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Hello Newsletter Readers, and Happy New Year!  Table of Contents:


1) DEBITO.ORG ELECTION SPECIAL DECEMBER 2014: A clear LDP victory, normalizing Japan’s Rightward swing

2) Japan Election 2014: “Why taboo?” Grotesque foreigner-bashing cartoon by Hiranuma’s Jisedai Party, features “Taboo Pig” sliced in half over NJ welfare recipients “issue”

3) Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced

4) Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society

5) Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

…and finally…

6) My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014


By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (,, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Freely Forwardable


1) DEBITO.ORG ELECTION SPECIAL DECEMBER 2014: A clear LDP victory, normalizing Japan’s Rightward swing

In the Japanese media run-up to this election, there was enough narrative of doomsaying for opponents to PM Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), what with Japan’s Left in disarray and Japan’s Right ascendant after 2013’s electoral rout. The LDP was to “win big by default” in a “landslide victory”. The day after the election, we can say that yes, Abe won, but “big” is a bit of a relative term when you look at the numbers…

CONCLUSIONS: The Far-Right (Jisedai) suffered most in this election, while the Far-Left (JCP) picked up more protest votes than the Center-Left (DPJ). My read is that disillusioned Japanese voters, if they bothered to vote at all, saw the LDP/KMT as possibly more centrist in contrast to the other far-right parties, and hedged their bets. With the doomsaying media awarding Abe the election well in advance, why would people waste their vote on a losing party unless they felt strongly enough about any non-issue being put up this election?

Nevertheless, the result will not be centrist. With this election, Japan’s lurch to the Right has been complete enough to become normalized. PM Abe will probably be able to claim a consolidated mandate for his alleged fiscal plans, but in reality his goals prioritize revising Japan’s “Peace Constitution” and eroding other firewalls between Japan’s “church and state” issues (e.g., Japan’s remilitarization, inserting more Shinto/Emperor worship mysticism in Japan’s laws, requiring more patriotism and “love of country” in Japan’s education curriculum, and reinforcing anything Japan’s corporatists and secretive bureaucrats don’t want the public to know as “state secrets”).

All of this bodes ill for NJ residents of Japan, as even Japanese citizens who have “foreign experiences” are to be treated as suspicious (and disqualified for jobs) in areas that the GOJ deems worthy of secrecy. And as Dr. Jeff Kingston at Temple University in Japan notes, even the guidelines for determining what falls into that category are secret. Nevertheless, it is clear that diversity of opinion, experience, or nationality/ethnicity is not what Japan’s planners want for Japan’s future.


2) Japan Election 2014: “Why taboo?” Grotesque foreigner-bashing cartoon by Hiranuma’s Jisedai Party, features “Taboo Pig” sliced in half over NJ welfare recipients “issue”

As everyone in Japan probably knows (as they cover their ears due to the noise), it’s election time again, and time for the sound trucks and stump speeches to come out in force until December 14. And with that, sadly, comes the requisite foreigner bashing so prevalent in recent years in Japan’s election and policy campaigns (see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Here’s 2014’s version, from “The Party for Future Generations” (Jisedai no Tou; frontman: racist xenophobe Dietmember from Okayama 3-ku Hiranuma Takeo), courtesy Reader XY:

XY: Today I ran across this election campaign video that isn’t as bad as the usual CM fare, but seems to suggest that 8 times as many foreigners as native Japanese are receiving welfare hand-outs. Here’s the lyrics (from the video’s own description):

DEBITO: is concerned about this normalization of NJ bashing — to the point of believing that blaming foreigners for just about anything gains you political capital. Look how this alleged “NJ welfare cheats” issue has become one of Jisedai’s four (well, three, actually, since the first issue mentioned is a grumble instead of a substantive claim) planks in their platform. Even though, as we have discussed here earlier, this is a non-issue. Link to CM and screen captures enclosed with analysis.


3) Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced

According to the Grauniad (article below), hate group Zaitokukai (which has been part of a group publicly advocating the killing of Japan’s generational Korean residents, the Zainichi) has been placed on a National Police Agency “watchlist” as a threat to law and order. That is good news. However, I wonder if it will deter Zaitokukai’s bullying activities, where they can verbally abuse, knock down, and even punch (watch the video to the end) an old man who counterdemonstrates against them: Where were the police then? (Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or within the movie Yasukuni?)

As has argued before, the Japanese police have a soft touch for extreme-rightists, but take a hard line against extreme(?) leftists. So placing this particular group on a watch list is a good thing. As having laws against violence and threats to law and order is a good thing. Alas, if those laws are not enforced by Japan’s boys in blue, that makes little difference. We will have to wait and see whether we’ll see a softening of Zaitokukai’s rhetoric or Sakurai Makoto’s bullying activities.

Meanwhile, according to the Mainichi Shinbun at the very bottom, local governments (as opposed to the foot-dragging PM Abe Cabinet) are considering laws against hate speech (well, they’re passing motions calling for one, anyway). That’s good too, considering that not long ago they were actually passing panicky resolutions against allowing Permanent Residents (particularly those same Zainichi) the right to vote in local elections. Methinks that if the world (e.g., the United Nations) wasn’t making an issue of Japan’s rising hate speech (what with the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all), this would probably not be happening. In other words, the evidence suggests that it’s less an issue of seeing the Zainichi as fellow residents and human beings deserving equal rights, more an issue of Japan avoiding international embarrassment. I would love to be proven wrong on this, but the former is a much more sustainable push than the latter.


4) Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society

In the first of a few Holiday Tangents, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth). It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents.

But that was just one person. Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan’s entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular). Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of “the past is a foreign country” relief. Japan cannot. Not right now.

Kureishi: I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear.

I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared…

The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.


5) Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

Yomiuri Obit: Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100. Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.

Submitter JK: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).

Debito: Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here.


…and finally…

6) My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

One of my most controversial columns ever opened like this:

I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning.

Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan…


That’s it for another year. We’re coming up on the 20th Anniversary of soon. Will keep you posted!  Thanks as always for reading us!


12 comments on “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2015

  • Debito, thanks for redirecting me here.

    There’s a new “comedy” duo out whose routine is a silly chant about “What does ‘Rassungorerai’ mean?”

    The group is named Bazooka.

    It starts out silly. The guy says yesterday’s dinner was “Rassungorerai.” No, actually, he continues, it’s my dog. His dog is “Rassungorerai.”

    They move on to say it’s a name. The routine, translated, goes like this: “If your father is Saudi Arabian and your mother comes from India; your name is Rassungorerai.”

    Here’s a link to the racist video:

    Um…no. That’s not a name from India or Saudi Arabia.

    What started out as a joke about a nonsense word has suddenly become a joke mocking “names” that the “comedians” don’t understand. The joke has suddenly become, “This is a funny word, it must be foreign.”

    The other guy responds, “I’m not an Indian/Saudi halfbreed. I’m Japanese peepo!” Yes, he says “peepo,” not “people.” Why does he switch to “English” all of a sudden? Well, perhaps to enhance the “foreignness” of the situation – because the second “comedian” is clearly unhappy to be called “Rassungorerai.” He’s not foreign, he’s Japanese “peepo!”

    Naturally, children across the country are obsessively singing this routine’s catchy tune, oblivious to how racist it is. And it’s not as if their parents are going to stop them.

    It reminds me of when I was a child and we made fun of Chinese names. That was unspeakably racist, and this “comedy” routine is racist in the same way. The whole routine is literally nothing more than the idiotic jokes we made on the playground as children.

    To drive the point home, I actually have some immersion classes at my school where we have an “English only” rule. One child was chanting “Rassungorerai,” and I said, “Please, no Japanese.” And the kid protested, saying, “It’s not Japanese!” So the premise of the routine, that “Rassungorerai” is a funny, foreign – anything but Japanese – word is getting across clearly to the children.

    Everything about this routine is problematic to say the least. The two men, now famous and perhaps rich, are just making crude, mean jokes at the expense of other cultures, and really all they’re doing is displaying their ignorance for the whole country to see. The entire routine is a “comedic” representation of two Japanese people’s disgust with everything foreign, and I just don’t see the humor in that.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “Rassungorerai” is deemed acceptable- and yet they (a Japanese pressure group) said that “Lost in Translation” was racist. All because of Bill Murray not understanding a woman’s L/R pronunciation.

    Its a fact that any Engrish(sic) teacher will tell you that L/R confusion is a real, engrained error with potentially comedic results. I laugh with my students about e.g. Cassie/Kathy/Caffeine and shit/sit, and not at them and a fun learning experience is had by all.

    Just classic J-denial of a problem and then rather than address it or admit it, feel ultra sensitive and victimized i.e. Sofia Coppola is racist because the character can’t understand our pronunciation. Lame.

  • @ Chester #2

    Thanks for posting that.

    Yep, sure does look/sound to me like these guys have made a comedy routine that plays directly on the Japanese idea that all foreign things are stupid/funny/worthy of contempt*.

    *Delete as applicable.

    Actually, I used Japanese comedy once as a case study of Japanese culture and ossification (bear with me here, I’ll bring it back!).
    That is to say, that western academics have noted that a lot of Japan’s ‘traditional’ culture developed, and then was at some point in the past ‘set in stone’, and has not developed since that time (thus fitting one criteria of the concept of a ‘tradition’- that things do not change, and in doing so function as an ‘unbroken link’ with past generations, thus reinforcing and affirming identity and racial purity).

    However, since I and others (Hobspawm & Ranger) believe that traditions are intentionally ‘invented’ with just such a purpose in mind, closer academic investigation shows that many of these ‘traditions’ are in fact misrepresenting themselves, and aside from these ‘set in stone forms’, we can find other ‘schools’ (for want of a better word) that have continued to develop and change. Since these other schools have changed, what happens is that the schools that do not change represent themselves as the ‘true form’, the ‘genuine article’, and seek to discredit other, evolving schools with their undue ‘authority’ as unofficial ‘guardians of the tradition’.

    You can find recent examples of this is the way that puppet shows that use modern Sesame Street style puppets to engage and show Edo era puppet plays to engage children are totally disowned by the ‘guardians of culture’ as not being ‘authentic’.

    We can see the legacy of these ‘battles’ over authenticity in ‘traditional’ practices that continue into the modern day, for example, why is tea ceremony a high class woman’s passtime, yet all the ‘masters’ are men? How about O-koto? That’s become an instrument for women, yet Prince Genji gives O-koto lessons in Genji Monogatari, so clearly in the Heian era, it was normal for men to play (if they weren’t a peasant).

    And this brings me back to comedy in Japan.
    Manzai is always presented as being a traditional Japanese form of comedy. But this is utterly misleading. What is it? A straight man and a funny man. Gee, Abott and Costello, Bob Hope & Bing Crosby? This form of comedy stems from the old music halls and vaudeville acts, but comes into it’s own with pre-war movies and post-war TV.
    The format is nothing unique to Japan.
    In fact, what is unique is that this format appears to have been ossified in Japan at least since the occupation period (I can find no evidence of manzai existing before the occupation, so I believe that it is a direct cultural import from the US), whereas the format has become old and tired in the west, and has virtually disappeared from TV screens, leaving the Japanese with the impression that this is a ‘Japan-unique’ art form.

    And here’s the sucker-punch;
    Whilst the format has become old, tired, and replaced in the west, it has not in Japan (it’s like watching TV from 50 years ago). Why?
    To answer that question, you have to ask ‘what replaced double-act comedy in the west?’.
    Answer; alternative comedy. 1980’s sarcastic social satire that directly ripped on people’s everyday social problems, and those in power.

    When you understand this, you realize two things about Japanese comedy;
    1. The double-act was never replaced with alternative comedy because alternative comedy would have ridiculed the ‘erai hito’. Therefore,
    2. TV producers never raised the bar on expectations of Japanese comedy, ensuring that the format would become ‘fixed’, after all, safe jokes about safe topics (yes, including hating on NJ, after all, that serves the ‘erai hito’s agenda completely).

    Like the Japanese press, watch dogs become lap dogs.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Chester, I may be misinterpreting it, but I felt that they weren’t saying that if you have that ancestry, your name must be Rassungorerai, but rather that the guy on the right says, “Hey, you have a Saudi Arabian father and an Indian mother; maybe it’s your name!” and the guy on the left insists that it’s not just not his name, but it can’t be because he’s “Japanese peepo”. And since they’re both playing the parts of complete buffoons, the silly guess by the first guy and the other guy’s use of “peepo” to describe a single person are both in character.

    They may be laughing at foreign “peepo”, but they’re laughing at themselves even more. I say give them a pass this time.

  • Japanese duo comedy (or in this case, “comedy”) has a very clear pattern of tsukkomi and boke. One of them, the boke, is playing the part of a complete buffoon. The tsukkomi, as far as I know, is never presented as himself also stupid, though I think part of the “joke” is that the tsukkomi ISN’T stupid, but he’s stuck with this stupid guy.

    So pay attention: the tsukkomi here is the skinny guy – note how he moves. He’s smooth, rhythmic, cool. He is loud and even aggressive – demanding – towards his tsukkomi. He calls him “onii-chan,” indicating very clearly that 1) the two characters do not know each other and 2) the tsukkomi considers himself “above” his boke, addressing him with a dimminutive “-chan.”

    The boke is fat. He is clumsy and moves very robotically. He’s not cool, and he doesn’t have the broad smile of his tsukkomi. His face is strained, as if he is pulling a face. He moves unnaturally. Everything he says is foolish and childish, shouting “hoo!” after every sentence.

    So, first let me explain that in another version of the sketch, they start out by saying, “Rassungorerai is [a] fun [time] in a southern [island.]” The tsukkomi asks if he means Guam, Hawai’i or Bali – as if there are NO other “southern islands.” Ah, but the tsukkomi calls them “resorts,” so they are talking about “southern islands” that are seen by Japanese people as private pleasure palaces built to serve them. That right there is referring to a very racist aspect of the culture – no, sorry, Japanese “peepo,” Guam is not a “resort” for your pleasure. It’s a place where people live. Oh, and “rassungorerai” is not a word from Guam.

    Now, let’s get back to the “Saudi father/Indian mother bit.” Notice that the boke points his finger suddenly and aggressively, and says, “OMAE!” It is played as an accusation – “You’re the foreign one!” The tsukkomi replies, ashamed and offended, “I am not a halfbreed [this word itself being deeply racist], I’m Japanese ‘peepo’!”

    He is absolutely NOT just “making a silly guess.” He’s accusing the other guy of being a halfbreed, and the tsukkomi is very clearly offended at the mere IDEA of being a halfbreed (demonstrating also pretty well that “haafu” is not, in fact, a polite term in Japanese).

    So, again, why did he switch to English? To make it clear that the boke is actually a foreigner. The entire routine is a Japanese “peepo” trying to talk to a “henna gaijin.” He switches to English at the end to drive this home: the boke is foreign, saying weird foreign words – and the tsukkomi is NOT. The switch to broken English is a very, very established pattern in Japan. (Search, for example, on YouTube for the video, “But We’re Speaking Japanese, which demonstrates this point PERFECTLY.)

    And, again, notice the disgust dripping from that accusation: “OMAE!” “Ch-ch-ch-ch-chotto matte, I am Japanese ‘peepo’!” He’s not making fun of himself.

    It’s very clear that they are not in any way “laughing at themselves.” This is not some biting commentary on “Japanese peepo’s” inability to interact with non-Japanese-peepo. It is a very clear bit of disgust – the entire theme of the routine is “Oh, God, is is so mendokusai to talk to foreigners. He keeps repeating this word that I don’t understand! UGH. I’m Japanese peepo, I don’t need this.”

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Japan has found a way to fix the problems with the NJ nurses and caregivers programs;

    You see, until now, qualified NJ nurses were unable to work as such in Japan until they had completed Japanese nursing exams (in Japanese). The preparation for such was Japanese language training whilst working as caregivers (at a lower rate of pay), on an unrealistic timescale; it is a system set up to fail, with virtually all applicants failing, and the few that passed choosing to return home when faced with Japanese working condition. This is fine, of course, unless you are an elderly or infirm Japanese who isn’t going to get the care they need due to staff shortages.

    But hey, since when has Japan ever not cut off it’s nose to spite it’s face?

    Anyway, as the article above states, this will all be a thing of the past now that NJ caregivers are included under the ‘intern’ system. After all, it will be difficult for the NJ carers to give up on Japan due to racism, pay, and conditions after they have had their passports taken away by a system that the CIA and the UN describe as ‘modern day human trafficking’, as described here on

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Brazilian man takes child to the emergency room, but (according to the Doctor);

    “The man could only speak rudimentary Japanese and I was unable to communicate with him successfully; this made me angry and so I muttered the curses”.

    What were these ‘curses’?

    “Go to a [fucking] pediatric department”.
    “Drop dead asshole!”..

    Naturally, Brazillian man becomes aggressive (as would I if this happened to me when I took my daughter to ER).



    — Thanks for this. This was going to be my next blog post. I’m glad to see it’s gaining traction in the media.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Abe, not content with stifling freedom of speech in Japan by cherry-picking the board of NHK, threatening broadcasters and newspapers to ‘be fair’ in thier preelection coverage, and slamming Asahi Shimbun, has now (apparently) discovered that US textbooks describe the wartime Japanese army’s use of sex-slaves.

    This is a massive shock for him;
    ‘“I just looked at a document, (U.S. publisher) McGraw Hill’s textbook, and I was shocked,” Abe said during the Lower House Budget Committee. ‘

    So he is now supporting LDP Policy Chief Inada’s campaign to force a change to US textbooks since;
    ‘students in the U.S. are being taught things that are “completely against fact, that our ancestors were a group of rapists, murderers, and kidnappers.”’

    And worse (!);
    “This is not an issue of the past. I believe this is an ongoing issue that, for example, violates the human rights of Japanese children living in the U.S.”

    Such irony that whilst the rest of the world is chanting ‘Je suis Charlie’ as a symbol of belief in protecting freedom of speech, Abe is seeking to crush free speech at home and abroad.

    Since he believes that Japanese children are the ‘victims’ of being told the truth about Japan’s wartime atrocities, I’d bet it just a matter of time until he claims any view of history that is not whitewashed in his to his revisionist content is anti-Japanese ‘hate-speech’.

    I sincerely hope that Korean-Americans stop this fool in his tracks.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    The new NJ I.D. cards, much hyped by the NPA and Immigration Bureau as vital for controlling foreigners, containing chips that hold NJ’s personal data, are being forged overseas with valid I.D. numbers, and (here comes the incitement of anti-NJ fear) the law specifically (!) states that fake cards made abroad cannot be legally confiscated!

    But, I hear you cry, we were assured the new system was fool proof! Seems they included a legal back-door so they could switch the fear back on anytime they like.

    NJ should be suing these idiots for not protecting them and thier personal data whilst forcing us to adopt a system they KNEW was flawed from the get go.

  • @Jim (#9) I am also disgusted at Abe’s dishonourable ideology and “policies”, but the upside of the fact that those dangerous ideas lurking beyond Japan’s peaceful veneer are becoming more and more exposed because of “bold” politicians such as Abe, Aso, etc. is that they will finally be exposed to a bigger audience in the Western world and hopefully more people will recognise “quirky cool Japan” for what it really is.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Jim, inevitably, yes “what is unique is that this format (Manzai) appears to have been ossified in Japan at least since the occupation period”. Manzai, like many things in the Americanized santized version of Japan- the wish fulfillment version which has some definite cracks in it these days “Simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no reality to begin with, or that no longer have an original.[1]”

    Absolutely, in a postmodern twist, what is seen as Japanese culture is in fact 1. a copy of the American original, which has since been discarded and replaced with stage 2. a copy of a copy. but the first copy is seen as THE Japanese original. I know its something of a cliche to talk of the Japanese penchant for acquiring foreign culture and then representing it at their own, but what is interesting is the level of denial people have- they often wont accept or will suffer you in silence, their cheeks getting progressively redder, as Tempura is pointed out to be from Portugal, Gyoza is Goazi, and Key Money is a postwar invention, not a Japanese tradition, started in fact by the yakuza when housing was in short supply- it was in fact, a bribe.

    Sometimes the riposte (or knee jerk) takes interesting forms, like “Terminator was a Japanese film” (ie paid by the Japanese, really?) which is, as ludicrously nationalist as the “korea is number 1 syndrome- Jesus was Korean, the first homo sapiens were Korean etc etc but I digress). As if this is a kind of tiresome competition of one upmanship.All in the name of nationalist pride. How very Abe zeitgeist.

    The first stageof Simulacra is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a “reflection of a profound reality” (pg 6), this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called “the sacramental order”.
    The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy.
    The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the simulacrum pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the “order of sorcery”, a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.
    The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms.” Wikipedia, Baudrillard.

    We are definitely in the third stage in Japan, and arguably in stage four, especially concerning J-consumers and their dreamy day. Signs reflect other signs. Indeed, a J-regime of total equivalency,which is why everything functions so well. IF you know the system. This dovetails well with the hierarchy of Japanese society, and the customer is god business model. Western business people or teachers who do their due diligence and point out weaknesses-however indirectly- will fail, because these weaknesses should be ignored in favor of the erai hito fictions in place.

    And I think this part is VERY VERY IMPORTANT to daily life in Japan; ” even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms.”” Think back over your day today, did you have to phrase things in a special way to get through to someone, or to achieve a goal? Did you find yourself rehearsing what to say, within a self censored box that is in fact completely at odds with what you perceive as common sense or reality when you step outside Japan for a couple of weeks holiday?

    Then you came back to work and got a dressing down from your J boss for being “fumajime” (read: western realist, not showing respect to disfunctional systems, oops its back in the system, time for J- Think).

    Abe’s revival of “safety country” and sadly, Crystal’s “Omotenashi” as an unwitting part of this agenda, or just the crap you find yourself spouting to get along with J business people about how you like Japanese food like tempura and gyoza, how Korea, sorry I mean, Japan is number 1 safety country (ignoring the Fukushima elephant in the room) and thats why you want to do business here, yada yada.

    Going back to Manzai and ossification but what scares me about Japan is just how ossified so many things are. And how the tiniest little change or innovation is frowned upon. But I am preaching to the converted here. Be it Sesame Street puppets doing Noh Plays or a western geisha being, well, western is just a microcosm of how little room or leeway is being given for any other identity than the Nihonjiron one (itself, arguably an artificial creation myth, like tartan or curry made to suit the British Raj’s palate).

    Surely this a place where NJs will be perpetual outsiders, no matter how well they speak Japanese. Or regarded with suspicion. And, natch, there is no dual nationality. Forget the optomistic noises made by e.g Time Asia or Newsweek about how “Japanese society is making more room, etc” you are either Japanese-and that includes constantly self censoring yourself about what that means to the point of silence-or Othered.


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