Hello all. This will be the last Newsletter for this month, as I’ll be touring around Japan between March 15 and April 2 to promote our new book, HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (more details on the tour at the very bottom of this Newsletter, more on the book at Here goes:

Table of contents:
1) New publications up on
First JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Column, Journal of Intl Health, NY Intl Law Review

The government cracks down, is cracked down upon:
2) IHT: GOJ to “govern influential, widely read news-related websites”. Like 2-Channel.
3) UN’s Mr Ban calls for all nations to face UN Human Rights Council scrutiny
4) Rube Redfield on the GOJ banning use of dispatch teachers in J universities

Tripe and onions:
5) Mainichi: Official figures for NJ visa overstayers drop again in 2007, yet NPA stresses rise
6) NYT: Michelin rankings and the alleged inability for NJ to rate Japanese food

Travelogue and opinions:
7) Interview with Debito on KPIJ re activism, new book, the GOJ, and “The Japanese Way”
8) Quick Report on Debito’s recent Okinawa Trip: AmerAsian School, Kina Shoukichi

… and finally…
9) “WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for sale at
for “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants”

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan,
Freely Forwardable

1) Updates: First JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Column, Journal of Intl Health, NY Intl Law Review

Links to three new articles added to’s regular website:

1) My new Japan Times Column JUST BE CAUSE (March 4, 2008),
2) an article in the Journal of International Health on flawed health care for NJ in Japan, and
3) an award-winning article written by Canon Pence on the Otaru Onsens Case etc. in the New York International Law Review.

Links to the last two at

My first JUST BE CAUSE Column as follows:
================= COLUMN BEGINS ====================
Published as “Dusting off the A-Word” in the Japan Times March 4, 2008
Draft Twelve, “Director’s Cut”, as submitted to the editor, with links to sources at

Let’s start my first regular column by explaining the title, starting with the word “cause”.

As you know, causes are what activists take up as a matter of course. But in Japan, just doing that is a challenge–given the general aversion towards activism here.

I’ve been called an “akutibisuto” for many years. At first, I was leery of the label because of its negative ring in Japanese. Even its vernacular equivalents–“katsudouka”, “undouka”, even “puro shimin” (“professional citizen,” a negative term like “do-gooder”)–make “activist” sound like “extremist” (kageki ha).

No wonder. Civil society–meaning non-governmental/non-profit organizations, networks, and voluntary associations promoting “a common good”–is curiously underdeveloped in Japan.

Sure, volunteer groups have long existed in Japan, but the “father-knows-best” paternalism still found in our bureaucracy precluded much grassroots philanthropy. NGOs and NPOs weren’t even allowed official registration until a decade ago.

To most people, “acting in the public interest” wasn’t our job–it was the government’s. And our government, believe it or not, was once seen as practically infallible. From the 1950’s to the late 1980’s, the “best and brightest” were mandarins creating good industrial policy. Most people cashed in on the high-growth economy instead of helping those less fortunate in society–such as the homeless, the handicapped, and the discriminated against.

Even after the bubble burst and faith in the government dimmed, many still had difficulty believing that certain problems, such as racial discrimination towards the growing number of non-Japanese residents, even existed in Japan. After all, standardized education said that racial discrimination was an overseas phenomenon; the paragons were the American South under segregation and South Africa under apartheid.

The Ana Bortz and Otaru Onsens lawsuits, where our judiciary openly acknowledged that “Japanese Only” establishments were discriminating by race, removed a lot of plausible deniability. But even today, Japan officially claims to the United Nations that there are no real ethnic minorities in Japan, therefore no racial discrimination. Frictions and “gaijin allergies” are mainly due to misunderstandings by Johnny Foreigner, unable to grasp our unique culture.

Mandarin say, public do: In any public discussion on why exclusionary signs stay up on shop fronts, justifications turn to “culture” too automatically. Which means an activist has an uphill slog convincing people why they should care.

But I believe the biggest reason why activism in general is so frowned upon in Japan is because it has no history of resounding success.

In the West, the anti-Vietnam War movement of the late 1960s is held up as the epitome of a “successful” demonstration of “people power.” Speeches, public demos, and conscientious objectionism helped topple administrations (Lyndon Johnson and Charles de Gaulle, for example) and change political landscapes. People engaging in peaceful protest (for a cause now vindicated in popular culture) is part of the historical narrative. Activism isn’t even all that scary: the sky won’t fall because people picket. It’s even seen as a benign phase students go through.

Contrast that with Postwar Japan’s biggest street protests, against the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty in the late 1950’s–early 1960’s. There were student riots, huge rifts in society, even violence and deaths.

However, those struggles didn’t amount to much. We are still under the Security Treaty. The perpetually-empowered big cheeses in the LDP have never been toppled by street demonstrations (yes, media exposes of political graft, such as Lockheed and Recruit, have done some in; but that’s not the same).

Instead, left-wing extremists cleaved into camps (most famously the Red Army), turned on themselves in murderous purges, and set off bombs and riots that maimed authority figures and bystanders alike. In doing so, they destroyed any possible image of civil disobedience.

So with no clear example of activism “working” in Japan, it’s difficult to argue that causes are worth the time and energy. Instead of being heroic, they’re associated with rioting extremists.

When I eventually took on the mantle of activist (my cause: establishing a law against racial discrimination in Japan), I found I must constantly dispel the image that I am doing anything extreme. I’m just doing what other fellow Japanese (however few), working within the law and the Constitution, do.

That means lobbying politicians, notifying ministries, “naming and shaming” discriminating businesses, and crafting essays and websites as a permanent record for future researchers. Even if it means my swimming against the current, perpetually gainsaid by naysayers because they’re apathetic, cynical, culturally relativistic, or debate dilettantes.

This monthly JUST BE CAUSE column will be part of that essaywriting effort, discussing things that matter to the ever-growing Non-Japanese communities in Japan.

I hope to spark debate about what should by now seem obvious in any developed society: That everyone regardless of nationality, national origin, or any immutable social status affixed at birth, should get a fair chance at reaching their potential in society.

That’s not obvious in Japan, because too few people actively push for it.

I’ll write because it’s a just cause. Or even just because.
================= COLUMN ENDS ====================

2) IHT: GOJ to “govern influential, widely read news-related websites”. Like 2-Channel

IHT: “A Japanese government panel is proposing to govern “influential, widely read news-related sites as newspapers and broadcasting are now regulated.” The government is also seeking to rein in some of the more unsavory aspects of the Internet, leaving in its wake, critics say, the censoring hand of government interference.” Fools like the people who run 2-Channel BBS, who keep flaunting the law and ignoring court judgments against them for libel (such as my lawsuit more than two years ago), will wind up justifying these sorts of policy pushes to regulate freedom of expression. Read more


3) UN’s Mr Ban calls for all nations to face UN Human Rights Council scrutiny

UN News: “Opening the seventh session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 5, 2008, called on its members to ensure that all nations are held equally accountable for the protection of rights as the new body begins its first-ever universal review of their performance. “No country, however powerful, should escape scrutiny of its record, commitments and actions on human rights,” Mr. Ban said, hailing the start of the Universal Periodic Review, under which all UN Member States at the rate of 48 a year will be reviewed to assess whether they have fulfilled their human rights obligations.”

That includes you, Japan; you should have submitted your sixth 2-year report to the HRC by now. You haven’t even submitted your second. And you want a UN Security Council Seat? Read more


4) Rube Redfield on the GOJ banning use of dispatch teachers in J universities

Here’s one loophole that has just been closed by the GOJ–about the use of “dispatch teachers” (haken sha’in) in the place of full-time workers in universities. This creates problems not only with professionality (essentially putting in “temp” workers in place of qualified professionals), but also with labor standards, as you get part-timers filling in for full-timers, saving money on salaries and social insurance (which the educational institution must pay half of for all full-timers). And with dispatch agencies (such as the erstwhile NOVA and Berlitz) getting involved in this racket, you get businesses creaming off the top as well–sending in disposable labor for a fraction of the cost of hiring anyone with job security and training. The economic incentives are clear. So clear they were abused. Now the GOJ has banned it. Bravo. Read more


5) Mainichi: Official figures for NJ visa overstayers drop again in 2007

Mainichi: “Nearly 150,000 foreigners were illegally residing in Japan on expired visas as of the beginning of this year, the Justice Ministry said Friday. As of Jan. 1, there were 149,785 foreigners staying in Japan without valid visas, down 21,054 or 12.3 percent from the year earlier, according to the ministry’s Immigration Bureau.”

Which means the GOJ is probably not going to make its goal of halving NJ overstayers by 2008. Also, a bit about how many NJ have been caught, since fingerprinting at the border was instituted, was reported in Japanese, but not in the English version, mysteriously. Read more


6) NYT: Michelin rankings and the alleged inability for NJ to rate Japanese food

NYT: “But many Tokyoites grumbled that the guide gave high ratings to unremarkable restaurants, prompting wide speculation that the large number of stars was just a marketing ploy. “Anybody who knows restaurants in Tokyo knows that these stars are ridiculous,” said Toru Kenjo, president of Gentosha publishing house, whose men’s fashion magazine, Goethe, published a lengthy critique of the Tokyo guide last month. “Michelin has debased its brand. It won’t sell as well here in the future.” One chef, Toshiya Kadowaki, said his nouveau Japonais dishes, including a French-inspired rice with truffles, did not need a Gallic seal of approval. “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?” Read more


7) Interview (sound files) with Debito on KPIJ re activism, new book, the GOJ, and “The Japanese Way”

I had an interview last week with Turner, webmaster of “Keeping Pace in Japan”, regarding topics such as activism, the Japanese Government, “The Japanese Way”, and upcoming sale of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS. Link to his site for clickable sound files and audible answers. Read more


8) Quick Report on Okinawa Trip: AmerAsian School, Kina Shoukichi

A brief report (with photos) about my Feb 28-March 1 trip to Okinawa, visiting the AmerAsian School for international children who fall through Japan’s educational cracks. Also a bit about meeting musician, activist, and Dietmember Kina Shoukichi, Kadena, and Kokusai Doori. Have to get down there again soon and for longer to let impressions sink in better. Read more

…and finally…

9) “WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for sale at

Want to do something about the spread nationwide of exclusionary (and sadly, not illegal) JAPANESE ONLY signs?
Put up a sign of your own–broadcasting your open-door policy!

WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS will be a site on selling stickers for shopkeeps to put up on their doors to encourage like-minded open-minded customers to patronize their institutions.

Cost of the stickers through Paypal is 500 yen each plus postage, proceeds to And if you ever see the sticker up on a business, please tell the management that you approve of the sentiment!


for “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants”

Press Release (what the book is about, advance reviews, etc):

Podcast on the book:

How to order (Paypal OK):

(specific details on locales and times at

Sat March 15 Sendai FRANCA
Sun March 16 NUGW Tokyo Nambu, Shinbashi
Mon March 17 Roppongi Bar Association
Tues March 18 Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tokyo
Weds March 19 Amnesty International Tokyo
Fri March 21 Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano
Sat March 22 Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano,
Sun March 23 Good Day Books Tokyo Ebisu
Tues March 25 Osaka FRANCA
Thurs March 27 Shiga University
Fri March 28 JALT Kobe
Sat March 29 JALT Wakayama
Sat March 29 JALT Osaka
Sun March 30 JALT Okayama
Tues April 1 Fukuoka General Union


All for March. Hope to see you on the road!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo,

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