My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)


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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest Shingetsu News Agency monthly “Visible Minorities” column 10, talking about how some minorities in Japan sell out to authority as soon as they are granted any privilege.  I mention former Diet Member Tsurunen Marutei, Japan scholar Donald Keene, and Kyoto Seika University President Oussouby Sacko, and how they are now ironically perpetuating problems they once faced.  Here are the opening paragraphs. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(And if you haven’t subscribed for Japan’s last bastion of independent journalism in English at SNA, I strongly suggest you do.  In any case, check out this article before it goes behind a paywall in a few days.)  


Visible Minorities: The Guestists and the Collaborators

SNA (Tokyo) — In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, Donald Keene, and Oussouby Sacko…

Rest is at

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11 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities col 10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko)

  • AnonymousOG says:

    Yep, absolutely. The rich are financially motivated to uphold the status-quo.

    Japan presently consists of “LESS THAN 3% Foreigner residents”, so Japan’s pamphlets and posters about “crime” and “rudeness” should have LESS THAN 3% Foreigner-Perpetrator depictions.

    Japan’s pamphlets and posters about “crime” and “rudeness” contain FAR MORE THAN 3% Foreigner-Perpetrator depictions, which means “Foreigners” are statistically Disproportionately-Represented negatively in Japan’s propaganda.

    • AnonymousOG says:

      PS – That educational site (which the “I vow to continue to label all racist acts as white-ness forever” person suggested we should learn from) falsely claims:

      “White-skinned people … are not subjected to racism.”
      (Ctrl+F white-skinned people)
      (Ctrl+F are not subjected to racism)

      Hmm, just like Oussouby Sacko, the narrative being pushed by that site is “Jinshu Sabetsu is only Jinshu Sabetsu when committed against a black person” and “Whites are not subjected to racism, even in Japan.”

      Is this what you found in your experience Debito, when you and your daughter were refused entry due to your particular race?

      Even when a friendly chat gives the feel-good appearance of a relatively-rare raised-in-Japan-culture person-who-truly-understands your experience and lifetime work, objectively we have seen this strangely stubborn repeated inappropriate action of pushing a patently false narrative, namely: that it’s fine to use a RACE-criticizing term (instead of CULTURE-criticizing terms, or ACTION-criticizing terms) and that it’s even fine to vow to continue doing so in the future as well.

      I think when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to use a label which blames any particular race.

      And, I think when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to propagate the myth that a particular race is not subjected to racism here in Japan.

      • Loverilakkuma says:

        >“White-skinned people … are not subjected to racism.”
        >“Whites are not subjected to racism, even in Japan.”

        Applying the words literally into different cultural context without considering the role of majority/minority is haphazard and misleading. If one is careful enough, h/she can avoid an embarrassing moment to make a fallacious argument above.

        >when we are discussing racist acts committed by people who have have been raised in the culture of Japan, it is wrong to propagate the myth that a particular race is not subjected to racism here in Japan.

        Again, if one is able to discern the term with respect to power relation and strategic maneuvering to restore one’s privilege or mask visibility by taking a central position, h/she will be able to move beyond its narrow scope that confines ‘race’ as a biological construct. Furthermore, in a broader context, the theory, if applied to a non-western context, opens up the possibility to argue that those taking in the central position may be able to exercise its power and privilege in the same manner as whites do in the western society. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the stake is not necessarily limited to a particular race.

  • Unfortunately the vast majority of foreigners are coming from other Asian countries where Communism/ Totalitarianism is the government model and freedom of assembly and speech is shunned so I don’t expect other foreigners to come together. Honestly I see other foreigners as the problem as they are just as racist as the Japanese. Many Asian foreigners, other Caucasians, Brazillians, Middle Easterners, and those of African decent I have come across don’t seem to want to collaborate or associate with a caucasian foreigner such as myself. They seem to either want to compete with each other at all costs. They stare at me as if I am a foreigner and they aren’t. Really odd. It is the exact opposite of the U.S. where foreigners even illegal immigrants have much leverage. Whereas in Japan foreigners regardless if we are legal or not, do not come together at all. COVID-19 is forcing many foreigners out of teaching jobs etc and foreigners returning home because of it, this is causing even more of a problem of us foreingers uniting.

    I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but it’s going to take a huge effort on the foreign community here in Japan to fight for civil rights here, which we have none. As you mentioned those foreigners that are in positions of power to change are collaborators with the Japanese because they want to be accepted by Japanese people no matter the cost and willingly forfeit showing conviction to stand for what is just because either they are afraid of losing their jobs here in Japan or want fame so bad they’d sell their soul for it. By these foreigners collaborating with Japanese they are reenforcing the Japanese who want to continue more hate speech and make general actuations that foreigners are the problem and a majority of crimes committed in Japan are by foreigners and or make foreigners look foolish by any means possible.

    We all know who commits the vast majority of crime in Japan and at 3% of the population with a minute margin of that pie graph consisting of caucasians, I’d say foreigners aren’t the problem. Japan needs to police their own criminal organizations that seem to have free rein and cause the majority of the problems in this society. We are dealing with major hypocrisy here when the minority is blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong. I highly doubt things will change as long as Japanese from pre-school on up are being indoctrinated. Heck, even half Japanese reinforce the Japanese propaganda model towards foreigners.

    • I think you hit the nail right on the head, Chris. My experience is the same, and I also think this is basically the entire point Dr. Arudō was attempting to make with this article.

      As long as immigrants keep in-fighting, it will be very difficult for us to improve our situation. This is all the more reason why I want to stress here that it’s imperative that we maintain focus on the common goal: improving human rights.

      That being said, I would also like to suggest that it’s important that take the same position towards other immigrants as we do towards Wajin. “Where are you from?” is not an acceptable salutation, “You’re Japanese is so good!” is not an acceptable remark during a simple transaction, and calling each other “foreigners” or “gaijin” is not an acceptable form of address. (I personally frequently encounter all three when dealing with other immigrants, be it at stores, restaurants, or in personal interactions.)

      Another thing I think is critical is to denounce the notion that immigrants who share a common second language should not speak Japanese to each other.

      In short, all the racist social norms forced on us by Wajin should not become standard operating procedure for us either.

  • I think we should call this problem the “Kimi Onoda effect.”

    I have a strong hunch the only reason these minority Japanese are ever able to reach any sort of position of power in the first place is because they consistently toe the line and repeat the mantras of Wajin racism.

    It’s not that achieving privilege or anything causes the behavior; the behavior is a necessary pretense for accomplishing the things they did in the first place.

    I feel a particular twinge of regret in regards to Dr. Sacko. I held him up as an example of black Japanese during a black history month lesson I did last year. I’d be loathe to find out my former students read his ignorant statements and view him as an example of what a minority Japanese “should be.”

    • “strong hunch, the only reason these minority Japanese are ever able to reach any sort of position of power in the first place is because they consistently toe the line”
      That’s a very good point.

      I’m afraid that maybe the worst and most insidious effect of “collaborator minorities” is that they ARE regarded by Wajin as role models for how “good” foreigners should be.

      • EDIT: I misplaced the marks, I meant
        “good foreigners”.
        Since minorities are perceived as foreigners, but of course many are simply hafu or non native Japanese.

  • Check this article out. Point the finger at the US while there is zero mention of xenophobia problems in Japan.

    —- I’ll approve this comment because it links to an article that is fodder. But your main claim is incorrect.

    Goto: “To be fair, racism between Asians in Asia has been on the rise during the same period as well. Media reports of discrimination against Chinese nationals, from Chinese speakers being shooed away from restaurants in Seoul, and Chinese tourists being asked to stay elsewhere by Tokyo hotels, have been all too common.”

  • realitycheck says:

    One of the problems of the disconnect between members of the international community here is the fact that the ‘Three D’ jobs and similar ones are not being done by those of us from native English speaking countries like the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand nor from those who come from Europe.
    Those of us from the countries listed above have a privilege that the Three D workers and trainees/interns who come from developing/relatively undeveloped countries do not have. Especially those of us with a white skin are perceived as enjoying benefits that those other workers do not. And this is true to some extent.
    For example, I can’t argue with the ‘privilege’ assertion in cases where fresh graduates from my home country’s universities with no idea of what they want to do are being given visas to ‘teach’ English when in fact most of them have never done this kind of work nor prepared for it and in some cases have never really worked at any job that requires committed working hours.
    Meanwhile Filipana people or Indonesian people with strong English skills and far better grammatical knowledge as they actually learn English grammar, are shunted aside as non native speakers and generally perceived in Japan as inferior by virtue of not coming from western countries.
    This is not to deny the real racism – yes Japanese people, there is racism here against non Japanese regardless of their country of origin and skin color – that in my opinion has steadily increased as the number of non Japanese has increased. Of course 3 percent is so small compared to the numbers of international people in our home countries includng those born elsewhere and who are PR or citizens.
    However, you just have to be aware of what is going on around you in Tokyo which I have no problems saying has a surprising number of Japanese with provincial and redneck attitudes. They are resentful of non Japanese even as we are really only here to prop up their ailing system with our taxes hence the increased numbers of fresh graduates from the US and other western countries.
    Dr Debito has always been one to promote awareness of togetherness. We all need to spend more time trying to get to know different foreigner communities here and not simply those with whom we directly work.
    We need to develop a commitment to ‘When one foreigner is attacked/belittled/discriminated against/conned out of their money or their job, stereotyped as a criminal by universities, the media and authorities, this is an attack on all of us who make up the foreign community in Japan’.
    Speaking of Japanese racism and denial, I have a friend who had a class with a student yesterday. This woman has an active interest in the civil rights movement of the US in Dr King’s time as well as racism issues in contemporary US society.
    He said he would welcome this interest if only she would stop being in denial about her own country. Asked a careful question about minorities in Japan, she responded with the usual ‘There is no racism or discrimination in Japan because we are all Japanese.’
    Now the issue was about ethnicity/race so he didn’t mention Burakumin or sexual minorities or the people affected by nuclear radiation.
    He did try to carefully steer the conversation on to the topic of the Ainu and Zainichi. However, she brushed it away and was very uncomfortable when he referred to the fact that the Ainu were the original people of Japan just like the original people in the US, Canada, Australia, NZ etc.
    What we have here in Japan is as much a psychological issue as anything else.
    This is why some Japanese people develop a big interest in other countries’ minorities, at times an almost obsessive interest, and enjoy pointing out western immigrant countries’ failings in regard to their diverse communities and in their historical treatment of them.
    Yet if you mention the Ainu it is as they don’t exist outside of a few dances and association with bear hunting.
    Their interest in ethnicity and racism outside Japan is a classic case of projection of their own country and society’s problems onto the outside world in order to never have to think about them and hence engage in a critical assessment of their own society.
    Of course the same Japanese wouldn’t even think of them playing a prominent role in any Olympic ceremony.
    Just as well because the Ainu segment was dropped from the Tokyo Olympics which I hope will never happen. This present government does not deserve to host the Olympic Games nor does the suddenly active Governor Koike who is part of neo-fascist group Nippon Kaigi.
    It’s good to address the foreigner community now but post-pandemic will she still be interested in our communities and the issues we face?

  • I’ve been reading Debito’s columns for years now and this is definitely one of the best pieces, right on par with “White supremacists and Japan: A love story”. It always amazes me how other NJ are fine with being second class citizens. Many people I’ve talked to just repeat the same old talking points and arguments.

    1. The guestism mentioned in the column. “It’s their country not mine, I have no right to tell Japanese people how they should run their country.” I don’t even have to dismantle this one, as Debito has done this countless times already.

    2. The good old bullshit about Japan being an isolated island nation, which somehow means that Japanese people aren’t racist, they just have an “island mentality”. Once you mentioned that countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland are also island countries, but don’t have such “mentalities.” These people then quickly switch to another excuse which is “Well, these countries were imperialistic, or they have a history of immigration. Japan is not imperialistic and the country was isolationist for 200 years, you can’t compare those countries.” Yes, I can. First of all, Japan definitely used to be an imperialist country (from 1900-1945 please learn your history) and secondly it doesn’t matter for how long Japan used to be isolated from the rest of the world. That ended in 1853, which was 167 years ago. There’s no reason why Japan can’t implement a modern immigration policy similar to other developed nations.

    3. Then we have the classic “Japanese culture is so unique, immigrants would just destroy this uniqueness.” How is Japanese culture even unique? Most of it was imported through mainland China. Sure, Japan has things that you can only find in Japan, which includes things like architecture, food, language and other stuff. But every other country in the world has more or less the same thing. Most European and Middle Eastern countries have a much longer history of culture and civilization than Japan and I don’t see how immigrants are destroying those cultures. German, British, French and Italian cultures are doing perfectly fine in my opinion, despite all these countries having a decent amount of immigrants. It always amazes me how easily those NJ believe all the nihonjinron myths.

    This is definitely the best part of the column though: “Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.”

    This hits the nail right on the head. Yes, NJ who are in a position of power in Japan do everything they can to uphold the status quo and it’s extremely annoying to me. Instead of making it easier for all NJ, they are basically saying “Haha look at me, I’m a better “gaijin” than you are”! It’s extremely annoying and childish. They also somehow try to put other NJ residence down all the time (at least in my experience). I don’t really know what causes this, but HJ is probably right when he calls this Kimi Onoda effect. Those elite NJ probably think that Wajin will accept them as equal if they copy their racism and talking points. I’m glad that Ghosn is the only elite NJ that managed to tell the truth about Japanese racism and how fast you can lose everything you’ve built up over years in Japan, just because some Wajin wants to remove the foreigner from a position of power. Unfortunately right as the international media started to report about Ghosn, all this shit with the Corona Virus happend and no nobody cares about what he has to say anymore. Japan’s inhuman treatment of NJ will go unpunished again.

    It’s funny how Japan seems to only work in extremes, but as NJ, whatever you do, you’re in the wrong. If you complain about your treatment in Japan, you hate Japan and should go back home if you don’t like it here. But once you actually do leave, because you’re fed up with all the racism and xenophobia, you’re a flyjin and you betrayed Japan. You can only pass as acceptable NJ if you accept your status as second class citizen and never say anything negativ about Japan. And even then you’ll quickly get booted out by the Wajin majority once you become too powerful (see Ghosn).


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