April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.

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Hi Blog. I’m pleased to announce that Debito.org is celebrating its 25th birthday today!

Yes, as far back as April 15, 1996, Debito.org first went live as an archive of my essays written for a long-dead open listserv called the “Dead Fukuzawa Society”, founded by acolytes of the late Chalmers Johnson who believed, like Fukuzawa Yuukichi, of the “Fukoku Kyouhei” (Rich Country, Strong Military) slogan, that Japan had a lot to learn from overseas practices to make one’s country stronger (as did Chalmers Johnson, who believed that the US needed to learn from Japan’s Industrial Policy and mercantilist practices).  Much debate ensued at DFS, and when I realized that my some of my responses to critics were retreading ground I’d written before, I archived them on Debito.org and just sent links.  Some of my most interesting (and fresh) early essaywriting is still up on Debito.org (the website, not this blog section, which will incidentally also be celebrating its 15th birthday on June 17th), including “Issues of Education for Young Families“, “Debunking Myths about Japan,” “Cultural Quirks and Esoterica“, “Dai-san Sector and corruption in my little town“, “Driving in Japan“, “Japan Cycletreks“, and even funny essays (yes, humor from Debito!).

Things have changed for better and for worse, and I’d like to think Debito.org had a hand in promoting the “for better”.  We’ve broken major international news stories, including the Otaru Onsens Case, Trade Barriers and the Dr. Tanii Suicide, the embedded racism of the 1995 Kobe EarthquakeNinkisei Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, Japan’s Racial Discrimination covered by the United Nations, Ministry of Justice foreigner “Snitch Sites“, discrimination at Japan World Cup 2002, racist “foreign DNA” crime research at the National Police Agency, “Tama-chan” sealion and the Juuminhyou, and more listed at our “Activists’ Page“. Debito.org’s archives have also been a launching pad for books, hundreds of newspaper articles and columns, and cited research papers.  Thanks in part to Debito.org (as opposed to all the other information in the academic canon dismissing Japan’s racial discrimination as “ethnic discrimination”, “foreigner discrimination”, and “cultural misunderstandings”), Japan is no longer claiming with a straight face that racism doesn’t exist. Some are even coming to the conclusion that we need actual laws against racial discrimination (now more than 25 years after signing UN international treaty promising to eliminate it).

In fact, look at this Asahi Shinbun article, dated April 11, 2021, courtesy of KM:

Quick, rough translation by Debito (amendments welcome from Debito.org Readers):

////////////////////////////////////////

THE LACK OF A COMPREHENSIVE LAW FORBIDDING DISCRIMINATION

Asahi Shinbun, April 11, 2021

The UN, recognizing that ignoring human rights leads to the barbarity of war, issued proclamations guaranteeing human rights and the elimination of discrimination in its UN Charter (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).  Other agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (1981) also demands that signatories pass laws forbidding discrimination.

Japan has also looked back on its wartime past, and established in the Japanese Constitution that basic human rights are inviolable rights, and all Japanese people (kokumin) are equal before the law and should not suffer discrimination.  However, despite specific definitions about discrimination outlined in various UN treaties, Japan still has not made a law with comprehensive definitions against discrimination.

Instead, Japan has put into effect full-scale laws against discrimination against the forceful assimilation of minorities and worked towards the improvement for conditions of Burakumin enclaves.  It has also worked towards the education and enlightenment of the public in order to resolve psychological abuse.

Under the Abe Administration, instead of addressing all forms of discrimination, it took a case-by-case approach with the Law to Eliminate Discrimination against the Handicapped (2013), and laws against hate speech and Burakumin discrimination in 2016.

However, the three laws above do not include penalties for carrying out discrimination, stopping at the idealistic “this cannot be done” and “it will not be permitted”. This is due to exceptions being made under guarantees of freedom of speech in the Constitution, given a background of reservations expressed by constitutional experts about “arbitrary restrictions by government regarding speech and expression in places like public demonstrations.”

Editorial Department, Kitano Shouichi

////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  I would argue that this dialog in a major newspaper, acknowledging the need for a “comprehensive law” against discrimination with penalties, would not have been possible in the 1990s before Debito.org. We constantly pointed out that racial discrimination was happening to Visible Minorities in Japan, and a landmark court case (the above mentioned Otaru Onsens Lawsuit) firmed up judicial precedent that racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu), as rendered, would appear in court documents as an incontrovertible fact of the case. Granted, no mention was made of Non-Japanese and Visible Minorities in Kitano’s essay.  But the word “comprehensive” (houkatsuteki) would arguably include that.

That’s where the work of Debito.org lies for the next 25 years — getting a law against racial discrimination, with penalties, on the books.  I hope you will join us in keeping the record alive and updated as we keep pushing for a Japanese society more tolerant and accepting of diversity.  Japan’s inevitable multiethnic future depends on it.

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Founder, Debito.org 

PS. Debito.org Readers, would you put something in the Comments Section about how Debito.org has been of use to you?  Thanks!

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4 comments on “April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.

  • Anonymous User No. 666 says:

    Happy 25th birthday!
    BUT!
    When are you going to finally publish your novel “A Japan Man”?
    It has been 29 years already, do you want us to celebrate its 30th year of being unpublished next year?
    Self-publish it dude, I read the excerpts and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I really would like to read the whole thing. (I enjoyed the other novel “In Appropriate” a lot btw.)

    Anyway, back to the topic in question:
    Your blog and book Embedded Racism have helped me to better understand the discrimination situation in Japan.
    I naturalized Japanese almost 2 years ago already and I don’t regret it, not even a bit. Yes, I celebrate my naturalization day in case you’re wondering. And I think Japan has a lot to improve, I also like a lot of things about it, hate others, but I share your view (paraphrasing some of your words I read somewhere, forgot where): “it is my very love of Japan the reason I raise awareness of these issues, that I want it to be better.”

    Yeah, some non-japanese people I know even tell me (due to their guestism that) “Debito is crazy”, “he’s just an angry white dude”, “he thinks Japan should be like the US”, etc.
    I honestly don’t agree with those uninformed views from them, just due to the fact I prioritize understanding and knowledge of topics. In my case, I have find your essays, blogs and ER book to focus a lot on the understanding of issues.

    Thinking we are different because of how we look, how we speak, the area of land we happened to be born…, so absurd.
    The human race needs to realize we are not tribal anymore, society still holds on to tribal ideas like if “association” (of race, country, etc.) is relevant or useful today.

    Sometimes we are thought to treat people well but not teaching the right reasons: “it’s rude to do X”, “you can hurt people’s feelings if you say Y”, etc.
    Even we are thought that doing X or Y is bad and we could be punished. Instead we should teach “*why* is bad do to X”, “*why* is wrong to say Y”, “*why* is irrational to think Z”.
    Personally, I think your work tackles this last point, raising awareness on the “why” of the issues. Or at least, it’s how it helped me.

    Sometimes, I also think it’s just lack of education in the areas of critical and logical thinking that holds some part of the society into illogical and irrational beliefs that causes racism to still be a thing (we can enumerate a bunch of fallacies that apply to racism arguments here). Perhaps empathy can be added to the list of things a society should be educated more into.

    I’ll continue to support your work, I hope you come back to Japan someday (and even meet in person!), and I hope you can perhaps consider doing more activism in Japanese media (or jp podcasts) in Japanese language since it could perhaps reach a wider audience and have bigger impact (specially on younger Japanese generation). Perhaps nowadays it would be easier (?).

    Pardon the mini essay I threw here. Just kind of suddenly happened, and probably its structure is all over the place.
    Happy 25th birthday.

    Reply
  • Happy 25th birthday! 25 years is surely a long time, it’s actually a quarter century. Just think about that for a moment! I definitely agree with the “Here’s to another 25 years” sentiment, hopefully even more.

    About how Debito.org has been of use to me, I would say that it definitely helped me to understand Japanese racism and discrimination better. But also some things about Japanese society as a whole, especially how it operates and justifies some things. I also used a lot of articles, blog posts, and essays from Debito.org to argue with apologists (both online and offline) and I actually managed to convert some of them back to reality. I stopped doing this a few years ago because it just costs way too much energy. Most apologists don’t want to listen to the facts and just prefer to stay second class citizens and guests. Nowadays I just use Debito.org to keep up on human rights issues in Japan. Even though I don’t live in Japan anymore, I still have some friends over there (both J and NJ), therefore I’m still interested in how the situation regarding human rights develops. Things have definitely changed for the better in the last 25 years, even though I would argue that we’re talking about baby steps (still, better than stagnation I guess), but I would argue that lasts years entry ban on all foreign residents was a huge setback. And if you want to hear my opinion on this, there’s nothing Japan can do to make up for such blatant racism and discrimination.

    I definitely agree with the goals set out in this blogpost though. Getting an anti discrimination law with actual penalties would be the most important goal for me as well.

    One more thing I forgot to mention, is that I truly enjoyed reading Embedded Racism and Japanese Only, and it has thought me a lot about how embedded and accepted racism is for Japanese society.

    Thank you for everything Debito and like I already said, here’s to another 25 years and more!

    Reply
  • AnonymousOG says:

    A Heartfelt Happy 25th to Debito!

    In my opinion, Debito has helped many minorities living Japan (minorities in Japan due to nationality, as well as minorities in Japan due merely to race and/or racial appearance) to know our legal rights as Humans, and to know how to cite the relevant laws whenever we see racial discrimination in Japan.

    Knowledge is Powerful. The pen is NOT literally “mightier than the sword”, but still, being able to verbally cite relevant pen-written laws of Japan and pen-written court rulings of Japan have helped me many times in successfully getting illegally-acting BusinessOwners/KoumuinBureaucrats/Police-Officers to STOP their illegal sword-thrust-actions toward me, by reminding them of the laws and court rulings which they were violating and by reminding them that the Kokka Kōan Iinkai and Saibankan do not forgive such illegal actions.

    (Of course, of those various people whom I successfully convinced to STOP their racially-discriminatory actions against ME, probably most of them will continue those same Embedded Racism actions against OTHER visible-minorities who have relatively less knowledge/fluency/courage than I have, but at least I successfully prevented such racially-discriminatory power-tripping “erai-hito” from committing their immoral illegal actions against ME, thanks to all of the helpful information I learned from Debito. It’s up to each of you to do your best to not allow people to treat you immorally and/or illegally.)

    First, thanks to Debito I learned about he Ana Bortz case ruling which admitted the legal supremacy and automatic legal effect of the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty.

    The honorable Judge Tetsuro Sou (宗 哲郎 裁判官) in the Ana Bortz case set a citable precedent by ruling that: since Japan signed and ratified the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty-Contract Legally-Binding Supreme-Law (which legally outranks even the Constitution of Japan and thus automatically overrules the Legislators of Japan who currently remain in treaty-violation by refusing to enact a Civil Rights Law to outlaw the act of businesses in Japan treating people differently based on race and/or racial appearance), owners of businesses which have committed such discrimination can be financially penalized by any Judge in Japan who acknowledges the legal supremacy of the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty. So, while it is important to continue the essential campaigning to get the Legislators of Japan to cease their decades of violating the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty, it is ALSO important for victims of such racial discrimination in Japan who have suffered the emotional pain (seishin kutsuu) of being treated differently based on race and/or racial appearance: to have our lawyers cite the essential ruling of the honorable Judge Tetsuro Sō 宗 哲郎 裁判官, when, with the goal of Justice, initiating proper legal proceedings against any BusinessOwner/KoumuinBureaucrat/Police-Officer who has ever treated a person differently based on “race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.” ~ Article 1 of the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICERD

    “Japan is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and THAT TREATY AUTOMATICALLY HAS LEGAL EFFECT AS DOMESTIC LAW.” ~ Judge Tetsuro Sō

    https://tinyurl.com/ICERD-Japan-Ruling-NY-Times
    https://tinyurl.com/ICERD-Japan-Ruling-Video
    https://tinyurl.com/ICERD-Japan-Ruling-Video-Full
    https://tinyurl.com/ICERD-Japan-Ruling-Screenshot

    Take notice of this bonus fact noted in the New York Times link above: “Because the judgment was based on international law, it cannot be appealed under Japanese law.”

    By the way, I hope someone can please find and upload the 日本語 version of that masterpiece ruling, which currently seems to only be online in a (possibly skewed/flawed/insufficient) English translation:
    https://tinyurl.com/ICERD-Japan-Ruling
    Ctrl+F “provisions of CERD can be applied”
    Ctrl+F “Article 14 of the Constitution”
    Ctrl+F “Articles 709 and 710 of the Civil Code”
    Ctrl+F “CERD should be used as the interpretative standard”
    Ctrl+F “since Japan ratified CERD”
    Ctrl+F “effect in this country as domestic law”
    Ctrl+F “the treaty reinforces Article 14”
    Ctrl+F “any act of racial discrimination”
    Ctrl+F “is socially unacceptable, and illegal”
    Ctrl+F “racial discrimination illegal”
    Ctrl+F “Japanese citizenship or not”
    Ctrl+F “the individual’s right to dignity”
    Ctrl+F “apply to foreign residents”
    Ctrl+F “discrimination based on race”
    Ctrl+F “racial discrimination under CERD”
    Ctrl+F “prohibits racial discrimination”
    Ctrl+F “by the state or a state body”
    Ctrl+F “discrimination violated a provision”
    Ctrl+F “compensation for damages”
    Ctrl+F “against the state or organization”
    Ctrl+F “this hurt plaintiff’s feelings”
    Ctrl+F “by showing her a flyer”
    Ctrl+F “injured plaintiff’s dignity and honor”
    Ctrl+F “apologize for the mental anguish”
    Ctrl+F “be liable to plaintiff”
    Ctrl+F “compensation and attorney’s fees”

    Most people in Japan remain unaware about this legal precedent-setting court ruling which acknowledged the legal supremacy and automatic legal effect of the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty.

    Second, thanks to Debito’s site I learned about the McLean case’s ruling, which admitted the fundamental rights included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan:protects EVERYONE who is a legally-residing foreigner.

    Many folks mistakenly (or intentionally) focus on the NEGATIVE part of the final McLean ruling, namely: resident permits are at the discretion of the state (especially when a resident has violated the change-of-job notification law, as McLean did), so you can’t force the state to renew your visa:
    「外国人の在留の許否は国の裁量にゆだねられます。」
    “Resident permits are at the discretion of the state.”

    But let’s focus on the POSITIVE part of the final McLean ruling, namely: the final ruling DID admit that Foreigners who HAVE a currently-valid visa/status/permission to be in Japan ARE guaranteed the protections included in the Constitution of Japan:
    「憲法第三章の諸規定による
    基本的人権の保障は、
    権利の性質上日本国民のみを
    その対象としていると解されるものを除き、
    わが国に在留する外国人に対しても
    等しく及ぶものと解すべきであります。」
    “The guarantee of fundamental rights included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution extends also to foreign nationals residing in Japan.”
    https://tinyurl.com/J-Constituion-Includes-Non-J

    So, the negative part of the final McLean ruling is that the Ministry of Justice CAN legally refuse to renew your residence permit, but the positive part of the final McLean ruling is it is Citable Supreme-Court-Ruling Precedence that the police CANNOT legally violate the protections included in the Constitution of Japan: towards legally-residing foreigners.

    Third, thanks to Debito’s site I learned about the fundamental rights included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan:

    Chapter 3 Article 38 allows anyone to REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all questioning requests/demands,

    Chapter 3 Article 35 allows anyone to REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all warrant-less search requests/demands,

    Chapter 3 Article 33 which allows anyone to REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all warrant-less requests/demands to go the police station.

    (If a police officer actually saw you commit a crime, or had the required arrest-warrant, they would simply handcuff and arrest you, without any ‘Please come to the Police Station” requests/demands. If are not in handcuffs: you are not under arrest, so you are legally free to refuse all of their requests/demands and calmly walk away.)

    Fourth, thanks to Debito’s site I learned about the other positive citable laws which protect us:

    * Police Law, Article 2
    Without first having a reason to believe the individual is involved in a specific crime, any initiation of questioning is illegal questioning.
    (And cite Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan, which all Police Laws inherently must obey and cannot conflict with.)
    警察法、第2条
    「罪を犯ししたことを疑うに足りる
    相当な理由が最初からない場合
    は憲法違反な違法職務質問です。」

    * Police Law, Article 162
    Police Law applies to all individuals: all individuals legally means there is no nationality exclusion.
    (And cite the final McLean ruling which admits that all individuals with currently valid residence permits are protected by the Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan, which again: all Police Laws inherently must obey and cannot conflict with.)
    警察法、第162条
    「警察法は全個人にあてはまります。」

    * Police Law, Article 79
    When any individual sees a violation of Police Law the individual can report that the National Public Ombudsman (Kokka Kōan Iinkai, 国家公安委員会) for a strong investigation.
    警察法、第79条
    「警察法違反なことを見ると、
    ちゃんと強くて捜査するために、
    公安委員会に苦情を申し立てます。」

    * Police Identification Act, Article 5
    To report a violation of Police Law, any individual can legally demand any Police Officer to allow all the information on their Police Identification Card (name, number, and location) to be written down and/or recorded.
    警察手帳規則、5条
    「警察法違反なことを
    苦情を申し立てるために
    手帳の全部の情報をちゃんと書くために
    警察手帳をちゃんと提示する義務あります。」

    * Immigration Law, Article 23
    The Residence card must be shown only to officers who are acting within the confines of the Police Duties Law (which, according to Article 2, requires FIRST having a reason to believe the individual is involved in a specific crime BEFORE any initiation of questioning.)
    出入国管理法、第23条
    「職務の執行に当たりしていない場合、
    在留カードを見せる義務がありません。」

    So, in summary, thanks to Debito, I gained useful powerful knowledge knowledgeable about:

    #1. The Ana Bortz case ruling which admitted the legal supremacy and automatic legal effect of the United Nations’ ICERD Treaty.

    #2. The McLean case’s ruling which admitted the fundamental rights included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan:protects EVERYONE who is a legally-residing foreigner.

    #3. The fundamental rights included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Japan:
    Anyone can REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all questioning requests/demands,
    Anyone can REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all warrant-less search requests/demands,
    Anyone can REFUSE (“Okotowari shimasu”) all warrant-less requests/demands to go the police station.
    (If are not in handcuffs: you are not under arrest, so you are legally free to refuse all of their requests/demands and calmly walk away.)

    #4. The other positive citable laws which protect us:
    * Police officers need evidence you did a specific crime BEFORE questioning you.
    * All individuals existing in Japan are protected by the Police Laws, regardless of nationality.
    * You can report police officers who violate Police Laws to the National Public Ombudsman (“Kokka Kōan Iinkai”).
    * You can legally demand any police officer to allow all the information on their Police Identification Card (name, number, and location) to be written down and/or recorded.
    * The Residence card must be shown only to officers who are acting within the confines of the Police Duties Law (which again: requires them to have evidence you did a specific crime BEFORE questioning you.)

    https://tinyurl.com/Realized-in-2015
    https://tinyurl.com/Perfectly-Summarized

    Thus, Debito has helped many minorities living Japan to know our legal rights as Humans, whenever we see racial discrimination in Japan.

    Also, Debito has also helped some members of the majority in Japan to see the error of their currently continuing culture of Embedded Racism.

    For example, although it will never be officially admitted anywhere, I am quite sure it was Debito’s decades of campaigning (together with the efforts of many Debito readers who were inspired-enlightened-encouraged by Debito’s decades of campaigning), which eventually led to the abolishment of all local City Halls’ “Gaikokujin Tourōku” Sections, on the same day that we residents-of-Japan-who-aren’t-citizens-of-Japan were finally granted the right to appear on the Juuminhyou as we should as Humans and even with the right to have our SetaiNushi Family-Supporter status acknowledged as well:
    https://tinyurl.com/Debito-Success-Example

    So again, a Heartfelt Happy 25th to Debito.org, I’m eternally grateful to you for your great lifework Dr. Debito Arudou!

    Reply
  • I remember the day we chatted at my office at Voice International Corporation and I convinced you to put your growing collection of notes and articles online for the world to see. It was very rewarding to setup your first website. Once it was up, you went ballistic giving birth to what is now the powerful treasure trove that debito.org has become.

    —- You are indeed Debito.org’s midwife. Thanks for that.

    Reply

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