Gregory Clark argues in Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Y’know, life is never boring. Here’s yet another piece about the Otaru Onsens Case in yesterday’s Japan Times.  This time from that person with a demonstrably bad record of dealing with the facts, Gregory Clark.

Clark provides no surprises as he rides his “bathhouse fanatics” hobby horse once again, and gets (as he has since 1999) the same old facts wrong. Actually, he gets even more facts wrong this time:  despite calling himself “closely involved” in the case, he gets the very name of the exclusionary onsen wrong.  He even forgets once again (after repeated past public corrections that were even printed in the Japan Times) that there was more than one plaintiff in the successful lawsuit. And that one of those plaintiffs is a Japanese.

The rest is self-hating anti-gaijin invective with errors and illogic galore.  If the Japan Times isn’t bothering with fact checks anymore, they should just put this bigoted old fool out to pasture.  Clark is not worth the trouble to print or debate with anymore.

Still tracing his arc to irrelevancy, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Excerpt follows.  Full article (new updated link 2015) at:

The Japan Times Printer Friendly Articles
Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people (excerpt)


“Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here. If someone handing out Japanese-language flyers assumes they cannot read Japanese and ignores them, they cry racial discrimination. If they are left sitting alone in a train, they assume that is because the racist Japanese do not want to sit next to foreigners. If someone does sit next to them and tries to speak to them in English, they claim more discrimination, this time because it is assumed they cannot speak Japanese….

Recently they have revived the story of how they bravely abolished antiforeigner discrimination from bathhouses in the port town of Otaru in Hokkaido. Since I was closely involved, allow me to throw some extra light on that affair.

An onsen manager who allegedly had earlier been driven to near bankruptcy by badly behaved Russian sailors had decided this time to bar all foreigners from his new enterprise. The activist [sic] then filed a suit for mental distress and won ¥3 million in damages. In the Zeit Gist and letter pages of this newspaper, some have criticized these excessively zealous moves by the activists. These critics in turn have been labeled as favoring Nazi-style discrimination and mob rule. Maybe it is time to bring some reality to this debate.

Otaru had been playing host to well over 20,000 Russian sailors a year, most arriving in small rust-bucket ships to deliver timber and pick up secondhand cars. I visited the wharves there, and as proof I harbor no anti-Russian feeling let me add that I speak Russian and enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language. Even so, the idea of them demanding freedom to walk into any onsen bathhouse of their choice, especially to a high-class onsen like Yunohara [sic], is absurd…

It is time we admitted that at times the Japanese have the right to discriminate against some foreigners. If they do not, and Japan ends up like our padlocked, mutually suspicious Western societies, we will all be the losers.

Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University. A Japanese translation of this article will appear
The Japan Times: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009

48 comments on “Gregory Clark argues in Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”

  • I don’t agree with everything you write, Debito, but this column is indeed strange.

    “How many Western universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, foreigners who could not speak, write and read the national language?”

    I can say from experience that several Mandarin instructors at Harvard University speak worse English than their students’ Chinese. Doesn’t mean they’re bad instructors or are treated with anything but respect by colleagues and the institution. Asian languages are in a crappy building, though.

  • I too don’t agree with everything you say but I felt that his opinion piece was not better than the news reports that you complain about. I also noticed some errors in his story (I assume they are errors, based on what I have read before) and I was looking forward to reading you pick it apart. I realize from your comments that perhaps you have done that before but I am still disappointed. You have time to redeem yourself though. I’ll check back later.

    — Or you can check the backlog of previous “redemptions” that Olaf and I have carried out in the past to correct the record. Which I have l linked to above.

  • “If the Japan Times isn’t bothering with fact checks anymore, they should just put this bigoted old fool out to pasture. ”

    Agree completely. I find myself thinking the exact same thing whenever I read anything by him, or a couple of other “regular contributors” over there.

  • I still can`t figure out why people like this are employed and I am still stuck doing 終わらぬ就職活動

    `Right of the Japanese people`

    This is nothing but another statement resulting from western fetishes that romanticize Japan as some sort of mystic, ancient place belonging to enthnic Japanese people.

    Were the Japanese of hokkaido given this right before or after they raped and pillaged the Ainu for their land? It`s like saying anglo-saxon Canadians have a right to descriminate against other ethnic Canadians because Canada was founded as an `Anglo-Saxon` Nation. (And yes it is arguing the same thing because it is foreign-ness based on appearance and not actual nationality status)

    I don`t trust the black guys in Ame-Mura and Roppongi. 怪しすぎる。

    Once I get citizenship is it ok for me to descriminate against them? Or is that the right to people who look the part of the `Japanese people`

    `Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University. `

    #Quickly sends his 募集書類 to 秋田国際大学#

  • I didn’t care for the tone of this piece or the illogical assertions that racial discrimination is appropriate, but there are some things that are worthwhile for considering. Not to flame bait, but sometimes I feel like the comments on this site bear a lot of similarity to the banter I hear at NJ/western bars, and that often this goes unquestioned as an acceptable tone for discussing these issues. I don’t think very highly of the power of sarcasm or irony; I do think that the way forward should be marked by positive sincerity. Thus, I think there is a need for this guy to point out that there are some inherent problems with the means in which Japan is criticized nastily by a large group of NJ, amongst themselves, who speak little to no Japanese and interact primarily with English speakers in Japan. Talking about these issues tends to be unbalanced for these people (though we all feel like this sometimes) in my opinion because it becomes a magnet to claim racial discrimination for what can often be seen otherwise as personal frustration or an annoying inferiority complex for people who expect the world to cater to their own perspective. However, I think that it’s inappropriate to generalize anyone who criticizes as falling into these categories, as there is a lot of really positive, constructive crit happening these days.

    That being said, I have really enjoyed reading your previous writings on this site, Debito. I really enjoyed your address to the heads of different ministries and the way that you fielded the questions so well at the end. Since my last comment, I have thought a lot about the condition of people who have lived here for years and years, speak the language fluently and are productive members of their sphere of influence, and still have to deal with the same old crap. I wonder how I will feel when that’s me.

  • Clark is a dissembling old fool and everyone knows it. At this point, why bother even giving him the attention he is obviously seeking?

  • I am disturbed that the Japan Times would publish suck utter rubbish.
    This guy is an apoligist in the worst way. It is like he has Stockholm Syndrome.

  • what is this guff?
    so because the us supports affirmative action for minorities,then japan can discriminate against foreigners,or non japanese looking japanese?
    how was he involved?was he involved in the discrimination?
    why no mention of the activist being a japanese citizen?
    why is the obvious answer to discrimination to create a separate seamans club-does he support segregation?
    never thought id see again someone using the amazing logic that cant just ban russians so ban all foreigners..(and anyone looking foreign)

    to some extent he has a point with the comment about teachers at nat universities should be able to read,write japanese.(although unis all over the world do this) however,nat universities,schools in japan dont seem to have problem employing japanese english teachers who dont speak english ,so im not sure that this is a big problem
    load of rubbish-question has to be like with the devries article why is this in the japan times?
    unfortunately i think they have just sunk to a level where they need to try to engineer these non controversies to try to boost their falling sales

  • Debito,
    Have you ever thought of checking the validity of this guy’s credentials? Not only do most of his writings follow a very ‘unprofessional’ diatribe, but if you check his own CV on his site, the math doesn’t add up.
    Born in 1936 and graduated with his BA at the age of 17???
    Then graduated with his MA at the age of 20???

    He wouldn’t be the first person to invent his own qualifications and the over the years, reading quite a few of his writings, not only does he appear not to have the basic skills of academic writing, but he doesn’t sound very clever.

  • Daniel McCourt (for 4-year-old Japanese son Ito Aidan) says:

    It is sad to see that someone has been given power at the Japan Times to allow racist hate into the paper in the guise of “opinion”.
    One has to ask several pointed questions about Clark’s own background since he goes on an attack to distort and slander JAPANESE and non-Japanese who earnestly want to make our country even a little better.
    What is the point in Clark claiming he speaks Chinese and Russian and therefore it is his right to make distortions and spew racist bile? What is his academic background? How did he get his university positions? His own site has almost nothing of any academic value that real academics would call research.
    What most of us here permanently — with Japanese kids now taking abuse from some of their classmates and a few “teachers” in the mold of Clark who think it their right to harrass fellow Japanese who might have brown hair — want is for people like Clark, with no real stake in the future of this country, with no children to raise as Japanese, with no real-life experiences outside of his protected one he “earned” via his bureaucratic connections, to fade away. Leave our great country Japan to those starting out in life, to those with a real stake in this society, to those who live real lives, Japanese lives that, unfortunately, also have moments of intense discrimination from fellow Japanese who feel it their right to look at someone and say: “You are not Japanese. You can’t live here, you can’t work here, you can’t play here….”
    Japanese and non-Japanese have always fought these hate-filled bigots and will continue to do so. These fights have occured for all manner of people being discriminated against. Slow progress has been made for handicapped people and others — all against the bigots.

  • $1000 US dollars to someone who shows solid evidence that Clark’s main CV claims are bogus, with special attention paid to his educational and service claims.

  • While I disagree with Debito on many things, I agree with him here. [invective snipped] I have noticed that the people who defend Japan the most are those who are not experiencing that racism. Obvisouly Mr Greggie is in a position that gives him privilage and comfort, just like diplomats or base workers who are in love with Japan. Come out into the real world Greggie, and feel it for yourself.

  • Gregory Clark has hit an all-time low:

    “(ignoring justified landlord fear of the damage foreigners can cause)”

    If that statement isn’t racist, what is?

    “How many Western universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, foreigners who could not speak, write and read the national language?”
    The discrimination isn’t based on their language skills, but their ethnicity.

    “as proof I harbor no anti-Russian feeling let me add that I speak Russian and enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language. Even so, the idea of them demanding freedom to walk into any onsen bathhouse of their choice, especially to a high-class onsen like Yunohara [sic], is absurd.”

    How could it be absurd to want to go to an onsen, even one that is high-class. Is it absurd that a Russian would dare to think he(she) could enter one?

    “And since it is not possible to bar only Russians, barring all foreigners is the only answer.”

    Racial prejudice is the only answer?

    “It is time we admitted that at times the Japanese have the right to discriminate against some foreigners…”

    This statement seems to sum up what Clark is about. That’s all we need is more discrimination against foreigners in Japan.

  • I must concur. I don’t always agree with Debito on all the issues, but at least his actions are usually thought out before he puts pen to paper. But is anyone really, I mean, really surprised by Gregory Clark and his one-sided idiotic diatribe. This is similar to the same garbage that newspapers such as the NY Times and the LA Times try to pas off as legitimate news or “informative news for the consumers” I found the article with so many loopholes and none of his viewpoints challenged a tad amusing given the fact that this guy takes himself seriously and a viable source of information for the Japanese community. To give this guy a dime of legitimacy is beyond absurd. If the J-Times keep printing ridiculous stories like this one, it too, will be on the endangered lists of Newspapers following that path of extinction.

  • I emailed him directly and told him my thoughts – that he hasn’t any idea of the reality people outside his enclosed world experience. he is a doddering old fool and should be ignored.

    — Not sure what good that will do. Years of politer appeals and corrections have been completely ineffective.

  • Here, for elites like Clark with no real ties to our Japan, who “earned” their positions not through actual academic research of any sustained merit but rather through their connections, and who never face the real world:
    In Hiroshima, where my Japanese family lives and struggles with other Japanese and non-Japanese to hold on to haken jobs and put down bigots and those, like Clark, who support them:
    A landlord refused to rent an apartment to a family (Japanese wife, Japanese son, foreign national) due only to one member being a “gaijin”. The family had extremely secure employment, money in the bank, etc. This is discrimination against two Japanese and one foreign national. Ok to Clark.
    While waiting at a stop light sitting on his bike (surrounded by Japanese nationals doing the exact same), a foreign national watched as a speeding patrol car stopped, backed up, and then had its two cops jump out and surround the foreign national demanding to see his alien card. For 20 minutes the FN asked the police why they wanted to see his card. They rudely demanded to see his card without explanation. Broad daylight. The FN had just moved to the area. His son registered just that week at school and now the police, for no reason, were harassing him and making sure the neighbors saw it all. When the police were threatened with a visit by lawyers and a call from the president of the university where the FN worked, the cops started to show small politeness and backed away from their demands. Apparently they were out on another “gaijin training” mission, the new Clark-like fad among police in Japan.
    Several kids, all Japanese nationals of “international” marriages, report being harrassed, called “gaijin”, bullied at schools, even those that practice “peace education”.
    Two teachers, both of whom speak better Japanese than Clark, have more academic qualifications than Clark, and more actual teaching experience than Clark, get told they will be demoted or not renewed late in February a few years back even after the Dean promissed them employment. No budget issues involved, since the uni would hire inexperienced and completely Clark-like unqualified “teachers” to replace them. It turns out that when confronted with their illegal and immoral actions, the bureaucrats ordered to carry out the purges reveal that there are worries that “people” are talking about why uni funds have been used for foreign trips, cars, etc. One of those people, of course, the one pointing out corruption to higher officials and sympathetic professors, gets the axe.
    Real lives, Real Japanese lives, destroyed, made schight by arrogant Clark-like apologists and racists.

  • Here is a great piece for [people] like Clark:

    Japan’s outcasts still wait for society’s embrace
    International Herald Tribune
    By Norimitsu Onishi
    Friday, January 16, 2009
    KYOTO, Japan: For Japan, the crowning of Hiromu Nonaka as its top leader would have been as significant as America’s election of its first black president.

    Despite being the descendant of a feudal class of outcasts, who are known as buraku and still face social discrimination, Nonaka had dexterously occupied top posts in Japan’s governing party and served as the government’s No. 2 official. The next logical step, by 2001, was to become prime minister. Allies urged him on.

    But not everyone inside the party was ready for a leader of buraku origin. At least one, Taro Aso, Japan’s current prime minister, made his views clear to his closest associates in a closed-door meeting in 2001.

    “Are we really going to let those people take over the leadership of Japan?” Aso said, according to Hisaoki Kamei, a politician who attended the meeting.

    Mr. Kamei said he remembered thinking at the time that “it was inappropriate to say such a thing.” But he and the others in the room let the matter drop, he said, adding, “We never imagined that the remark would leak outside.”

    But it did — spreading rapidly among the nation’s political and buraku circles. And more recently, as Aso became prime minister just weeks before President-elect Barack Obama’s victory, the comment has become a touchstone for many buraku.

    How far have they come since Japan began carrying out affirmative action policies for the buraku four decades ago, mirroring the American civil rights movement? If the United States, the yardstick for Japan, could elect a black president, could there be a buraku prime minister here?

    The questions were not raised in the society at large, however. The topic of the buraku remains Japan’s biggest taboo, rarely entering private conversations and virtually ignored by the media.

    The buraku — ethnically indistinguishable from other Japanese — are descendants of Japanese who, according to Buddhist beliefs, performed tasks considered unclean. Slaughterers, undertakers, executioners and town guards, they were called eta, which means defiled mass, or hinin, nonhuman. Forced to wear telltale clothing, they were segregated into their own neighborhoods.

    The oldest buraku neighborhoods are believed to be here in Kyoto, the ancient capital, and date back a millennium. That those neighborhoods survive to this day and that the outcasts’ descendants are still subject to prejudice speak to Japan’s obsession with its past and its inability to overcome it.

    Yet nearly identical groups of outcasts remain in a few other places in Asia, like Tibet and Nepal, with the same Buddhist background; they have disappeared only in South Korea, not because prejudice vanished, but because decades of colonialism, war and division made it impossible to identify the outcasts there.

    In Japan, every person has a family register that is kept in local town halls and that, with some extrapolation, reveals ancestral birthplaces. Families and companies widely checked birthplaces to ferret out buraku among potential hires or marriage partners until a generation ago, though the practice has greatly declined, especially among the young.

    The buraku were officially liberated in 1871, just a few years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. But as the buraku’s living standards and education levels remained far below national averages, the Japanese government, under pressure from buraku liberation groups, passed a special measures law to improve conditions for the buraku in 1969. By the time the law expired in 2002, Japan had reportedly spent about $175 billion on affirmative action programs for the buraku.

    Confronting Prejudice

    Fumie Tanaka, now 39, was born just as the special measures law for the buraku went into effect. She grew up in the Nishinari ward of Osaka, in one of the 48 neighborhoods that were officially designated as buraku areas.

    At her neighborhood school, the children began learning about discrimination against the buraku early on. The thinking in Osaka was to confront discrimination head on: the problem lay not with the buraku but with those who harbored prejudice.

    Instead of hiding their roots, children were encouraged to “come out,” sometimes by wearing buraku sashes, a practice that Osaka discontinued early this decade but that survives in the countryside.

    Sheltered in this environment, Tanaka encountered discrimination only when she began going to high school in another ward. One time, while she was visiting a friend’s house, the grandparents invited her to stay over for lunch.

    “The atmosphere was pleasant in the beginning, but then they asked me where I lived,” she said. “When I told them, the grandfather put down his chopsticks right away and went upstairs.”

    A generation ago, most buraku married other buraku. But by the 1990s, when Tanaka met her future husband, who is not a buraku, marriages to outsiders were becoming more common.

    “The situation has improved over all,” said Takeshi Kitano, chief of the human rights division in Osaka’s prefectural government. “But there are problems left.”

    In Osaka’s 48 buraku neighborhoods, from 10 to 1,000 households each, welfare recipient rates remain higher than Osaka’s average. Educational attainment still lags behind, though not by the wide margins of the past.

    What is more, the fruits of the affirmative action policies have produced what is now considered the areas’ most pressing problem: depopulation. The younger buraku, with better education, jobs and opportunities, are moving out. Outsiders, who do not want to be mistaken for buraku, are reluctant to move in.

    By contrast, Tokyo decided against designating its buraku neighborhoods. It discreetly helped buraku households, no matter where they were, and industries traditionally dominated by buraku groups. The emphasis was on assimilation.

    Over time, the thinking went, it would become impossible to discriminate as people’s memory of the buraku areas’ borders became fuzzier. But the policy effectively pushed people with buraku roots into hiding.

    In one of the oldest buraku neighborhoods, just north of central Tokyo, nothing differentiates the landscape from other middle-class areas in the city. Now newcomers outnumber the old-timers. The old-timers, who all know one another, live in fear that their roots will be discovered, said a 76-year-old woman who spoke on the condition that neither she nor her neighborhood be identified.

    “Me, too, I belong to those who want to hide,” she said. “I’m also running away.”

    A Politician’s Roots

    Nonaka is one of the rare politicians who never hid his buraku roots. In 2001, he was considered a leading contender to become president of the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party and prime minister.

    Now 83, he was born into a buraku family from a village outside Kyoto. On his way home at the end of World War II, he considered disappearing so that he would be declared dead, he once wrote. With the evidence of his buraku roots expunged, he had thought, he could remake himself in another part of Japan, he wrote.

    Nonaka eventually entered politics, and, known for his fierce intelligence, he rose quickly. By 2001, he was in a position to aim for the prime ministership. But he had made up his mind not to seek the post. While he had never hidden his roots, he feared that taking the top job would shine a harsh spotlight on them. Already, the increasing attention had hurt his wife, who was not from a buraku family, and his daughter.

    “After my wife’s relatives first found out, the way we interacted changed as they became cooler,” Nonaka said in an interview in his office in Kyoto. “The same thing happened with my son-in-law. So, in that sense, I made my family suffer considerably.”

    But rivals worried nonetheless. One of them was Aso, now 68, who was the epitome of Japan’s ruling elite: the grandson of a former prime minister and the heir to a family conglomerate.

    Inside the Liberal Democratic Party, some politicians gossiped about Nonaka’s roots and labeled some of his closest allies fellow buraku who were hiding their roots.

    “We all said those kinds of things,” recalled Yozo Ishikawa, 83, a retired lawmaker who was allied with Aso.

    “That guy’s like this,” Ishikawa said, lowering his voice and holding up four fingers of his right hand without the thumb, a derogatory gesture indicating a four-legged animal and referring to the buraku.

    And so, at the closed-door meeting in 2001, Aso made the comment about “those people” in a “considerably loud voice,” recalled Kamei, the politician. Kamei, now 69, had known Aso since their elementary school days and was one of his biggest backers.

    Aso’s comment would have stayed inside the room had a political reporter not been eavesdropping at the door — a common practice in Japan. But because of the taboo surrounding the topic of the buraku, the comment was never widely reported.

    Two years later, just before retiring, Nonaka confronted Aso in front of dozens of the party’s top leaders, saying he would “never forgive” him for the comment. Aso remained silent, according to several people who were there.

    It was only in 2005, when an opposition politician directly questioned Aso about the remark in Parliament, that Aso said, “I’ve absolutely never made such a comment.”

    The prime minister’s office declined a request for an interview with Aso. A spokesman, Osamu Sakashita, referred instead to Aso’s remarks in Parliament.

    In the end, Nonaka’s decision not to run in 2001 helped a dark-horse candidate named Junichiro Koizumi become prime minister. Asked whether a Japanese Obama was now possible, Nonaka said, “Well, I don’t know.”

    Hopes for the Future

    That is also the question asked by many people of buraku origin recently, as they waver between pessimism and hope.

    “Wow, a black president,” said Yukari Asai, 45, one of the two sisters who owns the New Naniwa restaurant in Osaka’s Naniwa ward, in Japan’s biggest buraku neighborhood, reflecting on Obama’s election. “If a person’s brilliant, a person’s brilliant. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a black person or white person.”

    After serving a bowl of udon noodles with pieces of fried beef intestine, a specialty of buraku restaurants, Asai sounded doubtful that a politician of buraku origin could become prime minister. “Impossible,” she said. “Probably impossible.”

    Here in Kyoto, some had not forgotten about Aso’s comment.

    “That someone like that could rise all the way to becoming prime minister says a lot about the situation in Japan now,” said Kenichi Kadooka, 49, who is a professor of English at Ryukoku University and who is from a buraku family.

    Still, Kadooka had not let his anger dim his hopes for a future buraku leader of Japan.

    “It’s definitely possible,” he said. “If he’s an excellent person, it’s just ridiculous to say he can’t become prime minister because he just happened to be born a buraku.”


    The Japan Times recently ran an opinion piece written by Mr. Gregory Clark, vice president of Akita International University (AIU). Clark’s article, ”Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese” seems to run counter to AIU’s mission statement: ”…peaceful solutions to various obstacles require unusual capacities to understand and respect diverse values and to assume world perspectives.” Although I am a frequent reader of Mr. Gregory Clark’s various articles, this particular article seems to lack a common sense approach, especially in an era of CHANGE, diversity and calls for equality and justice in not only Japan but globally. Clark’s attempt to put the blame on people crying racism misses the mark!

    In his article, Clark begins with the assumption that “Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here.” I am not sure if being pigeon-holed in various “gaijin ghettoes,” as Clark calls the neighborhoods that those of another ilk (Westerners, Japanese, Zainichi, Chinese or those clinging to the lower-rungs of the socio-economic ladder) reside, can be part of the reason as to why “those people” have issues with landlords, substandard housing and discriminatory housing laws. I don’t know, just a thought!

    It seems that much of Clark’s article is directed at Debito. It would have been easier to just call the guy out or rent a dojo since he is only regurgitating information from his previous Japan Times articles. Since Debito decided to ignore him and I figured that I would respond to Clark and The Japan Times.


  • Hey Debito – I know you have confronted Clarke before, but I too would love to see it again. I, unfortunately, don’t have access to the pages of the Japan Times. You do, and this sort of thing needs to be confronted every time we meet it.
    Love the last post, and even more ironic was the article in the same (online) edition on Tsuyoshi Amemiya (‘Refugee hopeful’s ally speaks out’), a Japanese man speaking out and educating the Japanese public on the plight of refugees (hence foreigners) looking to Japan for help. One can only assume he wouldn’t be invited to speak at Clarke’s university…
    The thing that stands out for me in Clarke’s frankly moronic spiel is not the lack of logic, or blatant racism, but that it’s clearly rooted in class snobbery – despite Clarke’s claim of having learnt of the “charmlessness of Britain’s class society” (see his homepage). Apparently not only are ‘rough hewn Russians’ not worthy of ‘high-class onsens’, but all foreigners fall short of the standards of ‘Japanese camaraderie’. One can only assume that in his lofty position of ‘vice president’ and former representative of that bastion of human rights to the UN – one of having had everything done for him by fawning acolytes, job security and subsidised accommodation no doubt – that this doesn’t extend to him.
    May I suggest that Clarke take a step down from the clouds, and take a walk to a couple of izakaya followed by a stroll through Ame-mura. He may notice that the Japanese around him are not all cut from the same cloth, and that they are all largely accepting of each others foibles. All foreigners ask is that our foibles are accepted in the same manner. He may even find, as I do, that by and large they are.

  • Debito, this “article” by Clark is just absolutely appalling. And to think this guy is vice president of a university. Unbelievable!

  • “Anti-Japanese discrimination is a right for foreign people”, is therefore valid according to him.

    Since every argument has its corollary…

  • What you gonna do about this? Write a letter to the editor? Hahahahaha. Japan Times likes that, popular article they think. Clarke’s trolling.

    You want Japan Times to care, you cancel your subscription for a month. Get about 1000 people doing that, they’lll care. Newspapers everywhere are hurting for cash, Japan Times too.


    I don’t know what Gregory Clark is talking about. I am probably a little more sympathetic with the Japanese side than you are but I never heard an educated person try to rationalize discrimination of any kind. I found his article bizarre and I was struck at how impressed he is with his own linguistic skills (I speak 4 languages myself but I could not imagine boasting about it in a publication). I have never heard him make such a strange argument. Does he say this often?

  • Obviously this article in the JT is completely indefensible and idiotic. But there are a few things that might be said in defence of its author.

    > … if you check his own CV on his site, the math doesn’t add up. Born in 1936 and graduated with his BA at the age of 17??? Then graduated with his MA at the age of 20???

    The CV says:
    1936 Born Cambridge, UK, May 19, 1936
    1952 Graduated St. Josephs College, Brisbane, Australia
    1953-56 Oxford University, MA (Geography, Ethnology)

    1965-69 … Australian National University (Ph.D. research on Japanese private direct investment overseas)

    St. Joseph’s College is a school (for children). He doesn’t claim to have got a BA at 17. And at Oxford you get an MA automatically a few years after you graduate. You don’t have to do any work beyond the original three-year BA.

    As he suggests in the lengthy and extremely self-aggrandizing autobiography section of his website (, it was not so unusual in those days to go to university a year or two early. He also admits (or boasts) that he didn’t get in to Oxford on merit. “Eventually, and for lack of any better idea, we settled on my trying to get into my father’s Oxford college, Brasenose. That turned out to be easier than either of us had thought, partly because of the parental connection.” (Not in his defence: the 1965-69 line almost certainly means he started a PhD but did not finish it. So by that measure he is not a qualified academic of any sort.)

    From the autobiography section about Akita International University: “I was promised a fairly easy advisory and titular role … AIU only required me to show up occasionally, mainly to give some courses there and attend management conferences.” Presumably he uses the vice-president title just because it sounds good.

  • Jib Halyard says:

    Clark exhibits the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that is all too typical of a certain type of Westerner who fetishizes all things Japanese.

  • Yep, this is a very poorly written article. Putting the substance of the article to one side for a moment, it sounds like it was written by a drunk, perhaps the writer forgot he had a deadline and rushed to throw a few words down at the last minute.

    The tone is that of someone who would rather have the silence of authoritarianism than the more challenging debate of democracy. It is very poorly thought out and doesn’t stop to consider how these issues might effect people other than the writer. It is completely devoid of insight, let alone original insight.

    Just think if everyone throughout history shared the same moronic “I can’t be bothered to improve the world or cope with change” attitude, we would still have slavery, racism, Hitler, religious governments, child abuse, etc…

    Debito’s comment about being put out to pasture seems very generous, I’m thinking more along the lines of a glue factory.

    Japan does need to improve on many fronts, although there are some major characteristics that are unique to Japanese culture and I would not want to see them westernised. Of course if there is any kind of argument to made for keeping some things in Japan the same, this Clark idiot completely failed to make it. Useless.

  • APPALLING!!!!! How can someone of Clark’s position make such blatantly racist and furthermore ignorant statements? I am sorry for those who work under and with such erroneous leadership. And to think this guy is the vice-president of a university!

  • A favorite trick of your Debito, I replaced “Japanese” with “Australian”, “onsen” with “hotel”, “foreigner” with “asian” and “Russian” with “Korean”.

    It now reads just like the racist tirade that it is. Enjoy.

    “Australia girai” — dislike of Australia — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Asians here. If someone handing out Australianese-language flyers assumes they cannot read Australianese and ignores them, they cry racial discrimination. If they are left sitting alone in a train, they assume that is because the racist Australians do not want to sit next to Asians. If someone does sit next to them and tries to speak to them in Asian, they claim more discrimination, this time because it is assumed they cannot speak Australian.
    Normally these people do little harm. In their asian ghettoes they complain about everything from landlords reluctant to rent to Asians (ignoring justified landlord fear of the damage Asians can cause) to use of the word “asian” (forgetting the way some asian speakers use the shorter and sometimes discriminatory word “gaijin” rather than “foreign national.”). A favorite complaint is that Australian universities discriminate against Asians. How many asian universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, westerners who could not speak, write and read the national language?
    Recently they have revived the story of how they bravely abolished antiasian discrimination from hotels in the port town of Heely in Brisbane. Since I was closely involved, allow me to throw some extra light on that affair.
    A hotel manager who allegedly had earlier been driven to near bankruptcy by badly behaved Korean sailors had decided this time to bar all Asians from his new enterprise. The activist then filed a suit for mental distress and won ¥3 million in damages. In the Zeit Gist and letter pages of this newspaper, some have criticized these excessively zealous moves by the activists. These critics in turn have been labeled as favoring Nazi-style discrimination and mob rule. Maybe it is time to bring some reality to this debate.
    Heely had been playing host to well over 20,000 Korean sailors a year, most arriving in small rust-bucket ships to deliver timber and pick up secondhand cars. I visited the wharves there, and as proof I harbor no anti-Korean feeling let me add that I speak Korean and enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language. Even so, the idea of them demanding freedom to walk into any hotel hotel of their choice, especially to a high-class hotel like Yunohara [sic], is absurd.
    The antidiscrimination activists say hotel managers can solve all problems by barring drunken sailors. But how do you apply a drunk test? And how do you throw out a drunk who has his foot in the door? Besides, drunken behavior is not the only hotel problem with these Heely sailors. I can understand well why regular Australian customers seeking the quiet Australian-style camaraderie of the traditional Australian hotel would want to flee an invasion of noisy, hotel-ignorant Asians. And since it is not possible to bar only Koreans, barring all Asians is the only answer.
    The antidiscrimination people point to Australia’s acceptance of a U.N. edict banning discrimination on the basis of race. But that edict is broken every time any U.S. organization obeys the affirmative action law demanding preference for blacks and other minorities. Without it, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama would probably not be where he is today.
    Malaysia has also ignored it, with its Bumiputra policy of favoring Malays over Chinese and other minorities. There are dozens more examples of societies deciding to favor one group of people over others in order to preserve solidarity or prevent injustices. A large chain of barbershops in Australia has signs saying service is denied to those who do not speak Australian. Non-Australian speakers probably cause much less harm to a business than delinquent Koreans. But we do not see our activists in action there.
    The activists say there should be action to educate Korean sailors in hotel behavior. But do we see any of the activists in the friendship societies where worthy Australian citizens try to ease problems for Asians living here? Not as far as I know. Presumably close contact with these citizens would also upset their Australia-girai feelings.
    In Heely the obvious answer from the beginning was to create a seamen’s club similar to those that exist in many major ports. But here too the activists were very silent. It seems they prefer to move against weak targets where they can gain publicity with a minimum of effort. One result, either of the intensity of their beliefs or of their self-aggrandizement urges, is the vitriol they pour on those who have criticized their actions.
    Sometimes their activism goes beyond even the absurd. Australia has long had a real problem of clever Chinese and Korean criminals taking advantage of Australia’s lack of theft awareness to pick the locks and pockets of unsuspecting citizens. But when the authorities try to raise this problem, they too are accused of antiforeigner discrimination. Even companies advertising pick-proof locks are labeled as discriminators if they mention the Chinese lock-picking problem.
    Obviously Australia needs precautions against these theft experts. Many, myself included, dislike the fingerprinting of Asians at airports. But this too is needed to stop criminally minded Asians from re-entering Australia after they have been caught and expelled. If anything the authorities are too lenient with these people. (Let me add that I also have no anti-China feeling; I speak Chinese too.)
    It is time we admitted that at times the Australian have the right to discriminate against some Asians. If they do not, and Australia ends up like our padlocked, mutually suspicious Western societies, we will all be the losers.
    Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University. A Australian translation of this article will appear
    The Australia Times: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009

  • I found this article to be very lazily written and badly (not at all?) edited. At 72 years old, I think its time he hung up his writing gloves.

    He lost me immediately on this line:

    “How many Western universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, foreigners who could not speak, write and read the national language?”

    So stupid from every angle.

  • According to this article by Gregory Clark, a gentleman who as proof he is not in any way racist and “harbor(s) no anti-Russian feeling” states that “I speak Russian” to such an extent that he has even had consorted with sailors and “enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language”. He speaks Chinese too which apparently offers proof for the Prof that he has “no anti-China feeling”.

    I would love to hear what fellow posters here of any nationality with kids, including, if there are any, “bathhouse-ignorant foreigners” or even the smoother more enlightened types like Gregory Clark, who in his softer moment, “dislike(s) the fingerprinting of foreigners at airports” but adds by showing devastating insight that he sees “this too is needed to stop criminally minded foreigners from re-entering Japan after they have been caught and expelled.” Oh, well that is alright then, and now that it has been stated with such clarity by both Mr Clark and the Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” I can show my kids this article written in such “simple language” as they see their dad separated from them and their mum while he, along with the vast majority of the around 2,000,000 law-abiding people of non-Japanese origin. have are fingerprinted and photographed after being shunted into separate queues. I wonder what their friends at school will make of that and all this, if Mr Clark’s ideas were to gain favour? Having read all of his thoughts here I suddenly feel the need to jump into the bath…

    I totally agree with previous posters here who feel the Japan Times needs to clean up its act and decide policy on whether it wants to condone or promote racism through the articles it publishes. Based on the title alone, it should issue an apology for publishing this piece

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    “How many Western universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, foreigners who could not speak, write and read the national language?”

    This line bothers me a bit also. As a physics major, I had quite a few math and science classes where the professor’s accent was barely comprehensible and where his English ability was clearly limited to writing academic papers. I don’t find this to be much different from the English teachers whose Japanese is similarly limited (though with the eikaiwa teachers, it’s usually speaking that’s their strong point, with writing being their weakest). None of us students ever considered looking down on these professors or suggesting that they don’t belong in America, though we certainly grumbled from time to time. I generally support the Japan Times, but their support of this trollery is a disgrace.

  • why the japan times is now trying to reopen a debate which ended with a court decision a number of years ago is hard to fathom.

    as it has the quote about discriminating against all foreigners on the top of its website,sadly i feel its obvious that that it is condoning racism in order to boost its circulation.
    and i feel that the only way to deal with this is to refrain from buying the paper.

  • “If they are left sitting alone in a train, they assume that is because the racist Japanese do not want to sit next to foreigners. If someone does sit next to them and tries to speak to them in English, they claim more discrimination, this time because it is assumed they cannot speak Japanese…”

    I don’t know if that last bit is Mr Clark’s wishful thinking or wilful lying. Anyone who has been in Japan for a while knows that the complaint is of natives bothering foreigners on trains by trying to practice their English on them.

    Null Points Mr Clark!

  • During six years in Japan, our family learned that putting up with discrimination is a practical, if unpleasant, part of life there. The nervousness of officials at city hall, the shying away of schoolchildren in the parks, the finger-pointing, and being a frequent object of curiosity was all incredibly annoying. I’d never argue in favor of ones right to discriminate, but it was necessary for us to ignore most of it in order to get from point A to point B each and every day. Nonetheless, Clark’s article was way off base.

    Although I could personally put up with, defend myself against, and assertively correct a certain amount of discrimination, I was impatient regarding bigotry against my wife (a light-haired Japanese citizen, with mixed parentage, raised in Japan, who was often mistaken for a foreigner with incredible language skills); and especially against my children (both lighter-haired Japanese citizens with one Japanese grandparent, who were labelled “quarter”).

    Both of my kids were bullied daily because of their foreign appearance and slight accents. This bullying took the form of name-calling (chants of gaijin, eigojin, amerikajin, etc.), repeated questions (“Can you gaijin eat natto?” “How come you can speak Japanese?” over and over), head slapping, tripping, and worst of all, ostracism through avoidance. There were nice kids in school too, and some teachers were willing to work with us to find solutions to this issue; but the problems were never resolved, and our kids never made any lasting friendships. Despite my concerted effort to learn the language and adapt to the culture, this unacceptable level of discrimination against our children is what led us to pack up and go back home to my country before our kids hit school age so that we could provide them a safe, stable learning environment.

    Free speech, or in this case the right to express ones bigoted stupidity, may be guaranteed in the Constitution, but bullying is an unacceptable and in some cases illegal pattern of behavior that in fact denied us access to public education in Japan. I implore that more Japanese parents teach their children lessons of tolerance, understanding and respect toward non-Japanese.

  • A VP of an “international” university!? I mean, I know it’s Akita, but jeez louise. No offense to Debito and others whose work appears in JT, but does their editorial board consist of high schoolers? It’s bad enough that they pub. letters from just about anyone, but the ravings of a town nutter in an op-ed piece! Is it his title? It’s embarrassing and the primary reason why I typically avoid it like the plague.

    He’s fluent in this or that language, so that means he harbors no ill feelings towards the respective ethnic groups!? This guy is an asshat. Could you imagine anyone affiliated with a uni in the west being able to keep his/her job if such a thing were published. If he has an advanced degree, I want to know where he bought it, b/c I simply can’t fathom that someone educated in the west could offer up such nonsensical piffle.

    And I say all of this from the perspective of one who loathes the perpetually whinging gaijin.

  • Jcapan: In response to your speculation regarding Gregory Clark’s education, he has never been awarded a proper postgraduate degree of any kind (that didn’t stop him from becoming a “professor” at Sophia University). He obtained his undergraduate degree from Oxford. Not coincidentally, I think, his father was a prominent economist who taught at Oxford and also graduated from there.

    Lacking credentials, endlessly rehashing the same arguments over and over again like a broken record, and relying largely on anecdotes to support his claims (and questioning the reliability of any data that refute his claims), Clark fancies himself an expert on everything from economics to linguistics to immigration to journalism, which is why almost nobody outside of Japan listens to him. Indeed, being a bigoted, well-connected man lacking any real qualifications, it’s doubtful his career could have unfolded as it did in any country besides Japan. Big fish in a small pond, sound familiar?

  • A delayed thanks for Clark’s b-ground AIT. Tried to post one earlier and either my computer froze or David’s site ate it.

    Anyway, yes, big fish/small pond or at least a stunted intellect in one of the shallower ends of the gene pool. Minorities cozying up to power and their patrons, against their own people, is nothing new. I’d really like to see AIU forced to respond to such Ishihara-like comments. The sad truth might just be that such ignorant pontificating enhances his position. I see rich irony in his use of the term ghetto, as working for an “international” uni in Akita borders on self-imposed exile, at least intellectually. His pop must be proud.

  • Nathan S. Thompson says:

    I have been discriminated against. Quite recently, in fact, and I was shocked this afternoon to realize just how firm a stranglehold this has had on my mind and my emotions. I woke up hating everything and everyone in this country; I saw myself as a ticking time bomb surrounded only by people who deserved my fury. Such a tiny matter it is to hear ”外人は駄目だよ、” but the sway it has over a person’s thoughts and actions is horrifyingly powerful. I have of course since returned to my standard peaceful and friendly manner through the powers of logic and reason (Is it any more justified for me to hate all these people for the actions of one? Certainly no more than for that land owner to hate me for the actions of others!), but the stain that remains is significant.
    What I want to say is please don’t give up, Mr. Debito. I’ve seen the vitriol you inspire in people, both Japanese and foreigner. Between the 2chan character assassins and the self-hating foreign pundits (not to mention the social and legal structural hurdles involved), you certainly have your share of obstacles to overcome. That said, upon having felt the caustic nature of bigotry, I feel there is nothing more important to the welfare of a society (and indeed, the world at large) than eliminating it. Xenophobia and ignorance are artifacts of the human state, but the least we can do is attempt to build our laws and society so as to best mitigate at least this one horrid element.
    Progress will always have its detractors, but theirs is a position fostered and nurtured by ignorance. By its very definition, this enemy of yours will dwindle as your success grows. As I directly benefit from your efforts, I feel it some kind of disservice to you if I do not send my words of support. I do not feel that this needs to be said because you do not know it to be true, but rather because I see your detractors given so much space in the papers. Discrimination is a poison that corrupts all it touches.

    — Thanks very much for the kind words. Given how shockingly blind Old Bigoted Gregory is to the issue, I wonder if he (as the son of a famous economist, who landed in Japan with the late former PM Miyazawa as his ticket into elite Japanese society) has ever really experienced a transformational discrimination as deeply as you have.

  • It is ironic indeed that Clark is employed as the VP of Akita International University, even if he seems contemptuous of his duties and rare appearances there. The school boasts of connections with numerous foreign universities, whose students may come to Japan and endure the kind of discrimination Clark seems to favor. The university’s president also required Japanese students to read a book in praise of bushido and is noted for relying on and tolerating only boot-lickers and toadies. For a wandering and long-running commentary, see:

    Whatever his genius at learning languages and manipulating Japanese with power, it is sad to read Clark’s ramblings. It’s enough to make Uncle Tom blush.

  • I think Clark’s article is poorly written and his style of argument also leaves much to be desired.

    I have never thought that because someone can speak the national language of a country to mean that you are automatically pro-said country.

    If a person’s native language is say, Chinese and they speak English, does this make them pro-America, England, Australia, New Zealand etc???

  • Some interesting opinions.

    >“How many Western universities would employ, even as simple language teachers, foreigners who could not speak,
    >write and read the national language?”

    There is obviously, as I’m sure people are aware, some truth in this, although perhaps not in the way Clark intended.

    I personally know someone working as an associate professor in a local university (albeit not a good one) who was kicked out of an eikaiwa because his standard of teaching, and grasp of English is so poor. The key issue here though, is *why* are the universities employing these people? It seems to me that it’s more to do with ignorance of English as an academic subject and the lackadaisical attitude of “any foreigner will do”. Couple this with an unwillingness to offer proper contracts, tenure, or even equality in pay, and the old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true. If they’re not going to take English seriously enough to even seek out a decent teacher, that’s a negative thing, not something to hold up as an example of Japanese tolerance.

    On E.P Lowe’s comment:
    >I don’t know if that last bit is Mr Clark’s wishful thinking or wilful lying. Anyone who has been in Japan for a while knows
    >that the complaint is of natives bothering foreigners on trains by trying to practice their English on them.

    This one I have a tougher time with. I think sometimes we go out of our way to show a lack of patience. On my infrequent trips back to London I have on occasion found myself in circumstances where I’ve been in a locale where there have been many Japanese tourists. Due to having lived over here for many years, and having a moderate grasp of the language, I have indeed struck up uninvited conversations before with said tourists. Should I expect them to find this irritating or offensive? It’s this classification of “bothering” that troubles me. “Bothering” is immediately casting a negative light on what other people may call ‘friendly curiosity’. There are times when we can be made to feel like animals at the zoo, only around for the entertainment of natives, but sometimes I think we assume too much about the intentions of others.

    I’ve often made the point during bar discussions about the ‘train bothering’ situation. It’s funny how many guys will class a salaryman or old obasan striking up an unprompted pidgin conversation as “bothering”, but are only too pleased when it comes from a cute young 20 year old woman. Isn’t that discrimination too 🙂

    — Sorry to be curmudgeonly, but let’s not get relativistic to the point of being able to say nothing at all about the subject. This last point, as I’m sure you meant it, is just silly. Leave it out.

    As for point two, there is a fundamental difference between a tourist (who could possibly use local information and assistance), and a resident who just wants to get through his day with his privacy respected and without being socially-othered.

  • On the front page(!) of Japan Times, this little article showed up:
    What would the locals do? Paul de Vries sees Japanese solutions to Westerners’ woes (

    Thank goodness people Paul are around to remind us that we are culturally ignorant, responsible for crime, “generally too noisy”, “not particularly concerned about obeying neighborhood customs and rules”, and are “jerks” (direct quote) Throughout his article he can’t make up his mind whether he is attacking/blaming people from “back home in Melbourne [Australia]”, “the West”, or “white people” in general.

    I believe everyone should be allowed to have an opinion, BUT, espousing prejudice and justifying discriminatory practices by calling an OPINION a “fact”,

    “(Zeit Gist, Nov. 18), Jenny Uechi reports that there is a ‘prejudice’ among landlords that ‘white people’ have a tendency to ‘party hard’ within their residences. This is less a prejudice, however, than a simple statement of fact.”

    I find these types of unqualified remarks to be the height of ignorance. His article further outlines the 5 reasons why Japan is superior (no sources cited except his own previously written opinion article in J.T.) and how we can all learn a thing or two from their refined and self-regulating culture.

    I’m sorry, Debito (and fellow commentators), but Mr. Gregory Clark has been outdone this time.

    Oh yes, and don’t forget to look for Paul’s soon-to-be-published book on “what the world can learn from Japan.” I bet it will be fine reading.

    — Paul’s book hasn’t found a publisher yet. Obviously not for lack of trying. He must come from a particularly rough (and to him representative of the rest of the world) part of Oz.

  • Is a tie required at that high-class onsen?

    — Nope. It’s just a working-class place for families etc. See for yourself at I doubt Clark ever got inside. (They wouldn’t have let him; in case he keeps forgetting, he’s a gaijin…)


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