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Hello Blog. This post comes to you as a query. Are any Debito.org Readers noticing that the Japanese police are keeping closer tabs on people by going door-to-door to survey occupants (junkai renraku), asking them to fill out Junkai Renraku Cards?
(To see what information is required for the Junkai Renraku, especially for NJ residents, here’s one translated into English by the NPA).
We’ve talked about this before on Debito.org, where we have seen the police doing door-to-door surveys of residents, with a special emphasis on how that involves Gaijin Carding for people living in Gaijin Houses. Some people have said that this has never happened to them (for example, it never happened to me despite living in various places in Hokkaido over the course of 25 years), others it has (they think it’s cop SOP).
But the interesting thing is that at a prefectural level, Aichi, for example, is making public announcements to their residents that they will be making the rounds to households (katei). (If this was all that normal a SOP, why the need for a public service announcement?) This will be in order to:
- Give advice on how not to become victims of crime,
- Take measures for people who have been victims of crime,
- Contact neighborhoods that have recently been victims of crime (such as sneak thievery and car break-ins) and advise them how to take measures against crime in the future,
- Prevent youth crime (shounen no hankou boushi),
- Have lists of occupants (renraku hyou) on hand and phone numbers in case of disasters,
and more. See http://www.pref.aichi.jp/police/safety/houmon/
We are seeing these PSAs in other prefectures, such as Kanagawa (http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/mes/mesg1001.htm), and door to door checks apparently elsewhere.
A couple of funny things going on here. First, information about neighborhood occupancy should be available through the juuminhyou system in the first place. Much of this information is also surveyed by the National Census (kokusei chousa), where, I might add, providing any information is optional (note how the optionality of providing personal information is not mentioned in the Aichi Police website). Why do the police feel the need to compile their own data set?
Well, because police are control freaks, and given the degree of power the Japanese police have in Japan, privacy issues are of less importance than maintaining order. And you just know that if they catch a NJ at his or her home, there’s going to be much more intrusive questioning than just phone numbers and occupants — they will demand to see your Gaijin Card and ascertain that your visa is current, all on your front doorstep. Have a nice day. It’s not just on the street at random anymore, meaning they’ll intrude upon where you live. Moreover I doubt that for NJ targeted, answering questions will be optional (plead the Fifth (mokuhiken) and arouse suspicion — something that leads to more thorough investigations downtown).
Of course, the Aichi Police offer themselves and their questioning as all sweetness, with benign photos of the police at work in their communities:
Subtext: “Like you, even [female] cops have maternal instincts…”
“Now now, you needn’t be afraid of this man in uniform who has approached us for some unknown reason during our very traditional daily constitutional. Especially since he’s even gotten down on his knees for you…”
“This is how we will approach you to demand personal information” (outside a place that is clearly not a household). We can only hope that our boys in blue will be so smiley and unaggressive.
Here’s the best one:
“OMG! I’m so glad to see a cop knocking at my door. I just love a man in uniform! Come inside!”
Now, you might think I’m making too much of this. But naturally I would argue not. Especially since we have had cases of police agencies doing one thing (like putting out racist anti-NJ flyers) while offering sweetness and light on their official English website. There’s a lot of tatemae here, and you only have to be a minority in Japan before you understand just how much intent and enforcement differ from the sloganeering.
My advice: If you get an unexpected knock one day and see (through the peep sight) a cop at your front door, don’t answer. Because if they visually identify you in any way as NJ, you are automatically suspicious and you’ll get the Third Degree.
Anyone else noticing their local police becoming more intrusive these days? Arudou Debito
79 comments on “Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?”
“My supervisor explained it to me as a way for the police to contact me in case of emergency”
This is the usual explanation but I am not convinced. In case of emergency (earthquake, etc.), the police and SDF are granted additional powers by the government (it happened after 3.11) and they have access to residents records in designated areas, for emergency purposes only.
In normal situations, they don’t have full access to resident records, they can only request information as a part of a formal procedure (criminal investigations, etc.). Filling this voluntary information cards give them information they are not supposed to know in normal situations. It seems risky to me, given the lack of published procedures concerning the storage and the use of this information:
– is it stored safely?
– is this information entered in electronic database or stored on paper?
– is it kept locally (koban) or is it transferred to the local/prefectural headquarters?
– who is allowed to access this information?
– is there an official record of who and when this information was used?
– how long is this information kept?
– is there a supervising authority for the use of this information?
– what can this information be used for? apart for emergency purposes, can it be used for investigations?
– do you have the right to access, edit and delete the voluntary information kept by the police?
Unless these questions are answered and published, I don’t plan to ever provide any additional voluntary information to the police, as long as it is not for a specific purpose (emergency, investigation, etc.).
@Baudrillard # 42
Your MA is in politics, mine is in English, concentrating on critical discourse analysis (i.e. the misuse and abuse of the language in debate). And for a person with an MA in politics, your use of the phrase “police state” is seriously mistaken. You say:
“Joe, we are using “police state” to mean a state where the police can pretty much do what they want and ignore or be ignorant even their own laws.”
That isn’t what “police state” means. Look it up. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as
“a totalitarian state controlled by a national police force with secret supervision of citizens’ activities”.
There’s no degree of difference between “police state” and “totalitarian state.
So I say again that your claim that Japan is a police state is manifestly untrue. Nazi Germany was a police state. North Korea is a police state.
Does it matter? I’d say yes. If I guy with an MA in politics is going around claiming that Japan is a police state, then any reasonable debate becomes clouded to the point where it’s pointless.
— Let’s draw this segment of the debate to an end soon, please.
Joe, this debate is getting petty and off topic,and not a little bitter and personal, but to reply to your quibble by quoting a comedian, Steve Coogan: “Have you never heard of the freeplay of (postmodern) signs and symbols”? (“24 hour party people”).
(You ll be telling us “Joy Division” only has only one fixed meaning next. Ditto “Japan”).
I would like to redefine the term “police state”, then. Indeed, a totalitarian state uses the police as an instrument of control, Japan, though ostensibly a “democracy” in name and occasional practice (to recall Lord Hailsham’s “elective dictatorship”), has a police force which is unchecked and does what it likes, often randomly and against the laws they claim to enforce.
However, no one at this site is saying Japan is totalitarian. Just because Japan has a corrupt police force do we want to then automatically jump to the (agreeably ridiculous) conclusion that Japan is therefore “totalitarian” because the Oxford Dictionary, that great tome of political theorem, says so. If one reads potted guides on the world (ditto Freedom House, who are better on developments in the Middle East) one gets potted, generalist answers.
Instead, Japan is better described as “authoritarian”, to quote a British tourist handbook I read in 1989 “You might find Japan more authoritarian than, say, Britain.” This was a term oft used by professors when I was doing my first degree in Politics, as obviously there are many countries somewhere between a democracy and an Orwellian nightmare of complete thought control.
Meriam Webster dictionary (as Joe likes dictionaries):Authoritarianism
: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority
: of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people
Hmm, blind submission to authority. Sounds a bit like a tendency in a place I know. “Shoganai”, or what do you have to hide?
I personally have used the phrase “Post fascist” because Japan is still getting over it’s shameful alliance with the Nazis in WW2, though some quarters seem nostalgic for aspects of that period.
Americans can impose institutions but the people like Ishihara will still essentially behave in the way they were taught to in their formative years and not magically transform overnight (or even over years). Ditto Kawasaki City; it can build shiny new buildings and pass relatively progressive legislation but that doesnt mean the people on the street will become more accepting to foreigners all of a sudden, ditto South Korea”s progressive legislation although some posters here (Joe?) have had bad experiences at the street level with racists.
So would you like to suggest an alternative phrase to describe a corrupt democracy with an unchecked, intrusive police force that racially profiles NJS? I think “authoritarian” fits the bill.
@Joe (52) Well, I will just come out and say it – Japan is a quasi-totalitarian state. There are elections, but whoever gets elected into power has de-facto control over the media, and institutions that should be independent in a non-totalitarian state. Freshest example is Abe ordering the BOJ to print money and devalue the Yen, even going as far as to replace its head with a yes man (Kuroda). This has been seen very critically in the West and unworthy of a democratic system.
Then of course, you have Dentsu and the TV networks hand in hand with big business and journalism that is controlled from above. I am not sure how much you know the Japanese media landscape, but apart from a couple of independent, and widely unknown, efforts like Facta, there is no critical and surely no investigative journalism in Japan, mainly due to the “Kisha Club” system. The Japanese way to get around this isn’t outright censorship, but by discouraging any kind of dissent through self-censorship in order to “save face”.
You might be right that Japan is not a police state by definition (at least not right now), but it sure looks like one – especially in the big cities. Police (Koban) visible on every corner, observing every pedestrian passing their booths. Intrusion into the private sphere for phoney reasons, asking to supply voluntary, detailed information without any transparency what it will be used for. But worst of all, the widespread attitude of “if you have done nothing wrong, what do you have to hide?”
Non-police states go out of their way to create a peaceful, non-threatening environment by keeping the number of visible police in the streets to a minimum (unless there is a reason to expect riots like at sports events). Japan, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach by making sure there is plenty of police force to be seen and felt (the unsolicited visits to your home) at all times. Japan might not be controlled by “the police”, but whoever is in control uses the police in a threatening way in contrast to a service-oriented way. If you don’t think the Japanese police is creepy, I reckon you must live in the countryside.
““a totalitarian state controlled by a national police force with secret supervision of citizens’ activities”.
huh? Wait a sec. So Joe and the dictionary mean The Kim family in N Korea are controlled by their police force? The state is “controlled by” a police force? Only a police force, what about control over the media? Other instruments of control?
I think it should be the other way around, the definition could have been phrased more succintly. If a guy with an MA (me) is going to go around saying Japan is a “police state”, I suppose these English subtleties matter!
— I’m ready to close this thread down. It’s become a tennis match between two factions on semantics and not really related to this blog entry. Post on this further at your own risk, as your carefully-drafted riposte might not make it through moderation if it’s not related back to this topic.
“Freshest example is Abe ordering the BOJ to print money and devalue the Yen, even going as far as to replace its head with a yes man (Kuroda). This has been seen very critically in the West and unworthy of a democratic system.”
Yes, but Western observers have been a bit distracted and perhaps even lulled by “liberals” like Paul Krugman, who of late doesn’t seem to tire of hailing Japan and “Abenomics” as the supreme example we should all enthusiastically follow to save ourselves from doom (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/opinion/krugman-japan-the-model.html?_r=0). Yet, lest Abe has his way and history repeats itself, it would be wise if those observers studied Japanese history a little more closely and reflected on the fate of politicians like Takahashi Korekiyo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takahashi_Korekiyo) – a former BOJ governor who was assassinated by the military in the 1930s for “threatening the ‘kokutai'” (=for opposing the military who wanted to issue government bonds at will) – and what happened to Japan afterwards. The Japan that Abe is trying so hard to revive!
@DK (56.) Thanks for the interesting link to Takahashi Korekiyo. I have also read a Krugman piece where he pretty uncritically praised the “Abenomics” miracle, but I remember him saying that such a measure can only work to kick off a stagnant economy and must be followed by real value creation. As this is Japan, here this crucial detail has so far not been talked about much, and I don’t think “Abenomics” will have a second stage of actual reforms and restructuring, as that would mean all of Japanese society after WWII is suddenly in question.
The point I was trying to make though isn’t so much about the money printing itself, which as you said has its fans abroad, but the undemocratic way that Abe basically ordered the BOJ to print more money, thereby simply bypassing all checks and balances that are in place to protect a country against such adventurism. There was a very critical view on this along the lines of ‘only in Japan’ in Europe about this de facto “enabling act” by the current regime.
I think this is solid proof that underneath the “democracy theater”, we are indeed living in a quasi-totalitarian country with no independent national bank (I wrote about the media before).
Whenever the J-Gov feels that there is a need, democracy will simply be bypassed and exposed as the mere facade it is. As the electorate themselves is widely incapable to act as democratic beings out of ignorance of its real meaning, the government can do so unchallenged.
It doesn’t need a wide leap of imagination that such “enabling acts” could be applied to all areas of Japanese politics without any kind of resistance.
You say, “whenever the J-Gov feels that there is a need, democracy will simply be bypassed and exposed as the mere facade it is. As the electorate themselves is widely incapable to act as democratic beings out of ignorance of its real meaning, the government can do so unchallenged.” Yup, there’s the rub, and the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ in Japanese society is well-known. And the most disturbing thing is this widely held view that insisting on your ‘kenri’ is an activity associated with being ‘wagamama’. I think it was Masao Maruyama who once argued, back in the sixties, that modern Japan, upon abandoning democratic institutions and disintegrating into an absolutist state, has never successfully established, as a nation, the primacy of individual rights or the subjectivity of a thinking and historically conscious people. In this light, news like the one reported in this post come as no surprise – and it’s no wonder most Japanese seem to think nothing of it.
And since we have been discussing the concept of ‘police state’, what truly baffles me is the comparison with China, where I have been living and working over the past two years. While I have no doubt that the hideous Chinese regime is openly a police state, I have been quite surprised to discover the degree of social activism and critical thinking going on on social networking websites – and often beyond, in citizens’ organisations, charities, etc., in China. Passionate, well-informed people with a keen awareness of and interest in the outside world, taking firm positions on divisive, controversial issues, despite the formidable censorship barriers (well, a growing number of Chinese now have VPNs, so…). Strange though it may sound, this still gives me some hope in the future of China, a hope I lost long ago in relation to Japan and its youth.
By contrast, what I find most disturbing in Japan is not so much the government’s attitudes and behaviours, but the citizens’. Secret police, party militia or censors are not really needed here, because each denizen, within her/his group, diligently and constantly takes care of keeping the pecking order and denouncing and purging any undesirable or unruly elements. And what more omnipresent, discreet and vigilant police is it necessary to maintain a society thus based on fear — the fear of displeasing, the fear of causing inconvenience, the fear of offending, the fear of disagreeing, the fear of speaking up, the fear of standing out, the fear of becoming oneself?
In this sense, ‘official’ police are pretty redundant in Japan. We know where the true police are, don’t we?
In my comment above, when I wrote “the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ in Japanese society is well-known”, what I meant was the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ AWARENESS and thus the unwillingness to exercise one’s ‘kenri’ by so many people in Japan.
@ Piglet #51
That is a very good point, and one that I had not thought about! Mostly because at the time I had just come to Japan, and had not yet had experiences that would give me pause. It would be interesting to see what kind of response I would get if I were to ask for specific information on what happens to my information after it is given.
I had not heard about those incidences before, so thank you for the information! I will be sure to keep an eye open.
I am willing to stand corrected linguistically and cultural interpretation on this point, but
my understanding of “kenri” is that it also carries the unspoken and implied notions/concepts
of duties and obligations, which are overwhelmingly dominant and take precedence in Japanese society.
Likewise, I’m willing to accept corrections, as I’m not an expert in Japanese Law, but it does seem that the dominant use of 権利 / kenri – including in legal contexts – is indeed that of ‘right’. Check, for various examples of use, here: http://eow.alc.co.jp/search?q=権利&ref=sa.
Also, I take the opportunity to add the full reference to Masao Maruyama’s well-known study I mentioned above (#58): Masao Maruyama, Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics. Edited by Ivan Morris, xix, 344 pp. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. http://books.google.com/books/about/Thought_and_behaviour_in_modern_Japanese.html?id=IJcJAQAAIAAJ
On second thoughts though, you do have a point there when you say that unspoken and implied notions/concepts of duties and obligations are overwhelmingly dominant and take precedence in Japanese society, in many ways. With apologies to Debito & readers for the non-sequitur – but ultimately it ties up with the over-abundance of control freaks in Japanese society and ‘our’ responses (or lack of response) to them, which is what this post is about – I’ve just remembered this interesting report on the JT published in 2011, and which signals a sea-change in ‘the archetypal image of the Japanese’, from a people who are stoic and undemonstrative’ to an increasing number of spiteful claimers from hell, monster parents, monster children, hysterical whiners, and all sorts of misanthropes & sociopaths:
Mark Schreiber, ‘There be all kinds of monsters among us’, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/02/06/news/there-be-all-kinds-of-monsters-among-us/#.UahFYY72DL8
Personally, having in the past been accused, by Japanese co-workers and acquaintances, of being ‘wagamama’ and lacking ‘gaman’ for speaking up and complaining when I felt that my rights and dignity where being trampled upon in Japan, I don’t really know how this squares with the phenomenon described in the said article, and of which I’ve been hearing quite often, esp. from Japanese friends who are school teachers and have constantly to put up with ‘monsutaa pearentsu’ and their unbelievably nasty demands and complaints. It’s a perplexity/contradiction I’ve never come to terms with.
A tentative explanation is that these extreme attitudes reveal a depressing lack of democratic culture and an inability to exercise one’s ‘kenri’ in a natural, serene way – as something that should be ‘atarimae’. This lack/inability has far-reaching consequences in terms of the (low) quality of civic life in Japanese society.
The articles below reflect a real police state. In fact the U.S. is far more a police state than Japan is and is looking more and more like East German or the USSR did. It is why it is hard to take comments comparing Japan to a police state seriously. Japan has been far less of a police state than the US (or many Western countries for that matter) for some time.
And in the UK, show identification to enter your own neighborhood/house?
At this point in time I would have to say I will take Japan.
— Okay, counterpoint very effectively made, thanks. But I don’t wish to get this blog entry to get bogged down in comparative-society trench warfare, so respondents, please advance the point of this blog entry if you take this thread up.
I have no arguments about the issue you bring up right here. You are correct. The US is, without a doubt, police state. Yes, they are watching its citizens in both domestic and overseas, and it’s getting really nasty these days, as your sources suggest. I also heard the news that the US Supreme Court gave a green light on police’s collection of DNA samples for tracking down the suspects on any serious crimes.
Still, witnessing these problems occurring in the other side of the planet does not give me/us justification for negating or toning down the significance of the issues we discuss right here in this blog site. Whether Japan is a less police state than the US or any other country– or vice versa, is based on people’s subjectivity. Individual comfort level for different set of living standards may help you determine whether Japan makes you easier to live your life compared to other countries, but it’s hardly scientific in terms of determinism. People agree to disagree on comfort zone regarding the different sets of living standards. And that’s hardly persuasive enough to dismiss the voices of those who are subject to random ID checking or sudden visits by J-cops and/or immigration officers.
@65 Lover…. and Debito
You are correct. Tyranny in one place does not justify it in another. However when I see posters on this blog engage in petty name calling (if you disagree you are an “apologist”) or irrational claims of a police state it demeans the arguments this blog was originally intended to make.
The fact of the matter is that this website reads more like a Japan bashing site than it used to, which is a shame in my opinion.
There are problems in Japan. This is undeniable. But some of the statements I have read are a bit over the top.
Debito-san….I have no intention in getting bogged down in comparitive society trench warfare as you call it. On the contrary what you originally posted was a very reasonable question….is this happening in your neighborhood? However the conversation quickly devolved to a point where it became difficult to take anything seriously.
Japan has its problems…absolutely!! But hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.
And to answer the original question….have not had any police visits in Kobe.
Doug, great you have an opinion just like everyone else …but so what? Please provide sources, links and evidence. E.g. Reporters across borders on how Japan has fallen 30 places on its table due to media censorship and now resembles post communist countries in terms of media freedom; names of reporters harrassed, news articles, case studies
Thus I stand by the assertion of the evidence that Japan now has the trappings of a police state, only has a partly free media (same or worse than S Korea), and is a more authoritarian society than countries that traditionally favor the “wagamama” individual rights versus obligations of the state. These are not “irrational” when there is evidence and sources- be careful how you use that word.
Sol if Debito wants to improve the quality of statements on the site he should only allow those with some kind of citation, quote, reference, link or at the very least, anecdotal evidence.
Otherwise its just one man’s blah blah about how its never happened to him versus another’s.
I am sorry but “Japan has its problems…absolutely!! But hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.”
just does not cut it. I have heard better quotes form taxi drivers.
I laughed out loud at this “irrational” claim because Japan, for all its nice aspects, has no check on the police, a tame media, a poor human rights record for NJs, at least in the UK and USA (“which have their problems…absolutely!”) there is some means of redress.
But hey, Japan is nice because in Kobe it has never happened to you. Fascinating.
@ Doug #66
‘this website reads more like a Japan bashing site’.
I can’t speak for anyone else, only myself. Where bashing is justified, I bash. Human rights, detention without access to a lawyer, war-crimes denial, xenophobic politicians- yes, I bash. And I bash because I feel that years of trying to explain to the general Japanese populace as to why such things are inappropriate has not made an impression. I believe (and Hashimoto is a good case study) that only international shaming has any effect on Japanese policy and society.
You may think that we have no right to ask for change. That would indeed make you an apologist in my book, but it is not my intention to ‘out’ apologists but rather to discuss issues.
There are many things about Japan that I like, but Debito.org is not the forum for the discussion of those things. By all means, start a ‘Sukiyaki is Great!’ website, or a ‘Hiking in the mountains of Japan is superb’ website, and I shall be straight over there to deluge you with positive comments.
— I’m not faulting anyone for this discussion, but please let’s bring this tangent to a close soon.
Again, it is totally up to the individuals to make opinions on various aspect of life in Japan. Your statement that “Japan is hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.” is your idea, but it is yet to be accepted as undisputed scientific fact in the world. People have different opinions on the issue, different in how they describe what they see and feel in their personal/social life.
I don’t see any problem with your opinions, but I find your remark “irrational” unfair and disrespectful to those who are dealing with police scrutiny on a regular basis. I agree that some posters are making it personal with emotional language. But this blog site is not the place for theory Nazis huddling in low-brow bashing website, such as crack.com or ‘stuff white people like. ’ I personally feel uncomfortable–and a bit offended— by your remark ‘apologist’ in an attempt to paint me as one of those in your hypothetical statement. Such accusation is unnecessary, and I warn you that that won’t make us feel comfortable engaging discussion in this blog site.
I appreciate the fact that you did post a reference to a study. The study you cite from Reporters Without Borders gave the U.S. a +15 for 2013, amazing given current events. I actually read the study (yes because you posted the link) and found it interesting. As for Japan, it seems the slip in press freedom was a result of Fukushima. The implication that I think “Japan is nice because it never happened to me” is shallow and neither reflects accurately what I said nor my experience here. Yes I have an opinion, like everyone else and most postings on this board. Opinions are formulated by our experience and my experience here is probably quite different than most other posters, not better or worse, but a bit different. I am curious
Jim, I have never claimed you do not have a right to ask for change, if this is something I really believed I would not visit this website. I once mentioned I think you are doing the right thing by leaving if Japan has become intolerable for you. That does not mean I think you have no right to ask for change. If you think Japan is beyond repair and there is nothing that can be done to change it, of course the best solution is to relocate. In the end we all have to try to achieve happiness for us and our families.
I agree with both of you that the ability for the police to detain someone without counsel for 21 days is a very big problem. The housing issue for foreigners, although improving a bit (probably more for economic reasons than anything else), has a very very long way to do. What Hashimoto said was idiotic.
About trying to explain things to the Japanese populace, I have had a different experience. In the course of my business I meet 100s of Japanese people a year and have had the chance to build relationships with some over 15 years. Almost all of them believe Hashimoto is an idiot and Japan did in fact commit awful war crimes. I do not spend alot of time trying to explain why things are inappropriate (I am not an academic) but I am a curious person and like to listen. Most people in Japan want change but at are a loss as to how to implement change (something I see more and more in the west now by the way).
In my opinion most behavior in Japan is regulated more by social pressure than in the west, where more and more (especially in the U.S.) behavior is regulated by the heavy hand of Big Brother. I prefer the “social pressure” methodology (in spite of its problems) rather than the big brother authoritarian style, which is more of what a police state is all about. Although I do like my native country I believe the U.S. will become an authoritarian state before Japan does (I hope this happens to neither country).
I have been reading this website for 15 years and have noticed a definitive trend toward the negative from posters, rather than constructive discussion as to how to try to make things better. I am sure there are reasons for that. I have found things improving for me as a foreigner in Japan, but obviously others are having a different experience.
The world as a whole seems to be spinning out of control and becoming increasingly unstable. Governments all over the world are reacting in radical ways, led by my native country unfortunately. People are becoming more polarized it seems. Alot of things deemed a “conspiracy” 5 years ago are now being reported as factual and people are starting to take notice (Bilderberg is a good example). It is the internet and blogs like this one that has brought alot of this into the light. I guess that is the reason I find the name calling a bit sad.
@Doug: Perhaps the trend towards negativity is reflected in the fact that things are getting steadily worse and more oppressive in Japan. Perhaps it is the fault of those who run the country and those who allow them?
As for your comment about the hundreds of Japanese who are aware and ashamed of what they did in WW2, well we are back on unsubstantiated testimony. And while I will accept your claims, I have found this, in my experience from meeting hundreds of Japanese over years of living there, to be completely untrue. I don’t think I met a single Japanese who grasped the magnitude of what they did in the war. In fact, when I tried to engage many to talk about it, they would become very upset, like it was my fault for asking them questions.
As for your comment to Jim about leaving Japan: What has that got to do with his right(indeed his duty) to criticize this country? Why even bring it up? You seem to be implying that those who leave this country only have a qualified right to criticize this country. Determined by whom?
I have left Japan for almost exactly a year. The fukushima incident was the trigger, although there were many other reasons. However, Fukushima showed me something unavoidable. In Japan, you are lied to constantly. You are lied to about radiation, about employment rights, about history, about China, about safety, about foriegners. I realised that if I were to stay in a country were the authorities (in all areas) lie regularly and without compunction, I would become paranoid, or just switch off and accept these lies, and worse, I would be teaching my child to accepts being lied to as be normal behaviour. This is why Hashimoto said what the said He has lied constantly without censure. Quibbles about the definition of Police state are beside the point IMO
@Doug, it seems to me that the point you are trying to make is not so much that Japan is great, but “at least better than the US of late”…and that you are worried / disappointed by your own countries recent politics.
I am not from the US, but Europe, and even with all the recent anti-democratic things said to be happening there, I still look up to the US as a democracy, much more than to any other country in the world, and certainly more than my home country.
Now, if you read the literature on Japan, apart from what the “Chrysanthemum club” has published (I recommend Patrick Smith, Van Wolferen, etc.), it becomes very clear that there has never been a real intention by the powerful in Japan to establish an actual democracy. And Japan has never been a democracy.
Now, regardless of what status a human being, and especially a foreigner, may currently have in Japan’s form of society, life in Japan can, by definition, never be as free as in the US. I personally do not want to live in any other society than a democratic one, or, if that’s not possible, then I’d want to live in a society whose citizens hold up the democratic ideal, and generally act and think like political beings.
If we take the goverment and current state of affairs out of the picture, then Japan is an even more scary place. The obedience to authority paired with a deep-set hierarchical thinking, a still widespread adoration of those “important” families of the oligarchs like the Aso and Abe clans, and all those other crooks who have been running Japan over the last decades, all point towards a future where it would be all to easy to get a majority excited for extremist ideas, and the opposition being too afraid to speak up.
I feel that in the West, the basic human feeling that glues together society are Christian values while in Japan (or nore generally, in East Asia), it is fear, and not much more.
— I approve this comment with great trepidation, as it is opening more Pandora’s Boxes of Debate than it should be. If the debate spirals out of control after this, I’m going to stop the thread, sorry.
“I approve this comment with great trepidation, as it is opening more Pandora’s Boxes of Debate than it should be.”
Debito, the questions that Markus brings up are vital questions of our time, and we must be aware of them if we want to survive and maintain our dignity and (at least) a semblance of freedom in the future. The Western world and many of its time-honoured values, beliefs and social systems — human rights, multiculturalism, free speech, democracy itself — are being eroded at a much faster pace than we think. The threats are external and internal.
How to explain, for example, the populist and right-wing wave that is washing up over the nordic countries, with their anti-immigration rhetoric and policies? And how to make sense of the awkward silence in Europe vis-a-vis the current rise of a proto-fascist, anti-semitic state in Hungary? In 2000, when Jörg Haider, the leader of the Far RIght in Austria, formed a coalition government, there was widespread outrage in Austria and the rest of Europe. Who dares speak up today, except a couple of lone voices who are viciously attacked and ostracized?
This is to say that the topic of your post ties up with all these issues – the minute workings of non-democratic societies and our responses to them – and it’s important that people perceive their connection with larger issues. It is precisely the loss of our ability to connect the dots that is leading to this growing conspiracy of silence and fear. And to disasters like Fukushima – and “Abenomics”.
I hope that debito.org will manage to continue maintaining the fine balance between the need to keep discussions crisp and focused and the consideration of larger issues that might seem unconnected at first . For my part, I will cease reading it when it doesn’t.
— Agreed. But it’s been a rather sudden expansion from a humble blog entry (questioning how widespread is the NPA’s beefing up already pretty routine snooping on their neighborhoods) into the vital questions of our time. If we’re going to get into the bigger questions, we should still relate them back to the smaller example(s) here. That’s not always happening, so it’s within my mandate as moderator to, as you say, keep the discussions crisp yet connected. Please help out.
I generally agree with your point, but I am not so sure I can agree with the statement “Japan has never been a democracy,” since its western counterpart is being heavily scrutinized. Democracy is not a perfect political system; it creates various problems affecting people’s life on a daily basis. Some problems can be historically driven and chronic. See for example, Jacques Rancière’s “Hatred of Democracy” (http://www.amazon.com/Hatred-Democracy-Jacques-Ranci%C3%A8re/dp/1844673863/ref=pd_cp_b_2#_) or Hardt & Negri’s “Multitude” http://www.amazon.com/Multitude-War-Democracy-Age-Empire/dp/B0008102EK/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370879351&sr=1-2&keywords=multitude
Speaking of the US, they have numerous problems in its democratic system, even though their overall political system is considered the best model in the world. And there is also a strong historical distrust in American democracy. (See Robert Ivie’s “Democracy and America’s War on Terror” http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Americas-Terror-Albma-Rhetoric/dp/B009F749Y2/ref=pd_sim_b_2).
I think we just need to be careful when making comparative analysis of democratic system.
@DK & Debito
Bigger questions involving fundamental issues such as democracy and free speech will throw us into an unknown territory of ocean, since they require technical expertise from hardcore humanity discipline like poli-sci, philosophy, rhetoric. Vast majority of posters are not experts in that field. So I would suggest you give a specific request to us like, “how can social/cultural theory be applied to the topic discussed in the blog?”, if the issue can be derived from fundamental questions in any academic disciplines.
@Loverilaku (#72) I am not sure I understand the connection you are trying to make here. The fact that Japan has never been a democracy on one hand, the problems that Western democracies face, and the question whether a democracy is a “perfect political system” on the other, are all completely unconnected.
I never said that democracy is a “perfect political system”, but I would argue its the best that has been invented yet.
The links you have given are in line with the usual, spite-driven occidentalist ideas about the West, and I think your Japaneseness shows through when you cite such occidentalist material. I recommend reading the chapter about Japan in Ian Buruma’s “Occidentalism” to get an overview of anti-democratic theory in Japan since the Meiji-era up to today.
Also, I said that I, personally, would never want to live in any other system than a democracy, even if it’s lacking and not “perfect” – especially after my experiences in Japan. In fact, I think Japan is closer to North Korea than to any Western country, with the sole exception of freedom of travel and still a strong enough economy to keep the populace fed.
>The fact that Japan has never been a democracy on one hand, the problems that Western democracies face, and the question whether a democracy is a “perfect political system” on the other, are all completely unconnected.
So, in your view, problems seen in Japanese society are, ‘by nature,’ different from those seen in other country in terms of how the state controls citizens? That sounds ironic to me because it enables some people to solidify the argument for Japanese uniqueness. Kurokawa’s terrible speech on Nuclear Accident Investigative Report last June (i.e., Nuclear accident is ‘Japan-made’ disaster) is a case in point.
Also, I am not suggesting that you said democracy is perfect. You clearly attribute it to western perspective, which is normal, though, in a way to dissociate Japan from other democratic society. If you say, “Japan has never been a ‘democracy,’” it means that that’s not the one people see in America or Europe. If not, then what is it gonna be?). And I am getting baffled by your allusion of ‘Occidental view’ to me showing Japanese-ness. I really don’t know what you are talking about. First of all, the authors of the books shown in the link are all westners (i.e., French, Italian, and Americans) with highly cognitive skills in critical thinking/analysis. And, second, none of these authors are associated with Japan (or, let’s say, Japanologist) whatsoever. Whether you like their ideas or not is your choice. But painting me with anti-Occidentalist/Pro-Orientalist for that is uncalled for. It has nothing to do with anti-West or pro-Japan, and I’ve been in the west for years. I don’t appreciate that. Please refrain.
The only thing I would blame “nature” for is that Japan is an island, which is one of many factors why Japan’s society has evolved the way it did.
Japan is of course “unique”. Every country and society is unique. But what’s more, I would even subscribe to the notion that the Japanese society is “uniquely unique”, yet not in the positive way many Japanese would like it to be. In my opinion, it is uniquely inhumane, because it has never really shed its feudal ways both in structure and self-image of its members. A quasi-totalitarian country, run by far-right-wing ultranationalists that tries to portray itself as a Western-style democracy with capitalism – that’s pretty unique in my book, especially in 2013.
The only other country which is so shut off to outside influences and change now is North Korea – though it has to be said that the North Koreans are being thought-controlled from the top down, while the Japanese do it to themselves, because their culture is “unique” like that.
You are implying that Japan may indeed be a democracy, just a different form of democracy than “America or Europe”, and I am simply not able to see beyond my Western bias. Do you think democracy can be subjected to ethical relativism, i.e. by the Japanese saying, “this is *our* form of democracy”? It is too-well defined to interpret it that loosely. See here: http://www.stanford.edu/~ldiamond/iraq/DemocracyEducation0204.htm
Japan fails on most points. Neither does “government authority flow from the people and is based upon their consent”, separation of powers is not established (Abe telling Kuroda to print money, LDP telling NHK what to report, etc.) – read Shinzo Abe’s Wikipedia entry to get extensive treatment on anti-democratic thinking and behaviour.
You are asking me what Japan is, then. I don’t know – all I know it is not a democracy – because even if the elections Japan holds are free and not manipulated (I doubt the latter very much), then there is still the question of who in the Japanese society can make it to a position where he can possibly be elected into power. Compare the background and story of Shinzo Abe to Angela Merkel or Barack Obama.
I called you an occidentalist because you are trying to argue that democracy is not a strictly defined term, but open to moral and ethical relativism, and the term can be stretched to even cover whatever Japan’s form of government is today. That is an occidentalist view, sometimes expressed as “we take what’s good about democracy and discard its bad aspects” – only that the allegedly bad aspects are always pertaining to freedom and civil rights, and can’t just be discarded. Setting up “democracy theater” and holding elections now and then may have been good enough after WWII up to recently – but the democratic veneer has almost completely faded by now.
— Look, I asked Commenters to at least try to relate this back to the topic of the blog entry. This entry doesn’t even try. Enough of this two-way conversation, Markus. I’ll let Loverilakkuma have the last word on this thread if s/he wants, and then that’s it, thanks.
Thanks. I know it’s time to put a “STOP” sign on the thread. Since I have made my point, I will make a couple of thoughts on what Markus has been trying to do on the blog.
After carefully reading your comments, I will have to disagree with you on the point that “Japan has never been democracy.” Whether you bring scholarly sources from Japan studies or not, it’s not a very convincing argument after all. Not a single academic scholar or a renowned author like Kenzaburo Oe, whether Japanese or non-Japanese, has ever made such a radical argument you are trying to make here. If you insist Japan’s not democracy, then how come they embrace the Article 9(Renouncement of War) and Article 23(guaranteeing Free Speech) in the 1946 National Constitution until today? It just doesn’t seem to go any further than exaggeration.
I made it very clear democracy is no perfect system, regardless of occidental or oriental vector. Why? Because the actual practice of democracy is different from the model of democratic system (i.e., Federalist Papers/Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” vs. American politics in post 9/11 era; Geneva Convention vs. SE Asia after Vietnam War; EU commonwealth vs. austerity measures/ sequestering). That’s evidently true, no matter where we live in the world today. I think the room for (ethnic) cultural relativism gets smaller when it comes to the power of ‘democratic’ control–i.e., how the government controls the governed.
Next, I understand you have many issues regarding Japan or Japanese society, and I wholeheartedly agree that its social problems deserve equal scrutiny as any society dealing with similar problems. However, you need to understand that this is the blog dealing with the issues related to Japan or Japanese society. Debito discusses Japan’s problems not as a case study for political theory or critical cultural studies, but the main focus. This is not the blog exclusive to those educated at the Chicago School or the Frankfurt School. This is the blog for those dealing with the human rights issues in Japan.
When you start talking about democratic system, it will automatically throw us into a deep ocean of academic sphere that goes far beyond human rights. That screens out many commenters– including you, me, and even Debito(!) because it certainly requires us expertise and familiarity in hardcore humanity/social science–i.e., literature, philosophy, political science, rhetoric. That will turn everyone off.
Here’s the bottom line. Anyone here is free to bring thoughts/ideas/sources whether it’s about Japan or any foreign country, but s/he should be able to tailor them for practical application to make clear connections with Japan. Otherwise, you should go find any blogsophere elsewhere that seem appropriate to communicate your pet theories and/or ideas.
— Aaaand that’s it. This particular thread is closed. Thanks.
I had the same experience as this:
May 18th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
I received visit like this a few months ago. My mother-in-law answered the door. It was only when my wife told the officer her last name did he realize there was even a foreigner living in the apartment. His attitude did not change when he found out. He simply wrote down everyone’s name and the apartment phone number, bid us good day, and left. ”
Except my wife and I answered the door together. He took everyone’s names, gave us some info on crime in the local area, and off he went to next door. Didn’t card me, either. Nice guy.
I live in Kiyosu, Aichi.