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Hi Blog. To kick off the new year, here’s a bit of typical “We Japanese are Unique” narrative maintenance — that for once isn’t going unchallenged. Because this year, there’s an official leg for protests to stand on. Read on:
Aso apologizes if ‘single-race nation’ remark misunderstood
Asahi Shimbun, By MASAHIRO KAKIHANA/ Staff Writer
January 14, 2020, Courtesy of lots of people
Finance Minister Taro Aso on Jan. 14 sort of apologized for saying Japan has been a single-race nation for more than two millennia, a remark that ignored the existence of the Ainu people and other ethnic groups.
His remark also conflicted with the government’s policy, approved by the Cabinet in September, to make efforts to support the Ainu people and eradicate discrimination against them.
“If my remarks caused a misunderstanding, I apologize and will correct them” Aso said after a Cabinet meeting in Tokyo. “I have no intention of denying the government’s policy.”
After more than a century of forced assimilation and discrimination, the Ainu people were finally recognized as indigenous under legislation enacted in May 2019.
But Aso apparently forgot about that legislation when he gave a speech at a Jan. 13 meeting with his supporters in his electoral turf of Nogata, Fukuoka Prefecture.
“There is no other nation but (Japan) where a single race has spoken a single language at a single location and maintained a single dynasty with a single emperor for over 2,000 years,” said Aso, who is also deputy prime minister. “It is a great nation.”
Aso also brought up the Japanese team’s impressive performance at the Rugby World Cup last year, saying, “As it turned out, Japan became ‘one team’ by mixing various nations.”
He made the same “single-race nation” remarks at another meeting held in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, on the same day.
In 2005, Aso, who was then minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, made very similar statements, which drew protests from the Hokkaido Utari Association, now the Ainu Association of Hokkaido.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Jan. 14 said of Aso’s latest remarks: “I heard that (he) has no intention of denying the government’s policy concerning the Ainu people.”
COMMENT: Now, watching an LDP dinosaur making statements like this (who keeps getting re-elected) is frustrating as hell. However, a) it’s refreshing that he “sort of apologized” (we’ve had plenty of these fossilized statements in the past not even getting that much, or even being doubled-down upon by bonafide bigots who nevertheless get re-elected); and b) we have official policy enacted last year (as noted in my annual JT Top Ten Human Rights List for 2019) that has declared the Ainu an indigenous people, meaning that Japan is now officially a multiethnic country. Even Asole himself wasn’t going to (officially) contradict that.
Again, it’s a bit too much to expect an electorate like Japan’s (one that generally only backs winners, as can be seen in six decades of rule by the same corrupt and morally-bankrupt political party) to vote out somebody on a controversy that few care about. (After all, sadly, how many in Fukuoka give a toss about long-vanquished aborigines in faraway Hokkaido? Not enough to reach a critical voting mass in 2005.)
What we can do to “bright-side” this event is to note that the unproblematized “monoethnic-pure-race” narrative was indeed challenged. In public and in the media. Successfully enough to get a sort-of public backpedaling. Which was one of the reasons for establishing that official recognition in the first place. Good news, sort of. Debito Arudou Ph.D.
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