Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga. How Ironic.


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Hi Blog. I’ve devoted a couple of blog entries (here and here) plus a Japan Times column to propagandizing journalist Tsutsumi Mika, who has had her “Poverty Superpower of America” book series adapted for Japanese grade-school audiences nationwide and a manga-reading Japanese public.

I’ve already gone into detail elsewhere about the latent journalistic problems with her reportage (not the least the outright falsification of evidence), and the implicit ironies involved with her demonizing a foreign society as a cautionary tale to audiences without sufficient training in comparative cultural study and critical thinking.

Now here’s another irony, sent to me by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Further inspection of Tsutsumi’s works reveals an odd attitude towards Jews. Consider this excerpt from her “Poverty Superpower of America” manga, courtesy of Amazon Japan:


Courtesy http://www.amazon.co.jp/コミック貧困大国アメリカ-堤-未果/dp/4569708978/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1362882715&sr=8-10#reader_4569708978

Here we have a Jew named “David Goldberg” from a financial agency selling bogus house loans to an immigrant Mexican family before the whole US derivatives crisis.  Goldberg announces himself as “the ally of the weak” before destroying all of their hopes and dreams.

Interesting choice of character for Tsutsumi, reflecting the latent bias one sees in elite Japanese society regarding “rich Jews” (not to mention other stereotypes; see below) that surfaces every now and again (such as in our former Education Minister and Prime Minister, and current Deputy PM/Minister of Finance Aso Taro):

Blue eyes, blond hair: that’s US problem, says Japanese minister
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Thursday 22 March 2007


Taro Aso, Japan’s foreign minister, risked upsetting his country’s strongest ally by suggesting US diplomats in the Middle East would never solve the region’s problems because they have “blue eyes and blond hair”.

Mr Aso, a straight-talking nationalist, said the Japanese, on the other hand, were trusted because they had “yellow faces” and had “never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns”.

Japan has healthy relations with Arab countries and Iran and imports much of its oil from the Middle East. It is a big contributor of aid to the Palestinian Authority, but also has friendly ties with Israel.

“Japan is doing what Americans can’t do,” local media quoted Mr Aso as saying in a speech about Japan-sponsored investment in the Middle East. “Japanese are trusted. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair. Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.”

Mr Aso, seen by some as a possible successor to the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is no stranger to controversy.

In 2001 he said a member of the burakumin, Japan’s underclass, could never lead the country. He later angered Japan’s indigenous Ainu population by describing the country as unique in being “one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race”. While economics minister, he said he wanted to turn Japan into a country where “rich Jews” would want to live.

In 2003, he sparked protests when he praised imperial Japan’s often brutal colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and last month he described the US post-invasion plans for Iraq as “very immature”.

Back to Tsutsumi.  What makes things even more ironic is not that her current husband is an anti-discrimination activist, but that her former husband was apparently Jewish himself:





叩けば埃が出る。Tsutsumi Mika is a person replete with irony.  I wonder what the Jewish anti-defamation leagues would make of Tsutsumi’s Jewish crook?  The American Embassy (unlike the Japanese Embassy) is pretty lackadaisical about how the US is portrayed in Japan’s media.  But I doubt, say, the Simon Wiesenthal Center would be.

Anyone want to let them know about this?  Would be interesting how Tsutsumi, as she did when questioned about the misleading details of her grade-schooler Chagurin article, would defend her editorial choices.  Arudou Debito

12 comments on “Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga. How Ironic.

  • I doubt anybody will give it second thought, after all, its those “poor Japanese, affected by the tsunami” Ishihara got away with much worse, Mika is in no position of power so dont count on anything.

  • I don’t think this so-called journalist is just a “bad apple”, but simply a child of the Japanese society, where there isn’t even the hint of a feeling that stereotyping NJ might be a bad thing. It seems to be too great an intellectual challenge. Japanese society has mastered bullying and stereotyping, even among themselves. If you are just a “haafu”, instead of a “Nihonjin’, you get stereotyped. If you have the right bloodline (what an awful concept, anyway), then you will get stereotyped by your blood group. And if no one stereotypes you, then you go to some quack fortune teller (strangely popular even among the ‘educated’ Japanese), who’ll help you out with all sorts of pseudo-scientific gobbledygook to stereotype yourself.
    As a foreigner in Japan, one has to be really careful not to let this sick way to think of, and judge, people just another aspect of “cultural differences”.
    The Western world seems to be in favor of a normative moral relativist view of Japanese society, mainly due to lack of knowledge because even in 2013, Japan still seems to be too far away and the Kanji are still a high enough barrier to keep away people who’d usually be interested to learn about the real Japan. If the media would be able to get a get a full picture of what goes on in here, on the same level as of the countries using the alphabet, that would go a long way towards a more realistic view on Japan. All those demons of early 20th century Germany are still very much alive and just waiting to be put to work in Japan, and I sure hope the world won’t be very sorry one day for not looking the other way.

  • I don’t think that having a character named Goldberg is an anti-semetic slur any more than having a Japanese character named Yamada is. In a larger context, her work is toxic – to put it lightly – but I don’t think this is a good example of it. He doesn’t even have a big “Jew” nose.

  • She’s trying to be clever by making this Goldberg into a modern day Shylock – damn dirty Jew will put you into bad deals and take your money. Do they even teach Shakespeare in Japan and have any idea what issues this brought up regarding the Shylock character. Probably would fly right over their heads as anti-semitism seems to be meaningless in Japan.

    Also, It’s pretty politically incorrect to portray Jews like this…

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Rangi #3

    I think (for me) what is worrying about the ‘Goldberg’ character is that just about everything she says is a stereotype, and a negative one! The comment about financially exploiting the weak and then destroying their dreams (for personal financial gain is the implication), along with the stereo-typical Jewish name, just cuts too close to the pre-war German anti-semetism for me.

    Perhaps the character is real, and accurately portrayed in Tsutsumi’s anecdote, and I am being hyper-sensitive (I admit this possibility), BUT it is a testament to my (western) cultural upbringing that I am not only aware of the horrors visited upon the Jews by the Nazis, but that there is a universal acceptance of the crime amongst even Germans themselves (with the exception of an extremely small and marginalized group of (criminal) German citizens, with no connection to the government). This is the reason why I am aware that I should be extremely careful in this case- the Jewish people suffered real genocide.

    Contrast that German situation with Japanese society (which, of course, Tsutsumi is a member); a Japan where racial anti-Korean/Chinese slurs are protected by ‘freedom of speech’, and the PM is a member of groups that deny war-crimes and think that the social values of war time Imperialism should be an aspirational goal for the nation.

    I am worried that Tsutsumi’s ‘Goldberg’ shows that the denial of history and racism alive in Japan is something she doesn’t understand is not acceptable in the ‘outside world’, and with this annecdote she shows not only her true-colors, but also those of the society that she represents.

    If ‘Goldberg’ is a 100% honest representation of a real-life figure, and not made up for the purpose of the anecdote, I will of course apologize.

  • “All those demons of early 20th century Germany are still very much alive and just waiting to be put to work in Japan”

    I am under the impression that there was zero attempt made to de-nazify Japan after the war. Since Japan were allies with Nazi Germany, it is possible that some Nazi ideology may have spilled over into Japan and kind of just remained there ever since.

    Nazism is not viewed the same way in Japan as in the west. It is more a subject of curiosity. Sometimes Nazism is placed in a favorable light in Japanese media. Infact Mein Kampf can even be found in manga format:


    There are some others that gives a subtle feel of “sympathy” towards the Nazi reigme.

    The fact that such dangerous ideologies remain “acceptable” and even “praised” in Japan is what makes the LDP/JRP all more dangerous with the way things are going.

    All Japan needs is that very small little push and it will become a reborn version of Meiji/Showa Japan. With the way things are going in Asia, the last thing it needs is another totalitarian reigme, not to mention the JRP (which has become much more powerful than it is in the past) is aggressively pushing for Japan to become a nuclear superpower.

    I hope things won’t go too out of hand, but does anyone here also have a gut feeling that there is a good chance that things will take a turn for the worst?

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Bayfield #8

    Debito linked to a J-NGO page translated into English a couple of months ago, hat clearly outlined the J-gov politicians who are members of groups pushing for a return to the social ‘values’ and gender roles of imperial era Japan; a totalitarian police state (in a nut-shell).

    I have no doubt that this is the direction that Japan is already taking, hence Sick-notes desire to win an upper house majority this summer, and under the guise of revising the constitution to protect Japan from China and N. korea, will in fact revise the constitution to make Japan a defacto dictatorship. And all the while, the sheeple will be repeating mindlessly the mantra of ‘Abenomics’, whilst sleepwalking into it ‘for our own protection’. When (if?) they wake up the fact of having thrown any semblance of democracy down the toilet, it will be too late.

    Three very real meltdowns at Fukushima, and 2 years on 350,00 Tohoku residents still not permanently housed, and the sheeple are barely moved, gullibly believing that nuclear power is necessary to improve Japans current account deficit (caused by Abenomics weakening of the yen, no less), so I have no doubt that they will continue to place blind faith in the TV and newspapers repetition of Sick-notes deceptive narrative all the way down the line.

    The last time this happened in Japan, GHQ rehabilitated Japan’s image with the myth that Japan had been ‘hijacked’ and ‘led into the war’ by ‘evil militarists’. What we are seeing may be a repetition that serves to debunk the myth. In reality, the Japanese are through a willful neglect of interest, critical thinking, and social discourse, allowing themselves to be led.

    In order to preserve the illusion of the ‘dreamy day’, they are making a choice to abdicate all authority over themselves, and when it goes wrong (like the last time- 1945), I fully expect them to attempt the age old Japanese custom of ‘responsibility-dodging’- ‘we poor Japanese citizens have been the victims of evil leaders with a hidden agenda’ narrative.

  • @Bayfield (#8) I think that only a minority of Japanese think that Germany has reason to apologize for its past. I personally have been told so several times. Whenever I meet someone new here and am asked where I am from, there is a sense of delight on their part, maybe even relief, when I say “Germany”. A middle aged Japanese man even told me that Germany and Japan were very similar and “friends”, but Germany had “lost its way” after WWII. I got away from him as fast as I can.
    Fascism doesn’t have the bad rep in Japan it has in the rest of the world. Look up Ryoichi Sasakawa, founder of the “Nippon Foundation” and self-proclaimed fascist. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryoichi_Sasakawa)
    The Nippon Foundation is still very much active in many parts of the world. They organise “festivals of friendship”, there was one recently in the UK, and they are also active in African third-world countries. I wonder what they are doing and teaching there, exactly.
    On a related note, I think Taro Aso’s history is quite interesting. He worked for his family’s business – diamond mining in Sierra Leone (!) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarō_Asō), and spend two years there himself.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    @#10 Winning Gold In Dressage Doesn’t Count

    You can tell by the name of the character.

    Goldberg is a Jewish name, like Spector.


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