“The problem I have with David Aldwinkle [sic] is…” A stock criticism of me and my methods, then my answer.


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Hi Blog. I’ve been doing Debito.org for decades now, and one thing that I admit I find annoying is how people talk shite about me. I don’t mind if people disagree with me — as I note below, it’s the nature of the beast when dealing with issues this contentious. But what really rankles is how some types will criticize me for things I didn’t say and didn’t do. Even when there’s ample record out there (decades of archives and thousands of articles on Debito.org and elsewhere) for people to properly cite and research, some people still cling to preconceptions and prejudices they formed either long ago, or based upon information they got second- or third-hand from other people of their ilk also talking shite. And since there are lots of them and one of me, I largely have to remain silent towards these criticisms or else I’d have no time to get anything done.

But I had an exchange some time ago when someone shared my blog entry on the Ten-Take tempura restaurant’s “JAPANESE ONLY” sign in Asakusa, Tokyo on a social networking site.  As you will see below, the critic is clearly someone who is articulate and should, based upon his education, be able to research better. He voiced his criticisms in much the same way the garden-variety trolls do, but with a degree of persuasiveness that I thought deserved an answer.

Let this exchange be a stock answer to all the people who think I’m making matters worse through my actions to fight racism and discrimination in Japan.  Naturally, I’m gonna disagree, and here’s why.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


This is how the conversation began, being the first response to the shared post:

April 6, 2014:
[Name changed, rendered as Billy] writes:

The problem I always have with David Aldwinkle [sic] comes in his suggestion at the end. Asking people to start harassing the restaurant owner with phone calls? Way to reinforce the 迷惑 stereotype of foreigners that this restaurant owner already has. Aldwinkle often seems to want to head up some kind of gaijin mafia hit squad that goes around naming, shaming, hounding, and publicly humiliating anyone suspected of mistreating foreigners in Japan. It’s ugly mob tactics, and it makes him look just as ugly, if not uglier, than the people with the “Japanese Only” signs. In many cases, Aldwinkle’s attitude and tactics earn some sympathy for those signs.

Aldwinkle’s crude approach especially comes to light in the fifth comment on that blog post. Someone suggests a sensible, conciliatory approach with the restaurant owner, offering to translate menus for him and to resolve other problems. Aldwinkle won’t let this comment go up on his blog without attaching to it a snarky, bolded response that aims to humiliate the comment’s author. Maybe Aldwinkle would be proven right in the end that this restaurant owner wouldn’t budge, but Aldwinkle isn’t particularly interested in finding out. His first pass in these situations is to accuse and attack, immediately putting anyone in his path on the defensive. He tosses hand grenades in situations where gentle words might have more effect.

Arudou Debito…the guy who took Japanese citizenship so that he could try to force Japanese people to behave more like Americans.


April 6, 2014 (in response to some comments):
Billy writes:

In my experience, people don’t attack Debito-san for “their own reasons” so much as they criticize him because he is a highly abrasive person who burns bridges and seeks to cause offense. Debito-san always turns these criticisms into attacks against him, and then proceeds to alienate his critics even further. Whatever good points he sometimes has are often lost to his heavy-handed language used to bully people into his viewpoint. This is a guy who publicly stated to a room full of people that he got Japanese citizenship so he could rub it in their (Japanese people’s) noses.

Bully really is the best word to describe him. That, and hot-head. He takes offense at everything, and he tears into anyone who offends him. I’ve seen him in action. He lived for years in my wife’s hometown. If Debito called a restaurant about a sign, I’m fairly certain he launched immediately into angry, confrontational accusations. If a Japanese restaurant owner feels that he can’t deal with foreigners, encouraging a lot of foreigners to call is only going to engender bitterness.

But Debito doesn’t seem to care about how people feel. He doesn’t want to win over hearts and minds. His own abrasive demeanor can’t do this, and so he’s concluded that it’s impossible for anyone to succeed in Japan by being kind. When I’ve spoken to him before, his version of winning seems much more oriented toward orchestrating a public shaming against someone, after which Debito engages in some crowing about how his stance is morally superior to anyone else’s. Threatening and forcing people into submission is much more his style. From my limited interactions with him, I’ve had to conclude that he’s simply not a nice human being, nor a happy person. Even when he does have a legitimate complaint, his approach typically only reinforces whatever negative stereotypes he’s complaining about.


April 6, 2014 (in response to more comments):
Billy writes:

That sentiment that society needs to change is, in itself, not a particularly Japanese one. Society is changing nonetheless, but Japan has spent much of its history trying either to avoid change or to carefully manage it within strict (Japanese) boundaries.

We can think Japan needs to change, but short of a massive influx of foreigners into Japan who gain citizenship and through raw numbers effect rapid change, the pace of change is going to be controlled by Japanese people more than by anyone else. Any approach that doesn’t involve changes happening from within the belly of Japanese society might win a few superficial battles (a court settlement against an onsen, for example), but it’s not going to bring about any real change.

In the case of this restaurant sign, I can think of three approaches that might possibly work:

The first is polite confrontation that involves questions instead of accusations and offers to help (menu translations, etc.) It’s hard to say with certainty the odds of this working, but it sometimes does.

The second is simply to walk into the restaurant, sit down and order, and if challenged, reply in Japanese, “Your sign said no one under five years old. I’m over five, so is there a problem?” Focusing on what the Japanese says and pretending the English isn’t even there forces the owner to initiate the confrontation, which many Japanese people won’t do. It may not get the sign taken down, but enough instances of this will render it meaningless in the owner’s mind.

The third way, and probably the most effective in Japan, is to subtly draw attention to the sign and the restaurant to Japanese friends and allies. Make a lot of friends, and make those friendships the sort where those Japanese people will be aghast that you might be barred from an establishment. Many of those Japanese friends might, as Japanese people tend, opt to avoid any conflict, but many will talk. They’ll express in passing how awful a sign like that is to other Japanese people, and then those people will steadily begin to take note of such signs and find them odious, too. It’s a long-game approach. It won’t get the sign taken down today. But it’s probably the best chance at actually changing anything in Japan.

I quite vividly remember eating a very good sushi meal in Abashiri one spring a number of years back with some friends after the owners tried to keep us out. In that case, there wasn’t a sign, but we were told that we wouldn’t be served as soon as we walked in the door. After asking just a couple questions trying to clarify the restaurant’s policy (within earshot of a dozen or so customers at various tables who were in various stages of eating), we were quickly seated. The owners saw their Japanese customers starting to look uncomfortable at our being turned away, which we drew attention to with our questions, and that unspoken pressure from the other customers was enough to resolve the situation favorably. We got good sushi. They got some friendly, polite customers who spent a fair amount of money, and the service grew less awkward and reluctant as our meal progressed.

But Debito? He probably would have opted for a press conference in front of the place rather than eat a meal there, which would have benefited no one.


April 7, 2014:
[Another poster Curtis; name changed] writes:

When [my wife] and I first took over [our workplace], the first teacher we hired was initially denied the apartment we had found for her for being foreign. I contact Debito and his advice and support were very practical and measured. Thanks to his help we ended up getting the teacher into the apartment. I think he has become somewhat more forceful recently–probably out of understandable frustration and in response to attacks that are very often unreasonable and apologist in nature–but the stereotype I hear of him doesn’t match the Debito I’ve encountered in real life. From what I’ve seen in person, I think he would handle an encounter with the restaurant owner in a measured and reasonable fashion.


April 7, 2014:
Arudou Debito writes:

Thank you, [Curtis]. And that’s exactly what I did, in a measured and reasonable manner. I called Ten-take, simply asked if they had a Japanese Only rule in place (they do), and asked why — as I always do. They gave me the three reasons why as I reported them on my website (they wouldn’t have given them if all I did was accused them). When I asked if he thought all foreigners would behave in the manner he gave as reasons, he said that he just couldn’t handle them (tai’ou shi kirenai) due to a language barrier. When I asked him if this was not in some way discriminatory (kore wa sabetsu de wa nai deshou ka), he hung up on me.

You might ask the other person who was in the room with me when I made this call, but there was no confrontationalism, no shouting, no raising of voices on either side, no taking offense at “everything” — in fact, nothing of what [Billy] is accusing me of without any evidence whatsoever (which is quite unbecoming of a PhD-level researcher and former educator of his stature over at [XXXX]).

Frankly, I don’t think he’s ever seen me in action. If he would do some research over at the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments and read up on some case studies I have recorded there as my doctoral fieldwork, he would see that I have at various junctures taken every one of the steps that he suggests above. Further, if he would read my book JAPANESE ONLY, he might see that we spent more than fifteen months trying to win over hearts and minds during the Otaru Onsens Case before we finally resorted to going to court and holding those inevitable press conferences.

Moreover, I don’t recall ever having the pleasure of ever meeting or talking with [Billy]. And I certainly don’t recall ever saying to any room that I took Japanese citizenship so I could rub it in their noses (the narrative for my naturalization I have always used has been the same as I have said here: https://www.debito.org/japantodaycolumns1-3.html); anyone who has read my essays or seen my speeches online or live knows that sort of language is just not in my vocabulary. Given the length and degree of confrontationalism within this very exchange, I think [Billy] is the one with the anger issues.


April 7, 2014:
[Curtis]: I also want to stick up for [Billy]. While I disagree with the Debito comments and believe they would be hurtful, he is also usually very measured in his responses and I have difficulty imagining him having issues with anger management.


April 7, 2014:
Billy: You never know, [Curtis]. I might be seething deep down inside.

But I am glad, Debito, that you joined this thread. I’d much rather have a discussion of your tactics with you here.

No, I wasn’t present for the phone call to this restaurant. But your description doesn’t do much to alleviate my concerns. I don’t know what the tone was on your initial questions or how the conversation started, but where it ended strikes me as highly confrontational. Accusing someone of racism in any language or culture is probably going to cause them to clam up, circle the wagons, or just walk away.

Yes, the sign is plainly discriminatory. But I question how likely an accusation of discrimination is to resolve the situation. My experience is that the language you use in that conversation, “差別,” is inflammatory, not likely to resolve the situation, and potentially likely to make it worse. At the very best, it will force a superficial change in the behavior (the sign comes down), while leaving a sour impression among those involved. Externally pressuring people to keep their racist tendencies hidden under the surface maybe gets a person into an establishment today, but does it ultimately make the culture or the individuals involved better?

And in Japan, word about such things gets around, and being on the right side of sympathy helps a lot. I’ve had about half a dozen conversations with various Japanese people over the years, some whom I’ve known very well and regarded as good friends–people who are not at all sympathetic to racism–about you and your tactics, Debito. They’ve brought up the topic of you, often knowing I’d lived in Hokkaido and wondering if I knew you or knew of you. What I’ve heard said in some form or another in every conversation is that, while you identify many real problems, your approach decidedly does not fit with Japanese culture, and it probably earns the people putting up those signs more sympathy than they’d otherwise get. That’s the public image that you often project, Debito. Maybe you’re O.K. with that; maybe you disagree that it’s how many Japanese people think about you. But I’ve heard it from enough people that I’m not making off-the-cuff remarks here.

Finally, yes, Debito, you are unlikely to recall, but we have crossed paths on a few occasions. The one at which you made the rather indelicate comment about why you opted for Japanese citizenship was at a JET recontracting conference in Kobe about 14 years ago. I asked a question or two to you during your session and talked briefly with you afterward. Your comment was made in response to someone else asking you why bother with Japanese citizenship if you are so critical of so much in Japan. You gave two three reasons, as I recall, the first two being that it made sense since you owned a home and were invested here that you have the commensurate status and political rights and that some day it might allow you to run for political office if the opportunity presented itself. But then you said that the other reason is to–whether your exact phrasing at the time was to rub or to hold, my memory is fuzzy, but “noses” was definitely a part of it–wave that passport under their noses when they tried to exclude you as non-Japanese. The statement drew quite a reaction from the people sitting around me–it struck all of us as a very crude reason to get citizenship, one in which the goal was less to become part of this other culture and nation and more to gain political standing (power) in this nation in order to force people to bend to your sensibilities.

And, of course, there you are, pictured in your rogue’s gallery, passport in hand, putting pressure on managers to give you entrance. Should they open their doors to all customers? Yes. But I’m not particularly clear how trying to impose on these Japanese people Western ideas of nation-state citizenship when their idea of “Japanese” is cultural and ethnic is really going to solve the problem. In some cases, you’ve definitely gotten policies reversed. You’ve definitely drawn attention to the problem. But is it really progress when a lot of this has to be accomplished by force through courts, human rights offices, and tourist bureaus? I remain skeptical.


April 7, 2014:
Arudou Debito: Thank you for your response, [Billy]. I can see better where you’re coming from now.

1) First, about the discrimination. I’m glad that we can agree that the sign is discriminatory. What you’re objecting to is me and my alleged tactics. So let’s focus on that.

2) When it comes to me, I can only see that you’re basing your information on what I do and have done on the embers of a memory, i.e., a speech I gave for the Hokkaido Association of Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (HAJET) and AJET, on “Survival Strategies, and How You Can Make a Difference in Japan” (Hakodate February 27 and Kobe May 29, 1999, respectively — before I had even “bothered with” Japanese citizenship or gone to the Otaru Onsens). You can read my write-ups for the occasion (which serve better than your memory — since I will again categorically deny that I said anything like what you claim) at https://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#survivalstrategies.

3) Despite this, and despite testimonials from others who said that I do not behave as you claim, and despite the fact that I have recorded doctoral-quality fieldwork up at the Rogues’ Gallery (again, if I went in there only making accusations, I would not have engendered such detailed information about why the excluders were excluding), you still cling to this self-admittedly “fuzzy” memory as proof of my malicious character (viz. “not a nice human being”). Then you wonder why “Debito always turns these criticisms into attacks against him.” Because instead of dealing with the issue of the discriminatory sign, the first sentence you open up with in this exchange is a volley against me: “The problem I always have with David Aldwinkle [sic]…” QED.

4) Understandably, much of this invective is the nature of the beast, as we are dealing with contentious issues (racism, which many people deny even EXISTS in Japan), and so doing anything that goes against the status quo (especially in Japan) will cause controversy. Doubly so for somebody trying to get an exclusionary sign down. Trying to get sympathy for that is pretty challenging when we don’t have empathy to begin with — most people who ever see that sign are not being targeted by it, and even if they feel it’s wrong, many conflict-avoiding habits would encourage them to simply ignore it and take their business elsewhere. But as the Rogues’ Gallery demonstrates, that simply encourages copycatting elsewhere, nationwide; the sign must come down, for it legitimizes and normalizes overt exclusionary behavior.

But again, let’s recognize this field of racism for what it is — a minefield — and understand that nobody is going to agree on one solution for how to deal with it. I have basically tried everything (including all the tactics you have suggested), with varying degrees of success. In some circumstances, it MUST be accomplished through courts, human rights offices, and tourist bureaus. Why else do you think these means of mediation exist? Because every society has bigots who simply will never change their minds and treat people without their own racialized baggage. Short of a law to criminalize discriminatory behavior, that is how anyone can (and sometimes must) seek recourse in Japan.

5) Now, usually I don’t bother with this type of bullyragging from people like you who play the man instead of the ball, but I see you have a Ph.D. (in English), and should be able to engage in better research. So I steered you towards some information sources to research. However, all you cite within them is a photograph of me “passport in hand” (for the record, it was taken after I had been refused entry, so forgive me for looking a bit indignant), without citing anything from the sources that would weaken your case (such as the many hours I spent with many of these discriminators calmly trying to convince them to repeal their rules). You thus steadfastly maintain your standpoint by collecting only the information that supports it. This is called confirmation bias, and as such goes against your doctoral training.

6) Finally, if you want to use the old “Japanese culture” meme to level criticism at me, then we’ll have to agree to disagree there (not the least because of the difficulty in defining “culture”). Since you cited some anonymous people who disagree with my alleged methods as some sort of cultural representatives, well, I’ll cite back all the Japanese people who have told me they’re very glad I’m doing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it — partially because they never could (they themselves say they don’t have the mettle), and partially because they’re not in my position as a Caucasian Japanese, fighting for my children’s future of equal treatment here. You don’t agree with that, fine. But don’t serve this soft science to further ground unfounded accusations about my tactics and character.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: I can’t help but think that what’s really bugging you is that you’re seeing a White guy doing all this (you even started out this conversation refusing to use my real name, let alone research it sufficiently to spell it correctly). If a native Japanese speaker went in and said, “Sabetsu de wa nai deshou ka?” (which I have heard said by native speakers on these occasions many times; it is a question, not an accusation), I bet you wouldn’t dare accuse him or her of defying Japanese culture or of imposing Western values. Because he’s not Western, in your eyes. Ooh, that sounds a bit racist on your part.

Now, how does that feel? Rather presumptuous, no?

But I have no evidence (short of that interaction you said we had long ago, and we are having now) to impugn your character like that. [Curtis] (a man I have great respect for) vouches for your anger-free character (as I hope he would, since he hired you). So I won’t make a claim that you are being racist. But the evidence is certainly present in this exchange that your spurious judgments about me as a person have overpowered your research training. I can only conclude that if it is not prejudicial in nature towards people like me fighting racial discrimination in my country, then it is based upon a latent anger on your part being facilitated by the Internet that needs pacifying with evidence and reason.

Let’s hope that this exchange ultimately brings your training as an educator and researcher out of you. If not, thanks for the debate, and let’s get back on with our lives.


We did so.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


22 comments on ““The problem I have with David Aldwinkle [sic] is…” A stock criticism of me and my methods, then my answer.

  • Nature of the beast…the world wide web.

    Anything and anyone can do and say as they please with impunity. Only response, is to ignore them. Otherwise it’ll end in tears…their only fuel is your response.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Sound of fury from an angry Billy
    Hounds like a mad dog in the Death Valley

    All I see in his lengthy posts is anger and jealously–like a billionaire Eva Moskowitz(Ph.D in history) getting fumed at NYC mayor Bill de Blasio for rejecting part of her proposal to expand her for-profit charter chain Success ‘Slave’ Academy.

    — Wow, that’s a simile firmly rooted in a NYC issue.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Brilliant! I think you showed amazing restraint. But, TBH, I think these people are best left to their delusions, unless they say something libelous, because they are often just trolls looking to get a rise out of you, and your response (in their eyes) validates them as human beings worthy of your attention; don’t let these ‘fame leeches’ suck the energy out of you. Better by far to continue (as you have been) with your serious work.

    There are a lot of these people about. They’re a type of apologist, so rather than discussing the issue, naturally, they use all the apologist deflection techniques such as attacking the messenger.

    I’ve been in Japan a long time now, and have lost count of the number of NJ who think you’ve got it all wrong. Mainly they are JET types who live in an insulated little bubble where everything is laid on for them, and they don’t have the language skills to realize how discriminatory Japan really is. You are bursting their bubble, so of course, they hate you for it. Most of them do their JET time and go home to spend the rest of their lives on Japan forums defending Japan as self-proclaimed Japan experts (and, after all, isn’t this the primary imperative of the JET program; to produce ignorant, but sympathetic westerners?).

    Curiously, I’ve met many JETs who have decided to stay on when they finish JET, but none of them have ever lasted (in my experience). Sooner or later (almost always sooner), they become really bitter when they realize how hard Japan is without the BoE to watch out for them, and they go home.

    On the internet, many of the pro-Japan commentators openly admit that they have been to Japan ‘on holiday’, or ‘hope to go next year’, which should give any reader an accurate insight into their level of knowledge (that is to say, none).

    But ultimately, the only apologists that I think we should even bother to engage are the ones that live here long term, speak the language, aren’t JETs, and yet are prepared to sell the rest of us out for an ever increasingly meagre collection of scraps falling from the master’s diminishing table. These people are truly dangerous due to their mental illness (and it is an illness to deny reality just because you don’t want to believe it).

    And even then, look what happens to them; Greg Clark is a case in point- totally opposed to any message that you have, to the point of going out of his way to undermine you, and yet, when he becomes the victim of exactly the forces you tried to warn him about, he’s right there screaming as shrilly as he can manage about how unfair Japan is! I imagine, just like the JETs who don’t go home ‘when they’re supposed to’, he will be so embittered by this ‘betrayal’ by his beloved Japan, that he will slink off (of course, he will say it is for some much greater opportunity- and that wouldn’t be so hard for an NJ to do, leave Japan for something better- whether it is true or not. After all, pride.)

    So really, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; the apologists can’t be told, they have to experience their own disappointments, and have their worldview shattered, with the humiliation of knowing that everyone could see that they were wrong all along.

    Interestingly, that article by Jeff Kingston where Clark whines about being discriminated against was picked up by a formerly very prominent apologist website. Aside from attacking Kingston, they made no mention of the fact that one of their own, Clark, was a victim of rightwingers, but rather say that Kingston’s article is full of ‘unattributed sources’. How the mighty have fallen! Greg Clark has gone from leading light on the apologist scene to ‘unattributed source’.

    — I don’t think Clark will ever leave Japan — he loves money and has too much of it invested here, and he’s too old and inflexible in his world views to make a fresh start of it elsewhere.

    As for your suggestion of engaging only those that “live here long term, speak the language, aren’t JETs…” etc, “Billy” qualifies under all of those. Moreover he makes arguments that are cogent and compelling — if these arguments weren’t completely grounded upon rumors, half-truths, misrepresentations, and falsehoods spread by other people who don’t research properly. However, “Billy” is a qualified researcher, who has gone even farther with his education than even Gregory Clark (who did not complete his Ph.D.), and thus has no excuse. Otherwise, as has been the case with just about every other critic who plays the man, not the ball, I wouldn’t have bothered.

  • I will say that you made similar comments to that which billy is referring at a lecture you gave at Shiga University around 2008. I remember you presenting a DVD on the alienation, abuse, and discriminatory behavior imposed on Chinese citizens after receiving special work visas. I thought at first you were standing for a decent cause, but in the end you appeared on the video arguing for your rights to enter a pachinko parlor in Yokohama. After it was over, you attempted to sell us the DVDs and couldn’t give a clear answer as to what percentage of the proceeds went to where.

    I’m not going to argue that you were wrong about how unjust it is to discriminate, but the whole encounter I had with you seemed a lot more self-serving than the issue dictated.

    Even here, as you break down your critics comments, I feel as though you are foregoing some detail, or possibly a response from him.

    I’m not sure why I bother, I wont see this in he comments section anyway.

    — Really? Here it is. Sorry to keep you waiting. I wanted to put up my next blog entry (which addresses the video you refer to) before approving your comment.

    Okay, since you’re bearing witness, your testimony bears cross examination, because your memory is faulty:

    1) It was 2009, not 2008. March 26, from 1PM to 3PM, to be exact.

    2) The video was called “Sour Strawberries“, and it dealt with a lot more than Chinese workers in Japan (extensive time was also given the Brazilians, Peruvians, and labor union leaders and members).

    3) My segment did not take place in Yokohama and it wasn’t a pachinko parlor. See for yourself:

    4) I presented that DVD at the invitation and request of Shiga University, as part of an annual class presentation I have given there every year in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Do you think they would have kept inviting me back (including the year after 2009 that you attended) if this was all that self-serving?

    5) I had been granted permission to sell the DVD by Shiga University. It’s not my DVD. I did not make, or produce, or have any control over the contents of the DVD, so your accusation of it being self-serving is presumptuous. Further, proceeds went to the directors in Germany (I received a small finder’s fee of about IIRC 10% per sale; maybe you don’t remember that detail either, assuming that I had indeed been asked about it in class). So there was nothing untoward going on. It’s not as if buying the DVD had been a precondition of attending the lecture, and since public screenings generally cost money for any other type of film viewing, the directors optionally offering the DVD for sale as possible compensation for your free screening is nothing untoward either. In fact, I’d say your reaction towards a free screening is a bit ungrateful.

    6) Now, as for “Billy”, your accusation that I am foregoing detail is a biased assumption on your part, and incorrect — on top of all your presumptive and proven-faulty recall.

    7) Further, I said nothing along the lines of what “Billy” said I said at his lecture, either. This lecture wasn’t about me or survival strategies in Japan, anyway. It was about the documentary.

    So stop bearing unrelated and false witness. I would suggest you don’t trust your memory so much, especially if you’re going to impugn someone’s character. As criminologists have increasingly substantiated (read up on it in Dan Simon’s “In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process“, in particular Ch. 4), memory is an unreliable thing. That’s one reason why I keep careful records of what I say and do.

  • Well spoken, Mr. Arudou!

    The logical conclusion of these fallacious and tired arguments that pushing for human rights in Japan as someone of Western origin is “cultural imperialism”, is that the West invented human rights and they apply only to those in the West. This is far more discriminatory to me than to make the suggestion that all humans everywhere share the same rights, and that these must be defended from those who would trample them.
    Respect for you and your life’s work. Don’t let the ad hominems bring you down!

  • And Jim, my head about fell off just now nodding at your profoundly true statements. As an ex-JET preparing to get the hell out of here, I can say my relatively short tenure in the country has brought me into contact with all the types you mention. At least I can promise I won’t be claiming to be a “Japan expert” from the other side of the Pacific!

  • “But I’m not particularly clear how trying to impose on these Japanese people Western ideas of nation-state citizenship when their idea of “Japanese” is cultural and ethnic is really going to solve the problem.”

    In this sentence who is the “their” referring to?

  • Debito, good job on quality discourse.

    It is unfortunate and, I’m sure, discouraging when a PhD like Billy does not maintain the principles that create integrity in logical argumentation. We’re probably all guilty, at some point or to some degree, of intellectual dishonesty, motivated reasoning, or disingenuous words or actions. The opportunity to use your intellect to attract people to your cause with minimal effort is sometimes too juicy an offer to pass up, and some need the ego boost.

    On the other hand, perhaps his slack standards are not of malicious intent, but rather just “lazy”. Either way, it was good you called him on the anecdotal approach.

    I can add this: My grandmother was racist, and all of the logic in the world didn’t move her, because she wasn’t rational, and her racism was driven by ego, emotion, and a lifetime of ingrained beliefs. I tried for years. It was important to me to reach her, because my wife is Japanese, and I tried everything from every angle for years, from diplomacy and compromise to passionate appeals and raw emotion. She just wasn’t gonna budge, despite she loved me more than anything. It created an enormous rift in our relationship and I became despondent. It nearly destroyed my relationship with my wife. In the end, I choose what is right, treated my wife with respect, and repudiated my grandmother. She made her choice and I made mine. Sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right without being overly fearful of the consequences, or we’d never make progress in this world. Despite being unable to empathize with a racist perspective, my senses tell me that these racists are often suffering in their own way. But I’m not going to let that fact stop me from treating people with basic human respect and expecting my fellow humans to do the same with everyone the deal with. To encourage respect and rationality is to encourage civility.

  • #3 JDG

    “… I think these people are best left to their delusions, unless they say something libelous (sic),..”

    Indeed, this is the only time, should one wish to, engage with such types.

    “… However, “Billy” is a qualified researcher, who has gone even farther with his education than even Gregory Clark (who did not complete his Ph.D.), and thus has no excuse…”

    Just because someone is well educated, articulate, intelligent and can even boast higher academic credentials than most does not make them objective independent and open to logical reasoned debate outside their field of “expertise”. One only has to look at Professors in University, as a case in point. A Professor teaching politics may not agree, for whatever reason, with a Professor of Physics, or Biology etc on who is best to run the country, for example. Intelligence and accepted signs of such is no guarantee that the said person will follow your point of view, no matter how well presented and reasoned. Which is ostensibly why there is “right” wing and “left” wing politics, for example. Current UK Prime Minister David Cameron studied at Oxford and so did the ex-labour leader Ed MIlliband. Oxford doesn’t take dummies….tune into Prime Ministers question time to see how much the “agree” on the same evidence…!!!

    Thus, being intelligent doesn’t always automatically mean the person in question will look at the same evidence and draw the same conclusions (that’s why there is peer review of academic papers). Their leaning (in whatever direction) shall dictate their conclusions, and one can guarantee it wont always be the same as yours. Hence, unless it is libellous let such people shout to the world according to their own vision and move on. As there are plenty more doing the same…let the “reader” decide based upon evidence and their own reasoning. Otherwise it’s the slippery slope down to ‘control’ and ‘brainwashing’ of others to suit your own personal agenda.

    — I have no issues whatsoever with what you said, thanks for writing it. My objection is when people who should know better (and are in fact trained to know better) do NOT consider the same evidence (instead, claim I said or did things I didn’t say or do), arriving at a point of view based upon a confirmation bias. That deserves to be called out as such.

    Anyway, I want this blog entry to serve as the strongest-sounding criticism of me yet that happens to be grounded upon false evidence, so that I can point to it in future without ever having to rehash it again.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @ John K, #8

    >A Professor teaching politics may not agree, for whatever reason, with a Professor of Physics, or Biology etc on who is best to run the country, for example. Intelligence and accepted signs of such is no guarantee that the said person will follow your point of view, no matter how well presented and reasoned. Which is ostensibly why there is “right” wing and “left” wing politics, for example.

    You’re quite right. That’s the reason why we sometimes see some henchmen intellectuals behaving just like an apologist. Eva Moskowitz mentioned in my previous post is a classic example. And here’s another example: Mr. reformster trashing down on nationally prominent scholar over dispute on his flawed research on voucher programs to the detriment of argument and civility.


    Spending time making an ad hominem attack–instead of refuting the points based on what s/he argues over disputed issues or findings is totally unbecoming of a person who has a Ph.D in education and serves as a faculty member of Research One University.

    Very few people would make an acerbic criticism like that–unless you are confident that your antagonist is 100% wrong or a total jerk like Mr. Reformster who doesn’t really know who he is picking a fight with:


  • It is extremely disrespectful of him to refer to you by your former name and not your correct current name. I think that alone shows that he does not come to the discussion with a free and open mind but with an agenda to belittle you. Nevertheless, he fails extrordinarily because he makes so many factual mistakes that it is impossible to take him seriously. He’s just another clown looking for an audience, and he’d be well advised to go back to the circus.

  • #9 L….ma

    “.. That’s the reason why we sometimes see some henchmen intellectuals behaving just like an apologist…”

    Indeed. But history is also littered with many of them falling on their own swords or slowly fading into..well, nothing…where they generally belong. Time does end up being a good leveller as such. Whether one has the time to wait…ahh..that’s another matter.

    “..My objection is when people who should know better (and are in fact trained to know better) do NOT consider the same evidence (instead, claim I said or did things I didn’t say or do), arriving at a point of view based upon a confirmation bias….”

    Quite right. BUT…that’s human nature and all the foibles that come with it. No one is perfect! Wars have started for less in disagreement. As uncomfortable and annoying as it can be…it is better to simply take the moral higher ground and ignore. It is impossible to fire-fight every battle like this…too many and simply not worth it. Your only recourse if such persons have their accusation written into a public magazine/paper/journal etc…is to appeal to the Editor of such for a rebuttal, that’s it. Otherwise, just switch on the TV open a can of beer and chill.

  • “But I’m not particularly clear how trying to impose on these Japanese people Western ideas of nation-state citizenship when their idea of “Japanese” is cultural and ethnic is really going to solve the problem.”

    This word “impose” is often heard from apologists – “stop trying to impose your westerm…” etc. But they are using the wrong word. In case they haven’t discovered yet, foreigners have no power in Japan to ‘impose’ anything on Japanese society. We merely seek discussion, the opening of debate, and bringing issues to the attention of the public. No one is imposing anything.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Billy probably has a western guilt complex about American foreign policy (and thus Americans, and thus all westerners-wow, nothing like lumping everyone together!) and how it is pushing Japan around as an American satellite.

    While the latter part of this has some truth (tho I said it, not him), and I would love to see more Japan-Asia bridges being built, as Hatoyama did try to do, the current Abe regime is so dangerously revisionist that frankly American influence is quite possibly the only thing preventing conflict in the region.

    Billy is also too lazy to recall or investigate the otherwise lack of American influence in domestic issues in Japan. The Japanese rice issue from the 80s has once again reared its ugly head in the TPP “Farmers Protest Japan’s Push to Join ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership'”. commondreams.org. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2013.

    More importantly, NJ human rights in Japan, or lack of. Japan does what it wants in this domain and the USA could care less. Take the complete lack of American or non Japanese insurance companies’ penetration of the Japanese market. Thus, we NJs are now being coerced to pay into the BS kokumin kenco hoken/nenkin rip off, and though it was voted down last time, may be tied to visa (non) renewal if you have not paid up years of back payments to your local shiyakusho.

    American priorities with Japan, since the Korean war, are primarily military, then some aspects of big business (echoing their China policy), and way way down the wishlist, NJ rights in Japan, last (or of no consequence at all). It has been oft said by commentators here that THe US Embassy is not really here to stand up for your rights, but to ensure a smooth running of Japan-US foreign policy and business interests.

    Billy sounds like he is spouting a soundbyte along these lines-“shut up, you selfish individual you are damaging US-Japan relations.” As if we could.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @TJJ, #12

    That’s the reaction you see. Many of those commenters, presumably, English speaking westerners–including both native speakers and non-native speakers of English– get trapped into false consciousness by forgetting that they are also a product of western ideas while making such a cut-and-dry response revealing cultural ignorance on state-public relationship. They don’t really understand where the problem lies in the first place by getting blindsided by the “Japan bashing” narrative.

  • I hope I don’t get criticized for saying this, but I can see both points of view.

    I’m a huge fan of this site. I think that the work you do is important. And as a former JET I wish that more of my countrymen knew the side of Japan that you discuss.

    But on the other hand, I think that you can be a bit rough with people you don’t agree with. To the point where I’m often hesitant to leave comments if I think that they’re not in line with your point of view.

    — Play the ball, not the man, and you won’t have any problem.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Billy is a cultural imperialist,just like he says we all are. He says a technique for dealing with racist signs is to just walk into a restaurant and order “Focusing on what the Japanese says and pretending the English isn’t even there forces the owner to initiate the confrontation, which many Japanese people won’t do. ”

    I actually quite like this technique in theory, though in practice I am sure you would be stopped long before you get to the table or have the chance to order, with crossed hands, a “gaijin dame” and perhaps a bow (if you are lucky).

    Why do I say imperialist? Well, Billy the academic is looking down his nose at the restaurant owner’s use of English, as if not worthy of his attention. Again, I do quite like this approach, as if its dubious in meaning then why not (pretend to) doubt what is meant by it, but again, in practice the English is rarely written badly enough to not understand the exclusionist intent.

    Billy’s main beef with Debito is “he wants to make Japanese act more like Americans”.

    Really? So, being racist is a Japanese trait is it, Billy? Well, you made this generalization. For your information there have been several underground movements in Japan that were much more progressive than the reactionaries who have remained in government most of the time.

    So Billy confuses “Japanese government” with “Japanese people”. As if Prince Philip’s gaffes somehow represent the entire attitude of the British populace. I know Billy, I know. If you do not live in the country daily, all you can get is the public utterances of the infamous, the Ishiharas, the Hashimotos, the Assos (sic).

    Oh, I see. It is a “right of the Japanese people”. Funny, I think Gregory Clark said that.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Baudrillard #18

    Yes Billy is a cultural imperialist, and he is projecting this onto Dr. Debito. What’s all this garbage he spouts about pretending he can’t understand their English and barging in and sitting down? Sounds like fantasy to me, he’d never get seated in a place like that. And pretending he can’t understand their exclusionary notice in English (when he admits that he can) is indeed a form of cultural imperialism and exactly the kind of ‘forcing his opinions on others’ that he slams Dr. Debito for. So he is a fantasist and a hypocrite.

    And by confusing the Japanese government with the Japanese people as a whole, and using phrases like ‘Japanese trait’, isn’t he doing something that apologists always accuse us of doing- presenting ‘the Japanese’ as a monolithic whole? I guess you can commit all our ‘sins’ if your objective is attacking Dr. Debito….

    I’ve met his kind many times. They’re the kind that says things like ‘I agree with what Debito is trying to do, I just don’t agree with the way he does it’ fearing that Dr. Debito is giving all NJ a bad name, but forgetting that in the eyes of Japanese officialdom and mass media, NJ already have a bad name- there really is nothing to lose.

    He’s the kind that will acknowledge that Japan has problems, but doesn’t want Japan to change, resists change, and is offended by those who seek change, because in his little work and social bubble, he see’s himself as having ‘paid his dues’ and having carved out a niche in that bubble as the ‘house gaijin’, and is bitterly afraid that the scrap of acceptance he has had to grovel and fight for will be plundered by hordes of NJ if Japan becomes more open and accepting. He wants to protect his little ‘acceptance fantasy’ by slamming the door in everyone else’s faces.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Billy’s Gaijin Smash, or Western Privilege “pretending he can’t understand their English and barging in and sitting down? “(Jim).

    He is just taking advantage of Japanese customs and alleged unwillingness to confront-although every now and then, the worm turns nastily and violently, so watch out, Billy, who you try Gaijin Smash on.

  • I don’t think he means pretending he can’t understand _their_ English (that is, that the English is incomprehensible), but rather pretending that _he_ doesn’t understand English. It has at least plausible deniability – I have met Europeans in Japan who could speak Japanese + their native language, but not English (Japanese staff at that company told me they found it interesting to see four white foreigners sitting around a table and conversing in Japanese because it was the only language we had in common) – although the proprietor would probably not believe it’s true, he couldn’t prove it, either. Thus, he would be forced to either let “Billy” in or have a confrontation in Japanese.

    I confess to being somewhat intrigued by the idea 🙂 However, it might not end well. If the proprietor really stuck to his guns on the “No foreigners/we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” point, the police could well be called. That would be unlikely to end well for the person pretending to not read English, especially if that person did not have the shield of Japanese citizenship. I have not personally ever had a negative interaction with a Japanese police officer (they even took my side against an ethnic/citizen Japanese, once upon a time), but stories of negative interactions are common. The foreigner would likely at least be asked by the police to leave.


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