Japan Times prints letter with big stripey lie about Summit airport ID checkpoints


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Hi Blog.  I generally don’t answer or pay much attention to anonymous critics (for the most part, they’re irresponsibly provocative types that use Internet anonymity as a cloaking device), or respond much to other blogs with rather hostile editorial conceits (such as Japan Probe, an otherwise valuable media outlet).  But I draw a line when a letter with an outright lie gets into a place of established reputation like the Japan Times.

The author, Lance Braman, has been banned from Debito.org for similarly trolling and outright lying here in the past, so he’s taken his venom to greener pastures like Japan Probe (which has a friendlier editorial policy, as in, mostly deleting ad-hominem comments unless they’re ad-hominem towards me. 😉 ; pity–I’m a fan of JP even if the feeling is not mutual.)  And Lance continues in this vein in yet another screed to the Japan Times (excerpt):


Japan Times Sunday, July 6, 2008

Asking for trouble from police

Sano, Tochigi

Regarding Debito Arudou’s July 1 Just Be Cause column, “July forecast: rough with ID checks mainly in the north“: Arudou claims he was stopped at Chitose Airport (Sapporo) last month merely for being “Caucasian.” Yet, on his own Web site, Arudou admitted that he had “hung around” and had a tape recorder already recording! He posted photos of the police that he took from the shelter of the baggage-claim area. In other words, he was not some “innocent pedestrian” grabbed by an overzealous policeman; he was fishing for trouble.

Full letter to the editor at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20080706a3.html

(NB: The above redacted and excerpted under conditions of the Fair Use Doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107 […]the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright”.  This is in response to an October 5, 2011 DCMA claim by Tepido Lance Braman of copyright infringement.)


Comment:  I’m not going to debate his personal politics towards policing in the latter half of the letter (follow link; that’s of course a matter of opinion, and I’ll respect his), or his claims about media scrutiny (we’ll have to agree to disagree on that, but I’ve discussed issues of policing and accountability quite often in the past on this blog).

But I never admitted I “hung around” the airport.  As an advanced Google search of “my own Web Site” Debito.org for these two words will indicate:


Simply put, I waited for my bags inside Baggage Claim, took the photos of the cops while waiting, then tried to go home. I neither “loitered” nor “hung around”, and have never said as such–not to anyone. ‘Cos that’s not what happened. I was stopped for looking like a foreigner. Even the stopping cop said so.

Conclusion:  I’m not going to make a habit of dealing with every online nasty who keeps spoiling for a fight (and I don’t expect much reasonability from a person this full of outright hatred, who compares me with a “foreign pest species of fish” which “you have to kill” (see comment 8)). And it’s probably too much to expect the Japan Times to check the claims of every troll who sends them a reasonable-sounding letter built on a lie.

But for the record, the assertions made to and published in the Japan Times about my behavior and statements are false.  Now back to issues of more import.  And get a life, Lance.  Debito in Sapporo

24 comments on “Japan Times prints letter with big stripey lie about Summit airport ID checkpoints

  • I got the impression that you started watching after you were stopped and not the other way around.

    –You got the wrong impression.

    REVISION: Sorry, Behan, I misread you. I did stop after being stopped and talked with some Australians also off my plane. We walked down to the train station underground after that (you can hear the echoey corridor) and then parted. I then went and got my ticket and went home. But I was there long enough to confirm that only the white people were stopped off that flight.

  • I don’t get why so many NJ are willing to defend Japan’s institutional racism towards themselves with any excuse possible. I’ve seen it quite a bit both in Japan and in Canada. It seems every time I point out some thing that Japan does that isn’t good, they jump on their feet and say things like ‘its because white people can’t behave properly in bars’ (they say this even if they’re white) or ‘they’re just trying to protect their business’, ‘they’re just unused to foreigners’, ‘other countries do worse’, etc.

    I mean I like Japan. I really enjoy going there a few times a year, that’s not what I’m saying. But that doesn’t mean I have to take everything that happens there and pretend its not a problem, because there are glaring problems that need fixing. I will never understand that overprotective attitude some NJ have about Japan… either you like everything about it, or you’re a ‘hater’, apparently.

    But parents who really love their kids are going to find fault with said kids to help those faults improve, no? It’s not because a parent tells their kid that they have to stop throwing food around that they hate their kid. They point it out because they want their kid to become better kids.


    –I would definitely not use a “parent-child” simile–it makes Japan look subordinate or infantile as the child, and that’s only going to get you into even more hot water in the debate arena… I’ll approve this comment for now, but I definitely recommend a rewrite.

  • “he was fishing for trouble”: yeah, I imagine Debito, a fake-rainbowish-dreads-wig on the head, with a “Weed forever puff puff pass” T-shirt and a “marxists-rastas-against-p0lice-brutaliy-patch” on his bag, walking around the airport, taking polaroids of the p0lice and harassing them (he’s mumbling “gip”, too afraid to say “pig”). Come on, give me a break. We don’t live in a p0lice state. Don’t seem aware of the immense propaganda machine behind the kishya club system. When there is a summit, p0lice usually suspects EVERYONE, not only “visible minorities”…

    I went to PaJan BePro’s site for the first time in my life (l0ved it). My favorite comment was something like: Debito is not Japanese. He is a citizen of Japan. (yeah, Einstein wasn’t Jewish, nor Swiss, nor American, he was German… that what I just decided, right here, in front of my computer (it is irony)).

  • Yeah it was a bad metaphor, but what I meant is that criticizing something doesn’t mean hating it… it just means wanting to help make it better

    –You’re missing the point, I’m afraid…

  • “I definitely recommend a rewrite.”

    Perhaps, but perhaps he should rewrite all the anecdotes and unproven assertions while he is at it. I’m surprised at the number of gaijin who are willing to bitch about Japan with any excuse possible. It doesn’t mean that if I state it here anyone will believe me or care.

    As for the parent/child metaphor, why should MD be afforded a rewrite? The metaphor expresses perfectly his position and the MacArthurian attitudes of some commenters here. You are right in assuming that MD’s comments suggest to readers he views his ‘relationship’ with Japan in patronisingly racist terms. One might think that covering up such bigotry rather than condemning it outright would not be the wisest choice of action.

    There is also an issue of fairness. You have taken Lance to task for the fish metaphor, even though he made it immediately clear shortly afterwards on the same blog that it was an ill-conceived comment. I know that Lance has been trollish at the best of times, but why stoop to his level?

    –Not stooping. And in all fairness I allowed Lance’s posts through until it was clear he was willing to lie and misrepresent the record. Haven’t seen that in MD yet.

    Continue to take MD to task for his comments if you like. That’s part of the debate process.

  • I think you may well be mistaken:

    Lance said: “Yet, on his own Web site, Arudou admitted that he had “hung around””

    Debito said: “But I never admitted I “hung around” the airport.”


    June 20th 9:58 Stevie says

    “Sorry, to hear about another run-in at your favourite airport, Debito. If they were indeed stopping only foreign-lookers (were you hanging around long enough to get a legitimate sample?), then it is indeed a disgrace.”

    Debito says: “–Yes I did hang around long enough. The sample is legit. More tomorrow…”


    Yes, Lance is wrong. You didn’t say you “hung around”, you said you “did hang around”. He should be ashamed of himself for spreading such false information.

    –Completely and willfully misrepresented my comment.

  • I found this portion of the comment to be interesting:

    “Japanese citizens are not required to show ID to the cops if they are just randomly stopped, and Debito is a Japanese citizen…all anyone would have to do is say ‘I’m a Japanese citizen’ and the cops wouldn’t be able to stop them.”

    Talk about naive! Does anyone honestly think that Debito-san would have been allowed to stride away freely with just a “I’m a Japanese citizen?” Give me a break, the cops would have at least asked to see a passport or some other kind of proof of citizenship, which has sketchy racial undertones, anyway.

    However, someone else made this comment:

    “the fact of the matter is, as a white person there is 99.999% likelihood that you are indeed not Japanese. Same goes for black people.”

    Salient point, Y/N?

    –No. Mathematically, that would mean about 12,000 people in Japan. We get more children of J-NJ international marriages (who may look white, black, or just “not Japanese”, whatever that means) than that born every year. And it does not justify racial profiling anyway.

  • When I first read that letter, it struck me as unfair. It struck me as odd that JT printed it without looking into its presumption, and it *especially* surprised me that they didn’t bother editing out all of the ad-hominem content. The man deserves to have his letter published, sure (assuming there aren’t any better ones), but if the only point he makes is that he doesn’t like someone, it seems awfully close to a waste of space.

    This seems to be a pattern–Debito writes a column and then Lance writes a letter attacking the column and then Debito personally. I’m surprised they don’t have any better letters to publish. Perhaps those who read this board should take it as a sign that we should be posting our opinions not only here, but as Letters to the Editor as well.

    –Just about all the critical letters I’ve seen about me to the Japan Times have been ad-hominem… or else simply argued that what I said was not within their experience. Rarely has anyone actually argued a point raised or evidence given with similarly-verifiable counterevidence. I guess the bar is set on a lower rung for letters than articles…

  • ”Completely and willfully misrepresented my comment.”

    Huh? How so? Are you talking about me or Lance? I quoted you verbatim AND posted a link to the site where you made the comment. Isn’t that enough ‘representing’. You claimed you never admitted you “hung around” the airport. You quite clearly did. In other words there is absolutely nothing untruthful in the following sentence, which you claim is a lie:

    “Yet, on his own Web site, Arudou admitted that he had “hung around” and had a tape recorder already recording!”

    In any case, I’m willing to believe you simply didn’t remember making that comment. I certainly hope you don’t kick me off for calling you a liar. 🙂

    –Reread the first comment to this blog entry. Thanks.

  • “No. Mathematically, that would mean about 12,000 people in Japan.”

    This is just plain odd. First you ask readers to check the validity of Lance’s statement that you “hung out” by way of a google search for those exact two words. Then when it turns out that you did in fact mention those words, you claim that either Lance or I is ‘misrepresenting’ the true intent of your comments. Then when Lance uses hyperbole to make a point you encourage us to take him literally, or in this case, mathematically.

    –Lance didn’t make that statistical claim, for what it’s worth. Anyway, in both cases, the situation is not being depicted accurately. As you surely understand. That makes it 1) an inaccuracy in the first case (the statistic), and 2) a willful misrepresentation in the second case (the misquote). That’s where the “oddity” lies.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Yes, Lance is wrong. You didn’t say you “hung around”, you said you “did hang around”. He should be ashamed of himself for spreading such false information.

    Oh, come on, Big B. Anyone who’s read Debito’s account of the incident (and this includes Lance) knows that Debito ‘hung around’ after the police officer harassed him, in order to see if the officer would harass other people, and if so, what kinds of people. He wasn’t ‘hanging around’ before the stoppage, waiting for an unsuspecting policeman to wrongly accuse him of being a suspicious person based on his skin color.

  • “He wasn’t ‘hanging around’ before the stoppage, waiting for an unsuspecting policeman to wrongly accuse him of being a suspicious person based on his skin color.”

    Yes, taking pictures of obviously official people at baggage claim is perfectly normal behaviour. I also make sure I have my tape recorder running when I collect my luggage. Doesn’t everyone?

    In all seriousness, though, I think Lance is being unfair. It is clear that Debito takes an interest in such things, so why wouldn’t he photograph the cops and have a tape recorder ready to record the one stoppage every few years or so that he has to endure. I certainly don’t think this constitutes “asking for trouble”. I would, however, like to have seen what would happen if Debito had said simply “ie, nihon kokumin desu” and walked on. The insistence that he was a “nihonjin”, especially when the term is used as both to describe citizenship and ethnicity just confused the hell out of the cop. As it was, we missed a chance to see whether the police would bite after you’ve made it clear you are a citizen.

  • big b

    youre talking nonsense now and should really be quiet.

    youre suggesting that non asian looking japanese should describe themselves only as nihon kokumin and cant describe themselves as nihonjin..
    are you suggesting that my children cant call themselves nihonjin
    and have to call themselves nihon kokumin?
    what you are suggesting is offensive.

  • “youre suggesting that non asian looking japanese should describe themselves only as nihon kokumin and cant describe themselves as nihonjin..”

    No I’m not. I’m saying that in situations where a statement of citizenship is required, the word that actually refers to citizenship alone will cause less confusion.

    “are you suggesting that my children cant call themselves nihonjin”

    No, I’m not. And its a sad fucker who brings his kids into an argument in order to evoke a false sense of moral outrage.

    –Ditto for someone who vents like this. Knock it off, Big B.

  • Sorry, I frequently write unclearly.

    I thought he was accusing you of looking for trouble but I took it more like you were stopped first and then reacted. He seems to say that you were recording first and then stopped as a result.

    –No, I’m sorry. I’m in a tizz these days with final exams and I wasn’t reading carefully. Mea culpa.

  • I’m surprised my comment has created such a reaction. I guess that’s the problem with talking on the internet, we only have words and no sign language nor tone of voice.

    Big B’s accusations of racism and bigotry seem a bit precipitated to me when it comes to talking about complete strangers. If my comment made me seem like I feel Japan should bow down to everyone and obey, then it has been taken out of context. I always use analogies when I talk, it is just to exemplify points I’m making.

    I have often encountered people who believe that I hate Japan and Japanese people just because I think their legal system needs an overhaul, for example. My point was that it’s not because someone criticizes a part of something that he hates the whole, and I said that it’s not because parents criticize their children that their hate them. I might as well have said that it’s not because the Dalai-Lama believes that Buddhists have not done enough for charities that he hates Buddhism. Or that it’s not because Michael Moore criticized the American government’s policies that he hates the American government. It’s just a way I use to illustrate my points. I meant no insult nor patronizing nor disrespect, yet sadly some people are very quick at jumping to bad conclusions about people they don’t know.

    When people say something I find a bit strange, I don’t start calling them racist and bigoted. I try to ask them to explain otherwise because I didn’t get their point. To each their own.


    –Big B has shown himself to be a reactionary, especially given his calling a person “a sad fucker” yesterday just because the latter brought up the very germane point about how his multiracial Japanese children should be treated. I’ve stopped taking his comments all that seriously, and will exercise the delete key if he resorts to such invective again.

  • MD, I think it’s your choice of analogy that caused the problem, and Debito pointed that out as well.

    By choosing to use a parent/child analogy, it has nothing to do with a love/hate relationship – this analogy characterizes Japan as childish or intellectually undeveloped and foreigners as parental figures who are aware of the ‘right’ way to do things and who need to show their children how to act. It’s a pretty condescending point of view, and if that’s not what you meant, then you need to come up with better analogies. In this ‘only foreigners know better’ analogy, it’s clear where the comments about bigotry come from.

  • “I said that it’s not because parents criticize their children that their hate them.”

    Actually it is an analogy that has been used time and time again – from MacArthur onwards – and is understood by informed commentators on Japanese politics and society. If you use analogies all the time, then I suggest you select them more carefully. The fact that you continue to posit the analogy as an acceptable one suggests to me that you really do believe it is valid. Therefore perhaps accusations of racism or bigotry, albeit through willful ignorance, might be valid, no?

    As for me not respecting “the germane point about how his multiracial Japanese children should be treated”, it was NOT a germane point. Adamw falsely claimed that I was telling his children what they should call themselves. I don’t care in the slightest what they call themselves. I don’t care what they call him (although obviously people seem to care what *I* call him). All I implied was that in official situations which require somebody to tell somebody else their nationality, it is better to use a word that actually refers to nationality than a word that usually refers to ethnicity. Seems simple and inoffensive to me.

    But no. Instead of a logical argument pointing out why I might be wrong, I get someone holding up their infants (as if I am some sort of child-molester) and attributing statements to me that I did not make. If you ask me, the little sobriquet I came up with in response might have been crude, and I apologise for breaching blog-etiqutte, but it nevertheless summarised my feelings towards such behaviour perfectly.

    Also, when people start using the word “reactionary” you know that they consider there to be an immutable revolutionary doctrine which is not open for debate. I hope that doesn’t apply to you, Mr. Arudo. If it does, please don’t hurt yourself assailing the walls of the Diet building.

  • A few weeks ago, feeling that LB’s ad-hominem posts on Japan Probe had just too much spiteful venom in them, I thought he needed some of his own medicine and posted in kind. Disappointingly, it was deleted.
    Debito was right; Japan Probe does delete such comments. Unless they are directed at him, it appears.

    Well, at least I have found out what LB stands for. Lance Braman. Given the nature of his sycophantic opinions, I had thought it was Lickspittle Boy.

    LB, you might think you are amassing brown-nosing points with your masters
    by being a “good gaijin”, but this counts for little here. You would be better served by keeping to a united front.

    Actually, I do think LB should be allowed to post here. By giving his views a wider audience, it should be easier to discredit them.

    –Sorry, I think I’ve fulfilled my lifetime quota of dealing with trolls. They can post elsewhere and be discredited there.

  • I’m curious to know what this means:

    “You would be better served by keeping to a united front.”

    Which united front are you referring to?

  • United front: I think foreigners here should support each other as much as
    possible. That does not mean to say we have to agree with each other on everything, but at least recognise we are in a similar boat.
    Obviously there are times when this is not workable, viz Gregory Clark. And probably LB.

  • Big B, I don’t think it’s fair that we keep using Debito’s bandwidth for our petty squabbles, so if you want to continue arguing about my “racism” and “bigotry” we can do it privately through email. My email is frozenshock@tiscali.it

    –That’s very mature and conscientious of you, MD. Thanks very much.

    This is why I recommended you do that rewrite. One misplaced metaphor or somehow misconstruable word later, you’ve got the pedants and trolls making hay for months trying to distract you from doing things more productive with your life. Still, at least we’ve uncovered the true intentions of one of our frequent posters, so thanks for that. No doubt he’ll assume another identity (as I think he already has before) and return here in another incarnation to bullyrag for sport.

  • so,
    it turns out that big b doesnt live in japan,and although he will not have to undergo any of the demeaning inspections above,
    has been arguing vehemently that people in japan should undergo the cks without any protest and that non ethnic japanese looking japanese
    should identify themselves as japanese citizens not as japanese..

    words fail me…

    –They don’t me. The guy is a sneak. And lacks a moral compass despite his education especially when cloaked. People like that are not welcome here.


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