Combating xenophobic rumors and media: asks US Forces, Japan for clarification on their COVID testing and vaccination policies


Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgGuidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at

From: Debito Arudou <>
Subject: From Questions regarding US Forces, Japan vaccination procedures.
Date: January 13, 2022
To: (courtesy of this site)
Cc: Shingetsu News Agency <>

To Whom It May Concern,
US Forces, Japan

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Debito Arudou, Ph.D., coordinator for (, an award-winning online archive for life and human rights in Japan for more than 25 years. We address issues that affect Non-Japanese Residents of Japan, particularly Visible Minorities, and have acted as a launching pad for hundreds of journalistic and academic articles, government and NGO reports, and actions that have changed the course of national narratives and public policies. I am also the author of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, Second Edition 2022), and am a columnist for the Shingetsu News Agency. has some questions we would like to ask about the policies of US Forces, Japan.

In recent weeks, the Japanese media has portrayed US Forces in Japan as a major vector for infection in Japan, portraying the US military presence in Japan as a leak in their otherwise tight border policies. Consider:

“Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters on Thursday that ‘U.S. military bases are one of the major causes of the spread of infections,’ while Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka said, ‘The fact that (military personnel) were not tested before departure from the United States had a big impact.’ Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki also called the U.S. military’s measures ‘extremely regrettable.’”
“U.S. military personnel are believed to have triggered a coronavirus resurgence in the three prefectures. Many people in the three prefectures live in close proximity to American bases. Infection prevention measures taken by the U.S. forces, which some have criticized as being too lax, are thought to be behind that explosion of cases.”
with a public advertisement in Okinawa published by Kyodo News in the Japan Times, showing a Westerner (not an Asian) sneezing:


As you know, Japan’s border policies for most of the past two years have refused entry to most foreigners, including foreign residents regardless of visa status, while letting in Japanese under often lax quarantine conditions to spread Covid anyway. Yet media and policymakers in Japan have frequently portrayed Covid as an exogenous, “foreign” disease, with the highly problematic interpretation of seeing foreigners as more likely to spread Covid than Japanese.

The World Health Organization last month noted the lack of good science behind that claim, stating that “Epidemiologically, I find it hard to understand the principle there. Does the virus read your passport? Does the virus know your nationality or where you are legally resident? Our concern here is that we apply public health principles, not political principles, to selecting measures that are used to control the spread of diseases. The idea that you can put a hermetic seal on most countries is frankly not possible.” (

My point is that the US Military in Japan has a responsibility to dispel rumors and reports that are playing a part in potentially increasing xenophobic attitudes towards foreign residents of Japan.

I understand that you have made an attempt to do so with announcements on your US Forces, Japan, website dated January 5 and 9, 2022:

But please permit me to ask some clarifying questions, for publication on

1) Pursuant to President Biden’s order that all federal employees and military be vaccinated and tested by February 15 (“as of early December, 92 percent of federal employees and military personnel had received at least one dose”,, does this mean that all US Forces in Japan, both incoming and resident, have been vaccinated and boosted, and tested for Covid, including the Omicron variant?

2) What happens when members of the US Military test positive for Covid? If in Japan, are they quarantined within the base? If outside Japan, are they denied entry into Japan and quarantined overseas?

3) Do you have any response to the claims within the following reportage in the Japan Times:

“It was revealed in December that U.S. forces had been lax in their border measures against the virus… But it was found that the U.S. side was not conducting pre-departure and post-arrival testing, as required by Japan, and that it had shortened the period of restrictions on arriving personnel’s movement from 14 days to 10. It also allowed people in the restriction period to move freely within U.S. bases.”

I have heard unsubstantiated reports from American military members on social media that US Forces must be properly vaccinated and tested before they arrive in Japan. This would be at odds with what the Japanese media is saying. would welcome your clarifications for the record.

Thank you for reading and responding.

Sincerely, Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
Columnist, Shingetsu News Agency (

UPDATE JANUARY 23, 2022:  We received no answer.

Do you like what you read on  Want to help keep the archive active and support’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or if you prefer something less complicated, just click on an advertisement below.

12 comments on “Combating xenophobic rumors and media: asks US Forces, Japan for clarification on their COVID testing and vaccination policies

  • Kirk Masden says:

    Thanks for taking on this issue. Being located in Japan and watching the Japanese media myself, I may have been taken in to some extent. I’d like to improve my own understanding.

    One concern I have is masking. I’ve seen quite a few TV reports where Okinawan citizens complain that US military personnel are not masking up enough. I’m not sure the extent to which these assessments are accurate but, given the cultural differences I’ve noted between Japan and US regarding masking, I suspect that they may be.

    My biggest concern is that foreign students have not been allowed to come to Japan for almost two years now. I see this as a huge problem both for the students and for Japan as a country. I wonder how many would-be Japan specialists have already given up on Japan as a result. Despite the testing, if military personnel are behaving in a way that confirms pre-existing biases about foreigners, I think it makes it that much harder for Japan’s leaders to open the country up to foreign students.

    This is not to let the political leadership of Japan off the hook. Even now, with the spread of Omicron, it should be possible to implement a stringent regime that makes it possible for budding scholars to enter the country, isolate for the required period, and then study in Japan. The only reason not to do this is xenophobia.

    I’ll be interested to follow this thread to learn more about what I’ve missed (how I may have been taken in by the Japanese media) and what other people think.

  • An excellent approach. This is a definite pressure point. The USA mainly is concerned with its bases in Japan, and Japan only really listens to or respects armed force, just like that other country it increasingly culturally resembles, post communist Russia (military aggressiveness aside).
    I think it is very foolish of the Japanese media to diss the US military in this manner, there will be pushback.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s a bummer to see your inquiry 1) is not gonna work since the US Supreme Court last week rejected Biden’s vaccine mandate for the companies of 100 employees or more. This is making it really complicated since US companies and organizations are not required to make weekly PCR testing, mask-wearing, and vaccination anymore. That makes me skeptical of their reporting on inoculating all servicemen–whether partially or fully. No other democratic country I know of has ever imposed vaccine mandate that is legal and acceptable universally to all people.

    What makes it even more problematic is that the US military is indeed playing a key role in inflaming the covid-related xenophobia against non-Japanese (including US citizens) through omicron scare. Biden administration is now in Trump territory regarding his dwindling approval rating (32% in Quinnipiac university poll). He’s essentially doing nothing about the US military–not even about domestic economy or health care in his country(!) He’s just simply letting Anthony Blinken & Lloyd Austin take care of their ordinary business–spreading US propaganda on China scare and sanctioning Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and any country listed as their enemy. In their mind, maybe, appointing a former crooked Chicago mayor — famous for covering up the police killing of 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald– as the next ambassador
    is an indication of utmost insult Japan deserves.

    It’s a great shame Japanese PM Kishida and Japanese mainstream media didn’t bother looking into how the US military bases became the hotspots for omicron spread across the nation. Such disregard gives them an excuse for refusing to assess their questionable policy of banning non-Japanese entry.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    More information on Japanese regional WHO director allegations;
    They even have audio recordings of his racist abuse.
    There’s so much information of this guy’s appalling behavior that is regarded as a ‘unique Japan cultural norm’ by many in Japan, but my major take away was this;
    He didn’t get the job by having his his opinions all these years- such bullying, racist, self-superiority behavior is normalized in Japan- he got the job DESPITE his views (because, well, they’re NORMAL in Japan).
    But there not normal in the real world, hence;
    ‘ Kasai’s authoritarian style has led to the departure of more than 55 key staff in the past year and a half, most of whom have not been replaced. This resulted in a lack of understanding and involvement with member countries that “significantly contributed” to a surge of cases in many countries in the region’.

    It’s just like the schemes to attract nurses/caregivers/‘elite’ foreigners/trainee slave labor; all of this initiatives fail to meet targets because of the attitudes of Japanese managers and policy makers, and the result is the same as at the regional WHO level; failure to meet your own goals.

    Said it before, but I’ll say it again; this leftover racist/fascist/imperialist mentality is an ideology that was given free reign in the last century and it failed spectacularly. But since when has Japan ever NOT doubled down on failure assuming that it just needs to ‘ganbaru’ more next time?

    Help yourself to work harder, not smarter.

  • “I ask a lot of myself, and our staff,” said Takeshi Kasai.

    I ask myself if I can be racist a lot. And it seems I can be, a lot.
    And I ask the staff to support my racist views a lot. I asked them again and again.

  • As far as I know the issue is with people with SOFA visas who live off base. I think soldiers on base who follow the rules do not want to get blamed for this.
    I do not know how the virus spread in Hiroshima.
    I think people say the virus spread in bars but it can spread in other ways.

  • Sounds like Ishihara Jr.:

    The internal complaint and the email describe a “toxic atmosphere” with “a culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing” at WHO’s Western Pacific headquarters in Manila, led by Kasai, director of a vast region that includes China and his home country of Japan.

    The AP also obtained recorded snippets of meetings where Kasai is heard making derogatory remarks about his staff based on nationality. Eleven former or current WHO staffers who worked for Kasai told the AP he frequently used racist language.

    WHO says it’s probing alleged racism, abuse by top director

  • Given the current immigration policy (i.e. neo-sakoku) plus widespread ill treatment of the existing NJ workforce plus competition from its neighbors, the goals below are nothing short of wildly unrealistic:

    The researchers estimated that Japan will need 4.19 million foreign workers in 2030 and 6.74 million in 2040, to achieve the GDP target.

    The GoJ needs to be thinking in terms of immigrants and not merely foreign workers, but I digress.

    Japan will need 4 times as many foreign workers by 2040


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>