Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record


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US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 85, Mar 5 2015

The debate on Japan’s history of wartime sexual slavery (aka the “comfort women” issue) has heated up again, with the Japanese government extending its efforts to revise school textbooks overseas.

In November, McGraw-Hill, publisher of the world history textbook “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past” Vol. 2, by history professors Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley, was contacted by Japan’s Consulate General in New York. The request: that two paragraphs (i.e., the entire entry) on the comfort women be deleted.

On Jan. 15, McGraw-Hill representatives met with Japanese diplomats and refused the request, stating that the scholars had properly established the historical facts. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly targeted the textbook in a parliamentary session, stating that he was “shocked” to learn that his government had “failed to correct the things it should have.”

In the March issue of the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine “Perspectives on History,” 20 prominent historians, including professor Ziegler, signed a letter to the editor titled “Standing with the historians of Japan.” They stated that they “agree with Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history,” and “oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.”

Professor Ziegler met with JBC on Feb. 17


Read the interview at The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/03/04/issues/u-s-author-recounts-lecture-got-comfort-women-uninvited-japanese-guests/.  A fuller version will be up at The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus (www.japanfocus.org) in a few days, with more information on how the GOJ pressured Dr. Ziegler and how Japan’s neighbors responded.

For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the “Comfort Women” issue being targeted by the Japanese Government, courtesy of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Libraries:

From “Traditions and Encounters:  A Global Perspective on the Past”, by Jerry H. Bentley, Herbert F. Ziegler, and Heather E. Streets-Salter, Third Edition (the most recent version in the UH Library), pp. 624-5.


Comfort Women:  Women’s experiences in war were not always ennobling or empowering.  The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women age fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels, called “comfort houses” or “consolation centers.”  The army presented the women as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria and from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia.  The majority of the women came from Korea and China.

Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the “comfort women” catered to between twenty and thirty men each day.  Stationed in war zones, the women often confronted the same risks as soldiers, and many became casualties of war.  Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases.  At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation.  The impetus behind the establishment of comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing, where the mass rape of Chinese women had taken place.  In trying to avoid such atrocities, the Japanese army created another horror of war.  Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and hid their past or faced shunning by their families.  They found little comfort or peace after the war.


Also, additional information on the issue found in the “Student Study Guide and Map Exercise Workbook to accompany TRADITIONS AND ENCOUNTERS, VOLUME II” (2000), by Lynda S. Bell, Gary E. Scudder, Jr., and Guangyuan Zhou, pg. 176:


D. Women and War

1. Women’s roles in the war

a) Half a million British women and 350,000 U.S. women joined military services

b) Both countries barred women engaging in combat or carrying weapons

c) Soviet and Chinese women took up arms and joined resistance groups

d) By taking jobs or heading families, women gained independence and confidence

2. Comfort women

a) Japanese armies forcibly recruited 300,000 women to serve in military brothels

b) 80% of comfort women came from Korea

c) A comfort woman had to cater to between 20 and 30 men each day

d) Many were massacred by Japanese soldiers, survivors experienced deep shame



UPDATEFuller interview with Dr. Ziegler now up at the Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus.

23 comments on “Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record

  • Ah, I see the comfort women and the Japanese government (Abe’s administration to be exact) is being brought up. I’ve been following this for a while. This has become a big thorn between Japan and South Korea, even some in the US government have condemned the Japanese government over this.

    You can read the Yonhap News (South Korea’s equivalent of Kyodo News agency) interview with a US scholars over this issue:


    Some in the US have question about Japan’s academic freedom:



    Even Mike Honda, a US congressman of Japanese descend blasted Abe over this:


    Debito, I’m not sure if this is confirmed, but did the Yomiuri Shimbun published an article criticizing the US publisher over the comfort women:


    There are 2 other articles from a Korean perspective about the whitewashing issue:



    It looks like there is increasing tension between South Korea and Japan:




    Also there some evidence that PM Abe may not take the comfort women issue seriously:


    and I’ll quote the whole article:


    KBS World-“Abe Refused to Endorse Even Soft Statement on Wartime Wrongdoings”

    Japanese media once again reported that then lawmaker Shinzo Abe in 1995 refused to endorse a parliamentary resolution regarding his country’s wartime aggression.

    The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday that the current Prime Minister of Japan did not participate in the vote 20 years ago on the resolution that only softly addressed Japan’s wartime atrocities.

    The then coalition-government members of the Liberal Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party and the New Party Sakigake did not add apologetic terms in the resolution. The parties, however, used the expressions “colonial rule” and “aggression” to mark the 50th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

    The Japanese daily said that Abe and other right wing lawmakers’ boycott of the vote prompted then-Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, to issue his 1995 landmark apology on the anniversary.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Thank you for this JBC Dr. Debito.
    I think that in this 70th anniversary year of defeating fascism, it’s insulting that not being satisfied with using the secrecy law, right-wing intimidation, and statements of Abe’s emotions to hammer the domestic press into silence, the Japanese government feels self-assured enough to set its sights on using yakuza thug type tactics to attempt to intimidate foreign nationals outside of Japan.

    As the PM of Japan, Abe deserves to be called out on this if he travels to Washington to address Congress this spring.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Loverilakkuma #3

    That is a very interesting letter! Thank you for the link!
    In all the shoddy reporting that ‘hundreds of scholars wrote a letter a opposing revisionism’, I never saw such criticism of the letters denial of facts, and inclusion of revisionist falsehoods in and of itself!

    N.B. I posted on Debito.org last year that Slavoj Zizek’s analysis of European popular rightism as a means of subversion, whilst using Berlusconi’s Italy as an example, was frighteningly accurate for Japan. It’s satisfying to see the author of this criticism of ‘The Letter’ pick up on that too, and quote Zizek. Again, Debito.org is way ahead of the curve on the issue of Japan’s 21st century fascism.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was agreeing with Tsuneno Yujiro’s critique, until the end where he went too far and ends up looking crazy:

    “Being anti-Japan, in the sense of profoundly critical of state policies, is precisely what is needed.” – Tsuneno Yujiro

    Huh, what? Are you serious Tsuneno Yujiro? Being against the entire country of Japan is needed?

    In Yujiro’s next sentence, he tries to explain that his anti-Japan stance has limits, of course:

    “This of course does not mean we should call for the physical annihilation of the Japanese people, just as anti-Nazis people do not demand that for the Germans.” – Tsuneno Yujiro

    So we should be against Japan, but we shouldn’t go so far as killing all Japanese. Thank goodness you added that qualification Yujiro.

    But the above two sentences written by Yujiro contain strange unneeded strawmen being fought against.

    First off, except for Yujiro, nobody is claiming that to be anti-fascist we should be anti-Japan.

    Secondly, who ever suggested that encouraging ending a fascist REGIME means encouraging the annihilation of a race?

    That seems a subtle unconscious jab at the President of Iran who said “end the Zionist regime”, he NEVER said end the Jewish people.

    Thirdly, as Yujiro himself accidentally admitted above, being anti-NAZI is a logical stance: being anti-GERMAN would not be logical.

    So after specifically writing the word anti-NAZI instead of anti-GERMAN, why does Yujiro incite us to become anti-JAPAN?

    This makes me think Yujiro is consciously acting as an agent-provocateur, throwing verbal bottles at the whole country of JAPAN.

    Here we are having a peaceful protest, chanting “We are against RACISM in Japan” “We are against FASCISM in Japan” “We are against DENIAL in Japan of the number of civilians KILLED by Japanese soldiers” “We are against DENIAL in Japan of the number of civilians forced into SEXUAL SLAVERY, namely all of the state-sponsored ‘comfort stations’ used by Japanese soldiers.”

    …and suddenly Yujiro tries to join the protest as an agent-provocateur, basically saying, “You protesters all aren’t being strong enough, you have to start chanting that you are against JAPAN itself! You must be anti-Japan, that is what is needed! Start making anti-Japan signs like me!” http://d.hatena.ne.jp/toled/20141102/p1

    In his final paragraph, Yujiro attempts to slightly back-pedal again, saying that his definition of Japan is “the imperialist, colonialist project which started in 1868 and is thriving today”, great, but meanwhile the rest of the world defines Japan as being a country, so encouraging us peaceful protestors to start being ANTI-JAPAN would be just as wrong as encouraging us to be ANTI-GERMANY.

    Yujiro ends by pedaling forward once again, with his “Let’s be anti-Japan” encouragement, by saying that “if we respect the Japanese as moral beings then we should be able to say to the Japanese people, ‘We are anti-Japan: we are against this country, founded in 1868, this country which continues to this day. We are anti-Japan.’ ”

    Here, let me imagine for just a moment that Yujiro is NOT an agent-provocateur, encouraging the protest to become anti-country.

    Hey Yujiro, wake up, you’re messing up the protest, brother. Anti-NaziRegime is fine. Anti-ZionistRegime is fine. Anti-AnyViolentRegime is fine. Anti-Racism is fine. Anti-Fascism is fine. Anti-DenialOfWartimeKilling is fine. Anti-DenialOfWartimeSexualSlavery is fine. Anti-AnyHarmfulAction is fine.

    Again, we are chanting “We are against RACISM in Japan” “We are against FASCISM in Japan” “We are against DENIAL in Japan of the number of civilians KILLED by Japanese soldiers” “We are against DENIAL in Japan of the number of civilians forced into SEXUAL SLAVERY, namely all of the state-sponsored ‘comfort stations’ used by Japanese soldiers.”

    What is NOT fine is your attempt at telling us to become Anti-Japan. Any Anti-Country campaign is definitely NOT a proper protest.

    We are NOT Anti-People, we are NOT Anti-Country, we are Anti-HarmfulActions. Please fix your sign, to join our proper protest. 🙂

    — It’s a trap. The Rightists want to catch someone saying that he is “anti-Japan”, because that plays right into the han-nichi accusation so often leveled at any critic.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Loverilakkuma, good points in that link:
    1.”The Letter seems to be the result of a compromise among people with divergent views”- this is so Japan. I meant to comment on a different thread about how this is how things get watered down in Japan, everything from political decisions to J pop. (Thus you hear an out of place metal guitar solo in a brass band arrangement- its something for everyone on the committee so that older sempai won’t get sulky, but I digress).

    thus “what should not be compromised has been compromised.”

    2.”Today’s revisionists are not an anomaly but a natural extension of what has been going on and what has not been going on in the last seventy years. ”

    I have been waiting for someone to say this. Granted, in terms of NJ rights/tolerance there was a sea change in 2000 or so because of the rise of the openly anti American Ishihara-who as we now all know was still angry about having his ice cream swiped by a G.I. in 1945.
    But its all been there, under the surface, largely unchanged since the end of the war.

    3.Tsuneno goes even further: ” the imperialist, colonialist project that is called Japan, which started in 1868 and which, in significant ways, continues in a new era.”

    If we are all really honest with ourselves, and how we were dazzled by the bright images of postmodern, success story, rebranded Japan, we knew this rings true.

  • Anonymous says:

    Now having said all that, I will back-pedal a lot, and admit Yujiro’s stance is not TOO far from mine. So perhaps Yujiro is NOT an agent provocateur. Perhaps Yujiro is simply extremely honest and bold like me.

    I honestly boldly state, “I am against the ZionistRegimeOccupyingPalestine, which means I against the land-grab of Palestine from Palestinians by Zionists officially from 1948 (actually from 1838) to the present day.”

    Which means, when we get down to the bottom line, “I am against Israel, because Israel murdered Palestinians to occupy Palestine in the past, and because Israel CONTINUES to murder Palestinians to occupy Palestine in the present day. I am against Israel, the country committing murders, itself.”

    IF we lived in a world in which Germany WERE to be continuing its Nazi actions into present day, I would say “I am against Germany, because Germany murdered Jewish residents to ethnically ‘cleanse’ Germany in the past, and because Germany continues to murder Jewish residents to ethnically ‘cleanse’ Germany in the present day. I am against Germany, the country committing murders, itself.” I would say that IF we lived in a world in which Germany WERE to be continuing its Nazi actions into present day.

    Which means, when we get down to the bottom line, “I am against America, because America murdered the original residents to occupy that land in the past, and because America CONTINUES to murder Arabs to occupy Arab lands in the present day. I am against America, the country committing murders, itself.”

    Bottom line, Yujiro is basically saying, “I am against Japan, because…” and now here instead of paraphrasing his words I will instead paste his exact quote, which seems perfectly logical to me, a quote which inspired me to come back and admit that Yujiro Tsuneno’s stance is actually very similar to mine:


    “What is Hinomaru? It is the Japanese equivalent of the Nazi swastika. It was adopted as the national flag of the Empire of Japan at its inception. Even after its defeat in 1945, Hinomaru was not abandoned. It has continued as the symbol of the country, and if you take a short walk in any city here, you can find it everywhere, at government buildings, streets, schools, commercial outlets and so on, testament to the continuation of the Japanese imperialism, colonialism, and militarism.

    The Day of Showa is the birthday of Hirohito, the Showa Emperor. Unlike Adolf Hitler, he survived his defeat. He was not put on trial. He did not even step down, and his reign persisted for decades until his death in 1989. The Day is designated as a national holiday.

    And Yasukuni Shrine has been commemorating the deaths of the Japanese soldiers who fought in the Asia-Pacific region. Yes, it is still there, and visited by politicians, some prime ministers included, ordinary Japanese, and international tourists.” – Yujiro Tsuneno

    And here is one more quote from him, which I feel deserves to be posted in full:


    “Yujiro Tsuneno
    Boycott Japan

    Some years ago, I was an undergrad in England. Israel was doing bad things then as they do now. One day, I got an e-mail calling for an “academic boycott.” We shouldn’t invite Israeli professors to give lectures. We shouldn’t take their invitations. European institutions shouldn’t collaborate with their Israeli equivalents. It was a lot more complicated, but that’s all I still remember. On the list of signatures, I found the name of a teacher of mine, which was a little bit surprising, as he didn’t seem particularly left-oriented in person.

    I partly agreed with the call for a boycott; I was against what Israel was doing. I had to wonder nonetheless: how come they don’t boycott British universities first, or at least simultaneously? It was during the Tony Blair government. The United Kingdom was doing its best to take orders from Washington, which was sponsoring Israel. So if it was wrong to support Israel, and if it was right to boycott their academic and cultural institutions, it should have been wrong to participate in the British University system. I was kind of soft on logic back then, but that was my thinking.

    By the way, do you know Japan? It’s my country, and I love it. Just before the invasion of Iraq, an American came to Komaba, Tokyo, and made a speech. He said it’s a patriot’s duty to expose the crimes of their own country. I agree. Katsuichi Honda, another patriot, said something quite similar decades ago.

    So to put it simply:
    1. I’m a Japanese citizen.
    2. I love my country.
    3. A patriot denounces his own country in public, if it does something wrong.
    4. Japan is doing terrible things such as persecuting foreigners, forgetting the War crimes, allowing the American millitary occupation, supporting Israel, etc.

    Hence my call for an international boycott.

    Please be assured that the Japanese Constitution is on my side, as We the Japanese declared thus on November 3, 1946:

    ‘We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.

    We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.

    We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations.

    We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.’

    We are the sovereign of this nation, and as such we are responsible for anything Japan does. And we ask you to boycott us, as we desire to occupy an honored place in an international society.” – Yujiro Tsuneno

    Yujiro Tsuneno also wrote these two good articles:

    So in conclusion, in my post above, I scolded Yujiro for his “anti-Japan” encouragement seeming to be too extreme, like an agent provocateur trap meant to make us look bad, but I have the honesty to now admit that perhaps extremely bold statements ARE needed. Hey, I am anti-Israel. Because Israel, the founding and existence of the country itself, is literally a racist murderous land occupation.

    At least the majority of Americans and Germans and British honestly admit and repent the evil racist murderous actions of their ancestors, and at least SOME Americans (like me) honestly admit and repent the evil racist murderous actions of current American soldiers occupying foreign countries around the world in the present day.

    It is definitely NOT politically correct to be against a country or a people, as I lectured Yujiro in my previous post, but: if the country majority continues to be proud of convicted murderers (Israel & Japan) and if the country majority continues to elect creators/maintainers of absolutely racist policies (Israel & Japan), shouldn’t we honestly be against such literally unrepentant murderous racist countries?

    It actually was a racist act to boycott white-south-african products, but it was NECESSARY and EFFECTIVE to motivate white-south-africans to decrease their level of racist acts.

    It actually is murderous to kill wartime leaders who caused millions of civilians to be killed, but even though capital punishment is bad, justice is a requirement.

    Thank you Yujiro, for helping me realize that it is not you who is going too far, it is me (and the average change-seeker in general) who is not going far enough.

    Real change, to scare racists and murderers into decreasing their levels of anti-human behavior, requires Revolutionary Statements and Revolutionary Actions. 🙂

    — Fine. If you’re ready to be misconstrued by all sides by coming out as “anti-” any whole people or society (which is what declaring yourself “anti-Japan” implies), not just against a government, ideology, ideologue, etc., then prepare yourself be cast into the company of racists. Look how much explaining he had to do of his terminology just because he wouldn’t choose a more easily-understood wording of his position. It’s a waste of time and energy, to begin with, which could have been spent giving out new information germane to his point instead of having to explain himself. No, I still say this person’s tin ear for public relations is tantamount to a trap, and his advice will only serve to self-deligitimize if followed. Don’t play right into the mind games of the Rightist “Han-nichi” decriers by proclaiming yourself one, for chrissake!

  • Jim di Griz says:

    I think that Anonymous #5&7 is kind of missing the point, even though he quoted it himself in #5;

    “Being anti-Japan, in the sense of profoundly critical of state policies, is precisely what is needed.” – Tsuneno Yujiro

    The key phrase being;
    ‘in the sense of profoundly critical of state policies’.

    Nowhere is Yujiro urging us to be anti-Japanese, or anti-Japan as a country.
    He is being specific; urging us to be critical of policy, and policy-makers (something that Japanese media is afraid to do under Abe’s ever-so-sensitive oppression).

  • Anonymous says:

    You’re right Debito. After flip-flopping, I’m back in the Anti-HarmfulAction camp, not Yujiro’s Anti-Japan camp.


    I guess what I am saying is we do need to take revolutionary action: like attaching a list of demands to a boycott.

    The way minorities motivated white-americans to give civil rights is through sufficient numbers to threaten revolt.

    The way the world motivated white-south-africans to decrease their level of racism is through a financial boycott.

    Since the number of minorities living in Japan is currently way too low to threaten revolt, we need a boycott now.

    To motivate the world to join this boycott until demands are met, the letter to the world must be really good.

    A comment saying this same thing was posted here before, which included the United Nations “demands” letter.

    I can’t find it right now, but eventually I will find it and post a link, since that is seriously what is needed.

    Thanks for bringing me back to my senses Debito, you’re right: We are not Anti-Japan. We are Anti-HarmfulAction. 🙂

  • Hi Anonymous #5 and #7

    Thank you for taking your time to read some of my writings. Perhaps I should have explained a bit more about what I mean by being anti-Japan.

    A group of people established an entity and named it Japan in 1868. They designed it be imperialist, colonialist, racist, capitalist, patriarchal, and so on, and they were quite successful, bringing deaths and misery to a lot of people. In my view, that entity still persists, and it should be overthrown. In this sense, I am anti-Japan, and call for others to take up the label that is attached so easily and quickly for offering even a minimal criticism of the country, the society, or the people, especially if you are non-Japanese.

    So at least my intension is not to incite racism against Japanese people. That said, I encourage everyone to criticize Japanese people, not just the government, for we are the ones who are keeping the entity called Japan alive and benefiting from its unjust institutions and policies.

    — Thanks for your comment, Tsuneno-san. Read more of Debito.org. You’ll see that we criticize plenty.

  • Sorry, when I wrote “a group of people,” I meant a group of forces. The Meiji Ishin was not some conspirational plot by some individuals but a historical development that had economic, social, and other factors.

  • Anonymous says:

    Happy to see you here Yujiro, I do hope you read Debito more and comment more here, fellow human. 🙂

    There was once a brave man who went to the war-criminal-honoring shrine and voiced a simple comment.
    His name is Pierre Pariseau, and by making that verbal statement, he risked violence and arrest.

    There once was a brave man who went to the war-criminal-honoring shrine and left a written note.
    His name is Yujiro Tsuneno, and by leaving that written statement, he risked violence and arrest.

    Yujiro, please understand that readers of Debito like myself respect those brave peaceful protests.
    Debito wants us to choose our words carefully so these brave peaceful protests can NOT be called racist.

    As Jim pointed out, you are simply encouraging being “profoundly critical of (certain) state policies (of Japan).”

    As Debito pointed out, shortening that long phrase into the short phrase of “Anti-Japan” is dangerously imprecise.

    As I pointed out, this brings up the deep question of how to criticize actions of people without criticizing the people.

    Here’s an illustration of the difficulty in criticizing harmful actions taken by citizens of any country:

    Victim Seeking Justice: Hey, your country dropped a bomb on my wife and children, so your country must be punished.

    Country Pride Holder: Don’t be against my country, that is like being against me, it wasn’t me who killed your family.

    VSJ: Well first off, I said your COUNTRY killed my family, why am I being accused of saying that YOU killed my family?

    CPH: Uh, well, since I was randomly born in a country, I am proud of my country, criticizing my country is criticizing ME.

    VSJ: I can’t criticize you personally, and I can’t criticize your people in general, can’t I criticize the country?

    CPH: I’ll say it again, you can’t criticize a country because criticizing a country means criticizing all its citizens.

    VSJ: Now wait a second, a bomb was dropped on my family, and a collection of your country’s citizens did make that happen.

    CPH: Yeah, but WHICH citizens shall be held responsible for the deaths of your family? Who deserves to be brought to justice?

    VSJ: Well, the soldiers who killed my family, the president who ordered them to, and even the citizens who gave him that ability.

    CPH: Nope. Everybody is innocent. The soldiers, the president, the citizens, the country. Nobody is responsible for your family’s deaths.

    VSJ: Nobody is responsible for my family’s deaths? I can’t take anybody to court? There is no justice for victims of your country’s bombs?

    CPH: Nope, no court justice, and don’t even think about trying to figure out which soldier did it, so no street justice either. Sorry pal.

    VSJ: Wow, so back to the question of who I can criticize, could you please make your stance on who can be criticized perfectly clear?

    CPH: Sure, you CAN criticize the policies and maybe the revolving-policy-makers, but you can’t criticize the citizens who choose them.

    VSJ: But it is the country CITIZENS who receive the BENEFITS of the empire’s existence & maintenance through bombings, right?

    CPH: Yep, well top corporation presidents grab MOST of the benefits, but yeah some of the war benefits trickle down to the citizens.

    VSJ: So your country citizens choose to do what is in the best interest of your country, like dropping bombs on other country citizens?

    CPH: Yeah, you can criticize the POLICY of bomb-dropping, but you can NOT criticize the bomb-dropping country nor its citizens.

    VSJ: So “policies” and “politicians” and “elections” allow benefit-receiving empire-citizens to keep their hands clean from the bombings?

    CPH: Pretty much. We enjoy the empire-benefits, without taking responsibility. And to criticize the country or citizens would be racist.

    VSJ: Wow. I’ll just go write my protest signs now. I’ll be sure to ONLY criticize your country’s POLICIES like dropping bombs on civilians.

    CPH: Yep, you go and do that. Heh-heh. Good luck with that. Your sign-waving-requests are not going to guilt-trip my empire to change. 🙂

    VSJ: Hmmm, so too selfish to change unless forced by violence or financial penalties. This is why I am now firmly against such empires. 🙂

    CPH: Understood. But remember pal, if you cross out the American Empire flag or the Japanese Empire flag, you will be shunned as a racist! 🙂

  • @YujiroTsuneno (#10) Thank you for commenting and be assured this community would be very happy if more Japanese people like yourself took part in the discussion. For me personally, it is good to know that there are people out there who are opposing the status quo, as it gives me glimpse of hope that Japan is not lost yet. After living in Japan for two years and finally realising what you wrote in your “Hinomaru” post, I left Japan and do not yet intend to ever go back there, mainly because there was no sign of the alleged majority of good people having any say in the society at all.
    My question to you is: Do you have an idea what the numbers in Japan could be? What percentage of Japanese people would be in favor of your actions at Yasukuni, and what percentage would be oppposed?
    One “ongoing theme” in the foreigners’ discussion of Japan seems to be what percentage of Japanese are actually pro-nationalism, exclusionism, and revisionist efforts of the government?

  • Some commenters: When will the Japanese people finally abandon the herd mentality and stand up to their government and ruling class?

    Japanese person: Makes an uncompromising analysis of Japanese capitalism, colonialism, racism, patriarchy, cissexism, and ablism.

    Some commenters: No, don’t stand up that strongly. What will people think? Are you sure you’re not a right-wing spy?

    Main Comment:

    Frankly I’m glad that there’s a radical leftist like Tsuneno here on the website, engaging in parhessia. I am eternally grateful for all the pioneering work that Debito has engaged in, and for the effort that other posters make in gathering, sharing, and providing commentary on xenophobia in Japan. But I think there is a sense in which the liberal criticisms (as opposed to radical ones) often made here don’t go far enough, and would create a Japan where a multi-ethnic ruling class continued exploiting under a racialised/gendered system of global capitalist relations.

    In the longer term, it’s probably a strategic blunder to concede the term “anti-Japanese” to the right, given that it’s one of the most powerful rhetorical weapons that they have. When rightists accuse their opponents of “anti-Japanese” sentiment, they assume those opponents are working as a member of a nation-state engaged in zero-sum competition with all the others. In that sense, to be opposed to “Japan” is to be in favor of Korea, or China, or the United States or whatever other ethnic-territorial imaginary.

    But if, as in the case of Tsuneno, your criticisms of Japan are part of a more general critique of capitalism and associated gender/racial/ablist oppressions, you force rightists to a.) argue in favor of the foreign system of modern neoliberal capitalism b.) argue against “their own” government and economic system c.) shout laughable Cold War-era slurs. Only of those things are generally anything that they feel comfortable with, and it just makes them look ridiculous, particularly to an English speaking audience. This is also an extremely efficient way to de-ethnicize the debate. (With this approach, you can also avoid the moral problems associated with arguing that Japan’s future anti-racist policies should imitate those of a herrenvolk democracy with enduring unresolved legacies of slavery and genocide.)

    As a last word, Japan like other countries is not a genuine coherent entity, but an indefinite and historically bound idea which is riddled with fault lines, and which is used to obscure realities of social class, etc. That’s why the criticisms of Japan don’t amount to racism. Like the capitalist system which helped give birth to it, the nation-state has a historical beginning and will therefore a historical end. Hobsbawm in particular discusses how nationalism began with small groups of young intellectuals in the 19th century, and didn’t fully gain hold of the world until the creation of the League of Nations. (Refer to Benedict Anderson/Thomas Hobsbawm/Ernest Gellner/Yoshiko Amano/Eiji Oguma/Vladimir Lenin on the mythical status of the nation.)

    — Good points, but Straw Man alert: “Makes an uncompromising analysis of Japanese capitalism, colonialism, racism, patriarchy, cissexism, and ablism,” was not being objected to. Sure, be strong, firm, and clear in your criticism. “That’s why the criticisms of Japan don’t amount to racism,” is also what I’ve said all along.

    What I am objecting to was the summing of all that up under the invective of “Anti-Japan” which, again, plays right into the hands of the Rightists for misinterpretation and shutting down of critique. Point: Be anti-idea or ideology or system. Do not sound like you are anti- an entire people — as you yourself essentially say, that’s too complicated and diverse a notion to summarize into a concrete entity to criticize accurately or fully. (Incidentally, this would be even more so if your bogeyman of a “multi-ethnic ruling class” was in fact created — for the “people” would be even less definable by biological/blood/etc. characteristics, and the notion of “Self” more questioned and problematized — something sorely lacking in debates on “Japanese identity”.)

    Further — and this is a bit of an undercurrent within your point — saying that you are “Anti-Japan” is not the same as same-sex advocates appropriating “gay” or “queer” for themselves, thereby taking the power of the slur away from their antagonists. “Japan” was never a slur or an epithet, or even an ethnicization. (“Jap” is — and watch the extra layers of self-deligitimization added on if one were, hypothetically, to say that they were “Anti-Jap” — see? there’s your ethnicization.)

    Your points are well taken, thanks for making them, but please do not miss (or worse, misrepresent) mine. Kindly reargue more carefully without the Straw Man (or the misspelling of “parrhesia” — if you’re going to summon the spell of big words, take extra care to spell them correctly or lose even more credibility!).

  • Debito here. I think this is a good time and place to revisit this overlooked column of mine (overlooked because it was stupidly-titled; not by me) in the Japan Times about criticism of Japan. I could just paste a link (and I did within my comment immediately above), but let me just reprise the whole text here. Tsuneno-san, please have a read, so you can see we are essentially on the same page, just with different invective:


    The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
    JUST BE CAUSE Column 58
    Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic
    By ARUDOU Debito
    Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121211ad.html and http://www.debito.org/?p=10842

    Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.

    This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.

    In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.

    Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.

    “Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country.

    But surely this is a case of mountains and molehills, a critic might counter — aren’t “like” and “dislike” harmless and inevitable facets of the human condition? After all, these two emotions inform so much of our lives, including choices of food, lifestyle, leisure, friends, lifetime partners, etc. Is it really that unsavory a thought process?

    Of course not. My point is that reducing public debate to “like or dislike” is too unsophisticated for thoughtful social critique — especially when it is being enforced from above. I will even argue that this rubric fundamentally interferes with the constructive debate an ailing Japan desperately needs.

    Consider this: Have you ever noticed how words not only affect our thoughts, but even limit their scope and expressibility?

    There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they do (look up “cognitive linguistics” and its proponents Lera Boroditsky and George Lakoff). Publicly framing what should be a complex intellectual process as a “like or dislike” dichotomy vastly oversimplifies the shades of the emotional spectrum.

    Now add on another layer that stifles dissent yet further in Japan: wa maintenance. Dissent frequently gets silenced to keep things calm and orderly. Remember the oft-cited axiom of “putting a lid on smelly things” (kusai mono ni wa futa o shiro) to explain away censorship and coverup? The more criticism something might invoke, the more likely it is to be suppressed. (How the Olympus and Fukushima fiascoes were handled are but two examples.)

    It also engenders an element of self-censorship. If there is inordinate pressure to “like” things, then you’d better keep the “dislikes” to yourself. After all, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all,” right?

    Non-Japanese (NJ) readers of this column know this dynamic well, because the pressure on NJ to “like” Japan is relentless.

    Ever notice how you are supposed to say “I like Japan” at every opportunity? Mere hours or minutes off the airplane, someone wants to hear how much you like Japan so far. As you begin to study Japanese, set phrases are less “Where is the library?” more “I like sushi, anime and Japan’s unique four seasons” and other pat platitudes.

    Even years or decades later, thanks to the predominance of “guestism,” NJ “guests” are not to be overly critical of their “host” country (even if they are naturalized citizens, as letters protesting this column indicate just about every month). I was even compelled to devote an entire column (JBC, Feb. 6, 2012) to what I like about Japan. Why? Oh, just because.

    And if you dare get critical? You face exclusionism, even from NJ themselves. The common retort to any criticism is, “Well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?”

    With reasoned argument debased to the level of “love it or leave it,” the “like or dislike” ideological prism effectively becomes an intellectual prison. The reaction towards critics of Japan is clear and immediate: Non-likers become disliked.

    So why are people so quickly labeled han-nichi (anti-Japan), Nihon-girai (Japan-haters) or “Japan-bashers” just because they offer criticism? Because, linguistically, you can stigmatize and shut them up for walking on the wrong side of the dichotomy.

    Thus, “like” leads to an enforcement of “like-mindedness.” It is ultimately an issue of power — a subtle means to disenfranchise any dissenter and empower the status quo. And that suits the Powers That Be just fine, thank you very much.

    This dynamic is being used very effectively on the eve of a historic election. As Japan wilts economically, politically and demographically, ascendant rightwing demagogues are offering simplified slogans dictating how the public can better “like” Japan by “disliking” their leftwing opponents and critics.

    Not to mention “disliking” outsiders — after all, the wolf at the door in many debates is a bullying China. Or anyone who hasn’t fallen in on “Japan’s side.”

    Therein lies the fatal flaw of the “like or dislike” discourse in public debate, which critic-haters are invariably blind towards.

    The act of criticizing a government is not the same as criticizing an individual, or a group of individuals, or even necessarily a society in general. A government is always — but always — fair game for critique. A government is power personified, and power must be constantly challenged. “Liking or disliking” a government is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

    I should mention one more significant problem with this oversimplification process: If it is so easy in public discourse to talk about “liking” or “disliking” things without offering a reasoned argument why, it becomes just as easy to apply this to people.

    As in “I like/dislike foreigners,” which one hears all too often in Japan. Healthy societies should not be this unsophisticated towards other human beings. But if normalized public discourse is this unsophisticated, what can you do but choose a side? Better “like” the side with the power, or else. It’s even patriotic.

    That side, alas, will not favor fresh, new ideas put forth by the critics already labelled outsiders and excluded from the debate — and that’s ironic. As Japan’s rightists hark back to an (ahistorical) golden past of Japan’s preeminence and intellectual purity, they ignore the legacies of those outsiders: Pre-industrial Japan sent envoys overseas and imported foreign specialists to investigate how modern nations ran themselves, famously adopting outside models successfully.

    Sadly, rightwing exclusionism is selling well these days because it’s offering, as usual, simple solutions to more complex issues, grounded in how much people love Japan and dislike other people.

    We must get beyond this grade-school-level debate. That means being brave and brazen with critique. Don’t succumb to the pressure to say only “good things” about any society. It beggars meaningful conversation and defangs the debate necessary to make things better.

    Criticism does not signal “dislike”; it indicates critical thinking. If critics didn’t care enough about a place to analyze it deeply, they wouldn’t bother. Critique is their — and your — civic duty.

    So do Japan some good: Offer some fresh ideas. Be a critic. Or else, as things get worse, you will only find more things to be critical of. Silently, of course.


  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @XY, #16

    To be fair, the rightists are also human agent that has a freewill to take side on the debate. They are not a bond slave to the nation state. It is not necessarily the critique of western influence that is responsible for dislocating the problems of Japan, since western powers indeed played a key role in (re-)signifying the cultural hegemony within internal structure–rather than de-constructing it–throughout history(especially in post-WWII) for the maintenance of socio-cultural order. The Allied Powers missed opportunity–deliberately–to strike down the pre-existing issues of race relations in their post-war policy during the occupation period. That was, without a doubt, a huge blunder.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ XY & Dr. Debito #15

    Some greats points. It’s also great to know that Yujiro Tsuneno is here, such a brave man.

    There’s a lot I could say, but let’s just boil it down;

    I am ‘anti-Japan’ in the sense that Yujiro urges; against specific policy and policy makers.

    We don’t have to take on the moniker of being ‘anti-Japan’ with the goal of negating the pejorative meaning that right-wingers have attached to it with their out-dated, closed mind, cold war conceptual framework.

    Rather, I would propose that instead of seeking to take the phrase and rebrand it as our own, we should just throw it back at the right-wing; they are anti-Japan in it’s truest sense, and in every sense. The right-wing don’t own Japan, they don’t have the right to decide the definition of Japan. We (naturalized citizens, Japanese citizens, and our children) are Japan, and we have the power to decide what is or is not ‘anti-Japan’, so why shouldn’t we slam the right-wing with their own pejorative?

    Throw it back at them, show them how they are detrimental to Japanese people, society, democracy, and international standing, and see how long they can stand up to that.

    I can leave this fight anytime I like, but I’m in it for my kids future.

  • Baudrillard says:

    My technique now is to take the postmodern pi$$, so, “Do you like Japan?”- “Yes, they were was my favorite band, especially their “Visions of China” single. Thus so, rightists are the anti-Japanese, as Abe and co are destroying Japan’s international standing, arguably straining the relationship with the USA (though the US military doesn’t care about their WW2 denial vis a vis China, or do they?), etc.

    And thus, as a nod to Jim, I am still waiting for Japanese like Ayako Sono to stand trial for Peruvian war crimes.

    Just step out of the traditional thought paradigm, do not be drawn into playing the games that your average J rightist does when gaijin baiting.

    As above, the rightists are, by continually raising the comfort women, war crimes issues, actually damaging Japan’s standing further. It is a ridiculous, pointless conversation that deserves just having the proverbial p1$$ taken. But you might enlighten at the same time.

    “Pearl Harbor was self defense”
    “Yes, Ben Affleck sucked in that movie.”

    “Do you like Tetsuya Komuro?”
    “Yes, great marketing and legal defense. I also like Crystal K and Melody Ishikawa (neither who are actually “Japanese” per se, but in any other country would be accepted, as arguably they are by their fans)”

    “Do you like Japanese food?”
    “Yes, I like Tempura, and Portuguese food” etc.

  • There was an interesting news item on the BBC world news yesterday, but was not followed up with its usual web entry, for some odd reasons. However, other news agencies have picked up on it noted here, is this “anti-Japanese”:

    “..Japan’s Kono urges PM Abe to stop being coy over war dead shrine..”

    “..Japan’s Atonement for War Not Enough, Ex-Minister Kono Says..”

    “..Kono, Murayama Criticize Abe Over 70th Anniversary War Statement..”

    “…Murayama, Kono teach PM Abe over historical issues, criticizing brutality on security bills..”

    “…Abe’s views on WWII risk ‘disgracing honor of Japanese people’ – former leaders…”

    Seems Abe could be in for a rough summer 🙂

  • Its being picked up in Japan too…which surprises me considering the ever present stifling of freedom of press by the Abe Govt. against any criticism:

    “…Murayama, Kono assail revisionism, urge Abe to uphold their apologies in entirety…”

    “…Scholars urge Abe to renew ‘comfort women’ apology..”

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ John K #19

    It would be nice if Abe was ‘in for a rough summer’, but I doubt it.
    It doesn’t matter which individuals come out against Abe, and what thier credentials are, Abe will ignore them and carry on. The masses are the only ones that can make it rough for him, and they’re too content to ignore it and let him carry on.
    All Abe has to do is spout some worthless sound bites about ‘reforms’ and avoid a collapse in the Nikkei 225, and the ordinary people will be quite happy to put all thier reservations about his fascist tendencies to the back of thier mind, whilst he offers them the illusory ‘carrot’ of a better economy.

    When they lose all faith in his economic policies, it’ll be too late to resist; Abe will have created a paranoid police state.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    @ John K #19

    Abe won’t be in for a rough summer, unless the pension mess gets messier.

    Anti-Korean and anti-Chinese sentiment have become normanlized. Konno and Murayama have almost no credibility with the public – one only has to see the comments about them on social media, while the traditional domestic media continues its swing into right-wing bias.

  • Baudrillard says:

    WE JAPANESE ARE SHY-“Kono urges PM Abe to stop being coy” (Coy, mistranslated-so thats why we can be exclusionary, xenophobic etc). I would love Dr Debito to write about this, ahem,”cultural misunderstanding” haha. How many times have you heard this? It was especially in vogue in the 80s to explain some bizarre anti gaijin fright or micro aggression as due to “shyness”.

    Sometimes it can be self defeating- remember the one about refusing NJ aid to earthquake areas “because a J granny might be “surprised” or fearful of foreign relief workers? I mean, come on whf

    Grow a pair please, J xenophobes (Sick Note included).

    Also, the DIY “Deport a Local Gaijin” snitch sites thoughtfully provide criteria for fearfully “shy” J citizens to report on NJs for walking while foreign- it comes under “fuan” or, “feeling anxiety when seeing a gaijin”. (it never happened to me but I was told that I was “the kind of gaijin we Japanese are not afraid of, whatever that means).

    “To be seen as a country which simply says what is expedient at the time, that alters mid-stream what should be maintained and forgets or ignores past promises is certainly a minus for Japan,” said Kono, who also served as foreign minister.

    Ah, USO MO HOUBEN-well, Kono admits this is . This admittance combines the lack of appeal to universal human rights v wrongs in Japan-rather its all about self interest, with a nod at the importance of the “image” of Japan and how it is “seen” as I commented on a different thread.

    Similarly, you the westerner in Japan, with an education in Greek thought, debate and cultural traditions, and cannot teach the concept of Win-Win outcomes to a combative audience with basically a win-lose war mentality, interested only in getting one over on the other side. Which sadly, is the atmosphere permeating so much of N.E. Asia these days.

    The only “real” opposition in Japan these days is the Communist Party, and again- Marxism is a western import but as Mishima the rightist famously said “it is not a philosophy that the Japanese will joyfully die for”.

    What will they die for? Abe’s “beautiful Japan”?

    That is what I am afraid of.


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