a bit out of line”. It ended with an explanation on how Japanese and American law are different, and that if you are not willing to fully study American laws, you should not go work there.

    AS the only westerner in the audience, and trying to be “Japanese”, all I could do is not and keep quiet about the whole thing. Not one of my colleagues asked me “is that really true?” regarding these talks, even though they do that for relatively silly things.


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