JT JUST BE CAUSE Column Mar 3 2009 on “Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates”


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. Here’s this month’s JT JBC column. I think it’s my best yet. It gelled a number of things on my mind into concise mindsets. Enjoy. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Column 13 for the Japan Times JBC Column, published March 3, 2009

By Arudou Debito
DRAFT TWENTY THREE, as submitted to the JT


If there’s one thing execrable in the marketplace of ideas, it’s “zombie debates”. As in, discussions long dead, yet exhumed by Dr. Frankensteins posing as serious debaters.

Take the recent one in the Japan Times about racial discrimination (here, here, here, here, and here). When you consider the human-rights advances of the past fifty years, it’s settled, long settled. Yet regurgitated is the same old guff:

“We must separate people by physical appearance and treat them differently, because another solution is inconceivable.” Or, “It’s not discrimination — it’s a matter of cultural misunderstandings, and anyone who objects is a cultural imperialist.” Or, “Discrimination maintains social order or follows human nature.”

Bunkum. We’ve had 165 countries sign an agreement in the United Nations defining what racial discrimination is, and committing themselves to stop it. That includes our country.

We’ve had governments learn from historical example, creating systems for abolition and redress. We’ve even had one apartheid government abolish itself.

In history, these are all fixed stars. There is simply no defense for racial discrimination within civilized countries.

Yet as if in a bell jar, the debate continues in Japan: Japan is somehow unique due to historical circumstance, geographic accident, or purity of race or method. Or bullying foreigners who hate Japan take advantage of peace-loving effete Japanese. Or racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, so there. (Actually, that last one is true.)

A good liberal arts education should have fixed this. It could be that the most frequent proponents — Internet denizens — have a “fluid morality.” Their attitude towards human rights depends on what kind of reaction they’ll get online, or how well they’ve digested their last meal. But who cares? These mass debaters are not credible sources, brave enough to append their real names and take responsibility for their statements. Easily ignored.

Harder to ignore are some pundits in established media who clearly never bought into the historical training found in all developed (and many developing) multicultural societies: that racial discrimination is simply not an equitable or even workable system. However, in Japan, where history is ill-taught, these scribblers flourish.

The ultimate irony is that it’s often foreigners, who stand to lose the most from discrimination, making the most racist arguments. They wouldn’t dare say the same things in their countries of origin, but by coupling 1) the cultural relativity and tolerance training found in liberal societies with 2) the innate “guestism” of fellow outsiders, they try to reset the human-rights clock to zero.

Why do it? What do they get from apologism? Certainly not more rights.

Well, some apologists are culture vultures, and posturing is what they do. Some claim a “cultural emissary” status, as in: “Only I truly understand how unique Japan is, and how it deserves exemption from the pantheon of human experience.” Then the poseurs seek their own unique status, as an oracle for the less “cultured.”

Then there are the toadies: the disenfranchised cozying up to the empowered and the majority. It’s simple: Tell “the natives” what they want to hear (“You’re special, even unique, and any problems are somebody else’s fault.”) — and lookit! You can enjoy the trappings of The Club (without ever having any real membership in it) while pulling up the ladder behind you.

It’s an easy sell. People are suckers for pinning the blame on others. For some toadies, croaking “It’s the foreigners’ fault!” has become a form of Tourette’s syndrome.

That’s why this debate, continuously looped by a tiny minority, is not only zombified, it’s stale and boring thanks to its repetitiveness and preposterousness. For who can argue with a straight face that some people, by mere dint of birth, deserve an inferior place in a society?

Answer: those with their own agendas, who care not one whit for society’s weakest members. Like comprador bourgeoisie, apologists are so caught up in the game they’ve lost their moral bearing.

These people don’t deserve “equal time” in places like this newspaper. The media doesn’t ask, “for the sake of balance,” a lynch mob to justify why they lynched somebody, because what they did was illegal. Racial discrimination should be illegal too in Japan, under our Constitution. However, because it’s not (yet), apologists take advantage, amorally parroting century-old discredited mind sets to present themselves as “good gaijin.”

Don’t fall for it. Japan is no exception from the world community and its rules. It admitted as such when it signed international treaties.

The debate on racial discrimination is dead. Those who seek to resurrect it should grow up, get an education, or be ignored for their subterfuge.


Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

19 comments on “JT JUST BE CAUSE Column Mar 3 2009 on “Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates”

  • I enjoyed this story very much, I just wish that it would be in a major japanese newspaper (where it needs to be) instead of an english language newspaper (where it doesnt need to be) see we already get it, but are voices are not being heard loud enough. The mass media like to sweep this kinds of serious storys under the rug and instead carry another stupid story on there front page daily. I believe this story is worthy of being on the front page.

  • So what was the “idea” that “crystallized” in your mind? That Gregory Clark is a dick and the Japan Times is so starved for columnists that it will print anything by anyone claiming to write about “gaijin” issues? Well we all know that.

    — The concept of the “Zombie Debate” and the subterfuge behind it.

  • There is another ZOMBIE issue regarding “Japanese uniqueness” that I don’t quite understand yet, but I think needs to be addressed as well. The issue is what I can only define as some odd inferiority complex (slash) lame excuse regarding physical appearance. For example, I was watching a special last week on NHK about why Japan cannot ever get a gold medal in synchronized swimming. This lady was saying things like Japanese noses are not high enough, or their eyes cannot show as much expression for what the judges are looking for due to their smaller size, etc….. I believe this is yet another example of some Japanese trying to separate their “race” from the rest of the world. Pure unabated zombiness if you ask me. I would just chalk it up to bad coaching….

    — Yes, it’s people making excuses by claiming racial characteristics. They used to say that Japanese couldn’t win marathons because J legs weren’t long enough. Then along came Q-chan…

  • James N

    Yes, I have noticed this trait many times too. Rather than just saying they are crap, or don’t practice hard enough or can’t be bothered, it is “all wrapped” up into a “unique race” issue. But perhaps that is owing to the culture, one cannot criticize openly, we-japan/ese-..as such it breeds this “we are different” mentality from the rest of the world.

    Every time a politician stands up and makes this type of statement/argument s/he is just perpetuating this notion.

    Funny how they all (especially politicians) want this “image”. Yet I am sure if Tokugawa or Mushai et al came back to Japan today, they would tell them that their “idea/image” of Japan and hence their actions and their conduct renders them all weak and they should fall on their swords…and since they don’t, they are worthless and pathetic….funny how they don’t focus on this aspect of their “uniqueness”!!…good old cherry picking 😉

  • The funny thing is if I verbalize any of these ideas to other NJ’s I usually get the “Don’t like it? Go Home!” excuse. This article even inspired me to read the UN’s report on Human Rights in Japan, which is spot on with the issues I have about living in Japan. Thanks for your article Debito!

  • `So what was the “idea” that “crystallized” in your mind? That Gregory Clark is a dick and the Japan Times is so starved for columnists that it will print anything by anyone claiming to write about “gaijin” issues? Well we all know that.`

    Funny, I felt the same thing.

    `The debate on racial discrimination is dead. Those who seek to resurrect it should grow up, get an education, or be ignored for their subterfuge.`

    The key word there is `ignore`.
    Debito you would be a lot farther if you just got into politics already and caused a ruckus instead of poking holes in peoples logic in english… (Not that I beleive that all you would cause is a ruckus.)

    I beleive in your cause. However I do not beleive much of a difference is being made giving speeches in english or writing in english on this site or in the Japan times and such.
    You could start making more of a difference by making everything on this site in Japanese.
    Everyone is probably realizing it by now. There is no way this site is making a positive impact being written entirely in english. To almost any Japanese it just looks like a bunch white people complaining while being contained in their own little foreign sphere.

    Get inside the 内 for god sakes. Write more often in Japanese publications do more in Japanese. If you just got inside the 内 you already made yourself part of when you took citizenship I bet there would be a ton more Japanese would know you and the cause. By putting this site in english you are not getting through to who you should be. The Japanese.

    Also, not that I have a problem with foreign accents, but it wouldn`t hurt to practice your Japanese enunciation and accent seriously infront of the mirror. They say you can`t aquire a native accent after a certaing age but I think people are just being lazy. Did daniel kahl not start learning yamagata-ben well into hid mid 20s?(He also speaks supurb 標準語) To my knowledge turunen marutei first got to japan in his LATE 20`s. The world`s most famous canadian (By the number of people who know who he is, granted they are all Chinese) mark roswell is said to speak Chinese `better than the Chinese themselves` and he didn`t even get to China until after he finished his degree at UofT. You are Japanese now so you should speak more like a Japanese in my opinion. It could only be beneficial for you in the long run. It just takes serious practice. Any educated person can do it. (If you don`t have a good education I am sorry you probably have to be raised here because no one who speaks their native language poorly can learn another language efficiently)

    Sure we are all the more あやしい if our Japanese is like that of a native but that is something we have to bear as so called `pioneer` immigrants.

    `Great article, Debito! Racism in Japan has to end.`

    Just imagine if it was written in Japanese. You know how many minds would have been blown? Get this kind of thing printed in 朝日新聞 in Japanese.

    The english-language media has absolutely no impact in Japan. It is a just a bubble for people who are too lazy to learn Japanese to reside in.

    I can`t imagine that those of you who speak Japanese fluently/near-natively (including you debito) could disagree with me on this…

    — Okay. http://www.debito.org/asahi060203.jpg
    For one.

  • That article is almost as old as the myth that Japanese intestines aren`t designed to digest American beef…

    I think you should really consider turning the bulk of this page into Japanese and having an `english section` instead of the other way around.

    To the other people who read this site: are you reading this site because you wish to make a difference or are you doing it to blow off steem/talk to people in your own language and B**tch about having to go through the same experiences. I can admit I use this site for both purposes but I think it would have much more of a prescence and impact in Japan if it were written in the national language of Debito`s home country, Japanese.

    — Of course it would. And it’s not as if getting published in Japanese media is solely my choice. I’m doing what I can in the 24 hours a day I have. If you want to make points in Japanese too, feel free to write something in Japanese yourself and get it published or up on your blog.

    Anyway, one point I couldn’t get to in the article was how it’s kinda tough for us immigrant residents to ask for more rights with the likes of people I would call Toadies and Culture Vultures arguing that we deserve less.

    So making the case in English has its merits too.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I enjoy reading this site and discussing human rights issues here in English because, as a resident of Japan, basically every other opportunity to do this is in Japanese. I can read Japanese-language papers and watch Japanese-language TV and talk about the issues raised there in Japanese with the people around me.

    Another problem I can think of with making this site primarily Japanese is that it might bring a flood of 2-Channel-style “haters” looking to post trollish nonsense. Debito would spend more time cleaning up after them and less time talking about real issues.

  • “I enjoy reading this site and discussing human rights issues here in English because, as a resident of Japan, basically every other opportunity to do this is in Japanese.”

    You are right human rights is quite the topic in Japanese already. There have been a lot of timely stories in the Japanese-language press about how Brazilian immigrants are faring in the recession. There has also been some good stuff on the temporary workers scandals.

    So maybe readers of Japanese will find generic columns of the like that appear in the English language press (which are more a debate about a debate, rather than an examination of issues) a little boring.

    — I doubt that. Talking about the meta debate is also very important, given how few people actually see it. Making the public interested in it is our job.

    We’ll get there, but it’s tough. The plight of the Nikkei Brazilians (note, most of the articles are on the Nikkei; few on, say, the Chinese) is a topic du jour. During the Onsens Case and for a couple of years afterwards it was “discrimination against foreigners in public services”. I tried to steer the meta towards “discrimination by race”, but no matter how many times I tried to point journalists in that direction, few editors allowed their cub reporters (that’s who were generally assigned to our case) to report it as such. When I had the chance to write a couple of articles in that direction, they were sometimes published mostly as is, but again altered for domestic consumption (meaning the meta of race was dulled down to a matter of culture). But I bet even just talking about this particular “meta” of media self-censorship would interest quite a few people.

    Again, it’s tough in this market; there’s a lot of self-censorship. It’ll take some time or a shock of some sort to make the “peg” of the story a matter of race. But we’ll be ready when the press is listening again.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Debito. Excellent article. Don’t worry too much about publishing in Japanese. Of course, if you can it’s great, but by eliminating or at least neutralizing the apologists of foreign background with this direct type of article, you are actually, in at least some small way, making the foreign community a stronger voice for positive change, which is one of your goals in making Japan an even better place. It is so refreshing to see the this kind of directness in the press at all. Orientalism in all its forms is due the death it deserves and you’ve taken a giant step with this article. Keep up the good work and know many are rooting for you. You are one brave guy!

  • How is it when somebody disagrees with the opinions on this website, he or she is labeled an apologist? I would certainly use that term in some cases (Clark and de Vries), but it would be much nicer if people stopped the silly name calling.

    “I tried to steer the meta towards “discrimination by race””

    But reporting on the plight of Brazilians (not all of whom are nikkei, by the way) or the reporting on the foreign workers (some of whom are Chinese, by the way) are examples of reporting on racial discrimination in Japan. What would you have the headlines in the newspapers be? “Hokkaido professor claims there is racism in Japan”, or “Some foreigners think Japan is a racist country”? If I were Japanese and I read that, I would say “Yes, that’s right. Like everywhere else. Why is this news? What’s on the sports page?” or I would fulminate a little about “Japan-bashing.” I doubt it would lead to an earth shattering debate. And anyway, as you yourself note, such stories are already there:


    Mark, Orientalism is the practice of assigning negative values to an Eastern culture with the often subconscious aim of underscoring the superiority of the West. It is kind of like saying that because race is a huge issue in, say, the United States (for obvious reasons) the perceived inability or reluctance of the Japanese media to highlight the issue in Japan makes Japan inferior.

    — George, your contrarianism without context or research is getting annoying.

    1) Kindly show us examples in this debate where people who disagree with the opinions on this website are being labeled as apologists?

    2) Not all Brazilians are Nikkei, but the near-total majority of them are. Otherwise they wouldn’t get that special Nikkei visa given to people with Japanese ancestry. They would get a “Dependent” Visa, which doesn’t entitle them to work anyway. Moreover, show us where “人種差別” verbatim is reported in the media as the cause of this treatment, not a financial crisis. You can’t say it’s reportage on racial discrimination if they don’t.

    3) Er, no. The attitude towards racial discrimination in Japan is not, “Same as everywhere else”, it’s more one of shock and denial, since people are usually educated to believe true racial discrimination happens overseas in places like South Africa and the Segregated US South, not here. If the attitude was “same as everywhere else”, there wouldn’t be so much resistance to accepting it as such and using the words “人種差別” in the media. Read my book JAPANESE ONLY and get some context. And it did lead to a very large debate.

    I challenge you to find some major-media articles in the past (I’m talking 1999 to 2005, the time of the Otaru Onsens Case) that actually use the word “人種差別” as part of the couching of the issue (and were not merely quoting me as a sop). Shouldn’t be too hard to research. Lots of them archived here, and make sure you go beyond the headlines. Very, very few did (I can think of only one offhand). And your referring to that landmark one in the Asahi last October is after a decade of hard work by awareness raisers. It’s truly exceptional. How many have we had since then, now that things have gotten really bad for NJ workers?

    4) Throwing up what you consider to be one example just to prove in your mind that things don’t seem to be as absolute as people say ignores the reams of research and record we have up here on Debito.org pretty much proving the original assertion. It doesn’t nullify the years of precedent we’ve been talking about.

    This is beginning to feel like a game. Kindly refrain. If you’re going to be contrarian, provide evidence.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    George..Hi. Allow me to clarify. The orientalists I am talking about, who bash foreigners who protest injustice in Japan, believe that Japanese cannot possible understand universal human rights and so ‘let them off’ by allowing culture to trump universal morality. How could ‘they’, the Japanese, be like us? They are so different afterall (Clark is in this camp). What utter nonsense. I, for one, in my experiences with Japanese people, have noticed absolutely nothing different about Japanese people from anyone else on this planet. We all crave the same basic things. To suggest that one subsection of humanity is incapable of understanding justice, or that it doesn’t need justice, is wrong. By the way, one doesn’t have to be from the west to be an orientalist. Just look at Mahathir of Malaysia with all his ‘Asian’ values nonsense, just a way to keep the people in line. Some of the powers that be in the Japanese ministries are no different. An apologist, like the orientalist, is trying to maintain some form of power, at least in his or her own mind, albeit in a very twisted kind of way. By assigning the negative value of Japanese culture not needing universal rights, the orientalist is projecting his or her sense of cultural superiority / social rank. Admittedly, my definition is broad, but I think you get the gist. Have a great day.

  • I’ve been reading the site for months now and most of the articles are interesting pieces of work but this one is safely the best. Keep going Mr. Arudou, if you hammer the wall long enough it will eventually fall and after all you are a master at recognising the cracks.

  • “I challenge you to find some major-media articles in the past (I’m talking 1999 to 2005, the time of the Otaru Onsens Case) that actually use the word “人種差別” as part of the couching of the issue (and were not merely quoting me as a sop).”

    So you want me to find articles that concern the period that your campaign against racial discrimination actually had legs and yet you don’t want me to quote articles quoting you? That’s a bit rough, but O.K. I’ll try.

    First though, surely you don’t want me to mention articles which are ONLY on the Otaru Onsen case, right? That would be unfair. As it is your case, the newspapers will be quoting you all the time.

    Secondly, you know as well as I that this “challenge” is going to be hard to take on with a Google search because Japanese newspapers don’t keep their articles online. (I actually suspect that you have established the parameters of this challenge by whacking in 「人種差別」 into Google to see what pops up.) So I am going to need some sort of database with a whole load of Japanese language newspapers on it.

    Good thing I have one.

    Unfortunately, it only goes back to the end of 2001, not 1999. It also doesn’t carry the Asahi. But that’s okay I suppose, because the Asahi is the more liberal of the Japanese mainstream media options and the conservative press presents me with a harder case with which to prove my point. I’ll also ignore trade publications and minor magazines. Although these would help me with volume, I don’t think it is fair to you that I quote from “Horse and Hound” style publications.

    Thirdly, I don’t think it is quite fair to restrict myself to articles that mention 「人種差別」 specifically. I never suggested above that something mention those words specifically to be a discussion on racial discrimination.

    However I do see your point. You are Japanese, but obviously not of the same “race” as most Japanese, so words like 「外国人差別」 can get a little confusing. But how about other articles that refer to discrimination in Japan? There the term 「人種差別」 gets a little confusing too. How is this sentence, for example, to be interpreted:


    Is someone from China of a different “race” than someone from Japan? The speaker clearly sees himself as distinct from Japanese, yet it is 「外国人差別」 he is fighting against. Are they one and the same thing in his mind? Contemporary theorists of race and ethnicity might say that all race is a socially contingent, so that yes, “Chinese” is a different race within the context of discourse on discrimination in Japan. A more traditional view might be that there is no distinction between the Chinese, Korean and Japanese “races”. Nevertheless, even though it talks about 「外国人差別」 I believe this article would fall under the rubric that we are talking about here.

    In fact, even when the case CLEARLY falls under the rubric we are talking about here, the term that you prefer is sometimes not mentioned. For example, the article with the headline 「黒人理由に入店拒否」 is clearly pegged to the topic of racial discrimination. That is, even though the exact term is not used, race and racial discrimination are overtly being reported on and/or discussed. Yet 「人種差別」 is not specifically quoted. If the point is to demonstrate that the topic of racial discrimination comes up in the media, So as not to make things a matter of semantics over substance, I think these articles should be included in our challenge, don’t you? 

    Finally, I reject your notion that all articles which discuss racial discrimination must be “major”, to have an impact. Firstly, I don’t know what constitutes a “major” article in your mind. Secondly, if the topic is discussed over a wide range of articles, then it is clearly embedded in the discourse, and goes to my point that racial discrimination is often addressed in the media. Nevertheless, you will find several examples below where the issue is given more than substantive treatment.

    In any case, here you are. Articles from 2001 to 2005 which are clearly discussing racial (or if you prefer, ethnic) discrimination. Many of them mention 「人種差別」 in the text on several occasions. Some of them don’t but are clearly on topic. This is not an exhaustive list, by the way.

    参院代表質問詳報 白浜氏・アジア諸国の理解得よ 市田氏・「解雇制限法」作れ
    産経新聞, 4 October 2001

    【2001 世界は日本をどう伝えているか】
    産経新聞, 19 October 2001

    中国人女性との偽装結婚 市役所困惑、書類整っていれば拒めず…=福島
    読売新聞, 25 April 2002

    読売新聞, 26 April 2002

    [ろーかる広場]人権問題啓発の冊子発行−−別府 /大分
    毎日新聞, 10 May 2002

    読売新聞, 20 May 2002

    民族学校出身者の大学受験資格を要請 京都大学長あてに「民族学校を考える会」/京都
    毎日新聞, 17 September 2002

    Ethnic/foreign discrimination not particularly prominent in this one, but listed along side other human rights abuses that lawyers should stand against: [424人のヒマリオン]県弁護士会の活動 人権擁護委員会 /兵庫
    毎日新聞, 25 September 2002

    This one is about you, and notes 人種差別 but doesn’t actually quote you saying it. Does this count? 「外国人の入浴拒否」は違法 札幌地裁、業者に300万円支払い命令=北海道
    読売新聞, 11 November 2002

    小樽の外国人入浴拒否訴訟 原告1人が控訴 市への請求棄却に不服=北海道
    20 November 2002 読売新聞

    自衛官適齢者情報収集問題 「なぜ必要なのか」野党、疑問の声相次ぐ−−参院特別委
    19 May 2003 毎日新聞

    岡山市の外国人8割「住み続けたい」 市政に反映へ市民代表者会議を開く=岡山
    24 May 2003 読売新聞

    外国人差別の撤廃訴え30年 活動の集大成、在日学者が出版 徐龍達教授/大阪
    19 June 2003 読売新聞

    「国立大受験資格認めて」 在日外国人ら 文科省周辺デモ
    19 June 2003,東京新聞

    外国人差別撤廃訴え30年 活動の集大成 徐龍達・桃山学院大教授が出版=奈良
    23 July 2003,読売新聞

    「外国人差別」撤廃条例を ドイツ人大学助教授が稚内市議会に陳情書=北海道
    6 February 2004,読売新聞

    稚内市に人種差別撤廃を陳情−−千歳科技大助教授 /北海道
    6 February 2004 毎日新聞

    外国人差別、過半数が実感 就職、役所の対応などで 神戸市調査=兵庫
    10 February 2004 読売新聞

    厳しい偏見受けた 上陸拒否や差別的報道−−“命のビザ”で脱出のユダヤ人 /大阪
    8 April 2004 毎日新聞

    入国管理局ホームページに神戸市が「ノー」 不法滞在通報制度は「差別助長」
    14 April 2004 読売新聞

    4 May 2004,読売新聞

    入居拒否:「韓国人はだめ」 在日夫婦、家主ら相手取り提訴へ−−神戸地裁尼崎支部
    28 May 2004 毎日新聞

    国籍ミス国賠提訴 「人生狂わされた」 原告会見 母子とも結婚破談/神戸地裁
    29 May 2004 読売新聞

    外国人の国体 出場制限は合憲 最高裁判決
    12 June 2004 東京新聞

    外国人犯罪の通報制度廃止、県警に求める−−市民団体 /福岡
    21 July 2004 毎日新聞

    外国人犯罪情報 HPメール通報廃止を 市民団体など、県警に要請=福岡
    21 July 2004 読売新聞

    「永住外国人に投票権を」 在日韓国人団体が小淵沢町に要望=山梨
    28 July 2004 読売新聞

    「永住外国人に投票権を」 在日韓国人団体が小淵沢町に要望=山梨
    28 July 2004 読売新聞

    「黒人理由に入店拒否」 眼鏡店経営者に賠償求め提訴へ 京都の米国人男性
    25 October 2004 読売新聞

    10 June 2005 東京新聞

    日本社会の「差別」指摘 国連人権委報告
    9 November 2005 産経新聞

    中国・北が日本批判 国連人権委 「一部政治家が差別発言」
    9 November 2005 産経新聞

    外国人差別:日常生活での気づきにくい差別 無自覚の“偏見”に危機感 /大阪
    27 November 2005 毎日新聞

    こちら特報部 支援団体らスクラム『連絡会』発足 テロ対策ニッポン『住みにくいヨ』 外国人差別なくせ アルカイダ疑惑 在日コリアン 人身取引問題 クルド人難民 人権2005
    19 December 2005 東京新聞

    女児殺害事件で外国人差別? 法務局が無料相談所 海田で来月開設=広島24 December 2005

    — Thank you very much for all the legwork and substantiation. A few things about points raised above.

    1) It must be 人種差別. If you want to talk about racial discrimination, it’s not 外国人差別, which is discrimination by nationality. These are the established terms in the discourse, and people (especially those who wish to tone down the argument) have chosen the latter over the former because it seems milder, and not a violation of the CERD. An interpretation of the CERD that the GOJ prefers (that’s why they noted a couple of “reservations”) is that the CERD allows discrimination by nationality (like, for example, not allowing foreigners to vote or hold civil service administrative jobs). Then they stretch the point through convoluted logic to void the treaty, meaning that the CERD covers NOBODY in Japan. That’s why this is such a hot-button wording and so assiduously avoided.

    The media tend to ignore the racial question, is my point, so the article must assert “race” (人種) as the cause, not weaseling out of it by quoting some unreasonable hard-line radical saying it is, pasting in nationality, or even saying the cause is 黒人 (a decent compromise, but because that there is an excuse again to evade the racial question because that interpretation becomes discrimination by physical appearance(外見), a different breed again because it is justifiable as some people look scary to us shy Japanese, sorta thang). It’s gotta be race, or the argument will not develop properly in Japan.

    Again, this was the point I’m trying to make. 人種, not 国籍, not 外見 (and yes, race that includes Chinese. Read the CERD’s definition, which the GOJ agreed to), but the media keeps toning it down. We’re not allowed to call a spade a spade (sic) because of the media-supported denial, and then people say “that’s only your opinion, not the accepted seron.” That’s why I asked for those parameters.

    2) “Major”. I said the parameters should be the big daily newsmedia, because those are the ones people tend to trust and take seriously. I stand by that. (And as an aside, if you think the Asahi is liberal, you really need an update over there. Once upon a time, perhaps. But again that’s an aside.)

    3) I trust your take on the articles, but a couple of them niggle, because I remember many of the cases above (in fact, a couple are about us), and how they too were fobbed off as discrimination by nationality (the headlines of many seem to support that thesis). Is there any way you could provide links to them so we could read them ourselves? Thanks.

    As a case in point, the article above 6 Feb 04 about the German submitting a jourei to Wakkanai. That’s Olaf. I was there, I wrote the damned jourei. He plainly said it was 人種差別撤廃条例, not 外国人差別 as the article headlines. I suspect that if article includes the words 人種差別, it quotes him (or somebody) claiming it, not asserts it as the cause. Did you read it and check?

    Anyway, thanks for the work. Now please get yourself a copy of JAPANESE ONLY (order it from us if you like) and come up to speed on the debate. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

  • By the way, [iyami deleted] your book is out of print on Amazon, or very expensive if purchased from Amazon’s second hand dealers. I have therefore ordered your book on interloan and am looking forward to reading it.

    — The book is not out of print. If you had followed the link I had provided, you would have seen that you could have ordered the book directly from the publishers, or from me. I take the trouble to provide links to substantiate what I say. The least you could do is look at them.

  • Response to #1: As I said many of the articles do mention 人種差別, on multiple occasions. However, I stand by the framework I set up to respond to your challenge. When I first noted that racial discrimination was discussed in the Japanese media, I stated nowhere that the term had to be quoted for an article to be concerned with the issue. That the Japanese government is not referring to an issue with a specific vocabulary set is your beef, not mine. Nevertheless, I explained in detail why I believed that the sample should not be restricted in the way that you want it to be. In fact, broadening the debate out to terms like 外国人差別 should actually be a tougher case than restricting terms to 人種差別, if one assumes that such issues are not discussed in newspapers. Why? You yourself have said that discrimination on the basis of nationality is illegal. If the papers are treating 外国人差別 as a negative thing (and in the articles above, they are) as practically coterminous with racial discrimination then they are denouncing something that could be explained away as “it’s legal, so it’s okay”. They are in none of these articles attempting to hide behind some legal device that allows for 外国人差別 as a cover for 人種差別.

    In any case, my explanation is superfluous. As noted already, many of these articles do carry the word 人種差別.

    Response to #2: By big daily papers, I take it you mean the “big four” nationals: Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi and – although it is a big paper in the sense that Pluto is a planet – the Sankei. Of those four, only the Asahi is not included in the sample above, for reasons I have already outlined. The most major public daily in Japan, nay the world, ran many of the articles above.

    By the way, although it is fairly tangential to our discussion, I said that the Asahi was the most liberal of these newspapers, not that it was particularly liberal by some objective standard. If the Asahi has grown more conservative over the years (and you are right, it has) yet is still considered the most liberal of the big four (and I am right, it is), then that only makes my case stronger, because despite the “conservatism” of the mainstream press, they are still willing to run articles clearly focused on race discrimination, as outlined non-exhaustive sample above.

    Response to #3: I’m quite happy to provide a few full text copies the next time I’m back at the library where I accessed them. However, I’m a little busy so it might take a while. It is impossible for you to access the links unless you have access to such a database yourself – and in any case, I didn’t make a copy of the links, only the headlines, dates and the names of the newspapers when I was down there.

    This should be enough information for you to make your own inquiries. After all, there are libraries in Hokkaido, aren’t there? Your university might even have online databases, microfiche files or, if all else fails, hard copies of Japanese newspapers. They may even have Kikuzo, the Asahi Shimbun’s database, where you can find even more examples of the race discrimination debate carried in the Japanese press.

    While I find your blog demeanor has much to be desired, I am still looking forward to reading your book.

    — Backrightatcha with your commenting demeanor. Thanks for answering at last (and I doubt you would have had I not said elsewhere that you must answer or you cannot post again). Look, without being able to read the articles in specific, it’s difficult to say in what context the terms in question are being used, which is the crux of our disagreement. I still, however, have the feeling you did a simple word search without actually reading the articles you include as evidence. In the debito.org/nihongotimeline.html archive, however, I have, and you can read each and every one of those articles to confirm the contents. In your case, without enclosing any of the links or text it’s near-impossible for everyone to check.

    I’m not going to argue your validity of interpretation of 人種差別 vs 外国人差別 (They are not the same; I still assert the latter is milder — for where would discrimination against me fall?), since those are two personal opinions and you’ve made your case, and I’ve made mine. Meanwhile, I feel little need (and have insufficient time) to continue a debate with an anonymous poster from who knows where who includes prickly invective and slights with the occasional serious point (if you are a serious professional researcher, you certainly don’t come off as one). And makes insufficient effort to make it as easy as I have to confirm the evidence presented. Thanks for responding. But at the end of the day, as they say, win or lose the debate, all you’ve done is win or lose a debate against some avatar on the Internet. Not worth it. Enjoy the book.

  • One final comment before I get back to work.

    I want to make it clear that I am not saying that the Japanese media (especially the Sankei) does not run some articles which display conservative prejudice in discussions on racial discrimination. It is my claim that there are stories and reports which paint discrimination in a negative light, but this does not mean that there are stories that try to downplay or deny it. The media is not a monolithic beast on this issue, but you challenged me to find examples of articles which honestly discussed the issue as a problem in Japan. When I was reviewing the articles (and yes, I did review them) there were those that mentioned the key words, but clearly fell outside of this rubric.

    For example, during my search, I found a Sankei article where the was complaining about something written in an Asahi publication. The Asahi author had expressed her dismay that Chinese people were being labeled as criminals in Japan and that they were the victims of Japanese 人種差別 (The Sankei author and, ostensibly, the Asahi author both used this term). According to the Sankei author, the Asahi author had claimed that she “understood” Chinese culture because she was married to a Chinese person and the fact that they were not seen as law-abiding was a product of their “culture”, which espouses a more lax attitude towards authority than is the case in Japan. The Sankei author, after outlining her argument chided the Asahi author – somewhat justifiably in my opinion if he represented her argument accurately – by stating that “culture” is no excuse for breaking the law of a country you choose to which you chose to immigrate. He then went on a rant about how the “fact” that Chinese culture predisposes Chinese people towards crime has absolutely nothing to do with good law-abiding Japanese.

    Now, it would have been ridiculous to include the article in the list above, even though it did indeed mention the term 人種差別. It was pretty much a denial of the phenomenon, and I take it you challenged me to find articles where racial discrimination was laid bare in a negative, or at the very least, objective light. The only reason I could possibly think of to include this article is to show that there was some discussion of racial discrimination in the Asahi – but even then, if the Sankei had represented her right, even the Asahi author was guilty of essentialism in the extreme. The fact that the Sankei article mentions 人種差別, but doesn’t really discuss it save to dismiss it, shows that simply finding articles that use the term is never going to be a substitute for content analysis and sound judgment of the tone of the articles. Articles may include 人種差別 in order to downplay it, or they may not include the term but talk about the phenomenon anyway. After all, I can fairly easily find articles that you have written on the general topic of racial discrimination that do not mention the term specifically, although granted, many do.

    The fact that I left out articles like this is by no means an attempt to “hide” the fact that there are differing opinions on the subject of discrimination and the position of foreigners in Japan. You asked me to present evidence that racial discrimination is discussed – not merely denied or downplayed – in the Japanese media. The articles above are examples of this. They do not, however, preclude other – and I think you and I will agree – more sinister views.

    So… I hope that lets us arrive at a happy synthesis.

    — It does. Thank you for taking the trouble to make yourself clear. Debito


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